Cruising the Pacific Dawn

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It sounds like a lovely metaphor, doesn’t it? But no, in fact it’s what The Husband and I did – we spent the second week in January on the P&O Cruise ship “Pacific Dawn“. It was either that, or spend the money on a big bash for my 40th birthday which, considering most of my friends are scattered across the globe, did not seem that appealing.

Was it good? Hell, yes! Our impeccable timing meant we had perfect weather all the way. Having cruised through a cyclone once before, I can say with conviction that clear blue skies and calm seas are infinitely preferable.
And we didn’t crash, not even once. Upon our return we learned about the ill-fated Costa Concordia. Boy, was I glad we chose a Pacific cruise and not a Mediterranean one.

Our first two days we bobbed uninterrupted through the deep blue ocean. At least, the ship did, while inside we tried not to get lost in the labyrinth of passages and stairwells on board. It was all terribly posh with its plush carpets, polished handrails and varied display of artwork on the walls. We lounged in the sun beside sparkling pools on the upper deck and idly watched the girls strutting their too-small bikinis, women hiding under billowing tunics and men in shorts ogling the precious few who got it right.

Having expended our energy in a “Ballroom Dance” class in the ship’s night club “The Dome” at midday, afternoon naps were a given.
(I reserve judgement on the validity of the term “Ballroom Dance”. Being a teacher of this activity myself, I didn’t think we’d be winning any awards based on our on-board lessons… but we did ‘have a ball’ doing them..!)

There were dozens of other things to do every day, too: golf, horse-racing, bingo, trivia quizzes, cocktail-mixing classes – but frankly we did not have enough time for even half of these activities between meals…
… aah… the meals…

The great thing about a cruise is that your ticket price includes the three main expenses of any holiday: Travel, Accommodation and Meals.
And what meals they were! Up on the aft-end of Deck 12, beside the pools, lived a buffet restaurant called Cafe del Sol.  Breakfast was the most impressive of the buffets, with fresh fruit and fruit salads, cereals, freshly baked bread and pastries, hot porridge, pancakes (plain or fruity), eggs (fried, scrambled, boiled or omelette), bacon and every other variation of breakfasty food you could possibly imagine. My only complaint was that the coffee from the coffee-machine only started to resemble coffee when I pressed the “Strong Black” button, mixed in a sachet of decaf and added just a drop of fresh milk. If you wanted decent coffee, there were plenty of little coffee bars around the ship that were happy to provide, at a nominal cost.

Lunch provided just as much variety. I tended to stick to my favourite of roasted chicken and salads, in a vain attempt to keep the pounds from piling on. I failed dismally. The culprits, of course, were the scrumptious desserts. Individually, they were just itty-bitty portions… so naturally, on some days we’d have two. Don’t judge. I saw some plates piled with enough sugar and carbs to keep a small army going! Best of all, was enjoying all this deliciousness at leisure beside a window or al fresco overlooking the broad, slick wake left on a glittering sea.

Dinner was a more formal affair, taken in the Palm Court Dining room on the Promenade Deck, Deck 7. Here two lovely Filipino ladies flapped napkins onto our laps, brought us fresh bread rolls (“Brown or white, Madame?”) and scraped the crumbs off the table afterwards with a nifty little silver crumb-scraper. (I gotta get me one of those!)
They brought us wine or beer from the bar and nodded approval when we selected the salmon entrée or the crème brûlée for dessert. Each meal was an event in itself, and every one taken with different companions, for The Husband and I opted for a table for four, to share. We met a hippie woman and her daughter, a farming couple from New South Wales, a retired Navy Diver and a school headmistress, as well as a pair of teachers, and an engineer from Hungary. It was a bit like Groundhog Day, having the same conversation day after day but with different people.

Evenings offered as much diversity in the way of entertainment as the days did, with Trivia Quizzes (I aced the ’80’s Music’ one!), gambling in the Casino (no thanks), Karaoke in the Bengal Bar on Deck 7 (we watched, but only once), or performances by “Pacific Cirque” in The Atrium that spanned Decks 5, 6 and 7, or by the “Pacific Entertainers” in the International Show Lounge. This last was my favourite. Who doesn’t love to watch people singing and dancing on stage?

Welcome committee? Noumea, New Caledonia

And then in the early afternoon on Day 3 we sailed into the port of Noumea in New Caledonia. The ship eased to its berth with the help of a small tug, while its giant shadow swallowed up a handful of ebony locals in grass skirts beating welcome drums on the dockside. We watched and took photographs from the Promenade Deck high above. It all felt terribly Colonial.

