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Preview: The Secret Life of an Unknown Housewife

The Secret Life of an Unknown Housewife

Small blonde escapee mother with a tragic lip gloss habit...

Updated: 2018-04-25T14:33:22.790+01:00


Hello..... is anybody out there?


I was sitting in bed this morning trying to learn Chinese when I thought about this blog. That may seem like an odd connection, but sometimes when your mind is concentrating on one thing it can suddenly flip to another...So there I was, learning the days of the week, when this old Secret Housewife blog popped into my head.Its been a long time since I was over here. I had almost forgotten about it, but not quite. And I thought to myself, "Am I going to give up that dear old site?"This blog has been with me since my boys were 8 and 6 years old. I started writing it when I was alone on New Year's Eve, feeling sorry for myself - a housewife with not many interests and little confidence. Now my boys are 18 and 16 and my life has changed exponentially...I feel like a butterfly who has spread their wings and flown into a warm, sunny day.As I write this blog I am a fully qualified Cognitive Hypnotherapist with my own business. I have worked hard to get where I am and, to be honest, I don't think that I could ever have guessed that I would be here if you had asked me about my future on that New Year's Eve 10 years ago.Isn't it funny how life can take you in so many different directions and no matter what happens to you there seems to always be something one can take from the ups and downs? If you have followed my little blog over the years then you will have read about my thoughts on whether I should go back to study for my Degree at the OU.....and then the subsequent years which saw me eventually graduate. You will have read about Post Natal Depression and about my father's death. You will have read about my dream to run the London Marathon and my elation when I crossed the finishing line. You will have read about being nominated for awards and about my anger over injustice....a bit of a hotch potch really....but its been my little hotch potch.As time has gone by I have learnt that learning never ends... that trying new things, throwing oneself into life wholeheartedly brings huge rewards... not monetary rewards, but the reward of growth and joy. Don't get me wrong...I don't spend my days singing "The Hills are Alive..." as I frolic over fields. Some days are hard and I doubt myself often...but I am so fortunate to be where I am the start of a new adventure as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. My dream is to be able to keep doing this, to grow and learn to be the best therapist I can be, and to help as many people as I can.I may well come back here from time to time to update the old site on what I am up to...but for now, thank you for following me.[...]

Studying Cognitive Hypnotherapy at The Quest Institute.


I have just clicked the send button on my computer and sent through the first part of my HPD to be marked. This is the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. I am now half way through my ten month long course and absolutely loving it!! The paperwork for the HPD is not due in until the 4th September, but I really wanted to get ahead of the game so have worked hard to get it done - 10 short answer questions (300 words each max) and an essay (1300 words max). When I first opened the paper I did gulp rather, but I stayed calm and worked on one or two questions a day. Fingers crossed that I have done ok...

Its always a bit daunting when you send work like that off to be marked. I always wonder... "Did I put my name on? Did I do all the questions? Did I delete it all as I sent it??" It is, however, a weight off my mind to have it completed. And I did check that I'd put my name on it!!

There are 3 further parts to be completed over the next 6 months, including more essays and a case study. I shall just take them one at a time as they arrive. I trust in my training absolutely.

My training is taking place at The Quest Institute in London and I could not be happier with my choice. I had found the institute online in my search for a place to train and although I looked at lots of schools, I kept coming back to this one. I am so glad that I did. The professionalism, organisation and all round wonderfulness of the place is more than I could ever have hoped for. In the last 5 months I have learnt so much and met the most amazing group of people.

I shall write more about my course in the months to come, but for now I can safely tell you that Cognitive Hypnotherapy, as taught by Trevor Silvester, is superb. I love finding out about the workings of the mind and spend my weekends there learning, laughing and loving every moment. I have discovered things about myself that I had never realised and I am sharing the time with a group of people who are so supportive, so honest and have such positive ethics. I am extremely fortunate.

Check Out That View. Sunsets at Alsancak and Girne (Kyrenia) Northern Cyprus


I haven't been here for ages... I seem to start lots of my post with those words these days!! I have been busy working on my Cognitive Hypnotherapy, which is going very well indeed, and also on my photography which I am loving. All in all life is good and I am very grateful.

Today I am linking up with Emma from @crazywithtwins and her weekly photography meme #CheckOutThatView If you click on the box at the end of my post you can see more photos of landscape and maybe... join in!!

My first shot was taken from the Silver Rocks restaurant near Alsancak in Northern Cyprus.

This second shot was taken on our last night from the Kervan restaurant in Girne (Kyrenia), again in Northern Cyprus. The sunsets there are just beautiful and we sat watching this kite surfer sailing back and forth for ages. It was beautiful!

Instagram Tips for Beginners.


