Thing #68 completed: Get another tattoo!

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IMG_3672So in May last year I got a tattoo, after many years of thinking about it. (You can read the story of why I wanted a tattoo here, and see the first one here.) It was a simple black outline of a phoenix in the shape of a heart, and I love it. But …. over the months I realised that much as I loved it, I wanted a bit of colour on there, but I had no idea what. And then it came to me – a small red rose inside the heart.

Being the daughter of a Yorkshire lass I guess I should have stayed well away – and everyone knows I hate red roses. Or rather, up till now I hated red roses. See, the relationship with my children's father, who I left in 2001, was rocky to say the least, and every time we had an argument he bought me red roses as an apology – and I quickly grew to hate roses as a result.

Sadly, he died seven weeks ago today. I've been completely side-swiped by the emotions that have hit me as a result. While we weren't close when he was alive he was the father of my children and I knew him for half my lifetime, and I've been left feeling not relieved but deeply sad for my children, sad that I won't be able to share their future with him and sad for the waste of a life.

And then it came to me. Why not reclaim the rose for myself, and at the same time have a lasting memory of someone who I did love, once, and who I find I'm missing more than I ever anticipated.

So this one is for me: for freedom, for emancipation, for love for myself and those around me. And it's for you too, Ian. Rest in peace, you old bugger.

Thanks to Amy at Real U Tattoo, Oxford for bringing my idea to life!

 

Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

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Thing number 2 on my list is to visit five new (to me) seaside resorts. We've just come back from a week in Cromer (my most favouritest place on earth!) and while Cromer is most definitely not new to me, I did take the opportunity to visit somewhere that was – Wells-next-the-Sea.

Wells is about 25 miles from Cromer and is an interesting little place. The town itself is nothing special, just your average seaside town, though, it does have a cute little harbour which was packed with chilren fishing for crabs from the harbour wall. Also in the harbour is an old cargo ship called Albatros. The ship has a very interesting history. Among other things, it was used to take Jews from Denmark to Sweden during WWII, returning with weapons for the Danish army. It was used as a cargo ship right into the 1980s and then was commissioned by Greenpeace as an educational centre. Nowadays it is a rather lovely bar and restaurant, serving local real ales and Dutch pancakes on deck and in the hold. (You can find out more about the Albatros by clicking here.)

Wells-next-the-Sea is actually about a mile from the sea, and while you can park nearby, or take the little narrow gauge train to get there, we decided to walk down the road along the East Fleet river which runs between the sea and the harbour. It's a nice walk, well worth doing.

At the bottom we were all in need of a cuppa and a bit of cake and as it happens there was a rather nice beach cafe waiting for us.

Then we went up a slope, round a corner and across a wooden walkway onto the beach. I'd heard a lot about the beach huts at Wells and they really are quite a wonderful sight. They are mounted on stilts and you can probably tell how long they've been there by the height, as the older huts' stilts and steps have become partialy submerged in the soft white sand. I didn't realise Wells also had quite stunning sand dunes too. Wells is actually something of an estuary beach – at high tide the water fills the river and washes across the sand, leaving a long dune in the middle of the sea. We were there at low tide, however, and we couldn't see the sea as it was at least a mile away! So you have soft sand and huts on the left, a long stretch of wet sand with a dune in the middle of it, and then the river, about a metre deep, meandering its way out to sea. Apparently it's very easy to get caught out by the tide – people wade through the river to the flat sands on the other side, but when the tide turns it rushes in quickly – so there is a siren to warn people when the water is approaching.

The beach was very busy so we walked across to the dune, along the length of it and back across to the furthest beach hut so we could take some photos without people in them! It was a lovely place to walk and I can imagine it would be even more spectacular on a cold bright winter's day!

However, I found it a bit … unusual, I suppose. A bit of an odd place for a beach holiday. For me the beach means the sea as well as the sand, and at Wells the sea is so far away as to be absent. Swimming in the shallow river wouldn't have quite the same appeal!

 

So all in all, I'm glad we visited Wells-next-the-Sea – and I'd definitely go back for pancakes on The Albatros! – but I don't think I'd want to holiday there.

 

Thing #82 completed – invest money in someone via Kiva

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I first heard about Kiva last year and decided I'd like to get involved – but it took adding it to my lit and seeing someone on Facebook loaning money to prompt me to get on with it.

Kiva is all about individuals loaning small amounts – as little as $25 – to people in developing countries who want to start a business or better their lives in some way. The success rate is incredibly high with very few people defaulting on their loans, and most people then reinvest their money so the money goes on helping people.

It occurred to me this morning that the $25 – or £18 – is probably what I'd have spent in the pub last night had I not been stricken with the lurgy, so I decided to make a loan to Catherine, a Ugandan woman who had requested a loan to purchase more stock to expand her clothes boutique.

