New Girl

My last few days on Achill were messy…

I feel like I didn’t sleep for a week, doing all the things I’ve been meaning to do all summer, such as going out on Kevin’s fishing boat and lifting the lobster pots.

Don’t ask me why I chose to do this particular task on a day when I was atrociously hungover, after returning from the beach at 6am and rising at 7.30 for the breakfast shift.

Must have been that ‘seize the day’ attitude.

Let me paint a picture:

Very choppy sea
Grey skies
The stench of day old fish in the bait bucket, festering in it’s own juices
Kevin, his dad, Anke the German, little Cecilia from Taiwan and myself wearing the chunkiest life jacket known to mankind
Slippery boat floor

My task was to reach into the bait bucket (without falling over head first or suffocating myself in my life jacket), pick up a dead rancid fish, shove it into the netting in the pots, smush it’s little face in real good, then pass the pot to Kevin. I think everyone else enjoyed my hungover state far too much….

‘That one smells nice!’
‘Think of Patricks sweaty brown socks sweltering in the sunshine!’ ‘Deeeeeeep breath in there’
‘Shove it in HARDER Rosie, don’t be such a fussy girl!’ (normally I would have made a joke here but I hadn’t the gusto)..

Needless to say I spent a good hour in the corner leaning over the side, gazing at my reflection in the water and avoiding Kevin’s gleeful face as he watched me nearly be sick many a time. I’m sure it’s super fun usually, but whooooeeeeeeee. Dat stench. Anke’s life jacket nearly strangled her when she accidentally inflated, we lost the rope hook over the side, we nearly lost Cecilia between the two boats, and I became vommy. Not ideal.

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That weekend we had a huge group of cyclists staying in the hostel, who had obviously been consuming too much fibre and were farting violently in the pub. I looked pointedly at the main culprit when he did it for the second time, and he just shrugged and said “old age and Guinness farts for ya love!”

Pretty sure getting old doesn’t excuse farting. At least TRY to conceal.

These cyclists were a bit mad and drank all of the alcohol in the pub. At 4 o’clock in the morning, when we thought we were the only ones left awake, we discovered a middle aged woman in the middle cubicle of the bathroom, pants off, slumped forward on the toilet with her face down in her knickers. We tried to stir her and she leapt to action, walking into the door which was actually the slot machine.

I think she overdid it. I felt very sensible and sober seeing that.

Now, working in the valley you do get used to the gaze of older men. But on my last night I received unwanted attention from an older woman, who is the sister of the valley regular. She must be approximately 65, and she “loves my way”. Also my bum, apparently.

A self esteem boost if nothing else.

So my last weekend on Achill was a strange old one, with minimal sleep, a tandem midnight cycle trip, beach parties, awesome weather, a Talking Heads revival, humorous hungover people, beach football, a hurling match, and a fair few tears.

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It was a slightly weepy drive to Westport then down to Killary in Connemara, where I will be spending the next 2 months working at Killary Adventure Centre.

Jeananne and I are living in a house with I don’t know how many males, but you just know they are boys from the state of the place. I shall apply a woman’s touch.

We get all the activities for free (kayaking, Killary cruise, rock climbing, windsurfing, wake boarding, bungee jumping, and plenty more), and we also get FREE SEAWEED BATHS which was a deal clincher for me. All food and accommodation is provided plus monthly pay, and we work 8 hours daily with two days off per week. It’s like the Valley House on speed, and my body is struggling to keep up after a few months of relaxed Achill lifestyle, but I will get there.

The Killary Centre is right in front of Killary Fjord which makes for awesome views. Last night we went to Westport to pick up our bikes and cycle them back – such a sexy sunset.

From one spectacular place to another! I seem to be drawn to the places that are in the middle of nowhere….

Now I’m the newbie again. Right now they all think I’m normal….. They’re in for a shocker.

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Achill Love

Two months, one sprained ankle, half a munted wrist, 237 midgie bites and 6 unidentifiable bruises later….

I’m still alive. Just. Achill is doing it’s best to break me, or maybe I’m just a bit stupid.

Things I’ve learnt over the past two months, or rather, things I should have learnt but continue to ignore in the spirit of good craic.

