I followed Zadie Smith’s advice on editing, which is if possible leave your finished book for a year, if you can’t do that then leave it for three months, then when you go back you will be able to see what needs doing and be able to be ‘its reader instead of its writer.’
A writer who has stopped writing can be a a funny creature. Writing gives me a sense of purpose, occupies my thoughts and is my support system. I found it weird at first, although I did enjoy the typing break. The last couple of weeks I nearly cracked and started early, but I resisted and by the time the day came, I had totally got into not doing it and it was actually hard to get started again.
It’s similar to how I feel under the current circumstances. At first I was restless all the time, talking about when we would be able to get back to Cambodia or India. Now I have accepted that we won’t be going there until next winter. We have both booked the first two weeks of May off work to go on a two week boat trip though. We live on a narrowboat, and so have a holiday right there, but haven’t as yet done a long trip or more than one night away at a time.
This three months of not writing coincided with November lockdown and the post Christmas restrictions which are still in place here in the UK. It’s really been a lesson in living day to day and accepting things as they are, whilst being totally present as my head hasn’t been in my book. I’ve really appreciated and enjoyed things such as a takeaway coffee from the supermarket when we’re out shopping and getting essential supplies once a week, and the excitement of the fuel boat coming to deliver logs, Calor gas (propane) and kindling.
This being the UK, weather has been very changeable, we’ve had thick ice on the canal, we’ve had lots of rain, and a few days ago we had lovely thick snow for the first time in a while!
I’ve been getting really into cooking; I’ve never been confident that I really know what I’m doing with spices but recently I’ve been following lots of cooking accounts and copying some recipes from Instagram which have turned out really nice, then I’ve used them as a springboard to make my own versions.
It’s really been nice to add some more variety, courtesy of Livity Plant Based Cuisine and Vegan Food and Places, both on Instagram.
Talking of which, for writing, cats, food and every day life, follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill
For beautiful photographs of our travels follow my husband travelswithanthony
I’ll leave you with this quote from the film Down to Earth, which was recommended to me by my friend Karen:
‘How we live every day is a ceremony.’
Thank you very much for reading
About the author
In 2018 in our forties and fifties my husband and I sold up, gave away most of our possessions, and went travelling for a year, mainly in India, and also to Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. My personal/spiritual/travel memoir of the year is currently being edited a bit more before I resend it to agents. I wrote everything down and made it a bit too long! I live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK with my husband and two cats.
This morning John got up before me and fed the cats and lit the fire and made me a cup of tea, having first gone outside into the engine room to get another box of cat food,* and to the store bin outside to get kindling whilst I dozed in bed. As well as our new-to-us sofa- which even reclines!- we have at last bought a comfortable mattress, having been using a futon mattress ever since we moved onto the boat. After a year of the mattresses of low-budget accommodation of India and Southeast Asia it actually felt comfortable but over recent weeks it has become unbearable. This one is a Silentnight with integral topper, firm yet comfortable, and only slightly hangs off the edge- its 4’ a small double but too thick to fit under the lip in the wall like the futon did, bought from Gumtree for £50, second hand but apparently new. John says this might give him a few more good years!
I got up and we wrote out Christmas cards- just a few to elderly relatives and the kids- and walked to the village shop to post them. John filled up the water while I washed the dishes using the ‘emergency’ five litre bottle we keep in the kitchen. Then he went to work for a late shift- 2pm-10pm- and I did the washing in the twin tub and lit the fire, and settled down to write this. My plan for the rest of the afternoon/evening is to eat Marmite on toast, watch Ashes to Ashes (Season 2-3), eat stollen, perhaps cook something,** and watch more Ashes to Ashes.
I’ve been working hard on reaching an accommodation and acceptance of my current circumstances- I know this is ridiculous, since I live a life that so many people would dream of, but it’s part of my makeup to be striving, pushing; pushing against my natural state of melancholy. Looking to the future and the next big thing, or hoping that one day it will all work out. I’ll get a publishing deal, come into money when all along my life is as it is and I’m missing the moment. Being so focussed on creativity can be just another way to push away the present moment rather than accepting it and then hopefully enjoying its richness. Also from a practical point of view I get a lot of RSI so it’s really good for me to have a typing break when I can.
So I guess this is a kind of gratitude list: my husband John, my anchor and my guide.
There’s so much to be grateful for in terms of us sharing the same outlook that I forget that so many people can’t even find (as they are so rare) a vegan boyfriend or husband. I wouldn’t dream of being with someone who wasn’t vegan, and bearing in mind we only know about three vegans I’d probably be lonely. Above all, I am consistently accepted for and as myself, with absolutely no expectation or pressure to be anything but, even though I’m always changing.
