Good evening folks!
Well the weekend is drawing to a close, and a new week will soon be upon us. I admit, I found the last one quite tedious - the 9-5 grind was getting to me and, coupled with a lull in the old social life, I was more than a little bit grumpy. Alas, I managed to pull myself out of my gloom. How? Well I decided to book a little holiday...
Yep, that's right - in September I will be spending 10 days in San Francisco - and I can't wait! Sad as it is, knowing I have this to look forwards to seems too have perked me up no end. Coupled with the good weather, this weekend I've been pretty chirpy, getting up early and getting on with a new writing project and a bit of spring cleaning. Today I bagged a bargainous four dining room chairs and a coffee table for 40 quid, which I can't wait to paint up along with my ten pound TV stand. In fact, by the time I have my official housewarming in May, I reckon I'll be pretty close to having my flat as I want it - with perhaps the exception of a posh new three-seater sofa bed..
My point? Well, I know I'm lucky to have the means to travel to the West Coast of the US and to play at being Kirsty Allsop, but I also know that I function a lot better when I know I have something to aim for; a reward to all my hard work. At the end of the day, it is that often-tedious job that has enabled me to book that flight and pay the mortgage on the flat that I am so faithfully - and frugally - doing up.
So, as I traipse into work tomorrow, I will do my best to the thankful for all the opportunities it gives me - from stability to adventure, with the odd bit of inspiration thrown in for good measure. And, whatever you do and however challenging it can be, I hope that you feel able to do the same. And, if you can't, book yourself in for a little reward sooner rather than later, whether it be the trip of a lifetime, a jolly to the seaside or an afternoon mooching around your favourite local haunt. I doesn't have to cost a lot, or be particularly flashy. But it does need to happen.
Because Shelly said so :-)
Yep, you guessed it - it's my birthday and I've been to Berlin! And, as I'm busy recovering and relaxing with a glass of red, I'm going to keep this short and sweet.
It was completely by coincidence that I ended up there on the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, as well as Rememberance Sunday, and it was all the more poignant because of this - the Holocaust Memorial even more haunting and the East Side Gallery all the more inspiring. The original position of the wall was mapped out with a line of white balloons, and projectors showed a film detailing the historical moment at key locations across the city. I admit that,as a little girl celebrating my 10th birthday, I didn't really understood what all the fuss was about when it happened, but now,as an adult, it renders me speechless to think that so many people were essentially prisoners of the Communist regime - and many died trying to escape.
Along with my 35th birthday, the weekend turned out to be one of reflection - personally and politically. But it was also one full of inspiration and exploration - all the more enjoyed with a German beer and good company to hand.
I might not be a Berliner yet, but I think I'll be back.
Yep, I'm watching the American Football live from our very own Wembley. It's been a busy weekend, what with another installment for Operation:Pizza, upcycling (I WILL finish that bookcase, I WILL,) editing, and booking a foray to Berlin for my Birthday, so I'm enjoying watching someone else run around for a change...
I've also been doing my bit for the planet. Earlier this year I came to the conclusion that, rather than solely supporting charities that help people, it was time to help the physical world that we rely on to exist. So, on Friday, I joined the Conservation Volunteers at Lloyd Park for a few hours before heading out to a fundraiser for Greenpeace. Okay, so I know some of you might find their methods extreme, but until our Government starts putting sanctions on those corporations that seem hell-bent on putting profit before the environment, someone needs to take action - and action Greenpeace take.
Anyway, mini rant over, it was a great night, and I fully recommend their dos to anyone who wants to support their work whilst enjoying live music, comedy and cake. Besides, who says giving to charity has to be completely selfless? Weeding around sapling trees and clearing rosebeds of litter on Friday was a very calming experience and one I probably wouldn't have signed up to if I hadn't expected some personal benefit. Even after giving blood on Tuesday I got a packet of ginger nuts and several glasses of squash. It almost made the dizzy spell worth it!
So, so forth people - do something for charidee. Just make sure you enjoy it too...
Well - you don't have to but I seem to be doing rather well at getting out of the big smoke these days. In fact, if I count next weeks Bank Holiday (house party in Stafford coming up!) I will have been away four out of five weekends! No wonder I'm struggling to get anywhere fast with the decorating...
Although I love the hustle and bustle of my life in London, it is nice to get away from it all. Three weekends ago I came up north for a friend's hen do - and saw her get married this Saturday. What made it all the more special was the rural setting of the reception - said friend lives in the middle of the Nottinghamshire countryside where you can see nothing more than fields as far as the eye can see, and the nearest convenience store is a good 15 minute drive away - and even that closes at 10.
