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The last 3 weeks have been so beautiful, and so full of blessing it’s hard to know how to begin to describe it.  We returned from a 10 day trip to Cornwall at the beginning of last week, and as a family I think we’re still awash with gratitude and general chilled-out vibes.  It’s not usual for us to feel the benefit of a break much beyond the time the break lasts, and I think there are several reasons for that being a little different this time.

Firstly, this holiday was in the company of my parents and also some very dear friends who we see far too little of because of geography.  Somehow, what could have been a bit of a disastrous mix (my parents and our friends didn’t know each other, we just hoped the size of the holiday home we’d rented would allieviate any ‘in your face-ness’) just really worked.  My parents are having a hard time because of my mum’s recent cancer diagnosis, and my dad in particular has become very tense and over anxious.  Our friends are in that early stage of parenthood when you are negotiating your way through life on very little sleep and facing a new parenting/management challenge every day.  Yet they all just got on so well, and actively enjoyed each other’s company – and so, of course, did we.  And there was that extra sense of delight in seeing two separate groups of people we love taking pleasure in each other.

Being in Cornwall itself was a massive blessing (we were in the same house, in a wee village called Helstone near Camelford, just last September with another wonderful family we are really close friends with – the fact we returned less than 9 months later and are currently seeing if we can organise another trip in October speaks volumes about the place).  I found real refreshment in being somewhere both unfamiliar – that ‘where are we now?’ feeling – and like an amplified, uber-version of the Britain that we know.  Plants and landscape somehow the same but not quite (greener, more abundant, both more friendly and more dramatic). 

The chance to be ‘at the seaside’ was an unalloyed delight.  This time round our daughter was thrilled beyond measure to be near any of the beaches we went too, and as someone who grew up on or near the coast in various parts of the UK  I loved seeing her share the same joy at playing on the beach, in the sea, in rock pools and so on.  I went wading into the sea with her (neither of us in swimming stuff) more times than I care to remember on this holiday, and yet neither of us really minded getting wet clothes, sand in unmentionable places and hair bouffed by the lively coastal breezes.  And there’s nothing like drying off in hot sun to compensate for wet underwear…

I also had massive fun rediscovering bodyboarding on this holiday over a couple of afternoons, something else my daughter and I have discovered together this last year.  I confess I cannot take pleasure into the getting into and out of a wetsuit, and nor can I truly take pleasure in the photos of me in a wetsuit either:

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… I think my husband and daughter look pretty good though.  One aspect of being in and part of the sea (the Atlantic Ocean no less!  sounds much fancier than my ‘native’ North Sea) is something I’ve read and heard people who surf talk about quite a lot, and there are some really good quotes too:

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(Thanks to my husband’s blog for this photo taken at The Tubestation last year)

In other words, there is a well-documented spiritual connection we seem to find with the ocean.  I’m alternately afraid of and in love with the sea, and personally I think that’s a pretty healthy state of affairs as it can be a dangerous place (and like many of my generation it’s hard to leave the spectre of ‘Jaws’ behind – I long thought it was just me but have discovered it’s a reasonably common thing!).  Yet to launch yourself across a breaking wave as you head a little further out, a little further out, to lie bobbing peacefully on a bodyboard and let the water carry you up and down, to gaze in silent respect as rolling waves crash together from opposing shores of a bay and merge to make a foaming mass of water is to find yourself in a place of wonder and of peace.  The other aspect of playing with a bodyboard that I liked a lot was just that – it was play, and it was completely acceptable to play wholeheartedly.  I am coming to believe, from my position as amongst other things a playworker and playwork trainer, that play can also be a time of spiritual connection.  Sometimes the Godness of the world he’s made is just there to be seen and experienced and rejoiced in.  Playing in the sea was, for me, an experience of the Godness of his world.

Pretty much the highlight of the whole week, if we had to pick one, would be a week ago, when we spent Sunday in Polzeath, first going to church at The Tubestation, which you will learn more about from my husband’s blog so I won’t repeat it here but I do urge you to check it out, then hanging out for a bit there afterwards and being given a fantastic and completely unwarranted gift by our friends of a beautiful piece of art.  We spent much of the rest of the day just playing on the beach at Polzeath, then each of us got to surf or bodyboard as we chose, and all of this was sandwiched with the eating of lovely icecream and yummy chips.  It was a perfect day.  If there was one day that left us seriously trying to figure out how to make a move to Cornwall so we could become part of the community in Polzeath and get involved in The Tubestation, then that was it. 

And now, back home in Edinburgh, back at work, back amidst the worries and mess of normal everyday life, it seems like a dream that we’re still somehow carrying with us.  Life is good today.  Tomorrow my mum begins her treatment for the cancer they found a few weeks ago, and my prayer above all else is that life will somehow continue to be good, even through that, for all of us.

Lux Interior

Lux Interior is dead.  One of my work colleagues told me this on Friday morning as I arrived at work.  He was the lead singer of  psychobilly band The Cramps.  This band was largely responsible for one of my seminal adolescent awakening moments, when I was about 14.  We were on a family holiday in Butlins (I know, not sounding likely for an awakening kind of moment) and my best friend had joined us.  It was at the height of my love of Norwegian pop band A-ha, whom I had recently declared to my dad I would love until the day I died.

One night we went to the evening disco/cabaret .  My friend was tall and gorgeous, and as we wore our classic 80s batwing tops betopped with our newly bought A-Ha labelled hats I felt pretty overshadowed by my cool friend who knew all the moves to the dances at the disco (I’m sure it involved line-dancing).  My little sister, up late and hyper as usual, managed to look both cute and cool.  I looked like a typical average 14 year old in the 80s, with neither coolness, style or cuteness going for me.

Then about half a dozen older teenagers descended on the dance floor and just took my breath away (as well as scaring the pants off me).  They wore Cramps t-shirts, mohawks, big boots, tutus, scary makeup, the works.  Even their dancing was full of attitude.  I was awestruck.  I suddenly felt that being a teenager was about becoming yourself, about remaking the world to fit around you, about having attitude and not caring. 

Over the next couple of years I listened to some Cramps stuff and some other bands that I wouldn’t have gone near before, and to be honest probably wouldn’t want to revisit now, it’s not the most ‘wholesome’ music in the world.  Yet, despite the dubiousness of the bands’ material and worldview, it was nevertheless a moment of release and inspiration for me that changed how I viewed the way me and the world would get on over the next few years. 

I was, of course, about as far from being a psychobilly as it’s possible to get, but this was truly my first recognisable contact with a youth sub-culture and I was smitten by the possibilities.  I had fun dressing up in some slightly more interesting clothes than the matching jumpers me and my sister seemed to have been in for years.  I left dungarees behind (only to rediscover them, oversized, or patchwork, or covered in paint when I was a ‘struggling artist’ with an image to maintain).  I discovered the shock power of wearing what hardly anyone else wore in our little town, and felt I’d really arrived when my mum told me I couldn’t go out dressed like that  – although I thought I looked great, so I felt a bit offended too.

Ironically enough, as far as teenage rebellion goes, probably my biggest subversive action was becoming a Christian aged 16.  I’m guessing Lux Interior would not have been thrilled to know he was one of the links in that chain of events.

August 2017
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