A wing and a prayer … the end credits.

London was cold. I mean, nasty cold. I expected a little better for mid-March, but the cold snap wasn’t over yet. Since I had to figure on it taking me about 12 cups of tea to get through the day, I was relieved to find M&S open in the arrivals hall. One of the most immediately obvious benefits of being back in civilisation was the ability to get groceries at the airport at 6am. Naturally, I didn’t have a coat, which made for an unpleasant time trying to navigate the less-than-straightforward journey from LHR terminal 4 (where we landed), to the long stay car park at LHR terminal 5 (where the car was parked). It really shouldn’t be that hard, seriously.

I spent the journey home trying to focus on the positives rather than allow myself to slip into a sulk, although I was struggling to see any positives outside of the Dominos pizza I was going to order for lunch. I was unemployed, homeless, and my relationship was in tatters, so why wasn’t I diving in Honduras or learning to fly in Columbia right now? Well, I pondered, we are where we are. Once I got on the plane to Sydney I was committed to coming home, so “suck it up, buttercup”. Things will shake out the way they are meant to in the end.

Having spent the last month fighting a mean dose of the flu, the last thing I expected when I got home was to get sick again within 36 hours of landing. That’s exactly what happened however, and I decided to flee to sunnier climes, booking myself on a flight to Spain to see my parents. Yes, I lasted a whole 5 days back in the UK before I was outta there!! As I boarded my “RyanScare” flight at Luton airport, it was snowing – not just a little bit, the flakes were the size of ten pence pieces! In late March. Gotta love the British weather.

Thankfully Spain was somewhat warmer, although still decidedly fresh. Unfortunately I wasn’t really going to enjoy it, having gone from ‘sick’ to ‘dying’ within 2 days of getting there. One of the great things about Spain, however, is that you can buy good drugs over-the-counter. Mum went to the pharmacist and came back with enough drugs to put down an elephant. I did basically spend two weeks on the sofa while sinusitis slogged it out with amoxycillin, but I enjoyed being looked-after. I also enjoyed playing with my parents’ precious new cocker spaniel puppy, although by the end of the second week the whole “raiding my bag and carrying my underwear away to chew” thing was starting to get a bit old.

There was no point putting it off any longer – I had to start looking for a job. Since it looked like I was going to be in the UK for a while I needed to get back to work and start replenishing the bank balance. I dutifully spent my time in Spain firing out CVs and having conversations with recruitment consultants. I looked at endless job specs, and by the time I was heading home I felt a bit more relaxed for having several interviews already lined up.

Sounds pretty positive, right? Well, the way it actually went was that I attended a number of interviews, and had a number of conversations about jobs that, frankly, I had absolutely no interest in doing. I could do any of them, sure, for the sake of going back to work and earning a crust, but did I really want to sell my soul to Satan (read: Barclays) for the sake of making a quick buck? I decided to focus my efforts elsewhere, and began to draw up a strategic plan for ‘Operation Euromillions’ …

Since the job-thing was rolling along slowly and I had plenty of time on my hands, I had an opportunity to make good on a promise i’d made to myself back in Columbia – I would learn to fly. Learn to fly a paraglider, that is. Now, in all honesty, I may have done the tandem flight in Medellin for slightly the wrong reasons. Possibly. Hell, definitely – I had no intention of my feet leaving the ground when we pitched up on the hill on November 1st. However, I have always been somewhat susceptible to peer pressure (I like to call it ‘competitiveness’), particularly when the person applying the pressure knows exactly which buttons to press to arouse my natural indignation – anything you can do, I can do, and with more style. Bring it, bud. Anyway, long story short, I found myself in a field in Surrey on a cold April day, the day after it had epically pissed-down with rain, looking down at my boots which had been swallowed by the mud.

I remember the tandem flight clearly … we took two steps forward and floated upwards. Easy. Not so easy on a small hill in England, in almost zero wind. Actually, it’s damn hard work, and there are a surprising amount of things that can go wrong. And yes, I managed to make pretty much every screw-up in the book. However, I had one thing in my favour – my complete willingness to keep throwing myself repeatedly into the mud. Once my head bent itself around the concept of ‘breaking before landing’ the situation improved somewhat, but not before a couple of savage crash landings had almost put me off for life. However, I wasn’t going to be beaten, and a couple of short hops later confidence was restored. I went home that first day covered head to toe in mud (from having been dragged through it head first), but with a stupid grin on my face.

Now at this point, an unexpected ingredient dropped into the mix – I was contacted about a job with a company who I knew well and had previously worked with. They were a financial markets training provider who had opened an office in Dubai in the last couple of years – how would I feel about going to Dubai? It meant taking my consulting experience from buy-side to sell-side, but I didn’t see it as a problem as long as I didn’t have sales targets to meet. As it turned out, I’d tested the Dubai market a year or so previously, but since the financial crisis there are not so many expat opportunities to be found in my field, so this was a rarity in that they specifically wanted to bring someone out from London. Now Dubai would be extremely cool – warm weather, tax-free salary, lots to do, state of the art leisure facilities – not to mention that it would be another ‘stepping outside my comfort zone’ challenge. Now THAT was interesting.

So a couple of weeks later, i’d managed to get my head in the game for going to Dubai. I had my reservations, although i’d done my best to eliminate all the variables that shouldn’t be part of the decision-making process (whether I actually managed that or whether they were brought to bare in my subconscious I guess i’ll never know). This was the next phase, a new start, and I was already starting to think that ‘Lisa Fletcher’s Arabian Adventure’ had a nice ring to it. There were some definite downsides, but I was trying to ignore them since they were based on variables i’d already decided not to weigh in to the equation. And then I had a meeting in London that screwed it all up.

