The Gap Year

In 2018, I took a gap year. No, not that kind. I wasn’t schlepping round south east Asia with a backpack, attempting to ‘find myself’ amongst a horde of fellow Brits. I was still in Jersey (most of the time) going about my business, but for the first time in my Adult life I spent the entire 12 months entirely single.

It didn’t start as a deliberate undertaking or a New Years Resolution, but it became one.

I began the year so emotionally and mentally exhausted by unhealthy relationships and the effort of trying to be ‘good enough’ for people who (with a little hindsight) quite obviously didn’t deserve it, that I had nothing left. Several years of having my confidence and self-worth steadily eroded away by people who claimed to care about me had taken its toll.

Even at that low ebb, I was so hard-wired by habit to swerve loneliness that I continued to make bad decisions and blindly stumbled on seeking someone to fill the space beside me. I went on numerous dead-end Tinder dates, made an absolute fool of myself more than once, and genuinely considered packing up and leaving my adopted home to see if the grass was greener elsewhere (Despite single friends elsewhere assuring me it is definitely not).

It wasn’t until I went on holiday in March that the fog started to clear a little. I was anxious beforehand about going alone, so much so that I knocked 2 days off the duration as I thought a full week kicking about on my Tod might be a bit much. There were a few shaky moments of loneliness at the beginning but soon forgotten when I was having a great time doing exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.

Since then I haven’t really looked back. A couple more attempts at dating proved that I wasn’t ready to let anyone (no matter how lovely) get close enough to have the ability to harm me, so I knocked that whole idea on the head.

Since then – and I’m not convinced this is a coincidence – I’ve had the best year of my life. An endless summer at the beach, a host of new friends and some amazing experiences. I ran my first half marathon (and 2nd, and 3rd) and learnt to pole dance. I took a solo trip to Paris where I took full advantage of the solo rider queues at Disneyland, sipped champagne up the Eiffel Tower and wondered if the Moulin Rouge needs a pole dancer.

I also found and bought my dream flat, sorted out all the million things that need sorting out with a property purchase, humped all my stuff across the Island one Fiat 500 load at a time, and laughed in the face of the Ikea ‘2 man job’ instructions as I wielded my newly put together toolbox (It’s a biscuit tin in the shape of a Gingerbread Man. I may be newly independent, but I’m still a Girl).

One of the most unexpected but best things has been making new and reconnecting with old (Male) friends. For 7 years with my Ex having male friends wasn’t really an option, at least not without suffering his snide comments, so it’s been lovely just to hang around with good guys who make me laugh, being completely myself, without any romantic pressure and without having a care in the world about it. It’s also reminded me that not ALL Men are jerks, which was definitely not my opinion this time last year.

Obviously not everything has been smooth sailing, because it never is, and there have been moments of tears, jolts of self-doubt and the odd night wracked with anxiety, but actually none of those things have been as frequent as they were when I was in relationships. At times I miss having someone to snuggle up with or a hand to hold, because I’m still human, and I hate ALWAYS being the one who has to wash up, but at some point those things will happen again, and in the meantime feeling stronger, happier and more capable than I ever have before makes up for all of that.

For about a decade too long I thought that I needed a SOMEONE to love me or be proud of me or reassure me, in order for me to be valid, but actually as long as I’m doing all those things myself (which I clearly wasn’t before) then it’s enough.

So whilst I haven’t been sleeping in dorms, drinking amphetamine filled buckets or gazing a temples I don’t really understand, I feel like I have ‘found myself’ anyway. I’d spent a long time trying to be what other people wanted me to be and had completely lost track of the girl I used to be. This year I’ve found her again. She’s still 22, which is proving to be something of an issue, but she’s definitely back and planning on sticking around.

I’m not sure how long this will continue for; frankly the idea of going on any more awkward and forced dates is enough to turn my stomach, but for now I’m just enjoying being my new-old self, meeting people, laughing, flirting and seeing what’s around the next corner.

