Valentines

Happy Valentines to you my lovely followers ❤️.

Whether you’ve been celebrating today with your partners, your friends, or by yourself, I hope you’ve been kind to yourself today.

This is my first single valentines for a couple of years. So many singletons seem to dread the day. Quite frankly, even those in relationships often turn their noses up at the thought of it.

However, even as a thirty something singleton, I’ve been looking forward to today.

I may not have anyone to have a romantic night in (or out) with, but for me, today has been about celebrating self love.

Ok, so maybe I had a bit of a flirt here and there, but for the most part, I have been celebrating self love.

For possibly the first time in my life, I feel happy with who I am. I feel like a new person since my trip to Portugal. Even my colleagues have noticed a change. I feel lighter, happier.

My wellbeing and my happiness have become a priority. I have spent years trying to make others happy, making myself miserable in the process. But now, I finally realise the importance of self love.

If I love me for who I am, and make sure that I stay true to myself, if I find myself looking for romantic love again, there will be no changing me to make others happy from now on.

I have lost count of the times I have changed for other people. And all it’s done is caused me to lose my identity and to end up as miserable as sin.

I’m done with all that rubbish.

If you’re not going to love me for me, then you don’t deserve me, and you certainly won’t have a future with me.

So today, my friends, has been about celebrating my happiness, my freedom, and most importantly, celebrating finding love for myself.

And this evening, I have celebrated in my cosy little London flat, with my four legged friend, a bottle of wine, and a chocolate pudding.

And I’ve loved every minute ❤️❤️❤️

Solo Traveller

When I first went on holiday on my own 3 years ago, I received a mixed reaction from friends and family. Some said good on you. Others thought I was crazy. Won’t you be lonely? Aren’t you scared going alone? Why don’t you find someone to go with?

The answers to those questions at the time were:

  • I don’t know, as I’ve never done it before
  • Yes
  • There aren’t many of us singletons left in my friendship circle, and why should no one wanting to leave their husbands, wives or their children, stop me from going to sunnier climes?

This time around, fewer people asked those questions. In fact, the comments I received were a lot more positive:

  • I wish I was brave enough to go away on my own
  • Have a great time

Perhaps people’s mindsets are changing. More and more people seem to be going off and doing their own thing, whether that’s because they are single, or simply because they want to visit places their partners don’t really fancy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the easiest thing to do. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone. But I like to see how far I can push myself. Where are my limits?

When I arrived in Portugal this week, I asked myself the questions my friends had asked me 3 years ago. My answers this time were:

  • No, I now love my own company. Plus the beauty of the modern world, means I can stay in touch with friends and family back home, if I want to.
  • I am always a little apprehensive about travelling alone, but I try to avoid putting myself in the face of unnecessary risk. Plus, I have now been living in London for 3 years.
  • I didn’t even try to convince anyone to come with me this time. Well, ok, just the one, but I was truly looking forward to escaping, having some quiet time away from the madness of work and London, and spending some time working on where I want to be in the future, and the steps I can start taking to get me there

So here I am, in sunny Portugal, sitting on my balcony, alone, but not lonely, enjoying some time away from the rat race, relaxing and exploring, watching the sunset and wondering just how many trips I might be able to squeeze into this coming year ✈️☀️🏖

Albufeira – photo taken today by me

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.

Bucket List

A few months ago I had a complete panic over the things I had achieved since I moved to London.

More to the point, what I hadn’t achieved since my London adventure began.

I had of course packed a lot into my new home life. I had met Ali for a start, and following a whirlwind romance, we had moved into our cosy little flat together after just 6 weeks…

But aside from my relationship, I was starting to feel like life was passing me by again. A feeling I cannot abide.

Nearly 2 years into our relationship, Ali and I had also found ourselves in a bit of a ‘comfort rut’. Weekends would pass by and we had done the same old things.

Nothing new.

I needed to feel that sense of adventure again.

So it was time to make some changes.

I had been living in London for 3 years and realised I had barely scratched the surface of it.

I have no idea how long we’ll continue to live in London, but I knew that if I didn’t start to make the most of it soon, I would regret it later on.

I sat down with Ali and told him I needed things to change, and he happily obliged.

And it was then that I started to make my ‘London Bucket List’.

So now, mostly at the weekends, we try to do something different and new.

It doesn’t have to be hugely extravagant, just different. Something or somewhere we haven’t tried or been before.

One of the first things I ticked off the list was riding what was formerly known as a ‘Boris Bike’. There is a cycle station just across the road from our flat, yet we had never tried to hire or ride one. So one weekend in August, we did just that. Admittedly it was a bit of a disaster (they are way more difficult to ride than they look and not that cheap to hire either!!). But we laughed a lot and were excited at having tried something new.

