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Oiling Dad’s furniture: my precious annual ritual

April 24th is Dad’s birthday. He would have been 84, if he hadn’t died suddenly 10 years ago. As devastating as the loss was, dragging me into a depression for 12 months, it helped me find deep resilience, and gratitude for my unwaveringly loyal friends and family. Each year, we all eat Indian for dinner, Dad’s favourite cuisine, wherever we are in the world. And I have my own personal ritual too, as I try to keep the day clear of work or other commitments: I shut the front door, turn my phone off, allow myself to cry as often and as much as I like, while cleaning and oiling Dad’s antique French furniture. He wasn’t religious, (despite an interest in the Baha’i faith, mainly because it emphasised the “essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people” [Wikipedia]), so I can’t go connect with him in church. He has no gravestone or memorial plaque, as we scattered his ashes all over the globe, as befitted a world traveller and citizen such …

Literally ‘getting back on the horse’

I was one of those youngsters who loved horses, were you? Pretty privileged I know. I got obsessed at about 11 or 12, and luckily for me, Mum and Dad decided to assuage their parental divorce guilt by buying me a cheap old fat stubborn Exmoor pony called Christie. I had to babysit every weekend, and cycle a paper route before school to help pay for the feed and paddock costs; those animals can sure eat a lot of hay. After a couple of years trying out Pony Club, going hunting, and galloping over farmers’ fields without permission, I progressed to a Palomino called Holly, who was handsome, but with a crap personality. We tried cross country jumping, basic dressage/showing, plus lots of trail rides, and I fell off dramatically twice, getting concussion and then a fractured jaw. My Dad was not impressed. Still, Holly had the desired effect of keeping me away from boys… until I got to 17, passed my driving test, and suddenly discovered the freedom of nightclubs and dancing till 3am. Who …

Leaving flowers on an altar for peace after the New Zealand shootings

For New Zealand: “If you hate one person, you hate the world. If you love one person, you love the world.”

So spoke my Buddhist Dharma teacher last Sunday, as we 32 women sat in a circle, meditating for the day. We were grieving the shootings in New Zealand, the hopeful joy of the climate change striking schoolchildren, and the intimate loss of one of our women, who had just died from breast cancer, leaving behind two children and her husband. The teachings of the Dharma encourage us to take Wise Action, use Wise Speech, and choose a Wise Livelihood. Much has been made of the photo of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mourning after the shootings, and rightly so. It’s easy to see: she’s in her sad heart, feeling and expressing both empathy & sympathy for the Muslim community, and the larger New Zealand population and culture. Her wise speeches and actions are inspiring people all around the world. Why is this such an unusual phenomenon? World leaders NEED to be empathetic, generous, kind, and most importantly, compassionate. We all do. The Dharma Circle involves meditation, sharing a brief check-in of where we’re at, listening …

I stole this from Mum’s hallway last time I was there. And I’m glad I did.

I’ve got to start by noting how cute I was when I was two, I’m sorry. I can’t possibly avoid it. I’ve no recollection of where I am, or who took the photo, although I can safely assume it was Dad. And perhaps I’m wearing Mum’s hat? I’m guessing I was about 2 and a half, and to this day I still like to sport a good cap. I’d never seen this picture before summer 2018, when I spotted it at Mum’s house in England on my last visit. She must have dug it out of somewhere, during her constant, chaotic, unnecessary ‘organising and sorting’. It was propped on the little table in the narrow hallway, next to those ceramic hedgehogs I made as a surly teenager at my part-time summer job; it made us both smile when I picked it up and commented on it. After those 3 weeks down in Devon, doing my best to take care of Mum’s needs, filling her full of good healthy food/going to the dentist/doctor/hairdresser/theatre etc etc, the …

Why I sailed my choir into the therapist’s office

It had been nearly 6 months since I’d seen her, my ‘therapist’. I actually regard her as more of a ‘wise Aunty’, even though she’s younger than me. Living in Australia, far from older relatives as I am, and with Mum safely tucked up in her Residential Home for people with Dementia, sometimes I simply need to check in with someone objective, smart, and kind, who has my wellbeing paramount. Yes, #firstworldproblems I know. But I’m doing my best to live gently on the earth, and make conscious choices about my daily behaviour as much as I can; sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed, and need a soothing conversation to re-centre me. I’ve suffered twice in the past from episodes of depression (one was post-natal, and the other when my father died suddenly), so I know I need to manage a slight tendency towards anxiety learnt long ago at the feet of my mother. And this time, as I stepped into the light-filled office, with wooden bookshelves and curling leafy plants in every corner, I …

Australia Day. Invasion Day. Change the date: Reconciliation Day?

