Posts tagged ‘friendship’

February 17, 2014

How to make friends.

On my recent blogging course, during a discussion about networking, the discussion turned to making friends. In that context, we were talking about making friends with other bloggers —I’m going to write about that next week, but I’m also interested in making friends more generally.

But it’s hard to make friends as an adult, isn’t it?

As the school gate, I have two friends. Many of the other parents will nod a ‘hello’ but that’s as far as the relationships go. We attend the same meetings, parties and sports days but are merely acquaintances because of biology. Giving birth to a child at the same time does not automatically create friendships, I never found. I suspect much of this is because instead of going to antenatal class, I gave birth ten weeks’ early and so never had the chance to meet other prospective parents and make those early connections. Still, the two friends I do have, I made because we discovered that we have other things in common alongside children. A love of wine, for a start. And the same sense of humour. So although I’ve never made lots of friends through school, the ones I have are fab. Even though they keep bugging me to take up ceroc dancing…

My long term friends, from college and work, are scattered around the country— actually, the globe. We make plans to meet, but they’re often scuppered by poorly children, other responsibilities, work commitments. These are the friends I’ve had forever. You probably have some too. They’re the ones who know all about your first kiss, or who held your hair back when you were sick after one too many drinks at college. The ones you were with when you tried to tape the songs from the Top 40 without getting any of the DJ speaking on (showing my age, there) and pored over the latest issue of Smash Hits with.  The friends who you don’t need to see for months, but as soon as you catch up, it’s like you were never apart. Although those bonds are strong, the length of time between meetings leaves for huge gaps of time to be lonely in.

So, the answer has to be finding new friends. Not to replace those long term friendships but to add to them. More friends! These ones are the folk you can get the chance to grab a coffee with, or go to evening classes together, because they’re local. These friends are the ones who will stop you feeling lonely on a day-to-day basis. And possibly, one day, you’ll have known them forever too…

Here’s how I am finding friends:

1: Twitter. Leeds is a wonderful city in which to find people through Twitter. If you’re in Leeds, you should be following @peopleofLeeds, a rotation curation account. I’ve met some of my closest ‘tribe’ through Twitter; people who I consider to be some of the closest friends I’ll ever have the good fortune to have, plus a good number of other people who are less close, but lots of fun. I know that in many cases, we’ll never meet in real life, but they’re still true friendships. However, plucking up the courage to ask someone if they fancy meeting up for coffee has led to some genuine ‘real life’ friendships, so I’d tell you to go for it. Just make sure you arrange to meet somewhere public for the first time. 

2: Blogging. Through blogging, I’ve met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. Getting invitations to events means I have to be brave and often turn up alone. A glass of wine or two later, I’m hopefully chatting to someone who may continue to be a friendly face. This year, I’m hoping to get to a blogging conference or two and meet some people that I’ve chatted to online for a while. I’m going to write more about blogging friendships next Monday.

3: Trying something new. By trying new things, even if they’re a challenge, I start to feel better about myself. Which, in turn, makes me happy. Happy people attract other people, I’m sure. And if all else fails, at least I’ve tried something different and so I’m living a fuller life.

4: Following my own interests, goals, desires and dreams. Sometimes, people come to you when you’re not actively looking for them. By following my own interests, I go to events, take courses, and join online and offline gatherings. Being in a place surrounded by people with the same passion as you, you’re very likely to be able to strike up a conversation, which sometimes leads to longer term friendships. Do what you love and the friends will come.

How do you make new friends? I’d love to chat about this with you all…

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

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November 6, 2013

National Stress Awareness Day: BEDN #6

So, today it’s National Stress Awareness Day, apparently. I had no idea.

