T is for Transport

Me and my travel buddy, Hayley, going slightly crazy after transport misfortunes.

It has been mentioned before on this blog that I have a tendency to avoid public transport due to my uncanny ability to attract the strangest, craziest, creepiest strangers in human sight.

I once had a crazy Italian man shout at me from the back of the bus before stumbling towards me and, much to my protests, stroke my hair with much enthusiasm before the bus driver intervened.

Another time I had a lady on the train ask me to watch over her little girl while she went to the bathroom, only to emerge an hour later, high as a kite.

I even once had a woman throw all my bags and suitcases into the aisle of a train in a fit of rage, for no apparent reason.

Like I said, Katy and transport are not the best of friends.

Unfortunately, public transport is an unavoidable part of travel and whilst not always pleasant, it is sure to provide excellent fodder for stories.

The first of my travel woes began on the very first leg of the trip when I discovered that the sound to my entertainment system, that same system I was relying on to get me through the 14 hour flight with its many new release and classic movies, was, naturally, broken. After two hours of many different air hostesses trying to fix it, and a few hints from me that an upgrade to business class wouldn’t go astray, it was concluded that the system was not repairable and I was instead compensated with three remarkably droll finance magazines to help pass the time.

Still on the high that comes with the start of a journey, I was unperturbed by the news and instead decided to rest my head while I could.

My optimism soon waned, and after a few hours I turned on the screen and watched the moving pictures in silence. I then came up with the grand idea that perhaps I could watch something with English subtitles. Sadly, the English movies only came with foreign subtitles. The foreign movies on the other hand…

Der ganz große Traum

I ended up watching a brilliant German film by the name of Der Ganz Grosse Traum, or in English The Really Big Dream.  Based on a true story, it is a film about the man who introduced soccer to Germany and the trials he faced in that endeavour. A highly engaging story with some brilliant acting, I feel in hindsight I should be thankful to the faulty entertainment system simply for its part in leading me to this movie.

I was later unimpressed, as you could imagine, when the same issue presented itself on the second 9 hour flight. Thankfully, the plane was empty enough for me to move to a four seater, where I was able to stretch out to my heart’s content.

Other notable transport stories included: being interrogated at British Customs and nearly not being let into the country by a scary customs officer because I didn’t know the postcode of the address I was staying at; being on a train in Berlin as it ran over someone on the train tracks (which I spoke more about here); evading train controllers in Germany after discovering we had the wrong tickets; being patted down in a private booth at security in Abu Dhabi; and fearing death with every cough, sneeze and sniffle heard on every plane, train and bus after watching Contagion.

View of the alps from the plane.

But it wasn’t all bad. The four hour train trip from London to Edinburgh was particularly pleasant, so much so that I almost wish it had been longer just for the chance to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery and the joys of being seated in a ‘silent carriage’. The short, one hour train trip from Ferrara to Venice was also enjoyable after we forked out a few extra Euros to sit in First Class. And let’s not forget the fantastic views that come with flying several thousand feet in the sky.

Whilst their were some dramas, there was a discernible lack of ‘crazies’, which was a welcome change. I don’t think I’ll be making best buddies with public transport any time soon, but I can be thankful at least that I survived without anyone stroking my hair or throwing my suitcases around in a rage.

Do you have any memorable transport experience to put you off travel forever? Do you, like me, attract the ‘crazies’?

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read some more crazy stories, Aussie writer, Kaitlyn, over at Transports of Delight has been documenting her latest encounters with weirdos on public transport. Check it out!

Humour, flirting, and education at the coffee table

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 30

Favorite coffee table book

Well here we are.  The final day of the 30 Day Book Challenge.  Who would have thought we’d make it this far?  I certainly had my doubts.  There were good times, bad times, an extended deadline, and a few unexpected intermissions, but 30 books and 57 days later we reached the finish line.  Woo!

I’m mildly disappointed that Day 30 has to end with my ‘favourite coffee table book’, seeing as I don’t actually own a coffee table.  I would’ve liked to end with a BANG! Like, the most expensive book you ever bought.  Or the best book EVER created in the entire universe!  But alas, what am I if I cannot improvise in the face of a challenge?

So let’s see.  If I had a coffee table, what book would I like to live permanently upon it?  I’m going to go with the Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook.  I purchased this book when I was 16 before heading to Italy for the very first time.  It was truly invaluable, but also highly entertaining.

