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The White Stuff ☃

20170712_150131Time to find myself grounded in comfortable surroundings again for the next 3 weeks. It was great to catch-up with Michelle and Stefan before they headed off on their big American adventure. I was fortunate enough to be given more time at Glowing Adventures which I was more than happy about, I had missed the place and the people very much. I also had the bonus of house-sitting and looking after little Milly the dog and affectionate Izzy the cat, little did I know at the time how much they disliked each other. It wasn’t too long before I realised the cat stalked the cat flap ready to pounce on Milly each time she wanted to come back indoors. It made for amusing company for the small amounts of time I’d spend at the house, I decided I’d work pretty much every day and with the Lions tour bringing in many tourists it was a full on 3 weeks ! In true unpredictable style I wound up giving a tour despite being in the office – sometimes people have different ‘needs’. Heath needed to split his tour up due to extremely different abilities within the 6 people, so I headed on down and took the hardest ever, due to the lack of balance mainly of the parents of the family and lack of English spoken, but they had a great time and you have to get on with it, rather than question why they had booked in the first place! Working in tourism I have realised how little people (not little people) actually research in to the tour they book, whether they are distracted by pretty pictures, discounts, or such I’m unsure but we’d often find people pleasantly surprised with no idea what they had booked themselves in to.

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Scottish Michael who I’d befriended in Kaitaia had since left the mandarin picking and was touring the north island. Of course, unable to switch off my tour guide head I suggested he visit for a tour- which he did! Getting him to smile in the photograph wearing his stripy thermals was another matter (!) 20170628_122220
Michelle had suggested a few more creative projects to work on whilst I was back, so over the best part of 3 days we had designed a fun mural for the side of the shed. It was essentially a photo spot for when groups had completed (survived?) the tour and wanted a pit stop to capture the moment. The muddy footprint logo continues the mural around the side of the shed. Nice to leave another piece of work in New Zealand.

20170710_155126Time for farewells again, it had become a bit of a joke as we kept seeing each other again so we’d say ‘see you in a couple of months?’…
I had a bit of free time on my hands before heading down to the tavern so had decided to explore more of the National Park area home of the 3 peaks and picturesque alpine surroundings. Little did I know how much of a treat I was in for. On the approach of Whakapapa I had read about a 2 hour hike to Taranaki falls Heading closer, the surroundings changed to a grey stillness and the snowflakes began to cover the windscreen of the car. I pulled over, eager to capture the beautiful sight of snow which always feel magical, particularly as it’s a rare occurrence on the South Coast of England.

P1110384Seeing the iconic Tongariro Hotel on the horizon the snow was getting plentiful now, along with cars parked on the road with families making the very most of this massive snow dump that was happening, it was wonderful! The Chateau Tongariro Hotel is surrounded by a stunning natural playground bursting with diverse landscapes for visitors to the Tongariro National Park to discover. c761c3384cb613a95f3429fc4fa0b41b--boston-public-vintage-travel-posters
Grinning from ear to ear I began to wander, deciding whether the hike would be good/safe in this now quite extreme weather. The stillness surrounding the hotel began to pick up pace and show itself in snow showers almost making me consider turning back – by this time is was getting rather later in the day and no-one else was around hiking that I could see. Much as I enjoyed that, it’s sometimes nice to have somebody on the horizon just in case there was a major change in weather, but I was well layered up and determined. It was a stunning barren landscape, mostly unrecognisable and gave me the same pangs of longing that the hike around Mount Cook did that snowy day.  The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the waterfall situated around the half-way point. Tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, Taranaki Falls plunge into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are spectacular views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream.

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Glowing red cheeks (face cheeks that is) and enjoying the anticipation of sipping from the flask of coffee in my car I began the remainder of the trip down to Apiti. Leaving National Park it was apparent the snow was localized and I was greeted in the Manawatu with a grey drizzle instead.

Blown away by the experiences of the day, together myself and Hendrik decided we’d make an early start and head up to do the hike together this time around, he was as excited about the snow was as I was, it just may be our favourite thing.
Waking at 6am peering out of the window I let out a squeak of excitement which accidently/on purpose woke Hendrik ‘Look out the window !! Wowwwww’ -this was the deepest untouched cleanest beautiful snow we’d ever seen and it had completely covered Apiti, we were in excited shock.

P1110434Deciding to enjoy this rare sight (it hadn’t snowed like this in Apiti since 1975 ) we walked around crunching the snow beneath our feet, watching as the snow fell from the sky increasing the weight on the trees, hearing almighty ‘flomps’ (thanks for the adjective Leah) as it fell down on to big piles of the white stuff. We shortly realised however that while beautiful, it had caused a power outage in the pub and the surrounding area. The snowfall was so thick and heavy it had taken out power lines. That lovely community spirit you dream of came in to place, the neighbour brought round soup to cook on the fire top and the food from the previous days delivery was being buried outside in a new natural freezer to keep fresh. 20170713_150221 Drinking booze by candlelight, surrounded by locals unable to do very little in the extreme conditions we enjoyed a simple pleasures kind of a day, it’s amazing how time slows down without the ‘distraction’ of power. Heading into the next day of no power and no hint of the snow clearing for some time. Trying to set up a friend’s generator to power the pub’s fridge was needed, and as you can guess pretty much a few moments after this being set up the power came back on. Although only 2 days without power, internet, hot water and lights it was a relief to have the comforts back as the cold was becoming uncomfortable.
I was somewhat biding my time before I was due to begin an arts residency I had been planning some 2 years ago. Helping out as much as I could at the pub I decided after a few days I would do another stint of WWOOFING at the nearby Rangiwahia Environmental arts centre.

Pulling up to Bridgette and Jim’s home I could see the historic dairy building. In April 1898 the Rangiwahia- Ruahine Cooperative Dairy Company, Limited was formed. In December 1898 the Rangiwahia Butter factory was built 600m south of the village and was opened for business. It was built on a sloping section using gravity to save labour and pumping. It was great piece of history and was home to the workshop of the REACT art centre that Bridgette and Jim had set up some years previously. 2081338_orig The ethos behind the charity organisation is promoting sustainability in creativity, reusing projects to promote waste minimisation with resources that are found locally. Bridgette and Jim are a great buzzy couple and it wasn’t long before myself and British Jim realised we had worked with the same festival art makers in the UK. Hard working, travelling, anarchistic and driven, it was an insightful few days. Their world travelling truck ‘Beattie’ has taken them both around the world enhancing the connection between community and art, Bridgette showed me the giant puppets designed, created and performed by a diverse range of inspiring women for International Women’s Day.

P1110461Another offshoot of the organisation is what they refer to as Junk and Disorderly:-
‘Junk refers to the stuff we use, and Disorderly is how we can get when we’re let loose on the streets’ Full of wonderful ideas, for the greater good – how inspiring indeed.

‘Something we’ve made a name for ourselves with,
Lighting up the Night with Community Spectacles.
Made by the People, Enjoyed by the People.
Intergenerational, Multi cultural, Very Pleasurable.’