However, stress is something I have a very good knowledge of. This year has probably been one of the most stressful I’ve ever had and I’m actually quite proud of how I’ve coped through it. I’ve even recently written a post about managing stress, which you can find here

But overwhelmingly, the reason I’ve coped better with my stress this time is that I’ve been here before. Nearly eight years ago (which is a bit of a shock, as it means I’m not the teenager my brain often tries to convince me of) I had a bit of a meltdown. I’d just moved house, and I was planning my wedding, and then I got a promotion at work. The combination of living through what are commonly held to be amongst the most stressful things you can go through, all at once, conspired to send me spiralling out of control, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

The worst bit was at work. I’d got to a point where I felt like I should know the things that I didn’t know. And so I was too embarrassed to ask the questions that I really needed to ask. I struggled, and bluffed, and panicked and just about held it together for a while and then, everything collapsed and I ended up being signed off sick and prescribed medication; Prozac.It was a really horrible time. I felt as though I’d let so many people down, family, friends, colleagues, and I thought I’d made a fool of myself too. After several months away from work, and some counselling, I made a phased return to work. Then I found out I was pregnant.  Still on Prozac, I was told that I had to come off it straight away, rather than the recommended gradual reduction. So, then I struggled with dizziness, nausea, and general freaking-out, as my body came off the drugs overnight, and emotionally I was riddled with fear that I’d somehow damaged the new baby growing inside me. All good fun…

Anyway. I survived. The baby survived. Thrived, in fact, despite an early arrival.  She’s seven on Sunday. And I’m still living a life that’s a bit like Alice In Wonderland, though these days the character I identify with is the White Rabbit, as I’m always late…

I’ve mentioned above about my post that identifies lots of tips about stress management and if you’re struggling yourself, then I think it would be a good read for you. But more than anything, my number one piece of advice for anyone struggling with stress is this:Ask for help.We’re always expecting so much of ourselves, and quite often asking for help feels like an admission that we’ve somehow failed at life. These days, if I can feel myself getting really strung out, or notice my tell-tale signs (crying all the time, waking in the night and not being able to get back to sleep, lethargy, lacking interest in exercise, over-eating and drinking) then I ask for help. And I’m at the front of the queue when it comes to asking the ‘stupid’ questions, those ones that you think you should already have the answers to. I’d rather do that than face the alternatives. And chances are, someone else is relieved that you asked the question that they wanted to ask too!

So, do, ask for help, from family, friends, colleagues or your doctor. The one thing you really mustn’t do is try to struggle on alone. You’ll find that so many other people will empathise with you and so many people have been in a similar position. I wish you lots of luck and peace.

July 24, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Two

The first week of Three Good Things was so well received and I have been completely delighted by how many people got involved. It seems that I’m not the only person who wants to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude for the small things in life.

We may not live perfect lives – I know I definitely don’t –  but there are a lot of things to be grateful for. Things that bring a bit of joy to the everyday, a spot of sunshine and a smile. I want to document them and be reminded that, although my life is not perfect, it is my life. And I’m incredibly lucky to be living it.

So, here we go…

One: My sweetpeas

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The first thing on my list this week are my sweet peas. More than any other flower I know, sweet peas demand to be picked. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers the plant produces, in the desire to ensure its own survival. Added to that, if you choose one of the older varieties or perhaps Matucana (the original sweet pea) you are rewarded with an incredible fragrance from so few flowers. And, if that’s not all, they’re incredibly easy to save seed from. Just allow the pods to dry well, and pop out the large, dark seeds. Keep them somewhere cool and dry and they’ll be fine for sowing next year. Just remember that if you choose an F1 hybrid variety, the saved seed will revert back to the parent, and so you might well end up with a colour you weren’t expecting. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of gardening…

Two: Bun making with my daughter.

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I’m not the kind of parent who does lots of craft activities with my kids. Something I’m going to attempt to change this summer. But I do cook with them. This week, we made buns. Not cupcakes or fairy cakes. Buns. That’s what my mum calls them, and so that’s what I call them. Anyway, these ones, with too much icing and a mountain of mini marshmallows on each one, were lovely.

Three: New perfume!

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This week I was reminded that delated gratification can lead to far greater rewards. For about a year now, I’ve longed for a new perfume. One specific perfume, to be precise. 34 Boulevard St Germain, by Diptyque. I don’t know about you, but every time I see something that I’d really like, I say to myself ‘on payday, I’ll buy that’.  Of course, each payday comes and goes and I don’t buy lovely things. I pay bills.

