Reassurance in the moon

This week, the van has been plucked from it's safe little barn and is being rapidly pushed through the final phases of the transformation in a local garage.  The furniture is finished, the bed is boarded and fixed down, the swivel which I never thought would fit has been hacked into position and my seat safe is being welded together.  Pictures to follow soon!

All this transformation following a slow sleepy winter of conversion work has left me feeling slightly panicky about just how close my freedom is getting!

Cumbria is stirring slowly into Spring, there are lambs in the fields, flowers on the roadside and blossom on the trees.  Usually I revel in the return of Spring, but this time my pleasure in watching the world turning back towards the Sun is tinged with sadness.  This will be the last English Spring I will see for some time... 

The beautiful summery weather we have been having has been trying to soothe my nerves, but somehow it hasn't quite managed it.

Then the appearance of a Cheshire moon last night gave me all the reassurance I need.

I adore the moon, I love how it provides me with a gentle reminder of the universe's quiet existence.  Full moons inspire me, probably because that's when the whole moon is visible.  But Cheshire moons, that random combination of angles of sun, moon and earth, they make me feel as if the whole universe is on my side.  

Of course, the universe and my place within it are unchanged, but when I look at that smiling cat moon, everything feels aligned.  Everything feels right.  Everything will be ok.  More than ok, everything is good.

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where...' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
No more fear.  Trust.  Go.

Going biphasic - Week One

Day Three

Starting to get tired now.  Still haven't actually managed to get to sleep during any of my naps.  I'm hoping that once I reach a certain level of tiredness this will start to happen!

Night time sleep now cut down to 6.5 hours with natural waking.  I have sneakily engineered this by leaving my curtains open, as I am used to sleeping in total darkness as soon as the dawn breaks I wake up.  I hate being woken early by an alarm so this is a much easier solution.  My long term plan is to go to bed later and wake up at my normal time, but for now this seems a better option as it means I don't have to stay up later than I feel like doing in the evening.

Day Five

Had my first sleep during a nap today! Only about 20 minutes or so, but I'm counting this as a major achievement.

Day Seven

Well week one is now over, I'm definitely acclimatising to my evening naps which is good.  My plans for next week is to cut down my night-time sleep to 5.5 hours in the hope that this will push me into sleeping for more than about 20 minutes at nap-time.  Even going up Helvellyn today didn't seem to make me want a longer nap - stunning views though!

Magic Markets... Cappadocia

Avanos market, Cappadocia, Turkey

yummy Turkish cheese
huge cabbages :)

herbs & spices

Whenever I travel, one of my favourite things to do is to visit local markets.  Maybe it's because we don't really have traditional food markets in England any more (though we do have some sweet seasonal markets) or maybe because it's an easy way to surround yourself in local everyday life, but I never can resist checking them out.  Or taking endless photos or fruit and vegetables...yeah I'm so normal.

Going biphasic...why?

Ever since I first read about polyphasic sleep schedules, the idea has fascinated me.  If you have no idea what I talking about, here is a fairly understandable Wikipedia article and a handy diagram...

Essentially by dividing up your sleeping times and spreading them across the day, the result is that you spend less time overall asleep.  Now as someone who spends around 8 hours a day sleeping and still feels exhausted most of the time, it certainly seems like an attractive idea to sleep less and not feel the difference.  But to me, extreme polyphasic schedules like the Dymaxion or Uberman illustrations above seem at best inachievable and at worst very unhealthy.

I vividly recall learning about Jouvet's sleep deprivation experiments on cats during my A-level Psychology lessons.  Basically he put the cats on an upturned flowerpot in a pool of water.  When the cats entered the REM phase of sleep, their muscles would relax - and splash! - soggy (and awake) kitty.  I am ashamed to admit that there is something about the idea of enraged soggy flowerpots cats that I find totally hilarious.  Sorry cats, and yes I do know that animal experimentation is wrong.  But there is a serious motto to the tale, because sleep deprivation kills. 

So despite the fact that various people claim to have adopted a polyphasic sleep schedule with varying degrees of success (if they manage to break through the initial zombie phase!), I don't think it is for me.  Apart from not wanting to end up like a flowerpot cat (dead), it is not really compatible with a full-time job or a vaguely social lifestyle.  I also love my bed and I love sleeping, and lets be honest, 30 minute naps just don't compare to spending hours snuggled up with someone you love.  Even if my current sleeping partner is a lazy brown dog!

