Days 7 and 8: little

It’s the little things.

Grabbing my hand to cross a busy road and then moving me so I’m not on the side where the cars are.

It’s shouting me to come see a funny video he’s just watched.

It’s asking me if I’m tired/ok/good when we are out.

It’s checking I can swim – by making me demonstrate – before allowing me to properly swim alone in the sea.

It’s checking with the restaurant that the food won’t contain gluten.

It’s driving for hours just to show me all the beaches and beautiful places he knows I will love.

It’s sandwiching my hand close to his body when I grab his arm in a crowd.

It’s going to find a chair to sit with me outside when he was probably more comfortable on the bed.

*****

It’s late on Day 8 and I’m pretty tired.

I’ve had a wonderful couple of days. Yesterday we woke at 5.30am, ate, packed the car and set off on a road trip. Wildcard drove for hours and hours to show me some famous and stunningly beautiful cities in his country.

Today, we went to the beach and then he continued his tour, showing me a gorgeous marina and then taking us out for a dinner of fresh sardines and salad.

Tomorrow, I think we are moving on and he’s told me that we may go the long way back, taking in a few more places on the way home.

I’m so glad we have another week.

Dish – 5th April 2020 (daily prompt)

I love travelling. And I don’t mean holidays as such, just visiting different places: experiencing life elsewhere. Whilst I have done package holidays and like a beach as much as everyone else, I actually prefer immersing myself into the culture and history of a place. Part of that, is eating the local dish of the region when I can. I’m not one for finding the tourist inspired cafe to eat their take on fish and chips. So here goes, some of the dishes that I have tried and loved abroad:

Austria – I ate a smorgasbord of meats, sausages, cheese and sauerkraut in the mountains. I also ate apple strudel and their version of vanilla custard which is really light and delicious.

Belgium – Not a dish as such, but it goes without saying that you try their chocolate and pastries.

Bulgaria – in the hotel we stayed in, I ate the most amazing fish dish which was accompanied by a sauce made with vodka.

Czech Republic (Prague) – a traditional stew with dumplings served with a blob of cream (it works, believe me!). And then, a ‘chimney cone’ filled with chocolate, fresh strawberries and cream.

France – Steak and fries which was the best I have ever had. Plus, pastry from a local village bakery as a birthday treat.

Germany – it has to be German Bratwurst.

Greece – stuffed vine leaves, moussaka and their peaches and water melon.

Italy – admittedly, I love everything! Pasta, pizza and gelato.

Mexico – Bbq fish at a restaurant at the side of the road, near the sea. The place was basic but the food was amazing.

Morocco – Harira is delightful. I really enjoyed chermoula marinaded fish though, served with salad dressed in olive oil and preserved lemon.

Spain – Paella, every time.

Switzerland – I’m cheating here a little as we only stopped off in Switzerland on a coach trip to Italy. We were at the most picturesque motorway services I have ever been to – wooden building, surrounded by mountains. I ate the most delicious fruit, yoghurt and museli I had ever tasted, sat on a balcony looking at mountains.

Sadly, there are a few places I have been to where I can’t remember a particular dish that I ate when I was there. Never mind!

Overthinking, bad maths and logical thought.

I will admit, I walked into work feeling quite negative this morning. Whereas sleep normally soothes my anxieties and provides me with a reality check and clarity, this morning that didn’t happen. Maybe writing my post this morning didn’t help either – I usually write at night but was too tired and had spent my evening gazing lovingly at Wild Card. Whilst worrying.

(Disclaimer: I am absolutely, definitely suffering from PMT)

I actually wondered if I could go through with this LDR this morning…

Maybe I do not have the right temperament for this. I am naturally anxious, have a low self esteem and plenty of relationship baggage to impede me. How long will I cope with this? The second visit was going to cement things for me. Now it probably won’t happen.

How much of this ‘relationship’ is a figment of my desires and imagination?