The lovely thing about Kiva is that (thanks to a generous benefactor, I think) you can refer people to the site and if they make a loan you get an extra $25 to help someone else make their better. I shared my link on Facebook,someone joined and I was able to make a further investment in Moses, a young man in Kenya who wants to buy a rickshaw to expand his transport business.

Since making the loans Catherine has received enough funding to purchase her stock, which is fantastic news! Moses needs another $150 so hopefully that won't take too long to raise!

So that's not one but two people helped on Kiva, and I'm pretty sure they won't be the last either. It's such an easy site to use, and such a great use of money that would otherwise have been spent on beer and crisps! It's also the first think crossed off my new 101 things in 1001 days list …well done me!

If you'd like to find out more about Kiva and perhaps make a loan yourself, please use the link below – that way I'll be able to help someone else, so everyone wins!

http://www.kiva.org/invited by/alisonuk

 

The end of my first 101 things in 1001 days challenge

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Today is my birthday and I've had some very grown up presents, including champagne, a teapot, perfume, a knitting kit, a basket of daffodils and … A radio controlled helicopter! Not so grown up after all :)

I've spent the afternoon completing number 39 on my list – make my own pasta. I found a simple recipe on the BBC website but it was perhaps too simple – it used only flour and egg and the dough was very stiff and dry and difficult to knead into a ball. Then it had to sit in the fridge for an hour.

I planned on making ravioli so tried caramelising some onions to mix with goats cheese for the filling … But I got distracted and burnt the first batch and had to start that again. So while that was sweating I started working on the pasta. I had to roll it down to about 1/4 inch before putting it through the machine.

It started off okay but as it got thinner it started running through the machine crookedly and tearing. After several attempts at making a band of pasta that would be wide enough to cut out circles for ravioli I gave up and made tagliatelle instead!

I boiled it for a few minutes and then mixed it with some pesto and the onions. There was enough for a very small bowl for each of us and it tasted really good! Not sure if I'll bother again though …. It was a lot of work. But at least I can say I have made my own pasta!

So that was the last thing I've managed to cross off my 101 things in 1001 days list, leaving the total at 51 things completed – more than half, woohoo! I've had great fun working through this list, with the highlights including driving a Formula Renault round the track at Thruxton, dong a firewalk, getting a tattoo and a very silly night on the absinthe. The next list is written and will go live tomorrow … When the whole challenge starts all over again!

 

The sad tale of the Chinese Elephant

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So thing number 84 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days was “Buy something at an offline auction”. I’ve spent way too much money on ebay over the years, and enjoy watching Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic, so the idea of a real life auction appealed. Anyway, one Saturday a couple of months ago Steve and I went up to Banbury to spend the day at JS Auctions and did I buy something? Of course I did! Between us we came home with a table, two chairs, three paintings, a pile of board games, two bookcases, a couple of lamps and … a Chinese elephant.

Now this elephant was part of a lot that included three hideous vases, a picnic basket, two wooden trays and a poster of Maltese buses. (Yeah, they have some pretty random lots there!) The elephant was Continue reading

Why I’m getting a tattoo

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A couple of years ago I put together a list of 101 things I wanted to do in 1001 days – things like “see the Northern Lights” and “join a book club” and “dye my hair a mad colour”. There was one thing missing from the list though – but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for over 10 years. Get a tattoo. This is the story of why it wasn’t on the list … and why it is now.

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Review: BLAZE fire walk (thing number 90!)

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Stef walking on glass

Thing #90 – do a fire walk – was added to my list of 101 things in 1001 days as a bit of a last resort to be honest. I was running short of ideas for the list and someone on the 4Networking forum suggested a fire walk and I thought, “Yeah, why not?!” Didn’t really occur to me that a FIRE walk would involve fire …. and I am really scared of fire! Anyway, I decided it would be a good way to confront my fear head-on (or foot-on, rather) so when Karen Sterling of BLAZE Firewalking called me to say she was organising a fire walk in Witney and would I like to come along, I couldn’t really say no!

I arrived expecting to go straight into the training session but things were running a bit late. I was very surprised to see my friend and fellow 4Ner Stef Thomas and his oldest son, who were also doing the fire walk, walking on broken glass! Looked very painful to me, though I didn’t see any blood. It made me think I’d drawn the long straw with the fire walk though, because it definitely seemed the lesser evil of the two options!

Anyway, to prepare for the fire walk Karen took us all through about two hours of motivational training to get us in the right frame of mind to confront the burning embers … When you’re about to walk on heats of over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit you need to prepare! The training was great fun and very enjoyable, but also had some really useful techniques and tools that we can use beyond the fire walk. We had to pull silly faces, act out emotions, be a Jerry Springer-esque audience and smile at the ceiling. It might all sound a bit daft but believe me,  it really made me feel strong and confident and ready to take on the challenge.

Eek ... fire!

