British Sum…meh

It’s common knowledge that when referring to summer in the UK, one should always use air quotes. ‘Summer’ in the UK is ordinary at best, so for the few days the mercury dares to venture above 25 degrees, it’s taken pretty seriously by all. The country awakens from its slumber and residents go above and beyond to savour their brief British sum…meh.

Growing up in Australia, a county known for its sunshine and outdoor lifestyle, I was instilled with a healthy respect for the great ball of fire in the sky. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap‘ was the mantra of my childhood and later on avoided the sun like an ex you spot standing across the room at a friend’s party.

Apparently people in the UK were not given these same sun sense lectures throughout their formative years. Every time temperatures rise, the locals shed their clothes (taps aff!) and every spare inch of sunlight is occupied by a lily-white Brit…sans sunscreen. You can always tell if there’s been a summer’s day in the UK by the myriad of sunburnt flesh patterns seen in the office the following day.

Sunburn-Slider

For the remaining 360 days of the year when the sun doesn’t shine, the UK population appears to keep fake tanning companies in business with their desire to look sun kissed. Not a day goes by when I don’t see the tell tale signs of a botched fake tan job…an orange face here…brown elbows there…hands looking like they’ve been dipped in wood stain…everywhere. Some Brits would literally rather look like an Oompa Loompa than bear any resemblance to someone from the cast of Interview With a Vampire

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When I think about a quintessentially British summer, images of beer gardens and pints of cider on the footpath spring to mind. For most of the year, drinking is an indoor sport for those living in the UK, but when the sun is out, so is this beloved British pastime. With the daylight hours extending to 9 or 10pm during the ‘summer’ months, a walk past any pub in the evening might have you thinking there’s been a fire evacuation…

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For the upper echelons of society (or those willing to camp in a field overnight), summer in the UK is all about Wimbledon. Regardless of whether you are a tennis fan (Roger who?), the grand slam as a great opportunity to combine all of Britain’s favourite summer hobbies in one fell swoop…drinking, skiving off work and catching a ‘suntan’. With a Pimm’s in one hand and strawberries in the other, British summer doesn’t get much better.

On the rare occasion when temperatures spike above 30 degrees, the UK literally bakes. The London Underground becomes an oven of unbearable magnitude, buildings melt cars, store freezers look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie and people actually need medical attention…

The number one question I get asked here is ‘Why on earth did you leave the sunshine in Australia to come to rainy old Blighty?!’ Err, well…predominantly because my husband lives here and I like to be near him? But aside from that, and on a purely weather related note, because I hate the heat and I’m a miserable cow for a large portion of the year in Australia. Whereas in the UK, it’s socially acceptable to moan about the heat as soon as it hits 23 degrees. And there’s snow sometimes.

In this country, I don’t have to suffer summer all year round…the season politely shares the calendar with the other three seasons, just as it should. As a resident in England, I can safely step outside the front door 97% of the time without feeling like I might self combust. But most importantly, because a summer’s day is so rare here, that when it does come about, the country comes to life…and people actually smile. To quote Lilly Allen’s thoughts on London in summer, ‘Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why, would I want to be anywhere else?’

 

Grinchmas

Recently, there has been speculation that I might be a (the?) Christmas Grinch. Around this time each year, I sound more like a grumpy old man than a 35 year old woman, so I can see how this might be general public opinion. I would argue that there are only so many times you can listen to Mariah screech ‘All I want for Christmas’ at the top of her lungs before anyone’s Christmas spirit breaks. For me, that threshold just happens to be 0.3 seconds into the opening chord. So you can imagine my joy now that she has been on repeat in our office for two weeks straight.

grinch-square

I partially blame growing up in Australia for my lack of Christmas spirit. When you spend your youth watching Christmas movies like Home Alone, you can’t help but feel jibbed when the festive season rolls around each year. Pop culture promised me ugly woolly jumpers, sled rides in the snow and stockings hung by the fire for Christmas. Instead I’ve had years of roasting in the sweltering heat, standing in front of a fan on Christmas Day…too hot to put on pants, let alone conjure my inner festive spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, once upon a time I loved Christmas. As a kid, my Christmases were spent with my siblings and cousins…clad in swimmers, eating watermelon and hurling ourselves down the Slip ‘N Slide for hours on end. Even the inevitable yearly gift of Val’s Towels from our great aunt couldn’t deter me from the enjoyment of the festive season. A beloved yearly tradition of new board games and epic rollerblading sessions punctuated the Christmases of my childhood…but then we all grew up and rollerblading became seriously uncool.

