The mum birthday cold

With only a week between getting back from Alice Spring and my next trip, my housemate managed to squeeze in an early birthday treat which involved an operatic chef, a restaurant on wheels (tram wheels to be precise) and gate crashing a German couples last evening in Melbourne.

singing chef

Far too many drinks were consumed and we both awoke to a rather aggressive hangover! We spent that Easter weekend camped out on the sofa, eating home-made nachos and watching episode after episode of Sex and the City. Tearing ourselves off the couch only long enough to open a bottle of sparkling wine with the view to feed the hangover and cracking open an Easter egg to share.

Now some might think this is a terribly sad way for a single 30 year old and single 40 year old to spend a bank holiday weekend but those people have never enjoyed the delights of having nothing better to do than watch 90’s reruns, drink wine and eat chocolate, sitting under a duvet as the rain attacks the window! It’s not a bad place to be occasionally!

watching sex and the city

“Are you going to be ok on Wednesday? I know it’s your mums birthday” my housemate asked. “Oh yeah, I’ll be fine, it’s not like last year, I’m not depressed any more and alone in a foreign land – well actually I kind of am alone in a foreign land but it’s not the same, it’s fine, I’m fine!” I insisted. “Well if you want me to bring some wine or chocolate home, just let me know” she replied. “Ah wine and chocolate, the answer to all life’s problems” I smiled.

wine will help

It wasn’t going to be like Rio. I’d woken up sunburnt, hungover and alone at the end of my South American trip on the first birthday my mother would never have. It hit me unexpectedly, winding and causing an incredibly miserable day walking around Copacabana beach crying like a loony before catching my flight back to England. But that was back when I felt like there was no sunshine left in the world and had given myself a year; silently stating “if I still feel this miserable after a year then I’m jumping off a cliff, you’ve got a year universe, that’s all the strength I have, one year!”. Well as grief and depression goes, a lot happens in a year and the sun was starting to shine again. I was not going to walk around St Kilda beach crying, nope, I was fine, all fine, it’s just the same as any other day of the year.

I fell asleep Tuesday night feeling perfectly fine about the world and woke up Wednesday morning, the day of her birthday with the worst cold ever. EVER! What the hell happens while you sleep?! Does some evil pixie come and wave cold bug dust over your face?!

pixie dust

It’s a good job I was a jobless bum as I got to spent the whole day watching yet more Sex and the City and consuming so many cold busting home-made juices, I could have sworn my snot was changing colour!

When I was around two years old my mother got sick. She got the flu, the really bad flu when you can’t do anything and it went on for months; she became fearful she was developing chronic fatigue syndrome and having seen a close family friend suffer from a similar condition she returned to the doctor to seek advice. Eventually the doctor told her that there was no medical reasons why she should be so sick and suggested she see a psychologist.

psychologist

The psychologist asked her if her parents were still alive, they were. He then asked whether she had suffered any significant loss in her life “well my eldest brother died from a brain tumour about ten years ago” she explained. “I see” said the doctor in that way they do “and what age was he when he died?” he asked. “Well the age I’m at now I suppose” my mother realised. The psychologist explained that a lot of people become sick around the age their parents died; it’s as if their subconscious is rationalising that their parents, who they learnt most of life’s lessons and how to grow up from, had died at that age so they should follow the same pattern. That they can’t live beyond an age their parents didn’t because there is no blueprint for how that works or what comes next.

Of course not everyone experiences this and if someone does it can also be metamorphosed as a mid life crises or other significant change in their life. My mother, who had idolized her eldest brother, on some level found it difficult to live years he never would.

On her birthday, although she was older than any years I’d yet reached, I was experiencing a mum cold. Perhaps because it was a year she’d never have and my subconscious wanted to weep it out through my nose and eyes. Or then again, maybe it was just a regular old cold that rocked up on that particular day. Either way, I was all snot, Sex and the City and cold remedies for the rest of that week!

sneezing

“Oh you’ve washed the bedding?” my housemate returned from work. “Yeah, I was feeling all rotten with this cold and just wanted some fresh sheets to sleep in, you know” I sniffled from the couch, wrapped up in my blanket. “Hmm, yeah, well to save me washing them again next week when you’re away I might just give you a sleeping bag to sleep in until then?” she pondered. ‘errr, you what? The rent here is higher than London! I’m not allowed to wear heels in the house, have anyone stay over or cook if you get in and are hungry so want to cook first, plus I can’t even sit on a certain area of the sofa because it’s your spot! And now you want me to sleep in a sleeping bag?! No! Just no!‘ I yelled in my head. “Umm well I can just put the sheets in the wash when I leave” I said nasally, blowing my nose and coughing.

i don't care

She must have seen the look on my face as I retreated to my room, box of tissues tucked under my arm and realised this was going too far “actually, it’s fine, yeah, of course, you can just stick the sheets in the wash, yeah, that’s fine. Err so how are you feeling? Can I get you anything? Do you need some cold tablets? How are you getting to the airport? I could maybe give you a lift? Oh, you need to be there at 8am on Saturday? Well I could possibly give you a lift? I will be quite tired from the week but no, no it’s fine, I can give you a lift” she spilled out whilst I sat on my bed with a headache, wanting nothing more than to cut my dripping nose off, curl up and die.

super sick

A few days later, still battling the mum cold, I dragged my suitcase down to the bus stop, in new shoes which after three steps of leaving the house had turned into instruments of torture, creating giant blistered holes across the toes. This required a desperate dash into the airport to buy some over priced Ugg boots on the credit card before my feet exploded!

For the first time in forever I had some good luck, a whole row of seats to myself and even a good looking man sitting in the row behind me. Finally, after all the flights I’d taken over the last year I was actually seated near a good looking man, at last, my chick flick dreams could become a reality!

He smiled at me as he took his seat. Then I sneezed. Snot, coughing and all that gross cold stuff, god it was attractive! He grimaced, whilst I slid down further in my seat, spending the next eight hours blowing my nose in misery and annoying the rest of the plane; clearly destined to never be attractive when hot men are in my vicinity!

own company

 

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The red rock and naked magicians

“Hello” ‘Yes, excellent! I recognised her!’ I silently congratulated myself, as I walked through the airport, pulling my red carry-on case behind me, striding towards my cousin. Having dropped by Sydney, Adelaide and Perth whilst looking after Santa Clause, followed by a quick visit up to Crocodile Dundee in the Gold Coast; the only place left I felt I couldn’t leave Australia without seeing was the outback. Ayers Rock seemed like the perfect location and as it just so happened, I had a cousin in the nearest town, Alice Springs.

alice springs

The problem was, I really didn’t know my cousin at all. She was ten whole years older than me; when you’re eight, an 18 year old is practically ancient and just isn’t going to get down on the floor and play Sylvanian families with you.

She’d moved to Australia ten years prior; we’d really only met a handful of times growing up. But family is family so when in town, and on the other side of the planet, in another continent, with giant spiders and other weird things that want to eat you, it’s rather nice to meet up with someone who shares the same history as you.

huntsman-spider

I was rather nervous to be honest, I didn’t know anything about her other than she had a ten year old son who was giving up his room so I could sleep somewhere. I’d left things a little awkward with my uncle when I left the UK due to disagreements over some of my mothers belongings, I’d never been particularly close to her younger siblings so was a little apprehensive about this visit.

Luckily any reservations were eradicated straight away and we fell into easy conversation on our way to a wildlife park. I was still determined to see a kangaroo. Eight months in Australia and not one skippy sighting! We rounded a corner of the park and there they were, these giant mice, hoping around and being all kangaroo-like and awesome! A park ranger found my over excitement amusing and gave permission for me to go off path and shake hands with one of these weird creatures.

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That night, the politest 1o year old I’d ever met and I sat around the dinner table whilst my cousin whipped up a carbonara. There is something about family meals that breaks my heart these days, that thing of someone preparing a home-cooked meal for you and everyone sitting around a table to eat; you feel part of something and when you haven’t had that in a long time, well, it’s the loveliest feeling in the world!

