So long summer holiday…

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Sunset from the London Eye on my birthday last month…
…and yes that is the reflection of my camera on the capsule glass.

I was in Southern England this week. I’d had a stressful day on Monday, as a ton of forms came in from delegates for the conference I organise every year. I was super thankful that I was able to leave work a bit earlier so I could pick up my train tickets for the next morning and still have time to get to Guides without being too stressed. Realising that I would have to pack a suitcase when I got home.

Only to discover that the key for the church hall, which only comes out my bag to open and lock the church hall, was not in my bag. Cue frantic texting, phoning, turning my Mum’s car and our house upside down. No key. Me and the Guides stood outside when it of course began to rain while our Unit leader went down the list of keyholders to find no one in. Eventually someone at the other church hall gave us a key.

And if you wanted to make that 24 hours anymore stressful, there’s nothing worse than getting to your seat on the train – you know with the super-advance can only be used with that particular reservation ticket – to discover that the label on it says it’s reserved for passenger travelling from Newcastle. Confused, you look at your ticket and booking confirmation print out and realise that yes, you are the dumb person who has clicked for a ticket for Monday not Tuesday.

Somehow, I made it to my friend’s house in East London that evening, and very early on Wednesday morning we travelled to Hampshire for the first day of the college course I’m doing. The course has been created by a charity I have worked with as a volunteer for a few years now and accredited through the Open College Network. I didn’t realise though, what was going to be involved. I thought I was training to be a tutor. In fact, I’m doing the course I might one day be tutoring. They want to make the course available to other practitioners who support people trying to make decisions in the face of an unintended pregnancy – and soon. And so I’m now learning about moodle. I’m trying to wrap my head around the news that I’m going to be doing assignments every single week for the whole of this summer.

As I get older, I understand more of how I work and what makes me tick. I know that I’m an extravert and so I need to talk a lot of nonsense to process my thoughts, and unless I’m around people I don’t always get a lot of work done. I go a bit loopy if left in the office on my own (I hate being in the office on my own). It took me a whole year to realise that studying alone in my room doesn’t work – I need to be in a library surrounded by other people also studying with fixed social breaks to keep me going (my grades improved drastically as a result). I know that I need to have several projects on the go, because if there’s only one to focus on I don’t have enough stress to stop me procrastinating. Since having CFS, I’ve become a person that needs to plan in advance. Spontaneous stuff doesn’t always work for me, I like to know what’s going to happen, and when so I can plan ahead and prepare for a plan B just in case it doesn’t work out that way. I get lots done on Mondays because they are stressful, busy and I have that routine down now.

In my head, my summer was going to be pretty chilled out. School holidays. No Guides. A time to finally catch up with friends and take days off work to do some fun things. So the sudden discovery that 10 hours of each week is now going to be filled with this course was a shock to my system. I didn’t plan for that. HELP!

I know that I can do it, but I also know it’s going to take me a while to get my head around this new plan for the summer. A little bit of grieving time may be required, and perhaps it’s a good thing because in term time I might not be able to manage 10 hours a week (though granted, I’ve got very busy weeks ahead until the end of term, sooo um, nothing like being thrown in the deep end with no warning).

Come September, I’ll have another trip to London under my belt and I *hopefully* will have completed a A Level standard Open College Network course in Pregnancy Choices Practice. And passed. And then, perhaps it will be time to start my Adult Education tutoring qualification.

So if my blog goes quiet over the next few months, or you wonder why I’m writing non-sensical rubbish that no one really cares about…know that it’s probably because all my brain cells are getting a work out for the first time in many years!

We got here…

…and if I’m honest I still don’t know how we did.

I’ve been feeling pretty awful all week. Coughing, muscle pain, no appetite and a lot of congestion. It hasn’t been fun. I missed Easter. And yesterday as I sat with a ice pack across my nose as I waited for my nose to finally stop bleeding, I wondered if I’d make it to London.

I know as we arrived at the train station this morning, I did not look healthy!

