28 Sept 2012

Playa de Soledad

Summer wraps up for Autumn
Days are snapping shut
Into those starless nights
And I miss you.

'Path to the Beach - Dolphin Sands, Australia', photo by Jess Gibbs, via Artflakes

Life has taken a turn
A forced leisurely stroll
In my heart there's a hurt
And I speed down the coastline
Speeding thoughts through my mind
Skid round the bend
Screech to an end.

I have no sight, no sound
No smell, no touch
Other than words
To communicate to you
The written word, my frustration
My hapless devotion
A needy string of letters
Sitting pretty on a page
Like a pearl necklace
Stretched to snap
And there it snaps...

'Wildflowers on Sand Dunes, Tarkine Coast', by Lonely Planet Images, via Artflakes

I am the bearer of good news
Weaver of illusions
Good fortune stand-up
Ballet dancer of hopes
Actress of your dreams
We are free spirits
In cages that we built
And I drink up to
Your every written word
Like a love potion.

In my deepest darkest hour
I kiss the air I breathe
And your skin I crave
The mirror I graze
I look in your eye
My mind's eye
Your gaze is my daze
And my days are fazed.

Long stretches of desolate beaches
As far as the heart can see
Solitude battered down by the winds
You're my Summer gone
Too soon to the Tropics
And the sunshine of your smile
I miss.

I want to be the Summer keepsake
To your whimsical thought
Your sunny disposition
Here in my heart
You may linger
Till we meet again.

Uncredited source, via Pinterest

And I want you
And I can't have you
My heart is at home
Only when it's with you
There's a will, there's a way
Here's a word, and here's two
So what else can I do
But compose a verse to you?

If you ever shed a tear
While you are reading this
Make sure it's joy
Because in this broken bliss
We are blessed
By togetherness
In our combined loneliness
Bound for better
And the betterest.

© Nathalie A. Hachet (27/09/2012). 

16 Sept 2012

An Acute Case of the Wanderlust (Part 2)

Where do you start? How soon is soon? How long is a piece of string? As I am preparing myself to step out the comfort zone, I have a thousand questions and very few answers. Thankfully friends have been supportive, no matter how vague I still am about it all at this stage. Somewhere in my mind I have started a process and this is a sign of progress and progression, a massive step forward!

'Lake of the Moon, India', photo by Dhurjati Chatterjee, via National Geographic

The process had been there all along but I was caught in such a spin that I could snap none of the interconnected links that made up the chain I was tied to, or else everything would have fallen off the wayside with harsh consequences. Quit the job with no plan B and la vida loca is likely to take a turn for the worse, as you jeopardise the mortgage and everything home-related, the outgoings, the financial responsibilities, the lifestyle, the prized possessions and the peer pressure that we call The Joneses that keep you in check! It's like a castle of cards crashing down.

At the time I could see no leeway. I envied those who had the luxury to afford a sabbatical with on top of it guarantees from their employer to take them back six months down the line. Now there's a thought. I wonder whether one really wants to settle back into the old job once their travel adventure is over. You have moved on but the old job, old place, old coworkers seem to have remained 'stuck in'. Interesting...

'Coyote, Yellowtone National Park', photo by Timothy Brooks, via National Geographic

The decision to 'jack it in' was eventually made for me via redundancy and everything else is history. Now I've come a long way and I am in a different place. For starters I have the confidence, the willpower, the drive to go travel and push into those new horizons. It's basically now or never. Also I am no longer a 'slave to the wage' (to quote that Placebo song) in the same way I was back in Manchester. At least that's one good thing about island life: less needs, less spending. I have become less materialistic too. And last but not least I'm back at living at my parents like some grown-up teenager and can offload some of that financial pressure (thanks mum and dad!).

Another massive step forward for me is that I am letting go of my house in Manchester. A couple of weeks ago I decided to put it on the market. As symbolic and sensible this is, it is also part of the 'moving forward' process. Yippee, I am ready to let go! After hesitating for the best part of two years it has now become crystal clear that I have no intention of moving back to Manchester, the reason being that I have moved on. So why linger in the past when the best things are yet to come!

P.S: Get a taster of the wanderlust with Benny the Irish Polyglot's fabulously inspirational post: '29 life lessons learned in travelling the world for 8 years straight'!

