THE unwanted wedding dress

I have written about my road to firstly accepting my divorce and finally flourishing after years of wallowing. My final hurdle is the billowing meringue of a 1980’s wedding dress that sits in its box at the top of a wardrobe. The last reminder. The piece I seem not to be able to let go.  The past regrets, the guilt, the hurt and the disbelief have all faded into a not forgotten but a no longer badgering past. But this? This dress…it won’t let go.

I have decluttered that particular cupboard a number of times. It’s not as if it has any use. It is tragically out of fashion with a plunging V-neck, a backless back and layers of frothy white lace and super-puffy sleeves.

My daughter has already married. She doesn’t want it. She quipped “It’s not as if it’s going to bring good luck to anyone!” Ouch!

I could donate it to a charity but I fear it would end up as a fancy dress costume for a 80’s themed cruise or part of a zombie apocalypse parade.

The catch is not so much to do with my failed marriage but more with my Mum’s effort to make it. That and the five bridesmaids’ dresses.

That dress was a labour of my mother’s love. She was a seamstress and wedding dresses were her thing.  We spent many hours designing it. We made visits to bridal stores where I tried on dresses and Mum secretly took notes and made sketches in the dressing room to copy the pattern. She had to make so many alterations because I wanted the front plunging and for it to have no back. Short of using sticky tape to keep it on, this was a major feat in engineering. On top of that, I kept on losing weight – as brides tend to do even though I was already quite thin.

But she did it. My dad cried as he walked past the room as Mum was tying the big wide sash around my tiny waist.

My wedding day was wet. The rain pelted down, the dress got dirty at the hem. I have never tried it on again after that day. Not even for an anniversary. These days I’m 12 kilos heavier than then and a very different shape.

It’s just gotta go….but I can’t make that step. It just needs to vanish without a trace.

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Small group tours

These days I do much of my travel “solo”.  I plan my own itinerary and book my own accommodation and activities.

Whilst I enjoy solo travel, small group tours, that is those with less than 16 people, are also a good vacation option.  I have been on four small group tours, three with Intrepid Travel (Italy (2007), Thailand (2012) and Vietnam (2015)) and one with Peregrine Adventures (Myanmar (2006)).  I have booked a small group walking tour with About Argyll Walking Tours for my upcoming (2019) trip to Scotland.

Intrepid and Peregrine are run by the same parent company and while I have nothing to compare them with (yet) I recommend them both as tour operators. (BTW this post is NOT sponsored by any of the tour companies mentioned.)

Small group tours are not for everyone, but in my opinion, they offer a good balance and as you can see from my pros and cons table, the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros and cons of small group tours

Pros Cons
  • You don’t have to organise anything except getting there.
  • The tour company sorts everything out in regards to local travel and activities.
  • You get to visit the highlights of a particular area efficiently
  • The accommodation has been well researched and is good quality
  • The tour guide has great local knowledge and knows the best restaurants, bars and attractions.
  • Smaller groups means access to more places that you could not visit with a big coachload of people.
  • The tour often includes some sort of social payback to the area you visit such as a visit to an orphanage, school, social enterprise or charity.
  • It’s a safer way to travel in places which may be otherwise a bit risky. This may be especially so for women
  • You meet new and interesting people but you are not overwhelmed by 30 – 40 people on a larger tour.
  • You don’t have to organise anything! As I said in a previous post I LOVE the planning!
  • You mostly stick to the tried and true pathways visiting the same tourists spots everyone else does.
  • You can’t make detours or stay longer in a place that you find interesting.
  • You have to spend a lot of time with the “new and interesting” people you meet and not all of them may be people you want to spend time with.
  • They are probably more expensive than sorting things out by yourself or going on a bigger group tour although it’s likely they get some sort of discounts for repeat bookings.

I think it’s the “new and interesting”  people that puts most people off small group tours. If you are travelling alone and you don’t pay the single supplement, you end up sharing with someone you don’t know. Luckily, this has only happened to me once as most people travel with a friend and I have been the odd one out on all but one of the tours, so I get to listen to my own snoring and not someone else’s! 🙂

I suggest that you make careful choices about the tours you book and the companies you travel with, so that you end up with the “right” sort of people.  The price will dictate the sorts of people you share your time with so don’t expect the jet-set on a budget tour.

Also make sure you pay attention to the ratings the tour company makes in relation to physical activity and the theme of the tour (family, active, foodie etc, Peregrine’s themes are here) . In my albeit limited experience, high levels of physical activity and the active themes puts me with “my tribe” more closely than those with lower levels. It will be different for you.

Burma with Peregrine Adventures

It’s hard to believe my first small group tour experience to  Burma (Myanmar) was more than a decade ago. Back in 2006, the country was only just starting to embrace tourism and things did not go smoothly, even for the tour operators.

