The Most Important Thing…

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My sister got married on Friday.  She and my brother-in-law to be had asked me to write some words for the ceremony. Naturally,  I was honoured – and also a little nervous. I’m fine with public speaking, but when you are reading aloud your own words in such an emotionally-heightened situation like a family wedding, it can be daunting. For me, it was mainly the fact that I needed to make it through without crying (too much!) and to do my words – and the bride and groom –  justice. Luckily, it went well. I got tears and laughter in the right places (always a bonus!)

The Most Important Thing…

Within this beautiful setting of a luxurious wedding of classy dress, exciting atmosphere and immaculate décor, it’s easy to forget the most important component of all: the love story underneath it. As much as the outward appearance of today will add to our experience, and will be highlighted in the photographs and videos for years to come, love is the most exceptional part of today, but it cannot be seen. However, love has an empowering feeling that will stay with us for the whole of the day – and the following days and weeks and years to come.

No matter how it is dressed up, love is the same. Love is timeless. Love is everything. Love is what we all live for – and aim for.

Life will have golden days and black, dark days, but love is the one thing that keeps us all going in each of our chapters, until we reach the end of the story. To have found a person to express that love to – and to spend your life with, is an achievement in which you should both feel very lucky.

Emily has found in Patrick, a partner for life. He is a brilliant man – loyal, supportive, understanding and funny – and most importantly, for a husband of my sister: patient!  Patrick is also incredibly lucky with his choice of wife. Emily is his best friend: caring without limits, tender, loving and oh so funny – sometimes without meaning to be! I have been blessed with her as a sister for almost 27 years now  – so I know he’ll be truly blessed to have her as a wife for his happy ever after. He just needs to keep a good stock of gin 😉

Like any good love story, there will be dramatic moments, sad parts and some interesting, lively characters. But if you focus on each other and the love and respect you have, then you will have the greatest love story and marriage of all.  

Congratulations to my sister and new brother-in-law. Our tiny family is growing!

XSXS

Are You Successful?

What makes a person a success? Why does society view success in such a limited way? What is the key to true success?

This blog topic has needed more research and a longer thought-process than most. Partly, to understand the notion of what people think success is; partly to find a way to write about people’s real-life situations in a way that highlights various examples of success. This blog post is not belittling anyone’s success or life choices, just in case you do recognise a real-life example. I’m just exploring the many options that there are to success.

Imagine a successful person. What do you envisage? You would not be alone if you pictured someone in a smart, formal business-suit rushing to catch a plane, in order to complete an important job role in their busy and high-flying career. Society teaches us to think about success in this way: career, wealth and travel. If you manage those, you are successful to the world, apparently. And in many cases, this is true. But let’s open that brief case and delve a little deeper to what makes a person truly successful at life.

I’ve noticed the term “successful” be thrown around my various family and friendship groups lately – a bit like a pass-the-parcel. People are keen to pass this term “success” on to other people, but are so reluctant to keep it to apply to themselves. When, really, we all want to open that pass-the-parcel: we all want to be successful. One example at a party recently, was a comment “she’s the most successful out of all of us,” the reason being that the girl in question was a few years younger than the rest of us, and had climbed the career ladder quite high for a tender adult age. And good for her! She clearly wanted to achieve that job role and job satisfaction by that age and has accomplished it. But when did success become just about your career or job?

Many people believe that success is the key to happiness. You need to achieve great things – get that job; bring home the money; buy the house. This helps to be happy.  But what if I said happiness is the key to success? This is what I firmly believe and I will explain why… If you are truly happy with your “lot in life” whatever that may. If you have learnt from your mistakes; got a job that makes you happy; stood by your decisions and you are truly happy as a result, then I think you’re pretty damn successful.

My Dad is another example (I hope he won’t mind me mentioning him here). As he nears retirement age, he occasionally complains that he wishes he had learnt a trade, worked for himself or simply attained more of a career. Now my Dad has always worked hard  – a true grafter. He has worked his whole life, bringing home money to support his wife and two daughters. He has now paid his mortgage off and he and my Mum can now enjoy holidays whenever they like. More importantly, he was able to be a loving, dedicated husband and father who has been around for us all. If he had learnt a trade would he be any happier? Would his family? Maybe he’s have slightly more job satisfaction , but longer hours and more stress perhaps. I think my Dad’s successful at life  – and I hope he will read this when he has his next moan!

A lot of my friends have achieved jobs and moved to various big cities – or countries – as a result. They have flown the nest and gone off to be successful in the “big city”. If that is what they choose to do and want to do, then that is fabulous. What I find interesting is that a few of them have confided that they feel they couldn’t return to our small home town, as they would feel unsuccessful as a result. To me, if you are unhappy in the big city earning the big bucks (and I am by no measure, saying they are) and you want to get a different job and return closer to friends and family – and are happy as  a result of that, then that’s true success to me. It’s not about returning with your tail between your legs, it’s about making the decision to be true to yourself and doing it. Experience things and learn from it. Again, I am not assuming that people can’t be happy in addition to a high flying job in a strange city – I know not everyone is like me 😉 I’m pointing out that it’s also a success to admit that you would rather have something else in life.

Society may view me as unsuccessful. I have a below average salary that doesn’t reflect my age or education, and I still live in my small, non-eventful hometown. However, I think I am successful. There, I’ve caught the pass-the-parcel and happy to admit that I think this. I have a job that I adore and gives me job satisfaction every day (most days!) and that has led me to have small business of my own on the side. I live in my hometown because, you know what? I like it here. It’s home. And in addition to my English degree, university taught me something more important: I am a home bird. I like to live within walking distance from my friends and family. I love to travel and go on holiday, BUT my town and roots are important to me – more important than any job or any amounts of money.

Other people may view success differently and I think that’s the point. We need to define what success means to us and put it into practice. If we are doing what makes us happy in this short life, then we are making a success of it.

XSXS

 

It’ll be alright on the Wedding Day…

Bride Blogger Part 8

I’ve been absent from the Blogging world for a while. Wedmin, wedmin, wedmin! For those of you who aren’t all-consumed with wedding lingo, “Wedmin” is a very cleverly coined compound word for wedding admin, but you could probably figure that out 😉 I do wonder what I did with my time B.E (as in Before Engagement) – what did I do with those precious moments that are now spent making table confetti? Or cutting out inserts for the invitations? Or finding photographs to decorate the venue? Writing poems for nupitals? And when I get a break, I read wedding magazines in the bath!

Overall, it’s been an exciting time and I do enjoy all of the planning. We’ve had a few stressful things happen though that I’d thought I’d share with you fellow-brides or anyone else who wants a giggle:

Way back before Christmas, my Mum and I went to the florist to book flowers plus a glittery curtain back-drop for our venue. A glittery curtain? If you’d said to me years ago that we’d be forking out a small fortune to hire a glittery curtain for our wedding, I’d have laughed so hard, I would’ve spat wine in your face. But we have a massive window behind the top table in the venue room and it boasts a not so romantic looking view of the car-park. So, we need something to cover it. This one we wanted had been used at our venue loads and we thought “bugger it,” it saves anyone spending hours making something that may not look half as good. This is what weddings do to you – you spend on things you never thought you would want or need, but it is all about choosing what to spend your money on. Anyway, I digress. We went  to book this and with crossed fingers asked if the coveted curtain was available on our wedding day. She looked and said;

“Oh it’s already booked that day. At the Riverside hotel with a royal blue colour scheme!”

“What? But OUR wedding is on that date at that venue with that colour scheme!”

Wedding planning does make you a tad crazy. So after this had sunk in, I started to ponder if I had actually already booked it without remembering! But this booking had someone else’s name and they’d already picked flowers and paid their £50 deposit. I’m crazy, but not that crazy and think that even in my mad Wedmin mode, I would still remember giving a false name, choosing flowers and parting with 50 quid! So by this point, I couldn’t give a flying flip about the curtain, but was worried about our venue being double-booked! But a quick phone-call by our helpful florist solved the puzzle. It turns out this other couple had got engaged, gone straight into planning mode and ordered flowers and the curtain, paid the deposit before even booking a venue. They then hadn’t got as far as that because they broke up in the meanwhile. So the venue is ours; the curtain is ours (well for the day) and they are out £50 and don’t even have each other 😦 Sad –  but a lesson can be learnt. Don’t go booking and paying for things straight away before you even have a venue! You could break up…. or just give other future brides like myself, a heart attack!

