‘About Me’

Welcome! 

Welcome to my little slice of the internet, here you’ll find details on my performing and theatre work, writing and other interesting projects I get up to!

This post is a little map to me. Hopefully it’ll help you navigate your way around if you’re new to my site, (or even if you’re old to the site – hello to you too!)

I blog every Tuesday about a range of things, from my very wise and wisdomous tales and tips from travelling for work (Parts 1 and 2!), to reviews of shows, festivals, experiences and products I enjoy. You might also come across some of my creative writing, reflections on life as a freelancer and other stuff, like how getting married impacted my career.

So what ‘about me‘? In short, I live on a narrowboat with my gorgeous husband Ryo. (Get the answers to the ten most-asked questions about boat life here!) From the boat I write, plan, knit, sell, and develop shows and storytelling experiences – and more. I love my little freelance life, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!

If you can think of a way we could work together, or have a product/service/event you’d like reviewing, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact form.

I love hearing from you too! What did you think of the post? What would you love to read more about? How are you doing? What did you have for lunch? How’s your new puppy, do you have pictures, can I hold it, do you need a dog sitter?… and, er, so on! Feel free to drop me a little ‘hi’ in the comments section, I’ll read them all and may even say ‘hi’ back!

If you enjoy the posts, you could click the ‘Follow Me‘ button below to make sure you hear all about new posts – and be the first to comment and share… you trend setter you.

Thanks for sticking with me, welcome to the site and have fun exploring!

Canal, Ducklings, Roar!

Welcome to my boat life and other freelancer adventures!

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Nor-way, we’re in Norway!

Picture this – we’re on the gorgeous Oslo coast, glorious sun shining down, fascinating sculptures and architecture to catch the eye in every direction, and five hours earlier, we were stood at London Gatwick, wondering where we would be flying to for the weekend.

Surprise destination holidays are either the most stressful, or the most exciting, way to travel – it comes down to your sense of adventure ..!

How It Works.

It’s a simple, and I think genius, concept. You give Wowtrip £150, your dates of travel and a whole lot of trust. They book your flights and accommodation, and tell you where you’re going when you get to the airport. From their website, you can then download your boarding passes, a quick guide to the city you’re visiting and your hotel details.

Let me just go ahead and pre-empt some of the most FAedQs:

  • They send a weather report a week in advance to help you pack.
  • You get your airport, terminal and flight time 48 hours in advance, to help you plan. (I asked for our airport a week in advance and they were happy to help.)
  • Yes, you could work out / look up where you were going from that info. And if you wanted to, sure, go ahead. But doesn’t that sort of defeat the point?
  • You are actually given access to the destination 48 hours before departure, so if it’s eating you up, you can just click the button and find out!
  • They check you in.
  • Cabin baggage only is standard, although you can pay extra to have a checked bag.
  • Yes, you need a smartphone for this to work!

Wowtrip Service.

With a friendly and proactive social media and email response team, it’s easy to feel that you’ve just handed this responsibility over to some of your close friends (but backed up with experience, glowing reviews, actual know-how and contacts within the industry!)

Whilst they do give you info on getting to your hotel, it’s limited! We didn’t have any indication of price on ours which would have been super helpful. We figured the bus would be cheapest and ended up spending £19 each instead of getting the train for a tenner!

Flights.

We were booked in with Norwegian Airlines who were friendly and efficient. They’re a standard budget airline that didn’t have all the ‘budgety-ness’ of some of the other budget flyers…!!

Hotel.

At under ten minute’s walking distance from the seafront, main museums and the highstreet, Smarthotel was a great place to stay. We’d read some very off-putting reviews of tiny rooms and even smaller showers (outweighed massively by all the positive ones!), but we found the clean and pretty room and enormous shower-come-wet-room more than spacious enough for us.

The staff were really friendly, but not consistently helpful. One employee misread our late-night weary faces as an invitation to run down tomorrow’s opening times of each attraction in Oslo (there are over thirty!) Her information wasn’t even accurate… Another gentlemen behind the desk told us that the boats would run “All night” then later in the conversation he clarified, “At least until 1am”. From what we could see, they ran until 10pm, I’m glad we didn’t take his word for it, or we could still be stuck on one of Norway’s beautiful islands right now!! (oh no… that would be awful…)

We paid of the hotel breakfast on the Saturday, which was VERY yummy, albeit at about £12 a person. Both Ryo and I couldn’t eat until dinner time, so for a breakfast / lunch combined (and relative to astronomical Oslo prices) we thought it wasn’t too bad!

Logistics.

The biggest (/only?) problematic logistic for us was booking travel to / from the Airport. You’re told just 48 hours before take-off what time you’ll be flying and from which airport. As someone who normally scours the internet for the best deals and discounts, I found this really restrictive. Advance booking is the friend of the money saver!!

