Catching some Zzzzzs at the Zoo

This weekend I fulfilled a dream I’ve had since 2012 when Jersey Zoo, formerly Durrell Wildlife, opened their Wildlife Camp, offering the opportunity to stay a night, or a week if you fancy, on the grounds of this wonderful place.

Wildlife Camp this might be, but ‘roughing it’ it is certainly not. Each self contained spacious yurt is sturdy, carpeted and contains real beds. No sleeping bags or ground sheets are required here. Each unit also has its own private bathroom and equipped kitchen right next door, with everything down to a corkscrew supplied (thankfully, as we forgot ours!). This is Glamping with a capital Glam.


I’d heard only good things from friends who had been lucky enough to stay already, so having an animal loving friend visiting from Australia seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it for ourselves.

We were warmly greeted on arrival by Al, who showed us to ‘Indri’ our home for the evening, before running through a tour of the facilities and safety briefing and leaving us to settle in.


The first job was to introduce ourselves to the neighbours. Now usually a group of noisy, excitable swingers wouldn’t be my first choice of camp mate, but I could make an exception when they are this cute. I’m talking of course about the Ring-tailed and Black & White Lemurs who reside just over the fence from camp, on the banks of aptly named Lemur lake.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on our private sun deck watching them bounce, frolic and chatter just feet away. Not long after their feeding time we realised it was time for ours. Despite the kitchen offering plenty of scope to create a meal ourselves, this was a special occasion so we had booked into Cafe Firefly at the Zoo entrance for their Meze & BBQ special. I’d heard a lot about about this treat, but nothing prepared for how delicious it was going to be, and stunning value at £15 each. After stuffing our faces we walked/waddled back to our yurt by torchlight, and settled in for the night.


Al had earlier given us a lesson in how to use the wood burning stove that takes pride of place in each yurt, so with a September chill in the air we got stuck straight in. Matches, kindling and enough treated logs for one night are supplied, and more are available to buy on site if required.

With the fire roaring we tucked into a bottle of Malbec (thanks again to the corkscrew) and played an intense game of Durrell Monopoly. Snug as bugs inside, the atmosphere was only made cosier by distant thunder and the tip tap of rain on canvas. If only Elle & I were each other’s type this might have been the most romantic night of our lives.


Sensible girls as we are, we were tucked up in cloud soft beds by midnight, and slept like logs until the alarm call we’d been warned to expect in advance. Just before 7am the Lemurs collectively announced that the day had begun, and it was time to jump to it. Impossible to sleep through this cry (unless your name is Elle) thankfully their shouting only lasts a few seconds, and I was soon dozing again, but this time dreaming happily of African safaris.

Like a snooze function the Lemurs remind us that it’s morning around every half an hour, and at the 3rd call we relented and dragged ourselves up for coffee on the deck.

By 10am we had packed up, said a sad goodbye to our temporary home and set out  to explore the Zoo itself (more of which later).

Our night in the ‘wild’ is one that we won’t soon forget, and one that I’ll certainly repeat at the next opportunity. As a fan of unique and characterful accommodation this place shot straight into my all time top 5, and lucky for me it’s right around the corner from home.

Whether you are visiting Jersey or live here and are looking for a fun and unique weekend staycation then this girl highly recommends a night or 3 at Durrell Wildlife Camp. Thanks to Ashley, Al, Vicky and the team in Cafe Firefly for making it such a memorable occasion for us.

(This post is neither a promotion nor an ad. All expenses were paid personally and my opinion is unbiased)

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From sloth to strava. A journey.

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A little over 18 months ago, I was a stereotypical couch potato. I had an expensive gym membership that I rarely used; and even when I did darken their door, the sweat was more likely to originate from the sauna than a session of squats.

I was one of those girls that would lament the state of my waistline and my thighs whilst sitting on the couch, and who would then spend 15 minutes on the treadmill before rewarding myself with a takeaway and 3 cans of cider.

