Saturday, 5 August 2017

Death and Taxes...


Benjamin Franklin famously once said "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes", and in recent weeks I've experienced both. After chasing Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for well over a year I finally got my tax rebate - hurrah. It was a relatively small sum of money, but it was the principle that mattered most to me. It was MY money and therefore I didn't see why anyone else should have it. On a sadder note, I experienced the passing of a very dear friend who I'd known for the past twenty years.

While I realise that anyone reaching their eighties is judged to have had 'a good innings', especially if they'd suffered bouts of ill health during their twilight years, it's still upsetting when the inevitable happens. At times like these it makes you more aware of your own mortality and the preciousness of living. It also makes you realise that you only get one life and you mustn't waste a single moment of it. Ted taught me many lessons, but the one which I will cherish the most is nicely summed up by British author and poet C. S. Lewis; " You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream"...

Rest In Peace.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Graduation Day...


Back in 2008 I missed my own graduation due to the fact I was still recovering from major surgery, so when the opportunity arose to attend the ceremony for the department where I currently work, I jumped at the chance. 

On the day itself, campus resembled Hogwarts as hundreds of little ‘Harrys and Hermiones’ gathered in the squares wearing black robes and mortar boards. The air of excitement was tangible as the Professional Services team made our way to the venue to watch the latest batch of students to go from undergraduates to graduates with a firm handshake from the Chancellor; The Right Honourable Baroness Shami Chakrabarti CBE; in front of proud friends and family members in the audience. 

After the new graduates were led out of the lecture theatre by a procession of fully-gowned academics, we sprinted up the hill so that we could welcome them all into the lakeside marquee for the less formal celebrations with bubbly and canap├ęs. Maybe it was all the excitement, or quite possibly the booze, but I've now made the decision that for 2018 I’ll mark the ten year anniversary since I became a BA (Hons) by gowning up as Alumni. A year from now there will be a very, VERY excitable, middle-aged peroxide blonde running around campus, beaming from ear to ear and yelling “I'm a wizard!”… 


Monday, 17 July 2017

Liquid Lunch...


The University where I work was recently awarded a Gold award for teaching the same day as a Gold rating in learning, so along with various other celebrations on campus there was an invite extended to all staff and students to attend a thank-you event in a woodland marquee. Obviously, never one to turn down a freebie, I booked my Golden ticket and spent my Monday lunch-break rubbing shoulders with the Vice Chancellor and various other senior management and department heads, as you do!

With the sun beating down and several hundred people crammed inside, it quickly turned into a sauna, so knocking back liquid was the only way to keep hydrated Partaking of Prosecco in a posh tent certainly beats scoffing a couple of cheese spread sarnies with a coffee at my desk, although booze at lunchtime probably wasn't the best way to ensure that anything remotely productive happened in my office after 2pm. Hmm.. I can see a theme emerging…

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Strawberries and Wine...


I've just attended my first annual staff picnic and in spite of concerns regarding the weather we were able to spend our lunchtime sitting on tartan blankets, surrounded by picnickers from all the other departments, munching on big, fat, juicy strawberries under blue skies beside the 18th century 4 star hotel on site. Even better, there was a chilled bottle of white wine involved.

Despite a rather persistent wasp, it was so nice to be out of the office and into the sunshine doing something so quintessentially British, although cramming fresh fruit down my neck like it’s going out of fashion during my dinner break might not have been such a good idea.  It’s also quite hard to focus on work in the afternoon when you feel ever so slightly tipsy. Thank heavens for strong coffee…


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Birthday Girl...


Birthdays are never something I particularly relish, especially now I'm fully aware I have far more behind me than ahead of me, however, when your grown up babies visit with fabulously thoughtful gifts and a beautiful card that IS cause for a celebration.

Along with the posh dark chocolates (my favourites) and proper Steampunk sunglasses (with a leather case, drawstring pouch and cleaning cloth), I had a lovely long chat with them, as always. We passed several hours within the blink of an eye while munching on chocolate coated malted milk biscuits and jammie dodgers along with the customary cups of tea, with Mr Kipling French fancies as a special treat.

Despite me waving a tearful farewell to 54 and resentfully accepting 55 my twin daughters always have the knack of knowing exactly how to put a great big smile back on my face. I'm so proud of my girls, who have grown up to be beautiful, talented, kind and generous young ladies – I love them to the moon and back…

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cocktail Crazy...


When my Departmental Manager announced she was leaving I actually felt quite sad; she was the person who gave me this job and therefore completely changed my life. However, all good things must come to an end, but we didn't want her to disappear into the sunset without having a decent send off, so an up-market restaurant was booked, taxis arranged and off we all went for some posh nosh and cocktails, all paid for by the Department.