We also paid an extra £10pp to not fly before 12pm. The only negative feedback we could find for wowtrip was that people had been given 6am or 7am flights for which they had to be at the airport 2 hours early. With only 48 hours to wrap your head around logistics, this can be a bit nightmarish, and resulted in a really expensive taxi for the reviewers involved (others had had to book a night at a pricey airport hotel.) Even having protected ourselves against this, we still had to get to the airport at 10 am. On a Friday, in peak hours. We were looking at a good few hours of trains with several changes at £45-90 return each. (We still didn’t know what time we’d be getting back, turns out, public transport would have finished and we’d have been stuck.) After a quick bit of head scratching and googling, we found airport parking for £43. We drove in (faster than the trains), parked up, and were in the terminal within ten minutes. Petrol was around £25-30. This brings the return travel to and from the airport to about £35pp, not a huuuge saving (though much more convenient, faster, and we were able to get back!!!) This is obviously a BIG chunk of money on top of your £150 wowtrip tickets, and something to consider when booking.

Also, when you get there you will be thinking on your feet (unless you want to spend your whole holiday researching the cheapest / best places to eat and visit.) You sort of have to accept that with that, comes the fact that you might end up paying a little over the odds for some things and missing out on others. But I think that that’s part of the charm!

Overall…

If you were to price up a trip and try and do it yourself, you might, possibly, come in at under £150pp. But it would require a good stint of research, several separate comparisons and bookings, and it would lack all the charm and joy of the surprise! Wowtrip are able to take advantage of cheap combinations and ongoing understandings with vendors. You want to compete with that, be my guest!

As for us, we LOVED the ‘not knowing-ness’. It was romantic, and stress free. We had no agenda, no pressures to tick everything off of our list or hit all the major attractions. We just went with the flow, decided as we went, and enjoyed the weekend in confused, disorganised bliss.

Wowtrip was very easy to use and the whole destination reveal / ticket distribution was really smooth. We will definitely be using them again!!!

There are other surprise destination organisations out there like srprs.me and mystery break. (Wowtrip is easily the cheapest.) I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever used one, would you recommend them? Where did you end up? Let me know below!

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a round-up of how to do Oslo in two and a half days!

Borrow My Doggy – Review

BorrowMyDoggy.com is a service that links people who love dogs with people who have dogs. The ethos is simple, save money on dog-sitters whilst giving someone who can’t have a dog right now a chance to hang out with your pooch.

Why would we want to be away from Scruff?

Good question! Well there’s a few reasons that this service is brilliant for us. Firstly, Scruff has huge separation anxiety, which means we can’t leave him for any stretch of time (yet!) We can leave him in the car, but, with the weather getting hotter, both the car and the boat are not friendly places for a dog to be alone. The second reason is Date Night. We’re trying to value the importance of spending time together, and it would be nice to be able to go out for a nice dinner that doesn’t have to be dog friendly. For example, our first ever time leaving Scruff will be so we can go to the cinema!

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Scruff’s Profile on the site. What a cutie!!

New Friends!

We met a lovely family with two small kids, two different professional women and a couple with grandkids. They were all lovely, easy to get along with and showed Scruff a lot of love.

They’re all dog lovers, but for reasons to do with work, living arrangements or travel, they can’t have their own furry four-legged friend at the moment. Enter Borrow My Doggy!

Benefits.

Obviously there’s the money issue! Dog-sitters can cost around £20 a day, and lots of them want you to commit to at least twice-weekly sitting sessions, not really ideal for ad-hoc and one off jaunts to the cinema!

Scruff gets socialised, and he has a chance to getting used to being away from us a little more, which is ideal practice for when he’s all by himself.

And, not forgetting, we get to help people who love dogs but can’t have one right now. And that is awesome!!

Risks…

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Borrow My Doggy works hard to vet people. Also, the insurance and 24/7 vet perks go further to help protect and support your pooch while he’s having his play dates. There are always the normal worries. What if they lose him? Or steal him? Or let him come to harm? Teach him bad habits? Scare or stress him out? … It goes on. But that’s why Borrow My Doggy encourages you to meet the borrowers first, visit their home, get to know them and so on. The site is also full of advice on tips for both lending, and looking after, dogs!

On that, we actually did have a really bad experience. We turned up to collect him and the borrower kept fobbing us off. Turns out, she wasn’t at her flat, where we had agreed to meet. She was at the pub. It took us over an hour to finally get her location. She was very drunk and told us a number of horror stories of Scruff running into roads off lead. He was unscathed, I phoned Borrow My Doggy, and this lady was taken off of the site within half an hour.

Is it Worth Getting Premium?

Premium is £44.99 a year for dog owners (I think it’s £7.99 for borrowers?) and covers access to a 24/7 vet, as well as pretty comprehensive insurance. Without premium, you cannot make or receive messages. Having a free profile is a bit of a waste of time, and only there for others to contact you, which triggers a message encouraging you to get a premium account so you can see and respond to the message(!?)

We’ve had two dog-sittings this week (movie date, and a meal out, mainly to get to know our borrowers!) This alone would have cost us about £40+. One more session, any time this year, and we’ve made our money back.

