The days we’ll make…

Here’s a short story I wrote last year.

‘You’re invited to a friend’s houseparty. So, you go and have a couple of drinks. You see your friends, and you talk to them. You have a good time, the conversation is flowing smoothly, the people are on your level, the night is just right. Then.. you spot someone and you feel compelled to smile at them. They smile back at you. You acknowledge the smile and continue talking to your friends. You try to listen to them – you see their lips moving and hands flapping about, but nothing is registering in your mind. Why? Because you’re still thinking about that person. You feel butterflies flying around in your stomach, your pulse quickens and your tongue feels dry, just like the Sahara desert

Shit. What is this? You turn around to look at them and you see that they’re already looking at you. You quickly turn back and feel embarrassed that they caught you looking, but you feel slightly glad that they were already looking at you first though, and a small smirk appears on your face.

“Hello? Earth to (insert name here)..? Are you listening? The lights are on, but nobody’s home.”

Your friends notice that you’re paying no attention.

“Ah, sorry. I guess my mind was elsewhere.”

“Pfft.. I can see that. Go and talk to them. Do it.”

Your friends encourage you. You take a huge gulp of your Vodka and lemonade and slam it down on the table. The alcohol goes to your head a little bit, and the intoxication gives you the false courage you need. You smoothly turn around and swagger your way over to them.

You trip over and fall flat on your face, directly at their feet.

“Oh shit, that must have hurt. Are you alright?” 

They ask if you’re ok and help you up. You’re finally face to face and you try to respond to their question. You want to say something smooth like..
“Do you have a plaster? Because i just scraped my knee falling for you.”

But you can’t respond because your heart is in your mouth, your blood rushes to your face and you’re dyslexic in the head.

“Ow. I fell.”

Well done. Real smooth.

But it works. They laugh.

“A person of many words, aren’t you? Come on, lets get you a drink, and I’ll have a look at your knee.”

You talk all night.

You feel so comfortable, so you tell them about what a retard you are. You tell them about the time when you were 6, and rode your bike into a metal portable goal and split your lips open. You tell them about the time you played strip poker at school. You also tell them about how you felt when your friend died. They tell you about how they broke into the staffroom and drank the teachers bourbon, they tell you about the time they broke their ribs playing softball, and they trust you enough to tell you how they felt when they found out their mum had cancer. The bond is made, the trust is there. The attraction is undeniable, you want to kiss them but the moment isn’t right. It’s late – it’s 3am, there are people shouting, jostling and drinks are being spilt all over the floor, much to your friend’s disgust. So, you ask for their number, give them a kiss on the cheek and leave, promising to set up a date.

You get home, and you have an argument in your head about whether or not you should text them now, or play it cool?
Screw it.

“Hey you.. it’s (insert name here).. I’m home. Did you get home ok?”

You wait, and 30 seconds later, you get a reply.

“What took you so long to text?”

A smile appears on your face, and you reply back.

You have your first date. You take them out on a boat and you bring a blanket, a flask of hot chocolate, marshmallows and Milkybar buttons (because you remember them saying they loved it) and… you take out a jar and put a rose in it and you set sail. You talk about everything – your hopes, your dreams and your aims.. you also talk about the past and the pain you’ve both been through. The moment is right – you kiss, and it’s everything you imagined it to be.

The weeks goes by so fast. Dates after dates, kisses after kisses..

The months goes by so fast. Dates after dates, sex after sex.. romantic sex, quick sex, angry sex, make up sex.. all kinds of sex.

One night.. they utter the words, “I love you.” and gone is the awkward person you were that very first night you both met. You know just what to say this time.

“I love you too.”

Everything is just right.

You move in together. You go to IKEA, and you jump on the beds, they pretend to take a shower, you potter around in the kitchen, and both pretend to take a bath in the bathtub and you kiss, much to the children’s amusement.

“Mummy. Look at them! They’re kissing in the bath!”

“Don’t look. They’re just being silly. Come on, now.”

She scolds the children, gives you a dirty look and walks away.

“Boy.. some people need to lighten up.”

Slowly, but surely, the house you moved into becomes a home.

You know the time is right.

You take them to the first place you had your date. You get into the boat, and you sail away again.

“I love my life with you. I love how we go out to work and rush back home, just so we can see each other. I love how we hold hands and go to parties that we end up ditching to drink wine out of the bottle in the bathtub. I love how we go to the cinema and end up kissing in the back row like children. I love how we slow dance in the bedroom with an unmade bed and candles on the fireplace. I love it. I want to do it with you forever. Marry me.”

“No.”

And just like that, with one word, your world is shattered.

“Why?”

“It’s illegal. We can’t marry. The government won’t let us.”


……………………

Yes, I know that the romantic story was slightly random. But I wanted you to get sucked into it, to experience love in its purest form. Notice how I never once mentioned whether or not they were female or male? I did that because I wanted you to forget about gender for a while, and just appreciate the story for what it was, an amazing story about two people falling in love with each other.’

Why am I bringing this up again?

Well, because it’ll always be relevant.

I’ve seen quite a few posts pop up on my Facebook newsfeed lately, about the MarriageEquality vote in Ireland on May 22nd. Now, I know my best friends will be voting YES, as will the rest of my friends.

I guess I’m just baffled about the fact that it’s 2015, and we’re still having to fight for the right to marry the person we love?

Countries in the world where same-sex marriage is legal.  

2000 – The Netherlands

2003 – Belgium

2005 – Canada

2005 – Spain

2006 – South Africa

2009 – Sweden

2009 – Norway

2010 – Portugal

2010 – Iceland

2010 – Argentina

2012 – Denmark

2013 – Uruguay

2013 – New Zealand

2013 – France

2013 – England / Wales

2013 – Brazil

2014 – Luxembourg

2014 – Scotland

Countries where same-sex marriage is legal in some jurisdictions 

2003 – United States

2009 – Mexico

There are 196 countries in the world. Same-sex marriage is only legal in 19 of them, and partly legal in 2 of them?

That is pathetic.

WHY on Earth do people who I’ve never ever met in my life, have a say in who I want to marry?

Because it’s against their values?

In Levitivus 20:13 –

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

If the Bible says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong. I mean, the Bible’s been around for 3500 years. I’ve only been around for 29 years. Why should my opinion count more than the Bible? But I’m a fair person. I have to respect your beliefs, don’t I?

Mm.. wait, wait. Can I ask you a question? If I told you that I thought that black people shouldn’t be allowed to marry outside of their race, how would that make you feel? What if I said that I thought it was wrong? That they should stick to their own kind? You’d call me a racist, wouldn’t you? You’d say that racism is wrong, and illegal. I shouldn’t say that, yeah? They’re people. They’re entitled to marry whoever they love. Yeah?

Mm… okay. I’m sorry, I’m just a little confused here. Because I’m sure that somewhere in the Bible, it said something like… yeah, here it is.

Deuteronomy 7:3 –

“You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons.”

So… if you’re white, you can’t marry a black person. You also can’t marry an Indian person, or a Chinese person, for that matter. Because the Bible says so.

So.. how come there’s interracial couples all over the world? The President of the United State is a product of an interracial marriage. Are you going to tell him that his mother was a disgrace to her people? Would you go up to the Rock and tell him he’s an abomination because his black father fell in love with his Samoan mother? Oh.. wait. The legend that is David Bowie. Rock royalty..

*whispers*

Has anyone told him that his wife, Iman, is black…?

Can you detect the sarcasm in my words? Which brings me to the next verse.

Leviticus 26:27 – 

“If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your since seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.”

Oh, shit. I was kinda looking forward to bonding with my children. Now, i’ve got to eat them?

*sighs*

Pass the salt and pepper. Whilst I eat the flesh of my children, why don’t you read the next verse?

Deuteronomy 22:28 –

“If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.”

Mm.. heart-warming.

My point is this, the Bible is out-dated. I could give you verses and verses that would affect the most obdurate heart.

