Day #68 08.03.16

It’s my brother’s birthday today so I’ve decided today will be an old photo too, this one from when we were kids (and then one from 3 years ago when we were in Lapland for his wedding). Back then life was simple, we’d just head outside to ride our bikes or climb trees. I’d want to be one of the boys and anything he could do, I could do too. Not a lot has changed.

Happy Birthday Matt.

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Day #50 19.02.16

This weekend saw visitors from The Shire (Lincolnshire) in the form of Laura and Holly. Ditching the husbands and kids for the weekend they braved the motorway boredom on a Friday afternoon to come see me and have a night on the Cheltenham tiles. Before heading out to help break my Dry February spell there was a quick facetime to say night to the kiddywinks back home.

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2015. What a year eh?

Right so let’s just say this; I’m not going to go through everything that has happened in 2015 because: 1) it would take too long, 2) I can’t remember everything without looking at my diary, 3) I can’t be arsed and need to get to sleep soon as I have a 5.30am alarm call and 4) I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine (I’m currently staying in South Africa in the WINE region, COME ON…) and it’s taking all my energy to type properly.

BUT.

What I can say is that 2015 has been pretty fucking awesome. A bit of a rollercoaster at times, but hey, isn’t that just life?

On 2nd January 2015 I moved myself and my meagre belongings in a van (first time driving a big van, and 9 hours driving in one day, the same 3 hour route 3 FUCKING times, ouch) to a place called Cheltenham. I didn’t really know the place, and only knew one person there. I figured it would be an adventure and it seemed like a place I’d like to live, and it wasn’t Lincoln. I actually didn’t think much further that than. It had hills and outdoor stuff, that seemed like generally enough to pique my interest.

And it has lived up to it’s expectations. To be fair, I didn’t have many. I was just pleased to be living by myself again and having my own place. After 2 years of travelling around and staying with people, it became pretty damn important to have a front door I could shut on the world. And I did when I first moved, I didn’t want to talk to anyone new for a couple of months. I was actually quite happy to not be doing this but it got to about March and I figured I really should. And I did, and I’m glad I did. I finish this year thinking about all the people I have met along the way, and there’s a lot, and it’s been, well, interesting. And special. I made more friends than I maybe thought, and I’ve met some pretty amazing people.

Because people are what make the world go round. Before I went travelling I used to read travel blogs that would always say “it’s the people you meet”. And I wondered what they meant. But now I know. When I was travelling, I DID meet some incredible people, and they’re some of my best memories of my year away. And this year, it’s been the same. I’ve done some cool stuff, but I’ve also met some cool people. Them, and their stories, is what life is all about.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my alone time (not to be confused with quiet time Donna, that’s different, although I obviously enjoy that too) and in fact, I really, really, really needed this bit of time right now where I’m travelling by myself and spending the majority of time alone. Yep, I love it and need it, and if I’ve been too busy and sociable I have to make sure I get some. 22 hours travelling to another country? YES – BLISS because I sit on a plane by myself and don’t have to speak to anyone. Yay.

But also I love people, I love being sociable. I love the more the merrier nights and bringing people together. I love a good chat, laugh and a beer. Standard.

So I guess I want to end 2015 saying a massive THANK YOU to everyone I know that touches my life in one way or another. And I think there’s a lot of people that maybe don’t realise they do. And I should tell them. Maybe not publicly here, or on Faceache or similar, but if there’s someone in your life that makes a difference, then tell them. I will be doing. You’ve made my 2015 special and brilliant.

I was looking to see what I posted last December but I didn’t write anything, I was having a blogging break if I remember. I did post in early February though. I even made some kind of plans and stuff to do in 2015. Ha, I’d totally forgotten those, and never looked back over them. Hmm, I didn’t get round to doing them all but I gave it a good crack. Some were a bit of pipe dream, and maybe stay on the list for next year. There’s some new stuff too. Should I write it down? Nah, I’ll leave it for later.

I end 2015 in South Africa; not somewhere I thought I’d be for a while (although I knew I’d be back, I kept the plug adaptor in the divorce settlement, haha) and spent New Years Eve taking a drive down to the coast and to the southernmost tip of Africa. Keeping my travelling itchy feet at bay for a little bit I hope, and getting some Africa sunsets. Not sure where I will end up in 2016 or what will happen but that’s all part of the adventure, and keeps my life interesting. I’ve got a few ideas but a year is a long time and a lot can change. So we’ll see.