As a city girl of thirteen years, I forget what it's like to live out in the sticks. When I was camping near Stratford Upon Avon recently I was delighted to learn that there was a bus service into town so the dedicated driver in our party could enjoy a drink. Needless to say my plan was foiled by the last bus, running at a mere 6.10pm. Oh well...
I guess both ways of life have their pros and cons. Whilst London offers me everything I could possibly want when I want it, getting away from the 24 hour society helps me to slow down and recuperate - something that I really have to work at back in the city. So, whilst I will be relieved to see my local Co-Op open when I get back to Walthamstow tonight, I know that I will have to make myself breathe more deeply and let the chaos wash over me once in a while.
And on that note, I shall say adieu - I have some serious chilling to do...
I hope you are all feeling nicely refreshed after the weekend? I have to admit that, after three nights of camping, I'm quite tired - but then there's nothing quite like sitting around a smoldering BBQ at 11 o'clock at night, playing cards and supping Jameson's whiskey (a new and rather dangerous discovery for old Shell) to re-charge the batteries. Okay, so as camping goes we were pretty well looked after (electricity supply, showers AND clean toilets? Wow!) but cooking outdoors, sleeping with nothing more than a sheet of waterproof fabric between you and the elements and being without all those creature comforts we don't need but depend on is certainly good for the soul. Even if not the back...
It isn't just going camping that has helped me detox my mind - if not my body (one thing at a time people!). I've been reading a book by Gabbi Bernstein, Yoga and Meditation buff whose 108 Miracles Now breaks down developing your spiritual side - and maintaining your well-being - into easy to follow steps. Whilst some of it isn't for me, it is full of handy hints to improve your relationship with the world and look at life with a more positive slant, something I admit I sometimes find tricky.
On Thursday, I found myself seeing positives in what could have been a rather crushing situation. After several rejection letters confused by some very positive feedback from publishers and competition judges, I decided to ask a professional to look at my first novel, Faith, Hope and Chocolate. Deep down I knew it wasn't my best writing by any means but had grown attached to my characters - and still loved the concept. Claire's feedback confirmed this - and her comments helped me see where it wasn't working and think about how I could develop the story line. We concluded that the best course of action would be to start again - and, this time, write with a bit more of a purpose and a plan, something I admit not really doing the first time round. So, watch this space people - just don't hold your breath, as I have novel number two to edit first, plus a couple of other ideas floating about...
Now, with all that in mind, I'm going to run myself a nice bath, read some more "Miracles" and write in my journal - the detox isn't complete yet!
It's been a while since I last blogged, but life has been even more manic than normal - and the lack of broadband in my bachelorette pad has made blogging even trickier. But I'm now connected, back in London - and trying to chill. Because I think moving wiped the ability to do so from my memory...
In all honesty I can't really say that I've been completely wrapped up in unpacking and decorating. There was a little foray to a house-party in Yorkshire over the last Bank Holiday, followed by a much needed holiday in Split, Croatia. The trials and tribulations of being a new homeowner were getting the
better of me (think leaks, lack of hot water and more leaks) and I desperately needed to escape. It was on our last day when we were sat on the beach at Marjan Park and I was bemoaning the amount of things I needed to do to my flat that my friend asked me if I could remember what my New Years' Resolution had been. She had a point; it was to do less. So, after an epic unpack and an overwhelming trip to B&Q, I am having a beer and writing this blog before heading down to my old stomping ground Islington for a party.
The thing is... it's easier said than done. When in Yorkshire I was trying to convince my friends who had just bought a four bedroom house with land up there (read: Mansion) to chill out.
"Take it easy - and enjoy doing it up." I advised.
"Yes - but we want it all done now so we can really appreciate it." They whined. Fast forward two weeks and I completely understand. Whilst things are slowly coming together, I can't wait to get the place painted, some proper curtains up and my pictures on the walls. Even today I was chatting to my dad about what kind of ladder to get for my loft.
"There's no hurry is there?" He asked. "I mean, you only need it for storage." Wise words, but... I want them NOW so I can clear away the excess clutter for my housewarming party - where everything needs to look perfect - PERFECT, do you hear??!!
Okay, so maybe I need to take a chill pill here and try to pace myself. At the end of the day, there is plenty of other good stuff going on in my life which I am in danger of neglecting if I get carried away - including my writing and art - which is really more important than having a flat worthy of a spread in Home and Gardens. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get glammed up for this party. Just as soon as I've cleaned the extractor fan and put up the caddy in my bathroom...
Folks, I have made a decision.