 

 

 

 

 

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Giving Thanks

I intended to write this post a few weeks ago to tie in with Thanksgiving, but I’ve been a little busy moving house (more on this to follow) and preparing for Christmas and the days have just flown by. No matter though, as we come towards the end of the year it’s still a good time to reflect and count your blessings.

In that spirit, I’ve been thinking about the people around me, who intentionally or not, contribute to making my day to day life brighter, fuller, and often easier. I hope that those people know how grateful I am for their friendship & support, but like most of us I’m probably guilty of not showing or saying it often enough, so I’d like to take a minute here to acknowledge a few people who’ve made a positive difference over the last 12 months.

To the Girls : My Squad, my Team, my safety net, my own personal United Nations. You’ve always got my back, you’re my favourite people to spend time with, and you’ve displayed endless patience when it comes to listening to me banging on about my woes (something I’ve tried hard to cut back on this year). Thank you for being the best group of friends a girl could ask for, for dancing on tables with me, for all the bathroom parties, for never being sure where our bras or toenails are, for knowing that you can eat Pineapple leaves when you think they cost €125, and for finally waking me up to the fact that real Female friendships don’t involve talking trash about each other. In the past year our lives have all changed for the better, and I can’t wait to share in whatever 2019 brings for all of us.

To Chrispot : Bitch, Please. Making me laugh until my face leaks since 1995. THANK YOU for agreeing to be my plus one back in June, and turning what could have been a difficult situation into one of the best weekends of the year. Thank you for letting me use you as a human shield, and for dissolving all potential awkwardness with absolute unfettered silliness. Thank you for taking me on a Deer safari, and for driving my jacket across London in the middle of the night. Thank you for giving me hope that not all single Men are complete Asshats. I’m sad that we lost touch for a while after school and I’m determined it won’t happen again. In fact I’ll see you next week!!

To my Work Besties. Keeping me sane from 9-5 : 

Ness : Ebony to my Ivory. Teacher of Zimbabwean slurs. You know me better than I know myself (as much as I pretend otherwise), you’re always on my side (sometimes a little too enthusiastically) and you kept me fed, nourished and loved when my shattered heart threatened to wither me away. You’ve always been the best stand-in Mum to me (probably because of your advanced age) and Logan is the luckiest little duck to have you as his Mumma.

Gina : G!!! Welcome to the DREAM TEAM! I’m so happy to finally have you in our little  corner. Thanks for being my partner in concerts, comedy, crime and cider this year. Thank you for drinking your coffee the exact same way as I do, and for always being keen for a cheeky after work pint in the sun. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings us both in and out of the office!

To Claire : They say that friends are the family you choose, and if I had to choose any family other than my own to be a part of it would be yours. Thank you ALL for welcoming me into your homes and hearts, around your Christmas table and on to your family holidays. You lot have provided some of my most hilarious memories and my most horrendous hangovers; and also, let’s be honest, some of my most horrendous memories and hilarious hangovers. Claire I know as soon as I hear that giggle that any chance of a low-key night has dissolved! On top of all that, being Auntie Bex to your boys is one of my favourite roles in life; thank you for granting me the title 🙂

To my Pole Squad : There is no more BADASS a bunch of girls than those who hang upside for fun. Thank you for being a constant source of support, inspiration and laughter. Thank you for sharing the knowledge that every bruise, blister and bashed lady part is worth it, and for keeping the secrets that lie behind some of our many pics for the ‘Gram. I might not be the quickest to learn, most graceful or bravest member of the group but your lack of judgement and buckets of encouragement have kept me coming back every week for a year now, my physical strength, mental strength and body confidence have rocketed, and I can’t wait to get stuck into year 2!

