Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

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Antarctica, days 14 – 16: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and one last stroke of good luck.

From the moment the taxi pulled up at the hotel to take me to Ushuaia airport, my luck ran out. I was running low on Argentine pesos, so I asked the receptionist to confirm that a taxi would take a card instead of cash. I already tried Uber, but none were available.

I got to the airport, then had an argument with the taxi driver when he wouldn’t accept my card, OR all my Argentine plus Chilean pesos for the fare. There was a lot of “I don’t speak Spanish; this is all the money I have” and lots of Argentinian head shaking and muttering.

Finally, he relented and took the two types of pesos – I grossly overpaid him but I didn’t care – and I grabbed my suitcases and went into the terminal. It didn’t matter that I had no cash for Chile – in a few hours’ time I was going to be in and out of Santiago airport in an hour. I’d filled my (once pee bottle, now water) bottle with water before I left the hotel and eaten a hearty breakfast, so I could exist on plane food until New Zealand.

I strolled in, walked past a café and there, with his side to me, was SamFrank. Ugh. After the taxi driver thing, I was in no mood for more bullshit, so I turned my head and pretended to be very interested in a shop as I walked around the corner and found a seat. There was NO WAY he didn’t see me, but he clearly didn’t want to talk to me either. Phew!

I whatsapped the group. “SamFrank is here at the airport. We both pretended not to see each other.”

Corinna messaged back: “He’s probably right behind you.”

Turns out Ming was on Corinna’s flight into Buenos Aires, both in the same row. Ming was still in her yellow jacket. It was nearly 27C.

Everything on my itinerary was going to plan. I was in and out of Buenos Aires airport like a dream. It was when I hit Santiago that it all went to shit.

If I’d just had carry-on luggage, everything would have been fine. But my plane landed at the same time as around 47 other planes and I had to queue for over an hour to get my suitcase. When I got to the check-in counter to get to Aukland, they wouldn’t let me board, even though I was there an hour and a half earlier than the plane was scheduled to leave.

It was one in the morning. I was ropeable. They put me on a flight that was leaving 24 hours later. They told me I had to go to Air Argentina to get them to book a hotel room because my previous flight was late. (It wasn’t late, so I knew they wouldn’t help. It was all the fault of the airport itself.)

It was the middle of the night. My eyes welled with tears… and then I remembered my Australian travel agent’s stuff-up.

In a previous version of this trip, I was supposed to stay in Santiago for another night and day. That had changed. But she forgot to cancel the booking at the Pullman.

Fortunate Frogdancer made a brief comeback, right in the nick of time. WHO JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A ROOM BOOKED IN A CITY WHERE THEY’RE UNEXPECTEDLY DETAINED?????

Me, that’s who. My tears dried instantly. I walked downstairs, haggled with a driver who would accept a card payment, and then I was whisked to a luxurious bed for the night. Check-out was at midday, too, which was a bonus.

Next morning I had a huge breakfast, then secreted three bread rolls in my pockets. I was going to get to the airport (after I had a nap in my room until midday) and I was going to do a Tom Hanks in the terminal. Goddammit – I wasn’t going to miss that plane again!

I had 3 bread rolls, 2 packets of peanuts from previous flights, 3 packets of chocolates from the ship’s welcome package, and my huge wee bottle was full of water. I had my iPad with plenty of books. All of this was more than enough to sustain me while I waited 12 hours for the plane!

By 2 PM I had my precious boarding pass. I found a seat, put my suitcases in front of me, pulled out my iPad and began to read. Two and a half books later, my flight was called. I made it up to the boarding gate… where my flight was delayed for 3 hours.

I got to Aukland with 40 minutes to board. When our carry-ons were being checked, mine was pulled out.

“Stand over there, I’ll check it shortly,” the guy said.

Five looong minutes later, he pulls out my tube of sunscreen. “Oh, it’s 100g. It looked bigger on the x-ray,” he said.

Bloody hell.

I make it onto the plane and fly to beautiful Melbourne. I also picked up a mighty fine deal on the duty-free as I went through. 2L of gin for $60. Not bad.

At the airport, I sat myself down on the Skybus and asked if it went to Frankston. No. I had to get off at Southern Cross station and get a train home. But it was ok; this was my plan B. I had my Myki with me in case this happened.

When I got to Southern Cross, I couldn’t see a Frankston line train scheduled on any platform. Weird, but oh well. I’ll just take a train to Richmond and swap from there. No problem. I love dragging these cases around.

Richmond. Every other train line in Melbourne was running through, but not Frankston. FINE. I’ll just take a Dandenong line train to Caulfield nd jump onto the Frankston line there. Sheesh!

To pass the time, I sent penguin videos to people, letting them know I was back.

I roll into Caulfield station. I hear a garbled announcement, “Buses garble arble Mordialloc.” Bloody hell, was I ever going to get back home?

They were doing works on the Frankston line. Buses instead of trains between Caulfield and Mordialloc. Lovely! I needed an automobile to make up the whole ‘Planes, Trains’ set. I wheeled my suitcases to the back of the bus and sat there as we made the long trip down Nepean Highway to Mordy station.

Then, after a long wait, I rode the train to my station. I wheeled my suitcases the short way back to my gate. I was home – only 27 hours late.

I clicked the gate latch. Poppy and Scout went NUTS. Ryan27 let them out and the three of us had a rapturous reunion at the front gate.

I went inside. Tom30 had come over to see me and he was sitting on the couch with Jeff sleeping on his lap. I let Jeff smell my hand. Three deep breaths, then he sat up, blinking and looking around. Then he saw me. Another rapturous reunion.

The boys said they were pleased to see me, too, though they didn’t follow me around like the dogs did, not letting me out of their sight for days.

Home!

This, my first trip overseas in 4 years, has tested me physically and mentally. This is the first time that I’ve travelled by myself, without a friend waiting for me at the other end. 

I don’t speak or read Spanish, and both Chile and Argentina are Spanish-speaking nations. I knew I’d be fine on the cruise, as English is the language used there, but getting there and back had its challenges that I had to solve by myself, or with the help of new friends or kind strangers.

How fortunate I was to meet such lovely people in my YPT travel group. I was the oldest person in our little group by far, yet they embraced me into their lives and we experienced this whole amazing thing together. 

I was definitely not expecting this. When I saw, from our Facebook group, that everyone was in their 20’s and 30’s, I downloaded 22 books so that I’d have something to occupy myself with when we were onboard. 

Turns out I didn’t need them. I’m only up to book 7. We had wonderful conversations, in-jokes and so much fun. These travellers are definitely able to look past the exterior of someone and deal happily with the person within. That’s pretty special, I think.

