A Tuscan Affair

Book excerpt: A Tuscan Affair

 

Anna froze and held her breath.

One glance at the two men Mackenzie led into her office unsettled her trademark cool composure. How many years had she fantasised that he’d walk through her door? But not after over thirty years! Her knees trembled, and then, like a deep-sea diver who’d been too long under water, she came up for air and took a deep, gasping breath.

Did he recognise her? That would not do. She ignored the flutter in her chest. This was not an occasion for fluttering. As one of Auckland’s leading lawyers, she had enough experience and self-control to deal with the appearance of a mistake from a long time ago. She schooled her face and closed the door behind them.

“Good morning. I’m Anna King. Please, take a seat.” Without a smile of recognition, she kept her voice cool and detached. Not by accident was she known as the Ice Queen, an image that took years to perfect. She motioned the two men to the group of chairs in front of a modern fireplace and picked a seat opposite them.

The older of the two said “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Francesco Falcone and this is my son, Antonio. He came all the way from Tuscany to help me with my divorce.” She could relate to the pride and joy in the father’s voice. “Your colleague Mark Peterson handles my business affairs and said you would be the best lawyer to take on my divorce.” He smiled at Anna. “Your colleague is an ardent admirer of you.”

“That’s very kind of him.” So, Antonio was his name? Call me amore mio, he’d told her thirty-four years ago. That blissful night his soft whisperings were enough for her. She didn’t have a need for a name.

It was he, wasn’t it? Could she be mistaken? She, the lawyer who never made mistakes? Although no longer the sun-tanned young man with the body of a Roman God in red swim shorts, he looked the picture of sophistication in his expensive, tailored suit. His short, black hair showed a titillating dusting of grey at his temples.

There was no doubt. Back in nineteen-eighty-two he swept into her life like a force of nature, and, like the outgoing tide, vanished from her life the following day when she boarded the train to Rome. Now he stood in her office with no signs of recognition! She couldn’t very well ask whether he remembered their night at the beach around the bonfire. It wouldn’t be professional to bring up the past. She took a deep breath and looked up from the folder in her hand, calling herself to order.

“I’m having coffee; may I offer you each a cup as well?” The situation called for a coffee, an extra strong one. She rose and walked over to her desk. Both nodded and Antonio held up two fingers.

“Two espressos, black, each two sugars. Thank you.”

She switched on the intercom and relayed the order to Mackenzie, her assistant. Then it hit her.

Lucca.

It would be a disaster if Lucca came to work this morning. She shuddered and switched on the intercom again. “Please, call my son and tell him, he doesn’t have to come into the office this morning. I’ll meet him at court.”

On the way back to her chair, she caught her image in the antique mirror next to her bookshelves. Her reflection showed no signs of the young careless girl with a backpack and sandals, who danced around bonfires with her gypsy skirt and an infectious zest for life. Though the years have been kind to her, even with the lines around the eyes and her mouth. Not bad for fifty-six. She straightened her shoulders and joined the Falcones again.

Mackenzie entered the office. Balancing three cups on a tray, she passed the coffee to them and asked, “Is that all?”

“Thanks, Mackenzie. I’ll call you if we need anything else.”

They sipped their coffee until Antonio broke the silence. “Pardon me, have we met? I have a strong sense we know each other, but I can’t…” his voice trailed off and he squinted his eyes, scrutinising her.

Acting on impulse never served her well, so she dipped her head to the right and looked at him, as if trying to find a memory to fit him in.

“Not that I recall.”

He came much too close for comfort. Their situation was not like two acquaintances enjoying a reunion after many years. It was much more complex and required a well thought through strategy. She turned to Francesco.

“Would you mind telling me about the circumstances that led to the divorce proceedings? I’ll then be able to devise a strategy for us to go forward.”

Antonio Falcone glanced at her in disbelief. She would bet a month’s salary he usually had women laying at his feet instead of being dismissed with four simple words.

His father folded his hands on the table. “Angelica is a New Zealander. She came to our vineyard as part of an organised tour and bought a few boxes of our best wine. I delivered them to her hotel and the rest is history. We were happy, you know, even though she’s thirty-five years younger than I!” His voice softened, and he swallowed, recalling better times, no doubt.

Francesco’s struggle touched her. He told the story of their marriage like a rehearsed script he had gone over many times to find where things went astray between him and his much younger wife. He fought to control his emotions when his son barged in.

“Angelica is a gold digger. There is no doubt. She told my father she wanted a divorce with no prior indication she was unhappy in their marriage.” He huffed, and his voice turned bitter. “Why would she? She’s lived the life of a princess. I want you to set an investigator onto her and do a thorough background check. I bet there is more to the story. Why file for divorce now?”

