On hope, brewed in Bristol

My eco-anxiety is back, an old companion I thought I’d managed to shake off with a mixture of a low-impact lifestyle and cognitive behavioural therapy. But having to keep my toddler home because it was too hot to send them to nurseryin the UK – while the likely candidate for our future prime minister plans to double down on North Sea oil and gas, have left me with nothing but horror and fear for what lies ahead.

Writing helps, so I thought I would share some thoughts, and potentially a bit of hope.

I recently finished reading David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History. I picked this up soon after moving to Bristol, having moved to an area of the city that is rich in and from colonial, slave-trafficking and imperial history, feeling like I needed to contextualise the beautiful architecture around me. Olusoga is a resident of Bristol, famous for his BBC history programmes, and recently in the news for testifying in the Colston Four trial. ‘Black and British’ is a masterpiece, and I highly recommend it to anyone living on this island. Not only is the research astounding, the writing is both beautiful and accessible.

at the Royal York Crescent in Clifton

There are so many chapters and elements to comment on, but it was the section on the abolition movement that stuck out as a lesson to reflect on. In short (and hoping I don’t oversimplify too much): at the end of the eighteenth century, slavery was completely embedded across the British economy, products produced by slaves were everywhere, enormous amounts of political power were invested in the system, and as such there were very few voices publicly denouncing it.

The slave trade and slavery was held up by centuries of racist and exploitative economic theories, but abolitionists also realised that they was tolerated by the general public mainly because they knew very little about it, rather than actively supported it. As such, abolitionists focused on educating the public about the realities of the slave trade as part of their campaign. Through the distribution of thousands of tracts and pamphlets, mass petitions gathering millions of signatures, political lobbying, boycotting, platforming the perspectives of former enslaved persons, making space for activism from women (who were denied the vote but who could play a role by emphasising mercy and compassion, which was deemed feminine), and providing physical evidence, abolitionists were able to turn the tide of public opinion and push for the abolition of the slave trade.

The role of former slaves and the impact of this public campaign was brilliantly told in a play recently shown at the Bristol Old Vic. The Meaning of Zong, written and performed by Giles Terera, tells the story of Olaudah Equiano, a writer, abolitionist and formerly enslaved person, who publicly spoke about the legal trial on a massacre aboard a slave ship named Zong, where 132 Africans were thrown overboard. This set in motion the events leading to the abolition movement in the UK. At one point during the trial, the narrator points across the stage, at the judge (who owned slaves), at the jury (who profited from the slave trade) and at the prosecutor and the defence lawyer (who all had investments in transatlantic slave trade). Across the board, power and money were tied up in the kidnapping of humans. But through the publicity and debate generated by the case and decades of committed activism, abolitionists managed to achieve the impossible.

Of course, as we know and as ‘Black and British’ goes on to show, the British abolition of the slave trade was not the end of slavery, nor the end of the horrors of the British empire. And this is not to contribute to a disingenuous and nationalistic ‘pat on the back’ that often accompanies discourse on abolition. But it was a positive step towards ending one of the most damaging parts of history, and one of which abolitionists can take credit.

While the context and challenges are different, I see parallels between the fight against slavery, with its total integration across the economy – as energy, means of production and wealth creation – with the fight against fossil fuels. We are living through a time when it seems like the forces of big oil and gas are winning against those trying to merely ensure the future of a liveable planet. With their total integration across our economies and political systems, it’s so easy to get despondent and paralysed in the face of climate breakdown.

But a reminder of concrete examples of social movements and the people involved can provide us with inspiration to shift from despair to action, with a successful end goal in sight. Lessons from our history can remind us that advocacy on system-wide challenges can be successful. Campaigning, building public support and storytelling are of upmost importance. And it’s this that we have to remember as we pick up the courage to keep chipping away at the system, that success is possible. As many activists keep repeating, there is a big difference between 4 degrees and 1.5 degrees warming. Every effort helps, and every fraction of a degree matters.


My tree is very tiny this year

My tree is very tiny this year
Its roots intact in a planter
Less landfill, more carbon capture;
Next year, it’ll stand a little grander.

My tree holds homemade decor this year
I’ve few trinkets to deploy
The more I move, less stuff survives –
String and oranges, ample joy.

My tree hosts few presents this year;
Resistance starts with buying less
But I’ve learnt real abundance lies,
In my people close, my little nest.

