Friday, 15 September 2017

Life-changing Pot (not THAT kind)

The journalist leans forward, intrigued. "So how did your pot painting career begin?"

"Quite unexpectedly," I reply, smiling as if it were the first time I've told the story. "My neighbour was moving out and gifted me this large terracotta pot... normally I love terracotta but this one was a very faded and lifeless colour."

(Please note: the photo is deceptive because here it has just been washed and is wet!)


I tell her how the previous week I'd bought red spray paint to give new life to an old metal herbdispenser.

"So you see I had this dull terracotta pot and this can of bright red spray paint in the house... and I thought why not spray paint the pot?"

The journalist's eyes narrows as she tries to anticipate the rest of the story. After all, I'm a famous sharpie artist not a spray painter. But the spray painting does play a key part.




"My original plan was to paint the pot red on the top and red at the bottom, a white middle, and a sleek red line running through it... I thought the white would cover any small smears of red that had run beneath the line, but instead it just turned pink."

"You should have sanded off the excess paint," she blurts out.

I smile patiently.  "Yes... but if it had worked out perfectly I wouldn't have decided to blow caution to the wind and use my sharpie pens."


I then tell her what I've already told all the other magazines reporters. I tell her about the pure joy I felt once I started drawing.

"I'd been feeling really irritated that day, but as soon as I started doodling on that pot all my worries faded away and I felt so happy. I felt like I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."


Behind us, I'm aware of the photographer taking snaps of me and feel a little self-conscious. It's funny, because I always thought I'd be famous for writing, not painting pots.

"You say doodling..." she says, raising her eyebrow, wanting more.

"It's free hand.. I make it up as I go along. In fact, doodling is something I've always done to  relax..."


....CUT!!! That was just a daydream!
But seriously, do you like my pot? I'll sell it the highest bidder! Do you want me to paint you one? I had so much fun doing it I want to do more and mooooooooore!

Can you tell I've gone completely potty?!


(I'll be posting pics on Instagram...)

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And for my non-pot career! I hope you enjoy my latest novel The Hen Party!







                                

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Human being first, nationality second!

(Más abajo encontraras la versión en español)



When did it become normal to openly wish other people would die?

For instance, I've stumbled across far too many online comments calling for coastguards to leave refugees to drown. I understand people being unhappy about immigration, but do they really want these people to be killed? Would they do it themselves? Would they then think the world was a better place? 

Do they not realise these people are human beings too, who feel pain and joy, just like them but by chance were born on the other side of the world?

The rise of nationalism makes me feel uneasy. There seems to be increasing division in both countries I come from as well as the rest of the globe. Where does it leave those of us who aren't 100% of one nation? What about the many of us whose families are from different countries and of different races?

I always felt the need to explain I was half and half, but I remember my brother saying it wasn't important to him. He was human, that was enough. It took me a while to catch up with his wisdom. But yes, he's right, where I come from is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

People say it all the time; how they feel proud to be from their nation. It's odd, because it's not something you've worked to achieve. It's just chance that you were born in whatever country you were born and to whatever nationality parents. It makes more sense to be proud of something you've become, or you've created or worked at.

Being from somewhere is a given. I love both my countries and culture, but it seems clear to me that growing into the sort of human being that I can be proud of is more important than being proud simply for being born in a certain place. 




(versión en español)


Seres humanos primero, nacionalidad segundo 

¿ Cuando empezó a considerarse normal desear abiertamente que otras personas se mueran?

Por ejemplo, me he tropezado con demasiada frecuencia en la web con comentarios aconsejando a los guardacostas que dejen que los refugiados se ahoguen.Entiendo que haya gente que le disguste la inmigración,  ¿pero están seguros de que verdaderamente desean ver a esta gente asesinada?

¿No se dan cuenta de que estas personas también son seres humanos, que sienten alegría y dolor como todos nosotros pero por azar nacieron al otro lado del mundo?

El progresivo crecimiento del nacionalismo me inquieta. Observo el progresivo aumento de la división en los dos países de mi origen, y también en el resto del globo. ¿En que posición nos encontramos los que no somos el 100% de una sola nación? ¿En que situación quedamos todos aquellos cuyas familias son originarias de distintos países y razas?

Siempre he sentido la necesidad de explicar que soy "medio y medio", aunque recuerdo a mi hermano decir que no valía la pena explicar nada a nadie pues todo eso no era importante para el. Con ser un ser humano el ya tenia suficiente. Tarde bastante tiempo en alcanzar su sabiduría. Es cierto, tiene razón, el lugar en que he nacido es irrelevante dentro de el gran esquema de la vida.

