Monday, 29 December 2014

Arranging a Holiday from my Working Holiday

Since the money worries were looking more manageable and the flights had been sorted I had only to get two weeks off from my brand new job and I was sorted. I knew my request would be met with disbelief but once I explained myself to my manager and the owner both very understanding. If push had come to shove I would have given up the job to attend my friend’s wedding but it was a great relief to know that I would have a job waiting for me on my return (see previous post). In the intervening weeks I worked hard and impressed them enough with my work ethic that they became surer of me. At least I assume that’s why my hours steadily increased. In fact before long I was turning down work from the temp agency as the cafe kept me fully occupied. 

Life at the hotel fell into a settled routine. As mentioned in previous posts the six bed dorm was not ideal, especially with my early starts. There was the guy who ate in the room, which wouldn’t have been a problem if opening the widow didn’t let in all the smoke from the smokers area outside. There was the fact that others were out working late or partying late. Then there was the couple who insisted they weren't a couple but lay in bed naked together. Put it all together and finally I cracked. I liked the hotel but it was too much. I spoke to reception and fortunately I could change to a quieter six bed for the remainder of my stay before I left. They also promised that on my return I could move to a four bed all girls dorm! Life was looking up and I even managed to claim a bottom bunk in my new room the following day. It still wasn't ideal but the prospect of my fast approaching holiday kept me going, well that and arranging the hen night! You see on announcing that I would 100%, absolutely, bar acts of god be at her wedding I was immediately made a bridesmaid!!! I was incredibly excited about this in case it’s not obvious from the exclamation marks.....

This meant that when not at work I battled with the hotels less than wonderful internet to arrange a hen do in London, discuss dresses, hairstyles and of course shoes! It’s amazing what you can do with even the dodgiest of internet connections. We e-mailed ideas and photos back and forth. The bride and one of the other bridesmaids went dress and shoe shopping sending me picture texts of their successes and the same bridesmaid scouted out venues that we found online. We set up a facebook group and I only needed one international call to the London Gin Club to secure our evening booking, everything else was done online. Yet for the internet! Life was looking good again. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Thoughts on Money Problems

I wasn’t sure about the following post but every time I doubt about sharing something personal I remember that this is my diary and that usually the stuff I am most hesitant about sharing is the stuff that strikes a chord with you lot. This post was inspired by a friend who was very open about her money troubles. this helped me to accept and take responsibility for my own so I thought too would tell my story. After all in a society where possessions are everything, don't we all struggle? Well this post will show that even when you chose to live a life where experience not possessions is the goal money can still cause you problems if you don't keep your eye on it.

I always thought that nothing could stop me from going to my best friend’s wedding however I didn't account for her timing, the Australian tax system, and my terrible money management. It had cost me to go back for my brother wedding. I was fortunate that my family heavily subsidised my attendance and treated me to hotel stays and meals out but I do like to pay my own way and I knew I had tax owing to me from Oz. The tax and super annotation refund when you leave Oz is something I have heard many wonderful things about and was much looking forward to. Between these 'facts' I decided that it was safe and right to give the credit card a bit of a battering so I could get the most from my month at home. I can't say I regret my actions though I think I would more if I hadn't had an extremely generous gift later on but I get ahead of myself. So my trip home had left my credit card a bit more battered that was comfortable but I had money coming so it was fine except that now I needed a return plane ticket to London ASAP and that wasn’t going to come cheap. Now I could just about put it on my much maligned credit card but by this point I was in dispute with the Australian government. They said I owed them the best part of $4000 and I believed that they should owe be the best part of $3000. This meant that my promise to not miss my best friend’s wedding was in serious peril. I have to say she was being very understanding about my hesitation to promise to be there. As well as my money troubles I had just started a new job, which was a relief on the money front but I had promised them I'd stay at least 6 months. Life was looking less than sunny in more ways than one. At this point I did wonder how on earth I could have let this happen again??? It seems when it comes to money I just never learn. This time though I was determined. I would sort it out myself. 

Two things happened at this stage to make life a little sunnier. A chat with the tax people in Oz determined that if I filled out a form explaining that I had filled out my e-tax incorrectly and how they would reassess me and I should then no longer owe them money. This was a huge relief. The second was the offer of a loan so I could afford to buy the much desire plane ticket to London and back. Now there is not much that would have made me accept such a thing at this point but there was no way I could continue my friendship with my best friend knowing that I had the chance to attend her wedding but had refused it out of pride. The loan was accepted, the plane tickets bought oh and the tax people, they agreed that they owed me not I them Though it turned out to be less than I had thought I decided to quit when I was ahead. As for the super whilst I knew exactly what was in there and whilst it was all returned to me I also failed to account for the fact the Australian tax people would take almost half of it. 

