Random Writings

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*

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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.

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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.

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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.

The days we'll make..

Glen Iris, Australia


Today I’m going to talk about love, tolerance and acceptance. You may be confused as to why I’m talking about this.

Picture the scene.

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. ****. 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 ****, 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.

You have your first date. You take them out on a boat, you bring a blanket, a flask of hot chocolate, marshmallows and Milky Bar 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.

Last week, the Australian government overturned the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) legislation that was passed on December 7th, which had allowed gay couples to marry inside the ACT, regardless of which state they live in. They declared it invalid because it created confusion with federal legislation that defined marriage as a union between only a man and a woman.

Around 27 couples had tied the knot since December 7th. Their marriages are now null and void.

This makes me angry. How dare you tell us who we can or can’t marry. Love is love. Full stop.

People say it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Really? If you want to get all biblical, bring it on.

In Deuteronomy, a marriage is only valid if the woman is a virgin, and she should be executed if she is not. Anyone who commits adultery should be stoned to death. In Mark, divorce is prohibited.

In Leviticus 18:6 –

“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female, it is an abomination.”

A similar verse occurs in Leviticus 20:13 –

“A man who sleeps with another man is an abomination and should be executed.”

Leviticus is a holiness code that was written 3,000 years ago. It also includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics and even playing with the skin of a pig – there goes football.

Some think gay marriage will threaten the institution of marriage.

Umm.. Britney Spears got married and annulled in less than 55 hours. Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted 72 days.

Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh, the first couple to marry, have been together for 11 years.

Where’s the justice in that?

This is
where tolerance and acceptance comes in. You are not born homophobic – you are taught. Fair enough, we are all free to feel or believe what we want. But for me, I believe in morality, which is doing right, regardless of what I’m told – instead of doing what you’re told, regardless of what is right.

Everyone is entitled to have their The Notebook story.

Wake up Australia, we’re human beings too.

It's a wonderful life

Brunswick, Australia


I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to write another blog. I don’t know why, but for the last month, I’ve felt like I had.. I guess you could call it writers block?

So, where did we leave off the last time? Ah, yes.. the house that I didn’t move into. Yes, as I watched the guys jumping around, all excited, I felt good, I had trusted my intuition, followed through with it, and this was the outcome. Happy people. Yay.

Having said that, there was a slight uneasy feeling of doom circling its way around inside of me, and I knew what it was. Work. I love to work – I’d get up at 6am and travel for 2 hours to work, with a smile on my face. Well.. sometimes that would depend on my fellow passengers – their hygiene routine and their respect for the elderly and the pregnant. God knows how many times I’ve had a go at random strangers for not giving up their seats. Oh.. that one time I had a go at a man who was sitting down whilst a 70-80 years old lady was standing up.

“Please give her your seat.”

“Oh.. don’t worry, dear. I’m perfectly fine. I’m getting off soon.”

“No, it’s not right. How can you be so rude? Give her your seat.”

“No, no.. leave it,”

•squints my eyes and snarls at him•

“I’m pregnant.”

“What the…?”

•shows me the ‘Baby on board’ badge•

“Oh my God.. I’m SO sorry.”

It was actually an very unattractive, pregnant lady with excessive facial hair. FML.

Yes, I appear to have gone off track here, but the moral of that little story is, ALWAYS give up your seat for the elderly and the pregnant because one day, you’ll be pregnant and old. Not at the same time, though. That’s like, biologically impossible.. unless you’re thinking about the 69 years old lady who gave birth in India five years ago.. or a man.

Abigail. Get back to the story.

Oh. Sorry.