Speaking of the venue, we still love it and are still very excited. It has caused us some stress also, however. Since booking our special day, they are now on their 3rd manager! Is it me and my incessant bridal questioning that has scared them off? Surprisingly, no! The first manager went on long-term sick – and I know this can’t be helped, but I was very disappointed because I felt like in addition to investing in the venue, we had invested in him also. I clung onto the hope he would be back in the New Year. He did get better but then left the hotel. We had dealt with a relief  manager in the meanwhile and then next time we had visited, there was another one. I know this shouldn’t matter. Our wedding will be great (the mantra I repeat with every single, piece of confetti I make!) but I just feel we have to keep going back to step one, telling the new manager everything!

Another annoying thing to bring us to the current wedding planning week, is the invitation making. I had this idealised idea that we would have a lovely evening printing off our invites to our nuptials. After the first click, the printer decided to chew up our envelopes. One by one. Turns out, in addition to our 80 guests, the printer wanted feeding too! So fingers crossed, we get those sorted this weekend! Things will go wrong, but as I say, I always get a story out of it!

As they say, it’ll be alright on the Wedding night day!

Keep posted for some Hen Do stories!

XSXS

Goodness, Actually

‘There is no such thing as a self-less good deed,’ said Joey on Friends. All good deeds are selfish because they make us feel good he believes- but so what? We need more of people feeling good. If you do a good deed and you make someone happy, it does in fact, make you happy in return – you can then spread this joy when you tell others about it. Which is what this blog post is all about.

Since starting my blog, I have done ‘A good, the bad, the ugly’ themed post at Christmas time to highlight how Christmas kind of exaggerates feelings. (links below) There are so many acts of kindness that seem even more generous during the festive period, yet people doing stupid things and selfish things becomes even worse at Christmas too.

This year – I want to forget negative stories. Not in a ‘head in the sand’ kind of way. There is no avoiding it really, especially with all the awful stories in the news. But for this post, it is going to be simple full of goodness. I’ve had a year of extreme high and lows and now, as the year draws to a close, I want to focus on the positive. And there is a lot of it in the world, even if we forget sometimes.

I was inspired when I watched Love Actually recently. Yes, its a bit cheesy (and no it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it 😉 ) but it does highlight all kinds of  ‘love’ in the world – in a variety of contexts. It ignores hate and all the bad in the world. And we need more of this… people need to focus on love and happiness. And goodness. There is always Goodness, actually 😉

As far as good deeds go, I think I have done my fair share so far this season. I was driving home from work one day and saw an elderly woman go flying – as in fallen over, not zooming in the sky!  She had another elderly woman with her, who couldn’t seem to help her up. I pulled over and attempted to help her up. When I couldn’t physically manage it, I ran for help and a man and myself helped her to her feet. She was very grateful, but insisted she was OK to walk home, after I’d offered to drive her home.

I also try to what I can for the elderly people I know. I’ve visited quite a few neighbours and friends at care homes or their houses – sometimes just a quick chat and some company is the best Christmas present they can have. I didn’t buy my friend Donald anything this year – I tend to find my gifts still wrapped in his room afterwards! So this year, I have just promised to take him out to Morrisons for lunch in the new year. He loves the place and will love that much more than a fancy box of biscuits.

Additionally, instead of giving out Christmas cards to colleagues this year, I have donated a bag of food to Hope charity food bank, which a colleague kindly organises, and also a donation of money to the charity Crisis to help the homeless this Christmas. Here are the links if you fancy doing the same:

http://www.hopecentrederby.co.uk/

http://community.crisis.org.uk/press?utm_source=insert&utm_medium=print&utm_campaign=menu

But lots of people do lovely things all the time, often unrecognised. I’m just going to blurt them all out into one big bubble of happiness – enjoy!

My friend lost her purse in town whilst shopping. Busy, festive time – she never expected to get it back. Luckily, she had no money in it and promptly cancelled her cards. She posted on Facebook and people shared it. A couple of days later, the purse had been posted through her letter box 🙂 Either the wonder or Facebook had helped this or good old-fashioned reading of the drivers licence  – but still, either way, highlighting that their are some decent people out there.

A similar story  – my Mother-in-law-to-be’s friend lost her handbag and it got handed in – fab ending once again Plus, my Mother-in-law-to-be went to a cash point recently and forgot to take her money. A lady behind her shouted after her to collect the money!

An ex-colleague of mine told me this next story via Facebook. She said that she noticed one day that her gate hinge had gone rusty and broke. The next day, she went out to the shops in order to buy a new hinge and noticed that her gate now boasted a brand-new, shiny hinge. It turns out her neighbour had done it for her – without being asked, or without want of any recognition.

Another story I read on Facebook was a lovely one (you see Facebook can be used for positivity spreading!) and made me feel very warm inside – and no, that wasn’t the wine 😉 A youth club went round to local elderly people giving them Christmas hampers. This is pure goodness in itself – but it gets better. They became very upset and disturbed by the condition one old man was living in: poor décor, messy, cold and a lack of carpets. They are now planning to do lots of activities to fund-raise money to carpet the man’s house 🙂 Wonderful.

A friend at work told me about a 26-year-old man (I think she said he was on TV about it) who chose to do a good deed every day for a year. He has managed all of the year so far and still keeping to it every single day. He does things like helping strangers when they are struggling with something, paying for someone’s lunch, doing chores for the elderly and unable. What an inspiration!  – Here’s the link if you want to read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2874858/Luke-Cameron-does-good-deed-day-12-months-people-hate-it.html

Another young lad, who is a true inspiration, is Matthew Humphreys. he completed to Rickshaw challenge this year for Children in Need. I worked with him a few years ago, which is a complete honour. It was my mate, plus then, another fantastic ex-colleague who had the daily delights of working with him one-to-one – and what an amazing job they have done to help to shape the person he has become (along with all other friends and family of course!)  With a physical disability, he found it harder than anyone else – and god knows it is a challenge anyway! I went to see him at my old school for  an awards’ ceremony last week. he also had speech difficulties, but had prepared a speech and was an absolute star of the show. It really does make you humble. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2PkXCX63SZ1YMJ37j3xX9jS/matthew – for more info.

Please continue these stories in the comments below. There are many more to be told – in fact there are probably many more that I know, but have forgotten (especially if told to me after having wine! haha) Spread the joy. After watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time this Christmas, it made me realise what a profound effect each and every individual can have on another’s life. We all have a role to play and there is reason we are here.

Do what you can to help others – it will make them happy and yourself in return 🙂 To end on a quote:

‘Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.’ – but remember goodness is for life, not just for Christmas 🙂

Merry Christmas everyone – have one full of goodness!

XSXS

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/christmas-the-generous-the-silly-and-the-damn-right-disgusting/

https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/christmas-the-good-the-bad-the-funny-and-the-damn-right-inhumane/

Bride Blogger Part 7: The One

Wahoo, I have found the one! Yes – I have found my – the – wedding dress! After discussing my wedding dress hunts in Bride Blogger part 6 (https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hunt-for-the-perfect-wedding-dress-and-bridal-shop/), I did indeed return to the one good shop I had found. I had 3 appointments in total at Alison Evans Bridal Wear and it certainly was ‘3rd time lucky,’ as they say!

Funnily enough, the dress I chose was one of they very first dresses I tried on (possibly even the very first) and I didn’t like it! I preferred others, didn’t like the sleeves etc. But now I love it. I think I had to rule out all the others and realise that the sleeves can be altered/pinned down and can look great. So, yes the search is over.

Getting the dress home and it becoming officially mine, wasn’t the easiest of things though. I have joked to Kenny that finding ‘the one’ as in a husband was much easier than the wedding dress! He took slight offence until I explained there was no question of him being the one – but there were lots of questions involved with the dress 😉 Think I dug my way out of that one!

The dress I decided on was £875 originally and reduced to £600 when I tried it on. I knew, however, there was a sale on the week after and the lovely sales assistant informed us that the dress should go into the sale. I suggested we would be best to buy it now anyway – to ensure we got it – and still for a good price! She urged us to wait for the sale, claiming we could save another couple of hundred. Why would she say that? I hear you cry…….. well, as I said in the previous post, it seems good business and means they maintain excellent word-of-mouth. We were also told, there had been no particular interest in ‘my’ dress and most appointments were booked now leading up to the sale. So, we (yes I dragged the Mums and bridesmaids along again) decided to wait .