My tree is tucked away this year;
The little girl learning to crawl, pull, play
– her face, our festive cheer –
Is the focus of our day.

My tree is a reminder, this year,
That things can’t stay the same.
Yet for her, for them, for us and all,
We redeem, rejoice, and Christmas, reclaim.

On mammalian redemption

Last week during COP I saw a tweet with the slogan “We are not defending nature, we are nature defending ourselves”, and it got me thinking about what it means to shift away from the anthropocentric paradigm of man vs. nature. Our fates in the Anthropocene depend on us rewiring our societies towards a collective understanding of humans being not separate but part of nature, and I’m under no illusion that this will be nothing short of systemic and radical. It will inevitably involve a dismantling of our economic model, and the creation of a completely new reality, one that looks nothing like the consuming-hustling existence of Westerners over the past century. Part of me thinks that we are so completely unprepared for what is ahead, whilst at the same time everything about our lives is crying out for change.

There are many, many different practices that we need to embrace in order to truly get to the stage that collectively, we can claim that we are indeed nature defending ourselves (as many indigenous peoples are doing, despite all of the obstacles in their way). Regeneration, circularity, co-existence; just some of the concepts I’m at the beginning of a journey of learning about. But I’d like to propose a practice, that I’ve become very well versed in over the past nine months, as one of the paths to our return to nature: breastfeeding.

In essence, it could be the most basic form of being part of nature. Much as we seem to want to forget, we are, after all, mammals. Distinguished from other life forms by our three middle ear bones, fur/hair, neocortex, and our capacity to produce milk to feed our young. In practice, it has been one of the most neocortex-blowing, humbling, and rewarding experiences of my life. For nine months, so far, I’ve nourished a tiny newborn to a babbling, moving, growing infant. I’ve followed my instincts and read her cues. I’ve given the physical gift of a healthy microbiome and the emotional gift of a secure attachment. I’ve created constantly adapting antibodies during a global pandemic. We’ve danced the dance of supply and demand that has nothing to do with market mechanisms.

This isn’t the common narrative when it comes to breast/chestfeeding, which is often an arch of pain, struggles, labour and at times, grief. Because despite all of the benefits that science already knows and constantly continues to discover, our society makes it very very hard for parents to nurse their own babies. The data on how many women cannot physically breastfeed is both poor and W.E.I.R.D., but what is available suggests that it may be in the region of 5%. In contrast, in the UK, despite WHO and NHS guidance, only 1% of women make it to the recommended minimum target of six months of exclusive breastfeeding, let alone the recommended target of two years. And I have to say this most emphatically and at the top of my voice: this piece is not to shame or berate anyone for choosing or being unable to breast or chest-feed. There are so many valid reasons for not doing so in our current set up, and only the patriarchy benefits from the ‘mommy wars’. What I want to say goes beyond individuals, and is more a commentary on the mismatch between our species and our societies.

Several structural design flaws have led us here: split-second maternity leaves and nuclear family structures, leaving mums overwhelmed with the crushing burden of having to do everything under the sun, without a ‘village’, whilst also recovering from a major physical and emotional transition. At the very beginning of a newborn’s life, mothers need a quiet, fiercely-guarded period of time in which to establish the feeding relationship. Many traditional cultures across the world recognise this through 40 to even 100 days of postpartum rituals, where new mothers stay inside and focus on healing and feeding; practices in direct contrast with the Western obsession of everything getting back to normal as soon as possible. The latter leads us on a downward spiral, where continuing breastfeeding becomes the unique responsibility of the individual, rather than the task of the community to support. Breastfeeding demands energy, more energy than an active brain, and as such enters into direct competition with all other demands on our power. It demands free time, the equivalent in hours over the space of a year as a full time job. If women already face the double burden of work (paid and unpaid), an extra full time job is unmanageable. And this is even before considering the class and racial inequalities that block access to maternity leave, financial security and professional support. So instead of society valuing breastfeeding as a full time occupation, and protecting it as the most fundamental task in the first year of a parent and baby’s life, under late capitalism, we are offered the both the problem and the solution, all in order to prioritise other forms of ‘productive’ labour.

