Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Their Karma, Your Karma

 Be mindful of your own behaviour, it will almost certainly impact upon others, and remember...
Karma is watching!

If you've ever been wronged, even slightly, you'll know that it can leave a person feeling somewhat grazed and disgruntled, but then hey, life's not fair, and so we move on.  However if that wrong-doing is of a more serious nature, perhaps unsubstantiated claims or false accusations where you find yourself the convenient and random mule for someone else's deepest issues and insecurities, now that's different, and much more difficult to simply shrug off.

Such experiences may well result in feelings of extreme hurt and betrayal (especially if you considered the perpetrator a friend, and have actually gone out of your way to support them many times). They may leave a person feeling confused and bewildered, and questioning themselves (especially if the nature of the accusations is illogical, absurd, and completely unfounded).  Who, in this predicament, wouldn't feel an overwhelming urge to clear their name and set the record straight?!

At just turned 50, I've made a few mistakes in life, and am not entirely proud of everything I've said and done during my first half century. Equally however, I have been on the receiving end of unpleasantness before, and have learned over the years (sometimes brutally), that one's words, actions (and reactions) most certainly have consequences. Karma? These lessons are not part of any school curriculum, but are learned by most of us between the lines, through our own experiences, but we can only benefit from them if we choose to learn and not ignore. If there is such a thing as Karma, I prefer not to think of it as punishment delivered by some cosmic force, but as a learning curve.

For me, "Karma" isn't about religion, retributive justice, or even spirituality, but about accepting the inevitable consequences of my actions, and the actions of others towards me (good or bad) - simple cause and effect really I guess.  The real power of so called Karma however comes from what these consequences teach us and how they can shape us moving forward. Just by being aware that our actions will have consequences sooner or later (and that they might not be pleasant) can certainly act as a prod from our conscience, and even act as a deterrent. It can also serve to encourage the good in us, trusting that in time Karma will deliver our just rewards.

But what about those who unwittingly do wrong, or who are genuinely remorseful (sometimes good people do bad things right?) does Karma come back to bite them on the bottom too? Well if you believe there is such a thing as celestial justice, this possibly lies in the reaction of the person wronged.  If they can forgive then perhaps Karma deems there is no 'grudge' to settle, and the vicious circle of revenging one another ends. If there is no forgiveness, then I guess Karma steps up and does its thing... who knows?  I guess it's worth remembering though that at some point we all make mistakes, but if we repeat them they're no longer mistakes, they're decisions!

So, where did all this deep and meaningful stuff come from? Well, as you may have already gathered, I've been on the receiving end of some unpleasantness lately, namely utterly false and completely unsubstantiated or evidenced accusations. My initial reaction was to retreat, lick my wounds, and admittedly feel a little sorry for myself - but we all know that gets us nowhere.  So what next?  Well, I decided that a great big slap around my own face and a few positive affirmations were in order.
  • Don't over-analyse false claims. If someone believes something untrue about you, that is their problem not yours.
  • Don't blame yourself for being falsely accused. You are responsible for the truth in your own words, not someone else's.
  • Don't ask your perpetrator to retract their false accusations more than once, their goal may be simply to bait you into further conflict.
  • Remind yourself that one person's opinion of you does not define you.
  • If someone says something you believe isn't true, it is appropriate to state your truth clearly. Once.
  • How people treat us is their Karma, how we react is ours.
  • Be kind to others, but just as importantly be kind to yourself.
  • Seek out the counsel of wise, caring and supportive people who you can trust and who will help you rebuild your self-esteem.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful circle of support. Shout-out in particular here to my handsome hubby, super son, and absolutely marvelous mum... not to mention my darling daughter who, although on the other side of the world, shared her very sound advice. I consider myself truly blessed to have these people in my life, and love them all more than they will ever know. They are fabulous!

And what of my particular perpetrator, do I hope Karma kicks their sad, sorry, unscrupulous ass until it well and truly hurts?.. well no actually I don't.  However what I do hope is that they reflect and learn, and think very carefully about the consequences of their actions in future.
In particular, I hope they realise...