This month, however, I did buy it. After a year of wishing that I could have this perfume in my life, I finally do. If you see me around, expect me to smell of it! It’s a complicated and quite unique fragrance, inspired by the flagship Diptyque store in Paris. As the store sells a myriad of perfumes, candles and home scents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a tangled mess of a smell. Not so. It starts off with green top notes, then the mid notes are floral and then dries down to  the lingering woody, earthy, rich and perfect base notes. I love it. Adore it. And it feels more special to me because I had to wait for it. I doubt I’d be treating it with the same reverence if I was just able to buy it on first encounter without having to really think about it.

So, that’s my three good things for this week. I’d love you to share your Three Good Things, either in the comments or in a blog post. Here’s a little round up of all the fabulous people who wrote a post last week – do go and read them!

Hello Kirsty  – In which we learn the Spanish for ‘we are turtles’ and see a glimpse of the best birthday party dress ever. Brilliant.

Espresso Coco –  More language fun in this post. And some of my favourite things from one of my favourite people and collaborator on a brand new blog! It’s about TEA. You’ll love it.

Leeds & Me  – Isobel has greener fingers than she thought! And because of this post, I’ve a new book on my reading list.

A Hell of A Woman – This blogger is one of my online best buddies and in this post she shares news of a great new project.

Lady Lugosi – This post made me laugh out loud and again, there’s a brilliant project included.

Spider’s Filthy Assistant – I love this post. It’s sexy, optimistic and has made me want to pay a return visit to Edinburgh this year.

Nyssapod – A post from one of my  favourite online friends. I’m coveting the phone case in this post! And I’m going to listen to the money-saving Audioboo.

Looking at this list of posts has made me smile the biggest grin. I probably shouldn’t have it as one of my Three Good Things for next week, but it’s tempting…

February 4, 2013

A visit to Opera North

Last week, I was given the opportunity to visit the opera by The Culture Vulture and Opera North. I hadn’t really thought of opera as being for people like me so I hesitated at first, but it seemed a good opportunity to challenge my assumptions and so, encouraged by my friend and ‘culture date’ for the evening, Jo, I accepted the ticket.

Otello, based on the Shakespeare play, was performed by Opera North at The Grand Theatre in Leeds. There’s plenty of room on the internet for reviews about the performance but, for us, the opera trip was a catalyst for debate about what assumptions we had about opera, what the barriers to engaging with it as an art form were, and why people might think it’s not for them.

Me: I’ve always thought opera was for posh people, who dressed in fancy clothes so they could see other posh people, who were also dressed in fancy clothes, singing in another language. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, and, having sat through my first opera, I now know that my assumptions were wrong.

Jo: I love listening to opera but wasn’t that bothered about seeing it performed until I saw Opera North’s production of Don Giovanni last autumn. Now I’m hooked! Opera is definitely greater than the sum of its parts: melodramatic theatre, caricatured personalities and awkward scripting, all brought together to provide a stage for some really exquisite music. It shouldn’t work but it does.

Me: When I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to the opera, I got lots of questions about what I was going to wear.  When I looked around the audience, there was a distinct lack of evening dress. Everyone was just in smart-ish clothes – just the kind of thing you’d wear for any night out in town. I’m wondering we get a lot of our perceptions about opera from seeing it on period dramas or something!

Jo: I can understand why people think there is snobbery around opera. There was a ‘shushing’ incident during Otello. I don’t think the sush-ers meant to be rude, more that people get passionately involved in the performance. Powerful music needs powerful silence to let it breathe and be fully appreciated.  Most every situation has a kind of etiquette or ritual attached to it.

Me: Another thing much of the audience had in common was grey hair, but actually, because opera deals with dramatic emotion, it’s perfect fodder for younger people. I wonder if it’s because opera seems to have a feeling of being ‘classical’ – most people could name something like ‘Madame Butterfly’ but not a contemporary opera. Is there even such a thing?

