UK Snow Day 2018 in Pictures Daily Post Photo Challenge

Isn’t it wonderful how everyday places are transformed once the snow arrives?

 

I went for an early morning walk today and took some pictures while it was still quiet & the snow was fresh and crisp. Ordinary landscapes become transformed with a dusting of snow but with several inches of snow the local park becomes a landscape reminisce of Narnia; a magical wilderness with nothing but the crunching sound of snow beneath your feet & the sound of birds rustling in the trees above your head. Here are some of the pictures I took; I hope you like them.

 

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The Alternative Bucket List (Part 1)

So bucket lists, eh? Where did they come from? The dictionary definition of a bucket list is ‘a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime’. I was under the assumption that this term had been around much longer but in fact the term ‘bucket list’ has only actually been around since circa 2007 when the screenwriter Justin Zackham coined it for his film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (can’t say I’ve watched it to be honest).

bucket 2
You two have A LOT to answer for

Why am I telling you all of this? Well,¬†I was having with my friends the other day and my friend Dave raised the interesting point to why there isn’t a ‘lazy person’s bucket list’? When I asked him to elaborate, he said that not everyone had a burning desire to swim with dolphins or walk the Inca Trail…so what could people aspire to achieving without having to leave the country, or in fact their sofa?! So, I put this question to my friends and along with my own thoughts subsequently started to collate what will be henceforth be known as the ‘Alternative Bucket List’. It was going to be called the ‘lazy persons bucket list’ as Dave proposed but on reflection I think some of these things require some effort. If you think about it, who’s to say that one person’s bucket list is any better or more interesting than another? It depends on what someone would feel satisfaction from achieving in their lifetime. And sometimes that isn’t necessarily bungee jumping from the top of a really really high building.

1. Go on a tour of your ENTIRE local bus network (yes really)

bus
A little bus humour for you (you’re welcome!)

Most of us spend so much time either driving or being a passengers in cars that we have forgotten the joys of public transportation. Have you even bought a day pass to your local bus network and traveled the breadth of your local area? Thought not. Set a target to take every single bus route within a 20 mile radius of your house and see where you’ve been missing all these years. You may come across a little gem of shop or a pub that you might have missed had you not been staring out of a bus window. Now, this might seem mundane but trust me, there will be bus drama, there will be weird conversations with complete strangers, you’ll learn all sorts of random things about where you live. Try it and open your eyes to the world around you!
2. Stay in bed the ENTIRE WEEKEND
Now, staying in bed an entire day is easily achieved for most of us, especially if we’ve had a long week at work. But an entire weekend?! And I’m talking from Friday night all the way through to Monday morning here (Note: toilet breaks and opening the door to takeaway delivery men ARE permitted). Now, to keep from dying of

bed
And she was never to be seen again (well until Monday anyway)

boredom/hunger/deep vein thrombosis some planning is required in advance in order to make this a reasonably enjoyable experience. Particularly if you’re action orientated like myself. Careful selection of movies/boxsets/books you’ve always wanted to watch and read but never found the time. Wear Flight socks. Keeping a telephone by your bed in the event you’re feeling starved of company. Choose multi packs of crisps! Buy Gin! The more I write about this, the more this seems like a rather rewarding achievement. Have fun!

 

 

3. Learn to play your favourite song
A lot of people always tell me that one of their regrets in life is that they’ve never ‘been musical’ and that they’ve always wanted learnt an instrument. It’s never too late! You don’t need to put yourself under the impossible pressure of becoming the next Mozart! Simply choose a song that you’ve always wanted to play and go ahead & learn it. Take a

guitar
Oh God, please make it stop

few lessons to help you on your way. It will take some practice but it will single-handedly be one of the most rewarding things that you will ever do. Fact. Playing along to one of your favourite songs is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. I can now play the riff from Toto ‘Hold the Line’. I play it over and over again to annoy my neighbours just because I can now. Cut all that time wasted staring at your phone, put all that free time to good use and LEARN THAT SONG YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED!
4. Go on holiday by by yourself. Literally anywhere.
I travel a lot by myself now but I never used to; it seemed like a daunting prospect at first but once you do it once, you become hooked and crave your next opportunity to disappear on your own for a few days. Common worries which can prevent people from heading off on a solo expedition include thoughts such as ‘what if I’m lonely?’ or ‘what if I can’t cope’. This is you doubting your own personal strength and resilience and that

DSCN5692
Nothing but the sea and a meat and potato pasty

same fear can stop you taking chances in other areas of your life. You can cope. You learn a lot about yourself by just spending a few days in your own company in a strange place, whether it be in a far flung part of the world or whether it be in a B&B 30 miles down the road. Do it – just to say you’ve done it!

So, here we have my initial 4 Alternative Bucket List items for you to try as you see fit. Let me know if you try and how you get on with them or even if you’d like to put forward.

By For Now ūüôā

Why One Should Always Run

I’m currently psyching myself up to go running. I never ever feel like running. Ever. Sometimes I get out of¬†going by¬†‘just having a quick lie down’ when I get in from work and then conveniently not waking up in time¬†to make it down¬†to my running club.

