Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Life As An Expat or I Don't Laugh Like I Used To



I woke up this morning and realised I don’t laugh like I used to do. Of course, I laugh but not the pig-snorting-can’t-breathe-doubled-over-clenching-my-arse type of laugh, or the scream-out-loud-tears-rolling-down-my-cheeks- type of laugh - and certainly not the soul-warming-I-feel-complete- type of laugh.

Do you know what I mean? Seriously, when was the last time you lost yourself to laughter?

Yesterday I was walking along the high-street - surfboard under one arm as I padded towards home with wet feet and soggy hair. There was a silly misunderstanding, one of those, ‘you really had to be there’ moments and I crashed out. I could not contain myself – I was roaring, hissing, clenching my pelvis floor muscles for fear of peeing my pants. I laughed and laughed and laughed, all the while, busy commuters and just out of work professional in suits and high heels walked by (granted, they gave me a wide berth) a deranged, soaking wet girl in a wetsuit, head thrown back in the rapturous delights of freedom.

My God, it felt good. But after the joy subsided, melancholia seeped in. I actually couldn’t remember the last time that happened.

Weeks? No
Months? Maybe
Longer? Fuck!

Despite my daydreams and whimsical musings, I am quite a pragmatic kinda gal, so I set about working out how to find more laughter in my life – and then I found this quote:



So is that is? Am I simply torn between two lands? To dear friends back home in the UK, living in the paradise of golden sun drenched sands and crystal clear shores is a dream come true, but these dreams don’t come without sacrifice – to leave your friends, your family and familiarity behind. Memories seem to belong to a different place and come with bitter-sweet nostalgia.

No matter how much you promise to keep in touch with home, slowly, the contact becomes less and less. You miss the big moments; your friend’s wedding or your best friend’s first birth or miss their child’s first steps or words. You miss the birthdays, the new homes and other celebrations. You miss the hard times, divorce, split ups, family bereavements. They miss your times too. Unfortunately, on the other side of the world, you cannot always give them your support and they cannot always support you either. Life goes on, with or without you.

You drift. 

Life becomes a dance, one foot in the present and one foot in the past - your heart torn between stretches of ocean. But to live a truly happy life, we must live completely in the present moment but that doesn’t mean forgetting your past or digging up your roots, because:

You can never forget the memories you made - and perhaps the quote is right, you do leave a piece of your heart else where, but your friends leave a piece of themselves in you too. So maybe in those times of homesickness, your heart is actually brimming and overflowing with their love...

Leave your guilt for leaving behind and learn to live in the now...

Fitting in as an Expat

It's not all that easy to begin with...

I chose to leave the 'me' I was at home in Heathrow airport - of course, I didn't know I had made that choice until... well, until now. I was trying to recreate myself to become the person I thought I should be. I made new friends, frikkin amazing friends, but I've concealed my real inner self by being guarded and trying to make a good impression - perhaps trying not to embarrass myself and trying to be a ‘grown up’.  

A ‘please like me’ plea.

Also, while I’ve diligently tried to create myself as a ‘professional’ writer in my new home, I’ve stopped being outrageously outspoken, distastefully humourous, and childishly naughty (what would people think?)  - I’ve stopped being me. And isn't that what made my best home friends laugh? Isn't that what  me laugh?

Without my Home Tribe behind me, life as an expat became all about the reflection in the mirror – “how do other people see me?” 

And we kinda have to say ‘bollocks to that!’

My new home is a place that exudes cool and I’ve desperately tried to fit into that mould. But I’m not cool - I’m slapstick, I’m sassy and I’m a little bit ridiculous. So, bollocks! I’m breaking the frikkin mould and I invite you, dear expat, to do the same.

Two words; Be Yourself

You can’t fake real laughter and you can’t fake the real you, and, for what its worth, I’m beginning to believe that one does not come without the other. So try it, try being unapologetically yourself and let’s see what magic happens…













Monday, 9 March 2015

Homeless in Sydney or Everyone has a Story




Have you ever wondered (as you walk by, eyes diverted with a mixture of embarrassment and shame) what happened to the young and old fathers, daughters, sons and mothers who sit begging on the streets?

