The Moon, Part I

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I remember you, moon. It was our last night camping in Algonquin Provincial Park. The trip had been a disaster. Who goes on a Canadian canoeing adventure in a hurricane? We do. British idiots. The last day had been beautiful, though. After three solid days of weathering torrential downpours, huddling under trees on clumps of “dry” land trying to not get struck by lightning and waiting for the storm to pass, it finally did. We were awarded one hot day and the damp clothes on our backs finally dried. We still had 20 kilometres of portaging ahead of us to get back the next day, but for now we were exhausted and drunk off the last of our dwindling whiskey supply, lazing in the sun as if the past three days had never happened.

That night, though, things got kind of spooky. It was the height of an August Sturgeon Moon and a mist had descended, passing dramatically across the moonscape at intervals. In the middle of a remote 7.6 thousand square kilometre park there is, of course, no light. Just darkness…and disconcerting animal sounds. That night we were working solely with the moon and our head torches.  I had bravely ventured to my tent to load up on more bug spray when my torch flipped to its red feature without me even touching it. Weird. Red light. Full moon. Remote location. Four drunk friends. Horror movie. No thanks.

I told you I was scared, but of course you laughed at me and honestly I would have laughed at myself at any other time but in this moment I felt something more than fear. Something gravitational. A shift. I didn’t like it. 

A few more swigs of whiskey and I went to bed. The moonlight was piercing through the gauze of my cheap Walmart tent. I woke up several times in the night to rustling in the trees and once to the distant howling of coyotes. Nature is beautiful. Nature is scary. Nature will eat you if it gets the chance. 

The next day the rain was back and we still needed to make the slog out the park. You don’t know your own strength until you have evacuated a lake amid a lightning storm and carried a heavy canoe 1.5 kilometres on your back over land. Honestly though, I love this shit, I really do.

Back to dry land, back to indoors and flushing toilets and running taps! Praise the lords of plumbing and sanitation! We four musketeers, we band of hurricane survivors, we ploughed face first into hot food and cold beers at a pub on the way home back to the city. Not satisfied by my plate of fish and chips, I had French onion soup and a second beer for desert. Of course I did. I’m not a huge one for a pudding and I LOVE French onion soup…and honestly in that moment it healed my cold aching bones. Things were better. I felt good. The inexplicable fear of the night before wasn’t even so much as a distant memory. 

Back in the car. I’m up in the front with you. You are driving, of course. Somewhere along the way I drained my phone battery. Ruth and Paul we’re asleep in the back and I wanted some entertainment. You were in one of those “eyes on the road, silently brooding” moods that I had come to know and leave alone. So I picked up your phone. What would have happened if I hadn’t?

We had been together a little over five and half years at this point. I trusted you. There was no reason not to. We were tight. Until we weren’t. 

After exhausting the usual news sites I went on Instagram to idly check how my latest post was going. It was your phone so I had to search for myself. But…wait? What.

A little millennial explanation here, but as you may have noticed, tech stores relevant data and when you click on search buttons it makes suggestions based on things, or people, you frequently look up. Expecting myself to be a regularly searched person on your social media, I found I was not. But who is idiouscarie?!! Um?! Oh, right, that girl from that band you hang out with sometimes? Weird you’re searching her a lot but like….okay. Curiosity…okay you’ve liked pictures she has posted of herself in her bra…right…really?!? Okay…messages. Is this an invasion when you are sitting right here? I hadn’t done this in five years. I hadn’t done this since I found you were sending muchos besos to a girl you had met in Colombia before you knew me. I put an end to it. But now? So many years later? Honestly at this point there really is no stopping yourself. So I didn’t stop myself. One finger press. That’s all it takes.

What I found I wouldn’t be able to call “cheating”…but I would call it “really fucking weird and borderline inappropriate when you have a long term girlfriend”…but hey, I’m sure that is a matter of perspective. I closed the app. I bit my tongue. I waited.

Drop our friends home, unpack the car, take the car back to rental shop. Tasks before talking. Always your mantra.

It was dark when we were walking back home. The moon was still full and you asked me what was wrong. I told you. You were quiet. We were both quiet for a while and then you began, under the light of the judgemental moon, to explain yourself…although there really isn’t any other explanation than it’s really weird and maybe you are actually a bit of a twat? “Bit of a twat” I could deal with though. “Bit of a twat” was recoverable. Wasn’t it? I thought so, but it was definitely weird and I definitely felt uneasy. 

And weirder and more uneasy it got. 

That night, I stood outside our apartment breathing in late summer air alone. Alone for the first time in days. Alone was a feeling that in that moment I craved…but then I had no idea how much alone was waiting for me ahead. I looked up at you, moon, for what felt like the first time. The first real time. Something silent but loaded passed between us. I understood something I hadn’t understood before. Or maybe even understood isn’t the right word for it..I suppose I felt connected.

I have counted the moons ever since that night. Right now 18 full moons have passed. We had five more left.  