The Husband and I opted to venture out on our own into town, rather than pay what I thought were rather exorbitant prices for the organized tours. Perhaps we should have paid the money, for we plodded through the streets in steamy heat harboring the constant hope that we would not be mugged. Paranoid? Perhaps. But among the Banyan Figs and overstuffed souvenir shops, graffiti and potholes there lurked a subtle scent of decay (mixed with a generous dose of marijuana that wafted over from groups of locals sprawled beneath shady trees in the park).
The people who took the Tchou Tchou Train Ride reported having a much better time!

On the morning of Day 4, The Husband awoke and announced that he could see a giant mushroom out our window. It was an effective way of getting me out of bed, the cheeky bastard. The ‘mushroom’ in question was one end of the island of Lifou, New Caledonia, where a lighthouse perched atop a headland eaten away at sea-level by centuries of hungry ocean. The view was too good to pass up, so we scoffed breakfast, took a number and hopped aboard a tender, i.e. one of the life-boats that spent the day ferrying passengers between ship and shore (whose bright idea was it to call them ‘Tenders’?! Silliest thing I’ve heard in a long time.)

Swimming at Lifou

It was hot, damn hot, and we spent a few hours swimming in water so clear you could see the fish darting between the coral outcrops beneath your feet even when it was too deep to stand. I learned that day that plastic thongs (flip-flops) are less than ideal footwear for swimming in seawater. My feet kept floating to the surface, unbidden, making my progress slow and endlessly amusing for The Husband.

By the time we finished breakfast the next day, we had docked beside Port Vila, Vanuatu. ‘Bloink’ went the computer as it scanned our Cruise Cards at the door, and then we were out in the devastating sunshine on a deserted dock. Deserted, that is, until we got to the crude wire gate where dozens of local taxi drivers jostled for business. “I give you a special price, my friend!” Uh-huh.

Local market stalls lined the road as far as we could see, packed with sarongs, lei’s and other tourist paraphernalia in bright floral colours. After a few minutes of baking under our hats, a taxi driver who had latched onto us grabbed Dave’s attention, and they did that thing that men do to negotiate a mutually satisfactory deal. But before going anywhere we had to clear the traffic, jammed up with taxis and minibuses parked on the verge, pressed up against a mountainside on one side and the port fence on the other. There was a policeman, somewhere, trying to get everyone moving, but he vanished at some point and left the drivers to sort it out themselves. With troubled expressions and much shouting and arm waving they managed to back this one up, move that one forward, find the driver of that vehicle and get him to park properly… all the while we sat in back with air-con in desperate need of a service, slapping at mosquitos and gawping at the show. Eventually we bumped forward, nose to tail, eased through the throng of weaving pedestrians in the market and out onto the road to Port Vila. I felt a little apprehensive, I admit, about jumping into a banged-up taxi with a harassed-looking local with his heavy brow and sulky expression, and just his word that he was taking us where we wanted to go. My anxiety only increased when he stopped to fill up with petrol and a second man jumped in beside him. The newcomer introduced himself as our driver’s brother, Cedric.

“And my brother, his name is Joseph,” he said.
“He said his name was Tom,” I pointed out and he laughed.
“Yes, Tommy Joseph,” he guffawed and slapped his knee.

The label on the rearview mirror said TAMAN HARRY. I wondered what the bloke’s name really was. He just grunted and continued to play dodgems with the other cars on the road, mostly minibuses like ours and taxis.

My mind eased when we turned off the road at a sign for the Cascade Waterfalls and I saw other tourists straggling across to a rudimentary hut to buy tickets to get in. ($20 each, if you’re ever in the vicinity.) There was a small bar there, and a shaded deck area beside a crystal clear stream, with a local strumming a guitar and singing hits by Santana and Neil Diamond. Inside the Ladies’ room I changed into my swimwear and then we followed the signs to the waterfalls. Deep, uneven stairs led upwards over ground worn smooth by thousands of tourist feet over the years. The wooden hand-railing couldn’t really be counted on for support and I could see why they had recommended good walking shoes for this bit. Eventually the ground levelled out a bit and we passed through lush tropical vegetation, beneath palm trees and past bright red and pink flowers while birds not much bigger than butterflies flitted overhead. I hoped they were feasting on the mosquitos that were trying to eat us alive. The path crisscrossed a cold, shallow stream, and the rope railings at the water crossings proved quite reliable and, further along, necessary.
(Kudos to my Sketchers for doubling as hiking-and-swimming shoes. I skipped over the wet, rocky path with the agility of a mountain goat, while those in bare feet and thongs fared less well. I confess I smirked a little.)

