Wandering around Bristol

I’ve said recently I’ve been restless and not quite feeling where I am living. Don’t get me wrong I do love my house and being near all my friends, but there is something about it that is not quite working for me at the moment. It’s too quiet! I love quiet, but also I want to live a full life and love exploring and where I currently am, doesn’t have the things I want on the doorstep. My sister lives in Bristol and I head that way quite a lot and I keep thinking about maybe, possibly, in the future, moving there…

I don’t know for certain, but a big part of me at the moment want to live in a city. I loved Vancouver, Edinburgh and Cardiff, even if I was just there for short amounts of time. I love how you can walk everywhere (pretty much) and there is usually something new happening or to explore every week (maybe month). There is a sense of life to those places. I get the same feeling in Bristol and with my current job that could work as a place to be…

This last weekend my sister and I were meant to go sailing, but the wind was not in a kind mood and we are fair weather sailors, so we changed plans and went out for a walk around Bristol Harbour. We have done this many times, but as it was heavy showers forecast all day we went out expecting to top for coffee and in places all day, and that we did.

First we went to lunch at a new cafe called Mokoko.  I introduced my sister to flat white and the coffee bean menus even though she took the piss out of me for being so interested in coffee! We had a lovely lunch and I would recommend it as a place to go if you’re in the area.

We then started our walk, got about 500m and it poured down so we went into the M-Shed to learn about the history of Bristol. It’s free and it was interesting, but both of us were annoyed that there was no logical flow to the information and instead it was in themes, which was interesting but confusing!

After that we started on our walk again and go a bit further – to the cafe outside the SS Great Britain to be exact! It had started to rain again and we went for a cuppa. As it decided it was going to carry on for an our we decided to into the SS Great Britain as neither of us had actually been inside ever!

I was quite impressed. I loved the being able to walk around the ship and go below into the dry dock. The dry dock was the best part and I found it much more interesting than the reconstructed interior.

When we got to the deck the sun decided to make an appearance and it was beautiful to see colourful Bristol come to life.

Did you know you can get married on this ship?

Nor us! We were wandering around and suddenly there were lots of smartly dressed people heading into the lower deck which was all set out theatre style. It would make a unique setting that is for sure!

We then carried on our walk around the floating harbour, stopping for another coffee when it decided to pour down again and then headed for an early dinner at Pho. I am now obessed with Vietnamese food! I want to learn how to make Pho and rice paper rolls and have already spied that I can get the ingredients I need from my local shop. It was so fresh and filling, but light and tasty all at the same time.

Just one day in Bristol and I explored new things and went to new cafes and restaurants that just isn’t possible where I currently am. I am so tempted, but at the same time I don’t know whether I want to spend the money on moving. I have only just got to a place financially where I can afford to do the trips I want to do (Hello Japan!) and I really don’t want to give that up. I need to think hard about whether I can do both, but it might need to wait until I progress in work a little further. I’m excited to think about it though. I can start creating the future I want now, but only if I know what the future I want looks like. (I haven’t been reading a leadership book at all!!)

Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon Swim

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I undertook my swimming challenge for this year and I still can’t quite believe I did it!

Last November I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon swim. This a 14km swim from Henley to Marlow. My swim coach took part in 2015 and decided to get a team together and make it a social event for 2016. This meant we could train together and set up days when we would all do long distance swims so we wouldn’t be alone.

It was a long journey of training, but it actually kept me going through a time where I really could have given up swimming. I gave up pool swimming and solely focused on the open water swimming. It made huge difference to my mental strength to just focus on the one thing. Taking the pressure off made it much easier to enjoy the journey. I also changed waves so I could swim in the middle one, rather than the faster one – best decision ever!

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It was a very early start on Sunday 8th August – 4am to be exact! I drove to a friends house so we could then car share to Henley. We arrived at Henley at 6am and registered, waited for the group to arrive and got ready. This is where my nerves started to kick in and I focused on thinking about swimming at my own pace and making it to the end.