12 Sept 2012

An Acute Case of the Wanderlust (Part 1)

One day I had a revelation, an epiphany. It had taken me years to come to the realisation that no matter what, I was never gonna be that stereotype woman that media and society define as the embodiement of success: a whippersnapper version of The Devil Wears Prada, with a marriage to boot and 2.1 kids in tow, with the glamorous suburban home, the neat lawn and the picket fence. The settled woman with all her needs met. Once upon a time I might have caressed the thought, especially the one about prince charming. Then I decided who was I to fool, apart from my 'well-wishing' parents and some 'well-meaning' friends?

'Whooper Swans, Japan', photo by Stefano Unterthiner, via National Geographic

Personal events gradually took me away from the shadow of that ideal life idea. For starters a miserable marriage that eroded the concept of that perfect family setting. I divorced. A few years later the economic recession further shook up our career woman. These were to be blessings in disguise as I would find out later. Such events give you wings to think on your feet and take charge of your direction in life in a bolder more assertive way. Because if you are not the master of your own destiny, at least be sure to be the actor, play an active part and get involved in your own life rather than be the victim.

I am a free spirit, there is no denying. You can't tin it, cage it, clone it. Like wordsmith William Wordsworth would put in verse, 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' over a field of golden daffodils, free and fancy-free, untroubled... As a child I used to revel in adventure books and in the Kuoni travel brochures that promised you Heaven on Earth twenty thousand miles away from home. American Far West period dramas and films like Out of Africa had me hooked. It was clear to me that one day I would unshackle from the obligatory rat race, travel the world and shack up with like-minded people. After deciding at a young age that air hostessing could be the way forward in order to satisfy my wanderlust, I ambitioned to become a photo journalist/ travel writer for the likes of National Geographic. I even imagined the possibility of becoming an actress, in fact combining innate creativity outlets with travel.

'Limestone Towers, Madagascar', photo by Stephen Alvarez, via National Geographic

I never became any of the above. I tamed up for a while. I played the career game. I tried to believe in home and marriage. I yearned stability and normality. Occasionally I did get itchy feet though. I remember vividly those British newspaper adverts from New Zealand authorities inviting emigration candidates to the New World. I saw emigration to faraway places as the answer to happiness. I wanted to make the move but got scared and just backed off. I needed that nudge to tilt me forward, that back-up. Or was that just an excuse to stay put and nurture regrets instead?

For the last year or so, I have been mingling with a crowd of world travellers and free spirits, some of whom with a guitar as weapon of mass seduction, who will never tick any of the boxes of our first paragraph and don't give a monkeys about it. These guys made me understand that you shouldn't base your self-worth on your salary figure and that no business, no company will set you up for life. You need enough money to get by and you need to make things and think outside the box. You need a job that is meaningful, where you give back to society and the world at large.

'Quiver Trees, Namibia', photo by Franz Lanting, via National Geographic

Scale back the volume of your belongings. Maybe home ownership is not your solution after all. Maybe being a no-strings-attached nomad is meant for you. You need to understand what motivates you, what gives you a kick, what makes you tick, and then act accordingly. Have an open mind and a smile to conquer the world, be tolerant of differences and be acceptant. You need to seek happiness always and encourage exchange with others. Contribute a difference to that world, no matter how modest. Substantiate your life with personal growth experiences from ethics to travel to charity, via ecology and sustainability. Now this talks my language as an 'armchair' ecologist. Giving a meaningful meaning to your life is what this is all about. This is part of my quest. My quest for wisdom. (to be continued)

The (Late) Lowdown on London (Part 3)

So then what do I make out of my nine-day London city break? In an ideal world I might have made more of an adventure out of it rather than stick to the roads well travelled that span an area comprised between Covent Garden and Oxford Street but on this particular occasion I realised that I was more after a break than an actual city break.

I still managed to stretch my comfort zone to a long walk across The Mall and down The Embankment on that glorious Spring day, play the tourist with my latest digital camera in tow, massage my ego down Bond Street, pay Fenwick a visit and lose myself in the Britishness of Fortnum & Mason. I purchased some of my all-time favourite Charbonnel & Walker chocolates and Farrah toffee, succumbed to the joys of high tea served in plush tea rooms, treated myself to coffee & walnut cake - my favourite British delicacy. I sampled those already familiar little bits of (eye) candy that make Britannia what it stands for in my mind: well-packaged, delicate and exquisite. The devil was in the detail.

Down the line I even took the time to strike up lovely conversations with some lovely folks and even won a huge box of Thorntons chocolates from a random HSBC branch I was randomly walking past! These all made my day in their own special way!

