Monday, 28 March 2016

A Weekend of Firsts

 This Easter weekend I did a couple of things for the first time, they were both big in my eyes but both for different reasons. As part of my “walk myself happy” campaign I went to Wales with a friend to have little, yes you guest it, walk. It turned into a mini adventure and we ended up walking just over 35km! We picked a part of Offa’s Dyke as our  walk, started at 6.30ish and had a super pleasant drive in the sun. The weather gods decided they were gonna smile on us all day and we had sun for 90% of the time.

Offa’s Dyke is a manmade earthwork that sort of follows the English-Welsh border. It is named after a Mercia kind called Offa who historians believe is the one that ordered it to be build in the 8th century. Offa’s Dyke path is a 177 mile trail that goes from the bay of Liverpool to the Severn estuary. It traverses through diverse terrain and countryside. If you are interested in walking any part of the Dyke or want to explore other parts and activities in Wales the Visit Wales website has great maps and detailed suggestions depending on the length and difficulty of the walk or type of activity that you are looking for. We picked Pandy to Hey-on-Wey - an 18 mile straight line walk - as our treck for the day as it goes along the ridge of Hatterrall hill as it afforded great views and gave us some steep climbing to do. Getting up the hill to the Dyke is a challenge, if like me you are unfit, so I have to say thank you to my walking buddy for the patience and slow pace. Once on top of the ridge however all the aching, panting and thunderous heartbeating is quickly forgotten as you get swallowed by the immense landscape.

We had a patchwork quilt of farmland on our right, a valley on the left and then a second ridge and the black mountains beyond. I know I wasn’t high up, the highest part of the hill being 530 meters and yet I felt on top of the world. To add to the idyllic picture there were animals everywhere, as the area is shared commons. We walked amongst mostly sheep and ponies, but there was the occasional cow here and there.

The morning went by in a flash under a warm sun, walking past other hikers of all ages, sizes and abilities, each of them smiling and saying a hello. At lunchtime we had some food and decided we should turn back, we had gone a good way by now, it looked like just about 2/3rds of the way to Hay-On-Wey. Instead of going back the way we came however we came down from the ridge into the valley below and smack right into the middle of lambing season! The fields were alive with the sound of baahing and little baby lambs jumping all around. Some were so young they were still unsure on their feet.

As we made our way back east we got to Llanthony Priory, a 12th century Augustinian priory that is partly in ruin, the parts of it still habitable now turned into a hotel/Inn. The site is incredibly beautiful, the arches of the Priory standing dark against the bright green landscape. It is certainly a must see, and a very pleasant spot for a picnic. Therefore, sitting on one of the walls we had our second rest, which by this point, a good 20km in was very needed, for me at least. The sun was beautifully warm and if we didn’t have as long left to go I would have probably stayed there much longer.

We didn’t have a particular route that we were following at this point so we strayed a little, and Google maps is shite and totally useless when you are in the deepest darkest Welsh countryside where mobile phones are still very much a thing of the future. Eventually we made it back to Pandy and the car rather tired but on my part at least extremely pleased, self satisfied and proud.   

The next day I was a little stiff, my toes were a bit tender and I was very tired, a two miles stroll from the city centre felt more like 200 miles but I was content. My reward for my hike was the second thing I tried for the first time this weekend, a Baby Ruth! I had seen them in the shop’s foreign isle for a while, I have always wanted one ever since the first time I saw the Goonies. If you love the Goonies as much as I do you will know why trying a Baby Ruth for the first time is worth mentioning. I am pleased to say I liked it and I ticked an item off my bucket list. I agree with you, I have a somewhat strange bucket list…!  

I won’t lie, the walk wasn’t easy. I had aches and pains everywhere, my lungs felt like someone had shredded them to bits by the end. My hips hurt, which was depressing because I am not 80, my empty rucksack got heavy, my back turned into a bit of a comma. If day one after the walk I was a little stiff, then day two I was like one of those lambs, getting up for the first time! None of that mattered, I still had a smile on my face, I felt exhilarated, content, alive. I would have kept walking, I will keep walking! And I will get more and more of you to join me!         

Oh and one last thing...I didn’t fall over!!!!

Monday, 14 March 2016

No More Excuses

We all have moments where we struggle, with our job, with our life, with a partner, with loss or the boss. During those moments things seem helpless and focusing on the positive side of life and the positive events in your life is impossible. Usually there is some sort of conduit, an event or a person or two that will help you through it; sometimes in combination with the healing hand of time.But always get through it you should.

