Making friends

How and where we make friends is something we’ve been discussing as part of the English course I teach. On a personal level, as part of my online blogging activities, I’ve also been meeting my electronic neighbours so I thought it timely to share this link to a blog I wrote last year on the topic of friends.

If you decide to take the time to read the old post I’d love to hear your thoughts on the magic of friendship.

Michelle

THANK YOU FOR CARING

A very quick update to say a big thank you to all those who have taken the time to send me emails and enquired how I’m going as you’d noticed I haven’t blogged for a while. I really a10410992_10152931194254551_6878165051114676969_nppreciate your concern and am truly grateful to have such wonderful followers and friends.

I’ve been a little under the weather as I caught a nasty dose of the flu, which really knocked me about for close to a month. It took all my energy just to keep going to work and, by the time I got home, I wasn’t in any mood to blog, rather I curled up by the fire with my book for a few hours before heading to bed.

The weather is warming up, so much so that I stripped off the feather doona this morning as I’ve woken up the last two nights feeling too warm! I’m also feeling a lot more like my old self again and this week ventured out a couple of times on social outings.

Once again, thanks for caring. I’ll be back again in the full swing of blogging over the weekend.
Michelle

Ratatouille

LoveRatatouille. Those unfamiliar with the word may struggle with pronunciation and wonder what on earth it means. Several may think of the Disney movie where the main character is a rat. It would be logical to surmise that the word somehow has something to do with rats. Definitely not!

I love ratatouille. I adore the smell that tickles my nostrils and stimulates my taste buds as the simple, fresh ingredients, rich with colour bubble away slowly over a low flame. I savour the wonderful medley of flavour as the first mouthful hits my tongue whilst my memory banks simultaneously bring to mind thoughts of great friends and family members whenever I prepare this simple fare.

As I chop gorgeous red tomatoes I think of Uncle Gordon, a man of few words, but as kind and gentle a person as you could ever meet. Uncle Gordon was allergic to tomatoes so whenever I invited him to dinner, I had to be careful not to include it in any of my dishes. Susan, my very good friend, also springs to mind as, although not allergic, whenever we went to lunch would always order her salad with no tomatoes. Slicing up the zucchini, I think of Wayne, my son, whose aversion to them is so strong that he feels physically sick. Beautiful firm purple eggplants conjure up images of my father, standing in my kitchen in Darwin teaching me the recipe for eggplant and chilli bean which is absolutely delicious. Hot, spicy and a regular accompaniment to our curry feasts.

Food has a wonderful way of connecting us with memories. For me ratatouille represents family, friendship and love even though it’s not a dish we’ve all eaten together. Weird how our thoughts work!

Michelle

Ratatouille (noun) – a vegetable stew said to have originated in Provence, France

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

It’s already Australia Day but, where I am, here in my little flat in Ecija, Spain, rugged up in 4 layers of clothing with the heaters on, it’s not yet the 26th. I am however reflecting on my journey to becoming Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia, but then again, neither were so many others that call this country home. My entry to Australia was relatively easy as I didn’t need to sit any IELTS tests, apply for sponsorship or come on a boat seeking asylum. I am very grateful and blessed!

I first visited Australia as a 19 year old travelling overland from London to Athens on a bus, flying to Bangkok and Singapore to visit friends and family before landing in Sydney and heading to Canberra before eventually travelling up to Darwin to visit more family members. Little did I know that Darwin was going to play a big role in my future.

It took me a great many years to become completely comfortable living in a country that was so totally different to where I spent my childhood – the Middle and Far East – even though I went to the UK for my final years of schooling. I felt like a fish out of water for a very long time because it was so culturally different to what I was used to. I didn’t really identify as any particular nationality even though my passport said British, and I rather suspect, this was due to my global upbringing and not having a fixed home base. Home was wherever my parents were.

On reflection, I was lucky to have ended up in Darwin as it’s undoubtedly the most multi-cultural city in Australia, a real melting pot where everyone lives side by side and there are no enclaves of particular ethnicities.