I have to admit, being chauffeur driven into town to be wined and dined with all of my workmates is something I could get quite used to given half a chance, although maybe it wasn't such a good idea to schedule it for a weekday evening. Within the first few minutes round one of kicked off with cosmopolitans, white Russians and martinis, while numerous other alcoholic joys were being shaken, and stirred, by our amiable bartender. After three solid hours of knocking back gin and prosesso I, for one, was in no fit state to rock up to the office 9am the next morning, so humble apologies were shakily emailed and I spent the entire day with the hangover from hell. 

Despite the rather unfortunate after-effects, it was an exceedingly good night (from what I can remember), with tons of merriment and girlie chatter, and we'd certainly given our DM a night she won't forget in a hurry.
Cheers!


Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Boat That Rocked...


Fathers Day can be quite a sad affair when your dad is no longer alive, so I was extremely grateful that a friend suggested a trip to the coast to get me out of the house for a few hours. It was actually the hottest day of the year so far, so the slightly cooler breeze from the sea was extremely welcome.

We'd ended up in Harwich (Essex), and after a lovely walk along the promenade, admiring the dozens of ships and yachts of all shapes and sizes, I was treated to lunch and an ice-cold drink. Satiated by paninis and fruit juice we continued strolling along the seafront when we came across the actual vessel which featured in the Bill Nighy film The Boat That Rocked! 

It's a good job I'd taken my blood pressure tablets earlier because the excitement was almost too much for me to cope with; especially when we discovered it costs just £2 each to spend as much time as you want on it. Well, it just goes to show that you never can tell how your day will pan out, and sometimes something fabulous is just around the corner...literally!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Meerkat Monday...


When you work at a large University campus, there's always something new and exciting happening, and today was no exception. In order to give the students something else to focus on during the main exam period, the Student Union had arranged for one of the outdoor spaces to host a Petting Zoo. This proved to be extremely popular, not only with the students but with staff too.

Little did I know that when I left home early this morning I'd be spending my lunch-break surrounded by chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, a tortoise, a dog and..... meerkats! I may be just an office administrator, working a regular 9 to 5 job, but life's certainly never dull - and it's only Monday. Goodness knows what Tuesday will bring...!


Sunday, 28 May 2017

We Reap What We Sow...


For the past fortnight I've been working 6 days a week, so the fact that this is a Bank Holiday weekend is very welcome indeed. It's been busy in the office, and also exciting with the arrival of my brand new computer with shiny new keyboard and mouse along with two great big monitors, but nice surprises aside it's actually a welcome relief to finally be able to spend a couple of days in my much-neglected garden.

In my absence, however, Mother Nature has decided to spoil me, and when I stepped outside this fine, sunny morning I was greeted by the sight of dozens of bright orange Californian poppies, stunning giant red ornamental poppies and delicate blue love-in-the-mist. It appears that many of last years plants have self-seeded, and the mixed wild-flower seeds I randomly scattered at the end of last summer are now flourishing.

The universe sometimes has unique ways of rewarding those who go the extra mile in order to improve their own circumstances, and while I've strived to undertake more responsibility in the workplace, despite also undergoing numerous medical tests for ongoing health issues, I'm now reaping a few of the benefits...


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Oops I Did It Again...


Since January, I've been feeling distinctly below par with a cough, and as yet none of the NHS bods who've seen me so far can tell me why; despite numerous tests, let alone come up with a cure. It hasn't stopped me from getting on with my new job and it certainly didn't prevent me from enjoying a week of Spanish sunshine back in March, but it's been quite draining nonetheless.

So, after weighing up various pros and cons, I've just booked another holiday (as you do) and I'm feeling better already! It won't be for a while, which will allow time for my medical woes to hopefully be fixed, but at least it's something nice to look forward to. This will be my very first proper 'adults only' holiday, so that's going to be quite a revelation I suspect, and as usual I've opted for all-inclusive in The Canaries. 

Ahhhh... I can picture it now... sun, sand and sangria... and absolutely no need to worry about acting 'inappropriately' around other people's offspring. I have a feeling this could get messy... how fabulous!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Famous Faces...

When you work for any organisation that's remotely Governmental, the minute something kicks off  in the world; let alone anything as 'exciting' as an unexpected General Election; you find yourself surrounded by people busy giving television interviews and having articles published here, there and just about everywhere. As the person responsible for the department's social media, amongst other things, it's certainly keeping me busy at the moment that's for sure.

It's a good job I don't get starstruck or I'd never get any work done these days as my office seems to be attracting all and sundry. However, if any of these academic 'celebrities' ever decides to get a bit above their station, I will simply remind them that we're all pretty much the same underneath... as I show them for the umpteenth time how to use the photocopier...

Monday, 17 April 2017

Making It My Own...


Well, it's been a couple of weeks since I moved into my own office and I've been busy settling into my new routine. It's certainly a steep learning curve, and there's plenty more things I'll need to get to grips with in the next few months, but so far so good.