The lesson here was never to trust what other people say and to check out these things for myself. Also, don't spend money you haven't actually got not matter how sure you are that it's coming your way. Since I am writing this even more in retrospect than usual I can assure my friends and family that this is an issue which in now fully under control and is no longer giving me sleepless nights. In fact I currently have more money saved than I ever have in my life and am extremely proud of myself. Not only to I ahve enough to fully clear all my debt I’m on track to have a very comfortable budget for my future travels. I won’t say I didn’t have some help but mostly I managed this on my own and I honestly think it was a 
long overdue lesson that I have finally (hopefully!) learned. 

Friday, 26 December 2014


Finally I success! After applying online and in person to many places looking for staff I happened to ask a local bakery/cafe if they were looking. They were near the hostel and I had been in a few times for their lovely pastries and hot chocolate. The friendly staff said they might be looking for part time staff and to hand in my CV. The next day I took in the last copy of my CV and chatted with the supervisor whilst buying yet another pastry. I could tell even then that getting work there could prove dangerous. Before long I got a call and after a few questions about my experience and how long I could and wanted to stay in Wellington for I was asked to come in for a trial. It's conceited I know but I was pretty sure once I could show them I was capable I'd be employed. I'd been in the place as a customer and liked the vibe so the only problem would be if they didn't like me as a person. Now I know it's hard to believe but this does occasionally happen, my supervisor in Broome never did warm to me! Anyway I was hopeful and it turns out rightly so. After a “this is how things work now get on with it” style trial I was asked to start the following Saturday. It was stressed that it was part time work and I was happy with that as I had my temp work to supplement my earning from the bakery. Life in Wellington was looking up.

Not only had I found a work I was by this time living in a long term hostel which was actually a hotel. That meant that whilst I was still living in dorms the bathrooms looked quite swish and there was a bar/bistro attached. The staff were much friendlier and helpful than the YHA staff and I soon felt at home. The other guest seemed a little cliquish at first but once I made the effort to chat them they soon became friendly enough, especially once it became clear I would be staying around for a while. 

The six bed mixed dorm wasn't ideal but I thought I could live with it for the six weeks I was staying before moving to a four bed on my return from the UK. Oh yeah, no sooner had I arrived in Wellington than one of my oldest and closest friends announced her wedding date, almost exactly two months to the day from my arrival in New Zealand. I hadn’t planned on heading home quite so soon but this was one occasion I knew I had to make an effort for. All I had to do was work out the details.....

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

New Zealand Then and Now

Zealandia is an expensive day out and I would only recommend it if you are into walking. For my part I looked on the expense as my contribution to the conservation effort. Is the visit worth the money? Not if you think only of what you do whilst there but if you consider all the work they do and that the place is so much more than you see then I consider my money well spent. As well as having a lovely day out, the sun was shining and the wind was slight for a change, I took the opportunity to learn about New Zealand the land mass both as it is now as how it came to be. I am fascinated but how our planet has evolved. Even at my age I still love dinosaurs, dinosaurs are cool and anyone who says otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about. When I was in Australia I made a point of going to the museums in the cities I visited and whilst they had the usual dinosaur exhibits they had new marsupial dinosaurs! Animals I had never seen or heard of and they were also very cool. Therefore I hoped and was not disappointed to find something similar in New Zealand. Here it was massive flightless birds. I think of New Zealand as a couple of small islands but once it was a large land mass which at one point was almost completely submerged as it got smaller and smaller, before it became the real life Atlantis though it rose again as the tectonic plates moved and sea levels fell again until it became the islands we know and love today. 

 Though the Maori were here long before the Europeans settled here they have nothing on the aboriginals whose culture goes back over 50,000. That means that in historical terms New Zealand was uninhabited until very recently which in turn means that it was untouched and unique. Then people came along and tamed it but though much of the untouched beauty has gone it is still an amazingly beautiful place. The wildlife and plants are different again though the climate bears more similarity to home so some of it is strikingly familiar. Anyway the point of this is that Zealandia is a sanctuary where they are trying to eradicate the non-native species so that the native ones can once again flourish. It is an ambitious but I think worthwhile project and I was happy to donate to the cause in exchange for a chance to look around the place. In fact writing about it makes me want to visit it again and since it is summer (less rain, warmer wind) I may even look in to a year pass.....