Now, I have a lot of Christian friends who I think highly of, and I respect their religious beliefs. My problems isn’t with the Christians – after all, I used to be a good little Catholic girl myself.

No, my problem is with the people who look down on me when I tell them I’m a lesbian. The people who stare at me when I kiss my girlfriend in the street. The same people who say that what I feel in my heart is wrong, and use the Bible as an excuse. You cannot use the Bible as an excuse.

I like to think of myself as a Buddhist. I’m not like, a proper practising Buddhist, because.. have you met my family? There is no way you can be a member of my family and be a Buddhist. Fighting is how we communicate.

No, I jest.

Seriously though, my philosophy is this:

‘Treat others how you want to be treated.’

If you want me to treat you with respect, then please treat me with respect. If I kiss my girlfriend in the street, don’t whoop at me. Don’t ask me how I have sex with my girlfriend. Don’t tell me I haven’t met the right guy yet.

I’m not a lesbian because it didn’t work out with men – it didn’t work out with men because I’m a lesbian.

Most importantly – I cannot stress how important this is – never say that children are too young to learn about the LGBT community.

This is one of my favourite articles.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/Amelia/no-my-10-year-old-son-isnt-looking-for-a-girlfriend-he-likes-boys_b_6297180.html

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela. 

Advertisements

The days we made.

London, United Kingdom


Last night, yet again, I woke up, not knowing where I was. That’s happened a couple times in the last few weeks.

I know I was in my bedroom. But.. I was still unsure. Where was I? And then I remembered. I was home. And no longer in Australia.

I moved back to London a few weeks ago after the best part of a year living in Australia. My departure was as abrupt as many before me – my working visa was about to expire and I was back where I began, at Heathrow Terminal 5. Being unable to live somewhere anymore is the strangest feeling. It’s abrupt and unfinished. It’s like ordering dessert and leaving the restaurant before it arrives. In a city that is diverse and filled with multi-layered cultural activities.. you’re not forgotten, but you’re easily replaced. I imagine someone seeing an empty place at the table and taking my seat. They’ll be drinking my glass of wine, chatting to my friends and making plans for the next weekend. Discussing summer holidays in Byron Bay, Great Barrier Reef, Noosa… deciding to visit the latest exhibition, try the new bar that’s opened around the corner. Life in that beautiful, crazy and infuriating city continues but the only difference is, I’m not there to see it.

I won’t lie.. there were moments where I struggled to find a job, a decent flat, and some kind of.. reason for being there. There were days when I’d seriously question why I had chosen to live in a city that was so far away from my friends and family, a city that spat me out at the best of times, where simple tasks were a constant battle. But gradually that capital drew me in and seduced me one day, one week and then one month at a time. I felt like Australia was the world and the world was at my fingertips.

When I think back, I don’t dwell on eating noodles for dinner or wearing ten dollars shoes that fell apart in the rain. I’ll laugh when I think of putting loose carrots through instead of a Beef Butterfly with Pepper & Chilli that weighed 1.2kg to save money *smirks at a certain person*, forget how homesick and lonely I felt, or how I never mastered the ability to dress for the ever-changing weather that Melbourne is famous for. Nor do I dwell on constantly moving houses because I couldn’t afford to pay extortionate rent. I won’t think about the time I sat and cried so much because my family were going through awful times and I was so angry with myself for being over there because I couldn’t do anything to help them. Or the night I (drunkenly) fell asleep on the tram and missed my stop and ended up at the tram depot, where I was told that we were near the airport, which is about one hour away from my house and that there were no more trams running or any taxis at this time of the night AND MY PHONE WAS DEAD. This then brought on tears from me. The tram depot manager came out and invited me into his office. Out came the map.

“Where do you live?”
“Around.. there.”
“That’s only about fifteen minutes walk home.”
“What I get raped? Mmm..?”
“Huh?? What??”
“I SAID… WHAT IF I GET RAPED?”
“Umm.. I don’t.. er.. I think.. you’ll be okay?”
“Mm.. let me ask you this question. If I was your daughter or granddaughter, would you let me walk home that way? If you would let your daughter walk that way, then I will be more than happy to walk alone. So.. would you?
“My shift finishes in 45 minutes. I’ll drive you home.”
“Thank you.”

So, I sat in the staffroom, my head swaying with a smile on my face, watching Top Gear and drunkenly laughed at the Britishness of the programme.

45 minutes later, the tram depot manager came out and we walked to his car. He was such a lovely fellow. He was about 70 years old, so I knew I could overpower him if he tried anything funny.

“Thank you for driving me, by the way,”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind. Right.. off we go.”

*15 seconds later*

“STOP! I live over there! Oh.. well, this is awkward. Thank you for the ride.”

Turns out the depot was actually round the corner from my house. ***** sake.

I remember how I’d get shouted at on escalators in the metro because I’d stand on the right.. as it turns out, they stand on the left. I learnt how to weave through heaving crowds of people at Flinders Street. Mastered applying makeup on the Glen Waverly line, noticed how my walking pace had changed from walking record speed – London style, to walking with a spring in my step – Melbourne style. I reminisce complaining about the weather, keeping an eye out for the ticket inspectors because I didn’t have enough money on my Mykki, and drinking endless cups of hot chocolate and being on first name terms with the baristas in several cafes. I’ll remember the infamous road trip with R ikki and Ellie. I’ll remember dancing in a cage with 6 half naked men and a lady at Birdcage in Sydney. I’ll remember sitting down on the beach, eating fish and chips at 10pm in Noosa. I’ll remember being absolutely wasted, in a random pub in Freemantle – cheering on Freemantle Dockers and not having a clue what was going on. I’ll remember the time I ripped my trousers in front of everyone in Cairns.

I miss the peaceful green parks and beautiful old buildings. Late night drives with sparkling city lights and getting caught by the police because you did an illegal turn and a drag race once. Barbecues whenever we felt like it. Weekend markets. Night markets. Fireworks on the Southbank. Mid-week gigs. Corner shop chocolate bars. Pizza Hut and Game of Thrones. Cheap clothes. Boxes of Goon with my flatmates and arguing over everything and nothing. The exhibitions, theatre shows, comedy shows, bars, restaurants, clubs, opening parties, dinner parties, welcome back parties, going away parties, birthday parties, just any parties.

But most of all I miss those days when I would turn my face to the sky, regardless of whether or not it was covered with a thick blanket of white clouds or if it was a clear blue sky. I’d walk by the endless rows of Victorian terraced houses, and take a deep breath. I never felt more happy or more free on those evenings and afternoons I walked home by myself. Nowhere to be, no one to answer to, just walking down the streets with music in my ears.

I’ll never be grateful enough for all the couches I slept on, the friends shoulders I cried on, suggestions on where to live and where to work. Tips on how to navigate the metro, find the right tram stop, then actually get on the right tram and where to find the best hot chocolate. All those small pieces formed the patchwork of my life.

I’ll laugh at all the ridiculous adventures; mornings spent hungover at airports, clearing the furniture from our flat from the endless fancy dress parties we’d have, yelping whenever I’d see a possum at Flagstaff Gardens, chasing the sun at at St Kilda beach, thinking I had mastered flip cup and failing miserably.. and very drunk. Lying on the road, the Notebook style, in Swanston street at 5am on White Night Melbourne night. Walking around in my bikini on Christmas Day, drinking white wine mixed with Chambord and eating lamb kebab.. which mostly missed my mouth and ended up on the floor.

I read a quote a few months ago, before I came home. It sent shivers down my spine because it was so.. spot-on.

‘You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.’

And while I’m happy to be home, to ease into a different pace for the moment, take a break and reconnect with family and friends.. Melbourne, you mad, eccentric, rich, warm, and outrageously expensive at times, fun and ridiculous place. You will always have a part of my heart. To my Australian friends, If you think I&#8
217;ve forgotten you or don’t have time for you, please don’t ever think that. I’m just trying to find my balance over here. Bear with me. Don’t worry, I will be back someday.

