Uruguay 1996. I have spent a day exploring Colonia on my own (Helen my daughter in law had visa problems so had to cancel at the last minute). I resisted the temptation of joining a tour and spent the day of wandering around churches, monuments with historical significance of which I was oblivious to, as everything is in Spanish, and browse through the markets. I am aware that time is running out and I have to make my way back to the ferry. I am walking downhill in that direction of the harbour and hear music- "por uno cabeza" the Tango music from THAT dance in the movie Scent of a Woman. I am stopped in my tracks and make my way across the cobblestones towards its source. Here is a street cafe and the music is being played by a group of young, Hispanic musicians and in the centre a small old man with a black fedora hat singing his heart out and holding the limelight. A not-so-young couple are dancing the tango - moving effortlessly together - a lifetime of practice. I join a table and am served thick coffee and drink in this moment - I felt as if I had my finger on the pulse of Uruguay and cared nothing if I missed my ferry. This was a moment of magic - not to be missed!
Beijing 2005. I have never been as cold in my life. We left Shanghai (Sean, Nadine and I) in a flurry of soft snowflakes to fly up to Beijing for the weekend. We book a tour to the Ming Tombs and the temperature plummet as we climb. Sean and Nadine are excited as they have never experienced 'real' snow before and jump out when we arrive to make snow balls - Nadine eats one! After enjoying the ancient treasures on display we continue higher to the Great Wall at Badaling. We are told by our guide that if we turn right the walk is easy but there are lots of people....so we turn left and start climbing. It's -19C and the Great Wall looks like a dragon winding itself across the mountain pass over the vast, dark grey, desolate mountains. Its hard to climb because of the chill and the altitude and I can only imagine the hardship of the peasants who built it and the soldiers who stood watch on it centuries ago. I stood on top of the world and realised my own insignificance in the magnitude of the universe and time. Coffee never tasted as good when we got to the village below.Mozambique 2007. Tony and I are in a small plane flying up the coast of Mozambique and enjoying the turquoise ocean from the air - whale and dolphin spotting and chasing the shadow of our aircraft projected on top of the ocean below us - One of the reasons that I love this type of flying is that you are flying low enough to get a real birds eye view of wherever you are. We come in to land, which is always an adventure in a little plane, and this time is no different, the airstrip is in a field! A horse is galloping alongside us as the plane comes down and we pass an African woman carrying firewood on her head - she stops to watch our plane bump across her village green. I will never forget her calm expression - this was an everyday experience for her. For me it was a moment of magic!
Castle Howard, Yorkshire 2003. I loved Eveline Waugh's classic novel Brideshead Revisited, and wallowed in the BBC series in the 80s with Jeromy Irons playing Captain Charles Rider - I could listen to his beautiful voice all day! So when Julia announced that we were going to visit the house where most of it was filmed - I was more than excited. It was Sunday and we wondered through the rooms enjoying the history and as always I am touched by the smaller personal possessions of a family home - embroidered samplers and old books - rather than the priceless portraits and furniture on view. We are sat in the garden enjoying rare Yorkshire sunshine and strong Yorkshire tea when we hear the chapel bell announcing evensong. On the spur of the moment, Julia and I joined the congregation and attended the service. Sitting in a place of worship - where the devout Lady Marchmain took communion - surrounded by ancient stone and carvings, listening to angelic voices and reflecting on how precious our families was a really spiritual experience. A magic moment shared with my sister!
There is a saying that life is not measured by the breaths that you take but the moments that take your breath away. Here are four of mine and writing this has brought to mind several more - para-gliding in Mauritius, the first time I stood on Van Staadens beach in front of the roaring surf, watching wales frolicking off Schoenies and sunsets on the Zambezi. I am on holiday in Melbourne just now and have a feeling that I am not only going to have an adventure but I am going to encounter magic!