As for the place itself it was peasant place to walk around. It was peaceful and the walks were not challenging but also not too easy as to be uninteresting. The scenery was like nothing I have ever seen and yet I was still in the capital city! I can honestly say that Welly is the least city like city I have ever been in and I love it. We didn’t see the reclusive Kakapo or Kiwi but we saw plenty of other birds and had a few quite sit downs in some lovely clearings whilst waiting just in case one should happen to come along. All in all it was a lovely day out and a great break from my unsuccessful job hunting. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Playing Tourist Whilst Looking for Work

On of the nice things about the YHA is that there are hair straighters in the bathrooms so that I was able to make myself look decent and employable whilst I was looking for work. This turned out to be important as though I thought I was highly employable apparently the employers in Wellington didn’t quite agree with me. In hindsight I had two things against me. The first was that for the first time I had my photo on my CV. I got the idea from a friend of mine in OZ and whilst it worked for her in my case it wasn’t really me and therefore I think it just looked awkward. The second was a stupid but vital mistake, I managed to get my own phone number wrong. Yes it was a brand new number but it's a slightly important detail. Sadly I didn't realise until I had handed my CV into my top six places I'd like to work. I went back just in case but I know that if I was in their place that mistake would make me think twice about employing them, especially as I am now aware of how many CV's these places receive in a day.

Not deterred by my lack of success I signed up with a temp agency (using my new correct phone number CV) that were happy to put me on their books and promised one or two shifts a week due to my experience. Seriously, who knew that being able to carry 3 plates would be so useful?!?! Whilst looking for work was a top priority there is only so much a person can do in a day and I was in a brand new country and I had managed to make a brand new friend so the next thing on my agenda was some exploring!

My friend was from the Netherlands and had come to Wellington to spend some time with one of their girl’s rugby team. When she was training or playing I was job hunting and when she had time off we explored together. At her instigation we visited Somes Island, Zealandia and the Weta Cave. She also came along when I met up with a backpacking friend I'd met in OZ who was passing through. She's an outdoors person so we met at the botanical gardens and enjoyed some fine Wellington weather, something of a rarity at this point in the season.

Whilst winter may not be the ideal time to visit Wellington it actually had its moments. In my first couple of weeks I missed Cairns and the tropical weather dreadfully. I missed the sea and the reef and the hostel and my friends and almost every part of the life I had managed to make there. However slowly and insidiously Wellington worked its magic on me.

Early on my friend suggested a trip to Somes Island which is a scientific and historic reserve. We bought some food at the now obvious supermarket and set off on the ferry on a bright sunny windy day. Yup, even when it's fine in Wellington the wind still blows. Despite the wind the ferry ride was fun. My friend was laid back and adventurous. She threw herself into being a tourist and her enthusiasm was catching. We took photos of our windblown trip over to the island and once there I was glad we'd braved it. The island was less windy than the city and simply beautiful. As well as being fun my friend was also happy to stand and take in the scenery whilst I took photo after photo with my recently neglected SLR. It's a rare treat to be able to go somewhere with a friend who isn't into photography yet be able to indulge in my 101 snaps of the same thing habit without driving them up the wall. It was then that I think I started to fall a little bit in love with Wellington. Sadly though we saw many birds, which we took dozens of photos, of we didn't get so see any penguins as the last boat left before they returned to the island. Still it was a good day and made me realise that Wellington was a very different place with its own charms.

Another day we took a bus out to the suburb Miramar. There isn’t much out there but there is the Weta cave. It’s basically a shop but they have on display some of the props used in the films they do the special effects for, most notably The Lord of the Rings films. I was happy to geek out and enjoyed the little film they showed which told the story of how they went from a small special effects studio working on NZ TV to become one of the world’s best go-to special effect firms. I was stunned to see the sheer number of well know films they had worked on before and after the LOTR trilogy. Since my friend wasn’t as much of a geek as me and I was trying to save money we decided against touring the studio but it was still an interesting visit and it was fun to be doing these things with someone for a change. Whilst not Cairns I was beginning to understand why so many of my friends had suggested I start my New Zealand adventure there.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

My Arrival in New Zealand

I arrived in Wellington as a pretty bad storm was finishing itself off. As we took off from Melbourne the pilot announced that though Wellington airport was currently closed, it should be open by the time we got there. I did wonder what we would do if it was closed once we got there but fortunately I didn't find out as at just after midnight our plane landed. My introduction to Wellington was a delayed flight, a broken conveyor belt at baggage reclaim and rain, lots and lots of rain. After months of sun, sea and diving it was a bit of a culture shock.

