Thursday, October 18, 2007

home and away

Harakeke in Dean House? Cabbage trees in Holmfirth? Palms in Thongsbridge? Ok so pampas grass in Honley is nothing new (oh so 7o's...) but since when did the Holme Valley go sub tropical? Given the icy wind blowing today I remain somewhat homesick and unconvinced.

The sign at the bottom of the road here says 3 1/2 miles to Holmfirth - having taken a somewhat circuitous route I reckon I walked at least 8miles today meandering round the lanes and footpaths between Honley and Holmfirth vaguely following old bus routes (the old 'long way round') and distant memories. I walked paths I've not walked in well over 20 years, lanes that I was reasonably convinced were heading in the right direction but wasn't entirely sure where they came out and followed the old rule of thumb that if you can see either Castle Hill or Holme Moss you can't get lost!

Walking along the footpath from Miry Lane to Station Road I was getting decidedly confused though - a case of not being able to work out where in the wood I was for the trees - and more to the point a new housing estate that I just couldn't figure out the location of. Finally I saw our old house ahead of us... chuffin' 'eck, thinks me, they've built here too? Quickly followed by "chuffin' 'eck????" Blimey probably haven't even thought that since I left school....

Much has changed, and yet some things are surprisingly the same - I don't think Wagstaffs have changed their window dressing style since Mum was buying us childrens shoes there in the 1970's. There seems a certain poetic justice in Nigel Hinchcliffe's old shop now being called 'Your Nuts' but it seems sad that in the home of postcards there was a decidedly limited selection in the Tourist Information Office and many of the images that were there (apart from the historic saucy Bamforth's ones for which fair enough) I remember from the '80's.

It's nice to see it all again but I don't ever miss it.

update - there's a thundering great big harakeke plant outside Huddersfield Bus Station too. Huddersfield Bus Station? Honestly, I ask you.... mind you they haven't half tarted up the inside of it too since I was at Greenhead. And is it me or is the piazza smaller than it used to be, or is it just that the trees have grown in the last um, ah twenty years.... yeah ok, I get it now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

food miles and whatnot

Well the world has gone tospy turvy again - I've been shopping... Nairn's oatcakes! unsweetened soy(a)milk! And wait for it... Oatibix!!! They taste just like I remember Weetabix tasting (and for you Kiwis yes I do mean Weetabix not Weetbix!) but they are wheat-free and thus Anna-friendly, woo hoo! They even look the right shape and colour.

I've had a few food miles/climate change conversations since getting back to the UK; when looking at the wine shelf I automatically looked for New Zealand wine and was feeling a bit disgruntled not to see any when Mike started telling me how they only bought European wines now because of the food miles (or in this case drink miles!) ah yes, hemisphere change.... It was great to be able to pick up a box of oatcakes with a clear conscience - sure they've travelled a bit further than the few miles across town as when I lived in Edinburgh but one heck of a lot less distance than the boxes that sit on New World's shelves in Wellington. Also one heck of a lot less distance than the rice crackers and corn thins I usually eat at home that come across the ditch from Australia - but I've yet to find a locally produced alternative so I've tried to cut down my consumption of them instead!

But when talking about carbon footprints etc it's hard to escape the fact that I have chosen to live not only on the oppposite side of the world to most of my close family but even at the opposite end of the island from many of my friends. Does my relatively low day-to-day carbon footprint balance out flying all the way around the world?

I went back to look at simon's blog post on climate change wondering if I could join his 'chain' but decided as my current living situation isn't exactly standard it would probably stuff up the next person to do it properly... but for what it's worth here is what I can answer! (you'll need to read simon's post for this to make best sense)