I have found myself becoming more and more interested in my photography over the last few weeks. This has led to me seeing a surge of new followers on my Instagram account and, in turn, I have discovered a great number of talented photographers. My rediscovered love of photography coincides with my rediscovered love of gardening and walking. I have neglected to blog recently because I have been outside, enjoying looking after my allotment and walking through the countryside. Obviously I have been home at times too... I haven't been wandering like a nomad...The thing I have realised about Instagram... durrrr.... after being on it for years... is that it is an interactive place. For a long time I sat waiting for people to come and find my photos and shower me with love and admiration. Yes... I know... sickening. And stupid. Because you have to show love to get love. This does not mean that you should follow everyone in sight, no matter what their photos are like. No. But you do need to find people whose photos you like and you need to tell them that you like them. And you need to follow them. Then, hopefully they will follow you back and you can appreciate each others photographical endeavours! (I'm not sure photographical is a real word, but I'm going to use it...)A good way to find people and to enable them to find you, is to use hashtags. When you post your photo, add a little description and some hashtags. For example... for the photo above, my most liked photo, I put descriptive tags such as #daisy #macro #flower Then people interested in those things can search and will find your photos! Easy! And look at other people's hashtags too... If you like what's clustered there... use the tag for your work!! Its a simple way of finding like minded Instagrammers.Some people recommend following as many Instagrammers as possible, randomly, but I think this is silly advice. To be following 2000 people when you have 100 followers smacks of desperation to me. The most important factor in all this is ... the photographs. Why be on Instagram if you don't love finding interesting things to photograph? And why follow people unless their photos fill you with joy? Equally I am unlikely to follow someone who has 10,000 followers, but is only following back 200...I'd rather find someone who has 50 followers, but takes great photos and will interact. I am a bit needy... I love it when people follow my Instagram account. I will look through their photos and follow them back if they are good.But if I look at their page and its full of selfies and cats... then I'm afraid I won't follow. Its all about individual taste.What I would say is that if you click on lots of someone's photos and obviously like what they are doing... why not follow them? I have had people who like 20 of my pictures, but who don't follow, don't interact. It galls me!! I don't mind if you don't like my photos and don't want to follow me, or if you only like one or two, but to like loads and not give me the courtesy of a follow is just... well, I could say rude, but I will say "mildly irritating" instead. After all, this is not the UN here.My husband doesn't "get" my obsession with Instagram. He thinks the whole "follower" thing is silly, but I don't!! I love scrolling through someone's photos clicking "like" and gasping at the beauty in that little square box.I love it when someone I admire follows me back. I love it when I find a new angle, a hidden gem, and know that it will make a good photo. I know that I am not in the league of professional photographers, but I am in the league of people who take pleasure in snapping away with their phone. That's part of the joy for me... that I only use my phone... no special lenses, rarely any filters.So... what I am trying to say is that Instagram is a place of huge variety. From flowers to food, from selfies to seascapes. Whatever your photographic preference there will be something for you to enjoy, but to enjoy Instagram fully... interac[...]

Check Out That View!!


This time last week I was well into my first day, studying Cognitive Hypnotherapy. The university where the course is based has beautiful grounds and gardens so I couldn't resist taking photos of the flower beds!! If you look at my Instagram account for the summer time I do tend to become a tad obsessed with flowers in all their glory and I think that perhaps that time is drawing near again.Anyway.... my choice for this week's Check Out That View, hosted by the lovely Emma is the photo below. As you can see it shows one of the university flower beds looking rather glorious. I hope you like it and if you do then maybe you can click on the button below and visit some other Check Out That View participants... or maybe take part yourself!!

Retraining to Become a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.


I have worked in my current job for over 11 years. I love working as a Teaching Assistant, but since I completed my Degree in 2013 I have had my eye out for my next step. I knew that it would present itself to me. I just had to be patient. I was looking for something that would stretch my mind, be rewarding and at the same time be about giving back, helping other people. I wanted to find something that would inspire me. The solution came, as these things tend to do, out of the blue. Cognitive Hypnotherapy is my future and it found me by taking away my fear.

I had been more and more fearful of a certain situation and had decided to visit a friend of mine who is in practice as a Hypnotherapist. In one session she changed my life, or at least she enabled me to change my life. My fear was gone, no longer debilitating and I felt inspired to study hypnotherapy myself. How wonderful, to be able to help people live life as they want to live it, without fear.

I started to research courses and discovered that in the UK there is no one governing body for hypnotherapists. It is still seen as outside of the mainstream. However, I was drawn again and again to one place - an institute that is proud of its cutting edge approach to Cognitive Hypnotherapy. When I have completed my course I will share with you more, but for now I am going to keep that titbit of information private! I hope you don't mind! It will give me a reason to write again about my course, because if it continues the way it has started I am going to be raving about it!

I had my first study weekend last week and I don't think I have ever felt so positive,so inspired or excited. The weekend was fantastic from start to finish - the organisation and communication, the support given by our trainers and assistants. I learnt so much in two days. By Saturday night my mind felt like it was about explode. But in a good way. If there is a good way for your head to explode!! I went home excited and full of enthusiasm. The second day was, if anything, even better, and this time my mind felt relaxed and open. We were taught theory and then two techniques which we practised. And I can tell you .... they work like magic. Magic!

So now I have to wait a month before our next study weekend. This month is going to be spent reading and practising the techniques I have learnt. My youngest son has so far avoided my attempts at relaxation therapy or anchoring, but my eldest son has proved a brilliant subject! I have started close to home, but am gradually branching out to friends and neighbours in the quest to hone my hypnotherapy skills!

It is a little bit like being a magician. To watch someone go from being awake, nervous and unsettled to being relaxed totally and then back out the other side, awake and alert yet refreshed and calm, is truly wonderful. I have so much to learn, but the learning is awe inspiring. To be able, at the age of 51, to retrain in something which I can continue for the rest of my life, is just brilliant.

Love to Eat... Hate to Cook!!


I love eating. The way to my heart ( other than, of course, diamonds) is through my stomach. I love going out to eat, whether it be at a restaurant or a friend's house. I love the whole ritual of choice and surprise, of unusual and new flavours, of conversation, candles and crystal, of friendship, cosiness and comfort. Sadly, however, this eating experience is not one I enjoy terribly often.

I hate cooking. Not to say that I am a bad cook. In fact I would go as far as to say that I'm a pretty good cook. I make everything from scratch, choosing good ingredients and varied recipes. As a young mother I did the whole thing of freezing trays of organic sweet potato and I regularly made my own bread.

