Zen and the art of tomato growing

We came back from Paros on the Artemis. It chugged its way into Ermoupolis just after midnight on Sunday. I couldn’t have been happier – not because we were back in Syros, but I was just happy and thankful to be able to head off on little adventures like that. The boat was quiet and we spent the time on deck watching what must have been a fishing fleet out in a circle formation. It was spooky as we were just able to make out the mast lights, intermittent red and green flashes in the inky darkness of the sea. We just had two nights to explore Pariaka, the islands main town and felt like we crammed a lot in. It was busy and nice to be among so many tourists. We did lots of people watching and idling time in cafe’s hearing voices from around the world, including a lot of young English backpackers as well. On the recommendation of the apartment owner, we went to Pete’s Place on Krios beach on Sunday. I swam in the turquoise sea and found a wallet sinking underwater into the rocks. Luckily it didn’t take much of my detective skills to deduce it belonged to the panicked man going through his belongings on the sand. He looked bemused when I strode over to return the dripping wallet.  ut he was thankful to have it safely returned. I like Paros, it’s a nice island with lots to see, and has some great restaurants and beaches, don’t miss the Panaya of Ekatontapilian – the Byzantine church. And if you are wearing shorts like me you too get to borrow a tartan wrap skirt to preserve your modesty and respect the place of worship. Plus, it kept me nice and toasty in the 30c heat! Although don’t make the same mistake of walking out to the Asclepeion – the Sanctuary of Pythian Apollo on the other side of town, as the site is all cordoned off due to falling rocks. But we did instead get a nice swim at little beach and a tasty lunch instead. 

It’s been a funny few days this week. It isn’t all stand up paddleboarding, gardening and dream making here –  in between work and play, there has been a lot of thinking. It seems to be that worry befriends you in moments of weakness and makes a mockery of each silly and happy thought. I was struggling this morning so I went swimming. I ended up swimming a full length of the bay in front crawl. That doesn’t sound like much but it was to me. Front crawl is my arch-nemesis, I have struggled to master it for years. The trick is in breathing and matching your strokes, with a head turn to ‘sight’ the shore. Today I followed the curved lines mapped out in the sand underwater by waves and the rituals of ocean floor creatures. Through shoals of small silvery fish. Each breath expelling tiny bubbles. My arms gathering strength as they ploughed through the waves.  I felt much better. If everyone went for a swim everyday, I am convinced we’d all be happier, healthier and in harmony.

I think my anti-waste mentality has exaggerated recently – ‘must not let things go uneaten’ I repeated like a mantra baking plum cakes and apricot loaves. Boiling up jars of apricot preserve will last for months. And if life (or a kind landlord) gives you courgettes; roast them, grate them, stuff them and even make cakes with them! Although not all is rosy in the garden plot; the tomatoes are proving tricky – blossom end rot has hit some of my crops, possibly water related or perhaps a fungus? Either way there might be a sad struggle to get some decent fruits this year. I walked back from the field my heart and head were full of doom about the tomatoes. Then I stopped.  

It was early, a morning like any other with the sun just peeking over the hills in the East and started inching its rays through the valley. Soon it would be hot. But now there was a cool damp stillness in the air. I listened to the breeze blowing through olive tree branches and traced the hum of a motorcycle passing a curve on the road miles away.

My fixation on the tomatoes unjust fate was unworthy of such attention. So what if each tomato rotted from the inside, slowly turning from green to brown and withering on the vine. It was something I couldn’t control or change, or worry about. I don’t need the tomatoes to feed me, I don’t sell them for income.  If I was simply annoyed that my energy and patience was being wasted on something frivolous and unfruitful. Yet, it only took a moment to look upwards and take in where I was to remind myself that this was it all. Under a blue sky sits mountains and rocks which will outlive me and all my worries. If this is the worst thing that can happen to me today, I am the luckiest person alive. Acceptance that harvests will fail, change will happen and not everything can be saved and stored away. It isn’t the simple fact of life but a way of giving into a life of simplicity.  

Like anyone I keep googling and looking at my phone for answers – brains turning to mush as we flit from one distraction to the next. There lies a tale of tragic modernity. There is no greater waste than looking for purpose or meaning where none exists. I don’t want notifications and gratification of my worth –  I scroll through Linkedin or instagram it makes me feel lost – not connected. I don’t know what my next step is (guess what, that’s okay!) and feel a need to return to the surface of things. Sometimes the surface of things begins where you least expect it.

