Thinking of Manchester

Like everyone waking up in the UK today, and many people across the world, I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the bomb blast which has killed 22 people so far. Those poor, poor babies, out having fun and enjoying what should have been an amazing night in their young lives. Parents, taking their kids to concerts to keep them safe. Fans, all at the venue for the same purpose – to enjoy the music and performance of someone they admire.

It’s unthinkable.Thoughts with Manchester

It’s too early to jump to conclusions and as yet (as far as I know) no terrorist group has come forward to claim responsibility, so maybe it is just one lone nutter with a grudge to bear. In a way that would be easier to stomach than thinking terrorism has infiltrated the heart of our society and killed innocent people.

Although, if you’ve lost a loved one in such horrible circumstances, the origin of the attack and attacked is probably neither hear nor there.

I’ve been buoyed by acts of kindness I’ve read about in the wake of the attack; like taxi drivers turning off their meters and driving people wherever they needed to go, hotels offering free rooms to people stranded, kids who have been separated from family or friends being taken to safety and the general Manchester population opening up their doors and their homes to provide cups of tea, beds and a safe haven for those affected.

These acts of kindness shouldn’t be necessary, because in an ideal world this would never have happened. But it’s good to know that the majority of the human race not only deplores such behaviour from cowardly bombers, but openly and actively pull together to make the aftermath as easy as possible for everyone to deal with.

Sad times.

Thanks, as always, for reading. xx

Feelgood Friday [7] – Rufus the rescue dog

I haven’t seen anything good in the press to share with you this week – it all seems to be doom and gloom and misery and politics – so here’s a Feelgood Friday story from my personal life.

This is Rufus. He’s a scruffy little terrier with a sad background.

He was abandoned by his previous family and ended up in a rescue home. No-one knows for sure how he was treated by his old family, but based on how subdued and quiet he was in the home there’s a good chance he wasn’t showered with the love a little dog deserves.

Then along came my Mom, who fell in love with him, and took him to his new home, where he lives happily to this day.

Rufus used to be called Bradley. Who calls a dog Bradley? And when he first came to his new home, at my Mom’s, it was like he had no personality. He used to lie under the coffee table and not make a sound. You could fuss and cuddle him and he’d just sit there, with no reaction. It was heartbreaking. When my Mom had to take him back to the rescue home for his injections he cried, as though he recognised where he was going and thought he was going to be left again.

Now he’s a happy little chap who loves to play with his “big brother” Oscar the boxer dog, loves to lie in the sunshine, and loves to play with plastic bottles!

Rufus sunbathing

I bribed him with crisps for these Christmas pics!

He loved having a Mohican, little hipster!

Rufus mohican

He needs no persuading to pose in glasses – this is the “chews” at 10!

Rufus reading glasses

And he loves the doggy spa in the sunny garden!

Rufus doggy spa

Have you ever taken in a rescue dog?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [6] – First Dates on Channel 4

Did anyone see First Dates this week? (for anyone who’s not familiar with it, or not in the UK, it’s a dating program where single people are matched up and get to go on a dinner date in the First Dates restaurant. Everything is filmed and some couples are featured more heavily than others in each episode. At the end the two people are put together in a room and asked how they thought the date went, and if they’d like to see each other again. Sometimes the outcome can be rather awkward, as you can imagine!)

This week’s episode featured the fabulous Jeni and Eric, both in their 80s, both widowed after marriages spanning 50+ years and both wanting to meet someone to share things with.

I had a vested interest in this episode as I know Jeni. I first met her when our friends renewed their marriage vows last year (she’s the “mother of the bride”), and I sat next to her at some other friends’ amazing wedding in October. Jeni is bright, fun, vivacious and sharp. She’s also incredibly creative (she, along with her daughter, were responsible for creating many of the beautiful skull and spooky decorations and dressing the wedding venue, and an amazing job they did).

I’ve said it before, but I love love! And I don’t think age or loss should be a barrier to finding love. Of course there are people who lose their partner and have no intention or inclination to ever meet another person, and that’s ok too, but happiness and companionship is as important in later life as it is when we’re younger. It was quite clear from the episode that Jeni and Eric both have an incredible zest for life and a space in their hearts where their beloved partner used to be. That doesn’t mean they’re replacing them or forgetting them, just that the heart has a huge capacity to heal and feel.