My friends, English and Italian alike, would always find great pleasure in reading certain sections of this book, particularly that relating to dating, romance and sex.  Subtitles such as “Breaking the Ice”, “Classic Rejections”, “Making Love” and “Afterwards”, may give you some idea as to the sort of ‘phrases’ they included for a traveller’s convenience.

The best included:

‘Do you come here often?’ – Vieni spesso qui?

‘You’re not my type.’ – Non sei il mio tipo.

‘You turn me on.’ – Mi ecciti.

‘Was it good for you?’ – Ti è piacuto?

‘Faster!’ – Più veloce!

I can only imagine being in the sort of situations that require these phrases and asking the other person to “just hold on a moment while I consult my phrasebook.  Ah yes, Più veloce!”

Ha.

In any case, I think it would keep people interested and entertained when they come over for coffee.  Don’t you?

~storytelling nomad~

Say no to drugs! But say yes to this book about drugs.

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 26

Favorite nonfiction book

I have to say, I’m not often found perusing the non fiction section in the book store.  I read to escape reality, not to be reminded of it, which I realise is a fairly narrow-minded point of view of the genre.  Yet, despite my aversion I’ve somehow managed to read a number of excellent nonfiction books in recent years.  Humorous coffee table books, kids books on ‘how things work’, travel books and biographies.  Within me there obviously lies a dormant desire to read nonfiction, because it’s succeeded in sneaking into my reading list without my even being consciously aware of it! Go figure.

It wasn’t until last year during my writing course, however, that I had that light bulb moment and realised that nonfiction also has to incorporate all the elements and styles of a fiction novel, just without the made up parts.  An epiphany!  (Note: I am regularly prone to ‘blonde moments’ such as these.  It’s nothing to worry about, really).  Travel writing especially, caught me unawares when it registered in my head that just because the events happened one after another, it didn’t mean they had to be written in that order.  I had simply assumed that nonfiction was a chronological record of interesting events.  No beginning, middle and end, no conflict, no resolution as there is in a fiction book.

Of course, It all seemed quite obvious after I really put some thought into it.  I’d been quite ignorant of the genre and unjustifiably harsh on the poor old nonfiction section.  In fact, it seems so silly to me now that I’m almost wondering if I should have admitted to such foolishness at all.  Should I go back and delete the first two paragraphs of this post?  I could have started with something more like:

Non-fiction, *pause while I inhale from my pipe* a genre I both treasure and admire.  It is simply too hard to choose from the many literary masterpieces I have read and studied.  The genius of writers such as [insert nonfiction author here] and [insert another nonfiction author here] continue to astound this humble reader.

Nope.  I don’t think I could have pulled it off.  In any case, fortunately for me (and for you), I don’t have to fabricate an alternate life where I’m a high brow reader of every genre known to mankind, because there is a nonfiction book that comes to mind as a favourite AND I even know the author’s name.  Success!

Marching Powder by Rusty Young.

From Publishers Weekly on Amazon.com

This memoir of a British drug dealer’s nearly five years inside a Bolivian prison provides a unique window on a bizarre and corrupt world. McFadden, a young black man from Liverpool arrested for smuggling cocaine, finds himself forced to pay for his accommodations in La Paz’s San Pedro Prison, the first of many oddities in a place where some inmates keep pets and rich criminals can sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charismatic McFadden soon learns how to survive, and even thrive, in an atmosphere where crooked prison officials turn up at his private cell to snort lines of coke. By chance, he stumbles on an additional source of income when he begins giving tours of the prison to foreign tourists, a trade that leads to the mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook that attracts the attention of his coauthor, Young, who was backpacking in South America at the time.

I’m typically put off by stories of true crime, drugs and criminals, so to say that this one captured my attention, held it, AND became a favourite, is truly testament to the book.  I mean, the man had to pay for his own prison cell for goodness sakes!  Remarkable.  It really is a fascinating read.

~storytelling nomad~

I had you fooled, right! Right? Hello?

See how I did that?  Right there.  No there!  The part where I slipped in a sneaky blog post after two weeks of silent truancy, so delicately you didn’t even notice my absence.  Right?  Right?!

Is there an echo in here?

Okay, so maybe a few of you noticed.  And to you I am grateful for the warm welcome back to the blogosphere.  I missed you too!

I think it’s finally time to admit a sad fact; I find it impossible to write without my laptop, a fast internet connection, silence, and more often than not, my own writing space.  This is fine when I’m at home, but as you may have noticed, the name of this blog includes the word ‘nomad’, which may drop a not so subtle hint that I’m not always going to be at home with my laptop, a fast internet connection and sweet, unbroken silence.