Willow provided the base material for many projects. I found myself harvesting the willow crop and planting willow cuttings alongside the nearby gorge which will provide workable willow in the next year or two. There is something so simple and rewarding about becoming part of the whole process, from willow shoot to creative joyful projects enhancing imagination and connections between people. It is humbling to be immersed in such a selfless idea, turning passion into reality and creativity.

http://www.rangienviroartscentre.org

 

Soundtrack: Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

 

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art, Uncategorized

The Manawatu > Apiti, locals & community

P1110103Arriving at Muriwai beach I was to be greeted by a text… ‘I’m stuck’, and an ominous looking photograph of the sea. Hendrik had gotten a bit over excited arriving in Muriwai before me and taken to the beach on the 4×4 tracks. Thankfully his Ute pulled him through and we met by the local shop just up from Earthskin. It had been almost a month so we had a lot to catch up on. After a brief cuppa I had been in contact with Robin regarding our visit and how a reunion would be a lovely idea – and who wouldn’t want to taste those famous scones again? We were greeted with a warm welcome from Robin, Sue, Pipi, Benny, Thaddie and doggy Danny. Sue showed me around her ‘nest’ project which she was working on last time I was over, creating a space for herself to escape in a characterful wooden clad room. I had wanted Hendrik to meet the family and to also soak up some more Muriwai sites he hadn’t managed to see in his last memorable if short visit.

18882007_10154895419914737_8349896375278981996_nWe headed out with the kids down to the beach along the iron rich black sand toward the caves and gannet colony. The tide was the furthest out I’d seen it so we able to venture in to caves I hadn’t seen before, as Pipi told us her lifeguard tales about the occasions they all leap in the water and would get swept in to the cave (I’ll pass on that one thanks !) Pipi had since become a fully trained life guard and all the kids were doing so well at school. I wasn’t surprised one bit, they’re beautiful kids. Another reason for revisiting Earthskin was because this time around the ‘owner’ Veronique was back from her travels. Veronique was the lady I had been in touch with from the start about the residency so it was a really good opportunity to touch base with her in person. We chatted over wine as Hendrik brought in a monster of a pie he had pre-cooked for us all to dine on later that evening. It was delicious under the warm glow of the fire and moon shaped lights.

P1110066An early night beckoned, myself and Hendrik walked over to the yurt, lit a fire and relived that wonderful atmosphere that such a simple structure gives. After a good night’s sleep, I became over excited about the previous day’s adventure in the Ute and I wanted to experience beach driving too! It felt very exhilarating to drive so close to the crashing waves in a vehicle that could actually handle it, and like many spots in New Zealand we pretty much had the place to ourselves that morning – a perfect way to leave Muriwai and head back down collect my things to ‘properly’ move out of the cottage in Waitomo. Having a space to nest and to create in inevitably invites the collecting of ‘stuff’ all of which I had to work through and condense back down to the basics as we continued a rather long day of driving back down the tavern – I would be staying with Hendrik for the next 2 weeks.

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The northern Manawatu is a beautiful, scenic area of New Zealand unknown to many throughout New Zealand it hosts the headwaters of the Oroua River, which divides the Rangiwahia and Apiti regions beside the Ruahine Ranges. These Ranges divide Manawatu and Hawkes Bay. Before it makes its way into farmland it speeds up through a narrow gorge between sheer-rock walls named by the early settlers as The Iron Gates. The Iron Gates experience was a hike we threw ourselves in to after a few days settling back in. Undeterred by a rather damp grey morning with heavy rain forecast we really needed a good tramp, so we layered up and armed ourselves with grub (I ate Hendriks). We took roughly a 3 hour hike through steep bush down toward the awesome Iron Gate rock walls, wading through rather deep river crossings. Over some lunch Hendrik handed me a greenstone he had been holding on to, ready to pass on. The Greenstone is for luck and to help you in your travels, when you feel you have been helped out by it’s energy, it is time to move it on to the next person, it was my time to look after it.

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Hendrik’s best mates from Matamata, Amy, Rachael and Jasmine were well over due a visit to the tavern, thankfully times finally synchronised and they headed down together for a weekend of fun and well, of course, drink. I had met Amy and Rachael during Amy’s 30th Birthday party at Rachael’s earlier that year (written about in a previous Blog Light Is Shining Through On You..). I immediately felt comfortable around them both, in awe of their ‘coolness’ I was super-excited to see them again. I hadn’t met Jasmine before but with her candyfloss pink hair and dry wit it didn’t take long for us to bond. Staying in an old ‘quirky’ house (Amy was freaked out) up the road from the tavern, we all hung out whilst waiting on Hendrik to escape his shift at the pub. In a break from the merriment we drove down towards the glow worm cave on Table Flat Road to show the ladies the wonderful hidden treasures in and around the surrounding area. The pub to ourselves on our return was not a bad thing, we enjoyed creating new cocktails with a lush bubblegum syrup, I think I just ended up drinking Vodka and the syrup as I was enjoying it so much and got less imaginative after a whole day of drinking. We played crap darts listening to some sweet tunes and some of us ended the night a little worse for wear (details purposely excluded Amy ;), the icy decking turning in to the perfect skating rink and.. then.. doof!, Hendrik was down. A giggly walk back to the pub together.. it had been a great couple of days.

19059190_10154914724074737_8476452394941222783_nJordan lives up the road from the tavern, working at his parents farm, he often worked a weekend shift at the pub. Another day off together and Hendrik had planned to shoot some clays over the duck pond on Jordan’s farm. A young cheeky fella, the day started with loading up his new 4 x 4 beast with ammunition, guns and clays. Something I’d never tried, getting the technique right towards the end of the shoot, and after a decent bruise had already begun to appear on my upper arm. The boys were good, and a just joy to watch. Time to cook up some venny (which seems to be far fresher and tastier than I had ever tried back in the UK) followed by a cold Corona, a play on the digger (I was far better at manoeuvring this than shooting clays) it was a lovely insight in to simple pleasures and of course, trying new things.

P1110108Jordan was also on the Apiti pool team and within the next few days they had a game against local pub The Cheltenham (Chelty), sadly not winning this time around, but watching Hendrik play a mean game was worthwhile. The 2 weeks flew by, but a lovely experience to end on a high was to meet up with Hendrik’s sister Jarinda and her English boyfriend Richard, to watch the British Lions taking on the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua. Of course myself and Richard were cheering on the Lions – I enjoy the fact the crowd supporters are mixed up in rugby and not separated in to definite sides like that in football, and to me it seemed no where near as aggressive or loutish (it was my first rugby experience).

20170617_192553It was that time again to part ways. I was heading back to Waitomo (would I ever really leave that place?!) The owners Michelle and Stefan had sweetly got in contact offering me work to cover for 3 weeks while they headed off to America for a working holiday. Rather than heading straight up there I stayed in Taupo with the idea I’d see some more intriguing geothermal sites in Rotorua that I had read about, and couldn’t shake from my mind. In typical predictable fashion the one that drew my attention was Orekei Korako ‘Cave’ and Thermal Park (did you spot the magic word?) whilst researching, I saw images of an incredible icy white and mustard coloured dominated formation glowing in the surrounding bush landscape.

P1110240Like the surface of another planet, identifying incredible rich colours and textures that are an artist’s dream. Thinking to myself, if I can even begin to replicate the beauty I am seeing in these natural formations I will be very happy. My head was bursting with inspiration and the timing was perfect as I had just the right canvasses in mind that were heading towards a similar conclusion to the things I had witnessed that day.

