All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Melbourne 2015: Day 04. Chillaxing in Fern Gully

And so we enter day four of my magnificent adventures in Melbourne. Today, the photos outweigh the text as we take a blissful stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens, chillax in the art galleries and take a tour of Melbourne CBD via some abstract architecture photography. Enjoy! :)

22nd August 2015, 7:51pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

Another. Busy. Day. It all began at 9:15am when I left the motel for a bracing stroll to Federation Square to visit the (much-loved) Book Market. It’s not the most jam-packed of book markets, but any volume of books is blissful for me. Although there were several books I wanted to buy (Murakami, White, Welsh, Robbins) I showed restraint and purchased only one: The Crow Road by Scottish literary master Iain Banks. This is a book I have loved since I first read it, a book that is firmly in my top ten of all time and a book I’ve been seeking out for years. And, as I’m currently embarked on a quest to attain a copy of each of my top ten favourite books, couldn’t pass up this literary bargain!

My top ten books of all time!

1. Quest for a Kelpie (Frances Hendry)
2. Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)
3. Northern Lights: A Poet’s Sources (George Mackay Brown)
4. Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
5. The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)
6. The Stornoway Way (Kevin MacNeil)
7. The Crow Road (Iain Banks)
8. Still Life With Woodpecker (Tom Robbins)
9. Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson)
10. Voss (Patrick White)

~ Bolded titles indicate those I currently own ~

After the book market I decided to return to the NGV and spent a good hour chillaxing amidst the art. Then, after a Cherry Coke break, I decided to head over to the Royal Botanical Gardens for a couple of hours getting in touch with nature. It was so serene and peaceful. And I totally fell in love with Fern Gully; a calm stroll through a pseudo-rainforest that reminded me of the Dandenongs and, by association, that fateful day in October 2007. It also occurred to me as I smelled the flowers and squealed at the cacti that I’d never spent so long in the Botanical Gardens. I’d been there before, when I first arrived in Australia, and a visit with my abusive girlfriend, but never for the length of time I spent there today. It was quite wonderful and easily one of the highlights of my trip thus far.

Following the gardens I roamed past the Shrine of Remembrance on my way to the NGV: International, where I spent an hour chillaxing amidst the art. And today I was (finally) able to get up close and personal with The Banquet of Cleopatra, my favourite painting in the collection. Yay!

Banquet of Cleopatra Selfie - NGV International, Melbourne.

‘Banquet of Cleopatra’ Selfie – NGV International, Melbourne.

By this point in the day my blisters were growing and walking was becoming extremely painful, but I persevered and spent some time window shopping in Dymocks and taking a few photos around the city.

I then hobbled to the pizza shop, treated myself to a (spectacular) potato & rosemary pizza and returned to the motel to gorge myself on carbohydrate and cheese. I’m now exceedingly tired, unable to think straight, my feet are beyond painful and I’m wishing I’d brought more comfortable shoes with me! So I’m kicking back with Total Wipeout and anticipating a beautiful sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is another blast from the past – Lygon Street – and a return to the ocean, something I haven’t seen since 2009! :)


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Melbourne 2015: Day 03. Facing the demons of the past…

And so we come to day three of my fabulous adventures in Melbourne. A day that saw me explore Melbourne’s past, face my personal demons and rediscover the majestic taste of the greatest soft drink known to human kind…

21st August 2015, 8:02pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve done so much walking over the last two days that I’ve developed blisters on top of blisters! Walking back to the motel this evening was exquisite pain, but removing my shoes and socks after another busy day was exquisite bliss. Although when I finally got a look at my blisters I was a bit disgusted. I have one on my left foot’s little toe that is bigger than the toe itself. It’s quite disgusting and, as I brought nothing sharp to pop it with, resorted to using one of the in-room forks to relieve the agony. Which was difficult, to be sure, but mightily satisfying when the damned thing burst!

