PostHeaderIcon New beginnings.

NY_SYDAs another year draws to an end I can’t help but wonder where that time went and what on earth did I do? I haven’t spoken to you during that year but as usual actually do have a lot to tell!

Oh well, I’ll have to save that for another day as I’m just about to get ready for my own New Year’s celebration. I’m still in London so of course there’s something interesting to do, apart from the fireworks that is (been there, seen those!).

This year I’m off to a 1920’s themed Gangster Murder Mystery night and yes, I do have an appropriately fringed dress and fur stole – you’ll have to wait for those pics…I’m not ready yet!

For now, I’ll leave you with with some words of wisdom from one of my favourite gals. They not only seem appropriate as we end one year and begin another, they reflect my own thoughts and how I strive to live.

I wish you all a wonderful, happy, healthy New Year that brings you everything you dream of and will be talking to you next year for sure!484197_564654626885285_1247923765_n

PostHeaderIcon Wishing you all…

A Happy and Safe New Year – make all your dreams come true

PostHeaderIcon A hunting we shall go

When I was a little girl I was attacked by Magpies. If that makes no sense let me explain, Magpies when they’re nesting are very protective of their territory. Proving the best defense is an offence theory; they swoop from the nest at anything that goes by. If you’re caught unaware they will peck you as they swoop! That’s what happened to me – swooped and pecked!

Understandably, I’m not so fond of birds and don’t feel the Hitchcock movie The Birds was so far-fetched!

Knowing this, it may surprise you to read that a couple of weeks ago I spent Sunday at the Forest Falconry Park in Wiltshire; standing still whilst holding pieces of meat so the resident birds of prey would not only swoop toward me but land on me (one at a time)….within inches of my easily pecked out eyes!

Well, I’m always ready for a new adventure, particularly if it means trying things that are a little out of the ordinary and something not everyone you meet will have done. When my friend invited me on her adventure I decided I couldn’t let a little bird-phobia stop me!

The Thatched Cottage

The Thatched Cottage

So, after an eventful car trip from London (we encountered a road-rage maniac; another story in itself!) we arrived in Brockenhurst to stay at The Thatched Cottage. I’d recommend it as a lovely place to stay.

A room for a princess - or a hunter!

A room for a princess - or a hunter!

The rooms were luxurious, service was great and the food was amazing.

When we took a stroll down the main road we spotted at least 3 pubs and a few shops. Based on name-appeal we decided we must go into The Snake Catcher, another culinary find and a little local history; the pub is named after a local historical figure.

If you fancy “hot rocks” dining this is the place to go. Our food cooked itself on the plates set before us and was delicious – the local beer wasn’t bad either.

Sunday morning arrived with plenty of rain and we ate breakfast in hope that it would clear enough for our adventure. Upon arriving at the park things weren’t looking good as we took shelter with the park owner and our guide Ed. However, that time did give us the chance to ask questions and learn about birds of prey and the idiosyncrasies of hand reared birds, they don’t gain a sense of identity as a bird but believe they’re as human as those who raise them. The chupping (mating) stories were a weird but interesting highlight for everyone.

Potter

Potter

After a while the weather cleared enough for our guide Ed to take the birds from their shelter and “fly”

Potter's prey

Potter's prey

them with our first hunter being an English Barn Owl called Potter. A lovely white owl that looked fluffy and sweet until it swooped in to munch on what was clearly some kind of bird leg! Potter was however, very graceful about the whole thing.

Our next hunter was a young Harris Hawk named Pee-Wee, still in training and a little playful with Ed. Pee-Wee is also a chatter-box who barely had a quiet moment during the exercise. Apparently the young hand-reared birds are often like this as they’re used to humans talking so they join in! Pee-Wee’s voice was rather piercing and I wondered how Ed could put up with that “Argh, argh” sound all day.

Before releasing him, Ed had warned us that Pee-Wee likes people and would find a favourite to land on. If that happened, Ed said not to worry but stay still, no waving arms or running away! In a hilariously predictable moment, Pee-Wee looked around then flew directly at our friend Dave and landed neatly on his camera! As I thanked

Pee-Wee

Pee-Wee

heaven it wasn’t me, he took off and came to rest on my head where he decided to stay for a while!

