The Unknown

Having now turned the clocks back, and with November just around the corner, our uncertain future gets ever closer to becoming clearer.

When I met my boyfriend 2 years ago, I knew he was going to have to re-apply for his visa in order to stay here. What I hadn’t accounted for was how either one of us would deal with it.

In some ways I think he has dealt with it better than I have. He just seems to carry on, and talks positively about the future. But then he’s also not great at talking about his feelings and worries, even when I try to coax it out of him.

I definitely haven’t coped with it. In any way shape or form.

From the minute he started to re-apply (which was almost a year ago now), I’ve been an emotional wreck. My head has been all over the place.

He also finds this hard to deal with. I don’t think he really understands how it impacts me. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a bigger deal for him. But it also impacts my future too.

In addition to the uncertainty, right now, we can’t plan anything. Christmas seems hard to plan, and on top of that our birthdays fall just before and just after the date his application is due to be considered by the courts…

My coping mechanism is also screwed. I know that on the days when I think less positively, I am pushing him away. That might seem weird and unsupportive. And it probably is, but for me it’s always been my way of coping. If I start to become less attached, then it won’t hurt as much if things don’t go to plan.

I also find myself working ridiculously long hours in order to block things out at home. Work is a distraction, and because my job is constantly busy, it’s very easy to bury myself in that, spending less time at home.

Somehow, I have resigned myself to the fact this won’t have a happy ending.

The time when he needs me most, I am struggling to be there for him.

For the next 4 weeks, I need to toughen up. Whatever happens at the end of November, we need to make the most of the time we have together.

Muddled Mind

My mind has been all over the place this week. I’ve been struggling to write, starting a number of blogs but unable to find the right words.

I was relieved to have some alone time this weekend. I needed some space and time to think, reflect and to soak up the late October sunshine.

I headed to the local market yesterday, thinking I would stop by to look for some upcoming birthday presents. The market was celebrating its own Birthday so it was busier than normal, and not the right place to try to clear my mind. The hustle and bustle would have to wait for another weekend. So instead, I headed off to the local common. The weather was beautiful. I found myself an autumnal tree and spread out next to it, soaking up the rays and enjoying a bite to eat.

I had a pootle around a few shops before heading home for a quiet, relaxing evening.

Today I woke up feeling a bit more adventurous, considering I hadn’t slept well this was nothing short of a miracle. I started to look at my bucket list. I wanted to go somewhere that would look beautiful in the October sun, but somewhere I hadn’t been before. Nothing on my bucket list took my fancy, so I started to flick through Instagram and found a saved link to Holland Park. I had wanted to go for sometime but kept forgetting to add it to my list. As I looked at the warm sunshine outside, I realised it would be a perfect day to go.

My only disappointment…why on earth hadn’t I been before?

It was beautiful.

As soon as I entered into the park (from the entrance nearest to Holland Park underground station), it took my breath away.

The park entrance is walled, and as you walk through the gate, its like stepping into another world.

As I walked further into the park, the scene became more and more autumnal. The Acers almost stole the show. That is until I stumbled across the Kyoto Garden, which quite simply took my breath away. I have never felt the urge to visit Japan, but if their gardens are anything like the one here in Holland Park, then Japan is also now firmly on my bucket list. The colours were spectacular, and despite the large number of tourists trying to get that perfect Instagram shot, it was surprisingly peaceful.

As I sauntered back to the underground, after a good couple of hours exploring the Park, my mind felt much calmer and more peaceful than it had earlier on in the weekend.

As I get older, I am so grateful to have a much better understanding of my mind. I am much more in tune with it these days, knowing when I need to take time out, reducing the chaos around me, and simply just being.

As I sit in my front room enjoying the last of the days light, which is slowly fading outside the window, I know I can now move into the working week with a clearer, calmer mindset. The issues causing my mind to be muddled haven’t gone away, but with a clearer mind, even these don’t seem as daunting.

(Photos taken today at Holland Park)

My Notebook

I have been carrying a notebook with me for a while now.

Even pre-blog.

I have always loved writing, but I’ve never known what direction to take this in.

Fresh out of university I dabbled with the idea of becoming a travel writer.