I wasn’t quite as keen leaving as yesterday but I was in the city by 9:30am and at the museum by 10:00am. Yes, this much-loved destination was my chosen activity for the day, and to be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed. Sure, Meadhbh got all excited and started RAWRing in my ear when she saw the dinosaurs (they were completely unexpected) but the rest of the displays were lackluster and somewhat disappointing. There was a delightful rainforest installation (actual trees!) and the section that investigated the mind and all that affects it was interesting but for Melbourne Museum, there wasn’t an awful lot about Melbourne itself. Just a lackadaisical display that was nowhere near as interesting as I remembered. Sure, Phar Lap was present and correct, but where was the information on Melbourne’s growth as a city? Where was the artifacts drawn from Melbourne’s colourful history? Where was the Neighbours kitchen that used to grace this magnificent building? I did enjoy my visit to the museum – fortunately, due to my concession card, I gained free entry – but I was just disappointed that the displays weren’t as interesting or enjoyable as I remembered them.

After departing the museum I decided to challenge myself and headed down Nicholson Street toward the (dreaded) Brunswick Street. Ever since my emotionally abusive relationship this street has been massively triggering for me. It stirs all sorts of bad memories of that painful, debilitating time. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into an abusive tirade about how kissing me made her want to vomit. It was on Brunswick Street that she threw a glass of water over my head, and then laughed maniacally at my humiliation, all because I had stated a preference of actor. It was on Brunswick Street that my girlfriend launched into a (different) abusive tirade about how I was the most selfish human being that had ever lived, and that the only person I ever thought of was myself. It used to be my favourite street in Melbourne. But today, it is just a painful reminder of the agony my abuser caused me, and thus, for eight years I’ve avoided it like the plague. So I was quite chuffed with myself when I was able to meander the street with only heightened anxiety. No panic attacks. No grueling PTSD flashbacks. Just me on my once favourite street in Melbourne. I say once favourite because, like the rest of Melbourne the hipsters have taken over. Where once Brunswick Street was an assortment of independent shops and funky retailers, it is now a collection of trendy, up market clothes shops and even trendier, up market eateries. It has, alas, become hipster central. And I hated it. The Grub Street Bookstore (my second favourite second-hand book retailer in Melbourne) was still there, as was Dixons Recycled, but this was not enough to ease the pain of what Brunswick Street has become. Damned hipsters and there annoying, arrogant, hipster ways. How dare you destroy large swathes of the city for your own, petulant needs!

From Brunswick Street I went for a constitutional down Smith Street before aiming for Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent a good hour relaxing in this tranquil, tree filled oasis before returning to the city for some light (but essential) shopping.

By 3:00pm I was in Federation Square, enjoying a can of Cherry Coke and trying to decide what to do next. I didn’t feel like browsing the shops, nor did I feel like just sitting still, so I opted for a visit to the Immigration Museum. And glad I was that I made such a choice. Beautifully laid out, dynamic displays, a wealth of information and all housed inside a glorious building that was, at one point in Melbourne’s history, Customs House. I was far more impressed with the Immigration Museum than I was Melbourne Museum, and would urge anyone who visits Melbourne to place this attraction on their itinerary.

After leaving the museum City Basement Books, DVD Collection and The Little Library followed before I happened upon a shop that sells Irn Bru. Yes. Irn Bru! That magnificent Scottish soft drink. That beverage from the Gods. Oh boy, have I missed this particular sparking liquid! Cue Irn Bru selfies and a couple of rather random abstracts!

Tonight I was supposed to go to my gathering, which was pretty much the reason I came to Melbourne this week, but I’ve made the executive decision not to go. I’m tired. I’m a tad overwhelmed after Brunswick Street and I’m just not in the mood to be around hundreds of extroverted (and introverted) individuals. Some might see me as weak, as pathetic, as unexciting, as many negative (and horrible) things. But sometimes I need to look after myself because – surprise, surprise – there’s no-one else around to do it. With the mood I’m in I know that were I to go tonight I would be anxious, I would suffer a panic attack and I would ruin the upcoming weekend in Melbourne. So I don’t feel bad for not going. I’m just taking care of myself and prioritizing my needs above my need for sociable activity. So it’s just another evening in front of the TV and – if yesterday is anything to go by – another fitful, restless sleep.

On the agenda for tomorrow is the book market at Federation Square (yay, books!) and a chilled out arvo in the motel. Nothing exciting. Nothing special. Just another blissful day doing nothing and loving doing it!


