Tag Archives: friends

Adventures in friendship

The unschooling diaries: weeks forty-three and forty-four

As I type, the rain is beating against the windows and the wind is howling its displeasure in every nook it finds. There is something comforting about being inside, with the crackle of the fire and the glow of the computer screen, but still a bigger part of me is yearning for the simplicity of the temperate outdoors – or more specifically, for a yurt in Lanzarote.

We had the most glorious holiday there, last week. I feel almost guilty for having had such a lovely escape at a time when the world was plunging into new depths of disastrousness, but it really was the perfect place to be. Beachfront tapas, good wine, fervent discussion under the stars.

We cooked up this plan as the summer in the UK drew to a close with one of my oldest, bestest friends and her family. They are currently living in a yurt, and I was eager to show them the yurtastic idyll that is Lanzarote Retreats. We’ve been there already once this year, but it has been such a year that Easter feels like forever ago. And besides, to launch into this adventure with friends was a whole new level of awesome.

Especially for Arthur.


Emily’s oldest daughter is mere weeks younger than him, and over the past few years, during sleepovers and festivals, they have formed a quiet bond. Her youngest is now old enough to be a proper little person, and the three of them, during our week of adventures, became thick as thieves.


There is something lovely about watching children come together when they are faced with experiences that are new and unusual, watching them make sense of the spectacular windows on the world that travelling affords.

These three embraced the adventures they were offered in parallel, bouncing their interpretations off each other and finding solace from the strange in the familiarity of friendship.


And that friendship was built in lego bricks, in early mornings and stolen moments back at the camp. Arthur brought with him a little stash, one which he swore on the plane on the way over that he would not share. That didn’t last long, though.


Holidaying with friends is not something I have done often, but it is something I really hope to do again – soon. Especially with these ones.


I am always proud of Arthur’s ability to play alone, but it was wonderful to watch him create a world with these girls. In the closing hours of our commune he had begun to refer to them as his sisters. I don’t think that relationship will be lost, somehow. Though I wish our respective homes were not quite so far away.


The whole experience really made me think about community, and socialisation, and how we are going to create that without the status quo of school. We need to find the people near us who will make us glow like these friends do. But whilst we’re working that out the nourishment this magical break gave our souls should last for a good while yet.


Home Sweet Home

This time last week, I was feeling a little sad to be home. We’d had a wonderful holiday with some much-needed quality family time, and I had once again been infected with the wanderlust that makes me want to see all of the corners of the world that I can.

This week, though, we have accidentally had the most wonderful time in our little town, and it has left me wondering why we need to travel at all when we have such a glorious place to call home.


There is Berry Head, where we went last Sunday with my parents, my brother and his fiancee. Arthur was thrilled to see everyone after our trip away, and he had great fun flying his kite, doing impromptu yoga with Uncle Ash, and just enjoying the view.

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Then there is Breakwater beach. Our local beach. I honestly never thought I’d be able to say that! With the spectacular weather we’ve had this week it’s felt a little like a corner of the Caribbean at times. Arthur has continued on his mission to get every single stone from the beach into the sea, and we’ve enjoyed a picnic with friends as well as a sneaky takeaway, just the two of us.

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I’ve really become aware this week how many lovely people we’ve met in this town. It’s taken a while for us to really feel like we belong here: the first 18 months when both Leigh and I were working in Plymouth didn’t help, and even once Arthur had arrived and I began to spend a lot more time in Brixham settling in to a new town wasn’t easy. But this week both Arthur and I have had social calendars almost full to bursting, and I have realised that we both have genuine friends here now. Which is nice.


Of course my latest venture – standing for election to Brixham Town Council – has made me feel even more as though I belong. It’s been brilliant getting out and about seeing people and places that are new to me, and so far the reception to my election campaign has been really positive. Mostly anyway – but that’s a topic for another post.


For this one suffice to say that I have had a week which has left me loving Brixham even more than usual. Ten days post-holiday when I still lived in London I would have been yearning for escape, but right now nothing would pull me away from the place I am proud to call home.




