A Quality Weekend

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Just returned from a four day break spending quality time with my sister Em in Devon and it’s safe to say it was an eventful trip! She arrived to pick me up in a headscarf and sunglasses combo, a tribute to Thelma and Louise on their road trip, but hopefully without the tragic ending. The journey was an easy one, even the tricky bit getting past Bristol, with no hold ups and we were soon on the A roads. We tend to chat pretty much non-stop when we are together so it seemed like no time at all had passed when we reached Ilfracombe. Excitement was at fever pitch as we parked up on the seafront. A feeling of peace always descends on me when I’m in this sleepy little place, which I know like the back of my hand. After a stroll around the harbour with its tearooms and gift shops, we stopped for lunch in Dolly’s cafe. It’s the perfect spot for people watching and the jacket potatoes are legendary. We stopped briefly for some supplies before heading to Hele Bay, the home of our grandparents for many years. I am instantly transported back to my childhood self in this environment. The beach here is by no means the prettiest in North Devon, it is an unspoilt cove with basic facilities and is unforgiving in bad weather with no shelter from the elements but to me it holds wonderful memories of long summer days spent fishing for crabs in rock pools and splashing in the paddling pool. Em had booked us into one of the pretty pastel wooden chalets on Beach Cove Resort which sits directly above the beach. Our cabin was towards the back of the park and had its own hot tub. The interior was small but beautifully done and we quickly settled in with a cuppa, happy to just gaze through the window at the beach and reminisce.

Within about half an hour it started to rain and soon the wind picked up. We knew the forecast wasn’t brilliant but we weren’t quite prepared for Storm Hannah! By the evening our little chalet was being battered from all sides and we were frankly thankful that we were not right on the cliff edge at the front. We went to bed and my bed was moving with me in it! There was no chance of getting any sleep as the wind roared around us and the rain lashed the windows. It was pretty scary. By the next morning it was still windy but the sun was shining. Our outdoor table and chairs were in a heap and many of the other guests were outside checking for damage. Feeling groggy, we had some breakfast and decided to brave the hot tub. Although it was cold outside we enjoyed a relaxing soak and felt more human. We walked into Ilfracombe, feasted on delicious toasties and milkshakes and visited the famous fudge shop Roly’s for gifts for the family. Of course we bought some for ourselves, lemon meringue fudge for Em and peanut butter fudge for me and sat on one of the benches overlooking the harbour to eat some of it, under the beady-eyed watch of several seagulls. Needing to walk off all those calories we took the Tarka trail back, the coastal path which winds up and over Hillsborough and down the other side into Hele. The walk takes about an hour, with various viewing points where we could stop and catch our breath. Right at the highest point the wind was so strong that we had to hold on to a signpost as we feared we would be blown off the edge! We had a table booked at a local fish restaurant for dinner and got back to the chalet with just enough time to change and head off. Later we watched a movie, both of us were exhausted and barely able to stay awake until the end.

By Sunday morning the wind had dropped but rain had set in for the day, still we made full use of the hot tub, who cares, we are getting wet anyway. We braved the drizzle for a stroll to the old water mill where the owners of this beautiful iconic landmark mill their own flour and serve the most divine homemade cakes and cream teas. We shared a combination of the traditional cream and jam variety and their savoury version, a fluffy, warm cheesy scone with cream cheese and homemade caramelised onion jam which is, dare I say it, even better than the sweet version. The little tea room displays local art and sculpture and this year they even had lambs and rabbits in a little petting zoo, much to the delight of my animal-mad sister. Later, hoping the rain would ease off we drove to Woolacombe but it was too wet and cold to go onto the beach so we settled for watching the surfers from the car instead. We stopped off in Ilfracombe on the way home and bought fish and chips for dinner.

Monday morning and time to go home. We were late getting up and had to rush around packing so that we could vacate our chalet on time. After a final stroll on Hele beach we headed off to Woolacombe again for some last minute shopping and breakfast before heading home. Em was disappointed that the weather hadn’t been too good but I honestly didn’t care, for me it was enough just to be there, to get away from the routine of my daily life and visit my favourite place in the whole world. I don’t think I will ever feel differently about Devon, it has featured so heavily in my life and always will hold a special place in my heart.

Please tell me in the comments if you have a special place you love to visit and why. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading. xx

Life

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That good old Ronan Keating song accurately describes my life at the moment. Up and down like a whore’s drawers, as my stepdad, God rest his soul, used to quip. It’s the reason why I haven’t been able to post for a while. I have so many stories jostling around for space in my head, I just need the time to be able to get them written down! So much of the time my life just bumps along the dirt track, occasionally dipping into a pot hole but mostly staying upright. At the moment though it is careening downhill with dodgy brakes and I am struggling to control it.

