Monday, July 31, 2006

The closeness of family

daisiesThere's a physicality to my developing relationship with the children that I have not experienced before.

I'm actually quite amazed at how quickly they have taken to me and accepted me into their lives, and this acceptance brings with it a level of closeness which I don't experience to anything like the same level with the children of my friends, although I have known them all for far longer than I have known my nieces and nephew.

My sister pointed out that, if I were simply a friend playing with her kids, she would feel guilty about them monopolising me (and potentially wearing me out) after 15 minutes or so, but as I'm family, she doesn't have the same worries, and just lets me get on with it. This is allowing us to develop our relationship at a much faster pace than if I were simply interacting with my friends' kids for a short while, but I think there's more to it than that.

Although the children are still very young, niece #1 and nephew #1 already understand the concept of "sister" - because they are either a sister themselves, or they have one. My sister has been talking about her sister (me) for quite a while now, preparing them for my visit. We don't like the word "aunt" very much, so we don't use it - I am simply "mummy's sister" - and it's a concept which the kids understand, and which has a number of connotations associated with it.

daisies"Sister" means "playmate" and "confidante" and, at this age, "best friend" - and it appears that even though I am the sister of their mummy, I have been awarded the same rights in relation to the children, as they have with each other as siblings. This means I get to be an instant playmate - and they feel entirely comfortable being in closer physical proximity with me than any of the other children I know.

I think it also works from my direction too. Whereas I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable spending long periods of time monopolising my friends' children when they come over for a visit (because I assume my friends will want them back!), it's different with my nieces and nephew. Here I suppose I have an unspoken expectation of closeness (both physical and emotional) - assuming that the kids choose to accept it - and I don't worry that my sister will feel I'm spending too much time with the kids, because we are family, and so it's allowed.

daisiesIt's a lovely feeling, actually, and one which (as this is only the second time I have spent time with them) is both unexpected and enormously precious to me. I'm not planning to have children of my own, and these three little people are going to be the closest thing I have to my own kids (apart from my cats! ha!).

I feel deeply grateful to my sister for inviting me over on what was really not much more than a whim when we first began discussing the possibility a few months ago - and for impressing on me that what she wanted - and all she wanted - was for me to focus entirely on her family for a few weeks, simply sharing their lives and doing ordinary everyday things with them. For me, these everyday things are anything but ordinary, and I'm savouring every second, every hug, and every smile.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

The joys of routine

frogI had the best sleep last night... I actually managed to stay awake all day, and went to bed at about 11pm (having finally begun to fade by about 10).

This morning I became an exhibit for the children, who wanted to know where I was, and so were allowed to quietly stand at my door and watch me sleeping. Apparently I was completely riveting, and they really didn't want to leave. I guess it's fairly unusual to watch anyone while they're asleep, especially when you're only little and everyone else gets to go to bed far later than you do - so webweaver Exhibit A was quite a treat.

I was actually only really asleep for the beginning of the show - but I didn't feel like getting up right then, so I pretended for the rest of the time, and, according to my sister, put in an Oscar-winning performance.

I met the kids yesterday afternoon when they came home from nursery. They were a little freaked out when they came into the garden and I was already there (although they've known I was coming for quite a while), so we had a low-key "getting to know you" session, where I focussed on playing with the toy aeroplane and making zooming noises, while they slowly edged closer to see what I was doing. They are all absolutely divine. I feel so lucky to have such fantastic people as part of my family. It's going to be very hard saying goodbye when I have to leave.

I had met nephew #1 and niece #1 when I was here a couple of Christmases ago, but they were far too young to remember. I met niece #2 for the first time yesterday. They are all just so sweet! I showed them pictures I had taken during bathtime a year and a half ago - interestingly enough nephew #1 and niece #1 had no idea the photos were of them - as they were the same age then as niece #2 is now, they assumed the pictures were of her.

We did playing, then teatime, then bathtime, then bedtime. They're all so good at their routine, and my sister is such a great mum - endlessly patient, and interested, and communicative. It's an absolute joy to be part of their family, even for just a short while.

Partner of sister of webweaver and I met a very cute frog in the kitchen after tea. We had a massive thumderstorm before teatime, with huge claps of thunder, lightning flashes and sheets of rain, and I think the frog figured the world had become a giant pond, and fancied a visit to somewhere new. We caught it pretty easily (although it was very jumpy!) and put it in the garden amongst the rosebushes.

