Tramping with Rosie.

There are pros and cons to being a casual employee…

A con is that there are less dollaz.

A pro is that I can take mid-week hiking excursions to little huts in the back arse of nowhere!

Mother, cousin and I took a wee jaunt to Fenella Hut in the Kahurangi National Park this week.

Besides the mass onslaught of blood sucking sand flies who love my juicy ankles, it was quite lovely. It was like a Boy Scouts adventure trail, with little cabins and campfires dotted along the valley floor, close enough to the river for a good dip after a long day.

Our first night we just drove into the first hut and slept fitfully, fearful of exposing our toes to the savage insects who roamed the cabin, waiting to pounce.

The days walk was meant to take almost five hours, but because we are youthful and spritely, we trotted along the track and jogged up the hill, doing a few squats while we were at it.

When we arrived at Fenella Hut, it was like a shimmering mirage of glory in the midday heat. A relatively new hut, Fenella Hut was built as a memorial to Fenella Druce, who was killed in 1977 when the Three Johns Hut was blown over a bluff in Aoraki National Park.

We hoped the same would not happen to us.

A high point was the toilet, which may have been the most magnificient Department of Conservation hut toilet I have ever graced with my bottom. And I have graced MANY.

Stained glass windows, a delightful bush view (ha!) and even a pipe of running water conveniently placed for washing ones hands post wee-wee. It’s the little things that count.

Usually you have to dash in, hold your breath, close your eyes and pretend that the flies buzzing out of the dark depths of the long drop are just there for moral support.

An equally high point (some may say higher) was the magical tarn (lake) that rested just over the hillock, beckoning us with it’s un-tarn-ished beauty. I hope you see what I did there.

If trees had eyes, (and fingers and mouths), they would have been laughing and pointing at our naked, awkwardly tanned bodies plunging ungraciously into the waters. I do not like to touch the bottom with my feet, because I fear the creatures of the depths, but I enjoyed doggy paddling about, watching the dragonflies have sex with their faces (at least that’s what it looked like. Isn’t nature wonderful??).

Then came the time to get out. Naked. Using only a slimy rock, fatigued legs and stylishness, I slid on my front up the rock, realised my companions were taking x-rated photographs of my exit technique, slid back a bit in shock horror, then launched myself upward like a nifty seal. It was that rock’s lucky day… Just sayin’.

My evening meal consisted of mothers homemade dehydrated lentil curry, which sounds quite hideous but actually was top notch, and a snack on Rachel’s ‘fun mix’. Open to interpretation.

We had the hut to ourselves, so we played card games loudly and used two mattresses instead of one. Crazy cats.

Today we retraced our steps in a gazelle-like fashion, stopping for water, an occasional nibble and a cheeky skinny dip in the river, much to the astonishment of the German tourists walking by. (Just kidding, no one saw us… We think).

Now I am home, sprawled on my bed with a glass of wine positioned very nearby for ease of access to my mouth.

I DESERVE IT. It’s been a hard week at work..

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New Girl

My last few days on Achill were messy…

I feel like I didn’t sleep for a week, doing all the things I’ve been meaning to do all summer, such as going out on Kevin’s fishing boat and lifting the lobster pots.

Don’t ask me why I chose to do this particular task on a day when I was atrociously hungover, after returning from the beach at 6am and rising at 7.30 for the breakfast shift.

Must have been that ‘seize the day’ attitude.

Let me paint a picture:

Very choppy sea
Grey skies
The stench of day old fish in the bait bucket, festering in it’s own juices
Kevin, his dad, Anke the German, little Cecilia from Taiwan and myself wearing the chunkiest life jacket known to mankind
Slippery boat floor

My task was to reach into the bait bucket (without falling over head first or suffocating myself in my life jacket), pick up a dead rancid fish, shove it into the netting in the pots, smush it’s little face in real good, then pass the pot to Kevin. I think everyone else enjoyed my hungover state far too much….