  Today it’s a Public Holiday, and over 30 degrees C (more than 86 degrees F). It’s too hot for me, but many folks will head to the beach, while 4 days ago in Adelaide, my friends survived 47 degrees (more than 116 F!) How do Australians deal with this heat? Lounge in backyard pools, run their aircons day and night, plus drink beer of course. Everything slows down, while the popular phrase “she’ll be right mate” is applied to the cancelling of as much activity as possible. Such is the Australian way. Yesterday was a significant day for our country, with free breakfasts and protests offered in equal amounts. For Jan 26 is officially Australia Day, when supposedly we come together as a nation to celebrate our British heritage, and the ‘discovery’ of this land. Except, sadly and terribly, it was never ‘unoccupied’ in the first place, and therefore not available to be ‘claimed’. On April 29, 1770, Captain James Cook first set foot in New South Wales at Botany Bay (now part of Sydney). …

Nepal 2: From one jeep to another, via 3 Buddhas

Did you miss previous post Nepal 1? Anyway, 2 Mums, 2 sons, 4 backpacks, 8 boots and 8 walking poles got into a jeep, leaving smoggy Kathmandu, intent on fresh hilly adventures. For a whole 15 minutes. Until there was a loud noise from under the car, and the clutch stopped clutching. So we all got out, and were sent up the road to a conveniently-placed shiny Buddhist temple, with 3 huge Buddhas. “If they can’t fix the jeep within 45 minutes, we get another jeep,” promised our guide. Fair enough. ‘Go with the flow’ is an essential mantra for travel in a developing country, and I’m happy to say I’m generally pretty good at it. Plus how could we not be grateful and inspired by these spiritual creations? There were no tourist faces around either, just locals doing their daily prayer practices. I wouldn’t have described myself as particularly religious, but I was moved to tears at the sight of young and old family members walking clockwise round the figures, whispering affirmations or blessings. Then …

Saying yes to a surprising adventure with my teenage son after final exams

By the time you’re reading this, we’ll be at the airport. By ‘we’, I mean teenage son and I; he towering above me, and thus carrying 2 extra kilos for me in his backpack. Where are we going you wonder? Well I can’t quite believe my surf-addicted ’18’ has agreed to this, but he did, so we’re off to trek in Nepal! Remember the stressful exams and dessert-eating he’s we’ve just been through? All the weeks days hours of study he we sat through to get this burden of his our school life finished  forever? Somehow we clawed our way across the challenge, and now a new chapter awaits. But first, a little thing called ‘Schoolies’ here in Australia has to happen. We live near the Gold Coast/Surfer’s Paradise, where approximately 22,000 teenagers descend for a week of festivities and alcohol-fuelled celebrations, renting out every hotel, motel, Airbnb, and dodgy villa they can find, determined to party relentlessly along the 3-kilometre beach strip. *Shudders Some parents send their young adults to Bali, or Thailand as …

Teenage Tuesday: ‘Exam revision eating’

Me: Honey, I’m going to cook all your favourite foods for these 2 last weeks of your exams OK? Any requests? 18: Great Mum, thanks! Veggie lasagna… nachos… tofu laksa… oh and your apple & rhubarb crumble for dessert, such a treat. Me: You got it babe. I’ll do anything if it helps you actually do some study. [Spends almost 2 weeks cooking (including exponentially improving fruit crumbles/washes up/wipes up/empties bins/feeds cat/does all remaining chores silently so as not to stress out revising son & various visiting ‘study mates’] Me (leaving for work): Can you save me some of today’s crumble please, it’s my best one yet? Me (returning from work a mere 3 hours later):

I met one of my un-lived lives at a party last night

She was tall, nearly 6 foot, and her long strong legs ended in tartan Doc Marten boots. Her outfit was various shades and textures of black: cotton cut-off shorts, ripped lace tights, fishnet top over a lycra bikini halter neck, and finished with a belt made from an old horse bridle, including the rusty snaffle bit. Her hair was shaved at the sides, but long and part-dreaded down her back; the delicate sequinned handbag was the perfect match to multiple silver earrings and nose hoop. A friend told me her name was Lizzie, and that she played keyboards in a local punk band. *sigh That could have been me. All right, 25 years ago, yes, but still- I could have lived that life. Just a slightly shorter-statued version perhaps. I was mesmerised, watching her stomp round the art opening in those big boots; suddenly my own 60’s outfit with 70’s leather boots seemed tame. I wanted to be in a band, sneering at normal dress conventions. I had complete ‘punk lifestyle envy’, and felt the …