Saturday, 3 December 2011

Busy, engaged

I recently, happily and surprisingly got engaged to my boyfriend during a trip to Berlin. He popped the question when I least expected it with a gorgeous ring I now feel naked without while it gets resized.

It's been an interesting first couple of engaged weeks: how people react (or don't), how people work invites to the wedding into their emails and conversations; and how some people just can't stop themselves asking questions there is no way I'll have the answer to even days before my wedding.

There's also the change in name. Boyfriend sounds fun, alive and there; fiancée sounds serious, foreign (pun intended) and waaaay up there. It's something I think only the two of use should say to each other. As well as the rest of the wedding details and ideas, can they not just stay between us?

Some of my best work has been done at 4am under pressure, can we not just have fun planning the honeymoon and worry about guests later?

For good measure and to check we were on the same page, Martín asked me in English and in Spanish. Luckily I said yes to both. Later, it made me chuckle:

What did the big telephone say to the little telephone? You're too young to be engaged!

I've had a little fun with that, and tried to do the same in Spanish. Doesn't work. In Spanish, if someone is already talking on the phone, they are 'ocupado' - busy.

Read that again. Busy.

Now all these questions make sense. There are lists and colours and designers and invites and dates and flights and food and music and more flights and rooms and photos and more which apparently have to be done.

I am loving the irony. And I'll get 'ocupado' soon, but for now, I think I just like being 'engaged'.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Making the Games

I was living in Brazil when I saw the announcement that London had won its bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012. I was overjoyed. For some reason it made me feel very warm and fuzzy inside and it was nothing to do with the 40 degree heat.

There's no denying the magic of the Olympics. It's not just the physical and mental journeys you take on your couch with those seemingly super human athletes who go for glory; there are also the stories of a wider human spirit. The courage to jump/swim/run/spin for your country knowing you don't really know what you're doing makes heroes and names as big as those with gold medals around their necks.

And each country brings their own touches to the games. That Chinese opening ceremony in 2008 is unforgettable; the backdrop to the triathlon in Sydney in 2000 memorable. The London 2012 posters already make me tingle for what this great city might muster up and what the culture festival it is going to throw in for good measure throughout the build-up and afterwards as well.

A couple of weeks ago I had an interview to be a Games Maker, one of the 70,000 volunteers which are needed to make the Olympic Games, well, flow. I had kind of lost hope of an interview, so was delighted when I got the email and excited to go along to LOCOG, it's 19th floor office in Canary Wharf and take part in the process.

Actually, it was more than a process, more than an interview. It was a little journey in itself. If, through the introductions, the enthusiastic sign in, the displays and videos on London 2012 and the film with Eddie Izzard giving us some interview tips, you weren't excited to show why you wanted to help out, then you really were in the wrong place. It was colourful, informative, creative and fun.

The interviewers are volunteers themselves and it's all very informal and natural. They are not interested in how many GCSEs you've got, how much you earn and your vast experience in teaching/telecommunications/trading. They simply want to know you. It was a very refreshing interview.

Stories of inspiration and perspiration still featured, but they didn't have to include those corporate buzz words. My interviewer (and I heard others) was laughing as we talked through my examples. They need people people for the spectator entry task and we simply had to show that; and a whole lot of heart for the Olympic Games.

Whether I get through of not remains to be seen, but what I am pleased about is that I got to be part of a mini Olympics London 2012 journey and glimpse at what they have done, are doing and what is to come.

The road to 2012 has been a very long one for many. And I loved the one step  I have been able to take on it so far.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Decisions, decisions

It's the impact I'm most interested in when it comes to decisions. On me. On those around me. On my time. On their time.

There have been lots of decisions to make recently about my life and our life. Even when you need to make a personal decision, you are a fool if you don't consider the nearest and dearest. If you share your life with someone, there is no need to include them in the decision over what to have on your toast. But leave them out of other stuff (job, money, health, travel) and your decisions, while very much your own, have an unkempt feel about them.

I know this because I have tried doing it. It came back, bit me right on the arse and I have learnt, that even decisions deemed to be solely yours, have consequences beyond your mental meandering.

Some decisions right now are becoming bolder in my everyday landscape. Some months ago, my friend Maria and I decided to sign up for Cruce de los Andes, a 3-day 100km race through the Andes mountains from Chile to Argentina. It was something that, after our first marathon together, we had set our hearts on. The decision wasn't a difficult one, but it was important that I made it with her. There is no one else I can do this with. No one else who gets me and the importance of this adventure. There is no one else I would, even, do it with and it was a 'now or never' decision that neither of us, I believe, will live to regret.

The race will take place in February. Mentally, it started back with the booking and physically it started once my leg had recovered. Today I ran my first 10km in 8 months and all the while I was thinking about the decision to do this challenge and how it will impact on life from now on; dark nights through the winter, training talk, nutrition and long distance support with Maria, and saying no to things when there are stairs to climb or hills to run.

Another major recent decision has been about my work, and this has really taught me the value of making decisions with those around you. The implications of my doing this or that on our rather topsy-turvy life at the moment is one I had to include. And the basis of the decision was one we both shared: happiness and sanity. As Martín will have decisions to make in the coming months after he flies past interview after interview, so it will be that I help him and consider those important things that aren't just counted in euros or pounds. If not, the decisions become illogical. I can't think of a position and paycheck without thinking about place and person.

I've always found it easy to make decisions and have usually been confident enough to run with them and 'see what happens'. Having consulted more, however, I have a feeling that the ones I have made recently will bear a lot more fruit because my tree is so much more grounded with supporting roots.

I can bend with the wind, but I bounce back.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Up where we don't belong

When I was 11, I wanted to be a pilot. It stayed with me for two years, until I realised I was much better at writing than physics; at talking than flying.

And now, I sit on my couch and watch the new British Airways advert. Goosebumps crawl across my arms. What would it have been like to fly with the wind in your hair? How would it have been training to lift all those tonnes off the ground and into the air? Could I really have become a captain?

I watch that advert and its romance makes me hold my breath. The first time I saw it, I was entranced. From the first scene of the man in that open-topped flying machine, I said to myself, Please be British Airways.

The magic of flying has never left me. It's not just that scientists never really understood how planes got in the air until relatively recently; or how they design those trays of food so everything fits within inches; or the walk of the crew as they stride along with their smart suitcases, imaculate and self-assured.

It's the possibility of the impossible. National Geopgraphic recently ran a front cover, Can we fly? The dream will never go away.