ANY excuse was a good enough one to get out of exercise. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, work was stressful today, work was great today, I’m hungry, I have my period, I’ll have it tomorrow, It’s Friday, It’s Monday, I’ve forgotten a hair band, I already worked out once this week, the gym car park is too busy, I’ve used every one of them. And more besides.

I’m not sure exactly where the change started, I think it was a combination of things.

Firstly I discovered Parkrun. For those who haven’t heard of it, Parkrun is a completely free, volunteer run and corporate sponsored community 5km run that takes place every Saturday morning in locations all over the country. I can’t remember what first inspired me to give it a go, but completing that course amongst 200+ friendly runners, and not being last, was a high that I’d not experienced during exercise before. I walked a lot of it that first time, but I got round and didn’t die. It was a revelation.

Secondly, I volunteered as a marshall for the 13km Durrell Challenge; a distance that I considered to be way beyond my capability. Let’s be honest, a lot of the motivation for volunteering was getting a glimpse of Henry Cavill (in addition to playing a small part in raising funds for Durrell) but by a stroke of luck I ended up handing out medals on the finish line, and found myself inspired by everyone that came over that line. From regular runners who were chuffed to have beaten their PB, to those who had only taken part to raise money and were just thrilled to have finished. These people were all shapes and sizes, all abilities, and it occurred to me that there was really no reason why I couldn’t be one of them. Almost a year to the day later, I crossed that line holding hands with one of my best friends, a few seconds over our target time of 90 minutes, and the euphoria and sense of achievement was something I’ll remember for a long time.

By the summer of 2016 I was becoming hooked. running regularly and attending several gym classes a week. I still find it better to run or work out in a crowd. I reached the stage that I was annoyed if a work commitment got in the way of a class, and finally began to see the results of my efforts in my body and general health – something I’d always been demotivated by when a half-arsed session on the cross-trainer once a week made no difference to my bingo wings. First my clothes got looser, then I started to fit into things I’d bought in haste, assuring myself it was only a fat day and they’d be ok tomorrow (they never were).

I started to eat better; when you’ve put the effort in physically, it becomes easier to want to avoid the rubbish that will undo it all. Don’t get me wrong I’m still very partial to a few beers, a cornish pasty and a very large bag of pick & mix, but generally not all in the same day anymore. Unless it’s the weekend.

This new lifestyle really came into it’s own at the end of last year, when my marriage unravelled and a black cloud settled over me. For the first time in my life I often felt that I didn’t just want to go for a run, I HAD to go. Turning up my playlist, pulling on my trainers and concentrating only on my breathing and heart rate as I ran along the sea front or through Jersey’s leafy country lanes was balm for my soul. I honestly believe that for a period of several months, I’d have struggled to keep my head above water without that kind of release. A bottle of red and a bar of dairy milk has it’s place in healing a broken heart (and don’t worry, I still resort to those at times) but it doesn’t raise your spirits and keep them raised in the same way as a decent work out. Of course the compliments received as others started to notice my new physique only served to help rebuild my shattered self-confidence.

Now I’m happier in life I’ve settled into a sensible gym & running routine. I’m far from the fittest person in the world but I can manage a steady 10km run without stopping and a HIIT class without throwing up and that’s just fine by me; I know now that if I decide to run that half marathon, or take part in the rowathon, I AM capable of achieving it through training and perseverance, and I’m ready and willing to take on my next challenge. That’s not something I ever really felt before.

I don’t feel the same desperate urge to work out as I did earlier in the year, but the habit hasn’t completely died. I know that when my mood starts to falter I have a guaranteed pick me up that will improve, rather than harm my health. Last week was a particular low point for a number of reasons, and come Friday night instead of reaching straight for the wine as the old me would have, I attended a boxing class, which left me invigorated, motivated and far less anxious than I was when I walked in. (Obviously there was wine afterwards; it was still Friday and I’m not a Nun).

The effect that exercise has had on my mental, as well as physical, well-being in the past 12 months has made me think a lot about how effective a treatment for some cases of depression it may be, as an alternative to popping pills. That’s something I’m now interested in learning more about, having witnessed friends be prescribed drugs that have had little discernible effect on their situation.

