Friday, 31 October 2014

Short story continued...

Taking a long breath and closing her eyes Martha listened to the sound of the waves. She wanted to breathe in each moment of this new experience so as to allay the fear rising deep in her stomach. She wanted to be present. Like a meditation this was a way for her to reengage with her body, take in each sensation, and absorb the motion of the sea. 

First, securing the black Velcro of the surfboard leash around her ankle, she stepped tentatively into the shallow water, then with a sudden urgency rushed further in until the sea enveloped her limbs. She placed the board on the surface with both hands and pushed herself up onto its top, her belly and thighs supporting her weight. With unfamiliar exertion she paddled with her arms, pushing her closed fingers through the cold water surprised at how the temperature of the water hadn’t bothered her, in fact it had felt cool, invigorating, like a shower after her morning run.

Reaching a point fifteen or twenty metres from shore Martha turned the board in the water and pushed herself up into a seated position, both legs dangling into the now deep water. She noticed another surfer about thirty metres further south nearer the headland and the castle. His board was turned to face the oncoming waves, bobbing like a seal and watching, waiting for the next big wave. Taking note of his position Martha correspondingly turned her board and waited. The swell of each wave felt like a breath emanating from deep within the earth. The rhythmic rise and fall beneath the board reminded Martha of the nights she had watched her young son sleeping. The blanket wrapped around his feverish body appeared to eb and flow with the same corporeal rhythm. Perhaps everything was connected, just as she’d read; a universal pulse.

As the next large wave approached she maneuvered the board around to face into the shore and began paddling once again with her hands; willing the board forward onto the crest of the wave. For an instant the momentum caught the board and she was carried briefly along, pushing onto her knees and lifting her upper body, routing her left foot onto the smooth surface of the board. In the next instant the wave had moved on ahead without her, but the exhilaration of that moment lifted her, a smile creeping across her face. This was why.

Once again she turned and headed back to the spot where the waves were beginning to reach their peak, hoping to catch another. The next wave to rise in front of her was slightly larger than the last. It’s frothy zenith tipping the board so that just as she began to be carried toward the beach she was tipped under, the board lurching sideways so the surge of water rushed over her head. She felt a razor sharp sting on her foot as she gasped for air and pushed herself upwards away from the swirling depths of the water. Grasping at her board she pulled herself back upright coughing out the briny fluid that had caught in her nose and throat. OK, maybe this wasn’t as easy as it looked, but she wasn’t to be discouraged, it was like riding a horse she figured, you just had to get back on. Back on the board she noticed a deep cut on her foot, blood seeping out, the cold water numbed the pain. She resolved to find a plaster when she got out.

For an hour she repeated the pattern, sitting for ten to fifteen minutes rising and falling with the currents then pushing herself into the direction of a wave towards shore. It was a pleasing cadence that allowed her time for reflection then action, a peaceful period of calm followed by satisfying vivacity. She wondered what time it might be, perhaps one more then she should head back, call David, let him know what she’d actually been up to. He’d be surprised.

Turning toward the horizon again she spotted a larger swell approaching, in a few minutes it would be beneath her so she needed to be prepared. Perhaps this time she would finally try and stand up, lift her back knee away from the board and try to hold that iconic pose long enough to say she had truly surfed. Feeling the sea begin to rise she navigated the board around and began pushing her body into the rolling line of the wave. As the peak drew nearer she could feel the board start to drive forward with a new uncontrollable urgency. With determination she held the board steady on its course, lifting her body upwards until her feet pushed against the top of the board. In the next instant the horizon lurched sideways. She was thrown back under, this time losing her balance and sense of equanimity, the board crashing over her and jerking her leg under where it was attached by the elastic rope. It was her left temple that hit the rock. A craggy shelf beneath the water exposed for the first time as the tide had slowly drawn out. It was the same spot they had rock-pooled as a family, buckets and nets in hands searching the pebbly outcrop for hidden crabs and ammonites. The cord attached to her leg suddenly snapped as the board thrashed toward the shore above the water. The surfer further down the shore glanced over his shoulder as she disappeared beneath the inky blue.