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Northland ❧ Sacred Fragile Roots

P1100669It was time to consult the New Zealand travel itinerary – something I hadn’t done for a while having being stationed in the same areas for 7 months, that’s not to say I didn’t get my fair share of travelling in though. Northland and the Bay of Islands was somewhere I hadn’t ventured yet and in the free weeks after Glowing it seemed the perfect area to head. I must say that being renowned as the ‘winterless north’ too was also very appealing, given the frosts and general lack of heat in Waitomo. With a few months left to support myself, I was keen to do some paid work or at least gain experience and save funds with some more WWOOFING. Within a couple of days of leaving Glowing I had secured a few weeks paid work mandarin picking in the very north of the country, in a town called Kaitaia. Fruit picking is something I have shied away from if I am honest, hearing about slave labour conditions, poor treatment and crap money, and after the run of luck I’ve had you could guess why I wouldn’t be too keen. However, the job was advertised for just a few weeks work and a decent hostel to reside at, plus I bloody love mandarins.

P1100619I was staying up to date with Facebook posts from my new UK friend Lauren, and after a lengthy discussion about how isolated she was feeling au-pairing down near Wellington, I offered my hand out and asked if she wanted to join me on my trip up north. Very last minute, it suddenly all started to fall into place – if the work was bad at least we’d have the comfort of each other, a bit of extra monies coming in and most importantly the chance to hang out and have fun road tripping around the north. It didn’t take long to convince Lauren, and the next thing we know we’re heading to Kaitaia, a whole day travelling needless to say we were happy to hit the bed that night. We were greeted by a cheeky friendly Scot, Michael, who we’d wind up sharing a room with for the entirety of our north shore trip. An evening of Lord of the Rings based chat and Family Guy impressions with Michael, and the discovery of a ping pong table made the anxiety about the impending work the next day more bearable. P1100856

 The following morning we took a short drive and were ‘greeted’ by the heads in charge at the orchard (greeted is putting it politely) then it was a case of jumping on the back of the ute or tractor and being driven down at life threatening/super exciting speed down to one of the orchards..I learned later that day there were some 60,000 trees there, we’d be busy.

Shiny luscious green leaves and pops of striking orange covered the orchards, they were a beautiful sight and happily for me, pretty small trees:

‘Grab these, stick your bucket there, don’t fackin’ cut the fruit, if it’s fackin’ cut it’s facked. Don’t fackin’ chuck it in the bucket, it’s PUFFY alright? 2 to a tree and off you go…’ – friendly Alan

18527373_10154845229239737_1685141325044755722_oThe work certainly wasn’t difficult, I was happy to let my mind wander, meeting a new faces each time half of the tree was stripped. A break or ‘Smoko’ after a couple of hours, it certainly was that, about 90% of the workers smoked. I was surprised to realise out of the 50 or so of us working each day most were locals, rather than us foreigners, so it made for quite an insight in to their lives and comings and goings (whether you wanted to know the details or not!) Singing Bob Marley songs, traditional Maori songs, telling stories of drunken or drug related happenings, often in fits of giggles their optimism was inspiring.

Living a different, honest lifestyle, it was hard to connect on some levels but they were totally welcoming and accepting in other ways. The work was the most community spirit I have felt in a group of people – sometimes I’d daydream and the thoughts would wander and imagine we were all at some kind of prison camp, with the limited talking, humming, singing of songs and team attitude. There were also characters in charge that would refer to us as Jokers ‘Hey girl!’ ‘Eh Cuzzie’ ‘Auntie’ we laughed and endured a bit of shouting, getting a grilling and telling off every so often. We all soon had our established nicknames ‘Pinky’ was mine due to the pink edging on my jacket, and Lauren became ‘Magic Hands’..I’m still not quite sure how that came about. As the days rolled by in strong sunlight and torrential downpours we began to form a bit of a fruit picking ninja clan, the idea of doing this for 3 weeks became less depressing. In a weird way I quite enjoyed the discipline of it, the simplicity of the work leant itself to long moments of thought and it became an endurance test, but these tests I quite enjoy, I enjoy the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone further and further to see how I will cope, pretty well it seemed. Then there came the day the heavens opened and we all got a soaking, mud, rain pouring in under waterproofs, dripping down our legs onto our socks, in to our shoes, wet foliage, slippery fruit, sharp branches, hard to reach mandarins, yeah 3 weeks was enough.

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We became a great friend group at the hostel, we’d often cook meals together, play ping pong and pool and other games beginning with the letter P. Lauren hosted her Lord of the Rings film night where regulars such as lovely Italian cook Bruno and super friendly Marian amongst others would drop in. We’d enjoy endless banter from Michael, sweet if a little odd conversations with Japanese Ken, and general feel good fun with Janina and Patrick from Germany. We’d also get the occasional free day/afternoon off work together and this was the perfect excuse to go to the beautiful coast – the 90 mile beach and play Frisbee (it’s winter remember!) plus we had the beach to ourselves (I’m trying not to get too used to this feeling) .

18738493_812880968887181_2335751152192012230_oIt was a happy day when we were lucky enough to be in the presence of one of the most ancient of trees. On the weekend we took a trip south, Michael joining us for the ride. We headed for Tane Mahuta meaning Lord of the Forest, the largest living Kauri tree in New Zealand, estimated to be over 2000yrs old…what a sight! These enigmatic trees have lived for thousands of years and yet their roots are now heavily protected and so sensitive, sadly many trees have been lost due to contamination. Tane Mahuta had a beautiful glowing presence along with the damp lush forest walk to the viewing platform to the Cathedral Grove – like something out of Zelda, it captured my heart.

P1100735On the trip up to Kaitaia we drove through a small town called Kawakawa when I noticed a familiar site. The colourful whimsical curves reminiscent of the artist Hundertwasser, sure enough we’d stumbled upon public toilets (!) designed and created by himself and the local community. Little did we know that Austrian born Hundertwasser visited Kawakawa in the 1970’s and fell in love with the local area so much he moved in until his last day. The town is somewhat of a shrine to his work with it’s very own cute steam train, it all just seemed so random, but this made it all the more poignant. P1100559We’d taught the pupils in the days I was working at the school about Hundertwasser, they had a project where they created their own buildings inspired by his paintings – it was a joy to see one in real life!

 

The same day we also did I guided tour of the Kawiti family caves, a nice little fix and trip through a fascinating 200 metre limestone cave system.

 

On another free day from mandarin picking we headed to the northernmost point in New Zealand – Cape Reinga lighthouse. For Maori Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand. We were so close by and on the great recommendation from Lauren we decided to head up late afternoon to capture the sun setting. The weather wasn’t the ‘best’ in that it was incredibly windy and stormy for most of the day, undeterred we believed it would add to the atmosphere. I was also very aware that we should be kept as busy as possible in our downtime to reconnect with the reasons we’d travelled to this amazing country. Stepping out of the car for photo opportunities we were nearly swept off our feet, there was something in the air that day (starts humming Phil Collins). Peering over the cliff edge witnessing two oceans collide we discovered the place of leaping, where Maori spirits begin their final journey.  It is here that after death, all Māori spirits are believed to travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua. They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea below. The spirits then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands where they climb out onto Ohaua, the highest point of the islands and bid their last farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

P1100695Speaking of history and spirituality on site at the hostel was a gorgeously carved marae. In some modern Polynesian societies, notably that of the Maori of New Zealand, the marae is still a vital part of everyday life. A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes, and in my case I used it for yoga 🙂

We’d become a bit of a family at the Mainstreet Hostel and as our last day approached we were joined by a lovely friend Rachael from the orchard and headed to the nearest pub for karaoke! Where Lauren got her song on and I well, drank more… leading to a full day of hangover…it was time to go.

