105 LED fixtures

I’m working from home today. So I wake as usual before six, this time I log in and start work on project admin and contracts and finance.

Two hours later I hear Andrew wake upstairs, he comes down and sets to making coffee. A little after finishing a delicious extraction we gear up in thermals and goretex. We head out for a loop around the back fields. Outside the air is icy. Depending on the direction of the wind, the hills either protect or inundate us.

We walk, we extend further towards the next village.

A regular neighbor passes with his furry companion running free.

The red kites sit in treetops and on the field floor.

We loop back around and head back towards the house. In the back I can hear the gentlemen hard at work. I pass a threshold waiting for a window frame and see Ionut “Salut” I shout and wave. Inside I put the kettle on for a round of four - one with milk and sugar, the other four black.

There are a few more hours left to finish up my schemes for the week. They pass. I have a few calls. Occasionally silence is penetrated with the screech of machinery. Papa Murf pops in and runs through the plan. I print out detailed calendars and we work up a programme of how to cover the next few weeks. As he talks about levels outside with Andrew I receive a message from my father “Are you at home” we’re all connected on Apples Find my Friend, he knows I’m at home just like I know he is. We facetime and run through the work outside. There’s a new hole in the wall between the temporary kitchen and the outdoors. Silviu comes inside and they pull pipework through the walls.

Just before midday I issue next steps to a team I’m working with. Then, Papa Murf heads home and we pile into the car to head out for lunch at our neighbour and dear friends cafe.

We’ve texted the orders in advance and they’re plating up as we enter. What absolute gems. The coffee is delicious. The men have big breakfasts, I have beans and hashbrowns.

Over lunch we chat constantly. Silviu is such a great chap and I’ll miss our existential chats when he’s finished the work. The afternoon passes. Andrew and I pop out to look at electrical components and get an estimate for approximately 105LED ceiling fixtures (tiltable and visual temperature controlled). Then we head into a kitchen store. We have our kitchen layout, we know what we want, but we' check out their products and ask a load of questions about some of their products. In the end we leave with a catalog and business card.

Leaving the town Andrew says that he wants to pop to the supermarket, but then deivates from the route to the normal supermarket that we use and have a bank account with to collect points from food and fuel - so far I’m halfway towards a long haul flight.

Anyway, inside the store I grab two large bags of wonky avocados. We pick up an armful of organic cavalo nero and two bags of turmeric root. For about ten minutes we stand in the beer isle "let’s grab some larger” Andrew says, we’re picking up a few to toast the end of the week with the guys. “We should be supporting craft brewers though” I protest, which is completely hypocritical considering only recently I sold my minuscule stake in a global beer company - with a happy profit. We settle on uk brews.

Arriving home it’s just one of them left packing away the site for the evening “beer?” Andrew asks “of course!”. Outside we stand chatting about politics and furniture factories. The sun dips below the horizon and we bid farewell for the day.

Inside, with heating on full to account for the gaping hole in the wall, we curl up and eat bowls of fruit and vegetables and finish watching The Startup on Amazon Prime.

Patricia SnookComment
In the Woods

It’s about eight when I wake.

Andrew is still unwell. He staggers with dizziness as he stands. I rush to both help him, and protect my Arthur Ferrier painting of Horace Roye which swings from side to side on the wall.

Breakfast is coffee and a bowl of chopped fruit. I want him to heal and recover, so fruit is in abundance along with tincture cocktails and various herbal brews.

A little after breakfast we agree to try a walk in one of our favorite places. But then, I get distracted by cleaning. We both head upstairs and sort clothes, folding them into little packages Mari Kondo would be elated by. The room is the bathroom, which was our bedroom prior to demolition. Now it’s a bit of a temporary set up with amble storage. After the tidy, it also looks pretty good in there.

We have two large bags to drop at the village charity shop and two for recycling.

After that, I drive through saturday traffic out of town to an ancient woodland. There are a few cars parked when gently bump the car over potholes.

Starting the walk, both pups are on lead. I see a couple with their pup walking towards us. Diligently they see ours on lead, so lead theirs. Sure enough there’s a bit of a barking kerfuffle as we pass. We turn the path to an avenue of huge trees, towering. The pups are unleashed and run with happiness around the trunks. Andrew reaches to hold my hand, he’s unsteady and so unwell. I hold his arm and we walk a very short loop slowly.

We follow the track deeper into the woods. My senses prick up. There’s something in there. I scan the forest floor for any movement. It could be a deer, it’s probably a deer, we often see quite a large group in that part of the forest. The feeling of being watched doesn’t shake. As we move between the trees we disturb birds further along, a red kite in a tree infront drops down and soars up. It must be deer, I assure myself, knowing that they can quietly pass without disturbing the birds further on.

As we near a clearing I smell a faint cigarette, it’s not the first time I’ve smelt someone smoking around here. There is a huge estate property half a kilometer the otherside of the woods. I’ve wondered about it before. This spot is so isolated and very rarely do we pass other walkers on the trails. The only other regular is a Lady and a snappy Rhodesian Ridgeback who live at the sprawling home, but from our chats she doesn’t seem the kind to hide behind tree trunks. I wonder what the story is here, perhaps a day laborer who is homeless, or a poacher, it could very well be a poacher, we’ve had close encounters before with dodgy solo shooters.

I wonder. We get to the car, pop the pups in safely. Andrew gets in, and for good measure, I immediately lock the doors. This area is famous for featuring on Midsommer Murders.

Home, we have lunch, a stir fry.

Then, I get to work reading through contracts with a client and new accountancy. Andrew is tired, he nods off every now and then.

Dinner is mainly mixed vegetables with some jacket and sweet potatoes. I have a catchup call with a business partner as we move things along. I think to myself about entrepreneurial memes and a glam life portrayed online. It’s far from when you’re building your own company. Afterwards I pour a glass of box wine and slice up a papaya. I eat half and leave half on the side in the kitchen. Andrew and I chat. Aura returns from the kitchen with a guilty look. I ask her what she’s done and she totters to her bed with her head hung low. Sure enough, she has scaled the side and helped herself to my papaya, one of lifes greatest luxuries. She has eaten the fruit, the peel and the seeds. She gets a telling off and spends the evening looking sorry for herself in her cave bed.

I have another wine, we’re halfway through Amazon Primes Startup series with Adam Brody. It’s gripping.

Around ten, or eleven, two large glasses of wine down, I shower and we fall asleep.

Patricia SnookComment
Dancing in the Kitchen

The alarm goes off at five and by twenty past I’m out the door clutching a coffee.

Driving I listen to the news, the road is relatively quiet. Traffic and Travel updates interrupt to warn me about delays up ahead. My washer fluid runs out and the screen is dirtying up. I pull into a service station, put makeup on in the car then leave to use the public toilets.

I check my purse, no cards, no bank cards! Mildly I try not to freak out. It dawns on me that there will most definitely be a card in my jacket pocket in the car. Once it’s retrieved I buy five litres of overpriced washer fluid. At the car I know where to find the bonnet latch in the vehicle… but outside is another matter. There’s a group of contractors enjoying a cigarette and coffee just nearby and I know they’re watching. My giant cocktail ring hooks and I gently slip it out and onto my other hand. The latch is there somewhere. Then, I am rescued by a jovial European who asks if I need help, I say yes, he says in an accept “With the Volvos they put the latch all the way here.” I tell him he’s a superstar and wish him a good day. A part of me, the egotistic feminist is disappointed that I needed help.

The office car park is still quiet, I head inside and greet two of my partners and a client. We’re growing and today are interviewing. Everyone else wears suits, I wear high waist jeans and a muscle tshirt under a biker jacket and velvet loafers. I set up at our conference table, sprawling drawings and reports ready to run through and review.

When it’s quiet and just the directors, I’ll fall into a creative or technical rhythm. Sometimes after a deep dive into finances and opportunities, I can find myself sitting cross legged on a desk, or the floor, or the conference table, sometimes chairs, sometimes the kitchen counter. If there’s a deliverable to push out, chances are I’ll be hooded with music. Now though, we’re growing, we’re professional, and I have to adhere to rules of safe chair usage.

I run through the list of calls to be made.

Then I get a message from Jimmy, an old friend and mentor. He’s between jobs, not in an unemployed way, but instead he has completed one contract and given himself a three month break before the next contract. I call him, he’s on a voluntary project in Indonesia, diving down with other divers to clean the coral reefs. We gossip and chat about all important things in life.

Andrew calls, he’s exhausted, unwell and confused.

We have a meeting, I push out some deliverables, a potential employee is interviewed, our accountant drops by with paperwork and to meet with us.

I leave after a twelve hour day. It’s Friday night, I’m headed home, the roads south are quiet.

