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!! 😉

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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! 🙂

Crossing the Finish Line (in more ways than one)

As of this week, I am officially divorced. After almost two years in limbo (and only slightly less than the marriage itself lasted) the final paperwork is complete and the whole sorry episode has reached it’s conclusion. At 34 years old, I’m a divorcee. I’m not going to talk here about how that makes me feel, as I’m not sure I could put it into words at the moment. Instead this post is about how I marked the end of this chapter.

I had known for a while that I wanted to do something significant to acknowledge the turning of this page. A ‘Divorce Party’ was out of the question. There’s nothing to celebrate about wasted years and broken dreams. I briefly considered trashing my wedding dress at next weekend’s colour run, but realised that would probably attract more attention than I’m comfortable with. An attempt to toast the new beginning over a quiet meal with close friends went awry when my Ex-Husband walked into the same, very small, restaurant (Honestly; what are the chances?! You couldn’t make it up).

So instead, I ran a Half Marathon. It seemed fitting, as the breakdown of our marriage was what started my running in the first place, and after several years of being told repeatedly that I was lazy, it seemed a subtle but effective middle finger up to the Man that so enjoyed taunting me.

I had kept my plan to take part in the Jersey Half mostly on the down low, partly because I didn’t even known if I’d be able to finish it, and partly because I don’t want to detract too much attention from the Great North Run, which I’m doing for charity in September. But now I’ve done it, pride in myself means I can’t help but document it here.

The furthest I’d run in training was a little over 10 miles, so an extra 3 on top was daunting, but I spent the days beforehand just excited to get to the start line. Have you seen that GIF of the puppy running in his dreams? That was me every night last week! I woke up on Sunday morning to heavy grey skies; the one time I’ve been thrilled to see the Island shrouded in fog; far better running weather than hot sunshine!

Arriving at the start line in St Ouen it was good to see a decent handful of familiar faces through the drizzle; the running community in Jersey is small and friendly, and I’m starting to feel like a little part of it. 9am soon came around and we were off; an easy start down Hydrangea Avenue before the hills of L’Etacq and La Pulente that lay ahead! I won’t bore you with a mile by mile account, but the highlights for me were the camaraderie amongst runners both local and visiting, and the brilliant support from marshalls, supporters and very patient motorists that offered words of encouragement as we slogged past, taking up the road. The family at the top of La Pulente with a big bowl of Haribo were life-savers, and the personal yells of encouragement from friends I passed by were like an injection of energy when I had little left of my own.

I had friends taking part, but I’d quite deliberately not run with them. I needed this to be something I did on my own; with nothing to prove to anyone but myself, and no distractions.

The first 11 miles I can honestly say I enjoyed every step of; the last 2 along the solid granite promenade towards the finish were hard on my feet, my knees, my hips and my head, but I was far too close to stop now, so I struggled on at something between a jog and a stumble until I reached that last few metres and the support of strangers powered me over the line. If I’d kept my intention to run on the DL, I’d played my cards even closer to my chest when it came to my time prediction. I’d privately hoped to come in under 2 hours 20. I thought that if I ran well I might make 2 hours 15. The time on the clock when I crossed the line was 2 hours, 6 minutes and 50 seconds. To say I’m delighted would be something of an understatement.

It was a little emotional crossing the line, and I took a little time straight afterwards to sit by myself and take it in. 2 years ago I would never for a second have believed myself capable running a half marathon, much less that I’d enjoy it AND have another two booked before the end of the year.

Which brings me back to the Great North Run. Whilst this will no longer be my first half, it remains the most important to me, and the only one that I’m running for a cause other than my own. As detailed on my Get Inspired post, I’m raising money for Maggie’s Centres who mean a lot to my extended family, and do fantastic things for many thousands of other families. I’m now confident that I can fulfil my promise to finish, and I have a better understanding of what training I need to do in order to better my time. Any improvement would be a win; can I get myself home in under 2 hours?! We’ll see….

If you have a couple of pounds to spare, your sponsorship would be very much appreciated; I’m inching ever closer to my target, but every little helps 🙂

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebeccalevans

So as I’m finally able to close & lock the door on being Mrs Evans, and forge ahead into the unknown (At the moment I’m not even entirely sure what my name will be), I’m setting aside my old familiar comfort blanket of self-doubt, and doing so with the fresh conviction that I can achieve anything I put my  mind to, and more importantly, that I can do it on my own.

You Spin Me Right Round Baby….

Back in January when I wrote about my goals for the year, one of them was to learn something new.  I had just started pole dance fitness lessons at the time, and wasn’t sure how they were going to work out. I’m not the most coordinated of creatures at the best of times, and aside from about 5 minutes of ballet when I was 3 years old and the occasional drunken hip wiggle in the Royal Yacht, have no dance prior dance experience to call upon.

