Last Grandma

If you’re lucky enough to remember your grandparents, you might recall delicate skin, a shuffling walk, a comforting smell, a feeling of warmth.

I’m lucky enough to remember all four of my grandparents. I’m even luckier to have known my maternal grandmother past my 37th Birthday. She was my last Grandma on Earth, and she passed on Friday, September 18, 2020. I remember her as though she’s still here.

Patricia Davidson was my mom’s mom. Mother of seven children, devoutly Catholic and an unquestionably admirable woman. She was 94 years old.

I remember her easy laugh, seemingly always on the tip of her tongue, spring-loaded and ready to spill forth whenever life served up yet another ridiculous situation or circumstance. Her laughter was directed at herself as much as at anything else. She was the very essence of humility.

I remember our long discussions over the past several years, both by phone and in person. Her keen intellect made it a joy to speak with her. We told innumerable stories and talked communication, travel, languages, culture, changing society and spirituality. She remained sharp as a tack to her final day, leaving her home only for her last trip to the hospital, arriving on her own two feet and passing less than a day later.

I remember drinking hot, sweet tea at her kitchen table. I remember childhood sleepovers at her Port Moody house, watching MacGyver in her plush queen bed. I remember her rueful laugh when I identified the blackened burn marks in the white duvet, her explaining to me that Grandpa used to fall asleep while smoking a cigar when he was still with us. I remember her telling and re-telling the story of me as a toddler, insisting she stoop to hold my hand as I learned to walk, wearing a path into her home’s orange shag carpeting. “We must have walked miles in a day,” she said with a soft smile.

Words fail to do this amazing woman justice. If you were lucky enough to know her, you’d know the sparkle in her eye, her ready wit, her thoughtful and calm demeanour, her unending dedication to her family, her friends and her church community. Always well-dressed, always demure, always kind, always selfless. She loved playing piano, reading, music, her family, her church. She is so much more than a list of attributes or interests. If you knew my Grandma, you’d know you were truly and unironically blessed – a feat in itself in 2020.

I feel so lucky to have been able to accompany her to her church on a handful of occasions. She knows I’m not a regular church-goer, and through our many discussions, she knows my spirituality lives outside of the confines of a particular dogma or idea. She never tried to change that, but celebrated my own spiritual rituals, encouraged me in pursuing yoga and meditation. I, in turn, celebrate her spirituality and am comforted to know she’s with her Lord, where she’s long aspired to be.

We were so lucky to have Grandma Pat Davidson in our lives for any time at all. I got more than I dared hope for, and I will be grateful for our time for the rest of my own days. God rest her soul.

Here is her obituary.

Ye Cannae Go, Scotland!


I look back on one of the few pictures I have of myself in Scotland (with Catie Lind in Edinburgh, March 2007) like others might look back at a picture of an ex-boyfriend – but a good ex-boyfriend. The feeling is positive, nostalgic, and wistful, along the lines of; “it’s sad it wasn’t forever, but it was wonderful while it happened.” I travelled to the beautiful country many times between 2004 and 2008, stopping in to visit relatives, and friends, and relatives of friends in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Largs, Greenock, and Aberdeen over the years. It’s a wonderful place. Predominantly wet and overcast, maybe, but I’m from the Vancouver area, so that’s not new. Today I’m thinking back to my time in Scotland as the citizens of the country cast ballots in a referendum. They’ve already started, and we’ll know their answer to the question “Should Scotland become an independent country?” by late Thursday evening Pacific Standard Time.

I have tried to keep a level head and read some of the arguments for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom – Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tory government in Westminster chief among them. I understand that some Scots have felt downtrodden for the better part of three centuries, that the revenue from oil in the North Sea belongs to them, that wouldn’t it be nice to be represented by a party that they actually voted for. I get it. But I still can’t accept it. I do not want Scotland to leave. It only has a little bit to do with Ewan McGregor.

I worry about what currency Scotland will use if it can’t keep the pound. I worry Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond’s oil revenue projections are wrong and that, called upon to bolster flagging income, haggis will fail to blaze a trail as an international delicacy. I worry a little about what the UK’s flag will look like without the blue and white of St. Andrew’s Cross. I worry a lot about a UK without Ewan McGregor’s tender lilting accent, soft, boyish gaze, and built-for-a-kilt legs. It’s time to face facts. Colin Firth can only carry those limey bastards so far. On a significantly selfish note, I worry about whether my British passport will allow me free and full access to live and work in Scotland if the country votes to break away from the UK. This concern is prompted just slightly by Ewan McGregor and my plans for our happy and domestic future, cottage-bound and surrounded by kids, arm-in-arm, gazing out on Loch Ness. He’s still wearing the kilt, ps.

