HOPE – Hold On..Pain Ends!

I’m sitting in my back garden letting the sun dry me off after a very hot bath which hopefully will have eased my aching muscles a wee bit. ‘And why do you have aching muscles?’ I hear you all cry … Well, I have just completed my first ever Park Run, a 5km run around Hove Park. This is quite a major thing for me because after babies my back was weak and pathetic and prone to give out at the mere sight of running shoes. Consequently, after a few half hearted attempts to run the half a mile down to the beach and back, I swore I would never run again.

But 10 weeks ago my friend Linda persuaded me to join the beginner’s course at The Brighton  & Hove Women’s Running Club. After my new found love of body strengthening yoga and masses of walking I thought it may be time to push myself a little more. I also wanted to do something I could do with Millie (mother/daughter bonding and all that), so I signed us both up.

Millie lasted 2 weeks!

I, on the other hand, embraced the manky feet, sore joints, sweat and personal challenges and kept going. Our goal was to enter and complete the Hove Park Run so every week we were encouraged, pushed, encouraged some more by the lovely ladies at the club. We did hill training (ouch and grrr), sprinting, longer and longer runs and time/distance challenges (ouch and hooray).

As the weeks went by my body seemed to remember that I used to be quite a good runner. I was the school’s star distance runner and even though I didn’t take it further I did make it to borough level; cross country in the winter and 800 & 1500m in the summer. I hated the cross country. I loved the 1500m. Then I went to sixth form college, discovered pubs and boys and I stopped running.

Then decades ago (literally) while living in Australia, I ran Sydney’s City to Surf for two consecutive years. Looking back it seems like the 8kms was a walk in the park! But I do remember Heartbreak Hill!! (The clue is in the name….Double ouch!!) I was young, much fitter, had James, my even fitter older brother, to train with ….. and there was beer and beach waiting for me at the end!

So today, 22 years after that last ‘proper’ organised run, I did another.

I set myself three challenges before I ran:

1) complete the 5km

2) do it without having to stop and walk

3) do it in under 30 mins

I managed one of these challenges but I’m not going to beat myself up about the other two. Yes, I walked for a minute or two, and I didn’t quite make the time challenge, but 32.10 minutes isn’t too shabby for a first timer. It hurt…a lot, but I feel so good and so proud of myself. A huge thank you to Linda who ran the last km with me and to all the gorgeous running club volunteers who cheered and clapped us on. The endorphins that surged through my body once I could breathe again gave me a real high! I can see why it’s addictive!

Maybe next week I will break the 30 minutes. Oh Dios Mio! I’ve become a stats/running bore already. Someone stop me before I sign up for next years marathon…..please!!!

From the 5th floor

It’s noisy at night but it’s great living right on Plaza del Dos de Mayo. I’m still hankering after a bit more outside space, but even though we keep an eye on Idealista (rental website) we’ve not seen anywhere that compares to our fab flat on the fifth floor of an old apartment block which overlooks the square. My favourite spot is sitting by one of the open French windows with my legs in the sun reading or writing and watching the world go by.

This is me, right now, writing this post……


And this is what 24 hours (ish) in the life of Plaza del Dos de Mayo looked like this weekend from my fave spot……
9.30am on Saturday….quiet, peaceful, pretty much empty of life. Hardly anyone is up yet save for a few dog walkers and a couple of kids in the playground.

 1pm….a weekend market sets up. A quick visit and I’m down €4 but have some fabulous hippy trousers and a fluorescent pink top. Cheap chic as always!

 7.30pm and the protesters are out! The plaza is a well known hot spot for political demos and gatherings. The market will go on until about 10pm.

 1am….and the square is full to bursting. It’s summer; Madrileños are a sociable bunch; it’s summer and still very hot; 1am is still early in Madrid! These are all good reasons to not be at home. Every cafe table is taken and the botellón culture is alive and well in Plaza del Dos de Mayo (groups of people partying/drinking in the streets – illegal supposedly!) easily catered for by the guys selling €1 beers from old lady shopping trolleys. The police are keeping their distance tonight so it’s N-O-I-S-Y!

 Midday on Sunday….It’s International Yoga Day and despite the heat the body beautiful are out.

So, all in all, not a bad place to live really. Now where is that suncream??