The sign in the photo below was from the very start and it was a great reminder of what the event was really about. We didn’t need to worry about time as it wasn’t a race. it was run as a sportive and all focused on getting everyone to the finish.

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The swim we split into 4 stages with 3 feed stops at the locks. The first stage was 4km, then 6km, then 1.5km, then 2.5km. Each feed stop had drinks and a variety of food. Hand sanitiser and extra vaseline was provided and you had a to walk at least 100m from the exit to the entry points.

The fist 4km was easy and the stop came up to surprise me. It was a very busy section as everyone in the one wave started together. It meant getting clear water was hard and I lost the two friends I was swimming with (we caught each other at the stop) so I just focused on swimming steady and trying to notice where we were on the river. I felt good for this section.

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The second section was the big one – 6km non-stop. it’s the furthest I’ve swam non-stop and I was surprised at how good I felt. The river changed as we swam along. We passed green fields and very big houses and felt like there was no one else around. When we got in at this section we were asked to keep to groups with a kayak, but there was a steady stream of people that they didn’t make anyone wait to start (they did in the slower wave I was told). There were a couple of points along this route where you could have taken the wrong split, but the kayakers with us were great and kept us on course the whole way. My friend got cramp around 4km in and we pauseda minute, but got going again and this is where my arms started to feel it. My friend picked up speed and I started to slow, but we worked well together and kept going.

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We stopped for a little longer at the next stop to make sure we had the energy and were hydrated. I topped up the vaseline around my neck and then was ready to go. We had to cross the river and walk across an island before getting back in at quite rocky point, but the flow of the weir was a nice push off to start the last 4 km. I found this stage the hardest as my arms ached and it was not quite long enough to find my rhythm after the 6km stretch. Mentally I had to work hard here and kept focused on even arm strokes and moving forward. My friend was able to lose me here, but we caught each other at the last stop.

The last stage was started by a jump into the river after a lock and staying out the way of the boats. It was around 11ish at the time and there were many more boats on the river than the rest of the time. Also we were heading into Marlow so the it was generally much busier on the towpath and the river itself. This stage was easier in a way because I knew it was the last, but it was also hard, because it was the last 2km of a 14km swim! I focused again on keeping steady and getting to the end. Energy wise I was, just tired, but my arms were struggling a lot by this point. I definitely could have done some extra conditioning training in the run up!

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I was so happy at the end. One because it was over and also because I had done it! I had swam the farthest I’ve ever swum (and probably ever will). It was also much sunnier than when we started and I knew I would be able to relax for a couple of hours waiting for the others to all finish before heading home.

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While we were waiting in the glorious sunshine we talked about what other swims we would like to do. Our coach will probably put another team to together for this event next year, but I don’t think I want to do it two years running. I would come and support though as I think it would be a lovely walk along the river to follow the swimmers. Instead we were thinking about Coniston in the Lake District. That could be a fun trip!

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I would recommend this swim to anyone doing long distance swimming. It was fun and really well organised. The feed stops were well stocked and the volunteers at each one were super helpful. The kayakers and start/finish crews were also amazing!

As long as you put in the training and do not underestimate the distance or the mental requirements of this type of swimming then you will absolutely fine. I stuck to feeding as I did in my training, which mainly involved gels and chocolate to take away the taste of the gels. That works for me, and take time to figure our what works for you. Some people didn’t feed, others used what was at the stops, and others used fruit and nut bars only. As everyone has a wear a tow float I found it easy to carry what I needed and it got lighter as you swam further.

Training wise I progressed from swimming around 3km a time to regularly swimming 5km, with longer swims of 7km to 11km every couple of weeks. I didn’t have a set plan in the end, but rather worked out what I needed to get to and fitted into my schedule as well as making sure I took part in the group long swims.

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Overall this was a fantastic day and a great achievement for me. If you fancy doing it go to the Henley Swim website and sign up for 2017! They also do shorter swims, including one that end at a pub with the medal being a bottle opener – open water swimming is for everyone!

