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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Fly


You never knew, but when I was little I would secretly watch you dance with my dad in the dining room. Old country records would crackle out over the speakers on a Sunday afternoon. Nestled somewhere in between finishing lunch and the afternoon doze in front of a black and white movie, you would move gracefully around the room. Arms tightly locked around each other, you would sway side to side in time with the music, never once opening your eyes. Every so often I would catch a quick glimpse of your face. Your soft smile told me that you were finally happy.
Unconditionally in love with the man who lost his wife, the children who had no mum, you stood by us with an open heart. Thirty years later, I can’t ever remember a time when you didn’t listen proudly to everything going on in my life and get excited for all the small triumphs. Always wanting nothing but the best for us, wishing us happiness every single day.
You held me when I had the measles and hugged me when I left home. Danced with me on our holidays and laughed until our bellies hurt. We swam and walked and played and talked. You became part of the furniture, a heart in our home.
You always said to me that everything happens for a reason. That, I know, is true. I don’t remember the first words I ever said to you, but the last were “I love you”. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
We have just two sunsets more before your body will be a part of the earth. If I could make just one more phone call, see you one last time, I would.
And maybe one day I will fly next to you. I will hug you and give you a big kiss. I will tell you how much I have missed you and how beautiful you look…but not yet my darling, not today.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Between stations


The gentle movement of the carriage rocks me closer to sleep. With a late afternoon sun burning brightly through the glass, I enjoy the feeling of warmth on my face. I wonder, briefly, if anyone will board the next time the train stops. We shudder to a halt, doors open, and I'm suddenly surrounded by walking and talking, sitting and rustling. The peace is shattered. 
A tall man with a limp plops himself down next to me and says hi. He has friendly blue eyes and a soft voice. Within seconds the only conversation we will probably ever have begins. 
As we accelerate he tells me about his recent knee operation. I am sympathetic to his pain. We talk about family, horse riding, holidays and work. He is frustrated at being unable to play football at the moment and regrets not having travelled more when he was younger. A sadness flashes across his face as he tells me that life is short. I nod, suddenly thinking about my bucket list. With a change of subject, he is once again smiling. His girlfriend is coming over tonight to cook him dinner. I laugh at the loveliness of it. He chuckles. 
And as the train begins to slow, I see the station up ahead. I slide my orange Moleskine and silver pen back into my bag and zip it up.
"This is me, I'm afraid", I say as I ready myself to leave. He looks up at me and our hands clasp in a shake.
"Have a nice life", he cheerfully says as I get up out of my seat. I smile and wish him health and happiness. In less than a minute I am standing on a platform, alone once again, bag in hand. 
And as the train pulls away, I make my way up towards the exit and out into the sun.
I can't help but think about these funny little moments we have. Life is all about connections - connections we have with friends and family, strangers and lovers. We share our lives and bear witness to each other's journey. But wherever we go, and whomever we meet on the way, the most important relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourself. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Slowly, but surely



My friend is old. Very old. He makes me chuckle. As we both enter the manicured garden, he sinks his head into his dark shell to acclimatise. Within a few seconds, my bare feet hit the cool grass and feel instantly refreshed. Gently placing him down, I watch as his little head pops out of hiding to stretch his neck out once more.
A beautiful day for a stroll.
I am mesmerised by him. The way he looks around and surveys his surroundings brings a smile to my face. He is at peace in his home. His home, in which he has lived for decades, is his familiar. His little legs move slowly forward, dragging his bulky shell along one step at a time. He ambles over to investigate this friendly giant, now sitting on the grass with him. Touching my leg with his head, he looks up at me. I know what he loves. I come bearing gifts. One by one, he munches on delicious strawberry tops and juicy dandelion heads. He is slow and elegant and lovely.
As he continues to feast, I watch and wonder about how fast everything seems to be spinning in the world. We text as we walk, work as we fly, and eat on the run. At times, it's easy to feel lost and overwhelmed by our gigantic juggling act. We all have hopes and dreams and places to be. But as much as we push forward and strive to achieve, sometimes we just need to stop for a moment and take stock. A little time to simply breathe and be. Comfortable in our own shell.
And once we slow down just enough to look around, we might just realise we are closer to our dreams than we thought.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Freckle



