Blog

Life in Lockdown

 

Shutes Lane during lockdown

As I eat my lunch, I’m reflecting on what on earth has happened these last few months. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears I had just started a new glossy PR job in London, but one week in, everyone was asked to work from home. Saying rushed goodbyes I whisked myself off to Dorset to escape house arrest, a much more desirable getaway than the claustrophobia I imagined London would become.

Little did I know of the struggles working from home would bring, since I had a great deal to learn in a very short amount of time. A couple of breakdowns and a few hiccups later, I had just started to get to grips with the job when redundancy hit like a tonne of bricks. I almost hoped that, given I had a months notice, they would change their mind or the furlough deadline would be extended, but alas this wasn’t the case.

When I emerged from my WIFI friendly darkened corner after eight weeks of work, I was amazed by the outside world. The rest of my family were in their own bubble; a hubbub of picking and growing vegetables in the garden, cooking feasts or going for long walks. Dad spent most of his time on his Ipad trying to decipher a new future (or nursing his current but certainly not his last).

I’m not sure it will go down well to describe lockdown as being ‘stuck’ with my family, but as most of the population in the world will agree, ‘stuck’ seems to be the most accurate adjective to describe the state of the world. This being said, lockdown could be far worse. At least in Dorset there are rolling hills and the sea only a few miles away.

Family runs have been entertaining. I was nominated to be the family personal trainer, however I think my S.O.S type mind set was far too extreme, after I made a rule before the first ever run there would be absolutely no walking. Behind me came a trail of four panting, pained joggers, all wearing the most inappropriate clothing. Mum bravely sporting a cashmere jumper and Dad’s farmers cap was something to remember, along with other items from my sisters like polka dot fluffy socks and bum bags in which to carry mobiles. Along with cyclists and walkers passing I was unable to contain my laughter at the extraordinary sight following me across country.

20200422_165723
One thing I’ve been surprised about during this lockdown is how we Brits have, through Zoom, maintained our notorious reputation for loving a party. A couple of days ago, I was invited to a ‘Ravebox House Party’ on Zoom, something I had no expectations for since the idea seemed as ludicrous as aliens invading the planet. I logged on, and what I saw in front of me was rather confusing; my friend in sunglasses (funny since he was definitely inside in the dark at 10.30pm), shirtless and at the front of the screen, mixing heavy drum and bass with some ‘mad’ visuals behind him.

After an hour of head shaking and awkward dance moves beneath our kitchen “strobe” lights, the novelty eventually wore off. Although it was, I admit, the closest I’ve come to letting my hair down within the last two months, with at least one sprained shoulder and pulled buttock muscles the next morning being evidence of our “night out on the town in our kitchen!”

It has been a time of reflection and rejuvenation, long runs and beach swims. I’m very lucky to have these privileges and can only imagine how others must be feeling. I hope that when this all blows over, everyone will become kinder, more humble and more understanding. I also hope people will become more aware of our environment and the positive impact this lockdown has had on our wildlife. I hope that people will appreciate the freedoms we have and the friends that have been there for us. That first pint back at the pub will say a lot. I guess we will have to cross our fingers and see…

 

Sri Lanka Part Three

ella view 2

The bumpy trip to Ella was, I think, the scariest experience of the trip. All was going well, but after three incredibly long bus journeys our luck was about to run out. Somehow, we ended up in a tuk- tuk for the last leg of the journey, rain pelting down with no wind screen wipers and, obviously no clue where we were going, helplessly leaving our lives in the hands of our driver. Half way up the mountain, he told us that landslides had been blocking the roads all day, and that we should turn around and try again tomorrow. However, being stupidly determined to get from A to B, we ignored his advice.

Three hours later, after a near death experience, having collided with what felt like half the cliff, we arrived in Ella, soaked to the bone and dying to get out of the ‘death cab’. We decided to splash out for a room for the night since we were in need of a hot shower, (very scarce in this humid country) and some sleep.

This became utterly impossible however, because as Eve and I repeatedly grumbled to each other, twisting and turning throughout the night, twenty irritating English girls decided to stage their own rendition of the X-Factor, screeching along to the top ten chart hits at the top of their lungs. The cats had definitely been let out of the bag. Although laughable now, it was incredibly un-funny at the time.