But we got to the station. We caught our train. I even managed to eat most of my roll while on the train. We arrived. We met Ruth, We fought wind and snow (yes, snow…in London…in APRIL) to get the keys to our rented apartment.

We may have got on the wrong tube train at one point, but we got to Covent Garden, had dinner with Rebecca and then…

MATILDA.

It was fantastic. It was brilliant.

I loved it.

And it was worth it.

Now I’m a wee bit sore, my nose is still streaming and I’m one of the world’s most uncomfortable beds (in an otherwise fab rented apartment) hoping that tonight I don’t cough everyone else awake!

We have less than 48 hours left, and I’m looking forward to more adventures, catching up with friends and I hope soon, getting well again! :)

A place to make a promise

Next Monday, I’m renewing my Guide Promise as a leader (it’s only been 11 years in the waiting!), along with another leader I work with and 4 new Guides. The realisation that it is so soon, made me realise that I better ask the Senior Section girls about how they would like to do their promise. Because they are older, we try to make all our activities led by them as much as possible. We’re a brand new unit, so I’ve probably done a lot more than is usual as they have no example before them of what they can do yet. They are the trailblazers for the Guides coming up after them!

When I was in Senior Section it was split into two – you were either a Young Leader OR a Ranger Guide. I was both so I had to do my promise for both! I can’t remember doing my Young Leader promise but I think I probably did it in front of the Brownie Pack or Guide Unit I helped lead. But I do remember doing my Ranger promise…

I got involved with Rangers when my friend Kate and I worked on the service team for a group of camps called Timetrail in 2000. We spent the week at the Lothian Timetrail camp, and it was there we met our friends, Karen and Lizzie for the first time – and they were in a Ranger unit. After the summer we joined because what they did sounded like fun. We had lots of opportunities to do things and one of these things was that we helped clean up the Water of Leith Walkway and were finalists in some kind of competition – which meant we had an all-expenses paid trip to stay in Pax Lodge, London to give a presentation about what we’d done. While we were there, 4 of us were going to do our promise. And the day after we’d done our presentation, before we went home we were allowed to choose where in London we’d get to do our promise. We had travelcards for the tube (London Underground) and off we went!

Jennie chose to do it in St Paul’s Cathedral. This was more of a challenge than we thought it would be because you had to be really quiet. It was Sunday too, so we were aware people were there to pray! We ended up finding some random corner of the cathedral and the 6-7 of us stood in a clump while Jennie whispered her promise.

My chosen place was the next challenge. I was a huge fan of the film Notting Hill which had come out about 18 months before. I’d never been to Notting Hill but had always wanted to go to Portobello Road market and see the carnival. So I wanted to do my promise at the house with the blue door! The problem was – there are quite a few houses that have blue doors in Notting Hill! We saw ‘Tony’s’ restaurant, found Portobello Road (no market on Sundays) and found a house with a blue door that looked like the one from the film. Apologies to any residents who wondered why 6 teenagers were standing on their doorstep for 10 minutes.

The next was Karen. Karen liked to shop, so she chose to do her promises in one of London’s most famous department stores – not Harrods (too expensive) – but Selfridges. They have a huge escalator in there, so once Selfridges opened we went in and went to the top of the highest escalator. We all got on and as we rode the escalator Karen did her promise. The idea was that ‘she went on a Guide and came off a Ranger’.

The final promise was made by Kate. Kate was (and I think still is!) a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. The first of the Harry Potter films was about to come out, and a very significant scene was filmed at London Kings Cross station. This is the station that most of the trains to Scotland leave from. So before we departed on our own train, we had to go to a different platform – We stood at a brick column between platforms 4 and 5 under banners that said ‘Platform 9 ¾’. You’ve got it – this was where the filmed Harry and the Weasley boys running through the barrier to get the Hogwarts Express. And so Kate became a Ranger on Platform 9 ¾.

The girls know this story now, because they asked what I meant when I asked them if they wanted to make their promise and how they wanted to do it. And so on Wednesday they made a decision.