I am fortunate enough to have a recurring dream about flying. It comes round about once every year, and it's exactly the same as the first time I dreamt it around the age of seven. I am flying over the estate I used to live on. It's a sunny day and I simply swoop over all the little pacthes of garden and cottages. It's exhilarating.

However, we came from the sea. Some 3.8 billion years ago life began there. Many of us live on islands. We are surrounded. The need to swim is therefore great. I couldn't imagine a life without seeing water, especially the ocean, and want to get wet. It pulses through our bodies, our cells.

And yet; that British Airways advert fills me with the nostalgia of flight. It was even the subject of my first prize winning poem when I was eight (see below).

But we don't belong there. I must keep my feet firmly on the ground. I will never be a British Airways captain.

I'll just keep dreaming.


One night I was dreaming
I was flying like a concorde.
I could touch the clouds.
I could see the lord.

I said, "Could you pinch me
To see if I'm flying?"
The lord said, "You're dreaming."
I said, "But I'm trying."

"Trying what?" said the lord.
"I'm trying to fly," I said.
When all of a suddent as if by magic
I woke up in my bed.

To view the British Airways advert see:

Picture credit: Nic Morrish

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Seeing the sea

I am having withdrawal symptoms.

A couple of weeks ago I had spent the whole day at a little beach on the south coast of France. The sea was warmer than the gigantic swimming pool. It was clearer and a lot more interesting. Fish swarmed and swayed with us as we bobbed, heads down, being part of their underwater world.

The beach was a little cove. The same people who had discovered it on previous days had come back. We were all part of the same family. This was our beach.

The sun was hot. The only sounds were the lapping of the waves as they reached the feet of the fat man on the shoreline.

Why does the ocean give us such as sense of peace? Especially as we know the damage it can wreak. I used to live with the sea on my doorstep. It wasn't the azul paradise I've just described. It was the Wash: an often churning brown colour, dark and dismal. And yet, it didn't really matter if it was thrashing at the sea wall, or looking like mirrored glass - a green, flat sheet which stretched between us and Lincolnshire - the sight of it always made my morning. Throwing back the curtains, stepping out on the way to work and seeing its mood was part of lightening mine.

It is no coincidence that Martín and I have a dream to retire to a small French island in the Atlantic, which by seasons has different relations with the sea. In summer, shining coved beaches host lazy days and crystal clear swims. In winter, the Atlantic rages at the savage coast, thrashing against one side of the island with fury and passion.

Passion is a good word for the sea. People that live near it don't realise their passion for it until it's not there every morning, silent and moody; or when they return from work, coasting gently to greet them.

I definitely need to find a job which allows me to sit on cliffs/beaches/mermaids' beds and do my stuff for most of the day.

The sea is inspiration. It is life. And I miss it.

Friday, 2 September 2011


On 1 September four years ago, I met someone who was to change my life. Indeed, has changed my life. And will probably continue to change my life.

I don't believe that there is one person in the world for everyone. As we reach a world population of 7 billion this year, it is difficult to accept that only one mate exists; that there is only one love for each person. Ever.

Because love can end. Love can change. New loves are born. That's one great thing about love, it's very much like life: neverending circles of highs, lows, births, deaths and births again.

But that can also happen within love. After 10 weeks apart, and just after our fourth anniversary, my boyfriend will be coming back to London in 2 days' time. I am so excited to see him. It seems so much has happened over these past few months, that in some aspects our relationship, our love, will start again somehow. I tingle just thinking about it.

And when I think back to that time four years before and all the things we have done, said and seen, I can only hope and that the love we have now is one that changes, rises, dips and is reborn again and again; but that it does remain that which seems so hard to comprehend - my one true love.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

words for london: week of august 6-13 2011

riot. shame. violence. abuse. fear. horror. disorder. flames. unrest. savages. wilderness. confusion. evil. panic. pandemonium. smoke. weakness. problem. danger. loneliness. isolation. ignorance. fire. naivety. mess. attack. darkness. tears. blood. revenge. humiliation. pain. disrespect. rage. anger. death.

loss. questions. disbelief.

hope. cleanliness. light. friendship. stamina. faith. support. strength. smiles. openess. security. calm. defence. punishment. pride. search. tranquility. scars. vigil. rightousness. goodness. clarity. solidarity. peace. vigour. power. depth. respect. dignity. protection. trust. reinforcement. encouragement. community. answers. togetherness. solution. love. life.


Someone else's nicer doorstep?

"That sea is not blue. It is not clear. It is a little green maybe." Mehmet shakes his head. He is the owner of the hotel we are staying in; an amiable, chilled out guy, who loves the quiet life in the country and talking to people who come from all over the world to visit his beautiful spot on the Black Sea.

To us, it is a stunning blue and when we dive into it and still see our feet and the sandy bottom, it is heavenly clear. It's also warmer than Mehmet's swimming pool.

Some days previously, we had been sitting out on the street on a balmy Istanbul night, talking with Sebastian, the owner of the small restaurant, where mezze kept arriving along with the wine.

"It's wonderful, a beautiful city," we answered when he asked what we thought of his home town.

"Really? You like?"

Why are we always surprised to find that visitors take to that which we know so well with more love, wonder and enthusiasm? While Mehmet was comparing the sea on his doorstep to the even hotter climes in southern Turkey, we had come to it from the often brown and muddy Norfolk Wash, where you would  be pushed to see your hand held just under the surface. To us it was paradise.

Sebastian, who every night stands on the street drinking vodka and trying to get punters to pull up a chair and eat his kebabs probably thinks that with our fine dining in London, why would we be happy with a couple of slices of aubergine?

I remember when Señor George, my father-in-law first went into my bedroom at my parents' house, where he would be staying a couple of days during their visit this March.

"Why would you want to leave here to go to Buenos Aires?" he exclaimed.

We laughed it off, but throughout the next two days showing them slices of north-west Norfolk, I tried to see it all through their eyes: the shining yellow fields, the green mermaid's beds, the great Sunny Hunny sunset, my mum's garden and cooking, the dark wooden inside of our local pub with views across the dunes.

They were right, my in laws: my childhood doorstep is stunning.

Back in Turkey, we marvelled at it all: the calling to mosque five times a day, the fresh fish, the colourful markets and curious streets full of bizarre shops, the dolphins, the strong tea and soup for breakfast.

Because that's what you do on someone else's doorstep - you take back the wonders which you know are the reasons they live there.

Even if they don't know it.


A change could do you good.