Other design flaws include the lack of technical and medical support that new parents get on what really matters. Mums don’t need half of the material things that they receive from well-meaning loved ones, they need sessions with lactation consultants, on hand for months to provide support and troubleshooting, to help establish a skill that is both instinctive, and at the same time, novel, learnt and at times very difficult. In other cases, the support is the problem. Misinformed doctors and midwives, often know more about formula requirements than normal breastfeeding behaviours and give out outdated or incorrect advice. For example, on my first day postpartum in hospital, I was told two completely contradictory pieces of advice by two different midwives within the space of an hour. I was also told that once my baby hit 5kg she would sleep through the night without feeds. Needless to say there is absolutely no evidence base for this arbitrary number, and it was bound to make me wonder what the matter with my perfectly normal breastfeeding baby when, nine months later, she still feeds at least n times per night (where n ≥ 1).

Then there are the societal and cultural practices, especially in this corner of the world, that are fundamentally in opposition to maintaining a healthy breastfeeding relationship, which thrives on proximity and flexibility. Sleep training, cough, I’m looking at you. Oh boy, am I looking at you. It was only about seven months in to motherhood that I realised how much of the formula industry was driving both the narratives promoted by mainstream parenting doctrines and also the well-meaning but disorienting advice that is passed on through generations: “it’s time to night wean”, “offer water instead”, “formula is so much easier”. This is then followed by the discomfort that people begin to express as the baby grows older: “once babies have teeth or can walk, it’s definitely time to wean”, “that toddler is too old to be breastfed, give them some cow milk instead.” Beyond the cognitive dissonance of replacing our own species’ milk with that of a different species (and claiming that it is more appropriate), we clearly have a deep rooted discomfort with breastfeeding, left unexamined to the detriment of our own well-being. This could be partly down to the widespread misinformation campaign promoted by the formula industry, and partly due to the sexualisation of breasts (this remains speculation on my behalf…).

However, I also think the discomfort goes deeper, circling back to this idea of humans controlling nature rather than being part of it. Breastfeeding demands responsiveness, rather than schedules, and it often defies logic. It requires a certain skill set that is highly dependent on our animal instincts, those ancient wisdoms encoded in our DNA for millennia, that we have spent mere centuries distancing ourselves from in the rush towards the efficient, independent and rational human. Maybe this is why it feels jarring, and why we pay lip service to the benefits of breastfeeding, but back away for creating a fertile society for it.

Maybe it’s time we were reminded that we are first and foremost animals. Mammals. That we are just one small part of an ecosystem. That we have the instincts to coexist in this system, if we want to. And maybe connecting to nature isn’t just about putting on a pair of hiking boots and leaving the big smoke. Maybe it starts with teaching our infants how to trust these instincts. How love is always available, and doesn’t fit into schedules. How we don’t need any props for connection. How we value them more than we value our free time, or our productivity. And maybe, through doing this, we can take one (amongst many) small step towards healing from the mindsets that have led us to destroying our planet and valuing all the wrong things.

So this is how I see breastfeeding. Not just a way to feed my child, but as a big FU to capitalism. A radical act. An expression of hope.


hi, hi little embryo,
you have no idea how much you are wanted.
“anhelado”; longed for,
three positive tests, too good to be true.

I’m sure you felt the smiles, little embryo,
at the news of your existence.
life’s been a little rough recently,
yet what a beautiful new start.

a handful of days together, little embryo.
“good morning my darlings”, he whispered
and we started to weave secret golden cocoons,
otherwise known as plans.

goodbye then, little embryo,
through tears and blood you leave this chaotic place.
thank you for the joy,
our microscopic little love.

just a memory now, little embryo,
so short-lived.
I can’t help but wonder,
was this all just a magical myth

Bædside manners

“Jet leg? Do you know what jet leg is?”
Let me assure you, dear paramedic,
This ain’t no ‘jet leg’
Home is only an hour behind
And no amount of sleepiness
Could make someone shake, judder, stiffen the way he just did
Or make the face he’s making now

“Family, family
Do you have any idea what this could be?”
The guessing game you never expect to play
In a hospital hallway
None of my guesses won the game
“Family we’ve found a large mass in his brain”
I need a bucket I need a bucket

“We operate tomorrow, side effects include death, paralysis, personality changes”
His phone rings
He raises his hand, “let me get this”
“Yea, yea, big aggressive tumour, my kind, you know…the hard ones”
He laughs
I hadn’t noticed the red horns when I walked in the door

