Thursday, 21 September 2017

It's Okay Not To Be Okay!

I recently did some training at work that challenged me in unexpected ways.

Firstly, there was no agenda, so I had no idea what I was turning up to, challenge number one. I had heard rumblings but intentionally ignored them and went with a open mind.

Having completed the two day training and having a chance to reflect I am still unsure on what I got from the training. There were a few valuable exercises but nothing new and frustratingly the exercises lacked real work life application. We talked a lot but whenever we asked how this would translate to a work situation the question was avoided. Challenge number two.

However the main reason I found the training challenging was that day 1 was all about self. I get mindfulness and getting in tune with your breathing - which was how we started the day. But then it took a turn, we had to focus on our personal goals for the next year, 5 years and 10 years. When I say it took a turn, what I mean is we had to think about these goals and then share them with our colleagues. That's quite the turn!


Here's the thing: I talk to Laura about our future plans, I talk to friends and family BUT I do not welcome the opportunity to talk to colleagues. Especially colleagues who I barely know and in some cases I'm senior to. I think I would have preferred talking to strangers.

These colleagues then became people we were accountable to, people who would know if we succeeded or failed. People who we were giving permission to check up on us in future. It was awful.

My goals are no big secret but if I fail I wish to do so privately. I don't want random colleagues feeding back on my personal success.

It wasn't just me who was uncomfortable. Imagine if someone had just broken up with a long term partner - their goal would be to find happiness and get through the next few months, not think of the next 5 years! How can you do that when you don't know what the next 5 months look like?! I didn't like that people were put in that position.

For me it brought up the fragility of life, when health - yours and others - is out of your control. Looking 5 years ahead could mean looking forward to a time without someone - why would you do that?! That kind of thinking does not work for me. In fact, it upsets me. I can have a rough plan but I don't wish to visualise it or pin all my hopes and dreams on it, I'd rather enjoy the 'now' and focus on the immediate future.

How does someone who has lost a loved one and is dealing with that, look ahead and plan for a future when they haven't finished grieving?! I feel like some pre-training due diligence could have prevented the facilitator opening up uncomfortable situations for some including me.

Outside of the big picture, heavier stuff, there were also a lot of people who had goals to give up work - this was a work training session and here I was helping guide someone to a future without work. I was confused. How was this valuable?!

Not only that, but throughout the training we had to take a number of moments to acknowledge our breathing and enjoy being present - I get that. It's something Laura and I actively work on - being present. Then we had to be grateful that 'everything in the here and now is great' - I didn't necessarily agree with that! Maybe it was the cynic in me but the more times the facilitator stopped us to say that the less great I got. The first time I was like 'actually I'm not great, I'm super stressed and owe one of the people in my team some info and I know not getting back to them is putting them in an awkward position'. It changed throughout the day to 'right now I could be clearing my inbox and making sure I am ready for the weekend', whatever the thoughts they were far from 'right now, everything is great'.

The best part of the two days was the debrief after the first day with a colleague I would put in the 'do want to get to know / friend' category. We got a drink and sat and enjoyed the view. We shared our thoughts on the day and decided that our main lesson was to give ourselves more time and space to think. Not to plan just to clear our thoughts. There is something about the sea and the beach that makes you feel so small and insignificant and some times that's nice.  It makes you think without forcing you to write goals. It almost forces you to be present and acknowledge your feelings and accept that sometimes it's okay not to be okay.


In fact just like the waves kiss the shore it puts in perspective that you know that putting one foot in front of the other you'll move. Just by breathing you can make it to the next hour. We read Byron poetry and relaxed. I hadn't taken the opportunity to do that in weeks and it felt good.

This was my favourite verse from The Sea by Lord Byron:
THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
  There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
  There is society where none intrudes
  By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
  I love not man the less, but nature more,       
  From these our interviews, in which I steal
  From all I may be, or have been before,
  To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

You can find the whole poem here.

It also made me reflect. We have spoken in this blog previously about how I can be a bit of a dream killer when it comes to Laura and a bit too much of a realist, but here's the thing, looking back my life has been infinitely happier because it is free from expectation. 

If I look back 5 years - and I can on this blog - I have done more, seen more, been to more places, experienced more than any dream could have predicted. I married someone better than I could have ever dreamed of marrying and do a job I enjoy more than I could have ever hoped. When Laura and I met in London we would have never have even thought about Birmingham let alone thought we would have moved here. 

Now I'm not saying that you should have no expectations on anything or anyone, what I'm saying is don't limit yourself with expectations. Don't set goals and refuse to deviate. What's that phrase - life happens when you're busy planning for it or something. Sometimes when you're not okay it's fine to screw up the plans and make new ones. Sometimes it's okay to change the plans and sometimes it's okay to not have plans at all. Just take life as it comes and make the goal to survive and when possible, thrive. 

Okay so the post took the turn of a rambling, but I was reminded by Australia's R U OK? day on the 14th September that the reality is that not everyone is okay all of the time - and that really is okay.





Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Wedding Gift - Does and Don'ts!

We've been meaning to get around to this post for a while as Wedding Gifts are something we are in the process of considering as we have a couple of weddings coming up later this year.

You may remember earlier this year I wrote a plea from a wedding guest post covering some simple requests for any future weddings we attend.

However once we are committed to attending a wedding the next thing to sort out, after outfits and dog care, is the gift. Now it may just be us but a recent trend us been for people to request money instead of a gift. The request will follow the line of 'we have a home and everything we need so if you want to give us a gift give us the gift of great holiday'.

We get it. There is no point filling your house with duplicate items if you don't need them BUT the ask for money sits a little uncomfortably with me. Maybe it's because there is a lack of thought from our side when it comes to handing over cash. Maybe it's the fact that the hard earned cash is going towards a holiday we could never afford. Or maybe it's because it feels a little bit cheeky.


When it came to our wedding we explicitly told our traveling guests that the only present we wanted was their presence.

However we did have UK friends and family who were unable to make the journey and asked for a registry list. After much consideration we went with Next with the thought that we could upgrade some of our existing fixtures and furnishings to something more stylish.

When looking at the registry option we played it simple. Nowadays you can set up registry's for just about anything. Check out Zola Registry for example. You can set up gifts, experiences or cash funds all in one place.

Zola also has some useful advice for anyone about to enter the gift giving situation.....
(If you are reading on a mobile device click the image to enlarge)

So there you have it some tips to make the whole situation easier. Hopefully!

We we definitely be taking a few of the tips :)


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

5 Reasons To Visit The Lake District!

This list could be significantly longer but I thought 5 reasons was a good starting point. If you read our 'Here's Why The North Of England Is Awesome' post you will have seen that we headed to the Lake District as part of the northern road trip and loved it.

We stayed in a village called Crook, less than 15 minutes from Kendal and Windermere, super quaint with only 10 or so houses and a pub - all you need right :)

Reason 1: The Lake District is beautiful
Okay so this is no secret. Alongside the highlands, the Peak District and Wales the Lakes are one of the UK's greatest beauties. In 2017 it also became a UNESCO World Heritage site* and is home to England's tallest mountain- Scafell Pike (3209 ft), England's deepest lake - Wast Water and longest lake - Windermere. Fun fact the National Trust owns a quarter of the total area meaning lots of free parking for those with membership!

*World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which has been officially recognized by the United Nations, specifically by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sites are selected on the basis of having cultural, historical, scientific or some other form of significance, and they are legally protected by international treaties. UNESCO regards these sites as being important to the collective interests of humanity.

This website is well worth checking out before visiting the area: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/

You can enjoy boat rides on most of the lakes or steam train rides from various areas. We opted for a self hire boat to admire the views of Windermere. And hour cost us £36 for 4 people.



Reason 2: There are plenty of walks for every ability
And the walks are varied. You could be at Aria Force enjoying water falls (a mile long circular route)


Orrist Head (a 2 mile gentle climb up a path) enjoying stunning views of Windermere


Spending an few hours hiking up and over Cat Bells (6 mile walk with rocky climbs to get up/down the peak.)



If you want to combine waterfalls with a hill climb you can head on past the Aria Force falls and head up Gowbarrow for stunning views of Ullswater. This is more like a 5 mile walk and mainly up hill but the views are breathtaking. There are two ways up, the steeper ascent that takes you up stone steps with amazing views, or the gentler path that has views over the lake.



Reason 3: It's perfect for weekend getaways, mini breaks or long holidays
With the Lake District you have choices. You can pick a destination and stay there to explore - areas we know are great include Windermere, Grasmere and Loweswater. All have great areas to explore, pubs and enough entertainment - even in the rain!

Or you can stay somewhere and explore from there - a car is suggested if that's your plan.

Or you can spend a few days in each place and head to the Northern, Western and Southern lakes. There's so much choice!

If picking a location wasn't hard enough you then have to pick where you plan to stay - tent (you're brave), caravan, camper van, B&B, Airbnb (recommended and covers all types of places), hotel, country inn, cottage and even yurts. There are even glamping options available - check out options here for an idea.


Wherever you stay and whatever you stay in you'll have a great time.

Reason 4: There's plenty of history
Okay not always a sales point but for a history fan like me having the chance to visit two castles in one town (Kendal) was a treat. Not only that but the town has history boards telling the stories of bygone years - there is even a 1800's home for old, poor widows that has a charity box built into the wall. The boards bring the town to life 100's of years ago.


If castles aren't your thing there is always a visit to Beatrix Potter's house near Swarey (it's National Trust owned) or the World of Beatrix Potter in Windermere that takes you into a world of her famous characters - Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkles, Jemima Puddle-Duck and more.

Or you can check out all the old pubs and inns....more on them later!