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Melbourne 2015: Day 02. A good day in the Victorian capital

So after yesterday’s arrival in Melbourne, it was on Thursday 20th August that the real fun began. My first full day in Melbourne since November 2013 was jam-packed with beautiful art, nostalgic reminiscence and photography sessions by the Yarra river. So why not join me as my adventures in Melbourne continue…

20th August 2015, 6:19pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

BIG day! I was über-keen to leave this morning. Up and out by 8:45am – in the city by nine! Seriously, I couldn’t believe how early I got going this morning. It was nice. I had an early (unhealthy) bite to eat at Hungry Jacks (which reminded me of my homelessness as, when I could afford it, I would treat myself to a sausage and egg muffin to kick-start my day) before chilling in Federation Square whilst waiting for the The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia to open. Once it did I was in the door and rampantly seeking out The Pioneer. It wasn’t on display last time I was in Melbourne but today it was – and it was magnificent! Easily one of the greatest paintings of all time. After snapping off several photos (including some hideous Pioneer selfies!) I embarked on a tour of the rest of the building. Some of the galleries were closed but there was still a plethora of beautiful art on display including several Fred Williams and Sidney Nolan’s.

Pioneer Selfie!

Pioneer Selfie!

Various (Sidney Nolan)

Various (Sidney Nolan)

Fred Williams Selfie!

Fred Williams Selfie!

After having my fill of the gallery I set off on a walk around the city and – shock! – discovered a second-hand bookstore hidden away down a rickety flight of stairs on Flinders Street. I didn’t buy anything – there will be time for that later – but I did savor being around so many lovely, beautiful books again. It made me realise how much I miss bookshops. Wodonga, alas, has none – which is yet another reason I hate my adopted ‘home’.

City Basement Books; the only second hand bookstore in Melbourne CBD!

City Basement Books; the only second-hand bookstore in Melbourne CBD!

With literature on my mind I strolled across Princes Bridge and began my tour of the NGV International. I’ve noticed over the years that the collection doesn’t change as much as the Ian Potter Centre, but what a collection! I couldn’t see The Banquet of Cleopatra all that clearly as a school group was camped out in front of the painting, but I fell in love with a painting depicting the aftermath of the Glencoe Massacre and then fell in lust with a ravishing patron who was studying a painting in the 20th Century section. Shay took great pains to inform me of her spectacular arse, which I had already noticed as, last time I checked, I had eyes!

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham)

After the Massacre of Glencoe (Peter Graham)

After I’d suffered art overload it was time for a comedown, so I meandered over to my old home at the Kings Domain and spent half an hour wallowing in memory and nostalgia. The bridge under which I slept is now awash with water but all my other sleeping spots were relatively unchanged. Various fences, however, have sprung up and the only reason for them seems to be as a homeless deterrent, which is a shame, but it was exceedingly strange being back in my old stomping ground. It’s been five years since I was living in the Kings Domain. Another life. Another Addy. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually survived that brutal, unforgiving time. Perhaps I’m stronger than I think I am.

To ease my mind after the onslaught of memories I took some time strolling around the city: Swanston Street, Collins Street, Bourke Street. Amazed at how much it’s changed. Stunned by how similar it is. I did break my budget by buying two DVDs from one of my old haunts (Jericho and The Guild) but they were super cheap ($12 for the two) and I’m not able to get them in Albury/Wodonga so I don’t feel too bad. After a miniature coke break it was time to wander Birrarung Marr, take photos along the Yarra and then a mini jaunt through ACMI and its two free displays. By this point I was pretty tired so window shopped down Elizabeth Street on my way back to the motel.

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It was bittersweet being in Melbourne today. I’ve always loved this city but is has has changed. It’s more posh, more hipster. It’s lost some of the cheap and cheerful vibe it used to have. Presumably so Melbournians can continue their pointless quest to prove themselves better than Sydneysiders. The sad fact is they don’t need to try so hard. Melbourne is better than Sydney. Always has been. Always will be. But if it keeps changing to placate the will of the hipster brigade it’ll screw with what makes it so beautiful, so unique, so charming. Anyway, what I did notice today was that the only happy people I encountered were tourists. Locals – Melbournians – were a right miserable, grumpy lot. All frowns and despondent faces. They’re supposed to live in the most livable city in the world. Surely they should be happy about that. But no. Grumpy, grumpy, grumble bums – the lot of them!