  • That they cannot project their own insecurities on the nearest unsuspecting person, simply because they cannot bear to accept anything negative about themselves.
  • That their false accusations, distortions or smear campaigns, have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt, and even impact on a person's profession or personal reputation and character.
  • That seeking to create divisions by sabotaging good relationships around them will not work in the long run.
  • That if they are going to make allegations of a serious nature against someone who has done nothing but support them, they need to be able to substantiate those allegations, and have some idea of what they expect to achieve once the distress they have caused begins to ease.
I fear if they don't learn at least some of these lessons, then life is going to be very very difficult for them, and presumably Karma will certainly not be on their side.

So what have I learned so far from this very unfortunate experience (and I say so far, as it is ongoing)? Well actually an awful lot, and dare I say, so much so that I'm almost grateful for it!  These difficulties have certainly served to remind and reinforce the wisdom behind words such as these...

"You can't change how people treat you or what they say about you. 
All you can do is change how you react to it".

"Don't let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace"
The Dalai Lama

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love Changes... Fact!

For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health - one thing's for sure... love changes.

Remember when we first fell in love?!   All that dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen (what?!)  Yes, a potent cocktail of hormones more proficient in tricking us to declare our undying love than any Strawberry Daiquiri or Sloe Comfortable Screw could ever be! And so, all-consumed with chemicals and besotted with the euphoria of having found our perfect match, we embark on a journey of passion and indestructible love. Some may say unfortunately (and other perhaps thankfully) this stage is not sustainable, we'd never get anything done and our bodies and minds would be shot to pieces.

If, by this time, we haven't completely exhausted ourselves and our feelings for one another, we'll probably begin to deepen our bond, we feel cherished, safe, comfortable.   Our physical interactions may not be so wild, rampant or spontaneous as they used to be but they're sure to be more meaningful.

Fast forward a little, and we may even marry, build a home together, have children.  Fast forward a little more, we may have taken to spending our Sunday mornings mowing the lawn, washing the cars, cleaning the house... (hold on, what happened to Sunday morning breakfast in bed, relaxing, reading the papers, chatting, joking, laughing together?) Remember those little things we used to find 'cute' or 'quirky' in our better half?  Well we may now find them infuriating and intolerable. We're no longer excited at the prospect of spending time together, instead we simply co-exist in a state of relative comfort, which is sadly lacking in intimacy or adventure.
Time to take stock maybe?

To quote George Bernard Shaw "when two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part".

So what next?  Well, some go on, and on... perhaps lacking passion, but with comfort and familiarity being good enough. Many make it through this stage to find true and meaningful long-term love and togetherness. Others are unable to rekindle a flame bright enough to see them through, and may ultimately decide to part ways. 

And the ultimate love goal?  Well, in some respects we probably all have varying opinions on that one.  For me, a shared sense of fun, humor and adventure are crucial, and can overcome most obstacles.  But I think for most of us, love also means being with someone who not only excites and arouses us, but who loves us for who we are (warts and all). Someone who appreciates the good in us, and understands that any bad may be a result of past experiences that still live with us. 

I reckon at just turned 50, married twice and divorced once, I've felt the force of most love-related emotions... euphoria, passion, excitement, disappointment, betrayal, heartbreak, guilt, utter disbelief!  My experiences have taught me (amongst other things) that without question, whether good, bad or indifferent.. love between two people will never remain the same over time, it is ever changing... and thank goodness for that!

Today, Valentines 2018, marks the 9th anniversary of my second marriage.  To say it's been a turbulent 9 years is something of an understatement!  We're a passionate and emotional pair, which makes for some spectacular ups... and downs. Safe to say it hasn't all been plain sailing but we've reached a stage where we're secure and content with one another and in fact a bit of occasional turbulence is welcomed... it helps keep things alive. My hubby and I have been through an awful lot to be together, overcoming a certain amount of judgment and prejudice, especially in the early years.  For us, acceptance of and adaptation to change has been pivotal to the survival and growth of our relationship.