Not this time though; It’s happening TONIGHT.

The weird thing about running is (and yes this does sound evangelical), you always feel great afterwards. I blame the endorphins.

See you on the side…

 

 

 

FEXIT (Part 1): A Review of Noteworthy Facebook Achievements To Date

So last month I left made the decision to leave Facebook. Well, it wasn’t an immediate knee jerk departure, more a slow burn that had been building up over several months. It had become a toxic¬†one way relationship; I¬†had found myself spending ever increasing periods¬†of time scanning¬†the news feed but in return was getting less news from my actual friends and more spam and mindless witterings from brief aquaintances and people¬†I didn’t particularly like yet felt compelled to accept/maintain as friends out of politeness and to avoid offence if I happened to run into them¬†again following¬†our brief¬†conversation at a¬†club/whilst travelling/at a friend of a friends house party¬†back¬†in 2009. Of course there was always the option to¬†silently ‘unfollow’ individuals who’s posts¬†weren’t¬†to¬†my liking but when it got to the stage¬†where¬†I had unfollowed >75% of my ‘friends’ I realised this social media platform was¬†no longer working for me. I’m not going to lie,¬†this was a big move I was about to make here and I was nervous about it. What would I do with my time? Would my friends all desert¬†me¬†once they¬†could not longer see my posts of Nicolas Cage with his face on things?!¬†I had been on there¬†nearly¬†10 whole¬†years (!) and¬†had accumulated¬†some rather¬†impressive achievements which included the following statistics¬†(now brace yourselves):

  • 2 x 9 year ‘Friendiversaries’ (I feel there should be a greetings card for this level of achievement)
  • 8 x¬†2 year ‘Friendiversaries’ (A non event in my book¬† – I currently have a tube of mayonnaise in my fridge older than this¬†AND it’s still edible)
  • 3 x full blocks (special shout out to¬†my weird ex and the guy that bullied me at school¬†– thanks for getting back in touch!)
  • 1 x hasty change of relationship status to ‘engaged’¬†(comments at the time included¬†‘You have a boyfriend?!)
  • 1 x sheepish revert of¬†status¬†back to ‘single’ (the lesson here being¬†if¬†your surname hasn’t changed DON’T¬†UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE CHANGE¬†YOUR STATUS)
  • 297 posts of Nicolas Cage’s face on things
Phew! I’m exhausted just reading that. A job well done, wouldn’t you say?
Come back for Part 2, I’m hoping the hallucinations and shakes¬†will have stopped by then,
Bye for now!
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Somewhere I Used To Know

Ever revisited a place where you used to live a long time ago? What motivates you to undertake on such a visit? What do you hope it will achieve? Will it up to your expectations?

These were the questions racing through my mind a few days ago when I was deliberating whether to visit a place I last lived in 12 years ago. I don’t know why I felt the urge to visit there. My Dad said is was ‘A Quest for Past Happiness’. But I don’t recall being particularly happy there for the most part of it. I was 20 and decided to move to a village in the New Forest for a year’s work placement, at the time a 5 hour train journey away from my then boyfriend. But although I found it difficult, I have some really happy memories of the place and of the time. Of snatched weekends of happiness when he’d arrive on the train/bus/ferry for a few days at a time before he’d have to return (to a soundtrack of tears and Classic Rock!) back to his studies at University. When he visited we’d explore the New Forest together and everything seemed more colorful, more vivid and really¬†beautiful.

We’ve long since broken up (we ended up together for several years) but I fondly remember all the lovely places we visited there and wanted to see if remained as magical as I remembered.

Some aspects inevitably were a mild disappointment. One of my all time favorite shops had long since closed down thus leaving a void in my nostalgia. I soften the blow with a long walk by the sea from Lymington towards Milford-on-Sea armed only with a lidded cup of tea and a Cornish pasty. Some things never deteriorate or diminish; it’s still one of the most dreamily beautiful stretches of coastline in the UK and was exactly how I remembered it. I ate my pasty whilst staring out to sea. Two runners ran past me and smiled, reminding me of the one of the things I love so much nowadays: my running. I was now wishing I’d bought my trainers this time round!

Lymington Coastline with said pasty
Lymington coastline with the pasty in question

I carried on walking and passing familiar places until my feet ached but I kept smiling; I was glad I came back to see this place again.

I next returned to the village where I lived for a year. Hythe is mainly accessible from Southampton by ferry and (interesting fact) is home of the World’s oldest pier train. Previous days were spent watching this train go up and down the pier, a gentle chug chug chug as it delivered commuters to the small passenger ferry every 30 minutes which then departed onward to Southampton.

The Solent and Hythe Ferry
The Solent and Hythe Ferry

In the distance across the massive expanse of water massive cruise liners were busy being boarded, ready to set sail on their epic voyages around the world. It’s a remarkable place to sit and watch the world go by. You feel almost at the edge of the Earth with a flurry of activity barely visible by eye but on closer inspection being epic in proportions. Massive container ships passing by of all shapes and sizes, delivering and receiving orders of astronomical proportions. The expanse of water is so large however that it makes these ships look like mere toys, bobbing up and down for our entertainment rather than serving a critical purpose.