How can he possibly be interested in me? Last night he sent me a photograph of himself and it was just… Perfect. It actually made me gasp, my heart racing. And then I think… How the hell is he with you? Is he even with you? How do you know? Maybe you are just a distraction or a game.

It doesn’t help that he is a joker, a tease. Every day he asks me if I have missed him and love him. I always answer truthfully. Every day I ask the same. He always says no. Always with a sly look on his face or with comical emphasis. (He does text that he loves me and misses me BTW, and he always says I love you before we say goodnight but my mind wasn’t thinking about that). Most of the time I know he is joking. But sometimes, 2+2 really does equate to 124658 which means he doesn’t love me.

I walked into my office deciding that perhaps I need to take a step back. Perhaps that’s what he wants. I need to focus on myself. I’m thinking about him, this, far too much. Am I really that happy? Or do I just think I am.

Luckily for me, my first meeting was with the Head of MFL and someone I get on with really well. I’d actually confided in him about Wild Card a few weeks ago as he had repeatedly asked if I was OK and offered a trusting ear. He was good to speak to – knew of Wild Card’s culture and country, had dated someone from another culture and well, was a man. He’d given me some sound advice so far.

We talked work for a while and then the conversation moved on the Coronavirus. He is much more upto date on events than I am (I don’t watch the news purposefully) and he talked about his concerns for his pending trip abroad with his wife and small children. I put across my, seemingly, naive stance on it and we discussed it further. It then dawned on me… I am probably right, Wild Card’s reluctance could be wholly to do with the Coronavirus. I mentioned the situation and my colleague agreed, particularly knowing the culture of responsibility for guests and acknowledging the health care system there. I felt like a weight had lifted.

And then, a little later on in the morning, I happened to read a fellow blogger’s comments on my last post. And she completely and utterly made sense, again understanding his culture. If he and his family looked after me so well last time, how would they cope if I was ill? If I was stranded there? It was the first thing he asked me when I had broached the visit yesterday and whilst I may have convinced him that I was fine with it, he clearly isn’t. And his family probably aren’t either.

Wild Card had messaged me as usual and we had a quick chat with him asking how I was etc.

Someone who doesn’t care would not repeatedly ask if you’re OK.

Someone not interested in you would not spend hours of his day talking to you and making you laugh.

Have I forgotten his care and love when I visited? Have I forgotten his passion and the look on his face? Have I forgotten the frustration he has when he thinks I don’t believe or trust his feelings? Or that I have met his family and talk to them? Or his hurt when he thinks he’s upset me with his joking?

So, breathe. Stop with the bad maths and overthinking.

Update…

That night when I spoke to Wild Card, he again brought up Coronavirus, telling me that more cases had been diagnosed in his country. I siezed the opportunity and just asked him if that what why he didn’t want to book. He admitted it was. He said that, if I fell ill, he worried about the health care I would receive or what would happen if flights were cancelled. Everything slotted in to place for me, and my irrational fears were ill founded as usual.

Torn

I don’t know how I’ve managed to get myself in this situation again. Very much deja vu from last year.

After a fabulous first four weeks of Summer Holiday and a restful yet home-productive fifth week, I met up with my work friend on Thursday. We haven’t seen each other since she joined me for a few days of camping in late July.

She’s had a shocking holiday for a variety of reasons. We had a good time on Thursday despite this and I listened as she told me about the various things that had gone wrong for her, including having to cancel a much awaited trip due to her Mum’s frail state and then a major bust up with her best friend.

She’s low, there’s no doubt about it. As all good friends do, I tried to give advice which of course included trying to make the most of the time left.

Attention soon turned to this bank holiday weekend and her desperation to get away for a few days.

I wholeheartedly agree with her. For me and my own grief, travel and trips away have kept me going. They’ve put a renewed purpose in my life which is about me as a person, not me as a daughter, mother, sister, teacher.

She has no one else to go with, can’t face it alone, and I am happy to go apart from some pretty major obstacles in my way:

  1. Childcare. My kids are with their Dad for the majority of the weekend but there will be a morning that I will have to ask my sisters to hell until I get back.
  2. My dogs. Unfortunately my lodger is also away so there are four dogs to look after.
  3. Finances. Other holidays, home improvements, school uniform and then being the family’s personal bank for loans has put a major strain on my finances.

