Tag Archives: Friendship

Damn You, Kazza!

Wineglass Bay is considered to be the most beautiful bay  / beach in the world so visiting it during our stay in Tasmania was an absolute must.

IMG_4645 My first blog post from Australia was entitled: Not a Kazza in Sight! That turned out to not exactly be true. Kazza definitely came along for the ride. We managed to keep her in abeyance a lot of the time but we couldn’t help her coming to the fore from time to time.


You see climbing up a mountain(ish) pass (to Wineglass Bay Lookout) and down the other side (to the beach itself) is hard work for a girl with a breathing problem but even worse for a girl with a competition problem. I constantly compete with myself (and some would say others too) and consequently get quite frankly pissed off with myself if I can’t do things. Which we all know is of course ridiculous!

IMG_4674So getting upset that I struggled to walk up a steep hill when I could barely walk to the end of the road this time last year is crazy. Getting upset because I was exhausted at the end of an 11km walk is also ridiculous but I just can’t stand to fail. I can’t stand to admit that I am not invincible which of course is how we got into this stupid mess, September 2013!

Australia was spectacular and was without doubt a holiday of a lifetime – I will always remember pretty much everything we did over those three incredible weeks. Every day brought a new adventure and a new sight that was unforgettable.

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The consequence of this incredible holiday from a health perspective however is that I returned exhausted. My week off to recover afterwards barely touch the sides of my exhaustion (largely because I filled it with activity everyday!). My week off rather than constituting doing nothing, constituted doing lots just not running! That, I convinced myself was a week off.

I had begun to recover and had even done a successful yoga class when our shipment arrived. This involved two solid days of hard work lifting and carrying and packing of boxes. Without leaving my house, I managed to accrue the guts of 20,000 steps a day and burned about 4000 calories! This was not what my body needed. We won’t even get into the psychological impact of lots of wedding presents getting smashed!

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Of course mixed into all of this was more issues with our washing machine which I of course had to deal with while still trying to direct hundreds of boxes to vaguely correct rooms around the house! Exhausting both physically and mentally.

Note water gushing over the top!

Of course that washing machine repair failed (shock horror) and so it required, a few days later, another fight with a plumber over the course of three hours that water shouldn’t be dripping out of the hose pipe that, unlike what he claimed,- this was not ‘normal’. Every failed attempt to get me to agree that the leaking hose was fixed led to a phone call to his boss and every conversation started with him in Marathi / Hindi explaining that, ‘mam says there is a leak but there is no leak’ quickly followed by my saying (in English), ‘don’t say there is no leak when there is a leak!’ His boss seemed to inform him each time to fix it again! We got there in the end but it did take three hours! Once again, mentally exhausting.

Now that little adventure was followed by my deciding I would get a guy in to clean my windows inside and out. They were beyond filthy – still covered in the construction dust from when they were built a year ago. In places, it was difficult to even see out the window! I agreed to a price and when he would come. I didn’t on the other hand grasp the fact that it would take about 6 guys and about 9 hours of work (over two days) inside in the house and another 2 days to clean the outside of the apartment (on ropes from the roof!). Why would I ever have considered that it would take this long?! Sure our apartment is big but good lord it’s not that big!

While the guys are here, you have to hang around – I can’t exactly leave them unsupervised but it means you can’t really rest. I feel too uncomfortable with having people in to do such jobs to lie on the sofa and watch TV or with them moving around the whole time – go to bed for a few hours. So I continue to potter about, convincing myself that unpacking those boxes or carrying that heavy load is ok when really I am doing exactly the thing I shouldn’t be doing!

These adventures of course are unusual. They are in addition to the everyday challenges that you are faced with here. Where can I buy fruit? Where can I buy vegetables? Where can I buy meat? When will these places be open? When will I have the car to go and get them? What price am I willing to buy the rickshaw driver who is trying to rip me off? Where can I get big black bags for the dustbin when all I can find are little ones? Where do I find cat litter that isn’t vile and disgusting because the cats are hating what I got for them!? Where? When? How?

Over the last week therefore I can categorically say I have begun to feel again the way I did 18 months ago. I am reminded again about the difference between fatigue and tiredness. I am not really tired, I am seriously fatigued. A blog, many months ago now, talked about how I had to walk the tight rope between doing too little and doing too much. Too little and I would make myself too physically unfit to deal with my illness and psychologically do damage by isolating myself from the world but equally doing too much would make me physically more ill and make it harder for me to psychologically deal with my illness (my brain gets tired just like my body does).

cropped-20140318-0801571.jpgThe tightrope is back and once again nobody has given me any safety ropes. While I feel I am in a much better position than I was back then, it does without question scare me. This feels like the worst relapse I have had since I seemed at least on the outside ‘to be better’. Just like I coped before I can cope again.