The Edge of the Earth
The Edge of the Earth

I watched the ships in the Solent for a little while with an ice cream and then began the walk back to my car. During which I thought about the days I felt utterly alone here but also the days where I was happier than I’d ever been.

During the walk, a familiar couple passed me on the road, smiling as they passed. They were my former neighbours in the block of flats In which I used to live. They didn’t remember me but I got a warm glow of familiarity.

There are pieces of home everywhere if you choose to look for them.

Alice on Wednesday! Tokyo Rose Part 2: The Japanese Concept Store

 
On the last day of my travels in Japan, I jumped on a train from Kyoto Station to the nearby city of Osaka (a 30 minute train ride) not knowing what to expect. Reality was setting in: I was going back home and most of my travel companions were already homeward bound so I needed to feel like I was still ‘travelling’ just a little bit longer before my flight that evening. 

My guidebook pointed out a cool shopping district a stones throw from Shinsaibashi Station that goes by the name of  ‘Amerikamura’, or American Village. The district has been in existence since the 1970s, initiated by the large amount of US clothing and general Americana memorabilia imported for the expats based there (hence the name). It has been referred to as the ‘Harajuku’ of Kyoto due to the large alternative scene based here, where fashionable teenagers flock to in order to show off their latest outfits. Signs outside various stores advertise ‘Gothic Lolita Fashion’.

‘What is Gothic Lolita Fashion’, you may be wondering? Well, it is a particular style which basically involves wearing the frilliest, girliest dresses you can possible think of. And in predominantly black. Think Gothic Japanese Little Bo Peep or Little Red Riding Hood. Lace, bows, frills and more frills, this is clothing originating from the Victorian Era, but with an cooler edge to it. There is nothing seedy about it, the look originated from women simply not wanting feel like they have to wear skimpy clothes in order to attract the opposite sex. And because it’s fun to wear. The clothing is very modest (petticoats are essential garb) and most of the girls wearing look like they’ve escaped from a Disney Film. 

Lolita Goth: Japanese Street Style. Image from Pinterest (Bethany Hoffman)

Osaka is also home to a very large number of 1970s era vintage fashion shops, a great selection of bars and restaurants and what looks like a thriving music scene (I was only there for a day trip but saw lots of advertisements scattered around the shops).

So, back to the purpose of this article; the Alice On Wednesday concept store. I was wandering past a queue of excited teenagers being policed by an elderly, rather angry looking security guard. Two english speaking tourists asked if I wanted their spare tickets for the 2pm time slot to join said queue. 

Here marks the start of the queue.

 

‘Sure, Ok!’ (I was feeling spontaneous)

(Thought a minute) ‘Er…so what is the ticket for exactly?’

‘It’s an Alice in Wonderland concept store. We read about it on the internet, they’re supposed to be the new thing.’

‘Ah, Ok. Thanks!’

I was still none the wiser to what a concept store was exactly, so I decided out of curiosity to return to the queue at 2pm and see what was at the front of it. Because when has there not been anything worth seeing at the front of a long queue? Unless your waiting for a bus. Or buying stamps. Or going to the bank. OK, maybe there are exceptions to this statement. Nonetheless I was joining that queue.

So after buying a large quantity of slogan T-shirts, knocking over several precariously balanced bicycles outside of a cafe (they weren’t looking where I was walking!) and a rather delicious meal in a Spanish themed noodle bar ( I don’t get it either) I headed back to The Queue to see what the fuss was about.

The security man had since become more bad tempered, was shouting in Japanese and waiving some tickets for later time slots (the earliest was 6pm). I took a closer look at the entrance to the store. ‘Alice on Wednesday’ has three fairytale-esque potential entrances and excited teenagers appeared to exiting the smallest door (about 4 foot in height) in dribs and drabs. They must be the 1.30pm time slot. I took my spot at the back of queue of about 10 excited teenagers taking selfies.  

The Entrance (and exit) of Alice On Wednesday

 

‘Do you speak English?’ An Australian tourist has sheepishly approached me in the queue.

‘Yes’.

‘What’s at the front of this queue?’

‘I don’t know’.

More youngsters leave the store laden with large themed shopping bags and I eventually get to the front of the The Queue. My time to enter the Wonderland has finally come…

The small, modest entrance immediately opens up into ‘The Red Queen’s Room’ which is a gothic themed room painted bright red with a black and white chequered floor. A ceiling adorned with glistening chandeliers, floor to ceiling mirrors and a long dining table which stretches from one end of the room to the other. Floor to ceiling antique bookcases line the walls. And located in every possible nook, cranny and crevice is gifts and memorabilia associated with The Lewis Carol story. Watches, hair slides, necklaces, cushions, playing cards, you name it’s here. An everything in here has a sparkly, almost magical appearance (it must be the lighting); all of it screams ‘Buy Me’. And buy they do; another large queue of teenagers starts form at the checkout. 

