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 soundmindtravel.com) 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? 

                             xsxs

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?

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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 😉 …

XSXS

 

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 https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/midnight-madness/)  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!

Samantha Holmes' Writing

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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Samantha Gray: The Edge of Cornwall Part 2

….continued.

Wednesday 7th August

Forts built 1, Forts destroyed by sea 1, fish found – at least 40, fish caught 0, cricket runs 1 (but got caught out mid-run!)

4 pm the house. Another fantastic beach day. We came well prepared today – you know all the usual stuff, buckets spades, cricket sets, books, chairs etc. Found some tiny fish in a pool. Me, Tessa and Paul tried to catch them with no avail. They were too damn small and moved too fast! Must remember a fishing net next time. Bloody good fun chasing them though. Like a trip back to childhood!

Another trip to childhood, well for me, was cricket. It took me back to dreaded P.E lessons and I was no better at the age of 27! I managed 1 cricket run – the one time I hit the ball – but I got caught out! Doh! Realised that at the grand age of 27, I didn’t have to endure a full hour of it like the P.E lessons at school. So, I gracefully bowed out, asking a 3 year old girl to take my place  – she seemed to have taken a shine to the ball and/or Kenny!

The lads also took a trip down memory lane – but how much do men grow up anyway?! Was great fun watching them build ‘Fort Swad’, building sand castles around it and a moat. Great watching them until the tide started to come in and me and Tahlee had to move the stuff each time it got closer – whilst men ‘strengthened defences’ haha. Never seen them move so fast! Some little boys, v. cute boys, said ‘are you building that so you can stay dry inside it?’ Ahhhh….

12 midnight bedroom. Great chilled evening with the gang. Cheese board and a film. Yes, we are in twenties But is good to be mature sometimes especially after been kids all day. Night all.

Thursday 8th August

Men met with seven wives 0, cream teas eaten (the Cornish way) 1, times abandoned by friends 1, Times fainted in souvenir shops 0 (excellent!)

3pm in car Been to St. Ives and not seen a single man with seven wives! Much disappointment! Beautiful place though. Been to Cornwall many times and not been to this part before. Is gorgeous with lovely, lovely beaches and shops. Spent the morning with Kath and Neil walking round the lovely shops.  Bought quote plaque without fainting – always be thankful of small mercies! Also had yummy cream tea at quaint little café. Kath was asking if we were meant to put the jam or cream on first (onto scone) and v. passionate woman declared that when in Cornwall you put the jam on first. You put the cream on first if in Devon. Made sure we did it right as not nice to have angry Cornish folk throwing their scones at you.

Still bloody good, even if not the ‘best’!

Tessa, Paul and Kenny went kayaking whilst we were learning the history of cream teas. Bit of ‘man over board’ at times I think but otherwise they had a good time. Had lovely Cornish pasty, which we believed to be the ‘best in the world’, only to walk further down the road and see the sign for the ‘best pasty in the world’. Oops – still tasted bloody good though!

5pm the house well not too chuffed with friends (Neil, Kath and Kenny excluded). Went to Seal Sanctuary after – we were all meant to meet. We assumed the others were behind us in convoy car situation because we hadn’t waited for them in St. Ives car park (we thought they had gone – v. confusing situation!). Anyway, we got there and waited by Seal Sanctuary door – 10 minutes went by, 20, 30 – gutted to have missed the otters being fed as their my favourites but wanted be good friends and wait. It got to an hour  – we had been phoning but no phone signal. Typical. Finally hear off Paul with text saying ‘at the sea lions’. Fuming was not the word, they went inside without us and had started going round! Look for their cars in car park and couldn’t find them. Realised they were at some other seal sanctuary and kind of forgive them then (yet if they had waited outside then confusion would have been sorted sooner!). Decide to go back to house as once find them will be too late.

6pm the house Tahlee and Dan walk in. Don’t mention the whole being abandoned incident. Makes me little madder so I say ‘Where have you been then?’ I may not handle situations the best sometimes but I never ignore them – best to confront things straight away and head on I think. Turns out they went to same place we just couldn’t see their cars. They couldn’t wait to see otters and assumed we would meet them. Tessa and Paul walk in too by this point and whole gang are apologetic and realise all been mix up. Guess is one of the problems when go on holiday as a group. Kenny wasn’t so understanding though and kept going on about being ‘betrayed’ by friends ha! Had beers to cheer himself up and kept teasing them about not abandoning him again etc. V. funny actually as do not normally see Kenny like this and is me who is annoyed/unreasonable one. Made point to him though that if this is the worst he has been treated by friends then he is doing pretty well in life!

