Day #81 21.03.16

Tonight has also been a day for reflection. Mainly due to procrastination. So I decided to go through the contents of a wooden chest and throw out stuff I don’t need or want any more. I do this fairly regularly, although not regularly enough that I buy shit I don’t need in the first place. Some of the things today were my old fountain pens from secondary school. I kept all the ones I used to use and the ink cartridges. Quite when I thought I would use a fountain pen after school I don’t know, but remember back then computers were still in their infancy and smart phones were a thing of futuristic sci-fi films  and sorcery. So it was fully OK that I thought I’d probably have a need for one. This does not excuse the 15 or so years after that where I became a Biro convert and ink became a hassle the first world did not have to put up with. I’ve seen these pens a number of times since then, but always kept them, mainly for sentimental reasons.

Just by looking at the Dennis the Menace ink pen brings back memories of school. Like the snapped off pen lid thing was because I fiddled with it in class (and almost all my current Biro’s do not have the lid thing for the same reason. Fiddler.). Dennis’s face is worn away at the top because I used to chew the lid when pondering how to answer stuff, or when deciding what to write. I can remember so clearly now, head tilted, faraway look in my eyes, dredging information from the back of my brain. I remember how I loved the scratchy sound the nib made against the paper, and how certain exercise books were much nicer than others to write in. It felt so special, such a luxury, to have an ink pen. I remember winning a competition (story comp, I think) and the prize was a calligraphy pen and paper. Oh and what glorious paper! Thick, posh paper, so luxurious and elegant I daren’t write on it, and so it stayed blank and pristine for years. One of the things I used to love to get as a child is writing sets. Matching paper and envelopes, maybe notelets. No purpose to them, I didn’t have anyone to write to, I just wrote. Random shit most probably, but hey, not a lot has changed. The main thing is it gives me pleasure.

No wonder I found it hard to throw out some of these things! This is not just a Dennis the Menace pen; this is the trigger-er of memories, the reminder of joy, happiness and of innocence and wonder and creativity.

SONY DSCDamn, writing this is making me half want to go and fish it out of the bin and put it safely back in the box it’s called it’s home for years. But no. In the bin it will stay. I don’t need it any more. It doesn’t work any more and I can’t keep everything that triggers a memory. It’s time for it to go. But with a lesson learnt. Keep the ones that do work (and there are still 2 ink pens I’ve kept) and use them. Write, even if it’s made up bollocks. I always write for myself anyway so what does it matter?

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last few months looking back more than I’d like. Reminiscing. It’s nice to, but there has to be the point of not doing so or you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s not even like I’m looking back wistfully, it’s just general thinking about stuff I’ve done. Live in the moment, every internet meme and my own tattoo shout to me. I try to, but sometimes it’s hard. Right now I either look back or spend too much time thinking about the future, to what might come, and kind of wishing it would hurry up. Which means not enough time living in the present. I know why. It’s because I’m not particularly enjoying parts of the present right now and that’s not me; if I’m not happy, then I’ll change things. But I feel in limbo, in some blank, endless void with nothing in it apart from future plans and the ‘sensible choice’.

Fear not though! I’m not about to stagnate. I’m putting some plans and ideas into practice to keep me busy and learn me some new skills. I might not know exactly where I’m heading yet, but I’m going there with some new shit to play with.

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End of an era.

It’s an emotional time. The house I called home for over 20 years since I was 6 months old has now been sold. I visited for the last time last weekend, so I’ve said my goodbyes, but I’ve been thinking about it as the parentals move out this week.  You’re probably thinking that it’s just a house. I moved out 12 years ago. Why is it emotional? Because it’s not just a house to us. It’s home. It was built by my parents and we’re the only people to have lived there. Even though I have my own home now, and I’ve lived in 4 different places since I moved out, it will always be home, and was always the place where I could go and raid the cupboards, run up and down the stairs and lounge around no matter how old I was.

I moved there as a 6 month old baby, and we (my parents, me and my brother) lived in a caravan for 4 years while the ‘big house’ was being built. And so began a wonderful childhood which, when it comes down to it, was centred around a couple of houses and an orchard in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn’t just a house. It was the place that may have just had 4 walls and a roof (eventually) but it was what it was filled with, surrounded by and what we did that made it our home.

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Like the orchard and ponds where me and my brother built dens, treehouses, rope swings, jettys, rafts, bmx tracks, and golf courses. Where I climbed trees and picked fruit. Where I fell in the pond (miraculously only once in all those years) after trying to walk on the ice in winter when it had frozen over. No wonder I’m a tomboy when this was my childhood playground.

Or my nan and grandad’s house next to the orchard where we spent many hours playing with marbles, reading Noddy and playing cards or dominoes, listening to the tick tock of the clock rescued from a bonfire that is now underneath my bed waiting to have something done with it.

And the yard where I learnt to ride a bike (after crashing into the hedge a few times) outside all the sheds with helpfully descriptive names; the engine shed, the black shed, the workshop, the rabbit shed/big shed and the shop. Including the shed that my brother climbed on the roof of so we could play a game, only the game ended shortly after because I shoved a drainpipe in his face. Accidentally of course, although I’m sure he loves the scar in his eyebrow he still has now from the stitches he had to have.