I am not Scottish, but I am half English with a titch of Scotch. My father was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, to my English grandparents in 1952. He and his family emigrated to Canada eight years later, and his mother, my Gran, is probably why they came up with the saying that starts with “you can take a girl out of the UK…” Through my family, I’ve truly lived my English roots my whole life, and maybe that’s why I’ve always felt a strong tie to the UK and an affinity with anyone from the United Kingdom, including, obviously, Scotland.

The Scots that I’m acquainted with, whether they live in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, or here in Canada, are over-the-top hospitable. They welcome you into their homes, feed you a hearty meal, force drink on you even if you refuse (but why would you refuse?!), engage you in lively conversation and never lose the twinkle in their eye. They do it all with a wry sense of humour, a quick wit, a no-nonsense attitude, and an accent that begs to be imitated. I don’t want to lose them.

It all boils down to the fact that I’m not ready to break up with Scotland. I looked back with nostalgia and a little spark flickered up. I started to realize how much I really do care, years later. I love it and its people too much, and I can’t let it go. I am selfish, and, reading back on this entry, I see that my fantasies about Ewan McGregor are starting to rage a little out of control. However, I am crossing my fingers that on Friday morning we wake up to a United Kingdom that still includes Scotland, and I hope to be back inside the bonny lass faster than you can say “restraining order.” See you soon, Ewan. ❤


Happy Canada Day?

Happy Canada Day?

Hey you! Yeah you – the one shotgunning a Molson while wrapped in a cape otherwise known as the Canadian flag. Happy Canada Day, eh? It wouldn’t be unusual to see a sight like that today. July 1st is synonymous with beer, partying, national pride. It’s a day to celebrate the mother-loving GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!!!!

We are pretty great. It’s been reported for many years that foreign travellers have been known to unapologetically sew maple leaf patches or Canadian flag emblems on their backpacks when going abroad. It was so enviable to be perceived as Canadian that people from other countries would pretend to be from ours. Talk about a compliment, eh?

You can’t argue that we don’t have some of the most vast and stunning landscapes around. These are inhabited by beautiful, friendly and polite people. We have one of the greatest democracies in the world. Right? You again – the one in the flag cape, starting to get a little drunk. You voted in the last federal election, right?

Phew. I wouldn’t want to have to lecture you. I wouldn’t want to be a major buzz kill on a day of celebration by pointing out that you opted out of one of the single most important things that makes our country so G-D fantastic.

Even if you did vote, there are likely people standing in your vicinity right now who did not. In 2011 – 61.1% of the population cast a ballot. In many contexts, 61% isn’t too bad. It means you passed Math 10, right? That’s a positive number! But when you consider our country has over 31.6 million people – with only 24.2 million on the voters list, you might feel a little let down. When you know that we have 24.2 million people registered to vote, you’d hopefully feel downright disheartened to hear that only 14.8 million of us actually cast a ballot. Even if you failed Math 10, you should understand that those numbers are abysmal.

I won’t go into the other numbers, previous turnouts et cetera. I know that cooler beside you is packed with beer that needs shotgunning today. But let’s remind ourselves that if we don’t vote – if we don’t take advantage of a right that people die for around the world – if we were ‘too busy’ on election day, or the parties’ platforms were too complicated to understand – we just became the 30 year olds living in our parent’s basements rent-free. We are riding on the coattails of those who built our country. At that point – we don’t deserve to be the greatest democracy in the world, because the people who have the power to make it a true democracy are sitting out the game.

It’s not about getting the Conservatives out of power (although that wouldn’t maybe be the worst thing in the world.) It’s about demonstrating your national pride, not with beer and a party, but by participating.

Democracy only really works if you use your voice. So save some of it. When you’re proudly belting out our national anthem today, whether you’re wrapped in a Canadian flag or not, have a thought and preserve some of that swelling in your chest. You need to use that to propel yourself to the polls in 2015. Let’s do better than 61.1%. It’s what I would expect of one of the “greatest countries in the world.”

Happy Canada Day.

Loving the Living Room

If you haven’t been to a living room concert, there is a level of sweaty you haven’t experienced before in your life. If you haven’t been to a living room concert, there’s also a level of raw intimacy you (hopefully) have never felt while sitting in the middle of a room packed with people.

The concept is simple: Person opens living room to musicians, provides power outlets, seating, and charges $20 to $30 admission. Dozens of people show up, their own beer and wine in tow, sit in the living room, and watch an incredible show.


