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Cummerbund Bandersnatch and the Desolation of Smog


A special guest here today my friends, with a special post. I daresay you’ve heard whispers of mysterious author extraordinaire Helena Hann-Basquiat here before. That’s because she’s a writer worth the knowing – but I’ll let her quirky words speak for themselves. Her Pubslush campaign has 13 days to go, and here we have a privileged sneak peek into the second volume of Memoirs of A Dilettante for your previewing pleasure…

There is a place, a dark place, just outside of the GTA (that’s the Greater Toronto Area, if you’re interested, darlings) where darkness dwells. A place where the smog hangs over Lake Ontario like a malignant force – for the Dwarves that lived there burned the fires of steel refining day and night, pumping their smoke into the sky, leaving a desolation usually reserved for such detestable places as Pittsburgh or (shudder) Cleveland. In the long dead language of the people who once dwelt there, it is called Khazad-dûm, but people today refer to it as Hamilton, and its name is spoken in hushed, fearful tones. Children are warned never to venture north of King Street in the dark, and in particular to avoid the dreaded Barton Street, where all manner of twisted creatures dwell, seeking to prey on any weak straggler who might venture into their path. It is a place of horror, where…

“Seriously, Helena?” Penny interjected.

“What?” I asked, standing firmly by my assessment.

“Well, iss not very noice, issit?” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia accused. You remember Penny, darlings. Tends to talk like a Dickensian street urchin from time to time, fancies herself something of a fashion trendsetter because of a incomparable collection of stripey socks, and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of the writing of one Mr. J.R.R. Tolkien.

“No, Penny, Hamilton isn’t very nice,” I agreed, knowing full well that’s not what she meant.

“You know full well thass not wot I meant, ya daft cow!” Penny protested passionately.

A couple of months ago, Penny and I had moved into her grandmother’s house in Hamilton in order to help look after her, and it had been an adjustment for everyone.

“Besides,” the Countess of Arcadia continued, “I fought you loiked West-day-oh.”

Westdale? Oh yes. Three coffee shops, a bakery, a shitty pub, a Pita Pit and a TCBY. What’s not to love?” I held my hand over my heart, all a-flutter.

“Hmm,” the Countess of Arcadia said, tapping a finger to her lips and looking pensive. “Interesting. How very interesting.”

I wasn’t going to bite. I had an inkling as to where this was going, having just sat through Star Trek: Into Darkness, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and two seasons of the BBC’s Sherlock on the weekend. Neither of us were feeling well, and so we loaded up on junk food and bundled our bacteria-besieged bodies in blankets and binged on Bandersnatch. Cummerbund Bandersnatch, that is, and if you want some back story on that silly sounding bit of schizophasia, it’s simple, darlings. One night, after one too many vodka and cranberries, the Countess declared her undying love for the star of Sherlock, one Benedict Cumberbatch, only in her drunkified state (drunkified is a good, fine, strong word, thank you very much, and seeing as it’s referring to a state in which one slurs one’s speech and engages in such dreadful activities as neologism, I’m standing by my use of it) she insisted (quite insistently, if I recall correctly, and I always do, darlings) that his name was Cummerbund Bandersnatch. It took, and that will forever be how we refer to the man in Casa de Hann-Basquiat.

“Fascinating,” the Countess continued, caressing her mouth as if deep in deductive thought.

“Okay,” I sighed. “What’s so fucking fascinating?”

“You seriously just swore for the sake of alliteration, didn’t you?” the Countess queried capriciously.

“You’re one to talk with your capricious queries,” I quipped.

“You need help,” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia accused, not unkindly.

“Yes, I thought we determined that,” I grinned. “Now go on, then. What do you find fascinating?”

“Ah yes,” the Countess of Arcadia (which is somewhere in the vicinity of 221B Baker Street, it would seem) resumed. “I find it fascinating that you claim to know so much about the village of Westdale, and claim to find it disagreeable and pedantic, and yet the true story of how you feel about it can be found in what you deliberately neglected to mention.”

I was driving Penny to the train station. One of the adjustments that we both had to make when we moved to Hamilton was a longer commute, and while neither of us enjoyed that very much, we tried to make the best of it.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I deflected, and then tried a different tact. “So are you going to go see the Desolation of Smaug this weekend?”

“You’re pronouncing that wrong, Helena, and you know you’re pronouncing that wrong.” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia (which is somewhere in the Misty Mountains) accused.

