I look like a movie star… when I’m in Japan


My sons are in Tokyo at the moment, which got me thinking about my years in Japan. I adore the place. Here’s a piece I wrote during my time there…

I look like Marlene Deitrich and Jodie Foster…sometimes one, sometimes the other…or perhaps a cross of both. I know I look like these two Hollywood stars because I have been told so. Constantly. So many times over the course of five years in Japan that I was tempted to start working as a celebrity double. Fortunately two factors stop me from completely believing my own press: I have eyes and I own a mirror. While I would love to resemble either of these great beauties (especially Marlene and preferably before she died) I don’t. I know I don’t. Not even on a good day, or when I’m roaring drunk. I simply understand that the Japanese need to connect you in some way to a Hollywood star.

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Vienna and me


For those of you who’ve read all my books you’ll know that Vienna is a recurring theme. Chunks of my novel, Trouble Brewing take place in Vienna. One of the chapters in The Happy Endings Book Club is set there.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Vienna… It’s a city where I’ve faced a lot of my own personal issues, been incredibly happy, and overwhelmingly miserable. It’s a place that has changed shape and form in my eyes so many times. I have hated it. I have loved it. I have certainly been challenged by it.

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I love nothing more (apart from my kids, chocolate etc) than setting out on a journey. This time it was India… with a few days in Kuala Lumpur too. This was a work trip, for my children’s publishing company, Itchee Feet. But I travel with my business partner … who happens to be my life partner and my travel soulmate … so business is always pleasure, and travelling is always fun.

The problem with it being so much fun is I’m truly in the moment while I’m travelling. I find it difficult to stop and blog about what I’m seeing. I’d rather continue seeing it.

I did pause to do some writing in a lovely town in Rajasthan called Bundi. I came up with a whole new series of books there. I can’t wait to get started on them. But the rest of the time, I just experienced the place. I’m still processing Delhi. Not sure I liked it much, although I loved the small part of Rajasthan I saw.

I’ll share some of my experiences with you soon. In the meantime, I’m concentrating on the release of my next novel, The Happy Endings Book Club, out December 1st.

Can’t wait to share it with you.

I’m in Kuala Lumpur


I’m in Kuala Lumpur at the moment, staying at this delightful boutique hotel called the Anggun. When I travel with my guy, I search for places with character. And this always makes him laugh… but places with a rooftop bar. I love nothing more than kicking back with my guy and a beer, looking over a new destination from some quirky rooftop bar or restaurant. It’s my idea of bliss.

The Anggun is a wonderful hotel. Spotlessly clean, gorgeous  details, frriendly staaff, and in a great area. The room we’re in (below) is small but lovely and surprisingly quiet. Now that I’ve found it, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else in KL. Scored here.



It’s all Japanese to me!!!!


I once told an eighty-year-old Japanese woman that I had a full vagina. I was a guest in her home, which was tucked away in a tiny village on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. She offered me a third helping of Okonomiyaki, and I waved my hand in front of my face and said, “Oh no, thank you, my vagina is full.”

I meant stomach.

I more than stumble and struggle through foreign languages. I destroy them. Seriously. My mouth is a linguistic flame-thrower. But I at least try. I truly believe that when in Rome, you should speak… er… Japanese.

At lease that’s what I speak.

You see Japanese was the first foreign language I butchered… I mean learnt. But before long I discovered that wherever I was in the world, no matter how I tried to learn the local language, I’d open my mouth and out came Japanese.

It didn’t go down well in Hong Kong, let me tell you.

Or Taiwan.

Although the French seemed to at least appreciate that I spoke something other than English.

I actually went to language school while I was living in Vienna. I passed numerous German exams, and on paper did exceptionally well. But whenever I tried to converse at a party…


Not even good Japanese.

I once went to a dentist in Tokyo. I was a bit nervous, and tried to express my nerves (utter fear).

“I think dentists are scary” was the sentence I managed to piece together.

The dentist looked thrilled and his nurse giggled into her hand. Perhaps they didn’t hear me… so again.

“I think dentists are scary.”

The dentist puffed out his chest and strutted around the room, while the nurse giggled even more. It was only later when I recounted the story to a friend that she pointed out that “scary” and “cute” are similar in Japanese, and I’d been saying the latter. “I think dentists are cute.”

Although I’ve got to say it was the most painless filling I’d ever had.

I wish I spoke more than one language. However, I have always managed to meet, converse with, and connect with people around the world. As Thoreau said, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”

I always mean well… I just didn’t mean vagina!