I was born an incurable romantic, however life has taught me to also apply a sense of realism when it comes love and relationships.  Valentine celebrations are fun, and a wonderful opportunity to express our love for that special someone.  We don't have to wait for February 14th though to invest a little time in nurturing our relationships, cultivating and strengthening them in preparation for the inevitable... change.

Here's a reading from our very special Valentine wedding ceremony 2009...

"Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on Valentines, and romance in the movies.  We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true.  Love is the creator of our favourite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams."

Happy Valentines everyone! 

Monday, 15 January 2018

Thinking of Summer... Dreaming of Asia

So, how do we fill the void between Christmas and New Year, and the next consumeristic circus events that are Valentines and Easter?..  we plan our summer holidays of course!

And, as we begin to dream of new faraway adventures and wonderfully warmer climes, we probably also reminisce about some of the places we've already visited... South East Asia being right up there on my list of favourites. 

It's no wonder January has many of us turning our thoughts to summer, the first month of the calendar year cannot exactly be described as the best. For a start it's cold, dark and dreary. Many folk are being good and partaking in 'Dry January' (what are they thinking, putting the rest of us to shame?) and we are well and truly over the excitement of the festive season.  The real cost of that oh so wonderful Christmas is perhaps catching up on us in more ways than one... maybe our credit card statement has dropped on the doormat/appeared in our inbox, or perhaps we've begun a ridiculously brutal workout and diet regime, in line with potentially unrealistic new year resolutions (which seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time). 

So, as I turn my thoughts to summer, I can't help but reflect on how fortunate I've been this past few years, and what fabulous experiences I've been able to enjoy, in some very special parts of the world.


In 2016, my hubby and I visited my daughter in Sydney (also up there on my favourites list and definitely one for a post of its own), and on the way, decided to drop in at Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An. We only had a week in this amazing country, but that was long enough for us to fall in love with the place.  

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is marvelously mad!  The fusion of intense humidity, and delicious street food aroma is intoxicating.  Bustling markets are everywhere, and there is literally nothing you can't buy from the charming, friendly (and occasionally cunning) locals.  As night falls, this city of apparent organised chaos, steps it up a notch (as if that were possible), with the markets and street food stalls becoming an even greater, and very pleasurable, assault on the senses.

  I have never seen so many motorcycles and mopeds in one place, some carrying a load that you'd struggle to fit in a transit van, and others transporting literally whole families around Saigon's busy streets. Hundreds upon hundreds of two-wheeled vehicles (which by the way often mount the pavement to avoid the traffic signals), make crossing the road in this pulsating city an experience in itself.  It's certainly not for the faint-hearted!

Now well and truly ready to slow things down a little, we then made our way to the delightful city of Hoi An.  Situated on Vietnam's central coast, Hoi An boasts a very impressive and well preserved ancient town, not to mention a beautiful beach... it was the perfect contrast to Saigon. We had just four days in Hoi An, but boy did we cram a lot in.  We hired a moped which allowed us to explore the many quiet lanes off the beaten track.  Taking in views of rickety floating bridges, rice paddies, and traditional villages along the way, the moped allowed us a sense of real immersion into local life.  The absolute cherry on top of my delicious Hoi An cake, has to be the Lantern Festival, which I believe takes place once each month... breathtakingly beautiful just about sums it up!   


Our tiny taste of South East Asia, certainly whet our appetite for more, and the following year we decided to try Thailand. 

First stop Bangkok,  where we met my daughter and her partner for what we hoped would be a fabulously exciting cultural and culinary adventure... we were not disappointed!  We spent three nights in Thailand's capital, and loved every minute.  From huge (but friendly) monitor lizards in Lumpini Park, to state of the art shopping malls (not especially my thing, but impressive nevertheless), the crazy buzz of Khao San Road (where scorpions on sticks are the must have snack, and where ladies are more 'creative' with ping pong balls than you could ever imagine (so I'm told!)), this city has it all.   Take a river boat ride, visit a temple (spiritual type or not, they're seriously  impressive), take a tuk tuk to China Town (or anywhere), and (don't be shy) have a wander down Soi Cowboy... a little seedy? yes, for children? no, great fun? absolutely!