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My Dad’s workshop was where I’d go and sit on the black stool and chat to him. Where he’d tell me as a kid I could do anything in life if I wanted it and worked hard enough. And where as a teenager I’d go out and share sneaky cigarettes with him because Mum didn’t know I smoked.

The house for years had pink plaster walls because there were so many rooms to decorate and the parentals couldn’t do it all in one go. It was great though as it meant we could write on the walls, especially around the mirror in the kitchen near the phone (in the days before cordless phones) for phone numbers or doodles.

The flood/leak we had which meant all the furniture in the front room had to be moved into the dining area which I liked because it was all squashed in and I liked small rooms.

The death slide that my Dad made for us from the front bit of a bike and a rope tied from the roof of the rabbit shed to the garage. Between that, all the tree climbing and bike riding I am still amazed I didn’t break any bones. The rusty swing that Dad put up for us which we’d swing round and climb up. The tent he made from bits of wood and a bit of tarpaulin.

The gauntlet runs I’d have to do past the chicken runs to my grandparent’s house where I’d get chased by the mad cockerel. And going over there in the pitch black just with a torch. As a kid it used to shit me up something chronic that I could only see into the trees with a small circle of light. Used to be convinced there might be a axe murderer hiding in the orchard, but only when it was dark.

The fact we had no neighbours meant that we could be as loud as we wanted. And I mean LOUD. I used to have screaming matches with my friends over the fields (fuck knows why). Matthew used to play his rave music as a teenager on full blast through massive speakers outside.

Having my wedding reception there was just brill too. OK I know I’m divorced now but it was a cracking day. Really relaxed and chilled. And I still love the fact we had wedding photos taken in the big shed with all my Dad’s crap furniture waiting to be restored. Lasting memories and evidence of how much shit used to be stored in the sheds.

The garden wasn’t always a garden. In fact for years there was a massive hill in the middle of the garden from the earth that was excavated for the footings, which as a kid was great in the winter as we used to sledge down it, and in the summer we’d bike up and down it. After that was cleared it stayed a field for a bit because I had a donkey for a few years. I actually wanted a pony but I looked after a donkey over the winter as Dad wanted to see if I actually would do all the work needed. I didn’t, so I never got one. Clever man. I had so much fun with the donkeys though. And so did Dad, as they were escape artists.

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When we were younger we used to get snowed in properly, and I remember listening to the radio with mum in the morning to see if the little village primary school I went to was closed. And being very excited when it was.

IMG_20150831_112058 IMG_20150831_112048But of course it’s not just the house or the orchard or the trees or any other stuff. Of course there was all of that but what it all comes down to is the people. The people that filled the house. Our family. Small but perfectly formed, I think we’re pretty ace. We were lucky to live next door to one set of grandparents and have the other a few miles down the road and saw them every week, bringing my cousins with them most of the time too. My parents welcomed all our friends and quite often there was a houseful. Or an orchardful. Christmases were especially ace, everyone would come to us and there would be a week or so of mayhem, big trees and cat carnage. Oh, and I can’t forget Dad’s Christmas treasure hunts which would take us all over the house and out to the sheds, mainly to keep us out of the way for a bit and tire us out. I loved these so much I actually made Dad do one only a few years ago, haha. We were very lucky to have my parents around when we were young. Dad worked for himself at home in the workshop and so was always around to take me somewhere or help me with something. Mum was in and out too depending on when she was working.

Everything changes though. There’s been so many changes there, over all the years but especially in the last few years and the last few months. My grandparents house is gone now. The orchard is all but gone. All the sheds are gone. There’s more lawn that you can shake a stick at. Walls were added, fences were taken down. The yard doesn’t exist. The ponds have been filled in. The house was done up and dressed to sell. There’s a stable and a paddock, built years after the pony-mad youngster in me had moved out (thanks Dad).

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Where the orchard and pond used to be

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Where the yard and worksop used to be

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It’s not the same now, and so it makes it easier in some way to say goodbye. It’s not our home any more. But now, it’s real. Those contracts have been signed and I’ve had my last visit. I can’t go back and drive up the driveway any more, or run in and sit on the kitchen worktop. But, the memories will always be there. Many happy memories and that’s what I’ll remember.

There are so many, what’s above is just such a small percentage. And yes I know I’m massively lucky. So thanks Mum and Dad, for creating the best home ever for us. You should be mega proud of yourselves for all you achieved. Look at the pictures above. You took it from an overgrown field back in the 80’s to the home and gardens you’re leaving this week. Well done. That’s all you that is, loads of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Including the bastard job of removing all the stones from the field by hand – still not quite sure I forgive you for making me do that yet.

It’s the end of an era and sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new chapter for you. Lots of exciting things coming up, and also time for you to have a rest for a bit.

Old memories.

I’m sitting here tonight wanting to write a post about the end of an era – the sale of my childhood home. I kind of know what I want to write, and how I want to start it, yet the rest of words aren’t there quite yet in my head. So I’ll have to save that one for another time.

