If you only read two books this year!

One of the very few benefits of my hubby no longer commuting with me comes from the fact that I have had to change my own commute.  I now get a train closer to home as hubby can drop me off and pick me up, which avoids the £9.00 daily parking charge.  It costs me more each month in train tickets, but overall is better than the petrol I would have had to pay from having to drive myself each day to the other station, which hubby and I used to share.

So, what is the benefit?  Well it is twofold!  I now get a seat each day, rather than standing cheek to cheek with other passengers!  As the journey time is longer, I have time to relax and read a book.  This has completely changed my daily 3-hour commute.  What used to be a stressful time, is now quick relaxing.

Having the opportunity to sit and read has also awakened a passion I had almost forgotten.  A book I have been trying to read for over 6 months was finally finished.  It allowed me to move onto another book with I can only describe as a truly moving piece of literature.

I overheard a couple of colleagues at work one day talking about his book. Both were saying how good it was.  It was the word Auschwitz that sparked my interest.  I had been to Auschwitz and Birkenau twice.  Both trips were very different in some ways, but similar in others.

On my first trip in around 2006/2007 I remember there was an exhibition in Birkenau of photos taken by a prisoner.  Knowing what I knew about the camps, I couldn’t understand how a prisoner could smuggle a camera in.  It had troubled me for years.

The first visit was more of a relaxed tour.  We had our own private guide who had been our driver for the whole week while we were in Poland.  He took us around at our own pace, telling us all the stories and history of the two camps. 

I remember the silence that fell over them both.  It was like the world had stood still in remembrance of those that had lost their lives there.

I returned to the camps in 2018 with my hubby.  This time, it was an organised tour.  My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I felt that there was less huts open to us to visit.  Or maybe they were missed on the tour, I really don’t know.

The emotions I felt on the first trip returned.  The pain and suffering that had gone on was felt deeply.  I couldn’t imagine what these people could have gone through.

When I returned, I posted some photos of my trip on my Youtube channel and Facebook page.  Someone on Facebook criticised me for posting my pictures.  They felt I was dramatizing the camps.  I absolutely wasn’t.  My photos, I felt told the story of my visit, of how I felt, the conditions the prisoners lived in, and the life they may have lived.  They were not photos of people having fun.  I don’t think on either visit I could have found the emotion of being happy whilst walking around the camps.  I don’t know anyone who could.

With my visits brought back to the forefront of my memory, I needed to know more about the book my colleagues were talking about.  It was called ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris.  It was based on the life of a survivor – Lale Sokolov.  The author had the pleasure of meeting Lale in his later years and was given the privilege of telling his story. I quickly ordered my own copy from Amazon.

I was captivated from the very first page.  The story she told was like an emotional roller coaster.  Of determination to survive against all odds.  The sadness of losing loved ones, newfound friendships, of loyalty, trust and so much more.   I finally understood how that camera could have got into the hands of the prisoner.  How he took the photos unseen will always remain a mystery.

I don’t want to go into the story in detail.  Firstly, because I couldn’t do it justice, but secondly because it is a story that has to be read.  I felt I knew the characters by the end of it.  Having been to the camps, I could picture them, I felt their pain and willed them on to survive. I cried when they died or were tortured.

At the end of the book, Heather sparks your interest in the sequel – Cilka’s Journey.  Unlike with Lale, Heather never got to meet Cilka.  Her story is from people who did know her and research.  Whilst not from Cilka, you still feel that you are with her.  I’m so glad as with Lale, her story has been told.

Whether you have been to Auschwitz or not, both books are a must read.  What happened in those camps is past anything I can ever begin to understand.  How someone can choose who should live or die based on their religion or looks is beyond me.  The things they had to do to survive.  Their bravery and strength.  The bonds they formed.  I am completely in ore of them.

So many people lost their lives, their only crime was being different from others.  As with my photos, these books keep the memories of those that died or survived alive.  I don’t think we should ever forget what happened in these and many other camps.  By knowing what we know, it should make us better people.  To not judge people by their race or religion.  To be kinder and not judge.

If you only ever read 2 books this year, these are the ones you should choose.

God bless all those that suffered in the camps.  May they rest in peace.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 13- The Great Wall

It’s another early start with a 5 am alarm call!

Although yesterday I said this was my third favourite hotel this trip, I think the bed was the most comfortable so far. I slept so well.

We have a good routine going in the mornings. I wake up and make a tea for me, and coffee for hubby. While my tea cools I grab a shower.

As our case left the night before us in Xi’an, I didn’t have my Avon So Soft Spray on yesterday. As I look in the mirror now, I see that this was the perfect opportunity for the mosquitos to have a party on me. I have 6 bites around my neck and chest and 3 on my legs.

After my shower I completely cover myself in the spray. I’m not given them another day of fun!

We go for our first breakfast in this hotel. The dining area is beautiful with colourful lanterns everywhere.

There is a great selection once again from western to Chinese.

After dinner last night I felt so bloated, so I decided to just have fruit today, however I did allow a small smoked salmon roll to sneak in too.

We leave the hotel at 7.00 am for the 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. I am so looking forward to this, I just hope my bladder holds out for the duration of the drive!

I’m pleased to say I made it. The trip reminded me of when I was a kid going to the seaside. Searching the landscape for my first sight of the sea. We drove through the Badaling Hills which is the highest point of the Guangou Gorge. As I look around it is all so beautiful, and then, there it is, my first view of the Great Wall. It was amazing.

During the drive Terry our guides tells us all about how it was made, the staggering length of over 6200 miles in total.

We get off the bus and all quickly head to the ‘facilities’ as Terry calls them before starting the final part of the journey to the wall.

To get to the wall you take the Funicular up. I’m so pleased as I was expecting a climb! It takes just over 3 minutes and gives you a chance to take in the gorge a little.

Once at the top, you walk out and it’s there right in front of you. We take our first steps onto the wall and I can’t believe I’m here.

Terry is there ready to take our cameras so that each couple or group can have photos together.

The section we are on is part of the best preserved section. We decide to walk up the steep part first while we have fresh legs.

Some of it is steps , other parts slopes. Going up is very steep at times, but the views are amazing. 360 degrees of outstanding views in fact.

As we walk along the wall I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here.

When you see how far into the distance the wall goes, I can’t help wonder how on earth they got the bricks up here, nether alone to build it. It is a really beautiful, incredible landmark.

After the wall we visited a Jade factory. Hubby and I loved a table and 2 chairs made of Jade. It was only $1.8m, so we ordered 2 sets!! In our dreams!

They showed us how they cut the stone and the different colours. I always thought it was only green, but you get all variety of colours including red, yellow, blue and white.

After a tour we head upstairs for lunch. We have the usual array of dishes, but this time as well as the beer they gave us a bottle of ‘fire water’. We all take some on our table and toasted each other before downing it in one! Jeez, I now know why it’s call fire water! It was so bad we had to have a second toast!

After lunch we had time to walk around the shop. I decided to treat myself to some lovely blue earrings. I wanted a pendant to go with them, but sadly they didn’t have one in the same colour.

Some of the pieces were quite expensive like the table and chairs. These bracelets were from £1000-£1300 each, although they did offer 30% discount!

It was lovely walking around though looking at the pieces, especially when you know they were cut from one piece of rock!

We then took a walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. The walk is lined by 18 massive statues of elephants, lions, camels, and mystical beasts, protecting the tombs of Emperors. As we walk through the tree lined avenue, Terry explains the meaning of each of them and the old customs and suspicions. It is so peaceful and the smell of the pine trees adding to its calmness.

At the end of the Avenue you pass through the Great Red Gate which is more than 400 years old. With its 3 archways, it is one of the largest stone archways in China.

We start the journey back to the hotel. As we drive we pass buildings for the Beijing Olympics, which Terry points out for us. One of the beauties of Viking, is that you get a whole lot more than you expect every day and Terry is such a fabulous guide, explaining everything to us. He also cracks quite a lot of jokes which gets the whole group in stitches.

Back at the hotel we have a few hours to ourselves before leaving for dinner.

In the basement of our hotel and across the street is a big, high end shopping centre. The memory card on my small camera is already full and Hubby’s camera is close to being full, so we decide go on the search for a camera shop. Jimmy from Viking had suggested there may be a store in the basement of China World opposite the hotel. After a while we find a shop and are pleased to buy two 32MB cards for less than £12 each.

We arrive back to our room with 1.5 hours to spare before going out to dinner.


I’m so full, I really can’t cope with any more food. It’s a different style to normal with custard filled dim sums at the beginning as well as custard tarts.

I sample a little of some of the dishes, but I’m just still so full from lunch.

After dinner we join Kellie and Joe, a lovely couple from USA, who we have met on this trip, for a drink in the bar before heading to bed! It is the end of happy hour so Prosecco is 2 for 1 until 9 pm. We made it with 6 minutes to spare!

The mini bar in the hotel is free so we finally retire to our room for a drink before going to sleep.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 12 – Beijing

Our alarm was set for 6.30 am this morning although hubby and I were awake about 5.30 ish. Not sure why hubby was awake, but for me, whenever I have something important to do, I worry I will oversleep.

Today we have to leave our room by 8.30 am to be on the bus. We are flying to Beijing today!

I’ve made tea and showered. I start to get dressed as my worse nightmare happens! The night before we had to take our clothes out for today as our cases had to be out by 10.30 pm. In my head I’ve taken out shorts, vest top, bra and pants. Now dressing what I’ve actually taken out is 2 vest tops, shorts and bra!

I cannot believe it. I checked it twice last night. I’m usually so careful. I check with reception but my case is already at the airport. It’s not good, I’ll have to go commando!

Hubby looks at me and my shorts! He doesn’t think it’s a good idea so offers to take one for the marital team! He gives me his underwear! My hero!

Now, as I grew up, my mum always said my underwear should always match. I mean, what if you had to go to hospital. Since then, I always make sure I’m suitably dressed! Today though, needs must!

I look in the mirror and feel a little bit like Mr Bean! I can’t help but laugh!

The plan is, as soon as we get to the airport we go shopping, either for hubby or me!

It’s absolutely lashing with rain as we leave. I hope it improves for Beijing.

We arrive at the airport and quickly check out the shopping. It’s not looking good. We have 10 minutes until we need to be at our gate and ready to board! We have to accept that hubby is going to have to stay commando! Then we see it. Is it a mirage? Thankfully no! There is in front of us a Victoria Secret. I quickly run in and bought a pair of pants.

We have 5 minutes so I run to the ladies and change and swap with hubby! Phew! He really is my hero today. One of the many reasons why I love him so much.

We board the plane. As we arrived at the airport we were handed 2 very large lunch boxes. Probably 30 cm square each, from the same restaurant we are at last night.

On board, we open them and wow, so much food. The sandwich was 5 layers! A pot of what looked like sausage rolls but sweeter, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, almond Croissant, 3 slices of a sponge slice and a banana. Just as we opened it the air hostess came round and gave us a bag of food too, with a bottle of water.

I currently feel like I’m going to pop with food. I eat some of it but a lot is left.

On the way to airport our guide Terry had told us about his childhood. The struggle and sacrifice his parents made to give him and his brother a good life. I felt so guilty that I had food here that could help a family out. If you have read my previous blogs, you will know how I like to help the homeless out. Now I felt even worse. I might not be rich, but I have a lot more than some, and I’m so humbled.

The flight is very quick. Less than 2 hours. It is actually very comfortable.

What Viking do well is making travel easy! Our luggage is always taken care of, so we only have the look after ourselves. It takes all the stress out of it.

When we land it’s raining again! Seriously, it needs to do one!

We are still going to do a tour so are praying the rain eases, which it does. First we visit a bell tower. It’s only rung once a year for Chinese New Year.

Opposite is a beautiful chinese building.

Inside the bell tower, we get a tea tasting experience. I’d been to the presentation on the ship on tea, but this was actually tasting the tea.

The lady doing it was so funny and the whole experience was really good fun.

She explained why the tea was so expensive, so now I understand why it seemed expensive on the ship.

After the taster you could buy the teas. I love my tea, but I’m still struggling to pay so much for it.

We then walk down the back streets. It’s so narrow and I’m intrigued. We suddenly arrive at someone’s house.

Terry jokes that the owner looks like Jackie Chan and he does. We sit in is lounge while he tells us his story. He has birds in his yard that are taking away in chinese. It’s really fascinating.

When you see how they love, you can’t help wondering how they cope when temperatures drop!

The owner was so lovely and it was an enjoyable visit.

We then take an early dinner.

On the third floor (our second floor) we were treated to another chinese banquet and a new beer – U8.

The group we have been with for the last 2 weeks mostly come from different parts of America. We are loving hearing all their stories and getting to know each other.

After another meal where I feel like a beached whale we head to our hotel. It’s 6.30 pm and the traffic is bad, but it gives us a chance to look at the buildings.

We finally reach Kerry Hotel and get our room key. Our cases are already in our room. As we open the door we wonder what it will be like.

I’ll be honest, we were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing room. I’m currently laying on the fabulous grey chaise lounge writing this! It’s the bath that disappoints. The previous 2 hotels has a free standing. This is still really nice, we have just been spoilt so much.

On the other hand, the toilet is something else! It’s all electronic. You can even have a sit down shower and dry, if you know what I mean!

Tomorrow we have a 5 am start, so we have pooped to a local shop and picked up some wine and beers to drink in our room. Tomorrow the Great Wall awaits us !

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 11 – Terracotta Army

As we expected, the bed was so comfortable last night. The room is really comfortable especially the bathroom. We had a bath last night, but this morning is shower time. The shower has 2 different shower heads including a rain shower, which we have at home. I opted for this one and it was so relaxing.

The hotel has an assortment of toiletries if you need them from shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, toothbrush, and razor set etc, so if you forget anything you are covered.

In the wardrobe are 2 really soft gowns and slippers.

As dinner in the hotel was so amazing last night, we had high expectations about breakfast and we were not disappointed.

You can choose from sushi, pastries, fruits, cooked breakfast, as well as Chinese food. You won’t go hungry that is for sure .

Today we are off to see the Terracotta Army and I’m quite excited. We leave early to try and miss the crowds.

It takes about 45 minutes to get there. When we first arrive we park in the car park and go through the ticket area. There you pick up a golf like buggy which takes you to the main museum area.

There are 3 buildings. The first one is the amazing one. It’s where we meet the Terracotta Army. I’ve seen them so much on TV or in books etc but to be this close to them is amazing.

Each soldier is of a variety of ranks and with individual features.

As well as the army it also included horses and carts. The carts were made of wood, so sadly didn’t survive, but the horses were equally spectacular.

Not everything is excavated yet, but with the help of modern technology they are able to see what is still to be unearthed.

Out of all the pieces, only one Crossbowmen was found in one piece.

In total over 8000 pieces are part of the collection, which was discovered by farmers in 1974 when they were digging a well to find water.

Amongst the Terracotta figure, bronze statues were also found.

Although the statutes are grey in colour, they were originally painted, however the change in humidity caused the change.

It really was incredible to see. I can’t begin the comprehend how they were made, and who by. Every detail was there. The photos just can’t do it justice.

After the museum we went to see how they make the statues you buy today, as well as lacquered items of furniture. I have so say, the furniture was amazing.

