The Great Escape

It was Henry’s first day on the job and he was already feeling somewhat doubtful about his future with this new company. He had been given a pretty hard time at the interview and some of the questions he had to answer had made him a bit uncomfortable. For example, “what was his attitude to females?” and “Did he believe in freedom of choice?” He had been a bus driver for years and had an impeccable record and many very positive letters of recommendation but never before had he been questioned about his feelings towards women! Oh, well, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a holiday”, and he hadn’t had one of those in years!

His instruction for today was to pick up passengers at three designated points and to take them through to the airport. He had been told that these were desperate women who all had reasons to escape. It was this that was making Henry feel very uncomfortable indeed. Was he party to underhand goings on and was he likely to be cited as an accomplice? Oh, whatever, let’s just get the show on the road, so to speak, he thought and started up the bus’s powerful engine.

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At his first stop he found a motley group of women of various ages and cultural groups. None of them seemed to be particularly happy and most seemed to appear tired and irritable. Another thing that Henry noticed was the small amount of luggage each woman was carrying – nothing much larger than an average sized duffel bag as well as a smallish, over the shoulder handbag.  I suppose when one has become so desperate that the only way out is to pack up and run away from everything, that you take the absolute bare minimum of belongings with you, he mused. He wondered how much Mary, his wife of 25 years, would cram into a small bag if she decided to leave him in a hurry. Knowing her she would need a container to pack all the things she had collected over their years of marriage and which she seemed to value more than she valued him.

By the time the passengers at the second and third bus stops had been picked up and were settled in their seats, it was an hour’s drive to the airport. Some of the women shut their eyes and promptly fell asleep, others just gazed out of the window and made no effort to converse with their neighbours. It was a very small handful of the older women who seemed inclined to pass the occasional comment to their fellow passengers. It was the weirdest atmosphere that Henry had ever experienced, and it made him very nervous. A strange thing was that no-one was using a mobile phone or an i-pad. That was very odd indeed but maybe also to prevent them being traced? Obviously these women were leaving the country and heading for greener pastures, without their families and friends knowing anything at all about their plans. Should he head off to the nearest police station and hand them all over, or follow his instructions and take them, as directed, to the airport? He needed the pay, so he put his doubts aside and just carried on concentrating on his driving.

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It was with a sense of relief that Henry finally saw the signs in front of him directing him to the offloading section of the airport. It was then that one of the women stood up and, for the first time during the entire trip, addressed him.  “Excuse me, Sir, but you have to drop us off at the domestic departures, not the international”.  Oh, so they weren’t going to another country, just running away to another town or city. Might be even easier to get lost in some or other small village than being traced through Interpol!

As he stopped the bus and helped the women down the steps, he saw in front of him two people holding up a large placard which read “The Great Escape – a big welcome to all our ladies”. So this was an organized running away!  As the passengers dismounted, they all headed over to the people holding the board and once they were all ready, they walked in crocodile file into the departure hall. Only a few of them had even bothered to thank Henry for his services – ungrateful bunch, he muttered under his breath.

As he was climbing back into his vehicle he saw a piece of paper had fallen on the floor of the bus. He bent down and picked it up and started reading the information on it.

“Are you overworked and over stressed? Do your husband and your children take you for granted? Is your boss overly demanding? Do you feel that you need to run away? Well, call now as there is an escape route at an affordable price.  Join other women who feel just the way you do and have a weekend of total relaxation and pampering at The Great Escape hotel and Spa, overlooking the sea, and at affordable rates. From the moment you board the luxury bus en route to the airport, please ensure that your mobile phones have been switched off, and try to keep all conversations as limited as possible. This is to enable you to begin your weekend of rest and rejuvenation in the best possible way. We will give you time to recharge your batteries in order to face your day to day challenges. Hope to see you at our very next “women’s only” retreat. Regards, Management, The Great Escape.”

