Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Today I'm starting with this little gem that has been doing the rounds of various social media sites for some years. It is entertaining, you will most likely laugh, even if you have seen it before. It is quite astonishing the depth and breadth of the ignorance of a hopefully small percentage of the population. Read, enjoy, and I'll get on with the blog when you reach the end:

20 astonishing holiday complaints

5th September 2011
Presented to you, for your entertainment and pleasure – 20 of the most outrageous, ridiculous and stupid travel complaints made to tour operators
A recent survey from Thomas Cook and ABTA reveals 20 of the most ridiculous complaints by holiday-makers made to their travel agent.
1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."
2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned."
3. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."
4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."
5. A tourist at a top African Game Lodge over looking a water hole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate".
6. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.
7. "The beach was too sandy."
8. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure.Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."
9. A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.
10. "Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."
11. "We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."
12. "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."
13. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home."
14. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.."
15. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation’. We’re trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying there?"
16. "There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners now live abroad."
17. "We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."
18. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."
19. "I was bitten by a mosquito, no-one said they could bite."
20. "My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."
It's funny, it's silly, and it's also a symptom of ignorance and intolerance. In some people, ignorance is a choice - they know better but they choose to be ignorant or in other words arrogant. In others it is environmental, educational, cultural - or a blend of all three. Intolerance is an attitude often (but not always) fuelled by ignorance, a complete lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement. 
I will say right here that I am not an expert - I am not an anthropologist, I am not versed in political science, I have no letters after my name, no higher education on people and how they think and react. I am a writer of fiction, and as a writer I observe. It is in my capacity as a writer and observer of human behaviour that I write this blog. I do not have qualifications to state anything with any sort of authority, but I think and I observe. This blog today is my own personal opinion with which you may agree and you may not. I hope I write sufficiently eloquently so that you think on what I have said, even if it is to vehemently disagree.
noun - the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.

That's not so bad is it? I don't mean unwillingly put up with what you consider to be somebody's misguided opinion or way of life. I mean accept that your view, your way of life, your way of thinking is yours alone. That someone else thinks differently does not necessarily mean they are wrong, just different. I should say here that I am not including psychopaths, murderers or other people that cause harm to others. I am talking about people that are trying to get on in the world in their own way. 
We are all strange, all skewed in some way, all shaped by our environment, our culture, our own individual experiences. Ask any siblings, you will see that each of them remember their childhood differently, even have different perceptions of their parents. Not one of us has the same experiences and not one of us has exactly the same belief system. This also of course means that each person interprets the belief system of their culture in their own unique fashion which is a whole different subject and not one I'm going into tonight.
This world is full of different cultures, different races, different religions. Isn't it arrogant for any culture to think their belief system is the only right one? Of course it is. Every race, every culture, every religion deserves respect and tolerance. If you don't like the way some people live, don't go to their country. 
I am not one to voice my opinion to all and sundry - even though that is exactly what I am doing right now. What I mean is that I do not consider my opinion to necessarily be agreed with or approved of by everyone else and I have no wish to force it on anyone. If you don't like what I'm writing, well you stopped reading several paragraphs ago! 
Of course everyone has an opinion, everyone is entitled to an opinion and everyone has the right to their own opinion. If you think someone is wrong, by all means enter into a discussion with that person about it. By discussion I do not mean say your piece, wait for the other person to stop talking while you rehearse in your head what you will say next and then say more. I mean have a discussion and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Maybe that person is wrong, maybe you are wrong, and maybe you both have different opinions and you must each and tolerate that and accept it. It's not the end of the world, or the end of your friendship. It's just a difference of opinion. How boring would it be if we all had exactly the same opinion on everything.
Going to a foreign country? Read up about it. Learn about the culture, the religion, the lifestyle. Show some respect when you are there by trying to use the language, don't wear clothes or exhibit behaviour that may be seen as offensive. It's nothing more than good manners. Be well mannered, not a bratty child. It's not hard, and it's nothing more than most of us expect from visitors to our own country.
Think someone has done something inhuman, or inhumane? Of course this happens, but before you judge try some empathy. Try to really put yourself in their shoes. Really try. Consider the parents of six small children in a poverty stricken country. They have another child, not because they are irresponsible but because they have no recourse to basic medical treatment, let alone birth control. All of the children are starving, the mother has so little milk the baby may not survive. They make the difficult but perhaps in their world the not uncommon decision to sell the baby to a couple that is desperate for a child of their own. In return they can feed the children they have left, and they have the understanding that the baby will not only survive but will be able to live a better life than they could provide. Is that wrong? Self serving? Are they bad parents? Or are they making a decision that will save all of the children. Can you really judge people unless you put yourself in their skin and try to see life from their perspective.
That is what I mean by tolerance. Educate yourself about different societies, travel with your eyes open to learning new and different ways of living. Before you judge anyone, put yourself in their skin and try to understand how they think. Chances are you will grow and become a better person yourself simply by trying to understand others. 
We are all connected, we are all part of the whole. This earth is a big rock orbiting a massive fireball. There's no escape. What hurts the planet hurts us. What hurts other people hurts us even if it is indirectly. It is beyond the time when all humans on this planet learn to live in tolerance and acceptance, and work together to keep our planet a viable living option.
Lecture over, next blog will as usual be all about me, as I continue my own personal journey, and because hey I'm fascinating, right?? Right?? Hello? Anyone left reading??