His attitude showed all the signs of someone used to command and having people at his beck and call. He’d figured it all out and expected her to jump. She suppressed the urge to grin. He’d soon find out she’s walking to her own sweet drums and nobody else’s.

“You’re welcome to hire a private investigator. Ask him to send a copy of his report to my office.” She hoped she smiled without too much of a smirk.

Francesco cleared his throat. “You’ve to excuse my son. He’s used to commandeering people and doesn’t know when to stop. What he meant to say is, we would love if you would contract one of your trusted investigators to look into Angelica’s circumstances. Her request for a divorce came out of the blue. Nobody can make sense of it.”

“I’d be happy to do that for you. Please forward any correspondence you had so far with your wife or her lawyer regarding the divorce.” She then finished her coffee and collected the notes she made. “This is an excellent beginning and gives me lines of inquiry to pursue. Can you think of anything else we need to discuss?” She checked her calendar. “If not we can meet again Friday this week, at the same time. By then I’ll have a strategy ready for you.”

Anna closed the door behind the men and sank into her chair. Tears welled up. She wrapped her arms around herself. Thirty-four years. Fate had a cruel way of interfering with her life and reminding her of times she’d rather kept buried.

When the first tears pearled down her face, accompanied by little sobs, she bit her fist to stop the scream building inside her.

Mackenzie entered Anna’s office. “Lucca asked me to tell you…Anna! Oh dear!” She stood next to Anna’s chair and put her hand on Anna’s back. With a soft voice, Mackenzie said, “That…was the twin’s father, wasn’t it? They look so much like him.”

Anna pulled herself up, took a deep breath and gazed at her assistant. “Yes, but you can’t breathe a single word about it to anyone.”

A Case of Love

Excerpt of Golden Girls Series Book # 2

Chapter One

Twelve years ago today, Thea Cameron opened her café, Cinnamon. August 20 of 2004 marked the day when she stopped hoping to salvage her marriage. It became her Independence Day. No more hoping and no longer waiting for her husband’s approval! I don’t care anymore she told her friends then. And she didn’t—most of the time.

From then on Cinnamon became Thea’s symbol of liberation from her philandering husband. Nobody believed she would succeed. But she did. From the opening onwards the popularity of the café—and of her cooking—rose, and her confidence grew. The sign hanging on the baker’s bike outside read Cinnamon is twelve years old today! Celebrate with us, splurge out to prices of 2004, and have a dessert on the house.

Saturday morning crowds filled the cafés along Auckland’s Ponsonby Road. The Cinnamon was no exception. A row of tables on the pavement framed by a set of windows and an old-fashioned baker’s bike leaned against the wall with an enormous bunch of flowers peeking out of the basket. The first morning rush was over, but the Cinnamon still brimmed with clients coaxed out of their homes by golden sunbeams promising a splendid winter day.

It’s your delicious, homemade food and your passion for cooking, her friend Claudia used to say. Maybe. She was realistic. More likely it had to do with the atmosphere of serenity and peace she created when she turned the rundown, unpleasant New Zealand pub into a French Country style café, spreading abundant old-world charm with white lace curtains and tablecloths, antique crockery, and pink and red posies on each of the rustic tables. To celebrate her Independence Day today she decked out the whole place in pink and red.

She went inside and smiled. Aromatic whiffs of scrumptious bold coffee danced from the machine behind the counter and floated through the air. It was hard to miss the festive mood spread throughout the café.

“How may I help you, sir?” Thea stood in front of the glass cabinet. Shelves with delicious sandwiches and little cakes greeted customers. She looked up and straight into a black eye patch.

Pirates!

Everything she ever heard about pirates flashed through her mind. His dark brown hair showed generous grey streaks and framed a square face that was dominated by a nose broken at least once, going by the slight bend. A blue eye squinted under a bushy eyebrow.

She never saw a picture of a pirate with dimples, though, and he lacked the obligatory parrot and golden earring, too. In fact, nothing fitted the classic cliché. Not the tight-fitting jeans and the white t-shirt moulded to a muscular chest. Neither did the leather bomber jacket.

Should she tell him that his outfit is all wrong? She struggled not to smile at her mental image. He must have noticed her stare because he straightened to his full six foot something inches, tipped his head, lifted his eyebrows, and seemed to search for words.

“Please, take all the time you need to make your choice while I serve the other customers,” she said hoping he’d step aside.

“Thank you. I need to speak with the owner, Mrs Cameron.” His voice, deep, resonant, and commanding, fitted her first impression of him. A faint shiver ran down her spine. He might even have a Brig anchoring in the Harbour and sneak away with his booty under the veil of the night.

She smiled and smoothed her white apron. Her short, blond hair hugged her heart-shaped face dominated by a small button nose. Today, in their Independence Day outfit, she and her staff looked like cupcakes come to life with their red pencil skirts and pink blouses. She straightened her shoulders.

