Posts Tagged ‘life changing events’

19 years ago today, 08/10/2001 I embarked on what was to be a life changing event, and the adventure of a lifetime.

A few months earlier a number of events converged and conspired to change the course of my life.

The company I was working for in South Africa went into liquidation in July, and although I worked for the liquidators for 3 months, I was officially unemployed from end September.

In August, my daughter reached the grand age of 21….in South Africa, this is a milestone birthday and she was now an adult for real, and I gave her the ‘key to the door’. This is a symbolic key, and really means that now she was entirely responsible for herself and her life….

My younger sister, who was at the time living and working in Ireland as an IT Specialist, with her husband, was about to reach a milestone birthday too….the grand age of 30 in October!! ☺☺☺ She asked if someone in the family could fly over to help her celebrate, and since I had no responsibilities, I said YES!! I’ll come…

And so it came to pass that on 8th October 2001, just one month after 9/11 I flew from South Africa to Ireland.

I almost didn’t get to fly over across the seas to Ireland as the airline I was due to travel with; SWISSAIR had their planes grounded due to financial difficulties. Fortunately South African Airways aka SAA was linked to SWISSAIR and they made accommodation for all the stranded passengers and I was lucky enough to leave at the exact time of my intended flight.

Leaving South Africa on an overseas flight for the first time in my life was both thrilling and terrifying….would I find my way around the airports – we flew overnight into Zurich where I had to change flights…terror LOL. But I managed alright and even found time to have a hot chocolate and pastry…and Swiss Chocolate 😃😃

I sent a postcard to my daughter from the airport and I remember walking past the postbox 3 times before someone showed me exactly where it was, it was green – I was expecting a red postbox. 🤣🤣🤣 I have learned so much since then.

From Zurich we flew over Europe and I cried nearly the whole way….as someone with a keen interest in history and particularly WW2, all I could think about was what had happened in those skies 60 odd years ago, and in the cities below. It was heartbreaking.

Finally we arrived at the City of London Airport where I had to take first a bus to a tube station and then the tube to Heathrow….my mind was expanding at a rate of knots 🤪🤪🤪 I can’t tell you how much I learned in those first few hours. I had to ask, absorb, remember and retain, and follow more information in a short period of time than I had ever in my preceding 46 years…

On my way to Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line, I remember exiting the underground near Hounslow and seeing all the houses and the chimneys….as a huge fan of Mary Poppins I was immediately smitten by the chimney pots and the tall houses and thought to myself “I could live here”. And now I am….to my everlasting surprise. I never in my life imagined ever living in another country other than South Africa.

I flew from Heathrow to Dublin and arrived in Ireland on my sister’s birthday 😃😃 Lots of hugs and kisses and high excitement ensued.

Loved Ireland. So much so that when the time came to return to South Africa in December, I didn’t go back. I stayed on for another 2 months till justbeforemy visa expired, then returned to London, spent a week there obtaining the relevant paperwork that would enable me to obtain my Ancestral Visa….I had already decided by then that I wanted to relocate to the UK/Ireland.

The 6 months I spent in Ireland were some of the happiest of my life and I wanted more. We had so many amazing adventures and travelled the length and breadth of the island visiting so many wonderful places.

I flew back to South Africa in March of 2002, and by 22nd April 2002 I was back in Ireland having sold my car (to my daughter) put my house on the market for sale and my possessions into storage. My daughter moved in with her then boyfriend once the house was sold and I settled into my new life in the UK….and I have never looked back. I have never had a day’s homesickness or yearning to return to SA.

In the 18 years since I’ve lived here, I’ve obtained my British citizenship, travelled extensively in the UK: been to just about all the English counties, Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland and a number of UK islands, innumerable times to Ireland, America 4 times, Iceland, France: Paris, Versailles & Calais, Italy: Venice, Verona, Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, Lucca and Sienna, been to Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels and Gibraltar, Portugal and Spain.

