Spice Alley, White Rabbit Gallery and Neurosurgeons

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my new neurosurgeon. Indeed it was a privilege, to meet such a humble and kind man. I presented a selection of my favourite scans from the past two decades, and as he studied them, he asked how on earth I had managed to inflict such damage. I tell you, after a lifetime of answering this question, you get quite nonchalant and so I muttered something about a bad man, my falling, and things of that ilk. I should have just brought him a copy of my book. Once he was over the shock of that discovery, he examined my head, neck and shoulders, all of which contorted in pain. I was booked in for nerve blocks and associated tests, and bid him farewell. My morning had required me to be a patient, vulnerable and hurting. The following part of the day would see me reclaim who I truly am, which is somebody who gets transported by beauty.

My daughter and I took off on a grand adventure, firstly to the White Rabbit Gallery at Chippendale, a magnificent space that used to be a luxury car showroom. The exhibition The Sleeper Awakes had started that day, and we were so entranced by the colours and symbolism that we forgot to take photos! It would have seemed almost rude to have not been in the moment. Trust me, if ever you are in the city, it’s worth a visit! I did however, manage a snap of the glorious tea room. The best cages are empty ones; beautiful in their emptiness.

We walked with our lovely friends to Spice Alley     at around 5pm, before it got busy. There was a wild variety of vendors, and the difficulty was deciding! There was plenty for a vegetarian like myself to choose from. I settled on the best vegetarian fried rice I have ever had! The heady spices were combined in such a way as to delight the taste buds. As we ate and drunk our bubble tea (and wine), we talked about everything from Nikola Tesla to Facebook, movies and authors.

When we boarded the train for home, I felt exhilarated, as one does at the end of a fruitful and satisfying day. I was exhausted and in pain, yes, but the over-riding emotion was gratitude. Gratitude for caring specialists, good friends, art galleries, delicious food, a new hangout and a happy child. My body feels frail; in need of reconstruction, and the pain is merciless. I was a patient, scans in hand. For the most part, I was still Raphaela, an irrepressible spirit who will not have her life dimmed. You can be both, and balance it well. The next day, I was in bed, but never mind. Last Friday, I was both a patient and healed.

Sailing Away

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I wrote the following for Siren Empire before we left for our trip. There is nothing like the shock, disbelief and depression which accompanies betrayal. Some people do indeed live in fancy apartments bought with other people’s money. Even more astonishing is the fact that they sleep at night. I would rather be me than them. Karma catches up to the cheaters in this world. Anyway, I am rambling. I wasn’t in a great place before we departed for our ocean voyage. In fact, I don’t recall packing. Come to think of it, I didn’t. I merely threw clothing into a case. The seasoned travellers amongst you would be appalled.

We drank a toast to the birthday girl before departing. Now this softly spoken angel is turning forty this month. She retrained as a nurse the past couple of years, whilst bringing up her three kids. She works hard in ER, and desperately needed time-out. A wonderful group of women gathered, telling silly jokes as we refilled our champagne glasses. My friend’s sister had just had a baby, so couldn’t come. She had t-shirts made for us all which announced who we were celebrating and why. We climbed aboard the shuttle bus, and I felt my shoulders relax. At the terminal, I was startled when I saw that I had to walk over a high drop, which was visible through the Perspex walkway. My daughter saw my apprehension before I could even voice it. “I don’t think I can!” I exclaimed. An officer stood to the side and asked if I was okay. I explained that I didn’t like heights. Of course, its more than that. I was thrown off a freakin’ building! I soared through the air and smashed onto the ground. I had to be rebuilt. Not liking heights is what I had experienced before that time. “Just look straight ahead,” he advised. My daughter ran in front, encouraging me. When I saw her elfin face, with its dimples, I felt strong. I made it onto the ship! I did something I never thought I could.

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There is something thrilling about taking off via Sydney Harbour on a ship. White smoke and lights streamed forth and my daughter delighted everyone with her cartwheels and dancing. We were both exhausted by  8.30pm, and so I bid my friends goodnight. In the morning we walked around the ship, and munchkin uncovered a candy shop with treats as big as her head. It was a great mini-cruise, as we met up with our friends, my daughter could go to kid’s club and activities and I could spend time looking out to sea, without having a thousand things on my mind. On Saturday evening there was a Great Gatsby party, and munchkin loved being a part of it.

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I had some smashing cocktails whose main ingredient was gin. I tried dancing, but ended up throwing my walking stick and hitting a man next to me. Oops! Time to sit down! My daughter elected to go on the flying fox over the ship, and enjoyed it so much, she did it three times.

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As the sun set, we raised a toast to our friend, Trish. We talked of the past and of her future dreams. None of the ladies’ present had been set an easy path, filled with even surfaces. Hell no! Collectively, we had all tripped on cobbled, uneven and treacherous surfaces. We have the scars to prove it. I didn’t do things like this in my younger years. Even going camping would have meant purchasing equipment. Life was reduced to having enough funds for surgery and IVF, and then to make sure I had everything my baby needed. I have learnt that adventures are necessary, for the mind and the soul. Decisions are made, minds are eased and fun is had. Life can’t just be a tedious, painful trip to the grave, can it? I want more for my child. I want to show her the big wide world, whilst sheltering her from con-artists. I want to show her oceans and fields of lavender, rainforests and castles. I am sick of stuff, and all it represents. I want experiences, as does she.

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The only way is up from here, kid. I am so glad that I got to spend time with these remarkable women and this remarkable child. I cringed as my phone came back into range and was flooded with texts, missed calls, emails and Facebook messages. Unless it can be arranged to have me cloned, all will be seen to in good time. I have bags to unpack, washing to be done, stories to write and a child to school. I have a friend who turned forty by heading to the ocean, the negative ions cleansing all our psyche’s. One of the single ladies in our group made a new friend on the ship, and they are going on another little cruise in April! Yes! That is it! I want to be like Bronwyn! I want to smile and be open to new possibilities, and to say yes to things I haven’t done before. I want to force myself to consider that there are more honest, decent people in this world than foul. I want to one day believe it again.