]]>

And so it ends..

 

And so it ends..
Australia, Australia

Australia, Australia


WARNING: THIS POST WILL BE A VERY LONG ONE AND WILL INCLUDE WORDS OF WISDOM, SEVERAL CONCLUSIONS AND MOST LIKELY A LOT OF ****. SO.. GRAB A PEW, POUR YOURSELF A CUP OF TEA/COFFEE/HOT CHOCOLATE (DELETE AS APPLICABLE) AND ENJOY THE READ.

So.. I’m going home.

That’s right, folks. It’s home-time.

I can’t believe I’m doing this. Words cannot express how much Australia has changed me. I don’t know exactly how I’ve changed, but I can’t remember the person I used to be when I was living in London. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to be that person again anyway.

Going back to my first week in Australia, I had gone from having three of my friends by my side to being completely alone in the space of 3 days of stepping into Australia. Before you get the wrong idea, it was entirely my choice. I made the choice to leave the girls, and Rikki.. well, he made the choice to leave me.

I actually said to him in the car when we were waiting for the tow-truck to come and pick us up.

“You know that my family are going to kill you..? Leaving me all alone in Australia..” I tutted, raising my eyebrows and shaking my head disapprovingly at him.

“****. They probably will, won’t they? Ach, they’ll get over it.” He said. Or something like that.

*******.

I admit, when he said he was going back to Asia, I felt like I was suddenly pushed into a never-ending pit of voidness. What the hell was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Yes, I’m an independent woman – I can hold my ground. But to travel alone? For a year? In a country the size of.. well, Australia. That would take some balls.

As we both found out, the decisions we both made in our first week in Australia, would actually turn out to be one of the best decisions we will have ever made in our lives..

My second week in Australia, I made an interesting discovery. Whilst travelling from Byron Bay to Sydney with Andrew, I found myself spilling my guts out to him about why I left England, how I felt about it, and what I had hoped to have achieved in my year of being in Australia.

I had realised that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I was. I thought I was going travelling because I wouldn’t be able go when I was older.

I realised that I was wrong.

I left because I wasn’t happy with some parts of my life.

Sometimes I’d get panic attacks.

What brought it on? Well, there were some people who would undermine me – I’d hear negative comments and put-downs, and it affected my confidence. Why they did it.. I have no idea. There could be several reasons for it. Maybe they didn’t realise they were doing it? Maybe it was classic transference – deflecting their own insecurities and negative thoughts onto me? Maybe they didn’t like me? Or maybe it’s because they’re a ****? I don’t know. I’m not going to psychoanalyse them. All I know is.. they were doing it, it’s not nice and I didn’t like it.

I suppose you could say that I didn’t realise how badly I was treated until I left..? That’s not to say that everyone treated me like ****. No, no.. far from it. I have amazing friends and I love them. But I think I needed to get away and find out who I really was. I needed to define myself, instead of letting other people do it for me.

When Rikki left, I was truly on my own. As terrifying as that was, it was also exhilarating.

‘When you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.‘ – William Least-Heat Moon.

Fast forward a year later.

The year has been an amazing journey for me.

I’ve met people from all walks of life.

I’ve seen places so beautiful, it took my breath away. I’ve created friendships so strong that it’ll last a lifetime.

I found my confidence. I found my voice. I found my bravery. I found love. I still haven’t found my iPhone though.. *******ing taxi driver. But most importantly, I found myself.

I’ve learnt so many things about myself and people around me. I’ve come to realise some ugly truths – about myself and others. Irrational doubts and issues reared its ugly head, and I faced it head on. I’ve also realised my strengths. I’ve come to admire my morals, conviction and I appreciate my determination.

I’ve realised that sadly, some people may not treat me with kindness and care. While I may not be able to change that, what I can change is how often our paths will cross and what my own reactions to it will be. There is a place in everyone that yearns to love and be loved, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Unfortunately for some, sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fears, old wounds, cynicism and pain that they use to protect themselves from injury. But I think being out here has made me realise that forgiveness is about choosing happiness over hurt.

So.. when I come back, it’ll be a fresh new start – for myself and everyone. If the fresh start happens to fall on deaf ears (excuse the pun), then I will wish them luck, let go of them and go my own way.

Letting go isn’t giving up. It’s about being determined to live life with the intention to be your best self. So you have to do whatever it takes to get there. You won’t ever get there though. Not really. But what you can do is stop being who you aren’t.

In order to do that, you have to make mistakes.. and learn from them. I know I’ve made plenty of them and I will still continue to make them. I know I’m not perfect. But I do know that it’s important to take some time out every now and then to just… stop… and take stock of everything. Stop and stare off into space. Into the middle distance, squint my eyes and wistfully stroke my imaginary goatee. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights, and realisations.

Whatever cerebral understanding we apply to our lives, we have to remember that there will always be a constant theme recurring – our need for support and love. This is what I’ve found whilst in Australia. Support and love.

The year has been a series of highs and lows. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. On one end I’ve experienced happiness, falling in love, passion, and all that. On the other end though.. I’ve had to to deal with loneliness, death, frustration, and confusion.

I’ve been in tears because I missed home so much, and I’ve been in tears because I didn’t want to leave Australia. I’ve been a shoulder to cry on, and I’ve cried on people’s shoulders. I’ve helped people out when they’ve had nothing and vice versa.

As much as I’ve had to deal with the ****** lows, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I believe that everything happens for a reason. The ****** lows have made me stronger, braver and slightly more emotionally intelligent, I guess..?

I’m typing this in a cute cafe around the corner from where I currently live. An hour ago, I saw a woman with a pram and a child struggling to open the door, so I stand up and go to open the door. The children run in and scream excitedly. There isn’t enough room in the cafe so the woman asks me if they could sit with me. Of course they can, I tell her. She goes off to buy hot chocolate and cookies for them.

“Hi! What are you doing?” the girl asks me. “I’m doing some writing.” I say. The mother returns and apologises to me. I smile at her. “Don’t be sorry. They’re cute. What’s your name?” I ask them. ”I’m Martha.” “Oh! Hi, Martha! And what’s yours?” I ask the little boy. “Bum-bum!” He shouts at me. I raise my eyebrow at him
dubiously. “His name is Daniel. I’m four and he’s two.” Martha tells me. The mother returns with the snacks and goes to get some books for them to read.

“I have a smarties cookie. What colour is your favourite?” Martha shows me her cookie. “Oh, I like the pink one. What about you?” “This is my favourite colour.” She points to the orange one. “This is my favourite colour.” She also points to the yellow one. “This is my favourite colour.” She points to the brown one.

This goes on until she has run out of colours to point to.

The mother returns with the books and apologises for the interruption again. I smile at her and tell her it isn’t a problem. I have a strange feeling but I can’t figure it out. The table next to us has become vacant. She tells the children to move to the next table and tries to pick Daniel up. He cries and demands that he stays at this table. Martha runs to the next table and moves her chair right next to me, and whispers to her mother, “I want to sit here. Right next to her…” and points her thumb at me. She hands me her book and says, “Will you read this book to me?” My heart melts. The mother tells Martha to leave me alone and to let me get back to my writing. I am actually more than happy to carry on talking to them, and I tell her that.

Daniel also hands me his book about animals and says, “Elephant!” but he also lifts his arm up and pretends it’s a trunk.

That’s it. I knew what the funny feeling was.

“Are you deaf?” I ask the mother.

“Yes, I am.”

I wanted to say, “You sick ****er!” (why is that always my first response?) but I refrain from doing so.. instead, I say, “So am I! Do you live around here? I’m Abigail, by the way.”

“I’m Sarah, and yes.. I do. I live just up the road. I’m actually from England. I moved here about two and half years ago. London, actually.” She smiles. “Really? I’m from London too!” I exclaim.

