Category Archives: On Searching For The Silver Linings

On Searching For The Silver Linings

Sara Wars – The Phantom Bank Charge

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.51.38 AM

Always pass on what you have learned – Yoda

Soon for me to have another post it is. But Kristen Lamb suggested blogging about my latest triumph – and what kind of padawan would I be if I didn’t listen to the master?

I got paid today (yay). I logged into my bank account, only to find I’d been overdrawn for a week. Not having a lot of them, I’m a little anal when it comes to my finances. I *hate* getting failed direct debit / automatic payment fees. I *hate* going overdrawn when I haven’t seen it coming. So it doesn’t happen much. These incur fees and fines that are more lost money on top of that already lost.

Last week, I specifically called my internet company because I knew the funds weren’t currently where they needed to be to pay my direct debit. I paid by card from a different account. And then confirmed at least 3 times that the direct debit wouldn’t go out this month.

Having checked and doubled checked on the phone – I then didn’t check my bank account to see if they lied to me. They did. They overdrew me. Meaning bank fees would ensue at the end of the month. So I called the bank to find out when these would occur and how much they would be ($15 – but that’s not the point!). I then called the internet company to have a fight and try to reclaim the fees that hadn’t yet happened. And I’m usually epically nonconfrontational (which apparently isn’t a word – but should be).

We had a little row about whether the customer service person I spoke to previously even know I was on a direct debit and wasn’t just paying by card. I explained that the whole reason I called was to make sure the direct debit could be averted. I had even asked if it was too late and if I should physically move cash around by foot from one bank to another (quicker than an internet transfer here in NZ, trust me) to make sure the payment could be made as usual. I was assured it would be fine.

The lady on the phone shot me down. But said she would review the call to see if my wild claims had foundation. My account being in credit, I could ask for a a refund. By this time, I’ve been paid, so I’m not overdrawn. I don’t mind being in credit with them, I just mind the impending fees for having been in my non-existent overdraft through no fault of my own.

There’s a lot going on at the moment. I’m a bit overwhelmed with work and life… The lady on the phone upset me far more than she should. By this point, I knew it was a case of $15. It was not the end of the world. I’m not even sure it met the threshold to be a matter of principle. But for some reason, it was. I was disproportionately incensed at the injustice (first world problems, ey?!). This reaction was the first hint that I need to take a chill pill, a step back and possibly a valium and calm down. And address the real issues I’m upset about at the moment.

The second clue was the unreal jubilation I felt when the lady called back and, apology in her voice, backtracked and said she’d refund the bank fee, having listened to my call of the week before. Could I send proof of the bank fee? Well, no. It hadn’t even happened yet.

But when it does, I’ll get it back 🙂 Victory is mine – I have won the battle!

To win the war, I’m going to have to get some perspective. Not to belittle my jubilation, but there are bigger victories to fight for right now.

Is anyone else outraged by unjustified bank fees? Has anyone had a similar little triumph give them a boost at exactly the right time? I think it’s ok to do a little victory dance. I definitely did one… And it was fine, since I then resolved to regain my perspective and get back to work! 

Sara Wars – Return Of The Year-End

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.58.46 AMIn a galaxy far, far away…

I wrote a post at the end of the year all about highlights. I love the way we call it ‘new year’ rather than ‘year-end’ – it shows we’re looking forward. The phrase has a hop of hope and jump of joy about it. Year-end doesn’t quite have that happy ring, especially for my alter-ego.

I’m in a saga of split-personalities at the moment. Let’s call the saga Sara Wars. By day (or at least, more often than I’d like), I am Sara the Reluctant Accountant. By night (or, really, at all times I’m not at the ‘dayjob’), I am Sara the Editor, with her own business (one which will hopefully one day make it possible to be Sara the Recovering Accountant). And I am Sara the Writer, soon to be Published Author. The latter give me more joy than I ever hoped to find. But they take time. They take effort and energy.

I am not ungrateful or regretful regarding the fact I qualified as an accountant. I have gained invaluable skills and I have met priceless people. But at year-end, the dark side encroaches on all other aspects of life and I resent it. There is so much to doooo – and it doesn’t get me any closer to building a bigger, more successful business or being published and becoming a better writer – it steals me away from those goals.