1. use public transport - well as a non-driver this has pretty much always been my main mode of transport! I try to avoid situations where people have to make car journeys especially for my benefit and fit in with what they are doing anyway - thus improving their carbon footprint by taking a passenger =) I also try to avoid making domestic flights when I can, which has meant many an hour spent on Intercity Coaches....
2. Food purchasing - well I don't do very much of that to be honest but I do do a lot of the cooking and so try to avoid waste, processed foods and use as much of the fruit and veg from the garden as possible
3. Electricy provider - I don't think we have a choice where we are but at least in NZ you know that it isn't nuclear! I try to remember to switch lights off, use short cold cycles on the washing machine (and avoid half loads), never use the tumble drier, no excessive showering and don't use a haridryer but have a dilema with computers as if they get turned off they sulk so they tend to sit on stand-by thus meaning they still work for longer...
4. Compost and rubbish - well between the compost heap, the dog/chooks, recycling and the woodstove we produce remarkably little rubbish. I filled just one bin bag in the 10 weeks William & Elizabeth were away!
5. Low energy lightbulbs - well we got double vouchers for those recently as I got a set sent too so we now have no excuse! But do you replace straight away or replace when the old ones burn out? After all then you have to dispose of the old ones...
6. Freezer - we've got them, they're running so might as well keep them as full as possible as that way they're more efficient (and it means garden produce etc doesn't got to waste when there's a glut)
7. Buying secondhand etc - been doing that for years! It's not often I buy new clothes (other than underwear!) and things tend to get worn til they fall apart or get sent back to another charity/op shop. I've tried to be really good with not buying books - there are libraries and friends bookshelves after all - and have got reasonably good at it! Lack of funds does help that though...
8. Economy 7 - errr, don't think that's around
9. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings - not within my scope beyond opening and closing windows/doors/curtains!
10. Heating - we have one room that gets heated well in winter, so we all sit in it! Otherwise why do you think NZ developed merino wool and so many polyprops and fleece products...

1. car use - see above, my main ouch is air travel not car travel and I'm trying to keep that down. (once I've got back home that is!)
2. supermarket shopping - we don't have many alternatives to Pak n Save (without driving great distances!) but I do try to get what I can at the health food shop, but that's not much.
3. Heating - as with many NZ houses we just have a woodburning stove, using kindling from the garden and the logs I think come from the farm, it being fast growing wood that needed to be cut back to keep the pastures clear. We probably could burn less at times but the psychological effect of a good blaze vs a smouldering pile of embers is a hard one to overcome!
4. solar power etc - it's on the long term to do list...
5. freezer - see above re efficiency and garden gluts! I was reading the other day about someone building a 'cold store' room which sounded remarkably like my Granny's old pantry with large stone slabs in theory, the thing is in a north facing wooden house in Northland no-where is cold in summer so it would take a lot of energy and effort to build something that stayed cool... unless we used the creek I guess but that seems a little extreme to keep the milk cold!
6. tumble drier - I hate using them, very occassionally used it in Wellington when B&B visitor numbers and bad weather conspired against me but can't even remember last using one for clothes.
7. house - I currently live with others and am quite happy doing so, in fact I don't really like living alone... Space, hmmm... it's remarkable how little personal stuff/space I can get used to living with on a day to day basis but then I do have the luxury of large shared space. Hard one to call for me these days.

So how about you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

a decent cuppa!

Finally a decent cup of tea! This is not a slur on the tea making abilities of anyone I've stayed with since leaving Kaitaia but on the lousy tasting water. I'm now back in the Holme Valley, where I grew up, where water tastes like it ought to and has just come down off the Pennines rather than through several Thames water treatment plants. Nor does it leave a hard water scum on the inside of the cup/kettle/your internal organs! Of course it's great to see Jon & Rachel again as well as drink their tea....

So where've I been since Woodbrooke... a couple more days in Brum catching up with old F/friends then down to Oxfordshire to see family. If it wasn't for the fact that my cousin now has two children aged 6 and 4 that I've never met before I wouldn't really have noticed the passing of the years since I'd seen any of them - more years than others in some cases (um, like 6?). So far with everyone I've caught up with since being back in the UK it's been like I've never been away, they've been the friendships where time doesn't matter and we've just picked up where we left off regardless of how much, or in most cases how little, contact we've had in between. I guess the time when I'll really notice that I've been away will be when I finally reach Edinburgh - a place I saw every day rather than every so often/few years and when I see children I knew well who are now at least two years older.