My word of the week this week is home.

The Reading Residence

Also linking up with this week’s prompt of ‘travel’.


A breath of fresh air and friendship


We haven’t got out enough so far this year. There have been plenty of reasons why: the weather’s been pretty pants, sniffly colds have never been very far away, and on top of that there is of course the small matter of a novel that needs editing…

So when this week we had friends to visit and the sun came out to greet them we breathed a sigh of relief and headed out into the fresh air.


There’s nothing quite like hanging out with old friends to rejuvenate the soul. Emily and I were partners in crime when we were sixteen, and I feel so lucky to still have her in my life twenty years later.

She is about to embark on an uber exciting house-building project with her family, so they began their stay at my folks’ place to get some inspiration from the major renovation they’ve just completed. Whilst we were there we made the most of the beautiful countryside: feeding the chickens, seeking out snowdrops, and exploring the deep dark woods.



Arthur spent a while at one particular tree, scratching away with a stick. I asked what he was doing and he said ‘writing’ (silly). When I asked what he was writing he said ‘the story of mummy and daddy’. Nothing like the great outdoors for a bit of inspiration.


After twenty four hours in the beautiful South Hams we headed back to Brixham. There had been much talk of penguins, so there was nothing for it really but to head for Living Coasts. We finally got to try out the new year-round ferry, and spent a day in beautiful sunshine in Torquay.




We had a bit of a stroll (and the obligatory fish and chips) and then headed to our awesome coastal zoo. The toddlers were in their element here, and it was so lovely to watch them explore and bond.





On their last day we stayed closer to home. It was properly freezing, but we made it to Breakwater beach for some bracing pebble throwing.



Though our friends were only here for three days, I feel like we’ve crammed at least a month’s worth of adventures into that time. And on top of that I’ve been reminded how lucky we are to live where we do: we will most definitely be getting out more in February, whatever else the world throws at us.


My word of the week this week is friendship.

The Reading Residence

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


The lost art of letter writing


I had several very late nights last week. Not just because I was on a mission to get myself organised before the craziness of Christmas sets in, but because of what I found in the process.

I have always been a bit (a lot) of a hoarder. This is generally something I chastise myself for – resulting as it does in me being surrounded by piles and piles of stuff that I have no idea what to do with. But this week, as I sat on the floor surrounded by these pieces of paper dating back twenty five years and more, I was very glad that I find it so hard to throw anything away.

There were letters from friends I have not seen for many years, and from those who I still count amongst my very best. From boys I was once in love with, or who were once in love with me. From my brothers, who it is hard to believe were ever so little, and from older family members who it is hard to believe are not around any more.

They were written on pages torn from files, on embossed notecards, on the backs of envelopes, on handmade paper, and collectively they transported me back to a very different time. A time before email. A time before text messages. A time before Facebook. Or WhatsApp. Or Twitter.

There are so many ways I keep in touch with people now – and probably if there weren’t I would find it hard to keep in touch with as many people as I do. But there is something incredibly touching about those fading and dog-eared pieces of paper, about the effort of writing out a message by hand, of finding a stamp and an envelope and a postbox.

Very few of the letters contained anything of much import. And yet in their banalities and ramblings they said more than a carefully considered few lines on a special occasion ever could. And often, hidden in the clutter of the everyday, there were flashes of the souls of those who wrote, of what I meant to them – and them to me.

I often look back on my later childhood and teenage years with feelings of sadness and regret. I struggled with depression and anxiety – the degree to which came across starkly in the tortured diaries I also discovered. But my memories of that – blurred themselves by my reluctance to fully transport myself back to the waves of misery I felt at the time – have clearly clouded the reality of the very good times I had in between, and the very, very good friends I had around me. How they put up with me I’ll never know; I fear my demons made me incredibly selfish at times.

