Gratitude and Wishes

Yesterday was quite the day. I had to go over to Blackpool for a meeting. Or rather a small town within walking distance and its own train stop. Originally I’d planned to get the train to Blackpool and then a taxi to the office but was told the local train stop was practically next door so to get that. This turned out to be a BAD THING as several trains were cancelled – all of them being the rare few that stopped where I needed to be. I ended up with a 2 hour delay at both ends of the journey. On the outward journey I stopped off at a Costa Coffee to pass the time and check my emails. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself at this point as I’d been up since 5am and was a bit cold. Talking to the coffee shop staff though they were all worried about their jobs. The shop was part of the Debenhams chain and there is talk of 40 of their stores closing one of which was potentially this one. Closing the store would mean closing the coffee shop. A customer in front of me mentioned that the store was the heart of the town centre and that if it closed then you may as well close the whole town. They also mentioned that the chain of Patisserie Valerie are expected to go under at some point this week. So many jobs from all of this will be lost not to mention its impact on already struggling high streets across the country. So thinking about it, my journey was delayed which was inconvenient. I was cold but had the funds to warm up in a coffee shop and most importantly I have a job and as a civil servant will probably always have a job no matter how much it sometimes frustrates me. I think sometimes we forget these things and hearing about the struggles of others makes you appreciate what you actually have.

The second part of my story yesterday includes a walk. No trains to get home so I decided to take advantage of some fresh air and walk into Blackpool as there would be a better chance of getting home. Rather than google map the journey I walked down to the small town promenade which led to the main Blackpool one. It was so cold! I really wish I had a had my hat but it was so wonderful to have a bit of time in nature watching the sea however brisk the weather. The walk though had me thinking about the future. For over 20 years I’ve had in the back of my mind how much I would love to have my own B&B. Walking through the towns though I saw so many closed buildings. They were in a state of disrepair rather than closed for the off season so definitely an economical thing. I think a B&B just isn’t going to work in this day and age; I can’t see it being financially viable. This then took me to Plan B which is as old as the B&B idea which is the desire to retire to a coastal town.

If I can retire at 60 I have 13 years to get some cash together. If I wait to the state retirement age I have 20 years. It will come around much quicker than I expect it to. 2019 is all about paying off my debts. 2020 then will be to start working on a future that will support me financially in my old age. Me and a friend were talking about grown up thoughts and that it’s always scary doing this. Who wants to be a grown up? People keep asking me what I want to achieve at work (job roles/promotions etc) and actually all I want is the space to build my future plans. This is where putting into place this year all the side hustles will start to pay off. Once the debts are cleared they will be part of the retirement savings plan.

So a day of mixed feelings. Even having gratitude for having a job I couldn’t escape the fact that the British Rail infrastructure is terrible and an inconvenience. It wasn’t just my trains with issues. The weather is so cold that having to spend 35 minutes waiting in the freezing cold was horrible on the final leg of trying to get home (and I definitely know there are people far worse off than me) but I finally have a bit of an idea about the future and how I can start to build towards it. I’m a massive fan of action plans and I think at the weekend it’s time to start looking at building one and what it will take to get me where I want to be.


365 Day Blog challenge Day 110 – Busy Thinking Nothing #365daychallenge

I’ve had a busy but very rare week where I’ve hardly thought at all. I’ve limited my time on social media so I’ve not got wound up by the endless negative posts and political tweets. I’ve not been reading any self help books so I’ve not had to think about past issues, how to move forward or change myself in anyway.

I’ve not worried about money despite spending two days in London away from home. I have completely for the last 6 days let go of everything and just lived in the moment and it’s been glorious.

My only concerns have been around public transport and getting to and from London (poor train services) and the sudden snow on ungritted roads meaning working from home. Even that didn’t cause much issue for me as I have a laptop, the systems were working for once and I got plenty done.

I need to try this again sometimes. I’m feeling very zen right now which is kind of a  good thing as this weekend is all about my next uni assignment. Then again that’s 90% done so I just need a conclusion and a brief write up of my writing process.

This week the world has been so bright I’ve needed shades.

365 Day Blog challenge Day 20 – Favourite holiday 365daychallenge

Sticking with yesterdays holiday theme I thought I’d write about my favourite holiday. While I had been to Euro Disney in Paris (for 2 days) I went by coach and ferry and it didn’t feel like a trip abroad. So in time for my

30th birthday I packed up my young son and we went to San Francisco and Anaheim. At the time in the UK if you were a single traveller looking at a package deal you paid an extra supplement for being on your own. Travel agents then wanted to charge me further by adding in the cost of my son. So effectively I would pay for him as an adult. I decided to price up what I wanted on the internet and got my perfect holiday saving £1000!! As a single parent that’s a lot of money. So I had a week in San Francisco in the super hot June sunshine. We went to museums, shopped, my son got his first ever Build a Bear (it wasn’t available in the UK at the time or if it was at only a very few select places), we saw our first wrestling match after a shop keeper saw my son’s hat and told us about a show the next day. It was wonderful


A funny memory; our flight didn’t get us in until 10.00pm. We were tired and ready for the hotel after around 15 hours of flights and connections. Getting in the taxi to the hotel the song ‘Get Down Tonight’ started playing and totally unplanned we and our driver all started singing along and doing the same chair dancing! Just a funny, you had to be there moment I still think of.