There is a freckle. It lives on the inside of my middle finger, right hand. It has been there for as long as I can remember and I don't even know the first time I became aware of it.
Despite being there for all to see, I'm pretty sure there's no one on this planet who knew about its existence. Even those who have been intimately close with me probably won't have noticed it at all.
But it's there.
It has been with me every step of the way. It was there the morning I jumped off the train and landed in London. There the first time I took off into the sky. There the day I fell in love and there the night my heart was broken. It has seen me across vast oceans and sprawling continents, through burning sun and pouring rain. It has listened to me laugh and cry and sing and scream. Felt grains of warm sand trickle over it and the petals of a red rose rest on it.
With over 7 billion people on this beautiful blue planet, it is easy to feel like just another one in the crowd. We meet so many people at different stages of our life, some become friends, some, lovers, and some just pass on through.
But wherever we go and whoever we meet on our journey, as long as we remember that there is no one else on this planet exactly like us, and love every freckle on our body, we will always be ok.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Living the dream



The first wall goes up easily. A wall turns into a room. A room turns into a house. Wallpaper up and a wooden floor down, the stylish furniture goes in. A bed, a sofa, a TV, a coffee machine. Sun shining, pink blossom trees get planted around the poolside without a single bead of sweat ever falling from my brow.
Then I move in.
I walk over to the wardrobe which sits next to the beautiful flowers and slip into smart casual. Nice.
Then my dog arrives. She loves her new home. After a quick look around she immediately begins to dig a hole in the freshly-mowed lawn. I am not bothered. I am too busy chatting to my new acquaintance. We become friends. Then with a single kiss, we become something else. He is perfect.
Without realising, I find myself lost in a moment of creating the perfect life. Only it's not a real life. Hitting the save button, I close the game down and take a sip of my coffee. And as I sit there enjoying a few minutes of peace, I can't help but think about all the things in life that I have yet to achieve. Hopes and dreams that live deep in my heart. I wonder what they will look like. Will they be how I imagined? Or something else entirely? And in amongst all the things I want, lies everything that I really need; the things that help me to grow, to laugh, to learn, to change. I suddenly get the feeling that I haven't even scratched the surface. Sometimes we think we know exactly what we need in life, the things that will bring us happiness. And sometimes we are right on the money. But occasionally we need to let go of everything we think we know in order to open ourselves up to new opportunities.
And maybe, just maybe, everything we need has been right under our nose the whole time.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Brace, brace



"Ladies and gentlemen, your attention - for your safety be aware of the following: A safety card is in your seat pocket showing the exit routes, oxygen masks, life jackets, and brace position that you must adopt if you hear 'brace, brace'.
There are two emergency exits at the rear, four in the middle and two at the front of the cabin".

As we pull away from the terminal and crawl towards the end of the runway, I look out of the window. The early morning sky is already a beautiful shade of blue. Soon I will be lifted from the earth, high above the clouds once more. My mind begins to wander up and out of the cabin to a place filled with an Orange Blossom breeze and a burning sun.

"Floor lighting will guide you to an exit. Be aware of your nearest exit. In an emergency leave all cabin baggage on-board".

With engines full throttle and seconds before the brakes are released, a thought occurs to me: in the event of an airborne crisis, we will be fully prepared with everything we need to know to help us get through it.
But what if the air supply doesn't fail, or we don't land on water. What if the emergency is invisible to everyone but ourselves? How do we brace for the agony of a heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, a job, a dream, or the countless other challenges that life throws at us on a daily basis? Where is the life jacket, oxygen mask and low level lighting then? Sometimes in life things pop up to throw us off track. We think we will never again be able to open our hearts, or dare to dream, or give in to hope. But with every knock-back comes a new beginning; an opportunity to learn a lesson and shine brighter than ever before.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Up on the fifth floor.



