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OMG!OMG!OMG! WE’RE HOMEOWNERS!!!

 

A while ago I told you all to expect some good news – but not of the gender reveal variety! Well I’m thrilled to announce that Mr. D and I are at last homeowners!!! Woo woo woo!

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

To be honest we never thought this day would come. I guess the move to America was worth it after all because when we lived in London, the dream of owning our own home was just that – a dream. Despite the fact that we were both working and Mr.D was earning quite well, it was impossible to find a property in our price range. Even a tent in a field would have been a bit much going by crazy London prices! London has gotten ridiculously expensive and it’s sad because given the choice, we’d have liked to have stayed here.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

But I suppose everything happens for a reason and once Mr. D had found his dream house, there was no stopping him! If I’m brutally honest, I didn’t feel like this was the house for us. As it was in the country, and I’m a die-hard city girl, I can’t say I was jumping up and down at the prospect of rural life – something I’d tried before and didn’t enjoy, although Mr. D, of course, couldn’t wait to get back to country living.

Image from Pixabay.com

Image from Pixabay.com

Then of course there was the distance to Mr.D’s workplace as our new house is quite some distance away. As we’re leasing our car we need to keep an eye on mileage and also I was worried about him driving home in heavy snow ( I guess it shows that I’m a Londoner!) Furthermore, I’d already met one of our neighbours and let’s just say that living close to him was not something I especially wanted to do…

Image from pixabay. com

Image from pixabay. com

However it was quite obvious that Mr. D. was smitten with the house and especially the acres of woodland that came with it. Plus I have to admit, the house kind of grew on me; it wasn’t bad for a first time home; it was habitable, and needed very little work. We were getting a pretty good deal on the house… So we went for it. And now here we are!!! And I’m even excited about giving country life another attempt.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

I’m unfortunately still in London, tying up loose ends and trying to pack up remainder of our never-ending belongings.  I’m very sad that I wasn’t with Mr. D. to collect the key  but then again I guess that moment belonged to him and him alone. After all if it wasn’t for his determination and persistence, we wouldn’t have had this wonderful opportunity. It really is because of him that we can call ourselves homeowners and begin to pay our own mortgage rather than someone else’s. There’ll definitely be a chance for him to carry me – and all my items of luggage – over the threshold of our new home, and that’ll hopefully happen sometime soon.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

The idea of a thirty year debt isn’t appealing, and neither is the thought of having to cut back on the little luxuries that Mr. D. is always telling me off for splurging on which is definitely the downside of having your own home but my goodness, I won’t miss paying extortionate rent; matchbox-sized flats; greedy landlords determined to rob you blind; moving every few months; dodgy estate agents, and obnoxious housemates. And that’s just some of the horror stories!

Image by pixabay.com

Image by pixabay.com

This is the beginning of something new and hopefully good for both of us. I can’t wait to begin this stage of our lives. Its just a pity that our family and friends live so far away but hopefully they’ll all get to visit.

Just not all at the same time!

 

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More Love For PaPaw… And Grandparents Everywhere

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By now most people will have heard of Kenny Harmon,  the grandfather from Oklahoma who makes a mean hamburger, and is now affectionately known as Papaw. He made headlines around the world after a photo posted on social media of him tucking into a hamburger went viral. OK, so there’s nothing remarkable about a photo of a man eating a hamburger – but the story behind it is!

THE STORY SO FAR… 

The doting grandad had invited his six grandchildren over for dinner, and set about creating a hamburger meal for them, complete with twelve – that’s right, twelve – hamburgers! However come dinnertime, five of them were a no-show. The only grandchild who did turn up – Kelsey Harmon – took a snap of Papaw as he tucked into his dinner and posted it to her Twitter account, explaining that dinner for eight had become dinner for two. Then before you could ask for more burger sauce, the post totally blew up on social media with thousands of people commenting.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

THE PUBLIC HAVE SPOKEN!

A lot of people commented that the look of disappointment etched on Papaw’s face made them a little teary, especially when they heard about how much effort he’d gone to. Many agreed that they wanted Papaw to be their grandad too. Others wanted to know what had happened to the remaining burgers – and rightly so! A few sad cases declared that Papaw couldn’t be a very good grandfather if his grandkids didn’t want to spend time with him, while the odd couple of lost causes made death threats against the kids who didn’t turn up. Seriously people, get a life!

Just about everyone had an opinion regarding hamburgergate although the response to Papaw’s photo was generally very good. And one thing this photo succeeded in doing was make us think about our own grandparents and the role we played – or for those lucky ones, still continue to play – in their lives. And it certainly made me think about mine.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

OUR ROLE MODELS

When it comes to grandparents, Mr. D. and I consider ourselves to be extremely blessed. Our grandparents were exactly what you would expect grandparents to be and served as excellent role models, not just to us kids, but to many other people who also looked up to them. We were adored by our grandparents who spoilt us rotten but were wise enough to know when to stop. And in an age where marriages collapse faster than an undercooked chocolate fondant, our grandfathers were devoted to their wives – quite simply they couldn’t live without them. If Mr. D. and I could have just half of what they had, we’re on our way to a very successful marriage.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

 

Our grandparents may no longer still be with us but they are still the people we aspire to be like. They played a massive role in our upbringing and helped shape us into the people we are today. It saddens us that they didn’t live long enough to see us marry and guide us through our married life.

BUT WE WEREN’T PERFECT…

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

But I’m sorry to say that although Mr. D. and I had the perfect grandparents, we weren’t always the perfect grandkids. As we went from sweet kids to rebellious teens, we swapped sleepovers at our grandparents for raucous nights out with our friends, followed by all night swotting before exams at uni, before getting started in our chosen careers. So as we got older, even though our grandparents were always in our thoughts, we didn’t always visit or call as often as we should have. It was never intentional but it’s something that fills me with shame to this day.

WHY WE WERE MOVED BY PAPAW

Papaw’s story is both heartwarming and inspiring because it illustrated that in a world where people don’t get enough quality family time, there are still people who make an effort to get their familes together. In an age where the family unit isn’t as cohesive as it once was, there are still grandparents out there who want to play an active role in their grandkids lives. And although some people have passed judgement on the absentee grandchildren, I know just how easy it is to let the demands of real life get in the easy of things we really ought to do. And even though its been a zillion years since I was a teenager, I remember putting off visits to my own grandfather to go and join in with my friends’ crazy antics.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

Its not that teenagers and young adults don’t love their grandparents of course. Its just that at that age, we often forget  that the time we have with them is limited; we think that they’ll be around forever and that we’ll never see a time when they’re not around. At least that’s how it was for me. I think Papaw’s story has reminded us to make every second count when it comes to our loved ones.

WE LOVE OUR GRANDPARENTS…

Most of us really do the very best we can for our grandparents. Where I grew up in Northwest London,  I saw even the roughest, toughest kids turn into big softies when it came to their grandparents and they couldn’t do enough for them. And even after their grandparents pass away, they’re never forgotten with their grandchildren marking birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

…BUT SADLY SOME ARE FORGOTTEN

I’m glad that Papaw’s story had a positive outcome but it also made me feel sad because I thought of the grandparents who are not made to feel loved or valued – and believe me I’ve come across plenty of them. Many elderly people I know talk about their huge families  – complete with grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren – with pride. But these are the same people who struggle with the simplest of tasks as they go about their daily lives, depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even strangers rather than burden their children and grandchildren.  In fact I know of people who usually see their grandchildren when they turn up demanding a handout!

Image from pixabay. com

Image from pixabay. com

 I can’t help but feel a little angry at situations like this and marvel at peoples carelessness and lack of common sense. Surely if your family is bigger than the average village, than the responsibility of looking after grandma or grandpa should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? Well apparently not! I may not have called in as often as I could have but whenever Grandad needed help with anything, one of us was always there.

CHERISH EVERY MOMENT

When my grandfather passed away, I regretted that I didn’t spend enough time with him. It was only after his death I realised just how much he lived for his grandchildren and how every moment with us brought him so much happiness. But as a few people told me, no matter how much you did for your parents and grandparents, no matter how much time you spent with them even if it was every waking moment, it would NEVER be enough. And grandparents understand that we have things we need to do in life and we can’t always be there and nor would they want to stand in our way. As long as you show that you care, and that you love and value them, that makes them happy.  So instead of feeling guilty, we should treasure the time we did get to spend together, know that we did the best we could and take comfort from those memories.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

If there’s anything we can take away from Papaw’s story, it’s that awesome grandparents never stop giving, no matter how old their grandkids get. And despite a few exceptions, grandchildren never stop being loving – they just get busy! Modern life is frantic but we should do the very best we can to find even just a little time to let our grandparents know what they mean to us.

The Harmon family’s story did get a happy ending in that Kenny Harmon was reunited with all six of his grandchildren a week later for a special buffet lunch. And I did wonder just how many of those who wanted Papaw to be their adopted grandfather actually made the effort with their own grandparents. Well it seems that the other good thing about this story is that it actually made people reach out to their own grandparents immediately rather than putting off contact to another day.

Go Papaw… and grandparents everywhere!

 

 

 

Bully On The Bus Simone Joseph Walks Free

Ranting and raving

Appalled and disgusted.

These are just two of the adjectives that can be used to sum up how I feel about Simone Joseph being allowed to walk free and avoid prison after her vile verbal assault on Muslim passengers – one of whom was a pregnant lady – on a bus back in October. Joseph’s lengthy, hate-filled rant – which took place in front of her own child – in which she threatened to physically attack not one but two passengers was filmed and posted online which then went viral. So now the whole world knows what a despicable low-life Joseph is.

I was not on that bus; I did not witness this attack; it was not aimed at me, and I am not a Muslim. So I shouldn’t care, right? Wrong! This whole episode has left me fuming to the point where I can’t even speak – much less type!

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Star of the show, Miss Joseph

First of all, racism; religious intolerance; bigotry; prejudice – call it what you like, I cannot stand any of it. As one half of a mixed-race couple; a product of a culturally diverse family, and someone who is proud to have friends from every corner of globe (well, near enough!) and taught students from all over the world, this kind of behaviour does not sit well with me – and that’s putting it mildly. I just cannot believe that in the year 2015, people can still be so ridiculously stupid.

But what really irks me is the fact that Joseph is a Willesden Green girl – a place that’s walking distance to where I grew up. In fact our neighbourhoods are so near each other, the area is often considered one and the same. It is an area where even though there are plenty of good people and a sense of community, it has a reputation for crime, violence and aggression. People I knew from other areas often refused to set foot there due to the fact that they’d heard “it’s quite dangerous.” Back in the early 2000s, the BBC even made a documentary series based on the high crime rate that was ever-increasing in the neighbourhood.

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Well almost fifteen years later, Joseph has just proved that not much has changed. She’s just illustrated that our little piece of north-west London is an area that should still be avoided if you have any sense.

The 206 bus where the rant took place is a bus route I’ve used many times over the years. It’s a route that’s still used by many of my friends. It horrifies me to think that Joseph could have hurled abuse at any one of my family or friends. And as soon as I discovered that Joseph was an inhabitant of my former neighbourhood, I knew that it was very, very likely that we had people in common, as very few of the inhabitants are total strangers to each other. That six degrees of separation theory is more than just a theory for us – it’s pretty much a reality! And as everyone I associate with – both past and present – are decent, hard-working, law-abiding, honest people, it makes me wonder how we came to have such a low-life in our midst. I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who has the misfortune to be related to that.

What hit me hard was Hanane Yakoubi, one of Joseph’s victims, describing the distress she felt and still feels after the incident, and explained that she doesn’t know how to ask for help because she doesn’t speak English. I know there is a lack of sympathy towards anyone who goes to a country without knowing a word of the native language. But as it’s my job to teach English, I see the struggles my students face and the efforts they make to try to improve. They often make good progress but then they encounter a situation where they do not possess enough language skills to help them communicate effectively which upsets them deeply and knocks their confidence. What people like Hanane Yakoubi need is patience, understanding and tolerance not abuse and aggression.

The defence for Joseph – who gave herself up to the police after the video went viral – claimed that she was ‘ashamed’ and wished ‘to apologise to the complainant and the other people on the bus’ while the magistrate accepted that Joseph was ‘remorseful and of previous good character.’ What’s even more shocking is when the defence revealed that Joseph herself had Muslim relatives. This seriously smacks of ‘I’m-not-racist-I-have-Chinese friends-and-love-Mexican-food’. Yeah, whatever – tell it to the judge! Oh of course – that’s what she was doing.

I’m often told I’m too understanding and forgiving but this time I’m just not buying any of it. Would Joseph have been so ready to hand herself in if she had not been so clearly identifiable in the video? Would she have felt any shame and remorse had she not been in the dock? Has she any idea of the anxiety she’s caused a heavily pregnant woman? Do people of ‘previous good character’ behave in this manner? Do people with Muslim relatives viciously attack (albeit verbally) other Muslim people? Do mothers carry on like this in front of their children?

The answer to all the above is a big fat NO!

I’ve come across the Simone Josephs of this world. So have my family and many of my friends. I know first hand how distressing such an encounter can be. People like her start off as the stroppy kid at nursery who snatches toys out of other children’s hands, to the playground bully at secondary school to a thoroughly nasty and unpleasant adult who believes it’s their right to stomp all over whoever they wish – and most of the time the whoever they wish is someone who they believe they can pick on which shows how cowardly they are. Joseph was spoiling for a fight that day and she picked people who she knew were easy targets. You’ll notice she was in no hurry to take on the bus driver who tried to get her to shut it!

So Joseph left  court with a suspended sentence and a slapped wrist. Am I surprised? Of course not. This is exactly the brand of justice we can rely on in this country and will hardly act as a deterrent for the next bully on the bus. If there’s anything good to come from this whole episode, it’s that Joseph will think twice before she starts a fight with anyone again. Not because of her good character but because she is now more aware that there are cameras everywhere and once you get caught, there’s really nowhere to hide. But I do hope that in time she will see just how wrong her actions were and make a real effort to turn over a new leaf, and more importantly teach her child that this is not the way to behave or treat others. I really do hope she can do this because it’s a small step towards making this world a more peaceful place.

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When You’re The Only Married Couple In The Village…

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It’s not just that I love being married but I love being married to Mr. D. It took him a long time to appear but he was definitely worth the wait. And I also love my fabulous close female friends. These are the girls who have been there for me long before Mr. D had me at ‘Hello’ and who always have my back. And luckily for me, my friends and Mr.D. get on well, so we’re all one big happy ‘framily’! The only slight issue is being one of the few married couples among our friends of mostly singles as at times we can find ourselves on different wavelengths.

My friends who are single are forever telling me about the problems they encounter due to their single status and as someone who’s been both single and married, I definitely know where they’re coming from: being the only singleton amongst a bunch of marrieds and feeling like a spare part; having your mother do a spot of matchmaking with anyone and everyone; sympathetic looks and ‘well-meaning’ advice; the endless questions about why you’re still single and warnings about ending up like Ms. Haversham; everyone assuming that you’re lonely and unlucky… and sometimes you really do feel as though you’re lonely and unlucky. The list goes on and many of my friends forget that I once walked in those shoes so I totally understand.

And the other thing they don’t realise is that you don’t stop having issues the moment you have a ring on your finger. Instead there’s a whole new set of awkward encounters that we have to look forward to. Married life is great, especially if you’re married to the right person, but when the vast, overwhelming majority of your friends are single you could very well end up feeling like a couple of jammy dodgers in a packet of shortbread fingers. And there’s tons of articles and posts out there on the subject of being the only single person when all your friends are married but virtually nothing when the situation is reversed.

So for all you singles out there who think we have it easy, read on:

1. YOU MISS OUT ON ALL THE COOL ALL-GIRL BREAKS

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I never got to do the crazy, raucous girls holiday abroad when I was single and I do regret not making the most of my days as a single young woman. Now that I’m married, it’s definitely not something that’s likely to happen. I don’t really have a problem with that because I have tons of fun holidaying with my fab husband but when the girls are off on one of their foreign jaunts, I’m glad that they’re having such an awesome time but I do know that I’m missing out on all the madness. And despite being invited, I would only spoil it for the girls with my constant moping because Mr.D. isn’t there.

But I do look forward to the stories and pics when they get back. Honest!

2. YOUR OTHER HALF IS INVISIBLE TO YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS

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Many of our friends extend invitations to the both of us when there is an event or a bash of some kind so we’re quite lucky in that respect. And likewise, if I was having a party, dinner, luncheon etc. I would make sure that my friends knew that their partners were invited regardless of whether I knew them well or not. When someone’s part of a couple it’s the right thing to do.

But some of our single friends don’t understand this and will only invite the person that they were friends with first when they’re having an event. I know it’s not done maliciously but the fact that we’re now a package deal seems to have gone over some people’s heads.  Now when it’s a stag or hen do, that’s perfectly understandable. But for all other occasions, I don’t feel that it’s acceptable. There was one occasion where one of my friends hired a cottage in Devon for a week of birthday celebrations. Rightly or wrongly, I’d assumed that the invitation was for the both of us and said that we’d be there and was looking forward to a week of festivies.

But as the date drew closer, I got an email from her which made it clear that it was to be a girls only thing which was the first I’d heard of it. All I can say is that I’m glad she said something before Mr.D. and I booked our train tickets – then I really would have been furious! I accepted that it was her right to host her event as she wished – but she also had to accept that I wasn’t prepared to be away from my most favourite person in the whole world for a week so I very politely declined.

So note to all: if someone’s part of a couple, be sure to extend invitations to both of them.

3. YOU’RE THE ODD ONE OUT AT THE HEN WEEKEND

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When all the ladies at a hen party are single and ready to mingle, and you’re the only married woman there, you can’t take part in all the shenanigans. In fact once you’ve finished throwing some shapes on the dance floor, you’ll find yourself sat at the table by yourself minding drinks, handbags and outrageous hen party paraphernalia while all the single girls find a fine looking fella to cosy up to. I don’t mind that I’m not joining in with the crazy escapades. I just don’t like sitting by myself like Billy-no-mates – or worse having to fend off unwelcome attention.

Times like that I could do with a married friend so we can both discuss how glad we are that we’ve passed this stage (although it was great fun at the time!)

4. YOU’LL EXPERIENCE SOME SPITEFUL BEHAVIOUR

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When we had to announce our engagement, I was very careful to be sensitive about it despite wanting to shout it from the rooftops as I knew that there were some friends who were going through all kinds of difficulties in terms of relationships. And even though most people appeared genuinely happy for us, I was stunned by the behaviour of a couple of people.

The daughter of my mother’s best friend stopped talking to me and as hurtful as it was, I had to be understanding as her own engagement had hit the rocks. I tried to keep the lines of communication open but wasn’t getting any response. I thought that in time, she’d come round but I haven’t heard from her to this day.

Then there was one of my best friends who’ve I’ve known since we were both toddlers. Within a month of Mr.D. and I getting engaged, she amazingly got engaged to a guy she hadn’t been seeing for very long. This surprised me as I didn’t think she was that into him but as weeks went by it was very obvious that she was being competitive. I saw a not-so-nice side to her character with lots of snidey comments aimed at me; losing her temper because I couldn’t go on a shopping trip with her; I wasn’t invited to her engagement party, and despite me asking her to be bridesmaid at my wedding, instead of following me down the aisle, she was seen sitting among the other guests – in her bridesmaid’s dress! When I asked her why she had done that, she said that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

I know deep down that she never wanted to get engaged to her fiancé (now husband) and she was mad at me because she felt I’d somehow forced her hand (?) We’re still friends but I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really regard each other as best friends any more and don’t meet up as often as we used to.

A real pity.

5. YOU GET ASKED THE INEVITABLE BABY QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!

Or so the playground song goes anyway. And it would appear that most of our friends – single or not – agree. Admittedly it is something that everyone’s going to ask but I can’t help getting annoyed – both by the question and from having to answer that same question all the time. And it seriously peed me off when at a recent dinner party, a close, single female friend asked across the table in front of everyone if we wanted to have kids, if we were trying and when it was going to happen. Oh wait, let me just grab my crystal ball…

Yes, kids are part of the plan but I’m not sure when the time will be right. But I absolutely resent being asked something so personal in public – even if she is a close friend.

After all, I don’t think she’d have been too pleased if I’d publicly asked her why she’s still single or when was the last time she had sex… but it might help to get my point across!

6. YOU LOSE FRIENDS

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I had very few friends get married when I was in my early twenties but I soon learnt something – that the last time I’d ever see my friend again would be on their wedding day. It’s a good job I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have been blubbing so hard, the guests would have called for Noah and his ark! But it was true – once my friends got caught up in their newly-married status, new home and the kiddies that eventually came along, they found that they had less and less in common with their single counterparts and we inevitably drifted apart despite my efforts to prevent that from happening. And of course they formed new friendships with other married couples who they felt that they had more in common with. I decided that when I got married, I wasn’t going to let my marriage have such an impact on my friendships even though I knew that things would have to change a little.

Unfortunately it seems as though some of my single friends didn’t get the memo and instead opted to spend their time with other single friends. True, I couldn’t go out on the lash with them but that didn’t mean that we’d turned into Mr.and Mrs. Pipe-and-Slippers now that we’re married. We still liked to have a laugh, great fun, and a fab night out. I know other married friends have experienced this problem too. I’m glad that I haven’t technically lost any friends – no one has actually ended the friendship – but we hardly ever keep in touch.

7. EVERYONE THINKS MARRIED LIFE IS LIKE LIVING IN DISNEYLAND

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Married life is what you make it but you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you expect it to be perfect all the time. It’s definitely not like ‘in the movies’ and there are times you’ll both get on each others nerves. However this seems to be lost on many of my single female friends who seem so eager to settle down, I’m pretty sure they’ve already got the long, white dress hanging up in their wardrobe!

They perpetually drone on and on about how awful it is to be single, how they wish they were in a relationship and how they hope to be married by the end of the year (even if it’s November!) Then they ask you about married life and look so hopeful and expectant that it would be cruel to shatter their dreams. So I don’t tell them about how Mr.D. drives me mad with his excessive video game playing, or how fed up I am that he doesn’t seem to know where the bin is for his empty crisp packets and coke cans. Neither do I tell them that my nagging (his word not mine) annoys the hell out of him and that he wishes I’d stop stressing over things that don’t matter.

So instead I tell them the truth (or part of it anyway.) I tell them that married life is wonderful when it’s with the right person but that it requires a lot of work, effort and respect on both parts, but that they really should enjoy their single life while they have it because one day their prince will come and then they’ll never have this time again.

Somehow I doubt they’ll be taking my advice.

8. YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS DON’T ACCEPT THAT YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE

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A friend who’s in a relationship with two kids, recently put up a post on Facebook ranting at friends who expect her to drop everything to go out and party with them. She also made it very clear that it was unacceptable for friends to keep texting and calling at all hours of the day and night as she has a family to care for and they are her priority now.

I understood where she was coming from but I do know that a lot of other people wouldn’t. And it’s the attitudes of these people that really grate on me. If we all did as we pleased after we got hitched, what would be the point in getting married? I’ve had people try to convince me that taking a teaching post abroad would be a brilliant idea, very conveniently forgetting that’s it’s a decision that also involves my husband. I’ve also had single friends who’ve kicked up a massive fuss because they think I run around after Mr.D. too much – when he’s ill!

Whenever one of my friends got married, my mum would always remind me that their priorities in life have changed and that I have to respect that, give them their space and accept that they’ll have new ways of doing things now. And now that I’m married, I hope my single friends will be as understanding.

9. SINGLE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SMUG

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Do I think I’m happily married? Absolutely. Would I call myself smug? No – but then I don’t have to as I have other people do that for me! I’ve had (single) friends tell me that Mr.D. and I are absolutely ‘nauseating’ and I even had one friend delete both me and Mr.D. from Facebook because he said (yep, this one’s a fella!) we were just too lovey dovey and he’s not big on romance. He clearly didn’t know that he could have just unfollowed us! And yes – we’re still friends. Just not on Facebook!

From the way people carry on, you’d think that we were re-enacting the Karma Sutra in public. Admittedly we are affectionate in public (not sickenly so in my opinion at least!) And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that marrying Mr.D. is the best thing I ever did because it makes other people feel better. But smug marrieds will make out that their marriage and their lives together are perfect and that they never have any problems. That’s not something Mr. D. and I would ever want to do. We both know that we’re not perfect as people but we do think that we’re perfect for each other. And we’re the first to admit that it’s not always wine and roses behind closed doors – and anyone who’s ever heard either of us moan about the other will know what I’m talking about.

And besides, I always think that being too smug about your relationship is like tempting fate. And if I wanted to tempt fate, I’d get a tattoo of Mr.D’s name!

10. MR.D. IS THE ONLY GUY AMONG A BUNCH OF SHRIEKING, OVERLY EXCITED GIRLIES!

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Mr. D. often comes along when I’m meeting the girls of dinner. And as none of them are in a relationship, he often tends to be the only man there and has to put up with our non-stop chatter, shrieks of laughter and and general over-excitement.

Hang on, what am I talking about? The only guy among girls – Mr.D. LOVES that!

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Judge The Hero Dog: A Very Emotional Farewell

an Admittedly I’m a bit of a water cart. I cry at anything that tugs at the heart strings and sometimes it doesn’t take much to set me off. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got strange stares on public transport because a sad story in a magazine I’m reading has caused me to get teary. And it just so happens that there was an article today that absolutely broke my heart and I feel quite teary as I write this. It was about a retired police dog called Judge who was recently put to sleep after his health had rapidly deteriorated due becoming terminally ill. imagesPUST9MNU We never had pets in our house when we were growing up for various reasons despite constant pleading from my two youngest siblings. But we got our animal fix when we went to visit aunts and uncles nearby who had cats, dogs, fish, and at one point a ferret and a tortoise (just not at the same time!) However I can’t hand on heart say that there was a void in my life because I didn’t have a pet. In fact because of my inexperience with animals, I always felt a little unsure of myself around them although this has gotten better as I’ve become older. But I still don’t know if I could ever see myself living with a furry friend. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like animals especially when they’re so frickin’ cute. I’m often amazed by their intelligence and the loyalty they show their owners. They really could put us humans to shame. So it’s no surprise that reading about Judge and the emotional farewell he received from his colleagues had me in floods of tears. j1 Judge, a nine year old German shepherd who had retired from his work with the police department at West Deptford, New Jersey in 2013, was given a farewell worthy of heroes – which he is. Distraught police officers  formed a guard of honour and saluted the hero dog as he walked past them with his training arm in his mouth as he was about to be driven to the animal hospital. I’ve seen many heartbreaking scenes in my time – and I have to say, this one got me.  More than thirty officers and a dozen K-9 units lined the streets  as Judge went on his last ever walk. Despite the stiff upper lips, the feeling of loss and devastation came through in the photos and even the most hardest of hearts couldn’t have failed to shed a tear. Judge had sadly grown so weak, that his handlers weren’t sure if he would be able to make it to the car. But proving he was made of stronger stuff, Judge amazed them all by his tight squeeze on the training arm which showed that he still had some strength left in him. j2   And that wasn’t all. Vets and specialists were lined up inside Swedesboro Animal Hospital in a touching tribute to the brave dog as Judge walked in, with one of the vets visibly overcome by emotion – and who could blame her? It really made me feel for the law enforcement officers who did very well to hide their inner turmoil. And it also made me feel for Judge because there was absolutely no way he didn’t know what was happening, and I just hope his last few moments weren’t filled with fear. Sgt. Dan Eliasen, who supervises the police department’s K-9 division, said:

“It’s about showing respect, but also the people who are here wanted to thank Judge for his service to the community. No one has forgotten what he’s done — and that includes protecting his partner and his community.”

j3 Although he retired two years ago due to problems with his teeth, over a period of time, his health became increasingly worse until police were forced to make the painful decision to end Judge’s suffering. $13,000 raised in one day for medical treatment for Judge plus the offer of free medical care from St. Francis Vetinary Hospital all came too late for the heroic dog who was recruited back in 2007 and had assisted in the arrest of more than one hundred and fifty criminals as well as the seizure of drugs, vehicles and firearms, and the confiscation of $47,000 in cash. He had undergone surgery and was on medication but when his liver grew so large that it crowded his stomach and left him unable to eat, there was nothing more that could be done. imagesUWPN9O3C Last year my aunt was forced to put her beloved cat to sleep as the poor kitty had become so ill and so weak that it was the only humane thing that could be done. My aunt had had her for years so I can only imagine her sense of loss. And it’s not just my aunt – I’ve had many friends who have suffered the loss of a beloved pet. They’ve often said that they felt they couldn’t publicly grieve because they felt that people wouldn’t understand and would think that they were daft crying over an animal. But it’s not just ‘an animal,’ is it? When you bring them into your home; feed them; play with them, look after them, love them, and give them a place within your family, how you could you possibly feel anything but devastation when they die? As one lady I know said after the death of her dog, “it doesn’t feel like I’ve lost an animal. To me, he was just like a person. A friend.” And that’s exactly what these little furry and not-so-furry creatures become – friends, and according to Mr. D. better friends than most humans (I hope he’s not including me in that comparison!)

And that’s one of the reasons why I feel I couldn’t bring a pet into my home because I just know I’d never be able to handle it when the inevitable happens. Though a friend of mine has a different take on it. She agrees that the sense of loss you feel when they pass away is unbearable, but she said nothing compares to the happiness they bring, and she went on to say that it’s not about the love you give them but the abundance of love they give you – which obviously set me off again! As for Judge, I hope that he is at peace now that he has been put to rest and that his suffering is over. I hope that his colleagues come to term with their loss and feel proud of themselves for giving Judge a truly magnificent send off and find comfort in their memories. And most of all, I hope that Doggy Heaven has given Judge the welcome he deserves. j2 Rest in peace Judge. Thank you for helping to make the world a better place. xx imagesCAHZOS9O

Better Living #2: New Year, New You!

So a new year has begun, and for most of us, it will begin in the same way as it does for every other new year: trying to get our finances in order; working off all that excess food that was consumed over the festive period, and making resolutions which – let’s be honest – are most probably broken by now!

I begin every year by wondering what the new year has in store for me – and hoping that it will be the best ever yet. I was very fortunate that the last couple of years have been very good, and without wanting to sound greedy, I am hoping for another one! And that’s why I’m determined to make sure that I play an active role in trying  to make life the best it can be. That means taking control and doing what’s best for me.  I’m also going to spend more time working towards my goals and doing what I need to do to become a much happier person. Hopefully by the time we celebrate 2016, I’ll be able to look back on another awesome year (2016! Oh my goodness!) And I’ve already started putting my plans into practice…

So that’s what the first post in the Better Living series is dedicated to: setting a few basic rules to guide you into becoming happier, healthier, less stressed, and more focused on getting what you want out of life. It’s a good starting point but in future posts, we will look into each of these aspects in more detail.

20 STEPS TO A NEW YOU!

  • Take care of the basics! – Eat healthy food; consume lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; take supplements if necessary; get lots of fresh air; drink plenty of water; do physical exercise; sleep well; meditate, and be happy!

 

 

  • You are the scriptwriter and the star of your own show – not the supporting actor  – It’s always important to listen to those around us who are genuinely there to give us support. But ultimately no one knows you better than you do so do what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to get advice or ask for opinions but listen to the most sincere voice, not the loudest. Don’t let anyone push you off stage or grab your microphone. No one else tells you what to do or speaks for you – just you and you alone.

 

  • Be a wise decision maker – Sometimes we only have one shot at things, so it’s important to be careful before making major decisions. Too many people jump head first into making decisions that require a lot of thought and then go on to live with the disastrous consequences. Much of our happiness and wellbeing depend on the little decisions we make in our everyday lives, so be aware of the consequences, don’t rush and choose carefully.

 

 

  • Stop chasing your tail – Life can sometimes resemble being on an exercise bike: you’re peddling away like mad but you’re not going anywhere. Being unnecessarily busy and being productive are two different things. You can rush around like a crazy person but at the end of the day you still won’t have achieved anything constructive and will only have succeeded in stressing yourself out. Cut down on things that you don’t need to do and don’t be afraid to ask people for help.

 

  •  Do what makes your heart sing – This year I’ve started doing things that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not just new skills like learning languages or instruments that are on my to-do list, but also spending more time with friends, getting more ‘me time’, and spending more quality time with my better half.  So rather than concentrate on what you have to do or what you’re able to do; think about what you were meant to do and take steps towards doing it. And if you only have half an hour a day to spend on it, at least it’s half an hour that’s going to make you very happy.

 

 

  • Do what’s right – not easy –  There have been many times I’ve done what was the easiest thing to do rather than what was right. And what was ‘easy’ was usually what other people wanted which I went along with for the sake of a quiet life even though the person who lost out in the end was me. But there have been times when I’ve really had to put up a fight and do what was right because the easy way wasn’t going to benefit anyone at all. And looking back, I’m glad that I had the courage to stand by my convictions. You don’t have to do something purely because you can. Do what’s right in the long term –  not what’s easiest.  In the long run you’ll feel less stressed and resentful.

 

  • Worry solves nothing, action does! – I can’t help it, I’m a born worrier. My friends actually worry about me worrying. But I know that in the long run worrying solves nothing. It just causes more stress and more problems.  Replacing worry with solutions and positive action gets far better results. Don’t believe me? Just look at the most determined, successful, happiest people. Do they look like they have endless sleepless nights worrying their socks off? No, I didn’t think so either!

 

  • Burying your head in the sand solves nothing!–  Now this is advice I really need to follow. The only way to combat something negative is to take steps towards doing something positive in order to resolve it. Burying your head in the sand and not resolving problems only leads to stress; sleepless nights and a great deal of unhappiness. Now that we can live without.

 

 

  • Let little frustrations go – Admittedly I do get wound up by silly, trivial little things. In fact I’ve been known to brood over things for days that most people would shrug off.  But it’s absurd to let one meaningless incident put a dampener on tons of good things that are happening around you. Everyone has their fair share of day to day dramas but a lot of people have learned not to let it get them down, so focus on the positive.

 

  • Peering over the garden fence gets you nowhereIf there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people who never count their blessings and are forever wanting what other people have. The thing about people like that is whatever good fortune they’ve been blessed with, they’ll never be happy. Let’s be honest, it’s human nature to feel a twinge of envy when we see others with something we would like to have. But comparing ourselves to others and keeping up with the Joneses won’t make us happy. Focus on yourself and your own unique circumstances. Work on what you need to do to make life better for YOU. And don’t underestimate the power of gratitude and counting your blessings. Be grateful for the life that you have and all that is yours – you’ll feel happier, more positive and confident.

 

  • Give from the heart… but don’t let anyone steal your energy  – Don’t give with the expectation of getting something back because not everyone thinks the same way and you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s why if you’re going to do something for someone, make sure it’s because you really want to do it; that the gesture comes straight from the heart, and that you don’t expect anything back in return. BUT be wary of those who keep taking and give nothing back. All they do is drain your strength and energy and make you feel worthless and resentful. This is where good decision making comes in to play: know when to give and when to draw the line. And if someone really is taking advantage, it’s time to close the door and focus on those who are more appreciative of your efforts.

 

  • Start focusing only on what you can controlIt’s pointless banging your head against a brick wall. Do the best you can and then let whatever happens happen. If it’s meant to be it will be, but if not then you have to accept that there are some things that are out of your control and move on.

 

  • You own technology – technology does not own you – Twenty first century living definitely has its emphasis on gadgets, and while they are very useful, it’s very easy to let them take over your life and I feel that some people have definitely lost that human touch. Don’t allow technology to control you. Know when to put down your iPad, to switch off your phone, and to stop texting, make eye contact, have face-to-face conversations, write letters, and hug more!

 

  • Live in the moment  Don’t carry the heavy burdens of the past on your shoulders. And don’t excessively worry about what the future holds. Time has a habit of going by so quickly and before you know it, the here and now will have passed us by without us having the chance to experience it. Try not to dwell on past mistakes, and don’t get caught up in thoughts about the far, distant future. Enjoy the present and live in the moment.

 

  • Start being the difference you want to see in the world – We are all destined for great things. Some of us realise that and act on it, but sadly some of us never fulfil our potential. Being ‘the difference’ can mean writing a prize winning novel, finding a cure for cancer, or winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Or it could be something as simple as making time to have a cup of tea and a natter with someone who needs a friend. We all have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life in one way or another – it’s a gift that should never be wasted.

 

 

  • Be relationship rich! – Working hard and making money is essential to live in today’s world. But don’t get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget about the people who matter. Show those special people that they are loved and valued.  Close relationships are important to our happiness so make an effort to be rich in good friendships and value family time.

 

 

  • Embrace new growth opportunities – I’m not always one for change but I wonder how much different my life would have been if I hadn’t taken a different path from time to time. I wouldn’t have experienced everything that I have done up to now and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. We have to accept the possibility that there may be things out there that are better for us and in order to find it, we may sometimes have to get out of our comfort zone. Try something different; go somewhere new. Life is full of countless opportunities and new possibilities. So embrace life, keep an open mind and have fun exploring new avenues.

 

  • Understand life’s lessons – Sometimes life teaches us painful lessons that we didn’t think we needed. But everything happens for a reason and these lessons make us wiser and help us to grow, Everything that happens helps you grow. Learn from your experiences but furthermore learn from the painful experiences of others too. There’s always a lesson to be gained from everyone’s experiences.

 

  • Be proud of those little achievements –  We all think that when we hit a certain age, we’ll be at a certain stage in our lives. But real life doesn’t always work that way and you may find that you’re not where you want to be right now. But bear in mind that you’ve come a long way and you’re not stuck where you once were. Don’t set unrealistic targets for yourself. Give yourself attainable goals and work towards achieving those. As a work in progress, you’ll get there a little at a time, not all at once. So celebrate the small progresses that you make.

 

  • True happiness comes from within You could have all the money in the bank, a jet set lifestyle, a fabulous relationship, and be stunning to boot – and still not happy. That’s because being happy starts with you. If you’re not happy with who you are, you won’t find happiness from any external influences.  So if there’s something in your life that you’re not happy with, it’s time to start making the necessary tweaks, adjustments, and changes, and getting rid of what doesn’t work for you anymore.

 

I hope this post has given you food for thought and that you’re able to put some of these plans into action. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day so it will take some time before you see results but don’t let that put you off. The trick is to take things one step at a time. Just think, by the time we get to the end of this year, we could be looking at a whole new you!

 

 

My Anti-Bucket List

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Kick the Bucket.”

In the last few years, the world has gone bucket list mad – including me! There’s tons of things we all hope to do before we ‘kick the bucket’.

I’ve always been a bit of a bucket list girl and I’ve already managed to tick quite a few things off my list including being front row at a concert; visiting certain countries; going to a New Kids On The Block concert; finding my dream job, and marrying the love of my life.

But there’s still plenty of things that I haven’t done and am still waiting to tick more off my list, such as spending NYE in Time’s Square; writing a book; becoming a really good baker and confectioner; reading the entire Bible, and becoming fluent in another language… and many, many more! In fact I don’t think I’ll ever have a completely crossed-off list as I keep adding to it.

But the thought of an anti-bucket list had never occurred to me until I saw The Daily Post’s writing prompt, and it got me thinking about things I would never in a million years want to do, want to have, or want to go to!

So here’s my selection of twenty (that’s right, twenty) things – in no particular order – that complete my anti- bucket list!

1. LEARN TO MAKE QUICHE

image from bbcfood.com

image from bbcfood.com

I absolutely hate quiche with a passion. If you came to my house for lunch, you can be sure that you won’t be served with this vile savoury tart/flan/whatever you want to call it. Why the rest of the world is quiche crazy, I’ll never know. Even though I want to hone my baking skills, this is one area of baking I don’t feel I need to even bother trying to learn let alone improve upon.

2. BECOME A BIGOT

Obviously no one goes through life intent on becoming a bigot. And even when most people do have an extreme intolerance towards others, they naturally won’t admit to it or even realise how offensive their views are- though you will get a few who don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with having such prejudicial views and will defend these views to the hilt. What they don’t seem to understand is how ignorant they sound.

Going through life with an open mind is so important on many different levels and for so many reasons- at the very least it makes the world a far better place.

3. APPEAR ON THE APPRENTICE

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love watching The Apprentice and tune in every year to find out who will be Lord Sugar’s new business partner. It’s addictive, and as someone who’s keen to go into business, it is of great interest to me.

There are times I think, fleetingly, about applying to go on the show but I know I never would. The other contestants show way too much arrogance, ruthlessness and attitude, and many of them are nowhere near as good as they claim to be. I really don’t think I could handle so many huge egos under one roof.

I’ll still continue to watch the show though!

4. VOTE UKIP

UKIP

The media would have you believe that the whole country is full of UKIP supporters even though I know that that’s not necessarily the case. I can see why a lot of people have fallen under the spell of Farage and co. but those who can look at things objectively can see that they clearly lack credibility, so whether they are the flavour of the month or not, I will not be jumping on the bandwagon and be voting UKIP.

And is it just me, or does their logo resemble something similar to a budget supermarket chain?

5. READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

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It’s meant to have enhanced activity in the boudoir and had women buying the E.L. James novel in droves. Nothing wrong with that of course. However, unlike Christian Grey, I am a hearts and flowers kind of person, so this isn’t a book that will be gracing my bookshelf, and I prefer old-fashioned though slightly corny romance rather than raunchy in your face erotica. Give me Mills and Boon any day!

6. WATCH WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT ON  BRITISH TV RIGHT NOW

 

The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Big Brother, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… these might constitute compulsive viewing at the moment but quite frankly I find it all quite boring.  I used to watch shows like these a long time ago but then it started to lose a bit of its gloss and I just gave up. However, I can’t escape these shows entirely because the ‘stars’ are always in the media. Even though I can’t profess to be a National Geographic kind of girl, this sort of telly really isn’t for me either.

7. BABYSIT A SPOILT CHILD

I like children as much as the next person but when it comes to children who lack discipline, don’t know the meaning of the word no, and think that all adults should do as they’re told (by them)… forget it! I once had the misfortune of babysitting a child (and not just any child, but a relative!)  who was a complete and utter nightmare but clearly thought that his behaviour was cute. And when his mum was told about his behaviour, she clearly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle a spoilt child. I’m obviously not one of them.

8. BECOME ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY

There’s no denying that we’re in the digital age and we all use technology to some degree. But to become addicted to gadgets to the point where it overrides common sense and courtesy is unacceptable. I really don’t wish to be that kind of person.

9. APPEAR ON MASTERCHEF USA

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Once again, Masterchef USA is a show Mr. D and I tune into religiously every year, and we’ve actually picked up a few tips from this cooking competition. However, I would never want to be a contestant on this show, even if I did live in The States, because Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich could very easily reduce me to tears and turn me into a nervous wreck. No thank you!

10. ATTEMPT TIGHTROPE WALKING

 

 

There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there but I’m not one of them and heights are not my thing, so you won’t see me on a tightrope anytime soon.

11. SWIM IN SHARK INFESTED WATERS

 

As I’ve said I’m not an adrenaline junkie and clearly do not have a sense of adventure, so once again not for me.

12. RETURN TO WORKING IN RETAIL

 

Before anyone accuses me of putting down people who work in the retail sector, let me explain. I spent more years than I care to think about working in retail, so I have a lot of respect for those who work in retail because I know how tough it can be – especially at this time of the year.

In theory, it should all go swimmingly. After all it’s not the worst job in the world; you get to meet people every day; and there are some exceptionally enjoyable tasks i.e.- going to trade shows, generous staff discounts etc.

However in practice I’ve found it incredibly draining. Dealing with the general public is not easy. Dealing with those in head office is even harder. Sometimes your colleagues don’t understand the importance of working as part of a team. And let’s not forget with more and more stores open for longer hours and seven days a week, it leaves you with little time for yourself, family and friends. I still like the idea of owning a shop of some kind but I doubt I’ll ever do it as I found it incredibly draining.

13. WORK FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER

 

It was my childhood ambition – until a careers officer said after a consultation that I lacked the ruthlessness and forceful character to be a journo. That and the fact that I didn’t like to pry into other people’s business!

Yep, I think I’m better suited to teaching English!

14. HAVE BOTOX

 

I know I’m getting older and I can see the signs. I don’t look or feel twenty one any more. However, I don’t believe that Botox is the answer – why would I want to inject poison into myself? I don’t believe in putting anything into my body that really shouldn’t be there, so I will fight aging with happy and healthy living.

15. BUY SUPER EXPENSIVE CLOTHES

 

When I was a teenager I was into labels and brand names as most of my peers were. That didn’t always mean I’d get them though and fast forward several years, I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t give into my every whim. I still love clothes and probably have more than I need but I don’t spend a fortune on each item and love spotting a bargain. I’d hate to spend a grand on a coat and then feel I’d need to wear it for the rest of my natural life and then be buried in it just to get my money’s worth!

16. BECOME A POLITICIAN

 

Where do I begin???

17. BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD

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During the course of my life, I’ve met some exceptionally interesting people who seemed to have it all. They said all the right things, had all the right things, looked the right way, surrounded themselves with all the right people and were seen in all the right places. In a nutshell, they were the in-crowd.

The only thing is that their hearts weren’t often in the right place and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised what’s important.

18. TO WATCH ANY MOVIE THAT’S BOUND TO LEAVE ME TRAUMATIZED

twelve

Twelve Years A Slave and The Passion Of The Christ are out as interesting and as fascinating as they are. When I watch a film, I want to be entertained not left feeling depressed.

19. OWN A FLASHY CAR

We’d all like a flashy car parked on our drive but I can’t help thinking what a waste of money it is. Unlike houses, the value of a car generally tends to go down not up. So I think I’ll invest my money in bricks and mortar, thank you.

20. RIDE A BIKE AROUND LONDON

visitlondon.com

visitlondon.com

I am most definitely not hot on two wheels at the best of times but riding around London with its super busy streets which I don’t believe is really ideal for cyclists… I’ll give it a miss. I’ve heard a great deal about accidents on our roads and even been at the scene of one, and my heart really goes out to those who have been hurt or worse. And I take my hat of to those who are far braver than me and are willing to have a go.

What’s on your anti-bucket list?

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When It’s The Students Who Inspire The Teacher…

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I feel a little sad today.

I had to say goodbye to a student who had been in my class since April. He was a delightful student and an absolute pleasure to teach. I only wish all of my students could be like him.

I’m thankful that I work in an EFL college and not in a mainstream school as I really don’t think I’d have been able to handle the pressures that go along with that territory – mainly difficult pupils and their even more ridiculously difficult parents. I have family and friends who work in secondary schools so I hear the horror stories. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t come across my fair share of awful behaviour. I’ve had students who are impolite, arrogant, ignorant and thoroughly unpleasant to be around. They’re apparently here to learn English so as to improve their chances of getting work, but who on earth would want to hire people with that attitude who are more than old enough to know better, I really don’t know. There have been times I’ve dreaded going into class – which is a ridiculous thing to say seeing as I’m the teacher – but that just goes to show how miserable the situation can sometimes be. All I can do is hope and pray for the day when the worst of the bunch leave – although I have no idea why it takes so long!

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And then there’s the other end of the spectrum. There’s the kind of student who makes you want to go into class every day. They’re attentive, courteous, eager to learn, full of questions, respectful, and always have time for a laugh and a joke. Basically, they’re smiley, happy people – my kind of people. And you just know that, unlike the above, they have all the qualities that will see them go far in life and succeed. I certainly hope so because the world is in short supply of fantastic people like these and we could do with more of them.

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So my brilliant student who has finished his course and is now heading home to continue with life as normal has inspired me to write this post. But my students actually inspire me in more ways than they know – even though it’s probably my job to inspire them. They’re the reason why I work hard at being a better teacher, and why I try to be more patient, understanding and encouraging. But they’ve inspired me in other ways too. I see what they do and I want to be more like them. No, I don’t mean getting legless at the school parties we have at clubs around the city – although I have no problem with that! But I see the effort they put into learning a language; the experiences they’re having; the countries they’re visiting; their love of travel; the way their eyes light up when they see something new… and it makes me want to experience some of that for myself. So much so I’ve decided to get back into studying languages again and would love to experience time away in another country.

It’s not just the students who are learning…

…teacher is too – and I have my amazing students to thank for that.

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Fashion Goes Bust!

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A recent article in a women’s magazine made me seethe. Emblazoned across the top of the page was the headline: WHICH SIZE BREASTS ARE BEST?

SERIOUSLY??? ARE YOU SERIOUSLY GOING TO ASK US THAT??? I had to check the cover of the magazine because for a moment, I thought I might be in possession of a lad’s mag. Nope – definitely a women’s weekly!

“FLAT IS THE NEW BIG THING!” shrieked the pull quote. “HAVING A HUGE BUST IS OUT OF FASHION IT SEEMS!” the intro proudly announced.

Original image from pixabay.com

Original image from pixabay.com

 

Oh OK then. I’ll just remove my big boobs, stick them back in the box, return them to the store and exchange them for a pair of smaller, pert, perkier ones. I would never have known they were out of style had it not been for this feature.

Excuse me, fashionable? Clothes, shoes and hairstyles may go in and out of fashion but not body shapes as far as I’m concerned. I was always under the impression that body parts were functional rather than fashionable. Most parts of our anatomy are not like hair which can be cut, lengthened, coloured, curled, shaved, straightened, teased etc. to best fit what is considered to be the look du jour. What do you do with body parts which are not the right shape or size?

 

Original image from pixabay. com

Original image from pixabay. com

 

The article went on to state that envy over big-busted girls has gone out the window as women prefer to have a more toned and athletic physique over Jessica Rabbit curves. Yes, breast enlargements are still being carried out but now women are opting for a more natural look  over anything that screams plastic. Small busted ladies are encouraged to thrown out their underwired bras and ‘be proud of those fried eggs!’ Despite the fact that the closing paragraphs encouraged ladies to love what their born with, the overall tone of the article was to big up (excuse the pun!) those who are not massively endowed while diminishing (again no pun intended!)  those who have more up top. I can’t help but feel a bit miffed – and that’s putting it mildly.

Original image from pixabay. com

Original image from pixabay. com

 

The basis for this feature came from findings from a poll that was carried out by  a company who develops and manufactures implants and expanders in which 2000 people were surveyed. It found that 72% of women said that, if they had to have surgery, they would only go up one bra size, while men also agreed that when it came to boobs, less is definitely more.

That’s all very well when you’re talking about cosmetic surgery and people’s expectations from cosmetic procedures but what about when what you’re naturally blessed with isn’t  necessarily the look that’s being coveted? How does that make you feel?

Original image from pixabay. com

Original image from pixabay. com

 

SMALL BOOBS ARE BEAUTIFUL… AND SO ARE BIG!

During my teenage years, my mother was alarmed at the rate in which I was moving up cup sizes. I, on the other hand, like most teenage girls, was delighted. And it wasn’t just because they made my jumpers hang nicely! I wasn’t blessed with a flat stomach and when supermodel pins were being handed out, in all the excitement, I fell over and knocked myself out while running to join the queue – so Cindy Crawford got what should have been mine. Therefore, I was naturally quite proud of my chest. Even when I lost the puppy fat, my bust was still very evident even though I didn’t have page three bazookas!

So do I think big boobs are better than little ones? Not at all because even I know that there’s a downside to being bigger on top. You have to deal with spiteful comments from women and goggle-eyed stares from men (don’t even get me started on the drunken comments) You have to be careful what you wear because the wrong items of clothing will over-emphasise the bust area; leave you looking matronly, or have you fearing fall-out! Then there are the problems when you get older where your boobs have the bizarre urge to say hello to your feet whereas ladies with smaller boobs look more youthful. And girls who are massively endowed have complained about back-ache to the point where a breast reduction is a necessity rather than for vanity’s sake.

Original image from pixabay. com

Original image from pixabay. com

Have there been times when I wished my boobs were smaller? Yes. In order to be taken seriously and to stop the stares. I also got quite frustrated at how certain style of clothes looked so elegant on small busted girls while it just looked trashy on me. And of course I do worry about what they’ll look like after pregnancy – will I be tempted to go under the knife in order to obtain perfection? And when complete strangers comment on them, there have been times I’ve definitely wished I was less curvaceous.

But when all’s said and done, I absolutely love what I’ve been blessed with. They’re not totally in your face but they’re mine, they’re a part of me and they’re what I’m used to. And Mr. D is definitely very happy with them! Hollywood stars Christina Hendricks and Catherine Zeta-Jones have both said how having an ample bosom makes them feel “womanly and sexy” and I know exactly what they’re talking about.

Original image from pixabay. com

Original image from pixabay. com

I didn’t find the article annoying because it seemingly went against what I’ve naturally got. But I feel that talking about what’s en vogue body-wise can have a detrimental effect on women, especially impressionable young girls. Body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders and teenage depression and bullying all seem to be on the increase. You only have to pick up a paper to know that and I don’t feel that features like this help – even though I’m sure it was intended to be nothing more than a light-hearted talking point. It’s one thing to report on survey findings but totally another to debate which breast size is best. And anyway, aren’t we supposed to encourage women to be more than just boobs on legs? Don’t we criticize glamour models, WAGS, and reality stars for being just that? Isn’t it  better, in an age, when breast cancer is a growing concern, that we focus more on having healthy breasts rather than their size?

Image from pixabay. com

Image from pixabay. com

 The truth of the matter is that people are very rarely totally happy with what they have – maybe it’s just human nature. And if my boobs are out of fashion then it’s just a damn good thing that I’ve never really been a follower of fashion which is proven by the number of calls I get from the 1980s! When it comes to loving your body, I would leave all talk about what’s fashionable or not to the catwalks of Paris and Milan and focus on being happy and healthy and making the most of what you’ve been blessed with.

So whether you’ve got pancakes, fried eggs, or melons, stand tall and be proud. Embrace what’s yours and feel totally gorgeous.

 

 

Dinner At Mine By Chris Smyth

Journalist Chris Smyth’s debut novel Dinner At Mine is the reading book which has accompanied me on my way to work for a week – and it definitely made the bus trip seem a lot shorter which must mean that I enjoyed this book immensely!

One of the reasons why I picked up this book was because it’s loosely based on the concept of TV’s Come Dine With Me; a show of which I’m a massive fan. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Come Dine With Me and many countries actually have their own version of the show – some of which I’ve seen and enjoyed. Even though the show has been around since 2005 (nearly ten years. My goodness!) it’s still as popular as ever with viewers despite slight changes to the format and for a while the nation went Come Dine With Me crazy, hosting their own dinner party events with friends.

 

And that is basically the concept for this book: a group of friends get together and compete to see who can hold the best dinner party. Even though they got the idea from the TV show, there are some fundamental differences:

  • Dinner parties are hosted in pairs rather than by four or five individual hosts.
  • Dinners are hosted once a week over a four week period rather than on consecutive nights.
  • There is no cash prize – they’re competing purely for glory!
  • Sadly, there is no voiceover from Dave Lamb. Shame!

The couples hosting dinners are: happily-marrieds Rosie and Stephen, proud parents of baby Jonathan; career couple, secretly-yearning-to-be wed Sarah and her ultra-competitive boyfriend Marcus; socially conscious vegetarian Justin and his beautiful,  American, artist girlfriend, Barbara, and reluctant singletons, Charlotte and Matthew who are thrown together by Rosie  in the hope that dinner won’t be the only thing cooking between the two of them!

 

The competition is Rosie’s idea and she is the one responsible for selecting this eclectic group of people, some of whom are good friends, while others are acquaintances and some are meeting the others for the first time. What should be simple and straight-forward proves to be anything but. Despite Marcus being the most competitive, determined to find fault with the other teams, friendship counts for nothing as everyone wants to be the best and win despite there not being any prizes – and they will go to any lengths to achieve their moment of glory.

 

The actual dinner party events are secondary to the tensions and problems in the lives of the competitors which is further exacerbated by the competition causing jealousies, insecurities and hostilities to come to the fore thus creating friendships and relationships to collapse faster than a cheese soufflé. There is tension between best friends Matthew and Stephen regarding lawyer Matthew’s former relationship with Rosie while the three friends were at university; Sarah is questioning her career and relationship choices;  Barbara’s career is in decline and she’s having trouble renewing her visa, both of which impact heavily on her relationship with Justin, and trouble-making loudmouth Charlotte can’t help stirring the pot every opportunity she gets.

 

I found this book to be a real page-turner; I couldn’t wait to get to the end. I really liked how the novel was divided into four parts, where each part focused on a different party which gives the reader a real sense of where they are in the story. The characters decide the best way to deliver votes is by email and I thoroughly enjoyed reading their overly frank comments and ridiculous reasons for why points were being deducted (tactical scoring of course!) And there were a few twists in the tale too – some of which really surprised me.

 

Smyth tells a great tale of what happens when an element of competition is introduced within a circle of friends. It could even be a metaphor for modern day society in which manners; honesty, and consideration towards others count for nothing as it’s every man for himself, and indeed many of the characters do exactly as they please and take what they want at the expense of the others. All the characters are flawed in one way or another but I have to say that  by the end of the novel, I really couldn’t stand most of them. Gossipy, bitchy, uptight, highly-strung, back-stabbing… all thanks to a three-course meal! It also seemed quite obvious to me that one character had an alcohol problem while another seemed to be suffering from a mild form of depression but neither of these issues were touched upon. I was also quite disappointed that the endings to some of the sub-plots were not neatly tied-up but were just left hanging.

However, I really did enjoy reading Dinner At Mine. It was thoroughly entertaining. I’m sure many of my fellow commuters thought I was a bit of a lunatic, grinning away to myself, but there were also moments were I felt quite sorry for some of the characters, and believe me, if I could have climbed into this book and given some of the characters a good slap – I would have!

A great book published by Simon and Schuster in 2012. I can’t wait to read Smyth’s next novel.

 

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