So, you think that I am going to talk about my adorable and lovable wife, Rachel. Well in a roundabout way. In fact I wanted to touch on the hit US series 'The Good Wife'. We have been followers from the very beginning and hooked but we don't have a set schedule every week to watch it, that would be so passe'. We record it on our state of the art box and then we have one of those cosy evenings in, with maybe cheese and biscuits and good wine or maybe nibbles. Its our version of hygge. The phenomena that will sweep in from Dan land that relates to wellbeing. We will be told it is something of a deep enduring heritage over there that might relate to the superior levels of happiness. That may well be a sound argument but I suspect a bit simplistic. However, it's not unique to them. I think both we as a family and many in the UK also do hygge. I certainly see my older girls doing a lot of hygge with their friends. We love to throw dinner parties and we invite different combinations of friends. Its good food, people and conversation. It is sharing in the pleasure of others and the small details as well as the big issues of our collective experiences. Its about the looking back at challenges and successes, the anticipation of the tomorrow but all embedded in a 'now' experience with people we have become to value and trust and those we are on a journey with to discover what friendship can give us.
Anyway, we were watching The Good wife. Our little hygge. Three episodes in one go. I will not go into the storyline too much. It does all the right things as a good formulaic series. One episode stories, an underlying unfolding plot with twists and cliff hangers. It has tried and test characters and moral, political and social topics. However, it has something else. I am not sure if this is something you have observed. The movies and TV is embracing the power and influence of women. The Good Wife revolves around a central female character. But there are lots of female characters, some have stayed and some have gone. This current series is building on a central premise of what would a all female partner law firm be able to do from a commerce perspective. So for us this has all sorts of spin offs as we discuss the merits of the story and plot and what if scenarios for the wider world of business and everything else. And what does it mean for our travels. What might we look for and ask of the things that we will see and hear.
So, The Good Wife, as a vehicle for our regular ritual of hygge, is good story telling, food, intimacy and conversation/debate. Then we realised something this week. There are two episodes left before this one ends and we go away for 6 months on our #familyadventure. And the last one is the night before we fly. So filled with excitement, fear and constant list ticking to try and make sure we have packed the right things but also left the house sorted. The sadness of leaving our dogs with friends. The parents. The children. The grandchild. Our wonderful friends. The recounting of underwear, just how many micro-bacterial fighting pants should one take on a 6 month journey. Will 34 books on my kindle be enough. Will I survive with 2000 songs on my touch. Can 300 gb be sufficient storage for the photos. Will I be able to actually sit down, have my last hygge with the last episode, with my wonderful partner and wife.
For fuck sakes lets do a hygge approach to trip planning and make sure that for us this trip will be about our big
Local places, local people, local conversations.
So this is the dilemma. I know we will be on the road for 6 months and that there are a trillion cultural music experiences to breath and hear. In fact I want to find the festivals and hopefully downtown halls and village centres where the local bands tread. I want to put the radio on and hear southern counties folk, although we are not there but maybe the equivalent. What do they play on the radio in outback of Quebec. I just tried it and it was all foreign to me, literally, its in French. So maybe tune into some west Californian vibe.
Anyway, I know that along with the sights, smells, taste and the local people, its the music that one has to embrace. But I am defined by my music and to not take some on the road is like leaving my personality at home. Yeah, I know, not a bad idea if I am not to offend the locals. But music is the food of life. So I have been re-editing my playlists to try and get that right balance for our road trip. I thought this might be a good starter as we are a family out there trying to navigate the highways and the low days. Missing our bigger family and friends. So why don't you take it for a spin and let me know if its a good choice.
I also thought that might fit in with the initial Canadian ambience and the long stretching journeys up into the mountains. But it is only a part of me and does not represent my diversity and eclectic music choices. So I thought what else would comfort me. This song would be for the times I need to remember what Rachel does but also all those other people in my life that touch you and remind you, that maybe music is the food of life but people are our oxygen.
