Thursday, 16 October 2014

A Bit of Reflection

Mirror lakes, near Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand, taken April 2014 

A thought struck me today (amazing I know!), this time 6 years ago I was living blissfully unaware of the snowball effect of family illness and deaths I was about to have to embrace.  There are times when I am so thankful that I cannot see into the future.

So where was I, 6 years ago.  I was reasonably well, had recently gone back to work (part-time) after a 7 year child rearing break from paid employment.  I was recovering from an unpleasant period of time when our relationship with our previous church had gone sour.  I had started this blog and was spending a lot of time trying to work out who I was and where I fit into life's big scheme.

And where am I now?  I am physically much weaker, I am no longer able to work.  In many ways I feel mentally/emotionally much weaker too.  However I do not see this as a bad thing.  In fact I can look back at that person I was trying to find 6 years ago and feel quite content that I may just have found the person that God made me to be.

This verse from the Bible just about sums it all up, it is written by Paul as he wrote to the Church in Corinth.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Six years ago I was still manoeuvring my way through life with the driver, 'Be Strong' that had been instilled in me from being a child.  What I have learnt is that by saying NO, to this driver, by admitting my weakness, I have been able to accept help that I would have previously refused and definitely not welcomed. That is help from God and help from those around me as well.

I am part of a ladies group within our current church that meets each week to do a bible study.  We have been going through a book and dvd that I found on the internet called, Let It Go, by Karen Ehman.  I do apologise if you now have the Frozen tune going around in your head - it really is nothing to do with that song!  What caught my attention was the first chapter, it is entitled, God Called He'd Like His Job Back.  I could so relate to this!  The problem with my, 'Be Strong', driver was that it doesn't leave any room for God!  All your energy focuses on yourself, and I'm sure this is not only to the detriment of my relationship with God but with those around me to!

Over the last six years I have also seen my marriage become stronger.  This seems to have come about by the letting go a little of strong friendships with others.  Don't get me wrong, friendships are very important to me but it has taken this last six years for me to appreciate that they are definitely second to my relationship with my husband.

I do not have life sorted, I am sure there are still plenty more storms for me to weather in the next six years.  I am very pleased that I do not know what is around the corner and I am very thankful for what I have right here, right now.

Blessings,  Jane x.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Consumerism Gone Mad?

I went on my fortnightly visit to see my niece in Northampton last Saturday, the first time I have been on a weekend.  It's a 5 hour round trip but I took my daughter to see her and we had a really good visit.  On the way home I thought it would be nice to pop to a shopping outlet that I knew existed just 5 minutes off this route that I have been doing for over a year now.  I knew it was a designer outlet village, you can visit it's site here, so  would not be the normal run of the mill high street shops.  This didn't bother me at all, I knew the price tags would be high and the chances of finding a dress for my daughter small. 

I have always loved well designed fashion.  For years when I was in my late teens I subscribed to Vogue magazine and often made myself clothes using Vogue designer patterns.  In fact this was my very favourite:


There is something about good quality fabric and unique designs!  I would always much rather have one really lovely item of clothing than lots of cheap stuff.  Making my own things also means that I have a great appreciation for the costing of some designer stuff.  The other thing that appealed about going to this outlet village was that they seem to be commending British fashion - what could there possibly be not to like about this place.......

THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never been anywhere in all my travels around the world where the volume of people was so great and so single minded!  I walk with a stick which usually means people take a bit of care not to bump into me.  Here however no one was interested in looking at the people around them - they all seemed to be completely fixated on getting into the shops and to the STUFF.

I can only imagine that they must have a problem with shop lifting as there were bouncers on the doors to all the shops.  I caught the eye of a few of them, smiling as I walked past and their eyes just rolled.  The ones I spoke to were so polite but seemed so surprised that I spoke to them!

I have also decided that I have solved the problem of why so many clothing companies make clothes mainly for small sized people - it's because large people insist on wearing small sized clothes!  Here was I in my Marks and Spencers T-shirt and jeans, whilst around me in the crush were folks completely inappropriately dressed for a shopping trip!

We only went into a couple of shops, that is all either of us could face, in those the music was so loud and the crowds so crushing we only lasted a couple of minutes.

When I look back at the visit I did a few months a go where I went to a National Trust Property ( you can read about that here) the two trips can not be compared.  I arrived home from this one with an absolutely stinking headache which turned into a migraine, so I was in bed by 7pm.