1. Don’t wear flip flops to Achill Head, seediest and slipperiest nightclub I’ve visited in Ireland (that’s saying something). You will fall over. At least thrice.

2. A beverage titled ‘Green Poison’ is not for the consumption of little girls. The name fits.

3. Bicycling at 2am is not a good idea, even when sober.

4. It’s especially not good when there are as many potholes as there are on Achill.

5. You also should not choose a bike with no brakes. This is just a general life rule that we should all abide by.

6. Swimming on an Irish beach in the middle of the night is going to be cold. Fripply, even.

7. It’s going to be colder if you don’t wear any clothes.

8. When you live in a hostel, it’s impossible to escape people. They will be there when you try to dash from the shower to your room in only a towel. They will laugh and point. You will probably drop your knickers.

9. Showers are either very cold or they are satan water. It’s like roulette. There is no such thing as warm. Or maybe that’s just the Valley House..

10. Bedtime is 2am, no earlier. If you go to bed earlier, it will be an amazing night and you will have missed out.

11. Beach parties make your hair and clothes smell like fire for days. Baking soda does not remove this smell.

12. Holey clothes are okay so long as the holes are not in naughty places.

13. Yoga with a sprained ankle and bung wrist is a challenge, and one that I am willing to accept.

14. Old men like to watch young women do yoga.

14. French people don’t lock the toilet door when they are doing number twos. Even when in a hostel.

15. Kids smell and leave a lot of crumbs.

16. Midgies will follow you to bed and try to get in there with you. You do not want to sleep with midgies.

17. It’s perfectly acceptable to order vegetable soup everywhere you go, because it is always the cheapest thing on the menu.

18. Avocados and hummus are the holy grail of helpx. They will only last one day. Feast.

19. Despite best intentions, you will probably not get up at 7.30am to do yoga and drink green smoothies when you’re living on Achill.

20. It’s very alarming when you leave Achill and re enter normal society. People are loud and look at you like you’re homeless, especially when you pay for everything with tip money.

21. You probably DO need to shower. A sea swim probably doesn’t count.

22. Sun is rare. When it comes, take off most of your clothes and bask.

23. The island wakes at 11am.

24. Time really flies when you don’t wake until 11am.

25. Even really ugly Irish people are babes. I LOVE THEM ALL.

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Togs, Dogs, Not Many Jogs

One month in Achill and I’m not quite sure what I’ve achieved in that time… I’ve definitely put some new holes in my clothes. One large hole in my finger too, which will be a cute reminder of that time I was actually doing some work and I got all flustered and tore my index finger open on a door (don’t ask how).

This month has been a bit of a blur of dirty jokes, beaches, friendly faces, bonfires, parties, cheese with wine inside (I KNOW) and the occasional wander to the beach to reflect on all of the above. Mostly on the cheese.

I’m very balanced. ….

I drink red wine at night, and green tea in the morning.

I stay up late, and I sleep a bit later to compensate.

I go for walks…. To the pub.

I do yoga, then have a nap during savasana.

I eat a sausage, but I eat it with some vegetables.

I wash myself regularly, but not my hair…..

Achill island has a weird effect on most people that come here. Several people who have turned up to stay at the hostel have ended up staying for longer, because they love it so much and don’t want to go home. (Or maybe it’s because I am here, and I am like the sun).

At the moment we have a French language camp at the hostel, which comprises of 5 delightful Irish kids learning French in the morning then doing adventure activities in the afternoon. I tagged along on a kayaking excursion the other day, and enjoyed a tandem kayak session through the wilds of the bog and the never ending lake in Keel. We beached ourselves several times, which is obviously all part of the fun. You must thrust aggressively to shift the weight of the kayak, much to the delight of everyone around us.

Last week on my days off I cycled to the beach with a friend, went swimming, did yoga in the sand (easier said than done – I got sand EVERYWHERE), then went to The Cottage and ate some seafood which may have been some of the best I’ve ever tasted. All the seafood is local and we could not stop talking about dat mackerel, mmmhmmmmmm.

