“So where are you from?” I ask.
“Belgium, Nottingham, everywhere! Ha Ha!”
“So what brought you to Nottingham?”
“I was driving, my car broke down, and I arrived in Nottingham. Well, that’s the story I tell!” She smiles. “Work as boring as it sounds. I just wanted to leave Belgium. I wanted to go to Canada. The UK was my stop on the way to Canada, I liked it, so I decided to stay. At the time, I wanted to be a specialist in Small Animal Surgery. Nottingham had a specialist clinic, so I decided to go for it.”
After working there for a while she had the opportunity to work in Bermuda. The UK still has strong ties there, so it was not so hard to arrange the permits. Why Bermuda? She tells me sometimes an opportunity comes up and you have to go for it. I ask her about her experience there. Any unusual animals? No, just cats, dogs and rabbits. Very colonial she says, very Bermudian, lots of rich people. Sub-tropical. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. I mention that I would like to live on the coast. But with the beauty comes isolation. You are inevitably far away from work and family. Barbara says she has done living by the coast twice now, once in North Wales and then Bermuda.
“Was it beautiful. Bermuda?”
“Fantastic” Barbara replies. She goes on to tell me that although it’s beautiful, it’s rather isolated. It’s far from everything and she has no family connections. She worked there for three years but found this hard to deal with. I imagine that moving far away would on one hand be very calming, but on the other very lonely.
“So you left Bermuda to be with more people again?” I ask.
“Well, you’re going to laugh at this. Bermuda is so full of positivity. They have this ‘can do’ attitude. They have these great plans. Not dreams, but they actually put these plans into action. And sometimes their plans change. I met someone who was working in International Diplomacy, then he somehow fell into this fire juggling company. They just have this forward thinking energy. Whereas some people around here (Nottingham), have this feeling of rejection around them. This ‘if only’ I had this, I would be able to do that.”
Materialism? I ask?
“Well in Bermuda, they get an idea, and think; I’ll do it. So I got a bit infected with that. My friend in Bermuda wanted to go to The Olympics and do windsurfing. He was like, I’ll practice every day, do a race and if I come last it’s OK. Windsurfing was taken out of the Olympics, but because he was from such a small Island, then he would have had a good chance to get in. Anyway that’s the attitude. For me, I have two things. One is I’m gonna quit being a vet. I’ll go home (to the UK) and become an Olympic Dressage Rider, or the other is I’ll be a helicopter pilot. And when I came back those were my two dreams.”
“So I did have lessons but then, the reality of my job, can’t really find people to train you. So the dressage rider thing tapered out. So then I met this girl. She was sixteen. She wanted to fly planes. She always wanted to fly planes, I always wanted to fly helicopters. She was doing it, finding a way. Taking a lesson every two months or so. I always came up against financial barriers. It was so amazing. A girl half my age just really doing it, like I always wanted. If you want it, you’ll find a way. So I said to myself, I want to fly helicopters! I went into it full on, spending £400 per lesson and went half way to getting my licence. It was the best thing I ever did.”
Of course the money ran out and lessons stopped. And that was that.
“So you fulfilled your dream?”
“Well I still want the licence, but I’ll just have to plan it carefully. I’m saving up again.”
So then came the drones. Barbara was talking to her film maker friend Nick about different techniques of filming. Steady cams and drones. Barbara knew very little but her imagination was lit again. She admits she’d never really heard of drones. One year later she bought one.
She called Nick and said “I bought a drone and I want to go to Scotland and film this art project, ‘The Multiverse’. I’ve called ahead, they said it’s OK . Are you free this weekend cause’ I wanna go!”
It was the first time she flew the drone and there were loads of technical problems. They were there all weekend at The Multiverse which is located in Crawick, on the site of a former coal mine. It’s an open air spectacular Art land based on discoveries and theories of the universe.
“It was really the first time I properly flew drones. And that’s when you start to experience all the challenges of it. It’s easy to fly, but not so easy to fly accurately. And although it’s different and I still want to fly helicopters, it’s almost like this astral-projection of yourself. Because you can see, you got your little screen. You can see what it sees, make videos, take pictures, move really fast close to the ground. It’s just amazing. My heart skips a beat.”
“It’s exciting” I add.
“But what comes with it is the frustration of learning to fly. You go out. And you go out again and don’t really see yourself getting better. I’m just not getting this. You record your progress from the onboard camera. You have to learn the spatial recognition of it all.”
Barbara continues to fly regularly at weekends, honing her flying skills. Continuing to make her dreams reality and entering a new world of experience. We talk briefly about making decisions. The people around us may have an opinion, we may take their advice but ultimately we will live with our decision. We may not think we are good enough, but that’s not the point. We can grow into it and do what’s right for us.
Barbara is still searching. She says: “The minute you stop searching is the minute you stop living.”