After the tour we had lunch in a restaurant in the same place. Terry recommended we tried the beef noodles and hamburger, which I did and both were really tasty. The hamburger was not a beef burger but like pulled pork in a ciabatta type roll. It’s hard to describe so I’m gutted I didn’t take a photo to show you. In addition there were so many more dishes available on the buffet. I’m definitely putting the pounds on with this trip!

Afterwards we have some free time. Outside they have some figures that you can have your photo taken behind. It was so much fun.

On the way back to the hotel I was surprised to see their local crop being grown in so many fields. Pomegranate is a major crop to them. As you drive past the trees you see that all the fruit is wrapped in clear plastic bags part filled with water. This apparently stops birds eating them.

What further surprised me was that I’ve never seen anything pomegranate related here, so I assume it mainly exported. The next time I buy some at home, I shall definitely be checking it’s origin.

We then had a couple of hours free to just relax. We decided to just chill in our hotel room.

We left the hotel at 6 pm to go out for dinner. It was a chinese of course again at the Tang Dynasty. Dishes included beef, Kung po chicken, a couple of Tofu dishes (which I don’t really like), cabbage with chill and so much more!

Outside the restaurant we found these old instruments on the wall and were quite fascinated by them.

We were hoping to go for a walk afterwards but it’s raining too hard so I have to satisfy myself with a quick photo from the hotel porch.

This used to be the TV tower but is now a restaurant. It is right in front of our hotel and looks lovely all lit up at night.

As we can’t walk, we buy some beers from a store and take them to our room. We fly to Beijing tomorrow, so we need to pack as our cases are leaving at 10.30 pm tonight.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 9 – Shibaozhai Temple

I am just about to go to bed but then as we sit on the balcony, we start to see lights ahead of us. There in front was the most amazing bridge I have ever seen. A light display plays in a routine. I have never seen anything like it before. It is stunning. I have to delay going to bed until we have passed the bridge.

The next morning it’s an early start again. Today we are going to visit Shibaozhai Temple. Instead of catching the usual bus, we are walking to the temple. From our balcony we can already see the temple opposite us. Towering over the river.

As we step off the boat, we see people washing their clothes in the river. It still amazes me that in 2019 people still live this way. They all seem very happy though.

It’s a steep walk up to what they call ‘the village’, passing lots of little stalls selling everything from scarfs, purses, tops etc.

The village is relatively new. In fact the road we are walking on was only completed the day before. The old village was relocated when the dam was created and the river levels rose. As they couldn’t move the temple they built a wall around it to protect it from the river.

We walk through the village as shop owners are setting up their stalls. The all mostly sell the same things but it’s still interesting to walk along and look.

As we near the temple we approach a suspension bridge which joins the village with the temple. As we step on it, it starts to bounce up and down. I’m not great with heights, so this was a little scary. If I was brave enough to look up I could see some amazing views though.

Finally I’m across, the bad news is that I have to go the same way back!

The temple sits above the Shibaozhai Hill adjacent to a 12 storey Pavilion. We walk up all 12 floors. It’s extremely humid today so we are all struggling. Sweat is pouring off us as we climb the steep stairs. The view at the top is worth it though. You then get to walk through the Temple. The bright colours and statues are beautiful.

The walk back down is so much easier.

My hubby wanted to take a photo of a little girl selling nuts and biscuits. I give her some money and hubby snaps away. Her mother is across the road and thanks us, but the little girl is upset that we haven’t taken something from her. I tried to explain that we gave her the money for the photo but she didn’t understand. As we walk away she comes running after us with some biscuits in her hand. When I take them she smiles. It was so humbling.

As we walk back past some the shops, I want to buy some gifts to give something back to these people. I choose 2 purses for my nieces. You haggle here which is fun. Eventually the owner persuades me to buy 3. I don’t need 3 but I couldn’t say no.

Next I look at silk scarves for my mum. Apparently they are 100% silk. I eventually agree to buy one. It’s not until I get back on board and look at it that I realise it’s 100% silk like polyester. I had to laugh. I’ve just been ripped off, but it’s still pretty and there need is more than mine.

Before we get on board there is a man begging on the street. We still have the biscuits from the little girl that we won’t eat as we have so much food onboard, so I hand them to the man. He is so grateful it warms my heart. One simple photo has helped 2 separate people.

We start to sail by 10.30 am. I’m full of cold today so not feeling great, so we Plan to just have a relaxing morning. At 11 am there is a talk on Tea which I’m really interested in which I decided to go to. I’ve learnt about the different types of tea and their benefits. For example, the first tea was found by Shen Nong. He added water to some leaves and apparently because of his transparent stomach, he was able to see all the toxins clearing. Imagine that – a transparent stomach.

Chai means clear in Chinese, hence how it got it’s name! Well that is what she said but when I tried to look it up I couldn’t confirm that.

The different teas include dark tea which is anti aging, helps with weight loss, cures sore throats, is anti cancer, caffeine free, clears toxins and lowers blood pressure.

Black tea cures headaches, regulates the stomach to relieve pain, takes away toxins and is also anti aging.

Green tea is something I drink daily at home. It is a diarrhetic, relieves fatigue, prevents diabetes and cardiovascular disease, enhances immunity and diminishes inflammation. What I didn’t realise is that it also has caffeine in it, so maybe that is why I don’t sleep too well.

White tea is good for your liver and hives, anti radiation and lowers blood pressure and body temperature.

Snow chrysanthemum tea I’d never heard of before. It’s caffeine free, lowers blood pressure and sugar, good for eyesight and sleep, cures colds, maintains youth and beauty and reduces body temperature. I definitely need some of this.

And finally another one I’ve never heard of – Oolong tea. It helps prevent heart disease, weight loss, digestion, lowers cholesterol and relieves fatigue.

I would have bought some tea on the boat but it was quite expensive. About £50 for a small tin, so I will see if I can pick some up elsewhere cheaper. Mind you, with my cold I’m certainly in need of it.

Lunch on board today is a Chinese themed menu but with a difference. As well as the usual array of Chinese food, you could try chicken feet, pigs tail, feet and ears and a few other weird things. I’ll be honest, I did look but I certainly didn’t touch!

After lunch we then had the opportunity to visit the bridge. I’m not totally interested in this but hubby is keen. Coming from a shipping background he loves this sort of thing. We had a 20 minute tour to see the controls and devices to sail the boat safely.

I was then torn. I wanted to go to the session on China, but I also needed to go back to bed. Hubby offered to wake me in time for the presentation so back to bed I went .

The presentation on china was really interesting. Elliot talked about their culture, dating, marriage and religion. The Chinese have a huge respect for family.

We were given some interesting facts like the selective abortion for girls was introduced in 1978. This then caused an imbalance in the number of boys and girls. This has meant that it has been harder for men to find a wife.

A lot of marriages are arranged through match makers. There is even a park in Shanghai where parents place umbrellas down on the ground and attach resumes of their children which includes their height and weight. Their children don’t know their parents are doing this. If someone thinks their child might be a match the parents set up a meeting.

I’m not sure if this was true or a joke but their wedding car is usually a BMW as it stands for ‘be my wife’!

During the talk I was looking out at the river bank. There seemed to be a lot of fires going on, and the haze was getting worse. When I left to join my hubby on the balcony I was shocked by the poor air quality. It hurt by throat and eyes. I couldn’t stay outside. Hubby soon joined me. It was horrendous. We don’t know for sure but we think they may have been burning their rubbish. Whatever it was, it cannot be good for the environment.

Tonight was our last night on board. We should have been making the most of it but all I wanted was to go back to bed, so after dinner hubby and I retired to our room. It will be sad tomorrow To be leaving the cruise part of the trip. Tomorrow we will disembark at Chongqing to take the bullet train to Xion.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 4 – Saying Goodbye To Shanghai

It was a bit of a lay in this morning. The alarm was set for 6.40 am. Today we leave the Westin hotel in Shanghai to go to the airport, to fly to Wuhan where we will board the Viking Emerald.

I’d packed most things last night so this morning I only had to shower and pack the toiletries into the case, ready to be collected at 7.30am.

We don’t leave the hotel until 10.45 am for a 1.25 pm flight, but Viking are sending our luggage ahead. We don’t see it now until we are on the boat!

After the cases are outside our door, we settle to have our last morning cup of tea in our room before heading to breakfast.

As we have scales in our bathroom hubby thought it would be good to get on them as see how much Our weight has changed in the last 5 days. We seem to have eaten so much I wasn’t sure I wanted to know! In for a penny, in for a pound, I got on them. I had stayed the same! Woo hoo I was so pleased. Then hubby got on. Drumroll please………….. he had lost 1.4 kg!! How on earth did he do that ? I was gutted! He is always lucky that he can eat and drink what he likes and not worry too much about it. That’s men for you ladies! I can put weight on just eating lettuce!

Talking of food, we then went down for our last breakfast in Shanghai. I’m sure the breakfasts for the rest of the trip are going to be just as good but in the meantime we savour the selection available to us.

We now have just under 2 hours before we leave for the airport so I relax on the chaise lounge in our room and catch up on @MYDIY on YouTube with Kathy. Today she is making scarecrow wreaths. They are so cute. I do enjoy watching her videos. The only challenge is in China you have to use a VPN to use your phone or iPad. It keeps cutting off, which frustrates me. I do finally get to watch it all though.

Right, it’s time to check out. We still have 2 weeks left of the holiday, but it’s still sad to be leaving Shanghai. We really have had a great time and our room has been so comfortable. The bath especially which is free standing and big enough to fit 2 people side by side! The boat will only have a shower but fingers crossed our rooms on Xion and Beijing will have baths too.

We are now on the bus to the airport. Terry is giving us an update on what will happen when we get to the airport. He is a character. He was telling us that when he sees phrases on movies he has to check it is suitable for tourists.

We arrive at the airport and are given our passports and boarding passes as well as our lunch boxes. Viking do make things so easy for you. All we have to do is go through security again.

We head to our boarding gate and all open our lunch boxes. It was supposed to be a club sandwich. When we all opened the bags there was a roar of laughter. Many of us instead of a club sandwich got something with a purple and orange layer! It tasted of butternut and yams. Hubby was lucky and got a club sandwich so kindly split it with me.

We were also given a banana and 2 madeleines which were nice. I was craving bananas so it was timely.

Our flight is boarded as I settle down. Hubby has taken the window seat again. The gentleman next to me has an awful habit of picking his nose. Not a little go by a full on rummage for most of the flight. To make it worse he was flicking it or wiping it on his table. I was literally heaving. I was desperately trying to not look, but it was so difficult. I was desperate to get off the flight.

There was some positives though. The air hostess noticed I was reading my book so put my light on for me. They also brought around water for us which I kept on my lap, not wanting to put anything in the seat pocket.

I did have a look at the duty free shopping magazine though. Now, I have to say I have never seen anything quite like it. When I first opened the magazine I came to knives, saucepans and kettles! If that wasn’t bizarre enough, I turned over and saw fridge, cooker and bikes! I couldn’t wait to see what their trolley looked like. Sadly I didn’t buy anything as my baggage allowance might have been exceeded!

The flight landed and thankfully the guy next to me rushed off so I was able to get my antibacterial wipes out without offending anyone !

As Viking were taking care of our luggage we just had to identify it so they could check everyone’s had arrived. As we left the airport Terry informed us that the sandwich issue was a mistake and had ordered us all a KFC to eat on the bus. That was a really thoughtful gesture and went down well with everyone.

Unlike UK KFC this wasn’t fried but marinated chinese style and was delicious.

Before going to the boat we did a detour to Hubei Museum where we first were treated to a traditional bell performance followed by a tour of one of the exhibitions.

The Bell performance was so relaxing I could have fallen asleep. I was so enchanted. The musicians and dancers were in traditional dress using old musical instruments, which were beautiful in themselves.

We were then given a private viewing of an exhibition of Marquis Yis. When he died, he had buried with him 13 girls and women whose ages ranged from 14 to 26. All were killed as human sacrifices. Within the tomb were musical instruments, food and wine vessels along with furniture. He believed in the afterlife, so all the items were placed in the 4 chambers for him. The women were to care for him and play him music. The tomb was discovered when some soldiers were trying to build their houses. It was really fascinating.

After the museum, we headed to the boat. As I got off the bus and I walked down the gang way I was so excited.

When on the boat we are greeted by the staff who take us to our stateroom and show us around. The staff are all very friendly and really want you to have a good experience.

The stateroom has a king size bed, sofa, coffee table, dresser and plenty of wardrobe space. On the balcony we have 2 more chairs.

The bathroom is basic with just a shower but I was over the moon when I saw they use l’octaine products. They had these on our previous cruise with them, and I have to say I do love them.

As it was after 7pm we went straight to dinner. Tonight was a western menu. You choose off a menu and as is Viking, they cater for all tastes.

I had ham and melon to start, salmon with new potatoes for main and sorbet to follow.

Alcohol is free during mealtimes so they keep you topped up with a drink of your choice. Mine was white wine.

The dining room is set out in tables of 8 so you get a good chance to meet and get to know the fellow passengers.

After dinner we have a briefing on floor 5 in the bar area so get ourselves a drink. Carey who took us to our room earlier serves us and he has already learnt our names, which I think is brilliant in such a small amount of time.

We are due to sail at 9.30 pm so hubby and I go onto the top deck. The buildings around us are lit up and change colour in unison. It is spectacular.

We sit on the desk for a while over a glass of wine, until the lights are now a distant memory.

We planned to have one last drink in the bar before bed, however we got talking to another couple and settled in for the rest of the night.

As we were outside of meal times you pay for your own drinks. We were recommended the drinks package. For £250 for both of us, we could have unlimited drinks. We decided this was a really good deal and signed up for it. I was even more glad I did it when I found out you could have fizz too.

Finally it was time for bed!

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 1 – Shanghai

After the long day yesterday we had an early start this morning. The alarm was set for 5.45 am so we could have a cup of tea before shower and breakfast.

Tea was a bit different to what you usually get. It was loose tea leaves. As I don’t speak Chinese I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was delicious. After adding the hot water it looked almost like fresh leaves.

Breakfast was amazing. We are staying at the 5 star Westin Hotel. Breakfast options are vast. You can have a full on Chinese breakfast which includes rice, noodles, dumplings etc. Alternatively you can have a selection of fruits, cereals or an English breakfast.

By the time we had got ready we now only had 30 minutes before leaving on our tour so opted for something quick and easy. I had a chicken sausage, baked beans, an egg boiled in tea, bacon and a steamed bread roll, followed by fresh fruit. Tomorrow we have more time so I plan to be a bit more adventurous. It looked so amazing that it would be a shame not to try some traditional foods.

Our tour left the hotel at 7.15 am for a full 9 hour trip to Suzhou. It takes about 2 hours To get there from Shanghai, but this gives us a chance to look out of the bus window and take in the views. There are lots of high rise buildings, which just reflects the high population here in China.

Suzhou is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, with its canal network . Unlike Venice though it isn’t sinking as the canals are all man made.

Our first stop is for a trip along the Grandcanal in a traditional boat. The houses are very basic, many with no private bathrooms or in some cases, kitchens. People are washing clothes and shoes in the canal as we sail by. Washing is hung from most windows from bamboo canes. It’s so pretty in a kind of way it’s hard to describe. We have taken lots of photos which will be transferred to my YouTube channel when we return home.