Thursday, October 24, 2013

We are all weird

Today I'm writing the blog, then I'll give it a title. As usual, I have no idea what I'm going to write about. Every time I do one of these I wonder if I will actually have enough to post, and if I do will it be coherent, will it have a point? So far, so good. This time, who knows? Certainly not me.
I've been a terrible sloth this week, there are no adventures to recount because I haven't been anywhere since Sunday. I've been ensconced in a cosy corner of the kitchen next to the radiator, writing and editing. Not all day of course, but the rest of the time I've been reading. And eating. I'm putting back some of the weight I lost and my ribs are starting to get a decent coverage, my backbone is not digging so uncomfortably into the back of the chair.
And I'm very happy with what I've been writing and where the book is going. And that means that my mind is less cluttered. I know I've tried to explain before how my mind is calm when I write. The jumble of words in my head is reduced, they flow out of my head through my fingers and take up residence in a story or a blog (which is in effect a short story) and the words left don't spin so fast. Of course I know my mind is not really stuffed full of words spinning in circles within circles, but that is how it feels to me. So when some of the circles are used up, those that are left don't spin as fast and my mind is calmer.
If I write every day my mind stays uncluttered and I am less prone to anxiety. So of course in times of stress I should write more often. And of course in times of stress I can't write, whatever is causing my stress over-rides everything else and I can't think about anything.
I don't deal well with stress. I can't eat and can't sleep and can't write and can't think. I lose weight, get huge black circles around my eyes and start to look a bit insane (judging from the reactions of those around me). Possibly I do go a bit insane, it's pretty hard for the brain and the body to function properly when there is insufficient fuel.
I also become stubborn, dig my heels in, retreat down deep into myself and refuse to let anyone help me. I'm really good at that - sorry family members that I cause stress to about my stress! All of those great coping mechanisms I've written about in the past - well hey do as I say and not as I do, right? They went right out the window along with my good intentions. For a while there I wallowed in my misery and stress, back in that hole I promised myself I would not go into again.
Misery is addictive, to me at any rate. There is something almost pleasurable about feeling that all is lost and there is nothing to go on for. Once you get that far down it's really hard to find motivation to get up again. It seems like too much trouble and really it's quite nice down here in the dark feeling sorry for oneself.
To those that have been reading my blogs you will know that I did get myself up and out of that hole, I took the leap into an uncertain future without any of the safety nets I usually put in place for myself. And I don't regret it at all, it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.
The days leading up to the leap, well they were hard days indeed, the hardest I have ever lived through I think. I had panic attacks, episodes of WTF am I thinking, and crippling anxiety. I second guessed myself, vacillated and incidentally did probably the worst thought out packing of my life (loads of socks and several shirts but not nearly enough cold weather clothes even with the case I keep here in the loft). But I went, cold feet and all, I still did it.
I did exactly what I should have done, I followed my instincts and they did not lead me wrong. I had not expected such hard days before I left, it was almost like I was being tested, to see if I had the strength to take this step. Or maybe it was just the chaos that precedes change happening inside my mind. Well probably I cannot be matched for sheer bloody mindedness when I decide to do something. So even with the extreme stress I put myself in, I still went. And I changed my life. Well I'm changing my life, obviously a complete life change can't be achieved by just packing a suitcase (badly) and hopping on a plane.
But I have a plan, and I will put it into action and I will make the changes I need to get the life I know now I want. I'm feeling confident I can do it, and happy I found the strength and determination to take that first step. It was scary, but at the same time exciting, at least once I got onto the plane and there was no backing out it was scary and exciting. Before I got on the plane it was just scary.
So I guess my point with this blog is much the same as the last one, except to add to it (and nothing at all about the small dog freaking out about fireworks that was the only vague thought in my mind when I started to type).
To those square pegs looking for a better fit in your life, don't give up. It's hard to make the change, it's hard to let go of the familiar even if it's not right for you. It's really hard to make a total change in your life and you will feel varying stages of panic and anxiety, especially as you take steps to change your life. But don't give up. Those old sayings, they have been around forever for a reason. They make sense and they have a point to make.
Nothing worth having comes easily, you have to work and strive and deal with setbacks to get it, but keep on trying and never give up. It is never, never too late to change your life. It may take a while to figure out what you want and need to be happy. It may take a few false starts, a few mistakes, a few WTF moments, but always keep trying to find your way in the world and remember that the only right path for you is your path.
You are an individual and what is right for you may not be right for someone else. That does not make your path any less right, it just makes it different. Different is good, different is fine. The world would be totally boring if we were all the same. There is no such thing as normal, we are all weird in some way. Just some of us are more weird than others :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

