Beautiful Rain

Because Dave and Jen are the most incredible hosts, they arranged an overnight adventure to Makarora for us yesterday. Jen found a gorgeous little dog friendly place called Wild Earth Lodge about two hours away in the valley of Mount Aspiring National Park, and after a much appreciated lunch in Wanaka – warmed by an outside heater with dogs lazing under our table and sparrows helping themselves to my veggie-burger – we headed north. The growing dark clouds turned into heavy cold rain lashing the windscreen as Dave drove along the immense Lakes Hawea and Wanaka. Mini waterfalls gushed rain-swollen torrents between rocky edges of mountain and the grey slopes on the far side of the lake disappeared into the thick mists of dense rainfall. 

We arrived just before dark, grinning at the owner Pete as we pulled up. 

‘What are you doing?!’ he shouted through the window, ‘coming out here on a night like this!’ 

‘It’s just rain,’ we laughed.’ We’ve got coats.’ 

He shook his head disbelieving at us. ‘We’re going to get our asses kicked tonight!’ 

He led us to the most amazing little lodge, already toasty warm with the log burner, overlooking the immense valley slopes just visable in the growing darkness. As we gratefully carried our bags in he showed us how everything worked. ‘Logs and kindling here, and you’ll want to boil the jug already for when the power goes out!’ 

‘Not a problem,’ we grinned.

We were ready for a cosy night in playing cards and drinking wine, but we had not expected the most terrific four hour mountain-echoing thunderstorm. It rolled and rumbled all night with great flashes of pink lightning that floodlit the immense valley around us. The power stayed on, but we turned out the lights so we could enjoy the spectacular light show. 

The dogs were not fans, and after each dazzling flash, I reached for Haki to hold her close in anticipation of the booming rumble to follow. She was a little shaky, and stayed very close, but didn’t complain for the four hours of meteorological ass-kicking we were dazzled by. 

The next morning, as I emerged from my room to see the glorious valley shining green and blue in the morning sun, Haki leapt off the sofa and came straight to me, pressing herself close against my legs. 

‘You alright love?’ I said. 

She stayed there quietly, calmly, pushing her whole weight against me. 

‘Yes, we all survived the night darling, we’re all still here.’ 

I am not a dog person at all, but I have grown incredibly fond of this one. 

With two more stunning walks added to my Strava – one along the sparkling Makarora River and one through the drippy dense jungle of the Blue Pools – we headed back to Queenstown, elated and rejuvenated from our gorgeous Mount Aspiring adventures. 

The lakes were pristine blue on our return journey, and the mountians lush green with trees and ferns. I gazed out of the window in awe of the magnificence of New Zealand, grateful for the many mountains, rivers and forests I have explored in my short time here. It’s been such an easy and relaxed trip, and while I have had some great time for reflection and planning, there hasn’t really been any real challenges. I haven’t done much in the way of personal growth or mental clarity, and I’m leaving on Sunday.

‘Are there any plans for tomorrow?’ I asked as we sailed past another breathtakingly blue view of Lake Hawea. 

‘Not really,’ said Dave. 

‘Well I’m thinking of jumping out of a plane or something,’ I said breezily, just to see what they’d say. 

‘Yeah, do it,’ said Dave. 


‘Yeah if there’s space,’ said Jen.

‘Well I don’t have reception here so I’ll have a look when we get home and then maybe…’

‘There’s spaces on the 11am, 1pm and 2pm,’ said Jen, on her phone. 

‘What, you’re already…? ‘ 

‘Yeah, just book it.’

And that was that. Dave gave me his card, they suggested we pay the full $399 for the higher altitude – there’s much more free fall – but not the $170 for the camera package because it’s ridiculous money and I don’t need to prove this to anyone except myself. 

And so if the weather stays like this I will be skydiving from 12,000 feet tomorrow.