I’d been thinking about pole fitness on and off for a while, but hadn’t had the nerve to sign up. I assumed that you’d need a decent amount of upper body strength, and was worried that I’d feel self conscious or awkward. But then just after Christmas, in the height of my determination to shake things up, I saw an advertisement for a 4 week taster course, and with a little gentle prodding from a twitter follower who had also just signed up, I found myself tapping in my card details and booking my first class with Uberedge.

To say I was nervous beforehand would have been an understatement. My first class was on a Friday night (a deliberate attempt to keep myself out of the pub, as I tried desperately to climb back onto the rails after Christmas & New Year). It was reassuring to find I wasn’t the only brand new one that night, but in hindsight it wouldn’t have mattered either way.

To start with we tackled some simple spins, the kind you’re more likely to see in a fire station than a strip club. I had so much fun that the hour passed in a blink, which is unfortunately more than can be said for the resulting DOMS in my shoulders and arms. It took almost a week for me to be able to reach into a cupboard or zip up a dress without wincing; just in time for me to do it all again.

An aside : Pole dancing HURTS. It seriously batters just about every part of your body, from pole burns and bruises (affectionately referred to as kisses), to aching muscles, scabby knees and calloused hands. I have every admiration for the girls who do it professionally, and manage to do it with a smile. They’re braver Women than I. 

In the following weeks, now I knew what to expect, I had more opportunity to pay attention to what the other girls in the class were doing. Classes are mixed ability, and I was absolutely in awe of the beautiful and graceful spins and holds that the more experienced girls were doing, and absolutely convinced that I would never, EVER, get anywhere close to that level. Nor did I imagine that I’d ever be comfortable enough to work out in the tiny shorts and cropped top that others were wearing; it’s all very well lying very still on the beach in a bikini, but performing star jump warm ups and hanging upside down in next to nothing? No way.

Fast forward 5 months, and I’m arriving each week in ever diminishing outfits (the more skin is exposed, the more you stick to the pole. Who knew?), and whilst I’m still a very long way from proficient, I can manage a few little spin combinations. The most amazing thing though, for me, is that I’ve begun to get a grip (pun intended) of inversions. That’s getting upside down and holding yourself there, in pole terminology. When Nikki first suggested that I should start inverting, it seemed impossible. I spent an entire half lesson kicking fruitlessly into the air, wondering how on earth I was ever going to get my legs high enough to reach the top of the pole; never mind stay there – and then just like that, the very next week, I did it. A few weeks later it’s a breeze to invert, and I’m starting to work on some of the pretty holds that seemed so far out of my reach to begin with.

It’s not all been plain sailing; I’ve come close to quitting a couple of times, when I’ve reached a plateau and not made any progress for a couple of weeks, or after a session where for whatever reason I’ve struggled with the easiest moves. Thankfully I’ve come to realise that all the girls have those days, whether they’ve been having lessons for 2 weeks or 2 years, and that with patience and determination it’ll pass and I’ll come out stronger and more capable.

The surprise bonus to this new found form of fitness has been the Ladies I’ve met at the classes. Initially, as I tend to, I worried that those who were more experienced would look down on the newbies, or judge when we struggled to nail a new move. I’m delighted to say that the exact opposite is the case. Without exception every single one of the pole squad is welcoming, friendly and supportive (sometimes literally). All ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds, everyone in the studio is equal, and always ready with encouraging words, a camera phone and a cheer when someone smashes a move they’ve been working on, whether that’s a simple spin or a complex hold. When we laugh, and we laugh a LOT, it’s with each other, never at each other.

I may not throw the most graceful shapes in the world, some of my spins are decidedly clunky, I can’t imagine how I’m ever going to manage a Gemini hold with no hands, and I consistently forget to point my toes (sorry Nikki!) but I’m having so much fun that I don’t care. I look forward to every class and I’m getting an all over workout without even realising it. Who cares if my arms could use some toning and my stomach rolls over my shorts when I do a tuck? Who gives a toss if I sometimes wrestle with anxiety and struggle with self-esteem? I can hold my body weight upside down by my THIGHS, and that makes me feel pretty damn Badass.

My mind may not be strong all of the time, but I’m proving to myself week after week that my body is, and that’s a very big step in the right direction.

Music To My Ears

Well, 2018 seems to be turning into a great year for music events on this little rock that we call home, so a friend and I have jumped upon the opportunity and vowed to see and hear as much of it as we possibly can.

Our journey of musical discovery began last night, in the surrounds of Jersey’s lovely intimate little Opera House, where we had snapped up tickets to see Gabrielle Aplin after discovering her music by chance earlier in the year.

