Day #44 13.02.16

Flying the flag for BMF South Africa today at BMF Cheltenham by wearing the t-shirt they gave me when I was in Cape Town a few weeks ago and joined them on their Saturday session (which happened to be a hike up Table Mountain). Oh, to be back in that sunny beautiful city. You couldn’t have got much more of a contrast today; it was 2 degrees this morning and drizzly rain when we were running around in a muddy Pittville Park. Cheltenham is still beautiful though. And the sentiment is still the same; get outside.

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Day #23 23.01.16

Today was a Ronnies Sex Shop (deliberate no apostrophe) t-shirt day. In between doing BMF, having a haircut and going out with BMF buddies at night I lazed around at home. This t-shirt is from South Africa and I wouldn’t really wear it outside in real life as I’m not that keen on the idea of walking around in public with the word Sex splayed on my right boob. So it’s saved for home use only. Loungewear if you will (ha! Loungewear=all the old/shit clothes that are so comfy they’re nearly falling apart or you wouldn’t be seen dead in public).

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Day #16 16.01.16

My last day in Cape Town and South Africa. My flight wasn’t until 6pm so I had most of the day before I had to be at the airport dropping Figaro off at about 3. I had two choices; a) either sit around and count the hours of waiting to go home (and also have to check out of my apartment at 11) or, b) go and do something with the day and make it count. So I chose b). Of course.

I decided to go tag along to a Saturday session with BMF South Africa (you’ll probably know I do BMF – British Military Fitness – in Cheltenham so I decided to see how they did it in CT) so I checked out at 7.15am, chucked my bag in the boot and trundled off in Figaro to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens to find the meeting point. 4 conversations with different people at two different locations later, I just about managed to find where I needed to be (apparently there are two ‘Top gates’ at Kirstenbosch depending on who you speak to) and bounded up to the only group of people gathered round who looked like they might be about to hike up a mountain. Because their Saturday session wasn’t a round of burpees, press ups and the like. No, their session today was a hike up Table Mountain. Which was fine by me. Although I was secretly fearing they might make us do killer burpees at the top or something. I didn’t know – they could have been massive hardcore athletes for all I knew. Luckily for me this was more of a sociable Saturday jaunt so although it was a tough hike (pretty much straight up to the top of the mountain scrambling and climbing up rocks, ladders and waterfalls in 30+ heat) we were rewarded with a swim in a lake at the top (yep, who knew there was a lake at the top of Table Mountain? Not me.) rather than burpees.

So I got to hike a mountain, go for a swim in a lake, catch some rays and meet a new bunch of people. Now that’s what I call making the most of my last day.

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Day #13 13.01.16

Today was more driving to get to Cape Town. Again I hadn’t actually planned on getting to Cape Town today but I changed my mind while driving and decided to push on round the coast road (through some SPECTACULAR scenery) and get to Cape Town. And I was rewarded. I decided to book a hotel in the Seapoint area as I’d not stayed around there before and after getting upgraded to the biggest hotel suite I’ve been in yet (it’s bigger than my flat at home!) I dumped my stuff and got outside to explore and went for a stroll down the Atlantic Seaboard promenade, which is basically a massive seafront prom all the way along the coast for a few miles. Full of people running, skating, walking etc. My kind of place!! Loved the feel of it.

And THIS is the backdrop. Signal Hill, Lions Head and Table Mountain (which, in this photo, is underneath the big white cloud. Honest.). Beaut eh?

Oh yes, I could live here….

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Day #12 12.01.16

Today was a day of driving. Hours of it. From Storms River Mouth to Swellendam. Around 370 km. I wasn’t originally going to end up in Swellendam to overnight but I changed my mind while I was driving and decided to push on a bit rather than stop in Stillbaai which is where I’d planned to stop. But the weather was shit and it was another 20 odd km down to Stillbaai from the N2 so pushed on and ended up in Swellendam and found a fab little hostel, where I got my own room and became anti social Tara. It was GREAT.