‘That one smells nice!’
‘Think of Patricks sweaty brown socks sweltering in the sunshine!’ ‘Deeeeeeep breath in there’
‘Shove it in HARDER Rosie, don’t be such a fussy girl!’ (normally I would have made a joke here but I hadn’t the gusto)..

Needless to say I spent a good hour in the corner leaning over the side, gazing at my reflection in the water and avoiding Kevin’s gleeful face as he watched me nearly be sick many a time. I’m sure it’s super fun usually, but whooooeeeeeeee. Dat stench. Anke’s life jacket nearly strangled her when she accidentally inflated, we lost the rope hook over the side, we nearly lost Cecilia between the two boats, and I became vommy. Not ideal.

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That weekend we had a huge group of cyclists staying in the hostel, who had obviously been consuming too much fibre and were farting violently in the pub. I looked pointedly at the main culprit when he did it for the second time, and he just shrugged and said “old age and Guinness farts for ya love!”

Pretty sure getting old doesn’t excuse farting. At least TRY to conceal.

These cyclists were a bit mad and drank all of the alcohol in the pub. At 4 o’clock in the morning, when we thought we were the only ones left awake, we discovered a middle aged woman in the middle cubicle of the bathroom, pants off, slumped forward on the toilet with her face down in her knickers. We tried to stir her and she leapt to action, walking into the door which was actually the slot machine.

I think she overdid it. I felt very sensible and sober seeing that.

Now, working in the valley you do get used to the gaze of older men. But on my last night I received unwanted attention from an older woman, who is the sister of the valley regular. She must be approximately 65, and she “loves my way”. Also my bum, apparently.

A self esteem boost if nothing else.

So my last weekend on Achill was a strange old one, with minimal sleep, a tandem midnight cycle trip, beach parties, awesome weather, a Talking Heads revival, humorous hungover people, beach football, a hurling match, and a fair few tears.

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It was a slightly weepy drive to Westport then down to Killary in Connemara, where I will be spending the next 2 months working at Killary Adventure Centre.

Jeananne and I are living in a house with I don’t know how many males, but you just know they are boys from the state of the place. I shall apply a woman’s touch.

We get all the activities for free (kayaking, Killary cruise, rock climbing, windsurfing, wake boarding, bungee jumping, and plenty more), and we also get FREE SEAWEED BATHS which was a deal clincher for me. All food and accommodation is provided plus monthly pay, and we work 8 hours daily with two days off per week. It’s like the Valley House on speed, and my body is struggling to keep up after a few months of relaxed Achill lifestyle, but I will get there.

The Killary Centre is right in front of Killary Fjord which makes for awesome views. Last night we went to Westport to pick up our bikes and cycle them back – such a sexy sunset.

From one spectacular place to another! I seem to be drawn to the places that are in the middle of nowhere….

Now I’m the newbie again. Right now they all think I’m normal….. They’re in for a shocker.

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Achill Love

Two months, one sprained ankle, half a munted wrist, 237 midgie bites and 6 unidentifiable bruises later….

I’m still alive. Just. Achill is doing it’s best to break me, or maybe I’m just a bit stupid.

Things I’ve learnt over the past two months, or rather, things I should have learnt but continue to ignore in the spirit of good craic.

1. Don’t wear flip flops to Achill Head, seediest and slipperiest nightclub I’ve visited in Ireland (that’s saying something). You will fall over. At least thrice.

2. A beverage titled ‘Green Poison’ is not for the consumption of little girls. The name fits.

3. Bicycling at 2am is not a good idea, even when sober.

4. It’s especially not good when there are as many potholes as there are on Achill.

5. You also should not choose a bike with no brakes. This is just a general life rule that we should all abide by.

6. Swimming on an Irish beach in the middle of the night is going to be cold. Fripply, even.

7. It’s going to be colder if you don’t wear any clothes.

8. When you live in a hostel, it’s impossible to escape people. They will be there when you try to dash from the shower to your room in only a towel. They will laugh and point. You will probably drop your knickers.

