Break in regular programming!

The latest instalment for the Sunday Edition will follow later this week. We’ve moved back into our home/building site after a few weeks at a local lake villa to get the floors done. They’re under the covers awaiting oil. Oh la la they are beautiful. No more holes! For a host of reasons we’ve decided to live in our house while it’s being renovated. We have our lounge room and three bedrooms between the 6 of us. We can still use the kitchen stove, oven and sink, so it’s not dire (yet). Luckily, we’re campers from way back. LOL.

Co-sy!

We’ve spend the past few days sorting, storing – getting down to basics. How much stuff do we really need? Turns out not much. We haven’t been up for air, hence no Sunday edition yet. It’s nice to be busy getting all the crappy jobs done. Rest assured though I have a desk and the post will come and I’ll respond to last week ls comments ASAP. Thanks as always, some beauties and a lot of food for thought.

Will update with some more photos later in the week … this situation here in the above photo is now a little more under control. Oh and the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been rainy for what feels like the entire April (even snow) and now almost all of May. WTAF?!?. Anyways, can’t feel sorry for myself there’s still not sun on the weather prediction ap., so still we must wait. The plus side of that is it’s very, very green. Yesterday our builders put up a kind of glass (plastic) house. So the build will roll on despite the non stop rain.

Chat soon,

Fran xx

The Sunday Edition – 2. Is 8am too early for cheese? Lost – our obsession with time.

Is 8 am too early for blue cheese?

Well thanks to old mate jet-lag we didn’t manage to see in the new year! We have managed to see most of today, 1-1-2017. We’ve been up since 4am and by 8am I can no longer resist the waft of blue cheese every time the fridge door is opened. Dang it! I treat myself to some new year’s day decadence.

Creamy, pungent blue cheese on sourdough. This is the kind of morning where anything goes! 

Anything!

The boys are out playing football in t-shirts in the crisp 7 degree air. And who am I to argue with with my instagram family! They all agree. “It’s definitely too early for cheese – said no one ever!” My friend Karen, aka CoffeeTeaBooks, responds when I post a photo of my breakfast fare posing the question “ .. is it too early for cheese?”  

It may be icy outside, but inside we are toasty. Houses seem so much more insulated and heated here. It’s such a cosy feeling. The Dutch have a name for this feeling, gezellig. Gezellig is more than cozy, more than the just the atmosphere. It’s also the people and the moment. Of course I also have my holiday love glasses on. You know the ones? They see everything as perfect.

So often Europeans are shocked we have a winter and that it gets cold in Australia. Although, we seem to be in some denial of it too. Most of the houses I’ve ever lived in were never efficient at either keeping the heat in during winter nor the heat out in summer. During the first winter we lived in Sydney the kids and I took to roaming the streets for firewood! It was so cold in the old terrace house we’d rented in Paddington.

Yes, to be able to afford a terrace in Sydney means we are absolutely privileged and that’s never lost on me. Our privilege didn’t however extend to renting a renovated, heated terrace. More the type of terrace a group of students may have shared. That is, back when students could afford to live in share houses in Australian cities.

After spending our 20s studying, traveling, living interstate and abroad, we spend our 30’s settled in Melbourne. When an employment offer came offering Greg a career move to Sydney we were up for it. Ready to leave our grassy backyard and white picket fence!

Once again, as seems to be the story of my life, I was ready to go in search of something. Perhaps, I wasn’t ready for my current life to be enough, or my gypsy soul was restless for an adventure. While Greg was wary of moving to Sydney, I could only see excitement. It is not change I fear, quite the opposite, it’s staying the same.

When we started looking for somewhere to live in Sydney it was my romantic notions that moved us into a terrace house. The terrace with its ornate features, high ceilings, old world charm and the vibey, cool suburb of Darlinghurst on the doorstep! Yes, surely this was going to be perfect.

Perfect – that lasted about a day!

The first night I was introduced to the resident rat, apparently rats and Paddington are a thing. I was horrified – vermin is not a ‘thing’ I can do. In the first weeks of moving a ridiculous amount of our stuff broke. Crazy winds that blew glass frames from the walls, a treasured sculpture we’d been gifted for our wedding was knocked over and smashed.

Oh dear! What had we done? The greener grass I was chasing in this move to Sydney .. it sure wasn’t growing in my tiny yard.