This is almost always true. I used to think that constant changes, disruptions to the routine, upsetting the flow, were positive, creative and useful. They would stop us becoming grey beings infested with same-dom. Swapping sides of the bed every now and again would relieve the itch; buying a colour completely unsuitable would make you born again; simple changes or big changes, the thing was to change.

And by doing so, you would never be scared of it.

I remember talking to my then fairly new boyfriend about places to live in the world. "Could you live here, here, there, here?" he asked me, reeling off far flung, inhospitably perceived countries. My reply was always the same.

Yeah, I really think I could.

Being flexible, adaptable is always seen as a good thing as well.

But it also means that whenever the new 'new' comes in, it's put on your desk.

And too much change doesn't let you breathe. There can be change for change's sake which is tiresome and exhausting. When change becomes boring, it is kind of defeating the purpose, isn't it?

I need to rest.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Getting what you need

I am reading a book at the moment and recently read in it that there was nothing worse than the moment when you realise you are your mother.

And I am currently in the process of booking a holiday with mine. Oh dear.

Actually, my mother is no stranger to trips with me. She's been doing it since I popped out 30 thirty years ago and wee-ed on her on the plane to Portugal as a baby. She's done the whole skiing thing at Christmas with me since we learnt to ski as little people; and the camping in France in its various forms (tents with kitchens ready and waiting/taking our own/caravans for adults; tents for children). Nine years ago, she even donned a backpack and we headed to Thailand for a trip around Bangkok, the north, the south and beautiful places in between. She even managed a bungee jump when she's quite scared of heights.

So, she's quite cool, my mum, and does love to travel.

And, those nine years later, there are parts of me which are becoming my mum. I think about what to cook for dinners/lunches/breakfasts during the week; I am trying to grow my own vegetables; I even know what a Busy Lizzy looks like.

Of course, my mum annoys me. As I most certainly do her. Can there even be two people on the planet incapable of ever annoying each other? Anyway, I think we've got it pretty good, and as I've mentioned, we're looking to head off for a week's trip in a month or so.

You can't always get what you want. I know my mum wants to visit Italy with my dad. And she knows I would like to travel with Martin who is now bound to Buenos Aires and his Google desk for the next ten weeks. But we can't have those things, so we've got each other. There's me, who likes walking up hills, swimming in chilly waters and eating lots of eggs. There's my mum who likes beating everyone at Ludo and cards, having an afternoon read and daykip and drinking gin and tonics. Luckily, I can get her up some hills and she can definitely get me chinking some G&Ts. So it works and, wherever we end up, it's going to be fun. I'll know when it isn't because there's a tone every mum uses when the incline is just too steep: "LAU-RAAAAAAAAA"

So, sometimes, you get what you need.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A weak view of the world

You may think this is strange sentence for me to be writing, but last month, I found myself in a church inside a prison with TV cameras turned on. I appeared on the BBC programme Question Time.

For the first time ever, it was filmed inside a prison, in this case Wormword Scrubs. Prisoners as well as guards and prison staff were part of the audience. Ken Clarke was on the panel and, after his rape comments that week, it was lining up to be a very interesting hour of debate. (He is since hitting the headlines again, but only because all that was discussed at that QT is null and void it would seem)

Queuing up for the security prior to the programme, I realised just how well the BBC get a mixed bag of audience members. From sight to snippets of conversations, the diversity of age, race, background and affiliation really struck and pleased me.

Filming flew by and Ken Clarke got away without a ribbing. Obviously, the majority of the debates centred around justice, prisons and rehabilitation. They weren't topics I have burning passions for, but it was interesting to hear the points of views of the prisoners themselves; and the guards who truly wanted the best for their charges once they were released.

The most interesting moment, however, was the question about international aid. Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist was on the panel (she had actually incurred boos when they all came on, but the cameras don't capture those moments). Her belief is that every penny earned in the UK should stay on these shores. In fact, if she was in charge, she would "shut the whole Department for Internatioanl Development".

Surprisingly, some audience members agreed with her. I didn't and don't.

If there's one thing I would always want to say we can do as a nation, is to help those worse off than us. Money to help farmers in Pakistan with the floods; experts to the Caribbean following earthquakes; support to Japan post tsunami: these actions are not those of someone trying to police the world (though others of our actions could be seen to be). These are actions which show that when our international neighbours need help, regardless of their political banner, we are there. If my neighbour needs help, I will do so. Because, if I needed a hand, I would hope someone would help me.

Treat people, all people, the same. It is not their fault when there is a bad government/natural disaster involved. To ignore their plight when we are in a position to help is a disgusting reaction. To turn your back in the face of genuine suffering is simply nasty.

To say "no" when you can say "yes" is just weak.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

'Brooching' the subject

A Sunday or two ago, I was out for brunch mulling over a hilarious extra magazine that came with the FT Weekend: How to spend it. There were pages and pages dedicated to the very finer things in life. I saw beautiful orange dresses for £5000; incredible, unusable vases for a mere £1000, but the page that really got my attention was the one on precious stones and brooches.

I stared at the pictures: butterflies and flowers made up of tiny diamonds, rubies and emeralds, held together by fine strands of metal, shaped perfectly. If I wanted one of those brooches, I could expect to pay £3000. My shock was not that the people who should read How to spend it have so much pocket change for brooches, it was that brooches were featured in the first place.

Brooches. Who wears them?

I even had to look up how to spell the word to write this blog.

A couple of days after the shocking brooch-in-magazine-episode, I was walking to work after my early morning swim. Tea in hand, I got off the train at Hammersmith and whiled my way round the church to the river and our offices. At one straight section of road, a woman was walking towards me and the previous weekend's shock returned: she was wearing a brooch.

I couldn't, in a sense, believe my luck. I had spent twenty years without thinking, seeing, contemplating the use of brooches and here was a lady (let's say around my mum's age), at 8 o'clock in the morning, dolled up and brooched up. It was a lizard, her brooch, and going on Sunday's experience, I'd say it didn't cost around £3000. Still, it sparkled; it looked like a gleaming lizard on her lapel. It was serious brooching.

What occurs to people to wear brooches: trees and petals and animals? Exactly how does it compliment an outfit? I imagine if you're going to a fancy dress party as the ninja rat teacher from the Ninja Turtles, you might want to give them a shout. Of perhaps if you were at the launch for a new Iguana beer. But just generally? I don't get it.

So, now I am on the look out for brooches. I need to find more of them. I need to find a person to whom I can 'brooch' the subject:

"Why do you have an amethyst fish on your jacket?"

