A whole year has passed since I returned home. No longer can I think to myself: this time last year I was exploring temples in India; or kayaking in Halong Bay; or chilling out in Thailand. Ah well, time moves on. So where am I now? Dover. How long am I staying? Around another year.
I arrived home mid-May 2006, and applied for a casual job with Royal Mail the following day. I got the job, but the administrative hoohar that accompanies almost everything these days meant that I didn't start until July. This gave me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with my local area, and try out my new camera, a Fuji S3Pro. Together we visited Dover, Deal and Walmer castles; Richborough, Reculver and Dungeness; spent a day at Howletts Wild Animal Park; and a weekend in Sussex.
A few days after my birthday I started working as a postie. You may be forgiven for thinking that 0500 starts would be far too early for me - did I ever get to work on time as a Customs Officer? - or that the chilly mornings may prove too much, but in fact I soon warmed to the job. I'm the only girl working in an office of 80-odd men (and yes, I do mean odd!), and the general consensus of opinion was that I wouldn't last, but I proved the doubters wrong. Once I'd got used to carrying the heavy bags, I even speeded up so that now I'm one of the faster posties in the office, beating many of the men back from deliveries.
I love being a postie. I'm fitter than I've ever been, my co-ordination and balance have improved, I've finally go the hang of small talk, and I know where most of the roads in Dover are. When I'm delivering I'm out and about, surrounded by nature (and rubbish and dog shit if I'm up Coombe Valley), listening to the birds sing and watching the seasons sculpt the land. Another great aspect of the job is that I work with a bunch of happy nutters. The first couple of hours - when we sort the mail before delivering it - are spent immersed in mayhem and I'm constantly giggling at the banter. If it's a particularly bad day, with lots of mail and heavier-than-they-should-be bags, then at least we're all in the same boat. I've even got my own nickname - Bob (it's a Blackadder II thing). Okay, so the money's only a fraction what I was earning in Customs, but I have already discovered that there's more to life than money; there's a lot to be said for doing a job you enjoy.
I thought I'd maximize on this new found fitness of mine by starting to swim regularly, & have been going to the pool two or three times a week and swimming a mile a time. This month I've signed up for the gym as well, but if I'm honest, my motivation is mostly to look good in a bikini for my holiday - in a couple of days time I'm off to Egypt to spend a week diving the Red Sea from a luxury boat. The holiday's costing me about the same as three months in India would, but I'm sure it will be worth it, and I'm hoping to see manta rays and hammerhead sharks, amongst other things. Of course my impending holiday meant that I had to buy another new camera for under the water...I've lost track of how many cameras I have now.
My Serenity Photography site is still keeping me busy, and I've added lots more pictures since my return - the White Cliffs of Dover may not be as exotic as the Taj Mahal, but hey! I've also had a few sales through a stock site that I've joined since returning home. All small potatoes so far, but it's a step in the right direction. I was flattered to be asked to donate a picture (Kent Countryside - which is rapidly turning into one of my best sellers) to the Kent Wildlife Trust for use in their latest guide to local reserves. I've also appeared in a centrefold for a new magazine called The Font...it was my pictures that starred, no dodgy glamour shots, you'll be relieved to hear. The magazine is aimed at young upwardly-mobile students and professionals and distributed throughout the Canterbury area. The editor has approached me about being a regular contributor, so if you come across a copy have a flick through and see if you can spot me in it.
There's more exciting news on the photography front; I'm talking part in an exhibition in London this September. "Elements...The Exhibition" is showing at Lauderdale House from 18th to 30th September, and will feature work from nine international photographers, including yours truly. More details on my website.
On the writing front, I've been asked to contribute to a travel book on Myanmar, To Myanmar With Love by Things Asian Press. It pays peanuts, but their first book, To Asia With Love, included contributions from some high profile travel writers, so I will at least be in good company. And don't forget that my book, O is for Overland, is available to buy from underwater-girl.co.uk!
It's been a good year - maybe I've not had so many adventures, but I'm enjoying life and looking forward to the future.
Visit SerenityPhotography.co.uk, where you can buy beautiful pictures from around the world . . . all taken by yours truly!