Instead, I’m listening to the album 21 by Adele. I know most of the songs off by heart, because I listened to this CD (yep, back in the shiny disc days) over and over again in my car driving to and from work when I was going through my separation (that and Katy Perry, but I’m after chilled out music right now). I’m thinking whether the songs are tainted now with those memories. Because well let’s face it, it was a pretty shitty time for me back then. Came to the conclusion that no they’re not now, but it’s taken a while. 4 years to be exact. I look back on it now like it was someone else’s life. Feels like a whole different lifetime ago, and I was a different person, just ask anyone that knew me back then. I don’t tend to try to look back too much, I’m a bit of a live in the moment kinda gal. I hate planning too far in advance and just tend to go with the flow, maxing out life where I can. But my ‘previous life’ seems to pop up loads, I can’t bloody escape it. I remember going to Peru in 2012, meeting lots of new people and my recent divorce would pop up in conversation, and I remember wanting to escape it. Thinking that it was just because it was so new, and such a big thing in my life back then and one day I could almost pretend it never happened. But I can’t. Now I’ve realised it’s likely to always crop up, for one reason or another. Whether meeting new people or chatting to old friends. And that pisses me off a bit. However. It’s made me who I am now. I can’t complain. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without going through all that.

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Because you see, now I absolutely love the person who I am. I’m back to being me, true to myself and happy inside and out. In control of my life and my destiny. And having no idea what the future holds.

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This weekend just gone was a bit of a whirlwind tour of London, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Loads of travelling and catching up with loads of mates and family. Squeezing in as many people as possible for a hello, cup of tea and good old chin wag. Reminiscing about old memories and catching up on life right now.

I have SO much to smile about right now it’s unreal. So many good things happening, so many awesome people in my life. So many exciting opportunities and possibilities there for the taking. Life is awesome.

Sorry, I have no idea on the point of this post, or the direction it’s taken.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, or whether anything is making any sense really. I’m very tired, I’ve not stopped for days and have driven so many hundreds of miles I don’t really know whether I’m coming or going. I guess mainly it’s that I’ve had a few days of revisiting old memories. It’s been great to see lots of lovely familiar faces. A visit to Lincoln always stirs up old memories, it always will. So much happened there.

But it’s also a reminder that everything changes – Note: Take That reference 😉 – and nothing stays still. As much as you might not want things to change, they will. It’s inevitable. No point in fighting it. Change is good. Change is exciting. But, it can also be scary. Frightening. Sad. A massive mixture of emotions. Just gotta roll with it. It’s how you deal with it that matters. All about how to think about stuff.

If you know anything about Buddhism, then a massive part of it is around impermanence. Worth reading up on if that’s your bag. I learnt about Buddhism, suffering, attachment, impermanence etc. when I did a 10 day silent retreat at a Buddhist meditation centre in India. Absolutely fascinating stuff, and helps with all kinds of shit in every day life for me. The point being that everything, and I mean everything, is not permanent. Is changing, every single second. Even that solid oak table. And if everything is changing, then nothing is permanent, and so how can you be attached to something that is changing all the time?

It’s all about how you look at things, and how you choose to react to them. What you let go, how to forgive and the difference between attachment and love.

impermanence quote TNH

No standing still. Don’t stand still. Embrace change.

The Truman Show – the Canberra episode.

Canberra. Australia’s capital city. It’s not generally a tourist destination, and in fact most people ask “why are you going THERE?” when you say that you’re off to Canberra. Followed by “there’s nothing there!”. Well, that’s not strictly true. Of course there’s stuff there. Just not big ‘look at meeeee’ touristy sights. There’s a couple of things that made me want to visit. First, the fact that everyone said I shouldn’t. I wanted to see for myself. I’m not all about the big sights, and love just experiencing places for what and how they are, not just for what sights they have (like the time I went to Mae Sot in Thailand). Second, to meet up (and stay with) some people (Paul (Daniels) and Debbie (McGee)) I had met in Tasmania.

Canberra IS interesting. But it’s a funny place. Nothing at all like other places I have been. It’s a planned city, made when it couldn’t be decided whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital of Australia. So, it’s all very organised and planned and everything seems to have it’s place. It kind of reminded me of the Truman Show. Everything is neat and tidy, all organised. The grass is all cut, there’s no litter, buildings are nice and shiny. All the different business are in different areas; all nicely categorised and grouped together. The cars all move (mostly) with ease on the roads, and people stream out of all the government buildings like suited clones all walking in a nice tidy line. Even the joggers and cyclists felt a bit like they were on a conveyor belt loop around the man-made lake in the centre.

Where I was stayed was actually outside the city. Paul and Debbie live about 30 minutes outside the city right in the middle of the bush, so this was a different experience to the city too. I got my own digs above the garage (thanks guys!), enjoy some fab home cooking (roo sausages anyone?) and got to see kangaroos bouncing around in the wild! It was great to stay with them and see what rural Canberra life was like. So, it wasn’t just a tourist sightseeing trip to the capital. But, as you know, that’s not quite me anyway. I like to get off the beaten track a bit.

I surprised myself here though; I had a couple of days of culture. I’m not a huge museum fan, but I managed to spend a whole day in the War Memorial museum. It was fascinating. And I’m not even being sarcastic. It actually really was. And then I spent a day in some art galleries. Again, really quite interesting. OK, so two days of culture was about enough. I also walked round the lake and went on a bike ride to get a bit of outdoors stuff in. Think I felt the need to balance it all out.