Reiki, relaxation and rebalance

 

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I am definitely open minded when it comes to complimentary or alternative medicines and therapies. I’ve had acupuncture many times and cranial osteopathy and reflexology a couple of times. I’ve dabbled in homoeopathy and I love aromatherapy , but  I’ve never tried any natural, or faith, healing. So when I was given the chance to experience a Reiki healing treatment this week to try to relive some of the pain in my dodgy shoulder I jumped at it. I didn’t really know what to expect as I have never had any Reiki healing or chakra rebalance treatments before but I went into it with my mind, eyes, heart and soul open, and I can honestly say I was amazed at how it made me feel.

I’m no expert so I’m not going to try to preach about how everyone should try it. I know many people would absolutely not try something so ‘out there’ or spiritual, but I was so completely bowled over at my reaction to my treatment I wanted to explore some reasons as I to why I was so affected.

We have energy or life force flowing through us. I can’t see this energy, I can’t feel it, but I know it is there. We all have days when even after a good night’s sleep we feel low on energy. Or days when things don’t seem quite right, those days when you feel you’ve got out of bed on the wrong side and are grumpy for no reason. Well, it could be our energies are blocked or sluggish, or our Chakras are not open, aligned, or balanced. Maybe we have a warm bath, someone makes a nice comment or compliments us, or gives us a big hug and everything seems so much better, our energies are rebalanced and everything is OK in our world once again. But sometimes we may need a little more help in this rebalance. And that’s where an experienced Reiki practitioner like Sam comes in.

Touch is powerful. When we hurt ourselves we tend to rub the area. We massage our temples when we have a headache. We grab our foot when we stub a toe. Anyone with kids knows the power of a kiss and hug and gentle rub of a bumped knee. We like to touch friends and loved ones, hold hands, shake hands, pat backs, give hugs. And who doesn’t love a massage or foot rub?

Thought is powerful. I don’t believe you have to have a faith to be able to pray. I think that prayer is basically positive thought and there is so much power in positive thought. At the end of letters, texts or emails we send love or best wishes and I send cards, or even just texts, sending ‘love and thoughts’ when a friend is going through a tough time. And I try not to just say it, I do try to think about that person throughout my day and I do try to send positive thoughts.

Visualisation is something we often do subconsciously. We may imagine conversations we need to have or visualise scenarios such as asking for a pay rise or going for a job interview. When we are younger we are often asked where we see ourselves in 10 or 15 years from now – married, kids, travelling, dream job etc. We allow ourselves to daydream and often these daydreams are an escape from boredom. Remember those moments as kids looking out of the window of the classroom, daydreams getting us through the day, allowing us to be anywhere other than the confines of the classroom, even if it is just in our minds.

Touch, thought and visualisation are all behaviours inherent and instinctive to us as humans.  I just think that with the pressures of life we forget to take time out to consciously think about touch, thought or visualisation, to take time out to look after ourselves beyond a bit of exercise or healthy eating.  During my Reiki treatment I was  ‘given permission’ to focus on my well-being, I was shown a way to look towards a healthy, happy future. I was encouraged to let go of things, people, ideas, beliefs that are not doing me any good. We hold onto our tensions in our bodies and our minds so it’s unsurprising that we can get aches and pains physically, mentally and emotionally.

I am not going to go into too much detail about my treatment as it was quite personal to me, but I will say that Sam’s soft voice led me through a visualisation ‘story’ where I was able to look at aspects of my life with fresh insight. I experienced intense colours, tingles, heat, bright, bright white light. My body felt both weightlessness and extreme heaviness as if I was lying in a bath of honey. Sam was able to guide me to a place of deep, deep, almost trance like, relaxation and I  felt a huge sense of blissed out well-being after the treatment.

And a few days on, as well as feeling wonderfully calm, my shoulder is definitely moving more than it was, and I’m not getting any throbbing aches. I am definitely a convert and I will be back to get a regular Reiki treatment because there are two important things that Sam told me – I need to look after myself a little bit more…and drink more water!