Getting my head around moving to the Middle East wasn’t too difficult when nothing was floating my boat in London, but then suddenly something was. Financial services again unfortunately, but playing to all my strengths, decent money, and not likely to burn me out in six months. Also, it seemed that the boss and I were on exactly the same page in terms of our ideas. Basically it ticked all the boxes, but it was still London, and it wasn’t going to be particularly character-building. But suddenly staying in London looked pretty good …. or maybe it was just that picking up and relocating seemed less necessary ….

In the meantime, I was still learning to fly, and after a couple of days was managing to launch, fly and land(!) relatively incident-free. Unfortunately the weather conditions were far from optimal, and a day came where I felt I was going backwards. Not literally, but in terms of skill level. It started after seeing one of my fellow learners blow his launch; we were launching from the top of a hill, which meant running down the hill until you had enough lift to get off the ground. Unfortunately his wing came up behind him, and then kept going over his head. He ended up diving down the hill face-first, and crawled out from under the wing with a big cut under his eye from his glasses. Naturally, that did wonders for our confidence! I came a cropper shortly after, having made a bad judgement call in terms of wind direction – actually there wasn’t any bloody wind until I was just about to get my feet off the ground when I got gusted from one side. I also ended up on my face, but with my feet pointing downhill. It hurt, a lot. Given that I was the only girl on the hill that day, I was buggered if I was going to let anyone see how much! Later that afternoon I took another hit, this time at the end of what had been, right up to the last minute, a great flight. As I was about to turn into the wind to come in to land, I got blasted from one side in the opposite direction and ended up getting slammed into the hill. That one really hurt too! I ended up with bruises all over my upper arms, on both sides of my butt, and between my legs from the harness – my gynaecologist is going to wonder what in God’s name has happened to me. Speaking of the Almighty, this sport was going to make a believer out of me – I said a silent prayer every time I took a run! It sounds bad, but lumps aside it is actually really fun. Honest! And there aren’t enough women in the sport, so come on girls!

The Dubai vs London debate raged on. I’d been doing a lot of research into cost of living in Dubai, and what I found out was pretty scary. Basically the high costs of living almost completely negate the tax-free advantage, so I wouldn’t be any better off there than in London financially, particularly as I would be taking a cut on gross salary. Probably worse-off in fact, since all my money would be swallowed learning to ski, scuba, kitesurf and sandboard. Since one of my primary motivations in working was to restore the bank balance to a respectable level, Dubai was looking less attractive. Ultimately, I could think of plenty of ‘pros’ for both London and Dubai, but there were a hell of a lot more ‘cons’ associated with Dubai. In fact the only obvious ‘con’ in respect of London was that it seemed like a cop-out, like taking the easy option. My inner coward hoped that it would be self selecting, since I was struggling to make a decision that I had any sort of confidence in.

So what actually happened? Well, nothing. I’m now back to square one, so i’ve decided to take a bit of a leap of faith and do something else I always wanted to do … write a book. I’ve had a number of people now suggest that I use this blog as the basis for a novel, so i’ve decided to give it a go. Work is now well under way on my first novel, a fact-based fiction which falls somewhere between ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ’50 Shades’. The challenge for you, my lovely readers, is to work out which bits are true, and which bits are a product of my over-active imagination. Should be fun, and of course, i’ll keep you posted!

So that’s the end of this adventure, but since I now have a free summer there’s sure to be more to follow. So thanks to all the following, for making the last 6 months the best … ever!!

To Ashleigh Brown, Lizzie Cockburn, Matt Dodgeson, Emma Doolin, Jennie Faughnan, Ange Gale, Ebony Griffin, Angelica Guz, Gillian Johnson, Lysanne Kaiser, Seamus McGarity, Jennifer Napfli, Kevin Napier, Angie Riley, Kelsey Roberts, Josephine Smart, Ruby Strahley, Norma Torres, Andrea Vogel, Doreen Wharton, Liz White, Marshall Wong, Lily Yap, Troy Young, for being awesome companions. Miss you all dreadfully and hope to see some of you again in the future. Guys, the video’s for you!

To Lucy Browne, Ross Hardy, Elsa and Tom Kellaway, James Murgatroyd, Ettia and Isaac Poole, it was great to catch up on the other side of the world for a change!

To Diego, Meirko, Yamilla, and that cute Italian dude with the curly hair from Rio what was his name again?) – muchas gracias, obrigada.

To Karen and Arran, Jonny, Armando, Gizzy, Brandon from Texas (the other one, from Austin!), the “Aussie Twins”, and of course Miss “symphony in your mouth” – it was brief but fun!

To Jordan, thanks for your brutal honesty – you were 100% right, and if i’d realised that earlier I’d still be in sunny paradise. Thank you for opening my mind to new possibilities. I owe you for giving me the early reality check that stopped me from passing up something awesome – because I would have done if your words hadn’t still been ringing in my ears!

And also to Taru and Adolfus for just being you πŸ˜‰

To “Achilles Invictus” (still funny) – I can’t sum it up in a sentence, so i’ll just say …. eat it, or put it in your pants πŸ˜‰

To anyone else i’ve forgotten – ah, you know.

Check you later, dudes.

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