Everyone who knows me is aware that I don’t have a love for exercise. To me, going for a walk only makes sense if you have a definite purpose in mind, while as for going to a gym? Forget it.

There was only one walk that I didn’t do on the landings, and that was on the first day when I was still paranoid about my level of fitness. After that, I did everything that was put in front of me and I’m proud – and slightly surprised – that I accomplished every single one. 

Of course, the Polar Plunge is the pinnacle of this. Even disgustingly healthy people opted out of that one! 

A trip to Antarctica was always going to be special. It’s such a wild, desolate and relatively untouched part of the world. But when I add these other, far more intangible things, this is a trip that is vastly different from anything I’ve done before.

This is the reason why I focused so hard on retirement. There are so many amazing places to see and different things to do. I want to be able to see and do as many as I can before my time runs out.

I hope you enjoyed seeing Antarctica through my eyes. Let’s hope that it won’t be another 4 years before the next trip!

To end this series about Antarctica, please enjoy this fun video that Charlie from America made about our trip. Everything in here (except the orcas) I saw as well, but he’s much better at putting everything together.

Thank you for coming on this trip with me.

Antarctica trip Day 10: Jougla Island and Port Lockroy.

Straight after breakfast this morning, we were called into the lounge for a briefing. There were two women from Port Lockroy.

This port used to be a whaling station back in the day and there are still chains near the entry, along with whale bones left lying in the water.

The port is open for 6 months and every year over 4,000 people apply for the 4 available positions. This year 4 women are there, performing a mix of scientific, postal and public relations jobs. 

Every day they are visited by 2 cruise ships, so their only quiet times are early in the mornings and after dinner, where they sit and stamp that day’s amount of the 70,000 postcards that they receive over the course of the season. 

I only sent two. Didn’t want to overwork them. I would’ve sent one to James from Ireland, seeing as we sent each other postcards from Pyongyang, but I didn’t have his address.

This time, instead of being split into two groups, we passengers were split into three. Over the course of the morning, we’d have a landing neat gentoo penguins, a zodiac cruise around the bay for around 45 minutes, and a trip to the actual base at Port Lockroy. Which order anyone got to do all of this was completely luck of the draw.

Naturally, this worked in my favour. Again.

In the early parts of the morning, the guides were very conscious of time. I jumped on a zodiac which happened to be doing the landing on Jougla Island first. When we made our way up the dug out snow staircase, Rose grabbed me, made me sit on a barrel and she put my snowshoes on. They were hustling people along – no mucking around!

I didn’t realise it at the time, but they had to ensure that all of us had seen Port Lockroy and were all back on the ship before the next cruise arrived.

You can see in the photo how the landing teams put everything on a tarp, which is sterilised after we get back on board. They are really very worried about avian flu coming down here from the northern hemisphere. It could decimate the bird populations here.

Then we were off, trudging our way along the path laid out by the red poles the guides had planted earlier.

It was a cracking morning. The sun was so bright that I had to keep reminding myself to wear my sunglasses. I didn’t want to experience snow blindness like Baptiste did a couple of days ago.

It wasn’t a particularly long walk, just across a flat patch and then up a small hill where there were a couple of penguin colonies, along with a wonderful view of the bay. I took it slowly though, conscious that this was my last day.

The Gentoos were making the “hee-haw” sound that had already become so familiar. The air was cool and the sky was brilliantly blue. The penguins, the sound of snowshoes on snow and the murmuring of people talking were the only sounds I could hear.

I stayed up here for what seemed like ages. It was unutterably beautiful. The penguins were busily doing their own thing, with the occasional bird swooping around. 

At one point, down the hill near a penguin colony, a stupid group of Vietnamese people strayed off the path, just to get a photo opportunity holding up their flag. The guides were quickly onto it. 

“It’s not the flag I object to,” said one of the guides when I mentioned it later. “It’s the crevasses that are in the area.”

With conditions so perfect, I guess it’s hard for some people to keep in mind that we’re not in a tame place. But seriously, if you want to come to one of the most untouched and isolated places on Earth, do your research! Stepping into a crevasse could kill you.

After a while, I snowshoed my way back down the hill and got into a zodiac. Turned out, this one was on a cruise. Our last one…

We were lucky enough to see two seals out sunning themselves. Zoom in on the second photo – the seal’s on the rocks.

I was sitting in the front of the zodiac again, and I was so glad the sea was calm. I could have my iPhone out all the time without being concerned about waves splashing.

We passed by colonies of Antarctic/Blue-Eyed Shags building their nests from seaweed. Every year they come back to the same place and build on top of the nest they had before. Right in the middle, you can see one nest getting precariously tall.

None of us wanted the cruise to end. We went further afar, looking at the amazingly sculpted icebergs and gazing at the glaciers spilling into the bay.

Eventually the call came for our group to go to the steps carved into the snow to reach the base at Port Lockroy.

I didn’t know it then, but this was to be extra special, especially for all of us who were on the last zodiacs to arrive.

Port Lockroy is home to thriving colonies of Gentoo penguins, who make robust use of the buildings on the base. This means that when the people who live on the base each October arrive, the penguins are already well established. 

They live under the old post office, all around the storage shed and there’s even a colony that has parked itself directly under the flag pole.

This means that for the first time on this trip, the 5 metre rule couldn’t be adhered to. I took this video as I was queuing up to go into the post office. I couldn’t believe how close the penguins were coming to us.

When we first arrived, I was charmed to see the penguins nesting under the old building, but I was more focused on getting inside and looking around.

The museum is set up as if it was the 1950s. 

It was very utilitarian. 

There was a stamp that we could get for our passports with ‘ Port Lockroy’ on it. I’d already got the ‘Ushuaia’ and ‘Antarctica’ stamps from the tourist office in Ushuaia, which may or may not make some countries’ immigration people dislike me, so I thought I may as well get the whole set while I was at it.

I had a quick look at the museum, but it was outside where the real magic lay.

Remember how I said that the guides were really conscious of time with this landing? 

Now that we were on the last round, that urgency melted away. We were there for well over an hour and a half. 

Ninety minutes in a place where the penguins were literally all around us. What a way to finish the landings!

And, as I said, they were so close.

It was crazy. I’d be standing, looking at penguins coming back to the base along their penguin highways, when I’d hear a quiet little “shuffle, shuffle “ noise coming up behind me.

I’d turn, and there would be a penguin literally 1 foot behind me, making his way back to the bay. 

It was incredible. 

They were totally focused on building their nests, with many birds waddling along clutching a pebble with their beaks. 