The Red Queen’s Room in Alice on Wednesday

 

Moving on into the second from ‘The White Queen’s Room’ is bulging at the seams with sweets and random themed food items for sale. Giant lolly pops, jars of wonderful looking sweets and glass bottles containing mysterious concoctions with ‘Drink Me’ labels on the front. My personal favourites were the themed ‘recipe boxes’ which contained ingredients to make a small selection of meals.

Emblazoned on the front of one of them was the following: ‘Alice made this Thai Green Curry for the White Rabbit. Do you want to try?’

A stretch too far? Certainly. Did I want to buy and try that curry? Of course I did!

Alice On Wednesday: A new, rather unique concept in shopping. 

To find out more visit http://www.aliceonwednesday.jp

 

 

 

 

 

Cats on Sushi! Tokyo Rose Part 1: The Weird and Wonderful World of Japanese Toy Vending Machines

Well A BIG HELLO To Everyone! And a special hello to the patient individuals who are still following my blog after all this time! It’s been a while. Unfortunately I was cursed with a massive writers block that I felt could only be remedied by a bit of a break and a few holidays here and there. So I went and booked myself on a trip to Japan, didn’t I?! It’s been on my bucket list for years so carpe diem and all that, I just booked it over Christmas and set off last month for a rather fast paced tour of this fascinating country… 

‘Japan Express’ is a 9 day group trip you can book through Intrepid Travel and I added a few days before and a week after to do some solo travelling (including my first hostel experience at the age of 31!). In 9 days you can sample the key highlights of Japan; starting at the mad metropolis that is Tokyo, heading north to beautiful Nikko, then finally taking the bullet train across to Kyoto to be bathed in culture and Japanese tradition. 

So this morning, with it being Good Friday over in the UK, I was till sat in my dressing gown at 11am (don’t judge me!) and suddently became inspired to update my blog. Not in detail about my holiday (I think my friends are going to start avoiding me soon if I keep up with that!), but because I felt the need to share with you one of the weirdest yet coolest things I saw when I was out there. No it wasn’t the Golden Pavillion. Nor was it the Geisha Girls. Or even the Sushi. Yet, it’s stayed with me and become one of my new obesssions. 

Gashapon. Yes, Gashapon. Japanese Toy Vending machines to you and I. Please bear with me a moment whilst I elaborate further. Now, who remembers from their childhoods those machines you put small change into and they spurted out a rubbish toy? Well in Japan, they have become a rather incredible thing, a National Obsession. The toys themselves aren’t rubbish, they’re not only rather well made but deeply, deeply funny. Hundreds of these machines can be found everywhere, each containing a series of bizarre collectable yet deeply unnecessary objects that you feel compelled to possess. They don’t make any sense, but by the end of my trip I found myself piling Japanese yen into these magical machines and bartering with locals to swap duplicate toys with me. Here’s how they work: you simply put your coins in the machines, twist the wheel untill a little egg pops out containing a random toy from the collection stipulated on the front of the machine. 

 

It’s the End of the World and Nothing but Gashapon have survived.

 

It’s had to put into words the level of weirdness I saw being marketed as collectable items. The mere existance confirmed that the Japanese have a wicked sense of humour, possibly better than us Brits! Some are collectable figurines from Anime or Manga so fans of these would be in seventh heaven. But I wasn’t interested in those. I was interested in the random, the disturbing and the hilarious. So Part One of my ‘Tokyo Rose’ Blog will bring to you today’s Top 5 Weird Gashapon Toys of Japan. 

So let’s kick off with what started this voyage of discovery with Cats on Sushi. Yes, Cats, that look a bit upset, on Sushi. A series of five collectable figures at only 400 Japanese Yen each (about £2 UK pounds). 

 

Cats. On Sushi.

 Next comes Dogs…In Bread! A series of collectable dogs, trapped against their will in different types of baked goods. Only 200 Japanese Yen. 

Dogs. Trapped in Bread.

Fancy a romantic night in with your Smartphone? Then indulge it with it’s very own velour dressing gown, complete with hood. Only 300 yen. Crack open the bubbly and get prepare to indulge!  Let’s not make this any weirder than it already is. 

A Dressing Gown. For Your Smartphone.

Next up: don’t you just find it utterly adorable when a dog llifts it’s leg to relieve itself? Well, now someone has captured this special moment in a series of collectable figures for your viewing pleasure!  

Dogs. Having A Wee.

Ever wanted to see what historical statues would look like without their nostrils. Then you’re in luck, for only 200 Japanese yen you can possess your own unique take on history.  

Statues. Without Nostrils.

Speechless? I know the feeling. But the more I saw them, the more I wanted to possess them all! My suitcase ws bulging with these little eggs of joy on my way back home.  

That’s  all for now, mainly because I’m hungry now. But please like and share if you’ve enjoyed my post, if not for me then for the Cats On Sushi, they’ve been through enough.