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Noble Fish

I am 7 days in on my swimathon (26 miles in 26 days) and by the end of today, I shall have swam 10 miles. I used to run 10 miles in a week, so swimming them does make me think this challenge is getting more and more impressive the further I go into it.

It started well on a Bank Holiday Monday. I nearly had the pool to myself and between the first two miles (I wanted to get ahead early) I could enjoy the massaging bubbles of the jacuzzi. My body is now at the point where it needs slightly more than bubbles, but I am happy to have that and the sauna to use after pounding the... no Laura, you can't pound the pool, like you pound the streets. What would it be? Glide the pool? Front crawl the pool? Hmmm, they don't quite sound as cool or as difficult, do they?

I then decided it was time to get some early swims in. Thank goodness it's May and not November. At 6am, it's light, quiet and, more importantly, hasn't been cold this week. Flip flops on, a brisk walk to the pool, and I am slipping into the water (alone, it's just for me!) at 6.30 once they've turned on the lights.

I did that three days this week: showered and taken a take-away cuppa on the tube, arriving at the office with almost dry hair and a hunger for breakfast. All before 8.30.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be," one of the sports centre workers said to me as I finished another mile on Wednesday morning. We laughed about it, but then I told her about, when you start so early and get to the office having done some exercise, having (oh, all right then) glided that pool for a mile, you feel like you've already achieved something before being paid to. While everyone else has been dumbing themselves with Daybreak and scoffing rice krispies and they arrive with their heads still fuzzy from the start of a new day, you are there; awake, refreshed, energetic and noble.

"Noble?" she asked. She thought about it. "Yeah, I like it. It is quite noble." And she went off to nobly use the treadmill.

So, now I am the noble fish; still lonely in my endeavours, but getting stronger with each stroke and every length closer to my goal.

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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Perfect words

In a relationship of different nationalities, cultures, education, history and language, the most and least reconcilable I have found is the latter: the words. It is also the most frustrating, interesting, hilarious and surprising of our differences.

Words are the heart and soul of a language and those that use them. I didn't realise the richness of it and how much our identity is bound in our native language until my boyfriend didn't understand that I don't 'give two hoots' or I didn't get what 'living inside a ravioli' implied. Looks, gestures and our body language truly compliment our speech, but the words we actually say and write are the main course, with lashings of meaning on the plate: intrinsic, implied, embedded.

It is obviously a continuous journey. Not only are there words to play with, but new sounds, intonation and rules. One thing that has become clear on this journey, and that both of us have learnt, is that there are words which just stay in one language. This may because they are difficult in the other, not easy to remember or we just like them. For example, the words mattress, drawer, cloth and thermos flask are always spoken in this house in Spanish. These words, in our world, have transcended all barriers: "Pass me the trapo to wipe the table"; "Your money's in your cajón." I can never remember the word for budget in Spanish, so it will always be: "El lugar depende de su budget."

Then there are the words which remain, but for different reasons than the above. These are the perfect words; words which have such a wonderfully exact meaning in their usage that there is, literally, no other word or translation for. Words like ponce and pikey in English, or quilombero in Argentine Spanish: you simply have to use them, there is no other word.

This discovering and use of our two languages means that my boyfriend and I have developed our own lengua. It's going to be interesting when we have children and they grow up speaking both languages far better then either of us. While, as parents, we will no doubt be jealous, I smile with glee when I think about the day my son or daughter comes home from school: "Mum, the teacher told me that globo isn't a word. What lengua have you been teaching me? I thought you said I spoke perfecto."

And though others may not know it, perfecto is exactly what they will speak.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sunday papers

On Saturday, it was my boyfriend's 30th birthday. We had a picnic in the park, which turned into a settle down in the pub once the (tropical) storms came late afternoon. Pimms, wine and dinner was followed by cake and champagne back home and a couple of gins to round off the (day and) night.

Needless to say, I woke up yesterday feeling dry and crusty. How alcohol drains the body of such moisture is incredible. Litres of water later, we headed out with leftover picnic (for there is so much food) to another park to lay in the sun and enjoy another sunny blue day with nothing to do. On the way, we bought the Sunday papers and this, and only this, was my mission.

It's very rare that I actually get to read the Sunday papers on a Sunday, though yesterday I truly relished it. And I realised what you need to do to be able to finish them: either be my dad who is a professional paper/supplement/magazine reader; or get of your house and lay in a park so there is nothing else to do instead.

When we're at home on the weekends, I enjoy buying them and thinking 'Ah, some couch time with the Sundays'. Inevitably, I end up half way through the magazine before I get involved in soup/roast making, clothes sorting, writing, washing or exercising of some kind. IT'S A SUNDAY!

And yesterday I also realised why the Sundays are called the Sundays. It's got nothing to do with the day and everything to do with the Sunday sensation. It's the day before going back to work with its intellectual and physical grind so the contents are built around the weekend mentality: it's gentle, interesting and a diversion from the usual business of news.

Yesterday I lapped it up, breaking only for a kip under the tree. Now, I am asking myself how I will manage this in the Sundays to come, knowing now what I do. Well, next Sunday I am at my parents' house. That's easy, I'll just do what my dad does. Job done.

And after that? Well, I need to escape my house, so I am going to need a whole lot of sun.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Precious moments

Last weekend, I went to Buenos Aires: three nights and three-and-a-half days of talking, eating, drinking, laughing, sweating, dancing, shopping. Not too much sleeping. "Time was precious".

I managed to do a twenty-four-hour talkathon, spa-athon and drink-athon with a wonderful friend there. It's quite incredible when you grasp the time you have, yank it towards you and run with it until you can run no more. It's amazing what you can pack into a day when you know what little time there really is.

And something I realised when there was how well distribution of time can be spent. Two minutes with the man who used to sell me my paper every day was fabulously sufficient; five hours with my in-laws, eating and talking; ten minutes with my shoe-shine friend who worked on my street. All was enough.

People spend far too much time, time they don't have, on the people they don't really want to focus on. Through family, society, customs, we are often railroaded into spending our time with distant relatives, obnoxious colleagues, boring friends of friends. Really, it's not the time that becomes precious, but the people you spend it with. They should be the precious ones who make you feel fantastic, happy, understood.

It then doesn't matter how many seconds, hours and days you have to spare; if it's with the right people, the moments last a life time: every time you close your eyes, you are there.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Lonely Fish

Today, I am supposed to be running a marathon. But it's not going to happen. Eight weeks ago, I stopped running becuase I have a fracture in my bone. Probably best. Wouldn't want it to snap on mile 22.

