Books, books and more books

I always loved reading as a child. My dad used to read the Lord of the Rings to me as a bedtime story.

When I started reading myself I loved Enid Blyton and May Gibbs and spent all my pocket money on book club. I think reading was a kind of escape for me and it was definitely a good way to pass a long plane trip.

In my teenage years I loved Dolly fiction and Sweet Valley High. I related most to the straight laced Elizabeth who wanted to be a journalist and always wondered what happened to her. What happens to all these vivid characters that were such a part of my growing up when the novels end? I found out three years ago when the novel Sweet Valley Confidential- ten years later- came out!

I stopped reading for pleasure during university when reading became homework.

Then I picked up an Anne Rice novel in an airport and have had a great love of vampire novels ever since- long before they were cool and the Twilight and Blue Bloods series came out.

I also enjoy a good travel memoir such as “Oh Mexico” by Lucy Neville, particularly if I have been to the place they are writing about.

But I mostly read chick lit set in big cities or with a bit of travel thrown in- stories about women and relationships that I can relate to and enjoy as light entertainment.

My favorite recommended authors are:

  • Candace Bushnell- author of Sex and the City
  • Lauren Weisberger- author of the Devil Wears Prada
  • Sophie Kinsella- author of Confessions of a Shopaholic
  • Lindsey Kelk- love her novels based in different cities from London to Las Vegas and her new series about a woman reinventing herself  is also interesting
  • Melanie La’Brooy– Australian author writing about finding love and babies in Sydney and Melbourne respectively
  • Anita Heiss– Australian author writing about strong female characters living in Sydney and Brisbane

I hope I have inspired you to pick up a new read and enjoy!

Related posts: Travel rememberings, Relationships: My five (per) cents worth

England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Flying from Bombay, my parents and I landed in London, England. The main purpose of this part of the trip was to visit English friends and family and Sri Lankan relatives.

In London we went to Highgate cemetery with the impressive grave of Karl Marx; the Natural History Museum with its life-size dinosaurs and colourful butterfly exhibit; Kew Gardens to see the squirrels and make daisy chains and Madame Tussauds wax museum to see Ghandi and the Queen.

We drove three hours south to Weymouth, Dorset to visit my grandparents and my Canadian cousins who were also visiting at the same time. There were road trips to Sherbourne and Godmanstone with its white chalky hills and what was then the smallest pub in England- the Smith’s Arms. We went to Oxford, Bourton-on-the-water and Windsor Castle to see the queen’s dolls collection. We visited Gloucestershire, Swindon and Bibury where a relative had lived on Arlington Row. I remember seeing Stonehenge when you could still walk right up to it and touch the stones.

On the way back to Australia we went to Singapore. We stayed in the train station which was very humid and muggy as they had no air conditioning. I loved the Merlion statues and the variety of food that you could get in Chinatown.

We travelled to Penang in Malaysia which was full of temples and monkeys and went riding in rickshaws in Kota Bahru. We stayed in a hut on the beach in Merang, passed through Kuantanand caught the ferry from Mersing to Tekek village on Tioman island.

Tioman was largely undiscovered at the time. You could only get there by boat and we stayed in a Apex hut. There was a pet monkey tied to two trees outside our hut and I spent many hours playing with him on the hammock hung between the trees. The owner wanted me to take the monkey back with me to Australia, so we had to explain about our strict quarantine laws.

I went snorkelling and got spiked in the foot by a giant sea urchin. We walked to a waterfall in the middle of the island and over to Juaru on the other side where there was a long wharf. Dad and I jumped off the end and swam all the way back. I took a picture of the first beautiful sunset I remember with a sailing boat in the foreground.

A few years after we visited Tioman they built a huge resort in the middle of the island and an airport.

Related posts: I first started travelling, Home is where you make it, Travel rememberings, Friendship: Great Expectations?

All Creatures Great and Small

I have always been a great lover of animals. From an early age I remember watching nature shows with my dad and can still tell the difference between an albatross and a seagull thanks to David Attenborough.