This year, I’m committed to more than one entity that needs accounting for. One is the company that employees me. One is a friend’s business. One is a charitable trust. And one is my own enterprise. Don’t even get me started on the personal tax returns on the horizon, an army of Imperial Stormtroopers.

But however thinly we find ourselves spread. However Darth Vadery the numbers become. However much the Death Star of Compliance takes our time and tries to break us… There has to be an accounting.

In all walks of life, for all our alter-egos, there has to come a time, whether it be year-end or otherwise, when it’s time to take stock. It’s time to spend some time reviewing exactly what we’ve done, how far we’ve come, figure out the figures, and plan the best steps to succeed in the time ahead.

Death and Taxes. They come to us all. They are sinister and unfriendly. But we owe them – they come for us and call us to account for our activities. In the meantime, the saga continues. See you on the other side, when I may or may not give you further installments, including The Inland Revenue Strikes Back and Attack of the Auditors.

Do you cope well or choke on resentment when you have to take time away from your dreams? Do you find it hard to account for yourself? Is the Death Star of Compliance ruining anyone else’s day? 

Temporarily Alone. Permanently Lucky.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 12.22.18 AMAm I good luck? Bad luck? Or just too damn cute?

My Dad left on the weekend, back to the UK after his visit to NZ came to an end. My Mum left after her visit a month ago now – how time does fly! Partner in crime is up in Auckland for work for two weeks, so I’m left alone (sniff), cheating on him with books and blogs.

Disgruntled as I am to be temporarily solo (more sniffs), a few things I’ve read and seen recently have made me realise how lucky I am. If you ever find yourself needing a little perspective, look no further than the stories all around you.

Helena HB’s story of the missing two dollars and Laura Bates’s most recent TED Talk on sexism and solidarity beyond borders are two stories that stopped me in my tracks this week. Is it right that I feel ‘lucky’ not to have been abused as a child or a partner? I don’t know. But I do. I feel thankful. So many people haven’t been that lucky. I’m always going to be grateful for coming from where I’ve come from. I feel awful for the people out there who have come from so much darker places and had their trust and human right not to be abused violated.

I’ve always been superstitious. Don’t walk under ladders. No new shoes on the table. Don’t step on the cracks. Never spill salt without flicking it over the left shoulder. Heaven forbid I ever break a mirror… But while I don’t believe in tempting fate, I do still believe in making your own luck. It kills me sometimes that we can’t control the luck of the draw – we can’t control where we’ve come from. We can’t control the horrible things that people can be capable of doing to each other. But some brave souls will always show us that, wherever you’ve come from and whatever has happened, we can still control where we’re headed. And we can still control our own actions.

Can everyone stop, pause and find something to feel lucky about? Are black cats good or bad luck? Remember not to walk under any ladders, but also remember to make your own luck. There’s so much bad in the world. We need to do some good stuff to balance it out. 

There Are Stories All Around Us – Happy Stories, Sad Stories & Cover Stories


(c) 2013 NKW-Illustration. All rights reserved.

This post isn’t going to be as light-hearted as usual. It’s still going to be hopeful, however. I hope that in all my posts, hope for the future shines through. Happiness and hope are inextricably linked. And so are stories. I’ve been to a couple of very interesting writers’ meetings recently, where stories real and imagined have been shared. Sometimes the truths in people’s pasts are stranger and more fascinating than the fiction we share with each other.

The more I learn about people, the more I realise that there are stories all around us, even when we’re not conscious of them. Sometimes the pursuit of a make believe story can distract me from the real stories going on around me. Sometimes I’m reminded with a bump. I’ve recently discovered that one of my writing comrades lost a leg in a motorbike crash (he illustrated this by taking it off and placing it on the restaurant table) and ended up counselling his psychoanalyst in subsequent therapy; that another’s father was one of Winston Churchill’s bodyguards during the war; and another’s grandfather was part of the platoon sent to clean up Bergen-Belsen when the war was over.