I’ve come to the conclusion that adult Christmases a pretty ordinary, unless alcohol or inappropriate gift giving is involved. The most memorable Christmases I’ve experienced in recent history are those spent with fellow sans-family-nomadic-friends, pooling together our resources to survive the day (see previous note regarding alcohol). Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like a group of 20-something year olds willing to lose a limb over a Lego Yoda, gifted in the Dirty Secret Santa exchange.

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I’m not all doom and gloom when it comes to the festive season. Where my Christmas spirit rockets off the Rudolph scale is in the gift giving/wrapping and general decoration department. Unsurprising really, given my love of *coughobsessionwith* all things paper. While I’m not bothered about the receiving of gifts, I love giving to others…and nothing brings me more happiness than the words ‘Oh, but it’s too pretty to unwrap!’

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The arrival of my nephew two years ago has reinforced my theory that children are the secret ingredient to enjoying Christmas. Kids love all things Christmas with unbridled enthusiasm and the true spirit of the season…it’s enough to infect even the most severe of Grinches. I mean, how could I not laugh when my nephew excitedly chewed a hole right through the Christmas ornament he made during our last Skype chat?! He’s made my Christmas already, even from the other side of the world.

So what if I detest carols, Christmas pudding or the swarms of frenzied shoppers at this time of year? I enjoy Christmas in my own Grinch-like way. I still watch Home Alone every year (I’m told Die Hard will be added to the viewing list this year), adore gift giving and dedicating hours to the design of a Christmas tree. As this Christmas is being spent back in the northern hemisphere, I also have the promise of snow to look forward to. Who knows, maybe one Grinchmas soon I’ll even take up rollerblading again?

tree-collage

 

‘Straya

Well, it has now been three months since I left the shores of Australia (once again) to return to the United Kingdom. My nomadic ways continue and after three years back in the country where I was born, it is time for the next adventure to start…with my new husband. Yes, that’s right…things have changed since I last wrote two years ago (appalling I know), but that’s a post for another day.

14 weeks have passed since I left the sunshine, bugs and sweltering humidity of a Queensland summer to launch myself into the grey, cold clutches of wintery Yorkshire. Don’t get me wrong…I love the UK and my freckle spattered skin prefers the climate here too. But with every siting of a double decker bus or snowflake, comes the reminder of how different this place is to Australia. Which got me thinking…what is it that makes ‘Straya so unique?

‘Straya is a place where we love to leave couches on our footpath, even when Kerbside Collection isn’t coming around for another year…

‘Straya is a place where people fall into one of two camps…those that get Southern Cross Tattoos…and those that hate them…

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‘Straya is a place full of people with a keen and sophisticated sense of humour…

‘Straya is where we abbreviate everything

And you have to listen hard to catch what we actually mean…

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‘Straya is a place where we try to put a ‘z’ in every name possible…from Dazza (Darren) to Lozza (Lauren) and Kezza (Kerryn).

‘Straya, where shoes are optional…

Here in ‘Straya, we tell it how it is…

Everything can kill you in ‘Straya…

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In ‘Straya, we like…err…

This could be your neighbour in ‘Straya…

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We’ll try Vegemite with anything in ‘Straya…

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You can judge a person by their number plate in ‘Straya…

In ‘Straya, our bins are bird proof, not bomb proof…

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‘Straya is full of excellent drivers…

In ‘Straya, comfortable clothing is encouraged…

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And lastly…you can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take ‘Straya out of the girl…

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A Poem For Pop

On the day I was born, right from the start,

A bond was forged, between our hearts.

I, the first grandchild, and you…my Pop,

An unbreakable love, nobody could stop.

My earliest memories, are of you in your shed,

And naps together, on top of your bed.

You pushing my stroller, and beaming with pride,

Watching me play, your smile so wide.

The Pop I remember, from my childhood days,

Has a tool in his hand, and is working away.

He is swimming in a snorkel, and doing his laps,

Or arriving at the door, with a rat-a-tat-tat.

