Life after divorce.

Life after divorce (or a breakup). By the time you’re in your 30’s and having a relationship breakdown, marriage isn’t necessarily the default but chances are you’d got to a point in your relationship where you were the last ones in your friendship groups to tie the knot and both of you thought it was probably about time you spent thousands of ££ on a big party where you’d invite a load of people you probably won’t speak to 5 years on.

So, once you’ve paid out more thousands of ££ for solicitors to undo the bit that you signed before the big party, what do you do? Easy! Follow this guide* to getting through that breakup and starting life again (aka have a life crisis):

  1. Get your hair cut in a new and funky style by the junior stylist (because the divorce wiped you out and you cant afford the salon director any more). Exclaim “it’s fab! Just what I always wanted!” with hysterical gusto while crying silently inside and wondering what your head would look like shaved.
  2. Take up a sport. Doesn’t matter which one, just do something to help lose more weight in addition to the 3 stone you’ve already lost through stress and a diet of alcohol and biscuits.
  3. Shag someone at least 10 years younger than yourself. Just remember not to engage them in conversation. Unless of course you do actually care about Justin Bieber or Harry Styles’s hairdo.
  4. Go on Tinder and other online dating apps/websites. Spend a few days chatting to John from Peterborough because he’s the only person who has messaged you before you realise you don’t actually care about the steam engine show he went to at the weekend or how many cabbages he is growing. Realise you have lost all self respect and delete apps in a fit of self pity and loathing.
  5. Join an internet forum based on shared interests. Realise after a week you have not slept or showered or gone to work, but you do have thousands of new friends who ‘get you’.
  6. Wear short shorts. You’ve lost 3 stone through the breakup diet and realised you don’t give a fuck about anything any more.
  7. Do household chores without any resentment towards the lazy shit you used to live with. Realise you actually like housework. Skip around with the hoover like Mary Poppins! Get bored and fed up. Give up on housework and eat biscuits instead when you remember the mantra ‘fuck the fucking housework’.
  8. Eat pizza from the box. Because you can’t be arsed to wash a plate up and because your body is now craving carbs following the break up diet initial stages.
  9. Don’t get dressed for 2 days. No one will see you! No one will judge, not even Phil the Postman. And besides, he likes your onesie, he said so that time.
  10. Go to bed with your make up on. After all, you’ve given up dating after Peterborough John, so no one will see you in the morning. And besides, you’ve always admired the Absolutely Fabulous look.
  11. Go on a singles holiday. All your mates are still married or have kids so you have no friends left anyway, so why not join other desperate singles trying to appear like they’re just there for a holiday and not there to find someone else to marry to avoid being alone for the rest of their lives.
  12. Go on an activity holiday. You’ve given up on the singles holidays because Greg from Southampton mistook your ‘let’s have a nightcap’ drunken shout out in the bar for something completely different which then triggered an incident involving hotel security, a flannel, a bowler hat and some chocolate mousse. At least an activity holiday means you don’t have to pretend to be interested in Joanne’s stories from her time in the Accounting department at the local council because you’re too busy hanging off a rock the size of a pea on a cliff face while mentally chastising yourself for not making a will.
  13. Shag someone from work. If you really want to keep things amusing try either someone from your own department or your boss. Or your boss’s boss. This way meetings will be interesting as you’ll just be picturing them naked.
  14. Get a cat. Decide one cat isn’t enough. Get another one so they can occupy each other while you’re at work picturing your boss naked. Decide against getting another one because you realise you’re in danger of becoming crazy cat lady.
  15. Contemplate getting a dog because you read somewhere it’s a good way to meet people. Realise you probably can’t get a dog because you now have cats. Read about a cat cafe. Decide to visit one as an alternative way to meet people. End up just meeting lots of crazy cat women.
  16. Wonder how long your eggs have got left before they start shrivelling. Wonder about freezing them then realise how much that costs. Make a point of visiting friends with horrid children to put you off the idea of spawning.
  17. Rediscover (or discover) tequila slammers. Who knew how much fun some salt, a lemon and some incredibly foul tasting alcohol could be?
  18. Get hideously drunk at a wedding and behave inappropriately. Drink tequila slammers (because they’re fun, remember), fall over on the dance floor, fall off chairs, flash your knickers, kiss your friends uncle in front of the whole family including his children, leave your hand bag at the venue and make your friend homeless for the night, eat the whole cheeseboard even though you don’t like cheese and other things that you will never remember because you drank so much tequila. Just remember to mention you’re recently divorced/separated/single, because this may go some way to excusing your behaviour.
  19. Spunk £3000 on a bespoke, hand made in Italy, cream fabric sofa. Because your ex loved black leather.
  20. Spill red wine on sofa. Throw white wine on it. Clean it up as best you can. Realise it’s futile and that even if it cleaned up you’d probably just do it again. Go out and buy big cushions instead.
  21. Cry for 3 days solid. Realise you’re crying more over a sofa than your ex. Realise you’ve turned a corner.
  22. Try Zumba because Jill from Reception had a spare pass to the gym. Realise you have all the grace and finesse of a baby elephant but enjoy the hip wiggling and freestyle. Make friends with Claire and Sophie. Start going to fitness weekends at Butlins where you spend just as much time drinking Blossom Hill and dancing to 80’s tunes as you do going to Body Pump and Zumba.
  23. Eat bowls of broccoli for tea. Spice things up with a few chilli flakes every now and then. Pride yourself on this ‘quick’ tea that does not involve anything beige from a freezer. while overlooking the lack of other essential nutrients in this diet. Mention said meal to friends who then start inviting you round for dinner more in exchange for juicy gossip and scandal.
  24. Start to realise that life alone isn’t so bad. Ponder the thought that maybe you’ve had more fun in the last few months than you’ve had in a long time. Decide you’re in no hurry to get into another relationship, and that you and you alone are responsible for your own happiness.
  25. Book another activity holiday, this time with sky diving. Hope that Greg from Southampton is still banned from booking with the same travel company.