La gente habla siempre de lo orgullosa que se siente de pertenecer a su nación. Resulta raro, a fin de cuentas es el extraño orgullo de identificarse con algo que no les ha costado nada alcanzarlo.

Solo el azar ha querido que uno naciera en una nación o en otra, o que nuestros padres fuesen de una nacionalidad u otra. Tiene mucho mas sentido o seria mucho mas inteligente que uno se sintiera orgulloso de haber alcanzado alguna noble meta, o de haber logrado crear algo por lo cual se ha esforzado..


Ser del lugar que uno sea es algo que se nos ha dado. Yo amo a mis dos países y su cultura, pero sinceramente creo que el desarrollarse y convertirse en un verdadero ser humano del cual podamos sentirnos orgullosos es mucho mas importante que el hecho de sentirse orgulloso de haber nacido en un lugar determinado.





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Now for something a LOT lighter! ;)


And if you've read it and enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate an amazon review




Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The non-stylish lifestyle blog

My friend told me she hated the term 'lifestyle blogger'. She probably didn't realise it was scribbled across the header of my blog. It made me consider what a lifestyle blog should be.

Stylish Living?

A proper lifestyle blog should probably have lots of glamorous and uplifting interior design shots. The perfect home. The peaceful oasis. Japanese or Nordic-inspired furnishings. I did share a picture of our 'cactus wall' once. Unfortunately, the chilli plant has since died...



Stylish Eating?

Possibly a lifestyle blog should include the occasional healthy recipe and artistic snaps of mouth-watering dishes. I tried to take a picture of my smoothie one morning, but it came out too dark. I also can't find conclusive evidence that juice is good for you.

Once I googled: Is orange juice good for you? 

The first articles to appear were: 7 Impressive Benefits of Orange Juice and Why juice is slowing killing you! I'm no expert so I'd hate to mislead anyone with pretty pictures.

Eco? 

Any self-respecting lifestyle blog should probably mention the word sustainable every so often. All these instagrammers posting pictures of takeaway coffee cups and cocktails littered with straws may as well be posting textagrams with: I heart landfill or Kill all the turtles! 

Too harsh? Maybe. But If only 7% of all plastic is recycled then it's worth considering whether it might be better to suck up the inconvenience of say, proper plates at a party, rather than using plastic ones which will hang around the planet for hundreds of years. Just throw it away? In the words of Greenpeace: There is no such thing as away

Okay, as you can see, I'm down with the trying to be more eco thing... 

Stylish DIY Ideas?

I've got one! I upgraded our knackered herb dispenser last night by spray painting it bright red so that's an idea you can have if you like... you're welcome!





To be honest I don't know if it would have been more eco to throw it away rather than repainting it, but it makes me happy when I look at it and I believe you should indulge your creative urges. I'm thinking of funking up an old terracotta pot with white and red stripes next. 

Conclusion... 

It's may not be the sleekest lifestyle blog, but I hope you enjoy it.  I'd always be happy to hear your suggestions and what you'd love more of! 






Friday, 1 September 2017

If at first you don't succeed...

I'm back on track again! After writing my last blog post on why writing wasn't getting any easier, I decided it was time to rise above notebooks. 

I stuck brown packing paper to the wall and I began to scribble. I jotted down all the action timelines of my different characters and miraculously it all came together. It's not crystal clear, I'm not sure I'd swim in it, but it's not too muggy either.   


Could it be the meditating? The yoga? Not drinking? I don't know which. Perhaps a combination. I just know my new routine has given me the space and mental energy to get down the first 10,000 words of my novel this week. Decent words too, not first draft literary diarrhea. 

Looking back through my posts I noticed that it wasn't all that long ago I was raving about a similar super duper routine; how I was getting up early and doing yoga and bla bla bla... and I don't know what happened because I was really feeling good by the sound of it...

But as that gorgeous Karl in Love Actually once said: Life is full of interruptions and complications... 


That doesn't mean we can't pick it up again. Or just implement whatever change just one or two days a week. And if we don't manage that, start with once a month. There isn't a time limit on going after what you want. 

Just start wherever, whenever. Don't set impossible goals. Don't decide to run more than you've ever run before work, or write more than you've ever written after work when you're knackered, or lose stupid amounts of weight in two weeks... so many people set themselves up for failure then get demoralised and never try again.

Very likely I'll fall out of this routine and I'll come back to this post and wonder why, if I was feeling so good, did I stop. Well, I'm not a robot and life isn't black or white. 

My aim is to be healthy, happy and write loads of books I'm proud of - so I'll keep coming back to the routine that helps me get there again and again.. and again!