A single road led through the small town of Ella, restaurants and bars on either side glittering with fairy lights and a buzzing atmosphere immediately lifting our spirits.  Waterfalls are one of Ella’s main attractions, along with Little Adam’s Peak (a tiny hike surrounded by tea plantations) at the end of which are the beautiful views of Ella, a definite must for any keen hikers wishing for some gentle exercise. Other attractions include Ella’s Rock and Nine Arch Bridge, a site which, although beautiful, is exactly what it sounds like: nothing other than nine arches and a bridge.

nine arch bridge ella

The train which supposedly rides over the bridge was the complete opposite to what we’d anticipated, a hilarious but disappointing experience. As we heard the rumbling, everyone eagerly got their fingers on buttons, cameras at the ready. Just as the front of the train came into sight we realised that not only was it the wrong one, but it was only one carriage long and looked just like something out of Lego Land. Very slowly, it made its way across the bridge and together with its squeaky horn, it was a pretty pathetic sight.

After the discomfort of our first night we decided to move (yes, we really were annoyed) and ended up about a fifteen minute bus ride away in the mountains  at Tomorrowland Hostel, an experience within itself and somewhere that prided itself on being hard to leave. However, if you were to put my parents in there, I’m sure they would’ve insisted it was the easiest place to leave in their lives, since there was no privacy whatsoever and constant noise.

An unconventional hostel, the dorm beds were mattresses on the floor, cramped together to fit in as many people as possible; and, the fact that there was almost no light, made the walk up the enormously wide stairs at night an absolute mission, which definitely didn’t end well. Downstairs, day and night blurred into one, and music of all different genres constantly played in the background.

All being said, it was actually a lot of fun. This was partly down to the fascinating characters we encountered, but also due to the delicious vegetable curries, prepared every day for their ‘family dinner’ as it was called, with candles and incense burning throughout the night. Every day new travellers joined the clamour, instantly overwhelmed at first but settling in after an hour two.

Ella almost defeated us, but after a death cab, relentless music and the precarious staircases it was- without a doubt- time for a new adventure.

Sri Lanka Part Two

Weligama, the peaceful and relaxed surf town next door was a huge contrast to our disorderly Mirissan entry into Sri Lanka. The beach was a stones throw away from civilisation, perfect for our 6 AM mornings. Surf shacks were dotted along the beach and the friendly Sri Lankan’s with their free flowing locks were incredibly clever at tempting us to rent their surf boards.

One particular individual, Malind, became one of our favourite surfer ‘dudes’ and although his English was almost as bad as our Singalese, we managed to bump into him most days. Our conversations consisted of the same three words “you party tonight?”, nodding heads, followed by laughter at the acknowledgement that all three of us didn’t really have a clue what was going on.

Eve’s unexpected epiphany when she suddenly decided she wasn’t afraid of the sea anymore, led her to the other extreme; obsession. So much so that I actually caught her watching a YouTube video on how to do tricks on a surf board.

We were in Hangtime Hostel, an incredibly hip surfer hang out, (albeit slightly overpriced) sitting at the rooftop bar supposedly socialising, but Eve had other ideas. I popped to the bathroom and arrived back to her face staring intensely at her phone screen whilst people were blissfully chatting next to her, with not a care in the world. She would occasionally press her ear close to the speaker to hear the man’s (I assume) very helpful advice, making me laugh even more than I already was.

Our homestay, I hate to say, was awful. Consisting of almost no windows in what can only be described as slightly larger than a wardrobe, Eve quickly realised that the dirty fan made her white dress dirtier rather than drier, and it didn’t give the slightest bit of relief to the sweltering heat. I guess it was a good thing, because we succeeded in spending as much time away from there as possible, confirming our previous theory that arriving and casually looking for a hostel was far better then scrolling through booking.com. We surfed most mornings and our sometimes embarassing failed attempts at standing caused huge bouts of hysterics from both of us.

To really put the cherry on top, walking back to our homestay on our last day we came across two enormous mating iguana’s. I am definitely not a fan of any kind of reptiles and these two were absolutely no exception. As I let out a little scream of terror, Eve looked at me whilst picking up her phone, laughing, to film my pathetic reaction. In my defence, they were huge. She thought I was being ridiculous and relaxedly walked past them as if they weren’t even there. I was paralysed about 50 metres away and refused to move until they scuttled (even that word reminds me of them and makes me shiver) underneath a fence into the undergrowth. Three children and their mother were watching me, also laughing, adding to the whole embarrassing ordeal. It’s safe to say I was happy we were leaving the next morning.

Unawatuna, an hour further up the coastline was a rather strange experience. We arrived in a bleak downpour to Mr Funk’s, a hostel further our of town, where we’d assumed would be bursting with fellow travellers, but was, in fact, completely empty. Even so, it was very peaceful, and since we were the only people there we used the quietness for some well deserved early mornings and R&R. After all, we had been feeling like shells of humans for a while.