As Ed had done a great job of preparing us, I wasn’t scared but can tell you the talons are sharp! Although it wasn’t painful, the feeling of a hawk standing on your head is like needles sticking into your scalp. I don’t think I’d like to do it for a long time and I don’t want to imagine how it would feel if he wasn’t being friendly.

The speed hawks fly at is amazing and when you see Pee-Wee take off and swoop toward you your expectation is he’s going to land with a thud. I was hoping I wouldn’t fall over so was surprised at how lightly he landed. There really is something beautiful and amazing about the way these birds move.

Mascara

Mascara - lighter than expected

Once Pee-Wee had his fill we met a European Hunting Owl called Mascara. She was much bigger than the others but equally as graceful and although she weighs only 5pound, her talons can exert a pressure similar to a 250pound Rottweiler when gripping her prey.

Although I’m still wary of birds, this was a great experience that I’d do again so if you ever get the chance – have a go.  By the way, no; I didn’t end up with bird-poo in my hair!

 

PostHeaderIcon Pay it forward

When I was travelling full-time my outlook on many things changed. One of those was the concept of kindness to others; you know, being kind and helpful to those around us whether we know them well or not. Whether we feel we have the time to spare or not.

The term random acts of kindness is often used to describe what I’m talking about. Someone performing an act of kindness for no apparent reason, being kind for the sake of being kind. Perhaps it’s become a popular topic for discussion because so many of us feel the lack of it. I know I did but then I decided to go travelling alone.

I expected to spend a lot of time being wary of strangers. We’re taught that as children and in fact, wariness is not foolish but it is a problem if we close ourselves off from every stranger that approaches. I also expected to spend time alone while other pairs or groups of people shared their good times.

A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia - Japanese tea garden, San Francisco
A sign on my 2nd day out of Australia – Japanese tea garden, San Francisco

I knew I’d meet people but understood (or assumed) they might not want a stranger intruding on their space although I hoped I’d make new friends.

In spite of those misgivings, I knew I wanted to see the world so away I went. Off to discover the world AND, a lot of people performing random acts of kindness!

Before I continue I should let you know I’m not a cynic and often put more faith in the good nature of people than they can live up to. I am however, a realist most of the time and my expectations had come from living in the day-to-day world that we all find ourselves stuck in at times. The boring treadmill that has people doing the same thing from day to day and being too caught up in that to really see those around them and notice an “opportunity” for kindness.

It may feel bad to acknowledge it but we’ve all been there, impatience at the supermarket when someone is short of cash and must remove items, or maybe they’re slow at packing up because they’re trying to keep hold of a small child and pack groceries. How many of us have given that person the cash or helped them pack? The examples go on but you get the idea?

I don’t believe most of us are unkind, just busy and caught up in our own world. I saw it every day, so the first time someone approached me and offered kindness when I was out on my own, I was not only surprised but a little (to say the least) wary.

On my 2nd day away from Australia a man offered me his seat on a tram in San Francisco. When I replied he asked where my accent was from; when I told him he then proceeded to tell me about the city and what I “must” see. I thanked him for all the info and then was shocked and a little worried when he decided to get off with me and show me around! Although I kept insisting I was fine and that he must have things to do he spent 4hours wandering around with me and in the end wouldn’t even let me buy him a drink to say thanks. His explanation was I’d come so far he just wanted me to enjoy his city!

On a tram in San Fran with Israel - Day 2 & 1st random act of kindness
Israel; Day 2, 1st act of kindness

That experience was to be the first of many that were random not just in their occurrence but often also in that they were not simple things but acts that took people’s time, effort and often money.

I had strangers strike up conversations with me and then pay for my meals telling me they hoped that meant I could travel for longer, others showed me around, gave me rides to save fares and even invited me to stay in their homes – which I did and was treated like a family member. I was constantly amazed at how much effort people put into being kind for no reason other than, they are the type of people we all hope to meet.

Those are the people that changed my outlook and inspired me, many of them are now old friends. I now know there are people out there who will help a stranger and all the time I travelled I promised myself I would keep that lesson with me and pay it forward somehow. I hoped especially to do something unexpected for people travelling in a strange country as I know how much that meant to me and how in truth, those acts of kindness are what make my travels such fantastic experiences.