I loved the thought of travelling the world and writing about the places I visited. However, I quickly stumbled across a few set backs. Firstly, I didn’t have the money to travel, therefore limiting the places I could write about (although the new adventurous me probably would’ve found local places to visit and write about, rather than looking to jump straight into travelling the more distant world). Secondly, I holidayed in the French Alps one winter, came home, wrote about my experiences and sent my work to a Snowboard Magazine. I heard nothing…

The younger, less confident me, decided to park that idea there and then, and I haven’t written about travel since.

Even during university I loved to write. Whether it was essays or my dissertation, I could write thousands of words about the most mundane subject, because once I start writing, I just can’t stop. Exams on the other hand are a whole other issue. If I could’ve completed all my education in essay form, I am certain I would’ve come away with more than average grades.

I have always wondered whether I have a book in me somewhere. I love romance. One of my favourite authors is Freya North. But how could I ever compete with someone as inspiring as Freya? She writes so brilliantly and makes the reader feel as though they are there, in the room her characters, silently watching, not daring to breath for fear of being caught or seen. I have this romantic image of sitting in a weather battered cottage by the sea, with a couple of four legged friends by my side while I write my bestseller…

It was only recently that Ali suggested I started to write a blog. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. As I sat through my coaching sessions with Beth from Transforment, I realised that my head was quite muddled, and I started to wonder whether I needed to offload some of this into properly constructed written words, sentences and paragraphs. I also started to wonder whether it would help me to write about the loss of my friend, as I wasn’t able to grieve properly at the time, perhaps writing down some of my thoughts and feelings would help.

So back to my notebook…

I carry this with me everywhere. It comes to work with me, it travels between London and Northampton in my bag, it comes with me to see friends, as I take walks around London, as I visit the fabulous sites London has to offer.

Why?

Because when I am feeling inspired by something I have seen, something I am feeling, or something else I have experienced, I have to write it down. Many of the musings I have written so far, have started from a couple of words jotted on a page when I have been on my lunch break, or as was the case this week, on a train to visit a friend.

The notes I write rarely become the full story, and as with Change (part 2), the words that finally appeared in my blog were quite different to those I had written on the train. But they do form the backbone of my ideas and help to build the story I want to tell.

I still have no idea where my writing will take me, but it is certainly helping me to reflect, to clear my mind, and to enjoy something that doesn’t seem like hard work.

In a world where I hate the sound of my alarm clock most weekdays, at the weekends and on my days off, I find myself excited to get up early, before the rest of the flat wakes, to see what journey my writing is going to take me on that day.

Change (Part 2)

In Change (Part 1), I wrote about the importance of living life. How life was too precious and too short to plod along, and how sometimes it takes a life changing event to give us the wake up call we so badly need.

In Change (Part 2), I want to share with you, my readers, how a heartbreaking, life changing moment has lead to to so much positive change. I hope that the next time any one of us suffers heartache, that by reading this, it gives you hope that good things can, and will, happen to you again.

Losing B triggered so many changes in my life. As much as I hate not having her by my side, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through the heartache of losing her.

The key thing to note here, is that although I firmly know what my trigger to change was, I didn’t know that at the time. It was only when I looked back that I could see this. 

The first major change happened just over two years after B left us. My relationship with my then boyfriend had been deteriorating since B’s funeral. Shortly after we said our goodbyes to B, my now ex, asked me not to speak about her anymore. Needless to say, I was shocked and confused, especially as I was given no explanation at the time, other than ‘she’s gone and you need to move on’. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t leave there and then, or at least to try to get a better understanding of what he meant by this, but I just remember feeling too drained to argue. It upset me deeply as I knew in my heart that I still had a lot of grieving to do, or at least to try to come to terms with my loss. I wanted to talk about B, the memories I had of her, and how I felt now that the one person I hoped would be with me for every major event in my life, was no longer going to be there.

I had to find another way to ‘get by’.

So instead, I found solace in spending time on my own, It was at this time that I found comfort in my garden. I had always loved gardening, but from that moment, I would spend hours pottering around outside, lost in my own thoughts. It helped a lot. I could go out there and spend hours thinking about nothing or everything. Finding so much therapy in my garden also lead me to consider a career change. Shortly after, I signed up to an evening class in Horticulture.  It was on this course that I met two of my dearest friends, Kim and Kelly, who played an instrumental part in making me realise how unhappy I was at home, and how much shit I was putting up with. Talking to them helped me find the strength and courage to realise that I deserved better.