Henry felt a bit deflated after reading this. His life was so mundane that it was actually quite exhilarating to think that one may have been party to a bunch of dissatisfied women running away from their previous lives to find love and happiness, and possible wealth by starting over again! Now it was another day in the life of a bus driver – a first day, so maybe other days might bring a bit more excitement. You just never know what is lurking around the corner- even if you are a bus driver! Nothing wrong with hoping, anyway!

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AWOL – Where is she now ??

The hoover’s given up the ghost
The fridge is on the blink
The kids are going crazy
I’ve been told I shouldn’t drink
To drown my stress and worry
But what’s my other choice
I’d better get control again
Bang doors and raise my voice!

To just sit down and ponder
And remember bygone years
Is really not the answer and
Will just bring me to tears
Life is full of challenges
All my friends have problems too
But the only time I’m in control
Is when I’m in the loo!

Troubles come in bundles
We all know that for sure
To dance and sing and have a laugh
Is meant to be a cure
I’ll try to be more positive
And see the good in life
It’s no good being grumpy
As a mother or a wife.

The day is almost over
And it’s time to plan the dinner
Making macaroni cheese
Is bound to be a winner
Oh no, I can’t believe it
It really can’t be true
There seems to be no power
What on earth am I to do?

I grab the phone and make the call
We’ll have Chinese tonight
Heaven help the lot of them
If they dare to get uptight
I’ll down my tools and take a break
Once they have gone to bed
Amazing how some me time
Helps so much to clear one’s head!

Judy Binns Nemeth

Friendship Part 3

FRIENDS WITH A DIFFERENCE

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Can there be any friendship that is more rewarding than one between a human being and a beloved animal. The unconditional love that is shown by an animal to its owner has to be experienced to be fully understood and children who grow up in homes shared with animals have the advantage of knowing from their early years the pleasure that pets can bring. There are certain people who will keep a dog as a protector but, due to their religion, never even fondle the poor creature, which surely is a shocking form of emotional abuse. This was told to me by a vet who found it very difficult to cope with this kind of pet owner.  Unfortunately, culture plays a role in many communities and having an animal as a pet can be taboo. Children brought up with this unfortunate background often scream hysterically whenever a dog or a cat comes near them. I have been witness to a child screeching like a banshee when a little Jack Russell dog just wanted to say hello to the girl in question. The poor little dog was terrified by this unexpected and totally unnecessary outburst. Worse than that is when adults have gone hysterical just because a cat has come near to them.

If children are being prevented from having any form of animal in their home then it would be a very good idea for nursery schools or day care facilities to get such youngsters more comfortable around small creatures. I wouldn’t advocate a teacher bringing her Great Dane into a classroom, but to have a bunny as a classroom pet or even a hamster could teach children how to care for any pet they may own in the future. The child who grows up on a farm where there are not only domestic animals but also a variety of farm animals such as pigs, cows, goats, donkeys, ponies as well will probably never realise just how fortunate their childhood is compared to someone who has never even owned a puppy.

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We read accounts every day in various newsfeeds about the amazing deeds which animals have performed whereby human lives have been saved and warnings given regarding health issues as well as preventing dangerous occurrences. Dogs are being trained in some countries to be partners of children who have life threatening illnesses and to bark a warning when, for example, an epileptic fit is about to occur. This must be an absolutely fascinating form of animal training which must take hours of dedication and love for the job at hand. The same goes for people who are involved in puppy walking future guide dogs for the blind. We humans think we are so clever, but we know so little about the potential and intelligence of our four legged friends. The best we can do is to respect them, love them and care for them and appreciate the value they bring into our lives.

A sad part of growing old is that in many cases the elderly are prevented from taking their often equally elderly dog or cat with them into a retirement home. Having to leave a house they have often lived in for most of their adult lives is traumatic enough without the heartbreak of having to be parted from a beloved pet. The reason given by management of many of these retirement homes is that the pets can become a nuisance to other residents. The truth of the matter is that most of the time the dog or cat is content to sit at the feet or on the lap of the elderly person with a minimum of exercise required so that reasoning seems to be inconsequential to say the least.

