Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Bittersweet Week

Lots to celebrate, a little Lindy Hop, and a one way ticket to Sydney!

Ah, where to start with my bittersweet week?  A week I had been both looking forward to with excitement and anticipation but absolutely dreading at the same time.

First thing to get a little giddy about was my son Mitch's graduation. Such a turning point in a young person’s life, and the only time ever I think that his next steps were not planned. Exciting yet uncertain times ahead. We had a wonderful day… lots of laughs, lots of clapping, and lots of Prosecco!  I must admit there were a few tears too, mainly of joy and happiness but also at the thought of him moving back home and making the place untidy… joke Mitch! Seriously though, I was so proud of ma boy I could have burst!  All pretty sweet so far.

And so onto the next celebration... my birthday.  To kick things off, my hubby Neil and I spent my birthday eve  at our very first Lindy Hop social dance, held inside Leeds’ magnificent Corn Exchange.  We’re relative newbies to all this dancing malarkey, and to be honest had started to get a little nervous about the whole thing.  However having had a few lessons now, we decided we were confident enough to get out there and give it a whirl in public! All I can say is things didn’t quite go to plan – our minds went completely blank and we forgot all our moves (everything was going so sweetly until this slightly bitter moment!)  However, not to be defeated we danced on, and with a little encouragement and a reminder of a few steps from our dance instructor, by the end of the evening we had managed to Lindy Hop through a whole song, standing on one another’s toes only once or twice! We had a great evening, but when my head hit the pillow that night it was spinning with thoughts of what tomorrow had in store. 

This was certainly a week of mixed emotion for me, and today was a day that would truly test my ability to hold it all together.  I woke up that morning (the day of my forty eighth birthday) with a nauseating mix of excitement and apprehension… and it wasn’t just the thought of hurtling towards the big five ‘0’ that was making my stomach churn.  You see, as well as celebrating my birthday, I was also preparing myself for the fact that after today, I didn't know when I would see my lovely daughter again… she had a one way ticket to Aus, and a new exciting adventure was on the horizon for her.

And this is where the real bittersweet comes in.  Yes, we were saying goodbye and wouldn’t see Elissa for an awful long time, but (thinking with my glass half full head on) this was also the first time in ages all her friends had been round at the house together, having drinks and chatting – I’ve known some of them since they were young girls but haven’t seen them for years. It was heart-warming to see them all chatting and laughing as they wished Elissa all the luck in the world.  Yes, I love my daughter with all my heart and I will miss her, but I’m so proud of the brave, adventurous and ambitious young woman she has become.  Yes, a part of me is screaming don’t go… who’s going to look after you and remind you to re-apply your sun block, but I know she doesn’t need looking after… she’s smart, strong and independent. There's also the fact that this gives me the perfect excuse to splash out on a holiday of a lifetime next summer... best get saving!

It's a few weeks on now from that surreal moment in Manchester Airport departure lounge, and Elissa is having a fabulous time... overnight stay at Sydney Zoo, cocktails at the Opera House and most recently Insta pics of Bondi Beach!  Surprisingly, I've been okay too - although I am beginning to question what sort of mother I am... I haven’t shed a tear since she went, not even whilst waving goodbye at the airport. I feel almost guilty at times that I'm fine she's a million miles away and I might not see her for up to a year or two, and who knows, maybe the reality of it all will kick in at a later date. But, at least for now, I’m 100 per cent excited for her and as proud as proud could be.

So, as I sit here writing this post, some time on from my bittersweet week and sipping a glass of merlot, I consider myself blessed.  On reflection, I realise I may at times feel a little apprehensive at the uncertainty of Mitch’s next steps in life, I may feel frustration at my apparent inability to master a few basic Lindy Hop steps (especially in public), and I may find myself pining for Elissa once it dawns on me she hasn’t just gone on a nice long holiday. 

However, when I think of my bittersweet week, and of Mitch in his mortar board and gown, when I remember what fun Neil and I had forgetting our Lindy Hop steps, and when I close my eyes and see my beautiful daughter striding confidently through departures, with her world in a suitcase and bound for Sydney, I realise that the sweet far outweighs the bitter, and all I can do is smile contently to myself… how could I not?!!



Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumnal Tonic

What with the long, hazy days of summer now only a dim and distant memory, and with the stresses and strains of the working week beginning to take their toll, I decided that a long overdue pick-me-up was very much needed.

I can’t think of a better way to escape the madness of the modern world, and put into perspective any worries or anxieties, than to take a little time to appreciate the infinite beauty our countryside has to offer – especially at this time of year.  So, with our beloved old motorhome Billy packed up and ready to go my hubby Neil, adorable pooch Alife and I headed off, excited at the prospect of soaking up the natural splendours of the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria.