People often ask me why I didn’t leave him sooner. And the truth? Part of me was wrapped up in that small town mentality of thinking that by my age I should be thinking about weddings and babies (because thats what everyone else was doing), and not starting again from scratch. The other part of me knows that I had to grieve for B before I could put my own relationship back onto the radar. It wasn’t until a year had passed since her death, that I finally started to refocus on my relationship, and I suddenly realised how selfish and controlling he had become.

Further to my new found friendship with Kim and Kelly, it was a chance encounter with someone I vaguely knew, that finally made me start to rebuild some of the self-confidence I had lost over the six years I had been with my ex. Not only did he make me realise I was good at my job, but he also made me realise that I was a lovely, caring person who had a lot going for her. He gave me my sparkle back.

So one morning, four years ago, I woke up and decided that enough was enough. On that very same day, I walked away from my ex, the house we had brought together and had lived in for the last 3 years, and temporarily, my beloved cat Wiggler.

It wasn’t plain sailing of course, but these things never are. And needless to say, things got much worse before they got better. But step by step, I started to rebuild myself, improving my self care, my self worth and rebuilding my confidence.

With new found confidence, I began throwing myself into work, improving my networks, and talking to people who genuinely cared about my wellbeing. With this new found confidence creeping in, I started to get recognised for my work, which then triggered another change…

6 months after I left my relationship, I started getting itchy feet at work. I loved my job, but there was no chance at that time of an internal promotion and as it was only a small organisation, there was nowhere else for me to go with the skillset I had.  So, I started looking around at other jobs with my industry. A chance phone call lead to me being informed that an opportunity had arisen in London, and would I fancy going there to fix some of their problems? I was terrified, but I had nothing to lose. Even if it didn’t work out, it was only an initial 6 month secondment…

A few months later, I found myself waving goodbye to my family and moving down to Surrey to begin with (the thought of commuting from Northampton to South West London on a daily basis did nothing for me, especially as back then I struggled to function until 11 in the morning! Some would argue that even after 11 was a challenge!), and another six months later, London itself.

I had never lived or worked outside of Northamptonshire. I had grown up there, gone to university there, and even brought my first home there. If truth be told, I had never really thought about leaving.

Yet, three years later, here I find myself, living and working in London, and loving every minute. Thankfully a decision I have never once regretted.

There were other life changing moments even further back that I am sure also contributed to my move to London.

I was in my mid 20s when I learnt to drive. However, being in a controlling relationship meant that I was not ‘trusted’ to drive. Because of this, I had never driven on the motorway and had become fearful of it. Once the relationship had ended, I started to panic about the fact I was restricting myself by not driving on the motorway. I gave into that panic, jumped in my car and drove myself and a friend to Birmingham to see a show. My friend commended me on my driving ability and this then gave me the courage to visit more places, forcing myself to drive on the motorway more often. This was only the start of my motorway journey. If I only I had known back then how useful the motorway would become over the next few years (with the exception of National Rail, the M25 and the M1 are my most direct roads back home to see my friends and family)…

Turning 30 had been another trigger for change. I had dreaded turning 30. I felt nowhere near ready to live a grown up life. I was nowhere near marriage, especially as a new singleton, and I couldn’t have found myself any further away from having kids.  I found myself putting so much pressure on myself to conform to the ‘norm’. Little did I know that my 30s would turn out to be a hell of a lot more liberating and exciting than I ever imagined it could be…

I hope this goes a little way to show how life changing moments can lead to positive change. Sometimes life changing moments are deemed as the norm, like learning to drive, or changing jobs. However, I think it is really important to recognise that positive life changes can also happen after loss. It can take a lot of time, self reflection, and a whole load of courage, but I truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I am certain that if we hadn’t lost our B, that I may not have left my relationship when I did, which could’ve then altered the destinations I visited en-route to where I am today. And that my dear readers, is not something I would be too keen to change…

 

 

Kensington Gardens

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for the last couple of days. I returned to London after my week off on Friday evening, full of cold, and already starting to dread what work has in store for me when I returned.

I spent Saturday in the flat catching up on naff tv, feeling sorry for myself, eating and drinking.

