Category: Home Thoughts

the mind numbing monotony of the mundane normalness of a life not travelling

Routine is Lethal

Sleep, shop, cook, eat, repeat

Notice that another shop has closed on the high street

The crapness of the Christmas crap

The fucking awful tv

The cold

the mind numbing normalness of the mundane

I am so bloody bored

Go for a walk – in the cold on a grey day to see the same thing

Bored bored bored

Waiting for the builders to start

Waiting for other people

Nothing moving forward

What if the building doesn’t start

What day is it

Light the fire

Wash the clothes

Clean the kitchen

Wonder what to eat

the small sky

looking at all the accumulated crap

no energy to deal with the crap

standing still

being ill for four weeks

seeing the same thing every day

book a holiday for 161 days time

found a house sit for when I have to move out for the builders

if the building ever happens

four consecutive winters

takes their toll

wishing I wasn’t here

being normal

round peg

square hole

Netflix

I wish it would snow

fights with bureaucracy

This is not the life I was born for

what if it is always this way

there is no change without change

waiting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations at the corner cafe – Xenos my friend

The stranger

As I entered the corner café, a stranger said hello.

Saying hello to strangers is not what the British do.

I said hello back and we fell into conversation.

We discovered we had at least one person in common.

And that we both loved Greece.

We talked about other cafes in the area, how another café had told him about the corner café. The best Greek food, and where to get it, the best tapas and SE Asian food. And how Moussaka from the corner cafe had won me a day with James Martin.

We talked about afternoon tea.  How a local café turned a poor review on TripAdvisor, due to them handling it professionally, into a success and brought more customers to the café.

He recommended two places for afternoon tea, one in Edinburgh another in Bournemouth, in the Echo building. Where Bill Bryson used to work I said. Yes, that would be right, he said.

I had been thinking of following the trail of Little Dribbling as a holiday idea before I go on the next big trip. And here I am getting café recommendations. How did he know?

We agreed that Tilt needed sofas.

Our conversation – it was as if we were speaking in code. A language no one else knew or could understand. We were not intentionally excluding anyone, yet this conversation of shared experiences,  no one else in the cafe that day understood.

I told him my story of the church in Santorini. He never questioned that I was led to the spot by my mom, she chose where I was to scatter her ashes. People with faith who know the story tell me God was guiding me. I think that connections with people you love don’t end at death. I think he thought that, too.

We talked about great places to eat, how he visited islands in Greece where no one speaks English. That this was the best Stifado he had eaten outside Greece.

He needed to take his own advice and book his trip to Greece he said. Make it happen instead of talking about it.

Two hours we talked. Two strangers.

I don’t believe in coincidences.coincidence

Later that day I sat down to start working through the Life Purpose Alchemy workbook that Lisa Cherry Beaumont asked me to review.

And I thought about my conversation with the stranger.

Because when he got up to go he asked if he could give me his card. I recognised the name, he is a life coach.

The person we both know is a life coach. I told him about Lisa, my life coach and how much I had changed since being coached.

He wants to live in Greece, as do I. I thought that we may end up working together in Crete combining our talents and skills. Not knowing how.

Today in the workbook I have been working on the section where Lisa asks you to

free-write some ideas about what you could do to earn a living. Play with ideas, without restriction. Don’t worry if it sounds crazy or too “way out” – put all your ideas down and don’t limit or edit what you write. Use more paper if you need to

and I thought about that conversation with the life coach in the cafe.

How comfortable we were sharing information with each other. How defined our goals were. How we believed that anything was possible. How open we were to possibilities. How positive our language was. How we said what we thought. How we went with the flow.

It struck me that this can make some people uncomfortable. We have been conditioned to limit our self belief. From childhood. The day you sing for your teacher and don’t get chosen for the choir you stop singing, perhaps forever. You fail a test and label yourself a failure. If you are not in the ‘gifted and talented’ stream at school, you believe that you will never be gifted or talented at anything.

Two strangers, not limited by can’t. People who don’t wait for someday. Who have dreams and make plans. And put a date on it. This scares people because they like the comfort of limited self belief.

That way they can’t fail.

If there is only one bus a day, I will get it. The first ferry of the season that will get me back just in time for my flight, could be cancelled if the weather is poor, book me on it. Get on the wrong bus, fate will intervene. Telling me I can’t do something is merely laying down a challenge.

The stranger too found himself on islands with one bus a day with no one who spoke English. He discovered he could speak Greek better than he thought.