Later that afternoon the girl in the surf shop began to carry the boards and soggy wetsuits back inside. It had been a busy day, families hiring boards and suits, buying cheap souvenirs of their trip to the seaside. As she carried an armful of suits into the back of the shop her foot caught on something. Throwing the dripping mound over the top of a rail she stooped to pick up what had tripped her in the darkness. A canvas bag with the large letters printed on the side. It was stuffed with clothes and she could just make out the letters printed on the side that read, Karma.

THE END

My short story was set along the rugged North Yorkshire coastline I've been visiting this week, if you have any questions or thoughts about Martha's journey I'd love to hear from you, and don't worry normal service will resume next week with more stylish inspiration for everyday. x

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Short story continued...

Martha gathered her coat and canvas bag from beside her. The bag had been a gift from a thoughtful friend years before and had a description of Karma inscribed on the side in bold letters. She stepped to the counter to pay for her toast and tea. The woman behind the register smiled with recognition handing over the till receipt.
“It’s a beautiful morning out there”.
“Yes”, said Martha as she handed over a crumpled five pound note. “It certainly is. See you soon”. This morning she wasn’t in the mood for small talk.

It was only a short walk to the surf shop on the corner along the seafront. They had walked past it many times before. The smell of the sea air felt reassuringly familiar as the sun’s rays began to break over the sea, creating undulating reflections of iridescent light. A young girl with salty, sun bleached hair and ruddy cheeks was stacking boards and buckets outside the shop on the pavement. A fuchsia fleece cocooned her top half, and a pair of denim shorts barely covered her bottom. She wore her youthfulness like a prize, all bare legs and unkempt hair. As the girl turned, Martha caught herself staring at her protuberant bum cheeks. To conceal her embarrassment she quickly approached and asked about renting a wet suit and board for the day.
“Have you surfed before?”
For a moment Martha wanted to lie. She felt embarrassed that she had reached 54 and not surfed, as if she had to justify herself; join the dots to explain the journey that had brought her there.
“No.” Her honesty took her by surprise.
“That’s cool.” Shrugged the girl, clearly familiar with the scene.
“We have lessons too if you want”.
“No, I think I just want to give it a try first – I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand the water to be honest.” Martha’s smile belied the genuine fear that lurched deep in the pit of her stomach. Cold temperatures and deep water were two of her biggest fears.
“Our suits are pretty good to be honest, you won’t notice the cold once you’re in. Come in and I’ll find one that’ll fit. You’ll be a small I think.” Martha was surprised that she took the unintended compliment to heart. The years of swimming and gym memberships had paid off. Her skin sat looser than 20 years before, but she had managed to maintain her small frame despite her appetite for wine and expensive cheese.

Once inside the shop the girl carried over a long wetsuit like a flaccid corpse. A zip ran all the way up the back, and as she took it Martha noticed how heavy and slightly damp it was. The thought of getting out of her warm clothes and pulling on the cold suit didn’t appeal. For a moment she contemplated handing the suit back and retreating to the warmth of the café and the glowing embers of the stove. Then her son came back into her mind. The many times she’d insisted he go to rugby practice despite the snow, swimming lessons with a cold, and once even skiing albeit with a paralyzing fear of heights. He had stood routed to the spot, fear gripping him, and somehow she had coaxed him down the mountain. Now she couldn’t let the same fear and discomfort dissuade her.

She stepped into the changing room and removed each layer of clothing until she was left in her swimsuit that she had put on that morning instead of underwear. Getting ready in the pre-dawn light her plan had been to avoid any internal excuse that might veer her off her course.

Stepping into the black suit felt entirely alien. The ankles were uncomfortably tight, and she had to carefully pull the thick, foamy material over each soft fold of her body until she could push her arms into the stiff arm holes. Again she questioned why people did it. Once inside the wetsuit Martha stepped back out into the shop where the girl was waiting.
“See – it’s a good fit. Do you need help with the zip?” Martha was grateful for the extra pair of hands to pull the zip up her back despite the long cord that hung from the catch.
“If you could fill out this form with your details, it’s £25 please. And then we’ll pick out a board”. Located now on either side of the shop’s counter the disparity between the two women seemed almost comical to Martha. She felt awkward; upright and orka-like in her suit, boobs squashed unflatteringly against her ribs, an untidy bundle of clothes stuffed into her bag, and a nervous knot forming in her stomach; while the young girl slouched against the desk, her insouciant style and manner felt jarring in comparison.
“You can store your things here if you like? It’s easier than taking them down to the beach with you. I’ll put it in the store room at the back, you can just pick it up when you bring your board and suit back”.
“That would be great, thanks.” Replied Martha, relieved at not having to worry about her clothes, wallet and mobile phone being stolen from the beach.