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Last Monday was bonfire night, which is an annual event involving everyone on the island hauling all of their rubbish and old furniture down to beach bonfires and setting them alight. Then we all stand around and drink things whilst watching shit burn. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and really brought out my inner cave woman. I sat on a couch that may or may not have been riddled with fleas, and witnessed some fisticuffs between a young boy and a drunkard who was insulted when told to “go home to his mammy”. Scandal at the bonfire. Things escalated when we began to drink whiskey from the bottle, and the next morning I found myself hanging out on the beach accompanied by several stray hounds and no toothbrush.

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I had the last two days off, so we took a trip to Westport to catch up with friends. I saw my friend Izzy who I HelpXed with in France (my naked yoga buddy) and we exchanged hair washing stories over a glass of red wine and some enthusiastic banjo playing. Her hair looks like Rapunzel’s, whereas mine looks more like “Rumpelstiltskin”, but I have resigned myself to this. Tuesday may have been the sunniest day I’ve ever experienced in Ireland, so we moved our beds outside and got a small bit naked in the sun, much to the delight of the male flatmates (both called Kevin, because that’s all that anyone is called here).

“Um, can we take photos?”

“……no.”

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Then we went to eat some salads and took a trip to the beach. Once in the water we decided to go topless and wear our brassieres over our shoulders as handbags. We frolicked for a while and it was remarkably warm amongst the seaweeds. We almost floated about on our backs then realised our flotation devices would emerge from the water, which might have been a shock for the small children nearby.

So I’ve gone a bit feral once more, and I very much enjoy it. Whilst talking to mother dearest the other week, we observed that both of her children have gone wild. All of the snapchats I receive from my brother are something along the lines of, “yo just slept in a container and ate carrots for dinner now I’m going into the mountains with my beard”, and I reply with “yo just poured vinegar on my hair now I’m off to the beach on my bike with no gears to do some yoga and swim naked with the tickly fish”.

Sorry mum.

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Craic.

I always feel like a bit of a knob saying the word “craic”, because I feel like it’s sort of reserved for actual Irish people. But I like to say it anyway, because there is no English equivalent.

Basically, there is some tremendous craic here at the Valley House. One night, I decided to be a good girl and go to bed prior to 12am, at which point I was pronounced ‘shit craic’, which is just the worst thing someone could call you. I went to bed and lay there, thinking about how shit my craic is, listening to everyone being fun in the pub. That may well be the hardest thing about being here – you cannot go to bed early without experiencing extreme FOMO, only exacerbated by the fact you live next to the pub, therefore you can hear everything from your bedroom. Saxophones, guitars and all.

There are many different different words for different levels of craic. You might say:

Savage craic!
Mighty craic!
Having the craic!
What’s the craic?
Where’s the craic?
That’s no craic…
Negative craic!
Minus craic!

My personal fave is savage. Savage craic. Apparently they also say ‘savage cabbage’, which I shall attempt to integrate into daily conversation.

I went a bit AWOL these past few weeks. This is the effect that Achill Island has on you.. You forget to communicate with people, you spend all of your time wandering around aimlessly, talking to people, eating strange combinations of food from the HelpXers fridge, taking photos of scenery, being spontaneous and ripping your clothing. (Not in a sexy way, really).

In my past couple of weeks we have had a wedding (still recovering), I’ve been snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, camping with strangers, sunbathing (believe it or not), sleeping, driving around….. We have taken a few trips to the nearby town of Westport, once with the innocent intention of getting groceries…. We never returned. The craic overpowered us.

All I seem to take photos of is the beautiful scenery, yet it somehow never quite captures the magnificence. (Is that a word?)

In terms of seeking balance, I am doing okay. The first week or so was a write-off. Too much party time, not enough nap. But in my mind, celebration is good for the soul. Now I’m trying to do some yoga everyday (even if it’s only for 15 minutes), going for plenty of beach walks, eating all the fruits and vegetables that no one else eats, drinking apple cider vinegar every morning….. And trying to catch up on sleep when I can. Also, I am managing to maintain the no shampooing situation. Occasionally people look at me like I am homeless, but that’s sort of acceptable on Achill. I wash with baking soda, rinse with ACV, and occasionally treat myself to some essential oils!

I think it’s best to enjoy the situation I’m in right now, not stress about the change in my routine (we can’t all live on yoga retreats 24/7), and just have as much fun as possible. Fun is very important for one’s wellbeing. A different kind of wellbeing. Stress is counterproductive. It’s impossible to be stressed in such a beautiful place.