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Friday, 25 August 2017

Shouldn't writing books get easier?


I'm determined to write a new novel by the end of the year.  I keep reassuring myself that I've STILL got time. With September looming, I've just drawn up a word count chart to cross off each one thousand words I write. It's hardly a magic solution.  I've lost count of how many charts I've thrown away this year.

I started working on the idea for a new book last year. One moment I felt like I knew what I was doing, the next minute the plot would slip through my fingers like sand.  The title changed, the sub plots changed. I did consider giving up on it entirely but the characters are pursuing me. Some of them have been nagging at me for eight months.

With The Hen Party selling well (thank you everyone!) I wanted to have a new book out as quickly as possible. Those who enjoyed The Hen Party should like the next one. It's also going to be set in sunny Mallorca with multiple characters, humour and drama. 'Comedy mystery' - The Euroweekly News called it, a term I like very much. 


I've lost count of how many times I've started this new book. My creative process is flawed. I generally write a third of a book before I realise it's not quite right. I'm pleased with my writing, but there's something off with the plot.  

The thing is, I want to write the kind of novel I love to read. Whenever I get stuck, reading helps me overcome the block. My recent book haul included the highly amusing The Rosie Project  and sharp, hilarious Chart Throb by Ben Elton. After reading them, it occurred to me (not for the first time), that what matters is that I write a great book and not how long it takes!


However.... I STILL have time to finish a first draft by December, right?! 








Monday, 7 August 2017

Mallorcan Traditions: The 48km Walk To Lluc


What I'm about to do is an "Expression of Mallorquin-ness" apparently. It's written on my passport. Una expressió de Mallorquinitat. Not a real passport, but the piece of paper I'm carrying to be stamped at different points during the 48km walk to Lluc monastery.

As I head to the starting point in Palma, I still don't really believe I'm about to spend the night walking. I'm quite a determined soul, but even I realise 48 kilometres (30 miles) is a LONG way. It's more than a marathon and I've never done one of those.

But walking is gentler, I assure myself. It's just a case of putting one foot in front of the other for a very, very long time.

Ten hours as it turns out and with very few and very short stops. The pain sets in if you stop and my four companions and I were well aware that the later we arrived the next morning, the hotter it would be. Mallorca has been experiencing a heat wave with highs of 38 degrees. At night it was still in the high twenties and my fingers grew all puffy and swollen.

It all began in 1974 with a few friends setting off from a bar to the monastery to thank the Virgin because a girl had escaped being injured in an accident. I'm guessing they'd been drinking!

The walk might have begun on a religious note but now it's become an adventure walk for teenagers. I was amazed how many there were. They weren't even using it as an excuse for getting up to mischief...

From 23.00 to 06.00 we were walking along tarmac roads under streetlights and the light of torches. It felt like New Year's Eve when everyone is looking for a taxi in the early hours of the morning; the kids with the ghetto blasters the typical ones looking for the after party.

I started to ache quite a lot after twenty kilometres and I was relieved I'd packed a cheeky hip flask. A few nips of rum definitely improved my mood. Other than that I was drinking loads of water, fruit and nuts.



At the four main stops at Santa Maria, Binissalem and Selva, we saw people with their shoes and socks off lying on the pavement looking like they would never get up again. It made me wonder how many actually finished.

At 6.15 we finally arrived at Selva where we were thrilled to find REAL ground coffee being served. Up until then the drinks stations had been rare and far between. At Selva we saw the sun rise and that's when the walk started to make more sense. The scenery around Lluc of the Tramuntana mountain range is really stunning. 



I can't help thinking - why not move the walk to a cooler season and do the whole lot in the day time?

But it's tradition I guess and it felt good to be a part of it. Hopefully it continues as it was almost cancelled this year due to low funds.  


My companions and I walked it to raise fund for the JoyRon Foundation, a local charity which helps vulnerable children. With the money raised they are making a cinema room in the hospital for kids who are terminally ill.  

Would I do it again?

Hmm... I'm sure there are other mad traditions to be tried out first! 


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Love all things Mallorca? Then you'll enjoy my novel The Hen Party set on the island! 









Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Why I mustn't complain about the heat!

It feels like my grandmother has taken control of Mallorca's thermostat. She's set it up to a cosy 37 degrees. The words are melting off the page. In fact they melt before they've even made it out of my brain. 

What was I writing again? Who am I?

I'm trying to muster the energy to complain when I see writer Josephine Corcoran's latest instagram post

Black ink scribbled across a cream page, it reads: 

Today I am coming to terms with the need to wear tights on 1st August.