Jo: Popular music is full of songs about love, jealousy, defiance and betrayal. Our greatest hits aren’t about having a nap or walking your dog. Music that grabs your heart doesn’t deal with the in-between moments of life. That’s true of all kind of music and opera is no different.  ‘No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.’ WH Auden.

Me: As Otello is sung in Italian, I was afraid it would be difficult to follow but the English sur-titles made it easy to understand what was going on. The language wasn’t at all complicated—the story and dialogue are stripped down to the bare bones. However, although the sur-titles were useful, they often reduced the emotional breadth of the music to just a couple of lines of dodgy dialogue.

Jo: As I got into the performance, I found the sur-titles really distracting. Next time I’d like to research ahead of time so I won’t have to read them. I think it’s like Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre—once you know the story, you can’t help but hear the instrumental characters in the piece.

Me: Although the production was impeccable, the opera itself wasn’t for me. There were some stand-out moments—the love duet between Otello and Desdemona—but for someone visiting the opera for the first time, Otello might not be the best choice. I think it’s a mistake to assume that because people know the Shakespeare play, they will find this particular opera accessible or appealing – even though the music was stunnin. They feel like two very separate entities.

Jo: I can’t fault the production, it’s just not an opera I’d choose to see again or recommend. The story didn’t satisfy me. I felt no investment in the characters: Desdemona was too wet; Otello wasn’t solid enough for his status; Iago’s strength was in the music; and Emilia just made me cross! Musically, my highlight was the love duet, ‘Gia Nella Notte Densa’.

Me: For me, the most impressive parts of Otello were when more than one character was singing at once and all their emotions and perspectives are woven together.  After eight years of living in Leeds, and countless visits to the theatre and ballet, I’m so glad I’ve finally seen an opera; I’m definitely a convert and a new fan of Opera North.

Jo: It was a huge privilege to stand on that stage; I now feel a personal connection to the theatre. I’m looking forward to booking my next Opera North performance, Dido and Aeneas. It’s only an hour and it’s sung in English and the cheapest seats are going for £15—it’d be a great place for anyone tempted to try opera out for themselves.

So, opera is for me, after all. Which, I’ll admit is something of a surprise. Now, I really do think that opera is for anyone and everyone  – so, if you get the chance, do try it out. And if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can see Opera North, then grab that opportunity. Overwhelmingly, again, it seems that the only way to decide if you like something is to try it. Otherwise you’ll never know…

December 29, 2012

My 2012: the year in review

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. My blogging timetable has gone completely out of the window and I barely know what day of the week it is. I blame that period in between Christmas and New Year – perfectly named ‘The Lull’ by a Twitter friend of mine. I don’t enjoy The Lull, I find these days to be an utterly frustrating combination of post-Christmas comedown and impatiently waiting for the new year to begin. Anyway, enough of my whining. I hope that those of you who celebrated Christmas had a lovely time. I’ll probably be starting the new year with a carefully-scheduled post about plans and resolutions and all my usual self-challenging kind of behaviour, but for today, I thought I’d look back at 2012.

It’s been an interesting year, one that I was really looking forward to, and I can’t quite believe it’s over bar the New Year’s Eve rendition of Auld Lang’s Syne. I suspect that most British reviews of the year will talk about the London Olympics, although I think that Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour De France was my own favourite sporting event of the year, and I’m utterly thrilled that Leeds will host the Grand Depart of the Tour in 2014.

My review will be a bit more self-centred than everyone else’s because I’m going to have a look at my own personal highlights of the year.

Luckily, it’s easy for me to look back on these, because this blog is a good record of what I’ve done. It’s amazing to look back and think that I did all these things this year. The trip to Rome in the spring was a wonderful highlight. It’s an incredible city and I’m glad to have visited. It didn’t quite capture my heart the way that Paris has though, so I suspect that I’ll be back in Paris before I return to Rome, but the hotel we stayed in was a unique experience, and one I’ll always remember.