So lets here some suggestions. The impossible task. Two songs for a road trip with family or your friends or yourself.
out When you set out a mega travel plan there are a lot of lists and in our case the 'what we need to do with the house 'one was more of a challenge. Well, we have successfully secured a tenant to pay the bills while we are away and we have cleared loft, garage and emotional baggage that has been tucked away in various nooks and cranies about the house. I moved my brothers ashes to the loft so he is safe and can't wait to respond to the next "so what happened to your brother" ...."oh, he passed away and he is now - me pointing upwards - safe and secure".
So today, I have been cancelling all the bills and sorting insurance and updating the council and answering calls to the advert for our car, which has not yet sold, so might need to go to storage.
However, as you progress through the list you come to realise that time is running out and the list is shrinking, which is clearly the point but the anticipation of what you have embarked upon grows. This can have different effects, it can be excitement or it can be a kind of edgy foreboding twitchy restlessness that can tip over into snarling and snappiness. Whats the remedy....bring on the 24th June for f**ksake!
I was going to log in and try to complete our Indian visa applications but I have been so frazzled by the sheer complexities of taking ID photos on my phone to upload, I decided to come here instead. How is it that such a simple thing can defeat us. If you go to the app store there must be 100 and 1 apps to do this one task, why? When you download them you discover that at the end of the process of taking the picture they want you to send it to them so they can charge you for sending you the picture. No, I want to save it to my phone so I can then upload it to the Indian visa place. Anyway, after some minor lighting alterations and perching Fred on a stool so he had no shadows cast across his face and the background was the appropriate white, I proceeded to take the picture. However, a 9 year old perched on a stool with up and side and back lighting, to avoid shadow, finds it practically impossible to keep a straight face. In oder to reduce the smile I applied stiffing gaffer tape to the rear of his head which effectively disabled the muscles operating any facial expressions. I left it on far too long and Fred now has a rather gormless grin and was unable to break into smiles when grandma arrived. Which lead to all sorts of questions, " you sure he's ok ". Removing the gaffer tape did reduce the barber bill, as the number one cut we had planned was unnecessary as he now has a bald patch at the rear of his head! I guess I should now go and upload the picture.
[its not the case I applied gaffer tape to his head. It just made it sound more fun than it actually was.....]
So, we have been clearing out the loft, cupboards and garage and thought we would have a garage sale. Now it turns out this is a good way to engage with your neighbours both near and far. We are quite fortunate as we have a drive in front of the garage and front on one side of the house a main road into town. Ours is a small town. So we have what they call in the retail trade...good footfall. In two days we took about £400, not bad. But what made it really interesting is the folk you meet and as they say there is nought as strange as folk, certainly in our little town from my weekend experience. Over the years I have both witnessed the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of some of our town folk at a distance and up close (as a Chair of a local Mental Health Charity). However, the garage sale brought new dimensions to this experience.
As Ian approached, my wife noted that he had a object under his arm, not the usual dolly that he will be often seen with around town , drooped over his arm. This was some kind of large bowl. On inquiring what had he been up to he said he was at the pet store. So later my wife toyed with me as to what I thought Ian had go that day. 'no, don't tell me he got some fish', 'no' says my wife. 'a rabbit', 'no' 'oh...a hamster!'. She nodded no. So I am racking my brains, its a small bowl held under his arm...' stick insect!!" . She smiled ' no but thats quite close' . ' you going to have to tell me', I said. Dramatic pause from Rachel ' a tarantula " . ' No ! You have got to be kidding!!' . So Ian, who is a sweet man but as some might say not the full shilling and clearly quite eccentric visited our little stall in out little town with his newly acquired tarantula. I am just happy I do not live above him.
(Ian is not his real name)
We were blessed with many other stories from our garage sale but I will save those for another time. Except maybe one and a more sobering one.