After three days of packing, I have decided that, assuming all goes well next week, I am never going to move again. Ever - unless I am rich enough to pay someone to do my packing and cleaning for me. Not only am I bloody knackered, my flat is in complete disarray and my hands have gone from Fairy soft to those of a seasoned builder. As for my nails... one is not amused!
Ah! Which brings me nicely on to my night at the theatre on Friday night (my only real break from the mad house). I went to see Handbagged with my mate Marie and thoroughly enjoyed the rather tongue-in-cheek exploration of Maggie Thatcher's relationship with the Queen. It made me think about Madge's legacy - and how it has impacted on the lives and attitudes of people today. Nothing illustrated this better than, whilst waiting for the bus home afterwards, I witnessed a homeless guy beg another homeless man for some cardboard to sleep under. Whilst Maggie may have thought that we should all work to lift ourselves out of poverty, some people have absolutely nothing to do that with. Something that is still forgotten by the Tories today.
Anyway, minor political rant over, I'm gonna make this blog short and sweet - I think I need a nap before I venture out for my Scrabble date and want to finish Captain Corelli's Mandolin before I go out too - after seeing the movie years ago I was a bit put off, but am really enjoying it. Give it a go if you haven't already.
Oh, and wish me luck for the moving madness heading my way...
Yep, you guessed it - I've been to Italy. At the grand old age of, erm, 21, I finally got to the country that has fascinated me ever since I saw Helena Bonham-Carter in A Room With A View as a teenager - and it didn't disappoint.
I stayed in the small city of Trieste, near the borders of Croatia and Slovenia, with my mate Lisa and her Italian Stallion (ahem!) Simone. It was beautiful, with two castles, a Roman ampitheatre and the largest public square on a sea front in Europe. And, after a two hour train journey, I found myself in Venice too and, whilst I was very impressed by San Marco piazza, it was the tiny streets and meandering canals that blew me away.
The food and drink wasn't half bad either - I had some of the best seafood I've ever tasted, amazing pizza and glelato, and discovered Faranghina wine and the local tipple, Aperol Spritz. Nom....
So, this week, I thought I'd share with you lovely people my favourite pics from my foray. I hope you like...
So, back here in the UK, I'm feeling refreshed and inspired - if a little bit anxious about my impending move to Walthamstow - and becoming a home owner for the first time. Gulp! Now I just need the vendor's solicitor to get his butt in gear so I can move in before my current landlord chucks me out...
Anyway, I'd love to stay and talk, but I have to go on Freecycle to find some packing boxes to move all my tut. It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks...
P.S. Read more about my travels (this time in the UK) on my Underground Overground blog here!
Well, I hope you have been enjoying the glorious weather today. Yesterday I had to put the heating on but am presently sat in bed with the back door open! Ah, the weather here in the UK...
Although like most Brits I can't help but talk about it, right now I'm more interested in what the weather is doing in Italy - and Croatia for that matter. You see, I have spent the last two days planning trips to both countries. I fly to Trieste in Italy next Friday, and yesterday suddenly realised I needed to get organised. So the last 24 hours have been a mad scramble to order insurance, book taxis and pick up my Euros. So now, other than sorting out what to take, I'm ready to roll. Hurrah!
But it doesn't stop there. After collecting my currency and choosing a guidebook (I am incapable of going ANYWHERE without one!) I met Laura and Leila on the sunny Southbank to plan our trip to Croatia in June. After some last minute soul searching we settled on Spilt and within the hour had our flights sorted and a beautiful apartment in the historical centre booked! Woo hoo!
I'm pleased to say that the holiday came in at under £300 each - which is a good job as, on Friday, I spoke to my solicitor who told me that the local authority search for the flat I want to buy has come through, and advised that we would be exchanging contracts soon - which meant that it was time to transfer the funds for my deposit and think about giving notice on my current abode! Well, you can imagine the flurry of activity this provoked - and the anxiety caused as I saw 70% of my life savings sashay out of my ISA. So far though I have 5 friends confirmed that they will help out with the move (thanks guys!) so, assuming all the i's are dotted etc, I should be in my new flat in, well, less than a month's time. Gulp...
So yes, I've been making a few plans the last couple of days. And whilst I agree with the current mantra that we should like in "the now", I'm also really looking forward to the future - and am relishing getting ready for what lies ahead.
And on that note, I wish you all a buona notte!
Hurrah! The sun is shining, Murray has won Wimbledon and I’ve just poured myself a glass of chilled pinot to reward myself for another day of hard graft in the office. It’s the kind of day that makes you think that, even when the going gets tough, anything is possible – as long as you put your mind to it.