It wasn’t all bad however. A friend I'd met on one of my reef trips earlier in the year had offered to collect me from the airport. She and her boyfriend waited for my delayed flight and took me to her place where I claimed their couch as my first NZ bed. Since she was working and studying I didn’t see much of her but it was good to catch up when we could and I was glad that I had a day to catch my breath before booking into the YHA and starting my job search. 

The first day I was in Wellington it continued to rain all day. My friend’s flatmate took me in to town where I bought some more appropriate clothes: mine were all suitable for a winter in Cairns as I had hoped to extent me stay there when I packed in the UK. It is safe to say the winter in Wellington and winter in Cairns are two very different things. To be honest after 24 hours in New Zealand I was beginning to wonder why I had always wanted to see the place. Then on my second day I woke up to the sound of silenced, it had finally stopped raining!! I stepped out of my friend’s front door and was greeted with a glorious sight. I was surrounded by green hills and nestled amongst the trees were houses, not one or two but suburbs worth of houses. They didn't clear the hills and build on them here they cleared the space for a few houses and left the rest and the effect is stunning. Even now a year later I haven't tired of the sight of the houses popping out of the trees wherever you look up from the city.

My friend had a busy day ahead of her so she and her boyfriend dropped me off in the city centre fairly early and I got my first view of New Zealand’s capital city. The city centre is flat but there isn’t much of it and as soon as you start up in to one of the hills it's the same green view as you get in the suburbs. The YHA is at the end of the main street and I found it a good place to stay as I got familiar with the city. It's a large hostel and the rule that dorm bed can only be booked for a maximum of 10 days means that most people staying are tourists passing through. Since I was planning on staying I was happy to move out at the end of my 10 day to a long term hostel but if I had been visiting like the friend I met then 10 days could be a bit restrictive, fortunately since she only wanted to extended a few days before she moved on they were a bit more relaxed about this rule and she was able to stay a few extra days. 

I am a fan of YHAs to a certain extent. You know what you are getting and they should have a certain level of cleanliness and security but I am starting to find them a build-a-hostel. My stays in independent hostels have usually been more enjoyable and I have found them friendlier and less clinical. Since I was new in town I thought a YHA would be a safe bet to find my bearing but sadly though the hostel itself was as expected the staff let it down. I wasn't told that the supermarket was across the road and though it is obvious once you know as a new comer I didn’t even know what name to look for. By the simple mistake of turning right instead of left out of the hostel I completely missed it and wandered instead in the directions of the bars and restaurants. Now I know where it is I feel extremely foolish for having missed it, it does look rather large and obvious every time I pass it but as a newbie a little direction wouldn't have hurt. Anyway, despite the unhelpful hostel staff I found some food, and my way round the town soon enough the next day. 
All in all not the best start  to my new adventure bit certainly not the worst and thankfully things were about to get much better.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The End of my Australian Adventure

Leaving Cairns was hard but I was excited to be back in my favourite Australian city, Melbourne. Sadly I was so excited I managed to leave my laptop on the plane. I was staying with the same family friend who had kindly out me up on my previous visit and realised within moments of arriving what I had done. I called the airline straight way with my flight and seating details but they said that nothing had been found. I even knew exactly where I had left it. Being the cheapest of the cheap flights the seats lacked any storage so I had placed the laptop down the side of my chair for landing. The airline were completely disinterested and unhelpful and despite returning to the airport and numerous phone calls it was soon clear that the laptop was long gone. I was gutted. I had travelled all over Australia with my old beat up laptop coming to no harm yet the second trip with my new one and it was gone due to a moments carelessness.

Fortunately as upsetting as this was I had much to cheer me up over the next few days. Not only were my hist extremely kind and friendly I managed to catch up with an old friend from my PhD days. She had recently mover to Melbourne to take up a university research position. I thought it would be strange ot see someone from my past life in the setting of my new life but as soon as we met up it felt completely normal. In fact we  got on so well that she invited me out to the university to see her research and cooked for me on my second last day in Australia. I was fascinated by her research and I must admit it did make me miss my lab and the days of being a research student. In fact I even considered looking into the optic scene in New Zealand, though what I thought I'd find there as a working holiday tourist I have no idea.