UPDATE: Although the second experience was a bit traumatic, our movie date night was an absolute hit, and the borrower was lovely and super grateful for some time with Scruff.

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So many new friends to make!

Overall.

You have to put your trust in strangers, and it might not always work out. But the service is a brilliant idea and one we will definitely continue to use. Their customer service is impeccable, I’d encourage you to give them a call if you’re considering it, they’ll talk you through everything, one dog lover to another!

Have you ever used Borrow My Doggy, or something similar? Would love to hear your tips and anecdotes below!

That Freelance Failure Feeling.

My lovely husband came home recently and asked me how my day had been. (This is before we discovered Things Not to Say to Your Spouse!) I told him I’d failed. It was a Tuesday. He gently and lovingly reminded me that I can’t fail a Tuesday. What did I fail? Who did I fail to or against? I was beating myself up for not feeling like I’d done much or achieved anything. I’m very goal orientated, so having no box to tick at the end of a day spent ‘freelancing’ can be tough. When you have no one to manage your workload, and no external deadlines to meet, managing your time on a day to day basis is hard enough. Managing your time and expectations week in, week out, is another thing altogether.

Life as a freelancer can be hard, whatever your field. For me, my work often comes in short, intense bursts. And then I might have no fixed work for the rest of the month. I have to keep my diary free in case projects come up, whilst balancing that with booking enough things in to keep me productive, creative, and in work.

People often ask if I’ve been busy, or had much work lately, or ask what I’ve been up to recently. It can be hard not to want to either fudge things to make myself look busier than I’ve actually been, or to break down crying and declare my whole life a failure. The question ‘What do you do?’ is already a minefield (that I discuss here!!)

But you can’t fail life. There’s no test that measures whether or not you passed. It’s just one continuous journey, where each day you make decisions, take opportunities and grow yourself, however you choose. Or maybe today is not a growing day and you choose not to. That’s ok too.

Some days, my job is ‘housewife’ (or… boatwife?) By choice. I love it. I love getting things done around the boat, preparing and planning meals, looking after the dog, fixing, tidying, folding. I love running, visiting friends and family and planning events for our church group. As a woman who believes in being driven, creative and a high achiever, it can sometimes feel like I ‘didn’t get anything done’ that day. I achieved loads, but have I let myself, my potential and my purpose down?

That’s a lot of pressure for a Tuesday.

Here’s where I’m at with it. You can succeed in so many, many different ways. I ask myself these questions to help me track how I’m doing. I’m not aiming for a full house, I’m just reflecting, looking for that day’s ‘win’. I do this, reminding myself, as often as possible, that getting through life with a positive outlook, kindness, truth and love is all I ever need to ‘achieve’.

 

  1. Have I done something today to make myself happy?
  2. Have I done something today to make someone else happy?
  3. Did I get outside?
  4. Have I created something?
  5. Have I learnt something?
  6. Have I reached out to a friend who may need a little ‘hello’?
  7. Have I challenged myself today?
  8. Is something, or someone, better off for my help today?
  9. Have I chased any ‘maybe’ projects?
  10. Have I taken some time for self care?
  11. Have I done an act of service for someone else?
  12. Am I a bit better off than I was yesterday?

 

I love my freelance life. I hope that this little list can help you love yours a little more, and help quash the voice telling you that you’re a ‘failure’. You’re not failing. You’re doing just fine.

Let me know if you have any other tips for beating that Freelancer Failure Feeling – I’d love to hear them!

For more freelancer top tips, check out some of these posts:

The Freelancer Productivity Trap

10 Top Tips for Travelling With Work

10 (More) Top Tips For Working Abroad

How to Survive the Tax Return

Don’t Say This To Your Spouse.

* / partner / housemate / family.

“How was your day?”

 

Seems harmless enough, right? Your partner comes in from work, you meet them at the station or they emerge from their home office for the first time in hours. It’s only natural to ask how their day was?

Harmless, no?

Well for us, it’s not ideal at all.

Harm In The Harmless.

I crave hearing all about my husband’s day (maybe because I work from home, where not a lot happens, or maybe cause I’m a Ryo nerd…?) But, for us, there are two main downfalls of asking those four little words – we start the evening on a negative note, and we have the same, tired conversations over and over.

Soggy Faces at Hyde Park

Do our faces say it all?

You’ve had a long day at work, everything is up in the air, projects have fallen through, it’s been… typical. It’s not very often that we get home, bust through the door, and declare: “What a wonderful day! Shelia got me a cup of tea I hadn’t even asked for, and the photocopier didn’t run out of toner!” Even when lots of lovely things have happened, they can be overshadowed by the lows. We love sharing the bad stuff. We like to process through it with our friends and partners. We bond over sharing the difficulties.Misery loves company.’

Black and Gray Car Under Cloudy Sky

Putting you in the perfect mood to see your spouse…

And, when you’ve been sitting on the crowded commuter train / in traffic for over an hour, the negativity stews. By the time you get home, you’re consumed with the struggles of the day. But, what does this do to your evening? It sets the tone. For us, if the first thing we ask is “How was your day?”, we end up sharing work horror stories and complaining for at least the first half an hour of our precious evening time together. And that sets the mood for the whole evening.