I’m a change-anything-you’re-not-happy-with-any-time-you like person, but I do like the start of a new year to start some shit. Not resolutions as such, but just as good a time as any to punch the shit out of some stuff. This year, I start with the first few months dedicated to being healthier and getting fitter. I need to do some actual training for a bike ride I’m planning at Easter and if I don’t, then I’m going to suffer. So I better get my shizzle sorted. Anything else after that will be a bonus.

This is a bit of a rambly but short post, not quite with mega meaning or structure but I’m running out of time as I need to go to sleep as my alarm is going off tomorrow at 5.30am as I’m off on a big hike early to beat the fierce sun. This is probably the only year I’m starting as I mean to go on – healthy and not hungover!

But a couple of messages before I finish. Firstly, THANK YOU for reading. I write this blog mainly for myself as I just enjoy writing about whatever is in my head but if you like to read it then thanks, it means a lot. Two, the photo a day project is returning! Starting from tomorrow, I’ll post a picture a day. Might be a bit late over the next few days because of Africa wifi #TIA issues but they will be there. I did my last one in 2012 which for some reason a lot of people enjoyed. I suspect it’s because it was my first single year and so I did a lot of stuff and it was a bit all over the place. In a way I suspect this year might be a bit more settled/rounded although I actually probably do a lot more crazy/interesting stuff now.

Three, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Whether 2015 was amazing or shit for you, I wish you all the best in 2016. May you make it a year to remember. May it be filled with love, laughter and happiness. May you weather the storms with a smile and a laugh, and a determination that life will not beat you. Grab life by the balls and if you’re not sure about something, then maybe using my mantra will help:

Fuck it, do it.

Live life, don’t just exist. Don’t be scared to do anything, it’s never as bad as you think, and there are ALWAYS people looking out for you.

Go smash the shit out of life!!

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Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The time that you can’t really miss, especially living in the Western world, where it’s rammed down your throat by the fat-fisted media and advertising pretty much constantly since September. I am of COURSE talking about Christmas!

Hurrah!

Bah Humbug!

Which one are you? As we seem to be told we are one or the other. If you’re not skipping around filling your proverbial cup with festive joy then you MUST be a humbug. And if you’re not grumbling about it, then you must be a buzzing-to-the-eyeballs Christmas fairy ready to shake your tinsel wand at anyone who comes within 2 feet of you. Anyway, regardless of how you feel, there’s no escaping it, it’s only just over a week away. 9 more sleeps* until The Big Day. Not sure how Christmas Day has ended up with the same kudos as someone’s wedding day, but hearing what some people spend on food, presents and all the peripherals, it’s certainly going the same bank-breaking way.

*ah, while we’re here, who the fuck came up with this measure of time? What if I wake up and then go back to sleep? Is that 2 sleeps in one night? In which case it could be 18 more sleeps for me (I never sleep through the night, I’m like a bloody baby). Or more if I drink a cup of tea too late. Or watch a horror film just before going to bed. I have no idea when this became part of the English language, but on Heart (radio station) they even have a song about so many sleeps until Santa. Hmm.

What the chuff IS Christmas anyway? The whole point of where it came from is some Christian story about the Son of God being born to a virgin (more likely Joseph persuaded Mary it wasn’t really ‘doing it’ if he didn’t put it all the way in) in a stable where they then got visitors who had an excellent early-model GPS system and good visitor etiquette to bring gifts for a new baby. Now, if you’re religious, then I’m guessing that’s what your Christmas is going to be centred around, and carols and stuff. All the nice ‘Christmassy’ stuff but if you’re not religious, might not sit well. So then, there’s the other things that have become popular. Trees covered in shiny pretty things, the giving and receiving of presents and spending time with family. Which, for some people will be the best thing ever. And for some, the worst thing ever. There’s something about Christmas that, like weddings, that bring out the worst in people. I’ve heard of tears, manipulation and just general festive craziness. And let’s not forget the parties, the food and the booze. Over indulgence and just general hibernation-inducing activities. Eat more food in one day than you’d eat in a month; all food that should come with a health warning and doesn’t grow on trees or in the ground, then roll around on the floor with a full groaning belly (maybe that’s just me) thinking you’re never going to eat anything ever again, not even a stick of celery.

It doesn’t really matter how you spend Christmas really, as long as you’re doing what YOU want to do. Because really, who needs an excuse to be in massively happy mood, spend time with people you love and drink and eat loads of nice stuff? Let’s just take a minute though, to remember people who won’t be spending time with people they love, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re away from home, or it’s people who are no longer with us, or people who don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. It can be a hard time for them, so let’s not forget that. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the preparation and parties and stress (yep, all that Big Day good times, like a wedding, take a lot of Organising. People want it to be perfect, and so get stressed out.) that people can forget there are others for whom Christmas isn’t great, it’s actually a bit shit, and they want the whole thing to just be over. As quick as possible. If you know anyone where this might be the case, maybe just take a minute to check if they’re OK. See if they want to join in anything. Just say hello, it will mean something, trust me.