I’m loving driving in South Africa, it’s a real pleasure rather than an ordeal. The roads are mostly great condition (well, the tarred ones anyway), they’re wide and have yellow lanes (for people to move over into so faster cars can overtake), people generally don’t seem to be in a mad rush, there’s WAY less traffic than the UK, there’s always so much to look at (scenery, people, animals, people crammed into the back of pick up trucks hanging on for dear life etc.) and for some reason I really like 4 way stops. Singing along in the sunshine to music blaring out from some SA radio station or other (my favourites were Goodhope and Five FM) while driving with mountains all around is a damn good driving experience in my book.

Figaro the hire car is a delight to drive, even if he does need a run up to get up hills or overtake. ESPECIALLY if you have the A/C on (which, let’s face it, I’ve not turned off since I picked him up). But I drove old minis for years, so I’m used to that.

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Day #5 05.01.16

Today was a fairly chilled day. I spent a lot of time by the sea just sitting and thinking (forgot to take my kindle with me) on the rocks, and then on the beach. Then I got restless and went for a long walk along the beach. The beaches are so pretty here in SA, and I never get tired at looking at them. And I love the sound of waves. That’s the only thing Cheltenham is missing; a beach. Would love it.

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Working 9 to 5.

I tend to write at night. Not sure why. Sometimes the words don’t come any earlier. Often, they start after 10pm which either means I don’t end up writing what I want, or that I end up going to bed mega late. Tonight though, that’s not too much of a problem, because I don’t work on Fridays any more. Yes, I am a PART-TIME slacker now. More on that later.

So today I’ve been thinking about writing, but I’ve not been sure what to write about. The topics have changed depending on what’s been going on today. And there’s been a fair bit today actually. Things that have happened, things I’ve done, feelings and thoughts I’ve had, news I’ve heard and conversations I’ve been involved in. SO MUCH for my tiny brain to take in.

Mainly I realised today that I’d just finished my 4th week in my new job. FOURTH WEEK. Really? Not quite sure where that’s gone actually, still feel like a newbie, still feel like I’ve only just got there and still don’t feel like I’ve got my head around anything. Luckily I’m not the only new person and so I don’t feel so alone, but I still mainly feel like I’m swimming through a murky lake underwater without my glasses, unable to see anything or the other side. It’s not a particularly great feeling, and I guess one of the reasons why people don’t change jobs that often. I was only in my last job just shy of 18 months, but I’d got to the point where I knew what I was doing, was doing OK at it and everything is nice and comfortable and easy(ish). So of course, time to throw myself into a new organisation, new role with no idea of what was to come eh? Be the new person again, get to know a new culture, new role, new people, new ways of working, new systems, processes and technology. Now, I love change probably more than a lot of people, but I kind of forget how fucking draining it can be. Yes, throw anything at me and I’ll generally just get on and do it, but it’s bloody exhausting too you know? Especially as I wasn’t really looking for a new job; I quite liked my old one. But, when you get offered an opportunity too good to turn down, you can’t say no right?

Incidentally there’s been a lot of talk about the transition curve at my new job, as I’ve joined to help implement some new tech as part of a HR transformation project. If you’ve not seen it, it’s basically the stages of transition that people can go through following a change. Actually really interesting, and useful, especially a week or so ago when I was having a bit of hobo-wanderlust wobble moment, which I’m thinking now was perhaps just a reaction to the change (well, some of it). Using the curve has helped me calm the fuck down, for at least a little bit longer. The head is winning over the heart right now.

transition-curve-e1327358138202Anyway, one thing that I am LOVING about my new job is that I’ve gone down to a 4 day week. Yes, I am skiving work on a Friday every week now. And I love it, and wish I’d looked at doing it in previous jobs a lot earlier. I have a 3 day weekend. And it’s bloody brilliant.