It's a strange feeling - in some ways I feel very much the visitor passing through but yet it's all so familiar - even the Cotswold villages I'd never been to before that we went for a walk through on Sunday. Of course the trees are in their autumn splendor and what else would you have betwen the fields but ancient hedgerows and dry stone walls? I've got conkers in my pockets again (must remember to leave them here though!) we had ordanance survey maps to follow, Norman churches to visit and Roman roads to drive along. The train north yesterday came over several 19th century high stone viaducts and many a house I've seen has stone rooftiles, rows of terraced houses in brick or stone are commonplace and when I finally get out to find a post office I know I'll see cobbled streets. All so far removed from anything I've lived with for the last two years...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre doing a three day course on Spiritual Friendships - there are 10 of us all together which is a nice sized group as it means there's actually time to get to know everyone in matters both temporal and eternal.

One of the things that has really hit me so far is how much I have come to take for granted the experience of meeting people in that sacred space within their everyday protective boundaries and how scary a prospect it is for some people to make such friendships. Someone expressed a fear of having made such a deep connection how do you get over the loss of it when it ends and how do you find the courage to start again with someone/s new?

I remember crying throughout the Meeting for Worship at the end of my first Questabout weekend wondering how on earth it was that I felt closer to those friends I'd made in a weekend than those I'd been at school with for 10 years. I thought of the time I came home from my first Holiday School aged 16, over tired, distraught at leaving everyone behind and being in a foul mood because I felt my parents just didn't understand the heartwrenching sense of loss when the event came to an end. I remember being asked why on earth I wanted to go to more of these things if they left me feeling like this, I'm not entirely sure I'd make a much better job of explaining it now than I could then but I like to think I'd slam fewer doors in the process! I thought back to the many Summer School kids who've told me they live for that one week in the year and the other 51 are just there to be endured.

I also remembered a conversation with Thomas at the end of WGYF, he'd just come back up to the office after watching many a tearful farewell being made down at the buses. We discussed how for us having been reunited with far flung F/friends at WGYF itself we could more easily accept that no matter far apart we may live in everyday life our paths could and would cross again and that that time would pass far quicker than expected, so whilst our farewells were no less heartfelt there wasn't the devastating grief accompanying it. Mind you I suspect the overwhelming sense of relief that we'd got through it all and it was almost time to go home overrode any sense of loss!

So what happened somewhere along the 20 years between that High Flatts Questabout and WGYF, at what point did that understanding creep in? I have to recognise also that many a tearful last night of an event has been as much about not wanting to return to everyday life as not wanting to leave where I was. How many times has the conversation been had on the way home from an event where someone has said 'ah well, back to normality' and it has been pondered as to which is 'normality' that which we've left or that to which we return? And if it's not that which we've left why isn't it and how can we make the rest of life more like it?

I'm not sure that I have the answers to the fears for whom making these kinds of friendships is something new and scary but what I can tell them is that those in their Meetings most likely to understand any such feelings of loss are those who've been on young peoples and Young Friends events. I'm appreciating more and more what an incredible gift those events are as they make such friendships an integral (even normal?) part of life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

shiny new visa =)

Yay, I'm the very proud and happy possessor of a shiny new visa in my passport. I'd been more than a little apprehensive about whether I was going to be able to return to Aotearoa NZ in November or not given my course doesn't start until January but when I asked the guy at Immigration how soon I could go back his answer was 'Tomorrow if you like!' Well having only just got back to the UK I reckon I'll stay here the planned 5 weeks but it is a huge relief to know for sure - having had conflicting advice given on it before I wasn't 100% convinced it would all work out.

On the train up to Birmingham from London I realised just how much I felt like I'd been holding my breath waiting, how much else had taken a back seat emotionally and mentally - I 've felt like I just haven't had the head space to deal with anything much else for a while now. So I arrived at Woodbrooke feeling decidedly unprepared for the Spiritual Friendships course I'm on and yet that seems to be turning into a blessing as I've arrived with no preconceptions of what we'd be doing and a 'clean sheet' to work on. I came a different train route than I've done in the past so the countryside was unfamiliar territory, but yet familiar. The course so far feels a bit like that too - so much so far is similar to things I've done before yet from a slightly different persepective, a different view of the spiritual landscape and ways of exploring it.