But, if I am to be completely honest? Nowadays I loathe the whole business of cooking. I hate having to cook for my family when I don't want to eat. I hate planning something and then finding that nobody is interested in eating it. The question that burns into my brain and fries my soul is "What's for dinnnneeeeeerrrr?" What is for dinner? Well, obviously something that one of you will hate, if not both of you, my darling boys!

One of my boys likes fish, the other doesn't. One likes curries, the other doesn't. One likes bacon, ham and pork, the other doesn't. This narrows down the range of dishes that they both will eat and it bores me to tears.

I find a recipe that I think everyone will enjoy and they eat it with no word of thanks or enjoyment. After a while it grinds you down.

Both my boys can cook. They often make their own lunches at the weekend. My eldest came first in a school cooking competition, making his own chicken pie from scratch at the age of 12. On Mother's Day I came home to find that my 17 year old had made a Victoria sponge for me, making butter cream and cleaning the kitchen after himself. Brilliant!

I am grateful for when they cook and I am lucky to have a husband who cooks too. But it still doesn't change the fact that I do the majority of the cooking. At the moment I have roast chicken in the oven with home made roast potatoes, cauliflower in a creamy cheesy sauce, more veg peeled and ready to steam. I will make my own gravy from the chicken juices and red wine... but its just bloody dull.

Do I sound very petulant and spoilt? I probably do. But this is my blog and if I want to have a good old moan about something petty, then I will. I suppose I'm lucky that any of them cook at all, ever. I suppose I'm lucky that I can afford nice food, that my mum taught me to bake and make sauces and follow recipes. I'm lucky in all sorts of ways, but right now, if I won the lottery I would never cook again

Audley End House ... a wonderful day out!


When the boys were little we used to go on "Days Out" all the time, but as they have grown older, hairier and generally more hormonal those days have become few and far between. Our membership of English Heritage has been lying unused for the first few months of the year and we wanted to dust off our cards and get our money's worth. Perusing the Members' Manual we found Audley End House - a rather gorgeous looking house about an hour away from home. Our eldest son, 17, decided that he was unavailable for an outing ( quelle surprise!), but amazingly our youngest, 15, joined us as we set off in the car towards Saffron Walden.The sat nav took us in a circuitous route through beautiful countryside, lush with daffodils and early crops of Oil Seed Rape until we arrived at the gates to Audley End House. The driveway led us to a car park overlooking a lake, complete with ducks and ducklings.Audley End House.Due to the fact that teenagers ( and it has to be said, lazy mothers) do not get out of bed before 10 am in the school holidays, we arrived just before lunchtime and felt that the only way to proceed was to go straight to the cafe for a bite to eat. I commented on the fact that it was a shame that the cafe was in such a dark room, only to be told by my husband that if I had bothered to walk a couple of yards further I would have found the main part of the cafe which overlooks the parkland surrounding the main house, with huge windows. I don't think I will get a job offer from MI6 any time soon if observation is an important factor for being a spy...Still, the food was nice. I had a warm individual quiche with a rocket salad. My husband had a delicious looking vegetable and bean stew. Our son went for the healthy option of crisps and a chocolate brownie. As you do.Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs in the house itself, but I can assure you it is a stunning place. Built originally on the foundations of a Benedictine monastery in the 12th century it has been well cared for over the ages. At one point it was one of the greatest houses of Jacobean England.In the 1700's Capability Brown was commissioned to landscape the gardens and Robert Adam added fashionable reception rooms.What I loved about the house was that it felt lived in. It is as if the family are away at their London home and could be back at any minute. The kitchens, laundry rooms and stables are all restored to the way they were in the 1800's, complete with copper pots, game larders and holograms of staff working away and talking you through their days.A huge asset, of whom English Heritage should be very proud, is the staff who wait in each room to tell you about the house, its contents and its history. The English Heritage staff are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They are warm and welcoming and full of fascinating facts and titbits about their particular area.Anyone who has been to my blog before will know about my love of vegetable gardening and much as I loved the house I couldn't wait to get to the walled vegetable garden. It was magnificent!! I definitely want to come back in the summer when everything is blooming.The kitchen garden is vast, tended by a team of gardeners and bursting with manicured beds and the most gorgeous espaliers. The gardens used to provide food for the house and in the glass houses there were fruit trees, vines and exotics - beautiful.From the garden we went to the stables where I was able to try sitting on a side saddle - something I've always fancied doing. Again there were holograms of staff, this time the coachman, going through what were his daily duties. There were real horses in the stables too.Having sampled the delights of both house and grounds we decided to try the cafe again. This time we sat by the window overlooking the grounds and indulged ourselves with Victoria sponge, hot chocolate and tea. All very nice![...]

Check Out That View. Audley End House.


I am writing a post about our day out at Audley End House, but in the meantime I thought I would link up with Emma and her Sunday photo linky Check Out That View. If you fancy having a peek at some jolly nice photos then do have a click on the button below and maybe you could join in too!

For now here's my photo. I shall post my review of our day later on hopefully!

Audley End House, Essex.

Check Out That View


I went over to the garden centre today as it was so lovely and saw these lovely daffodils in the grounds. I took a picture, much to the dismay of the people in the car behind me ( I had pulled over). I thought I would post it for this week's Check Out That View, which you can link to by clicking on the button below.

My hubby and I have spent a busy day outside - watching our son play football and winning through to the final of the cup, then lunch with my father in law, then gardening. I have renewed the cover of my little greenhouse and planted primroses in the front garden. All in all it has been very satisfying!

