It’s been a whole month since I returned from Gozo, wheelie case in hand, smile on my face, sunkissed and fresh-faced and sparkly butt-holed – looking and feeling as cool as a cucumber. I suppose you think I’ve hit the burgers and prosecco and it’s all gone to pot, don’t you? Well…surprisingly, no. You will be as shocked as I am to learn that (so far, at least) the good stuff I picked up at Amchara has stuck.
The first few days after I got back were probably the most challenging. Andre had tried to fill the fridge with healthy food for my return but had no idea what I could or couldn’t/would or wouldn’t eat, and very soon I was asking myself that same question. Truth be told, I didn’t really know. Amchara had helpfully emailed me a sort of exit plan letter that contained recommended recipes and hints and tips, and I had attended a lecture while I was there which explained what types of food to add back in slowly and carefully over the first few days and weeks after fasting, but in my excitement at being home I genuinely couldn’t remember. I knew I was supposed to stick to raw food (mainly veg) for the first few days. So to begin with I was really good and did just that – I was all sprouted seeds, chopped salads and spiralised courgette for the first few days. All I wanted to drink was water and coconut water. All I wanted to do was sleep, make crudités, make love, and talk about the benefits of enemas. My poor boys didn’t know what had hit them. However, bless them, to their credit they tried to indulge this strange, shiny, sparkly hippy that had wandered back into their lives in harem pants and sandals.
But I felt *incredible*. Quite possibly the best I’ve felt in my life. Which is saying something for someone who is continually ill and achy and for whom a cold turns into the plague and only has to look at someone sneeze on television to develop influenza. Friends who saw me in that first couple of weeks all remarked how I looked ten years younger. I effervesced to anyone who would listen to me bubbling and babbling on about adding mineral salts to water, the benefits of yoga, and how the strange, surreal ‘sound healing’ seemed to have kicked my sex drive into the stratosphere. I probably sounded like a complete loon, but I didn’t care. The truth was written all over me for everyone to see, so people listened with interest, googled the costs of going out there themselves, and we all fantasised about a lottery win that would mean I could scoop up all friends, family, loved ones with pasty faces everywhere and cart them off to lovely Gozo, to experience what I’d just experienced.
First things first, I got on the internet – I googled a) flight costs back to Gozo at different times of year b) where to buy harem pants (I bought two more pairs – one white pair with butterflies and one true hipster patterns in bright turquoise), c) where to buy kelp noodles (I nearly fell off my chair at the cost of those babies – you can almost buy harem pants cheaper than a pack of kelp noodles), d) where to buy decent pro-biotics, e) how to join the yoga class at my gym. Next step – fill the cupboard with yummy but healthy things.
My trip to the supermarket was quite something. When you are eating the Amchara way, then there are entire aisles you don’t need to go down. In fact, loads of aisles. However, I probably spent an hour in just two aisles (fruit/veg and the oriental/speciality foods aisle) turning things over, sniffing things, reading every ingredient on every packet carefully. By the time I’d finished shopping I’d probably spent £120 on every raw, organic, coconut based, unprocessed, palm-oil-free, grown by unicorns up a yak’s armpit type foodstuff that Tesco and Lidl had to offer between them. It was worth it. There isn’t a more smug feeling that when you line up all the gorgeous veg * you’ve got on the conveyor belt at the checkout desk and it looks SO bleeding healthy compared to the Cocopops and spam being lined up at every other checkout that I practically glowed with my very own halo of golden chickpeas dancing around my lightly tanned head. Yes, that’s me, smuggedy smug smug of Lidl aisle seven.
* NB – not all veg is beautiful. I bought this one (a celeriac) specifically because it was so ugly I felt sorry for it. If you believe in God, what was he thinking when he designed this then? It looks like fifty baby rat corpses mashed together in one giant bogey. I had no idea what to do with it when I got it home, so I took a guess and peeled it and grated it . We’ve been using it ever since in salads and stir fries. Strangely, it never seems to get any smaller/less. We think it is breeding (possibly genetically related to the buckwheat mash at our local Nepalese restaurant).
I didn’t feel one bit like I was depriving myself. Eating food was still a strange and orgasmic experience since my trip, where flavours were like new to me and textures spellbinding. Declining ‘treats’, booze, bread, meat…it was easy stuff, because that stuff no longer looked like food to me. Any time I tested that theory by putting it in my mouth was soon followed by me regurgitating said processed shit into my hand or the nearest bin like a baby given its first taste of pureed swede. That kind of thing just tasted…wrong. Not quite poisonous but just…wrong. Like it wasn’t food. Whereas I continued to make sex noises eating grated carrot with a squeeze of lemon juice. Weird, huh?