“How can you tell?” I asked, amused.

“Well, iss all in the bloody title, ennit?” the Dickensian street urchin that contrarily fancies herself a Countess replied. “You’re sayin’ it to rhyme with fog, but it don’t go loik that, does it? And Smaug don’t live in the Misty Mountains, neither. ‘E lives in the Lonely Mountain. And don’t fink I ‘aven’t noticed that you’ve, loik, changed the bleeding subject, you devious dilettante!”

I snickered into my coffee, nearly spilling it and driving us off the road.

“I thought you hated Tolkien,” I reminded her.

“I do,” Penny admitted. “Horrible writing. Archaic, laughable plot devices and in terrible need of an editor – but that man’s voice…”

“Cummerbund Bandersnatch,” I volunteered.

“Thass the one, ‘Elena, my love, my sweet,” she agreed with a lusty grin. “That beautiful man’s glorious voice melts my knickers, it does. And ‘e’s voicing the dragon Smaug, so…”

“I see,” I said plainly.

“Now,” the Countess resumed, composing herself. She may or may not have wiped a string of drool from her lips. “Back to the matter at hand. You deliberately neglected to mention the following bits of information concerning the village of Westdale, which you claim to find boring and uninteresting. One – Westdale has a charming little theatre, which I happen to know that you love, because you have chosen to see not one but three films there lately as opposed to seeing them at the giant cineplexes. Two – Westdale has not one but two comic book stores, and I can’t help but notice that you are not behind in reading Saga or Unwritten – so tell me, Helena – where have you been buying your comics, huh?”

“Well, I…” I began, but was immediately interrupted.

“Three!” The Countess continued presenting her damning evidence against me. “Adjacent to one of these comic book stores is a wonderful little used book store that has the TARDIS-like quality of being much larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Why, you could get lost in there for days perusing all those wonderful books.”

“Okay, okay, so what’s your point?” I asked, and she ignored me.

“Four!” Penny persisted. “You love one of those coffee shops you so surreptitiously dismissed. Any time we’re even in the vicinity, you’re all Hey, Penny, you wanna go to My Dog Joe? I submit that you are over-compensating, my dear. I have used my highly tuned powers of deduction to see through your ruse!”

“Have you, now?” I replied, amused at her amusement.

“Indeed.” Penny insisted.

“Indubitably.” I agreed.

“Yes. Quite.” The Countess Penelope of Arcadia counted, affecting a posher, more Windsor Castle-like accent. “And we are not amused.”

I laughed. “Oh, you are so amused, darling – admit it.”

Penny smiled at me. “Well, perhaps we are a touch amused. That does not mean I won’t call for your head if you do not agree to accompany me to the film this weekend!”

“So now I have to go with you?” I asked.

“But of course,” the Countess Arcade stated regally. “Who will protect me from the rabid Tolkienites?”

I sighed, “You’re going to wear your FUCK TOLKIEN t-shirt, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but only because my TOLKIEN WAS A LAZY, UNIMAGINATIVE PRAT shirt got destroyed during that melee at the Role Playing Gamer’s convention, and I thought you promised you’d never bring that up again, thank you very much for re-opening those old wounds.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, completely deadpan.

“Apology accepted, Captain Needa,”[1] the Countess replied in her best Darth Vader (which wasn’t very good, and to be honest, still had a trace of the cockney street urchin in it, if you can imagine that). “But just for that, you’re paying for the tickets.”

“Very well,” I complied.

“And popcorn,” Penny amended.

“Okay,” I agreed.

“And ice cream after the show,” the Countess demanded.

“We’ll see,” I said, as if she were four and not twenty-something.

“And then can we go mini-golfing?” Penny asked, deliberately upping the ante. “Or on pony rides?”

“You just keep pushing it, young lady,” I said in mock parental tones, “and we’ll be spending the weekend giving sponge baths at the old folk’s home.”

The Countess threw me a pathetic looking pout, and we both broke out laughing.

All things considered, it was good to be young and insane.

[1] To complete the trifecta, a Star Wars reference. After Darth Vader kills Captain Needa, he then accepts the man’s apology. You didn’t see that kind of badassery in those horrible prequels.