To my Parkrun Friends : Some of you were friends already, some have become friends over the past 240km / 48 portions of cheese on toast, and some are welcome friendly faces. There have been times in 2018 when I’ve left work on Friday without a single plan in place, and in danger of not speaking to another person until Monday morning. Sometimes that’s a blessing, but other times it’s a curse. I know that loneliness and inactivity are triggers for my mood faltering, and that the further I allow myself to spiral into that mind frame the less capable I am of clawing my way back out. So an enormous THANK YOU for providing me with the perfect way to kick start each weekend. By 10am each week I’m tucking into my post run treat, exercise done, smiles, hellos, high-fives and quick catch-ups exchanged, and I’m ready to enjoy the rest of the weekend. Even if I do *nothing* else (which is very rare once I’ve got that ball rolling) the simple fact that I’ve been out and soaked up some fresh air, exercise and company first thing keeps my spirits high all day and beyond. See you on Saturday for portion number 49!

 

Of course there are many more people in my life that I love and appreciate. If I wrote about them all here it would fast become a contender for the world’s longest blog post. Those mentioned above are just a few that spring immediately to mind when I think back over the lowest lows and highest highs that have been my 2018.

The rest of you, I hope, know who you are xxx

The GREAT North Run

Back in April, when I signed up for the Great North Run, September seemed like FOREVER away.  But all of a sudden here we are; and last weekend I found myself packing my trainers and heading up to the North East.

My training had been slightly disrupted by a week long work trip in August, and the last long run I’d done had been a horrible heavy-legged slog, but as I boarded the flight to Teeside on Saturday I was feeling as ready as I could have been.

After tucking into a carb-heavy dinner with my lovely Cousin Niki & my co-runner Darren, we set off for our base for the night in South Shields, taking in the second half of the race route on the way. Anticipation and excitement started to build as landmarks were pointed out, a spot was identified for our cheer squad to establish their base camp, and we drove along the sea front towards the ever-welcome sight of the finish line.

Squad Goals

Up bright and early on Sunday, our family run squad, by now swelled to 5 in number, hopped on the metro into the city and the start line. I must admit that the very idea of riding half an hour on a train just to turn round and run straight back again did add an element of nervously comedic farce to the morning. Arriving in plenty of time, we made straight for Wetherspoons (well, when in Newcastle…) which was packed out at 8.45am with a sea of lycra-clad bodies enjoying a coffee, some breakfast or in a few brave/foolhardy cases, a pre-race pint.

I’d been trying to envisage what the best part of 50,000 people in one place looked like, but hadn’t come anywhere close to how it felt to walk into the middle of it, and see a river of bodies both in front and behind us, making their way to the starting arena and going on as far as the eye could see. Even then, I’m still not sure the scale fully sank in until I watched it back on TV later (I scoured the coverage for a glimpse of myself, but alas the cameras obviously don’t love me).

 

The atmosphere had started building on the metro, but as we got closer to the start time it ramped up a few notches, and by the time we’d taken part in the mass warm-up it was fever pitch. Just fire that starting gun already!

10.40 finally arrived and we were off, lead by Mo Farah and the other Elite Male Athletes. Ok so I might not even have the crossed the start line for another 15 minutes, by which time he was over 3 miles away, but for a short while I was on the same course, running the same race as Sir Mo. That’s a pretty cool and very rare feeling to have, for an amateur runner!

As soon as we got out onto the course it became clear that the people of the North East had, as is typical for this race, rallied in their DROVES to cheer us on. There was hardly a metre of the whole 13.1 miles that didn’t contain at least 1 spectator, and for the most part they were several rows deep, each side of the road. I’d lost my energy sweets out of my belt about 3 feet in, but it soon became clear that I needn’t have bothered carrying them in the first place. Every 3rd person had a bowl of jelly babies in hand, there were haribos and chewits, and people handing out much appreciated ice-pops from cool boxes they’d dragged to the side of dual carriageways. There were trays of homemade biscuits, St John’s ambulancemen with rubber gloved hands covered in vaseline or suncream to grab a smear of  on the way by, and an enthusiastic bunch offering out small plastic tumblers of beer just after the 10 mile marker. The good people of South Shields had pulled their hosepipes to the end of their drives to provide a cooling spray to sweaty bodies, and on the final 1 mile stretch to the finish line the crowd roared with such ferocity that it almost created a tailwind, pushing us all towards the end goal. As hard as I try, I’ll never be able to put into words exactly how amazing the support was, and how much it helps everyone to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Darren had told me ahead of time about the RAF Red Arrows fly past over the Tyne Bridge at the start of each year’s GNR, and how lucky you’d need to be to time it exactly right and be on the bridge as they come over. Well; my luck must have been in on Sunday as I was just over half way across when they roared overhead. It was a second in time that I’ll never forget, whooping my head off with 2000 strangers as we all shared in the experience. I was thrilled to bits to learn later than unbeknown to me at the time, Darren was just a few steps behind me and got to share the same moment. We’re both heading off the bridge on the header image above, if you look hard enough!