“I am Thea Cameron. Please, return around three o’clock when the rush is over. Monday morning after ten would suit, too. We are busy as you can see.” She kept her expression neutral and gestured at the twenty occupied tables and the long line of customers waiting for service. A waitress and a waiter rushed back and forth between tables, carrying trays stacked with breakfast dishes.

“You couldn’t have chosen a worse time.” She pointed at the long line of customers waiting behind him.

“My name is Mark Cheltham. I am a private investigator.” He handed her his business card and said with a friendly but determined voice, “I would like to speak with you about your husband.”

The unpleasant taste of bile rose in her throat. A PI? What had he to do with Graham? She sent him a quick once-over hoping for a clue, but his face gave nothing away. Typical pirate!

“Please, take a seat,” she pointed to a table marked reserved in the back of the café, next to her office desk. “I’ll be with you as soon as I can manage.”

She worked until no more customers waited in line and called into the kitchen “Barbara, could you take over the counter for a while?”

“Give me a sec to finish decorating this batch of cupcakes, Mum.”

Minutes later her daughter joined her. She took after her father. Where Thea was slim, petite, and blond, she had chestnut brown, long hair and a solid figure matching her five foot eight inches height. She smiled at her mother with sparkling green eyes.

“What’s the emergency?” She added a tray of pink cupcakes topped with a red and white hearts made of frosting to the displayed food. “For the Independence Day-lovebirds.” She winked and pushed a lock out of her face.

“There is a PI here who wants to talk to me about your father.”

Barbara’s eyes narrowed. “What on earth for? Can’t they let him rest in peace? Graham’s dead, for goodness’ sake. Doesn’t that put paid to any issues? At least the PI is not another phoney cop like the pushy guys that came in yesterday. I loved how you told them to take a hike.”

Grateful for her daughter’s support she exhaled, and some of the tension fell off her shoulders. “We’ll find out what he wants when I talk to him.” She started towards Mr Cheltham. Before she arrived, she spun around. “Table five outside is still waiting for their Bircher muesli.” She blushed, annoyed the PI’s unexpected presence rattled her so much, she forgot the customer’s order.

Thea walked over to the corner carrying two cups of coffee. Protected from view by a large Schefflera, her table doubled as her office away from home. He stood and pulled the chair back for her. A pirate with manners? Interesting. When she sat, he held her gaze with an expression of… was it sympathy?

“I am sorry to disrupt your busy morning. I’m afraid this is an urgent matter. Otherwise, I would return on Monday.”

She grabbed her hot cup and blew over its surface.

“Help yourself to the coffee.” She pointed to the small Sterling silver tray with a white sugar and creamer set in the middle of the table. “What is so pressing that you look me up on a Saturday morning when normal people still linger in bed reading the weekend paper? I buried my husband a week ago.”

“I was at the funeral. And I’ve read all the articles. I’m sorry for your loss.” He sipped his coffee.

Not again! She had enough of reporters on the hunt for another juicy story of her late husband’s affairs. “You must have a boring life. I didn’t take you for a Women’s Weekly fan.”

The smile he gave her spoke of pity and understanding. She needed neither and speared him with a glare. Why do people assume losing a husband is a bad thing? Not a day gone by in more than a decade she hadn’t wished Graham would disappear. Not dead, but no longer a part of her life. Even the tears she cried at his funeral were for her dad who died seven years ago. Him she missed. Her late husband? Not for a minute. That he ran the car off the road and killed himself with his latest fling in the passenger seat was poetic justice.

“I’m contracted by the Oceania Life Insurance to clear up a few questions. What can you tell me about Mr. Cameron’s last few weeks?”

She shot up an eyebrow. “You want information about my late husband’s affairs? You’re asking the wrong person. I stopped paying attention years ago. We shared the same house when he bothered to come home instead of sharing someone else’s bed. Maybe one of his secretaries can tell you more. I’m sure if you ring his office on Monday, they’ll help you further. It’s around the corner. A pleasant walk on a sunny morning.”

“Yes, I know where his office is.”

“If you’ll excuse me; I have work to do.” She stood but hesitated when his deep voice called her back.

“Your husband took out a three million dollar life insurance six weeks before the accident. I hoped you could tell me about it.”

She turned around. Three million dollars? That’s a crazy amount. She scanned the pirate’s face but he seemed serious. Frustration boiled up inside her.

“I have no idea. You must have the wrong man. My husband hated insurance companies. I’m sorry; I can’t help you.” She struggled to keep her feelings out of her voice. “One thing puzzles me, though. What was so urgent?”