Whilst I admit that I don’t always quite fully subscribe to this idea, I am a firm believer in giving things a go and, if I make a fool of myself in the process, at least I will die knowing I gave life my best shot rather than wondering, “What if?”. Take my trip to Peru for example. I’ve wanted to go for years and came to the conclusion that if I didn’t just get up off my arse and book the trip for me, myself and I, I’d probably never get there. Then there are my attempts to find a publisher – and now an agent. Okay, so the rejection letters suck, but I’m never going to get anywhere if I don’t take them on the chin and keep trying. And now I find myself in the throes of training for the Great North Run. So far it could be going a bit better (not having thrown myself down a mountain on said trip to Peru would have helped) but, you know what? Even if I crawl around the course, I will be able to say that I gave it a try.
It interests me when I tell people about my escapades and they look at me and say, “Oooh, I could never do that! You’re so brave!”
I apologise if you’re one of the people who has said this to me over the last few months, but I disagree. I don’t think that I’m brave. I’m not doing these things because I’m heroic, I’m doing them because I want to achieve something, to experience something, or to move on to better things in my life. Okay, so sometimes I have to take a deep breath before I march into my next scheme and ignore the little voice inside my head (or the negative person I’m talking to in the pub) telling me that it’s a stupid idea and I’ll just end up with egg on my face. But essentially my motivation is purely selfish.
Over the last few weeks I have heard lots of stories of true bravery. Of course there is the woman who faced up to the Woolwich murderers. On telly last week I saw Eye Spy on Channel 4 and watched with amusement at how bystanders reacted to blatant sexism, homophobia and racism – and was proud to see my fellow Brits stand up for those being discriminated against without a second thought.
Closer to home, I see people being brave every day of their lives. An old friend of mine has a niece who, at thirteen, has just had surgery to try and reduce the curvature of her spine caused by muscular dystrophy. The surgery left her very weak and for a while my friend and her family thought she might not recover. But she’s still fighting – a fact that, having known her for quite a large part of her life and admiring her feistiness in the face of her circumstances, doesn’t really surprise me. An attitude that takes guts, if you ask me.
At work, my colleague and good mate Chris recently sent an email around the office, not asking for sponsorship for something stupid like a half marathon (ha!), but reminding everyone about the importance of being a registered organ donor – and making sure your registration details are up to date. Her niece Emma, who was only twenty, had been given under one year to live unless she could find a donor and have a lung transplant before cystic fibrosis would take her life. A couple of days later I was sat in the pub with Chris and asked her how Emma was coping with her prognosis. I know I for one would struggle to keep going in the knowledge that, unless I was lucky enough to have someone with the same blood group as me who also happened to be a registered donor die in a relatively short period of time, I was done for. But was Emma sat at home feeling sorry for herself and bemoaning her fate? On the contrary. In fact, she was rocking out at the Isle of Wight festival along we me and thousands others only three weeks ago.
Yep, that is one brave lady.
Luckily for most of us, we don’t have to climb such huge mountains on a day to day basis. But I think we can all be a little bit braver. When we see something that we don’t like or disagree with, we can take action, whether it is supporting a campaign or just speaking out when someone in the office makes a derogatory comment about the homeless person selling the Big Issue outside or the transgender waitress in the canteen. Of course I’m not suggesting we wade in if we see a fight in the middle of the street, but rather than rubber-necking along with everyone else, we can call the police - something I’ve felt compelled to do twice in the last few weeks.
The other thing we can do to show our distaste at a situation (or of a person for that matter) is to simply walk away. Whether that be boycotting an unethical business or turning our back on people whose behaviours or beliefs we do not accept, it can often be more effective than arguing with some narrow-minded people will ever be.
In short; as long as you aren’t harming anyone else, do what you want to do, be who you want to be, stand up for yourself and for others and you can’t go far wrong. Oh, and be thankful for what you’ve got. It could so easily be taken away from you. Sadly, that is what happened to my mate Chris and her niece Emma today. As I left my last meeting of the day and headed to M&S to buy that well-earned bottle of white, I received a text message telling me that Emma lost her fight today and had passed away just an hour earlier. I admit I shed a tear as I walked through Camden this evening, but then smiled to myself knowing that this plucky woman had lived her life to the full right up to the end of her tragically short life.
So, tonight I am raising a glass to Emma and everyone else out there who shows such incredible courage in spite of illness, persecution or discrimination. They are the real heroes in my book - and a true inspiration to us all.
Here you will find my latest news, including what I have been up to and what I have been writing (and making). Hopefully you'll like what I have to say - and perhaps I will motivate you to get creative too...