I ended up sharing that my grandfather on my dad’s side, who was in the merchant navy, had seven ships sunk under him. How I wish wish wish he was still here, so I could record his story. My grandparents on my mum’s side emigrated from China when the communists took over. They had 8 children – their eldest was left behind and adopted in China (that’s another story). My mother was the seventh child, born after they’d settled in Malaysia, once they’d hiked through the jungle from Thailand, the eldest son nearly dying from a snake bite en route. The family had stowed away in the hold of a ship in order to escape China and make it to a safe place. It’s a happy story.

One friend from the group is developing writing courses to help people cope with trauma. She mentioned how people have ‘cover stories’ – they can tell you what happened to them, but they’ve come up with almost a soundbite for it so that the telling of it doesn’t bring back the hurt and harm. To help work through it, you have to slow it down – bring out the details and face them. I’ve done the same when explaining sad things that have happened – skimming over talking about a bereavement so as not to feel it again. My granddad’s told the soundbite of the ‘seven ships’ – but I only know the cover story – not the details. When my friend’s granddaughter asked what it was like, cleaning up Birkenau, all her grandfather said (/could say?) was, ‘horrible.’

And then, today, I saw this Ted talk on everyday sexism from a girl I went to university with, Laura Bates. She’s talking about and encouraging people to share the stories that no one wants to tell and no one wants to hear.

And that links to one of the aims of a charitable organisation I’ve become involved in – Haven Trust (website under development). It has been founded by a lady who escaped a situation of domestic abuse with her children. She was forced to leave with nothing. She’s acquired the management rights to a hotel in Queenstown NZ and is planning to open a centre for victims of domestic violence. She then aims to open 5 more across New Zealand. She started the trust to provide a stepping stone for other families in her position, making it possible to leave when it seems impossible, providing shelter and employment opportunities to help people start over. What she and her children went though is horrific. But horribly commonplace. A purpose of the trust is to help people coming through record and share their stories with the world. Stories that might never else come to light, because of the prison of silence that allows this kind of abuse to go unnoticed and unpunished.

I’ve never experienced anything like this – I’ve been lucky. I’ve known it goes on, but it’s never been near enough to personally affect me. Then, just before I became involved with the trust last year, I found out that a friend was abused by her husband over a long period of time. And no one knew because she didn’t tell anyone. He made her feel like it was her fault. And now he’s divorced her, which is her lucky break and has finally meant she felt she could break her silence. How many other stories are there that don’t make it past someone’s lips and into the world? How many people never get help?
Does anyone have a good story? I think everyone has a good story. The mission of Right Ink On The Wall is one of encouragement. We want people to write ink on the wall of the world. We want people to make the right mark. I want to know people’s stories. Some stories should be shared. Happy stories and sad stories. I want to get to the bottom of people’s cover stories. Because it’s through sharing our stories that we’ll make a better world. Shared experience can inspire action. That’s the hope.

When Life Gives You Nuts – You Can’t Always Make Nutella / The Pain Of Peanut Butter In The Jam

ImageNuts. Enjoy them while you can, everyone. Because when I take over the world…

I was going to leave that sentence hanging but actually I won’t – when I take over the world… that’s it. It’s over. They’re gone. Banned. Big Brother has nothing on me. Never mind your basic human rights and freedoms. No more nuts.

I’m sitting here with a fat lip, courtesy of my partner in crime. Normally I would be charmed by an affectionate peck on the lips (thank goodness that’s all it was) – but not today.

I completely understand why it’s difficult to remember to take a nut allergy seriously – and I’m the nut allergic one.

I’d always shuffle around the subject when someone was cooking for me; feel self-conscious bringing it up in a restaurant; fail to complain to housemates when finding peanut butter in the jam.

A few near-death experiences have just about cured me of all that. And it’s not the only aspect of life in which I’ve learned not only to take myself more seriously, but have found the self-permission to ask other people to take me seriously. Some things – they might be as small as a nut or as big as a dream – some things are a matter life and death.

I’m no longer backward in coming forward about being allergic to nuts and I’m no longer backward in coming forward about being a writer. I have even written a *book* (watch this space to view future worldwide success / fame / fortune / the-location-of-a-copy-in-a-library-near-you-that-I-sent-to-them-free – coming soon).

Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you can’t make lemonade. Sometimes they’re so damn sour there’s no amount of sugar in the world that can make them right. Throw out the lemons. As Kristen Lamb tells us, so well as usual, in this post – it’s ok to quit! In fact, sometimes, you have to.