Getting my geek on

This year I decided to make my first visit to the London Film and Comic Con at Olympia. I’ve been following a lot of people on Twitter for the past couple of years who always seem to have a fantastic time and I thought I would give it a go. I decided to wear my Harry Potter and the Cursed Child t-shirt!

I bought a ticket that allowed early access to the YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention), which I’m told was a much shorter queue than the standard entry. I got off the tube and was directed in the opposite direction than everyone else and headed to the YALC entrance on Hammersmith Road and got in the queue around 8:30am. The queue was fun and everyone was talking to each other. I was by a lovely group of ladies who were all there by them selves like me and it was nice to then bump into them at odd points the rest of the day. The doors opened at 9am and I was through the doors and in the convention by 9:30am.

The YALC was held up on the top floor and although it said you would not be able to get into the LFCC part until 10am, there didn’t seem to be any restrictions in place once you were inside. I got the elevator up (as I didn’t know where the stair were) with the girls I queued with and we went straight upstairs.

My first impression was that is was spaced out and much quieter than expected. I picked up a programme and decided to go sit in on the first panel of the day at YALC. It was all about rebellion in YA and it made me decide to buy a book I wasn’t planning on, but because the author spoke so enthusiastically and was super fun I decided to give it a go (I later ended up queuing to get it signed and it made me extra happy).

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I then decided to head down to the LFCC on the bottom floors. This was much busier, but still not as full as I expected. I had a good wander around looking at stalls, figuring out what areas were for signing and photographs and really just getting a feel for what it was all about. I went with no plans, I just wanted to see everything I could and get a feel for if I would want to go back next year to do it properly. 

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There were lots of fun stalls selling all sorts of film and comic related things. I ended up buying a Hobbit Hole doors necklace (I’ve been looking at one online for ages, but never bought it). I really wanted Rivendell Cider and the Prancing Pony t-shirts below, but as I had just recently bought two Harry Potter t-shirts I decided to take a photo and add to the list of future purchases. I otherwise kept it quite light in purchases and only bought 3 books and some sushi.

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My t-shirt was a great conversation starter as I wandered around as people wanted to know what I thought of the play. I was so relieved as I was nervous about wearing it for some reason, but it turned out great, the only downside was the Harry Potter Party was on the Sunday and I was only there on the Saturday! The main theme of the convention was the release of Suicide Squad and the place was decorated with banners and they had the original costumes on display (which for some reason I totally forgot to take photos of when I wandered round it). There were lots of people dressed as Harley Quinn in a variety of forms. All the cosplay I saw was amazing and so much fun. The effort everyone puts in amazes me and it made me appreciate it so much more getting to see so many different people in person. I don’t know if I’ll ever go cosplay, but it certainly inspired me to think differently about what could be possible.

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The downstairs area became busier as the day went on and also warmed up with more people and warmer weather outside. After I had had my fill I went back upstairs and it still felt very peaceful in YALC. It was busier, but there was still lots of space to find a space to sit and chill out for a bit. I then saw Alwyn Hamilton still had a queue for booking signing and as I bought her book after the panel in the morning I decided to go for an autograph.

Alwyn was super nice and even after three hours of signings was talking to every single person about their day. She loved my t-shirt and asked if I was staying for the party as she was going to the Hufflepuff team captain and I was super sad I couldn’t make it. I started reading the book in the queue and was honest when she asked what I thought of the book as I said I was inspired to try it out after hearing the panel and she was super nice and hoped I enjoyed it. There is a sequel in the works as well so I’ll let you know how I get on.

Overall I had a pretty fantastic day. I enjoyed taking the day out to indulge in my geekness and join a community doing the same. I was nervous to go, but once I was there I felt like I fitted in no problem. I definitely want to go back and next time for more than one day (maybe even all three) and fully immerse myself into it. I would want to go to more panels and maybe a workshop in YALC and get some autographs and/or photos with my favourite stars in LFCC. I would love to meet people from Buffy and Angel or LOTR. I would want to feel more part of the weekend rather than just a flying visit. So I’ve jotted down some things for me to remember for next time!