P1100867Whangarei offered time to heal and isolate myself for a couple of days. Since leaving Kaitaia and dropping Lauren off in Paihia to continue her journey back to Auckland to stay with extended family, I had developed a cold and needed to rest. Whangarei offered sunshine, caves and waterfalls – just the pick me up I needed. Being a little less adventurous than normal (my temperature was fluctuating between shivers and sweats) I took a stroll around 2 areas of caving interest, Waipu Caves and the Abbey Caves. Waipu Caves were particularly flooded out, it was an unguided trip and without the proper clothing and being a bit shaky on my feet I was content venturing inside the entrance and surrounding bush walk. It was on this day that I realised how I still feel that rush when ‘discovering’ a cave entrance, so much so that venturing inside is not even the most exciting part. At first I didn’t know if I liked this feeling (!) but realised that it’s the curiosity that drives me, the shift from light to dark, a portal to another world, another time, it fires up my heart. Well rested, in a quaint little home with a comfy bed and mother figure Air BNB host I was re-energised, and ready to head back down to the sanctuary, Earthskin Muriwai

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 ‘There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart, pursue those.’

Soundtrack: New Zealand Folk Song – Pokarekare Ana, Bob Marley – Satisfy My Soul, Thomas Newman – Anokhi

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Birthday ❀✿ WOMAD ⇝ The Gentle Storm

P1100117WOMAD is a wonderful festival founded in 1980 by (genius) Peter Gabriel. From the outset, the WOMAD name has reflected the festival’s idea; to be embracing but non-definitive, inspiring and outward looking; and more than anything, enthusiastic about a world that has no boundaries in its ability to communicate through music and movement. WOMAD has always presented music that they felt to be of excellence, passion and individuality, regardless of musical genre or geographical origin. WOMAD encourages collaboration amongst the artists they invite to perform. Rocking up in my car on the Friday, this WOMAD New Zealand would be different this time around, I’d be on the other side of the world, and spending the majority of it on my own. In the UK it had started to become an annual holiday- heading to WOMAD, it had evolved from spending time at the Leveller’s Beautiful Days festival in previous years. Fun times were spent with friends and also my parents enjoyed the weekend away in their caravan, meeting up over a wine and beer to have a ‘jig-about’ to a band or two. A couple of particularly strong memories from WOMAD UK was when myself and friend Vikki sat in the blazing sun enjoying an acoustic set by singer/songwriter Martin Simpson, glancing behind at the entranced audience I saw a familiar face- the legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant was watching his friend Martin play. I can certainly blame my parents for my love of Led Zeppelin, a band that I heard throughout my childhood and Robert Plant is still a firm favourite for my Mum to play loudly. We went to see Robert Plant play in an arboretum a couple of years previously and I have been lucky to see ‘Bobby’ sing a few times over the years.

17389130_10154533761477428_3184738847655392670_oIt was quite a joy arriving on what was set to be a beautiful sunny weekend, something that is often lacking at festivals in the UK. I parked up on the racecourse, pitched the tent and gazed at the majestic silhouette of Mount Taranaki on the horizon. It would be a few hours before the site was open, so I poured myself a vodka and began to build an itinerary of the bands I was interested in seeing. The beauty of not knowing most of the bands beforehand is that you can just go with what you feel at the time, often pleasantly surprised by the quality and unusual new experience on the senses. Making my way in I took myself around the site of the Bowl of Brooklands, cold beer in hand. The first thing I noticed was the amphitheatre encircling the main stage, complete with a peaceful lake in front of the stage, it looked so elegant in the sunlight. Taking a seat I was waiting to hear the traditional Indian vocal talents of highly regarded singer Sudha Ragunathan – the most celebrated of South India’s devotional Carnatic singers, this sounded too intriguing to miss. I’d always choose unusual vocal talents over a middle-of-the-road band any day. India, is up there with the countries I most want to visit and it’s been amazing following friend Shontae’s blog as she makes her way through the inspirational country….one day 🙂

P1100087The site was smaller than WOMAD UK, hosting 6 stages and small collection of stalls selling various beautiful items from around the globe, and food from everywhere you can imagine – it would’ve been rude not to try and sample as much as possible. A few bands watched, a bit of solo dancing done I retired back to the tent after a pleasant first day to the quietest festival campsite I have ever experienced- bliss.

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Second day in and I was having a thoroughly enjoyable time but did feel like something was missing, sometimes you just get a little bored of your own company. Yet at other times it’s quite a joy to sit, content in your own space with nothing else needed. I’ve had to get used to my company in the past 15 months, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it isn’t. Not one to easily idly chit-chat it can get lonely, but you do get away with pulling dodgy dance moves when you’re on your own at a festival, you become THAT weirdo (there’s always one). IMG_20170322_123502_760 1

Day 3 and the anticipation of Hendrik arriving was exciting. Leaving early he arrived as the gates opened, together again under a sunlit tree. Soaking up eachothers company, re-connecting and finding our place in the gentle atmosphere of WOMAD we rested our heads with the sounds of poetry making it’s way into our subconscious. The energy beginning to pick up a little we happily walked around the site as though we’d always been there together. It wasn’t long before he found treasures in the form of gemstones and crystals and began to add to his collection, what a wonderful thing to collect. Drinking stepped up a gear as we shared tequila with a stranger and the dancing began to Canadian folk band The East Pointers. We sang, danced, ate, explored and joined in on the magic. P11001243 days camping and drinking, we took a ride out in the morning to New Plymouth and enjoyed a sleepy cultured look around the museum, gallery and impressive street art, treating ourselves to a sweet cabin for the night with a BED! it was a Birthday celebration afterall 😉

P1100144So it was my birth month again, usually the first signs of spring are all around and I am blessed with a sunny daffodil filled Birthday. However, being on the flip side of the world it is now autumn, and the changeable weather has really kicked in – after a particularly unsettled summertime. Learning to embrace different seasonal holidays I was treated to a meal with the whole adopted caving family, including Larry & Fran, whose farm I live on, and cousin of family and fellow tour guide Ash (always great fun). It felt so lovely to have everyone together, especially as my time at Glowing is drawing to a close- I have until the end of April here.  They were kind enough to gift a sacred Greenstone necklace, carved into a triple spiral symbolising everlasting friendship, I was made up, it’s gorgeous. It is traditional to wear Greenstone if it is gifted to you and ideally blessed by a Maori elder. Happily for me, Fran’s neighbour Tiwi was more than happy to bless the necklace for me, something to remember forever.

