Travellers Tales..Birds in the sky, you know what I mean...
by Tracy Mcalister mackay - 15:02 on 29 June 2011
Bird fresco at the Columbia beach resort
Wonderfully fun and both very different visitors came to our island recently.
We sit on the balcony in the evening over looking the Med with its deep blue sea and strong pink sunset light. Often we see birds flying in and out, calling around the Cypress, Olive and Carob trees in the garden in front of us. Some, like a pair of kestrels, who call and hover over our gardens for what feels like most of the year, others flamingos, geese, egrets, European bee-eaters, swallows. …Stop off, to and from contrasting areas of the world.
But our visitors were none of the above they were my Aunt and great family friend who travelled from Australia and toured Europe for the last 3 months. My Aunt is 70; I think she won’t mind me mentioning the age celebrated on their “Big Trip” as she looks belie the fact. Both she and her friend have been travelling Europe not on an escorted saga tour as sadly many imagine people of a certain age can only do… but by every form of transport from luxury cruise and business travel on planes, trains and automobile to a vintage beetle in Cyprus and 2 CV in Paris by a rather handsome gorgeous young Parisian (their words not mine J).
They visited family in various countries and rediscovered old friends from times as in the Middle East and Europe. We were blessed by they visit near the end of their fabulous trips through the cities, rivers, valleys and towns of Europe bringing stories of adventure and gastronomy.
Why do I write about this today? It was brought to my attention through twitter (yes I have succumb) by an article discussing the new leader of the International Monetary Fund. The new leader is Christine Lagarde, shock horror she is a woman! Why is this still a so surprising to some? I honestly find it more surprising that people still need to comment on the fact …or maybe I am saddened.
I was born in the sixties surrounded by strongwomen and men grew up in the 70’s with parents who took a leap of faith and moved far from family and friends. Half way through the 80’s I went to art school in Scotland and England, inter-railed my way round Europe, Took off on a plane and a bus to a small Greek village on my own to live just before the 90’s. Drove myself around the Highlands of Scotland running art Classes and workshops with co workers, some men some women, arranged and exhibited in exhibitions, worked in theatres. Married my equal, partner, friend: travelled the seven seas (well not quite) travelled seas that lots of ships don’t sail in and held my own in (why shouldn’t I) in ships full of hundreds of men. Decorated houses, created small gardens, kept sketchbooks of idea, enjoyed babies; babies that were looked after by daddy when mummy worked and mummy when daddy worked. Took babies on travels and adventures.
It felt right.
In the 2000’s I worked in college alongside male and female colleagues tutor male and female student and started pondering the next phase of our lives as our children and careers developed. Made a joint decision to move to another country and start a new adventure. Built a life for my family, discovered new lands, drove off road along paths and tracks where I was told only “the guys” usually drive. Did my Art, got commissions and was subtly reminded how much some places seem to be still a mans world…. workshops full of men… but once through the door no matter, I know what I am talking about and commissions were successfully completed.
I have never viewed my world as a mans world or a woman’s world, in my life as it is has always as see it conjoined both, there may have been many so-called “traditional” relationships surrounding me where the husband was the “breadwinner” but as far as I could see these men could not haven’t existed let along accomplished anything without woman strong who had chosen to make a joint life together. I am aware this is not the case for others but this is my reality.
Christmas family gatherings in the 70’s always seemed to have visitors from some exotic land, Canada, Australia, America and my Aunt on her returns from Middle East with stories and gifts from Saudi, Bahrain, Iran, the Lebanon in its hey-day and friends from equally far away places, the places that are now my close neighbours.
I as a little girl would dream of being an Air Stewardess (I know probably some terrible un-feminist cliché) but when I travelled on planes to visit grand parents these women were “obviously” getting to travel. We had visits from great aunts who took off, a group of sisters in the 1920s/30s, to Australia by ship with no knowledge or where they would end up, bringing presents of opals and familiar faces and expressions passed on through families. My own parents took off too, to what in the early 70’s might as well have been Outer Mongolia in the eyes of my grandparents, the Highlands of Scotland. Only single track roads and irregular planes, trains and ferryboats connected us to the big cities.
The 3 little townie girls became 3 little country girls who never had a moment to question whether it was boys work to help there parent go and gather wood for the fire (that sounds more romantic than chain saws and massive trees J) Its what we all did, I held torches over car engines asking endless questions of mechanical makings at the same time as baking rock cakes that were literally the texture of rocks J
The 3 little girls now women - all live in very different countries thanks to their loving parents who never told us we couldn’t! Many people wonder why we all live in different places, as if we all don’t get on or our parents are awful! IT couldn’t be further from the truth. Listening to family stories in the last weeks I realise now no one said we couldn’t achieve anything we wished for – many times now, I hear how others families fear of the unknown have stopped people following their dream.
My Aunt and Friend visited us here in Cyprus, we had little adventures men and woman alone and separately multinational business was discussed in differing states of careers, women and men together no one having the “upper hand” each opinion respected. We ate and shared together.
The travellers are now on their way home via Rome to Singapore and back to Sydney, Australia. The travels through UK, Netherlands, Germany, on trains through the Alps to Venice, the Mediterranean coasts of France, Spain and Cyprus and Italy will soon be a memory. But thanks to Kaye and Maureen typed accounts of their “Big Trip” that will hopefully be expanded on in months to come, these experiences and memories will be passed on.
Their spoken words enthralled our children as well as us, my children, now well travelled themselves, shared thought on far off lands and places yet to be visited with their Aunts. Both young man and young woman have enjoyed the stories of these travellers. The inspiring travellers hopefully took with them the love and gratitude from us, for sharing their tales. Taking it onto the next chapter in their lives.
What has shocked me is the reaction of the women of my generation to adventures of these two women, who themselves viewed themselves as “much more adventurous in their youth”, with whom I shared their story.
Women of my generation, who all have careers, and have each made big leaps independently with or without men in their lives, I was surprised at their expression of awe of these older ladies travelling “alone” and that “their age”. A trip in which they did not befall to any horror or illness – aside from annoying other travellers or the lack of WI FI connection J
To be fair we are all in the midst of bringing up children, some with partners some alone and at this stage all of our finances are stretched, fees for this and that in varying degrees of severity. But I hope we can all take a little moment to stop and allow ourselves to make dreams for now and the future. Reminding ourselves there is a lot more to come.
As a “mature” friend reminded me once, when discussing my career, “You made it happen before, you can make it happen again”.
Women and Men, Girls and boys a like, whether it heading the international monetary fund (and to be honest I couldn’t care less if it is a man or a woman as long as they do it right) let us all remember the only thing stopping us going out and achieving all we can be is sometimes just ourselves…. and with the encouragement or even just the of stories those who was walked the walk before us and showing the respect to stop and listen to the stories - we can we all work and play together to be what we want to be.
The shed with the chandelier: the place where you can be listened to with respect and encouragement to take a step out of the door into a place where new adventures future dreams can happen.
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