Welcome back

February 4, 2007

Well it’s official, I’m thoroughly grounded, nose first, into English soil. I am even back in my little house, so I hope you find this pic, taken today, appropriate… though sadly not inspirational.

Haywood Leeds

So far since landing back in Leeds I have partied with friends, been cooked for, taken out and generally fussed over, joined a belly dancing workshop, gone walking in the Welsh hills, attended a Salsa class… and… I’ve been to work.
Ten whole days of it.

I’m struck by the coldness of January in England, the thick frost and need to scratch your windscreen of a morning, the miserable faces on the gloomy grey-skinned people… and mostly, perhaps this winters biggest fashion accessory behind the ubiquitous Ugg boots which I had thought were over 18 months ago… the double chin. I think Christmas gluttony and the general wintry temptation to over-eat and sit indoors, has affected quite a few people in an unflattering way.

That aside, the sunsets are filled with more colours (the pollution in the air?), the clouds are smoother and the sky filled with more jet-streams, which, I hadn’t even realised, really are rare in Ecuador.

I can’t help feeling that England is nothing more than a huge canvass for all types of advertising. Inside our homes via televisions, radios, trashy, inward-looking, alarmist, national newspapers, our minds are filled with banal celebrity gossip, non-news and we are machine-gunned with yet more things to want and to buy. Outdoors the bill boards, window displays, neighbour-envy over homes and cars, new kitchens, gardens, and our national obsession with possessions, status and labor-saving, obesity-encouraging devices from ready meals to electronic pepper mills are SO FAR removed from life in Ecuador that there are screams inside my head.

This perpetual bombardment and lifelong conditioning leaves us barely chance to imagine, break free and think or allow an idea to germinate and grow. I have hardly written since I came back. My waking mind filled with trash, my ability to think outside of the socially acceptable almost swamped.

I am trying desperately to resist my consumerist urges by replaying snippets of my trip back to myself; by hanging onto a simpler reality where people are happy, smiling, friendly, open. Where the ground isn’t covered in tarmac, where people don’t wear wellies to wash their cars in suffocating, seemingly inescapable, suburban nightmares.

I am sorry if this post offends some of you. I can only tell you how I feel. (And this is despite the warmest of welcomes given unreservedly to me by family and friends).

You probably think I am being unrealistically idealistic. You’re probably right. Afterall England isn’t so bad. Ecuador certainly wasn’t perfect. I should keep things in perspective. Don’t worry. I’ll give myself chance to get sucked under the water, back onto the hamster wheel of work.

And yes, of course I’m writing this on a Sunday evening. Monday is calling me to my bed, so I can face my money-earning grown-up responsibilities at the appointed alarm-clocked hour.

Good luck out there people.


17 Responses to “Welcome back”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Good to hear from you Shirley – I was only saying to James yesterday how I miss reading what you’ve been up to and how I’d be interested to know how you’re finding life back here – and now I do! Having never been to Leeds, I can’t be sure how much worse it might be for you if you’d had to come back to London instead, a pace of life that is manic, and obsessed with work and status, and the usual consumerist obsessions magnified (or so it seems to this Devon girl)

    Interesting that you should write about something that’s been spinning in my head lately, I’ll have to send you a book I read recently (picked up on a trip to Tesco, oh the irony…)

    Anyway, I think James is planning to give you a call soon (when he can find time between job applications and late meetings, this week is working out to be a ‘see you on Friday then, dear’ situation) and hopefully we’ll catch up with you properly in the not too distant future!


  2. whirley Says:

    Lovely to get some positive feeback Jenny – glad it’s not just me!

    If the two of you fancy a trip up to Leeds to unwind from the mayhem of London Town, you’d be most welcome. I’ll have an empty house in March, so loads of room for visitors from then onwards… failing that, I may have to brave it down south…

  3. Mrs Ibbo Says:

    No offence taken, even though I know I fit into the double-chin category and marvelled at the electronic pepper mill!! ;o) It’s good to have you back and to see you writing again. Your sentiments about life back home were anticipated, even if I underestimated your flair in putting them into words. I have a challenge for you… why don’t you try writing an entry on the positive things about life in England and the negatives of South America. It could be help to put the smile back on your face, you never know.


  4. What do you mean there’s no room left for more adverts?

    **Buy Cheap flights Here!**


    You need to get that “No Logo” book our and get to the chapter called “No Space”

    …then you’ll see why all the ad budgets are moving to search!