Sam’s Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/FutureUToday/850529735033942

Sam’s email: contact@FutureU.Today

Sam’s website is having an overhaul. I will add details when it is back up and running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

InstaLove

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Ahhh Instagram….I love Instagram! I love it because although I am not a particularly good photographer I love taking bad pictures on my phone and turning them into something half way decent (in my eyes anyway!) with the help of Instagram. Instagram is also my own personal online photo album. It’s the perfect visual diary where I can cherry pick the best bits of my life and document the moment forever. One picture can sum up the most flavoursome meal, the most treasured friendship, the most vibrant city. Yes, it can be self serving and egotistical. It can be hugely ‘look at me’, ‘look where I am’, ‘look at what I’m doing’, but we are used to that with Facebook. I think Facebook is a bit tired now, but to me Instagram still feels fresh, and if some think it’s a bit hipster with the old school filters and Polaroid look of distant childhood I’m quite happy to be called hipster, although I’m really not! It’s great to be able to choose cherished moments or random, but meaningful, objects and image enhance them a little, or a lot, with filters for a romantic, whimsical, funky or whatever look I am after.
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Also Instagram really is a selfie-lovers friend! Not that I am a selfie fanatic, but I do post the odd pic, and when I do it allows me to iron out the various imperfections in my face. What a great way to get rid of bags under the eyes or spots on the chin! It’s my own personal airbrush service. My mantra is never post a selfie until I have tweaked it to be as perfect as possible even if the result is being a little economical with the truth so to speak!
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Instagram is art…it’s official. There is a permanent Instagrammers Gallery at the Telefonica building in Madrid. It is an exciting view into the eyes and minds of the world’s iphotographers and android artists. As most of us now have smart phones we can all have a go at producing photographic art. I’m sure ‘real’ artists would have something to say about an Instagram photograph being called art, but what is art anyway? To me art is something beautiful and /or interesting. It tells a story of a moment in time and allows us to remember and enjoy that story for years to come, and isn’t that Instagram is encouraging us to do?
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MoonWalk Mania

 

For the last 18 years on one Saturday night in May thousands of women (and quite a few men) take to the streets of London wearing highly decorated bras and fancy dress to walk either a half marathon or a full marathon. That is walking 13 or 26.2 miles through the night. Just when your body is saying ‘right that’s enough for today, let’s hit the sack’ you ignore the yawns and dry eyes, and just place one foot in front of the other taking footstep after footstep until you reach the finish line.  This is done to raise money for many of the fantastic breast cancer charities that support the hundreds of thousands of women and men diagnosed and treated for breast cancer every year. And hundreds of thousands of pounds are raised every year – collectively £100,000,000 at last count. Pretty amazing!

I have walked the Full Moon twice – both times with my mum, who some may consider ancient in years at 75, but who is not not any way ancient in body, soul or attitude! We have pink-pimped our bras and donned stupid hats and joined in the aching, arduous fun that is the MoonWalk. This year, however, we decided to give our feet a rest and to join the vast crew of volunteers and marshal the route. Both times I have walked the marshals kept me going with their inexhaustible encouragement so we thought we would have a go at the cheering on.

So last night we spent a freezing night on the Bayswater Road high fiving and whooping and generally being overly Tigger-like to 15 thousand walkers at the 15 mile mark. From 1.30 a.m. when the first speed walker zoomed passed, steely faced and determined, until 6.45 a.m. we made our patch a perpetual pep rally. Our voices croaked, cracked and almost gave out as we got more and more American with our ‘good job’ and ‘you’re doing great’ enthusiasm. Our aim was to raise the flagging spirits of the walkers, difficult in those godforsaken hours before daybreak. Then dawn broke, the birds sang and all was well with the world once more. Hopefully we had done our job.

I now can definitively say that it is much harder to walk 26.2 miles than it is to produce cheery non stop banter all night! Although I am now truly exhausted and I was truly freezing for most of the long, long night, my legs are free from aches and my feet free from pain. Having said that, will I crew again? Maybe not. Will I walk again? I had said never again. But I saw all the women last night doing something amazing … and a little part of me wanted to be with them. So who knows. Never say never as they say!