My job/financial circumstances. I qualified as an occupational therapist in 2000, naturally rising up to become Head Occupational Therapist at a secure service from October 2010- February 2018. That job was so involved and me being me that by the end I was pretty burned out. We went travelling March 2018- March 2019. March 2019-July 2019 back in the UK and in a state of shock and finding it hard to imagine ever working again. July 2019 we both started working as Bank (meaning you can pick and choose when to work) Health Care Workers. December 2019 I stopped, feeling the work was too physically demanding. I went to India December 2019- February 2020.
On return I took a deep breath and signed up to an agency to get Occupational Therapy work, which involved making an introductory video interview and going for mandatory training. A job would have probably involved full time work and up to an hour’s commute each way. The night before the training I said out loud, ‘I don’t want to do it, somebody please save me!’ An email from the occupational therapist at the place where I’d done the healthcare job came through saying there’s a three day a week occupational therapy job if you are interested. Although it’s a bit out of my comfort zone as it’s not the clinical area that I’m really confident in, it is fifteen minutes up the road, the people are all really nice, and working at a lower level and only three days means I have enough time and energy to try and build an alternative career- ghostwriting and editing via Upwork and of course editing and pitching my own book.
Agency work, either full time or at a higher level, or both, is still an option, and might be a good idea at some point- we could be here in the UK earning as much money as possible for six months, and in Italy/India/Phnom Penh for the other six months. But for now, whilst we 1. Can’t go anywhere and 2. I want to try and build an alternative career, this is ideal. If I did a job like I did before, with a commute, all my energy would be taken with that. Plus I am a real homebody, and rather lazy, and enjoy nothing more than sleeping in and hanging about on the boat with the cats and the swans.
I’m getting the Corona vaccine tomorrow – as a worker in a care home I am in the first batch, everyone at my work got a link sent to us through which we can book in at the local hospital. So that’s our fun activity for our date day- Fridays are the day John and I always have off together. In January we’re getting eyetests! (not been done since just before we went travelling- I still have my reading glasses and their bright pink/orange case which went everywhere and never got lost, its catch long broken but held closed with a hair elastic…) And I’ve got a £25 M&S voucher from work as a Christmas present as well so I could also go and spend that on yummy Christmas food. Or perhaps a dressing gown. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that truly, my cup runneth over.***
Modest/tentative plans for next year
Focus on eBay and selling the India stuff we bought in Pushkar- a narrowboat really isn’t big enough for a business involving stock!
Go to Italy to check out property- still thinking about it
Go off for a week on the boat- we have people’s dream holiday beneath our feet yet don’t really use it
Phnom Penh, Cambodia and/or India, are still hoped for for winter ‘21-‘22 but of course who knows?
Go cold turkey on Waitrose Essential Mince Pies and Aldi Holly Lane Marzipan Stollen (both #accidentallyvegan) I haven’t had a drink since August but I have bought Vegan Baileys (from Waitrose), Champagne (from Aldi), Gin and Tonic ready mixed in cans (from Aldi) and Fosters lager for Christmas Day and Boxing Day so will be probably ceasing all that in January too
*The cats have decided that the only food they really like is one particular flavour only of Morrison’s own brand, which involves a special trip to Northampton a half hour away.
**I never did, I just had a bowl of muesli
*** I’d nearly finished when a knocking/tapping sound on the window alerted me to the swans outside wanting food. I rest my case.
Sending you all warmest wishes and lots of love
Thank you for being here
follow us on Instagram
Me, crap photos but real everyday life: thisisrachelhill
John, good photos of boat life and our travels: travelswithanthony
We are three weeks in to a month long lockdown here in England, with rumours it might go on for longer, and that we may be given five days to socialise over Christmas which would need to be offset by twenty-five days of lockdown in January. I sympathise with anyone who has strong feelings about it. For me personally, I’m pretty easy going about it. We have planned to go to my mum’s for Christmas Day and then stay at my husband’s mum’s for a few days. However, even if restrictions are lifted over Christmas, I will say to my mum that if she prefers us not to come, and to spend Christmas with a less risky friend, rather than my husband and I who both work in care homes, that is fine. In that case we would offer to work an early shift at work to allow people with kids to have some of the day off. I don’t really mind about being locked down for January either.
That said, I have felt very restless, particularly at the beginning of this lockdown, and am now treating it as an opportunity, or a lesson, in practicing patience and being here now. In fact ever since we’ve come back from our travels I’ve been thinking about going somewhere else. As my husband said, maybe what we need to do is just accept where we are and learn to enjoy that, before anything else will become possible.
