A life update – back to where it all began

Did anyone notice I haven’t posted for a while? <<awkward silence!>>

I started this blog almost three and a half years ago, because I’d been made redundant.

Guess what? I’ve just been made redundant again! Well, I say just, I found out it was going to happen 2 weeks ago today, then I was off for a long weekend, then worked a day and a half before getting put on garden leave (where you don’t have to work but still get paid, in case you’re not familiar with the term).

It was pretty unexpected but not overly surprising, if that makes sense? I’m certainly not angry or bitter with my ex employers because small businesses have to do what’s right for them, and where would being cross get me anyway? I’d still be in the same unemployed position, but with a headache and heart palpitations and sore hands from slamming my fist into walls shouting “dammit”!

So, what have I been up to then? <<whispers>> I probably shouldn’t say this…but…

I’ve been having quite a jolly time! As I mentioned I was off for a long weekend immediately after I was given THE NEWS as we were going to the Rock and Blues festival in Derbyshire. At first it seemed rotten timing (“I’m unemployed! I can’t go spending money on drinking booze in a field watching bands I love”) but then it seemed good timing (“I’m unemployed! Sitting at home moping about it isn’t going to change anything, and I REALLY want to be in a field watching bands I love!”) So that was a whole heap of fun, and you’ll be glad to know I didn’t hold back on spending money on booze, including bakewell cherry gin which, as a none gin drinker, went down extremely well.

Since then, last week, I’ve had lunch with my Mom and brother for his birthday; sorted out the garage to make space for our new boxing bag (more on that new fad hobby another time); this week I talked the husband into taking a day off work (legitimately, obvs) so we could have lunch and drinks and hang out on Monday; tried (and failed) to fight off a HIDEOUS hangover on Tuesday (the trouble with not having a job to keep me in check is that I don’t have a cut off point so drank more and later than I usually would have done).

Oh, and then I just nipped to Scotland yesterday, as you do. The husband had a site visit to do in East Kilbride and it’s a bloody long drive from Birmingham to South Scotland on your own, so being the selfless hero I am, I offered to co-pilot. I perused Primark while he did his thing then we drove back down to a lovely little town called Moffat where we had lunch, and then dinner, and drinks (I’m painting a bad picture of myself here, I know) and a lush overnight stay in a lovely hotel with the BEST duvet I have EVER slept under IN MY LIFE (I found out where they bought it from and I’m buying one, it was THAT GOOD), before coming home via Manchester-ish way where he did another 15 minute site visit and I managed to buy some earrings within that 15 minutes (pro-shopper).

So, all in all I’ve been a busy little bee and <<whispers again>> probably not as pro-active as I should have been in job hunting BUT it’s a been very traumatic and stressful time (not strictly true) and the sun has had his hat on again so I think I was entitled to a few days “me” time before I start the job search in earnest (actually in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, but you know what I mean).

Oh, and it’s not like I haven’t applied for any jobs (I have), or been looking (I have), just in case I come across as a privileged little madam. So don’t judge me yeah, because I’m unemployed and might have a cry.

What have you guys been up to? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

“I can’t believe you’re still wearing a bikini at 40!”

So said my husband as I tried on a multitude of options for our impending holiday and asked his opinion a couple of weeks ago. Not in a rude way (at least I hope it wasn’t!) More in an incredulous way. As though women of 40 don’t wear bikinis.

(Sidenote – the postman could have also chipped in to this conversation, because I was in the lounge modelling my new bikini. And the postman has to walk past both of our lounge windows to get to the front door. The husband told me to hide behind the sofa. Maybe he did mean his comment in a rude way after all.)

Here’s the thing – I don’t like swimsuits. I find them claustrophobic. They cling a lot. They don’t dry quickly enough when you’ve been in the pool or the sea. They make your skin feel clammy while they’re still damp. They’re a pain in the ass to pull up and down to go to the loo. They generally have too many straps and are too high at the front and back leaving tan marks where you don’t want them.

I like a tan on my stomach and my lower back. It freaks me out a little bit if my middle bit is completely white and my arm/face/shoulders/legs are brown (I don’t mind white bum and boobs, that’s the norm, unless you’re a nudist). And I like the feeling of the breeze on my stomach at the beach, or the cold sea as I ease myself in, or the first freezing hit of the pool when I jump in. And yes there’s a bit more of my stomach to experience those feelings than there used to be. And no I’m not as young and lithe as I once was (although nothing seems to be drooping so far!) But I still prefer a bikini.