Not to be defeated and to still keep my promise to the MS Trust for who I was running, I decided to swim a marathon instead.

If I could be any animal in the world, it would be a shark. I love water. Just looking at, listening to, thinking about it creates a tranquility that thinking about trees/mountains/the tube doesn't do for me. I love water that looks like blue glass and I love water that is tormented and wild. When I lived next to the sea, just stepping out of the front door, no matter the temperature or colour, and just seeing the sea brought a spring to my step. When I lived near Iguazu Falls, the immense cascades which divide Brazil and Argentina, I would spend Sunday afternoons laying in the sun listening to that incredbile power and following single droplets as they took the plunge.

So, a swim made sense. I've always been a decent swimmer and I can get in the pool and swim for a mile without any problems. But, as I was in the pool earlier this week, I realised what this new challenge meant. I am going to swim 26 miles in 26 days. Almost 4 weeks of my life will be dedicated to the pool. I have to swim 1677 lengths. And the thing I realised most is that it would all be done alone.

Running is a relatively lonely sport. But you can also choose to run with others, and chat along the way to make the time go faster and burn more calories. You can listen to music and have Paula Radcliff telling you what a good job you're doing. What I've discovered about swimming is that it is even more isolating. Swimming cap on, goggles on and it's you and the water, nothing more. Whilst when running I might have Helen Reddy or the Red Hot Chilli Peppers pumping me up, the pool gives me nothing more than the swish and swash of my own strokes.

One good thing is that I think a lot about my stroke; doing it right, being effective. When I am tired I like to think I am a shark, gliding through the blueness effortlessly and it makes me pull my elbows out properly or breathe deeper. It's that and counting. There's no one to greet on the way round; no one whose bright pink head band you can laugh at inside; no one to emulate or beat.

I think it's going to be an interesting 26 days (due to take place in May) and I am looking forward to it. Running has always cleared my head and I believe that all this time in the pool will have the same effect.

And at least there is the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi for the lonely fish to relax in afterwards.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Shouldering in the sun

This week I've been learning a lot about people.

The world is always divided into two: people who like tea and people who like coffee; dog lovers and cat lovers; people for war, people for peace; drivers and cyclists; red and blue.

And there are those that take responsibility and those that don't.

It struck me that those people, who, for whatever reason, hide in the shadows, their fingers coming into the sunlight to point at others when the question of blame arises are only doing themselves a terrible disservice. Why?

Because if you never shoulder responsibility, you can never make a decision. If you can never make a decision, you don't live your own life. If you don't live your own life, you are frustrated with all you do have. Maybe you're red, but you secretly want to be blue. You can't scream that from the shadows. If you're frustrated, you become negative. When you're negative, you blame others for it all, and that's when you suddenly come to life: IT'S NOT MY FAULT!

Avoid these people. Make mistakes. Shrug. Keep your fingers in your pocket. Because you are already standing in the sunshine.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Perfect Panic

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Switzerland for a long weekend. To escape London for three whole days was fabulous: fresh air, mountains, Swiss cheese, Argentine wine (were staying with one of Martín's friends), fondues, chocolate, thermal pools and a whole lot of fun.

I had passed through Switzerland before in a sleepy daze having arrived at some obscene hour to be transported from a Swiss airport to a French ski resort. I remember stopping at a very beautiful lake (I have no idea which one), getting off the bus into a gale force wind, getting straight back on again and marvelling at the mountainous backdrop before the eyelids sunk once again.

So, this was my first real Swiss experience. For Swiss fans, we were staying in Basel, right on the border with France and Germany (the airport, in Switzerland, is French. Following all three European flags is quite confusing on landing). It was also excellent to have a Swiss girl as one of our hosts - the other being Argentine, which obviously doesn't count. That way, we could understand a bit about the Swiss folks' psyche, their culture. For example, nobody really talks about politics as there are representatives in the government from all parties, it's all so charmingly democratic; owning all types of fondue devices is a prerequisite for being Swiss and the German Swiss language is only spoken, even they don't know how to write the words they use.

The three days were well spent, driving around in our hosts' motor home, through green fields and sloping hills to crystal lakes surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Magical. We took the train to a spa near Basel. Heaven. The roads were clearly signposted, everything ran smoothly. The speed limit was adhered to. The trains left on the dot and arrived on the dot (the Swiss think those damn Germans are always so late) People could all speak at least three languages. Everything was in its place (apart from those two Argies)

Cuckoo. Cuckoo. Tick tock. Tick tock.

It struck me as a wonderful thing at first. Peace, tranquility, no need for chaos or disruption. Would the Swiss ever protest or march on parliament? There was a puzzled frown in reponse. Of course not. Are there traffic jams? Do people rage about the economy? Is the gonverment full of idiots? A shake of the head. Of course not. Has your Granny had to wait ten months for a new hip? Is the cheese bill sky-high? Need a loan to fill up your car? An ironic laugh. Of course not. Switzerland is quietly perfect, neutrally still, modestly unobtrusive.

But then, I thought, what if something does go wrong? The bus is late. The bike was moved. The rubbish collection failed to pick up the plastics bag. The train breaks down. A delivery of cheese doesn't get through customs. The chocolate workers want more money. There is no de-icer.

The smallest diversions from perfection and chaos can ensue. I don't mean that the country grinds to a halt because someone left the car light on and there is no battery in the morning, but rather the psychological consequences play out. Panic, tension, stress. All those things that people the world over, in less than perfect places, are used to. Our hosts admitted that when there is a break from the norm, it is unsettling for the Swiss. It also has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe; they don't even see it as a necessarily bad thing, the suicide reports on the radio. It's part of the normal ebb and flow.

This in itself is enough to make me want to get on a plane and head back into the regular beauty of Buenos Aires chaos. Can you imagine Basel transported to India? It would have 30 million people living there in a week, looking for some peace and quiet from madness of Mumbai. Who then wouldn't get the point.

So, perfection and clockwork isn't all it is cracked up to be. Your mobile running out of battery on the way to work; the pile of dog crap you step into on the way to the wedding; the long queues at the supermarket; the insane hours on the phone to any call centre; time being a flexible friend which weaves through the ifs, buts and nearlys of life. It's crazy to think that these, which are now facts of life, would drive us mad. I'll take random and I'll take mistakes and their frustrations, because the perfect alternative is just a little cuckoo...


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

We'll always have Paris

Place or people? People or place?