I then do the Deaf thing all deafies do – the six degrees of separation experiment to assess if we might have met each other before or if we have friends in common.

I start with the most common one of all..

“What school did you go to?”

“Mary Hare.”

BOOM.

“Get out! I went there as well!”

Well, I didn’t actually tell her to get out. We ended up having a good talk for an hour about where we grew up, what we did, who we knew, why we moved to Australia, and so on. Then she had to leave to take the children to kindergarten. It’s amazing how a simple gesture like opening the door for a stranger results into making a new friend with someone who went to the same school as you.

This chance meeting reminded me of a quote.

‘I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because, how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realised, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.’ – Augustus Burroughs.

That’s what I’ve come to realise whilst I’ve been away. You have to always put yourself out there, no matter how scary it may be.

“I’m afraid to fail…”

“What if i’m not good enough?”

“What are they going to say about me?’

“Are people going to think I’m weird?”

“What are people going to think of me?”

The list of worries goes on and on.

We will always be swimming in the ocean of self-criticism. We all have fears. But guess what? It’ll always be there. You’ll never know until you try. When you try, you’ll know. Simple as.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.. and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ – Martha Williamson.

Why am I going home?

I admit, it does feel like I’m ripping my heart into pieces. I don’t ever want to leave. But I’ll know where home truly is when I go back.

I don’t know what the future will hold for me. All I know is that now is the moment. The past and the future will always be important, but if we spend too much time in the past or the future, we will miss what is happening right in front of us.

I want to thank everyone I’ve met for being a part of my life whilst I’ve been in Australia. The ones that have made me laugh, the ones that have been there for me whilst I cried, the ones that gave me food and a shelter over my head when I needed it, the ones who have helped me out without having to be asked.. you’ve made my year amazing.

Peace out.

]]>

I know where I'm going..

Melbourne, Australia


So… what did I say in my last blog? Ah, yes.. Melbourne was becoming to feel a whole lot like home, and I couldn’t have that. I had to leave and explore – spread my wings and fly away..

So, tomorrow I leave for Queensland.

Yet.. every time I think about leaving, I don’t feel excited? I don’t feel excited about the thought of seeing new things? The thought of meeting new people doesn’t make me shiver with anti….cipation.

No. Instead, I feel.. sad. I feel.. lost.

Whenever I think about leaving Melbourne, I feel like a ship that’s trying to sail away but I can’t – my anchor is firmly hooked into the seabed.

****.

I was not expecting this.

I need to go out and explore. I need to see things. I need to feel alive and scared and challenged.

*screeches*

Sorry, that was me hitting the brakes. Why do I need to go out and explore? Why do I need to see things? Why do I need to feel alive and scared and challenged? Maybe it’s the pernickety child inside me of trying to prove something?

“I’m on the other side of the world in Australia – this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I have to do everything. I have to explore!”

Maybe now I’m starting to grow up?

*cue audible gasps, slack-jawed expressions and a lot of pointing at me*

Oh, why don’t YOU grow up?

I place a lot of pressure on myself sometimes. I feel like I HAVE to do this and that because it’s what expected of me.

“Oh, you have to go and see Ayers Rock.”

“I drove a 4×4 through the outback.”

“I dived in the Great Barrier Reef.”

“I sailed down the Murray River in a Paddle-steam boat.”

That sounds amazing, brilliant and it’s certainly an experience. But it’s your experience. Just because you did it or heard that someone did it, doesn’t mean I have to do it. I’m not saying I’m not going to do it, but if I don’t, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’m still going to Queensland tomorrow. I’ll fly to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. But I won’t be staying there for long – I’ll be coming back to Melbourne in a couple weeks.

Why?

Well, because I’m happy here.

I have amazing friends who make me laugh and cry. They’re thoughtful and caring. I know they’d do anything for me if I asked them to and vice versa. I hate the thought of leaving them. There’s still so many things I haven’t seen and done here.

“But you haven’t seen and done some parts of Australia too?” I hear some of you say.

Yes, that’s right. But you are forgetting that I’ve already been to Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales and I will be making a visit to Northern Territory in a couple of months or so.

But I have to be realistic. all that traipsing around is gonna cost me a lot of money, and I’ll be honest – my savings are running low at the moment. It’ll soon be replenished, don’t you worry. But I’d much rather stay here with my friends and have fun rather than go and explore on my own.

“I think travelling is all about the experience and the people you meet, and growing up as a person. I doubt you will change as a person seeing the Taj Mahal, compared to spending the night with someone really interesting who actually works at the Taj Mahal?” – Martine Monksfield.

(I typed Laverty at first. Why do I still have a hard time accepting that you’re married – it’s been three years! I should be used to it by now!!!)

She has a valid point though.

It doesn’t matter where I go, as long as I’m happy?

I’m currently reading a book called ‘Peace is every step’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. The book is about mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Well, it’s a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

“What a load of crock!” I know some of you may say. “Breathe in, breathe out. I’m all zen right now. Whoopie-*******-doo!”

Okay. If some of you choose to take that view, that’s completely fine. That’s your view.

I’ll read you a paragraph from the book.

‘We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh.

I can’t explain to you how right he is. We are always rushing to places, we’re always making plans for the future – we’re always thinking about what we’ll be doing five minutes later.

How often do we just.. stop, and appreciate the moment for what it is?

I’ve been doing that a lot lately and it’s made me a lot happier and appreciative of what I have around me. I climbed Mount Bodonga on Friday, and when I was at the top, I took a deep breath and took in the view. It was amazing. i felt so peaceful. I even do it at traffic lights, I just sit and smile and watch people walk on by.

Maybe that’s why I’m much more calmer now. That’s why I’m placing less pressure on myself to do this and that.

I know that Australia isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I know I will come back to Australia. I will come back several times throughout my lifetime, and I will do everything that you’re supposed to do. Even if i don’t manage to see or do everything, that’s ok. I’m happy anyway.

I know where I’m going. I don’t mean literally, I mean figuratively. I know I’m going to be happy in whatever I do.

Literally though, I’m going to Queensland tomorrow, but I’ll be back because Melbourne is an amazing place to be, and I have amazing friends.

Oh, and because I have an amazing girlfriend, with the biggest heart, an amazing personality, a dazzling smile, her kindness and thoughtfulness makes me smile and I feel happy whenever I’m with her.

*coy smile*

That is all.

Bye.

*runs away*

]]>

I'll be seeing you..

Melbourne, Australia


So.. it’s been a while since I’ve written here. I’ve also noticed that in the last few months, I’ve gone off the trails on this blog. It hasn’t been about my travels, but more about my views on what’s going on in society and my opinions on it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that.. but this is meant to be a travel blog. So I’ve set up a new blog, where I’ll chat absolute rubbish about everything and nothing, and I’ll leave the travelling tales to this blog. I think that’s what happens when you get settled into a place. You become too comfortable.

Melbourne.. my home for the last 7 months.

I never thought I’d fall in love with a city and its people as much as I have with Melbourne. From the moment I stepped foot on the the tarmac, It felt like I was home.. well, it was raining cats and dogs, so I really did feel like I was back in London.

The people welcomed me, and made me feel like I belonged.

‘I’ll stay here just for a while.’… I said.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.

Acquaintances turned into friends, and before long.. friends became family.

Words cannot describe the love I have for this community – it made me rediscover myself. Its made me feel more comfortable within my skin, its made me re-evaluate my friendships with certain people, its made me re-evaluate the way I conduct myself, and its made me so much more confident.

It was really starting to feel like.. home.

****.

That was not the objective. That was not part of the plan. The plan was to travel, not to find a new home.

So.. it is with a very heavy heart that I announce I will be leaving Melbourne soon.

I wish I didn’t have to. I don’t feel ready to leave, I feel like I haven’t done enough, and there’s more to do. But, truth be told, I have to leave. I’ve already been here for a good while and I know I’ve done a lot of things already. I think I’m just looking for excuses. If I’m not ready now, then I never will be.