As the door clicks heavily behind me, a familiar and much loved sensation hits me head on. I'm surrounded once again by crisp white linen, fresh fluffy towels, toiletries, tea and a large TV. 
The last of the day's sun is shining brightly through the thick net curtains casting a ray of golden light across the hoovered carpet. I wheel my bag over to the far corner and push the handle down. It has already travelled 85 miles today and will soon be on the move again. This time tomorrow I will be 1,018 miles away from this hotel room. The bed looks too inviting. I do what I always do and sit on the end of it. I kick off my shoes and fall backwards, head hitting the cloud-like duvet. It feels like an embrace. Eyes closed, I take a deep breath and melt into my surroundings. Room 526. 5th floor. End of the corridor. 
And there I lie, breathing, thinking. I smile as the air conditioner clicks on and jumps to life. 
As I sink further into the bed, I hear a couple somewhere down the hallway laugh and unlock their door. A few seconds later the door shuts and, once again, all I have is the sound of a quiet hotel room to keep me company. Something glinting outside suddenly grabs my attention. Sleepily, I push my body up off the bed and make my way to the window. The imprint of my presence marked out on the crumpled duvet. 
It's the beginning of the end. The sun is giving one final burst of light illuminating everything in burnt orange and crimson. And so I lean against the window sill soaking up every last second of today. 
A memory of seeing the sunset this time last week flashes through my mind and leaves behind an empty feeling in my tummy that I just can't shake. The burning sky begins to fade.
And there I remain at the end of another day. Face bathed in golden light...breathing, watching, hopeful. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Loop



Higher and higher we climb. The thick chain clunking beneath the carriage lets me know that we're not quite at the top yet. Wind begins to swirl around and dance through my auburn hair. It feels so nice in spite of the adrenaline that is coursing through my veins. For a brief moment I wonder if we will ever stop climbing. My heart continues to beat out of my chest as the world suddenly turns silent. From up here I can see for miles. Over the treetops and rides below, people look like ants on the ground: funny, strange, busy. A beautiful deep blue sky frames everything.
And then, ever so slowly,
we
begin
to 

fall.
My grip on the side bars tighten and my knuckles change colour. Accelerating at warp speed, the world suddenly becomes a blur as I'm lost in the velocity. Head pushed back into my seat, we spiral and turn and rattle and shake. Faster and faster we go.
It is just before we hit the loop that I notice some people in front of me with their arms raised high above their heads. A scream of excitement rings out from them and with a deep breath, I too let go. My hands float high as wind rushes through my fingertips.
I realise in that moment that I am laughing. And on we travel, tipping and turning around every bend. I feel so light, free.
After one last exhilarating dip, we begin to decelerate and pull into the platform once again.
With the safety harness released and lifted up off my torso, I step out of the carriage and make my way down the wooden steps. My mind continues to race at a hundred miles an hour.
As I look over my shoulder at the place we've just been, high above the earth, I can't help but think about the times I've tried to hold on so tightly to things before. The fear of losing people I love is palpable.
But that's the thing about life. We grow, we change, we laugh, we cry. Things don't always go smoothly and we can't control everything. But as long as we keep our hands and hearts open, safety harness or not, we are always going to be ok. Everything that is truly meant to be, happens in its own time and place. And whether we hold on tightly to the bar or wave our arms up in the air, there will always be bright new beginnings waiting just around the next bend.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Unseen


The woman struggling with her dog, picking up poo, doesn't see the man in the car reading a map. Lost in the page, he doesn't see the joggers whizz by in their fluorescent Lycra. Eyes forward, they are blind to the teenager on the other side playing keep-up with the ball at the traffic lights.
The wind picks up, swirling a little light dust up into the Brazilian midday air. And it continues on.
The little girl, holding her mummy's hand across the road, is oblivious to the woman paying for the full tank of gas and a pack of mint chewing gum. She can't see the green parakeet land in a branch overhead, or the black cat running along a crumbling wall.
And none of them see me sitting in a grey car surrounded by traffic. Still. Invisible. Witnessing.
As I look around at the snapshot of the city, I begin to think about the billions of people all living under a single blue sky. Everything we can ever imagine is happening right at this very minute. People are loving and people are dying. People are laughing and people are trying. Moments of people's lives rush through my mind. Separate and connected.
A horn blasts up ahead and traffic begins to move once more.
The woman with her dog, the lost man, the footballer, the child, the chewing gum lady, parakeet and cat all disappear from sight, forever. The moment is over.
The city rushes by my window once more and I'm suddenly pulled into in a song that jumps out from the radio. As I begin to sing I can't help but wonder if someone is watching the man in the grey car, lost in the music, smiling and singing.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Rippling Stone