Looking back to the day I skipped the gym because I’d forgotten my socks (my flat, containing all my socks, is a 5 minute drive from the gym), I can barely believe I’m the same person. I know this is the cheesy tagline of many a ‘celebrity’ workout DVD, but honestly, if I can do it, anyone can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitary Sundays

An unexpected side effect of my separation at the end of 2016 has been how much it has changed how I feel about different times of the year (Christmas has certainly lost some of it’s sparkle) and days of the week.

Sundays used to be one of the highlights of my week, second only to that wonderful Friday night feeling of freedom and promise.

Waking on a Sunday to a whole new day of possibility used to be bliss. The day was our oyster. Perhaps a lazy lie-in, or up and out early for breakfast by the beach. Sunny days held the possibility of adventure exploring our beautiful Island, happy hours passed at the beach or strolling around the zoo, always managing to find something new no matter how many times we’d visited before. Winter Sundays brought their own pleasures. Long pub lunches, visiting family, staying on the sofa and quarrelling over which film to watch next, or playing intense and often heated games of scrabble over one too many bottles of Rioja.

Perhaps I’m romanticising how it really was, in fact I’m almost sure I am. I’ve edited out those days we too hungover to function, or not speaking to each other, the tortuous afternoons we had to spend with his Mother, or when we spent so long procrastinating that we didn’t get anything done at all. But I do know that by and large, Sundays were good days.

Even before I settled down with my Ex, the day had historically been a day to catch up with friends here in Jersey, or with family before I arrived here. Generally involving a boozy afternoon and an exchange of the weekend’s gossip before we all took a couple of aspirin and got on with real life come Monday.

Something has changed in the intervening 8 years though. Those friends that I enjoyed so many Sunday sessions with have settled down themselves. Families, children, responsible jobs that don’t sit well with Monday hangovers. Those days have long gone.

Now, approaching a year on my own, most of my life has settled into new patterns. On weeknights I find it easy to keep myself busy. The gym, work events, getting together with friends for early dinners with the kids, I find myself relieved to have the occasional night with no plans. Weekend nights fill themselves; a whole new circle of wonderful friends have welcomed me into their arms and provided countless nights of  fun, dancing and laughter. Saturdays are also a breeze. When I’m not recovering from Friday night there are errands to run, chores to do and the almost inevitable round 2 night out to prepare for.

 

Sundays are where I fall down.

 

The earlier I wake, the harder it seems. The more hours stretch ahead before I can reasonably return to bed. Everything seems more difficult somehow. I don’t want to stay in the house all day, but I have to force myself to leave. Going out for a run or catching a movie is something I’d look forward to on any other day, but on a Sunday I have to talk myself into it, despite knowing full well that I’ll feel better for doing it. Of course there’s nothing to stop me heading to the beach, the zoo, a restaurant or any of the Island’s events, but on a day when I’m already feeling low, being surrounded by families and couples enjoying their day as I once would have is still too bitter a pill to swallow.

Sundays are the day of the week when the difference between my old life and my new one is most stark, and when it’s impossible to deny that I’m fundamentally alone here. That’s a fact that I can largely ignore at other times, at least until someone asks me to name an emergency contact.

My friends don’t dematerialize on Sundays of course, they’re still here and I know that they always make me welcome, but they are often tied up with their own families and for that I can’t possibly blame them. It’s exactly what I’d be doing in a parallel universe, and what I did do in fact for many years. On occasions that I do receive a Sunday invitation it’s not uncommon for me to turn it down, worried that I’d be imposing, or that I’d bring the atmosphere down with my mood.

After 13 years of living here I’ve become more than accustomed to my own family being a flight away and never gave it a second thought, but recently I’ve found myself feeling increasingly homesick on the Sabbath, wanting to be somewhere that I’m naturally a part of, where I’m not an outsider.

