the sorrow that lives within me

Things have changed.

Lots of things have changed.

Life has turned on its head and the memories held in the blog are now tinged with a sadness that catches me in the chest.

The light changed. It ebbed away to the faintest of blue. Gone are the smiles and happy thoughts and now those smiles are partnered with a sigh.. the loss of the memory as it was and the replacing of the memory with the sadness of the present.

Life changed.

My world turned upside down and I’m left broken and at the end of the earth.


Three years ago…my little cancer story

Time moves in a strange way when you have had a cancer diagnosis. You have a BC ( before cancer) and AC (after cancer) timeline forever drawn in your life. A line in the sand, when even though everyday life might not be effected by it, your frame of reference in any situation is tinged with it. Like a tiny thread running through numerous otherwise unaffected memories and building blocks of your life.

It never leaves, just stays, hanging, purulent in the air.

It was three years ago that I first heard the words ‘we found cancer cells.’

In a ridiculously ordinary room, surrounded by jaunty information posters and bland  house plants, my world changed forever.

There is a chasm between how your outward self is dealing with the information and how your insides are doing I have discovered. Even in the most outwardly heart on the sleeve people there can still be an extent left unseen and unheard of. The silent cry from the inky blue depths of your soul.

The words bounce around the room, the Doctor saying the standard thing he needs to say, filling in forms, passing the parcel along to another professional. Musical doctors, you sit down and start again, jogging your mind over and over through the same story, like the familiar thud of feet of on a treadmill.

Diagrams drawn on tiny pieces of paper, explanations of scary severity and dangerous sounding statistics. The options, the scenarios, the possibilities..the unknown.

The long, silent looks of a man used to dropping bombs into a person’s world and just waiting for the smoke and debris to clear. That learnt ability to sit and wait in silence with no sense of awkward.

The plan gets made. You listen, searching for positive words, clinging to them like a life raft, bobbing in the ever increasing sea of uncertainty. Pleading with the eyes of this, until 15 minutes ago, complete stranger, who now has your life in their hands. This is the new dynamic in your life now.

Welcome to the club. There are so many of us that have been forced into a relationship with cancer. It barges into our lives like the most unwanted guest and sits its fat arse down in our favourite chair and even if we are lucky enough to alter its pathway and send it screaming out into the street, its faint smell can still be there lingering in the fibres.

You are given forms, info sheets, referrals and tests needed. Blurring into the noise thats already screaming around your head with ‘what ifs’  A time for scans, MRI, blood tests and more hospital admissions. A new experience, feeling like a someone at the beginning of the game, just about to be initiated into the club.  Roll the dice and onto the next square.

Conservative management is what I was assigned to. A decision made largely without me by a group of cancer specialists sitting in a hospital room with their lattes and a pile of medical files. A three to six month check, consisting of a variety of ingredients. Surery was deemed too much. My doctor used the word ‘overkill’ for something with the chances of having spread being so low. I was left wondering if I maybe wanted overkill when it came to the issue of survival. Playing the odds. This time it seemed they were in my favour.

The time between appointments seemed to accelerate at times. You just have enough time to settle into the security of getting through one round of testing with good results, when you are back in the chair, listening to the what ifs and could be’s and you feel back at the start line all over again. A never ending roller coaster, silently running along beside the track of the rest of your life.

Here we are almost three years later. I have had three full colonoscopies, including the vomit inducing days of forcing the ghastly heavy weight laxatives down. Two sigmoidoscopies, one hideously scary MRI where they gave me a muscle relaxant that was supposed to make the muscle around the bowel wall easier to see but in addtion made my eyesight blurry and gave me an additional blinding paranoia and fear for a least a couple of hours after. The gift that keeps on giving.  Numerous blood tests, CT scans and two delightful rectal exams for which I was conscious and totally unprepared for (first time round anyway) and felt suitably awkward about, particularly as facebook, in its exceptional creepy stalker mode, helps me relive the embarrassment as a regular occurance as it suggests my colorectal surgoen as a friend. Im thinking that might be blurring the lines a little too much. no?

I am lucky, I am so fully and so devastatingly aware of how fortunate I have been. Even though cancer does cast a shadow on my life, now in the beautiful Australian sun you can barely see it and for that fact I am forever grateful. 







The demise of a part time photographer…

If you have been around my site for long enough you will know that I used to be fairly significantly about photography. What started as a personal interest in capturing light became a small business and fund-raiser. Fund raiser seems a lot more accurate actually because to be honest I often made a lot less than I would make working a shift in a high street store stacking shelves.

