Friday, 27 December 2013

Holy Island / Ynys Gybi

Holy Island (Ynys Gybi) is found on the west side of Anglesey. The island is quite charming. As I am re-discovering. Or maybe discovering for the first time. When I last lived here, it would seem that I barely knew it at all. Or even cared to know it. Youth wasted on the young, and all that.

Separated from the main island by a narrow channel of water, Holy Island is connected to Anglesey in two ways.

The first is a causeway which carries the main road links to and from the island (A5/A55) as well as the railway line. Designed by Thomas Telford, this was named the Stanley Embankment after the Stanley family who were major benefactors to the region (note also Penrhos Stanley local hospital, Stanley Street in Holyhead, the Stanley Arms pub). Locally, the embankment is more likely to be referred to as Valley Cob (or is that Cobb?). The reasons for this are unknown to me. Maybe it’s due the building materials?? I know not. But will endeavour to find out. At some point.

You should know that the Cob has always spooked me. Driving along between Valley and Holyhead, the wall separating the A5 from the railway line seems to draw your car towards it. I always felt there was something weird and wonderful about this phenomenon. Although I rather think now that there is a more rational explanation. Still, what’s more interesting is that the wall was apparently built so that the trains didn’t spook the horses on the road at the time. Who would have thought? Certainly not me. Spooked as I was...

The second link is a smaller road called Four Mile Bridge. Incidentally, also the name of the village it serves. A small, quaint village. One of many, indeed, around here.

The main town on Holy Island is Holyhead, a port known primarily for its passenger and freight ferries to Ireland (Dublin and Dun Laoghaire). But Holyhead is far more than just a port. It is home to many attractions, including the Holyhead Breakwater, Breakwater Country Park, Holyhead Mountain,  the remains of a Roman fort. Among other things. But I will return to Holyhead shortly.

It will not be surprising to know that the main attractions and destinations on the island involve beaches: Trearddur Bay, Rhoscolyn, Silver Bay, Newry, Porthdafarch, Rocky Coast. Okay, so the sun isn’t out as often as it could be. But these are stunning areas with or without the sun. With just the wildness of nature. Great places for walking, surfing, kayaking. Or just clearing the cobwebs away in the blustery sea air.
Then there is Penrhos Coastal Park and Nature Reserve, North and South Stack Lighthouses; the RSPB information centre, Elin’s Tower; the Ucheldre (art) Centre; Trefignath Burial chamber, Ty Mawr hut circles, Standing Stones.

But all in good time. I will tantalise you with some photos of the area. And endeavour to look into all these places in more detail. For my benefit as much as yours, you understand. :0)





Thursday, 26 December 2013

In Wales, it's eight different weathers in a day - Piper Perabo

I finally managed to get out for a walk today. Between the horrendous gales and incessant rain. Strode out and filled my lungs with cool, fresh, salty air. It was so delightful.

My thoughts remain with those across the country less fortunate. Who are clearing away the aftermath of the latest gales. Dreading, along with them, the next onslaught. Whipping up outside now as I write.

The greatest inconvenience afforded me here has been the inability to get outside freely and easily. Oh, and the inability to put the bins out. Without causing damage to myself or others. Minor inconveniences, you will agree. But inconveniences, all the same.
I did manage to clamber into my car during a break in the rain. I had to get out and drove around the coast. The sights were astounding. Trees bent over. Bins flying around. Waves beyond belief. And people lying on surfs in those amazing waves hoping for a ride or two. Absolutely astounding.

But walking out is so liberating. Faster or slower, as you wish. Or as your muscles will allow. I took a detour onto Holyhead Mountain while the weather was good. To see where my aunt previously lived. The memories! One thing though. I don't remember people being so vocal in their friendliness in days gone by. Everyone calls out greetings as you go by. It's heartwarming! Where did that come from? Maybe it was always there and I just didn't see it...

Something that certainly wasn't always there: the Christmas jumper. It has returned. Now where did that come from? It's the strangest phenomenon. I remember it as a child. Haunting us in presents from not-so-cool aunts and uncles. But then it became so uncool it wouldn't be touched with a barge pole by any right-minded person. Now it appears it's so uncool it's cool. It's taking some mental adjustment on my behalf to rationalise. Not judge, just rationalise. Such are the perils of the expat returning.


Saturday, 21 December 2013

I tramp a perpetual journey - Walt Whitman

Well, I am finally feeling settled. I have a job! I can now relax. For two weeks at least. Before my start date. But YehHeh! The relief is great. I have duly celebrated. And may well do so again before I start.