“Someone claimed to be a police inspector and contacted the Oceania Life for information about the policy. They didn’t have a search warrant, so the OLI sent them away. When we checked their credentials, we found nobody in the police force with their names. OLI asked me to look into the situation for them. Whoever the people were, they could mean trouble for you and your daughter, Isabella, who is the beneficiary of the policy.”

She let out a sigh of relief. “That must have been the men who came in here yesterday. I sent them packing. Why didn’t you say in the beginning you looked for Isabella Cameron? That explains everything. You’ve got the wrong Cameron family. I don’t have a daughter by the name of Isabella. You need to go back to the drawing board and plug the holes in your research. Excuse me, I have work to do.”

He looked as if she told him Santa Claus cancelled Christmas for this year. She stopped a giggle pearling out of her mouth.

“Just as well you sent them away. They were fakes. I’ll take another look at my file and try to return later this afternoon.” He stood, searched for keys in his leather jacket and waved goodbye.

She watched him walking out and called after him, “No need to rush.”

“What did he want?” Barbara asked when Thea joined her at the counter.

“Mistaken identity. He looked for a child named Isabella Cameron.”

“Pity, he had a gorgeous ass.”

“Barbara!”

“Didn’t you see it when he walked out? His Calvin Klein jeans fitted like a second skin. And he has beautiful eyes—or at least one. I haven’t seen that kind of blue since Paul Newman died.” Her daughter had a dreamy expression that turned into a grin. “Lighten up, Mum. Just because Graham was a jerk, doesn’t mean all men are useless.”

“I am not about to test that theory. Better safe than sorry as they say. I’m not interested in men’s asses, whether they hide in designer pants or not.” She rolled her eyes at her daughter. “Can you take over now? I need to check on the Independence Day specials for lunch and want to finish my mock-up before the girls arrive.”

She went over to her office table and put the finishing touches to the cover of her new cookbook. Twenty minutes later the book was ready to go to the printer. She collated her notes and filed them into her foolscap folder when Mark Cheltham’s business card fell out. She picked it up and turned it around in her fingers. His visit disturbed her, even though she’d brushed him off. Doubts glared her in the face. Graham might have a daughter she knew nothing about. She tapped the edge of the card on the table. After years of humiliation she didn’t think he could still shock her. But a child? She hoped he’d rot in hell.

Even though she stayed in the marriage, she showed him she was not the fool he claimed her to be. He laughed at her for opening the café. But with the help of her friend Anna’s legal expertise, she took out the loan to buy and refurbish the old pub. Every one of her friends helped: Christine, Claudia, and Anna. Together they wrestled the run down tavern into a place fit for public use.

How many nights did she spend on her knees, scrubbing her anger into the wooden floor planks until they shone in their original glory? The battle became personal, and the Cinnamon became her statue of liberty. On Tuesday she will pay off the outstanding credit—years ahead of time.

A few stray rays of sunlight filtered through the lace curtains throwing geometric patterns of light onto the wall behind her table. Barbara appeared and placed a hot drink in front of her. “What’s up?”

“Just lost in thought. Thanks for the coffee. I’m finished. Tell me what you think.”

“I like it.” Her daughter studied the cover. “It’s hard to believe how you have transformed the old place and turned out these amazing cookbooks.”

“I have to thank you for that. You are the best thing that came out of that cursed marriage. I love you, my darling. Seeing you with Christopher and the kids makes me hopeful that not all is bad.” She gave Barbara a kiss on her cheek. “When you became my partner five years ago, I had time to focus on other things than running the café. Together we are a brilliant team.”

She felt something hard in her apron pocket and found Mark Cheltham’s business card. She took it, bounced it a few times against her pursed lips and threw it into the rubbish bin.

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Waking Up In Newbie Country: The hellish LY

Waking Up In Newbie Country: The hellish LY

12781643_6a71e6812e_oI have a story in me that pushes to come out. It’s several stories (note the ambitious plural), but that’s beside the point. Pushing. Poking. It leaves me with the image of mud pools in Rotorua. Bubbling with gasses that force their way to the surface. I suppose you could say, it’s mental indigestion.

After years of academic writing and blogging about trauma recovery and other self-improvement issues, it should be easy! Right? How difficult could it be to write a story when the plot line is interesting?

Since then I am on a steep learning curve with light bulbs going off right, left, and centre. Will I ever get it? I don’t know. But I am going to give it my best shot.

Many years ago I learned how to make pots and my home and those of my kids and friends show ample signs of my pottery skills. I didn’t start by just sitting in front of a pottery wheel, throwing a piece of clay on it and…tataaa…ended up with a perfect pot. I had to apply myself and learn pottery skills and techniques; and with determination and practice, practice, practice, I ended up with (some) decent pots.