My sister has requested that I don't post photos of the family in my blog (or identify them by name), so you'll have to make to do with Portrait of the Frog as today's featured image. Enjoy!

Today I was able to explore town with my sister, and do a bit of clothes shopping while she went to a meeting, and then I wandered home in time for their arrival back from nursery, and we had playtime, and teatime, bathtime and bedtime again.

I was talking with my sister about how much children appreciate a routine (which is something I hadn't quite grasped when I was an infant teacher many years ago) - and how secure it makes them feel - knowing what's going to happen next, and what is expected of them. I think that goes for adults too in some ways - especially if you're the kind of person who feels unsettled by change or by not knowing what's going on.

I also remember as a teacher realising how some of my kids really resented being told they had to stop an activity straight away (say if it was nearly lunchtime or something) and how much they disliked being interrupted before they were finished. I'm the same as a grown-up - it comes from getting totally into the flow of whatever I'm doing, and not wanting to be pulled out of the flow before I'm ready.

It's fascinating being able to watch the way these children think, and the way they operate. I'm able to watch from such a close perspective, and yet, until now, I really didn't know them at all. I feel thrilled and honoured to have been allowed right into the heart of my sister's family, and I'm so grateful to her for having invited me over. I'm having such a lovely time.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

England calling!

I'm here! It's damned hot and sticky, and it's great to have arrived after 36 hours of travelling - 24 of those actually in various planes. Bleagh.

I was so knackered by the time I got on the Hong Kong-London flight that I slept pretty much the whole 12 hours, which passed the time rather effectively. I ended up getting an earlier train to my sister's place, as we were so darned efficient getting through immigration and customs, and it's just so lovely to be here.

We've been planning cool things to do with the kids while I'm here, and I've been catching up with sister of webweaver for the last couple of hours. I need to stay awake as long as I can today, to get over the jet lag as fast as possible. Hopefully I won't start fading at precisely the time that the kids turn up!

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Greetings from Hong Kong!

view from my window 1Halfway there....

I'm sitting in the very swanky Traveller's Lounge in Hong Kong airport, which is pretty much the most cvilised place on earth right now. For HK$200 (about NZ$40) I get two hours of peace and quiet, comfy armchairs, as much buffet and beverages as I want, air conditioning, internet access and even a shower and a snooze if I like. Bliss!

I wandered over here to check on prices and facilities for when I'm in HK for a full day on the way home, but it looked so nice and I was so hot and sweaty and sleep-deprived that I thought I'd just give it a test run today. Heh.

The flight was OK I guess. The first and last couple of hours are pretty bearable actually, because that's when they feed you - and you can make it last quite a while if you eat really s-l-o-w-l-y. It's the 7+ hours in between the feeding that are the worst. The secret is to get really zen about the whole thing, and just let time flow by, rather than straining to make it go faster - which never works and just gets you frustrated.

view from my window 2I actually managed a bit of a snooze, so that ate up a couple of hours. Then there was the looking-out-the-window, the watching-two-crappy-movies (always a good time-waster), the doing-logic-puzzles in the puzzle mag which I only only ever buy when I'm flying, the holding-on-tight-and-shutting-my-eyes when it got a bit bumpy - ah you get the drift. Think zen.

I sat next to this nice Frenchwoman who was escorting 17 noisy teenagers home from a world study trip - what a mission! Actually they were pretty cool, even with the screaming when we hit turbulance!

The descent into Hong Kong was pretty amazing - it was evening by the time we got here, and we seemed to be flying around enormous cumulonimbus clouds for ages as we approached the city - it was really quite surreal actually - the clouds were lit up by the lights of the city below, and they looked for all the world like giant orange cotton wool or candy floss, and we were in this toy plane scooting around and dodging them.

Hong Kong fireworks for Chinese New YearWe could see bits of the harbour when the clouds parted, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again in daylight on the way home. As we approached the airport we could see a huge fireworks display going off - it was pretty impressive seeing it from the air - awww guys! You shouldn't have!

