Confessing

For those Schadenfreude moments

Dear Kent…

My lovely readers, humour me as I bring a piece of my soul to the blog today. You see, ten years ago on this day, the man with whom I’d spent 30 years of my life died. His Spirit continues to speak to those whom he held most dear, and I feel the need to respond. Raise a glass and giggle, cringe, relate or let my thoughts simply wash over you as we drink a toast to the late great ‘Telly’.

Dear Kent…

A heart attack, swift and sudden. Sadly, you didn’t go out in a blaze of glory in the sack as you’d always hoped. A relief though! Might have been a tad awkward given you’d just met your new love. A beautiful woman, shame you didn’t get to explore her potential.

What a life we had ‘eh? Franz Josef flirting at 19, married at 21, growing up together; years of pure joy, the last few not so as I found my voice and you fought for yours. The search for mutual ground too hard, a sad parting, both of us mourning the loss of our closest friend. Me. You. Twelve months later, you died.

Impressed with your timing? We lost your sister Beth in 1977, Poppa ’87, your Mum ’97 and you, at the tender age of 52, in 2007. Smarty pants! Does this trend only apply to blood relatives? Much too young; should have seen our older friends scrambling to reform their drinking, smoking and dietary habits!

We promised we’d never go to sleep on an argument and I’m sad that we didn’t fulfil that agreement. But hey! While this earthling struggled with her guilt, her fears; courage won, desires lost, you sir moved on to that ethereal place. I know this for we felt you all around us.

Bloody cigarette smoke for god’s sake! None of my neighbours indulged yet after you passed you heralded your presence by filling my home with the damn stuff. I’d pat the sofa and make space for you, and you’d stay awhile or for a fleeting moment; the only time Patou our little Burmese miaowed. She was blind, but didn’t need sight to feel the spirit. Those visits are rare these days, but that’s ok.

And what’s with the boating knots huh? Jenny and Ross continue to untangle those suckers from their timber louvre cords over permanently closed windows. Keep at it though for it amuses and keeps you close in their hearts. We’ve since travelled Europe together, a coin in the Trevi fountain for you; candles lit in remembrance in every goddamned cathedral. Citing your ‘It’s beer o’clock somewhere in the world’ as we supped first drink of the day. Religiously toasting you at sunset as you asked me to, knowing you’d be thinking of me too. Oh! And Rossie’s now a granddad! I know right? Makes the coolest one! A total bruiser that kid is too!

You’ll be chuffed to know I sold your beloved Bay Cruiser boat the ‘Sea Imp’ to the Tasmanian Maritime University where they restored her to her former glory just as you’d hoped to do. Funds went to your nephew. Wasn’t what our wills requested but I knew that’s what you’d want. The gesture thwarting his attempt to sue me for our house. Bless!

And dear sweet Bret, fellow skipper who helped you sail Sea Imp to Brisbane. The man became my rock during the tougher times and, 17 years my junior; poor devil consistently fought the ‘cougar’ label on my behalf. We made a good team for five years before finally casting off our own anchors. Reasons, Seasons, Lifetimes. He’s happily married now.

You’d also be proud of me for finding the courage to live on the coasts of Italy and France, our favourite countries, for six months. Alone. To grieve, write, reconcile; each evening, finding a spot to observe that sunset and think of you. Without fail, there was always a yacht on the horizon. Cheeky man, we always knew you were sailing the high seas.

More candles lit, plus one for John Mac, another for my friend Moo whom we also lost in the year of my sabbatical. Putting a flame to a candle for you in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral with your cousin David and Helen, my long-standing moroseness finally lifted, and I was ready to come home.

Ten years on, so many frogs kissed, a few with whom I fell a little in love, one providing my ‘forever person’ benchmark. Ironically a cheeky, fun, loving, true gentleman. A replica of you, my Tarzan, sans the habits that tore us apart and that Tom Selleck look you totally rocked.

Poppa Lyons passed, but not before we witnessed the septuagenarians renewing their wedding vows. The love in the room was palpable that day. So too our beloved mentor Trevor, ‘Mon Capitaine’ now with you on the high seas, Beverley and Heaton as well.

Knowing how much you loved your technology, you’d be seriously annoyed to know you’re missing out on the rapid advancements in this space too. Watson, IoT (Internet of Things) the font of all knowledge and connectivity; movies, TV programs and music now streamed directly to our ‘smart’ devices. Phone books, maps, nah! Remember how I’d call you from random parts of the city where I was usually hopelessly lost asking for directions? Google Maps is now our friend. Minuscule button phones now pocket-sized computers driving our connectivity and with apps catering to our every whim. The Dick Tracey wrist watch on steroids. Everything you imagined and would now be relishing.