Lunch is next on the agenda. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch at the Garden Hotel. We sit on tables of 10 with others on our trip. Plates of food are placed on a lazy Susan. Dishes included rice, noodles, chicken gung po (which I made a slimming world version a few months ago for my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/mkD4RFWz7uM ), aubergines in hoisin sauce, egg with onions, fish and tomatoes, tomato and potato soup, just to name a few. This was washed down with a bottle of Snow beer. Yes Snow! It made me laugh in view of the current heat.

After lunch we headed to the Silk Museum. I found this really fascinating. You get to look close up at the silk worms, the cocoons etc. They take you through the process from start to finish. At the end you have opportunity to shop. Silk quilts or as they call them ‘comforters’ are so reasonable. Less than £100 for a king size. If I hadn’t just bought one at home I would certainly have brought one back. Instead I bought a large scarf and glass case. I was worried about my luggage allowance for the internal flights so didn’t buy more. I’ve since discovered the China airlines are a bit more flexible. I’m kicking myself now as I know some friends and my own mum who would have loved a Silk scarf too. Maybe on my trip I will find more.

After leaving the museum we went to a gardens. It is down a little alley, tucked away. The garden is built around the house. Ponds, rocks and trees are beautifully set out. It’s called the Master of the Nets Garden. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Yes there are many people there at the moment, but somehow it is so quiet and romantic!

There are a group of Chinese people who seemed fascinated by us and and taking many pictures. I can’t help wonder what they will do with them! I do play to them for a while. They then notice my camera holster and seem to like it. I show them how it works which pleases them. I had it for my birthday and have to say it is amazing. It’s called a camera holster by Spider. It fits comfortably on my waist so I don’t have to have my Camera around my neck in this humidity!

It is here I experienced my first squat toilet! It was a choice thing as the normal toilets had a massive queue! I can see why Chinese ladies have good legs!

It’s been a lovely day. I am certainly going to sleep tonight and although the tour laid on by Viking for today has come to an end apart from the trip back to the hotel, we still have this evening to explore more.

I think our plan is to head towards the river to explore it lit up. We want to do a boat trip tomorrow so may see if we can get one booked. In the meantime I’m chilling out on the bus for our return journey back to the hotel.

I can’t believe the traffic. What should have been a 2 hour trip home now turned up into over 3 hours. To make things worse it’s started to pour with rain.

As we reach our hotel it’s still raining hard. We decide that as it’s also after 7.30 pm the best thing is to get a bottle of wine and a few beers to take to our room, have a bath and chill.

We aren’t hungry but could do with something light so pick up some salads from the cafe in the hotel to take to our room too.

It’s a shame it’s raining but in someways we are both tired, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for tomorrow. We are free to explore on our own so plan an early start.

We are both loving this trip and it’s only really just begun!

Reliving a special day from my childhood

Today is going to be a real blast from the past!  It isn’t going to be the usual day you would expect someone to want to do to celebrate their 50th, but for me it is very special.

As I have said before, having a birthday which always fell during our families 2-week summer holiday, meant that most birthdays just blended into the holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents made a fuss of me, but you know what it is like as a kid, once you hit the beach the day itself isn’t important.  That was until one very special birthday.

We had driven to Ilfracombe and my parents suggested we walk along the harbour. There moored up was a big boat!  Well as a kid anything larger than a dinghy is a big boat.  Dad thought we should go on board and have a look around!   Little did I know was that they had booked it as a surprise trip for me to visit Lundy Island.

Now, this is where the story of that day is told over and over and over again!  I have always been a bit of an independent madam!  It is no surprise then when offered help to board the ship I declined it, and the inevitable happened.  I fell in.  To make it worse, I refused help on the way back too and the same thing happened.  On the plus side, it has entertained my parents for many years.

When I was thinking about how I wanted to spend my birthday, that birthday surprise always came to the forefront of my memories.   I researched it and the boat still went, but not from Ilfracombe on my actual birthday. 

I really wanted to spend my birthday with my friends but wasn’t sure either if they would be interested in going to Lundy.  If you don’t know about it, it is a little island off the shores of Devon.  It is a nature reserve run by the National Trust.  Puffins use it for their breeding grounds and seals and dolphins can also be seen there. 

There are only 28 people living on the Island, with just a pub, church and shop in the way of facilities.  That said, there is something calming and magical about the place.  Well for me anyway.

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t go to the Island on my birthday.  I did see though that a boat left from Bideford the next day.  Unfortunately, it was due to leave at 8 am due to the tide.  Now, not being funny, but having to get up and be on a boat ready to leave by 8 am the morning after your 50th was not a realistic option!

After further explorations, I found a lovely man – Colin – from Lundy Charters who was based in Clovelly who could take us over to the Island on the Saturday at a more leisurely time of 9.30 am!   My amazing friends all agreed to come with me.

So, the morning came, and we all headed off to Clovelly.  We were told to park in the Anglers car park.  As we get there, we soon realise it is also the same day as a festival so there is absolutely no parking.  If you haven’t been to Clovelly, it is built on a very steep hill.  The road down to the harbour is a 25% hill!  The road is single track so there are wardens at the top, middle and bottom with radios ensuring that traffic is only flowing one way at any given time.

After a lot of worry about where to park, we were advised to park up in the main car park and get the land rover back down which was shuttling people that day.  Hubby suggested rather than all 8 of use going back up to come down again, why don’t the drivers just go up and us ladies stay at the bottom.  A very good idea. 

As I jump out of the car, I ask hubby if he would like me to take his rucksack with me, which he did.  I head off to take in the activity of the harbour while hubby takes the car back up the steep road to the main car park.

I’m stood chatting when it hits me!  I have the car keys!  My car is one that doesn’t need a key to start it, but it does need to be in the car when it is being driven.  In a blind panic I find the warden at the bottom.  I explain the situation to him.  I now have visions of my car broken down halfway up the hill, no-one being able to go up or down!  He kindly radios to his colleagues to see if there is a problem.  The land rover that went up after him has arrived at the top. Thankfully the car somehow made it without the keys! 

I’m now panicking as to how is the car going to be locked?  The warden kindly tells me to take the land rover back up, lock the car then come back with the land rover.  Roger the driver was so lovely.

The journey back down was with a group of pirates that were performing that day in Clovelly.  I hadn’t even boarded the boat and the day had already been memorable!

Finally, I can relax, and I meet up with Colin to board his boat.  As I get on, I can’t help but say the most ridiculous thing!  ‘Ooh it smells of fish’.   This brings roars of laughter from my friends.  Why?  Well it’s a fishing boat we are on!

The boat sets sail and we are taking longer than I remember the journey to the Island to be.  As we sail, I take in the views.  I do love the sea so much.  So many seabirds hunting for their dinner.  A seal passes us just long enough to see him, but not enough for a photo.  I am desperate to see dolphins but sadly that isn’t to be.

Gradually the island comes into view just as a puffin flies past.

We land on the island and I already feel nostalgic.  It is a long steep walk up to the main part of the island where the only public toilets are.  We have a stop to look at the shop.  We only have a few hours so prioritise what we want to do.  One of my friends hasn’t seen puffins up close before so we decided to head off to their nesting site.

After a short while, we find out that they have already left.  Gutted and being short of time we head back to the pub for a spot of lunch.

After lunch 6 of us head to the disused lighthouse to explore.  147 steps up give you a 360-degree views of the island.  It is very beautiful.

After heading back to meet the rest of the group it is almost time to head back to the boat.  We decide to pop onto the beach first and dip our toes in the sea.  Well it has been a long time since I got wet here so it would be rude not to.   At least this time it is just my feet!

As I look amongst the rocks, I find some amazing sea creatures. A poor crab is rescued by a friend. It really has been another great day.

We walk back up to the jetty where the boat will come and get us.  As I look down it dawns on me!  When we arrived, the boat was level with the jetty.  Now the tide was out it was about 10 feet lower!  How on earth were we going to get onto the boat!

Hubby points to a rusty ladder going down to the sea!  Is he serious?  Sadly, he is.  One of my friends is even more in a panic as she is wearing a dress!

As Colin arrives back with the boat, he confirms our fears.  We are going to have to climb down that ladder and land on a bobbing boat!  Then walk around the edge to get into the main part of the boat! Oh boy.

I am the last to go on.  My body is shaking.  I am willing myself to stay calm and not to let go of the ladder!  I slowly make my way down.  Colin is there to steady me.  I step off the ladder onto the boat.  It was scary but I made it, completely dry!  I was so happy!

All safely aboard we head back.  The sea is no longer calm.  As we hit the waves, we get soaked.  Thankfully it is a warm day.  I could move to somewhere less in the line of fire (or waves), but suddenly I am that child again.  I am having a great time. 

After 1.5 hours we arrive back in Clovelly.  My friends probably are not as enthusiastic about the day as me, but they don’t show it.  They really have proven they are great friends today.

We walk back through Clovelly itself to the car park just as the rain starts.

When back at our apartments it is a quick shower and change before heading down to the seafront for fish and chips. As we call for our friends in their apartment, I realise surprise number 2. Another fabulous birthday cake. This one has red shoes, a handbag and bottle of bubbly on it. So me! More bubbles flow. I really have been spoilt.

The sun is back out, so we sit on a bench eating our chips and taking in the surroundings before heading back to the apartment.

We return to our apartment for more drinks, some of that amazing birthday cake, and a game of Mr & Mrs.  If you have never played this, you should.  It is hilarious.  My hubby and I always lose, as hubby is useless at answering the questions, even after nearly 12 years together!

It is time to draw the day to a close!  It was everything I hoped for and more.

Tomorrow we head home.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday weekend.  I have my 6 friends and hubby to thank for that. 

See the day here on my Youtube Channel: –

If you ever get a chance to visit the island you should.

It is here! I’m finally 50!

The day has finally come!  I am now officially 50.  I’m oddly excited about today.  Yesterday was a great start to my celebrations.  The day was just as I had hoped with the glorious sunshine, sea views and great friends.

I’m up really early.  I’m like a little kid again. I can’t sleep with excitement.  It isn’t like I’m waiting for my presents as my hubby has already given me that.  It is just that I don’t want to waste a moment.

I look out of the patio windows from our bedroom and can see the sea.  It is lovely and calm.  Outside I can her the seagulls.  It is such a perfect day.

Hubby makes me a cup of tea and I sit on the balcony taking in the views.  It is really peaceful here.  I’m soon ushered into the shower!  Hubby and my friends are up to something!

As I walk back into the room, I notice they have now put up a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner along with a ‘50’ birthday balloon and decoration.  My friends hand me cards and presents.  A trip to Kew Gardens.  I have always wanted to go so I am so excited.

My friends kick me out the kitchen while they cook me breakfast.  I’m such a control freak when it comes to cooking so this is hard.  Mind you, my friend is too, so she certainly gives me a run for my money!  I don’t mind though as it is my birthday.  I am happy to be spoilt.  It isn’t every day you turn 50!

After a delicious cooked breakfast, we decide on the day’s agenda. It is another glorious day, so we don’t want to waste a moment of it.  We decide to go to Croyde Bay.  I used to stay there as a kid with my parents for our summer holiday.  We would camp in our big orange 3-bedroom tent.  I remember there was a children’s club on site which we used to go to.   I absolutely loved it there.  The camp site was just opposite the beach, so we almost rolled out of our tent onto the beach.  It never seemed to rain for the whole 2 weeks.

It has all changed now.  It looks all modern and probably a lot more expensive than 50 years ago.  We didn’t go in this time as we had parked on the opposite side of the beach.  The tide was out so there was a large expanse of sand to enjoy.

The rocks were full of muscles.  This is where I got my love for them from.  They are too small to eat now, but one day there will be a massive crop.  In Dubrovnik, I ate them every day.

Lifeguards now patrol the beach.  They look like they should be in Baywatch.  I don’t remember that in my childhood either.  The sea is now full of people body boarding.  In my day it was just dinghy’s.  We had one which mum and dad would take us out in every day.  Mum would pack a picnic of crusty bread with cheese or ham, and squash.  I don’t remember if there was cake or crisps, but I certainly remember the crusty bread!

We would sit amongst the sand dunes with our windbreaker.  They were hot and the sand so light.  I loved running up and down them.  Now at 50 I’m more of a gentle stroller!   Hubby and I had a lovely walk amongst the rocks and across the beach.  I was feeling so nostalgic, but very happy.

We had brought my stepdaughters body board with us.  I have to confess I had never done it before.  Oh well, there is a first time for everything.  While hubby watched the belongings, I joined my friends in the sea!  When you first get in, it takes your breath away, but as soon as you get fully wet it was actually nice and warm.  Mind you, maybe a strapless swimsuit was not the most appropriate swimwear to be wearing!

Ok, I am never going to win prizes for body boarding, but I had a great time.

After a few hours we headed back to the car.  In the carpark there was an icecream stall.  Well it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? These were Judes icecreams.  I have never heard of them before, but they were amazing. I may keep my eye out for them again.

Our other friends were coming down that day to join us for my birthday celebrations.  We were not sure what time they would arrive but decided to head back towards the apartment.  If they were near, they could come and join us.

Yesterday when we were in Bideford, we found an old ship that was now a bar.  This seemed the perfect place to go and have a drink on my birthday.  The weather had been great all day, so we sat on the deck enjoying the views.

We hadn’t heard from our friends so headed back to the apartment anyway to shower and get ready for the evening.  Again, I was ushered into the shower.  They really are sneaky folks my hubby and friends!

As I came back into the room, I was greeted by a beautiful chocolate cake with candles, and the obligatory ‘happy birthday’ song!  They were really spoiling me.  The cake had been made by the lady who looks after my dogs for me and was absolutely amazing in looks and taste.

It was time for champagne!  Well it is my 50th you know!

My other friends are sadly held up on the M5.  It is going to be touch and go if they make it in time for dinner.  I keep everything crossed.

Thankfully I get a message to say they are not far away.  It’s going to be tight for them to get into their apartment, showered and changed, but they can just about do it.  As they arrive, I greet them with cold beers and bubbles. It’s the least I can do.  In return they hand me champagne – well what else – and a present!   A voucher for me to choose an experience.  I haven’t had time to look at it yet, but I can’t wait to see what delights await me.

We all head off to the restaurant.  We go ahead to secure the table and to take the pressure off them a bit.  We are eating at Moran’s on the seafront.  It is the same place we had cocktails last night!

The food is delicious and the company great.  This is just the birthday I wanted.

Check out my video of the day on my YouTube channel: –

We head back to the apartment for some more drinks before it is time to draw the day to a close.

This has been an amazing birthday.   Everything I had dreamed of.  I have my friends and hubby to thank for that.  Tomorrow I am reliving another birthday from years ago!

Day 1 of my 50th Birthday Celebrations

It is official, I am now 50 years of age!

The celebrations started with a lovely meal out with my hubby at a local restaurant – Baraset Barn.  The food there is amazing and the converted barn cosy, with a lovely atmosphere.

Thursday morning we were up early to head down to Devon to really start the celebrations.  We have booked 2 apartments in Westwood Hoe for 8 of us.  Hubby and I and 2 of our friends were starting on Thursday with the rest on Friday.

The weather was absolutely beautiful.  As we couldn’t get into our apartment until 4 pm we decided to detour to Bideford.  A quick stop off at Morrisons to get some supplies and lunch, we then headed to the sea front to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch.  It was so beautiful.  We then took a walk along the sea front.  I say sea, but it is actually an estuary taking you out to sea. 

I recorded the day on my Youtube video here:

The apartment was ready a little earlier than expected so we decided to go and check it out.