If you want to read more, BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Available now! image06 JESSICA image07

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettanteThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE



Time’s rushing by like a river. There was a hard frost on the ground this morning. I’ve been busy with work and busy with play and busy chasing hopes and dreams in between, so I hadn’t noticed winter creeping up around the edges. I was hanging suspended for a while, swaying, not sure which way to go, but you’ll be happy to know I’ve thrown up some threads and started to weave a web again. I feel steadier, less raw, less exposed – a little frost won’t hurt me now. I’ve been distracted, but there can be delight in distraction – it shows you paths you might not have seen when you were single-minded. You can come back to yourself and find a little purpose. And in the meantime, I po’ed an em.



Nothing to reproach

Sunlight sparkling on a crystal lake

Mountains folding you in a rocky embrace

And clouds floating by their greeting

You were gone too long

Don’t go away again

Everyone leaves

That’s what they say

But if you come back

The streets will welcome you

New faces will become old friends

Just show yours

Take the roads you used to ride

Gently pluck the threads

See, they resonate like musical strings

The past becomes a story

A song

The future an open book

A symphony



Sir Terry Pratchett – A Thank You

Terry Pratchett


My thank you sounds out from upon a disc, which sits upon the backs of four elephants, who stand on the back of a giant turtle, named Great A’Tuin. Who knows what he makes of this turn of events.

My thank you is so loud and so heartfelt that it can hopefully cross oceans without falling off the edge, cross universes without becoming lost in translation, cross even the borders between life and death without getting lost.

Every Hogswatch for a long, long time, I received a staple gift from the Hogfather – the latest Terry Pratchett, the latest Discworld feast for the senses. In this universe, words do more than meet your eyes – they get inside your mind and take up residence there. They treat the place like their own and turn things upside down and inside out and make you crease with laughter and tears more often than you’d think any combination of words in any collection of works possibly could. Words that are seriously funny, but also seriously clever. And, sometimes, seriously serious. There is often a message in the madness, scathing satire in the sands.

If I can make a scratch on the wall of the world even a millionth in depth of the mark made by Terry Pratchett, I will have achieved something. Books that make me laugh out loud, but also make me stop and think, but also make me grieve, but also make me cartwheel at the triumph of craft are among my most treasured possessions – thanks to Discworld, I have whole shelves of them.

It’s heartbreaking, of course, that there’ll be nothing new from someone taken too soon – that’s a refrain I’ve heard a lot these past days. But, oh my life, who else has left us so much? Terry Pratchett knew how to make moving pictures with words. He knew the colour of magic. Thanks to him, we can read all about it in the words he’s left behind. Words with a life of their own. So, thank you, Terry Pratchett, thank you for every single word.

I Believe In Sunshine – A Song

The ranch

I believe in sunshine

I don’t believe in rain

I don’t believe that beating hearts

Deserve to live in pain


I believe in fields of green

And flowers and starlight’s thrill

I believe in breaking free

To live and not to kill


And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through


I believe if we just try

This could be something new


I believe that hand-in-hand

Who knows what we might do

I believe that silence can

Be the opposite of true


I believe in crystal skies

In laughter’s tears not blue

I believe that one fine night

I’ll find myself with you


And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through


I believe that hand-in-hand

Who knows what we might do


I believe the words come

When least we can expect

I don’t believe that it’s all right

To fail to be direct


I believe that if we say

Exactly what we mean

Then we can spread our wings

And we can live the dream


And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through


I believe that word-by-word

I’ll fall in love with you


And we’ll go up and up and over

We’ll make it through and through


I believe that word-by-word

I’ll fall in love with you

(c) 2015 Sara Litchfield

1000 Voices For Compassion: A Stranger Held Me In The Street


Image Credit: www.theqwietmuse.com

Today is a special day. Over one thousand bloggers all over the world are raising their voices in chorus on the subject of compassion, under the label #1000Speak. They hope to inspire readers to think about it, to delve into its many facets, to ponder its meaning and makeup… But, above all, to show it. To practise as well as preach.

Over the last month of build-up, I’ve been amazed reading the compassionate content that’s ensued since the idea seeded, meeting like-minded people brought together by this common cause – championing something good in this world that is sometimes so cruel.

Then, last week, I fell out the loop a little. I moved country, again. Found a temporary home, again. I picked up old threads and more than one G&T and tried not to crash and burn in the process of coming back to a place where circumstances used to be so different, trying to block all the punches that unwelcome changes can hail on your heart. I also had some fun.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I feel things deeply. And, while we often go around trying to present our best faces to the world, sometimes we can only survive by being brutally honest, with others and with ourselves. In the circles I’ve become a part of since I started my writerly journey to authordom (fame and fortune to follow), I’ve seen people bare their souls on screen more often than I can count, not least through #1000Speak, and it is a good thing. A powerful thing.

