Cleanse

Colonic irrigation is about as fancy as it sounds.

The room was small, incense burned, a jazzy tune played, but the roar of the ocean could still be heard in the background. I stared hard at the long wooden plank leading to the toilet in the middle of the room. Above it, a bucket filled with coffee infused water and a system of tubes. I listened carefully as Mun acted out how to carry out your own colonic, occasionally eyeing up the plastic bottle filled with olive oil that I would be using to ‘lubricate my anus’

Maybe the juice fast had me deluded.

This had seemed like a much better idea after a clay shake. I am very suggestible and mildly violent when hungry. I had wanted to purge any residual negaitivity I was storing up mentally. Why not physically? Start afresh: body, mind and soul.

I hadn’t imagined a new start would look like a 6 by 4 propped up on cinder blocks and an open toilet.

I’ve never been one for diets or health fads.  I attempted Beyonce’s Maple Syrup diet 7 years ago. Well I say attempted, I drank herbal tea for 5 days and chased them with  short stacks drowned in, maple syrup.

The Sanctuary is an amazing place to satisfy your curiosity for detox and cleanse programs. It is possibly the cheapest place in the world to have a colonic, or carry out a cleanse. Its staff are friendly, and well informed. There are also ongoing classes in yoga, pilates and meditation, as well as massages, a spa and steam room.

The whole environment encourages you to live and eat well, and fills you with a sense of well being.

I was intoxicated. Which is probably why a Juice fast sounded good.

I love juice. All drinks in fact. The more beverages the better. A day of juice sounded easy. Anyone who has seen me wolf down an order of tacos, or observed me eating my three lunches, knows I won’t fade away after a day fast. What I didn’t know was that all cleanses ended with a colonic.

I had a vague understanding of how they worked thanks to an episode of Jackass where Johnny gets a colonic. It didn’t prepare me at all for what it would feel like. It didn’t feel as hilarious as Johnny’s looked.

As I returned to the wellness centre, I looked visibly traumatised.

I won’t lie, when I decided to come out here I had been hoping to get in touch with myself. Just not via my anus with a tube I inserted myself. But you can’t predict what turns the game around.

I thought the emotional elements I couldn’t shift were with me for a reason. But just like a physical cleanse,  it takes time to flush out the more noxious parts of us.

They can be shifted though.

It won’t be pretty, but as I lie swinging in this hammock with a massive smile on my face and not a care in the world, I’d say it was worth it.

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Asian in Asia

Have passport, will travel.

It’s 7am and I have a yoga class in an hour. I woke up because of the sea. Living in London, I’ve never had the luxury of waking up to anything other than the sound of urban foxes shagging. Mexico City wasn’t much better. Although sirens were often interspliced with drunken arguments, or thumping music. I didn’t realise how much I love to wake up to the sound of the sea.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was not as tranquil.

The first night in Bangkok was spent wandering around the Khao San road shopping and avoiding teams of men in matching wife beaters, trying to drunkenly chat up anyone in grabbing reach. People like to touch here, not just drunken Brits out on a stag. I got poked in the boob, had my tattoo stroked and was awkwardly patted by a couple of giggly vendors, who may have been at the laughing gas balloons.

The night in Bangkok was a sensory overload. Lights. Vendors. Food. Massages. Rats. One of which I had an unsettling run in with that left me contemplating how much I really needed my right foot.

It was loud and bright and dirty and seedy. I liked it.

At 5am we were abruptly woken by our panicky Thai host who thought we were going to miss our flight. She had taken the liberty of booking us a taxi that was waiting as we spoke. I don’t think I’ve got packed and ready so quickly. I silently cursed her all the way to the airport.

The journey to get to Koh Phangan was a two fold nightmare. Unlike Alex Garland’s romanticised journey through jungle, jumping off waterfalls and swimming across the island, ours was more pedestrian and disgusting. The waves were dangerously high, so our speedboat jumped along the ocean for nearly two hours. The nausea it provoked was understandable. I regretted inhaling a pork bun and chilli chicken curry on the dock before we boarded. But the real kicker was the synchronised vomiting that began to take place about 20 minutes into the journey. Smiling faces handed out pink plastic bags and tissues, then the pukefest began. It was like the story Chunk describes in The Goonies: one person barfed and everyone else just joined in. It surrounded us and we sunk into our seats hoping we wouldn’t be hit by the spray.

My body’s natural defense mechanism in situations of high stress is to shut down. Much like a possum. Only more like a narcoleptic. I pass out.

When I awoke and drowsily got off the boat there was still another journey left to make. Kerry, had warned me that transport to The Sanctuary was a mafia. It’s lucky I had her and her amazing litigation skills to get me this far.