Cascade Waterfalls, Port Vila, Vanuatu

All along the pathway clusters of tourists giggled and splashed in secluded little rock pools. We clambered over the hard packed path, always up, taking care at the cool rocky stream crossings where water flowed shallow but strong. It was single file only in many places, a tricky thing with a sporadic flow of people going in both directions. After 20-minutes of gentle hiking we reached the cascade waterfall where we took a dip in the cold pool below as the stream tumbled over a mossy rock face and smacked into the foamy depths from above. You only got a sense of how high it was when you saw the men abseiling down, almost disappearing into the green tangle of shadows from the thick vegetation that surrounded the little paradise.

An hour after arriving we jumped back in our taxi with Tom-Joseph-Taman-Harry and Cedric, and sped off to the lookout point at a war memorial opposite the Reserve Bank. We passed a countryside loaded with churches and low-slung buildings, and shiny locals with big smiles and heavy brows swimming in every pool of water we saw.

 

We had lunch at Port Vila’s yacht club, enjoying fresh fish and a crisp prawn salad on a wooden deck overlooking the bay, with the Pacific Dawn lying peacefully at bay on the other side. Afterwards we strolled through town, browsing shops and stopping to buy gifts to take home, and lei’s to wear for that night’s Tropical Party theme on board.

From Vanuatu it was time to head back to Brisbane. Another two days at sea floated by in a haze of sun, food and piña colada‘s. The trip was worth every dollar, and every pound😉 and now I can honestly say I sailed into my 40’s in style.

Christmas There and Here

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Occasionally (VERY occasionally!) I am overcome with the urge to write a poem. Today was such an occasion.

It’s Christmas, you see. So Merry Christmas to you all

xxx

Back there was snow and sleet and ice

It really wasn’t very nice

The nights too long, the days too dreary

Too much work made my eyes bleary

And endless winters left me weary.

 

In driving rain, trains – always late

Would lurch and jolt; I’d fight for space

To breathe and dodge the smelly louts

With nowt to do but hang about;

They really could do with a clout.

 

Back there, beneath our Christmas tree

Were heaps of parcels, yes indeed!

But though wealth bought us gifts galore

Our lives were such an awful bore;

We knew we wanted so much more.

 

And then one day Australia said,

“Here’s your visa – go ahead,

Pack your bags and book your flights

It’s time to move to Paradise.”

You can imagine our delight!

 

And now we live in QLD

Where ‘roos and cockatoos roam free;

We sought the sun, we changed address

And though our gifts are slightly less

We’ve never known such happiness.

The Great Foxtel Rip-Off

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There is nothing I detest more than being ripped off, unless it is being ripped off and feeling powerless to do anything to stop it.

This is a rant about Foxtel, that monopolistic supplier of satellite TV in Australia without which I would not be able to watch my beloved Dog Whisperer, and The Husband would probably die from underexposure to international Rugby games.

They claim to give you this wonderful ability to record your favourite TV programs so you can watch them at your leisure, which is great for someone like me. I work nights, so I miss all the good stuff like Grey’s Anatomy, Hawaii Five-0 and Glee. I set them up on “Series Link” so they automatically record every week, and I have these marathon TV-Catch-Up sessions on weekends.

Well, I catch up on most of them. More often than not, either the beginning or end of the program is cut off. The automatic record function starts too late, or ends too soon and I miss those vital first and last few minutes (a little annoying on the Grande Finale of Dancing with the Stars… Who won?!)

NOTE TO FOXTEL: Send someone to the UK to see how SKY does it – their recordings start at the beginning and run to the end, even if the programs start earlier or later than scheduled! Surely it can’t be that hard to deliver the service effectively?

But that’s not even my main beef today. Oh no. I noticed a few months ago a $2 charge on my monthly bill. A-ha! I said. Get rid of the paper bills and set up a direct debit.
The Direct Debit was no problem, but nowhere in my online Accounts section did it give the option of opting out of paper bills. Believe me, I looked long and hard. So I figured the $2 must only relate to the way I pay the bill.