Another tick on the list went to our local coffee shop which turns into a wine bar in the evenings. It is only a short stroll from our flat, and whilst we had visited for coffee, we had never experienced the wine bar. We had become hermits in the evenings, so it was lovely to get dressed up, head to the wine bar, have a few drinks and some nibbles, and listen to a local musician singing and playing the guitar. We finished the night with a walk to one of our favourite London Bridges and we went home buzzing after a wonderful evening.

I haven’t actually added an awful lot to my bucket list yet, but we are enjoying plenty of new experiences.

In a way, it has become greater than the bucket list.

Sometimes the new experiences we need in order to feel more fulfilled are as simple as walking down a road we have never walked down before, trying a new cafe, or even trying something different at home, like a new recipe or learning a new skill, such as meditation.

For me, it doesn’t matter where I am in life, I need to experience the buzz of trying new things and going to new places. Plodding along doing the same old thing just doesn’t work for me. It makes me restless.

That’s not to say that I can’t be found vegetating in my flat over the course of a weekend. Of course I can.

However, after a weekend of vegetation, you can guarantee that I will be busy planning the following weekend, filling it with lots of new experiences…

I have been busy snapping away as I start to tick things off my bucket list, taking photos of all the amazing places and new experiences I have had. When I am having one of those days when I feel like I am plodding along again, I can look back and remind myself of everything I have achieved.

Solitude

As I get older, I find myself enjoying my own company more and more. I wonder if this is an age thing, or even a female thing, but I know its certainly something that crept up on me and took me by surprise.

Pre-London, I would be quite happy to spend time doing my own thing, but this was limited to doing my own thing at home. If I had the house to myself, I would find myself enjoying gardening, baking or reading, but I was never on my own once I left the house.

This may’ve been the result of having a controlling monster of a boyfriend at the time, who insisted on going everywhere with me. I didn’t really know what it felt like to be on my own outside the house, therefore I didn’t miss it or even know that I needed it perhaps.

Moving to London was the first time I really ever found myself on my own. With few friends here, and the nature of my job resulting in making more enemies than friends in the early days, I spent a lot of time alone.

Maybe it was living in London that made me realise I had the freedom to be alone. All of a sudden, I found I was dining out alone, going for long walks on my own, sitting in the park on my own, or even going to the cinema on my own. And I was was enjoying it.

None of this had felt possible back home.

But in London, lots of people were doing the same thing, and therefore perhaps I felt less self conscious about doing things on my own. It was more acceptable. But was it really a London thing? Maybe I had just changed? Grown up a bit? Realised that time alone didn’t have to be isolating? In fact, maybe I had realised that I really, really needed time alone.

Sometimes being on my own did make me feel isolated in the early London days. For a short time, I shared a flat with a random guy who was either never at home, or sprawled across the couch eating out of a takeaway carton. I spent a lot of time sitting in my room with my door shut, working until midnight, because I had nothing else to do, with the exception of going on the odd date (thank god for Tinder back then!) or seeing the occasional friends for dinner.

I now find myself with Ali, my boyfriend of nearly two years. In the early days we were inseparable, and hated time apart. We moved in together after 6 weeks (partly due to the random flat share guy mentioned above who developed a completely irrational moth obsession!!), but mostly because we wanted to spend every waking moment with each other (when we weren’t at work of course!).

So it was pretty hard to admit a few months ago that I needed some space. We were cooped up in a 1 bedroom flat and quite frankly it was getting too much. There was a moment when I thought the relationship had had its day, but then it dawned on me, I just needed some ‘me’ time. Some solitude in between work and my boyfriend coming home, or making the most of the weekends he is working and I am off.

This weekend, I treated myself to a 3 day weekend. Mostly because I needed to switch off from work for a few days, however, it also meant that I could spend some time with Ali, whilst also having a day to myself once he went back to work today. It was lovely spending time together, but I was also really looking forward to spending time by myself today.

I sometimes get nervous about going out on my own, but I don’t let that stop me. There are also places I wouldn’t go to on my own, so I save those for the days me and Ali have off together, or for the weekends my family or friends come to visit.

So today, I took myself off to Chelsea Physic Gardens, somewhere I had been wanting to visit since I realised they existed earlier this year. I couldn’t have chosen a better day to go. Although its September, the weather has been perfect, with clear blue skies and so much warmth still in the sun. Yet the leaves on the trees are just starting to turn, exciting the eyes and the senses in preparation for what is to come in the autumnal weeks ahead. I had never visited gardens on my own before, but I really enjoyed it. Lost in a world of medicinal plants, with the sun on my skin, enjoying my own thoughts. I took time to read the information boards around the gardens, noting the names of the plants and where in the world they were from. I also took time just to feel present. Admiring the plants and the autumn light pouring through the trees. Tasting the delicious goats cheese tart salad, and the amazingly incredible mouth watering almond and fruit frangipane.

A moment of solitude was just what the soul needed.