The other big thing about Christmas is Traditions. These are a big thing. For a lot of people, Christmas is Christmas because you do the same things every year. And every family has it’s own things. When you have lunch, or when you open presents, or what you do in the morning, or what you wear when opening presents, or where you open your presents. Or maybe what you leave out for Father Christmas. For me, I haven’t done the same thing each Christmas for years now, and so Christmas doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas any more. I could take or leave it in a way, although of course I love seeing friends and family and all the partying. But it’s not the same as years gone by. When I was little, I loved Christmas. I loved the whole Santa thing, but not necessarily for the presents, just because I loved the fact it was magic. Go to bed, leave a mince pie out and BOOM, stuff appeared in the house in the morning! In our house, me and my brother would always wake up really early and want to get up at about 4am, but we’d never know what time it was as we didn’t have any lights until my dad went to turn the generator on (we lived in the sticks and weren’t connected to mains electric until a few years after we moved in) so the parentals would always persuade us to go back to bed for a while until poor Dad was made to trudge outside across the yard in the cold to the Engine Shed to make electric happen. Then, that’s it, we were awake and no stopping us! Until the 8am slump when all presents were opened and we ran out of energy.

Then came another Papworth tradition which was my utter FAVOURITE. Dad’s infamous Treasure Hunt. I later learnt as an adult this was a cunning plan to keep us kids occupied for a bit and out of the way of the kitchen, but as a kid I didn’t care. In fact, I loved them so much that every year since I’ve looked for the tell tale first clue in an envelope in the Christmas Tree and if I didn’t find one, I’d be disappointed. So much so that Dad actually did a couple about 5 years ago for me, as a late-twentysomething adult. There was much excitement from me then, skipping around the house and outside in all the sheds and my Nan’s house following the trail of clues. They were a bit harder to figure out that first year, Dad had to dumb them down the year after, hahaha! Well, Latin references Dad? COME ON, you know we’re not that clever!!

We used to have everyone over to our house as it was the biggest. Not that we had a massive family though, but more than just the 4 of us. Cousins, Uncle, Grandparents. One year we had to eat around a table tennis table in the junk room that had no carpet and bare plaster walls because there was a big group of us. One year, we had a full house for about a week, and I hated it when everyone went home. Because I loved having so many people to talk to, and play games with. I’m a social, the more-the-merrier creature really.

We never played games that much as a family outside of Christmas, unless I badgered them on a Saturday night sometimes. My dad was normally outside in his workshop working until late so I guess the last thing he wanted to do was play Connect 4 or Kerplunk with me after being on his feet making stuff out of wood all day. Although the board game playing could get out of control sometimes, so maybe I don’t blame him. Like the time we were all playing Monopoly and I got in a mardy and had a massive tantrum and threw the board (and everything on it) in the air/on the floor. And that was only last year. Ha! Joke, I was about 7. And Matthew was cheating. And I was probably on a massive sugar comedown and shattered from waking up at 4am. Mum tells me after I’d thrown the board I crawled behind the sofa and fell asleep and was later taken to bed by Dad. I’m not competitive in the slightest any more.

This year is different again, I’m in a different place (Cheltenham) for the run up, but have kept up my tradition of filling December with partying and drinking, which has been much fun up to now. Just one more weekend of drinking to get through, then I can relax and have a detox (never really drink on The Big Day, surprisingly), starting with my tradition of a Christmas morning run and a day with the family. And then Boxing Day I will spend the day with Best Friend Laura and her family, but instead of getting a bit drunk and being a bit bonkers and entertaining (according to Laura’s sister Holly), I will remain sober as later that night I fly off to South Africa for 3 weeks. It will be different, but kind of the same. Or as they say in SE Asia, same same but different. Still, every year I remind myself just how lucky I am. I’m happy, healthy and have fab friends and family. That’s what matters.

And then, that’s it, Christmas will be over for another year. And then comes New Year. I hate the whole NYE thing (this year will be a quiet affair in a pub in a small South African town), but I do love thinking about what I’ve done this year, and what might be to come next year. That’s another blog post but it’s been a bit of a whirlwind interesting year, and I don’t doubt that next year will be more of the same. I can let one little thing slip though, the Photo A Day Project, made famous in 2012, will be making a reappearance in 2016!