Outside, they easily chose a board; short, lightweight, “easy to begin with”. And after a few words of advise about the best place to head, she lifted the board artlessly under her arm with the elastic cord in her grip feeling as though her fingers didn’t quite hook around the edge so she could carry it with any degree of ease and finesse.

Walking across the road and down to the sand in her flipflops Martha felt slightly ridiculous, as though the few dog walkers and early morning runners could tell this was her first time.

Reaching the spot she intended to head out from, she paused at the water’s edge, kicking off her rubbery sandals away from the lapping waves for fear they wouldn’t be there when she returned. For a moment she wondered whether she should have called David to let him know where she was heading. As she left the flat that morning she’d said she was going for a coffee and then to the shops not wanting to seem absurd. He would have laughed. No, she’d call when she got back to the shop, after all, her phone was now in the pocket of her coat in a corner of the store room.

CONTINUED ON FRIDAY

Monday, 27 October 2014

Short story - Spring

Monday evening and I hope you had a lovely weekend. I'm a little late posting today as we are away for half term. So for this week something a little different. My first piece of fiction on the blog. I'd love your thoughts - good, bad, indifferent. It is something I've always wanted to try, and so do you know what - I blooming did it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. x

SPRING.

There was a watercolour haze to the early morning sky. At the horizon she noticed a pinkish glow, like the colour of a newborn’s cheeks. The sea was stained with the same hue, but as it drew nearer to the shore darkened to a flintish grey. Martha had sat years before in the same wooden café. He had been with her then. Just 8 years old. Kneeling. His feet tucked underneath him as he sucked on a straw making a drain-like sound with his milky hot chocolate. She remembered reaching over to wipe the remains of the muddy cocoa from around his mouth. She laughed audibly to herself at the thought, then grew self conscious in the quiet corner booth. How powerful were those memories? How tangible the visions of times gone past, as if she could switch on a channel in her mind’s eye and flick through them sequentially. Of course now his shoulders were sturdy and broad, he towered over her. A man, no longer a boy, and it was a different woman that wiped his lips when crumbs clung stubbornly to them. The blossoming romance had been a recent development. She was beautiful, youthful, effervescent in his company. Each new-found realm of independence extending the invisible cord that connected her to her son. Like a taut piece of elastic she feared any day the connection would snap, break irreparably.

Her awareness shifted back to the corner booth. It was here that they had eaten many breakfasts; nursed steaming coffees and hot chocolates, satisfying punctuations in the chapters of her life. These moments of love, connection, of family now formed the sturdy fabric that he sewed the rich tapestry of his life upon.

The expansive windows framed the majestic ocean view. To the south she could just make out the outline of the castle. She loved how that vista changed with the seasons. Age hadn’t dampened her wonder. In wintertime they had watched the driving rain beat against the glass and huddled inside enjoying the shelter the café offered; the pot bellied stove generating heat in the corner that comforted and lulled them into a sleepy stupor. They felt safe. Separate from the force of the stormy winds, or perhaps what waited for them miles away at home. Here there had been no deadlines, no pressures to wake in time for school or work. By the sea they had felt free to create their own plan, unencumbered by the relentless societal merry-go-round they had somehow found themselves on. She still had a twinge of regret. Perhaps they should have taken more risks. Not towed the line quite so easily. The currents of their life had carried them along a safe shore. Naturally there had been the occasional storm, what life didn’t after all? But they had sailed it all together at least. Now it was Martha and her husband again. Along the way she had resolved to keep the wonder, to never stop learning. So on that bright April morning she was venturing into the unknown of a new emboldening experience.

Staring towards the dark water her stomach turned as she ran through the dialogue in her mind that had led her to the waterfront that morning. To feel truly alive was to keep growing, changing, evolving; never tiring of discovering the excitement that was around the next corner. All those years as they had sat as a family in the café watching the men and women carry their cumbersome surf boards down to the water’s edge. Like giant knives they had sliced through the swell, lifting their chests, arching their backs, and paddling with all their strength out to the spot where the waves broke and rushed, frothing, convulsing towards the sand. What drove them to sit out there in the freezing North Sea water? She was going to find out.

CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Simple Inspiration: Sézane

Friday morning, and I hope you had a great week, looking forward to a relaxing weekend. 

Today a little french style inspiration from a label I've just discovered thanks to a little message from a good friend. Earlier in the week I got a note saying I should check out the new collection from one of my favourite labels, Madewell. It is a collaboration with a small french label called Sézane and is right up my style street, so to speak. You can discover this collaboration here, and naturally I had to find out more about the label. 

Sézane is a simple, elegant collection designed by Morgane Sézalory. She started her journey in design by curating beautiful vintage pieces, which has now grown into designing her own range. Her relaxed style has that perfect mix of masculine and feminine basics with a touch of edgy, modern design. What's not to love?

Do you have any favourite small labels? I love to hear about new brands and emerging designers. Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Yoga gear

Wednesday morning and I hope you're having a great week. It's a stormy autumn day here, strong winds and rain, not much motivation to get outside, so with this in mind here is a little inspiration for taking care of yourself inside. 

Yoga gear is not only ideal for those times that we make it onto the mat, but can also be perfect for lounging at home, like this long line waterfall cardigan from M&S [1], perfect for days at home too. And for a real treat the Neom Organics range is pure luxury for indulging at home. Created by a woman I worked with years ago in magazine publishing in London, the products also make a great gift for this time of year. 

With all this in mind I wanted to share an article I wrote for the studio I teach at [www.yogaaththereach.com], not just about yoga, it's also about the importance of making time to switch off, however you manage to do that. 

See you on Friday.


1. Active yoga wrap cardigan, Marks and Spencer | SHOP NOW |
2. Reebok Icon ladies watch, Watch Warehouse | SHOP NOW |
3. Real luxury bath and shower oil, Neom Organics | SHOP NOW |
4. Anusara yoga vest, Sweaty Betty | SHOP NOW |
5. Asana sticky yoga mat, Yoga Bliss | SHOP NOW |
6. Resolution yoga pant, Manuka | SHOP NOW |

Making time and taking time.

Finding time for our yoga practice can sometimes feel like we’re adding more pressure to our already overscheduled lives. Full time jobs, children, elderly parents; often our list of obligations, commitments and priorities can feel overwhelming. The truth is that this is when we need our yoga practice the most. With a full schedule, comes a full mind, but if we take a moment in our day to calm the mind and restore the body we can be stronger, more focused and productive the rest of the time. 

Most often in yoga class we focus on our asana practice, the wonderful physical movements that create space and energy in the body, elevating our mood and lifting our weary spirit. But dig a little deeper and there are much more valuable lessons to learn from the teachings of yoga that can help in life. 

Much of our modern yoga practice is based on the Yoga Sutras written around 2000 years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali. In this ancient text Patanjali wrote a philosophical outline for a balanced yoga practice described as the 8 limbs – only one of which was the asana practice of postures. The first few limbs begin by addressing our behaviour in the outside world, before the focus shifts in the later limbs to our internal lives. The Yamas, or restraints, are the first limb and refer to how we exist in the world. In today’s teachings they can be translated as kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence and self-reliance [although different texts translate them differently]. The first, kindness or Ahimsa, is one of the most important lessons we can learn both on and off the mat. Patanjali was teaching the importance of non-violence not only to others, but also to ourselves. Taking time out of our busy day, whether it is 5, 15 or 50 minutes can be part of this process, after all how can we do our duty, or dharma, in the world if we never take time to restore ourselves? 

I learnt this the hard way when my son was born. 4 weeks early he had a voracious appetite and an exhausting sleep schedule, only napping for 40 short minutes at a time. I quickly became tired, emotional and irrational. At 3pm one afternoon my mum knocked on the door to find my son and I crying in the living room. I hadn’t showered, or eaten that day, my husband having left early for work that morning. Thankfully she scooped my son up and told me to shower and eat, restoring my energy and my mood in a few blissful moments. By not taking care of myself I was not just neglecting myself, but also my son, so I started to take time each week to do gentle exercise and rediscovered my regular yoga class. Later as a full time Mum those few hours away from my son gave me more energy and enthusiasm in the time that I was looking after him. 