It feels like I've been applying for jobs for an eternity. So many emails to reply to, so many very long application forms to fill in. No really. As I said previously, applying for jobs is a job in itself.

And it so occurred that I had numerous interviews this week. And then had two offers on the same day. Thursday. With a third potential offer by telephone. Typical, n'est-ce pas? As the old adage goes: you wait all day for one bus, and then two come along at the same time.

But I'm hardly complaining. It's not necessarily unpleasant to have two buses at the same time. The only issue is deciding which one you'll take. And that's not always an easy choice. I've gone with my heart. I hope it's right.

So now I do feel settled. I'm baking and reading and walking and taking photographs. And visiting. Between storms and gales. Oh and relaxing too. Bien sûr. Before the madness begins again...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open - Jawaharlal Nehru

I am back on my feet and raring to go. Well, pretty much. The air is fresh and ever-so-slightly cold, so being outside is a relief after four days indoors. And a blast. In so many ways.

I made my first outing yesterday. Under the cover of my lovely little car. I pootled off to an interview in the middle of nowhere. A most beautiful nowhere. In the middle of the island. Just fields of the greenest green as far as the eye could see. Dotted with stone cottages and country lanes. Tractors. And sheep. Always sheep.

It was a wonderful drive. A tad difficult to concentrate on the scenery with the rather tight country lanes to negotiate. Still I took my time. And took in en route Llyn Alaw, a man-made reservoir of fair size. Although my fair size and yours may not be the same. So to be precise, a surface area of 3.6 sq² (1.4 mi²). Only mentioned because it made me smile. As only good memories can. Three of us bunked off school on my 18th birthday and drove out to the lake for a picnic. A blustery but clement September day. Full of fun. Followed by not-so-fun reprimands from the school. Good memories all the same...

Today I took in more air. I went down to the allotment. To examine the piece of land conferred to me. But mainly to work. Manure arrived. Oh yes. Tons of the stuff. Or what appeared to be tons. Delivered in a pile by a very nice farmer. To be wheel-barrowed onto our soil and spread. That was my job: spreading. Not as easy as it may sound. But spread it I did. And if the sharp air hadn't cleared my germ-filled lungs, then believe me manure did. Fresh and fragrant. Most foully fragrant.

But it was somehow fulfilling work. On the land. In the land. Worms and all. The dung will now hopefully do its thing and we'll reap the rewards throughout the coming year. I have great plans. Onions and garlic. Leeks and potatoes. Carrots and courgettes and aubergines. Now I just have to learn to garden...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world - Gustave Flaubert

All my plans this week came to an abrupt standstill thanks to a battery of germs. Or should I say a battering from germs. Common cold ones. Nothing too sinister, methinks. But heavy-duty enough to down me for three days. No voice. No temperature control. And no breathing capacity.

I expected as much, to be quite honest. Big move means intense activity means huge stress. Once it all ends, the immune system staggers to a halt. And the germs move in. They can always sense an advantage.

Still, being ill and surrounded by family is an obvious plus. Bread and drugs delivered to your door. Along with a steady stream of chocolate and DVDs. Who am I to complain?

But like all things, germs pass. And mine are on their way. If slowly. Still they do leave their mark. I had much planned for the end of the week particularly. Two interviews being of higher importance on my list.

One I happily conducted over the telephone. Another recruitment agency. Another very nice lady. Very accommodating. Very patient. In view of my inability to speak clearly. And possibly coherently.

The second was for a job I really wanted. Receptionist at a doctor's surgery. I have no experience for such a position. No direct experience at least. But I liked the idea of human contact. The notion of helping people. If only indirectly. I called to try and re-arrange the interview. My temperature was spiking and I was finding it difficult to manœuvre myself around the house, never mind drive my car across the island. But no show, no interview. Tant pis pour moi, as my French friends would say.

I comfort myself that I wouldn't want to work for people who would not proffer a second chance. Or prefer you to expose yourself and your germs to all. Even a doctor's surgery. But platitudes are unsatisfying.

I do however have three and possibly four interviews this week. Which is good. And somewhat exciting. Although probably more daunting. Such is a week in the life of an expat job-hunter. More photos will follow. I promise :0)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Beaumaris / Biwmares

This is a lovely, quaint little town which was a major sea port in times gone by. The name comes from the French. Of course. They called it beaux marais. Beautiful marshes. Of which there are fewer today, methinks. Still, the beauty remains.

One of the central features of the town is the castle built on the orders of Edward I of England. To keep the Welsh under control. One of a chain of castles he had built across North Wales for this purpose. By the French. Some at least. Who then named the town. Et voilà. It's a particularly stunning castle. With a moat. And really is a must to visit.