A scheduled overnight train trip from Rangoon (Yangon) to Mandalay had to be substituted at the last minute by an internal flight because of some undisclosed problem.

The tour leader was on the phone for hours trying to sort things out. It would have been difficult to manage this as an independent traveller. He also warned us about where we could and couldn’t take photos. His entreaties not to take photos of certain buildings seemed very genuine.

 

Intrepid Travel Walking Tour – Amalfi Coast

I wrote about the interesting dynamic that developed on my trip to Italy in my post about “Footpath to the Gods”. In this case, an international group of eight – comprising three husband-wife couples  from Scotland, America and New Zealand and a single Aussie female and myself, joined up for a walking tour of the Amalfi Coast. Although the trip was rated for very high levels of physical activity, the two Americans were morbidly obese and not regular exercisers. They struggled with the walking  and this caused issues. They clearly did not heed the advice about the activity level. While most of trip was harmonious, tempers flared on the last night, almost resulting in a fist fight.

Tribal Thailand – Intrepid Travel

The Tribal Thailand tour included a 3 day trek through the jungle near Chiang Mai. Slashing vines, clambering over fallen trees and hearing the lonely calls of gibbons made it a truly enjoyable experience. The combination of heat, humidity, the weight of our packs and biting insects made it a physically challenging  experience. Sleeping on wooden floors and eating with local families in their simple kitchens made it a humbling experience. Despite the fact that, on reflection, I am pretty sure we walked around in circles not far from a main road for the three days, I would heartily recommend it! I was the second oldest on the tour (but not the least fit I am pleased to say). I still keep in touch with two younger women from this group via Facebook. We even had a reprise trip the year after, where 6 of the 7 of us did a hiking trip along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

Vietnam – North to South with Intrepid Travel

The trip to Vietnam had six people – two couples and a single, elderly man. It was rated with low levels of physical activity and the people were much older than the Thailand tour. On this trip I was the second youngest and at 52 that’s saying something! It was still fun and I spent most of my time with Debra and Phil from Wales. On this tour, the “interesting person” was a barrister from the UK travelling with his lovely wife. Even though he was probably the wealthiest amongst us, he owed us all money by the end of the trip because he didn’t ever seem to have “the right change” when he needed to pay his share of the taxi/hotel/restaurant bill. It was funny at first but became a bit of a sore point by the end of the 12 day tour. Debra and Phil, by the way, run a pub in Wales. It looks pretty good and one day I’ll visit them!

All these these small group tours have given me great memories and photo books full of images. Overall, they have been very positive. Even the negatives are positive, in that they give you some great dinner party stories.

My advice is to keep an open heart and open mind, know that it’s only for a short period and be friendly and easy going. Don’t sweat the small stuff and if worse comes to worse, treat it as an interesting social experiment. That way  you can sit back and learn about the world both from the country you visit and the people you share the bus with.

 

Huntsville Space and Rocket Center

Old Chook in Space!

I have never had dreams of being a astronaut but the prospect of a week at Space Camp in America was exciting. Educational, related to my work as a science teacher and 100% tax deductible! After a few emails back and forth with my science-nerd travel buddy Bec, we had applied, been accepted and booked. We built a science-based trip around the week in Huntsville, Alabama. It would start with a few days in San Francisco, a week in Montana doing a dinosaur dig, a road trip through Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. We flew to Alabama from Los Vegas after a few days of non-science-y luxury in a casino resort.

US Space and Rocket Center

The US Space and Rocket Centre is not part of NASA but has close ties to them. They have lots of equipment related to the Apollo Missions and a decommissioned space shuttle. They run summer camps for children and occasionally camps for educators. These Educators’ Camps are for STEM teachers and concentrate on the disciplines of maths and physics as they relate to space travel.  We spent our days participating in hands-on activities that we could use in our own classrooms. The photos below show an experiment where we made our own heat shields. The idea was for the egg NOT to get cooked.

Science teachers work as teams

We worked in teams, my team, Destiny; had teachers from the US, Canada and Bec and I from Australia. Destiny trained for two simulations; landing the space shuttle and piloting the moon lander. I am afraid to say we crashed the Space Shuttle! Even though we all knew it was a simulation it was a very intense experience. Using the thick folders of procedures  the “real” astronauts use, we flicked switches, punched in numbers, and ran a communications log. The two hours went by in a flash and we all emerged in a cold sweat.

Space Camp Food?

We stayed in student accommodation at the near-by University of Alabama  in quad-share apartments. Comfortable but not glamorous. All our meals were at the camp centre. I have to say this was the worst part of the experience. The meals were not good, although the meals provided for the teachers were 100% better than those provided for the kids who were on camp at the same time!