*New Zealand is just as stunning in rainstorms as well as pristine sunshine

*Even when the bridge at the Blue Pools is closed, the walk through the sun-dappled jungle to get to the closed bridge is truly gorgeous, do that anyway

*On walking adventures, carry sanitiser and loo roll for the numerous well-maintained long-drop public toilets

*The annual rainfall in the South Island decreases one inch per mile the further you travel from the west coast, because the western mountains drink all the rain out of the clouds as they arrive

*The further west you go the more lush and green the jungly forests are, which Dave prefers to the brown ‘tussocky shit’ of Wanaka

*There is a fence covered in a mass of colourful bras near Cardrona (called Bradrona, naturally) where a donation can be made to New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. If you’re organised you might even have a spare bra to add to it

*You can skydive in Queenstown from any age over 6, if you weigh more than 115kg they will do their best but might be tricky, and you can wear your glasses under the goggles! 

*The dread fear about skydiving will start when you get the confirmation email telling you how brave you are. 

Yes Woman, Yes Cry

May 16. 7pm

After another day of doing very little, my brother and I shared fruit smoothies at a nearby resort and returned to Sangthien just after 4. I had plans to meditate, read, write or plan ny life in the hour before sunset. 

But I lay down for a minute and disappeared into a world of tangly dreams and woke up at 6.30. Quickly washing the sunscreen and sweat off my face, I headed to the bar where my brother was just setting up on stage. Good morning, he grinned. And I found a table and ordered my gin. 

And now I sit here, beautiful Thai music filling the evening air, an additional electric fan providing breezes at this part of the bar, waves lapping in the darkness just over there, and I find I’m crying. What’s that about? 

Disappointed in myself for sleeping so much, for not getting done the few things I had to do today. 

But also an inexplicable and surprising sense of homesickness. At which point a familiar guitar chord starts up and my brother’s voice fills the bar with ‘I remember, when we used to sit, in the government yard in Trenchtown…’

And the tears stream down my face as he sings No Woman No Cry. 

A song that I have cried over many times since I fist heard it at 15 years old, in my religious times, my student times, my married times, my difficult recent times. With always a different person, a different sadness, a different purpose. 

And as I sat here with warm Thai breeze blowing through my hair, pink and turquoise lights illuminating the trees overhead, my little brother making music over there, I got a sense of the distance I have come to get here, the many sadnesses and fears that I used to feel, that have all gone, and that everything I think is important now will also be gone. The relief and grief to let each thing, each person, each worry and fear gently drop away, to stand bereft and empty with none of the safety of familiar pain, of work, of people or all the things that I have surrounded myself with to avoid the empty simple existence of me. 

Just me. No purpose, no deadlines, no stress. And without all that I am such a small weak little thing. A childlike soul standing alone and unsupported in a warm Thai breeze. It is both beautiful and scary. And invites more bloody tears. While Thai families eat their shellfish salads and a group of guys laugh and the nimble waiters deliver trays of drinks, I sit on my table on my own, full of gratitude and sadness, that I get a glimpse of letting go. It takes time, which I have given myself. This is only my second full day here, it makes sense that after the blissful touristy excitement of yesterday, that once I was on my own long enough there would be sadness. 

May 17th. 8.30am

And so I drank. We biked to ‘town’ – the couple of streets crammed with shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars under multicoloured lights and flags. The lady at Bananabar scolded my brother for something, laughed at him for something else, then brought us delicious vegan spring rolls and coconut curry and rice. Just magnificent food. And gin. 

On the way back, warm night air swishing through our hair as the motorbike cruised gently through the dark jungle road, every now and then the sound of dance club beats can be heard and then the twirling lights and illuminated stars/hearts/jellyfish come into view to present a beach bar full of lights, music and people as one of the little oases of late night humanity in the dark insectful jungle. Gecko bar, Starlight bar, Naga bar… 

We stopped at Audibar to say hi to the owner Audi, a small topless tattooed man who greeted us with warm sweaty hugs and another gin, which was somehow luminous blue, and had to be downed in one as my brother was late for his 10.30 recording appointment with Magan. 

At Sangthien, without my brother, I joined the staff in the empty bar who were eating their staff meals and drinking rum. They continued their leisurely Thai conversations, and I smiled politely and sipped my rum as they laughed at each other’s jokes. The head waiter’s girlfriend was especially keen to keep topping up my glass, and we had a laugh about how Mao I was. ‘Just a little Mao,’ I protested, ‘Just Tipsy!’. ‘No, you Mao Maaaaak!’ they laughed.