Looking down the Yarra River toward Melbourne CBD...

Looking down the Yarra River toward Melbourne CBD.

As for the rest of my evening, it’s just gonna be a quiet one in front of the TV I’m afraid. Which is a luxury in itself, given I don’t get reception at home! Doctor Who is on, followed by The Weekly, The IT Crowd and Good Game. All in all though today’s been a good day – one of the best for quite some time, in fact!


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Melbourne 2015: Day 01. I am come home

Well, after seven blissful days in Melbourne I have returned home to find the inevitable depression gripping my soul. I’ve found over the years that I will often go through a period of depression following a holiday. I guess many people do. But however deep the depression gets it will not take away the awesomeness of the holiday.

Unlike my time in Melbourne in 2013, which I spent mostly encased in the motel watching Doctor Who and playing Zelda, this time I was a super-busy bee the entire time I was there. Out the motel before nine each morning and not returning until at least six in the evening. I visited galleries and museums, stalked the city and inner suburbs and relaxed in parks, gardens and on the beach. It was a most blissful time that saw me relaxed, calm and – surprisingly – mostly anxiety and PTSD free! 

Over the coming days I will be sharing my numerous adventures with you. The text of the posts will be taken from the journal entries I wrote whilst on holiday and the pictures will be carefully chosen from the 730 photos I took throughout the week. So settle back and enjoy Addy’s Adventures in Melbourne…fun for all the family! :)

19th August 2015, 7:03pm
Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

I’ve stayed in this motel so many times that returning here feels like I’m returning home. I first stayed here in 2008, shortly before returning to the UK, after my parents booked me accommodation so I would have somewhere to rest and recuperate before the epic flight home. I stayed here again a few months later when I returned to Melbourne and again in 2009 shortly before I became homeless. Then, throughout my homelessness, courtesy of money raised through numerous activities too traumatizing and shaming to admit to, I stayed here several times. And each time I stayed, it soothed my troubled soul and offered all sorts of comfort and solace. It is, without question, my ‘home’ in Melbourne. It is quiet. It is comfortable. It is a blissful, wondrous place that will forever live in my soul as one of my happy places. Without the Flagstaff City Inn, I don’t know where I would be in this city. It is the only place I want to stay when I come to this multicultural wonderland.

Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

Room 211, Flagstaff City Inn

So far the day has been pretty good. My train trip was free from the IBS dramas that plagued my last trip and, courtesy of an el cheapo MP3 player, full of laughter and merriment as I listened to classic Fawlty Towers episodes. It should be noted that the train system in this part of the world is third-world in nature and has some of the shoddiest service I’ve ever witnessed in the locomotive industry! The seats are uncomfortable. The carriages dirty and dilapidated. And the toilets…the less said about them the better! But I made the most of the situation and tried to enjoy the tedious, uncomfortable start to my holiday. It was a four hour trip, but a four hour trip that – due to my perkiness and determination to have a good time – harked back to my train journeys of old.

Once I arrived into Melbourne I meandered the fifteen minutes from the train station to my motel and checked into my home-from-home. I had a refreshing glass of water before deciding to brave the chaos of the city to re-acclimatise myself with the people heavy insanity that this city offers. I didn’t spend long in the city, just enough to be happy, just enough to enjoy a plate of Lord of the Fries (an eatery that offers home cooked chips with a variety of sauces; I opted for French Canadian, which consisted of drowning the chips with shredded cheese and gravy! Delicious!) before exploring Bourke Street and Melbourne Central (a shopping centre).

Bourke Street, Melbourne

Bourke Street, Melbourne

It was in Melbourne Central that I made my first discovery; a gorgeous little book shop that is both unique and delightful. Rather than selling books, they offer them on an honor system. If you want to read a book you can take it and then return it once you’ve finished. Alternatively, you can take the book to keep, but have to leave another book in exchange. They didn’t have many books, only a few dozen, but I love the idea behind the shop and can imagine me returning here regularly over the coming days to see what books are on offer.