Since yesterday, we have messaged back and forth about places to go. And like last year, she’s not happy with anything that I suggest. Last year, this resulted in us not speaking for two weeks. It has taken us a while to get away from that.

Like her, it hit me this week that the end of the holidays is nigh. I will have school prep to do next week. I need to start with early nights. So the chance of one last cheeky trip is very appealing. You only live once etc…

But there are so many reasons, hurdles, why this is really difficult. And I don’t know what to do.

Time is ticking on and really, we should be leaving in the next few hours. She has given me a get out but I don’t want to let her down any more than she has already?

What do I do??

Keeping it local

It’s a beautiful spring morning here in North West England. There’s a cool breeze, clear blue skies and the birds are singing its praises.

I’m sat outside, enjoying the peace and sunshine with a coffee. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by my house guests and have decided to go out again today. Destination unknown as yet, but I want somewhere quiet and peaceful and beautiful again.When Dad was alive, Easter Sunday was always a chance for a big family dinner. Not today. My children will be having dinner with my in-laws. One of my sisters is with her in laws and I expect my youngest sister will stay here for the day. I feel a little guilty that I’m not staying here with her, but the countryside is calling me – I’m back in work in two short days and I want to make the most of it.*******It’s now the evening and a glowing golden sun is beginning to set.I did indeed go out but not for as long as usual. The best of both situations perhaps.You may have guessed that I particularly like castles and so I used the following website’s interactive map to find a castle to visit.I chose a castle I hadn’t heard of, and one that I figured could be quiet today. Unfortunately, I chose a little too well – we couldn’t actually find it! From what I read, we would have found low stoney walls and signs of earth works. Never mind. What we did find though was a beautiful valley with rocky crags, a babbling stream, trees and bluebells. Pretty heavenly to me.The forest and valley were beautiful and tucked away right near the motorway. The car park had disappeared and the picnic bench were a little worse for wear but we had brought a large picnic blanket anyway. The paths were well worn though so I figure that this place must be loved. It is so important to visit these places, those quiet secluded little spots that only the local know. I’ve always loved the stunning Lake District or Snowdonia National Park and rightly so, but I am also realising that these smaller places are even more important to treasure and look after.Why not explore your local area? I’ve found that the Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission are a great place to start, as are your local council website and local historic societies pages.

A cream tea and a castle

Yesterday was my second outting of the weekend, and I took my friend to Ruthin Castle in Clwyd. Usually when we go into Wales we go along the coast, visiting Llandudno, Conwy and more recently Anglesey. I was a little concerned that Ruthin wouldn’t have the natural beauty that we love. Boy was I mistaken.

Ruthin is in an area of outstanding natural beauty: you are surrounded by hills and vales and woodland. The town, although we didn’t visit it as such, is quaint and picturesque.

Ruthin Castle Hotel stands at the edge of the town and you enter under an impressive arched gateway. As you drive up, the medieval ruins of the castle are on your righthand side, tempting you to walk around the hotel’s extensive grounds.

The hotel itself, although more modern, still retains an air of grandeur and certain parts of it still look like a castle with their beautiful red brick. Inside, the hotel is luxuriously decorated and befitting it’s description: unfortunately on this occasion, we were not staying the night.

We were taken to Bertie’s restaurant and whilst I was initially dismayed as I booked the library bar, we were not disappointed. We were sat near a beautiful window, draped with heavy rich curtains. The window was open, allowing a delightful breeze to enter and a chance to see the pretty gardens below. The restaurant itself was tastefully decorated and had some stunning chandeliers.

View from Bertie’s Restaurant, courtesy of my friend

Courtesy of my friend

The afternoon tea consisted of four tasty finger sandwiches each, a warm scone with jam and cream and a selection of four mini cakes. We had a raspberry delice cube, a mini peanut butter eclair, coffee cake and bakewell tart.