Entering our home I fall into my husbands arms, tired. He’s tired, he’s unwell. We stand in the kitchen for the longest time, then we dance a little as the food cooks. As we dance slowly the pups run around us. This moment makes the whole day worth it.

Patricia SnookComment

After forcing myself into a Yin Nidra induced sleep, I woke once during the night, forced myself back into a state of sleep, then fell into a few hours of deep dreaming. The kind of dreaming whereby you’re awake through the night, engaged in a very real dream. Telling a client about it later that day I described it as a hybrid mish of Netflix binging on Bird Cage and Murder Mountain – and of course this zombie horror dream commenced in the depths of a toddlers birthday party, as all terrible horror stories do.

Anyway, the alarm woke me mid heist. I could hear the ringing in the other room but it was distant. Eventually I gave in, stumbling across the hall and into the bathroom where my phone lay. I changed into alpine green suit peg legs and a white silk blend trapeze long arm blouse. My green tourmaline cocktail ring matches exact. I layer my jewelry and head downstairs to make coffees. The pups look up from their beds, unaccustomed to such noise at this hour. I let them out into the garden while the V60s extract store bought coffee granules.

We have some breakfast, coffee, watch the news. I don’t want to end my break yet, it’s been such bliss having the extra time, especially to be outdoors.

Ultimately I have to, otherwise traffic will be silly.

As I drive, I keep cruise control on at two miles under the speed limit, this way my tank lasts about 800miles. It’s a test of patience and acceptance, and knowing that through not over revving – speeding – I know that the car is using less fuel and reducing emissions. At this speed it seems noticeable that other cars are also relatively slow. I hypothesise whether it is associated with month 9 of the financial year and the fact that many commuters may be down to 22p per mile after exceeding the threshold. I exceeded mine already in August, only five months into the year.

Arriving at a client office I catch up with familiar faces.

I log in and start working through my lists, while it’s a new calendar year I’m very aware that we’re on the hardest run up now – the last quarter of the financial year. There is a lot to be done with respect to accounts. So I do that for a few hours. Then I do a bit of calling around the project teams on my list of schemes, updating, scheduling progress meetings, prepping for regulator presentations.

An old client and wonderful friend pops by and we’re elated to see one another. His side hustle is house building and he’s an utter gem. We talk about my next steps professionally, there’s a vacancy in their team with my name on it. I would love to deliver work for them, I really would. The work is mainly with third parties and it’s fantastic. I have a lot to think through but right now I can’t part with my current projects – they are ones which appear once every five to ten years. Our mutual friend is battling cancer, he provides an update and we take a somber moment.

I check my calendars and set up to do lists and block out planned leave. So far 20/52 weekends are booked up. I make a note to contact our families about booking weekends away.

Before I know it the sky is dark, I’ve achieved only 2,000 steps yet my body is tired and exhausted.

Driving home the roads are quiet. I ask Siri to shuffle through different songs but nothing really grips me. Instead I turn to the evening news. Home I arrive to a quick dinner Andrew has cooked up – of course it’s fantastic. He talks briefly about bathroom design. I feel disjunct and not really sure of what is being asked. My head is in a different space and I’m tired already of decisions through the day. I sketch up revised bathroom plans after the penny drops. He changes and heads out running with our buddy. I close my laptop and start a yoga flow with the pups at my side.

After an intense core flow I curl up with Aura cuddled in, I scroll through news and much about nothing on my phone then shower.

When Andrew arrives home we talk in the way that all cohabiters talk – about food and shopping. I start an online grocery shop. Then we finish it together. He jumps from department to department, asking me if I’ve put in this and that without checking the basket. I get frustrated. This is all so dull and I hate shopping. We look at the total cost and see what we can do without, he relinquishes powered granules of sloppy watery so called soup and I swap my multiple papayas, for a multipack of papayas. We hit the checkout, put the laptop away and have a catchup without life’s distractions. It all becomes far easier when there’s just love and honest communication.

Patricia SnookComment
Societal Change

Despite 9 hours of sleep, I’m reluctant to get up.

I have just an hour before an online Project Management exam.

Even though it’s a non work day for Andrew, he’s up, making us coffee and bowling delicious vegan overnight oats that he’d prepared. He talks me through the exam and timelines - when I need to log on, when he will head out, the fact that he’ll keep the house quiet. Incredibly supportive. We both know though that the accumulation of qualifications means a lot of great opportunities for us. Often we talk about retiring early and revisit the plans of how we’ll get there. It’s not that we want to retire, it’s that we want to live as ferociously every day as we do on our downtime.

“Go on” he reminds “good luck” as I run upstairs with my breakfast to read back over my pages of scrawl. My Baby Giraffe, the girl I clocked in 2007 walking through a client office and said “I want to be her friend,” she gave me all of her beautifully bound flash cards for the same set of exams. With her notes sitting beside my notes I smile as I sip lions man infused coffee, the universe is pretty damn good at throwing incredibly different souls together.

There are a few technical glitches, I feel like an idiot for having exams in my bedroom. The monitor says “oh, you’re in a bedroom, can I see under the bed and covers?” It’s not seedy, it’s just that it’s such a weird situation. My energy is focused on smashing my test, so I don’t explain that the rest of my house is currently a building site.

Sure enough, I pass with 90%. I message my business partners.

I have a long list of payments to make so quickly finish my domestic admin. Andrew returns from a MTB XC trail, he’s distressed. Apparently a neighbourhood cat had deficated just outside the back gate and he cycled cat excrement down his new Marmot jacket. So we dealt with that.

My girlfriends message about a beer festival next month. I message back with details. I clock to write a letter of gratitude to the both of them for everything that they have experienced with me and taught me about life.

After a quick avocado on sourdough Andrew and I change to shop. I wear jeans, Toms, a blanket scarf and a black All Saints biker jacket which Cici has kindly allowed me to borrow. Well, you know the deal with sisters, she was okay with me pilfering it.

Anyway, we get in the car and drive the 15, 20minutes to Bicester Village, a designer outlet village which we would frequent in our Henley days.

We’re there to find some new shirts for Andrew.

I tell myself that “I don’t need anything.”

Sure enough, I’m allured into shops. In particular Churches shoes entice me. I chat to the store assistants over Brogues. But then, I have my oxblood, my blue suede, my black, and of course many a velvet slipper already. I also remind myself that nowadays I’m not into leather. In my mind I decide to spend an hour this evening polishing my old investment pieces - you know, that I already have.

We drop into a Northface store. I feel gross as I say out loud to Andrew “what we do need are ski trousers after I accidentally charity shopped our Arcteryx, Scott and Eiders”. The words fall out and as they do I cringe. That giant mistake will live with me forever, as will the fact that thus far I have blown the engines of three cars. It’s like one of those things you pull out at frivolous parties, funny little anecdotes about incompetence. Instead of saying controversial things like “I’m trying to build a business which promotes and celebrates people, creating real bottom up societal change.” Or by saying “I love the taste of meat, but we’re royally messing up the planet and I don’t want to be a part of that, which is why I’m chomping on another effing side salad.” Those kind of statements rock old organisations and immediately your voice becomes background noise. To make true change, I play the long game, being self deprecating at times to lower the barriers and sustain deeper conversation - turning the topic instead to the audience. Decisions are far more sustained when people come to their own.

“Use our card” I whisper as we pay for a major sale pair of trousers for him.

Then, we drop into a few stores to find a duvet for Papa Murf, we left the spare set of bedding in Keswick and he’s due down in a few days time.

I iMessage a photograph to a nearest and dearest about to move from India to Singapore. He and I loved shopping together, we would dress immaculately with our expensive time pieces and peruse expensive shops together. Then, as we left he’d say things like “see, we’ve just earned £5,000 by not buy that Tag”. I chuckle to myself and send a rude slur to accompany the image.

Andrew and I pop into a Tag Heuer shop. He wouldn’t wear a Tag watch, but he tells me he would wear a Patek Philippe. I tell him there’s no investment opportunity in a PP - it’s not a piece you would part with. The ladies watches look a Constellation rip off.

We drop into another watch shop. There’s a beautiful means chronograph which reminds me of the Junghans piece we have. Then I wonder about this industry.

The Seamaster which belonged to my great great grandfathers sister - the first female Optometrist in Europe. It’s grubby, it’s used, it would cost the equivalent of a few mortgage repayments to have it reconditioned. It has history though, it is a piece which screams of a badass female who paved the way for so many to follow - a voice which instigated societal change. Not now, but soon, instead of dropping cash on a newly mined piece, I’ll recondition hers. As we return to the car I let it out “It’s everything, the mines that we passed on the Zim border, that kind of life, that exploitation, for metal.” I continue on my rampage, on my soapbox.

As we approach the car we note the low pressure on a front tyre.

