The Way it Is

Okay, so I admit that I crashed out last night after two beers and a particularly humid day. I’m here now, in the glorious period before we head out of the apartment where I am neither a) sweaty or b) hot having showered. Last night, amazingly, the AC made things too cold. There were fevered dreams of me being covered in blisters on the lower half of my body, and having to fight my way into the library at Karazhan to discover a cure. Yes, Warcraft is still quite prominent in my dreams right now, but I digress. I have two days to cover. Let’s go back to Thursday, where modern art broke out all over the shop.

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MOMA was on the must-do list, having never visited the place before. I’ll freely admit, a lot of what is exhibited as ‘art’ was, at least to my mind, utter bobbins. However, when we got to the top floors, everything changed. There were tears in this gallery, and not simply because of this picture, which sat with so little security around it I was genuinely surprised, especially considering how much surrounds the Mona Lisa in Paris. The whole experience was wonderful: I always find myself imagining the artists at work, what their environment would have been like, how the people around them would have reacted to what is, at least in my mind, genius. The kids got bored quite quickly but I could have stayed there all day. Except I had a lunch date, with someone extremely dear to my heart, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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Yesterday was spent on the water, knowing how hot it would be, and we circled the Island of Manhattan. Our Tour Guide was magnificent, and the two and a bit hours literally flew by, with history being crammed into an extremely willing mind. I now understand a lot more about the topography of the Island itself, more about the north than I ever did before, and mostly just loved sitting in a boat sweating my arse off but learning stuff at the same time. There was also sufficient walking to offset the Peanut Butter Burger I had for dinner (husband lied, pulled pork was better) and the chocolate beer, which really did do very scary things to my subconscious.

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As a running background to the last few days has been the Olympics, which meant my Husband following Bradley Wiggins’ gold medal via Twitter on the Express C back to Washington Heights. It’s been fabulous to be in the same time zone (more or less) than all of the action, and makes for genuine excitement each day, though it was slightly surreal to wake up this morning to find the first game of the Premiership already on (Hull 2 -Leicester 1 WHAT’S THAT ABOUT) However, what the Internet means is that we can still be away yet remain in touch with all the normal stuff that makes the family what it is. Normally I assume the technology’s more about being able to speak, but what this week has proven is how important it has become also to listen.

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The time difference is still taking some getting used to, and as a result sleep’s summat that I suspect at some point in the next week I’ll end up taking in the daytime, but for now I am happy to survive feeling slightly ragged but permanently hyped. I have no idea of what we’re gonna do today, but whatever happens really doesn’t matter. This is the most relaxed I’ve felt about anything for a very, very long time.

Hard Knock Life

Yesterday, we walked down Broadway from Harlem to Central Park.

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One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to swing past Columbia University, which notably (in my head) features in the original version of Ghostbusters. I’ll make no bones about my love of scoping out places that have appeared in films, and that there’s a certain measure of satisfaction putting myself into places which have a cinematic resonance. It was a grey and oppressively humid morning, and the kids wanted to stop anyway, and the gravitas of the place inside the city made this somehow significant.

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It rained a lot in New York yesterday: I know because we walked eight miles in it, though a Central Park that still remained oppressively warm. I realise the weather is against us here, and things are only going to get worse as the next few days wear on, but I still have an obligation to be fit. That means finding ways and means that won’t wear everyone out. Our reward for all the walking came in Greenwich Village, in a tiny place called Tea and Sympathy, which was next to a fish and chip shop. Yes, we dragged our kids thousands of miles to have the main meal of the day in an English restaurant. For the bacon sandwich alone it was UTTERLY worth the trip.

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After that, the Subway got us back, even though I would happily have walked both ways. The evening saw me pick up a book for the first time in fuck knows when, and get so engrossed (and angry) that I was awake until the wee small hours. It’s also pretty hard to sleep in this heat, and I now understand just how much of a godsend air conditioning is in a town that retains heat like summat that’s extremely heat efficient.

Today, there will be MOMA, possibly some faffing around the Hudson, and the chance to meet a friend I’ve been looking forward to actually having contact with since the first time we spoke online. I love this town, that much is already obvious, but today, that’s going to just be the backdrop to just more extraordinary things.

