One of my favourite pastimes is, and always has been, online shopping. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ventured into a clothes shop. Why drive to a shopping centre, pay for parking, and spend hours trundling around the fashion department of John Lewis when it is all there online in the comfort of your own home? I can scan the entire fashion offering of John Lewis in 30 minutes and it would take me a good few hours on the shop floor. I also have a phobia of changing rooms. There is just too much faff. You have 27 items over your arm, and you are told that you can only take 5 in at a time. This means that after every 5 failed frock tries you have to wrap yourself, in your undies, in the changing room curtain whilst shouting ‘Please can I have another 5?’ Besides, the lighting and mirrors in the cubicles have been cruelly designed to make you look at your worst from every angle. You can go in feeling quite body-confident and come out vowing to take up HIIT training and eat spinach. No, these days are long gone for me. I much prefer to get a lorry load of garments delivered, so I can try them on in the safety of my own bedroom whilst watching ‘MasterChef,’ and with the lighting sufficiently dimmed to soften flesh folds and cellulite.
This hobby/addiction has always amused me, but in these Corona Days it is vital. The problem is that Husband is now working from home, and so, for the first time, he is aware of just how MANY deliveries are left in the porch every day. Yesterday he went for a run and actually couldn’t get in through the front door on his return. Sadly, Ian from myHermes, Steve from DPD and Joe from UPS are not chatting these days. They just ring the bell and ‘drop’. We did have such a social thing going. Last month Husband and I were in Costa Coffee when this gorgeous, lean, stubbly, young man bounded in, saw me and said ‘Hi Jayne, how are the dogs? See you next week!’ before winking and heading to the counter. To which Husband said, ‘Who the Hell is he?’ He seemed both relieved and terrified when I explained that he was the UPS delivery driver; relieved that he was just the delivery driver and terrified that I had enough deliveries to be his best friend. My little game really is out in the open now. I do hasten to add that I do return 97% of all the clothes I order, which means I am also very friendly with the lovely Rahul in the Post Office…
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Ok, so it’s Day 4 of Lockdown and things are going quite well. I have got into a good routine; I lie in bed checking Insta and Facebook until 9.30am, and then I get up and watch ‘Corona TV’ and do housework until 4pm, in my pyjamas. At 4pm I have a shower and put on clean pyjamas. On a ‘Fitness Day’ I put on leggings, and plod around the village for 30 minutes at some point, before the shower and clean Pjs. I could call these ‘leisurewear’ but no, mine are quite definitely ill-fitting floral jersey Pjs. The great thing about this dress code is that I am not generating any ironing at all.
I have made an Excel spread sheet, which is a total work of art (names highlighted in different colours etc) for a ‘Housework Rota’. I am distancing with 4 other adults, and I am not doing it all! Twenty Something Son, who should be at university, is coping particularly well with the Lockdown. He actually hasn’t noticed any difference. He gets up at 2pm, eats the contents of the fridge, watches ‘Celebrities Go Dating’ from the sofa all afternoon, eats more and then plays PlayStation all night. He doesn’t even have to feel guilty about all of the lectures he failed to get out of bed for, as they are now online. On the ‘Housework Rota’, I have put him down for ironing. He has never ironed a garment in his life before, but I see lots of merit in allocating him this task:
He will learn a new life skill
He won’t be chipping every skirting board with the Hoover or spilling bleach on the carpets
He won’t notice what he is doing, as he can still watch ‘Celebrities Go Dating’ at the same time. He will just be vertical rather than horizontal
My plan is to spring clean the entire house in the next 3 weeks, but I am having to pace this. I don’t want to get to the under stairs cupboard too quickly, as I can’t wait to find out what treasures I have shoved in there over the past 10 years.