Why is it that we’re so keen to put women in boxes when they reach a certain age? Shouldn’t wear short skirts, shouldn’t have long hair, should dress in classic neutral colours. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past. I probably didn’t think I’d be wearing a bikini at 40, because that’s not what 40 year old women do, is it?

Well fucksticks to that. Neither my age or my “less slim” stomach is going to shame me into wearing something just because other people think I should. Whether that be the husband, the postman or the media.

This is not (misplaced) body confidence, by the way. I know I don’t look as good as I’d like to. But I refuse to be uncomfortable just to suit society.

Last time we were in Greece there were two Greek women on the beach. Both large ladies, both probably in their 60s, and both wearing a bikini. Not a skimpy tie sided, triangle top affair, admittedly. There was a decent amount of fabric and underwiring going on. But they were there and they were chilling and they were talking and sunbathing and swimming. I assume they were comfortable. I do notice a lot less body consciousness in non commercial Europe (hence the male budgie smuggler not being extinct!)

I’ve blogged about this subject before, 2 years ago, post holiday. I talked about the difference between my early 20s self in a bikini and my then late 30s one in one. And I stand by what I said then:

“My body looks how it does because of the life I lead. I enjoy life. I enjoy food. I enjoy drinking. I don’t enjoy exercise!”

Anyway, here are my two new bikinis, both from George at Asda. And I will be coming home from our late summer holiday with a tanned tum, so there!

Asda ombre blue bikini

Asda melon bikini with straps

What’s your approach to swimwear? Are you a cover up or stuff it kind of person?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

The power of subtle protest

It’s pretty fair to say that Donald Trump’s visit to the UK has dominated the news over the past few days – from him holding hands with Theresa May again <<shudder>> to walking in front of our dear old Queen, and kiss arsing with Piers Morgan, there was more than enough hairy tangerine fodder for the media to report on. Also gaining column inches and airwaves were protests around the country; the frankly hilarious Trump Baby balloon, and marches across London and other major cities, continuing up into Scotland as he enjoyed a round of golf with his son at his Turnberry golf course before flying off to Finland.

The laws around protesting in the UK are pretty relaxed and, if you follow the right protocol and keep it peaceful, public protests are a valid part of democracy and exercising the right to demonstrate displeasure. Of course there’s the policing of such protests, which comes at a cost to the taxpayer, but it seems that sometimes the police are in agreement with the protestors (the picture below has been hailed as the photograph of the weekend).

Trump protestor high fives policeman

What about in countries where protesting about something important to you isn’t as welcome though? In Russia, where the World Cup reached its grand finale yesterday, the country has a terrible reputation for supporting the rights of the LGBTQ community and ranks 45 out of 49 European countries for gay rights by the ILGA-Europe, a network of European LGBT groups.

You can imagine then that a public protest wouldn’t go down too well.

Undeterred a group of activists has been subtly sharing a Gay Pride message throughout the duration of the tournament. Project Hidden Flag  has seen six people from six countries (Spain, Holland, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia) dressed in different coloured shirts – which together, form the Pride flag.

Project Hidden Flag 3

But what can the Russian authorities do? They’re just football fans enjoying a football tournament, right?

Project Hidden Flag 2

Project Hidden Flag

The brilliance of this is it’s absolute subtlety and creativity. Sometimes a handful of protestors can be just as effective as thousands. Well done those people!

Find out more about Project Hidden Flag and the people involved here.

Coupled with Paddy Power’s donations to LGBTQ charities for every Russian goal scored, which culminated in a cool £170,000 total, and the message is clear. The Russian approach is wrong, and people are calling them out on it. Let’s hope for change in the future.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The strangest things can make you feel sad

The other day I was hanging some wet washing up to dry and I had an enormous wave of grief and sadness wash over me, because of a pair of pyjamas. They’re leopard print and they have pockets and they were one of my Christmas gifts the last Christmas before my Dad died. I had a flash back to putting them on, as soon as I opened them, over my clothes. I put on pretty much all the other clothes Dad and his wife bought me as well, including a pair of leopard print tights on my head. My Dad was laughing, his eyes crinkling up until you couldn’t see them anymore, and telling me I was a nutter. We all knew that Christmas was going to be his last, even though we didn’t say it. He knew it too – he really went overboard and spoilt us all.