The next day, as we drove around the town, seeing the tourist attractions of Alice Springs (which included an education of the local Aboriginal community, the radio programme to reach kids on rural farms called School of the air and the local telegram station) we swapped family history. It was fascinating to hear events and knowledge that I was completely unaware of, to see things you’d learnt from a different perspective, making you question if the version of events you heard really was how things had played out. It was nice to feel not so alone in the world, like actually even if that family isn’t around any more, you’re still part of a family with all the history that goes with it.

family meal

Having not only gorged ourselves on ice cream but also raided a sweet shop, I was in mid sugar high when my cousin surprised me with a visit to her friend who was looking after baby kangaroos. Their parents had been knocked down by cars and killed; the joey’s were rescued and raised until strong enough to fend for themselves in the wild. Just like me, the joey’s missed their mums so liked nothing more than being hugged. I was surrounded by babies who just wanted to curl up on my lap and go to sleep being petted, obviously it was completely horrid and I hated every second! My poor cousin had to drag me away, had they given me some straw I’d of bedded down, surrounded by joey’s and never left!

kangaroos

“Right, the kids off for a sleepover and we’re going to watch some naked magicians” my cousin announced. “Huh? You what?” I remarked. We made our way to the local casino and found ourselves sitting in a convention hall surrounded by the glammed up ladies of Alice Springs.

Two men appeared on stage; over the next two hours and through the use of various mediocre magic tricks, slowly lost their clothes until there was nothing left to hide their modesty apart from a stuffed bunny. We watched in amusement as they pulled only the good looking ladies up on stage, ignoring the heavier ladies to help with the tricks.  Finally it was time for the grand finale; BANG, the audience of drunk ladies waited with baited breath as the smoke cleared. They were rewarded with two men standing hand on hips, shaking their junk back and forth. To be fair though, it’s not like I’d ever have the balls to get up on stage and let it all hang out (see what I did there? Anyone?) and it’s not as if I wasn’t entertained! 

Of course we queued up for a photo; “are you married?” asked one of the naked magicians, “umm no” I answered ‘why do people always ask me this?!’. “Would you like to hold the rabbit’s ears?” he asked, I obliged, covering his equipment for the picture.

 naked magicians

The next day I sat in a cinema with three kids, eating ice cream and popcorn whilst watching a cartoon. Who knew hanging out with kids was so much fun? They’re all excited and everything is an adventure! Unfortunately the cartoon happened to be about some girl bonding with an alien but all she wanted was to find her missing mother (the alien helped and all was well in the end), now why is that always the way?! Whatever you’re reading or watching, somehow relates to your real life!

The afternoon was spent basking in the outback sunshine and playing ‘piggy in the middle’ in the local pool. We dived and jumped about, carefully throwing, tying to make it easy for the kids to catch the ball; they didn’t make it easy back. I leaped and dived until I was too tired to keep up with the energy of ten year old’s and resided myself to the shade of the sun lounger. That evening it was time for a real authentic Australian BBQ!

aussie BBQ

A real Australian BBQ involves meat that is actually cooked! Sausages are not charcoaled on the outside and raw on the inside but actually edible all the way through! It was revolutionary! There was potato salad, burgers, dips, cupcakes. It was pretty bloody exciting!

I plonked my ass down at the table and delved into my mountain of food. When I looked up I realised I was sitting at the kids table to the amusement of the adults “Alright over there?” they asked laughing. The kids however seemed be perfectly fine with my presence; “how old are you? 16?” one of the kids ask. “Umm I love you!” I declared, “I want to move to England if everyone looks as young as you!” they decided, much to my delight. When you reach the grand old age of 30 and someone thinks you’re only 16, suddenly that wrinkle that’s appeared between your eyebrow which makes you look permanently confused doesn’t seem quite so import any more.

nerf war

Dinner was followed by nerf wars. Apparently there is such a thing as these guns that shoot foam bullets, it appears I’d arrived late to the party because “how have you not heard of nerf guns?! Where have you been!”. ‘Whatever, bring it on kids, I’ve got the catapult and I aint afraid to use it!‘ I ran around the house, firing from edges of corridors, taking Bruce Willis ‘drop and roll’s’ across doorways to grab spare bullets, pausing for re-loads before taking down all the competition. I was Rambo, I was the Terminator, I was Chuck fucking Norris! ‘Bring it on!’ I fired foam bullets into the air and thumped my chest. In retrospect the toy guns might have gone to my head. I’m not sure I’ll be invited back again.

Ridiculously early the next morning my cousin went to work and I boarded a coach to Ayers Rock. A middle aged Jewish American lady sat down next to me “oh hello, have you got your fly net ready?”. Crocodile Dundee had warned me about the flies in the outback but I hadn’t believed him; I mean I’d walked down the glen on a spring day in the Isle of Man! You could choke to death on those clouds of midges!! I decided it was better safe than sorry so purchased a rather fetching pink net at the first stop just in case.

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It was a twelve hour round trip to Ayers Rock so my new American friend and I had plenty of time to chat. She’d been to Australia once before but hadn’t got to see all the things she’d wanted to. After much persuasion, she’d finally convinced her husband, who hated to travel, to join her on a five week trip to Australia. She’d cried as the flight touched down in Alice Springs, so happy to be at the start of an adventure. Unfortunately the very next day her husband had awoken in severe pain; a quick rush to hospital diagnosed kidney stones. Whilst he rested in the hotel, drinking a lot of water, watching paperview films and waiting in agony for the stones to pass; she’d decided to see the sights.

 kidney stones

I later learnt that a few years previous, her house had burnt down at Christmas time with the entire family inside, luckily everyone was fine but the house was destroyed; thankfully the family pictures had been stored in the attic during a renovation and survived unscratched. She discussed how hard it was to put her home back together again.

We walked around the base of the red rock, our faces covered with the fly nets which really weren’t enough to keep away the buggers! Our tour leaders told stories learnt from the Aboriginals about the forming of Ayers rock; apparently only part of the tale is told in certain spots, each location revealing a different part to the tale and the level of the tale only being told depending on your sex and age. So an aboriginal wise man would know the complete male version of the tale; an aboriginal woman would know a completely different version; and as a white person, well we only get to know a very basic ‘kids version’. The story I heard was all about a snake, a murder of the snakes nephew and some eggs being eaten – of course you’d need to go to the rock yourself to really hear the story, it’s not suppose to be shared outside of the sacred sites.

uluru

Sometimes I get a bit carried away at tourist sites and feel the need to get a souvenir; this time I came away with a rather large piece of driftwood which had been crudely painted to represent a snake, everyone needs a driftwood snake in their living room though right?

Dinner consisted of kangaroo burgers (I did feel slightly guilty having spent an afternoon hugging baby ones a few days prior) and champagne; watching, peacefully as the sun set, causing Uluru to glow red hot and every tourist to snap a million shots.

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“Folks, it’s very dark out so please fasten your seatbelts in case we have to emergency break for any reason” our coach driver warned as the passengers drifted to sleep. After an hour of being rocked into a relaxed lull my mind drifted into a sleep filled with snakes, waterfalls and giant rocks in the middle of the desert. Just as I was about to rescue some eggs with my nerf gun I tripped, lurching forward and banging my head on the seat in front. The bus swung across the road in the dark, pulling to a stop in a cloud of dust as the entire party gasped, staring out the window to find a herd of cows standing in the middle of the road.

cows at night

Once the animals had departed, we escaped the vehicle to help recover from the shock of near death by cow. There, in the darkest place in the world, a billion miles from any light pollution, we stood under the quilt of the universe. I’m not often speechless but I stood there with my mouth on the floor (thankfully the flies had gone to bed by then!).

