Monday, 23 December 2013


I probably should put a disclaimer or apology at the beginning of this blog.... But as ever, this is my truth. Yours may be different.

Christmas.... The time of year when all the major shopping chains n every form of media in the known universe tells you that if you don't live your life a certain way, you are less of a person.
Well, obviously, they don't say it directly, but the message is there screaming silently in the background, judging.

If you don't have all the brown/beige food that is full of cholesterol, carbs and calories, if you don't have the biggest tree with every new games console, all the trendy clothes, all the toys, the latest gadgets, then don't turn up on the 25th.

It is LAW that each Christmas morning, there should be sparkle, magic n love all over this land. Everyone should get along, all families should be MAHOOSIVE and like each other. There will be no tears, no tantrums and everyone will smile like they mean it.

Even if you are Bob Cratchet and don't have 2 beans to rub together, you will still have the most loving family and life is still good on some level.

All the grumpy teenagers remove their headphones, come out of their caves and develop a sense of empathy.

Shops advertise that you can buy the perfect Christmas from them.

Frankly it is all bullshit and one of the reasons I despise Christmas.

It reinforces everything negative about being a family and emphasises the fact that actually, life is just a bit shit sometimes.

If there are presents, chances are these will be elaborate and expensive in an attempt to cover the lack of emotional goodness that is missing round the dinner table....

Or they will have cost the giver a weeks food money (or rent/mortgage payment)

Or the presents will just be a bit shit.

Or not what you wanted/needed/same as last years.

The buyer will not have listened to a word you have said and will, potentially, have bought for the sake of buying. They will have resented battling through the hoards of desperate people fighting to do the same. Chances are it will prove how little the person actually knows you.

If you are forced to spend Christmas WITH family members, I hope you like them. I hope that there is warmth and affection in abundance. I hope they love the bones of you and have seen some of the best times of your life.

I hope you have people you love that you can spend Christmas with.

I hope that the elderly people in your life, the next street, local nursing home have a friendly someone who can call on them with a happy hello n a how are you.

I hope that the nurses and emergency services know they are appreciated, as are the serving soldiers away from their loved ones.

I hope the homeless get a warm dinner and a warm welcome somewhere friendly and non judgemental.

I hope that those with learning disabilities can finally have the structure and routine they need, put back into their lives, instead of all this disturbing nonsense that builds up for 3 months and lasts a day.

I hope that those who suffer from depression don't get sucked further into the black hole by the media and social hype of a Wednesday at the end of the month, at the end of the year.

I hope that all the separated parents have contact with their kids should they want it.

I hope that those who are religious have a joyous celebration of the reported birth of some dead dude who is forgotten some of the time.

***slight but relevant tangent***
If anyone could bring me some concrete evidence of a God based *being* it would be much appreciated.
I'm sure some guy called Jesus existed. I'm open to believing he was a Dr or scientist n quite a popular, clever chap. His birthday may have been December 25th. His dad may have been Joseph, who may have been a carpenter n his mum may have been Mary. They may have had a massive party when he was born n this mates may have visited.
If he was born in Bethlehem, its most unlikely he was white.
Son of some invisible entity that created everything? Immaculate conception?
Hmmm. Open to convincing.
I'd like to believe. I'm just not sure I can.

So, back to this thing we call Christmas....

If you have children or are a child at heart, I hope Santa makes all your wishes come true.

For all I am bah humbug, I secretly love Christmas. I just don't like the commercialised shape it takes.

I will be working Christmas Day. I always have. I used to do the Christmas Eve sleep-in shift.... Put the kids to bed on Christmas Eve n get them up Christmas morning.
Sleep-ins stopped n I changed my shift to do the early.

I have recently discovered that the late is my favourite shift of the year. This is the point when my shallow teenagers are bored and grumpy, the interest has worn off their presents or they have sold them for drugs (yes really). We have (or try to have) good, clean wholesome fun.
We acknowledge that Christmas is a bit shit. As is being a teenager, as is being in care. We try to make it less shit. We show them they matter, that we're happy to be with them. That we make a choice and they are worth it.

