Posts Tagged 'personal'

About a Boy

I know, I know… I haven’t blogged for ages. I’m debating taking it up again but we shall see. In the meantime, here’s a little something Christmas related 🙂


I think most everyone has at least one year in their lives that stands out as being incredibly difficult from start to finish. My year was 2011. It was a year of loss, job woes and a whole raft of health concerns (mine and others) that left a black cloud hanging over me pretty much from start to finish.

One of the most upsetting features of the year was the death of my grandmother. Many people don’t understand my level of devastation from losing her but my grandma lived with us for 20 years of my life so it was like losing a member of my immediate family. I didn’t realise until a while after she’d gone just to what extent she’d left a hole in my life. I took to calling it my “Grandma shaped hole” and it represented all the time I’d have otherwise spent with her – talking on the phone every week, playing board games, taking her shopping (she was wheelchair bound in later years), and just generally spending time with her.

When you enjoy doing something you don’t notice the amount of time it takes up in your life, and when that time suddenly frees up it can be quite astonishing. I decided I wanted to do something else now she was gone. Something to fill the Grandma shaped hole; another way to spend my time with someone who could do with a little extra love and company in their life. My initial thought was to other old folk. There are so many of them alone with so little company and comfort and I was quite used to their needs. But my grandparents are irreplaceable and after all the recent losses I didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to put myself in a position where I might lose someone I came to love yet again. And when I spoke to a local charity about the level of commitment they asked for I was disappointed at their lack of flexibility, something which was an important factor for a full time worker with a big commute and irregular hours. So while I still believe it was the right decision for me at the time, I decided I couldn’t go the old folk route, but in all honesty I’m a little ashamed of myself for it. I don’t have any children of my own and there’s a very good chance I’ll end up as one of those lovely but lonely people one day, and I’d like to think that someone would do the same for me. I hope in a few years I find enough strength to re-evaluate my choice and walk that path.

So next on the hit list was animals. My husband was the first to try and talk me out of this option. Knowing my weakness for any animal in need of some love he had visions of me turning into a Dr Dolittle, bringing home all sorts of random and raggedy animals, or getting too attached and being upset when they were homed (or worse…). A friend of ours volunteers in a shelter and she told me how hard it was plus, yet again, it meant a very rigid commitment. So another choice off the table.

I had originally omitted children from my research because, frankly, I don’t know an awful lot about them. At the time not many of my friends had them (this has since changed – I think 95% of everyone I know on Facebook has had a baby in the last couple of years – something which throws up its own separate challenges) and I thought that, of all the options, it would probably require the most commitment. But I decided to research it nonetheless, particularly when, through work, I met an inspiring man from a charity called Norwood and one of the children they supported. My research brought me to several organisations, one called NYAS, who were looking for Independent Visitors (IVs) and who I ultimately decided to go with. IVs are a bit like the US big brother programme I suppose. You are matched with a child in the care system and simply spend time with them and act as a good, stable influence on their lives. Unlike most kinds of volunteering, working with children requires an epic amount of training and checks. It took the better part of 8 months to be trained and cleared to work as an IV. Eventually though, I was matched with a boy.

For obvious reasons I can’t tell you much about The Boy. But I can tell you he’s a fantastic character who I love spending time with. He’s done nothing to deserve being where he is today; his situation is entirely a consequence of other people’s actions and his life is not always an easy one. In the six or so months since I met him he’s been moved homes, moved schools twice, had a new key worker, had a new social worker… You name it. NOTHING stays the same in these children’s lives.

So my blog post today is about a boy. It’s about a boy who showed me that, for some children, Christmas can be a challenging and sometimes sad time. It’s about a boy who has very little stability in his life and yet still manages to bounce back every time and make do with the situation. He inspires me constantly and has a truly profound and positive impact on my life.

Christmas is a wonderful, happy time for most people, but not for everyone. So my cheesy Christmas wish is that you spare a thought for those who won’t be laughing and fighting round the dinner table this year, but who are unable to spend it with their families, who are homeless, who are alone, who are giving their time to others, or who are unwell and having a really tough time of it.

And if you are able to do more than spare a thought then please also think about sparing some of your time. My commitment is 4hrs a month plus the odd text message and phone call. It’s tiny in terms of time (and incredibly flexible) but big in terms of impact. And if you can’t do something regularly then help at a Christmas shelter or even just ring up that great aunt who’s on her own and invite her round for dinner. Your time is so very much more valuable than your money and, while money will of course help any charity, the rewards you reap from giving your time are ten fold and the impact so much greater.