“Animals are such agreeable friends; They ask no questions,
Pass no criticisms.” – George Eliot

A pig can be a wonderful pet and despite all the negative comments about pigs, they are actually very clean animals. So it really is an insult to the porkers to align them with grubby, messy humans!  The downside of having a pot-bellied pig as a pet is that they can grow extremely large and I believe can become rather aggressive. It is also much easier to take a puppy to puppy socialisation classes than a pot-bellied pig! Just thinking about the reaction of all the dogs at puppy school if a pig had to join the class is rather disturbing! I have heard though of a sheep going to dog training classes, so maybe taking your pig along isn’t so far fetched after all.

Just a last thought. Have you ever been ill or been forced to lie in bed to recuperate after an operation and your cat has slept on your bed the whole day, purring and keeping you company? You just never feel alone if you have that four legged family member to give you that unconditional love. Whether it’s a dog, a cat or even a pig on whom you lavish attention, the emotional rewards cannot be measured. That wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you return home after having been away for even a few hours and your pet bounds over to lick you or rub himself around your legs, has to be experienced to be understood. That is true friendship of the highest order.

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Friendship Part 2

TRANSIENT FRIENDSHIPS

Friends often tend to be transient – they come into our life at a particular stage and at the time can be an amazing support system. Then, years later when thinking back, you wonder why the friendship just petered out. There has to be a common bond in order for a friendship to start in the first place. You may find yourself connecting with a colleague at work, and the company and its politics, as well as your personal situations could be the common factor. When one of you moves on to another company, or starts working from home, it can be quite upsetting to find that there is very little that one has in common any longer and ultimately it becomes rather tedious to try to continue the relationship.

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Women often seem to find it easier than men to make new friends. This is more than likely due to women having, in many cases, better verbal skills than the majority of men.  A short hospital stay is often the place where women connect and continue to keep in touch long after they have both recovered from their illness and gone home. When a woman has a baby she may find herself bonding with another woman in the same ward. It can be a great support to be able to discuss common worries with someone who is in the same or a similar situation. Men, on the other hand, can be in the same ward as other men for several weeks after having an operation, but never find out the name of the person in the next bed.  I know this is a generalisation, but I have been witness to this kind of scenario. Men are from Mars?

“Wishing to be friends is quick work,
but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” – Aristotle 

It can be disappointing when one tries to get back into a comfortable relationship with friends from the past only to find that you have absolutely nothing in common any more. This is why I wonder just how beneficial it is to search for past friends via facebook, or google and then spend valuable time trying to make up for all the years when there was no contact at all. If these so-called friends were really interested in keeping in touch then surely you wouldn’t have lost contact in the first place. Looking at their profiles and comments on line and seeing just how successful their lives appear to have been and how blissfully happy they are as a family, can be very distressing if your own circumstances are less than ideal. Scratch the surface of all the bragging and “look at my wonderful life” comments and the truth is probably quite different. At least when one has a “real” friend your interactions are less likely to make you feel inadequate and if that isn’t the case, then you can just cool the friendship somewhat and don’t constantly see more on line bragging.

My point is that, throughout one’s life, there is often an opportunity to make a new friend and, even if that friendship lasts a relatively short space of time, while it does exist it may provide you with a much needed emotional lifeline. Human interaction is a necessary part of having a healthy, well-balanced life (unless you have joined a nunnery or a monastery and taken either a vow of silence, or become a hermit monk) so we shouldn’t be too obsessed with the length of a friendship and enjoy the fact that many are transient in nature and that’s okay too.

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Friendship Part 1

WHAT IS A FRIEND?