The sandwiches were delicious. The scone, perhaps not as light as I would I have liked, was served with ample jam and cream. By this point, we were pretty full so were pleased that the remaining cakes were just bigger than bitesize. The peanut butter eclair was surprisingly tasty and sweet: unfortunately the choux pastry was quite dense and perhaps had been made a little while. The bakewell was nice, the delice was amazing despite looking a little like thick pate on toast. The coffee cake was dry and tasteless apart from the little piping of coffee flavoured buttercream.

We could have as much tea and coffee as we wanted and you could not fault the service and the setting. At £17.50 each though, I think that this is what we were paying for rather than the food itself. It was nice but not excessively so – I’ve paid less for better.

After eating we changed our footwear and had a walk around the grounds. The hotel is beautifully situated and the gardens are pretty.

We particularly liked the Italian garden built in the ruins of the old castle. There were some truly stunning views, perfect for a summer’s day.

Ruthin Castle Hotel is definitely worth a visit and my friend and I plan to come again and stay. I don’t think we would have the afternoon tea again as we didn’t think it was worth the price but I have high hopes that other food there would be delicious.

Day zero

I am not in work today – more on this later.

For the first time in weeks, I went back to bed yesterday (after the children had gone to school with their dad). I don’t know whether it was a reaction to knowing that I was in work the next day, or simply that I was tired after being ill the previous week and that it was still lingering.

I woke at 10.30 and felt pretty good. I did my chores, got ready and went out. Another small victory – this is the first time since my breakdown that I have gone out on my own without the need to go food shopping.

I had set myself the task to look into getting my completed cross stitch framed.

As an English teacher, you will not be surprised to hear that Jane Austen is my favourite author. Years ago, in a (very) rare moment of romantic consideration, my husband organised a road trip which included Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare), Oxford (Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy) and Chawton (Jane Austen). Despite husband not being a fan of these authors, we had a lovely time. And I got to see Jane Austen’s House and museum ☺. The cross-stitch was bought in the gift shop and is a representation of one of the only images we have of Austen – a watercolour painted by her sister Cassandra.

The cross-stitch is the biggest and most complex pattern I have ever completed. It has literally taken me years, partly because there was a long period of time when I simply didn’t do it. I find stitching very relaxing and so naturally, in an attempt to combat the stress and anxiety of my breakdown, I picked it back up again.

And so, the completed picture is very important. It is a memory of happier times. It is a beautiful image of my favourite writer and signifies a love of literature that lead to my English degree and career in teaching. It is a symbol of perseverance and my recovery.

So off I went. Turns out getting something framed is not as simple as I thought but I got a quote from one place and will be revisiting another framers at the weekend. I did do some shopping and had lunch on my own, book in hand, in a busy restaurant. Small victory number 2.

Last night I was a little nervous but no more than I am after the summer holiday.

I didn’t sleep particularly well but I expected that. I woke at 6am but knowing that I was only taking two of my children to school, I stayed in bed until 6.30am. It was then that I saw this:

This snow was completely unexpected. Typical I thought. First day back and I have to contend with snow. As you can imagine, a snowy school full of children is not an easy place to be in.

I showered, woke the children and started to get ready. It was still snowing quite heavily so kept an eye on the two school websites. Low and behold, at 7.30am, the message came through that my school was closed.

You’d think that this would be a welcome message. It wasn’t really. I had built myself up for being in school. I had been repeating my mantra all morning whilst drying my hair and putting on a full face of makeup (Confident, calm and controlled). When the message came I was ready for work and the children were ready for school. My daughter elwas ecstatic of course as this meant that she had a snow day too. Unfortunately for my son, his school has remained open. This through me in to a full scale panic. What do I do? Am I still expected to go into school (has happened previously)? Should I take my son in? What about my youngest’s nursery?

All of this was further compounded by my ex calling on his way home from work to say that the roads were treacherous and that it had tripled his journey home. I was in a headspin.

