Weymouth, 2011

When I arrived in Weymouth, the Canadian side of the family had already been there for a few days. We all ate at a local pub for dinner and it was good to see my aunt, uncle and cousins Kate and  Glen, even though the circumstances weren’t the best.

Our grandmother’s funeral was scheduled for later that week and in the meantime we were to sort through what remained of her belongings. She had given away most of her valuables while she was alive, but there was still a lot of household items to go through.

We all took something that held special memories for us, be it furniture to be relocated to Kate’s new house, the swallows over the top of the fireplace for my dad or grandma’s fountain pen for me. It was the one she used to write all our letters and birthday cards to send across the seas and I hoped to continue the tradition with it.

Going through her writing desk, we discovered that she had kept every photo, card or letter that we had given her- even a record of my travellers cheques, long since cashed- that I had handwritten for her before my trip to Europe. It was nice to keep a few photos of us as kids home and a I also claimed a tiny book of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

When we needed a break from our sorting and trips to Vinnies in Dorchester, we went on country rambles together to Hardy’s monument, the wishing well and Upwey manor. Past the thatched rooved cottages, the church where our grandfather was buried, through green fields filled with thistles; picking blackberries along the way. We found a random bakery in the middle of the countryside which had the best pasties.

It was nice to spend this time together and gather memories in the area for the last time. Grandma’s house was to be sold, so it was sad to think that someone else would be living in the stone bungalow in which we’d all had so many good times and that we wouldn’t have the same pull to return to Weymouth.

We went into town for a walk along the seafront to the harbour. The blue and white striped deck chairs were already set out for summer, though the weather was cold, and the sand sculpture competition was in full swing. The town was the same as I remembered it, but seemed smaller and not as busy.

In the evenings we reminisced and cooked all our favourite foods that grandma used to make, like treacle tarts, fish and chips and rice pudding.

The day of the funeral was a strange feeling. We were all picked up in two black cars and driven to the funeral parlour where we greeted many family members and old friends.

The wake was held back at grandma’s house where I had the job of cooking all the pastries in the oven. It was a good distraction. The Swindon and Cirencester branches of the family were a positive influence and it was lovely to see Alan and Viv again.

As the week drew to a close, it was time to take our last snap shots in our heads and on our iPhones, then bid each other farewell in the hopes of keeping grandma’s memory alive by seeing each other again soon to reminisce some more.

Related posts: London, 2011, Small town vs Big city, It’s an English Thing, England, 2006, England, 2002, England, 1997

Power Plays

The office sometimes seems like a high school playground with all the clicks, bullying and popularity contests replaced with power plays, bitching and favoritism.

I hate to be a woman who says it, and I am sure I am not the first to, but sometimes women in power are the worst of all.

I recently went to a seminar that basically surmised that women have the same issues workforce flexibility as they did years ago as it and that we need to challenge ideas about work to change the system.

This is hardly going to happen when we are too busy trashing each other and watching our backs to support each other.

A level playing field requires accountability and trust. Two things that can’t happen if you are too scared to make a decision in case the woman next to you pulls you apart or drops you in it.

The same seminar stated that the office is at least 10 years behind society and the social norms of women haven’t shifted.

Women are the primary carers, a title I was shocked to see required my acceptance of if we wanted to claim parental benefits. Sure, my husband could just as easily have been the primary carer, but our agreement was always that the one who was earning the least would be the one to stay at home- it just makes fiscal sense.

But how are women ever going to earn more than men when we are trying to compete with the boys club, fit into a limited window of opportunity and deal with the fact that we are discriminated against in interviews?

Hey, I get it, if I was an employer and was presented with two equally qualified candidates in their late 20’s- one male, one female- I’m sure I would make the same choice too. The assumption is that as a woman you will leave as some point soon to have kids, but this assumption is not always correct.

What about those that don’t end up having children or can’t have them?

Sure women don’t help themselves with the bitching, the moaning and the tears, but not all women are manipulative like that. There are those of us who don’t want children, want to earn an honest living, stop wasting time with all the bull shite and just get the job done.

