going home and thinking about what next

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary.  We met at the Boss’s brother’s wedding.  He married an old school friend of mine.  She and I met on our first day at boarding school on 16th September 1973… and now we are sisters in law.

The Boss proposed four weeks after we first met.  As I was living and working in Sussex and he was living and working in Glasgow that means we had only met three times before he proposed.  I knew he would propose that weekend.  I told Chrissie, with whom I then shared an office at Sightsavers   that I knew he would propose that weekend.  She laughed but laughed again on Monday when I told he had and I had accepted.

So twenty years  and three children later we are in Australia and have had the most wonderful laid back day.  We travelled up to Nimbin;


ate samosas in the park in the craft market and listened the music; drank margaritas at The Balcony


and watched the world wander by; had stupendous burrundi and chips at The Fish Head


and listened to the drummers on the beach; lay on the beach whilst I taught the Boss the little I knew of the southern hemisphere constellations (the Southern Cross and the Keel); watched the fire dancers; wandered back to the market and bought our daughters a present and came back to our apartment for a glass of wine and some good music.

What do I want now?  Not a lot.  I am going home with a drive to divest myself of more stuff I don’t need or want.  I am going home with a desire to do what we want to whilst we can.  I am going home with a wish to instill in my children that life only  happens once.  I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that if my daughters said they wanted to buy a bakkie (hello my SA friends 🙂 ) and just cruise around until they ran out of money or decided what they wanted to do with their lives then I would be happy with that.  We only have one shot at this life, why should it be something that other people think it should be?




lessons learned

So I have been living out of a suitcase for three weeks.  I brought too much.  I could have got away with half of what I brought with  me.  But every lesson learned is a good lesson.

Time out, and certainly time travelling (as in time spent travelling not the Tardis variety) gives you plenty of time to knit and to think.  Time spent living out of a suitcase gives you plenty of time to think about what you should have left behind.

When I was packing I kept to a simple colour palette.  That was good.  There was not one item in my case that could  not have been worn with practically every other item.  Lesson learned: cull all those items in my wardrobe that can’t go with at least 50% of the rest of my wardrobe (wedding dresses/ballgowns should you need them are exempt from this rule 🙂 )

I love linen, bamboo and cashmere, I love loose deconstucted shapes (think Japanese).  Lesson learned: cull the items that I don’t love to feel against my skin.  I would rather have one fabulous cashmere jumper than three okay scratchy wool ones.

I wear shoes for comfort.  Even my “smart evening” shoes have to pass this test.  Yet despite a huge shoe cull I have shoes I never wear not because they hurt but because they aren’t comfy.  Lesson learned:  I do not need five pairs of black suede shoes and those pink peep toe wedge sandals are not comfy whereas the blue suede peeptoe sandals I could wear all day and not notice.  Lesson learned:  if you don’t wear them then don’t keep them.

None of this is rocket science.  Most of this I knew already.  But still there lurk things in our house that need to go.  Our children our growing up and in a couple of years they will all have left home.  Our house is too big for two.  We need to move somewhere more practical and somewhere a little closer to civilisation.  Something was holding me back.  I didn’t want to move into Durham.  Then we had the Eureka moment, there was no reason we had to move into Durham.  We could move anywhere we wanted.  With that thought in mind it has become easy (at least in my mind) to shed even more.  I want to start the rest of my life in a free flowing space, without the millstone of stuff I don’t love, need or admire.

This is pretty much all I have worn for 3 1/2 weeks.


spinets and other memories

One of the best things about travelling is experiencing new places and new ideas.  One of the other wonderful things about travelling is catching up with old experiences.

A few days ago we had lunch with my aunt and uncle.  We haven’t seen each other since 1992.  During that time they have lived in Bermuda, Germany,  the Solomon Islands, Cairns and latterly Sydney.  I have no photographs, but I have a wonderful experience and memories of a lovely day.  I suppose I am continuing on the theme of yesterday.  Enjoy the moment, don’t worry about recording it.

I am 50, the last time my uncle and I met I was 29.  We have both changed quite a lot since then, or at least aged a fair bit.  We have kept in touch through letters, cards and later email.  It could have been a little awkward, two people related but perhaps with not much in common.  Far from it.  We had a great day, we discussed everything from the problems of ordering a plain black coffee (Americano? Tall Black?  Long Black?  Filter?) to the Australian Health Service (well the Boss is a medic) and reminisced about visiting them in Bermuda when I was three and the number of shoes my mother apparently kept under her bed.

So, my point?  By all means accumulate physical memories, I have no problem with that IF YOU LOOK AT THEM!  I have plenty of scrapbooks and photograph albums.  But while you are filling your house with stuff that you think you should keep because it reminds you of a good time, ask yourself the last time you looked at that stuff.  Do you need it to remind you of the good time?

It is 47 years since I visited Bermuda.  I remember riding on the back of my mother’s bike.  I remember playing the piano (actually I have discovered the spinet) with a neighbour’s daughter; chasing gekkos; the first time I met a black person; swimming in warm seas; the sheer brightness and whiteness of the island  I don’t need stuff to remind me of the happy days because the happy days stick with you.  You might not remember the precise moments but the experience is inside you and doesn’t go.

As we came to the end of our lunch the couple next to us asked what our connection was with Bermuda, as that is where they were from.  Forty five minutes later my uncle and aunt had caught up with news and friends from long ago, and I was introduced as the little girl who used to play the spinet with a mutual friend’s daughter 🙂

The following day we went over to visit them at home for lunch and talking of memories, this is a rather fabulous bronze, made by my uncle, of their late dog Wallis.  She was a staffie like my first dog Figeac and reminds me of her.  Even down to the crossed paws,


people who care


The trip is drawing to a close.  Only ten days to go.  Am seriously considering how to emigrate, on my own if necessary.

Things I love about Australia:

  • The weather
  • The weather
  • The weather….

Everyone is so friendly.  I have no idea how Londoners (and I can say that as I was born and brought up in Notting Hill Gate) survive when they first arrive.  How do they cope when somebody makes eye contact and worse, asks them how they are?

Life is laid back.  I know I am on holiday so it’s different for me, but the Boss has been working, and at times quite hard.  Even he can feel the difference.


The culture and attitude.  This is what really gets to me.  People here care.  There is almost no litter and I haven’t seen any graffiti.  Being ecologically sound isn’t considered a bit weird, for most people it is a way of life.

I know I have several Antipodean readers and I would love your feedback.  Why are you so far ahead of us?  Is it because you are so much more isolated so have had to use your resources more carefully?  Or is it perhaps partly to do with the weather, you spend so much more time outside that you are more in tune with the environment?  Or are you just better people than the rest of us 🙂

Oh and the other thing I love about Australia – the markets. The markets are just the best I’ve been to and believe me I am a market fiend, I have been to a lot.