Well, it has finally happened… The one measure I was dreading. Boris shut my gym down on Friday. Don’t get me wrong, I actually HATE the gym, but I do have a rather handsome personal trainer… A year ago, I decided that gravity and age were taking a noticeable toll on my torso and so I decided to join a gym. I must point out that up until this point I had NEVER set foot in such an establishment. Merely the thought of going made me break out into a post-exercise style sweat. I decided that the only way I was going to stick to regular attendance was to find a handsome, young, male trainer. I therefore diligently ‘researched’ every gym in the area. Whilst various sales staff were pointing out the jet powered hair dryers in the changing rooms and the coffee bars, I was scouring the workout classes for an attractive male instructor. I finally found one. Sadly, this was in a gym called ‘Hard Fitness’, which is exactly that. This facility has no proper changing rooms, no fluffy towels, no Chardonnay and no pastel yoga mats. Instead it has a boxing ring, a comprehensive set of torture equipment and an army of unattractive male clientele in baggy shorts and grey socks, but it does have gorgeous, toned Dan. Unfortunately, The Lovely Dan is bipolar. During my PT sessions he is brutal; he shouts at me; he scolds me for slacking and he reminds me that ‘I don’t pay him to be nice’. Then at the end he puts on a winning smile and says, ‘Nice one Jayne, see you on Friday!’ The only other plus point here is that there are no glamorous and toned ladies in Lycra to make me feel woefully inadequate in the abs department. I can turn up in some old leggings and come out looking like a sweaty unmade bed, without anyone batting an eyelid or commenting on the fact that I have mascara dripping down my face.
Dan is offering to do Skype session with me from today, but it really won’t be the same. I am thinking of cancelling my membership and eating my body weight in Galaxy bars for the foreseeable future.
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When I was travelling around Asia last year, I wrote my blog to amuse myself whilst living in some very remote locations. If people read it that was lovely, but that wasn’t my main motivation for writing. I am now writing my blog whilst living in a, soon to be, very remote location called ‘Home’ in a Surrey village. If people read it that is lovely, but that isn’t my main motivation for writing, my sanity is.
Only a few weeks ago I was merely aware of something called the Coronavirus which originated from bats sold in a market in a far-off city in China beginning with ‘W’. Now the ‘C’ Word is on my doorstep and I am frantically trying to keep it out. Do follow me over the next few weeks as I try to put a vaguely humorous and somewhat irreverent slant on life as we will soon know it. Hopefully you won’t have to read this for too long. If it does stretch into many months the content will be non-existent and any attempts at humour will have long gone.
I have everything I need; one toilet roll, a large bar of Galaxy, a coffee and a year’s supply of E-cigarettes. I’m ready….
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So here I am sitting at my desk, and safely back Lingfield. It is so cold in this country! I have had to ramp the central heating up to 32 degrees, and even so, I have 3 jumpers and 2 pairs of socks on.
My adventure has come to an end, but it was so wonderful to be reunited with my temporarily orphaned kids and the hugely supportive Husband at Gatwick last night. What a wonderful homecoming I had, complete with my perfect meal of lasagne and cheesecake. There have, however, been a few negative comments about my appearance. Apparently the wrist full of friendship bracelets, which I have collected along the way, and my long scruffy hair make me look like an ageing hippie. The second ear piercing has also gone down badly, but I did point out that it could have been a lot worse. I could have had a turtle and a couple of dogs tattooed on my neck.
I have learnt a lot about myself, and about the world, on my travels. I am way more self-sufficient than I ever thought, and I realise the importance of smiling. It is a universally understood expression, and people treat you so much better if you just smile. I have also realised that, whilst I have visited numerous countries in the past, I have never really travelled. Staying in nice hotels and going on manicured, organised scenic excursions does not count. This gives you a sanitised version of reality. In order to really see a country you have to live and work with the locals and get to know them, their culture and their history. If you adopt their customs and respect their values they will welcome you into their hearts and their homes. I spent Diwali with a taxi driver’s family in Goa, I had dinner with my tuk tuk driver’s family, and ate coconuts fresh from a tree in the garden of a local from the dog rescue centre, in Sri Lanka.
Sadly I was mistaken for a Russian on numerous occasions whilst away, due to my height and the blonde mop. I felt like replying ’Am I that fat? Are my boobs popping out of my bikini and are my eyebrows tattooed on?’ But I didn’t, I just smiled sweetly and said ‘No, British.’ And doesn’t Asia love a Brit? I had always thought that the laddish behaviour of Brits Abroad, coupled with the fact that we invaded and colonised so much of this continent in the past, would be a huge minus point, but actually everyone loves us! We are seen as very polite, respectful and cultured. Thank God no one has seen me arguing with a traffic warden…
I have met many lovely, lovely people on my travels, from all nationalities, and made some friends for life. If I take anything from this trip it is the fact that I must meet and get to know more people from other races and creeds. I am still not convinced about the Germans and the Chinese, but we all have our issues.