I was wrong. It halved the charge, so now the “Other Charges” on the bill were only $1. Still, this irks me. How many customers do Foxtel have? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions..?
So they advertise their monthly fees and then randomly tack on an extra $1 and call it “Other Charges” … times that by the amount of customers they have and realistically they could be gathering a couple of MILLION dollars every month all told, for unspecified “Other Charges”.

AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO GETS REALLY PEEVED BY THIS???

I phoned them this morning. Waited through the ten-minute automated answering system until I finally got to speak to someone in India or Pakistan who would ‘answer my question so that I can have a deeper understanding of what the answer is‘…. yeah, at that point my patience wore somewhat thin.

I was right. The $1 was because I get a paper bill in the mail. I explained calmly (?) that I don’t wish to receive the thing in the mail but that nowhere on the website does it give you the option to change this, and didn’t she think this was a bit of a scam? Kudos to the lady on the other end of the line; she kept incredibly cool, as if oblivious to the sarcasm dripping from my voice and landing in a big, acid puddle on the floor. She simply cancelled my paper bill and sent a link to my email that would allow me to view my statement online (although it took a few attempts at re-wording for her to carry this information across to me, bless her soul).
She needn’t have bothered with the link. It’s the same place I was looking before. Still no option to amend how you receive your bill though.

Which brings me to my point. How many people could be bothered to phone up, talk to a computer for ten minutes and then try to communicate with an operator for whom English is a challenge, all to save $1 a month? I don’t know of any. And so the corporate giant sits and rubs its hands in glee and rakes in the dollars and we mere mortals slump in our couches and smile while we’re getting reamed.

WAKE UP PEOPLE! Phone the number and cancel those paper bills! It’s time we stood up to the monster and said ENOUGH!

I, for one, refuse to be ripped off any longer.

Next in my sights is Telstra. I have a $1.63 Credit due to me on my bill and I’m damn well going to claim it!

What do you mean its-been-a-while?

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I’m still alive. Alive and cooking, actually.
That’s a pun. It’s November in Paradise and temperatures are soaring.

I still don’t know what’s the story with the lame man and his three-legged-dog but I still see them. The dog is still happy and the man still wears the same hat, although he now wears shorts, which has allowed me to see that both legs are strapped – one on the ankle, the other the knee. Which leads me to believe it was an accident that has caused his distress. Still doesn’t explain the dog, unless the dog was in the same accident.

We’re on waving terms now. Not the dog, but his owner. We nod G’day to each other if we’re in range.

I had almost given up on blogging, you know. And then certain parties (no LiVEwiRe‘s mentioned) dropped a comment in my inbox and I thought, How rude of me to just drop off the face of the earth like that.

So here I am. I have not read a blog in months. Why? Time, I suppose. When one has an obsessive personality like mine one can spend entire days on something as distracting as blog-lurking. I spent three days last week looking at photos of short haircuts. Over 3,000 in fact. When I tell people that they laugh like it’s a joke. Ha ha. Actually it’s more accurate than I’d like to admit.

But hey, I have a great new short-short haircut now.

So, as I was saying… I’ve been trying to avoid getting caught up in things that take me away from finishing my novel. The thing is now just starting to annoy me. I’m midway through the rewrites and I’ve had it. I want to get it finished and move onto the next one. What can I say? Patience was never my strong suit.
We won’t get into all the emotions that go along with it – the novel, not the patience thing. I just want it to be finished.

Hence the blog-silence.

That, plus I really don’t feel like I have much to say anymore.

But thanks for the wake-up call. I missed you too.

xx

A man, a dog and a deck

My Mom is paying us a visit at the moment. It’s a great time of year to be in Queensland. The weather is so stable it is laughable; we have had weeks and weeks of perfect weather, with clear blue sunny skies, days warm enough to wear short sleeves, nights cool enough to snuggle under a blanket beside the heater, and mornings just perfect to enjoy a cup of tea on the deck while looking out across the sea.

We love to watch the people go by. A constant stream of dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists pass by on the promenade across the road. One man, in particular, has caught our attention. Tall and lanky, he wears dark glasses and a knitted hat, and he stops at the top of the stairs that lead onto the beach opposite our house. He walks slowly using crutches and is accompanied by a dog who, like his master, is lame in one leg.