There have been a couple of people in my life over the last 6 months that have inspired me and that have woken me up from a dark moment and brought me back to life, in parts gradually and in parts suddenly and jarringly. I am guessing that they will probably feel rather uncomfortable so I won’t mention them by name but I hope that if they read this they will a) know who they are and b) understand even on a small scale the good that they have brought into my life, the change, and the drive, the thirst to discover new things. I also hope that they  know that I will be eternally grateful and I hope that they will be a part of my life in some way or another for as long as I draw breath. But to get to the point and explain where I was before they came and shocked me into life and why I feel I need to write and share this.
For those of you who know me you will know that I am a rather vocal person - yes yes I can be bloody loud - I am also honest and rather shameless. I openly talk about things that make people cringe, like my sex life (or lack thereof), painful experiences, (emotionally) abusive boyfriends and so on. Many think that I am a perfectly happy and rather (un)balanced individual with the occasional down moment, what many of you don’t know is that I had very literally given up on life last year, and that I have not been a perfectly happy person in years.  

2015 was a particularly horrible year for me, I had lost all hope, all desire to do anything with my life and had resigned myself to mediocrity and growing older either alone or with someone that will just do. There was no aspect of my life that I was happy with. I felt like I am worthless, incapable and on the whole a waste of space. There are particular reasons for me feeling like this however I do not wish to dwell on those and think about them too much. Suffice to say that a lot of negative things happening at once can bring anyone down.

I think my mother was the only person that knew just how unhappy I was and silently and stoically worried about me while waiting for me to figure all this shit out. As is usually the case when I am deeply unhappy I gained weight because let’s face it there is nothing more comforting than a box or two of chocolate eclairs followed by a cheese cake or/and a pint of ice cream....yes mom that was what I ate, and yes, I am deeply ashamed. That however doesn’t help one’s confidence when it is already in the gutter, and mine was six feet under. In all honesty it is still tryingto dig itself out right now.

When 2016 started with the shocking realisation that I was going to be losing my best friend, soul mate and sister to distance and serious time difference because she moved to Dhaka I experienced a quite serious moment of total dislocation. I honestly didn’t feel a thing for a moment and that was followed by very serious pain and then by an epiphany that I briefly mentioned in a previous post: Life is literally walking right by me and showing me a middle finger and laughing and I have a choice, grab it by that finger and take a ride or watch it walk away. I think I had pretty much chosen the watching it walk away part when the people mentioned above separately and yet together metaphorically slapped some sense into me.

Between them I understood the following:

  1. I had allowed assholes to bring me down to my knees - In different moments and different circumstances over the past year I had allowed people who barely deserve the title of “human” to make me feel worthless. I had believed a continuous and sustained attack on my skills, values, and character and I began to accept them as true. This had to stop and I had to accept who I was and learn to love me again. 

  2. I was making excuses for why I couldn’t do things - This is taking the easy way out. It is very easy to say I can’t do this because: I have no money, I am too old, I am not fit get the picture. The thing is, all of those things are easily changed. Money can be saved, age really is a number unless you have an age related illness in which case it is still an excuse. I mean look at all the 90 year old people running marathons! And getting fit is simple, get off my fat ass!   

  3. I was not old - that one I figured out by reading “Into Thin Air” (I also figured out just how fragile life can be and how cruel, that book is devastating but you should all read it anyway! Thanks for the recommendation person who is not named)  - if 56 year old men can climb Everest then I can bloody well do anything that I want and I have a good 30-40 years to do it in! I can even have kids and still do stuff because guess what, kids have legs and also need to be entertained, plus it is good for them to see the world!  

  4. I was not going to die alone - This is a genuine fear of mine. I unfortunately do not have many good examples of lasting relationships, and mine haven’t really been all that great, partly because of me no doubt! So the idea that I will find someone to share my life with is not one that I have a lot of confidence in. However I have the most amazing friends and family and I know they will be there with me till the end. Plus, I am clever, I cook damn well, I am funny (Aysha says so!) and am loyal so that’s gotta count for something no doubt!   

