“I end up feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search my body for the scars, thinking ‘Did he find that one last tender place to sink his teeth in?'”

This weekend was another long weekend for me: I’m disorganized enough that I booked the Friday off without realising I was doing so directly after a long bank holiday weekend. Oh well. I went home to my parents on Friday and stayed with them over the weekend. On Friday and Saturday we chilled at home and I showed my parents all my photos from my trip to south Africa, and then on Sunday I went for a nice walk with my dad into the Peak District, before traveling back to my flat. It was a nice weekend, but also awkward, with the usual bickering and arguing to listen to, and try to blank over. Arguments between my parents, my mom ranting at me, and my sister came round once just to shout at everyone which made it all awkward, and it’s just tiring, that kind of atmosphere. I wish my family got on better. Or rather, that we could find some middle ground. Either we are getting on or we aren’t and it’s often hard to tell when the tide has turned. I felt particularly sad to be shouted at by my sister, who I usually get on well with, but she has a cruelty to her, which shows itself randomly and in that way, always takes me by surprise. You never know when she will turn on you, and that makes me feel vulnerable and sad. (It’s confusing – how just a week ago everything was fine and yet now it’s not.) It hurts to see such ugly sides of the people you love. Sometimes it feels like the only one who really wants me to come back, and who enjoys me being there, is my father. It’s a little disheartening – to endure over two hours of boring public transport, and to pay the ridiculous over expense of it, to go there and just end up feeling tired and drained. But I guess if it’s making just one person happy, I shall continue to try and be good and visit my parents as often as I can.

Still. Once going home to my parents felt like a refuge, but now it feels like just another place I need to put on a mask and craft a careful personality in order to avoid stirring the pot or doing something wrong, much like work. It’s not great. I feel unbelievably tired of it all. It was a good walk on Sunday though – the sun was trying to shine, it did not rain, there was no wind, no snow or ice, and the air was warm but not too warm, and smelt fresh after rain on Saturday. We did have to squelch through some terrible mud at one point, but otherwise it was not too hard and very pleasant.

Today I started work at another office, which requires a much longer commute. To get there, I drove on narrow, winding, pot holed, country roads for a good deal of the way, feeling pressured to go much faster than I was comfortable with the entire time by other people driving on my tail. I don’t see what they think they are acheiving by driving on my bumper, except making me more nervous and prone to mistakes. Sigh. This morning there was a thick mist which obscured my view, so it felt like I was driving into nothing. It was very disorientating. Thankfully it had cleared for my evening commute. And, although I was even more stressed this evening, tired and desperate to be home, not bumping along on the country roads with some person on my tail, the countryside was beautiful, and I saw a lot of wildlife. Tommorow I’m trying a different route though, which should hopefully be less in the country. Some much better roads. I hope it goes well.

“It’s so painful, it’s so joyous, it’s so difficult, I’m yearning…”

I arrived back into the UK yesterday after two and a half weeks back home in Cape Town, South Africa. Where I was born, partially raised, and where most of my relatives are. It’s been a weird two weeks, there have been awkward moments, but also amazing moments, and it feels like I was just begining to settle into it all when I had to leave again.

It had been about seven years since I’d last been back. It’s a very long time and a lot has changed in that time. Two and a half weeks hardly feels enough to make up for it. (Though it is better than nothing, of course.)

In many ways, I have made peace with my dual nationality. Too South African to be British, but too British to be South African. I am South African/Scottish but I sound neither, and I can joke about that now. When we first immigrated to the UK I had no idea what was going on, I thought it was just a big fun holiday and everything would go back to how it was. Realising that it was not any such thing, that I would have to stay in a place where no one liked me and nothing felt familiar was pretty awful. I wanted to go home. For years I was determined that I would go back. I had no appreciation for adult concerns – finance, healthcare, social security. I was lonely and sad and I didn’t fit in and I just wanted to go home. Home became something magical to me, took on a brighter tinge. I wanted to escape back to what I had, which of course was wonderful and perfect. As I grew older I had to face reality. And now, coming back to South Africa and seeing the lives of my family there, I can appreciate reality even more. It was a good thing my parents did for me, to take me to the UK. Free healthcare and schooling and benefits are nothing to scoff at. No power cuts or water restrictions too. I have an independence that maybe I wouldn’t have, and I have a very good job, a very good home. I know these things. I was grieving for a long time, angry and sad and resentful, for the loss of what I could have been and the life I could have led, whatever that would be. I wondered how I’d look, if my personality would be more extroverted. I’d try to picture it, even though it’s impossible. But I’ve finally come through to the other side of my grief. The last stage is acceptance, right?