The second week was Anaheim. Now in England we have a good infrastructure with trains even if it is over prices and some train companies always late. I assumed I’d find the same in America and could book my connection when I got there. Boy was I wrong. I  got my tickets for Amtrak (and quite cheap if I remember) but there was no direct train. We had to keep getting off the train and catching coaches so the journey would join up. And the trip took 13 hours. However this turned out to be a wonderful day. Whether bus or train we went through so much of California and got to (briefly) see places that we wouldn’t if we’d flown. I’m sure one stop was in the middle of a farm! We went through the mountains, fields, cities, by the sea and so much more.


So arriving in Anaheim. This was a week for my son. Nearly every day was a theme park – Disney, Knott’s Berry, Six Flags. The best bit was my 30th birthday. We spent the evening watching the firework display in the park pretending it was something Disney had put on especially for my day. I think it’s one of the best birthday’s I’ve ever had and the whole 2 weeks has stayed in my mind more than some of the more recent one. It’s a trip I will always treasure.

365 Day Blog challenge Day 19 – Disney Challenge #365daychallenge

Trying to think of some fun things to talk about so I don’t end up with 25 Christmas posts and something I saw on the internet was around something you want to achieve and I thought about Disney. I’ve been to three Disney Worlds/Lands in my time; Orlando, Anaheim and EuroDisney and one of the things I’d love to achieve before it ever became impossible was to visit every Disney in the world. So I knew there was Tokyo to do, Hong Kong and now the newest one Shanghai).


Those two feel more difficult. I once tried to price up Tokyo and it was quite expensive. I think as well they would all have to be self booked as I’ve yet to find a UK travel agent that would be able to put together a decent package. At the minute my finances won’t stretch to any of the more long distance sites so next year I’ll be going back to Paris. Hopefully once my finances are more secure (March 2020 and counting down!) I’ll have the funds to create the Asian trips and add in a few visits to the nearby cities as well.


It’s good to have a slightly impossible dream. It gives you something to aim for. I’d set myself a target of one of those by the time I’m 50 (5 years time) but I also want to go to Australia and new Zealand so I may have to do some prioritising. It’s fun to think about though. I’ve little bits of plans and I aim one day to tick at least one of those newer destinations off my list


Do you have any fun travel goals?

Getting out more…

A few months ago I decided I needed to get out more. I’d just got a new job with a bit of extra cash and so it seemed like a good idea to re-start life in a few different ways. 

Well so far I’ve mostly pottered around the country; sometimes through wortk and sometimes through coach trips but that’s it. I’ve done nothing else. Looking back at various things I’d done over the last few years I realised I’ve only been to the cinema four times in two years. For someone who used to go twice a week that just shocking. Actually twice a week is shocking too but I had a monthly pass so got my monies worth (or not depending on the film) but I digress.

It’s all got me thinking – what is “getting out more”? Tweny years ago this woud mean more pubs and drinking and while I still could do with some of that I want to talk to people, meet new people and chat in a  civilised manner. So how do I do that in this age of technology and people being more interested in their phones (or so it seems). Therein lies my problem. 

I’ve made it my mission to see at least 6 films at the cinema next year. That won’t fix the problem but it’s better than waiting for DVDs and just talking to myself. I have a few female friends who will happily sit in pubs on their own with a drink and a book. I’m the type of person who won’t go in a pub unless  know someone else is there already. I was that fashionably late person for years for that very reason. So start small; baby steps – I will spend more time in coffee shops looking cool, mysterious but approachable 🙂 And probably not my local supermarket cafe or Mcdonalds. Not being snobbish but it’s not normally the place for lounging away an afternoon even if their teas are cheaper. 

I’ve also been looking through our sport and social catalogue. I’ve found a craft club which looks interesting but I carry enough junk around with me on a working day without adding knitting needles and wool. That’s a maybe. Then right at the bottom I saw we have a dance group! I do love me some Strictly Come Dancing so I’ve emailed them to see what kind f dancing and is there any lessons. Now though is it “getting out more” if it’s still on work premises?? Do I have to revise my wording? 