The town also boasts a Victorian jail (known as the gaol) and a Court dating back to 1614. Both are huge tourist attractions. I know. We were taken to visit them by my primary school. I can still recall how creepy they both were. The gaol was dark and grim. Full of chains and fetters. Stories of punishment and hangings. Then into the prisoner's room of the Court. Hearing more stories of more criminals. I still have photographs of us all in the dock. Not a happy place. 

And let's not forget the ducking stool. Which incidentally I never have. It was my first encounter with the horrifying consequences of superstition, prejudice and fear. Ducking women suspected of being witches into water. Their death proving their innocence. Too much for my ten-year-old - and very just - mind.

Thankfully things are so much more civilised in the town today. Tea and coffee shops galore. Gift shops and novel boutiques. Quaint streets, cute cottages. And a stunning view over the Menai Straits and across the Snowdonia Mountain range. It's hard to believe there could ever have been anything bad there at all.



A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it - George Augustus Moore

I had an interview today at a recruitment agency. With a really lovely, lively lady. Who likes rugby and has tickets for next week's game. She is officially my new BF.

The interview was on the other side of the island, in Beaumaris. It was one of the most beautiful of days. Crisp and clear. Bright autumn sunlight. Magnifying the Snowdonia mountain range stretched out before me. Snow kissed and stunning.

I haven't been to Beaumaris since I was in school. How is that possible? It's so beautiful. All coffee shops and quaint pubs. Small streets and cute cottages. I walked along the coastline and drank in the fresh (very sharp) air, the glassy straits, the mountains out yonder. Then finished up with a hot chocolate and toasted tea cake. Yummy!

This also gave me the opportunity to drive across the island on the new A55. Well, not so new. At least not to everyone else. It was opened in 2001, replacing the A5 as the main road from Holyhead to Bangor. It was an interesting experience. Quick and easy. Direct and efficient.

Still, I couldn't help but miss the tortuous and frustrating A5. With its tractors and lorries holding up traffic every 10 minutes. Ahh progress, eh?!

Anyway, the interview went well enough. Although my wait for work continues. In the meantime, I won't be bored. I have curtains to hang, a pet gate to attach, lampshades to put up. Oh, and CVs to send out. Of course...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Anglesey / Ynys Môn

So let me tell you about my new home. The Isle of Anglesey sits in the Irish Sea, off the North-West coast of Wales. It's a beautiful island of approximately 276 sq miles (714 km²), home to just under 69,000 people.

Ynys Môn is its Welsh name. I read on numerous websites that the name was apparently coined by an Irish princess called Monna who married a Welsh prince. I know no more. But I will look into that sometime...

Otherwise the island is also known as Môn Mam Cymru - Môn, mother of Wales. Due to its productivity. But possibly also due to its uncanny resemblance to a woman's head with a hat on. A Welsh hat, of course. Look at a map and you'll see what I mean. 

A huge percentage of the island residents speak Welsh. 60% according to the Key Statistics for Isle of Anglesey of April 2008. Compared with 21% of the whole of the country. Impressive, eh? Life expectancy is also higher here. For women mainly. Good move for me, then, huh?

Much of the island's beauty comes from the rolling hills and fields of farmland. With lots of cattle and sheep. Of course. It's Wales. So many  sheep indeed that our local newspaper used to run a competition based on sheep and sheep dogs. Or the lack of them. Spot the Dog. Instead of Spot the Ball ,you understand.

The Britannia and Menai bridges link Ynys Môn to the mainland across the Menai Straits. Menai Suspension Bridge is the more attractive of the two. Built by Thomas Telford in 1826. By the by, it was apparently the first modern suspension bridge in the world. In 1855, the Britannia Bridge was designed and built by Robert Stephenson as a tubular bridge to carry rail traffic. A fire in 1970 called for the bridge to be rebuilt and it emerged from the flames transformed to carry both road and rail traffic as (I am assured) a two-tier steel truss arch bridge. It really isn't the most attractive of bridges, but it's truly functional and helps us all to get on and off the island efficiently. Except when the winds are high. Then it's just plain scary!

And finally, there are some well-known islanders to take note of. Such as Sir Kyffin Williams, author of some the most stunning landscape paintings ever produced in Wales. Now no longer with us. But his legacy remains for all to see. Then, Dawn French was born here. As was Aled Jones. Tony Adams (of acting not footballing fame). Hugh Emrys Griffith. Hywel Gwynfryn. Who came to my primary school. And was a very nice man.