The trouble is that while my taste buds had embraced raw veganism with enthusiasm, I forgot that I’m not actually very good in the kitchen and don’t really know what I’m doing. Within a few days I had started to get very dizzy and faint and had no idea why. Then it occurred to me that despite topping up my fabulously crunchy diet with things like vitamin D, E, iodine and omega 3 oils, I had completely forgotten about iron! Although iron can be found in green leafy veg and other healthy things, I just hadn’t had time to do proper research, and I was beginning to flag. Rifling through my cupboard I found some liquid iron supplements and helped myself to the correct daily dose. Within 2 days I was feeling myself again and bouncy. I was relieved when after an emergency Whatsapp exchange with my sis in Gozo, she gave me ‘permission’ to gradually reintroduce a bit of fish, some goats cheese and some healthy carbs like sweet potato and lentils. All of a sudden it was like the whole world of cooking and eating opened up to me. What need have I for sausages or icecream or crisps when there is sliced toasted sweet potato with avocado (particularly when one’s boyfriend is making it for one)?
I am not lying when I say I am loving each and every meal I eat – my old love/hate relationship with food, which used to be an abusive relationship, like a love affair with someone that hurts you but you keep going back to it – has been replaced by a true love affair. The food I choose is genuinely loving to my body and I genuinely enjoy every single mouthful. And when I stop enjoying, I stop eating. No longer this compulsion to finish the plate or packet or carton just because it’s there. This is a brand new feeling. It’s not even what I’d call self-control or a diet because there is no restriction. I’m not following anyone’s rules any more. I’m just listening to what my body wants and feels good eating.
If you think my new smug healthy life stopped there you’d be very wrong. Not only did I join yoga class at my local gym but I persuaded André to give it a go too! I’ve been so touched at how open he is to trying everything I’ve been effusing about since getting home. When I met him, André was the biggest meat eating, ice cream guzzler I’ve ever known. But unlike a lot of guys, he is very open to new stuff, or trying things outside his comfort zone. He’d already made the decision he wanted to lose some weight and tone up after 5 months on an intense work contract that meant evening beer/Ben and Jerries were a bit too regular. But I have to give him brownie points for effort. From yoga to mung beans, he’s giving it a go. However…there are drawbacks to this…
We’ve spoken about farts before. It is one thing worrying about one’s own farts in yoga class when balancing upside down and legs akimbo. It is quite another to have the added anxiety of one’s boyfriend farting in yoga class. I have, thus far, managed to clamp my own sphincter shut tight in yoga classes like the lid on a sarcophagus. Having attended a few now, I feel a bit more relaxed and trusting of my stomach and bottomly muscles to control themselves in yoga while the rest of me downward dogs or salutes the sun or otherwise pretzels myself into a human tangle. However, one’s boyfriend does not have such control even when NOT in yoga. To this day, I do not know how boys do it. I have dated many men over the years (not loads by some standards but enough) and I still don’t get how they can openly and joyously fart like giggling babies without any sense of shame or mortification. André can do it anywhere – family parties, supermarket shopping, funerals – all done with a celebratory grin and usually followed by pointing accusingly at me and exclaiming ‘CJ! Don’t do that!’ really loudly so that anyone who overhears or oversmells the bottom burp will turn to look at yours truly instead of him. This is a never-ending game in our relationship that only seems to have one winner. I strongly suspect he will be doing this when we are old and grey and living in a residential home for fuddies. I hope by then that all our friends are too deaf to notice. It never ceases to embarrass me. It never ceases to delight and amuse him.
So you can imagine exactly how I felt, after initially proud and overjoyed that my boyfriend had booked into yoga class with me, when he started saying he was feeling a ‘bit windy’ from all the extra roughage we’d been eating. I was literally pleading with him before that first class to try and get it all out before we went in. To please please not embarrass me in class or I would never ever be able to go back. And, in an act of true love, he managed to put a cork in it for one hour.
Yoga was fabulous. And strangely, when I’m doing it, I feel really connected to the people back in Gozo. I imagine them back there doing it every morning and evening, and when I’m laying on my mat with my eyes closed listening to the dulcet tones of the instructor, Jules, I am suddenly back in the yoga studio at Amchara next to my sister Nay, peaceful Jane, lovely Ina, poetry-reading David. Like the Earth we are laying on/above connects us all in that same blissful sense of peace and calm I had there. I don’t care if I just imagine it. It’s how it feels and I like it.