I’ve had a few opportunities to offer help to strangers – yes, even in the supermarket and today I had the opportunity to pay one of those travel kindnesses forward. Not only do I feel good, I also made a couple of new friends who I hope will be able to travel a little longer because someone was unexpectedly nice to strangers today.

Alexandra_Megan_NottingHillAug2011

My new travelling friends from Vegas

For inspiration;

Pay It Forward – the movie

Help Others.org

1,000,000 Acts of Kindness

The Kindness Offensive

Australian Kindness Movement

PostHeaderIcon Here I am…mobile

Hello my lovelies, whoever and wherever you are.

Last Sunday was a sunny and beautiful day in London. The kind of day you can’t let yourself stay inside. Of course on such a day I had so much to do, so much that meant computers and being inside. Or did it?

I decided there was a certain amount of things I’d planned for the day that meant I had to be at home…boring; washing, cleaning, blah! The rest? Have laptop will travel!

Heavens don’t you love the fact we can be so mobile? Maybe not if your mobility means work follows you everywhere but take it from me, be strong, switch THAT mobile or Blackberry off! Unless you’re on call of course, which I am definitely not.

My point is; I love that I can be mobile to suit ME.

Washing done, away I went with my laptop and sought out a place in the sunshine. I made a detour to visit the National Portrait Gallery and see the Glamour of the Gods exhibition; portraits from the Hollywood Golden Eras 20’s – 40’s, exactly my kind of thing.

Having walked to the gallery I had a taste of the sunshine and was very impressed at my plan. I could’ve gone out for a while then forced myself home because I had to but no, I’m equipped to stay out AND I will.

I enjoyed the exhibition then wandered back out into the sunshine. London on a sunny day is wonderful. The Londoners know their sunshine is rare and they make the most of it. Everyone ventures out so the parks are full of people playing sport, picnicking or just taking in the rays.

Summer in the Park, London

Summer in the Park, London

The atmosphere is cheerful and lively, different from the grey feeling that London is known for. There’s always a lot to do in London but in summer the options seem to double – at least!

As I made my way from the gallery toward the Thames, I wandered through a park featuring live music – for free. I’ll come back to that. I will.

Mobile me

Mobile me

I knew where I was going, I’ve been there before. Onto the RS Hispaniola.

Permanently moored  on the Thames Embankment, this ship is now a restaurant and bar. What better place to sit in the sun, on the water (I am a water girl), maybe have a glass of wine and get some writing done.

Blissful; and finally after being too busy to think, there I was, writing again and getting some sunshine. It must be the atmosphere I need because one blog entry, one glass of wine (+ 1 water of course) and an hour later – I decided to head back to the park for the final act.

Working in the park

Working in the park

Here I am again….still mobile, sitting in the park listening to blues and jazz whilst finishing my second blog entry and thinking I should remind you all again that there’s more than one place you can be to get your “stuff” done.

Today the world’s the limit and who knows, tomorrow I may even write to you from space.

Oh, but only if they have wine!

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011)

One week already! Yes, last Saturday I, like so many others, was shocked to hear that Amy Winehouse had died.

Amy Winehouse performing

Amy Winehouse performing

Shocked? Many react as if that’s ridiculous. Given her history I guess it may seem less than shocking however, I think many of us fans (and even those who aren’t) were shocked in the way we always are when someone famous dies, particularly if they’re young and have so much yet to achieve.

What’s less shocking is that within hours the “jokes” were already flooding the social and other networks. Such supposedly witty remarks as “she should have gone to rehab” in reference to one of her biggest hits left me cold and unsmiling.

I admit, my sense of humour is lacking in this area – or do those wittier than me term it irony? Do they forget (or not care) that this was a person with a family left behind to grieve the loss of a loved one? I wonder if they’re laughing.

Maybe I’m too sensitive. I doubt it. I know I have good manners and perhaps that’s more to the point. Show a little respect people – or didn’t your parents teach you such things? Perhaps Amy Winehouse was on a path to self destruction, her mother said last week she’d felt it was a matter of time but; does that make her loss less painful or somehow funny?  I can’t find it in my imagination to believe so.

Cover - Amy Winehouse: Frank

Cover - Amy Winehouse: Frank

Amy was a great talent who burst onto the music scene at the age of 20. Not only did most of the songs on her first album Frank become hits, she won more awards than many artists twice her age including 5 Grammys in one year. She may have been young but she didn’t sound it. Her music had the sound of life experience – and an amazing voice!