You may know also that Prince William and Kate have been living here for the past three years. Little Prince George came too. And then they all left just as I arrived. Although we're trying not to read anything into that...

And finally George North (go George!) went to school here. And I met his mum in Tesco last week. A defining moment for me. If only for realising that I can still be star struck at my age. Even when the star is not present. Hmmm. Something else to work on, methinks...

Monday, 18 November 2013

I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I went shopping yesterday. On a Sunday. To Tesco. Taking along my cousin whose car is temporarily out of action. It's been a long while since I shopped on a Sunday. And I must admit that it felt a tad bizarre.

We weren't the only ones shopping. Indeed, there was quite a crowd in there. But after a decade of Sunday closing, it still felt strange. Almost sacrilegious. For a while at least. I soon got over it and came out with (another) bag full of treats. Nothing important. Just chocolate and bread and baked beans. More cheddar cheese, vegetarian sausages, Branston pickle. And one or two other treats that I haven't got used to having permanent access to just yet. I think I'm only eating at the moment for the sake of delighting in the memories. Fun. Just not so good for the thighs...

And certainly not so good following an afternoon sat in front of the rugby with my dad and beer. Although the afternoon was really good. Homely. Finished off with an Indian take-away. Huzzah!

Serious things are also going on though. I'm still spending hours applying for jobs. Hours. I won't go on again about how long it takes. Although I'd like to. Because it does. I've been back and forth to charity shops this week, getting rid of anything excess. I've advanced with a whole host of (more) paperwork that needs to be done now I'm back. And at home, my father has been helping out with odd jobs. That would be helping out by doing the jobs. While I observe. Just in case...

I've also started re-discovering my environment. Walking around town and countryside and seaside. Allowing the sea to revive my deepest soul and refresh my very being. Wondering how I could possibly have thought the area dull in my youth! I will share my rediscovery with you in future posts. With photographic evidence. To revive any souls out there that may be flagging. :0)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes - Marcel Proust

It's a bracing, sunny day today. The sea is gently agitated, crashing waves against the rocks. Refreshing. Stimulating. Beautiful.

I couldn't take the grin off my face driving around the coastal road to visit my family. Listening to Ella Fitzgerald. In my car. My very own car.

Yes, I have taken possession of my car and am enjoying getting used to it. And to driving on the left-hand side of the road. You'd think it would be the most natural thing in the world. Having learned to drive on the left. Yet my right hand keeps looking for the gear box and finding the door handle. Either years of driving on the right have contaminated my learning or it is indeed more natural to drive on the right. A matter I disputed during my whole time in France. More to annoy the self-righteousness of those arguing the case rather than from any deep convictions of my own. Still, I'm beginning to think they may have had a point.

I put petrol in the car today too. And don't mind telling you that I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Your money doesn't go very far these days, does it? I need to get a job...

But I'm enjoying popping in to see people. And having them popping in to see me. I forgot how comfortable it is to pop. Is it so very British? Or just not very French? Whatever. It's a long-time since I popped, and it's one more thing I'm enjoying re-discovering.  And a bonus of my popping has been to be given part of an allotment. Just over the road from my home. By my cousin and her husband. Finally I will be able to get outside and try my hand at gardening. Growing my own vegetables. And flowers. With lots of help and direction of course.

And so things are falling beautifully into place. My broadband is installed. My furniture has arrived and is (more or less) sorted. After four solid days of working on it. And three sleepless nights organising it in my head. I'm settling in. Nesting. I've just put my bins out for the first time. Bins for rubbish, for paper recycling, for bottle recycling. Even for battery and specs recycling. How efficient. How environmentally friendly. How cool.

All I need now is the job. Did I mention that I don't have one yet? After hundreds of applications? Onwards and upwards. Everything in good time. All good things come to those who wait. As they say. Whoever they may be...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Once you'd resolved to go, there was nothing to it at all - Jeannette Walls

We had the mother of all storms last night. I'd forgotten how bad they can be here. I watched the waves crashing on the shore from my bedroom window. And wondered if they couldn't cross the road to get me. And fretted a tad over the strength of a very angry wind. Banging at the Windows. Rattling the building quite impressively. Scary, I tell you.

I didn't see how the upstairs windows could survive. But they did. Thankfully. The flowerpot by the front door was less successful. And the bins made it down to the end of the garden.

Still, we all made it through. And in the way of island life, we awoke to a lovely, blustery day today. With a hint of sunshine. In blue skies. So I wandered along the shore, taking photographs and breathing in the sea air. Fresher and saltier after the storm.

It was bliss. As was taking coffee on the way back at my friend's mother's house. Sitting around the fireplace with my friend and her brother. As we had done so many times before. Over twenty years ago. Snug. Nice...