Living on the boat in Autumn is good for that; the bright fresh walks in the countryside, the cosy feeling of the wood burner, the store of logs and kindling and spare gas bottle just delivered by the fuel boat yesterday. We’ve maintained most of our healthy living programme from September. I made someone laugh at work the other day when I said that the worst thing I’d done since August was eat two packets of crisps (potato chips.) Cooking from scratch is another great way to appreciate the moment and feel grounded.
My book: I submitted my book to five agents, which I found using Jericho Writer’s agent match search facility. I had some interest from one, a rejection from another, and am still waiting to hear from the others. According to this great article by Zadie Smith, in an ideal world you’d put aside your book for a year, if not, three months, before editing. My plan is to resist any urge to do anything until 23rd January or afterwards. That will be three months since I last looked at my book. Then I will edit again and get the word count down- it’s too long and that may be off putting, and after leaving it I will hopefully see where it can be cut and see things which need doing much more easily.
Upwork: I’ve begun a foray into writing for money. Upwork is very easy to get set up on, and scrolling through the constantly updating jobs is at least as fun as scrolling through Google news or Instagram. The variety is fun- one person wants articles about ferrets, from people with some knowledge of them. Unfortunately my experience is very limited, I once saw a man walking a ferret on a train, John used to talk about wanting one on his boat, and we both once saw a man in Ramsgate walking two ferrets on a lead.
My first job was ghostwriting/editing a young American man’s very exciting travel story. It was fun and I was able to do it well. I’m currently pitching for a few more. A lot of the jobs are very low paid/are suitable only for professional copywriters who can write a 500-600 article start to finish in half an hour, but there is a huge variety. It takes time to build a profile, get reviews and be able to pitch for the better paid jobs. And by pitch- I just send them a nice friendly message, although forums abound on putting snazzy proposals together. Clients range from companies churning out content, to individuals writing their memoirs. I recommend it!
Netflix: The Queen’s Gambit, Baby (Italian with subtitles, in my learning Italian phase) Plus loads of old films my husband has found on YouTube, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Dead on Arrival, Charade
About the author
In 2018 in our forties and fifties my husband and I sold up, gave away most of our possessions, and went travelling for a year, mainly in India, and also to Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. My personal/spiritual/travel memoir of the year is completed and out with agents. I live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire UK with my husband and two cats.
The wood burner is going- it’s not that cold, I’m sure when I eventually go out for a walk and get it together to fill up the water tank, it will be okay with a nice warm coat on- but sitting writing it feels a bit chilly.
#NoSextember Year Two (where my husband and I have a month of clean living including no sex) This was completed with no breaches; it was a lot easier having done it last year. This time we approached it more confidently and with more seriousness and it seemed to go better. That said, it wasn’t always easy. Week one we were both suffering from one last blow out in August. Week two we both seemed a little cranky with each other. That can be difficult when you can’t just make up with sex or flirting, or cheer yourself up with chocolate or a drink. The second half seemed better, and even more productive. I got my book done, and even booked a day off work in early October to make sure it got sent off (I think that’s called ‘honouring my craft’)
My husband has been working on planning our new website: Further. As with all things tech related, this has been slower than we anticipated. However, we now have a new laptop, lots of ideas and my son on board to help with the technical side.
We are both increasingly distant from- and often dismayed by- the polarisation which people seem so involved with at the moment- people we know with otherwise quite lovely lives, who could be really happy, full of hate for politicians on the opposite side or lost in particular conspiracy theories and calling everyone else ‘sheeple’ and falling out with friends on social media about whether or not to wear a mask.
Further will be a place for anyone who feels similarly to us, who is able to look at it all without getting completely caught up in it, who values human connection and kindness over ideology. Best summed up by Rumi’s famous quote: ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ ‘Seeing beyond boundaries and meeting heart to heart’
We’ve also found the ideal underpinning philosophy, to the Further site and to our lives: The teachings of Epicurus. In a stunning example of synchronicity, as we were discussing this, a boat went past called The Epicurean! Nowadays the term is used to describe a ‘foodie’ someone who enjoys good food and wine. But Epicurus himself lived on bread, olives and the occasional slice of cheese. He devoted himself to the search for what makes people happy, and his conclusion was, a simple life with few possessions, shared with friends, while also having plenty of time for alone time and quiet reflection, and really appreciating what you actually have.
As the videos explain, it can be used nowadays as an antidote to the relentless dissatisfaction human beings naturally seem to have (the craving, addressed in Buddhism) which is mercilessly exploited by advertising, marketing, and the forces of capitalism. People always want more, but material things don’t give you happiness.
So naturally I have abandoned my longing for a stone cottage in Yorkshire and have moved onto a house in Italy whereby to create an Epicurean community- we live there, and people on the same path/with the same outlook come and stay.