Being a fan of jazz, blues & soul (amongst other things), I remember that the first time I heard Amy Winehouse I thought she was much older and probably black. I don’t know if that’s ok to say but hey, she reminded me of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. It was no surprise to me later to hear her biggest influence was Dinah Washington. She also liked the 50’s/60’s girl bands like the Vandellas and Shirelles and her remake of Valerie bears testament to that.

Cover: Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Cover: Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Her second album Back to Blackwas an even bigger hit with so many singles it almost seems like a greatest hits album. Rehab was of course the first but then there are so many others. This one was full of experience as she’d had a break-up with the man she then went on to marry and those emotions came through loud and clear.

Although it may seem sentimental and girly I have to say I’m sorry she’s gone. Sorry for her family and selfishly sorry there’ll be no new material from her. If she could write songs and express them in the way she did in her early 20’s, what would she have achieved by 40?

I have so many favourites but I’ll leave you with one of my very favourites Love is a Losing Game.

 

RIP Amy – truly a talent lost to us.

Flowers, pictures and messages outside Amy's house - July 2011

Flowers, pictures and messages outside Amy’s house – July 2011

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Parlez vous Français?

Bonjour tout, comment allez vous?

Recently, I spent a week in France, Rouen to be exact, at school. It may seem a strange choice for a holiday but I dream of speaking French like the French do so a week in language school is just a small but logical step.

In my usual multi-tasking manner, I went to school in one of the locations that’s been on my “must-visit” list for a while.  For those who don’t know, Rouen is the town in which Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) was burned at the stake in 1431. Her heart remained whole so the remains were burnt twice more  then thrown in the river in an attempt to avoid creating a martyr!

Jeanne d'Arc memorial garden

The location where Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake in 1431

It truly doesn’t seem a fitting reward for the girl that put a French king back on the throne but then again, perhaps she should have kept details of her mentors to herself. Some folk obviously didn’t take too kindly to Angels speaking to a simple peasant girl.

Rouen local’s say Jeanne’s mother never gave up hope that her daughter would be cleared of all charges of witchery and heresy and finally; 24 years later, could rest when Pope Callistus III directed Jeanne’s trial be reviewed resulting in the sentence being quashed. Jeanne was canonised in 1920.

St Jeanne d'Arc chapel - Rouen Cathedral

Lighting a candle for my loved ones at the St Jeanne d'Arc chapel - Rouen Cathedral

Although St Jeanne d’Arc met a tragic ending, she’s a legendary example of a girl who stuck to what she believed no matter what.

I realise I’m simplifying her story immensely as I can’t do her justice and keep this to a reasonable length however, I find her story amazing and hope this snippet inspires you to learn more or; even knowing this much, find in Jeanne d’Arc, the inspiration to stick to your guns. Spare a thought for her mother who is rarely mentioned as part of this history but also continued until she succeeded in clearing her daughter’s name.

As well as satisfying my desire to visit Rouen, my week in school was wonderful but much too short. I chose to stay with a French host(ess) to enhance my learning and that was a wise choice. Not only did it force me to try harder from the moment I arrived (my hostess spoke no English); I made a new friend, Ghislaine.

Café avec Ghislaine

Café avec Ghislaine

I arrived on Easter Sunday and had another day before I’d begin school so I was a little concerned but those are often just the types of situations we need to be thrown into in order to progress. With my minimal French and no English assistance from Ghislaine we still managed to work out all living arrangements, directions to school (2 buses) and chat about our families and background.

School was no different. French is all that is spoken from the moment you arrive no matter what level you’re at! I’m not sure how the total beginners coped but everyone seemed to manage. My goal was to learn conjugation. So tricky but must be understood if you want to get things in the correct tense and speak in sentences.

Working hard with classmate Lindsey

Working hard with classmate Lindsey

 

 

At the end of a week I was just beginning to understand (a little) and have correct conversations rather than speaking pigeon-French so I was totally miserable at having to leave. Sometimes that’s the trouble with living your dreams, some of them have to be done in stages.

C’est la vie!

 

 

 

PostHeaderIcon Even the best laid plans…

Some days everything seems to go wrong doesn’t it?

Or is it just that it doesn’t go to our particular right?