In primary school I completed elaborate and illustrated projects on animals that were four times as long as they needed to be just because I was so interested in the topic.

I begged for a dog as a child, but my parents liked a nice garden with birds so all I could have was a guinea pig, a budgerigar or a pet rock.

I choose to have a budgie called Kiki who flew away soon after when my mother made me clean the cage outside.

Then there was Skye who was my favourite and actually lasted a long time until we left him when we went to Sydney one weekend and he was found dead upon our return.

Next there was Benji who actually turned out to be a girl and was very cuddly as a consequence. She looked hot one day so we watered her down using the sprinkler but accidentally left it on her all day and she caught a cold and died.

The last one, Kokopetal, almost lost his head during an argument with my dad. When I ran into my room my dad said not to slam my door so of course I did and my budgie was on top of the door and the door caught his neck. He survived for a week longer but his neck was so damaged that he could not eat. So that was the end of my pet ownership.

I have always loved dolphins and have seen pods of them many times from boats. I also had a Sea World experience on the Gold Coast where I got to swim, touch and play with a dolphin and it was great. This year I finally got to swim with wild dolphins in Hawaii which was fantastic.

Having a love of dogs, I have always loved wolves and huskies. A few years ago I had the opportunity to play and run with the Malusky husky dog sled team in the Hunter Valley. They are beautiful hard working dogs and I would really love to see them in the snow on the Iditarod trail in the USA.

Working with Labradors and retrievers at Guide Dogs has cured me a little of my rose coloured glasses around dog ownership. Don’t get me wrong, I still think they are cute, loyal and the most lovely bundles of unconditional love. But they can also be stubborn, demanding, constantly test your boundaries and limit travel possibilities.

Related posts: I first started writing, Travel rememberings

India, 1987-1988, Part 2: The Journey North

In Trivandrum, Kerala, we went to a circus which had many live animals. At the entry to the circus was a medical fair that had jars with pickled foetuses from start to finish and cardboard cut-out enactments of rape scenes. There was an adult corpse next to a helpful doctor who was lifting the rib cage with a ruler to show us where the organs went.

In Kovalum, multi coloured Kathakali dancers put on a cultural show. They had large red skirts and green and blue faces.

We took a boat tour of the backwaters of Ernakulum, Cochin filled with Chinese fishing nets. There was an island where they turned coconut husks into straw to be used to make bright green and red mats.

On the train north people were hanging off the sides of trains because there was no room inside.

Goa was all about beaches and fish. There was Anjuna, Calangute, Vagator, Colva and Benalum beaches- long curved beaches with coconut palms bending toward the sea. I wore a wide brimmed hat that could be conveniently folded into a small circle. A man pulled wax and rocks out of Dad’s ears for a fee.

Having spent the most part of the holiday taking malaria tablets with chlorine tablet laced water and being vegetarians as cows are sacred and can’t be killed; it was great to have salty air and fresh tasty seafood.  There was also an ice cream van that used filtered water – we went every day.

The guesthouse we stayed in at Benalum village was owned by a lovely couple who spoke good English and treated us like family. My parents were still in touch with them for years after the trip.  We visited Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa and Santha Durga Temple. We shopped at Margoa market and saw a bear dancing- a sun bear that the owner has tethered to a stick with string through his nose.

We met a Mormon family from America which consisted of 10 children from the ages of 17 down to baby. The 16 year old twin boys were my favourite and a girl that was closest to me age. We rode hired bicycles and played lots of cards- I learnt how to shuffle cards cleverly.

There was a field trip to Cape Rama Fort that we explored thoroughly and to Anjuna market to buy cheap jewellery and handicrafts. Beggars were the most prolific here and dad told me not to give them money because we didn’t have enough for everyone.

Finally we visited the gateway to India in Bombay. We stayed in a hotel where the beds had no mattresses and there were cockroaches and people everywhere.