So until then, I’m going to enjoy the rest of the run up in my lovely little flat in Cheltenham, which is probably the cosiest, most ‘Christmassy’ (is that an actual word? Who cares.) place I’ve had. Easily my most favourite pad I’ve lived in so far. Happy happy days.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, whatever you are doing and whoever you are spending it with. And sending big hugs if you are finding it difficult, for whatever reason.

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End of an era.

It’s an emotional time. The house I called home for over 20 years since I was 6 months old has now been sold. I visited for the last time last weekend, so I’ve said my goodbyes, but I’ve been thinking about it as the parentals move out this week.  You’re probably thinking that it’s just a house. I moved out 12 years ago. Why is it emotional? Because it’s not just a house to us. It’s home. It was built by my parents and we’re the only people to have lived there. Even though I have my own home now, and I’ve lived in 4 different places since I moved out, it will always be home, and was always the place where I could go and raid the cupboards, run up and down the stairs and lounge around no matter how old I was.

I moved there as a 6 month old baby, and we (my parents, me and my brother) lived in a caravan for 4 years while the ‘big house’ was being built. And so began a wonderful childhood which, when it comes down to it, was centred around a couple of houses and an orchard in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn’t just a house. It was the place that may have just had 4 walls and a roof (eventually) but it was what it was filled with, surrounded by and what we did that made it our home.

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Like the orchard and ponds where me and my brother built dens, treehouses, rope swings, jettys, rafts, bmx tracks, and golf courses. Where I climbed trees and picked fruit. Where I fell in the pond (miraculously only once in all those years) after trying to walk on the ice in winter when it had frozen over. No wonder I’m a tomboy when this was my childhood playground.

Or my nan and grandad’s house next to the orchard where we spent many hours playing with marbles, reading Noddy and playing cards or dominoes, listening to the tick tock of the clock rescued from a bonfire that is now underneath my bed waiting to have something done with it.

And the yard where I learnt to ride a bike (after crashing into the hedge a few times) outside all the sheds with helpfully descriptive names; the engine shed, the black shed, the workshop, the rabbit shed/big shed and the shop. Including the shed that my brother climbed on the roof of so we could play a game, only the game ended shortly after because I shoved a drainpipe in his face. Accidentally of course, although I’m sure he loves the scar in his eyebrow he still has now from the stitches he had to have.

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My Dad’s workshop was where I’d go and sit on the black stool and chat to him. Where he’d tell me as a kid I could do anything in life if I wanted it and worked hard enough. And where as a teenager I’d go out and share sneaky cigarettes with him because Mum didn’t know I smoked.

The house for years had pink plaster walls because there were so many rooms to decorate and the parentals couldn’t do it all in one go. It was great though as it meant we could write on the walls, especially around the mirror in the kitchen near the phone (in the days before cordless phones) for phone numbers or doodles.

The flood/leak we had which meant all the furniture in the front room had to be moved into the dining area which I liked because it was all squashed in and I liked small rooms.

The death slide that my Dad made for us from the front bit of a bike and a rope tied from the roof of the rabbit shed to the garage. Between that, all the tree climbing and bike riding I am still amazed I didn’t break any bones. The rusty swing that Dad put up for us which we’d swing round and climb up. The tent he made from bits of wood and a bit of tarpaulin.

The gauntlet runs I’d have to do past the chicken runs to my grandparent’s house where I’d get chased by the mad cockerel. And going over there in the pitch black just with a torch. As a kid it used to shit me up something chronic that I could only see into the trees with a small circle of light. Used to be convinced there might be a axe murderer hiding in the orchard, but only when it was dark.

The fact we had no neighbours meant that we could be as loud as we wanted. And I mean LOUD. I used to have screaming matches with my friends over the fields (fuck knows why). Matthew used to play his rave music as a teenager on full blast through massive speakers outside.

Having my wedding reception there was just brill too. OK I know I’m divorced now but it was a cracking day. Really relaxed and chilled. And I still love the fact we had wedding photos taken in the big shed with all my Dad’s crap furniture waiting to be restored. Lasting memories and evidence of how much shit used to be stored in the sheds.

The garden wasn’t always a garden. In fact for years there was a massive hill in the middle of the garden from the earth that was excavated for the footings, which as a kid was great in the winter as we used to sledge down it, and in the summer we’d bike up and down it. After that was cleared it stayed a field for a bit because I had a donkey for a few years. I actually wanted a pony but I looked after a donkey over the winter as Dad wanted to see if I actually would do all the work needed. I didn’t, so I never got one. Clever man. I had so much fun with the donkeys though. And so did Dad, as they were escape artists.