In thinking about this I was reminded of a free verse poem penned by Jack Kerouac in one of his letters to his ex-wife. It took me a few readings to get it -I have time, it is #freelancefriday after all;

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks don’t see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already

in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re

all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.

I’m not a massive fan of pancakes – but maybe you’ll find me singing in my kitchen baking cakes.

At dusk the tzitzikas will start singing- their presence marks the high heat of the months ahead. It is just a week before midsummer stretches out the daylight hours into evening’s orange glow. In the midst of every day is life. It is not just in adventures and wild ambition. It is nestled between the door that slams in an unexpected gust and the fridges that hum and click. The cockerels that wake up and commence crowing at 2am.  It is in the clocks that tick and the angry silent face of time passing us by. Life is in as much of these daily rituals as it is in the moments of joy and wondrous awe we seek. It is also in the hours we let ourselves get drawn into worry and pain. I’m learning to let each one go.

Self help?

I was in WH Smiths at Stansted Airport, (for my sins, budget travelling affords me the ability to fly back to work) I couldn’t use my national book token which left me gutted. But there was a plethora of titles in the non-fiction section that focussed in a similar vein of ‘Not giving a f***/ insert appropriate swear-word to be seen as poignantly angry yet with a little nonchalant dash of carefree’. But don’t be fooled. These advice guru’s are setting out their stall as being passionately different from you drones over there; standing in a line at an airport on a budget flight, steamrolling on through life with your hard-working ethos and pay/reward equation.

Do we give too much of a f***? . Yes, I think I do.

And it felt really raw and honest to write that. It is only easy to not give any f***s at all, if you don’t need money or a job, or can rest on the laurels of fame or success or family fortune and connections that can tide you over. The rest of us do have to juggle all these responsibility shaped f**s. Whether it’s to our employers  or partners, elderly parents or kids, our work clients, or boss, and even to ourselves. Like Bob Dylan sings “you gotta serve somebody

I can admit I had a hectic 10 days back in London and by the time I stood bewildered at the airport, blinking through hazy sleep deprived vision I had another 12 hours before I would reach my bed. I had been working at a pace that feels like a shot of adrenaline compared to life outside of work. I do love the exciting bits of my job – the days that the rewards come thick and fast; outcomes sometimes all tie together and goes off with a bang. But yes, admittedly a lot of the time it really is not like the past week at all. I could gloss over this and put a PR-shine on it. All THE CHAMPERS ALL OF THE TIME. But really it’s all planning, slow ideas forming and shaping, noting debates and discussions, and wading through mysterious treacle.

Maybe there is a balance to be found here –  not stopping caring completely, but just focussing on the big stuff. Like not worrying if I have given every single person every piece of relevant information that they may need, or worrying if I’ll fall over in front of a head of state, or forgetting to address them correctly. Really what is the worst that could happen is none of these things, it is probably opening my mouth and everyone realising what an idiot I am – #impostersyndrome in action. The magic art of not giving a f*** is exactly the reverse of imposter worry: it is worrying less, reflecting more and being thankful for the opportunities I have. Not giving credence to the doubting voices – I might not live up to everything expected but I’m living up to my own expectations at least. A little mantra of “I am worthy of this and worked hard to be here, and importantly played my part well”. I can spare you the need to read the books with that gem of wisdom!

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Obviously a big part of my job last week was to spend time admiring the best gardens in the world at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. There were show gardens that delight, amaze and most of all remind us how important the act of growing is. For me, I don’t need glitz or glamour, but seek the simple reasons why gardening is vital, no matter where in world the garden is. That’s why I really loved seeing the attention the Lemon Tree Trust’s Garden gave to the refugee situation in Iraq. Tom Massey designed the garden after visiting Domiz Camp in Northern Iraq – it is home to over 40,000 displaced people fleeing war in Syria. The Lemon Tree Trust have worked to set up everything from gardening plots, agricultural skills and even growing competitions. Many people finding themselves in the camps were already gardeners and skilled growers, by helping facilitate plots and spaces to grow, providing tools and seeds, the Trust have given refugee gardeners and growers, not just space to use skills or learn new ones, but a place they have control over, to be creative and be altogether more human. Unfortunately camps are changing from temporary shelters to semi-permanent homes. It is that connection to gardening that often resonates with the idea of home and sustenance. The show garden was wonderful, using native Mediterranean plants and middle eastern designs; fig trees, lavender, damask roses and spectacular pomegranate trees (a first for Chelsea?) After speaking to designer Tom and others from the Trust, it so wonderful to hear the passion they display and the story they managed to tell the world. I wish them every success at rolling out more gardening programmes for refugees.