My first living room concert was in downtown Kamloops last week, and while the room became stiflingly hot at times, the experience blew me away. Doesn’t hurt that Dominique Fricot and Hilary Grist are first-class musicians, their respective performance prowess rivalled only by their ability to connect with the audience. Everyone there knew they were part of something special. Hilary made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the night bringing all our souls together. I scrambled awkwardly to find my notepad so I wouldn’t forget it. She may have meant it facetiously, but she hit the nail on the head.


You can go to arena shows, and festival shows, and pub shows, but there’s nothing that creates a closeness or offers a more visceral experience than a living room concert. I’m not going to wax *too* lyrical about the quality of the performances. You had to be there, it’s one of those. There were shivers, there were shift-in-your seat moments, and, at least from me, there was open-faced admiration at the palpable passion and raw talent exhibited by all performers. Don’t forget that a venue like this allows for better crowd control, resulting in some amazing audience participation moments. Hilary, her husband Mike Southworth, and Dominique closed with Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” It was a music-lover’s dream.


Suffice to say, I recommend you hunt down the location and date of the next living room concert that comes through your part of the world, and attend it. You should attend it so hard. I know of a couple of living room venues in Kamloops, but given the limited seating, it’s sort of an exclusive thing. You might have to go underground to find one. It’s one of those where you have to know someone or know someone who knows someone. But trust me, you’ll be happy you knew someone. Ashley (pictured below) was my someone. I owe you big time, Ash! You all owe it to yourselves to get to one of these venues – or check out Hilary, Mike and Dominique. None of the aforementioned will disappoint you.

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Last Post: Dubai Desert Safari

Last Post: Dubai Desert Safari

The full second day in Dubai was incredible. Caitlin had booked us into a desert safari. Apparently not all tour companies in the UAE are very reputable, but a friend of hers from her yachtie days had done one with this company and was impressed. We were picked up by a peeved Pakistani tour driver, upset that Caitlin didn’t answer two of his seven calls that morning.

He was calling for directions – which she gave the first two times she picked up. The crazy thing is, my sister doesn’t have an address. She has a building name and a neighbourhood. But that’s it. It seemed like that for every single destination we chose. Every time we got into a taxi it sounded like this: “we’re going to Al Nahda 1. It’s across from the Mai Tower and down the street from the NMC Hospital. Ok you see that parking garage? Pass it and take a left. Yes, left now. No, NOW! Here! Ok keep going….” you get the idea. And it’s never as simple as being dropped off at a tourist destination, or navigating anything. We were taken to the Armani Hotel when we asked for the Burj Khalifa, and it was a miracle we ever got out of the Dubai Mall alive. That place is a hellish pit of people, excess and commercialism that has NO CLEAR DIRECTIONS. I had a bit of a meltdown there one day.

So – Caitlin ignored the driver’s persistent phone stalking and he let her know he was angry as we got in the vehicle. But all was forgotten 10 minutes later as we picked up a family of three from Lyon, France, at their hotel. We took the highway to the desert about 45 minutes outside of Dubai. I never knew the name of the tour company, and we didn’t sign any waivers, so it could have been a random guy out to make a buck, but hey, if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. I imagine my mother finds this paragraph very comforting.

We stopped at a tourist trap to go to the bathroom, buy snacks, and be basically assaulted by men intent on wrapping us in their headscarves – I’d say that was Caitlin’s highlight as she doubled over laughing for a good five minutes because of my expression when we were draped with the material. Caitlin was not given a ‘holy sh*t’ handle to hold on to when we went dune bashing (4×4-ing on the sand dunes), and we got stuck twice and witnessed many bumpers that had been ripped off on previous expeditions. We had good fun, but the French girl upchucking her dejeuner into un sac did not fare so well. Luckily by then it was on to the camels and the ATVs!

I had been really looking forward to the camel ride, but as soon as it was time to mount the animals, my stomach clenched. These animals are tied up in the desert, waiting only for tourists to crawl on top of them and fawn over them. Who knows how well they’re treated apart from that? It was all of a one-minute tour though, so I felt better that we weren’t forcing them to trek that far. However, my heart sank as we left later that morning and I saw a herd of camels grazing in the desert brush – their front legs attached by a red piece of fabric, presumably to prevent them from walking too far. No time for camel pity, though, there were ATV’s to ride!

It was intimidating at first, riding the little 4x4s up and down steep sand dunes, but you get the hang of it, and in no time we were ripping around like nobody’s business. The trip had been made for me by that point, super cool experience, and we didn’t die. So Caitlin did pretty well with that choice.