We woke up on our second morning determined to surf early and miss the crowds, only to be taken to the top of the completely wrong beach! Dalawella beach, not Dewatta beach like we’d asked. Although it was beautiful, with white sand and palm trees we couldn’t help but feel slightly irritated that we were missing the early morning surf and weren’t where we wanted to be.

Luckily, we left enough time to still find Dewatta. The next problem arose when there were almost no waves… every ten minutes or so we would see perhaps two good ones. It seemed the odds were not in our favour that fine day.

Our itchy feet began to settle in on day 3, and an unexpected visit from some Weligama friends almost led to another night of chaos. The fact that we actually considered making our way an hour down the coast for a night out really says it all. It was an absolutely absurd idea, but nonetheless we debated it for over an hour, far longer than was necessary. It was a close call, but luckily we saved ourselves and our bank accounts by staying put for one more night.

The next day we made our bumpy journey to Ella. The mountains were calling…

Sri Lanka Part One

A month away had been on the back burner for a while, and after the joy of being free from uni wore off and the blues kicked in, it was time to take action. Eve had been hinting at a joint trip and it seemed like the time had come to get out of England for a while. Sri lanka was calling.

After two tedious flights including the type of seven hour layover where time stands still, our flight finally landed in Colombo, a place we quickly found out wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be on your own for more than a couple of hours. The first mistake of our trip actually happened in the airport before we even set foot in Sri Lanka’s imposing capital. It seems that next to no sleep led to Eve losing her mind and leaving her card in the ATM. Dispensing cash before card was far too confusing for her exhausted brain and she wandered off, oblivious to the colossal mistake she’d made until two days later. At least she’d been smart enough to force us to get Monzo cards. It wasn’t long before I lost mine too, leading to the realisation that perhaps we were slightly doomed. Or just stupid? Who knows.

On our first and only morning (thank God) in the concrete jungle of Colombo, tuktuks and motorbikes almost crashed into us every few seconds, extremely overwhelming after the much more civilised countryside roads we’re both used to. Within minutes of braving the outside world, a man who seemed very helpful at first, approached us, told us where to find food, popped us into a tuktuk and decided to give us an un-invited mini tour of Colombo. Stupidly we didn’t anticipate how much it would cost…we had absolutely no idea how much 6000 rupees was until the receptionist at our hotel saw our deflated faces and laughed, telling us we had just paid about £25 for a ten minute journey. Turns out Mr ‘Helpful’ led to mistake number two within 24 hours.

My cousin Hettie, who lives in Madiha- a nearby town to our much more desired destination, Mirissa- really saved the day for us and picked us up from the hotel lobby for the two hour drive down south. Our sunken expressions led her to comment on how she didn’t like Colombo either, and embarrassingly we told her of our ordeal, something we accepted must have happened to thousands of naive tourists like us. The only consolation we could muster was that the money probably fed the driver’s family for a week. At least there was no room for another mistake now we were safely stowed away with Hettie.

Mirissa really is a place you can’t leave, a sentence we were frequently told for the first two days of our soon to be eventful first week away.The busy main road running through the centre, with ‘Rotti’ and ‘Kottu’ signs everywhere and enormous buses driving at a hundred miles an hour making you jump out of your skin is a huge contrast to its picturesque coastline.

The buzzing beach life, with bars and restaurants lit up with candles and fairy lights spread along the entire beach, ends its daily cycle with a huge spotlight illuminating the evening sky, a location marker for the next night of debauchery. There are countless stories of our times at those beach parties, but to keep it simple and avoid embarrassment, lets just say Mirissa time travelled us back to our eighteen year old selves.

We were really thrown in at the deep end and our two friends, who were coincidentally in Mirissa at the same time as us, recommended ‘Why Not’, the party hostel with a notoriously scandalous reputation. How we survived four nights there is beyond me. The bar was dangerously capable of scrapping any early night plans we had, and along with the swimming pool and ecclectic mix of characters from every corner of the world, all sharing in the same experiences, it reflected an atmosphere of hilarious chaos, something we strived to find for the rest our trip.

The best place we ate was Zephyr, with a spectacular view of the whole beach, and with the sunset trickling through the palm trees it makes a perfect romantic setting for honeymooners. You’d think I was being biased because Hettie’s boyfriend owns it but I’m not, I promise. The food was authentically Sri Lankan and with explosive flavours (the beer battered prawns with wasabi mayo was unbelievable) and delicious fresh cocktails (passion fruit mojito’s all round) it was- without a doubt- miles ahead of any other restaurant.