Most importantly of all, however? Bought a decent mug.

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Coming Up

I’m never at my best at 5am. There was snapping at the kids, but also a lot of genuine understanding that Mum was crap, and she didn’t have to keep apologising. Once the plane was in the air? Absolutely fine. Novel got edited, I ate stuff and didn’t feel guilty. Once we hit JFK? Things became possibly the best they have been for a very long time.

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Once my brain wrapped itself around the five hour time difference and the fact it is quite warm on the Island at present, everything just fell into place. We’re able to afford this trip because there isn’t a hire car, and we’re effectively staying in a Brownstone for the duration. The advantages over Hotel accommodation are manyfold: no worries over dressing for breakfast, our own timetable, the Internet as our guide and an entire city to explore for a period of time that should afford a sizable opportunity to do just that. We set the eldest the task of finding a suitable place to have dinner last night, and he came up with the goods.

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The first revelation at Harlem Public was the beer (Grey Lady pictured, husband had cider and had to be forcibly dragged from the establishment) after which was the food. Son decided this was our destination due to the ‘Build your Own Damn Burger’ part of the menu, which he did. I had pulled pork, the like of which I have not tasted in the UK, but husband will tell everyone his peanut butter and honey bacon burger was better than everybody else and YOU FAIL. I have no doubt he was correct, and sitting in a bar less than three hours after stepping off a plane made this start to a holiday considerably more entertaining than anything I’ve done abroad for a while. I’m beginning to understand last year started a chain of events that have freed me from the self-imposed restraints I stuck on my life. Suddenly everything’s immensely more fun when you’re active and dealing with your fear.

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The plan today is to walk down Broadway until everyone falls over, which in 90 degree heat may not take very long. The phone camera is taking some lovely pictures (as demonstrated above) but the roaming charges are a little too steep for my liking so don’t expect much until I can find free wi-fi (looking at you Starbucks.) That means Pokemon Go takes a distinct back seat, and that’s no bad thing. Even with a cursory 30 minute walk to and from the bar last night I can see so much has changed since I was last here. Unlike then, I am gonna do my best to document everything I can on the way, because I’d like to remember everything with clarity.

For now, I might think about getting dressed and waking up the children.

The Take off and Landing of Everything

A year ago, give or take a few days, I was on a plane to San Francisco. Today I’m on a flight to New York, which I never thought would be possible, but here I am. Great stuff can and does happen sometimes, if you work hard enough behind the scenes. I’m also sitting here editing my own first novel on the flight, and beginning to realise just how much has changed since this time last year. It isn’t just to do with my level of fitness either: words have become something better and stronger too. I’m only just beginning to realise this as I go through the process of editing, looking at stuff I’ve written that I thought was brilliant but in reality is anything but.

Sometimes, it isn’t just one part of you that needs to change, it is everything.

The problem, of course, is that that’s often not practical. You cannot easily throw everything away and start from scratch. It takes time and effort to understand the areas that need to be addressed, and what has to happen with each one, and then comes the process of stitching everything back together. Without the coherence of all the parts, your whole simply ceases to function. Where do you even start? For me, attacking my physical limitations has been a start, but I understand I’ve still got a very long way to go. I still find the process of taking off and landing in aeroplanes fairly stressful, for example. I can’t immerse myself in water without immense levels of trauma. Having acquiesced to doing a bike ride next year, I’m already quietly fretting over my levels of ability, especially after watching the two days of sheer terror that was the Olympic Male and Female Road races.

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There’s no point I realise now unless stuff scares you.

That’s very true of writing: looking at words and trying to work out whether something is good enough or not becomes quite frightening, after a while, as you’re playing a continual game of second guessing yourself. Especially when fiction is involved, there’s a discomfort whenever you read someone else’s words too, that this becomes an unintended benchmark amongst all the others you find a need to aspire to. There’s an inspirational poster I have somewhere which likes to state ‘You are Enough’ but that’s never going to be totally true when the whole World seems to have a better grasp on reality and stability than you can muster at 37,999 feet. The turbulence never stops, the choice becomes to take the journey or never leave your safe zone, and in the end that is absolutely no way to ever live a life.