Everyone has a story.

I always want to help them, I sometimes want to shake them or other times offer coffee or life advice - I never however, feel comfortable tossing a few pitiful coins into their baskets. So instead, I do nothing at all except, of course, divert my eyes.

Until today.

I never like to see anybody hustling their lives on the streets and feel particularly upset to see women. Even more so to see girls.

So what was this girl’s story?

She could not have been more than seventeen, fresh faced and empty eyed sitting on the busy streets of Sydney with her small dog and small basket of small change. I saw her a dozen steps before I reached her and watched her heart sink with each guilt-ridden coin tossed her way.

An empty exchange.

I was on the way to a bookstore, my refuge when my own problems get too much. I caught her eye but it was not desperation I saw.

It was strength.

My heart pounded in my ears.

I walked by.

I entered the sanctuary of the bookstore wondering what her story was. I was, after all, surrounded by stories – surely hers was just as sacred. It was when rereading the opening lines of Alice in Wonderland and feeling the warmth from the words warm my heart, I realised what I had to give.

I left the store and walked back towards the girl on the street. I didn’t have money to give her, but money is what she needed, not what she wanted. So I gave her the one thing I had to give – I gave her my time.

“Is she friendly?” I asked reaching out to her dog
“She is, just a little bit hot and grumpy.”

She held my gaze and I wondered how many people had seen her, really seen her today. Not a beggar, but a girl. A girl with a story.

I joined her on the floor, hitching my cream skirt up and taking off my high heels. We shared some small talk at first before I plunged in.

“What are you doing here?”

Every one has a story.

Young. Motherless. Father with bipolar who refuses his medication. A job. No home. A dog with whom she will not part, choosing to beg on the streets to keep the one meaningful relationship alive, than a safe home without her Roxy – some cross bred, soft eyed mongrel (dogs are not allowed in refuges).

Principles, priorities and love.

Did any one else see that as they walked by?

After a while I asked her if she liked to read, knowing the warmth words bring me.

“I used to love it but reading material is a bit light here.”

I don’t have much, but I do have a story.

I reached into my handbag for a copy of the novel I had written. I had it with me to gift to the ‘right’ person at some networking convention I had just attended. The right person had not been there.

She was here.

I pulled out the book feeling a little self-conscious.

“I’m a writer, this book I’ve written is quite inspirational, or so I’ve been told. It may help pass the time if nothing else! Would you like it?”

Her smile as she reached for the modest little book will be etched onto my soul forever.

“Thank you,” she smiled, with heart breaking honesty, ‘thank you, so much.”

I hoped what I had to offer was enough.

I touched her arm.
I wished her luck
And as I looked behind me to offer her a wave, she touched my heart with her genuine gratitude - her nose already stuck within the pages, her smile still placed upon her lips.

Will it inspire her? Maybe.
Will it change her life? Probably not – not the book at least but maybe the gesture will, if even for that one moment.


In return, she gave me the reminder of humanity, humility and the battles we all face as human beings, sometimes alone, sometimes together, sometimes with strangers and sometimes with a trusted four legged companion called Roxy.

So next time you pass a fellow human living on the street, give them the one thing you can – a smile – recognition that says,

“I see you”


Because everybody has a story.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Always be Yourself or Don't Give a Shit!


*A big soft sigh

It's good to be back! Back in the comfort of this familiar blog, its layout, its history - my history... and yours. I've recently realised that I'm not finished with this and so it's time for us to have a long overdue chat my friends.

So, in true The Less than Private Diary style, I have a question for you? 


Have you ever tried to impress someone so much, that you lose yourself and the very essence of who you are in the process? 

Let me tell you a story:

It has been a long eight months since writing here, whilst I tried to clamber up the ladder of success and professionalism with sparkly new websites and fancy designs. Big things have happened but not without consequence. My problem is (and I'm sure you may be able to relate to this, just give me a moment to settle back into my stride here) I've lost my voice.