We were incredibly sad to leave Mirissa and the amazing friends we’d made, but the fact that we only popped next door really softened the rather heart- wrenching feeling of leaving a place we had begun to think of as our home away from home. To be honest, its not like we went far, Weligama is a five minute tuktuk ride away. Early mornings replaced our ridiculously late nights and with Eve’s sudden obsession with surfing, dragging me- the definition of ‘not a morning person’- out of bed was particularly confusing, since she’s always been terrorised by the sea. It’s safe to say that within our first week Sri Lanka really shook things up.

Stay tuned for part two…

Willam Boyd’s ‘Sweet Caress’ (Spoiler Alert!)

Academy of Ideas | Events | Sweet Caress by William Boyd

My recent venture through the rollercoaster life of Amory Clay in William Boyd’s novel Sweet Caress was- I have to admit- quite emotional as I lay in bed and turned over the final page. I was surprised about how this had book turned out. What drew me to this particular book was the front cover; a photograph of a young woman with a turquoise headscarf, large eyes and a film camera covering her mouth. I grabbed it quickly from the book shelf and ran out the door, late for work and not really expecting much. It wasn’t until I was sitting at breakfast the next morning, 100 pages in that I realised how much I’d underestimated it. What an absolute page turner.

Written through the eyes of Amory Clay in the 1900s, Boyd has managed to create a character who is strangely likeable, despite some of the questionable decisions she makes throughout her life. What begins as an innocent child sent off to boarding school in Sussex turns into a story about a feisty, strong woman determined to make her mark, firstly by capturing portraits of high society, and developing into a fashion and war photographer. Her peculiar fantasy about her gay uncle, passionate affairs with potentially unlikeable (sometimes married) men, snapshots of pornographic films and the rash decision to head into the foray of the Vietnam war are just some of the numerous stories this woman has to offer.

Based on a black and white photograph found at a bus stop in Dulwich, of an unknown woman posing knee-deep in a lake in her swim suit, Boyd dictates Amory Clay’s story  through using 75 of his own anonymous collected pictures. They are meticulously weaved into her story, and so what seems like an autobiography of Amory herself is- in fact- a fiction.

Who is Amory Clay? The novel mystery of the woman in the ...

Glamour is the first word that comes to mind, hilarity second; cocktail parties, champagne and countless cigarettes are interwoven with Amory’s honest wittiness,  networking her way to make a name for herself, (politely declining many offers of dinner from rich men) despite being a woman in the 1900s. The second half of the book  feels more emotional; London fascist protests, the second world war and a hippy commune (to name a few) are described with a brilliant humanity which brings Amory’s colourful life to a somewhat surprising conclusion. Marrying Lord Sholto Farr, the photograph of which Boyd shows as a strapping young soldier, begins as an epic love story but soon begins to deteriorate, a terribly unfair turn of events and almost the beginning of the end for Amory.

When reflecting the journey this woman takes- from her East Sussex childhood to her final secluded existence- it makes me wonder what my future will hold. Be prepared for scandal, romance and wit combined with a violence that sends shiver’s down your spine, painting a picture of a  humbled woman reflecting on a life well lived.

I Take Back What I Said About My Family…

beach croatia

Although I said Mallorca would be the last blog about my family, I don’t think I can promise that…they are just too funny. Croatia, September 2019! Me, Mum and Lily arrive at the airport car park to find Dad, briefcase hitched uncomfortably over his shoulder, waving at us with bulging eyes almost popping out of his head . He’s been waiting for us for two hours and the joy of seeing us is unmistakable.

The flight to Dubrovnik is easy- luckily all of us fall asleep and there is absolutely no drama. When we land, we all drag our sleepy selves through the airport and wait about 40 minutes for Dad to rent the car. We finally manage to flop into our seats after a long journey, and surprisingly Mum doesn’t seem too worried about the fact we have absolutely no idea where we’re going to eat dinner. She goes off the vague advice from her holy grail- the email of recommendations given to her by property owner Georgie. ‘The food’s delicious there’, said the email.

What we don’t anticipate is just how quiet the town is, (the name I haven’t the faintest recollection of) and at 10.30 pm we are lucky find anywhere to relieve our starvation. The sweet waiter, whose name is never quite known captures the interest of Lily and Dad immediately. I don’t think he’s expecting an English family to be so interested in him.  Twenty questions, some awkward mumbles and a few tiny smiles later, we all decide we love him. Of course, Mum tells him to come to England, whilst Alice and I hug him as we leave-  probably not the most appropriate thing to do, but I think we made his evening.