 

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*riseandshinepaps bears no responsibility to anyone following this (fictional, made up and completely tongue-in-cheek) guide and the characters above are completely fictional and bear no resemblance to anyone, living or dead (apart from 18. Yes, that was me. Oh, and 23.)

JFDI.


Just fucking do it.

People think this is easy for me. And perhaps it is in some ways. Now. Not always. It’s been a bit of a journey to get here. After a long time (too long) in an unhealthy relationship (for both of us) I had to redefine myself. I had become a shell of who I was. In fact, I didn’t know who I was. I remember very clearly a moment in a shop where I had to buy something for my new home when I first became single (towels I think). I was so overwhelmed with the feeling that I didn’t know what I liked any more. Because I couldn’t tell whether I actually liked something or whether I liked it because actually my ex would have, or actually because he wouldn’t have (I went through a slight rebellion phase). After putting someone else first for my entire adult life, it was completely alien to me to purely only have myself to please.

I started to realise that I could do anything I wanted. Anything. I didn’t have to check with anyone. Ask anyone’s permission. Worry about what they might think. Consider whether it fitted in with our plans. Worry that I was prioritising time alone above time with them. I could make decisions knowing I was pretty much the only person they affected. And let me tell you, that was a fucking liberation. It started with towels, but it soon grew like mushrooms in a dark damp forest. I realised I loved running more than I ever thought possible and started doing races. I discovered hiking and mountains. I started going places. I fucked off for weekends to visit people I hadn’t seen in years. I chatted to strangers and got myself embroiled in different social circles. I started saying Yes more than I said No. I started travelling on my own. I tried new things.

And I realised the whole fucking world had started to open up.

I saw a life beyond my front doorstep. I saw different viewpoints and ways of life. I realised ‘normal’ was only what you made it. I understood what it was to fail. And figured out that actually, there is no failure, just a way to learn. I realised that by doing stuff, I was educating myself. Developing, growing, however or whatever you want to call it. By doing the same stuff I’d always done, I would get what I’d always got. I didn’t want that. I found new stuff exciting, the unknown becoming this mythical magical land where I wanted to skip around forever. I didn’t want to know what was happening next. Like a child, I wanted every day to bring me something new.