If the book bombs – that’s ok. I’ll already have written the next one. I will have learnt from the last, so the next will be better. And the one after that. If there’s peanut butter in the jam – no amount of scooping it out will make the jam good again. You’re just mixing it up in there. You’re wasting time risking your life trying to fix something when you should give it up. Move on to the next, new pot of jam. (And tell your housemates to keep their £$*&@ peanut butter out your jam). 

Don’t let nuts get you down! Carry a metaphorical EpiPen in your mind so there’s always adrenaline on hand to save you from anaphylaxis (I have been the boy in the picture. My throat has closed up and I’ve nearly suffocated to death. Following my dreams is now a necessity – must become rich and famous before the nuts have a chance to end me altogether – they’re sneaky and they’re out to get me, they must know I plot their ultimate doom). 

Is anyone out there bogged down by the nuts of life? Tell me – take a lexical anti-histamine. And listen to your medical professionals (all those successful, wonderful writers out there blogging, kind enough to be sharing their wisdom). They want you to succeed. They want you to survive. And so do I  😀

Just Keep Swimming & Other Solutions To January Blues


‘Just keep swimming’

– Dory

Sigh. Is anyone else prone to January Blues? The run up to Christmas is a blur, the holidays are a blast.. And then it’s back to the grindstone, with a lot of work to catch up on now all the fun’s been had, an empty bank account, and all these resolutions, which don’t seem so shiny when it’s time to actually sit down and *do* them. To make things worse, NZ has decided to make like UK and rain on my 2014. Note to NZ: It’s meant to be *summer* here right now, not monsoon season.
The list of things I haven’t so far achieved could go over more than one blog post. I’ll stick to something good that’s happened – I swam today. It may not seem like a big deal but, having put a fat cross against last year’s ‘fitness’ resolution (don’t even tell me how very un-measurable / un-quantifiable / un-specific / un-viable-when-still-eating-copious-amounts-of-fried-chicken that resolution was) – I decided that this year I would swim once a week and ride Enid into town (an epic proposition, trust me) at least 3 times a week. And that last can be either in the direction of house to town or swimming pool to town, so I can kill new year’s birds with stones. I have also resolved to eat no fast food this year^ (I wish you could change the size of font on this thing so I could have written that *really* small). [^definition of ‘fast food’ includes McD and KFC, does not include pizza and Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway. Or fish and chips.]. I once swore off fry-ups for a while and that actually worked, so I have high hopes.
So my to-do list is long and getting longer, and I did not want to get up this morning to be the ‘new me’ that swims and cycles constantly. But having got home from road-trippage and epically failed to clean the house, write my blog, start to fix my novel, or, hell, even unpack the car – at least I *did* get up today and do one thing I wanted to do – I swam before cycling to the ‘day’ job. If I just keep swimming, January will be over before I know it and I’ll have put in place some good habits and done more things on the list. I admit I did do one other thing on the list and take down the Christmas decorations, but that was sad. 
If you’re finding it hard to do anything – do something. You’ll feel better. If you do something good several times a week, you’ll feel fantastic. And once the anti-countdown to the end of Jan is over, you’ll be in the swing of it. That’s the plan 😀
Who else is struggling with the brand new start to the brand new year? Is it just me that has heard it’s unlucky to have decorations up past the 6th? (Ooh inspiration strikes for blog post on superstition). I started another item on the resolutions today and visited a few new blogs, commenting where I cared. I want to find one new blog I care about for every day of the year and find time to follow it. The world is full of blogs and there are stories all around us, just waiting to be discovered – but that’s another post for another day…

Why Life Is Good, Even When It’s Not


So, a few things have inspired this post.

1. I’m facing the fact that I *am* going to win NaNoWriMo and will have written a novel in a month. Earlier this month, with big bad happening, it didn’t seem possible. I didn’t give up. I had to figure out what my plot gaps were that needed filling in my last 10k, so a post-it party happened near the dresser:


This piece of procrastination pleased me

2. Moving into my dream house has already had its catches and I was reminded on the weekend that life isn’t always fair. We even made movements to leave Arcadia (how I love the X-files), but were convinced not to by people who reminded me that human beings can be angels in disguise – kind, considerate and caring, even if they are near strangers.