11pm the house Celebrated last night of holiday at local Chinese restaurant. Not very Cornwally or Piratey but was nearest place so handy. Worst Chinese meal I’ve had in all honesty. Was all you can eat buffet but nothing was labelled. Was probably eating dog or horse! Tomatoes and salad were next to jelly and desserts so ended up with piece of sweet corn in my gateau! Realised as well that had stain on my dress from Paul’s bike. Bent down to pick key up earlier and got black oil on me – in terms of the restaurant, I fitted right in! Not best day all in all but have to make best of things and laugh at self!

Friday 9th August – leaving day

Hours to get home 6.5, Backstreet Boys’ songs enjoyed  – at least 15, left over food calories from house – must be thousands (do these count as free calories?!) Luggage left behind 0 (Great progress for me! As left case, over-night bag and fold-up chair behind last time visited Cornwall!)

8.30 am. Crazy morning of packing and emptying house. Really didn’t want to leave beautiful house. Would owners noticed if I just stayed and refused to go home? Would be a good lodger! Funny how this is the earliest we’ve all been up and out all week – don’t understand how people willing to get up early to end holiday but not to enjoy the holiday? Guess we can’t all be early birds.

4pm home Was looong journey home. Too much traffic and just cars in general really. Great talking about the week though and best moments. Now back home, decided to go and stay at my Gran’s. We have builders in to do our heating system and bathroom and they aren’t as far ahead as hoped. Plastering and bath not fitting problems – eek. Can’t wait for all to be done and can have very first bath in my own home!

Yep, that’s a crazy week in the life of me! Quite enjoyed writing in a Bridget Jones’s style actually. Hope you enjoyed reading and now you have a lovely summary of holiday shenanigans! 🙂

P.s – we didn’t get revenge on the boys! Next time; watch this space! 😉

XSXS

A Happy Soul

….. We must find a happy and calm mind in a world of suffering. That is what Buddhists believe. I think there is a lot to be said for that. I went to a Buddhist centre yesterday and I always find it a very interesting religion.  In fact, if I was to properly commit to a region, that would be the one I would choose. I don’t consider myself religious and when I have said that in the past, I have taken it to mean that I don’t believe in god. But in Buddhism there is no god; so it is an interesting thought that there doesn’t need to be a god for a religion.

I am not one of these members of a younger generation who has dismissed christianity and/or god and said I am a non-believer because it is ‘cool’. I have thought and researched it a lot. Religion, I am  fascinated by as a whole.

At Uni, I went to a few different Christian services. I was influenced by some friends at the time, who were devout Christians. In one church, I felt very uncomfortable and like people were in ‘cliques’ and they wanted to ensnare to me to join. In another service at a more modern church, I was a bit freaked out by the upbeat-ness of it all. All this ‘praise the lord’ stuff, which reminded me of American TV and then people started talking in tongues. This was the strangest thing I think I ever seen and I knew at that point that I would never go back. I was glad I experienced them though and I admire people who have that faith and go to church every week. From then on, I decided I believed in something but I wasn’t sure what it was. Agnostic was the label that I attached to myself.

The problem I have with God is all the suffering in the world. I know that Christians will argue to their deaths at this point and I have had lengthy debates with friends and colleagues about it. If there is a god then why do innocent people die, natural disasters happen etc. I am all for the ‘things happen for a reason’ theory and even for the whole idea that people have to die to keep the world’s population at bay, but some things I just can’t get my head round. Some really terrible things happen to good people and vice versa. And as for people praying on their way down from a plane crash?  I know I wouldn’t be. What good is that going to do? I would text loved ones if I could, talk to the loved one I was with or just spend it thinking about my life. I understand it is probably about control and that they need to feel they are doing something in an awful situation.

This is, again, why I like this idea of Buddhism. It all revolves around the idea of yourself And that is the only person we have any control over. If  we are postive, nice to peeople then we will feel calm and happy. I am all for postive thinking and I think it does work wonders. I am also interested in the law of karma that they talked about yesterday. If you do good things, you get good things. If you do something wrong, it will come round to teach you a lesson. I also believe in reincarnation. We come back as someone else depednning on how we acted in a previous life. Even though, I also like the idea of heaven so I am not sure how I feel about that. But I know that I definitly want to bellieve that something does happen after we die and it isn’t just it.

But that’s it for this post. I am happy to hear any views of different religions, as I say I am interested in all and am not completely sure what I believe in myself.

I am now going to eat my dinner, it will give me a calm, happy mind!

XSXS

The Stan dog I mentioned inthe comments of my Day of Birth post – take a look!