Social Media too! Web sites where we talk, share imagery, create discussions and obtain instantaneous global awareness and opportunity to help or intervene. Suspect you’d have been king of Facebook!

A female Prime Minister, a Black American President, Donald Trump currently in the seat (yes seriously!). Gay Marriage legalised (given you championed LGBTI rights, you’d be furious to know our Government is holding back). Items and artificial body parts being 3D printed, genetic re-engineering, artificial intelligence rapidly advancing, the first driver less car due for release next year.

But most importantly dear man, you continue to be loved; our close mutual NZ and Aussie friends and family remain a huge part of my life, the stories we share now legendary as we toast yet again, the anniversary of your departure. We miss you, sir. Your humour, your compassion for the underdog, the love you bestowed upon your closest and dearest. And the love you had for me, for us. In memory xx

Sparking F**king Joy here…

Lovely readers, 12 months ago I embarked on an attempt to declutter my home and my heart. The urge always strikes when I’m desperate for change, for a new beginning. Conversations of late indicate a whole raft of you are also in need of a mental and physical purge. Well read on, giggle and possibly be inspired as I re-share the robust argument my head and heart had while acting on that aspiration…

‘My book will help you transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space’ claimed Marie Kondo. Your book will transform my brain into a permanently traumatised cluster-f**k’ I retort.

I’ve been standing in my wardrobe holding each item of clothing one by one, asking my heart IMG_9825‘Does this spark joy in your life?‘ while my head’s responding ‘You paid good money for that girlfriend so it damn well better!’ I’m already exhausted, and I haven’t even started perfecting the art of folding the remnants into sweet little ‘stand-ups’ for easy viewing yet. I need fortification. Pouring a glass of red while cranking up my fave Spotify playlist, I give myself a stern pep talk – you’ve got this girl! 

Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ has so far seen crates of excess clothing, kitchenware, and office detritus make it’s way to charities, recycle depots and the brilliant folk at ‘Dressed for Success’. Pretty pleased with myself for according to Kondo, ‘The KonMare way of curating your space to represent what’s important to you will clear your mind and make you much happier’. Wait? Curated space, yes. Clear mind? Nope! Still traumatised.

I turn to Sarah Knight’s ‘Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k’ a beautiful parody of Marie Kondo’s work. Self-help with an edge. Seems that wasting my time worrying about giving away that item I paid good money forIMG_9826 is taking up a lot of mental energy I could be using elsewhere. Taking her advice, I put said energy to good use by curating the content in the ‘F**k Barn’ that constitutes my brain.

Yep! I’ve now scripted polite ways of letting you know I no longer give a F**k – about your fund-raising requests or your incredible kale chip recipe or your horrible boss. Nope. I may just give one about your theory on John Snow’s resurrection, but definitely no F**ks given on your passion for Kardashians or the volume of Instagram followers you might have. Nein. Non.  Nada. Not a single one.

Sooo…am I concerned about that Gollum-like voice in my head whispering ‘nobody will like you‘? Nope. No F**ks given there either. As the subtitle states, this book’s a primer on “how to stop spending time you don’t have doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like”. Sorry-not-sorry Gollum. I’ve now prioritised the F**ks I do have to give – and I’m giving them to the people and things that matter most, direct from the sofa in my zen-like clutter free home.

In need of a declutter yourself? Both books a damn fine starter kit.

In honour…

Been thinking about what this day means for us all as we commemorate the fallen today, my mind drifting back to the time my travel buddy and I visited the war fields in France in 2013. I wrote about that day in honour of our ANZACs in 2015. The memory still tears at my heart. Here’s my story:

I hadn’t wanted to come. It was bone chillingly cold, drizzle fell from burgeoning grey skies and a biting wind whipped mercilessly at my inadequate jeans and jacket. Feet, wet and cold, were screaming chilblains, a dread I’d endured during long NZ winters, and I’d used my last tissue on a streaming red nose.

Bloody marvellous! A fine way to start a holiday in France I muttered as I wandered across the lush manicured lawns striated with row upon row of headstones.

Many of the headstones bore names, still more were marked ‘Unknown Soldier’. The 1918 battlefields at Villers-Bretonneux. An imposing Memorial commemorating nearly 11,000 Australians who died in France but have no known grave, formidable against bleak skies. I ran frozen fingers across the names etched into chilled marble. Andrew, Horatio, James, Clive, so many innocents.

Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA - Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva Uploaded by PDTillmanFrom there to Pozières, then the Thiepval ‘Memorial to the Missing’ honouring over 72,000 British and South African men, followed by Beaumont-Hamel and the Newfoundland Memorial Park where zig zag trenches can still be seen almost a century on. In the distance, the yellow rapeseed covered tracts of land soldiers had been fighting relentlessly to retain. A weak sun caressed my icy cheeks as I took stock of the surrounds. So peaceful. Once so bloodied.