So yesterday, despite still feeling under the weather, I dragged myself out of the flat with Ali and headed over to Kensington Gardens. Neither of us had been before, and it wasn’t somewhere that had reached my bucket list. We didn’t want to travel far, but both fancied some fresh autumn air (although it is still ridiculously mild for this time of year) so we jumped on the bus and headed for Kensington.

Kensington Palace Gardens are one of eight Royal Parks in London, with Kensington Palace being the official home of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the Duke & Duchess of Sussex. Kensington Palace was also home to Queen Victoria, before she moved to Buckingham Palace. A statue of Queen Victoria stands in front of the Palace, whilst a Memorial for Prince Albert (Victoria’s husband) stands proudly within the Gardens itself.

Hungry when we arrived, we had a quick walk around the part of the park closest to the Palace in search of something to eat. Whilst we stumbled across a couple of places (Kensington Palace Cafe and The Orangery), neither really floated our boat. Kensington Palace Cafe had little choice, unless you were looking for a pre-packed sandwich. Built in 1704-5, The Orangery had a lovely menu, with a selection of light lunches as well as afternoon tea. However, dressed for autumn in jeans, boots and a woolly jumper, I felt a bit underdressed for such a lovely restaurant.

Instead, we headed out of the park into Kensington High Street in search of somewhere a bit more down to earth, with a hearty autumnal menu. Just over the road we stumbled across The Goat, which is said to be the oldest pub in Kensington having been established in 1679.

They had a great range of pub food to chose from, including the good old Sunday roast. So whilst Ali feasted on Fish n Chips (£12.99) and a Peroni, I went all out with the Roast Sirloin of Beef Sunday roast (£13.99) and a Guinness. After all, they do say that you have to feed a cold, right? It was great value for money, service was quick, the staff were friendly, and we left the pub full and ready to walk off all that food with a stroll around Kensington Gardens.

Sunday Roast at The Goat, Kensington

With autumn only just starting to show in London, there were few leaves on the ground to crunch our way through, but the trees looked beautiful, their colours just starting to change. Many of the flowers were still in bloom, whilst others were fading, and others, such as the grasses were coming into their own.

The Sunken Garden, which was a favourite of Princess Diana, looked absolutely stunning. I could’ve stood taking photos of the garden for hours trying to get the perfect shot. These are just some of the photo’s I took in The Sunken Garden today…

Other highlights included The Pond which was swarming with life and looking beautiful in the autumn light, The Flower Walk, and the Albert Memorial.

Having grown up just down the road from Althorp House (I also had a summer job as a cleaner on the Estate many moons ago), the house in which Princess Diana spent much of her youth before her marriage to Prince Charles, I have always been fascinated by the Royal Family, and like much of the population, loved Princess Diana. We were therefore quite keen to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain while we were in Kensington Park. We spent ages looking for what we expected to be a glamorous fountain. We were slightly disappointed to therefore find a rather strange circular stream type attraction just over the other side of West Carriage Drive, which had been constructed in her memory. The concept is lovely though, and it is very ‘Princess Diana’. It is easily accessible for all and people have the opportunity to dip their feet into the stream. It is a lovely, peaceful spot, albeit, not entirely as grand as the fountain we were expecting to find.

Despite feeling grotty this weekend, it was lovely to get out and about today, and see yet another part of London neither of us had explored before, enjoying the beautiful sunshine as the leaves slowly start turn with the darker nights and colder days just around the corner.

Friendship

I have been thinking a lot lately about friendship and what it means to me.

I don’t have a large circle of friends. More pockets of friends whom I have met at different times in my life.

There are those I have known and still meet up with from as far back as nursery, infant and junior school, those who I grew up with in the same village, those I met at secondary school, and in sixth form. Then there are those I met at university, and whilst we struggle to meet up, we all still look out for each other and would be there at the drop of a hat if any of us needed anything. There are those I have met through work, friends of friends, evening classes. The opportunity to make and meet new friends is endless.

But what about friends we have never met?

Do you need to have met someone in person in order to claim them as one of your dearest friends? To share with them your greatest fears? For them to be amongst the first people to share  your successes with?

I have been friends with Laura since the late 90s. We met on a message board for one of our favourite bands (we were both slightly crazy for Another Level at the time!). We clicked instantly. Overtime we became closer and closer. Communications changed. We  moved from the message board to writing letters, emailing, texting, and more recently, to Whatsapp.