As we pulled up to the car park, a vision flashed through my mind. I saw him. In his chair being wheeled up the ramp inside, his beautiful auburn hair glistening in the sunlight.
I wondered what the memorial stone would look like.
After a warm welcome from one of the carers, she led us through the maze of rooms and out into the garden. Equipment adorned the playground and I imagined the little ones rolling and swinging and laughing.
And on we journeyed into the gardens. There was a stillness as we entered. The water that flowed down a gulley splashed gently into the rippling pond below. And that's when I noticed all the other stones, engraved with a name and birthday - the children somewhere else, always loved, never forgotten. As it was placed carefully into my hands, I felt its coolness, smooth and heavy in my palms. I wondered briefly if he was here with us standing next to the pond, watching, smiling.
A lump made its way up into my throat as I felt my eyes begin to well up. I watched the cradled stone enter the shallow water and find its way gently to the bottom. And there it would remain for years to come. Suddenly the light hit the water and reflected off the surface. I could see his engraved name shining through the reflection.
Then, in amongst the silence and quiet contemplation, I realised that letting go wasn't the same as losing. Sometimes in life we have to let go of people we love. But we never lose them. Their presence in our life makes us the person we are today and they will live forever in our hearts every step of the way...
In every sunset and every snowfall.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Changing flights



We stop walking and I plop the bags down at my feet. The goodbye. Surrounded by travellers and trolleys, the airport continues to buzz around us. It only feels like yesterday that I was walking out of this terminal into the warm evening air of São Paulo for the first time. Everything was new and exciting. Now it feels like home. I hate goodbyes the most. And so, with my wall up and a smile on my face, I give my friend a tight hug and thank her for a wonderful three months in her crazy city. Pushing back a tear I tell her I love her, that I will be back soon, and turn to walk through security. I don't look back.
38,000ft. high above the Atlantic Ocean once again, I watch the remaining rays of evening sun burn out over the wing and slowly disappear beneath the horizon. It's that moment when I know there is only a few seconds of light left before another day comes to a close. The other passengers are settled in for the night. Some are already covered in blankets, others shuffling pages of a magazine. But I am looking out across the sky. Constellations begin to come into focus through my frozen window, and once again I am lost in the night. High above the earth, invisible to everyone below.
Despite stories from loved ones, the city embraced me and kept me safe in her arms the entire time. And as the opening credits of a movie begin to fade in and out on the little screen in front of me, I can't help but wonder how this trip has changed me. Every journey in life takes us to a different place. Sometimes the changes are obvious, and others, so subtle that we can't quite put our finger on what is different within us. But whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. And once we embrace that, we become free of the past to live in the moment; free to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Santa in the sun



As I slip on my new favourite blue and white Havaianas, I grab my sunglasses and head out the door. It is another glorious day with not a cloud in the sky. An air-conditioned Metro train provides me with a brief, refreshing respite from the burning sun shining just above the surface. Back out onto the bustling street once more, a giant Santa Clause defiantly wears his warm woolly clothes and smiles through the heat. I see trees covered in baubles, penguins carrying presents and elaborate nativity scenes being played out, all in the Brazilian midday sun.
And that's when it hits me: I am 5,899 miles away from gloves and scarves, mince pies and mulled wine, ice-skates and log fires. A momentary pang of missing home wrings in my stomach and leaves behind a feeling that I just can't shake.
And then it suddenly occurs to me that a huge number of people in this wonderfully crazy city might not have ever seen snow before. I smile as I watch a snowball hurtling through my mind and go crashing into a happy snowman.
Shopping done, I trade in a mulled wine for a Caipirinha and sit watching the world go by. Our beautiful blue planet is home to over 7 billion people, all with different life experiences. But despite our differences, we all have the same beating hearts, hopes and fears.
And that's what makes us family.



As 2013 comes slowly to a close, I want to thank you for following my blog every week and being part of the journey. You add colour to my life and inspire me in ways you don’t know. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hope that 2014 brings you health and happiness!