Remember the old saying, “Make new friends but keep the old, some are silver but others are gold”? Somehow that is even more relevant in today’s fast paced and internet driven world. We are able to google or search on facebook and find people we knew years ago, re-connect with them and have them on our social media sites as friends – but are they true friends? What is a friend? One dictionary definition of the word “friend” is: “one joined to another in intimacy and affection.” If we are to take this definition and apply it to the many “friends” we have on facebook, twitter or instagram, what actually is the reality? Great to be able to tell all and sundry that you have so many hundreds or even thousands of social media friends, but to whom do you turn when you really need a friend?

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During our school years we made friends, but did we keep in touch with many of them after moving on, either to university or college, or out into the big wide world of the working environment? In many cases it may have been the occasional one or two people with whom we managed to stay in touch over time. A friendship has to be a two way interaction otherwise it dies a death and this happens more often than not.  Some people thrive on keeping relationships going, but without reciprocation it is often a futile exercise.

A friend of mine from many years ago who had terminal cancer once said to me that if you can count your true friends on one hand you are luckier than most people. I tend to believe that this is true. A real friend is someone with whom, despite the passing of the years, you are able to immediately carry on chatting to as though you last spoke to them yesterday. If you have even one person like this in your life it is a gift to be savoured and valued. I have such a friend and she is one of very few of my current acquaintances who knew my late father. The day he was killed at work when a malfunctioning transformer blew up and electrocuted him plus several other people working with him, it just happened to be this friend’s birthday.  Needless to say, phoning her to chat on her special day every year always tends to include a rather sad side too.  She has recently relocated to Perth, and there is the different time zone to consider when getting in touch with her, but I know that whenever we speak the years will just fade away and we will carry on our conversation as though no time at all has passed since our last chat.

I also have a very good Indian friend whom I met during time spent living in Italy many years ago. When meeting up with her and her husband after a long period of keeping in touch by mail and the occasional phone call (this information really does date the length of our friendship!) it was as though no time at all had elapsed since our last meeting. Once again it must be said that such friendships are rare and extremely valuable and deserve to be nurtured. Are you also fortunate enough to have this kind of friend? A busy life is fine, but it really is critical to squeeze in a quick phone call or a voice WhatsApp to keep those relationships going. There can be nothing more soul destroying than constantly procrastinating about making that call only to find that it is now too late, as the friend is no longer around.

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Just Another Day

When I woke up this morning, I could hear the rain was still coming down and it seemed to be dark outside so I shut my eyes and went back to sleep. Not for long though, as one of the people with whom I share my home decided it was time for me to get up, have breakfast and go out for an energetic run. Honestly, no peace at all for the wicked in this neck of the woods.

The constant rain of the past few days has really made me very anxious, and my behaviour has left a great deal to be desired. I find that I want to eat anything and everything I can get hold of, and this must be to do with being inside more than I would really choose to be. Still, I heard someone say that on Sunday the sun will start to shine again, so I will be able to carry on with my usual outdoor activities.

My housemates seem to have a total obsession with toilet habits. They worry about the number of times I have to relieve myself, and I hear them discussing this all the time. Can’t be normal, but I am starting to think that I am the only really normal soul in this house.  What is that saying about not being able to choose one’s family as they are foisted on you, but you can choose your friends? I don’t have any close friends at the moment, but I do interact with a bunch of like-minded individuals on a weekly basis, but this is coming to an end next week, sad to say. After that I have no idea of how my social life will continue.

I love sleeping – this could be a sign of depression perhaps? I think that it has more to do with the amount of food which I consume. I eat, do the necessary toilet things if needed, have a bit of a run, and then it’s time for another nap. I have a very high IQ and hope that I don’t sound too big headed by mentioning this. My mother was quite old when she had me, although my dad is a lot younger than her and is known as a real stud. Mum didn’t have too much patience with me right from the start and, as an only child, I suppose I have been rather spoilt by good friends of my mum. Anyway they do say that the brighter the child, often the more challenging they can be.

