I’m a swinger

So lately I’ve been taking little walks around the neighbourhood here in Tucson, and one of my routine destinations on these little meanderings is the local park. At the park they have a set of swings. And I love swinging so I often throw myself into it with gusto. Nobody in the vicinity need know that the sunglassed person sailing through the air is actually 33 years old. Shh. But who cares anyway? You have to have a pastime.

So today in the park I saw some other people out doing what they enjoy. There were two older gentlemen practicing the art of metal detecting. Oh yes, very cool. One of them had suspenders (uh, braces) holding up his pants (trousers). I sat on the swings, unobtrusively observing them as they exchanged tips on the best methodologies. You know, like at what angle you should hold your metal detecting thing for best results. Then Suspenders/Braces started talking to his device, sort of good naturedly scolding it for giving him false alarms. I smiled to myself, but in truth I often find myself not only talking to inanimate objects but having heated (one-sided) debates with them, so I shouldn’t poke fun at the guy.

There was also a man and a woman in the park with their dogs. The guy called out to one of the dogs, presumably for doing or going something or somewhere it shouldn’t. Made me think that perhaps there is a universal ‘Hey!’ used across the world for addressing one’s dog while out on a walk. I suppose the accents change but the sentiment is much the same, isn’t it. Sort of a shorthand for ‘Hey [name of dog], steer clear of those metal detectors and that woman sitting around waiting for them to move out of the way so she can take a photo of an empty swing set to adorn an entry in her oh-so-quirky travel blog…’

swing set

And just to prove that there are more exciting landscapes in these parts, and should swinging fail to excite you, behold some scenery from Tuesday’s visit to Mt Lemmon. (Those from Arizona need not be impressed. Those from elsewhere, now please politely ooh and aah. Well done, thank you!)

Airhead

I have successfully arrived in the desert – not that I had to do much, aside from move myself from one mode of transport to another. On the other hand, my mom and brother had to brave dust storms to get to the airport to collect me!

The weather in the UK proved no obstacle, thankfully. I had heard one of the National Express coach guys saying all flights were cancelled out of Heathrow, which seemed like complete rubbish (and it was), but then the UK does have a habit of panicking when the weather gets more ‘extreme’ than rain so you never know.

Terminal 5 seems to have become more mainstream than last time I was there. The coach even takes you right to the doors. The convenience, I tell you! It wasn’t long ago they made you get out at T4 and take a city bus service to T5 (for free, granted, but still). After check-in, the next highlight was being specially selected as one of the passengers requiring frisking for sharp objects. They were watching us as we descended an escalator. I think it was the leg stretches I was doing in preparation for the long flight. (‘Stop that one – she’s obviously rearranging her collection of knives inside her trousers.’)

On board, I passed the time watching films and a spot of telly. After I lost interest in the BBC World News (shame) I put on Flight of the Conchords in honour of New Zealand. (It was the one with Jemaine’s Australian girlfriend, if you were wondering.)

So now I’m in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve eaten, I’ve slept, I’ve marvelled and blinked in the sunshine, which I really do think people who live here take for granted. I’ve seen a couple of hummingbirds today, which are always a pleasure. I also booked up some bits of my NZ itinerary for January, including a ticket on the Overlander service between Auckland and Wellington. It is meant to be one of the world’s great rail journeys.

But for now, time to enjoy Christmas with my family. And to try not to lecture anyone on the blessing of winter sunshine! (Nor to debate the meaning of the word ‘cold’…)

Ready to go

The time has absolutely flown since I made the decision to leave my job and go travelling. There has been so much to do to plan such a big trip at such short notice but somehow, and with the patience and wisdom of friends helping me along, I’ve now made it through the vast majority of my To Do List items. I have flights, insurance, a range of currencies (including the surprisingly water resistant Australian dollar), accommodation sorted for Sydney, and as I type this my bags are more or less packed.

It’s been stressful at times and I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time making phone calls about travel stuff. Then there was the threat of the British Airways strikes and things got all the hairier. Now, sitting on my bed in Bristol, surrounded by sheets of paper representing numerous travel tickets and accommodation bookings, and having said ‘farewell, see you in March’ to my friends in Bristol, I think I’m just about ready…

It was my last day at work on Friday. Leaving my job of three years was quite a leap but I feel happy. Change is good. I worked with some people who I really will miss, but we shall meet again!

I wrote the following during my last hours in the office. I think it captures the mood I was in.

It’s my last day at work today. I feel excited, and a bit mischievous. Like I’m plotting to play hooky. And I like it.

Walked to work as usual today. About 45 minutes through the frosty air, making my way round the ice-edged mud puddles. I tend to propel myself to work partly by virtue of the tunes on my ipod,  and today some good ones shuffled their way to my ears. But I could also hear the external sounds around me as I made my way, not feeling like I needed to hurry today, being mindful of my surroundings, taking time to notice.

When I got near the centre, buses were making their hissing, diesely noises in the street. Noises evocative of journeys. When I set off on this adventure from Bristol, those same sounds will inhabit the coach station where I’ll perch, ready to go.

Ah, bless, quite the little writer. But yes, here I am, ready for that journey tomorrow. First stop by air: Arizona.

Where I expect it will be a tad less snowy than it was here in Bristol today!