You couldn’t get a cheaper price no matter how good you were at haggling. What was worse they had decided to hike the prices up, to make the best of all the business that was anxiously waiting. We held out for as long as we could as the surliest driver in the world bitched at our attempts to bring the price down.

It didn’t feel great having to concede and get in the back of his shitty truck. It felt less great as we were hurled about along bumpy back streets out into the middle of nowhere.

Luckily we were headed towards Sanctuary.

Know your role

Everyone is good at something…right?

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

Imperfections

We all deserve a clean slate.

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.

Tinderlude

1655856_10153590962320552_5826856312381107258_n (1)Every-time I think I’m out, I get pulled back in again.

When I first met my ex I told him he should go on Tinder. He’s a good looking guy and was single. I thought he would clean up. I hadn’t thought I’d be dating the guy. I was off to Mexico a month down the road. Plus he had seen another man’s penis on my phone.

Long story short: never show a married friend a dick pic. She will tell her husband. He will make you show it to everyone at breakfast when you are too hungover to quickly sit on your phone.

It’s a miracle our relationship ever got off the ground.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when he popped up on my Tinder feed after the break up. But I deleted the app off my phone all the same. It was like he could see me.

Dating has always been my go to move when things are going badly in my life. When I say dating I mean Tinder. I have no desire to get to know someone in the hopes of cultivating a relationship. Not when I’m heart broken. Shameless superficial hottie snap, and texts filled with innuendo is all I look for when moving on.
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I had signed up again because I thought I needed to move on swiftly. I needed to remember that other good looking men existed.

The shock of seeing his duck face staring back at me in various poses made me realise I wasn’t ready yet.

Cue Rio: a city where the word Sex is literally everywhere, and everyone is hot and semi-naked. It was a disappointment to find out that Sex- Dom was not a sensual version of the Crystal Maze, but the equivalent of Sat-Sun abbreviation. More of a disappointment was the fact I just wasn’t into anyone and would have had no use for a real sex dome unless I could charge my Kindle there.

My trainer acted like we’d conceded a goal when I told him I had just enjoyed the sights.

“What’s wrong with you?! Get laid woman!”

It had been 4 months. The ‘Get over it’ was coming in thick and heavy.

I decided to give it one last swipe.

tinder_wins_and_fails_06

Straight off the bat I gave a cute guy my number. Almost immediately his penis was on my phone, completely unsolicited.

The penis was a shock. But not as much as the fact the guy had been so quick to whip it out that he had forgotten to hide the bald patch he’d disguised in his pics.

He apologised for the penis, but couldn’t explain the hair. I no longer felt compelled to respond to his messages.

That’s when my Tinder game changed. How it happened I don’t know.

Instead of cuing me up some hot sex  I built a small support group for the texting wounded.

Now all my messages seem to be pasta recipes, or stories of dates gone wrong. It’s almost like having a stable of boyfriends, who every now and then suggest a meet up.

I’m finding it hard to say yes though.

I said to one guy it was timing and location. If he wasn’t where I was at the right time then it wasn’t happening.

I may yet go on a date. I leave it to GPS, alcohol and wifi connectivity. But It’s not my priority anymore.

I won’t be deleting the app this time.

How will I know how ‘Strap’ and sex dungeon boy are doing on their quest for love?

Anyway, Dario told me he’d send me a recipe for cannelloni that I want to try this weekend.

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Thanks to #TinderNightmares for this bounty. Mine were too explicit, or too boring to post. 

Itchy feet

Margaret smiled at me. She looked very mum like.  I always run into well meaning mother figures when I’m abroad.

She and I were the only passengers on the airport shuttle into Budapest. We got talking about the plane delay. Complaining is a great way to start a conversation it would seem. We got on the topic of why we were in Hungary. She was there for work. I was there because I could be. I was lucky enough to have friends there, the time, and no responsibilities.

Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest
Parliament in the Pest side of Budapest

“For £500 you could buy a Eurorail pass. Travel around Europe for a month.”

It’s around £500 if you’re 18- 25. If you’re 26 or older, it’s closer to a grand to get a Eurorail pass. It wasn’t a bad idea though. When I got out in district 8, Margret told me to do it while I was still young. I thought about how ‘young’ I was. I was strongly considering it.

It had been four months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and getting no where.

One morning I woke up and I contacted my agencies and said I was having a crisis and wouldn’t be available for work until the new year. This may be the only time when I’d have the money to travel and no commitments. When I could take a last minute deal. Buy a cheap ticket and see some more of the world.

I’ve realised I have quite a good network of friends around the world. I’m off to Brazil in November. A weekend in Paris in December. Perhaps Singapore in the new year, or China. I also know a lot of teachers scattered around the world in schools that need an English teacher. Maybe the life of a travelling teacher could be resurrected in Europe or Asia.