I didn’t know there is more to storytelling than just telling a story. I didn’t know there are techniques, skills, and processes involved that combined and applied well, will bring a story to life AND when ignored will sink a story like a battleship after a torpedo hit.

It all started with a friend telling me to cut down on ‘ly-words.’ – I know now these things are called adverbs. – I followed that advice, although I didn’t real(ly) understand why. I thought things were nice(ly) expressed, quick(ly) sorted, and tasted heaven(ly). Stephen King said in his book On Writing: A memoir on the craft

the road to hell is paved with adverbs

I see that now. It’s sloppy, lazy writing and indicates the writer has used a weak verb or failed to show in the surrounding prose what’s going on. There you have it! There are some great examples here.

I suppose that’s a good start. But don’t be fooled. It’s just the beginning. There is so much more: POV (point of view), that’s another huge mountain to climb for me. And I haven’t even started with hooks, pacing, turning points, pinch points, show and don’t tell, beats, and structure.

Oh, how much fun is there waiting for me – as it will be for every newbie!

Image mud pool by Dan Nelson

 

NANOWRIMO – Day 1

time passIt’s official: the All Blacks just a few hours ago beat the Wallabies in the Final of the 2015 Rugby World Championships. So that took care of my early morning. And there are still 2000 words I have to write. To be honest, I have a higher number in mind but dare not to talk about that openly, in case I don’t make it. It could kind of jinx it. We can’t have that.

Armed with an endless supply of coffee – this old machine runs on coffee alright – and dressed in the essential pyjama, I am sitting at the laptop trying to come up with the first line. What is it about first lines that make them so difficult? I resort to the good old technique of ‘researching’ on the internet. Blessed internet. A quick look what my Facebook friends are doing…I know I shouldn’t do that, but…what the heck.

After ten minutes, I have about twenty beginnings – but what about the title? I forgot all about the title. I was going to come up with a title yesterday, but I watched Midsummer Murders on TV instead.

It’s 10 am and writing this blog post is, of course, another distraction. Enough now, off to write a novel in 30 days – at least the rough draft that is. I found my first line:

Most mystics would agree that when our life ends, and we stand in front or our creator, she will ask two questions: Have you lived enough? and Have you loved enough?

It’ll be about Anne, a sixty-plus-year-old successful divorce lawyer, one of four friends whose stories I am about to tell. She’s coming from the wedding of her best friend Thea (Thea’s story is the first book in this four-friends-series and is waiting for the editor to tell me what’s right and wrong with it) and suddenly wonders whether she has lived enough and loved enough. Some days later, she finds herself at the mother of a cross-road and makes a life-decision that… yip that’s about as much as I want to reveal at this point.

The cool thing is, by writing this blog now I am all fired up to keep going. See you at the other end of today. My idea is to write every day a post about my process. I want to remember how this month went and how I bring a book to life – if it interests anybody, that’s a bonus.

Anybody who is doing NANO this year reading this? How did your first day and the beginning go?

Nano: Write your novel in one Month

nanowrimo-headerIt’s that time of the year again: November – the (inter)national novel-writing month. Thousands of writers are going to aim for completing 50’000 words in one month. For those who always wanted to put pen to paper, this is a very good opportunity to do so. There is plenty of support for both the experienced and inexperienced writer.

Everyone can participate. It’s free, and if you love writing, it’ll be fun. You’ll meet lots of new people in the forums or your local nano-chapter.

Go to Kristen Lambs website she has some great tips for all things concerning writing.

See you at the other side of Nano month!

 

Hati Hati – Watch Out You Could Fall in Love

Hati HatiAll over Bali are signs warning you to look out for THIS and THAT. Hati Hati: Watch your heart, be careful of holes in the roads, dangerous animals, intersections, or road works. Hati, Hati! There are no signs though to warn you not to fall in love with this amazing country. And … not falling in love with Bali is, according to my experience, an impossible feat.

I’ve thought long about what it is that makes Bali so loveable to me, the Francophile, who could live exclusively on baguette, camembert, and a light bordeaux. If you are looking for those things, forget Bali. The bread?…Na!, The Cheeses?…forget about it! The wine?…Not really! Other countries have beaches, warm weather, and lush vegetation too. Other countries have rubbish piles everywhere. Maybe not as many as Bali, but I blame the tourist industry for that sorry state of affair. There should be a sign warning of tourists (me included, a blessing and a curse all in one): Hati Hati>turis!

It’s the people. People shaped by the land and shaping the land in return. People whose life centres around their spirituality. Where else do you find a temple in almost every household? Little shrines and places of worship and offering in practically every shop, every house, every drive way? People, whose daily actions are deeply entwined with thanking their Gods for the gifts they received and with protecting them from evil spirits to take hold in their lives and the lives of loved one.