On hearing of my new slacker status, there are two things that people say to me:

One – “You’re so lucky, I wish I could do that” and two – “what will you do with your day off?”

Well, number one people – YOU CAN. You just need a couple of things really – firstly, be willing to take a pay drop. Yes, working one less day means a day’s less pay funnily enough. Circa 20%. Even though I did get a pay rise with my new job, it wasn’t that much more, and also I have to pay fuel costs now (I did actually apply for a 4 day week at my old place also but didn’t get it). So I’m down a fair bit each month, yes. BUT – and here’s the important bit – I value my time more than material things and money. I worked out I can still pay my bills, and still have fun money, just not as much. But I now get a whole extra day each week to have a better work life balance. And that is so much more important to me than having the latest handbag*. Second, it helps to have a flexible employer, one who will recognise work life balance as important, especially if there are no childcare reasons (a lot of people/organisations view part time working for someone with no kids a bit odd), and a role that is able to be done on less than full time hours. I know I’m lucky in that respect.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” ~ Prophecy of the Cree Native American Tribe

And number two people – I haven’t quite figured out what I will do with it yet. So far I’ve spent them catching up on stuff I’d been putting off and didn’t have time to do in the evenings: tax return, car in garage, food shopping (we all know how shit at having food in the house I am), that kind of boring but necessary shit. But really, my only plan was just to make sure I don’t waste it. Eventually I want to spend it doing something useful, either for myself or other people. Or both. And work on projects I’ve been thinking about but never had time to do. Maybe one day projects that might make me a bit of cash. To make up for the shortfall.

Work is necessary, I have to pay my bills right now. But to me it’s not something that should be hated or endured. I’m lucky in that I also actually quite like what I do, life is way too short to dread getting up in the morning, and 5 days is too much of a chunk out of the week to spend it doing something utterly boring or hateful. But I like what I do outside of work too. I don’t think what I do now is what I want to do long term, but I haven’t got all that figured out yet. I’m not sure I ever will but over the last couple of months I’ve figured out a hell of a lot more stuff than I have over the last 2 years. So I’m on the right track, which is a pretty good place to be.

But the next step is a break. To step off the treadmill and have a fucking rest. Not necessarily physical rest (what I’ve got planned in South Africa isn’t really what most people would call relaxing, ha!) but rest from the mind fuck that is Life. Headspace, a change of scenery and some time out. I want to stop the world and just get off for a bit.

And see penguins. On a beach. They will never fail to make me smile.

 

*as if I could give a shit even if when I did work full time…

 

 

That one moment.

Note: this post contains significant use of the F-word, sorry

Ever had one moment where your life changes forever? Where something just clicks, or changes, and BOOM, that’s it: life will never be the same again. Where you realise that you are capable of ANYTHING. That all the possibilities in the world are open, there for the taking.

I was reminded of mine tonight reading a post by the lovely Liz Goodchild (a fab life coach who I met in London once) who was writing about running and it’s effects.

My moment was in February 2011 in South Africa. Stood watching people throw themselves off Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bridge bungy in the world (or at least it was then, not sure it still is, Macau might have that title now). I’d said before the trip I wanted to do it, we drove up went to the viewing platform. And well, fuck me, it’s HIGH. Fucking high. Thoughts through my head? Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Shit. Fuck fuck fuck. I stood there for ages deciding what to do.

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My brother took one look and decided it wasn’t for him (we’d both said beforehand that we’d do it). I on the other hand had already said I wanted to do it. I’d told people I wanted to do it. I reeeeeeaaaaalllllly wanted to do it. But, jesus shitting christ it was high.

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(In the picture above, there is someone dangling on a bungy rope but it’s hard to spot them as it’s SO HIGH and MASSIVE)

It’s actually 216 meters (709 feet) above the Bloukrans River.

High.