Mellie and the MP

I am a lady of leisure! No, I don’t work and yes, I admit, I love not working. Sometimes I don’t know how I ever had the time to work and bring up a family. There’s the gym to go to, friends to meet, Spanish to learn and long weekends in Madrid to squeeze into my life. It’s tough sometimes! But, having said that, there are days that are not so fun-filled and I have to try to find other ways to occupy my time so I don’t slip into a Jeremy Kyle watching, sofa squatting slob, which would be oh so easy especially in the winter months. Anyhow, I have been trying to keep my brain active by doing a bit of writing. I suppose that’s also one of the reasons I decided to start this blog. So, a few poems have falteringly been written (maybe after a bit of tweaking some of them may find a way onto here at a later date so hold onto your hats – this may be a bumpy ride!) and recently, after a trip to Tennessee in February to visit Isabella who has been studying there for the last year, I decided to write up one of our road-trip adventures. Anyway here it is. It’s far from perfect, but I enjoyed writing it. And I guess that’s the most important thing. Enjoy x

No One Walks in America

“We could walk?”

“No one in America walks!”

“We’re not American. We’re British. We walk. Anyway, we need some fresh air and exercise.”

We had been snowed in all day. A very un-Tennessee-like snow storm had dumped a load of the white stuff overnight and driving anywhere in our little Dinky Toy hire car was a health and safety disaster waiting to happen. But we were hungry and we needed food and we knew there was a great BBQ place on the main road. It was only a few blocks away, maybe twenty minutes walk, Patty, our guest house landlady, told us. So, wrapped up warmly, we set off. 

The snow wasn’t snow. It was ice. The ice was a few inches deep in parts but we found our way down the drive and onto the street. Icicles decorated the mail boxes and sunlight shone jewels on the whited-out front gardens. Our faces tightened in the cold and shone bright pink. We laughed as we slipped and held onto each other as the ice cracked beneath our weight. This was fun! This was a lovely mother-daughter moment. Creating memories for our own memory boxes.

The twenty minute walk took much longer. We were not really walking, we were tiptoeing, creeping along gingerly. As we walked past the block-long playing field of a nearby school the sun had had enough and started its descent. The girlish giggles had begun to give way to tired sighs and irritated gasps at bone-jarring miss-footings. 

As we turned into the main road the distant lights of Taco Bell and McDonald’s shone like beacons in the dusk. But there was no sense of welcome despite their brightly coloured frontages. Their deserted car parking lots looked sad and threatening. Our light mood had been sucked out as the daylight had been sucked out by the dusk. This was the main drag through this part of town but it felt empty. A few pick-up trucks had braved the conditions, a couple hooted their horns at the sight of us …. maybe an encouraging “way to go girls” – but probably not. The sound felt ominous. We started to feel vulnerable and we were very alone.

No one walks in America. Let alone in the snow! 

The darkness had really taken hold by now and we realised that somehow we were going to have to get back home. It had been hard enough to walk in the light of day. The street lights on the main road were helping us now but we knew that the long walk back past the deserted school playing field and down the unlit residential streets was going to be virtually impossible in these conditions, and very scary! We had come out for dinner but the hunger had left us. What should we do? Should we start walking back now?

I was floundering. I could not make a decision. Then I saw a taxi. Why oh why did I not just hail it then and there? But I was floundering and I could not make a decision. 

“Why don’t we go to the BBQ place, then order a taxi from there? OK. Sorted. Decision made. Let’s go!”

But the BBQ place was closed. Domino’s Pizza was closed. The Mexican was closed. Almost everywhere was closed. Maybe the staff couldn’t get in. Maybe there was so little custom that they had shut up early. Who knows? But it added to the post-apocalyptic feeling that had descended over this part of East Memphis. 

Then we saw a convenience store. We would go in get some snacks, and ask for the phone number of a taxi company. The lovely guy behind the counter dialled the number for us on his landline and handed me the phone. All the tension left me as I was waiting on hold for the cab control. Two grubby looking men walked in. I hardly noticed. My danger antenna had gone as I imagined a taxi pulling up in five minutes to do the scary icy drive that would not be scary because the taxi driver would be an experienced driver. Right? Nothing more to worry about now except the lack of decent snacks!

“It will be at least an hour ma’am. Maybe an hour and a half.”

“Really? We can’t wait that long. Sorry, I don’t want it.”

“You want to cancel ma’am?”

“Yes I want to cancel.”

I handed back the phone to Lovely Convenience Store Guy as he was serving the two men their six packs of beer.