Obviously, when I'm not at meetings or dealing with enquiries I'm attempting to replicate Kew Gardens in a very limited space, much the the bemusement of visitors and colleagues alike. I've so far managed to fill the windowsills and have been moving stuff around to create some brand new areas where I can pop a bit of foliage and a few blooms to create a beautiful and positive working environment.

It may just be a 'workplace' but in my opinion, whenever it's possible (and practical) it's important to make the space your own, and my 'own' very much involves flowers.


Friday, 31 March 2017

Back To Teguise...

I had two choices regarding my remaining annual leave; stay at home and generally potter around doing not very much, or return to the Canaries. Guess what I did... Yes, just three months after returning from Lanzarote I chose to return there for a cheeky, Spanish spring break.

I'd been to Costa Teguise before so it seemed a wise move to stick with familiar territory, albeit at a different complex this time. Just four minutes walk to a giant beach and literally surrounded by fabulous shops, bars and restaurants, the location was spot on. I was allocated a great apartment with sunset views and although the weather was bordering on insanely hot on a few occasions, there was always plenty of iced sangria to cool me down.

During my stay it was the annual triathlon and I've never seen so much lycra in all my life; wasn't sure where to put my eyes! I also managed a return visit to Puerto Del Carmen to see how it now looks eight and a half years after my last visit (quite different as it turns out!) I wonder where I'll be off to next?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Special People...


It's wonderful when your grown-up children want to regularly pop round, but it's an even bigger compliment when their friends ask if they can come along and meet you too! The fact that I always provide a variety of delicious cakes and fancy biscuits might help, but they always seem to enjoy coming home and therefore I suspect it's potentially down to previous, complimentary post-visit reviews which led to me meeting their lovely chum. Not only was I treated to an additional guest, I was given a gift bag filled with chocolatey goodies by my lovely girlies which was very unexpected, but much appreciated. As usual, we chatted about anything and everything, and yet again time just flew by. 

I'm so grateful that I have my gorgeous daughters as I'm well aware that there are women out there who sadly haven't been blessed with offspring, and I can't imagine how unfulfilled they might feel. Bringing up children is a roller-coaster ride, often with as many downs as there are ups, but eventually, whether you like it or not, they'll fly the nest. However, if you love them enough they'll always find their way back home. As the saying goes, "Home is where the heart is..."

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Sick Pay...


When you're self-employed it's really simple; if you don't work you don't get any money. However, now that I've ditched self-employment to become a bona fide employee I'm discovering the benefit of 'sick pay'. What a truly marvellous phenomenon it is!

After suffering with persistent cough, instead of continuing to struggle in to work in order to ensure I could afford to pay my bills, I was able to take a couple of days off so that my poor old lungs could recover, without me getting stressed out over money. Being able to rest at home fully focussed on simply getting better was not only good for my physical health but also my mental well-being.

This is actually a win-win situation all round as not only was I able to return to work fighting fit within a relatively short period of time, my co-workers no longer had to listening to me hacking up my lungs all day. Result!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Good Friends...


Unlike some, I may not be able to list more than a hundred names in my circle of friends, but I'm hugely grateful to have the small, but perfectly formed, group of people in my life who are always there whenever I'm in need.

After several weeks of enduring a persistent cough, and assuming that there was no reason to trouble the NHS because "It's just a virus" and "There's a lot of it about"; not to mention the fact that it'd be easier to get a date with Johnny Depp than a GP appointment these days; I found myself two days ago hardly able to breathe and feeling extremely unwell.

Despite it being late in the evening, my selfless chum came to pick me up, took me to the hospital walk-in centre, and then waited two and a half hours with me until I was finally examined, before returning me safely back home. As it turns out I needed antibiotics, so it really was necessary for me to seek medical assistance asap to avoid things turning nasty.

I'm a very lucky lady indeed and I'll never take my mates for granted. I really do appreciate everything they do for me. Thank you...!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

As One Door Closes...


My temporary contract was due to end soon, and I was actively on the hunt for my next career move, when my manager called me in for a meeting. It turns out that I must've made a pretty good impression since I arrived six months ago as instead of finalising my paperwork and bidding farewell to co-workers I was offered a new role within the same department. Well, that was unexpected to say the least.

Brand new responsibilities means having to start at the beginning again, albeit in a familiar environment surrounded by people I've already been working with, but I did it before and I know full well I can do it again. There's a lot of loose ends to tie up before the big day and plenty of questions still to be answered, but as of April I'll be closing one door and literally opening a brand new one - the door to my very own office!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Livin' La Vida Loca...


As I've never held a proper salaried position before, and am therefore unfamiliar with the concept of annual leave, I genuinely thought I'd used up all of my hours when I spent half of December in The Canaries - but apparently not! After a quick check of the works HR website I discovered that I had over a week of paid leave to take on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. So after a hectic couple of hours trawling the holiday websites and a bit of maths, I've managed to nab myself a cheeky week in the Spanish sunshine in the spring. OMG I just love being an employee.