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When we were younger we used to get snowed in properly, and I remember listening to the radio with mum in the morning to see if the little village primary school I went to was closed. And being very excited when it was.

IMG_20150831_112058 IMG_20150831_112048But of course it’s not just the house or the orchard or the trees or any other stuff. Of course there was all of that but what it all comes down to is the people. The people that filled the house. Our family. Small but perfectly formed, I think we’re pretty ace. We were lucky to live next door to one set of grandparents and have the other a few miles down the road and saw them every week, bringing my cousins with them most of the time too. My parents welcomed all our friends and quite often there was a houseful. Or an orchardful. Christmases were especially ace, everyone would come to us and there would be a week or so of mayhem, big trees and cat carnage. Oh, and I can’t forget Dad’s Christmas treasure hunts which would take us all over the house and out to the sheds, mainly to keep us out of the way for a bit and tire us out. I loved these so much I actually made Dad do one only a few years ago, haha. We were very lucky to have my parents around when we were young. Dad worked for himself at home in the workshop and so was always around to take me somewhere or help me with something. Mum was in and out too depending on when she was working.

Everything changes though. There’s been so many changes there, over all the years but especially in the last few years and the last few months. My grandparents house is gone now. The orchard is all but gone. All the sheds are gone. There’s more lawn that you can shake a stick at. Walls were added, fences were taken down. The yard doesn’t exist. The ponds have been filled in. The house was done up and dressed to sell. There’s a stable and a paddock, built years after the pony-mad youngster in me had moved out (thanks Dad).

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Where the orchard and pond used to be

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Where the yard and worksop used to be

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It’s not the same now, and so it makes it easier in some way to say goodbye. It’s not our home any more. But now, it’s real. Those contracts have been signed and I’ve had my last visit. I can’t go back and drive up the driveway any more, or run in and sit on the kitchen worktop. But, the memories will always be there. Many happy memories and that’s what I’ll remember.

There are so many, what’s above is just such a small percentage. And yes I know I’m massively lucky. So thanks Mum and Dad, for creating the best home ever for us. You should be mega proud of yourselves for all you achieved. Look at the pictures above. You took it from an overgrown field back in the 80’s to the home and gardens you’re leaving this week. Well done. That’s all you that is, loads of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Including the bastard job of removing all the stones from the field by hand – still not quite sure I forgive you for making me do that yet.

It’s the end of an era and sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new chapter for you. Lots of exciting things coming up, and also time for you to have a rest for a bit.

Old memories.

I’m sitting here tonight wanting to write a post about the end of an era – the sale of my childhood home. I kind of know what I want to write, and how I want to start it, yet the rest of words aren’t there quite yet in my head. So I’ll have to save that one for another time.

Instead, I’m listening to the album 21 by Adele. I know most of the songs off by heart, because I listened to this CD (yep, back in the shiny disc days) over and over again in my car driving to and from work when I was going through my separation (that and Katy Perry, but I’m after chilled out music right now). I’m thinking whether the songs are tainted now with those memories. Because well let’s face it, it was a pretty shitty time for me back then. Came to the conclusion that no they’re not now, but it’s taken a while. 4 years to be exact. I look back on it now like it was someone else’s life. Feels like a whole different lifetime ago, and I was a different person, just ask anyone that knew me back then. I don’t tend to try to look back too much, I’m a bit of a live in the moment kinda gal. I hate planning too far in advance and just tend to go with the flow, maxing out life where I can. But my ‘previous life’ seems to pop up loads, I can’t bloody escape it. I remember going to Peru in 2012, meeting lots of new people and my recent divorce would pop up in conversation, and I remember wanting to escape it. Thinking that it was just because it was so new, and such a big thing in my life back then and one day I could almost pretend it never happened. But I can’t. Now I’ve realised it’s likely to always crop up, for one reason or another. Whether meeting new people or chatting to old friends. And that pisses me off a bit. However. It’s made me who I am now. I can’t complain. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without going through all that.

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Because you see, now I absolutely love the person who I am. I’m back to being me, true to myself and happy inside and out. In control of my life and my destiny. And having no idea what the future holds.

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This weekend just gone was a bit of a whirlwind tour of London, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Loads of travelling and catching up with loads of mates and family. Squeezing in as many people as possible for a hello, cup of tea and good old chin wag. Reminiscing about old memories and catching up on life right now.

I have SO much to smile about right now it’s unreal. So many good things happening, so many awesome people in my life. So many exciting opportunities and possibilities there for the taking. Life is awesome.

