The Importance of Giving

Christmas is a time that holds different meanings and importance to people.  Whether its focus is religion, family, getting drunk, having time off work, or a time to break that diet, I think there is one part of Christmas that is part of everyone’s: giving. 

Now, this can be interpreted different ways. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is buying the perfect present for friends and family.  In return, they give me (hopefully!) that amazing reaction of surprise and joy.  Of course, I’m not saying I don’t like receiving gifts (who doesn’t?) I thoroughly enjoy that part of the giving too.  Again,I hope that I give pleasure in my reaction.  The gift exchange isn’t about money spent, but that joy of giving someone something to make them happy.  

Of course Christmas isn’t all about gifts. But I believe this theme of “giving” runs throughout.  We give people happiness; we give people food (more happiness in my opinion!); we give people our time; we may give to charity; we give people our thoughts – through a Christmas card perhaps.  Additionally, we all know the art of compromise at this time off year.  So, “giving in” a little may be on the cards too. 

Naturally, no Christmas or family is perfect, so we may “give” people a piece of our mind too! Finally, it’s vital that you give to yourself.  Whether that’s peace and quiet, time with friends, time to read, or just do what you want to do.   

Have a lovely Christmas of giving!


Open your eyes to dining in the dark…

Sometimes you have to open your eyes to new experiences. Or, in this case, close them. Well, just not be able to see out of them. For a three-course meal. Whilst making new friends. Sound intriguing?

My friend Cleo, (blogger of went to Dans Le Noir (translation: In The Dark) restaurant in London a while ago and fully recommended the experience. And I do too. It’s a case of experiencing it yourself to fully understand it… but I’ll try and describe it anyway…

Strolling along to restaurant, we tried to act cool about the whole experience. Yet, seconds earlier, I had concerns that it wasn’t even open! Black-out curtains mask the windows, you see. Giving the place, a complete mysterious tone immediately. The entrance area does have light, luckily. We met the host, who explained how the evening would work and chose our food before entering the restaurant. I opted for a complete White, Blind Menu; my husband, a Red, Blind, Meat menu. So yes, not only could we not see what we were eating, but we weren’t going to know what we were eating either.

It was the small – normally insignificant – parts of the evening that were surprisingly difficult to me.  Could walking into a restaurant and sitting down be difficult? It’s something you’d do whilst chatting, laughing, turning around to your dining companion, gazing at other diners even. This time, however, I had my hand on a blind waiter’s shoulder and my husband followed, with his hand on my shoulder, and we shuffled along in a “follow the leader” fashion.

We were taken to a shared table with one other couple, and a male dining alone. As the blind waiter, guided us to our exact seats, the three individuals greeted us and started to chatter and welcome us to the meal. I felt so overwhelmed at that point. I was trying to listen to them, reply appropriately – all whilst trying to pull my seat out, sit down and locate the items on the table: cutlery, wine glass, serviette etc. In the dark, this all felt incredibly difficult.

You couldn’t see anything. Not even a faint outline of people? You may ask. No… not a single shadow. Couldn’t you use your phone as a light? Well, no – because we had locked all belongings away in the entrance area. I can’t stress enough how dark it was. It was pitch, midnight, inky black. Much darker than I had predicted… even after reading my friend’s review.

Talking to strangers and trying to get to know them without seeing them, is the oddest thing. It becomes all about their voice and their words. We played some silly truth or lie games and got each other to describe their partner’s physical appearance. We spoke to the couple for almost an hour, then they left (they were at a later stage of the meal to us). And it was shocking to think, that we could see that couple anywhere on the street and we would have no idea it was them!

The actual eating was a challenge. My starter was quite straight forward – I managed to use my knife and fork and find the food on the plate quite easily! Simply, because, being a starter, there wasn’t much of it. The main was a little trickier. I had a ‘Mickey Mouse’ plate where each food item was in a different section. This enabled me to tell the difference between each food product on the plate, but it made it harder to use the cutlery. Plus, I kept finding sections of the plate untouched! For this reason, my husband and I both resorted to using our hands like toddlers.  Yes, it was disgusting and animalistic, but it was the only way to ensure we ate everything. The plus side, of course, was no one could see!