I have accepted the immigration and its benefits. and in many ways it’s freeing. It was brilliant going home with that acceptance. I could struggle to understand people in my home country and laugh it off. I could speak without feeling ashamed of my accent. I could embrace my otherness, and be a tourist in my home country, and not let it get to me. I surprised myself with just how well I did at not caring about it all. That was good. That helped a lot.

And I tried to enjoy being with my family, and reconnect with them, without all the miles and years between us getting in the way. Tried to have the same easy going acceptance of what is, is. That was a lot harder.

There is a distance, and it hurts. And it’s not just that, it’s hard to be with someone on borrowed time, hard to slip back into their lives and then out again. Especially as my grandparents grow older I am left sitting there wondering – is this the last time? There is a pressure to have everything just so, because of the limited time, and it ends up feeling a little forced and sometimes, yes, it was awkward. Wearing a mask and putting on your best behaviour. It shouldn’t be that way, really. We don’t really know each other, but yet they are family, and I love them, and I know they love me, despite all the thousands of miles between us, and I can’t bare the thought of losing them. I lost two of my grandparents in the last seven years, without being able to say goodbye, and I’m not sure I could do that again.

Even as practically I can appreciate my privileges and all that I have, nothing can take away the pain of having to say goodbye to your grandmother at the airport, not knowing if it’s the last time you will ever see her. It just hurts. It’s a stone embedded in my heart, a wound that won’t heal or allow itself to be erased. It’s home, and that’s just the way it is, and although I have boxed up my grief and loss and tucked it away, it’s still there.

I want to go back, I don’t want to go back, I should go back, I shouldn’t go back, I can go back, I can’t go back.

It feels like I’ve just been woken up from the most beautiful dream.

My head: it’s ok. Time to get on with reality.

My heart: I want to slip back into that dream.

(Home is still something slightly magical, something otherly to me. I said to my coworker before I left that it, the holiday, won’t feel real until I see Table Mountain appear out the plane window as we circle to land. But I lied. It never felt real. There was so much that was so wonderful, and South Africa is just too beautiful for words. I love my home and I hope I can go back again, just have this at least once more…)

(Why does it have to be so expensive and time consuming to go home? It’s so frustrating.)

“Once more, back to those times. It would have been…”

Heather in bloom across the moors
I had a terrible week last week, so I decided to go home to my mom and dads to allow my parents to look after me and help me relax/recover. It was a bank holiday after all – I wanted to make the most of it and really have a good break.

Peak of the Roaches
I got home on Saturday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day chilling at home. My parents and I sat outside for ages, making the most of the warm summer evening. We had a braai, then my dad got out his incinerator to burn some papers, and as the evening chill set in, the fire kept us warm as we talked. The next day I went for a walk with my father. He claimed it would be a short walk, but we ended up walking over 9 miles. Ouch. It was a beautiful route though. We started out near Gradbach Scout Camp then followed a path through the forest near Black Brook and the River Dane to get to the Roaches. There we paused to buy ice cream from an ice cream van placed very strategically at the bottom car park for the Roaches. (So. Clever.)

We then ascended the Roaches. From up there, the countryside stretched out for miles and miles. It was a clear, bright day. All the heather was blooming, in various shades of pink and purple. We were very lucky to spot a Peregrine Falcon as soon as we reached the top, and then later, as we sat down to lunch, there was another Peregrine Falcon scouting out the fields right in front of us.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon, probably.
Although the zoom on my camera is not the best, I am still amazed and very pleased with the pictures I managed to get. Birds of Prey are so hard to photograph. I get red kites around my flat, but I either never have my camera on me when they are out, or by the time I’ve got my camera out they’ve flown off. The first falcon was too far away. But from up on the Roaches we had the perfect vantage spot to watch, and capture, that falcon hunt.

Doxey Pool

Doxey pool at the top of the Roaches
We carried along the Roaches after lunch, and then descended to make our way to Hen Cloud. We ascended that, briefly spotted a couple more Falcons, a pair this time, circling around each other, although they were too quick to capture. It’s really wonderful to see birds of prey doing so well; they are easy to see these days, even if only fleetingly.

