A thoroughly English moment 

I write this knowing its going to make me sound like a complete princess, but hey it made me laugh!  

So I went to our office kitchen to make a cup of tea yesterday morning.  It’s a cute little kitchen with way more appliances than you are usually allowed in a work kitchen at home- for example,  there is a toaster.  I had two toasters confiscated by health and safety back at my UK work place,  so this is a huge deal. Obvious by huge I mean minor.  But it does mean I can eat bagels to my heart’s content.  Having a kitchen on site is also fab because there is only one cafe/food outlet on campus and it largely caters to the fried things line of food. Which is fine once a month or so but when you are paying through the nose go r food I’d rather it had at least one vitamin in!!  

Anyhoo…  This is getting rather rambly…  I went to make a morning cup of tea (don’t drink coffee,  makes me hung over,  slightly frightened that they may throw me out of Australia for this confession!) and I’m looking through the tea bags and they “only” have Earl Grey or Lady Grey. It’s before midday and before I can stop myself I’m thinking “well I’m screwed, no tea,  you can’t have Grey in the morning”. This is of course before I shimmied into my corsets and was told off for going out of the house on my own because it’s the 1800s! 

Fortunately I discovered a stash of Lipton’s teabags hidden in a coffee pot (cheeky!) which saves the day.  I did also go back after lunch and enjoy a nice cup of Earl Grey…  

In retrospect I’m not quite sure this is worth telling but hey,  how was your day?. 


 

The slow ride home

It’s all about to get a bit philosophical I’m afraid! 

I’ve had a bit of a case of the mondays today.  A fretful unsettledness that comes from reading too much (?!) of the news from around the world, worrying and feeling like there is simply too much to do to make any positive impact. 

Sometimes I stub my toes up against some heavy duty existential angst,  the point(lessness) of it all,  my own apparent impotence in the face of negativity, the sheer scale of the ocean of pain out there.   

So this evening I took the slow bus home.  And it really is slow.  It goes out into the suburbs,  back round near my work place,  out through another suburb via 8 sides of a triangle and then onto my road.  But in the mean time,  it also goes through a valley that traps the sunset,  bends and flattens rays across fields of cows,  wriggles of rivers and troops of grazing kangaroos.  In the background a plane takes off,  going somewhere,  nowhere, writing vapour across the sky which seems wider here.  Big purpley-blue hills rise up against this expanse and weirdly enough it helps me settle.  Watching a slow sunset as the bus stops and starts in traffic or along tree lined avenues, as people get on and off, going places,  somewhere, nowhere, something eases.  

Today might have been a fractious, unproductive feeling day but it’ll pass and tomorrow night be better.  That knowledge and a yoga class tonight and I should be back on the ball tomorrow. 

‘Pop’

I’m sorry about the radio silence. I wrote a long and involved post after hearing about the attacks in London and then went away and thought that that is probably the last thing you need. You know what’s been going on (if you don’t, where have you been?!), and the last thing, the very last thing anyone needs to hear is my opinion on it all.

But then it was hard to write something flippant and uplifting. So I went away again.

But hey, uplifting and day-to-day is probably what we need. I know it’s what I need. Something gloriously mundane. So here we go.

Saturday some lovely local girl friends invited me to the cinema. We went to see 20th Century Women which is a kooky, coming-of-age film about different generations. It made me laugh (out loud and loudly- but fortunately my friends did too) and it made me weep silently and hope my mascara wasn’t running. It also made me cringe and hide behind my hands sometimes- which I figure is a good representation of teenagehood in general!

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The cinema itself was also pretty awesome- the Palace Electric in Acton (http://www.palacecinemas.com.au/cinemas/electric/). It was part of a bigger building of restaurants, and possibly art galleries and a hotel. The ceilings just outside the cinema are pretty mad- lines and lines of wood, not all stuck together like wood flooring (I think I may be failing at describing this) but just…. hang on, let me give you a picture…

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How wild is that? I love it, with all the lights peeping through the planks- it’s a bit like a man made tree- the pillars as the trunks, the planks as the branches, the lights the dappled shade…  BUT that wasn’t the best bit about this place. Oh no. The BEST bit, was the bar, the PROSECCO bar. YUP.