Oh, don't worry - I can still yack on like a good 'un but:

In my attempts to gain recognition from editors/agents/publishers, I went all, well, serious. I forgot, whilst trying to be all grown up and professional, why I began writing in the first place. Which was to try and make sense of this crazy, orbiting world and hope in the process to connect with you - in moments when you also feel a bit confused, or lost or meh. 


I have been an official Try Hard, an arse-licking-grape-feeding desperado, trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be, in this case 'other people' are publishers, but yours could be friends, boss, not-yet-boyfriend - you can fill this gap with whoever you God-damned want - but generally speaking, this gap is filled by someone who you feel (and I feel) we can't live up to.

Hail the Gold Standards of inadequacies! 
Hazzah to never filling them there gold plated shoes!

Actually

Bollocks to that!

I am back here on this blog because I want  need to get real. Perhaps you are here because you do to.

Every time we change ourselves for someone else, we lose that very special thing that makes us unique. We shouldn't have to mould ourselves into someone else's idea of who we are, be it our family, employers or society itself.

We are all frikkin unique
We are all frikkin amazing
We just need to find the people who love our kind of crazy!

And just like our best friends, who like us (as Bridget Jones once said) just the way we are: despite drinking too much, swearing too much and general bullshitting too much, the best results in ANY relationship we ever have, is when we are being truly ourselves.

(Gosh, I've missed my own awesome advice!!)

So, who are you at your best, what is the very best version of you? Basically speaking, who are you when there is nobody watching? Strive to be that person when you feel under pressure and never fucking ever try to be someone else.

In the purest form: Don't give a shit what others think - it's not their life you are living!

I'll answer my own question here and why not answer it yourself in the comments below? It's extremely liberating to do so! (In fact, perhaps we can now refer to the comment section as the Rants of Truth - suggestions for better titles gladly accepted!)

When I'm myself, I'm fun, I'm frikkin God damned hilarious actually, I'm cheeky, a little bit risque, I'm extremely loving, sensitive, compassionate and a realistic balance of totally professional and completely unprofessional all rolled into a one delightful and slightly messed up individual with a thirteen year old boy's sense of humour.

When I'm a toe sucking desperado, I am none of these things and basically as bland as school semolina! 

So dear friends, let's throw off our fancy dress costumes of who we think and others think we should be and let's get real, let's get raw, let's get naked!

Now dance in this game called life mo-fo, like there's nobody watching!





*Rant Over

Friday, 6 June 2014

If You Could See me Now...



In that one moment, that perfect moment, when I had never felt so abundantly happy, so full of life, love and nature - a million miles away from strain, materialistic desires and emotional pain. In that one moment I whispered reverently,
"If you could see me know."

Let me set the scene with simple words that could never truly encapsulate my surroundings and the feelings that they evoked deep within me. The sun was setting a velvet crimson red behind the rouged backdrop of mountains and tall forests, where blue hues and  mists rose mysteriously from the fresh smelling eucalyptus, evaporating like a whisper against the warm, golden skies. Turquoise water tainted with liquid gold caressed the shoreline as tenderly as a mother kisses the skin of her first born, and although the daylight still fought against the darkness, the moon bravely shone in her defiance and inevitable victory, as her own children began to appear, slowly, one by one, ceremoniously celebrating dusk's surrender to the night.

A solo boat bobbed on the horizon and I recollected that I once knew that loneliness, I once felt that insurmountable emptiness and vastness of travelling alone in a world that cannot be understood when hovering above the surface. I do not hover above the surface anymore, in fact, I have become submerged and immersed in a love that has more depth than the unexplored Ocean Herself,  the very ocean that delicately washed away our footprints from the shore as we walked along the virgin sands hand in hand.