Lost – our obsession with time.

After a morning of cheese and football, once again we take the picturesque walk through the local village to the train station. The Christmas decorations still adorn the street lamps of the high street, and a canopy of fairy lights hang high above us.

For most of my life and the short lives of our children Christmas time has been synonymous with summer, family, friends, fresh brightly coloured fruit, camping and lazy beach days. When we decided to have this adventure, preparing is not only administrative and packing it also a process of letting go. Letting go of ideas about yourself, the life path you were heading on and of known comforts.

Giving up our permanent, yearly ocean campsite booking at Barwon Heads was one of the hardest things I had to let go of. Will we be able to create similar joyous kinds of traditions for our family? I ponder this while we sit at this small village train station where Christmas time now looks like puffer jackets, trivia cards and waiting for a train into London as we sit surrounded by paddocks filled with sheep and cows.

I suppose adventure is not only about letting go, it’s about giving in. Giving in to the unknown. Giving in to follow your heart even when sometimes it doesn’t all go to plan.

London and its public transport system is a dream. There is nowhere you can’t go. A network of trains, tubes, busses and boats that allow you to criss cross this multi-layered city founded by Romans over 2,000 years ago.

Today, we found our way to Greenwich by train and visited the Shepherd Gate clock, the famous clock that shows GMT at the Royal Observatory. We spent the day wandering the expansive parklands that surround it. It’s the perfect day of soaking in the winter sunlight, the spontaneity of playing with the soccer ball in our day-pack, of being in this time together, with just us and a free agenda.

Dinner was in a traditional English pub that waved the English red cross and Union Jack flags. The kind of place where every dish has a side of mashed peas and the beer is warm! While we ate we gave the trivia cards another workout before heading into the dock to take the ferry down the River Thames and into London.

From the water we reached iconic London as we pass by the Tower of London, and our eyes stuffed with the wonder of this historical city we glide under London Bridge. A little way further we disembark and make our way towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

Before our day of adventuring is over, as we are wandering home under the fairy lights through the village, we stop to see Venus alongside the moon. I learn from Greg and Tommy, our eldest, that Venus is often on show in the night sky.

Wait! WHAT?

How did I get to 44 years of age and not know this? How have I not looked at the sky in awe like this with my children and marveled at the wonder of seeing another planet?

Ph-ew, obviously this is right where I needed to be.

The jet-lag is no longer ruling our nights and as I begin to drift off I’m awake enough to have sleepy thoughts.

Venus. Wow. I still can’t get over it.

What a gift time is. Tommy, 12 years old, often so quiet and secure in his own space with his fountain of thoughts and knowledge that he often keeps to himself. What else will I learn from him in this time we’ve carved out to have an epic adventure?

What would I learn from Zoë, from Lucas and Jimmy? What would I learn about life? Love? Family? One thing I learnt from our life in Sydney was to take it slow. To live this experience.

And …

On this day where we sat at the centre of time. Where there was no hurry, no plan, no place to be, where we didn’t follow the top 10 must see guide to London and for the first time in my life I had seen Venus.

Our adventure had truly begun. For now we could let go of our obsession with time and where to be.

Next week …

A pledge before we leave.

Unexpected love at first sight. The Emerald Isle.

If you made it this far, thank you! 🌷 Perhaps you can help me. Are there mistakes, gaps? Do you need more description, depth or explanation in any of the paragraphs? Are some details not needed? Obviously it is the beginning so the bigger themes of minimising, travel and of course the trip will unfold but I’d like to be sure I keep the flow. And this is a beginning, a draft and I will grow with it, but my friends and editors, please feel free to offer your advice. You can do so in the comments or via my comment page

The Sunday Edition – 1. Tonight we fly! Checklists! London baby, we made it.

Tonight we fly! 

  • A suitcase and day pack each ✓
  • Puffer jacket, gloves and beanie ✓
  • Passports (2 each, Aussie and Dutch) ✓
  • One-way ticket to Europe ✓
  • Treasured possessions packed and en route to store in Ireland ✓
  • All other items given away or sold on gumtree ✓
  • Car sold (phew – just) ✓
  • Investment property sold (big $ loss but freedom gain) ✓
  • Family home tenanted ✓
  • Long service cashed in ✓
  • Pockets full of hope, excitement and the big unknown ✓✓✓

On this typically sunny late December day I suppose I should be feeling nervous. It may be typically sunny as we sit at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport and while I’ve sat here many times before, today is anything but typical. Today I’m sitting with my husband, our four children, our passports and one way tickets. Our possessions have been trimmed down to only the treasures and we are adventure bound.  