They had a lovely, chatty dinner date and decided that yes, they’d like to see each other again.

Just look how cute they are together!

First Dates Jeni and Eric

You can still catch the episode on Channel 4 on Demand

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [5] – something to live for

I was in Heathrow airspace when the London Marathon was taking place, but I still caught enough of this story for it to be part of my regular Friday slot.

Part of the story may be familiar to you; a suicidal young man was ready to jump from Waterloo Bridge but was talked down by a stranger who told him that death was not the answer.

The (previously) suicidal guy went on to launch a nationwide appeal to find and thank the gent who had talked him out of his mortal destiny.

In an unexpected next step the two have recently gone on to run, and complete, the recent London Marathon in aid of mental health charity Heads Together, which has some of the younger, more progressive Royals, at it’s core.

What a beautiful story. From the end, to a new beginning, to a burgeoning support network looking after multitudes of people in need.

Good work Jonny and Neil.

Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn marathon runners

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Feelgood Friday [4] – real men love each other too

This story is a couple of weeks old now, but definitely deserving of a Feelgood Friday spot!

Two gay teenagers were attacked in Anaheim, Holland, for holding hands in public. They were on the way home from a night out when a group started shouting homophobic slurs at them, before launching a physical attack which left them both hospitalised.

It’s all the more shocking as The Netherlands has a reputation for being a very liberal country, and was the first country to legalise same sex marriage in 2001.

In a show of public support for the teens, and in condemnation of the attack, Dutch male politicians took to the streets holding hands.

Alexander Pechtold and Wouter Koolmees holding handsAlexander Pechtold, left, leader of the Democrats D66 party, and Wouter Koolmees, financial specialist of D66, hold hands as they arrive for a political meeting

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

We bought a house!

Well, to be technically correct we exchanged contracts on a house, which means that we (or the seller!) could still pull out but it would cost thousands of wasted pounds so isn’t really an option for anyone. So it gives us some peace of mind (at last). Hurrah!

The place we’re buying needs some work (pink bathroom suite, anyone?!) and some structural work to change the layout (it currently has too many garages and not enough living space) so it will be a costly and lengthy process to get it to where it needs to be, but it will also be nice to completely put our own stamp on it and make it into a place that meets our needs.

Plus the location and garden are everything we wanted but thought we wouldn’t get when we first started looking, so that’s great news.

I’ve been in a Pinterest frenzy for the past 3 months, with boards for garden ideas, décor and kitchen spaces, which I now need to revisit and start to narrow down into some sort of plan so that when we complete in mid May we can get cracking straight away. One of the first things to do will be get an architect round to draw up our building plans and submit them for planning permission (please be nice, Birmingham council!) as it can take up to 8 weeks to get approval. We’ll be glad of the garden in the meantime, and I have so many ideas for it, so lets hope we have a good summer!

Here are some of my fave home inspo pics that I’ve collected during the arduous home buying journey, and you can see more on my Pinterest if you’re of a curious mind!

Expect lots more housey stuff in the coming weeks and months, I’m sure!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

#GE2017

When news filtered through yesterday that Theresa May was going to make an unscheduled public announcement, theories included that she was stepping down from office due to health reasons, that the Queen or Prince Phillip had died or – my personal tongue in cheek favourite from our office – that she was pregnant!

It couldn’t be that she was announcing a General Election. After all, she said when she took on the role of Prime Minister that there wouldn’t be an election until 2020.

General election 2017

Then again, David Cameron said he wouldn’t resign if the country voted to leave the EU (he did).

And the Vote Leave campaign promised an extra £350 million a week to the NHS if we left the EU (then backtracked).

So, politicians lie. Who knew?!

Back to the impending General Election. I’m reading a lot of people who think this is a really good tactical move from Theresa May and her advisors. Opinion polls show that the Conservatives are way ahead of any of the opposition parties, so it seems like winning is a foregone conclusion, and that will answer any of the naysayers who argue that Mrs May is only in power by default, rather than by the people’s will (having inherited the job when David Cameron resigned). The cynic in me thinks that it’s also a protection for her, when/if Brexit negotiations go tits up, or we as a country end up much worse off, so that she can say to the voting public “you put me here”.