With a great start to the long night, everything changes. The sat nav has absolutely no idea what it’s talking about and sends us constantly to the wrong place. The irritating but slightly bearable English lady’s voice has now changed to an exasperatingly annoying American man who sounds like a robot. I am jarred awake (after a couple of glasses of wine at dinner) by a squabble which has broken out in everyone’s tiredness. American man’s voice has been turned off by an infuriated Dad, and I have to direct him with the useless directions given to us whilst everyone is silent with anticipation in the backseat, praying beyond hope that we find our house.

Finally, we spot the white wall on the side of a road. It’s 2.30 in the morning and we are all beyond excited. After room allocations, some grumpy disagreements and confusion, I flop into bed only to realise that me, the fusspot in the family who cannot sleep with a single noise near me, has the room with a generator outside the door. I don’t sleep properly for 2 nights, envying the lucky sleepers who are snoring peacefully in their beds, probably in some blissful dream oblivious to anything around them.

We all begin to realise, over the next few days, that although the house itself is beautiful with an amazing view of the sea and mountains, there’s almost NOTHING to do apart from relax. As a brief experiment to see how far we can walk without seeing any other humans, my sisters and I walk down the empty promenade. The only other people we can possibly bump into are our parents, which is exactly what happens, driving in the opposite direction. After a conversation about probably nothing, I’m about to get in the car, when Ali looks at me with an astonished look on her face and says: “What on earth are you doing? You literally have nothing else to do but come with us”. I reluctantly get out of the car and continue our walk into yet another ghost village.

We go to a nearby town, Loviste, just over the hill for an explore. Ali and Lily decide to  find some lunch, and they arrive back almost two hours later. Ali has a white plastic cup of red wine balanced in her hand and Lily has somehow come across a wonky looking wine glass filled with gin & tonic with a soggy slice of lime. They both flop on to the beach and begin to tell us about Boris, the Croatian fisherman they manage to befriend on their search for food. He finds them wandering through the street, gabbles away at them in Croatian, hurries them into his house, feeds them fish and plies them with his homemade wine. How they always have some unbelievable story up their sleeve I will never know. It seems those two are becoming more and more like Patsy and Eddie from Ab Fab, with me more like Saffy, sulking in the corner annoyed that I’ve missed out- although Saffy never feels left out does she?

Dad never really likes just flopping around in the sun and much prefers doing outdoorsy activities. We are lucky enough to hire a boat for a couple of days and zoom over to the Island of Mijet, previously called Ogygia, famously known as the home of Calypso and hero Odysseus for seven years . As soon as we arrive, a Croatian harbour master tell us off for not flying the Croatian flag, a complete know-it-all who obviously hates tourists and either hates his job or takes it far too seriously. Oh dear, not a great start to the day, but Mum and Dad somehow manage to get out of it, perhaps because of the mixture of curiosity and confusion sprawled all over their faces.

Next thing we know, we’re cycling around the island- not just half of it, but the ENTIRE island, bearing in mind it’s about 28 degrees at the peak of the midday heat. About five minutes after we begin cycling, we’re already lost, half a mile from the starting point. Lily and Mum randomly hitch- hike back to the bike hire after forgetting to buy tickets for the lake. Dad decides he doesn’t want to wait and suddenly cycles off into an unknown forest down an incredibly bumpy track, probably doing unsalvageable damage to the forlorn looking bicycle. We find him half an hour later panting on the side of the lake, bike strewn on the floor next to him. In his defence, he had done a monumental short cut.

Another ‘Dad diversion’ comes on our last day on Korcula, an island directly opposite us.  Somehow Dad persuades us to drive around almost the entire island, and when I say entire island, I mean very far from the beaten track. It’s what we’ve always called Dad’s ‘around the corneritis’. We drive for what seems like hours, up and down unbelievably bumpy tracks and through a couple of empty towns, with Dad determined to find a beach he somehow knows about. We’re all about to lose the plot, terrified and sweaty  when we come across a rocky track which leads us to a secluded beach with white pebbles, and it’s deadly silent. It seems that Dad’s exploration’s have paid off. I think it’s our favourite day of the holiday.

The cherry on top of the cake comes on the last evening, when Lily finally gets to spot the turtle she’s been wanting to see all week- he comes to say hello and Lily is so excited I think she almost cries, although perhaps that’s partly to do with the glass of wine in her hand.

turtle croatia

Overall another success, with adventures, plenty of mishaps and Ab Fab moments. Do you think our holidays will always be like this? I hope so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should You Judge a Book by its Cover?

