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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.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A perfect drama



Beautiful men and glamorous women drink out of champagne flutes and talk in a language that I don't understand. I watch as words float poetically out of their perfect mouths and I'm caught up in the elegance.
Someone says something...and suddenly everything stops. The room falls silent as mouths fall open. Something is seriously wrong! What is going on? My brain can't make sense of the situation. After a minute or so of stunned silence, the screaming begins. The guests lash out at one other and start to claw viciously at expensive clothes. I need to know what's going on.
After some much needed translation, it turns out that the party was the pre-wedding dinner for the daughter who was about to marry her father but didn't know, then she finds out that he was not actually her real father anyway.
Alongside this, it was revealed that the man with perfect eyebrows had watched his sister deliver a baby in a bar toilet and had taken the baby off her to give to someone else to adopt. Well, now it turns out that he actually put the baby in a dumpster and left it there...well, that would account for the hysterics. My jaw is on the floor!
The mother of the man with the perfect eyebrows disowns her son and he is pushed forcefully down the stairs into the broken glass...
And then the credits roll against a backdrop of dramatic music.
I might just have witnessed the best telenovela in history, ever!
Laughing loudly against the theme tune, I realise something: no matter how difficult and challenging life can be sometimes, compared to what I've just witnessed, I'm living a doce vida.
And it's blissfully simple!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Early hours of a new day



As cool rain beats down outside my window and splashes onto the 
empty pavement below, I open my eyes. It is still dark. Reaching out towards the wooden bedside table, I find my phone and gently press the home button. The screen jumps to life with a brightness that stings, and I watch as time flips from 00:59 to 01:00. The phone dims, and once again I am in darkness with just the sound of the downpour to keep me company. There is something deeply comforting about the noise filling the sleepy room. 
A memory of sitting in my dad's brick conservatory listening to the rain beat down onto the roof comes and goes, leaving me with a longing to see him.
I notice a small beam of street light spilling in through the shutters and have a sudden urge to see the city in the rain. And so I step sleepily out of bed and walk over to the window. As soon as I pop my head out into the night air my senses are awakened as Brazilian rain finds its way onto my face; it feels cool and fresh and lovely. 
I glance out over the sleeping houses and glistening trees, I think about the past few months and the thousands of miles I've travelled, physically and emotionally...
And as my eyes begin to feel heavy once more, I can't help but wonder what else there is out there to experience...





Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sun and Samba

I'm up on the 11th floor looking down. The buzz of the city wafts up on currents of warm Brazilian air and carries with it bouncing Samba beats from musicians at a private party somewhere down below.
Today I spotted my first wild Parakeet. Flapping gracefully past the lush foliage, its beautiful bright green wings seemed to glint in the early evening sun.
And today I had my first Caipirinha. The lime infused cocktail that made my taste buds explode and awakened my senses, left me with just the right amount of afternoon sleepiness as we stepped out of the bar and into the sun.
The streets of London seem a million miles away now. I crossed over the Western Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean just to be here. And now that I am, the world suddenly seems a few degrees brighter than it did just a few short days ago.
The sun that I love so much beats gently down onto my body as it gratefully laps up every last ray. A sudden wave of happiness rushes over me as I realise that I'm right where I'm meant to be.
They say that home is where the heart is, and as I think about all the people in my life that I love so very dearly, I realise that no matter where I go, and whatever I do, I will always carry them around with me in my heart, never leaving, nested inside my travelling home.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Boxed up


In just over two weeks I will be up in the air again. Flying high above the Atlantic Ocean. A stranger will be sleeping in my bed. She will have no idea of the dreams that came to me in the small hours.
I will no longer be seen sitting outside on a Saturday morning, steaming coffee in hand, writing, and watching the Geese fly by. No more leaning-over-the-railings chats with my friendly neighbours. I will never get to see the opening of the giant school that popped up and suddenly blocked my view of Canary Wharf. Memories of walking home in the dark from the Closing Ceremony that beautiful summer will never leave me - A spectacle that burnt it's way into my heart forever.
I watched the communal lawn being cut short, only to be covered in a blanket of crisp white snow a few weeks later.
Loved ones entered my home to dance and talk and drink and laugh and cry and eat and read and sleep. Every wall, a witness to a chapter of life.
I ran along the canal and pulled a muscle. I cooked Sunday brunch and burnt my finger. I woke up sleepy in the early hours of a morning and stubbed my toe on the way to the bathroom. All these things make up a collection of memories that I will never forget.
And as I seal up the final box with brown packing tape, I can't help but wonder what lies in store 5,885 miles away...

Monday, 30 September 2013

The change




The air is chilly. Something has changed. There were no fireworks, no announcements...just a simple glance downwards to spot the lone golden leaf adorning the evening pavement.
Trees will soon be bare and sunsets will arrive just that little bit earlier. And so comes the change.
The carefully packed boxes in my lounge suddenly make me realise that in two weeks, I will no longer be here - here in this flat, looking out over towards the glistening canal.
I will be gone.
As I watch summer skip merrily away for another year, I can't help but wonder what this new season will bring. Who will I be when the snow starts to fall?
A cold breeze whistles across my body and makes it shudder. Then as I zip up my hoodie, I look over towards the water. It is still flowing gently like it did the day before.
Then I realise something: As much as change can be scary, we have no choice but to embrace it. Whether we like it or not, everything on our beautiful planet changes every single day. It's meant to be that way. Every sunrise and season brings with it new opportunities; a chance to smile, to dance, to grow.
The cold pulls me out of my thoughts and I head inside. I lock the door, close my blinds, and turn on the lamp. The room is instantly bathed in a warm glow...and suddenly everything changes.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Gone fishing



I didn't know if it was the beer, the blazing sun, or a combination of the two, but I suddenly felt sleepy out on the river bank. It was nice to be away from the city for a few days, and for the first time in ages, I felt my mind soften around the edges.
As I finished the last of my drink, my friend turned to ask if I fancied doing a spot of fishing...A smile crept across my face as I found myself out on the deck of their narrow boat. After a quick lesson in the basics, my friend hopped back onto solid ground...and there I stood, alone in my thoughts, looking out across the river. The peacefulness of that moment was beautiful!
It didn't last long!
I watched the lure fly gracefully out across the water to land with a gentle splash once again...Then I felt my line pull...hard. The rod began to bend, and for a moment, I wondered if I had managed to get it caught again on some weed at the bottom. Within a few seconds, to my absolute horror, I pulled the line out of the water and found myself staring at a thrashing 25lb pike!
With that, I screamed, my friends came running, and passers-by stopped to see what was causing such a commotion. And so the battle to release the giant began...
The mere sight of its razor-sharp teeth coming towards me was enough to have me climbing up the railing away from it.
After what seemed like an age of twisting and struggling, I watched my friend bend down to place him back into the water from whence he came. He was finally home. Safe. Free.
Then as I looked down through the ripples, laughing with relief, I realised something: In life, there will always be challenges. Things happen unexpectedly to take us on a different journey. Sometimes we find ourselves in an unimagined future where we don't always get what we want...but occasionally, get just what we need.
And that night, as I looked out of the car window into the starry sky, I couldn't help but smile. This would forever be the day that I wrestled with a river monster, and won!