9. Showers are either very cold or they are satan water. It’s like roulette. There is no such thing as warm. Or maybe that’s just the Valley House..

10. Bedtime is 2am, no earlier. If you go to bed earlier, it will be an amazing night and you will have missed out.

11. Beach parties make your hair and clothes smell like fire for days. Baking soda does not remove this smell.

12. Holey clothes are okay so long as the holes are not in naughty places.

13. Yoga with a sprained ankle and bung wrist is a challenge, and one that I am willing to accept.

14. Old men like to watch young women do yoga.

14. French people don’t lock the toilet door when they are doing number twos. Even when in a hostel.

15. Kids smell and leave a lot of crumbs.

16. Midgies will follow you to bed and try to get in there with you. You do not want to sleep with midgies.

17. It’s perfectly acceptable to order vegetable soup everywhere you go, because it is always the cheapest thing on the menu.

18. Avocados and hummus are the holy grail of helpx. They will only last one day. Feast.

19. Despite best intentions, you will probably not get up at 7.30am to do yoga and drink green smoothies when you’re living on Achill.

20. It’s very alarming when you leave Achill and re enter normal society. People are loud and look at you like you’re homeless, especially when you pay for everything with tip money.

21. You probably DO need to shower. A sea swim probably doesn’t count.

22. Sun is rare. When it comes, take off most of your clothes and bask.

23. The island wakes at 11am.

24. Time really flies when you don’t wake until 11am.

25. Even really ugly Irish people are babes. I LOVE THEM ALL.

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Vegetarians Gone Wild

I’m writing this post from Lyon airport, having said goodbye to my lovely Brenazet family earlier today. They were so fun, loving life on their idyllic farm, eating amazing meals together every day and constantly learning and trying new things. It’s inspiring to find people who genuinely love their lives and don’t even feel like they need to holiday, because home is so lovely!

After a hearty breakfast of green smoothie and some buckwheat hazelnut porridge (awesome stuff), Mariken sent me on my way with a little snack pack and instructions to let her know when I arrive safely in London. Elza the dog jumped up and gave me a smooch too, which was cute.

I spent the majority of yesterday helping them set up a Mail Chimp newsletter campaign and linking it to all of their social media, which is the sort of thing that comes easily to me (it’s my generation) but can be a real chore for people. Always nice to know you’re really helping the people you stay with, because sometimes it feels like you are getting an amazing experience for nothing. Days filled with yoga, meditation, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and amazing food are the best working days EVER.

My last few days involved a lot of cooking, yoga, a trip to Mariken’s local ‘Old Lady Yoga’ (which I secretly loved, even if it was all in French and included lots of pelvic tilting), crazy thunderstorms, dreamy sunsets and much laughter.

Basically I’m just going to post a bunch of photos of food, because I cannot describe in detail all the things we made. Mariken has a spectacular kitchen and array of recipes, during summer she cooks for the guests every day so she’s a bit of a pro at making healthy food for many mouths.

Get ready to drool….

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Raw vege pasta, quinoa, garden salad
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Buckwheat and oat flour pastry, filled with silver beet and soft tofu
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Beetroot and Walnut Dip
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Bean Salad
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Plate of Goodness
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Red Quinoa- Stuffed Tomatoes
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Avocado & Almond Butter Chocolate Mousse
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Raw carrot cupcakes with cashew coconut icing, Apple cake.
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Smoothie greens! Yes, that is nettle.

 

Needless to say I’m going to miss having the means to make all that. But I have a bounty of recipes now. I sort of made up the chocolate mousse, so I shall share it with you. Mariken declared it the ‘best chocolate mousse she has ever tasted’, which is high praise.

Marvellous Mousse

To feed 2-3 people:

1 large ripe banana

1 ripe avocado

2 large tbsp almond butter

2-3 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp maple syrup/agave/honey or whatever your preferred sweetener is.