About the author
In 2018 in our forties and fifties my husband and I sold up, gave away most of our possessions, and went travelling for a year, mainly in India, and also to Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam. My personal/spiritual/travel memoir of the year is completed and out with agents. I live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire UK with my husband and two cats.
I’m sharing here my recently submitted cover/query letter, my synopsis, and my chapter breakdown. Even though producing the actual book is the hardest bit, a lot of writers, me included, baulk at the thought of doing all the bits and pieces around the submission. Maybe having a look at some examples might help those in a similar position.
My main advice for writing a book (and for life) ‘You’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to make it good.’
Good luck to anyone who is in the middle of any kind of creative endeavour
Thank you for visiting
I attach a synopsis and the first three chapters of my book I fell in love with you and I cried, a spiritual, personal and travel memoir of a year in India and South East Asia. Word count 147,500
(Something about why you chose them in particular ‘I see from your profile that you are looking for…. and that you enjoy food writing)
I fell in love with you and I cried relays my journey from deciding to pack up my three bedroom home and career at the age of forty-eight to embark on a year of travelling and writing. It details my outer and inner journey as I find myself in foreign lands, with time and perspective to reflect on my life up to now and to come.
I have a long running personal blog on WordPress thisisrachelann.wordpress.com with readers who are supportive of me personally and have followed my travel journey with great interest, commenting that my travel writing makes them feel as if they are there too, admiring my honest vulnerability, and enjoying the descriptions of different foods.
I have been a dedicated writer for years, attending creative writing classes, self publishing small books and am a published writer of short stories of women’s erotica under the pen name Sadie Wolf.
I feel my book will appeal to people who enjoyed All the Way to the Tigers by Mary Morris, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.
I live on a narrowboat on the Grand Union Canal, an hour and a half from London which I visit regularly.
Thank you very much for your time
I fell in love with you and I cried
In April 2017 my husband and I asked ourselves, what would we do if we could do anything? It was scary but we decided to sell up, leave our jobs and go travelling, along the way unpicking the conditioning of property, career and security and exploring what a life with less stuff would look like. We gave away most of our possessions and in March 2018 we went travelling for a year to India (where we spent seven months in all), Thailand, Tokyo, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam.
My book documents the trip through the eyes of a relatively inexperienced traveller. The sights, sounds and colours of India and South East Asia, the physical and emotional ups and downs, my anxieties and my increasing confidence. I share the personal challenges, discussions, reflections and spiritual realisations of a year of travel and a mid life rebirth.
I write openly and honestly about the experience of being completely out of my comfort zone and then finding security living out of a small back pack and staying in forty different places. I describe the sensory and spiritual overload of India, the feeling of freedom in India to be oneself and the friends and connections we made.
At the same time, I describe my inner journey. Ever since I was eighteen my life had revolved around my son. I also had a mother with very strong opinions and I found it difficult to fully live my own life outside of her shadow. I had also struggled with suicidal feelings on and off since I was a teenager. The trip was me doing something completely for myself.
Towards the end of the trip, events with my son brought me back to the most difficult periods of his teenage years. More than a decade later, on the trip of a lifetime, I was forced to relive and confront my worst moments of pain, shame, guilt and regret; to return to that place which I had never really left, and find a way to accept it and move on.
My journey is about self acceptance and finding a way to forgive myself. It’s also about reclaiming the life I wanted before it’s too late and about trying and learning to be happy.
I fell in love with you and I cried
Chapter breakdown with word count
Chapter One Following the White Rabbit Harleston UK, Delhi- Goa India 10,000
Arriving in India, first impressions, culture shock, getting sick. Also the journey of dismantling our home and lives in the months prior to the trip.
Chapter Two Happy Hippies Hampi- Goa India 10,000
The sweet sensory overload and spirituality of Hampi, the moment I fell in love with India. Self esteem wobbles, and finding myself as a writer in Goa.
Chapter Three I stand by myself and I am not afraid Kerala India 10,000
A serendipitous meeting on a rooftop at Osho’s guesthouse in Varkala led to an evening of connection with others on the same path, discussing spirituality and our life purpose.
Chapter Four The Rains Kerala India 12,000
The monsoon. A big spider and a mental health wobble.
Chapter Five I fell in love with you and I cried Kochi- Chennai- Pondicherry India 14,000
Staying at the famous amongst backpackers Broadlands Guesthouse in Chennai, visiting a temple with our Indian friend for an unforgettable evening of spiritual bliss.
Chapter Six Yes to Everything Thailand 10,000
A necessary visa and R&R break from India, meeting a friend and my step daughter. ‘You can have a spiritual moment even in a party place,’ a friend said later.