All week there was a nagging feeling. What if someone went in, loved it and bought it at £600? What if other people had tried it on and would be fighting for it in the sale? But there was nothing I could do. I didn’t even have control over queuing in the sale and fighting for my dress of honour! The sale began 10am on the Fri – well I was at school. So, it was all left up to my Mum and Dad to queue up, take the paperwork with dress info, hunt it down and pay. Simple?

We joked about them camping outside the shop in their camper van. I still think they should have – even if just for the comedy value. And it would have given Dad a great story for his wedding speech! We also heard about 7 women all coming in for the same,one dress. I never heard what happened with that – I never heard of a wedding dress shop scandal or fight in the newspaper, so assume it was OK! Anyway, Mum and Dad got there early enough and started queuing – whilst I was in a lesson at school going out of my mind! Mum text me at half 9 saying ( I’d just like to point out, I didn’t check my phone until I was out of lesson!):

‘There are about 8 people in front of us – but some are together. There is only one girl who looks the same size as you, but she looks a bit chavvy and won’t be after your dress! Alison just came out with chocolate biscuits!’

Lol, I love my Mum – cracks me up. She also questioned why the shop owner would give them chocolate biscuits when they were about to touch white dresses? Good point I guess! My Dad joked that they wanted to fatten people up so they would need alterations! 😉  haha. Within another ten minutes, I received another text:

‘Got it – just waiting to pay. £435!’

So that was it – wahoo! It is now hanging proudly in my old bedroom and my parents’. My dad even put up a hook for it 🙂

The one (husband-to-be and dress ticked off!)

XSXS

Dangerous Gravy

Picture this: I’m on a fast, moving train after visiting a friend from Uni; I’m checking my phone for messages every ten minutes – whilst, in between, reading a novel on my E-reader device; I have a take-away cup of Mocha; people are talking on phones; working on laptops; a Special Needs child is shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’ over and over….. is this a snapshot of crazy, modern life?

The Special Needs lad kind of made my day. He was shouting and rambling away and no one batted an eye lid. I know there are exceptions to this  – but on this train, no one cared. There was acceptance. That is one thing I love about modern life – everything is out in the open, we can do what we want – and live the life we choose. (mostly!) This is definitely true in comparison to the other time period I was thinking about on the train. You see, I was reading about the Jane Austen world. Not one of her books, or a book about her – but a modern author’s depiction of ‘what happens next’ in Pride and Prejudice.* So, this is a modern author delving into the 1800s . Some of you may groan at this idea – but it is actually very good. No, her style isn’t exactly like Austen’s, how could it be? I love the fact that that didn’t put her off writing the story she wanted to.

With the lad shouting ‘Dangerous gravy’, I started thinking of the term ‘gravy train’. Whether it was being on a train or just how my mind works I don’t know! I started thinking about how we are all on this ‘gravy train’ of life. In all honesty, I always thought the term was a synonym of the term ‘rat race’ – meaning crazy, modern life journey. That kind of idea. I’ve just looked it up, however, and it means ‘a cushy job or time’ – saying that someone can get a lot of money from very little effort. This still kind of fits with the ideas I wanted to discuss though.

Hilariously, when I told my Mum about the lad on the train, she simply said Ahh maybe he was recently burnt by hot gravy!’ That is much more realistic! How come I never think so literally?!

I’ve always joked that I belong to the 1800s – or even possibly a little earlier, like the Tudor Courts perhaps. I’d love the simple life of walking everywhere, not worrying about technology – you know, a lovely day of sewing, writing, reading and playing the piano (I’m very musical and creative with a needle in this daydream!) All I’d have to worry about is finding a husband and keeping my family happy (assuming I was in a higher class – again this is what I imagine! hehe) I wouldn’t have the day-to-day craziness like I do in Modern life – but would I be any happier?

I’d have to do what my father told me to. I wouldn’t be able to go out alone without a chaperone. I would have to get married, or be seen as some ort of leper by society. I wouldn’t even be able to blummin dance at a party without being asked by a man! All these things I get cross about now, yet I am still drawn to this time period and the idea of living in it!

In contrast, what I love about modern life is the idea of the unexpected and its freedom. Like the train freeze-frame above: totally random! In modern society, we can hop on a train or plane and go anywhere. We see people from all walks of life and have so, so many opportunities and experiences. In Jane Austen land, I’d get married and live in some big house somewhere and perhaps hardly see the rest of my family   – as it would take days to travel to them! People must have been happy then and fulfilled – but they didn’t know any different. I think the ‘dangerous’ thing here – is to compare. We need to embrace our life – as crazy as it – and appreciate the opportunities and things we get to do. I don’t have to attend a ball on Saturday night to fit into society’s ideals. I can sit in my PJs and watch X Factor; go out for dinner; pop to Paris (if money allowed!): we have the freedom to do as we choose.

As for  the lad on the train, I have no idea why he shouted ‘Dangerous Gravy’. Maybe my Mum was right – or maybe he was mourning Linda Bellingham? Bisto is being mentioned a lot lately in her honour! I just think in terms of having it ‘cushy’ and being on a gravy train, we all can really. Yes, of course we still have to work hard to attain things – but modern life has made so many things much easier for us. Life can be as simple or easy as we make it – whatever time period we live in.

Anyone else really fancy gravy now? 😉

XSXS

Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued (Pride and Prejudice Chronicles Book 1) by Anna Elliot. There are a few in the series I think.

A Fine Life

I have just read an article in Psychologies magazine that has inspired me to write this. I love it when that happens – when I read something and feel I have something to add. The article was about being ‘fine’. They always say that if a woman ever says she is ‘fine’ then the husband or partner is in trouble – as ‘fine’ can be a mask to hide true, inner feelings.

The article suggested that it is better to be honest when people ask if you are okay  – tell them you are feeling rubbish/down/depressed etc. I guess it depends on the person that has asked you and the situation. I studied spoken communication at university for my dissertation – and it does seem that certain phrases are asked out of politeness or to invite a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Women are always said to be a more ‘polite’ conversationalist and I found that from my research. That is politeness translates as being cooperative, formal and inviting. Women like to include others into conversations and a simple,

‘How are you?’

‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’

can do this. It did always amuse when I studied gender differences because a male conversation of:

‘Pint?’

‘Sure!’

can so exactly the same thing! So if this ‘politeness’ is more about being honest and straight to the point, then males may have it down to a tea (or a beer!) But let’s stick with this idea of being ‘fine’ – and within both genders. The article suggested ‘fine’ to be an acronym, which I thought was quite clever. Because even if we say are fine, we are really feeling a mash-up of feelings – and you could argue that we all are, all the time.

 

F *cked up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

 

Is it better to be honest and say ‘Actually, I’m feeling kind of emotional’? Like I said above, it does depend on who it is and where you are. I would want a friend or family member to tell me what they were really feeling – even if it wasn’t a convenient time or location in fact. Sometimes, though, you just want small-talk though and keeps people at that ‘acquaintance’ level – and we all need those.

Lately, I’ve had a couple of neighbours confide truths to me. I didn’t ask for it or particularly invite it  – well I didn’t think I did anyway! One neighbour on Monday, confided that she had cancer and her latest check-up was yesterday. I only went outside to get my sunglasses from my car so that I could read in the sun. Irony alert – that by the time we had finished talking, the sun had gone in! I liked the fact that she spoke to me about it though, really. I feel I know her better. If she had said she was ‘fine’ and then I heard her health news from someone else, I would have felt that I wasn’t a person she could tell. The downside is, it has now gone a few notches up from general neighbour chat and I must remember to ask her how her check-up went. The pressure is on to not feel like a bad neighbour.

Another neighbour, a few weeks previous, confided in me about his wife leaving him for another man. Again, I was just  getting out of my car  – I think I had just come from work. We had the small talk about ‘glad the day was over and I could relax now’ etc. It somehow got onto the fact that he now lived alone and his wife had left him. This may have been a time when I wished he had just said he was ‘fine’ – as I didn’t really  know what to say! I mean what do you say? ‘There are plenty more fish in the sea!’  or ‘Maybe she will come back’? Awkward. But, maybe it made him feel better to tell someone and he was sick of saying that he was just ‘fine’.