My favourite take out from the seminar was that men have an important role as a co-parent. Only when you communicate about and share responsibility for the raising of the kids can true work equality be achieved.

So maybe the key is to find a supportive partner and then all the rest will fall into place?

Related posts: To Belong, Having it all?, New Beginnings

 

London, 2011

In September of 2011, I received word that my grandmother has passed away in England. She was the last of my grandparents left, and even though you are not meant to have favourites, she was mine.

My mother and I flew to London to meet my father in Weymouth. My bestie was living in London at the time, so I decided a detour was in order before the funeral.

My bestie was living in the suburb of Forest Hill in a lovely large house with a cute English garden and patio. Her partner was working on the London Olympics hence the temporary move from Australia.

We went shopping on Oxford St where I very much enjoying being back in familiar London with the beautiful old buildings, red double decker buses, telephone booths and John Lewis.

A visit to Harrods was a delight. The detailed ceilings in the jewellery and food halls and that made it seem more like a museum than a shop. Then there was the life sized beefeater and policeman teddy bears and the London themed Christmas decorations section. We found Paddington Bear, an indoor merry-go-round filled with stuffed animals and shared a glorious ice cream sundae.

The next day we had tickets to The Lion King in the West End, but we decided to explore the surrounding area first. I spotted St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Whitehall Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from a bridge.

We went to Covent Garden for some Christmas shopping. I also picked up some England only products for myself, saw the biggest paella I have ever seen and spotted one of the many White Lion pubs in England. The show was in the beautiful old Lyceum Theatre and was very entertaining, especially the costumes.

Too soon it was time to bid farewell to my bestie and head to Waterloo to catch the train to Weymouth. A brief, but fun packed visit where I was glad to have been able to catch up with my bestie in her new home.

Related posts: England, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Small town vs Big city

Small towns are cute, quirky and green. They are safe, comforting and friendly.

Everyone seems to know of one another and celebrate the same things in the same environment.

But this means that small towns can also be gossipy, stifling and routine.

Big cities are different, fun and challenging. They are tall, concrete and filled with endless possibilities.

They take you out of your comfort zone into a sometimes overwhelming place where you can make new friends and have new experiences every day.

But this means that big cities can also be fickle, lonely and expensive.

I grew up in a small town, and whilst I appreciate it was a nice little place to grow up, I think I was always a big city girl at heart.

Being an avid traveller doesn’t always mean you are necessarily a big city person, although it probably helps. Sometimes it’s the small towns that really show you what a place is like and who the people really are.

But I am a big city person and just the thought of going to a global city like London or New York gets me excited. Big cities are also big enough that they contain many smaller places to explore.

Being in a big city that you are familiar with gives you a sense of achievement and conquest, especially when you can navigate to your favourite places without a map.

But big cities are so big, that even in my home city of Sydney I often need to whip out Google maps to find out where that new restaurant is.

Small towns have their place and perhaps I wouldn’t be who I am today, or get that big city buzz as much, if I hadn’t grown up in a small town.

I still enjoy visiting my hometown of Berry, all the memories I have there and I am looking forward to taking my daughter to my birth town of Weymouth hoping that she can see what I see.

But I also can’t wait to take her to Central Park or a show at the West End; to see what she makes of the big hills of San Francisco or the mountains of Vancouver.

I wonder if she will be a big city girl with small town values like me, or just be a sophisticated city chick with no time for small town matters. I guess only time will tell…

Related posts: Sydney vs Melbourne, It’s an English Thing, Cocktail hour in Sydneytown, Home is where you make it, Travel Rememberings

Nebraska, 2011

The morning after  4th July, I awoke in the cabin at Sandhills to see stuffed animals on the walls and a small jetty leading to a lake outside. My bestie took me to meet the hunting dogs, Tank and Boots, and I was taken on a tour of the property by 4WD.