The other risk you run by defaulting to this question is you end up in an unoriginal loop of auto-pilot. When someone asks you “How are you?”, you tend to respond with “Fine thanks, how are you?” Neither one of you is any better off, nor do you know anything more about each other. The same can happen with “How was your day?” We end up mirroring the monotony of work-life at home. Bleugh.

It Can Be Serious.

What’s more, for those with mental illnesses, chronic pain, undiagnosed or invisible illnesses, and more, well-intentioned questions like “How are you?” and “How was your day?” can end up making everything feel a lot worse. “Well, I feel like rubbish, I haven’t showered and everything feels like poop. How was yours?” We either default to niceties, thus making it difficult to get to know, and bond with, people, or we get really negative, and probably quite down on ourselves.

Yeah, today was fine thanks.

So What?

“Oh no, Lydia!” I hear you cry. “What if you’re right? What if we’ve been having the same, negative and moany conversations day in, day out for years? What can we dooooo?!!”

Take a breath, voices in my head, it’s ok. Below, I’ve researched, reflected and re-worked some questions to help you have deeper, more personal, and, above all, more positive conversations with your friends, partners and families!

  1. What was the best part of today?
  2. Did anything unexpected happen to you today?
  3. What made you laugh today?
  4. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  5. What one thing would make your day better, right now? (Then find a way to do it!)
  6. Who was your biggest ally today?
  7. What have you done today, to make you feel proud?
  8. What was your biggest achievement today?
  9. In what ways was today better than yesterday?
  10. What are you happiest to have off of your to-do list?
  11. At what point today did you feel happiest / most successful / most accomplished / …?
  12. Tell me today’s biggest victory!
  13. What did you see today that you wish you could have shown me?
  14. I thought of you today when…. (Not a question, but a good opener!)
  15. What part of today is going to make tomorrow better?

 

 

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Miranda and Stevie had it right…

 

And, for people of Faith:

  1. How did you see God working in your life today?
  2. What did you pray for today?
  3. What did you do today that you think would have pleased God?
  4. How did you show God’s love today?
  5. What could we pray for now that could make tomorrow better?

Give them a go, I’d love to hear which ones worked best for you in the comments! 

Can You Loose Weight and Be Body Positive?

I’ve written before about body positivity, mental health and weight loss. How I had it all wrong, how I had a dangerous and harmful relationship with food, and how Slimming World helped me readjust that to a more balanced and healthy place. I gained a lot when I lost weight. And not because my body was smaller. You can read about my struggles and my journey on those posts linked above. But this is about one simple piece of advice that can easily get lost if you choose to change something in your life.

It’s simple.

Real simple…

Ground your happiness and self-esteem in somewhere other than your body. Something that doesn’t change.

Canal, Ducklings, Roar!

“… when you put your joy into a conditional physical state, any time it changes – so will your mental state. We weren’t meant to have conditions surrounding our worth, our love, our joy. ” – @AllisonKimmey

Yes. Be healthy.

Yes. Be happy.

Yes. Be beautiful, feel sexy, dress boldly. (Whatever those means to you.)

The Power of Happy.

But, don’t let your body decide for you whether or not today is going to be a good day. Your body doesn’t have that power. It’s this incredible, beautiful vessel that carries you around, gives life, works, plays and explores. But it’s just the vessel. Your body cannot make you happy. It doesn’t have that power.

Your possessions and bank account do not have that power.

Your job doesn’t have that power.

Your friends, your family, even your spouse, don’t have that power.

When we put our happiness in those things, we end up in a messy mess of mess. Because jobs will change, colleagues will leave, we’ll spend and loose money, friends might grow or move on, families change all the time. And, it’s simply not their job to make us happy.

We’re never going to have enough stuff; our friends aren’t going to get it right every time; families might let us down…

Besides, it’s a LOT of pressure to put on someone, or something, else: You’re entire happiness and sense of being.

You can do things that make you feel happy. But what about lasting happiness? The deep-down stuff?

Happiness and self-worth, they have to be set on something stable.

(For me, that’s God. When you anchor your happiness in Him, you’re going nowhere. You’re set.)

BeYOUtiful.

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Here’s my advice for you, (I took enough time getting to this place myself. So I’m hoping it might help you too…) whether you’re on a weight-loss journey; one of self-discovery or you are just browsing the internet on an overcast Tuesday afternoon – Be happy with who you are and the way you look. However you look. (Same for the current state of your work life / relationships / etc.) Accept that those things will change over time, and that they do not define you.

Don’t let haters dictate how you think about your appearance or body.

Eat healthily, most of the time.

Exercise in a way that feels happy and right to you.

If anything is making you obsess over it to the extent of it controlling your happiness in life. Cut it out. Stop obsessing. Focus on something stable.

That’s it. That’s the crux of it all, the long, short, fat and thin of it.