It's not very practical having to wear icebreaker and assorted thermals in NZ and on the plane ('cos planes are always so cold!) ands then coming out into the humidity of HK airport and 30 degree heat, but never mind. I wore layers so I could take 'em off. I'm going to have to try and get some major sleep on this next leg of the journey because I am feeling so sleep-deprived now, and so spaced-out, that I don't know if I'll be able to get myself across London and onto the train in any sensible fashion once I arrive at Heathrow...

OK, I think I stopped making much sense about half an hour ago. I'll add some pics to this post later. And maybe tell you the story of the incredible nose-picking man at Auckland airport. Now that's something to look forward to!

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On my way...

Here I am at Auckland Airport - I’m on my way... There's WiFi internet access at the airport, but the minute you get connected they reduce the signal down to one bar, which isn't actually any use to anyone. Rats! Guess they want people to pay for their internet access instead. Ah well. So I'm going to have to save this and post it later on. [posted in HK 12 hours later]

Mt TaranakiIt's the most beautiful blue-sky day today. Not a breath of wind in Wellington (Yes! I know! Incredible!) and none here in Auckers either. Which, seeing as I'm a somewhat reluctant flyer, is very good news indeed. Mt Taranaki was visible through my window as we flew up here, and it looked quite magnificent. It was covered in snow pretty much the whole way down, shining pristine and untouched.

The geography of Taranaki always amazes me - the land surrounding it is so completely dead flat, and then suddenly you have this classic cone-shaped volcano rising sharply out of the rural landscape like some kind of alien insertion- its borders delineated by the almost-perfect circle of native bush that surrounds it. It's quite wonderful.

I haven't had much sleep - a little over 5 hours last night - I was far too keyed-up to go to bed early, plus I had to do stuff like finish my GST, pack my stuff, water the plants, wash the dishes etc etc. It's all done (hooray!) and I managed to cross pretty much everything off my list in the end. Go me!

I think I've packed everything I need. I'll probably realise something vital I've forgotten when we're somewhere over the Pacific, but I figure as long as you've got your credit card, your e-ticket and at least one passport, you'll be fine. :) A phone is useful too, especially if it has your sister's number and address in it!

I had a funny dream last night. I dreamed that Winnie decided to come home, so she walked all the way from the cattery to my house, somehow got in through the locked cat door, and crawled into bed with me. As she's my automatic sleep-inducer (I fall instantly asleep if she curls up under the covers with me), this was a very restful dream, to say the least. I miss her and Bailey already.

So. The flight to Hong Kong is 11 hours and 40 minutes, which I guess is just about bearable. That's similar to the NZ-LA flight I've done a few times. Then it's 3 hours mooching around in Hong Kong airport (probably only two once we've done the taxiing around the runways and getting off the plane thing) and then it's another 12 hours 50 minutes to London. Ugh.

I hatehatehate flying to Europe. It's why I go back to England so rarely - that 24-hours-in-a-plane thing is just no fun at all. Ah well. It was worse last time I was in Europe - I left from Lanzarote, so I had to fly Lanzarote-Madrid-Heathrow-Bangkok-Auckland-Wellington - with a 6-hour wait at Heathrow, 3 hours in Bangkok (I had a foot massage! It was heaven!) and another 4 hour wait in Christchurch, when we were diverted there due to fog in Auckland. At least we didn't have to fly back up to Auckland in order to fly back down again to Wellington, which is what they were suggesting at one stage. Heh.

Hopefully once we're airborne I’ll feel inspired to blog about something of great social and political import (thanks, Janis!) instead of all this mememe stuff. We shall see.

Hopefully I won't be sat next to some huge snoring person who keeps jabbing me in the ribs with her elbow the whole way (True story! After an hour or so I got out of my seat by climbing over her, found a steward and burst into tears. He offered me a cup of tea and moved me to an empty row of three seats, where I could lie down and sleep. Bliss!).

Hopefully also I won't be sat next to some loud American who drinks bottle after bottle of red wine, gets absolutely hammered, attempts to engage me in loud political debate which keeps the neighbours awake and gets him shusshed, and then proceeds to try and put his head on my lap and grope me all the way to our destination. Bleagh. I couldn't move that time, as the plane was pretty much full.

Heh. Here’s hoping! The majority of the people waiting for our plane appear to be Hong Kong Chinese - which means they are not fat, and are probably not obnoxious Americans either. The cabin staff have just been beeped through onto the plane, so I guess we might be boarding fairly soon.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Getting ready to go...

My verandahWell, I've had my last day at work for a wee while, finished (pretty much) everything I had to finish, left post-it notes all over my notebook for Ross in case he has to take over my major project while I'm away, and asked Tom to make sure I get a place to sleep when we stay an extra day up the mountain after the company hui. I think I'm all set work-wise...

Now I'm at home, having done all my washing (wondering if it'll dry in time), wrapped the pressies for the family and written (and continue to add things to) my humungous list of things-to-do-before-I-go - I'm even crossing some things off now! Hooray!

Winnie is sitting on the desk behind me, checking to see what I'm doing. She's been out late tonight, and I was starting to wonder if I'd be out searching for her after midnight. That would not be great timing, seeing as we have to go to the cattery tomorrow.

BaileyAh - the cattery. It's such a mission to get Winnie and Bailey in their baskets ready to go. I have to be really sneaky about it, because if they hear as much as a creak from the basketwork, they both scoot under or behind the furniture, and it can take an hour to find and catch them. Bailey in particular is an extremely good hider - because he hates his basket. If I'm not able to catch him unawares and get him in it almost immediately, he'll be so wound-up by the time I do catch him, that he's likely to have a little "accident" on the way to the cattery - which is no fun for anyone!

My trick these days is to get the baskets ready in the laundry the night before, which does freak the cats out slightly because they hear me moving them - but then they generally calm down again once they realise nothing bad's happening right then. The next morning I let them into the laundry one at a time (they like going in there because a) it's where their food is and b) it's usually the way out to freedom throught the cat door), close the door real fast and then - they pretty much give up the fight because there's nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide. Brilliant! It certainly beats chasing them around the house!

I love the phrase "it's like herding cats". It's so true!

I was walking home this evening and I started to feel a little homesick - and I haven't even left yet! How funny is that? I love New Zealand so much, I always miss it terribly when I'm away. And I miss my house and my cats quite desperately. It can be almost a physical ache sometimes.

WinnieWinnie's now decided she needs to sit on me while I write this. She's curled up on my lap and she's got her head on my right arm. I have the choice of typing with my left hand only, or using both and annoying her because I'm moving the arm she's resting on; but I'm going for the latter for a while, just so I can get this done. Oh. She's not too impressed. She's now placed her paw firmly on my arm - I think she's trying to stop me moving it. I'll have to slow down. Heh. She's got me wrapped around her little claw hasn't she? Yes, I know :)

So - stuff to do tomorrow. Mostly deciding what clothes to take and packing them, finishing off my accounts (oops sorry Mr GST man!), making sure I have every plug and converter known to humankind to run all my stuff while I'm over in the UK, taking the cats to the cattery at some stage, watering all my plants (I have many!), tidying the house, etc etc etc. My flatmates will be here the whole time, which is great, but I still have this need to leave things tidy at home. I miss it already.

I'm also massively looking forward to seeing my sister, her partner and the babies. I've met the twins before, but this will be my first meeting with the youngest. I'm really looking forward to it!

I might even get a chance to blog while I'm over there - although sister of webweaver reckons the babies are a full-time occupation - I'll have to wait until they are all asleep maybe. Apparently they are having a heatwave, but never fear, it will probably all come to a screeching halt the moment I arrive, and I will remain the pastiest white chick in the whole country. Which is saying something.

Looking forward to 30+ hours of travelling. NOT. Talk soon!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Thousand Different Ways

Clay Aiken - a great excuse to use another picture of his hott new lookAt last!!! Clay Aiken's upcoming sophmore album finally has a name - it's called A Thousand Different Ways.

Clay's been teasing us for a couple of weeks now - first came the "guess the acronym" game, where he told us the title had four words, the first word began with a vowel, the other three with consonants, and all the letters were different. The first person to guess the acronym got a phone call from Clay and other cool stuff including a signed copy of the album. Over the following few days he gave us more and more clues, and finally someone guessed right. They got their phone call from Clay the other day.

He's a clever boy, our Clay. He knows everyone on the message boards uses acronyms all the time for names of his songs and albums, so I guess he thought he'd give us a head start on this one.