We stop at the fuel station and repressure the tyres. My dad car is front wheel drive and I’ve got about 3k of miles left before I need to replace them. I ask Siri “Remind me tomorrow to book tyres on the drive in three weeks time.”

Home we change quickly then head out to walk. It’s a favourite spot. We follow a deer down the track with the pups on lead. It’s beyond magical. We wind our way through an ancient woodland. Aura rolls in excrement and Apollo slices his paw. There’s blood and faeces everywhere which definitely means time to get home.

I read the minutes from my business partners meeting today and start calling around. I’m so happy to catch up with them. It’s been over two weeks and I’ve missed them all. With sincere gratitude I thank them for what they have done to build us. In turn they return the praise, in particular for my development today. We have some tough conversations over the space of two hours. Andrew passes me a beer.

Our gorgeous Bachelor of a buddy arrives to pick him up “come join us” he tells me. I can’t tonight, my todo list is long for the business. That’s what instagram fails to portray, the hard work isn’t pretty.

I have a list of actions to work through, then I plan on catching up with some gratitude cards. Tonight’s recipient is going to be a tough one.

Patricia SnookComment
The Best Glass of Wine

I wake to Apollo between us with his head on the pillow, on his back elongated like a human. 

It’s almost 8am and we quietly pull on boots and jackets to head out to find fresh Croissants for breakfast. There’s a constant thin mist in the air. It’s dreary in the literal sense. The town is almost silent. We walk into the door of the local Coop, literally into it. It’s not open and it appears that very little, nothing intact, opens before 10am on a sunday. 

Via the lake we return home. With no obvious presence of algae we throw the ball into the shallows and have two shivering pups. 

In the cabin the family are awake, I put the kettle on and start on the rounds of tea and coffees. Apollo is cornered and gently groans, not quite a growl, but it tells the toddler that he is uncomfortable. The situation quickly escalates with fear emotion and Andrew takes him into a room and tells him to settle. He really just likes his own space and once he settles he’s happy sleeping. 

We chat about the next year, Lottie tells me in 2020 she fancies a Nepalese retreat and Himalaya hike, I tell her about the September walk a group of us are planning to finish 100km of the Camino trail over four or five days. I’d love her to join and the group consensus is that if she’s anything like her brother they’ll adore her. Easy. 

Soon we bid farewell, wishing we lived nearer to spend more precious moments with them all. 

Andrew and I pile into the car with the pups, after a terrible nights sleep we’re not ascending tough exposed peaks in the wind and rain. Instead we agree to a circular lake loop around Buttermere. That is until we arrive to gridlock, full cars, families, kids, babies, pups, ugg boots, full cafes and self sticks. Without a word we look to one another and just keep driving. Instead we take the narrow steep lanes in the two wheel drive estate car. In a moment of 25% descent I miss Big Silver, my old badass 4x4. 

We ascend Honister pass, pulling in and parking up before walking around the valley. Sheep run loose and we keep the pups in control close beside us, that is until they sniff out fresh excrement and roll. I wash Aura’s neck in an icy stream and she’s not happy. 

Back in the car we enjoy the ascent then pull into the slate mine. The cafe is limited so we pass and head straight into the shop where we ask about slate floor product lists. We’re kind of on and off in our minds about flooring in the house. There will be 100sqm of flooring in the new space and we want just one type throughout. The owner chats to us about their slate - mined there in the hills. We leave with a sample after crawling around on the floor and rubbing it aggressively. 

The drive back to the cabin is slow, sunday drivers are out in force. 

Home the pups are showered and cleaned. Then we wrap them up and leave them before walking into town to find lunch. It’s five to three when we arrive at a great tapas and real ale - a proper hiker kind of place, but they tell us they’ve just stopped food. We double back to a new favourite spot and hear the same thing. Then we loop back around to the other end of town where we met the hiking girls for dinner last summer at the Mountain Festival, it’s closed. The forth try is open and will serve us - it’s a proper Italian wood fired pizza joint. It’s not fancy, but it’s needed, and delicious. We talk about flooring, run the figures for the slate. It would cost twice as much as the bespoke kitchen, so we decide on some entrance tiles with the date of the original house construction - 1852, carved in. 

Less than an hour later we’re home to a low sun on the horizon, Derwent water behind us looks beautiful through the tress. We grab two glasses of box wine, the pups and head out, just meters to the lake. 

The silhouettes of the hills is stunning. The lake is moody with reflections of the intense pink skies above. Aura curls into my lap with her head in my Artic jacket. The setting, the company, it’s all too much and I’m reminded of one of the best glasses of wine I ever had with our friends in a French monastery restaurant near Reims. This may have just topped that.   

Patricia SnookComment
Wait a while

I wake late with the sun. A coffee later and we’re winding the car up the hill to the forest tracks. 

The wind is howling. The tress are shaking. The car park is full. 

With some Project Management books to catch up on ready for an exam next week, I offer to stay and wait while Andrew finishes a red trail with a black ascent. Twenty eight minutes later the pups pp their head up and I hear Andrew skid back to the car “want to do the blue?” he asks. I decline, the wind is too strong to take Aura out, she’s terrible at getting lost if she looses our scent in the woods. 

I’m anxious. I feel unsettled. 

I have no signal and Lottie, her husband and the boys are due to stay today. I relay the concern and as we descend the hills my phone messages arrive. Their car is having issues, the boiler is broken, the toddler has an ear infection, they’re running late. 

We arrive home, Andrew showers, I clean, he cleans. I’m hungry so we have vegan burgers from the freezer. We crack open a beer. 

My mother sends an image of my Bobbas nephew and his mother, Bobas sister inlaw, have been visiting them. We then discuss an ongoing issue that we’re dealing with. I pour a glass of white Sauvignon which Andrew soured, he says it’s too zesty for him, for me it’s perfect. The situation is pretty complicated. While I preach I sip another small glass. As we bid farewell I watch Lottie pull up in the drive. Andrew pulls the kids out the car and there are scooters and bikes and he’s showing them how to pull wheelies. 

Lottie and Wes ask how I am and I tell them things are so messed up but we are coping. Everyone now is safe and that’s all that matters. 

We share beer and wine and the boys play on their iPhones. 

Before we know it it’s dinner time and we walk out to a curry house around the corner. The six of us sit, the boys are amazing. We chat. We talk about holidays with the boys, where we’re going next. The oldest says he wants a long weekend in Rome. Lottie and I talk about a yoga retreat in Morocco in October. She asks about a mutual friend, I tell her about something I’d completely forgot about which is completely scandalous. We cover our mouths in both surprise and to conceal the contents from the kids. It’s a skill I’ve learnt from her, to convey messages inaudible to prying ears. While I am terrible, loud, full of laughter, exaggerated, she is gracious, just like her brother. 

The food is fantastic, I pick vegan choices made out of a series of side dishes. It tastes fantastic. 

We all leave, the bill is light. While this is a fantastic spot, it’s incredibly cost effective. 

Looking for something vegan and sweet we drop into the supermarket. I choose mint dark chocolate, biscuits. I ask a member of staff if they have any papaya in the back. They don’t. 

We arrive back at the cabin. Andrew breaks into a Bordeaux boxed wine. We joke about it. He Wes and Lottie lived together, they shared their first mortgage with one another. It was just after meeting him over a decade ago that we headed back to their place after a lot of drinks, Lottie and Wes weren’t there but I remember seeing a boxed red on the side. Wes joked about it. I poured a peppermint tea and sipped. 

The boys head to their bedroom. I’m exhausted so hug everyone goodnight and take the pups through to the bedroom. The shower is cold. I listen to a meditation playlist then shiver onto the bed where I finish a yin yoga flow beside Aura. 

Patricia SnookComment
Yellow Gold

The door is nudged opened and the pups leap into bed. Then they leap off and race out. Across the corridor I hear Cici scream “no, no, not in my mouth!”

I hold Andrew tight for a moment then tell him I’ll get the coffee on.

In the space of no time we’re all downstairs, half an hour later my retired father appears in his slippers. We chat, the kitchen is abuzz. Coffee, tea, fresh bowls of fruit.

Before we know it, midday fast approaches. None of us have really left the comfort of the kitchen. I change into a marginally festive outfit. Cici has amazingly sourced the same wine we enjoyed together while searching for Richard the Friendly Ghost in South Africa in September. She is amazing. The bottle is cold, crisp, we all dive in and toast.

Background soundtracks play.

The chatter is constant. The smells from the ovens are delicious. I have a vegan spread from a local supplier. The pups are borderline feral at the smell of organic free range grass fed turkey. They rarely smell meat.

We break into the second Boschendal.