Agree? Disagree? Outraged? Think I’m promoting an unhealthy culture of fat people in love with their horrible and ugly bodies? … Let me know what you think in the comments below! (I promise to listen, just not to agree, or let it affect my happiness!!)

When The Headlines Affect Your Work

Hey, how you doing? I think we’d better hold off on confirming that project in Russia…

The car radio continued to rattle through the news and its headlines. But one had stuck – the next step in growing tensions between Russia and the UK had led to the expulsion of 23 British ambassadors in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack. I sent the above text to my boss. She concurred, contacted the client, and they agreed too. The project was postponed.

We were currently in the midst of negotiating contracts for a two-week project in Russia for this June. I’m an international freelancer, work is already unpredictable – besides, it’s a project I was pretty excited about, but I couldn’t ignore the growing animosity between our two countries. It wasn’t so much my personal safety once I was out there that I was concerned about, more the difficulties we might face with logistics. Countries can be very deft at burying you in paperwork. To get to Russia, no matter what kind of visa you’re traveling on, you already have to take a day off and go into London to have your fingerprints taken at the Russian embassy. You have to have a huge amount of paperwork, along with evidence of where you will be staying. There are fees and hoops you have to jump through that are already preventative to many wanting to visit – it doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine the fees getting higher and the paperwork getting more stringent if there are points to be proved and muscles to be flexed. (For balance, it’s worth remembering that England has its own set of hoops and fees that mean a lot of students, teachers and citizens can’t visit the country I’m out there busily garnering enthusiasm for!)

The twisted thing is, the paperwork, visa, and flights are all the client’s responsibility. Meaning that if prices go up, the Russian companies are the ones who will have to brunt that cost!

 Could This Be The Future..?

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Could my days of ‘day-off day trips’ to Milan be over?

As a citizen of the European Union, I have enjoyed many freedoms and luxuries when it comes to open travel between our neighbouring countries, particularly within the European Union. Will this change in the wake of Brexit? Will I be allowed to stand in the EU citizens passport line? The more ill feeling we create with our neighbours, the more likely they are to start putting up roadblocks to our travel. This might not be inherent to Brexit itself, but the way it’s being handled – we don’t seem to come off wonderfully when featured on international news…! (“What looks like enormous arrogance from the point of view of continental Europeans, reveals a downright uncanny belief in a British “exceptionalism”.” )

 It’s Already Started…

Brexit has already affected some areas of my work. For example, there was a drop in European clients bringing students to England to learn with us. They’re favouring instead countries like Ireland, where travel restrictions are lighter, currency rates more favourable and the people “seem friendlier than British people” (real quote). On the flip side, when the pound had a few bad days on the international market, we did get a rise in interest in our international projects. We sell them at a fixed GBP fee, so if the exchange rate suddenly dips in the favour of the client, we see a rise in bookings (and we get the same money no matter what, win-win!)

Do You Feel Safe?

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Safe enough to do some touristing…!

So what about my actual safety (/perceived safety) whilst out there? I travel to small, residential areas of fairly industrial towns. I generally stay with families in their homes, not fancy hotels in city centres. The areas have their own beauty and charm, but they’re not exactly hot spots of tourist activity. Those spots already have established English teaching provision from British and American nationals who want to live abroad. No, we go to little places people have rarely heard of. This means that they generally don’t make the news, and are very unlikely targets for foreigner-related hate crime or attacks. People there are too busy getting on with their lives to worry about some little island and its politics. That being said, there are inherent risks to traveling abroad. My boss never lets me accept a project straight away; instead, she encourages me to research the area, its history and politics, crime rates and natural disaster track records. She makes it very clear that the decision is in my hands, and if, like Solo, I have a bad feeling about this, the project simply won’t go ahead. Pro Global Freelancer Tip: Work for incredible people who put you first.

 But The News Said…

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By Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images. ‘Secret Source of Putin’s Evil.’

There’s one more aspect to this that I can’t gloss over– international bias. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers… When I first traveled to Russia, I was under a very specific impression of what I would find there – and I was completely wrong! When I came back, I told stories of families living happy, fruitful lives unencumbered by fear or political unrest. But when I said this in England, I was told, repeatedly, that those people must be brainwashed. The government has duped them, they can’t really be happy with the way things are. Their happiness, and their silence, has been bought. Now I’m not endorsing any government or country. And it’s undeniable that there are places within Russia where riots and violence happen towards minorities. People of colour, homosexuals, people of the ‘wrong’ faith. It is also undeniable that there are places within England where riots and violence happen towards minorities. People of colour, homosexuals, people of the ‘wrong’ faith. We assume that our lovely, friendly, impartial news tells us how it is. But, like all things, it can only tell us how it sees things. From the outside. Are we so convinced that they’re brainwashed that we can’t even entertain the idea that we might be a little bit brainwashed ourselves? Or is it just those weak Russian minds that are susceptible to that…?

So, Is It Going To Stop Me?

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Guys though, have you seen how much cake Russia has??