I also visited one of my favourite places in Australia: the National Gallery of Victoria. Way back in 2010 I rediscovered a love of art and it was on ethe the constants thorughot my time in Australia. Every city I went to I visited the galleries and this was my favourite. As well as being somewhere to get lost i for hours they have a brilliant tea room, it's a winning combination. However there was something else to tempt me there this time. My hosts had told me about the current exhibition: Monets' Garden. Painting fromt eh start of his career all the way through to the end when his eyesight was failing him. I paid extra for the audio commentary and spent hours walking back and fourth amongst his masterpieces.I am constantly fascinated by artists ability to create such amazing scenes when I can barely draw a stick figure and Monet, well he was brilliant. I know nothing of art and techniques but his work kept drawing me back and the story of his life and the evolution of his garden was something I had never thought could be so interesting. NGV once again you made my visit to Melbourne extra special, brilliant, just brilliant.

My old uni friend wasn’t the only old friend I caught up with though the others were slightly newer old friends. During my ‘holiday’ I managed to have lunch with a friend I’d met on my one tour I did whilst in Broome and also the girl I’d met in Cairns just a few months earlier. It turned out that she too was on her way to New Zealand though whilst I had decided to head straight for the middle she was going to Auckland. As we were both on working holiday visa’s we figured we’d bith be moving around and decided to stay in touch so when we did end up in the same town we could catch up once more. In this new life of mine making friends and saying goodbye happens all the time. I’ve been fortunate that I have actually managed to meet up with a fair few friends due to coincidence or planning but it’s still hard to say goodbye to the ones you really click with. Therefore the idea of meeting up with a friend I’d made in Australia whilst travelling New Zealand definitely appealed.

My final act in Australia was to go shopping. I headed to one of the largest electrical stores and bought myself a new laptop. I bought the same make and model and vowed to myself to take better care of this one. The financial pain was somewhat lessened by the fact the laptop was on sale and as I was flying out that day I was able to reclaim the tax at the airport.

And finally there I was leaving Australia with no return date in mind, just a vague intention to return to see the bits I missed sometime in the not too distant future. I checked in, went through security, insisted they give me a leaving stamp and boarded my flight. Soon we were taking off with the pilot announcing that though Wellington airport wasn’t open yet it should be by the time we got there. Oh yes, I headed for my new life in Wellington, New Zealand the day of the biggest storm for over a decade. An so ended my Australian adventures....... for now.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Saving Money in Cairns

After a week of emotional ups and downs of missing the boat, making a new friend and working out what to do next I settled back in to my old life surprisingly easily. The temp agency did indeed send work my way and I was asked back by more than one employer after doing a decent job. The midday reception hours at the hostel were a hit with the summer tourists and I even managed the odd hour or two of housekeeping to help with the savings.

I love Australia, between the fabulous weather and the lifestyle I had in Cairns I was as happy as I had been in years so I thought it would be difficult for me to accept that my grand plans for staying had been well and truly scuppered but it turns out I adapt to life changes much better these days. I considered applying for a tourist visa and doing some travelling but in the end I decided it was time to go. I was happy with my life as it was and Australia had been the making of me but it was time for the next adventure. I had wanted to visit New Zealand since I was an adolescent and finally in a round-a-bout way the time had come for me to fulfil that wish. The only problem I had was in deciding where I would start when I had a whole new country to explore and 23 months to see it in. Therefore the next month was spent consulting friends and random backpacking guests about what to do and where to go. In the end we decided (seriously, it was a group decision) Wellington would be the best place for me to start my next adventure and the tickets were booked.

One of the hardest parts of being in Carins whilst planning my next adventure was the lack of diving. As I was saving for my next adventure I imposed a strict no diving policy on myself. Thankfully the cooler weather and lower humidity meant I was able to take up running again. I missed swimming and diving but having spent so much money on diving previously I knew I had to resist. The running kept me fit and between that and my return to my fruit diet I felt healthier than ever with the added advantage that my bank account was increasing for the first time in a long time! It wasn’t all work and no play though,  I did managed the odd night out with my new roommates and I also was planning a weeks holiday in Melbourne before I left Australia for my next adventure.

