Anzac Day in London

 

Back at home in Australia sometimes you’ll find us engaged in banter at the pub with our neighbours from New Zealand. We’ll give each other a little good-humoured grief about our accents and get into heated debates about who boasts the best cities.

We can make fun of each other at home, you know? But overseas when we run into an Antipodean on our travels we more often than not stick together.

It’s a little like how in your family you can make fun (within reason, obviously) of siblings or cousins, but if someone else tries to, we’ll automatically defend the other.

A lot of this mateship goes back to war times, and on 25 April each year our nations commemorate Anzac Day to observe when our troupes landed at Gallipoli in 1915.

Today Anzac Day still stands as one of our nations’ most important occasions and is marked by a public holiday each year, as well as moving dawn services and daytime military marches.

Incidentally, it’s also my birthday.

Indeed, many of us make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey for special dawn ceremonies.

And, there are always services in London including a dawn service at the Australian War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner which is – you might be surprised to know – usually overflowing with attendees.

If you have spent any time travelling or living abroad, you’ll appreciate that the sense of patriotism is often stronger when you’re away from home.

Add that to an emotional national day and you’ll usually find a hive of expats huddling together flying their flag.

On Anzac Day, Aussies and Kiwis unite, and being this far away – just as our men were 102 years ago – it’s a poignant moment to be part of.

It’s for this reason that I jumped on an opportunity that a colleague at work – a lovely lady from New Zealand – told me about.

Each year our High Commission offers passes to special ceremonies, and those with an Australian or New Zealand passport can apply.

You can try this link from the beginning of each year (or if it’s not working, Google ‘Anzac Day London High Commission’).

You must apply for passes to attend this special service, held at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, and followed by a church service at Westminster Abbey up the road.

Here’s a sample of what we experienced:

The day was moving and memorable. Highly recommended – add the task to your diary from February next year. We’ll definitely do this again.

 

Travel and terrorism

Earlier this week an awful event took place in central London which has had me fielding queries and concerns about travel and terrorism and indeed about how safe our lovely London actually is.

You would have caught the news about a man who drove a car onto Westminster bridge and into a crowd of 50 people before stabbing others outside Parliament. He killed four people, including a police officer, and seriously injured numerous others.

As someone living and working in the city, I can attest to the fact that no matter where you are in the vicinity, it is unnerving to know what’s unfolding.

My work’s security team shared advice with staff and let us know that we were welcome to stay inside if fearful of travelling at the end of the work day.

During the afternoon we didn’t know if anything further would occur, and the insensitive, irresponsible Twitter users sharing photos of the dead from the scene in central London were not helping!

A number of my colleagues were also visibly shaken because memories of the 7/7 bombings of 2005 are still all too close-to-home – one of the bombs exploded on the no. 30 bus directly outside our building and with catastophic results.

Over the 24 hours to follow the events in Wesminster, Cooper and I received numerous calls, texts and messages on social media from apprehensive family and friends who were unsure of what to make of it all.

Now none of this is to diminish what has happened (and continues to) in places not too far from us in the UK, including France, Belgium, Tunisia, Syria… unforunately the list goes on.

But when things like this happen on your doorstep, there’s no escaping the truth about the nature of conflict and hate in today’s world.

That said, the next day, life continued.

We were all on the buses, tube and trains in order to show up at work on time. My friend Jackie and I even ran into this young hero from the day before in the lift in our workplace.

‘Keep calm and carry on’ was a slogan developed by the British government back in 1939 as World War II loomed.

The famous phrase was intended to raise morale in those dark days, and has found meaning and international fame in our contemporary landscape too.

Back in 2005 after the transport system – the beating heart of this metropolis – was attacked, people came back outside and stepped onto public transport in record numbers. They went on determined, just as they did after the many devastating air raids during the war.

Londoners will not be held to ransom by crazy people. None of us should be. I’m inspired by this tenacity.

The topic of travel and terrorism is raised in our circles quite a bit. People worry about us being in a city where terrorism a real threat.

But actually, terrible things happen every day, even in sublime and seemingly unsuspecting locations like Queensland, Australia, from where we hail.

It does upset me that the media makes a real meal out of influencing people towards a fear mindset.

Even before any details were available on the Westminster attack this week, the news had labelled it a ‘terrorist act’.

Can you tell me they are not trying to sell papers and seek ratings by inciting fear across the globe?

I’m seeing the same on this very day about a cyclone striking the eastern coast of Queensland and am trying not to worry too much myself, but it’s hard not to when the images, language and stories being shared are drumming up worst-case scenarios.

As for travelling here to Europe?

London is one of the safest places we’ve travelled to. We feel entirely safe living here, walking around and getting about.

Sure, there’s the risk of terrorism but that’s everywhere these days, especially with misguided individuals taking it upon themselves to wreak havoc on behalf of organisations they’ve often only seen represented online or in the news.

My point is, don’t let a disillusioned few stop you from being curious and getting out there to travel and explore.

Be mindful, sensible and don’t take unnecesssary risks, certainly. But whatever you do, do not choose to stay at home if adventure beckons. That’s letting the bastards win.

Responding and contributing to fear energy only magnifies it around the world.

I’ve read helpful advice on this that encourages us to acknowledge what’s gone on, reflect or meditate on it in our own way and send kind thoughts to those who have been affected.