Once the acronym ATDW was announced, he had us all guessing the actual title, and today it was announced on his fanclub website by his producer, Jaymes Foster Levy. Her blog is quite revealing, she calls it "our" album (thanks Clay!), and says we will hear him singing in some completely new ways. Cool! I love that man's voice SO much!

The one thing that the ClayNation wants most from Clay's new album (apart from, you know, actually getting hold of a copy) is to hear his voice up front and center, in the same incredible way that we get to hear him live. Jaymes promises us that this is exactly what we're going to get. I can't wait! Thanks for the awesome birthday present, guys!

If you're a member of Clay's Official Fanclub and want to read Jaymes's blog, you can access it here - access for members only I'm afraid - you need to be logged on to the site before you click the link.

Now we're just waiting for the release date, info on the upcoming tour, the name of the first single, yadda yadda yadda. It's still a waiting game, but I think the drought may finally be breaking! AWoooooHoooo!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The song of the blackbird

Blackbird and windfalls by David MillerI was sitting in the office with the window open today, and in amongst the sound of traffic from the city street, I could hear a blackbird singing its heart out in the trees outside our window. It's the middle of winter here, but it was a lovely sunny day, and I guess this particular blackbird was just enjoying the sunshine for a change.

It took me straight back to my English childhood - long lazy summer evenings, when the sun takes an age to go down, and twilight lasts for ever. The grass is still warm, and it smells sweet, and dry, and crinkly, and I just want bury my nose in it and drink in the scent. Or maybe I'm walking home from school, and I've taken off my shoes and socks and I'm feeling the coolness of the grass between my toes as I walk along the grass verge. And in the trees all around me, the blackbirds are singing.

Listen to the call of the blackbird (and a bunch of other birds too).

The song of the blackbird is like liquid sunshine flowing over the leaves and branches and trickling down into the grass. So rich and varied, and yet so completely recognisable. It's one of the few things I miss about England, and I'm really looking forward to hearing that summer song again in a few weeks' time.

Isn't it funny how some sounds can instantly transport you to another place, another time? Scents are the same - to this day I can't smell freshly-cut limes without immediately being sent back in time to a beach on Penang 25 years ago when we sat and drank tall glasses of ice-cold fresh lime juice and water. Wonderful!

Lovely links

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Friday, July 14, 2006

I did it!

w00t! I got my hair cut and highlighted today! And it wasn't nearly as terrifying as I'd thought it might be. Funny how you can build something up in your mind until it appears entirely different to how it really is.

I used to get my hair cut and coloured in such crazy styles all the time - but I've been in a hair-rut for a good few years now - not somewhere I've ever been before - and oh boy! Does it feel good to have finally got myself out of it!

Do you know I started growing my hair long for a guy (hi Marcus!) over thirteen years ago (because he told me he loved long hair on girls) - and it's taken me until now to realise that the person I should really be doing my hair for - is me. Silly girl!

I felt really shy going back into work with my new 'do after lunch - but everyone said nice things, so there you go. April reckons if guys don't like a new hair style then they just don't say anything, so I think I'm OK! Heh. It's truly amazing how good a new haircut can make you feel.

Alice is taking me shopping on Saturday so she can give me the whole What Not To Wear treatment, so I'll be all GORGEOUS for my birthday on Monday. Woohoo!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The day I met Clay Aiken

My signed copy of Clay's Rolling Stone coverIn honour of the third anniversary of Clay Aiken on the cover of Rolling Stone, I thought I'd share with you the story of The Day I Met Clay (and when he signed my copy of "his" Rolling Stone).

Living across the other side of the world I would never in a million years have considered travelling across the ocean to see Clay in the American Idol 2 Tour if it hadn't been for the People's Republic of Clay - and most especially my dear friend artquest.

She's the one who responded to my message-board question "gee I wonder how easy it would be to get tickets to see the Clay Show at this late date" with "there's a room ready and waiting for you at my house if you do decide to come over....". I booked my flight from New Zealand to Los Angeles the next day.

Mr artquest was amazing really. I think he was definitely somewhat wary of me at first, and rather surprised that his lovely wife had invited a complete stranger over to stay, but they both made me feel so welcome - it was lovely.