I am going to disgust some of you today by revealing that it was only two days ago, in my life of thirty years, that I saw Casablanca. And before you scream at me, yes, I loved it. I loved the fact that I could already quote half the movie; that at those lines, I put my hands spread over my heart and gave a little yelp much to the amusement of Martín; that even something as vile as smoking seems quite beautiful if you're Humphrey Bogart; and that there is always a reason to move on.

It got me thinking about the choices in the movie, and the ones which were finally made. Rick chooses the perfect past, in the perfect place, rather than a non perfect future with the love of his life. Brave or stupid? Admirable or foolish? Stupidly admirable, perhaps.

I thought about the places in the world which meant something special because of the person I was with there. Did the love and passion grow because of the place, the person, or both? Would one have survived without the other?

I spent New Year 2005 in a small, lakeside town, overlooked by a beautiful volcano, in Chile. I had stayed on instead of continuing to travel because I had met a man on Christmas Day. While my fellow travellers moved on and explored Patagonia, I stayed in his house enjoying a carefree life of lake swimming, moon parties, dog walks along the beach, strawberries in bed and the buzz of instant attraction. My companions got further and further away and my heart got further and further involved. Nearly two weeks later, it was a wretch to leave, but I did.

And life/fate/curious circumstance took me back there almost a year later. Twice. The first trip back was a disaster: the water under the bridge in his life meant my return was not an extension of our romance from before. What, I had to ask myself, had I expected? I had to leave again anyway, and tried not to think about it. The second time, things had changed again, and we went straight back to the fun, passion and yearning we had found in each other some seventeen moths before.

At 5am he stood on the porch of a house in the middle of a field. It was pouring with rain. Huge puddles sat between me and the beeping taxi, its headlights reaching our feet, standing so close together as we said our goodbyes. His kiss said stay. Mine tried to reply I want to, but I can't.

And, sadly, I drove away, waving, blowing kisses at that man as he stood blowing kisses back in the first light of morning, alone in his boxer shorts. I packed up my un-slept-in tent in the rain and spent the day in a trance of What if?

Right person, right place, wrong moment? In the I miss you emails that followed, I would have liked to have thought so. But, no. Some months later there was another person, another place and another magic. And I had to leave again.

But now, in this moment, if my heart thinks back to those 'perfect' times: the sunshine, the love, the picturesque place, the trust, and I try to take any part of it away from there, I can't. That man belongs in that place at that time. I can't put him at my side in a supermarket in London, nor can I see him in a restaurant with me in Buenos Aires. He doesn't belong on a chairlift with me in France, nor on the beach in Hunstanton.

He is where he is for a reason. If we had taken it somewhere else it would not have been the same. And we would never, with wonderful feeling, be able to say right now, "We'll always have our Paris".

Friday, 4 February 2011

Reading the rush hour

I've lived in London for six months now. For four months I have been one of the millions of people getting on the tube every morning and again in the evening after a day's graft. The first part of my journey, I squash on the train and spend four minutes shoulder to shoulder, bum to crotch, armpit to face with whoever's space I am forced to share. For the next part, I can usually get a seat after a stop or two and it slowly filters out as we while our way to Hammersmith. Legs out, paper spread.

This is if I pick up the paper in the morning. I'm not going to pick up my usual broadsheet read (the lunchtime online read is for this) but perhaps I'll pick up the Metro. I always feel positive when picking up this paper, perhaps because it's free, but then I start reading it, and I wonder what suicidal thoughts I must have had when I stooped down to get it. It's simply one of those papers where you can read the headlines and that is enough. Five words from each story and you've delved as far as you need to, trust me.

So, more often, I take my book. Not only does it whoosh the minutes past, but it gives me forty odd minutes a day to read it, if I can't find time at any other moment of the day. I enjoy reading immensely and get slightly worried and depressed if my bedside table has a book on it which needs to be wiped for its dust.

Of course, I am not alone in this endeavour. Millions of others bring their paperbacks, kindles and ipads on board. At first, I would be interested to see what and how people were reading. I put people into categories: The Reader Who Wants You To See What He's Reading (the book will be held high in someone else's airspace and has just got into the top three of the New York Times Bestseller List); The Try Anything Once Reader (usually struggling through something like Mein Kampf); The Social Reader (there is a picture of Richard and Judy on the cover somewhere); The Truly Dedicated To The Cause Reader (these are the ones who lug along huge hardbacks and proceed in the same way);The Immersed Reader (they miss their stops); The Trendy Reader (on their leather bound kindle).

Then, recently, I started taking this a bit further. I had forgotten my book, remembered to not pick up a paper and so was squashed up with no reading material. However, I soon realised I was surrounded by the stuff. Packed like sardines, I could still read the lines of those around me. So, I got a page of a thriller novel, a terrible write-up of a boxing match, and a paragraph on how negative thoughts can give us cancer. I stepped off that train enlightened, confused and happy.

Reading snippets from other people's books and papers is an interesting way to spend the commute. It also lets you read things you wouldn't normally 'be seen' to read, and come away with your reading reputation in tact. Snippets also let your imagination steer into other worlds. Not only do you wonder what has happened and what will happen after your two pages worth, but it also gets the mind pondering the reader. What are they thinking reading the same lines with their hindsight? Why did they choose it? It's a whole minefield of words and wonderings.

So, next time you're on the tube on a dreary winter's morning without your own reading material, despair not: simply while the journey away with whatever your fellow commuters have to hand. Your reactions and opinions to words you wouldn't normally have read will make you arrive refreshed and ready to start the day in a way you couldn't have otherwise imagined.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Let's friend!

I have travelled and moved around the world some, and it always strikes me the value of the friends you can make on the road, or when you are both flung together far, far away from the homeland.

At first, these friendships might seem like the gadgets you buy for those trips: necessary, useful and used in the right place at the right time. And some of them truly are like that. And rather like the stuff, and friends, you don't take with you and leave behind: some sit there waiting for you to pick up where you left off. Others go and find new owners.

Others are more than that.

Last night I spent 5 hours during the middle of the night on a video call to one those friends. Oceans, languages, time zones and (seriously) climate apart mattered not and the instant reconnection of sitting in her living room, and her sitting in mine, while we drank our respective bottles of wine was comforting, fun, trusting and, well, just like it always was and always will be.

Friendship is balance, reflection and discussion. A good friend lets you walk as close to the edge of the cliff as his humanly possible and will then drag you back the moment you topple the wrong way. A good friend never hides the bad stuff. A good friend looks up in embarrassing moments, not down. A good friend feels as happy as you do when the successes of life are reached.

