Saturday, 7 April 2018

Back with a vengeance!

It's been a looong while since my last post here (which is nothing new, we've already established how terrible a blogger I am). Anyway, I've now lived in Grand Cayman for almost 2 years. 2 years! How mad is that?! I've turned 28 and so am closer to the "deadline" for this list than ever. Things are going pretty well but I've been especially driven the last few weeks to get some things ticked off.

Ruthin Castle
I've been back in the UK for my Easter break, and amongst the traditional partying and visiting friends/family I've been trying to work through as many list items as possible! Starting with my stay in a haunted house (actually a castle...) Ruthin Castle in North Wales is truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed. It dates back to the 13th Century and has been home to kings, princes and nobles as well as being used as a fort, hospital and most recently a hotel.

 I was there with a friend overnight and we both thought it was stunning. The gardens are magnificent and full of peacocks; the inside feels like you've been taken back in time to a luxurious home fit for a King. And the rooms....well. We were upgraded for free to one of the castle's amazing suites and it was honestly one of the best hotel rooms I've ever stayed in. But here's the exciting part. Ruthin Castle is supposed to be one of the 10 most haunted places in Britain - home to specters such as Lady Grey, who allegedly, upon discovering her powerful husband was being unfaithful with a peasant girl from the local village, killed his mistress in a jealous rage. She was then sentenced to death herself for murder, and it's said that she has never left the castle since. Unfortunately we didn't encounter Ms Grey or any of the other ghosts that are said to inhabit the castle firsthand, but we did hear lots of ghostly bumps and creaks in the middle of the night. I was convinced it was ghosts. My friend...less so. But still - an exciting stay and an item checked off the list.

I won't go into crazy detail about everything I've managed to check off over my easter break - we'll be here all day - but I'm chuffed to have managed to finally plant some trees (more than 2 in the end!) at an event in Chester, walk along Hadrian's Wall (part of it at least, it's a very long wall) and send Jemima a message in a bottle. I did this with the company NOD - with all the attention at the moment on cleaning up the world's oceans and removing plastic waste as well as glass, I didn't think sending a traditional message in a bottle via dropping a bottle in the sea was such a wise idea. NOD allows you to send a tiny scroll message in a tiny bottle to a friend in the post. Jemima loved it and especially loved the lessened impact on the environment.
Me at Hadrian's Wall

Speaking of Jemima - she and I finally went out together to to a night of pub golf! We did 9 "holes" in 8 bars along Deansgate locks and we ended up joint winners with each other! We also went out dressed as each other in Jemima and Emily inspired outfits - complete with cat ears and hair roses - and introduced ourselves to people as each other. It was a fun night and a great way to spend time with my best friend before I fly back to Cayman. However I really wish we'd done Pub Golf already when we were younger. My body cannot handle alcohol and late night McDonalds like it used to and I spent most of yesterday in bed with a killer hangover and suspected food poisoning. Ah well - at least we did it.
Me and Jemima before
our Pub Golf night out

A few other things have been checked off the list in the last year or so too - last summer Jemima and I went on a trip to Blackpool and FINALLY had our fortunes told! It was an interesting experience and I'm not sure how much if any of it was accurate, but fun all the same. I've also done a few things in Cayman such as running through the fountains (not Piccadilly gardens as originally intended but the Camana Bay ones are pretty much exactly the same so I'm counting it). And I've obviously seen so many sunsets in Cayman since living there. They are seriously spectacular.

Oh oh oh! I also finally had the time and money to go back to South Africa to visit my grandad. I'm not going to go into the trip much here, unfortunately my grandad's behaviour whilst I was there has left an enormous rift between us which really ruined it for me. But the game drives were fun and we saw lots of wildlife, including some amazing rhino, lion, hyena and elephant sightings, so it wasn't all bad.

 One thing that's bothered me about the list is the item "Go to the Dogs". I made the decision to cross this off without actually going as since making the list originally it's come to light just how bad the poor dogs are treated in the dog racing business, and it's not something I wish to support any longer.

So - 22 months left to complete the list! That's the only race I want to be a part of, and the race is on!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Worst Blogger Ever

Perhaps an over-the-top title for a post but I really think I might be the worst blogger ever. It's been a year since my last entry on this blog - but in fairness I've had some life changing circumstances this year.

2016 was a year of dramatic change for the world: Britain voted Brexit, the US voted Trump and we lost a seemingly endless list of big-name celebrities. The year was also a big one for me - my best friend got married, I did my first ever 10k run, I played for the Queen and took a bunch of kids on tour to France for the first time. Oh, and I moved to the Caribbean.