I guess that if you get on the wrong bus in Corfu, a bus full of locals with goats and chickens and not tourists with sunburn, and two minutes later the bus that gets stopped by the police as it is unsafe, you realise that it has happened for a reason. And when there just happens to be an English girl on this bus (she is teaching English in a remote village) who directs you to the right bus, you just know that things have a way of working themselves out.

Yet somewhere along the way, in between being a carefree student, and becoming a mom and getting a mortgage and jumping on the work, watch, spend treadmill, I forgot this. Instead I opted for safe choices, because that is what I believed I was supposed to do. Get a job, get a house, get married, have kids, get into debt, watch the news and get depressed. Be normal.

Don’t talk to strangers.

In Greek the word for stranger is the same as for friend.

Xenos (Greek: ξένος, xénos, plural xenoi) is a word used in the Greek language from Homer onwards. The most standard definition is “stranger”. However, the word, itself, can be interpreted to mean different things based upon context, author and period of writing/speaking, signifying such divergent concepts as “enemy” or “stranger”, a particular hostile interpretation, all the way to “guest friend”‘ one of the most hallowed concepts in the cultural rules of Greek hospitality.

In my workbook I wrote:

A social media language café, where people can learn Greek and English, life coaching, I could coach people to declutter, fulfilling my need to socialise and help people clear their lives of whatever is holding them back.

I told Lisa that going through the workbook was like playing pass the parcel and unravelling the layers to get to the prize.  The prize? A map of my life. Yet the map is a jigsaw, that still needs to be assembled. I haven’t completed all the exercises yet, I’ve unraveled the layers, found the jigsaw, now I have to build the map.

What I have discovered is that everything that I have done and everything good that has happened to me, the lovely people I have met, the crappy things and the horrid people, has made me who I am now. I needed to unravel those layers. To find my purpose. The map is a jigsaw and I can’t find my way until I put the pieces together. When I am uncomfortable it is because I have forced the wrong piece in the wrong place, as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Sometimes pieces are missing and we have to go find them.

Or they find us.

The conversation in the corner café was a the missing piece I needed to place in the jigsaw to discover what my authentic life looks like. It is pretty much how it looked at age 23 as I got off the bus full of chickens and goats in Corfu and thanked a stranger.

I asked the life coach if I could write about our conversation.

He said yes, but only if I didn’t say he wolfed down Stifado like a wild animal. I don’t think he will mind.

Addendum 3/6/16

Recently, while in Winchester, I met a Greek bar man and talked about the word Xenos. He told me the word I was looking for was this.

Hospitality, the official English translation of ‘philoxenia‘, doesn’t do justice to the concept as it does not encompass its main element, which is generosity of spirit. The Greek noun ‘xenos’ initially meant ‘guest’, acquitting the meaning of ‘foreigner/stranger’ at a later stage.

I have recently returned from a week on Skiathos. Yes, Greece still feels like home. Never a stranger there, always a guest.

 

 

 

Travelling Sylvia – what my mother did on her holiday 3

Today my mom would have been 84. To say she lived life to the full would be an understatement. She raced through life eager to cram as much as possible into her 81 years, at full speed into everything. Perhaps that is why she ended up with Eddie Molver.

This is him in 1948. Riding the Wall of Death.

And this is Mom in the early to mid 50’s I think with Dad at the TT races on the Isle of Man.

Family photo with my dadOur family went on many holidays, either in rented houses or caravans, usually to Tenby. Often there would be as many of 20 of us as my cousins would bring their friends. We would all pile out of the assortment of vehicles, from Mini Vans to Land and head for the beach.

Here I am with Mom at Tenby, I think this is 1960.

Once she was on her own, and then later with her partner Stan, she got more adventurous. After I had travelled to Greece, she decided to get a passport and go a little bit further than Tenby. On her first solo journey to Greece she met a man and had a holiday romance. After that she mainly travelled to Greece with her sister in law. Finding her diaries of those travels recently made me realise how much she loved that country. So much so this was where I scattered her ashes, on her beloved Santorini.

But back to the adventurous Sylvia.As I said she lived her life on full throttle. Had no fear.

Go up in a microlight over Dalyan, and take photos? Yes she did.

Travel to Thailand and visit the river Kwai. Get into cages with a tiger. Yup both of those. Now I have to say it was A. Unwise to get into a cage with a tiger and B. I totally do not agree with tigers being used as a tourist photo opportunity like this. But this is what she did, act first think later.