I’ve walked on fire, climbed halfway up Mount Snowdon, flown over London in a helicopter (a gift from my daughter for my 60th birthday), had a flight along the Kent coast in a Spitfire in 2018 (another birthday gift from my daughter 😍) – the same year I got the wonderful news I was to become a Granny 😊. I’ve taken part in the Tudor Pull, travelled on the Trinity Tide, travelled through Paris in a soft-top convertible (a gift from my daughter for my 50th birthday), enjoyed numerous steam train journeys, explored 85% of the streets, lanes and alleyways of the City of London, attended all the major London annual/traditional events and commemorations, travelled on the Eurostar to Paris and a ferry to Calais, I’ve become a long-distance walker with 4 named walks behind me: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, St Augustine’s Way, the Portuguese Camino and the Pilgrim’s Way, and yesterday I walked across the top of the White Cliffs of Dover – so now I’ve seen the cliffs from the sea, the air and walked across the top!! 👏👏👏😀😀 I’ve visited 146 places named in the Domesday Book, and hundreds of churches, and participated in an archaeological dig in London, and obtained my British citizenship in 2016.

My current goal is to walk the full England Coast Path and the Welsh coastline (a long term project I started on 22nd September this year) – it’ll take about 6 years to complete.

Because I had been to so many places I set up Project 101 with the goal of visiting or seeing 101 different categories.

Best of all my beloved daughter joined me in the UK in 2003 and is now happily married and has a baby boy – so I am now a Granny….the ultimate.

Always believe

I’ve learned how to blog 🤪🤪, built a small business and an app, wrote a book and had some poems published. I learned how to create videos and use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter…although I’m no longer on the two last platforms.

I’ve been on protest marches and attended the 2012 London Olympics, voted in elections, voiced my opinions about the government 🤣🤣🤣 and the weather….always a good topic of conversation, and tonight in celebration we had a right proper British meal; fish and chips 😋😋😋

When I first arrived in 2001 I hardly said a word to anyone, especially strangers, now I talk to everyone and anyone….wherever I go and as a result I’ve met some wonderful people, many of whom are now close friends.

3 events in 2001 conspired to send me on an unimagined path and the adventures of a lifetime. Happy 19th anniversary of a new and very different life to me 🥂🍾🎉🎊🎈🎈🎈and of course a very happy birthday to my sister 😍😍🥂🍾🎂 you know which one you are 😉

I wonder what adventures await in the coming years!! Oh, and next year I get my bus pass….hopefully 🤣🤣🤣🤣

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Heading off to the airport, bursting with excitement, my bags packed; 1 rucksack and a backpack, my stomach swirled and whirled with a mix of excitement and terror.

The journey to get to this point had been fraught with loss, anxiety, fear, hard work, worry, excitement and the thrill of setting off on an adventure to lands unknown…..loss of a job, giving up my home, fear of the unknown, the anxiety of leaving my daughter on her own (how daft am I), fear of being in foreign countries, worry of what to do when I got there, and how to get to where I had to go – the future spread before me and I had no idea of the adventures that lay ahead.

10 years ago today; 8th October 2001 = (3652 days, 87648 hours, 5258880 minutes ago) I left South Africa.   The first time ever I was leaving the shores of my country of birth, I was flying across continents and seas over to Ireland to visit my little sister and to celebrate her 30th birthday with her which was the following day (and also the day I arrived in Ireland).

3 months before this day, I had come to a fork in the road of my life.  The company I was working for had gone into liquidation in July, my daughter had attained the age of 21 in August (we had a fab party for that), and my sister who was living in Ireland at the time, as mentioned was due a landmark birthday in October and wanted someone from the family to join her.   So, since I would have no job from the end of that September, it made perfect sense for me to go.  There had of course been many forks in the road and I had gone on many a new journey in the preceeding 46years, but this was the first time I would be travelling overseas.

Getting to the point of departure was a journey of it’s own.  I had to obtain a visa, arrange for my house to be sold, worry about where my daughter was to live, sell my car, pack my belongings into storage, find the money to live on while I was away and pay the bills, fight with the airline that went into liquidation 3 weeks before I was due to depart (think Swissair), talk myself onto a packed flight with South African Airways, and spare a thought or two about what I would do for a job on my return……little did I know.  (and as I write those four words: ‘little did I know’ I am overwhelmed with emotion).

One of the most incredible things about being human, with a logical memory and perception is that….we can look back on events that change our lives and be amazed at the sheer wonder of it all.

