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Learning How to Breathe Again

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

“I thought about having a proper room, breathing life into it, and nobody minding.”
― Jenny Valentine, Broken Soup

Arriving at the airport in Athens to catch the El Al plane to Israel was the beginning of something totally unexpected. The entire place was bustling despite the early hour. Needless to say the El Al departure gate was at the furthest end of the airport. Arriving in Athens I had realised I had over packed, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. After hauling my cases (2) to the El Al checkpoint I was unconcerned when I was shepherded to the side to have my luggage checked. After all, I had nothing to be concerned about. Had I?

Enter one of the most handsome men I had seen in a long time. Pointing at my large suitcase he indicated I should place it on the waist high bench and open it. OK, everything was tied down really well so as soon as I unclipped the straps the clothes jumped up another eight inches – at least. Not content with that embarrassment I was then amazed to see him painstakingly go through everything in my case, and then the second case. I mean EVERYTHING – bras, pants, the lot! By the time he had finished inspecting them there was this mangled mess of clothing and toiletries on the lids of the suitcases. Smiling beguilingly he told me I could repack my bags and join the queue to get a boarding pass.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.live4.com.au         Too much of a good thing is still too much!

Time – I couldn’t forget the time. It was running through my mind over and over with the idea that I might miss my connection. I knew I shouldn’t have packed so much! So when I finally got to weighing my bag I breathed a sigh of relief. A sigh which was very short lived. Over weight! On Singapore it was only two kilos over which they waived. On El Al the weight permitted was much less and I was eight kilos over! OMG. Take the bag back and haul ass to the counter to pay for the excess baggage. Of course the counter was two thirds of the way back up the concourse, a very long concourse, and I had to take my luggage with me.

Thank heavens for a very helpful Greek airport staff guy. He hauled the big case and I grabbed the second and off we trotted. The trot became a gallop as we tried to get to the counter. Of course they wanted cash which I didn’t have as I was leaving. Finally they put it through on my Visa, mainly thanks to my Greek friend and we began the mad dash back to the El Al departure point. After a very frosty look from the lady behind the El Al counter I escaped towards the departure lounge. The fun was just beginning though.

Boarding a plane is fairly standard, right? There’s the squeezing between the seats and trying to get your luggage in the overhead racks, getting into your seat and settling down. This was completely different and people were going every which way, apparently without any rhyme or reason. Seats seemed to be taken as they wished and it felt as though chaos ruled the day. Amazingly, all the seats were filled and the plane left on time.

However! As soon as the plan set off down the runway seat belts started popping open and by the time we were airborne most of the passengers were wandering all over the place, talking, from one side of the plane to the other and from back to the front, and all in Hebrew. The odd one out wasn’t even close. I huddled down and tried to remain inconspicuous. Not very likely but there you have it. I did receive some rather odd looks which I interpreted as “what on earth are you doing here”?

The trip from Athens to Tel Aviv was just over an hour long and the passengers milled around the plane for the entire trip. I’m not even sure if they sat down for the landing, and the disembarkation felt like a free for all to get off first.

Learning to Breathe

image from http://www.itnews.com.au                 Why are you here?     

Arriving at the passport check in was reasonably straight forward; just follow the queue, yet not quite. The Israelis walked through their gate at a fast pace whilst I joined a much smaller queue. I handed over my passport and then had my first ever taste of being on the receiving end of an interrogation. Why was I coming to Israel? Why was I alone? Was I meeting someone? Did I know anyone here? Had I come to find a husband? A husband?! I had just managed to divest myself of the last mistake so I most definitely wasn’t looking for another. After I explained that I was divorced she relaxed, until she asked me for my maiden name since I didn’t have my husband’s surname.

Oh! Well. Hmm. I had changed my name by deed poll after my divorce and chosen a name I liked, so I couldn’t give her my maiden name as a reference either. That didn’t go over very well so we went through all the previous questions again. It was obvious she didn’t like me and didn’t believe I wasn’t there to snare some poor unwary Israeli guy for my next husband.  Eventually, as the last person in the checkpoint left and I was there alone, one of the other men came around to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t speak Hebrew but the rapid fire statements from her gave me the feeling she would have loved to send me back. Thankfully he must have out ranked her and I tiredly walked through the checkpoint to get my luggage. I was the last person in the airport and my greeter had vanished.

Learning to Breathe

image from jewishcentralvoice.com                       Tel Aviv

After many phone calls and what felt like a long wait but was probably only a half an hour I was met by a nice guy who shepherded me to his vehicle and we set off for the hotel. I was thrilled to have a running commentary of all the sights and history as we traveled into Tel Aviv.

The strangest part of all, despite the language barrier and the quasi interrogation at the airport, there was a real feeling of coming home. I took my first deep breath in a long time and realised I had started to feel relaxed. It really felt quite strange.