I won't dwell on that here as I have a whole other blog about my exploits in Grand Cayman (which you can find 
here) but suffice to say it's been a life-changing move for me. Before August the closest I'd ever gotten to the Caribbean was playing Monkey Island, so it's been a bit of a culture shock. It has however, enabled me to check a few more items off my list!

First of all, I started off the year with free ice skating lessons! It's a fab initiative that Altrincham Ice Rink were running for anyone aged 25 and under (lucky me I was just under the cusp at the time) that meant I could go along for a free group lesson for 6 weeks, not having to pay for skate hire or rink entry, and I was also allowed to stay to skate after for up to 2 hours for free! I got quite into my ice skating, even buying my own pair of skates, and was quite excited to see they're planning to build a rink in Cayman! It's not been built yet but they are telling everyone to watch this space. Hmm.

Moving my entire life across the world meant I had to downsize my personal possessions quite a lot and sell a lot of things to make sure I had plenty of money to move over with. Tragically I had to sell some of my beloved musical instruments but I also managed to save up over £300 of £1 coins in my terramundi pot, which was fun to smash! The original intention had been to spend my terramundi funds on an expensive bottle of champagne from Selfridges but no matter - there'll be plenty of time for that. I also did an epic car boot sale to get rid of a lot of my junk.

I also wanted to try and do as many UK-based things as I could fit in before I left the country, which included a day trip to Stonehenge! I also went to see loads of musicals and plays - including Rocky Horror show in full on slutty Ann Summers outfits, and a dramatic enactment of King Lear live at the Royal Exchange in Manchester - which included a horrible scene of a man's eyes being plucked out! 

Packing up my life meant I got chance to watch a lot of TV, so as well as watching the entire series of Desperate Housewives (which took up a significant chunk of my time and became a surprising addiction!) I managed to tick a few iconic films off my must-watch list: Home Alone, Blazing Saddles, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Castaway, all classics in their own way but also in my opinion fantastic films! I LOVED Castaway and couldn't stop saying WILSON!!!! for days afterwards.

Once I'd finally arrived here in Cayman I was able to tick off one item I've been struggling with for ages - Try 20 kinds of food I've never tasted before. Since being here I've tasted such a weird and wonderful number of foods I've easily checked this off. The big traditional food in Cayman is turtle (farmed locally on island and NOT taken from the wild) which was surprisingly tasty and similar to really tender beef rather than fish as I was expecting.  I've also tried tropical fruits like starfruit, rambutan and longan; sampled Caribbean staples like Saltfish & Ackee, Jerk chicken/pork; and new exotic sounding fish with hilarious names like mahi-mahi and wahoo. It's really a whole new world of flavour to me, I love it. 

So to sum up, it's been a good year for the list even if I haven't necessarily been the best at updating the blog. As for the rest of the world....well I guess like the Cayman ice rink we'll have to watch this space....

Monday, 21 December 2015

Ho, Ho Bloody Ho

It's 4 days before Christmas, is everyone in the Holly Jolly spirit yet?? I just can't seem to find that festive feeling in me yet, maybe I should just accept that this year I won't feel it because of the tablets, but there we are.

For me, something that really encapsulates Christmas (aside from the religious aspects and drinking far too much wine) is to think of others, be generous and kind, and give what you can to make other people who may not be having the best time of their lives a bit of a lift. To that end, I thought it would be a great time to give my first ever blood donation! 

I went along to the local Town Hall this afternoon for my appointment, feeling a little bit sick at the thought of being hooked up to a machine that would suck a pint of blood from my veins! After filling in a form I was asked to drink a big drink of juice to keep my blood pressure up and help prevent me from fainting during the appointment. Then a kindly looking male nurse took me into a private booth to ask me some questions about my medical health and history, and to test my iron levels. 

Now if you ever go along to a blood donation for the first time, this is the bit you really won't like. They spike the tip of your finger with a sharp tool, squeeze it until blood comes out and suck some out of the wound with a pipette - then drop a blob in some blue stuff. If the blob sinks, you've got good iron levels. If it floats, you've got a problem and may be anemic (not good for blood donation). The thing is, they don't tell you how much the spike hurts! People would probably just tell me to man up and deal with it - people lose legs and complain less - but honestly it really stings, and the pain lasts for a while after! Anyway, plaster on the offended finger and back to the waiting area I went.