Anyway, I wanted to work. As much as I loved prancing around Melbourne without a care in the world, I needed to be productive. For me, I used to have a ‘work to live’ attitude, and I thought that people who had a ‘live to work’ attitude were just.. sad. But then, I grew up. I realised.. yes, you can work in order to earn money to do whatever you like. But where’s the satisfaction in that? You work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year with roughly about 26 days off thrown in..? If you work to live on that odds, you’d be depressed. I’ll put my hands up and admit that my early 20s were spent faffing about – I went about my work in a half-hearted way, and lived for the weekends where I’d go out and get drunk and have to drag my equally as drunk friends out of the Southern Fried Chicken place from our house in Dalston, especially a certain person who once screamed, “1p?! 1 ******* pence?! Is that all you think I’m worth?! I’m not that cheap!!! **** you, you *******.. and **** your chicken! I didn’t even want it!” to the poor guy who was just trying to give her change back from the pound she had given him for a 99p chicken at 3am.

But I wouldn’t change it. No. Looking back, those events resulted into me moving to Ireland, where I made lifelong friends, and then I went on to work for the VSO in Preston, Manchester and Nepal. I can honestly say that those two decisions I made absolutely changed my life – the butterfly effect and all that jazz. The people I met, the communities I became involved with, the love I received and the values I learned made me see that there was more to life than stumbling out of Heaven at 5am. Those experiences instilled a strong work ethic and determination within me, and I’m glad.

Truth be told, I actually applied for a job with Vicdeaf the day after I arrived in Melbourne. I just didn’t want to say anything in case I was unsuccessful – pride comes before a fall. I was quietly hoping that wouldn’t be the case though.

A week later, I heard back from Vicdeaf, and they wanted me to come in for an interview. Great.

The next day, I went shopping for clothes for my interview. I had found the perfect outfit – now all I needed to do was to go and sit down and do some research on the company, my role and so on. So I went to a bar and ordered a glass of wine and set about researching, only to find that they had no wifi. So, I drank wine and did some writing instead. Now.. there’s one thing you need to know about me – when I drink wine, I get all smirky (my closest friends will know what this particular smirk looks like, unfortunately.. and winds me up to no end about it), a mischievous glint will appear in my eyes, and I will lose all of my inhibitions.

So I decided to leave before I did something stupid.

Little did I know what was coming next..

There I was, strolling down the street, smirking and minding my own business when I happened to meet what seemed to be an angry mob of students protesting against the federal government’s plans and threats to slash funding to student organisations, to remove participation targets for disadvantaged groups, and change the current number of university places offered.
There were placards everywhere with ‘**** FEES, **** CUTS’, ‘TAX THE RICH, FUND EDUCATION’ and so on typed out on it. This intrigued me, I observed for a minute and then walked on by. 10 seconds later, the glint in my eyes appeared and I couldn’t help but halt, turn 160 degrees and smirk with a raised eyebrow (you know, like Jafar from Aladdin when he comes up with a wicked plot? That.) and walked towards them. I had no idea what they were saying but I got the gist of it. There was a strong police presence, but they were outnumbered by the protesters. There must have been about 100 people or so. They were really passionate and opinionated, and obviously cared about their education. It’s a shame that we have to fight in order to learn.

They then decided to march onwards to Parliament. I watched them walk into my direction and I decided to walk along and observe too. It didn’t take me too long to realise that I had actually inadvertently got myself caught up in the protest. I was surrounded by the protesters and flanked by the police on both sides.

Now.. it would’ve been VERY easy to just say..

“Excuse me, could you just let me through? Thank you very much.”

But.. this is me we’re talking about. I started giggling and decided to march along and shout with them.

“**** Tony Abbot! **** the cuts! ****.. whatever! YEAH! **** THE.. WHATEVER-NANANAH.. BLAH, BLAH.. yeah.”

The police made some unnecessary arrests and were very aggressive toward us at times for no reasons whatsoever. There were a couple of times where I actually almost got caught up in the fracas – luckily swiftly moving away at the very last minute by chance. There was one moment where I had a gut feeling telling me to instantly walk away from the march, so I stepped into a shop and watched them go by. Straight away, 7 or 8 policemen literally jumped on a man and ripped him to pieces – that guy was the same guy I was just walking next to a few seconds earlier..