And that shit won’t come to you. It’s up to you to go out there any get it. It means going out of your comfort zone. It means seeing something and wanting a piece of it for yourself. It means putting yourself out there. It means taking risks and being scared. It means making yourself vulnerable and open to hurt. It might mean sacrificing stuff, whether that’s money, material things, relationships or careers. It means looking deep inside you and trying to figure out what your gut feeling is telling you. And going with that gut feeling. It means ignoring what other people might think or feel and doing it anyway because it means so much to you.

When I was little my Dad told me that I could do or achieve anything I wanted, and that the only person to stop me was myself. Somewhere along the line I’d forgotten that. As adults, we quite often do. We get bogged down with ‘real life’ that seems to be driven around those life events we’re expected to achieve; job, house, partner, marriage, children, retirement, with a nice two week beach holiday each year if you’re lucky. Why shouldn’t real life be the dream? What are we waiting for? Financial security? To be a grown up? We’d be waiting forever.

Alongside this I’d been told in my relationship that I was an idealist and a dreamer. That I should be realistic and that life was as it was and I should be grateful. That I was stupid for thinking there was more than work and the weekends and the occasional weekend away. That I couldn’t do some of the things I wanted to. That I wasn’t good enough to achieve stuff.

I never believed that. Not deep down. I just let it slide until I couldn’t any more. Until I realised that one day if I didn’t start to do the things I wanted to then I’d get to an age where I couldn’t. And I’d regret it. And one think I don’t want in this life is regrets. Or regrets of things I haven’t done.

So one day, I thought “F*ck it, Do it.” And I did it. And then I did it some more. Yes, I was nervous. Yes I was scared. Yes, I had a crisis of confidence. Yes, I didn’t think I could do certain things. I still don’t. But, how do I know if I don’t try? Only one way to find out. I let go of any fear of failure, because now I know there is no failure. Giving things a go and trying does not mean you will let anyone down. It means there will be no ‘what if’s’. If you’re going to do something, give it your best shot and see what happens. The unknown is scary, like a dark wooded forest. But it’s also a forest where unicorns skip around and rainbows shine once you get in there.

Someone told me yesterday “You’re the person I want to be. Carefree, not frightened to make a decision”. I told them they can become that person. They just need to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fuck it, do it. Think ahead in the future and figure out the worst case scenario. Is being unhappy but not rocking the boat for the next 10 years better than ripping a plaster off and short term pain? Hanging around the bottom of a rainbow with no pot of gold or riding on the top with sunbeam in your face and a view to beat a million.

Life is too short to hold yourself back. To be the best version of you that you can be. To live a life true to yourself. To exist in black and white.

And I’m not just talking about skipping off around the world or adventure if that’s how you’re reading this. I’m talking about anything you want to do but are unsure of. Learning a new skill, deciding whether to try a new activity, being more sociable, taking the kids on holiday, leaving a relationship, starting a new one, giving the cute girl in Boots your number, running a marathon, quitting your job, applying for a new one, getting a new hairstyle. Literally anything. Everyone is different. You have to figure out what it is that makes you happy and remove those barriers you stick up.

Ah yes, those barriers. Money! Mortgage! Kids! Job! “I can’t just drop everything”.

For example, travel. We’ve all seen the internet memes. Go explore the world. It’s that easy!

No, it’s not. BUT. It’s not impossible. Actually, it’s a lot easier than you think. But people don’t even start to look.

If you really want to do something, you can do it. You might just have to be a bit creative about how you do it. Or it might take you a long time. But it is achievable.

Got a job? How about asking for a career break or unpaid leave? How about quitting or working abroad? If you don’t ask, you don’t know. You might even get a better job when you come back. People forget if you go travelling and aren’t paying all your bills, you don’t need to earn a shed load of cash (e.g. when you come back) straight away. Think about the skills your travel can add to your CV. The stuff you can learn.