1 tbsp chia seeds

anything else you think would be tasty….

 

whizz it it all up in your blender, adjust the amounts to suit yourself, serve in little pots with a sexy adornment (I used cacao nibs). If you can wait, put them in the fridge for an hour and let the chia seeds do their thing.

You don’t need much because it is very filling, what with all the avocado and nuts.

Mouuuuthgasm!

 

A farewell sunset
A farewell sunset

Off back to London now, for birthday celebrations, family time and probably some MEAT. Funnily enough, today as I was leaving Mariken was cooking up one of their chickens. Usually they are vegetarian, but yesterday they discovered that one of their chickens was eating the eggs.

So they chopped it’s head off and made coq au vin. Waste not, want not.

Au revoir France! I still only understand a pathetic amount of your language (“inhale, exhale, left foot, right foot, relaaaax”), but I think that’s okay.

 

Bad Hair Month, and other adventures

It’s been a few days, my cherubs, because I have been poorly. A nasty bout of the flu had its way with me, along with a funky stomach virus that made me walk like a hunchback for 3 days.

Being sick is pretty shit when you’re travelling. You don´t have mummy to bring you marmite on toast. It´s especially bad if you’re in a hostel. I’m lucky, because I am in a delightful chunk of paradise in the middle of France, with my own little cabin to fester in until the germs retreat. But it is hard, because as a HelpXer, I always feel like I need to be contributing more, rather than just moping around feeling sorry for myself and sleeping 18 out of 24 hours a day. Luckily my lovely hosts have been very understanding, and even gave me essential oils and a nightcap of thyme infused alcohol to send me into a deep slumber. And it doesn’t take long to get better in such a healthy environment, with lots of greens and goodness.

My nose is rather red and sore, much like Rudolph, from blowing it a few too many times on the toilet roll. So I have taken to using my magical homemade coconut lip balm as a nose balm… It works very well, in case you were wondering.

After missing two days of yoga, I rolled out of bed and onto my yoga mat this morning. It isn’t too hard when it looks like this outside….

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Mariken also taught her yoga class this morning. We did it outside in part of the campsite, and I taught my style of sun salutation to the lovely little French ladies. I´m sure they didnt understand what I was saying, because I have a weird accent, but they seemed to enjoy it.

I could not do my 108 breath meditation this morning, because it involves Breath of Fire, which is alot of firing air out of one´s nose, and I was fearful of firing something other than air out due to congestion. So I didn´t do that..

As for the old ´washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar´…. It works quite well, but my hair is quite absurd. I look like I have escaped from somewhere. Through an electric fence, probably.

 

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Wow! Impressive isn´t it. I would say the above is one of my two good hair days that have been predicted for the next six weeks on this regime…

At least I got volume.

So basically these days I look like a sixties hipster, wearing ´mom jeans´ that I found in the ´Helpers Box of Clothing´ and repping a fro.

On a more tasteful note, we made delightful bounty bars the other day! Would you like the recipe? They are relatively healthful, of course. Quite coconutty.

Bountiful Bars!

Chocolate Coating

3/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup cocoa powder (the good stuff)

1/2 cup maple syrup/ agave syrup

pinch salt

Filling

150g dates (or use a date paste)

150g desiccated coconut

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 tbsp cashew nuts

2 tbsp hemp seeds (or more nuts, if you aren´t that fancy)

vanilla

pinch of salt

Instructions

Filling: Melt coconut oil. Mix dates and water in food processor. Mix in the other filling ingredients. Refrigerate for 5 minutes to solidify a little bit. Make into small, stumpy finger bars. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Coating: Melt coconut oil. Mix in cocoa powder,salt and chosen sweetener. Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken – add more cocoa powder if need be.

Roll the stumpy coconut bars around in their sea of chocolate, until entirely coated. Pop them in the fridge to set. Then you eats it ja!

