New Zealand / Australia Diary
Thoughts & Reflections

It's been nearly a week since I emerged, blinking & wobbly on my feet, from the Airbus that flew me back home from Singapore & my whole Australasian experience. My body clock has (almost) been reset to U.K. time - I'm sleeping at (more or less) appropriate times of day although my thinking processes still have the tendency of switching off unexpectedly - and I'm starting to get back into the swing of day to day life. The red earth & gum tree scent, the sing-song accents & primal bird cries, the wide (& high) landscapes, they're all drifting into memory as my focus switches back to a more familiar setting.

But there's no cosy routine for me to return to. Two days after landing I was off again, this time to Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire to find myself a new home. A couple of weeks before heading off to the Other Side Of The World I'd found a wonderful looking job, the enquiry to interview to offer process had gone much faster than I'd expected and I'd ended up accepting it & handing in my notice before leaving the country. This had been very exciting at the time but I now found myself needing to find a new place to live and to move in there before the end of May. This process may well end up as another blog so I'll leave it there but suffice to say I had a load of things to occupy my mind as I emerged from my jetlag confinement.

But right now I'm sitting on a train, speeding back home with time to reflect on my time away and no immediate distractions or tasks to foreclose on my attention. Time to see what has left an impression and what I'll be carrying on with me.

The first thing that springs to mind is how much I enjoyed the countryside, or rather the bush. Not just as an observer but by being immersed in it, the sounds, smells, textures & qualities of light coming together and putting me into a different and somehow more detailed world. OK, I appreciate that being somewhere new & exotic (and New Zealand & Australia can be very exotic) can really sharpen the senses and draw out the attention but the contrast with my muted lifestyle in Maidstone was clear and accusatory. When I was living at Findhorn I'd had beach, coastline & forest within minutes of my door and had loved wandering through them just to bask in their individual and ever-changing atmospheres, somehow I'd lost this on my transition to the South East and hadn't noticed. Something to be remembered in my new bailiwick.

A herd of iron cows

I was pleased with my teaching and my general group facilitation. The workshops & classes had been very varied, in numbers, experience levels & content, but I'd come up with dances & schedules that had fitted the requirements and led to some wonderful, harmonious dancing. A special triumph for me had been managing to keep within the time constraints without ending up trying to cram too much in, I seem to have (finally) gotten a feel for what will fit into a session so that everything gets enough teaching, repetition and review to really sink in with the dancers.

It was great to get another dose of external validation for my dance teaching. I seem to have been blessed with a abundant & continually refreshing supply of self-doubt that helps keep any emerging complacency at bay. Sigh! Actually I have a strong streak of self confidence but in a form that pushes me into the limelight then runs away, sniggering at my predicament. This can be very uncomfortable (to put it mildly) but it does mean that my dance teaching, musicianship, stand-up comedy stylings and so on are tested & validated in the cruel but fair environment of the Real World rather than the comfortable sycophancy of self assessment.

(I suspect that there's another element at work here, the perennial fear of the middle-aged man that one day he'll have lost it and that will be that. A bit pathetic but there you go. I guess I still have it, I just need to not forget where I put it.)

One legged dancers

Working with (fabulous) live music took this 'living on my wits' approach to new, scarier, but more exciting heights. It's a real challenge to balance reacting to the music (and feeling where it's going), interacting with the band and holding the group, not to mention pacing the teaching so people are prepared for the dance without taking so long that the rhythm of the evening is lost. But when it comes it's a wonderful experience, being in connection with so many aspects of an event and finding a way to gently direct them while being buoyed along by the flow. Having such a great band made this a joy, knowing I could rely on them (on all sorts of levels) gave me the extra mental space to enjoy the simple pleasure of my own dancing while my 'overview' self took it easy.

The mixture of working & holidaying really worked for me, there was always something to focus on but the pace never became relentless or wearing. It was great staying with friends who could help with my plans, suggesting what to see with a local's perspective and also willing to just hang out when I needed some down time.

It was interesting to see how easy it was for me to operate from a mobile base. With my trusty laptop I was able to keep (more or less) up to date with email correspondence, skype with Linda back in Cardiff, and even do some computer work while on the road. When I found myself using a (relatively) new dance in my workshops I was able to find new versions of the music online, buy & download them, and edit them into a more teaching-friendly form all from a borrowed internet connection. After each workshop I was able to quickly post the step notes & music lists for the participants to follow up. And, of course, I kept my blog updated. For someone who wallows in the cosy security of home it was a pleasant surprise to see how well I coped with an itinerant lifestyle and how modern technology made it relatively easy to do.

So, lots of positive feedback and happy memories but what about Lessons For The Future? I feel like I've been given a reminder that my sense of happiness & satisfaction comes from a greater level of involvement with my world, through dancing & continuing to expand my teaching horizons, more time spent connecting with friends and, perhaps most importantly, making my nest a bit 'wider' and being at home while out in nature. A new start in a new town should be an ideal way to begin this process and it will be interesting to see whether I can settle into a broader community than I managed to in Kent. Interesting times indeed.

Shades of blue

Stencil portrait

Contemporary skyline

Falling light

Silvery sea with looming clouds

Art as process

The dark forest awaits

Boiling the billy for tea

Top-ups for heavenly beings

Kite flying on St Kilda beach

Beachside tree (& swing)

Hillside pavilion, King's Park

Memorial to early tourist

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