Other highlights included my kayaking trip, despite the near-death experience of falling into freezing water twice. Ok, that’s a touch over-dramatic, I know. Anyway, it’s not been enough to put me off wanting to have another go if I get the chance, even though I have a feeling that I’m never going to be great at watersports. I’m planning to go surfing in 2013, which feels even more ridiculous than kayaking as far as the potential for doing myself some damage is concerned. What the hell, you only live once, right?

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about why Twitter has changed my life, and that remains as true as ever. Over the past year, I’ve met some people through Twitter who have become incredibly important to me in a very short space of time. They know who they are. The ever-increasing number of people I count as friends from Twitter is a wonderful thing. Basically, if we’ve ever had some kind of beverage together, then you’re on my list! This has only happened in 2012, and yet in many cases, it feels like I’ve known people far longer, particularly the ones who are responsible for the dramatic increase in my coffee consumption because of our regular lunchtime meet-ups.

As far as this blog is concerned, the absolute highlight has to be my commendation from the Blog North Awards, which simultaneously reduced me to tears and boosted my confidence in what I write so very much. It was completely unexpected and I will always be grateful for being nominated.

Of course, some things didn’t go quite according to plan. I didn’t manage to do 35 new things in my 35th year, which ended in June. Partly because, as always, I forget that I don’t have endless amounts of spare time and bags of cash to do things with. Not sure I’ll ever really learn that lesson though. I do regret that I didn’t manage to do Cycletta again on my new Pashley, but I might have a go at riding it next year. The other thing I regret is that I’m very, very unlikely to complete my Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books in the year. I’m still about ten books away from completing it, with only days of the year left. Having decided to read children’s books in order to complete it, I’ve found myself reading Michael Chabon’s ‘The Mysteries of Pittsburgh’ instead. A good book, but not a particularly quick read. Still, I have learnt that quality is more important to me when it comes to my choice of reading than quantity, so it’s not been a complete failure of an exercise.

The things I did complete during my challenge were all good in their own ways – from pop-up tea-rooms to drumming lessons – and I loved doing my challenge. After that finished, I’ve managed to do most of the things I wanted to get done in the latter half of this year, which has mostly revolved around my allotment and setting up Sage and Thrift with the most important person I’ve met in a long time, the wonderful and remarkable Josephine Borg.

So, a good year. As I’d hoped. They do seem to get faster and faster though, which is a little terrifying. Once it gets to this point in December, I never really want to bother with New Year’s Eve. I want to tidy up the Christmas decorations and get cracking with the next year. I know, I shouldn’t wish my own life away  but there is lots to look forward to in 2013 and I’m impatient for it to arrive…

June 6, 2012

A Final 35:35 Challenge Post

So, I didn’t get to 35 things. That’s ok. I feel as though I’ve learnt so much over this past year, that although I really wanted to make it, I don’t feel as though I’ve failed simply because of a number.

Highlights:

  • Completing Cycletta.
  • Completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks and raising lots of lovely money for Bliss.
  • Drumming.
  • Learning to kayak.
  • Joining Twitter and all the wonderful things that have happened and people I have met as a direct consequence of that.
  • Strengthening older friendships, especially with Hillary, who taught me drumming and kayaking.

Lowlights:

  • The sheer bloody pain at the end of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, which made me cry.
  • Falling out of a kayak twice.

Having said that these are lowlights, they are also some of the most memorable parts of the year, so I don’t regret them for a second. It turns out that I have a little masochistic streak that actually likes finding things a bit painful – it makes the success that much sweeter.

Other things I have learnt this year:

  • I am more capable than I think I am.
  • I don’t have to wait for someone else to join me when I try something new. I am brave enough to do things on my own.
  • I like physical challenges more than my laziness and ‘curves’ would suggest.
  • The scatter-gun nature of this challenge has been partly successful. It has made me better at saying ‘yes’ to things.
  • However, it has also made me realise that I now want a bit more structure to my projects.
  • As much as I enjoy being sociable, I also enjoy being alone sometimes to have time and space to think and read. This means balancing out my social activities so I don’t feel overwhelmed by them.