They were all around us, walking, ( and tripping and falling), while we were marvelling at our incredible luck to be here at this place and time. What an absolutely precious hour and a half that was.

As the guides with the other groups dropped their zodiac groups back on the ship, they’d come across to the base.

Every time someone asked if it was time to go back to the zodiacs, they’d say, “There’s no rush…”

Liga and I looked at each other. We didn’t need to be told twice!

I took more videos here than I did on the rest of the trip combined. By now, the sound of the Gentoos was utterly familiar, as well as their waddling gait and optimism in the face of everything. 

But this was the last time I’ll be here with them. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

Just before we finally left, a bird stole an egg. I was at the wrong angle to take a shot of the actual theft, but as we were walking back to the zodiacs I snapped THIS SHOT.

The sheathbills sneak in, peck a hole in the egg and come back later to eat the insides. If you zoom in you can see the hole in the egg. It’s sad. The penguins only lay two eggs. 

But of course, the skuas and sheathbills also have families to raise. Plus the egg would taste a lot better than the sheathbills’ normal food – penguin poo.

As we were enjoying lunch that was definitely tastier than penguin poo or penguin eggs, the ship began to move out of the bay. We were on our way home. Two days at sea, crossing the Drake Passage, and then we’d be back at Ushuaia.

At the briefing that night before dinner, Pippa asked if we wanted to get the weather forecast for the Drake. Would it be a shake or a lake?

She put up a picture of the weather chart.

“Of course, seeing as it’s you guys, the weather forecast for our entire crossing is blue,” she said, and started to laugh as we all cheered. 

She pointed to the lower left-hand corner of the chart

“You can see here that there’s a purple monster blizzard heading this way, but this will affect the group that’s coming after you. Your group has been truly blessed with unprecedented good weather.”

She went on to say, “ The one landing we had where it was grey and snowing, I had a few of you asking if it was safe to go out.” She laughed. “ It was safe. That’s considered great weather for landings in Antarctica. 

“ The last group we had was a 21-day cruise including the Falkland and South Georgia Islands. The weather was so bad that they only had ONE landing for the entire trip. You guys have been incredibly lucky.”

Wow. I already knew from Morgan that the trip I was originally meant to go on last year had pretty bad weather, but this was on another plane of terrible. I sat there thanking all of the gods that my tour company picked this out of all possible weeks to go.

Ross, the guide from Cornwall, then announced the photo competition. There were 3 categories: Landscape, Wildlife and Fun.  People had a few hours to enter, then the whole ship would vote, with the 3 favourites from each category ending up in the finals to be announced on the last night of the cruise.

There was no way I was entering. I was actually pretty pleased with how well my iPhone 6 performed, but it’s no match for the latest iPhones and wildly expensive cameras and lenses that lots of people were using. I was definitely sitting this one out.

We stayed up late in the lounge, talking, reading and the card players doing their thing. SamFrank joined us as we were talking to an American guy who was in the military. He, (SamFrank), mentioned that he was a colonel in the special forces.

From memory, SamFrank is a captain, a colonel and a general in the FBI and Special Forces who is also a dance instructor, presumably in his spare time. 

The plot thickens.

Antarctica Day 9 – The Icebergs’ Graveyard and the Polar Plunge.

During lunch the ship repositioned itself in the middle of Port Charcot Bay. This area is known as the Icebergs’ Graveyard because the prevailing currents sweep the bergs here and then they can’t get out, so they slowly melt. because there are so many of them, it’s a spectacular place to go for a zodiac cruise.

We were there for 3 hours and it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye.

When we were here, I finally got to take a video of penguins swimming to show you!

Away in the distance, we saw an ice floe with a rock on it…

Best rock I’ve ever seen.

Isn’t this the most perfect Antarctic nap you could imagine?

I had to snap a shot of these mountains. Just look at how pointy they are? In Ushuaia they were like icecream scoops; here they’re like Madonna’s bra in the 90’s.

Morgan…

… and Baptiste being sun smart… the French way! (They could’ve asked me for some sunscreen.)

Then, we sped back to the ship and had 15 minutes to prepare for the Polar Plunge. The next part was written a couple of hours after I did it:

When we were talking about it beforehand, someone asked me how I was feeling about it. 

“Resigned… and angry with myself for saying I’ll be doing it, “ I said. “ I told my boys I’d do it, so now I have to… I hate my children…”

The afternoon was a sparkling one, full of sunshine and with hardly any wind. We were told that the water temperature was 2C, which was a FAR better day to do a Polar Plunge than yesterday. Thank God they cancelled it!

I’d already changed into my bathers at lunchtime, so I was all ready to go. I sat in our room watching Liga get ready, while Corinna was rapidly talking herself out of it.

Out on the zodiac, we sped towards the beach. Underneath the water, the ground was covered with rocks, so people were ungracefully lurching from side to side, trying to find a firm footing. 

A girl was thigh high, then she launched herself sideways and disappeared under the water. Not a bad idea, I thought.

The Irish guy we were friendly with went under the water, then stood up, turned around and did a couple of backstrokes. A chubby German guy picked up a little chunk of ice and threw it, while a middle aged German couple made us laugh. She went under, he didn’t, so she pushed him under.

The shore was a hive of activity. People getting undressed, people getting dressed, towels being thrown.

All too soon, it was our turn.

“Walk along the rocks, put all your belongings on the tarpaulin, not on the rocks. Once you’re ready, walk into the water here. Grab a towel on the way out.”

That tarp was a hive of activity. There were people in all stages of undress, people stripping off, people frantically drying themselves and people throwing their clothes back on. 

Liga was ready before me, so she made her way to the water while I was still struggling to get out of my boots and waterproof trousers. I saw her calmly walking into the water as I finally got rid of my clothing and stood up.

I had my iPhone in my hand. I knew that there was a staff photographer taking pictures but I really wanted a video. I know that no one would ever believe that I’d voluntarily dunk myself in freezing cold water unless they could see the actual evidence.

Once I’d handed my phone to a guide, I waded in.

Yes, the water was utterly freezing, but I was more concerned with finding my footing on the rocks. When I reached around knee height, Liga passed me on her way back in.

“Keep on going Frogdancer, you’re doing well,” she said.

A step or two further and I was at thigh height. Deep enough to dunk. 

So I did. I dropped like a stone directly into the water. 

The cold gripped me around the ribs. I stood up, gasping like a fish until I got my bearings. As I hobbled gracefully back to shore, I was elated.

I did it!

Before this trip I would never have believed I could do it.