Interestingly, the male diner on our table was a novelist writing a book about someone with heightened senses.  He told us that he ate at the restaurant regularly for research. Naturally, I was fascinated by this conversation and he was the one who initiated the ‘truth and lie’ games, as he seemed to pick up interesting ways to get to know people in the dark! Furthermore, we got to meet him at the end of the meal and had a drink with him in the bar.  I was so confident it was him, simply due to his voice.  I went over and flashed my grey-painted nails at him (a truth from the game) and we laughed about the fact that my husband didn’t have black hair (a clear lie).

The bar area was fantastic and experimented with the importance of other senses too. There was a silent disco and sign language booklets to help you order cocktails.  Plus, they gave us colour photograph menus, so we could see what we ate.  I guessed most right apart from the meat.  I want to keep the secret of the blind menu.. but my “beef”was something a little more obscure!

In all seriousness, this experience was really inspiring.  Those waiters – and all blind and visually-impaired people – have such huge obstacles to overcome every day.  And they do it.  It’s important to appreciate something that we take for granted.  I was impressed with myself that meal for pouring a glass of water! It’s nothing compared to some people’s daily life.  But they don’t want pity; they want understanding. And you can understand… even if it’s just for the time it takes you to eat a meal. The restaurant keep many blind and visually-impaired people in employment and links with many charities too.

I urge you to go and “not see” for yourself: it will truly open your eyes!


Written in the stars?

Can our star sign be something to believe in- like religion or ghosts? Can it help us to understand who we are? Even without hard evidence, surely, it can be an area of interest?

A typical Scorpio is described as the following:

  • Dark and mysterious
  • Complicated
  • Likes to feel in control
  • Assertive 
  • Confident
  • Emotional
  • Demanding, unreasonable, unforgiving  (when in a bad mood, may I add!)
  • Possessive and jealous
  • Loyal
  • Over-thinker 
  • Truthful
  • Passionate 
  • Honest

I am all of those things at some time or another.  All those traits fit with my personality.  So does that mean that I slot perfectly into that 1/12 of the astrological pie- between October 23rd-November 21st? Does it mean that everyone born between those dates has the same personality as myself? Of course not.  I’m not deluded enough to think that every person born in early November has the the exact same traits as me…nor would I want them too. I was actually meant to be born 3 weeks later (incidentally, my best friend was born on the date I was due… do we have some kind of cosmic link?) So I would have been a Sagittarius. But no, I’m slap bang in the middle of Scorpio. People may think I’m crazy, but I do think it means something.  I choose to believe that it was meant to be: that I was born on November 9th, resulting in being a Scorpio. 

Another question is why do I like to believe I’m a typical Scorpio? I guess we all like to think we have something daring and different about us.  Scorpios are described as the sign with a sting in their tail: people who are emotional, people who care, but also people who are confident and intimidating. All these attributes give our personality depth, which we all love to believe we have.  Notice too, from the traits at the beginning, I’ve included negative traits as well as positive.  What’s the harm in believing I’m a typical Scorpio? 

Scorpios are also described as quiet and secretive – those traits don’t fit with who I am, you’re thinking.  But in certain contexts they do.  I enjoy being quiet and alone- and there are certain things (believe it or not) that I don’t tell anyone.  “Introverts who socialise like extroverts,” is a quote, again, associated with Scorpios. (Remember my previous blog about this subject? Introverted Extrovert this Christmas.. take a look). I strongly believe that is me.  

As a teenager, I was deeply into astrology. I had all the books (shocking, I know!), read my horoscope, had a personalised horoscope etc.  You have to be careful that they don’t become didactic and influence your life too much, though.  Any horoscope- personalised or from a daily newspaper- can be manipulated to be true to you, if you choose.  Don’t fall into the blackhole trap of living your life by them.  The “predictions” could fit with anyone’s day and life, quite frankly- let alone just any Scorpio. So, for me, personally: star signs/ when we’re born/ our personality traits: fascinating.  Horoscopes: dangerous and unbelievable.

To summarise, I’m trying to say that star signs can just be an area of interest and help us to understand ourselves a little more.  Whereas, I’m not comparing them to religion and ghosts in in terms of substance and importance in people’s lives, I’m just linking them in the way that they are also areas people choose to believe in without hard, scientific evidence too. 

If an area interests us and helps us in some way, and as result, makes us happy, what’s the harm? 