And yet, the idea of being able to claw back some more precious hours in this life is oh so appealing.  So I have decided to give biphasic sleeping a go.  Now this is obviously a healthy and achievable method - just look at the entire population of Spain if you want an example!  As you only take one nap per day it is a much more flexible method and more compatible with a "normal" life schedule.  I always assumed that people who lived in siesta-taking countries actually slept more, that they had siesta plus a full amount of sleep at night, or at the very least the same total sleeping time.  

The downside to biphasic compared to other polyphasic methods is that you spend only around 2 hours less sleeping per day, whereas you gain 6 hours per day by adopting a Dymaxion pattern. But still, 2 hours a day is 14 hours a week and 728 hours a year.  That's 1 month extra awake time per year.  A whole month!  Just think of what you could do with that time... I think that sounds like a good deal to me.

And so...I am going to give it a one month trial.

Wish me luck!

Glassy-eyed hordes

Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who is equally bewildered, hurt, entranced and seduced by life.

Do other people feel so much pain, as if their hearts were literally straining to leap from their chests?

Does everyone constantly question themselves, the world and their place within it?

Do other people take as much joy from those moments where they are so wrapped up in simply living that the past and the future fades away, and they are consumed by their connection to the present?

Do all the people I meet, all the people I will never meet, all the people who have ever been or will be, do they really ever stop and think about anything?

It is so easy to assume that the majority of others do not see the world in all the richness and complexity that I do.  That deep thoughts and emotions are confined to a select few.  That not even those who are closest to me cannot possess an inner world which is so deep and alive as my own.

So easy.

So easy then to dismiss the poor, the outcast, the stupid and all those who are so different to me that I cannot understand the world as they live it.

So lonely.  But so easy.

How can I walk among the glassy-eyed hordes at ease if I know that every single one of them is full to overflowing with thought and emotion, depth and pain, joy and wonder?  How can I turn away from anyone if I know they have an inner world equally as intricate as mine?  How could I ever react to anyone with anything other than utter fascination and heartfelt compassion?

But equally, how can I really genuinely believe, understand and accept that there is nothing unique about me That all the people I meet, all the people I will never meet, all the people who have ever been or will be, are so incredible?  It is like asking me to count the stars in the sky, the grains of sand on a beach, the drops of water in an ocean.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

My first Krav Maga lesson

Last week, one of the many "To-do Before I Leave" list items finally made it to the top of the list.  Learn self-defence.  Eeeek!

So I went to my first Krav Maga class.  I chose KM over all the various other martial arts and self-defence options out there for the following reasons...

  • Krav Maga offers more realistic and practical approach to self defence than traditional martial arts. It is based on modern world threats, and provides tactical and logical solutions   
  • System is based on simple principles and instinctive movements which promote a high level of proficiency in a relatively short time.
  • Krav Maga uses full simulation exercises to practice various confrontational situations. There will be environmental training exercises such as training in the dark, in the rain, amongst parked cars and in cars.
  • Krav Maga teaches you not only the essential combative tools to handle confrontations such as common chokes, bear hugs, headlocks, attacks on the ground and weapons such as guns, sticks and knives; but also how to use those tools under the stress and shock experienced in a violent encounter. 
List sourced from ...I did a lot of research and this list pretty much summarises why I went for KM.

Now, I am essentially the least violent type of person you could ever meet.  I have never hit anything in my life, never been in anything remotely resembling a physical confrontation and quite honestly if someone were to attack me... my instinctive reaction would be to just stand there in utter shock.

But.  No matter how much I abhor any form of violence, the reality is that I am going out into a very wild world, very much on my own.  And while I am genuinely hopeful that I will never have to use any of the skills I have begun to learn, the other reality is that they could save my life.  

So I dragged my slightly terrified self along to KM.  Now I wouldn't say it was an enjoyable experience, I was partnered with a professional Muay Thai kickboxer who looked so sweet and nice - but she actually nearly killed me.  It was a bit humiliating, but despite my non-violent tendencies I could see that it might eventually become something I at least would find satisfying.

And ohhhhhhhhhh the pain afterwards.  My poor shoulders and back!  Could not move.  For days.  I'm not sure any exercise I have ever done has had so long a recovery period.  And I don't even consider myself that unfit.  I swim, I do yoga, I work out!  I'm writing this 4 days after the class and I still can barely support my body weight on my arms in a pushup position.  Not good.