As I got older, our bond grew too,

And at times we noticed, I was just like you.

Determined and stubborn, wanting our own way,

But with me, your will, always buckled and swayed.

‘I’ll bump your heads together’, we often heard,

But action never followed, the threat inferred.

No Pop, you never did have us fooled,

Us grandkids knew, it was we who ruled.

When I moved abroad, you sent me off with a wave,

‘Watch out for those Pommies’, the advice you gave.

You always encouraged me, to chase my dreams,

And hid your sadness, when I decided to leave.

We started writing then, letters sent and received,

‘Dear Granddaughter’, ‘Love Pop’, and all the words in between.

I treasured those letters, of our connection they spoke,

Even though you complained, the postage was sending you broke!

The Pop I’ll remember, is always walking at pace,

And whistling a tune, a cheeky grin on his face.

A story teller of sorts, sharing tales from the past,

Or a swimming technique, ‘This will make you go fast!’

Walking with hat on your head, to the railway and back,

Energy and enthusiasm, you never did lack.

Collecting found objects, from the side of the road,

By the end of your walks, gathering quite a load.

Pop on Tabletop Mountain

When at 80 you asked, that we climb Tabletop,

I looked at you in wonder, would you ever stop?

But you made the journey, proud as could be,

Even if the adventure, ended in Emergency.

Pop on Tabletop Mountain

In later years, I didn’t see you so much,

Though as I wandered the globe, we stayed in touch.

And when I returned, you always took the time,

To have a cuppa, with your oldest grandchild.

You once said to me, ‘Don’t settle for less,

Than a man who will treat you, just like a princess.’

But I think you forgot, it was clear to me,

You were that man, I’d found him already.

I’m sure Pop, you’d say, ‘Stop making a fuss’,

If you were here today, watching all of us.

But we’ll think of you often, and share memories of you,

Shed tears of sadness, and laughter too.

May 12th is the day, that you left this earth,

32 years, after I met you at birth.

And while I’ll never see, your smile again,

Our bond and my love for you, will always remain.

Behind the Scenes…

A year ago I took a plunge and started my own business. I permanently abandoned my tertiary degree (pfft, what $25K student debt?) and career as an interior designer to take up a new life folding paper. Yes, you read that correctly…I fold paper. Like a boss.

Origami Crane Mobile

After my three year hiatus in Japan, and armed with a swag of self taught origami skills, I was ready to take on the wedding and home decor market of Australia…and the world. For the last year I have experimented with product prototypes, worked the market circuit, poured over wedding blogs, researched marketing techniques, drowned in Pinterest DIY tutorials, donated to giveaways and tried to get my business name out there in every way possible.

The Toowoomba Telegraph Feature Article

In my first year of business, I was written about in a local newspaper, featured in a number of online blogs and was even noticed by Disney Baby. So to the unsuspecting masses, threefold has the appearance of doing exceptionally well, with very little effort. But small business is like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic…ten percent of it is seen above water, floating along gracefully…while the rest is hidden in the depths, consuming your life…

Behind the scenes…

The terms ‘weekend’, ‘holidays’, ‘9-5’ and ‘overtime’ cease to have meaning.

Popcorn is a meal. Three nights in a row.

$10 sunglasses get repaired, not replaced.

Sunglasses

Behind the scenes…

It’s normal to go to bed at 4am. It is also normal to get up at 4am.

Your physician is Dr. World Wide Web.

You realise just how incredibly understanding and supportive your parents are. Over, and over, and over, and over again.

Mum and threefold

Behind the scenes…

You learn how to cut your own hair. Then cut it once. Because of an incident involving hot glue.

You see Margaret at the post office more often than any member of your family. She also knows more intimate details about your life than they do.

You rummage around in box bins regularly…and you’re completely ok with that.

Box kingdom

Behind the scenes…

Driving your car is sometimes a game of chicken with the petrol light.

Uni student habits such as all nighters, last minute trips to the printer and the consumption of energy drinks have made a comeback.

This…“When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.” – Carrie Bradshaw …but with paper…

Origami Paper

Behind the scenes…

You own five watches (purchased in that period when you were a stable adult with a normal corporate job). Three of the watches now need new batteries. The other two are broken.

Your workplace hazards include paper cuts, hot glue gun burns and repetitive strain injuries from folding paper.