When we arrived home, my dad discovered that he had put the same film back in the camera twice thinking it was blank. We ended up with double exposed photos of elephants juxtaposed on top of temples; and us with the Mormon family at Anjuna market seemingly walking into a crocodile farm. Though a mistake, these photos were some of our favourites and illustrated India perfectly.

Published as part of A Memorable Journey on Story2Share.

Related posts: India, 1987-1988, Part 1: The Road South

Relationships: My five (per)cents worth

My first crush was a boy in a lot of my classes at school. I carved our initials in the tree outside of my house.

I met my high school boyfriend when I was 17 at my debutante ball after party. We had our first kiss on the beach.

The first time fell in love he was ten years older than me, we only dated for three months and it hurt like hell when he dumped me. He said that I was too young and needed to live my life, which I of course thought was ridiculous at the time, but now I realise he was right.

Some time afterwards, I met my own “Mr Big.” It was hard for a country girl like me to make friends in the city. If you didn’t go to the right private school people did not want to know you. But this guy was cool and he knew all the right people in all the fun places. If you ask him, we were never actually dating, which we did very well for about three years.

During the periods when I was single I dated a lot of different guys. I never had a list and would give anyone a chance. I had pretty much given up on relationships entirely when I met my husband to be. After ten years of dating in Sydney which is 70% gay and 25% selfish arrogant boys, I was over it, happy to stay single and seriously considering becoming a lesbian. Until I remembered that women can be super annoying too. And isn’t that always the point when you meet a man who belongs to that elusive 5%?

What I have learnt about relationships:

  • Relationships are all about compromise. If you don’t want to do this, then don’t be in one
  • There is no right one for everyone, but many different people that could be the right one and a hell of a lot of good timing for both parties involved
  • I don’t buy the whole if it’s meant to be it will happen one day or if you love someone set them free and they will come back to you. If you want to be with someone you make it happen
  • Nobody really knows what goes on between two people in a relationship, except those two people in that relationship
  • If I was single now I think I would give internet dating a go. It beats meeting people in noisy bars and if everyone is honest with their profile and what they are looking for I think it is a good way to make a start.

Related posts: Books, books and more books, TV replays and Movie Marathons

India, 1987-1988, Part 1: The Road South

In 1987, when I was nine years old, my parents and I spent three months in India travelling from Madras to Bombay. I am happy to have been so young when we went as I experienced no culture shock and had no real concept of poverty.  It remains one of the most different places I have ever been to and one that I remember quite vividly.

Madras in Tamil Nadu was filled with Hindu temples. One beach temple in Mahabilipurum had elephants that were walked inside.  I purchased a statue of Ganesh the elephant god for my Tamil uncle back home and a necklace of intricate pieces all carved out of one piece of ivory.

In Madurai I loved all the brightly coloured temples and the many different and interesting gods like Shiva with the many arms, Hanuman the monkey god and Vishnu.  Shankar, a rickshaw driver whom we had met the first day, was waiting for us each morning to ferry us from temple to temple.

We met a couple from England who were travelling after meeting on the internet before internet dating was really heard of. The woman was pregnant so she had to make sure that she drank fruit lassi’s (milkshakes) not the bang lassi’s that were laced with marijuana.

I remember a very long and bouncy overnight bus trip. Dad and I slept on the back seat which was like trying to sleep on a trampoline. There were no toilets on the bus and there were few rest stops, so the men peed out the windows and the women had to wait. When we did stop, the toilet was a plank over a pit. There were Bollywood posters on the side of the road and mum bought me a hand painted circular fan to keep us cool.

Christmas and New Year’s was spent in Kodaikanal. Being in the mountains, it was a cool break from the heat of India. Unfortunately, the president had died two days before Christmas so there was a four day official mourning period when everything was closed over Christmas. Fortunately we had already made friends with a local café owner, Israel, who opened to serve us porridge for breakfast. We had to shut the wooden window shutters and be quiet in case a passing mob heard us and stoned the café with us inside.