Allotment, March 2015.


I have had my allotment for a few years now. It started as a piece of wasteland, covered in nettles and couch grass and over the years it has become a proper vegetable patch. Some years it gives us plenty of fruit and veg. Other years it ticks by. Last year was a quiet year. The weather was grim and I wasn't inspired. This year though, is different. Having had a year of keeping the allotment tidy and ticking over I plan on growing lots. The thing with allotments is that they take a lot of work. Little and often is a good idea.allotment Since I started with my allotment it has been interesting to see people come and go. Of the 12 plots on our site there are only 5 of us who have kept going. Four of the allotment holders have been there longer than me and the other seven plots have been taken over and given up several times over the last few years.rhubarb, garlic and fruit bushes If you start an allotment you need to realise that its a long term commitment... Once the initial enthusiasm has worn off you need to keep plodding along. You never stop learning and some years are better than others.onionsI went up there a couple of times last week, planting garlic and onions. I have Charlotte potatoes chitting in my kitchen, ready to plant this week. I love having everything neat and tidy and there's nothing better than having veg fresh from the ground.When the weather gets warmer I shall plant pak choy, lettuce and beetroot, as well as French beans and cabbages. I shall start reading through my books too, to give me ideas as to what I might fancy trying to grow this year.At the moment my rhubarb is starting to sprout... All is good!!rhubarb[...]

Check Out That View...


Check Out That View ... La Plagne 2015
Joining in with Emma this week and Check Out That View... Last week I couldn't load my photos. This week I've got my Man and one of my Sons in La Plagne. What a beautiful place!!

Feeling old.


It's my birthday next week. I shall be 51. Blinking Blimey! 51? I've never been that bothered about age or birthdays, but today I am feeling every one of my 50 and quite a bit years. I should really go for a run, or a walk, or go gardening, or hoover. Well... maybe not hoover ... that would be a choice too far... But I really don't like the thought of getting older. I saw an advert the other day which was for some sort of "over 50's" product and at the end it said "Welcome to the fold". Grey haired people were being welcomed in to the group and I realised that I was becoming one of those people. We all become one of those people. The relentless onset of age turns us all from vibrant, slim, healthy people to people who struggle getting up off the sofa.

I am not yet in my dotage, I am glad to say, but I don't like the way my body is changing. I could always run, ski, jump about with very little trouble. As the years go on I am getting creaky. My throat is sagging, my tummy is turning into a bit of a barrel and I can't stop it. I eat healthily, try to keep my mind active and attempt to exercise. The thing is, though, that it gets harder and harder. For the first time ever I begin to understand why really old people just give up and let it all sag, why some older people sit and watch telly all day.

Maybe the grey cold of winter doesn't help... Its miserable. I don't feel warm or healthy. Perhaps when the summer months arrive I will be reinvigorated. I hope so.

Old age is something we don't really talk about ... like death. But when you start to realise that you are getting older... its just not nice. I don't like seeing my body getting flabby and heavy. I don't like getting unfit.

The obvious option is to say "Pull yourself out of it and get on with things. Go for a run. You're not old." And that is true... But right now I am very aware of my lack of vigour, of my wobbling jowls, of my lethargy. I am a tad ashamed to admit to this as I am also very aware of my general health and the very lucky position I am in. But this is my blog and if I feel like a fat old cow I am allowed to moan about it. Hopefully my next post will have me bouncing about with joy again...  

My career in Musical Theatre is Over.


I have just returned from singing in my Community Choir. I love the choir and, for someone who spent most of her life miming in any given singing situation, I am singing with all my heart for the first time. We sing a range of music, from musicals to Coldplay and from hymns to African anthems. It is heart warming and confidence giving. Before joining choir I had only ever sung infront of my husband and children, or possibly my neighbours in a 'merry' karaoke session.

So, when our choir mistress told us that we were going to be singing a medley from Les Miserables, my favourite musical, I was thrilled! In my mind I was Fantine, or Eponine... Buoyed up by the other voices in the choir I had the voice of a West End star... well, maybe West End chorus... And then she asked for volunteers for solo parts....

It is a terrible trait of mine that I have an itchy arm. If anyone asks for a volunteer I am there. Need a secretary for your PTFA? I'm your woman. Need someone to go first or sit in the front row of a meeting? Yup. I'll be there. Need someone to sing solo? Yup. I can do that... Idiot.

I volunteered to sing "On My Own". What on earth was I thinking?? Mary, Mother of God...

Samantha Barks photo courtesy of
I have avoided my solo for weeks now as we have worked on other songs, worked our way through Les Mis. And tonight was the night I had to do it. As I write this my stomach is churning with the total gut wrenching embarrassment of having sung, badly, very badly infront of 40 other people - some of whom are very good singers indeed.

I was overcome with nerves and was truly awful.

Part of me is very proud that at least I had the guts to stand up and sing, but a much bigger part of me never wants to do it again. If I do things I want to do them well and I think I can honestly say that I do not have a solo voice. It was excruciating. Although I think I can safely say that if any theatre group is looking for a woman who can sing not only out of tune, but out of time as well... I am their woman.

I couldn't look at anyone when I was done and there was only a polite silence. My two friends were very very kind, giving me hugs afterwards and telling me my voice had a lovely tone, but oh dear... 

I think I need to get out of this. I have given it a shot, failed and now need to make a quick exit. For me, a career in musical theatre is over. I am not pretending I was bad in order to get compliments... I seriously was bad. Only a decline into extensive drug use that rendered me insensible to my abilities or lack of ability can change my decision to back out of this. Call me a coward if you like, but I cannot put myself or the other choir members through that again.