The Roaches with Hen Cloud in the distance
We descended Hen Cloud into a small forest, which opened up onto a country road which followed beneath the Roaches. This was a fairly dull part of the walk, a bit of a slog really, and we were exposed to the bright sun far too much. From the road we could see all the rock climbers out and about – the Roaches is a popular site for it. There were hordes of people out, actually, walking and rock climbing and picnicking. We got back to the ice cream van, stopped for another because why not it was extremely hot and exposed out there, and then headed back the way we had come. (Thankfully, back into the shade of the forest, though it was still hot, sticky. I had expected it to be cold and damp and was woefully overdressed.)

Except we decided to take a detour from our original route to go see Lud’s Church. Lud’s Church is basically a big chasm that has opened up in the forest. From the hot, humid forest above we descended into its cool, damp interior. Moss and bracken coated the sides. Unfortunately my camera lens was dirty so a lot of my photos were marred. But truly, its hard to capture the scale of the place, and its subdued, chilled atmosphere.

Lud's ChurchFrom there we headed back through the forest to the car park, thoroughly tired out. I headed to my sisters that evening for junk food and to play with her cat. The next day I had to go back to my apartment, where I chilled out and enjoyed the remainders of my long weekend. It was tough going back to work today. Work is a little boring right now which doesn’t help. Still, in the end I got the relaxing break I craved. And my parents, as always, spoilt me and for just a while, I could be free of the responsibility that comes with being an adult. It was nice to take a break from it all. And I’m glad the weather played ball – it was bright and sunny the whole weekend, with hardly any rain. :D

Heather in bloom

Note 1: I posted about the Roaches also in this entry here. (It’s funny how weather influences a walk – the Roaches and Hen Cloud were far less intimidating this time with the sun shining, compared to how they were in the snow and rain.)
Note 2: For more information on the Roaches, including some fascinating tales on Wallabies and Yaks, I highly suggest checking out the Roaches website.

Miss You

I’ve spent the past few days in a cabin in Scotland with my family, no internet, and no cellphone reception. I was tempted to write “stuck with my family” but that sounded a little extreme, as it wasn’t all bad.

It was only somewhat bad.

Wait. Backtrack.

My father drove us – my mother, my sister and myself – up to Rowardennan on Thursday. It was an extremely long drive, just over six hours in total, most of it motorway. It was very dull and very exhausting just to be a passenger, and I imagine it took its toll on my father too. We stopped three times and even then, I still felt cramped and sick. (We got to stop at the famous Tebay services though which yay?)

Once we got there we settled into our cabin. Which isn’t as pokey as it sounds. We had rented this cabin/lodge just by the Rowardennan Hotel. There was a whole group of these cabins located on the shore of Loch Lomond, with their own little private beach area and jetty. The lodge was roomy and full of character – three rooms, big bathroom, big lounge/kitchen/living area and large balcony with a view of the mountains in the distance. The bedding and cushions were all themed over deer, highland cattle, sheep and foxes. The walls were exposed wood, the ceilings and floors too. It was kind of awesome. We settled in, and then my sister and I ventured to the jetty together. We sat at the end, right out in the Loch, and soaked in the sunshine and the incredible view. It was very quiet and very still, and I felt small and removed from reality in a way that felt good. Like that the holiday started out well, but over the next few days the reason we were there, alongside the close living quarters, would take its toll and it became a bit tense and awkward. We needed space and didn’t have any. We needed escape, but we were cut off from the things we would usually use to ignore each other – mainly, our phones/internet.

You see, we were there to scatter my Grandfathers ashes. He was born in Glasgow and spent his early life there before work took him to Southern Africa, where he would meet my grandmother and settle in to life there. When he died, my grandmother asked for him to be laid to rest in his homeland. As my father and his family, my family, are the ones living in the UK this became our task. When he was younger my grandfather was an avid outdoors man and the area around Loch Lomond was one of his favourite places to go to. He would stay at the youth hostel just up the road from the Rowardennan Hotel we were staying by. It was an area he knew and loved. Therefore it was decided that we would take him to be laid to rest there. It made for a very sad trip, a very tense trip, as we were all grieving in our own ways.

I wish grief could be more straightforward, more linear. I wish there was a beginning and an end to it. Instead, it comes back, so suddenly and with such clarity. These past few days it came back and I feel devastated all over again now.

Nonetheless, we found a perfect spot for his final resting place and had a small but beautiful memorial service for him. We also did some good walking, went to the aquarium, soaked in the quiet, calm atmosphere of our cabin, and the sunshine and warmth and beauty of Scotland in Spring, before braving the long drive back again. (The drive back felt even longer and more cramped, which I know is psychological but still) (We got to go to Tebay services again though so yay again?) I have to go back to work tomorrow and that’s going to be weird- I feel I’ve not been working enough lately, and I’ve become quite lethargic, quite lazy. My brain isn’t ready to focus on actually being productive…and well, these past few days have been so full on emotionally that I feel like I could do with a holiday to recover. :|

These photos are from the first day, taken from our Jetty. I may post up some more entries with more photos, I may not. This trip feels so personal and my feelings are still raw, so I am not sure if I can write about it.