It was just off the seafront in Westward Ho.  I had upgraded to the Premier Apartment at Westbeach Resort.  I wanted to wake up looking at the ocean on my birthday, so this was the best way to guarantee that.  I am so glad I did.  Our view was beautiful.  We were looking right out across the sea.

The apartment itself was very modern.  2 bedrooms – 1 double – 1 twin, a nice bathroom with bath and rainfall shower, plus a kitchen which was fitted with fridge, freezer, oven and microwave.  Even a proper coffee machine.

I quickly unpacked. Our friends were on route, and after a long journey down, I promised to get a cold beer and G&T ready for them.

When they arrived, we sat on the balcony enjoying our drinks.  It was such a gorgeous day so we decided to go and explore Westward Ho.

It only took us minutes to be on the seafront.  There were plenty of restaurants, bars and shops along the main promenade.  It was very clean and tidy, with a lawned area, childens play area and a large array of planted borders.  The tide was in, so you couldn’t see the sandy beach sadly.

After a walk around we decided to have a drink in Morans, an Asian restaurant that we had booked for the next night, for my actual birthday.  We sat outside drinking cocktails and beer with prawn crackers!  Well it would be rude not to!

Next door was a great fish and chip shop!  As we were at the seaside it was the obvious place to go for dinner!  A brass band was setting up outside, so we sat on a bench eating our fish and chips listening to the music.  It was such a lovely evening.

We headed back to our apartment and sat on the balcony enjoying a few drinks. Slimline wine for me. It was a clear warm evening as we sat watching the sun set over the ocean. What a magical way to start my birthday celebrations.

Tomorrow is the big day!

Stay tuned to see what happened next.  I will also be publishing the weekend on my Youtube channel so don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.

1969 was a great year!

1969 was a great year for many reasons in particular:

  • Richard Nixon became the 37th president of the USA.
  • The Beatles gave their last public performance.
  • Boeing 747 became the largest aircraft and made its first commercial flight.
  • Concorde took its first test flight.
  • Sir Wally Herbert reaches the North Pole and becomes the first man to cross the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean.
  • Judy Garland died.
  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
  • The halfpenny ceased to be legal tender.
  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC One for the first time.
  • Lundy Island was given over to the National Trust.

Oh, and not forgetting another important event!  At 2.15 pm on 2 August a baby girl weighing in at 8.12lb came into the world!  She was longer than the average baby, but then she always like to be different!

Yes of course that girl was me.  I cannot believe that I have been around now for 50 years.  It feels so old, but time seems to have flown by.  It isn’t until you stop and look back on your life that the reality really hits you.    If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am actually ok about being 50.  I’m in a really good place in my life, and even though life throws me curve balls, I know with my hubby, together we will get through it.

I’m celebrating the day with some of my closest friends.  We are off to Devon to relive probably one of my only real memories of my birthday as a child.  When I say I don’t remember any others, it isn’t because I didn’t have a good childhood.  Far from it.  I had 2 of the best parents ever.

As my birthday falls in August, we were always on holiday, so the day tended to blend into the holiday more.  Mum always got me a cake with candles on and they made a fuss of me, but could I tell you what else I did, then no.  That was except for 1 very particular birthday.

We were in Devon and out to Ilfracombe for the day.  There was a boat in the harbour, so Dad suggested we go have a look around it.  What I didn’t know was that mum and dad had booked a trip to Lundy Island as a surprise for my birthday.  That day has stayed with me forever.  Not least because my parents won’t let me forget it!  Not because of the Island, or the treat.  Oh no!  It is because as a very confident child, I wouldn’t allow anyone to help me board the boat!  Splash – I was in the water!  Yep that was me.  Miss accident prone!  As we didn’t have any spare clothes with me, I just had to dry off.  Thankfully it was a warm day.

On the way back, when offered help, I declined again.  I wasn’t going to fall in twice was I?  Oh no of course I wasn’t!! Splash – yes in I went again!!  My parents love retelling that story to whoever will hear it!  Along with a few more incidents such as my zip line experience, which I won’t go into today, but still have the scars! 

Despite that, I have such happy memories of that day.  The excitement of being on a boat for the first time.  Seeing the birds and looking around the Island was so special.  It seemed only right then that for my 50th I should go back and revisit the Island.  Plus with it being 50 years under National Trust it seemed meant to be.  I refuse this time though to fall in, so if help is offered, I intend to take it.

Sadly, I couldn’t get a boat actually on my birthday, so we are going the next day.  I don’t mind because the whole weekend is my birthday.  Well it isn’t everyday you turn 50 is it!  I’m going to be milking it.

We have our own boat.  Not the normal ferry.  I have been liaising with Colin from Lundy Charters.  We are going from Clovelly this time, which is apparently closer than from Ilfracombe.  I am hoping to see Puffins, seals and dolphins, so will have my camera at the ready.  I’m just hoping the sea is calm after the night before!  We have a Thai Restaurant booked and no doubt there will be lots of bubbles involved!

We are starting the celebrations off tonight with a meal out.  Just me and hubby.   The question is, do I open his present and card tonight or take it with me?  I’ve said I don’t know.  I will have to decide later, I think.

We then head to Westward Ho for 3 nights with friends.  My babies are staying at home as they don’t allow dogs on Lundy Island.  I will miss them dearly, but they will be well looked after.

I don’t know what else we will be doing over the next few days.  That is what makes it fun.  Maybe fish and chips on the seafront.  Our apartment overlooks the sea, so I’m excited to be able to wake up on my birthday looking at the ocean.  Hubby doesn’t know it yet, but I will be expecting a cup of tea made of course by him, while I sit on the balcony admiring the view.

There are 8 of us in total, so whatever we do, I know it will be a good laugh.

Over the 50 years, I have learnt that if you have good family and friends, everything else isn’t as important.  I’m the happiest I have ever been.  I don’t know what the future will bring.  I’m living for today.  What I do know is that I have some amazing people around me.  I feel the luckiest person alive to have my hubby, my fabulous parents and family.  I have some great friends.  Every one of them is different, but that is what makes them special.

I’m actually really excited about the weekend.  I’m sad my parents won’t be there to spend it with me, but I will call them on the day.  I never miss speaking to them on my birthday.  They are amazing parents and love them dearly.  No doubt I will be calling them a few times of the weekend.  I know they will be waiting to hear if I made it on the boat and back without falling in! 

So, I am embracing 50.  I am thankfully for the memories I have already made, and looking forward to the new ones I will make in the future.

My advice is, don’t worry about the little things.  Treasure those that are close to you and live life to the full.  I’ve made mistakes over the last 50 years, but I don’t regret them. If I hadn’t lived the life I had, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

When the train causes the strain!

I absolutely love it when that big yellow thing in the sky appears.  You can’t beat the feeling when you step outside and you don’t need your coat!  Even at 5 am!  For me though, it is also bittersweet!

Take this week.  Whilst I am cheering on one hand that the weather has finally improved.  That we can use our braai every night for dinner, sit outside until late at night drinking a nice cold glass of wine, or even just be able to keep the patio doors open so the dogs can run in and out.  On the other hand, it means the inevitable chaos that is our public transportsystem.

If you read my blogs regularly, you will know that I commute 3 hours a day for work.  Most of that is by train.  It is never a dull moment on the trains here in the UK.  It is either too hot, too cold, too wet, too many leaves, not enough drivers, not enough carriages, the list goes on!

Twice this week I have had the journey from hell.  I’m going to save the best until last!

So yesterday saw the second highest temperatures recorded in the UK.  Our weather station at home recorded a maximum high of 36.3 degrees, so it was a hot one!  The BBC news in the morning warned of the potential for chaos on the railways so we were prepared.  Apparently as the track heats up it expands, which can cause the track to buckle!  Now I get that, but what I don’t get is how countries with hot climates cope!  Surely, we should have built our railways to cope with all types of weather.  Apparently not!

From around lunchtime, we are all checking our phones to see what is happening with our trains.  When I come back from lunch, a colleague warns me to check my line.  It is cancellations after cancellations.  He has taken the wise decision to take some leave and go early.  I decide to hold out! 

As the afternoon continues it becomes evident that we are not going to be going home on our usual route tonight.  After a quick check, I notice a train is due to leave another station going in the direction of my parents.  It means leaving work 30 minutes earlier, but I feel we have no choice.

Hubby and I quickly walk to the other station. It is uphill and the heat is intense.  We arrive with seconds to spare!  We are so grateful for the staff who hand us both a bottle of water as we get to the station.  The train should be 4 carriages but today only 2.  We are like sardines.  The heat is intense, and I can feel beads of sweat pouring down my face.  I’d be embarrassed if it wasn’t for the fact that everyone else on the train is looking just like me!  Obviously, I’m standing which makes it worse!

Thankfully the train journey isn’t too long, only 35 minutes.  I am so happy to finally get off and get some fresh if not hot air!  My dad is waiting for us.  Thank heaven for dads!  He is going to drive us home so we can collect hubby car, then drive back to our station to get my car!   It is all very long winded, but when I look at my phone, I am relieved we took that decision.  It’s 8 pm and so far, no train have left to go to our station.

It may have taken 3 hours to get home, but we are home!

Now, let me take you back a few days earlier to the worst day ever in my commuting history!

Tuesday was another hot day.  Not the hottest but still hot!  I left work in preparation to get my train.  There was no indication that there were any problems.

As I arrive at the station, I check the boards.  My train is due in on Platform 4, so I head down to it.  I am then told by a member of staff that it is now coming into Platform 7.  I grumble and head off to platform 7. The train is already late, I’m hot and I just want to get home!

When I arrive at 7, I am told that the platform change was a mistake and it is still coming in on 4.  I turn around and head back to 4.  I’m then told it is coming in on platform 1!  So,another trip up to 1.  When I get to 1 I’m told no, I need to go to 3.  By this time, I am not very happy to say the least.  I get to 3 and am told its back on 1.  Off I go again, to be told it is on 5.  Oh, no, we think it’s 6.  I arrive at 6 again to be told it is definitely coming in on platform 2a!  I get to 2a as the announcer says platform 4, but thankfully says she is sorry that was a mistake it is coming in on 2a.  

We are all waiting on 2a.  It’s very crowded and hot.  It is now almost an hour since I arrived for my train!

They then announce the train is actually waiting on platform 2b!  We all have to quickly try and get through the crowds to get to the other side of the platform.  This is really testing me now!

As I get on, I grab the first available seat.  I’m so grateful for it.  The train fills up and I now have a man’s crotch in my face.  Lovely!  The train then sits there for half an hour whilethey try to find a driver!  It is so hot, and I am extremely dehydrated by this point.

Finally, the train moves, and I head home.  What should have been 1.5 hour journey home is now 3 hours!  I’m hot, sweaty and tired.   I have the most amazing hubby ever though.  As I finally walked through the door, he handed me a lovely glass of Slimline Wine.  Just what I needed.  He had also prepared the food for the braai, so all I had to do was shower, sit in the garden with my wine and relax!

Now they say, ‘let the train take the strain’, but in my experience it is the train that courses the strain!

I’m definitely not a fan of public transport.  I appreciate we need to try and use it to save the planet, but when you have days like this, you really have to question if it is worth it!

Thankfully tomorrow is Saturday, and I do not intend to go near a train for the rest of the week!  Have a good weekend!

 

How am I doing on my 50 things to do in my 50th year list?

Do you remember at the beginning of the year I decided to write a list of all the things I would like to achieve during my 50th year?  Well we are now officially half way through that year.  Where has all that time gone? 

How have I done so far?  Below is my update:-

1)  Travel to China

 Still on schedule to achieve.

2)Visit Croatia

We went as planned in May and oh wow!  How amazing.  Following where we went on my YouTube channel

I still have my last day to publish – but it is worth waiting for!

3)  Weekend away in a VW Campervan 

Still not on my radar!!


4) Re-visit Lundy Island

Well after a tricky time sorting out a boat, this trip is scheduled to happen and I can’t wait!

5)    Eat at a Michelin star restaurant

Still not happened!

6)   Bake with Paul Hollywood

Sadly Paul hasn’t popped over to help me in the kitchen yet!

7)  Be my own boss

I’m still searching for that ‘ah ha’ moment that will make me rich!!

8)   Buy a new car with the registration of the year I was born

It is still a few months away before the 69 plate is out. Sadly by bank balance isn’t matching this wish yet, but you never know!

9)    Get at least 1000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel

I’m at 149 at the moment so a few more to go!

10) Take a hot air balloon over my home town

Still need to do!

11) Have a weekend away with my parents

Sadly this hasn’t happened yet, but I hope to make it come true!

12) Fly first class

@Emirates – can you help me with this one when I fly with you to China in August? Pretty please!!

13) Complete a successful ‘Dry January’

Woo hoo!  I absolutely smashed this.

14) Walk 5,000,000 steps in 2019

As I am still half way through the year, I have time to complete this!

15) Learn to crochet

I think this is for a winters evening don’t you!!

16) Visit Stonehenge

I made this happen in March this year and loved it!

https://youtu.be/j9PDDkP5dg8

17) Swim with dolphins

Not sure if this will happen, unless they appear in Lundy!

18) Run 10k

This was always going to be a tough one!

19) Learn to decorate a cake with icing

Oh wow, I forgot about this one.  Work had a festival week and one of the sessions was about Cake decorating!  I’ve done it without even realising!

https://youtu.be/yOTVetHzo5Y

20)Learn to ballroom dance with Anton De Beke

Well I haven’t danced with @antondebeke but I did get to meet him at @thismorning Live this year.   He is still a delight to spend time with!

https://youtu.be/Qln3XrVmjgI

21)Be on the panel of Loose Women

I’m still waiting @LooseWomen

22) Own a designer handbag

Maybe I’ll get one for my birthday!  Hint hint

23) Replace my greenhouse

Oh it is looking pretty sad at the moment so I think this may need to happen soon!

24) Reduce my daily commute to work

I’m still having fun with the trains!!  At least the morning commute has changed thanks to 4 extra carriages, which means I mostly get a seat now!

25) Teach Lola to walk off a lead

Yer right!  Hmm, not sure this is not going to happen!

26) Teach Fido to not bark at the door

We have been trying very hard!  I’ve now applied to the programme ‘Dogs Behaving Very Badly’ for help!  Fingers crossed!

27) Teach Fido not to bark at noises

As above!  Eek!

28) Have 5 minutes of fame on T.V. – preferably on This Morning

I’m still waiting for them to snap me up lol!!  I did get to meet Ruth and Eamon at the @thismorning Live at the NEC in Birmingham.  Eamon even had his hand on my knee!!  Lol!  They were such a lovely couple!

29)Go to see a musical at least once in 2019

Still to do, but we are in London very soon so who knows!

30) Go to a music festival or concert at least once in 2019

No happened yet, but the summer isn’t over yet!

31) Write a blog at least once a week

I’m smashing this with 2 – 3 some weeks!

32) Improve my photography skills

I’ve not had chance much to take many photos but when I have, I’ve really tried to be creative.

33) Clean out the garage

Don’t tell my hubby but, nah, not yet!  I will though promise!

34) Help raise awareness of homelessness

I’m still promoting this.

35) Help out someone at least once a month

Ooh now I really have to think about this one.  I think I have, but I could do more!

36) Have a professional make over

Still need to sort this one out!

37) Have a ‘hot’ Christmas

This may not happen this year, but one day!

