Category: Uncategorized

“It will all get back to normal after Brexit”

Thomas Cook aeroplane at Birmingham airport

I flew home from Greece last week with Thomas Cook. As I was queuing at Kalamata airport, I overheard a men behind me discussing the Euro, the cost of living, and increasing hotel taxes in Greece. “It will all get back to normal when Brexit happens” he declared.

He followed up with “we’re not sure we’ll come back here again.”

“You may not be able to,” responded a lady at the side of him, “if Thomas Cook go under.”

His response? “Oh Thomas Cook will be ok.”

It’s this kind of head in the sand attitude that pisses me off. How many times have I read that EU countries need us because they rely on our tourism, or that Brexit isn’t impacting the UK economy and UK businesses, and that we’ll all be better off once we’ve left?

Where is the proof? Is it not enough that failing businesses are citing Brexit as a very real issue in their falling profits? (I’m not saying that Brexit is solely to blame for the demise of TC, but it can’t fail to have had an effect). Is it not enough that a company with 178 years of trading history has gone down the drain?

Where do some people get the continuing idea that it’s all going to be ok?

UK politics continues into unchartered territory with the news that Boris has broken the law in proroguing parliament, the UK’s first ever travel agent and stalwart of the high street has gone bust and Brexit is looming ever closer with no hint of resolution.

That doesn’t sound like a country that’s in control to me.

On the plus side, at least we now have those incredibly informative <<heavy sarcasm alert>> adverts on TV and radio telling us that things might change on November 1st. Not how they’ll change – presumably because nobody knows.

Never mind. The British holidaymaker in the Greek airport said things will all get back to normal, so it must be true.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 things that make me feel like a grown up

Feeling like a grown up - small girl with hands up in the air

Being a grown up is a funny thing. Most people of a certain age, at least in my social circle, say they don’t feel like a grown up, and can’t believe where the years have gone. To me, being a grown up is being a responsible adult, which I don’t always class myself as! That said, there are occasions when it hits me that “woah, I am!”

Most recently was last weekend, when I spent £48 of my hard earned cash on a green recycling bin. Aside from the fact I have to pay when there are other local borough councils who issue them for free, I got really excited about it being delivered! Then got really excited about filling it! The ivy in our back garden has taken a bit of a battering as a result, but at least I feel like I’m properly getting my monies worth.

Here are 5 more things that make me feel like a grown up

Buying myself fresh flowers for the house

Younger me would NEVER have spent money on something so frivolous, but older me feels really together and mature at buying blooms for my dining table

Life admin

Self explanatory really; pensions and life insurance and really complicated but VERY IMPORTANT stuff. I’m currently trying to change our life insurance policy and it gives me a headache.

Cooking a roast dinner

A roast dinner is a grown up meal cooked by a grown up, no? There are so many different elements, and timings. It feels like a grown up way to feed people. I love cooking a roast dinner, especially with a couple of cheeky vinos!

Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant

There’s something so grown up about going out for dinner and ordering a bottle of wine to share with the husband. Perusing a wine menu seems very mature to someone who orders wine by the glass based on price and percentage! As does paying over the odds for something you could probably get at half the price in the supermarket.

Using a trolley at the supermarket

I use a trolley once a year – at Christmas when I’m buying ALL the food and drink. Most of the time I just get a basket and buy a few bits at a time. Trolleys are for parents with children or people with freezers who buy in bulk or batch cook. Not for people like me!

Are there things that sometimes remind you that you’re an actual real life grown up? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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I’m not pregnant – it’s just how I’m standing!

I'm not pregnant - lots of different bowls full of food

The first time (to my knowledge) anyone assumed I was pregnant we were in Chicago. It was almost 9 years ago, for the husband’s 40th birthday. We were on a 3 night city break before going to LA. It was June and it was hot. We’d spent the evening at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar overlooking the Chicago River, eating and drinking with gay abandon. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (a big deal in ice hockey terms, I believe). We were caught up in the excitement of the city, of our holiday, and…well…life!

I remember I was wearing a fairly figure hugging halter neck maxi dress from Jane Norman. It was white with an oversized black and taupe palm print all over. And, as we walked across the bridge back to our hotel, an old seemingly homeless dude shouted “hey Mama!”