Think about the painful things that have happened to you. Everybody has them, to whatever degree. For better or worse, these experiences, along with the good, make us who we are.

Have you ever seen someone crying in the street? Have you averted your gaze, thinking they’d rather not be bothered? Have you pitied, or even scorned? Have you really seen them, this other person who has a life just as you have a life? And have you wondered what it is they’re going through that it would evoke such a public display of their sorrow? Have you wondered out of voyeurism or from the heart? Have you stopped, or just stared and walked on, caught up in your own problems?

Reaching out to someone may be rebuffed; it certainly may not help with the actual issue. But it may make that someone realise that things might just be okay.

Compassion is the moment a stranger holds you in the street while you cry and tells you everything is going to be all right. Just living in a world where a complete unknown would interrupt their natural absorption in their own life and the lives of their nearest and dearest to reach out an unsolicited but comforting hand makes me hopeful, despite all the horrible, ugly things that can happen around us.

Use your experience of pain to make you more sympathetic to others and what they might be going through, whether they show their heart on their sleeve or not. When the same treatment – empathy, kindness, comfort – is accorded to you, you realise how much it counts. Humankind has capacity for great evil, but it also has limitless capacity for compassion. Show some compassion in your everyday life: to yourself, to your friends, to your colleagues, to a stranger on the street. And everything will be all right.


In the run up to publishing this post, amongst the scores of compassionate content starting to hit the webs, I clicked on Dani’s story first because I caught sight of the title. Would you like to read the other side? Would you ever hug a total stranger and mean it?

It’s not too late to get involved.

To join the group and meet the movement, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To sing and dance together on Twitter, tweet #1000Speak.

#1000Speak - Listen

Why I Love Helena Hann-Basquiat… Whoever S/he Is

#whereishelenaDear readers, today we have a pre-exposé. Someone big in the blogging world, whom I’ve known for a while in our online playground, is revealing their true identity. And I stand here, like Lizzi, in support, forming an advance guard.

Who is Helena Hann-Basquiat?

Someone stands behind the entrancing persona of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante. I’ve known this from the very beginning, and so has everyone else, because Helena’s never said any different. This person has made me laugh often and weep much. And I’ve read the words – in blog posts, emails, and books (wow, H is prolific!) and always gone back for more. Sometimes wondering how much, if anything, is true, but all too often so caught up in the story that the only truth that matters is already in the words and the feelings they evoke. The mystery, for me, has only ever added an extra layer of intrigue to an already interesting picture.

Helena also writes as Jessica B Bell. A persona with a second pseudonym? It tickled me too. More layers. I think anyone who knows Helena & Jessica even a little would agree that they want, even need, to be heard. And their content demands attention and discussion. And so Helena has become connected personally with people, talking from their hearts to each other, in the comments to blog and Facebook posts, and also privately. Even though she’s not Helena, and never said she was, that’s who’s been presented before us and charmed our socks off.

I can see why Helena could be conflicted about these continuing connections and deepening friendships. And I was touched to be told in advance that the Big Reveal was coming. I felt a little like I did when I once guested Helena, when she released the amazing Postcards from California. When we talked about it all, like the proverbial genie, she offered me three questions that she would answer me true. It was a privilege. But I didn’t ask.

This time around, Helena’s asked me to articulate how I feel about it all. And what I have to say is this…

The reason I love Helena Hann-Basquiat, whoever s/he is, is that I’ve always been talking to a person with a heart and a soul and a voice, someone who has told stories and listened to mine, and been genuine in their intentions and interactions – whatever face they’ve presented me with. And I look forward to being entranced by many words to come from this unique voice, whoever’s name signs it off.

Have you ever had a friend with a secret identity? Join Helena’s unmasking tomorrow at Sisterwives and meet an amazing one.