They want to do it at the top of the Christmas Wheel that comes to Princes Street Gardens every year since 1999! I cannot tell you how much this wheel freaks me out. It’s not exactly very stable and would be very easy to fall out of. But I’m going to have to suck it up enough to be able to go on with these girls and have them make their Senior Section promise.

And try not to swear.

And hope they don’t make the thing you go in spin…

:)

 

 

The rainbows in the sky

Thank you to those of you who have given me some of your thoughts on prayer! Please keep them coming

When I was in London at the end of last month the weather was pretty…well…Scottish. Every time I’ve been in London – both my April & November visits each year – the weather has been sunny and mild. The kinda weather I like! On Wednesday evening after I got back from my away day in Basingstoke, my friends and I went out to the cinema to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. As we left their flat, this was the sight that awaited us.

Can you say ‘DOUBLE RAINBOW’?

We could actually see the full rainbow arching across the city, however I couldn’t get the whole thing to fit on my wee digital camera.

I like to think of rainbows of being a sign that we’re not alone in this world, and that beautiful things can come out of rubbishy things (like dreich cold rainy days).

If nothing else, they are kinda pretty!

London town adventures.

Priscilla advert I snapped whilst rushing to catch a train on the underground...

I had 1.5 days in London before heading up to Northampton for my work conference.

After checking out our apartment and saying farewell to Ruth at Paddington Station, I headed to North London where my host (and lift to the conference) works. I was super thankful that Paddington had a Body Shop, since I discovered a malteser moment in my toiletry packing. I’d managed to pack 2 travel bottles of conditioner instead of 1 shampoo 1 conditioner, and I’d also somehow left out my shower wash. The one I’d bought specifically in Boots the weekend before.

Way to go BK. 

My second malteser moment of the day was not quite catching the directions I’d been given. Scoffing at the idea of a bus when it was a 15 minute walk from the tube station, I marched on with my suitcase and wee rucksack. To realise after walking for 15 minutes that something wasn’t quite right. That something was I’d walked up the wrong street. A phone call to my host, and I had to walk back on myself and find the right road (thankfully parallel to the one I was on). 15 min walk became 30 mins.

And my jeans rubbed a nasty cut into my heel in the process.

Go me.

Third malteser moment came when I ended up having to work in their pregnancy centre, and realised while on the phone to an organisation leaving a message that I didn’t know the number of the centre to tell them the number to call back on.

Thank you God for wi-fi and google search.

Fourth malteser moment came when I tried to help a guy who had come in with his friend (neither spoke English) and because I tried to keep them from seeing another client in the building brought them into the office so I could use google translate to try and aid communication. One of them took the opportunity to steal my host’s iPhone which happened to be sitting out on the other desk.

I hope the police catch them.

And I’m thankful that my host had insurance and a datalock on her phone so it wasn’t too much of a disaster.

Still. Not cool.

On Friday I had the morning and early afternoon free, so I headed in to Central London on a honeybush tea mission. Only to arrive at the Twinings store to find said tea out of stock.

Are you freaking kidding me?!

I headed to Regent Street, where I went to Hamley’s in search of gifts. I spent way too long in the Sylvanian Family section (I was amused later to find my friend Nicola had written this post).

I wish people still bought me toys for Christmas.

And then I headed to South Kensington, where my London travel guide (a lil bit out of date now) told me I could find a branch of the Hummingbird Bakery. I’d never tried their cupcakes, but I’ve always liked their icing recipes, plus I wanted to buy some cakes for my host, her husband and son to say thank you for letting me stay (and sorry her phone got stolen on my watch).

Cakes looked yummy, but awkward to get a call from the police as I left the bakery…!

As I headed back East on the tube, I got a text from my friend Lisa, who told me she was on her lunch break and available to meet up. Annoyingly I had to wait to get up the stairs of Liverpool Street station to be able to get reception to find out where to meet her. Thankfully she was only 2 tube stops away, so I headed to St Paul’s to meet her for a drink (and food for me!) at Cafe Rouge.

Definitely the best part of my Friday. Miss you Lisa!!