And so the next two hours were spent with a handful of the Santhien family, one bottle of rum and one of brandy, and a lot of Google translate. They spent a while trying to explain what the noises in the night were. Frogs, grasshoppers and a very loud Ka Ka Ka Ka kaaaaaap right in the window above my bed at 4am, which we finally deduced was a Toucan. The lead singer talked about my brother’s tattoo – the Thai words for ‘Live in the Moment’ – and they shared some honest and awestruck opinions about how much they love him. That was nice.

And the drinking and laughing took away my sadness and I gratefully fell asleep just after 2am. 

So now, having woken up in time for the breakfast buffet, I sip my black coffee and eat my toast and vegan spread and watch the sadness return. I accept this is part of the letting go and I am grateful for the time to allow it.

Lessons for today:

*Bike helmets don’t even exist on the island, just roll with it. 

*Buy more mosquito spray. Seriously. 

*When getting on the back of a motorbike, lift your foot VERY high to swing it over, or you’ll whack your ankle on the sticky out metal bit at the back and cause a world of indescribable pain (that your brother finds hilarious). 

*I am not a size medium when buying shorts in Thailand. Everyone here is tiny, I’m clearly a large. 

*Fundeee means goodnight and will be greeted with delightful smiles. FANdee means good girlfriend and will be met with confusion. 

*Relax into the speedbumps and go with the flow. This is a good lesson for life and one I am reminded of many times a day. 

*Our brains are wired for safety, not happiness, so when you feel like going back into familiar safe patterns, know that they are there to protect you from the new thing which might be scary, even if it is the thing that will make you happy.

Grateful for:


My brother’s effortless motorbike riding

The endless supply of cool drinking water behind the bar to refill bottles

The little lizards that glide around on the walls outside my cabin

The fridge full of vegan snacks my brother brought over from Bangkok

The excellent wifi here

The people in Melksham who lovingly tell me to stop watching Council meetings and to enjoy my tropical adventure here

Taking a while to let go

May 15. 8.32pm

As it got dark, my brother arranged a short motorbike ride (him barefoot, me holding on and laughing at the lack of a shred of protective gear) to the west side of the island so we could watch the pink sun set fire to the clouds over the sea, before returning to the Sangthien stage for his evening set. The lovely Thai waiters settled me at a table under a palm tree in view of the stage and the sea, with an apple mojito full of rapidly melting ice, as my brother joined the owner on stage with his guitar. 

Framed by a huge ornamental heart made of straw, the stage is draped with fairy lights against a backdrop of the evening sea. Gentle waves wash over the beach as they sing chilled tunes including ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Everything’s Going to be Alright.’ My brother improvises a song about last night’s storm which kept Magan, the owner, awake checking on the electricity all night. ‘Magan is my man, my man’. After a few more relaxing tunes, I notice a group of young men gathering at one end of the restaurant. A recording of a deep voice (my brother’s with special effects) announces that it is time to turn off the lights for the start of the Fire Show. The leisurely lounge music gives way to a fiery display in which a crew of glorious grinning topless young Cambodians twirl fire around their beautiful bodies to a banging Prodigy-based soundtrack for which my brother provides the energetic drums. The acrobatic young men fling fireballs into the darkness, twirl flaming hoops around themselves, and spin musical rings of light around the restaurant.

They are fucking amazing. I’m torn between trying to capture it on video and experiencing the utter beauty and energy that is so mesmerising and intoxicating that I’m crying with sheer love and joy for it as the pounding bass and drumbeat pulse through my whole being.

The expert waiters dodge the flames as they deliver cocktails and Kai curries to the many guests; a woman with a baby walks through the display nonchalantly.

My brother on the drums shouts to me – ‘They will take a photo of you!’


‘With the fire, they’ll come to you!’

And sure enough, one glorious fire boy is suddenly spinning a ring of fire right around my face and someone is taking photos up close. 

Zero risk assessments, I absolutely love it. The finale is a series of immense Catherine wheel effects of spinning sprays of sparks that fill the beach below the bar. The energy and beauty is intoxicating and I am brim full of love and gratitude as I settle back at my table with another mojito for the rest of the night. 