My friend Diana was right. I wasn’t fat and toothless. I did have options.

There is a lot to be said for having your gap year in your 30s. On the plus side, I have some money saved. I can do it in a bit more style. Hungary was a whirlwind of G&Ts, steak dinners and strudel. It beat my pizza pie budget when I was in New York.

Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House
Foie Gras Fantasy. Not really my cup of tea. Great strudel though. The Strudel House

On the downside, my mum and dad think I’m having a mental breakdown, and my savings are starting to dwindle, while my credit card balance gets bigger. It’s all I want to do though.

I didn’t have a gap year before uni. Well I did, but I was living at a mates house after my dad had kicked me out, working three jobs and desperately trying to lock down a job at Topshop #ambition.  It was hardly ‘See the world before uni’ It was more ‘Prepare yourself for how much your life is going to suck when you have bills to pay and nowhere to live.’

I didn’t save a lot that year. Enough for a ticket to New York. I managed to meet my friends at the end of their travels, listen to their adventures around the world. We all still travel. Alone most of the time, I’ve noticed. We’ve even met up in different countries.

I think it’s something in your blood, wanting to be out there in the world alone, on your own adventure.  Some people can’t live without it.

I like travelling alone. It’s never been something I thought was unusual. I always had a friend to meet somewhere, or I would make friends when I got to where I was going.  I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve felt lonely at parties, in relationships, stuck at home. Traveling is something I’m happy to do by myself. 

The reactions I get when I tell people I’m travelling alone make me smile. The concern, the sympathy. Did I have no friends to go with? Surely I’d enjoy it more with other people? Next time I could ask them to come along.

Being a woman makes it seem dangerous, but it’s just as risky as it is for men. I have been mugged three times, but I’ve made it out unscathed and often with most of my possessions. 

You call that a knife?
You call that a knife?

The first time was at knife point and I was able to talk my way out of it. His pen knife was an embarrassment. I’d rather have been stabbed. The second time I was being an idiot, and wandering around at night with my headphones in. He got my iPod. But only as he ran away after i beat the shit out of him with an umbrella. So British. The last time I was mugged, it was at gun point, so I couldn’t really fight my way out of it. I managed to hold onto my shopping. It was worth more than the crap in my purse. Suckers.

Ok, it may seem uncertain. But it’s no more dangerous than your own back yard. You take the right precautions, you’re careful who you trust, and it all works out, most of the time. Occasionally you get a bit of bad luck, you wander into a bad area, fall asleep on the night bus with your iPod out; or date a man who thinks it’s acceptable to hold your possessions hostage because he’s teaching you a lesson for breaking up with him.

There are risks in everything we do.

Over the years my travels had introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom I’m lucky to still be in touch with. Sometimes you just spend a few nights having a good laugh, going to bars and wandering naked into the ocean. Other times you make travel buddies and end up at reggae festivals, or crossing the border into Panama.

I have had hand made pizza straight out of a make shift oven in a friend’s cave. It even had a door. The cave, not the pizza. 

I’ve soaked in thermal baths under the stars. I’ve hiked up a mountain in Andorra, cooked my own dinner and then hiked down into France for breakfast. There were parties on the beach, night swimming in lagoons, and once I jumped on a motorbike to a ghetto in Belize to shave a man’s beard off.

Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.
Dick Fountain. Or a more formal sounding name for this fine monument.

Traveling has been good to me.

There was never a trip I regretted. Not even this one back home. It took me to Hungary, a dick fountain, dear friends and the knowledge that Hungarians will not budge in a bar. Soon it will take me to my nap buddy, caipirihnas and samba.

I was told I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. Maybe what they meant to say was that they couldn’t live like this for the rest of their life. It’s not for everyone.

If you have a  travel suggestions let me know. I live out of a suitcase.

Menstruation Myth: Trump Edition

What bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die? Your mum, you tool.

When I was 17 years old I tried to send my brother to the local pharmacy because I needed tampons. My brother, being the absolute sweetheart that he is, said sure and took the money off me and headed to the door. Within 5 minutes I could hear a mumbled conversation and then a loud resounding What?! before he was loudly told to get upstairs and my father stormed into the living room to give me a piece of his mind. Little had I known that my insensitive request had nearly turned my brother gay, or worse, transgender. I was astounded by the ignorance flowing out of the mouth of someone I respected as a well educated, well read individual, and one who had no problem discussing fashion and make up with me, hardly the manliest of conversations. However, the line was drawn at periods. The attitude towards periods he had experienced growing up was one where they were treated as a curse, a sign of uncleanliness, a burden women had to endure as discreetly as possible without tainting any innocent men with it.