The Little Library, Melbourne Central

The Little Library, Melbourne Central

After an hour or so in the city I decided to return to the motel and leave the rest of the exploration until tomorrow. Truth be told I’m really looking forward to this trip. I need a break from my routine. I need a break from my mental health. I need to spend some time chilling out, having adventures and loving both life and me again. I need to be happy. And I’m hoping Melbourne still has the power to make that happen!

Street Angel, Melbourne

Street Angel, Melbourne

On the agenda tonight is The Day of the Doctor. Last time I was in Melbourne was the weekend of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. I stayed specifically to watch the Matt Smith/David Tennant starring special. So it’s destiny or fate or happenstance that my first night back in Melbourne, they are playing the exact same special on television. After that I’ll just chill in the motel; watch TV, read, write in my journal, merrily anticipate the numerous adventures I will be having over the coming days.

On the agenda tomorrow: NGV Australia, NGV International, exploring the city and a return to my ‘home’ in the Kings Domain.

Much to look forward to. Should be a cracking time! :)

~ All photographs are © Addy Lake ~


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Ten places that make me feel positive, inspired and happy…

In today’s installment of the Ten Times to Be Happy challenge I take you on a whistle stop tour of some of the places that make me feel positive, inspired and happy. And surprisingly, most of them are in Scotland! :p

~1~
Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel

Glenfinnan-GeneralViews-2008-0023

~ Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel ~

I have Highlander to thank for this. My obsession with the TV Series during my teenage years was instrumental in my decision to run away from home in 1997. For some reason I needed to visit the location of my fictional hero’s birth. I needed to walk the glen that had featured so prominently in the episode Homeland. When I arrived in Scotland I walked twenty-six miles to Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness, before catching a bus to the quaint town of Fort William (see 4). Once in Fort William I hopped on a train for the twenty-minute journey to Glenfinnan. And as the train weaved across the viaduct (made famous in the Harry Potter films) my heart skipped a beat at the most beautiful view I’d ever seen; the glen opened up, all eyes leading toward the loch, and the Highlander statue that stands at its tip. I was instantaneously smitten.

I have returned to Glenfinnan many times in my life. After that first visit it quickly became my favourite place on earth. I loved the serenity of the glen. I loved the beauty of the loch. I loved that it always provided me with such peace and solace. Although it is tinged with sadness (it being the site of a suicide attempt in 2000) it has never failed to bring me positivity, inspiration and happy fuzzy bunny feelings. I cannot speak highly enough of this magical place. It is a location that everyone needs to visit at least once. It is a site of such majesty, such ravishing beauty, it cannot fail to move you.

The following video was made in 2008, during my return to Scotland (and Glenfinnan) after six years in Australia:

~2~
Berneray

CNV00040

~ The Sound of Harris, Berneray ~

When I first visited Berneray in February 2000, I fell instantly in love with this far-flung island of the Western Isles chain. A tiny island off the coast of North Uist, Berneray is blessed with a rugged beauty that few places on earth can match. Home to otters, a flower covered machair, and miles of unspoilt white beaches, you could lose days of your life exploring this magical, inspiring locale. As I have done over the years. But Berneray means more to me than just another ravishing Scottish Island. It was the place my life changed when I met Louise at New Year 2000, and it was the place where I lost my virginity, one wind-swept New Years day. And ever since that magical moment occurred, I have loved Berneray with an intense passion.

~3~
Inverness

Inverness-2008-0021

~ Inverness, Scotland ~

My home in Scotland. My love affair with Inverness began in 1997, when I stopped off there during my ‘runaway’ period. I fell in love with the river Ness, that winds effortlessly through the heart of the city. I fell in love with the islands, a chain of small islets in the middle of the river. I fell in love with the cobbled streets and myriad of independent shops that populated them. I fell in love with Leakeys, the finest bookshop I’ve ever visited. I fell in love with the music that played in pubs and clubs on a nightly basis. I fell in love with Craig Phadrig, a forested hill that dominates the skyline. I fell in love so quickly, so hard, that I began dreaming of this fair city. In 1999, during my backpacking odyssey, it was always my final destination; the city that I had chosen to make my home, and for many years, it was. I attended college in Inverness. I fell in love in Inverness. I lost my soul to Inverness. Even now, tens of thousands of miles on the other side of the world, my heart yearns for that majestic city in the Highlands. One day, I will return. That much I know to be true.