 

Claire

 

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Parkrun Parkrun Parkrun Fun. Part 2. The Aftermath.

So I’m back, I Parkrunned and most importantly I SURVIVED! This is blog is a few days late, sorry about that. I have no excuse other than I’ve rather got into reading my new book ‘The Miniaturist’ (it is number one on the Sunday Times fiction list don’t you know!)

So I arrived in plenty of time Saturday morning (after my 6.30am start) at Albert Park, Middlesbrough. This is my favourite Parkrun. This is because it’s always bustling and it’s a good flat course (I don’t do hills). 

It was an icy morning, a slippery path. This is not a good sign. I’m nervous. I don’t even know why I’m nervous!

I see some of my friends and say hello. Everyone is smiling and chatty. I start to relax. Despite the icy paths, the sun is shining bright and orange in my eyes. A group of us decide to ‘plank’ for an impromptu Facebook photo (I’m in a plank challenge group. We plank every day. I cannot explain why we do this except it’s been going on for a year now and it’s no showing any signs of ending). 

We love planking. I’m on the left.

 They (the Parkrun volunteers) make the weekly announcements. One of my friends has completed 100 ParkRuns! That’s pretty much 100% ParkRun attendance for 2 years! An unbelievable effort. My tally currently stands at 14, but I’m aiming this year for 50.

We then line up, everyone is still chatting away. I run into few people I’ve not seen in a while. They then blow a horn and we all set off. I’m still talking until I get out of breath and concentrate on running instead. I decide on a new strategy today; no listening to music until the last lap so I can concentrate on my breathing. I tend to get really out of breath then have to stop and walk for a bit so this should hopefully put a stop to that. My strategy works! I don’t stop once.

For the last mile, I manage to catch up my friends boyfriend,

Me: ‘Sorry If I don’t talk to you!’

Paul: ‘OK!’ 

Me during the Parkrun. I’m on the right.

 I manage a sprint finish then do my customary collapse at the finish. I DID IT! I’m buzzing afterwards and want to talk to everyone. I cheer on the remaining finishers and log my time. We go for a cup of tea and stay for a long chat afterwards with a few of my friends. We conclude, as per usual that it was worth going and we really enjoyed it. 

So there you have it. To conclude, Parkrun is fun. There is talking, more talking, a bit of a run then a cup of tea with some more talking. What more could you want! And you always feel better afterwards, no matter how nervous or grumpy you feel before it starts. Compare this post with Parkrun Part 1 to see the difference! And this is exactly why every Saturday morning up and down the UK, thousands of people get up early and trudge down to their local park.

Why don’t you visit http://www.parkrun.com and see if there is one in your local area, they are all over the world! Some of my friends have even attended when on holiday in the US. 

Please like and share if you care ūüôā or why don’t you post of comment if you find and/or attend a Parkrun near where you live?

Claire

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Parkrun Parkrun Parkrun Fun. Part 1.

Well Good Morning observers and purveyors of Blogs!

So this morning begins the start of my ParkRun 50 Challenge: my (most likely fruitless) attempt to get 50 ParkRuns under my belt. Because you get a free T shirt! 

For those who don’t know what ParkRun is, it’s a global event where at a designated day and time every week (normally 9am in the UK on a Saturday) a free timed 5km run is held at a local park. You simply register at the ParkRun website, download your personalised barcode to record your time and you get your result texted or emailed to you afterwards. 

Parkrun Logo

 It’s a brilliantly simple concept and they are a something of a phenomenon in that they have got masses of people interested in running. Every Saturday on Facebook dozens of my friends post our favourite ParkRun in-joke at approximately 8.15am:

‘DON’T FORGET YOUR BARCODE!!!’ 

Don’t Forget Your Barcode!!!!

 This is because if you do, there’s no time for you.

BEFORE RUN:

So I thought I’d try to capture ‘a morning in the life of a reluctant parkrunner’ because although I enjoy doing them, I only enjoy them retrospectively. Which means that right now I’m not particularly happy about it.

I’ve been up since 6.30am in order to feel less ill running at 9am in the morning, because I’m the world’s worst morning person. I will literally be dragging myself around the course this morning and will be muttering expletives under my breath as I do it.

‘Why put yourself through this?!’ you might be asking.

Well, the thing with ParkRuns is that they are rather competitive. If you aren’t competing with other runners on the course, you are competing with your previous personal best time. Mine is 26.25, last achieved early 2014 and I’ve got progressively slower since then. I am DETERMINED however to beat this time before the end of March this year. 

So, I’ve been training in order to get faster and today is almost an early gauge to whether I’m getting back to my former glory days. 

I’m already had my staple running breakfast (Weetabix with a banana) and a massive cup of tea to give me the caffeine kick needed to get round without crying/collapsing. 

Massive Cup of Tea

 8am: I still feel sick. I need another cup of tea. It’s cold out there. 

See you on the other side…(will report back afterwards for part 2).

Coming soon…where did I run?! Did I survive?! Did I beat my time?! WHO KNOWS!!!!