London in a nutshell was a breath of fresh air for the city girl in me who had been living the rural island life for over two years now and who had been banging on about the buzz, the pulse, the vibe, the visual identity of the big city. I needed that. I needed to immerse myself in it, go crowd surfing, dizzily transported past tall elegant architectural buildings with things to notice, people to watch and a nod to familiar concepts from my career past: brand identity, retail theatre and consumer behaviour. Yeah as cliché as this may sound, you can take me out of marketing but you can't take marketing out of me!

The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers

7 Sept 2012

The (Late) Lowdown on London (Part 2)

Sorry Mr Lou Reed but when in London I didn't "walk on the wild side". Rather I took the road well travelled. Staying so close to what the capital city has to offer in terms of "mainstream" action, I even had the luxury to be able to walk here, there and everywhere. No need for the Tube, for buses, carts or horses, yay!

This was one of the advantages about the Kingsley by Thistle Hotel, Bloomsbury Way. As you step out, you turn right and carry all the way up. Or you might nip to the back like I did and wander down the back streets in order to avoid the heavier traffic, past the British Museum, down Charlotte Street, and end up towards Harley Street (if vanity is your thing!). I actually had a bit of a field day down the Charlotte Street area, past the media agencies and advertising studios. That took me back years when I used to work in the industry.

As long as your London tastes are pretty tame, you will find the Kingsley Hotel to be at the heart of the action in relation to London's main shopping venues including Oxford Street and Covent Garden, museums (British Museum, Tate Britain) and entertaining hotspots (The West End). The beauty of it was that I could even nip back to the hotel during the day if I wanted to put my feet up for a while, change shoes, brew up a coffee or whatever tickled my fancy. This was no rock'n'roll city break, and this is probably why I got bored somehow!

In terms of refreshments taking you from AM to PM, there's only so many Starbucks, Prêt A Mangers and Costa Coffees you can handle. They have watered down the high street to saturation level and if you are telling me their expansionist mission has not yet reached its peak I scream!

On the retail front, some stores had me wobbly with anticipation but sadly didn't live up to my (somewhat inflated) expectations. Anthropologie (on Regent Street) was one of them. As much as I find the brand identity cool online, it fell pretty flat on the high street, in terms of store design and display. The wares looked lost in store. Interestingly I am told that Regent Street used to be a pretty exclusive shopping destination, once boasting an array of high-end one-of-a-kind flagship stores whereas now it seems to be nothing more than an extension of Oxford Street, pure and simple.

Kate Spade London (Covent Garden)

Talking of Oxford Street, I was left disappointed by another American brand that had me raving years ago when I first discovered it on a trip to Santa Barbara, CA: Urban Outfitters. The one on Oxford Street failed the test. The store design was a shambles and no wares actually caught my eye. I left empty-handed. Where are those cool vintage tee-shirts?

A trip to London wouldn't have been so without Liberty and Selfridges on the list. Liberty is still packed-full with style and character, despite my initial fears. Their stationery department is a treasure trove, and the iconic Liberty floral fabrics still have that magnetic hold on visitors.

Liberty's fresh flower stall

Selfridges is one big high-end shopping mecca, a house of mostly luxury brands that enabled me to get close and personal with the likes of Christian Louboutin and wonder what this is all about, unless you are planning to trade your looks as Belle de Jour... I wandered down the Tiffany aisle and then even treated myself to a deluxe microdermabrasion facial at Groom.

While I was at it, I even booked a hair colour from the Toni & Guy Academy (New Oxford Street) across from my hotel. I might as well have. The colour was fabulous and it made me feel good for the rest of my stay. (to be continued)

6 Sept 2012

The (Late) Lowdown on London (Part 1)

Crikey, here is a piece I had planned to write on my return from London at the end of March! I got sidetracked somehow. I wish I had a valid excuse as to why I couldn't deliver the goods there and then rather than five months later, almost as an after-thought, but erm actually I don't have any excuses. Will you ever forgive me though?

There's probably a hidden message there somewhere. Sure there is. London was London, I just wasn't me for the whole nine days I was there. When I go to England, I go 'home' to Manchester, my hometown of 16 years. I just slip into that comfort zone, the familiar haunts, familiar faces, recapture memories and let my moods tickle my fancy.

London just isn't home. Nobody forced me to go to London, I just went along an idea I'd had with a girl friend of mine, Isabelle, and off we went.

The London I had experienced years ago had been exhilarating. The London I experienced back in March was... erm flat boring. I wanted excitement. I imagine the lack of it was a bit like how an out-of-body experience must feel: you are somewhere else but know you are not supposed to be there, your heart's not in it.