~4~
Fort William

FortWilliam-2008-0022

~ Morning mist over Loch Linnhe, Fort William ~

If Inverness is my wife, Fort William is my mistress. Many times whilst I was living in Inverness I would travel the 66 miles to this quaint little town to spend night after night in its warm, loving embrace. I fell head over heels for its location on the shores of Loch Linnhe, for its arts scene, for its mountain festival, for its proximity to the mighty Ben Nevis and beautiful Glen Nevis. Fort William burns in my heart. It always will.

~5~
Orkney Mainland

05

~ Me, at the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Mainland (1999) ~

I’ve only been to Orkney twice. Once in 1999 during my backpacking odyssey around Scotland and once in 2001, when I visited it with Louise and her parents. On both occasions I was overwhelmed with the beauty of this fair isle. I fell head over heels for its history, for the neolithic sites, for the serenity of Scapa Flow and its turbulent, tragic history. I fell head over heels for its fishing villages, Viking lineage and treeless landscape. This love was cemented when Louise and I appeared in the Orkney tourist brochure; gleefully smiling away in the shadow of Kirkwall Cathedral. Of all the Scottish islands, this is my favourite. It has always been inspiring. It has always filled me with joy and happiness. I love it. Truthfully and totally.

~6~
The Western Isles

callanish

~ Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis ~

Berneray (see 2) is the jewel in the crown of this archipelago. But it has stiff competition. My first visit to this island chain was in February 2000, when I traveled the length and breadth of it with Deborah and Elle, two friends I met in Inverness. I was overwhelmed by the Callanish Standing Stones. In awe of the mountainous Isle of Harris. And moved by the majesty of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. To this day I regret visiting Barra, the southern most island of the archipelago, but deep down I know that one day I will walk upon its unspoilt beaches. Like the Orkney Mainland, I carry the Western Isles in my heart, and regret living so far away from this magnificent collection of islands.

~7~
London

And so we leave Scotland and travel several hundred miles south, to the greatest city in the world. I have loved London for as long as I can remember. When I was in my late teens I would house-sit for my Aunt and Uncle, traveling the thirty minutes into the heart of the city each day to explore the history, architecture and art it had to offer. I would spend days of my life walking the stone streets of England’s capital, my heart singing with every mile walked. I would visit its plethora of theaters. I would wile away the hours in its shops, stores and shopping arcades. There is nothing you can’t do in London. There is nothing you can’t help but fall in love with. From the mighty river Thames, to the back streets of Soho to the expanse of parkland in the heart of the city. It is a wonderful, inspiring and altogether glorious city that burns in your soul whenever you are apart from it.

~8~
Melbourne

Melbourne

~ Melbourne ~

My home in Australia. For the first ten years that I was in Australia I lived in Melbourne. It’s laneways, coffee shops, wide streets and intricate inner suburbs were my home. And later, it’s parkland, alleys and litter strewn streets, my bed. My homeless period in Melbourne has stained my love of the city to some degree. The memories of this traumatic, brutal life tingeing my memories with sadness and rendering me unable to love the city as much as I once did. I used to be able to spend days exploring the laneways and streets of the city, engaging in the vibrant arts scene and wiling the hours away in its beautiful art galleries and museums. But now when I think of Melbourne I think of curling up on stone concrete for a restless nights sleep. I think of the abuse I received from its residents; words and actions that made me think I was less than human. I think of the pain and trauma that my mind and body went through during those dark, joyless years. But I still love Melbourne. I still miss is. It is, after all, my home in Australia. It always will be.