The course itself was a pleasant one, but I had somewhat underestimated the seemingly never-ending incline over the last few miles, and hadn’t left myself quite enough gas in the tank to deal with it. I slowed to a walk to give myself a breather a couple of times; joined by hundreds of others – the brilliant sunshine and unseasonably warm temperature for that part of the world in September had taken lots of by surprise and on the steepest, sunniest stretches it did start to feel a bit more like the Great North Walk at times. I don’t think I was alone in being extremely grateful for the run-through showers scattered throughout the latter half of the route.

This run was a particularly special run for me, as I had my very own band of supporters, which rarely happens when I run in Jersey. Here I’ve done races without a single runner or supporter I know, and it’s always a bit of an anti-climax to get back in your car and drive home, without so much as a high-five to mark the achievement.

My Cousin and her boys were a welcome sight around the 19km mark, exactly where I expected them be, bearing cheers and hugs and the all-important Jersey flag. I’d known that my Mum and Stepdad were coming up to South Shields from Leeds for the day, but probably being a bit lax on my part, we hadn’t actually arranged anywhere to see each other. Neither I nor they knew the course, or where they’d likely to be able to get a spot to spectate, so I’d assumed I’d just catch up with them after the finish line somewhere. I must apologise to those runners immediately around me therefore, for shrieking like a banshee and launching myself out of the course and into the crowd as I realised with about 3 feet to go that I was about to run right past my Mum. They were waiting about 900m from the finish, and I just happened to be on the right side of the road to pass right by them, veering in for a hug that she immediately shook off with a cry of ‘Get Off Me, Run Run Run’. Cheers Mum, nice to see you too 😉

Post-Race Beer with my Mumma!

That lovely little surprise gave me just the boost I needed to keep on towards the line and I crossed it with 2 hours, 21 minutes and 55 seconds on the clock. That’s a good bit slower than I finished in Jersey back in June, but given the higher temperature, unfamiliar route, and the small matter of another 45,000 fellow participants to negotiate, I don’t think it’s too bad. I could have probably taken 8 or 10 minutes off that if I’d really pushed it, but at the risk of doing myself an injury, and ruining my enjoyment of such an amazing day. I will definitely be back next year, and armed with another years training and the route/race experience from this time, hope to shave that down to something more in the region of 2 hours flat.

There is lots I’ve learnt from my first GNR experience (take something warm you don’t mind casting aside at the start line, don’t wear two vests when it’s forecast 18 degrees, stick to the middle of the course for the clearest path, save some energy for the hills and SMILE when you see a camera!) and lots of moments that will stay with me a long time (the Red Arrows fly-past, 1000 high-fives, OGI-OGI-OGI under every bridge and underpass, ‘Howay Bex pet keep ganning’ from a dozen Geordie strangers and the joy of crossing the finish line, which almost seemed to pop up out of nowhere after the long slog towards it). I’m told that this is one of the best halves in the world so far as complete experience goes, and even with my limited experience I can well believe it. It will take a LOT of beating!

The best bit about ALL of the above of course, is that I raised an amazing £584.50 for Maggies Centres who do such amazing things for cancer sufferers and their families across the UK. My minimum pledge was £350, I had hoped to push this to £500, so I’m thrilled to have smashed through that by another 16%. There is still time to sponsor me; so if you’re reading this and would like to help me reach that last little jump to £600, you can donate here. I’d like to wish a massive THANK YOU to those who have already shown their support. Big Kisses to each & every one of you.