But, to sum it up, I had a great time in Canberra. It was great to see Paul and Debbie again, to spend time with some wonderfully friendly people. Great to get a bit of culture and do something different, and see a place that a lot of visitors to Australia won’t, mainly based on what other people say.

So, I’d say, if you like to see difference places just to experience what they’re like, then Canberra is worth a visit. If you like to visit museums and art galleries, then Canberra is worth a visit. But, don’t just take my word for it. Or listen to others. Why not visit for yourself and make up your own mind?

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The flood.

So after missing the super typhoon in Hue, we ended up getting rained on a lot in Hoi An. You might remember because I wrote about it. What I didn’t mention in that blog post is how I wondered where all the rain would go. Because it rained all day and didn’t stop that night, at which point it had been raining A Long Time, and me and Nick did have a brief conversation about where the hell all the rain goes. Well, come the morning, we found out.

It doesn’t go anywhere.

Or, more accurately, it rains into the river, the river bursts its banks and floods parts of the town. More precisely, floods the part of the town that our hotel was in. This was the lobby of the hotel in the morning.

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And the street outside the hotel.

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And it just wouldn’t stop raining for most of the day. The water got to the top of my legs in the end, just below my bum.

 

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To get in or out of of hotel meant wading through this brown, murky flood water. It was an interesting experience – seeing dead cockroaches, rats and rubbish floating past, and seeing live rats swimming for safety. Wading through (in the hotel’s bathroom flip flops – top tip) the water, feeling stuff brushing past your legs and feet and not knowing what it is. Luckily only a couple of streets away was higher than our road and we reached dry land, cheap beer and cafes and settled in for the day to eat, have a few jars and people watch.

We bumped into a few people we’d met travelling over the last month or so and ended up having quite a jolly day. We were careful to limit the cheap beers to a fairly sensible amount though; I didn’t fancy falling over in that flood water when we had to walk back to the hotel. I was successful. Huzzah!

In a way it was quite exciting, all part of the adventure and definitely something new to experience, although at the same time one of those things you kind of hope doesn’t happen in the first place – I wouldn’t wish it to happen just so I could experience it. It was like something you see on TV, and these were people’s lives, homes and businesses that were affected. But in true South East Asian style it was all taken in their stride. No panic, no hysteria, no moaning. Just a get-on-and-deal-with-it attitude. Still smiling, still happy.

We did wonder when the hell the water would go down though, especially with it being so high. How long would we have to wade in and out of our hotel? When would the buses be running again so we could make our way to Ho Chi Minh City? Surely it would be days, if not weeks?

Not so. Amazingly, this was the view from the hotel the next morning.

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All that water. Gone. Overnight.

Flood Day:

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The next day (same spot):

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Incredible huh?

We later heard that there had been flooding over much of central Vietnam, and also landslides in which people had died. It just makes you realise how much we are at the mercy of nature, and that actually, we’re pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

We were lucky; no damage to us or our stuff. Just memories of a new experience, a different adventure and a reminder to be thankful for life, safety and health.

The little things.

Travelling makes you appreciate the little things. So many of my normal day to day things are at home back in the UK. Things I’d consider now as luxuries, although you might call them essentials. I can’t lug everything around in one backpack. It’s 60 litres, and I was determined not to take anything that I didn’t need, or to fill it to the brim. Pack light, that’s the idea. And it’s worked, it’s OK to carry around. Probably a bit too heavy, but there’s nothing I can get rid of now. I’m into my 6th month of travelling now, and have got packing and unpacking down to an art (although to be fair, I never really unpack as such). I know where everything is, and where it goes. All the pockets have their own purpose. It all balances out, to make carrying it easier. I can walk a few miles with it on, in the hot, hot sunshine (although, it’s really not pleasant) and can spot it a mile off on a boat, bus or in an airport. Everything I need is in my rucksack. Amazing the relationship that develops. My whole life in one little bag. All I need to get about. I keep it dry with it’s raincover. I tuck the straps away when it goes on the bus. I brush it down when it gets dusty.

But I kind of digress. This blog post is to mention the little things. The little things that matter. The little things that you really notice and appreciate when on the road. Which, I like. Because, back in what some people would call the ‘real world’ (although what is the ‘real world’? Another post for another time, that) you wouldn’t give these things a second thought. You’d take them for granted. Hell, of course I did. Which means they’re all the more special now. And make me realise what, in general, people take for granted. For perhaps what a lot of people don’t have to start with. Because, in a developed country, we’re so very lucky.

So, what are my little things? There’s probably more, but this is what I can remember now. I’ve spent the afternoon drinking Bia Hoi in Hanoi, so I’m bound to have forgotten some. But, you’ll get the idea.

1) Clean clothes. Oh, clean clothes. The smell of clean clothes. Now, I’ve not been walking around like a stinky student all the time, but, when travelling, you do wear clothes more times/longer than you would do at home. FACT. Then, when sending them off to get cleaned, the thought of getting a pile of clean clothes back is just HEAVEN. Especially if they come back smelling of lovely clean laundry. Which, again at home, if you use lovely smelling washing powder and fabric conditioner every time, is a given. Out here, not so much. Most of the time they’ll come back clean, but not smelling of well, anything. So that odd occasion when they smell of washing powder, well, it’s like I’ve just got a huge fat amazing birthday present.