I was going to some book clubs but had to give them up as they clash with my new work hours. I might look for another one or maybe I’ll reset up an old one I used to do with a friend. I haven’t looked into that properly yet. But what else? What do people do these days??? Time to get my thinking cap on. Any ideas most welcome

Time Travelling in the North of England

This past week has been my birthday and I’ve been celebrating it by visiting a few places of history in both Leeds & Northumberland. On Wednesday after opening my cards and pressies we set off for Temple Newsham, a Tudor-Jacobean large house in Leeds. This house is the birthplace of a Lord Darnley. The name meant nothing to me but it would seem he was the husband of one Mary, Queen of Scots – arch enemy of Queen Elizabeth the First! For anyone like me who doesn’t drive, it’s fairly straightforward to get the bus. However it doesn’t actually stop outside the house. Instead it’s a mile walk from the closest bus stop. Or, if you are like me and have no sense of direction, it becomes a 3 mile walk when you desperately try to remember the way you went several years before and end up circling round the HUGE grounds and woods that surround it! In all honesty though, the grounds are so lush green and the weather so lovely that we really didn’t mind the walk.

Going into the house my son was asked to out away his camera. One of the reasons for visiting is that for his photography dissertation he hopes to follow the Leeds version of the Monopoly board and photograph all the of the places of interest and Temple Newsham is one of them. Of the 40 restored rooms for our viewing pleasure some of them contain drapes and bedding so old they are in danger of falling apart and so kept in very dark rooms. While we were very good in those parts of the house, there was some very sneaky photography going on via his i-phone! But hey, needs must and he has a degree course to pass J

For people with small children the house also has a little farm attached to it. However neither of us felt inclined to pay it a visit. Overall it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

The next day I travelled up to Northumberland and Belsay castle. The castle is now left for ruins but houses exhibitions to help bring in the customers. Originally built in the 14th Century as a castle, an additional Jacobean mansion wing was later added. This building is in stark contrast to Temple Newsham with being left unfurnished. The wallpaper is hanging off the wall and there was nothing on the cold walls for decoration. While I found this a little dull, the aim of English Heritage who look after it is so you can fully enjoy the Greek Revival style of architecture. I normally like a good old fashioned castle but this looked as it was – an abandoned house.

We had a wander around the grounds and they more than make up for the house. I am not a gardener in any shape or fashion so can only say how beautiful and colourful the gardens are. They are obviously looked after with much love. The gardens have been created where the stone had been cut to build the Hall and walking around you actually find yourself in the original quarry whilst surrounded by greens and flowers. So peaceful I could’ve walked around several times.

The main reason for visiting though was the Jane Austen collection – costumes from various TV & film adaptations of her books – specifically the shirt worn by Colin Firth in that pond scene. A scene that whilst very, very tame by todays film standards has a tendency to send ladies of a certain age (and any taste!) into a frenzy. Indeed myself and a friend – both well past our teenage years found ourselves sneaking over the barrier for a touch J Several of my friends have asked me since what it smelled of! Fantastic!! I would’ve liked to have seen more costumes but seeing as we were only there for the one I can’t complain.

Both the visits and being able to spend time with family and good friends served to make it a really enjoyable birthday. Now where can I go for the next one???

Now for something completely different…

For a change and because I need the practice of reviewing things, this is how I spent my Easter weekend:

