A few annoying things

  • Drivers who stop in the middle of the road with free-flowing traffic to let me (also in my car, sitting comfortably in a turning lane) turn in front of them, but they block traffic, don’t realise I can’t see the cars coming in the lane outside them, encourage risky manoeuvres (either by me because they won’t move out of my way, or by others who are inconvenienced by them), and then make me feel guilty because I get irritated when they’re just trying to be helpful.
  • Hearing someone described as a “self-confessed feminist” as if feminist is a dirty word, when it is, in fact, a recognition of past and present injustices and a desire to change that, a badge of courage and insight and hope for the future, and is nothing that needs to be confessed.
  • Going to a movie only to discover that the main character has an American accent, when it is not required for the story line (but only for marketing in the US); recent examples included Benedict Cumberbatch (an English actor) in Dr Strange (whether the character is from the US or not is irrelevant to the story), and Emily Blunt (also English) in Girl on a Train (based on an English book, set in England). Are North Americans so unaccustomed to foreign accents that the use of one will seriously affect how well a movie might fare at the box office?
  • I saw a book on sale recently with the title Inside of a dog.
  • Long-term bloggers who never ever return comments or engage in community discussions; it’s all about them, their numbers, their profile, and of course, selling their books.
  • In urban areas, birds are apparently 14% louder (than a previous study sometime some years ago I assume) to drown out city noises, and though I love that birds can adapt, I feel sad that they need to.
  • The combination of ageism and sexism.

Hot vs Cold

In Western society, it seems that the sun is king; people who live in sunny climes gloat about their good weather, their beach lifestyle, their skimpy clothes for months (or all year round), and deem it fashionable and acceptable to laugh at those of us who live in temperature-challenged environs, even if those warm-climate folks live in air-conditioning (or wish they did) for much of the year.

It equally seems fashionable here to criticise our own weather, and yes, I know I did my fair share of that this year when summer taunted us with a fleeting drive-by, but I have to say that I am glad I don’t live somewhere where the temperature goes to extremes. I loved living in Bangkok, but that was despite its heat not necessarily because of it; Bangkok’s average high is about five or even ten degrees C too hot for me.

40C isn’t good weather in my world, it’s ridiculous, and so is 35C and humid; likewise, for those freezing temperatures some of you endure over winter! The sun too brings other dangers and in my view, lying on the beach or beside a pool in the full sun is the act of a crazy person; tans are evidence of damage, and promise wrinkled, leathery skin with the risk of skin cancer and possibly death in years to come.

I think I had to wait until I was in my 40s to meet someone (Helen, a favourite former blogger) who said that she preferred winter (and a Canadian winter at that) to summer, and I was shocked, as her view went so completely against the norm. But I realised instantly too that as much as I love the freedom that comes with warm weather, I know what she means, and this is one of the reasons why I’m relishing (I hope) wrapping up warm and experiencing some cold weather today in Iceland.

Do you chase the sun and heat, or hide from it?

Exploring, or snoring?

Our first time in Europe, we struggled with jet lag the first day or two, but by the time we picked up a car in Paris, we were well adjusted (having flown only from Bangkok, not NZ), and likewise the second time, when we collected our car after a week in Rome. We then became more blasé, and flew into Paris at 6 am – albeit after a business class flight (thanks to all the airpoints/frequent flyer miles I’d saved up from all my business travel), when we had managed a few more hours sleep than usual on the 24 hour flight – and picked up a car at the airport and drove a few hours to Orleans. We were exhausted when we got there, and it’s not something we would recommend. Likewise, there have been some horror stories of international travellers arriving in New Zealand in the early morning, immediately collecting a car, and either falling asleep at the wheel or making fatal errors because they weren’t alert enough to remember to stay on the correct, left, side of the road.

So these days, we try to include a few adjustment days before we start driving on foreign roads. On this trip, we’re going to have three days before we jump into driving, so hopefully, we will have had a few nights sleep and will be alert enough to remember to stay on the right (in both senses of the word) side of the road when our natural inclination is to keep left.

That’s why today we’re going to be in London (having sensibly written and scheduled my Microblog Monday posts for the next month), adjusting to an upside down time zone, maybe having afternoon tea somewhere, and hopefully exploring somewhere new in this amazing city. Or maybe we’ll just be snoring off on the Tube or in a hotel lobby until our room becomes available (worst case scenario – nine hours after we arrive), recovering from travelling from the other side of the world.


Elusive photographs

As you may have realised, the photography challenges I leapt into at the beginning of the year have disappeared. A brief period of illness, then travel, then rain, and then travel planning all meant that I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to get out and take photographs. I hope to try it again, or maybe pick it up after our trip. Of course, when we’re away I’m going to be taking pics madly (and perhaps sharing some with you via a new Instagram account – look for TravellingMali), although I had hoped to have had more practice before I left, but isn’t that always the way?