~9~
Port Fairy

Port Fairy East Beach

~ East Beach, Port Fairy ~

This quaint little fishing village on the southern coast of Victoria, Australia, has always shone in my soul. From my first visit there with my parents in 2004, through to the traumatic breakdown I experienced on my last visit there in 2007, it has always been held with high regard in my mind. I love the wide streets. The expansive beaches. The plethora of outdoor activity. And the annual folk festival that fills the town to bursting. I love how the quiet allowed my soul to sing as I explored the township and fell in love with the inspirational arts scene that runs through the village. I miss Port Fairy. I used to go there often. Two, three times a year I would leave Melbourne to refind myself in this delightful town. But since the breakdown. Since the darkness that clouded my last visit. I don’t think I would ever return. Too much pain. Too many bad memories. But not even to dampen my love for Port Fairy. It will always be one of my favourite places in Australia.

and

~10~
The Wodonga Public Library

This is the only place in Wodonga, the town I currently call home, that I like. I visit it several times a week, losing myself amidst the stacks of books and piles of DVDs, allowing the knowledge and intellect contained within them to wash over me. I cherish how it soothes my troubled soul. I love how it calms my anxiety. I love how it provides me a moment of solace from the usual chaotic nature of my life and illness. I have always loved libraries, ever since I was a child, and Wodonga library will always be one of my favourites. And not just because I have a crush on one of the hot librarians who works there! :p

~ All photos in this post are © Addy Lake ~


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Should I stay or should I go?

In April 2014, when this crippling depressive episode started, I was sitting at home watching an episode of Monarch of the Glen. Although not the greatest television series of all time, it is one that means the world to me because of its, and my, connection to Scotland. Alongside Hamish Macbeth, it is one of the television series I return to whenever I’m homesick and eager to bask in the glory of Scotland. On this particular occasion though my homesickness overcame me and I said out loud: “I don’t want to be here any more, I want to be there,” whilst pointing at the glory of the Scottish countryside. It is a moment that has stayed with me because it was the moment that I realised I was no longer happy living in Australia.

Monarch of the Glen

Monarch of the Glen: what I was watching when I realised I was no longer happy living in Australia

I first moved to Australia in 2002 for one reason and one reason only; to be with my then girlfriend, Louise. I sacrificed my home (Scotland), my family, my friends, my education and my country of birth (England) to continue a relationship that had begun in the wilds of the Outer Hebridean winter. For a while, things worked out for me in Australia. My mental health was relatively stable, I had a job that (for a brief period) I loved, and my relationship with Louise was secure and loving. But then came 2006; my relationship with Louise faltered and failed, my mental health collapsed and I became deeply unstable, causing me to lose my job. And then came 2007; the loss of everything I owned, the end of my friendships and a complete breakdown in my psychological functioning. Since then, my “life” in Australia has been meaningless.

Certainly, there was a brief period of time in 2008 when things looked like they might work out, but that was a mirage, a mistake of epic proportions, and ever since my life has paid the price; homelessness, isolation and pain on a level most people couldn’t comprehend.

Although a large part of this has been down to my unstable mental health, an equally large part of it is that I know I’m not happy here anymore. I dislike the town in which I live with a venomous passion; there is nothing to do, nowhere to go and I feel as if it has been slowly sucking my soul dry for the last three years now. The unit which I call “home” is unpleasant, noisy and altogether boring. I dislike living here just as much as I dislike the town in which I live. It too, is a succubus attached to my soul, draining me of any passion, excitement and my ability to live. I have also lost any passion I had toward Australia as a country. I no longer enjoy living here. I no longer feel happy about calling myself an honorary Australian. In fact, I feel more disenfranchised and irrelevant than I have at any other point in my life, for it is hard living somewhere that you have no passion for.

As such, ever since I was discharged from hospital back in February, I have been seriously considering leaving Australia and returning to Scotland. But in doing so I would be risking much. I would lose my benefits. I would lose my home. I would, in essence, be homeless again; and I’m not sure I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch all over again; which is what I would have to do if I returned to the United Kingdom, my home.