I stayed in luxury in a Bloomsbury hotel, but I'd had more fun times staying in grotty B&Bs those years back. Back then London was full of opportunities and possibilities to me. Now there was nothing it could offer me that I was looking for. No happiness, no satisfaction. No contentment. I tried to amuse myself with the London shopping experience, but once the initial awe had subsided after I stepped into Selfridges and Bond Street, I couldn't help but feel lonely, feel at odds with it all.

I became moody. I didn't like my own company anymore. I started missing people and that wasn't a good sign. Isabelle and I who should have got on like a house on fire, ended up avoiding each other and go our separate ways. As much as I love and cherish England, as much as I am a fan of London, on this occasion I wanted to go home.

Then as soon as I landed back on French soil, I got busy, I got caught up in life... Better, faster, shinier things to do and experience I guess than finalise that post about London... I put the blog on hold. I understand now that I had to come full circle before I could come to terms with that journey. As much as a geographical trip, it had been a personal journey, a life journey. I was lost and it took me five months to refocus my energy and determine where I stand in life. I am in a better place today and there is no stopping me! (to be continued)

4 Sept 2012

No Labels

Easy come easy go... We live in a society where we stick labels on anything that moves, on anyone. We pep up our conversations and writings with a liberal use of words that take up space and have no meaning. Labels that help us codify people, styles, ideas, concepts, feelings. Hands up, I am myself guilty of labelling.

'Sheepish', photo by Karena Goldfinch, via Flickr (25/03/2010)

First we've got those passe-partout labels that are supposed to describe someone: worn-out, vague, elusive overused 'one-size-fits-all' adjective labels that are stickable and reusable and adaptable to all circumstances like velcro patches... Labels that don't mean that much to anyone anymore: cool, awesome, rad, great, fantastic...  And those adverbs that nail the message, reiterate it: a (little) bit, kinda/ sort of, very much, a lot/ loads, really, truly, definitely, totally, absolutely...

Problem is, my definition of 'cool' might be slightly off centre, your definition of 'cool' might be off limit, their definition of 'cool' might be plain preppy conservative... And I certainly won't agree with my dad's definition of 'cool' unless it involves Steve McQueen or a vintage Ford Mustang.

Cool as the Camaro! (Pict source via Tumblr)

I still have nightmares about my philosophy classes back in my last year of secondary school. I was 17, dressed to impress (in a bad way!) and just about managing my own eccentricities as a gothic rebel, so this was as philosophical as it was gonna get for me in that lifestage of mine. Then in class we were told not to use words like 'very' anymore. Either something was good or it wasn't. My teacher's pet hate was anyone saying 'absolutely true/ right'. Truth is absolute.

The teacher was even more suspicious of adjectives that involved wider quantification like huge, immense... Everything is in proportion and in relation to one another in the great scheme of things. She lost me. I recall a similar stance from Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and this certainly left an impact on me. If philosophy never became my cuppa tea, at the very least it raised some awareness in me and did make me self-conscious about word usage and in particular those easy labels.

The King of Cool! (Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, photo by John Dominis)

For instance, you either love someone or you don't. You don't love them 'just a bit'... Maybe you like them instead. Maybe you are fond of them. If you love them very much, you adore them. Then sure enough my philosophy teacher would step in and give us a spiel about adoration. Some words need to be used carefully, or - at least - with moderation.

Now check out those loose chat-up lines:

- 'Did you have a great time last night, honey?'
- 'I had a good time!'
- 'A good time, uh? Is that all you had? What was wrong?'
- 'Nothing was wrong. I just had a good time.'
- 'Just a good time, now I see... Well honey, don't worry about the next time, cos we're done!'

Now please - can I have those labels back? I kinda need them very very much!

3 Sept 2012

It's Complicated!

I've heard that one a few times and it never ceases to amaze me. From friends, acquaintances, family members... When you catch up on affairs of the heart with one of them, the first filler words that are likely to come out are: "It's complicated". Then the awkward silence is either broken by a long sigh, an expressive nod, a long sideways glace or a dramatic shutting of the eyes that mean anything from "you know what I mean", "it's nothing important", "can we change the subject please" to "I don't know where to start"...  Then if you are lucky and patient enough, you get the story. And what a confusing story this is likely to be!

'The Reunion', giclée art print by Dan May via OMG Posters (also via Big Cartel)

Now come on, it's as complicated as you make it out to be. It's not easy to open up, sure, and sometimes the less you know the person the easier it is to open up to them as they won't be as inclined to pass judgement and offer unsollicited assistance to half-told, half-understood, half-listened to problems and situations.