The train came in to Birmingham through Solihull - the place my great great grandparents and family emigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand from in 1879 - it felt somewhat appropriate to be going through there the day I got my visa! So I said a quiet kia ora to the place of my tupuna (ancestors) and reminded myself that no matter how long and tedious my 33hr journey from Sarah's to Sam's had been it knocked the socks off however many weeks the Hereford had taken to get them from Tilsbury to Lyttleton.


As we were coming into Auckland Airport I commented on having noticed some time ago their logo bearing a remarkable similarity to the Royal Bank of Scotland one. It has always struck me as being a bit surreal - the whole where am I? thing, especially when arriving from the UK.

So you can imagine why I laughed and pulled out my camera when I arrived at Hong Kong Airport to RBS insignia being plastered all over the airbridges and being greeted by a sign saying 'The Royal Bank of Scotland welcomes you to Hong Kong airport'!

Next stop Heathrow... more than a little closer to Scotland and yet what insignia and adverts adorned their airbridges and walkways? HSBC, ie Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Go figure that one out!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

getting there...

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go... well as ready as I'll ever be! For the first night since Ryan got here (Friday) someone other than me is on bedtime story duty so I've been busy putting pictures onto a flashstick to bring with me having managed to pack whilst William & Elizabeth took him (and Cammi!) for a walk on the beach.

Am I really ready to go? I don't know - I suspect getting on a plane will be just has hard this time as before although at least I don't have to wait as long to come back. I've packed plenty tissues in my hand luggage anyway just in case!

Unlike the previous two occasions when I've left this country I'm going much further than Oz and I'm leaving in the middle of the night not the morning so I've no idea how much that will help alleviate the jet-lag, but I've got tablets packed for that too... Somehow I need to stay awake in Meeting on Sunday at Friends House London - the presence of sharp elbowed Friends has been requested!

At least when I get there I'm staying with Sam - as Simon said on the phone going straight to another Tailby should lessen the shock to the system. But before I can leave the country I've uni fees to pay and other paperwork to sort out not to mention several other Tailbys to catch up with and a fleece to retrieve in Auckland!

Monday, October 01, 2007

to pack and not to pack

Aaaarrrrgghhh, where has the time gone???? I've got 2 1/2 days left to sort my stuff out and pack before we head down to Auckland...

Well I've got as much paperwork done as I can and Ryan has gone off to a birthday party with a tub of fudge still cooling and a plate full of pancakes (dropscones/pikelets) so I've the afternoon free to catch up on some headspace, odd jobs around the house and start sorting out clothes into piles of what to wash, take and what to shove back in the drawers... It's great having Ryan to stay but my world starts revolving around Lego, pirates and the 'Grandpa's Slippers/Cardigan/Shorts/Shed' books (in the right order of course!) which is not conducive to packing!

My cunning plan of take a little and bring back a lot is all very well but I seem to be taking over a fair amount not destined to return so it's hard to get my head around what is and what isn't - more piles methinks. Just as well Mim isn't here, her bedroom is going to come in mighty handy =)

It's hard to believe it's two years since I was packing up in Edinburgh - life has changed so much in so many ways since then and in some cases several times! There is absolutely no way in the world that I could have predicted then what I'd be doing in life now (other than perhaps the packing to fly back over to the UK bit!) and similarly I have no real concept as to where I might be in life another two years down the road. I'm presuming I'll be working in an Early Childhood Centre of some description somewhere as I'll need to do at least two years teaching before I can get full registration but that's as far as it goes - altho' I guess that's further than usual!

The last two years have been an amazing adventure full of incredible people and beautiful scenery. My love for this place has deepened beyond measure and I have found friends and whānau in abundance. I feel very blessed to have had this time here and to know I can return - I'm still not entirely sure exactly when until I've got my visa sorted in London but return I can.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone back in the UK altho' it will be strange to be there as a visitor. Travelling around will no doubt be very much a flashback to my first trip here making my way around f/Friends and family. In two years a lot will have changed - I've missed births, deaths and marriages, no doubt plenty physical changes to places I knew well and I'll be visiting friends in new homes I've never seen before. I wonder how just disconnected I'll feel.

Anyways plenty time to ponder that on the plane journey. For now I'd better go and start sorting my stuff out before my 4 year old friend returns!