We all toast to our grandfather, my mothers father. We toast to family. We celebrate those before us and no longer with us. Christmas has always been an aloof celebration in our family home. One year, as my uncle received a call just before midnight, my cousin and I fought our way into the back seat. My father was is in the middle east. It had been a week since we had heard from a British embassy. It was a muddled and ambiguous message. Then radio silence. In that time, a new war had started and the Bush administration was in the news daily and Blair was onboard and it was so confusing. Our mother held it together, telling us that things were okay and that we knew the drill. As a unit, the three Muscateers, we were prepared by officials on how to proceed in the event of hostage situations and kidnappings. That night, driving the dark lanes with my uncle, it was like that opening chords of Creedence Clearwater Revivals Fortunate Son on repeat. I held my cousins head as she fell asleep, I kept talking to my uncle to keep him awake. We played music loud with the windows down - the Stones, Rod Stewart, Bowie. It was a mission. War was starting and the time was ticking and it was Christmas and I was a child who really wanted to see her father safe. In his rover we screeched into an empty train station car park. Slumped with a duffle bag was an exhausted man. I remember the feeling of throwing the door open before we stopped and running, screaming, screaming. Then being held and holding an exhausted man who has just faced an arduous return to safety. I was told to sleep, so I curled into my cousin on the back seat. We were safe, we were on our way back to our roots in Dorset and fall into the unit that we were.

There are other tales of human perseverance, strength, effort beyond that which we can imagine. Our mother was the true christmas miracle each year, holding it together.

Back to reality we toast to her.

I say something flippant to Cici and we stir emotion. We make up.

Then, another glass of Boschendal in, we start holiday planning. Zambia is on the list next year, or maybe Namibia, definitely the Okavango. My papa decides he wants to go “next week” so I scramble for any last minute deals “why can’t you come?!” he tells me. Um… theres not really a true reason. We decide April is probably best for a holiday.

Christmas dinner is excellent. We eat so much. The food and wine is excellent.

Conversations linger for hours.

Family friends drop by.

I pour prosecco. I turn on flamboyance, affability, and pour myself a glass.

As the house falls silent into the late hours I am gifted something incredibly special. I loose my breath for the longest moment. It’s my Bobbas wedding band. With Andrew we push it onto my wedding finger with my own bands. It’s a yellow gold, and it fits effortlessly with my bands. I hold my breath. I would play with this ring on Bobbas fingers, spinning it round on her slender fingers while she would tell me stories. Wow. My breath is gone.

Patricia SnookComment
Not All Heros Wear Capes

I wake on and off through the night, mainly shivering and calling the pups to my side. Before bed I binged watched some of my old content and made a promise to myself to create more videos post house construction. Looking at some of the videos I can’t help but chuckle to myself at how limitlessly optimistic I was just four years ago.

The morning alarm sounds and I give myself ten minutes to digest news headlines before refilling on coffee. My mind is cluttered with jobs for the day ahead and I can’t decide what to wear, I’m only running through finance with a client at a sewerage treatment works - Europe’s largest. So I pull on jeans, thermals and a jumper and leave the house in thick darkness.

On the drive I think about project finances for one of my schemes, I wonder if I need to pull together a business case this week. The skies open with thunderous rain which makes the drive tough. I arrive early, I always arrive early. There I sit and run through a dozen emails which have landed over night calling for attention and action. I think about the rates at which I charge and my age, and I make a note to myself to get some more acronyms after my name. Societies and Institutions associated with the industry have dwindling uptakes, I much prefer the Guilds to which I am active, but accreditation is accreditation.

Over five hours a great client and I right our world of schemes. He’s an excellent mentor and great bandmate to deliver with.

I have a few calls then hit the road back before the onslaught of christmas traffic.

The roads are silly, with middle lane hoggers, car loads of people unable to maintain speed, convoys of lorries, suvs with reindeer ears flapping. I drive a little slower than the limit, ever improving fuel consumption and lowering emissions.

Arriving home I see Andrews car in the drive. He and his father are engaged in updates, I hug them both and set up my laptop to complete a forecast and prepare for a presentation to a reservoir panel engineer in the morning.

It’s so cold, the pups wear their jackets and I layer blankets while watching my fingers turn blue as I type. Then, so excited to communicate back to my baby giraffe I log onto Paper Chase’s website and order recycled paper and stationary for delivery in the morning.

One of my business partners calls, something has happened and we need a catch up. I can’t attend a meeting on friday due to builder commitments. I’m tired, so tired, of all sorts of things that are going on. Through my frustrations, at times when I think “damn, I wish you just listened to what I have to say” it’s normally born out of the fact that I don’t actually have the bandwidth to bother with pleasantries. When I think “Mate, you can’t call me that” I think about all the times I answer the phone saying “hello darling”. I’ve got a list of concerns to work on through Christmas and unpick, journal. I plan to be lakeside in the hills for over a week, mainly focusing on running, yoga, journaling and hill walking.

Papa Murf, a retired corporate leader, debriefs us on the day and then sets out the plans for tomorrow. He’s fantastic, clear, concise, he repeats the key messages a few times in different ways then asks questions for us to relay it back. We discover that we can work something out tomorrow and he showers and heads home. I make a note that we’re going to need to get him a damn awesome Christmas gift!

We are due a visit from a Gas Engineer to check out the boiler at some point either today or tomorrow. Tired, I pack up my laptop, make a cup of tea and head upstairs to quieten my mind. I search for hot water bottles for Amazon Prime delivery tomorrow and as I decide on covers there’s a knock at the door. It’s the gas engineer! Twenty minutes and forty pounds later I repeatedly thank him as he wishes us a Merry Christmas and I lean on a hot radiator. Not all heroes wear capes.

Patricia SnookComment
Bust Boiler

It’s less of an early start today. Instead at around seven I shiver into life.

During the night the heating packed up. The boiler is down and damn it’s cold. In the night I reached for two woollen blankets which we picked up just outside of Cape Town this time last year. With the blankets it’s a little warmer beneath the duvet.

I wrap up in slippers and thermals and a dressing gown before heading downstairs to two shivering pups. We won’t get the boiler fixed, it’ll be pulled out and replaced in six weeks time. For now it’s a case of using the emersion heater for the hot water and growing thicker skin to endure the indoor temperatures.

We make coffees and the builder arrives. Papa Murf is awake and appears. It’s all go. While making a V60 filter coffee for the builder I have the back door open moaning to him “the heating is broken!” he looks at me and reacts “ah shit!” My thoughts exactly buddy.

Andrew leaves for work, I hold him as we say goodbye until tomorrow.

Then I log on to finish drafting a contract while I sip my coffee. A little while later I have a call with a consultant working on one of my projects. While we talk I plug in my headphones and check the scheduled insta posts for Wisp. I add a few tags and connect with our audience. Five minutes later I close the app and finish the call.

There’s a bang at the door. It’s Hermes delivering a H&M parcel, it’s a border anglaise white top and two petite jeans from their conscious collection. Not that my consumption makes it any better.

Then I bail into the car, the builder tells me to have a great day, I tell him that I’ll one day have a great day when I’m retired. Sometimes the language barrier leaves conversations a bit disjunct. This time he says to me “it’s all in the mindset” Which leaves me, philosophically surprised.

I get in the car, set my destination to 80 miles away and start the journey. I continue listening to the audiobook from yesterday. Driving I think about the letters I plan on writing as thanks to people.

The drive is quick and as I arrive in a consultant car park I call my parents to update them on work thus far. They’re excellent support and have created fantastic lives which they share with grace and enthusiasm. I look down at my wrist, while dressing this morning I picked up a beautiful embellished bangle with rubies and diamonds and emeralds which I received as a gift from them. I touch my earrings as I often do through the day, they are the most wonderful Bvlgari clip ons which I swore to wear daily to reduce their cost per wear. They’re almost part of an armour now.

My client arrives and pulls up next to me, I bid farewell to my parents and collect my stuff ready for the meeting. I greet my client and he mentions the fact that my car has suddenly turned white rather than the usual mucky grey.

I catch up with familiar faces, trying my best to remember which holidays they’ve been on or details about our last conversations. I love people, which is why I chose this career path rather than that of a creative. A new engineer has joined the scheme. I want to say that he’s a friend but in recent times I noticed a change, there’s something different in our relationship. We were once, we would all go out drinking in a group together in the second city.

The meeting goes well but the hours disappear. While we’re preparing to leave following a finance review on the project, my dearest friend and mentor pops her head into the door to ask one of her colleagues a question. I smile widely at her with so much love. We don’t say too much to one another, we both protect our reputations, the guys don’t need to know how we have one another backs. That’s the thing with females in the engineering industry. First of all, there aren’t many, and we face an uphill battle each day and to make life harder for an other is the most ridiculous thing - we have to stand in each others corner. We rise up by lifting others. I wish her a “Ciao” as we leave.

On the way home I play the audio book, it’s pouring heavy with rain.

I give up and ask “Hey Siri, play Macklemore” and “Hey Siri, play Boarders by Feeder”.