On reflection it was not the place that I didn't like, it really was just the blatant consumerism of the crowds of people.  Maybe next time I go (I really would so like to look at all the designer stuff), it needs to be mid week and first thing in the morning, if there ever is another time!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Holiday On My Own - Part Two - What I did and learnt about myself.

I put lots of pictures up in my last blog showing where I went on my first solo holiday.  So what did I do with myself for 5 whole days by myself......





I dipped in and out the pool from morning till evening!













I did lots and lots of reading.

I did a fair amount of knitting, this was however abruptly ended on the third day by me dropping a knitting needle on the decking and watching it disappear between the gap!

There was a little bit of sketching
I did take my watercolours with me, however inspiration to pick those up did not strike.

I also had a few short walks around the grounds and in the village, though this had to be done first thing in the morning before it got too hot!

My husband had  lent me his MP3 player, so especially while I was knitting, I was also listening to music.  The music for this holiday was
  1. Hounds of Love by Kate Bush
  2. Song from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears
  3. A selection of Robert Palmer tracks.

And that was about it, though I did also learn some more about myself.

  • I find it very hard to stop planning out my days!  I wrote a little about my health recently here.  This post explains a lot about why I have to plan out my days when I am in the throws of family life.  What I hadn't realised was how hard it it to shake off the habit when I don't need to be considering anyone else's needs of me during the day.  It wasn't until day three that I clocked that I was still doing this.  I was sat by the pool and going over and over in my head  what my plan for the day was going to be, fitting in swimming and eating when I suddenly  realised that I didn't HAVE to do either of those things if I didn't want to!  More importantly I certainly did not need to plan for them.  It was such fun to find myself making the decision to do what I felt like from one moment to the next, rather than having it planned.  So meals happened when I was hungry, which was not much as I was doing so little!  Swimming happened when I felt like it.  I showered and went to bed when I was tired.  It was all so liberating.
  • When I stop talking with people I seem to also be able to quiet the voices in my head.  Over the 5 days I spoke only to be polite or to acknowledge the presence of others.  Once an older chap tried to get me to sit and chat over food, but I was able to politely decline his invitation and stay by myself.  I can only believe that this is the reason the internal voices in my head (except the organising ones as explained above) stopped too.  In fact the negative voices that seem to often abound within me appeared to go on holiday too!  Instead I was able to watch folks, creating stories in my head about them - this was lots of fun!  I also spent a lot of time being thankful for the moments.  Like the moment when I was lounging in the pool and it suddenly dawned on me that I was so happy with that moment.  If I never got to have that moment again, that would be fine, no one can take it away from me.
  • I love the liberation of being independent.  I guess because of my health and the needs of my family in my day to day routines I am always dependent on help.  This might be in the form of husband or friends doing lifts in the evening for my children to attend their out of school activities.  Relying on my husband and children to keep the house clean and doing the shopping and sometimes the cooking.  Relying on others to get things for me (particularly from upstairs at home!).  These might sound like small things but they are things that I just cannot do independently.  While away, a lot of things were taken care of for me.  The room was tidied and cleaned everyday.  Breakfast only involved a short walk to the restaurant. Meals only required me to request them!  I now have a slightly better understanding of when my children used to get mad at me when they were little because they wanted to do stuff  'by myself'!
  • The internet is fabulous.  Being able to have short written conversations with my family every day meant I never felt lonely.  I knew that I could skype or chat properly if necessary but just having wifi meant that I was fully in control of when I conversed.  

I have returned home with a great feeling of accomplishment as well as feeling very relaxed and ready to do 'normal' life again.  If I get the chance to do this again I will jump at it.  If I don't, then I shall know that I did it and loved it and will always be very grateful for it.

Many Blessings to you x.




Thursday, 11 September 2014

Holiday On My Own - Part One.



I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go away last week.  My husband had holiday he needed to use up at work and I desperately wanted some more sunshine after the on set of Autumn here in England.  We had no one to watch the children so that we could go away together so I decided I would just have to go without my husband!  I put a request out on facebook to see if any friends fancied coming along but knew there was probably no one who would be able to because of family commitments.  So there was only one option left for me, I would have to go alone! 

Now I could have taken myself off to visit friends, I have done this is the past, but the craving for some sunshine was overwhelming and the thought of not having to talk to anyone and not disturbing any ones sleep (I appear to have a terrible snoring problem - so my husband tells me) was too appealing.  So I spent a whole afternoon and evening doing some research.