Chapter Seven Not all those who wander are lost Tokyo 9,000
I went to Tokyo alone for two weeks to meet a friend and fellow blogger and writer I had met on WordPress. Descriptions of Tokyo and discussions about writing and the big questions of life.
Chapter Eight Mountains are meant to be quiet Kolkata- Varanasi- Delhi India 11,000
Being overwhelmed in Kolkata, plus train journeys, sickness and doubt in a hotel room in Delhi and the intense spirituality of Varanasi on the Ganga.
Chapter Nine Sab Kuch Milega Pushkar India 14,000
Spiritual reflections, life discussions and self acceptance in Pushkar, which along with Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India. Stories of other travellers we met; ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In the UK, my son had most of his teeth removed, after years of neglect due to him suffering from anxiety. I stayed up talking to my husband half the night, trying process and accept the mistakes of the past.
Chapter Ten Every day beautiful, Everyday shit Kathmandu- Nagarkot Nepal- Kerala India 9,000
Meeting and connecting with fellow travellers. Meditation. Low mood and toilet troubles. A trip into the mountains and a view of the Himalayas. Discussions on life and spirituality with the beautifully named Oasis, manager of the Hotel at the End of the Universe. Returning to Varkala in Kerala to press pause and reflect on what we’d done, what it meant, and how we were going to approach the future.
Chapter Eleven So many things to Love Bangalore- Hampi- Bangalore India 9,000
Returning to Hampi, one of our favourite places, for Christmas. Soaking up the beauty of the temples, the scenery, the monkeys, cows, the food and the people.
Chapter Twelve A string of epiphanies Phnom Penh- Koh Rong- Otres Village- Siem Reap Cambodia 10,000
After India, the fun relaxation of the city, then the paradise beach of Koh Rong, meeting a fellow traveller in Otres Village. Whilst I was on a paradise beach, my son did a television interview in the UK about his side of his teenage years, which was personally devastating, dragging me back through the years to one of the worst periods of my life.
Descriptions of Vietnam, interspersed with anxiety; my husband got very ill in Hanoi and did not fully recover until we were in Hue.
Chapter Fourteen Lord give me a song that I can sing Nha Trang- DaLat- Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam 10,000
Whilst we were in the modern Russian holiday resort of Nha Trang, another interview by my son in the UK brought me to the depths of suicidal despair. In DaLat, saved from bombing in the war by both sides, I experienced a spiritual high. In Ho Chi Minh City, spelling out my dreams for the future- to write and to travel- realising at last that I am responsible for my own happiness.
The Guru I followed for a few months a few years back told us that ‘all chakras have been removed,’ which I went along with, even though going over people’s chakras, including my own, was one of my own personal favourite ways of giving healing. After almost losing my mind for a few moments over her predicted zombie apocalypse (probably best not to ask) and my husband unsubscribing from the channel- I have since come to think, well, maybe I could go back to thinking about chakras now and again. I mean it’s not like anyone can really prove whether they exist or not and if I think they’re helpful then they are. Giving love to me or others by thinking about specific areas of the body in specific ways even if all in my imagination, what’s the harm?*
So I just had a rather wild weekend, and spent the following week limping along in a queasy state of ravenous gnawing hunger and not feeling at all like myself (zombie apocalypse anyone?) My husband was off too, and we binge watched Indian Matchmakers on Netflix- the only thing we felt able to watch. I got tearful seeing Indian cities and streets and hearing the Astrologer speak about Vyasar ‘He makes everyone laugh, even a crying person is laughing… He feels no shame even when sweeping the floor. He has a golden heart.’ Single ladies, I understand Vyasar is on Twitter.
Towards the end of the week, I restarted a bit of yoga, even though I felt sick bending over, and the day before my husband went back to work we went shopping, to the launderette and for a walk.
But it wasn’t until I was on my own this (Saturday) morning, for the first of three days in a row of time on my own to write, that I was able to bring my own unique understanding to my situation. During party times rules get a bit slack, and a cat sneaked onto the bed before my husband went to work. Then another one.
I’d been ‘going through my chakras’ and been alarmed to find nothing there at my solar plexus, like all my emotions had just been hollowed out. At my sacral chakra an orange shape flipped like the tail of a dying fish or a boat propeller clogged up with weeds. Too much emphasis on pleasure drives, maybe? Onwards #NoSextember! And as for my root chakra- the red seat of all security- I’d spent one afternoon in a frenzy of thinking of buying to let or even just buying and living- I even found a job there- falling in love with solidly built old dear little one bedroom stone cottages in Yorkshire. ‘For security!’ I said.