"If you could see me now." I whispered again as we made our way to our candle lit camper van, parked at an unmapped coastal location of the East Coast of Australia. Smokey Barbecue aromas filled the night time air along with the nighttime sounds of wilderness. We drank wine until we were merry, watched the show of rainless lightening that nature displayed in the far distance,                                                                                                                                                                                                   we made love under the stars as our own thunder roared. And as we fell asleep, entangled in a mass of sweating bodies and love, I whispered to my past self one more time: one more time to the terrified girl I use to be, one more time to the unknowing, constantly searching and emotionally wrecked women I thought I was, one more time to the hurting, lost and fearfully soulless individual that hovered above the surface of life,
 
"If you could see me now, if you knew how incredible life would become and always has been, you would not waste a single second on remorse, fears and insecurities. if you could see me now, all the pain would be worth it, happily endured for this one moment, for this one perfect moment..."


Monday, 26 May 2014

Search and Rescue



“Would you ever decide to kill a human being?” He asked.
“No, of course not! I replied, silently questioning the truth behind my words, would I? Would I if it meant saving or protecting a loved one?
“Ah – A perfect decision,” he said with a subtle degree of melancholy in his world-weary eyes, “I’ve made decisions that have killed many human beings.”

Strangers – those mysterious and unknown individuals that we encounter every day. Often, we join an entire herd of them, walking among the crowded streets feeling like the odd one out, a vulnerable gazelle between the hungry lions perhaps. We pass them by as if their lives mean nothing to us other than a moving landscape within the city. We forget that they have lives too, that they have dreams, ambitions, secrets and regrets.  

But occasionally, if the mood is right and the moment is taken, we can converse with these strangers and sometimes, if we are open enough, we may end up having a conversation that makes us question our entire world.

The conversation and indeed my day had started quite innocently. I had woken up with the sun shining through the window, penetrating my thoughts with the happiness that only an abnormally warm winter’s day can produce. Sea fret hovered on the golden horizon and I happily whistled out of tune as I cycled to a seafront cafe, imbued with the enthusiasm that witnessing day break inspires, as my scarf and worries fluttered behind me with the gentle breeze.

It was time to get a coffee and put my feet up


“Blue toe nails. Interesting.” he stated and I bashfully smiled in acknowledgment, removing my bare feet that had been resting on the cafe’s bench, allowing the lion to sit in the only available seat whilst he began checking his emails on his laptop. Unlike most people who turn up to begin their day’s business with extra skinny mocha lattes and business calls, I was there simply to enjoy the view, my full fat muffin and my book.

“I’m intrigued, what are you laughing at?” His thick American accent soon drawled with a tone of heavy seriousness.

I explained that the book I was reading was beautiful, dark and haunting and that a light hearted moment had taken me quite by surprise and made me laugh in only the way a wonderful story can.

“The only stuff I read is legal documents and binary codes, like processed food for the brain.” His words carried a hint of a long worn burden.

“I’m sorry for you. I hope that changes someday.” I remarked. He snorted through his nose indignantly yet a trace of a smile appeared on his thinning lips. I was sure I smelt the whiff of stale alcohol briefly overcome the coffee stained aroma of freshly ground Colombian beans. I raised my eyebrows and his grey eyes momentarily held my gaze in recognition and confirmation, his stare searching for the innocence of a world that he had left long ago.

“If you are wondering, I’m looking for the Malaysian Airways plane – well, Australia is. And they need my technology.” He stated from nowhere, maybe reading my inquisitiveness as I tried to read between the lines of his apathetic face.

“Search and rescue.” I remarked.

“No, just search. There’s nothing to rescue. Not with the plane and not with the whole world. Although I still try for what it’s worth.”

And this is what led to the opening conversation. He asked me what I did for a living and I dutifully replied with the same amount of unease and disparagement as any undiscovered artist who disbelieves in the credibility of the work that they create.

“I am a writer.”

(Another stale beer smelling scoff)

“What drives you to waste your life writing, why would you spend your time agonising over penning your words and thoughts onto paper for other people who may not care, agree or question your beliefs, especially in the realm of fiction? You are essentially just making things up, life is either true or false, yes or no. It’s like binary – 1 or 0.”

Although these words may be mistaken for hostility, there was only curiousness and intrigue in his hushed tones, as if he was trying to understand something that didn’t quite fit into any of his black and white categories just yet.