Next week – A blend of new worlds

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
From an Irish headstone”    Richard Puz

 

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Traveling to Mum’s house that night felt surreal. I felt as though I was wandering through my own personal nightmare. I drove along and had no real recollection of where I was going or what I was doing, it felt as though I was on auto pilot. What would have happened if anything unexpected occurred I have no idea. I suppose I should thank my angels and Dad that it didn’t. I could sense him from time to time but I knew he would be with Mum.

Going through the front door was indescribable. Yet another part of the nightmare, never ending. There was this horrible feeling of disconnect. Nothing felt real. I felt like an interloper and I seriously wanted to leave. For the first time I can remember I felt lost, adrift on some strange ocean with no bearings to guide me. Yet I was expected to be the same person I had always been, capable, competent, organised – for everyone else. It felt as though any feelings I had didn’t exist for anyone else. Their tears poured but I felt I couldn’t, or shouldn’t. When I was told I was a co executor of Mum’s estate I cringed inside. The other was my brother.

Every ‘rule’ of executor ship was flouted and trying to say anything I was over ruled on the pretext that he was so upset because Mum had passed away. Oh – wasn’t she my mother too? I was over ruled and out voted. Meetings held without me regarding Mums prized possessions (sentimental), before her hospitalisation had seen me ‘disenfranchised’. My children were simply excluded, and I had the feeling it was because they were the only grandchildren. I was being torn apart piecemeal, no one to turn to and I was still supposed to take control of the situation, even being accused of being an “Ice Maiden”, without feelings, because they didn’t see me cry. I had a dam inside and the tears couldn’t be allowed to get past it. I didn’t want them to see it either.

image from http://www.theguardian.com     Such a vital piece of paper

The more I learned about how the Will had come to be drawn up, its contents and the meetings which took place without me, the more I felt cut off from my family. I was lost in the darkness and there was no way out.  Once the funeral was over, the wrangling with finalising the estate began. Months of arrangements and meetings, and more and more blackouts as I traveled to ‘Mum’s’ house started to widen the cracks. When I was finally told, after I organised the estate tax return, that it would be another 12 months until it could be finalised I reached “the point of no return”.  Denied Mum’s mementos, denied access to the house proper to see her things, despite everything I had tried to do and I had reached the time to say, “Enough!”

I needed time. I needed space. I needed to find out who I was again. I had been mother, daughter, sister, wife for so long that I was unsure who I was. I booked a 12 week trip to the Middle East and Switzerland, had a long talk with my children and left to find myself. My children understood and were old enough and cared enough to wish me well, however. I didn’t leave a happy camp behind. I don’t believe my brothers really understood how fragile I had become.  I tidied up everything with the solicitor so nothing would need attending to in my absence and left.

Perhaps it was prophetic that I went to the airport alone and had no one to see me off. My very first overseas trip, the only trip I had ever taken alone in my life and there was no one there to say goodbye. As the plane rose into the air I felt an enormous weight suddenly detach from me and I felt lighter than I had for so long. I had a long way to go but I had made a start.

image from http://www.travelhouseuk.co.uk           Fly away little bird.

There was a strange feeling as I walked into the Singapore airlines lounge, which felt something like, “So this is what ‘they’ were talking about. There was a feeling of freedom, of being looked after, and after the previous couple of decades it was almost unbelievable. The people there were so friendly and helpful, and despite the fact that it was their job, they made me feel as though I was special, something truly unusual for me.

The long haul trip to Singapore tested out my back despite being in Business class, a luxury I had decided on simply because of the injuries to my back. Unfortunately we arrived at 11pm so apart from a walk, a very long walk to the Singapore airlines lounge there were very few shops open.  Yet the two hour wait for my connecting flight to Athens was still full of surprises.  I had rarely seen so much food available outside a restaurant and staff who were only too happy to help. The shower facilities were a blessing and it felt really good to refresh myself after sitting on the plane for so long.

image from http://www.airreview.com             Business Lounge in Singapore

Back on board again it seemed only a short time before we were landing in Athens. I had been too excited to sleep much so the on-board films were a good distraction. I was collected at the airport – Yes, I had someone standing in arrivals with my name on a piece of cardboard! Whisked through the airport, the Greeter insisted on handling my entire luggage (I over packed) and I was in a taxi and speeding into Athens.

The driver, whose name I never did get, zipped in and out of traffic like a bee hopping from flower to flower. The nonstop information was brilliant, but I could only take part of it in. The sights and sounds were amazing. Once we reached Athens the traffic was phenomenal. So many vehicles all going flat out, horns honking, drivers waving their arms at each other and the roads – they seemed so small! It was a thrill a minute.