38) Remember friends and family’s birthdays

I’m doing better.  I could be a bit quicker poster but it is an improvement.

39) Be surprised

Not yet!! 

40) Have dinner out once a month

We have done this and it has been really nice to have someone cook for me.  It hasn’t had to be posh, but good food.

41) Take an hour out a week for ‘me time’

I’m trying but some weeks are just so busy.

42) Get 8 hours of sleep a night as much as possible

I’m totally failing this one.  Only 6-7 hours a night at the moment. 

43) Drink more water and less diet coke

Right now I am drinking a litre of squash!  I’m trying!

44) Have a girls night out at least once every 3 months

I’ve just about done this, but I really need a few more!

45) Have a date night with hubby at least once every 3 months

I think we have done this – yes, definitely.  It is good to spend quality time together.

46) Take a canal trip

Well I did say a trip not a holiday so does the 30 minute trip with work count?

47) Go to see Wasps at least 3 times during the year

We have been once but will go more later in the year – promise.

48) Learn the rules to Rugby

Oops!  I really must talk to hubby!

49) Take up a new hobby

I just need to find the time!!

50) Keep in touch more with family and friends who live away

Facebook is great, but I really need to put some weekends away to see friends.  We have managed a couple of weekends this year, but we should do more!

So, there have been some things ticked off, I really need to start doing a few more!  I will keep you posted!!

When you take flexible syns too far!

Ok, confession time!

If you follow my vlogs you will know that after 4 weeks of maintaining the same weight, I decided to do a week of Extra Easy SP on Slimming World.

For those who don’t know, EESP is a way to give your weightloss a kick start. You focus on foods that are classed as ‘Speed’ – your body burns the calories quicker, or ‘Protein’ which keeps you fuller for longer!

Basically, you don’t eat potatoes, pasta, rice, bananas, grapes and anything else that isn’t classed as speed or protein.

For me, I only had a few pounds to get within my target range. My motivation to get there isn’t what it used to be as everyone I know, including my hubby, parents and friends didn’t like me at my target range. They said I looked too thin. I don’t agree, so still strive to get there. I’m also not going to drop a dress size if I get back down to my target range!

So I embarked on an EESP week. I had originally planned to just have a normal ‘on plan’ day on the Sunday, as I really enjoy my Sunday roast, which includes the roast potatoes, but the other 6 days, I would be strict!

Every day, you are entitled to have up to 10 syns. As I usually don’t really have my syns, this wasn’t going to be a problem!

I was extremely good all week. I kept to my EESP plan every day. I recorded in on my vlog as an added incentive.

Follow my week here:

Come the weekend, I usually enjoy a glass of wine! I decided I would use my syns for this on Slim Zero wine. At only 3.5 syns for 125 ml, I could have 357 ml of wine each day. To make sure I didn’t go over, I weighed out my wine! Yes you heard me right, I weighed out my wine!

Come Sunday, I was so focused, I decided I didn’t need my roast potatoes. One week without them wouldn’t hurt. The feeling of getting to my target range was more important, so it was roast butternut for me instead!

I went to the gym everyday, and walked the dogs twice a day to make sure I had plenty of body magic!

Come Wednesday for my weigh in, I was soooo excited as I stepped on the scales.

I cannot begin to describe how I felt when I looked at the number in front of me! 1lb off! 1lb off! I couldn’t believe it. All that effort, commitment and focus for 1lb off! I was gutted.

Now, I don’t know why I was so surprised. Historically EESP hasn’t never been great for me. The norm is that the following week I see a greater loss. I’m not sure if it is because I work out so much that my body craves the carbs or what it is, but the following week is always better. What I should have done is kept this in my head and gone home refocused. Instead, I went home extremely deflated and just lost my way!

I decided to have a glass of wine with my dinner. That is ok on SW as you can normally have 15 syns a day! I should have gone for my Slim Zero wine? Or measured it out! But no, instead I poured myself a very large glass of normal white wine. With 10 syns for 250 ml, the second glass definately wasn’t on plan and so neither was the chocolate I ate!

The next day was no better! Don’t get me wrong, all my meals were planned and in plan! It was the biscuit here and there, and the large glass of wine with my meal that weren’t! Come Friday, we decided to go to the Fish and Chip shop for dinner! Normally this isn’t an issue as I would have chicken meat and salad! Not this Friday! Oh no. It was chicken meat, salad and a small portion of chips. Now that in itself would have been ok, if I hadn’t then had a bottle of full sugar wine and some more chocolate!

Saturday I woke up with good intentions again! It was all going so well, until the crisps came out as nibbles! Initially I went for the baked ones – well they are healthier, but as the evening started I hit the full fat ones. On a good note, I was drinking slim wine, just too much of it to be in my syns! Then my hubby got the biscuits out! That was Saturday completely out of my syns!

Sunday was Mothers Day. I had booked to take my parents out for a meal. It was a set meal and normally this wouldn’t be a problem as I would ask the pub to change it for me. Not Sunday, I went full on! Starter was ok as it was scallops. Main was turkey roast with all the trimmings, including pinching a couple of my dads onion rings! The final course was a cheese board which was huge! All enjoyed with a bottle of white wine.

When we got home, a further bottle was enjoyed!

By Monday I decided to draw a line. I had stepped on my scales and seen the damage! I was putting a stop to this!

As usual, I had planned my meals and they were all on plan!

For days now I had been craving Jammie Dodgers. Now I really had to have them! So on the way home, I called into Tesco and grabbed a packet! My hubby and I shared them on the train journey home!

By the time I got home something clicked. If I had actually given in to my craving last week when I wanted the Jammie Dodgers maybe I wouldn’t have gone so far off the rails! Maybe, if I had stayed within my syns, my weight would have come down. Maybe, I needed to remember why I am doing this!

I decided there and then enough was enough! I had to get my syns back under control!

It is a bit late for this weeks weigh in, but you have to start somewhere!

I’m know I am going to get a gain this week and I completely deserve it! I am going to buy a 6 week plan and give myself a strict target each week.

I know I can do this, and I will.

Sometimes, when you don’t have the same motivation and drive it is hard, but with a little bit of commitment you can. I’m going to ignore everyone telling me I don’t need to lose anymore, or I look good as I am. I know I won’t go down another dress size when I’m at my chosen weight, but I know how much better I will feel, and that is the most important thing!

So whatever you goal is, don’t let others sabotage it. They may not mean to, but mentally it can effect you! As does a bad week on the scales!

Take a step back, focus on what you want and put in place everything you can to help you get there!

Next week is another week!

And then it was Friday!

Another week has flown by! I can’t believe it’s Friday already! So much has happened in just a few days!

Technically for us it was only a 4 day week as we took Monday off. If you read my previous blog you will know we spent the weekend in Gloucester. As we hadn’t had a break for 6 months, I really needed to charge my batteries!

So on Monday, we decided to extend our weekend and head to Stonehenge for the day!

I can’t believe I’ve never been before. It’s only a couple of hours drive away. It’s also free if you belong to English Heritage, which we do, so there has really been no excuse.

The weather was on our side! It was a beautiful spring day. Don’t get me wrong, it was blooming cold and windy, but the sun was out.

When you drive to Stonehenge you may be surprised to see it from the road. Well I was! It was just like the first time I saw the pyramids in Cairo.

I had visions of them being in a remote area. Next to a busy road was not what I expected!

Although it is free to enter for us, you still have to book a slot. This is such a good idea as it limits the crowds.

Once you collect your tickets, you can go into their visitor centre which tells you all about the history of Stonehenge. English Heritage are really good at giving you information in the form of audio equipment. Sadly, in the excitement we forgot to get ours! It didn’t matter though, there was still a lot of information about.

Next you get to walk around a replica village. I was a bit disappointed here as only one little house was open for you to view! This meant everyone was focused on the one building rather than spreading it around.

Next you board a shuttle bus that takes you to the stones. They run every few minutes, so it’s all relaxed! You can walk it if you like, but as I said, it was a tad chilly!

Nowadays you can’t get very close to the stones. I can’t believe people used to try and damage them!

There is a good footpath around so you get a great 360 degree view of the stones. With the sun out and perfect blue skies, our cameras were busy!

If you go, look out for what is left of the old road next to the stones! Being so close, I can see why they moved it!

Here is an account of our day.

It was such a lovely day we decided to call into Bourton-on-the-Water for a very late lunch.

One of the benefits of going to tourist places this time of the year is that you miss the crowds.

We only had 1 extra day off, but I felt like I’d really had a good relaxing break!

Tuesday was back to work. Boo hoo! We live in hope to one day win the lottery so we can both travel more! It probably won’t happen, but you have to have a dream!

Have a great weekend!

Dr Foster Went To Gloucester

That line had been going around in my head all weekend! My hubby and I were in Gloucester for one of our date weekends. It was driving me mad, so I decided to look it up on Google! And there it was! A nursery rhyme from my childhood:

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester,
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

Thankfully for us, the weather was dry. It was quite cold, but the sun was out. In fact, I would go as far to say, a perfect spring weekend.

It got me thinking though, how the nursery rhyme came about. I have a fascination with these things, as well as phrases and words. I decided to research the nursery rhyme a bit more!

There are many stories about how it came about, but my favourite is about King Edward I. He apparently was travelling to Gloucester on his horse, when he fell off into a puddle, and refused to go back there again!

I have to say to most, Gloucester wouldn’t be many peoples first choice of a destination for a date weekend. It certainly wasn’t mine, but when my hubby suggested it, I thought, why not!

I couldn’t remember ever going to Gloucester in the past, so it would be a new experience. Also, the whole purpose of a date weekend is to spend time with hubby relaxing, seeing new things.

We had heard that the Quays and Cathedral were both worth a visit, we love photography and exploring, so we set a date in the diary.

I went to my trusty website – Booking.Com, to see what hotels were available. Initially, we wanted to stay near the Quays, so we could go out in the evening for a nice meal and drinks. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that was either still available, in our budget or nice.

I did see a beautiful old hotel called the New Inn which was in the centre, unfortunately, it didn’t have parking on site. Check out my Youtube video of our trip to see this hotel. It really is stunning. Another hotel kept popping up though! Hatton Court Hotel. It was a beautiful old manor house, about 10 minutes drive from Gloucester, with panoramic views of Malvern Hills and Gloucester. It looked perfect.

The rooms all looked lovely, but as this was our first break in 6 months, I decided to upgrade to the Junior suite to get a spa bath! My Youtube video doesn’t do the place justice!

With the dogs being looked after, on Saturday morning, we drove the 50 miles to Gloucester. We decided to head first to the Quays. Old warehouses were now converted to places to eat, drink and shop. Many of the top names had outlet stores there. Hubby and I are not shoppers so only did a very quick walk through the shopping area, but if shopping is your thing, I think you would really enjoy it.

The warehouses had been restored beautifully. Photography is our thing, and we were able to get some lovely pictures of not only the warehouses, but the docks too. It certainly was worth the visit. Some warehouses are still in need of a bit of love, but you can still see their beautiful and feel the history behind them.

It is so nice to think that this area has been preserved in such a way that its history can still live on with modern life.

If you have watched the recent Alice in Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass, with Johnny Depp, you may even recognise it!

We next headed to the Cathedral. As we walked up to it, it took my breath away. It was absolutely beautiful. We expected to have to pay to go inside, but was pleasantly surprised that the only charge was £3 to take photos.

The man in the shop selling the photo tickets was so lovely. Very warm and welcoming.

The Cathedral inside was magnificent. There was so much to see. There were rooms everywhere, plus a viewing balcony over the whole of the cathedral.

The Cathedral is the resting place of King Edward II but the king that never was! The son of William the Conqueror!

When you look at my Youtube video of the day, you may even recognise some of it from Harry Potter! I have to say, as I walked down the corridors, I was waiting for Harry to pop out of his invisible cape!

Mary Queen of Scotts, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who were also filmed there!

The stained glass windows are amazing. It is worth taking time to look at them in detail. They all tell some amazing stories. Some of my favourites are captured on my YouTube video for you.

The city itself is a city of 2 halves. There are a lot of modern/60’s buildings around, but every once in a while you will find a little gem! There are still some beautiful old pubs and buildings worth a visit.

I am glad now we went. It was certainly a memorable visit. If you are ever visiting the Cotswolds or Cheltenham, I would certainly say stop off there for a day visit.

The hotel for the evening – Hatton Court was beautiful. The views were to die for. Our room looked right out across the Malvern Hills. As I said above, I had upgraded us to the Junior Suite. At first I was a little disappointed as I was expecting a sofa and coffee table in the room. That was purely because of my own expectation, but when I got over that, the room was lovely.

If I had one criticism (except the sofa!!), it was that the bed needed to move to the opposite side of the room, so you could lie in bed looking out at the views across the Malvern Hills. That said, you still had nice views over a field.

The bed was sooooooooo comfortable and big. I don’t think I have ever slept in such a comfortable bed!

The Spa bath was definitely worth the upgrade. After a day of walking around, to relax with a glass of bubbly in the bath was divine!

We booked dinner in the restaurant. I have to say, that was outstanding too ! Service was second to none as was the food.

In the morning we went down to breakfast. There was a lovely array of cereals, pastries, fresh fruit and juices, plus a comprehensive hot menu to order.

The waitress was busy, so we told her not to worry when she apologised for a short wait in taking our order! Hubby and I were chilled after a fabulous day and evening, so were not in a rush.

After 45 minutes though we were a bit concerned. I asked the manager! Our slip had fallen off in the kitchen and been missed. They were so apologetic. I think we had 3 separate apologies in total. I don’t mind if things go wrong when you get this kind of service.

This hotel is certainly on my top 10 of UK hotels to visit. If you want to try it yourself, visit http://www.booking.com/s/42/mariaw59 to get £15 off your next booking.

So our date weekend to Gloucester was a huge success. Sometimes, the less obvious of places have the biggest surprises!

Check out my video to see what we did and saw. https://youtu.be/v7UUH6Stu58






Letter to my scales!

It is with deep regret that I find myself writing this letter!

We have been together for many years now! You have always been a trusted friend. We have seen some highs and lows. You have always been honest with me. You have never hidden the truth from me, regardless of how bad it has been!

You have ensured my clothes on a Wednesday don’t exceed 0.3kg! You have even made sure I have never exceeded my baggage allowance when I went on holiday!

We have fond memories of my puppies when we checked how much they were growing! It was lovely to see them grow week on week.

You have been such a huge part of my life.

It saddens me now that you have suddenly changed towards me! I don’t understand why! There seems to be no explanation!

I’m doing everything I can for you. I’m eating well, I’m going to the gym. I’ve even done dry January ! What more do you want from me!

I really don’t want us to part company but this attitude towards me has to change!

I hope this letter will clear the air between us.

I look forward to seeing the changes in you when I see you again soon!

Your ever hopeful friend

Xx

When the scales are not kind to you!

So, from 1 January I have been trying to shift a stone in weight, which I had put on last year.

I decided, as well as getting back fully into my healthy eating, I would also do dry January. Anyone who knows me, will know that I love my wine. Especially Slim Wine, and in particular their sparkling wine!

So when I suggested I would do dry January, everyone laughed, and said there was no way I would do it! Now if you know me, you never say things like that to me, because if you do, I will make sure I prove you wrong!

27 days into January, I am still going strong. Even an opened bottle of fizz in my fridge has not bothered me!