Laura has been there through every break up, every family drama, every huge life event (the good and the bad).

At the same time I moved to London, Laura moved to Australia. We don’t speak as often as we used to, but I still think of her a lot, and I know that if either of us needed someone to talk to, we would be there for one another.

There are so many times we could’ve met up before she moved to Australia, but for whatever reasons, we didn’t. I almost wonder whether we feared that meeting up in person would ruin our friendship somehow. Perhaps we feared that the bond we had on paper, wouldn’t be there in person. We will probably never know.

I met another girl on the message board too. Julie. Who lives in Taiwan. We have lost contact a number of times over the years, but we always find each other again. We shared a lot about our families and found so much happiness in talking about our different cultures. These days we mostly stay in touch on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s lovely to see what she gets up to, in a world that is very different to my own, yet it’s a world where we share the same values.

Do you have friends you have never met? Friends who know more about you than anyone else, without ever having met face to face? I would love to hear your experiences, feel free to leave comments on your friendships below.

 

Whittlebury Hall

Yesterday I treated mum to a spa day at Whittlebury Hall. Whilst I have been a few times before, mum had never been, and it was nice to finally be able to treat her.

We were both ready for a day of rest and relaxation, and what better way to unwind than in the beautiful grounds of Whittlebury Hall.

Things got off to a slightly disappointing start.

There was an incredibly tetchy lady on reception when we arrived who seemed to find it a complete inconvenience when we kindly enquired as to whether we could move our lunch time from 2pm to 1pm. This idea seemed completely absurd to her, and in the end, it was easier to keep lunch at 2pm rather than to create a scene.

Thankfully, that was the only negative to the spa day.

The facilities at Whittlebury are beautiful. Everything is immaculate but not pretentious, which is refreshing.

Mum, who often feels quite self-conscious parading around the poolside on holiday in her swimming costume, felt completely at ease at Whittlebury and found the whole experience quite liberating.

We opted for the Autumn Rewind Spa Day for Two package (£99 for two), which included full use of The Leisure Club, full use of the Heat and Ice Experience, a Two Course Buffet Lunch, and an inclusive 25 minute treatment.

Towels and dressing gowns are provided on arrival, and fresh, warm towels if needed throughout the day can be sought from reception for no added fee.

We both opted for the ESPA  Soothing Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage for our 25 minute treatment. Mum loved it, and said it was just what she needed after a busy few weeks. Whilst I enjoyed my massage, the Deep Tissue Elemis Back Massage I had on a previous visit, will take some beating (the knots in my back are so big I think the only way to tackle them is to go deep!).

The Heat and Ice Experience also takes some beating. With a hydrotherapy pool, an aromatherapy crystal steam room, experience showers & foot spas, a caldarium, an ice cave, a samarium, a tepidarium, and a traditional sauna, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

At Whittlebury.com they suggest a bathing plan to get the best out of the heat and ice experience, however, it is just as enjoyable without using the plan.

The buffet lunch is lovely, and whilst there are plenty of healthy options, there are a wide variety of dishes for everyone to enjoy. Whilst we tucked into chicken with rice and vegetables, there were vegetarian alternatives, cold meats, jacket potatoes and salad for those wishing to have a lighter bite. The tomato soup for starter is also worth a special mention. I rarely opt for soup as a starter, but it was so delicious, I could’ve eaten a whole load more than I did. There was complimentary water with lunch, however, for those who fancy something a little more exotic, there are cocktails, wine, beers and hot beverages to chose from for an additional cost.

After a late lunch we got changed and headed for home.

I would highly recommend a trip to Whittlebury Hall. Whilst we only experienced the facilities available for the day spa package, there are other things to enjoy within Whittlebury Park. In addition to the spa facilities, there is a hotel, restaurants, conference facilities, and a golf course. On top of that it is a great venue for weddings, and the hall is also popular with partygoers who visit for the vast array of party nights the venue has to offer.

I would also recommend visiting the spa on a weekday. There are far fewer people there during the week compared to weekends, meaning that accessing the facilities is a lot easier. We rarely shared the sauna and steam room with anyone else throughout the day, which also meant we could have a good old natter as well as relax.

By the time we reached home, we felt rested and cleansed…at least we did until we realised we were locked out of the house…at least we were relaxed enough not to mind too much!