The 18 Cigarettes of 2018

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I’ve never been a smoker. Although that isn’t to say I’ve never smoked. A few puffs held tightly in my mouth then blerted out up the school field at 12 years old, shivering in the cold sharing a Lucky Strike between two at a teenage house party held in an affluent Cambridgeshire village, sucking in a few drags of Christina’s roll-ups outside Goldsmiths College Library age 21, my synapses alive with literary stress. WE. CAN. DO. THIS. We did.

All of these experiences, while not definitely anecdotes that accompany the highlights of my life, were all shared experiences with friends. They are something we look back and laugh at. Smoking a puff or two amid a girl gang became something we did. Reading Festivals weren’t the same if you didn’t have a drag by the fire at night and god help the 18 year old non-smoker in the nightclub when their entire friendship group trots outside. Bye then. The choice between toxin free warmth and sips of WKD blue versus braving the British winter to stand with your mates in a chilly square cage was a surprisingly easy one to make. I didn’t want to miss out. I think all of our best juvenile flirting came in those grim grey squares, with romantic views of the carpark and the obligatory lightweight vomiting up a brick wall. Those were the days.

Luckily as we got older, the majority of my friends stopped smoking. Nights stomping the sticky dance floor at DeNiro’s were swapped for wine bars and tapas and I didn’t hate it. I’ve always been a bit bougey, preferring to bake a Camembert than order a pizza. By my mid twenties smoking was part of those “oh how young and stupid we were” anecdotes. Only for me, it was around this time that I began smoking alone.

Don’t get me wrong, the amount of cigarettes I have inhaled in the past six years would equate to a slow day for some heavy smokers, but that’s not the point. One particularly stressful summer, my second out of Uni, a time I expected I would have my shit together but absolutely didn’t, I smoked two whole Marlborough lights while driving down the fast lane of the M25. Rings of tarmac, rings of smoke and endless rings of discontent.  What.Am.I.Doing.Here?!

Then came 2018.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I realised that smoking is a thing I do when I think I’ve hit rock bottom. It sounds strange to say, but when I am in a deep, deep mental hole, having a cigarette is the only thing I can do to stop myself from crying. It’s like the bitter taste of tobacco and tar are enough to remind me that actually life tastes worse than this moment.

In March 2018 I had been apart from my boyfriend of six years for a couple of months. He had a new girl,  I had started having an ill advised fling with a friend and had just moved in to my own furniture-free basement apartment. In the first few weeks, the adrenaline will get you through, after that, you’re own your own.

This crippling loneliness, the kind you can only feel during the dust settley aftermath of a big, terrifying transformation in your life, THIS is what lead me to lay down $18 bucks for a pack of 20 Ashfords in the late throws of the seemingly endless winter. These became my depression crutch of 2018.

The first one I smoked that same night as I walked home. As I breathed in the horrible, throat tearing plume, it joined a less distinguishable chamber of utter despair inside me, they mixed together and then I blew them out. Gone. Fuck, that felt better. To be able to pinpoint something so horrible and to simply breath it out became something I allowed myself to do only when I hit absolute lows. Writhing in my bed, tearing out my hair, huddling at the bottom of the shower. There was something I could do now to put and end to those nights. They weren’t every night by any means. Sometimes just the thought that I could do it would be enough to calm me down without having to suck in the dizzying vapour poison. Sometimes, it wasnt though and I would find myself sitting on my front step listening to Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, cigarette in hand, quietly ogling the moon and hoping for a better day. 

The better days came and the better days went. One night I stood in the soupy thick Orlando Heat, looking my physical best and feeling my physical worst, drowning a double vodka soda and burning out my smoke to its dying embers. What the fuck was I doing? 

It was around this point that I had a worrying diagnosis that put an end to it for a few months. How could I be sick and sitting outside on sporadic nights inhaling smoke? I’d have to be a royal twat. 

That good motivation kept me in kale smoothies and vitamin supplements for the most of the summer, but then Autumn came. There were six cigarettes left in my box and one night, when I couldn’t make sense of you, I was back at my step, Jeff Buckley warbling in my ear and my teary eyes firmly fixed at the stars. I wanted so much to be better and to do better, I just couldn’t. 

I think the real low was smoking an entire cigarette on a frosty grey day outside of work in early November. I never did it in daylight before. The winter was rearing its ugly head once again and I had no idea how I was going to do it all over. Please, not winter again. Please. Usually my lows would come at night when I was alone, but that day the only thing that allowed me to get up and get ready for work was telling myself I only had to keep it together until lunchtime, then I could cry in the toilets for 10 minutes and then go outside and burn my throat shut. My mouth shut, my heart shut. I could keep it all under lock and key until nighttime. 

I actually hated you for doing this to me. But of course, I hated myself more for allowing it. I don’t think it was actually really about you at all, just the hole left inside my chest and trying to find a way to fill it because I knew I couldn’t close it. Or I could, but it took so much more time than I was willing to bear. So I puffed my time away.  

There came a day in late November when I realised I wasn’t the only one struggling. There was hurt beyond mine in a friend too. I gave her one cigarette and told her my trick of feeling the worst you can, to stare rock bottom in the eye, in order to feel better. I don’t know if she ever smoked it, perhaps it was enough for it to just be there, like it had been for me some days.