I honestly thought that not drinking alcohol would really help me lose that stone quickly! The plan was that I could lose 3.5lbs per week for the 4 weeks of January.

I started again writing what I was eating each day in my journal. I ensured I planned every meal. I have completely stayed on plan every day. I am allowed 15 syns a day with Slimming World, but gave myself a 12 syn allowance each day. Most days I have had less that 3 syns a day!

Everything was in place for a fantastic month.

The first week I lost 3.5lbs Woo hoo. I then went down with the flu. This meant, that I went from planning to go to the gym 4 times a week and doing 17,000 steps a day, to doing only about 1500 steps!

On top of that, my asthma flared up! After a visit to the doctors, I was given steroids! That week I dreaded the scales, but was over the moon to see another 3.5lbs off! Happy days.

After 2 weeks off, I eventually returned to work. I had continued to eat so well, I was sure that now I had increased my walking, I would achieve the 3.5lb again if not more! I was so disappointed when the scales said only 1.5lbs!

I could easily have fallen off the wagon, but I didn’t. I have a goal in my head, and I want it more than anything.

When I started this journey, I measured myself. Today, I revisited those measurements. I may not have seen the scales moving in my favour, but the inches had. I was so pleased to see 1.75 inches off my bum and an inch off my waist.

Sometimes, you also need to look at the non scale victories to see how well you are doing.

I have 6 more days on dry January. I have 3 opportunities to go to the gym before month end!

I may not be at the target I want on 1 February, but I will certainly be closer to it than I was on 1 January.

So what ever you have to lose, whilst it is good to set yourself a goal, don’t give up if you don’t reach it when you planned to!

Our bodies are funny things! Sometimes, they take a bit longer to catch up with us.

I’m going to hit that target, I know I will. Why? Because I want it!

If you believe in yourself, anything is possible!

Watch my personal account of this week! https://youtu.be/UYYyPGo37kM

Wear your poppy with pride!

This Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the first world war.  It is hard for me to really imagine what it was like to live all those years ago, but one thing is for sure, every day, I am grateful for the sacrifice that was made back then.

The war began on 28 July 1914.

I remember when the Falklands War started on 2 April 1982. Argentina invaded the Falkland islands over who should own it.  It only lasted 74 days.  I was 13 at the time.  I had only really known about war from our history lessons and what I had read.  I remember feeling a bit scared of what it would mean.  Would my dad have to go off and fight?  Would our house get destroyed?   Everything was going through my head.  Thankfully for us, this war didn’t really impact on us day by day.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for WW1.  Back on that awful day in 1914, the lives of millions of people changed overnight and forever.

The war started because Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnan wife Sophie of Austria was assassinated.   Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary. The assassination was planned by a Serbian terrorist group, called The Black Hand.  The man who shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife was a Bosnian revolutionary named Gavrilo Princip.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, it triggered a chain of events that resulted in World War 1.  After the assassination, Austria-Hungary threatened war on Serbia. They set out some very high demands that Serbia must meet. Germany sided by Austria-Hungary, while Russia sided with the Serbians. At this point, Europe was at the brink of going to war.

One month after the assassination, on July 28 1914 ,Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia with the backing of Germany. Germany then declared war on Russia on August 1, and on France on August 3.

On August 4 1914, the German troops marched on France and the route they took went through Belgium. Since Britain had agreed to maintain the neutrality of Belgium, they immediately declared war on Germany.

British and Germany forces first fought at the Battle of Mons in Belgium. This was the first of many battles between Britain and Germany on the Western Front and is when World War 1 started for Britain.

There were 2 sides to the war.  The Triple Ententes (Allied Forces) which was us here in Britain, France, Ireland and Russia.  The other side was known as Central Powers which was Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Many of the countries involved in the first World War had problems with each other before the war, but when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed,  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Germany declared war on Russia and France not long after.  This followed more and more countries joining in the fight.

The United States didn’t get involved at first, but after a British passenger ship was sunk by a German submarine, killing 128 Americans, pressure from American citizens caused the US government to get involved.   The President at that time, Woodrow Wilson, wanted to avoid a bloody war, but the Germans declared that they would sink any ship that came to Britain.  Woodrow, had no option, but to enter the war to help Europe restore peace

In total 32 countries became involved in the war, including China, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Liberia, Romania and Portugal.

Over 65 million soldiers went to war.  Over 8 million of them never returning.  Another 21 million were injured.  Those that did return, must have seen and heard some horrific things in their time.  They would never come home the same person as they left!

Conscription

Britain soon realised that they couldn’t continue fighting with just the current voluntary recruits.

You may remember from your history books, Lord Kitchener’s campaign – promoted by his famous “Your Country Needs You” poster.  It was quite successful.  Many men were proud of their country and wanted to fight for it.  Over one million men had enlisted by January 1915.  But this was not enough.  We had already had many casualties.  More men were needed.

The government decided it had no choice.  It had to increase the numbers of soldiers.  The only way to do this was through conscription – compulsory active service.  Parliament was divided but they knew that the French army were suffering, they had no choice.

In January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. This forced conscription on all single men aged between 18 and 41, but exempted the anyone deemed medically unfit, clergymen, teachers and certain classes of industrial worker.

Men who refused to fight on moral grounds (Conscientious objectors), were also exempt, but were given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front.

A second Act passed in May 1916 extended conscription to married men.

Conscription was not applied to Ireland because of the 1916 Easter Rising however many Irishmen volunteered to fight.

Some boys even lied about their age, to be able to fight for King and Country.  The youngest British soldier was in fact only 12.    Sidney Lewis was one of 250,000 underage soldiers.   Sadly for some, it wasn’t always to have the privilege to fight for King and Country.  For some it was to escape their lives.  How desperate must they have been to feel this was their only option.

You can imagine, this was not popular with some people.  In April 1916, there were demonstrations in Trafalgar Square.  Many men initially didn’t go when they were called up.  In the first year though 1.1 million had enlisted.

The age limit was increased in 1918 to 51.  Even though the war ended in 1918, conscription continued until  1920.  In total, conscription increased the army by 2.4 million.

Can you imagine your father or brother coming home one day, and getting their paper to go to war?  They would have heard what was going on.  They knew that they were possibly going to their death.  As a wife or mother, watching your husband and sons leave, never knowing if they would return.  I’m emotional just thinking about it now.

They could of course write to each other.  In fact over 12 million letters were sent during the war.  Many men were away for many years.  Missing out on seeing their children grow up.  The letters and photos they were sent must have been so precious to them.

Thankfully for Britain, 9 out of 10 soldiers returned.  Sadly, when you know how many died, the same can’t be said for other countries.

Why did the War end?

Britain had blocked all the ports in Germany with its Naval boats.  Germans were starving as supplies couldn’t come through, and their economy was collapsing.  Protestors started asking for the war to end.  Pressure was falling on them.  Something had to change.

The emperor at the time, Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to step down on 9 November 2018.  2 days later, the leaders of both sides met at Compiegne in France.  Here they signed the peace armistice.

Although we celebrate the end of the war on 11 November at 11 am, when it was signed and the fighting stopped, the war didn’t officially end until 28 June 2019.  This was exactly 5 years after Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

It took 6 months to negotiate the peace treaty before the Treaty of Versailles was finalised.  In this, Germany had to accept full responsibility for starting the war.  They had to surrender their territories and colonies as well as reduce the size of its armies.

Why do we wear a poppy?

We wear a poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle.  It is said that the poppy was the first flower that grew on the battlefields after World War I ended. It is said that the red of the poppy, is from the blood that filled battlefields.

In the spring of 1915,  after losing his friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was so inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battlefields, he decided to write a poem – ‘In Flanders Fields’. This poem is now famous. Read it and see what you think.  It really captures the feeling, don’t you think?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

From then on, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

How should you wear it?  It varies, whoever you speak to!  Some say men should wear it on the left, and women on the right, like you would a badge or brooch. The Queen wears hers on the left, so maybe not! There are also many people who say that the leaf should point to 11 o’clock.   Whatever the correct way of wearing it is, the important thing is that we do wear it and know why!

You may not know those men who went off and fought for us, but if you dig around in your family history enough, you will find someone in your family that was effected.  Even if you don’t, those brave men fought so you could have the life you have today.

There have been many more wars since this one.  Many more have died because of War,  The poppy is to remember them all.

A couple of years ago I bought my husband a very special poppy from the British Legion.  It was made out of a bullet shell that had been found in the fields in France from the Somme.  With it came a certificate to commemorate a soldier who died.  We don’t know him.  It doesn’t matter.  He still died for us.

My husband wears it every year with pride.

We shall remember

From July to November 2004,  the Tower of London with covered in 888,246 ceramic poppies.  They were created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.  They were to remember the first full day of  Britain’s involvement in WW1.  Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was an emotional tribute to all that fought.  My hubby and I both bought one each so we can always look at them and remember.

As in many towns and cities, Warwick too have a display in the main church of St Mary’s.  All the poppies are hand knitted or crochet.  Its amazing how many hours have gone into this.  Some have been sent from countries across the world.  My hubby, stepdaughter and I went for a visit to see it recently.  A church seems the perfect place for it.   If you get a chance, please go and visit this or any other display.

At 11 am on Sunday their will be a 2 minute silence to remember all the fallen soldiers.  What ever you are doing at that time, stop!  Take 2 minutes out of your life to remember!  I always shed a tear.  Writing this blog has raised the same emotion!

Don’t let those brave men and women have died in vain.  Keep them alive in our hearts.  All of them!

Oh what a night!

Aaahhhh! Sometimes I get so frustrated ! Take the other night. What should have been a 10 minutes drive, turned into 2 hours in my car and not actually going anywhere!

So what happened ! Traffic happened !

I planned to go and visit my parents after working at home.  Between my house and theirs, is an island which leads you to a motorway, a bypass, and two other roads leading to Warwick and Stratford Upon Avon! There had been an accident northbound on the motorway at our junction, which brought the motorway to a standstill!

It’s amazing how much traffic a motorway takes. You only realise this when all those cars then try to find other routes to get to their destination!

Initially, I started off down my usual road.  As I said above, it should only take about 10 minutes, maybe 15 when its busy.  It involves 2 main roads, but they are usually moving!

I knew I was in trouble, when only minutes into my journey, I came to a standstill!  After about 15 minutes of not moving more than a few inches, I decided it might be a fabulous idea, to do a U-turn back into the village, and go up the back road!  Perfect!  Or so I thought!

What I hadn’t thought about, is that the thousand of cars that wanted to go northbound, had also left the motorway earlier on, and had used the same back roads!

An hour later, I was no further getting to my parents that I was when I left home!

Now, I am usually quite resilient.  Its the evening, so apart from cooking dinner, I’m not under a strict clock to get to my parents.  I say that, but then when you factor other drivers, that goes out of the window.

To help me through the boredom of sitting in a traffic, I decided to speak to my brother using my hands free phone.  We are not moving at this time.  We haven’t moved for a while.  Then for some unknown reason, I hear a car horn behind me!  Now, I don’t know if it was the direct car behind me, or the one behind him, but come on!  The car in front of me is only inches away from me.  The car in front of him the same, and so on.  What did they want us to do?   If that didn’t wind me up enough, 5 minutes later, they started doing it again!  I mean, what planet were they on?  The only way I or any other car could move, was to open the boot of the car in front and get in!

It’s time like this, I wish I was brave enough to get out of my car, and ask them, politely of course, what they feel hitting the horn was achieving!  The spot I am in, has views of the 3 roads ahead.  All of them are at a stand still too!  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out, that no-one is not moving just for fun!

At this point, by brother persuades me to turn around and head back home, which is actually a fabulous idea!

There is an island in front of me so I edge myself towards it.  I mean, I am now going to be going against the traffic.  In theory, I should be able to get around the island and do a U-turn.  Oh, that would be too easy!  It would actually mean someone would have to use their common sense.  Something, that once you get behind the wheel of your car, in a traffic jam, goes!

I’m at the Island.  Its taken me some time to get here, don’t get me wrong, but I am here!  Traffic is backed up, because the 3 roads off it are at a standstill.  The only exit that is free, is the one I want to go back up the road!

So I am there, i’m excited that I could soon be on a road which is moving!  That was short lived.  The car to my right on the Island is in the lane that wants to go to the exit that isn’t moving,  sees me and moves forward and blocks my entry onto the island!

Seriously, why would you do that!  I’m now stuck again! Great!

After some time, the traffic has moved enough for me to get through.  Yey! No!  The car to my left decides she is going to cut across me to get onto the motorway!  Thankfully, I’m going so slow, I can stop to prevent us from colliding!   I tell myself, it’s ok, she obviously wants to get out of the traffic too and is doing a U-turn, so taking this opportunity to do this!  I’m annoyed, but I get it!

That would be too simple wouldn’t it!

What actually happened is, she thought it would be a good way to get through the traffic onto the road she wanted, rather than sit in the correct lane.  She now realises, she can’t.  What she has now done, is stop anyone else getting around the island to escape this madness, including me!

So once again, I am stuck there until the traffic has moved enough to give me room to get by!  I was tempted to drive on the grass around the Island, but I thought better of it!

I decide to relax and stay calm!

Finally I am free!  I call my hubby and leave a message to say i’m coming back home.  I should home soon as I am now going against the traffic!

Happily, i’m singing along to the radio.  Then I see the car lights in front of me!  They are not moving!  Aaaah.  It seems every other car has decided to turn around!

Thankfully, there is no-one on the horn, or cutting me up!  I’m just sat there!

After 2 hours, I finally see my village.

I am now very stressed and frustrated.  Not because I have been in traffic.  I had my radio, had made some calls, and it had given me some time to have some thinking time.  Usually these are positives.  No, the reason I am stressed, is because I still can’t believe the behaviour of drivers!

I fully appreciate, that everyone has probably had a long day at work, and just want to get home.  The reality is, there has been an accident.  Someone at best has been hurt, at worst died!  They are healthy and safe in their cars! Getting road rage, or doing stupid things to get to your destination sooner that isn’t practical, isn’t going to help.

The next time  you are stuck in a jam, think about what you are doing, and the impact of others around you!  Everyone is in the same boat as you.  Use the time to reflect on your day, plan something, make calls to those people you have been promising to speak to (only if you can do so hands free though).

If you have children at home waiting for you to read them a story,  can you do it hands free over the phone.  I know you won’t have a book with you, just make it up!  Use the situation you are in to inspire you!

There is nothing you or anyone else can do to change the situation you are in.  Turn it into a positive.   You never know, you may feel better about the situation too!

Menopause

Today at a work away day, myself and other fellow managers attended a session on the subject of the Menopause!

Of all the subjects you would expect to be on the agenda, that certainly wasn’t one of them! It was quite funny seeing some of the men around the rooms expression, when they first saw it!

Being a women who was pre-menopausal from 45, and is now post menopausal, I was quite interested!

What was even more interesting, was the reaction of other ladies in the room! There were those of us in the room who absolutely could tell a few stories, in particular about the hot flushes, and those too young, but who were a little unsure or even nervous about it!

My husband is a manager for the same company, so for me it was a great opportunity to get him to fully understand why I need that fan on at night!

So who will suffer from the menopause?

The simple answer is any women!  Women from the age of 45-55 will start to experience the menopause.  The average age is about 51, but 1 in 100 women will get it before they reach 40.