Talking, laughing, joking, crying, watching, hugging, writing: all those things we do with our friends are verbs. Friend should be a verb: it's the action of some of the most precious moments of our lives. Today, they friended at her wedding. Last night we friended the whole night. Where are you going? To friend with Bob.

So for all the friends in the world, not just mine, thanks for friending. You can tell the people that don't have anyone friending them: the news is solely theirs, there is little to share.

So let's extend our friending nature to those who aren't our friends. It may not be the golden friendship we have found with others, but when those others are far away, it might just bring us some of those moments we miss.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Rome is missing its greens

I spent five days over the new year in Rome. Rome: that foundation of civilisation with its wondrous churches, beautiful squares, ornate fountains, spectacular architecture, jaw-dropping ruins and enough white carbs to make Mr. Atkins, of the diet phenomenon, turn in his grave.

Rome has that special something; this is undeniable. The neighbourhood of Trastervere with its quiet flapping of washing between colourful window shutters; the Palentino museum with its vast design of luxurious houses, baths and gardens; the mighty Roman forum which reeks of power and history; the spine-tingling Colosseum with its stories still visualised from centuries ago; the impressive pantheon, the Vatican and the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel... I could go on. All these sites serve the visitor visually, culturally, historically, socially and religiously. Rome opens your eyes to the past. Just mind the modern buses and trams as they zoom by while you stop and stare, imaging what it must have been like.

Then, to rest, you enter trattorias and old cafes: jugs of Chianti, chilled Peroni beer, greying waiters with an impressive array of moustaches and Einstein hair styles shouting at who-knows-who. You feel you've stepped into an old family get-together/riot, which hasn't changed course for centuries. It's not any old city: it's Rome.

But Rome isn't the perfect city. It isn't the most beautiful. If it was, no one would go to Venice (so I've heard). Let me tell you why I think why. It's missing its greens. The boulevards of Paris are lined with trees; the avenidas of Buenos Aires are lined with trees. London is full of green parks, made even brighter for all the rain it gets. Rome is bricks; old, beautiful bricks perhaps, but bricks nonetheless.

And back in the eateries, there is a serious lack of greenery as well. Pasta, pizza, gelato: after five days you are screaming for something vegetable which is not related to the tomato. The first night back after our trip, I cooked a stir fry of chard, green beans, green peppers, broccoli - I needed to see green on my plate, taste it in my mouth. My body loved it.

I am not saying there are no trees whatsoever in Rome, or you can't find a salad on the menu. On the last day, we did visit a park, which had trees of course, but lacked grass. Those Romans found any open space as an excuse for a fight/gathering/market and didn't need grass under their well-made shoes. And if I am sitting in 'the best pizza place in the neighbourhood' should I order a Cesar salad just because he died just down the road? After all, when in Rome...

So, if Rome had more trees and more chard on the menu, would it then be the perfect city?

I'll tell you after my trip to Venice.

Monday, 10 January 2011

It's time

It always fascinates me how people judge time so differently.

There's a man who lives in one of the buildings just round the corner from us. He is sometimes there as I go past on a run; or as I scurry along to the shop; as we walk to the pub; or on the way back from yoga. He sits on the bench on the pavement outside his building and simply sits and looks around.

I don't think he's clinically crazy or murderously deranged and these are the only times his fierce mother lets him out of the house (he must be in his fifties): quite the opposite. I think he's perfectly sane and wondrously in charge of his world.

Sometimes he's having a cigarette. Can you imagine the thought that must accompany this? I think I'll have a cigarette or Time for another cigarette I think, before I go in. I am not in favor of smoking, but what a way to charge your time. Instead, here are some thoughts which occurred to me today:

If I get my wallet out now I won't be more than the 3.6 seconds required to go through the tube station.

I'll get home from the committee meeting and start on those emails instead of tomorrow. It will mean leaving Martín to cook by himself, but we can have a conversation another day.

The sun has come out, but I'll eat at my desk because that way I might not miss something that pops up. I'm not here on Wednesday so I can't waste my time.


Time is a fragile, extinct bird that only flies out at you in moments of exhilaration or despair (You want it to never end! You think it will never end!) Seconds are bricks you build around yourself each day. As the wall gets higher, your job is only to knock it down and start again. The process starts slowly, building up its intensity to that final, manic, time-induced panic which is getting the train/meeting the deadline/firing back a reply before they thought you were dead. For something that is extinct, it sure doesn't want to be forgotten. Time is as needy and greedy as the worst of boyfriends and bosses, flying you to places you don't want to go, never waiting. Time is brilliant at moving, though, ironically, never waiting.

Unless you're the man round the corner. He's not even afraid of the cold. Winter time? He doesn't get it. He just like to sit on that bench and watch the world go by, being dragged in all kinds of directions. I bet he loves mulling over where people might be going, what they might be doing. Or perhaps not. The fact they have passed is important, not where to or why. His time is truly his time, charged by himself.

So, it's time to take charge of my time. Walk at the pace I want to walk. Or just go out and walk if I want to. Hold a blink to help me think. It's my time, after all. There's a long way to go in 2011.

And enough time take it.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Fast forward thinking

New year is a time for reflection. And, if there's not much from the past year to reflect on, it's to think about what the following one might bring. THIS year, I'll lose weight. This year I'll find my dream job. T.H.i.S. year I will meet the man of my dreams/get a half-decent proposal/see the pyramids/finish War and Peace/win the lottery so I can afford a house deposit/long weekend away to escape the royal wedding/my yearly commuter ticket.

We are constantly thinking of what we are going to do. I must ask the team at work more about what they are going to do that night/tomorrow/at the weekend than what they are actually working on right now. The question is more often 'when?' not 'what?'

This has come to my mind, as for the first time in a long time, I find myself with a day off to do nothing. I have planned it this way. Last week I did all the shopping, all my work, the cleaning. Last night I ran so I wouldn't have to again until tomorrow. My alarm was set to wake me up to do nothing which had to be done except potter. Pottering, I think it should be said, is under-rated, and this is not just a women's thing. To potter is to put yourself back in your own life and environment and pleasurably pass an hour/afternoon/day/week (OK, some people are professional potterers!) doing those little mindless things such as counting out and bagging your copper jar, or reading back copies of that magazine subscription you hadn't had time for; or making cakes and soups.

Why is pottering perfect to my point today? Pottering is present. It requires no to-do lists, nor a plan. Pottering flows from one thing to another, keeping thoughts and actions in the present. To potter is to be, with pleasure.