What?!!! I think, as a mosquito spontaneously combusts in front of me. That bad??  

The thought of wearing tights on a normal day is an unpleasant one, but in this heat it's unbearable.

My memories of British summer come rushing back.

What summer? I used to wonder. It was always so desperately disappointing. But don't you remember that one summer when... people say. NO, I do not remember a British summer where it was consistently hot for a whole month. At best, I remember a sunny week in April back in 2014... possibly 2013.

The effect that post has on me is instantaneous. My desire to complain shrivels up along with all my plants. Of one things I'm sure, I'll take this heat over tights in August any day!






Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Overcoming Anxiety On Wheels

I think everyone suffers from some level of anxiety. Everyone except maybe the Dalai Lama and my husband. While I gather self-help books and try to meditate and 'talk' to my knotted stomach, my beloved husband seems to have been born content. Marrying him was a stroke of genius on my part.


But I'm not writing to congratulate myself on my life choices. However good life is, for me the anxiety is never too many days away from rearing its head. It's like having a heavy magnet in your stomach which attracts all life's uncertainties and holds them there, sometimes so tightly it's hard to breathe.

My experience as a learner driver has really brought it into the spotlight. Had I remained in London I might never have learned. But if you live in Mallorca you really need a car.  A town which is a 12 minute drive away can be as much as an hour and half by a bus. That's not very efficient at all when you're working as a journalist. For my first job reporting for SeeMallorca, I was relying on my husband driving me to do my job. What would Beyonce have said? Independent woman I was not.  


Today I had to interview a remarkable pediatrician called Jorge Muñoz for abcMallorca magazine. His blog for el mundo about working with  children in Chad had moved me to tears. It was to be my first time driving for the job.

The journey began a few hours before I'd even got in the car. That's the problem with anxiety. It is caused by living in the future. The mind keeps asking: what if...  Even when I thought I'd shut my mind up, the apprehension manifested in my body. I felt like I was going to throw up.

According to googlemaps it was an easy-peasy journey. A short stint on the motorway, two roundabouts and voila. Just 15 minutes. To be safe, I left very early.

Half an hour later I was lost.

"Oh my god, I've got my Dad's genes!" I cried, as I went around the roundabout for perhaps the fourth or fifth time. My father is famous in our family for getting lost.

My journey time was getting longer. 8 minutes... 12 minutes... the woman on the Googlemaps kept insisting on some exit that clearly wasn't signposted.

At some point I ended up on a quiet country road heading the wrong way. I was running late now and I couldn't afford to head on for 1km before I could change direction. I decided to risk it and turn around in the narrow little road. Three point turn? More like 33 point turn. Austin Powers came to mind. 


But I did it. I drove in traffic, joined busy roads, got my gear stick stuck on roundabouts, stopped for pedestrians, avoided double parked vans... and at some point, I gave up being anxious. I stopped being scared. I just drove.

Thanks to leaving half an hour early, I only arrived ten minutes late! As I suspected, Dr Muñoz, radiated kindness. I parked my journey to one side as I fully focused on his life. 

Afterwards, after momentarily thinking I'd lost the car in the car park, I found it, one car away from the photographer. I got back in and I drove home in 15 minutes.

I don't feel a sense of failure at having got lost. I feel triumphant that I survived every kind of road and traffic sign my absurd journey presented me with. 

I know I've written it before but I'll keep writing it, as long as it's true: The only way to get rid of the fear is to go out and do it!

I'm going to strive to overcome my anxiety by pulling myself into the present whenever the future tries to destabilise me.

As Echkart Tolle says in The Power of Now:




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On another note entirely: For some light relief and to be whisked away to sunny Mallorca, try out my new novel The Hen Party



Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Life Change: Mondays in Mallorca

Two years ago I didn't know anything about Mallorca. It was just that Spanish island which was colder than Tenerife.  I've no memory of it but my parents took me on holiday to the island when I was 18 months old and it snowed! I've got a picture of me looking like a Sherpa.


As for the notorious beach resort, Magaluf, which every Brit seems to have heard of, I genuinely thought it was in Greece.

It was quite something then, to see myself in the Majorca Daily Bulletin. A whole page, no less, talking about my writing journey. 

I mean, I knew it was going to be in there, I'd had an interview with writer and photographer, Vicki Mcleod, but still... from not knowing anything about Mallorca to being in the local paper introducing my new book set on the same island, well, it felt like quite a leap! You can read the article, Growing up a Writer, on Mallorca Matters. 

Another funny thing is that before we decided to move to Mallorca I'd googled bloggers on the island. I'd come across Vicki's blog and had written to her, hungry for insight.