View of the Acropolis from outside the hotel

View of the Acropolis from outside the hotel

The hotel was an oasis of peace and calm from the bustle outside and once I was in my beautiful suite I suddenly felt exhausted. Tired or not I had to explore since I was only there for a couple of days on the way to Israel, my ‘final’ destination. I’m sure the Major D was surprised when I hurried through the doors so soon, asking for directions. I walked for hours before finally stumbling back to the hotel where I declared it exhaustion treat time and ordered room service.

One beautiful hot bath later my meal arrived and I settled down to find an English speaking news channel so I could find out if the Middle East was still peaceful.  The lure of the soft and gigantic bed was too much and I slept until breakfast the next morning.  A full breakfast was on offer but I didn’t want to waste time so off I went sightseeing and gathering all the brochures I could for my return trip.

image from news.gtp.gr     Athens Airport

 Picked up bright and early the next morning, (They even got the staff up early so I could have breakfast before I left) and I was whisked out to catch the El Al Plane into Israel. That was where the fun really began.

Next week – Learning to breathe again

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

image from spirit_elements-www-josephinewall-co.uk

Recollections of that Christmas are strange, some vague and others thrown into stark relief. At times I felt alone in a darkness so profound I wondered if I would ever emerge again. I can remember desperately wanting to make it as happy and carefree as possible, easy and light, a remembrance of all the beautiful Christmas’ we had spent together. Above all it had to be as far removed from the reality of the situation as possible.  Despite the strain in Mum’s face, she was happy. Her family were around her and the love was overflowing. It was all I could have asked for. I was grateful my prayers were answered.

As though Christmas had never occurred it was back to ‘normal’ as soon as the New Year came around.  Hubby had spent plenty of time fuming over my response and as a result I wasn’t too surprised when, early in the new year, he advised me he wasn’t interested in trying to make a go of things, he wanted a divorce. It was a bad move on his part. I had a strong feeling that I should move and quickly. I haven’t felt such an urging before so I did exactly as he asked. As soon as the courts opened for business in the new year I went in, filled out the paperwork and less than three months later it was all over. He got his divorce finalised (the decree nisi) on his birthday. It wasn’t planned that way by me, but I have a feeling Spirit, and of course Dad had a lot to do with the speed of things. I had more important things on my mind. The darkness was drawing in. I also decided to change my name – I needed to sever the ties to him completely.

In early March Mum was rushed back into hospital and we, at least I, had been told that she wouldn’t be going home again. She hated the hospital and couldn’t rest. I was called earlier each day because she was calling for me, so I was there from 5am or earlier until 7pm when my brothers arrived for their hour-long visit! All day I made sure she received her morphine shots to ease the pain.  When they wore off during the night she was too ‘out of it’ to ask for more. My brothers thought she was doing okay because they only saw her after a day with regular pain shots. She was alert and pain free for their short visit. They refused to accept how dire the situation was. Several falls from bed and very nasty injuries and the hospital talked hospice. Mum was terrified since, even in her muddled state, she was aware what it meant. She wouldn’t be going home. It was prophetic that she had always said she would die in a hospital and that had made her more concerned about hospital visits during her life.

image from blog.iloveqatar.net

I was taking some enormous risks. I wasn’t sleeping, hardly eating and began having strange ‘black outs’ as I was driving to the hospital. At 120km/hr it was scary, and yes I was exceeding the speed limit.  They had begun when she was at home but I wasn’t going to say anything. She needed me with her. I was the one who bathed her and changed her clothes, helped her into and out of bed. I held her hand and prayed as I sent Reiki into her frail body. I think by then I had stopped thinking about anything else. I had to be there.

The day I was informed she was being transferred to the hospice was horrendous. I had been there again since 4am after she had fallen from bed and had seriously hurt her arm. It was heart wrenching to see the nurses try to dress the wounds, finally admitting when they couldn’t remove the dressings that it didn’t matter if they were changed.  My universe was collapsing.

The day was a nightmare.  The ambulance transfer was a trip from hell. Once we reached the hospice I helped get Mum changed and into her new bed. She curled up and “went to sleep.” I continued to give her Reiki until my brothers began to arrive.  They arrived around 7pm. After a half an hour they decided to leave since Mum was obviously “asleep”. My gut told me to stay. My car was back at the other hospital. Despite knowing I shouldn’t leave I allowed myself to be persuaded to go to my car and go home. Something inside screamed at me to stay, but out numbered and feeling cornered I felt I had no choice. I was so wrong and I can never forget that.