It is not a sight you see every day – the lame man and his three-legged-dog – and something about the pair of them draws our attention. The dog always looks happy. Nobody told him there’s anything wrong and he runs like the wind across the beach, through the water, chasing the birds like a maniac. And then he returns to his owner who stays at the stairs. He appears to do some sort of rehabilitative exercises in his legs. Unlike his dog, there is an immense sadness about him. The dog doesn’t care. He sits beside him and shares his joy. Did you see me chase those birds, Dude? I’m da man!

Mom and I drink our tea in the sun on our deck and ponder their partnership. Perhaps he was in an accident? Maybe he had surgery? He definitely seems to be recovering from something, we whisper. We don’t want him to hear and he’s only across the road.
And we chuckle and enjoy watching the dog take off after another seagull.

Yesterday an elderly man came walking by. He saw the crutches, stopped, turned back and bold as brass asked the man about his injured leg. Just like that!
It was the perfect example of how differently men and women communicate. He saw, got curious, asked and got an answer… an answer that we still don’t have because we were across the road drinking our tea and not wanting to pry.

Then again, the old man probably just wanted to know what happened to his leg, while we have so many more questions… how did it happen? Why so sad?
And did you get the three-legged-dog before or after you went lame?

All good stuff to ponder while sitting in the sunshine enjoying a cuppa.

Getting It Together

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I have never been much of a joiner.

At school we were more or less forced to sign up for at least one sort of social club – a noble attempt on the part of the South African school system to get us to interact with others. In primary school I joined the chess club. In hindsight it was probably not the best decision I could have made for my social standing but then I have always been a bit of a social retard at heart.
In high school I waxed clever and joined the French Club. The teacher who ran it spent most of her time going on about her wonderful son who was a student at the private boys’ school across town, so it was the easy way out because we never really did anything except chat. Not in French either, if you’ll pardon my Francais.

After school I was finally released from my forced participation in group activities. Freedom! Fantastic.

And then I started writing. Seriously writing, that is. A solitary occupation by nature, ideal for someone like me. Except that I began to need feedback, and while random comments on a blog are great, I felt I was lacking in interaction with other writers. People who do what I do. People with informed opinions (no offense intended to you, of course, my highly valued blog-readers!)

So I found a local writer’s group and started attending their monthly meetings. The first time I read out my work at a meeting I was a bundle of nerves – terrified. What if they hated it? What if it’s shite? What if… what if… well as it turned out, they liked it. They said such nice things about my writing. More importantly, they gave honest feedback about what I could do make it even better.
That, my friends, is priceless.

And here I am, a year-and-a-half later, still going to the monthly meetings. We have a website now. And somewhere along the line I have become an integral part of the group. When our chairman was unable to attend last month, he asked me to take the meeting instead. Huh? How did that happen?! I have yet to have my manuscript published, yet here I am taking an active role in my writer’s group.
It’s good for my ego, I’ll admit. They must value my opinions, right? Which I take to mean that the stuff I read out at the meetings can’t be all bad.

And so, twenty-something years after leaving high school I have finally figured out that group activities can be a good thing. I still don’t like to get involved – I have enough in my life without taking on extra responsibilites – but when it comes to the writing group I reckon the benefits I get out of it justify the time and effort I find myself putting into it.

It turns out I may be more of a joiner than I thought I was.

All present and accounted for – well, sort of…

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Just over a year ago I landed the job of my dreams as a part-time teacher of ballroom dancing. Although I hadn’t done this sort of dancing before, to me it was a simple case of learning the steps and styles.
Simple? Yes.
Easy? Not so much, but with my background in ballet and salsa I have managed to master the Foxtrot, Rumba, Waltz, Cha Cha, Swing and Tango. Granted, Foxtrot and Tango still need a little work before I can use the word “master” but, honestly? I think I’m doing pretty damn good.
Why mess about with false modesty?

But dancing is only half the job. The other half is teaching others how to do it. As it turns out I seem to be pretty good at that too, judging by the results. I take pride in the belief that I can teach anyone to dance, no matter how rhythmically-challenged they may think they are. Sometimes it just takes a little longer.

Now over the years I have been to a number of dance classes taught by a variety of dance teachers, each with their own particular style. It turns out, though, that I work for one of the best teachers I have ever known. (No, I’m not trying to suck-up to him – he does not even know this blog exists!)
You see, my boss has mastered the art of making it easy to learn to dance. And so I made it my goal to model my teaching style on him.
And so I began to observe.
And the first thing I realised is that I talk too much.

I know. It came as a shock to me, too.

