A Different Angle


I know it’s a cliché but every now and again life chucks a hard pain shaped curveball in your direction. Recently I had one of these curveballs.

It crashed heavily into my body.

It wobbled momentarily in my hands before I managed to hold onto it tightly.

Then I chucked the ball right out of the park.

And enough of the baseball analogy but it somehow seems to work here, for me anyway.

So what’s one of the first things I thought of when I realised that although this curveball has knocked me sideways, it has not actually killed me? I want a tattoo. I need a tattoo. I need this period in my life to be marked so I never forget how I resilient I can be.

Those who know me know that I love tattoos. I’ve been under the needle quite a few times and as I get older I want more. And I want them to mean something (although I have plans for a couple of ‘just because they are pretty’ ones).

So I now have a new tattoo on my wrist. It’s an inking of a few words that give me strength, hope and happiness, and it’s in Sanskrit because:

a) I like the look of the script. It is strong and beautiful.

b) It reminds me of India where I had a rollercoaster trip of extreme joy/extreme misery. And despite my love/hate feelings towards the country the love trumps the hate and one day I hope to go back. And this pretty much sums up how I’m feeling at the moment. Love should always trump hate.

and

c) because I want the words for me and only me (unless you read Sanskrit of course!).

So don’t ask me what it means. Just know that I will read the words every morning and smile. And curve ball – you hit me and you winded me and you turned me upside down. But you didn’t break me and now I just look at life from a different angle.

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¡Libertad!

 In my beach babe twenties I loved a bit of topless sun bathing. Even though I always wished I had a little more than a handful to flaunt I was never too shy to whip off my bikini top in order to minimise unsightly tan lines. However, since breastfeeding my babies, whose greedy guzzling battered my boobs leaving them unrecognisable, and although I wouldn’t change them because “every stretch mark tells a story” (translation – a boob job is too scary and too expensive!!) I have never got them out in public again. Intentionally that is …. At my 40th birthday party I wore a top with a dangerously deep cut V at the front, but tit tape in place to maintain my modesty I enthusiastically got the party started. The tit tape was useless. The small square of double sided tacky plastic expected to hold a piece of fabric and sweaty skin together was never likely to do the job as promised. As the night wore on and the vodka luge became my BFF, the tit tape gave up sticking, I gave up caring and I spent the night flashing my fun bags at my guests! Sorry guests!

So, post babies, the last 20 years have seen my bosom firmly encased behind well constructed rise ‘n’ shine bras. And even though I still wear a bikini on holiday, despite  the magazines telling me I should be in a one piece at my age, the top half has always remained on….Until now!

This week, in Madrid, I have been spending my mornings at the open air municipal pool just three short Metro stops away from home. Why oh why has it taken me two years to be brave enough to go on my own?! It’s heaven. Yes it’s crowded – it’s a municipal pool in the middle of the school holidays – but in this July heat it’s still heaven to me. And anyway my Spanish is so bad I don’t understand the chatter around me so it just becomes white noise. When I close my eyes I could be on any beach where the sun is hot and the water is cool, and as on any beach, the bodies that are dotted around enjoying the hot sun and cool water are of all ages and come in all shapes and sizes.  Young, beautiful couples position their perfect, lightly tanned, taut skinned limbs on side by side towels, while nearby old couples and groups of regulars sit happily chatting, confident in their own mahogany tanned, wrinkled skin. And almost all the women are topless. Old women and young women unashamedly lie, sit, stand, swim wearing only itsy bitsy bikini bottoms to ensure maximum skin exposure. Despite the media’s attempts to persuade women we should all possess perfect orbs we all know that breasts come in all shapes and sizes. And the pool seems to be the Noah’s Ark of knockers. There seems to be a pair of every one of those shapes and sizes. Naked limoncitos (small ones) y chichis (big ones) are everywhere. At this point I wanted to note that I hadn’t been aware of any of the men ogling. But after a discussion with Matt I was informed that I didn’t understand men and that even though there may not have been overt ogling, ogling would definitely have been occurring. In my naivety I thought that if you had seen one (hundred) you had seen ’em all, but I’m not a bloke. Those sun glasses hide pervy eyes it seems! Anyway on the first morning, off came my top and the feel of the sun on my usually bolstered baps was blissful. So I’m going to ignore the potential oglers who are almost certainly looking at prettier, perkier puppies than mine and go with my who gives a hoot(er) attitude, because I have now freed mis tetas and I’m not going back…I feel liberated! In Spain at least, maybe not in Hove! Plus there’s a major bonus..ugly, stretch marked, slightly saggy (ugh!) norks don’t look so ugly or stretch marked with a bit of a tan. Hurrah! Another reason why the Spanish way of life totally suits me!