Rolled bales of hay lay scattered on wide plains, filled with buffalo. We saw the windmill, the tepee and flushed a few pheasants out of the trees. My besties dad is a bit of an expert in wildflowers and found a few for us along the way to enjoy. My bestie’s brother Chris kept horses on the neighbouring property and was working on re- building a traditional red barn.

Sandhills was undoubtedly a beautiful place and I could understand why much of the family didn’t leave. My bestie’s dad’s brother Jim lived next door and old Grandpa Hamilton still lived not far in the other direction.

The beauty of the land, was matched only by the great hospitality of the people living on it. My bestie’s dad was skilled in cooking buffalo ribs on a real smoker BBQ and his wife was a master in the kitchen making everything from homemade ice tea to jello pie, which I had never had before.

The next day we went tubing down the river with Jim’s grandchildren and their father Nick. I had never heard of the activity before and was terrible at it, but it was all in good fun.

There was complaining that the water was as cold as the Bering Sea and Chris told me stories about the possibility of getting shot if I didn’t stay on the river. Kind of like the ones Aussies tell about drop bears I think. The water was cold so that night we warmed up with a bonfire near the cabin and I had smores for the first time. Yummo!

On another day, we headed back into Stuart to help set up the town hall for cousin Laura’s wedding. The whole town pulls together for these special occasions and countless hours are spent decorating, creating and making everything just right. Now I understood why my bestie is so good at interior decorating!

Too soon it was time to leave and drive back to Omaha, this time with my bestie and during the daytime so I could see the countryside. Cornfields stretched as far as the eye could see and we saw real reindeers.

We also managed to fit in some shopping along the way of course. I bought a Huskers t-shirt and two semi formal dresses at JC Penny for about a tenth of the price they would be at home. We stayed with Chris for the night and went to a bar with real hot wings for dinner.

I feel incredibly lucky, not only to have met my bestie and be able to see where she came from; but to also have the opportunity to experience such unique part of the world with the lovely people who know it best. Looking forward to visiting you all again one day, hopefully soon.

Related posts: Independence Day, 2011, It’s an American Thing, USA Road Trip, 2007: Part 2

It’s a South of America Thing

I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about South America. Having only been to Argentina, I know I have only scratched the surface. Although I only experienced Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls, it left me with a strong idea of the place and a desire to go back and explore more of the country.

I remember dog walkers, steak and potatoes and the Obelisk on Avenida 9 Julio in Buenos Aires. Drinks that were too strong, underwear that was too skimpy and streets that were too long. Real cowboys, dancing the tango, the colour of La Boca and visiting Evita’s grave.

Iguazu Falls were the widest, reddest and most naturally beautiful waterfalls I had ever seen. You can’t help but be impressed.

There are many more places I must return to see in South America. The the wildlife of Patagonia, the beaches of Brazil and the national parks of Chile. Manchu Picchu of course, the legendary Amazon and Angel Falls in Venuzuela. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Galápagos Islands in Equador and the Cartagena coast in Columbia.

Now, Mexico, I feel I know a bit more about. I have explored ruins in the jungle, on the desert plain and by the beach. I’ve swum in a cenote, eaten a cactus salad and swung on a swing in a bar.

I’ve seen lots of main plaza’s with cathedral, government palace and town hall. I’ve experienced the heat of the day, the cold of the buses and the feel of a freshly made tortilla. I’ve seen protestors, markets and a Luche Libre wresting show in one of the biggest cities in the world.

I’ve climbed forts, snorkelled next to 500 sunken statues and been amazed by how blue water can be. I’ve sampled the local mescal as well as traditional arts and crafts. I’ve learned what real guacamole and fish tacos taste like.

I want to go back to see the beaches of Jalisco, the waterfalls in Chiapas and the rock formations of the Marieta Islands. I would love to return to Oaxaca, the island of women and the ruins of Teotihuacán. I know I saw a lot, but there is always more to see.

And we never did make it to Guatemala, Belize or Costa Rica….