Later that day we visited The Palm, a man-made cluster of sand outcroppings in the shape of a palm tree that can be seen from space. The Palm is home to some of the most affluent hotels and neighbourhoods in Dubai, catering to the very richest of clientele. At the head of the Palm is Atlantis, a massive resort modelled on one by the same name built in the Bahamas in the ’90s. It is really beautiful and its castle shape is impressive and sort of eerie to spot in the distance, obscured by the constant layer of pollution/sand that hovers over the city. We had dinner there at ‘Kaleidoscope’, a buffet style restaurant – but this is no type of buffet you’ve ever had. Every single dish was absolutely mouth-watering. I’m glad it was since we paid 200 dirham each for the meal alone – about 60 Canadian dollars.

On the last day we went to the top of Burj Khalifa, and Caitlin and I both agreed it was overrated. I’m glad to have done it, because I would have regretted not seeing the view from the top. However that view from the top wasn’t very clear, and it wasn’t worth the 100 dollars Canadian we paid to see it. Note to future visitors – reserve your Burj Khalifa rooftop tickets well in advance to avoid being fleeced by the tiered pricing. Once that was done, we boarded the hop on, hop off bus tour and had a fantastic remainder of the day. We stopped at Jumeira public beach for lunch, took shots of the Burj al Arab, the iconic sail-shaped seven-star hotel that provides an air limousine service between the airport and its own helipad. We capped off our excellent day by returning to the souk across from the Dubai Mall for a delicious meal.

The next morning, we had time to stop at the Montessori centre where Caitlin works, saw some of the adorable kids, and then it was off to the airport for another 24 hours of travelling to get me back home. Thanks again to Jennifer Roussy – that wasn’t painful. I was booked into Club class once again, for both the Dubai to London flight and the London to Vancouver flight. I really can’t complain about any aspect of travel on this trip, it was luxurious and I am too lucky for words.

So here I am, back at home – tired, jet-lagged, sick, but thoroughly exhilarated and beaming with happiness. This trip was truly one of a lifetime. People keep asking me about my favourite part of the holiday, and it’s too hard to choose just one from the reel of incredible sights and experiences that has been playing over in my mind since the journey began. But then I remember what really made it for me. It was the people. I got to see some of the people I love most in this world, many for the first time in years, and everything was the same. I love them just as much, they still make my world brighter, happier and better. So to those who hosted me, fed me, took the time out of their busy schedules to see me – thank you, I love you, and you made my trip amazing. Door’s open if anyone ever wants to come to Kamloops – we have a pretty phenomenal pulp mill you might want to check out. 😉 Now – time to upload the pictures and sift through one of the best experiences of my life all over again. ❤ ❤ ❤


“You would SO get arrested if you stayed here longer than a week!”

Above – the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Bit of a cheat, really, since it relies on a long, solid spindle at the top of the building to earn that distinction. But Dubai is a lot like that. Anything to be the best, biggest, richest. It doesn’t have to be authentic or useful, it just has to be number one.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Dubai. I’m not a fan of shopping malls, labels don’t impress me, and it’s hot there. I can do summer heat, but anything upwards of 30 is not my favourite. Plus – it’s Muslim. The people of the Islamic country value deference and modesty. You can see how I was worried I wouldn’t fit in, right?

After clearing passport control and customs – a surprisingly easy and fast process for a dodgy Westerner like me – I was unleashed into arrivals. My sister was nowhere to be found. I was tired, the flight was delayed two hours by a medical emergency on the ground and then a hold coming in to DXB. This coming off my 11 hour Cape Town jump seat experience on the same day. So I was weary and intimidated by the strange looks I was getting from men in traditional dress. A cacophony of foreign languages rang out as I trudged through to arrivals, none bearing any resemblance to the familiar tongues of Europe. Arabic can sound quite harsh and angry, especially at 2 am. No sister in arrivals inside – but she spotted me as I wandered out the doors and into the dusty desert city, 24 degrees in the middle of the night. I didn’t really like Dubai so far. Even less so when I found out we were taking a ‘ladies only’ taxi back to Caitlin’s place. She had also been standing in the arrival area for ladies. Weird to see the separation. You hear about it, but in Canada I think we’re so divorced from the reality of the rest of the world. Our country is so safe and open that we don’t really ‘get’ how protected we are – safety wise and discrimination wise – and that we are in the extreme minority.

I didn’t like Dubai, but I was glad to see my sister. We had a glass of red to celebrate our reunion and headed to bed as she had to work at the Montessori centre in the morning.