There’s a lane closure on the motorway and a load of cars in pieces as part of an accident. It’s a crawl and I push my way into the open lanes.

Once the traffic starts moving once again, it’s still slow - so slow. Rain is heavy and on more than one occasion my car flashes warning signs to let me know that’s it’s loosing all traction as I hit surface water. I miss my all wheel drive cars so much in this moment, if I were in the soccer mom car which after adding 20k miles in six months I sold back to the dealer for the same price purchased, I’d have been fine. In this one I’m not fine. So I settle with cruise control at 60mph. We’re going to need to replace Andrews car soon. I think about what it would be with. I think about the fun cars I once had. I think about the roads I’ve enjoyed at 2am when I’ve left the house with just a soundtrack and a bottle of san pelegrino. I think about GLC’s and CLS and Cabrios and dirty Alpinas and how much fun a F Pace 4WD could have on some tracks. It’s too much, it’s consumerist and distasteful. Then I think about the planet and how we have a duty each to reduce emissions through considerate driving.

In the pouring rain I navigate the final lanes back to the house. I park up to find Papa Murf locking up after a great day of achievement. I’m ravenous so we quickly put some jacket potatoes into the microwave. I’ve never made this kind of meal. It’s been a few years since I used a microwave after reading some old Mind Body Green posts about loss of nutrients. He offers me a glass of white Brancott Estate wine. I sip it gratefully, glug. Then we dive into dinner, fumbling with the TV settings to get Sky sport logged in ready for a Man City game. I tell him that I’m wearing red, he laughs, apparently it’s powder blue.

The house is cold, the pups curl into our laps as we watch the game. After a glass and a half of Brancott I move onto a Nene Valley “Bitter and Orange” beer from a few weekends back with wonderful girlfriends.

Andrew calls, he’s playing a game of squash at a hotel with our buddy. I’m envious because their hotel has heating while this house is so cold that the pups are stacked on my lap shivering.

Patricia SnookComment
Monday, you whirlwind

In the depths of a dream about a supermarket isle, I hear a distant alarm. Reality pulls me back away from end of isle deals and into a gloomy monday morning.

Damn. Mondays. I switch the bedside lamp on and search for the phone. I had fallen asleep late after a couple of hours chatting to one of my dearest humans. Then, after existential life planning with her, I binged listened to Hansons String Theory album ready to see them with Wills in February.

Sluggishly I follow Andrew downstairs, greet the pups with kisses on their ears. We open the back door and I pull wellies on and follow them out. The walls are ever increasing in height and work is fast moving.

The smell of coffee and croissants call to me. We shiver back inside and I clutch my mug. I once witnessed a client have a late night breakdown over office dishwasher ettiequte. Due to a lack of diligence on the part of other office members, the dishwasher wasn’t often emptied, so, in a falling down moment I witnessed him bin around forty generic corporate mugs as my team worked late into the night to deliver his scheme. From that moment I emptied my bag of any porcelain mugs, this one this morning being one of them, and instead chose Bodum travel mugs. I hate this mug. It’s from Sainsburys and teal and polkadot and a funny shape. I want to bin it. Instead I glug the columbian roast from it.

I moan about what to wear, saying something about not having black tights to pair with my brown A line cashmere turtle neck dress. Then Andrew reminds me of a pair of Tesco hosiery on the kitchen side. Yes. Decision made.

I hug him a long goodbye and wish him the best for the day.

Then after dragging a brush through my hair and using both the Clean and Gum Care settings on the toothbrush, I leave.

Leaving the village there’s a lane closure and police waving traffic. There’s been a crash at the usual spot. The second I’ve seen in the last two months.

Driving I listen to an Audible book I’d picked up on Deal of the Day last week. It’s about murder and detectives - all the things I love in a fiction book. I listen intently and drive with cruise control between 70 and 65mph. This tank has got me 800miles, while I miss my soccer mom SUV, this dad estate is saving me bucks.

I arrive at a client office, greet everyone I see by their name and take a hot desk.

The day flies by with meetings and updates and sorting out contracts and finance. I open my 2019 Planner and start aligning both project dates and personal dates so I can earmark holiday options without compromising on key projects.

I chat to my colleague about the house and the progress. With a discerning taste in design I share my Linge Rosset Togo, Dwell Rocker, Rattan and Stone dining, Ektorp chaise.

Then I leave at a time which seems early. I need to refuel and drive the car through a wash. I see a regular face at the garage. He’s chirpy as I ask for “and a VAT receipt” and then I see a beautiful journal behind him with the most beautiful cursive handwriting. I tell him just that. It’s stunning.

As I sit in the car listening to the Audiobook, I think about gratitude and thanking people like him for the exchanges which make a difference to my day. I make a mental note to next week consider a “year of gratitude” exercise to do just that, write letters of thanks.

The journey home is quick, Andrew calls as I pull into the village. He’s picking up suitcases from our Storage lockup. I pull into the driveway, greet the builder. From the lane I can no longer see the back door, he’s added about another half meter in height today. I greet Papa Murf my father in law. He arrived late last night to provide the most immense help to us with the build.

Then I video the dogs playing and send it to an Aunt. As the message sends, I start on making up a stir fry for dinner.

Andrew arrives home, we eat, we catch up with the Builder, then I shower and collapse into bed with some fruit and a few journal entries. Ah Monday, you whirlwind.

Patricia SnookComment
Do not think me gentle

I wake late. Light is streaming through the back window. The storm of last night has subsided and given way to glorious morning sunshine. The pups hear me stir, I open the child gate for them to rush up the steep stairs and within seconds collapse into bed under the duvet. 

From the other room I collect my phone and read the news. I read two long articles, one about the Indian baby born in a bank, the other an analysis about American presidential hand holding and power play. Then, I check finances, and read up about some new small recent listings on the AIMs market ready for Monday opening. Over the past two weeks, through reducing time spent on social media, I estimate that I’ve made just over £500 by being more active with my portfolios. I think about the Guild who I spent Thursday night with, even my generation comment that they’d rather prioritise their time elsewhere. The older generations who have made fortunes in banking are even more scrupulous with their time. 

Andrew wakes, he sounds rough. Congested, full. 

We make coffee downstairs, let the pups out for a run through the assault course of the construction site in the back yard. It’s cold and they race inside after going about their business. 

I eat the other half of a papaya and bowl of sliced pineapple I prepared yesterday. I sip my coffee and moan about the TV. Our home is wonderful as it is. Infact I worry often about it increasing in size two fold. There’s something poetic in the simplicity of life constricted by physical limitations. It’s a quick walk down the lane in the cold morning. The sun is so low on the horizon and it’s like a beautiful filter on the world. After about twenty minutes we’re back home. I can’t help but hear the words of Wendell Berry’s poem “A Warning to my Readers” echoing through my mind. 

“Do not think me gentle

because I speak in praise

of gentleness, or elegant

because I honor the grace

that keeps this world. I am

a man crude as any,

gross of speech, intolerant,

stubborn, angry, full

of fits and furies. That I 

may have spoken well

at times, is not natural.

A wonder is what it is.” 

As I quickly change ready for our friends to arrive, I can’t help but think of the truth in his words. It’s all about perception. It’s the reason I chose to draw away from the insta celebrity driven consumerist platforms. To celebrate art, and reality. Not monetary returns for shilling products born out of greed and exploitation. 

I hear a roar of a car I’d quite like myself. Andrew has already run out of the house in excitement, I pull on boots and a jacket and follow. Hugging the orange aura of a gentle giant and a vivacious Cat. So so happy to see them, they’re some of the best people in the world and immense inspirations. 

Excitedly we talk through holidays and travel and the house and their house and the dogs and christmas and everything in a whirlwind. Then it’s into the cars to head over to the next town. En route things are slow, the normal 5minute journey is congested. We come to a standstill. Then cresting the hill I see lights and hear horns and see pedestrians along the roadside. It’s the annual Christmas Tractor Drive, advises Andrew. With my mouth wide open and fits of laughter I wave at the convoy of tractors passing. Then we see the lorries who have become a regular feature on our lane as they remove and deposit all sorts. I see Ashley, one of the drivers we have come to know, and I beep and flash my lights in a frenzy, we’re recording a video of this to send to our nephews, however I’ll need to mute the sound because on two consecutive occasions I swear. 

Half an hour later we arrive in town, hug the most eligible bachelor in town and we head out for lunch, the Cat is jet lagged and hungry. We find a spot at a regular bolt hole and order then talk, and make plans and scheme, there are wonderful plans on the horizon and to share moments and life with this lot is one hell of a gift. We chat about consumerism and environmental impacts and what we can do to mitigate. In that moment I miss my baby Giraffe so much. My heart aches a little as I think of her quite literally at the other end of the planet. I make a mental note to share this conversation with her in our next letter exchange. 