Inverness-2008-0021

Inverness, Scotland: my ‘home’

My desire to leave Australia has been so strong, I even had a discussion with my support worker about it, who agreed that I had little to keep me here. I have no friends. I have no family. I have no connection to the land. In fact, the only reason I’m here is because it’s where I’ve ended up. I didn’t even choose to be living in this town, I just ended up here during a particularly unpleasant period of my homelessness. And its hard living somewhere you don’t love. During this conversation with my support worker we wrote a list of pros and cons of staying/returning:

PROS

  • I would be living close to my family
  • I would get to see my niece & nephew for the first time
  • I would be living in Scotland; a country that I am passionate about
  • I would be able to cross off many items of my ‘things to do before I die’ list, as they are related to Scotland
  • Cheese is infinitely better tasting in the UK
  • Free medication
  • Free health care (albeit on the NHS)
  • Good public transport (albeit a trifle expensive)

CONS

  • Benefits situation is complicated. Although I would qualify for job seekers almost immediately I would have to wait two years before applying for disability. And as I’m not stable enough to work or look for work, this could cause problems and potentially leave me income-less.
  • Living with my parents on initial return to UK could prove troublesome as I am so used to living on my own.
  • If things don’t work out with my parents, I would be at risk of being homeless again.
  • Finding accommodation would be difficult, especially on job seekers allowance (which is approx. £60/fortnight)

So at this point in time, the pros of leaving Australia and returning home are winning. So I should go, right? But it’s not as simple as that, because of the risk I would be taking in terms of benefits and accommodation; two areas of life that are at lease stable if I were to remain in Australia, given I have the unit and am a recipient of the Disability Support Pension.

It all comes down to what I mentioned above; do I have the energy to rebuild my life from scratch?

And that’s a question I can’t answer at the moment.

So I’ve decided to turn to you, my wonderful blogging friends. Would you leave somewhere you have no passion for in order to return to where you felt at home? Would you risk homelessness in order to be close to family and friends? Or would you continue living somewhere you dislike, solely because you are the recipient of a reasonable benefit and have somewhere to live?

What would you do in my situation?


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Two foods I can’t get through Christmas without…

Ever since making Australia my home I’ve been locked in a constant battle between the Northern and Southern hemispheres of my soul; a battle that reaches its peak every Christmas time. For however much I love the chance to relax in the warm weather, surreptitiously ogle the beautiful women wearing next to nothing and relish in the frequent thunderstorms, a part of me deeply misses cozying up in front of a fire, surreptitiously ogling beautiful women doing Eskimo impersonations and relishing the endless dark nights.

So it doesn’t surprise me that the foods I crave each and every Christmas reflects the eternal struggle between my lust of Australia and love of Scotland.

Since moving into my unit nearly two years ago I decided that one of the safety measures I could implement to help me survive this upsetting and lonely time of year was to create some new traditions. One of these traditions was the cooking (and eating) of Yorkshire Puddings each and every Christmas day.

These simple, delicious mounds of light, crispy batter have been one of my favourite foodstuffs for as long as I can remember. In fact, many of my UK memories revolve around the eating of these heavenly orbs of mouth-watering perfection; the Yorkshire Puddings as big as your plate that a pub in Inverness served up, the mini-puddings that my father made from scratch, the addition of sausages into the mix to create Toad in the Hole and the ‘eat as many as you like’ offer in numerous mid-market restaurants.

I never eat Yorkshire Puddings at any other time of year, only Christmas, because I want the flood of memories; of family, of friends, of laughter, of bliss, of nostalgia, to be something special, something unique, something that comes only once a year. For this way, it gives me something to look forward to amidst the bleak, depressing nothingness that floods my soul during the festive season.

Christmas Dinner 2013

Yesterday’s Christmas Dinner…complete with scrumptious Yorkshire Puddings! :D

The second food – the Southern hemisphere’s weapon of choice – is the humble Calippo. There is a reason that this triangle of frozen water, reconstituted fruit juice, cane sugar, glucose and numerous flavours and additives made my list of 101 Things That Make Me Happy; because sucking on one fills me with a level of bliss that few other foods even come close to.

Whether it’s the cooling effect these icy treats contain on a 30-40 degree day, the fact they remind me of sunny days with bikini clad babes or simply the additives playing havoc with my mind, it is categorically impossible for me to eat a Calippo without an ear-to-ear smile on my face.

Hence why, as with the Yorkshire Puddings above, a box of Pineapple and Raspberry Callipos has become a tradition during my Christmas Eve food shop.