People think your workspace looks like this. It actually looks like this…

Workspace

Behind the scenes…

Hours of your life have been lost to Pinterest. And trying to find the end of the sticky tape roll.

Watching website stats is more entertaining than television.

The contents of your fridge looks like this most of the time:

Fridge

Behind the scenes…

Spotlight mail is to you what chocolate is to…well…you.

Facebook. WordPress. Outlook. Pinterest. Twitter. Instagram. Linkedin. Repeat.

You do this kind of thing for fun.

Cardboard Castle

Behind the scenes…

A trip to Reverse Garbage is considered a shopping spree and a social outing.

There’s no such thing as casual Friday. The neighbours are lucky if you put on pants to take out the trash.

Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but people buying your products does.

Framed Feather Heart

Outdated

Having recently written about the joys of my online tinder dating experience, I’m sure you were all left wondering if I found my prince charming amongst all those redneck, chainsaw wielding, married freaks. No? Well tough, you’re going to hear about it anyway. I think it’s worth mentioning that I did actually make it on a few dates after surviving the gauntlet of cyber weirdos…only to find there are plenty of creeps in the real world too.

If tackling the thought of online dating wasn’t enough for this 32 year old single girl to take on, once I had found a few (seemingly) normal guys, then I had to face the necessary evil of a first date. As an Aussie girl, I have never really ‘dated’ per se. In the land down under, we catch guys the traditional way…get really drunk, pash a bloke, and bam, instant boyfriend (I know, we are a classy bunch).

But it seems like this way of finding men might be a little outdated (if not completely inappropriate if you’re over the age of say, 23) so I put on my big girl pants, prepared a swag of small talk topics and braced myself for the dating world. After all, as my (also single) cousin pointed out…’first dates are just for them to prove they aren’t axe murders…you don’t meed to impress them’. Armed with that very sound advice, the last six months of dating went like this…

Date 1: I didn’t recognise Mr Muay Thai Boxer when I met him…because he was around (no pun intended) 5-10kgs heavier than his tinder profile photos suggested. His hobbies included making jokes about my age (he was younger) and stroking his own ego. After my hasty exit 30 minutes into our coffee date, I received a message from him asking ‘So…how did I do?!’ Apparently he mistook the date for a job interview, so I promptly told him he was not right for the position and wished him the best of luck in finding something more suitable elsewhere.

Date 2: Never turned up. That’s right, I was stood up. I was left standing at a bar in my favourite high heels waiting for Mr 32 Year Old Kiwi Triathlete for half an hour before my dignity got the better of me. I still haven’t heard from him, and had hoped that he was hit by a truck or something equally worthy of a Sex and the City episode. Alas, facebook informs me he is alive and well…and has apparently changed his name. Perhaps as a security measure after angering another girl he stood up?

Date 3: Was not actually born out of internet dating…it was the ubiquitous set up by friends…which started well enough with Mr Smoulderingly Hot 29 Year Old French Personal Trainer but two weeks later ended with Mr Misogynistic Opinionated Ignorant Jerk who wanted me to sew his clothing, make his dinner and fetch his lunch…all while telling me he was right and I was wrong about everything.

Date 4: Was with Mr 34 Year Old Car & Hip Hop Loving Workaholic…one of the first guys I ‘met’ on tinder. On paper he was a great match…another self starter, goal driven, hard worker and ambitious. Which meant of course that neither of us actually had time to meet. Ever. We had one fantastic date months ago and a second never materialised…

Date 5: Actually restored my faith that there are still some decent guys out there. Mr Cute Sporty Englishman picked me up for our running date…which Mother Nature promptly ruined with an afternoon storm. So our run turned into coffee…the banter was good and the company great…but there was just no spark. Even if there had been, we did get around to that run after deciding to be friends…and I’m pretty sure my pathetic running skills would have sidelined me as potential girlfriend material anyway.

Date 6: Approached me through Instagram…he got extra points for the creative blind siding. Mr Nerdy Handsome French/Canadian DJ pursued me from afar with gusto…and was quite possibly the perfect guy for me. That was until reality kicked in and the (slight) distance issue became apparent.

