Arran lists

While others did more energetic things I spent my first day on the Isle of Arran lazing on the beach. A perfect activity for my first weekend of maternity leave. True the To Do list post work and pre baby arrival has much still to be crossed off it – but relaxation is as high on the important tasks list as buying nappies, learning how to put the car seat into the car, writing a birth plan, stocking the freezer… cleaning the flat…and on and on… (breath breath). 
With an early start – and a taxi, two trains and a ferry we got ourselves from Edinburgh to Arran by around 11am. Getting away from home for a long weekend was the best way to make relaxation top priority – and the fact that we had sunshine made it very easy. If the days were rainy no doubt I would have ended up buying baby kit online – but with the sun out I found a patch of sand and alternated between re-reading Harry Potter, dozing, letter writing and my habitual making of lists. 

World Watching List
cloud catches on the top of Goat Fell
a woman talks on her mobile phone
a one armed boy skips stones
dogs sniff fascinatedly at seaweed
the ferry comes in, depositing more weekend visitors
children come with their buckets and spades and carry on the important work of digging
a ladybird and bumblebee visit me
a small boy is taken for a pee in the tall grass by his father
two swans bob on the bay together
cloud unsnaggs from Goat Fell
the ferry goes out
cloud gazing over Goat Fell

Of course I would not have been in Scotland if at a certain point in the afternoon half the island did not get blanketed by dark cloud. I held out on my patch of beach for a while – but was eventually forced to concede and go inside. Thankfully the sun was back out before too long and the weekend continued in the same pattern – brilliant sunshine broken by rain and then sunshine again.  I am pleased to report that I was well and truly relaxed and did almost nothing whatsoever practical and in the proper spirit of a summer holiday even managed to get sunburnt.


Sights Seen List

Brodick Castle gardens – including summer house, ice house and walled garden
Brodick Castle

Bee watching at Brodick castle

walled garden at Brodick Castle
Machrie Standing Stones
Dramatic skies over the ancient Machrie standing stones

small mole (or possibly a shrew)
seals – and seal sculpture
much bird life
Lochranza Castle and bay
Lochranza in the sunshine

a fisherman and Lochranza castle
Arran Distillery
hairy coos

pretty island villages


On loving Paul Simon’s Graceland

Graceland, Memphis – Tennessee

When I was in America in 2008 I visited Graceland. I am aware of Elvis Presley and his music, but the real reason I was excited about going to Graceland was the Paul Simon song. In the hotel car park in Memphis, on the morning of our visit I put Paul Simon onto my ipod nice and loud and had a little over-excited silent dance party, because – I was going to Graceland!

Elvis image – one amongst many at Graceland
‘…following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war. I’m going to Graceland… poor boys and pilgrims with families we are going to Graceland…’  
I have loved the Paul Simon album Graceland for as long as I can remember. The title song evokes a legend of music, it is about a journey and it literally bounces you along the road. It was released twenty five years ago – which (if my parents bought it when it was first released) means that I would have been about six years old when I first heard it. There was politics around the making of the album in South Africa and his fusion of sounds was ground breaking, but as a child I did not know a thing about any of that.

All I knew was that the loose limbed sounds were joyous and different, and there were evocative words like cinematographer, diamonds, delta, Memphis and bat-faced-girl, mingled with energetic whoooops. The music reverberated with a beat that made you want to move and then snatches of stories would burst through – conjuring up images of people and places far away from my world in regional Victoria:

