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

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Another Interview...

This week I spent a nerve-jangling ninety minutes being interviewed for yet another part-time job to go with all the other work I'm currently doing. I'm completely unqualified for the role and no matter how much I tweaked my CV I still couldn't prove I had the essential skills required let alone the desirable ones, so when an email appeared offering me an interview I couldn't quite believe it.

Sods law dictated that despite it being the official start of summer, the heavens opened as I left the house ensuring that I arrived thirty minutes later looking like a drowned rat. I'd been pre-warned about the 'computer task' I was to undertake, however,  the very second I was seated in front of a screen my mind emptied, and by the end of the allocated fifteen minutes I'd only typed about three and a half lines. Then it was the panel interview, another terrifying ordeal involving people in suits interrogating me with random questions about scenarios that may or may not happen. I was so far out of my comfort zone I was practically in orbit, however I did the best I could, so if I'm not offered the position at least I'll know that I couldn't have done any more and it simply wasn't to be. At least I tried.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Treasure Hunting...

It'd been a while since my last geocaching trip, so today's excursion was well overdue. The weather was overcast, but warm and dry which made for a very pleasant afternoon wandering around outdoors searching for treasure. After picking up our first couple of finds in a residential area; which took a bit longer than anticipated due to a dodgy GPS and a red herring; we headed off into countryside.

A small, broken bridge was a sure-fire hiding place, or so we thought, but after a good old poke around it became apparent the cache was elsewhere. The first of our next four finds was eventually located but the second one was nowhere to be seen. The only place it physically could've been was in the base of a large oak tree, however, bees has decided to make a nest inside the hole and there was no way that either of us was prepared to stick our hands inside for a rummage, so a disappointing DNF (did not find) was noted and we reluctantly headed off to locate the next one. Eventually, after traipsing through a large field and finding ourselves literally up to our armpits in stinging nettles, we'd completed the challenge. Hurrah! I must admit that although, at times, this can be a slightly frustrating hobby, spending an afternoon outside with a mate, discovering hidden places and sharing new experiences is actually extremely good fun.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Special Delivery...

It was an old friend's birthday today and I'd totally forgotten to send her a card in the post, so I decided to just pop round and put the card through her letterbox myself. I had no intention of disturbing them by knocking, but clearly they must've seen me coming along the street as the front door opened and her husband welcomed me and invited me in. Due to busy schedules over the past few years we'd only been managing to catch up in the supermarket aisles once in a blue moon, with the occasional text message in between, so it was great to actually sit down and have a proper natter over a coffee.

What was even more special was the fact that her daughter and brand new grandson were visiting, allowing granny and grandad to show off the latest addition to their family. It was hugs and congratulations all round while we somehow managed to cover all manner of topics; everything from hospitals to holidays; in the space of an hour. As we said our goodbyes on the doorstep we promised not to leave it so long before our next get-together, and I'll certainly make a genuine effort to ensure it happens sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Let Them Eat Cake...

It'd been all work and no play for me in recent weeks, so when a good friend invited me for afternoon tea I jumped at the opportunity to mix gossip with cakes. The weather was mild, despite it being a Bank Holiday weekend, so we made the most of it by sitting in her back garden on her lovely, comfy swing seat. There were three of us girlies, with my friend's hubby dutifully acting as head chef and waiter.

Surrounded by floral delights we were presented with a dainty and delicious sandwich selection, accompanied by hot drinks. No sooner had we scoffed those, when the cake stand arrived, and oh my word! I've passed Patisserie Valerie in town several times and drooled at their fabulous creations, but never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be offered such silky rich mouthfuls of chocolate heaven to savour. By now, the elastic in my trousers was at it's limit, and I was certain I couldn't eat another thing, when out came the freshly backed scones - still hot! 