You know when you look up at night and there are these twinkly lights in the darkness? Well apparently there is all this stuff filling the black gaps! I’ve never seen so many stars, it was like looking at a picture of the sky in a space book, you could see the entire Milky Way. These giant midnight, purple dust clouds full of cosmic, space magic. Planets, stars, galaxies. Someone started pointing out the Southern Cross and other constellations. I stared in complete wonder, in awe of the solar system, more stars than I could ever have imagined. And then, just when it couldn’t get any better, a shooting star, tore through the night, falling on the horizon, in the direction of home, asking  to be wished on.

the cosmos

 

 

The coast of gold

“You’re overweight” in her sensible shoes and buttoned up shirt, the dragon smiled to herself smugly. Being overweight is not something anyone ever wants to hear, thankfully on this occasion the jobsworth was talking about my suitcase rather than the bags hanging off my hips. “You need to be 7kg, you’re currently 12!”.

too much luggage

“Ok, well no problem, I’ll just take my jacket out and this, this can go in my pocket and I’m going to wear this jumper on the plane and yes, see, see it’s way lighter now” I muttered, pulling item after item from my bag in a desperate bid to get past the guarding official. She didn’t look impressed “you have to be wearing the items, you can’t just carry them through” I saw the glint of a Disney villain in her eye. Beaten, with piles of clothes in my arms, I dragged my now half empty suitcase around the corner to layer up.

disney villain

Ten minutes later, now wearing two jumpers, a hoodie (with laptop stuffed down the top, precociously balancing in the waistband of my jeans), a denim jacket and pockets filled with a camera, an iphone and my purse ; I was ready for round two. With one hand clutching my boarding card, I carried my needlessly oversized headphones with the other. I’d purchased the headphones at Heathrow when the lovely check in man had decided not to charge me for my bags to Australia being nearly double the weight limit; unfortunately his Melbourne counterpart wasn’t quite so generous.

suitcase

She weighed the bag again. “You’re still over weight!”. “By half a kilo, come on, please??” I begged. “You need to wear those headphones or you can’t go through” she sized me up. I plonked the headphone on my head “I’m wearing them, see, can I go now?”. “Fine, I’ll let you this time but next time make sure your bag is the correct weight” she relented, ‘7kg is a joke, no one can travel on that! I’ve got shoes that weigh more!‘. I walked a total of five steps looking like the Michelin man before reaching security and having to take everything off to get through the X-Ray machines.

I was on my way to the Gold Coast having panicked that I was soon to leave Australia and hadn’t actually seen anything other than Australian versions of Santa Claus grottos. Where were the surfers, constant sunshine and lazy beach culture I’d been promised?! As a result I booked a few mini trips around the country and was on a mission to find a kangaroo.

Brisbane

Crocodile Dundee was waiting for me at departures upon arrival. We’d met almost exactly a year before on our tour around South America, back when I was in the height of grief depression and hating the world. Thankfully, this time I was a little happier. “Sooooooo, what happened with Canada??” I asked excitedly as he placed a beer down in front of me. We were sitting in a surf club bar watching the tide pull in and out of the boundless beach.

squeaky sand

At the end of our South American tour he’d been heading up to Canada to reconnect with a long lost love he’d met almost thirty years before whilst touring Europe. “It’s good” came his typically male reply. “Noooooo I need all the details!” I insisted. “All the details?” he laughed. “Well, no, maybe not all the details, but I need an update!!”. By the end of our second beer I was fully informed; just as soon as he’d set foot on Canadian soil those thirty years had disappeared and they were back where they once were. Since then they’d both visited each others countries and were now counting down the days until she moved to the Gold Coast for good.

“Come on, lets go walk on the beach” Crocodile suggested.
“What’s that sound?” I questioned, looking at the ground. “It’s the sand, it squeaks” he demonstrated, digging his feet into the sand. “What, why, how?” I ran around, shovelling with my feet to the sound of the magic sand. “It’s really fine sand, only fine sand squeaks, you can only find squeaky sand certain places in the world and the Gold Coast is one of them”. Squeak, squeak, squeak. I was pretty excited about the squeaky sand! It squeaked!!

Gold coast

We drove around the sugar cane; fields and fields of sugar buzzing from the sound of cane beetles. Some bright spark thought it a great idea to introduce a toad in the 1940’s to eat the cane beetles, unfortunately the toads ate everything but the beetles. Not only that but they were poisonous too, hippies quickly caught on and began scooping up road-killed toads for some quick highs.

“So what do you want to do whilst you’re here?” Crocodile Dundee asked as we drove to lunch. “waterpark!” I declared without hesitation.

The smells of hot dogs, popcorn and chlorine filled the air, brightly coloured tunnels twisted around the sky line and the sound of muffled excited screams whirled past. I stared up in astonishment, desperately trying not to burst out my skin like an overexcited seven year old “can we go on that one first, and then that one, and I want to go on the green one, ooooh look at the red one over there, can we go on that one too and and and can we get a hot dog and a frozen coke, I love frozen coke and can we go on that blue one right there, what time does the wave machine go on? I love wave machines! Ooohh look over there, come on, come on let’s go” I bubbled over. “Do you want to put your stuff in the locker first?” my friend questioned as I was half way to the wavepool, still clutching my towel and bag “oh”.

waterparks

Together we carried the surprisingly heavy inflatable boat thing up the stairs before climbing in, perching on the edge of an abyss in the mouth of a midnight filled tunnel. The boat dropped, our bodies followed a second later crashing back into our seats. We skidded back and forth down the tunnel feeling the slight bumps of the tunnels construction, water sprayed and all at once there was nothing beneath us but air. We flew for half a second before plunging down, the force projected the boat up the sides of a sink, spinning us round towards a giant drain, “we’re gonnnna dieeeeee” I screamed as our bodies flung against the sides, pushing the boat dangerously close to the lip of the structure. Just when our stomachs had floated into our ribs, our knuckles white from clutching the handles and the boat ready to take off, the drain spat us out, the pressure forming a tidal wave for us to crash into. We’d survived. “Again, again, again!!” I insisted.

waterpark

“How about that ride?” Crocodile Dundee pointed to a speed slide. I watched in alarm as people strapped themselves  to back braces and climbed into a capsule. At a press of a button by the staff member the trap door floor disappeared and the rider zipped through the tube, mounting a giant loop before whizzing out the end, struggling to walk whilst fishing out a giant wedgie. “Umm ok” I said hesitantly “let’s just watch a few more people go shall we?”.

speed slide

A teenager boarded the capsule, the button was pushed and down he dropped ‘huh maybe it’s not too bad‘ I told myself. He was at the cusp of the loop when the momentum failed him, without warning he slid down backwards, hands desperately trying to slow his decent. We waited as he flopped about in the tube, unable to bend and stuck by the back brace for someone to come rescue him via an escape hatch “yep, not doing that one!” I remarked.

lost at sea

The rest of the weekend was spent hiking through valleys, checking out some seriously good surfing (although my surf knowledge is entirely based on the three guys I’d see from my bedroom window who were brave enough to take on the waters around the Isle of Man and pretty much sat about in the water until Ireland sent a breeze strong enough for them to attempt to stand on their boards).

surfers

We watched surf club competitions, teenagers racing back and forth, diving to grab the post before their rival, with a mouthful of sand they’d raise their arm, post in hand successful. I wish I’d been a sunshine child, growing up in the warmth, BBQ’s on the beach, tanned skin and highlighted hair. Instead I’d watched that life on ‘Home and Away’ after school whilst the wind caused trees to grow sideways outside and the rain leaked through the roof into strategically placed buckets positioned around our house.

surfer

It”s the lovely thing about travelling, you get to meet people from all around the world and then you can go visit and sleep in their spare room; learning about a completely different lifestyle than the one you grew up with. Meeting people has got to be up there with all those other little things in life which make you feel good; like the sound a can makes when you open it, or seeing a kitten yawn, watching a lamb take its first steps, your mums home cooking, how happy the dog is when you get back, the good leftovers in the fridge (especially the Christmas ones!), clean sheets, warm towels, licking the yoghurt lid, handwritten letters and the sound of rain on the window; it’s the little things.

floating in the sea

 

The worst sex ever

If this was a movie he’d be buried in the credits as second tall guy. I’d got bored and decided it was time to go on a date again…

On paper he seemed like my type – tall, chiselled, blue eyed and, well, into me! Only once I’d scratched the surface it turned out he was missing some vital ingredients. For a start he’d never been anywhere outside of a two hour radius of Melbourne, his life’s ambitions had peaked at buying a racing seat for his car and by the grand old age of 30 he was stacking shelves at night. Did I mention he also lived with his mum? As a jobless traveller I didn’t feel in the position to judge and he was nice enough so I agreed to a second date. The premise sounded ok, an evening tour of Melbourne with the promise of ice cream along the way (it was mainly the ice cream that sold the second date offer).

ice cream

“Ok, I’ll come on this night tour of the city as long as you promise you’re not a serial killer, deal?” I joked. He laughed a little too hard. It turns out, driving around Melbourne at night is pretty dull, there just aren’t enough stand out sites and making conversation with someone who can’t make eye contact or do two things at once such as talk and turn a corner isn’t that easy.
“If you look to the right, yeah there, that bar. That’s where a girl got followed and murdered last year” he informed me as we drove through a dodgy area. It wasn’t the best date talk I’d ever experienced; a few roads later he pointed out another spot “and that’s where another girl got murdered by this guy just out of jail”.