Right. I'm off to pour myself a gin.

Warning!! Before you buy an XBox ...


Do you have teenage boys? I do. I have 2 teenage boys who are, frankly, lovely. Most of the time. They have learnt how to make cups of tea and bacon sandwiches. My work as a mother is done. The one thing that drives me bananas is their addiction to consoles. I say the one thing... I mean the main thing. There are other idiosyncrasies that push my buttons, but on the whole I can cope with them. The whole question of XBox and PS4 however is enough to turn me from mild mannered, yoga loving mother to sledge hammer wielding courtesy of livescience.comGone are the days of young men sitting quietly in their rooms reading novels... Actually I'm not sure that ever happened. Gone are the days of boys heading off into the woods to make camps with their friends. These days they sit in their rooms wearing head phones, living vicariously through screens.My sons alternate between being Ultimate Team footballers, worshiped by millions and paid fortunes, and being Ultimate Killing machines, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, stalking around virtual battle grounds. They join their friends online, all slumped in their darkened bedrooms for hours on end, communicating through microphones like futuristic Ultimate Call Centre Workers.I don't understand what they enjoy about this. It is the main source of arguments in our house because they want to play all the time. I only let them play at weekends, for a limited time. I hate the way it changes them. They become surly, angry unreasonable and they don't understand why I am so mean. If I could go back in time I would never have bought the damn things.They say that its their social life - bantering with their friends through head sets and playing games together. They tell me that they revise together on group chat... *tumble weed rolls by...yeah* It worries me that they will turn into fat, smelly, unshaved men in their 30's who are surgically attached to a gaming chair, kept alive through a system of intravenous Dominos.The only thing that keeps the light of hope alive in me is the fact that they do sometimes venture out into the light. They have not crossed completely to the dark side yet... They still arrange to play real life football with their mates and sometimes they go on a bike ride. Perhaps this is the way of the future? Perhaps I have to accept that the teenage boy of today needs to sit, bathed in the blue light of his console for what seems like endless hours? I suppose this is better than being on the street corner drinking cider. Yes, of course it is.But if I was the mum of young boys now, facing for the first time the question of whether I should buy some variant of console game.... I would delay, delay, delay!!! I would encourage outdoor pursuits and building of relationships. I would encourage the reading of books!! Hindsight is a tricky thing. At the time we bought them their first Game Boy we thought it was a bit of fun, that we were being lovely parents. But now I look back and I wish we had waited. I hate these things now. I hate that they spend their money on points to buy new players. I hate that we argue over the time spent on them. I spend my time negotiating usage based on completion of homework and household chores.I have become a Master at Hide the Controller. My house is full of secret places where the little black plastic controls nestle during the week. We have pitched skills, child against mother in the quest to be the Ultimate Controller of the Game. At the moment I think I am winning... but this could just be a figment of my imagination.As a mother, speaking to you as a parent ... Beware!! Beware the Peril of the XBox and the PS4. Treat them with caution and hold yo[...]

New Running Shoes, New Start.


Today I bought myself some shiny new running shoes! Yes, I may be 50 and I may be carrying a few extra pounds, but I've come to the conclusion that I want to run again. My old London Marathon running shoes are split and tired and do my feet more harm than good, so I bit the bullet, sold one of the kids, and bought some brand new Brooks.This year is my year of living well. And by that I mean living healthily and to the best of my ability. Part of that has been eating healthily - no bread, lots of fruit and veg, smaller portions - and part has been exercising. That has involved walking, yoga, swimming... and now... dadaaaaah.... running!!I am not, before you get too excited, a runner. I am a jack of all sports, master of none. I started running about 15 years ago. Well, I say running... I actually started walking. I walked and then one day I started to jog, out of the blue, feeling a bit silly really. And then I ran a 5k and then some 10k's and then a couple of half marathons and then, eventually and really rather slowly, the London Marathon.The marathon killed me. I trained, running 4 times a week for 8 months and ran that marathon with aching legs and a funny tummy. After it I had lost my joy, my running mojo. I had achieved a massive ambition, but doing it had left me tired and bored of pounding the streets. So I stopped and turned to other pursuits.But, do you know what? The thought of never running again fills me with horror. I want to have that feeling again, of floating along, my mind working its way through the trials of the day, or just enjoying the countryside, people's gardens. I want to feel the rhythm again and the smug happiness when I get home and am all sweaty and tired, but happy that I've been out. There's no reason why I can't do it. I may be 50, but so what? 50 is the new 30 don't you know?!I am going to take it easy. I am going to concentrate on enjoying my running. I have never been terribly fast or terribly pretty when I run. I resemble a slightly aged donkey as I jog along, but that's fine with me. Any embarrassment at being slow or shambling is long gone. In the world of runners and walkers the fact that you are out at all counts for a lot. Better to be attempting to run than to be reaching for another donut as you slump on the sofa.I am hoping that my new shoes will look after my feet and in turn my knees and hips. I am hoping that after the initial difficulties, that always come when you start running again after a break, I will be able to enjoy it. I hope I will be able to reach the summer with stronger legs, heart and lungs and keep running beyond that.All I have to do now is put my kit on, lace up my shoes and haul myself out there! I'll let you know how it goes...[...]

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Day. We must never forget.


Seventy years ago today Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was liberated. Today survivors of the Death Camp join with the world to remember those who were brutally murdered in that terrible place. There really are no words that I can write that will do the tragedy, the awfulness, justice.