I started off by looking at some big tour operators at last minute package holiday deals.  Most of these were to Turkey and Bulgaria, these are longish flights for a short holiday and from airports some distance away mostly in the middle of the night!  So after a while I got disillusioned with this idea and decided to start looking at where I could go from our local airport - Southampton, it is a very small airport and one I know that with my reduced mobility I would be able to get around.  The only place that sounded appealing was Faro in Portugal.  Now I have been there before (about 20 years ago!) and knew the airport was small there also.  The flight is only 2 1/2 hours and I could get a return flight for under £200, this looked promising.   I looked at the 10 day weather forecast which went right up to the time I would be going and that also looked ideal.  Next I searched on www.booking.com for accommodation.  I have used this website lots of times, including for our big trips over the last few years and have never yet had a problem with anywhere we have stayed.

I love the ocean and so began my search along the coastline, but to no avail, either there were no vacancies or the accommodation had a low satisfaction score and the reviews were not great.  So I started to look in land a little, still near to the airport.  I needed somewhere small where I was going to feel safe.  I found a lovely little B&B in a small village called Estoi, this seemed to fit the bill and there was a very nice review from a lady who had stayed there on her own.  So as it had free cancellation available I booked my flight and then booked this accommodation after my hubby had come in from work and given his approval.

I was so excited that night, I couldn't sleep and decided to switch my kindle on and look at the village where I was going to be.  It sounded and looked on the map very small and compact, quite perfect.  There was an old Palace which I researched a little more and discovered that it had been turned into a hotel - oh my, it looked beautiful!  I saved the page, turned off and finally got to sleep.

The following morning I looked again at this palace, I looked for it on booking.com, it was quite pricey but then I had got my flight much cheaper than hubby thought I would.  The reviews were great, I looked at trip adviser, here again the reviews were great.  I then checked out the prices on some other sites including the hotels own and decided this was where I was meant to go.  The small B&B's only downsides had been it only had a small plunge pool and I would have to find somewhere in the village to eat.  This other place had a lovely big swimming pool (plus a small indoor one to!) and a spa, bar and restaurant!  I was convinced so the Pousada Estoi was booked, the B&B cancelled, and I only had a week to wait before I set off!

Do you want to see some pictures?  


Within 6 hours of leaving home, I took this photo as I settled by the pool :o), I had arrived by 11am with no trouble at all with the journey, easily finding the taxi rank at the airport and giving them the piece of paper with the address on it.  I couldn't check into my room straight away but was able to take my swimming costume out of my case, get pool towels from the reception, leave my case with them and go and get changed in the spa.  Some time after two o clock I went back to reception checked in and got my room key, they had already delivered my case to the room :o).

That evening I booked myself into the restaurant and had the most gorgeous view, watching the sunset.  The service was the only thing that I would say let the hotel down at all, it was terribly slow.  Even that was not so big a deal when you were in such beautiful surroundings though.


I too, myself off on a little walk around the village a couple of times.  It has been a very long hot summer and there was very little colour around, but I did snap these beautiful trees and flowers, scattered around.






I also went and found the little B&B, it did look very nice but I was very satisfied with where I eventually chose.  This is the church in the main square opposite the B&B, it rang it's bell at five minutes too the hour and then again on the hour - I could hear this from the poolside!

The grounds of the Palace stretched over a large area and was separated in many places by small roads like this one....
 I loved how this place was surrounded by pots of plants, oil containers and all sorts were used for pots...

 more beautiful flowers.....

This would have been the main entrance to the Palace....

There is still a lot of work to be done and you cannot walk around a lot of the grounds you just get these glimpses....




This orange grove is what I had outside the balcony of my room....
 This is my favourite plant because it reminds me of my honeymoon in San Francisco, USA, bougainvillea....


The accommodation in the Palace is all in a new extension, however the rest of the Palace is also used, this is the large lounge......





This the smaller TV lounge/bar..


 And these are the beautiful gardens that you could walk around and are fully restored...


 There is still a lot of work being done and it is lovely to see that the trees are thriving....


These tea rooms at either side of the finished garden were full of beautiful fresco's and the colour of the glass was breathtaking.....








How clever to be able to use just a small variety of shrubs to give such vibrant colour is such a dry and arid landscape...


So would I do this again - you betcha!  I will let you know what I got up to with my 4 nights away (other than take these photo's) in my next post xxxxxxxxxx