Take for example the Tooth-Filing-Ceremony mesangih or mepandes. It is a more than 2000 year old tradition that predates the arrival of hindu-ism and involves the filing down of the upper front teeth. These teeth symbolise greed, anger, jealousy, in general the more savage aspects of human nature. By filing down the carnivorous canines and incisors, the person is thought to be freed and protected from these unwanted traits of human nature. The ceremony is a rite of passage into adulthood and represents a path of social and spiritual well-being.

You may say “So what?” I think it’s an amazing tradition. It is actually one of the main celebrations a Balinese person is going to have. The whole family comes together, maybe even others from the village. It involves not just the filing, but an intricate ritual, temple service, blessings, and a feast.  What I find so amazing about it is that in the consciousness of Balinese people the base nature of human beings has been recognised very early and declared as unwanted. There is a conscious effort to rid oneself of these ‘evil’ aspects and strive for honour and integrity.

I believe that this striving can be felt and experienced when we come in contact with the people from Bali! Suksma, Eka, for teaching me about this!

The Real Bali

P1020999-0I have been here in Bali for 7 days now and have seen some very beautiful places and learnt a little bit about a culture that is so excitingly different from my own. Of course I have seen the spots that most tourists are lead to. The temples, the rice fields, and the temples. Places with huge parking lots filled with busses and taxis, brimming with lightly clad tourists swinging their cameras relentlessly at everything even remotely native. I suppose everybody who comes here wants to discover ‘The Real Bali.’

I am no exception. Besides going here to the dentist, who, I have decided is half God, half Magician, I want to see the real Bali too. The one I glimpsed in “Eat, Pray, Love”. I wouldn’t mind having deep conversations with a wise elder, being shown un-lived potentials, and biking through beautiful tropical landscapes. I wouldn’t mind being scouped up by Javier Bardem ( even though he is not Patrick Swayze), to a remote little something with no walls, flowy curtains, and a promise of adventure.

Lamentably, that hasn’t happened – yet! “Shush, longing heart, there are still 7 days to go. Who knows!”

Maybe that kind of real Bali can only be detected with the help of a 30 head film crew that has oodles of time to research and create what they are looking for. The average tourist will have to content with what big international hotel chains and tour operators have in store for us. On TripAdvisor I have read people calling some of these places and malls ‘ tourists rip-offs’. What do they expect for their $5 U.S.? Antiques instead of mass produced masks? Nobody is forcing anybody to buy anything.

In the meantime I enjoy what I can glimpse and detect from what I think real Bali is. People with a deep sense of tradition and spirituality, who carve a living out of the resources this beautiful island provides. Private temples that are not just decoration but an integral part of Balinese daily life. Last but not least the non-tiring friendliness and hospitality of the Balinese.

I can already see that my next couple of teeth need attention in about two years to give me a valid excuse to come here again!

Body Delights: Balinese Massage

imageI don’t give away a secret when I tell you that when you reach a certain age the body demonstrates its reluctance to be wielded around like in the early twenties by creaking, hurting, and refusing to work (like my knees after sitting for an hour in one place), to list just some few dilemmas.

So when you are in Bali, as I am at the moment, and you have a creaking body like mine, you most certainly want to go and get massages. Because they are really affordable here, you want to get lots of them! Being out shopping at the Bali collection, the mall connected with the Nusa Dua resort group of hotels, just short of having a heat stroke, I dashed into one of the many day spas offering all kinds of massage…and an air conditioned reprieve from the heat.

Now, I am what I call a substantial woman! More a Wagnerian Valkyrie than a delicate Meg Ryan. Picture that on a massage table and this little Balinese girl, that barely reaches my bra-line with her eyes. How on earth are they going to get the accumulated knots out?  Let me assure you, I unravelled THAT mystery in no time!

Before I knew it this tiny half-sized person jumped on the table with me and half straddled me. I fleetingly assured myself that I wasn’t in one of THOSE establishment before I received the pounding of my life, administered with everything she had available. Elbows, fists, and some very hard bits of her hand, which name evades me at the moment. I was once in a violent relationship and my then partner was an amateur compared to the pounding she dished out. Keep breathing and avoid tensing up, it hurts less! HOLY SMOKE! And all for NZ$18!

My body feels as if I fell into a fountain of youth afterwards!

It has been my second massage here, and I am gladly singing the praise of these amazing people.  I have been told there are lots of places where you get them cheaper, but then, I refuse to barter for a cheaper price with people who have to save up for ten years to afford the airfare to New Zealand.

But independently from this obviously totally noble gesture of mine, I think I have discovered the secret behind the ability of Balinese dancers to twist their bodies into all those amazing positions! They all must have these little devils jumping around on their backs making sure they stay supple! I am here another 9 days, I think I am going to squeeze in a handful of massages before I dash home to winters New Zealand! And then I show my peeps what this re-juvenated body can do!