I've only just lost the tan from the previous holiday and here I am now planning yet another all-inclusive week of sun, sand and sangria. This time last year I was self-employed, and only bringing in enough cash to just about cover my bills. Never in a million years did I think that within twelve months I'd be enjoying all the perks of being paid to laze around under palm trees for the second time in under six months. It just goes to show that you never, ever know what's just around the corner... so you should make the most of any opportunities while you still can.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Embracing all Things Hygge...


In recent months I've discovered a new word (well, it's an ancient word but is new to me); hygge. Apparently, this interesting Danish word (pronounced 'hue gar' or thereabouts) has no English translation; the closest we get to it is 'cosiness'. With temperatures outside rather chilly, and no signs as yet that spring is on the horizon, it feels rather satisfying that something referring to contentment gained from simple pleasures such as snuggling beneath a blanket or embracing the warm glow of a candle is currently 'the in thing'.

Soothing acts of wearing fluffy socks and taking time out to mull over a cuppa are apparently all part and parcel of this phenomenon, which is a happy coincidence because they're things I already like doing. Who knew that my regular bowl of porridge, a spoonful of honey in a warm glass of brandy and even enjoying a slice of cake are all massively positive for my mental well-being. In an uncertain world it's good to know that little nuggets of joy can easily find their way into your life, gently calming the nerves and making you feel at peace... and it's got a name (hygge).


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Happy New Year...


It's been a busy start to 2017 and I can't believe that the first half of January is almost behind me. Having bid farewell to self-employment at the end of 2016, my salaried job role is taking up most of my time these days, which is really positive. There's a massive amount to learn, and at times I feel as if my brain will burst, but along with the challenges there are more than enough rewards to make up for it, and being part of a team is a dream come true.

My shifts are longer than I'm used to, but this became a lot easier once I settled back into my new routine after the Christmas break, and the bonus is that I'm getting fitter. I'm slowly getting used to the sheer volume of business meetings I'm now attending, along with various training days, and although my schedule is filling up with work it's also being filled with fun stuff such as the monthly team breakfasts, and will soon include an 'away day'!

Never in a million years did I ever imagine that my life could change so quickly and dramatically, which just goes to show that you never know what's just around the next corner. If you want to move upwards you have to move forwards...

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Making Time For Those You Love...



With a hectic pre-Christmas schedule it was impossible to find a mutually suitable time to visit my mother before the big day this year, therefore a compromise had to be found. After much thought I suggested we indulged in 'afternoon tea' at a posh hotel fairly close to where mum lives, so that we can enjoy a good old natter whilst indulging in a bit of luxury. Thankfully she agreed to this idea and so today I set off early, in sub-zero temperatures, to catch the bus.

Her little face lit up as I was dropped off, and we immediately began putting the world to rights. After an hour of thawing out at her place we hopped into a taxi which took us to the hotel, where I'd reserved us a table overlooking a pretty pond. Despite having walked past there literally hundreds of times, my mother had never stepped foot inside, so to be able to finally treat her to a little bit of luxury was wonderful.

Afternoon tea was sublime; delicious food and drink and excellent service, I really couldn't have asked for more from them. Of course, mum was chuffed to bits and even though we didn't manage to see each other before Christmas Day for the first time in my life, today has more than made up for it. When life gets busy it's sometimes a little too easy to sideline people in order to fit everything in. However, family is very precious, and it's vital to make sure that you somehow MAKE the time to be with those you love...

Sunday, 25 December 2016

When your Babies Come Home For Christmas...


I've had such an amazing few months that I didn't believe anything could top it, but I didn't anticipate my gorgeous daughters would announce that they'd be coming back home to spend Christmas Day with me! Oh my goodness, I honestly couldn't ask for a better present.

Of course, I did the typical mum thing of going overboard with daft gifts and bought way too many festive snacks, but nothing gives me more pleasure than being able to spoil my children at this special time of year.

Being able to eat, drink and be merry with the people I love most means everything to me, and today has been wonderful. Such joys are precious and I will never, ever take them for granted. We pulled crackers, wore paper hats, and consumed far too much junk food, but that's what a traditional Christmas Day is all about and it was magical.

Friday, 16 December 2016

I'm Back...!


It’s mid-December and yet I have a fabulous sun tan. Yes, I’ve just returned from a magnificent all-inclusive holiday to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote, staying at a 4-star hotel overlooking the islands of Fuerteventura and Los Lobos! I have to admit it’s going to be something of a challenge adjusting back into ‘normal’ life after half a month of being treated like a princess, but I need to go back to work so I can earn enough money to go away again.

I've been waited on hand and foot by maids and guest services staff, visited a stunning marina full of expensive yachts, seen amazing sunsets, eaten in the very best a la carte restaurants, watched entertaining evening shows, got drenched on a catamaran bouncing across waves en route to Fuerteventura and even been in a motorised dinghy with two very fit, but mad, Spaniards!