Shortly a friendly but matronly looking nurse came and fetched me - my turn had arrived. She sat me down in a big scoopy plastic chair with comfy cushions on the feet and behind my head and proceeded to try and find a vein in my left arm. Apparently there weren't any veins in my left arm so she tried the right instead hoping for better luck. Success! A big fat vein perfectly central in my arm. Matron nurse took an antiseptic wipe and polished my elbow vigorously with it like it was a rusty silver Christmas tree ornament, and then I was "ready to go". Eek. On with the blood pressure cuff to make the vein stick out, clenched fist, sharp scratch and "OUCH" the needle was in. 

I watched the blood disappear from my body into the plastic blood bag next to me and felt strangely relaxed as the Christmas tunes played in the background. My arm felt a little tingly but not painful, and I thought about how much my donation would end up helping people. At my Slimming World meeting later, a friend told me how good a thing it was to do, as you really are saving a life by donating. That felt good.

So the donation came to an end, and the machine started to making its bleepy noises and Matron nurse returned to whip the needle out of my arm and get me sat up straight and my arm dressed. I was excited now for my reward of biscuits! After making sure I was okay, I was led over by Matron nurse to the recovery area, where there were trays of chocolate biscuits, crisps and plenty of juice to keep the generous donors' blood sugars up. I grabbed myself an orange chocolate club and some orange squash to match, chilled out for 20 minutes and finally felt ready to go. Not woozy or ill at all, although my arm felt a little heavy but no worse than after a vaccination.

Anyway, that was it! I hope if anybody reading is thinking about donating blood but wants to know more about what goes on, this clears things up and reassures that there really isn't anything to worry about. Go and book that appointment, and give a really important gift this Christmas season.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

You only get out what you put in

So here I am, moaning on and on about how I've been struggling to complete this list when, in reality, all I do of a weekend these days is sit on my backside watching Big Bang Theory reruns. It's not the way I pictured life as a fully-functioning adult, and I certainly think my lack of activity outside of work is something that has contributed to my depression.

But things are on the up. Lately I've started to feel like the drugs are actually working, and I feel more like my old self these days. I'm not fully there yet but I've started to get back the drive and motivation I used to have to get things done - not just work but adventures. The realisation hit me today that the only way I'm going to get the most out of life is by making things happen myself - adventures aren't going to fall into my lap like they did with Bilbo Baggins (unless a wizard does turn up on my doorstep tomorrow and in that case consider me stood corrected!)

Today I counted that in total, I have ticked 37 things off of the "100 things" list. I am going to make every effort to push that up to 50 by the end of the year. To that end, I've booked tickets for Rocky Horror in January, King Lear in April (Shakespeare play live), redeemed an offer for a discounted skiing lesson and started filling my old empty Terramundi with spare £1 coins and a couple of notes when possible. I've also got 4 iconic films to see and 8 foods to eat that I've never tasted before written down in a list on my fridge -

  1. Caviar
  2. Polenta
  3. Courgette flowers
  4. Durian Fruit
  5. Frogs Legs
  6. Snails
  7. Sweetbreads
  8. Kangaroo (I actually have kangaroo steaks in the freezer, so that's tonight's tea sorted!)
  • The Good the Bad and the Ugly
  • Home Alone (tis the season!!)
  • The Exorcist
  • Rocky
So on top of gigs, Christmas parties, work and visiting family and friends, December is going to be a hectic month. But it'll be worth it as I'm really determined to enjoy the remnants of the year, and make 2016 one to remember. Depression will NOT hold me back any longer, and that is that.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Big Achievement!

I've finally paid off my student overdraft and credit cards!!!!!!!!!!!!

(That's it, that's the entire blog post)

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Drive out the Darkness

I'm not even sure if anyone reads this thing, but greetings to anybody out there who has stumbled upon my little corner of the internet.

It's been nearly 3 years since I last posted here and in that time a lot of things have happened. After struggling for money as a graduate with temp jobs and casual contracts, I finally got myself a full time job as a music teacher - no more feelings of dread when I see the postman bringing the bills each morning! I'm also really settling into my career as a freelance musician, getting a nice variety of work on all my instruments.

2 years ago I  finally passed my driving test and moved into a flat all by myself - no more flatmate arguments. Recently I bought a brand new car and I've even entered the scary territory of looking at getting a foot onto the property ladder...I'm really growing up! New relationships and friendships have come and gone, and I've found myself far more well-traveled to places like Southern France, Finland, The Falkland Islands and Cyprus since becoming a full member of the Army Reserves as a musician 2 and a half years ago.