2) A hot shower. Again, sounds like a given. But, some places advertise hot water as an extra. So, I’ve stayed in places that have had COLD showers. And I mean cold, cold, cold. Most have been just cool, and some luke warm. I’m in my 6th month and I’ve only stayed in ONE place that has had a HOT shower. A proper HOT shower. And yes, you might be thinking “but you’re in a hot place, you don’t need hot water”. Well, no matter how hot you are, you try having a freezing cold shower at 6am in the morning and tell me how you get on 😉 Oh, and this also combines the ‘decent shower that’s not a trickle of water’. When I get one of those, it’s like having a power shower. Bliss.

3) Going to a toilet that has toilet paper provided. Sounds odd perhaps, but a lot of Asian toilets don’t have toilet paper. Either just a bum jet (have mastered this but not the art of how you’re supposed to get dry without toilet paper – I might be missing something), nothing or a bucket of water and a scoop. Remembering to take toilet paper everywhere is a bit of a pain in the arse (ha!) and if I’m out on the beers, generally doesn’t last the whole day/night (I have the bladder of a gnat when drinking beer). You also can’t flush paper down the loo, so it all goes in the bin. It’s kind of second nature now, but when I started off I’d have to remember every time, and I really didn’t want to end up blocking an entire Asian sewer system. I needed the toilet today walking around Hanoi and stopped in a posh office block. It was a proper western posh type toilet. With toilet paper, proper sinks, soap and hand dryers. Ooh, it was just lovely. I probably spent longer in there than I should have.

4) Free soap and shampoo. This doesn’t happen that often, as, although the kind of places I’ve been staying at have been decent, it’s on the clean-but-basic scale and so they’re the kind of places that are lucky to come with toilet paper and a towel, let alone any complimentary toiletries. But, sometimes, even the cheapest places (£1.66 a night the cheapest so far) have some free soaps. This is good, because this is Free. Shower gel and shampoo is expensive, even in cheap as chips countries like India and SE Asia, so every little helps. That one free soap is probably a glass of beer in Hanoi. Probably. That’s my justification.

5) A decent night’s sleep. Staying in aforementioned basic-but-clean places generally means it’s a lottery on whether I get a good night’s sleep or not. For a variety of reasons: crap mattress (too many springs, too hard, no mattress, too soft), no soundproofing between rooms (Laos, I’m looking at you – lovely to look at but noisy as hell wooden houses), snoring dorm room mates (not stayed in that many dorms, so luckily only had to throw something at someone once), time differences (messages on my phone causing it to light up like a, well, a very lit up thing), having to get up very early for buses or trains (hasn’t happened often) and just general being-in-a-new place restlessness. I can’t remember the last time I slept the whole night through, so to get a night where I only wake up once or twice is pretty sweet. A whole night would be lovely. Maybe. One day.

6) Proper food. By proper food I mean food that I used to cook myself, or proper, healthy food. Maybe you’d class it as western healthy food. Or maybe just vegetables. When travelling I’m at the mercy of what’s out and about to eat. And OK, there’s a lot of fresh stuff available here. Exotic fruit, fresh [raw] vegetables. But, a lot of them need a kitchen to cook. Or a knife or other kitchen implement to eat. I miss eating stuff like just scrambled eggs with chilli flakes and spinach. Or fishfinger sandwiches. Or porridge and banana. Or salmon with just salt and a bit of broccoli on the side. Or raisins, which seem to be like rocking horse shit in South East Asia. So when I come across somewhere that does something resembling something like this, I might get a little bit excited.

7) New toiletries. Like a new shower gel, toothpaste or shampoo. Using the same thing all the time gets boring. Like wearing the same outfits day after day (clean or not). Packing lightly means less choice so something new in the day-to-day, no matter how small, can make a huge difference. When I get to Australia I’m going to throw some stuff out and buy some new clothes. Nothing too fancy, or expensive, just basics that are needed. And, oh, I can’t WAIT for that day. Although I do wonder whether I’ll have a tough time deciding what to wear when I get home when I get back to all my old stuff. Too much choice?

8) Not having to wear my hair up. I’ve got long hair for the first time in years. Years and years. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever been this long. Although, it could do with a trim, that’s for sure. Pretty much all the places I’ve been bar Zambia have been so hot and humid I couldn’t stand having my hair down and stuck to my neck; so, up it goes. So, as it’s getting a bit cooler, there’s been a few mornings where I’ve worn my hair down. What a treat! Oh, and the other thing is I can now wear my hair in a plait. I can’t remember ever being able to do this.

9) Getting messages. I love getting messages. People saying hello, or asking how I am. I always have, but even more so now I’m on the road. I know some people don’t think they have anything to say, or they think I wouldn’t be interested in ‘real life’ (there it is again, what is ‘real life’? I’ll blog about this soon) but that’s not true. I love hearing about what’s going on at home, or what people are up to. I always have been, so why wouldn’t I be now? As many new things I’m seeing or experiencing, it’s always nice to hear from a friendly familiar face. As most people know, I love to talk. To chat. And with sketchy wifi, I don’t always get online that much, so don’t assume I’ll always see stuff that’s on Facebook. Best to assume I’m not that up to date.