As we all know, the act of recording things changes them, but I’ve also realised that it is a really good way of getting a truer picture of what I manage to achieve. I sometimes have moments where I think that all I do is go to work or do the laundry. At those moments, I look at the list of things I’ve done over the year and it reminds me that I’ve managed some brilliant things, on top of being a good mum, employee, friend etc. So I will continue to record what I do, irrespective of this challenge.

So, what’s next?

PS: This means it’s my birthday today…

May 8, 2012

My 35:35 Challenge: A Month to Go…

As I write this, there is a month to go until my self-imposed 35:35 Challenge deadline and it’s looking as though I might not complete it, as I have eight challenges left, and not many ideas booked in, or much money to spend on it!

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this recently, because although the Challenge is meaningless to everyone else, it has structured the whole of  last year for me.  It has made me say ‘yes’ to things where previously I might have said ‘no’. It’s made me braver, as I often find myself in places on my own and a bit out of my depth. It’s led me to new places, to new situations and to lots of new people. I am hopeful that a handful of those people might even become real friends. So, in short, it’s changed my life.

So, it shouldn’t matter if I don’t get to 35 things. The changes that have taken place within me will continue once my birthday is over. I’m still more likely to say yes than I ever was and be brave about trying things even if that means I have to sit at a table on my own, too scared to approach other people before being feeble and running away (which has happened).

It does matter though. It matters to me that I get to 35 things. It matters to me that I finish something. I rarely finish things, you see, and I want to finish this. One of my strengths is that I’ve always been really excited about what is new. What’s next. Planning, learning, researching – those are the things I love. It’s part of being a scanner. However, I know that my weakness is staying the course. Finishing things off is tedious and often dull, especially with the prospect of something shiny and new on the horizon. And there always is something shiny and new, because I’m interested in everything. Actually, not everything – computer games, Formula 1 and golf are rare things that I have no time for. Everything else though…

It doesn’t matter usually because once I learnt to accept who I was and what my personality is like (which took a long time and used up a lot of tears) I realised that I don’t have to finish things. Very often, once I have learnt what I want to learn about a subject, I’ll happily move on. Sometimes I return to that subject at a later date, sometimes it’s a one-time-only affair and I never look back.

Yet, I’m going to try, for once, to finish something. Even if I get to the end and the things I do are a bit small, or a bit dull, I’m going to finish it, just because part of being a grown up is learning to push yourself a bit, I think and let’s face it, if my last eight things could all potentially be ‘cakes-I’ve-never-eaten-before’, it’s hardly going to be uncomfortable, is it?

One of the reasons I’m going to try to finish, is because I’ve been re-reading one of the best books I’ve EVER read, ‘What do I do When I Want To Do Everything?’ by Barbara Sher. In one of the chapters, entitled ‘I Never Finish Anything’, Sher says that it is important to know how to finish a project, even if you feel like walking away, because one day you’ll have a project you want to finish (and I don’t mean at work, where I have no choice!) and you’ll need the tools to help you do that. So, this is my attempt to learn.

So, wish me luck, and if you happen to live in Leeds, and have something you think I’d like to try ( for free or very cheap) before my birthday Challenge deadline, please do give me a shout. Even if you want to be my partner in a ‘cakes-I’ve-never-eaten-before’ marathon eating day…

This is a cake I ate for the first time last week – triple chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream and popcorn, from Create. It was very special.

PS: My birthday is on 6th June, which I recently found out is the same day as Captain Scott’s birthday. This pleases me enormously.  Please send cake.

May 4, 2012

Kayaking on Coniston Water

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything physical for my 35:35 Challenge and I’ve really missed it. Thankfully, my friends are fabulous, and so last Wednesday, I tried my hand at kayaking on Coniston Water in the Lake District.

My lovely friend Hillary has already given me loads of support and last year, gave me a drumming lesson. Honestly, she drums, she kayaks, she’s the co-conspirator on Eating Adventures (which involves taking a bunch of work friends to a different foodie place in Leeds each month) and she makes the best flapjacks I’ve ever eaten.  She’s a total inspiration and I am very glad that she’s my friend. If you’re not following her on Twitter, you should be (@hilltux). Anyway, we loaded up her car with her two sea kayaks and set off for the Lake District early last Wednesday morning, with the skies above already looking a bit grey and forbidding.