Reason 5: Every town and village has a pub
This has to be a plus right?! I mean Laura and I are not big drinkers but there is something so satisfying about sitting in a cosy pub with a pint (usually fruit cider or fruit juice in our case) after a long walk. We found a pub that had been in the same location since the 1500's - called Kirkstone Pass Inn. It's located at the top of a road called 'The Struggle' where a lot of cyclist test their strength against the winding hill. The pub at the top is a just reward. In our case it was our reward after our Gowbarrow hike. The pub itself has outdoor space where you can sit and enjoying the views.


Another great find was The Swinside Inn, which was in.Newlands Valley and a short drive from where we finished our Cat Bells walk. On arrival we were greeted with a cosy bench and menu with mouth watering food. The portion sizes were generous and the veg was fresh from the garden. It may have been that fact that we walked 7 miles and it was almost 8pm but that meal was SO SO good! I had a chicken and leek pie, Laura had pulled pork with sweet potato mash and Laura's parents had steak pie. There were clean plates in no time at all and even Bisbee benefited from some steak chunks as the pie was crammed full.

Our favourite discovery was the pub in Crook though, The Sun Inn. Our Airbnb guest book was full of comments saying 'try the pub - the food is delicious'. We decided to have Sunday lunch there before heading home. Super convenient as we checked out of Airbnb, packed the car and then walked the 2 mins to the pub. At 12pm it was already starting to fill up - it turns out we aren't the only ones who know about it.


The roasts were indeed delicious. The cheesy leaks were an exceptional accompaniment but it was the fact we got two types of potatoes that won it for me. I had the trio of meat (lamb, pork and beef) while Laura and her Mum opted for lamb and her Dad went for beef. If the main meal wasn't enough we actually had three courses. Starter was fishcakes for 3 of us and soup for the other - all were delicious. Desserts were a vanilla cheesecake for me - so good! Rhubarb and apple crumble for Laura and her Dad and Apple Pie for her Mum. Testament to the dessert we finished them all!

One thing is for sure, we will definitely be back to explore more!


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Australia: The Vote Is On!

A few weeks ago we posted about the vote on Same Sex marriage in Australia. At the time that post was published there were challenges in the high court to try to throw out the vote. They failed and today (the 12th of September) is the first day forms will be sent out to those registered to vote.

The first post with 5 things you need to know about the vote can be found here.

The postal survey will have one question 'Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?'

That's it. A simple yes or no answer.

Now the UK may be a long way from Australia but there are more than a few reasons why this vote means something to us. To start Laura is half Australian, should we ever want to live in Australia or for me to get an Australian passport the law needs to change to recognise our relationship.

It is a civil right.

No-one should be able to vote on the legitimacy of an adult, consenting relationship. It's not fair. Love is love.

Australia is well behind the curve, for a country built on hard work, freedom and a desire to create a society for all the fact that equal marriage isn't already a law is shocking.

This ballot is ultimately a power play by the Prime Minister - this vote holds no binding in parliament meaning the outcome of the vote may not change anything! That's right the vote could show a massive support from those voting and gay people will still be unable to get married.
Okay so moving on, if you are in Australia 'Come Out For LGBT' friends and family. For those you know and those you don't. Be a part of a better future!


'Vote Yes' - your vote counts. Just as other countries have fought this battle we have seen that not voting is a win for the detractors. You have to make yourself heard and the best way to do that is to vote yes and make sure everyone else does. You can't leave this to chance.



Tonight I stood in a tent on the South Bank of the Thames in London watching Briefs an all-male boylesque circus act from Austrlia. We were invited as the show was to be followed by a rally to show support for Australia's equal marriage vote.


The Brief's spun, soared, stripped, danced and partied the evening away. You can see full show details here on the Udderbelly website. The audience was predominantly gay and as the compere shared how important it was to embrace diversity and differences the cheers and applause filled the tent.


The night ended with a photo shoot with the boys and supporters who had joined. The Briefs wanted to send a message of support to Australia and all the gay Australian's in London.

Thomas (2nd from the left in the pic above) shared his story:
Aerialist, contortionist and Briefs performer, Thomas Worrell who, as the law stands, is unable to marry his long-term partner in Australia says“Being in a same sex relationship, engaged and unable to marry while the entire country debates my rights is a complicated and difficult situation. To add to that being on the other side of the world and feeling removed from it all is even more challenging. That's why in true Briefs style we are going to make noise, even if we're on the other side of the globe. There are so many Australians living or travelling around the world who want their voices to be heard in this matter. Many Australian same sex couples have been forced to marry overseas but won't have their marriage recognised when they return home, and some just haven’t gone back. This is a chance for Australians living in London and others who believe marriage is the equal right of all to come together and celebrate life and just take a moment to acknowledge that while we aren't at home, we are still connected, still responsible and still have a voice. A way to come together and celebrate equal love.” 



d supporters who had joined. The Briefs wanted to send a message of support to Australia and all the gay Australian's in London.


Lets also hope that Australia sees sense and that the 'No' campaigners don't get the opportunity to spread their homophobic rhetoric that always appears when equal rights are being discussed.