Depression. The big black dog some people call it. I am a dog person so I don’t liken it to a dog. Dogs are happy creatures, always obliging, always loyal. Mine are the reason I get out of bed some mornings. Although they are all happy to lay beside me for hours on end, they do have basic needs which require my attention. It’s not always obvious when I’m depressed. Some days I can function perfectly normally even though I feel like I’m wading, knee-deep, through treacle. It’s exhausting. I get up, see to the dogs, spend an hour or so in the gym, have a shower, make lunch, take the dogs out for a walk, make dinner. All on auto-pilot. If someone speaks to me I can hold a conversation, smile, joke, but all the time I feel hollow. If I was to be tapped with a hammer, my outer shell would shatter into a million pieces and there would be nothing inside.

It’s not as dark as it sounds. I’m not about to throw myself off the nearest bridge, I have a phobia of heights for a start. I don’t want to exit this beautiful life. I have an awful lot to be thankful for and, hopefully, many more years of riding this glorious roller coaster with all its thrills and spills. I just sometimes get tired of the sameness of it all. Perhaps, inside my head, as my hormones and brain cells rapidly deplete, I am becoming aware that time is running out. I’ve lived longer than I have left, if you know what I mean. My bucket list has hardly been ticked at all and I want to do it all but I’m just so tired.

I will snap out of this pity party, I always do. On Friday my sister is taking me to Devon for four whole days. It’s her birthday present to me. She has booked us into a luxury holiday chalet, with a private hot tub no less, in Ilfracombe, our favourite place in the whole world. We try to get there once a year. When we were kids there was a clutch of battered old caravans on the cliff edge, overlooking the little beach. Our grandparents lived in a house further up the hill and when we visited in the summer we would make friends with some of the kids who stayed in the caravans. Often the same families would come for a holiday every year so we got to know them well. One year there was a terrible storm during the night. By morning several of the caravans were in bits on the beach, having blown off the edge in the high winds. Miraculously no one was hurt, but the site was condemned. About five years ago building work began on the old land and the following year a luxury park appeared with little pastel coloured wooden buildings, pretty gardens and a rooftop bar with seating overlooking the bay. We were staying in a B&B nearby for a few days so we walked up to take a look. The chalets were so sweet, some of them had hot tubs outside and all were kitted out with the latest gadgets. We popped into the onsite office to enquire about them and were absolutely gobsmacked at the prices. It was easily more than triple what we would normally pay for a few days in the guest house but we still gazed wistfully at them on our annual visits. And finally, in a few days time we will actually get to stay in one! I’m beyond excited. My birthday was about a month ago and the wait has been agonising but it’s nearly over. We will be doing lots of walking, visiting our favourite haunts, lots of eating (cream teas are a must in Devon) and we will be sitting in the hot tub, putting the world to rights come rain or shine and I will return to my home rested and restored. There is nothing more miraculously healing for the soul than some time away with good company in a place you love. Let’s just hope we don’t get any storms!

Thanks for reading. xx

 

 

Even More Progress

I couldn’t resist posting a picture of my new stair carpet which was fitted today. Right at the beginning of this renovation project I had a vision for the hall and finally it is all finished. I’m delighted with how it looks.

Next up is the kitchen. I’m working with our builder on the design right now. Looking forward to sharing the journey with you all.

Thanks for reading. Xx

Bit Fit

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Anyone who follows my blog will know that I celebrated a birthday recently. My lovely daughter bought me a shiny, black Fitbit. I tend to follow an annual pattern where I start dieting after the Easter chocolate binge, in preparation for my holidays in September. Then over Christmas I relax my regime and the weight creeps back on again until the whole routine starts all over again the following Spring. This year though, I felt that I really should try to work on my fitness levels. My diabetic nurse is always banging on about doing a little bit of exercise every day to help keep my blood sugars stable, so I was delighted with my daughter’s gift. It took me a few days to get used to wearing the device all the time, especially at night, but the app logs the amount and quality of sleep you get which is fascinating. I can also set an alarm on the app which wakes me gently by vibrating on my wrist, rather than the nerve-jangling noise from my phone alarm.

As well as tracking my sleep, the app allows me to monitor my water intake, meals, weight and even my menstrual cycle. I always thought I drank plenty of water throughout the day but trying to hit my target of 2500 mls has proved tricky. It also means many more trips to the bathroom. I do understand the importance of keeping well hydrated, however, so the benefits to my wellbeing outweigh the side effects!  Unfortunately I do have a slightly obsessive compulsive personality which means that I feel compelled to complete all the challenges every day. If I miss an hourly step goal I get really annoyed. I log every morsel of food which passes my lips to the best of my ability and check the app regularly, jumping up and jogging around the room when prompted, then feeling ridiculously pleased with the resulting praise it gives me.

The best thing though, has been how much I have enjoyed using the treadmill. We are fortunate enough to have a small gym space, with a treadmill, exercise bike and weights which has not seen much use until now, and I find that my mood improves greatly when I am working out, something to do with endorphins I think. Anyway, I’m finding it a really useful bit of tech to keep me on track. I might not be ready to run a marathon yet but I’m definitely a bit fitter!