17493164_10154687834219737_8008831724795426999_oI’d met fellow Brit Lizzie a year ago on a hilltribe trek in Northern Thailand, she is mentioned in a previous Blog post ‘Chiang Mai Pt II Hilltribe Family’ and here she is again! We had stayed connected via Facebook and she informed me of her travels to New Zealand. I offered Lizzie a place to stay, convinced that the Kiwi Experience tour she was on was bound to stop in Waitomo at some point. Happily for both of us it did so we arranged to meet at the Waitomo bar Curlys. Loaded with backpack and fresh sunburn we hugged and enjoyed a catch-up over a meal and beer. On the Kiwi Experience coach tours, you can pick and choose what you want to do with each day, depending on taste and budget, and Lizzie had decided not to go on a glowworm tour (I think I gasped when she told me this) a glass of wine later I offered to take her down the cave – as she couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing the glowworm caves (not if I was anything to do with it anyway!) all suited and booted we headed down late that night, seeing so many more down through the bush as well as inside the cavern, and there we were, meeting only once before in the middle of nowhere in Thailand, and then again on the other side of the world in a cave. Life is beautifully unpredictable like that. 17362860_10154681178354737_5414296004122190014_n

One guiding day at work saw me taking a fellow cave guide called Alex on tour. Alex had rang from the Black Water Rafting company wanting to experience a tour at Glowing, which of course was totally cool. A vague sense of anxiety crossed my mind as I obviously wanted to impress a fellow guide. It’s funny, I often joke about how I seem to get all of the pro-cavers on my tours 🙂 thankfully they’ve all been amazing to learn from and have thoroughly enjoyed their tours, so it’s always a privilege. Alex had a gentle friendly face, also from the UK, we had many things in common. He is on his own journey that has seen him travelling for 4 years so far and has had some incredible experiences like guiding through caves in Mexico and tour guiding on Ayers Rock. We both knew we’d see each other again, especially with him camping down the road from Waitomo. He stayed at the cottage after a fun evening of drinks and life stories. 17546722_10154707928099737_2732191283612970990_oAlex was also kind enough to provide tickets for the main 3 cave attractions at Waitomo, that I needed to see before I left (albeit along with all the other tourists) they were still an incredible sight and the history and stories of their discovery stole my imagination. So it’s all winding down…or perhaps it’s winding up…it’s been a tough few weeks of soul-searching and anxiety about what comes next. Push and pull, reasons to stay and reasons to leave, I’m beginning to form some kind of plan. Watch this space…P1100030

Soundtrack: Jackie Leven – Call Mother A Lonely Field, Elbow – The Gentle Storm, William Orbit – Spiral, Parov Stelar – Catgroove

 

art, Uncategorized

The Light Is Shining Through On You..a trip through time, valentine & sunshine

16835792_10154591122044737_1903745541043622057_oI’m still in love with Waitomo. It seems it’s becoming more interesting the longer I spend here. It’s a joy to drive through the quiet, windy roads around the lush green hills and limestone karsts that dominate the landscape. I’m at that in-between stage where part of me feels like a resident here, I feel very comfortable, and yet I still enjoy playing the tourist, going on cave tours and hanging out in the cave museum. I genuinely appreciate every day I have here, and they really do pass by so fast. After a visit to the Waitomo museum one day I picked up a few vintage information books, one about cave formations and cave fauna, one on glow-worms and one titled ‘A Trip Through Time; A Guide to Landforms Waitomo Caves – Marokopa Coast’ the book explores Waitomo by car, with stop offs en-route, all presented in a charming 80’s fashion with unrealistic illustrations and a friendly personable narrative. I love it, and decided I would take a pilgrimage to retrace these steps, also it would prove interesting to see how much, if anything, it had changed over the years. u 

I was joined by Hendrik for the weekend’s adventure starting at The Natural Bridge. I visited this area almost a year ago on my 30th  Birthday with my friend Luke, and the weather was reasonably better this time around. We walked through the awesome gorge, taking the track a little further this time to have some fun climbing in and around the karsts. Further along the road is the Piri Piri Cave. I hadn’t ventured inside before, but after a conversation with pro-caver Nick (mentioned in the last blog) I realised there was some pretty cool stuff to see down there. Armed with our head torches we took the steps leading down in to the darkness then climbed over to venture further inside. We could see there was a suggestion of steps leading us through a small passage towards what is referred to on the map as the ‘Oyster Room’ (it didn’t disappoint). It was a dry and muddy cave and we managed to find old graffiti and untouched stalactite formations.

Next stop along the road was the magnificent Marokopa Falls. A short bushwalk leads you down to the viewing platform for the waterfall, not quite satisfied enough we decided to slide on down through thick sticky mud to get to the foot of the falls. It was all part of experiencing the power close to hand, much like when you find the perfect spot for watching your favourite band from the audience- too far away and you are removed from the feeling. Returning home to remove some of the mud, we drove out to Pirongia and finished the great day over drinks with Heath & Colette.

16300439_10154540776299737_8094714491832667594_oTime for some sunshine, summer seems to have kicked in at last. Apparently it’s an unusually unsettled mix of weather here in Waitomo at the moment, days of blazing sun, then in the next moment thunderstorms, rain, and fog. Personally, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I’ve always enjoyed variety. The Cicada’s have started singing their calling song in the trees and the tarmac is warming up under barefoot.

Myself and Heath have always been pretty keen to enhance our photography skills, particularly in low-light and capturing the glow worms is really quite a skill. We take photographs throughout each tour that then get sent to the customer the next day, but the results vary due to the cheaper waterproof cameras we use and tricky changing conditions. Michelle had suggested we partake in a photo walk workshop around Raglan to hone our skills a little. It was really just a good excuse to have a play, Heath captured some particularly fine shots. It’s like anything, experience and practise will enhance the results.

SONY DSCI received a message from Hendrik offering to take a drive over for the night of the 14th from Matamata (Hobbiton) to cook me a special dinner. I didn’t realise at first that this coincided with Valentine’s Day (I’ve never been one to celebrate such an ‘occasion’) but the thought was touching and I decided I’d like to return a gesture, in the form of a childlike treasure hunt for when he arrived! I did have doubts as to whether it was going to all be a bit much, either a genius or ridiculous idea- it was hanging in the balance as I finished tea staining the papers ready for the treasure map illustration and clues. After some thought I decided that if I would enjoy the game myself then he probably would too…

received_10154556454349737The idea was that we could venture toward the nearby rock climbing wall, on the site of the old farm, which made for an interesting and historic walk. After an early start placing the clues in position I had a day of touring before I got to find him busy in the cottage getting dinner ready (I could get used to this?) It was time to begin the hunt, in and around the old fireplace, underneath the bridge, before leading us up the ‘stairway to heaven’ to the ‘hidden place’. Leaving the farm my car gave an almighty crunch sound, somehow I was expecting this as it was beginning to get creakier by the day. We pushed it into the layby all the while 3 cars from nowhere offered to help (don’t you just love this country). Reluctant to continue driving causing more damage we started to take a walk home. Another car soon pulled up beside us offering help, complete with farmer hat, friendly smile and offering us a cold beer-our new friend Gavin kindly dropped us home.  I’m pretty sure we’ll stay in touch as he was keen to visit Hendrik’s pub and also he has a cave on his land (would be rude not to visit sometime, right?). It was somewhat of a silver lining, knowing the car may cost a bit, but this didn’t matter now- we still had that lovely cooked dinner to look forward too- fresh fish and mussels no less. dsc_1410

There was also another bonus to my darling car breaking- that I got to spend another day with Hendrik whilst sorting it out (well, having lots of fun too) we bought some camping supplies in anticipation for the weekend ahead.