I am an overthinker, comes free with the imagination, and I’d been debating to myself even as I was doing it about the whole chakra thing, should I be doing it, do they exist, etc etc, when I remembered that at some point over the weekend I had done a healing session for the first time in ages. No boundaries, no protection, and not with a clear head. I focused on areas the person had mentioned, but otherwise announced them to have nothing wrong with them, ‘Everything seems to be whirling away beautifully!’ In popular imagination, chakras are often visualised like little coloured windmills, whirring away if they are healthy. Or vortexes of light, if that’s more your thing. *Ahh, maybe I just gave away all my energy, I thought. That explains a lot.
But maybe, as Alfie the cat gently batted my face so that I lifted up the duvet and let him into the bed, to lay stretched out all along my belly and chakras, all I need to do is cuddle a cat. Our cats don’t have toddlers pulling them about or anything, so they lead life largely on their own terms and remain as I see them perfectly balanced and enlightened in their own way. Therefore, they may come to me for warmth and find it no trouble to rebalance my energies at the same time. As they snuggle in to get warm and settle down for a nap, they may feel a slight whirring or sicky feeling coming off me as I am rebalanced by their calm presence, but they are so calm that it’s not enough to upset their equilibrium, or at least, it’s a fair trade. And all I have to do is cuddle a cat and go back to sleep for a bit longer…
I did get back to editing yesterday- Friday, a sickly lacklustre session but a session nonetheless, and now today- Saturday begins three days of editing work before I go back to paid work on Tuesday. Maybe I’ll even send something off?
As well as finishing the book, the other thing is to get back to India asap. My aim is for us to go December-March, if the borders open to tourists then of course. I need 1. someone to take in the cats and look after them at their house or 2. someone to live on the boat and take care of the cats on there. Your chakras will be in tip top condition!
Join me if you like for a September of detox, healthy food and frequency raising! See earlier post
Photo of me from a couple of weeks ago
Since I last posted I have discovered bright colours! (Thank you to Julie for my beautiful birthday top!)
Turns out, editing is harder than I thought, total focus is required, hence my absence. Plus in March I started work, part time, at a lower level but back to Occupational Therapy. Stepping down, and into a new clinical area, albeit just up the road and with a lovely team, is actually harder than I thought. I’m even wondering about stepping up again into a senior role and back into a more-hardcore-yet-familiar clinical setting.
As far as the book goes, there’s only so much writing I can do without my hand, wrist, arm and shoulder hurting. So there’s that. One or two evenings after work I do an hour or so, then on my days off I do around two hours. John my husband works 3-4 days per week in a shift pattern, giving us every Friday together and every other weekend, and time alone on the boat for each of us.
Book update: I’m giving myself a long weekend off, which feels like coming up for air, between the last pass through and the next, which will be editorial advice, mainly cutting here and there and working on strengthening the endings of each chapter, and adding a little personal background as needed.
I’ve been helping a friend with some editing and as I had hoped, have discovered a talent for this. I am very gentle, supportive and responsive and I have a sharp critical eye I can access to help you. If you want help I am available for editing work, use the contact box and I’ll get straight back to you.
More big news: We are in the process of putting a website together to collate all the information and knowledge we have about the nature of reality, the conditioning we are all a victim of etc etc; an online community for exchanging ideas and asking questions about our own experiences… Watch this space, as they say!
The cats came back at the start of lockdown!
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill (mainly writing stuff and photos of everyday boat life)
Named after the really great book by Stephen King On Writing (I can’t actually read any of his books because I don’t like reading anything scary, but I love this book about the writing process.
The last time my mood got really low was during a period of stress at work, a minor distance from my husband, and loneliness in my female friendships. On top of that, I had stopped writing. At the time, I didn’t care, I didn’t even put it down as a hobby when I filled out an application form. Instead I put singing!* I spent the day alone watching Boyhood(real time film about families and growing up that shows just how fast it all goes). It showed the good bits and the mistakes and got me thinking of all the things I could have done differently. I called a few friends, they were all busy or unavailable. I panicked: should I go back to counselling? Was I depressed? Or was I, as I suddenly realised, just a writer who had stopped writing? My fingers tingled, and I began to write…
*I moved and had to find a new yoga class. The yoga teacher introduced me to someone who lived in my new town. That person invited me to join a pop up singing group. I was blissed out after yoga and agreed. I thought maybe it was about me getting rid of my inhibitions. It did do that, but it led onto something much more important. The singing group woman also invited me to a book club and gave me the names of the two books they were reading. I went to the library, it was closed, I went to the book shop, it only had one of the two books in- Orlando. I made my excuses about the book club but I read Orlando. It was better, much better for me than the singing; seeming to unlock my writing, focus and structure, and if I had to pay my dues in advance by wearing a silly hat and singing out of tune in public then it was a fair price.