Sorry, I have no idea on the point of this post, or the direction it’s taken.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, or whether anything is making any sense really. I’m very tired, I’ve not stopped for days and have driven so many hundreds of miles I don’t really know whether I’m coming or going. I guess mainly it’s that I’ve had a few days of revisiting old memories. It’s been great to see lots of lovely familiar faces. A visit to Lincoln always stirs up old memories, it always will. So much happened there.

But it’s also a reminder that everything changes – Note: Take That reference 😉 – and nothing stays still. As much as you might not want things to change, they will. It’s inevitable. No point in fighting it. Change is good. Change is exciting. But, it can also be scary. Frightening. Sad. A massive mixture of emotions. Just gotta roll with it. It’s how you deal with it that matters. All about how to think about stuff.

If you know anything about Buddhism, then a massive part of it is around impermanence. Worth reading up on if that’s your bag. I learnt about Buddhism, suffering, attachment, impermanence etc. when I did a 10 day silent retreat at a Buddhist meditation centre in India. Absolutely fascinating stuff, and helps with all kinds of shit in every day life for me. The point being that everything, and I mean everything, is not permanent. Is changing, every single second. Even that solid oak table. And if everything is changing, then nothing is permanent, and so how can you be attached to something that is changing all the time?

It’s all about how you look at things, and how you choose to react to them. What you let go, how to forgive and the difference between attachment and love.

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No standing still. Don’t stand still. Embrace change.

Twitchy babbling blah.

I’m feeling twitchy this week. Like I have lots to do and I don’t know where to start. Like I have a million ideas and don’t know what to think about first. Which is kind of true and kind of not. I have a few things to do, yep, but nothing major. All of it can wait (what for, I don’t know). I have ideas but they’re all little ones that I’m not sure how to start developing. And I want to write. But I don’t know what about. I have about 5 blog posts in draft but none of them feel right yet. The words just don’t come. I have to be in the right mood for these words to get written down (which probably explains why a lot of my posts are perhaps rambly and babbly as it’s just what comes out of my brain with little filter). So I end up doing nothing. This is probably familar to a lot of people. Bloody procrastination.

I’m away with work so I’ve just been for a walk to look for a supermarket to buy Maltesers. Procrastination. Something to do. I didn’t even really want the Maltesters (although they’re tasting pretty damn good, and I’m sure they help me to write). What I should have done is just gone for a walk and got some fresh air. As when I was walking I realised I just needed to write something, and I have done for a while now. And so this is it. I just haven’t known what to write about. Nothing seemed right, or too negative, or not that interesting. But then that’s life though, isn’t it? The ups and downs, the good and the not-so-good. Not everyone can have the perfect life, all the time.

——–The Maltesers are all gone now. Writing will get shit.

Have you heard of #lifeunfiltered? It’s a hashtag that’s doing the rounds on social media to highlight the difference between what people post on social media and how life actually is. Because most people don’t want to post what a shitty time they’re having. They create this amazing life to portray to people. What they want people to see. So you see a smiling picture on Facebook and assume that everything’s OK, when actually it’s anything but.

OK, so no one wants to post the crappy mundane stuff. And in all likelihood no one probably wants to read about it either. But unless you ask, you’re unlikely to know if someone’s having a tough time. Or unless they tell you. Because that’s the other thing. People (and I’m aware I’m talking in general, but I’m kind of basing this on anecdotal evidence from conversations I’ve had with people and media articles – as always, please take with a pinch of salt and feel free to enter in a discussion with me) aren’t necessarily interacting as much anymore, because social media does it for you, right? You can see someone’s OK because they’ve posted a picture and liked your status. You don’t need to actually speak to them do you? Or even message them? I posted about this once when I was travelling. Because I found that because I was away, posting all my pictures and blogging about it, people stopped getting in touch. You know, saying hello or asking me how I was. Or telling me what they were up to. It’s just not the same, trust me.

“But I’m so busy.”

I’m sure everyone has heard or said that. Hell, I have said it. And only recently. And kind of why I’m writing this post. The last six weeks or so for me has been pretty tough and relentless. Some of it is my own doing, and some of it unfortunate circumstance or bad timing. Training for London to Paris as well as trying to foster a new social life in a place I’d just moved to, work a job that involves me being away from home most weeks and all the travel logistics that go with it, keep all the usual domestic stuff going with only the weekend to do it all, try and keep fit and healthy, a bereavement and being away from family, a birthday spent alone without any cards or phone calls and trying to not neglect existing friendships/social life. And frankly, I struggled. I’m still struggling.