I read an article recently that really resonated with me. You can read it here. It talks about life carrying on, and changing in ways that mean a person you’ve lost wouldn’t recognise things anymore. When we moved house I got really upset that my Dad wouldn’t know where we lived anymore, if in some way he could ever come back (I’m actually welling up typing this, the thought still gets me). When I changed my car it occurred to me that he wouldn’t know it was me if he saw me driving down the street. I still have his phone number in my mobile, and cant being myself to delete it, just in case he managed to get in touch. All daft thoughts, I know. (Also, can you imagine how freaked out I’d be if my phone rang and “Dad” popped up?!)

I can’t imagine how that grief must be magnified if you lose a partner.

We went to Dubrovnik last week, me and the husband and Dad’s wife. And we talked about Dad, as we often do. We knew he’d be happy that the 3 of us are so close and that Julie (Dad’s wife) travels with us. But there’s that ever present reminder that the 3 of us are together because Dad isn’t here anymore.

Grief can hit you at any time, unexpectedly, it can take the shine off your day; zap your mood from hero to zero in an instant.

But it can also bring back happy memories, reminding you to think of the good times.

Almost 2 years on and I’m still learning that, actually, grief is a law unto itself. It doesn’t go away. It just changes over time.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

A visit to Port de Soller, Majorca

When we started planning our long weekend in Palma, I began researching feasible day trips that would compliment our visit without taking up too much time. It’s nice to get out of a city and see some of the surrounding areas if your visit permits (like the time we went to Cannes and Antibes while staying in Nice, or when we took the train to Annecy on the French Swiss border from our base in Lyon). I read a blog post by Stephanie at Priceless Life of Mine singing the praises of Port de Soller, and another by Sima at The Curious Pixie and Port de Soller became art of our travel itinerary.

What we didn’t bank on was a last minute change to our itinerary thanks to rain on our arrival, then road closures in Palma on the morning we planned to take the open top bus tour because of a public running race meaning we brought the train journey to Soller forward a day. Which is why we missed an earlier train than I would have liked!

The trainline from Palma to Soller has been operational since 1911. Port de Soller was starting to boom in the late 1800s but, being quite isolated on the other side of the mountains, links to the capital Palma were slow and limited. The trainline tunnels through the mountains, making the journey a palatable one hour long, with some lovely scenery along the way. The train itself is old and wooden and leaves from the Ferrocaril de Soller station in Palma just 6 times a day. It’s a popular tourist attraction with a limited number of carriages, so arriving early to book your ticket is recommended (we actually just missed the previous train, because it was fully booked).

Inside the train there are no real comforts! Seats are bench style on either side of the carriage and there are opening windows. That’s pretty much all you can say! No air con, no toilets and no refreshments. And it’s wonderful for it.

Inside the train

Wooden train to Soller

As I mentioned, the journey takes around an hours, during which time you snake through countryside, alongside the Serra de Tramuntana mountains (a world UNESCO site) and through tunnels before emerging on the other side at the inland town of Soller.

Now, the original plan (in my head) had been to have a wander around Soller – there isn’t an awful lot there but the architecture looks pretty and there’s a nice church and some botanical gardens. But, as I said, we were already later than we’d have liked to be, plus there appeared to be a cycling race happening in Soller (more plan scuppering healthy people!) and, in truth, we were hungry, so we hopped on the first tram which took us down to the port.

Wooden tram to Port de Soller

The trams are also wooden and run on electric from the town in the hills about 3km down to sea level and along the beach front. It pays to keep your eyes open to avoid finding yourself in the path of one (ears are less useful as they’re very very quiet).

Open tram at Port de Soller

There isn’t an awful lot to do in Port de Soller really, but sometimes that’s nice, don’t you think? We ambled along the front, watched people braving the sea (although it was a beautiful day the water is still cold in early May), looked at the boats and found a nice place for lunch where I had Majorcan aubergines and 2 large glasses of sangria.

I’d already decided that we should get the bus back, because the return train timetable to Palma is as intermittent as on the way there, with long waits between trains if you miss one. It also afforded us some different views as we snaked along the mountain paths.

The bus stopped off at the mountain village of Valldemossa, you can see how high it is in the mountains by the clouds hovering over the top of the buildings.

Again I would have like to have had a walk around, but it was getting rather late and we’d already walked quite a lot that day (my Mother in Law was with us, so I had to be considerate – not my strongest point when we’re sightseeing!) so we stayed on the bus back to Palma.

Imagine living in this house! Beautiful, until you get home and realise you’ve forgotten the milk (or wine!)