Come December I was trying harder. I was doing better. Suddenly the end had a beginning in sight. 2019. I had three cigarettes left and I took them with me to New York, and to London and to my family home. Christmas can be a hard time, a lonely time, and I didn’t know if I would need them. I didn’t. 

Back with me to Toronto they came, and like me, they were a little battered from the transatlantic haul.

The problem with going away is that you have to come back. I returned to Toronto to realize that my problems were still there and now was the time to cut the strings tying me to them once and for all. You needed to go. You couldn’t be a part of my new narrative.

The evening of the 29th December was my last bad day. So bad it deserved two cigarettes. I threw up in the toilet bowl. 

December 31st came and I had been fully prepared to smoke my last disgusting stick before midnight; a cheers and farewell to a bad year I was so ready to put behind me. But in the end, the opportunity didn’t come.  I never smoked it. 

I found the tattered pack in my kitchen on New Years Morning as I was tidying alone with a lemoncello hangover. I stared at it…sad and bent and flaking. Not this year, mate. Not this year. 

Head pounding, lonely but determined, I crumbled it between my fingers and threw it in the bin. I washed my hands clean and I started again. 

Goodbye, old friend. I won’t miss you. 

30 Things I Know Now

 

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I am tired but I am happy. I woke up at 5.30am and hugged my sister goodbye as she left for the airport. The goodbyes are always fucking awful, but they only happen because I am lucky enough to have hellos.  I know that now.

I am tired because I spent the weekend celebrating my birthday.  A big birthday. My 30th birthday.  14 of my friends, including my sister who made the transatlantic journey to be with me, came away to a snowy cottage in Ontario, Canada. It was beautiful. We ate, we hiked, we drank and we danced as we collectively welcomed in the next BECADE.  Yes. Becade. I’m running with that.

My life isn’t as I imagined it would be at 30 years old. Sure. But it is great. It is great and I have learned so much and feel happier and healthier than I ever did at 21. Every person’s journey is different… but here are 30 of the most valuable things I have learned from then to now.

30 – Ask for help when you need it.

29 – Very few people will argue with a smile. If they do, they probably aren’t worth the argument.

28 – You don’t really need more than four alcoholic drinks on a night out. Oh, and shots are ALWAYS a bad idea. For me, anyway.

27 –  Drink lots of water. I can’t stress how important this is. You will look better and feel better.

26 –  I used to think people were twats when they said things like “you are what you eat”, but it turns out it is true. What you eat can and will affect your mood. Don’t expect to function the same on a cheese burger as you would a balanced meal. For me, the best meal for non extravagant days is rice, vegetables and protein. (Obviously this all goes out the window when the food is free!)

25 – Walking for an hour or more each day will keep you physically and mentally fit.

24 – People are worth a second chance but rarely are they worth a third.

23 – Trust your instincts. The answers are right there if you accept what your gut is telling you.

22 – Judging others is only a reflection of your own insecurities.

21 – Creative projects are only worth perusing if you enjoy them. If you don’t love the process, you’ll never love the outcome.

20 – If you don’t like your job, you can and should change it.

19 – It is absolutely okay to start again. In fact, pressing reset might be the best thing you will ever do.

18 – Some people are the creators of their own misfortune. These people tend to be people with secrets and / or people who are dishonest with you. If you can’t trust them, they aren’t worth your time. They will be their own undoing.

17 – Be good to the people who are good to you.

16 – People who will tell it to you straight, even at the risk of hurting your pride, are very valuable.

15 – Get to bed before 11 and wake up an hour earlier than you intended. In this time you can read, mediate, take a long shower, make a better breakfast or even watch a show on Netflix. Trust me you will feel better for it.

14 – Turmeric is a gift from the Gods.

13 – If your flight is significantly delayed it is worth paying for the airport lounge. Trust me.

12 – Age isn’t a measure of success. Success is a measure of success. Success can come at any age.

11 – Travel is one of the best things you can do for your soul. Whatever your budget, I think you should travel…be it to the next city if you have never been, or across an ocean to a place that scares but excites you.

10 – Going solo to an event or travelling alone can actually be pretty great and present opportunities you wouldn’t spot if you were in your comfort zone.

9 – Moving far away from home will enrich your life but divide your heart.

8 – Inconsistent people are my least favourite people.  To that note, unpredictable people can be very dangerous.

7 – The people who matter will always be there no matter what.

6 – The kindness of strangers will surprise and delight you.

5 – You are capable of change at any age. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

4 – Life expectations are only guided fantasies. In reality you have little to no control over grand plans.

3 – Do not worship at the altar of fear. Fear will fuck you up harder than any bout of misfortune you may encounter.

2 – Surrendering the outcome to the universe will set you free.

1 –  Being happy is more important than being right.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me make it this far. I cannot wait to see what the next Becade has in store! I think I’ve got this.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

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2018  is over. Thank fuck for that.

I can’t lie to you. Right now I am naked from the bottom down, wearing a huge yellow jumper, my hair is a mess, there are mascara slicks down my cheek and I’m turning the corner into a dirty lemoncello hangover. I feel sick, I am heartbroken and I am giving off a faint odour of onions. But I’m alive. 

