My journey was a long time starting.
I've lived in the USA and while there had the opportunity to travel extensively, developing my spiritual connections, becoming connected with the art and developing and strengthening the base that is the heart of what I do today. It was through life situation that I came to live on the USA/Mexican border for those years, no choice. As a Pagan I had longed to visit the UK and when opportunities came up to live overseas the past 15 years, I wished long and hard for the city of Portsmouth. (Well that was the only option in the field and close enough in my books!)
It wasn't to be but then, as these things usually turn out, it was far and away the best place for me to be. I grew so very much and over that period of time gained immense understandings of Sharmantic practices, of connecting with a land that seemed alien at first to me, I travelled and hiked through the great wildernesses and I met with people from all facets of not only my beliefs but others. Though I was all at once overwhelmed and blessed with Native American teachings, it was the culture and traditions of the people of Mexico that sang truest in my heart. I felt strangely at home in this land that was in itself so alien to me.
I began my love of hiking in the USA and not only of the wilderness (of which I enjoyed abundantly) but Urban Hiking to boot (pardon the pun). I loved this new approach to just being and doing without the need for a special place or time. No need for big groups or an audience, just do just be. It was something I learned while in the company of the keepers of these lands.
At this stage in my life, had I not actually lived in the USA, I don't think I would of picked up these life lessons and the subtleties. If I had of visited the UK and Ireland then, I would not of connected as deeply as I did. The gift was that now the lenses I saw the world through had been focused and on visiting places and people, I knew how to connect and cut through the tinsel of tourism.
I choose to not live in the inner city but to find a home in the Canyons. People thought I was crazy but it was far and away the very best decision I ever made. At least, I had enough insight to make that move!
Native American memories.....
My art forever changed. While it is very true the techniques and pallet did take on its rhythms, it was the essence of what Spiritual Art is that changed. Now my art took on a deeper connection. I sat for so long in the artist sheds of the border towns and far flung husedias on dusty inland roads and my understanding grew as I watched and I learned how inanimate objects whispered rituals, things lost and discarded retold stories of devotion and how colours told stories and worked through questions from far within the gem of my soul to connect with the All.
So it was a Blessing because had I made my way to Avalon earlier, I do not believe I would of developed my own story, but that I would of been reliving the stories of others. My art, magick and spiritual connections would not have the Mexican foundation or the Native American wisdoms nor any of the other many spiritualites I studied enriching my practice.
These things, I believe in hindsight, where meant to be for me. I feel we end up exactly where we are meant to be to learn what we need at each particular junction in our lives.
I knew I needed to venture eventually though, one day, to the land of Avalon. To the lands of my heritage, to the beginnings of my beliefs. Many things happened constantly to delay this over the years. The first was at the age of nineteen when my best friend and I organized to go backpacking for four months, as you do at that age. I was more interested in Stonehenge, fairies and Glastonbury, she wanted to hang out in London nightclubs. It was doomed before it began.
I fell in love with a guy from England who talked me out of going. He was convinced he was all of the UK I needed to see right then and my friend decided to delay her trip as she got a new amazing job. I'd often wish I had the guts back then to just jump up and go on my own. Many times I did almost do just that.
The next 'I almost went to Avalon' time was when I was 22. At the time I was a hotel manager for a pub chain. It was one of those companies that brought up leases all over the place during the '80s. (lol oh yes that was my claim to fame way back then, drum roll... "The Youngest Female Licensee ever in Australia" ) The owners had purchased a couple of pubs in London and offered me the position of Publican in one. I was so excited, my dream was coming true at last. After a few weeks of planning and dreams, my then husband placed a spanner in the works with his issues and again it wasn't to be.
There have been two retreats. One I just couldnt do because money was way too tight and my children at the time very young. I've never enjoyed the support of family when bringing up my little ones due to distance and circumstance. The money and the logistics just got all too hard. Then finally last year, the moon and stars where aligned but unfortunately the numbers were not and the retreat was cancelled.