My story is probably a familiar one to most people with more than a passing interest in photography. I got asked by friends to take some pictures and then friends of friends and so on. Until you realise that you are working for free for someone you have a very tenuous link to. That is when I decided to start charging and so my little business began.

My first couple of shoots were exhilarating. New things, new learning, a skill for something creative. Because who doesn’t want to be ‘a creative’

I didn’t give much attention to the money at first. Put it all down to portfolio building and sunk huge amounts of time in to editing skills, online classes, real life classes. It was exciting and new. I met some lovely, generous-hearted pros who were encouraging and very real about how hard the business was. But it gave me a fire.

Newborn photography emerged slowly as my favourite. I have always loved newborn babies. Five of my own babies and 17 years of working in NICU will do that. I started getting a lot of enquiries. I had shoots scheduled on the weekends I wasn’t working and spent most of my evenings sat at my computer editing.

Initially I set up as a mobile studio and took all my stuff packed up in our only car and would set up in people’s living rooms, bedrooms, conservatories. I realised reasonably quickly how much hard work that was. Arriving at a house having been told by the client that the room had lots of natural light to find a small boxroom full of hideously heavy, orange and hard to move furniture compromised everything I was setting out to do.  I re-evaluated and decided that it would be better for me if I set up my studio in my own house and people came to me.

Que the next stage….which was me setting up my studio in my kids playroom, amongst the bright and gaudy plastic, and shooing my five kids and my husband ‘out’ of the house while I waited for the client. This was tricky for the family and often the shoot would over run and the kids and husband would be sat outside the house in the car having exhausted the park or whatever other activity they could find. It was never ideal and I could feel my stress levels rising when I knew the children were bouncing of the interior of the car a few feet away.

But we persevered. I liked doing the shoots, people were asking me to do them and it gave us a small amount of pocket money. I put my prices up once I realised I was working for less than minimum wage and the hours spent in front of my computer editing were eating into any profits. I tried to push forward and become more selective in what I said yes too. ‘Can you do $30 for a family shoot with 9 sets of cousins and grandparents?’…er….no….

So why did it all stop?

Well aside from the obvious thing of moving overseas. I did bring all my equipment with me, it was shipped in the container and if im totally honest I did expect to use it eventually once we got settled. But here is the thing. Being away from the monetized side of photography, nobody knows me here ( I don’t get enquiries through Facebook or word of mouth) made me realise that my desire to pick it up again had waned.

Recently I have been thinking about what happened and why I lost the enthusiasm for it.

I think there are a few reasons:

1.The curse of the awkward customer

The advent of mobile phones with cameras, apps and filters means that everyone can now take and share multiple images from the sunset they took on their walk to the selfies. Filters have been become the facelift for many mediocre photographs that would look frightening as a print. But who cares because who prints pictures now anyway?

The lower cost of cameras and the shift to a society that is so image driven has created lots of amateur photographers with ambition. In the majority the people I worked for where respectful, understood that portrait photography was not just point and shoot, that a 4 hour newborn shoot takes as much time to edit in some cases and that the equipment you are using is not the stuff you pick up cheap on ebay.

But there are always going to be the opposite and unfortunately I ran into some of them and I didn’t always know how to handle them. There was the inevitable cries of  ‘well they are photos of MY kids so they are MY photos! comments  to  the...‘Can I have everything you took on the entire shoot!’ and the classic of course the ‘my dad is a bit of a photographer and he said he can do the editing if it makes it cheaper!

I probably didn’t handle those situations very well, the few professional photographers that I have struck up relationships with would have no doubt been very clear and directed the said client to their terms. But I didn’t want to rock the boat and being in a small community there was always going to be a five degrees of separation thing and you will end up face to face with them at a playground. So I generally gave in and walked the path of least resistance and adopted the silent aggressor approach and largely gave them what they wanted and then vowed to never work for them again.

I even had people turn up over 2 hours late or not even turn up and one of the worst someone bought their vomiting child to my house thinking they would ‘just be okay!” They weren’t and it’s not okay. Ever.

Handling difficult customers, whether it was about the photography itself or how much my service costed, ultimately I think knocked my confidence. I became weary defending my service. Justifying the hours I worked and the fact that this type of photography was not sit a baby on a white sheet and take some photos.

2. Where is the credit?

It becomes fruitless telling people to not use your images without credit I found. I think mostly this is a culture thing as well as a misunderstanding of the definition of copyright. In that most people think once they have the image on a disc from you they can do what they like with it. In the end I found sharing and re-sharing of images on social media without credit just leaves you feeling demoralised and disappointed. A friend of mine had a photo of his shared in so many destinations by so many people because a ‘celebrity’ shared it, that he gave up trying to chase it and ask for credit and had to let it go. Because ‘everyone’ is a photographer now it is easy to devalue the artistry in an image.