Once back on the tarp, everyone was drying themselves and throwing on clothes at record speed. As I sat there, inching my waterproof trousers over my muck boots, I watched the next batch of Plungers moving into the water.

The main thing I was scared about the plunge was being icy cold on the zodiac on the way back to the ship and a hot shower. I should’ve remembered the advice I often give other people. 

“Don’t borrow trouble.”

I wasted so much time being scared of being cold. I didn’t feel cold at all. I felt fantastic, as if I could conquer the world. Ok, so maybe I couldn’t feel my toes, but that was a minor thing. My body and mind felt like I could do anything I set my mind to.

My Polar Plunge moment even made it to the official slideshow of the cruise. I prefer to believe that it was because I looked like a goddess rising from the sea, not because I looked like a gasping guppy.

The people who were on the first zodiac really struck it lucky. As they were on their way back to the ship, their guide spotted a pod of orcas nearby, so they went after them. They got to see them really close and got some amazing pictures. 

Meanwhile, oblivious to this, we sped back to the ship and into the showers. 

At the daily briefing, Pippa said, “The program for tomorrow is that in the morning we’ll be visiting the southernmost post office in the world, on the British base of Port Lockroy. Of course, the weather tomorrow, being you guys, will be clear and sunny. 

“Bring your postcards, already written,  to be posted. When we’re inside the museum and the gift shop we’re going to be wearing masks, as the 4 people on the base have no access to outside medical care, so we don’t want to pass any bugs onto them.

“This will be the last landing of the cruise before we turn and start to head north.”

It was odd to think that tomorrow would be the last time we’d be pulling on our muck boots and waterproofs and heading outside. 

I’m so glad I didn’t back out of doing the Polar Plunge. It would’ve been easy to, but I’m pleased that I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to weasel out. This trip has tested me in physical ways and this was a challenge both physical and mental. 

I can do more than I thought I could. That’s good to know.

Then, as if this perfect day wasn’t enough, we had a barbeque thrown for us out on deck, with mulled wine thrown in. Here’s most of our group enjoying the meal, with SamFrank turning away from the camera at the last minute. Remember how he’s a spy (or a dance instructor, who knows?) and he isn’t supposed to be in photos?

He was nice enough to take the other photos of us all, though.

Pippa, the tour leader, said, “Every other tour, we have to force the guests outside. We bribe them with the mulled wine. We’re cooking outside, all rugged up, often it’s snowing. But of course, with you guys, the weather is perfect for a barbeque.”

Liga, Corinna and Morgan.

Yep, this bitter Antarctic weather was really getting hard to take!

Antarctica Trip Day 9: Petermann Island.

Today began with real Antarctic weather. We were told to dress warmly as it was snowing. This was not good news, as the Polar Plunge could only be done today.

Ming was already dressed – because she sleeps in her polar layers. The ‘swish swish’ had by now become a familiar sound in the cabin in the night as she tossed and turned. Her group was the first group to do the landing on Petermann Island, while we were set for a good two and a half hours of zodiac cruising.

As you’ll see, Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again. Our timing was impeccable.

We were in the zodiac with a French guide, who was absolutely mad keen on krill and plankton. Imagine having an esoteric thirst for knowledge about – let’s face it – something that isn’t exactly a mainstream thing … like tiny little sea creatures, and then being able to be paid to come to the one place on Earth that has heaps of it? She’s a lucky girl.

She brought a plankton bag thing that she trailed behind the zodiac to see if she could pick up anything interesting. Unfortunately, today wasn’t a great day for plankton, but it was interesting to see how she did it.

After a little while our guide took us away from the other zodiacs and said, “I’m going to stop the motor and we’ll have a minute’s silence on the ice.”

At first this minute’s silence, which is meant to enable us to hear the sounds of the ice, was being ruined by 2 gortex-clad swishers who wouldn’t stop moving. FFS! Don’t we have enough of this with Ming? After I politely (but firmly) asked them to stop moving, we got the full effect.

Sometimes, being paid for telling teenagers off turns into a useful life skill in other situations. No one else was going to say anything…

It’s a very liquid world. We could hear the sounds of the sea, ice dripping and the far-off calls of penguins. The wind was blowing lightly, but the main thing I noticed was that the sounds of water were everywhere. We shut our eyes and really concentrated.

Once everyone was on the same page and was totally silent, it’s amazing how much we could hear from so far away. I really enjoyed this experience.

We tootled around looking for penguins, seals and whales and as we did, slowly the day brightened up. Right at the time we turned the zodiac towards the landing site, the day turned bright and sparkling again, just as it had been on our first day.

And this was an absolute gift. This was the most gloriously beautiful of all of our landings.

This video shows it best, but seriously, with the other penguin vids that are coming, watch the funny penguins once and then rewatch to look at the background. This place is hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I can’t see how anything could top it.

There are a lot of photos coming. I couldn’t NOT show you the beauty.

When we landed the sun was shining, the snow was sparkling and all was well with the world. I took a cursory look at the bay behind me, but my real impetus was to get to see the penguins. I grabbed my snowshoes, put them on and off I shuffled.

I was halfway to the first fork in the path when I decided to blow my nose. I had a tissue. It was all ok.

Until my nose started to bleed. And bleed.

This was bad. I have one tissue and we’re expected to leave nothing behind us when we leave. How can I allow myself to leave this pristine snow looking like a murder was committed? I had to move fast.

I turned and started back to the landing site, holding my tissue to my nose and pushing past people with a wild look in my eye. The doctor was there – she might have some tissues or something. I had to hurry… this tissue was heroically performing miracles but it was soon going to become sodden and useless.

When I got back, (without having left a drop of blood on the snow, I might add), the doctor made me sit on a plastic barrel and pinch the bridge of my nose for 10 minutes. She was timing me.

I sat, inwardly raging at the waste of time this was taking. This is ridiculous! If I had’ve left my nose alone I’d be at the hilltop rookery where people have seen Adelie penguins by now! Instead, I’m stuck here looking at… at … this.

And then I grew still. And I looked at the vista of the bay and the mountains laid out before me. And I couldn’t believe my luck. I had to stay here and gaze at this view of complete and utter perfection for ten whole minutes???

Best blood nose ever!

Once I was able to set off again, I was snowshoeing along like a champion. The paths the guides had set out were well away from the rookeries, but as you can see, sometimes the penguins crossed over our paths on their ways to the sea and back.

I wonder what they make of us? We must look very similar to them. We all walk in designated paths in a row, just like them.

I spent a lot of time on this landing by myself, just like this little fellow. I wanted to drink it all in and never forget it.

I was pretty happy that day.

There is nothing better than a penguin video. Look at the backdrop… it’s divine.