The kids I look after won't be with their families and we can't buy the things they want.

We can't make their families look like those on the telebox.
We can't give them their childhood or make all the past abuse go away.
We can't make their parents acknowledge their existence or cure the metal health issues.

But I absolutely want to spend my Christmas Day with them.

They are awesome people. They really are.

Christmas for me was always invariably an anticlimax. Then I worked out why. N now I kinda love it.... A bit.

I love Christmas Eve.
There is still the hope of magic.
There is the hope that, however briefly, there will be love displayed in some shape or form.

An honest love that sees each individual as being full of goodness and infinite possibility.
A love that sees them just how they are, not how we want them to be. Not seeing their flaws as a bad thing, seeing their flaws as part if their unique beauty.

I am blessed. And I know I am.

Christmas Eve I will see the people I love most in the world.
I will train (or play in the pool with purpose), then approx 15/20 swimmers will descend on our local cafe to have a festive feast of a breakfast. My closest friends will be there and this makes me happy.

Then, I will meet Signe for coffee and cake. (I LOVE the Scandinavian traditions)

Signe - Tak for kaffe og kage og være en fantastisk ven. Jeg elsker dig masser.

If there was snow, we would throw ourselves down the hills in Shibden Park on bin liners, Ikea bags n tea-trays.  Sadly, no snow this year. Instead we will sit in front of a toasty log fire n put the world to rights.

I love this girl.
A lot.

It's her fault I agreed to do an ironman. It is her fault I swim.
I will always be grateful.

Each year we give each other the gift of time and we have been on some amazing adventures.
These adventures mainly involve hills, tents, brown food, bad picnics n bodies of water.
The best birthday ever involved a candle lit dinner, a blowy camping experience, lots of sea swimming n too much wine in Tenby.

Next year we will do the Yorkshire 3 peaks. We have played in Scotland and Wales n the Lake District on the highest hills an in the deepest, longest coldest bodies of water. We have hunted mythical monsters and magical beings.

For the first year in about 12 years of friendship, we have decided that there will be no exchange of hand-made custom design diary covers.
These have been epic... And a major talking point for many years!!
There have been themes and stickers and glitter and sticking and cutting.

It will be missed this year, but we both agreed neither of us had time.
A testament that life is going quicker and getting fuller.

After coffee and cake, I will call and see Paul to get squishes and squashes and snogs off Ella, then I will call at my old work.
I will get more squishes and snogs from the staff I worked with and squashes from the kids.

After this I will call to see my niece and nephew and deliver the few presets I have bought, before coming home n curling up in front of the fire.

Thereafter, the evening will be quiet and undisturbed. Bear will rock up whenever he lands and will be about for however long. I hope to give the peace and sanctuary he needs right now.

And then normality can be restored.
What ever that is.

Monday, 16 December 2013


Norway in December was everything I expected it to be.
After landing some 22 hours later than planned, Bear met me at the airport with a hotdog in his hand....Luckily for me he opted to let me eat the hotdog rather than him!! What a welcome!! The hotdogs are AMAZING!!

Delays due to the windy conditions (not mine!) I flew out of Leeds Bradford late and I missed my connecting flight out of Amsterdam. Me being a lazy arse and sleeping too long the following morning almost meant I missed my rescheduled flight... Luckily for me, it had already been cancelled and rearranged for later in the day, again due to weather.

Main thing is, I made it.


We exited the airport to snow on the ground, white fairy lights on trees. I almost felt festive. I didn't visit for festive cheer, I went to have a slight escape n support my friend... I also went to have a rustic reindeer dinner cooked n be shown how my lodger lives versus how I live.
It seems we have VERY different standards and live in VERY different worlds.

Let me just go off on a tangent briefly.

I live in a semi-constant state of chaos. Most of my storage is visual and clutter is familiar.  Every now and then when it drives me insane, I will attack it and make it tidy, but it soon falls back into disarray. Bear on the other hand, has a minimalist thing going on.  He is a bit untidy, but doesn’t have ‘stuff’ everywhere. The nature of his work means he could have to move at any time. He has a functional, minimalist wardrobe n his stuff is necessary n functional.