And here, far more than back in the UK, will help me recover. Here, I have lovely Maggie who comes and cleans my house. The weather is warm and that always helps. I don’t have the pressure of trying to return to work. I can cheat and buy my meat from a 5 star hotel and order my vegetables online (even if the price and quality isn’t the same as buying them elsewhere). I have a driver so I don’t have to worry about not being able to drive or getting the energy together to use public transport. There is also an incredibly supportive group of people here that will help me to look after myself (just like I had back in the UK).

So, rather than seeing my current state has something traumatic and worrying, I see it rather more as a warning, a reminder of where I have come from and where with very little trouble I can go back to if I am not careful. So I will be careful (well, I will at least try).

I didn’t write this blog to worry people but more as my way of saying – ‘Please, those who have been on Karen Duty in the past, can you return to your posts’ and ‘those who are new to Karen Duty, can you please look out for me and be bossy and tell me off for doing too much and understand if I don’t do as much as I was.’


Friendship – The Hilarity and the Tears

Sarah (on the left), Kathryn, Parin, myself and my sister, Ruth on my hen night!

16 years ago this October, I was lucky enough to meet someone who was to have a permanent positive impact on my life. 16 years ago, I met my best friend, Sarah. Fate plays a huge role in what happens in our life – we can steer ourselves in certain directions but that in no way implies that we have complete control over our lives.

For me, I was hanging out in front of a lecture room at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London so I could ‘bump’ into a guy I fancied (he had zero interest in me) while doing my Masters. That day, we met and had coffee but little did I realise it at the time but my life had changed utterly – far more than it would have if there had been a momentary fizzle of something between myself and this guy. This was far more than a momentary fizzle; this was the start of a true, deep and at times hilarity filled friendship. Sarah also walked out of the lecture room and joined us for coffee. This was our first meeting.

Some people come into your life and you know that you have found somebody who will be a good friend to you, who will support you. Generally, you feel that you play such a role in their lives too. Sarah, however, is different. Sarah, I am privileged to be allowed call a friend. She is a step above all other people I have met in my life. She is unique in a way that I could never dream to be. She cares deeply for those around her and will do anything for you – you often don’t even need to ask.

Since we met, I have lived in three different countries and she has visited me in all but one of those countries and more than once at that. The third – well that is India – her last text to me said, ‘See you at Christmas (when we go back to the UK) if not sooner.’ Sarah would never even consider not visiting or going out of her way to make sure that I was happy and comfortable – the thought quite simply wouldn’t occur to her.

Sarah, therefore, over the last 16 years has set a standard for friendship that I suspect is unattainable. She has however also made it clear to me just how important friendship is. Friendship, is not just fun and laughter over a few drinks; friendship is also darkness – it is being there (in person or virtually) when they think there is no light, it is being there to shine a torch into the darkened room of their life and show the person that there is a way out.

Wonderful Sue on her wedding day not long ago! This picture summarises our friendship perfectly!

Friendship is clearly something that is a worry when you move halfway around the world. While I have no doubts that my Sarah will always be there for me as will Kathryn, Parin, Sue etc etc but they will not be here in India. They will not be there all the time to drink with, walk with, laugh with and cry with. Consequently, Chris and I now face the challenge of finding people who singly or collectively can play all the above roles – face-to-face.

It is abundantly clear so far that every expat you meet has an instinctive desire to make you feel welcome, to help you, to support you and it would seem to drink with you! This instinct surely provides the best basis for the type of person who could one day be a friend. Certainly, I have met people in just a week that I am more than happy to spend lots more time with and who knows maybe fate has already flown my way and I have met the person or people who will become my closest friends while we are here.

Some friendships come in the ability to be really silly with each other. World Book Day and my former colleagues!

True deep friendships are like the love between a couple – yes, it can come in an instant and both sides can realise that they have met the ‘one’ they want to share their life with. I think most of the time these true, deep friendships just like romantic love, needs time and work to develop a level of permanency. So, who knows who is going to come my way over the next few weeks or years, who knows what friendships will develop.