I hope your 2013 has not been my 2011. For some of you it will have been and for some of you it won’t have been the first awful year you’ve made it through either. There is always so much to be grateful for though, so however your year has been I hope your Christmas is a happy one and wish you all the best for the new year.

Merry Christmas!



I want it all, and I want it NOW!

So for the last couple of days I have been coveting something that will never be mine. I’ve been doing this a lot recently. It’s becoming somewhat of a trait!

There are so many things I want…

  • To win the lottery (I don’t even play)
  • To live forever (but strictly not on my own, you understand)
  • To be married to Johnny Depp (sorry Mr J!)
  • To travel the world (in luxury, no less)
  • To time travel (in a non-impactive way)
…Too much to list!
But is this normal? Does everyone daydream of fanciful things that will never be theirs? And if they were theirs, would they really be grateful that they had them?
I’ve already travelled the world a fair bit and, if there’s one thing I learned from the experience, it’s that the same sh*t happens in our lives wherever we are and however scenic the backdrop.
I also like to shop – there’re lots of things other people have which I want desperately until I have them, at which point they suddenly become as boring as my next possession and a new want takes it’s place. I remember even at school the same thing happening – I wanted to be friends with the cool girl, but once we were friends she turned out to not be that cool at all really. Definitely high maintenance though! Which always makes me think of the saying that no matter how good looking or cool or funny a person may appear on the outside, someone somewhere is sick and tired of putting up with their crap! So true.
So maybe it’s better if I get nothing I want, and then I can just dream on about how amazing my life would be if I had all these things and more. Even though my life is pretty damned amazing as it is, thankyouverymuch. I always joke that for every dream I have there is a parallel university where it actually happens, and maybe it’s better that it stays that way. Because if I had everything I wanted, what kind of person would I be? And what kind of life would I have?
I don’t suppose I’ll ever stop coveting my neighbour’s oxen (or whatever the commandment is), but I can try. So I won’t tell you what it is I want right now, because it will probably have changed by tomorrow anyway and because, all things considered, I’m a very lucky woman.
Here endeth the sermon 😉

Three Little Words

I don’t usually write personal blogs, but today I’m going to. I feel like I need to remove everything from my head and put it down somewhere.

Mr J and I often joke that my family are like the Waltons. My parents live in between my father’s two brothers and they share a semi-communal garden. My grandad lives up the same road and my grandma (mum’s mum) moved in with us over 15yrs ago after my grandpa died of the Big C. My grandparents have always been a huge part of my life.

I don’t really know when it started, but maybe 10yrs ago or so I made a pact with myself to tell everyone who I love that I love them on a regular basis. It’s been met with mixed reactions. Though I know they do, neither my dad or grandad have ever said it back. My grandma never says “I love you” but instead says “lots of love”. My sister occasionally mumbles something about love and my mum (a similarly emotional type to myself) embraced it wholeheartedly and says it back constantly. I say it less often to my friends for fear of looking like a weirdo, but I say it nonetheless.

Growing up, mum also taught us never to go to bed on an argument. I’m not entirely sure she takes her own advice, but I always do. In fact, Mr J and I (while we certainly have our moments) rarely argue what I would call properly and always talk things through, even if we do end up having to agree to disagree.

I’m not really sure what’s made all this so important to me. I’m not sure how much I do it for myself and how much I do it for other people. But I’m glad I do.

On Saturday my grandma had a major stroke. My parents were out of the country on vacation and had to get an emergency flight back after my sister found her. After a barrage of tests in A&E, grandma was put in the same ward my granny was put on three years ago when she had her stroke. Actually in the same bed too, which is painful at best. When granny had her stroke, she could still talk some and was quite alert, but after 4mths of struggle and unhappiness she passed away. Grandma’s stroke seems to be a lot worse. She can’t speak at all and is mostly out of consciousness.

When my granny had her stroke, my family rallied. Every day the family was there; they bought food, flowers, cards, read to her, did puzzles with her, wheeled her outside for fresh air and so on. The staff on the stroke ward said they’d never seen anything quite like it. Though mum’s side of the family is smaller, we will do the same. No-one wants her to be alone.

I hope with all my heart that grandma doesn’t have to go through the four months of hell my granny went through. I hope it is quick and peaceful. I want her to wake up enough again so that I can tell her I love her one more time, but I know she knows.

You never know what’s around the corner. You never know when something or someone might be lost to you before you are ready. We get one short life and I’m a firm believer that if you really want to do something then you should absolutely make it happen; no excuses. Don’t waste time arguing over petty, unimportant things and don’t go to bed angry and unhappy with someone. It’s ok to disagree. Just make sure they know you love them. It’s only three little words.