Stan the dog

This is a very special day – so special that this post will be brief as I can’t spend too long here…..

Today it is exactly one year since Stan joined our home and family.  So much has happened since then, so many high lights and a few low lights as well, to make us appreciate the highs –

  • The first low was when Stan tried to attack Steven when he came home from school and we realised very soon after this that he was in fact going to attack everyone who came within one mile of him
  • Then there was a high when he managed to walk past someone without lunging at them – they were on the other side of the road
  • One of the best highs was the day he met Rachel from Border Collie Trust and he did rush towards her but not to attack, he…

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This is interesting and ties in nicely with my post on another horror of Jekyll and Hyde in https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/good-vs-evil/ 🙂

the.soft.anonymous

When it comes to horror stories, Frankenstein is probably the most famous of them all. Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece has sent shivers of fear through generations of readers, inspired countless adaptations, and become the gold standard for tales of terror and suspense. It’s a story that becomes even more unsettling, though, when you realise it was inspired by twitching corpses, violent volcanoes and disturbing nightmares…

Mary Shelley’s famous novel barely needs an introduction. Its protagonist, Dr Victor Frankenstein, is fiction’s original ‘mad’ scientist, dedicating himself to chemistry at university so that he can learn how to create life out of inanimate matter. The being he cooks up, however, is repulsive:

“His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, ……

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I found some a lot of these points very useful so just had to share. XX

Cristian Mihai

I’ve been following and reading a number of blogs for over five years now. I remember this blog by a Romanian journalist; I would spend hours reading the posts, the comments — oh, the comments were so funny and great. It was quite addictive. He got an insane number of comments, and I was jealous of his success.

I was quite sure that I would never become a successful blogger. I created some blogs on various platforms, but I never had the patience to build an audience. The thing is that I never asked myself whether I had something worth writing about on an almost daily basis. I think this is something a lot of bloggers struggle with. What’s worth sharing? What’s considered useful information? Also, I believe that a lot of writers simply focus too much on trying to come up with an original idea for a blog, a new…

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Life Up Over

Sorry, it’s been a few days folks. I’ve been very busy with mu Aussie relatives and fixing that damn car wiper blade arm (see Driving me to Despair). My Aussie relatives have had a good stay so far and it got me thinking that if we call Australia ‘Down Under’ then when they visit here, do we call it ‘Up Over’? Well they are enjoying their time up over anyway.

I saw them last night for the first time in 7 years. I met them at the Bed and Breakfast they are staying at. I went to meet them in the pub so I could then drive them back to my house for dinner. It was about 6.15 pm when I got there. I couldn’t open the bar door. Typical, I thought. I haven’t seen them in 7 years and I can’t get to them! I can’t even open a door when they have travelled half way across the world! Turns out the pub was closed to the public so that was why. I discovered this when I said to the barman ‘Woah, it’s quiet in here!’ He said, ‘it isn’t quite; we just aren’t open yet!’ Haha. Anyway, seeing my relatives was weird but for only a second. They looked the same as the most recent pics on Facebook and it was like I was talking to my aunty on Facebook chat but without the two screens, oh and thousands of miles, separating us.

You soon start to spot the cultural differences, as subtle as they are. My aunty said she thought I was very brave for driving round the small, hilly, villages with a manual car. Quite frankly, I don’t know any different. I know we have some automatic cars over here but in Oz they all are pretty much. My Dad gave his ‘clutch’ foot a huge rest when he drove over there in 2005. The thing was, I actually used to want an automatic because I struggled so much with the clutch when I was learning to drive (it took me 18 months worth of lessons to pass… that is many other stories for another time!) So for her to say I was brave for driving round in a manual car was quite nice. I had finally for there!!

I cooked dinner for them plus my Mum, Dad, sister and her boyfriend. It was nice to catch up. My aunty actually had some sad news yesterday, which she told us about. Her step father died rather suddenly that morning and her Mum told her that day. Typical that something like that happens when she is on the other side of the earth. Not a lot she could do and her Mum didn’t want them to cut the holiday short and go home. Very sad news though.

We had many topics of conversation through the evening. One was how to pronounce the city of ‘Derby’ as they were visiting there the next day. We say ‘dar-by’ don’t we? My uncle pointed out that it should be said like ‘der’ as in ‘der, how stupid are you!’ It makes sense if you think about it. i was just trying to find some examples to prove this point. ‘Deranged’ sort of is but it seems that we say ‘de-ranged’ so we pronounce the ‘de’ separately. Like in ‘derisive’ or ‘derail’.Even more complicated! And the query came from an Aussie who also speak English! God knows what second language English speakers. I think we make things more complicated on purpose.