Did he think I was pregnant? I don’t know for sure. It made us laugh at the time because I was full of American sized portion fried food and drink from Dick’s Last Resort. I was a walking food baby. “Hey Mama!” became part of our vocabulary when I overate and looked like I was having twins. It was funny.

8 years later

Fast forward 8 years to last summer. We went to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena (side note, the obnoxious drunk wee throwing crowd spoilt it). As we approached security, after the LONGEST walk, the guy with the body scanner asked if I was pregnant. I feigned mock outrage. He said he has to ask everyone because of the scanning machinery (this was a lie, I asked my friends in other queues). In his defence I was wearing a really loose fitting smock dress. I was also clearly already “Saturday happy” (tipsy A.F) so I was either not preggers or a shit Mom-to-Be.

No human growing here

Although 8 years apart, these events both stuck in my mind. Partially because I think it’s kinda funny (I’m the least maternal person I know, so the very thought of me being with child is cause for mirth!) Obviously being pregnant is wonderful. But being mistaken for it isn’t the best. It’s not horrible, it means I have a full tummy and a day/evening of enjoyment behind me. But it kinda means it’s OK my tummy is protruding if there’s a human growing inside it, but not OK if not.

Here’s the deal. I have the Rose tum. That’s not a romanticised way of referring to my middle section. Rose is my Mom’s maiden name. My Nan, my Grandad, my Mom, they all carried or carry weight around their waist. I inherited my Dad’s dark hair and skin, and height. For a while it looked like I inherited his metabolism. I could eat and eat and EAT and not gain weight. But the Rose gene has caught up with me..

Most recently, in Athens, the husband and I had talked and laughed about the two pregnancy “occasions”. And, whilst we were sightseeing, he reticently (I hope!) told me he could see why it had been said. I’m so aware of my posture and being upright that, in standing up very straight, my tummy pushes out.

There’s also a photo that I love, taken in Santorini last year as I jumped off a catamaran into the sea, and the first thing I notice when I look at it is my rounded middle.

Fuck it

It’s such a shame that society has made us feel we have to explain being anything other than stick then with a flat stomach. It doesn’t make us more or less of a person. And I wish I could say “fuck it” and not care. There are, after all, WAY bigger things to care about in life. But I do. I do care. Mainly because I love clothes, and gaining weight means that some of my clothes no longer fit me as well as they used to, and I don’t feel comfortable in styles I would like to wear.

Funny how “Dad-bods” are celebrated, yet women’s bodies of all types are still insulted and commented upon!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Athens. Not pretty, but pretty awesome!

When we first decided to go to Athens, we hadn’t booked to go to Rome. Bear with me here! The appeal of Athens was the ancient history and the architecture. It would be somewhere quite different to other destinations we’ve visited.

Then we went to Rome for my 40th birthday and soaked up all the ancient history when we visited the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica.

We witnessed amazing architecture at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.

And, all of a sudden, we were worried that Athens might be a little bit samey. Call me a heathen, if you like, but you can have too much of a good thing. Temple fatigue is a thing, as we found out on our trip to Penang in Malaysia. You stop appreciating the beauty and detail if you see too many too quickly. We didn’t want to not appreciate Athens.

We needn’t have worried. Athens is a great destination in its own right and there was plenty to fill our 2.5 days there.

After the initial not so good first impression, we woke up on the Sunday morning raring to explore.

Changing of the Guards at Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is home to the Hellenic Parliament building, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is s guarded by two Evzone soldiers, and a changing of the guard ceremony happens every hour. Each Sunday morning at 11am there is also a much larger changing of the guards ceremony and procession. The road is closed and crowds gather to watch the spectacle.

Every step made by the Evzone guards is monitored by a military official who walks alongside them (you can see him below, in the blue beret). At first we thought he was there to keep the crowds back, but then we noticed him looking at the height and angle of their steps.

It’s worth getting there slightly early to grab a good spot, or do as I did and wheedle your way opportunistically through throngs of people. Seriously though, if you want to see the actual Changing of the Guard on the square rather than just the procession, get your shit together and don’t arrive at 10.55am like we did.