Who knows where our international climate is headed. Needless to say, the more we stay on the international radar, the more I have to answer questions like “What are you views on Scottish Referendum? It is same situation as Russia with Ukraine.” “What are your views on Brexit?” “Did you vote for Brexit?” “Does England regret voting for Brexit?”, “Who is man with fluffy hair? Will he be prime minister?” “Do you hate Europe?” “Isn’t Brexit a terrible idea for your country?”… and so on, you get the idea! (At least I can duck out of all Trump related questions!) But it’s not going to stop me doing the job I love, meeting new people, heading to new places and getting a rare insight into authentic life within these countries. I just have to exercise a little caution based on what I hear on the news (taken, as always, with a pinch of salt!)

 

Anyway, I thought I’d share a little insight into what it’s like sitting in your car, hearing international headlines that might affect whether or not you have work this summer. Anyone else got a job that’s affected by the headlines? Or even makes the headlines? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments below.

These Aren’t Clean Pants.

I wish I could tell you that these pants were clean on today.
I wish it made a sudden difference when I got down to pray.
I wish I could tell you exactly how I’m feeling, or what has caused these tears.
I wish I knew how to trap these feelings that have been plaguing me for years.

But I don’t know. And I can’t say.
And I just don’t have the words for you today.
I can’t tell you how to help me, or explain just what I need.
I’m struggling to support myself, to sleep and feed and breathe.
I don’t have the answers. Not one question will be still.
I try to tell you that I’m unwell, but you just think I’m ill.

You tell me to take rest and fluids, because I couldn’t use my words.
You think all I need is Calpol to cure it where it hurts.
I’m crying and that makes me feel weak.
But honestly, I’ve just lost the words I tried to speak.
I’ve lost my nerve, and my control.
I’ve lost the way to breathe.
I’ve lost the battle, I hope not the war.
I hope I’m not loosing me.

It’s not every day, and sometimes I’m just fine.
But sometimes you think that means I’m just having a little whine.
I wish that I was whining.
I wish this was a petty plea.
But wishing, and hoping and trying, just haven’t made me free.

I’m locked in my brain when it tells me that I can’t.
I try to get out my bed, but it tells me that I shan’t.
But I know better, and I know best.
I’ll beat this thing today.
And I’ll beat it, and beat it and beat it.
I won’t ever let it get its way.

Apart from when it does, and it beats me to the floor.
But then, eventually, I get up, and beat it back some more.
So for today, I got out of bed, and that’s a victory.
And these pants may not be clean on, but I’m still here, still going, still me.

https://www.mind.org.uk/

That’s Just Who I Am.

There’s a John Finnemore sketch that comes back into my mind more than any other from his entire Radio 4 series (after I binge-listened the whole lot a few months ago. Seriously, check them out, they are very funny!) In it, a man receives some very blunt feedback from a rather unlikeable character. When challenged, the unlikeable fella declares ‘I’m just one of those people who speaks their mind.’ Later on in the sketch, we hear a stream of fluid, and the unlikeable man is indignant – the original guy has started to urinate on the floor. When challenged, he nonchalantly replies ‘I’m just the sort of person that pees where I’m standing!

Ok, it’s taken to extremes, but this piece hit a nerve with me – yes! Passing it off as part of your personality does not make rude, tactless or prejudicial behavior acceptable.

I’m sure you’ve heard similar defences…

“I tell it how it is.” (With the belief that their perception of ‘how it is’ is the definite one.)

 “I’m the kind of person who speaks my mind…”

 “I don’t care if people don’t like it / me / are offended…”

 “They can take it or leave it…”

 “I don’t abide with all this PC nonsense, this snowflake millennial culture of ‘feelings’…”

 

They, to me, are as bad as ‘No offence but…” (Or it’s even nastier cousin, “I’m not racist, but…”) If you’ve caused offense, you should rethink the way you say things. Sensitivity and tact seem to be underrated recently. Bad words. I know, you’re trying to change the world and challenge its precepts. But challenge the flawed thinking or the injustice itself, there’s just no need to weaken your argument by attacking or offending the person who said it.

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If you don’t have anything nice to say, walk away….

 

I am all for loving and accepting every part of yourself in order to feel confident and strong. I also don’t advocate changing who you are based on what other people / society in general, demands of you. But there has to be a middle ground. A lot of the time, the things people end up saying are actually just tactless, blunt and rude, passed off as carefree whimsy. Think it through, think it through again, and question whether or not it needs to be said at all (take this great advice).

 

Who You ‘Are’ is Not Finite.

 

Here’s the other thing, you can change. Sometimes, negative or undesirable behaviours are explained away as personality traits. I understand that there are a number of factors that go into our behaviours, and some, such as mental health or trauma, are not so easy to change. But others are.

 

“I’m just the kind of person who’s always late.”

 “I’m forgetful.”

 “I just don’t have much patience for…”

 “I can’t help it, I just can’t stand….”