The reason I’m leaving is because I like to make life difficult for myself. (insert smirk here)

I don’t know why that’s the case. I suppose I like to find new challenges and throw myself into the deep end. There’s something exhilarating about it – it keeps me on my toes.

People in Melbourne have been begging me to stay, do farm work and get a permanent residency and people in the UK and Ireland have been begging me to come back. It’s all very flattering, but I don’t think you realise how much this hurts me. I feel like whatever decision I make, I’ll betray someone (yes, I realise this sounds very dramatic), and that places a huge burden on my heart.

That being said, I’ve made some very good friends here – people that I know I’ll be friends with for my whole life, and that comforts me. That makes it a little bit easier for me to leave, because it’s not going to be a ‘goodbye’.. it’s a ‘see you later’. I really don’t want to do this but what I have at home outweighs everything I have here. I have a family, I have best friends, I have babies being born and growing up, not knowing who I am (yes, I’m a very important person to a lot of babies).. I have weddings, birthdays and christenings that I’m missing out on. I have a career back at home, and I’m not getting any younger. I’d like to settle down, and being out here has made me even more confident and sure of what I want from life.

Yes, I’m having the time of my life here, but I’d much rather that I left on good terms with fond memories, instead of having to leave because I’m broke, depressed or clinically insane.

So.. I’m leaving next month.

No, I’m not coming back to England just yet. I’ll still be travelling. As much as I miss everyone back in the UK and Ireland, I’m still not quite ready to come back yet. There are still things I want to do and see.

The next stop?

Queensland.

Whereabouts I’ll go, what I’ll do, who I’ll meet, I don’t know. That’s the whole point of going on an adventure.

Actually, thats a lie.. I do have a rough idea of what I’ll do, but every day I change my mind. I’ve come to realise that it’s all part of being a backpacker. Yes, it’s slightly unnerving, but it’ll also be an experience to remember.

]]>

Трахни тебя, Путин

Sochi, Russia


The Olympics.

What pops into your mind when you think of it? For me, I think..

Unity, inspiration, honour and respect.

The Olympics is meant to be a time where people from all over the world come together, and celebrate sporting achievements. A time where people put aside any misgivings they may have when it comes to religious beliefs, and treat everyone as an equal.

The Sochi Olympics is the total opposite. It’s being hosted by a country that is run by a homophobic dictator, who also happens to be an absolute ****.

Right now, there are people who are being abducted from the street or lured and kidnapped under the pretence that they’re going on a date. They then are physically, mentally and violently abused and made to be ashamed of who they are, while their assailants and the police officers look on, and enjoy total impunity.

You all know me – you know that I’m a nice girl and I’d do anything for my family and friends. I will bend over backwards for you, I’d fight for you if you felt like you couldn’t, I’d be there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with, or just to sit in silence with.

If you asked me what would be the pinnacle of happiness for me, I’d say it would be sitting with my wife in our garden, watching our children run about, eating good food and drinking wine with our friends, playing games and watching the fireworks. That’s what I want – a family, a wife who’d do anything for me and vice versa, children who at times will most probably be annoying *******s – but that’s ok, cuz they’re my children. I’ll love them unconditionally – no matter what. Because that’s love. That’s family. That’s my core values, my fundamental beliefs.

Well, in Russia, for wanting that, I’d be tied up, beaten up, and tortured. I’d be forced to announce that I’m ashamed of who I am and that I should die. I’m a disgusting person that should rot in hell. They’d beat up my wife, taunt my children and rip my family apart. I’d be on par with criminals, paedophiles and rapists.

Do you think that’s right..?

I believe in freedom of speech and that everyone has the right to have their own opinion. Some people don’t agree with homosexuality, and that’s ok. That’s their opinion. I don’t agree with Marmite, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go around kidnapping and beating every single person that eats it.

We all are different, that’s a given. We come in different sizes, shapes and ethnicities. But there’s one thing that’s the same – we’re all human.

We have feelings, we love, we care, we nurture and we live.

I am taking a stand against the Sochi Olympics – I refuse to watch it. It won’t make the slightest difference to them, I know.. but for me, I can’t stand by and watch the Olympics when I know what they’re doing to people. What they’re doing is inhumane – they’re abusing people’s human rights.

So. I say..

Пошел ты, Путин, и трахнул свою Олимпиаду.

Translation:

Fuck you, Putin, and fuck your Olympics.

]]>

To Si, with love.

Melbourne, Australia


Dear Si,

I know that if I said all of this to you on FaceTime, you’d blush furiously, squirm awkwardly and mutter, “Yeah, thanks.” and walk away. I’d also stutter, mumble and cry, which would probably make the situation even more awkward.

So I thought I’d write it down instead. I hope this will also bring some comfort to your mum, Carl, brothers and sisters.. and to anyone else feeling like they’re down on their luck right now.

Cancer. The ******* *******. Especially at your age too.

I was shell-shocked when I found out, I think it’s fair to say that everyone else was. I think in the last couple of weeks, everyone’s been skirting around the issue, trying to make light of it. But the fact is, it’s there. You can’t hide from it.

Last night, I asked you if you were okay.

“Hello I’m okay, thanks. Just trying to get it over with.”

That was your reply. Simple and to the point. Just like you.

If I had to deal with that kind of **** when I was your age, I would’ve been a complete mess.

Today, you go in for your operation.

My boss asked if I was ok, and I broke down crying in his office. I felt stupid, because it wasn’t ME who was going through it, but you.

I’ve been trying to keep myself distracted today so I wouldn’t dwell on you so much. Funnily enough, today was probably the most work I’ve done this year. I should get upset more often.

On the way home, I was absolutely shattered, constantly thinking about you and your mum.

Standing on the platform, I thought..

‘What is the point of life, if it brings you misery and doom..?’

That surprised me, I have to admit. I’m normally this chirpy, will-not-shut-the-****-up, positive person, who likes to see the sunlight in everything, despite the gloomy forecast.

I shook myself out of it, and thought..

‘What can I do to make you smile, to make you happy, and motivated?’

This is very important. When mum and nan had cancer, I tried everything I could to make them laugh, because I do genuinely believe that being positive, smiling and laughing, will help your recovery. It worked. I’m pretty sure nan had rock-hard abs by the time I was done..

So, how can I do it with you, when I’m halfway across the world?

*ding*

Lightbulb moment.

A list.

I don’t know what makes you happy, cuz you’re a teenage boy – you always mutter and run away from me every time I come to visit. But you’re still my baby cousin, and I love you to bits.

So, think of what makes you happy.

…..

Ok.. I’ll help you out. You’d probably think..

Xbox.
Boobies.
Football.
Cigarettes.

No.

Maybe something like this..?

Recovery.
The first day of summer.
Meeting new friends.
Seeing old friends.
Holding hands with the girl you like.
Sunsets.
First kisses.
Embarrassing Abbey.
Digging your toes in the sand.
Listening to the wind.
Singing to your favourite song on your iPod.
Birthdays.
Smiling at James.
Making new traditions.
Passing tests.
Tea before bed.
Eating Tessa’s food.
Bonfires.
Travelling to new and faraway places.
Fireworks.
Weddings.
Finding money in your pocket.
Hugs.
Pregnancies and new life.
Compliments from strangers.
Smiles.
Hearing a good song for the first time.
Taking photos with friends.
Laughing.
Getting sloppy kisses from Holly.
Re-reading your favourite book.
Watching your favourite film.
Holly’s bump.
Anniversaries.
Getting through another year.
Freshly made pancakes.
Hugging your mum.
Late night adventures.
Winding Ally up.
Finger painting.
Getting a new haircut.
Taking naps.
Listening to Carl DJing.
Putting on new socks.
The smell of clean laundry.
Seeing rainbows.
Laughing at nan.
Sleeping in.
Clean bed sheets.
Fighting with Kai.
Petting cats/dogs.
Full moons.
Getting drunk with aunty Pat (if you haven’t done that yet, I highly recommend it – absolutely hilarious).
Finding something you thought you’d lost.
Eating your favourite dessert.
Playing with Harvey.
Kissing.
Inside jokes.
Listening to the monkey.
Lighting and thunder.
Improving yourself.
Seeing that there can be good in the world.
Being part of the good in the world.
Realising you’re never truly alone (thanks to your mum, you’re stuck with far too many brothers and sisters..).
Being so happy you’re crying.
Your heartbeat.
All of the people you have yet to meet.
Breathing.
Discovering yourself.
Defending what you believe in.
Crossing things off lists.
Trying something new.
Doing something you love.
Overcoming your fears.
Accepting yourself.
Touching the lives of everyone you know.
Creating new dreams to conquer.
Being true to who you are.
Surviving.