Hop On Hop Off bus tour

I’ve said it before, many times, if I’m on a city break and there’s a bus tour then I’m all over it. Such a good way to see the highlights of a city and choose when and where you want to spend more time. Most cities will have different bus operators vying for business. Where possible we usually go for the red City Sightseeing buses because we’ve used them on multiple occasions and always been happy. They’re reasonably priced and the commentary (available through provided earphones in multiple languages) is always good too. Athens was no exception; we paid 25 euros for a ticket which included one day free (48 hours from time of purchase) and both the city and beach routes. The city route covers the obvious tourist attractions, while the beach route takes you out to the Athenian Riviera for sea views and sandy stops. We chose to stay on for a full loop of the bus tour, to get our bearings, then hopped on and off later for places we wanted to revisit.

Plaka district and Roman Agora

Athens is split up into multiple different districts, which have their own characteristics. We were staying steps away from the Plaka and Monistiraki districts. Plaka is renowned for being picturesque with lots of restaurants and shops to browse. After completing the City sightseeing bus tour, which we started and ended in Syntagma Square, we wandered through Plaka. Here we stopped for pictures of the Agora, not bothering to go inside, with a view to heading back to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of the Zeus which we’d seen on the bus tour.

We didn’t realise at the time that the Agora was included in the Rome Pass we later bought. That said, the pictures were pretty good from outside.

Then we had a Plaka pit stop for wine and ice cream (me) and beer and cheese pie (husband), before heading off on the next part of our sightseeing adventure.

Arch of Hadrian

One of the things I find crazy about cities like Rome and Athens is the history that just pops up in the middle of the city. Hadrian’s Arch is right by a busy junction of a main road, and it’s just there. There is no cost to view the attraction.

200 metres walk away is the entrance to the Temple of Zeus. This costs 6 euros (well worth it) or is part of the 30 euro city pass which is valid for 5 days and 7 attractions. Bearing in mind that entrance to the Acropolis is 20 euros, you only need to do 3 sites (including Acropolis) to make this worthwhile.

Temple of Zeus

This place blew me away. Maybe because it was my first time up and personal with Greek columns and ruins. Maybe because it was there I realised that columns are built in sections because we saw one that had fallen and disintegrated into its original pieces (who knew?) Maybe because I’m an excitable sausage who wants to see everything in the world. But it was fab. You know something is good when you take so many photos of the same thing. Here are a few.

Panathenaic Stadium

Because of the aforementioned excitable sausageness, and FOMO, I suggested we walk the “short distance” from the Temple of Zeus round to the Panathenaic Stadium. We’d passed it earlier in the day, on the open top bus tour, so I knew it wasn’t very far. Everything feels longer in 30 degree searing heat though! The Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and is the only stadium in the world made of marble. Honestly though, it was a bit underwhelming. We didn’t bother to go in (it wasn’t included in our city pass and didn’t seem worthy of shelling out extra cash for). But at least I can say I’ve seen it!

The Acropolis

We’d decided to do the Acropolis on the second day, getting there early to avoid the heat and the crowds. You can walk up to it, but it’s on a hill and again it was scorching hot, so we used our hop on hop off bus ticket to go as far as we could. There was still a steep incline to the entrance, and the marble tiles were quite slippy underfoot.

I always thought the Acropolis was the temple on the hill. It wasn’t until we started researching that I realised the Acropolis is the hill itself; the area. The main large temple is the Parthenon. There is also the Temple of Athena and Erechthion on the same site, once you’ve passed through the grand columned entrance.

Because of its elevated position you can see the Acropolis from many areas of the city. Here it is seen from the Temple of Zeus.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

This stone stepped theatre is built into the side of the Acropolis hill. It has been renovated in recent years and you can see modern lighting rigs and speakers as it’s used for concerts, but it’s still very impressive. You can’t walk into the attraction, it can only be seen from a viewing platform, but there is no cost and it’s well worth a stop. As with most of the ancient ruins we saw, the real amazement comes when you remember just how old they are, and how they were constructed without modern tools or machinery.