Friendship has no age

Tomorrow, I am attending a funeral of a special friend.  That’s what I’ve told people and they have reacted with horror and sadness….even more so because they’ve assumed it was a peer. 
No.  He was almost 85 and, of course it is still awfully sad and upsetting, but I do comprehend people’s reaction.  Of course, it’s less shocking for a man of 85 to die suddenly.  But it in terms of friendship, it is no less important. 

I’ve thought about this for a while.  Originally, when I started visiting my friend at his care home, I used to call him my “neighbour” or more specifically “my neighbor’s brother” or “a man I volunteered to visit”. Could I also call him a grandad figure? I could…but, no.  That’s not needed.  He was pure and simply someone I was close to: a friend.  

Friendship can occur between any two individuals. You can be as close to someone ten years younger than you, as you can twenty years older than you.  I’m learning this more and more as I get older.  Some of the colleagues I get on best with are in their fifties. Or, equally in their twenties. Frequently, I’ve met people who were the same year at school as I was….. we are the same age; we know similar people.  But we didn’t click.  It takes more than age to create a bond with someone…. interests, morals, sense of humour are more vital than the year you were born. Friendship has no age or barriers. 

So tomorrow, I say goodbye to a friend whom I laughed with.  A friend whom I had tea and cake with.  A friend I looked at photographs with.  

A friend.  

Everyone has baggage…

Do the things we carry with us make us who we are? Do they define us? Can physical baggage change how we feel emotionally?


I’ve just returned from one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on: a trip to Malta for my friends’ wedding. The joy didn’t arrive on the plane with us, however. Neither did my luggage! But let’s just rewind some hours previous to this…

The journey to the airport was the most stressful I’ve ever encountered. We’d already spent hours (it seemed!) discussing a suitable departure time from home, in order to get to the airport in time. I already felt I was carrying a lot of tension as baggage – as well as my large holdall. We went quite early in the end, especially since the online check-in had said there wasn’t enough seats on the plane for our party of 8 to check-in. “It’ll just be that the website’s down!” we exclaimed. “All will be fine,” we repeated, as the British do when there is no cup of tea to soothe the situation.

Additionally to this, the 2 hour drive to the airport took 4 hours due to an accident on the motorway. We had little time to check in when we finally arrived – we were the last ones. The earlier check-in warning was correct – 2 of our party had to go on a different flight. So already, we’d lost some of our friend baggage.  A quick diversion to Brussels and 400 Euros payment sweetened this for them though! My husband and I checked in our baggage – if only I’d known that my bag wasn’t going to Malta any time soon.

After check-in, I normally get that first sigh of relief – you are physically free of luggage and just have yourselves to worry about. Not this time though. We sped to security and, although our friends got through swiftly with ease, we were ages. Firstly, I got “beeped” by the metal detectors and had to have this body scan thing. I also had to wait for my turn, due to a teenage girl having a sobbing fit. Seriously could we not catch a break? She was crying because she thought she was going to get arrested I think. Don’t wear the shiny necklace and bomb shaped shoes then love!  (Okay the shoes are a joke – and I also have no idea why I get beeped every time. I must have metal in my blood or something!) I finally walked out and realised hubby was still not done. Why you ask? Oh he’d forgotten that you can’t put liquids into your hand luggage. Even though a few moments before I’d said to him “Does my Vaseline need a plastic bag you think – is it a liquid?” This still didn’t prompt him to remember that his whole toiletry bag was in his bag. Honestly, men!

So a little lighter of baggage once again (toothpaste, sun cream and after-sun to be precise) we went to the gate. No duty free shopping today, ironically the one time we’d needed to buy sun lotion too! We rushed to the gate and our friends exclaimed that my row had been called  – so off I went to board the plane. Checking in late also meant I had to sit alone, but I think I needed it. 3 hour flight + a book + a glass of wine and some Pringles = a much more relaxed Sammy. The tension had parachuted away.

Once at baggage retrieval, I was now truly ready to start the holiday. There had only been about 200 people on the flight, so the luggage whirred around the conveyor belt quickly – people grabbing, pulling and sliding their belongings off. Then nothing. No more bags. I knew, with the theme of the trip so far that mine hadn’t made it. Turns out, it was still in Heathrow and it would be with me the next morning.