Those are just the small things in life that we normally take for granted, but when you look at the bigger picture, you begin to realise that.. really, it’s the small things that matters.

This is for you, and everyone out there.

You’re going to face obstacles in life. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. You’ll have days when you feel like giving up. You’ll have days when you feel like crying. But armed with a family who love you to bits, friends who’d do anything for you and a positive mental attitude, you can get through everything.

Make your own list. Think of what makes you happy.

Love you kiddo,

Abi

xx

Come. You hug me.

Kathmandu, Nepal


Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a good one? I’m not even going to bother telling you about mine, mainly because I’m a little bit embarrassed, and partly because my nan reads my blog. Hi nan. Lets just say it was an eventful evening and I ended up in my bed at 11am. I certainly saw the year out with a bang.

So far, the new year has already had its ups and downs, but like I said, always focus on the ups. Which brings me to the ‘100 happy days’ thing thats been doing the rounds lately. I think it’s a fantastic idea. Basically, what you do is take a photo a day of what makes you happy. It’s that simple.

‘We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.

71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason. These people simply did not have time to be happy. Do you?

People successfully completing the challenge claimed to:
– Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
– Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realise how lucky they are to have the life they have;
– Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.

Even when the challenge is over the collected 100 happy moments can always remind you about the beauty of your life. For that, you can receive a little 100 page book with your 100 happy days at the finish line of the challenge!’

I LOVE THIS IDEA.

Today, I’m on day 4. I’ve decided to explain the meaning behind this photo in the blog because it has several reasons it makes me happy, and I can’t fit it all in on Instagram – it deserves a lengthy explanation. So, what is it? Nepal. The photo is of the time I spent in Nepal.

I was going through a break up and I was taking it much more harder than I would’ve cared to admit, when I saw an advertisement.

VSO ICS is a UK government funded programme that gives anyone aged 18-25 a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend six months volunteering abroad in Preston and Nepal. Working alongside young in-country volunteers, you will contribute directly to genuine development projects.
It’s an opportunity to experience another culture, challenge yourself and develop transferrable skills to bring back with you. The six months volunteering could be part of post-school or college skills development, or a career break.
You don’t need cash, skills or qualifications to take part in VSO ICS – just the ambition to make a difference.

This sounded interesting.. so I applied. I had to go for an interview and do several tasks to prove that I was a suitable candidate. Turns out they agreed and accepted me onto the project. When I found out, I was obviously excited, but also nervous. I had just moved back to England from Ireland, and now I was off again? I’d be living in Nepal with people I’d never met, working with people I’d never met, and communicating in a different language? Ah.. screw it. I had nothing to lose.

So I, along with a number of other British volunteers with the VSO-ICS program, went up to Preston where we met our Nepalese counterparts. I still remember it like it was yesterday. They arrived at Harbon Hall in a coach, bewildered and bushy eyed. We were too excited – we kept trying to talk to them but they remained reserved, with one or two confident enough to try and talk to us.

As the weeks went by, their confidence grew. We got to know to each other. I was partnered up with Jamuna – she would be the girl I would live with for 6 months. I was also partnered up with Gunjana, who would be the girl I would work with for 6 months.

Gunjana and I were placed at Manchester University with the Social Research with Deaf people (SORD) programme in the Nursing, Midwifery and Social work department. SORD is a programme that consists of deaf and hearing researchers who promote the well-being of deaf individuals families and communities through applied social research. During our time there, we helped them out with researches on genetic testing, support network for deaf patients with Alzheimer and Dementia and their families, an old people’s home for the deaf, a BSL bible and a research into the mental health of children who are allocated to schools with insufficient support to match their needs.

For me, I loved the academical ****.. but for Gunjana, it was different. She learned a lot about the researches and how it had an impact on people’s lives. Take the research into the mental health of children, for an example. Sadly, for most people in the deaf community, they will be able to relate to this. When a child is placed into a school with insufficient support to match their needs, it has a detrimental affect on their lives. The government insists on mainstreaming deaf children, with the view that it’ll help their social skills and so on. Bollocks. It’s cheaper, that’s why. I attended a school for the deaf until I was 6. It was decided between my mother, teachers and I that it would be better for my education to attend a mainstream school instead. WE decided on that, not the government. I was placed in a class with 35 hearing children without any support. Looking back now, that was slightly foolish. I should have been offered support, but being the arrogant, proud and cocky so-and-so I was, I was determined to get by without any support. I was bilingual, which helped a lot. Bilingual, not bisexual. That part came later. Anyway, being deaf still does poses huge barriers, regardless of what the government thinks or say. In a civilised society, deaf people shouldn’t have to go through life ‘coping’..

SORD compiled data from four focus groups – one group attended a deaf school, and three groups attended a PHU unit. They were tested in the 1980s, and SORD tried to track them down, and asses their mental health. My dear friend, Dr Katherine Danielle Rogers *titters* was in charge of this. ‘Deaf people and mental well-being: Exploring and measuring mental well-being in British Sign Language’. They published it in the hope that the government would take this into account. You can read her thesis here..

https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/a pi/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man- scw:209223&datastreamId=FULL-TEXT.P DF

ANYWAY.. the whole point of me going slightly off-track (as usual) is that if given the right tools, and the correct support, you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to. This was a perfect example of what the whole project was about; teaching others, gaining transferrable skills and learning life lessons. In my opinion, being placed at SORD was excellent for Gunjana. Katie was the perfect example – a deaf lady (although at times, she doesn’t act like one), a BSL user, with a degree in Psychology, a fellowship, and studying for her Phd. It just goes to show that regardless of how many barriers there may be, you can still overcome them to be whoever you want to be.

(No Katie, I do not want anything from you. I’m bigging you up because you deserve it.)

Whilst we were working at SORD, we also had to perform a play to showcase at the end of the three months in Preston, Nottingham and Manchester with the rest of the volunteers. In addition to that, we also had to do some research for our GCD day, (Global Citizenship Day) where every week, a pair has to choose a subject that affects the world, such as poverty, politics, racism, and so on, and educate the rest of the group. This meant we were together every day, even at weekends. Now.. imagine 18 people, two different languages, in each other’s faces everyday? I’m not going to lie, there were arguments. Some between the British themselves, some between the Nepalese, and between both. But the good
thing is, we always sat down in a circle, talked about why we were upset, and asked for other people’s views. Sometimes this was a good idea, sometimes it wasn’t. But we all communicated, learnt to respect each other’s view even if we didn’t agree with it, and learnt how to compromise. We were literally a family.

When we went to Nepal, it was a HUGE culture shock for the British counterparts. The language, the food, the clothes, the weather and the transport. I had to commute for over an hour to work in a tiny van, with 20 people pointing and staring at my face every day.

Jamuna and I stayed with the Shrestha family. Sachin, Pooja, and their children Poojan and Sanyuka were our hosts. They also happened to live with Sachin’s mother, Sachin’s brother, his wife, younger brother, his wife and two children, and a lady and her two children, and three dogs. Yeah. NO privacy at all. The upside was it was a beautiful building, and they were a lovely family. We only had electricity for four hours a day. This meant at night, instead of watching TV, we would sit around a candel and talk away to our hearts content. I’ll say this, they’re not rich in terms of wealth, but they’re rich in terms of community and love.