As the day went on the visitors slowed and I begun to clear away. Rachel had taken Fred and a friend to the tennis courts. A man approached who was out walking his dog. We are also on the route to the cemetery (its next door) and its is a popular walk for dog owners as at the end of it there are open fields and a slip through to a walk down the old rail way bridal ways and a small fishing lake. The dog was lively, pulling on his lead and barking. ' he seen that bit of bread on the floor there' . He indicates with a flick of his head. So he then lets the dog approach it and eats it, which calms him. ' if he sees anything he just barks until he can have it, eat anything. If I have chips I have to share them'. He had a friendly face, a warm smile and maybe a little bit of a...I'd like to chat. So I stopped putting stuff away and asked if he was interested in the wooden toys he had stopped by. 'you can always be interested' slight pause, 'I would like this push along ' . This was one of those little wooden boxes on four wheels with a handle that children can push but also put things in. If its my grandchild Buddy then he will usually end up sitting in it or putting all my pots and pans in it. ' so is that for a grandchild 'I inquired. ' No its for my niece ' . So I said it would be a £1 and he riffled through his pockets. He was quite round in the waste and not the best kept in his attire. He produced the pound. I said was there anything else he might like. He asked if I had any Royal Air Force things. ' well I don't think I have. I have some military books '. Then I remembered. ' I do have a book about the dam busters' ( now this was a famous air crew from the 2nd world war that launched a wave of daring attacks with round bouncing bomb balls on dams in Germany - a popular film was made of it after the war). 'its a recent book and my son was interested in the story. It has replica maps and flying instructions'. I guess I was bigging it up, not for the sale but I wanted him to have something that might be a genuine interest of his. He was not overwhelmed by my pitch but it sparked a story about the Lancaster bomber , more of an admiration that he had for the crew. 'they would be all cramped up and it was really cold in the tail of those bombers'. I momentarily had a curiosity about why the fascination. With hindsight I wish I had prompted more. I told him how I had gone with my son to see a fully rebuilt one at a local air base and a famous tale about a gunner who bailed out at many thousand feet when his bomber caught fire. He had no time to get his parachute. It was either burn or jump. Remarkably he survived as some trees broke his fall and the snow had built in large drifts and that eventually cushioned him as his descent was slowed by the tree branches. So we casually passed a bit of time and eventually he got out his wallet and duly paid me another pound. He seemed pleased and I got him a bag as he was still going off for his walk.
(The Lancaster bomber was a British icon of the skies and the 2nd world war)
Not long after my wife returned and as we cleared the last table together we noticed a wallet had been left behind. She opened to see if we could find an address. I only needed one look. The wallet could best be described as well worn, crusty and rather packed with what mostly looked like old receipts and bits of paper. I said I think this is the man with the dog. A slightly unkept man and little bit unruly dog has a wallet like this. She found a driving licence with an address, it was five minutes away. So she set off. After a short while I notice the man with the dog from the window of my kitchen so I rushed out. I explained we had found his wallet. He looked in his pocket and produced a wallet but said that he had two wallets so it must be the other one. I told him that my wife had gone to the house and he said he would wait here as his wife was deaf and would probably not open the door. I bid him goodbye and said I hoped he enjoyed the book and his niece would like the toy. I returned into the house, waiting with him to my wife came back felt like it would make him unnecessary uncomfortable at maybe the thought he had put us out - which he had not.
Anyway, you're now thinking is there a punch line. Well not really. My wife returned and I told her he was worried his wife might not hear the knocking. ' I don't think she was deaf, looked like maybe an agra phobic (someone who does not leave the house). She peered around the door and the house looked quite a mess, she had a wispy beard'.
Moments like those make you realise how privileged we are and make me muse over what meaning do people manage to extract from the daily moments and events they encounter. The man with his dog and the wife imprisoned by whatever woes the world bestowed upon her over how many years ago and he buys a toy for his niece and a book about the dam busters from a man who he has never known and who tells him a story about a rear gunner and never inquired ' was you in the air force then ?'.
So when you reach your mid fifties and you have a 56th birthday party, how should you celebrate. Well, planning to go away around the world for six months is one helluva gift. On the actual day I had a tea party with my four children and we larked around on at the tennis courts. But I digress as what I wanted to say was that setting off on a travel adventure when you are grown up and have a house requires additional planning other than just where do I go and when. What do you do with the house and more importantly two dogs. We had a cat but that moved next door a couple of years ago.
The house went up for rent last week and we had about 10 visits with hopefully a couple of those wanting a six month rental. So that will help with costs. It does mean that you have to clear out the draws and the cupboards. We also have a large loft and garage that need clearing. We have been in this house 10 years and thats means a lot of accumulated recent nostalgia tucked away in various nooks and crannies. . In addition we both brought the wreckage of previous memories collapsed into an assortment of boxes. I found a paper I wrote on leadership from probably 20 years ago. For a conference where I was debating the question 'Why do we need leadership? '.