5:30 am. It’s pitch black out and all I can hear is a man’s voice chanting. It takes me a minute, but as I rub sleep from my eyes, I realize the voice is emanating from the speakers on the mosque across the way. The haunting chant echoes across the neighbourhood, calling all to prayer. It’s the first of five times that will happen in a day, and it happens across the United Arab Emirates. Even in the Dubai Mall, music in all the shops is abruptly shut off and the call to prayer replaces the familiar sounds of commercialism. It’s a pretty cool experience to hear it, it sounds incredibly beautiful. I’m told by my friend Louise, who works for the airline Emirates and has lived in Dubai for the past 5 and a half years, hearing the call to prayer loses its initial appeal.

I manage to meet with Lou on the first full day in Dubai. After visiting the Burj Khalifa and the fountains, Caitlin and I settle in at the Karma Caffe, a restaurant overlooking the fountains. It serves alcohol, unlike any restaurants in the mall, and we indulge in some martinis. The food is delicious but the prices are exorbitant. That goes for everywhere in Dubai. Caitlin hasn’t really been out for dinner or drinks since moving there because it’s so expensive. But we laid out the dirhams and had a lovely evening because it was holiday time! Lou met us for coffee at the extravagantly decorated eatery – despite having incurred a four-hour delay on her night flight that landed that morning. It was fabulous to catch up with her. We trained together at BA in 2006 and last saw each other in 2008. She was just as funny, lovely and beautiful as ever, a total treat to be able to see her.

I have to admit after my first day though, that Dubai is an incredible city. The skyline is like something out of a futuristic movie. Beautiful in its own way, and deliberately designed to be different. It is an extremely Western-friendly city in most areas. English is widely spoken – if not understood. (More on how to give directions in Dubai in a later post. Insane) The smells are heady and intoxicating, the music played around the fountains is the ultimate atmospheric scene-setter. It was pretty cool to be there. Of course, I was still in a very different city – but I hadn’t changed for Dubai. What Caitlin told me on our first full day is the title of this entry. It’s true – Dubai was to be only a temporary experience for me, and that’s for the best.

Caitlin and I call it a night as we’re both exhausted from the night before. We settle in for – what else – pizza and champagne on the balcony to celebrate day 1. Then it’s to bed with us – we have to be up bright and early Friday morning for our desert safari tour! I’ll save that for another post – the jet lag that woke me up at 2 am is wearing off so I’ll take advantage of some sleep for now.


From Kent to Cape Town

From Kent to Cape Town

Let me preface this by saying I’m exhausted. Please excuse spelling mistakes and off colour comments for that reason. I spent almost 24 hours on a plane yesterday, and over 11 of those hours were spent without a real seat. I’m now recalling the times where being a flight attendant was hard.

Every single sleepless, cramped moment has been worth it a million times over, though. I left Sandgate on Saturday after a tearful goodbye to the Taylors. Josh lived up to his excellent chauffeur reputation and drove me to Heathrow so I could avoid lugging my suitcases up and down staircases on the tube.

There I was reunited with my former roommate and friend, Jennifer Roussy. Jen commutes to Heathrow from Paris and her flight was in several hours before we were to depart for Cape Town, so we made the most of it and did some catching up over coffee in the crew report centre. It was so weird to be surrounded by BA people all over the place!

Despite my trepidation that I may not make it on to the jam-packed CPT flight – it all worked out. Thanks if you crossed your fingers for me! I found out the Captain had okayed me an hour before the flight, which is an unusually long time for standby. Not every staff member on standby got on, but because I was with Jen, I was given priority. Not only that, the flight crew gave up their business class rest seat to me, so I got to travel in Club for a second time! Definitely spoiled. I learned from that trip that a South African red wine you HAVE to try is called “Optima”. You’re welcome.

We arrived in Cape Town about 11 hours after taking off, and were welcomed with a cloudy sky. The temperature was warm and the air was sticky, totally different from anything I’d felt since Cuba last year. The crew bus took us through Cape Town and past the amazing sights of Table Mountain and the Lion’s Head. But what had the most effect was the Townships we passed between the airport and the hotel in Bantry Bay. Townships, for lack of a better term, are slums for non-whites. They’re usually built on the periphery of a town or city, and up until the end of Apartheid, that’s where you’d find black Africans, Indians, and anyone who wasn’t Caucasian basically. I never got to visit one (the hop on hop off bus does offer a Township tour), but you can tell the conditions are abysmal from the motorway. Huts stacked one right next to the other, tin roofs tilted precariously over sagging walls, all unified at regular junctures by a large pole, to which electrical wires are attached in massive bundles. There’s garbage everywhere and the ground is hard-packed dirt. And they are MASSIVE. The size and scale of these urban settlements are mind-boggling. You see black people walking up and down highway overpasses to get to the township right below. I never saw any whites. I’m told by the crew that (of course) Apartheid – or the racism that espoused it – still exists. No one wants to give concrete examples, but one girl tells me the way she’s seen some white South Africans treat and talk to black South Africans made her skin crawl.