After setting up camp in the charming little village of Dent, and of course having refreshed ourselves with a good old brew  (for me, just the sound of the whistling camping kettle is enough to kick-start a relaxed state of mind), it was time to get out there and blow off the cobwebs.  Time seemed to stand still as we walked, and with the beautiful autumn sunshine warming our faces, we became totally engrossed in the gorgeousness around us.  Stunningly warm and rich coloured leaves danced in the breeze, and a near perfect silence was broken only by the tranquil sounds from a nearby stream.  We found ourselves completely surrounded by natural beauty, whichever direction we cast our gaze it was met with breath-taking scenes, so magnificent they looked almost unreal.  Even Alfie seemed to have an extra spring in his step, and a greater-than-before enthusiasm in his tail wag!

Other than exploring our breath-taking surroundings and enjoying the refreshing autumn breeze in our hair, we did very little during our two day stay.  We read, drank lots of tea, I did a bit of ‘grown-up’ colouring (a wonderful creative outlet and way to relax), we also had a little wander around the tiny but charming village Heritage Centre.  Unsurprisingly, we spent our evenings sampling the local ales and pub grub, with Alfie loving the cosy heat of a roaring open fire.

It took just forty eight hours, immersed in the natural beauty of the season, to unwind and regain a sense of perspective on life.  Indeed, our little trip to the Yorkshire Dales proved to be just what the doctor ordered... a very relaxing and refreshing Autumnal tonic!

During one of our delightful walks up Dent's fascinating Flintergill, we discovered this poem inscribed on the viewpoint above Dentdale... pretty much sums up the virtues of taking time to appreciate our wonderful countryside!

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Vintage and Retro Heaven!

If you're just loving the revival of all things vintage and retro, you really need to get yourself to next year's 'Retro Festival'

Having just spent a wonderful weekend at the Newbury Showground in Berkshire, where this fantastic event is held, I now can't wait for Retro Festival 2016!

Whether your love of all things vintage dates back to the 1920's, or whether you prefer the more recent 1980's retro scene, there really is something to cater for everyone's interest and taste.  And, if like me, you're just fascinated with anything and everything from whatever bygone era, you'll find Retro Festival a real treat.

This year's Festival offered three separate live music and dance marquees.  Firstly, catering for those into all things 1920's, 30's and 40's, was the 'Spitfire Pavilion'.  This tent hosted loads of authentic live acts including a lovely all singing and dancing female trio called My Favourite Things, and a couple of top vintage DJ's playing a range of fantastic tunes from Big Bands to Rockin R&B and Jump Blues.  If you're the type that likes to get involved, this tent also featured some delightful Tea Dances as well as lessons from  'JiveSwing', who are apparently the UK's leading swing dance teachers and performers.  If you happened to be feeling flush, you could also spend an extra £5 on top of your ticket price to see a variety of acts (including a bit of cheeky Burlesque) at the Saturday evening Cabaret in the Spitfire. However we weren't feeling flush, but apparently it was a really great evening... maybe next time! This tent even had a cutesy little vintage tea room inside, where for just £9 you could treat yourself to afternoon tea whilst soaking up the delightful atmosphere.

Then there was the 'Black Hangar' Stage, featuring all things Rock 'n' Roll and Rockabilly.  If you're a lover of music and dance from the 1950's and 60's, or of the 'Revival Rock 'n' Roll of the late 70's and early 80's, then this was the place for you!  My hubby and I watched on in awe as crowds took to the dance floors Bopping and Jiving and Boogie-Woogie-ing away to some brilliant live music from a range of talented bands.  There was such an exciting, high energy vibe in this tent that one could possibly be inspired to take a few dance lessons ready to join in the dance-floor-fun next year... watch this space!

The third music and dance tent was the 'Ricky-Tick Mod Stage', which according to the festival brochure was named after a Jazz (and later R&B) Club in a smoky back room at the Star and Garter in Peascod Street, Windsor - where a then unknown band called the Rolling Stones played many times during 1962/1963. This tent "aimed to re-create the unique atmosphere of the Ricky Tick in the 1960's while speculating on what might have happened if the Ricky Tick hadn't closed in 1967". Well, if you love all things Ska, 80s, Mod revival and perhaps a bit of Northern Soul, this was the tent for you. The Ricky-Tick for me was the one that brought back memories and evoked feelings from my wonderful teenage years (however, not sure I liked actually being able to remember an era that is now classed as retro!)  There were many fantastic live performances on the Ricky-Tick stage, but my own favourite was a band called 'The Ska Faces' .  Brilliant musicians and vocals, who delighted the crowd with a high energy and polished set of sounds from the Mod and Ska era and the Mod/Ska revival.