And so ended my life in Cairns. It went from being a two week holiday destination on the way down the east coast to Tassie to my home for almost 6 months. It was the longest place I’d lived in since leaving York in 2010 and I found a new love there that I hope will bring me many more adventures over the years. Life there wasn't always easy and my return didn’t work out the way I’d hoped but I learned a lot about myself and about the amazing people that lived at and visited the hostel where I worked. Next stop Melbourne then a whole new country was waiting for me....

Hostel entertainment on BBQ night

Looking up when drunk one night I saw these words of wisdom...
View from my room not long before I left for the final time

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Back in Cairns

Sorry I know we're time hopping here but since I was on a roll I thought I'd tell you about the time I quite literally missed the boat in. Back in May 2013 after a lovely holiday in Singapore it was back to my beloved Cairns to try find a boat to go live on. You may remember from early 2013 I had become rather enamoured with diving and the Great Barrier Reef. The story continues.....


Since I had planned to travel the west coast my flight from Singapore landed in Perth however my love of diving meant that within 24 hours of landing in Perth I was leaving again and heading back to Cairns. I was excited but I was also nervous. I had it all planned in my head. I would go back to the hostel and stay as a guest. I would let the agency know I was back in town and work for them whilst I waited for a spot on the boat I wanted to go out on.

On my return to the hostel I was told that I would have some options. They had always said they’d have me back if there was space but I knew that the girls who were working when I left were both there for the long haul. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the hostel would be extending their opening hours on a trial basis and that they were happy to have me back doing my old job but with different hours. During my day at Perth airport I had emailed the boat to let them know I was back in the country and ask if they were looking for a new trainee divemaster but as I hadn’t heard from them I decided to return to the hostel staff.

Turns out it was a wise decision as not long after I made my decision I discovered that I had literally missed the boat as they had held trials the week previously. I won’t lie, despite the fact I had decided to return to the hostel I was a little gutted. I love diving and the thought of becoming qualified still holds great appeal. I was in the botanical gardens when I received the email and lunch and a walk helped me recover from my disappointment. The next day I was back in the hostel flat and it was like I’d never been away. The tours were booking up faster and the hostel was getting busy. However since I was working the mid shift on reception I let the temp agency know I was back in town with much better availability than before. They remembered me and promised to send some work my way so life even though my boat dreams were wrecked at least I would be gainfully employed whilst I worked out what to do next.

Thankfully living and working in a hostel provides great social opportunities. I met a lovely Danish girl on the bus from the airport to the hostel and took great delight in introducing her to my favourite bar and the concept of dancing on the tables at the Woolshed club. She was in Cairns for the diving and made me very jealous by going out on one of my favourite boats but made up for it by being friendly and willing to get drunk with me. Sadly she moved on quickly and I was left with the new hostel staff and some long termers who were still there from my previous stint as an employee. Fortunately my new co-workers turned out to be both lovely and friendly. Despite the rocky start to my return it looked like things just might work out after all. 

Written 12/03/10 - Desperation

With the passing of a beloved actor that I grew up with my thoughts go straight to Robin Williams family. As the post pile up on FB the sorrow grows and then come the other posts. The ones remaining people that even the strongest of us can suffer. As an adolescent I struggled to figure out not just where my place was but if I had one. In my early 20's I finally got professional help and learned how to cope with my depression and anxiety. I was fortunate that I had the support of a loving partner and family. An unintended consequence of this was that when Jonathan died I had the tools to cope with the depression brought on by my grief. Even so I had some extremely tough and hard days. I didn't blog back then but I did write. 

A year after Jonathan was taken from us this is how I felt. I can honestly say I have found my place in the world now and I am comfortable with who I turned out to be but back then the thought of who that might be terrified me. Thankfully with the love and support of both my families I stuck around to work out that life as just me is definitely worth living after all. If there is anyone struggling who is reading this please know that no matter how hard  life gets it can get better but sometime for that to happen you need help and that help can give you the tools to cope with anything life throws at you. I'm living proof.