 

Holiday friendships

I made some strong friendships at Space Camp and keep in contact with several team members. It’s probably a once in a lifetime adventure that I wouldn’t repeat but my life is richer for it. I still look back on my photos and giggle at the fun we had.  The white rabbit belonged to my niece and nephew and he was the trip mascot.

Costs:

The fee for the camp was all inclusive. It was around $US750. There was a scholarship which could cover the cost but we didn’t get that and had to pay ourselves. There were very few opportunities to spend money as our time was almost completely booked up with Space Camp activities. We went out to a nearby bar once. So apart from the initial cost we didn’t spend much.

This machine simulates the use of an external jet pack.

The video below is from the Space Camp’s website.

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

According to my stats, I have more than 400 followers. (434 to be precise at the time of writing) Despite this,  I rarely get more than 30 views on each of my posts. Does this mean no-one out there is reading or are you reading via the WordPress Reader page?  Perhaps you are reading in your email rather than on the browser?

Apparently you only get “views” counted in your stats if readers read your post on your actual webpage.

I’d like to get an idea of who is out there and why you’re reading (or not reading as the case may be)

Can you help me out by filling in this survey?  Thanks! 😀

Old Chook Enterprises Reader Survey

Please don’t add your name or other identifying information. It’s better if it’s anonymous and please play nice!

PS: I will collect responses and turn the survey off in a month’s time. (ie March 22, 2019)

 

 

Shampoo v Conditioner.

Bottles of Shampoo and conditioner on a supermarket shelf

A few weeks ago I posted a flippant comment on Facebook:

I doubt this is an original thought but: First World Problem 125: Why doesn’t the conditioner come in a bigger bottle compared to the matching shampoo?

One of my friends commented she runs out of shampoo first. I told her she was weird. That EVERYONE but her ran out of conditioner first. She thought I was weird. We bantered. Then the comments started coming thick and fast.  I posted a poll asking our combined friends which they finished first, shampoo or conditioner?

Image 2-1-19 at 20.01.jpg

The results were interesting with a 50:50 split. Being good scientists we understood we needed a bigger sample size, so I re-posted the poll to a bigger group (<30K members) and over the next weeks the poll received over 1000 votes and close to 50 comments.

It elicited some very interesting discussion… who’d of thought…

Tubes of hair products on supermaket shelf
Frizz-less, blonde more but still all the same size!

In the end the results were close.

Image 2-1-19 at 19.12

My friend’s hypothesis was supported and I had to agree she wasn’t weird.

It would seem the ratio of shampoo to conditioner use depends on a number of factors.

  1. Hair length which seems quite obvious. The longer the hair the more conditioner is needed.
  2. Curliness. One factor I didn’t know about is that a significant number of people (and we are talking mainly women here because they are the ones who responded) with curly hair do not use shampoo at all, only conditioner. There is in fact, a whole (secret to me) Curly Girl Method for looking after wavy/curly/coiled hair.

and an almost equal number of people

  1. Who have short, thin or oilier hair who don’t use conditioner at all that balances out the no shampoo people.
  2. Another new (to me) concept is the reverse shampoo method which uses conditioner first and then shampoo which is (apparently) good for fine hair.
Bottles of Shampoo and conditioner on a supermarket shelf
All the same size! We need a social movement here!

So there you have it. It would seem that my original sample size of 100% of the people in my household who finish the conditioner first was not supported. I can see the need for a whole new social movement. Hair Buddies: Those who finish the shampoo first need to be introduced to those who finish the conditioner first so they can swap their excess product!

Sydney Lunar Festival

Lunar New Year in Sydney

I like to go on “photo safaris”. A photo safari is a planned excursion whose express purpose is to take photos, as opposed to me  just taking photos of the place I happen to be at.

I ventured out on February the 1st to get some photos of the opening of Sydney’s Lunar  Festival. The week leading up to the opening had been sunny, humid and fiercely hot. Typical Australian summer weather. And typically Australian, on Friday there was a “southerly”;  a blustery cool change that brings rain, and thankfully, relief.

It did however rain on the lunar parade.

I was not prepared for rain. I had to buy a rain poncho but this did little to protect my camera. I had to call it quits before the planned fireworks because I was worried it was getting too wet.

The Festival is running in Sydney from 1 February through to the 10th. You can get lots of information from their website

I would recommend using public transport. Most of the activities are in the Circular Quay area.

Lunar New Year 2019P1780429-Edit

The other sort of mechanic

As part of my jogging route I go through a small, light industrial area to get to the beach. I walk past a brothel – relatively discrete but unmistakably a brothel. Recently, as I was out for an early morning workout, a car pulled up just as I was passing the front gate of the said brothel. I began to steadfastly study the ground, in fear of making eye contact with the customer and embarrassing us both. After all what he did at this time of the day was his business. He seemed agitated and bewildered.

“Excuse me is this Swan Street?” he said with a very heavy non-local accent.

“Yes… it’s Swan Street”  I replied quickly.

