It’s bit of a weird title; Winter Breaks, Birthday Treats and Parking Tickets – but that is exactly what one of our lives has been about, lately. B from TBC went on a little trip to Tenerife – it was an early birthday present for themselves, and then the real birthday treat was a wonderful weekend away in wee bonny Scotland only to come home to a parking ticket!
I had no idea that Tenerife was one of the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, and an island sitting on a dormant volcano; Mount Teide. As we flew in to the North side of the island you could see the volcano from the sky. Snow capped and peaking out of the clouds – it was magnificent.
I was travelling alone. I felt a little weird travelling to another country, alone. I don’t know why it affected me so much at the start – I am an actor, I am always travelling somewhere, on my own. So why a trip abroad for a few days should make me feel lonely was a little beyond me. Perhaps it’s because it was my birthday and I wanted to be around the people that I loved, eating cake, drinking coffee, celebrating another year and putting the world to rights. You can’t really do that on your own – or so I thought.
Although I missed not going with T, I actually loved being on my own. I loved being able to move in my own time, make quick and easy decisions that pleased me about where to eat, where to sun bathe and what to buy. Not to say that I can’t do that with my partner, but when there are two of you there are two opinions and two minds to consider. It was actually really lovely to just… think about myself.
I went for long walks and got to grips with the town pretty quickly. It’s not so big and what I loved the most was the colourful buildings; each house different to the next. That meant that I could use those houses as markers – for example, I knew when I got to the red house on the corner, by the zebra crossing, at a crossroads, with its green outline of windows and doors – that I need go up that hill towards my hotel. So distinct were the buildings, I felt like Hansel and Gretel setting out markers for my way back home. It was easy and pleasant.
The weather was OK – I had expected more sunshine and contrary to the concept that it never rains in Tenerife, I got both rain and sunshine, in equal measures, with lovely rainbows too. Apparently Puerto de la Cruz, in the North is prone to more rainfall then the South, hence the green lush landscape. However, when it did shine – oh my god – it was heaven. I adored being sat on a beach with black sand, listening to the wild sea, reading my book. It literally was bliss. I loved the sand and sea air in my hair, it made my curls wild and bouncy making me feel wild and bouncy myself.
I booked a package holiday; half board via On the Beach holidays. Flights, hotel and all options included. They do some great deals and it was easy enough. Next time though, I may just book room only in the package, purely because there were limited options for vegetarians at the evening meal. In fact there was nothing – just salad!
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
With so much glorious time on my hands I read my book – The Beekeeper of Aleppo. I’ve nearly finished it to say I only started it the other week. The time meant I could literally fall into the pages of the book and imagine every breath, emotion and image and take my time doing it.
I found myself in Aleppo; listening to the sound of bees buzzing, making honey, when the bombs dropped and fire spread through the bee hives, ruining Nuri and Mustafa’s livelihood that they had carefully and delicately cultivated over three generations. I felt Nuri’s heartbreak as he fished Mustafa’s son’s body out of the Queiq (the river at the bottom of the hill) and the deep quiet pain of Mustafa as he washed his son, knowing in that moment – it was time to leave war torn Syria. He didn’t want to go. It was his home, but with his livelihood destroyed, his home decimated and his son gone – what was there to stay for. I travelled with Nuri and his wife Afra in jeeps in the dead of the night, on boats in treacherous conditions, being passed from smuggler to smuggler to end up in refugee camp; Greece, Leros smelling of damp, urine and other dirty smells. The couple do make it to the UK and are currently waiting on seeking asylum – I am yet to find out if asylum is granted for them and indeed the other refugees holed up in a b n b somewhere in the UK.
The book takes you on the journey of refugees moving through a broken world. The story moves swiftly back and forth from the beautiful olive groves, bee hives, and lush vegetation bathed in glorious sunshine in Aleppo, to the bitter cold, harsh seas, PTSD, the loss of life, mind and heart through to where they end up. I have always stood up for refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and immigrants, I am the daughter of an immigrant. I believe we all have the right to safety, love, peace and a better life. And although we hear of people making that journey across Europe and on to UK shores, I had no idea of the actual journey. The actual amount of courage, resilience, stamina, mental and emotional strength it takes to cross, the sheer desperation that drives people in search of safety, is unfathomable. No one leaves wanting to, because it is dangerous and fucking hard and it breaks me when I see people and right wing newspaper articles saying “why are they coming here”, “they should seek asylum in the first safe country they land in”, “we don’t want them”. Or when a group of people feel they have the god given right to STOP RNLI rescuing people. The RNLI whose sole job is it to rescue people from this kind of catastrophe. Or when I listen to LBC (a UK radio station) and I hear people saying “Afghan’s are cowards, they should stay and fight…” Stay and fight with what and for what? A bit of rubble? Decimated homes, or the cafe that has it’s electric supply cut and a caved in roof, because of a bomb. All the people that could fight have their numbers marked. They are targets – for helping the British and American troops during a 20 year occupation.
No one has the right to determine who lives and who dies. No one! And yet… here we are.
There is so much to say on this and you can see I am quite passionate about such subjects. Although my holiday was about switching off – I also couldn’t stop my humanity get in the way of what is happening in the world. I do HIGHLY recommend The Beekeeper of Aleppo, aside from what I have shared, it is a book beautifully written. The descriptions of people, places and emotions are intoxicatingly evocative. It really does hit deep and makes you realise just how lucky we are just because we… were… born… here and them… there.
…As always was stunning. It rained and snowed and the snow was the prettiest I have ever had on my birthday. We (T&B) stayed in a 4 start hotel in Queensferry, although it felt like 5 stars. We had the most glorious view of Queensferry Bridge crossing, all lit up at night and a huuuugggeee bed. We went to the theatre to watch A Christmas Carol; creative use of the space, imaginative and compelling storytelling that had adults and children alike mesmerised. With an original live musical score that sent shivers down my spine – this has got to be the best Christmas Carol adaptation I have seen in a long time. It was breathtakingly magical. We ate like kings and spent such a beautiful time connecting with each other. It was soulful.
And then I came home to find a PARKING TICKET on my car. The parking permit had run out the day before and the council failed to send me a reminder. YES, I am blaming the council – they make enough money on us law abiding folk who don’t deliberately break the law. I have paid so many fines over this last year, all because I am a new driver.
And now it is back to work, although my birthday celebrations are not yet over. I’ve eaten my weight in cake and sweet treats over the weekend with a family meal on Friday. Saturday I travelled up to Huddersfield to catch up with C and some other friends for my birthday and Christmas. It was wonderful. We all bought a dish each – I stopped off at a service station and picked up some of the best Mince Pies ever. Heston Blumenthal’s mince pies with a lemon zest are literally what it’s about this Christmas. With a shortbread, crumbly texture and a delicate filling of sweet fruit – these mice pies from Waitrose are a MUST for anyone’s Christmas shopping list.
With another potential lockdown looming we thought we should probably take advantage of the freedom.
That’s about it!