In a few hours in Melksham they will choose their new mayor. I wish for this much bliss and love and peace to be in the room when they vote, but I realise I am lucky enough to have bought my ticket out of it, and find all the love of a gorgeous sunny Thai beach resort, a few thousand miles away from the people I care about in Melksham. I know the stress and fear and confusion of it all and I love how far away I am, but sad for those who I love that are still troubled by it. 

I wish I could give everyone a week on this beach, with this deliriously healing and beautiful warm breeze. It is like anger and fear can’t even exist here, the purpose of the whole island is pure bliss. Everyone here is either choosing peace or providing peace. The purpose and values of everyone here is beauty, love, peace and leisure. 

Leisure. Recreation. Re-creation. It takes a few days to undo the heavy complex tangly web of duties, jobs and fears that you might arrive with, but the complete gorgeousness of the place gently teases all that out of you until you are clean and peaceful and your biggest priority is to sit with your feet in the clear lapping water until the sun sinks low enough that it’s time to move on to the next peaceful beautiful place. 

We had our family zoom last night, our weekly intercontinental gathering which this time included the hilarious moment in which Thailand brother, in his separate little zoom box on the screen as always, suddenly knocked on my door and popped into my zoom screen. Oh how we laughed. And then someone noticed my haircut and I said, ‘I know, I’ve got rid of that long boring frumpy look!’ London brother apologised for always calling me frumpy. I said, ‘Well I was, I chose frumpy and boring and safe and good. That was my story.’

‘Yeah you need to work out your new story now.’

‘Maybe it’s scary because your story is actually something absolutely amazing.’

‘You know sometimes we hide our lights because we think it will upset someone.’

‘Oh yeah, you know that quote – our greatest fear is not that we’re rubbish, is that we’re absolutely amazing or something.’


New York brother said, ‘I like to think that I should live each day like I time travelled back in time to change something for the better. You don’t know what it is, but you know you have to do something to make the future better.’

‘Ooh nice.’

Right now I can’t imagine doing anything important, I’m just loving sitting still for a while.

My Thailand brother outlined how he came up with his priorities. For 30 days he meditated for an hour and then wrote down fifteen dreams. Crazy, brave, beautiful uninhibited dreams. Which included things like ‘Own a lion’ or ‘Speak 100 languages.’ At the end of the month, he looked at every day’s list, and although it kept changing, there were some constant themes. And from that he found his five pillars – Music, Love, Friends, Travel and Languages. And then it became clear. If any activity, person, conversation or task isn’t in service of one of these, then it is not a good use of his time. And he won’t do it.

I like that. To be so clear what is important to you that you can easily say no to what is not.

May 16. 7.39am

Thank you for my speech to text facility so I can write while walking along the main road that runs all the way along the skinny island of Ko Samet. In an attempt to get my body onto Thailand time I said goodnight to my brother at midnight and settled down to sleep. I thought that if I happened to be awake at 1am I might tune into the Town Council meeting just to see who was going to be mayor this year. I’m sure it wasn’t a good idea to dip back into my old job and I did feel a ridiculous surge of fear as the opening public session involved the usual criticism – some of it directed to the tasks that were dropped when I left. But I will take this as a benchmark of improvement that I quickly got over it and saw the value in the feedback being articulately but angrily levelled at the council.

I’m glad I was there for the next bit in which the mayor gave a lovely speech about his first year in office and all the brilliant colleagues who had made it good. Because I was on my own with it all I sent a few messages to people in Melksham who might be watching the meeting too, and immediately felt ridiculous to need to reach out from thousands of miles away just to remind people I still care and hope that they still care about me. So I accept that the whole letting go of Melksham project of this adventure is a gentle gradual untangling.

The thing that is ironic about this trip to Thailand is that it is directly because of my recent challenges in Melksham that I am here. My current wander on this road through the magic morning jungle is in response to and rejection of my previous job in Melksham. (Let’s not forget it is also paid for by my savings that I earned from that job). It is because of that place of confusion, stress and obligation that I found the strength to depart to this place of tranquillity, emptiness and peace. 

So I am grateful for the unhappiness and inauthenticity which provided enough contrast to push me to seek the happiness and truth that lands me in a tropical piece of paradise the other side of the world.