10) Using something up and not having to replace it. Like my malaria tablets. Every finished packet is one less packet that needs to go in my backpack. I’ve always loved having a bit of a clear out so I guess this is is just an extension of that. Every now and then I’ll go through my stuff in my bag and make sure I’m not carrying anything I don’t need to. Even though I know exactly what’s in my bag and where, I’ll still do it. Just in case. You never know, something might have crept in there while I was asleep. Maybe a gecko. Or some extra toiletries.

11) Having clean feet. I’ve pretty much had dirty feet since Zambia. Flip flops, dusty countries and lots of walking don’t always go together that well. Of course they get clean in the shower. But, 5 minutes later they’re filthy again. In fact, this could apply to not just my feet. Clothes get dirty. Covered in dust and dirt. Sitting on stuff, or having nothing else to wipe your hands on. Spilling stuff on yourself (this might just be me). Clothes getting covered in suntan lotion, mosquito repellent or tiger balm. Being rained on. My backpack is dusty as hell from the last two bus journeys. My coat smells like wet dog. There’s no time or option to be precious about stuff, although that’s not me anyway. Never take expensive or nice stuff travelling; it won’t stay that nice for long.

Just the little things. They can mean a lot. You can keep your expensive material stuff, I’m not interested. And I’ll not take some of these things for granted ever again. My top little thing? Clean laundry, for sure. You just can’t beat that smell. It’s up there with cut grass in the summer or fresh bed sheets. I was quite a simple creature before I went travelling, I suspect now I’m even more so. It won’t take a lot to win me over or make my day. And that’s just how I like it. Marvellous.

Time to leave.

It’s just about time to leave Zambia, which has been my home for the last 4 weeks. On Tuesday I fly back to Johannesburg where I stay for a night before flying onwards to Delhi (via Abu Dhabi) on Wednesday.

I’ve had a blast. Of course I have. 4 weeks. 1 month. It sounds like a long time but it’s not really. It’s gone so quick. It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since I was arriving here in the back of a pick up with 7 other newbies, all excited for our adventure, not knowing what to expect. It’s been an incredible experience. Chocked full of laughter, lions, children, culture, sun, dust, African wildlife, beer, cold showers, chocolate, waterfalls and bungee jumping.

I’ve learnt a lot; about myself and other people. About Zambia and it’s animals, people and communities. I’m so pleased I did it. So pleased I had that epiphany in that meeting at work just before Christmas. That’s when I knew I had to do something. More specifically, it was then that I knew that part of that doing something was to come to Africa to do some volunteering. I have no regrets at all. None whatsoever. I have so many new memories now that I will treasure forever. I can’t write them all down but here’s just a small selection:

  • The great English vs American pronunciation debate. It never got boring.
  • Riding around in the back of a pick up to get to places. Sometimes stood up, sometimes sat down, sometimes sat on the edge, sun and wind blasting our faces. It reminded me of being little and my Dad’s red pick up that he used to have. Not sure whether I ever sat and rode around in the back though.
  • Andrew washing his hands with toilet cleaner after Firebreak. So funny, especially when we then spent the evening waiting to see if his hands would either a) start to peel b) go red c) burn or d) fall off. Luckily, they didn’t.
  • Nino (sp?) is boy in Spanish. It also means lady bits here in Zambia in one of their local languages.
  • Jamie falling off his chair while we were playing Pictionary. Loudest noise ever.
  • Emily’s inappropriate guesses in Pictionary and her slightly disturbing competitive streak.
  • Finding out what an Eiffel Tower is. No, not the structure in Paris. The rude version.
  • Hi-fiving more times than I can remember. I’m a big fan of high-fiving, I know some people hate it but I LOVE it, it’s so much fun. And over here, the kids love it too. In.My.Element.
  • Knowing that the sun will shine every day and it won’t rain. Ok, so it’s cold in the morning but the sun is already out and by mid-morning it gets hot. Consistent weather; still a novelty. Not sure what India will be like as it’s monsoon season when I’m there so I’m enjoying it while it lasts.
  • Nights out in Livingstone; many funny or interesting things happened the two times I went out. So good to let our hair down and have some fun and check out the local nightlife. Beer pong, dancing, prostitutes, sunglasses, shots, it was all there.
  • African dancing at culture day – I had so much fun doing this, I could have done it all afternoon. Dancing their traditional dances in the sun to the African drums was just magical. I loved it.
  • Bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge. It was my second jump (the first was Bloukrans Bridge in South AFrican in 2011) and although not as terrifying or high as that one, it still got the adrenalin pumping and was such a rush. Beautiful scenery, the sun was shining and we had beers afterwards. What a way to spend a Friday.
  • There’s a line on the Vic Falls bridge where Zambia ends and Zimbabwe begins (we already had to go through border control before that though) so technically I can say I’ve been to Zimbabwe too. Although over here it’s just called Zim. Getting with the local lingo.
  • Playing games with the kids at Kids Club. These were so much fun, the kids get really excited and I got to be a kid again for a bit. Kids are so carefree and we got to enjoy that too. Real adult life can sometimes get dull, boring, serious and sensible. Lets not forget to have fun, blast away the cobwebs and laugh LOTS. We can learn a lot from children, just as they can learn from us.
  • Seeing wildlife every day. And I mean every day. Whether it’s elephants, baboons, hippos, giraffes, impala, monkeys or birds, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I’ve not seen something. Not sure I’d ever get bored of it, although you do get used to seeing elephants just wander on by. Or baboons and monkeys running around. Never thought I’d be saying that.
  • Seeing the most beautiful sunrises, sunsets and stars in the night sky. African sunsets are well known, and there’s a reason for that. They’re just breathtaking. Everyone should see one, at least just once. You just can’t beat it. And the stars, out here, in the middle of the bush with no light pollution, are just amazing. We can see the Milky Way; it’s so clear. The stars shine so bright, and there’s shooting stars too. A couple of nights we just laid outside on the grass and watched the stars. Nothing else to do or see, no interruptions, just enjoying the stars. Sometimes the best things in life are free.
  • Sharing the running love; I ended up running with a couple of different people, getting them running. I hope this carries on throughout my travels.
  • Meeting and making new friends. I’ve met a lot of people out here, they’re a great bunch from all over the world; I’ve laughed lots and learnt loads. I hope we all keep in touch. And next year, when I get back home, we WILL have that UK reunion.