How on earth does one ever choose a book? It has always been a mystery to me- should you judge a book by its cover, as most people do? Or should you take some time out to sit in the comfort of a book shop, surrounded by the smell of fresh ink and paper, and read a couple of pages before you decide?

This morning, when buying Sally Rooney’s book ‘Normal People’, I was struck by how

20190814_090356 (1)

important my surroundings have always been to my decisions. Today’s Waterstones experience was calm and collected, leaving me free to roam the shelves, occasionally flicking through pages until I finally came to the conclusion that Rooney’s unusual book cover, an anchovy tin illustrated with two figures in passionate embrace, was enough for me.

Contrast this happy experience to an awful airport encounter a couple of weeks ago while popping into W H Smith to purchase a much needed holiday book. There were people everywhere, jumping into the teeniest tiniest gaps possible, battling with each other for a look at the limited selection. It was absolute hell in there, and to make matters worse, I felt pressured to buy a book as quickly as possible in case someone else  nabbed the last copy. I didn’t even like the look of any of them and was dreaming of a comfy sofa to fall into and read in peace. Eventually, I left the shop feeling annoyed and dissatisfied.

An hour later, I found myself in a different W H Smith closer to the boarding gate, where I finally managed to choose a book! ‘Machines Like Me’ by Ian McEwan. The shop was still busy but at least there weren’t people pushing and shoving past me. Yes, I know I was in an airport and what else should I expect, but it was a relief to finally find a book amid the chaos. Interestingly, I ended up buying one by chance. Despite the front cover being so incredibly unattractive (a creepy AI robot staring out from a black background), it was only because I felt more comfortable in my surroundings that I was able to pick it up. After one very quick look over, I bought it, moderately but not entirely, stress-free.

It suddenly dawned on me that frenzied people and buying books do not go hand in hand. Making an informed decision in a quiet, settled environment is a much better way of choosing a book. Rash, hurried experiences are an absolute nightmare that leave you not entirely satisfied with your book. My tumultuous encounters in the two stressfull W H Smith’s, contrasted with my hugely relaxing, utterly lovely Waterstones experience, made me realize that a peaceful setting makes for much better book choices.

Don’t get me wrong, book covers are a huge factor, but in the future I will only judge a book solely by its cover if I’m in a similar airport situation.

 

 

 

 

Graduation

Image may contain: 3 people, including Mamie Colfox and Julia Colfox, people smiling, people standing, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Graduating from Manchester University was a rather bitter-sweet experience, since I can no longer be approached by strangers about my wild night out with my Mum. Even though in Dorset, echoes of that crazy time still follow me around, graduation marked the end of a three year chapter of my life, and with ups and downs all over the place I was sad to say goodbye.

My friend Tommy and I shared the stress of working out how to get our parents to the ceremony on time. We both laughed, ironically, that our roles had been reversed, and the parents had now become our children. The responsibility of trying to keep them happy at the same time as looking for a safe place to leave them, (so they wouldn’t get confused) was extremely exhausting. After lots of left, right and sometimes wrong turns, we finally told them where to stand. They actually managed to remain in the same position we left them, whilst we agitatedly queued for our gowns, mumbling that we hoped they hadn’t got themselves lost.

After countless generic graduation snaps, Dad decided it was a good idea to lift the back of my gown over my head as a hood. When I told him to stop, he simply said “why not? It’s raining!”. People were looking at this idiotic display with furrowed brows as if we were mad. We bustled them into the line for the ceremony, only to bump into them on the stairs 5 minutes later. Our little conversation beforehand, hugging and saying we would see them after, now seemed pointless.

As I sat down, I looked over to my right and saw that they were still nearby. Both sets of parents were sitting opposite me, looking eagerly over. Dad was doing his usual big eyes, raised eyebrows expression with his long arm waving, almost hitting the top of the man’s head next to him in his eagerness. Mum, on the other hand, had sparked up what looked like a rather interesting conversation with the woman next to her, having not noticed Dad’s extravagant gestures.

The ceremony itself wasn’t particularly interesting, with a lot of clapping leaving us with slightly reddened hands by the end. There was some entertainment however, provided by the hilariously old-fashioned robes and caps the professor’s wore- it looked like they were in Harry Potter, or a choir walking down the aisle of a cathedral. In particular, the head of Classics was doing very well not to be distracted by his cap’s tassel constantly brushing against his eye during his speech.