This is the second half marathon I’ve got under my belt in 2018, with one still to come, and each time I’ve finished one I’ve been on such a high that I’ve immediately looked for the next one to book. For 2019 I’ve got 2 confirmed already and at least another 3 in the plans. I barely recognise myself from the can’t run-won’t run person I was a couple of years ago, and hope you’ll continue to join me on my unlikely journey towards becoming a ‘real’ runner.

A Serious One (sorry)

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted; I seem to have had quite a bit on my plate just lately, but it means I’ve got lots to write about, so I’ll try and do better as the nights draw in.

I’m coming back in with a more serious post I’m afraid. I’ve been thinking about this one for a while and wasn’t sure I was ready to put it together, but after reading this post by the wonderful Slummy Single Mummy earlier this week, I’d written it in my head within about an hour, so I think it’s time.

Not long after I separated from my (now-Ex) Husband, a friend suggested in passing that he’d been abusive. My first reaction was to laugh in disbelief. Abusive? Don’t be silly. He never HIT me. I’ve watched the soaps; domestic abuse is all about hiding bruises, or pretending you walked into a door. That definitely wasn’t the case. Not ever.

Now I’m two years down the line, with the benefit of distance, hindsight and a much clearer mind, I can admit that she was right. The fact that he never lifted a finger to harm me is irrelevant; the damage he inflicted was just as deliberate and just as lasting.

On the blog I’ve linked to above, Jo lists 16 warning signs of domestic (non-violent) abuse. Being able to say yes to ONE of them may indicate mistreatment by a partner. I can tick off at least 7. From deliberately embarrassing or belittling me in front of friends and family,  to drip-feeding the notion that I was stupid & lazy, amongst other things, he had a full armoury of tactics.

So why did you stay with him, I hear you ask? Why did you MARRY him? Because, as stupid as it sounds now, I didn’t truly know what was happening at the time. It wasn’t a 24 hour a day barrage; it was gently threaded through a mesh of compliments and affection, romantic gifts and laughter. There’d be months at a time when he was the perfect partner, before the mask slipped and Dr Jekyll became Mr Hyde.

Over time the frequency and intensity of the onslaught increased, and he’d start to make me question my own opinions, reactions and sanity. Looking back now, it sounds horrific and obvious, but when you’re living it, and it’s coming from someone you love, it’s not as easy to recognise, much less admit to yourself or anyone else. Criticizing can be written off as teasing, snappy moods (directed only at me) put down to a bad day at work.

Prior to the relationship with him, my longest stint with someone had been a year or so, not much longer, and some of those hadn’t exactly been fantastic experiences, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to. Maybe this is just what happens once the honeymoon period has worn off a few years in? Maybe it’s normal?

It wasn’t until quite a while after we’d separated that the fog started to clear, and I started to realise that the way he had treated me wasn’t anywhere close to a normal healthy relationship. I came out of our marriage not only carrying the expected feelings of sadness, regret and having failed at holding it together, but also feeling useless, utterly unlovable and absolutely ill-equipped for life alone.

Since making the realisation that I was simply believing who he’d told me I was, rather than believing in who I actually am, I’ve made some strides towards repairing the damage and regaining a grasp of what I’m capable of, and the kind of person I want to be. Whilst I’m happier than I’ve been in 10 years, and proving to myself daily that I’m much better off now then I was then, there is still a journey ahead of me. I can dispel the ‘lazy’ with my ever-growing collection of running medals, and my freelance writing work assures me that I’m not stupid, but some of it is tougher to shake.

The thing I’ve found hardest to throw off is the feeling of being unworthy of happiness. It was so ingrained that for a while I continued to allow people to treat me as if I weren’t good enough for them, and in an unsurprising destructive cycle, the more I was rejected, the worse it became, even long after I’d parted ways with my Husband. That’s only really started to change this year, and to be frank it might have more to do with my not allowing anyone to get close enough to test it, rather than my actually being any stronger. I guess I won’t know until I try, but I don’t envisage that being anytime soon.