“Yeahhhh you’re not reassuring me, you’re not a serial killer! You will drop me home later right?” I joked, beginning to feel uneasy.”When you say home, you mean my basement?” he thought he was being funny, he wasn’t, only succeeding in making things more awkward.

car at night

The ice cream was just a Mcflurry “aren’t you going to eat yours?” I asked sneaking pieces of his topping into my pot, hoping he wouldn’t notice in the dark as he drove. “Yeah, I was just going to drive us to my favourite spot in Melbourne” he turned the car around the bend onto the ascent of a hill. Ughh why does every guy in Melbourne seem to think it’s a great idea to take a girl to his favourite spot? It’s not romantic when you don’t know the person, it’s just cold and uncomfortable!

We pulled over on a bridge with a view of the city lights in the distance, partly obscured by the trees. “My brother and I used to race up here before he died” he paused for effect “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to hug you when I picked you up, we need to get out the car so I can hug you now” he declared unbuckling his seatbelt. The wind was bashing against the car and all I could think was ‘ah shit, this is his and his brothers place, he thinks I’m going to find it really deep and sentimental and then he’s going to lean in for a kiss. No, just no!’. 

awkward

“Umm it’s cold out there, I don’t want to get out the car” I insisted. “Oh” he was slightly taken aback “well I’m just going to get out for a second” he stepped out the car, I watched as he walked to the bridge, staring at the view and taking deep breaths with heaving shoulders, it was all so staged.

My phone beeped, a message flashed up from Teacher. I’d met Teacher six months before when I’d first arrived in Australia, we’d ended up in the same bar after the horse races, it had been his housemate who’d taken my number but that had quickly ended after a few disastrous dates and then Teacher started texting me.

I’d found it odd he was contacting me when I’d been out with his housemate first but he argued that I seemed like a nice English girl (ha!) and we should hangout as mates. I hadn’t believed him but he was persistent, eventually we went for pizza and before long we’d meet up every couple of weeks, conversation was good and before long he was leaning in for that kiss at the end of the night. There is only so many times you can dodge it before it gets weird, plus he was nice enough, why not, there was nothing in it. I was far too obsessed with Deadlocks to take things any further any way.

end of date kiss

“What you up to tomorrow or Saturday? Want to go out?” he enquired. Tall guy climbed back in the car, staring at the steering wheel, still taking deep breaths, with all the drama and over acting it required “sorry, I just, sorry, this places always reminds me of my dead brother, sorry. It always makes me feel emotional” he turned to look at me with sad puppy dog eyes, almost pleadingly as if wanting me to lean in and kiss him. Instead I found it strange, it’s not like I’d take some guy on a first (or second) date to a bench my mum and I used to sit on and hope he’d suddenly want to save me. “Do you think you could drive me home now please?” I asked, turning away to look out the window. I pulled out my phone and replied to Teacher, at least he seemed normal “yeah sure, tomorrow then?”.

pulled over car

We were having drinks in a bar designed to look like a 1960’s apartment; after I’d kicked his ass at giant jenga we sat in the bath, swinging our legs over the edge and rested our drinks on the old TV stand, watching a girl lie on the bed in front of us chatting to her date. She was wearing a skirt about three inches too short for such a relaxed position, a view highly enjoyed by the group of lads leaning up against the old fridge in the fake kitchen.

“Yeah, Burma was fascinating, I stayed in this hut on the beach and just read for days, it was really spiritual, I had a moment there, kind of like finding God I guess, like being one with nature. I’ve started writing a book” Teacher was updating me on his trip during the Christmas and New Years break. “A book?” my interest had sparked “about what?”.

“Well have you read Shantaram?” I rolled my eyes internally, not that I’d read the book myself but in every hostel in the world there is at least one person stuffing a well thumbed copy into their backpack, on this journey to ‘find themselves’ on some emotional quest, it’s so clique! “My story is about the ying and yang of life from a travellers perspective, about a guy and the people you meet on the way” he explained. It’s not like every traveller hasn’t had the same idea, thinking all their experiences are unique and therefore of great interest for everyone else to read (shut up, this blog is about the grief journey, the travel stuff is just a facilitation for that, it’s not the same ok!). “Can I read some?” I asked, hoping he’d have something different to say.

beer drinker

“Come on drink up, we’re going” he declared a beer later. “Oh ok” it wasn’t late but I guess he’d had enough, I clambered out the bath which really isn’t as easy as you’d think, as you’d expect I managed it gracefully, landing on all fours and speedily jumping up before he could notice me in a heap on the floor.

“You’ve just driven past my house?” I remarked, as he turned the road to his, two roads from mine.”I’m not staying over!” I demanded, I’d stayed over before Christmas a few days after I’d walked out on Santa, we’d spent the evening playing battleships (I’d lost every game) and ended up back at his for more drinks before falling asleep with nothing at all happening, he’d just hugged me that night and kissed my forehead. He turned the car around and drove back to mine “no I meant we could get a beer, just I’m not staying over” I said, not wanting to end the night at 10pm on a Friday. He returned the car to his “errr I meant a drink in a bar! Never mind, we’re here now, let’s have a beer and I can read some of your book” this was my first mistake.

“Nice desk, new?” I gestured to the gleaming white structure taking up one side of his room. “Yeah, I thought it would help with writing the book, only I turned one of the screws too tightly and drove it straight through the middle” he moved a book to reveal the splintered hole in the surface, ruining the finish.

making furniture

I sat on the bed with crossed legs, reading his words as he handed me a beer. The story was told from the point of view of a traveller sitting on a bus in a foreign country commenting on the people he sees out the windows. “What’s your characters flaw?” I enquired. “What do you mean? He doesn’t have a flaw” he kicked his shoes off and pushed a pile of washing to the corner of the room with his toe. “He has to have a flaw! How is your character suppose to resolve anything by the end? You need a resolution or the audience will feel unfulfilled, we need to be satisfied that he’s learnt from the journey of the story, that’s the point!” I’d clearly been paying attention to my course!

“Huh, ok. Let’s see, he’s a drug dealer!” Teacher pulled off his socks. “What? No! That’s not a flaw, that’s just a career choice, albeit perhaps not a very good one but being a drug dealer doesn’t automatically make you a bad person in need of saving. Look at Leon! He was a hit man but everyone routed for him because he was a nice guy!” I lectured.

leon

I continued reading in silence, noticing out the corner of my eye Teacher taking off more and more items of clothing. By the time I’d finished reading he was naked, as soon as I closed the notebook he flipped the light off and climbed on top of me.

Errrrrrrr this is happening is it? I’m not sure I’m really up for this with you! But I’m British and it didn’t seem quite polite to say ‘actually’ I’m really not feeling this situation, I think I’ll just leave now thanks very much’ which seems crazy, of course it’s ok to say ‘get off me yucky naked man, I’m out of here!’. But I felt responsible for letting it get that far, I suppose we’d been building up to it for six months, I had gone back to his after all, I knew perfectly well how these things happen – although generally people get naked at the same time and there is usually kissing and touching involved.