And if all that live music and dancing from across seven decades hadn't quite scratched your vintage and retro itch, there was more... much, much more!

I could harp on all day about this festival, but I've probably gone on too long already!  So, here's just a bit of a summary of a few other things that were to be soaked up and enjoyed at this year's fabulous Retro Festival:

  • Trade and Craft Stalls including: Vintage Clothing and Accessories, Vintage Hair and Beauty Salon, Vintage Photo Caravan, Massage Tent.
  • Walkabout musical entertainment including 'The Ukelettes' travelling Ukelele show, and a vintage brass playing trio.
  • Activities including: Craft Marquee, Children's Corner, Vintage Fun Fair with Steam Carousel; Helicopter Rides (I think prices started at around £35)
  • Vintage and classic vehicles and campers including: Airstreams; Tear Drops; Race Cars; American RV; Caravans and Portafolds; Bikes and Trikes; Classic Cars and Steam Engines.
  • Air display.
  • A group of ex-Serviceman 'The Echelon' with a display of equipment, weapons and vehicles used by the British and Commonwealth soldiers.  My hubby Neil was very excited by this particular exhibition and was quick to take the opportunity to chat to the guys about military history and even tried on a bit of kit!
  • An array of tempting food and drink on offer all around the festival site, and the portaloos were plentiful and much cleaner than you might expect!
  • Very dog friendly! We took our little pooch Alfie, who was made more than welcome and not refused entry to any of the tents or trader marquees - in fact many of the traders put out water bowls and even a few treats for any four-legged friends who might just be passing by.
  • Great site for a Festival! Newbury Showground was a fantastic site, and the camping areas were flat and clean, with the festival frivolities not even a stone's throw away. I believe there were some very basic showering facilities, but hey we're real festival goers and made do with good old wet wipes!
Being based up t'North, Newbury was a bit of a long treck for us (especially in our old 'retro' Billy who doesn't do anything above 50mph).  However, the sun shone all weekend, there was an all round fabulous atmosphere, and we enjoyed ourselves beyond all expectations... trip well worth it.  The other good thing about Retro Festival is that it's very reasonably priced compared to others, this year£41 per person for a weekend pass (plus £40-50 per camping pitch, depending on tent or camper).  

The organisers of Retro Festival are promising an even bigger and better fest next year (12th/13th/14th August 2016), and I believe Early Bird tickets are available until 31st December at  I for one, will be purchasing mine without delay!  Here's a few more pics...

Some absolutely gorgeous vintage fashion and accessories

Cream Tea anyone?

Teardrop creations
The delightful 'My Favourite Things'

Sunshine and Beer... Happy Days!

Inside the 'Ricky Tick' Tent

Doesn't need a caption really does it?! Except perhaps... the energy was all inside the tent!

The cutest thing about the Vintage Fun Fair!

Wish I'd had a go now :-( 

Our festivaling pooch, Alfie

The Ricky Tick 'Rude Boys'

Camper BBQ

More Teardrop Caravans... works of art!
and the back of the Teardrop (sorry, bit blurry!)

Neil and 'The Echelon'

The Lovely 'My Favourite Things' again,... this time with costume change, and addition of vintage band

and My Favourite Things... again, some pros have taken to the dance floor (this pair were brilliant!)

Some impressive vintage wheels

Vintage American Airstream

More Airstream and vintage wheels

Someone's got their eye on the sausage!

Delicious Cream Teas (treats and water for the pooches)

Neil's mum and dad had one of these when Neil and his brother Nigel were kids... happy memories!

Brilliant!  Complete with plastic drive-thru nosh!!

More vintage wheels (think she's been sitting there too long!)

Think Neil would possibly trade both me and Alf for one of these :-) 

Soaking up the atmos

Having a snooze, all this vintage and retro festival malarkey is exhausting!

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Change...the only constant

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change"
Charles Darwin

Image Source
Love it, loathe it, embrace it or fear it... however we feel about it, change is the only constant - the one thing we can be absolutely sure of in our lives (apart from death that is... jolly old post so far eh?!)  Stay with me, it does lighten up!

Some lives are, for a variety of reasons, destined to be more turbulent and complicated than others, and those who grow up with frequent change may learn to take it in their stride - sink or swim. Others may grow up with lives full of stability and regularity, but even the Steady Eddie's of this world will have to adapt to change at some point... big or small, like it or not.

Adapting to change is so much more difficult as we get older, especially when it's not by choice. As adults, we like to think we're the ones in control, and it gives us a bit of a shake when we realise that's not necessarily the case.