The Parthenon, Temple of Athena and Erechthion

The first thing I noticed as I walked towards the Parthenon was the proliferation of scaffolding. You don’t see that on tour operator pictures! There is an ongoing, lengthy and expensive restoration project going on to save the integrity of the building. Some of the columns are weak and damaged. Previous restoration work in the mid 20th century, actually made the situation worse. Parts of the area, therefore, are quite the building site, with loud and noisy drills and work people, plus temporary project office buildings dotted around. And the site was crawling with visitors – I can’t imagine how busy it must be in high season. It was this part of our trip that contributed in some way to my previous rant about tourists. Such an amazing piece of architecture and history, yet for some people just a backdrop for their own photoshoot. Infuriating.

Also on the site are the Temple of Athena and the Erecthieon, both dating back to around 400 B.C. and of course the views across the city are pretty great too!

Hop on hop off bus tour – beach route

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the red Citysightseeing bus operates two tours – the city one which we’d done on Sunday, and the beach one which cost just an extra 5 euros. For a change of pace we took the beach tour on Monday afternoon. There wasn’t lots to see, it’s more useful if you actually want to get off at one of the multiple beaches, but with the route only running every hour we decided to just do a loop for some sea air and sea views, before heading back to the city for a late lunch.

Ancient Agora and The Temple of Hephaestus

Not to be confused with the earlier mentioned Roman Agora, which was built later, the Ancient Agora is a vast area which would have been a central point within Ancient Greece. Municipal buildings, commercial and residential dwellings would have sat alongside each other. There are excavated drainage channels, statues and pots.

The most impressive structure inside the Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus; which remains largely as built. It’s incredibly well-preserved because it was in use from the 7th century until 1894, although building started in the mid 400 BC years. Again such craftsmanship and accuracy for the time is hard to fathom, and today it sits in the middle of a more modern Athens which has grown around it. Amazing.

Also in the Agora is the Church of the Holy Apostles, which can be dated back to the 10th century.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens

On our last morning, before heading off to the airport, I went into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, which was right opposite our hotel. Although it looks quite new, construction started in 1842 and finished in 1862 (which is new, by Ancient Greek standards!) While the outside is fairly minimal in sleek white marble, inside is quite opulent, with beautiful painted domes.

So why isn’t Athens pretty?

I said this in the title of this post, and feel it deserves more explanation. There are parts of Athens that are picturesque, and certainly lots to see. But overall, as a city, it’s not beautiful. The effects of the financial problems can be seen in many areas of the city, with shops closed down and shutters vandalised. The contrast was clear looking out from our hotel – directly in front was the Acropolis, to the right was the Metropolitan Cathedral, but the left was a building which, at one point, would have been beautiful, but now looks burnt out, abandoned, and covered in parts in safety netting.

By saying Athens isn’t pretty I’m not detracting from it in anyway. It’s a wonderful place to visit and I would recommend it. Just don’t expect the pretty architecture of Prague, or the refined elegance of Nice, for example. But if you like ancient history, ancient ruins and good food, then it’s definitely up your street!

Have you ever been to Athens? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments!

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A bad day and the impossible task

I already knew last night that today was going to be a bad day.

“Why didn’t you do something pre-emptive to stop it then, you daft cow?” (those are my words, and maybe what you’re thinking too.)

Unfortunately it was too late. I was lying in bed, fretting, listening to the husband snore, reading a blog I’ve become ridiculously immersed in (I think I’m as far back as 2013 posts from this woman now; her family story is fascinating and her writing is really engaging and fun) and wondering why I couldn’t sleep despite my body feeling so so ready for slumber.

(more…)

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Friday Feeling [35] – a lesson in dignity

Kids go to school for an education – to learn about the world and better themselves in preparation for adulthood.

But what about when school is more than just a place to learn?

Some pupils in West Side High School, New Jersey, were being bullied because of their appearance; regularly turning up to school in dirty uniform. Other pupils would point them out and humiliate them.

Headteacher Akbar Cook can’t solve the problem of the students’ personal circumstances (in many cases they’re officially homeless, or don’t have access to facilities to keep their clothes clean), but he has helped to create a solution to the results of those circumstances, by converting an unused locker room into a free Laundromat available to all pupils. With a financial grant, and donations of laundry detergent from companies and local individuals, students can wash their belongings either independently, or with the help of an adult on hand to teach them.