Meandering through the trenches behind our guide as she described the unimaginable conditions the soldiers experienced there –  the stench of the dead atop, dysentery, lack of food, fresh water or shelter, month upon month exposed to extreme weather conditions, from searing sun to death rattle snow – I struggled to remain composed. Choking on a crust of humble pie will do that. Wet feet and a sniffle indeed.

Each site respectfully tended regardless of nationality interred, the Germans distinguished by grey crosses within a quiet field of their own. They too were just young men sent into the same bloody battles. All of them heartbreakingly young; seeing, experiencing and succumbing to horrors we can’t begin to imagine. But you probably know that anyway, a part of our ANZAC history…a raw, gut wrenching sacrifice of human life. Today, 100 years on, we honour that sacrifice.

(Image – Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA – Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva)

 

Sweet mantra ‘o mine

As most of you, my lovely readers, know  – I get myself into crazy messes, don’t seem to do things by halves, but do believe in grabbing life by the…um…’testicles’…this year an absolute classic.

My home makeover for instance. Executed by my lovely friend James who morphed my humble abode into such a creative realm, friends were left grasping for platitudes…’um, wow, er?… no wait!  I LOVE that mirrored door!’ A home with a ceiling of midnight blue, where white Picasso mistrals drift across bedroom walls of forest mulch, where voluptuous vases of pink peonies and dusky roses require 6am, puffer jacket clad Rocklea flower market forays in search of the perfect bloom. (About to be photographed by some magazine, stay tuned for images). Oh yes, this house is certainly not for the faint of heart.

So too, leaving the country for four weeks with just $4 in pocket (something to do with that interior design gig and a holiday application mix up) to indulge in a holiday  in ‘cash preferred’ corruption central Greece. The Greek islands to be exact. Where a 5 minute cab ride might cost €25 and a 25 minute ride €15. Oh yes, where tax dodge cash is king and credit cards cause consternation, an environment not one for the timid negotiator.

And then there’s the quest for romance. The search to find THE one. Where 25 date site frogs, kissed in an effort to find a ‘Prince’ has resulted in a number who remain great friends, a couple with whom I may  just have fallen a little in love;  still more where a mental ‘damn where’s my wing man when I need her’ has verbally translated to ‘Oh! Sooo sorry, must run, parking meter about to expire!’ And possibly, just possibly, a match. Oh yes, this game definitely not for the ego sensitive.

When life gets beyond sane, I remind myself of the late great Lou Reed’s words ‘She said hey babe, take a walk on the wild side’. And with that mantra, comes wonderful life lessons. An interior makeover that encouraged me to think beyond mainstream decor;  the holiday ‘credit card or nothing’ necessity that encouraged me to demand ‘ya’ want the sale or not!?’ The sweet dating match who mentally encouraged me to reconsider my 10 ‘must have’ deal breaker characteristics for the 20+ ‘nice to have’ on offer.

Lou Reed, I intend on keeping those words alive if that’s ok with you sir. So too my friends, I just know it.

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Packing according to man…

My buddy and I will soon be sipping cocktails at sunset on the other side of the world. This means endless chats about what to pack. You see, my bud packs as if she’s on a one way ticket while I argue the case for whittling my wardrobe into just one Airline authorised carry on. Yep, I wanna pack like a man. Throw open a bag, shove a bundle of fave t’s ‘n jeans in, spare pair of sneakers, top off with a toothbrush, razor, after shave and Bob’s your uncle. That’s packing according to man. Good for them I say. Bastards.

As for we girlies…an outfit for breakfast, another for lunch, and for shopping, and sight seeing, beach, snow, dinner, concert, night club…per day. Every day.

imageI once spent two weeks in Bali surrounded by an explosion of outfit possibilities from which just three items lived on constant rotation. Sticky, yucky, hot, hot, hot. I left trails of sweat in my wake, not to mention the added discomfort of that post Brazilian experience. Errr let’s not go there. Let’s just say the enticing concept of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothing’ was thwarted only by a desire to protect the locals from visual trauma.

Similar situation on the opposite end of the temperature gauge while on a winter sojourn in Europe with late hubby. We lived in just two pairs of jeans, t’shirts on rotation under a woolen knit, a jacket, fur lined leather gloves, weather proof boots and two scarves. Wore the cute dress just once and froze my ass off. Didn’t help when matching one off heels threw me face down in a sleet filled gutter (nothing to do with that slight excess of mulled wine). Must admit, the jeans did make their own way home.

Which brings me to my point…

Pack light…seriously! Whether stumbling up stairs, hobbling across cobbles or streamlining across a smooth terrazzo, it just makes life easier. Period. Are you listening my lovely friend?