Camping and live music were the social events I’d really missed from back home. It was the epitome of fun for our group of friends to have a good old knees up over a few days. It was Hendrik’s best mate Amy’s 30th party, in the form of camping on a friend’s vast land over in Matamata. Good job I didn’t need my car for the weekend! I was picked up and we headed to the Garden Art Studio in nearby Cambridge that was going to exhibit my artwork. A diverse little gallery in wealthy Cambridge, it felt good to have my work on display and to inform me to start producing new pieces. Onward to the party and we were greeted by a pretty, smiling Amy. We pitched our tent and began meeting everyone including lovely hosts Rachael and Grant, who happen to have a superb record collection including a rare Tim Buckley vinyl (respect soared at that moment) J. Amy also had a gorgeous VW Beetle to die for- a really cool chick. dsc_1437

Adding a whole mix of fire poi, lush food, dancing to Fleetwood Mac and of course drinking, it’s fair to say it was a pretty decent occasion indeed. We were sent to sleep by the eccentric musings of Jim Morrison being piped through the window.p1090883A pleasant trickle of rain hitting the tent sent us to sleep and within a few hours we were back on the road to meet my old housemate and our ex Hobbiton co-worker Ellis. Dropping in I briefly saw Cathie (my landlord during my time at Hobbiton) and it was all smiles and hugs seeing Ellis again. We planned to hit the Karangahake Gorge walkway on this super-hot day, to view the immense towering bush and find our way through the many gold mining tunnels, each offering wonderful viewpoints when hitting the daylight again.

16836030_10211823186316009_3372041470325125618_oSeeing that we were much nearer the sunny east coast I had decided to take Michelle up on her kind offer of letting out her Bach for myself and Hendrik to stay in for a couple of nights. It is located over in Waihi – the gold mining town I visited nearly a year ago whilst WWOOFING. It has an incredibly large mining pit that raises mixed opinions from the locals, but we couldn’t help but stand fascinated and in awe of it. The Bach is just out of the township and boasts a scenic estuary outside the back door, leading towards a popular surf beach. It was yet another haven for us to spend some extended quality time together, playing games, dancing and enjoying each-others company. This would be the longest time we had spent together, and it felt very comfortable.

p1090959All this road tripping was pretty tiring (especially for the passenger who just sits there taking in the view) 😉 we found ourselves a nice pub to get some grub and beers and I lost Hendrik to a vintage pinball machine for about 30 minutes J it’s nice that we’re both into our games and geek fun. We spent around an hour constructing the best models we could make using counters, chess pieces and straws! We’d also found a very simple looking gamed called ‘Mancala’ using a basic wooden tray with hollows containing glass nuggets – it’s now my favourite game ever (I kept winning somehow) to keep it balanced though we’d hit the dartboard every so often where I’d get a beating. We had a dartboard at home for a time and I have distinct memories of our beloved cat Martin sitting comfortable directly below when we were playing, it’s a miracle those darts didn’t rebound onto him. Bless him. We also had opportunity to rekindle our love of finding interesting pieces around Waihi, souvenirs, books, and gathering ideas, particularly for his pub. It’s fun to have somewhere to design, plan and invigorate and the ideas are endlessly flowing into that place, it’s inspiring. We took a short drive out to Bowentown from a recommendation from Amy and again had a beautifully sunny day to explore the beach with it’s sea caves and soft creamy sand. We were joined only by a family catching crabs (yes, there were a few catching crabs jokes that day). Hendrik began to remove clothes and head in to the sea! It was magic, I knew we both wanted to hit the water, it was the perfect environment so I just marched on in as well. Spotaneous-happy-sunshiny-days.

p1090995It was time to head home, with the ute full of blankets, camping gear, booze and his plants in and around the dash (his babies). We took a de tour to Mount Mauganui (still on the east coast) and enjoyed a drink in a lovely colourful bar I’d been to a few times before. A pit stop at a yummy New York pizza place in Hamilton (detoxing was imminent for the next few days) and finally we headed back to the cottage. An evening was spent listening to the haunting yet uplifting voices of the Bulgarian Choir, as we had realised the night before through chance that it was something we both really enjoyed listening to and had accessed through different sources, that’s the beauty of music. What a truly amazing few days, I felt the light was truly shining through on us.

Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams, Moby – Inside, UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices – Mir Stanke Le

Book: Moby – Porcelain (autobiography)

 

Uncategorized

>> Towards the Within <<

p1090693You know you’re in a good place when you no longer are interested in looking back, you prefer to enjoy the journey. It felt good to feel the sunshine on my face again. It was such a challenge to stay awake on the bus ride home, I was that annoying person that kept passing out and waking up far too near to the stranger sat next to you. Luckily for me she was nice, and offered me sweets and snacks for energy. I was being picked up by Michelle to return to her lovely home for a restful night’s sleep. I had the following day to recover, and to nest into the cottage again, along with the thoughtful items I’d been given from friends and family including those sensory items like incense and candles, tasty chutneys and glazes, photographs and books that would ultimately make it feel more like home. img_20170106_200639_900

I’ve struggled since the residency finding time and headspace to be as creative as I would like. Now that I am comfortable with the job routine it’s clearing my mind a little, and gaining a workspace in the cottage has enabled me to access the progress of the artwork so far. I know that as soon as I get the fire burning I will be up and running again. I have made a few taster sketches of pieces I want to work on, including delicate studies of venturing through the cave, particularly with very low light. img_20161222_205026_605

At work we offer photography tours, which I always love to guide, I enjoy learning from the artist’s, and can feel that deep creative connection which reminds me of why I am doing the job in the first place. When exploring and taking time to sit and look at the incredible surroundings, although a daily occurrence, it is still a meditation that I do not take for granted. Of course the connection is stronger when the customers are having the same intense feelings (which is fairly often) -it’s a beautiful thing to be part of that with them.

Yosuke Kashiwakura is a Japanese photographer who had booked in to take photographs of the glow worms for a National Geographic article. Myself and Heath took him down to the main glow worm cavern and watched him setup his sweet looking camera, with limited English we let him figure out what he wanted, which took no time at all. He had Heath stand down stream of the river, head torch glowing, and created an astonishing portrait shot of him. Capturing the cave formations the glow-worms were clustering in an around, and Heath standing enigmatically in the distance.