rebirth continued

So from cheerful chaos albeit with a sad lack of tourists, to refined politeness. 34C to 10C. Sunshine, blue skies and vibrant colour to rain, grey skies and subdued colours. This may sound a little bit like I am not so pleased to be here which is not true. I did leave with extreme reluctance but I am also pleased to be here with my sister. There needs to be two of me...

I have an abiding fondness for the UK, but also for Egypt which makes for a rather different set of experiences! And both are important in this remaking of me, this rebirth and new direction I am now committed to. Well I was before - nothing like choice being taken from you for commitment to become quite easy to achieve even though the mind shies from acknowledging it.

Egypt: my last experience was my taxi driver (and in Egypt you take the number of the individual taxi driver, not ring a call centre) taking me to the airport through two security stations, and then he was yelled at by more security guards at the airport for going to the wrong place. He ushered me out of the vehicle, got my bags out and the security guard told me to wait. My taxi driver parked his vehicle, came back, took both my bags into the terminal and since this is Egypt (timekeeping not a real priority) and I was a little early, I couldn't actually go through security yet. So my taxi driver found out where I could wait, carried my bags there for me, went and borrowed a chair from yet more security guards, got me seated on it and and made sure I was comfortable before taking his money and departing. All with a smile firmly in place and friendly chat with everyone around and only two words directed at me in English - yet communication was not a problem.

In the UK? I arrived late at night at Gatwick, my promised pickup was not there. I phoned the hotel which I had booked specifically because they offered pickup and stated someone would be waiting at the arrivals terminal - to be told by the bored sounding girl that no of course they didn't pick up but there was a bus outside that I could catch that left in one hour. Oookayyyy. I got a taxi. My taxi driver in the UK drove me at considerable expense (to me) to the hotel, pulled up at the entrance, dumped my bags onto the roadside in the rain, said "there you are darlin'" and drove off. The hotel receptionist waved a vague hand in the general direction of outside, said to me to turn right and then right again and I will see my building. Rightiho. My room turned out to be up two narrow flights of steps, no elevator and my big bag is rather heavy (also a lovely Egypt quirk, they don't really care about allowed weight and actual weight of your bags). Well it was a cheap hotel so I guess you get what you pay for. But it was pretty hard not to compare this experience with the extreme helpfulness at recent past accommodations (also very cheap but clean and comfortable) and to find it an unfavourable comparison, right down to the cleanliness.

Today I went for a walk into town, even though it is wet and cold. Well not as cold as it is going to be, but for me coming from the sun and warmth to this weather it sure feels cold! Even more than it usually does since generally I come from late winter in Australia to autumn here, and it tends to be an easier transistion. Late winter in Australia (well my part of Australia anyway) is generally only about 10C warmer than here instead of the 20C more I experienced transitioning from Egypt to here.