And so things are starting to come together. Life is starting to settle down. A little, at least. I'm sleeping tons. Catching up, methinks. Especially now that the heating and hot water in the flat have been fixed. And by a jolly nice plumber too. Who in his spare time volunteers for the local lifeboat. From the goodness of his heart. Risking his life in the dead of night. And the dead of winter. During storms such as we experienced last night. Isn't that something? Total commitment, total selflessness. I could only listen in awe to his accounts. Stated simply, factually. At my prompting. No boasting, no vaunting. Nothing special. To him, at least. But isn't it really special? The height of humanity? I love island life...

Saturday, 2 November 2013

He lay awake, dreading the dawn when he would have to say good-bye to the small universe he had built for himself over the years – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

So I'm home. Really and truly home. Months of planning and organising have come together, and I write from my very empty, but very lovely new flat. Looking out over the sea. Through the rain. Of course.

The journey back was long. In so many ways. I fretted a tad throughout the night and was up before the crack of dawn. The few things I had meant to carry with me had become a few more than anticipated. And possibly a few more than necessary. So it took longer to organise myself. But we got there. The drugs were administered to the confused cats. And we were off.

And so the fun began. Monty was indeed calmer than he would normally have been. Thanks to the drugs. Milly, on the other hand, was not. She became almost unrecognisable. Vocal and anxious. Agitated. Almost wild. Attacking the carrier. The blanket inside. My hand. The drugs for her were a huge mistake. Huge. I spent the first 6 hours of the journey to the ferry fretting and worrying. Soothing and coaxing her. She was on my knee, on the seat. Back in the carrier. Out again. She finally decided to get in alongside Monty in his carrier. And calmed down. A little, at least.

The consequence of all this stress? I barely noticed the journey. Barely reflected on the destination. The departure. The move. I was more concerned with being a bad (cat) mother. A cruel human being. Abusing the animals in my care. I felt bad. To say the very least.

Only arriving at the flat and watching my cats eat and snuggle and settle did I even vaguely relax. They won't be fully right until the furniture arrives, methinks. Still, in the meantime, there are huge windows. Plenty to see. And the seagulls are particularly entertaining.

I am now losing myself in paperwork, trying to establish my presence. I figure life will be improved over the next 10 days when telephone lines, broadband and various insurances kick in. Although I wake up every day now looking at the sea. Does life really get any better than that?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me - they must be unstable. Though it does have its poetry, I’ll allow that. When an old dwelling starts looking desolate, a mixture of regret and anxiety comes over us and we feel like we are leaving a safe harbour for the rolling sea - Jan Neruda

I'm sitting on one of the cats' blankets on the floor of my very empty flat. Everything echoes. I just sneezed (it's the dust) and I think I woke up the whole building.

Yesterday was a particularly stressful day. The removal men arrived on Thursday evening and popped up to say "hello". And to assess the work that awaited them. They were dismayed. So then was I. It would not be possible to fit everything into the lorry. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattt?! Their "well, we'll see" was not even vaguely reassuring. My stress levels were already up there. The night was going to be long.

When I went out later, I was dismayed. To say the least. The "lorry" - which I was told would likely be the equivalent of 3-4 car lengths - looked a good deal smaller. Now, I am the first to admit that I have absolutely no concept of space. But I had to agree with them: we were going to need a bigger van.

But these guys were seriously professional. Nick and Connor. Monkey Removals. I don't know how they did it. But they did. With a little encouragement from me and my friends. Coffee at 7am. Croissants, ham and cheese at 8am courtesy of Camping Chum. Moral support at 9am from a couple of other friends. Although it was all in French and Russian, so I'm not sure they got it. And even chicken sandwiches at midday. Prepared by my very own hands. A feat for a vegetarian with an aversion to handling meat...

And so my furniture is on its way. I remain here with a suitcase and the cats. And lots of calming Feliway and drugs for the journey. For them, not me. Unfortunately. My weekend will be full of cleaning and goodbyes. But the excitement mounts. And I can't stop smiling.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you're going is as good as where you've been - Richard Proenneke

I need to sleep. So badly. Soooo tired. It's been a week of long days and late nights. Running around, trying to make order of the madness of the move. 

When I have slept this week, I've actually dreamt about boxes and packing. And fighting with packing tape and the gun dispenser. Although that has actually been a reality for the most part. I have the puncture marks on my fingers to prove it. The detail seeped into my dream. Like a nightmare.

And at the same time I'm still job hunting, of course. Yes, still no job. I'm not stressed. Yet. But could be very soon, methinks...