Show Compassion – Save A Teddy Bear


Meet my teddy bear, Nicki (an avid reader). I’ve had him since I was born in Coventry, at which time he was bought in Hamley’s. And that’s a long time ago, as I’m turned thirty now (the Internet says so, so it must be true). I love him in a way I love no other inanimate object. A teddy bear can be so much more than a possession. A childhood companion, friend – even family. Nicki’s come with me round the world, when many of my friends and family could not fit in my suitcase, so, in a way, I’ve spent more time with him than anyone. I’ve lost many things – but I’d be heartbroken to lose him, and I’m fully grown now (perhaps even shrinking, which, at five foot nothing, doesn’t seem fair). Losing him as a child would have been Armageddon.

Compassion can wear many coats, but it often involves placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, and doing what one can to make those shoes more comfortable for their original occupant. I know many people who don’t adore social media – it’s not their cup of tea. For others, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I’m one of the latter – ever sold on Facebook since someone found my wallet in the street and then found me on FB so they could send it back to me, from Edinburgh to London, declining my reimbursement of postage.

A post popped up yesterday comparing Facebook to a fridge – you know nothing’s changed, but you go and open it every ten minutes anyway. Working on my own, online, it’s often a welcome break that can clear my mind for a few seconds before getting back to it. And sometimes, magical treats have appeared in the fridge while I wasn’t looking.

A case study in point. A child lost their teddy bear, Ratty, and the story popped up in my newsfeed because of a local trading group I belong to in sunny Queenstown. It made me happy (not the child losing their teddy bear – I’m not a monster – but the story’s ending. Hmm, spoiler). This adorable photo is reposted with permission.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.21 am

People sympathised. And someone who’d seen a stray bear piped up. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the one.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.30 am

But then another did the same. And it was.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.43.34 am

Compassion can be big or small. It still counts. It can be a case of being big now, but remembering how much bigger small things were, when you yourself were smaller. It can be not walking past something that is lost, ignoring it because it is meaningless to you, but instead picking it up, because you know that it is meaningful to someone else.

Another treat in the fridge today? A case study from Lizzi, to whom compassion is first and second nature. It was sparked by seeing someone putting themselves in someone else’s running shoes. Look around you. Is there someone doing the same? Could you help? Is there a teddy bear lying in the corner, lost and alone? Maybe pick it up.

Join us on 20th February 2015 when 1000 voices will speak out for compassion.

To join the group and meet the movement, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To read some background, return to Lizzi, whose inspiring post beats like a heart in our village-centre, and check in with Yvonne, who called forth a body of builders to grow around it – now over a thousand strong.

To sing and dance together on Twitter, tweet #1000Speak.

#1000Speak - Listen

A is for Adelaide, B is for Beauty, C is for Compassion


I came to Adelaide three months ago, a little bit broken. I’m leaving now, a little, well, less so.

This is due in part to an unwillingness just to curl up in a corner and not participate in the world, in part to the uplifting beauty to be found all around, but, most of all, it is due to compassion.

Compassion is someone holding out their hands rather than putting them behind their back. It is someone offering you their home rather than muttering a platitude. And then putting up with you every day in that home, while you un-mire yourself.

It is patience; it is kindness; it is observance. It is empathy; it is companionship; it is hope.

The world is a mess. It is depressing. Sometimes, it seems hopeless. The news is overwhelming. The small hurts and the big hurts form a league of reasons to bury your head in the sand.

I read a post a few days ago that made me dig myself out of the sand, because I saw others sitting up, taking note, and doing it too. Within a week, there are so many people digging that tunnels through the world, connecting all sorts of countries and people have appeared. Pop through those tunnels and you find writers worth knowing – because a common strand has resonated with them and tied them together. And it’s the idea of compassion.

Showing compassion, and talking about it, writing about it, championing it – this is one way to make the right mark on the wall of the world. It is one way we can lift up the people around us, rather than trampling them, rather than ignoring them. It is a call to action. So that more and more people can feel the vibrations, pop their heads out of their sand patches, and start digging themselves.

Join us on 20th February 2015 when 1000 voices will speak out for compassion.

To join the group and start digging, go here: 1000 Voices for Compassion Facebook Group

To read some background, go to meet Lizzi, who first popped her head out the sand, and go to meet Yvonne, who picked up the first shovel.

To sing and dance together on Twitter, tweet #1000Speak.

There And Back Again – Finding Direction In 2015

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Midnight 31/12/14

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Midnight 31/12/14

Happy new year! Here we are in 2015 and I hope it’s a wonderful one for you all! The festive road trip has finished and I’m back in Adelaide with much more movement to look forward to. And who knows where I’ll end up? I certainly don’t.