It was not to be a ‘real world’ trip however – we had under two days to make the most of the city. I am definitely going back.

On day one, Jen slept for a few hours, as did the rest of the crew. They had just done an 11 hour night flight and were knackered. I was ok, having slept in my cushy flat bed, so I took my camera and spent a couple of hours walking along the seaside. I wasn’t sure of the safety level in Cape Town, so I stuck to the waterfront, heavily populated by families and joggers and walkers on the overcast Sunday morning. The waves were so powerful that spray misted everyone on the walkway. I spotted some neat birds I’d never seen before and sat on the beach, watching them bob for fish as the tide came in. Of course, it was cloudy, but it was also South Africa. I made the mistake of going out without sunscreen and got a doozy of a burn on my shoulders and chest. Spot the tourist!

It poured with rain that first afternoon and the crew decided to make the most of it by meeting for drinks – and then a six course meal with wine pairings at “La Mouette” for dirt cheap. 600 rand is about 60 dollars Canadian. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – stay tuned for pictures. The crew – who were absolutely amazing and made me miss flying – all came out and we got slightly sauced. Some chose to carry the party on at an after hours place, but Jen and I headed to bed. A far cry from my Gatwick days!

The next morning, eight of us rented two cars and went wine touring in the village of Franschhoek (‘French corner’, settled by the Huguenots) east of Cape Town. The views were breathtaking, the sky was sunny, the wine was delicious – it was a wonderful day. We also had fantastic steak for lunch. Everything is so cheap in SA, you can live like a king on a Canadian or British salary. So that’s exactly what we did.

After a full day of that, our vehicle of four headed to “the Bungalow”, a place overlooking Camps Bay and “the 12 Apostles” mountains dominating the cliffside near Clifton. We had drinks in a stunning setting among all the beautiful people at the outdoor bar. The sunset was spectacular.

That night Jen and I went for a meal on our own. We had a lovely evening – and were up bright and early the next morning to head to Table Mountain. It was the hottest of our days there, positively scorching as we stood in line to take the cable car to the top of the mountain. If you have seen the pictures on Facebook – you have an idea of how absolutely majestic everything is there. Words literally fail me. There’s a first time for everything. My modest camera skills could not capture the scale and beauty of it all, it’s something you really have to see with your own eyes. From Table Mountain, we had lunch in the port and toured that area before heading back. It was our last day and we needed to pack for the flight home. We managed to fit in some pool time and I met my sister’s fiancé (who is South African and now works in Cape Town) and his friend for a drink just before pickup for the flight. I cautiously gave my approval to the rest of the family 😉 Jacques seems like a great guy. He bought me beer, how bad can he be?!

The flight home was markedly different from the flight there. It was full and five standby staff members had been promised a ride home. That meant a jump seat – where flight attendants sit for take off and landing – for the whole flight, which lasted 11 and a half hours. They kept me in the wine, but let me tell you, it is not the most pleasant way to travel. I wasn’t complaining though – I got to go to South friggin Africa!!!!

I’ll leave it there as I have to get my day started in Dubai. Luckily I got a Club seat on the way here too so I was able to sleep for a couple of hours, but the travel is taking its toll. I’m tired and am feeling a little worse for wear at this point. No time to focus on that though, there’s a brand new city to explore! Time for the Gostelow sisters to Do-Bai!


Kent, not with a u.

Kent, not with a u.

I am feeling quite relaxed despite the fact that this holiday was supposed to be whirlwind. This is in large part due to my own stupidity, but that worked in my favour this time.