“Well, I believe in colour. I believe in the magic that lies between the yes and the no. That’s where we learn to discover the world and I write because it helps me make sense of my place within it. And before you ask why,” I quickly added, already savvy to his American Movie type of interrogations, “the world is an incredible and imaginative place, where we have to accept that are things very rarely as we perceive them. There are answers we will never know. I keep searching too.”  

“I’m sorry, but that is where you are wrong. I know exactly how the world works and my place, your place and everyone's place within it. I have been involved in surveillance for most of my damned existence, I make technology that can see through horizons, see through snow and ice - I have been into the callous heart of the CIA, worked alongside senators and congressmen who have no level at which evil can stop. People who want to change the world, really change the world get squashed, smashed into pieces. My cheques are written in blood. Tell me, would you ever decide to kill a human being?” The prominent frown lines on his forehead displayed the torment that lay beneath the surface.

There is nothing sadder than reading the story of remorse written across the face of a disbeliever, a person so laden with the evils of the world that they fail to see the colours that surround them.

“Tell me, why do you do this?” I asked.

“People need me, no, they need my intelligence. I save lives, I’ve taken lives too – But I need to keep trying to save people.” he said with seemingly no passion or belief in his touching ideology.  

“But what about you? What do you want to do, with your life?” I asked him, turning the interrogation around.

He began to share with me as he grasped at all the things he has in his life, amazing property's, wealth beyond my comprehension, all with graying eyes and a faraway look of a wounded child who had just discovered the illusion of a magic trick, his possessions suddenly exposing themselves for what they really are. He shook his head incredulously.

“You win, I guess I would love nothing more than to paint this beautiful view, or build homes, beautiful homes,” he smiled looking over the sea that had become a lake of liquid gold under the warmth of the rising winter sun, “but people need me and I need to save lives.”

“What about your own life?” I questioned, as I packed up my belongings and offered my hand to shake, “It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope you find what you are searching for.”

“I’m not searching for anything.” He remarked, shaking my hand and smiling with a hint of warmth, a crack appearing in his icy exterior, "Other than this bloody plane, of course!"

“Oh, I think you are,” I smiled, “I hope that one day you too will be able to see through the snow.”


I left him with my parting words as his gaze transfixed on the little bit of summer that had momentarily brought some colour into his life.

Funny, I thought as I cycled towards home, taking with my a glimpse of another soul,  that we can spend a whole lifetime searching and rescuing others, yet most often, the very person needing the rescuing, is our self...


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ambition - The Prologue



And now for something completely different!


Many of you are aware that I have been quietly and sometimes not so quietly, working my novel Ambition. I won't go on about how much this story means to me at this time but I will let you have a sneeky peek at the prologue. Here is a little intro, read on my friends... (formatted as a blog post)

Ambition is a story of champion jump jockey, Sean O’Dwyer who loses everything when he and the nation’s favourite mare Ambition, take a career ending fall when only seconds away from winning the Cheltenham Gold cup. Sean is forced to rebuild his life and is determined to nurse himself and the sick horse back to health but other’s ambitions begin to get in the way. With lust, passion and deceit against him, he soon realises that some people will fight to the death for Ambition.


Prologue

“Do you know that a mare’s performance on the race track can be significantly improved when she is in foal?” Charlie asked as wisps of his breath escaped from his mouth and danced in the frosty morning air. He ran a hand along the mare’s sleek, amber neck, her skin warming his December cold hand and the thought warmed his heart.

“I have heard,” Henry replied, smiling tightly, “I know as Ambition’s trainer you want the best results Charlie, but running my mare in foal just seems terribly barbaric if you ask me, especially in the top class chases we have aimed for her this season.”

Charlie’s eyes sparkled in response as Ambition’s hooves crunched against the golden straw - her muscles rippling in her lean body as she chomped on the hay that filled the air with the aroma of musty cut grass, a hint of a long ago summer.  

  “The top class chases are exactly why we should put her in foal - she would be unstoppable, she’s already incredible. Can you imagine the extra edge she would have?  She would lose those temperamental mood swings that she suffers from when she’s in season, you know, the ones that have a tendency to affect her performance, the bloody madam! What with that and her natural flight survival instinct that will be heightened to protect the unborn foal, we could guarantee her success. Our success.”