We leave early and head home ready to head out shopping with the builder. Getting home we give him a bell to confirm leave times, he says he can’t make it so we bundle the pups into the car for a long walk. 

In the hills we look down onto the commuter villages into the capital. The pups run free, bounding with joy. The views into the valley below are breathtaking, we stop and stare. I didn’t capture the moment, nor am I even aware of carrying a phone. “A wonder is what it is.”

I wait in the car with the pups while Andrew runs through the nearby supermarket picking up essentials “all the fruit please” and a few treats. 

Home we crack into a glass of box wine each. Still thinking ahead to interior design and furnishing, I open my laptop to This is Glamorous where I run through interior design inspiration from Contemporary Barcelona Minimalist Style to Maximalist Baroque Rococo Influence. I decide we need Linge Rosset Togo two seaters in navy and Ektorp Chaise day chairs, Dwell Rockers in White and Concha Garcia Zaera original artwork. 

The phone rings and it’s the builder, he asks if we’re in. We invite him around and two minutes later there’s a knock at the door. He tells about his long day and we plan the week ahead. The walls will be completed and the concrete groundwork in. We revisit the contract and issue a sectional payment. 

I finish the box wine and prepare for the week ahead by preparing meals and bowls of fruit ready for the morning. 

Patricia SnookComment
Food Halls

It’s the wind that pummels the house which wakes me.

Exhausted and congested, tired and aching, my eyes hurt despite twelve hours of closure. My heart sinks and I relinquish to potential pending flu.

You see, I don’t get sick often. I hate being sick.

So I start the day with a large medley of fruit. All the fruit. In the fridge is papaya, mango, kiwi, grapefruit, passion fruit, cantelope melon, pineapple. I eat it all.

Then I indulge in candle making. I play podcasts, the Minimalists and That’s So Retrograde while preparing scent combinations for gift recipients. I light a tea light in a salt lamp to reduce the ions and improve air quality.

For a few hours I fall asleep. The wind howling and rain thundering down.

Then I wake, I grab my laptop and shop the early sales. Buying new workwear pieces from responsible brands. Then, I fall back asleep. Andrew wakes me, in an hour we’re due to catch a train in to the city. I change, and run a brush through my hair.

We leave the house, it’s blustery and blowing a gale. I pull the front door behind me and it slams shut “You’ve got the keys right?!” I ask Andrew, tired and feeling disjunct. “No.”

We pull at the door, the wind and rain beating down on us. I bang at our neighbours door. They got us out of one jam two weeks back and we’ve still got their spare set of keys. So no keys. I call the lady who pops in to see the pups in the day. “I’ll leave now” she tells us as she can hear the desperation in my voice. Four minutes later she pulls up with the spare set of keys, a true hero. I meet her wonderful toddler son and wish for a more organised time to arrange drinks with them. She’s great, affable, my kinda human.

Three minutes later we wave our goodbye and head to the station where we find a space in the carpark, get on the train. Then half an hour later we’re pulling into the city. Fifteen minutes and two tube changes and we’re at the dinner venue. Our friends, Andrews university friend and his gorgeous fiancé, recommended this spot. It’s a market hall, with gastro takeaways. I’m reminded so much of the food hall at Cape Towns Victoria and Albert Docks.

They arrive, it’s so good to see them, and chat, and drink and eat and catch up. The hours fly by. We plan travels and share stories, truly I beam with love for this pair.

Then, we leave, hugging our goodbyes before we head on the northern line and they are on the southern line. Ten minutes later we’re on our train back to the village and within an hour from goodbye we’re back in our sleepy spot in the countryside.

Andrew and I beam with happiness once home, chatting profusely. Sometimes we fall into a lull and things can become repetitive. Like those kids who met so many years ago, we are social creatures driven by positivity and laughter and adventure. When things become serious and adult with businesses and mortgages and investments and properties, it’s as though the fun can sometimes fall away in favour of anxiety. Well, F.Anxiety.

Patricia SnookComment
A haze

I hear the alarm downstairs at 4:40. In a haze just four hours earlier I had mistaken the time on my alarm and set it too late. I leap out, pull on jeans and uggs and thermal layers.

Downstairs I make a large coffee for Cici and I to share on the drive.

It takes a while for the car to defrost. Then, we’re on the road, it’s a 40 minute journey to the train station. In that time we talk about the Guild, about Christmas away, we talk about the Patriarchy and family events.

Before we know it, we’re at the station, I wait a few minutes until she messages to say that the train is on time then ten minutes later she calls to say she’s en route.

I drive back, feeling tired only when I’m five minutes outside of our village when I wind down the window for fresh air.

Once home, I retreat to bed beside my husband and fall asleep for an hour.

Papa Murf pops in to greet us. There was a backup plan for him to take Cici most of the way back that day, but a combination of extremely cheap train tickets and pending strike action later that day made the other plan more attainable.

I’m exhausted and we chat about progress and plans. He is an absolute wonder. I often comment with his other SIL that he is like Liam Neeson, when needed he will move mountains for his family. I fall asleep for another half hour. Then I have to make a call on behalf of my client. I sip coffee then dial in.

In bed I finish a report and then fall asleep again. In this time Papa Murf heads home for the weekend, an utter hero.

The day falls away. We pop into a nearby supermarket where we load up on raw ginger and coffee. I slice the ginger at home into a tea pot and sip it with ashwaganda powder. I’m fighting a pending flu.

At around 8, I fall asleep.

Patricia SnookComment
Square Mile

Early I wake, there’s a lot of work to get down and out for review on behalf of a great client.

Four quick hours pass as I get some key deliverables out for delivery.

I make my first coffee, sip it, then indulge in another few hours.

My alarm goes, Cici texts. I was planning on wearing a great default Cos dress with black tights, but Cici is freezing on route and needs all the help she can get. So I swap up the Cos for black chinos and a lace back jumper.

Arriving at the train station there’s no parking available, anywhere. So I miss the train and say out loud to my guiding light “Give me a space”

Nevertheless I park up and grab the train.

I arrive and enter the square mile, the perimeter of the City of London. The independent sovereign state which holds a controlling stake in global commerce.

Cici arrives and we grab lunch at a vegan spot just opposite the evening venue. We find a spot overlooking major business centres, at the table next to us, a businessman makes small talk as we seat ourselves.

Having not seen her for the last month and so many ridiculous things happened, we talk non stop for at least an hour. Then we talk about the city below us. Right now my business is based in the West Midlands but country wide presence is a no brainer. Personally I would like a presence in the City to grow and develop the industry. At the same time, I wonder if in ten years time I will be a part of this industry, or whether I will instead sit on a board of a different sector. We talk about how we’ve got ourselves into these situations. While we have had immense support and coaching from family, at the core of it, we just have a problem with authority. Or at least I do. I never care for rank or race, or age, or gender. I care for you as a person.

We talk about all sorts. Then return to the Guildhall as we have a few minutes to spare. I’ve been wanting to walk the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery to see the foundations of a Roman Amphitheatre for years. Finally we do it.

Then we return to a church opposite the LSE. There, we have the most wonderful private carol service with music that makes my skin prickle with goosebumps.

We chat happily to fellow guildmen. I am in awe of so many of these leaders. They are our mentors and share values with one another. We then follow one of our old Masters, he’s retired, over six foot and wear a bowler hat and crisp suit. We head to the aptly named Mercers Restaurant. There are two dozen of us in total and we have a large table in our name. Through the evening we don’t stop talking. In moments I catch myself, thinking about how each of these people have instigated global change in their time, from forming the financial systems in place today, to pioneering legislation, political movements. But at the end of the day, we are simply here to support one another, to have one anothers backs.

We leave abruptly to make the next train home. Through the evening I don’t indulge in glasses of delicious Sancerre, or Pinot Noir, instead I’m on sparkling water to drive us home. It’s after midnight before we arrive home. The pups are elated to see Cici. Then, in an exhausted haze, we try on bridesmaid dresses for a pending family wedding. It’s the early hours before we fall asleep.

Patricia SnookComment
Gong Soundbath

Flying across the earth to a range of serene blue mountains, I found myself grounded all of a sudden.

I was tied up, bound to the earth with so many thin ties, string. It was like the hanged man card of the tarot deck. I could simply reach up and save myself, yet at the same time, I couldn’t. I felt the gravity of the earth, the pull of the ground, the weight baring down.

Then, from the skies, black ravens descended down to my body. They attacked my eyes, hollowing out the sockets. A flock gathered, expediting my intestines. The pull of the earth growing stronger. The magnetism, the end, then finally, darkness.

While I felt myself in the ground, I also knew that I was free, my spirit was free. Not in a post life way, but in a connected way, being a part of everything. My chest opened in breath and I looked down to see the feet of an eagle soaring high.