On a sledge in Bulgaria, the year she ran away from the family at Christmas.

A random scooter, yes I will just go and sit on it. This Is what she did.

Happy birthday, Mom.

 

Heritage Open Day – the iconic Rotunda

Birmingham PostcardBirmingham. It gets a bad press, the accent is mocked and the city is thought of as grey and grimy. It’s not. It is a city that is the birthplace of Heavy Rock, has a world class art gallery and some beautiful Victorian architecture. I love my city.

I have lived here for most of my life. I remember going to the Bull Ring back in the 1960’s with my nan, when it was all new and shiny. By the 80’s it was considered dated and ugly. Towering over it all was the Rotunda. And yesterday I got the opportunity to visit this building for the first time. Heritage Open Day in Birmingham, offered so many places to visit but this for me was the number one to do. The Bull RingThe Rotunda survived the threat of the bulldozer (unlike the Brutalist Central Library) when the Bull Ring was redeveloped. It also survived the Birmingham Pub Bombing. Today it towers over the newest development over New Street Station, Grand Central, and the All Seeing eye.

 Three huge screens around Birmingham New Street railway station are to scan passers-by before choosing which adverts to play.

Each of the screens are made from 100s of tiny TV screens will analyse rail passengers, shoppers and those just passing by to assess the crowd’s demographics.

Targeted ads are then set to be played through the screens.

Birmingham Mail

The tour gave us the opportunity to see two of the Staying Cool serviced apartments and the communal roof garden.  If you suffer from vertigo, do not look down.

Even looking up is dizzying.

And you can see for miles.

The architecture tells its own story.

A bit different to the 1960’s.

The Bull Ring 1968

SmallbrooRingway 2015

Here are some other photos taken on Heritage Open Day at The Rotunda.

Hopefully it will be open again for the next year and I recommend a visit.

I am even thinking of spending a night in one of the apartments and inviting some friends around.

But I will keep the windows firmly closed. Because it’s a long way down.

 

 

 

 

What the Asparamancer said

My daughter was a guest at a Hen weekend recently where they were all asked to bring stories about dating disasters. The bride to be was to guess the person the story was about. My daughter story began with the words ‘I was at my mom’s Christmas Party’ and the bride immediately shouted out my daughters name. It seems that amongst my daughters friends my house parties were legendary.

Now one could think, how cool that your daughter and her friends enjoy your parties. I would like to think that too.

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So I will tell you another story. When I was on the Whit Tour with the Jockey Men’s Morris in May 2011 I had my asparagus read at The Fleece Inn. For this you are given a bunch of asparagus and drop them randomly on the table. One stalk slipped out of my hands before I dropped the bunch and I got a knowing look (more of that in a moment). This Asparamancer told me two things. One was to get all my affairs in order as I needed to make sure all the plans were in place for a long journey. This was a bit uncanny, as I was, as readers of this blog know, going to be embarking on the round the world trip in October 2011. I had only just that week announced to my work place of my intention to take redundancy in order to travel. Nothing was booked. A  few close friends knew I planned to travel. The asparagus reader could not have known that. Then she came back to the asparagus that had got away. This indicated, apparently that sometimes after a drink or two I may be a bit loose with my words and say things I may regret, and I needed to be mindful of that.  On the coach we all shared what the asparagus reader had told us. When I mentioned  the bit about the loose tongue at parties, all my friends burst out laughing.

So I have appear to have a reputation of giving and enjoying parties. Which is fine. Except that my parties include lots of wine. And beer. Well I have friends who are Morris men so naturally there is beer. All in the safety of my own home. Well sometimes in other peoples houses. And always lots of lovely home cooked food and samosas and music and people enjoy themselves. They must do because they keep coming back.

We scaled back on parties this year, we were recovering travellers and had lost the house party mojo. There was no decent weather for a BBQ and now no young kids around to want a firework party. At Christmas we held a poker party and a vinyl night. Close friends and family who played poker, listened to vinyl,enjoyed shared food and well yes some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, craft beer and organic cider.

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Our round the world trip was on reflection a journey to new world wine growing regions. Paso Robles California (they keep the best); Marlborough, New Zealand and the Hunter Valley and Margaret River in Australia.  We enjoyed our wine responsibly, most of the time. We also discovered the delights of a Sunday sesh in Melbourne (thanks to What’s Dave Doing) at Riverland Bar and a post, cooling drink, after a very warm day trip to Williamstown relaxing with craft beers, food and Chloe.