Lessons for today:

*Bring Mosquito spray for goodness sake woman. 

*When you pop on to the beach to film the fire show from a clever sideways angle, you need to stand WAY back because those sparks go about 30 metres along the beach. 

*Veggie pad Thai has eggs in it so you will displease the vegan gods with that order. 

*But chicken coconut soup is completely vegan if you ask for it without the chicken (mai kai) 

*If you are in a cabin with huge windows overlooking the main path, remember to close the curtains before taking a shower. Or you will emerge all refreshed and grinning, and suddenly be aware of your unrequested exposure, and have to hurriedly pull the curtains closed. 

*If you hurriedly pull the curtains closed in a Sangthian Resort cabin with too much force, they will fall apart and you will be left with a crumpled pile of curtain and rail that, while hilarious, offers little privacy from the aforementioned  immense windows. 

* That quote I was trying to remember is from Marianne Williamson:

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Day 11: Gratitude

This one is so lovely. And easy. And makes me so happy.

I read about the benefits of gratitude ages ago, so I started writing my thank yous at the end of each day. The idea is to find at least five new things to be grateful for each day, and either write them down or say them out loud. Even on the shittiest days I found there was always something to be grateful for, even it was ‘Thank you that we have a soundproof ladies room at work so I can have a proper cry before the policy meeting,’ – not resoundingly joyous, but still something. I found that on the worst days I would try harder to find positives so I got quite good at finding little snippets of good in amongst the bad, and I found that really comforting. It’s like when we were kids we were told before we could say something mean about someone we had to first say ten nice things, after which that one hurtful thing would sort of lose its power.

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Day Six: Cold Showers

Today’s shivery suggestion is brought to you by my very happy, healthy and confident little brother. In a family zoom call recently he talked about how great he was feeling since he completed his three day fast a couple of weeks ago. We were fascinated by his experience, as he described the physical and mental benefits of a complete cleanse and reset. While not at all tempted to follow that example, the conversation went on to the similar benefits of cold showers, which everyone sort of nodded in agreement to. I didn’t realise the extent to which immersion in freezing water was of recognised benefit to health, and looked it up.

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At the end of my meditation, I like to imagine a lovely bright light from the universe filling my body. It’s a nice visual process of mentally cleaning out and strengthening myself for the day.

Today when I imagined this, it sort of surrounded me with an aura of white light, and formed the shape of a droplet around me, sitting crosslegged on the sofa. And it reminded me of what Chidi says in The Good Place, about being drops of water in a wave. We exist for a short time as our own unique droplet, and then we merge back into the sea. And I saw myself as a tiny drop of rain falling out of the sky. Next to millions of others in this particular rainstorm. And it is as if we have this few minutes after we’re formed in the cloud, to fall out of the sky, experience the magic and beauty of life, hurtling through the air along with the others, before we meet the ground, sea, tree, car park where all the other drops have gathered and we merge and flow into our next manifestation.

And how ridiculous is it that we spend our fleeting flight bickering, comparing, being jealous of, scared of, feeling judged by or misunderstood by the other drops. Who cares?! Just enjoy this short time, make the most of it, fly with drops who make you happy and stop trying to change those who don’t.

Because none of it really matters anyway, we’ll just all merge back in a puddle, in a water system, in the sea.

‘I’d do anything to belong, to be strong, to say there’s nothing wrong’

It was 1999, I was 21, I was wearing some sort of embroidered hat, ripped jeans and muddy trainers as I stood in a crowd of several thousand people on a warm June night at Glastonbury. My brother and his friends had some other camp-fire based priorities so I was on my own for the headline act, Skunk Anansie. Being from a very religious family, I had been discouraged from listening to ‘satanic’ music, and my musical expression had mostly been singing along quietly to REM on my disc-man, or belting out the far more acceptable holy songs at Sunday Service.

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The Miracle Morning

I bought this book a few years ago, and I loved the concept but couldn’t stick to it. Mr Hal Elrod outlines a six step program of practices to do every day, to achieve optimum success and happiness. It includes exercise, affirmations, stillness, visualising, reading and writing. I like all these things, I know the value of doing them well, and I love the idea of carving out an hour every morning to focus on them.

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