My role-model is brutally economical with words. He uses the fewest possible to get his point across. Me? I ramble, going on and on with long explanations that are probably entirely unnecessary. So I have tried to cut back on the verbal diarrhoea.
It is harder than you might think.
However, in a flash of insight I think I unearthed the answer a couple of days ago.

The trick is to be present in the moment.

Instead of my mind racing ahead to what I’m going to do next, and keeping an eye on the clock so I fit the lesson into the hour properly, and keeping an ear on the music, and, and, and… I need to stop. Breathe. Focus on the moment and take my time to finish one thought before rushing into the next. It is something I tell my students all the time. “Slow down. Breathe. Finish one movement before you start on the next.

Sage advice.
Now all I need to do is learn how to listen to myself.

It brings to mind a quote I used to have pinned up at my desk:

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
    – Buddha

I think he might have been onto something there.

Write About Now

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Let’s talk about writing for a while. I have great ambitions to turn this blog into a place where I share my experiences and pearls of wisdom as a writer. Thus far, I have succeeded in… well, not a lot, actually. Step one is to post something new on a regular basis. Perhaps I should call that “Strike One” instead.

There are so many writing blogs out there. Where do they come up with all the stuff they write about? And where do they find the time to put it all together in a way that makes it easy and interesting for others to read? Me, I spend most of my days actually writing on my novel. Perhaps I am just not good at multi-tasking. Or perhaps I am too fussy in my choice of subject. Maybe I just need to pick a topic, start typing and see what comes out.
I shall brainstorm later on said topics.
Promise.

Meanwhile, an update on my novel…
The Truth About Lying” is coming along nicely. The first draft, as I mentioned a little while ago, is done. I have read through the manuscript in its entirety and it wasn’t nearly as crap as I thought it might be. My first round of edits focussed on the things that really jumped out at me while I was reading it through. That sorted, I am now in the rewriting phase.

One of my favourite quotes is borrowed from James Michener:

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.

At this point I am focussed on breathing life into my characters and adding tension to the story, scene by scene. Most of the skill in doing this has been developed from reading the advice and tips of other writers.
Online.
There is an awful lot of information out there and you’d be amazed at how freely it is shared.

Perhaps, in time, I can learn to do the same.

Worried

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A few years back I bumped into someone I knew in the waiting room at the chiropractor’s office. He was a friend, although I would not say we were close. We mostly saw him in the pub. He was one of The Lads. One that I was particularly fond of. Despite being The Funny Guy in the group, he and I had had some startlingly serious conversations in the past.

When I saw him that day he was waiting for his appointment. I had just come out of mine. I almost didn’t see him but he called out hello to catch my attention as I passed by. We exchanged pleasantries. It was always good to see him. But something was off. In the few minutes that we chatted something pinged in the back of my mind. He looked dreadful. Not physically, but he seemed ravaged, haunted. I very nearly blurted out an invitation to join me for coffee but then my doubts kicked in. How weird would I look if I was wrong? What if someone saw us together and drew the wrong conclusion? We were married to other people. It seemed inappropriate.
And I did not trust my judgement. I was somewhat unbalanced myself, at that time.

So I did nothing. Instead I simply took him at face value when he replied to my concerned, “Are you okay?” with a nod.

That was the last time I saw him. Within months I heard that he was being treated for severe depression. Less than a year went by before the news shattered our small community that he had taken his own life.

I was distraught. So many things fell into place, going all the way back to a conversation we had had years before. I had not given it too much thought but I realised that even then he had already had death on his mind. What got me worst of all was knowing that I had seen that he was in trouble but had done nothing about it. Even though he had suffered with something that I, myself, had been through. The question tore at my soul: Could I have helped?

I told myself that the answer was No, that there was nothing anyone could have done.
I still do.
The alternative is unbearable.

But now I find myself faced with a new situation. A friend confided in me some time ago that she was struggling to cope with certain circumstances in her life. She asked if I knew anything about anti-depressants. We talked. At the time she did not appear to be in really bad shape. Yes, she was battling, but she seemed to be in the stage where you can pull out of it without resorting to drastic measures. This morning I heard that this might not be the case, that she is seeing doctors and is on medication. I have tried to contact her to no avail. Hopefully she will return my call soon, though.

Is this my chance to put things right?

I tell myself that this is not about me. Logically, I know that I am not responsible for other people, but at the same time I know how she feels right now. I have been there. Therefore, surely I can help.

Deep inside I am suddenly very worried about her. I let one friend down. I cannot do it again.

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