It’s okay to not be fine. I always say that talking about things is human nature and we need to do it. We are social creatures and sometimes a chat – whether it be to a close friend or stranger – is all we need.

XSXS

 

Buy your Cake and Eat it!

Cake
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cake2
2.)

cake 3
3.)

Bride Blogger Part 5

 

Hi brides-to-be, bloggers, readers and any other wedding goers! The wedding prep has died down a little, as with over a year to go still, there isn’t a lot to do in the present. We have the venue and the registrar. So the WHERE and the WHO bits of our wedding are taken care of – what else could you need? A lot it seems. One of those things being a cake. Cakes are used as part of a lot of English celebrations – and it seems at a wedding, not only is it a tasty treat for your guests, but it has to be a fantastic, wowing centre piece!

The wedding cake is traditionally cut by the bride and groom and eaten by the guests at the wedding reception. I have many memories of taking pieces home though – as you are usually full up of yummy wedding food. And with the price of the Wedding Breakfast food and evening food, people best be full!!!

I’ve also read that wedding cake used to be broken over/thrown at the bride as a symbol of fertility. Wasting a few hundred pound cake by throwing it about is like throwing money down a drain: who could ever afford a child?! Crazy ideas – again to me, it could be eaten not thrown about like a ball. Plus it could get on my lovely dress!

Wedding cakes are supposed to signify good luck and happiness for the happy couple and the guests. To me, it is important it is one thing: delicious! It  is a cake after all! No matter how pretty or magnificent it is, if it tastes horrible, there will be some disappointed guests.  And it isn’t good luck if you choke on some hard, dry sponge! So, yes I want it look good but it is equally important that it tastes good – and I feel I should be able to get both of these at a non-ridiculous price! Honestly, some of them can cost £1000 or more – for sponge! Crazy industry! I know, I know – you’re paying for their time and labour – but still. I was thinking a nice, simple one that fits with the colour scheme – with maybe a funny cake-topper on the top (funnily enough!) of maybe me reading/ Kenny rowing! Haha. Even though, that hasn’t stopped me looking at more elaborate ones:

1.) The first pic is hilarious and would be very fitting for our clumsiness! Love it! I imagine a lot of effort would have to go into that though.

2.) The one on the left is really cool. Pictures printed around each side of the couple. Kenny has an idea to get photos on a supermarket cake as a cheaper way of doing it! Mmmm…. will see about that!

3.) I’m not sure we would need this many layers, but I love how each one tells a story of the love between the couple! Love the colours too.

So, there are some cake ideas – will need to look at lots more and do plenty of testing I imagine too 😉 Any tips or ideas – please comment below!

XSXS

 

Dating to dates, dates, dates!

Bride Blogger Part 4:

wedding

It has occurred to me that wedding preparation involves a lot of dates. And we get to that point from all those dates during dating 😉

Of course, there is the date of the proposal – which we have nailed: 3rd January 2014 – in the future this will become another date to celebrate our life together, in addition to the date we actually got together: 21st January 2005 🙂

We have the wedding date sorted too now – and even the registrar is booked, giving us that oh so valuable time of marriage too. It was a right faff getting the registrar sorted – we couldn’t get in touch with them via person or phone due to our jobs. So we emailed them. They then replied with ‘please phone us to discuss further.’ Erm, what’s the point of having an email address then?! So far, people in this wedding industry are amazing me – either in terms of excitement and enthusiasm, or like that example: incompetence (or just far too much laid-backness for my liking!) I don’t want to get all ‘But’s it our wedding!’ on anyone just yet but it may be on the horizon!  My fiancé emailed another registrar to actually book it (we had to let one county know – where we live – and actually book for the one we are getting married in.) He attached a  delivery thing to it, so that he knew when they had read it. He received it, but 9 hours later they still hadn’t replied! It’s all sorted now, but from that to the cost of £400 to just actually get married, I started to wonder if we should just have a big party without the legal bit 😉 haha. I would have still had the dress and bridesmaids, naturally!

Another date that got set in shiny stone this week is my hen do date! Next May – whoop! A year to wait, but I am very proud and pleased with my sister (aka Maid of Honour) and best mate (aka bridesmaid) for being so organised and excited about it all!

Bridal Fairs are other dates that are filling my diary still – looking forward to going to one in May to actually seriously start looking at dresses. Taking Mum and Mum-in-law to be to that one. It made me laugh at a fair recently, a plus sized wedding dress company tried to convince me to use them. They start at size 16. I said I was a 14, but they then stated that wedding dresses come small, so I would their 16. Mmm – will see about that. Can’t knock their sales techniques though!

With all these dates in crazy wedding plan world, it’s important to return to the traditional ‘date’ and make sure you spend quality time together. So, that you still make it to that oh so important wedding date! 🙂

Keep enjoying planning future brides!

XSXS

Grandad

Grandad

It’s been all talk of weddings and funerals lately. My grandad passed away last week – it was expected and I know it was a blessing in the long run for him. But, with all those positive thoughts that try and drag you through these situations – it will always be sad.

We had the funeral today and my Gran asked me to write a poem. It has a funny tone – because it should be a celebration of life, but mainly because if it was too soppy and emotional, I wouldn’t have made my through the reading of it!

See what you think:

Grandad

Grandad, you’ll really be missed,

for all your knowledge and chattering,

but for me, I’m mostly upset,

‘cos you were the only one who thought I could sing!

 

A voice like an angel you said,

clearly lost your hearing-aid that day,

but it’s always been a family joke,

just like the jigsaw pieces that ‘lost their way’.

 

Yes, you always loved those puzzles,

all those pieces for you to manoeuvre,

then when it came to that last piece we’d hear:

‘Peg, you’ve sucked it up the hoover!’

 

You also loved to be in the garden,

doing the lawns and pottering in the sheds,

whilst us kids played on the grass, trying not to,

get our balls in the flower beds!

 

Always keen on numbers, you were,

Lottery ones, you were keen to remember,

You may not have won big, yet always knew,

important family dates: January to December.

 

And you always made to time to relax,

Looking at photographs; sitting in your chair,

whilst eating a dark, chocolate Bounty,

and hiding a few in your bedroom upstairs!

 

Those times Gran sang, ‘Bring your sweet lips a little closer…’,

As you both enjoyed a ‘sneaky’ drink or two,

The rest of the family singing and laughing,

And trying to keep up with you!

 

We’ll always remember your funny ways, Grandad,

And they will make us smile for years and years,

It will feel like you are still with us,

So, after today, no need for any sad tears.

 

All that needs saying really.

XSXS

A Fayre Wedding (and more venues!)

Bride Blogger Part 3:

Well guys, wedding stuff ahoy! We went to our first wedding fayre a couple of weeks ago. It has been a journey  (faster than a walk down the aisle) since then! The fayre was fun – and also funny in the laughable sense at times. We were shown, you know, all those things that you had no idea that you need. Because you don’t! But they make you feel you do. Like a caricaturist for instance. Just what I have always wanted: cartoon pictures of my guests! He joked that since we hadn’t booked a venue yet, that we could plan the whole wedding around him. Er no. Doves were another thing – doves in a cage. All pretty and calm and then you release then after the ceremony. Nah – bit cheesy for me that. And knowing me, it would be bound to go wrong. I’d release them out of time with the photographer/get pecked/or pooed on (again – worry of that white dress!) haha – so again a no, no, no!

We said yes, yes, yes to some things though. The free cake and cupcake samples, chocolates and pens! Oh and the amount of business cards and leaflets we came back with I could make a dress out of! I found it was easier to just say ‘yes’ (I’m practising for the big day you see!) and take the leaflets and move on. 🙂 Everyone wants you to buy their product or service of course, whereas I just wanted to browse for ideas.

We took my sister and partner with us too, which caused some confusion. At each station they wanted to know who the bride and groom was – I told my sis she should have pretended to be a bride too – and also get the freebies 😉 So that was the main fayre fail.

The best part of the fayre was the venue. It was the one that we had rated highest on the last blog 😉 We were excited to see it again and asked the photographers and other agencies/businesses for tips about the venue. For example a photographer told us one of the hired rooms has a view of the car park – and one of the river. So it is best to have the ceremony in the river view room. Well for my rower fiance it definitely is – others may have a particular interest in cars – or concrete!