Bourton on the Water

Bourton on the Water is one of the small villages that makes up the picturesque Cotswolds villages on the edge of Gloucestershire. The centre of the village is just a little bit bigger than one street with each side separated by a small Ford – a small river approximately shin deep. We saw people splashing about in wellington boots chasing the poor put upon ducks in the water. Possibly in sunnier climes this would be a fun way to kill time and to take the edge off a hot day but in the middle of the coldest Easter in since British records began, even in Welly boots there’s no way I’m off for a splash!
One downside to the tiny tourist trap was finding somewhere to eat. There were actually no shortage of tea rooms, however there was a definite shortage of seats! We spent a good half an hour walking up and down the street trying to find somewhere where there were seats but pretty much every available café was full. Peering through the café windows every establishment had tables crammed together to seat as many people as possible. The one we eventually found was the same as this and we felt like the proverbial sardines packed in tight. For someone like me who suffers panic attacks (for various reasons including busy enclosed spaces) I found the whole episode very stressful and it did put me off wanting to come back for a longer visit. We did think about sitting outside but it was just far too cold.
In total, we spent about 90 minutes there as part of a whirlwind tour through national Holidays. Being a tiny place there really wasn’t much to see – we did spot a model car museum (the home of children’s TV character Brum!) and a model village. The one thing I was really looking forward to seeing was a perfumery but on a Saturday during a busy tourist season – it was closed…
All in all I can’t deny it was a beautiful looking place. For the artistically inclined there was lots of spots that would look great as a painting. My favourite place of the whole visit was a wool and craft shop fronted by a very charming man skilled in the art of flattery (sadly being told I look younger than I am and being called an angel does encourage me to buy!). I now have a new craft to try – scarf making through a peg loom. I have GOT to have a go 🙂 I’m hoping by the end of the year to have my own online craft shop up and running and I think they would make an excellent addition.
Moreton in Marsh.
Whilst Moreton seemed bigger it turned out to be a case of being spaced out than Bourton. I love pottering around charming villages but found this one really boring. Whilst Bourton has crammed in several attractions into its small space Moreton didn’t seem to have anything. We did see a sign leading to one or two attractions but they were nearly 2 miles away from the town centre, no good when you are time limited in your visit. It may be these attractions, if we had been given the time to see them, could’ve turned my opinion around
We had 60 minutes to wander round the high street but it only took about 15 minutes to see everything not being a committed shopper, so it was time for another high priced tea room (seriously £2.25 for a can of coke!). One thing I have noticed lately…there’s a rant coming on here!… is the amount of tea shops that hardly sell any tea!! Take the Victoria that we were recently in. They had just the one blend of tea and seemed really confused at the idea of decaf but boasted a huge array of coffee’s and were very proud of their coffee maker. How does that make them a tea shop??? I have no problems with coffee shops if that’s what they sell but please stop trying to capture the quaint cosy tea room image when you are actually an Americanized glossy coffee shop. Drives me around the bend!
Holiday Inn.
As part of the trips package we had bed, breakfast and evening meal at the Holiday Inn just off the M6 in Coventry. The hotel was as you’d expect – very clean, spacious and comfortable but let down by the food. As it was booked as part of a trip and catering for around 100 travellers on this experience all paying a budget price we ended up with budget food and a set menu rather than being able to pick from the regular guest menu.
Trying to find something on there for my autistic son was hard enough but eventually we settled for hake for me and pork for him. I was happy enough with the hake until I found a half inch thick bones in the middle. Looking around at other people who had ordered the same they had clear plates so it doesn’t seem to have been part of the fish. The pork turned out to be mainly 3 slices of fat and gristle with a bit of meat in the middle and mostly hidden under gravy. The menu had listed everything the meal would consist of except for sauces and it was smothered in gravy. We would’ve liked the opportunity to have the choice not putting gravy on. It wouldn’t have made it a more difficult meal to cook. For the veg that came with it, the roast potato was only partially cooked and hard in the middle. The starters and puddings were standard fare and tasted ok, nothing to get excited or disgusted by. It may be though that if we had ordered from the main menu the food would be of a better standard but it’s a not to myself then to be warned should I book this type of course again.
To end on a positive note though I had one of the best hotel showers ever! Easy to use and adjust and just the right kind of power. I could’ve stayed there for hours! 🙂
So good I didn’t want to come home and I didn’t even get to see all of it! Again because of the way National Holidays work this was more a whirlwind visit than a leisurely trip. We’d arranged a guided tour around the key areas followed by free time in the town to try and maximise what we could see. The coach driver had booked one of the towns tour guides and he was very knowledgeable and a great person to have as we drove around although he seemed very fixated on toilets and peeing! Stratford is the home of William Shakespeare who I adore having studied him at school and hopefully studying his works further as one of my Open Uni modules next year. There are 5 houses linked to him & preserved for tourists to visit. The first one was Anne Hathaway’s House, the wife of Shakespeare, and from the outside at least was truly gorgeous. Sadly due to the time limitations of the tour we only managed to see the outside and the gift shop before setting off again. The next stop was Mary Arden’s farm. We didn’t even get off the coach for this one! Apparently Arden was Shakespeare’s grandmother and they have restored this to the medieval working farm it originally was with all employees actually working the farm in traditional costume of the time and growing all the food they eat including herbs. Another one I really wished I’d had time to look around. The remainder of the tour was a chance to see where the other houses were along with his resting place.
After the tour we used our free time to have a slower walk round the inner town houses and see the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried including his gravestone and that of his family members. We had been told by the guide that in that era rich people would pay the church huge sums of money to be buried as close to the alter as possible as they believed it meant they had a better chance of being first in the queue to the pearly gates!
So we were expecting to find the grave stones at the side of the church. They were actually inside! Practically on the alter itself.
By this point we were running out of time and had yet to find the street we had been told his birth place was on. We had a quick wander through the RSC theatre and then with only 15 minutes before we were due back on the coach we found the street of his birth only because I needed to find some chocolate! We practically ran down the street, took a photo of the house and ran back to the coach station! As much as I love the cheapness of the holiday company and its ability to give you an overview of places in a short space of time, Stratford is one place I really would have loved to have been able to spend more time in so I think when it’s sunnier I will go back maybe by train and spend a few days there pottering around and taking in the sites at a more leisurely pace. But it’s definitely a must for anyone wanting to soak up some ye Olde English atmosphere.