I am alive and what was categorically the worst year of my adult life is over. It is behind me. It is done. I don’t have to write the number anymore. I don’t even have to look at it.

A new year has begun and I didn’t wake up alone. I woke up, party dress still on, next to two of my favourite humans. 

Last night I buried my face into Ruth’s gold sequin dress. I didn’t want to leave. This woman has held me up and given me form  when I have been sure I am made of water. How she has found the patience to deal with me throughout my most insufferable era, I don’t know. But she has. And I owe it to her, and to Caroline and to Phoebe, to be better this year. 2019.

Ruth stayed. She always does for me. Paul stayed too. He always does for her. I love him for that. Together we make a chain of people who love each other and won’t let one another fall to the floor in a puddle. Having each other isn’t a cliche, it is the only tonic that will cure you.

2018, you broke me in places I didn’t know I could break. I hope in 2019 I grow in places I didn’t know I could grow. I hope my head touches the ceiling then bursts out the chimney. I hope I wear my desk drawers as shoes. 

These are the ravings or a drunk woman amid a nauseating lemoncello haze. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is over and you were here to see me through it.  The sun is shining outside my window. Thank you. Again. Thank you.  5,4,3,2,1. Let’s do this.

I Can’t Find The Words

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I can’t find the words to talk about you yet. I want to. I need to, but every time I try it turns into a jumble. On my last attempt of analysis my words turned into a very melodramatic space analogy in which I likened you to a black hole and described the day we first kissed as being like the event horizon…the point of no return. The stretching, the breaking down atom by atom. I read it back and heartily laughed out loud to myself, although not as hard as I am sure future me would have, had I not deleted it there and then. Alright, Rebecca. Chill. You are neither Stephen Hawking nor William Shakespeare. No need for your cosmic romanticism. It won’t change things will it…it just makes you sound like a bit of a twat. Also, we didn’t really have a first kiss, did we? Maybe that was the problem.    All or nothing isn’t a great start. 

I hate that I saw you coming. I hate that I had to make a choice; let you pass and quietly watch you fall for someone else, or speak up before either of us were ready.  I found the words then but maybe I shouldn’t have. 

I suppose it is hard to find the words to describe a situation when it hasn’t done playing out. Like trying to guess the ending of a book before it has been written. Our love has felt like a year long debate with no closing argument. It never feels like the end with you. But is it? Is this it now? 

I don’t know. 

I don’t know, I don’t know. I wish I knew. I wish I could find the words to summarize you. Then I might just understand why I can’t move on. 

Your best friend found the words to break it to me that you had moved on, though. Or I at least you were trying. A stunned silence from me followed by hours of torture. It was happening right there and then. In the exact moment I sipped my IPA and exactly one hour after we parted last. I didn’t understand, after 12 hours of kind words and smiling, why the last few minutes were filled with silence and aggression. You weren’t using words at me then. I asked you to, I needed them to understand you. But you didn’t offer me any and now I realize that you are terrible with words too. And with the truth. You aren’t great with that either. 

So many others have explained heartache in words. For me then and there in the pub as your friend stopped me in my tracks, stopped me in my flow of loving words about you, all I had was stunned silence. Shocked quiet followed by an evening of contorting in and out of a ball. Pain for me has no words, just movements. And as I twist and compress and pound and stretch I am thinking that the black hole analogy wasn’t so stupid after all. 

I could have used words to ruin it for you. I could have text you, called you, screamed at you, written a note and left it in your empty bedroom poisonously lit by fairy lights and seedy intentions. I didn’t. Those words would only make things worse. I had to let you do it. So I said nothing. I quietly let you go. 

I might never have the words to explain this era of my life. Or maybe I will. Maybe they will come to me when I am walking through the park in 6 months time, or maybe when my head is in the lap of someone who fills all the blank spaces you left me with. Maybe. But for now, the only important word for us is goodbye. I just need to remember what it means. 

No Tears

 

Saying goodbye never gets any easier. 

I have had a few goodbyes in my time and I can tell you from experience that trains are the worst way to part. 30 seconds is all you have. 30 seconds on their clock before the doors jingle and close in your face. Barrier. Done. Then you have to watch out the window as the carriage pulls away, leaving some on the platform and some sailing forward, the distance ever growing. Faster. Faster. Blurry. Gone. 

A train goodbye is a brutal goodbye. 

Airports. Well at least there is space for coffee, a brunch, an emotionally fraught lunch. A drawn out goodbye as you drip sporadic salty tears into your whetherspoons baked beans and your 9am pint of Theakstons Best. In the end you are left to say goodbye by the security gate. Only a mild sense of urgency. No 30 second slam. No slow roll through the countryside.  

The security gate is where I said goodbye to my family in February, with a mass of uncertainty ahead of me in the frozen tundra of my new country. At the end of that day I had to move into a new, empty house to live what seemed then to be a new empty life. Of course it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be, but how was I to know. There is never much positivity in uncertainty. 

There is no countdown at the security gate, unless you’ve left it super super late. There is time to hug and cry and take a “jolly” tissue from your mum. The fact that little zoo animals adorning her Kleenex makes her happy only makes you sob even harder. But there is time. A bit, anyway. Then, once you have made it through the point of no return, security procedures will stamp the tears right out of you. For a little while at least. Nobody ever sobbed whilst being shouted at to take off their shoes and belts. The mismatching sock walk of shame is enough to keep the mind occupied. 