Again exhausted with the excitement of the big city, we then took a flight south to Krabi... absolutely beautiful, and a fabulous base from which to do a bit (or quite a lot) of island hopping.  Pretty much daily we took a boat at the end of the road to some amazingly picturesque settings (Railay Beach probably my favourite of all).  
Beach barbeques, the most magnificent sunsets, speed boating, bio luminescent snorkelling, cute little monkeys, turquoise waters with stunning limestone cliff backdrops... I could go on, but you need to see it for yourself.

It kind of goes without saying that if you love diverse and delicious food, made with the freshest of local ingredients, you're in for a culinary treat in South East Asia.  And if clean, comfortable accommodation, with unrivaled hospitality at ridiculously low prices is your thing, then this part of the world is for you (though do check Trip Advisor, like anywhere there are also some flea pits to be found!).  

So what are you waiting for?  Check out Asia, you won't be disappointed!

After all that reminiscing of far-flung and fabulous travel experiences, it's a little difficult to accept that this summer we're probably holidaying in the UK (camper-life rules right?!)  Yes, it's time to try and recover a little financially from all those trip-of-a-lifetime shenanigans (I know, dull, but true!).   However, it's only a matter of time before my feet touch Asian soil again... I feel a certain affinity with this part of the world.  Perhaps next time I'll visit Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, or I might  decide to return to Vietnam and Thailand.  I was lucky enough to visit South Korea some years ago and could also be very tempted by Japan and China, or maybe I'll try South Asia... India, The Maldives, the possibilities are endless (if only my bank balance was too!)  

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2018 - Brand New Year, Same Old Me?

So, did life suddenly change for you at the stroke of midnight this New Year's Eve?
Well maybe for some it did, but I'm guessing for an awful lot more of us 2018 will hold much of the same old, same old... and perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Having probably spent the past couple of weeks (and in some cases possibly months) eating our way through mountains of mince pies, spending obscene amounts of money, and having watched endless TV repeats of festive 'classics', I don't know about you, but I'm more than a little relieved to get back to some normality this week.

With Christmas behind us yet again, our thoughts now turn to the brand new year ahead and what it might hold for each and every one of us.  And, once the multi million pound firework displays have quite literally gone up in smoke in capital cities across the globe (whilst children starve and the homeless perish), when the party popper streamers have been eaten up by the Dyson, and when you've finally managed to shake off that Prosecco party hangover, what next? Will we, and/or the world around us change and improve overnight simply because we are entering a new calendar year? I think we all know the answer to that one!

Of course change (for better or worse) just happens, it is one of life's few inevitabilities, and I shared my thoughts on this in an earlier post 'My Thoughts on Change... the Only Constant'.  However the kind of change or improvement many of us look to make each new year include things such as give up alcohol, eat less chocolate, and not just join a gym but actually visit and work out there once in a while! Sounds great eh but if you're anything like me, whilst all of these things are not impossible, buckets full of determination would be required to achieve them; as well as a level of commitment which, if I'm going to be totally honest with myself would not last beyond mid-February... at best!

So, (not for the first time) I've decided once again that for me the dawning of a new year will not only provoke thoughts of things I might want to change or improve, but also of those things that make me happy just as they are.  I will not therefore be half killing myself at the gym in an attempt to achieve that washboard stomach or pretending to myself I could ever become teetotal (hey, I turned 50 this year, I know myself very well... and neither of these things are ever going to happen).  Instead I am determined to regularly count my blessings and appreciate the things about myself and my life with which I'm already absolutely content... those things which I hope will never change.