Intensive care is a precious commodity
Any wounds that family may have
Receive tough love
“Personality changes? No no, definitely not due to trauma, medication or surgery
Those will likely be permanent”
He said, of my husband of four years
Before swooping down the hall,
His scrubs flapping like a cape

“Bad genes”
He says, “this island is full of inbreeding.
Good job you’ll mix your genes with hers”, nodding at me
He hasn’t asked my name yet
But the chemo drugs he prescribes
Can cause infertility

Taking Stock

To my girl,

Thank you first and foremost for drawing back here; drawing me back to creativity and expression and reminding why we set this up in the first place. I needed it, I’m having another “what is this life” moment and I’m re-evaluating my priorities and self goals in the short and long term.

You asked about my relationship with music, reconnecting with Music… the “experiment” as you put it. Well, here’s an update.

I bought a record player. My little red leather suitcase has pride of place in my living room, and often I sit on the the wooden floor basking in sunlight listening to vintage vinyl from Mum and Dad. Dreams do come true. Whole albums are listened to and time slows when I stop to take a moment to myself. I’ve bought new releases too, like ‘Hummingbird‘ by John Smith (the title track which I discovered using the app “Shazam” whilst standing in a music shop in Brighton in October).

Since June last year, I’ve taken action to strengthen my love affair with Music. I know you smiled when I told you that I joined an amateur musical theatre group, taking a leaf out of your book and treading the not-so-familiar boards recently in our 6 nights run of performances. I loved it. I loved being part of something and working together to create something real and concrete, feeling like part of a community. We rehearsed for months and it paid off, I made friends and it was great to have something in my life that wasn’t work but that required as much focus and attention.

I’ve been to more gigs! Lau in August (and in December) were a highlight, deepening my relationship with the Scottish music scene. What a night was had as part of the Edinburgh International Music Festival, a wealth of talent and experience right on my doorstep. I’ve since moved flat and am a mere stones throw from the Leith Theatre venue so I’m always keen to see what’s going on there, including seeing The Coral there  a few months ago. That night seeing Lau sticks out in my memory too, because I had finally stepped away from an incredibly negative relationship and the release was empowering. I spent the whole evening either dancing freely with Fran or eyeballing the bartender over multiple gin and tonics (to much success thank you very much, and the lovely J and I are still in touch). It wouldn’t be my story if there wasn’t a little romance mixed up in the music, and again I know you’ll smile because you know it’s true.

A life goal was ticked off last summer too! Well, perhaps not a life goal but certainly something which I had longed for since childhood. Liam Gallagher, you brash, cool and tears-of-joy inducing rock-n-roll star. From way back when I used to sit at the foot of the stone staircase in our house in NB listening through the door to my older brother’s tape player blasting ‘Wonderwall‘ I have loved Oasis. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old but I knew all the words. You didn’t disappoint, and I thank Ellie for being there with me, our friendship having grown from teenage days spent in and out of Aberdeen pubs and venues with ‘underage’ stamps boldly emblazoned on the back of our hands and eyeliner scrawled around our eyes. Ellie forever introduces me to new music and she’s in on the “let’s just get out and about and see what happens” attitude I’m trying to channel. We’re off to see a French group called Juniore tomorrow through in Glasgow and I’ve been listening to them non-stop for days. Fem, French, indie pop, 1960s vibes…what’s not to like?

Finally, I’ve taught music lessons at school; successful, engaging, interesting music lessons with my class, another bow to my string of teaching every subject and teaching them well. Okay, I put that pressure on myself, no one is good at everything, but music is my thing, and I want that to come across. So, long may it continue.

In conclusion, the “experiment” was a success, and continues to be so. Skip out all the above if needs be, it worked. Re-visiting a neglected passion has enriched my life and in less than a year I’ve had so many positive experiences that it’s good to stop and take note of them. Life is for living, love and joy and you’ve reminded me so.

Thanks, as ever,  tumblr_okojqmVsLk1qj60rgo1_1280

Love Carolyn. x


Hot Fuss

Dear old friend,

Last year, you posted about rekindling your relationship to music, tired of the playlist algorithms, and disenchanted. I’m curious, how did your experiment go?