Not so long since, I somehow I found myself saying to Bear, well, there is a spare room if you ever need or want it (sorry Signe I know you baggsed it first) and he took me up on it…. It seems I now have to move all the ‘stuff’ that has been gathering dust in there and make room for his 'stuff' instead.
This is fine… I like Bears company.  But I am sooooo lazy…and when I want to expend energy, being organised n tidy isn’t high on my list of things to do.  Besides, most of the stuff stored visually, doesn’t actually have a home and never has had one, so I cant put it away…. which is why I have so much stuff stored in the way it is.

It will do me good to get rid of some of the stuff.  I have been meaning to do it for years.  Now I have a reason to do it.

Anyway, I digress. Sorry, back to Norway.

Norway is beautiful. Bear tells me he lives in the ugly bit... I hope to visit the pretty part one day. Then I may explode. What a way to die.

There is a strange mix of mountains, glorious country side with the odd fjord thrown in, combined with housing estates, ship yards and oil works. It sounds random... And it is, but somehow it works. The houses are stunning wooden cabins, all unique, all pretty to look at., all how I imagined.

It is glorious and peaceful. It smells of open fires, ski trips and happiness.

I understand why Bear has stayed there as long as he has. It welcomes you n invites you to feel at home. Other than Switzerland, this is the only place I have though ‘I could live here’.  Except for the cost of everything. I don’t like that. But it is relative. The country is rich, its main business is oil, the cost of living is high, but so is the quality of life. Local wages reflect this.

We have had a fab weekend, playing in the snow (I lost), playing on the Xbox (I lost even though I cheated at sprinting), swimming (I lost at sprinting - nothing new there - if I didn't know I wasn't built for speed before this weekend, I do now). We also spent time mooching round Stavanger in the snow. I found a crocodile by the side of the lake. We spent too long watching brilliant films on Youtube and I pulled too many amazed faces.

Things I have learned (in no particular order) are

1) Chocolate milk cures hic-coughs,
2) Reindeer is full of tasty goodness
3) I am a travelling nightmare and liability waiting to happen,
4) Training on Bears bike isn’t the best idea in the world.  I am an umpa lumpa.  He is not.
5) Some Bears have secret fetishes for cross dressing as zebra's and will steal unoccupied onesies where possible.
6) Public swimming in Norway is like the 7th layer of hell.

How interesting can public swimming be? Well, its a tiny pool for a start, prob not 3 full lanes wide. That's fine. but there are no lanes.

It is a free for all.

And the Norwegians don’t have any manners.

None. None at all.

After more pool time with Bear I have decided that brute force and ignorance is gonna be the way forward with his swim for Norseman. Bear has no style and no finesse when in the water…. but somehow he moves. Quite quickly at times. He appears to expend a lot of energy, but that’s about how he is built and the physical limitations of his shoulders and hip. There is work to be done.  

After swimming, we returned to have the nommy lump of Reindeer that Bear had roasted with beetroot, sweet potato and onion. This is now my lump of meat of choice. Specially served with JuleBrus (Christmas flavoured juice)

I learned a lot about Bear on this trip, having Bear move in with me has been interesting to say the least, I have lived on my own too long, but stepping into Bears world has really opened my eyes.
Bear earns in an hour what I earn in a day. What he earns in day, I earn in a couple of weeks.  He is frivolous, I am frugal.  He buys what he wants and thinks little of it. I only dream of doing this. His lifestyle is minimalistic yet abundant.

He can come across as being grumpy and depressive, but on some level, he is only happy when he is miserable.
He lives very much in isolation, which can mean weeks without 'intimate' human contact (friends, family etc) so quite often there is no touch or affection in his world.
Bear is very matter of fact, so much so, he can be abrupt to the point of being perceived as being rude/bad mannered. But if it needs saying, he will say it. He can be ridiculously playful, to the point of being child-like in his laughter.
He is feircly protective of those he cares about, yet has as distinct 'lack of emotion' - its not a complete lack, but he uses Bear to keep his feelings well protected and ensure they don't get exposed.