‘people say she’s crazy she’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes…’
‘there is a girl in New York city who calls herself the human trampoline…’
Of course I can only glimpse that child through the sive of my current self. But I know how the music touches me still, and I have no hesitancy saying that that little tape was from the beginning of our intimacy a precious object holding a special magical energy.
My trip to America was not particularly a Paul Simon pilgrimage, but the man, and his music touched various legs of my trip. Early on, I had an overnight bus ride from San Fran to LA, arriving in the pale empty city very early in the morning, hassled on the bus, with no sleep, already missing my new San Fran friends and my boyfriend terribly. I sank into a rather deep hole. With four hours to kill before I could get into my room, have a wash and a sleep I turned to the only thing I could think of to lift me out of my funk- I sat down with my ipod and listened to Paul Simon – and the magic worked. He pulled me out.
There is a Graceland 25 year anniversary tour going on in Europe starting this week, and I came very close to buying myself a ticket to go and see the man, but the stars were not aligned properly for me to go on that particular journey.
New Orleans – 2008
I did see him once, not in a concert hall, or at a rock concert but in a bookstore in New York. Weeks after he helped dry out my tears in LA, and I had visited many many iconic locations (including Graceland) I was scanning the street press for New York things to do, when I saw that the man himself was speaking at a bookstore.
Central Park and two mad hatters – 2008
I went along to the packed event and took a spot near the back. My hero talked about song writing, his long career as a performer and New York, and every now and then he sang. The legs of some must have tired, because as the evening wore on I was able to make my way closer to the man sitting on a stool with a guitar at his side. And at the close of the evening, while others had given way to the fatigues of standing upright, neck craning for a view- I did not have to crane my neck at all to be able to watch Paul Simon sing the Only living boy in New York right in front of me.
Paul Simon New York 2008
I have always felt blessed to have been lucky enough to see Paul Simon in his hometown… and although I am sad that I won’t get to see him perform for the 25th anniversary of Graceland I carry the music with me in my heart nonetheless.


Zebra Crossing

I have just had a little anniversary. This week it has been one year since I left Australia. In late May 2011 I had a lovely lunch and final round of hugs with family, friends and my very dear Grandma Ruthie who just recently passed away. After lunch I did a final check of passport, documents, camera, camera battery ect, then I had an early fish and chip tea and the lovely Helen took me out to the airport. And at the scene of so many hellos and goodbyes (mine and many others) I said a bit of a choked goodbye to Helen -for I did not know how long. Then after the requisite amount of time waiting around in the airport I flew out to Tanzania- the first leg of my world adventure.

A year is a funny thing. Sometimes we look back and go ‘my- hasn’t time flown.’ But when you are in so many different places each little bracket of time elongates, the hours and days are so packed with new sights and sounds that they almost burst the seams of your memories. A single day can have more stories than you ever get around to telling – that does not make me – or any other traveller more interesting to sit next to at a dinner party – I am more often than not without two sentences to string together, but  it does make it impossible to say- ‘This year just went by in the blink of an eye’. With all those memories different bits of my travels percolate in my brain at different times and for some reason or another just now it is Zebras that have popped into my head.

So this one year anniversary blog is not about all the goodbyes I have said in the last twelve months, or about how some faces are no longer there to say hello to in the future – it is about Zebras.

On the last day of my safari in Tanzania, as has already been gleefully reported I had my first flamingo sightings in the Nogorongoro Crater. You might think all other animal sightings would pale into insignificance after that, but actually just after the flamingo rapture there were still more mesmerising wildlife encounters to be had – we took part in a Zebra parade.

Nogorongoro Crater, Tanzania 2011

We somehow found ourselves right in the middle of a line of Zebras that went on and on. The zebra’s dealt with the intrusion of our vehicle with very little fuss. After a little confusion they simply re-routed around the blockage, and then as soon as they could they returned to their original well worn path. They wanted to get from A to B and we were in the middle of their path – so they would go around us.

Zebra Parade

On safari we had seen quite a few Zebras- but this was our first on-mass sighting. The orderly, seemingly endless line was a delight to watch. Often when you are on safari you are waiting for something to happen – a glimpse of a lion cub, a Cheetah attack, a rhino to materialise out of the bushes, and this makes for a weird combination of boredom and excitement. Watching the Zebras was not like that, we were just happy to watch, I think we would have been horrified if something actually happened to interrupt the parade.

re-routed Zebras

Part of the reason Zebras are so fascinating is that combination of the familiar and the strange. We all know what a horse looks like and they are beautiful in their own right – but these are weird horses – they are stripey! And you cannot help ogling them and snapping an unnecessary amount of photographs.
Especially when they walk in a long straggling line, one after another, after another on and on as far as you can see in both directions.

baby Zebra – on parade

Presumably this parade happens every day, as the herd makes its way across the crater, but that makes it no less of a precious memory. So I thought I would share it. Happy Anniversary me!

just another safari memory 2011