But did I post about this on social media? No. (Well, unless you count this post, but I think this is different, I’m a bit back on track by now, although sorry to anyone I saw last weekend as I know I wasn’t quite myself.) Because the other thing is that it’s hard when people know you as a positive, sociable person who just gets on with things. They sometimes don’t know how to handle it. And as that person, it’s hard to tell people or ask for support. And sometimes when you do, and you don’t get it, that makes it twice as hard.

I’m normally busy, and I know so many people are but it’s about prioritising the things you enjoy rather than things that stress you out. For me, I like being busy with all the things I love doing (e.g. I don’t have any time to watch TV but I prefer to go running) but I don’t like having all my free time planned in. I need to be spontaneous to either do something or do nothing. I like to have the choice. And for me it’s important that I keep in touch with people outside of social media. Or, directly, rather than just liking a status etc. Because of the above. People are having crappy times but you’d never know. So maybe it’s time to ask them actually how they are, rather than taking their life as it is perceived through a collection of status, pictures and 140 character statements. Get involved.

I haven’t really looked at social media much recently, so if I haven’t liked your status or pictures it’s not because I’m being rude, it’s just had to take a back seat. Let’s try and talk about it instead eh? Talk about real life. #lifeunfiltered.

So here’s my #lifeunfiltered photo tonight. Think working away from home is exciting, glamorous and fun? Not always. The reality tonight – the unfiltered – is a box of Maltesers, a single bed, cups of tea made with UHT milk and writing this. I’m missing my flat, my own bed and my Kindle, which I forgot to bring with me. I miss cooking my own tea and having something healthy. I’m annoyed at myself for eating Maltesers, because I wouldn’t have done that at home tonight. Of course I could have gone and explored London and gone for a walk or a run by the river and it would have been amazing. But I’m shattered and my mojo’s on holiday for a bit.

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I’m not sure what the conclusion of this post is. Think this is one of those posts that’s probably been more helpful to me to write than for anyone to read. But maybe the moral is to not take everything at social media face value. Don’t use it like a spy hole into people’s lives, as it’s probably not real; interact with people as well. Don’t assume that everyone is doing OK. Some people might need a bit of support. And that support might be something as simple as asking how they are.

 

Back in the UK.

I’ve been back for nearly 4 weeks now. I’ve no idea where that’s gone, it’s just been one massive whirlwind. I’ve been meaning to blog before now, but I’ve just not really had the chance, or known what to write. I still don’t, so until I do, this is just a little post to say hello, yes, I’m back, it’s weird but not weird, normal but totally different and if I’m honest, I’ve found it all a little bit overwhelming. I’m not quite sure I’ve processed much in the last few weeks (although, my liver has processed quite a bit of alcohol), and it’s probably going to catch up with me soon. At the minute I’m sat in Southampton having a little bit of a holiday, and am heading to London next week to spend some time with Alex. I’m looking forward to just having a bit of downtime. You maybe can’t understand that, or think I’ve just had a year off, or four weeks of not working but, well, trust me, I need a break. I’ll try and explain it more in another post, once I get it all straight in my head.

And in the meantime, here’s a few things that I’ve noticed since I’ve been back:

  • I’ve had cold feet for the first time in a year. Even in Zambia, New Zealand and San Francisco, where it got cold at night, I never remember having cold feet like I do here. It must be that damp UK cold. Don’t particularly like it.
  • I miss plugs in bathrooms. Why don’t we have them here? Other countries manage perfectly fine and don’t seem to electrocute themselves.
  • I’m still finding it a bit weird, 4 weeks on, using plugs without an adaptor. Every plug seems tiny. I miss adaptors that hang out the wall and I had to balance on something to get to work, and that used to spark when I plugged something in.
  • The smell of oilseed rape is just so Lincolnshire. The first time I got back to my parents and got out the car I smelt it. And so, I was home.

And yep, as I (and maybe some of you) suspected, I’ve now got itchy feet. Not necessarily to go travelling again, but just to DO something. To start my life. And yep, this means getting a job (I’ve not got a bottomless bank account) and finding somewhere to live. And itchy feet means it’s probably not going to be Lincolnshire. But, I have no idea where I want it to be. And there is also a small part of me that misses travelling. That feeling of getting up and being able to do what you want. To go wherever you want, and wake up somewhere new every few days or weeks. But, I know I don’t really want to travel again. Not yet. And I don’t really know what I want to do. Not yet. So, I’ve got a few ideas in the meantime. But, at the minute, I’m going to enjoy this little holiday. And try to relax.

Hello 2014.