When we got to Parliament, I decided it was time to leave and prepare myself for the interview – I didn’t want to get arrested and be deported back to England. So I found a cute cafe, listened to Paper Aeroplanes (so in love with them right now – check them out) and chilled out.

Interview day – I got all dressed up and went to Vicdeaf to meet Brent and Phil. We had a pleasant interview – I spoke about the weather.. how very English of me. They spoke about barbecues.. how very Australian of them. In fact it was probably one of the most comfortable interviews I’ve ever had. I felt very at ease with them, and hoped that I would get the job.

As it turns out. I did.

I’d say that it’s probably the main reason I haven’t been writing as much as I have – it’s because I’ve been working, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. When I came out here, I came out with the notion that I’d just stroll onto a farm and say, “G’day
cockie!” and the farmer and his wife would open me with wide open arms. She’d bake pies, he’d crack open the beers, I’d have my own wicked way with their daughter, and we’d sit around the kitchen table where I would regale them with tales of my series of unfortunate events. I’d live off the fat o’ the land and earn enough money to go back and buy a house.

No. Life is not like that.

Apparently, according to my friends who have done the compulsory three months work in order to get a second year visa, farming is cold, wet, windy, stressful and depressing. Having said that, some have also said that looking back on the experience a while down the road, it was also one of the best times they’ve had. It’s also very competitive – MILLIONS of backpackers are competing for a place. I decided I would much rather go for a job in the city, because I wasn’t sure how long I would be staying in Australia for – I would much rather explore the city, the food, shops, bars, etcetera, just in case I decided to go back before the year was up.

Also, I had underestimated how expensive Australia would be – I was well on my way to becoming flat broke. To get a job within two weeks of setting foot in Melbourne is pretty damn good, if I may say so myself. *pats my back*

So.. I’ve been in Melbourne for a month and half already. How has it been? It’s been brilliant. I’ve had the most amazing time so far, and I honestly do believe that the best is yet to come.

What’s next for me? Well, I’m currently staying with a friend in Brunswick – if I had to explain what it’s like, a mix of Camden Town and Brick Lane – no wonder why I feel very at home here. But next week, I’ll be moving into my own place. Yes! Finally! I’ll be moving in with a girl called Steph and a guy called Nikhil. It’ll be nice to finally be settled for a while. As much as I love travelling, packing can be an ****, you tend to worry about whether or not you’re overstaying your welcome and the lack of privacy can get on your tits. Getting changed in your bedroom aka the living room, continuously living in fear and praying to God that Christopher Joy (Penny’s husband) won’t walk in and see me naked and end up curling into a ball, screaming, “MY EYES! MY EYES!!!”.. actually, to be fair, that happened a fair bit when I lived in Woodford with the boys. I’d catch Mark about to step in the shower and felt like someone had just thrown Napalm on my eyes. Lee having a **** and felt like someone had just stuffed Napalm up my nostrils and they’d catch me walking around in my bras and knickers – music to their eyes, but they won’t admit it. Our bathroom lock works just fine, but for some reason, we never used it. God.. we had NO privacy in that house, but when you’ve known someone for 15 years, those kind of things don’t matter.

Big thanks to the guys in the T.A.R.D.I.S apartment – Janelle, Penny, El and Christopher Joy.. Actually, thanks to everyone who has let me stay with them – Danny, Liz, Andrew and Mija. I honestly do believe that you are meant to meet certain people. Each person has something to teach us, regardless of how long they’re in your life – they may stay for an hour, a day, or 10 years or even forever.

I also realise that when you think of success, you tend to think about from an academical or a wealthy point of view – “Oh, my son has just graduated from university with a 2.1 in Psychology.”, “Oh, my daughter has just been promoted to Marketing Executive.” or “I’ve just got $10,000 Christmas bonus. Suck on that!”