Related posts: Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011, Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005

Independence Day, 2011

My besties parents picked me up at Omaha airport in the middle of the night and drove me back to their hunting lodge in the Sandhills of Stuart, Nebraska. We arrived in the very early hours of the morning and all of the ‘young ones’ were sleeping off the week of pre Independence Day celebrations in the cabin away from the main house.

The next morning, my bestie and I headed into town to catch the 4th July parade while everyone else surfaced. There were floats, horses with buggies, fire trucks and cars- both old and new. The street was decorated with a huge blue star, welcome banners had been hung and all the locals on the main street were camped outside their white washed houses to watch the action as it unfolded.

Stuart is a small but lovely little place and I have never been anywhere quite like it. Apart from the church, the water tank is the tallest structure in town, and the streets are wide. Everyone seemed to know each other and all the children who had moved away came home for the annual celebrations. My bestie ran into a cousin Brad whose family owned the local bus service and was driving one in the parade; so we hitched a ride to the oval.

Here was where we were meeting my bestie’s sister Janeen with her boyfriend, their brother Chris with his girlfriend, and my bestie’s boyfriend Andrew. We played all the games you play as a kid like leapfrog, sack races and the egg and spoon race. I entered the three legged race with my bestie which was hilarious.

The boys ran the bathtub race along the main street with my bestie as the passenger in an actual bathtub on wheels. This was closely followed by the duck races as the fire truck flooded the main street for the purpose. This was the kids favourite part, and secretly mine too as I collected a bright blue duck for a souvenir to take home.

We went to my bestie’s uncle Don and aunt Gini’s place in town for dinner, along with a whole lot of other family. With my bestie’s dad being one of 4 and her mum being one of 6, there was plenty of aunt’s, uncles and cousins.

Cousin Heather arrived and we all went to the only tiny pub in town, the Central Bar. This I could relate to coming from a small town myself, although we now had two pubs in my hometown. We all got a ride in a borrowed trailer back to the oval for the stock car races and 4th July fireworks once night fell. It was fabulous small town fun at it’s best, and this outsider really enjoyed the view from the inside.

Related posts: It’s an American Thing, USA Road trip, 2007, USA, 1990

To Belong

There’s nothing quite like that sense of belonging. Being part of company, a team and an event tribe. Believing in the organisation’s mission and being connected to the people around you.

When you believe in a company and what they stand for, it’s so much easier to understand the reasons decisions are made and put up with the stuff you don’t like about a job. You have a unified goal and a reason to keep going.

Being part of a team of people is the best too. Sure it’s about the company and the job, but at the end of the day it’s also about the people. I am sure we’ve all stayed too long in crappy jobs because the people were super nice. I mean you spend 8 hours a day with these people, so it’s a lot easier if you like them!

It’s the in jokes, the fact that someone cares if you don’t show up in the morning, the camaraderie and the shared enemies. It’s what draws people together and keeps the day-to-day activities interesting.

Working on an event with work colleagues have been some of my most enjoyable times as being part of a team. You all band together to solve on the ground problems and spend social evenings together in a more relaxed setting. It’s when you really bond with people, learn all their secrets and see a different side to their personality with the change of environment.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, you end up in a job you love, for a company you like with lifelong friends. I myself am yet to find the holy trinity, but it’s early days yet, considering that I am probably only halfway through my career.

For some, working for another company doesn’t work at all and they are much better off working for themselves. They don’t need that personal contact. Or do they? I think we all need to feel connected. Not all of the time perhaps, but sometimes.

Which is why suppliers are so great. They give you that sense of belonging and working towards a common goal without having to be in your face with their annoying habits all the time. Also, they have to be nicer to you than co-workers.

For me, when I loose respect for the boss, wether it be my immediate manager or the CEO, that’s the begging of the end. Everything flows from the top and the ripple effect causes me to fall back into old habits, begin to disengage from the company, stop caring about the people politics and start looking at Seek online.

And that’s when the true test of who people really are begins.

Related posts: Who are you?, Having it all?, Reinvention, New Beginnings, Pride vs The Fall, Dreams vs Reality