It was also interesting to see the Occupy London camp. My first impression is that it is in a much more awkward location that the Edinburgh one, and louder. But more on that another day.

And then it was time to head back to North London again to pack up the car and head North.

I didn’t get lost. I did however have to stand on the tube the whole way and there was a delay at a station = lots more people able to get on our train = squashed and sweaty brunettekoala. Lovely.

We took our cupcakes, and wouldn’t you know we decided to stop at a service station on the M1 for a wee cup of tea and our cupcakes. When we came out 20 mins later there were huge tailbacks because a couple of miles up the road there had been an accident. We knew had it not been for our cupcake stop, we very easily could have been in the accident ourselves.

Clearly Hummingbird cupcakes have protective powers.

We pulled into the car park right next to my Scottish colleagues – my national partner in crime, Elizabeth, my local partner in crime, Sarah and one of the Dundee centre trustees. Greetings and hugs all around, and off we pondered to check in and get our name badges.

How’s that for perfect timing?

:)

The day we met Alf…

 

We weren’t sure the day was ever going to come.

The day we would meet Alf Ray Meagher that is.

But it did.

At 8.30 a.m. me and my rolly suitcase & wee rucksack went down the brae as fast as we could to catch the Airlink bus to Waverley Station. It took forever for the bus to come, and forever to get through all the tramworks and traffic lights, but with time to grab a bottle of water, bag of crisps and some grapes at Boots I made it to my 9.30 a.m. train to London.

I sat next to two lovely ladies who I got chatting to (me? chat? I know it’s shocking, isn’t it?), and surprisingly we arrived at Kings Cross a few minutes early. Off I went to top up my Oyster card and navigate the London Underground to Bayswater where Ruth & I had booked an apartment. Apartment found (with free wi-fi – hurrah!) I dumped my stuff, changed into slightly smarter clothes and went to meet Ruth at Paddington. Back to Bayswater so Ruth could dump her stuff, and off we went to Leicester Square to meet Mike, Rebecca and Oli.

To say we were excited was a teeny weeny ickle bit of an understatement.

Off to Chinatown, and we got chinese food in a restaurant. At this point I would show you the picture of the receipt we got that I picked up to work out how much I owed to discover the whole thing was written in Chinese.

But I accidentally deleted off my camera.

Which means the embarrassment of the waiter coming over and seeing me take a picture of the receipt in Chinese was all for nothing (except the entertainment of Mike, Rebecca, Ruth & Oli who laughed a lot at me & the bemused waiter who probably didn’t know that it was all for blog storytelling).

Then we met my friend Mike and it was time to take our seats!!!! eeeee!!!!

The show was amazing. The costumes were brilliant. The script was hilarious. The choreography was just right in helping tell the story and matching the crazy costumes. The set was so well done. The only thing that let them down is that sometimes you couldn’t hear what they were singing. I’m not sure if it was the actors not having enough strength in their voice or an issue with the sound engineering.

As soon as the show finished we went straight to the Stage Door (though my friend said goodbye to us at this point) and waited anxiously for Ray Meagher. As did a huge group of New Zealanders who had been sitting behind us.

Doors opened. Security people poked their head out – our hopes rose as we thought the moment had come and….

out walked Cliff Richard.

Eh? What?

Very confusing (he must have been in the audience we think), but we did get a giggle seeing him running away (literally) from some people chasing him for an autograph.

Mitzi came out (or as I call him ‘Lachlan Fraser’ – yes, another Home & Away star starred in Priscilla too!) and looked disappointed that none of us Alf Stewart fans asked him for an autograph.

Then the moment….

He was super nice. We told him how we’d tried to come down last year. He thanked us for coming to see the show. He told us that Kate Ritchie (Sally) was doing well and how her Mum had been to see him the other week, and when I asked him how they’d written out Alf so he could come do Priscilla, he assured me that Alf was not going to jail again. (Phew!)

After that we got our picture beneath ‘the shoe’ and we headed for the tube station and parted ways. With ‘We met Alf!‘ being exclaimed every now and then.