These were all penguin highways. Our guides would kill us if we left this many pathways behind us!

How am I lucky enough to get to see this in person?

Petermann Island was, for me, a truly epic moment. Antarctica is a spellbindingly beautiful place, but my time simply gazing out over the bay is something that will stay for me forever.

I hope that these photos from my little iPhone have given you an idea of just how special this place is.

As we were torn away from the landing and were on our way back to the ship, a new topic of conversation arose. Seems like the weather has taken a turn for the better. Looks like it might be a great day for a Polar Plunge…

Decisions will have to be made.

Morgan took this shot of Baptiste and ‘improved’ it. I’d definitely go to see this movie!

Antarctica Trip Day 5- The Drake Passage.

The next morning at 7:45 we were woken by a cheery announcement.

“Goood morning everyone! We’re currently making our way along the Drake Passage. The waves are slight, only about 3m or so. Weather is fine and breakfast will be served in 15 minutes. We have a series of lectures for you in the lounge throughout the day, which are all on your daily log. The lectures on bio-security in Antarctica are mandatory and you will not be allowed on the ice unless you have attended. In the afternoon we’ll issue your Muck Boots and you’ll be called up deck by deck.”

I felt fine. No seasickness at all! Apparently, we went through rough seas during the night, but by morning the seas were just rolling gently. You couldn’t get much closer to a Drake Lake! We all crossed our fingers that this would continue, except for Liga. Although during the previous day she was terrified of being sick, now all of a sudden she was saying, “I want a storm. I think that if we come here we should expect to see bad weather.”

I know; crazy, right?

Some of the lectures were as you might expect: about snow and birds and seals. But others were a little more unexpected, as you can see.

Morgan and Baptiste are clearly riveted by a lecture, while some random guy over Morgan’s shoulder is deeply suspicious as to why I’m taking the photo.

The mandatory lectures about biosecurity were really interesting. I had no idea as to the lengths the company (Oceanwide) goes to, to ensure that Antarctica stays as uncontaminated by invasive species as possible.

In one of the lectures and briefings we had today, we were told that before we’re allowed on the ice, everything we intend to wear will be cleaned to within an inch of their lives. We have to sign a declaration saying that we’ll do everything in our power to keep Antarctica pristine.

We were told that we were not allowed to lie down, kneel or sit on the ice. We must remain standing at all times. Even our backpacks are not allowed to touch the snow. The crew brings a large tarp to each landing that they lay out and this is where people can put their bags, overcoats etc. Each time the tarp is brought back to the ship it’s sanitised.

The clothes that we were planning to wear when ashore were also carefully inspected, with pockets being vacuumed out and anything velcro had a person brandishing tweezers lifting anything caught in it.

We were also taught how to put on our life jackets. These were long red tubes that had gas bottles in them that are designed to inflate if you hit the water, so it was important to make sure that each jacket we wore was fitted tightly enough. We were warned that they could kill you if they were too loose. We kept swapping life jackets every time we left the ship, so they had to be adjusted each time.

This day was a funny one. Going through the Drakes Passage takes 2 days if the weather’s good. So today was spent looking out on endless seas. It’s astonishing how many birds are out here, 500 miles from any land. They follow the ship, so there are always photographers out on deck trying to get the perfect shot.

This photo is typical of my attempts to capture the birds. I’m thinking that I’ll use my photos today, then show you proper photos of the seabirds from people who actually know what they’re doing on tomorrow’s post.

Best of both worlds!

Nearly got it!

We were issued with our Muck Boots after lunch. These are the most comfortable Wellington/gum boots ever. They’re hard to get on but will definitely protect our feet from getting wet. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a pair after I get home. They’re so warm and comfy.

I don’t know if it was the patch, the antihistamines that Blogless Sandy recommended to combat seasickness or the relaxation of tension after I realised that I haven’t missed the boat, but I spent most of the day taking naps. The ship has a definite roll, which is noticeable enough to be very soothing when you want to sleep. 

Liga, Corinna and I discovered that the couches on deck 5 were extremely comfortable for napping. We may or may not have nodded off during a couple of the lectures. The ship’s movement was just soooo seductive.

Over dinner, Liga was saying how she has to eat meat every day or she’s just not happy. She made me laugh when she gestured to her plate, which admittedly had a fair bit of pork on it, and declared in her rolling accent, “Look at me. I’m eating meat like domestic animal!”

We’re certainly not going to starve here. It seems like every time we turn around, we’re being fed.

We went out on deck after dinner to see if we could snap some shots of birds. It only took a few minutes before my hands got so cold that I had to go inside. Those icebergs are definitely getting closer…

I spent some time talking with an American couple and their adult son. It soon became obvious that Mum wasn’t all there. She has early-onset dementia and her husband is her caregiver. They are at the stage of balancing between living their lives as they want and keeping her safe. Their son said to me that they probably have 2 years more travel to go before they have to stay close to home.

It was lovely to see the care they were taking of her and how cherished she was, but it really brought home to me how important it is to get out there and see and do things as soon as you can. We don’t know what lies in store.

Corinna, Liga, Morgan, Baptiste and I spent most of the day hanging around together. At this moment as I’m typing this on my iPad after dinner, the girls are at a table playing a card game while the boys and I are on some couches, reading. (I’m onto my 5th book…)

Corinna’s here in the photo looking pretty confident in the hand of cards she has, while Liga is beside her, mulling over her choices. Corinna was very intent on finding a pack of cards to buy when we were having lunch in Ushuaia, so I’m glad she was able to make use of them.

Unfortunately for her, the boys and I are allergic to card games, but she’s already finding the cards very useful to make friends with other people on the ship.

Later, it was past midnight and the shy was growing dark. A few of us were sitting around on the couches in the lounge, idly chatting, when Liga suddenly sat upright and pointed.

“Look! There are lights ahead!”

It was another ship.

Corinna said, “We are not alone…”

Wednesday W’s #14.

Little white dog disappearing into a fluffy rug.
He looks miserable.

What’s top of my mind: The death of my fridge.

On Sunday night, as I pulled out some chicken schnitzels from the freezer for a quick fakeaway dinner, they felt a little soft.

“Has someone opened the freezer?” I asked. Both boys shook their heads, so I thought that maybe I was the doofus who’d left the door ajar. In the middle of the night I woke with the question, “What if the fridge has died?” running through my head. Sure enough, the next morning brought a silent fridge and soggy packages in the freezer.

It’s never a convenient moment to lose your fridge.

Where I’ve been: scurrying from the kitchen to the laundry.