A Weekend of Underground Restaurants

This week’s blog is totally off-topic, so be warned, okay! I’ve been to an underground restaurant (AKA supperclub, AKA restaurant in your livingroom, AKA Come Dine With Me – but on a larger scale) before, but last weekend I did two back to back, and they were so good that I thought I’d blog about them!

Sheen Suppers

So my weekend started early on Friday night at Lara Newman’s restaurant: Sheen Suppers which is, unsurprisingly, in Sheen! For those of you who read my blog with any regularity, you will know that Lara is the first person I met on Twitter who I met in real life, so I’ve been to Sheen Suppers a couple of times before, and it is always good and always great value for money!

Supperclubs all work differently and, as I am learning, are all totally unique! Sheen Suppers is more like a traditional restaurant – you book a table for your party of however many and sit with your friends. There’s a suggested donation of £25 per person which gets you four courses (five if you count the tea and coffee) of divine food, a glass of excellent, paired wine (and from the massive EuroCave in the living room you know they know wine!) with each course (or port for the cheese course) and a fantastic atmosphere.

Lara’s house is the kind of place you could spend all day in and still not see everything. The attention to detail is just phenomenal – from the books in the fireplace to the decoupage in the bathroom, to the pink knitted animals in the (pink) kitchen. It’s delightful! The dining room seats up to around 18, and we were a full house. It was cosy without being cramped.

As I say, this was my third meal at Sheen Suppers and I’ve yet to be served something I didn’t like. The menu was as follows and was 100% home-made, from the gnocci to the crostini:


Pinenut Crostini with Prawns, Mozzarella and Basil

Main Course

Gnocci with Shin of Beef Ragu, Courgette and Parmesan Salad

Cheese Course

Grand Rustique Brie, Denhay Vintage Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Stilton


Ginger Blondie with Ginger Mascarpone Cream, White Chocolate and Ginger Truffle

The starter was a safe bet for me – I lurrrve prawns! But for those who prefer to avoid seafood there was something similar with some rather nice looking ham instead. Likewise, the main course was fantastic and the homemade gnocci were particularly light and delicious. I also loved the courgette and parmesan salad as it ticked the garlic box big time! Mmmm! Cheese is never my favourite course (I swap out anything blue with anyone who will trade with me!) but the port somehow makes it nicer… In fact, I really don’t know why I don’t drink more port?!

But the Ginger Blondie… Ohhh the Ginger Blondie! That has got to be the single nicest dessert I have ever eaten in the world ever! I’ve never heard such a noisy table fall so silent so quickly! Now it’s not for those shy of sugar, I’ll concede, but ohhh it was so good! Lara has been kind enough to post the recipe and I cannot wait to try and make it for myself!

Things start to wind down from about 10.30pm onwards (it starts at 7.30pm) but inevetably there’s a few stragglers and those who stay for a chit-chat afterwards! Such a great night!

And so, from one great night to another! After a late night of singing and one too many glasses of Prince’s Ginger Liqueur I was, err, a little delicate on the Saturday, but undeterred all the same…

Lex Eat

Supperclub number two was Lex Eat, which is run by the lovely Alexis! So forget all the pre-conceived ideas I may have given you from Sheen Suppers – apart from the divine food, Lex Eat is nothing like it! For a start, you book your number but the dining is communal – so we were a two on a shared table of eight. You’re not split up from your friends / other halves or anything hideous like that, but you can expect to make polite conversation with your neighbours! The suggested donation here is £20 for an array of courses which I’ll talk about more shortly. It’s BYO booze but in actuality there was some booze included, which was a lovely surprise.

Alexis’s house is equally divine as Lara’s but in a totally different way. Imagine a clean, modern, minimalistic apartment with an amazing mezzanine floor, a vintage record player, and reviews and thank you letters pegged around the downstairs bathroom. It’s like something out of a magazine – really beautiful!

I have to say; I was wary of the communal dining concept, even though it’s quite popular at underground restaurants. It still wouldn’t be my first choice, but it was very cleverly done. On arrival we were introduced to other people on our table and encouraged to mingle. Then, at the table itself, the tablecloth (which was actually brown paper – very clever!) had notes all over it explaining the menu… But naturally you couldn’t see the whole table so you had to talk and share what was on and around your place setting. A really excellent way to get everyone talking!