We called in on another venue on the way home. This was one that I had my heart set on originally. I loved the website photos, the deal and the surroundings. But we had asked to book a viewing and they had been busy. We decided to call on the off-chance. Like the funeral incident in the last blog, there was another funny story to tell. We walked in on an event – maybe a wedding, but if so, the bride and groom had snuck off 😉 We asked a member of staff if we could make an appointment to come and view properly. She said she was in the middle of phoning an ambulance for a guest! Yet, she still kept talking to us for a few moments!! I said, ‘No way are we getting married there. If someone takes ill on the day, they’ll take ages to ring for bloody help!’ The piano man suggested we write our details down to be passed on. 2 weeks later and we still hadn’t heard anything.

Rating: Inept with emergencies/ not excited for you to book/ poor communication skills? 0/10 for them then!

A week later, we returned to our ‘favourite’ venue for an open eve and a meeting with the manager. The price had seemed right and we were 99% sure before we even went. We just wanted to check a few things: some numbers, room info, food details (we also had our dinner there to sample!) and general costings and info about the day. To cut it short:  we booked it! And the most exciting part:  it is next August! We decided to bring it forward a year (and no, I am not pregnant – as some people have asked!) We just decided we could afford it! I now feel, with it being next year, that I can plan the little things. We started looking into flowers (how expensive are button holes?!) and seat covers (a couple of hundred quid to cover seats?!) I guess this is where the proper fun starts 😉

 

Wedding Quote:

‘Old people at weddings have always poked me and said ‘you’re next!’

So, I started doing the same to them at funerals!’ 😉

Next time: All those little details and first, small steps of planning the big day!

XSXS

 

4 Wedding Venues and a Funeral!

Part 2 of the Bride Blogger posts:

 

We have now attended our first four venues – for a look round and discussion. There has been a lot of great information, advice and sights to see. BUT no canapes or free champagne  – I thought that was one of the pluses of mooching around all these places? Maybe that’s the wedding fayre….. *fingers crossed*

The first venue we turned up to view was a local hotel. We had booked the appointment but we ended up being quite early. So, I suggested we look at our guest list so we had a more accurate idea of numbers before we went in. No one one told us that this was the hardest part?! I’d heard, in fact, that the seating plan is – but surely once you have the number of guests, seating them isn’t an issue? Person + seat = done. 🙂 Yeh, I get the feeling that it isn’t as easy as that either – so look at for a blog in the future on that one!

I thought we could get 50 guests for the day. But once we add up family – close friends of both us  and then our separate close friends, then it’s easily 70. And don’t even get me started on the plus ones 😉 So that was our ‘number’: 70 plus up to 100 for the evening.

The first venue made me laugh – it could only happen to us. It was all set out  beautifully to show it’s full potential as an idyllic venue: as a funeral! Haha. So it was hard to picture our big day there, when it was very sombre and tranquil for the looming funeral wake. It was a nice place though and we got asked questions about colours, ideas and best men/bridesmaids – the woman showed a real interest (to get our money says the cynical side of me!) but I lapped it all up and thought ‘this venue searching is fun!’ This seemed a great option, until a couple of hours later, we got the very detailed, ‘interested’ and expensive quote 😉

Rating: 5/10 ‘Lottery win needed or a hell of a lot of bartering.’

We ended up going to a  local restaurant for lunch ‘The Winery’ 😉  – one of the best in town (for food, but not prices!) as we heard they did weddings there and we could kill two birds with one stone! I love this particular restaurant, and once again, the food was amazing. (Sadly again, no freebies for wedding research! 😉 ) The rooms are all very secluded and segregated  – which is great for eating out – but not so great for a wedding, where you want everyone to see everyone and be in a big, open space.

Rating: 7/10 ‘great food- marquee needed if we choose this one.’

The third place, we were also booked in for. It was at the local brewery centre – wine and beer, are you sensing the theme of these venues? 😉 My fiance, naturally, loved the idea of this one. It had some great potential and lot of different rooms to choose from, including a marquee.

Rating: 8/10 ‘good price, but no nice outside area.’

Lastly, we randomly called at a hotel that I  heard was a good option. We got some info and we were very excited by the deal they do. Not giving too much away to our guests yet 😉

Rating a hush, hush 9/10 – I knocked a point of because it seems a little too good to be true at the minute. Watch this space 😉

Kenny was so excited by the price options that he spent 6 hours at home when we got back, creating a detailed database:  of guests/groups they fall into/ their roles in the wedding and costs/budgets/prices etc.

So, Lucy, I do now have a man heavily involved in the planning! I am pleased overall yes, but there was a point at 9pm (after a full day of wedding stuff) that I had to prize him away from the computer   – as 2 years before the wedding, I just don’t know if our ‘veggie guests want cauliflower tart’ or if we should ‘have a tea and coffee option.’ Haha! It’s going to be a fun 2 years 😉

Not a quote this time, but a question:

‘How do brides- or this bride in particular –

manage all day without spilling on the perfect, white dress?!

White food/drink options?’

This is a serious worry for me!

See you soon wedding planners!

Next: wedding fayres, as we are off to our first one today!

XSXS

From the Little Black book to a Bigger White book….

Those of you whom read regularly will know that my blogs are random. They are to reflect life: random. I write about things that pop up, occur and just happen. Or perhaps topics close to my heart that I have thought about that day. From now on – up to the next couple of years – there is no escaping that the blog posts may get a little more wedding related 😉 So, I’d like to offer myself as a Bride Blogger – for those in mine (and other) wedding parties to share ideas/read of my planning/ laugh at me etc! For those not involved at all, should still get a laugh and a giggle out of my Bridezilla stress. Because you don’t realise how every little damn thing becomes magnified when it comes to wedding prep! I didn’t. (And I’m still only in the first couple of months!)

Yes, I am now a fiancee. I no longer have a little black book (not that I did anyway – you could fit my previous conquests on a napkin! 😉 ) I now have a nice, bright, white A5 wedding planner – because who needs an actual wedding planner in the form or a human, when you have a notebook?! God, I love making lists and that ‘skill’ will finally come to good use! Nothing ever may get ticked off the lists….but still 😉

You don’t realise  – or I didn’t  – how much there is to think about. I always thought, ‘Oh, I’d do it on the cheap and it wouldn’t take long to sort!’ I still think this in theory – and we don’t want a big, fancy affair but we do want lots of people. The joining of family, friends and everyone you care about is the most important thing to me . Unfortunately, this mass of people need feeding and everything! 😉 So, even though we’d love to get married as soon as possible, we seem to need the next two years to save money and sort everything out. So, the planning to me is the first exciting stage. (My fiance may not agree with this!)

After being engaged, the whole world turns into one huge wedding. I notice other people’s engagement rings now, and every place I drive past is a possible venue. I strain my neck to see if there is a suitable, cute garden or if they do accommodation – surprised I haven’t crashed yet! 😉 Every colour I see becomes a possible bridesmaid/colour theme. Every white dress is possible bridal couture for myself. Every sentimental quote I see, is a possible ‘personal’ touch to make the little things important on the big day – screw the guests, I’ll be surrounded by word plaques!  😀 haha.

I’d say that I’m still in the overwhelmed phase. In a good way. Everything seems a possibility and I’m just collecting ideas to fill those blank pages in my book 😉 I havent been engulfed by the invitations, save the dates, wedding menus – where I might just suggest we cook and eat the groom instead. No, it’s all very nice still. It will be interesting to see how this develops I think! I have a lot of friends and acquaintances getting married too in the next 24 months, so I hope they will share ideas and read this too 🙂

Next post: Venues! (We are going to see our first 2 on Friday.)  – I actually had my first ‘Bridezilla’ moment when I was booking these. One hadn’t replied to my email in over a week. I became very ‘well if they want us to get married there, then they should be efficient enough to reply!’ This was also because every other venue and immediately invited us along/emailed us/phoned us just for looking at their website! I emailed again saying ‘we would appreciate a response this time ASAP as we were seeing other venues that day.’ Cue, a response immediately with an apology and we are now booked in. I can work this Bride thing! 😉

Wedding Quote 1:

‘Marriage lets you annoy that one

special person for the rest of your life!’

See you soon wedding planners….

XSXS

Four Proposals and Two rings….

I don’t know if any of you remember a blog post I wrote about a year and a half ago: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/two-hearts-two-rings/. It is about my mate’s engagement and how she didn’t like the ring etc….. take a look.