I knew he was a nice guy, I could have stopped it at any second but sometimes it feels easier to go through with things rather than cause a scene (which makes me want to slap myself and say ’cause a scene, cause a scene every single bloody time if you’re not 100% into something but then that’s easier said in retrospect’).

slap

“So I guess I should take me clothes off then?” it was the most clinical sexual experience of my life! I didn’t really need to be there at all, he’d have had more fun had he cut a hole in his mattress or sat on his hand for awhile. He pumped away like a Duracell bunny with no interest other than relieving his own load whilst I pondered how many of the 50 US states I could name in my head. I got to 12 before WHAM he’d got carried away and rammed into my pelvic bone, rolling himself off me in agony to clutch his manhood and wither in pain beside me on the bed. “Yeah, I think I’ll go home now” I declared pulling on my clothes. “I’ll drive you” he squeaked. That ride home wasn’t awkward at all “so thanks for offering to let me stay over” I said dryly.

I awoke the next morning feeling absolutely rotten, annoyed at him, more annoyed at myself. Feeling cheap and nasty. I relaid the tale to my housemate over breakfast “ugh that’s disgusting, what’s wrong with guys these days!” she exclaimed. “I know! But it’s my own fault, I was never into him in the first place and now I feel all embarrassed and used. Ughhhhhh” I moaned, shoving a tablespoon of chocolate milo cereal into my mouth.

consoling girls

“Never again! Never again am I going to put myself in a situation where I have sex with someone because it might make things weird if I don’t!” I declared waving my spoon in the air to illustrate my point.”I hear ya sister, we’ve all been there! Why do we hook up with these losers because we feel we’ve led them on and owe them something?” she complained into her coffee. “Because we feel guilty and don’t want to hurt their feelings” I chased the last of the cereal around the bowl. “I bet he’s not even given it a second thought today, as far as he’s concerned he got laid last night” I continued.

cereal killer

“I’d be embarrassed if I were him!” she remarked. “Well he should be! He screwed me as badly as his new desk! Plus he’s probably got a broken dick right now!” I smiled. “I’m done you know, I’ve been dating these guys for all the wrong reasons, I was just trying to fill a gap. No more dating, that’s it! I’m going to be celibate and, and well all nun like or something!” I explained, once again waving my spoon in the air, conducting my orchestra of imaginary, approving nuns. “Yeah, good luck with that!” my housemate smirked over the brim of her coffee cup.

respect my vagina

The worrying thing was, as I relayed this tale to various girlfriends over drinks weeks later, each and everyone of them said they had found themselves in the exact same situation (minus the snapping incident, that might just be me!), having sex with some asshole because it was easier to go through with things than stop in the middle or make things difficult. I find this quite terrifying, when did it become acceptable to think like this?!

The art of not letting it go

“I’m so excited! Will there be waitresses on roller-skates serving thick shakes, hot dogs and popcorn? Will teenage couples be making out on the back seats? Oooh will they play that jumping hot-dog advert?” my house-mate and I were on our way to a drive in cinema which I seemed to believe was located through a wormhole back to the 1950’s.

hot dog cartoon

“Umm no. This is Australia! It’ll be fun though” she reassured me as we pulled up the car in front of the large screen whilst the sun began it’s decent for the day, casting rays around the edges, making the screen look almost holy.

“What is wrong with Australia!” I complained returning to the car with arms full of popcorn, ice cream and drinks. “Is this about the spider again? I keep telling you, huntsmen are harmless, they just look big and scary” my house-mate rolled her eyes, taking the popcorn and drinks so I could roll down the window to stick my feet out and get comfortable.

drive in

“No it’s not about the spider, although I don’t care what you say! That thing is evil! Every time I leave the house it’s gets closer to the front door, I swear, it’s after me! This is about the popcorn! Tell me, why, why does Australia only have salty popcorn? Where is the sweet stuff? How do people even live here? Salty popcorn and giant spiders, it’s inhumane!” I complained as my phone beeped.

I had just hit the 18 month mark on the grief scale, it’s all up from here baby! Or so I thought. I’m not sure whether it was magic the Bali medicine man had cast or just time moving on but I was feeling good. For the first time in forever I didn’t feel stressed, I wasn’t beating myself up to find a job, I was learning something at the local university, going to the gym, seeing friends, making plans, I was making progress. Even my hair was responding, where for the previous year it looked dull and lifeless, now it was growing, strong and healthy, beginning to shine again, just like how I felt. People noticed.

Someone once told me that if you know what you want in life, as long as you’re always making steps in that direction, no matter how small, you can’t not get there.

feeling awesome

“WHAT THE HELL!” I screamed, popcorn flying out my mouth as I stared at the phone.

A friend was informing me that Bridezilla was all over Facebook boasting about her wedding being featured in a magazine. I clicked on the link. There I was. Picture after picture, smiling with the bride, decorations I’d made, words and words about how wonderful the whole thing had been. For all the world to see it looked like the perfect wedding.

She talked about the designer wedding dress she’d worn and the ‘bargain’ (cheap and hideous) bridesmaid outfits she chosen. She took credit for all my ideas and creations. The whole article was a lie and my blood boiled over. I couldn’t help myself, that night whilst my house-mate slept, I stayed awake Googling and there it all was. She’d contacted every wedding blog and magazine in the universe, getting her shambles of a day into as many as would take her. And there I stood too, my face plastered in all these publications, why couldn’t she leave me out of the whole farce?!

weddings

I flashed back to the day, standing in the bathroom with the bride of Frankenstein hair she’d insisted upon, in an outfit so unflattering I wanted to cry. I’d fastened my mothers earrings in place and stared at the reflection, I didn’t recognise myself. I remember clutching the sink, begging for the strength to get through the day, questioning why couldn’t I be as happy being a bridesmaid for this friend as I had for my other best friend, why was this time so different, why was it all so hard? The bride had hammered on the door, not allowing me two minutes alone without yelling another demand or errand for me to deliver.

To make it worse, a friend informed me Bridezilla happened  to be in Melbourne that very weekend. Why couldn’t she stay on her side of Australia, it’s a big continent, plenty of room, why be in my town? The entire weekend I lived in fear of running into her, unprepared for how I’d react. A good slap was long over due, a drink in the face might have been a nice release, maybe a few choice words; no the likelihood is I’d have tried to be nice, to talk about things or run and hidden under the duvet until the danger passed.

hiding under the duvet

Around the same time I had finished writing about Banker Wanker a friend suggested I send him the link so he could see for himself how I’d felt about our mini love affair. After a few drinks with some girlfriends it suddenly seemed like rather a good idea. I’d only intended for him to look at the stuff about him but for some reason he read the whole thing.

“You did what?!” Rocker despaired over lunch later that week “he’s going to think you’re a stalker!” he continued, which is exactly why, when it comes to dating advice, girls should always listen to a male friend, it’s far more logical and helps avoid any behaviour that could later be deemed as ‘crazy’!

“No, no it’s a good thing, he’ll read it and realise he was a fuck-wit and I’ll come off as fun and kooky right?” I responded hopeful. “No. He’s applying for a restraining order right this second” Rocker informed me. “No, fun and kooky!” I insisted. “Nutcase stalker” he argued back. “Shut up and get me a beer!” I gave in, knowing I was beat, fretting that some asshole I’d hung out with for a few weeks, six months ago was laughing about me to half of London, reading extracts to his colleagues during lunchtime drinks. Ughhh!

“Have I crossed the line of normality?” I asked Rocker embarrassed as he returned with my pint. “Oh that happened long ago!” he pointed out.

not good enough

I sat in the gym, trying to work off both my new milo chocolate cereal addiction that had turned into five bowls a day and my connection to these deadly people.

It was pointed out by a family friend that I have a problem letting go. I mean it makes sense, a lot of loss in a short space of time will do that to a person but I can’t entirely blame my mother’s death and the sequence of events that followed entirely for this short falling of mine.

I’ve always struggled to let people, places and things go. I’ll cling on until there is nothing left to grasp. It’s the fear of being alone, of being hated, memories, songs, those ‘in jokes’ which see you make eye contact across the room and both shine that knowing smile; all that stuff that’s got you to where you are, if that’s stripped away then what are you underneath it all? What’s left?

cliff hanger

I hadn’t realised I was hanging on so much, I couldn’t let go of Banker Wanker, Bridezilla, Dreadlocks, the dog, the cat or even my ex. I thought I was being a nice person leaving all these doors open, you know, just in case people still cared and woke up one day missing me; I generally believe a friendship is always worth saving, that there is always another side to things, people have a reason for their actions and reactions, that we can forgive and repair.