My wonderful family; daughter Cémanthe, sister’s Sue & Joanne, nieces and nephews all came to see me off at the airport.  I literally bounced through the airport, both terrified and excited beyond words, so much so that I could not contain myself and as I bounced along towards Customs I jumped up and down like a kangaroo, laughing and crying at the same time.

The flight was long, and overcrowded and tiring.  I arrived in Zurich the next morning, absolutely terrified at finding my way to my next flight.  In the event I did and as we flew over Europe I was in tears; tears of excitement, of joy, of wonder, of fear and the overiding thought was that in these very skies the 2nd WW had been fought.  As a 2nd WW aficianado it was so emotional to think of those people who had lived through that time.

Next stop was London City airport.  How foreign then, how familiar now.  Finding my way to the tube; a time of confusion and fear. Trying to convert Rands to Pounds, thank goodness they spoke English.  First a bus ride and finally onto the Piccadilly line and I was on my way, one more leg and I would be in Ireland!!! Hooray.  I thrilled at the novelty of riding on a train underground, amazed that this was possible, amused at the people around me, the changing faces, the foreign languages, the suitcases and the fact that I, me, was there too!  I felt as if I was in a dream.

Then suddenly we left the underground and I saw the houses of London for the first time and I was smitten.  I often tell this story because it was life changing: as we left the tunnel I looked up and saw the houses and the chimneys that reminded me of Mary Poppins, and I fell in love.  A love that has never waned, grown stronger and as I said to someone today…..if I had felt as much passion for my husband as what I feel for London….I would probably still be married!!! (and no offence to anyone who is happily married, but I shudder at the thought 🙂 ), imagine all that I would have missed out on if I had not been single.  It still amazes me today that all my life I never expressed an interest in even visiting London and now it has become my home and I can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else in the world.

The next surprise was Heathrow.  A LOT smaller than I had anticipated from the stories I had heard and then suddenly we were airborne and my excitement knew no bounds.  The patchwork fields below me looked enchanting, then the Irish Sea spread before me and my excitement escalated, then suddenly the coast of Ireland started to appear!! And as we came in to land, I heard gaellic for the first time, realised why Ireland is called the ’emerald isle’ and whoa……there below me I could see a castle!  A real genuine castle, castle.  Alice in Wonderland had nothing on this!!

At the time I arrived Ireland they were in the midst of an outbreak of foot & mouth disease and we had to walk through a special fluid to clean our shoes.  That was quite symbolic for me as I felt like I was starting with a clean slate. (I know, I know, but it makes sense to me!).  The Customs man waved me through, but I stopped and asked him to stamp my passport…..duh!!!  My third stamp in 24 hours.  Meeting up with my beloved sister and brother-in-law was out of this world.  The joy I felt at being there, seeing them again was beyond words.  My head was buzzing with all the new experiences I was having.

The next 24 hours were just beyond description….and I never went home!