Summing all the positive things that have happened in just a few short sentences does make it look like life is just peachy for me at the moment, and I suppose in a lot of ways I'm very lucky. I've worked very hard to get to where I am today but also owe a lot of it to supportive friends and family who've pushed me when I've started to slip.

However over the last few months, I've started to feel restless again. You know what I mean, when your day to day life doesn't bring you any sort of joy, and you feel like you need to get out and go on an adventure and do something that gets your adrenaline soaring for a few weeks? Well, that. I've felt like this a few times before and done crazy things on the spur of the moment - booked a session swimming with sharks, going away alone to Paris, and most recently booking myself into an expensive suite in a city centre hotel for a night of being pampered with massages, facials and gourmet food & wine.

All these spontaneous things have made me feel great for a time, but the feeling of joy hasn't lasted that long. I know I'm stuck in a rut. I feel shy and anxious about the person that I am, and feel like I have to have crazy stories about my life to tell people so that they will be interested in what I have to say and not bored by me. I even think deep down that's why I created this "list" in the first place.

The thing is it goes deeper than just being restless. Honestly, I think I feel like this because I don't really like the person I am right now. Most of the time I genuinely feel totally and utterly worthless, because all I do is go to work and go to play at gigs. Other than that all I can motivate myself to do is shut myself inside in front of the TV with my laptop, doing some small bits of admin if I really have to, but otherwise just slobbing. I justify this by telling myself I work very hard and deserve lazy nights in, but these slob nights are fast eating away at the rest of my life like some giant emotional black hole. I have been diagnosed by the doctors with clinical depression which I am currently taking medication for. In a way it's helped, I feel less on edge and anxious but I can't seem to drag myself out of this eternal listlessness. I'm sick of it, and I'm sick of losing the passion I used to have for things in my life like spending time with my friends, trying to swim as many lengths as possible in 40 minutes or even my beloved music that I've dedicated my life to.

The one thing I suppose that has kept me from losing my job and my sanity completely has been making little lists of things I have to get done day to day. Simple things that most people don't think about, from making breakfast to taking out the rubbish bin (sometimes the list even has something as simple as getting showered and going outside for a walk, because I know I won't even get out of my PJs if it's not on my list), through to typing up that list of gifted and talented pupils for my manager or arranging Christmas carols for my pupils. I've always been a fan of making lists of things to do, and even more of crossing things off those lists - as I'm sure many people are - it makes you feel productive and useful, and like you are contributing something good to your own little world, and perhaps in a small way to the worlds of others around you. At least by being able to do this, I've been able to prevent myself becoming a complete recluse.

My point, I suppose, is that I'm sick of feeling restless and covered by a black cloud constantly. I want excitement in my life, I want adventure. I want to do everything that's on this list and so much more. I want to ride elephants in India, try Tom Yum in Thailand and drink rum on the beach listening to a live samba band in Cuba, and see the rest of the world while it's here to see.

I have a perfectly good list here of new and exciting experiences to me that's existed for over 4 years, and now I need to stop making excuses to myself and try to get through it. Maybe I'll even start to like the person I really am again somewhere along the way.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

2013: Let's ring in the changes.

Well, as far as New Year changes go, I suppose this post is a little late.

A lot has happened in the last 6 months, and whilst the majority of it is not suitable for a public forum such as this blog, unfortunately circumstances that have arisen that mean that I will hereby be completing the rest of this list on my own.

Well, that's not strictly true. That would be pretty dull, wouldn't it? Especially as the whole point of the list was to have fun and gain new experiences. Anybody who wants to join in with me completing the challenges is more than welcome - just get in touch!

Obviously money is still an issue with a lot of the items on the list, so the focus is more on the cheap/free items. Next week we'll be having a Star Wars Marathon (Complete, of course, with Star Wars-themed food and drinks, light-sabers optional) which I'm really looking forward to - especially as my new housemate has never seen Star Wars before, which frankly is a criminal offence. I have to say that I've never watched them all back to back before. Bring it on!

As for items that have been completed in my absence....ooooh I've been part of a Flash Mob! A youth amateur (in name only, let me assure you, they are phenomenal) dramatics group called MyUK which have hubs all over the UK, including Manchester, are performing Les Miserables (school edition) at the Z-Arts Centre in Hulme in February. (I'm so excited, I'm in the band and it's one of my favourite shows!!!)
Anyway to promote the show, we took to the Trafford Centre and emerged as if from nowhere to sing one of the songs from the show, One Day More. It was videoed and went on YouTube, and has achieved over 20,000 hits so far. Incredible. (And terrifying how many people have seen me playing the flute...!) You can watch it below. Come see the show, it'll blow your mind!