When I was little, around 8, I was in the local operatic society’s show – The King & I. As the littlelest of the Royal Children. If you don’t know the famous musical, it’s loosely based on a true story of a British woman, Anna Leonowens, who goes to the court of Siam (Bangkok) as tutor to the Kings many wives and children. The main theme that runs throughout the score/lyrics, is one of conflict between Anna and the King, but also the deep love and respect for each other which both will not openly admit. The King is polygamous, his many wives are headed up by Lady Thiang.
I remember most of the songs from the show, Getting to Know You, Something Wonderful, Whenever I feel afraid, Hello Young Lovers…..all with their own strong message, pearls of wisdom.
It’s 8.00am Thursday morning and I’m blogging from a busy reception area. Bear with me, there is coherence somewhere, I hope this blog will come together. If not, you won’t know because I won’t publish it.
Today, it’s our last day of mine and Martin’s coupled up travelling. Yesterday we were a trio of travellers, as Lucy joined us. And as Lucy arrives, Martin leaves (no significance, just how it panned out like two little weather dolls either side of me). In a couple of weeks Lucy will fly home too, and it will be back to just me.
We had the best time. We had some less than best times too, because what you haven’t heard about so far are the moments when it’s been less than wonderful. Martin & I. You may have read the stories here, seen the pictures, and the “then we did this and then we did that”. But there have been times when it’s been tough, I think for both of us. And reflecting on our holiday together I wonder why people don’t openly discuss the more tricky bits of coupled up traveling, or maybe everyone else gets along famously, all of the time. I don’t think so. So, for what it’s worth, I’m going to admit that it hasn’t always been glossy. Because, in the spirit of honest blogging, blogging of worth, I think life is much better when we all admit to each other that life isn’t always perfect, like most of the Facebook and Instagram postings and television advertising would have us believe and like us to strive for. I wonder if I, we, let go a little of the perfect coupled up images, the striving for perfection, perhaps we can all relax and be fully human with our imperfections.
Christmas and New Year. I don’t think either of us deliberately sought to escape. It sort of just happened. No big discussion, just a decision by me, after years of talking about it, with a few pointers that seemed to be telling me it was exactly the right time. One Sunday afternoon, I found myself booking a flight to Hong Kong, a stay of 3 months, to find my long lost family. A press of a few buttons and hey presto, I’m off. Martin, dearest Martin, accepting not resisting, or saying “WTF, what about me?” How I love him for that, his respect of my free spirit, spontaneity, impetuousness. I think these are some of the qualities he loves in me.
But there are things about me he doesn’t find easy. The go slow Laura. The wander off Laura. The fidgety squirmy Laura. The change her mind Laura. The get up and bounce about and make a lot of noise early in the morning Laura. The I’m tired and I need to sleep right now Laura. The I don’t want to go and explore the world today but want to stay in, despite what we planned Laura. These aspects of me drive Martin crazy. And suddenly after a month without me, he has all of this, 24/7
On November 14th I set off for Hong Kong, and Martin had the chance to go anywhere he wanted in the world. But during conversations and emails, snatched on an 8 hour time difference, me from my 8 bed dorm in HK and Martin usually from work, battling with a frenetic and sometimes very stressful massive projects, we agreed upon a very last minute meet up. He would come to HK, stay for a week (despite having been many times since the 1980s, and HK holding no real allure), and then we’d take a three week trip to Vietnam. Aren’t dream holidays (a bit like Christmas and New Year) exciting, wonderful, and everything you ever dreamed? And aren’t they also vulnerable and fragile, so much expectation, time and energy and expense invested, sometimes with the flimsiest of proper planning.
If we approached holiday and Christmas planning in the same way as we do major work projects (maybe some people do) perhaps some of the difficulties encountered could be avoided. A very clear plan, with everyone’s contribution clearly defined, targets outlined and milestones and responsibilities crystal clear. Back up plans for when things go awry. Ironically holidays are when we let all these skills lapse, ‘it’s a holiday for god’s sake, it’s not work!” but perhaps it’s when we need to work the hardest. At planning, at communicating, at listening.
In our case Martin and I realized we get from A to B quite differently, where A to B might be from one end of a country to another, or down to breakfast from our hotel room. Or the walk from a night bus drop off to an elusive hotel. Martin always with a very clear step by step plan in his head, logical, clear to him, but not so clear to me. Me, I work moment to moment. I know I have to get from A to B, but don’t go in a straight, efficient line. I am happy to go off course, come back to it again, all a bit random. But I do always get there. And much of my work has been around helping others let go of the logical and analytical stuff, to feel and sense, moment by moment. And Martin’s work as an engineer/designer, (currently of trains of the future), has to be logical, analytical, precise, pre determined. As he says, he always has to look ahead for what might go wrong, expect the worse and have a solution ready.
Can you see how this might be a problem? Can you hear some of the rows that might ensue? Two people who love each other dearly. Both used to, and very happy to travel alone, getting from A to be B in their own peculiar way, neither right or wrong. Add to this the stresses of strange languages, figuring out currencies and coping with bodies that weren’t always happy with the new and strange foodstuffs and the can we or can’t we drink straight from the tap water
And so, just like the King and Anna in the court of Siam, we fought. And bickered, and bickered and fought. Martin thought I ‘a puzzlement’, I thought him ‘pig’. Like Anna, there were times I wanted to flee, and there were stormings off, and times of silence because no words to express our frustration, anxiety, anger, disappointment, could be found.
One of my favourite songs from The King and I is Lady Thiang singing Something Wonderful.
Martin, dear Martin. This post is dedicated to you. To thank you for a fabulous holiday. For travelling across the world to share time with me, when you could have had an adventure of your own. For loving me, continuing to love me, through all the highs and lows of life, and holidays. I hope I continue to be your puzzlement for a very long time. Laura xxxxx