The icing on the cake is the fact that while I was lounging beneath palm trees, sipping white wine from chilled glasses, I was still getting paid a salary. Oh my word, this new job really has opened up a totally new world for me and it’s changed my life completely. It seems that good things really do come to those who wait…

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Looking Forward to Christmas...


I just can't believe how quickly my life is changing these days, and it's all good. A few months ago, although things were going quite well, I was beginning to feel like I was in a bit of a rut. Same part-time, self-employed job I'd had for years, no firm plans for travelling, and nothing particularly thrilling on the horizon. However, within a few short months I've begun a brand new career, booked a fantastic overseas holiday and the icing on the cake is that I've just found out that I shall be spending Christmas with the people I love more than anything else in the whole, wide, world; my gorgeous daughters.

I'm not usually a festive person, and I normally treat Christmas Day itself with complete indifference, but this year it's going to be amazing. I'm already excited about my 'babies' coming home and I just know I'll go completely over the top and spoil them rotten. Although the new salaried position is terrific, and the vacation will be stunning, there's nothing quite like the simple act of spending quality time with your children to make you feel special, and it's something I will always cherish. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town...!"


Monday, 14 November 2016

Exciting Times Ahead...


When an email suddenly appeared in my inbox from my new boss asking me to pop along to her office, without giving away any clues as to why, I did the very British thing of assuming that I'd done something wrong. However, that couldn't have been further from the truth because she immediately asked me if they could extend my temporary contract as she was so impressed with my work! She said she'd give me time to think about it, and half a second later I replied YES! Never in a million years did I think I could begin a brand new career aged 54, and yet here I am, doing just that!

Oh my word, I simply didn't see that coming. I knew that departmental contracts were currently being discussed but there was no way I was even thinking I'd be invited to stay. Of course, this happy development means that I've had to make some very big decisions, and I'll now be leaving the familiarity of the self-employed position I've held for the past eight years so that I can fully focus on my new and exciting future. Burning bridges can be extremely scary, however, you simply can't move forwards if you anchor yourself to the past. At times like this you just have to take a giant leap of faith, and trust that the universe will catch you...


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Armistice Day...


I've never been in a position before when I've been able to stand alongside colleagues in and act of remembrance on 11th November at 11am before, so this Friday was an opportunity to achieve another first. 

A small shelter in a nearby square had been made into a temporary place of worship and everyone was given a leaflet with an order of service on. Not only were the traditional red poppies available, but also white 'peace' poppies. I'm not remotely religious, but it felt very appropriate to be present with the people I spend most of my time with during the fifteen minute service.

Thoughts obviously turned to those who bravely fought for our freedom during the two minutes of quiet contemplation, and that was a very powerful experience for me. Afterwards, staff were encouraged to attach a poppy or a small wooden cross to a net which had been strung across back of the shelter; a simple but poignant gesture... "Lest we forget". 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

And Relaxxxxxxxxxxxxx...

I've had neck and back pain for years, but in recent weeks I'd noticed that my neck was getting much worse; possibly not helped by the increased hours I'm now doing sitting at dual computer screens in my new job; so I decided to treat myself to a lovely long massage by a fully qualified therapist in town.

I arrived at the scheduled appointment time to meet my masseur, the lovely Lucy, who showed me to a gorgeous therapy room with cream shag-pile carpet and enormous fluffy, purple towels, where I was to be pampered for the next ninety minutes while listening to ambient music in a relaxing environment. After a brief discussion regarding my medical history it was time to strip off and get smothered in scented oils by a woman I'd only just met - how fabulously bohemian! That talented lady worked miracles, as one by one my aches all vanished and my pain just melted away. However, all too soon my session was over, but only temporarily as I'm now earning enough to be able to regularly afford a few of life's little luxuries.

Due to the fact my body felt like jelly I opted to take the bus back home rather than walk, which meant I was able to enjoy the after-effects of my wonderful loose muscles in the comfort of my own home just 15 minutes after leaving the room. Who said money can't buy happiness? For a relatively small portion of your salary you can purchase more pain relief than a small pharmacy could offer, and as an added bonus you get silky smooth skin that smells divine and the same sense of euphoria you get from chocolate, but without the calories. Result!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Team Breakfast...


You know that you've landed well and truly on your feet when your manager arranges for everyone to enjoy a leisurely 'team breakfast' to thank us for simply doing our jobs. This morning, my colleagues and I were taken down to the canteen and treated to a full English, or whatever else we happened to fancy, and large coffees. I don't eat meat or eggs so chose veggie sausage, hash brown, mushrooms, baked beans and toast, and I have to say it was very welcome indeed!

Suitably sustained, and finally ready to face the day, we returned to the office to get down to the business of the weekly team meeting; an opportunity for each and every one of us to update our co-workers on what we've been doing, what still needs to be completed and any issues or deadlines which need to be discussed. By the time we were all done and dusted it was almost lunchtime, although to be honest I wasn't particularly hungry (can't imagine why...)