The fact that I got so low over a film shows how fragile my state of being was and how sensitive I was that a film could put me in that place, and how this new found neutrality is quite literally a life saver, that now I can run over a baby rabbit on the way to work and barely give it a second thought.**
**If you are like I was, and find even reading that upsetting, let me ease you by saying: It ran out in front of me as I was driving along a main road, hurtling across the middle. I put on my brakes- I didn’t slam them, but nor did I check in my rear view mirror either, so that evens out the me-rabbit balance, but I felt it go under the front driver wheel. I wondered afterwards, would it have been better not to have braked? If I had been going slightly faster, would I have gone past it, or at least would the front wheels have gone past it? An old boyfriend of mine told me that animals have better instincts than us and it is best not to brake as they will have judged it. So are all the dead animals and birds at the side of the roads not as I always thought, due to people driving too fast, or animals and birds walking, running or flying unavoidably out in front of you, but are actually the result of caring drivers slamming on their brakes? Probably not. I think he was mainly referring to deer, as he had hit one a few years previously, driving through Thetford Forest. It had run out, no way to stop it. He said they made eye contact as it hit the windscreen. That was my Vietnam, he used to say. I don’t know if baby rabbits are as capable as grown deer of judging speeds and distances of traffic on main roads. Apparently they don’t even know what to eat, they just eat anything and everything and it’s just luck or trial and error if they survive. So it’s not that I didn’t give running over a baby rabbit a second thought, it’s just that I decided not to get upset about it.
Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe I had a lot more agency that I have previously admitted: because to be honest, a bit of me had realised, realised even at the time, that I did. I knew I was different, and even in the midst of being humiliated by their I-bet-you-get-all-your-clothes-from-jumble-sales taunts, I felt superior. I made no effort to fit in. I remember that time as friendless, and yet it turns out I did have a friend after all: Miranda, who also went on to become a healer and a yoga person. I met her again recently at a yoga class, she recognised me and said we used to sit beside the tennis courts and talk, and when we went up to high school and I went to boarding school she was devastated. ‘I didn’t think I had any friends,’ I said. ‘Well you did,’ she said, ‘You had me.’
And then I remembered that at junior school I used to stay in at break times with a boy called Keith and work on our stories that we’d been doing in class because we didn’t want to stop writing. I used to choose to stay indoors and write, instead of going out to play. So nothing’s changed then, in forty years.
I lived through all that, experienced it all and so I can travel back there to that 1970’s school play ground and take a fresh look. No time machine required, because my body was there, wasn’t it? Its imprints are in my body, passed from cell to cell like batons in a relay race.
And later, now I return to my past, to myself with illumination
I sometimes wonder if we as we are now make up our pasts- because they don’t really exist do they, except in our minds. Why is it that we talk about them? To make ourselves seem more substantial? Like John telling people he’s been to India, or me telling people I’ve lived in New Zealand for a year- except last time I met new people I didn’t and just presented myself as I am right now. As my friend Jane said, it is feelings and how you are that are important.
Wouldn’t we look at ourselves as we are now and make up our pasts exactly as they are? Me with the Albion Fayres, John with the hard drinking family that made him teetotal and the craziness that made him such a survivor. Do we look at what we are now and make up a back story that explains it, that offers us an explanation? (Me: Sexual appetite and promiscuity= sexual abuse. Social awkwardness= bullied at school)
What if you were brave enough to offer yourself up (to others and to yourself) without explanation or apology? What if you were brave enough to live with yourself as you are now- no back story, no past, just living right now in this now moment, this now place?
Sitting outside after work or on days off the canal has been busy with ducks, ducklings, a moorhen and swans and new babies, way, way better than tv! I am working three days a week, my husband three or four days per week, as we both work in care. There have been some adjustments to working practices but I’ve really enjoyed the way people at work have come together.
There are a lot more walkers, cyclists and joggers both on the towpath on the opposite side of the canal, and also on ‘my’ walk. Living quietly on a narrowboat our day to day lives haven’t really changed, it’s the monthly social/family trips to London and overnights with family in Norfolk which have stopped, although we’ve been to Norfolk to get prescriptions and seen my mum in her garden, wearing masks and keeping a distance.
We do not watch tv and I limit the amount of news media or commentary I absorb. I have taken a light interest in and listened to anyone I know sharing conspiracy theories but I avoid totally believing in anything that will scare me (whether conspiracy or on the ordinary news.) Aside from a few moments right at the start neither of us have felt anxious. I could be accused of being a Pollyanna or an ostrich but that is the same as usual.