My mothers friendships came in waves, resurfacing throughout her life, all these people being pulled out to sea by their own tides only to tun up on the beach a decade later looking for her listening ear and guidance once again. I liked the concept, these connections to the past, life long friendships that return to you in the future. Except, I wasn’t my mother.

what if we'd never met

Another slap in the face from grief, when will it end?! As soon as you get past one stage, another one body slams you in the side.

I didn’t really want Bridezilla in my life, it had been pointed out time and again what a toxic person she was, except she wasn’t. At some point we’d grown up together, stole each others shampoo, convinced the other that one more shot wouldn’t do any harm, knew each others flaws, we had a friendship with all its highs and lows. Even ten months after it had all fallen apart I couldn’t grasp how we had moved so far away from each other and so quickly, how we’d become mortal enemies in a blink of an eye.

They say love and hate are two strings of the same bow, however it’s played the music will make you feel and cry. Hate only exists when you have strong feelings, if someone hates you at least you know they care, or once cared at least, it’s indifference that’s the real killer.

A part of me clung to the belief that maybe, when the winds stop blowing we could be friends again, but I couldn’t understand why I wanted that. I would always be scared of her acid tongue, she would only slice the wounds open and laugh as they wept.

why are you so obsessed

I remember you and our age, our place in the world, you with your smile and me with my hair. I miss it till I can’t breath, until I panic, I miss the world I knew. I thought you had my back but really you only ever had your own. I miss you and it hurts, it hurts until I can’t see anything but blind rage and I’m angry, I’m so angry at the world for taking everything away and changing it all forever. I’m never sure I’ll cope long enough to see another day. And you’ll never know. But really I don’t miss you at all, I miss my mum and my life, you’re just a projection of that pain because it’s damn easier being angry and missing you with all your flaws than it is to miss my mother and her lack of them.

How do you let go? As much as I’d want to trust and forgive or move on, it would always be there, the sword floating above my head. Betrayal, it’s the knife that scrapes the bone of trust.

let it go

And Banker Wanker, what did I hope to achieve by sending him the blog, open his eyes? Get an apology? He didn’t explain anything at the time, he never would. All he ever consisted of was an accent, broad shoulders and a pair of blue eyes; just the first fuck to come along after a relationship and a period of rocky ground. Best case scenario he’d reply with some answers, we’d form some level or friendship, perhaps even meet for a drink if I ever went home, maybe we’d drink too much and I’d wake up staring at his back again. He’d always be a flight risk though and I never really wanted him in the first place, it was just the ideal of something nice happening for the first time in such a long time that misted the waters.

inky waters

So how exactly do you let go when you’re angry and hurt and sad and worse of all, still see all the good things about the people who let you down and tore chunks of your self esteem and self worth out of you?

I’d crossed the world to get away from the toxics and yet there they were, on every street corner, blocking my path. Poisoning the air of trust for other people, if those you trust the most die or give up on you, then you know that all your other connections have the potential to do the same. All those friendships, how fragile they suddenly seem. The iron towers you carefully built, turned to glass and you’re swinging on a wrecking ball in a hurricane.

glass houses

I didn’t want all these people to be dead to me, but I couldn’t keep them alive any more either. I’m told the answer to letting go is ignorance and time. Why is it always time? It takes so bloody long! Those ticking hands are never quite quick enough for me.

Banker Wanker replied three weeks later, he said it was an interesting read, he asked how I was? I didn’t reply, I was practising moving on.

man radar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not so wise old men and evil monkeys

“We’re going to Bali, wanna come?” Blonde was off for a week with her brother. “I can’t, my course starts on Tuesday” I’d decided to be productive and signed up for a night course at the university; I figured if I wasn’t going to work then I ought to do something useful with my time and a short course in screen-write sounded like just the thing. “Well come for the weekend only then?” Blonde suggested.

bali sunset

We flew over central Australia. For hours and hours we surfed the skies and yet remained above only the one country. There was no sea, just land, I could have crossed all of Europe in that time, Australia is rather big it seems! I rested my forehead on the cold window and watched the land below, studying the patchwork quilt of farmland slowly merging into an endless red dust, rivers tearing deep veins of life through the never ending earth. The moon rose as we flew away from the night, the darkness sure to catch up later but for the duration of that flight, we remained with the day.

Upon leaving the airport we were hit by a wall of heat and excited taxi drivers. As we settled down to sleep in our Balinese hut that night a strange noise came from the roof. I swear it was a velociraptor! It paced back and forth until dawn, looking for a way in, desperate to feast on our flesh whilst we slept. The toilet was located outside, no one was willing to risk it!

VELOCIRAPTOR-JURASSIC-PARK

The next day, pleased to have survived any dinosaur attack we relaxed around the pool. Blonde’s brother read his way through ‘50 Shades of Grey‘, apparently to see what all the fuss was about; Blonde studied for her medical school entry exam and I swam, letting my mind drift. I thought about my superpowers.

I have two superpowers. This is a real thing, honestly! One I’ve discussed previously about how the weather reflects my emotions, which actually I’m not sure really counts as a superpower because I can’t control it. Well not yet at least but maybe one day and then I will use it for my own good by charging brides a fortune for guaranteed sunshine on their wedding day or to local governments for good weather on national events. Oooh just think, certain people might get their very own personal rain clouds, a few bolts of lightening wouldn’t go amiss too! come to think of it, maybe I’m more super villain than superhero?

evil genius

Well any way on to my second superpower! Which is books. You see, books magically find me, it’s as though they are preparing me for things to come. Books seem to appear in the oddest ways, I’ll find one lying around somewhere and start reading it, not knowing anything about the story it contains.

Somehow, as I turn the pages and digest the pose, the story always relates to something that is about to happen in my life. Apart from Game of Thrones, so far no dragons have appeared in the fires, although thinking about it, the red wedding does sound slightly familiar…

Magic book

My 40 year old ex-model house-mate was a big fan of self help books and chick flicks, her shelves full of them. Just as soon as I quit Santa she pulled a ton of books from the bookcase and instructed me to read them. I’m not really a self help book kind of person, preferring to thrash out my problems with inappropriate behaviour and unproductive over thinking, however after numerous suggestions to read ‘Finding the inner you‘ and ‘30 steps to remove negative thinking‘ I finally gave in and chose the one that sounded the least self-helpy, ‘Eat Pray Love’.

And guess what, the story is about a woman losing the plot and going off around the world to sort things out, part of which involves meeting a medicine man in Bali. “Can we meet a medicine man?” I asked Blonde, secretly hoping he’d lift that weight off my chest, it worked for Julia Roberts in the film version of the book!

bali sunsets

The taxi driver told us we had two options; the ‘Eat Pray Love’ medicine man who reads your palm or a man who cures your ailments. I’d researched the ‘Eat Pray Love’ one and he seemed to be telling everyone that they would have long happy lives and two children, which is very nice but not what I was looking for, we opted for the other man instead.

I’d never had much time for spiritual stuff before (apart from for my superpower abilities you know), I’m just not sure the future is already mapped out. We’d had our faces read once, on the holiday my mother maxed out her credit cards on after the divorce from my father so my brother and I still felt we were part of a family, even with one parent down. The man had told me little about my future, preferring to instruct how I should pluck my teenage eyebrows instead. He did however have great predictions for my brother who was destined to be a famous tennis player. I’m still waiting for my brother to win Wimbledon, any day now! Even with my lack of belief I desperately wanted an old wise Yoda to wave a magic wand and make me whole again.

yoda

The car park was full, we walked behind an old stone temple, overgrown with plants reclaiming their land, stepping over a dog dozing lazily in the sun. We turned the corner to discover an old man standing in the middle of an open room, surrounded by waiting customers. He was ageless with dark leather skin hanging loose of skinny bones, wise eyes catching every movement; he looked exactly as you’d expect a wise old man to look like.

He was standing over a westerner who lay motionless on a rug, surrounded by incense sticks. We watched silently as he tapped the woman with a stick explaining that she had gained weight because she had gone through the menopause and all her hormones were trapped inside her. He offered her tea to help and said she needed more passion in her life. We took our seat, letting our flip-flops slide from our feet, mesmerised by the show.