Here are some photos… Feast your eyes.

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Seeking Balance (and Summertime)

Today is a great day.

I’ve just noticed that I have 100 followers on my sexy little blog!

Also, I have arrived back in Ireland, a place that makes my soul tremendously happy. I’m heading back to The Valley House for a summer of mighty, savage, marvellous craic (savage craic sounds a bit scary but people ACTUALLY SAY THAT. I know.)

The past week has been a quick catch up with family and friends, cups of tea and trips to garden centres, some excellent quality sausages at the birthday BBQ, and a trip up to London for some social activity. I was feeling a little over-healthed and under-partied, and was perhaps experiencing a sort of mid-youth crisis, hitting age 22 and having spent the past 6 months primarily doing yoga and eating nettles.

Which is very essential for ones spiritual, physical, and emotional development, but I also felt I needed to imbibe and party. It’s all about balance.

So we went out in Brick Lane, ate very cheap curry, scored some wine and then went off and found ourselves a party. It was great, but I couldn’t handle 2 nights in a row. Instead, we went to Hyde Park then I went on home to watch Sex and the City and eat some quinoa.

Hyde Park was lovely, the actual sun shined, and there were even some triathletes doing some world championship final thing. I mostly just noticed how wonderful their bums were.

 

 

 

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Braving flip flops
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Our picnic in Hyde Park
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Sunshine!
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A miraculous hound.

 

So now I’m off to Achill Island, writing from the rickety bus that arrived 30 minutes late at Knock Airport. I like Knock airport because it reminds me of Nelson airport back home – no security, one big room, old men discussing public transport.

I’m curious to see what becomes of the next 2 and a half months. I expect it to be different from last year, with some different people and some the same, but also I think I am quite different from how I was last year.

I sense it will be a test in balance- how to maintain daily yoga and meditation and consumption of greens, whilst working in a Backpackers and Pub where alcohol consumption and party time is a given.

Challenge accepted! I sure hope there’s sunshine, so I don’t have to do yoga in the pub. That would just be distracting, for all parties involved…

Chat soon old pals.

Siesta, Fiesta, The Besta

So sorry for the lame title. It was the best I could come up with today, and at least it rhymes!

I feel like Cinderella! Today I actually got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the tiles with a brush.

But it is a labour of love! I love this place! It is so sunny, so Mediterranean, so olivey. If you know what I mean.

Yesterday our five hours of work consisted of scrubbing the shower block from top to bottom, because it was caked in dust and insects, having been unused during the winter. Then we moved on to the casita, a little mini house for guests (and us) to relax in. We carried mattresses and doors on our heads and did many unintentional squats which I feel today in my hamstrings. Today we scrubbed the outdoor kitchen, which was covered in the dust that manages to get everywhere here. I have taken to wearing the same working clothes everyday this week, because they get dirty so quickly and we currently have no washing machine therefore I must preserve clothing. I advise all people to stay at a safe distance during the hours of 9am to 2pm, until I change into cleaner, better smelling attire.

This is the unglamorous part of retreat life. It takes a lot of work to make it look good, and run smoothly for the guests. Especially an Eco retreat, where water is precious, toilets must only be flushed for number twos, and solar power is the main source of energy. So when you go wees, you must not flush and you must also not put the toilet paper into the toilet, you must put it in a bin. It really challenges your habits, and makes you extra cautious when changing rubbish bins. It’s not all sunshine and massages. Although…. That totally comes into it. Us helpers are lucky because we only work 5 hours a day, whereas Sarah works tirelessly in the hot Spanish sun to get everything ready for the opening on Friday. I think this week is the hardest in terms of cleaning..

Once guests arrive our jobs are to lay out yoga mats, partake in morning yoga from 8 to 9.30 (if we want to), serve breakfast and eat with the guests, do light cleaning and bed changing in the tents, pump water and help out with any other random tasks. We also get the opportunity to make some money, by running workshops, giving massages or doing dinner nights, where we cook for the guests and they pay us a set price.

Megan (my fellow helper) and I are planning a vegan three course meal for the weekend, to give us a little pocket money. Not bad, not bad.

