Things that I have learnt recently

1. When you have all your travel documents, cards, international cards, foreign currency etc in one big wallet. It feels as though your very organised. However, it sometimes is foolish to keep ALL these eggs in one basket.
2. When you are packing, try to do it the day before. Don’t do it too early – you will only find excuses to take things you never use. Too late and you forget socks.
3. Don’t tell that many people where you are going. The world is full of individuals that will insist you buy them things.
4. A postcard is a good idea. A very nice touch to let someone know you were thinking of them. A postcard is sometimes better than any souvenir bought in a duty free shop.
5. Try to be adventurous with your eating habits, but don’t put yourself on the line. Sometimes, its more polite to say “no thank you” than destroy your hosts lavatory.
6. Drinking in new company is always fun, it ends up removing some of the social barriers that inhibit our true characters. Getting wasted only ensures that you show the bits that you definitely need to inhibit.
7. Taking a taxi anywhere, make sure you do this with good time. The chances are the taxi is going to take a lot longer than indicated on Google maps.
8. The exit row is a great seat – on the aisle. Sitting with the bulkhead infront of you only leads to your hips being misaligned for a few days.
9. Jet lag – its inevitable. Just try and soldier through it.
10. Hotels always take their photos with “paradise lenses” Rarely do they live up to expectations unless you are prepared to pay a premium.
11. Chinese beds are VERY hard, and never have a mattress cover.
12. The internet is rarely as good as executive lounges or at home. Do not bother trying to stream tv etc when travelling. Just take a book.
13. Travelling with a tablet sounds like a great idea but, a tablet, ipod, mobile phone, laptop, camera headsets etc makes for a technical nightmare of tangled cables, chargers and adapters. Try using one or two. You never use them all.
14. Layout all your clothes that you want to take, halve them, then halve them again. Be brutal, because the worst situations that you think happen, more often than do not.
15. On many occasions, you will be let down. If you prepare enough, it shouldn’t be an issue – just as in any other situation. Grin, bear it, and don’t bother waiting for excuses. Because its happened, you have solved it, just move on. (and don’t trust them again!)

I like it when…

Someone is there to meet you at the airport. In fact, I might go as far to say as ” I love it”! There is always something great about a smiling face, and someone that has gone to the trouble to meet you there. Sharing news, plans and so on really makes the trip home that much more interesting.
Just arriving in China, there were three people, all with huge smiles and placards reading my name. They helped with bags, made sure that I was ok, gave me water, took me to the hotel, checked me in, and generally made me feel comfortable. I am pretty sure that this should be a service you can hire in any city. “Professional Meet and Greeter at airports” It makes a huge difference.

On the other hand, there is that time when you think “I bet my nearest and dearest will be there waiting for me, since I have had a long trip” well, in my experience, either they are late, or just not coming. Its hard not to get your hopes up, and each time its really quite off putting. Yesterday a case in point. After travelling literally around the globe…I get here and there is no one.
Not even a taxi. Cue 90 minutes standing on a bus with luggage, getting on a train, knocked down an escalator, picking up keys, another 90min train ride, back to the flat, open the door. Fridge dead, and rancid meat and fish make you lose your stomach contents on arriving.

I was up until 3 am cleaning. Still stinks. Still no smiles. Still no welcome committee.

Still pissed off!

Travelling again….

Well, its odd, I really cannot fathom why I enjoy this so much. Because at the same time, I sort of hate it. I hate the haggling over tickets, checking different routes, prices. Seeing which gets me the most miles, and the least time hanging around in airports. Which are  the best FF lounges, and want to route at least through those stops….its all really quite stressful.
However, not as much as getting my visas organised for China. Coming back from the US I sawthat I had no more space in my passport for new visa stamps, and China needs a full page… I realised that 1) I needed to get a new passport 2) I have no idea how long its going to take 3) I hope that the conference can survive without me.

To cut a very long story short:
1. It needs 4-6 weeks to be processed and returned
2. It all goes via Washington D.C
3. It comes back via the UK
4. It needs to be signed and counter signed
5. The forms and information are HELLISHLY irritating
6. It got here with 4 days to spare.

And then there are TWO public holidays during that period. Meaning, I needed shit done fast – guess where I ended up. Probably two days in queues getting stuff, including the Articles of Assoc. of my firm here, my POA of the firm in the US… among other things. I got it this evening.

I travel to Beijing tomorrow.

Oh and then there was the “forgetting to buy flights home for Christmas saga”…another story entirely…

It has been an emotional few days…

Sometimes its best not to forget

I still have not got used to the idea that I shall never see her again. I am pretty sure that I never will. Nor would I want to. Some wise soul said that no matter how you try, its very difficult to remember your mothers face. At the time, I sat and wondered, and thought as hard as I could, and it was true – I couldnt quite remember her face as vividly as I could, any number of odd people that have been walked in and out of my life.

Now, its as indelible as my name written on my gym shorts! (I found them, and 35 years later, and my name is still neatly written there.)


Death is nothing.
I have just passed into another world.
I am me. You are you.
We have been for one another, we shall be forever.

Give me the name that always gave me.
Speak to me just as you have always spoken.
Don’t let your tone become sad or solemn.
Still laugh at what made us laugh together.

Pray, smile, think of me, pray with me.
Say my name at home
Just as it has always been spoken
Without special emphasis, or trace of a shadow.

Life continues to mean what it has meant:
continues to be, what it was.
The cord of our union has not broke.
Why would I be out of your thoughts,
just because I am out of your sight?

I am not far,
I’m just across the way.
You shall see, everything will be just fine.
You shall rediscover my heart,
and in it, rediscover tenderness most pure.
Dry your tears, and if you love me,
Weep no more.

I still miss you mother.

On a sister arriving.

Twins

Our family, our friends, our consorts and acquaintances.. the people that see us every day. Today my dear sister arrived, with her family in tow, and it became quite clear. Just being near to someone, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are close. I dearly love Marion, and seeing her grow into this role of mother, wife, daughter-in-law, has been one of the best experiences of my life. All this, and over the past 3 years we have probably spent 4 months together – total.

Invariably we speak, exchange emails, notes and so on, but our bond is one that I am extremely fortunate to have. Because, even though we are apart, we are always together. The hubris and muddle of our daily lives has never been exchanged in great detail, but, somehow, we know what is going on.

Seeing other families, other siblings interact, I can see what a balancing act we have, and how cleverly my parents have taught us to maintain it. Not so close as it becomes a cloying, super-emotional, with each of us interfering or creating a petri dish of contempt, degenerating into a strange fraternal sickness. Or indeed the long distance relationship, bereft of real love or desire to spend time with each other, but borne of a sense of duty…

I see, and hear of both these types each and every day, and its not without a little smile that I remember Marion. My sister that has tormented and humiliated, but defended and loved in equal measure. Ensured that I have always known who, or what I am, whilst making sure that the little brother is looked after, or at least asked. It strikes me that, my sister is also one of my oldest friends, and indeed, MY oldest friend, is probably hers as well, since we all went off to school the same day, when we were two-and-a-half years old.

We have complemented each other since I can remember, and every day, I hold dear that she is there, with me, nearby, with a thoughtful (or thoughtless!) word, but always my sister, My Marion.