After an hour it was finally our turn, both of us eager to go first but Blonde jumped up before me. I watched as he poked a stick around her head and talked about a pain she was suffering from, in her shoulder. A slight flutter of nerves bubbled in my belly, something about the quietness in the air was making me emotional, ‘would he know, would he be able to feel the pain I was carrying, could he make it better? Please make it better’.

eat pray love

I sat crossed legged whilst his hands danced around my head, neck and face searching for problems. ‘Feel the pain, tell me it’s real, lift the wet flannel that’s suffocating my heart, put me back together again, tell me there isn’t a tumour growing in my stomach like my mums, make it all ok’. Instead he stuck his fingers in my ears and said something I couldn’t hear “Sorry what?” he removed his fingers “I can’t connect to any problems, your body ok, how can I help you? You’re fine?” he asked, completely letting me down.

“I’m not fine” I wanted to cry “where, where your problem?” he questioned seeing the fear in my eyes. How can you not feel it, I leave a trail of dust and soot everywhere I go, black goo oozes out of me, dark smoke rises off my skin, can’t you see, can’t you see?! “My head, my head” I waved my hand around my forehead in case he wasn’t sure what I meant by ‘head’ it was all I could communicate without crying.

merlin

He poked his stick above my ear. It hurt. It hurt a lot! “You anxious, you think too much, you worry” he clutched at straws. Well yes, but you know, I’m a girl, we all do this but that wasn’t the problem, I was tired, tired of the grief, that was the problem.

He made me lie down and poked my toes “see no pain here, or here” he poked and poked “this your head” he tapped the inside of a toe “pain here” he rammed the stick into the spot “AGHHHhhhhh” I yelled, contorting my body “see, pain here” he said and poked it again. He stood, waved his stick around and said a chant, tapping the stick on my head briskly as he went “all gone, all gone, I cure you” he poked my toes again, it didn’t hurt.

lion king magic

My head hurt though, where his finger had drilled into my soul. It hurt the entire drive to the temples.

“Did you see him do me?” Blonde asked as soon as I walked away from the old man. I didn’t want to talk about how he’d seen the muscle ache in her shoulder, I didn’t want to talk about how much my head hurt. I didn’t feel cured, I didn’t know whether to be relived or disappointed. I knew before we went that it wouldn’t work, even had I met the Goddess Aceso herself, she wouldn’t have been able to fix me, sometime you just have to work through things yourself. I’d wanted to know if he could really see me though, I don’t think he could “you get good job now” he said as I left.

Wasn’t he suppose to tell me I was the chosen one? Destined for greatness or something? Surely I was to find an amulet and be sent on a quest? I was hoping the little wise old man would see some birth mark or I’d be fulfilling some prophecy, movies really have given me false expectations for my life!

chosen one

By the time we’d reached the temples my head was feeling better and I was beginning to cheer up. A monk greeted us at the entrance to the mountain, handing over sarongs to cover our legs “this whole mountain is a holy site, there are seven temples you can visit. No women problems?” he asked whilst waving his hands in a circle motion around Blonde’s and my stomach. I was confused, turning my head to Blonde for an explanation “he means are you on your period?”. “Huh, why would that matter?” I responded “you’re not allowed in a temple when you’ve just given birth or on your period because it’s believed to dirty the sacred temple” she informed me.

bali temple

With sarongs tied, Blonde, her brother and I started the two hour climb to the temples “watch out for the monkeys” the monk called after us “they can be vicious!”.

Blonde’s brother marched off ahead, the climb proving no trouble for him with his long legs but I struggled. I’m not sure if it was the heat, the humidity, the altitude or my general lack of fitness but I did not cope! Sweat dripped off my face and trickled down my back, my head spun as I put it in my lap whilst sitting on the first of many steps “leave me, go on without me, save yourself” I told Blonde who was waiting ten steps higher up “it’s the altitude, honestly!” I justified. She waited “really, leave me to the monkeys, I’ll be fine” I insisted, wondering how much a person could sweat before they passed out from dehydration.

can't hack the hike

We climbed, I paused, we climbed some more, I sweated. Finally, when I’d lost at least a stone in weight from sweat alone, we were finally at the top of the mountain, greeted by a monk lighting candles. “Ooh look, a monkey!” I pointed out a baby in the tree “arr he doesn’t look so mean, what was the first monk talking about?!”.

“We should probably head back, we’ve only got the taxi booked for another hour and it took two hours to get up here” Blonde’s brother reminded us as I snapped away pictures of the monkey.

The mountain was deserted, with the sun hanging low in the sky we attempted our decent with speed. And then we came across a wooden bridge, the only way down. On each pillar of the bridge sat a large monkey, they had been waiting for us. We stopped in our tracks, bashing into each other with surprise. The late afternoon sun filtered through the trees leaving spotlights on our monkey hosts, smaller monkeys made up the audience hanging from branches in the trees.

evil monkeys

“What do we do now?” Blonde’s brother asked. “You go first” I insisted. “No you” he replied. “I’ll go” Blonde announced, calmly stepping onto the bridge. The monkeys hissed and made to pounce, Blonde screeched and backed off the bridge. “Let’s go together” I tried. Blonde grabbed the red umbrella her brother was carrying, putting it up for protection. Huddling close, with the monkey shield up, we tried to shuffle along the bridge but the shield seemed to anger the beasts even more. Blonde screamed, dropping the umbrella and almost knocking me down in her efforts to backtrack.

“What are we going to do! We have to get off this mountain or the taxi is going to leave!” one of us despaired. “We could go get the monk at the top” suggested Blonde “err yeah no! There is no way I’m climbing back up those steps” my legs already shaking like jelly.

angry Monkey

Gently I approached the bridge, with great care I clung to the outside, as far from the monkeys as I could get and climbed my way along to the other side all whilst avoiding eye contact and saying “nice monkey, nothing to see here, nice monkey, let’s not kill Becky, la la la, all fine here”.

“YEAHHHHHHHHH I made it!!! I’m free!!” I called back to the others proudly.
“You HAVE to come back and get us!” demanded Blonde. “No way! Screw you losers, I’m out of here!” came my boastful rebuttal.
“I have the hotel key!” Damn that Blonde, always one step ahead!

With what I now consider as my bravest feat, I walked with new found confidence straight through the middle of the bridge, past the monkey king. “See it’s easy, they’re not going to attack” I announced upon arrival. Blonde followed my lead and together we attempted to walk the bridge of lost souls. It was going smoothly, we were almost home safe, that was until Blonde made the bold gesture of looking King Kong directly in the eyes!

king kong

That was a mistake, the king of the jungle hissed, pulled back on his hind legs and made to jump. I’d heard a story once about a baboon ripping a woman’s face off, I really didn’t want my face to be ripped off! Once again Blonde screamed forcing us to run the remainder of the distance to safety “what are you doing! You’ve angered them now!” I chided.

“You have to go back and get my brother” Blonde pleaded. “What?! No! No way I’ve crossed the monkey gates of hell three times now, you go!” I answered. “They hate me, you’re the only one who can do this, you have to” I looked across the bridge where her brother stood helplessly trapped, the trees had began to shake as the monkeys broke into a chorus of screams, we didn’t have long until the attack started.

attack of the monkeys

With the road now too dangerous to cross thanks to Blondes staring contest with the leader, I had no choice but to climb around the outside again. Her brother and I then climbed back the same way as quickly as we could before all three of us ran for our lives. It really is amazing I survived to tell the tale, it’s a dangerous monkey world out there!