I’m going to tell you want you want to hear today. Possibly.

Dear Dream Reader,

Yes you. You with the curious glazed expression on your face. I bet you’ve skim read a lot of posts on here haven’t you? I know I have. Some have some rather delightful pictures of cats in them. Some claim to be ‘fashion bloggers’ yet have not dressed appropriately for the role in question (I try not to judge). 

But now you’re thinking I’ve been too arrogant in my assumptions about you. Perhaps you happen to quite like the way those ladies dress. You’re not a ‘cat person’. I’ve got this all wrong haven’t I?!…

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!!! I can change! 

Still not convinced? Here….take a look at my progress – look at that positive correlation!:

Graph 1 showing rate of blog improvement since Q4 2014

Agreed, there were some awkward times to being with. A few posts that should have never happened. But as you can see from the graph above, things can only get better…

‘Meh’ has is fast become ‘A-Meh-zing’! ‘Please stop’ has become ‘Please NEVER stop writing, I  simply cannot wait for another post!’ ‘Mediocre’ has become er, ‘Ocre!’ 

I really reeeeaaaalllly hope I have convinced you give me another chance. If not, I’ve heard there are some excellent cat photos on here ūüėČ

Claire

 

x

 

PS Like and Share if You Care ūüôā

 

 

Budgeting Special: Read Your January Bank Statement – Without the Tears!

 

So here we are! Yes another year, one whole year after 2014, only ten to go until 2025. Crazy times.

Traditionally, one uses the month of January to write about defining new goals, losing some weight or even a fresh start or three. But there is something a tad more pressing some of us need to address¬†come January. My credit card statement has just arrived through the letterbox. Ahhh, the post Christmas¬†spend. This is a terrifying moment. It’s too scary to look at it. Yet one needs to look at it in order to¬†evaluate¬†the degee¬†of damage. Surely, surely there must be a way in which one can look at it without having to erm, actually look at. Hang on…what if I was to use a combination of my scientific expertise¬†and procrastination from the inevitable to propose a viable solution to this conundrum?!…

Claire’s Top Tips for Reading Your Bank Statement in Janaury

1. From a Great Height

Simply place your bank statement on the floor and find something high up to stand on, a chair perhaps or even a stepladder. Success! You’ve read your statement but it’s VERY VERY small to the naked eye!

That should just about do it!

2. Do. Not. Look. Directly. At. It.

Use some pins to fix your statement to a wall or noticeboard and with the help of a handheld mirror, angle the mirror to read those transactional statements with minimal repercussions!

Yep. There it is.

3. Give it to your Parents

Plan to ‘accidently’ leave it on the table when your parents next come to visit. If it all looks ‘above board’, you won’t here¬†a peep about it, you may even get a ‘Congratulations on that 0% balance transfer!’. If you’re in financial dire straights however, there is a strong chance that you WILL get a head shake, possibly a lecture. Your Mum may even be ‘dissappointed¬†in you’. Manage to shed a few tears however, and you may, just may get some sympathy and perhaps even a loan from the bank of Mum and Dad! WARNING: Do not leave the statement out if you’ve bought something ridiculously extravagent like a speedboat.

A Speedboat?!

4.  Run past it

Ask a friend to hold the statement upright take 5 paces in the opposite direction and then…run past it! You saw it, but it all happenned so fast!

What statement?!

 

Try my Top Tips and I guarantee you at least a few months of blissful ignorance about your financial situation!

Happy 2015 to all my followers, please like and share to spread the joy ūüôā

Claire

x

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Back to Work Already?! Don’t Despair! Top Tips for Surviving the Workplace over the Festive Period

 

Did you leave the house this morning under the cover of darkness, scrape an inch thick layer of ice from your car (last used on or around the 19th December) and begin that trudge to work on desperately quiet roads?

Last seen December 19th 2014

Did you see a warm glow emitting from the houses of your neighbours, inside blissfully unaware of your imminent commute and probably not yet even surfacing from under their duvets? Did you attempt to head to the shops for a quick lunch but had to turn back as you were overrun with smug shoppers, still on their holidays with days to kill and wandering at a snail’s pace around Marks & Spencers?

But I only wanted to pop out for a quick sandwich!

Then A Big Welcome to you my friends! You are in good company. Read on and I will attempt to get you through this difficult period of the year, using a powerful combination of bitter experience and some rather amateur attempts at positive mentality. 

Yes, this is my top tips for Working Over Christmas or a being a WOC (apologies for rubbish acronym but I couldn’t help myself being back in the workplace an’ all) from a WOC Veteran of 3 years (and counting…)

1. Ease yourself back in to your pre-Christmas food regime 

Now, just because you’re back in ‘work mode’ with respect to attendance and actually having to do work, this does not mean you can’t reward yourself with the odd indulgent snack throughout the day to take the edge off the post holiday blues. It’s still far too early to be starting any New Years Heath Kicks. Save that for when ‘the others’ have come back. Treat yourself to a giant pastry (like me this morning) or even a mince pie (erm, also me) and at least your digestive system can still feel like it’s still on holiday.