  5. whirley Says:

    Oooo you cheeky monkeys!!

    One at a time…

    Nikki – I could write an entry on plus points of England and rubbishiness of Ecuador, but – seriously – it would be a really short post…

    “England has my family and friends, hyacinths and roses smell nice in the evenings, and it can be really lovely when it’s sunny. Ecuador has political instability and umm… not many trains.”

    Dickie – You online click merchant! Thought at least you’d have popped a link in to your company… http://www.searchlatitude.com

  6. whirley Says:

    Oooo I forgot…

    SNOW!! – England has great snow.

    And the coast of Ecuador has too many mosquitos.

  7. Mrs Ibbo Says:

    That’s more like it!

    How about we have excellent health care options and the water in Ecuador gives you the shits (or worse, can kill you)!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Ecuador and I understand why you fell in love with the place – but I know where I would rather be (and it’s not because of Levi jeans and sandwich toasters!). I wonder if you would feel the same about the place if coming home had not meant leaving the chagra behind…. ;o)

  8. whirley Says:

    Well each to his own hon 😦

    I really hope that people realise the trip, the lifestyle and the freedom represented a lot more than any random romance.


  9. Mrs Ibbo Says:

    understood x

  10. Bobby Says:

    Love it, come back and call everyone closed minded and fat! I like it, welcome back Shirl! 🙂

  11. whirley Says:

    If the cap fits… 😉

  12. sarah Says:

    Sounds like going cold turkey is proving really tough…. I feel in the interests of keeping you grounded and making sure that you aren’t too dewy eyed, someone ought to provide the list of things that aren’t quite so good about ecuador – as england has a lot going for it! And while I’ve not been in Leeds that long there are lots of free things I’ve found that don’t revolve about buying stuff and having stuff you can enjoy!! Hill walking and art galleries and the library in town are all pretty cool!!

    So Ecuador also has:

    infant mortality almost 5xs the UK
    80% of women suffer domestic violence
    65% of the population live below the poverty line,there is no welfare state and very high unemployment
    no universal healthcare – only the rich can get treatment
    one of the highest rates of chronic infant undernutrition in Latin America – almost a quarter of the population
    compulsory military service
    half of existing homes have no sewerage or water supply, a third no electricity
    pan pipes!!

    And much as I had an awesome holiday with you, and it is a beautiful and amazing country, there is no way on earth I could live with myself having a comfortable lifestyle there alongside all those street children begging and not being able to get medicine when they need it.

  13. whirley Says:

    Yeah it’s not perfect and I am sooo with you the pan pipes.

    However, thanks for hightlighting those things, I wonder why social issues, living conditions and opportunities to help aren’t discussed or reported in Britain?

    Anyway, perhaps I can have a positive effect on some of them in the future 😉

    Glad you came to see it all with me x

  14. James Says:

    Oh, yeah phone calls. I remember a time when I was able to make those to all the people I liked, rather than some awkward tosser I have to placate for £.

    I never should have got that Reginald Perrin Dvd boxset, I have begun to dangerously mirror the entire plot line.

    I loved reading your Ecuador blog and think that you need to start work on a book.Quickly.

    Now back to that obscure Bowie album I got cheap in Uxbridge…

    All the best,


  15. Bobby Says:

    Did you know 66.3% of statistics are made up!?

  16. Derelys Says:

    But when does the next adventure start? And where? Is it here and now……..perhaps closer examination of what opportunities can be available to us in this country will tempt you to change the apparantly narrow general perspective of British lives. All sorts of volunteer groups gather together to do all sorts of things which benefit others, from clearing tow paths to visiting hospitals, and it is not generally reported. This could be one avenue of many…….and there is always the political route! Perhaps Equador was only a springboard……….what do you think?

  17. whirley Says:


    It’s taken me a while to respond to this… mainly because I’ve been thinking about it. It was funny that you added it when you did, because I’d just been at home with my family the night before talking about little things we can all do in our lives to help out (rather than focus on blaming the government). Little things are different for everyone but could be buying organic, British or locally produced products or whether it’s taking the time to volunteer at a charity shop or visit ladies in an old folks home. It can be very rewarding.

    So, I guess what I think is, that you’re right. We can live a rich life wherever we’re put. Through our own contributions to the community we live in. But you know all this already Derelys! Thanks for raising it and giving me a push in the right direction… I feel another post coming on…


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