And if you´re anything like me in the kitchen, they will end up looking a little like this: Tiny, stumpy fingers.

 

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I only have three more days at Brenazet, then I head back to the UK for a week or so, to celebrate my birthday and see my dear family. Then I am off to Ireland for a couple of months.

I´m sure looking forward to a summer of mighty craic!

Gluten-free in Paris? The least of your worries.

Paris is awesome, but there are many a creepy weirdo. On Monday I was at the Citè Universitaire for a full day interview. During one of my nervous wee breaks, I was standing at the sink washing my hands when a man came in (shocked me at first, then realised that of course, the French have communal bathrooms). He stopped in his tracks, looked me up and down and said;

“Ooooohheeeee. Damn. Dammmmn. Can I say something?”

“No. No you can’t.” (Unfortunately I only said this in my mind).

“You have the most beautiful legs….” (not a common compliment directed towards me, so naturally I was suspicious).

“What’s your name, girl? Tell me your name, I want to get to know you better”…

I gasped and ran for the door, careful not to slip in the urinal zone.

Yes, it is a university and I understand they want to encourage equality… But seriously, sharing loos?

Also, who hits on someone in the bathroom?

Anyway, that was the worst part of my weekend in Paris, along with the two Spanish girls who thought it was okay to come into our hostel room at 3am, turn on all the lights, have a chat and take a shower… And also the Brazilian man who slept on top of me (not in that way, you naughty kids) and snored like he was suffocating.

Things were mostly really fun, and I’ll admit it was a bit of a foodie weekend. I think I enjoyed it all the more having lived off soup and salad for a month in Devon.

On Friday night we arrived late and the only food we could find was a tapas bar, so we ordered a few things. When they came out we were slightly disappointed – tiny salty fish with their eyes still in, a bowl of potatoes and a plate of cheese slices. I am very against eating things with eyeballs, but we washed it down with some vino.

Saturday morning we wandered the streets of Bastille on a self guided walking tour. In a guide book we had found this place offering buckwheat crepes in a little cafe in one of the neighbourhoods – I like to think it was our little secret but as it was in the guide book I guess not….. All their ingredients were organic, free range and locally sourced where possible.

When we got there it wasn’t open, so we came back an hour later and it was packed. We ordered crepes with cheese, ham, caramelised onion and an egg on top:

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Of course, tea in a France was extortionately priced so I just HAD to have an organic coffee. It put a spring in my step.

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We walked along the Seine, I gawked awkwardly at people engaging in full-on PDA’s and wrinkly old men running with their shirts off. I was weirdly jealous of people rollerblading in the sunshine – it took me way back to the days when I would don my roller skates and do laps in the garage with a broom. I would say I was “sweeping for mum” but I was really just imitating Pippi Longstockings.

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We walked around the gardens at the Louvre and found a nice spot for a nap..

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That night we went out for a Tibetan meal- I know, I know, we really should have had a French meal, but I’d never eaten Tibetan and there were little Buddhas everywhere so naturally I got excited.

The next day I awoke with excitement at the prospect of a visit to a local gluten free bakery. If you are ever in Paris and feel sad because you can’t eat their lovely gluten filled pastries, GO HERE. I had a blueberry muffin and a detox tea, because it was breakfast and I couldn’t quite handle the thought of a full- blown chocolatey tower. They also baked fresh bread on the premises, so I nabbed a few for our picnic later.

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Yum!

We walked for a while in the sun (I was mildly sweaty, such a HAWT day!) and eventually found the markets in Bastille, loud and crammed with fresh produce, old men yelling and small dogs. I found a friend on the ground, sausage, a fresh pressed juice (orange, carrot and ginger), and a man from a stall gave me an orange segment and said I was beautiful. Those frenchies, such charmers. One man asked us where we were from, and once I said New Zealand he just kept repeating it and laughing hysterically. We must have a reputation?