I confess it took about 2 hours before I had calmed down (sorry Ruth!) and Rebecca let me use her phone where I did wake up my Mum just to tell her that Ray Meagher said ‘Hello’. Gotta love my Mum who answered the phone not with ‘Hello‘ but with ‘So, you met Alf then?’ (because who else would be phoning at 11 p.m. but her insane daughter).

So now we’ve crossed that off of our ‘bucket lists’. What next?

I’m thinking a trip to Summer Bay Palm Beach, Australia – don’t you? ;)

Last night in London town

Sorry I have been AWOL for the last few days. I found Islington and got a few war wounds in the process. Some adventures occurred, and then it was off to Northampton.

I’m now BACK in London, staying in Plaistow this time (the East End, innit?) and tomorrow I head back to Scotland. :(

Stories will be told when I return, thoughts will be pondered and spraffed about as usual.

For now, I leave you a picture of my newest friend in London:

Back in London baby!

I don’t have the cable for my camera, so the full tales of this fine day shall be left until I return to Bonnie Scotland.

But we did get to fulfil our wish from last September. To meet up in London (though we were sad that Carolyn wasn’t with us), to have fun seeing the musical of Priscilla and to meet Ray Meagher (aka Alf). I was so preparing myself for something going wrong, and it didn’t. I also know if someone tries to mug me for my camera I will fight them!

So here is a wee web cam pic of me & Ruth in our rented out apartment trying to come down from our wejustgottomeetAlf! high.

Thank you Mike for getting our tickets and staking out Chinatown for us. Thank you Rebecca for organising our tickets and timings AND letting me borrow your phone so I could call my Mum to announce to her that I had indeed now met ‘Alf’. Thank you Ruth for being willing to be a cheapo with me. Thank you to other Mike for not disowning me as a friend for taking you to the campest musical on earth and rejecting language school socialising for hanging outside a stage door. Thank you to Oli for not running away screaming as you had never met me even online and tonight you probably saw me at my most insane.

From tomorrow I’ll return to be a sensible and reserved British citizen.

Or I’ll try. :)

Ready, Steady, Pack, Go!

Today has been a busy day. I’m so glad I had the sense to take the day off from work, because there is no way I’d be ready if I hadn’t. I managed to get a haircut (yay!) and my new hairdresser is a fan of Julie Walters, Meryl Streep and Harry Potter so we got along splendidly. :) I also did my first ‘leader’ duties going to the Guide Shop to get certificates, promise badges and Go For It cards…and my leader uniform, since they’ve changed the uniform since I was a trainee guider back in 2001.

I spent a long time tonight trying to delete numbers and move phone numbers of people I still know onto a SIM card so I can use my SIM card in my friend’s old nokia phone. I figured going down to London I should probably have a phone that doesn’t randomly switch itself off when someone texts or calls. That’ll be helpful when meeting Ruth off the train from Bristol, my friend Mike who has my winter jacket and works in the ‘city’, and Rebecca & co for dinner in Chinatown! Not to mention going to work conference and visiting 2 centres and finding Celia’s house (the person I’m staying with on Thursday night before we go to conference).

I hope I’ve got everything I need.

A few things still left to pack that I’ll need to use in the morning!

3 more sleeps!!

Yes, I don’t really have a lot to say other than there are only 3 more sleeps until Priscilla.

I’m just a teeny wee bitty excited.

I do however have a lot to do in the two days before I go.

Like tie up things at work tomorrow, and Tuesday I need to take a top back, buy little shampoo and conditioner and see if I can get my haircut. I found out on Friday that my hairdresser of the last 4 years has left the company. :(

Oh, and I need to do laundry and my favourite thing…pack!

As I’m leaving at the godforsaken hour of 9.30 a.m. (what was I thinking?!) I know I need to have everything ready so I can tumble out of bed, put my clothes on and GO on Wednesday morning. I’m just hoping that all the tramworks don’t delay me getting to Waverley Station.

London here I come!