When I think about it, although the way I planned my day didn’t work out, maybe someone else’s did. They may have messed with mine but then again, did it turn out so bad?

I’m thinking that if one person’s plans go wrong maybe another person’s plans go right. Could it be that when we plan our day we forget to consider what plans the people around us have made for their day? Should we have to? If we make a plan to get things done do we need to make a contingency plan to allow for other people’s plans?

Or do we go with the flow?

Ah, I know many people will be shrieking in terror at the thought but; is it really so hard to go with the flow?

Unless you have an unbreakable commitment aren’t we all more used to going with the flow than we realise? For instance, who really knows what tomorrow will bring?

Sometimes it may unnerve us or make us feel like everything is going wrong when plans change but what if we looked at it from a positive angle? It’s a matter of choice.

Today I had a plan. Actually, I had a couple of plans. My workday was planned; until several other people messed with it and I lost time to the unexpected. Now I’m behind in some things but finished others – do I laugh or cry?

I also had a plan for after work. Seems that was another waste of time! One part of my plan was cancelled and another part was missed because someone else forgot. By that point I was faced with a choice; do I start to feel frustrated, angry and fed-up or do I laugh it off.

Well, I’ll be truthful and say it was feeling very easy to drift into at least; “highly annoyed,” at the time I’d wasted but then I realised I was glad to be wandering around on what was a beautiful, sunny evening rather than already home. It also meant when I got home I’d make dinner rather than spend too much (I’m meant to be saving for a holiday!) so, I smiled and wandered to the bus stop, just in time to see the bus I needed pull away! Grrrrrrr…….but; I sat and enjoyed the sunshine a bit longer.

When I got home I made exactly the dinner I felt like, turned on the TV and without any planning, happened to be on the correct channel to be faced with one of my all-time favourite chick-flicks – You’ve Got Mail!

What a perfect ending to a day that went so wrong. Or did it?

 

PostHeaderIcon What, when, why and HOW?

Not so long ago I was looking at some of my (many) photos as I wanted to make an online birthday card for a friend. Of course I got side-tracked and started going through all my photos, including those without that friend in them; heading further off task and down memory lane.

Usually there’s no harm in reminiscing; it’s fun. However this time it sent my mind down the wrong path. The path with weeds growing through it’s cracked, litter-strewn surface. The path just waiting to trip each of us as we tread hesitantly along. The path of discontent.

You see, as I looked at photos of great times with friends or new faces, in places I know well and places I was enthusiastically learning about, I could clearly see how happy and relaxed I looked and started to wonder why I wasn’t feeling that way. Why wasn’t I doing the things I loved doing every day and why was I feeling trapped in “routine?” A place I’d promised myself I’d never be in.

This path was one I didn’t want to stay on!

As it happens, I’m a believer in positivity and attraction, you know – what we focus on we draw to us so we should try to see everything in a positive manner rather than focussing on the negative. As a result I thought about all the things I love doing and the lifestyle I want to live and how I could get back on track with that.

Then as usually happens; an opportunity appeared in the form of coincidence. I received an email containing information about a  networking event that was promoting a life coach as their guest speaker. That triggered something held on the back-burner of my brain – an interest I’d had for a few years but done nothing about due to my somewhat itinerant lifestyle. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed anywhere long enough to take on a study course.

I did a web search on coaching and and found the opportunity to do an introduction course so I enrolled immediately – before I could procrastinate! I’m so glad I did as I spent two days learning about coaching, learning some tools used in decision making and basically benefitting from some free coaching!

WHAT did the free coaching achieve?

  • A clearer focus on what I want and how I can achieve it

WHEN will that happen?

  • It’s already started; I’m now doing a six month course in personal coaching

WHY have I decided to study coaching?

  • This fits my personality, areas of strength and the lifestyle I want to live

HOW will it take away my feeling of discontent?

  • It already has, I now feel I’m on track to doing something I’ll enjoy and find satisfaction with

The great thing is; I’m focussed again and feeling good – good enough to tell you about it, good enough to ask you to think about WHAT you want, WHEN can you make a start, WHY do you want it and HOW great will you feel when you start the journey?

 

PostHeaderIcon Change…

Are you ready for a change?

Go on…tell me about it.

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Never thought I'd get to do this....

Never thought I'd get to do this....

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