After a week of inspiration at the show, I was itching to return to my own plants, pots and plots. I was just in time to feast on the first cucumber harvest and tie up the ever-growing tomatoes. G had done a stellar job of keeping things alive (with a lot of help!). All the calendula seeds have grown well, even the marigolds and cosmos from seed are now flowering. It might not be Chelsea Gold, but I love the gardens here in Greece, not just for what they show but the joy they bring. There is a lady a few houses down from us that tends to her 30+ pots of geraniums each evening with such pride – all resplendent pink and red colours bobbing in the sunshine.

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While G cooked dinner (amazing pan-fried chicken, courgettes and roast potatoes, should you ask) Johannes and I went to his fields to collect capers (caperi) at sunset; 2 hours later we were laden down with 2 buckets full of the tasty berries and I had a sore green thumb. The picking technique is to use your thumb nail to cut the caper at the stem – giving real meaning to being green fingered! I didn’t realise that he meant I could keep what I collected. This was incredibly kind and now we will have enough capers to last at least a year (or two)! After giving us a rundown in how to salt and dry them, G and I spent an hour before dinner sat on the terrace sorting them into large sizes for drying and small sizes for salting and pickling. Although we swatted away mosquitoes and listened to the wild wind rustle through the trees – it was still blissful. Just talking, sorting and salting, close to the earth and not a worry crossed our minds.

I think often that the world doesn’t need any more stars, after all we can’t all be the best in show. But the world certainly does need a lot more light in it.  Help comes in many guises and for me it is the small simple joys of gardening wherever I can find it. 

A postcard from Athens

Athens March 2018

It’s been less than 48 hours since we left the UK and already it feels like entering another world. That’s not just the weather. But walking off a plane to face wind that felt balmy instead of arctic certainly helped soothe the soul! Athens is always a city of contradictions and chaos, staying Koukaki is a bit of both. It means we can walk to the Plaka pretending to be tourists or wander this neighbourhood pretending to be locals. I guess right now we are a bit of both.

Waking up in a new place always holds a kind of magic. Yesterday was no exception. First peering our heads out to a balcony in the actual SUNSHINE, followed by figuring out how to use the fancy coffee machine and then wandering out onto unfamiliar streets. Squinting upwards and stumbling onwards was the order of the first new day in Greece.

Later, after lunch I decided it was time for our long overdue visit to the Benaki Museum. This place is quite possibly the best treasure trove of a collection I have seen in a long time – its magnificently crafted displays have an eclectic range of objects from Ancient Greece ceramics and jewellry, to Byzantine orthodox art, folk costumes, paintings and even the interiors of 18th century mansions, including full wood panelled ceilings and rugs. Its like a potted history of Greece over 4 floors with around 6000 items in the collection!

 

I especially enjoyed the special exhibition ‘Travels in Greece 16th-19th Century’ which displays the collection of rare maps and travel material donated by Efstathios Finopoulos. Here is all the work of essentially the first tourists in narrated diaries and journals, promotional articles from the 18thC in English, German and French; rare posters detailing beautiful peasants and wide green horizons to promote the world to Greece for the ‘Grand Tour’. Books and notes by the most renowned Hellenophile Lord Byron are also on display.  It is well timed collection as Greece prepares to entice even more tourists this year. Although the methods may have changed a little these days.  Even the rare maps are wonderful with their inaccuracies and confusion between Delos and Delphi, mismatching the islands and mainland. Its at the Benaki Museum until 29 April 2018 (entrance to the museum is 9E, but free on Thursdays and the exhibition is an extra 5E)

Afterwards we climbed the steep slope to Mount Lycabuttus but clouds stood in the way of the sunset. Despite the warmer temperatures and the scent of orange blossom filling the air, it still has a chill in the air and eating indoors on an evening is still recommended. With this in mind we found hearty food and a warm welcome at To Kato Allo; a small place hidden behind the Acropolis. In a world of white tablecloths and hip food, it still offers wine from the barrel and homecooked specials on a chalkboard. We opted for moussakas and beef stew with horta. Perfect.