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We walked down the river towards the Louvre again, had our picnic, then decided to abort our plans to walk to the Eiffel Tower in favour of catching the boat. Despite being blinded by the sunshine (not a common problem this time of year), we enjoyed sitting down for a while and watching all the people on the banks of the river getting excited about spring. The Eiffel Tower is too big to get into my camera lens. You get the gist. I was there last year with friends and we climbed it; this time we just sat on a park bench and gazed.

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My lovely companion Sue left on Sunday night and I left our hotel to stay in a hostel for a further two nights. Cue snoring Brazilian and rowdy Spanish girls.

I had a job interview for a job with an active travel company on the Monday- it was a fun and exhausting day but I sadly didn’t get the job. It just obviously wasn’t meant to be! So I consoled myself with a green juice and some interesting reading in a famous Parisian juice bar. It’s called Juice Bar, just so you know.

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So basically, we went to Paris and ate heaps. Good times. If you’re heading that way, don’t worry about finding gluten free options, worry about the communal bathrooms and the old men. They’re smooth, with their oranges and their smiles.

Au revoir!

The Real World

Let’s just take a moment and consider the fact that since I left Cranleigh House, nothing else is quite funny enough.

All other normal life experiences pale in comic comparison. I have some work for the next 3 weeks with my aunty’s work, doing general admin and things, to give me a bit of moolah while I figure out my next move. Yesterday I spent a solid 10 hours entering data into a spreadsheet, mostly names like ‘Rajesh Kumpalapoori Vindaloo Abdul’. Eventually I sort of started making them up. I’ll blame it on my lazy eye and my consequent tendency to look at screens sideways.

So things have changed a little, as they are constantly doing when you are a person of no fixed abode. I no longer drink liver flush in the morning, because garlic breath amongst the general public does not go down well. One habit I haven’t been able to break is the green smoothies. They are weirdly addictive. My aunty can’t believe I can drink them first thing in the morning. I’m all like “mmmm, chunks of spinach”. Each to their own, right?

I did try to escape Cranleigh House without my enema bag. I was about to leave that morning and Katherine cried “oh! Rosie! You left your enema bag in the bathroom! I’ll get it for you”. Dammitttttttt. So it came with me, and we went on a romantic trip, train after train, house after house, until we reached Fetcham and I buried it in my bottom drawer. In several months I will be looking for something and curiously delve into that package, only to be rudely reminded of my shameful ventures in North Devon. Enema bag: intact, dignity: not so much. My body is probably heaving a sigh of relief, as I have reintroduced it to my old friends, Roast Lamb and Red Wine. Although I have to say, my tolerance for alcohol has diminished slightly. Which is fab, because now it doesn’t take much to get me on my merry way!

Tonight I’m off to Paris for a weekend of shenanigans! Or maybe walking tours and gallery visits. Even though I went there last year in September, there’s always more to see and do in Paris! Like cheese. There’s always cheese to see and do. We are just hoping for good weather. Good enough at least to wander the streets at night in less than five layers of clothing.

It feels like spring is here, which makes everything and everyone seem happier. After this weekend I will be able to plan my next trip, so things will get exciting again… I will do my best to get myself into some more awkward situations..

I’m missing my girl Kayla, she was my lifesaver down in Devon and now she’s hanging out in Croatia for a few months. We went to the beach on our last day there and took photos of each other doing yoga in our wet weather gear and gumboots. Sexual. Here are some pics: 20140313-221802.jpg

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Caution: blindingly white stomach
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A casual straddle

Devon brought out my inner weirdo, and I’m really missing wearing my baggy orange pants on a regular basis. On Tuesday I put on makeup for the first time in about 6 weeks. It was merely tinted moisturiser, but my face felt like it was suffocating so I promptly washed it all off. Now I am barefaced and I like it.

Anyhoo, I’m writing this from the Eurostar and I feel ashamed of all my gadgets so I’m going to read an actual book now… See ya folks!