Greed is not a virtue, but it would've been rude to say no and so I scooped a spoonful of thick, clotted cream onto my freshly cut scone, then topped it off with top quality fruit jam. Good job we ended up chatting for the next four hours because I was far too full to move. I have a sneaking suspicion I won't want any tea tonight, or any breakfast, or even dinner, tomorrow!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


My boss had received a rather posh and proper invite to a prestigious corporate event hosted by The Army Engagement Team but wasn't able to attend, so she asked yours truly if I'd like to go on her behalf. What? Dress up all fancy and get treated to some free food and drinks while being surrounded by men in uniform? Well, it'd be rude to refuse, so I agreed to be her representative. I also agreed (albeit reluctantly) to behave myself.

I'd been given a rather swanky ID card prior to the event, which meant I could jump the queue and therefore spend more time schmoozing with high ranking military personnel; good evening Brigadier; and business executives, before being ushered into a large room for the hour long presentation. Talks and videos all done and dusted it was back to the reception room for the nosh and more chat, before eventually making my way to my taxi home whilst carrying a fabulous presentation box full of goodies. And yes, I did actually manage to behave myself for once, although admittedly it was a challenge.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Messing About on the River...

When you draw the curtains first thing on a Sunday morning and see wall-to-wall sunshine, there's only one thing for it - go and play with boats. So, with my bag packed and factor 50 smothered all over me, I headed for my favourite riverside haunt to absorb myself in all things boaty.

The walk there is along a beautiful trail adjacent to the river, so there were plenty of fabulous photo opportunities en route. By the time I arrived the sun was blazing and the water had a beautiful shimmer to it. I'd never actually been on the little ferry before so it was a real treat to be able to go on board today. The spray was cool on my face and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to the locals. The yachts going past looked massive compared to the tiny craft I was on, but lane etiquette prevailed and we were never in any danger.

Back on dry land it was off to the brand new pontoon to see just how far out I could go before chickening out. As it happens, I'm braver than I thought and I got right to the end, albeit carefully. Ahhhhh... it's hot, sunny days like this that make you feel truly glad to be alive. More of that please!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Raspberry Éclairs...

When you're juggling several jobs, feeling starved of a decent social life and the weather's not been as 'spring-like' as you'd hoped, nothing cheers you up quite like having a good old natter with a couple of close friends; especially if it involves cakes. Today's delicious treats were coffee topped profiteroles and raspberry éclairs, both filled with lashings of fresh cream. Afternoon tea does not involve calorie counting, and it never should.

We always manage to have a laugh and cover a wide variety of topics; everything from dead pigeons to farting in the bath. In fact, I doubt that there's any subject we wouldn't be able to discuss, and I find that very liberating. In a world of political correctness gone mad, it's a relief to be able to 'tell it how it is' knowing you won't be judged. In fact, it feels so good that afternoon tea with friends should be available on prescription. It'd save the NHS millions.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Too Fast...

When you receive an email from your new company offering fast-tracked promotions for a select few; and clearly you're one of those they wish to promote; it comes as a bit of a shock, especially when you've only been working there for a year. To be honest, I had to read the email several times before it sank in, and even then I thought it had to be a clerical error, but apparently not.

My knee-jerk reaction would normally be to take up the offer, and within a week acquire a senior status. However, the reality is that with just twelve months worth of experience I currently feel under-equipped for the role, and I need at least one more year under my belt before I'll be confident enough to take on such an important job. While the extra cash would be great, of course, and it's a huge compliment to be asked, sometimes you just need to slow the pace down a little. Although I won't be attending the required training this time, I haven't turned down the promotion, I've simply put it on hold until I'm ready for the next big step. No matter how tempting, it's not a particularly good idea to start running before you've mastered the art of walking.

Friday, 1 April 2016

It's a Win, Win, Situation...

I have to admit, that even though I spend quite a bit of time entering online competitions, due to social media creating literally thousands more entries for each one, the odds of winning are at an all time low, but since being single I appear to have had rather a good run of luck regarding prizes.

Not only have I already received a Go Pro Camera (kerching), Swarovski Binoculars (more kerching), a £50 household cleaning products e-voucher, a 3 figure sum gift voucher, Ray Ban Aviators, an expensive wooden play kitchen for children and alcohol (always welcome), I've accumulated numerous small wins of cash, toys, DVDs, toiletries, mugs and so on...