Fortunately I have the full-sized freezer from the old house in the laundry. It’s pretty full, but there were enough nooks and crannies left to be able to fill them with lots of things from the kitchen freezer.

Anything else, I put in an esky or in the freezer drawers with a bag of ice.

Where I’m going: to Evan25’s show at the Comedy Festival.

Yay! The boys are doing ‘Chumsville’ gain, so on Saturday night I’m bringing a couple of friends to see them do what they do best. Make people laugh, that is. 🙂

What I’m watching: The front window.

The new fridge is due to arrive in 20 minutes!!!!

What I’ve been reading: Inside the Bitcoin bust that took down the Web’s biggest child abuse site.

“They thought their payments were untraceable. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The untold story of the case that shredded the myth of Bitcoin’s anonymity.”

This is a long article but it’s well worth the read. I really enjoyed it.

What I’m listening to: Dan Snow’s History Hit.

This is a new-to-me podcast, where each episode is a look at an interesting thing that has happened in the past. They’re not tied to any particular portion of history, so the episodes leap around time all over the place. The episodes are also in 30 minute (or so) lengths, so they’re great for a commute.

What I’m eating: Things that we salvaged from the fridge and freezer.

Last night’s dinner was mushroom risotto. Instead of parmesan, I used a piece of tasty cheese. I kept the parmesan cheese in the esky in the ice. There was a punnet of mushrooms that wouldn’t be great after another night without cooling, so I was pleased to use them up.

I was also glad I used up the tasty cheese, but going forward? Parmesan is definitely better.

Ryan27 cooked up a heap of dim sims for lunch. They were basically still frozen when I transferred them to the back freezer, but to be on the safe side, I told him that they needed using up. He was happy to oblige. I had the last frozen pie.

Who needs a good slap: The fridge repair company.

I can’t prove that they were planning to rip me off, but their quote certainly seemed suss. It turned out to be more viable to just get a new fridge.

What I’m planning: to make bagels.

Tom30 loves bagels. I’ve only ever made them once, YEARS ago. I used a thermomix recipe and they were delicious. I might give them another go. He’ll be delighted.

What has made me smile: Having my untrammelled days back.

Even though I’m enjoying the challenge of paying for David28’s wedding – and now the new fridge, I guess – by working, there’s a special beauty in the days where no one dictates how I spend my time but I.

I’m enjoying these school holidays.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Frugality is a lens through which to view your choices.

Frugal. Such a funny word. It seems to have a slightly different connotation to everyone. To me, it’s primarily a disinclination to waste things that I’ve put my hard-earned time, energy and money into. Frugality, to me, isn’t just a money thing. It’s also a refusal to squander my time and focus on things that won’t bring me pleasure and satisfaction.

As I was taking this shot, it occurred to me that this photo is full of frugal elements.

First off: look at those plump Bellotti beans! Whoever grew and harvested them certainly knew what she was doing! But why grow them at all? I’ll go into that in a minute.

Then there’s the red bowl. I bought around six of them when the boys were small, from Ikea. I’ve lost a couple of them along the way, but the rest of them are still going strong. They’d be well over 20 years old by now. There are plenty of shiny new bowls in the world, both in Ikea and elsewhere, but why ditch them when they still do the job? Plus they’re a small part of the history of our family.

The library book. Yes, I’m still reading this novel, though I’ll finish it by the end of the day. When I heard that it was being released I was so excited and I could’ve easily just bought a copy and downloaded it to my iPad via the (free) Kindle app, but instead I waited in line for it from the library. Delayed gratification makes you stronger.

The table with the Queen Anne legs in the background used to belong to my dear friend Scott. When he and his partner moved to England over a decade ago, we took a few things off their hands for a bargain-basement price. (Thanks Scott and Mark!) I have absolutely no plans to upgrade – I love that table and so why would I get rid of it?

But getting back to the question of why I’d choose to devote time, energy and space in the garden to grow a few handfuls of dried beans…

See this garden? It has 5 wicking beds in it, metres upon metres of brick paving and a massive verandah roof on the lower half. If I grew veggies covering every square inch of this space from now until I was 87, I wouldn’t make back the money I’ve spent on this space.

Now this wasn’t a surprise. I knew that this would be the case going in. So why did I – the woman called a tightarse by her co-workers (and, to be fair, herself) – choose to do this?

Because to me, frugality isn’t simply being cheap and niggardly with money.

Frugality to me is a choice to recognise the fact that money is a finite resource; so it’s smart for us to utilise that resource in the most effective ways we can to enhance our lives.

With regard to the garden, this meant that I front-loaded the expenses so that for the next 30 years I can reap enjoyment and fulfilment from it. To my mind, that’s a helluva deal.

Because yes – I LOVE getting something for nothing. Those beans? They’re harvested from beans that I grew last year. Free food – my favourite flavour. I get a kick out of growing things from seed, then saving seeds or cuttings from next year’s crops. There’s a sense of continuity that I really enjoy.

Am I saving money by doing this? The short answer is yes, of course. But not very much. The next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at what a pack of dried beans cost. Less than a dollar.

But there’s something so darned satisfying when you have a bowlful of beans that you’ve sowed, watered, let dry and then harvested. The sound they make as they fall back into the bowl and the feel of them as they run through your fingers. I have more of them still growing, but once they’re all dried I’ll probably cook them up in the slow cooker and freeze them into 250g lots. That’s how many cooked beans are actually in a 400g tin.

Every time I reach into the freezer to grab a bag of these babies, I’ll be smiling. It makes me happy to grow some of our food. It makes me happy not to have to race off to the supermarket if I need a tin of beans. It also makes me happy to utilise some of the land on my block for growing food.

Frugality is gaining joy from the tiniest things in life, such as a handful of beans. Or a pile of spuds.

This sinkful of spuds came from potatoes I planted over 3 or 4 years ago. Every year they keep producing food for us. I didn’t intend for this to happen – I just happened to be in Aldi, saw some seed potatoes and threw them at the bottom of one of the new wicking beds.

Yet here they are – the gift that keeps on giving. In the beginning, I visualised that we’d get a few meals’ worth of spuds from those seed potatoes, but there have been many more than that. Free food. Bargain. I can put the money that I would’ve used to buy a bag of potatoes towards something else.

Like Antarctica. Fingers crossed, I’ll be going in December. Definitely not a frugal destination… but wow. Icebergs. Penguins. That’s definitely adding value to my life!

Frugality is also probably why I like quilting.

Quilting can be a frugal(ish) way to pass the time, or it can be hellishly expensive. When you shop for fabric at a ‘proper’ quilting shop, the prices START at $20+ a metre for cotton. Batting (the warm stuff in the middle) isn’t exactly cheap either. If a quilter chooses to buy new fabric for every quilt they make, the costs mount up considerably.