The cats, on the other hand, are stressed. And consequently very clingy. Even the independent and aloof Mr Montague. Especially at night. I either wake up unable to breathe with a cat (or two) across my chest or wake up to find a cat face inches from mine, staring hard at me. I assume to ensure I'm still around and still alive. Disconcerting, to say the least.

I hope they can hold it together for another week. Me too, for that matter. Although I'm not sure I am actually holding it together. I don't know where anything is. Which is a complete nightmare for a control freak like me. But then, for the most time I don't know where I am. Who I am. It's the fatigue, of course. I hope. But it's an interesting feeling. Not altogether unpleasant, I might add...

The packing though was never-ending. I'm so tired of packing that I'm tempted to say that I really do have too many books. Packing them went on and on. And on. It felt like they were breeding behind my back. Multiplying before my eyes.

Still, all is finally under control. Yesterday, a group of big and muscly friends delivered the fridge/freezer, washing machine and bookshelves to their new homes, and moved all the remaining furniture into one room. Everything else is now boxed up and the world feels like a better place. So that the cleaning can begin. Oh joy! 

But tonight I intend to sleep a long, long time. And then some more. And I have a full and fun week ahead to soften the blow. More goodbye coffees and lunches and dinners. I could get used to life on this other planet. Can I stay here?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting - Judith Minty

So there's progress tonight. Real progress. Boxes have been packed. Things are starting to form organised piles in my lounge. I now officially have a home to go to. Ready and waiting for me on my return. With a view over the harbour and into the sea. Just as I dreamed.

And I have a date for the pick-up of my furniture. Finally. It's been a tad tense waiting for confirmation of the date. For no reason other than that I needed to organise permission from the Town Council to park the removal van outside the house. Not complicated, but with deadlines to respect. The transport company cut it fine, but I now hope I can slip my application in without too much hassle. Between more boxes.

I'm actually enjoying the packing. My new landlord sent me photos of my new home and I've mentally placed everything. I'm also being very strict about throwing out what I don't believe is absolutely vital for my well-being. The pile is growing. Although I admit that things do sometimes join the pile only temporarily. My indecision is final...

It is without doubt very therapeutic going through your affairs. Tidying things up. Sorting things out. I foolishly believed I was living sparsely. Aside from my books, of course. But they're an addiction. And I don't apologise for them. Still my belief turned out to be erroneous. Foolish. And very far from the truth.

Seriously, how do you accumulate so much "stuff". So very much. How can any of it be necessary to my existence? And if it is, what on earth does that say about me??

But maybe that's a topic for another occasion. When life is more stable. And I'm not crying into my coffee over how many more boxes of books are left to pack...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

I travel light. But not at the same speed - Jarod Kintz

The grand circuit of goodbyes has begun. At work, at home. Colleagues, friends, acquaintances. Over coffee, over beer, over food.

I don't like goodbyes. I never know what to say. And what I say is never enough. I actually prefer not to say goodbye. Not to make a big thing of a parting that is only temporary. Momentary. Especially today when technology transports us over sea and through air, virtually anywhere. Virtually.

But goodbyes still need to be said and done. Indeed, yesterday was my final day at work. And thus full of goodbyes. It was most bizarre. It's not like it's the first time I've changed jobs. When I think about the number of times I've moved - jobs and countries - it should really be quite easy by now. Still, it never is. And bizarre it remains.

Yet it should be, shouldn't it. You couldn't be human if you moved with indifference in and out of time and space filled with other beings. These people that fill every nook and cranny of our everyday lives.  Whether we want them to or not. 

Ultimately we are creatures of habit. We like, we need some kind of routine. To help us to see where we are and where we are going. And the people around us add to that routine, that habit. Sitting in their offices, taking coffee at certain times, with their own special ways of existing: their special phrases and expressions; their reactions, complaints. Their joy and laughter. All contribute to the security of your day, the habitual. And moving on from that is more difficult that you may imagine.

But change is good. The path turns, it doesn't stop. The route meanders off elsewhere, the vista alters. But it's always best to be carried forward on the good memories made.

And so as one door gently closes, another one opens. And on we go. There are boxes to be packed...

Friday, 20 September 2013

To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice - Elizabeth Gilbert

Home has taken on a new hue for me these past couple of weeks. Instead of a haven from the rush of the world outside, it has become a rush inside. All paperwork and boxes. And confusion and chaos. I’d like to think it’s organised chaos. But I’m not always sure.