House in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains Majorca

It was great to see another side of Majorca; it has a reputation for being just a beach destination but I hadn’t realised how green and mountainous it is away from the coast, which is a great draw for hikers and mountain bikers.

Missed my other Palma posts? Read an overview of our visit here and about Palma cathedral here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Palma Cathedral

Building work on Palma Cathedral or, to give it it’s full name, the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, started in 1229 and wasn’t finished until 1601. It’s Catalan Gothic style has undergone work and changes throughout the centuries to bring it to the point it’s at today. It has one of the largest rose windows in the world (known as the Gothic Eye) and is the main focus of Palma’s coastline, overlooking the Parc de la Mer and the port.

As often happens with me and tourist attractions, I got so engrossed that I couldn’t stop looking at it and taking photographs. Even though we passed it multiple times during our short stay, I never tired of marvelling at the detail or the sheer scale of the building.

Palma Cathedral in the sunshine

In truth, for me, the outside was probably more impressive than the inside, purely from an aesthetic point of view. I mean, just look at that detail! The intricate carvings and turrets are incredible. But the Gothic Eye and other stained glass windows are very beautiful and bathe the light stone interior in lots of colours, and for just 7 euros entrance fee it’s certainly worth a visit.

It’s also possible to book a tour of the cathedral terraces, which aren’t open to the general public, but we didn’t get chance on this occasion.

There’s always next time…!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Happy 70th birthday to the NHS

70 years of bringing people into the world, looking after people in need, putting people back together again, fixing bones and scrapes, replacing internal organs, saving lives, making lives better, holding hands in times of need, saying nice things, delivering bad news, staring death in the face.

We should be forever grateful for our NHS, and forever protective of it to keep it as a free service for everyone who needs it. It will be a sad and socially dividing day if our NHS is ever privatised and we’re all forced to pay for care.

When we were in LA a few years back we made friends with a guy, Steve, who had no health insurance because he couldn’t afford to pay for it. He got sick and was put into a coma in order to recover; he was in hospital for 10 days all told. The doctors knew he had no insurance, so at that point they literally had to make a decision as to whether a man’s life was worth saving for “free”.

Steve recovered, thankfully for him. But the debt he accrued from his hospital stay was allocated against his name, his records, so that any time he earned any money, it was deducted at source as payment towards what he owed. Steve had an estimated $50,000 debt from that hospital stay and the treatment he received. He will never be able to fully pay it back and will never be able to get on his feet financially because of it. The treatment saved his life, but will also negatively affect the rest of his life too.

What a horrifying situation to be in.

Of course the NHS sometimes gets a bad rep; sometimes it’s deserved and sometimes it isn’t. People are always quick to point out the negatives, but less so the positives. However, knowing that in times of need there are highly trained doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and surgeons on hand to do whatever they can whether you’re living on the breadline or a millionaire is a comforting thought.

The NHS has given me years of expensive corrective dental treatment when I was a kid, treated me for pre-cancerous cells, diagnosed and continue to prescribe medication for my depression. The care and compassion of the nurses and staff on the day my Dad died will remain with me forever.

Here’s to everyone that is part of the NHS – not just the frontline treatment staff but the receptionists, the hospital porters, the cleaners. Nurses who go above and beyond to deliver not just medical care but hand holding, tissues, compassion and a shoulder to cry on. Surgeons who hold peoples’ lives in their hands. GPs with their extensive knowledge of a whole range of ailments; every day and otherwise, and can write us a prescription to make us better.

Share your NHS experiences with me in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

A weekend in Palma de Mallorca

I’m quite the fan of going away for May Bank Holiday weekend – you get an extra day “free” and generally the weather in Europe is better than at home so its good time to soak up a bit of culture and avoid the wash out that is usually a UK bank holiday.

Imagine my chagrin then, when the weather forecast in the lead up to our weekend in Palma last month was predicting rain, while the UK was in for a heatwave? That’s not how it’s supposed to work! (although, thinking about it, our May Bank Holiday trip to Lyon a couple of years ago came with rain and wind, although at least the UK had the decency to be having the same weather at home).

Ever the optimist (seriously, I’m the kind of person who will look through ALL the weather forecasts until I find one I like!) off we went on our early morning flight to Palma with me declaring it would “all be fine” and if it does rain “it won’t last long”.

Well, it was raining when the plane touched down, raining when we left airport arrivals and absolutely torrentially bucketing down by the time the taxi dropped us off at our hotel about an hour later. It was too early to check in and we were only in the city for 3 nights so we left our luggage at the hotel, dug out our brollies and headed out into the narrow cobbled street (me in open toed sandals, told you I’m an eternal optimist, I didn’t pack any wet weather shoes!)