Being an organised individual, I had a bikini, two pairs of pants and a pull-on beach dress in my hand luggage. (Oh and my husband and I didn’t mix our clothes up, because we were staying in different apartments: girls and boys.) Yet, I had no deodorant, toothbrush or anything to go out in that evening. I felt a little sad – and then I felt guilt. Why did I have the right to feel sad about material objects? Some people had nothing. Yes, we were also two of our party down, but we were all alive and well. This trip was only 4 days  long and I couldn’t afford to waste one by being depressed about by lack of clothing and toiletries. My new outfit to try on was one of freedom and invigoration. Plus I didn’t have to lug my bag into the taxi or up to our 5th floor apartment! Silver linings and all that.

I’ve never thought of myself as materialistic and I also believe certain things happen to try us and test us. It was freeing to think I literally had what was on my back (and the couple of items I mentioned above). I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the beach – everyone has the same baggage there don’t they? Bikini, towel and some sun lotion (borrowed by a friend!) and you’re set. I must  admit I had a little wobble just before we got ready to go out though. Reception said they didn’t have a toothbrush to give me and I didn’t have any of my essentials to get ready with: make-up, perfume, body lotion, jewelry etc. For the first time since University, I felt homesick. It was the same feeling – a yearning for home comforts. Like I said above, I am not materialistic as such. I don’t particularly have expensive brands of these things –  and I was hugely grateful for everything my friends lent me/gave me – but those things are what make you “you”. We went out, had fun and cocktails – I looked alright I had to admit, my beach dress and bra combo along with borrowed jeweled flat shoes, a friend having done my make-up, a borrowed necklace and my travel bag as a handbag – but I felt like a slightly different version of “me”. I truly appreciated friendship in that hour we got ready though. As I say, I feel it was a test and it has definitely made me appreciate things that we take for granted.

The next morning at 8am, I got straight up, bunged the same beach dress on and inquired about my case. They had said at the airport that it would arrive in Malta at 1am.  The man on reception said that with his 30 years’ experience, he had noticed that the airline normally lie about the arrival and it would more likely be that evening. I was done at playing Lord of the Flies by this point and just wanted my stuff. So, another day out in the same shorts and top and bikini. Maybe, I’d lose friends too, due to my growing stench! We also joked that I could have photos taken in various spots in the same outfit. Furthermore, I was starting to worry that I’d be going to my friends’ wedding in my beach dress at this rate!

After breakfast, we returned to the room for money so that I could go out and buy a tooth brush, some pants and my sanity… when I almost tripped over a case. First thoughts of messy, untidy room-mates popped in my mind – then I recognized the white (well not so white any more – this is also the same case that I left in Newquay 5 years ago! It has had more adventures than me!) splashed with multi-coloured patterns. My case was here! Ridiculously, we all cheered! Because it was so much earlier and unexpected, it made it even more special! I had a sudden urge to get changed every hour  – just to make each and every item of clothing truly appreciated and valued! All after brushing my teeth of course 😉

So, I think we all have baggage. We all have “stuff” that make us who we are. Whether it is clothes and shoes; mobile phones; ipads; books; cuddly toys. They aren’t what’s important of course and they don’t make life more meaningful. My holiday was still fantastic with the stressful start. But they do help us to be who we are; survive the day-to-day; be the best version of ourselves. But I do recommend going without for a bit, to make you truly appreciate them. It is true that you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.

I rest my case 😉 …



Introverted Extrovert this Christmas

Society tries to categorise people into two personality types: extroverts and introverts. Extroverts, apparently, are loud, sociable creatures. Whereas, introverts are the shy, meek and mild ones. But then you have hobbies and interests, in addition to personality, that also determine which category. Do you like being quiet? Reading a good book? Enjoy chatting with a few select like-minded friends? Yes? You are considered to be an introvert. If sky-diving, quad-biking and skiing are more your bag, then you’re in the world of extroverts.