3. I had a phone call with conscious branding company Thought Cloud‘s founder, Kat Kinne, who has already done so much for me, personally and professionally.

4. I had an email from Be Free People – a ‘Truth of the Day’ that read: ‘What are you sleeping with? What feelings are you taking with you into your bed, what feelings are you waking up with? So much is still being processed in your mind while you are sleeping, be very aware of how you feel before you close your eyes. What if it was the very last time you were to close your eyes, would you be happy with what you’re closing your chapter with? If not, change it, by changing your mind about things, end every chapter of the day and start the very next chapter of your life with gratitude.’

5. I read a guest blog post from the amazing Aussa Lorens, at Black Box Warnings: This Can’t Be My Life.

Now, I’m not always in the right mood to receive a ‘truth of the day’ or a ‘moment of happiness.’ (I’m always in the mood to read anything Aussa Lorens has written). Some quotes and platitudes can come across empty and meaningless when you’re going through a bad patch. You have to be in the right place for some things to speak to you.

However, when you’re off-kilter, there are people who can bring you back into balance; bring you back into yourself.

Often, when I feel stressed, I feel sick. My mind and body are very in tune. I posted something of the sort on Facebook and as usual felt awful when people commented, offering comfort and consideration. Sometimes you can post self-serving statuses and deserve it when people remind you they care! Why did I feel bad about it, really? Because I know deep down that life is good. I shouldn’t be complaining about it.

On the worst of days, whatever’s happened, if someone stopped me still and asked, ‘But, are you happy to be alive?’ I would halt, probably feel bad (it’s a habit), and realise that yes, I am. Always.

Many would agree there are key elements to a happy life: your love life, work life, and home life. There are more things to life and variations on the themes, obviously. Not everyone needs or wants a partner, but relationships with other people, be it family, friends, or lover, are commonly a source of happiness. Not everyone cares about a career, but what is done to earn a living, and what is earned to sustain a lifestyle, can be a big focus. People disagree on the definition of home. It can be about location, or about family, or about who shares it with you. It doesn’t have to be one place, or a house, maybe just where you hang your hat. I heartbreakingly read it described today as perhaps, ‘just wherever you end up when you get too tired to run anymore.’ However, as I responded, to me, home can be anywhere, but it’s the place where you’re loved, where you’re at peace with the fact that you deserve to be loved. I felt humbled reading what I’d written, because I’m lucky enough to have it. Overall, love life, work life, and home life are all wonderful.

Bad things happen. It’s a fact of life. I’m writing a novel for NaNo in which a lot of bad things happen. And I try and put myself in my characters’ shoes. One of them, who’s been through unutterable trauma, comes to realise that she is still happy to be alive.

If I can imagine someone who’s been through so much being happy to be alive; if I can meet, as I have, people who have been through so much in real life being happy to be alive – then the least I can do is gain some perspective. I’m going to make a push to remember how happy I am to be alive, and start and end each day with gratitude.

Life is good, even when it’s not. 

Who’s going through a terrible time and feels awful? But who feels even worse with guilt when they realise other people are going through even worse times? It’s ok not to cope, but please ask yourself, despite it all, am I happy to be alive? Things can change for the better as much as they can change for the worse. Don’t give up. Be happy just to be alive.

Getting Down & Getting Back Up Again


‘It’s the climb’

– Miley Cyrus

It’s so much easier to get down than it is to get back up. It’s amazing how simple some deep philosophical truths can be. Doesn’t have quite the ring to it as some poetic quotes of endurance and encouragement, but there it is. I just finished reading Kristen Lamb’s latest post and it’s reduced me to tears because it perfectly illustrates what I was going to write about. 