Mortgage? Rent your house out. The rental market is strong. Get a professional house sitter. Air bnb it. Save up extra to cover your mortgage. Sell your house and move into a caravan.

Kids. OK, a little trickier. But again, not impossible. Take them with you. The life education they will get will be immense. I met quite a few families when I was travelling. The kids were amazing (like the Meeks). Go in the summer holidays. Go on different types of trips. Make them into adventures.

“It’s so expensive”. Well, this is subjective. If you want to stay in 5* hotels then yes, it probably will be. There are so many ways to travel. It is NOT an extended holiday. Go to countries where it is cheap as chips (£5 a night guesthouse in SE Asia for example). How about volunteer programmes where you get your food and accommodation covered? Cycle trip and camping? No accommodation or transport costs. Set a budget and save up for it. Stop buying a coffee and lunch every day. Do you really need that 10th pair of shoes? Rent a room rather than a whole flat. Walk to work and get rid of the car. Don’t go out so much, or stop some of that expensive hobby (or cut down). Honestly, if you really want it, then you can achieve it. It just takes a bit of effort.

When you’re sat in a nursing home thinking back on your life, what do you want to remember? All the extra hours at work, the big TV and the flashy car? Or the moments that count. That sunrise, that look on someone’s face, that time you gave something to others? The time you took a risk or tried something new. Who gives a shit what the outcome was? You’ll remember giving it a go.

So why not try it? Go on, see if there’s something you can give a go. Something you’re maybe not sure of? Something you’ve been putting off?

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Day #58 26.02.16

Enjoy every bit of time I spend with this guy. Even if he does take the piss out of my Batman joggers. I first met Bateman on the school bus but we didn’t really speak back then and went to different schools. Then I knew him at work, and now over the last couple of years we’ve become actual friends.

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Day #36 05.02.16

I’d planned on going back to Cheltenham today but as I didn’t have any plans until Saturday night I decided instead to make an impromptu trip to Boston to visit some very special friends. I’m one of those people that love unexpected visitors so I kind of assume that everyone else does too. Although, I tend to know out of my friends who actually does and who hates it. These friends were not those that hated it. Luckily. Kim was happily surprised to see my face pressed against the door (or did a good job of pretending).

I’ve known Rick & Kim for 13 years and a lot has changed over that time. We’ve had many a drunken night, trips abroad, weddings, babies (them), divorce (me), fancy dress parties, mixing, dancing, Brewdog, Buzz, 5am sunrises, jean fuck-ups and cocktail and bling parties. But one thing has remained throughout: they’re top friends and I love them dearly.

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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.

Runs around the world #19

Christchurch, New Zealand

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When I first got to Christchurch at the beginning of March I couldn’t run because of my broken rib. I was staying right next to Hagley Park, the massive bit of green space in the middle of the city which is a runners playground. I was sad. I watched everyone else with envy as they trotted round morning, noon and night. All at a great party that I wasn’t invited to.

But! Fear not! I had to come back to Christchurch, and when I did, I was healed! I could run again! So, first day back and out for a run I went. Well, probably more accurate to call it a jog. I’m not as fast as I once was (temporary glitch, when I can get back into proper training I’ll be back on it like a moth in a light box).

So I managed to do 5 wonderful miles in the early morning autumn sunshine. Easter Monday (yes, Easter in autumn, really quite odd), joining what seemed like half the population of Christchurch all burning off a day of chocolate. My favourite season, especially for running, I missed it in the UK last year so I’m so chuffed to experience it here. And, dare I say it, Autumn in NZ is a lot better than the UK! Amazing colours, lots of sunshine, not a lot of rain and crunchy leaves underfoot – perfect for running!