PRoC banner
After a few days in LA I flew up to Sacramento for my first concert, and had arranged to meet message-board friends mel ladi and agape at the airport. Although we had never met before, we recognised each other straight away (I think it was the PRoC T-shirts and the squealing!) and headed off into town. agape decided we should stop off at the Arco Arena on the way there so she could pick up her tix at Will Call, so we all went in for a look-see. There was a bunch of people hanging around waiting, and we realised they were the Meet & Greeters.

Someone suggested I should try to talk my way in (seeing as I'd come all that way), so I did just that. It turned out the guy I collared was Ned (their English tour manager), and that he was exactly the right guy to talk to. I explained I'd flown all the way from NZ to see Clay, and he told me he'd have to see if there were any spare passes, and to wait here.... So of course I did! After a while I saw him go outside for a cigarette, so I though I'd go out too and do the ciggy-bonding thing. He turned to me and said "Oh! I was just looking for you! Here you go!" – and handed me a Meet & Greet pass.

My signed ClingleI was in!!!! Incredibly enough I'd brought my copy of Rolling Stone with me, and a Clingle, and present from NZ for Clay (a little furry kiwi) in a little bag, and a card, so I crouched down on the floor and wrote the card, and was immediately surrounded by other PRoCers giving me advice, and stuff to give to Clay – it was so exciting! Spotlightlover gave me a huge box of Krispy Kremes to give to all the Idols, Jerome did his speech, and then he led us away through the darkened corridors of the arena to MEET CLAY.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. I was so totally nervous - my mouth was so dry I thought I wouldn't be able to say a word! The room was laid out with a bunch of tables in a large square shape, with a big space in the middle. The Idols sat behind the tables on one side of the square, and we all had to file around the other three sides of the square to get to the head of the line - which was CLAY! Poor Roooooben had a cold that day, and he didn't show up, so Clay was first, with the other Idols arranged in order down the line.

Clay looking happyIt took a while for us to arrange ourselves around the square, and some of the Idols were a bit slow in coming into the room, so there was plenty of time for us to gawk at them all as they sat and chatted to each other. I wondered if they felt a bit like animals in the zoo... It turned out we were waiting for Clay, and when he finally arrived it felt so weird that here.he.was! Oh yes! He was really real!

He looked a little pale and washed out (I think I was too used to his AI-bronzer-from-hell look), but very happy and smiley and laugh-y. And his eyes are very green. And he has freckles. Oh, you knew that already. *g*

Clay signing my stuffIt was such a mission trying to carry everything, and I was shaking like a leaf, and when I finally got to the head of the line, I presented him with the box of KKs and said "I bring you Krispy Kremes - butyou'llhavetosharethem witheveryonelesecossomeofthem arechocolateones" and then I think I gabbled something gushy like "I've come all the way from New Zealand just to see you, Clay" - at which he looked slightly surprised (or possibly started backing slowly away *g*) and began doing the signing thing with the RS and the Clingle.

While he was signing my stuff, KimL said something like "Oh New Zealand! We were just saying the other day how we'd love to visit New Zealand" and I said "ohwellyoumustboth comeandstayatmyhouse whenyoucomeover" and gave Clay the stuffed Kiwi and the card... God how funny. I'm laughing at myself just writing this.

I took a couple of pictures of Clay signing my stuff, totally forgot to shake his hand (because we were actually allowed to do that!) and eventually moved on down the line to the other Idols. They were all so nice and friendly - I told each of them I'd come all the way from NZ to see them, which seemed to please them, and eventually I reached KimberMe and Julia, who were sitting together.

KimberMe and JuliaIn response to my NZ intro, Kimmy spoke the now immortal words "Oh New Zealand! Did you fly or did you drive???" – at which point Julia and I fell about in disbelieving hysterical laughter as Julia tried to explain to her exactly where NZ was...

Ah, good times, good times.

And now I've written so much that the actual concerts I went to (Sacramento, San Jose, and Anaheim) will just have to wait for another blog on another day. I never did get round to writing a review at the time.

You know the best thing? (Well, not the best thing, Clay was the best thing, but a really great thing). When I'd been getting my stuff ready for my trip, and telling my incredulous workmates where I was going and what I was doing, I mentioned something about how some people had actually got to meet Clay and how great would it be... At which point they all ROTFLTAO and told me to get a life...