  5. There is always someone to help - Said friends and family will pull me out of any hole I am in, and if they can’t they will come down and sit in that hole with me until I am ready to pull myself out. They will not judge, they will not say I told you so. I would like to say thanks to mom especially on this one because she has DAILY opportunities to say “I told you so” and still hasn’t! She has been there through the hardest time and has made me smile.

The result of the above epiphany? I am on my way to being healthy and fit, I have started writing again - case in point - I have a food Blog that people from all over the world seem to want to read, I have travel plans, and my friends are even more amazing every day.  2016 rocks so far, and 2017 will be even better - especially if someone decides to sponsor me for being me so I can do all those amazing things I have planned!

So watch this space because I am going to bombard you with proof of why you should NEVER make excuses of why you can’t do things and go places and try and try and try. You will fail from time to time, but that is fine because you would have failed trying! 

Love you all!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Durdle Door, a bit of wind and me staying upright!

Here I am, my first adventure of the year. I woke up at 6am with a smile on my face and a prayer for no rain. I have run out of excuses not to do the things I wanted, or to try new ones.

I started 2016 with one of those painfully clear moments that I was going nowhere really fast and life was passing me by waving and laughing at me. Self awareness is a bitch like that, you wake up with a realisation about yourself where you look like an absolute dick. At that point the world will never be the same and there are a whole ton of things you need to change to stop being a dick. You realise that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you will always discover things about yourself that you want and/or need to change. The bonus to this? Life becomes better, change is no longer scary, it is exciting, enticing, needed. And no, before you accuse me of making New Year’s resolution that are nothing but a passing moment, this is nothing of the sort, this is me realising that life is indeed a box of chocolates but that chocolate is ALL good, even the orange cream ones and I am going to eat the whole damn box even if it makes me sick. I am also genuinely unashamed of just how bad this analogy is, Mr Gump had the best outlook on life and we can all stand to learn a thing or two.  

So here I am the car packed, the sandwiches made - enough to feed a small army when there was only 4 of us going - I collected my walking posie and off we went to the Jurassic Coast and Durdle Door in Dorset.

I didn’t know what to expect or how I would do, I hadn’t done anything like this in years. I knew that the area we were going to was beautiful, I knew that the cliffs were going to be white. Anything beyond that was a mystery.

The start of our root, which was circular, was Hambury Tout, and what a mean way to start it is. A steep hill by any standard the path was paved in what looked like a Roman road and was as slick as anything. Every step I took came with a prayer of “don’t fall over, just don’t fall over! Not yet!” You see I had one goal and that was to try and not fall over on this trip. What felt like an eternity later but was most likely 15 minutes I was at the top, my small win was that I didn’t fall over but I was sweating under my windproof and thinking I need to do more cardio. The thought didn’t stay with me long as I was smacked in the face with a stunning view and all the pain then and after was worth every second. The day was grey and overcast the winds were in excess of 25mph and I didn’t care. I could smell the sea, the taste of salt in the air welcomed me and I felt at home, I was exactly where I wanted to be.

The steel hue of the clouds didn’t wash out the landscape of either colour or magnificence, the cliffs were more brilliantly white than I thought. The hills were mottled shades of brown and green and the sea was a brilliant turquoise slowly turning grey as it met the sky, and there just where they touched was a dazzling line of silver light where the sun shone through the clouds and reflected off the English Channel.The saying “Every cloud has a silver lining” has never been more true or expressed in a more awe inspiring way.   

The day wore on and the hills didn’t get any smaller, the wind got stronger and I fully expected to feel miserable at the conditions but instead every time I licked my lips I would taste the sea and a smile would spread through my face. Every hill I climbed up gave me another and another breathtaking vista. I stood on the edge and watched as seagulls soared on the wind and swooped in and out of their nests on the cliff face. The wind buffeted me and I felt the exhilaration that comes with the wonder of what it would be like to jump off of this height. My mind soared into possibilities of other treks, of skydiving and bungee jumping and the misery I had awaited didn’t materialise. I was the picture of happiness and I would have kept walking for ever, perfectly content with the simple comfortable silence or easy conversation of my three friends around me. There was no forced chatter, no dull small talk, no awkward pause when no one knew what to say. There was simply the joint goal of getting to the top of the next hill and back down the other side.

Like all good things this had to come to an end, the conditions were deteriorating,  we turned inland and looped back to the car park where I was hoping I was not going to find a parking ticket for having overstayed our welcome. We walked through green pasture land, still able to see the sea as well as the descending clouds and mist and the immanent rain. Turns out the fates had our back and we made it to the car before any real rain started, we were muddy, windswept and grinning. Part of my smile had to do with a clean(ish) ticketless windshield.  

As all perfect days should, this one ended in Kebab Kid where we actually sat and ate in the restaurant so that I would not be breaking my “lent”(a long story for a different time), I even pulled out the pretend plastic cheese slices out of my burger.

I have barely been back and I am already looking at adventure two and three and ... oh the possibilities! Yes, still smiling and no I didn’t fall over, not once! 

Yes, I climbed UP that hill and did NOT fall down!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Flying Kebab

Many of you will think that the story I am about to share with you is false or wildly exaggerated, when in reality apart from very minor changes and adjustment for the basis of better flow, it’s almost a transcript of events. I hope you enjoy it!

The Flying Kebab

“A kebab?! You must be joking!?”
“From Oxford?! All the way to Dhaka, Bangladesh?!”
“Is he insane!?!”
“No, more like eccentric.”
“You don’t say…!”
The incredulity and utter disbelief on my face were matched by an equal level of seriousness and worry on my sister’s face.
“How would you even transport that?!”
“I don’t know. Do you think if I freeze it and then put it in a tupperware box it will survive?”
“A 12 hour journey, and being tossed around? NO, and neither will he when he eats it! He must have a death wish.”
“No, he is just different, very nice, clever, good person, just eccentric.”
“Yeah, you already said. Just tell him NO, you are up and moving your whole life, the last thing you need is to worry about a kebab going *SPLAT* in your suitcase.” 

I honestly couldn’t believe she was considering flying a kebab from Oxford to Dhaka. It was bonkers, amusing, and genuinely kind and considerate, everything my sister is but tries to hide.  For a no nonsense kind of girl she sure was prepared to go through a lot of nonsense over the kebab, but then again she had made a promise. 

“He didn’t want anything else. I was ready to get him perfume, clothes, even jewellery but no, all he wanted was a Kebab from Kebab Kid, a mixed kebab. Are those nice?”
“No idea, I’m a burger girl. Had a chicken kebab once, it was alright.”
“Oh my God sis how am I going to get it there?!”
“I don’t know, considering I just had to sit on your suitcase to close it I don’t even know how you will get it IN the suitcase let alone to Dhaka.”
“Can you put it in the smaller case?” Our friend finally joined the conversation now that she had managed to control the giggling fit that the idea of the flying kebab had started.
“No, I am not checking that in.”
“They’ll make her throw it away at security.”
We all just looked at eachother and started laughing.

My sister was moving back home, to her family and therefore by extension my adopted family. I didn’t give them a choice on the matter. My sister and I may not have been related by blood but we had lived many lives in the past together. We had  the deep bond of two spirits that seek each other out in every life and live it together in whatever form. The decision of her departure was sudden and swift as she had got a great new job in Dhaka, and tonight was the last time that the two of us and our friend were going to be together for a little while. The flying kebab was a much needed distraction from the elephant in the room that was her leaving. She had been a rock during hard times, listened to me swoon over guys, rant over politics, and put up with my constant need to inform and educate. We had been through alot together, and now we had to get through the flying kebab, together. 

At that moment I also realised that her leaving wasn’t something we needed to get through or get over. This wasn’t a goodbye, it was an I’ll see you in September. she already had the ticket! I wasn’t losing her and she was not losing me. We will both lose many people in our lives but never eachother. As that certainty hit me it allowed me to stay calm and to laugh with them tonight. I was going to miss our shenanigans terribly but we were just going to have to organise them a bit better and in advance and maybe travel some. The world is so tiny these days that distance mattered very little, it is time you have to be careful with. For now our last shenanigan for a while was going to be the flying kebab. 

“Hey will you be keeping that or can I have it?” Our friend pointing to a portable heater snapped me back to the moment and the two of them were laughing. We had been dividing the stuff my sister wasn’t able to take back and it had turned into a joke, calling dibs on even her used shampoo and the paper towels.   

“Nah, take it.”
We continued like this the whole night and then two days later my sister had flown back to Dhaka with a frozen kebab in her suitcase. Upon her landing I got the following message:
“Hey sis, the kebab survived!”
I guess she got there in one piece too. Already can’t wait to have her back.

Bon Appetite 

A Mixed kebab - would you want one? Because We deliver - Globally ;-)