Not bad for a 'hobby', and now I've just been told I've won a new water butt! It may be a very old cliché, but you really do have to be 'in it to win it'.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Day I Went Pop!

When a local gallery advertised that it would be hosting an Andy Warhol Exhibition, I have to admit I was a little curious. I have no real knowledge of Pop Art, but was drawn to the whole 60's thing, so this afternoon I went along to indulge in a bit of culture.

The first thing that struck me were the colours and totally 'in your face' pictures hanging on plain white walls. It was a shocking but exciting at the same time. I recognised a few key pieces and it was good to be experiencing something very different for once. There were drawings, silkscreen paintings, photographs, films, posters, prints and installations to get your head around, so plenty there for Warhol fans as well as the uninitiated. In fact, as the event runs for another month I shall definitely treat myself to a second delicious helping of kitsch before it ends. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Corporate Training...

When you freelance regularly for a local government organisation, there are times when the rules and bureaucratic necessities change so dramatically that re-training becomes essential. First and foremost I had to find the new venue, and that in itself proved to be slightly trickier than anticipated; although I did manage to arrive on time thank goodness.

Once inside it was a quick acknowledgement of co-workers before the new and complicated changes were explained. Fortunately, after the obligatory powerpoint presentation, with accompanying hard copies of every screen shot, all became a bit clearer; although I may well need to refer to my massive training manual to get to grips with a few of the finer points. It's a good job they don't mind paying us handsomely for all this additional work!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Happy Families...

What better way to spend a day off from work than to meet up with both the older and younger generations of your family for a few hours catching up with each others news. I'd arranged to spend time in town with my elderly mother, but she had no idea that her twin granddaughters would also be there to greet her. The look on her face was priceless when she stepped off the bus and saw three smiling faces. The sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky as we walked around the park admiring literally thousands of glorious yellow daffodils, while laughing at the antics of the resident grey squirrels. 

Lunch was provided courtesy of a quaint little independent cafe in the town centre, where we ate delicious freshly made sandwiches and paninis washed down with coffees and milkshakes, before a leisurely stroll around the shops. By mid-afternoon it was time for mum to catch her bus back home, so we waited with her until it arrived. Then it was hugs all round before plenty of manic waving as her bus pulled away. I really do appreciate how lucky I am to still have my mother here, and that I have extremely loving and caring children to share her with. Some days I really do feel blessed.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

All About Communication...

When you're a member of a very grown up 'Women's Business Network' you get offered opportunities to attend Learning Development courses, and today's topic was 'Voice and Communication'. The two very capable hosts were a voice and impact trainer in the business, government and health sectors, and a top social science professor, who's an experienced public speaker and presenter of history documentaries for the BBC. The aim of today was 'to develop more powerful communication skills through your voice, body language and conviction'.

We explored ideas around curiosity rather than ambition, confounding expectation, passionate involvement and thinking not about how confident we are but what we're entitled to. Such topics could easily have been a bit dry had it not been for the extremely amusing anecdotes from the professional trainers, and the informal manner which the session took; especially when, at one point we were all standing in a circle re-acquainting ourselves with gravity while 'huffing'! Despite these things being so far out of my comfort zone they're practically on the horizon, I actually enjoyed the session so much I wish it had lasted longer. Hopefully they'll run another course like this very soon, and when they do I shall make sure that my name's first on the list!

Friday, 11 March 2016


Well! I'm proud to say that I've just added another first to my list - geocaching! When I got up this morning I had absolutely no idea that I'd be spending the day being guided by GPS around several large fields, looking for small objects hidden in and around trees, in pipes, under rocks and logs and all manner of other places. Walking around woodland meant we saw lots of fabulous wildlife, including ladybirds, a giant bee and lots of different birds. We squelched our way along muddy footpaths, looked in nooks and crannies and stuck our hands into nettles and brambles on the hunt for the next cache. The weather was extremely kind to us and the sun was out for most of the day, which made a big difference.

