Sunday, 21 January 2018

2017 Review....better late than never


I know I’m a bit late to the “2017 Reflection” party but life happens, work deadlines get closer, tiredness inevitably gets the better of me and before I know it, bam! January is drawing to a close.
But I refuse to let the month pass without sharing my thoughts for the last year.

When thinking about 2017 my initial reaction was “good riddance” (that’s the polite version of what I actually think). Without a shadow of a doubt it was one of the worst years of my life. Everything was fine until the end of March when we were dealt a bombshell piece of news. Shortly, (very shortly) after that the inevitable happened and my husband’s family’s lives were changed forever. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the following day I received a phone call from my mum which really would send my brain into utter confusion and disbelief; the death of another family member. Two in two days.

I had no idea how to cope, and 9 months on, on some days it feels like I still have no idea how to cope. The best that I can do on those days is to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forwards, safe in the knowledge that the bad day I am having will only last for 24 hours.

As I said before, my initial reaction to 2017 was one of “hurry the f@*k up and pi$s off because you’ve been absolutely sh!t”.

But actually, when I think about it, and if I purposely ignore the truly awful events of April, 2017 was pretty spectacular.

For one thing I took a beyond-amazing trip to the US with my husband and two friends for a 10-day road trip from San Francisco to Vegas, stopping at Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe on the way, taking in the sights of Death Valley and Bryce Canyon, taking my first helicopter trip and winning at he Roulette table in Vegas (Part 1Part 2Part 3).

I got to spend a weekend in the company of my childhood hero and first (and on-going) crush; Mr Luděk Mikloško when he came to visit Jersey (you can read the original post here).

I joined a Book Club and am enjoying the monthly meet-ups we have.

My husband and I took a city break to Copenhagen.

I scuba-dived for the first time (even though I was terrified at the time that I was being kidnapped by the instructor and that no one would know because we were under the water!!)

I saw a good friend of mine marry her very best friend and partner in crime.
I surprised my dad with a trip to Malta for Father's Day

I saw my cousin marry her soul-mate back in the UK.

I watched a meteor shower from the luxury of a hot-tub in the darkness that only the countryside can offer, and made a wish on a shooting star.

I did yoga on the beach, and also in the sea on a paddleboard!

I visited the Ecrehous and had an amazing picnic there. As my friend and I waited for the cab to pick us up once we were back on shore, we parked ourselves on the pavement/sea wall, opened a bottle of Prosecco and chatted about absolutely nothing. It was one of my most favourite days of the summer.

We had friends and family visit us which is always lovely.

We saw Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson at Jersey’s Gig in the Park.

We saw Ricky Gervais when he did a show in Jersey.

Along with friends we hired a boat for a 40th birthday celebration.

I had dinner with an old boss from my days working in London – I absolute love this guy and am in awe of him. My respect for him knows no bounds so it was amazing to see him again and have a proper catch up – it helps that he’s got a talent for picking out a good bottle of red from the wine menu, too.

I met a local Jersey artist whose work I absolutely love and I even worked on an art project with him as part of my firm’s CSR day. The project we worked on now hangs proudly in reception at my firm’s office. And if that wasn’t enough, I was lucky enough for my husband to buy me an original painting by that artist for Christmas.

So yeah, whilst two really shitty things happened to me and my family this year, that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy ever again, or acknowledge that actually, I did have a good time last year. And the fact I had a good time doesn’t mean I miss my father-in-law or aunt any less.

If I’m being honest that is what I was having trouble reconciling. In my mind being happy meant I wasn’t sad about having lost them. I thought that acknowledging that I had had a good time diminished the enormity and importance of their deaths. That looking back and smiling at the wonderful things that happened made me heartless and uncaring. That being happy because of, and about those good things meant I didn’t care about losing those two people from my life.

Does anyone else feel like that?

I know that none of those things are true though and that being happy doesn’t take away the sadness, devastation and absolute heartache I feel. I guess I need to get better at recognising when guilt is playing a cruel game and learn to bash it on the head and send it packing.

Perhaps the two deaths my, and my husband’s, family suffered last year should make me more appreciative of the good things in life, make me laugh more, smile more, enjoy life more, rather than me feeling as if I should never smile, be happy or have a good time, ever again. They say that life short. I learnt that the hard way last year. There’s nothing like the finality of death to make you realise how precious and fragile each and every day is. So, my aim for not only 2018, but for every single day that follows, is to truly appreciate the good things in life, no matter how small, because not every one is lucky enough to be here enjoying “today”, and not every one will be lucky enough to be here to experience “tomorrow”.

I don’t want to end on that sombre note, so I’ll share with you some of my favourite pictures from last year that made me smile…. 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 













Monday, 11 December 2017

USA Road Trip: Part 3

It’s me again…..Hiiiiiiiiii!!! 

I don’t know if you remember (I wouldn't blame you if you can’t) but one of the last times we spoke I told you all about my time in Napa Valley, sampling the wines that the Castello di Amoroso had to offer, and how I enjoyed the guided tour of a magnificent castle (you can remind yourself about that right here, and if you’d like to read about my 24 hours in San Fran just hop on over to here).