The menopause is caused by a reduction of oestrogen in the body, and is a natural form of ageing!  Things such as cancer, radiation or chemotherapy, and hysterectomies can bring the symptoms on early.

You may have heard of women being ‘on the change’ in times gone by?  I suppose we are, as our bodies are changing!

Pre-menopausal

This is the first stage!  Its also known as perimenopausal, and is when the body starts producing less eostrogen.

Post Menopausal

You are classed as post menopausal, if you haven’t had a period for 12 months. This includes spotting, however light that may be!

So what are the symptoms?

Every women’s symptoms will vary, but below is a list of what you could expect:

  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of memory
  • Emotional
  • Anxiety
  • Heavy periods
  • Bloating
  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Cystitis
  • Low Mood

Symptoms can start months or even years before periods stop, and can last for 4-8 years.  Although it can last many years longer!  I have friends who have had hot flushes for well over 10 years!

Every women will have different degrees of symptoms.  Some of them so extreme, it will impact on their day to day life.

What can you do to help relieve the symptoms?

This will vary, depending on the severity and type of symptom!

For me, it has been the night sweats and hot flushes.   I need to sleep with the fan on! I’ve even been known to stand outside naked in the snow to cool off! Don’t worry I had no neighbours then!

I also wear layers, so I can strip off more easily!

Memory loss has also been a bit of a problem, but that has been in short spurts!  At one time, I thought I was having the start of dementia!  I now make sure I put everything in my diary.  I make lists and keep notes of important things.  Now I have learned to recognise what it is, I’m more relaxed.

I think its important to understand that every women will go through, in some shape or form the same as you, so don’t be afraid to laugh it off, or talk about it!

A good diet and exercise will also help you, but if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to discuss the symptoms with your doctor.  They may be able to prescribe HRT or offer other support.  Unfortunately, as I had breast cancer when I was 42, I am not able to have HRT, as it is believed to increase my chances of getting it again.  Don’t let that put you off talking to your doctor.  Everyone’s symptoms are different.  They will be able to give you lots of advice and tips.

I have even see recipes to help with symptoms.  I’ve never tried them myself, but I do know someone who has and felt that they worked for her.

So why did we have a session on it today at work?

It’s probably not what you would expect on an agenda, but I have to say, I was so pleased it was.  I don’t think I heard anyone (and there were over 100 managers there today) walk out of the session, with anything but praise for it.

It’s important in the work place for managers to recognise and support staff who may be going through the menopause!  If they are not confident to raise it with them, at least know who else could.

You could be a really solid member of staff, but if you are struggling to sleep due to night sweats, your concentration dips, or you are having any of the other symptoms, it could impact on your performance.  By dealing with it openly, reasonable adjustments can be made.

I hadn’t thought about it until today, but most women hit the menopause at the same time as they are at the peak of their careers.  When you have worked so hard to achieve success, it would be a shame to think, it would be impacted by something brought on by mother nature.

So if you know a women who is being different to normal, think about why that might be?  Talk to them and offer them support!  They will really thank you for it!

Be Kind!

Back in March this year, This Morning on ITV supported the ‘Be Kind’ campaign. It was targeted at children and parents to prevent bullying, and the sad consequences to their mental health !  In extreme situations even causing them to take their own lives.

With the use of the internet, it is far easier for people to bully others.  Most communication is carried out by email, text or social media.  You can now bully someone without seeing the direct consequences, or even caring.

Children often find it hard to know how to deal with bullies, or even tell them about it.  There are a lot of support groups out there now which help parents and teachers deal with this.  Its a terrible thought that we even have to consider this, but if we don’t tackle childhood bullying, it can lead to them continuing to bully others into their adulthood!

Lets first deal with What is a bully?

It’s someone who attempts to control another person through verbal abuse.  This can be the tone of their voice or the content such as teasing or threats.  Bullying can occur anywhere, in the workplace, school, home and clubs.  It can be carried out by anyone whatever their relationship with you.

Why do people bully?

There can be many reasons why people bully.  If you understand the reason behind it, it may help you deal with it.  The main reasons are:-

  1. The person may have been bullied before.
    Whilst this isn’t an excuse, if they have grown up with bullies, they may follow suit, as it is all that they have known.
  2. They are lonely.
    If they feel they are not important and have no-one in their lives, they may be seeking attention.
  3. They have personal problems.
    If they have personal problems this could impact on their own behaviours.  They may be more aggressive than usual.
  4. They have low self-esteem.
    What better way to make yourself feel better than to try and put someone else down!  Bullies with low self-esteem will try and find a weakness in someone.  They will fish to find what they think they can use against them.  Unfortunately, this can backfire if the victim is someone who is actually stronger!
  5. They are jealous.
    There can be many reasons for the jealousy, an ex has moved on, the victim is more successful or more popular than them, someones been promoted or even as simple as the car they drive.
  6. They are just arrogant and believe they are better than others.
    Some bullies just think they are better than everyone else, and can do what they like, treat people how they like and its ok.   Until they feel the consequence of their actions they will continue on the same path.
  7. They think they are impressing others.
    If you think back to the gang cultures, the bully is almost like a peacock.  They feel that by being a bully in front of others, it makes them more powerful and people will look up to them.  These are usual people who don’t have a lot else to offer so use this as a way of surrounding them with so called ‘friends’!
  8. They just see you as different.
    We are all different, but some people just don’t know how to handle this.  They will pick on this difference and try and use it against the other person.

So how do we deal with them?

In the workplace we are taught to challenge inappropriate behaviours, but how easy is this outside of work?

As I said above, bullies are trying to control another person.  Its all about power!  If you take away that control or power, they can’t bully you any longer!

I’m amazed at the lengths some bullies go to to try and find something to use as a potential weapon.  Turn that on its head!  How sad is it that someone has nothing else in their lives but to focus on you.  In fact it could be a compliment that they feel the need to dedicate so much time on you!

You don’t need to be the victim once you put their behaviour into that context.  Actual they are the victim.  To what, you may never know, only they will know why they feel the need to try and victimise another person.

I’ve listed some of the reasons above.  Sometimes the behaviour of the bully is just so far off the scale of normal that you really can’t be bothered to give them another thought.  This usually happens in isolated instances.

Last year we had a driver try to bully and intimidate us.  He had overtaken us on a blind bend with oncoming traffic.  My husband had to pull off the road and do an emergency stop.  The oncoming traffic were flashing lights too.  My husband also blew the horn.  While the driver was in the wrong, he felt the need to pent his aggression on us.  He did an emergency stop in front of us which almost caused another accident.  He then jumped out of the car and started getting aggressive at my husband.

It would have been so easy to rise to his behaviour.  Instead, I calmly informed him that his actions could have caused a serious accident.  I told him to get back into his car and move on.  When you put water on the fire, its amazing how little more the bully has to come back at you at.  I then took a picture of his car and reported it to the police.    If he had just continued on his journey we may have been annoyed at this lack of care on the road.  The fact that he stopped and did what he did then took it to another level!  By not rising to him and reporting him, we took back the control.

Obviously, when its long term bullying, that is more challenging.

If like me you are not from a background where you were exposed to bullying, when it first happens its a shock.  I was always brought up to respect others.  My father used to say ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything’.  That is not to say we were a push over.  Certainly not.  We were also brought up to talk to people with respect and dignity if there was a problem.  To not gossip behind others backs, or say things that are not true for your own ends.

In business they always say, look after those on your way up because you may need them on your way down.  This is so true.

I have come across people who gossip about others.  They take a half truth and twist it to make it sound something its not.  Its all about power and getting a reaction!  They then look around to see who is listening to them.  Often they assume others agree with them.  Often its not the case.  Others may just not want to get involved or question that person about it!

If you are a target of these bullies, think about what they are trying to achieve.  If its a reaction, don’t give it to them.  They can only continue if you give them reason to do it.  Don’t stoop to their level!  If they want to be nasty let them.  It will cause them more stress and unhappiness than you.

A bit of advice I was given once was, if you can look in the mirror and can honestly say you like the person you are, you can sleep at night knowing you have done the best for others and have caused no-one harm on purpose, then you have nothing to worry about.

I’m not saying the bully will have sleepless nights about their behaviour.   Some of them are just not built with the self awareness of what they are doing, or even care what harm they could potentially do.

Another piece of advice I was given is that if you can rise above the bully, you will come out as a stronger person, or in a stronger relationship etc.

Everyone in their life will experience a bully.  Just remember who you are, your values, and the truth.  You will eventually find their behaviour both sad and funny.  Once you get to that situation, they can keep trying new ways to get at you, but ultimately, they will fail as they have no control over you.

Remember the impact a bully will have on others around you too.  They may be targeting you, but their action could impact on someone close to you too.  Talk to them about the bullies actions, comments  and behaviours.  They may be uncomfortable too, but don’t know how to deal with it.

Bullies are very good as I said at taking a half truth and turning it around.  Those impacted may also be nervous about who to challenge.  Who do they believe?  How should they deal with it?  They may have many questions.

So next time you get a text, email or social media message that is attacking you, take a step back and consider it for what it is!   Don’t let it impact on you.  Bullies rely on causing emotional and mental destruction.  Don’t give in to them.  If it becomes unmanageable, then you can also raise it with the authorities.   This isn’t always possible especially when its in the home or work place, but by using some of my mechanisms above, whilst the person will continue to try and bully you, there will be no impact on you personally, unless its just to raise a smile at the persons latest attempt!

I’m a true believer in Karma!

And finally, don’t be a bully yourself.  Think about the consequence of your actions on others and how you would feel if you were in their shoes!

If you want to join the ITV This Morning ‘Be Kind’ pledge, you can do so at:

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Stay to Group

I’m ashamed to admit it but after reaching target last year, I lost the drive and motivation I had getting there!

To begin with, I would gain only a few pounds.  I thought it was fine, especially as my hubby felt that my target weight was  too low.  I stayed to group every week and tried to pull it back.  One week I would lose, the next week I would gain.

Then life just got really busy and stressful.  I found that I didn’t have the time to stay to group.  Working away, late trains, birthday meals etc,  meant that I would run in and weigh, then leave.  I thought just weighing in was enough.  I had been doing Slimming World for over a year.  I know what to do.  Why did I need to stay?  It won’t change what I am doing.  Oh how wrong I was!

As I said, I have been doing Slimming World for over a year so I know about free and speed food, syns, and my Healthy Extra’s!  I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and never cook in oil, eat the fat off meat or the skin on the chicken!  All said and done, my 3 main meals a day are on plan!  Ok lets think about this.  If all this is true, then why did I put over a stone back on?

The one main thing was breakfast.  Because I was always tired or in a rush, I stopped weighing my HEB’s!  I mean, we all know what 40 g of oats looks like don’t we?  I got complacent.  I thought I could guess how much I was having.  Then the other day, I went to put granola into a bowl.  There was hardly anything in the box left.  I was just about to pour it into my bowl when I thought out of interest I would weigh it!  It was 75g!  Wow.  That is more than double what I was allowed.

Lunch was always ok.  I can be honest with that!  I would have salad without dressings, using ham or roast skinless chicken and boiled eggs.  Perfect!

Dinner again fine.  Lots of fresh vegetables, lean meat and no sauces!  Oh hang on, there was the pre-packed burgers from the supermarket.  They were their finest range so must be healthier!  Ah, and I had that chilli and rice dish the one day!  We have had lots of Braai’s so there were those nibbles and garlic bread!

At work, everyone used to say how good I was as I never went for the biscuits or samosas.  One day recently there was a big box of samosas for staff.  One of my team was shocked when I asked her if she wanted one!  As we both went to get one, I was then tempted to have a spring roll too.  I even went back later that day for seconds!

My boss saw my staff member with the food and said to her she should have eaten it when I was at the gym so I didn’t know!  She was shocked when told I also had one!  If only she knew it was more than 1!

I might have prepared a healthy lunch, but I was now snacking during the day!  It is amazing how the extras can add up!

The long hot summer also meant more wine!  Whilst I was drinking mainly Slimline Wine, I was still having more syns than I am allowed!  In my head I was drinking a low calorie wine so it didn’t count!

When I look back, no wonder I have put weight on!  Going to weigh in was just to tick a box.  I was no longer passionate about my journey.

The day I stepped on the scales and saw a number I did not like, I realised I had to put a stop to it.  I decided staying to group had to happen.  I needed my motivation back.  I needed to listen to other peoples journeys and get ideas.  More importantly, I need to take an hour out of my busy stressful life just for me.

So at my first week back to group, with a heavy heart and close to tears, I listened to the group.  In previous sessions, I have been known to put food ideas onto my Tesco shopping app to try new recipes from the group.  I started doing this again!  I bought the magazine, and made a promise to myself to read it cover to cover!

I left group determined.  I went home and planned my meals for the week ahead.  I vowed not to have anything at work unless it was planned in.  I would save my syns for the evenings, and then only have them if I really needed them.

I chose the gym rather than work lunches out!  I cooked at home rather than a takeaway, even when time was limited and I was absolutely exhausted.

The following week, I walked back into group.  I was hoping for a big loss!  I know I have a long journey ahead of me to get back to how I was.  I stepped on the scales and saw a 3.5lb loss.  I was absolutely gutted.  I wanted more!

I feel stupid now feeling like that.   Most weeks I would have been overjoyed at that loss!  I wanted more because I am so desperate to get back to my target weight.  The reality is, it is going to take me a few weeks for that to happen.

I decided to buy myself a 12 week plan. That way, I could take the pressure off myself.  I could give myself small loss targets per week.  That way I won’t be disappointed.  I can also give myself treats without feeling deprived.

I really want target again.  When I get there I am also not going to fall back into the trap I am in now!

Nothing feels better than looking in the mirror and liking what you see.  I know to achieve this, I need to keep going to group.  I need to keep recipes ideas fresh.  I need to take time out for myself.

The next 12 weeks will be a journey but I’m going to do it.  I know I am because I know how much I really want it!

I feel like i’ve lost a friend!

After a busy day, or week, there is nothing better than relaxing with a good book.

I must admit, I am not a great reader.  Mainly because I just don’t have the time, but when I do, there is nothing better than being taken away into a different world.  It helps me switch off and forget about the stresses of normal life.

For me a good book needs to have characters that you can relate to, and a gripping story line.  When I say gripping, I am not talking about a thriller, or mystery, but something that draws you back to the book.

When I’ve had a busy time I like books that are fun, however I have also been known to read biographies, history books etc – books on Stalin and Di Vinci are 2 of my favourites, along with Richard Branson who I thought was so inspiring.

I have recently just completed a series of books from Sophie Kinsella.  Shopaholics is a serious of books which takes you through a period of Rebecca Bloomwood’s life.  There are 8 books in the series.  What is really clever is that you could independently read the books, or as I did read them as a series.

I have just finished the final book and feel like I have lost a friend.  Now that is the sign of a great book, or in this case a series.

In my head, I know what Rebecca looks like, her husband, daughter, family and friends.  I feel I know them personally.  I felt their pain, happiness and all their dreams.  I know what their homes, cars and clothes look like too!  Well in my head I do!

What is even more exciting is that I have now just found out that there is a movie based on the books!  I’m also a little nervous as the characters in the movie may not live up to my own expectations of them now!

So who is Shopaholic and what did she get up to that made the books so good?   I will give you a brief overview of each book, but I won’t go into too much detail.  It would only spoil the pleasure of your own experience reading them!