My main task of the moment is finding work. A job. A living. I am confident I have options. I’m just struggling to convince others. To date, I have already applied for what seems like hundreds of jobs. Normal run-of-the-mill administration work. Organising, coordinating. Administrating. In French, Russian, and/or Welsh.

And applications take up so much time. If you've been there, you know. If you've not been there, you really don't want to know.

Yet changing circumstances also mean change. The chance to widen out horizons. Try new options, opportunities, offers. Have some fun imagining other paths.
So I've been offering myself in different spheres. I applied to be an Assistant (Landscape) Gardener. Thus far, I’ve been ignored. Of course, I have no experience. Beyond a long-time desire. And books galore on the subject. Not to mention years of cultivating house plants. Which have now been eaten by my cats.

My application for the role of an Assistant Ranger has also been ignored. That one hurt. I could really see myself as an Assistant Ranger. Bouncing about the site in a jeep. And wellies. Performing Assistant Ranger duties with aplomb. Yellowstone Park-like. Outside. Drinking in the surroundings. Exorcising years of indoor office work.

I would truly like this to be a turning point. To finally get round to concentrating on more creative tasks.  Tasks which have more meaning to me. And greater impact on others. To write, take photos. To have more contact with people. I feel I’ve been locked away in offices for too long. I want to breathe the sea air as part of my everyday life. Not just in my spare time. I’m hoping this will be my chance.

But as I’ve said before, selling is not my forte. Selling myself even less so.  I will need all the help and encouragement I can get...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end - Ernest Hemingway

On this grey, wet Sunday I write from under a quilt. And before getting into a hot, hot bath. With candles. And possibly a book. Or two. I'm intending to stay for a while. Then to get out, eat some home-made lentil soup and head for bed.

I'm needing the comfort: comfort soaking, comfort eating, comfort sleeping. Why? Because this morning, at 7.30am, I was setting up stall at my very first car boot sale. Scary stuff. Thankfully I took with me my camping chum who is sprightly (after a coffee or two) and fun. And a jolly good saleswoman.

Selling is seriously not my thing (note to self re looking for a new job). I'd give stuff away rather than haggle with people to get a good price. But camping chum was in there, bargaining, bartering, bantering like a pro. She did a seriously good job and we came away with money!

I don't know why I'm surprised. I just didn't think anyone would want to buy anything. But they did. And they did.

Actually there was a minor onslaught at 8.30am when the gates opened, and we had a flurry of sales from a couple of eager beavers. After that, the sales were steady. Ending with the successful exchange of money for the complete Friends box set. Hurrah!

Still, as I say, it's a grey, wet Sunday. And the heavens opened. A few times. Enough to drench us to the bone. And the clothes / bags / books to the core. It was such a shame for all concerned. My feet and camping chum's legs in particular. So we headed home after only three hours of selling.

What an idea to do it outdoors! I don't know why I thought it would be inside. But then I also imagined they would provide tables for us to present everything on. Naive to the end, me. Hence my running around like a fool yesterday trying to borrow a table, clothes rail, plastic covers. Good job my friends are prepared for all events.

Some bits that returned home with me cannot be salvaged. So I now have a growing pile of things to go to the skip. But others will go on website. And (another) list to be circulated to friends and colleagues in the hope that they will see a need to buy. Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - Lao Tzu

My cats are now the proud owners of passports. Well, maybe not so proud. Possibly very indifferent. But I am not. I am a very proud owner of cats with passports.

And a very relieved owner. This was the first time the two of them had been outside the flat since they arrived here two and a half years ago. Except for those sneaky moments in the early days when they ran out of the front door and across the landing. Out of curiosity. And then straight back in. Out of fright.

They came to me from a family who needed to get rid of them fairly speedily due to an illness in one of the children. They were already adult cats. But had thus far never left their first home. We had a two-hour drive back and the journey was horrendous. They were both petrified. And cried all the way. The female spent the first two days under my bed. I was devastated.

When she came round and let me comfort her, she was adorable. But still very edgy. Thus when I needed her to see a vet, I organised a home visit. And this has worked well until now. When he's away. And unable to do the vaccinations and the passport.

Time is pressing. They have to have the vaccinations and paperwork in order three weeks before our return date. So I bit the bullet and took them to the nearest vet. Just around the corner. With the help of a friend.

The vet was lovely. And they were wonderful. Calm, curious. Charming. Not even a simper when they were injected. I was so very proud. All that stress and worry for nothing...

The journey home will of course be a different story. But I feel a tad less trepidatious. For now at least.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Not all those who wander are lost - J.R.R. Tolkien

I'm already exhausted. Can that be right? There are so many papers to sort, procedures to follow, people to contact. And I have to work. Two big meetings to organise before I leave. Yet moving is a full-time job in itself...