Tasks. Scanning. Things. Must keep track of the things. Be a good adult. Don’t lose the stuff. Don’t lose your cool. 

Then there is the whole gate location and departure lounge fandango. That keeps you in business for a bit. Have you ever cried emotional tears of separation woe during a takeoff?! I haven’t. I’m too afraid I’m going to die a la Final Destination. Thanks for that, Hollywood. After that, you’re in the sky and the good people of Air Transat are giving you a thimball of wine. Fine. Just stay alive. Thank you tiny wine.

I have, however, done my fair share of sobbing on the train. The small talk as you wait those safety 7 minutes, the panic 45 seconds as you watch the train approach and realize that you should have just been hugging this whole time because you don’t actually know when there will be a next time. No tears mum, please. You’ll set me off.  

Trains. You brutal, efficient bitches. Fast enough for a speedy getaway but slow enough for regret and the faint possibility of turning back. I could turn back. Maybe I should turn back? But I never do. 

I’ll see you next year. 

1 Disaster and 89 Christmas Miracles

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I woke up at 7 am on Thursday….I went to sleep at midnight on Saturday morning. With the time zones I traversed I don’t really know how long I had been awake for but I can tell you that when my head hit the pillow on my best friends pull out sofa bed in Norwich, I felt like I hadn’t slept in days. That was not the plan.

Thursday morning. On opening my eyes in New York City to the soothing chimes of my alarm, my plan was to read in bed for half an hour, take a bath, amble down 6th, go to a Soho sample-sale, take myself for a late lunch and then slowly make my way  to John F Kennedy Airport before catching my first flight home for Christmas in four years. None of those things happened.

As I rolled over, lazily turning off my alarm, I saw a text from my airline, the now dreaded Norwegian Air. Oh, shit. My flight was cancelled, and with it my ticket to Christmas. Why? Because some twat had flown a drone over Gatwick and all hell had broken loose.

Stress.

I cried in bed for an hour amid panicked calls to my sister, Julia. I had tweeted Norwegian Airlines, phoned them numerous times only to have my call dropped. I was directed in the initial text to book on to a new flight with them but there weren’t any free seats until after Christmas. I was starting to lose hope. My sister found a seat on an Aer Lingus flight that would get me home via Dublin. Great. Only, when I went to book it was coming in at $4000…so actually really, really, realllllly not great.

After some more crying and a few stricken mouthfuls of hair-dried-hot left-over pizza, I realized I only had an hour to check out of my room. I still had to pack, Fuck. Now I didn’t even have time for a shower.  I wouldn’t see one of those again in two days.

A last ditch attempt showed me all flights leaving New York to London before Christmas were either cancelled, delayed, or way out of my price range. To be fair, five days before Christmas, with two weeks unpaid leave from work and a 30th birthday party on the horizon, I didn’t have a price range at all! Everything direct was coming in well over 5k! I gasped in disbelief when I stumbled across a flight to Budapest for $1800 CAD. Sure that was over double the price is my already really expensive outbound flight, but it was the best of a bad bunch. Europe…right?!That’ll do. I saw they had a connecting flight to Luton so I booked with emergency money my sister leant me. At this point I’d like to say, yes I am a twat for not having insurance and no, my sister couldn’t afford it either. She is a working mother of two, but the point is she had it to lend and my being marooned over Christmas wasn’t an option.  We would just have to figure it out later. 

Pleaseeeeee accept my card. Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase accept my card.

Booked.

Mysterious LOT POLISH airlines, here I come!

Throughout this whole desperate process I had been talking about my issues on social media. None of the airlines, including my big deserters, Norwegian, replied to me…but hundreds (actually hundreds) of people had messaged me words of encouragement as they saw my sniffling face and desperate eyes. I posted a link to my PayPal half jokingly declaring that if anyone wanted to buy me a coffee, dinner in Budapest or huge glass or fucking wine to see me through my ordeal then I would appreciate it. Thinking I’d muster a quid or two for some overpriced airport treats, imagine my shock when kind hearted person after person actually took the time to understand my plight and want to help me get home. I started seeing donations of $5 dollars, $10 dollars, $20 dollars popping up. What! 

I sat in the hotel lobby, having been turfed out of my room, trying to cover my puffy post meltdown eyes with makeup. Was I really about to go to Budapest? You betcha.

After circumnavigating the New York Subway like a boss (a sad, sad, very lost boss wearing a truly impractical hat) I emerged at JFK and thought I would see if I could get an answer from Norwegian. My hopes of getting on a flight to London with them were already dashed, but I really wanted answers about the money I was set to lose. I arrived at the Norwegian desk to see carnage – people sitting on the floor, others pacing angrily. There was absolutely no sign of a member of staff. I would have been checking in at roughly this point so I was shocked they had no one to help people who had no idea how they were getting home. A woman in the queue said representatives had been absent all day. So no phone, no social media interaction, no help on the website and no people actually at the airport dealing with front line drama? I get that the drone of doom wasn’t their doing, but the way they handled the situation had been, and continues to be, hideous. 