What followed- a brief hello and a free glass of Prosecco with my friends- resulted in a long, slightly fuzzy-headed 4 hour journey with my parents.Image may contain: Emily Davies and Mamie Colfox, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

The highlight, as sad as it sounds, had to be the very up-market Gloucester services. As we were waiting for Mum to pretty much do her weekly shop, Dad and I had a riveting conversation about his 20p apple and why it’s always a good idea to eat the pips. The last stretch of the journey presented us with some obstacles: wobbly encounters with ‘incompetent drivers’, and some exhausting incidents of road rage. It was lucky that, after swapping drivers about 3 times, we made it home in one piece.

So it was, after 3 years, we made the final drive back to Dorset. In many ways, I thought  I would be relieved to be rid of the squalor of student living, but as I reflect, it was worth it for the amazing friendships I kindled. Through the good times and the bad, I will always be appreciative that Mum and Dad had only ever been a phone call away. In Manchester I would’ve probably called Dad just when he was be hobbling over a wall in Greece, or ring Mum when she was half way through realizing that she’d locked the car in the car park in Mallorca…  but perhaps next time I ring them from afar it will be to tell them I’ve made it as a big time writer.

It is farewell to Manchester and my parents as wonderful subjects, and on to new, exciting things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mallorca 2019 with Bagshot, Mr Bean and Bridget Jones.

mallorca cala deia

Hello Ladies and Gents, it’s indeed another story of a holiday with my parents. This time, however, my friend Eve and I are the ones to brave the adventure. We meet Mum and Dad at Palma airport, and after a ten minute call with my mother in which neither party has any idea where the other is, Mum appears. Although she’s looking her glamorous self, she is half giggling and half becoming more irritable with Dad as he shuffles a step behind her, with one corner of his pink shirt shabbily untucked.

Even though Eve has met my parents dozens of times, I always feel the need to warn her of their eccentricities. In true Colfox style, Mum and Dad tell us a ridiculous story of how they have just managed to get their car locked in a car park. “Bloody Waze led us there, it didn’t tell us it was shutting in ten minutes!”, exclaims Dad, huffing and puffing in the taxi we have no choice but to be bustled into. They had been happily eating their delicious tapas, blissfully unaware that somewhere nearby, the gate was slowly being shut, trapping their car in the car park. The next morning, Dad was tapping away furiously on his Ipad to Waze customer service about his terrible ordeal with their app, and how much it had cost him.

It turns out that checking when the car park closes is not part of their job description.

Deia, in Mallorca, is the destination for wholesome, relaxed holidays where one is able to sunbathe in peace and amble along the streets, effortlessly buying a giant organic lemon or a gluten free pastry from the fabulous village shop on the way. Cala Deia is a beautiful cove thirty minutes walk from the town, and is the type of place one sees gorgeous ‘yummy mummies’ with their equally as stunning, perfectly dressed babies being dipped in the water, with cream coloured sun hats perfectly placed on their heads.

We decide to have a go at being some of these glamorous women (and men), and plan to go for an early morning dip with a picnic breakfast. I grumble in the back seat, feeling car sick and terrified at the continuously windy roads, because, as Eve has always said to me, I’m not a morning person. I listen bemusedly to Mum calling Dad ‘Bagshot’, a fictional chauffeur she adopts for Dad’s nickname for the rest of the holiday, and asking that next time he drives would he please wear his white chauffeur gloves. This greatly lightens my mood, but not as much as Dad’s heroic attempt at clambering over the rocks for his dip. Please bear in mind that there is no sand on this beach, and instead there are just numerous different sized rocks, which is harsh for anyone barefoot to encounter. Dad is the first to attempt the walk over them on his short way to the turquoise, clear water’s edge. Watching him, the three of us cannot help but laugh. He is really struggling, unable to walk far before screeching “ouch” as another jagged stone catches on his foot, but he has a slight smile on his face because he secretly knows that we’re laughing at him, and loves it. We feel sorry for him, but there is something about his unbelievably slow hobble to the water which triggers our laughter.

No wonder Mum said going on holiday with Dad was like going on holiday with a combination of Bridget Jones and Mr Bean. Not to mention the fact that Dad had already cut the sole of his foot the previous day when he tumbled off his paddle board onto the only rocky part of the sandy beach and then again the day after that. Watching Dad trying to get in the water was as painful as watching the crab Eve accidentally picks up in her towel, try to climb out of the bowl we placed it in. Don’t worry, the crab is safe and sound now; we let him free after Dad tells us we are all ridiculous for screaming over such a tiny sea creature.