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They do serve things other than prosecco, but you can imagine my joy at discovering this. Particularly as prosecco is less common here because it has to come all the way from Italy and there is a big push to buy local wines (understandably) which tends to mean more reds and sweeter whites which I’m less keen on. Understandably, I availed myself of the beverages on offer here which I think served to make the film experience that little bit sweeter… but of course.

Curiouser and Curiouser…

So yesterday I test drove our medical insurance with a visit to the GP. Nothing exciting going on just thought it might be a good idea to get registered and I had a couple of questions. In the UK, as you’ll know, you register with a doctor whose catchment area you fall into, here its like “pick a doctors, any doctor” and they all cost pretty much the same. But they all cost… about $80-90 per appointment (and that’s just a standard appointment not a long one which can go up to $150 or more). I was ready for that (and was pretty sure that my fancy new $210 per month (PER MONTH) medical insurance covered the costs (and I have no excess- win!)). What I wasn’t ready for was the bargaining over the cost of medication. I take medication everyday and whilst I got a couple of months supply (as many as I was allowed) from the UK I knew I would need to get a prescription here for that. Turns out that that medication actually costs less here because it is so old its practically the price of smarties (which is kind of awesome as a person who needs it regularly!). I also wanted to ask about the pill (this is probably TMI but we’re all adults here… I have PCOs and apparently its good for evening out your hormones (as well as contraception)- which sounds like a win to someone whose body has apparently no capacity to regulate itself!!). Turns out the price of different pills ranges HUGELY. Now I used to live in Wales where prescriptions are free, yes free. Then I moved back to England at a time when contraception was free for under 25s and then I had other options that meant I didn’t have to pay either. So this came as a bit of a shock to me. Not that medication can be expensive, I used to work in a doctor’s surgery in the UK, but just how much they vary for what is, ostensibly, the same thing. I had my eye on a particular version of the pill which is apparently particularly good for PCOs, called Yaz. Turns out that is one of the newer, and hence more expensive ones. If I got your bog standard old pill its about $13.00 a pack (I think per pack…), for the ones that I want it is, of course, $65.00 a pack. I need a lie down. Lets presume I take one pack a month (which is kind of the idea here) that’s a solid $780.00 a year! Jeez! However, I was then in for another surprise- I figured I’d go for the better more expensive medication because it’s medication and I have medical insurance. So the doctor popped out of her office along the corridor and got me two packets of samples, samples, like I was trying out a new face cream or something! Madness. Anyways, I was thrilled to save myself (or my insurance company) the equivalent of $130 so I said ‘thank you very much’ and pottered happily out of the office and paid my $90 appointment fee.

I then went to the local branch of my medical insurance firm to find out how one goes about claiming back the costs. After a bit of wrangling with the guy who was serving me we worked it out (the type of insurance I am on is different from most because of my visa type… or something) and he agreed that the company would reimburse me for the same amount as medicare does (which is the Australian sort of equivalent to the NHS- a sort of government medical insurance)… this made me wonder what the point of having the insurance was. So I asked him to clarify if I could self-refer to a dietician (which is something the doctor had suggested to check up on the effects of my meds) and he pointed out that despite the expensiveness of my cover and that fact that it said it covered all hospital and all out of hospital care, this was not in fact the case. It didn’t cover: dentist, physio, nutrition, eye-care, prescriptions or… in fact anything that we could be covered by on medicare- FOR FREE (the UK has a reciprocal health agreement with Australia so this is not the case for all people on my kind of visa). I asked the medical insurance guy what on the earth I was paying the $210 a month for then and he kind of shrugged but told me if I wanted to add the bells and whistles to my policy then I could do so for a cool $600 per month. ARGH!