I have changed plans and destinations frequently in the run up to the trip so as to see as many people as possible. Up until I was on the train to Folkestone on Monday, I thought I had only two days with the Taylors. But an hour before I arrived at their home – I realized I had forgotten I’d cancelled the France portion of the trip in favour of going to South Africa March 1st. This effectively added 3 days to my stay with them. So I’ve had a lovely week of sleeping in, eating well and drinking well with Dana and Chris and Josh, who surprised us with two visits! We’ve done strolls along the seaside in Sandgate, gone to the shops in Hythe and Folkestone. On Wednesday, we drove to Canterbury and almost immediately turned around because Ted would not stop screaming. It turns out the poor baby has an ear infection 😦

Because he is sick, I went alone to Sevenoaks today to see Beth Beardshaw and her three children, Anoushka, 9 and Oliver and Zack, 9 months. To make extra money when I worked at BA, I looked after Anoushka, who was a toddler at the time. Dana was Anoushka’s nanny but working at BA meant Beth would need another person to fill in when Dana was away. Dana reminded me today she reluctantly referred me to Beth, saying I was nice, but the drawback was my annoying Canadian accent. Luckily that didn’t deter Beth – and they soon welcomed me into the family.

Today we met for coffee – only an hour was possible as Anou Badu had to go back to school – and Beth has her hands full with twin boys. It was wonderful seeing what a polite, helpful and accomplished young lady Anoushka has become, despite my interference during her formative years. She will be auditioning for musicals in London’s West End this summer, so proud! Beth was like a big sister when I lived here and was so today. Predictably, I burst into tears when we parted, love her to bits.

I was then left to my own devices and wandered into St. Thomas’s church on the high street of Sevenoaks. I took some pictures and then saw a sign for “Knole”. I had no idea what it was but I walked in the direction of the sign to find out. Well it turns out that was a fantastic idea, because Knole House in Knole Park is an estate that dates back to medieval times. It is still inhabited by a few members of the family it belongs to, but it’s also a National Trust site and draws many tourists, walkers and runners. The chateau and the stone wall that surrounds it is the highlight of the vast, sprawling parkland that is home to many deer. I seriously felt like I was in a Jane Austen novel as I strolled around and took photos, it was incredibly picturesque and quintessentially English. It turned out to be an unplanned and unexpectedly pleasant afternoon, although there were no Mr. Darcy sightings.

As for the rest of my trip: Josh is back in Folkestone now as he doesn’t think he will be deployed to Dubai with the RAF until next week. He is usually my chauffeur when I come to visit and this time is no different. If he’s not called out, he’ll drive me to Heathrow on Saturday, which will give me more time with him and it will mean I’ll avoid lugging Tanya’s suitcases up and down the stairs as I change Tube stations. Hallelujah!, said my back.

I may not be heading to South Africa though. Jennifer R has informed me the flight she’s working on is almost full, and my standby priority is wayyyy down on a long list. There is the potential for a jump seat which I would gladly and gratefully take if offered – Club World it ain’t, but if it gets me to SA, it would feel like Club to me! If I don’t get on Jen’s flight, I’ll list for the second one that night, and if that falls through I’ll head to Portugal or Croatia or some other destination I’ve always wanted to check out. I’d be sad to miss out on SA and Jen time – but that’s the risk you take flying standby.

One more day of Taylors and Josh time – pub lunch, pedicures and a stroll are on the list. Feel free to cross your fingers and send me any good vibes you can spare on Saturday. If I make it to SA, I’ll travel to Table Mountain in your honour, and I’ll also do your chores for a month. Hopefully I have some good news to report this weekend, I’ll be back then – in ecstasy or agony.


“You haven’t changed a bit”

That’s the number one comment I’ve heard – and uttered – over the past few days. Some people I’m visiting I haven’t seen in nine years, but it’s nice to know that the essential excellent things about them remain the same. And that I haven’t aged in a decade, that’s nice to hear too, I’m going to start legitimately pretending I’m 25 again.

I’ll have to Coles notes this as best I can – the last few days have been absolutely manic. To finish off the Wales chapter – we had a great night out at O’Neills pub in Cardiff and celebrated the Six Nations rugby win until the wee hours with French and Welsh supporters alike. Suffice to say I have many entertaining bar photos involving leeks, daffodils and dragons (Welsh symbols), and even have a bagpipe encounter thrown in for good measure. To remember it all, I have a bruise on my backside, earned after I stood on a stool to dance and promptly came crashing down to earth. Class in a glass over here. Jenny and Gareth drove me to the airport the next day and I walked away with tears rolling down my face because I’m a giant baby – and because it’s so hard leaving people you love without a firm idea of when you’ll see them again.

I didn’t have much time to be upset though, I was bound for Basel, Switzerland, the first place I ever lived properly away from home. Predictably this was emotional as well. I took care of three boys, ages 5, 7 and 9, for a year and a half in 2004/2005. Michael, Philipp and Patrick were my little brothers. Or they were until I got off the plane and saw three strapping young men waiting for me. 15-year-old Patrick joked immediately “you’re our little sister now” since they all tower above me.

