Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 years of El Loco & El Lobo

Starred Photos

On 25 May 2005, Bondi and I left Australia for our grand adventure. We were away for just over 30 months, and it’s just almost the same amount of time since our December 2007 return.

Thanks to all those that follow me through this blog: you’ve been very encouraging through all the fun and the difficult times.

Munson’s air-travel booking arrived today. It looks like we’ll be on the same flight to London, which is a first for all my canine companions.

I’m continuing to whittle down my household goods this week – how many boxes of staples can one accumulate in a lifetime? I’ve got enough stationery supplies – mostly gathered during my Seattle years – to run a small school for a year.

About 3 shelf metres of piano sheet-music was sold last week, and quite a few books. The takings were enough to fund 10% of Munson’s airfare.

I’m in two moods about a going away party. The last couple I’ve done (in Sydney and Seattle) proved to be rather sad, so slipping away into the sky may be the better option. Even after ricocheting between northern and southern hemispheres for 12 years, goodbyes haven’t become any easier. There are so many I wish I could unwind.

This brings me back to the original* title of this blog (on MSN spaces) ‘Homeward’, which wistfully acknowledged a rather long search for somewhere to call home. The closest thing I’ve found to home in recent years is the semi-circle of small hillocks at Sydney Park where I’ve spent so many lazy-to-mad afternoons and evenings with folk on two legs and four. I wish I could say that was enough, but restless energy always comes to fill the other spaces in my life.

Lightning has struck twice for me with Bondi and Munson on the journey. It makes me feel a bit like Doctor Who(ooo?) with my endless moving around with different companions. On Saturday I spoke about this with the artist Jenny Sages, who said she wished she could replace her friends as easily when they passed away. Rarely does one get to shape the relationship with one’s friends so directly, and never so quickly as with dogs. Their devotion may be unconditional but I would like to think I earn that. So we have a little caravan of love, one that can be steered homeward….

*The El Loco & El Lobo title came about when we were in Pamplona, Spain later that year. All the old Homeward  material was copied over to ELyEL a little bit later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It’s on!


My passport just arrived with a French one year visitor visa pasted in – a very pleasant surprise since I wasn’t expecting it for another week or so.

This makes the new adventure “official”. If it had been denied, I may just have been having a brief solo holiday in the UK. It’s seven weeks to departure, counting, counting…

Now I can start work on formalising the last few matters: Munson’s flight to London, shipping my effects and letting my house. I’ve already got multiple quotes on the first two items, and I just ran down the street to my local real estate agency to organise the letting.

Inari Finland, May 2007

Yesterday  I received a quote for transporting Munson from London to SW France by car: £450! That’s money much better spent on buying a car. I’ll be looking to buy a car while I’m in England – something like a diesel Berlingo van or smaller estate vehicle like the Renault Scenic I drove around Europe. If anyone has suggestions of models or specific vehicles, please let me know. Keep in mind that I can’t inspect anything till I arrive in July.

That reminds me that I’ll either need to “park” my Scenic car somewhere off-road indefinitely or sell it off for parts. I’m rather reluctant to dispose of it in this manner, having quite a sentimental attachment to it after it served so well, but a new automatic transmission is required to make it saleable. In other respects, with only 130,000km on the clock everything else is humming along nicely.

Friday, May 14, 2010


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After a hectic evening working with Chris in London to secure plane tickets, and then a few hours past midnight organising insurance and making copies of all my documents, I was ready to visit the French consulate in Sydney this morning.

Yesterday afternoon I went to schedule a meeting for next week, hoping I’d have some more information from the moving companies. I saw an 11.40am slot available for the next morning, and then … nothing, nothing, … nothing until June 3. Not wanting to slide my schedule back another three weeks, I cranked through the final requirements, figuring that even if my papers weren’t perfect, the consulate staff could tell me exactly what was missing.

I arrived at the consulate a full 40 minutes early, identified myself and took a seat, resisting the temptation to re-re-re-review all the papers neatly arranged in plastic binders in my bag.

My name was called fifteen minutes early. The guy at the counter was very relaxed, scanning through my pile of papers. All the copies I’d made so carefully last night were returned to me. A further fifteen minutes later I was done, told I had a two week wait for processing. I was out of the consulate ten minutes before my scheduled time. 

I’m very relieved that’s out of the way, as I’ve not slept well for several days as different schedule options run around my brain.

I leave Sydney on July 7, arriving at Heathrow July 8 (a Thursday), and have a ticket booked to Toulouse for July 15.  I’ll arrange for Munson to arrive either day or the day after and get him to a vet – probably the one Bondi used to see in Brentford – to sort out his Pet Passport.

I still have to find a way to transport him to France as foot-passengers can’t take dogs on the Eurostar or on ferries to France – they have to be inside a car. To that end, I’ve emailed some ground transport agencies for quotes. If I can’t accompany Munson then I’ll send him off with one of these agents and meet him there.

There is an option to travel via overnight ferry from Plymouth to Santander in Spain, where Munson can  make use of one of the dog-friendly cabins (again he’s too big for the “large” on-board kennels). [UPDATE: Not available for foot passengers.] It’s then only a 4-5 hr drive to our destination in France, passing through San Sebastian, where Bondi and I lived during November 2005.

Those arrangements will be the major factor in determining my ability to visit friends outside of London that week.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Munson’s Mates

Tilly and GillMunson and Bob 

The cool of Autumn is just starting to arrive in Sydney, topping and tailing beautiful days of clear skies and lovely sunsets. Munson is popping onto the bed in the mornings to snuggle against my legs. If he thinks this is cold, he’s going to get a rude shock when he encounters his first snow. The cool has reinvigorated all  the dogs at the park, so while a group of owners sit on the hill and jointly work the weekend crossword puzzle, all around is a blur of tails, frisbees, snouts and balls.

sunkissedMunson and Taffy


Our departure is still on hold as I wait for some final paperwork to arrive from France, and for additional quotes on moving my household effects. The date floats about 2 months away from getting those nailed down. I hope I can buy my ticket before the end of next week, and thus get a target set.

On Thursday I had my last French lesson with Elsa, who is off home to Montreal for 3 months before she can return to Sydney with a new visa for a new job and new big life in Sydney. I’ve promised to return from France one day and de corriger sa prononciation.

Meanwhile I’m eyeing everything in the house, whittling my libraries of books and music down a few more shelves apiece. I’d store some of it here but that’s very expensive on a per-annum basis. Munson hasn’t got a clue what’s going on – his last move was nearly 2 years ago and he hasn’t had to watch me packing up a house. Bondi, well-versed in piles of boxes and suitcases, would definitely know that something major was afoot.

Around the house, the malamute way of rest is to either be curled up right next to you or to sit in the next room watching you carefully. Munson is now in the hallway outside my study, lying on his side, flickering between sleep and observation, lazily wagging his tail when I look over his way, not suspecting…

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

One year

Bondi on Mt Etna

Mt Etna, Sicily. March 28 2007. The last day we played in snow together.

It’s been a year since my great friend lay in my arms and sighed into pain-free sleep; a year living in the slipstream of his remarkable life. The starlit wave recedes but never vanishes.