Part of my trip away is trying to figure out what I want to do work-wise. I don’t say career because I’ve never been particularly career minded, rather, I’ve just wanted to get jobs that I enjoy, that challenge me, and that I can do well in. I’m not particularly bothered about following a set path, or getting to the top (whatever the ‘top’ is). As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing and it’s enabling me to live the life I want, rather than a life I have to, then I’m happy. I can say, after this trip, that there’s two jobs I can rule out. Teacher and firefighter. I’ve really enjoyed the teaching over here, it’s been a great challenge, rewarding and I’ve relished any minute of it. But, I couldn’t do it full time. It’s exhausting, frustrating and just not for me. But, it has reminded me how much I love training. I used to do a lot when I worked for the Police and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. So, that’s a possibility.

And firefighter? It’s something I fleetingly thought about last year. But, after taking part in fire break where we were practically stood in the middle of a roaring fire trying to beat it out, while the thick smoke made it hard to breathe or see, I’ve ruled it out. Obviously it’s not the same at all, but now every time I smell smoke since that first week’s fire break I feel panicky. I really do think it’s scarred me a little bit, it was so horrific, and so that’s definitely one job I couldn’t do now.

Being here has opened my eyes up yet again to new cultures, communities and ways of life that are so different to mine. It’s made me appreciate the things and people I have, and reaffirmed my values and motivations in life. I’m not particularly interesting in things, I’m all about the experiences. I want to help people and make a difference. I know I can’t change the world but I hope I can make a little difference. I hope I have made a little difference while I’m here. I guess I’ll never know for sure but I gave it my best shot.

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Memory lane.

I’ve been having a little trip down memory lane this week. Firstly when glass milk bottles turned up at work. I’ve not seen these for YEARS. I didn’t know they still existed; thought they’d been replaced by the evil (but recyclable) plastic. They reminded me of my nan because she used to get milk delivered to her house in bottles. My dad built her a little box at the bottom of her driveway next to the gate where the milkman used to leave the bottles and the bill, and in turn she’d leave the empty bottles and the money. It went on for years. I remember the box was blue. It might still even be there; I must check. The thought of it makes me smile 🙂

Then I met my friend Alex at lunch on Friday. We used to work together over 10 years ago when we were both youngsters fresh out of school starting real life. We had a lot of fun. We worked bloody hard too though, and gave a lot of time, effort and dedication. Plenty of hours overtime on what at times was very repetitive, tedious work. We both agreed though, that although very hard work and strict working conditions, it’s shaped our work ethic in future years.

It’s great to still be mates and keeping in touch, and it’s great to see just how bloody well Al is doing now, he’s still working chuffing hard and he deserves every bit of success and good stuff going.

Nessun Dorma.

I listened to Nessun Dorma this afternoon. It appeared on a friend’s playlist on Spotify and I’d not heard it for a while so decided to play it. I don’t usually listen to classical music (find it a bit boring) and really only know of Nessun Dorma from a drunken night on a training course from years ago. As I was listening it made me remember that training course. It wasn’t your usual training course. It was a Research Skills course for people working for Police Forces. Sounds innocent enough. A two week course held at a MOD camp in Essex. Our accommodation was old married quarter houses for all of us, split into a few houses for ladies and gents.

