I've always hated that phrase. A former professor of mine used it quite often during rehearsals. "And in these bars, we'll hot it up." What. Ever. Mary.
Anyway, as our departure for the U.S. draws nearer and nearer, that phrase keeps popping into my head. The pace is quickening, as we knew it would. There's much to be done. time is lacking. Stress levels are rising. Tempers are flaring. Feelings are hurting. Diets are suffering. Workouts at the gym are rare. I would guess that everyone knows how it goes.
Last night, Mark and I had our last night alone in our own place for the foreseeable future. Zane has been away on a school excursion and comes back home tonight, and tomorrow our new tenant moves in. So unless Zane makes some new friends in Tucson (which he will) and has some sleepovers at their house, that's it for a long time.
So how did we spend our last night alone? We had a candlelight dinner, engaged in some lively discussion about how to manage everything and see everyone before we leave, and then we were asleep by 9:30pm. Oh, the joys of moving house.
It's time to go home. Sitting on a night ship as it plows through the North Sea on its way from The Netherlands to the UK, where we will catch a plane back to Sydney, I type this post with an odd mix of feelings. My life is so different than it was when I lived here in Europe all those years ago. Reconnecting with old friends after many years of searching, learning, sinking and swimming, I realize that my life is now just as rewarding as I'd hoped it ever would be.
I am not just a middle-aged man, losing his hair where it counts and gaining it where it doesn't, often lost in the breathtaking race of human life, fighting the thicket of insignificance, rejoicing in the experience of what it means to be human. I am the worthy sum of many parts. I am who I am because of where I have been. I am a product of what I have seen and whom I have known.
All of the diverse and equally wonderful people who then and now welcomed me into their homes, their lives and their hearts, even after so many years, have shaped me. They have taught me lessons. They have given me a voice. They have shown me how to be a man and a human. For that, I am indebted to them to an amount I doubt I can ever repay.
It is unlikely I would be the person, partner and father I am today, were it not for these people. And so, Mark, Max, Jenny, Karin and Neil, I thank you. And I look forward to seeing you all again, only with less delay and perhaps on a different continent.
I am sitting on a high-speed train, blazing through the French countryside on the way to Brussels. By the time I finish this post, we'll probably be there. I wish they had trains like this in the U.S.
Mark and I are now over halfway through our vacation. So far we've been to Hong Kong, London and Paris. Yes, we're tired. And we have both caught colds, but despite that every aspect of our trip has been wonderful.
We overnighted in Hong Kong and caught up with my long-time best friend (Mark I), who works there now and lives with his wonderful partner, King. They both treated us to a fantastic night. We look forward to going back when we have more time to spend with them and explore HK. The highlight had to be the very funky cocktail bar we ended up in after dinner. I think it was called the Blue Feather Boa, or something like that. Completely unsigned and discreetly tucked away behind double doors lined with silk curtains, the interior was comfortably chic and shabby. The clientele, mostly English-speaking men and women from all over, were drinking cocktails and engaged in quite a bit of merry-making. Apparently, there are places like this all over Hong Kong. It was great fun.
Mark I. looked a bit blurry after a couple of the lychee daquiris.
The next day we flew to London, where Kevin and I watched Mark and Jason get a bit roughed up in the Union Cup rugby tournament. Thankfully, there were only scrapes, bruises and strained muscles to deal with. We met some fun guys and had a swell time at the various gatherings and parties.
Despite the rugby schedule, there was time for some sightseeing, including a day trip with Kev & Jase to Cambridge. I'll have more pictures in my Flickr account when I have time to edit and upload them.
Punting with Kevin & Jase on the River Cam in Cambridge
Kev & Jase (and our punter...an American who attended the University of Arizona at the same time Mark and I did. What a strangely small world.)
Sandy in the sun at St Paul's
I attended the Ascension Day choral Eucharist at Westminster Abbey. The choir sang the Byrd Mass for 5 Voices for service music, as well as Stanford's Caelos ascendit hodie and Gibbons's Clap your hands, two of my favorite sacred choral works. The organ postlude was Messiaen. What a treat. After the service, I shook hands with the Archbishop of Canterbury on my way out. I left my politics at the door on the way in and decided simply to admire his sermon...and eyebrows.
Next up was Paris, and it was splendid! The weather was cool and very rainy on one day, but we did not let that stop us. Mark marveled at Versailles and Sainte Chapelle, and I had a great time seeing them again after so many years. But what's up with all the beggars and scam artists everywhere? I don't remember them.
Mark wants a palace like Versailles. I told him I'm not cleaning it. Waterworks at Versailles
The ever-so incredible stained glass at Sainte Chapelle
We took the metro out to La Défense, the ultra-mod Paris business district, to see the Grand Arch. It's grand alright. The photo doesn't do it justice. You'll just have to trust me: the scale is mind-boggling.