A few more days of feeling out of place and I’ll feel right at home.

 

The value of reading

Yesterday was World Book Day in the UK. That’s quite a funny concept, rather isolationist as the rest of the world seems to celebrate this in April instead. I have no idea why.  But it got me thinking, not about the awful outfits children wear to school, but about the power of words to inspire and shape our lives.

I am writing this praise of finding the story amidst the rubble of the everyday. The power of reading and having free access to libraries is central to keeping this opportunity for everyone.

I’ve worked in the arts, making sure Government listened about the value of public funding and understanding culture’s contribution to society. But libraries have long been a problem and sadly one that’s only getting worse. Cutting non-statutory services at a local council level mean that libraries are the first services to be changed and absorbed. If you have limited finances how can you value something that doesn’t produce revenue or save lives? This has long been the conundrum of local councillors and battle ground for library campaigners.

I can only start this as the person I am today. The person who walked through Westminster last week and gave a book to a guy who spends most of the days sat outside the Sainsbury’s reading. He likes Lee Child books that are in his words “pretty exciting, I’ve read them all”. He’s homeless. When he’s not in the shelter during the day, he sits and reads. I could describe this act of reading as his lifeline, an escape from an existence on the streets that to most of us would be unbearable. But those aren’t the words he said to me. He just said he liked reading when we had a little chat.  I see him there on these blindingly cold days so I brought a couple of action thriller paperbacks we had on the staff room shelf. They were on the shelf which I assume acts as a bookswap, but doesn’t have a sign telling me what the deal is so I have assumed it is acting like a library of sorts. I leave books there every so often and take the odd one away.

But underneath all the actions of the everyday I am also the person that I started off as. I mean, in that, the child standing in front of the shelves of Crown Street Library in Darlington which is now being threatened not with closure, but something worse – a move into a Leisure Centre involving not just a reduction in stock and archive, but an act that will abandon (and sell) a beautiful building that was given in trust to the town to educate and inspire us all.

It’s a place stacked with books. Those books I gazed on were not mere papers and dusty smelling pages and words I couldn’t yet form in my mind. They were worlds breaking open, doors to push into, to peer into, explore and be part of. More importantly, books offer spaces you can claim as your own. Of course, parents play a huge role in literacy. A reading family is important for a child to appreciate the value of words, literacy and imagination. What do you think happens when a child learns that those shapes on a page formed words and a language that was new and fresh? To me, and to millions of others it was like standing in front of a million possibilities.

If you were a kid that grew up like me in an average school, in an average northern town, what was expected? I imagine not much. The lines between traditional occupations and class are more complex than ever – and I like many of my peers are the first generation to go to University from families that could describe themselves as solidly working class. Yet, I now sit in that muddled place of earnings, lifestyle and education that puts me firmly in the middle classes.  Despite the fact that boards of FTSE 100 companies are now more diverse than ever, we are still are faced by huge barriers to social mobility.  There is less diversity of educational and social backgrounds in more liberal fields like the leaders in publishing, the arts and media.  47% of all authors, writers and translators hail from professional, middle-class backgrounds, compared with just 10% of those with parents in routine or manual labour. But yet, we all read.  It isn’t an act that marks out status, and crucially the UK book industry is thriving.

How this is reflected by published authors? Obviously diversity is still a major issue.   If you listen to Kit de Waal’s exploration of this in a recent Radio 4 podcast it shows, Where are all the working class writers? Writers beyond the white middle-class are not reflected in bestsellers or awards. And yes, it is also important to talk about regional divides and class, as well as gender and race. Newsflash – they don’t need to be grunting stereotypical tales of northern grit and determination, or plotting angry voices of disillusionment.   Read Kerry Hudson or Lisa McInerney to see that being a female working class writer is worth reading and celebrating.

But more needs to be done to allow new authors the time, money and space to write from a place that explores these margins. Possessing talent is not enough alone, having the social capital to network and get the attention of the agent gatekeepers is a challenge.The hallowed privilege of affording to write and earn money stops most talent dead in its tracks.