The bike pictured above is my new one that partner in crime gave me yesterday for my birthday 🙂 I named her Enid and took her for a spin this morning (my first bike ride in quite a few years). Now, here is a drawing of roughly where my house is situated:


Yes, this is why I have an illustrator

Getting down was fast. Wind in my hair, bugs in my teeth. A feeling of free-fall. A feeling of almost losing control. I had planned to cycle to a nearby lake, which also turned out to be uphill. Basically, after reaching the bottom of the road from my house, I took my bike for a walk. I didn’t make it to the lake because, after a wee climb, there were cows blocking the road round a corner. This is another deep philosophical truth. Life always throws a herd of cows in your way when you want to get somewhere. I’m scared of cows. (Ssshh, yes I am aware I have moved to the countryside. But cows are scary. Give me a break). So I turned back. I would have felt like a failure, but so much exercise after so long also meant that I felt like I was going to be sick, so it was cool to get back on the bike and coast down the way I’d come. 

That took me to the bottom of my home hill. And I had to climb back up it. Needless to say, this was nowhere near as swift as the descent. And I had to face the cars passing me, wondering if the drivers thought I was just nuts or feeble not to be riding my mountain bike up the mountain, as it was clearly designed for that purpose, unlike my body. But I trooped on up and I made it to the top. I made it back home. Sometimes, it might seem too high or too far to get where we want to be. You have to keep climbing. If you were riding, sometimes you have to pop off and walk. You can get there, eventually, and it’s worth it. I intend to do much more riding until it’s no longer as necessary to do as much walking. Maybe I’ll ride up the hill to home one day *coughs & splutters*. 

Everything has got on top of me at the moment. Two friends have died in a car crash in Oz and I’ve just been over staying with our friend’s family and attending the joint funeral. My uncle has passed away and I can’t get back to the UK to be with the family. All were taken too soon. Things that shouldn’t be stressful have become overwhelming in the wake of it all. I can’t seem to concentrate at the moment. My NaNo novel has become a bit of a nemesis. I can’t seem to work, write, or achieve any of the things that I was meant to achieve this month. 

We have to accept that it’s easier to get down than it is to get back up. It will take time. We will have to take some care of ourselves to be fit enough to do it. And we have to believe that it’s possible to be better. Who here feels the same? Who’s on a climb and could use a little lift? Who can’t stand Miley Cyrus but can’t help but love the lyrics?! (Disclaimer: I actually do like Miley Cyrus, don’t hate me). 

The Pain Of Packing & The Two Sides To Every Story


‘Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, 

before we commit ourselves to either.’

– Aesop

Step into my study! It’s small but, then, so am I… And it’s perfectly proportioned. To my left is a NZ-centric map of the world (perfect distraction) underscored by a choice selection of cards from friends full of stories and good feeling (perfect procrastination).

I am finally, as of tomorrow, free of my old flat. I mentioned before that I had moved to my dream pad – a fairytale cottage in the woods. The overlap has been pesky and the move has not been without some warfare. I hate packing. And I hate that in every place I’ve called home, it’s not been mine. I’ve rented but not owned. And so I’ve always had to justify myself in some way before, during or after my tenancy.

In my previous flat, the estate agents claim that something is broken that wasn’t (to my knowledge) in any disrepair before I vacated the property. Further, the carpets (which I’ve had professionally cleaned) bear some wear. In vain have I pointed out that the carpets were not exactly squeaky clean or free of wear when I took the place on.  Meanwhile, I’ve had to move a couple of old, disused television sets over to my new port of call, in the dark, in the torrential rain, because the local Salvation Army aren’t accepting second-hand televisions and, hence, I need to take them to the tip. Being 5 foot nothing (that’s 152cm to you metric folk!) and 8 stone (50kg), with the upper body strength of a small penguin, I need help to achieve this. And partner in crime is working away this week. I rolled the sets out of my car (with help from a friend) to the side of my drive (past my gate). At the top of my drive, admittedly by the road, lay an old rowing boat on a faulty trailer that we acquired to fix up and had to bring over from the ex-home. I couldn’t safely move this out the way without assistance (anyone who has seen me parallel park would back this up).

Within 12 hours of television sets being left overnight on my own drive, I have had neighbours complain about them and a call from my new estate agents. They also mentioned the boat. And threw in an accusation of subletting because friends visiting us were spotted in my new home (looking too at home?! If so, I’m glad). It was also noted that we entered the garage that we weren’t supposed to. This was in order to desperately find some jump leads to start a vehicle that should have been on its way to work on a 4 hour journey already.