A difficult farewell–getting a new passport

A difficult farewell–getting a new passport

image from http://pinterest.com/pin/305752262171812090/

This article was published in The Sydney Morning Herald about 7 years ago. I am now roaring towards another passport expiry date, and all the heartache attached to that. :-)  

After ten years together, it’s time for me to move on. Memories good and bad come flooding back. A decade long journey together has come to an end. My passport is about to expire, and it’s a difficult farewell.

This is not my first passport. I’ve had a few. My first expired naturally, while my second was stolen in New York (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Then came a temporary passport, which travelled with me until I next returned to Australia. That’s where this one came into my life, on a hot January day in Brisbane.

There was no immediate connection between the little blue book and me. It was simply a document that helped me fulfil my passion for travelling. But now, ten years later, as I prepare to welcome a new passport and it’s fresh, stamp-free pages into my life, I realize that I’m extremely attached to my passport and what it represents. I don’t quite know how to move on. I’ve walked away from long-term boyfriends more easily.

My expiring passport is a symbol of freedom. It is packed with many stamps and countless memories. Ten of the thirteen years that I lived overseas are in that passport. It’s proof that I do know Tokyo like the back of my hand. It reminds me of that night in Taipei with the guy whose name I forget, but who had a motorbike, which we rode through a typhoon. It reminds me that I even went to Guam.

I got married and had my kids during this time. The proof is in the passport. But I was still wandering. There’s London, where we married, and there’s New York, where we lived with our oldest son. I scramble through the pages to Austria, and the trip where son No. 2 was conceived. A few months later, after I’d been beaten down by constant nausea, I got my re-entry stamp into Australia. Next to it lays one last stab at freedom: a stamp for Vanuatu. But that just brings back memories of morning sickness and exhaustion.

That was the last entry.

I stare at my old photo and compare it with the new one. There is no comparison and I’m compelled to run out and have a new headshot taken. I want to look like I did back in 1998: younger, carefree, edgy, full of life…thinner. I want some of that energy to imbibe the new document. My photo now reveals countless sleepless nights, stubborn baby weight that refuses to budge, the fact that I never have time for my hair. It screams marriage and motherhood, school runs and dirty nappies, annual package deals at a resort with a kids-club. It’s not me, and I’m scared to declare to any immigration officer that it is.

I remember what it was like to travel back in ‘98, and I grieve. Travel was so much easier then. I had no fear of terrorists. Bali meant beaches, not bombs. When I thought of the World Trade Center, I thought of Century 21 and great shopping. Now I think of the countless cards and poems that papered the area in the months after the towers collapsed. Wandering the world was once a stress-free existence for me, and I feel ripped off because that has changed. I yearn for those days. I do worry when I travel now, but I refuse to stop.

I’m having problems making decisions. I wage an internal battle: should I apply for an ordinary passport, or live in hope and tick the frequent traveller box? Is it still acceptable to put my mother down as my emergency contact?

And then there’s the new photo. I could use it and be haunted by that exhausted, puffy stare for the next decade, or I could hit the gym, diet and fast, find a decent hairdresser, actually use make-up and take another photo next week when I look fabulous again.

I curse the 1998 me. Didn’t I realize that my passport would expire right in the middle of my childbearing years? The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should provide a fifth option when asking what type of passport is required.

  “Yes, hello, I’d like to extend my current passport for the two year new-mother-period…Yes, that’s right, I haven’t slept in ages… yes, that’s right, I’m still a bit of a porker, but I intend to give up breastfeeding soon.”

I stand in line at the post office and face the inevitable. I need to reapply now as I have plans to travel next soon. In fact, I have grand plans for my new passport. The line moves slowly, giving me time to dream. New Zealand, Japan, and then back to Europe. I picture my sons with me in Thailand, Hawaii… Estonia. There are so many places I want to take them, so many people I want them to meet, so little time before they go off on their own.

I make my way to the counter and hand the application to a smiling woman.

“Going somewhere?”

I feel the chains of routine slacken slightly. “Always.”

I leave the post office feeling excited. The new photo isn’t so bad after all. In ten years, when I’m applying for my next passport, I will look at it fondly and see the rounded softness of motherhood, and how a few extra kilos really does smooth out wrinkles. I will trawl through the ink-filled pages and remember the thrill of showing my children the world. And I will no doubt ponder the importance of living every moment fully, as I take possession of a passport that will eventually be filled with solo journeys again, as my sons come of age and embark on their own.

This current me, and all the excess baggage, is the one I will travel with for the next ten years, and that’s okay. Although, if it really does become too much to deal with, it can always go missing in New York… just like last time.