Update: Now we're in Bruges, where we'll overnight as we work our way up to Amsterdam by train. I'll have more to report soon!
In just a few hours, Mark and I take off for Europe. It will be his first time there and my fifth, although the last was over 10 years ago.
This trip will be different. I will be viewing the continent through a slightly different lens. Previously, each time I was in Europe it was either as a music student or performer. Like so many other singers, I always had plans to live there for a while and eke out my living as a musician. And I did live there for a year and experienced what are still my most memorable musical experiences. Alas, I never got back as a resident, and life took me in a few other directions. It's not all rueful, however, for had things turned out differently, I never would have met my partner, nor would I be a step-dad. How could I regret that?
Now, years later and with life as a singer behind me, I wonder how I will regard those places I had seen before. I suspect there will be some nostalgia and perhaps a tiny bit of melancholy involved. Nevertheless, I am excited to go and see the sights with Mark, who knows very little of the me that once sang in a few of those ancient churches and resplendent concert halls.
Despite the faint shadow of those memories I might notice here and there, I will enjoy it. I have no doubt.
In a couple of days, Mark and I will finally be in the same decade...well age-wise. We celebrated his birthday on Saturday. I'm happy so many friends and family turned up at the Warren View Hotel to wish him well. He's a good guy. But I'm biased. (Lots of photos from the party at my Flickr space.)
After the birthday gathering we rushed over to the Midnight Shift, where the Sydney Convicts' Rugger Bugger 8 fundraiser was taking place. We couldn't miss Jase, Deano and Zane [not our Zane, but one of the rugby players] in their Single Ladies routine. They did really well, although I have to say it's a bit freaky seeing your best friends in drag for the first (and second) time.
Following their number was the obligatory Full Monty show, this year with a prison theme. Groovy music and hot men as always. And now with arty choreography. With so many Rugger Buggers anymore, you can tell the organizers are exploring various ways to keep the show fresh. And fresh it was: guards undressing prisoners, prisoners undressing guards. We were sternly warned by host Mitzi Macintosh not to upload any photos from the event [which kind of peeves me], and I guess there was an official photographer who was authorized to publish images taken that night. You'll just have to do some Googling for his photos. Or heck, maybe someone braver than I just ignored the warning.
Speaking of rugby, in precisely two weeks' time we take off for Europe where Mark and a couple of other Convicts players will take part in the European Cup, and where I'll be standing on the sideline with all appendages crossed that he remains intact. Now I haven't heard from anyone regarding my request for potential sightseeing ventures. I am sure there's someone out there who's been to London, Paris, Bruges and Amsterdam since I was last there. And surely you have some tips, either on or off the beaten path. Guide-books get so tedious after a while. (Photo by danorbit. Licensed by Creative Commons.)
We are back from Hobart, where we went for Mark's Fulbright Scholar Orientation and Award Presentation Dinner. It was my first time there.
Only a couple of hours after we landed, I joined a group of people for the Mt Wellington Descent bike ride. I was retrieved from my hotel and driven up the mountain, which stands just outside of Hobart. After we reached the top, bikes were unloaded, helmets and gloves dispensed, a few pictures were taken, and off we went. Here are a couple of photos. More can be seen in my Flickr collection.
The view from the pinnacle of Mt Wellington
Just before the descent
We got to ride off road a few times.
Our ride ended at Sandy Bay. Fitting, eh?
Hobart, Australia's second-oldest city, is charming. Our hotel was a short walk from Salamanca Square, where there were lots of options for eating and shopping. One of my favorite restaurants was the Machine Laundry Cafe...a must-do for breakfast.
The Fulbright Award Presentation Dinner was held at the Moorilla Winery. I was proud of my man for his achievement. Our dear friend Alison came along. She and I are Fulbright Alums ourselves. The experience brought back memories, although the Aussie Fulbright award activities are much more substantial (and entertaining) than in the U.S. Here are a couple of photos. As before, many more are in my Flickr collection.
Sandy, Mark & Alison
All cleaned up
On our final day in Hobart, Mark and I went for a visit with TJ, a blogger pal and another American who followed his heart to Australia. He and his partner live in a wonderful older home overlooking the city and water. Beautiful! I look forward to keeping in touch with them more and more. (In my rush, I forgot my camera, so no pics I'm afraid. Next time.)
A number of Mark's family came to Hobart to celebrate Mark's award with us. I really enjoy being around them. They are a very loving bunch. The eight of us piled in a mini-van and did a few hours of sight-seeing in historic Richmond Village before we had to head to the airport. Lots of convict history in Richmond. Lots.