Behind the Bear is Paul, who happens to be quite a nice chap.
It is Bear who competes, Bear who pushes past physical limits, Bear who is determined and feirce. Luckily for me, I quite often get Paul... Yet still call him Bear most of the time although it is interchangeable.

Where Bear is based its a strange place to walk round, I went for a mooch on my own before flying home and obviously went out with Bear when he was at home.  The people don’t speak. On a night the streets are deserted.  There is no noise, very little traffic. Just silence. They are not social creatures, them there Norwegians, hence so much isolation.  But they are very beautiful to look at (most of them). And tall.

I hope to go back at some point – if only to see the pretty bit and have more of a chance to poke about in it and explore.
So much water and so many mountains.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Time is a very strange phenomenon that I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Sometimes it feels as though it is zooming by.
The older I get, the quicker it goes. Rationally, I know this is simply because each day is a smaller percentage of my life.

Sometimes it is frozen n the hours creep at a snails pace. 

I know when I am giddy-excited for something, time feels like it is a ten tonne weight being pulled through wet sand by a door mouse.
It drags, it is slow and lumbering.
Yet when that giddy-exciting time i have been looing forward to finally arrives, it is over in a blink.

How is that even fair?

Winter distorts time. It distorts me. It seems to be dark constantly.
Suddenly I find myself viewing the John Lewis Christmas advert wondering how it came to be 'that time of year again'. Then I realise it isn't. They are just trying to trick me.

It is still only November.... Or it was when I started writing this blog.... Time didn't allow me to finish when I wanted. Other stuff with other deadlines got in the way. 

People keep telling me that christmas is starting earlier each year.
Nope. No its definitely not. It definitely still begins at start of advent. Or Christmas Eve depending on beliefs. I'd even allow when the kids break up from school or Mad Friday.
But not November.

I am 3 weeks into 30 weeks of Outlaw training.... Or I was when I started writing this blog. I am now 4 weeks. Maybe its even 5, my track of time is so distorted currently. It passes so quickly. 
Does it even matter? 

I have lost 2 months of my life somewhere. 
It has vanished. 
Lost to hospital corridors, traffic jams, information overload n sleep.

I want to paint. No, I NEED to paint. 
I need to create, to take pictures. To be. 
Yet I haven't got time 'spare'. 
I would be rushing and then feel more frustrated than if I hadn't started at all. 

I visited a dear friend last week n opened the visit with 'I cant stay long'. That's so shit. 
A part of me wished I hadn't bothered going. I miss her though.
My fleeting visit made me miss her more. 

I spent this weekend with my other mother, Wilky. I hadn't seen her since January.
We have chatted about life, God, the Universe n David Beckham.
We have chatted about how so many lives can change so drastically in such a short space of time.

Wilky suddenly found herself retired due to ill health n currently living by the seaside. Her daughter, who was single not long since is 6 now months married, 5 months pregnant and has also had a miscarriage since getting married.

Time is playing tricks.

At the start of 2013, my life didn't look like this.
There were fireworks n the freedom from ThatMan, it wasnt meant to be n life simply got in the way. He was, and is, a lovely man. He will remain in my life as a friend. We just changed shape due to circumstance. He played a very important role in the story of my life.

He freed me. 

I suspect he doesn't have the first clue about how important he really was. But I will remain grateful for all time.

Relationships can change literally overnight.
Friends who were dear to us, drift. Often without reason, warning or a goodbye. 
Partners needs change. People grow upwards and away until we no longer recognise who they are. We have lightening bolt moments with strangers.

BOOM!! All change. There is a cartoon shaking of the head and wondering 'when did this become my life?' 

I am struggling to find time to train. Swimming is a thing I used to do at the moment.... I need to change this.  Running and cycling need more time but are terribly unpleasant for me at the moment. I am bak in the depths of SAD n unmotivated. 
The training would help the SAD and the positivity would spiral. 

I will get back on it.
When I have time....