'I hope you're well. This is a random email from a London-based (half Spanish, half Welsh!)  blogger and author, thinking of moving to Mallorca! Do you get many of these emails?!'

She had replied that she got at least one mail like that a week. It made me laugh when I found it in my inbox. I also felt pleased, and proud, that it hadn't just ended up being another wishful thinking query; that we had actually thrown caution to the wind and moved.

As I often do, in my quest for balance and happiness, I've started a new routine. I think it might just be my best yet. Although the papers talk of 'packed beaches and gridlock', I've discovered that at 8.30 in the morning my local beach is virtually empty.  There are just some happy looking older people who walk up and down in the shallow water, gossiping together.



I walk down to the beach, with pillow marks still on my face, put my snorkel mask on and submerge myself in the cool water. I swim with the fish for half an hour. I don't try to carve out lengths, I just swim wherever I fancy. I also do what one of my characters does in The Hen Party - if I see rubbish, I'll dive for it. After that, I'll scribble in a notebook while I dry up, and then I head home to work.

The other day I landed on someone's Instagram profile and his description said: There's nothing wrong with Monday, it's your life that sucks. It definitely feels like half the world spends a lot of time dreading the coming week, which seems pretty sad!

Not everyone has been so lucky in where they were born and what choices they have as I have been. But then there are other times, when you can't even imagine that your life could be different. If you aren't happy, you could start by formulating what it is you think might make you happy.  Though I only got to know Mallorca very recently, I know this outdoor lifestyle was the one I had my heart set on since I was a little girl. 

Perhaps life change can only happen when you take a moment to visualise it. A little change to your morning routine might make a world of difference.   






Thursday, 13 July 2017

Face the Fear: Chronicles of a Learner Driver


Three weeks ago I was a nervous wreck. Far from liberating me, it seemed that driving had ruined my life. I was having waking nightmares about crashing the car. Avoiding driving was making me feel like a failure.

I had passed on my third try, after I'd dominated my so-called mad goat personality for the duration of the exam.

On my first day, I hit an Audi.

Yes, on the way back home from a successful 12 minute drive with my husband, I overshot a yield, nosing too far into a road. A car zoomed passed and I was so shocked by what felt was a near miss I didn't hear the beep of horns behind me. Because the entry was uphill, I started rolling backwards. BANG.

I burst into tears, climbed into the backseat and begged my husband to drive us home.Thankfully, there was no serious damage done and the owner of the car never called.

It shook me though and my fear levels grew to an unbearable level, so that I had this shadow hanging over me when I woke up. Every time I stalled the car, I begged my husband to take over. Luckily for me, he refused.

I knew I couldn't go on like this so I bought the book Feel the Fear and I tried to follow my friend's advice of going out every day alone, 28 days in a row. Apparently if you do something every day for 28 days, it brings it into your comfort zone. But I didn't go alone, I always drove with my husband.

"Just sit in the car," my friend said. "Get comfortable just sitting in the car."

One day, I did just that. As soon as I entered the car, I felt so tense. The atmosphere felt thick with negativity. Now my husband is a carefree kind of guy, but put him in the car and he's unrecognisable. If  he doesn't like how someone is driving, he will let them know. "I'm Latin," he tells me, "We do everything with passion!"

Well I don't care what his nationality is, all I know is that when I was feeling nervous and he reached over to hoot my horn while I was driving, I wanted to run him over right there and then! 

Car rage may be something passed down through family, because his father was exactly the same. A lovely, gentle man until he was in the driving seat. It probably has something to do with learning to drive in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

Anyway, so I went and I sat in the driver seat and I breathed in and out. I even talked to the car. I made friends with it. I realised the car was my friend, not my enemy. He's called Pierre actually. Don't ask me why. I started to take him around the block on my own. We live in a very hilly area so it wasn't the easiest block.

Gradually I drove a little further. I got the hang of the clutch. I stopped stalling so much. Going to the supermarket was a huge milestone because it involved parking. Pierre is not a small car; he's a 7 seater Grand Picasso.

Fast forward to today. Today  I drove my friends to the airport.  More importantly I drove back from the airport alone. When I missed my exit and ended up heading for Palma, I didn't panic. 



I reminded myself I'd done this before in class. There were cyclists and buses and motorbikes and I kept calm. I didn't stall once. I made it home. I turned off the car and I grinned from ear to ear.

My books says:

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.

It's so true. I'll keep going out until my hands stop clutching that steering wheel for dear life and my shoulders relax.

Face the fear. I recommend it. It'll feel so much better afterwards.