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This is the view from our seat in Chloe’ s Room overlooking Federation Square and the Christmas Tram.

And this is the lovely food we enjoyed.

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In SE Asia we drank beer, as it was cheap and we were hot. In the last 11 days of travelling I lost about 12 pounds in weight, due to a combination of beautiful healthy freshly prepared food, the heat, and no wine. We did save a lot of babies but that is another story. I had already lost about the same amount of weight in Fiji for the same reasons, despite spending most of the day sleeping in a hammock.  I was slimmer and healthier than I had been for years when I returned home.

Back in the UK I soon slipped back into bad habits.  At first, because we were broke and had no jobs, and had enjoyed the cleansing diet in SE Asia, we ate healthily and drank occasionally. A year later, and the bad habits had crept back into our lifestyles. I had the ill health of my mom to contend with, unemployment, and lots of other stuff that is life. I put on weight. I decided to start running to combat the weight and my low mood, then got ill so had to stop.

And now it is almost Lent. Traditionally people give up things. Some people give up chocolate or wine. And some people take something up for Lent. A food bank charity has suggested that people donate what they save at Lent to them. One year I read of a family who lived on the minimum wage during Lent. They wanted their children to be able to reflect on how privileged they were, so had to forgo cinema visits and ballet lessons. They didn’t eat out and cut back on grocery bills. And donated what they saved to some charity. What a good idea, I thought. Then I read  ‘this excludes our mortgage payment’ and that made me very angry indeed. The smugness of living a comfortable life and let’s pretend to be like poor people mentality infuriated me. I have lived on Income Support and know what it  is like to have only a pound in my pocket to feed a family of four. And that same smugness creeps into Live Below the Line, which is why I blogged about that too.

However, it has made me think, could I, should I give up wine for Lent?

Oh and I have just read this blog about the Asparamancer so there seems there is a pattern in her predictions……

Footballers and Money: why can’t they score goals when they earn so much of it?

My daughter went to her first football match this Boxing Day. She is in her late 20’s and despite being brought up in a city (Birmingham) where in every direction you look there is a relatively well known club (West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and Birmingham City) we have never taken her to a match. One of the reasons was that during the 80’s and 90’s football lost its way. It became more about money, the stars and Manchester United. And because it was about money it also became too expensive to go to see a match.

My first match was in 1968. I went to see the Baggies at the Hawthorns (which was at one time the highest ground above sea level in the county, which is probably why West Bromwich always has a chill factor of minus 3). I was 9 and our summer au pair (local teenage girl hired to keep us occupied) took me and my cousin to the first match of the season after they had won the FA cup. I then went on and off for a few years with my male cousins, as  in the 60’s and 70’s, local people supported local clubs not just the ones who won every trophy. In 1975 I was dating the captain of the Halesowen College football team, who was also a Baggies fan, and consequently spent most Saturday afternoons with him and the rest of the team, on the terraces, drinking Bovril and eating pies.

For footie fans the Boxing Day match is pretty much of a tradition, possibly established originally for men to escape the sales fever and the family for a day. What swung this first visit to a football match for the daughter was that it involved dinner in an executive box as opposed to being freezing cold, drinking  Bovril and eating pies on the terraces. Her partner is a Villa fan, and his friend works/owns a company who has this box to entertain clients, so on Boxing Day (which is a holiday in the UK) the box was available for him to entertain his friends. I’m slightly disappointed that her first match was at the Villa, but hey even I dated a Villa fan, once. I ended up marrying a Leeds fan, although the last match he went to was back in 1985.

My son hated football. And, because of this got bullied at school. Which made him hate it even more. His peers were obsessed with having the latest, overpriced Man United shirt, and many I suspect had soccer moms and dads who were known for kicking off on the sidelines.  He also became a PE lesson refuser as the only thing they ever did was play football at his secondary school. Tennis courts were used for 5 a side, the athletic stadium only used on sports day, with hurried lessons in shot put and the long jump for a couple of weeks in the hope that they may get one student they could trust to throw a javelin without killing someone from a rival gang.