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The Christmas celebrations were complete at home and I felt a strange emptiness as it approached Christmas Eve back in New Zealand. I was working and the sun was shining, I was afraid I was masking emotions of the first experience of Christmas time without loved ones around me. I decided that because everything was ‘upside-down’ to what I was used to in the UK that I would embrace the surreal couple of days ahead and try and make it memorable for different reasons. Having previously enjoyed spontaneously exploring with Heath I asked if he’d like to join me on a Christmas Eve exploration- a chance to locate those areas that have drawn curiosity, and to experience the cave in quite literally, a new light. We enjoy each other’s easy company and are able to talk and climb freely, stopping from time to time to reflect and enjoy a celebratory beer. The glow worms really put on a performance, the best we’d ever seen, they began to gently light our faces as we opened up to each other. It was a real buzz to find areas even Heath hadn’t been to before, despite his growing up with the cave in ‘his garden’. A particular highlight after crawling over stalagmite formations was an inviting tunnel in blue and copper hues, we took it as far as we could.

p1090703It’s an addiction- the natural high of exploration, wanting to fulfil curiosity, playing around down there for what turned into around a 5 hour trip. The last area on my ‘checklist’ was to take a dip in the crystal clear water of the Lime Cave, and of course to see where it lead to. It was very muddy! But freeing all the same. My thoughts were heavily distracted in the best possible way as the night drew to a natural close and Christmas Day arrived.

I was kindly invited to Bevian (Heath’s father) and his partner Myra’s home for a Christmas lunch in Te Awamutu, along with Michelle and Stefan. I still fall in love with the landscape and immense amount of space around New Zealand properties (that is out of the cities I mean). They were all sitting in the sunshine of the garden as I was presented with kind gifts and a tasty BBQ lunch.

dsc_1398After a little deliberation I headed back to Heath’s in Pirongia. As kind as the offer was I was concerned at feeling like a spare part due to his kids and girlfriend staying there. Nobody likes to be the gooseberry, but I knew for the first time I didn’t want to head back to the cottage on my own and that I needed to be around people- I run away too easily. Well the bottle of wine stopped me driving anywhere and as I relaxed Colette and Heath were great company and a phone call from Hendrik was comforting after so long not hearing each other’s voices. I left early morning, still feeling heady and emotional and enjoyed a long drive in the sunshine of Boxing Day. I still struggle with the shift from closeness and then the emptiness upon parting…even if I’m not so sure on what I want in the first place.

Settling back into work for the next few days the time had come to plan my upcoming days off. I would be heading down to Apiti on the Sunday so decided to book myself in for a treat 5 hour cave tour, with another company here in Waitomo. It is of course great to experience, compare, research, but mainly just for the love of adventure and to see some more beautiful places so nearby. The tour was a 7am start (ouch) and included an abseil to start the trip, something I haven’t done since I was 11 years old on a trip to an adventure park near Corfe Castle 🙂  followed by ‘tubing’ which is essentially floating through the cave tunnels in a big rubber ring. The group I was in were fit, young men, meaning that we were powering through the trip and gaining access to other areas due to our speed and ‘skill’. Tight squeezes in darkness and of course the glow-wormies were in abundance. Not so much of a diverse mixture as our cave but an enjoyable experience all the same. If I’m honest, somebody carrying me back up afterwards would’ve been nice rather than the impending final rock climb (I’ve never been good/happy with vertical climbing) it was safe to say my body was done.

15940490_10154469719949737_4247798651540657387_nI’d been following (that does sound pretty creepy doesn’t it) an interesting caving chap on Instagram as I realised after caving all around the world, posting incredible diary photographs along the way, Nick was now in the Waitomo area- I was very keen to meet. I obviously wanted to pick his brain about all of his incredible discoveries and adventures and plus it was a good excuse to get out and have a pint. Nick was sat looking pretty intriguing as he studied his notebook, scribbling down his finds of the day. As I approached, conversation came easy (of course we did talk about a cave or two) he’s an interesting and passionate character who I think will be a lot of fun to be around, we’ll meet up again and hopefully do some exploring together sometime. As perfect timing had it, my friend Luke who is now back in Southampton knew of a girl heading to New Zealand from our home town, called Lauren. Lauren and I exchanged messages on Facebook and the evening I was with Nick was when her Kiwi Experience coach was staying in Waitomo (good hey!) So she came over for a chat and drink, a lovely sociable bouncy character spending a year in New Zealand on a Working Visa, I’m sure we’ll meet up again for a yarn.

15965061_1214016078676654_8092223788433813616_nThe day had arrived and I took the long scenic drive down to Hendrik’s tavern with a good mixture of excitement and anxiety thrown in. It had been around 2 months since we last saw each other, and although in reasonable contact, things change and feelings can change, it’s just the way it goes. Trying to be realistic I kept this in the front of my mind and was happy to spend time with him regardless. Things were a little different in the sense I now know I am staying here for a time, so the road ahead is less uncertain in that sense. We have a great connection and are very aware of living our own lives and yet, when we come together, it’s magic. After a short meeting I headed down the road to start work on reinventing the Apiti Tavern road sign, complete with updated logo and directions. I should’ve relaxed the day before, I have felt very restless of late, haven’t been sleeping well and emotions have been up and down, trying to make sense of what I really do want and need, recent situations and people close to me have made me question this.

p1090743I returned back to the pub, calling it a day and looked forward to some quality time together. To my surprise I was cooked a beautiful seafood chowder and we saw the night in with red wine. This was the start of things to come, the following day we exchanged gifts and later on he had booked us into the local Makoura Lodge, in a beautiful secluded dip of land was our very own Riverside Cabin for the night. Complete with huge fire pit, BBQ and super comfortable lodging. I was overwhelmed at the thought and effort- it left me a bit speechless. It’s fantastically exciting to share hopes and ideas together I love hearing his enthusiasm for the pub and what he intends to do, it’s really quite great how well it’s going there for him, it’s lovely to hear someone talk about something they are passionate about. Oh, and he said he took time to listen to Dead Can Dance (that’s special).

p1090737To be with someone whose eyes light up when yours do, whose heart races when your blood also pounds, who is enticed and inspired by the same forces that drive you forward, is a gift many of us never truly get to experience. Because we settle. We settle for the person we love over the person who could push us- to be bigger, stronger, greater versions of ourselves. We tell ourselves that love is enough. That it conquers everything. But we forget that love shouldn’t be the thing that conquers our lives – we should be. And we should do it deliberately, triumphantly, by the side of somebody who shares all our joys and successes. So how do we meet such a person? That’s simple – we do more of what we love. We give ourselves up to uncertainty, to searching, to pursuing what we want out of life without the certainty of having somebody beside us while we do it. We throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the things that we love and we consequently attract people who love what we love. Who value what we prioritize. Who appreciate all that we are. We throw ourselves into the heart of possibility instead of staying comfortably settled inside of certainty. Because we owe it to ourselves to do so. We owe it to ourselves to live the greatest life we are capable of living, even if that means that we have to be alone for a very long time. At the end of the day, love is wonderful but it isn’t enough to make up for an entire lifetime of compromising your core values. You don’t want to spend forever gazing into somebody’s eyes expecting to find all of the answers you need inside of them. Wait for the person who is gazing outward in the same direction as you are. It’s going to make all of the difference in the world.’