Sometimes our jobs can be challenging, and we can begin to feel under-valued, but it's small gestures like this that can make a huge difference to the working environment, and I applaud any bosses out there who show genuine appreciation to their staff.  Sometimes the little things really do mean a lot.


Monday, 3 October 2016

I'm Going to Need a Considerably Bigger Suitcase...


Woo hoo! Another Canarian adventure all booked up and I can't wait. The Moorish-styled complex is nestled in between volcanic coves right next to the sea, and with a choice of five swimming pools, free wifi throughout, seven restaurants plus bars, professional shows every evening and a massive tropical garden to enjoy I certainly won't be bored during my all-inclusive luxury getaway. 

Now that I'm earning a decent wage, and getting holiday pay, I can finally afford to splash out and treat myself to something fabulous every now and again; and what could be more fabulous than two whole weeks of sun, sea and sangria? Ah, I can picture it now... palm trees, sandy beaches and, of course, all those lovely Spanish waiters. It just goes to show that if you're prepared to work that little bit harder, you can play for a whole lot longer. Disfrutando la vida!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Absolutely Fabulous...


When I was invited to a three-course meal with 'entertainment' I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, especially as the theme was the popular TV show Absolutely Fabulous, however, I'd been working pretty much non stop for the last two months and so an opportunity to have an evening out with close friends was very much overdue. 

We arrived at the hotel early so sat and chatted with a few drinks to start off before being shown into the small dining area. Service was slow, and the food had issues, but the three actresses taking on the roles of the main characters were quite funny as they dashed in and out during the evening. It was certainly 'different' that's for sure!

It was great to spend time with my friends, and even though the meal could've been better it was really good to chill out and have a laugh with my mates for once. Even when things don't go entirely according to plan, focus on the positives and just enjoy yourself - life's too short to worry about walnuts.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Holiday Pay...


This week I booked my annual leave online and today I received an email to say that my manager has approved it! Now, anyone who's been employed for years probably won't understand what all the fuss is about, but for those of us who are usually self-employed, the thought of being paid your full salary while roasting yourself on a beach thousands of miles away from the office is almost too good to be true.

I've now been trawling through holiday websites and currently have my eye on a fabulous, all-inclusive fortnight in The Canaries; fourteen days and nights of sun, sea and sangria while still receiving a wage. For the first time in my life I'm actually going to be paid to spend half a month getting drunk, ogling Spanish lifeguards and generally having an enormous amount of fun. It really does appear that good things come to those who wait, so hang on in there because you never know what exciting new experiences might be just around the corner.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Thank You Ernie...


If you've spent the past decade saving your spare pennies, birthday money and Christmas cash, the odds are that sooner or later your efforts will start paying dividends. When this happens you realise that all of those bottles of booze and all of that greasy junk food you denied yourself will have all been totally worthwhile as not only will your health have benefited, your money remains a hundred percent safe and you'll be rewarded with some extra cash every now and again simply for being frugal.

I'm quite happy to admit that I often buy cheap clothes from Ebay or to eat Tesco Value meals; in fact, it's helped me to become more creative and I've certainly never suffered because of it. Although there's never any guarantee of a win in the monthly Premium Bonds draw, by the law of averages, every so often you'll be treated to a little windfall, which is always a nice surprise, and with interest rates from banks at an all-time low it's actually quite a good return on your investment. You've gotta be in it to win it!



Friday, 26 August 2016

Size Does Matter...!


Just over two and a half years ago I was a size 22 and weighed 13 stones! After cutting out all the junk food, using a smaller plate and doing lots of walking I'm now a very happy and healthy size 12-14. However, despite my achievement, the NHS, (my cardiologist in particular), doesn't share my joy and it's all because of numbers. 

Due to my height (lack of) the fact that I actually weigh 12 stones, (despite looking and feeling 'normal'), my BMI is 30 which puts me in the 'obese' category! All the various weight-to-height charts suggest I should weigh 9 stones, which would technically leave me having to lose another three stones... despite the fact I'm already down to a size 12-14!!!!

Luckily, I have the common sense to be proud of what I've achieved, but others in a similar position might feel disheartened. This has two potential outcomes; either they'll give up, return to an unhealthy diet and regain all the weight they lost, or they'll develop an eating disorder.

While I realise that many people do need to lose weight in order to ease pressure on joints and bones, common sense needs to prevail, and once you are at the stage when you're finally comfortable in your own skin then throw away the scales, stop the weekly weigh-ins, and just enjoy being fabulous!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Some Good News...


It'd been a whole year since I'd last seen my consultant cardiologist, and when I went for my follow-up appointment today for the results of my annual heart scan I fully expected a simple three minute consultation to say that nothing has changed and to return for my next scan as planned the following year. Luckily, a friend took me there and I have to admit it was good to have a bit of moral support. It's not nice to sit in the cardiology department on your own for any length of time, surrounded by people who clearly have major medical woes.