You can do something positive to counteract the fear by showing up to your own life with determination and light, and inspiring your family, friends, kids and colleagues with that spirit.

Let’s not feed the beast.

And if you’re finding news or social media reports too much or too upsetting – turn them off! There’s never any urgent new updates you need; the reports are merely the same dire tales told in different ways.

Caring makes you human. Focusing on traumatic media stories though, only breeds fear and certainly does not help anyone.

Keep calm, carry on… and travel, I say.

If more of us appreciate first-hand the world and its many different perspectives we might eventually conquer the small-mindedness that leads to ignorant and evil deeds.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

 

How to ask for help and to see things differently

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I recently experienced a really really terrible week, which followed several weeks prior that weren’t much better.

Faced with countless deadlines, challenging situations in all of life’s areas, a seriously ill loved-one and me feeling generally unsupported, I hit one of those awful places in time where I was finding it difficult to get up in the morning.

I was stuck on where to begin, how to ask for help and to see things in a different way.

My mood matched that of the now-wintry grey English skies.

As one to usually be able to drag myself out of feeling miserable, I found myself in a place where I didn’t know what to do next. I was depressed, teary and withdrawn.

I waited for the clock to tick down at work each day, feeling utterly awful, and even more down because usually I’m happy there. I enjoy my days and make a point of trying to make someone else’s day a bit brighter too.

Ironically, someone I turn to for genuine and useful advice was also having a terrible week. While I appreciated the odd bit of sympathy gained here and there, I basically felt really alone.

Seems to be the way when down times hit. I’m sure you know the feeling well – we’ve all been to this place.

There’s a difference between feeling a bit down and being depressed, and my mind wasn’t in a great place. I was depressed.

Thanks to the tools I now carry with me though, I knew it was up to me to crawl out of it, no matter how hopeless I felt.

And while I insisted on hiding under my warm quilt covers instead of going to the gym in the mornings, and despite feeling like I was easily set-off at every tiny little thing that could be perceived to be going wrong each day, during my morning commute I endeavoured to try to lift my own spirits.

Friends know I’m a huge fan of author and speaker, Gabrielle Bernstein, and her new book, The Universe Has Your Backhad been sitting on my Kindle for a few weeks.

I felt like it might be time to open it up.

On the bus each morning, I read just a few pages at a time, absorbing one small idea a day and taking it with me into work.

The one thing that struck me in the opening pages of the book was Gabrielle’s discussion about how we are the dreamers of our dream; we are responsible for what we see.

I knew that I was feeling sad and disappointed, and that there were reasons which had led me to that place. I have learned that it’s ok to feel down about things sometimes, for a little while.

But, I knew the way I was feeling was not how I wanted to continue feeling; I didn’t want to be taking it with me everywhere and I sure as hell didn’t want to be projecting it into the world, because I’m well aware that what I put out will come back in larger doses.

I wasn’t even sure where or how to ask for help and didn’t have any idea how I’d be able to shift what I was seeing in front of me.

I highlighted in Gabby’s book:

“You don’t have to be a world leader to have a radical shift in perception. Sometimes it can be as simple as choosing to perceive your job with more gratitude or your family with more love.”

 

I practised this in my head and in writing, and it helped a bit.

I knew if nothing else, just trying would raise my energy (and therefore what I was attracting) just a notch.

 

How to ask for help and to see things differently

I was still in a horrible place and this didn’t help me move through to anywhere significantly better. I felt particularly low that I was lost and without an idea of what to do moving forward.

Which is why this next part of Gabby’s advice was particularly helpful and as always, timely, and why I feel compelled to write a few words about it.

You see, I’ve realised in recent years that we don’t have to have the answers all the time and we don’t necessarily need to worry about figuring out what to do. (This coming from someone who feels very uneasy without a plan!)

All we need to do is ask for help.

“I need help. I want to see things differently.”

 

I am completely aware of this strategy but typical of being in a hopeless funk, we often forget to follow the advice we give to others.

I’ve used this strategy previously when I’ve been at the end of my options (or seemingly so), and when I have wanted to make a difference to loved ones having a hard time, but feel helpless to do so.

I stop and ask for help – a miracle even. And, I must say, I’ve seen it work each time.

The part about seeking a different perspective is reasonably new to me – or at least, specifically seeking a new perspective as a strategy is novel.

But how would it work?

I wasn’t sure, but it seemed straightforward and something that I could call on even when I was feeling hopeless.

I went about making this my daily mantra – asking to see things differently.

I fumbled my way through the week still feeling like a right old miserable mess, and half feeling like my crazy self-help strategies were failing me.

But being the believer that I am, I persisted.

“Help me see things differently”. 

And then it happened, out of literally nowhere, some news that changed the way I would view a scenario that was getting me down the most.

Something that had felt hugely disappointing turned out to be hopeful.

Then the next day, additional information came my way that lifted a veil of uncertainty over another upsetting situation that I’ve been holding space for.

I’d asked to see things differently – I had no idea how any of it would go, after all, that’s part of the reason I was feeling so depressed – I couldn’t see my way out of problems I was perceiving.

I kept asking to see things differently, and low and behold, that’s what happened in a relatively short amount of time from when I started asking for help!

Apparently the universe does have my back, and I’m glad to have had the chance to witness it.

What do you think about all this; would you try this strategy for a week to see what happens?