(This might be a good time to note that although I do sort of sound like one of those outrageous celebrities claiming they can’t work without a golden toilet seat, a tank of live lobsters and a purple, three-headed shewolf, I swear that I do no associate myself with or emulate such behaviour.  Now bring me that coffee, pronto!)

During my first month as a blogger I aimed to write something every day, which I did.  It immersed me in the world of blogging and became an excellent exercise in helping me to write on command, write better, and basically to write more.  This past month I have come to realise that daily blogging is not always going to be possible, and truthfully, not always favourable.

I tend to do things in surges.  My seasonal job working at the snow often has me working 14 consecutive days without a day off.  I don’t mind because I love working on the mountain and I know the season will only last a few months.  With writing, I immerse myself in it for weeks, months even.  But then I’ll go away and visit friends for a couple of weeks and not write at all.  It’s just the way I’ve always done things, and I find it allows me to fully appreciate and take pleasure in whatever ‘surge’ I’m channeling at the time.  It also means that sometimes I won’t be able to blog, but that hopefully whilst I’m not blogging/writing, I’m away doing something that will later give me inspiration to write.

In short, sometimes I may disappear for a while.  But unless my blog starts growing teeth and snapping at me, kind of like Hagrid’s The Monster Book of Monsters in Harry Potter, then you can rest assure that I will return.

Rah!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to sharing all the exciting things that have been happening in Katy land.  I think my brain is about to self combust with all the built up adventures and stories I have been storing in there.  Prepare for the onslaught.

~storytelling nomad~

Shortest book you’ve read

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 17

This is an impossible question to answer.  I honestly have no idea.  But after running a quick eye over my bookshelves I can tell you the shortest book I’ve read in recent years.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is one of those inspiring books that I don’t come across very often.  The language is straightforward and the characters simple, but the message is profound.  As it’s said in the book:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

It’s a book that encourages you to follow your dreams and persevere through the challenges life throws at you.  For in the end, it is these challenges that reveal themselves to be the building blocks to help you reach your destiny and fulfilment in life.

For a number of years now I have lived by the mantra:

‘The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’.

I believe that even in the worst of times, you can take something away from it that will benefit you in the future.  Whether it be strength, humility, knowledge…there’s always something to be learned.  In The Alchemist, at the beginning of the book the protagonist Santiago sets out on a journey, but is soon robbed of all the money he has saved to reach his destination.  It seems terrible at the time, but we soon realise that had this not happened, he would not have met the next person on his journey, and the next.  His experiences would have been much different and he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn in order to seek out his treasure and reach his destiny.

There’s a reason this book is an international bestseller that’s been translated into 67 languages worldwide.  A short, but thoroughly uplifting read.

~storytelling nomad~

Book that is most like your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 12

What’s this? You expect a literary equivalent of my unique, quirky, yet oh so fascinating life?  I’m sorry, but such a thing simply does not exist.  There are those who have tried, to no avail, to fit me like a square peg into a round hole, but it just cannot be done.  I am an undetermined shape of infinite sides, curves and acute angles.

But all is not lost.  Fortunately, there exists a short story and an article that both accurately depict small slices of my life, written by yours truly and published on the Australian Reader website and in Biscuit Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  The links for both can be found on my Published Stories page.

Happy Reading.

Not so long ago I used Apple iPhoto to publish a hardcover book of my travel story Belonging, with accompanying photos from the journey, which my brother and I gifted to my parents. Not only did it make my parents very happy, but for a time, I felt like a real writer!

~storytelling nomad~

Busy being a nerd

Gone Fishing.  Not really.  But had I an office door of some description, that is the sign I’d have liked to have had hanging off it, just because that’s what all the cool kids seem to do these days, you know?

But I digress.

I have been absent from the blogosphere my pretties.  How many times have I set my eyes upon those blogs apologising for their absence, listing their feeble reasons for their lack of posts, cowering on their knees, praying for mercy as they beg forgiveness? Many a time have I witnessed such a sad state of affairs and scoffed at their insolence.  “Shame on you!” I have shouted with a lofty arrogance!  And yet today, my friends, followers, minions…today I yield myself as one of those sad, unworthy bloggers.  OH THE SHAME!