I had to abandon Norwegian in favour of my new flight. I had to get home. Shall I repeat the first Christmas home in four years bit? 2018 had been a bitch for both my mum and me and we had been counting down the days until we got to see each other. 

When I got to my new terminal I found out my replacement flight was delayed three hours. Ergh. Of course. This put my Luton connection in serious jeopardy. Heart racing again. Eyes stinging again. What was supposed to be a Christmas with my family was vast turning into choosing between pleading with strangers in New York or strangers in Hungary to offer me shelter! I might be starting a new life in Budapest, after all. 

I had no option but to wait six hours in the airport for the most expensive flight of my life. I connected to the wifi to panic message my mum, sister and my friend Emma who had bravely volunteered to pick me up at the other end. As I bumbled with the Internet connection, I got an email notification from PayPal…wait. What? It seems I had been given hundreds of dollars in total! Like actually, what! That must be a mistake!? It wasn’t.

It seems the kindness of strangers and some excellent friends had been out in force. Friends I hadn’t seen in years were sending me $10 to get a wine on them, people who I had never met told me they wanted to chip in for the cost of my flight?! I sat down and cried actually happy tears. This was the fourth time my mascara made jet streams of black sludge down my face and I was past the point of even trying to erase them. Jesus I’m a mess. I would say was, but I definitely don’t think past tense is applicable here. 

With a guaranteed hefty wait, I decided to check into one of the airports lounges. For anyone ever stuck I would recommend it if you can. It was $50 to enter and you get unlimited food, hot drinks, snacks and an open bar. Yes. Open bar. Plus there are comfy seats, a faux fireplace and good wifi. Of the whole horrendous experience, my time in the Alaska Air Lounge was actually great. A big thanks to them for letting me in when they didn’t have to. And cheers to the four irresponsibly sunk rosés that helped numb the pain of a trying day. 

Gatwick and the drone drama was all over the news and as I sat at the lounge bar, I browsed numerous stories on the internet. I saw my friend Michael McCrudden, a well-known YouTuber, had talked about my delay on his channel! It seems the far more popular Jack Septicieye also was stuck and I was a secondary piece of news in the discussion. Mike kindly linked my PayPal details at the bottom of his video.  I was shocked! 

Finally, the time came for my flight to Hungary. Alight with the flush glow of free rosè, I swished to my gate only to find more delays. Cool. In a half drunk stupor, I then waited on the floor for a further 45 minutes.

The flight itself, when it took off, was fine. It seems we actually got dinner included which is a rarity these days. Although as my flight was so last minute there weren’t any vegetarian options, so I had to do some choice picking around mystery meats. Literally, beggars cannot be choosers.

After 30 minutes of half sleep and a night filled with being jostled in my aisle seat, the plane finally touched down at a snowy Ferenc Liszt Airport. Right on cue, this is where the drama picked back up again. 

I landed with an hour and 30 minutes to spare before my next take off. That would be fine usually but for some reason, owing to the gods of faff, I had to collect and recheck my baggage. Ergh. Time ticked on and the first bag didn’t make its humble way down the heavily eyeballed chute for thirty minutes. After a semi itersl eternity, my bag was finally spat onto the conveyer. With just 47 minutes left on the clock, I arrived at the check-in for my final leg to mighty Blighty with Wizz Air. Buuut, of course, that is when the emergency alarms went off.

I don’t speak Hungarian and hadn’t planned to find myself in Budapest that afternoon so hadn’t exactly practiced any choice phrases. It seems, in the airport terminal at least, the staff aren’t too interested in speaking to you in English either. I asked a police man what was happening. He shouted something I absolutely didn’t understand at me. When I looked at him with wide-eyed vacant panic, he said one simple word; bomb.

Oh. Cool. Bomb, then. 

Turfed out into negative four degrees Celsius, my big winter coat was in my case but I thought better of being that twat in a crowd who took the time to open up their luggage amid a crisis (I had to sit on it for it to even close in the first place). Teeth chattering, emergency lights flashing, my life was turning into a particular dramatic episode of the 00s British reality tv show Airport. Boom. Honestly no pun intended as by this point I was devoid of humour. 

On reflection, I think the bomb scare brought me more time. A sentence I never thought I would write.  Amid the disruption, flights were delayed and I had time to check in to my flight and make the plane. PHEW. 

And finally, the drama was done. As I flew over England, the stress lifted from my heart. A Christmas with my family and friends. At last. Touchdown on the tidings of comfort and joy. Someone pass the sherry.

As I was arduously waiting for my baggage for the second time in a day, I connected to the dodgy Luton Wifi. 

Wait….more emails from PayPal. This can’t be right? But it was.

I was absolutely shocked and amazed to see that kind Christmas souls of the internet for some reason seemed to care about me had together raised enough to almost cover the excess cost of my flight, my lost train ticket home and probably the phone bill I can expect to get at the end of this ridiculous adventure, amid the teary phone calls and panic roaming data. It was a Christmas miracle. 