It’s taken a while to come to the conclusion that being alone and happy is far better than having company that makes you miserable. Less than a year ago I would have happily accepted the inevitable hurt in order to spend one less night lonely. I’m happy to say that those days, at least, are long gone.

It’s odd to think of myself as a ‘victim’ of emotional or psychological abuse, as that’s not really how I feel. I don’t know if he’s treated other Women the same way. Perhaps we created the perfect storm together, and he’s never acted like that before or since? I don’t, and probably won’t know the answer. It’s been healing to understand and accept that what I experienced WASN’T normal and acceptable behaviour, and that I (not to claim that I’m some sort of perfect being) was not at fault, however tempting it still is to place blame on myself. I’ve found it interesting to learn through further reading that abusive partners often have narcissistic tendencies – something he used to pride himself on (I’m not joking).

I wanted to write this, in response to Jo’s post linked above, to add another voice to the clamour for more recognition. Perhaps if I’d understood more about the ‘invisible’ forms of abuse whilst I was in the thick of it, it would have switched on a light bulb somewhere in the back of my head. I count myself very lucky in that our marriage was short-lived, and I got out with a shred of self-worth and an amazing circle of support, but for many, many people it’s a completely different story. Please, if anything I’ve written resonates even a little bit, about yourself, a friend or a family member, speak up and seek help.

GO Sail (ing)

One of the best things about having friends to visit (apart from the obvious joy of catching up) is that it allows you to unashamedly pop on your tourist hat and do something that seems a little too decadent for an average weekend. 

Last time my joint-favourite Australian Chick popped over to the rock, we spent the night surrounded by Lemurs in a yurt at Jersey Zoo, which was always going to be tough to top. But top it we certainly did! This last weekend the stars all aligned, the weather gods smiled down, and on Sunday morning we stepped aboard Farways, a Fontaine Pajot Athena 38 Catamaran, owned and sailed by the lovely people at Go-Sail Jersey, for a day-long adventure sailing right around the Island.

Heading out East under a brilliant blue sky with the sun beating down, we couldn’t believe our luck. The boat takes up to 10 passengers and 2 crew, but on this occasion there were just 4 of us, plus our friendly and experienced Captain, Nigel. We had plenty of room to relax and stretch out around the table at the rear of the vessel, but before long we were reclined on the deck up front, soaking up the sunshine as we sailed through La Rocque harbour and on towards Gorey Castle.

Even after 14 years in Jersey, I’m still taken aback by the beauty of the north coast, and the towering cliffs are all the more impressive from the water. As lunchtime approached we dropped anchor in a secluded bay, where the only other signs of life were a few swooping oyster catchers and couple of kayakers who had stopped for a break on the rocky beach.

We tucked into a scrummy picnic and the bottle of Prosecco which is obligatory on such occasions, before girding our loins and jumping in for a quick but refreshing dip. Back on board and on the move again, we questioned our decision to swim when the sheer number of jellyfish along the coastline became apparent! (Happily Nigel assured us that he’d scanned the bay whilst dropping anchor, and that particular spot was free from the slippery little stingers).

As if the day wasn’t perfect enough already, as we rounded towards Plemont Bay there was a cry from the helm as Nigel pointed out a rippling patch of sea ahead, and we watched in awe as the first of two pods of dolphins showed themselves, gliding through the water, edging a little closer to take a look at us in return. This is the first time I’ve seen dolphins around Jersey, and it was utterly wonderful. The second pod were so close to Plemont that they must have been visible from the beach, so that’s where I’ll be spending my Summer days from now on!

Onwards we sailed, around L’etacq and along the west coast towards Corbiere lighthouse. I must admit that the sunshine and the gentle motion of the boat lulled me into a little nap as we turned back towards St Helier, but what’s a 20 minute snooze when we had 7 fantastic hours at sea?