After hanging around for what seemed an eternity I was eventually ushered into a small consulting room, where my consultant told me that the two iffy valves in my ticker (aortic and mitral) hadn't got any worse, which is what I'd expected all along but was nice to actually get confirmation. The other positive news was he was now putting me on a new two-year programme, so no more annual scans and appointments - yay! They're also setting up a one-stop heart clinic, so in the future I can get my scan done in one department and then pop along to see a cardiac nurse for the results the same day, which would be excellent. While I'm obviously thrilled to get such positive news, I'm not entirely sure why I couldn't have simply been sent a letter with that information; no wonder the jolly old NHS is skint!

Friday, 5 August 2016

You're Never Too Old...


When your new boss is possibly younger than your children, it can make being the newbie at work seem even more of a challenge, but when you begin a brand new career in your fifties you simply have to get over it and get on with it. I've now completed the first week in my new job and although there's been times when I've felt totally out of my depth, and have even questioned whether I was the right person for the role, with the help of my extremely supportive co-workers I've finally gained some much-needed confidence.

I was thrilled to find out that my office is full of house-plants, my desk has dual screen monitors and I can help myself to as many hot drinks as I can physically consume throughout the day. This is certainly worlds apart from anything I've ever experienced before and it's amazing. I've also enjoyed a leisurely lunchtime stroll through the nearby meadows with my colleagues, watching massive, red dragonflies and pretty little butterflies, before sitting beside a lake in the sunshine for some girlie banter.

I know that there's going to be plenty of challenges ahead, but I'm sure that if I can take the plunge and start a brand new job at the age of fifty four then anyone can!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Rain Doesn't Stop Play...


When a friend invites you out on a dull and decidedly wet Friday afternoon, you have two choices. You can, of course, decline the offer and stay in the dry with your feet up and a coffee, or you can accept the fact that it's only water and if you get wet you'll soon dry off. I chose the latter, and although we drove through a torrential downpour, by the time we reached our destination the rain had thankfully stopped. 

Keen to find a hidden treasure we'd researched earlier online, we made our way down a rather overgrown dirt track and in less than five minutes we were just a few feet away from a unique, magnificent house which was a hundred times better in real life than either of us could ever have imagined. After spending time taking in all it's splendour we wandered around the adjacent countryside admiring the views before popping into a quaint little community shop with a cafe for a much needed drink and a sit down. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, and it just goes to show that you don't need a hot sunny day to enjoy the outdoors.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

What A Week!


When your week has included a fabulous afternoon tea with close friends, followed by the offer of a brand new lucrative job, what better way to finish it off than to enjoy a belated birthday celebration with the people you love more than anything else in the world; your daughters.

I was presented with a large, shiny silver bag bearing unique gifts and a special card. They fully understand and accept my Steampunk lifestyle and I was thrilled to bits with a spectacular pressure-gauge candle holder and long stemmed candles to go with it. It was the perfect gift for anyone obsessed with the genre and I was touched that they'd taken such care to choose something they knew I'd love. The beautiful card was covered in butterflies, which I adored.

As always, we munched on chocolate biscuits and cake and talked til the cows come home. I brought down the old photo albums from upstairs and we went on a nostalgic trip to the 1990s, re-living birthdays, Christmases, day trips and holidays. I'm so proud that my girls have grown up to be such good people, and I count myself very lucky indeed to be their mum.  

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

When One Door Closes...



Apparently another two open! Although I'd initially felt I'd dodged a bullet by not being offered a position after my recent job interview, it's never nice to be rejected for anything. However, my philosophy is that everything happens for a reason and the Human Resources Department, who I'd previously been interviewed by, had obviously chosen to pass my CV around to other departments because within 48 hours I'd received not one but two potential offers of temporary work. Clearly I must've made a positive impression on the day, even though it didn't feel like it at the time.

Unfortunately, one of the jobs would've been unworkable around my current commitments so I politely declined, however the second one intrigued me and so I met with the manager for an 'informal chat' the following afternoon. In reality this turned out to be another interview, which caught me slightly off-guard as I wasn't prepared for it. Therefore, when an email arrived four days later offering me the position I couldn't have been more surprised! Wow! This is a massive step up the career ladder for me, and even though the role is scheduled to end at Christmas, it's put me firmly on a path which can only realistically lead to bigger and better things in the future. Pass the champers...!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

My Bouche Was Amused...

I'm extremely lucky to have such lovely friends, especially when I get treated to a pre-birthday afternoon tea at a local 4-star hotel. I was advised against having any lunch as this particular venue provides five courses; amuse bouche, scones with clotted cream and jam, a selection of cakes, finger sandwiches and a fruit trifle!