What is so important is that we remember what happened, that we never forget the suffering of the men, women and children who were taken there, brutalised, tortured, separated, murdered. It is impossible for those of us who weren't there to understand what they went through, but I hope we can try. I hope we can pass the facts on to our children so that they and their children will remember.

Beautiful, simple, calm.


There's nothing quite as beautiful as sunrise on a cold and frosty morning. Well, I say that... I suppose that there are more beautiful things... but, for me, this is one of the beautiful places in my life. Every day its different and every day I look to see if I should take a photo. My friends and Instagram followers are no doubt bored to tears of it, but I love to see it across the fields, with the morning sun glinting through the trees.

I just thought that today, after a couple of political posts, I would just share something calm and beautiful and simple.

Update!! Thank you so much Emma for asking me to take part in #CheckOutThatView over at her blog South West Reviews Its a pleasure to link up with you and I hope that lots of other bloggers do too!!

Why we cannot let Fundamentalism bow us. I'll Ride With You.


I woke up this morning to read that 2000 men, women and children had been massacred in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Following the week that has just passed it is yet another hideous tragedy that darkens our world. I find it so hard to understand why people who consider themselves men and women of God believe that killing others is part of their courtesy of Huffington Post.comPerhaps they are hiding behind the excuse of religion? I don't believe that any true follower would commit the cowardly and senseless murders we have seen this week. They may believe themselves to be warriors for their faith, but surely this model of faith is a mutation? An abomination.I sat yesterday watching events unfold in France and ended the day feeling so desperately sad for the people involved. I have read countless articles trying to explain what is happening in the world and why fundamentalists feel the need to intimidate and murder those who disagree with them. There are so many theories, some reasonable, talking about poverty and alienation. Others damn blindly, generalising about an evil threat, conspiracy theories and prophecies of world domination by Islam who they see as some sort of dreadful darkness. I don't believe that Islam is evil. True Muslims are good and kind and honorable. As should be those true followers of any of the world religions, be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist. Mankind takes the words of sacred texts and twists them for his own devices. This has been the case for thousands of years surely? Mankind acts out of fear of the unknown and uses religion to excuse his acts of brutality.Perhaps I am naive, but I just wish that people could take a moment to be still and to consider others. We may not all follow the same system of beliefs, but surely that's alright? As long as we try to be kind and tolerant, understanding that we are all different, then surely the world would be a better place? I am not a believer, but I have friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist. Their choice of belief does not offend me. I respect them all. I don't always agree with them, but I respect their right to believe a different truth than mine. Why can the fundamentalists of these faiths not feel the same way? Why do they feel the need to force their views on the world?In my opinion the basic need of every human being is to love and be loved. No more nor less. If we all treated others with respect, taking each person we meet for who they are individually, then the world would be such a different place.Perhaps this is easy for me to say, living my middle class life in leafy England. Perhaps the anger and frustration you feel as a young person living in slums, feeling alienated and demonised, pushes people towards hatred and the desire for some sort of justification for their existence? I don't know the answers.What did touch me this week was the move to extend the hashtag #IllRideWithYou, started after the hostage crisis in Sydney. It began as a way of showing that not everybody equates Islam with terrorism and said "Let's stick together as human beings, be we Muslim, Jew, Christian or Atheist". If only we could stand together, hand in hand with people of all faiths and not judge others because of the actions of a courtesy of allfreedownload.comThey are a dangerous minority, but their desire is to break society, to turn us against each other, to spread fear. We cannot let this happen. We cannot condemn whole sections of society because of the way they dress, the faith they hold. We are all dif[...]

Je Suis Charlie.


Before today I have to admit that I had not heard of Charlie Hebdo. I had not read their satirical articles or seen their cartoons. Now, however, I do know about them and I will never forget them. I am not a journalist, but the horrific events in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris has made me realise and appreciate the courage of those journalists around the world who speak out against wrong, who speak out.Today two gunmen walked into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and murdered twelve people - 10 journalists and two policemen. They called by name for the cartoonists and executed them.The journalists were in an editorial meeting and stood no chance against men armed with automatic rifles. They were armed only with pens, with their keyboards.Time will show that the pen is mightier than the sword or the automatic rifle, but today, and for those men and their families, the gun proved to be more brutal than satire.What the gunmen did not foresee was the mass outpouring of grief and support for the team at Charlie Hebdo. All over the world people gathered in town squares and online to unite in solidarity with those journalists and the courage they showed in exercising their right to Free Speech. In Paris people stood silently holding pens aloft. Their gesture moves me to courtesy of Huffington PostI hope that the courage of those journalists lights a fire amongst the people of the world. A flame of defiance that will burn in spite of threats from extremist organisations. Every human being has the right to Free Speech. No human being has the right to murder another. Other people's opinions may offend, may even insult, but that gives no one the right to kill. Yes, fight back with words. Argue for all you are worth, but violence such as that we have seen today is wrong. It is the option of the fundamentally weak.The problem is that the violence we have witnessed today is frightening. The editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, was already under police protection for his cartoons ridiculing Islam and both he and his body guards were killed today. I have noticed how very careful most people in the media are when discussing Islam and surely this is in no small part because of the fear of reprisals by fundamentalists. How many writers do not think hard before saying or writing something controversial or satirical?Will this attack spur more people to write what they really think? Or will it frighten people into silence? Only time will tell, but I call to mind a short poem I read when I was young and by which I try to live my life. It was written by Martin Niemoller ...First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak outBecause I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak outBecause I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak outBecause I was not a Jew.Then they came for me ...And there was no one left to speak for me.The journalists who risk their lives, and that is what they do, are there speaking for all of us. They are the ones who tell us, in our nice cosy houses, about what is really going on in the world. Those journalists who have the courage to write and who shine a spotlight on events we might not otherwise be aware of are brave. I might not always agree with what they write, but I will support their right to do so forever. Free Speech is essential in a free world and today has shown that the vast majority of people hold that to be true. The shock and outrage at these awful murders is deep felt. I hope that the tragic d[...]