What would schools and colleges be without creativity and literacy?  They become hollow halls of educational expectations.  Kids now spend so much time with screens and games, swiping mindlessly in a fog of self-obsession. They are tested and told, and tested again. Streamed and taught, not to think and create, but to imitate. I have a distinct memory in junior school, on a summer’s day. The windows are open in Ms Blands classroom and there was an abandoned car in the playground that the police were due to remove. Joyriders had left it there during the night. We were told to stay away and play on the other side of the asphalt playground marked with neon painted lines.  Perhaps I was 8 years old – like a sponge soaking it up. I couldn’t focus on the story Mrs Bland was reading us about Kings and Queens in the middle ages because the real story was unfolding outside that room. The music blaring (kingston town by the fine young cannibals),the battered car, what it meant to be there in that moment, with the wonderment of danger so close and not acknowledged. That’s what good literature and a creative education inspires: inquisitive questioning and imagination beyond the walls you live in.

When I was 15 I walked into a library ready to give up, I mean really give up. I really hated school. As a lost teenager, where do you turn? You discover something edgy like Jack Kerouac’s masculine beat-down adventures, Irvine Welsh’s monstrous drug taking anti-heroes and Anne Sexton’s raw poetry like a rare gem in the dust. Hide yourself in music and fanzines, and all the wild literary ideas your favourite bands quote – these weren’t in bookshops, they were in libraries. Here you find the words that make your life real and devour them. Like good friends you met and since marked the shape your life.

As I teenager I read Plath’s Bell Jar and Joan Didion’s essays – I fell in love with America, politics, cultural history and feminism. But I didn’t see my own experience reflected there. It wasn’t in English books like the Famous 5 or the Secret Seven either, or even in any of the Point Horror trash books me and my mates devoured and swapped as keen pre-teen readers.  All written by and about people far removed from my own world.

I am sat in Bromley Library writing this – contrary to my belief, it is not the quiet place of reflection I was seeking. Every computer is taken and there is man talking loudly on his phone. A man three chairs down from me loudly opens a packet of crisps and starts munching handfuls of them between deep breaths as he studies his books. I wonder if I can say ‘SSSSHHH’?  Is that even allowed? 10 minutes later 20 adults arrive with a variety of bundled babies and toddlers who start assembling in the children’s area for story-time. THEY HAVE INSTRUMENTS! IT GETS VERY LOUD! Although I came here to write – I am still writing yet surrounded by comforting sounds. People use and appreciate this Library. Its shelves are stacked and busy. They apply for jobs on the computer, tapping away on blank pages and writing emails. Retirees, students and writers avoiding the cold and enjoying the warmth here. I value this place for what it is and what it represents; opportunity.

Books are not always escapism, like all good art they helps us find meaning and answers in otherwise unreal times. And that is life-saving.

The trick is to keep swimming

Its not the kind of pool you can dive into, so I walked in to the water at the shallow end and started swimming when it reached my hips. Back when it was built in 1992 it was perhaps designed to emulate a beach with its vaguely nauseating tropical colours. It’s now fading a little and showing its age with tiles missing –  still functional and happy to be open and being loved by the daily swimmers.  Towards the back a wave machine hides behind dark vents in the deep end. Luckily in the 2 hour early morning session, the orange and blue fibreglass slides are switched off and silently snake their way round the high ceilings.  I swim towards the floating lane markers and start charting the waters with slow strokes. Although miles away, this local swimming pool here in a corner of zone 5 is in many ways like the leisure pool I learned to swim in as a child. A little too warm and chlorinated, stubbing toes on tiles and showers that frustratingly switch off after 10 seconds, leaving you holding down the button  to rinse away the bleachy smell.

I don’t think I come from a ‘swimmy’ family – ok let’s be realistic I don’t come from a sporty family. Although my mum swam for the county as a girl (can we verify this?) and my Dad in his retirement is now a fully-fledged-lycra-clad bike fanatic in a cycling club.  My paternal grandma only learnt to swim when she was in her 70s so she could swim with me and my brother.