I’ve always been fascinated by these concepts of “introvert” and “extrovert” and was reminded of them by my latest Psychologies magazine. The article in question named ‘I’m dreaming of a quiet Xmas’ was telling extroverts to be aware of their introverted friends and relatives, who may be affected by too much socialising and extroverted focused events. Too much stimulation can overwhelm a quiet, introvert. I do understand this and it makes sense. But as someone with some introverted tendencies myself, I do not want extroverts to feel they have to behave differently around me. But being aware is always a useful thing, I guess. I found a previous quiz more helpful as it delved a little deeper. It looked at four different areas we fall into to identify our personality type. This is more realistic. But the focus on introverts struggling with the festive period bugged me a little. Firstly, Christmas isn’t all about partying. But just as much about having quite time by the Christmas tree with a great book or Christmas film. Winter nights of open fires, cosy cushions and carols – surely that is an introvert’s dream? I know it is for me. There is plenty going on at Christmas to satisfy all personality types.

Secondly, where as I obtain many introvert characteristics, I also have many extrovert features to my personality. The categories are too black and white – it needs to be more of a scale. I like to read silently; sit and reflect; take a relaxing bath. These things all stimulate me and make me happy. However, loud, alcohol-fuelled gatherings in busy, lively bars and crazy parties also stimulate me and make me happy. I’ll talk to anyone: large groups, strangers, acquaintances – plus act the fool in front of any of these! I am confident, sociable and loud (bordering on silly and annoying when I’ve had a few…) which I am aware on not usual introvert qualities, but more extrovert. Some could argue that it is the best of both worlds:  I go out and party and then have quiet time at home. Both can make me equally content.

I do have typical introvert moments when I feel over-stimulated. Sometimes, music can be on and it suddenly feels too loud and unbearable. It has to go off straight away for me to feel calm again. I also hate going out on Christmas Eve (which my very obviously “extrovert” husband cannot understand. I always have hated going out on Christmas Eve, so it isn’t an age thing. I don’t like being pushed and shoved in a busy pub and then having the punishment of a Christmas Day hangover. (Midnight Mass is also a ruled-out option… see  I’m not boring – I love going out – just not on Christmas Eve. I like a quiet, chilled night sitting under my beautifully decorated tree and intricately wrapped presents, whilst  watching a Christmas film  and getting into the spirit (yes a little Baileys or vodka too!) in my own way. I look forward to crazy, excitement of Christmas Day, whilst relishing the contrast and magic of Christmas Eve.

So, I like to think of myself as an Introverted Extrovert. But after doing some more research on the subject. This included yet another personality quiz and its verdict was to place me exactly half way between an extrovert and an introvert and the new, coined term for this is Ambivert.   Makes sense, but I think I prefer my term of Introverted Extrovert , or I can switch to Extroverted Introvert, depending how far down the scale I feel I am that day!

You may start to think about whether you are an extrovert or an introvert by this point. What makes you happy; what makes you tick. You’ll find you’re a mixture in some way, I’m sure. It is definitely a scale, I think, like I said above. And we’re all on it at different points. Even though, I stated above that my husband is clearly an extrovert (He loves rowing, snowboarding, quad-biking, paintballing – whereas I love reading, writing, swimming and shopping.) But, he also enjoys quiet activities – normally computer related: design, websites, games etc. Yet, we both adore going out with friends and family; going away for the weekend (yet activities we do when we are there are usually up for debate!); fancy meals out with alcohol; entertaining large groups of friends of family. Also, my hubby isn’t as socially confident as I am – especially with strangers. He can’t do small-talk or chat easily with people unless he knows them well. Maybe a gender related reason here too, I’ll agree, but we both carry introvert and extrovert qualities.

No matter where on this scale you come, make sure you do some of what makes you happy this Christmas. Whether that involves busy, festive crowds or some alone time, do not feel guilty about doing what you need to do to be happy. We all deserve it.


Merry Christmas, everyone!

Praise Song for Your Mother

A chance to take another look at my Mother’s Day blog from last year. Give your mother praise!

I'm not gossiping... (I'm networking!)

Since it is Mother’s Day weekend, we all need to think of our mothers, mums, mother-in-laws and other mother figures – past and present. What they do for us all year, how they help us, how they make us laugh, support us and most of all that they enrich our lives.

There is a praise song poem by Grace Nicholls called Praise Song for My Mother which celebrates all the reasons, very personal reasons – why her mother was special to her. ‘Was’ because her  mother has passed but she still lives on in this poem all day everyday. The use of ‘mantling’, ‘fathoming’ and ‘streaming’ shows that the love goes on and on after death. A beautiful poem really:

Praise Song for My Mother

You were
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming

You were
moon’s eyes to me
pull and grained and mantling

You were
sunrise to me

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