Lastly as well I think was the pure hassle and mess of creating a studio in a modest sized family home when we had five little kids and a dog. It was a LOT of work and effort and I just lost the resilience for pursuing the goal regardless of inconvenience.

Having said all that I still love photography and moreover I love the art of baby photography and some of my images, like the one above, I am incredibly proud of. I often spend long periods of time reading and studying the ways that photographers manage to get insanely fabulous images. There is a photographer here in Australia who has made a huge name for herself in newborn imagery. I admire her images so much and recently she posted on facebook a little tour around her new premises. A huge lovely studio space with crisp white wall, beautiful viewing rooms and endless storage! I know though, because I have followed her for a long time that she worked out of her house for years. I get that we all start small. But maybe its different if you have another income source that you can rely on. Maybe it makes you less hungry for it if you know that every month you are getting a salary from something else? Maybe thats part of the reason I have lost the fire for it?

But for now my dabble into the paid portrait photography world has halted. Whether that is a temporary thing of not remains to be seen. I do think that for now it was one of those things that falls into the category was ‘good while it lasted’





Emigration – Can’t we just go back?

You want to know how many times i said ‘can we just go home?”  (inwardly and outwardly) in the first month we arrived?

You probably don’t.

It stands to reason that moving an entire family and life 10,000 miles away to a place where only one out of seven have actually ever been was going to be tough. We knew that, told ourselves that over and over and yet still were, I think, pretty unprepared for how hard it actually was. It’s not a holiday, despite what you may have told yourself beforehand. Holidays have that lovely relaxed feel about them, the joy of being out of routine, the lavishness of being able to spend days after days doing fun, exciting stuff with the subtle reassurance of familiarity and your old routine waiting for you like an old pair of slippers when you have been wearing heels all day.

That’s gone. Here you are with your home in a suitcase and the path set before you to build a new life.

But here’s the thing. You can’t go home. Well I suppose technically you can but the sense of what an incredible waste of effort that would be far outweighs the initial fear and uncertainty. We had to set our minds to make it work or at least have a really good go, otherwise what was the point? You have to just chuck on your big girl pants and get on with it.

I do still remember quite clearly that day that I didn’t wake up wishing I was back in the UK and for those of you that might be just about to take the leap into expat life I wont tell you how long that was 😉

But whilst there are times when you wonder what the heck you have done, there are also those moments when you sit and wonder that you actually made it happen. You chased your dream. There are so many alarming statistics of the amount of people who long to live overseas but never follow through. It something like out of 80% that want to go only 20% manage it or something. Ridiculous really. We should all be able to chase our dreams.

It takes bravery that you don’t feel at the time or even realise you are calling on. It might not be till someone tells you how brave it is that you realise that is what you have been doing for weeks. Its just a natural state for the expat I think. Warrior pose.

When i look back now, nearly two years since leaving it does make my stomach turn when I think of those first few months but like everything you get through it. We were VERY short on cash when we arrived and this was a big issue for us. Whilst some people have the luxury of having a ‘holiday’ before they hit the ground running – we couldn’t do that. On reflection, as well, arriving just as the school holidays started was probably a mistake and not something I would personally recommend.  Everyone knows how incredibly awkward that time of year can be and looooooooong when you have bored kids. Well imagine that PLUS dragging them to government buildings and car sale lots because they are not in school and you can’t afford to go ‘on holiday.’ It would have been much better to dump them all in school and then do the boring stuff. The silver lining though is that when we have to now take kids to boring appointment type stuff they always have a worse frame of reference for boring. Just ask them. 😉

Moving to anywhere different is a challenge. Despite Australia’s main language being English. There are still localisms and words that are unfamiliar that leave you feeling out of the conversation or just standing at the self-service desperately searching for the picture of a ‘pepper’ only to find out that you should be looking under ‘c’ for capsicum. It is a learning curve that is mostly interesting if you allow yourself to not be annoyed by it. You have left your culture and you either purchase over the top english import goods or you embrace the local stuff and allow it to slowly become part of the evolving new you. Things like supermarket differences are not massive but things like that all accumulate to make an extra dimension to the you that wasn’t there before you stepped on that plane.

I’m not going to lie though even with the positives that have come from our move, there are still days when I wish we could just go home. Especially when there are things happening at home which make the distance feel that much larger. But we used to say we would always wonder ‘what if’ should we have turned down the opportunity we had to travel overseas. We worked hard to make it happen, we have worked really hard to make it work and should we embrace it for a time and then return to our homeland we will go richer and stronger for having been through this process and having had the courage to take a leap into the unknown.