So the first thing I did when I got home was race into work with my signed Rolling Stone and Clingle yelling:


Bloody brilliant.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Catching up with old friends

Sarah, me and Hilary
Sarah, me and Hilary - my best friends from school. Meeting up after 20 years.
OK, one more post about this whole Love of My Life thing, and then I'll drop it. Promise!

I think what I find so confusing about the whole "I've moved on with my life" stuff is that it sounds so serious. It feels as though, for Andy, it's a much bigger deal than I meant it to be. Or that he thinks it's a much bigger deal for me than it actually is.

The Christmas before last I went back to the UK for a few weeks and caught up with a whole bunch of people I hadn't seen for years - old schoolfriends, two ex-boyfriends, people I knew from waaaaay back. The pictures on this page are some that I took when I was over there.

I spent a few days with each person during the time I was there, met their partners, their kids, shared their lives for short while and had a wonderful time. It was as if we'd all seen each other only last week, and yet 20+ years had gone by since I had last seen some of them.

We looked at old photos, listened to the music we all loved way back then, laughed our socks off, told each other our life stories, and it was just to catch up and see how we'd all turned out.

Alan. My boyfriend from school whom I hadn't seen for nearly 25 years.
It was so easy. We realise that we're different people to who we were 20 years ago, that we've all moved on with our lives, and none of us can (or would want to) go back to the way we were (except perhaps for the lack of wrinkles, greying hair and saggy bits back then!). It wasn't a big deal at all. It was just lovely to catch up and share a bit of time together.

And so the fact that this absolutely isn't possible to do with Andy confuses me somewhat. I was actually planning to do much less with him than I did with all those other old friends. It was just going to be a cup of coffee and a chat, and that was it. I wasn't planning to stay over or anything! Nor was I planning to try and drag him away from his life, or upset it in any way. Of course not! Much as I would like things to have turned out differently, I'm still sufficiently in touch with reality to realise that this is the way it is, and nothing I do could ever change that.

I find it interesting that, at a certain age, many of us feel the need to reach out and make contact with old friends. I'm certainly not the only one doing it, although perhaps the urge has been stronger for me, as I have moved to the other side of the world in the interim. But the success of Friends Reunited and other similar websites shows me that many people enjoy finding out what happened to all those people who meant so much to you at the time, and with whom you have subsequently lost touch.

So I suppose that's what I hoped/expected with Andy too. And the fact that he's obviously so uncomfortable with that has come as something of a surprise to me - and a disappointment, of course.

Marcus. My lovely German boyfriend from 13 years ago.
I think it's the words he used, as much as anything else. "I've moved on with my life... the past is the past and I want to keep it that way, and keep it separate from my life now..." funny how I have a photographic memory for conversations, and yet sometimes I can't remember people's names (or occasionally even recognise faces)... but I digress.

Yes - the seriousness of it. It's been 20 years! I would have thought that the pain (whatever there was of it) would be long gone, erased by all the good things that have happened since. Why would there be a need to separate the past from the now? It's not as if meeting up again would do anything to change the present - how could it? Why would a simple catch-up be so threatening? That's what I don't understand.

Maybe I'm reading it all wrong. Maybe it's not threatening at all. Maybe he's completely indifferent to me now, hasn't thought about me in years, and simply can't be arsed meeting up with someone he's completely forgotten about.

Or maybe he feels so uncomfortable/sad/annoyed/whatever about the way our friendship ended that he's just not interested in doing anything that might bring it back up again (although then I go back to the "it's been 20 years!" thing and wonder how that could be). Maybe he just didn't feel like rocking the boat - although for the life of me I can't understand why meeting up would have rocked any boat in any way.

Sean, me and Kerra (and the cat)
Nativity play with Sean and his daughter Kerra (and the cat). Sandra and Sean were my best friends from 15 years ago.
"I've moved on with my life". Well yes, of course you have. So have I. We've been moving on for two decades and more. A cup of coffee and a light-hearted reminiscence over old times can do nothing to change that, and nor would I expect it to. We're different people now, with different lives and different priorities. But surely none of that would preclude us getting together for an hour or so, laughing at each other's greying hair and wrinklier faces, chatting about the things that are important to us now, and then going back to our separate lives again.