“You can wait here if you like.”

“Thanks, but it’s fine. It’s going to take too long. We will figure something out.”

Back to floundering indecision.  We stepped outside.

As we hit the dark I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach. My danger antenna jumped right back up. I had just had a conversation about needing a cab, where I wanted it to go to, cancelling it and that we would walk …. in front of two men who were now getting into their truck as we stood hesitating outside the store. 

It was only 7pm but it felt like midnight in the deserted darkness and I realised that I had just potentially put us in danger. We headed back along the road towards our turn off trying to look confidently as if we knew where we were going. 

“If anyone asks us if we need a ride we tell them we have sorted something.”

Why did I even think we would be asked? Sixth sense? Just then a truck pulled up. It was the two men from the convenience store.

“Need a ride?”

“We’re fine thanks. We’ve got someone on the way to get us.”

Just keep walking keep walking keep walking. We held hands, clinging onto each other, gripping tighter every time another pick-up truck drove past us. Then we saw another minimart type store.

“Ok. Let’s go in here. We just need to get off this road.”

The store was bright and warm with a sullen-faced woman behind the counter and empty apart from four, yes four, policemen. They looked like superheroes standing around a self-serve coffee station at the end of the store. I knew that I needed to talk to them. I needed them to know we were not from around here. That we were English. I needed them to know we were in a spot of bother. 

“Umm, excuse me. I’m sorry to trouble you but could you tell me the area code so I can try to call a taxi from my mobile.”

I waved my iPhone around as if I had never used one before.  After a little joke about where I came from and that it’s a cell not a mobile and did we even have phones in England they gave me the number for a taxi.

“Number not recognised. Number not recognised.”

The recorded voice was more than I could bear.

“It doesn’t work!!” 

Was that really my voice? The desperate whine sounded pitiful. I was holding the phone looking at it as if it had personally let me down. 

“Where are you two ladies trying to get to?” the main joker policemen with his big fluffy greying moustache asked. “Do you feel safe to come with me?”

I nearly cried! It was pathetic how thankful I was.

“Really? Really? Are you going to drive us home? Really? Oh thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”

He was my angel. I wanted to kiss him.

So, for the first time in either of our lives we went in a police car. A police car in the USA. A police car with ‘Memphis Police’ written on the side.

We were giddy with adrenaline as we recounted our story to Patty when we got home.

“I’m sure the truck guys were probably nice and genuinely trying to help us get home.” I said.

“I’m sure they were not,” said Patty. 

The Language Barrier

The best bits about moving to Spain will be:

a) living with Matt again

b) the food and drink

c) the new experiences and places to visit

d) mastering a new language

Now, the first three things are great, easy, enjoyable etc. But d) …  mastering a new language. Hmm. I don’t think so! Mastering is far too strong a term. If I can learn to just get by in Spanish I will be thrilled, proud of myself even. It’s so crazily hard to learn a new language at my age, but try I must. I really don’t want to be one of the Brits-abroad-who-can’t-be-bothered  crowd. Anyway, it’s Madrid I’m off to, not the Costa del Expat. Some people speak English in Madrid but certainly not everybody and it’s crucial that I try really, really hard to communicate in Spanish or I will find my world a very small and very insular place.

But here I am, eighteen months after my first Spanish lesson, still feeling such a fool when trying to construct the most basic of sentences. In my head I have wonderful conversations with myself in what I think is almost fluent español. I have even dreamt in Spanish but in real-true-life Confidence sits on my shoulder mocking me as I try to give some order to the jumble of words swirling around my mouth. I hear what comes out and I surprise myself with the ghastliness of it all!!

Still, I have to believe those who tell me that it will be easier when I am living here. When I hear Spanish all around me, all day, every day. There is a lovely lady called Ana who looks after Matt’s building. She is there every weekday morning doing porter/cleaning duties. She speaks not one word of English. We have wonderful, nonsensical conversations. She smiles and encourages my attempts. It will come, poco a poco, little by little, she tells me. You just need to come to Spain more often. Es verdad! It’s true. I do need to go more often. Over the next six months I will try to go as much as possible and if I can just get Confidence to stop mocking me and start to cheer me on who knows what I can achieve. Even at my age!