So the challenge I have now is to re-invent Sundays for myself. To shake off the self-fulfilling prophecy that the day will be  tough, because I think it will be tough. I’m going to be actively seeking a sports club or a special interest group to join, a charity that could make use of my spare time, or a new hobby that I can soak up some hours with. Perhaps all three.  I’ll try and document some of my experiences here on my blog. In the meantime I’m going to make plans to do something each Sunday, no matter how small, and make myself stick to them. Whether that’s planning the route and going for a long run, booking myself onto a tour or guided walk, or stocking up on trashy magazines and taking myself out for a picnic lunch.

I’m sorry that this post isn’t as chirpy as you might have come to expect, but I believe that in a time when we’re quick to edit our public lives to show only the enhanced and photo-shopped best bits, that it’s even more important to talk openly about those bits that aren’t so great. It’s ok to not be ok.

 

With stars at our feet….

Just before 11.30pm last Friday night, we found ourselves standing somewhat apprehensively in almost complete darkness at La Rocque Harbour. For people more accustomed to the bright lights of the Weighbridge at that time on a Friday, it was a little unusual to say the least.

Any initial nerves melted away however when we were approached and warmly greeted by Derek of Jersey Walk Adventures who was to be our guide for the evening, ably assisted by his colleague Trudie.

Furnished with hired wellington boots and with brief introductions made to our fellow late night adventurers, we made our way cautiously down on to the beach to begin the hunt for what must be the most fascinating and mystical of Jersey’s marine life, tiny bioluminescent worms that inhabit the sands around the south east coast RAMSAR site. Noted by local fishermen for time immemorial, these real Jersey wonders have only come to the attention of the scientific world in the last half a dozen years.

Blessed with a cloudless night, our orientation briefing included Derek pointing out planets and constellations in the star crowded sky above us, before we made off, away from the car headlights and warmly lit windows of land and into the inky dark moonscape ahead.

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We hadn’t ventured far, picking our way around rocks and clumps of seaweed as our eyes slowly started to adjust to the darkness, before we hit gold – or green, to be more precise. Gathering us into an expectant circle, Derek dragged one wellington-clad foot through the sand and shingle seabed, and the group let out a collective gasp as the channel he’d created lit up like a Christmas tree, with the light of a thousand minute luminescent worms, each hardly wider than a human hair and glowing for all they were worth. It was quite honestly the most breathtaking and unexpected example of the wonders of nature that I’ve ever seen, and less than a 10 minute drive from my own front door here in Jersey.

I don’t want to spoil all the surprises before you take part in this fantastic walk yourself (and I urge  you to do so) but the next hour or so passed in a haze of child like discovery and delight, splashing through underwater fireworks and writing our initials in twinkling sand, punctuated by just the right mix of facts, anecdotes and jokes from our knowledgeable guides.

Before we knew it we were back at La Rocque, stamping the sand off our boots and wondering if that really just happened. If you only do one new thing this year, I urge you to go out and discover these mysterious creatures who share our Island for yourself, but please do not forget that our beautiful coastline is treacherous and low tide walks MUST be undertaken with a qualified guide. You can book the bioluminesence walk, amongst a selection of others, with Jersey Walk Adventures.

(It is far beyond my modest capabilities to take photographs of this phenomenon, so for the purpose of this post I have borrowed an image from Jersey Walk Adventures/Phil Halper)

Here Goes Nothing…

Hi there & welcome to my very first blog post!

Although a voracious reader and keen writer since childhood, it has taken me until the grand old age of 33 to slowly realise (with the help of my friends at Gallery Magazine) that I might, just might, have it in me to write things that people want to read.

So here it is; a brand new shiny blog, ready for me to fill with words. No pressure!

After 8 months that have seen a seismic shift in the direction I thought my life was taking, I find myself standing by one closed door, with a multitude of others open in front of me, ready to be explored. This foray into writing for public consumption is one of them.

I plan to write mostly about my adventures on this little Island and travels beyond, some cathartic musings about this unexpected reboot of my adult life, and a sprinkling of thoughts and opinions on just about anything else that pops into my head.

I hope you enjoy reading, and would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions

Kisses

Bex

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