As I inhaled I heard and saw the word “space”, I exhaled, inhaled “space”, exhaled, inhaled “space”. Remembering to breathe I felt the body within the earth and the air between the bird in the sky. I was one with it all, the metal magnetism of the earth, the fire that created rock, the earth, the air, and the water pumping through our bodies.

The sound of the gongs vibrated through the liquid within my body. There was a deep feeling of oneness.

Slowly we were called back to consciousness. I covered my eyes one final time to see through the third eye, there it was. I smiled, welcoming it back. It was as though the mental fog had been shaken from my mind.

My last sound bath was in a makeshift garden room in Bali. There I had become a dragon and soared above my body, looking, circling, then guiding. It had been a defining visceral experience. A part of me missed that dragon, that feeling. I hoped it would come back to me this time. But this time I needed something else, I needed the reiteration of freedom.

In fact, after the past events of the week, I needed that the most.

Patricia SnookComment
A little overwhelming

As has become habitual, I wake at around 2am. I call the pups upstairs. With them at my side sleep comes a whole lot easier, with one either side, I rest my forehead against Apollos and a few hours later it’s morning.

That morning the sun shines. The air is crisp and bright.

Wonderful humans check in, I feel so much love and inspiration. There’s something so much lighter knowing that the plan has been executed and finally, he is safe.

We catch up with the builder and talk about the preparations for the day ahead. Work is coming along quickly. 70% of my original home is excavated groundwork and flattened. With Brexit in the headlines I can’t help but chuckle at how terribly ironic it is that I have a mortgage now for four rooms of the original house and a whole lot of rubble. It’s another reiteration of why the five year plan is crucial, to live mortgage free.

I make a pot of hibiscus tea and curl up in a chair to reply to a letter from a friend a little too far away for comfort. Messages and emails always seemed a bit too disconnected. We would catch up best in the early hours of weekend mornings in the city together, walking through the silent streets and sipping 6am coffee at a few excellent bolt holes. Talking about life, business, how as two woman we could influence change, leave something bigger than us. Writing is the next best thing. I fill her in as best I can without implicating anyone in the latest events. It’s cathartic, to just put in words that even as an incredibly optimistic human, things can get a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately these things are at the extreme - hostage, domestic demolition, acts of criminality with a once ruling regime, 1500miles of fleeing, deceit and lies. I explain to her details of the boxed wine consumed the night before. Of course, it’s not just any boxed wine. It’s artisan.

With a list of chores we get started working down the list. I take time to finish making some beautiful organic soy based candles in earthenware produced by a local potterer. Mixing scents from organic essential oils tailored to each individual recipient has been the best part. For my zesty parliamentarian in the making, she gets May Chang and Bergamot with a hint of mint. With each I write scent cards detailing what and why for each. The whole process has reduced carbon footprints, there are not nasty chemicals involved, the raw suppliers are local and while their products are a little more costly, they are environmentally minded.

We nip into the nearby town to a closed post office and stock up on sourdough and tofu weiners. Inside the supermarket everything is a little overwhelming, people stressed, rushing, darting from one side to another, it’s all frenzied. It reminds me of that time we went into a supermarket in Birmingham on Christmas eve and there was a stabbing in the frozen world foods isle. All a bit mad. In truth, I’m not bothered enough over my sourdough to start an isle fight with the retired. It dawns on me that it’s the penultimate payday before Christmas. I barely keep track of these things. As a small business, payments are often late to us so I’ve learnt the hard way to keep finances back and have plan Bs. We also live frugally, it’s part of the 5 year plan. I have a running joke that I want to retire at the age that my paternal grandfather did - 40. The most ridiculous part of that intention is that it will most likely manifest itself.

After a lunch of tofu weiners and homemade baked beans, we head out for a walk with the pups. There are a few favourite places, this one is pretty special. As we walk we pass Roe Deer, fields of Pheasants, Muntjac deer, Red Kites on the ground. It’s all incredibly beautiful.

The evening is quiet. We work on the construction until late. I sip more white wine from a box in the fridge. Tonight I know that while so far away, he is safe. Or at least as safe as he can be. I wonder about the next steps. I am still too emotional to make well thought out decisions. So, I finish my wine, chug down a litre of lemon and ginger infused water. Sip a warm cup of camomile infused with Reishi and Ashwaganda. Then I take to my yoga mat and follow an hours sequence of “release” then afterwards I follow a yin flow. I write my intensions. Then sleep. Deeply and restoratively.


Patricia SnookComment
Ahead of Schedule

We were due to meet in the company headquarters. After hours sobbing at Andrews side, I slept in a little, just until Seven. I slipped out before the builder arrived and made the journey to our office, just under two hours away from my home.

It was too early to start the calls. I knew that two men were making a very long journey a very far way away. The hardest thing was that this stage in the plan was completely out of my control.

The day in the office didn’t last long, I left a few hours later. Having to drop into a client office to pick up vital survey data.

Driving I asked Siri to call my father. We talked for over an hour, as I furiously questioned every aspect of the internal political family situation we were dealing with. The key takeaway from our conversations was to make a mental reminder to always check in with yourself, and be gentle. My father, a scientist, an engineer, a global resident and man of his time takes mental health pretty seriously. But then, it’s in a strange roundabout way. I think back to a few months ago, catching up with someone I had just met who fiercely believed in ghosts and paranormal activity, yet thought that counselling was nonsense.

The one thing 2018 seems to be repeating to me, is that people cannot be influenced. If you find yourself infuriated, it’s futile, put that energy towards instigating long term change.

Nevertheless, it’s a lesson which I’m still fighting.

After my father proclaimed he was hungry and wanted to make a sandwich, we hung up. My music automatically shuffled to Tracey Chapmans Fast Car.

Barely a few lines into the song, my phone rang again. A number came up on the display that I didn’t recognize at a quick glance. It was late afternoon and clients and suppliers and contractors never stop calling “Hello, Patricia speaking.”

It was my aunt and cousin. We caught for the remaining half hour commute, the first time we’ve really spoken for quite some time. Not just visceral chit chat, but catching up, human to human.

I pulled into the driveway, waved to the builder. Briefly as I gathered my bags I wondered what he made of us, put together in office wear with a classic flasher camel coat. Yet beneath the surface, the world is spinning. It’s unraveling.

As I walk in the front door and greet my father in law and Andrew, my phone rings. It’s one of my business partners “are you joining the call?” I grabbed my headphones and dialed in, pouring a glass of boxed wine at the same time.

The content of the discussion is irrelevant here. My emotional intelligence dial is on low and instead of gently meandering I get straight to the point. Andrew and his father fall silent in the room next door. Building a company with four strong males has it’s benefits, but at times can be exhausting. I excuse myself from the call and retreat to a little space within the four remaining rooms of the original 1850s house. It’s a haven. I make some more calls around family, the plan has evolved and a day ahead of schedule. I sip another glass in celebration.

I find myself scrolling. A notification pops up. It’s from someone close to the situation, arguably responsible for the situation. These pages have existed for a dozen years. Yet social media seemed to take over. The instant validation, the instant eyes which thus generated affiliates. When the eyes who have sought to dehumanize someone you care so much about, have impacted your view on life so rapidly, it feels, wrong. It’s like you’re a commodity and your life is accessible to those who commit so many terrible acts of humanity. I pour another glass. It’s divine. Andrew and his father have picked up dinner, I pick at it, unhungry. Then, I write a “checking out for a bit” message.

Tired, exhausted, drained. I fall asleep just after 8.

I’m checking out, and with that, feel compelled to return to these pages.

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Patricia Snook
Passed out on the Floor

We agree to meet for 8am breakfast the next day. I sleep in until about seven am. 

Breakfast is nice, they make a vegetarian spread for me and I load up on fruit. Cici leaves us for ten minutes to nip to the loo and we end up in a fascinating religious existential conversation with the owner. The conversation evolves into religion and the premise of one chosen race and instead of engaging we thank the staff for breakfast and leave abruptly. I probably don’t drink enough coffee that day because I can’t quite figure out which way is up. 

The whole cell network is down and our family call the hotel to say that they’ll pop by at 9am. After breakfast we nip to the room to freshen up. My mothers cousin and his wife arrive, they are lovely and he looks like a Helberg. Everyone is so happy to see one another, they talk and laugh and talk. It’s surreal. The have old family bibles containing fascinating history which they share with us. My mother is thrilled. We sip coffee and as the hours merge into lunch we order flatbreads to share. Their granddaughter calls, she’s staying with them while at a fantastic school in town. My mothers cousin leaves to pick her up. She too looks like a Helberg at just seventeen years old. She’s such a clever kid and I wish her all the best in life. 