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Soundtrack: The Orb – COW (full album), Clannad – The Hunter, Throwing Muses – Teller

Uncategorized

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

dsc_1300A visit home was to be a mixed bag of emotions, with a great deal of fun thrown in for good measure. The anticipation was more excitement than I had felt in a long time or, perhaps ever. Seeing dad at the airport was an amazing feeling and we felt that curious, strange feeling you do when you are not used to each other’s company, grinning from ear to ear. It felt really important to be able to touch base with family again. The drive home from London on the gloomy cold November afternoon consisted of us filling each other in on events that had gone on in a kind of compact version. Arriving home at last, Mum came to the door with a big smile on her face, we hugged and it was nice to settle back into a cosy environment after so much travelling. We were all on a high and decided to enjoy a curry that evening, something I’d craved for a long15181198_10154330569854737_526687079253764982_n while. I had been sure to plan out my days as best I could given the short amount of time I’d be spending back home. This would predominantly consist of family meals, drinks with friends, walking adventures, more drinks, gigs, too many drinks, the only concern being I’d return to the cave and need to roll myself down with all the excess calorie intake. The first weekend of being home coincided with my Grandma’s 91st birthday celebration, a traditional tea at posh Chilworth Manor was planned. It was great to see Grandma again, I’ve always looked up to her and despite her age she is still so sharp, loving and selfless, a real inspiration. My brother Chris, his wife Vicky and their beautiful son Luca arrived and it was so good to see them again- I felt a little saddened that Luca didn’t seem to recognise my face, but then he’s always pretty distracted with fun stuff (with wheels usually).15267791_1627271403965489_305201252931850742_n Poppy’s Christening was next, sweetheart daughter of my cousin Joanne. It was a full on sociable day, with a great deal of hugging and catching up! The next few days I spent with my parents and it wasn’t long before I was meeting up with Luke that I’d met whilst in New Zealand- he’d only been home a day or two longer than I had and was suffering a little with jetlag- it was time to do my usual nagging him to go on an adventure. This time to Cheddar Caves, probably the most well-known caves in the UK, it seemed the perfect idea to visit, and thankfully despite the time of year they were still open to the public (not that anyone else was there!) It was a frosty day and I was enjoying the thought of driving my dad’s VW T4, which was practically a replica of my last van which I had sold for my plane ticket to New Zealand. p1090426We bumbled along in the big Mellow Yellow van towards Cheddar, our accent’s getting more and more Somerset the further west we travelled –we were always very good at amusing ourselves. As we approached the gorge the atmosphere drew gloomy, we purchased our cave tickets and had the whole place to ourselves. There were many stunning formations in the Cheddar caves, particularly the many mirror pools, although touristic, being alone in the cave with Luke we could appreciate all of the chambers at our own pace. Cox’s Cave further along the gorge had recently been kitted out with a light show, projecting the story of man on the cave walls. A much smaller cave, I was worried about the mention of LEDS and visuals, which always seem to just look so naff. We both left pleasantly surprised- the visuals were 3D, perfectly complimentary to the surroundings and really quite intriguing actually- good work Cheddar.dsc_0016-1 I was so happy to have quality time with mum again, we baked cakes, including our Christmas show stopper with lights no less 😉 I love the way her eyes light up when we get stuck into something really creative together, as she always inspired me to create from an early age, it’s now a bit of a role-reversal. I was totally spoiled with gifts and thoughtful gestures the moment I arrived home, and we put our energy into bringing Christmas early to the Mann household. We headed off and bought a tree (turns out it was the biggest tree ever) and had a mock Christmas with my brother, his family and my Grandma, perfect. The whole day with Luca was great and I felt us bonding again, he’s such a fun little chap I love being around him. I had a lovely walk around Hamble with mum (sadly dad was working) and a ‘jolly good jaunt’ in the nearby forest with Luke, being treated to lunch was nice end to the day.

p1090606hhI touched base with good friend Ian who I had met a few years previously during jury service, we shared a mutual love of good music and have had our fair share of fun adventures in the past few years. We took a refreshingly bitter walk and caught up on lost time. He’s a cool dude. Hannah, one of the few friends I am still in touch with from school, was expecting her second baby and it was a perfect excuse to meet up, after around 2 years. It’s like the good old days each time we meet, despite the years going by still manage to maintain a great friendship.

It had become a bit of a tradition that myself and Dan would go on a ‘date night’ together whenever we had a free evening. One of my best mates and all round beautiful person, we always have a fun time together. We’d make a point of visiting pubs and restaurants we hadn’t been before around Southampton to sample some new sights and have a good catch-up session. I had a gig I was attending the day of the meetup so we decided to push it earlier and start at 2pm. Wandering through the Christmas market, complete with live music with a dodgy backing track disguising all of the dude’s actual talent. dsc_1220 We drank copious beer, cocktails (well they were 2-4-1) Dirty Vimtos in the Firehouse (truth juice) and yeah, a lot. I managed to break all of the drinking rules by mixing it as much as I possibly could, drinking at the same speed with a friend that can drink far more than me, daytime drinking, no water inbetween etc (you can see where this is heading) after a fantastic few hours together I headed on to the gig, to which my mum, dad and uncle were attending, because they are far to hip and cool for their age. It was The Orb, ambient dance DJ’s playing a blinder and filling us with laughs all evening due to their uncanny likeness to my dad and uncle Mark (they had many comments from the audience) ha. Two warm beers later after a day of drinking and I was very much worse for wear. The following evening Dan had booked the group of friends into our favourite cocktail bar, where you provide the spirit and they whip up beautiful cocktails for you, needless to say I was a little less enthusiastic after the bender the day before, but the amazing company from cousin Hayley, Mike, Daniel , Kayley and Dave- looking gawjus as ever, it was a most excellent evening together.  

dsc_1308I am at that age of babies and settling down, so our friend group is a little fragmented in that sense! Good friends Vikki and Dane were busy looking after their bub but we still managed to fit in some quality time together thankfully and I got to meet their new bundle of fun, James.15253410_10154356928159737_3045313667110826989_n

I also had time to drop by my old art studios at The Sorting Office and was buzzing to see how thriving the space is. New artists have taken up residency and it was particularly great to catchup with Helen, Eve and Claire who were all in their spaces creating. A group of 20 or so artists past and present met together for a Christmas meal, I was overwhelmed with the love from such a brilliant bunch of talented artists – it felt so good to be around creatively wild sorts again 😉

15540849_10154390837684737_4606115816828484208_oI had introduced Luke to my friends as promised at The Hobbit pub in Southampton, on no better occasion than to see Dan play in his band Subdued. As they share similar interests and seemed to get on so instantly I hope they can continue their new friendship! I was glad to have a motivating catch-up with Imre (all round arty, Lego enthusiast, Hungarian fruit loop) as we discussed our life goals. Sophie also popped by and we had a good ol’ laugh and hug ahhh, so many people to miss!

dsc_1314The final night arrived and it was going to be a great party to end on. Dan’s band Subdued were supporting the mighty Reef again, this time at Portsmouth Pyramids Centre, big-time ‘proud friend’ moment. They rocked of course, and a great group of friends and family members filled the audience and made for a special evening to end the trip on, a reminder of all the beautiful people I have in my life.

15400927_10154915264856189_3201775710387374583_nTime to head back, I am reminded of what I am leaving behind. As the third week comes to an end I become more and more comfortable, despite the stressful traffic (!) and pace of it all. I began to feel the sadness of having to say goodbye again. Picking up on vibes from my family, I felt a sense of guilt, but was looking forward to coming back and knew deep down I was making the right decision.

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Soundtrack: The Orb – Pomme Fritz (Mean N’ Veg), Reef – Good Feeling