Thanks for reading. xx

Birthday Celebrations

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On Wednesday morning I leapt out of bed. Tonight was Magic Mike Live night. I was so excited about my birthday trip to London. I spent the morning generally hopping about in anticipation and changing my mind a gazillion times about what to wear. My sister arrived in the afternoon to get ready with me. We were like school girls. giddy and restless. At last we were ready to go. The white limo turned up, Darren the driver was smart and attentive. The other girls arrived soon afterwards and all eight of us piled in to the car. My sister had bought me a sparkly birthday tiara and a huge badge, which announced to the world in pink glitter that I was 50. We were soon London- bound in our neon chariot. On the way we drank bubbly and listened to music we chose especially to get us in a party mood.

Once in Leicester square, a slightly squiffy gentleman honed in on me in my birthday finery and after telling me three times that I didn’t look 50 (which, let’s face it, is always good to hear), wished me a Happy Birthday and pecked me on the cheek, much to the amusement of my companions. We found a cocktail bar near the Hippodrome called The Alchemist and, again thanks to the balloons and birthday badges, managed to bag a table even though they were really busy. They even brought me a free cocktail. It had dry ice on the top so that when I added the vodka the drink turned flamingo pink and vapour poured out of the top and over the sides. It tasted like Ribena and went down a treat! After a little food to line our stomachs we headed off to the show.

Having never been inside the Hippodrome casino, I was surprised at what an elegant building it is, all art deco tiles in black and gold, absolutely stunning. My daughter, her friend and my younger nieces had to show ID to get in but obvs I was wearing my badge, so I didn’t need to show mine!! Every member of staff we encountered wished me Happy Birthday which was a nice touch. We were shown to the theatre where we had front row seats. It was not at all what I had imagined. The place was small, just a three hundred capacity, and dimly lit with a tiny stage in the centre. It had a slightly grimy, night club feel. There was a seated gallery above with a glass plinth running around the inside. We were informed by the staff when we took our seats that during the show our tables would be used by the dancers, which was exciting. Waiters bought us huge cocktails with suggestive names in what looked like fish bowls. Suddenly the music started and we were off!

Right from the start all our senses were assaulted at once. The dancers appeared on stage but also behind and above us, weaving among the audience, giving a sultry look or a gentle squeeze as they passed by. I quickly spotted a moody looking young man who resembled Channing Tatum, but there was someone for everyone, a boy-next-door type, a long-haired rock star, a dark, brooding Italian Stallion, a veritable mix-up bag of man. They were dressed casually at first in jeans and t-shirts, no stereo-typical stripper uniforms for these dancers. There was a loose storyline depicting a waiter who is taken under the wing of the female compere and taught about how to treat a woman right. The message was strongly geared towards girl-power and treating all women with respect, but it still delivered on what the audience had paid for, pretty men dancing for our pleasure and most importantly, no naked genitalia in sight! The stage management was slick, tables were cleared and people placed meticulously to ensure everyone’s safety at all times. I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable. It definitely wouldn’t be for everyone, but the crowd was a blend of women of all ages and even a few brave men! Throughout the show the female inner “Unicorn”, voiced by Channing Tatum, urged us to give in to our feminine desires and submit to the experience. Unicorn money rained down on us and we embraced it all willingly.

Finally, as the atmosphere became super-charged with hormones, Baby Channing fixed me with a lingering glare and made a bee line straight for me. Swivelling me towards him on my chair he straddled my legs and placed my hands on his chest, all the while looking into my eyes. I have honestly never felt human flesh so hard and yet so smooth at the same time. He smelled absolutely amazing. I was impressed and slightly scared. My party looked on and I gave them a cheeky wink as they videoed me getting a lap dance. It was all over in a flash but it made my night. And yes, I know it’s all part of the show, and they do it twice a night, every night for months on end, but if the purpose of the show is to make women feel good, then it absolutely fulfils the brief.

The celebrations carried on all week. The following day was my actual birthday and it was truly lovely. Big was back from his business trip to Norway and it was good to catch up with him. After a lazy brunch with my mum and sister, during which my sister revealed that we were going on a girlie trip to Ilfracombe as her gift to me, I prepared for the kids and my grandson to come over for dinner. They showered me with gifts and my baby grandson gave amazing gummy kisses. It was heavenly.

Then, on Saturday evening, after spending all afternoon building flat-pack furniture for our lounge, Big took me to our favourite riverside restaurant for a romantic dinner. I think I would happily turn fifty all over again in a heartbeat, it was a magical few days. For now, it’s back to reality. The builders are due to start work on the kitchen in a few weeks time, so I intend to enjoy some peace and quiet while I can. Oh, and I have plenty of baking to keep me busy!

Thanks for reading. xx