Despite the wonderful recent success of Team GB at the London Olympics, I do wonder how much better we could have done and how many more British contenders for Wimbledon we’d have if sport was seen as important on the curriculum as IT. One head teacher, John Tomsett  who I admire, blogged about how he actively encourages competitive sport at his school. This is within a house system, not against other schools and I think this is a model that needs to be encouraged. I’m not very sporty, yet because of the house system I could participate and enjoy sport to the best level I could achieve. Not left on the bench because I wasn’t good enough to win a match against every other school in the borough. And my school produced an Olympic swimmer because of this.

In the days when footballers didn’t earn silly money they were still, almost, one of us. Yes, there were the exceptions to this, like Georgie Best, who lived life in the fast lane (and look what happened to him, poor man) but it was nothing compared to the Beckhams, who are treated like minor royalty. I’m not saying Beckham isn’t a good role model, because he is, apart from the ‘be a footballer and you’ll be rich like me’ stuff and that their 11 year son is a model.

To get things into perspective, money and fame wise, Jeff Astle, when he retired from football established a window cleaning company. Post match curry in Wolverhampton and Derek Statham was sat at the next table. It wasn’t “ooo I must get his autograph” in so much as “great match today Derek” and we got on with our curry. And once I saw Robert Plant get off a bus outside the Hawthorns for a local derby with the team he supported, Wolverhampton Wanders. At the same match was Eric Clapton and Annie Nightingale, I know this as she mentioned it the next day on her Sunday afternoon national radio show. Eric even has a West Brom scarf strewn across a chair on the album, Backless.

So I’m nostalgic for the football of the 70’s and extremely pleased that three West Bromwich Albion footballers, Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson who inspired a generation of black professional players in the UK are to be honoured with a statue. And if pushed, despite not having gone to match for many years, I would say I’m a Baggies fan. I can’t name a player, but they are my local team. I’ve been to the ground quite a few times for conferences and I still get a thrill seeing the pitch.

And the fashion in supporting famous teams continues in that David Cameron and Prince William are Villa supporters. At the time that they made this decision the team was doing well and perhaps this gave them the common touch, that the working class could identify with, not as glitzy as Manchester United and of course Beckham went to The Wedding!

Football teams and players are just another commodity for increasingly overseas investors who you don’t normally associate with footie. One of the weirdest things was to see a Leicester City souvenir shop in Bangkok Airport. Again, back in the day it was a pop stars whim to to buy a football club as did Elton John, not as an investment, but because they needed the money and it was the team he supported. Now we have players earning more a week than most of their fans earn a year, yet they still can’t score a goal. Unless of course you happen to be a team playing the Villa recently. It seems get 8 goals past their defence is pretty easy at the moment.

So how are the Baggies doing this season? Not to rub it in, of course.

The 30 minute blog

Distracted moi?

Ok I am a procrastinator who doesn’t seem to get much done although I am busy all day. I am a the Friends character Monica with a Phoebe rising, or the other way round, I am not sure. I want to be a better writer, so I am experimenting with the 30 minute blog. Yesterdays blog took  up most of my day and nothing else got done. I had heard about the Pomodoro method and I thought, hey I will try that for my to do list and to blog is on that list. So in front of me is a timer set to 30 minutes and when it pings, I will publish.

Thinking smarter or faster?

So I have to think fast and not waste time looking for the perfect picture, as that sees to be what took up most of my time yesterday. Or too many links. Less typos perhaps. And not strive for perfection.

Facebook eats into my life too much

The day started with me ranting at a post on my Facebook timeline from Lorraine, queen of day time TV. I know its not her posting, but you know it really irritates me that it is all about not having bingo wings and the perfect Christmas dress. I rarely watch the programme, I think morning TV is a distraction we don’t need, and when I do I am dismayed to find that it is really all about making women feel worse about them selves. The men just watch to lech at Lorraine. Maybe I will watch it tomorrow and count how many times they say perfect. Let that eat into my time instead of my Facebook and twitter timeline.

Social Media is better than watching the news

It is, really it is. It is often on twitter before the tellybox anyhow if something major happen. Yesterday there was a big explosion and fire at a factory in Langley. A FB friend  lives close by and reported that it had happened, after calling the fire brigade. I knew more about the situation from her and later tweets from the various news stream I follow on twitter that I would have done from the telly box. I also know that Larry Hagman had died before it was on the radio of TV.  And I like that it is short and headlines not subtext. If I want to find out more, I can, but hey I’m a headline person.