But for me, I measure success very differently. I measure it by how happy I am. I measure it by how proud I am. Notice that I’ve used bold ‘I’s.. that’s because I’m trying to emphasise that it’s important that whatever you do, you’re doing it for yourself, not anyone else. I know that my family will be happy with whatever I do, as long as I’m happy. In fact, if you ask my mum and nan what they’re most proud about, they probably would say the fact that I’m a strong and independent woman? If After all, when my grandchildren ask me what I’ve done in my life, what would I rather say?

“Oh yes, your nanny Abi worked her socks off. I became a Marketing Executive when I was 32 and CEO when I was 40. My proudest moment was when I made my first million. Look at my big house. Granted, I’m divorced. Your grandma left me and took your mummy/daddy because I was never at home, didn’t pay them enough attention and thought too much about what other people thought about me.” (Ok, that’s a little bit extreme.. but you get the picture.)

OR

“I lived on a farm in Ireland.” (Ok, we didn’t have animals, but we lived next to several farms. It was a very farmy area.)

“I lived in Nepal in a house with 15 people and three dogs.” (I NEVER have any privacy.)

“I got thrown off a plane with 22 people, because we were deaf. We kicked up a fuss, and all the news stations got into touch with us, and we made national news. Never stop fighting for your rights, by the way.” (True story.) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/engl and/berkshire/3919249.stm

I had fly to Egypt on my own and stay in a Mafia area because you know that annoying woman who sometimes comes around, Seeta..? Yes, her.. she thought it would be a great idea to sleep walk and throw her passport on the day we were due to fly off.” (I still think you’re a ********, Seeta.)

“I volunteered at a human rights organisation in Nepal, and I created accessibility for deaf people, so they could get information to LGBT issues and AIDS.” (One of my proudest achievements.)

“I was an amazing aunty to all of your aunties and uncles.” (Ok, that hasn’t happened yet, but seriously.. hurry up, will you?!)

“I lived in Australia.” (OR it could be, “I was born in England, but Australia stole my heart.. that’s why you’re all Australians..” who knows..?)

I also believe that everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you can just sit back and wait for things to magically appear in your lap. No, you have to get out there and make it work. How successful I’ll be by the time I talk to my grandchildren, I don’t know.. but so far, I’m happy with what I’ve done so far.

But most importantly.. learn to appreciate what’s in front of you, instead of romanticising what’s yet to come.

I’ll sign off with an article written by a nurse, Bronnie Ware.

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female
patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Why you no husband?

Camberwell, Australia


I spent the week exploring Melbourne.. well, apart from that one morning I got locked into the apartment by El.. I loved what it had to offer – the shops were quirky, the cafes were warm and inviting and the food was delicious! I swear, all I do is sit in cafes, drink hot chocolate and stroke my imaginary goatee, trying to look all wise..

Friday came, and Sofie and I decided to go to VCD for their street day where organisations came and explained what services they provided. Sofie is the girl I met in the hostel In Cairns by the way, remember..? Turns out she lived around the corner from Janelle! Such a small world. I’m glad I went because I met a guy I knew from my days in Nepal when I worked with the VSO, Ramesh – he came over for the WFD, and decided to visit his sister in Melbourne. It was lovely to catch up with him and hear about how everyone was doing over there. He was surprised to hear that I was single. “Why you no husband? You pretty.” He insisted that I ditch Australia and come over to Nepal to live with him for a year, and he’d help me find a husband. I guess he didn’t get the memo..

Afterwards, we went to Prahran Hotel for a few drinks. It’s never just a few drinks when it comes to the Melbourne boys though.. shots after shots, drinks after drinks and I was starting to feel rather tipsy and I made my excuses and went home. They pleaded with me to stay, but I was moving into my new house the next day! I had to go home and pack. This would be the first time I travelled around Melbourne in the evening on my own. True to form, I got off the wrong stop and ran like a headless chicken all the way home. Thank God for Google maps.