The fact that these kids are in such poor situations, or that more fortunate students are bullying them because of it is a whole other post, but the thoughtfulness shown by Mr Cook is to be applauded. Well done that human!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

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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

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Dear Dad…

It’s Father’s Day. Don’t pity me too much. I have a Dad. He isn’t here anymore; not on this mortal plane. But he’s forever in my head, my heart and my mind.

I hate reading people say they don’t have a Dad anymore. If you love your Dad then he will always be part of you.

Today I will be having a chat with my “Dear Dad” rose. The rose I bought which sits in his wife’s memorial garden where some of his ashes are scattered. The rose I have a replica of in my own garden, where I spend most of my time in summer.

20180614_184245.jpg

Last year was my first Fathers Day without him. It sucked. I was bitter and resentful and angry.

Today, my second Fathers Day without my Dad, I’m just sad. Really really sad. I can’t begrudge anyone still having their Dad around – that would be spiteful. I’ve flinched and shrugged off the marketing and adverts and turned the other cheek this year. But I miss him. And I wish I was seeing him today.

If your Dad is a good man who has done his best for you, be sure to let him know. Not just today, but all the days.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Friday Feeling [32] – who you gonna call? Gay Bar!

We’d all like to think that we’d instinctively know what to say or do if a family member shared something important with us, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes we might need advice from a third party.

It’s not very often, though, that the third party would be a gay bar!

This story is pretty heartwarming – a bartender at a mostly gay bar in Mississippi took a call from a woman who’s son had just come out to her, and she didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so she called the bar for some advice.

Altogether now…aw!

Maybe not the most conventional approach, but thoughtful nonetheless.

Good on that Mom!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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Moseley Farmers Market

Farmers markets are quite de riguer these days aren’t they? Any postcode worth it’s salt seems to have one. Well, I can go one better, the Farmers Market where I live won the FARMA “Best Farmers’ Market in the UK” award in 2009, 2012 and 2016 – the only market to have won 3 times!

Now I’m finished gloating, I have to admit that I don’t get there very often. I always seem to have something on, or the weather’s rubbish (I’m a fair weather person). But, on a (rare) sunny but cold February morning I toddled off up the road to buy some schizzle. And by schizzle I mean edible stuff.

The market boasts around 60 stalls with all sort of fresh produce – cakes, cheese, fresh olives and organic meat.

Moseley Farmers Market cakes

Moseley Farmers Market cheese stall

Moseley Farmers Market olives

Moseley Farmers Market organic meat

The pottery stall has beautiful handmade, handfired goods.

Moseley Farmers Market pottery

Multitudes of flavours of cordials and chutneys on this stall.

Moseley Farmers Market stall

Baladee has Egyptian flavours.

Moseley Farmers Market Baladee Egyptian food

The Scotch Egg man is a personal fave, because scotch eggs are a food of wonder.

Moseley Farmers Market scotch eggs

There’s also a plant stall; we bought some bits which sadly died because the weather was too crap to plant them up outside for weeks afterwards.

Moseley Farmers Market plant stall

The pastries from Cossak Cuisine were flying out!

Moseley Farmers Market Cossak Cuisine

There’s also a hog roast stall selling hot pork sandwiches, and a samosa stall where the samosas are freshly deep fried in front of you and are OMG delish. Unfortunately by the time we got there they’d sold out, oops. So the husband bought a smoked sausage pastry from the stall above, which was delicious heated up in the oven when we got home.

Russian pastry from Moseley Farmers Market

What else did we buy?

What we bought at Moseley Farmers Market

Some garlic rolled goats cheese, sweet potato dip from Baladee and 4 scotch eggs – honey and mustard, spring onion and garlic, sundried tomato and Eastern spice. Yum!

The market is held on the last Saturday of each month in the village square. Which means it’s on today! Unfortunately I won’t be going along because I’m going caret shopping <<hugely sarcastic yay>>, and suitcase shopping <<actual legitimate yay, because it’s for our trip to Palma which happens next weekend!>>

Have a lovely weekend, whatever you’re up to.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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