Before I ask of you your compassion, your mercy, your humanity, I must first follow suit and list three reasons for my unexpected leave:

  1. Work – At the snow.  You all knew this one, and frankly, with no electricity or reception I had little choice while this was happening.  Therefore, I refuse to apologise for this you evil fiends!
  2. Supanova – Ohhhh this is where it gets interesting and I start to weep with joy at the memory of my recent trip to Sydney where I joined my fellow nerds at the annual fantasy/sci fi convention.  More about this below.
  3. The Plague – Well that’s what it feels like okay?! Apparently it’s just ye ol influenza, but if the black death gets me don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Also, it has rendered me incapable of blogging, eating chocolate, being anything other than horizontal, and has brought on a severe need of Buffy reruns (potentially also due to aforementioned Supanova trip.  Unconfirmed).

So, as you can see, the past week and a half has had moments of pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, heaven and hell…but mostly, just a lot of no blogging.  Please accept my sincerest apologies.  Are we done?  Good.  Because now I demand you share in all I have to tell you about the nerd fest that was Supanova.  If you are at all confused about this awesome event, I suggest you mosy on over to their website www.supanova.com.au and educate yourself before someone discovers your nerdy ignorance.

But before I go on, I cannot contain it any longer.  I met, talked to, and touched with my bare hands two amazing celebrities.  James Marsters aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (SQUEEEEEEEAAALLL!), and Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, who, without the beach blonde hair that so befits some men/vampires – cough Spike cough – is quite the hotty.

My world is complete!

Oh James, you naughty boy!

Moving along.  It was a bit touch and go there for a while with that damn Chilean ash cloud that continues to stuff around domestic and international flights here in Aus.  Come on Chileans, can’t you keep your volcanoes under control like the rest of us?  As it turns out, last Thursday I was on one of the first flights allowed out of Tassie after a week of flight troubles…phew.  Made it to Sydney and got ready for the 3 day Supanova bonanza.

Adz and I having a few train troubles

I went with my super awesome friend Adz, who is a big nerd also.  After one train hiccup (see right), we made it to the showgrounds where the event began on Friday night.  We spent 2 hours standing in line to purchase our photo and autograph tickets for the Sat and Sun, knowing from previous experiences that this line would get much, much longer over the weekend.

On the Saturday and Sunday we spent our time meeting the celebs (Cue more SQUEALING!), scouring the merchandise stalls and staring in amazement at the as always high standard of cosplayers.  For those of you unfamiliar with cosplay, the faithful wiki dictionary defines it as:

The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, esp. one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.

Captain Jack Sparrow Cosplay

In other words, absolute awesomeness.  There were characters from Star Wars, Firefly, The Disney Movies, Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man and so many I didn’t recognise that even I at times felt an unworthy nerd…and that happens rarely.  One of my faves was a certain Captain Jack Sparrow, who looked the spitting image of Johnny Depp.  Sensational.

On the Saturday evening we had the pleasure of watching James Marsters in concert.  Yes ladies, the man can sing! My best friends Mel and Aly joined us, and we couldn’t help but start sighing and giggling every time he looked our way with a cheeky smile.  What a hunny.

On the Sunday evening, Adz and I had the added pleasure of attending a small after party with James and Gareth David Lloyd from Torchwood.  I’ve never watched Torchwood, so can safely say I know zip about the show, its characters and actors.  And yet, as eight of us sat at a table with this actor, everyone seemed relatively star struck.  Except me of course.  I was saving that for James, and well, like I said, I didn’t really know who Gareth was.  Soooo I tried to make conversation, and of course I put my foot in it when I asked “Where in England are you from”….to the WELSHMAN.  Okay okay, so I know being English and all I’m supposed to know this stuff, but I don’t.  It all sounds pommy to me! Thankfully he was most gracious about it, and after receiving many daggers from the Torchwood lovers around the table we managed to steer conversation back to safe topics such as the weather and food.  Boring!

And James, well James was just James.  Buffy is my all time favourite show so it was an amazing experience to meet and talk with him.  He is a big charmer and so interesting, and has the same laugh as Spike…by which I suppose I mean Spike has the same laugh as James? Regardless…I don’t really know how to describe the experience in words.  It was amazing, and yet also strange.  I can see how some fans could get ‘overzealous’ with their admiration (in fact, I think there was one potential stalker at our table), but even so, I find that meeting these ‘celebrities’ further strengthens the reality that differentiates the characters from their performers.  I love Spike and his character, and I ‘know’ him pretty well.  James was awesome and I could see bits of Spike in him, but he isn’t Spike.  Plus, he doesn’t have an English accent…I know, right!?  The actors were interesting, kind and gracious with us, but at the end of the day, this is their job, and meeting us is part of how they market themselves.  It was a wonderful experience, as it always is at these events, but it again reminded me how we can enjoy the shows and the characters in them, but meeting the actors isn’t meeting the characters, because sadly, they don’t exist…sob!