Surprisingly, I don’t.

Feel nervous that is.

What could possibly go wrong? Surely, buying a campervan over the internet, sight unseen, taking your kids out of school for six months without considering, or even checking if there is a homeschool option and not knowing where you’ll be at the end of the six months is normal.

Right? 

It must be right for me at this moment. Or is it my kind of normal? Because the only feeling I can express is excited anticipation. 

This day, the day we fly, has finally arrived. 

It’s rather liberating to be free and without ties. It has taken a little over six months to unburden ourselves of the commitments and stuff we had collected over these past years of our lives. Everything has been digitised, from the past 5 years of tax papers, the cd and dvd collections to the medical and school records. We no longer own chairs for our dining table nor mattresses or even beds for that matter! 

I guess we all have our midlife crises in different ways.

We, Greg and I, my beloved, husband and partner of over 20 years, decided to have ours as a campervan adventure in Europe with our four kids. I sneak a glance at our 12, 10, 7 and 4 year old children, the younger three playing uno and the eldest with his head in his online football manager game. These loves of my life, each with their own backpack filled with their worldly possessions. If they were nervous you wouldn’t know it. I like that this is their kind of normal too.

Adventure has become the norm for our family over the past few years. We have upped the wanderlust anti in our family. Climbing the highest peak in Australia, Mt Kosciuszko. Hiking the many incredible hiking paths in and around Sydney. Surfing into the sunset with the dolphins in Byron Bay. Weekend and school holiday adventures became one of our ways of creating a life that feels more us. More than the one we’d started waking up to.

Slowly we’d found a life creeping in that felt in conflict with what felt right (for us). Grumpy ballet teachers, ultra competitive and selective weekend sport, plastic, excessive parties, a husband and father who was always at work, slowly losing himself in the depths as he gave more and more to the insatiable greed of the corporate grind.

This wasn’t my idea of how my kids’ childhoods, or how our life was meant to look. I didn’t recognise myself in this kind of life. So we adventured and I wrote about it on a blog. A blog that helped me to escape the everydayness of life, only to find the everydayness of life. An everyday life our way.

For most people, an epic European campervan trip would be enough of an adventure. Not so it seems when you live with a curious, food loving, Europhile globetrotter. One who needed to find his spirit again.

It had taken Greg longer than me to come on board with the fact that we could leave it all behind to head off into the sunset in a campervan for a while. I’m the dreamy one, he’s the practical one. But as practical as he is, he also had a big dream in him. Apparently, now that he was on board with the whole escape for a while, in his mind living in a campervan with six people wouldn’t be challenging enough. 

“It’s just a luxury trip if we do that” he said. “We need a real challenge“. One late night when we were talking about our trip, pensively, he ventured “… why don’t we stay in Europe for a while.”

We’d lived in Amsterdam pre kids and we both held a deep desire to return to a European way of life. This would be a fresh start to create something less stressful than the life we were leaving in Sydney.

We would find new jobs, give the kids the experience of learning foreign languages and of living abroad. We’d spend weekends eating pizza in Naples, taking the train to Paris for wine and cheese, enjoy the piazzas of European cities and the charm and traditional fare of the countryside. We’d follow road bike races, climb mountains, surf the wild Atlantic and be lost in the history and cultures of Europe. 

Of course it sounded perfect to the glass half full, adventure seeking kind of gal that I am. Without hesitation – I agreed. It’s not the first time I’ve had to reinvent myself. Heck I’d just done it in Sydney. It wasn’t easy, nothing worthwhile ever is but I’d done it and here I am. Writing, taking photos, about to live a life long campervan across Europe dream. Sure, let’s add to the challenge, let’s stay on in Europe!

Checklists!