The explosion meant…

My husband works in Crosswells Road for the Special Library Service delivering books to the housebound. He was telephone to say they had had to evacuate the building so he went to Thimblemill Library for the rest of the day. It meant he couldn’t take the van back or bring our car home which had the coal in it for our fire. But that was a minor inconvenience.

For the people who lived nearby, the fire meant they had to spend the night in temporary accommodation, not knowing if they had a home or car to go back to. I know this because my FB friend  (another one I have also met in real life) reported this. She knows her car is a write off. She is not sure what state her house will be in. She is also a local Labour Councillor and while she was upset and afraid, what struck me was that she cancelled all her appointments, not just because she had a lot of stuff to deal with, but to support the local residents. I know her and I am sure she has personally visited everyone to see what she can do to help. That is humanity. I would have her in my corner anytime.

Seven minutes on the clock. 633 words. And that is all folks.

The #4amproject

What is the 4 am project?

I first heard of the 4 am project over a year ago. I had started following @karenstrunks on twitter via people I had met at Social Media Surgeries. Karen had been driving home one night at 4 am and it had struck her how different the world looks at that time. The idea for the project was born.

Made in Birmingham

This is now a global project but it all started here in Birmingham in 2008. Social media has enabled us to play a part in building a global picture of the world at 4am.

My involvement

I met with Karen at one of the monthly Social Media Cafes she organises in Birmingham.  I have been on a bit of a mission to actually meet people I met first through twitter and she was on the list. Her blogs are brilliant and she is a real enabler in so many ways. The next 4 am project was coming up and she persuaded me to join in.

Street furniture

When I attended Planning Camp I learnt a lot about street furniture. So it seems has Winchester.

The decline of the high street

This was the theme  of my first contribution to the 4 am project. I had got involved with the Portas Pilot bid for Bearwood and I had started noticing the empty shops more and also the general neglect of what is essentially community space. I wrote a bit about it on my blog Post Travelling Blues. I called it litter and light.

Litter and Light

We chose a different location for the 4am project this time and we knew it would be interesting to see the contrast between Bearwood in Sandwell and Winchester in Hampshire. There were some common themes, again in litter and light.

Turn off the lights?

It was shocking to see how many empty shops in Bearwood had lights left on all night. The wast is shameful. Yet in Winchester we found that so many of the Building Societies and shops also left not the odd one of two lights on but loads of them blazing away. From a security point of view there may be valid reasons to do this, yet the waste of power appalls me.

Things really look different at 4am

They really do. Looking at the photographs today a few things struck me. I had walked past this shop in daylight (well gloomy rain filled light ) earlier and never noticed this display. Now all I can see is legs and handbags.

Or this one.

The once busy pubs were all shut up and chairs on top of tables.

Yet here there was a whole team of staff laying tables at 4am.

Who would have seen this in the daylight?

And what a gloomy, dirty and neglected bus station for such a beautiful city.

Yet again, I was glad I was not waiting for a bus…..

Still travelling

I started this blog to document my round the world trip with my husband. That was October 2011 and now we have been back in our home in Birmingham England, since February 2012.

I have been back longer than I was away, yet my blog is still called travelling coral and it will continue to be so. I was a traveller before my blog and I continue to travel. I may not be flying thousands of miles and living out of a back pack, yet I am still travelling. I carry my camera everywhere and look at my own country, my town, my city, as a traveller does. I have become a tourist in my own country. I see England and the UK differently now. And this is why.

When we were in Melbourne last year we met a man called Rob in Federation Square. He was in in 70’s and we got chatting as we sat on the deckchairs there. He gave us lots of tips about what to do and see in Melbourne. He told us of his work back in the 60’s and filled us in about the history of Melbourne. He was so proud of his English Heritage and of Melbourne. By coincidence we met him again the following day in the Botanic Gardens.

Now that place is huge, and the chance of bumping into someone are slim. We were meant to meet him I am sure of that. He then offered to give us a guided walk of the gardens and surrounding areas, which we were happy to do. Again his pride of Melbourne was impressive, sharing his knowledge of the history of the city and the country with us gave him joy. It was a brilliant day.

I struck me then that most Brits don’t seem proud of their heritage, are not very knowledgeable about the history of where they live, and are more likely to criticise the country rather than big it up. Rob wasn’t the first person we met who wanted to show off their city. Tim and Jo Anne who we met in Northland invited us to stay at their home in Wellington and took us to The Roxy Cinema after dinner at Coco’s. The next day they took us on the cable car to the Botanic Gardens. Tim also gave us an insiders tour of WETA.