So, after making sure I was very reserved with how much wine passed my lips in the tasting session, I hopped into the driver’s seat, did a head count to make sure none of my party had snuck back into one of the 95 wine rooms, and waved goodbye to the castle and all that lovely, lovely wine! Lake Tahoe; we were officially on our way.  
The drive was about 4 hours, give or take comfort-breaks and photo-ops, and it was so nice to be able to take in the changing landscape. One minute I was looking out of the window at rolling fields and grape vines, and the next snow-capped mountains were visible as far as the eye could see. What I wasn’t so keen on were the windy roads, the snow flurries that whipped up every so often, and the high winds that I was convinced would blow the car right off the edge of the mountain road! But we made it in one piece and I have never been so glad to get a drive over and done with. 
We arrived at our destination just as the sun was beginning to set, taking with it the last of the day’s warmth. The trade-off between the warmth, for the stunning colours the setting sun cast overhead was definitely worth it. 
Now I can’t tell you much about what there is to do, the best places to eat etc….at Lake Tahoe as we were only there for an overnight stay to break up what would have been an even longer drive to Vegas. But what I can tell you is where we stayed….. The Cottage Inn, which is on the west shore of the lake. Price-wise it hit the spot. Setting-wise we absolutely lucked out. I loved this place.
This place – both the destination and our digs for the night - was gorgeous; think log cabins snuggled safe and sound under fresh snowfall, a blanket of perfectly fallen, unspoiled snow rolled out before you in every direction until it meets the lapping shores of the lake, houses that had all but disappeared underneath the most perfect of white coverings....
Determined to make the most of our limited time here we donned as many clothes as was humanly possible, wrapped as many scarves around our necks as we could manage, stuffed our hands into cashmere-lines gloves and headed out to explore our snowy backdrop, the cold taking our breath away the second we stepped outside.
 
 
 
 

Upon our return to the Inn’s communal gathering area I sprinted (waddled like the Michelin Man probably, what with all the layers I was wearing!) to the open, roaring fire, made myself comfortable on the closest seat available, stretched my legs out, generally made myself at home, and had every intention of staying there for the rest of the evening, sipping on the mulled wine and munching on the complimentary snacks that the owners were happy to provide for us. 

After a while of chatting, relaxing and talking about the holiday so far, each of us sharing what our “best bit” had been so far, we all decided that food was in order and we made our way to a nearby restaurant that the owners recommended. Please don’t ask me for the name as it totally escapes me. By this point I was tired, cold and hungry (what a cracking combination!!) and all I wanted was to go to bed. I don’t think I was very good company that night!! 
The following day dawned bright, clear and crisp. We hauled our belongings into the boot of our car, trying as hard as we could to stay upright and not let the ice under foot and gravity collude to make us look stupid!!
And so we were officially en-route to Vegas via Death Valley. 
It was going to be a loooong day.
There was a lot of “nothingness” as we drove and we were on the same road, the US395-S, for about 6 hours!! It was eerily quiet and we passed hardly any other vehicles……at one point we drove 80-odd miles without seeing another living soul. 
I didn’t know what to expect from Death Valley, all I knew was that I made sure we had enough fuel, water and provisions before embarking on a trip through the hottest place on earth. 
It’s tiring sitting in a car doing nothing and we would often find ourselves staring out of the window, committing to memory the stunning landscapes and scenery we were lucky enough to be witness to. But despite not wanting to miss nature’s feast for the eyes, sleep would get the better of each of the passengers and heads would eventually bob up and down, or gently rest against windows; sure signs that the driver had only themselves for company. But the sleeping beauties were brought out of their respective reveries by the loudest growling, grumbling, thunderous sound imaginable. I was in the driving seat at this point and had absolutely no idea what was going on. My grip on the steering wheel tightened, all of my senses on red-alert, I was ready for….well I’m not really sure what I was ready for/to do, but that noise was scaring me……it turns out the noise was from the engines of some fighter jets that had been taken out for a spin and scaring the living daylights out of tourists in the process 😉
As we rounded a bend we could see a large group of people gathered at the edge of one of the canyons. We parked up and made our way to the group. As we neared we could see that they hadn’t just stopped off for a glimpse of the planes on the way through as we had just done; these guys were here on a “fighter jet spotting holiday” (who knew those sort of holidays even existed?!?). There were tripods, cameras and lenses of all shapes and sizes going on. 
These guys were going to capture some fantastic shots; much better than the ones I was hoping to snap on my phone!!! Fun fact: We got chatting to a guy there and it turns out he was from the next town to where we used to live in Essex!! 
For a plane geek like me, this was definitely a highlight of the day, and possibly of the whole trip!! 
Death Valley was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The sheer expanse of nothingness makes you feel like you’re the only person the whole world. And the colours of the canyons, and the different layers of rocks was just breath-taking.
Prior to embarking on our trip we (I say “we”, but what I really mean is our friends!!) did some research and found that Badwater Basin was, relatively speaking, in our neck of the woods and so we decided to make a de-tour for a visit.  
Badwater Basin is famous for being the lowest point in North America; 282 feet (58.5 meters) below sea level to be precise. You might think “that’s no biggie” but when you walk out on the plains, look back at the rock face and see the sign that marks “Sea level”, the magnitude of being that far below sea level begins to sink in. 
And here's a zoomed in, albeit, blurry close up of the sign... 
 
At Badwater Basin, significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. Newly formed lakes do not last long though, because the 1.9 in (48 mm) of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150 in (3,800 mm) annual evaporation rate. This is the greatest evaporation potential in the United States, meaning that a 12 ft (3.8 m) lake could dry up in a single year. (Thanks Wikipedia)
 

 
 

Death Valley also offers Sand Dunes and some funky trees to lark about in and have an impromptu photoshoot at. And if I didn't look so awful and tired in the pictures I'd let you see the ones with me in them, but as it is you just get the nature ones instead.....
After a few more diver-swaps the desert gave way to civilisation once again and the bight lights of Vegas could be seen twinkling on the horizon, calling us, beckoning us to get a move on and delve into and enjoy the entertainment it had to offer us. 
That’s all for now. Buckle up for the next instalment….probably in another six months’ time 😉