Today, I most definitely identify as Australian and consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a country that offers wonderful opportunities and provides, a predominantly, safe environment for children, as well as a warm welcome to those who manage to make Australia their home, even if there are lots of hoops to jump through and things are not always quite as some of us would like them to be.

I applaud all those who work so hard to make Australia a better country.  I give kudos to those in our armed forces who fight to protect our liberty and our freedom and I congratulate all the wonderful people who have been honoured in the 2015 Australia Day Awards. It’s especially pleasing to see Rosie Batty, a domestic violence campaigner named Australian of the Year, her story is truly inspirational and shines the spotlight firmly on a topic that is all too often avoided.

Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends
Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends

I’m missing the Australia Day Ball and other festivities, both madcap and serious, but I will be bringing a little bit of Australia into my Spanish classroom tomorrow.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me. I am proud to call you home.

Happy Australia Day!
Michelle

 

Reflections of 2014

I’m currently sitting at home, in Darwin, outside by the pool but under the cover of the roof as the first day of 2015 has begun with a wonderful tropical rainstorm. The dogs, Janie and Mollie, are curled up close to me, one at my feet and the other on the outside couch. We are all enjoying the coolness that the beautiful rains have brought this morning, the grass is almost growing right before my eyes and the pool is overflowing.

If you’ve never experienced a Darwin wet season it is indeed something very special. The senses come alive as you inhale the unique smell of fresh, tropical rain, the humidity seems to disappear and the chorus of frogs sing their joy at the arrival of the rains.

2014 has be10410992_10152931194254551_6878165051114676969_nen an incredible year and New Years’ Day is a time to reflect on how blessed I have been. 2014 was the year that included Sasha graduating in February from Bond University. We used the time to have a family catch up and all booked into the Sofitel at Broadbeach for 3 nights which was just lovely as precious time was spent with Mum, Dad, my sister Yvonne, niece Ellie and of course Sasha. The graduation itself was a very proud moment for everyone.

In June, my Uncle Harry, the eldest of the Van Buerle clan, passed away suddenly but peacefully in Perth which was a very sad but his funeral was a family occasion which allowed a reunion and reconnection with distant family members and the Van Buerle connections all over the globe were strengthened.

July saw me relinquish my role as CEO of Lifeline Top End as the time had come for me to concentrate my energies on other areas which included, hopefully, living in Europe for a year.

August was the biggest change of all as this was when I left Australia for the World Club Crews Dragon Boat championships in Ravenna with the Waterfront Warriors team. After the championships I remained in Europe catching up with former collegues and friends in Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

I ended up basing myself in Spain which has allowed me to have precious me time to take a well-earned rest from the last three and a half very hectic years in which so many things have changed in my life.

It’s been wonderful to be at home for the Christmas holidays, fantastic to see Sasha and Wayne again who’ve done a wonderful job of looking after the house. I’ve also really enjoyed spending my birthday with family and friends, Christmas Day with my cousins, and now having my brother Robert here from the UK.

Myself with Wayne and Sasha – my two beautiful adult children

I’m very fortunate to have two wonderful children who are always supportive of each other and our family, great parents, a wonderful brother and sister and 2 fantastic nieces.  Although we might not all live close by, or even in the same country we are always there for one other and in a time of crisis can be by one others side very quickly. This is the gift that was given to us by my parents – a strong family unit.

May 2015 be another year of wonderful opportunities for everyone and I look forward to sharing many more adventures, making special memories and helping many of you achieve your maximum potential over the next 12 months.

Michelle

Friends

friendOne of my newer (and much younger) friends asked me recently how I managed to remain in contact with so many people for such a long time. He went on to explain that he’d always felt the needed to be in touch with people all the time in order to keep up a friendship and hence had lost touch with several.

His question made me think and this is the answer I came up with.

First of all we need to be clear not to confuse colleagues and friends. The relationships are completely different.

We actually experience several different types of friendships over the course of a lifetime. There are many types of friendships and the old saying ”people come into your life for a reason, for a season, for a lifetime” is definitely correct but it is only as we grow older that we understand and appreciate this.