Of course there will always be things in our lives we may well want to change and improve, but know (for whatever reason) that we never can, some things are simply beyond our control. Acceptance in this case, I have found, is the key to peace of mind (indeed sanity!)   Looking back, during my younger years, I caused myself a great deal of upset and anxiety trying to achieve the unachievable, to convert the unconvertible.  These days,  I find it easier to accept things (and people) for what they are, take them or leave them, love them or loathe them - c'est la vie!  Cliche but true, we may not have control over everything around us, but we do have control over how we react and respond to what life throws our way. 

Don't get me wrong, far be it from me to rest on my laurels... I know there's always room for improvement and that it's healthy to strive for it.  Indeed I will for sure (okay perhaps) try to drink less alcohol, eat less chocolate and work on improving my fitness level (just a little!). However, I certainly will not be losing sleep or be beating myself with a big stick if I happen to have lost the will by Valentine's Day!

And maybe... no hopefully, no definitely, I won't be just the same old me in 2018.  But the new and improved me won't be the result of anything to do with chocolate, alcohol or any old treadmill, it will be the result of my realisation that there's an awful lot to be said for just being happy and content with who I am, and with what I have.  Each day of the year may well be an opportunity to change and improve, but don't forget each day is also an opportunity to celebrate and be thankful for some things... just exactly the way they are.

Happy New Year, and good luck with those resolutions!

(Adapted from my original 2016 post... two years on, sentiment remains pretty much the same!)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tree-Trimming with Sentiment

Being what you might politely describe as festively eclectic, my Christmas tree probably wouldn't make it into the window of any fancy department store.  Perfectly colour co-ordinated or thoughtfully-themed it is not... but there is a certain sentiment behind many of its decs.

Now it goes without saying that Christmas is a special time of the year, however in my humble opinion, it belongs very firmly in December.  Until at least the 1st of the festive month, I absolutely refuse to acknowledge the bombardment of commercial Christmas (usually thrust upon us before our Halloween cobwebs have blown away, and the remnant embers of our Guy Fawkes celebrations are still glowing).  All that said, once I do finally submit to the onset of all things Santa and sleigh bells, I have to admit that I love it... well most of it!

As you may have already gathered, I can be a bit of a traditionalist (aka grumpy old sod) when it comes to the Yuletide season. As well as being irritated that it all starts so ridiculously early, I'm also frustrated that many of us buckle under the pressure to spend an arm and a leg on 'stuff' that no-one really wants or needs, and I'm saddened at the excessively decadent acts of consumption in which many of us participate, whilst others in the world go without basic human needs!

Bah humbug eh... well perhaps maybe, but don't get me wrong, far be it from me to preach. I'm ashamed to admit I'm as guilty as the next person of over indulgence at this time of year (or actually any time of year)... eating, drinking, spending, you name it!  However, I'm conscious it could all be very different, and would love to see a way less commercialised Christmas, with everyone taking pleasure in the simple things, relaxing without worry or pressure, and soaking up the real joys of the season.

Anyhow, rant over... I said I love Christmas, and I do (when I finally surrender to the inevitability of it all) and here are just a few of the things that I look forward to the most:

Vino (of course), of the mulled variety; pimped-up Brussel sprouts (you know what I'm saying, chestnuts/bacon - nom nom!); roaring open fires; no clock-watching or morning alarms; playing Scrabble, Monopoly... hey, even Charades (in fact any old game which serves to drag everyone away from the TV); okay, TV (all those fabulous seasonal specials repeated year after year, of which we never seem to tire);  the aroma slash taste of cinnamon and cloves; twinkly fairy lights (though actually I do these all year round); the cat and dog having an absolute ball with the discarded gift wrap; Netflix binging; guilt-free-pre-noon-fizz-sipping; silly PJs, jumpers, socks; mince pies; festive tunes - from Fairytale of New York, to absolutely anything Michael Buble; uninterrupted time with loved-ones (cliché but true); and of course, the ceremonious decoration of the ultimate Christmas tradition... the treeeee!

Now I realise some folk like everything to match, to co-ordinate by way of colour or theme, and be nothing less than fit to take centre stage in a garden centre Christmas-wonderland display.  However, impressive and aesthetically pleasing as they are, (and far be it from me to judge - each to their own), these works of art for me lack soul, originality, authenticity... sentiment!

