Sunday, 27 July 2008

Hot Air Balloon

On the train back from Swansea this weekend, I spotted a number of colourful hot air balloons in the far distance. As they floated high against the backdrop of sun-kissed skies of a fading summer’s evening, it struck me at how much my life was like journeying on a hot air balloon. Let me explain: up there (on the hot air balloon) those navigating have a plan as to where they are heading – but, it’s not a exact science – and anything, such as a ‘squall’ could throw them of course – so, ultimately, only God knows exactly where and how that journey will end. Isn’t that very much like our daily existence? In my numerous discussions with my friend, C, in Swansea, we were amazed at how despite our many wonderful plans and preoccupations of our teens and twenties --- where we have in fact ended up at this point in our life (in our thirties) is not what we could have ever dreamt up nor imagined. And yet, here we are blessed in so many wonderful ways, echoing a favourite saying of my mother’s: ‘man proposes but (ultimately) God disposes.’ It was a joy to see C’s new baby boy, one of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen, with the softest cherub skin, and big pools of blue eyes – he was delectable; and I was tempted to take him home with me, if not for the fact that his parents, the law, and God would not take too kindly to my pinching this precious baby boy (lol!) It was great to understand the beauty and radiance that comes in ‘patiently waiting and persevering with the Lord’. Throughout the weekend, the bible verse that spoke to my soul again and again was: "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.” (Joel 2:25). Indeed, C and I have been through some extremely tough patches over the years, and yet God has remained ever faithful to his promises. Our wonderful marriages, and now the recent arrival of C’s baby is a testament to that awesome truth. Yes, there have been terrible squalls along the way that have blown us off course, and even threatened our physical, spiritual and emotional lives (in some way, and for varying periods of time); but when all is said and done, as long as God is in control of our hot air balloon we know that we will end up in a place of abundance – not in the worldly sense of ‘riches’ but in God’s sense of ‘peace’ no matter the trial or struggle that we are facing. And one of my favourite scripture passages confirms this by saying: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). It is this nugget of hope that renews my energy each morning to face the day ahead.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Journeys & Thornton Chocolates!

Journeys are like the experience of buying a box of Thornton chocolates – that process of eager anticipation, knowing that you are about to indulge in something beautiful, almost magical. Often it is impossible to describe in entirety the explosion of chocolate flavours in one’s mouth until that first exquisite bite when you are surprised (again and again) by the eruption of mouth-watering riches of chocolate, nuts, caramel, coffee, truffle – whatever your preference might be. In the same way, many journeys I make I begin with a sense of excitement, anticipating an element of ‘surprise’ along the way. As I reflect on my recent time in Ledbury I am reminded that journeys are so often more important, than the actual destination (if indeed, one can pinpoint a specific endpoint as the destination of their journey). I am of the mind that journeys are often perpetual – in that they remain a ‘process’, and each point that we may attribute as a ‘destination’ is simply a ‘check-point’, a ‘rest-point’, or even a ‘stepping-stone’ to the next adventure – all part of that continuous life journey.

After a tenuous start to the weekend, in that I finished my teaching day late on the Friday (caught up in a good old chin-wag with a couple of work colleagues); then went home only to find that my portable phone was on the blink (so I then had to spend many minutes phoning B.T. on my mobile trying to resolve the issue – which as usual was a nightmare); then on the journey out the No. 35 bus into Birmingham City Centre broke down (and I had to walk 20 minutes to New Street); and I soon realised that the handle of my mini-suitcase was broken (making it awkward to move the darn thing across town). Hmmmm… they do say bad luck happens in ‘threes’. Still I managed to make the train (in the nick of time), and got into Ledbury at around 8:20 pm that evening. I eventually arrived at my B&B in Putley (approximately 10 miles away from Ledbury train station) around 8:30 pm’ish.