None of that was enough to deter me though, and I will be going back to class next week as well as putting a lot of practice in at home.  At the very least I know that I'm going to get much better muscle tone, even if I continue to punch like a girl!

If it was just me setting off on my own, there is a good chance I would not have bothered to learn any kind of self-defence.  But add into the mix my van, and my dog, and that was enough to tip me over the edge into really wanting to learn how to defend myself.  I find it a bit paradoxical that the two things that arguably make me safer, as they provide me with both an escape mechanism and a deterrent, provided me with the motivation I needed.  Hurt me?  No problem.  Hurt my dog or take my home?  No way.

I do, I do, I do!
I have found a new favourite blog, it encompasses travel, campervans and oh so much romance...*massive drum roll*...

It is the story of one couple (and one campervan...of course!) and their journey around the world in search of the perfect wedding venue.

Why not just pick a destination wedding venue from a glossy brochure in the comfort of their English living room...far too unromantic.  Why not pick a favourite destination from their past or future travel list...far too easy.  These two adventurers are actually travelling the world searching for their perfect wedding destination.  And not only are they searching for the perfect wedding destination, they are practicing having the perfect wedding!  30 times! 30 practice weddings to find the perfect place to take all their family and friends back to for the last wedding of all.

What a guy.  What a girl.  What a story.  I'm not sure I have ever encountered a more romantic tale in my life.

Time changes everything

So this is the last of my expansions on my "What I've learnt about love" post.  Following my elaboration on what I meant when I referred to the light and the dark sides of love I also felt like further explanation was required when I said I had learnt that... "Time changes everything.  Don't look for that which is eternal, but seek that which will be continuously renewed".

In that perfect, life like the movies, so-called reality that I was encultured into striving for, dreaming about and believing in, I met the concept of the perfect relationship.  The perfect marriage.  A perfection that lies in stability, constancy and unchanging love.  Not only does marriage last forever, but the adventure ends when the couple gets married.  Curtain closed, happily-ever-after.

And yet this conflicted with so much else that I desired and so much else that I knew.  People thrive on change and challenges.  The idea of marriage is also associated with concepts such as staleness, boredom and unwanted ties.  Even the very phrase "settle down" carries such a negative connotation.

It's as if I were being told to strive for something I didn't even want.  Or something I knew did not exist.

Because I also knew that time changes everything.  We are told that time heals all, I had seen that time changes our lives, our bodies, our thoughts and who we are.  Sometimes I didn't particularly like this, and sometimes I recognised it as the unstoppable driving force behind my existence, but I knew it nevertheless.

So what I have learnt is that I should not view relationships as static, but embrace them as changing.  This doesn't mean that I can't be with one guy for the rest of my life, it doesn't mean I can't be married.  But it does mean that instead of looking for something which is immovable against the forces of time, I should be looking for something which is continuously renewed.

Because time changes everything.  A love which is static will be broken as time washes over it.  Try to prevent changes, or ignore them, and chances are those changes will sweep two people in opposite directions.  But aim for change, focus on renewal and even if I have no interest in a love which lasts a lifetime, I am certain that I will find so much more that is worthy of my love.

The right man

Cleavage is one of the blogs I read where I avidly pounce on every new post as soon as it appears.  Kelly's content is great, but what grabs my attention is the way it shines through her prose just how much she lives, breathes and loves writing.  I aspire to write as candidly and passionately as she does.

Anyway my trail through her archives the other day led me to this "Ahhh moment"...

"You don’t have to convince the right man to do the right thing."

It stopped me in my tracks, hit me like a freight train, [insert any other suitably overused and meaningless metaphor of your choice]. 

I do this all the time.  All the time.  I could not count how many times I think, write, speak and act in a way which is designed to persuade, cajole, induce and convince.

Now there is no escaping that sometimes in this life, we have to persuade people.  Sometimes you have no choice but to persuade the wrong person into doing the right thing.

But it is a terrible habit to automatically assume persuasion is necessary.  Give people space to be the right man.  And in your relationships - well if they aren't the right man, what on earth are you doing there anyway?  

This is not an excuse to expect people to be psychic and always know what the right thing is without you telling them. It's ok to tell people what you need, just don't assume they need to be persuaded in order for them to give it to you. 

For me this is a naked truth, it's a game changer.  I simply had to "write it down big".  It's up there with "treat others as you would like to be treated" and "he's just not that into you".

It is pointless for me to say any more.  Kelly says it better.  You should go and read her article in

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