Why is it, then, that we need to push ourselves into our unknown futures so often? One good reason, which I discussed with a glum friend this week, is that we need things to look forward to. This is valid and a valued part of forward planning. "I need something to work towards. I need to arrange something to look forward to, or life is dull." In times of deadlines and chores piled high, that weekend meal with friends, or the massage at the end of the month when the paycheck arrives, is a welcome relief and something to get us through the times at the grindstone.

But what if our now, wherever it may be (home, office, school) held promise and value? After a frustrating morning at work this week, I looked down at my keyboard, fingers frozen as outside thoughts took over concentration. I wanted to let out a little scream, but instead, I noticed my finger nails, which, after finally giving up biting them, had been growing. And still are. I smiled. That little moment rooted me back in a present which wasn't just about the misery of depending on others or the list of things to do.

There are probably a million self help books about positive thinking in the present, and they probably have expert advice about all this. I am not trying to out-do them here. I am sure they make sense. It's not easy to stay in the present. That's something social media such as Twitter and Facebook do try to do, though. The 'what are you doing/thinking/playing/working on now?' does show an effort to stay in the present moment, albeit to then spread it about the world. John Smith is in the supermarket queue: some people's now is obviously not as interesting as what they might be doing later, however!

So, this year, I have no idea where my life will be taking me, on any front. Will Martín and I move house? I don't know. Will I get a permanent contract at work? I don't know. Will we go to Argentina for Christmas? I don't know. Will I beat my last marathon time? I don't know. Will I finish my book? I don't know. (Are Arsenal going to beat Leeds today, from losing 1-0 right now? I don't know!) There's no need to. My forward thinking is consumed by let's see rather than plan to see.

May you be having a happy new year, then. And that any forward thinking comes from the now you have, rather than the one you want to have. Living in the present can be the perfect gift to yourself.


This is another effort from the write-a-thon. The prompt was 'It's time' and as I wrote the poem, the nature of the story changed to one of a total and evil injustice. Having the brother as the murderous traitor adds to the injustice and sadness of a family, and community, torn apart by the prison warden's lies.

The Execution

Under ashes of lust, the chains lie limp at his side
All that’s left is the dust of the man too weak to hide.
Watchers’ fears smoulder, tears tumble, rage cries
As years swam by, broken lives lived under those lies.

The man standing by, watch in his hand
Dreamt of this day, now just as he’d planned.
Though brothers in life, they were species apart
Simplicity versus violence, a mother’s ruined heart.

Under the sack, crisped, choked, skin burnt black
Eyes popped of the lives he tried to save, way back
When no one listened or cared and they all lived in fear
Of him and his bottle, his badge coming near.

Fingers on the pulse, the crooked hour announced
Shuffles and shouts, years later, to be denounced.
The brother clasps his hands, smiles thin, face unkind,
Whispers; “What they believed, brother! Now is my time.”

Memories of moving

This is a story I wrote in November for the Children in Need write-a-thon. It's one of my favourites from the 19 days. The prompt was 'For a stranger'.

White Bear

All I could hear were the bangs and knocks of my life heading down the stairs and into that massive white lorry. Actually, it wasn’t white, but it was supposed to be because it had those sayings written on the side: also in white and clean me so you could tell. Dad was complaining that my stuff was taking up too much space, but I had carefully packed it all into neat boxes and it didn’t seem more to me than David’s bulky toys and games all shoved willy nilly on the front lawn. Mum kept shouting up the stairs; random, pointless things she didn’t really need help with, but I knew it was her way of trying to get me down there, to be with them in this chaotic, bad... no, terrible decision.
            I stood at my bay window. Its cushions which had been made by Grandma through my childhood were already downstairs, so I didn’t want to sit on the wide sill where I had spent hours of my life. I had read so many stories there, and dreamt a few up myself. I had watched the rains come and go, I had eaten ice cream, I had spent hours on the phone. I had also sat in silence, contemplating, watching the birds, or David and his friends in the garden, or my parents late at night sharing a bottle of wine on the terrace. I had written poems and tales and let the papers fall to the floor as my hand couldn’t keep up with my imagination. I had sat and stroked Bambi and learnt what good listeners animals can be as you are growing up. I had shared this special space with Carla, Rachel and Frannie and we had sat and painted each others’ toe nails, pulling the stereo over to the corner late into the night so we could still have our music and not wake my parents. Then Michael had come and sat with me and we had kissed and talked. And all the while, outside my special window, the leaves had turned different colours, disappeared and sprouted bright green again, year after year after year...
            “Darling, the men are nearly there, so Dad’s going over the directions with them and we’ll be off. David’s playing up so I need you to be your usual wonderful self with him, OK? It’s not easy for him. Well, us too, but we understand a bit more, don’t we?”
            Mum had stayed at the frontier to my world, the cusp of my own private universe. I loved that she didn’t barge in, or expect me to turn around. She knew I was listening.
            I heard her step away and spend some time going through the empty rooms, saying goodbye to her own special places. She bounced on the wonky floorboard that had always been in front of their wardrobe and had driven Dad crazy. He had always avoided it, but I think Mum got comfort from it somehow, like you do when you know your space inside out. I heard her heave a long sigh. It was wrong of me to think this was easier for them I guess, though I would never admit that to them out loud.
            I looked out the window again and brought what was I was holding up in front of me. It was White Bear, a teddy my great aunt Harriet had sent me from Australia when I had been born. He had always been called White Bear and Mum had always done her best to keep him white, craftily washing him while I was sleeping, or over at friends’ houses so that he would always be where he always was, guarding my room from the bay window sill. His green eyes looked back at me now and I tried to imagine him in a new place; a new room, a new view, new colours on the walls. My heart thumped in my chest, which was tightening with the desire for tears. No, I had decided it last night; it was the right thing to do.
            I placed White Bear back in his corner, where during the winter he would be kept company by birds resting on the bare branches outside the glass. During summer, the light would hit his fur and warm him as it cast golden beams across my, no... the room. Now, it was autumn and a gentle breeze rolled leaves outside. He would be OK.
            I stepped back from the bay window and turned towards the door. At the border, I looked back and smiled. I knew it would be another girl who would have this room and I knew she would love White Bear and keep him white and let him guard her and her world; keep her safe and sane as she grew up. Then the empty space caught up with me and a tear trickled out. I swallowed the rest back down. I heard doors slamming outside and the car beeped its horn.
            I blew a kiss across the door and into my wonderful past. I gently closed the door and walked down stairs. Outside was the car, taking me to my future.