So, when it comes to the good old Christmas tree decoration, what does tickle my tinsel?! Well, I'm a bit of a sentimentalist, and many of my evergreen's ornaments evoke some very special memories.   Each year when I dig out those dusty boxes from the loft, there's an excited anticipation that I'm not only about to be reunited with some very individual and beautiful ornaments, but also reminded of precious moments, fabulous times, and incredible people. Here are just a few of my favourite Christmas tree decs...

Many years ago I worked very closely with a little boy undergoing treatment for Leukemia (he was 4 or 5 at the time), and this one was a gift from him. That little boy I'm happy to say battled with, and eventually beat, his illness. He's now in his twenties and evidently living life to the full! He, and his family, are an inspiration and I think of them fondly when I hang this ornament.

This rather lovely pair has emerged from the loft year after year for quite some time now -  made by the 'kids' (now 23 and 25), before they grew up into the wonderful adults they are today. All glitter, sequins and pva glue, I can still see their proud little faces carefully hanging these works of art, slowly and wonderfully transforming the bare branches of our tree into something quite magical!

I guess a boomerang is not the most traditional of festive tree adornments, but this one was bought as a souvenir of our wonderful trip to Sydney in 2016, and it reminds me of the fabulous and very precious time spent with my lovely daughter, who went to live there two years ago.  These days, she lives the enviable life of commuting daily by ferry across the beautiful Sydney harbour, and living right by Manly beach with rooftop views of the harbour and the ocean!  I long to spend more time with her, but realistically don't think she's planning on moving back to the UK anytime soon... and who could blame her?  Oh well, nothing for it... I'll just have to go there more often!

No prizes for guessing the origins of these two, the sentiment behind which is two-fold. First of all they were bought as souvenirs of a very lovely trip to Edinburgh with the hubby and  kids. Secondly they remind me of my dad, who is sadly no longer with us.  Born and bred just outside Edinburgh, I can still hear his soft Scottish tones, and remember how proud he was to have roots in this rather special part of the world. I think of him when I hang these decorations, and remember what a lovely, lovely man he was!

Perfectly personalised, and charmingly traditional, this one was a very thoughtful gift from my parents-in-law, brought back from their special trip to see New England in the fall.  A spectacle I hope to experience for myself someday!

Now these rather gorgeous decorations came from Santa's very own workshop, many years ago... in the rather magical (and very chilly) Lapland!  The one on the right is a shop-bought souvenir of our Christmas wonderland trip. The ones on the left are creations made by the kids (along with Mr Claus himself) during a Christmas crafting activity we stumbled upon whilst trying to shelter from the -30 degree cold!

This one was bought as a souvenir of a special day by the sea, and of a wonderful and charmingly eclectic Brighton. Hubby and I were visiting my son, Mitch (who was studying in Guildford at the time), and we decided to head for the seaside!  I'd never been to Brighton, but was captivated by the Lanes' historic maze of extraordinary antique shops, mixed with a scattering of contemporary boutiques.  Loved it... must go back!

This little collection was hand-made by my 86-years-young mum. She's always loved a bit of crafting, and has certainly not lost her touch over the years.  Every year when I hang these ornaments, I'm reminded of what an inspiration my mum has been, and continues to be.
These days, mum uses her spare time and crafting skills to create 'trauma teddies' - cute little knitted bears, donated to the emergency services and in turn passed on to children experiencing, or trying to overcome, traumatic experiences in their young lives. Great work mum, if I'm lucky enough to reach 86-years-young, I hope I'm just like you!

Given as a gift by my daughter (I think just the year before setting off on her Australian adventure) this cute paper-craft Santa never fails to make me smile with pride.  Little did either of us know when Elissa gave me this gift, how her life was about to change!