Nigel proved his manoeuvring skills beyond all doubt when an unexpected gust of wind swept one of the deck cushions overboard around Beauport. Careful as we all are not to litter the ocean, it had to be retrieved, so with me perching at sea level on the steps and some impressive reversing, we eventually managed to grab the pesky pillow and bring it back on board.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at St Brelades Bay and wished it were me on one of those shiny white boats in the bay; and for one day only it was, at least briefly as we passed through! As the clock ticked closer to 5.30pm we headed on in still blazing sunshine past Portelet and Noirmont headland (keeping a sharp eye out for nudists!) and across St Aubins Bay towards our destination.

The whole day seemed to flash pass in a few minutes, and before we knew it we were passing Elizabeth Castle and pulling back up to the pier. I can honestly, hand on heart, say that it ranks in the top five days I’ve ever had in Jersey. Top 3 in fact. I hopped off the boat feeling like I’d had a therapy session, a spa treatment, a full days rest, an incredible Island tour and a good old girly gossip all at the same time. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat, and will certainly be back for more at the next opportunity.

Go Sail offer 3 hour south coast trips from the Albert Pier daily in summer, and the all day voyage that we enjoyed as often as the tides allow. It’s an absolute bargain too, at £40 per person for the morning trip, and £75 for the whole day. So what are you waiting for?

The only, only, negative from the whole experience is that I just don’t know how I’m going to better it the next time Elle comes to visit. Suggestions on a postcard please!! 😉

New Year, Same Me, Only Better (Part 2)

Here we are in July! How did that happen? Over 6 months passed in a flash.

Back in January I wrote a post about the ten things I wanted to keep in mind throughout the year. Now we’re just over half way through, I thought it would be nice to go back to it, and see how well (or otherwise) I’ve done at following my own recommendations.

So here we go;

Say YES to opportunities

This one I don’t think I’m doing too badly with. Amongst other things, I’ve taken on more writing work for another magazine, gone on an extremely nerve-wracking ‘First Dates’ style completely blind date, and jumped at the chance to Tour Manage a week long trip to Switzerland later in the year.

RUN!

Well, I’ve already run a half marathon this year, and I’ve got two more coming up, so it’s fair to say I’ve done Ok with this one! I have 7 weeks to go until my next half, at which I’ll be trying to improve my time, so now is the time for me to get my head down and get some decent distant, speed and strength training in.

Look After My Skin

The less said about this one the better! I at least managed to buy the products, but I guess I actually have to use them to make a difference?

Learn Something New 

Well my pole dance classes are still going strong, and as my running progresses I’ve learnt a lot about training techniques, pacing and fuelling my body.

Duolingo however, didn’t last past January. C’est comme ca.

Have A Solo Adventure

Well I’ve been on holiday alone already, and later in the year I’ll head off solo to Paris by sea and rail, to take part in a half marathon there. Not exactly trekking single handedly across the world, but not bad either.

Smoke Less

This is a work in progress. Some days are better than others, some weeks much worse than the one before. I continue to keep it in mind.

Cook More

This was going well in the early part of the year. I was batch cooking and taking lunches to work, trying new recipes and tweaking old favourites. But since the sun came out I’ve been a) less inclined to eat at all, b) very much less inclined to stand in a hot kitchen and c) hardly ever at home, so meals have been out & about, grab and go snacks or skipped altogether. Once it cools off a bit I’ll get back in the kitchen!

Be Kind, Randomly 

Aside from paying a few compliments and donating to a couple of causes I’ve probably not done enough of this, so I’m going to push it to the top of my list for the second half of the year.

Make Some Decisions

Well I my biggest decision is made, and my future definitely lies in Jersey. So now just for the small matter of deciding on a property that’s right for me!