Whenever I’ve voted in a General Election in the past, I’ve always voted Conservative. This time around, I’m not sure I morally can. While I think that Theresa May is probably the strongest leader, I don’t like the “hard Brexit” line, and I don’t like what the Tories are doing to the country in terms of funding cuts from the very pillars of our society like education and healthcare, as well as vulnerable people and those with disabilities.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for me, just isn’t an option on the world stage – he’s a campaigner, not a political powerhouse.

Which led me to investigate the Liberal Democrats. I realised that, since the demise of previous leader Nick Clegg, I didn’t actually know who the leader of the party is! So I headed over to their website to find out more. First impressions were good; their policies align in many places with societal beliefs I hold. But then I read up more on party leader Tim Farron, and he too has his shortcomings. He doesn’t support gay marriage due to his Christian beliefs – as far as I can tell he’s never denounced it but neither does he think it’s ok. That’s not OK with me. Also, having heard him briefly on the radio this morning, he too doesn’t come across with country leading attitude. Could he have enough clout in a major political arena?

Which brings me to one of the points that I believe is a big decider in politics, and it has little, if anything, to do with the actual policies. People vote for people. And if you don’t like a person, or don’t see them in the role that they’re aiming for – for whatever reason – you’re not going to support them. I can’t honestly say that I like any of the main party leaders, as people. But as leaders, there is a clear distinction between Theresa May and Corbyn or Farron. So where does that leave me?

In a quandary, that’s where!

I think I feel like many people when I say that I don’t honestly believe we have a party represented in the UK that is the best party for the job. All of them, and their leaders, have somewhat insurmountable faults. I think this is why some people are apathetic about voting – because they don’t know who to choose. Is it really about the lesser of two/three evils? It certainly shouldn’t be!

Whatever the result, I think the next few weeks will be interesting and somewhat scary. Apart from last year’s Brexit vote, this could be the most pivotal vote of my life, certainly so far. The result could change the face of the country’s Brexit approach, which is groundbreaking in itself.

My last word on the matter is that I don’t think a Conservative win is a foregone conclusion. I think a lot of people are disillusioned with politics and disillusioned with the seeming lack of real choice. There may well be an upset – just look at Donald Trump’s victory! In the current political landscape, and I refer to worldwide, not just at home, it seems that we should expect the unexpected.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

When did drinking become so normal?

As Lent came to an end over the weekend, and all the brave people who committed to giving things up for 40 days returned to their usual indulgences (including Ellen – read her Lent diaries here!), I got to thinking about boozing, and how it’s just so so normal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising it in anyway. I drink a lot. Too much! I lie to my dentist and doctor when they ask me how many units a week I drink (I know, I know, but it’s just so much easier than sitting through the inevitable lecture!) In our house we treat everything with alcohol. Something to celebrate? Let’s have a drink! Bad day at the office? Let’s have a drink! Indifferent to everything? A glass of wine will help!

(pics taken from my instagram over the past week)

(This makes me sound like an alcoholic, which I’m not, but I do really enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling of booze and I’m not going to apologise for it)

I know I’m not the only one who drinks more than they should, whether that’s through the course of the week or in a binge at weekends. I just wonder when it became so socially acceptable?

When I was a kid my Mom and Dad might share a bottle of wine on a Friday night, or buy a bottle if we had people over for Sunday lunch. I wouldn’t even contemplate sharing just one bottle of wine these days! A bottle of wine is only 3 large glasses (although it sounds better to say you’ve “only” had 3 glasses than drunk a bottle, admittedly!) and 1.5 glasses each if you’re sharing with another person isn’t going to last you more than an hour, at best.

Where pubs used to be the domain of men having a couple of pints after work, or on a Sunday lunchtime, now women are stepping out of the kitchen and into the boozer, and rightly so! No element of a modern society should be skewed to any gender, and equality includes the right to drink where and when we choose.