Last night, we took a trip into the largest nearby town, L’Ametlla de mar, and wandered the streets while Sarah went grocery shopping. It’s more of a fishing village, with tapas bars looking out over the fishing boats in the docks. We felt very Spanish, sitting at an outside table at dusk, drinking chilled red wine (I know) and eating tiny little salty fish covered in olive oil and garlic.

At the moment my afternoons after finishing work consist of lunch (with greens from the garden), changing clothing, lying by the pool for two hours in a sun lounger reading my book or trying to upload photos ( a struggle), checking my emails for 20 minutes, doing yoga outside, taking the dogs for a walk,showering, reading,eating, sleeping. I am so pooped every night, I forget about the possibility of wild boars or ants infiltrating the tent.

I feel so bronzed, it almost feels unnatural after an English winter. My limbs are no longer blinding to passers by. I am currently lying in the sunshine, towel over my face so that I can see the screen, listening to the goat herder herd his goats like a boss. You know he’s around in the hills when you hear the goat bells tinkle.

Aaaaah, Schpain.

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Seeking the sun

After a week of strenuous planning ( I say strenuous like it’s hard, figuring out whether I want to go to Italy or Spain next), I have come up with a rough plan for the next 5 months. I am the kind of person that will agonise over every little detail for a few days, toss and turn at night, then suddenly make a snap decision and that’s it. Done. Sorted. The decision is the hardest part, the actual planning is generally smooth sailing!

Next Wednesday I’m heading to Barcelona for 3 nights, to see the city just because it’s somewhere I’ve never been and have heard wonderful things about! Through Couchsurfing I’ve been invited to drinks and a ‘language exchange’ evening while I’m there – I think they expect me to speak a small amount of Spanish, which is awkward, cos I don’t. But that’s ok – maybe I’ll meet someone who’s willing to teach me.. They may regret it. I thought about Couchsurfing in Barcelona and put up a open request for a couch, but I just got about ten messages from 30 year old men, with their entire profile filled out in Spanish apart from their life motto “impossible is nothing!!!!” and, “I’m here to show you how to PARTY DOWNTOWN.” Not entirely sure what they mean by that. I’m all for partying, but…. Nah..

Then I am heading down the coast of Spain to work at this yoga retreat in the hills, near the beaches of Costa Daurada. I will be sleeping in a tent, being vegetarian again, doing yoga every morning and of course helping with the retreats. I just have my fingers crossed that there are no aliens there. I can’t wait for SUNSHINE!

I’m there for about three weeks, then I’m going to France, to HelpX at this place that runs wellness retreats and camping/ git├ęs over the warmer months. They also have horses, which I’m super excited about! Mariken is a yoga teacher and they drink green smoothies in the morning, I will be right at home.

Then it’s my birthday, which I weirdly almost forgot about when making my plans. I may head back to the UK for a week or so to catch up with people, then it’s over to Ireland for 2 months, back to the Valley House where I spent 6 weeks last summer.

The last few weeks have been a bit of downtime, recovering from my weird experiences in Devon and generally just eating meat.. I’m excited to get on the road again!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post on meditation for my aunty Kath, who runs a wonderful business called designed2enable, which sources stylish assistive products for people with disabilities and physical difficulties. You can read it here. Their pill boxes are a handy gift for people with lots of medication to take!

Tonight I made Socca, which are chickpea pancakes that are very popular in Nice in the south of France. Credit goes to Aimee who I met in Devon – she made these one night and I was hooked.

Here’s the recipe for y’all – goes nicely with spicy Indian dal, or Mediterranean vegetables (just change up the herbs in the pancake). I like things that are easy to make and don’t stress me out by requiring a million ingredients. Which is why I like these!

Makes about two pancakes – double the recipe for more.

1 cup chickpea (gram) flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp EV olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin/coriander, or mixed herbs for a Mediterranean filling

Just cook them up like normal pancakes, then shove one in your mouth.

I hope you likey.

p.s. Exciting news of the week- I got two of 750 civilian passes to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day in 2015. You have to put your name in a ballot, and over 10,000 people entered. Woohoo!

P.p.s. The thought of packing up my backpack again is just exhausting. At least this time I won’t have to take all ten of my winter jumpers, because I’m heading to the sunshine! I’ll just take three. Three chunky jumpers will do, Rosie.