The Tor, Glastonbury
Next? My actually Blessing, the moment when you realise things really do happen for a reason occurred. My daughter got an overseas exchange semester with her University to the UK. It all made perfect sense. I am an hereditary witch, my daughter had begun working with me and here we could both journey, research, learn and connect together.
(Maddison and I at Brigid's Fire Temple, Kildare Ireland)
We decide that I will arrive the week after she has completed her exchange and spend most of the next month on our journey. We shall seek the Goddess, we will research Talisman and Magical Tool making, not only at Spiritual places but with meetings at Museums and research facilities and we shall connect with that which calls us.
Rituals and consecrations at sites which call to us to do so and blessings to be made. We have desired the time to work together and though we have the knowledge and gifts of Hereditary blessings, these foundations require the completetion of experience and study. If we are to work together creating magickal tools then we need to discover the essence of energy we shall be using. It will be different than either of us hold alone.
I came to realise, I could not of done this in any of my other missed opportunities that I had previously been so sad over. Things really do happen for a reason. Except for a sketch of the places we knew we must visit, we did it all pretty much unplanned, making trails where our heart found us each day and it all worked beautifully.
I know, perhaps you will think, is it not too early for Maddison? She is only 20. Times are different and we each are different. Maddison has connected at this time with energies and gifts that are right for her now. Perhaps one day she will return, older and with different connections. Perhaps this was all she will ever require and other places at other times will call.
THE FUN OF FLYING (without a Broomstick)
So I arrive in London, correction Heathrow, at 5am on a ummmmm, what day is it????? OK its Saturday. I was excited to learn on leaving, from my check in person in Sydney, that *hooray* I didn't have to go to another terminal as we all know from other travellers, changing terminals at Heathrow is like navigating between suburbs on the moon.
I was arriving at Terminal 5 and my connecting flight to Newcastle Upon Tyne ( yes, Geordie Shore), was from said same terminal.
After 70 hours flying... ok slight exaggeration, after 22 hours I jump off plane... yeah no, I staggered off, I was on a 777 that handles turbulence like a hiccuping drunk frog navigating a pond and was designed to transport Hobbits.
777 perfectly ok, UNTIL everyone reclines their seats. You then have 2 inches of knee room. Oh and let's not go into the origami of fitting yourself in when one of you decide to remain upright and the other in your column reclines!
When boarding and refuelling, take my advice, don't look at a 777. I find 747s look magestic with those four engines spread across strong sometimes upturned wings. A new 777 with those, only two, gigantic engines of Titanic proportions sitting under those paper thin wings just don't look right. Its like knowing what's in a meat pie or sausage isn't it. Everything works but you don't need to see it.
So there I was staggering off the latest in long haul cost saving travel, the 777 and we are then divided into those departing in London and those getting connecting flights... HORRAY (again) I don't have to go far as my awesome connection is the same terminal, I think to myself smugly. I then realise, I'm the only one not staying in London today as I walk along the "connecting flights" corridor which leads us to the various terminals.
First Immigration. There are five booths open so I get my pick. I deposit myself in front of one of the Officials who looks over my passport and paperwork. As I'm obviously "IT" off the first plane in, I get the full treatment. He finds it difficult to get his head around my situation.
"No one goes to Newcastle"
"Well I am, I told you my daughter is studying there"
"What is she studying?"
"Fine Art? At Newcastle?"
"Why yes, its the feeder University and supported by the TATE Gallery you know"
"No I don't know. So where does your daughter go to University in Sydney?"
"The University of Sydney"
"Thats what its called?! Just Sydney?"
"Well Newcastle University is called Newcastle, Oxford is Oxford"
He stares at me intently.
Grabs his stamp and I'm away to find my gate in the Terminal.
I have to get a train because even each terminal is too big to walk from one end to the other. Well it isn't as I'm a fit gal who is in desperate need of a relaxing brisk walk with a five hour connection but there is no way to walk it, you have to get a train. One side of this Terminal is not connected to the the other side of Terminal.