The place was empty when we arrived so we practically had our own staff, who were kept busy fetching fresh pots of hot water which we used for sampling a range of 6 speciality teas (the amaretto cherry tea was my favourite). The amuse bouche was a delightful shot glass of tiny, mouthwatering melon and pineapple chunks. This was followed by freshly cut sandwiches with the crusts off, and then the massive freshly-baked scones followed by cream cakes and tarts. Already bursting, it was a culinary challenge to complete this marathon eating session, but the mini-trifles were simply asking to be eaten. Not only did we fill our faces, we had plenty of laughs too. As well as being treated to afternoon tea I was also given lovely birthday cards and a birthday cake to bring home.

Tomorrow I shall be another year older, another year wiser, and another year blessed with genuinely wonderful people around me...


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Charity Quiz...

It'd been a while since I last went to a Quiz Night, so when an opportunity arose to spend the evening with my mates helping to raise funds for an animal charity, while enjoying a decent quiz, I was more than ready to accept. The venue was a nice little village hall with plenty of tables and chairs to accommodate all the teams.

We'd been told to bring our own food and drink, although hot beverages were provided, so tea and posh cakes were the obvious choice. My sweet treat was a mixed berry mousse; fresh berries and whipped cream mousse on a vanilla sponge base, with a berry glaze, and was delicious. The questions were quite challenging, especially the anagrams, but we didn't think we'd done too badly until the results were read out. It appears we came last, although we did get a 'special' prize of a tube of smarties each so all was not lost.

The evening included a raffle, of course, and there were a decent amount of offerings on a table at the back of the room. Amazingly, I won and chose a lovely, ornate picture frame to go with my Steampunk theme at home. Well, what a fabulous night out. I spent the evening amongst friends having a great laugh, I won sweets and a prize and I was fed and watered like a queen. Not bad for a Tuesday!



Monday, 4 July 2016

Better Luck Next Time...


I've just received the predicted email rejection regarding the new job I recently applied for and to be perfectly honest I'm quite relieved. I'd bitten off far more than I could possibly chew by applying for something I was always going to struggle with and I'd actually been quite worried about how I was going to manage. It wasn't just the work itself but how to juggle all of my other commitments around it; there's only seven days in a week and I'd need a day off at some point!

For the time being I shall focus on the work that I already have, and although I'll always be on the lookout for new opportunities, I'll put a bit more thought into the logistics before applying for another new post. Despite the fact that the panel interview was a terrifying ordeal, I've learnt a lot about how I could prepare myself better next time, so at least I can take some positives away from this experience, which will clearly put me in a much better position in the future. Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Playing Hostess...



My old school chum was kind enough to invite me to stay at her house over 200 miles away for a long weekend last year, so it was only a matter of time before I was in a position to be able to reciprocate. She arrived at Casa de Steampunk on Friday and we almost immediately decided to go back to visit our old school! Within the hour we'd turned up unannounced, but despite this the staff went out of their way to help and we were given a fabulous guided tour of the corridors and classrooms we last inhabited almost forty years ago. Back home much Pinot Grigio was polished off as we chatted into the wee small hours about PE lessons, lockers and, of course, boys.

The following morning the rain stopped long enough for us to take a leisurely stroll, ending up at a posh hotel when my mate was able to do some impromptu business. We then drove to a nearby village to sample the delights of all things boaty before filling up on pub grub, followed by a game of dodge-the-thunderstorm en route back to her Merc. Girly shopping was next on the list so it was off to an out-of-town complex where we spent several hours browsing amongst discounted curtains and duvet covers, frilly undies and home-wares. An encore of wine and gossip finished off our busy day perfectly.

I have no idea where the time went, as in the blink of an eye it was suddenly midday on Sunday and she was off back home again. It's wonderful to be able to mull over happy memories but it's even better when you can do so while creating brand new ones. This was my first attempt at hosting a guest at Chez Moi since becoming single, and judging by the success of this weekend it certainly won't be the last, although I just need to give my liver a while to recover...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Read All About It...


After blogging about my experiences as a middle aged singleton for the past two and a half years, I decided to invest a bit of time and effort putting an e-book together. Little did I realise quite what a task it was going to be, but eventually, after edit number ten (or was it eleven?) I decided it was now or never. Using one of my own holiday photographs, I created a cover, and finally uploaded Life Begins at 51 (and a half) to the Amazon e-book store. Thanks to another of my holiday snaps I created a cover for e-book number two; Life Gets Better at 52 (and a half); and now both e-books are available to the general public - how exciting!

Although much of the material is similar to the blog, large parts of it was re-written to suit a wider audience. I'm rather hoping that taking a satirical peep into the personal life of a middle aged single woman will help people to pass the time during a holiday flight. Alterantively, the bite-sized chunks, in the familiar diary format, are easily digested during an afternoon around a pool or on a beach somewhere exotic.

Both books are available for purchase, and they are also available from Kindle Unlimited (KU) as well as the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL).

Feel free to take a look for yourself: Amazon Author Page