Strong, that is, until we went out to see the fire being lit – up till that point I’d been fairly comfortable about it all but I suddenly realised that this really did involve fire and seeing the flames freaked me out a little bit and I really started to doubt if I could go through with it. We walked alongside the fire – 8 steps, that’s all it would be. 8 steps at 1236F ……. aargh! We did a few more exercises, were all hyped up and ready to go and then the walk began …

I was one of the last to go. I could see that everyone else had managed the walk without injury but I was petrified. All the time I was muttering, “I am strong. I am powerful. I am magnificent” – one of the mantras we used in the training session – but I didn’t feel strong or powerful OR magnificent – I just felt absolutely terrified! The queue of people slowly moved on – three ahead of me. Two ahead of me. One ahead of me. OMG …. this is it – my turn. I stood on the grass at one end of the fire and looked at the glowing embers. I really didn’t think I could do it.  I looked at Karen and said: “I am strong. I am powerful. I am magnificent!” I was ready …..

I took my first step, then another and before I knew it I was at the end of the twenty foot bed of red hot coals. I’d done it – and I couldn’t believe it. I’d been so scared yet it was a walk in the park. Wow! I wasn’t prepared for how completing the fire walk would make me feel. I was exhilarated, it was such an adrenaline rush to finish it and I couldn’t stop smiling – but I also felt really emotional too, I actually had tears in my eyes!

I really did do it!

It was a truly extraordinary experience and one I’ll never forget. And it’s taught me a couple of important lessons. Firstly, however difficult or challenging things look, they’re probably not that difficult after all, if I put my mind to it. Secondly, I have amazing inner strength – if I can overcome my biggest fear and walk on burning coals I can do anything, achieve anything.

Finally a word to the organisers – BLAZE. Karen and her team were amazing. Safety was evidently paramount and they did everything the could to reassure participants that they would come to no harm. Karen’s training session was remarkable, a great combination of fun and serious information and motivating exercises. If you’re looking for a fund raising event with a difference bear BLAZE in mind … the night raised over £9,500 for Special Effect, a local charity that helps disabled young people have access to computer games.

Thanks also to Witney TV for filming the event … you can watch it here. I’m at about 4min40sec,  the 3rd or 4th person from the end and you can hear me squeal when I complete the walk! Shame I didn’t get a name check in the credits though :(

(There are a couple more photos to come … once I get them off Steve’s camera!)

Thing #42 completed – send someone a surprise parcel

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I spoke to my old school friend Sharon for the first time in months and she sounded a bit down in the dumps – she’s recently moved house and though she’s in a lovely part of the country she’s living in the middle of nowhere and miles from family and friends.

So I decided to send her a surprise present to cheer her up a bit, and I knew exactly what I wanted to send – a balloon bouquet from the fabulous Balloon Babboon!

Anyway, I sent Sharon a message today and found out the flowers arrived safely but with no message or note, so it was really a surprise as she had no idea who they were from! She loved them anyway ….. job done!

Review – Holistic Health and a hot stone massage

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Number 99 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days was “Have a hot stone massage”. Not sure what it was that made me put this on the list, except I’ve always wondered exactly one was, and it sounded quite … ok, hot!

So when I received  Holistic Health‘s latest newsletter and saw that Lisa now offers hot stone massages, I couldn’t wait to book!

Typical me – I got my times mixed up and arrived twenty minutes early for my appointment, thinking I was ten minutes late – and I’d had problems parking – so I was a little stressed when I arrived at Lisa’s brand new therapy room in Witney. Lisa made me feel very welcome though, and we chatted while she prepared everything. The room is quite small but very cosy, with fairy lights, incense, sparkly walls and the obligatory new age music. I’d never listen to that stuff normally, but it does have its place, and the therapy room is probably it! Continue reading

#19 completed: Sort out my paperwork and file away bills

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Well it took me the best part of a week, on and off, but I have now sorted out my paperwork.

The business stuff came first – I had a year’s worth of expenses receipts to sort out, log and file, as well as about 8 months’ worth of invoices. I logged them all on a spreadsheet, filed them away and filled an archiving box with previous years’ accounts ready to go into storage. I also managed to get my tax return completed and submitted!

Part two of the mission involved sorting through a huge carrier bag of bills, bank statements and other bits and pieces that had accumulated over the last year, as well as sorting through all the stuff I had filed away in my blue metal box. I sorted all the paperwork into different categories (bank/credit cards, utilities, insurance etc) then sorted into individual providers, then into date order.

Once I had everything sorted out (and a mountain of junk mail and old stuff ready for shredding) I worked out a system for where everything was going to go. I now have a folder full off all my banking stuff,a box full of non-essential stuff that I ought to/want to keep hold of (school reports etc) and the metal box has been reserved for important stuff – there’s a file for utility bills, a file for motor stuff, and another file for other important things – like my will, life insurance docs, passports, pet and home insurance etc.

So I don’t have the carrier bags lying around, I’m up to date on both my business and home filing, and I should, with any luck, be able to lay my hands on anything I need quickly and easily, without having to root through piles and piles of paperwork. Job done!

Now all that’s left is the shredding ….