Dates 7 & 8: Were the final nails in the dating coffin. These were planned dates with Mr I’m Actually Still in a Relationship With My High School Sweetheart and Mr I’m Going to Lead You on Because I’m Hoping to Ditch My Girlfriend Really Soon. I must thank tinder for leaving me with very little faith in the honesty of men as I probed both guys enough with pointed questions to find out this information before actually meeting with them.

I thought maybe my unfortunate luck with dating was contained to life in Japan, but clearly this is a global phenomenon which may follow me wherever I go. As such and after these experiences of the last six months, I’m officially retreating from the dating world and back to my happy single life until conditions improve*.

*Yes, I’m aware conditions are unlikely to improve.

Tinder Surprise

I have a confession to make…I recently started online dating. I’ve always hated the concept, but since returning home I’ve become aware that the dating pool potential amongst my (now married) friend circle resembles a muddy puddle. So I decided to build a bridge over my online dating prejudices (and the muddy puddle) and brave the sea of single men out there in the online dating world. If for no other reason that to dispel the rumours that I am gay (yes, the question does arise when one has been single for as long as I have).

But unwilling to commit to the serious dating sites like RSVP or eHarmony just yet, a friend recommended tinder. Tinder is a facebook connected app that tells you the name, age and common likes/friends of guys in your area…all conveniently downloaded to your phone for free in just a few (drunken) seconds. With a speed dating approach you can see up to five profile pictures of potential datees and a ‘tagline’ and then swipe left or right to say ‘NOPE’ to, or ‘LIKE’ the person. If they right swipe you too, then it’s a match and the chatting (or silent standoff) can begin.

But what I have learnt is that getting to the match stage is like running the gauntlet of cyber frogs in search of one Prince Charming. No actually, not even Prince Charming…just one decent guy. After a few short months in the world of this dating app, I have seen it all (and far more than I ever needed to) in what you might call Tinder Surprise

  • Save the topless photos for those other sites. Nothing screams ‘I’m a genuine guy seeking a meaningful connection’ like bare flesh.

Bare Flesh

  • ‘Smoker, but trying to quit’ is code for ‘Im not actually trying to quit…I’m just hoping I’ll get you to fall for me before you realise it’ (the classy picture with the cigarette in your mouth gave it away).

Trying to Quit

  • Take off your sunglasses…I need to check if you have psycho eyes.
  • What part of chopping your old girlfriend or child out of your profile photo makes you think I’ll find you endearing? And no, leaving your current wife in the picture is no better.

Married

Married

  • Just because you wear hats in all your photos, doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re bald. I’m single, not stupid.
  • With that profile picture, are you looking for a date, or a bunny for your Playboy Mansion?!

Brothel

  • Posing with your labrador/husky/other manly type dog will score you extra brownie points. Photos of you cuddling up to your cat/s or chihuahua will not.
  • I want to know about you…not your beauty regime (even if you are an American Psycho fan)…

Beauty Care 1

Skin Routine

  • ‘I don’t really know what to write here’ is not what to write here.
  • Some risqué profile pictures are amusing…

Nude 1

Pants Down

Nude Golfer

  • Others just make you look like an escaped mental patient…or a chainsaw murderer in training…

Suspenders

Jaeger Monster

Chainsaw

  • And while we’re on the topic of profile pictures, none of these really grab me either…

Body Builder

Jelly

Hens Party Pic

Trekkie

  • BTW, if u rite like u’ve nvr bn to skool or red NEthing but txt msgs ur hole life, 4get it! i h8 th@…srsly.
  • When did all you crazy rednecks get together and decide that chicks really dig animal killers?!

Kangaroo Redneck

Dead Animal 2

Dead Animal

Dead Animal 4

Dead Animal 3

  • Honesty is an admirable trait…but not always

C#nt

To The Point

Married Pig With Kids

  • But then again, I will know when you’re lying…

Tony Stark

Luke Wilson

It gets to a point after you have unwrapped the foil and eaten the chocolate where you begin to wonder if all the Tinder Surprise toys are broken or have a screw loose at best. That’s when tinder throws you a curve ball and you actually think twice (rumours be damned) before swiping left…

Kate

Kirsten

Or you breathe a huge sigh of relief when you open the app to discover…

No Matches

Needless to say, my first experience of online dating did not sit well and I have since deleted the app. From here on in I am going back to my happy single life and leaving the gauntlet for the other brave ladies out there. But then again, there’s always this charming man who found me on facebook…

Facebook Approach

Gone Postal?