For months I’d been checking off administrative type tasks. Cancelling subscriptions, gumtree advertisements, sorting insurances, paperwork to sell a house, rent a house, sell a car, visa paperwork for Greg in Europe, renewing passports which is no mean feat when your kids are dual citizens and they may not move, and most certainly must not smile or show any teeth in this new age of passport photos! The photos alone took three attempts. 

So after a seven and a half hour flight into Singapore it was rather nice to have a checklist that looked like this – sleep, swim, enjoy the spoils of the Asian buffet breakfast. I mean does anything compare to eggs any which way you wish? We’ll take one omelet, two poached, a fried and a boiled egg please. Plus all the summer fruit thanks. This would be the last we’d all be seeing of summer for a while. 

I have never really understood the airport hotel. I’ve always wanted to get where I was going. But travelling with four kids who decided early on that plane sleep would not be something they were into, a 12-hour layover was the perfect salve. Why would they sleep? Movies and their own personal gaming devices in the seats in front of them, non stop food, drink and lolly service are far more interesting to a kid than sleep. That layover prepared me for what felt like a long, very long leg between Singapore and London. Thirteen hours of watching your kids exhaust themselves with sugar indulgence and sleep refusal.

London baby, we made it.

After living and sweating it out pushing a pram in the hilly eastern suburbs of Sydney for the past three years, waking up in London this morning felt delicious. I was up to enjoy it before the daylight arrived thanks to my friend jet-lag. I make the most of being awake and as soon as the light allows I take a wander outside in my puffer jacket, beanie, gloves and neck warmer – the full kit! It feels rather novel to be rugging up so warmly. I wonder if I’ll still feel like this after a few deep winters. I also have my trusty camera with me to see what I can see. 

I never thought I’d long for the cold but these past few years of living in the humid heat amongst the noise of city life feels like they’ve had a dehydrating effect on me. I take a photo of some delicate tiny frost covered leaves and I feel my sense of wonder. It flows through my body and warms my skin as my smile grows and my eyes sparkle. There’s a crispness in this London air that feels refreshing. Healthy even.

The birds are slowly waking and as they populate the bare winter trees to begin their daily routine of song. I feel peaceful. The holy grail kind of peace, inner peace – contentment. It’s the perfect way to end this year and the perfect way to begin this new one. There will be no need for any resolutions tonight or tomorrow. I am right where I want to be. 

Over the years I have visited London and to me it has never lost its magic or mystery. It always feels like anything could happen when you’re in exciting London town. We are lucky enough to be able to house-sit for Greg’s sister. Like many Australians she has spent most of her adult life in London. Together with her Irish husband and their beautiful growing family, this is now home. Home amongst the tudor style windows, thatched roofs and the rich woodlands in this enchanting village hamlet just outside of London.

When in Rome we would always, without doubt, visit the Pantheon, often more than once, such is the breathtaking splendour of this former Roman temple. In Barcelona it’s the Sagrada Familia, in Lisbon the view of the city from São Jorge Castle. London, naturally, boasts its own places of reverence for us. This is the first trip to London for our children and we are looking forward to introducing them to our favourites.

We love food, and food markets. Our biggest regret when we left Melbourne to live in Sydney for work, aside from family of course was giving up the the Vic markets. Stall after stall of produce. Everything you need under one roof. The organic, slow, sustainable produce we prefer. From vegetables, fish and meat to the artisan producers and purveyors of breads, preserves, cured meats and cheeses.

Our first stop is London’s historic Borough market. With its 1,000 year old history these markets have evolved into a foodie haven. Over the years, it has become a tradition for us to stop in and satisfy our taste buds with their array of street food on offer. Today is no different. Greg and the kids go for his traditional favoured choice, the chorizo roll. I chose the Lebanese vegan wrap. We are only in London for a few nights so we can’t buy food that will be wasted and honestly we’re a little too tired to meal plan! We do however spoil ourselves with a selection of local and continental European cheeses to enjoy.

By the time we finish at the markets we realise we probably have one more visit in us before we need to get home and fade. Old friend jet-lag will surely stop by again and it’s a risk with four kids to push too hard, even without the threat of jet-lag. We find our way onto the tube from the market and decide to visit Buckingham palace and the guards in their red coats and bearskin hats.

We found our way to the palace via Green Park. For all its hustle, London is truly a beautiful city of expansive and beauteous parks. I never tire of walking in London. On the tourist trails the magnificence of the green spaces are never far from where you are. Which, when you’re travelling with kids is the essence of finding compromise in exploring cities. 