Long story short (sorry I lie, this isn’t short), I am planning on cancelling our insurance ASAP and putting the money in a separate bank account for us to use for any medical costs that might not be covered by Medicare. I know that as Brits we have free access to all hospital care (excepting things like IVF and organ transplants which I totally understand) and frankly I don’t think we are going to regularly spend more than $200 in a month on doctors visits (especially as the recovered costs for doctors visits is the same with medicare as with the insurance).

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And… Go!

I’m back in Canberra and my other half is back in the UK for another couple of weeks. And life is back on, full tilt, full speed ahead.

After doing back to back laundry for a day and one night of pretty terrible jetlag that saw me awake until 3am and then sleeping through my two alarms (!) I’ve pretty much settled back into things. Its kind of nice to be back. It feels a little bit like home. Sort of.

Tuesday night I went to the first of a series of mindfulness classes- something I’ve been meaning to do for ages and which an office mate pointed out to me (a steal of a course down from $300 to $10!). Wednesday night that same office mate came over for dinner and to discuss feminism and cyber theory… because Wednesdays. Obviously. Thursday passed in a slightly snotty blur as my body readjusted from the steamy tropical heat of Thailand to the dry cool of Canberra again. And today it’s Friday and my treat to myself, wait for it, is signing up at the doctors- which I’ve been meaning to do pretty much since I arrived in Canberra! I’ve never been to a doctor I’ve had to pay to see before… this could be interesting!

This weekend I am thinking of signing up for an introductory yoga deal at another studio- just to test them all out 😉 maybe catching some brunch with some friends and getting a bit of work done… it all feels so… normal! How surreal.

Koh Samui

*Apologies, meant to post this yesterday!*

Today we took the boat, again, from Koh Tao to Koh Samui. We’re flying back up to Bangkok from Koh Samui otherwise I don’t think we’d have come here. We’re booked in for one night, and one night only in a hotel in Bophut in the Chaweng part of the island. And, in all honesty, I wasn’t much looking forward to Koh Samui- its more touristy, more built up… etc etc. However, the hotel we are staying in is a DREAM. Nestled alongside a tiny piece of beach front, the hotel comprises a series of little huts (a word which does not do them justice), each one a hotel “room”. It is unbelievably beautiful. My other half said my face was an absolutely picture as we walked from the check in desk through a sort of walled passageway (strewn with climbing plants, lianas, vines etc) out into this collection of “huts” dotted amongst even more lush garden, with little streams full of fishes, and lanterns warming the growing dusk. Honestly, it’s like a fairytale place. Our bathroom (and I acknowledge the ridiculousness of waxing lyrical about a bathroom) is beyond words, with its own little garden area (inside!). We even have a day bed (in case the enormous double isn’t sufficient and a beautiful basket of local fruits. We haven’t ventured out into Koh Samui (and we have to leave relatively early tomorrow morning) so I don’t know if I am missing something even more special there but this oasis is the place I’m planning on putting my feet up for our last night in Thailand. Who knows, there might even be space for a glass of something bubbly. This will have to do for now as I dearly want to go soak it all up.

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Flora

I love the plants here. Green, lush, limey, draped, hanging, grey-green, succulent, tangled, spiky, rounded and flat…

They fill every nook and cranny, the crevices outside on the balcony, the niches between doors, hanging from old coconut shells, draped over windowsills, tucked in between hotel rooms, little oases of green, damp, lushness…

A little corner of paradise 

We took the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chumpon. That in itself was a pretty mad experience!  We had two bunk beds but curled up together in one using the other to store our belongings. Wedged into the bottom bunk with a curtain between us and our fellow travellers,  with the upper bunk grazing our heads if we sat up it felt like we were camping,  or making a den,  or something similarly childish.  And a bit lovely. 