89 people sent me money to make my situation better. 89! A lot of these people don’t even know me but they still care about me. The kindness of strangers and the kindness of friends has astounded me this Christmas. Thank you for reminding me that the world is a beautiful and nurturing place and that even amid disaster magic can still happen.

You guys came through and actually saved me. Literally. Thanks to you not only am I home, I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to make things work or my impending January rent. It is all because of you. Thank you, my 89 Christmas miracles. Thank you so much. 

Here is a shout out to ever single person who helped me. I will also be making a video when I get back home saying all of these names and emailing you all a thanks. Once again, thank you. Thank you!

Ashley Jeffries, Ruben Nas, Chris Bushing, Garbriel Gomez, Misty Cook, Tarni Carothers, Arthur Robinson, Nico Plikus, Don Kethsiri Wisandra, Jack Doyle, Hei Tung Mak, Azra Bajarami, Levi Dykes, Jaden Moojelski, Noah Carter, Kaegan Ricks, Katherine Brooker, Sean Jeffrey, Ben Stoud, Angela Scott, Zoe Crisp, Jason Millington, Jonathan Guerra, Daniel Beasley, Bryan Avila, Michael McCrudden, Kelly Murphy, Izzy Walcot, Heather Trevanna, Christiaan Funkhouser, Kevin Brigger, Ciaran Farren, Matthew McElrath, James Brown, Camilla Muncey, Nicholas Cruz, Jennifer Robinson, EDS Pearce, Stephen Turner, Ashley Whitlock, Dennis Kent Jr, Kevin Rodriguez, Melissa Boudreaux, Hate Clique, Essen Røneid, Fernando Flores, Oscar Canter, Michael Boland, Christopher Forbes, Graham Nichol, Elvis Koyama, Katrina Ainslie, Ethan Leftridge, Erica Dawson, Vanessa Frankzke, Ashli Day, Katie Goodfellow, Olk Lapthorn, Ian and Emily Longmore, Tyler Duclus, Fredrick Edington, Devan Leblanc, Steven Reilly, Mark Tallentire, Paul Luis Koekemoer, Gail Bishop, Hayley Pickford, Adam McDermott, Hayley James, Diego Montws, Isaac Mercer, Charles Shelton, Freddy Gomez, Deanna Marshalls, Jesus Rangel, Joe Ness, Bart Van Liercop, Sam Jarred Dinn, Derek Turkmen, Clive Gardner, Max Cunningham, IC Sports, Alfred Carnot, Adam Blanco, Katie Brennan, David Redner and Corey Vidal. 

Thank you. If I ever have the pleasure of seeing you in 2019, the first beer will be on me!

Also a special thank you to my sister Julia and my beautiful friend Emma and to all those who wished me well. 

Merry Christmas to you all 💛

A Car Crash in Tucson Arizona

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It is my ex boyfriends birthday today. He is in Paris with his new girlfriend while I am sat on a Mega Bus to New York that smells decidedly like week old urine. I can’t quite tell because of the dull thud of the tires on the road, but I think the woman in the aisle seat adjacent to mine is muttering nonsensical expletives under her breath.

We are nearly at the American boarder but there are still 10 hours left of my trip. I’ll arrive in a blaze of musky glory at 8am as the bus turfs us out at 23rd and 7th. Then I’ll bumble up six blocks to my hotel and collapse in a pile in my room. My three day solo soul quest will have officially begun. Welcome to the Big Apple.

Going on a Christmas adventure has been a bit of a tradition of mine. The first year I lived in Toronto the new city was adventure enough. The next year was Chicago and then a grand adventure from Arizona to San Francisco with a day of hiking the Grand Canyon. It sounds amazing, right? It should have been. It was. But it was also truly and utterly horrible. 

Will and I had been drifting for months but I had only really noticed it in the autumn. We were closing in on our six year anniversary and if you had asked me before the summer I would have told you we were untouchable. But then all of a sudden we weren’t.  The moment I realized we couldn’t fix it was when a car smashed into the back of us at 70 miles per hour on a highway to Tucson Arizona, over 4,000 miles away from where our lives together began. 

Our December adventure was to include Will’s 30th birthday and a Christmas by the sea in LA. We had both been extremely busy and we were looking forward to getting away. The unspoken truth between us was that we were both hoping it would fill the void that had opened up in the midst of us…or at least provide a bridge across the chasm. We had both been somewhat emotionally unfaithful, although I wasn’t quite ready to admit that to myself. A string of not even quite illicit texts on his behalf and a few slightly too regular day dreams on mine. It was because it had been a busy year, I thought. Busy it had been…and stressful too. We had been applying for Permeant Residency so we could stay in Canada which also involved us having to become Common Law partners. He was angry at me because he didn’t think I did enough to help and I was upset with him because I had had a worrying health scare that year that I didn’t think he was sensitive enough about. Somehow, two people who had made a big move across an ocean together were developing an ocean between them as well. But it was going to be okay because we were going away soon and we always got on best as co-adventurers. 

We flew out to Phoenix the day before Will turned 30. I’ve always been a nervous flyer but I do my best to grin and bear it. Will slept most of the way and we landed without issue. The first time we were really alone together was when we climbed into our red Toyota rental. We cruised through the desert and stopped to take a picture of some big cactuses. Cacti?! Cacts. 