Retirement: A Strange Kind of Bliss

I grew up on an island where most people were connected to everything to do with sea, fishing…and did I say sea? I remember the writer and poet Gorch Fock mentioned the proverb on many fishing vessels saying: “Ora et Labora”. Pray and work! I suppose that’s what I’ve learned and that’s what most people lived by. The ‘old folks’ had a hard life, working around the clock, either on land behind dykes that could easily give way to the powers of the sea, or those at sea, battling the elements. They prayed and worked and worked.

In a strange way, that’s what I did too. Not so much praying, I have to say, but working long hours, several ‘jobs’ combining motherhood with working in our own business and initiating a social life for the family. And when I didn’t work, I thought about how to improve my work in courses, reading, up-skilling. I rarely complained because that’s what I knew one did. I actually liked it. I felt useful and effective.

“…and then the prince bowed down and kissed Sleeping Beauty awake!” – – Oh, darn, the wrong story. What really happened was, the Retirement-Fairy knocked at the front gate…not totally uninvited!

8211987329_67a28165c5_oThis is – or better was – my retirement dream. Not necessarily living on an island in the Pacific – after all, one has to meet one’s shopping needs, – but what it stands for. Sun, warmth, barmy waters, quiet, peace, no dead-lines, no have-to’s.

And without much complaining, that is what I’ve got. I love it. I can follow my indulgences like reading, watching daytime TV, writing, going out for coffee, shopping, and my all-time favorite thing: Staying in bed till at least ….AM if not longer, sipping my tea or hot chocolate,  reading the news, checking up on people on facebook, listening to an inspiring TED talk, or acquaint myself with the trials and tribulations of 19th Century noble women through my cherished writers like Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer.

BUT then something unpleasant happened: the old training kicking in. Instead of enjoying fully this time in my life, reaping the fruits of years of hard work, I catch myself, ever now and then, feeling guilty. Not enough ‘Labora’! I should be doing something productive. Lazy is not allowed. The old rules and childhood ‘examples’ set by the adults around at the time, are powerful reminders that creep into my mind unnoticed. Even the fortnightly pension payment triggers odd thoughts. I never was paid for doing nothing.

A friend told me that this feeling of ‘I need to do something, be productive, contribute’ will go on for a while, and being officially retired since the beginning of this year, I am told I have a while to go. I look forward to it. What surprises me that I feel this way. I did not expect it. For years I envied retired people for their ability to just pack up and do what they feel like. But, even though in my logical mind I have paid my dues and done my duty, I hesitate. How puzzling!

However, knowing how the human mind works I know that I feel what I think. As long as the childhood training is invading my thoughts with uncomfortable reminders of not enough ‘Labora’, I will being caught with feelings of guilt. It doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to lay back and enjoy this time. It pays not to takes one’s own thoughts so seriously. Just because I think it doesn’t mean its true.

I assume it takes a while to shift gear and, like the seasons, have a season for resting and harvesting. I’ll have to keep this in mind and ward against ideas that might have made sense around 1900 in Northern Germany but are out of date and out of place today… for me at least!

There is a thought: I need to go shopping and get a bed-table for my breakfast in bed to make a more enjoyable; and I am going to download some more romance novels for my ipad!

 

 

Die 3 Prinzipien in Deutsch

11156737_10206273706339122_1325046971_nHeute hat mich jemand gefragt of ich die 3 Prinzipien auf Deutsch erklären könnte. Das ist gar nicht so einfach, zumal ich schon seit 33 Jahren im Ausland lebe und mein Deutsch ziemlich brüchig geworden ist – wie ein alter Landungssteg am See! Viele Ausdrücke kenne ich gar nicht auf Deutsch. Ich hoffe, meine Umschreibungen sind verständlich. Über die Grammatik will ich gar nicht erst reden!

Der Grundgedanke ist zu verstehen wie wir als Menschen ‘funktionieren’, dass wir leben, und wie unsere Gefühle generiert werden. Das erste Prinzip baut darauf auf das wir leben, dass es eine Energy gibt die genau andeutet of wir leben oder nicht mehr leben. Das kann man Natur nennen, oder Gott, oder Universelle Energie, Sydney Banks, der diese Gedanken zuerst formulierte hat den Ausdruck MIND genommen um neutral diese Lebensenergie zu beschreiben.