Aaaahh but this is where I need to remind myself that there are two sides to every story. Hopefully, you’re on my side so far. The calls from the estate agents today put more nails in an already painful week of packing and moving and cleaning, which would already have been unmanageable without my friends. It’s difficult to take with equanimity a suggestion that you haven’t taken care of a place, when you’ve spent the last however long doing your best to do just that. And it’s equally difficult not to be hurt that your new neighbours choose to think the worst of you and tell tales, rather than ask the reason why a situation they have observed is the way it is. I mean, heaven forbid they could even offer assistance where it would be welcome!

And yet, from the other point of view, I could be another in a long line of tenants who have taken liberties at someone else’s expense. I could be someone who’s broken into a new neighbourhood and started scuffing it up without a care in the world or any respect for my neighbours.

Rather than stewing over the fact that I am not either of these people, I need to take on the lesson and learn not to judge. I clearly have no appetite for being judged myself! I need to appreciate the other side of the story in all of the stories that happen. Hopefully, this will also help me write a better story than the ones that are overly one-sided. How about you? Has anyone had a run-in with a real estate or landlord, but there was a reasonable explanation?! Is one-sidedness your foe, too? 

Bella, Breaking Down & Bouncing Back


‘Hah, is that the van? No wonder it took you an age to sell…’

– Kate Litchfield

I sure have learnt a lot about motor vehicles in the year since I bought my first, a second-hand (/tenth-hand?) van we called Bella. Actually, much of what I learnt was discovered in the first month. I judged this book by its cover. Thrilled by the prospect of nesting in the roomy back area during our travels, I neglected to realise that while living in her would be a dream, getting anywhere would be a nightmare. The hole in the exhaust and oil leak were one issue and the problems with the brakes and the flange (this is a real thing) were another. Add to that the corroded spark plugs that were passed over in the basic service she received (to see if we could take her through the desert – the answer being a resounding ‘no’) and the issue with the alternator (not the battery), and we had a gas-guzzling hole in our pocket on our hands. But it was still a wonderful adventure along the coast of Oz and, from throwing a flat in the wilderness on our first day to spluttering out while a potential buyer test drove her on one of our last, Bella made it all the more adventurous.
Last week, we had some old Sydney friends to visit, who had known Bella back in the day. We took them on an impromptu road-trip to chase the last of the season’s fresh powder dumps, a few hours north. Our trusty chariot, Charlie, took us within a few hundred metres of the steep, snowy summit before simultaneously throwing off a freshly broken snow-chain and presenting us with a flat tyre. Very much stuck, we slid back out the way to watch fellow excitable snow-fans pass us, stealing our first lifts and making the fresh tracks that had had our names on them.
So, having removed one of the back tyres, using our heinous jack with a shifter in place of a handle, we put it on the front in place of the flat so we could rechain it, one of us having hitched to the top and back again to have the chain fixed. This meant the questionable spare tyre could sit on the back. Then, finally, we made it up! And the snow was everything we had hoped for.
On the way back down, the spare tyre blew. I kid you not. We spent the evening crawling on the flat along the deserted mountain road towards the nearest town, eventually managing to send one of our number ahead, hitching with the original flat tyre to drag the local mechanic out of the pub to patch it up. Then, finally, we made it home! And boy, we had a story to tell.
There are a few morals in all of this. One: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and wiser (or at least funnier). Two: never judge a book by its cover – check under the hood. And three: there is nothing so valuable as a good attitude. We could have let Bella ruin our Ozzie east coast trip, instead, we took every knock as it came, often nervously, at the end bankruptly, but nonetheless with good humour and the ability to see a learning experience for what it was. We could have let Charlie ruin our powder day – one of the troop throwing teddies out the pram and having a tantrum at missing the first few hours in the snow could have soured the day for all of us. Instead, we pulled together and shifted, seeing the hilarious in the disastrous.
So, I ask you, what’s gone stupidly wrong lately? With obvious exceptions, does it really have to ruin your day/month/life? Or, if faced with the right attitude, down the road, could it be a lesson learned and a funny story – a shared experience you remember with a rueful smile? I hope at least that my car trouble made you chuckle. Do share your own stories so we can all offer you sympathy/smiles – a different perspective makes our problems easier to bear.