When making time for your yoga practice, be kind to yourself, be realistic about what you can manage in your day. A weekly yoga class is a great place to start, and perhaps it is feasible to get up a half an hour earlier to make time for a short practice? Or would you benefit more from a longer practice before bed instead of watching the news before your head hits the pillow [after all which is going to make you feel better?]. Focus on a sequence that will restore and revive you, and don’t rush. Take your time in each posture to really enjoy the benefit of the practice. Switch off your phone and allow your mind to focus fully on your breath. Set this time aside for you and try to avoid interruptions. 

Who knows, what starts as a 10 minute round of sun salutations in the morning before work might soon stretch to a half hour practice, but it is also important to consider the second Yama of truthfulness. Your practice shouldn’t feel like a chore or an added stress in your life. Yoga is a life long practice and the only way to pursue it for a long time is to do it with enjoyment and honesty. Acknowledge where your life is at this moment and focus on enjoying where you are now, both in life and in your postures. 

For more information on my teaching and classes visit www.yogaatthereach.com.

I'll be running a special evening of yoga, relaxation and Reiki with my friend Debbie Sutherland on the 22nd of November in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer. For more information visit www.justgiving.com/restandrelaxatthereach.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Simple Inspiration: Autumn colours

Monday morning and I hope you had a wonderful weekend full of laughter, good food and even better company. 

Noah and I took a little adventure yesterday over the Penines to Manchester to visit a shrine to his favourite thing in the world at the moment - Lego. We had lots of fun and drove home tired but happy. Driving back through the rugged countryside as Noah slept next to me I was reminded what a special time of year it is here. Autumn arrives in a blaze of colour in our part of the world. Russet reds, rich browns, and almost luminous golden yellows the landscape is transformed for a few weeks. Those metallic shades of copper, brass and gold seem to be appearing a lot at the moment. We're looking for new lighting for our dining room and I keep seeing those shades around in the interiors we are looking at - like this beautiful kitchen picture below [3.].

What autumn colours are your favourites? Does your wardrobe change with the changing seasons? It's hard not to. Brown is definitely not my colour, but the warm metallics would mix well with my monochromes and navys.

I hope you have a great week and enjoy the weather whatever it's doing in your corner of the world.


1. Milly suede shoe, Jigsaw | SHOP NOW |
2. Made hammered drop pendant, Whistles | SHOP NOW |
3. IMAGE VIA | EYE SWOON |
4. Alergra pencil skirt, By Malene Birger | SHOP NOW |
5. Brown leather strap watch, Oasis | SHOP NOW |
6. Sparkle metallic top, Reiss | SHOP NOW |
7. Thanks giving card, Rifle Paper Co. | SHOP NOW |
8. Gold leaf print, Sugar Paper LA | SHOP NOW |

Friday, 17 October 2014

Weekend shopping inspiration: Coggles, Next, & Other Stories

Friday afternoon and I hope you've had a brilliant week. This is the first occasion I've had this week to sit at my computer which has meant a lot of my usual tasks have been put on hold including my blog. A busy week at work, it has meant I've had to practice acceptance - not easy when my mind is arguing that I have a list of obligations to get to, but for now they have had to wait. I've had to accept that that is OK - not easy right? How do you find those moments when something has to give? 

I read a great article in Yoga Journal this week about the Purusharthas which in the yogic tradition are said to point us towards fulfilment, the first of which is dharma or our duty - the link is here if you'd like to read the piece. Thinking in these terms has helped me as it has made my priorities a little clearer. Acknowledging that we can't do everything is the hardest part sometimes.

So for this week a little lite-inspiration for the weekend. Why don't you try wearing or doing something new? Clashing your colours or prints? Dressing up, instead of dressing down? Buying an accessory that shouts a little louder. Have fun with your clothes and push the boundaries a little as to what it means to be you now. And accept the present moment for what it is - you'll feel a lot lighter and that's got to be the best way to start the weekend.

Have a great one and see you next week.


Dress, & Other Stories | SHOP NOW |
Liebeskind navy clutch bag, Coggles | SHOP NOW |
Pink shoes, Next | SHOP NOW |