Some days, nothing is ever enough unless you try.

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The next ten days in a city I will freely admit would be my second home if I could, is full of possibilities I never thought I’d return to experience. The last time I was here, the Twin Towers stood. An awful lot has changed in what will be almost 20 years, not just the fact I’m now part of a family which accepts me for what I am, that sat either side of Mum and held her hands as the plane took off. Being part of a loving whole that allows you the freedom to push your boundaries is not something a lot of people get the chance to experience, and I realise just how lucky I am to have this group of people around me as support.

To take off on new journeys is both frightening and beautiful, and to land with my family in tow on a holiday I never thought I’d have is probably the best 50th birthday present I’m likely to get. I hope I can do the next ten days justice with words, which I intend to try and do here. Here’s to new adventures and expanded horizons.

Warm Sound

Okay, I’ve done everything work-related I have time for. I’m supposed to be in bed by 10 for a 5am start, but that won’t happen. I’m too nervous. I’ve never done air travel well. There will be a lot of fretting and pacing. My carry on however is packed, and I have to hope that husband has everything else covered.

I am as ready as I am likely to be.

Bring on the Holiday.

Ready for the Floor

I go on holiday on Tuesday, and the nightmares about air flight have already begun. My subconscious needs to cut me a break.

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I am in reasonable states of preparation: I have a half assed plan to write on the plane, I’ve bought the book to read whilst away that is one reason why La Craig won’t be doing any more Bond, and there will at least be completion to all the stuff I get paid for or I promised for publication (though I’m still behind on audio, which needs to be addressed on the return from New York.) Mostly, I’m ready. Emphasis however is on the word ‘mostly’ because there’s still a shit-tonne to do and with the exchange rate looking woeful? Not much may be bought. We will see.

However, things will be eaten, and many miles will be walked.

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The last time I was in New York the Twin Towers existed, and I will undoubtedly take a trip to the Memorial for no other reason than it marks a place where the World changed forever. I hope to meet some locals along the way, and get a chance to actually relax this time around, and not find myself shoved on a bike (though it must be said, that did start the chain of events that has bought me here.) I am jealous of those both with the capability of stomaching long-haul air travel, and doing it regularly. If I had both money and opportunity, I suspect New York would be my second home, next to London, which I don’t nearly spend enough time in. I’d like to fix that in future, and it is at least easier done than making that happen with the East Coast.

Maybe if I can finally get a novel published, all that might change. I see no problem thinking big. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Mud Glorious Mud

I’ve never done a ‘proper’ Festival before and so, this year, here the Family are at Eroica. Unfortunately (or unsurprisingly, depending on your outlook) the rain chased us all the way to Bakewell on Friday, and this made for interesting times underfoot. However, there was no rain all day, and frankly the place was magnificent. In fact, if truth be told, it’s one of the best times I’ve had for a very long time indeed.

Our accommodation was last minute booked, and lovely, but caused some stress on Friday night when locating it in the dark was something of an adventure. However, even after five hours sleep, the view was worth all the grief, and the smell of burnt clutch that STILL does not seem to want to leave my nostrils. Yes, there are lots of hills. It was very late, and fifteen minutes earlier I had almost stuck the car in a hedge. I shouted at my husband. I am not a good wife or driver when tired ^^

Being an unashamed Jane Austin nut, I’d hoped we might get some time at Chatsworth, which is generally acknowledged as the inspiration for Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice, but that will have to wait (I suspect) for next year, when I’ll be doing the Baby Steps version of the course and taking part in my first proper bike ride. Of course, I’ll need to do this in costume, and that’s probably going to take a year just to organise. Mostly, I will be back in Derbyshire because it is amazingly beautiful, hugely inspiring and more green than is actually believable.

However, tomorrow is all about my husband doing the Hard Mode version of the cycle ride on his absolutely beautiful Bianchi. Crossing everything he does it, and is happy as he does. This is the best Father’s Day present I think we could ever give him.