I worked for the Blue Diamond Society, which was an LGBT human rights organisation, committed to changing existing laws against homosexuality and to advocate for the rights of Nepal’s gay, transgender and other sexual minority communities. It also provided care, counseling, and services to victims of HIV/AIDS.

I was originally placed at the Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA), and was excited about this. It wasn’t until I arrived that I realised how awkward it would be. Blind women. Hi. Deaf British woman, working with hearing and blind Nepalese women? The only thing we could do was say “Namaste.” to each other. There were other women there who weren’t blind, but the language barrier got into the way. We could communicate a bit through gestures and so on, but it wasn’t easy. I was told I could just chill out on the roof. I wanted to do something beneficial, not work on my tan.

Our GCD day came, and Jamuna and I decided to give a presentation on LGBT issues. I got into touch with Orla, an Irish lady and a VSO volunteer who did the accounts for Blue Diamond. I met her our first week in Nepal, when she and other VSO volunteers gave us a pep talk. I asked her if someone could come and talk to the group. She brought along someone who was absolutely inspiring and amazing – Bakhti Shah, now a transgender, who was kicked out of the army for falling in love with a female officer. Both the ladies (at that time) were kicked out of the army, and Bakhti was kept in prison for 60 days and beaten up. You can read their story here, although it doesn’t mention her being beaten up, just ‘feeling weak’.. typical media cover up.

http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu- post/2013/05/24/on-saturday/battlefield -redefined/249127.html

They came and gave a talk, and everyone literally said nothing all day. They listened to what they had to say, they listened to me talking about my best friend, Mischa. They listened to how I spoke about her pain at being so confused, how depressed she was, and how she finally realised that she was born in the wrong body. They listened to how supportive her family and friends were, because we loved her for who she was. They listened to how I spoke about gay marriage being illegal, and were confused when I went up each single person and said..

“Can I have your permission to marry the person I love?”

“Umm.. yes, you can?”

They thought I was being a bit silly for doing this, until I asked them if they thought the fact that gay people have to pretty much ask every single person in their country for permission to allow them to marry the person they love, because gay marriage wasn’t legal, was also silly? That stumped them.

Afterwards, I spoke to Orla and Bakhti and asked them if they had access for deaf people. They said they didn’t, so I asked if we could come and work with them and create accessibility for deaf, blind and illiterate people. They said yes, and we worked there instead.

I loved my time in Preston and Nepal. Partly because of all the skills I learned, but mainly because of the people I met. I loved them all. We all grew as individuals. One girl hated public speaking, in the end she was a narrator for the play, signing to 800 people. One girl was quiet as a mouse, in the end she was a little Rottweiler, prepared to defend her opinions to the end. Some of you may have noticed that I have a piece of string tied around my wrist? I have kept that for four years. It’s actually been 4 years to the day today, that a Nepalese woman gave it to me on top of the Manakamana mountain. I’ve never taken it off, because I valued everything I learnt and everyone I met.

One person in particular.

Rita.

The people involved in the VSO project will all agree with me when I say Rita was an amazing person, possibly one of the most happiest and inspiring people I’ve ever met. She had an AMAZING smile that shone for miles. Her laughter was infectious. Whenever she saw that I was down, she’d come up to me, and say..

“Oi. You sad, why? No. You must smile. You must be happy. Come, you hug me.”

And just like that, regardless of how upset I would be, her smile and hug was a like a huge ray of sunshine. I am NOT exaggerating. Ask anyone who knew her.

Sadly, Rita died 3 months after the project ended. She committed suicide. Still to this day, as soon as I think about her, I start crying. Her death is still, and will always be one of my most painful and upsetting moments. Why she committed suicide, we don’t know. We’ve heard different stories, but none confirmed.

Her death inspired me to get involved with charity work. It is my dream that one day, there will be counselling centres for deaf people all over Nepal, and in other third world countries. I want to have centres where they can come in to talk, preferably to a counsellor who can sign or at least with an interpreter.

It enrages me that there are no support for them. They live in poverty, language and social isolation and have no education. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do this, or even if it’s possible – but I have the ambition and dream. I am going to study, and one day I will work for the VSO and create a better life for those living in third world countries.

I know that I may not speak to them much now, but joining the project was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I still think of everyone fondly.

Sometimes, you just have to take a risk and throw yourself in unexpected situations – you’d be surprised at what you find. I urge you to travel, I urge you to go out and meet new people. I urge you to be selfless.

I like to do good things for other people to make them happy, because it makes me happy. Maybe that’s not so selfless because I benefit from it too? But, I don’t think that’s so bad.

Someone once said to me..

“I distrust people until they earn my trust.”

For me, it’s the opposite – I trust people until they give me reasons not to. I know that it’s risky and I may get hurt. But I’d much rather live a life seeing the good in people rather than be cynical. That’s what Rita taught me.

So, go on.. create memories. Create happy days.

525,600 minutes..

Glen Waverley, Australia


Well, it’s New Years Eve and I’m currently sitting in my underwear in the living room. My neighbour is doing the dishes and giving me strange looks. Hello. I hope you’re enjoying the view.

So, 2013.. what a year it’s been.

Every year, like a broken record, I always say..

“Wow, this year’s been eventful. Let’s hope next year will be a better one.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Every year, something bad happens.

I have an app on my mobile called Timehop. It’s brilliant. It tells you what you said on this day a year ago, two years ago, and so on. Today, I got this.

‘2012.. what a year. I spent the first 30 minutes of 2012 getting shot at by the police in Barcelona with Sophie, my mother took cancer by the balls and chopped it off, my uncle Umesh got an O.B.E., I gave up smoking, we went to see Steps in Dublin, I did the marathon, Grace gave birth to Niamh, I moved in with my two gay boys Lee and Mark, my mother performed at Shakespeare Globe theatre, Holly gave birth to James, Lydia gave birth to Emily, we had the Jubilee, Olympics and the Paralympics, Sarah-Jane FINALLY got married, road trip in Spain. Laura gave birth to Noah, I got another tattoo and celebrated my wife Caroline’s 30th in London. 😉

Those were the life changing moments this year for me, my family and friends.
I’ve also enjoyed the little moments with my friends; finding new places to eat, drink and be merry, making hoax calls, fighting on the sofa, telling my friend’s children that if they hit me one more time I’ll hit them back, sending naked photos to each other, cuddling, cinema dates, stabbing each other with chopsticks, texting, arguing about the smallest things because we care, and most of all, the new people I’ve met on the way – you all know who you are.
Bring on 2013.’

Sounds like 2012 was a great year for me, wasn’t it?

Wrong.

It was also a hard year for me. BUT instead of choosing to reflect on the bad times, I chose to reflect on the good times.

If I had to choose defining moments that happened this year, I would say it would be Vitalis death, nan nearly dying and moving to Australia.

These aren’t exactly ‘happy’ moments, but they were moments where I had the utmost clarity and perspective on life.

I wrote this when Vitalis was in the hospital.

‘When you kiss the forehead of a beautiful man in a coma, you start to see life a bit differently. You become more aware of your surroundings. You start to see the details on a wandering leaf blowing by. You notice the gentle breeze on your face. You notice your hands, lips and your body moving. You notice the hubbub of conversations, people walking past you, with no idea what’s going on in each other’s heads at that exact moment. But most of all, you notice a huge gaping hole in your heart – that’s where you’re aching. Make no mistake, you will ache several times throughout your lifetime. Yes, it hurts.. it’s horrible, but it also reminds you that you’re alive. Take that pain, and use it as the driving force to make sure that you live your life to the full. Throw caution to the wind and set sail.’