But I have lists galore. And I love, love, love lists. Writing point after point after point to be completed. And then crossing them out, one by one.  I'm not managing to cross off too many just now. Which is a tad hair-raising. But I think I'm getting through the main ones.

I almost crossed off the reservation of a removal company today. And then didn't. Couldn't. I still have so many questions. And hesitations. It's so much money. You need to get it right. But some quotes are complete in one area, while others are complete in other areas. None seem to be totally complete. I'm still hopeful of confirming one tomorrow. But my breath will not be held. Just in case...

Still, the cats are booked in for their vaccinations and passports; I have a list of properties I'd like to rent (if they'll take me without a job and with cats); my health appointments are sorted, jobs being applied for, work procedures advancing, a reservation at a car boot sale made. And an appointment confirmed with my bank.

I have also provisionally sold a couple of household items. Not big things yet. But it's another list with items crossed out. So I'm happy. -Ish.

That said, I kind of flipped somewhat yesterday. All the doubts - in me and others - surged up out of control and I had this intense "what on earth am I doing" moment. Not pleasant. Good job I was out of public view.

In these moments, there is only one thing to do: speak to someone who understands the situation, knows your motivation, is one hundred per cent happy for you. So I did. And she was. And it worked. I felt so much better and moved on. I'm figuring it won't be the last time I feel like that. But I have a good support network. Better than I could ever have imagined. People I know and love are pulling out the stops to help me. Little me. It's very humbling.

So onward and upward. Things to do, things to do. Sleep being one of them... :0)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Travel brings power and love back into your life - Rumi

Can I tell you that sorting out removal companies is just not fun. Really. I am not a fan of making choices at the best of times. And seriously, how do you choose between them?

At least you can do everything on-line now. How on did we earth cope before? There are tons of firms out there waiting for your business. I emailed a good number of them. Then there's a centralised site (Anyvan Ltd) which sends your request for a quote to a whole database of companies, however many that may be.

It's fine up to there. Sifting through the quotes is the not-fun bit. How do you know who will do the best job? What will really make the difference to ensure a good choice? There's very little between the quotes. Which is somewhat reassuring. None of them seem to be trying to con me. Unless all of them are...

In an effort to find clues to quality, I checked out all the websites of those who have sent me quotes. But unfortunately I'm a cynical girl. All those lovely on-line references are interesting. But are they for real? Where are the complaints? I don't mean to be distrusting. I just am.

Decisions fry my brain. I'm the one who's always in the slowest queue in the supermarket. No matter how many times I change. Or is that just perspective?? My good friend optimistically tells me to "think lucky, be lucky". The notion is an unfamiliar one to me. But maybe it's one I need to learn. Maybe that's my lesson for today.

And in all this madness, a lovely, discreet colleague offered to drive me back home - furniture, cats and all. 13 hours each way. With her man, who doesn't know me from Adam. Now, how sweet is that? Doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? It did me. And that's one of the joys of stepping out of your comfort zone and making challenging changes: it makes you see life differently and life lets itself be seen differently. Loving that.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving - Terry Pratchett

I resigned this week. A big, scary moment. And I don't like moments. Especially big, scary ones. It wasn't big and scary because I didn't want to resign. This was the culmination of long hours of thought and reflection. It was scary because I had to voice the long hours of thought and reflection which till then had remained more or less private. And private thoughts can be whatever you want them to be. Setting them free, exposing them, exposing you. Well, that is of course a whole different matter...

Still, it is now done. And yet that was only the beginning. The work really starts from here on in. I have no job, nowhere to live, I have cats to care for, furniture to transport. And I'm more than a tad nervous.

Yet now it's out there, I can't wait to get home. To return to Ynys Môn. To Anglesey. Mam Cymru. To start building the next part of my life there. To be in places I loved as a child. Places that thrill me every time I visit. To be closer to my family, old friends, old memories. And to make new ones.

I make a parenthesis here and acknowledge that the Royal residents are leaving just as I arrive. I'm trying not to read anything into this. But if you know me well, you know that I'm not good at not interpreting events, situations, coincidences. Even the merest twitch of an eyebrow. This "event" seems too big not to interpret. Yet, I must close the parenthesis. I have too much to do at the moment to distract myself with such worries. At least, for now.

I have much to tie up before I can rejoice in my homeland. Not least of which are all these dear people I know and love here. Who I tie up in my heart and carry on back with me. Yes, I'm hormonal today. Hence the sop. But it'll pass. I'll hold it together better. Sometime soon. Very soon...