                                                                                          Kayaks and drums. Pretty cool.

Once we got there, we got the kayaks ready and then dressed ourselves for the occasion. I was happy to learn how to get the kayak ready – I really enjoy the feeling of being capable and learning something practical and it’s been a while since I’ve had that opportunity.

                                                                                          I look good, no?

Despite spending every childhood summer in Cowes on the Isle of Wight,  I’ve never done any kind of watersport at all, so it was with a palpable sense of trepidation that I approached the water. With help, I clambered somewhat inelegantly into the small space inside the kayak and pushed off into the water with Hillary in her kayak close behind. By this point, those grey clouds had become darker and the wind was starting to increase. This hadn’t stopped a school party from getting into rowing boats though, so I thought I was safe enough.

There are no photos of me in the kayak, so you ‘re just going to have to take my word for it that I was there! Thankfully, my phone wouldn’t fit into the pocket in my jacket – for a brief moment I contemplated it, which just shows you how attached I am to the damn thing.

Although the sea kayak is bigger than the one I saw later on my weekend visit to Cambridge (which will be the subject for another post) to me it felt tiny and a little claustrophobic. The waves on the water, created by the wind, made me feel as though I was going to instantly capsize and I used my foot rests to brace myself more than I think was really necessary. I’ve been reading a book called ‘A Boat in Our Baggage’, by Maria Coffey to be inspired beforehand and it’s amazing to think that two people kayaked around the world in something little bigger than the kayak I was sat in.

We set off, with Hillary shouting instruction to help me sort out my paddling skills. You have to put the paddle in the water so that it glides, rather than letting it get too deep into the water. It took me a while to work it out.  Unfortunately, we were increasingly being hampered by the wind which was trying to dictate the direction we travelled in and the waves that wind was creating.

We made our way to the other side of the lake, realising that in the difficult weather conditions we were unlikely to do anything intrepid like cross the whole lake and I started to feel more comfortable in the kayak. Heading into the waves, instead of meeting them side on made me feel more in control and less likely to capsize.

Until I capsized.

I cannot begin to tell you what happened. One second I was sitting upright in the water and the next, with a brief ‘ooh’, I was under the water. Thankfully, everything happened as it was supposed to, and it wasn’t long before I was on the surface of the water gasping at the cold and the shock. A good job that phone wasn’t in my pocket, eh? I managed, with Hillary’s help, to swim to the shore, where we looked at our choices. I could either walk around the edge of the lake to meet Hillary at the car-park, wait where I was for her to paddle back and then drive round to meet me, or get back in the kayak and paddle back myself. It was freeing cold and so I picked the final option. After all, the movement of paddling would keep me warmer and the chance of me falling in again felt pretty slim. I got back in, after tipping out the water, and we set off. I felt fine really. To be honest, facing the thing that I’d been scared of, I thought that the worst had happened.

Then I capsized again…

Ok, by this time I’d had enough. Again, I came up from under the kayak easily enough, and again I swam to the shore. The edge of the water was really shallow but I was tired and cold, slipping all over the rocks and being a bit feeble. I sat on the rocks and we decided on plan B. Hillary set off in her kayak and I watched, shivering, as she slowly made her way across the water, battling the wind and the waves, to the other edge of the lake and the carpark.

It felt like forever before she came back, wielding a giant blanket to wrap me in. We made our way back to her car and I stripped in the carpark, covered in the aforementioned blanket, and got into some dry clothing. Then, sitting in the front seat of the car, I realised I couldn’t feel my feet. Really couldn’t feel them. I mentioned to Hillary that my feet looked like the toe-tagged corpse in every TV crime drama I’ve ever seen. She peered over and then said ‘it’s amazing how quickly the body starts to shut down, isn’t it?’