I debated, for the longest time, about going back to her, but I hadn’t seen my children and I was feeling drained. I arrived home as the phone began ringing. My mother had passed away ten minutes after I left her. I don’t remember the drive back, only coming back to myself when I arrived at the hospice as saw my brother there. I was angry. He had arrived first and had decided to sign all the paperwork. He didn’t want to stay at all. He didn’t want me to stay either, but he did want me to go back to Mum’s house with him  (where he was living) to talk about what ‘we’ had to do. A new nightmare was about to begin, one which would threaten to drown me.

image from bleeding_eye_by_flauschvampire91

image from bleeding_eye_by_flauschvampire91

That walk through Mum’s front door felt like a knife wrenching through my heart. Inside my head a scream reverberated. I wanted out! I wanted a little space to think! I needed to find something to hold onto! I was adrift in uncharted waters and I was drowning already. Somehow, some way, I had to find how to keep going and stay sane. I felt I was faced with a stacked deck, just how much that was true was to come to light soon enough.

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Next week – A New Nightmare Begins.

© Susan Jamieson 2013

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This is the ship which really was the start of my biggest adventure up to that point.

My parents had decided to bring the family to Australia and we were to travel here on the MS Achille Lauro. Since I had never been on a cruise up to that point in time it was a big adventure. Leaving England and coming to Australia was a huge adventure but we had to get there first.

We arrived at Southampton late in the day as everyone was boarding and, I’m sorry to say, I missed seeing the White Cliffs of Dover as we set sail in the middle of the night.  The excitement of the trip down from Yorkshire, traveling around London in a big old black cab, catching the subway for the first time, all these firsts finally caught up with all of us and we were sound asleep when we set sail. One day I will sail past those cliffs so that I can take some photos… it would be criminal in one sense not to.

The next morning we were well out to sea with not a landmark in sight. The air was balmy, sun shining and the sense of adventure was almost enough to stop me eating. Almost, but not quite! I had never seen such a massive array of food offered for breakfast. It wasn’t a three course meal, it felt like a ten course meal. Being too excited I restricted myself to some nice and easy to digest oatmeal… I wasn’t taking any chances of being ill. I was almost beside myself with eagerness at getting up on deck and exploring.

However, my father had decreed that since it was an Italian ship, Italian crew, and everyone knew what Italian men were like, I had to be chaperoned at all times! What a balloon buster!! But, I couldn’t be down for long, there was simply too much to do and see and experience.

On the Achille Lauro, travelling to Australia

On the Achille Lauro, traveling to Australia

The dining room was enormous, of course, and each meal was an adventure. The waiters treated us like royalty, which was really great for the ego! But there was so much more.  From the front (bow) of the ship I could watch the dolphins flying past, seeming to dodge directly under the prow and leap forward once again. I could have spent all day there mesmerised by them.   This became my personal escape if I wanted to spend some quiet time and daydream about ocean travel, mermaids and dolphins and being carried away by gorgeous Italian men. (Sigh).

We, as a family of course, explored the ship from ‘stem to stern’ and as many places in between. We seemed to find ourselves in the lounge often as there was coffee there all day long and morning tea, afternoon tea and supper were served there every day. The waiters took it upon themselves to try to teach me a few words of Italian every time I had to get something, and as the eldest child, that meant quite often. I was in heaven.

Our first port of call was in the Canary Islands where the crew promptly went on strike! They claimed the ship had been loaded incorrectly and if we hit bad weather the ship would turn turtle! The Poseidon Adventure had not long been released and I had visions of drowning at sea since swimming was not my forte.

So each day we had to disembark and head into the town of Tenerife to buy our food with the vouchers the ship gave us. What an experience that was! Walking down the gangplank was the first obstacle. The local Spanish population of males seemed to congregate at first light and line the bottom of the gangway and along the pier. This was in 1972, the era of the mini skirt and ours (Mums and mine) were pretty much par for the era, that is fairly short. As we descended the gangway grubby hands darted up our skirts and pinched the tops of our legs or bottoms depending on how high they managed to reach.

It didn’t take long for us to be covered in black and blue bruises. Dad and my brothers became the rear guard to prevent as much grabbing as possible. It saved us from being crippled before the week was over. At the end of the week half the Italian crew went home and we were given Spanish crew members to make up the quota. This presented quite a problem as the Italians spoke little Spanish, the Spaniards spoke little if any Italian and we spoke neither Italian nor Spanish. I should add that the Italians at least spoke English. We managed but it became interesting in the dining room.

On one memorable day, when the Captain had decided he was going to cut close to the Cape of Good Hope to avoid ‘rough’ weather we were entertained by a few interesting experiences. To start with it was hellishly rough close to the Cape. My youngest brother was terribly seasick and the warder brought copious amounts of lemon for him to settle his stomach. For the rest of us it was fun and games getting up to the lounge. The ship was rolling badly and we had to time our dash up the stairs to the roll of the ship.  In high heels too!