It’s Still Christmas – Leave me Alone!

2. Snack Attack!

You know the tonne of snacks and general Christmas treats everyone brought in just before they left for the holidays? They’re still here. And guess what? No one is going to want to touch them when they get back after they’ve had a fortnight of chocolate selection boxes and cakes. Do them a favour and remove the temptation before they get back and complain about them.

THIS can wait until January

3. Ever Chaired a Meeting but never been senior enough to do so? Now’s your chance!

Now, since nobody is around, use the opportunity to make some important decisions around here. You have the rare opportunity to simultaniously be the Chair, minute taker AND core attendee of your very own meeting! Now don’t let the power go to your head!…

Be the envy of your colleagues and have Albert Einstein at one of YOUR meetings!

4. Perfect that ‘post holiday’ conversation

You know the one…

‘Did you have a good Christmas?’

‘Yeah, it was good thanks, what about you?’

‘Yeah really enjoyed it thanks, it was a bit quiet but it was nice to have a break’ etc etc BLAH BLAH BLAH

Use the additional week to your advantge and enchance that post Christmas exchange of words. Rehearse some Christmas holiday stories that will astound, entertain and perhaps even concern your colleagues. If you’re short of ideas, simply steal a plot from a recent soap opera storyline and (as long as your colleague doesn’t actually watch said soap) have fun watching your colleagues awkward reponse.

Take two…

‘Do you have a good Christmas?’

‘No, not really actually.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, this might sound a bit far fetched, but I found out on Christmas Day that my sister is actully my Mother.’ (REMEMBER TO KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE AT THIS POINT)

‘Oh right…um, I don’t know what to say’. And from this moment henceforth, no one else will dare to ask you how your Christmas holiday was. (You’re Welcome WOCs!)

5. Last but not least, the quiet…oh the peace and quiet

This week, my office is down from 30 to erm, 3. And this means the office is practically deserted. No, I’m not suggesting doing anything untoward here, because after all you have professional standards to maintain. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce just a leeeetle bit of fun to break up the long days of loneliness. For example, haven’t you always wanted to sing Celine Dion ‘My Heart Will Go On’ at the top of your voice in the open plan office, or wear a Mullet wig and feather boa whilst sat working at your desk. For no other reason than you can. And it would be mildly amusing.

Coming to an open plan office near you

Now my fellow WOCs, if you have managed to get this far in this article, I’d love to hear from you in my comments section…what silly thing have you introduced to bring a teeny tiny of joy to your working day whilst everyone is still shoving down the last remnants of the turkey and watching the third repeat of the Miranda Christmas special on the TV. The Fools. 

I hope this article helps get you though this difficult period. And please, follow me if you’d like to read more from me. I’m fairly new at this Blogging malarky, so would really appreciate your likes and or ‘feedback’…or what I like to refer to as a sh*it sandwich; a slice of negativity in between two big thick slices of positivity!

And last but not least, I wish you a very Happy 2015!

Stay safe,

A Former London Girl

x

Happy 2015!

 

Chas & Dave Monopoly: The Best Things about Christmas! (Part 1)

You may not think the music of Chas & Dave go hand in hand with a game of Monopoly but rest assured, once you’ve tried it, you will never go back!

For those of you who don’t know who Chas & Dave are, they are a well loved ‘Cockney’ musical duo who have been around since the 70s. They are excellent musicians and have written some brilliant songs. Search for ‘Rabbit’ or ‘Snoopy Loopy’ for their more commercially successful hits. My personal favourite is ‘There ain’t No Pleasing You’. They’ve had a recent resurgence in popularity and were seen performing at the Royal Variety Performance.

Chas and Dave meeting Prince Charles at the 2013 Royal Variety Performance

For me and my family, they have been a continuous presence throughout my childhood and listening to them always reminds me of home.

Following Christmas dinner, it is our annual tradition to put on a bit of Chas & Dave whilst we compete, and we masterfully combine game banter with impromptu cockney singalongs:

‘Right, I’ve landed on Trafalger Square, can I buy it and collect my £200 for passing go?’

‘OHHHH, YOU WON’T STOP TALKING, WHY DON’T YOU GIVE IT A REST?!’

‘Claire’s only volunteers to be banker so she can cheat!’

GERTCHA!’

This year was the first year my brother’s girlfriend joined us for Christmas dinner. I do wonder what she thought of my family randomly bursting into song like drunk football supporters! We’ll soon know by whether she’ll accept our invite next year…

A word of warning however, don’t go near the Chas & Dave ‘Christmas Carol album’ Their versions of famous Christmas carols such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ are a bit painful to listen to.

The Christmas Carol Album: Avoid Avoid Avoid

 Slap on a greatest hits album however, and I guarentee a fun-filled traditional Cockney sing-a-long! (Pearly King and Queen costumes optional). 

A Good Chas and Dave Album: complete with Songbook!

 In my next excerpt, I will cover the culinary delight that is prawn cocktail and grown up sibling rivalry…another two unique aspects of Christmas with my family!