 

Even positive ones, ‘She’s just the kind of upbeat person who always sees the silver lining.’ No, she chooses to; chances are, that positivity takes an intentional effort, or at least does at times. Don’t write yourself off because ‘That’s just who she is’ and ‘That’s just who I am’. Choose who you want to be, and be that person.

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Be who you want to be! (Photo credit, Harriet Morse)

It is totally within your control. No-one is a finished product. Even if you have to set daily reminders in your phone that pop up every couple of hours saying ‘Be kind’ or ‘Be patient.’ If that’s who you want to be, pick a behaviour and work at it until that’s just who you are.

 

>Don’t be the guy that pees on the floor.<

A Street Dog Named Scruff

We wanted a female puppy. A puppy would be easier to train, adapt to boat life and less ‘rescue baggage’.

Then we met Scruff.

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But let’s back-up a bit, to the very beginning of our doggy journey. Starting with a puppy promise… 

The Promise.

When I was 19, my gorgeous boyfriend (now husband!!!) bought, made and ordered me 19 presents. One gift was a Puppy Promise We’d often bonded over our love of small fluffy things and desire to one day have a dog of our own – but, we were a few years off being in a position to feasibly keep and care for a pet. Knowing that we would be together forever, Ryo designed, printed and framed a ‘puppy promise’, offering to get me a dog in the next ten years, when I was in a position to sensibly have one.

It’s little surprise that I decided to marry this guy.

Years passed, and whilst I regularly dropped hints and made reference to the Puppy Promise, we both knew we were still a while off. Time moved on, until… six years later.

We Were Ready!

Things were coming together as we settled onto our a narrowboat soon after our wedding. But, now we had the added complication of the fact that we wanted to rescue a dog, but many centres are reluctant to re-home to boats as you have no secure garden.

We agreed that the earliest we would get a pup was autumn, it would give us a chance to get everything ready, get our busiest months out the way and let the INSANELY hot summer pass.

This didn’t stop me sending several links of cute pups to Ryo on an daily hourly basis. There were international charities saving street dogs in Spain, people selling accidental puppies on gumtree, and breeders trying to get thousands of pounds per pooch. We just wanted a little mutt in need of love, but the search was coming up short. Then I met a lovely lady and her dog on the towpath. She mentioned that she’d rescued her dog from Appledown Rescue and Kennels, who were more than happy to re-home to boats. I begun <del>stalking</del> watching the Appledown Facebook page closely. They regularly uploaded albums of their newest dogs, and they were gorgeous! They had a puppy waiting list, and there was no guaranteeing how long you’d be on it, days, weeks, months… But we were waiting until Autumn to get our dog.

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Little did we know, the winter would bring challenges of its own!

We were in no rush. Then, that weekend, Ryo went to London to see some of his friends at a Star Wars exhibit. I was left to my own devices… By the time he got back, we were on the waiting list and I was reading my newly purchased puppy training book….

The Waiting.

I watched two litters of puppy come and go, and we hadn’t been contacted. They have a very complicated system of matching breed, age and suitability to each dog and family, so when Ryo phoned to try and find out where we were on the list, we were told it didn’t matter.

The Call.

Ryo called again the next week, (on my… encouragement…) and really emphasised how keen we were. Later that day, I got the call. A litter of 5 month old pups had a couple left, and we were welcome to go and meet them any day that week. I thanked her, hung up, and cried.

The Meeting.

I did not have the emotional capacity to go to a rescue centre without my husband and leave without a) breaking into a puddle of puppy-induced tears or (more likely…) b) adopting several dogs. Like, all of them. Besides, Ryo and I were equally excited to pick it out together.

So we agreed to go and meet the puppies together that Saturday.

Friday evening came, and I saw a Facebook announcement on Appledown’s page, they had just had a photoshoot with their new batch of rescues and would be uploading soon. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Re- Ryo, can I please borrow your phone? I’m running out of data and want to look at pictures of puppies.

One by one, the albums started to go up. There were cuties and sweeties and fluffers and-

“Ryo, look at this one.”

My heart stopped, I flipped the phone around and Ryo froze too.

“It’s that one. Yes.”

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Scruff in his Pre-Tabusa days.

The centre opens at 10, we were there at 10.04am, I’d stressed the whole journey over whether or not we should ring ahead and make sure no-one saw him until we got there.

We explained that we had been contacted about the puppy waiting list, and would also like to meet ‘Willie Thorne’ (his temporary rescue name). Lovely Appledown employee, Kim, took us round to the gate. With us on the outside, she entered and held up a wriggly little yapper who was cute, but not enjoying this impromptu cuddle.

A girl puppy, and cute to boot. She ticked all the things we’d said we wanted. But it didn’t click and Kim could see it.

“Let me just go get you Willie Thorne. He’s been exposed to kennel cough so can’t be out in the yard with the others, I’ll have to shut them all away before I get him.”

After a very amusing (for us, not Kim) five minutes of ushering, enticing, guiding and cajoling, all the yappers were put away and Kim emerged from the other door with this fluffy, excited, and very keen little bundle of energy. The gate opened, I got down to his level to introduce myself, and he curled up on my lap and looked up at me with those big puppy eyes that informed us that he was here to stay.