Once there we thought everything would be fine. As we looked out the window on one side of the ship we could see beautiful blue sky and at the exact moment on the other side we could see nothing but blue water…. very interesting and exciting.  The bartender had few customers that day and was polishing his vast quantity of glassware. I’m not sure he thought about it too much since as we rolled through a particularly wide arc the glasses began to slide of the right side of the bar. He spread his hands wide around his glasses as we started to roll back the other way. The glasses he couldn’t hold onto went sliding noisily off the other end of the bar.  Thank heavens the tables were bolted down!

And we were only halfway there. We stopped in Cape Town for a day. There was a tour of the city which was disturbing. As we were walking along an African man fell to the ground with an epileptic seizure. As calmly as you like our tour guide continued talking and shepherding us across the street. When we suggested going to help we were politely but firmly told to not get involved. “His people would look after him”.  Our first exposure to Apartheid. It put a dampener on the excursion, but the sight of Table Mountain, right out of Wilbur Smiths books helped – a little.

From there we sailed to Durban. Just a brief stopover, but it whetted my appetite to return, one day! From there we sailed across to Fremantle.  Once again we unfortunately didn’t get to see very much. Our week delay in Tenerife meant we were behind schedule and arrived there in the middle of the night. Dad and I walked the pier for a time and I got my first little koala. I still have it today.

Next stop was Melbourne where it was raining and freezing. This was supposed to be Australia, we had left the English winter behind! We  made a dash into town to get some jeans since all our warm clothes were in the steamer trunks. We were running back up the pier to the ship as it took longer than expected, with the crew chivvying  us along saying the ship would sail without us. I’m here so we obviously made it.

image from blogs.harcourts.com.au

After this it was smooth sailing to Sydney where we were met with another problem. Originally we had sleeper berths organised for the trip to Brisbane which was our final destination. Being a week late meant that other arrangements had to be made. So, we had a lovely day being taken round Sydney, The Rocks and Botany Bay as our introduction to Australia. We were still confused  because it was still cold!  Onto the overnight train to Queensland and our final leg of the journey was commenced.

image from http://www.dreamstime.com – Botany Bay!

Excitement eventually won out and I fell asleep during the night only to wake and find Dad had left his seat next to me.  Of course that meant I had to go find him. I did track him down in the bar, having a quiet drink and a smoke with a few other stalwarts who couldn’t sleep. This meant he had to return to keep me corralled for the rest of the night. Arriving at midday the next morning was a shock to the system. It was 42 degrees Celsius and we were wearing heavy denim jeans! OMG we all thought we were going to pass out. We wanted to get back on that air-conditioned train and where were the kangaroos? We had been fed a long diet of tales of kangaroos hopping down the street and koalas in every tree and not a one in sight, just a huge golden orb that was frying our brains.

image from news.domain.com.au –

Of course no one thought to tell us that most of the houses were timber either. It was all so new we wondered if we were on a different planet. In some ways we were, aliens in a foreign land. The summer was long and hot and we burned and burned some more. And they (the school) expected us to play sport in the heat!  Cruel, sadistic and totally heartless. Fortunately we survived… I’m still here. I never recovered from the shock of getting off the train into that furnace-like heat and still dislike the summer. Then again, not everything is meant to change.

I hope you enjoyed my trip to Australia and I want to finish with the last sight anyone had of the Achille Lauro.

image fromhttp://www.ssmaritime.com/achillelauro.htm

“You can’t prepare for everything life’s going to throw at you. And you can’t avoid danger. It’s there. The world is a dangerous place, and if you sit around wringing your hands about it, you’ll out on all the adventure.”
Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

To Grand Adventures, wherever we find them.

Ciao, Susan x (c) Susan Jamieson

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Fijian dancers 2010

One of the highlights of our trip to Fiji was the traditional Fijian night, food and the dancers. The enjoyment and energy they showed was almost contagious.  I really don’t think either of us wanted to get up and shimmy our way round the circle of whirl and jump like dervishes!  It made for great entertainment though.

Fijian dancers 2010 -4

I guess it goes without much explanation that the whirling and spinning was done by the men. The ladies did a lot of shimmy and shake, and those headdresses – awesome.

Although we spent much of our time working! Yes, a working trip to Fiji, where each day was spent in a conference room, we were always aware that the sun was shining outside and the staff were ready with a smile and “Bula” before and after any request.

Lookout over pool in Fiji  2

The beautiful view from our room. As soon as the sun rose we could see the gardens and pools which led onto the beach.  In spite of the work there was time for team building, games of pool volleyball, contortionist games of pass the ball through the human maze and finding messages in object form from anywhere in the resort gardens – if we could decipher the clues. One of the funniest activities had each team hanging on to their own coloured rope. Everyone had to manoeuver a large beach ball under and over chairs and tables and up and down stairs without dropping it. Dropped we had to start all over again.