Friendships occur amongst school friends, workmates and sports teams as well as within social circles that we mix in. Many of these tend to be of a transitory nature with only a few friendships continuing once we move into different jobs, sports or circles. Those we maintain contact with tend to be those who we truly have a connection with.

I’ve been lucky enough to connect in person with several friends over the last couple of months. They are all people who I have not seen for some time yet when we met again the conversations flowed as if it was yesterday.

A friend can come from any walk of life, and indeed my friends are a very diverse group from all corners of the globe. A friend does not necessarily agree with you all the time, rather friendship is built on mutual respect where each person can be themselves and unafraid to express alternate views. Friends also sometimes provide advice that we might not want to hear but it is always given with the best intention and these tend to be our friends for a lifetime, people who we know will support us in an hour of need even if they don’t always agree with our decisions. They are the ones who drop everything to turn up with the tissues, bottles of gin or whatever else is needed during a moment of crisis.

Each of the friendships I’ve experience have helped me develop and grow as a person. I am thankful for the experiences and grateful for all my friends far and wide both the new and the old. Through this blog I’ve been keeping in touch with the world at large and it’s those who take the time to respond by clicking Like on the Facebook feed, sending me a private message, an email or leaving a comment on the blog that make my day. Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime – thanks for sharing the journey that is life.

Michelle

Vale Anna Wellings Booth OAM

Anna. My courageous, compassionate, humorous and all round simply amazing friend is with us no more.

I received this news on Friday afternoon here in Ecija. The message pinged onto my phone as I was waiting for my class of students to arrive so I really didn’t have the opportunity to properly absorb the news. I was shocked and the next 4 hours of my classes passed in a kind of blur.

Anna had been on my mind a lot lately and it was only last week that I emailed saying I hoped she was well and not laid up in the hospital with some ailment or other.

You see Anna has had all kinds of issues with her health but she never let them stop her doing what she wanted – at least not until more recently.

Anna used to tell me her ailments were a result of a ‘life well lived’ – she had a great sense of adventure and was game for almost anything. Anna was resilient and always bounced back from whatever ailed her.

Anna was a do-er and could get almost anything done.

She had the great knack of being able to charm people and gently persuade them to do things they perhaps had not exactly planned to do. A case in point being that very first Field of Women that was planted in Canberra back in 1998 and then the establishment of Dragons Abreast ACT a year later.

Anna and I shared many memorable moments and experiences together over the years. We laughed and we cried together many times over the last 16 years – mostly we laughed.

Some of my standout memories are:

  • the trip to Niagra on the Lake where we stayed in a little B &B, sat out in the garden with a picnic and squirrels scampering around us as we dreamt of bringing the story of Dragons Abreast into print,
  • Anna tearing her hair out in Caloundra as she (wo)manned the phones and coordinated buses for 2000 pink paddlers.

My most recent memory was a visit to Canberra when I was there for the Lifeline Conference earlier this year.

I had very limited time so asked Anna if she would like to perhaps meet for breakfast at my hotel. In response, I received an email saying she’d love breakfast but was in the hospital so could I go there instead.

So at 7 am on a cold, wet Canberra morning, when it was really a bit too early for visitors, Anna and I sat in the hospital corridor and exchanged news for an hour and a half before I had to dash away for the start of the conference. That was the last time I would see my dear friend.

Anna was one of a kind

She always had a twinkle in her eye, was big of heart, wonderful with words, a diplomat and an inspiration to all who knew her.

Anna never complained instead she just rolled up her sleeves, stuck her tongue out to one side if she was concentrating, grabbed her walking stick and off she went!

I am so privileged to have been able to call her my friend. I am a better person for having known Anna – she was one of very special lady and there are no words that can adequately describe this amazing woman who was a wife, a mother, an advocate for causes she believed in, a gentle guiding hand, a wise counsellor, and an inspiration to many and an all-round incredible, irreplaceable, fantastic person who enjoyed a glass of red wine.

Anna, rest in peace now.

Thank you for friendship, inspiration and support – you’ll live in my heart forever.

Love

Michelle