Having battled with cancer for a number of years, and realising she may not see another Christmas, one of my husband's colleagues made these decorations just last year.  Given to loved ones, and sold to others to raise funds for charitable causes, these gorgeous hand-made hearts contain a tiny scroll... each with a very special message.  Sadly, Mrs Crawford (aged only in her mid-fifties) didn't live to enjoy another Christmas, and it is with a heavy heart, but also with fond memories of a lovely lady, that we hang these decorations this year.

No particular story or sentiment behind these ones actually... they're just gorgeous in their own right and deserved a mention.  Left to right... best Christmas cracker toy ever, cute wooden jigsaw; glass 'alternative' angel, bought in Hamburg, Germany; jolly old snowman from Leeds' German Market; cute beaded wreath, sequin miniature tree, and beautifully crafted angel (school Christmas Fair I do believe).

So those are just a few of my favourites!  Hopefully, over the years to come, I'll go on adding to my random, and very special collection of Christmas tree decorations
 (although might need to get a bigger tree!)

More importantly, I will also be adding to my equally random and very special collection of precious memories, fabulous times, and encounters with incredible people.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Riding Dapper for a Cause

One day, every year, in over 500 cities across the globe, thousands of dapper chaps (and chapettes) climb upon their classic and vintage-style motorcycles, and take to the open road.
As well as having a ton-of-fun, these finely dressed gentlefolk are also raising funds and awareness for a very good cause... well, why wouldn't you want to join in?!

The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (DGR) was founded in 2012 by Mark Hawwa in Sydney, Australia, and soon became a global fund-raising event to raise awareness of  prostate cancer and male suicide prevention.

What can I say, this event is right up our street on so many levels, as soon as we heard of its existence,  Neil and I just had to take part.  Neil's always been a biker, and since his early teens has had all kinds of motorcycles, from a Yamaha FS1E (the good old Fizzy) to a GSXR 1000 (extremely uncomfortable as a pillion!)  He now settles for something a little more sedate (and economical) and tootles around on a Sinnis 250 Retro Star, with one eye firmly on a Triumph Boneville when finances permit.  We both have an interest in all things 'classic' and 'vintage'; and ultimately just enjoy dressing up and having fun!  Add to that, the fact that this event is all in aid of a very good cause, and we were totally sold.

The Leeds Leg of the DGR saw the gathering of over 200 immaculately attired ladies, gents, boys, and girls each arriving at our meeting point to the sound of throbbing motorcycle engines. It was a wonderfully bright sunny Sunday morning, in a car park on the outskirts of Leeds City Centre, and the excitement and anticipation was palpable.

Participants gathered, chatted, admired one-another's bikes and outfits, and drank coffee from a nearby McDonalds, before hitting the roads in and around Leeds as participants in this marvellous global awareness and fund raising activity.

From Kirkstall to Poole, Otley to Golden Acre Park, taking in the fabulous Roundhay Park Mansion on the way, we had a wonderful ride through some beautiful Yorkshire locations.  People along the way were amazing, waving, cheering and even chatting while we waited at traffic lights, curious to know what this eclectic convoy of motorcycles ridden by immaculately turned out enthusiasts was all about.

This global event, held in September each year, is nothing short of remarkable!  It's fun, it's inclusive, it's 'vintage', it's 'classic', it's a sociable motorcyclist's dream, and it makes a massive difference!   In fact I understand that the Leeds Leg of the DGR alone raised over £14,000 this year, with a humongous $4,856,861 raised worldwide. 

I was so taken with my pillion experience, I'm considering acquiring a customised Italian-style retro scooter of my own in time for next year's DGR.  What a ludicrous idea, me becoming a fully-fledged distinguished rider in my own right?.. watch this space! 

Fancy taking part yourself, or simply supporting the cause? visit: 

Thanks for reading (more pics below) :-)

Friday, 17 November 2017

My Thoughts on The Big Five 'Oh'... Good, Bad, and Ugly!

So, it's been just over a week since I hit half a century, and I’ve been thinking (possibly over-thinking) what future birthdays might mean to me.