Things I learnt for a future visit:

  • Take drinks and a flask of coffee – made it much more enjoyable to just stop when you wanted without having to search out drink stops
  • Comfy clothes and shoes – it wasn’t that hot the day I went, but it got warmed inside
  • Take lots of cash (within budgets of course)
  • Be prepared to queue a lot – make new friends in the queues!
  • Look at the programme for everything first and plan what I want to do and see
  • Stay over local to the venue (note for any convention!)
  • Take more photos! With people!

I’m looking forward to next year already 🙂

Making My Space

I’ve been very thoughtful lately about making the most of my life and that has developed into what I keep in my life in terms of personal space and possessions. I’ve been working my way through my house and sorting through everything. I’ve gotten rid of books, DVDs, trinkets, paperwork and other stuff I have hoarded for no reason.

I’ve created key spaces in my living room, bed room and spare room, that all feel personal to me. They all have their own feel as I hoped they would. For example my living room is all about the things that make me happy and the focus piece is still my bookshelf and armchair. Each piece of art, each book, each trinket has a story or a memory that goes with it that reminds me of adventures I’ve been on.

The newest space is my reading/office in my spare room where I bought a small bed earlier in the year to make into a day bed and then last week bought a small desk to go next to it. It’s a lovely bright space, but cosy and calm at the same time. I have some postcards I want to put up in the space above it to make me happy and inspire productivity for when I am working at home or working on personal projects.

I have realised over the last few years, probably ever since I moved into my own place, that stuff is not the key to happiness and actually experiences are way more important. I’ve shifted my focus and questioned why I have things in my house. The hard part for me was taking down my medals, I realised they no longer made me happy, but actually made me judge everything I was doing as they don’t motivate me anymore. It’s funny how we all go through stages in our lives and grow as people all the time. I finally feel that my 30’s are going to be what I make them and that is exciting.

My space is an extension of my personality and I want to come home to it and all it contains and be content or what ever mood I want to be in and be completely comfortable there. It doesn’t mean it won’t change, but rather it will grow and evolve with me.

As you can see Merry and Pippin love the space as well!

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Acknowledging my emotions

Emotions:
a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others
instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge
I’ve always struggled to articulate my emotions and I’ve been working in therapy to address this and put words to all the emotions I feel. My therapist has encouraged me to say what I feel however I need to and often I find I use hand movements or metaphors or even sounds, rather than words. So this last week I’ve been referring to the emotions wheel below and putting words to the emotions I feel.
_ Emotions Wheel-page-001
The focus for me has been about changing my relationship with food and understanding the emotions I am feeling is a big part of this. Being able to put words to feelings is helping me make them less scary. I have found I have developed rules around what emotions I let be visible and when I feel something that breaks the rule I usually use food to distract from it. This is really unhealthy and I don’t want to behave like that any more. However it is not an overnight change and I have to give myself time to change my rules.
I am finding it hard, but worthwhile. I’ve started to sit with my emotions and listen to my thoughts, but rather than act I am watching as an observer. I have to focus as it goes against all my ingrained habit to do something to avoid feeling the emotion. I am also giving myself permission to not blame myself for things I feel, no matter the trigger. My therapist points out to me all the time I usually take a very balanced view of things, even if they make me angry or upset. So I am trying to free write at times of anger or sadness to get out what I feel. I find this hard as I live by the rule ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all’. I’ve been giving myself permission to write what I think about people or experiences without guilt or shame. It is only about acknowledging how I feel and helping ride the emotion wave until it subsides.
It’s an interesting time in my life. I am feeling excited and optimistic about lots of things and working through the things that are causing me pain. It’s weird, but I finally feel like I am being the real me most of the time (I still need to work on the rest of it) and it’s feels great!
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