But that’s not a bad thing. A steady state has its comforts and attractions, but life has been a wonderful whirlwind since I left London three and half years ago, and the volatile roller coaster doesn’t seem about to stop. Coming to the beginning of a new year and looking back as well as forward – life has more highs than lows. Sometimes you just have to seek them out. Sometimes you need to take a shovel.

All I know is that it was a brilliant idea to end up in Sydney to see out the old year and in with the new – with the biggest of bangs. I adore fireworks and want to live my life like one – going off in all directions, popping, fizzing, delighting, colourful, crazy and illuminating. It doesn’t matter which way you’re going as long as you’re causing a ruckus on the way, filling as many lives as possible with light, laughter and love.

Many people will have so much they want to achieve this year, having achieved so much already – best of luck with it. Just don’t forget to stop, look around you, smell the roses, watch the sunsets, notice others, and leave the people you pass the happier for having known you. Strive as much as you like, but enrich those around you as well as yourself. Sing and dance, but invite others to add their voices and join the foxtrot. Put being plentiful in the soul before the pocket, and share.

Technically, ’tis the eleventh day of Christmas (who knew the twelve days start rather than end on Christmas day?!). So here’s a parting gift from my lovely friend and wonderful illustrator’s collection. As the familiar festive sights and scents fade away for another year, remember to keep the spirit of Christmas around and enjoy the whole twelve months ahead giving, loving and hoping. Everyone will have a better time for it.

What do you hope for this year? I hope it finds you.

Eleven Pipes Piping

(c) 2013 NKW-Illustration. All Rights Reserved.

* * *

Looking for something new to read this year? Enter the world of The Night Butterflies and join the search for hope amidst horror…002.5_Night Butterflies

Survival Of The Christmas

Christmas Lobster

Giant Lobster, Kingston SE, SA

I’m on another festive road-trip, this year OZ rather than NZ. Christmas is such a great time to take a holiday – and while I’d love to be tucked at home with family and friends in the UK, amidst cosy jumpers and twinkling trees, I also love the utter freedom of constant movement and the excitement of seeing brand new things every day. Especially the sunshine. And my year wouldn’t have been complete without Sunday’s giant lobster on the roadside.

Christmas, nestled as it is before the end of one year and the start of another, often seems a time to compare. Compare life now to this time last year; compare location, occupation, partners, possessions; compare life’s pros and cons, what’s been gained and what’s been lost.

Our first night camping, what was lost was mainly sleep. Having been sweltering over in South Australia, we took a selection of sheets but decided sleeping bags would be surplus. Wrong. The tent, positioned as it was in the centre of a vortex, winds tearing around out of nowhere, was freezing. And I hadn’t even brought layers of clothing that could ease the situation.

Last night, we recovered in a motel. Whenever I stay in a motel I feel like I’m in an episode of the X-files. But there are no aliens here. Maybe just ghosts. I’m followed around by the ghost of last year’s Christmas road-trip, which I was lucky enough to enjoy with ex-partner-in-crime. I miss him like crazy. And last week, I went to see my friend Kade’s family on the Gold Coast. Not so much earlier than this time last year, partner-in-crime and I were over there for his funeral, and I’d not been back since.

Bad stuff has happened this year – stuff I’d rather hadn’t. But it’s not ever, nowhere near, the same as really losing someone. When someone dies, it doesn’t end. It’s never over. They’re gone forever. And every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday – they bring a peak in the ever-present pain for those who were closest. Seeing everyone left behind there, wishing my friend was still around, wishing it was possible to save each person from their grief… Those are Christmas wishes that could never be granted.

But such things are utterly out of our control. They can only be suffered and survived. And where there is unending grief, friends can only be supportive. Be present. Be there.

Not so with everything. Yesterday we acquired sleeping bags so we wouldn’t have another disastrous night of cold cramps. There are certainly things in our lives that go wrong that we can learn from and correct. Some things lost can be found again. I can think of several situations a tad more dire than lack of camping equipment that, with a little motivation, I can sort out next year.

Have a ridiculous holiday. Frolic until you’re famished and feast until you’re full. But spare a thought for those without. Those without the ones who would have made their Christmas complete. My heart goes out to you if you’re one of them. And if there’s anything distressing in your life that you know is fixable, that would make life merrier in 2015 if fixed, then make the resolution to address it. We owe it to ourselves – we who are lucky enough to have a full and fantastic life to live.