Cathedral

The bank holiday weekend couldn’t have come soon enough – it was wonderful to have four days off work without having to use up my leave. I gave the flat a good clean and then went home to my parents for Easter. Both my sister and I came home that Sunday so we could have lunch together as a family. My parents hid our eggs in the garden, just as they used to do as we were kids. This was random, but amusing. After a good lunch, we sat around and talked…well, bickered, and ate chocolate, and it was a nice chill day. On Monday I went with my dad to Liverpool; there was an organ concert being held at the Liverpool Cathedral which we wanted to see. We did see it, and it was nice, though perhaps not as dramatic as I would have liked.

Afterwards we looked around the cathedral (and I learned that the phrase “pull out all the stops” is to do with the function of an organ, which fascinated me) and then we decided to pay to go to the top of the Cathedral. It turned out to be quite an adventure to get the top! We had to take two lifts and then climb some terrifyingly exposed stairs (I should not have looked down) before we reached the top. The views were amazing up there though. Although it had, of course, been raining the entire bank holiday weekend the sun was trying to come out on Monday. We could see clearly to the Mersey and could spot a few recognizable landmarks such as the Radio Tower and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Afterwards, we took the lift to another set of viewpoints – to some of the balconies at the top of the inside of the cathedral. This was the coolest. I have always wondered about the hidden stairways and balconies in a cathedral and we actually got to see some of that. Looking down from the balconies was so cool: the people below were tiny and busy, like in a Lowry painting.

I was so glad I had brought my camera. My father meanwhile had not, and without a strap on his phone, was left to take pictures whilst clinging on to his phone for dear life (can you imagine dropping something from that height…)

After the Cathedral we went to get lunch at a terribly overcrowded Pizza Express, and then did some light shopping before going to the World Museum. I loved the World Museum when I was a student in Liverpool; it’s free to enter with a small aquarium which I remembered had some beautiful tanks. I would pop in after or between lectures and sit and watch the fish to cheer myself up/relax. Sadly, the aquarium was undergoing a lot of work when we went in and it wasn’t like I remembered at all. We wandered around some of the other sections and it was nice, but I was disappointed about the fish. I guess nostalgia may have tinted my memories a little, made them better than they were? I know that does happen. It’s funny how familiar Liverpool feels to me, but also how distant now. It’s been a long time since I was a student there. Still, it was a fun day.

I’m not able to travel abroad this year for various reasons, and my UK Railcard which gives me discounts on rail travel is expiring, so I really do need to get out and explore around me like this as much as I can to keep myself from getting restless and to make the most of my discounted travel whilst I still have it.

It was such a long, exhausting journey back to my city from Liverpool though. I slept like the dead and woke up late on Tuesday. I was not particularly looking forward to going back to work after such a nice break either which did not help my motivation. But the week flew by in the end, and was mostly uneventful. I did drive to work every day and back which I am super proud of. As implied, I had taken the train to see my parents and to go to Liverpool, as I couldn’t face such long journeys by car. And I am still a very…all over the place driver. I have good days and bad days, but I am doing my best to gain experience. Today I also put petrol in my car for the first time which I am also proud of myself for (I even managed to figure out how to reset my trip meter!) then I drove down to my local park/nature reserve for a walk in the nice sunshine (of course the weather would turn brilliant when it’s not a four day weekend. :| ) and to check out the status of the spring flowers – the snowdrops have gone, the daffodils are ending, and now finally the bluebells are here. There were also many birds out, and I could see some baby ones too. It’s lovely to see the world come alive after the cold, dark winter. I love how long the days are now. I really got my driver’s licence at the ideal time – not having to worry about driving in the ice, snow or heavy rain just yet (fingers crossed). I drive to work in the light and leave in the light and it’s just wonderful. My days feel so much longer now.

I’m not looking forward to this upcoming week at all: I have my annual performance review and some scary training course coming up. I also have a few doctors’ appointments coming up, for nothing major, just investigation, but it’s a little worrying. The last post was kind of freeing to write though. Sometimes just admitting I’m not OK is enough to feel just a little better. I’m not OK, so I may as well not be OK and getting on with the things I need to be doing!