Maybe it’s because there’s more visibility now, through social media, that we realise how much and how often people are drinking. Thirsty Thursday is a recognised hashtag on Instagram and Twitter, and the majority of people seem to associate the weekend with drinking alcohol. Sitting at home with a glass of wine is the norm, as is women with screaming toddlers exalting bedtime so they can kick back and soothe away the day with a G&T. I can’t imagine that being the case when my Mom was my age (which isn’t that long ago). The statement of “I need a drink” is synonymous with people receiving bad or stressful news, and it’s completely ok to “drown our sorrows”. Ask someone “is it too early for a drink” and you’ll quite likely be given an encouraging “well the pubs are open”, or “it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere” in return. Go to any airport departure lounge at any time of day and the pubs will be heaving with people having the obligatory pre-holiday drink, whatever time of day! (I’m also guilty of this, I have many photos of me proudly holding a glass of pink wine at 5am!)

So why is it that a lot of people are drinking more frequently than in the past? Is it because, generally, we have more free time and spare cash than generations before us? That it’s more acceptable to be steaming drunk than it used to be? (this is more specific to women, I think, who still get judged more harshly than men). That our lifestyles are more stressful, with longer hours and more responsibility, and we feel that we need or deserve the escape?

The fact that, as a race, we’re more clued up on healthy living and the effects of our lifestyles than ever before, you’d think that we’d be more afraid of the well known effects of alcohol (weight gain, memory loss, liver damage, the list is long) but seemingly we turn a blind eye, instead only looking at the perceived benefits (we feel less stressed, more sociable, happier).

While drugs are illegal and smoking is becoming less and less socially acceptable, drinking is only ever frowned upon at the point at which someone has become addicted to the point of ruining their life or the lives of others. We live in a drinker’s society. You can buy booze so easily and cheaply; at all hours of the day. You can drink a beer at the cinema, or a glass of wine at the theatre. Pubs often do meal deals to include a free drink. A few years ago I took my Mom for some spa treatments for her birthday and we were given prosecco on arrival. Some hairdressers give their clients booze! Now replace any or all of those scenarios with a cigarette or a line of cocaine. It’s unthinkable.

Does any of this change my opinion of boozing? Look, in truth, I sometimes wish I didn’t want to have a drink on a night out. It would be great to save money and lose weight as a side benefit too. But, in truth, it ain’t going to happen! It’s too ingrained in society, and too ingrained in me.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy the odd tipple? Are you a celebratory drinker? Should alcohol be treated more like the drug it is? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [3] – Robin Red Breast

If you’ve ever experienced the death of someone close to you, you’ll know that you can’t help but wonder if there is some kind of life after death, or a spirit or just something. To many people, it’s a comfort to believe that death isn’t the end, and that it’s just a transition to another state of being.

Robin at gravesideWhich is why this story of a lady who lost her son at the age of 4 and has been visited by a robin at his grave on the anniversary of his death is so so lovely. I’ve heard on numerous occasions of people who’ve lost a loved one and then regularly seen a robin (butterflies are another one) but this little bird went one step further and actually sat calmly on her hand, still enough and long enough for her to be able to take a photograph.

Of course there are haters who say it’s a load of old nonsense, but if it brings this lady comfort then does it really matter if there’s any science behind it? It’s just lovely that she can feel a closeness to her son, and believe that he’s telling her he’s ok.

I know that I took a lot of comfort in what we believed to be signs from somewhere when my Dad died last year, and I’m one of the biggest cynics there is!

I hope this story brought a smile to your face.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Feelgood Friday [2] – racism is taught

Continuing my new feelgood Friday series, here’s this week’s pick!

Little Sophia is 2 years old and obsessed with being a doctor when she grows up. Because she’s doing so well at potty training, her Mom took her to the shops to buy a treat to say well done.

Sophia chose a doll dressed as a doctor. The doll also happened to be black.

At the counter, the sales assistant suggested to Sophia (who is white) that she might want to choose a different doll because the one she’d picked didn’t look like her.

And Sophia said…

“Yes, she does. She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor. And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? And see her stethoscope?”

L.O.V.E

Proof, as if it were needed, that children don’t see colour, or certainly don’t see it as a difference or a negative thing. Racism isn’t ingrained or inherited. It’s taught – by small minded, ignorant, bigoted parents. People who should be doing completely the right thing for the little people they have created, but instead are teaching them negative opinions and ways.

Look how happy Sophia is with her doctor doll!

Sophia and her doctor doll

Take that, racism!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x