I guess now I have got to get back into the swing of my normal life. I just hope I don’t have a Midlife Crisis getting over my Midlife Crisis trip. That could be a whole new blog, but I doubt it…
I am coming to the end of my epic 91 day Midlife Crisis trip, and what an adventure it has been. By pure chance every time I have moved on I have enjoyed my adventure more and more. And, most importantly, my accommodation has got better and better. You may recall that in Nepal I had a cow shed with mattress and barely a bathroom, in Goa I had a bed with legs, and hot water, but no air conditioning, and in the Maldives I had air conditioning but no hot water. This was so cruel. Jumping into an ice cold shower after working in 33 degrees heat was hideous. Still, I did learn how to shampoo and condition my hair in 19.6 seconds. So here I am in Sri Lanka, where I have my own apartment with hot water, air conditioning, a double bed and a garden. There is a God! I am so pleased that I ended up here, rather than started here, as it would have been so depressing if my living quarters had deteriorated every time I moved on.
My first impression of any new country is what I can see from the plane as it comes into land, and what I saw when landing in Sri Lanka was GREEN! The land is a lush, verdant mountainous jungle, with roads and towns carved into it, and a stunning coastline of endless beaches. It is actually paradise, and definitely the most divine place I have ever visited. The scenery is enhanced by the beauty of the locals. They are such kind, helpful and respectful people, who are so proud of their country. This little island was ravaged by civil war for 26 years, and devastated by the 2004 tsunami, but it has such dignity. I am friendly with a young guy, Banty, who was by his house on the beach when the first enormous tsunami wave came crashing in. He sensed something was very wrong, and ran to his uncle’s house, which was on a slight incline. After this wave, the sea retreated so far that the distant coral reef was exposed, and turtles and fish were left stranded. Locals flocked onto the beach to plunder what they could, and then 20 minutes later the second massive wave hit and drowned 30,000 people. Banty and his family just watched in horror as everything they owned, and many of their friends, were just washed away. It took 8 years before they could rebuild a new home and bar on the beach, but they now own the famous Dalawella Beach Dream Cabana with its famous swing, which people flock to from all over the world for that Insta shot.
The tropical climate here is perfect for the country’s biggest export, Ceylon tea. Acres and acres of plantations are sliced into the hillsides and workers continuously pluck the green tips which end up in my mug in Lingfield, a few months later. Last weekend I did ‘the most amazing train journey in the world’ from Kandy to Ella. This was utterly fascinating. Firstly the train was so antiquated and cramped, and despite barging on board, and knocking as many Germans flying as I possibly could, I still had to stand for the first two of the seven hour trip. There is no train ride like it. We climbed through the tiered plantations, passed stunning water falls, dipped into the jungle and stopped at dozens of beautifully preserved little stations, complete with flower beds and station masters in white uniforms and gloves. All the while a steady stream of locals passed through the carriages selling hot food such as samosas, chilli nuts, and flatbreads which were accompanied by flasks of hot sweet chai tea. It beat a miserable Southern Rail sandwich any day. And the cost of my 7 hour train ride? £1.50.
As you have probably gathered, I am a little in love with this place, and on top of that, my work here at the dog rescue centre has been so rewarding. Happy and heart breaking, in equal measure. Yesterday a dog came in which had been bitten by a python, he survived, but the one who was hit by a train, didn’t. It is easy to get desensitised to all of the daily amputations and mutilations caused by road accidents and cruelty, but I actually think you have to, in order to keep going. I did have 4 lovely doggies on my list to adopt and bring home. Husband will be pleased to hear that when I got a freight quote of £7000 each, even extravagant menopausal Jayne drew a line.