I know – one of the last quilts I finished was made from designer fabrics. It was queen-sized and it was just a tad exxy. But aside from the fact that my son Ryan27 designed it and then I made it – HUGE satisfaction, creativity and engagement right there! – I have lots of green, yellow and mustard scraps that I’ll be using in quilts for years to come.

How do I know this? Because at heart, I’m a scrap quilter. No hardly any scrap is too small for me to throw away.

I’m currently working on a quilt for a friend of mine who recently lost her Mum. Now, this quilt is the ultimate in frugality! It’s a ‘quilt as you go’, which means that instead of using a huge piece of batting, I’m using remnants left over from previous quilts. You sew directly onto the remnants, then join them all together to make the quilt. Zero waste. This makes me happy. Some of the batting I’m using is from quilts I made over a decade ago.

The money that Past Frogdancer spent is not being wasted. That’s important to me. For many years, Past Frogdancer had very little money to throw around. To be able to respect that and to use what she bought is pleasing to me.

And look at the fabric that will be in the centre of each square. It’s golfball fabric that I bought nearly 15 years ago to make Tom30’s first quilt. I also included it in the quilt I made for Mum and Dad this year – another scrappy quilt. Fabric doesn’t go off if it sits there for a while. The trick is to remember to keep using the material I’ve got, instead of buying All The Colours whenever I go shopping.

It’s funny, but when I’ve been using fabric for a long time, I get a kick out of using it again. I remember the quilt/s I’ve used it in before and it’s like seeing an old friend. It takes many, many hours to make a quilt. When I make a quilt from scraps, I’m getting extremely low-cost entertainment, while extending my creativity and productivity as well. This makes the frugal part of my brain almost purr with satisfaction.

With quilting, like the back garden, I front-loaded the costs and now, at my leisure, I can kick back and savour the things I’ve put in place.

Sounds a bit like someone working towards FI/RE, doesn’t it? Frugality and FI/RE have a lot in common, which is why so many naturally frugal people seem to quickly see the possibilities of the FI/RE concept. 

Working steadily with an over-arching goal in mind, such as the goal of financial freedom, requires frugality with both money and focus, as well as a big dollop of delayed gratification.

Frugality is a keen weapon when used intelligently. When we bring it together with other tactics such as harnessing the power of compounding; making the most from our jobs; maybe working a part-time job on the side; educating ourselves about finances and things like geoarbitrage… then we are unstoppable.

Use frugality as a lens through which to view your choices. Pour yourself into the things that will propel you further and add value and joy to your life. After all, we only have so much time, energy and money to give.

Save the bulk of your resources for the good stuff!

Dad joke of the day:

1S2A3F4E5T6Y7

Safety in numbers.  

Frugal Friday: a stitch in time.

Last year I asked the boys to buy me socks for my birthday. I prefer to get gifts that I’ll use – not knick-knacks that just clutter the place up – so this was a way for them to get me something I really needed, as well as them being able to get out of the whole exercise pretty cheaply.

My youngest, Evan24, really came to the party with not one pair, but 10! At that stage he was still a student, we were in lockdown so he was pretty broke, so when I saw a hole appear in the toe of the rubber duckies pair, I decided that I wasn’t going to waste his money.

If I could, I was going to stretch the life out of these socks.

Ok, I’ve heard of darning socks, but seriously. Who on earth is going to take the time to do that? (Except if they were hand-knitted woollen socks which are precious… and that was all there was in the era when darning socks was a thing.) I decided to try something much faster and easier. I’m a very busy and important person, after all.

So I just used the sewing machine to sew a little slopey “U” shape around the hole. I popped them on and wore them.

Success! Obviously, if they were uncomfortable you’d throw them out. Life’s too short to have uncomfy feet. But so far, once my shoes are on I can’t even tell which sock has the nifty sewing on it.

This morning I took the rubber duckie socks out and yikes! The other sock had a hole in it.

Two minutes later, all fixed!

Since trying this with the first sock, I’ve done this with a few other socks and it’s worked a treat. Now, the only thing that’ll stop these bad boys from being worn forever is when they get a hole in the heel.

Such a quick and easy fix – unless you visit someone who doesn’t wear shoes in the house!

Dad Jokes of the Day:

What do you call a fake noodle? An Impasta. 

I just watched a program about beavers. It was the best dam program I’ve ever seen

“So are you working?”

In between lockdowns is a fantastic time to catch up with old friends.

Recently, I’ve had 3 separate high school reunions with women I haven’t seen for 40 years or so. Each reunion has been so much fun – it’s odd how our lives have been so different in the little details, but have still been the same(ish) in terms of the broad-brush-stroke events.

But something I found myself pondering after the first couple of meetings – how do you ask what people are doing without assuming that they have a job? Many people have their self-image tied in up what they do for a living, but what if, like me, they’ve retired?

In my age group it’s not terribly uncommon for women to have dropped back to part-time work or full retirement, especially if they’ve stayed married. Decades of those two wages makes a difference after a while!

We all know that the usual question when meeting anyone, either for the first time or after a large gap, is to ask, “So what do you do?” This implies that they have a job/career. Is there a different way to ask how they’re spending their days?

I decided to test-drive the question, “So, are you working?” Said with a smile… tone of voice is really important, of course. It seems a more neutral way of asking how they spend their time without the expectation of getting a job title in return.

If they’re working, you’ll get a “Yes, I’m a ………………” or something like,”Yes, I’m working 4 days a week as a …………….”

If they’re not, you’ll get a, “No, I’m retired… never worked… ” Whatever. The only risk I can see is that the person bursts into tears and says they just got laid off. That’d be awkward, but you run that risk anyway with the more usual question.

(Of course, it wouldn’t be so neutral if you added one word – imagine asking “So, are you STILL working?” OMG… can you imagine the expression on the other person’s face? )

So on my third reunion, I asked the question. I already knew what Robyn did for a living – we’d reconnected on BookFace and had had a long chat on Messenger – but I had no idea what Lisa was up to these days.

It worked really well. She smiled and told us that she worked 3 days a week as a district nurse, visiting Mums and young babies in high risk families. There were no weird looks and her reply led into a really interesting discussion about what she does in those three days, as well as how she spends the other 4 days a week.

We had a great talk. Robyn works fulltime as a teacher, Lisa part time and I’m retired, so we were spread along the whole line of possibilities. It was fun to compare the different lifestyles. We all chose the more traditional “caring” careers. Not sure if that’s a product of leaving school in the 1980’s as young, middle-class women or whether we’re just fantastically humanitarian people. We all enjoy/ed our careers though, regardless of the reasons why we entered them.