So can you ever ‘just go back?’

No I don’t think so. You are irreconcilably and drastically changed that moment you land in a new country bound to build a life having left everything you know on the other side of an ocean. In some cases it can leave you bruised and battered and wishing for the safety and familiarity of home, and even if you follow the call of home you will always be different. Touched and coloured by the country you called home for a while.








Home for Rent.

When I first met my now husband one of the first conversations we had was how much both of us wanted to travel and work overseas. A long held dream for us both and one that we have worked really hard to achieve. When we bought our first little house, recently married, we wouldn’t know that 15 years later we would still own that little house and have rented it out for almost 10 years. It was just a sensible financial option at the time and there have been a few ups and downs. We moved from that house to a 4 bedroomed house, the one we left early one morning for our flight to Sydney and the start go our greatest adventure. We decided to keep both the houses to rent while we were away.

Anyone who has rented a property will tell you that it is often a bit of a troublesome process. Whilst we lived in Liverpool we largely managed the property ourselves. It is a fairly easy house to rent. A little terrace house in an area where lots of students like to live. Since moving overseas we have had to take a different approach and we have learnt some very hard and costly lessons. Whilst I am not an expert by any means, for most of us that might move away, renting the house back at home is an option if you don’t want to sell and so here are ten things that I have learnt along the way?

  1. Use an agent – We didn’t do this with one of our properties and it was to our great cost ultimately. An agent will vet and check any applicant to rent your property and be their port of call for any complaints or issues with the house. You can often negotiate the amount they take each month. When we were local we used agents to find and vet any tenants and we then managed it ourselves. But being overseas and different time zones away make it complicated and so for peace of mind its better to have someone on the ground managing it for you.
  2. Don’t rent to friends – We have learnt this the hard way. Sadly. Best to steer clear. If you are determined to rent to someone you already have a relationship with, maybe get an agent to run a credit and reference check on them because ‘mates’ references are not always reliable.
  3. Be very aware of your legal rights as a landlord – The law sides quite heavily with a tenant. If you have issues with a tenant then getting them out WILL take some element of legal action, especially if there are social housing associations involved. It is good to be aware of a good Barrister that you can turn to for advice. You can very easily make mistakes that make it harder for you as a landlord, particularly when you are starting to panic about making mortgage payments if your tenant isn’t paying. Think and ask before you act. Every. Single. Time
  4. Don’t take Social Housing – This isn’t for everyone, but the worst tenants we have had, have been on social housing. I am not generalising about all people on social housing of course this is based on our own experience. Also last year the government changed how housing benefit works and now they pay directly to the tenant, which has its own questions really. But you can apply to social housing to have the benefits paid directly to you as a landlord but only after your tenant has missed eight weeks of payments. Depends how long you can support your mortgage without any money coming in. Also as a little side note they won’t pay into your UK account if you are not residing in the country so you’ll have to find someone else who lives in the UK to take the payment for you and then pass it on. One almighty hassle. Avoid.
  5. Tell your Mortgage Company – Generally if you have a residential mortgage you will be negating the terms of your mortgage if you rent the house. You will need to arrange a buy to let mortgage. We used a mortgage advisor. They will tell you the best deal out there and what to go with.
  6. Insurance, Insurance, Insurance – Don’t move away and rent your house out without having good landlords insurance. If you don’t have this it could invalidate your mortgage. Also as a side note – you need to make sure that if your house is empty over the winter that the heating is coming on and off for brief periods of time so that there isn’t a risk of burst pipes.
  7. Leave house unfurnished and make sure that tenants take all their stuff with them when they leave. There is no point leaving stuff in your house, inevitabley, there will be someone who doesn’t want the item and then you have to try and get rid of it. We had a tenant leave a HUGE sofa in a property of ours and it had to be sawn up to be removed.
  8. Remember to do your tax returns – goes without saying really. In Australia we pay tax on money earned here and at home. Its an agreement between the two countries. It may be different where you are heading to. Make sure you know. No-one wants a hefty bill that you didn’t expect.
  9. Hang onto the deposit  – Do not let the deposit go back to your tenant until you have viewed the property. With an agent this will mean them sending you detailed pictures of how the house has been left. This is all you have to repair any damages to the property to be careful before agreeing to let the money go back. The deposit also needs to be held in a Deposit Holding Scheme. This is a legal requirement and must not be side stepped.
  10. Remember that no matter how much it is your house, it is no longer your home – no tenant is going to look after your house the way you did. They don’t have an investment in it and won’t take care of it the way you did. This is just part of renting a house out and you have to, in all honestly, just get used to it.