Happy Holidays!

Mary Christmas

A Traditional Cockney Singalong at Christmas: Pearly King/Queen Costumes Optional

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas World of Pain: The Loftus Poultry Run

Something you should probably know about me is I do a LOT of running. I started a few years ago, not for your usual weight loss reasons, but to improve my mood. After a difficult start, it ended up having a phenomenally positive effect on my life and significantly reduced my stress levels. If I’m in a bad mood, I’ll decide to go for a run thus completely forgetting what I was in a bad mood about in the first place!

The thing about runners however that can really irritate non runners is that they can become quite evangelical about running. Google ‘inspiration running quotes’ and you will see what I mean. I’ve selected a few here for your viewing pleasure (or annoyance depending on how inactive you have been of late!):

If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will

Here’s my personal favourite for when I’m having a ‘slow’ day:

Remember folks: It’s the taking part that counts!

So when my friend Sharon suggested I sign up for the Loftus Poultry run just before Christmas because it would be ‘fun’, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. You see, I sign up for races probably every few weeks as they always have a really good atmosphere and having something to aim for keeps you motivated to keep training.

And I knew at this one there would be Christmas fancy dress.

You will see from my previous running post that there are some ‘unusual’ costumes which can appear at these events. Jesus was my personal favourite this year. Other than the Santa hat worn at my previous race, I haven’t worn a costume as such for a race before so thought I’d give it a go; it is Christmas after all! So ‘Mary Christmas’ was born. I customised my existing lady santa costume with the following:

1. Present bows

2. Christmas Gift Tags

3. Plastic cake decorations that I’d found in a cake tin 5 minutes before I set off which I’d sewn into the skirt, my personal favourites were Mr Reindeer and Mr Robin.

My_Hastily_Improvised_Christmas_Costume.JPG
My Hastily Improvised Christmas Costume

I drove to pick up Sharon from the main road and found her stood in full Santa costume complete with beard. We got some funny looks on the drive there!

Loftus Poultry run (http://www.poultryrun.info) has been going for over 30 years now and attracts both serious and comedy runners purely out to enjoy the day. On this occasion, I was in the latter category. The race has got it’s name because the main prizes consist of Poultry from a local butcher; when I arrived I saw a series of chickens and turkeys being loaded onto the a table for afterwards (don’t worry, they’re already dead!).

Me and Sharon before setting off for the 8 mile Poultry Run

So after having a quick catch up with my running friends (we are rather a sociable bunch!) we all set off from Loftus leisure centre for the 8 mile mainly uphill slog which is a loop around the surrounding villages. It was a very tough race. I spent the first two miles trying to keep pace with a man who was playing Christmas music from his phone (it can be surprisingly motivating!) and was keeping up with the main crowd until about mile 5. The I hit massive wall. Thoughts going through my mind consisted of:

‘Why is it so windy?!’

‘Where has everyone gone?!’

‘This is NOT fun!’

‘I wonder if I’ll win best costume?’

On this occasion (and this happens some times in races) I just lost all motivation to continue and just started walking. This is highly unusual for me, but I always refer to the quotation below in rare circumstances such as this:

I kept this mind whilst the wind of the North Yorkshire moors smacked me directly in the face

Towards the end as I ran through the housing estate behind the leisure centre, some little girls were stood on the window sill in their bedroom and were cheering me on to finish and shouted ‘Merry Christmas!’. It’s moments like this that keep you going to the finish and I was spurred on to start running again (albeit slowly).

‘Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas!’ Shouted the crowds as I did a last sprint towards the finish line.

‘Never AGAIN!’ I said through gritted teeth to Sharon as I ran through it.

As always however, once I’d had my post race cup of tea, I was feeling rather euphoric and very quickly changed my mind about the whole experience,

‘Now I know what to expect from the course, I’ll definitely do it again next year!’

I didn’t win best costume in the end; there wasn’t a best costume prize but were instead giving bottles of wine away to those who finished in fancy dress. They’d run out of wine by the time I showed up!

Isn’t that reason enough to go back next year?

Merry Christmas from Mary Christmas!

x

Fluency & Familiarity

This is a great article, made me remember the reason we need to remember think about our audience when communicating ANYTHING! People always tend to see doing this as a hindrance because of the additional thought it entails but if people cannot understand what you’re telling them you may as well not have bothered in the first place!

Gareth Roberts

Studies show we like things that are easy to think about and dislike things that are hard to think about.

You see it all the time.

Complex sentences filled with obscure words and phrases which we have no idea of their meaning.

Topics glorified with the aim of dazzling those communicated to.

But, why?

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in 1950 during the Korean War.

North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, fought against South Korea with the support of the British and US.

These US troops were stationed at the Chosin Reservoir.

But they weren’t alone.

15,000 US troops were surrounded by 120,000 South Korean and Chinese troops, advancing on their position.

Stranded, they were in trouble.

Temperatures fell to -25 degrees at night as the winter conditions became apparent.

And to make matters worse, the mortar sections of the US Marine Corps…

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