I'm impressed that he had the courage to call me up and tell me. He could have just sent me a dismissive email, after all. And the fact that he was honest instead of making some lame excuse like "oh our holiday has been extended by a couple of weeks so I'm afraid I won’t be back in time to meet up with you" is pretty brave. I'm grateful that he did think I was worth telling the truth to. Well, a part of it, anyway.

Because I'm never going to know the whole truth, am I? I know the reasons, I just don’t understand how those reasons came into being, or why. And that's the way it should be I suppose, because otherwise I'd be inside someone else's head, and that would be weird, to say the least. As Andy said: "yes, it is my decision" and of course I respect that. I may not understand it, but I do respect it.

Ah well. At least it saves me a train fare and gives me a day longer to spend with my sister and the babies. And in the end, maybe that's the most important thing.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What not to wear

[Trinny and Susannah]So I went over to Alice and Iain's house on Sunday, feeling a little sorry for myself after the "I don't want to have coffee with you - I've moved on with my life" incident of the day before.

Aaargh - it's so frustrating when you think of stuff you wish you'd said - hours or even days after you should have said it. Wish I'd said to Andy something like "Crikey! All I wanted was a cup of coffee and a catch-up - I wasn't planning to kidnap you and haul your ass back to EnZed with me..." but I didn't. *sigh*

Ah well. So anyway, to cheer me up a bit Iain and Alice gave me a great going-over, and Iain provided me with this quite amazing piece of information. He told me that my clothes give the impression that I'm completely uninterested in having sex with anyone! Heeeheeeheee yes they probably do! I choose my clothes on the basis of a) keeping me warm b) feeling comfortable and c) so I don't get arrested for public nudity. Heh. All reasons which, apparently, are not the right reasons at all!

Alice decided to go all Trinny and Susannah on me, so we played dress-up with her gorgeous clothes, and Iain passed judgement on my cleavage. Heehee! She taught me this trick where you kinda reach down into your bra and hoik your boobs up a bit to get the cleavage thing really going... Hysterical! I so can't take this seriously. She did let me try on some truly beautiful dresses though, and I guess I did look pretty nice.

Thing is, have you ever noticed how they only ever film What Not To Wear in the summer? Trinny and Susannah are all about the boobage if you've got it - and they're always getting reluctant women into fabulously v-necked outfits - but most of the stuff their "victims" end up buying would be just.too.damned.cold to wear in the winter! How on earth do you look a little sexy in the middle of the coldest winter we've had in years?

Apparently - according to my workmate April, who always manages to look sexay - even when it's freezing cold - the secret is wearing woolly underwear. Who knew? And you can even get woolly underwear in low-cut v-neck styles if you know where to look. heh. See what I'm up against? There's all this secret girl-info that everyone knows but me!

Anyway, I'm getting my hair cut this week - assuming I get my act together - and Alice is taking me shopping soon. I'm being made-over!

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Love of my life

There was this guy once, a long time ago. I was young and stupid, and at the time I didn't realise how special he was. He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of person. We went out for a couple of years, travelled the world together, and never had an argument. We felt the same way about all sorts of things, had the same passions about the world, and I loved him very much.

I don't have many regrets in my life - in fact I have only one. I let him go. Things got confused, I think I broke his heart, and I didn't try to mend it. Back then, I thought I was too young to have found The One. I didn't realise it was him. I didn't realise he was the love of my life, yet I would not be the love of his.

He married my ex-best friend a few years after we broke up, and about a year ago I found him again on the internet. It took me 4 years of searching to find him, and a year to pluck up the courage to call. I rang him last month. My whole body was shaking as I dialled the number. He recognised my voice straight away. He even knew that I'm living in New Zealand now. We spoke for a while, caught up on each other's news, and arranged to meet up for coffee when I'm in the UK next month.

He called me this evening, to say he's been thinking about meeting up, and has decided he doesn't think it's such a good idea. He's moved on with his life and he wants to keep the past in the past. I guess in my heart of hearts I figured this would probably happen. It doesn't make it any easier though.

Maybe you'll read this, Andy. Most likely you won't. So I'll close my eyes and send this out into the ether because I just want you to know that I'm sorry. Sorry for myself, because I messed up the best relationship I ever had, but most of all I apologise to you for behaving so unthinkingly all those years ago. I regret it more than you will ever know.

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