We arrived after little to no sleep in chumpon at 4.30 am and waited for our 6am coach to our 7am boat. Admittedly at this point some of the “adventure ” magic was starting to wear off!  But the boat out to the islands was beautiful.  The sun was mostly hidden behind gauzey clouds,  and the sea was a hazey grey-silver.  The crossing was pretty smooth and we sat on the top deck in the breeze and spray which almost wiped away the sounds of the idiots sat a couple of rows behind us.

The boat arrived into a chaos of tourists,  resort stewards,  taxi drivers and mopeds. But only a short transfer later and we were safely ensconced in our hotel.  

Although it sits on one of the few main roads here (which gives good access to the local shops and restaurants  etc) the pool in the centre and our room is secluded. Tucked away and fringed with palms. Absolutely wonderful. I’ve mostly written this laying on a sunbed as green fronds wave in the breeze…  Nice.  

Oh.  Dear.  Lord. 

Apologies in advance this post may include TMI and some swearing! 

Tonight we are rattling our way across country on an overnight sleeper train,  which is quite exciting but not at all like the orient express!  

The train was leaving at half 7, so at half 5, because I thought was likely I’d have a bit of a rough night,  I thought I’d treat myself to a massage.  At 500 bht it was a tenner for an hour’s massage.  #win.  Or so I thought!!! 

The woman asked me if I was OK with a man massaging me and that was fine.  So the guy showed me to a little curtained off booth and to some prison pyjamas which I put on.  Then…  It began.  Now apparently Thai massage is notorious for being vigorous,  painful, and not as “aromatherapy twinkle music” as some other types of massage.  I’d say that’s the understatement of the century!! 

First of all I’m used to massages where they use their hands.  Massages primarily done through the medium of elbows into nerve endings are excruciating! All of the points my massuse was merrily digging his elbows into (leaning his entire boy weight into it,  just to  really pummel my muscles,  nerves,  sinews) seemed to be those weird nervous points where you simultaneously flinch,  giggle,  and want to throw up.  And it was like that.  For the whole hour.  At at least three points I was genuinely concerned I was actually going to vomit. Genuinely, I’m not saying this for laughs.  I certainly wasn’t laughing.  Initially I thought maybe I just had particularly tight muscles in my thighs and that it would get better when he got to my back,  my neck,  or my arms. It didn’t. And being supremely British and more than slightly uncomfortable with the language barrier I clenched my fists,  limited my breathing and curled as far into myself as humanly possible.  

The other thing about Thai massages is that they really get stuck in.  I can safely say that I have never had a man who was not my significant other (or something to that effects) ferreting around quite so…  Intimately!  I’m not trying to imply the massuse was unprofessional or that there was anything untoward about his manner but jeeeeeez! When I’ve had massages that go up the thighs they stop several miles south of this dude!  And it’s not just hands! When he wasn’t elbowing me painfully in the thighs,  hips… Groin,  he stuck his feet right on the inside of my hip sockets and pulled my legs by the ankle like he was trying to dismember me!! 

Now,  I like to think I’m reasonably supple,  I go to yoga,  I can touch my toes,  I can cross my legs (like you do in school assembly when you sit on the floor) and lean forward over them without breaking a sweat.  What I cannot do,  or could not and now probably can(!), is have one leg over an ear and the other bent the wrong way across my back. 

So for an hour I am tortured by this sweet guy who works hard to get out all the knots in my back,  to get his elbow wedged under my rib cage and massage my diaphragm from underneath,  to encourage my spine to become a double helix,  who occasionally plants his feet firmly (where a gynocologist treats with gentleness) and leans his entire body weight into the futile attempt to dislocate my hip joints.  

It was delightful…. Or perhaps not. 

I have never been so pleased that an hour had passed!!! I staggered out, feeling baffled and somewhat violated,  bowing my thanks to my masseuse and I look forward to being a veritable raspberry ripple of bruises for our long weekend at the beach!!