So I can now say that the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten is sea urchin. It’s fishy (not a shocker) and oddly fruity (more of a surprise).
I flew back into London last night, with much less of a circus than our outbound flight, listening to Africa by Toto, and it’s something I would recommend to everyone. I love flying at night and seeing all the cities lit up – for all my whining about being a country girl and needing my green space, I have always had a slightly child-like fascination with tons of sparkly lights, which you just don’t get in rural Sussex! I intend to fill any future home with more strings of fairy lights than is perhaps acceptable.
Watersports holiday over, and I didn’t get hit by a boom! *bows to raucous applause*. However, I did not come away entirely unscathed. About 25% of my right thigh is a vivid bruise in several shades of ‘Ouch’ Purple, from a supremely ungraceful entry to a Bahia dinghy in which I did not look dissimilar a beached whale – if anyone ever works out an elegant way to get into a dinghy, please let me know. I also have several smaller bruises and patches of friction burn from the Giant SUP Incident (Stand Up Paddleboard, for the uninitiated, as I was) – five people on one large inflatable board is a recipe for disaster, although it was buckets of fun. I did my fair share of ludicrous flailing and staggering around like a child learning to walk. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, although such laughter did invite an upsetting amount of seawater into my lungs.
I’ve also done an awful lot of kayaking, swum in a pool so cold that I could barely breathe, crewed a boat in The Slowest Regatta Ever (no wind) and come not-quite-first (second to last, with our eternal gratitude to the gentleman who salvaged the tiniest bit of our pride by coming in behind us), gone on sea safari – which is where I ate the sea urchin – and joined a guided walk to the local castle ruins led by a guide who was not the usual guide, and therefore knew nothing about the castle apart from what he could surreptitiously google. It’s been a superb holiday, apart from the holiday rep who promised me ice cream twice in one day, and failed to deliver twice in one day. Rage.
It was whilst I was sitting on the front of the speedboat for our sea safari, failing slightly to be as beautiful a figurehead as most old ships possess if only because of the awkward patch of sunburn on my knee, that I had a thought. In fact, I’ll go so far as to give it the significant capitalisation of A Thought, because I’ve been slightly preoccupied by it ever since.
It’s two thoughts, really – the first was whilst I was on the boat, watching the shoreline rapidly disappear and the expanse of gorgeous blue ocean and sky increase, and I thought that I would like to always feel as free as I did in that moment. I thought that I didn’t want to go back to work on Monday, that I didn’t want to get back into the 9-5 routine and the office coffee run and the daily commute and the not knowing when I’d next have a break.
And then I had the second thought, which is that actually, I do want those things, because freedom isn’t freedom if it doesn’t offer you an escape from something. I thought that maybe I do want those mundane, everyday things, because they make the other moments all the sweeter. That maybe I’m just complaining about going back to work because that’s what people do.
As is tradition in our family, over dinner on our last night we went round everyone naming our favourite and least favourite moments from the holiday. For four of us, it seemed very easy to come up with negative aspects (positives too, but that’s not my point here), but for my stepsister’s partner Nick, he was so chill about everything that he couldn’t name a negative. Anything that the rest of us would have moaned about, he chalked up to a learning experience, or an adventure, or something that can’t be helped that we just have to make the best of. And I think more of us could do with having that attitude.
I’m conscious of my own tendency to complain, because it’s easy to, especially if someone else is. I think it’s human nature, really – it’s nice to hear sometimes that other people have problems too, because it makes us feel a little less me-against-the-world. It’s an expression of support, of empathy, to chip in with your own issues when someone else is talking about theirs. Human suffering calls out for someone else to say ‘it’s okay, I’m struggling too, let’s struggle together’. But rarely do we answer someone’s happy story with one of our own. It feels like it will come across as an attempt at one-upmanship, to belittle someone else’s achievement with a more impressive one of our own. And I hate that. Shouldn’t we be more ready to share our joy than our misery?
Now, I’m a bit concerned about talking about this, because to be honest, who the hell am I to talk about suffering, or about freedom? I’m a white, middle-class, British female. I am marginally less free because of my gender, but even then I’m freer than most women across the world. I haven’t had a difficult life. I’m not suffering. My biggest complaint at this exact moment in time is that my hair is dry from a week of seawater and chlorine.
That said, this is mine and Kate’s blog, for our opinions and our feelings and our semi-coherent outpourings of anxiety or fear or joy or pain or whatever else we’re feeling, and on a good day we probably have about seven readers, only one of whom isn’t a family member (hi Ben!). So I’m going to say what I want to say. If you’re offended, I apologise, but I advise you to find a different blog to read.
Some people’s lives are horrendously difficult every single day, and they handle it with astonishing amounts of quiet dignity and grace, so why is it that we feel that we must complain about everything because that’s what everyone else will be doing? Maybe it’s because it’s easier to express ourselves when we talk about our sorrows, because self-deprecating humour is always appreciated, because biting, bitter sarcasm the likes of which I indulge in far too often is well received by people who see it as proof that their lives are no worse than anyone else’s. It’s a habit of mine which I’m trying to monitor, and to reduce a little, although I’ll never fully stop because sarcastic, dry wit is what I’m good at, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly negative to still be entertaining.
So I’m going to try to find the positives in life more than I find the negatives, and I’m going to try go back to work on Monday morning with a smile on my face and tell people about how much fun I had, rather than the whole diverted flight situation. And I urge you, in the pretentious, entitled voice of a privileged millennial, to try to do the same.