Sunday, 6 June 2010

If I could offer you only one piece of advice for the future...sunscreen would be it.

You know those days where you have a plan that you literally could not be any more excited about? And I’m not talking about the life-changing wedding-day/trip of a lifetime/buying a house stuff (because actually for me all of that stuff would equal anxiety in at least equal measure to excitement) I just mean the plans you make with friends where you know you are going to have a fantastic day, there will be no hidden agenda, no dark side, nothing said or done that gets your back up. Well yesterday was one of those days for me. What seems like months ago, my oldest friend and I had booked the day that I was going to go and visit her and her family in Worthing. So despite having had a very long day on Friday (leaving home at 6.15am and getting back at 11pm) I was up early on Saturday to cross London and catch the train out of town. And it was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, all of my public transport options worked out perfectly and despite leaving home really behind schedule I arrived in time to catch the train I wanted and grab a coffee and pastry before I jumped on the train. Maybe I was kicking off major good vibe smiles because the lovely man at Cafe Nero decided to give me 5 loyalty-card stamps instead of one (I only need to buy one more coffee now and I get a FREE ONE! I know...I’m a complete loyalty-scheme sucker) which just made me even happier. Getting on the train and settling down with my book (Awakening the Buddha Within – I’ll have to blog about it when I’m finished reading it, it’s changing my world!) I got that familiar old feeling of I’m just too happy, something has to go wrong. All of which was quickly chased by the morbid fears which are usually hot on the tail of boundless optimism for me. So I confronted my own logic, there was no reason for something bad to happen just because I was feeling excited, I talked myself down, got back to my book, got back to my smiles. As soon as the train pulled out of London and the town was replaced by green rolling countryside I remembered how important it is to get out of the city every once in a while, and how much better I feel the instant that I do. It helps to be reminded that there is more to life than London too. So the journey was good, but with lots of confusion for almost everybody on the train because it would split half-way and go in two different directions, so you had to travel in the right portion of the train, all of which meant that we were less British than usual and lots of people spoke to one another (I knew where I needed to be!). In this climate the lady in front of me peered through between the seats and asked if I could make a phone-call for her if she gave me a pound! Of course I refused any money, telling her it was free, she eventually agreed to use it without paying so I dialled the number for her and handed it over (she was an older lady and insisted she “can’t use them”). After she had finished her call she peered through again and passed me a sweet, and I got back to reading about karma :)
The friend I was en route to visit is the only friend from school I am still in contact with. Although we were at the same school from the age of 11, it wasn’t until we were in the sixth form and all of the classes were mixed up that she and I became friends (so from the age of 16). And from that point we spent an inordinate amount of time sitting on the very disgusting sofa in our sixth form common room, eating creme eggs and talking about the weekend (either the one that just went, or the one to come, or both...). Every weekend we went to the same bar with the same people, Friday and Saturday nights, and god only knows what we all found to talk about given that we spent all of our time together. But 13 years later, after years spent in different towns at different universities, with boyfriends, jobs and families changing in between, we are still in touch and although we haven’t seen each-other very frequently in recent years there is something unique and very special about this friendship for me. It always makes me think of that Baz Luhrman song Sunscreen – there’s a line in it about staying friends with people you knew when you were young which of course I just googled...     

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get,
the more you need the people you knew when you were young

And how right it is! There’s something about being around somebody who has a shared history with you that can’t be beaten. Although we may not have spent much time in the same city for the last 12 years, we have followed each-other’s histories. She is the only person who knows the full story of all of my relationships. She knows my family history inside-out. She knows about most of the frogs I kissed when I was 17. She knows I wore nothing but mens’ 501 jeans, tshirts from Gap kids and a terrible cardigan for most of my sixth form. And I know all of this about her too. So although she has been married for 6 years (I think?) and has a two year old son now, the bond and the shared history is there and it’s really amazing. Add to this she is one of the loveliest, most caring people you could ever hope to meet and you can understand why I was so looking forward to the visit.
The day itself can be summed up mostly in pictures. We headed to the beach, a short walk from their house (where the Mr was holed up working) where we found ourselves a patch of sand, spread out the picnic blanket and stayed most of the day. We lunched on baguette with brie and grapes, drank apple juice, buried everyone’s legs in the sand (“again, again!”), paddled in the sea (that was just me), took photos and talked. And talked, and talked, and talked. And then once we’d done an awful lot of talking, I talked about yoga a bit and she egged me on to do some sandy asanas. So here they are.
The beach!

Making sandcastles with my new buddy
Headstand prep - at which point I was saying "I don't think I can get up!"

She asked to see my old party-trick...not really yoga!
I really hope my hands are a bit closer together than this when I do it for real...

Back at the homestead I handed over belated birthday presents to mother & son, and then helped with the new jungle animal puzzle until it was time for dinner, and then it was his bathtime and bedtime. Considering I only met him twice as a tiny baby, thanks to shared photos I felt like I knew him already (plus he is the absolute image of his dad) and we got on like a house on fire. I had a very sweet email from my friend this morning saying that when he woke up this morning, her little boy was saying “where is Mel sleeping?” and when she explained that I’d gone home he asked if he could play with his puzzle. So hopefully I have got myself another friend for life there :)

Anyway as the song was partly what inspired this post, I’ll leave you with the video. If you ignore the fact that it's a little cheesy, there's some good stuff in there...some of the better bits are towards the end... Oh and just to make for an interesting coincidence, when I looked this up I discovered that it went at number 1 in the UK charts exactly 11 years ago today. How weird is that? And the other piece of advice contained in this song that I really really should have followed yesterday? Wear sunscreen. It might not have seemed that hot but when I came home I was burnt like a bugger in a VERY silly shape on my back. So here it is....  


  1. Great pics Mel, funny that you leave the city to go and have a good day and I go into the city to have one LOL.

    Couldn't you hear Cary telling you to turn the heals out in Urdva Dhanurasana?

  2. It's all about balance Kevin, I have enough London-time to need a break from it, you have the quiet-time and need a break from it too!

    And yeah I did notice my criminal heels when I was posting the picture last night, though to be fair to me I was just messing about! I definitely wasn't "pushing the shit" out of my backbend (!) as I was able to hold it for aaaaages while my friend took pictures and I wasn't even panting!!

  3. Beautiful post Mel. After spending the past 2 weeks back home (Singapore) which included a weekend away with a bunch of girlfriends, I couldn't agree more with you about the importance of having long-time friendships as one ages. Each trip home is always so affirming and grounding for me, to realize that despite whatever life throws our respective ways now that I live in another part of the world, there are some things that will never change. I loved this post!

    And that's a good-looking headstand you've got there, you must be chuffed! ;)

  4. Thanks so much Danielle :)
    It's true, in response to reading this post my friend said that the sign of true friendship is picking up exactly where you left off, no matter how many miles, years and life-changes it is since you last spent time together. I only have the one school-friend I keep in touch with but that is enough to remind me how important and very lovely it is! I'm glad to hear you had a wonderful trip home too :)
    The headstand is coming back after I lost it again briefly, the one in the photo didn't last very long at all but at least it's captured for ever on film!
    My friend's son was clapping when I went up, it was very cute, I never had applause for an asana before!