Confused much? Well after 30 plus hours of sleep deprivation and weird astronaut food in a sardine can I'm not. I have become very airline domesticated/anaesthetise and go with the flow.
Train ride to other end of Terminal and the five hour wait for my connecting flight for Geordie Shore begins. Welcome to London, well Heathrow. Its very austere except for the Cath Kidston stall....ohhhhhh *sigh* and the pub in a kit form in the corner.
I browse Cath Kidston, drooling and not wanting to part with spending money just yet then head for pub. For a coffee, settle down, its now only 5:25am in London! Yes I know its probably ok to still claim Sydney time but I feel drinking right now would be kind of sad.
So I grab a coffee and try and get onto Heathrow WiFi. Both are weak and very expensive. I read my new book, Into the Mists by Serene Conneeley, which I've been enjoying and people watch over the cover, which is also enjoyable, especially in a place you have never been. Couples on Honeymoon to Italy, chatter about girly weekends in Paris, businessmen reading reports and papers, young couples on a first trip to who knows.
I'm very soon rewarded with a bunch of lads who are on their way to Spain for a Bucks Party. I know this about them and much, much more than I want to know about any secret mens business over the next two hours. Sure, I could move but the metal chairs of the terminal look like a torture at least a degree worse than this and the only cafe is filled with children. Love children, just not while travelling. They are voicing what I feel, I'm ready to throw a tantrum too and they make me incredibly jealous that I can't join them.
The Bucks Boys are singing over the lips of their pints now. Maybe they are soccer songs, I don't really know, but its funny and colourful. One starts to do the old 'catch your eye' thing and I bury myself into my book. He's obviously one of the Dad's and I hear a few of the young bucks encourage him to go talk to me. I head back over to Ms Kidston's.
CONNECTING FLIGHT (No one needs a full English Brekki on a 42min flight!)
Soon enough its time to jump on the plane to Newcastle. Its an airbus, its full and I find myself sitting next to a couple in their 60s returning home. Which actually turns out awesomely as I have the window seat and Mrs Newcastle enjoys giving me a full tour on our flight.
Breakfast? Well ummmm first its 11am local time and second its a 40min flight. So tah no thanks.
Everyone has SOMETHING as the British Airways crew are intent that you have to have SOMETHING. Seriously I've just filled in five solid hours with breakfast, wandering a terminal, reading, people watching etc so I am totally fine.
"Oh you must want SOMETHING!"
It's not a question.
I have coffee and a biscuit and hide said biscuit in my handbag. No, it's not a Cath Kidston... yet.
I get my first look at the UK because all you see from Heathrow is grass fields and planes. When we landed from Sydney it was foggy and I had an aisle seat. Its big, its dense, its still a bit foggy. Its just grey boxes and its never ending and its big. London.
The couple I'm sitting next to have just returned from the USA where their son is in his final year at University. Our conversation bounces around. My delight at the emerald green landscape below (we are over the midlands now), my time living in the USA, their travels in USA, their desire to go to Australia, what I must see in their area, why there are so many wind turbines and what everyone thinks of them and how wonderful it is that both our children have these opportunities of studying abroad these days.
(on the way)
An hour later, time has flown and we land! Miraculously my bags have found me. It was so complicated getting me off the Sydney plane and onto a domestic one that I just could NOT see my bags getting with the program at all. Pffft easy done, here they come TOGETHER. Clever bags!
I'm through the gate and into my daughters big warm hug. Its been six months and I missed her terribly, loads of tears and muesli bars. Flapjacks are not Museli bars no matter how many UK companies claim they are, so I have a bag full of Nature's Own for her.
Newcastle. (no not that ONE... Newcastle-Upon-Tyne... ps the Tyne is very pretty!)
Its a busy Saturday. The entire place is probably about the size and the look of Adelaide for the Aussies reading this and ...... you immediately feel ancient.