The Secret Dreamworld of a shopaholic

Dreamworld

We meet Rebecca Bloomwood for the first time in this book.  She is a single young lady, working as a financial Journalist.  When you know her, that in itself is quite funny.

Becky as she is known, lives in a flat with her best friend Suzie.  Suzie is from a very well off family, so doesn’t really have to work.  That said, she is a really loyal and supportive friend to Becky, who has as you may have guessed it has a problem with shopping!  Actually, to Becky, its not a problem.  She absolutely loves shopping.  The buy 1 get 1 free offers, or free gifts if you spend a certain amount, are just too tempting.  I mean they are a bargain.  Why wouldn’t you buy them?  Whatever they are?  You never know when they may come in handy!!

Considering her job, she has no financial planning skills for herself.  She has credit cards coming out of her ears, and cupboards full of things she doesn’t need, but couldn’t resist!

It is in this book we first meet Luke.  Initially, I didn’t see the pair of them together, but as it takes you through, they are a perfect match.  As with most relationships though, nothing ever goes to plan!

Shopaholic Abroad

Abroad

Life has certainly changed for Becky.  She has a fabulous job on morning TV, her bank manager has become quite fond of her and she has changed her thinking on shopping!  ‘Buy only what you need’! Ha Ha!!

Then she has the opportunity to go to New York and be a personal shopper!  What more could a shopaholic want than to help others buy clothes!

Ok, anyone that has been to New York will also know that for someone who loves shopping, there are a couple of temptations such as Saks and Bloomingdales, to name just 2!

Becky does have all the right dreams when she initially arrives.  She is going to do all the touristy things.  Of course she is!  Except those shops just keep getting in the way!

We follow Becky with her adventures and nightmares, as her shopping habits get her into even more trouble!

Shopaholic Ties the Knot

Tie Knot

Becky finally gets her man in this book – Luke.  With a wedding to plan, all her shopping dreams should come true, but as with Becky, nothing ever runs smoothly!

She is torn between giving her parents the dream wedding in her home town of Oxshott. or keeping her mother-in-law to be happy!

Her mum wants the wedding in the back garden with all her family around her.  Luke’s mum, who he has had a difficult relationship with, wants a society wedding in New York, in the best hotel – The Plaza.  Luke’s mum has plenty of money so she knows that this options would be absolutely spectacular.   Does she choose a wedding where money is no object, or a smaller more traditional affair back home with her true family and friends?

As in true Becky style, she doesn’t make it easy.  It was always going to be a difficult decision.  The trouble she gets herself into will have you in stitches.

Shopaholic & Sister

Sister

Out of all the books, the story for this one really surprised me.  I wasn’t expecting it at all!

Becky returns from honeymoon.  She hasn’t told anyone she is coming home, and is expecting a big reunion from her parents.  Instead they are distant, like they are hiding something from her.  Becky’s fears are confirmed when they announce she has a sister!

Becky’s dad had a child before he met her mum, which none of them knew about.

After the initial shock, Becky is delighted to have a sister.  She has planned this perfect sister relationship in her head.  The problem is, Jess is the complete opposite to her!  She hates shopping and wasting money.

You have to feel sorry for Becky in this book.  As she tries to build this perfect relationship with her half sister, things just don’t go to plan!

Shopaholic & Baby

Baby

If Becky thought New York was an adventure, wait till she realises she is going to be a mum!

After the shock she realises that she has another reason to go shopping!  I mean, babies need so much stuff don’t they!  Everything has to be so perfect for their new addition to the family.

It all starts to go wrong though when she hears about this amazing obstetrician to the stars.   She just has to have that doctor.  I mean, look at all the famous people she will meet and become fabulous mummy friends with!  What she doesn’t know is that this doctor was an ex of Luke’s, and  she still has desires on him!

Becky is hormonal as all pregnant women are, and starts to doubt Luke and her relationship.  This doctor is beautiful and intelligent.  Becky’s body is changing and she feels insecure.  It doesn’t help the games the doctor is playing either.  You can’t help getting emotional and feeling like you want to give her a big hug.

Who does Luke choose?  You will have to read it to see!

Mini Shopaholic

Mini

So the baby has arrived.  A beautiful little girl called Minnie.  What is more is that she is also a mini version of Becky!

The book takes you through early motherhood and the developing personality of Minnie.  As she gets more and more like her mum.   You can just imagine this little girl sitting on her mums lap or shopping in designer shops, in her pretty dresses with bows in her hair!

Finances become strained at an already difficult time for her and Luke.  They end up moving back in with her parents for a while too which adds more pressure.  In true Becky style though, there are many adventures to be had including arranging a surprise party for Luke on a budget!

This was truly a funny book!

 Shopaholic to the Stars

Stars

When Luke’s work takes them to Los Angeles, Becky sees an opportunity for her own career to take on as a stylist to the stars.

Luke is the agent to a big star, Sage Seymour.  Becky feels that they will become best friends and she too will become famous.

Becky becomes so focused on her dreams that she doesn’t see what is going on around her.  As her own marriage and that of her friend Suzie falls apart, she only sees stars in front of her eyes!

What should have been a dream time for her becomes a nightmare.  Slowly without her even noticing things start falling apart bit by bit until something shocks her back to reality.

What’s nice about this book though, is that throughout it, you see that Becky has started to mature.  I no longer see her as this young women, but a wife and mother, and a good daughter and good friend, who has just got lost.

Becky needs to make a choice, her career and fame or her friends and family?  Who does she choose?

Shopaholic to the Rescue

rescue

Becky’s poor choices in the last book cause this adventure!  She has to put things right!

Los Angeles didn’t turn out how she thought it would be, and she had paid a big price.  She potentially was going to pay a bigger one if she didn’t do something about it.

When Becky’s dad and Suzie’s husband go missing, there is only one thing for it.  She has to find them.  She has to build relationships too!

This book takes them to Las Vegas, for more adventures.

Secrets from the past are exposed, and her relationship with Suzie is really tested.

One thing that Becky is good at, is problem solving.  She might have off the wall ideas, but they do actually work some of the time!  She also never gives up.

You see Becky finally mature in this book.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say by the end of it, I felt that I had lost a friend. No more Becky!

Summary

If you want a really good read, these books are for you.

Becky is someone you can really relate to!  The author Sophie has written it so well.  You are really drawn in to all her adventures.

Its not all plain sailing for Becky.  She will dig quite a few wholes along the way.   Whatever happens though, she has a true heart. That is what her husband Luke sees in her.

She may get lost sometimes, but don’t we all!

 

 

Is this current heatwave good for you?

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There are so many mixed messages out there at the moment!  We are currently experiencing one of the hottest summers I can ever remember.  With temperatures exceeding 30 degrees on some days, should we be running for cover?

Dangers of the Sun

It is well documented that the sun can damage our skin.  The fairer you are, the more damage it will cause.  Continued exposure to the sun can also be the cause of skin cancer.

When I grew up in the 70’s, it was common practice to get the maximum suntan you could.  We didn’t even really know or understand about suncreams back then.  For us it was often good lashings of oil!  The quicker you could a tan the better!

It probably wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s I actually took stock and started really using suncreams regularly.

Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibres in the skin called elastin.  Wrinkles and age spots appear.  Whilst we will all get these as we get older, the sun will speed up the process for us.  People exposed to the sun more, will look older than those that have taken precautions.

Did you know the sun also effects the soles of your feet?  Ladies, the one time of the year when we want to wear those beautiful sandals and you look at the heals of your feet in horror!  Its all linked! Lack of moisture equals dryer skin, equals cracked heals and feet!

The suns damage can be reversed you will be pleased to know.  Using suncreams, moisturisers, keeping hydrated (avoid alcohol) will all help.  For the feet, foot balms, oils and exfoliating will all reduce the dryness.

Keeping out of direct sunlight in the middle of the day is a sensible approach.  If you can’t, then make sure you are covered up.  Wear light layers and a hat.   Men who are getting a bit thin on top especially!

Get into the habit of applying suncream every morning when you have showered.  It will act as a moisturiser as well as protect you.

Having the right suncream for your skin is also important.  The fairer you are, the higher the factor you should go.  You can still get a tan using suncream.  What would you rather do?  Get burnt and then spend the rest of your holiday inside or covered up, or let you skin gradually tan with a good factor suncream?

Don’t compare yourself to others either!  I hear so many people saying to me ‘I wish I could get as brown as you’.  The sad thing is, they probably never will.  I am lucky, I have olive skin.  Without the sun, I will be darker naturally than some.  I can get away with a lower factor suncream as my skin doesn’t burn easily.

As you get older, your skin reacts differently to the sun, so don’t think ‘I never used cream as a child so why do I need it now?’  Understand your own skin type and look after it.  You will look much healthier for it.

Also, I know its obvious, bu don’t look directly at the sun as it will damage your eyes!  Wear sunglasses.  They not only protects your eyes, but help to reduce wrinkles!

Don’t forget your pets!

Just like us, our pets can get sunburn too.  Try and get them to lie in the shade.   Fido is a nightmare and constantly sits in the direct sunlight!  I continuously have to make him move.  It’s like children.  They don’t understand the dangers of the sun, so its up to us to help them.  Keep plenty of water around for them so they don’t dehydrate and please don’t exercise them in the heat of the day!

The good news about the sun!

Yes there is some.  It’s not all doom and gloom.  The sun is also actually good for us!

The sun is a good source of Vitamin D which promotes our well being.  When the sun hits our skin it triggers the body’s natural production of the vitamin D.  Vitamin D is vital for our overall health.  It protects against inflammation, lowers high blood pressure, helps our muscles, improves brain function and bizarrely  even though it can cause skin cancer, may even protect against some cancers.

Low levels of Vitamin D can cause heart disease, prostate cancer and dementia!

So how confused are you now?

It is understandable that with both bits of advice above, it can be confusing.  Should you be out in the sun or not?

Well I think the overall answer to that question is yes!  The sun makes us all feel so much happier.  We are more likely to be more active, sociable and generally all round more jolly!

The best advise though is to take precautions.  Use suncream, wear a hat, drink plenty of water and cover up if you feel you are burning!  Where possible find some shade to cool down in!

We have a long winter ahead of us, so enjoy the few months of good weather we have ahead!

 

 

Best laid plans!

For weeks leading up to the recent bank holiday, everyone has been saying it was predicted to be the hottest weekend this year so far.  May Day bank holiday was a scorcher, so if this was going to be even hotter – woo hoo!

As like many others, we had made a plan for the whole of the weekend based on this beautiful weather we were going to have!

Saturday – Hubby was to paint the fence – paint and new brushes were bought in anticipation, and I was going to clean the house and visit the butchers and supermarket to buy steak and salads for the Braai we were having for our neighbours.

Sunday – A lovely long walk somewhere in the Cotswolds with the dogs, then home to wash and clean car myself followed by a relaxing Braai.

Monday – A relaxing day, maybe a short walk with the dogs then home to start packing for our trip to Scotland and Italy later on in the month.  Probably a final Braai of the weekend.

So what actually happened?  Well I think someone forgot to tell the sun to come out!  Instead we had a mixture of showers, thunder storms, a little bit of sun and greyness!  It was all change for our plans!   The difficulty was, the weather seemed to change on the forecast daily!  From our amazing planned weekend, we then went to deciding very last minute based on the weather at that time.  So how did our weekend turn out?

Saturday – A trip to the butchers and supermarket for me, but this time to look for something to cook inside.  Sadly the housework was still on my agenda.  For hubby, a day relaxing at home on his computer and watching Rugby on TV.

Sunday – A lazy start and then a trip to get my car washed and cleaned inside.   We were hoping to call in on my parents but I couldn’t get hold of them!  On the plus side, my friends invited us over for Sunday dinner, so that was a really nice change to our plans.

Monday –  It was dry, woo hoo,  so we quickly took the opportunity to paint the fence!  I say ‘we’ as suddenly it became a job for both of us.   I have to say it does look amazing and very satisfying when you finally get the job done!

Being flexible and open to change

This weekend is, like so many others. With the great British weather, we can make as many plans as we like, but sometimes they just have to go out of the window.  Whilst we didn’t do half the things we planned, (I certainly didn’t even start to think about the Scottish and Italy trip), we did have fun.  On the negative side, I now need to fit a lot of jobs into my evenings after work, which is never my preferred way.

It is always good to have a plan but, trying to always stick to it can cause you a lot of stress and unhappiness.  This over time this can manifest itself, and bring on health problems such as depression and anxiety.

By being flexible, you are allowing yourself to experience new opportunities and skills.  If the sun had come out last weekend, I wouldn’t have gone to see my friends and had a fun relaxing evening.  If my husband had started the fence on Saturday, I wouldn’t have helped him on Monday.  You might be pulling a face at that comment, but actually, I had fun doing it with him, and I too can share the satisfaction of looking at it now its done.

This was one weekend, but if you think about your life in general, you will experience a lot of change, both in your personal and work life.  Some of them may not always be good changes, but by building up your resilience to change for the smaller things, it will help you cope with the bigger changes.

They say divorce, death and moving house are the most stressful things you experience in your life.  I’ve had all 3 of them and I can agree.  So, what can you do to help you get through these times?

  • Acknowledge the changeTrying to pretend it isn’t happening won’t help you. Understand what the change is and how it will impact you.
  • Write it downWrite down how you are feeling? Make a list of the positives and negatives of the change?  When you write things down, they sometimes don’t seem as bad as they did when they were just in your head!

    Keep a diary.  It is amazing how every day putting down how you are feeling, what you are thinking etc will help you.

  • Focus on the PositivesBy looking at the positives you can start to feel more relaxed and calm about the change.
  • Turn the Negatives into PositivesList next to your negatives at least 1 positive. For example, if you are getting divorced, think about something you didn’t like about the person – i.e. No more listening to them snoring!  The funnier it is the more relaxed you feel.   Could this be a new opportunity to meet new people, travel, have more time to yourself?
  • CryIt’s ok to show your emotion. Don’t bottle it up.  Having a good cry can sometimes make you feel better!  And that goes for men too!
  • Find a focusFor me, taking my dogs out for a walk really helps. If you don’t have a dog, you can still go for a walk on your own.   Exercise even just walking or the gym will help you.  Maybe read a book or play some music.  Anything that helps you relax.
  • AcceptanceAccept what you can’t change and focus on what you can.
  • Take Control
    By focusing on what you can change you once again take back control of your destiny.  You might not like the change but knowing about it means you can control what happens next.  Embrace it and make  the decisions you need for you!
  • Ask for helpIf you really don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your friends, family or support groups.  Counselling is also a good way to get through major change.  Don’t be afraid to open up.  It isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of taking control.
  • Step Away from the alcohol

    Whilst alcohol will make you feel better in the short term, it can lead to you focusing on the negatives.   You may say things you regret especially on social media.  The hangover the next day doesn’t help either.  And do’t forget the calories will increase your chance of putting on weight which won’t make you feel good about yourself either!

  • Don’t comfort eat

    As with alcohol reaching for the biscuits, chocolates etc may make you feel good in the short term but the weight gain won’t.   Healthy eating will help your mental state much more.

Whatever life throws at you, remember you are the only person who can make that change work for you.  It might not be your choice initially, but once you know the impact, you can take control and decide on your own destiny.

So, the next time something doesn’t go to plan, think about what happened next.  Think about the positives that have come out of it.  This will help you when change comes your way and you are not expecting it!  Take back the control and move foreward!