I know this isn’t a huge thing in the big scheme of life, but I found it an interesting thing to play with.

Has anyone else experimented with how to ask The Question?

My retirement speech? So how did it go?

The card the English faculty gave me. 🙂

Yesterday, the day of the Christmas function when all the people leaving the school give their speeches, was almost the perfect day. Today, for some unknown reason dictated to us by the state government, our employer, we have to go into work until midday. So as of midday today, Frogdancer Jones will be free to spend each day as she chooses. Wow.

But let me back-track a bit.

Wednesday was another day of meetings. The first 2 periods of the day were free, so I took the time to clear out the last of the things on my desk, including the desk drawer that I haven’t emptied since I moved onto this desk 17 years ago.

I felt like an archaeologist, working through the layers of artefacts at a burial site. I had 4 pairs of scissors in there. I don’t know why. 20c in a little paper bag, which was some long-ago change from a purchase at the canteen. Paper clips too numerous to count, lots of rubber bands which I took home with me, except for one very limp and exhausted looking one. I showed it to Adrian, saying, “I wonder how old this one is? It’s probably been here for the full 17 years!”

The best find was my ID cards. It wasn’t the complete set, but it showed me with long hair, short hair, fluorescently-dyed hair and they years when I shaved my head bald. (I did that in front of the whole school to help raise money for The World’s Greatest shave back in 2007. I loved the look so kept it going for well over a year.)

Then it was time for the Art meeting, which was really a lunch. Helen, who as well as being the head of department was also the woman who travelled with me to North Korea in 2018, ordered the most scrumptious lunch from a Thai restaurant. Every single dish was delicious.

Speaking of dishes, as a parting gift the Art dept/Helen gave me this beautiful serving dish. As I always say, if you want a great farewell gift that’s aesthetically pleasing, get a job in the Art department!

After lunch, washed down with a couple of glasses of bubbly, it was time for the English meeting. I didn’t bother taking my computer – I took Jenna’s quilt, a needle, thread and scissors and sat down to continue hand-sewing the binding. Persephone sat down next to me to have a quick chat, which was great because I was able to thank her for taking that long holiday 17 years ago, which is how I landed the initial contract to work at the school.

When she left, I took my quilt and a bowl of snakes – I love the green ones especially – over to the year 9 meeting and asked if I could sit with them. They had their computers open and were working on the first task for next year. Persuasive speeches. I sat doen, settled myself with my stitchery and asked Cath if I could do anything to help.

“No Frogdancer, that’s alright. You do you!”

I gave some suggestions and opinions a couple of times as I listened to them, but mostly I kept inching my way slowly around the perimeter of the quilt, feeling interested in the talk that was going on but feeling thankful all the same that this part of my life was coming to an end.

At 3 o’clock Sam came out of the room where the year 12 team had been meeting and came over to see what the year 9 team was doing.

“Don’t worry Sam,” I said, waving the needle merrily at him. “I’ve been here supervising for you, making sure they were working hard!”

The next day was Thursday. The day I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started work at the school. The staff Christmas function, where the speeches are made.

I LOVE public speaking. Just love it. Give me something to talk about and a spotlight to stand in and I’m a happy woman. Over the years I’ve seen many farewell speeches. Most fade into the mist of time, but some live on in the years afterwards, for both good and bad reasons.

I was determined that my speech would be good. I have my pride, after all.

The trouble is, I’m a bleeding-edge sort of teacher. I don’t meticulously plan out my speeches, just like I don’t meticulously plan out my lessons. My gift is spontaneity. And the gods of spontaneity never let me down.

Still, I started to give this speech a little bit of thought, especially after one of my English faculty colleagues tried to psych me out. After my speech on Monday, he said to me in front of a few others who I respect from the English department, “You know Frogdancer, your speech on Thursday could go one of two ways. You’ll either hit it out of the park or it’ll fall flat as a tack.”

Although inside I was thinking, “WTF?!? Why would you fucking say this to someone giving a speech you dic****d?”, while outside I was as cool as a cucumber, saying, “Yes, I agree with you. It’ll be interesting to see which one it is.”

I’m not the brightest person. I had no idea that it was a warning shot across the bow.

Two days later, on Wednesday night, as soon as I got home from work I started planning my speech. When I do this, I don’t write things down. Instead, I walk around and around, muttering to myself as I try out different stories and scenarios. As they become clear I slot each anecdote, joke and message into a clear, coherent pathway. Then I make dot points. It takes time, but as I mutter and pace, it all starts to emerge as a coherent whole.

Ryan25 heard me and came into the room, asking who I was talking to.

“The whole staff,” I said. “I’m writing my speech.”

“Oh”, he said. “Thought so. Have fun!” and he left me to it. He also cooked dinner so I’d be free to keep working on it. He’s a good lad.

As I walked and muttered, a gradual pattern emerged. I knew going in that I wanted to be funny, but also to have a middle section where I got serious. Then I’d end with a funny section, a bit like most of my lessons. Reel ’em in with humour, get your point across and then leave ’em laughing.

Gradually, a few ‘must haves’ emerged, so I grabbed some paper and jotted down dot points. Nothing more than that. I wanted to speak directly to my audience, not read to them. At around 9, the perfect ending to my speech came tumbling from my mouth.

“YES!” I cried. “I’m a genius!” The last dot point was made. I ran through it, muttering but standing still now because I knew that tomorrow I’d be standing behind a podium with microphones. It was all good. I knew that basic pattern of what I was going to say, I knew the stories I wanted to tell and the running jokes that went with them and I had a kick-arse ending.

The speeches I give have rhythm and pace. This one had running jokes weaving through and a clear thread. I expected a clear space to deliver it, like every other person in the 17 years of speeches I’d enjoyed.

I was ready.

But yeah. It’s late on Friday and to be quite honest… I’m a bit pissed. (In the Aussie meaning of inebriated: not the other meaning of being angry.)

Lets pick up this convo tomorrow. Lots to tell.

But this meme will give you an indication –

Someone tried to scuttle the speech. Not in a major way, but enough to try and derail my focus and make my speech fail. Seriously? Are we in grade 3???

Anyway, I’m tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. I’ll keep telling what happened on Thursday, but real terms – it’s Friday evening. I’m free!! I’m retired! But I still need to fill you in on the almost perfect day Thursday was – my send off from teaching.

I’ll pick this up tomorrow. It’s a good story so stick with me. 🙂

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