At the ripe old age of forty something, I've been through my share of change. Some not of my own choice, and at times leaving me uncomfortable, sad, or full of uncertainty at what may lie ahead. However, over the years, I've come to learn not only to accept and welcome change, but to embrace it, actively seek it out, and even force it upon myself!

Within a two year period during my mid thirties, I changed jobs twice, moved house twice, divorced, and lost my beloved dad! Prior to this unfortunate spell, my life had been fairly uncomplicated and, I have to say, the events of those couple of years hit me like a ton of bricks. Although I didn't realise it at the time, this very difficult period gave rise to a totally transformed mind-set in the way I deal with life, and in particular the way I deal with change.

These days, I'm a bit of a 'change junkie' - if there's been none in my life for some time, I find myself seeking it out and making it happen. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for 'if it ain't broken, don't try to fix it', but I've also experienced the amazing positive effect of even the slightest of change.  I'm reluctant to use cliches, but for me it really is about getting out of my comfort zone, and opening my mind to all things new - changing the way I think, and my attitude towards things, as well as the way I do things.  I'm not necessarily talking big stuff here, in fact on the contrary, it's often the very small things that present themselves, forcing us to take a step back, re-think and embrace something new - never to look back!

So, on a lighter note, here are some examples of a few slight changes I've made to my life over recent years, which may on the face of it seem relatively trivial.  However, by simply opening my mind where it might have previously been closed, and with a willingness to just let go and see what happens, for me these few small changes have led to incalculable wonderful results.

First of all... Cats!
I'd always disliked cats. Why? Well, I'd never really asked myself that until they inadvertently came into my life a little over ten years ago (my new partner, now hubby, had them).  Turns out the only real reason I could think up was that my mum didn't like them, never had, she said they were scary - must be true then. Or perhaps not. So, with no real reasoning behind my dislike for these cute, furry little purring creatures which seem to provide so much pleasure to so many people, I decided (quite out of the blue) to find out for myself.  Yes, much to the surprise of everyone who thought they knew me, I went and bought myself a gorgeous little kitten... and the rest is history, I fell in love immediately and have had cats ever since (three altogether, Jack, Lulu, and Maggie), what's more, I'd have another tomorrow!

The adorable Maggie - sadly Jack and Lulu are no longer with us :-( 

Secondly, Parmesan Cheese
One of the few things I disliked more than cats was Parmesan cheese!  How on earth could anyone eat that stuff, the smell is stomach churning - why would I even want to try it? Well, whilst on a romantic weekend in Rome, again with my then new partner (now hubby), sitting outside a wonderful restaurant located on an enchantingly busy piazza, sipping a large glass of Pinot, and partaking in a spot of beautiful people watching, I waited for my Fettuccine to arrive.  It arrived... covered in a heavy 'dusting' of grated Parmesan aaaghh!!  You know what it's like, new relationship, beautiful setting, sunshine, romance...  I couldn't send my dish back and spoil the moment.  There was only one thing to do, give it a try. You know what's coming next... yes, I loved it, and now struggle to accept any pasta dish without it.  Why did I deprive myself of this wonderful taste sensation for so long?!

Pasta's just not pasta without it!

And last but by no means least...Camping!

And so, onto the most recent change in my life.  Following my first ever camping experience at the age of around 17, which resulted in tears and a late-night check-in at a nearby B&B, I vowed to myself... never again! And that was that, mind closed to camping for the next 30 years. More recently however, I have become increasingly interested in the music/beer festival scene, and thought perhaps I might just consider giving camping another go... however only as a necessary means to experiencing the pleasures of a festival.  So, much to the complete disbelief of my hubby, I suggested we went camping... to a beer and music festival of course.  I had a wonderful time, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience - even putting up the tent in the pouring rain.  I knew I'd enjoy the music (and the beer!), but I was totally taken aback at how much I loved the camping element of our trip. We have, during the course of this year, upgraded from tent to clapped out old camper vehicle, but since that first camping trip to our first festival just under a year ago, we haven't looked back. If you've read some of my previous posts you'll know all about 'Billy', and we're looking forward to many a camping adventure to come.  I am totally converted, and a truly happy camper!

Now although life for me seems fairly settled at the moment, I know change will always be just around the corner, some for better and some for worse.   So, when it is time for a change, whether or not of my own choosing, here are a few quotes I'll try to remember...

Don't fight change, become a student of it, it's the only constant
Change - expect it, anticipate it, welcome it 
See change not as a threat, but as an opportunity

and remember...

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies! 

Thanks for reading!