So onto the food! Again, everything was home cooked…

On Arrival

A glass of bubbly moscato


Hot & spicy popcorn


Mushroom risotto with thinly shaved pear & amaretti biscuit crumbs

Main Course

Slow cooked pork belly with salsa verde, roasted butternut squash, bean salad + freshly baked foccacia

Palate Cleanser

Little spoon of coconut milk & lemongrass sorbet


Almond tart with poached figs + orange & cardamom ice cream with a sprinkling of almond praline

(Plus the usual tea and coffee shenanigans, of course!)

Yet again there was nothing I didn’t like. The spicy popcorn was the find of the night for me – Lex kindly emailed me the recipe afterwards and I’ve made it twice since. Sooo good! Contrary to my initial expectation, the amaretti buscuits and pear worked really well with the mushroom risotto (I’m a bit of a mushroom risotto purist) and it was a great start to the meal. The pork for the course was also divine, though I have to say that I don’t think we really needed the foccacia – I did try some (and it was lush) but there was really plenty of food without it and I wasn’t totally sure it went with everything else. The sorbet palate cleanser was a fantastic idea – it was served on little spoons and was a really nice addition to the meal – very impressive! Dessert was another sugar-fest. The Almond Tart (served on very cool tiles!) was absolutely delicious and the ice cream cut into it really well.

Sadly, we had to leave a bit early (10pm – again, it started at 7.30pm) from Lex Eat because I had a train to catch, but I imagine the merriment continued for a good while after our departure!

So two fantastic nights all in all! Though both underground restaurants worked on the same principles you can’t even compare the two – they are such different experiences! And it’s really spurred me on to try and find some more. It was interesting to speak to the other guests at Lex Eat who had been to other places and had good and bad experiences. I guess we have chosen well so far!

If you want to find out more about supperclubs hen there is a Ning Network you can check out. I highly recommend everyone go to one – you will not get such good food at such great prices anywhere else, and it’s such a fun night! 🙂

From 2009 to 2010

So here we are: New Years Eve, 2009! Well it’s has been a challenging year for me. Though not much more than 2008 was, it has to be said! It started ok with my having survived a round of redundancies, and our taking a holiday to Poland (which I can highly recommend – even in the depths of winter!) Sadly though, by March my hours had been cut to three days a week and things were pretty tough. It’s been challenging financially but I’ve been perversely grateful for it in some ways: Mr J and I had to make our lifestyle a lot leaner and, you know what? Turns out we used to burn a lot of money we really didn’t need to. We’ve learned to entertain ourselves without having to spend £50+ a time to do it, and it’s made us re-evaluate our priorities. Also, while I may not always act like it on the surface, I am eternally grateful for still having my three days a week. It’s three days more than some people have and we’ve just about been able to survive on it.

April was probably the hardest month. We were still coming to terms with our new frugal lifestyle and at the same time my Dad finally got a definite date for the brain surgery he was in need of. Neither my sister or I were living particularly close to my parents at the time and my Mum also had my Grandmother to look after. Thankfully we were all able to take time off work and get through it as a family. We have laughed and cried together and I’ve never felt closer to any of them than I do now – my Dad in particular.

The summer brought my own health issues but thankfully nothing too serious, and by Autumn things were looking up a little with weddings galore to attend! We also managed a “staycation” to Yorkshire thanks to some wonderful family friends, and waved goodbye to some of my best and oldest friends who have gone off travelling around the world. Travelling in your late 20’s / early 30’s is very en vogue with my friends right now, dontcha know!

Never a dull moment, October brought new challenges when I dropped to two days a week work for a while. This was totally crippling for us financially and for a while we weren’t sure how we were going to make the mortgage payments. We re-evaluated our outgoings (again) and managed to shave some more off our monthly expenditure, but thankfully it didn’t last long and I’ve since managed to pick up some freelance bits and pieces too, which will hopefully see us right for a while. Since November things at work have definitely been on the up. My employer has had two good months (though not on the recruitment side, sadly) and things seem to be stabilising slightly. Long may it continue!

@Animal (one of the people I follow on Twitter) asked the other week who was crazy enough to be grateful for 2009. Well I am and I’m not. I’m grateful that everyone I love has lived through the year and, depressing as that may sound, I don’t see it that way – I think it’s something to be pretty grateful for! I’ve also had to grow up a lot and re-evaluate my life and priorities. Some of them surprised me, some of them didn’t. Like it or not though, I’m a better and stronger person for the exercise. Even if I have shed a lot of tears in the process!

I’ve no idea what 2010 has in store for me and I’m not prepared to make any predictions either! What will be, will be! So here’s to the new year and whatever it may hold. Bring it on – I’m as ready as I’ll ever be! 🙂

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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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