I haven’t voted in an Australian election since I was at university…which the Australian Electoral Commission reminded me of with a $300+ fine earlier this year. The fine was waived after I (AKA Mum) made a sheepish apology for failing to inform them I had moved to Japan. At least I think it was waived…they never wrote back to confirm. Anyway, I am now back in Australia and no amount of excuses or apologies will get me out of the task this time around.

Yes, I know, I already hear all you political buffs out there scorning my lack of interest in how my country is run…ready to launch into a lecture as to why I should vote for one party or another. I appreciate that to some, this Saturday, 7th September is an opportunity to stand up and have a say in who we should have leading our country. I myself, will not be one of those people. Not because I am not voting…but because I have elected (see what I did there?) to vote from the comfort of my own home, via postal vote.

Postal Vote Package

It’s a good thing too, because when I opened up my postal voting package this week, I burst out laughing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the leadership of our country should be approached with a pretty serious tone from the candidates trying to win our votes, right? That’s my view on things at least…even if I suffer political apathy, the people who actually want to lead our country need to be fairly businesslike about the endeavour. Yet here I am, with my postal ballot paper and pen, left wondering, have all the politicians gone postal?

The first party to catch my eye after skimming over the usual suspects was One Nation. No matter how much time passes, whenever I read those two words, all I can think of is Ronald McDonald and this…

Hardly a great start to my voting process for the political future of Australia. The next party option however provided me with a glimmer of hope…

Building Australia Party

Surely these guys are a bunch of tanned tradies sporting manly facial hair and getting around in sunnies and high vis shirts…because they’d get my vote for sure. But if they don’t turn out to be tool wielding superheroes paying home visits to do my odd jobs, then maybe I can look to give this next party my vote?

The Pirate Party

You know, once they are done pillaging the seas and being the only thing between Stop The Greens well, stopping The Greens. At this point as I was examining my postal ballot card, I was beginning to understand why one of my friends said it reminded her of a kids’ novel. But then again, I don’t think kids’ books contain this kind of thing…

Sex Party

And yes, in case you were wondering, I did misread ‘Shooters and Fishers’ as ‘Hooters and Fishers’…I’m sure it had nothing to do with having sex on my mind. Even if I could stop thinking of them as ‘Hooters and Fishers’ now, I recently read a piece of chalkboard wisdom saying: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll never see him again’. On that note, I’m not sure I really want a bunch of hooters and fishers running Australia.

So what are my other options then? Oh…more amphibian loving politicians…

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I could always go for one of those very serious sounding parties nestled in next to the fisherman, but everyone knows they’ll never win…your party name has to be five syllables or less for ease of pronunciation on the national news. So I guess as a nicotine hating non-smoker, that just leaves me with one last option then…

Smokers Rights

So now you might understand when I say that while I have had this postal vote in my possession all week, I have yet to put pen to paper and choose my poison. On a (slightly) serious note, if you do want to make your vote count but like me, don’t know much about politics or the parties’ policies, head to Vote Compass. Answer the questionnaire and they will give you a guide as to which political party best aligns with your future vision of life in Australia.

Of course (hypothetically speaking), to get a valid option, you might want to avoid answering ‘neutral’ or ‘I don’t know’ to 90% of the questions…

Happy voting!

The ‘L’ Word

Georges Clemenceau once said, ‘Everything I know, I learned after I was thirty’. I’m already beginning to see George’s point…after barely six weeks of being thirty…

Since turning thirty, I have been on a constant emotional roller-coaster…observing and experiencing highs and lows I’ve not encountered previously. Thirty has started with a many lessons…both good and bad…and the subject I’m currently majoring in? Love, of course.

Lesson No.1: ‘I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I think one of the arteries is clogged’

A former employer once told me (in a meeting to warn me about my ‘attitude’) that if I’d had a bad trip into work, the whole office would know about it within five minutes of my arrival. Those words have stayed with me, for as much as I wanted to refute his argument, I really couldn’t.