As well as this quiet self-reflection, this archive from my past got me thinking about something else too. Letters are going to be very important in my third novel. It was a letter from that world, a particularly significant one, which was initially going to form the basis of this post. But that was before I found my stash. And what those letters have reminded me is how different communication was in life before the internet.

I’m looking forward to reading and rereading the letters that were sent to me so many years ago as I continue to unpick the lives of my main characters. So much of their friendship – and their love story – will unfold as they put pen to paper. The waiting for their letters to be read and answered, the delicious anticipation when an envelope addressed with familiar handwriting falls through the door, the peeling open of that envelope and becoming immersed in that contents for a few precious moments: all that will need to find its way into my novel.

And I think also it needs to find its way back into my life. I have so many friends and family who are not as geographically close as I would like them to be, and whilst the internet has brought with it the wonderful ability to keep up with what they’re doing with their days it will never replace the simplicity or the complexity of a letter.

So whilst I’m not normally one for new year’s resolutions, I can feel one simmering here – one that will mean that pile of letters from my past may still have the chance to grow.


Thank you to Sara over at Mum Turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: a letter…


Word of the week: London

This week, Arthur and I have been hanging out in London. We were going to be up for the weekends anyway, with two family birthdays to celebrate, and as Leigh had a big exam this week and I had lots of friends to catch up with it made sense to stay in between. It was a little bit daunting – my parents were around last weekend, but after they headed back to Devon on Monday it was just me and the toddler. It turns out I needn’t have worried at all – we’ve had a brilliant week, and Arthur has taken everything in his stride.

We’ve traversed the city to touch base with some of my oldest and bestest friends, meeting new babies and hanging out with growing toddlers. Arthur has really impressed me by his ability to share and play nicely, and he’s enjoyed the journeys as much as anything – there have been lots of trains and tubes and buses and escalators to ride.





Possibly his favourite place has been the London Transport Museum, where he marvelled excitedly at the wide range of vehicles to admire and play with – more on that to come!


We’ve made the most of all the different cuisines available to us, managing to fit in Vietnamese, Spanish tapas, dim sum and Italian – and sushi on the South Bank before Arthur’s first cinema experience.


There’s been other culture too – architecture and street art and busking. I’ve missed the vibrancy of London, the sense that there’s going to be something new and exciting to see every time you turn the corner.




We haven’t entirely avoided the shopping, though I suspect on the whole I’ve enjoyed that more than Arthur. But he’s valiantly offered to carry my bags. And we did brave Hamleys, which wasn’t actually as bad as I feared.




Arthur hasn’t got to play outside as much as he normally would, but we did have fun embracing autumn (and trees) in Hyde park, and found a brilliant play area yesterday where he could let off some steam.



Although we’ve really enjoyed each other’s company, there’s no doubt Arthur’s missed his daddy too. He’s kept up with him through photos and hilariously surreal conversations on the iPad.



It hasn’t been quite the same though, and Arthur was very excited when he got to see him in the flesh last night. We both were.

We’ve got one more day in London, and by tomorrow I think we’ll be more than ready to head home. There’s lots to love about the buzz of the big city, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing the sea.


The Reading Residence


Q is for queue


As I was mulling over words to inspire my contribution for the letter ‘q’ I kept being transported back to a very particular place. To a queue I stood in for hours and hours on end on many, many Saturday nights. Well, afternoons really: we were waiting for Whirl-Y-Gig to open, a club I frequented in my teenage years which at the time was held in Shoreditch Town Hall. It kept the rather unusual hours of eight until midnight – handy for sneaking out as a sixteen year old, and a party which people were keen to extend by whichever means they could.

The queue started to form in the middle of the afternoon. Often when we made it there by four or five it would already be snaking down Old Street – people chatting, banging drums, excited about what the night would bring. On the night this photo was taken I’m pretty sure we’d arrived early and made it to the steps of the town hall itself. This was the most coveted spot, the place you’d find the most hardened regulars, where you could look down over the pavement as the queue and the anticipation began to build. I vaguely remember dancing to The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ as it blasted out of someone’s battered ghetto blaster.