I looked in the mirror the other day and got quite a shock to see how my appearance is changing. My hair seems to be getting coarser and no longer as dark as when I was younger. My teeth bother me a lot and I just hope that this problem is temporary as I have the desire to chew things all day long – I don’t think this is acceptable judging by the reaction it gets from those around me. I also get so excited at times (an adrenalin rush perhaps) that I have been known to jump up and down like a deranged individual and it cannot even be blamed on a sugar overload.  I really must try to control myself or I might just end up in an institution.

I have excellent eyesight and my hearing is tops but it is my sense of smell that causes me the most concern. I can identify scents from months ago in my home and outside too and this seems to irritate people an awful lot. They just don’t appreciate how finely tuned my nose seems to be.  What would appear to be a great benefit to me is not perceived as such by anyone else. A pity when one’s talents go unnoticed or unrewarded, but that’s life isn’t it?

Although it has been pretty chilly these past few days, there have been several times when I have hovered on the edge of the swimming pool contemplating jumping in for a dip. The trouble is that, although I plan on improving my swimming skills next summer, right now I need to stay on the top step as my legs aren’t long enough to get out of the water without a helping hand – so embarrassing having to accept that kind of assistance as I am very independent by nature. I am capable of giving a great deal of affection, but I do have a tendency to often break the rules and give people a bit of a run for their money in their dealings with me. I do try to please people but it can be a lot of fun to see the frustration when I refuse to toe the line.

I can hear those wretched birds chirping outside my window, and if I weren’t so sleepy I would get out there and chase them all away. They have no respect for my garden and I just cannot understand why one of my housemates insists on feeding them all the time. I feel a bit jealous sometimes of the attention they get as I like to be top dog around here.

You probably realise now that, although my name is Kelly and I really am the most beautiful creature with an amazing intelligence, I am just a 4 month old German Shepherd puppy with a rather bad attitude much of the time!

Mind Travel

The sun was beating down, the seagulls were circling overhead making their raucous sounds, children’s excited voices could be heard coming from the distant beach but she was blissfully unaware of anything that could detract from her glorious feeling of aloneness.  Floating over the gentle waves, totally relaxed, this was the most incredible therapy. The past few months, and even years, if she was honest, had been extremely difficult in many ways. Some old friends had moved to distant shores and several had died. There had been the stress of coping with huge financial losses as well as certain health issues. On top of this, there were always decisions to be made and she loathed making decisions especially as they always tended to involve money, or the lack thereof. So very difficult to switch off and relax, but today was different.

Right now all these complications were of no consequence. She was experiencing the most incredible form of relaxation and she managed to clear her mind of every thought as it threatened to creep into her state of semi consciousness. Peace, calm, floating, floating, gently over the waves without a care in the world. This was something she should have done months before instead of trying to relax through the usual methods such as watching a movie, chatting to friends or reading a good book. Those activities used too much energy. What was needed was a mindless drifting form of relaxation. Today was absolutely perfect-just what her inner voice had been nagging her to do. Far better than trying to lie back in warm, essential oil infused bath water surrounded by fragrant candles – the persistent background noises caused by the other members of the family destroyed any true feelings of peace and harmony. Floating in the ocean away from the trials and tribulations of the real world – this was the closest thing to heaven.

What’s that ringing sound interfering with her feelings of calm? It’s going on and on. She forces herself to become aware of her surroundings and with feelings of dismay realises that she is lying on an inflatable mattress in her pool in the back garden and not floating in the ocean at all! It’s that wretched mobile phone that’s causing the disturbance to her tranquillity. Darn it – she should have turned it off, but with the possibility of business calls and potential problems with family and friends, it was usually left on twenty four hours of the day and night.  Oh well, that’s today’s mind travel episode over she says, and feeling cheated, clambers out of the sun-warmed water and forces herself, reluctantly, to get back to reality and answer the call.

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub”- Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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