Every emotion I ever have is aired for the whole world to see…it is a fact, I do wear my heart on my sleeve. I ‘tell it how it is’, I’m an ‘open book’, I ‘don’t beat around the bush’…some find this trait endearing, others find it abrasive (refer to previous note about attitude). I find it both hazardous and rewarding in equal measure, but it is something I have come to accept about myself over the years.

One symptom of this trait is that I fall in love quickly and I fall hard. I’ll be picking my bruised heart off the ground, brushing it off and swearing I will never go down that road again when somehow I find myself in the middle of it …all over again. I’ve often wondered if this means I am a helpless romantic…or worse, just blindly stupid when it comes to love.

What I have learned is that for all this falling in love, I only ever make it about 95% of the way there at best. There is always that last 5% (the clogged artery) that calculates all the different ways it will end, all the possible ways my heart will be injured and adds up all the reasons why it won’t work out. When I hit that 95% mark, the walls come up and my defenses are engaged. What I’ve regretfully discovered is I’m also capable of shameful and hurtful acts, all in the name of protecting my heart.

So what caused this clogged artery and will a change in diet and exercise regime see me return to full health?

Lesson No.2: ‘If I throw some of this baggage overboard, can I stop the ship from sinking?’

There is a ‘rule’ amongst women that goes something like, ‘it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them once you break up’. My logical mind only wishes there was a mathematical equation to deal with these things and the toll it takes on us. If the rule were true, then I would have been a fully recovered and functional human being back in 2008, having done the three years of ‘time’ after my longest and most involved relationship to date.

The truth is I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that relationship…and the proceeding ones. Baggage is a nasty term we give to the reality that faces everyone…as we get older, we have more life experiences, many of which are gained through relationships. Good or bad, they make us who we are and shape the way we look at life and future relationships.

My baggage saw me flee my home land and I have since spent the better part of six years travelling the world, enjoying a freedom I’d longed for since I was a teenager. I have lately admitted to myself that the likely cause of my clogged artery is residual scarring from that first long term relationship. I gave myself over fully back then…100% and six years of my life. I was young, naive and at the time I thought I was going to get my happy ending.

It wasn’t a horrible relationship, there was no abuse, no infidelity, no major event to warrant the need for me to become a man hater (which I’m not, by the way), but none the less it has left me with baggage, complete with my own personal monograms. But what if all this baggage is weighing me down so much I can’t move forward?

Lesson No.3: ‘Cold as ice…can someone get me a blow torch please?’

A few weeks ago, someone (having only met me once before) made a comment that I seem ‘as tough as nails’. A younger version of myself would have found that a wonderful complement, but I must admit that my heart sank a little when I heard those words on this occasion. Sadly, it’s not the first time words of this sort have been used to describe me. Even those that have had 95% of my heart have sensed my inner ice maiden and said my heart needs ‘melting’ or that I need ‘softening up’.

I know I have become hard. I am aware that this is because I have allowed my baggage to accumulate over the years…to a point where it has become a fortress, stacked high around me on all sides. I am tough, I am cold, I don’t let people into that last 5% of my heart so I can stay safe and secure from the hurt.

It’s only in the last few weeks I’ve noticed just how lonely it is high up here in my castle of personally monogrammed baggage. Question now is, how do I start to tear down the fortress and allow people in?

Lesson No.4: ‘Is it really better to have loved and lost or should I just be blissfully ignorant?’

This is by far the hardest lesson I have learned of late. One I am still processing and probably will be for quite some time. I personally don’t believe in finding ‘the one’ or a person that ‘completes me’, but I do believe others happen on it. People do find unconditional, all consuming, selfless love and lately I witnessed each end of the spectrum when they do.

I was home recently to see my sister’s union to my now brother-in-law and the marriage of some very special friends. Little did I know when I boarded the plane that just ten short days would change me so fundamentally. There are two instances from this time at home which have taught me more about love than I have acquired over the past thirty years. Two occasions which are now etched firmly into my memory and will reside with me until the end of my days.

The first was a great shock to me as I saw my aunt for the first time since the passing of her husband (and my uncle) nine months ago. I had been told by various family members that she had not been coping well with the loss and that she was grieving badly, but nothing prepared me for what I saw. My aunt and uncle were soul mates before he passed…married for almost thirty years and spending every single day of that time together. Despite a significant age difference between them, everyone who met them could tell in an instant they were meant for each other.