 Charlie turned his attention to Henry’s wife Felicity who smiled demurely, a look Charlie had grown accustomed to when his eyes held the gaze of any female.

“Think about it, if we act now, she can run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March just a few months in foal, win...” Charlie gave Henry a gentle nudge, “and you’ll have the added bonus of having a Gold Cup foal being born in the following January.  It’s a win-win situation!”

Charlie rubbed his hands together and blew on the tips of his fingers, wishing he had worn gloves, while Henry’s pensive silence created a stampede of derby horses galloping around in his stomach as he waited for the owner’s response.

“I’m sorry Charlie, but no, no I am not interested in the notion at all.  If she wins the Gold Cup we’ll retire her and then we can breed from her.”  Henry’s usual booming voice became quiet and deliberate as he folded his arms tightly around his robust chest, shaking his head resolutely to confirm that the conversation had ended.

Charlie, well aware of the art of seduction in both lust and business was far too astute to agitate or harass his owners, but he could not help thinking as he bolted Ambition’s stable door behind him, that Henry and Felicity had just let the best opportunity for success slip right past them.

to be continued...


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A General Whinge or If You Are Not Enjoying Your Life, You Are Doing It Wrong!

It would be a fair assessment to say that lately, I have been stressed as fuck.

Which smacks as ridiculously ridiculous as I am writing this on my balcony over-looking the harbour and coast line, with the sun shining, shore lapping and all those other things that months ago I wished to have when I described what it would be like to have a dream life in previous blogs.

In fact, I have been so stressed that I have become ill for the first time since ever (because I am a kick arse, roughty toughty Welsh bird who doesn’t do ‘sick’), yet my body has screamed at me this lovely little message:

CALM THE FUCK DOWN AND STOP!!!!

Okay, message received loud and clear thank you very much.

And we all do this – run around on the treadmill of life, ticking off and adding on to the never ending To Do List and sinking into the guilt ridden feelings of ‘I have to work hard in life to achieve.’ Well, after several more days than I would wish to spend sprawled out on the sofa with snot filling my entire brain space and dribbling from every orifice and sounding like Darth Vader after performing vocals at a 48 hour death metal concert, I have had time ponder and to come to this poetic conclusion:

If you are not enjoying your life – you are doing it wrong!

I have written a monumental list of things I have to achieve that has been consuming me from the inside out like some low budget horror movie monster. My dreams have become my nightmares and the biggest villain in the movie of my life has been me.

Life should be simple. We over complicate. We over analyse. We over think.

And I’ve got to the stage where I am so over that.

Forcing your dreams by working yourself to stress and illness, where so many thoughts are going around your head that having one single coherent thought needs a weekly planner white board complete with bullet points is NOT working on your dreams. It is working on the guilt that we have been brought up to feel that we ‘must work hard.’

The thing, you know, the one that is stressing you out – just delete it from your life. Simple.

Now I am not saying that your dreams will come true by bumming around in the sun and doing nothing (unless of course your dream is to bum around in the sun and do nothing... which sounds pretty nice to me), but they are also not going to come true by forcing them. You have heard that old quote from the person whose names escapes me that goes something along the lines of, ‘happiness is not the destination that but how we travel’ well, I think it is the same with dreams:

If you get there via the ‘stress and strain, snot and impending doom highway’, it’s not going to be very fun to say the least.

So cut the crap, cut the guilt, cut the incessant need for the devil’s to do list and go with the Universal flow. See where the ride takes you!

If something seems forced, it is. Forcing doesn’t work and it makes you feel crappy, not happy. So maybe it is the Universe’s way of saying, ‘Girlfriend, you are so on the wrong road. Turn around baby and get back on track.’

And that is exactly what I am going to do. I am cutting out all the things that seemed forced, all the things that are causing me stress and getting on the fast track highway to my dreams by means of the very best transport – being myself.

P.S By the way, the book in the photo, The Shadow of the Wind - I read this whilst being sicky sick sick - it's the best book that ever ever happened to me. Read it!