I was interested to hear some of the news from the US, parts of mainland Europe and Ireland, about protests against the lockdown. And also news about how countries such as Sweden and The Netherlands have done things differently. In the UK we have seen very little in the way of protests. I sometimes question if it is really as bad as we are being told and is the lockdown proportionate, but I do go along with it all because I don’t think we’ll know until afterwards, and maybe not even then.
I like that care workers and supermarket staff are being valued. I am not a fan of the patriotic sentimentality of the clapping, although I go along with doing it, or the fact that some people on Facebook shamed someone for not joining in! This duality, the good (appreciating the NHS) and the bad (shaming people publicly) of people, is the same as always.
Extroverts in the UK are having Skype dinner parties and nights watching live lockdown performances etc. For us, a few extra phone calls made and received, that’s it. But then we are both still seeing lots of people at work, living together, in an idyllic setting, with a place to walk on site and a footpath right across the road. I feel for those in cities and in flats with no gardens, and those who live alone. I think it’s harsh not to be able to meet a friend at a distance.
Duality again, a sense of us being one world, vs casual racism, which I have been disappointed to hear. I have enjoyed reading blogs from Japan, Cambodia and India. WordPress is great for connecting all of us.
The newspapers report daily deaths and pay tribute to individuals who have died of Corona, which is nice in one way, although it induces a lot of fear, but what about all the other people who have died and will continue to die, of suicide, road deaths, and cancer?
Already people are noting the costs of the UK lockdown: a doubling in domestic violence killings; several instances of whole families being killed in murder-suicides due to worries about money as a result of the lockdown; people suffering and even dying due to all non urgent appointments and surgeries being cancelled; a rise in suicides as people are isolated and mental health support systems taken away; and children at risk or just really missing their friends and extended family.
There has been some confusion amongst both the general public and different police forces about what things are actually part of the new Coronovirus law and what are just things the Prime Minister has said in briefings. Me too so I won’t go into too much detail but for example according to the law we shouldn’t be out without ‘reasonable excuse,’ eg food and essentials shopping, caring for relatives etc, exercise, going to work if you can’t work from home. Non essential shops closed, although some more shops are beginning to re open. As my husband said, the list of what is essential begins to expand as time goes on eg items for repair around the home etc, rather than just food and medicines.
Police forces have differed in their approach. One police chief said the powers they have been given are normally only seen in a dictatorship, and that they were mindful to police by consent and that particular force had only issued one fine at that time. Other police forces have been much more heavy handed, threatening to search people’s shopping trolleys for non essential items such as Easter Eggs; The Government had to step in and say that if a shop is open you can buy anything in it. One police chief said a few days ago that some of the rules don’t make sense to police let alone the public, such as, why can’t people sunbathe in a park at a safe distance but they can queue for an hour outside DIY stores?
Some local councils shut parks, later the government told them they had to open them, but I don’t know if they all did. Some benches in parks had tape over them for people not to sit down, what about old people who need a rest when out for a walk?
Most people myself included shop for necessaries and then add the non essentials with them (for us, some chocolate or alcohol on top of necessary food items.) Shops limit the number of customers and often have queues outside with people spaced out. I have made one trip to Superdrug and bought things I needed such as moisturiser and some nice things such as face packs. I really enjoyed that nice, quiet shopping session, and I was glad to support them as they are treating their staff well and also have lots of vegan items.
I’ve managed to get some potting compost and some onions, bought at the same time as buying logs, and have planted one lot which are coming up, the second lot had to wait until I was able to get another bag of compost.
There are new, adorable Easter card worthy lambs in the field right by us. Last year I struggled with this, knowing what lay ahead for them. This year I seem to have managed to switch off more. This week we have both struggled with watching wild birds trapped in cages; the sheep man traps crows and magpies and kills them later. We have checked and he is allowed to do it so there’s nothing else we can do. We considered leaving but have decided to stay. He’s moved the cages slightly so they are not right by where we sit. I cope by reminding myself this type of horror is everywhere, we just don’t always see it. Other neighbours are not upset by it but they love the swans and ducks. My mother in law has pet chickens but eats other chickens. But I have not always been vegan, and I use a car and fly, against some people’s ethical code; as my husband said, we’re all of us responsible for everything.
My book is almost all at the stage of being ready to be read, and then it will be a finer edit to do, as well as submitting to agents.
We still hope to go to India a few days after Christmas and return around 18th March. Flights are still cheap and oh so tempting to book as they might go up but we know that would probably be unwise, as India may not let us in, or may not be open, depending on a second wave, etc.
Wherever you are, I hope you are doing okay and I wish you all the best