For the past couple of years, the new year has kind of been a bit of a big deal. Not the actual celebrating, but the whole end of an old year, start of a new year shebang. I like looking back at what happened and what I did over the year, and I like looking forward to have a think about the kind of things I want to do or achieve in the next year. Although, I never used to ‘wait’ for new year to make a change or do something, I think if you want to do it, then whatever point you’re at is as good a time as any. But, I liked the definitive start and end point as an excuse to do a bit of reflecting.

This year is a bit different though, and I’m not really thinking about life in the same way this time. This year that kind of reflection and review is in line with my travel year. So, I’ll probably do my thinking when I finish my travelling in April/May. So much will happen or change by then anyway, there’s no point in planning or thinking too much. And I like that.

2013 has been a cracker of a year. A bit of a different year, but then I guess I could say that about the last couple of years for me too. So I guess there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ year any more. I’ve learnt so much, done so much, experienced so much in 2013 I wouldn’t even know where to begin to start writing about it. So I’m not going to. Much easier that way. All I’ll say is that there’s been mainly ups. No real downs. I’m healthy and happy and haven’t managed to injure myself, get robbed or lose any of my stuff (well, apart from a few bits of clothes in Cambodia). I’ve seen more of the world in the last 6 months than I have in the years beforehand, and have learnt so much about it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I don’t regret it for a second. I’m having the time of my life and 2013 will be a year that stays with me for a long, long time. No doubt providing lots of great memories when I’m old and grey and can’t get out of a chair by myself.

 

Do I need to top that? There seems to be a bit of a view that each year should be bigger and better. Question is then, where and when do you stop? I’m not buying into that. I’m going to be happy with a 2014 that’s pretty much the same; filled with new experiences, new friends, good health, adventure, fun, laughs, exercise and all the other stuff that makes up my life. Which I’m pretty sure it will be, because after all, I’m the one that’s going to make it happen. Things aren’t just going to fall into my lap without me actually doing something about it.

I don’t really set myself resolutions, but I do like to have a think about things I might like to do or achieve, so I suppose you could call them goals, or targets. My only goals for 2014 at the moment are to:

  • Run more
  • Get back to the UK in one piece
  • Get a job/earn some money
  • Find somewhere to live

Enough to be getting on with I reckon. Once I stop travelling and figure out what to do next, I’m sure there will be new goals. Like I said, I don’t wait until new year to think about stuff like this. There’s a few fitness things I want to do, but I can’t really start thinking about or trying to do them properly until I’m in one place rather than bouncing around different places every few days. 2014 is also now the year that I get to go home. I’m loving travelling but I know that in a few months I’ll be looking forward to being in one place for longer than a few weeks. And looking forward to seeing friends and family again. I’m pretty excited about that, although not so that I’m wishing my time away. I want to make the most of this travel. And to not having a job, haha!

So, people out there, whatever you do, however you look at it, however you celebrate (if at all), I hope that 2014 will be happy and groovy for you all. If you’ve had a crap year, then I hope 2014 will be better. If you’ve had a great year, then make 2014 everything you want it to be.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

My Christmas Day in pictures.

I’d been meaning to do a day in pictures for a while, but not yet got round to it. So I decided, what better day to do it than Christmas Day?

My original idea for a day in pictures was actually to take a picture every hour, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t stick to that. Time kind of ran away with me, and I wasn’t clock watching. So, this is my Christmas Day 2013 in pictures:

Chats with the family first thing (Christmas Eve night UK time):

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My traditional Christmas Day morning run (can’t miss that!):

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Going out for dinner so I decided to glam up a bit when getting ready. Not worn mascara for months!:

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Pre-dinner preparations, including champagne:

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CHRISTMAS DINNER! South African/Aussie mix of turkey, roasties, pumpkin, peach salad, beans, cranberry gravy and christmas pudding. YUM.

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New friends:

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Afternoon champagne after dinner:

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Later on, two bottles of champers down:

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We move onto Moscato. DELICIOUS!:

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Early evening, riding home in the sunshine:

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Chilled out evening watching National Lampoon with the cat and dog, eating pizza and Toblerone:

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Then some Google hangouts with some buddies. Karl wasn’t too keen on having his photo taken:

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Washing up. Got to be done:

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Then a mammoth FaceTime session with the family on their Christmas Morning (late Xmas Day night/early Boxing day morning here). I was in the iPad, propped up on the sofa and it was just like I was in the room for a bit. Lots of laughs and giggles. And I look orange because of THE LIGHT:

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Bedtime. Ok, so this was actually the early hours of Boxing Day morning but it still counts, as it’s the last thing I did:  

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Pretty perfect day.