After a while we were quiet. Will had his eyes on the road and I was coyly flicking through my plethora of cacti snaps. I could tell he silently hated my dedication to Instagram stories. My growing social media was just one of the things I think irritated him about me in those days. I understood why…it is a distraction and, yeah, perhaps I was looking for one. 

Just as he was humming along to the playlist he had made for our journey and I was carefully hearting my favourite desert pictures, my phone flew out of my hand. Our heads jolted forward. We were run off the road. 

Fuck. 

If there is one thing to be said for Will it is that he is actually truly brilliant in a crisis.  His autopilot is fully functioning. While I may have a tendency to flap, he has always leaned towards keeping a cool head in moments of danger. In that respect, I always felt safe with him. Physically, anyway. Emotionally he could be a bit of a ticking bomb, but that is quite a separate issue. I am quite sure that it was Will’s calm resolve that saved our lives in that moment. He did not, like many would, lose control of the wheel. He carefully guided the car through its course and pulled our now partially mangled car to the side of the busy road. 

I had been in a devestating car accident almost 22 years to the day prior when I was just six years old. Cars don’t scare me at all and I don’t have any PTSD surrounding the issue, but what I will say is that when incidents like this happen the thing that strikes you most in the aftermath is the calm and the eerie silence. Seconds feel like minutes as you slowly come to the realization of what the fuck just happened.

The man who hit us terrified me. He was trying to blame us and had worryingly proclaimed that he had been shot last week. Voices were being raised between him and Will, who had somehow lost a valuable slice of that cool I knew to trust. I was trying to keep the peace. Eventually the man went on his way…possibly to the Mexico boarder…who knows. 

Will and I sat for a moment in the aftermath of the exchange. I was shaking. The back of the car was bashed in. It was a rental. It was definitely not going to make it to San Francisco. Our mate who works at Enterprise in Toronto sorted a deal for us and now we had to call him to tell him the car was fucked. It was Will’s birthday tomorrow. Defying the odds, the car didn’t flip. The deranged driver didn’t bust a cap.  Things were far from ideal. But we were alive.

Later at our hotel, after the insurance companies were called and we had recovered from the jittery aftermath, we sat in a bar in silence. My heart sank. We had almost died that afternoon yet were were no closer together than we had been before we stepped on the plane. 

That night as we slept in our double bed, I stared at Will’s back with a lump in my throat. An awful thought occurred to me. For a second I wish we had died there on that road and that was the end of our story. People would remember us as the fearless couple who lived, loved and travelled together. They would never know how far away we had strayed. They’d remember us as this perfect adventurous duo forever. Of course that isn’t what I wanted…I’d never wish death, I am so in love with life…but for a split second that felt better than what I knew had to come next. I wanted the thought to go away but it was in that moment I knew it never would. 

The next morning I got up and performed my good girlfriend routine for my boyfriend on his birthday.  It was the sixth of his that we had spent together. I quietly worried it was going to be our last. It was. 

I think of Will now, in Paris, 4,000 miles from me, probably swilling wine and toasting to his 31st year with his new flame (the receiver of the aforementioned slightly less than illicit texts).  The mad thing is that that doesn’t even hurt me. I am happy for him. What still hurts is the way I felt this time last year, the aching love, the knowledge I couldn’t change it, remembering the smell of sand, petrol and metal that filled the air as I stood by the road surveying the damage to the bashed up getaway car. It was a write off that I have spent all year mourning. 

Hello

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Hello, how are you?

Yes, I am asking you, dear reader, but I am also truly asking myself.  I talk to myself a lot these days, but I seem to forget the pleasantries.

2018 started like an anvil to the head followed by an extended game of whack-a-mole, but it’s alright. I’m alright. I think.  Or I am not, but that is okay too.

The best thing about taking a wrecking ball to a rotten house is that you no longer have to worry about it falling down on you.

Right now I feel like I am emerging from a pile of rubble, dust in my hair and eyelashes, dirt under my fingernails and scratches across my feet. I’ve lost my shoes somewhere but it’s fine because everything is beautiful and the possibilities are endless once more.

I am turning 30 in a month and my life is nothing like I expected. Actually that’s not true, I drink a lot of cocktails, have a lot of friends and own healthy number of plants…but other than that I had no idea I would be single, living on my own 3,500 miles from home and regularly staring down the uninvited guest of crippling anxiety.  That’s the thing about plans. If you really think about it, they mean fuck all to anyone or anything other than yours truly. Try as you may, you can’t control the  7.5 billion other plan makers and the trillions of possible outcomes their actions could create. You’ve just got to sort of ride the chaos and hope it works out alright. Scary, but actually pretty beautiful if you give in to it in good faith and with a reasonable dash of good humour.

When I opened my eyes this morning, all number of outcomes were possible. Some of them good. Some of them not so good. I will graciously do my best to accept that some of them are within my control and some are not.

I want to tell you about everything that lead me here to this spot, writing this post in my one bedroom apartment in Toronto, the night after a cancelled Christmas party and a gut-wrenchingly testing year. I will. But first I wanted to ask… how are you?