“I am looking for 108 Swan Street.”

We both turned to see the very large brass ‘108’ adorning the brothel gate.

“Well that’s it” I said pointing to the sign…. He looked very confused …

“But what is this place?”

“A brothel”  I said awkwardly.

“A brothel? What is this?” (in very broken English and with a thick accent….)

I looked to the sky for inspiration…“A sex shop.”

“A SEX shop??” A dawn of recognition came over his face.

“Yes” I said over my shoulder as I tried to walk away… He held up his phone to show me the screen

Where is mechanic

“My friend send me here – he told me it is mechanics…I come to get my car fixed”

“Well mate, you won’t be getting your car fixed here!  I think your friend might have been having a bit if a joke!”

He turned dejectedly on his heel and walked back to his car.

Was this a ruse on his part to obfuscate the fact he was just about to be seen walking into a brothel?  Or had some smart-Alec of a “friend” given him a wrong address on purpose?

Funny either way!

Too good to be true…

You’ve all heard the saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is…”  In my mind this article (posted in PetaPixel)  about the search for a family photographer fits that bill exactly.

Screenshot 2018-12-13 20.27.24

here’s the brief….

Screenshot 2018-12-13 20.54.01

At first thought it sounds amazing! Lots of cash, “free” travel, living the high life with the rich and famous.

Yep! Nah!

Here’s the small print they didn’t publish.

  • We need an experienced photographer who is used to using Photoshop and without an ethical bone in their body. You will need to able to take photos so that my son who usually looks like this when we are on holiday:
alkoghol-2714481_1920
from Pixabay

Looks like this

man-2153900_1920
from Pixabay

 

  • The ideal candidate will not be curious.  You will refrain from researching how the family came by its wealth.  Those photos on the mantle with all the slaves; are from a friend; they’re not ours. Oh and the shots with me with the big gun and the giraffe carcass?? Just props. It was a man dressed in a giraffe suit! Promise!
  • When I say jump! You say “How how?What ISO!”
  • I’m sure you’ll be interested in knowing what happened to our last family photographer? Well, when he tried to include some of the photos he took in his own Instagram feed, we had a bit of a laugh and then  I sent him on a very special underwater shoot with my good friends, Tony and Paulie. Funny, I haven’t seen him since then…..shame… we liked him…..

 

(I took the picture of the Monopoly board all the rest are from Pixabay)

(this post is in jest… I’m sure it would be a fabulous job!)

 

100

This is my 100th post. A bit of a milestone really. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to follow my quirky journey. I hope you will continue to do so and find some value in what I share.

It got me thinking about the concept of 100. It is celebrated as a milestone in many contexts.

  • Governments celebrate what they have achieved in their first 100 days in power.
  • When you turn 100 you can apply to get a telegram from the Queen. Perhaps she should be thinking about email these days!
  • The turn of the century is a big deal and centennials for various events are marked with great care.
  • Cricketers hold the bats aloft and bask in the applause of the crowd when they score a “ton”

Australia v SriLanka 2

One hundred years ago the world was a very different place. A quick review of Wikipedia throws up a few facts

  • There was an influenza pandemic which killed millions of people worldwide and estimated 12,000 in Australia
  • The zipper was only two years old
  • The first Archibald Prize was awarded in Australia. (a prestigious portrait prize)
  • The Smith brothers flew from Britain to Australia and won a competition
  • Troops continued to return to their various homes from the “Great War” in Europe
  • There were cars and telephones but no TV.
  • There were no nuclear bombs but there was chemical warfare.
  • Penicillin was still 10 years away and
  • Plastic was still a novelty

Australlia v Sri Lanka 3

If I live to be 100 it will be 2061. I wonder if the earth will be burnt to a crisp? Will my coastal city of Wollongong be underwater due to rising sea levels?

In 100 days it will be Autumn in Australia.

In 100 weeks it will be December  2020.

In 100 months it will be May  2027 and hopefully I will be fit and well and retired from the day job.

100 months ago it was September 2010. I was living alone but not yet divorced.

P1180167

Will I still be writing this blog for another 100 posts? I hope so. Like many who have written stories before me, my creativity ebbs and wanes. I am conscious that this blog is lapsing into a “Dear Diary” and that is not what I intended it to be. On the other hand, I am not keen to stick to a singular theme, which is apparently one of the keys to creating a successful blog. I do want to be able to write about a range of topics which catch my fancy. I want to inspire women like myself to go out and have a go!

Be quirky. Be brave. Be free.

So for the next 100 posts I guess I’ll stick to my themes of

  • Solo travel as a older woman
  • Life as a single older woman
  • Wellbeing as a healthy older woman
  • Sharing my hometown

I hope you’ll stick around!

Cricket game 1
Australia v Sri Lanka

Be invincible not invisible!