Best activity of all was the jet boat ride. I’ve  watched these guys from our balcony at Runaway Bay and the fellow in Fiji could teach them a lot. We zigged and zagged and spun and whirled.  We whizzed backwards and forwards and stopped in a spray of water millimeters from posts, each time throwing up a fountain of water over everyone in the boat.  It really was thrills a minute and lasted too short a time.

After a shower and change it was time for a refreshing cocktail and dinner…. it certainly worked up an appetite.

Be ready to take your time though, everything runs on Fiji time!

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It's partly cloudy, outside and inside

It’s partly cloudy, outside and inside

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.  Albert Einstein

It’s been a strange day, partly cloudy with sudden showers and then fine periods.  That’s the weather forecast, and they managed to get it right – which is a novel experience.  There are days when you feel it’s almost ‘flip a coin and choose an option’ to see what kind of weather we’re going to see.

It’s also been a very apt description of the kind of day I’ve had, partly cloudy (brain fog) and fine periods when thought has been sharp and clear. Needless to say when the cloudy periods hit I’ve been a tad frustrated because it has stopped me doing things I wanted to.  Like this blog, and in deference to “Clear Thinking” I am delving into a time when Lyme dis-ease hadn’t overtaken me.

I decided to escape for some ‘me time’ and organised a trip overseas. For many years I had wanted to visit Israel and since Mum had recently passed away I decided it would be a great chance to take her with me in spirit. I didn’t do much pre-planning, I walked into my nearest travel agent and sat down, telling her I wanted to go to the Middle East. Several hours later I walked out with my plans formed and told my family I was flying out in three weeks.

The  Acropolis, Athens

The Acropolis, Athens

After a short stopover in the middle of the night at the airport in Singapore I landed in Athens.  Jet lag not withstanding I only had four days here before my next leg of the trip. It passed in a whirlwind of sights and sounds. Madly driving vehicles rushing past, risking life and limb to jay walk across the roads.

Athens

Athens

It was with mounting excitement that I headed out to the airport after being thoroughly spoilt by hotel staff and everyone I met.  My next experience was unexpected.  Arriving at the airport I was shuttled off to the side and asked to open my suitcase(s)! Oh No!! They  were packed to the max – and it was a struggle getting everything in, in an orderly fashion and the case closed. Not only was I scanned and dope tested (my suitcase!) my case was thoroughly examined. Everything, and I do mean everything, was taken out and checked. Not only did I have to then hurry to try to pack everything back in, I had to rush back into the terminal as I was over my allotted baggage limit.

Once more I had a wonderful Greek attendant  guiding me along to the right place and then back to complete my check in. My first flight on El Al was an experience I have never had anywhere else. Everyone was talking to everyone else (except me – I think I had a stamp flashing saying ‘foreigner’), and standing up, walking around and generally behaving as though we were on the ground and not in the air.

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, a walk around this city is a walk through history. From moment to moment you see ultra modern hotels and history side by side. It truly was walking with the past as we went to major historical sites with our guide and listened to the origins of each place from Byzantine, Romans, Crusaders and Israeli history. Magical.

Tel Aviv was the starting point. The tour visited Capernaum, Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, Masada, Nazareth, Bethlehem, The Dead Sea where I proved it was possible NOT to float, and with so many incredible sunsets. Here is a snapshot look at this incredibly historical land ending with one of the magical sunsets.

On top of Masada

On top of Masada

Jerusalem at night

Jerusalem at night

A frantic rush through Jerusalem was necessary to buy a new suitcase. Damaged beyond further use I had no option but to replace it. Kebabs in the mall and chocolate mousse, sinful and delicious made the visit even more exciting.

The Old Town, Jerusalem

The Old Town, Jerusalem

Walking through the Old Town, along the Via Dolorosa, The Way  of the Cross and seeing the bazaar stalls was stepping into another world entirely.

Israel, history at a glance

Israel, history at a glance

The old, truly historical land and the modern at a glance.

Glorious sunset over the Mediterranean.

Glorious sunset over the Mediterranean.

I was gifted with more glorious sunsets like this than I could count. Each time I thought it couldn’t get better – it did! A fabulous way of ‘ending’ each day.

“You can learn as much about the history from reading about the present as you can vice versa, that is learning about the present through history, which is what I do for a living.”     Ken Burns

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A Powerful Owl sitting on a tree branch

 Ralph Waldo Emerson quote

It is recognised that when something happens in threes it is a sign, or an indication that we need to pay attention to what is happening – there is a message there for us, if we can but read or hear it.