Zuerst müssen wir gewahr werden das jedes Gefühl, jede Sensation die wir im Körper verspüren, von einem Gedankenprozess verursacht wird. Von Langeweile, über Depression, zu Freude, Angst, Hunger, Schmerz, oder Ärger, nichts passiert in unserem Körper ohne das unsere sinn-machenden Gehirnprozesse es in Bewegung setzen und dirigieren. Im englischen benutzen wir für die sinn-machenden Prozesse das Word “THOUGHT”, das zweite Prinzip. Es beschreibt nicht nur einen konkreten Gedanken,sondern auch unsere Kapazität zu denken.

Was auch immer unsere Sinne in uns oder von unserer Umwelt wahrnehmen, diese ‘rohen Daten’ wird von unseren sinn-machenden Gehirnprozessen vor dem Hintergrund unserer lebenslangen Erinnerungen und Erfahrungen interpretiert und dann als Körpersensationen sozusagen an unser Bewusstsein weitergeben. Unsere Fähigkeit bewusst zu werden von inneren und äußeren Vorgängen ist das dritte Prinzip, CONSCIOUSNESS in Englisch. Das Problem mit unserem Bewusstsein und Wahrnehmungsvermögen is jedoch dass es nicht sehr zuverlässig ist und IMMER auf Interpretation aufbaut, was sehr subjektiv ist. Wir nehmen mehr wahr was wir wahrnehmen wollen und nicht was wirklich in der Welt wahrzunehmen ist.

Das sind die 3 Grundbausteine unserer Existenz: Ohne die Lebensenergie gibt es keine Gedanken und keine Wahrnehmung; ohne Gedanken können wir nicht am Leben teilnehmen (z.b. jemand im Koma).

Die Frage, die mir gestellt wurde ist: wie man dieses Verständnis anwenden kann, wie es helfen kann, was man da machen muss. Die Antwort: man muss gar nichts machen sondern nur verstehen. Sobald wir erkennen das unsere Gefühle nicht von unseren Umständen herkommen, sondern von WIE WIR über unsere Umstände denken, dass wir die Gefühle selbst generieren, können wir uns zurücksetzen und sagen “Ach, wieder mal ein dummer Gedanke” und es nicht so wichtig nehmen. Nur weil wir etwas denken meint nicht das es auch wahr und wichtig ist. Wir haben zwischen 50.000 und 200.000 Gedanken am Tag, viele von denen sind ziemlich sinnlos und banal.

Wenn ich denke “Ach es ist ja nur ein Gedanke” dann werde ich nicht von der Gefühlsspirale in die Tiefe gezogen. Und je weniger aufgewühlt mein Zustand ist, je klarer und weiser sind meine Gedanken und Entscheidungen. Um dass zu erreichen versuche ich so oft und lange wie möglich in meiner ‘Wohlsein-Zone” zu sein. Gedanken die mich da herauslocken vermeide ich so oft wie möglich. Das gelingt zwar nicht immer, aber mit der Zeit immer öfter. Übung macht den Meister :). In der Wohlseins-Zone sind meine Gedanken ruhig und gelassen, da geniesse ich den Augenblick, sehe was gut ist, wertschätze was ich habe. In dem Zustand erlebe ich Frieden, Weisheit, und allgemeines Wohlsein.

Wenn Gedanken mich in den “Keller” geleitet haben und ich ärgerlich, ängstlich, depressive ….usw. bin, versuche ich so gut wie möglich meine Gedanken zu beruhigen um zurück in die Wohlseins-Zone zu kommen. Egal wie lange es dauert. Keller-Gedanken sind qualitative nicht sehr gut. (Stell Dir mal jemanden in einem Wutanfall vor. Was da aus dem Mund kommt ist selten von Wert oder reflektiert Weisheit)! Ich versuche keine wichtigen Entscheidungen zu treffen wenn ich im “Keller” bin, sondern warte bis meine Gedanken sich beruhigt haben und dann schaue ich mir das Problem an, das den Sturzflug verursacht hat. In der Wohlseins-Zone ist Weisheit, Überblick, Mitgefühl, Liebe, und Frieden…eine gute Grundlage für weise Entscheidungen.

Dass ist die Essenz. Wie es mir hilft? Ich fühle mich meistens sehr wohl, rege mich kaum über Sachen auf. Mein allgemeiner Stresspegel ist sehr niedrig. Es geht mir gesundheitlich besser, und meine Beziehungen zu anderen Menschen sind einfacher geworden. Ich nehme sehr wenig persönlich. Wenn jemand unhöflich zu mir ist, weiss ich dass es nichts mit mir zu tun hat, sondern das die Person gerade in ‘ihrem/seinem Keller’ ist. Ich habe selten das Bedürfnis recht zu haben. Ich weiss dass wir alle unsere eigene, persönliche Realität haben, und dass es nicht anders sein kann. Es gibt nicht die letztendliche Wahrheit. Wir können nur unsere persönliche Interpretation von unserer Wahrheit sehen.