Teenage hormones and the month of nightmares

The problem with not having a job is that you have a lot of time to think and when you’re already an ‘over-thinker’ this really isn’t good! I’ll chew over words, letting them spin around and around in my head until I’ve caused a mountain out of an ants hill. I’ll then start poking that ant hill until a volcanic explosion of flesh eating bugs erupts to destroy the world, or at least that’s how it feels.

attack of the teenage hormones

It was always the same; whatever the dilemma or drama, I’d let it all get pent up inside until the only solutions was either to loose my shit, yell and cry or alternatively, call my mum. I’m not sure what kind of magical powers that woman possessed but a simple call to the mothership and somehow she’d have dropped some gravity to the situation, pulled everything into perspective and before I knew it, I’d have been dusted off, set steady on my feet and sent back into the world with a smile on my face.

mothers love

The teenage years were the worst; just as soon as my body tried to mature past childhood I became an unstable wreck in that way only teenage girls can. I’d bubble over with hormones but was so dyslexic I simply didn’t have the vocabulary or the patience to communicate what the problem was, my mum later told me you could almost see the words tying knots in my tongue. My face would go red from frustration and with all words lost, I’d burst into tears, mad at the world that no one understood. ‘The radiator wasn’t heating up quickly enough and I was cold. The good cup was in the dishwasher. My brother had eaten the last bit of chocolate I had been saving. The dog was under my feet on purpose! That boy hadn’t text back. My friend had bought the top I wanted and no of course I couldn’t get it as well. Why had my mother got the bad shampoo, no I am not using it, it makes my hair greasy, I can’t have greasy hair! Why are you trying to ruin my life! Why the hell is that spoon looking at me funny! And why doesn’t anyone understand! Stop laughing at me! OH MYYYY GAWWDDDDD UGHHHH YOU’RE SO ANNOYING!!!!’. the rage Unable to express any of this, I’d stomp off to my room, slam my door, blast Pinks greatest hits and mope about until my mother was brave enough to attempt conversation with me or the hormones had suppressed themselves for long enough to let me function in society once again. I feel anyone with a teenage daughter really deserves a medal!

pmt hell

My mother was the only person who could ever talk me off the ledge, somehow she always made it right, life was bearable again. Even the sound of her voice was enough. The teenage hormones had thankfully subsided by the time I reached university but every now and then, those tremors would be felt! One particular day, when the clouds were low and the weight of the world was sinking down on me, I knew I needed to talk to her. Only I couldn’t, if I called I’d cry and I was an adult now, adults don’t cry! Instead I was super brave all day long, I could do this, I could deal with my own issues, I didn’t need to call my mummy to hold my hand, I was fine. But just as soon as I thought I was strong enough to hold a conversation I dialled our house number and waited.

hormonal help

“Hello” came her familiar voice. That was all it took. Sitting in my car, waiting for my friend to pick up the booze for our fish-bowl before the club that night, I dissolved into tears. “Oh darling, what’s the matter, what’s happened?” her concerned words, full of warmth and love flew down the line to me. Whilst gasping for air, with tears flowing and as much strength as I could muster between sobs I finally tried to explain but only managed a whimpered wail of  “I” sniff “Have”gulp “Hormones!” sniff, gulp. By the time my friend returned with bags clinking full of Asda’s finest alcopops I was tear free, in hormonal control once again, my mum having worked her magic and in full swing of giving her the precise details of which shoes I was choosing to wear with that dress for the night out.

Girl massaging neck

Although the hormones quietened down as I left my teens, the need for my mothers guidance didn’t. I’d call whilst running for the tube between meetings, on my lunch break when work was tough and crying in the toilets didn’t feel like an option, at 3am drunk on the walk home from the pub to tell her about my heel breaking and how I’d spent the entire evening on my tiptoes hoping no one would notice. She was the first person I called about the pregnancy, the first I spoke to after the abortion. In fact for every single high and low of my entire life, she was the first to know. Perhaps I relied too heavily on her but I hadn’t imagined she’d ever not be there. Friends and boyfriends had come and gone but she was a constant, no matter how much I slammed my door she would never close hers to me.

come back and love me

It infuriated my ex that I never sought comfort in him; one friend rushed down to see me after my mothers first diagnosis, turning up with wine she later consumed entirely herself. Once drunk she became angry I was wasn’t crying about the cancer, telling me I needed a good shake because I wasn’t being emotional enough. But I didn’t need to be emotional or cry to friends and boyfriends, not ever, I turned to my mum for that stuff. Everyone else thought I was strong and tough because I never seemed to get upset, I liked how people thought that, but no one is really that strong, sometimes we can only open up to certain people.

strong woman

With the only emotional outlet I’d ever known gone, I attempted to manage on my own and we’ve seen how that worked out. I thought I was doing ok though, I’d gone through the worst of it, I was at the year and a half mark, according to the grief studies this is the point where people start to feel like themselves again, where things begin to improve, you accept your loss and move on. Only my subconscious didn’t agree and without my mothers advice, my mind was torn, so I dreamed. I dreamed a lot. And it was never happy. With no job to exhaust me I’d lay awake until 5am with my mind racing before sleep finally stole me and I’d be whisked back in time. I found my Grandfather; I was a little girl and so pleased to see him, I hugged his leg and refused to let go, hoping he’d be able to protect me. And then he died.

death

I was at his funeral, searching for my mother in the crowd, always searching. Sometimes I’d find her but then she’d get sick and die and it was always real. I’d find myself in the office, begging for my Santa job back. I’d see my colleagues in a bar, they’d point at me through the window and laugh. Dreadlocks would simply look away, the rejection towards me still on his face. I saw Bridezilla. I was outside her house trying to be her friend again, we met for dinner and she’d tell me what a terrible person I was, how I’d let her down on her most important day. I’d want to explain that I had been dealing with my mothers death, that I’d tried to be happy for her but she’d ask too much. “It was you, I did everything you asked and it still wasn’t enough, couldn’t you see I wasn’t coping” I’d try to yell across the table but she never listened. I was scared of her in my dreams, intimidated. I’d try to run but the walls would hide the doors.

nightmares

Worst of all I dreamed of a world without my mother. She had died and I was only a teenager. I’d be at the family home and my dad was not equipped to look after us, too lost in his own mourning but for divorce rather than death. I’d panic about how I was to get to school. Return to the home my mother built my brother and I after her divorce but it was dilapidated. I’d walk the cold rooms, stepping over broken steps on the stairs, avoiding the dust from unplastered walls. I’d climb and climb searching the rooms for her, exposed pipes hanging out the bathroom ceilings, birds nesting on exposed beams on the higher floors, dust sheets covering mottled arm chairs. I’d tell everyone I could live there and take myself to school, hoping she’d be there when I got home.

lost house

Sometimes it would be a family birthday, back when there was a big family to have birthdays with. When uncles, cousins and Grandparents attended. I’d rejoice as the house filled with noise. Mum was in the kitchen clattering away in the most comforting of ways, playing the music that decorated your childhood, the sound of pans knocking, kettles boiling and cutlery being scooped out a tray. My brother and I were in the living room, finishing a piece of birthday cake each whilst watching some film on the TV. I had draped myself over the arm chair, one leg hanging off the arm, the other tucked under me “she’s dead you know?” I told my brother. “I know” he replied glumly, not taking his eyes off the Tele.

sad girl watching tv

I’d hear the sounds of her in the house, the hoover on Saturday mornings when I wanted to sleep, the clatter of dinner being prepared, the jet washer on the windows, the excited rush of the dog returning from its walk. She was part of the fabric of the house but always just out of sight. The sound was comforting but logic would invade, whispering in my ear “she’s dead” making her sound slow to an eerie silence. She was never truly whole in my dreams but I’d hug her anyway, feeling her skin slowly rotting beneath my embrace “I have to go” she’d tell me, “please don’t” I’d ask back, squeezing tighter. Every night I struggled to sleep, tossing and turning in and out of these dreams, waking with tears on my cheeks, curled up on the foetal position, hugging my knees or thrashing kicked legs, fighting my duvet and the world. I’d wake exhausted only remembering snippets but feeling the shake in my bones.

panic now

And that’s the thing with grief, you can’t duck it; as much as you try to move on or think you’re over it, that life is ok now, you’re ok, it doesn’t matter because your mind needs time to heal. The studies say 18 month to two years for your mind to repair the scar damage, I was at 18 months and my mind was trying to knit it’s self back together whilst I slept, trying to process something it didn’t fully understand, trying to make sense of the unfathomable. Grieving takes an awfully long time and becomes very dull, the odd thing was, I didn’t feel depressed or sad when I was awake, the world was beginning to get all shiny and bright again, like the colour was slowly returning, I’d gone through the black and white of depression and now I was in technicolour, not quite there, not HD ready but almost.

technicolour