Only your travel buddy will know you survived in just two pairs of jeans, mixed it up with a couple of t-shirts and knits, a few fave scarves, a jacket and sweet little ankle boots. A water resistant hooded puffer jacket for inclement weather, or a $5 plastic emergency raincoat which makes for a bloody good laugh, your choice. Only she will know you wore the same little black dress, kitten heels and touch of bling for those glam evenings over and over. And will she care? No…’cos she’s being just as savvy!

Same goes for beach bound breaks. A pretty sarong and swim suit or two by day, a cute singlet cover up to sass the look in time for late afternoon aperitifs; a cotton shift, sandals and bling for lounging around beach side bistros sipping cocktails at sunset while batting lashes at bronzed hunks…oops, am I thinking out loud?

Inspired to pack light for your next holiday? Stay tuned! A few handy hints coming up cos’ for this trip? I’m gonna pack like a man!

Friend affirming pre-trip tips

Major birthdays must be celebrated in grand style, preferably in a magnificent location and what better place for this Francophile to do so than in Paris? I know right? Plans have been hatched, a few additional countries attached, itinerary matched, tickets stashed and Jen ‘n Jane are now on count-down. Interestingly, I was recently asked if traveling with a bestie for extended periods of time might be a recipe for disaster? ‘Au contraire’ I retorted, we’re the perfect travel companions! Why? Well firstly let’s compare our (traveling) personalities.

DSC05274Jane: Dodgy sense of direction, trips over carpet patterns, struggles with foreign languages, techno-queen, obsesses over connectivity, cries at random moments, panics over missing flights, has public toilet, thunderstorm and tripe phobia, packs like a minimalist pro, can talk under water.

DSC05104Jenny: Reads maps upside down, falls off her heels, has a modicum of grasp on foreign languages, technophobic, slaps Jane when she cries, panics over missing flights, has public toilet, steak tartare and steep climb phobia, packs like a celebrity, can talk under water.

See? Perfect! And a good plan doesn’t go astray either.

Over a few too many Sangrias in the back streets of Barcelona, French Martinis on the Champs-Elysees, Beers in Belgium, Negronis in Florence, we’ve cemented a friendship that remains rock solid for we recognise our foibles and plan accordingly. Thanks to my beautiful traveling buddy’s careful research, project planning and our joint execution Jen and I have so far managed to avoid excessive public humiliation and Australian Embassy intervention.

How? Well before kissing off the fam at the departure gate, there’s a few basics one should always take care of. Some you might consider ‘suck egg’ while others might just save your marriage, bank balance, reputation, sanity or, as in our case, a dear friendship:

DSC055131) To avoid ‘Ignorant tourist, I spit on you!’ attitude from locals, we research our destinations in advance, gathering intelligence on:

  • History and culture – oh so that’s why the Frogs dislike the Poms!
  • Tourist high season – you want me to queue for two hours? Er, ain’t gonna happen!
  • Low season – why is everything we’ve travelled 24 hrs to see closed?
  • Seasonal weather – should I pack the puffer jacket as well as the bikini?
  • Dress code – what do I wear in sacred places?
  • Rules of behavior – so it’s illegal to photograph an Emirati then?
  • Transportation – seven train transfers to get from there to there? Nope!
  • Emergency numbers – you mean triple zero isn’t global?
  • Security status – angry people sporting guns, machetes and attitude? Steer clear!
    For high risk countries of course you’ll check the Govt’s smarttraveller.gov.au web site for up to date status on high risk countries.

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Utilising Word Lens, Google Translate and iSpeak (insert language) we’ve also managed to communicate without completely bastardising the local language.

2) To avoid ‘damn we ran out of time’ sobbing, we develop a rough list of places we’d like to go, foods to try and experiences in which to indulge through Like A Local, Viator and Townske apps, then check opening hours, accessibility and advance ticketing options to avoid queuing. We also categorize our list into ‘Must See’, ‘Nice to See’ and ‘If Time Permits’

3) Lists built, we lock our attractions in on CityMaps2Go, including accommodation address, determine proximity to other list items, check transportation options with apps like AllSubway  then hit the streets. But not before jumping on the big red (or green, or yellow) open tourist bus to conduct an advance recon.

Happy traveling folk! Hints of your own? Please share.IMG_4532

 

Farewell Charlie!

I have a story to tell. About a man who departed this earth last week leaving in his wake a mighty legacy. A man who remained my greatest mentor long after my introduction when a young, newly wed Aussie settling into her husband’s small New Zealand home town. Learning of his passing I shared my sadness on FaceBook and within minutes two people messaged back in disbelief – ‘he was so fit and healthy?’; sadness – ‘family, local and international friends will be shocked’, and nostalgia – remember when we were ‘Charlie’s Angels?’  Reminiscent of that time, a few words aptly summed up the man:

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