I wouldn’t have thought that a year and a half later, I’d be sitting here writing the story of my own engagement! 🙂 Yay! Yes, in the new year I got engaged…. to my boyfriend just to be clear! Just over 2 weeks since he has proposed, and it is now 4 times in total! And there has been 2 rings…….. let me tell……

We went to London just after New Year. We had already planned to go to Harry Potter world and stay a couple of nights down in London – instead of birthday and Xmas presents to each other. What I didn’t know, was that Kenny had also booked the theatre and dinner in a nice restaurant for the following evening. He had originally booked tickets to the Apollo theater, but it was shut because of the ceiling collapsing! The seats would have been exactly where that happened too, so it’s a good job we didn’t go to London a couple of weeks earlier like we had suggested 😉 A whole of other meaning to being blown away by a great show!

Anyway, I wasn’t very well over New Year and I didn’t start to feel better until our second evening in London – the theatre and dinner one! Kenny told me later that he was wondering whether to propose still or not. I joked, ‘You didn’t want me if I was snotty?!’ He said he hadn’t wanted to if I was feeling ill. As I say, luckily I felt better. Kenny also told me later that he had the ring on him all night. But – obviously the theatre wasn’t the best time (best leave the show to the professionals!)  – and at dinner, we had seats at the chef counter. It was busy, lively and fascinating sitting inches from the chefs cooking our meal. But not a great time to propose. Fortunately, Kenny had decided this too because the ring had to stay in his jacket throughout the meal! We handed them into the cloak room and he said he couldn’t have got it out as I would have seen it/or asked him what he wanted out of his jacket! And knowing me – I would have!

So, that left the hotel room when we returned. And I’m glad that was how it happened. Just us two. I was really tired when we got back and proceeded to take my make-up off and get ready for bed – all the tubes and trains to get back to our hotel outside of the centre had exhausted me! Kenny got us a glass of prosecco each and sat next to me, as I scrubbed mascara of my eyes. Wonder if he had second thoughts?! Ha! He then took out various receipts and tickets from his pockets and gave them to me. He knows I like to save them for photo album scrap books. He then said, ‘There’s something else in here for you too…’ And he presented me with a huge, black box. Seriously, it was twice the size to how I ever would imagine a ring box. I figured it must be a necklace…

Hours went by… or so it felt. In reality,  just a few seconds.

He opened the box to reveal a sparkly, ring.

I didn’t want to assume it was that kind of ring!

This was typical of Kenny… no immediate words. He was making me work it out!

So I said, ‘er what is that?’ In a curious, gentle kind of way may I add! Not a ‘What the hell?!’ kind of way!

He then said….’Will you marry me!’

I think I said yes, but I was a little in shock. We’ve been together 9 years, so of course I’ve thought about it. But I certainly wasn’t expecting it at that moment! I then, suddenly realised: he hadn’t got down on one knee! I asked him to do it again! I was milking this proposal situation for all I could 😉 He did, bless him!

Then half an hour later, I asked him to say it again. It was still a novelty and I wanted to hear the words again! I then replied no! 😉 We both laughed – I’d just wanted to try out the negative response to make sure of how I felt about it 😉 (That idea was from Time Traveller’s Wife haha).

You’ll be wondering about the 4th proposal and the 2nd ring? Well, I loved the ring. I still do – that isn’t meant to be past tense for that reason. But the ring was too big. We went straight to the jeweller’s when we got back. We found my correct size (The typical, modern, size-obsessed woman in me was dead chuffed to have fingers 2 sizes smaller!) The ring had been discontinued. But there was one in the country. In Portsmouth. I just had to wait a week for it to be posted.

So, on the Saturday – which was the week later – I went to collect my ring. It hadn’t arrived with the courier. The manager was phoning me and checking it all morning, whilst I met a mate for a cuppa; had a manicure; did some shopping (tiring life for the engaged!) but it still didn’t come 😦 The shop couldn’t have done more though so I didn’t mind. It just meant, for our engagement party, I had to wear a jokey, chunky pink butterfly ring  – as I was fed-up of people grabbing my hand and there not being anything on it! Haha. (I lost that ring down the toilet – but that’s a whole other ring story……… 😉 )

Anyway, on the Monday, the manager of the shop personally brought the ring to me. He came into the house from the wind and rain. Stepped into our living room, opened the ring box. And it fell out. Into our shoe box and into one of the shoes! I thought, ‘I’m really not meant to have this ring!’ But then it got to where it belong s- and I’m proud to say it is still there (and hasn’t gone down the toilet!)

That’s where the 4th proposal came in – that evening, after dinner.

I said that an engagement’s ring’s purpose in life is to be proposed with and this was a different ring!

So he asked me again with the perfect fitting ring: and I said yes!

XSXS

A Child’s Voice

I’ve been trying to change my earrings today – remember I’ve not long had them pierced? It’s proving to be difficult and since it  hasn’t been quite 6 weeks, I’m going to leave it a little longer. Damn things won’t budge!

It made me think of a lot of articles that have been littering Facebook. Piercing your young child’s ears: OK or not? My instant reaction to this is ‘No. Not OK.’ Simply because it is a fashion statement and something that young children do not need and should be able to make their own choice on the matter, when they a.) Know what it means/entails b.) are old enough to change the earrings themselves. As I say, I am struggling to change mine and I’m 28. I chose to do this to myself and they are a bit sore. Children with ear lobes 20 odd years younger, who did not choose this, should not have to be probed and pulled at in order to change them. The child above in the image does not look happy. They won’t be any happier when they have them done. Because they won’t even know! Who gains from this process?

There was the issue of ‘child abuse’ on one of the threads that I read. Some people were throwing this term about and saying it was indeed abuse, whereas some were saying this is a term that is said too frequently and something like this doesn’t warrant abuse. Well, it isn’t the same abuse as beating a child, or sexually abusing a child or mentally bullying a child. And it shouldnt belittle any of those horrible examples in comparison. But I still think it is a form of abuse: you are doing something physical to your child that they have no choice over. You wouldnt tattoo your child, would you?

Another example was immunisation  – which is a bit of an idiotic example if you ask me. Yes, it is something physical you are doing to your child without their will, but it is medical and to keep them healthy, and perhaps in some incidences alive. Another silly example was about keeping a child in a push-chair. They may struggle to get out, so you are physically doing something against their will. But again, this is safety. And, I’m not a parent myself, but don’t you have to do things against the child’s will in order to parent them? I just think ear-piercing doesn’t need to be one of them.

Circumcision was another interesting example. People were saying that gets done, so why shouldnt ear-piercing? Well, again this is a lifestyle choice (yes, I know it is sometimes determined and directed by religious choice) and I also think the child should decide when they are old enough.

I guess the reasons people pierce their child’s ears is to make them look prettier perhaps? Which to me as an insult to the child. If they need some sparkly things to make them look cuter, then maybe the parent’s genes weren’t attractive enough to start with! I can’t really think of another reason why people would want to do it to be honest – to make them grow up quicker? This is sad though, because kids grow up too fast as it is. We may all disagree on what actual age children should be. I think they should have them pierced as teenagers – when they are old enough to go to town with their mates and all have it done together. There is no rush for something like this. There are plenty other options of jewellery to make them ‘pretty’. I should know – I had 28 years of that ‘limited’ choice! Also, rememeber you have to be 18 to have a tattoo, yet there is no age for ear-piercing. Barmy!

I always wonder if it is some kind of control, like a branding. Do parents think this is way of making their children more customised to their personal ideas and choices? A bonding experience of blood and scabs between child and parent? I’d be happy to hear some further ideas as to why, as I just don’t get the need for it.

Religion as a whole is another example of children not having a choice – yes I know, I’m banging on about it again!  Should children get christened when they aren’t old enough to decided which religion (if any) they want to follow? I was christened but I am not a Christian now (through my own choice). My Mum said once that I was christened with holy water from Jerusalem and it was wasted on me! Haha. Maybe being christened doesn’t matter, because you reject the religion later anyway – but I still think, like the piercing, it should be a choice made by the person themself.

The importance, is not their ears, but their voice. Their voice gives them a choice – as we all have the right to.

Holes or holy – we all have our own right to decide 😉

XSXS

Christmas: the generous, the silly and the damn right disgusting!