Bangs and bomberos en Dos de Mayo

  My nose twitched briefly then the faint acrid smell of burning made me throw myself out of bed. Something was on fire. I ran to the kitchen and scanned the cooker, the toaster, the coffee machine. Noting nothing untoward I opened the kitchen window. The toxic stench hit me as I saw thick black smoke snaking out of some grates on the edge of the plaza just below our apartment block. In seconds the smoke was thick and belching. I shouted out to Matt, “There’s a fire in the Metro!” I had no idea if the Metro even went under the plaza but I knew there was a fire and it was underground. A few people in the square started to look concerned. The stall holders who had just started setting up for market day abandoned their pitches as the smoke enveloped them. Then there was a loud explosion. Followed by another, and another and more and more. Hoping that someone with better Spanish than me had called the emergency services I started to panic! “Bombs! We need to evacuate!” I shouted dramatically. I was not going to hang around on the fifth floor of a building with bombs going off in the Metro right underneath! Matt was more interested in seeing what was going on so proceeded to casually smoke a fag in his underpants on the balcony ignoring my pleas to stop inhaling the fumes which were sure to kill us if the building collapsing under us didn’t kill us first! I was torn between wanting to watch the drama unfold and the need for self preservation. I ran around manically throwing on some clothes – I didn’t want to be evacuated in my pjs. I grabbed my purse, phone, passport, the essential three Ps, and put them by the front door. I would try to calm down but I decided there was no harm in being prepared. Then I joined Matt in his vantage point to take some photos!

At last we heard sirens, first the police and then five minutes later the bomberos. (I love the Spanish word for firemen!) The police and the firemen stood around, discussing the situation. Red and white ‘do not cross’ tape was put up and passers by gathered at the tape to discuss the situation. Everyone was very relaxed, very Spanish! More bomberos arrived and greeted each other with hugs, police took pictures on their phones. The smoke still belched. Then three brave firemen put on breathing equipment lifted one of the grates then disappeared down into the ground. 

Needing refreshment to go with the action I went to make a coffee. That was when we noticed the electricity was out. OK, probably not a Metro fire then, an electrical transformer or something must have short circuited, caught fire and caused a series of explosions. My fear reduced significantly knowing it wasn’t a bomb but the smoke was still scarily toxic smelling. We agreed to shut the windows. 

An hour later all is calm. The electric people are down there trying to resume normal service, though I suspect it may take some time.  The stall holders have finished setting up the market, the dogs are back barking and kids back screeching. A few bomberos remain, standing around chatting. But as there is still no power the bars in the square will be cursing at the lost business, we can’t get that coffee we’ve been wanting for an hour, the aircon isn’t working, Matt can’t have his bath and I can’t get wifi or charge my phone. How lucky are we that these are our only modern day problems!

11pm – Addendum. After 12 hours of activity the leccy is back on. We have cool air once again, hurrah! We have wifi so I can check my phone and its links to my social media (amazingly I survived without it)! And I can at last post this, the latest of my random ramblings 🙂 

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!!!

This happened today 

It was 5.49 am when the shouting woke me. An aggressive male voice spitting indecipherable words was interspersed with a teary desperate female voice. ‘What do I do now?’ I jumped out of bed  and pushed aside the curtain. Three young people, kids really, were outside my house. I saw a boy with his angry, twisted face inches from the face of a girl with blonde hair. Then he turned and marched off down the road with a dark haired girl trotting behind to catch up with him. They didn’t look back.

‘What do I do now?’ The wail was quieter. And then, as if in slow motion, the girl with blonde hair turned and ran out into the road….in front of a big black 4×4. I watched, horrified, waiting to see the inevitable accident. But amazingly the car stopped as the girl with blonde hair, in tv drama fashion, put her hands onto the bonnet as if her strength alone was stopping it. I turned and ran out of my bedroom and down the stairs. By the time I had unlocked the front door the car had gone and the girl was sitting on the curb opposite me. I could hear the sobbing from my front door. Giant gasps and gulps as she tried to catch her breath.