Traveling home from visiting friends tonight I was surprised and pleased to see a beautiful Powerful Owl sitting in the fork of a tree, calmly watching what we were doing.  I think we were rather too large for a meal, but the careful and considered look he gave me was enough to make me stop and wonder – was he trying to simply be noticed or was he trying to tell me something? Perhaps it was as simple as his next meal, which was hiding nearby as he was waiting for us to leave, but I had a feeling there was more to his impressive gaze than that. The question was – what?

image from mtnmatthews.blogspot.com

Driving along the country roads I was keeping an eye out for the “Kangawallafoxes” as my husband calls them. In other words the kangaroos, wallabies or foxes which are known to suddenly hop pr run out of the scrub along the side of the road. It can be a nasty surprise and make your journey come to a crashing halt!

However, it was not one of the usual creatures which caused the sudden startled intake of breath this night, it was the sudden and of course silent swoop of an owl across the road directly in front of us. He was beautiful and it would have been a glorious picture, but since I wasn’t thinking about taking a photo, I didn’t have the camera ready. It looked very similar to the photo I found, but it hardly captures the surprise I felt at seeing him.  So that was number two for the evening, and a very impressive reminder that something must be afoot. What was I supposed to be aware of and what was I missing?

We have quite a few owls around our place and I love hearing them call at different times, and I have been lucky enough to see them, although usually without a camera.  We were almost home when a huge owl suddenly seemed to swoop up towards the car, hitting the windscreen cleanly in the middle. He slid off the side and we pulled frantically off to the other side of the road so we wouldn’t hit him by accident.

He lay there on the road and I was amazed at how large he looked close up. It was another Powerful Owl. I felt awful at hitting him, even though we hadn’t actually driven into him, more he flew into us – but then the effect was the same. Being extra careful of those deadly talons and beak we wrapped him in a thick blanket from the car and carried him to the grass at the side if the road where we could see him in the headlights.  After carefully unwrapping him it was difficult to see if he was injured at all. There was definitely no blood, the blanket ( a pale one) was clean and there didn’t appear to be any blood on his feathers. At least there was no glistening tell-tale marks on his feather which we could see.

Powerful Owl takes off as though nothing has happened.

He suddenly seemed to give himself a shake and was on his feet in a flash. He looked around at us, measuring us up for a meal I wondered? Then after what seemed an age but was probably barely minutes, he fluffed his feathers and took off into the night, apparently none the worse for his crash landing with our car.

Not so our windscreen which had a crack completely down the middle!  So, three visits in one evening. Far too much for sheer coincidence, but I have yet to work out what their message is.  As for an exciting end to the evening, it most definitely was.

Our usual view of the Powerful Owl at home. Beautiful isn’t he?

For me this was a special occasion, one to be mindful of as I sit under a full moon, pondering what new beginnings this portent means. I am being present with the spirits who are sending me this messenger, so full of love that this has happened. I am indeed grateful that life is so full of wonderful and unexpected surprises. I am truly blessed tonight.

 Charles Dickens quotes 

Here’s hoping you are as lucky as I and I can work out what my owl visitors are telling me.  Happy Full Moon people.

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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our  late arrival meant we missed the scenery, so here is what we missed seeing yesterday.

quality resort sails

Quality Resort Sails, Port Macquarie

carp in pond

Carp in the pond

cormorant

Cormorant on the pontoon

We had a laughable start to the day. After deciding a “late” start was appropriate after the day before, we ordered breakfast for 8.30am, settled ourselves for the evening,  a light meal and after luxuriating in the shower fell into bed for a well deserved sleep. The next thing we knew was the knocking on the door the following morning – at 8.30am NSW time!

We forgot in the pleasurable rush to relax to change the time on our small travel alarm! It was set, but of course wouldn’t go off for another hour. A semi sleepy breakfast later, which tasty beautiful, we were ready to quickly shower and start traveling again, but not until we explored the grounds and took some photos. Then we climbed aboard our trusty vehicle and headed off into the traffic.

traffic sign sydney

roadworks

There were road works aplenty, which didn’t slow us down too much. What’s a couple of extra hours at a slow  speed compared to seeing huge machines and dust/mud  on the windscreen, compared to getting a six lane highway which should have been built in the beginning?

What started out as a fine sunny day quickly became very windy, I mean gale force winds which rocked the car around like a kite on a string.  Then, just as suddenly the storm we could see building over the Sydney area hit us too, big fat wet drops hitting the windscreen and making visibility difficult. What does a little more time on the road matter? More time to  chat and talk about all those things there are never time for in the hurly burly world of the normal work day, and of course being able to practice my amateur photography skills.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

wilton nsw
Wilton NSW. A brief stop in the trip. Back on the road again…..

cuttings in newcastle expressway

One of the many cuttings on the Newcastle  Calga Expressway. Trying to take these at 110kph is no easy task, blurry images filled the camera for a while.

crossing the bridge Batemans Bay on dusk

Arriving in Bateman’s Bay at dark, tired and weary and ready for a nice cup of coffee. All  clocks changed to daylight savings time now!

Party time tomorrow!