Barb and Pete who we met in Haverstock took us to see our first Kangaroo in the suburbs of Lysterfield, Melbourne, picked us up to go to the Victoria Markets and invited us to share Christmas Day with their family.

Since I have been home I have revisited Weston, Stratford upon Avon, The Cotswolds, Winchester, Brecon and Hay on Wye. The family visited Sarehole Mill during the Tolkien weekend. I visited my daughter in London and went to a concert in Hyde Park.  I have started a list of places I have never visited in my own city including the Barber Institute. I visited the Love and Death exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which also has the Staffordshire Hoard.

English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum &...
English: The Round Room at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Source – FlickR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever possible I big up Birmingham. I met a family at a food festival in Birmingham who were here for the World BMX Championships They were really impressed with how beautiful the city is. And it is! They admitted that they had thought Birmingham was a grey and dirty city that they bypassed on the M6 to get to Manchester or the Lake District. When I told them that Birmingham hosted the biggest Christmas Market outside of Germany the mom was immediately making plans for her friends Christmas shopping trip. To Birmingham.

So I am still travelling….. are you?

Friends. The other one about Social Media.

Batu Caves Thaipusam 2007

Just over a year ago I started following two people on twitter. Very different people. One was @JDEntrepreneur the other @thevicarswife.

I liked the feisty tweets from @thevicarswife and really admire the work she and her extended household are doing in a very deprived area of Sandwell. Her blog is really brilliant. You can find it here.

When she knew I would be visiting Malaysia she invited me for tea at The Vicarage. I remember the day vividly. Her three children were in dressing up clothes jumping down the stairs. I immediately felt at home as much of my childhood was like this, when I wasn’t living up a tree! At the Vicarage there is always tea and lots of homemade cake. Yet it was four months later that I was able to realise the real value of the friendship.

I was in Kuala Lumpur and hating it. Really hating it. Phil and I had joined a G Adventures tour travelling overland from Singapore to Bangkok. We’d been on the road for three months in first world countries so Malaysia was a bit of the shock to the system. There were some great people in the group. And one that everyone found difficult. Ugh Oh I shall call her. Our tour guide, Pong, had been mugged outside our horrible hotel. And the previous night we had eaten horrible food in a fake American bar. This wasn’t the Colours of Asia I had been expecting.

We had been to the Thaipusam festival in the Batu Caves. Phil, Kelly, Sean and I found it so disturbing we had fought back through the crowds, back on to an even more overcrowded train and gone back to the hotel. We were all exhausted and a bit teary. On top of the tension in the group caused by Ugh Oh, which was getting seriously difficult by then, the day had just about finished us off. So I tweeted @thevicarswife. ‘Help hating KL need authentic place to eat’. Within 30 minutes she had contacted her friends in KL and had a recommendation. Koon Kee’s Great Wonton on Petaling street. When we eventually found the place, and that is another story for another day, we had some wonderful food and the Carling Girl had never been so busy. That night, Two Dinners Sean, Phil and I began our baby saving mission in South East Asia. Thanks to @thevicarswife.

So how does @JDEntreneur fit in to all this. He intrigued me as a then 19 year ol entrepreneur. He said some daft things sometimes (who doesn’t) and I often picked him up on his grammar and spelling, yet one couldn’t deny that he was a hard worker, inspiring young people to set up businesses. This is his blog about social media. I would urge you to read his others, too.

And this is the conversation between us on twitter.

Jamie Dunn ‏@JDEntrepreneur

Got to write my next column for @Birminghammail tonight… listing some topics to cover. Anything you think should be added?!

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@JDEntrepreneur @birminghammail supporting independent retailers, stalking tweeters? marketing and social media

@travellingcoral done. Have a read as I’ve mentioned our brief meeting!

5:37 PM – 14 Oct 12 · Details
I was that stalker person. Regular readers will know I like indie coffee shops with WiFi. I was visiting Brewsmiths near Snow Hill Station. It was the first time I had been there. Had no idea that Jamie Dunn ‏@JDEntrepreneur would be there. Turns out it was his first visit too. I recognised him from his blog and as he sat down I tweeted that he had just walked in, as you do. It was pure coincidence that we were both there on the same day. If you believe in coincidence. If nothing else it gave him inspiration for his blog about social media. And it was very funny to seem him looking around the cafe trying to work out who I was.
So who have you met first through twitter and then in real life? How did it go?