Brandi Snyder once said “To the world you are one person but to one person you are the world.” I have no idea who Brandi Snyder is but the internet assures me that it was he who said this, the quote though I know well. When I first heard it I was at university and madly in love. To one person I was the world and to me he was all that I needed. This is an amazing gift but also slightly terrifying, especially if you are 17 years old. We met young, we fell in love and it was extraordinarily scary. To meet the love of your life at 17 to know that this is the one person you want to make your world and spend the rest of time with. Well you’re 17 so surely it won’t last? But it did. At 22 we moved in together. We were each other’s worlds and we refused to get married. We met young and were together for 5 years before we lived together. We had so much time together that there was no need to rush and we knew that we would be together forever so there wasn’t the need for what was to us, just a bit of paper, especially when the money for a wedding could get us to Australia or Salsa dancing in Cuba. It wasn’t always perfect, we fought, we argued and we managed to slam a few doors but through it all our love was never in doubt. Through the dark times, through the hard times we could turn and say “You love me” and know it would be true. It was an amazing gift I and I thought I knew how lucky I was but there is another saying “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and I now know that this too is true.

A year ago forever came to an end. A year ago my world was taken from me. A careless moment, a terrible accident and forever was no more. In an instant I was no longer the world to one person I was just one person in a very large and scary world. I have many friends and a large and caring family but I was not their world. They did not live and breathe for me but no longer did he; I have never felt so small.

When you think about grief you think of sadness that a person has gone. You think of regret for all that was not said, or that was said in anger or confusion. Unless you’ve been there you don’t know about the madness. You don’t know how empty life becomes. All you have is worthless and the part of you that cares has gone with the person you have lost. You are nothing and yet there are people all around you telling you to eat, to try to live and carry on. It’s what he would have wanted. Well he died so maybe his opinion doesn’t count? Sacrilege. How could you, who loved him so, ever think such a thing? Because I hurt. Because I am angry. Because it is not fair and there is nothing I can do.  Eventually as time passes I am learning to live with the pain. The hurt of missing him everyday has become my constant and now it is part of who I am then one day I realised that my life is filled with grief. The pain and sadness surrounds me and there is no room for anything else.

A friend told me of a lecture in which they learned that grief will never shrink but we must expand our lives so that it can remain the same but no longer fill our lives. This made sense to me and it is a course of action I can live with but how? How do you increase your world when all you knew has gone? I am but one person and I feel so small. There is a desperation in me. I must belong, I must fit in. I must be who you need me to me. I need you to validate my existence because if you don’t will I disappear? If I don’t tell you that I’m here will you forget me? If you forget me what will I become? If I am but one person how do I go on? Where do I fit in? I must go out there alone and make my world a larger place. I have to travel to explore. The world is so large that surely there is some where for me? A place where I belong, a place to call my own. A time and place where I can say this is me. I am not who you need me to be. I am not who you want me to be. I am just me.

I wish there was a map. I long for someone else to plot my course. The responsibility for my life alone could crush me if I let it, and sometimes I long to let it, but yet I carry on. Somewhere in me, buried deep within there is a part of me remaining; a me I never knew, me without him. I am scared to meet her, afraid to let her out. What if no-one likes her? What if she is takes me places I never wanted to be? Yet...... what if she is someone good. Maybe she can care. Maybe she can be someone, thus me I cannot conceive. I reach out then snatch my hand back. I am so desperate to fit in and desperate to belong but desperation is kin to despair and I know where that can take me. So the desperation must be banished and I must let you go. For though you’ve held me when I fell I now know you cannot pick me up. You cannot plot my course for me. I am afraid but the fear is losing its grip. You held me when I fall now you’re telling me to go. I know that your words come from your heart but there is only so much you can give.

So where so I go from here? A wandering soul. For 10 years I found a home, the place where I belonged. Now this place is gone my soul wanders on once more. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Thoughts About Being On My Own Again

Finally I have decided to go back and edit my old unpublished posts. So if you're still interested and don't mind reliving my last year with me here are my thoughts from my time in Singapore back in May 2013.


On my third day in Singapore I had a slight crisis of confidence. Where as in the past I had jumped feet first in to my exploring and being a tourist in Singapore things happened more slowly. Maybe I was out of practice. Maybe it was a hangover from the emotional rollercoaster I had recently been on. Maybe I was actually getting, gasp, old?! Whatever the reason as I wandered round the botanical gardens under the impression that my camera was out of action for the day I felt my spirits slump. The enthusiasm I usually had for new places was missing and I wondered if it would have been the same if someone else had been with me? In short I felt a little bit lonely, a little but sorry for myself and annoyed that the life I thought I loved might have ended so soon.