Our kids are quite taken with the palace and its pomp. Lucas, bless him, our seven year old declares ‘ … I don’t think we can go in. I’ve got mud on my shoes, the queen wouldn’t like that’. 

I guess that will teach me to let them run in the park before going to visit the queen. Kids though. I do love how they see the world without barriers. Of course the queen would see us if our shoes weren’t so muddy and we weren’t all in comfy tracksuit pants!

Next week …

Is 8 am too early for blue cheese?

Lost – our obsession with time.

If you made it this far, thank you! 🌷 Perhaps you can help me. Are there mistakes, gaps? Do you need more description, depth or explanation in any of the paragraphs? Are some details not needed? Obviously it is the beginning so the bigger themes of minimising, travel and of course the trip will unfold but I’d like to be sure I keep the flow. And this is a beginning, a draft and I will grow with it, but my friends and editors, please feel free to offer your advice. You can do so in the comments or via my comment page

Welcome back old friend!

Oh dear! A friend messaged me last night with a teary face. My previous post made her cry. Don’t cry I said, it’s good news. It shows I’ve cracked something open. A force, a flow that’s so strong it needed to explode. A release from a creative stalemate. Truly, it really is a good thing. It’s creativity in motion. It’s action towards not sitting in a stagnant state or not accepting less than what my creative space deserves.

Now, I could of course ignore it or I could take the ride. I’ve opted to take the ride. Creativity, you old friend – I’ve been waiting for you. And how I love that all of a sudden it is you who is keeping me up at night with ideas and words. You really are quite impossible to ignore. Trust me I’ve been trying, and trust me when I say that has not been working out too well. You truly are exactly what I need right now. Thankfully, I think I know a few things these days about how we can best work together.

What is it you think I should do? Write. Yes, of course you do. We often end up on that path don’t we. What? Not the book I was trying to write? The Camino Story? It makes sense to keep going. It’s the characters isn’t it? Doing real people justice, respecting their privacy while telling your story is tricky. It is going to take practice. It’s not the first step. And it’s simply not the time, there is a lot going on elsewhere in my life.

Oh and there has been this pandemic era which has shifted everything and changed the narrative. A narrative that frankly I am finding exhausting and rather joyless. Hmmm. And I think I’ve changed, others have changed. Perhaps my voice got a little lost in this time between who I was and and who I am. I had a little play on my old blog, Gentle Intention and a little play here these past few days, I gave both some long overdue attention. Did you notice? :) Cute Jimmy!

I thought perhaps I could write about my life there and tell an adventure story here. After giving them both a little energy here is where I’ve landed. It was easier to adapt a page, a summary, a tag line to fit where I am now. What I loved about gentle intention was its vibe. It was so gentle. I was so gentle! When I started this blog I was high on save the world energy and planning my One Girl walk. High vibing under the influence of some big world changers. I don’t have that capacity right now.

However, it feels right to stick with this blog and to bring that vibe from gentle over here. My life has a different energy right now. My children are older and it seems the older they get the more they need me! Who knew?!? My body has been asking me to change a few things too. My precious body that has taken me so far in this life. ‘Please change something’ it had been begging.

Briefly, I had a few ranges that while ‘normal’ weren’t normal for me. I had symptoms and while a GP found them to be normal for someone my age I knew they weren’t for me. There was discussion of some surgery for an issue that wasn’t major. I found a preventative health dr and have for the past months been changing a lot when it comes to my diet. Basically, I have been supporting my natural detox system. It was working too hard. Honestly, my cells felt stuffed full. Starting the day with lemon water, celery juice, a heavy metal detox smoothie, some supplements, following up with a more whole food diet and cutting out what no longer feels healthy for me. It has taken me out of a fog.

I started a run streak back in January and today it will be the 99th day. It started my creative flow. If anyone needs to get moving, to clear what’s in their way, the stagnation, I can wholeheartedly recommend a streak of some sort. What do you need most? For me it was to get moving, to begin the process of clearing some space. So I run a minimum of a mile a day. It created the space that opened the doors for me to address some other issues.