I walked over to her. ‘Are you ok?’ No answer. It really was a ridiculous question. ‘What’s your name?’ No answer. ‘Are you ok?’ Still a ridiculous question, no better the second time of asking.

‘I can’t breathe.’ The crying was like when a small child can’t stop and the sobs catch in their throat. She looked at me and I could see how young she was. ‘There’s a bump on my head.’ She touched a small but very obvious bump on her forehead. ‘How did you get that?’ No answer. ‘Did someone hit you?’ No answer. ‘Did you fall?’ No answer. ‘Ok , you are coming inside with me. Are you ok with that? Just come and get a drink of water.’ I noticed the rubbish in the middle of the road wasn’t rubbish but two bags. I picked them up and she looked confused. She hadn’t even noticed she had dropped them. She must have dropped them when she nearly got hit by the car. She took them from me and allowed me to lead her across the road and into my house.

She took a few sips of water. The crying stopped. She told me her name.  She told me it was her boyfriend who I saw leaving her in the street and that she was living with him. She told me she had fallen out with her family, she didn’t talk to them. She told me she had nowhere to go. ‘I got to go. I got to find him cos I got nowhere to go’. Then she told me the bump came from her boyfriend. He had done it twice before. She looked surprised when I told her that she should not go back to someone who hit her. ‘I shouldn’t go back?’ ‘No, you shouldn’t go back.’ I asked her how old she was. ’18.’ I told her I had an 18 year old daughter and it would break my heart if she was hit by anyone.

She said she wanted to go. I wrote my name and number on a piece of paper and she put it in her pocket.  She hugged me then left. I watched her walk down the road and around the corner. I will be waiting for a call all day today. I know it won’t come.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga Gaga

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I’ve never been overly crazy about exercise but I’ve always tried to do something a couple of times a week to maintain a modicum of fitness. Over the last few years my exercise of choice has been walking with a bit of Zumba thrown in here and there, but recently I was persuaded to join a gym because it was ‘too good a deal to miss’ and a few of my walking buddies had been going for a while and were somehow making it sound quite good fun. And now that I’ve signed up I need to actually use it, so I’ve been looking at the various classes on offer. Some, like pump, combat and kettle ball sound like absolute torture and body bum beach booty whatever sounds like, well, bollox quite frankly. And I’ve been put off spin for eternity after passing out five minutes into a class (very true story!) The super-high impact, multi repetition, weight stuff just doesn’t do it for me (or my creaky back!) any more. Also, I’ve seen the bods that emerge from these classes and my bod doesn’t look like their bods. So, I decided to give yoga a go and I’ve gone gaga for it!

I first tried yoga about 15 years ago but I found it a bit boring. Back then I needed some oomph, some thumping tunes and some serious sweat to feel like I was really doing any good. Even the beach bum booty thing would have probably been right up my street. But now I can’t get enough of the zen zone and I am at one with my mind, my spirit and my body! I am finding out how out of place bits of my body have become and how to slowly, but surely, get them back to where they should be. I also love the tranquillity. One of the yogis tells us at the beginning of the session that if we want to lie on our mats for the whole hour or just to sit in one pose we should allow ourselves to do it.

‘….Ommmmm….’

One day maybe. But for now I’m downward-dogging and sunsalutationing to my heart’s content. I love the challenge of seeing if I can twist my body a little bit further or bend just a little bit more in attempt to touch my knees with my nose. There is little chance of that happening for a while, if ever, but I keep on trying. It’s doing wonders for my self diagnosed frozen shoulder and I can now put on a pair of socks without having to sit on the bed. Hurrah! But I still have a long, long way to go before I’m close to reaching yoga nirvana. I’m still too stiff to cross my legs into a lissome lotus pose and why can I balance really easily on my left leg but fall over the minute I swap to my right? I wonder what that says about my brain? (Hmm…right side muscles control left side brain and visa versa. Left side brain = maths and language learning ….ah, that explains a whole lot!!!) As for even attempting an eight angle pose??…..well all I can say is just Google it!!

I am going to continue doing some yoga when I get to Madrid. I’ve seen open air yoga classes in the park. It looks wonderfully hippy and new age and tree huggy and I’m ready to embrace it! I will have to learn a whole bunch of new words though, because right now I think the only thing I would understand is cerrar tus ojos y relaja* but at least I am very good at doing that!

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*close your eyes and relax…..ahhhhh

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!