After lunch and finding my camera battery though I got lost in my photography. I ‘m far from professional and I don’t have the talent of some of my friends but I love being behind the camera. I love trying to capture my subjects at just the right time and though I do edit I feel great satisfaction when I look at a shot and think, nope, doesn’t need a thing done to it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in Singapore and it did leave me feeling a little lost but then it’s only by being lost that we find things, unexpected things.

On my first two days in Singapore by early afternoon I was feeling low and lost yet on both days something happened to turn my day around. On day one it was the Lego art and the cityscape at night. Then the next day it was spending hours with my camera taking hundreds of photos, dozens of them of the same subject over and over.  So by day three I was feeling more like my old self. I really looked into what Singapore had to offer and discovered it is more than a city of shopping. I want to go back and do the things I missed. I don’t regret not looking into it more before hand, I learnt in America that the wait and see method suits me best.

Looking back it wouldn’t have been the same with someone else. Even when I am with a patient and understanding friend there are only so many photos you can take before feeling like you are wasting their time. I arrived in Singapore a little wrung out and jetlagged. I left rejuvenated and ready to get back to my life in Australia. I was going to get on that boat. I was going to have a sunny winter. And once I was ready I was going to go to New Zealand. Maybe....whatever happened I felt myself once more and I knew I was in the right place, for now.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Happy Birthday Mum

So usually when I post what I write my subject matter is grief and Josh but I do write about other things, I just tend not to do it as well. Anyway it's my mum's birthday tomorrow and I just happen to think that she's an amazing person and I wanted to share some of what I feel with everyone. So it's a bit rough but this is what I've got so far. Happy birthday mum. (Hope you don't mind being my subject matter for a change!) Love you xxx

For Mum

You held my hand for many years,
And then you let me go.
You knew the time was right for me,
To stand up on my own.

You told me off and punished me,
Then you held me close.
You taught me right from wrong,
Then hoped I’d learnt it well.

You held me close for many years,
Then left me all alone.
When I clung you shook your head,
It was time for you to go.

You never let me see the pain,
How it hurt to walk away.
Only let me see the pride you felt
When the wings you gave me worked.

Your gave me my foundation,
You gave me wings to fly.
You gave me love forever.
You showed me what I could be.

I see your pain so clearly now.
I see the sacrifice you made.
The times you told me I’d done wrong,
The times you held your tongue.

You say its nature’s way
You say you had no choice.
But others see it differently,
And now I see it too.

A mother’s love is special.
Yours, it knows no bounds.
I'm thankful for it everyday,
So grateful that I'm yours.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Goodbye Singapore

My final day in Singapore I did something I don’t usually do, I kept exploring and I went shopping. OK it was only for a new bag but I went out with the intention of spending the last of my Singapore money. I wanted a day bag for when I went out without my camera as my new rucksack though perfect for going out with my SLR camera and new tripod was not exactly handbag material.

I decided to end my time where I had stared it, in Chinatown. I explored as many stalls as I could before decided on a cloth bag with elephants embroidered on it. Still having plenty of time before my flight to Australia I decided to explore the Tooth Relic Temple I had spotted on my first day, even though I had no idea what it was then!  It turns out that the funky temple I saw on my first day is a pretty big deal. I wandered in not really appreciating where I was at first but thankfully I had my scarf with me and quickly had my shoulders covered once I realised I was in a proper temple. I was therefore able to spent my last few hours in Singapore exploring the temple. It should have looked gaudy and fake but it didn’t. Despite the fact I am not religious I have visited many churches and cathedrals, I like the architecture and I have a slight fascination with religion and it’s trappings. This temple felt like every other religious place. You can feel the reverence and there is a peace in these places which I do appreciate. The lower floor was full of tourists and this feeling was of course not so obvious but as I went up the floors it increased until I reached relic room. Here photography and shoes were not allowed, instead prayer and meditation were encouraged. I can’t say I really got the whole tooth relic thing but it was a very peaceful room. I soon left though. As much as religion and these places interest me I always feel like I am trespassing.  After a quick trip to the roof garden it was soon time for me to head back to the hostel to collect my stuff. Stuff collected and I was on my way back to the airport, this time via train which though it involved a small walk was much cheaper than the shuttle I had used to get to the hostel four days previously.

I can honestly say that Singapore was my best stopover so far and in future if I am able I will stay a few days in any city I am swapping planes in. After all 4 days exploring beats four hours in any airport I reckon.