Your post came to mind as I sit here on a bus on a Sunday evening, stuck in traffic on my way back to Panama city after a couple of days away for Easter. What should have been a 4 hour journey will probably turn out to be an 11 hour one; a combination of my lack of foresight and the infamous Panamanian traffic. The bus is moving at snail pace. Earlier it was a sweltering 34 degrees, and the AC absolutely battled (now luckily it has cooled down). Cumbia has been playing for a solid 6 hours, people are watching videos on their phones without using headphones, kids are whiney. It’s hectic, to say the least.

Luckily I have a charged phone and some headphones, and have spent the past few hours trawling through spotify, rediscovering some forgotten gems. My meanders took me to The Killers, and I decided to listen to Hot Fuss, the full album. Do you know how long it’s been since I sat and listened to an album? I have no clue. I have a feeling this is one of the things you said you missed. Sitting and listening to an album seems like it’s from another era.

From the first notes of ‘Jenny was a Friend of Mine’, I’m back in early 2005.

It’s February, a couple of weeks after my birthday, pitch black outside, and biting cold. I get home from school and there’s a package waiting for me, adorned with your distinct handwriting and stickers. I close my bedroom door, turn on my pink and purple ambiance lamps around my desk and sit on the little rattan chair under my bunk bed.

Inside the package is a birthday card, a letter, and two presents. The first is a multi-coloured wooden bead necklace from H&M kids. I’ve been wearing a lot of all-black these days, and a lot of black eyeliner. You assure me that wearing jewellery from the kids section is cool, in an ironic sort of way. I put it round my neck as a choker, and reapply some more eyeliner, just to make sure the irony is emphasised.

The second present is a copy of a new album, in one of those thin cases that came with the packs of 20 blank CDs. You’ve made a cover for it, including a couple of pictures of Orlando Bloom (of course), a mini vintage Star Wars poster, and a mini picture of the album cover, all lovingly collaged together, most likely on Paint.

‘It’s a new band called The Killers, I think you’ll like them. Happy 14th birthday!’

There on that cold winter night in early 2005, I listened to Hot Fuss for the first time, back-to-back. I spent most of the time thinking about my first real crush, and what I was going to say to him the next day at theatre rehearsals. Maybe something about this new band. Maybe I’d wear the new necklace. There was an excitement in my stomach that you can only ever really get from hearing music that you instantly love for the first time, from your first crush, from being 14, from that magic of early teenage-hood when you just can’t wait for something magic to ‘finally happen’ to your life.

14 years later, I’m on a bus traveling through Panama, trying to escape the cacophony around me. That brown paper package you sent me all those years ago is still providing instant transportation.

Love Suze

suzy 5 4561944590373..jpg
heavy heavy use of the hair straightener, and a tanktop-over-long-sleeve-combo, 2005

Love Letter


Dear Music,

Where are you in my life?

I’m writing to you sitting on my sofa following weeks of concentrated mulling and musings, tentative discussions with friends and family, and a longstanding sense of longing which has culminated in this outward expression to you for help.

Music, I feel so disconnected. There was a time when going out to local venues and planning trips to concerts and festivals was my world; I met friends and familiar faces, I felt part of something, my perception of the comings and goings around me heavily influenced by the tunes which I listened to and that I shared with others.

There was a time when I would have said that a similar music taste was the most important thing I would have looked for in a relationship with another person; whether platonic or romantic, a shared interest in albums and lyrics frequently sparked what at the time were such deep and meaningful conversations, and some of the bonds I made with friends were established, solidified and have continued to stand the test of time based in and around a shared interest in music.

However, Music, I feel like we haven’t been on the same level in quite some time.

I don’t blame you, this is all on me; I made way for other priorities to the point that gradually the threads which had woven back and forth between us became dusty and slack from neglect. I can trace back to when it happened, when I no longer felt the influence of friends, romantic attachments, boyfriends, or the current trend in the scene. I can identify key stages in the development and evolution of my music interest and taste, but also the warning signs for where it all started to get a little lost and lacking.

Don’t get me wrong Music, you have always been and do continue to be part of my life, but I just feel like I’ve allowed this relationship to become predictable and unadventurous. I’m sorry.