It basically ended up a two week drinking and partying binge. One day the trainer finished the day really early because we were all so hungover. I’m sure some stuff got learnt. It was one of the best courses I went on, but not really for the right reasons. Some of the things that I [can] remember about it:

  • The pool car I was given had a leak and so the footwells were about 2 inches deep in water. Not pleasant when spending 3 hours driving down to Essex and I spent quite a lot of time using a paper cup bailing the water out during the week (as it pretty much rained the whole time), much to other people’s amusement.
  • Very cheap drinks in the on-site bar.
  • The long walk to the canteen where we had all our meals. The food was OK, but a lot of people went to the local supermarket to avoid the long walk. Lazy arses.
  • The party we threw in one of the houses where we drank a shed load of alcohol, played charades and the trainer sung Nessun Dorma at the top of his lungs at about 3am in the morning (it was the day after this that he ended the day early because we were all so battered, him included).
  • That because of this party they stopped people staying in the houses and put them in single rooms on future courses.
  • Hanging out my bedroom window to smoke (shows how long ago it was now).
  • The affair that started between a [married] guy and a woman (it actually turned into a proper relationship and lasted a few years).
  • The guy who got a bit obsessed with one of the girls on the course.
  • Having to do ‘homework’ with dice which took aaaages.
  • Coming home to find the ex had decorated the bathroom while I’d been away. Bonus.
  • Learning to live with strangers for two weeks.
  • Making lots of new friends and keeping in touch with at least 2 people for a good couple of years afterwards.

I’m sure there was more but it was so long ago now I can’t remember everything. Suffice to say, I had a ball.

Runs around the world #2

Horncastle, Lincolnshire, UK

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Today’s run was around the Wolds town of Horncastle. It’s my old stomping ground; it’s where I went to secondary school, it’s where my brother lives, my best friend lives here and a place I have fond memories of. Now, yes, I know, it’s not really a run ‘around the world’ and I’ve not started my travels yet but it is a run, and the UK is in The World and it’s a new run to me so I thought I’d include it.

The run? Hard work. I know why. I’ve done a fair bit with my legs this week so they’re tired. I’ve not eaten a lot this week so I’ve not got a lot of fuel on board. I’ve not eaten enough protein to repair my muscles properly afterwards. It was also windy as hell and drizzly. Pleasant.

But I’d still class it as a Great Run. Because I really enjoyed it. Not the feeling of lead legs, but for the scenery and memories. I went past so many old haunts I had a fab time reminiscing with myself as I went round. Great things about running #176, you can either create or remember great memories. Horncastle’s a strange little town. Lots going on, and we got up to a LOT as teenagers.

So, Horny Rascal memorabilia?

  • I ran past my old history teacher’s house, weirdly named Tara (presume they were Sound of Music fans). I don’t know whether he still lives there. He was an odd teacher. Wild white hair and a bit lanky, he used to remind me of a Roald Dahl cartoon man. He used to shout and jump on the desks at school, and once make us sit under our desks pretending to be on a slave ship. He’d been at QEGS forever (he taught my DAD when he was there) and certainly made history a bit more memorable.
  • School. The Grammar School. We got grief sometimes for going here from the other secondary school in Horncastle (Banovallum). The usual healthy rivalry between schools. I loved school. I loved the place, I loved my mates and I’m a bit of a swot and loved [most] of the lessons. Lots and lots of good memories here. Happy Days.
  • Horncastle is a lot smaller than I remember. I ran pretty much round the whole perimeter and only covered just over 4 miles. Walking anywhere there when I was a teenager seemed to take forever. I suspect I was just a bit lazy.
  • The swimming pool is still there. The swimming pool where I used to be a member of the Otters swimming club. Where I got all my life saving badges and swam in my pyjamas. Where I used to go and repeatedly dive to the bottom of the deep end. Just because I could. Whether there was a brick to pick up or not.
  • The Town Hall. Well. What can I say about the Town Hall. Anyone my age from Horncastle will know what I mean. So many stories, most of which are unpublishable. The place where teenage dreams were made. Or shattered. Where teenage hearts were broken and mended. The place of so many first experiences.
  • Harpers Bar. Rainer and Claire managed to create a buzzy little wine bar in a sleepy market town. The place of Spot the Difference. Of Tara and Laura’s Pub Quiz. Laura’s old after work haunt.
  • I started to run down the old school cross country route, until it got too windy. I think I only ran it once back when I was at school. Or, it traumatised me so much I’ve blocked the memory out.
  • The park near Tesco. Where we snuck out at lunchtime sometimes (without a note, naughty) to have a cigarette. We moved to Nathan’s house shortly after this because it was only just down the road to the school.
  • Horncastle is full of antique places. There’s one where my dad used sell some of his things, and the same place where Laura bought a pink sofa for one of the places she used to live in. The place where I was jealous she lived on her own in this cute little house which was also the place where (unbeknown to me at the time) she was really unhappy.
  • I didn’t run through the Market Place. It was 9:30am on a Saturday morning, I wasn’t prepared to fight my way through the throng of shoppers or subject them to the sight of my red puffing face. It’s the market place where people hang out, where I’ve climbed a lampost in the snow, where many fights have taken place outside the (aptly named) Punch House and where I’ve staggered around far too many times a bit too worse for wear.
  • Just off the Market Place is Laura’s old flat. THE flat. The Party Flat. She lived here with Holly for a while. We had so much fun here. It was ABSOLUTELY massive. I had my own room and I didn’t even live there. Many parties, everyone came back to the flat on a Friday night after we had been out. It’s the location of The Lost Weekend. The place where we lugged sofas up and down 3 flights of stairs. The place of the infamous Toilet Roll Wars. Happy Days.

There’s loads more. I didn’t realise how many until today.

Good old Horny Rascal.

Like I said, today was a Great Run.