We decide to go to a market in Soller, a town not too far away from where we are staying. Of course, Eve and Mum are in heaven, excitedly running around trying on dresses and buying almost everything they see. Dad and I, on the other hand, hate shopping in the heat, since our freckly skin can’t handle it. Luckily for Dad, he is allowed to sit down and wait for them to run out of steam. Unfortunately for me, Eve and Mum drag me around with them, and I stand there grumpily,  alternating between replying  “yes” or “no” when they ask my opinion on an item of clothing, not caring about anything they ask me. “Where’s Philip”? asks Mum, and my eyes brighten as I see a way out. “I’ll go and find him“, I reply gleefully and desperately run, fumbling through the crowd. Trying to find Dad is like playing ‘Where’s Wally’. Everywhere I look there are men in pink shirts. I finally spot him sitting on some church steps, legs crossed practising his yoga, wearing dark glasses and a floppy straw hat which Mum has made him wear. I run over, relieved to be away from the mayhem and only manage to sit with him for five minutes, listening to his light breathing in the heat, until Eve spots us and beckon’s me to come back. Lucky Dad.

One of our early morning excursions was a visit to the home of Robert Graves, the famous writer who lived just outside Deia in the 1900’s. Dad- being the most intelligent of us all- is a huge fan of his, and is so excited by the whole thing that he goes there the day before so he can give us the low down for the next day. What makes us realise just how much Dad loves Robert Graves, or ‘Robbie’, as we girls call him, is how carried away Dad gets in the gift shop. I’m not joking, he buys more than half the shop and leaves with a whole bag full of books, which weigh almost as much as his luggage. When I approach the subject, he replies that he’s only getting the books he hasn’t read and looks at me under his floppy straw hat with a mischievous smile on his face as he quickly hides the books in the car before Mum can see. “Just another day in the office”, I say to Eve as we both get in the car, trying to hide our laughter behind our seats.

Thank God we actually made it home. Mum sends me a stress- fuelled text 10 minutes before their flight saying they’d only just made it on the plane, even after leaving masses of time… despite their differences, beautiful Bridget Jones and smart Mr Bean make a rather brilliant combo after all!

 

 

 

 

 

My Brother’s Visit to Manchester.

You would think my brother’s visit up North would be much more eventful than my mothers, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong. It was as if God had it in for me the weekend my brother came to stay, like he was saying haha you can’t have it both ways.

Going back to Uni in third year was a massive shock to the system- immune and mental. My first day back and it was already “let’s go to the pub for one”. Who has ever been to the pub for one? This seemed to be an ongoing thing for the next three weeks, and this along with doing 6 hour stints in the library, was bound to fall on me with force by the time my brother came to stay.

Imagine this- my last year of Uni and the only family member who’d come to visit me was my Mum. The excitement of seeing my brother-after he explained he had been partying in Edinburgh- was huge, but this excitement would not last long. Blinded by the city lights, a bit too much for my sensitive eyes after being at a festival the day before, I collected him from the coach station. I promptly told him we were going to the cinema, NOT the pub. It was a Sunday after all.

Halfway through the film, I looked to my right and John had fallen asleep, mouth hanging open. Great, I thought, I guess it’s just me then. Little did I know it’d just be poor little me for the next 24 hours. My alarm went off at 8.30am, and I woke up feeling terrible. I dragged myself downstairs but Sod’s Law was that the only time my brother had come to stay, I was bed-ridden and infectious!

The next day was a huge improvement, but I had still hardly seen my brother. Whilst I had been festering in my bed, John had been living his life, seeing his friends (even if he did get lost on the way home), and chatting to everyone except me. It’s safe to say I was jealous and DESPERATE to do something with him! Considering my under-the-weather state, I took him off to a cafe in the much more upmarket Didsbury, which lasted about 20 minutes before I closed my laptop and said “I’m done”. “Thank god, so am I” said John and put his head in his hands- evidently, trying to work wasn’t going to happen, but anything else slightly active still seemed too much for me. Poor John.

Not surprisingly, we ended up at the pub on Tuesday night, and I came to the startling realization that my friends liked my brother more than me. I was still a tad touchy from the day before, scrunched in the corner, listening but not speaking. John on the other hand, was taking one for the team. He was on fantastic form cracking hilarious jokes that everyone seemed to be laughing at, and basically talking for the both of us. There was one moment when John whispered in my ear “I love your friends Mames”. Perhaps he was enjoying himself after all.

I was sad to say goodbye to him the next morning. He’d managed to survive a visit to Manchester, fall asleep in the cinema, impress my friends with his sharp wittiness and-on top of that- had survived getting my illness. But never in a million years did I ever think it would be more civilised than my mother’s visit. What an unexpected outcome. I just hope he enjoyed himself as much as I did.