No one is really to blame. The introduction of online streaming was, I’ll admit, a significant factor in changing our relationship. I pretty much stopped buying hard copies of CDs and iTunes gradually stopped being able to compete and took a back seat to the oh so alluring appeal of free music available on demand. It’s all become to easy, I’ve been lulled into thinking this has been a positive progression, and it’s not, our relationships has lost it’s meaning don’t you think? You may be strangely pleased to know that I do not however pay for the privilege of accessing tracks offline, any time any place, but continue to be loyal to my trusty iPod Classic when I’m out and about, with its 160 GB of storage space that is almost full but rarely updated in the past 3 years. In my car, it’s as if things are frozen in time between us, since this is the only place where I can listen to the CDs I keep in a box under my bed.

So, the music which I listen to daily is either stuck in the recent past or recommended by an online system based on a record of my online listening history (creepy). None of this I think is conducive to a healthy, adult, evolving relationship with you Music, in the here and now.

What should I do? How can we reconnect?

The first step was admitting there is a problem, and I think for me it is a problem, because, I miss you. So, acknowledging the problem has led to finding the words to share my feelings about this and seek help from friends and family alike. I have an action plan now, because I want to be more present with you, I want to feel that you have more of an importance in my life and for this, I need to get out there more, I need to find ways to be involved. Step away from the passive relationship with the background noise and playlists created by someone else, some place else, and uploaded for all to dip into but never really engage with. Seek out the new; new albums to listen to from start to finish and then repeat, new experiences at gigs and venues and discover what’s happening in and around where I live, be part of the community and make connections. I used to take on the world like this, and I need to remember how excellent this was and how it made me feel.

I will be better.

Love, Carolyn

P.S I may write to you again and tell you how I’ve been getting along, so watch this space.

Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala


When my friend Lotta emailed me two weeks before Easter to remind me that she would be travelling through Guatemala, Carlos and I jumped at the chance to join her in Antigua (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central highlands of Guatemala).

We flew to Guatemala City on Palm Sunday, and went straight to Antigua. Our driver explained to us that the city was host to one of the biggest Easter processions in Latin America, and that dropping us off right in front of our hostel may be problematic; sure enough, as we arrived, the procession was actually going right past the door of our hostel, so we tried and failed to look inconspicuous with our backpacks as we made our way through the crowds.

Children’s procession from La Merced church

The processions took place at least three times a day throughout the week, with some starting at three in the morning. Most of the processions started with men carrying incense, followed by lines of men dressed in purple robes. Groups of up to eighty men then carried huge wooden platforms with scenes of the Holy Week (such as Christ carrying the cross or the crucifixion), followed by a marching horn and flute band playing funeral marches. A similar procession would follow with groups of women dressed in white and black, carrying scenes of the Virgin Mary. It was obvious from the faces of those carrying the platforms that they were extremely heavy, and that the walk was a momentous spiritual experience. Despite the hundreds of people watching, the streets were often silent, save from solemn and slow drumming.


Families preparing for the march






Marching bands

On Easter Friday, everyone in the procession was dressed in black, and the floats got larger and even more impressive.


The Virgin arriving through a cloud of incense



By 5am on Friday morning the streets were full of Roman soldiers and scenes of the crucifixion


Throughout the week, Antiguans lined the streets with carpets made from coloured sawdust, flower petals, pine needles and tropical fruits, as a symbol of the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Each carpet was often the result of weeks of preparation in designing and creating large stencils and then hours of work on the spot. These carpets would exist for a few hours, often created in the wee hours of the morning, and then the processions would walk over them and reduce them to a messy mix of sawdust over the streets.














Just like the Desalpe in Switzerland, the cleaning team was never far away

Besides the processions, Antigua is a beautiful colonial city, surrounded by volcanos and endless blue skies. Over Easter it was full of tourists (mainly Central Americans and US/European backpackers), but it’s no wonder why: there is an incredible amount of local handicraft for sale, and churches and streets to explore, the restaurants are excellent, and people are extremely friendly and open for a chat.



I bought a huipil, a beautiful handwoven traditional blouse. I had a chance to have a long chat with the woman who wove it and she told me that it took six months to make. The designs follow those from the municipality of Chajul in Guatemala.

Weaving huipils by hand







We spent the week mostly eating small tortillas filled with guacamole, cabbage, meat or fish, beans and chilli, walking around, buying beautiful handicrafts, exploring abandoned churches destroyed by earthquakes, and drinking hot chocolate sprinkled with chilli.






Three volcanos surround the city: the Volcán de Agua, the Volcán de Fuego and Acatenango. We decided to climb the Acatenango with an organised tour, and camp at the summit overnight. The Tropicana tour was extremely well organised, with incredible and serious guides, good food and equipment.