In the later years we managed to educate my father away from the fears borne from menstrual ignorance; he no longer handles a box of tampons at arms length or washes his hands compulsively afterwards. My mother however remains, like many Indian women, quite sheltered on the topic. I remember as a child, watching her lead my older sister away secretly and giving her a bag of things and when I asked my sister what was happening, she gave me that annoying smile siblings do: “You’re too little to know. It’s a grown up conversation.” A few years later, when my mother was not around to share this important information, my sister looked a little less smug and a lot more panicked when she tried to explain to me how the whole thing worked. I was terrified, no wonder people only whispered about it and would stop talking when a man came into the room. My mum would be away the rest of the year and my dad’s only recognition of the event was when he had to add sanitary towels to the shopping list. He promptly reminded me I had to help him buy them, else he be considered a pervert by the rest of London. When my mum returned, the fact my dad was now privy to my cycle and I was now using tampons which was worthy of an “Oh lord, the shame!” and an afternoon of praying. She will never see it as a positive, as something life affirming. She was taught that it was something to be ashamed of, something women suffered. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a pleasant time of the month, but I never felt suffered, nor would I allowed myself to be shamed because of it.

Maybe it’s that attitude that explains the continued general ignorance regarding the menstrual cycle. Some of the men I dated were aware of periods, but only in terms of it being an inconvenience. To them. It meant that sex was now a hassle or had to be moved to a shower. They may get their bedsheets stained. Or worse: father a brain damaged baby. They may have to deal with an exorcist like being. One who put you at risk of a bear attack. Yeah, these are the same men who believed it was impossible to get a woman pregnant in the shower because the water would wash away all the annoying sperm. From her ovaries. Men who would glare at you if you said the word period loudly or forced them to enquire whether female members of their family might have any tampons.

To be fair, this kind of attitude is better attributed to men like Mr Trump, Ron Burgundy, or members of my father’s generation. Not all men think women are untouchable while menstruating. Some don’t oversimplify the hormones involved by claiming women turn into a demonised version of themselves, nor do they ascribe being impassioned, angered or aggressive to the fact that it was her time of the month.  Unlike Presidential candidate Trump, who implied as much with his recent asinine comments. Personally, I think his inability to answer Megyn Kelly’s questions intelligently was what he should have focused on. More time preparing, less time blaming her hormones for your inability to answer a tough question.

Luckily today, most men my age aren’t as ignorant or sexist as Trump is. That isn’t to say they are well informed though or that they want to be. A few months back, my boyfriend asked me how I was able to be in the swimming pool of our local gym if I was on my period. Confused, I replied tampons. He continued to look at me waiting for an explanation and it dawned on me: Why would a man know the difference between a sanitary towel or a tampon? Or how they worked Why would he care? My dad hadn’t known, hence why I was allowed to just buy them, much to the horror of my mum. There had been years of Bodyformadverts with sexy shapely females, roller blading carefree, and even the launch of sanitary line, Carefree, questioning why we should stop because our periods started. But men normally switched off at this point and went to make a cuppa. So did my boyfriend have to know how they worked? Not really. Did he want to know? Not really. But could he wipe the terrified look off his face and stop scanning the water for Sharks. If he knew what was good for him- yes.

The ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle used to really anger me as a young woman. Periods are considered unclean in my culture. You are not meant to enter a holy place when menstruating nor are you meant to touch a man who about to pray or give offerings to god. Not being religious myself, the whole idea seemed ludicrous. It wasn’t my culture alone though. In some indigenous cultures they would send the women away from their village until their cycle was complete. There was actually a time of the month where we were better off not coming into contact with anything for fear of spiritual contamination- something I didn’t quite understand. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the real fear was from actual contamination, women having accidents and soiling holy terrain. Once again something that seemed really stupid to me. The most embarrassing part when I was a young teen, was you would be asked whether you had your period. I could understand this from a doctor, but not when all I wanted to do was step into a building. My mother would discreetly inquire if I had my period and if I did I didn’t have to go to temple, or religious events, or partake in religious ceremonies. Needless to say, I was always on my period during such occasions.

“What bleeds for five days but doesn’t die?” Yeah, funny. How some men have demonised women, and turned them into a supernatural other just because of a biological process we have and men don’t, is worrying. I think it might do some men well to remember that without the existence of the menstruation cycle they would not exist. The fact that men can’t really experience this and can only know of it from a scientific stance, might explain the ignorant attitudes possessed. A uniquely female experience doesn’t have be seen as a curse, or unclean, or a negative. It amuses me that these female experiences are often depicted as embarrassing, horrifying and something men should be grateful they don’t have to suffer.  Only we’re not suffering. We’re just different. Thankfully, plenty of men already get this and leave the archaic comments to the Trumps of this world.