As I write this my two latest charges lie on the carpeted floor next to me. Maddie and Gracie are bearded collies, and I'll be taking care of them while their owner is away for a while. Their home is a gated estate a few miles out of Reno, Nevada, USA.
Sometimes I stop and wonder how my life got this crazy. I'm currently living in a delightful four bedroom, three bathroom home filled with antiques. Last week I was in London, sleeping on the lounge room floor of a one bedroom flat in Islington, an inner suburb of London.
All part of my philosophy of going wherever the road leads me. I'm not sure what the future holds at the end of this house sit, I'll see what lands in my world.
Back to London.
I'd left my job in Bournemouth and caught the train to Waterloo. English trains are affordable if booked in advance via a site such as The Train Line, and I treated myself to a first class seat for a mere £2 extra. The trains have WiFi on board and often travel through countryside it would be impossible to see otherwise. That Saturday the deciduous trees were beginning to change colour, and the views were truly exceptional.
From Waterloo I took the Underground took my friend's flat in Islington. Many people in London rely solely on public transport, which is excellent, and don't own cars. I'm sure if I'd stayed there I would have been the same. The traffic is frantic throughout the day and much of the night. The Underground on a Saturday afternoon was packed, and I had all my luggage with me. It wasn't an experience I want to repeat in a hurry. I came to the conclusion I'd acquired way too much stuff in England - even though I'd divested myself of much of it before I left Bournemouth - and needed to get rid of even more before the next stage of my journey.
My friend has a broken shoulder - I was there to help her unpack after moving house - and although she met me on the street outside the flat she couldn't help me carry anything.
"I'll get help," she said, as she disappeared again.
I sat on my suitcase on the footpath, thoroughly disheartened and completely exhausted.
"My name's Joe, I'm here to rescue you," was not only music to my ears (a well-used cliche but in this case, completely true), but was pronounced in an Australian accent.
Joe and his family were stranded in London by a perfect storm of misadventures that would make an excellent premise for a novel. His daughter was a friend of my host, so instead of my sleeping on the couch, a situation I felt that I could just about cope with, I would be sharing the lounge room with three other people each night.
I am, by nature, a very private person. In recent times I've rarely shared a house, let alone a room, with another human being. I admit my first impulse was to walk away and find a cheap hostel.
Two factors stopped me. My friend can neither lift nor carry anything, and I'd promised to help. And it was so lovely to hear an Australian accent again, over nine months after I'd left Australia.
I was born in Australia, but when I left the country in January I didn't feel Australian or really identify with the country as my home. My parents were English, and in many ways I had an English upbringing in another country. I ate English food, read English books, and as I grew older, watched mainly English TV programmes. I did one of those online quizzes a while ago, and was classified as completely English.
The more I travelled in England though, the more I realised just how Australian I really am. I now readily acknowledge that I have many of those Australian traits that always annoyed me in other Australians, such as an intolerance for bullshit of any description, and an uncanny ability to see through false politeness. Perhaps that's why we're so vociferous in our condemnation of our politicians (while we continue to vote for them) while simultaneously admiring someone who manages to put one over on the government. For those non-Australians reading this blog, "put one over" means to get away with something that is, perhaps, not entirely legal.
On the day after I arrived at the flat, the four of us headed up to Hampstead Heath to find some comfrey, with the aim of making a poultice for the broken shoulder. We didn't quite make it to the Heath, but did have a wonderful time wandering around Highgate instead. The photos are from that afternoon.
In Waterlow Park (not a typing error, it was named after a former Lord Mayor of London) I witnessed something that brought home to me just how different the English are to Australians. This was a scene I would never have encountered in an Australian park.
Picture a swing, and half a dozen preschool aged children, all clamoring for a turn. A father appears. He gently and calmly explains to the children that they can't all go at once, the swing will only take one child at a time. Therefore it is necessary for them to sit quietly in a line at the edge of the play ground and wait until it is their turn. When they have had their turn they can go to the end of the line, and wait for another turn.
To my surprise the children, after a small protest, co-operated and sat in a neat row, patiently waiting, already trained for a lifetime of waiting in queues.
I do hope Australians don't lose their attitude to life as the world becomes smaller. The world needs us, and our streak of quiet rebellion.