After accomplishing a 100% success rate of finding all 13 objects, a nice sit down with a hot cappuccino, overlooking a stunning lake, late afternoon with hazy sunshine, was just the ticket. You really can't beat a bit of fresh air, a decent walk and a good old natter with a friend, and it's even better if you can combine it with a new and interesting hobby. I'm very grateful that I can spend quality time with such wonderful mates and I'm really looking forward to the next adventure.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Embracing Change...

When you work in an inclusive environment, which caters for individuals with a wide variety of lifestyles, it's nice to learn a bit about the more complex choices some people make. This explains why I have just attended a highly informative workshop on transgender issues, with the emphasis on relationships, work and emotional problems experienced by transgender people.

Today's trainer was Leng Montgomery from Stonewall, with guest Jamie Raines, who featured on a recent Channel 4 documentary called 'Girls to Men'. It's a complicated topic, full of potential social minefields, but in this day and age we should at least try to understand those who choose a different way of being. Very thought provoking...

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Mothering Tuesday...

Some mums have Mother's Day on a Sunday, but this year I had my special day on a Tuesday. When your grown up daughters are very busy people, it's really lovely that they still arrange to give you a treat even when they can't manage it for the traditional weekend version.

They arrived with a beautiful bouquet full of pink, cream and white flowers, which was a lovely surprise. We ate iced lemon cake and french fancies (as you do), while discussing everything from holidays to politics, and generally putting the world to rights. The afternoon passed within the blink of an eye and sadly it was all too soon for them to return to their respective homes.

I actually prefer being a bit different, and I think that Mothering Tuesday is a fabulous idea, especially when you get to spend it with the people you love most in the world. I'm a very lucky mum indeed.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Taking Action...

The minute I was told about yobs using the local woods as a bike race track, I knew something had to be done. I've spent a lot of time there, and on the adjacent meadows, enjoying all the wonderful nature, and I wasn't about to allow a bunch of cretins to ruin it. Within hours I'd emailed a local Counsellor requesting that the issue be dealt with as a matter of urgency. The following day I took my camera along to gather evidence. I was horrified to see branches ripped off trees, wild flowers flattened, earth mounds created to act as jumps and and tyre tracks going right across the main footpath.

A second email, with photos, ensured that the authorities were now aware of a major Health and Safety issue, and within 3 days the local council had implemented an action plan to return the area back to its former glory with immediate effect. Official warning notices were ordered to be installed and leaflets distributed to residents to report any further bike activity to the police.

Now, with any luck the birds will feel safe enough to return before spring and dog-walkers and families will all be able to enjoy their woodland strolls again without the fear of being mowed down. If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

New For Old...

When my trusty old exercise bike finally went to the big gym in the sky, I was a bit annoyed to say the least. Replacing it was an additional cost I hadn't budgeted for, but in all honesty it'd been 'previously loved' many years ago, and in the past twelve months I'd been using it every single day, so it was inevitable that it'd break at some point. 

I decided to use the opportunity to upgrade to something which not only gave my leg muscles a decent workout but could also address the horror of my 'bingo wings', so a cross trainer seemed an ideal solution. It arrived less than 24 hours after purchase, and although it was daunting putting all the pieces together; especially when the instruction booklet was written in pure gibberish; after three long hours I finally had my brand new toy all up and running - literally. If this doesn't fix my flabby arms, nothing will!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Getting Motivated...

A Professional Development course on the topic of 'Motivating Yourself to be a High Performer' was just what the doctor ordered after a rather apathetic start to 2016. Although I had been getting stuff done, my batteries were somewhat flat and I needed a metaphorical kick up the wotsit to get me firing on all cylinders again, and today's session with an enthusiastic Life Coach certainly did that!

We looked at setting motivational goals, understanding performance and creating a plan of action to achieve whatever targets you set yourself. Evaluating what needs to be done, reviewing and reflecting on our own limits and being more confident in challenging yourself, were just a few of the other areas covered in this exceptionally high powered business environment, and I have to admit it really was just the ticket. When you're surrounded by people who push you in a positive and supportive manner, it's quite remarkable what you can actually do.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Stalking Spacemen...