But I digress. Today I went for a walk into town. I wore several layers, and topped it with the super awesome jacket I bought the other day, complete with fake fur lined hood. I borrowed my sister's very cute pansy patterned umbrella and headed off. Her umbrella is a nifty little folding umbrella, covered in little purple and pink pansies, very cute. Nothing at all like my umbrella which I didn't bring. That umbrella is large, strong and sturdy. It's built to withstand monsoon rain and storm winds. This little umbrella is designed more as decoration I suspect. It did an adequate job of keeping the misty English rain off me, but the smallest gust of wind would turn it inside out I am sure. But it was a nice bright note on a grey day.

I'm going to digress again, briefly. Have you ever noticed that in general the people of hot, tropical climates tend to dress brightly, and the people of cold, damp climates dress in softer shades? I have a theory, which may or may not be true since I've never bothered to do anything remotely scientific to back it up. My theory is that in the colder climates the general colours of nature are softer, more muted. Greys, pastels, softer greens and gentler shades of flowers. In hotter climates the colours of nature are bright bright bright. The sky is bluer, the sun hotter and the colours brighter and sharper. Explosions of colour in the flowers, deep and bright greens, colour everywhere. Sunglasses are required so as not to fry the retinas. So, I think people unconsciously dress more to suit the climate and the colours of nature around them. I mean this in a general en masse way, not the individuals who will always stand out against tradition. I know I have a wardrobe here that is more suited both to the climate and also to the more muted, softer styles and colours. In Australia my style is of necessity different - it gets so very hot - but also brighter, much brighter. Anyway, that's my theory which of course anyone reading can feel free to shoot out of the water should you wish.

I don't actually know why I'm saying I digress, since as usual I don't know what my point is. I'm just doing what I usually do, writing until my point becomes clear to me and then pretending that I knew that all along. Of course I don't, I'm often surprised by what comes out from my fingers. Well to be truthful I'm surprised more often than not.

Today I planned only to talk about my walk into town, in the rain and cold. I do enjoy the cold, I much prefer it to the heat. It's so much easier to get warm than it is to get cool. I can walk for half an hour each way without feeling like I am going to drop from heat exhaustion. Instead I feel energised, and refreshed. In Australia, in the heat, I take my walks in the very early morning and still come back drenched in sweat and exhausted. It's all relative of course, for me the novelty value is a big part of my enjoyment. It's also a kind of ritual, I feel much more at home here after I've gotten damp from the soft English rain and I've revisited the town. And I've bought a large cup of pumpkin spice latte complete with cream. I adore this coffee! Possibly I come here at this time of year solely to buy this coffee. I also bought a slice of lemon drizzle cake, crumbly and tart like only the English make it. I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the rain, wearing my jacket, hood up, letting the rain patter against the jacket. Probably wearing my contacts instead of glasses would have been wise, but oh well. I drank my coffee, ate my cake, got slightly damp, slightly numb toes, and felt at peace with the world.

I like to see the skyline indistinct, misty grey clouds sending the misty rain pattering down. I like to see the leaves that have taken on that golden red autumn hue falling like rain from the trees as the wind dislodges them from their branches to swirl and eddy and come to rest in drifts on the ground. I like stepping around puddles, seeing my breath frosting on the air, smelling the wet earth smell of an English autumn. For me, living in a tropical climate, it is wonderful to see these changes. In the tropics there is no autumn, no spring, not really. There's a few weeks of cooler weather leading into the few weeks of winter and after winter a few weeks of warmer weather that we call spring. There is nothing like the experience of the earth waking up after winter in the colder regions of the earth. In the tropics the trees are evergreen, flowers bloom all year round, you have to be focusing to notice even the small amount of renewal the tropical spring brings. So I like the change.

So why, since I like the cold, do I like Egypt? The heat there is drier, as it is a desert climate. There is nothing quite like the humidity of a tropical summer and it is not a pleasant experience. On the plus side, living with that type of heat means that any other sort of heat is a doddle. I find the heat in Egypt very easy to handle, they don't have the same level of humidity. And the energy, the vitality, the ability of the people to think laterally is phenomenal. It is the energy of the people that renews me there. I feel at home there almost as much as I feel at home in the UK. The one place I've never actually felt at home is the country of my birth.