We knew that it would be a difficult climb and to prepare for almost freezing conditions at the top, but I definitely underestimated just how difficult and steep the hike would be, and most of all how affected I would be by the altitude. At times it was so heavy going that I would take five steps and stop to catch my breath. As we walked up, hundreds of Guatemalan families ran and practically skipped down the mountain, on their way down from Holy Monday mass at the summit.


Carlos told me to make a warrior face and this is all that I could muster…

By the time I had reached the campsite at about 3700 metres, I’d made all sorts of drastic promises to myself (to never climb above 3000 metres again, to never run a marathon, to never claim to like hiking ever again) and I collapsed into the tent, only to come out to throw up during the night. Tips for future Acatenango hikers: pack rehydration salts!m20ILWqmQlSEQUyj%HqItA_thumb_db4


Photo courtesy of Cosima (I was too busy trying to get down the mountain to see this)




The descent the next day however was an entirely different experience. In a matter of a few hundred metres I started to feel more human, to notice the incredible eruptions of the Fuego volcano and the lava dribbling down the sides of the mountain. I stopped to observe the mountain flowers and even spotted a high altitude hummingbird. I was able to appreciate the different types of forest from the pine trees at the top to the dewy cloud forests and then agricultural lands. The descent almost made up for the trauma of the day before, and as usually is the case with this type of experience…it was worth it in the end.











All in all it was a beautiful week with friends and a great opportunity to explore a small corner of Guatemala. We hope to be back soon!







Something To Say


I haven’t written anything in a long time, other than a few letters to friends, and I despair slightly at my lacking correspondence because I can do better.

My lapse in creative writing could be put down to a new job, new town, new flat, “new chapter”…all excusable reasons not to write as much as they are possible experiences for which reflections and musings could flourish. Nevertheless, despite the intention to establish a “work life balance”, a feat which I have achieved to some extent, creative expression has been limited to lesson planning, setting up and reshuffling a classroom, and that one workshop I went to last month.

My dear Suzy has been writing with such a voracity and inspired fervour that on reading I came to the realisation that I had to take a step back from the “9-5” and take a leaf out of my little global adventurers book; I am starting to put pen to paper again!

I’ve dug out my notebook, filling up since we started this shared blog with sparks of ideas and opening sentences of stories which were left unfinished and as yet unpublished. Reading back over the pages, I can hear my voice in the words written down and I can feel to some extent the memory of the feelings I was trying to get across; confusion, admiration, love and friendship. But where to begin today? What do I want to write about/what do I actually feel like writing about?

Since this is a blog that I share with my great friend Suzy, it seems wise to think about what I want to tell Suzy. In the past, in fact occasionally even still, I would pour my heart out in a long-winded stream of consciousness scrawled on paper and send it off to Switzerland stamped and addressed, leaving me to patiently wait the response. Every thought that came to mind, stories about people I knew and what we were all up to, peppered with all manner of “girl talk” in the mix to make it interesting. So, I guess I could start by saying something suitable dramatic and loaded with gossip and intrigue:

Well Suzy, I’ve met someone new…

They say that when you’re not expecting it, that’s when it happens. I’ve always been sceptical of this phrase, it seems too neat and glib, and I still remain unconvinced by most sayings that start with “they say that…” But anyway, yeh, I’ve met someone when I was just out and about living life. I went to a gig with a friend, and danced, and met their friend and we got along pretty well. Simple as that, it was easy, relaxed and fun; there wasn’t lightning bolts and nervous chatter (much) but we have common interests and plenty to say. 

It might come to nothing, a few dates and shared moments, back and forth text messages before one or the other of us fades and it comes to a natural end before it’s really begun. But that isn’t the attitude now is it? I should just feel the feelings, delight in the possibility of romance and enjoy the opportunities for these exciting possibilities to playout. That’s the way to do it, be optimistic and pull down the little bricks we build up around ourselves when life nudges us a little in the ribs; go with it, and let the good times roll in. Why not eh? It might even get beyond the first date, a fabulous one at that, and then where will we be?

If this were a handwritten letter to Suzy, I would go into every detail of the meeting…who said what…the what, where, when of the date etc. However, this is not a handwritten letter sent from one friend to another, and there are plenty things that should be kept between friends and not shared on the internet.