Well, I'm not exactly stalking them, but since all the recent publicity about British astronaut Tim Peake arriving at the International Space Station, and the subsequent media frenzy over the first Brit to do a space walk, I've become ever so slightly obsessed with sky watching. 

I've always had a 'thing' about seeing comets, meteors, eclipses and the like, but now that I have an ISS app on my new smartphone I can actually track when it's going to be visible from my back garden (weather permitting). My neighbours have long since assumed I'm bonkers and no longer bat an eyelid at me waving like a maniac towards the sky on any given night, and it's something which gives me a great deal of pleasure, albeit fleetingly.

The world we currently live in is so full of wars, death, hatred and other badness that it's really nice to be able to have a little distraction from time to time. While standing outside in the cold, you can't help but feel a connection to that teeny, but bright, light moving across the darkness, as you ponder on what else is out there...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Doing Doughnuts...

In my opinion, you can never have enough visits from your wonderful grown up daughters, which is why this afternoon was such a joy. I feel that January probably had a few more downs than ups overall, but February is looking much more positive now that I've spent some proper quality time with my girlies.

We drank squash and ate chocolate coated mini-doughnuts, while putting the world to rights and catching up with each others news. I'd done the typical mum thing and got them daft little gifts, which made them laugh. It never ceases to amaze me how fast the time flies by when my children come to visit and within the blink of an eye 3 hours had passed and we were exchanging hugs at the front door again. I know I'm biased, but I really do have the best kids in the world.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Fact Finding...

When you work in a multi-cultural environment, some of the people you spend time with will probably be Muslim. I admit that I know absolutely nothing about Islam, other than all the negative press regarding terrorism and so on, which is why I decided to attend an awareness event put on by Islamic students at the local university.

Admittedly, I was a little wary beforehand, but within minutes I'd been put at ease by the kindness and courtesy shown to me by those running the information stands. Not once did I feel pushed into doing, thinking or reading anything, and I was able to wander around taking it all in at my own pace. I was offered (and I accepted) a free cup of mint tea, which tasted lovely, and I had my name written in Arabic as a little memento. I came away with a few pamphlets and a book which I can read in my own time, should I choose to do so.

I have no political agenda regarding the whole 'Muslim debate' nor do I feel the urge to 'convert'; this was simply my own personal desire to find out some of the facts for myself, rather than relying on other people's uninformed opinions, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully the small amount of knowledge I gained today will make me a more understanding and accepting human being, which in this day and age is no bad thing...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Leaving a Legacy...

As I'm involved in a neighbourhood project which is attempting to make the local green spaces and woodland a nicer environment for everyone to enjoy, both now and in the future, I did a bit of research to find out what was potentially on offer to groups such as ours and it turns out that The Woodland Trust offer saplings to those who meet certain criteria. After the application process we waited to see if we'd been successful and a few weeks later we've received the exciting news that we're to be given 30 trees to create a lovely little copse adjacent to the existing wood.

We're now looking forward to planting 10 silver birch, 10 rowan and 10 wild cherry trees in the hope to attract more wildlife to the area. Obviously, it'll take many years for the trees to fully reach maturity, but hopefully the next generation will be able to appreciate our legacy to them. It really does feel good to be able to give something back to your community.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Aiming Higher...

It's one thing when your favourite famous people start dropping like flies; Lemmy (saw Motorhead in the 80s) and David Bowie (it was just a couple of weeks ago when I was watching Labyrinth for the umpteenth time) and then Harry Potter's 'Professor Snape' (my 'weird crush'); but it's quite another when the people you hung out with during your teens are suddenly taken far too soon. These aren't lads and lasses who were several years older than me, but people my age for goodness sake! Even though I'm no spring chicken, I'm not exactly reaching for the zimmer frame just yet, but the sad news of old friends passing away is a very unwelcome reminder that our time on this planet is relatively brief.

With this sobering thought in mind, I'm now more determined than ever to go way out of my comfort zone from now on, cramming as much as I can into each day, each week, each month... I want to explore new places, meet new people, do exciting new things and really LIVE my life. As from today I'll be seriously raising my game, and seeing just what this middle aged peroxide blonde is actually capable of. Bring it on!