“Never any weary traveler complained that he came too soon to his journey’s end.”
Thomas Fuller

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“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time”. Sir John Lubbock

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Gold Coast
The Gold Coast as we left.

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“I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently”. Ernest Hemingway

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Today was D Day, D for Departure. We left relatively early so that I could see a Kinesiologist on the Gold Coast.  He had come highly recommended and after all the hassles and procedures on my back and neck it felt like a good way to start our holiday by getting as ‘well’s possible.

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I was skeptical to say the least, after all I’ve tried so many different things and professionals that it takes a lot to get me enthusiastic,  After a half an hour I left in a state of shock and delight.  Shock at what I had heard and delight at how much lighter I already felt.  More about that in another blog. So from that point on it was “On the Road we Go”!

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on the road to port macquarie

Typical roadside view as we came down the highway.

The trip was smooth even with the constant rain. It wasn’t heavy enough to cause a problem, except for a fifteen minute period not far from Port Macquarie where we are staying tonight.  It was wonderful, just the two of us, quiet, talking about the everyday things, nothing stressful or important in the grand scheme of things. They were important in reconnecting us with each other, the quiet times, shared between us, the other crazy drivers on the road, the road works which were extensive, and the Big Banana and finally Port Macquarie in time to catch a few pictures  just before dusk. Remembering of course, that daylight saving has just begun and we have lost an hour.

coffs harbour big banana

The Big Banana as we flew past.

sunset over the hastings river

Sunset over the Hastings River

Port Macquarie beach

Port Macquarie beach…..just the right time to capture this before dinner.

Tomorrow…..Bateman’s Bay,  two days closer to the big birthday party and more photos with the new camera! Family, friends, a special occasion, BEing myself and being with my wonderful husband, a great chauffeur and special talks together! Life is beautiful.

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“Holidays are about experiences and people, and tuning into what you feel like doing at that moment. Enjoy not having to look at a watch.”
Evelyn Glennie

Kiama waterfall

image courtesy of pbase.com

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There is something inexplicably exciting when you start planning a holiday, even if it is going to be just a short break.  We are going to live in the moment and make sure we are BEing present for everything that happens. That’s what we are doing for several reasons.

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My father in law is eighty tomorrow and he is having a “surprise” birthday party.  It’s hard to keep it a surprise these days as the family is large and the logistics of getting everyone together, all the arrangements made and the party preparations are impossible to hide.  Especially when he specifically said “No surprise parties” he feels he’s too old to have birthdays now.  We persuaded him that the alternative wasn’t very nice and he’s agreed to keep having them for us.

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It’s even more special for me since it’s the first birthday and family get together since our wedding earlier this year, and then not everyone could make it, so I get to meet everyone I didn’t see then, but now as part of the family.  It’s even more poignant since both my parents have passed away and I no longer get to have these events to look forward to. It’s made me realize that each gathering and milestone is important, too important to let them slip by without giving them the attention they deserve.  So, sorry Dad, but roll on the party!

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80th party celbration

image courtesy of elegantvocals.wordpress.com

I think we’ll forget the hats though – he’s not really into them, unless of course they’re the rural fire brigade helmets where he’s been a member for sixty years. Quite an achievement and there is little he wouldn’t be able to tell you about keeping us safe in this hot dry weather.  I’m sure top of his list would be to clear around your houses and controlled burns to clear away the rubbish.  But that’s another story.

rural fire brigade

image courtesy of smh.com.au

So we are setting off on a trip to southern New South Wales.  We are making the most of it since we haven’t yet had our “honeymoon” – simply too busy! This, Ray has decided, is a “deposit” on our honeymoon holiday.  So we’re stopping on the way down at Port Macquarie and afterwards we are spending a week in a beautiful B&B with some breathtaking scenery outside the ‘back door’ where we can rest, relax, explore,  go for long walks or simply read and soak up the peace and tranquility.  On the way home we will make a stop in Coffs Harbour to finish things off before arriving back ready to hit the decks running again.

Kiama

image courtesy of digital-photo.com.au

I’m only breaking one rule, I’m taking my laptop so I can use my photos and blog about what we’re doing or not, as the case may be, and the party, and the drive there and back, since I have this feeling there may be things to see and photograph and I’d love to share them. Recharging your batteries is so important, it helps keep you motivated and looking forward to the big treat when it arrives.  So much excitement in the planning of all the details, where to go and what to see and do.

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So in two days we’ll be on the road early… not too early since I’ve been coerced into seeing a kinesiologist to try to get me there and back with my back in one piece and without too much pain!  Day one we only go as far as Port Macquarie so it’s not a huge day and we can have plenty of tea breaks to take in the scenery.

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Eurobodalla, Moruya Coast

image courtesy of virtualtourist.com

I’m so grateful we have such a wonderful life to look forward to. It’s all in the way you choose to look at it.

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

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