Israel took us to an excellent view point near his house on Christmas day which was mostly shrouded in mist. There were many walks around the lake and to a waterfall. One day we saw a rabid dog that had his insides on the outside after mating with another dog. India was the one place I was not allowed to pet the animals.

On the road south in Nagercoil there was a completely white temple that only allowed men to enter.

We arrived at Cape Comorin– the southernmost point of India. Here we saw the sun set and the moon rise at the same time. The sight was as unbelievable as the amount of people and faeces that covered the area.

Published as part of A Memorable Journey on Story2Share.

Friendship: Great Expectations?

In high school, my female best friend and my male best friend became friends and I could not handle it. I cut both of them out of my life. Not one to ever be jealous in relationships, I had discovered that I was an amazingly jealous person in friendships. I did not have a best friend again until ten years later, well into my working life.

In my twenties it was easy to make friends. Everyone was single, had enough energy to go out all the time and with no high responsibility jobs, mortgages or children it left more time for socialising. But as I left my twenties I realised that a lot of these people were merely acquaintances that I saw out or at parties.

As I moved through jobs, I was often surprised at who ended up staying in touch once I left a place of employment. That’s life, it wasn’t meant to be and you can’t stick around in the dead end jobs just because of the great work friends you have there. Sometimes you were only friends with people because you worked with them and then once that reason is gone, the friendship is also gone.

Having friends all over the world in the UK, Canada and Asia; I find that wherever you are you miss people. My best friend is currently lives in Baku, Azerbaijan but that does not mean that she is not my best friend. And one of the women I most relate to is in Canada with two kids to keep her busy so I don’t know when I will chat to her again; but that doesn’t mean that I don’t value her friendship.

In my opinion, friendship can only be enjoyed if it is two way. Otherwise what’s the point? This is a lesson I learnt early on in life. If you really want to see someone, you make the effort and you make it happen.

Or maybe it’s about expectations? Maybe my own expectations of friendship are too high? Or maybe my expectations of friendship change as I change as a person? Maybe being different to your friends actually equals longevity of friendship? I have learnt that by letting go of some friendships, I have made room in my life for new friends which have opened me up to new experiences and challenges.

I have been lucky to meet some great people along my journey through life, learn the value of quality over quantity and hopefully ended up with friendships that last a lifetime.

Related posts: Home is where you make it, Travel rememberings

Travel rememberings

My parents had been married and travelling for 10 years before they had me. They travelled to Afghanistan before there was a Lonely Planet guide for the country, went to the Black Forest in Germany when the Berlin Wall was still up and got my mother’s engagement ring in Turkey. Or was it that I was conceived in Turkey? Or maybe that was the second time they went back?

Either way, they travelled A LOT. So much so that even they have trouble remembering where they have been in what year, let alone wether I was there or not. This was also before the time of digital cameras with locality devices recording every time, date, place and memory.

Therefore, it can be hard to piece together where I have travelled before my own memory kicks in, but I will endeavour to give it a go. A lot of the stories are snippets of memories that have been retold to me over the years or photo’s that have been unearthed and referenced.

When I was three weeks old, my parents left me with my grandparents in England and travelled to Corsica. Apparently it was a pre-arranged trip- not child abandonment as it would be labelled today. Perhaps due to this trip, or maybe because of it, I was henceforth deemed old enough and dragged on every trip that came after.

There were trips to England where my father lived, Australia where my mother lived, Canada where my uncle lived and Sri Lanka where a lot of mum’s family lived. It was a time when maybe they were trying to decide where to live or maybe they were making the most of the flexibility they had until I started primary school at age five.

My parents remember me riding a red scooter down the driveway at my grandparents’ house in Weymouth.

My mum remembers that all I ate on the European combi van tour when I was six months old was Boots powdered baby food.

We went to Yugoslavia before it was renamed.

There are pictures of me holding natural cotton flowers on a hill in Scotland.