Another thing my Aussie relatives find funny is thhe fact we have a meat product called ‘faggots’. This comes up every time! It also means gay. We have that meaning too but they only know it as that. So if we say we are having faggots for dinner, then it is highly hilarious to them. Just as when I mentioned that they call flip-flops ‘thongs’. Meaning can definitly be misconstrued there too!

They also find the names of beers and pubs funny. My aunty was telling me that when she was over here years ago with a friend, they found a pub called ‘The Nun’s Passage’ and then they started to drink a beer called ‘Bishop’s finger’. So they would say ‘Let’s go for a Bishop’s finger in the Nun’s Passage!’ Gotta love the English for puns and sexual innuendos.

Our town is tiny so when they said they had been there yesterday, me and the pub owner laughed when I went to meet them. We joked that had they seen all the charity shops (Aussie’s call them ‘Op’ shops) and the card shops! I then had recommendations that they go to Ann Summers (our fun and slightly rude shop) and also look out for the blue building that is the rowing club where my boyfriend rows. Those are some sights to see! Our little town doesn’t have a lot to offer but we are lucky because we aren’t far away from a lot of pretty places. I would love to take them to Lincoln. I lived there for three years when I was at Uni and would love to show them the Uni, the castle, the cathedral and even more historic, the places I used to live! Working in a school though, as huge number of weeks off we get, we can’t choose when to have a week off. So, I’ll have to wait til they return when I am off school and can go out with them in the day too.

But they have the rest of my family to go out with and I hope they enjoy the rest of their visit Up Over!

XSXS

Ginger Rules

Good evening people!

Thought I would dedicate today’s post to my good ginger friend, as it is her birthday! She is very defensive about her hair colour and reinforces the  fact that it is ‘auburn’ every time we call it ginger – which we do all the more to wind her up naturally 😉

It got me thinking and wondering why there is such a stigma attached to people with ginger hair. It is still seen as so negative to have ginger hair and in our society they are victimised also. If it was taken as seriously as racism then people would be in trouble a lot! With nicknames like ‘gingernut’, ‘ginga’, ‘carrot top’ etc. I and I just don’t get it because it is a gorgeous, rich hair colour. And no I am not ginger and trying to defend my corner… I am brunette and can just see this from outside the hair circle.

People always say things like, ‘oooh I wouldn’t want my child to be ginger.’ Or ‘ooh she is pretty for a ginger,’ or ‘he is really fit – shame he is ginger!’ Which is just ridiculous – it’s a hair colour at the end of the day! I once dyed my hair ginger – by accident I must admit. I never lived it down for ages! It’s really silly because as I say, it is a nice colour and why don’t people dye it ginger? Blonde hair dye sales tend to go up as many gingers turn to that. But ‘blondes’ aren’t without their own stereotypes are they? Dumb, bimbos and all that. Think I’d rather be known as a fiery ginger!

My ginger friend (the one whose birthday it is today – because believe it or not I have quite a few 😉 ) told me that her ginger friend was on holiday the other week and had a funny story. Now I can’t remember where she said the holiday was now – I’ve just text her so I can tell you but seems she is having too much birthday fun! So I may be able to tell you in the comments later. Anyway, on holiday there was a bar that held a ‘ginger night’ once a week! Gingers would go from far and wide and other people (with a fetish for gingers maybe or just curious drinkers?) If someone pulled a ginger they would get a free shot! I thought this was hilarious! I made the point that if you were a ginger and pulled a ginger then surely you should get two shots? What a great way to get drunk! I wonder if the shots were all orange in colour like… whisky, erm… can’t think of anymore – orange vodka maybe? Cointreau has an orange flavour? And surely ginger beer has to be on offer! So if you see a bar like this then do go take a look.

I also discovered that there is a National ‘hit a ginger’ day on November 2oth. One for the diaries people! Honestly you can’t make this stuff up and it seems there is a ‘National’ day for everything!

There also seems to be rules that occur when you are a ginger, as if they don’t have enough to be concerned with. Like they shouldn’t wear red because it clashes with their locks or they can’t stay out in the sun too long because they tend to have very pale, sensitive skin… well I think they should be ginger and proud and wear red and stay in that sun and get redder if they choose!

Think of all the good ginger things out there, like gingerbread, cake, biscuits and the spice itself. Very warming and good for you – just like our ginger friends! So if you have a ginger friend then celebrate their uniqueness and take them to a bar for free shots… oh and maybe avoid them on Nov 20th 😉

If you have any funny ginger stories then let me know!