It rained all the way through lunch in Placa Espanya (although I still insisted on sitting outside “because were on holiday” even though we got dripped on from the welcome but not completely covering us awnings) but by the time I’d finished my second goldfish bowl glass of sangria the clouds had started to break and that was that for the whole weekend.

Palma de Mallorca is the capital of Majorca, largest of the Balearic Islands and around 2.5 hours flight from Birmingham. Lots of people land on the island and head straight to the beach resorts, and of course there’s the hideous party town of Magaluf that doesn’t do Majorca’s reputation any favours but the island is very beautiful, with so much more to offer than white sands, cheap beer and a really good climate (arrival day excepted). Just 20 minutes in a taxi from the airport, the capital is a maze of cobbled streets, bright plazas, a bustling harbour with cruise ships coming in and out and the piece de resistance, Palma Cathedral. It has a wealth of great shopping opportunities (we weren’t there to shop, but if you were you wouldn’t be disappointed), some great food and wonderful architecture.

We did our usual open top bus tour to get a feel for the city, wandered through narrow streets, ate delicious ice cream, looked up at the buildings, looked out at the sea, took a train journey away from the city and up through the mountains (more on that in another post) and generally just had a lovely time.

Here are some pics.

Palma Cathedral

We stayed at the Dalt Murada hotel which is in the Gothic Quarter and very well located for the cathedral, seafront and lots of places to eat. It’s a 16th century building situated on a very narrow side street which would, at some point, been lived in by a well to do family. There’s lots of dark wood, stone floors and old paintings, a bright breakfast room opening up on to an internal courtyard (we didn’t eat breakfast in the hotel) and a rooftop terrace with views towards the cathedral. It was reviewed in The Telegraph and I’d say it’s pretty bang on. I’d always rather have a bit of character than a faceless place to stay, given the choice.

Have you ever been to Palma? Or to Majorca? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

DAYS OUT: 100 years of the RAF at Cosford Airshow

RAF Cosford hosts a huge airshow at their base in Shropshire every year, but this year’s was bigger than ever as it celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the RAF. It fell on the weekend following my Mother in Law’s birthday and, as she loves flying and planes (she always says she wishes she’d have been brave enough to join the airforce in some capacity, but it wasn’t the done thing when she was young) we bought tickets as part of her birthday present.

The event was sold out and the motorway was very busy on the approach, so the journey took us longer than expected. We set up our camping chairs and rug just as the flying started at 11.30am. The weather was absolutely glorious, the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, and we saw some great displays, including some Top Gun type fighter jets (the roar of the engine was deafening!) and, of course, the Red Arrows.

There were also lots of static aircraft on display, some retro cars, lots of food and drink stalls, memorabilia stalls, simulators, personnel ready to answer questions, and planes you could queue up for and climb into the cockpit (I didn’t – I thought I might get stuck, can you imagine the shame?!)

 

 

 

It was fun to do something different and there were moments of sheer wow – the jet fighters gave me goosebumps. For such a big event (there were apparently 60,000 people there) it still had a small event feel; everyone was just out to enjoy themselves, it was well organised, good toilet facilities and plenty to see.

Have you ever been to an airshow? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading, x

Friday Feeling [33] – Come on Russia!

I’m not into football at all but this is a World Cup related post. Don’t worry though, it’s not about the actual tournament, and it’s certainly not in support of Russia. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway…

All this media and public excitement about the players, the opening ceremony and the matches seems to have forgotten a very important thing – Russia’s antiquated and downright disgusting approach to LGBT people. But do you know who hasn’t forgotten about it? Paddy Power! Yep, the online betting giant – a perhaps unlikely source for human rights activism – has vowed to donate £10,000 to LGBT charity Foundation (created by Attitude magazine) for every goal Russia scores!

Read more about it here – my favourite part is the last reason they quote for doing this:

“[To] wind up a few gammon-headed Russian homophobes – perfect”

With the 8 goals scored so far that’s already a hefty £80,000 in the donations pot, and with the home nation already through to the final 16, let’s all get behind them and hope they hit the back of the net in the quarter finals to boost Paddy Power’s contribution even further.

There’s even a super duper hashtag you can use and follow – #RainbowRussians. A little bit of genuis!

What’s not to like about Rainbow Putin?

Rainbow Putin

Thanks, as always, for reading. x