The next day, I packed all of my things and went to The Tradeblock cafe to meet some others to talk about DYV – Deaf Youth Victoria, a youth association that would set up workshops and social events to empower the youths, provide them with information and encourage them to socialise with their peers. It was an interesting morning with a lot of debates! Afterwards, Janelle and I made our way to JB’s house, where the boys were currently staying until we would move into our new house. When I arrived, I was told that we had no gas and electric as everyone was too busy to call the provider. Umm. hi? Unemployed person here, I could’ve called them up? Because it was the weekend, we wouldn’t be able to get anything done until the following Friday. I was not amused, but such is life. Sofie, Janelle and I got into the car and made our way over to the house in Burwood. As we drove, I can’t explain it but I had a strange feeling. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with moving so far away. I had NO problems with the people in the house – they’re all wonderful, but something didn’t feel right. I thought I would wait until I arrived at the house before I made a decision.

We arrived at the house and it was HUGE! It had 5 bedrooms, a study, two bathrooms, and a conservatory with a kitchen and pool table. As we looked around the house, I kept thinking to myself, ‘It’s amazing, but it doesn’t feel like home..?’ It was too far away – I should have looked at the house first before agreeing to move in. Janelle took me aside and said, ‘We all make mistakes. we learn from it, and we move on.’

My gut instinct was telling me not to move in. I thought back to when I was looking for a house with my boys back in Woodford Green. We searched high and low for a place but never seemed find a place that was just right.. until the estate agent told us that she had to make a quick stop at a house that had been deserted by the previous tenant. As we climbed over the pile of bills, into the dark and dingy kitchen and living room, we all had a funny feeling. Despite how dark, smelly and dirty it was, there was a certain charm about it – we felt strangely attached to it, and we told the estate agent that we would take it. After a couple days of scrubbing and hard work thrown in, it was gorgeous, warm and inviting – we had made it our home. All because we had THAT feeling, and I didn’t have it with this house. Thankfully Janelle and Sofie persuaded me to tell the boys how I felt, I felt bad about letting them down. But they were understanding, and told me to do whatever made me feel happy. I realised.. you have to give yourself permission to immediately walk away from anything that gives you bad vibes. There is no need to explain or make sense of it.

Jarrad and Senja were also admiring the house, and an idea formed into our heads – what if they moved into the house instead? So, with some gentle persuading, we persuaded them to move in, and Sofie would take their place at their house because it was only a 3km bike ride to her university. We could feel excitement rising in the room, I could see everyone’s eyes darting across the room, excited and nervous glances were exchanged. I could see they were all thinking, ‘Are we doing this? Is this really happening..?’.. it was all so sudden, but it felt so right.

It was settled, they would move in. We spent the next hour chattering excitedly, and as I looked at the smiles on everyone’s faces, I smiled and thought to myself..

‘Wow. Everyone’s lives changed in an instant, for the better. All this happened, simply because I said no…’

A warm glow came all over me. Life is about learning from the past, trusting your intuition going forward, taking chances, finding moments of happiness, and realising that everything is simply a lesson that happens for a reason. You have to expect the unexpected because life is always full of surprises. (I now have Cilla Black jumping around and shouting in my head. Great.) There will come moments in life where things will happen that you can’t prevent from happening, because they’re meant to happen – but instead of running away from it, you should embrace it, solve it and learn from it.

I also realised this meant I was still homeless and unemployed. But you know what..? I’m in Australia – I threw caution to the wind, and set sail. If things don’t work out, that’s ok. I have a home, I have a family that I love dearly (and at times, would happily beat the **** out of), and a fantastic group of friends. Whatever happens, I know I have them all to come back to – I can say that I tried, and had fun. As I once said before, despite whatever adversities we might face, we’re still capable of enjoying life when it gives us that opportunity. I always thought that the ‘enjoy every moment’ line was cheesy, and maybe it is, but we all have times in life when we’re allowed to just be happy. We don’t always know when they’re coming or when they’re going, but they exist.. and there’s a lot to be said for that.