With love!


Driving blind



And suddenly my ears pop; the sweet release of pressure.
Two and a half hours after leaving the city we begin to snake our way up through the mountain. I love to watch the world whizz by, getting lost in my thoughts. People and places wash in and out of my mind like a summer tide.
The weather is changing. Gone are the blue skies of earlier to be replaced by something else.
Carefully navigating a tight bend in the road, everything is suddenly smothered by a thickening white fog as horizon vanishes right in front of our very eyes. The car slows to a crawl as an eerie silence descends. I suddenly remember the foggy morning in East London that concealed Canary Wharf from view; a lost moment in time that now lives safely in my heart forever.
Higher and higher we drive, embraced tightly in the fog.
And my mind is racing. I can't help but wonder if, with all the challenges and choices in life, we don't all get lost in the fog sometimes. There are days when the sky is cloudless, blue, we know exactly where we are going. And then there are times when we just can't see the wood for the trees.
But sometimes a fog is there just to remind us that, as long as we stay true to ourselves and trust our intuition, we will eventually find our way through, once again breathing under a blue sky.
And just when I think that we are never going to get out of this, we turn a corner and discover a bright burning sun once more.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The people in the picture


The afternoon sun is scorching. With barely a cloud in the sky, the only respite from the searing heat comes from an odd gust of breeze that randomly circles around the square and disappears just as quickly. 
And there he stands; brush in hand, bold of stroke. Framed either side by a row of majestic palms, I stand mesmerised by his poetry. The colours are bright and the paint, thick. He seems oblivious to everyone who dances in and out of his periphery. The only thing that exists is the Catedral da Sé in front of him. It captured his imagination and is now being brought to life through the canvas. They have a connection that I will never have. He switches brushes. I watch as he coats the hair in yellow and continues on, adding more detail to his creation. Passers-by stop momentarily to watch. And then I suddenly notice the people in the painting, frozen in a moment. I wonder where the man in the red top is now. And the child in the buggy. And the woman in yellow. Did she make her way up the stone steps into the cathedral, or did she disappear down into the Metro and is now standing on a crowded train homeward-bound? 
As I eventually say goodbye to the man and his canvas, a thought occurs to me: we encounter so many people on the journey through life, our paths cross for only a second. Sometimes we share words, sometimes just a glance. But regardless of whether people live inside a painting or in our heart, everyone has a story to tell, and underneath it all, we are family.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Spectacles spectacular



"Can I help you find somewhere?” the voice behind us speaks in a soft Portuguese accent. We must look a little lost in this new city - this city that I'm starting to fall in love with. I turn around to see a beautiful woman with a warm smile standing there. Our guardian angel chuckles to hear that we are looking for the 'Museu dos Óculos'. She puts us back on track and waves us on our way.
Eventually, we find ourselves walking in through the door of a stunning white and blue house lifted straight out of 1900's Italy which has since been converted into an opticians. After a few words with the receptionist I am relieved to discover that the museum lies just up some wooden stairs.
We are soon greeted in Portuguese by Ivani, a middle-aged woman with reddish curly hair. She has a warm face and an infectious laugh.
And so she walks and talks. We journey through the ages past silver monocles and ivory fans, across the 60's, 70's, 80's, and up to the designer sunglasses found in Vogue Magazine today.
There is something very lovely about this woman; we instantly have a connection.
After our personal tour I find out that she has been curating the free museum for over 17 years now with the love of her life. She gave up being the journalist for the Mayor of São Paulo and this was her personal collection.
We thank her for the tour as she gives us a tight hug. Suddenly she tips her head and says "coffee?"
Over steaming espressos we talk about travel, fate, and my love of Brazilian telenovelas. It was a perfect afternoon. We laughed a lot.
Then with one last hug we say goodbye to our new friend. She wishes us happiness on our journey and I'm suddenly touched by her kindness.
Walking out into the blazing afternoon sun once more, I can't help but smile.
It's strange where life can take us sometimes. The places we go and the people we meet along the way change us forever. And that afternoon, it only took 700 pairs of glasses to see that these little random moments are what makes this big crazy world so utterly beautiful.