New Resolutions for a New Year.


I love the New Year. It's a time for fresh starts and new resolutions. Since turning 50 last March I have slowly begun to realise my own mortality. I don't want to sound morbid, but the chances are that I'm over half way in this life of mine. More than one friend of mine has faced serious illness this year and that has made me value my health and family more than ever. Age has never bothered me - it's just a number - but the number I now own doesn't seem to match with who I am... How odd to be a 50 year old! Inside I am far younger. Anyway ... this year I am making resolutions, but not resolutions which will deny myself things. This year I resolve to enjoy every moment of my life. I want to be positive and strong.I have never been one to live in the past. Nostalgia is really not for me and this year more than ever I plan to live in the Now and yet look to the future. I plan on learning new things, new skills. I am continuing to walk when I can and my husband and I have set a day to swim although this is clashing with my ballet classes... aaagh!. Last year I started yoga and I love it. I plan to keep on practising and attending classes, getting better and more flexible. Part of yoga that I love is the relaxing, meditative aspect and I have been using this to help my sleep. I hope to start running again too. If I can regain my love of it I will be thrilled!If I am looking after my body with exercise then I need to think about what I am putting into it in the way of food and drink too. I have only one body and so far I have been extremely fortunate to be fit and healthy, but, to be honest, I have been a bit of a pig recently! I love good food and wine and have rather over indulged in both over the last few months!! I am going to try to drink more water and less wine! I want to eat more healthily too... smaller portions, more fruit and veg, more fish, less red meat. I think the key is forward planning and I have been enjoying some delicious recipes recently - full of fresh ingredients, fresh herbs.In April I am booked onto a Hypnotherapy course and I cannot wait for it to start. I love the thought of learning something new and, eventually perhaps, changing direction career wise. Taking on a year's course is a big challenge and the fact that this is more science based than my usual love - the Arts - is not a little frightening! It is, perhaps, the fear factor that excites me just as much as the thought of a new skill, new knowledge.self portrait courtesy of christianhook.comI also plan on visiting more exhibitions this year. Last year I went to a few, but this year I want to see more, in particular Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy and Christian Hook at Clarendon Fine Art. The older I get the more I realise how little I know!I want to keep my mind open and push myself to make the most of every day. I am going to keep reading as much as possible and I plan on editing the book I wrote in November during NaNoWriMo. I feel like Ernie Wise talking about "The book what he wrote"!! I enjoyed the discipline of writing and, you never know, I might write something else... although I don't think JK Rowling or Stephen King have anything to fear!! Writing a novel in the month of NaNoWriMo certainly makes one appreciate the skill of real writers!!I also want to cherish every moment I have with my family. As time goes on I am reminded every day just how lucky I am. My husband is my best friend, my rock and I love his company. I want to spend as much time together as we can. My boys are getting older an[...]

The Lake District - one for your bucket list.


When I was little my family and I used to go up to the Lake District every Easter. We would stay with old friends and go boating on Lake Windermere. Now that I have my own family we carry on the tradition of travelling up to the North of England to visit the Lakes, these days staying with my cousin and her family. We usually go up some time around November and it is one of my most favourite events of the year.Lake Windermere from Gummers HoweIf you have never been up to the Lake District then I can recommend it mightily! For us, from the Home Counties, its a pretty long drive, about five or six hours depending on the traffic, although for those of you from the USA or Australia this probably seems like a trip to the shops!Lake WindermereWe usually turn up at my cousin's house just before midnight and settle down for a nice glass of wine and a chat before bedtime. The next day is a day to go for walks and there are so many to choose from. If you go onto the Lake District website there are lots of walks to choose from - from hard core walks to pleasant strolls. We tend to tailor our walks depending on which members of the family are with us!We love to walk on the estuary at Greenodd, as well as walking the hills and around the lakes.We are all keen photographers and the Lakes provide a never ending treasure trove of images. There's just nothing more wonderful that being outside with your family, breathing in the fresh air, taking photos and then, maybe, having a pint infront of a roaring fire in a local pub!looking out over Windermere from Gummers HoweOn the way up to the top.We usually have a big bonfire on the Saturday night, standing in the dark with sparklers and damson gin ... maybe some hot homemade soup too. My cousin makes an excellent butternut squash and chorizo soup!There are lots of books and websites about the Lakes and I am no expert, but if you haven't been then you are missing out!! You don't have to be a huntin' fishin' walkin' expert. You just need to make sure you choose the right walk for you, whether its round the shops or up to the tops, and wear the right clothes for the walk you choose and the season you are in.Secret Housewife and my Man.The sites I have linked to are full of information, but really, if you've never been.... go! Its one of those places that should be on your bucket list. We tend to go when its quieter - fewer tourists, but any time of the year it's gorgeous.[...]

Afternoon Tea at The Lancaster, London with Chef Ben Purton - such a treat!!