Since that day I have travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, visited and stayed in hundreds of  villages, dozens of towns and many cities of England, Scotland & Wales, visited dozens of islands and 2 continents, been to America (3 times), Venice, Verona and Sirmione, Paris and Versailles, Amsterdam & Gouda, Bruges & Damme, Gibraltar and been on a cruise to the Bahamas.  I have explored medieaval forts and towers, meandered through Castles, Abbeys, Cathedrals, Churches, world-famous Universities and two Roman amphitheatre’s.  Walked on a Roman road in the crypt of a church, visited many other crypts and a 5,000 year old burial mound, the sites of significant historical battles, a medieaval Tower and Palaces, seen the Queen of England (a live one!), walked in the footsteps of a beloved Princess, Winston Churchill, Christopher Wren, Oscar Wilde, Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Kings and Queens, Dukes and Duchesses, and watched the Royal Wedding of a future King and Queen from close proximity on The Mall in London.  I have participated in and watched ancient parades and ceremonies, waded barefoot in the Irish Sea, the English Channel, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic ocean on the other side of the world, seen the Crown jewels of England, the crow’s nest of Shackleton’s ship, and sat on the seat where Alexander Pope rested and Walter Raleigh planned his round the world trips.  Seen the Atlas mountains, the Swiss Alps, the Sahara desert, and the Grand Canyon from the air, walked on fire, tramped along jurassic cliffs and historic tunnels, clambered through caves and grottos, travelled on planes, trains, boats and a barge, the Eurostar, a limosine and a horse & carriage in New York, in a soft-top Cadillac in Paris, a riverboat steamer, a ferry in Ireland, a gondola in Venice and a ship across the Caribbean sea, walked across historical bridges, been rock-wall climbing, para-sailing, climbed a 60′ pole and then bungeed off, had a white christmas, built a snowman in Hyde Park, and went sledding at Alexander Palace, had a cruise on the Seine and rowed on the Thames, been to the top of the Empire State Building, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower, heard the bells of Big Ben in London, St Marks Cathedral in Venice, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Southwark Cathedral and St Paul’s in London, St David’s in Wales, the Notre Dame in Paris, and listened to the sirens of WW2.  Stood on the most central spot of New York, Paris, London and Dublin, I’ve seen amazing sunsets in 8 countries and many more counties, and very few sunrises in any!!   I have seen world-famous paintings by VanGogh, Monet, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Rubens and others, ancient pottery and artefacts 1,000’s of years BC, medieval art and dwellings, stood on the spot where artists like Bellini, Canneletto, Carravagio, Titian and Tintoretto stood as they splashed their paint onto church walls in Italy that still stand today.  I’ve walked through the red-light district of Amsterdam, along the decking of Horatio Nelson’s ship, through the house where Shakespeare was born, the Tower where Sir Walter Raleigh was incarcerated, seen the bed where Queen Mary was born, sat on the couch where Keats lay dying, had tea in a cafe where Princess Diana once did, walked up steps that have seen the feet of Saint Patrick, pilgrims, monks, and travellers of old, walked through ancient Monasteries and woodlands, a Masonic Temple, stood on the Meridian line and the spot where 3 English Queens were beheaded.    I’ve seen red deer, hares and foxes, painted ladies and for the first time heard a robin, a cuckoo and a blackbird sing.  I have eaten key lime pie and conch fritters in America, crepes in France, pizza in Italy, chocolate in Belgium, cheese in Amsterdam, soda bread in Ireland, Cornish ice-cream and fish and chips with mushy peas in quintessential English seaside resorts.

In these 10years I have become an aunty again for the 4th time, a great-aunt 3 times over, been to 3 weddings and one funeral (non family), lost a dearly beloved (almost) father-in-law, travelled to South Africa as a ‘visitor’ 5 times, slept in airports in 3 countries I haven’t visited, started a business and learned about MLM, internet marketing, spread betting (still haven’t figured it out), learned about personal development, the universe and being in your flow, listened to world-famous speakers and bullshitters, been on courses that have altered my perceptions and learned about values and beliefs, read ancient manuscripts and The Book of Kells, had my daughter join me in London for a holiday and end up staying 🙂 made many new friends and lost a few, fell in and out of love and almost moved to America, lived in cottages, apartments, flats, houses, mansions, a loft, a boat and a gypsy caravan (none of which were my own) and slept in a tent on The Mall.  I’ve learned how to use a mobile phone, send text messages, use a phone in a foreign country (Italy), edit photos on my computer, to blog and to tweet, written 2 books, had 3 poems and a book of photos published, I have stood up in front of a room full of people and done a presentation and yet just 10 years ago my sister in Ireland  had to coach me on how overcome my fear and to speak to people I didn’t know 🙂  Now I can and do speak to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

From one rucksack and a backpack when I left my home shores, I have during the last 10 years accumulated so much that I now have 12 suitcases, 30 boxes filled to the brim, a chest of drawers, a rebounder, books by the dozen and mementoes galore, a postcard collection to rival any other and so much stuff that I now need a storage unit to store it all.   And in my heart I have stored some of the most amazing sights, sounds, memories and experiences.

I have done more in the last 10 years than I did in the preceeding 46, and as I write I marvel at the journey it took to reach this anniversary, and dream with anticipation of the possible journeys that still lie ahead.

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Long may the journey and the adventures continue.

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