However, I am not a proper grownup, only a pretend one. So when the instructor asks us all to take a deep cleansing breath and let it out with a sigh and there is ONE weird person in the class who, every single time she says this, HAS to make their sigh louder and longer than everyone else in the classroom like he’s competing for the who can sound most like a mating tortoise contest…well, I’m sorry but I start to lose my shit right then and there. Particularly if I know that my equally ungrownup boyfriend can hear the same thing and is thinking THE EXACT SAME THING. How do I know that André is conjuring up the image of a mating tortoise at the weird-loud-sighing-man at yoga class and not just me? Well…because of this cake:-
And if we’re going back a bit then it’s because of this video:-
Which I can only post the link to and no longer watch, because when I do, I laugh so hard that it triggers an asthma attack. Which is why André made me that mating tortoise cake for my birthday and played the sound effects to go with it until I had an asthma attack on my birthday and was thinking ‘This would be one of those really embarrassing ways to die’. I may even have to start a new blog post listing embarrassing ways I have nearly died. Mating tortoise cake is only the tip of the iceberg. But basically, mating tortoise videos on Youtube is the reason why no one can deeply sigh or exhale near either Andre nor I without us both losing all control and peeing ourselves laughing. I’m not kidding you. For about 3 weeks after we saw that video our sex life was ruined because almost ANY noise you make during human coitus starts sounding like that bloody tortoise. And then nothing at all can be taken seriously. I’ve probably just passed this curse onto you, dear reader.
So Andre and I do yoga now every week, but we CANNOT look at each other. Neither of us have farted but someone in class did and they were right next to Andre when it happened; also we have identified the competitive sigher as the young trendy looking Asian dude in yoga pants with his own mat (he probably thinks he’s the coolest in the class and takes his sighs ultra seriously); and although she doesn’t bong any bowls or drum near my Um Zjah Zjini, Jules the teacher DOES sometimes read poetry at the end of class. (NB She has not once said ‘Namaste’. I suspect it is contractually forbidden at my sporty gym. I almost see her squirming at the end of class trying to suppress it. I suspect she mouths it to the back of our heads as we are exiting the yoga studio at the end of class).
So what else can I tell you about my life one month on? That I LEFT ice cream to melt on my plate because I tasted it and didn’t want it.
That I have lost 2 and a half more kilos in weight since I came back. That I have continued to look in the mirror and like myself, even on grotty days. That when I tried on some new clothes in a shop and they didn’t look good on me I blamed the design of the clothes and not myself. All these things are miracles. But I know what you really want to ask. You want to know if I’ve embraced the enema since coming home, don’t you?
Well…yes, I have. Just once. Last week I was feeling a bit rough, I’d eaten some cow’s milk cheese for the first (and only) time, and some onion. I felt tired and bunched up. And something in me yearned for the fresh and zingy feeling that inexplicably comes with hosing out my arsehole. Setting up the enema kit at home wasn’t as easy as it was in Nay’s apartment. For starters, to lay down on my right hand side with the enema bag hung from the shower hook means that my head has to practically be under the toilet. So add on another 5-10 minutes of cleaning of that area to begin with. Then I couldn’t get the water temperature right, which meant that what went in the first time almost came straight out. But it did the trick. I swear there are still psillium husks coming out of me a month after I last ate some. I probably would have done another bumflush this month if the boys had both gone out at the same time, but I didn’t have much privacy. And you know that if I am too much of a lady to embrace joyous open farting that I am definitely too much of a lady to embrace explosive bum syndrome.
So, in summary. Things I’ve said this month that I never ever thought I would ever say:-
‘Please hurry up and go out because I want to do an enema’.
‘I don’t want my ice cream. Do you want it?’
My tan has faded, I’m not drinking as much water as I should, I’m a bit worn out from work and late nights, but the spirit of my trip lives onwards in me. I have even given up meat completely, strangely have gone off seafood, and found out how truly delicious vegetables are…even the ugly ones. I watched the guys from BBC’s ‘DIY SOS’ go through a similar experience in Thailand on the show ‘The Retreat’ this month which had me in tears and laughter throughout. And I miss Gozo, Amchara and my sister so much it hurts. I measure the time lapsed since I left them by the new toenail regrowth sprouting through without the sparkly nail polish on that my sister put on me the last night we were together. I’ve started saving for my next trip back. This time I’m taking André with me.