I think swimming played a big part in my childhood. Water-babies, 100 metre badges, diving classes, life-saving with junior school which seemed to only involve being made to swim a length in your pajamas and dive for a brick made of rubber. We spent a lot of time in that leisure centre as a family and it’s comforting that my nephew learned to swim there 30 years later. Then school swimming galas – breaststroke saw me getting placed last in the heat. Coming home afterwards I sat on the kitchen worktop eating the top half of a white bread bun spread with tomato paste and grilled with grated cheese. I remember feeling sad and sorry for myself for letting everyone down– but I also remember how nice the mini-pizza snack was. The snap of swimming cap, the smell of talc, the humiliation of being forced to the dreaded wear verruca sock and being treated like a leper. I swear everyone had a verruca and those kids that refused to wear the dammed sock were the cause of constant plagues circulating on those wet tiles.

Most people have a similar relationship with exercise. The new year is a time of battles with the body and mind, I have reset my intention and dabbled again with swimming. But its complicated. You love exercise as a kid, because its just activity, fun and freeing, it wears you out. But nothing prepares you when puberty hits like a sledge hammer and the thought of standing in front of your class mates in basically your pants is horrifying. You should have seen the notes I forged at comprehensive school that managed to get me excused from any sporting activity, my fiction was invented here.

I think I stopped swimming at 13 and apart from holidays, didn’t swim properly again until I was 29. By then I was mad enough to sign up for a triathlon and swam in cold water to train at Parliament Lido. That was freezing, in April it was 13c and found myself braced in an expensive (secondhand) wetsuit, neon cap and goggles. Like a superhero armed for the chilly water battle. Slowly in those cold mornings and late evening swims in the lido I learned to fall back in love with the rhythm of swimming. It wasn’t without its humiliation, to be in a lane with the super-triathlon swimmers twice as fast as me, overtaking, splashing their skilled arrogance with arms flying outwards and then under like a pack of wet skinned seals. But I did it, in spite of the mucky smell of the Thames on the day of the race miraculously I didn’t drown or get kicked in the face. The gun set off and 200 people swam like a hungry snapping school of piranhas. I even signed up for other races, even swimming in Dorney Lake smelled much cleaner than the Thames.

I think I had a favourite swim last year. It was on Easter Sunday in Ermoupoli, after sipping hot coffee in Maouli Square. The café owner asked us very sweetly if we didn’t mind just leaving the cups when we’d finished as he wanted to shut up to head home to eat Easter lunch with his family. Who could argue with that? Eventually we sauntered off in the bright sunlight to Vaporia, past the blue domed Agios Nikolaos  church. There is a bathing platform here that gets crowded in summer, but here on an Orthodox holiday in spring it was near empty. Just a handful of others sitting in the sun and a brave lady in a flowery bathing cap swimming slow breast-stroke in the turquoise water. I stripped off to my cossie in the breeze and timidly at first dangled a foot in the water. It was fresh, cold and clear. I felt reborn, baptised – my first swim of 2017 in the Aegean in April. Like lizards warming our cold blood, we laid out drying in the sun afterwards on the concrete of the closed Asteria Café.

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In the summer I swam over the same section of Kini bay most mornings. Day after day, charting laps between the orange buoys until I had memorised the topography of the rocks and sand and could say greetings to the fishes. Breath and rhythm become an underwater meditation. I kept swimming until my arms were tight and felt strung like a bow.  Then I would sit quietly in the beach crunching tiny cracking bubbles in my neck, stretching my legs out on the warming sand.

I think sometimes I have lost my love for  exercise and suddenly surprise myself as I fall back in love with its endorphins every so often.  I need it the most when it takes me away from the fuzz of every day and creates breathing space.

A few days ago after my morning swim, I stood under the unisex showers with shampoo in my eyes. I glimpsed the future…there it was; a bundle of noise – gossiping, putting on swimming caps, snapping costume straps into place. Loud voices talking over the changing room “How’s slimming world, Pat?’ “I’ve lost 7 pounds!”. Then one lady turned to me “Is the water warm, love?” I beamed back “Positively tropical today!” I was a bit taken aback, having spent a few years of my adult life in posh-gyms, crap pay-as-you-go gyms, try-hard gyms,  yoga-death-stare-silence gyms. I hadn’t heard people chat like this in changing rooms ever…well maybe since I was back in the pool of my childhood. This was leisure as it should be – fitness and fun. No pressure.

I longed to stay all morning and hang out with these spirited retirees, all full of life and laughter.  As I was leaving, the Shirelles ‘Will you love me tomorrow’ sang out over the loudspeakers and the instructor shouted “let’s get going girls” Aqua-fit is the future, I can’t wait to be retired.