The weekend was a really good time of reflection and much needed ‘me time’. I did achieve most of the things I had hoped to do (as noted in my last blog) – so it was a very productive weekend in that sense. But more importantly I felt as if I had the space to connect with my inner self and God. Indeed it was a very spiritual journey as I re-connected with God on many levels through a myriad of encounters over the weekend. God spoke volumes into my soul and nurtured my spirit in numerous ways, for example: through a book by Cameron Conant titled: ‘With or without you’; through the beautiful landscape which surrounds the B&B; through the silence and the quiet of the area; through the two gorgeous dogs belonging to the owners of the B&B; and through the beautiful churches and graveyards in both Ledbury and Putley (where I wandered around for hours basking in the lovely sunshine). At the offset, I believed that the journey for the weekend was one of ‘timing out’ and having some R&R, but what I received on this journey was abundantly more --- a box of Thornton surprises as I bonded with God in a very personal way. Bliss.

Friday, 11 July 2008

'Timing Out' in Ledbury!

I’m travelling to Ledbury this weekend. I’d had every intention of taking part in an extreme workshop at the Poetry Festival this Saturday (15th July) – walking all night on the hills (11pm-7am) while taking breaks in between to write. I was inspired having done a similar extreme workshop event at Birmingham Book Festival last year in October 2007. Then, it was an all night bus circuit travelling to places like Iron Bridge and Ludlow, punctuated by stops where we were given a variety of writing tasks to infuse our poetic creativity. It was a blast (especially the full English that we had at the end of our ‘tour de Brum’!) Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with the onset of a cold this week (lots of aches and pains) and it’s important that I don’t get a chest infection – so, with much reluctance, I will not be attending the all night workshop at Ledbury. However, since I’ve booked a B&B for the weekend I’ve decided to go ahead with my ‘time out’ from Birmingham anyway. Lots to think about at the moment – both in terms of ‘my future’ and ‘my present spiritual odyssey’, so I’m hoping to use this weekend to spend time in some reflection and contemplation. I also want to use the time to plan Joel’s birthday and anniversary gifts. In addition, I need to work on some outstanding writing redrafts – a short story and some poems. And, I definitely need to get my ‘Things to do before I go to Australia’ list sorted. There’s so much to remember especially with regards to my financial matters, such as: closing various accounts, and memberships. I’m very much a lists person, therefore, this particular ‘to do’ list is now quite high on the agenda as I notice that time is swiftly swimming away from me. I must confess that a part of me is ‘um’ing and arr’ing’ about being away this weekend, especially with not feeling 100% and the awful weather of recent days, but I know that having this ‘time out’ will be good for me as I do find it hard to create space for personal reflection in my daily routine, and I know if I stayed home in Birmingham this weekend many of these things would be relegated to the back burner until goodness knows when! I’ll touch base when I get back on Sunday…

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Fat cat - NOT!

Why is no one ever tells you (during the journey from childhood into adulthood) how tough it is to earn a living when you’re all grown up? An impossible concept to get to grips with when you’re being raised in the relative opulence of U.N. wealth. From international schools, to boarding schools, to trips in Europe and Africa, and spending liquid money (from dad’s earnings) – it’s a real shock to the system when one realises (as I have) that the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ has long slipped into the descending echelons of simply hovering above one’s financial comfort zone. Now in adulthood and fast approaching middle age, I feel as if I am constantly ‘chasing my tail’ like a gerbil on a Ferris-wheel, in my relentless effort to stay afloat financially. Something in my mind tells me, that if I was ever going to ‘make it’ and make a significant mark in my personal life, in terms of doing more than survive financially, I would have done so already. Almost 40 (well, 37 this year to be precise), I’m still counting the pennies. Today, once again, I gritted my teeth at the post office and asked to know the balance of my current bank account. The three measly figures on the thin strip of paper confirmed the worst – as I noted, that on the 9th of the month (today), my account balance is where it should be on the 19th or 20th of the month (well, this would have been the case in the first quarter of this year). Don’t ask me what’s happened, because I just don’t know! Actually, I do know. The state of affairs of my bank balance is due to several unexpected expenses this month, such as, the breaking my Jai Kudo glasses last week (I sat on it). I’ve had them for eight years, so – long overdue for a change, but I really would have hung on to them a while longer; if only to hang on to my pennies. Even though my prescription has since changed (getting worse as the years tick on), but the bottom line is that I could still see with those glasses. So this week I had to fork out on another pair of glasses; a cheaper option, mind – albeit still a designer pair (since I certainly couldn’t afford another Jai Kudo in the current economic slump that I find myself in!) In addition to this, there’s all the expenditure tied to my impending relocation to Australia. Under the deluge of cost, after cost, after cost, my bank balance is stretched to the limit – reading comfortably in the ‘amber’ zone in the last two months, and almost toppling into the ‘red’ zone this month. Hmmmm... I may have to dip into my meagre savings this month. Definitely, the ongoing battle with my finances is making me look forward to the move from ‘independent career woman’ (note, that I have not said ‘successful independent career woman’) to becoming a ‘wife that’s looked after, and who chooses to be looked after by her husband – a lady of leisure, so to speak’. So much for any youthful fancies I might have had in the past: that of a feminist approach to life. It’s got to a point in my life where all such fanciful notions are thrown out of the window, if not completely stomped on, and buried in the ground.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Pilgrimmage...