Ryo got a very similar introduction and our hearts were set.

 

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Kim’s phone rang.

“Hello? […] Ah yes, well I’m afraid a couple are just looking at him now […] oh, no, sorry, I can’t do that… […] well they are with him literally at this moment… […] well they are from the waiting list […] ok, well yes, you are welcome to come down and fill out a form to join the waiting list- […] ok, see you soon then.”

By the time we got to the reception, the rival couple were there filling out a form to be added to his waiting list. Later that day he had a trainer for film and screen begging to take him home, with three follow-up enquiries, but it was too late. He had plopped himself into our hearts and he was ours.

The Waiting. Again.

Normally, there’s a standard seven day period between selecting your new furry friend and taking them home. However, as Kim had explained, Scruff had been exposed to kennel cough. So they had to wait for his symptoms to come out. Then they had to wait for the symptoms to go. Then he could go to the vets and get neutered. Then he could spend a week recovering. Then he could come home.

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Bonding in the grooming room.

Due to previous neglect and some time on the streets, his fur was completely matted. Top to bottom. So, although he couldn’t come home, I could go in and groom him. Every day for three weeks, I went in, plopped him on the grooming table, and slowly teased away his matts and clumps. He was so good and just loved the attention.

Had someone done to me what I was doing to him, I would have bitten them. He didn’t so much as whine.

The Naming

Meanwhile, at home, we were trying to come up with a name. There are many things I can call in a park, but Willie is just not one of them… He was like a little bear – Baloo? (Hindi for bear, strong Disney connections), no, he was too small for Baloo. Ewok? Wicket after the main Ewok? It went on the list. What about taking Willie and extending it to William Shakespeare? We could call him Billy for short? …

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We went around and around in circles, until – Scruff. I mean look at his little face. He’s Scruff by name and nature. But, he’s a street dog, we’re bringing him into our lives to give him the best life possible, would he get a complex if we gave him such a street dog name?

So we didn’t.

We called him:

Prince Scruffington of the Low Seas*, the First.

Scruff for short.

(*Mainly the Grand Union)

Bringing Him Home.

You know what, it was so full of adventure, I’m going to do a whole other post on it! (With videos!!)

Now and Next…

We’ve all settled in very nicely.

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Scruff has helped me take up running; he goes into the Globe with Ryo when I’m out the country (he even has his own staff pass…!!); he protects the boat; sits quietly through church and has made friends with everyone up and down the towpath! He even starred in a promo for my boat-related storytelling!

He’s changed our lives. We love him so much and can’t wait to see what the future brings for our little family unit!

Happy 6 months Scruff!

 

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How to Say the Right Thing.

I’ve recently started listening to podcasts. (Recommendations always welcome!) They’re a great way to make the chores go faster, and even a good thing to focus on whilst out for a run. The other day, whilst running along with Scruff, I heard a piece of advice that was so simple and poignant, it almost stopped me in my tracks.

Now, I’m the kind of person that is often saying the wrong thing. I’m trying to help, but I can be a bit quick to jump in when someone is struggling, or I feel that there’s a better way of doing things, or I get frustrated and just think someone is wrong.

But here’s the advice that has been swimming around my head ever since I heard it.

Before saying something (especially in the heat of conflict) ask yourself:

Should it be said?

Should it be said by me?

Should it be said now?

For example, you’re frustrated that your housemate hasn’t done the washing up and you want to have a little snipe. Should it be said? Chances are, they *know* that there’s washing up to do, so probably not. Should it be said by you? Maybe, but again, they already know it’s there. Should it be said now? While you’re in the middle of an altercation about something totally different? No.

You disagree with someone’s views over lunch and you want to educate them on your point of view. Should it be said? Odds are… it’s a no. They’ve heard it before, they just don’t agree. Should it be said by you? Probably not, sure, you want people to be enlightened, but that’s not really your job… Should it be said now? No, people are eating, wind the convo down and talk about something else.

This advice has really helped me focus on the outcome of my words. What do I want to achieve with them? Chances are, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind if they are as stubborn in their views as I am. It’s unlikely that reminding my husband that there’s rubbish to take out is going to help, he can see that it’s there. Suddenly ‘just trying to help’ shifts focus and you realise that maybe you’ve been saying things for your own benefit rather than that of those around you. Or maybe it’s just me. But since working on these three questions, I feel like I’m getting better at not saying the wrong thing!

It’s also great advice for the internet. Save yourself a trip down troll-lane with these three simple questions. Should it be said? Should it be said by me? Should it be said now. Where the internet is concerned, the answer to all three is almost always no…!

*If* it should be said, and it has to be said by you, pick a peaceful time when you’re both calm and bring it up gently. But really think about, not only what you want out of the conversation, but what you think a likely outcome really is…!

What do you think? Great advice or something that will only hold you back? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! (And also any podcast recommendations you have!)