Ridiculous hey? It seems quite simple now that I have calmed, but for about 15 minutes I couldn’t think straight. I made him come round anyway.

He said that our middle son should not go to school despite it being open. We live some miles away from the school as we chose this one as it was near my work not near our home. Unlike other families who were in walking distance, we would need to drive. And if my own school had considered the roads to be too dangerous to drive on, it seemed silly to risk going that way for him.

So, I changed out of my work suit and here I am!

One more coffee.

Eurgggh. The weather is grim. Despite being ten in the morning, it is dark enough for you to believe that the sun gave up on this little wet island today. There has been heavy rain (again) so much so that there is a huge puddle in the middle of my lawn. The world is dark and dreary and is not enticing me to go out as planned.

I woke the children this morning relatively early. They behaved well (for once!) and left to go to school with their dad without issue.

I tidied, emptied the dishwasher and made myself a coffee. I sat in the quiet and once again contemplated where to venture today. I got on to Google maps and scrolled around the area where I live.

I live in my childhood home. I went to university in my home town. I don’t regret my decisions – I feel that I am fortuitous in where I live. I’m 30 minutes from the sea. I’m 30 minutes from a beautiful city. I’m an hour from the Lake District. A little further out and I could visit Wales or the Peak District. I’m lucky.

Never being a particular fan of Geography, I enjoyed scrolling through the map this morning; looking at the proximity of places, remembering special times I have visited areas. Following roads I’ve not travelled down in a while. I’ve found a little village that I have not visited before and it’s only about 20 minutes away. Madness. It has a farm shop and cafe there so this is where I planned to go.

I showered and dressed and came down the stairs. The world was still dreary and dark.

One more coffee and this post later, and I might just be ready to venture out of my home.

Puppy. Walking. 

Nope, I haven’t made a typo. Today’s post is about two different things. 

Yesterday was another fantastic day out with my friend, this time to Wales (yes, this holiday we have done the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Liverpool and Wales!). 

Admittedly, and very very wrongly, I thought that Llandudno was the sort of seaside resort that I try to avoid – tacky shops etc. It is a beautiful place. 

We got there early and the drizzly rain had chased us south. We made our way to the team station that was to take us up, up, up to the Great Orme. The views across the bay are stunning and although the cold wind caught my breath on a number of occasions it is worth every cold second of it. 

The Llandudno tram

At the very top of the Orme is a car park for those who trust their driving and handbrake enough to drive. There is also a café and gift shop and a cable car which takes you to the outdoor sports centre. And after that there is beautiful hills and slopes, heather and broom and miles of glorious views to enjoy. 

View from the Great Orme towards Conwy

We carefully walked down one slope and sat with our backs against a dry stone wall eating sandwiches in the drizzly rain. My friend was apologetic about the weather – I loved every second of it. I loved watching the rain clouds drift in from the sea, gently dissolving the mountains in its mists. I loved watching the sunlight peak out from the clouds and twinkle on the sea. I loved the delicious cheese and ham sandwich in crusty bread and a hot coffee from the cafe. 

Once we had eaten and laughed at the damp seats of our trousers from the wet grass, we went off to explore. Every new uphill slope seemed to give a new view and although my legs were aching and I was alarmingly out of breath, I struggled on not wanting to miss any of it. 

Eventually, we saw a little church and cemetery below us, a place even my friend had not visited before. The way down did not seem too arduous so off we went. 

The church of St Tudno is gorgeous.  We said a silent prayer for our loved ones and gave a donation in thanks to those who choose to leave this beautiful and historic building open for intrigued visitors like us. 

The way back was tough. I am not fit and had to stop numerous times but I wasn’t the only one and it was worth it. We (I) rested at the top of the Orme and I contemplated another wonderful morning. 

The tram back down was still bitterly cold but the sun had come out which gave us news views to admire. The tram driver was pretty cute too (sorry, but had to be said). We walked through the town with its myriad of shops and architecture that I wasn’t expecting. 