I’ve joined a couple of social media groups – one for the challenges I was doing, and one for my particular camera – and have been learning a lot from them (eg. how little I know), and I’ve also been reading various websites to learn more, so I don’t feel like a complete failure!

It’s possible I might get to see the Northern Lights when I’m in Iceland – though with the nights getting lighter when we’re there, I am by no means counting on it – and I’d dearly love to be able to show you all a photograph of the lights … or a puffin. Ironically, the Southern Lights were visible from Wellington last Sunday, but I didn’t know about it until the next day. Typical, isn’t it, that I plan to cross the world to see the phenomenon, and all I needed to do last week was cross the city!

Last year one of my nieces gave me a lovely three-year writing diary, a thoughtful gift as we both share a love of writing (though our writing topics are very different).

I come to my computer in my office above the garage, and as the laptop warms up, I grab my book and answer the day’s question. Yesterday’s was, “What are you most proud of this week?”

Sometimes I’ll give a one-word answer, other times I’ll respond, “seriously?” – especially if the question is better aimed at a much younger adult (for example, “what was the best date you went on recently?”). Sometimes my answers to the question are instant, and they might make me happy – thinking of friends or travel or ice-cream – or they might make me sad. Sometimes I’ll have to think hard for an answer, or will have something to say that can’t be fitted into the space available, and so I have several topics saved up for blog posts.

Today’s question is “what is your guilty pleasure?” and instead of instantly thinking, “ice-cream!” as I usually would, I realised that the answer, this week anyway (when I should be travel planning, and there is no ice-cream in the house) is probably “blogging.”

I’ve just passed the one year mark and I’m not bored yet, so I have to say, “thanks, Nicole!”

  1. Winners for postcards from 4 of the 7 new countries I’ll be visiting over the next couple of months are:
    – Jess, for Iceland
    – IndigoBunting, for Russia
    – Turia, for Denmark
    – Nicole, for Norway
  2. a guessed a Baltic Sea Cruise, as did a friend of mine on Facebook (where I linked this post), and because technically they’re correct, I’m giving them both the option of guessing again for specific ports, but you can also guess too, on my original post or via email malinzblog(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz. (a, I hope you’re reading this!)
  3. Over the very quiet four-day Easter weekend (hence Monday blog on a Tuesday), apart from taking a walk every day, I amused myself with some sewing. I was amazed at how easily certain things came to me (eg the muscle memory of loading the bobbin and inserting it into the machine that I bought way back when I was a Master’s student at university and earned some money as an assistant teacher), considering that I haven’t sewn regularly since the 1980s, and first learned most of these techniques in the 1970s.
  4. I’m enjoying my sister’s (and BIL’s too I guess) avocados at the moment, lovely and big and creamy, and so much cheaper (ie free) than the supermarket.
  5. We’re also feeling furious every time we drive past a petrol station at the moment, because we were about seven hours north a week or two ago, and noticed that the price of petrol was thirty cents cheaper there than it is in our city. We pay $2.05 per litre (an online calculator tells me that this is about US$5.54 per gallon), but if we lived where my sister lives, we’d be paying $1.74, and that’s NOT fair!
  6. There is a distinct autumnal feeling in the air here in New Zealand, the sun is going down so much earlier now, the leaves on our oak tree are definitely turning, and I’m thinking it’s time to put those (hardly-worn) summer clothes away for six months or so.

Where is Mali going?

I am taking up a friend’s suggestion that I run a competition to guess where I’m going on my next trip, and the winners (first to guess* correctly) will receive a postcard from the destination they identified. (Two qualifications to this: 1. Assuming postcards are still available for purchase (if not, I’ll make a photocard on my return), and 2. The postcard will have been bought from the destination, but might not be posted from there.)

We’re going to eight countries on this five-week trip, seven of which will be new and exciting for us.

Clues (I might add to this list later in the week):

  • It will take a total of about 31 hours travelling time (from home to hotel) to reach our first destination, which is really only a stop-over to go onto the others.
  • Two destinations (or more, I’m not sure) might offer the opportunity to see (or even better) photograph puffins.
  • According to internet historical weather data, I have to pack for daily high temperatures ranging from 5 C (41F) to 33C (91F) … and in at least one destination, rain, lots of rain.
  • Only one of the destinations would require me to get a visa, but given my mode of travel to enter this location, it turns out I don’t need one there either.

* If you already know where I’m going (because I’ve told you), and you want a postcard too, email me your address at malinzblog(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz.