Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Journey of a Different Kind

I've been battling to find the time to write about the last couple of weeks on the road, before we began to settle in to Melody, our brand new leisure home in Pors Peron on the coast of Finistere. And we've been here just short of three months now!

In the meantime, I read a blog written by Martine Cotter, which influenced my thinking hugely - hence this blog title of A Journey of a Different Kind. I've put the link to Martine's blog at the end of this post and I would encourage you to read right through to the end.

Reading Martine's Travelling Family Blog, in all it's raw vulnerability, I realised it's not that I was battling to find the time to write, it's that I haven't been writing truthfully. In fact, I haven't been living truthfully. I've been doing what I've been doing ever since I left South Africa sixteen years ago. Hiding who I truly am and trying to fit my square self into a round hole. I can see my reflection now in how and what I have written since I landed in Ireland, and in our subsequent years in France.

I wrote quite a lot whilst in Ireland ... about one hundred-and-thirty artist profiles, over six years, for a national magazine; I published a book entitled "Tea 'n Turps" using twelve of those profiles; an artist self-help book "The eArt Directory"; and loads of articles for interior decorating and general magazines in Ireland. Even then, I was writing as I heard English being spoken, in the Irish vernacular, still hiding my own identity.

It's just a fact of history and geography that southern hemisphere folk and northern hemisphere folk are different animals in so many ways. The ingredients of these northern and southern cultural recipes - distance, weather, geography, history and a myriad of cultural influences, all play their part and flavour our blood with different herbs and spices.

Right now I need to be the straight-talking South African that I am. The one who has felt quite lonely in so many ways for the past sixteen years. I need to acknowledge who I am as an individual, because that too has influenced how I've handled the cultural differences I have willingly faced.

Maybe then I'll find both my writing and my painting mojos again.

The blue print I was born with, my early years and upbringing, my (horrid) school years, my parents and sisters, and the social skills I learned (or didn't learn!) along the way, shaped my adult self and formed the mask I have which meets the world. Just like everyone else on earth. So I'm far from perfect.

I love Ireland just as much as I love South Africa, but of course it's different. A mother loves all her children to distraction ... but it's a slightly different love for each one, not more or less, but because they are very different individuals.

Both Alan and I feel so at home in Ireland ... but we were very lonely there. As is the way in South Africa, we're used to inviting folk around for dinner, and receiving return invitations back to friends homes. There would be at least weekly return invitations to each others homes back where we lived.

However, although we got to know many people in Ireland, and invited them around, in the fourteen years we lived there we can count on one hand only, literally, the folk who invited us back to their homes for a meal or social event. Perhaps it's because the Irish have huge families and large circles of friends they went to school with, and that takes up all their social energy. Or perhaps it's because I'm rather shy, not such a great small-talker, albeit a straight-talker when I do talk, who is also a bit of a hermit - and I got worse as time went on and I lost my social confidence. However, Alan is very affable, full of life stories and "hail fellow well met" bonhomie which generally balances out my social inadequacies.

Nevertheless, lack of social life excluded, I have some very precious Irish artist friends with whom I get together, usually in a pub or cafe, each time I go back. I hope they know how precious they are to me. They are the gems I found in those Connemara years and I love them dearly.

I have battled creatively too, trying to immerse myself in a different country with a different culture, different colours, different smells, different skies, and vastly different subjects. No-one was interested in my Africa-ness; in my paintings of leopards, lions, rhinocerus and elephant all executed in the warm colours of the country of my roots. I think that's when I began to try and hide where I come from. I felt I had to try and fit in, try and be one of the crowd ... and artistically, that haunts what I do to this day.

This is what I used to do:

And this is what I've tried to change to:

I ended up painting abstract horses and floral arrangements!! (See my website https://lyndacookson.blogspot.fr/)

We moved to France three years ago and our social life picked up dramatically. We got to know many of the English folk who pop back and forth between the UK and Brittany, and have formed some good friendships with some lovely folk. But you know what? I still feel different! Ugh!

What made me realise that it may be a northern and southern hemisphere thing, is that the person I feel most relaxed with, is another crazy artist who is Australian and lives much of the time in Brittany. I don't seem to be able to analyse it deeper than that, except that I know that she will always forgive me for my little inadequacies. Even if she judges me in the moment, that judgment passes soon and I will always be welcomed back into another good aul' swaying, nothing held back, southern hug each time we meet. She too tells me that she feels different and feels folk cannot relate to who she really is. We have so much more to give with nobody who understands what it is we have to give! Not their problem really. It's our problem LOL.

Whilst all this different country and different culture stuff was going on I was also, initially, battling with a step-daughter issue, closely followed by a decade of looking after my Mum whose Altzheimers was progressively worsening. All rather emotionally draining which didn't help in the least.

It's all past now and except for a deep-seated feeling of being so very, very tired, I'm trying to give body and soul the attention it's needed for so long. "Now and Zen" sits alongside my desk, peacefully reminding me each day to work at keeping in balance. Let's hope that for once in my life, when I find that balance, I won't go and make some silly decision which upsets it all again! LOL I tend to do that.

 "Now and Zen"

Martine Cotter's Travelling Family Blog : https://travellingfamilyblog.com/


  1. I think I understand what you mean, as a South African who's lived in the UK since the second half of my 20s - I always try to 'blend in' but don't really feel anywhere is particularly home anymore - but funnily enough am also drawn to France which I love to visit! I always enjoy your blog and photos. X

    1. I'm so sorry I didn't see your comment until now Louise. It's comforting to have someone understand!! LOL Yes, France is great ... we both love it! Thanks so much for your kind comments. All the best!! Lynda

  2. You are one amazing woman Lynda. I would never put inadequate and you in the one sentence. Your list of accomplishments are endless. It has been my greatest pleasure to get to know you over the years and to admire your energy and enthusiasm for people for life and especially your art and your darling Alan. I believe you are one of the bravest people I know as well as the most generous and openly friendly and loving. Don't ever change who you are for anyone. Always be true to you first. Never lose you or your soul. It's who you are and I am honoured to have met you and to call you friend. X❤😎

    1. I've only just seen this today Olga! Thanks so much for such lovely words ... and the sentiment is returned 100% and more. Big hug! Lynda xxx