So it is with very mixed feelings that I will say my doggie goodbyes tomorrow and head back to my life in Lingers. At least packing won’t be as stressful as on the way out. I have jettisoned all the Glamorous Granny kit, it is all way too big for me. In fact I have lost so much weight, I could come home as hand luggage. Can someone find me a steak the size of a small cow for Sunday please? I have one hell of a lot of meat eating to catch up on as well as the almond croissants…
There are 40,000,000 (yes million) street dogs in Sri Lanka. When I decided to volunteer at a rescue centre here, I envisaged an underfunded complex, full of tatty cages and ramshackle buildings. How wrong I was. Dog-Care Clinic RV resembles a 5* luxury resort. There are lily ponds, streams, ornamental bridges, and a doggie swimming pool, on a site which sprawls over 25,000 square metres. I was totally stunned when I arrived, and actually considered moving in myself, as the accommodation here is better than anything I have enjoyed on my trip. In 2007, an inspirational German lady, Marina Möbius, came to Sri Lanka on holiday, and saw the plight of the street dogs. She started by caring for a few herself, and then funded a small clinic which has grown into the state of the art centre it is today, with a staff of 45. Marina still runs a highly successful recruitment agency in Germany, and funds most of the €500,000 per year running costs here herself. She is an amazing human being.
My role here is not terribly arduous. I have to cuddle and brush dogs all day and help with feeding time and administering medication. There are 300 canine residents, so that means a lot of cuddling! It also means that I smell like a dog by 9am every morning and, by the time I leave, I have usually had a Flip Flop, T shirt sleeve or hair band chewed or devoured completely. The four legged residents spend their days snoozing in exquisitely designed pagodas and gazebos, under a canopy of coconut palms, until all hell breaks loose. Each morning, the local monkeys get bored of eating bananas, and at 11am they decide to have some fun. So the mickey-taking Macaques swing from the tall palm trees above, whilst sticking 2 fingers up at the canine community below. This leads to utter chaos, as every dog on the site joins in with a deafening cacophony of barking, which only subsides when the monkeys realise they also need earplugs, and retreat gleefully, leaving the hounds to drift back to sleep. That said, I have never seen dogs so well cared for. If a Sri Lankan street dog gets to this place they have certainly won a golden ticket, and with two home cooked meals a day, served in landscaped gardens, I would also settle for that. I would certainly settle for their food. Breakfast and dinner are bowls of freshly cooked minced beef, with shredded fresh chicken, and a sauce of chicken stock. My meat consumption has been so restricted on my travels, that I have been sorely tempted to eat the odd bowl when no one is looking… Beats vegetable bloody curry any day, or should I say every day?
Although the setting here is surreal, the reality of Man’s inhumanity to animals is ever present. A steady stream of injured, starved, gassed, burnt and tortured dogs and puppies arrive every day. I have seen hounds whose feet have been cut off by their owners and others who have been set alight as part of the local gang culture. Those that are beyond help lie at peace to the side of the operating theatre, to make way for the ones with a chance. I witness amputations regularly, as basking dogs are run over by car and tuk tuk drivers who do not give this a second thought. A dog’s life has no value to most people here. Some of my group were actually in a tuk tuk the other day when it ran over and killed a dog, and the driver just continued on.
As well as the rescue centre, the organisation runs a daily feeding programme for the local dogs. Today I went out with the driver in our sign-written tuk tuk, and in the space of 6 hours we fed 650 street dogs. I had to fill food bowl after bowl with lightening speed as we stopped at each location. The hounds actually recognised the vehicle and ran towards it. They knew it was dinner time! The driver, staggeringly, knew every animal and how many would be waiting at each spot. He also removed ticks as we went round and administered tablets, for various conditions, to specific dogs, which were concealed inside fresh sausages. This was so impressive. Interestingly the centre has another virtually identical tuk tuk which it uses to collect animals for its mass sterilisation programme. So far it has neutered 60,000 dogs, in an attempt to reduce the amount of unwanted puppies in the area. The driver told me that when the ‘neutering tuk tuk’ drives round, the dogs actually run away from it, as they know it is there to ‘spoil their fun.’ I knew these creatures were clever, but number plate recognition? That’s cool.
Yesterday I bumped into the legendary Marina, who was attempting to hurl Christmas baubles at a tropical tree, to create a Christmas display. I told her that I was an interior designer and could help if needed. She immediately plonked the boxes of decorations at my feet and said, in a very Germanic fashion, ‘You do the tree.’ Minutes later I was up a ladder trying to attach tinsel and red balls to foliage that belonged in a jungle, rather than a Nordic pine forest, whilst not feeling at all Christmassy in the searing heat. Despite this I gave it my best shot. Definitely my most tasteless Christmas tree job ever, but one I won’t forget…