Be Happy

Now this one, I think I’m nailing. I genuinely don’t think I’ve been as happy as I have been this summer for years, maybe ever. Being the sun-worshipper that I am I’m sure the great weather we’ve had recently is helping, but I’m also trying hard to live my absolute best life, staying resolutely positive, meeting some amazing new people, and every week at the moment seems to be better than the one before. Long may it continue 🙂

 

I’ll repeat this post at the end of the year, and see if I’ve managed to make any more progress on the points I’m currently struggling with. How did your New Year Resolutions pan out?

Home Is Where Your Story Begins

What is your definition of home? Where you family is? Where you grew up? Or where you live now? Having spent my childhood and teenage years in one place, and almost my entire adult life in another, I’m never really been sure. When I’m heading back to Leeds I tell people that I’m going home, but when I’m up there I say the same thing about returning to Jersey.

Since I left my Parents house when I was 19 I’ve lived in a series of staff accommodation, house shares and rented flats. None of these have allowed me to really put my own stamp on them in terms of furnishing and decor, and whilst some have been (a lot) better than others when it comes to location, space, facilities, room mates and landlords, none have ever been 100% perfect, because none have ever really been HOME.

That’s all (hopefully) about to change, as I’m preparing myself to take the giant leap onto the lowest rung of the property ladder. With the average property price in Jersey over double the average property price in the UK, this seemed like an impossible dream for many years, even when I was married with two incomes coming in, but due to a series of circumstances and the generosity of my family it’s now become a strange new reality.

It’s taken me a while to decide whether to invest in bricks and mortar here on the rock or back in the UK, with each offering strong pros and considerable cons, but with my life only just settling down after a turbulent couple of years, the thought of upping sticks and diving into the relative unknown feels like too big a gamble to take, so Jersey it is.

I’ve known that this was on the horizon for almost a year, but until now I’ve largely held back on looking at what’s available, as I didn’t want to find the perfect place and then miss out through not being ready. But now I’m literally hours away from having everything in place, it’s time to start viewing.

The market moves even quicker here than I had thought; I’ve booked two viewings so far, and both have had offers made and accepted before I’ve made it as far as the front door. Maybe that’s just bad luck on my part, but it’s done nothing to relieve my nerves about the process!

My biggest worry at the moment, although I’m sure there’ll be more to come, is how to know what I’m looking for. Of course I’ve got a wish list; a parking space ideally, a little bit of outside space would be a dream, I’d like a bath rather than a shower, room for a washing machine and some storage. That’s all simple enough, it’s all the other stuff that concerns me. Potential maintenance issues, running costs, heating systems, plumbing, wiring, TV aerials, phone lines, broadband, service charges, surveys. I’ve got no idea about any of that, and I don’t really know where to start.

Luckily my budget is a little bit bigger than I anticipated, and contrary to every other piece of financial advice I’ve ever been given, several sensible people have suggested that I’ll never regret maxing out what’s available. When it comes to property apparently the more you spend, the more you’ll make. Not true of anything else I’ve ever bought.

Until I actually make it to a viewing I think this will all continue to feel a bit dreamy, but today I added a bit of realism by letting my lovely Landlords know my plans. After 5 years of living next door they have become friends, and it would have felt strange to hide it from them and then suddenly drop a bombshell. I’ll miss them tremendously, not something often said about Landlords, but as it turns out my moving will work out well for all us, as they’d been toying with the idea of remodelling the flat at some stage; easier done if it’s vacant.

So from now on my spare time will be split between poring over estate agent websites, and adding to my ‘dream home’ inspiration board on Pinterest. I absolutely can’t wait to have a space to call mine, and the fact that it’s JUST mine makes it even more exciting. No bickering over colour schemes or how big the TV needs to be; every square inch of the place will be my decision. Just the idea of that is already making me feel more settled, physically and emotionally. It will be another fresh chapter for me, and finally I think I’ll know exactly where my HOME really is.

I’m sure there will be ups and downs on this journey to home ownership, and I’ll keep you updated on the best (and worst) bits. In the meantime I’d love to hear any tips or advice you can offer on buying property; or what you wish you’d known the first time. I’ve got zero knowledge right now so anything I can learn is a bonus! 🙂