Putting yourself out there – risking rejection is the only way to find the security of friendship. This was so clearly demonstrated by a Meetup group in Stratford upon Avon, UK that I set up. Now 330 members strong, there had to be the some in the beginning, happy to risk joining just a few people with no real plans and no real idea of where they were going. All of us, however, shared the desire not to be insular but to look to the world and see what it could offer them. We were faced with the choice between loneliness or the insecurity of a situation that could either lead to rejection or friendship. Through this Meetup group, I moved from being very isolated in Stratford to havingan active social life and a network of very good friends who I drank with, walked with, laughed with and cried with.

It is reassuring to know therefore that in the UK I have solid friendships – be those from old like Sarah, Kathryn, Parin and Sue or the newer ones met through the Meetup group. They help to give me the strength to look out to the world here in India and see that new friendships are always possible no matter what stage you are in your life. I threw myself into new / challenging / out of my comfort zone situations to meet my existing friends; I now need to throw myself into everything here too for the same reason.

So Sarah this blog post is dedicated to you and to the incredible friendship we share. This is your birthday present (for yes it is Sarah’s birthday today!).

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J rescued me from a difficult summer and took me in his RV to France – I returned happier and ready to face the world.
The greatest friendship of all – my husband! He has seen me at my best and my worst! Somehow he still loves me!


The Half-blood Prince

Last week, one of my amazing students guest blogged on this site. Her poem, about her father who she feels does not care and doesn’t want to spend time with her, got an amazing reaction. More people started following my blog in one day than have ever done; more people liked the blog than any other blog. People posted amazing comments here and on other site1_30032010-07-Julia-Bowman-siblings-at-whitman-webs where it was posted. How amazing that a 12 year old was able to sit back and realise how much people appreciated her words!

Well as promised, here is the second instalment. Also about split families but from a very different perspective. This wonderful student just quietly gets on with school and one would never know the deep thoughts that are inside – thoughts he does not often share. 

The lesson I have learnt from this two-part experiment into giving students the freedom to express whatever is in their heads – is that – perhaps I need to do it more often. Perhaps, young people need to be given the chance to just release everything that is inside in them. We have such high expectations of young people: behaviourally, academically, emotionally – perhaps giving young people the time to vent all the worries and concerns that such expectations bring is not only healthy for them but healthy for us. Giving adults the chance to recognise just how capable young people are but also just how fragile and contrastingly strong they can be. 

My Life As  A Sibling

As many people may know I have a brother and a sister but you may have never known that they were half brother and sister.

Wow I kind of feel awkward about talking about this but I feel that this is a subject I feel that I may need to express more (talk more about than keeping in my thoughts all the time.)

I feel a little lonely to know I have a half brother and sister because they have each other but I don’t really have that interaction with them since we live so far apart. Sometimes (leaves the computer to express feelings a bit) just sometimes I feel that they don’t even exist as a half or actually a brother or sister.

I can’t even believe that I’m actually expressing my real emotion towards this and that’s a lot of confusion and a little bit of frustration. The reason for this… wow I’m sorry but this is a lot for me to say because, because, because I feel like I don’t even exist to them half the time because I rarely see them (which means the life to me sometimes) I still feel that I’m the odd one out or the one that’s different to the others.

Wow I can’t believe I haven’t gone away from the computer yet but I kind of feel proud that I can say, I may not have a brother or sister but at least they are related to me (a half brother and sister). So where I get most emotional is when they come up then they go, I feel that it’s like my favourite thing or toy or person hassiblings_logo_by_rusc_14-d3c7acu drifted away from me and all I think about is that I wish they were still with me but alas that will never happen which makes me so distraught.

I hope that one day, one day that we will be reunited as a full blood family (they will be no longer half but a full brother and a full sister.) Anyway, back to what I really wanted to talk about- how it feels to be the youngest of the 3 and also how my life is an only child almost all the time. Being the youngest of 3 is quite cool but it means that I will be the last to finish school which might be good because my sister said when she finishes school she might give me her revision book which I thought was really nice of her. I’ve sometimes looked up to both my siblings to think wow this is what I’m going to be like some day and how cool it is to have such generous family.

Ok, now I think is best to talk about the real thing I wanted to clarify with everyone out there – my life would never be the same without my brother and sister, sure they aren’t around that much but they care about me and I care about them. I think that this is the thing that matters the most in our little trio. So if I never had my brother and sister to be there for me and encourage me, I don’t think that I would get anywhere and I mean anywhere in life

Please like, share and comment on this blog. Give the brave young man who wrote this the chance to also feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from lots of views, lots of likes and lots of comments. Let’s show him that he too is worthy of people’s time and attention.