A Scone for a Walk

Today, as I sat at my desk at work gazing out of the window at the cloudless blue sky (my Summer job isn’t very mentally stimulating), my mind wandered back in time to the holiday I took with my family to Devon three weeks ago. And by holiday, I mean walking bootcamp.

I’m notoriously grumpy when it comes to walking. I don’t mean stroll-in-the-park or amble-down-Brompton-Road walking. I mean proper walking; the type where you need walking boots, waterproofs, backpacks, CamelBaks, packed lunches, spare socks, blister plasters, torches…oh and foil insulation blankets ‘just in case’.

My mum and stepdad, on the other hand, are hardened walkers. They walk and walk, stopping only to exclaim how wonderful it is to be walking. Cody, the new canine addition to our family, agrees: he always ‘needs’ a walk.

Clearly there’s a conflict of interests when we go on holiday, one which, in Devon, was resolved with the promise of cream tea on each walk.

This was my first experience of proper cream tea. Rather embarrassingly, until not so long ago, I thought that a cream tea was, well, tea – with cream.

Conveniently, my favourite food blogger, Emma of Poires au Chocolat, wrote an enlightening post which cleared up any misunderstandings. She baked six (SIX!) batches of scones to perfect her recipe. True dedication. I even whipped out my phone before I started spreading to check her words of wisdom regarding what goes first – cream or jam (it’s scone-cream-jam, just so you know). I dread to think what would have happened had I not brought my phone with me, and spread jam first!

One of these days I’ll try my hand at Emma’s recipe. For now, the thought of cream tea still has the Pavlovian effect of evoking memories of pain and sweat, so perhaps I should wait a while!

Thinking about the walk/cream tea compromise made me wonder whether the walk was really just a means to an end (the end being a yummy reward). The truth is I don’t really mind walking, but only because it makes me feel good for being active, and the views really can be rewarding. But it’s not like jogging, which makes me profoundly happy in itself; not just because it’s burning calories or taking me on a speedy tour of central London, but because it makes me feel strong, powerful and in control of my body. Pain during a jog is welcome confirmation that I’m pushing my body to its limits; pain during a walk is just confirmation that I should have stayed at home.

I decided that walking, for me, is a means to an end, but the end in question isn’t a sweet treat: it’s the promise that I won’t feel guilty for not going on a walk. Oh the twisted thought processes of women! Or is it just me?

Cody’s thoughts revolve around food, walks and sleep. I know because he told me.

An Afternoon at the Dacha

DACHA /ˈdatʃə/ noun
a country house or cottage in Russia, typically used as a second or holiday home.
[Oxford Dictionary]

 

On the first day of the annual three-day Sea Festival in Klaipėda, we decided to leave the heaving city in favour of spending some time in the countryside at my stepmother’s family’s dacha.

The kids had lots of space to run around, and I had a chance to get through a bit more of Anna Karenina (thankfully, now finished).

Photo: We picked tomatoesPhoto: GreenhousePhoto: ShashlykiPhoto: Summer HousePhoto: BadmintonPhoto: Bees

Friends In High Places

It’s shameful how often I decline offers to socialise for fear of it being awkward, laziness to get ready, or “having work to catch up on”. When my tutor from university said that he and his girlfriend would be in Lithuania this summer for a friend’s wedding and suggested that we meet up for coffee, I said “yeaaah, sure, sounds greeeat” *big smile*. People always suggest meeting up but, more often than not, it never happens, right?

Emails followed, then an exchange of phone numbers, and even a provisional time and date. I considered “visiting my Grandma that day” or being “out of town”, but then I thought of this blog and remembered making a pledge to myself to try to be more like Yes Man.

As it happens, both my tutor and his girlfriend are really decent people, and we had a lovely chat over tea and coffee in this High Place (Restaurant ‘XII’) with panoramic views of Klaipėda and, apparently, a glass toilet (more investigation required).

Photo: Klaipeda ViewPhoto: Klaipeda ViewI shared some history about my home city (which I had memorised earlier that day after questioning my Stepmother), and spilt my tea only once. Most importantly [sappy, sentimental statement to come], I learnt that I should say “yes” more often, because drinking tea and pretending to be a convivial human being is considerably more fun than attempting to get to the end of Anna Karenina (forty pages to go).

A success by all accounts!

Home Away From Home

My feelings about Lithuania, my country of birth, are very much mixed. My mother immigrated to England when I was seven, and I was looked after by my father and grandparents until I joined her a year later. Based in England for more than half of my life, I feel in many ways more English than Lithuanian or Russian (my parents are both Russian). I’m certainly much more fluent in the English language than I am in Lithuanian or Russian, I apologise when someone bumps into me, and my passport says I’m ‘British’. Nevertheless, visiting Lithuania always feels like a homecoming. Every year, it surprises me how connected I feel to this small nation. The streets feel familiar, and it shocks me how well I can navigate my way around my home city, even though I’m sure I haven’t been to many of the places since my early childhood.

I’m enormously grateful for all the experiences and opportunities life in England has allowed me, but I do miss some aspects of life in Lithuania. I find the lack of snow and ‘proper’ cold in English winters unsatisfying, compared to Lithuania’s white winters (although these lose their appeal, when white becomes brown). Lithuania also tends to be sunnier and warmer than England in the summer, and I spend much of my summer visits here either lounging around on a beach or wishing my father’s flat had air-con. Other than the climate, I always look forward to filling up on stodgy potato-based food and, most of all, to seeing my family.

Photo: Pine Trees

Photo: Mushroom

Photo: Pine Trees

The mixed feelings come in when I see how different the quality of life is for the average person in Lithuania, when compared to the average person in England. From what I’ve seen, people have to work a lot harder just to get by, and I find this aspect of my visits fairly saddening. When I was younger, I used to say that if I won the lottery or became very rich, then I would spend my money on rebuilding the drab, grey Soviet apartment blocks. Now, I understand that this is the least of the problems, and there’s a lot to be done in terms of healthcare, education, corruption etc. before the aesthetics become a priority.

My family connections in Lithuania mean that I will always have a strong attachment to the country and an incentive to visit, but, even without the family connections, being in Lithuania brings back too many fond memories to stop visiting. However, at least for now, I can’t imagine my visits becoming any more than just that. After three weeks in Lithuania, I feel more English than ever, and ready to come home.

Here’s a restrained selection of some of my favourite sights in Lithuania…

Photo: BeachPhoto: BeachPhoto: Nida

Photo: Nida