After a significant year of ‘mixed blessings’ I find myself at a juncture in my life where I am having to stop and reflect on the life path that I have been on to date; and the further journeys that I am about to undertake this coming year. Reflecting on the last couple of years, two key journeys I have found myself on are that long harrowing road to recovery and wholeness after a devastating illness; and more positively that of falling in love (at the ripe ‘old age’ of thirty four), and subsequently getting married last July. Interestingly, since September (2007) I have been engaged in a creative writing course, which has catapulted me into starting my first novel, a project that remains very much a ‘work-in-progress’, and it is an extract from this novel, that I commence my blogging adventure. The reason for this is because this novel has in many ways, and continues to be part of my healing process (through grief and reconciliation) as I make sense of my world after several traumas in my life in recent years. I really have found my writing – both my poetry and prose, very therapeutic in terms of working through ‘past stuff’, and feel that the process of journaling the next phase of my life - the ‘hope and future’ by way of blogging - will also be a satisfying endeavour, as I look to share this pilgrimage that I am on while connecting with others through this forum. Thus, the focus of walumba.blogspot.com is two-fold, to journal both my re-location to Melbourne, Australia, in December 2008; and the spiritual journey that I am on (linked to many of the issues that I have touched on in this entry). Like Madeleine (the protagonist in my up-and-coming novel) who finds herself confronted by twists and turns of varying degrees and severity in her travels, and has to find a way through to her final destination (wherever that may be); I too have to meander through a personal ‘walkabout’ as I take the plunge of uprooting myself from my home in Birmingham to starting a new chapter, and a different life ‘Down Under’. And, like the flying-foxes, in the extract, who help Madeleine during a particular stage in a strange world she finds herself in, I see the discovery of my ‘inner self and strength’ and ‘the strangers and friends that I am yet to meet along the way’ as the ‘walumbas’ (or the flying foxes) who will emerge as ‘helpers’ in my coming journey.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Journey

Madeleine landed in a thick forest. A solitary bat-like creature hovered above. Behind it, the fading moonlight. For a while, she sat motionless gazing up at the fleck flittering in circles. All of a sudden, it dived low and perched itself on a branch. It was then she spotted the dark lotus-bud shaped lanterns dangling from the trees. Except these were no lanterns. This was a colony of roosting Flying-foxes.
‘Don’t just sit there. Get up. You need to get out of here.’ The sharp voice spoke as he swooped to a lower branch.
‘Who are you?’ Madeleine asked, rising to her feet. She brushed off the twigs and leaves, moving closer to the fox.
‘Keep your voice down. It’s our bedtime,’ he hissed.
‘What time is it?’ Madeleine looked at her watch. Almost six o’clock.
‘Well – who are you?’ Madeleine asked again.
‘Pipistrelle is the name. You must be the chameleon child. You’ve been the talk of the whole kingdom.’
‘Really...? Yes, I’m Madeleine.’
‘But... you’re supposed to have been captured. Locked away somewhere. You and the earthen boy.’
‘Jake...? Do you know where he is? I must find him.’
‘First tell me. How did you escape?’ His tawny coloured eyes caught hers.
‘They locked me in one of the rooms. In the Towers.’
‘The Towers? How on earth did you get away? No one escapes the Towers of Sarpos. It’s impossible! And to get past the phantoms that guard the Towers.’ He shook his head in disbelief.
‘I found a porthole.’
‘A porthole exists?’ His face lit up, eyes wide with amazement. ‘We’ve always thought that was a myth.’
‘Yes, it exists.’
‘You must be a special child to have discovered the porthole.’ He left his perch and flew towards her. ‘I will help you find your friend.’ His voice was grave.
‘Thank you Pipistrelle.’
‘Pip’s the name, my dear. Now that we are friends.’
‘Thank you Pip. We don’t have much time. I need to be home at eight.’
‘I know. I know. It’s the curse of the chameleons.’
‘Do we have enough time?’
‘They will have locked him up in another room in the Towers. We should have plenty of time so long as nothing goes wrong.’
‘How are we going to locate him? There must be dozens of rooms in the Towers. And once we find him how will we make our escape?’
‘There’s nothing for it,’ he declared. ‘I am going to have to enlist the help of some of the others. They’re not going to like it. They’ve all settled in for the night and they’ll hate being woken up.’ He pursed his lips.