Over the last year I have been enjoying Afternoon Tea in various establishments around London and the Home Counties. Its a difficult job, but someone has to do it!! I have been part of the #LDNBloggersTea group - about 25 bloggers who have tea, drink champagne and then write about their experiences. This Sunday was the turn of The Lancaster, London, under the expert cheffing hands of Chef Ben Purton. The lovely Melanie, from Sunny in London, had worked very hard to organise the event, taking over the reins from Selena at Oh The Places We Will Go. And a very professional job she did too!! Thank you Melanie for giving us all such a treat!I have attended all the London Bloggers Teas bar one and that was when Chef Ben created tea for us last. Since then he has been an enthusiastic supporter of our little tea scoffing band and I was looking forward to both meeting him and eating his wares.I made my way to Lancaster Gate tube station and from there it was a two minute walk to The Lancaster. We had our own private room, just off from the lounge on the first floor and we were greeted with warm smiles and chilled pink Laurent Perrier champagne. Things were looking good!If you are visiting London, then The Lancaster is in a brilliant position for seeing the sights and the views from our room were gorgeous. The windows looked out over Hyde Park, the Serpentine and its fountains. It was beautiful.Chef Ben had obviously worked very hard on their menu and it was clear that they were very proud of their work. A huge amount of effort has gone into creating an Afternoon Tea here. Before Ben Purton arrived it was a service that they did not offer so full marks for adding to London's menu of top notch teas.The scones were freshly baked and we were the first to try the Christmas Pudding flavour scone, along with a plain and a raisin flavour. And the good news was that there was plenty of clotted cream and delicious homemade strawberry jam.One of the things I really loved this afternoon was the attention to detail... we were able to see the huge range of teas on offer - from Pear and Ginger to English Breakfast to Dragonwell Green Tea. And the lovely representative of Laurent Perrier, Ashley, told us all about what was best to drink with the champagne - apparently strawberries are good, but so was the terrine shown below. Yum.As is usual at these occasions I was pretty full up by the time it came to eat the dessert tier. There is only so much tea and champagne a girl can consume before she gives up the ghost. However I manfully continued and was treated to white chocolate and raspberry lolly pops which sparkled in my mouth, mostly because of the surprise popping candy! A honey and apple cake was another favourite and the tiny lemon tart was scrumptious!I sat back in my chair and looked around the room, dressed for Christmas and full of happy smiling blogger faces, some new, some who had been to a LDNBloggersTea before, and the feeling was good. Afternoon tea at The Lancaster, London costs £30 per person, £35 with a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne and £40 with Laurent Perrier Rose. We were fortunate enough to be given a discounted rate of £25 for our tea. If you are looking for a safe haven just a few minutes from Oxford Street, where you can watch the world go by and indulge yourself then this tea is very lovely. I can't recommend the staff enough as they could not do enough for us! Thank you to Ben Purton from The Lancaster and Ashley[...]

NaNoWriMo Winner!! Oh Yeah Baby!!!


Oh yes!! 50,035 words. A whole month of writing. A book I never knew I had inside me. I am so proud of myself I could cry. I am now going to open a bottle of champagne.

What is NaNoWriMo?


You may, like me, have seen the strange word "NaNoWriMo" popping up all over the web in the last few weeks or months. I had noticed last year and the year before and had wondered what on earth it meant.To be honest I had difficulty even saying the word .... NaNooMeeeMooo.... NaWriMaMooo..... MaaaNaaaMiiiiReeee...I had no idea...To my surprise, this year, I received an invitation from my brother and his girlfriend to take part in NaNoWriMo... or, as I prefer to say..National Novel Writing MonthMy brother explained that the thing was a writing challenge. Write a 50,000 word novel in a month. To be specific write it in the month of November. I would need to average about 1600 to 2000 words a day if I was to complete my masterpiece in the set time span.Well, I've often been told by people, mainly my husband, that I should write a book. My answer has always been to stare in disbelief at him, them and shake my head. Write a book? Just like that?I have no inspiration, no ideas... how can I write a book?Well, Grasshopper ... this is where NaNoWriMo comes in. You just write. I see that other people have varying approaches. Some plan meticulously before November, having plot, characters, history all prepared before the start date. Others just sit down and start writing on the first day.Some adopt a combination of the two methods. This is what I have done.It doesn't matter if you don't finish. It doesn't matter if it's rubbish. What matters is that you sit down and write. Apparently only 17% of people who try it succeed, but if you do you get ... well, actually you get nothing but a little virtual badge of honour and a feeling of smugness in your heart. You also, I would imagine ( I say imagine as I am currently on Day 4 so 50,000 words seems an awfully long way away) you also would enjoy a very large sense of achievement. 2,000 words a day is no small feat when you have a job, kids, a husband or wife who thinks you're mad...The NaNoWriMo site is full of forums, support groups, graphs to show your word count and links to Pep Talks. They arrange meet ups in local coffee emporiums all over the world so that you can write with company. I do like a graph.So, as I say... I am on Day 4 and things are going ok. I am fitting my writing in around work, taxiing children, sport, housework and a husband with a bad back ( say no more). My plan is to write as much as I can early on so that on the days when I have absolutely no time ( and they will come, Grasshopper, they will come) I am ahead of the game.My story seems to be channeling itself through me from somewhere, though God knows how. I am certainly enjoying myself.If you are reading this and wondering whether you should do it, I say yes!! What do you have to lose? You might be able to start now if you work hard, or you could start planning for next year. Or perhaps you are reading this next year... in which case... Do It!!Its free, its a challenge and its not going to be judged by anyone. What's not to like?. I don't think I will end up being the next J.K Rowling, but I will at least have proved to myself that I can string more than 300 words together.I will come back and write another post when and if I finish....[...]