Anyways, as happens when you clean up your space you make more space. And in that space you get to focus on what often lives in the shadows. Living a creative life, in the bubble of my inner world away from the zombies was patiently waiting for me. And it seems it had an idea for me to begin to unpack.

Write a story for your family it said. Make them a photo book of the time you spent together in the campervan. This past year has been like no other and a beautiful bound book of those memories would be quite the gift. Now, of course that could be and would be enough but I had other longings. Other writerly callings. What is this blog? Where it going? How can I steer it with some focus. It will take some routine and a plan. Routine I have found is my friend, even though often I treat it as my enemy.

These days I write and take photos for a job. I tell the stories of what is happening in the setting I work in. I enjoy uncovering them and shedding light on the people. I give it a lot of heart. One particular day, not so long ago I realised I was giving it too much. Why is it easier for me to give more to ‘the man’ than to my own creative aspirations? I want to challenge this about myself.

My creativity flow has given me an idea of how to do that! Plus it answers the call to do something to make a difference. That difference doesn’t have to high voltage rock and roll this time. No, it needs to be gentle. I need to create something that is gentle and kind. Something that is uplifting and reminds us (me) to keep dreaming, to not be scared of what lays ahead, but to trust that I (we) have a say in that.

When I think about how I’ve changed, I think in many ways I have matured. Maybe, I am coming into myself in a new way. Perhaps, all the drive to find our way here, all the changes, all the fearlessness needed some time out. I needed some time out to absorb it all. The big trip we did changed me in ways I wasn’t ready or able to understand. Maybe I got stuck somewhere along the way and resisted changing or more likey it is all part of a transition. For a long time I resisted writing about it because I didn’t know how to.

I think I do know now … ha I think I do. Time to birth a new passion project. Alongside putting together my photo book I want to create a weekly post for you all to take you on the adventure. The Sunday Edition. It will arrive Sunday mornings in your inbox if you’ve subscribed to my posts. Each week picking up where we left off in the campervan from the post one before.

To be honest, sometimes, I’m not sure how much to share but for me reading the process or backstory of others interests me. So I’m laying the foundations out in this post. Also, I find it helpful to create my own direction and focus by documenting as I go. While I have never seen myself as a blog builder, more of a plodder, I truly did love how we lived through the camino adventure together. So much. And boy do I miss reading joyful news stories! I’m done with being distracted by royal gossip.

When you’re missing something a treasured friend once told me you have to create it. Create the community you’re missing. So I am going to create a good news story as well as a new story for me via The Sunday Edition. And hopefully strengthen our community here along with it. If there is anything you want to chat about let’s do that dear community. And tips on software or aps to create a photo book throw them at me!

Fran xx

Gentle by intention

‘Be gentle on yourself’ she said. ‘Give yourself kindness and compassion.’

Have I forgotten what it means to be gentle on myself?

Have I tread so far from my path, from myself?

Do I know who I see in the mirror?

Is the she who I see truly me?

Life feels a lot less gentle in these current times.

I am in a room with a wise woman beckoning me to trust myself.

Have I become scared?

Are my wounds bigger than my dreams?

I am still me, of course I am. She sees me.

Why am I hiding? Who am I hiding from?

She, the wise one, my preventative health Dr.

A healer who left emergency medicine after being traumatised by bodies in crisis.

My body is a little in crisis.

Perhaps, my soul too.

I can still heal.

Life sometimes feels like a culture shock.

When did I cross the line?

The one that takes you from fearless to fearful?

The one where I see more zombies faces, and hear more zombie speak than true excitement and depth?

Today’s noise exhausts me.

The news, the celebrity culture, the striving, the begging for space.

What is it I am missing?

Where is my private world, my bubble.

The little place I can do my best from?

My best is all I’ve got, it’s enough.

Enough to not need more.

The gentle place.

The place flowing with kindness and people who care.

The place where there are no expectations, just ideas and creative flow.

The place where excitement and dreams are the rewards.

It’s a curious place that place.

It’s heartfelt and it’s supportive.

There are beautiful words and interesting stories.

Security matters but trust is the rule.

Is that place here? Where to begin again?

It is never that far away.

It’s beginning.

‘I know what I need to do’ I whispered to her after my treatment.

I’ve always known.

‘I NEED to write’.

"You know all those things you've always wanted to do? You should go do them." E.J. Lamprey

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