Since my aunt has lost her soul mate, she has lost a large part of herself. I was reduced to tears on seeing the shell of a woman she has become without the man she tied her life and heart to. I don’t know who that woman is now, she is a stranger…so physically, mentally and emotionally altered that she is unrecognisable. The woman who I shared my deepest thoughts with, grew up aspiring to be and adored for all her warmth and compassion no longer exists. She is unable to smile, sleep, carry on a normal conversation or concentrate on a task for more than a few minutes…she is dying of a broken heart. Her loss is so great it is consuming her existence…all because she found love and she had her happy ending…

On the flip side of the coin, I observed the most joyful and heart warming sight a big sister can ever hope to see. I watched on as my younger sister, and best friend committed herself to a life with the man she admires, respects and adores most in this world. That in itself was moving enough…but the moment that I now treasure most about that day was seeing my brother-in-law’s face at the moment he set eyes on my sister. While everyone watched her, I saw the uninhibited happiness and love he has for her physically overwhelm him. His tears and the pure joy he showed in that moment filled me with certainty that my sister has someone who will walk beside her the rest of her life.

Seeing both these extremes in one day leaves me with both hope and despair about love. Even if I can manage to somehow give over that last 5% of my heart to someone…if there is someone out there I can love like that…is it worth it? Would it simply be easier for me to stay in my castle of baggage where I am alone, but safely ignorant to the elation and grief that kind of love can cause?

Lesson No.5: ‘Single is a dollar, but do I need change?’

In the seven months since my last visit home, one thing has become abundantly clear…as a thirty year old single woman, I am very much in the minority among my Australian friends now. I can count my fellow single’s club members on one hand and those that aren’t married and/or have children are for the most part planning nuptials and offspring in the coming year or so.

Here in Japan I am surrounded by other foreigners who are travellers like me…mostly single, without children and generally a good few years younger than me. The bubble I live in here allows me to forget my age and the social expectations that come with the number…it was only when I left the bubble I was made aware of just how different my lifestyle choices are to my friends back home. The gap is widening as I get older and it’s getting harder to ignore.

Nothing says ‘you’re thirty now’ like being checked out by a cute guy at the shops…then watching in shock as a toddler runs up to him screaming ‘Daddy, Daddy!’. Outside of this bubble I live in, ‘potentials’ have baggage of a whole other kind now…luggage tags stating ‘divorced’, ‘separated’, ‘kids’ and the like. How and when did this happen?!

Over the last few years as I have inched closer to turning thirty, I have heard all the warnings that I would tire of the life I have made for myself. I was told ‘my biological clock would start ticking’ and that I would ‘want to settle down and get married’. I think someone left out that part when I was made because I haven’t ever really felt the urge to get married and I can tell you that right now, kids are not even a blip on my radar. I wouldn’t trade the last six years of my life for anything…I chose this life of travel and I have loved every minute of it. But truth be told,  it has come at a cost.

The price of this path is that love for me has had an expiry date. Even as I’m falling in love, that clogged artery of mine has a purpose…it’s my reality check, the safety device, the earthing wire that serves as a reminder that love can’t last for me. I move amongst people who are transient. They will be in my life for a day, a month, maybe a year if I am lucky. I have been without a fixed home for six years. I am transient.

With this in mind, I’ve predominantly been on my own for the last six years. I’ve been spinning on this merry go round, constantly moving it’s finally starting to take it’s toll. I’m exhausted…maybe I need change?

Lesson No.6: ‘Home truths…I might be ready to click my heels three times’

Each of the last three times I have been home, it has become increasingly harder to leave. I may not have aspirations in the near future to get married or have children, but I am ready for some stability in my life. This is the most significant lesson I have learned since turning thirty. This transient life and carrying around all this baggage has worn me down.

I’ve been lost since the earthquake here in March…floating without a purpose and not really knowing what I wanted in life beyond Japan. This last trip home afforded me some clarity and I now know that I will be going home to Australia when my adventure here is over. I have returned to Japan from this trip with a purpose, a focus and very specific goals in mind. When I have achieved what I want here in Japan, I will be ready to click my heels three times and say those magic words…

I want off of this merry go round, I want to feel stability, I want to ditch this baggage and I want to work on clearing that clogged artery once and for all…I want The ‘L’ Word in my life.