The pier is pretty, full of tourists and what you would expect from a seaside resort. I admired the views – as always – but the busy pier is not my cup of tea. We left soon after and made a short drive to Conwy. 

I love Conwy. The castle is stunning – my favourite – and the town is pretty. 


As with all our other road trips, the success of the day came from the beautiful places, the opportunity to exercise and stop and admire, and the chance to chat. Very therapeutic and I highly recommend it. 

We naturally talked about our love lives – or lack of them – and my separation. 

I haven’t mentioned the outcome of my conversations with Jay mentioned in my previous posts. There has certainly been a pattern of him disappearing and reappearing periodically. I still enjoy speaking to him and am disappointed to report that the promised phone call over the weekend has once again not transpired.  My friend and I talked about the need to not pin hopes (not matter how small they are) and excitement on one bloke. My analogy is that it’s like when you have an old dog – you buy a puppy to help with the pain of your loss. I know it’s not quite the same but for the past week or so I have been puppy shopping. 

I’ve not had a great deal of luck. One promising chat soon turned to naked pictures on Kik and I said my thanks and goodbyes and quickly blocked. Another, who was pretty cute and single, also turned into a monologue sexual fantasy of what he would do if I was with him.  I again, quickly stopped that in its tracks and blocked. 

I’d hoped that during the day yesterday that Jay would be in contact. When he didn’t, I decided to give the chat site one last chance. 

Better luck last night, of a sort anyway. Three men who seemed really nice. Two turned out to be married, unfortunately, which is disappointing. It is scary how many married men are on those sites.  Some are definitely after hook-up whilst others just want flirty and sexual chat.  I think that most wives would agree with me that neither is acceptable so I regrettably move on regardless of their intentions. 

The last one didn’t ask for my photo, didn’t ask what I looked like and we just chatted. He ended the chat early evening saying he was tired but at this point my attention was still taken with the what would turn out to be husbands. 

I was pleasantly surprised this morning when he text me and asked if I had slept well. We had a little Kik chat and it turns out that he is single, has two teenage girls and a job. His conversation is honest and interesting. He hasn’t asked for a photo yet and I was the one who broached the marital status, not him. Interesting. I think I may have found my next puppy. 

Please understand, I have no intention of stringing a number of men along unfairly. I’m just enjoying chatting to different people whilst getting to know them and trying to understand their intentions and situations. It’s fun though. 

What wasn’t fun is the one man I was chatting to earlier in the evening. It was going well until he asked what I liked like. As always, I gave an honest description. He then decided to tell me that ‘to be honest, most men only like slim women’. How rude!!!! I told him that women, slim or not, don’t like shallow idiots and blocked him.  Definitely not a puppy – more a confidence eating wolf. 

Escapism 

I am absolutely exhausted but in a contented-I’ve-had-a-great-day sort of Tiredness.  I’m not long back from Road trip 2 with my friend.

Today we went to Yorkshire. Being Lancashire Lasses, we enjoyed the subtly different landscape that travelling East brings. 

We started out in Skipton, enjoying the market and shops and the most amazing cream tea:

Skipton also has a castle which we did not go into today but I am assured is well worth a visit. 

We then travelled on to Grassington, the ‘gateway’ to the Dales. It is a quaint village with lots of little shops and cafes and beautiful walks. 

After a lovely walk we then went on to Kettlewell. Kettlewell is smaller than Grassington with a beautiful little church and an annual and famous scarecrow festival. We had a lovely meal in the Bluebell Arms then begrudgingly set off for home. 

These road trips have been a revelation. Just an hour from home and I feel like I have been transported to a different world. My cares, worries and anxieties just disappear. I can be myself. I don’t need to think about the washing or the separation or how I am going to cope with three children and a full time job.

Is this escapism? Maybe. But I also like to think this is living – enjoying the world around me. It helps me to remember that there is a big old world out there and that I can break free of the claustrophobic walls of anxiety and explore it whenever I want. It does make my problems go away but it does put them back in their place – not all consuming and demanding, but just a small part of my life.