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I don’t feel fit at all any more. I’ve got a little layer of travelling fat and just not feeling mega healthy, so I actually surprised myself that I could do 5 miles. And it was 5 fairly easy miles really (at just under 10 mins per mile, so not too bad I guess) so I was pretty chuffed with it. Maybe I’m not so unfit after all. I’m pleased I’ve not lost it completely. It was never an option to give up running, I still can’t live without it, but I’m at ease a bit more now about not running so much (compared to the panic I felt in Africa when I thought I wouldn’t be able to run for a month). Maybe because I’d ramped it back up in Australia so I knew I still had passion for it, or maybe it’s because I know I’m not that far off coming home and will be ramping it up again then. But it’s been good to keep at it all year, even if it’s just once every couple of weeks. It’s still a run, and it’s still on my mind when I’m not doing it so much. The fact that I’m still able to run a 10K after all this travel, food, drink and transient lifestyle makes me very bloody happy.

People reading this who don’t run, you probably won’t understand. People reading this who do run (and love it) hopefully will know exactly what I mean.

And it’s amazing how good everything is after a run. How it makes me feel alive and just, well, great. Makes me happy and lifts my spirits. Reminds me that there’s nothing I like better than putting my trainers on and getting out there in the fresh air. I was so perky I nearly started high-fiving the other runners I kept passing, but they all looked a bit serious for that. Just went for a big grin instead.

The air was a little cold, just how I like it. My favourite condition to run in. The kind where you can feel it in your lungs when breathing (or at least to start with). Where you have little goosebumps until you get going but you don’t overheat. Where the air is fresh and when blinking it feels a bit like its cleaning your eyeballs. When the sun’s out but it’s not too hot (although this being NZ and no ozone layer means that it’s stronger than the World’s Strongest Man).

Sometimes when I run, especially after a little while, it’s like resetting myself and the world. Suddenly everything is all right again, even if things weren’t ‘wrong’ to start with. Running is good for me. Fact.

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Runs around the world #17

Arrowtown, New Zealand

OK, I know it’s ages since my last Runs around the world post. The last one was about Melbourne parkrun in January. I have run since then, honest. I ran loads in Australia, up until I got to Sydney. Because that’s when I broke a rib.

Which put paid to running for a bit. Because, let’s face it, when I couldn’t even walk up stairs without being in agony and struggling to breathe, there’s no way I could do any type of running/jogging/anything more than a shuffle. Such a shame when I was in Christchurch as I was staying right next to Hagley Park which is just built for runners.

But, the pain has stopped now. It’s not healed, it won’t be for quite another few weeks yet, but running is OK. the doc said so.

So, in Arrowtown in New Zealand, one chilly morning, I pulled on my runners and headed out to see how it would feel. I planned on doing just as much as I was able but being sensible about it. I thought I’d probably manage a couple of miles at the most. As it happened, I did 5km (just over 3 miles). And oh, was it wonderful. Any runners out there will know that feeling of not running for a bit. I was getting quite twitchy and a little bit grumpy. I missed it like mad. I’d been doing a bit of walking but it’s not the same, not the same at all.

So, this run was great. I went in the morning, which, in autumnal New Zealand, is a little bit chilly. I should have worn gloves. My body warmed up after I’d been running for a bit but my hands were cold; the first time in months that I’d had that. My perfect conditions for running really though, not too hot, not too cold.

My run took me through the woods down by the Arrow River, once a gold mining haven, now a quaint little town, full of preserved buildings from the 1800’s, making the main street look like something out of a wild west film. The town is surrounded by mountains, which I could see when there were breaks in the trees. The scenery is just amazing in New Zealand, and I always have to be careful when running and walking that I keep looking at where I’m going. I don’t want any more accidents now!

I missed autumn in the UK last year as I was in South East Asia, so this is my autumn now. The leaves are changing colour and falling off the trees. It’s my most favourite season, and one of my most favourite times of the year to run, so I ended up after this 5K with a big fat smile on my face.

Running makes me happy. Fact.

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Jackpot.

My brother and sister-in-law’s wedding month is now over, ending with their wedding reception in Woodhall Spa last night. Was très fun; a few drinks, bit of gambling, a bit of a boogie, jager shots and a potentially interesting situation in a toilet.

So, a huge congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs Papworth; may you have a long and happy life together filled with lots of love, happiness, smiles and fun. Laugh lots and often, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Pick your battles and always respect each other. Oh, and don’t forget sexy time 😉

Here’s to the start of the next chapter of your lives 🙂

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