In any case, the night ended on an unexpected note with a lovely girl we met, Susannah, reading my Tarot cards for me after the celebs had left.  It was uncannily accurate!  I have always been interested in this sort of ‘supernatural’ thing; tarot cards and clairvoyants etc, but have never considered it seriously enough to actually try out, my inner sceptic telling me not waste my money on what might be a load of crap.  I’d love to do it again though because it really was amazing what she told me of my past, present and future.  She had me when she pulled out the card with the words: ‘THE HERMIT’.  She was in my head I tell you!

The festivities ended with me, the plague, and a terrifying few hours as the Chilean ash cloud threatened my return flight home.  Thankfully I was on one of the last flights out of Sydney before they went into shut down mode again.  Fate anyone?

Well, I think this account of my absence is long enough for now.  I shall leave you with some photographic evidence of me and my recent squeeze, James.  Here’s to the next post not taking as long as this one.  Of course, if I die of the plague then I can only apologise further and ask that you say kind, but funny things about me when I’m gone.

Me and Spike (My boyfriend, obviously)

~storytelling nomad~

I can’t move…

…my arms, my legs, my back.  Everything aches.  My fingers are even struggling to type these words.  Much editing is proving useful to making sure this post sounds as though it was written by an astute adult rather than a deformed domestic animal stepping on the keys, which, in case you’re wondering, looks more like this:

bjªfsijo¡L7 ^% )@*Ynd uy%!0-2 8ªnsv uhs$dw90la 68§∞2ey7husdG&%#_*

And yet, what a magnificent couple of days spent on the mountain.  Clear blue skies, very little wind, and many happy customers.  I woke this morning to a beautiful snowy mountain sunrise, as you can see;

Ben Lomond Sunrise

For so early in the season we have amazing snow cover at Ben Lomond at the moment, and were extremely lucky that our first open weekend was over a long weekend.  Tomorrow, this hard life (#notreally) continues as I head back up to the mountain for another couple of days at the snow.  I apologise for the brevity of this post, and the reasonable lack of content, but as soon as I can move my bones again with a respectable amount of agility for someone my age, I’ll be sure to make up for it.  If I don’t, punishment by death will ensue.

~storytelling nomad~

Article published today in Biscuit Magazine – Joy!

So if you’re wondering about the ‘nomad’ part of this blog’s name, then I suggest you check out my article just published in this Australian publication, Biscuit Magazine.  It’s entitled So, where are you from? and it’s on page 10.

Check it out! http://www.biscuitmagazine.com.au/issues/june-2011-issue-availabl/

Sweet name in print joy!

~storytelling nomad~

My favourite place: Planet Earth

I consider myself lucky to have been given the opportunity from a young age to see a bit of the world.  It has made me appreciate not only what is beyond my own front yard, but has also made me recognise that you don’t need to cross oceans to find beauty in a place.  It amazes me how often people are so keen to travel overseas when some of the most celebrated destinations are just around the corner from their own home.  Such is life, it seems, that we always want what we don’t have.  I have included below four of my favourite photos, from places I have been that have taken my breath away.

The first, in the motherland, also known as England and the place of my birth, was taken from the bathroom window of my Aunt and Uncle’s early one morning just after Christmas.  Everything – the ground, the trees, the sky – was white, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

The second looks over the water at St. Helens, Tasmania.  Tasmania is grossly underrated for its beaches, which are some of the most beautiful I have seen in Australia.  The weather may be cooler than say in the Whitsundays, but the pristine crystal clear waters, definitely give Whitehaven Beach a run for its money.  Considering Tasmania is so often recognised as ‘the island’, it’s beyond me why people are surprised by the amount of beaches it has to offer.

Moving on to Venice.  I love that place so much I’ve been there three times.  It really is the most unique tourist attraction in the world.  There is no one monument, place or exhibition that draws you there, it is just the city itself.  Simply walk down any street that doesn’t head directly for the Piazza San Marco and you won’t be surprised to find yourself lost and alone…which frankly, is the best way to explore Venice.

And, finally, a place very close to my heart is Amalfi, along the Amalfi Coast of Italy.  It has to be my favourite place in Italy, quite possibly in the world.  Although, be warned, I may be slightly biased.  See my travel story Belonging in the Published Stories section to find out why.

English Countryside (view from my Aunt & Uncle's house one winter)

St Helens, Tasmania

Canals of Venice, Italy

Sunrise in Amalfi, The Amalfi Coast, Italy

~storytelling nomad~