Now a year of live music is a bit of a strange one for me, as I can’t really be described as an enthusiast; (give me the choice between dancing to the covers band at the back of Chambers, or the DJ at the front, and I’ll take the DJ every time) but my mind is wedged open, music has taken on a new significance to me recently, and we all know I’ll never turn down a new experience, so here we go!

Given my past reluctance to watch bands, I had been a bit concerned that almost 2 hours of sitting still and watching someone sing would bore me, but quite the contrary, I was captivated from the second that the warm-up act (the very talented Samuel Walwyn; a local Jersey Boy that I’m excited to see perform again at the Splash in a few weeks time) stepped on stage with his ‘Christmas in a cup’ and proceeded to wow us.

Next up was the Lady we’d all come to see. Forgive me for getting a bit fan girl here, but after listening to her music almost non-stop for the last few months, I was delighted to find that she was just as sweet, humble and giggly as I’d imagined she would be. And her VOICE!!

Listening to songs that have grown to mean something to me, live from the mouth of the person that wrote was just delicious. I’d already warned my companion that one particular tune (It’s called Miss You, if you fancy a listen) may make me a little emotional, but I think we were both a bit surprised by the tears that sprang forth about 4 bars in! I wasn’t particularly upset, the song evokes all kinds of feelings in me, happy & sad, hopeful & regretful, and stirs up memories of a dozen situations over the past I don’t know how many years. I guess I was just a bit overwhelmed by hearing it sung with such heart, right in front of me.

There was half a second when we thought that the song that drew us to Gabrielle in the first place might have escaped the set list, but of course we were being fooled, Home was the encore, and the perfect end a wonderful evening, before we stumbled out into the night, singing and laughing and planning our next musical adventure!

From bands to solo artists, DJs to Orchestras, they’re all on the list this year and I can’t wait to tick them all off.

Who are you seeing live this year? Enormous festival or intimate gig? What’s the best live music event you’ve been to? Inspire me ☺️

#GetInspired

Today, when over 40,000 brave souls set out to run 26.2 miles around London, seems as good a day as any to talk about running.

Before I started running myself, the idea of watching other people run a marathon seemed about as interesting as watching paint dry. This morning, I was GLUED to every second of coverage, from the incredible wheelchair racers who set off first, to the last of the amateur runners doing it for charity, or just to prove to themselves that they CAN.

It’s only now that I can start to understand the commitment, training, mental strength and sheer determination that goes in to covering that distance, and the absolute heart break that must come with not making it, particularly for those who are in sight of the finish when their exhausted bodies just can’t go any further.

Whilst I can’t see myself doing a Marathon anytime soon (but then a few years ago I’d have said that about Parkrun, so never say never…) today’s coverage has got me excited afresh for my own challenge later this year, when I’ll take on the Great North Run. The largest half marathon event, not just in the UK but in the WORLD, the GNR has around 57,000 participants each year; that’s almost half as many as the London Marathon again, and a number of people that my head can’t really compute at the moment.

GNR_bridge

On the 9th September I’ll be one of those 57,000 nervously hopeful runners on the start line, ready to cover 13.1 challenging miles. Unsure what to expect from a route I haven’t run before, with my fingers crossed that my training has been enough, and that injury or fatigue won’t force me off the course.

I’m running in aid of Maggie’s, which is a network of centres across the UK that provide social, emotional and practical support for sufferers of cancer, along with their family and friends. Its an organisation that is close to the hearts of my family in the North East, so two of us will be aiming to raise a minimum of £350 each to support their amazing work.

As I’ve already talked about in my Sloth to Strava post, running is relatively new to me, and it still very much a novelty. I can barely believe that I’ve become someone who chooses to regularly get up before 8am on a Saturday for Parkrun, or that is capable of casually popping out after work and running 10 or 12km on a regular basis.

I remain a firm believer that exercise could and should be used as a treatment for mental health conditions, having seen for myself the immediate and lasting effect that it has had and continues to have on my own struggles with anxiety and low self-esteem. Even now that my emotions are less of a rollercoaster, and my outlook more positive, I still find running the absolute best way to pull myself out of a Sunday fug or clear my head of a busy day at work. The physical health benefits come as a added bonus.

Interestingly the half marathon date will be just shy of 11 years since I walked the same distance for charity, after which I could barely move my legs for 2 days. It shocks me now how unfit I must have been at the age of 24, to suffer so much after what was basically a long but gentle stroll, and makes where I find myself now feel like such a sea change.

As the summer progresses I’ll be dedicated to increasing my distances, decreasing my times, and otherwise building my core and leg strength and overall endurance before the big day. I’ll also be trying to watch my diet, limit my alcohol intake and finally knock the cigarettes on the head as I prepare my body for the biggest challenge I’ve ever asked of it. So far.

If you’d like to show your support by donating a few pounds to a fantastic cause, you can find my fundraising page here.