I was dying to write a Christmas blog in a similar style to last year. (Link at the bottom to last year’s!) Christmas is a time when things become magnified-  someone does something bad and it seems worse; something silly is even more hilariously funny; a generous thought and you might as well be one of the Three Kings. So, I’ve been collecting stories for you and again and I’ve managed to find the generous, the silly and one disgusting one. 🙂

I’ll start with the disgusting story, as I don’t want you to leave my blog with a bad taste in your mouth. I’ll get this one out of the way 😉 My aunty has a bad back. Bad enough that  she has a looming operation and is currently walking with a stick. Not one to let this dampen her Christmas spirit, she put some silver and gold tinsel around her walking stick and hobbled to the supermarket early one morning. A woman barged into her and nearly knocked the stick from under her. My aunty is six-foot tall, so not easily missed – she also has the voice to go with her build and exclaimed loudly that this woman had banged into her in a ‘watch where you’re going’ kind of way. The lovely, woman’s response was ‘Well you shouldn’t be out with your bloody stick anyway!’ This is a nice blog, so I can’t repeat what my aunty replied. But there you go: no walking sticks about as they get in the way of badly tempered shoppers. Maybe this goes for wheelchairs too. And pushchairs. So watch out! Maybe red tinsel would make you stand out more?!

In strong contrast, I heard of someone being very generous this Christmas season. Full of good will. I won’t mention who it is – and I don’t personally know him anyway. But this man put a Facebook status on Friday basically saying the usual: ‘I’m not giving cards out this year, I’ll be giving to charity instead….’ (I did the same actually this year  at work and gave food to the homeless charity Hope.) He went a little further though and asked for people to  suggest charities to give to AND let them decided the amount of money. Each ‘like’ he received by 4pm would represent a £1. I think when I looked at lunch it was already £35 – I’ll try and found out what he paid in the end. Very generous thought – and cost him much more than cards 😉

Now to end with the funny festive stories. One, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before. It is more of a puzzling story but it makes me amused! Each year, we receive a Christmas card to our house address. Well I say ‘we’ it is actually addressed to my boyfriend and his twin brother.  It says inside ‘God bless, Gordon.’ Nobody in their family knows who this is! He must know who the brothers are and know us well enough to know where we live, yet I haven’t been able to return a card as we have no idea who he is! We are yet to receive this card this year, so maybe he has given up on  us! If anyone knows who it is, please let me know! It has become a proper Christmas puzzle! 🙂

Talking of cards, one of my closest friends has me in stitches last night. It was typical of her and made giving out and receiving cards a much more exciting experience! She had 3 cards that she had written but had forgotten who they were for! She knew they would be between 4-5 people, but had to wait until everyone arrived at the pub so someone could open a card each to see who it was actually for! A christmas card roulette if you will……. Very funny. Lots of swapping went on and I know have an opened card for my sister, who I have to explain to this story – and even write her name on the front! Just call me a Christmas card service!

I also went to the Old people’s home a few weeks ago to help my old neighbour write his Christmas cards. This is funny and sweet this one. He gets a little upset this time of year because he has no family and his brother is no longer with us. It was him who used to write the cards. So my friend says he can’t spell etc and asked me to help him. He only wanted about 5 writing so I figured it wouldn’t take long and we’d spend time chatting – no. It took over an hour! This was because he couldn’t remember anyone’s name! He had to keep toddling off to ask Fred’s daughter’s name who takes him out for  dinner; to ask the carer’s name who brings his Ovaltine. I suggested we just wrote them all from him and keep them blank to hand out, but he was having none of it! That idea would help my friend out above to! But where’s the fun in that? 😉

So there’s the Christmas stories for this year and I’m sure they’ll be more! Keep an eye out for the generous, listen out for the silly and just ignore the disgusting!

Have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year readers, viewers and bloggers 🙂

 

 

Christmas 2012: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/christmas-the-good-the-bad-the-funny-and-the-damn-right-inhumane/

Matrimony Matters

This weekend, I went to a close friend’s wedding. It was lovely and the celebrations stretched out before and after the actual wedding day. It  was amazing and I loved it how they combined traditions from an English wedding and a Polish wedding (the groom is Polish) but they also did a lot of things their way too making it intimate and personal. That is what marriage should be in my opinion – personal and intimate. It is about two people and every couple is different, so the wedding and marriage should reflect this.

I wrote a poem for the event and it became part of the best man’s speech. One friend made the bunting and individual name places for the dinner table. One friend created the invitations. One friend sang the song for the first dance. And I’m sure there are many more personal involvements.  To me, a wedding is about the joining of two families as well as the joining of two people romantically and legally, It is also about having everyone you love and care about under one roof, which is why this wedding was just wonderful. Friends and family all joining together to help, support and celebrate!  Here, take a look at my personal contribution:

Married Life

By Sam Gray

To be together you have promised,

 Forever and beyond,

 To gaze into each other’s eyes

 Nothing will break that bond.

Lou does her silly dances,

 Pav says ‘Louisa you’re crazy!’

 She laughs and keeps on prancing,

 Saying “one day I’ll have your baby”!

Pav loves to go camping,

 And Lou enjoys it too,

 Whether in Poland or in England,

 It’s their perfect thing to do.

But, Pav’s not much of a drinker,

 Just one beer and he’s done,

 Soaked up by McDonald’s fries,

 a big mac burger and bun!

Louise is the total opposite

 And loves her New Zealand wine,

 It reminds her of her gap year abroad-

 That she goes on about all the time!

 But they’ve always got their date nights,

 Many Slices of India to consume,

 Pav gets his chops around the lamb,

 Then home for a DVD – we assume!

We know they go together well,

 Like the ring now on her finger,

 Though Pav can’t have much spice in life……

 ….he loves a bit of ginger!

Naturally, the poem means more to you if you know the couple. But that’s the whole point and how all these little touches helped to make the day so personal and individual for them.  As I said above, they combined some Polish traditions with the English. One of my favourites was where the bride and groom were given a shot as they entered the wedding breakfast. One was vodka; one water. They didn’t know who had which one, until they drank it – and the one who has the vodka shot will become the leader of the household. It was the groom on this occasion 😉

There was some Polish language during the speeches too and on each table there was Polish and English sweets as favours. There was also photographs and information about their English and Polish holidays on each table   – each table named after an English or Polish city in fact (we were Wroclaw). So it was the combining of her English family and his Polish family in many subtle, special ways.

I did a bit of research into our English wedding traditions and what they mean. Some were quite interesting!

  • Bridesmaids and groomsmen have always worn matching outfits to each other in order to trick evil spirits! Evil spirits wouldn’t be able to tell who was who if the wedding party were dressed similarly so would leave the happy couple alone 😉 (bit crazy that one!)
  • Throwing the garter (we had the groom do this at the recent wedding). This apparently originates from when guests would accompany the bride and groom to the bed chamber. Some would get too rowdy and too eager and attempt to take the couple’s clothes off (and they say we are too sexual these days!) so the garter would get thrown into the crowd in order to distract them!
  • Brides have traditionally worn a veil for centuries and in many cultures. In ancient Rome, the bride wore a veil to protect the bride from jealous rivals who may try and get her for themselves! In ancient Egypt, India and China, the veil was worn because it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride before they were married – which ties in with how we still use it today.
  • Crossing the threshold has been a tradition for years and still exists today. This used to happen to avoid evil spirits on the floor. Another reason was that it was bad luck for the bride to fall as she walked through the door, so she was lifted instead (not sure how that works if she was dropped though!) and another reason was so keep the bride’s maidenly modesty and so she didn’t look to eager to get to the marital bed!

Wedding traditions from other countries and cultures are just as whacky:

  • The term ‘tying the knot’ comes from a Celtic tradition where the bride and groom’s hands were tied together.
  • In Latvia, the engaged couple choose a married couple, usually friends, to plan their wedding for them (I feel a reality TV show coming on!)
  • In Austria, the shirt the groom wears is given to him by the bride. He then saves it for the rest of his life and is buried it when he dies (what happens if he is married more than once?!)
  • In Mexico, it is traditional for the couple to be given 13 gold coins as a symbol of trust and devotion. (not like our ‘unlucky’ 13 then!?)
  • An African-American tradition, is for the bride and groom to jump over a broom to brush away malevolent spirits.
  • Switzerland folk set fire to the bride’s bouquet to symbolise the end of her maidenhood!