My dad remembers going on the Matterhorn roller coaster with me as a toddler in Disneyland.

There is a picture of me sitting on Chacmool at Chichen Itza with a nappy on.

There is a photo of me as a baby with my face full of chocolate in high chair in Maui.

The two places that I am sure we never went to are China and Japan as they have never held any interest for my parents.

Calling any friends or family who can fill in the blanks to please comment below!

Related posts: I first started travelling, Top 5 Wildlife to Spot in California, Home is where you make it

Home is where you make it

I grew up in a small town called Berry on the south east coast of NSW. It is not as small now, but at the time the population was 550. Berry, town of trees, two hours drive from Sydney, was so small that no one had ever heard of it. Two blocks, two pubs, a Chinese takeaway and the donut van. Now everyone knows where it is, it is full of coffee shops, gift shops and a couple of fancy restaurants. The Chinese takeaway disappeared with MSG.

It was mostly Anglo Australians, so being from a multicultural background was enough that I  never really fitted in at primary school and through most of high school.

I do appreciate that I did have the kind of childhood that you can only have in a small town- climbing trees, riding bikes, knocking around town by myself and later not having access to drugs, but having drunken bonfire parties instead. We travelled a lot to Sydney to visit relatives and friends of my parents whose kids were deep into the rave scene and sleeping around at the time.

By the time I was at the end of my high school years all I wanted to do was to get out. After my grand tour of Europe, I attempted to live at home in Berry for all of two months before I moved to Sydney to live with my cousins and I have never looked back.

I have lived in eight different suburbs with cousins, friends, boyfriends and my husband. I have been moved 12 times by cousins, my dad and moving companies. I have now been in this city for 16 years and still enjoy it. The harbour, ballet at the Opera House, the Botanical Gardens and fancy degustration menus. I love traveling to other cities, but there’s still nothing quite like flying over Sydney Harbour on the return flight and knowing that you are coming home to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

I always find it hard to relate to those that have never moved away from a small town and ask me how I can live in such a big city. Big compared to what? London or New York? I don’t think so. In fact I would actually love to make another city my home for a time and having that handy European passport perhaps it will one day happen.

Related posts: I first started travelling

Top 5 Wildlife to Spot in California

December 2007

1. Joshua Tree National Park

We have been driving through the park for an hour- a detour on the way to Las Vegas. I am on a mission to find the Cholla Cactus Garden, after my fill of knarled Joshua trees. It’s getting towards sunset- we may be running out of petrol soon. As we round a corner I spot something moving. “It’s a coyote!” I say. “No it’s not,” says Steve. But it is.

 

2. San Simeon

On a foggy day, we are headed for Hearst Castle. Randolph Hearst was a great lover of animals, just like me, and he once had a zoo there. I look out the passenger window and can’t believe my eyes. How can that be? Am I in Africa? Those black and white stripes cannot be mistaken. “It’s a zebra!” I say. “No it’s not,” says Steve. “YES it is,” I say.

 

3. Big Sur

On our way up Big Sur, the weather is quite bad. Steve wants to stop for a driving break, so we pull off the road. I stay in the car. Five minutes later, there is a knock on the window. “You have to come and see this,” says Steve. Below are an entire family of Elephant Seals on the beach- fighting, playing and dragging themselves around the sand.

 

4. Monterey

We stopped in Monterey for the night at a hotel on the edge of town. The hotel proprietor is a lover of animals, like myself, and promises that a trip to the harbour is a must so we head out along the wharf. “There’s one there!” I say. “No it’s not,” says Steve “YES it is,” I say. Seeing otters in the wild was a high light of this road trip for me.

 

5. San Francisco

We arrive at our final destination on the road trip. My favourite Californian city- San Francisco. We enter Golden Gate Park and head through the park on another one of my missions. The Bison Paddock is water logged but they are all there at the feeding pen. Real American Bison. Not roaming the plains like they once did, but there all the same.

Related posts: I first started writing