Going travelling is a punctuation mark in our lives. Rachel has a new job and new ambitions. Fred has a big new school on the horizon. We have old stuff to clear out and maybe new things to gather from our travels. I have a stalled Art career to recover or maybe even discover as the first attempt was very hit and miss. Travelling gives us access to new experiences and a chance to consider new longer term goals. Who knows it might open up different choices.
As we prepare and clear the cupboards we find our past, my past exposed in all its glory and sadness. We become invaded by long ago stories and departure points that litter every bit of our journey to where we stand now.
I pulled out of my nostalgia cupboard display my old copy of Bukowski 'Notes of a Dirty Old man' (acquired in July 1982 - I use to date all my books back then). Inside the cover I found a rambling I had written and from I guess, given the dates, I was working as a psychiatric nurse.
...and these are the rules that we must obey to stay put in our boxes and we can't talk to 4am because you must sleep and a report lays on the table for people gather around to discuss your needs but only you and I know what they really are locked up inside of you on the outside an exterior so young and I see only sadness and we've witnessed your madness and converted you while I was never really sure...
I also found, as I cleared out old clothes, an 'Old Navy' casual top that I had bought when I did my first big overseas trip at the age of 18 around the USA and Canada. I recall buying several Old Navy items including some pumpkin motif boxer shorts, maybe when I was in New York.
S0, even if your not going travelling, clear out those cupboards and enjoy a trip down memory lane and use it as an opportunity to appraise the wonders of journeys taken and ask yourself, what if I accumulate another 10 years in these cupboards. What would I want that to tell me 10 years from now?
We made another trip to our wonderful and helpful STA rep in Nottingham yesterday. Having spent the good part of a whole day about 6 weeks ago planning all the flights. 11 in total and sorting all the logistics of dates when to take off, from where so we have the right amount time etc etc. We left on that occasion knowing that we had at least confounded my second oldest daughter Daisy. "yes Daisy, we have now booked the flights, we are going".
The acorn of a travel trip probably started about 5 years ago when I retired. At that time we had a camper van around Europe in mind. However, it fully matured last year when we thought Fred was the right age and Rachel knew she had to do something different from work. How we got from Europe to trying go around the world in 6 months I will leave Rachel to explain.
Our older kids have all helped in their own way, probably unknowingly. Daisy from her disbelief that we would ever hatch a fully robust plan based on years of hearing us talk about this and that. You have to prove your children wrong. Poppy and Chris (hubby) having already been off on a 8 month epic tour some years back and then went back to Australia to get married on bondi beach, practically in secret. They have helped with passion for travel, ideas and equipment. Not to forget Barney, who as a 20 year coming out of that sultry late teenage years at 18 took his gap year and went and spent year in Morzine running a ski chalet. At 18 I went off and travelled on my own around the US and Canada. So why could I not do it again. Stay as young as your kids and when they start getting too old for you, stay as young as your grandchildren. Which brings us to Buddy. At 18 months when we leave. He should have interesting grandparents and an uncle (Fred) who he can be inspired by to make his own journeys of curiosity.
So, yesterday we made some alterations to the flight plans, which really will not surprise our kids.
So today I gathered some more pics and finalised the layout of the website. Ambition sometimes overtakes hard reality but I hope that all three of us can regularly post. For Fred it will be part of the on the road curricula. Oh and we got the ok from the LEA. So from the 20th June Fred will officially be home schooled.
And we have added to the planning room. Picture to follow (on twittter feed). Its a table with some things laid out on it but its the what goes in the back pack table. Rachel has sorted medical supplies. Any local emergencies on route she will be better equipped than the red cross.
I retired about 5 years ago. I had been in the Mental health industry for my whole working life. I put my spare time into art, writing and photography with mixed success. I found that I had a great capacity to be idle and I would love to teach this to other people. The opportunity to spend this amount of time together as family in these modern times is rare. I will miss my older kids and Buddy and my close friends.