Some famous ginger faces to leave you with……

See you tomorrow,

XSXS

Two hearts, two rings..

Afternoon guys,

Remember I told you about my friend who got engaged? Well, tomorrow I am going to see her… her fiance, new house and new kitten (their new neighbours gave them one apparently! I know! All I got from my new neighbours was a telling off for parking in front of their house!). So I am quite excited to celebrate with her and another great friend too. I have just finished a little surprise for the engaged couple actually… which I hope to share with you in some way over the weekend. 😉 I now envisage my friend getting super dooper excited and ultra hyper about the looming surprise… yes I know you so well my friend 😉

She phoned me earlier to arrange tomorrow and told me that she had bought another engagement ring because she didn’t like the original one that he proposed with. This got me thinking… is this wrong? Or is it important to be honest and not get stuck with something that you don’t find beautiful for the rest of your life? (Those women married to ugly blokes have to though don’t they?? Haha). I immediately said to her on the phone, ‘Oooh very Sex and the City because there is a storyline where Aidan proposes to Carrie. He buys a ring beforehand and she secretly finds it, unknown to him. She then complains to her girlfriends… as they often do in that programme… that she hates the ring and her friend, Samantha, then takes him shopping to replace it so he could propose with her ‘dream’ ring. Now in the real world we don’t all have personal shoppers or friends that will butt in… or indeed actually go searching for the rings in the first place! So what would you do if you were presented with a ring and you thought ‘ergh’?

After our phone call, I realised there is another great example of this in the programme Cold Feet … remember that? A British comedy/drama set in northern England from the nineties? I love it and have all the boxset dvds… anyway, Adam proposes to Rachel with a huge, jewel clustered ring that was hugely expensive and she hated it and at first she pretended to like it. She decided that Adam obviously chose not to spend much because it looked so ‘cheap’ but then it started to snag all her clothes (imagine if it did on your wedding dress?!) and she came clean and admitted she wanted to change it. All turned out well there too (even though I forgot to mention in the Sex and the City example they didn’t actually make it to the altar and the ring got returned…) but these poor men! They buy expensive rings and women think they are cheap, they buy gold and women want white gold or silver, they get big diamonds and the woman wants small… should they let the woman choose herself or does that take the romance away?

Back to my mate….she too, like Rachel, pretended to love the ring at first. In fact she sent me a picture whilst I was sunbathing the other week.. you know when I posted about Sun V Housework? But clearly, unlike her and her fiance, the love did not blossom with the ring. Turns out, he bought it in Poland (he is Polish, he didn’t just go for a very long, faraway shopping trip!) a while ago and no longer had the receipt and even if he did, it’s a bit of a way to make a return or exchange! But still, my friend knows what she wants, is always true to herself and asked her fiance if they could split the cost of a new one. He agreed and they lived happily ever after in ring bliss.

So what do you all think about the women’s choice? Should she like it or lump it when proposed to with a ring? I’m asking you because I’m not really sure myself. I think, I would be happy with whatever was chosen… as long as it was white gold, not too big a diamond and not too expensive… haha maybe that answers it and we all have ideals of what an engagement should be. Should the man at least have a go at choosing one though? Or would it just cause arguments if he didn’t know her well enough to know what was perfect? To return to Sex and the City, Carrie thought that Aidan wasn’t the right guy because he couldn’t choose the right ring! A bit extreme and friend, I am not trying to make you think that! 😉 I think maybe it depends on the individual, some women will want to choose, some will happily accept whatever and be grateful that he has finally proposed, some will put up with a hideous band of gold for a quiet life and some will be honest and ask for an exchange… or in my mate’s case a second ring! I teased her and said ‘typical Lou, has to have two rings!’ We joke about her being a princess you see (no she isn’t actually royalty!). She isn’t actually spoilt either and actually a very generous and giving person (she had a huge part in me getting my job but that’s another story), she just, over certain things, likes to be ‘me, me, me!’ And I know she won’t mind be saying this because I think she plays up to it a lot really and takes it all in good humour… either that or she’ll get a new friend instead of me like she did with a ring 😉

So blokes, if you are thinking of buying an engagement ring, why not ask her mates or Mum what kind of ring she would like? She will have said at some point! And ladies, don’t be afraid to speak up if your ring isn’t your one true love! Going back to Poland may be pushing it though 😉

I’m sure my friend will love this post being dedicated and dominated by her…. I’ll take this opportunity to say ‘Congratulations’ to them both! (And the two rings!)

See you tomorrow… and I’ll tell you all about these two rings, maybe I’ll even get pictures for you!

XSXS