If you want a piece of my mind, here we go. I have never understood why love had to be complicated, toxic, shrouded in codes and mystery, tarnished with secrets, regrets, remorse, poisoned by untold truths and jealousy, marred by unreasonable expectations. Love is simple and unconditional. You either feel it or you don't. You either love that person or you don't. There's no two ways about it, there's no two ways to show it. Why complicate it? Why go about it with "ifs" and "buts" and intellectualise it à la Woody Allen?

Picture source: Immaculate Conception

Beware the consequences. Love is a bomb. As sure as it has the potential to positively enliven your heart and turn your life upside-down, it also has the potential to hurt it and destroy it like no other. So why play with fire in the first place and play it complicated? Keep your heart open, handle with care, show it respect. Have faith in yourself and that significant other. Have trust. And most of all be honest with yourself. Why pretend, why complicate?

Playing the love game, now this is something that I used to find slightly amusing moons ago and that I described as a romantic display of affection. The slow convoluted courting, the protocole of love, the étiquette. And then one day I decided that love is too passionate to follow rules. The only thing to follow is your heart, your instinct, your impulse, your intuition, your gut feeling, your destiny, what you believe is best. And that frees your mind and takes out any complications. Time is precious, use it wisely. Love is precious, use it wildly!

Picture source: Atravez de mis Ojos

1 Sept 2012

End of Season

The season was brief this year, 5 weeks if that, from mid-July. Hordes of tourists pouring onto every beach, every coastline path, every scenic spot, camper vans, motorbikes, family cars converging towards every resort across the island, traffic jams, heatwave, full-on madness.

Us year-long residents get caught into that big holiday buzz that gives off that artificial happy vibe although we are not part of it. Tourists and residents glide past each other, each to their own with no or little interaction unless you are a tourist-based service provider. The buzz just ceases as quickly as it fused in the first place. A mirage all to itself.

The vast majority of tourists and visitors are now gone, and it feels eerily silent. Not that we felt part of the buzz in the first place as I said, just that we got caught in it through our daily lives. To me it feels like I have been beached. They've all gone back to the reality of modern urban life, their hectic lifestyle in the city, their careers, their fast-paced social activities that I can't help but embellish in my mind and envy... Up in the sticks on the island I feel totally out of it, totally left out, like I am missing something, like I am stuck in a bubble.

I am a city girl at heart who happens to live on an island. I've been here for two and a half years now and I am still adjusting. Island life deserves a blogpost all to itself and I will let out some steam about it in the coming weeks, no doubt.

Tourists love it: the hot weather, the profusion of beaches, water sports, trendy bars and clubs, music festivals, tanned chicks with foreign accents strolling past wearing little more than insouciance, a heady cocktail of sea, sex and sun. They love it so much that they don't wanna leave, but they always do though. City life beckons. They come here for the good times, but don't necessarily want to know about the reality of it 365 days a year, when you lot end up finding yourself stuck with that same old clique of locals, going round in circles in your head and in your car (it's an island, man!), the dragging October-March months that cut you off the rest of the world. The internet might be a godsend but it is hardly a substitute for life...

Yeah people do get lonely in cities, I agree. Now how about lonely in the countryside, I'm asking you? Lonely sat on that great stretch of sandy beach, lonely standing on that mountaintop with commanding views across the island, lonely down that bucolic forest path, in the middle of that charming village square, in your lovely little house up the hill...

Every week-end I get invited to parties and I turn most of them down. Not sure what the reason for the parties is, there is usually no birthday nor engagement nor divorce nor job promotion in sight, nothing worth celebrating. It's more to do with people wanting to get together, to kill time, forget their problems with booze and try to find themselves in this common denominator of solitude. There is an air of defeat about. Some individuals have indulged for so long now that they are paying the price and are well on their way of losing the plot altogether. One or two even look like they have never come down since ten solstices ago. Some believe they are still in Koh Phi Phi. One Iggy Pop-lookalike even calls himself a guru. It's unnerving. This is not my scene. I choose life.

I know some natives old enough to be my parents who have spent their whole lives silently suffering solitude and physical and mental isolation. They tell me no-one can get used to this, so it's best to just resign oneself to the idea, yet they are incapable of locking that front door one last time and board the next mainland ferry once and for all to experience something else out of life!

As for me, I'm gonna do something about it. I have a plan.