Gosh, it seems like a lot longer than 3 months since I wrote my last blog post. I thought about just ending it there, as everything seemed to have come full circle, and I’d achieved everything I’d set out to do when I first started this. I can remember writing my first entry at my parents’ computer a few days before I left Perth (for what was supposed to be 10 months), feeling excited but scared and wondering what was going to happen. I had so many questions about myself and life that I wanted answered, and really, when I think about it, most of those particular questions have been answered. Win! So no need to write anymore, right? That’s a wrap. Plus, the other day I read a column in the paper (an actually respectable paper with no boobs on the third page), about the trend of blogging: everyone’s a writer and no one’s a ‘reader’. The journalist quoted some statistics about the number of blogs that exist versus the number that are actually read. She reiterated the familiar point of view that attention spans are devolving and we’re lucky if people bother to read anything beyond the 140 characters allowed to us in a ‘tweet’. She made a kind of assumption that because of those statistics, the people who were producing the excess writing weren’t consuming any writing. She wrapped up the article by urging people to read rather than produce, and praised the reader of her own piece by labelling them ‘national treasures’ for bothering to read to the end. A nice bit of condescension there. So that was all a bit… concerning.

But as one of my friends is fond of saying, life isn’t a movie with a clear beginning, middle and end. Yes, I found what I was looking for. Does that mean life stops asking questions? Of course not! And yes, perhaps people are producing more. Perhaps some of it is rubbish. But some of it is good! There are so many stories out there. Who decides what’s rubbish anyway? Through my work as a Speech and Language Therapist, particularly in inner-city London, I’ve come to value my level of literacy, I enjoy it; I want to celebrate it! Clearly people are producing more written work, because we’re all humans who want to create and connect with people. Does it matter if people read it or not? I think because blogs are intertwined with social media, and most blog sites now tell you how many visits you’ve had, what starts off as a personal project for your own satisfaction becomes a search for external validation of your writing skills/experiences or whatever.

Recently I put some of my old drawings up on facebook. I deliberated for a long time before doing it, just as I’ve deliberated for a long time about continuing this blog. I enjoyed producing them, I enjoy looking at them privately. So why put them up? I guess ‘art’ has always been displayed and as long as you strike a balance between wanting to produce things for your own satisfaction, because you enjoy it, and gaining some sort of validation from people viewing it, then that’s fine. Previously people’s art would have had to pass some kind of standard to be viewed by an audience, and now anyone’s old shit is out there (including mine). I suppose if you don’t claim to be an expert, it’s all good?! Who knows.

So here is my non-expert drawing of Jim that I did on the plane, what I am pretty proud of.

Moving on… in the last few months of last year I went on a couple of great holidays.

I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling overly excited in the lead-up to my trip to Croatia #firstworldproblems. I had foolishly booked an 8-day holiday a couple of weeks into the September school term, which (as well as the previous term’s paperwork panic) had led me to worry about my contract being renewed. In fact, I had all but resigned myself to job-hunting for a position that was non-reliant on the structure of the UK education system and seeing it as as a positive that I was sort of pushed into aiming for hospital work. I had even told my agent that I didn’t really want her to put me forward for the position again. But… when my agent called and said that my previous workplace had asked for me again, I considered returning… but only if my agency upped my pay. Which they did! So here I am, another two terms under my belt, meaning I’ve been there for over a year. Hurrah! They’ve made some major changes to the way they carry out their services which means I actually have time to do admin during the day and I feel far more effective than before. Ergo, I am way less stressed than at the end of July, it’s great. The upshot is that enjoying my days and having time to do my job properly means I’m valuing my professional self and what I do far more. It’s no secret that locums get given the ‘difficult’ schools that the permanent staff don’t want, and I feel like I’ve taken some pretty hard schools to work in and done a reasonable job. Job satisfaction… what a pleasing, alien state!

Anyway… Croatia! After working like a madwoman and being exposed to all of the disgusting lergies carried by hordes of mucous-filled children, I was exhausted and sick (actually becoming one of those people who just dose up on pseudoephedrine and run around London like wired zombies because they just ‘have to get this done’). The last thing I wanted to do was then partake in organised fun for over a week (me and a friend had signed up to a TravelTalk sailing tour). In fact, if I weren’t going to let down my friend I would have cancelled. I’m so glad I didn’t! As soon as the sun hit my face and the sea air filled my lungs I felt like my usual self again… in fact way better than my usual self. It made me all the more excited about basking in the sun in new Zealand and Australia over Christmas. On the beautiful deep blue Adriatic Sea, we visited Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Lumbarda, Korcula, Makarska and Brac. I loved Croatia, and feel so  lucky to have visited before it joins the EU. Its cities are paved in marble with gorgeous buildings and its history is proud and rich. It was the little, ‘untouched’ (except by hordes of English, Aussie and NZ tourists of course) places that really charmed me and formed the most lasting memories.

Docked in Brac, I decided that alone time and exercise were needed (not to mention giving my liver a break). Instead of turning left towards the tourist markets and the harbour, I forked right to some lonely looking basketball courtsl. After sitting on a bench in the shade, eating chips and writing postcards, I put on my hat and wandered off into the neighbourhood. Beautiful stone houses sat nestled into the hillside overlooking the cathedral and the shimmering bay. Overgrown cobbled pathways wound in between them, creating quiet corners that seemed hundreds of years old. I found myself climbing upwards, always choosing the incline over the decline, and soon I had to make a choice – run through a swarm of hornets to continue to the top, or turn backwards. Repeating the phrase ‘they won’t bother me if I don’t bother them’ repeatedly in my head, I ran through the hornets, totally bothering them. Emerging unscathed and trying not to think about what would happen if, typically, I got stung and died of anaphylactic shock on a lonely Croatian hillside, I kept going ’til I reached the top…whereupon I was greeted by this sight…

“Holy fuck” I thought. A fig tree! Figs galore! Figs ahoy (particularly apt as I was travelling on a boat)! Whether it was fate, ‘God’ or whatever that led me there I didn’t care… all I knew was that a beautiful fig tree growing out on a crumbling wall on a sunny day, with some handy steps thrown in for good measure, said ‘Sit here and contemplate’.

So I did. About which figs I’d chosen in regards to work and love. The main thing I came away with was this: I’m not a squirrel. I’m not even a human who’s good at climbing trees; I’m a clumsy human with no upper body strength. That is, once I’ve somehow managed to pick a fig I need to climb down, sit under the tree and eat it. If I try to pick too many I’ll drop them, squish them or end up on the ground myself. I used to say I could have all the figs… and I guess you can, just not all at once. And that’s the way I like it – because luckily I’ve chosen some damned delicious figs.

Next time… Berlin!


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