This is a University town and it's the last weeks of the school year. The sun is out, its Summer! The girls are in their summery gear, the boys the same but they have obviously all lost weight over Winter as their pants are all down around their knees. The girls, the opposite, they have all grown as their clothes are very tiny and sooooo tight! Everyone is bright young and happy and orange with caterpillars for eyelashes. I love it! It's an entire population constantly auditioning for the popular tv show filmed in their neighbourhood. They all actually wear it with gusto, a cheeky fun attitude and laughter. The fun of Youth.
You wonder though if the older people have either found the fountain of youth or have been dealt with in some Twilight Zone way. Come on, they must be here SOMEWHERE! I seek them in the streets, I seek them in the shops, I seek them in the parks, perhaps they only come out after dark!
We get a cab. A CAB!!!!! A London looking kind of cab and I can't concentrate on Maddison's chatter because I'm in a London looking cab and suddenly I'm really here. Oh I'm also zombied from travel and probably falling victim to the get rid of old peoples virus but I'm in a London looking cab and that's awesome.
Arrival at her share house is pretty much what I expected. I had after all Skyped most days so I have that been here before feeling but the six Uni students living in a house smells of cooking, damp clothes, beer, musty whatevers fleshes out the experience for me completely. I love that the house looks like a "Harry Potter" house. No one is home but us and after a shower I decide I have a second wind, need a real coffee and so we head into 'town'.
Town is a 20 minute walk through pretty terraces, rows of shops, parks and University and College grounds. We chat, its a beautiful afternoon. There are flowers, everywhere. The lawns are dotted with daisies in fairy circles, lilacs are heavy over fences we pass, the air is filled with perfumes that shift as we pass by. Not at all what you think, or I thought, of this old coal mining town. Its suburban, its young, its flowers and sun.
Flat Caps Coffee. (ahhhhhhh)
Only a few weeks before my arrival I watched an episode of Urban Secrets on SBS which featured Newcastle. One of the secrets was Flat Caps. Apparently the best coffee in the North, if not the whole of the UK. I am a coffee lover and perhaps a border line coffee snob pain in butt type coffee drinker but at this point the only claim to fame they need right now is 'Drinkable" to win me over.
We take our journey for coffee to a little street trailing off the Main Street (which is actually a pedestrian mall). The reason for a pedestrian mall of this magnitude becomes apparent once you spend a weekend day or any evening in Newcastle. It becomes Geordie Shore. Everyone is shopping and going out and there are a lot of participants at both these events. Believe me they need the room.
Flat Caps Coffee in in the basement of a New Age Gift store. Ok how cool is that?! It also has one of the most awesome and amazing coffees I've ever enjoyed. Smooth, strong and yummy. I drink macchiatos with no sugar or sweeteners so I think I'm a pretty good judge. Its also such a bohemian beatnik kind of place. I feel like writing poetry and pulling up a beanbag (they need beanbags!!) and I wish someone would pull out a guitar. I bet they do sometimes. Its really that kind of place. Tiny but its got everything, including named tables. Everything is loved in this place.
Maddison and I plan, tomorrow we decide, we shall take a good look around Newcastle, visit the Baltic Gallery and the Angel of the North and then plan the first stages of the trip.
The Angel of the North is an extremely important place for me as it really embodies perfectly the spiritual in artworks. Perfectly executed conception and beautifully created. Oh lets not forget controversy. All great Public Art Works enjoy it! I am tempted to blow off the travel tiredness and go right then and there but she shall wait until the morning I am sure.
Travel plans: Well we have a BritRail pass each (PS... the BEST thing I purchased before leaving Australia. Seriously, if you want to get around the UK affordably its BRILLIANT. Comfy, well serviced and just all round awesome!) We are staying mostly at B&Bs and family run tiny hotels because A. They are reasonably priced and most importantly B. You get to stay with the locals!
We grab a late lunchy dinner at the George Hotel overlooking the monument. I'm sitting in a real London looking pub so am distracted. Seriously it is amazing. Over-sized booth, great view of the town square and monument. Its warm and breezy, I drink beer in a frosty pint glass, I look for my tribe (people my age), decide not to worry about it and we scribble plans in sketch books.
And so the adventure begins.