So there you go – many traditions; personal touches; ideas – you can do them, steal from other countries or even make your own! At the end of the day thought, marriage is the same everywhere and to everyone: the joining of two people in love who vow to be together forever 🙂

Congratulations to my two friends and whoever else has celebrated their big day this summer!

XSXS

To see other related posts: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/two-hearts-two-rings/

                                                 https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/cardiff-clucking-great/

Reunions to remember…

I am a sentimental kind of gal. Today, I have a few things to talk to you about in relation to reunions and anniversaries. I think it is important that we mentally mark these kinds of dates in our mind… and/or physically celebrate them. It is life and special things happen and we decide what to celebrate.

This weekend, I had a Uni Reunion. It had been 6 years since we had left Uni and 3 years since our last reunion! We always say we won’t leave it as long next time. But you know how it is – life gets in the way and before you know it, time has zoomed by and the 5 minutes since you were last swigging beer at the pub, turns into 3 long years!

It was great to see the gang. But these 3 years seemed to have been a vital 3 years of change, in the road that is life. I had the fridge stocked with wine and beer for the midday arrival of the gang and was greeted with responses to drink orders of, ‘Oooh can I have a cuppa tea?’ or ‘An orange juice would be nice.’ The wildest member of the gang, who spent 3 years drowning in alcohol at Uni, now doesn’t drink much,  has a fiancée and a baby on the way!  Funny how things change. But it was nice in a way that we all got on so well sober (this may be the first time we had tried this!) and we are still friends in our modern lives.

My Uni friends come from all over: one from France; one from Doncaster (now living in Leeds); one from London (now lives in Northampton); one from Milton Keynes; one from Reading  – so you can imagine the lovely recipe of accents that emerge when we are together!  Naturally, when English students get together (well most of us are – one did Construction and one did Media), we played Scrabble! Again, wild times! 😉 I, embarrassingly, came 4th – and with 2 non-English specialists and one with English as her second language, I think that is pretty appalling! Haha!

The night led to cheap and cheerful drinks and food; karaoke; dancing and more drinking! So just like the Uni days! It was great and music always helps to remember things I think. One song and you are transported back to that crazy, student night 7 years ago.

So yes, we all had a great time and even had a pub breakfast to cure the morning after feeling – the change was this time, that I actually had to do jobs and chores after, rather than lie in my lazy student bed, putting off that Shakespeare essay until tomorrow!

It is also, almost, the end of term, and I have seen many speeches today of people leaving and retiring. They were all reflecting on the last year, last ten years or last 30 years. It is emotional to move on to the next step, I think. Which is important, we revisit  when we can. This can be literally by returning to the place; meeting the people we were with; or just, simply talking about the memories we have from that place.

Lastly, a year ago today, I started writing this blog! A whole year! I started off writing a post a day, which was easy because I was off work. Now I like to write weekly where possible and I am still enjoying writing about the randomness of my life and life in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank anybody who has read this blog; whether one post; lots of posts; part of a post. In addition to people who have liked a post, commented, followed or recommended it to anyone. These things are great for a writer to see – but I also know there are a lot of secret readers out there, who take a gander and then go. It all counts and it is very exciting that I am writing words – stringing them together and someone is reading what spills out of my head!  So thank you. I will keep writing! And hopefully, you will keep reading 😉

Celebrate today – it may be a year since you quit smoking. A month since you went on a great evening out. A year since you saw a family member. Ten years since you left a job. Twenty years since you left school. Get in touch with people, relive a memory, get the photo albums out (we also did this at the weekend!) and enjoy a reunion – even if it is just you and a memory! 🙂

XSXS

Would you be wonderful if it wasn’t for the weather?

I do like a positive thought on a Monday evening to kick start the week. My Monday has been a little challenging with certain things at work and then, when cooking dinner, my result:

Spaghetti a la cremation!
Spaghetti a la cremation!

So I figured I needed to focus on some optimistic thoughts (and put my culinary skills firmly away for the evening). And don’t we all need to focus on the good things in life? All the time? Look on the bright side, look for that silver lining…. to add another cliché…. this sometimes is like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ but it is vital that we do.  My title for this post Would you be wonderful if it wasn’t for the weather? are lyrics to a Corrs song Would you be happier? It draws on the ideas that if one thing was different/better/improved then would we be happier? My conclusion, and the song’s is the same: no. Life is never perfect. So we can’t have a perfect life. One of my favourite quotes on this subject:

postive

Something is always going to wrong and there are going to be things to face. Your day may be punctuated with annoying little chores; it doesn’t mean it can’t be a good day. You’ll look back in twenty years’ time and not remember that tedious form you had to fill in, but the great joke you heard at lunch. Or even remembering the negative things in a positive way. E.g. my spaghetti incident above. It was a bit scary at the time and it was quite worrying that I froze in the midst of the emergency blaze… but as soon as my boyfriend got home, it was a joke; a funny story and one to be shared.

The irritating things in life aren’t going anywhere, unfortunately. We have to co-exist and rise above them. I’m in a quotey mood:

happy

We all have the same shit thrown at us, but it how you deal with it that affects your happiness. Would I be happier if the weather was better? I am the first to say that a little sunshine makes you feel better, but all in all, I wouldn’t. My day would be the same whatever the elements decide to do. Sorry, I can feel another quote  resurfacing… just call me a walking quote dictionary:

rain

So some positive quotes for a Monday evening and also some tough love; just get on with it and make the best of it! Causing a small kitchen fire this evening, hasn’t made my day worse. It has actually given me something to laugh at and something to blog about 😉

Keep looking for the positives!

Walking before I can run…

On Sunday, I completed a 17 and a half mile walk (18 and a half if you include the walk from the car park to the start!) and I survived! In fact my feet had no blisters at the end and my legs didn’t ache (as much as I thought)….so as well as bowing down to my walking boots, I also began to think that I had dreamt the whole thing! But no. I, along with six other poor sods, battled through the windy, wet and cold country side and left our mark in aid of Border Collie Trust. And I have pictures as evidence 😉

peak 4
We did the High Peak Trail….

Yeh, we did the High Peak Trail and boy did it start ‘high’ – or at least we had to get ‘high’ (I’m talking in terms of height, not drugs here lol) The first 2 and 1/2 miles were uphill and VERY steep! They were they worst 2 and 1/2 miles and I’m so glad they were at the beginning! Phew…. we had cupcake treats at the top as a reward. Burn some calories and then use them up is my motto 😀

The best reward for an uphill slog!
The best reward for an uphill slog!

 

After that, we had the comforting thought of ‘only’ 15 miles to go!!! Haha. I joked that at least it wasn’t 30- always looking on the bright side me …. and I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel…..

......Literally!
……Literally!

It was so wet for most of the walk and our motto ‘it will brighten up soon!’ soon gave way to our new motto of constantly calling out ‘cyclist!’ every few minutes as crazy cyclists rallied past in the muddy, saturated conditions. As for splashing us, we didn’t mind about that because we honestly couldn’t get any wetter, dirtier or  colder – but we did feel that getting run over by the two-wheeled beasts would somehow make the walk a negative experience 😉 so we moved aside!

CYCLIST!!!!
CYCLIST!!!!

Luckily, the weather bearing all elements, our drenched clothes also managed to dry themselves in the raging winds. We also enjoyed a whole minute of sunshine too at one point 😉 It was great, though, to know you were doing something for a good cause and out in the fresh air getting exercise. We got to  see some fantastic scenery (masked by mist a little I’ll admit)….

 

peaks
The perfect peaks

So all in all, it was a fun experience and I guess I would do it again (don’t ask me for a good while though!) The last mile was the hardest (after those first 2 and a half) and it felt like there was an eternity of walking to the end of the world! I saw our helpers and got all excited and then realised they were walking the last mile with us!! But we finally made it….. wine, a nice warm car and toilets all awaiting us 🙂

Wahoooo
Wahoooo

 

If you would still like to donate to the Border Collie Trust (now you know I have actually completed it!) then go the Just Giving Page: http://www.justgiving.com/highpeakwalk – every penny helps to rehome dogs every year, so it would be very much appreciated! 🙂

To see a previous post about my volunteering for the Border Collie Trust, go to: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/barking-mad/

If you have the chance to do a sponsored walk, go for it! As I say, I’d do it again, but not a run. No, I’ll stick with walking 🙂

XSXS