He was a wonderful man who had such passion for life. Those who know him very well will agree with me. Those who didn’t know him very well, will still agree with me.

When nan nearly died, the whole family rushed to the hospital, trying to see her before she went into the operating theatre. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it in time, and I can honesty say that those couple hours, sitting the ICU waiting room, waiting to hear if she would be ok, was one of the hardest few hours of my life.

Thankfully, she made it through.

The next day, I sat down with her and wrote this.

‘Last night, my nan had to undergo a life-threatening operation otherwise she would’ve died within 24 hours. I’m pleased to say I’ve just had a 2 hours long conversation with her about how I know I’m actually secretly her favourite grandchild, that she needs to quieten down because she’s in the ICU and doesn’t realise she’s actually shouting instead of talking, telling me about how the doctor said she was a young lady, and replying with, “I’m not young and I’m not a lady – in fact, I’m foul.”..
But mostly we talked about love. She said that money, possessions, and all that, weren’t important, as long as you had love. “Find a girl. A good girl, who you love, trust and makes you happy, and marry her. Because when things goes wrong, if you lose everything or if someone dies, it’s less painful . Because you’ve got someone to help you through it. That’s what love does.”

So.. do whatever makes you happy, throw yourself out of your comfort zone, meet new people, enjoy life and most of all – be genuine, because you never know who would love the person you’re hiding.’

My nan is 80 years old. She’s lived through the war, lost her sister to smallpox, her father died when she was 12 years old. She also lost another sister to cancer and her husband of 50 years died.

Believe me, this woman has known pain. But do you know what the funny thing is?

You wouldn’t know it.

She’s a ray of ******* sunshine, she is.

If you ask her what she’s most proud of? She’ll definitely say..

“My family.”

It doesnt’ matter what we’ve done or achieved – it’s the fact that we’re all here, the memories we’ve made, the memories we’ll make, and the fact we’re making the most of what we have. The same goes for my mum. She has known pain – but she still soldiers on. I’ve known pain, and I still soldier on.

Do you know why?

Life is short. (well, actually it’s probably one of the longest thing you’ll ever do, but, you know..)

You can wallow in sadness and reflect on the sad things that have happened. OR you can acknowledge that it happened, take the pain, and like I said earlier on, use it as the driving force to make you live your life to the full.

I’m doing that – I’m living in Australia.

Every year, my new year resolution is always the same.. have fun.

525,600 minutes.. a year. Don’t waste a minute.

Happy New Year everyone.

We are family.

Camden Town, United Kingdom


Christmas time.

What would you think of if someone asked you what you thought of when they said that?

#..Christmas time, Mistletoe and wine..
Children singing Christian rhyme,
with logs on the fire and gifts on the tree.
A time to rejoice in the good that we see..#

Right?

Not in our family. More like..

#..You’re a bum!
You’re a punk!
You’re an old slut on junk!
Living there almost dead,
on a drip in that bed.
You scum bag!
You maggot!
You cheap lousy ******!
Happy Christmas your ****!
I pray God it’s our last..#

Ok, maybe that’s a lie. I’ve never actually screamed, “You’re an old slut on junk!’ to mum.. I MAY have silently thought of equally as offensive insults in my head at times, and more than often may have called Ben a ******, but that’s a different story for another time.

However, at Christmas time, in our household.. you will hear, or see these sayings..

In chronological order.. (those highlighted in bold are sayings you will hear more than a couple of times throughout the day)

“Wake up!”
“**** off! I have a headache.”
“Shut up, you alcoholic – it’s a hangover, not a headache. Self-inflicted – I have no sympathy for you. Get your fat ass out of bed.”
“By the way, I didn’t buy that for you, I won it in a raffle.” (my little brother, just after I opened my present, two years ago. What an *******)
“When is dinner?”
“I only have one pair of ******* hands. It’ll be ready when it’s ready.”
“Give me the remote.”
“Mum! They won’t give me the remote!”
“You go to the shops.”
“No, YOU go to the shops.”
“YOU’RE doing the washing up.”
“I was sitting in that chair. Move.”
“Don’t eat all the potatoes. I want some.”
“Give me the gravy.”
“What’s the magic word?”
“Give me the ******* gravy.”
“Get it yourself.”
“I want to watch this.”
“I wanted to watch that.”
“Tough ****.”
“You’re a ******.”
“You’re a *****.”
“Why can’t you behave like a normal family?”
“Now mum’s upset. Well done..” •slow clapping•
“YOU made her upset.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I love you.”
“We’ve run out of alcohol.”
“We’ve run out of cigarettes.”
“Don’t blow your smoke in my face.”
“Lets play cards.”
“No.”
“Don’t be so anti-social.”
“You’re doing my head in.”
“I win. Up yours.”
“Lets play Cluedo.”
“Every ******* year, I have to repeat this.. I ******* HATE CLUEDO!” (me.. every ******* year)
“Leave me alone.”
“Lets play Pictionary.”
“I don’t want to be partnered up with her.”
“I don’t want to be partnered with him.”
“Oh my God, you can’t ******* draw.”
“What is that?”
“You have anger issues. You need to go to anger-management classes.”
“You need to go to attitude-management classes.”
“Seriously mum, please put him up for adoption.”
“He’s 23/30yrs old (delete as applicable), I can’t put him up for adoption.”
“Girls are so much more better than boys.”
“I apologise for our family.” (to the partners)
“Who’s doing the washing up?”
Rock, paper, scissors.”
“Best out of three?”
“Best out of seven?”
“Best of nine?”
“I swear, next year, I’m not spending Christmas with you.”

Now.. the last line – I say that every year.. and every year, I still spend it with my family. Why? Because, regardless of how many insults we throw at each other. regardless of how many times we’ve wanted to kill each other (trust me, the number of times I’ve wanted to kill my brothers is slightly worrying), regardless of how many times we may not see each other.. we will ALWAYS be there for each other.

Our family isn’t perfect, we’ll be the first ones to admit that! But.. whenever one of us has needed help, we’ve never felt like there wasn’t anyone we could talk to.

I was 21 years old when my nan got cancer – I was heartbroken. Actually, heartbroken doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface – I was absolutely devastated. I went with her to every single appointment, and it killed me.. having to sit and listen to the doctors tell her the bad news, having to sometimes ask her to interpret what they said because I was crying too much to understand what they were saying and having to try and support her at the same time. I remember asking her why she liked me going with her to her appointments. I can’t remember her exact words, but it went something like this..

“You can talk the hind legs off a donkey. I can just sit there and listen you talk about absolutely everything and nothing. It takes my mind off everything I’m going through. Sometimes, I don’t even listen to what you’re saying, because sometimes you talk ****. But I like to listen to the sound of you talking.”

And just like that, I didn’t care about how much pain I had to go through, because as long as I was making her feel better, I felt better.

She kicked cancer in the nuts.

Two years ago, my mum felt faint and was taken to hospital. Further tests revealed she had cancer. Again, I was absolutely heartbroken.. but I was stronger this time around, and every day was spent with her in hospital. If you ask her, she would say the reason I came every day was because of the nurses. That’s a barefaced lie. It was the doctor and the pharmacist that I came for.
We spent everyday making ***** of ourselves. We would plank on the hospital bed, in the garden and on the stairwell. Once, we raised the bed so high, we were a foot away from the ceiling. The nurses and nan would often shout at us.

“Get down right now!”

The point is, we had fun – I didn’t want her to ever feel like she was alone.

She also kicked cancer in the nuts.

We’ve always said, no matter how hard things get, as long as we all have each other and everyone’s ok, then that’s all that matters.

This year is the first time I’ll be spending Christmas without my family, and I wish I was back at home with them.

Ironic, isn’t it?

So.. this Christmas – no matter how much they annoy you, no matter how much you want to beat them up, no matter how hard they may try to push your buttons, try to remember that if you need help, who would be there for you, no questions asked? Your family. Be grateful you have one.

Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy New Year to you all.