And that brings me to my point, a very long winded and roundabout way to get to a very simple and short point - but hey, it took me this long to realise my point so I hope you enjoyed the read to get here :) If you are feeling like a square peg in a round hole, don't try to shave your edges, to soften them and round them off. It won't work, you will just hurt yourself and lose parts of yourself and it takes a long time to get it back and heal the damage. If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, you are. This is not bad, this is not wrong, this is not a mistake, this just is. Don't try to live with it, don't try to change yourself. Find a place where you fit and don't be afraid to accept that you are different and being different is ok. Find your place where you fit, where you belong, where you find people like you. The world is huge, somewhere out there is your place and don't be afraid to go find it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


We all do it right? Procrastinate, put off doing what we should be doing by getting busy with other things that we convince ourselves are equally important. I certainly do whenever it comes to writing, especially if I have a whole day free. I kind of have an excuse, since I am currently half a world and more away from where I usually have my feet planted on the ground. But since I set aside the next few days to write, away from my usual daily distractions and responsibilities, that really is not an excuse - even though from my balcony I have an awesome view of the Mediterranean Sea and the voices and constant cacophony of horns drifting up from below underlines that I am a long, long way from home. Still, I am supposed to be writing and I have managed successfully to be 'busy' most of the day without doing so.

Even now I am procrastinating, although I have actually been writing and am taking a break from the werewolf world I am creating. I don't know why I do it, apparently it is a common feature of writers the world over and I don't know why other writers do it either. For when I start I always, invariably, feel at one with the universe. Grandiose words I know, but it's hard to explain this connection I always feel with something outside of myself when I write. I don't know why since the words I write are flowing out of my head in a constant stream, but my fingers feel connected to something else. I expect it's just my weirdness.

I should have done a smooth segue to this paragraph, move onto my second topic without losing the focus and attention of you dear reader. But I don't have a smooth segue, the second topic is involved with writing, kind of, and with my current location more so. After all, I have been writing about my imminent leap of faith into the world and obviously I have done it and am still doing it, taking those steps I was so afraid of. Jumping without a parachute, etc etc etc. I've been full of self doubt, full of anxiety, it's so hard for me to take a step without planning the next one. But here I am, flying blind, no real plans from day to day. And it's ok, I feel ok about it. I feel like I'm accessing a whole new side of me that I never knew existed, and letting go a little of the controlling person I usually am. And that feels pretty good too. So while I went through a lot of extreme anxiety to get here, I think it was worth it. I lost a lot of weight, hardly ever ate as happens whenever I am stressed. But I think I am changing, becoming a better, freer person. I was so afraid I had made a big big mistake, but now I feel good about my decision. I followed my instincts and those instincts were right. And that's a good feeling.

I think we should all learn to trust our instincts. There is a difference of course between listening to that internal compass, and blindly following desires that may or may not feel right. I have in the past been very good at acting impulsively and without thought. I have learned that when I do that, I am in fact following my instincts. My impulses have always led me to where I am supposed to be. I know family members have despaired of me at times, I have done things that seem to have come completely from left field, leaving them baffled. But for me, to follow my instincts means to act on impulses. This was an impulse, but one that I thought and re-thought many times. I agonised in fact because it is the first time my instincts directed me to throw myself into the future without a plan.

So far, and of course it is early days, it is working. So far, I am learning things about myself that I needed to learn. I am digging deep into myself and being even more introspective than I usually am. I am surprising myself with the things I am doing and the sudden decisions I am making without any real idea of why I am making them. And it's working. I feel alive, a little afraid, but definitely alive. And it's good, it's a very good feeling to feel alive. Where all this will lead me in the end, I still don't know. I still have big decisions to make about my life and no idea of what they will be and where I will end up. But for now, here, listening to cheerful traffic chaos beneath me, seeing the serene blue of the Mediterranean, writing this blog and about to return to the werewolf word, I feel at peace. And that's a very good thing.

My world is still in chaos, but I am beginning to believe, much like the noisy chaos below me, that if I go with the flow, stay positive, accept the chaos and go with it, everything will turn out well in the end and I will reach my destination - whatever and wherever that may be.