Anyway, long story short, I manned the fuck up, paid my cash and got harnessed up. No refunds if you wimp out. I wasn’t about to lose the cash and I also remembered telling Matt and Allister at work that I was going to do it. I just couldn’t change my mind. I needed to do it. All the while silently crapping myself.

The walk along to the middle of the bridge was terrifying. It’s underneath the bridge along a metal SEE-THROUGH walkway. What the actual? How to give someone a heart attack before you start. Amazingly, my absolutely-terrified-of-heights-ex-husband came with me onto the bridge, and I know he was crapping it worse than me. So that helped. He wasn’t about to chuck himself off though.

I can still remember as clear as day stood on the bridge. Realising there was no way out (well, of course I could have not done it, but that wasn’t an option) and I had to do it, there was no choice. Fog had started to come through the gorge and so I was looking at jumping into white mist. Better or worse? I couldn’t see the bottom or what I was jumping into. Okay, so I couldn’t see the bottom but then it becomes unknown. A white abyss. It felt just as bad to me.

Strapped up, ready to go. Anyone who’s done a bungy jump will know that feeling of stood on the edge, nothing to hold onto, and that brief feeling of panic because THERE IS NOTHING TO HOLD ONTO. Panic panic panic and then, JUMP. And then the feeling of falling. That completely unnatural feeling of falling.

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And then the pull and squeeze around your ankles. Then the upwards freefalling. And then bounce. And then eventually, STOP. And dangle. For what seems forever.

And that was the moment. My moment. Hanging upside down from a bridge in a South African gorge, legs shaking from adrenaline (so much that I did worry they’d shake out of the ropes), that I realised. Out loud. “I did it. I did it. I fucking did it. Hahahahahaha.” (cue manic near-hysterical out loud laughing) And then I realised, if I could do that, I could do ANYTHING. And I did. That year was THE year my life changed. The year I left my marriage and everything I’d known for over 10 years and started living my life how I wanted. Doing all the shit I realised I could do. And every year I’ve done more. Because I know I can do whatever I want, no matter how scared I feel. No matter how many times I stand and say fuck, fuck, fuck in my head, there’s a little voice that also says “you can do it, you can fucking do it.”

Live your dreams.

(PS: If you want to see the jump, the video is here)

Runs around the world #4

Johannesburg, South Africa

Today was the first ‘proper’ Run Around the World. It’s my first day abroad on my travels, I’m in Joburg on a stopover before flying to Zambia tomorrow. I’ve not run a lot this week because I’ve been so busy so I was desperate to get out today. I went out at about 2:15 in the afternoon. So yes, the hottest part of the day. In the Southern Hempisphere. It was a bit windy; it didn’t feel too hot to start with I can confirm it actually bloody was.

It was a really hard run. Hot and slightly uphill. I also read that Joburg is 1753 metres above sea level. Not sure whether that would class as at altitude though. I did 3.5 miles and was chuffed at that because at one point I did think I might collapse. I didn’t. Good job.

I ran around a gated Joburg suburb. I checked with Joan (the woman who runs the hostel I’m staying in) where was safe. Yes, although I’d just be likely to run out of the gate and see where I get to, I’m staying sensible. I know I’m in South Africa and there’s a fair bit of traffic and not many paths round here. Plus, I promised boss Matt and others that I wouldn’t just run down dodgy roads. So, I ran a few laps of residential streets, safe behind security gates with barriers, fences and security guards just behind where I’m staying. I could definitely tell that I’m back in SA because of the tropical plants and the security fences. And dogs. Loads of dogs barking at me. And I got a few funny looks. I didn’t see any other joggers, or really any other people about, so the people that were out were a bit bemused. I’m used to it.

I was so pleased to get out for a run; I needed it. An 11 hour flight last night and no running for a while meant I needed to get out. As hard as it was, I felt so much better afterwards. I always do. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a bad run. And as hot as the sun was, it was nice to see the sun. And stick my feet in the pool afterwards to cool down.

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