 Having recently been warned by a so called friend “be careful you don’t stop looking after yourself now you’re middle aged”, I am determined to dispel any chance of becoming frumpy fifty, and over the months and years ahead will look to explore my hidden 'foxy’ fifties side instead!

I guess as we reach a certain time of life it’s easy to become less excited about our own birthdays, and perhaps not quite so enthusiastic in our ‘celebration’ of becoming yet another year older.  Though as I write this, I’m scolding myself... what are you thinking woman, you’re 50 not 90 - that said, I shall be highly delighted if I get anywhere near such a grand old age. And, the more I think, the more I ask myself why do we so often see growing older as such a negative. Isn’t having avoided the alternative for yet another year in itself something to be thankful for?   In fact it should be argued that actually, the older we get the more there is to celebrate!

I read a quote once which went something like “If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you be?” and yes, some days the answer to that question may well be 65 plus, but in all honesty most of the time it would be a figure considerably younger than I am.  All things considered, I reckon far more good than bad comes with age, and it’s just a matter of seeing our birthday-tipple-glass as half-full as opposed to half-empty.

So, accepting I can do nothing to slow the passing of time, and realising I am in fact super lucky to have survived and experienced the joys, trials and tribulations of yet another year, I’ve decided that all future birthdays will go something like this…

The Good

They will be at least a day (more if I can manage to drag it out) of pure, unashamed, indulgent ME time.  Perhaps I’ll sip champagne and eat cake (lots of cake), and if I so wish, spend all day in a onesie curled up in front of a log fire with the pets, watching my favourite movie (one problem, I don’t actually own a onesie at this point in time, but maybe a pressie idea for my next birthday).  If I’m feeling a little more adventurous I may decide to disappear with my lovely hubby for a whole weekend (longer if the mood takes me) to enjoy some kind of mysterious romantic escape - all paid for by him of course ;-). In a nutshell, I shall be unashamedly selfish and do whatever my heart desires.

Also, in my perfect birthday dream, I will be inundated with birthday well-wishes from loved ones; and cards of the hand-crafted, cute, sentimental, humorous and pure filthy variety will drop through my letterbox and adorn my mantle-piece. If I’m lucky, my birthday celebrations might also include parties, evenings out and, of course, pressies! And I will remind myself, that I may be a year older, but I am also a year wider… erm wiser! What’s not to love?!

The Bad

Harsh (but true) I am fully aware that post 50, too much champagne sipping will result in needing the loo in the middle of the night,  being unable to get out of bed in the morning, puffy eyes, and raging heartburn.  The oh so sweet and completely decadent birthday cake will leave me feeling bloated, guilty, and will almost certainly lead to tears the next time I step on the scales.  I will prepare myself for the fact that birthday surprises at this time of life might also include a few extra fine lines around the eyes, age-spot mass multiplication, and the odd addition to my growing collection of silver highlights.  I accept that I may also notice an increase in my short term memory loss (although, that may possibly be more to do with the excessive champagne sipping than age, in which case it’s absolutely worth it!).

And finally... the Ugly

Well, I reckon this will only set in if I don’t spend my fifty plus birthday celebrations enjoying the good and disgracefully accepting the bad.  My plan to avoid any ‘ugliness’ is to embrace my so-called maturity, along with the knowledge and experience that come with it. I’m going to celebrate the fact that yet another birthday means I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a further year taking pride in my wonderful family; forming new relationships and seeing existing ones deepen; I’ve been afforded the time and opportunity to travel and see a little more of our amazing world, to discover all kinds of weird and wonderful ways to have more fun (please don't read too much into that!); to continue to learn and develop in all kinds of ways; and to experience things I thought (or actually in some cases hoped) I never ever would.  Any potential ugliness... dealt with!

And so, age-related deep thinking aside, I can now begin to embrace the adventures and challenges of the year ahead (good, bad and ugly) whilst looking forward to my next wonderful birthday!

Many happy returns one and all, whatever your age.

Wow!  It's been quite a while still I last posted... really enjoyed that. 

(Adapted from my original post ‘Birthdays, the Good the Bad and the Ugly, Dec 2013)