It was amazing to see how polite, interesting, charming, worldly, intelligent, warm, conversational and FUNNY they are. I told my lovely host mum Marianne when I got to the airport that my German is worse now than when I left. Michael chimed in “but our English is much better now”. Is it ever! They were all learning when I was there but Michi and Philipp are fluent, and Patrick’s English is better than my German. On top of it all – they are still the loveliest boys. I’m so incredibly proud of them, and almost as soon as I’d left them, I was in floods of tears. They truly are my brothers.

It was emotional seeing my host mum again as well. Marianne was my anchor as I tried to figure out how to live in a foreign country with a foreign language. She helped me through all sorts of triumphs and heartache, made me part of the family, and it is why she truly is my Mami Zwei – ‘mom number 2’.

Marianne was on form as ever when I returned to the Steiner home in Grindel on Friday night. I was treated to an amazing spread of raclette (cheese and potatoes with a Swiss twist), homemade tirimasu, traditional Swiss treat “mohrenkopf”, and the beer, wine and schnapps were flowing.

I turned into a crybaby once again as Marianne shuttled me back into town to Swedish Catie’s flat – I don’t know when I’ll see them again. I was still drying my tears as I walked into Catie’s flat – an hour late – when she pulled me into her living room and shocked the hell out of me. She’d gathered my good friends Joss and Joanna. I met English Joss in Switzerland all those years ago and had most recently seen him when he lived in New York and Jennifer and I visited him there in 2007. That was shocking enough, but English Jo Riggs was also there. Jo and I were flight attendants with BA together. She is now a pilot and flies out of Basel Airport – and had never met Catie before that night. But Catie rallied the troops – and they helped me celebrate my return. I was so overwhelmed with the emotion, I’m not sure I processed he wonder of it all appropriately. No time to worry about that though – Catie poured a glass of red and forced us all out the door. Time to do the rounds at the pub. Not much sleep was had that night and we were up to watch the Olympic gold medal game hours later. I watched in a pub full of Swedes, so I had to contain myself a bit, but it wasn’t really tough since I was feeling the effects of the night before. Seeing as my hardest partying years were in Switzerland, it was appropriate that we didn’t make it to bed before 5 am – after an ice fight in the bar, and a wrestling match at home. As most of my Swiss nights have been, this was one to remember.

Sunday was a gorgeous warm and sunshiny day in Basel. Catie and Joss joined me as I toured around to take some touristy photos. Basel is such a beautiful, clean city. The nostalgia factor continued to rate through the roof, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the Swiss transportation system. In Basel alone it’s the best I’ve seen in the world. You can’t help but respect a country that is so quietly efficient about something everyone else sucks terribly at. We ended the visit on a Sunday Funday – drinks at the pub and then Catie took me home and made me her classic to-die-for Carbonara. We both eventually passed out on the couch – and I ended up getting two hours of sleep before I had to be up for my 7 am flight back to the UK.

Predictably – more tears as I left my sister from another mister – the best friend who stood by my side through one of the periods that developed me most as a person in my life. The tears were ok though since we’d done nothing but laugh for the previous day and a bit. Truly a case of “nothing has changed”.

It was a ridiculously short amount of time to spend in Switzerland, but I’m so glad I went, and so thankful that my friends and family made the time to see me. I left the country with a heavy but full heart on Monday morning.

It was a blur of planes, trains and the Underground as I made my way to Folkestone, Kent, to visit former roommate and loves of my life Dana, Chris and baby Ted. The whole reason I planned this trip to Europe is so I could meet my 13-month-old nephew. And he is gorgeous! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but he is the most even-tempered, lovely baby ever. We had a lovely walk down the seaside, which is a block away from their gorgeous house – and then were very much by surprise visited by Josh Levett!!! Jenny Bain, Josh, Dana and I trained together when we joined British Airways in 2006. It’s hard to think of many people I love more than them. We had a lovely visit as it was a gorgeous and warm day here on Monday as well. Chris made us an amazing dinner of sausages, cabbage and bacon, and roasted sweet potato. Who knew all my friends were such good cooks?

It’s after 6 am here and I hear Ted stirring in the other room, which means I’m off to take advantage of more time with some of the best people ever. It’s nice to have a few solid days here since I’ve been so all over the place. A bit of downtime now, before I hopefully head to South Africa with the woman who made this whole trip possible – Jennifer Roussy – in four days! Hope my loved ones are staying warm in Kamloops! I see the snow is persisting on the coast as well. I hope everyone I love is driving safe – and missing me of course 😉 Ciao for now!