Once we were inside it really was as if we’d been taken to another dimension. Colours and music and lights and rhythm, dancing at the front of the stage as if our lives depended on it. Everyone was so friendly, their hugs and smiles quickly replacing the grey hostility of the London streets we’d left behind.

The streets around Shoreditch Town Hall were very different then. There was The Blue Note in Hoxton Square, the Comedy Cafe and a couple of pubs on Curtain Road, but nothing like the teeming mass of bars and restaurants and wannabe hipsters you find there now. There are even hotdog stalls on Old Street on the weekends, peddling their questionable wares to drunken tourists. A long, long way from how it used to be.

We took less photos then of course. It took me ages to dig this one out, trawling through boxes of old prints, and even then the picture I found was clearer in my imagination than in reality. Not that it wasn’t fun: there’s something quite different about holding physical photographs in your hands rather than just scrolling through images on a screen. I’m still friends with the core group of people I hung out with twenty (!) years ago, and it was pretty awesome to see us as we were then – at parties and festivals, in gardens and parks, cooking and laughing and getting up to no good.

We’re scattered across the globe now, from London to LA to Osaka, but there’s a bond that was formed by adventures like standing in line for hours on a grimy street in East London that I don’t think will ever be broken.

Q is for queue.


Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.  

Word of the Week: Offline

Last weekend, my family held a party. Not just any little party: 400 people descended on my parents’ home in the South Hams, with about 200 of them camping. It was spectacularly fun, but as you can probably imagine it took just a little bit of organising. There were ten of us in the organising committee – my parents, me and Leigh, my three brothers and their partners. Emails have been flying between us for months to make sure everything was in place, but still as the weekend approached there was lots that had to be done on the ground.

We moved over there a few days before to help set up – in the house for a couple of days then migrating to our bell tent as other guests arrived. I had a few moments of rising panic as I realised I was never going to manage to keep up with the blog as well as everything else – internet access was sporadic, and there just wasn’t any spare time! And then I paused, took a breath, and reminded myself that this is my blog, and I’m writing on my terms. The world wouldn’t fall apart if I didn’t post for a while, and people wouldn’t hold it against me if I missed a few linkies.

So for a while I focused on just living life instead of documenting it (I only just managed to remember to take a few photos…) But now that things are getting back to normal I thought you might like to know what we’ve been up to!

We had a bit of a mission making sure the camping area was all set up and ready for people to arrive, and were glad for the sunshine as we traipsed up the hills and through the woodland, Arthur in the sling or running free.



We set up our little camp down by the estuary, and Arthur got very excited about the new house we were building.



He had so much fun playing in the open air – the weather was perfect, and a sense of magic began to pervade the air.


We set up a kids activity tent (our priorities for camping parties are a little different than they used to be…) where everyone got throughly covered in glitter.




By Saturday evening, we were well and truly ready to party. The tutus came out, the wings went on, and anticipation was building.


Arthur seemed to love his costume, and was in his element with so many other people to play with!


He was most excited when the music started though. In fact I think everyone was – my brother had managed to get the awesome Rubblebucket to come and party with us. Their set was amazing, and it was more than a little bit surreal watching the scene unfold in my parents’ courtyard.


The festivities continued well into the night, and the next day we had Arthur’s naming ceremony, a delicious spread of Sri Lankan curry, and lots more chatting and playing and catching up.

Come Sunday evening, those of us who remained were exhausted but happy, and we had a lovely few hours chilling down by the tents.



Arthur was truly in his element with so many people to talk to and play with, and it was truly lovely for us to have some quality time to hang out with friends we don’t get to see so often any more.

I think after six months of increasingly intense blogging with all its associated social media exploits I really needed a bit of a break where my only communication device was a walkie talkie. I have a feeling there might be a few more spells like that this summer too – after all, if real life wants to get in the way of the internet for a while I’d be churlish to stop it.


 The Reading Residence

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall