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Sometimes You Just Have To Open Your Mind…And Shut Your Mouth!

 

Like most people I have the never-discuss -politics-or religion rule, especially with people I know. I have also added parenting methods to that rule too – as well as few other topics. And the reason is, as everyone knows, it is indeed the quickest way to end a friendship.

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How I wish I’d stuck to that rule!

It’s all very well having these discussions if the person you’re talking to is tolerant, mature, reasonable and willing to accept that everyone has a different opinion. If you’re able to have these discussions in a non-offensive manner, you can’t go far wrong.

 

But when the person you’re having the discussion with is the complete opposite of the above, and all they do is preach, lecture, rant, rave, talk at you rather than to you, criticize your own opinions and are extremely offensive with it… It takes a very, very strong friendship to get over it!

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

 

I had this very unfortunate encounter very recently with someone I consider to be a very close friend – in fact I hope she still is! Unless you’re a complete dimwit, you can’t have failed to have noticed that our nation is in the grip of Brexit fever. Everyone has some kind of an opinion on whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU. Whether you’re an innie, an outie, or an ummie, everyone has something to contribute to this great debate.

Because we’re very good friends, I felt quite comfortable in breaking one of the few rules I have in life and told her where I stood with regards to the referendum. Boy did that prove to be a big mistake!

Pixabay. Com

Pixabay. Com

My normally mild-mannered friend turned into what can only be described as a raving lunatic. Not only did she stomp all over my political opinions but she tried to ram her own brand of politics down my throat, and to be honest, because she was unable to articulate herself without going over the top, whatever she was banging on about just went over my head – and not because I’m short! I can’t even recall what she said exactly – all I got was a faceful of blah ba blah ba blah ba blah!

I’m sure my friend thinks I’m too thick to understand how politics and the EU work – and maybe I am. But as one of my tutors once said to me the real idiot isn’t the person who admits to not knowing something, it’s the person who thinks they know everything.

 

Image from pi eBay.com

Image from pixabay.com

 

Unless we’re directly involved in politics, its not always easy to know what information we hear is accurate and what is just propaganda. My friend has access to pretty much the same information as me. Admittedly she’s definitely more well-read and knowledgeable than me about such matters but is the decision she’s making based exclusively on true, unbiased facts? And have these facts been verified? Well we don’t know – although she likes to think she’s one hundred per cent certain she knows all the facts and they are all true. Things aren’t always black and white as we all know – there’s always areas of grey. And while its always natural to be biased when it’s something we agree with, to go around thinking your views are gospel is just a little too much.

 

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

I will be keeping quiet about my own views regarding the referendum – but I’m willing to accept that I may be wrong. The decision I make is based on my judgement of the masses of info we’ve been bombarded with but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily right  and I will be keeping an open mind. One thing I will say is that I will be relieved when this referendum episode is over and we find out exactly what is in store for the future of Britain – and I won’t have to hear the term ‘Brexit’ for a very long time.

But when I’m approached with aggression, and spoken to in a bullying manner by a know-it-all, and I’m made to feel that my views don’t count, then yes – I do have a problem.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

Of course there are subjects that I feel very passionate about but I’m well aware that not everyone will share my views. I can’t very well argue with everyone so I choose my battles carefully. This post isn’t just about sharing your views but giving an opinion to close friends and  family in a way in which relationships are left intact. That could mean not discussing potentially controversial issues or biting your tongue hard when you hear something that makes you want to punch someone! But I think the best thing is to accept that there will always be differences; respect other people’s opinions – even if they do seem bizarre, and although passion is good, aggression is not, so save that for the boxercise class and not for a heated debate with someone who’s meant to be dear to you. Because once something extremely offensive has been said, it can’t be taken back. Hardly worth losing someone you care about just because you need to be right.

 

 

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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!

 

Back Down In London Town

 

 

I’ve been a little quiet with the posts this month as April has been quite a busy month for me. As everyone knows Mr. D. and I left England to go and live in Massachusetts after Mr. D. had been offered a job there. However  because we had left quicker than we would have liked, it was always known that I’d be returning after a few months in order to tie up loose ends – so here I am!

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It’s great being back in my city though I wish Mr. D was here because I do miss him terribly but hopefully I shouldn’t be staying for too long and I will be back with Mr. D. before I know it. In the meantime, I just want to enjoy all the fab things London has to offer; see all those I never got a chance to say goodbye to back in January, and spend time with those who matter because it might be a very long time before I see them again.

 

I’m actually enjoying using my Oyster Card and hopping on and off public transport because not being much of a driver – despite having passed my test yonks ago – I’ve never really been much of a driver, so depended on Mr. D. to ferry me around which I know will have to change once I move back to the States. You can complain all you want about public transport in London – and we do – but it’s not brilliant in Massachusetts at all, so when we first moved out there and had to wait to get a car, we really struggled. I’m so thankful that we have a fairly decent bus and tube system here in London.

I know a few people are confused that I have found myself a job in a school but it’s only for the duration of my stay. The truth is I really miss being in a classroom; being an English teacher is a big part of who I am. So when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it and I have to say its a lot of fun. It’s great getting to know my new students and colleagues, and one of my former colleagues is also working there, so it’s great to see a familiar face.

I’m so glad I’m having this time in my hometown because who knows when I’ll be back. But funnily enough, it’s also made me feel more optimistic about living in America and I really want to give it a go. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience life in another country so I’m determined to make the most of every second which isn’t easy when homesickness rears its ugly head… But I’ll try!

And Mr.D. and I have some rather exciting news which I’ll be sharing with you at some point but I don’t want to give too much away now. I will however make it clear that for those who are expecting to hear an announcement about the pitter-patter of tiny feet, well it’s not as exciting as that – but it’s pretty close!

Watch this space…

 

 

 

Journey To The New World

 

We’ve been in America for over six weeks now and I am slowly getting a feel for our new home. Im gradually adjusting to life in a new country, with a new way of doing things, though thankfully not a new language – although sometimes that’s debatable!

This is my second attempt at life in the USA. The first time admittedly I threw in the towel too soon but everyone puts that down to wrong place, wrong time and I’m inclined to agree with them. This time I feel more prepared and I am liking Massachusetts a lot. I hope this time will be second time lucky!

WHERE WE’VE BEEN

We landed in Ohio where we spent almost a week before beginning the ten hour journey to our new home in Massachusetts. A few weeks later we did another road trip though this time to Delaware which took longer than it should have thanks to Mr. D. getting lost and not wanting to admit it!

New Jersey in the distance - on our way to Delaware

New Jersey in the distance – on our way to Delaware

We were supposed to go to Pennsylvania but unfortunately there wasn’t time but we will fit that in later in the year as well as a visit to North Carolina and a cross-country trip. Woo!

Oh and the number of States I’ve visited has now increased by three – Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware – which brings the total up to a groundbreaking… eleven!

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WHO WE’VE SEEN

Mr D.and I  have family and friends scattered all over the country and we obviously haven’t got round  to see everyone yet – hence the numerous trips planned. But we did get to catch up with Mr. D.’s parents and younger siblings as well as meeting our brother-in-law and the best bit – wait for it – our super cute nephew who was born three weeks after we arrived here. We couldn’t get enough of the little fella!

WHAT WE’VE EXPERIENCED:

THE SNOW

I thought coming from England, I knew all about the cold. I was wrong. Yes people, believe it or not there are places far, far, colder than England!

The back yard

The back yard

Anyone who follows the news will have been aware of the horrendous snowstorm that struck the northeastern states. Thankfully we made it to Massachusetts before we ran into any real difficulty but apart from being pelted by a thick blanket of icy, white stuff while dashing out to the supermarket, and feeling as though we were living in an ice-box despite having the heating on at home, we were much more fortunate than a lot of other people. You only had to see the images on the news channels to see how people were suffering. And our phones were ringing constantly with concerned family and friends wanting to know if we were all right.

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Snow… beautiful to look at… Not always beautiful to be in.

FLAT HUNTING

We thought we were pretty much sorted with the perfect apartment when just a few days before we were due to arrive in Massachusetts, we realised we were being scammed. It seemed too good to be true and it always pays to listen to your instincts. To cut a long story short, the little s**t got reported and he didn’t get any of our hard earned dosh despite his best efforts – but I still hope that Karma will bite a nice big chunk out of his bum! There’s tons of scammers out there who are ripping off innocent  people who are just looking for a decent place to live – almost happened to us in London as well – so be careful, people!

So it meant we arrived in Boston with no apartment to move into and had to stay in motels for over a week. Looking for somewhere suitable to live can be every bit as tricky as trying to find something semi -decent in London, and as we knew we were going to be without a car for a while, we had to find something as close as possible to Mr. D.’s workplace.

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This narrowed our choices down to two, and reluctant to do a house share again, we opted for a basement flat which although wasn’t fantastic (the landlady’s words funnily enough) and was far more expensive, it meant that we had our privacy and the one thing we never had, living in our cramped London studio – space and tons of it! Not only that but we had access to the mini gym, and the garden which boasts a pool and a hot tub. OK, obviously we can’t take full advantage of it during these freezing cold winter months but spring is around the corner and we’d love to put them to use then.

The hot tub!

The hot tub!

Many of the locals will tell you that Massachusetts isn’t cheap when it comes to property so I hope they never visit London because they’ll get the shock of their lives! Our monthly rent now is more or less what we were paying for the little shoebox we just moved from!

BUYING A NEW CAR

In a land where cars are like names – simply everybody has one – to tell an American that you don’t own a car will incur the same reaction as telling them that you don’t own a toothbrush! You’ll be met with a reaction that is a cross between pity, ridicule, confusion and incredulous amazement that you’ve made it this far in life! Whenever we told people that we “don’t have a car at the moment,” the response we usually get is:

“What’s wrong with it? When will they have it ready by?”

We realised that it was far better to let people think that somewhere in town, a mechanic was tinkering away on our nonexistent car. Well nonexistent wasn’t exactly true. Mr. D. is actually the proud owner of a jeep that he’d had for many years but it had to be left in Ohio for several reasons. Furthermore Mr. D. was adamant that we could get by without a motor – especially as his main priority was to buy a house before committing to the expense of owning a car. Plus in an effort to get fit, he wanted to bike more as he had done in Portland.

However, this isn’t Portland and poor Mr. D was having to bike into work in not so pleasant weather conditions, although when the weather was really ghastly he would cycle to the nearest bus stop and wait for the bus, while ignoring the stares of passing motorists who were trying to work out what the hell  was wrong with the strange guy on a bike!

Thankfully it was the birth of our nephew that prompted Mr. D. to finally concede defeat and get a car as there wasn’t a more convenient way of going over to visit. It’s true what everyone says; to live here you really do need a vehicle to get around and it does make life so much easier. I’m so glad we’ve finally got a set of wheels – and I don’t mean bicycle ones!

FOOTBALL FEVER

This is a country that definitely takes their sports seriously. Which is bad news for me because I’m not in the least bit sporty. When we arrived here, football fever was already well under way. The Patriots suffered a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down well with the locals and disappointed me too, as having just arrived in New England I would have loved to have seen them make it to the final.

 

And watching my first ever Super Bowl proved to be very memorable – and not just any Super Bowl but Super Bowl 50 no less – where the Carolina Panthers took on the Denver Broncos – and lost! I was glad because I had my money on the Broncos even though admittedly I didn’t know which was the better of the two teams. I just got lucky! 

 

I was  pretty chuffed to be in America as they celebrated the fiftieth Super Bowl but of course, I didn’t have a clue what was going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times. But then that’s hardly a surprise as I don’t even know the rules of soccer (also known as real football!) and I grew up in a football (soccer) mad family! Sporty I may not be but I will have to make an effort to understand more about the more popular sports in the States because when in Rome…

WHAT WE’RE UP TO

Mr. D. is a month into his new job and he is loving it! He’s much happier doing what he’s doing now than he was in his old post in London. That reason alone has made the move worth it.

I’ve gone from being an English teacher at one of the most well-established schools in Central London to being a housewife in New England for the time being- and there’s nowt wrong with that! It means that I get to spend more time with Mr. D. than I did when we lived in London, and it’s great that after years in a fast-paced job that got extremely demanding towards the end, I can take a little time out to chill and get used to my new surroundings.

I’m also brushing up on my language skills (comes in very handy in my job!) and working on business ideas that I’d put on the back burner. It’s a case of now or never and I have the time so I’m going for it. And most of our weekends are taken up with house hunting as we search to find a place we’re happy to call home not to mention accommodate the bands of visitors we’re expecting, who we can’t wait to see – just not all at the same time!

Discovering great Chinese food in MA

Discovering great Chinese food in MA

Of course I’m missing my family, my friends, my job and my city but we are only a five hour flight away so even though I can’t fly home every week, I can still make a few trips home a year. But this is such an exciting stage in our lives and I’m determined to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.

Let the good times begin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, New Beginning For Mr. And Mrs. D.

 

Well it had to happen one day… and that day is just around the corner.

Mr. D. and I are moving back to the good ole U S of A!!!

We always knew that it would happen one day and that we wouldn’t be staying in London forever. In fact this time next month, I’ll be living in another country – and I don’t know how I feel about that…

 

It’s taken me a while to get used to the idea of moving back to the States and away from all of my family and friends. At first, I dug my heels in and refused to leave. But Mr. D. had been offered a job in the East Coast that really was too good to turn down and was most definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew that if I stood in his way and he never got a chance like this again, not only would he never forgive me, but I’d probably never forgive myself. So we decided to go for it!

There have been a lot of strange happenings this year which have been difficult to understand but to cut a very long story short, I know that it was fate’s way of preparing us for this move. Mr. D was thrilled to hear that he’d landed a job on the East Coast as he was sick to the back teeth of London life.

But moving to America doesn’t really signal the end of anything. Mr.D. has assured me that this job is a stepping stone to where he needs to get to career-wise and there’s every possibility that he could be transferred to England again at some point, so even though it’s goodbye, it’s only good bye for now – not necessarily forever.

 

I’ve had time to get used to the idea but I’m still feeling a whole mix of emotions:

I’m happy…

…that Mr.D. gets the chance to return to the place he calls home and be reunited with his family and friends again. I’m also happy to be going to America because it’s been four years since I was last there and seeing the place again – not forgetting my family and friends – will be great. It’s also fantastic that Mr. D. has landed this job as it has great career prospects and has potentially life changing opportunities for both of us.

But I’m also sad…

…at having to leave my family, friends, and city behind. True, London isn’t what it used to be. It’s not the city I grew up in. It’s way too congested, polluted and expensive to live in. But when all’s said and done I love this city and always will. There’s something about London that gives you a real buzz. I don’t know who couldn’t love this amazing city.

 

And while I know that my family and friends will always be my family and friends, and that advancements in technology have made the world a much smaller place, it’s really not the same as just living down the road from them. When I first moved to the States, I practically lived my life on Facebook and Skype. I suspect I will again.

I am a little excited…

…at the prospect of a new life in a new country. A change can be a good thing, and it’ll give me a chance to work on the number of projects I have lined up. And to be honest, I have always, always wanted to live in New England – I am a New Kids On The Block fan after all – so this really is a dream come true. Furthermore, living in another country is not something that everyone has the chance to do, so I’m really relishing the opportunity to explore an area I’ve never been to before and embrace a new way of life.

But I’m also anxious…

…about starting a new way of life! America isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory for me. After all, I’m married to an American, I have American family, I’ve visited many times during the period Mr. D and I were dating, and I have lived there briefly. But I do know that each part of America is quite distinct, and as I’ve never been to New England before, I’m not quite sure what to expect. My knowledge of the region comes from other people’s experiences and information I’ve come across. So even though it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go to, I’m not sure what I’ll find but I’m hoping it’ll live up to my expectations.

I’m  dreading…

…the thought of the whole moving process, especially as we now have less than a month before we go. There’s the humongous task of packing – and the even bigger task of deciding what’s coming with us as Mr.D. is adamant that we are not taking everything, and not forgetting all the legal procedures that need to be followed.

I’m also not a fan of goodbyes so I’m dreading having to say my farewells to all those I love and care about – even though they are all of course welcome to see us any time they want. Just not all at the same time!

But I’m also hopeful…

…that things will work out exactly as they should. I didn’t enjoy my first experience of living in the States but I put that down to the timing being all wrong and living in a place that really wasn’t for me. I hope that this time things will be different. I don’t as yet know how I’m going to make things work but I’m sure I’ll figure it all out once I get there.

 

So there it is – my news! The new year for us will mean a new country, a new home, a new life. I wonder what will be in store for us. And even though I will not be making Chez Mrs. D. a predominantly expat blog, it’ll be great to add another dimension to this blog in the form of the ‘life in another country’ variety and I cannot wait to share my new experiences with you all.

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America, here we come!!!!

 

Thanksgiving Chez Mr. And Mrs. D.

 

 

Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!

Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)

Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!

So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!

So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’

1. TO CHURCH IN THE MORNING

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For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance  to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now so there won’t be a special Thanksgiving mass in any of the churches but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.

2. PANCAKE BREAKFAST

 

Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to  number 5, you’ll understand why!

3. ROAST TURKEY DINNER

 

What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I put it very politely.

We always have turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.

And of course there’ll be a round of sandwiches the next day!

4. TURKEY MUST BE TOPPED WITH BACON

I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey, do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!

5. A VERY, VERY, LATE DINNER

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This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!

I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!

6. FAMILY MOVIE MARATHON

 

Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!

7. GAMES WITH FRIENDS

 

If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.

8. DEATH AT A FUNERAL

 

This may seem like an odd choice but it started out as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, we’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.

9. CANDLES

 

There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.

And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.

10. CHEESE BOARD

 

OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition  as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.

I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.

11. I AM THANKFUL POEM

I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:

I AM THANKFUL

I am thankful for…

The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.

The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.

The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.

My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.

The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.

Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

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!

bus2

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.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Great British Bake Off Finale 2015

 

In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.

The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!

 

I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!

 

I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!

Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.

 

Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!

Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!

 

 

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

 

 

Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!

 

In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition.  Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.

 

When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is!  The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Crab
  • Ham and English mustard
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Rare roast beef and horseradish
  • Rose petals with honey
  • Prawn mayonnaise

SAVOURIES

 

  • Smoked salmon soufflés
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Blinis with smoked salmon
  • Mini Cornish pasties
  • Parmesan thins
  • Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
  • Goats’ cheese rarebit
  • Spinach and parmesan muffins
  • Cheese straws
  • Potted shrimp on melba toast
  • Trout pate on melba toast
  • Mini chicken and asparagus pie

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

 

  • Crumpets
  • Tea loaf
  • Tea cakes
  • Brioche
  • English muffins
  • Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

 

  • Victoria sponge cake
  • Apple pie with cinnamon cream
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Cherry Cake
  • Jam tartlets
  • Battenburg cake
  • Rose and raspberry  or chocolate macaroons
  • Fruit cake
  • Mini Bakewell tarts
  • Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
  • Mini English trifles
  • Pink and lilac iced buns
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Chocolate éclairs
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Custard slices
  • Florentines

DRINKS:

 

  • Tea!
  • Frozen strawberry daiquiris
  • Mixed berry tea
  • White chocolate mocha
  • Jasmine tea
  • Pink lemonade
  • Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raspberry bellini
  • Cava with nasturtiums
  • Pomegranate Martini
  • Chamomile tea
  • Champagne with hibiscus
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.

Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES

 

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS:

60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey

METHOD:

1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

 

 

 

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

mast

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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