Erm…not the body. My body! My feet were dead. Thankfully, after quite a long and painful blasting with the in-car heaters, they slowly came back to life.

Even though this was a real challenge, I’d do it again. In better, calmer weather conditions, I can imagine it being a really peaceful way to spend time on the water and I was getting used to the feeling of  losing the bottom half of my body as I knew it, and gaining a bottom half that was a kayak. That might not make sense, but it’s how it feels.

I should also point out before I finish this post, as I came up from the water the first time I fell in, Hillary was readying herself to jump in and rescue me. Like I say, I’m very grateful to have her as my friend…

March 7, 2012

Taking Part: Why Twitter has changed my life.

As the mother of small children, it is very easy for me to find myself living in an ever-shrinking world. With a daily routine of school, play-group and work, punctured by the occasional holiday, life can get very small. The people I meet are parents at the school gates, or colleagues in the office. It is difficult making friends as a grown up.

As part of my 35:35 Challenge, I joined Twitter and it has changed the relationship I have with the city I live in. My world is expanding again.

Last Friday, I met fifteen people for drinks and dinner. Of that fifteen, only one was a friend in real life. One was the lovely Abi, who I’d met once before and the rest were strangers to me and in most cases to each other, apart from our relationship on Twitter. Strangers who managed to chat effortlessly for an entire evening, resulting in me finally tipping my cocktail-and-steak filled self into bed after midnight. Excellent.

Not only has Twitter resulted in cocktails, it has sent me to Bettakultcha,  Playful Leeds, and ‘Homage to Fromage‘ cheese club. I’ve been introduced to a whole new world in the city that I’ve lived in since 2003, and never even knew existed. One of creative spirits, independent retailers, small scale events covering every subject under the sun, and of people who endlessly inspire me. It’s a great thing for someone like me who is interested in everything. The main problem I have now is fitting it all into my life, and that is another story altogether. Next on the list of things I’d like to try are  are LeedsLetters and the knitting-and-cocktails group, Yarnia. It’s knitting and cocktails! I think we’ve discovered through my inability to crochet, that knitting and I are never going to be great friends but I think I’ll feel a lot more optimistic about the whole thing with a drink or two. At the very least I’ll feel more creative, even if I can’t even cast on.

When I tell people that Twitter has changed my life, there are two main responses. From the group of people who have never used Twitter, there is a raising of the eyebrows and a bit of poorly-disguised sniggering. From the other group, who are as addicted to it as I am, there is a knowing nod. To use Twitter the way I now use it, you need to follow local, real people, not celebrities. You need to talk and ask questions. You need to get involved and turn up to events. Social media is often blamed for preventing people from forming proper relationships and reducing ability to make true connections.

The people who say this clearly weren’t at our table on Friday night…

February 6, 2012

Kindness

I got a parcel in the post today. A small parcel with a huge significance.

Inside it was this:

A bottle of glittery Deborah Lippman nail polish with a sachet of remover and a little card from Ruth at Minibreak Mummy. Ruth and I have never met. I know she has a great blog, is lovely and chatty on Twitter and that we share a very similar taste in books  from our friendship on Good Reads. I also know that her sister set up Beauty Box Swaps for people to exchange things that they’ve received in their beauty box (Glossy Box, for example) which is a great idea and one that I will probably be making use of myself soon!

After a weekend spent thinking about the future of my blog, the point of Twitter, and various other ‘how-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-fit-it-all-in-and-what’s-the-point-anyway?’ type thoughts, this little bottle of nail polish has renewed my faith that there are genuinely kind and lovely people out there, people who are my friends, even though we may never have met. People who perform such acts of kindness, just because they can. People that I would never have met (virtually or in real life) if it weren’t for this blog and the associated Twitter account. It’s helped me to realise that the future of my blog is just this. To be a record of my ‘Margot-and-Barbara’ life, and the people and events within in. So I can write when I have something to say, not just to fit into a self-created schedule. Anything else, wherever it ends up, can be the cherry on the top. Thank you so much, Ruth for the polish and for making me realise all this.

And the polish? I love it.