Ph-ooo-eee-ph-ooo-eee! Pipistrelle let out a series of piercing chirps. The pattern of his squeaks was like a Morse code signal. In seconds, each unique call commandeered a dozen foxes. They stirred, soared high, as if to shake off sleep, before joining Madeleine and Pipistrelle on the ground.
The largest of the twelve spoke first. He looked grumpy. Madeleine wondered if he was always so, or only so because he had been woken up.
‘Pip what’s going on? Who is this then?’
‘It’s the chameleon child.’
‘Madeleine.’ She introduced herself, giving twelve nods as she acknowledged each fox.
‘I thought you were locked up in the Tower?’ another fox asked.
‘Yes, yes – but she escaped. Through the porthole. It exists.’ Pipistrelle explained, with an air of authority mixed with impatience. ‘I’ve told Madeleine here that we will help her find the earthen boy so that they can make their escape.’
‘Why should we help?’ The large, grumpy fox spoke again.
‘Pascoe – don’t be rude. She’s in trouble. And it wasn’t right that we went to Earthendom and kidnapped these two children,’ said Pipistrelle.
‘The Council decided it. We vote for our council and they act in the best interest of our kingdom,’ said Pascoe.
‘We’ve gone against the Treaty,’ said Pipistrelle with a sigh.
‘Treaty?’ Madeleine asked.
‘Yes. The Treaty. It states that we will not intentionally trespass into each other’s worlds. And what have we gone and done? We’ve not only trespassed into Earthendom, we’ve stolen two of their own.’
All looked at Pipistrelle intently. Some nodded their agreement. Madeleine remained quiet, and solemn.
‘There’ll be trouble if the Council finds out that we’ve helped these two young ones,’ said Pascoe.
‘Well they refuse to hear the voices of the lesser creatures of the kingdom. I think it’s about time we do the right thing,’ Pipistrelle half-shouted.
‘The right thing?’ Pascoe repeated. ‘For whom?’
‘For the Quadrant. This chameleon child is our hope. The key to bringing lasting peace between the Quadrant worlds. We must help her.’
This comment was punctuated with a lengthy pause. Pipistrelle resumed.
‘We must find the earthen boy and help these two back to their world.’
‘We don’t have a lot of time. The whole kingdom will be awake soon,’ said one of the foxes.
‘I don’t have much time either,’ Madeleine blurted, glancing at her watch again.
‘What’s the plan?’ asked a young fox called Jasper.
‘We know he’s being held in the Towers,’ said Pipistrelle.
‘If you could locate which room he’s being locked in,’ said Madeleine.
‘Then we can form a stairwell so that the boy can climb down to safety,’ Pipistrelle added with a wink. He knew that no single fox would be able to fly the weight of the children. This would be the next best thing.
‘Sounds like a good plan,’ Pascoe said, nodding. His voice had lost its rough edge.
‘Madeleine. We’ll lead you to a safe distance by the Towers. Then we’ll go and find your friend and get him out.’
‘I do hope he’s okay.’

The group traipsed through the forest under a canopy of bark and mangroves. They tracked the narrow stream that would lead them out of this marshland. Madeleine, with Pipistrelle resting on her shoulder, walked. The other foxes flew. At last, they came to a clearing. From their vantage point they could see the ashen Towers loom ahead. It was an unusual looking building. At this distance, it had the appearance of a hovering alien spaceship. Madeleine and Pipistrelle followed the rocky path that led down into the valley. Compared to the moist habitat of the forest they had just left behind, the landscape here was sparse.