We chat for a few hours then stand for family photographs. Chappy sends us a message and I reply that we’re free whenever he is. An hour later he arrives with his son. My teenage third cousin attends school with Chappy’s son, a fantastic photographer who we found on insta the night before. 

He’s gorgeous and also shares typical Snook features - they eyes and nose in particular. We hug a hello and try to figure out if the teenagers are related, no, but share Cici and I as a mutual connection. Their mutual relative was a champion female golfer and expert business woman. We also discover that she was the first person to instigate a multi racial golf competition many years ago. Her family invested in the golf course and clubhouse and apparently she has quite a few trophies in her name. So Dad and Chappy jump in his car and I drive the kids in mine. After a few different stops around the town to pay homage to the old garage we arrive at the course. We get out and order a round of beers. 

They are so interesting and we chat happily before heading back to their house to meet the rest of our family. We do so and sip some wine together. Chappy then advises that he’ll meet us for dinner but will come armed with wine. 

So Cici Dad and I leave for the lodge, I abandon the car on a lane around the lodge. We meet mum and Gramps at the restaurant and Chappy shortly arrives with a bottle of red and two delicious white wines - what a gent! Conversation does not stop. We are all so happy and so engaged, we talk about business opportunities and travel, and the economy and mountain biking. 

The wine flows and conversation continues. 

We bid our farewells. Cici escorts me to the lodge. 

I then start a yin yoga sequence and fall asleep fully clothed in Childs pose on the cold tiled floor. Cici listens to me snoring and switches off the lights and goes to bed leaving me unconscious on the floor. 

About an hour later I wake shivering on the cold hard floor. Cici describes my following action akin to one of those fortune telling fish that falls out of a cracker.

She asks what I’m still doing on the floor and I shout “no I’m not” I then launch myself fully clothed horizontally across the bed. I then wake to a nose bleed and realise I’m still in my jewellery and clothes ontop of the bed shivering. So I fumble around trying to utilise a combination lock on the suitcase. She photographs this degenerate behaviour and later communicates the series of events to my husband and they agree “Standard Trish.” Once in the suitcase I find my thermal leggings and change in the bathroom, my tongue is furry and so I brush it with the Phillips Ultra Sonic Diamond Clean electric device. Except, my consciousness has reduced considerably and I end up using Cici’s brush head, which she is still very sensitive about. I make a note to order an apology bouquet of Bloom and Wild upon return home. 

I crawl into bed and try to sleep with the electric blanket set to high. My jaw feels achy, I blame it on Bruxism but it’s probably got more to do with the cold floor I passed out on in Childs Pose.

A Gorgeous Blue Eyed Man

I wake after a great nights sleep. I feel so welcomed and warm and cosy, it feels like staying with friends. 

We pack up the suitcases and reluctantly head for an early breakfast. 

The food is excellent and waiter is wonderful, instead of panicking at my strange breakfast requests he confidently asks “may I offer you” and rattles off an alternative of vegetables. The coffee is fantastic, the company is fantastic, everything is so good here. The mist outside lifts to show the valley below us with horses running in the early mist. I feel so happy here, I would return in an instant. 

It’s clear that none of us want to leave. We hang around talking to the staff as long as we can. Then we load up our luggage and leave to see more family. 

I drive and grandpa directs me. The journey is longer than I thought and I worry that he may have forgotten the route because it all feels a bit off. Sure enough though we arrive at a house near the sugar cane plantations. I have met this great cousin before, I remember her visiting the old farm when we stayed. At the time of their visit though I had nicked the car keys to one of the Isuzu twin cabs and taken my cousin a few miles along the river to smoke and drink beer. 

More cousins arrive to greet us. They wear mechanic outfits and are hard workers. We laugh and chat about women drivers. I observe that one of our relatives noses has welts and I feel certain that they’ve let their health insurance lapse. So many do. Even with the NHS I have backup health and dental insurance. My toothbrush provides a daily hygienist clean and I have biannual checkups because I can’t afford to mess up my health. Sure it means sometimes going without other things to prioritise, but I really wouldn’t like to loose my teeth. My cousin tells of a botched operation at a government hospital, after a triple heart bypass they tried to remove her legs and she woke midway through. Cici and I excuse ourselves. 

We shortly leave and play various songs by Macklemore. I drive beyond the speed limit and my cousins over take me, my father enlightens me that their pickup truck’s speedometer is no longer functional and so they use a satnav for speed. Cici repeats the words “precious” over and over while I drive. 

The next stop is gramps old neighbours. He calls when only ten minutes away and the wife calls her husband who is just about to leave and tells him to stop, there are very important people about to arrive. I arrive and he looks at me, then sees gramps riding shotgun (George Esra Style) and shouts “My god, you old bugger come here” and runs around, pulls gramps out the car, hugs him so strong. They are both clearly teary eyed to see one another and both mumble something about hay fever and colds. I follow the two of them along the winding path up to a chicken farm. I feel my breakfast rising. My mother leaps out first to make sure it’s okay. There aren’t any chickens, they’ve all been cleared out and the 6 huge warehouses are currently being deep cleaned. I feel sick. Yet at the same time I start tearing up, a man has run over, it’s an old farm worker who I recognise - Zeparti, I hug him hello. Another old worker sees Gramps and runs up the hill to shake his hand. We hug him too. It’s so good to see these guys and they tear up when gramps talks to them in Zulu. 

I think about the lyrics to Macklemore’s Glorious. 

We chat over a cup of coffee then we really have to leave to arrive at the next destination. Our friends warn us about striking in the area, earlier that week tyres were burnt making the road impassible. I drive with intent up the passes. My father fidgets behind me in the back then shouts that he wants to drive “right now?” I ask in horror before putting on my hazards as we approach an informal settlement and let him drive. 

School has just finished and it’s crazy. The backs of 4x4s are loaded with fifteen kids I count on one. The calibre of driving is off too and I feel sick thinking about a crash. My father isn’t happy, he wanted a nice scenic drive but instead he’s in rush hour trying to reduce the chance of a collision. 

He declares he needs the toilet so I interrogate google earth to find a suitable spot. I do and he jumps out. So I get in the drivers seat, put the car in gear and get ready to go. He leaps in to the back and we drive the last hour to our destination. While driving the final stretch I think about tooth loss and syphilis and really look forward to a beer upon arrival. 

We pass through a town which Dad remembers from their summer journeys between Swaziland and Port Elizabeth. 

After passing a maximum security prison we arrive at our lodge. The rooms are cabins, waterside on a small reservoir. We have views of the town below and space to run and there’s a golf driving range on site. It’s all so wonderful. 

The rooms are luxurious with balconies onto the water. Mum and gramps sit in the sun and sip coffee while Cici and I talk about oral hygiene and STDs. We find bedside literature on spiritual anti semitism and the book of David. Again she overuses the word “Precious.” Dad hits a bucket of balls on the driving range. We’re all happy and content. 

We leave for dinner at the on site restaurant, it’s quite literally a stones throw. I thumb through the menu and ask for a beer. They are dry. I choke a little. Dad stares at me as if to say “sort it out” it’s dark by this point and I’m not driving into the town to BYOB to the restaurant. So I sip a smoothie and he has tea. 

The manager pops by to chat to us and I don’t know what to say. The rooms are lovely, the location is lovely, the literature is, uh, precious, but there’s no beer. He says something about their onsite boreholes and I get excited. I share banter about water until my father says “Hey, I’m looking for family who used to own the old Garage in town” my mind spins and I think, “no we’re not.” Dad mentions the name of the old owners, apparently his line of family, who are typically from the south coast of the uk. The manager shouts “Chappy, I know him, you want to speak to him?!” so he calls him and puts him on speaker phone to dad. I listen to this conversation and sure enough it is a Chappy who he is something like third cousins to. I’m gobsmacked. Ten minutes later Chappy arrives. 

My head is spinning. In the ten minutes before finding out that I have Snook family around here I go from finding out to meeting him. Now in that ten minutes I’m panicking wondering if this man will lack teeth and have syphilis too. 

A gorgeous blue eyed man walks into the restaurant, he’s gregarious, he doesn’t stop talking and damn he looks like us, almost spitting image of my uncle. He too is concerned about the no alcohol thing - a true snook. 

We share our lives and experiences, he asks questions and we're all fascinated to hear about each others lives. He's an entrepreneur, his father and grandfather were entrepreneurs. Very few of us in the family fit a traditional mould, we actively seek to instigate our own paths in life. He asks if I'm married to a rich man, I tell him I am a rich man and get a high five for that. After two hours of non stop talking from all of us, we depart having swopped numbers and made a family WhatsApp group. Gramps walks us to our lodge cabin and tells us how proud he is, I'm glad because I worried a little whether my confidence slipped into arrogant territory. 

We return to the room and my head spins. I fall asleep after a few minutes watching CNN.