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2020: The Next Chapter…

31st December 2019/1st January 2020, end of the decade, or the beginning of a new one?  Are you someone who’s looking whistfully back to where you were ten years younger? Are the past ten years full of shame and regrets? (imagine if they were!).  Or, are you someone who’s excited for a new decade, feverishly making plans for all the things you want to achieve?  Maybe you’re the opposite and you’ve such a mountain to climb that the future seems daunting…

Whatever your perspective, I think it’s important to think positively and turn the negative around.  Now before you start and tell me to pipe down with all my ‘PMA shite’ I think it’s worth considering what I have to say.  Also, just because I’m going to ramble about it and try it, doesn’t mean I’ll be successful but it does mean I’d have made an effort.  And making an effort is something I’d very much like to be remembered for in my eulogy one day.  Mrs Ramblings? She made an effort.  She always rose to the challenge.  She was a trier.

And, as I have had ‘more to deal with than most’ (my psychologists words – I know! How Hollywood am I?  ‘My shrink says…’) I have to be kinder to myself.

The Back Story:

Before Christmas, I was given the opportunity to work with a psychologist on life skills.

I had no idea what to expect.

A lovely young lady rocked up.  Warm smile, highly intelligent and enthusiastic – I realised pretty soon that I’d got lucky (Someone was definitely looking down upon me).

Upon meeting her, she diagnosed the type of depression I’ve been experiencing.  She explained that the state of my mental health is almost definitely caused by a build up of past traumas, accompanied by living with a disability (which has been shadowed by discrimination).  Basically, a catalogue of problems, which have made me the person I am today.  Living in permanent ‘fighting survivor’ mode anc putting everyone first.  Everything I do, she said, has a purpose.  I look after everyone and she told me to ‘stop!’.  I’ve got to do mindless tasks like colouring in, and making patterns in my zen garden and then messing it up.  Hmmmmmm…

The BackBack Story:

For many years I felt worthless and empty.  Friends and family came first and I was desperate to protect others.  I would fight for anyone, but myself? I’d hide from confrontation; beating myself up instead.  Scared, filled with guilt and anxious at every text, email and phone call.

I stopped answering.  I’d hide my phone.  I’d hide myself.

You see, the way I was living was unsustainable.  No one can live like that.  It’s unhealthy.  But, it wasn’t until I couldn’t actually see out of my right eye anymore, that the walls closed in and I collapsed.  I thought the world would stop turning and that I was beyond help.  After all ‘you’re a strong person’ they always told me.  How can a strong person need help? I panicked.  No one would help, they wouldn’t know how, I’m not worth it…

You know the rest.

The Point:

So, how’s this all relevant to me? you might be thinking.  Well, this is the thing, LA (that’s what we are calling the psychologist) tells me I’ve got to share. Share her teachings and help others around me.  We also discussed my writing an the journey of my life.  This made me reflect on one of my life goals and the fact we are entering a new decade.  What do I want to achieve? Well, last decade I made a list and I did pretty good to be honest (apart from being mortgage free).  It took no thinking, I like writing.  I want to be successful at it.  Maybe I’ll not be so good and it won’t work out.  Then again, maybe it will.  Whatever the outcome, surely it’s always worth perusing your dreams?  I won’t hurt anyone, and I think I need to take more risks – stop worrying about it (more LA advice).

Going Forward:

The plan is simple, for the next few weeks I’ll be sharing two things: my learning, and the working process of a book I was inspired to write on Boxing Day.

So here we go:

LA got me to do this: https://www.16personalities.com/

I got the rarest personality (rare breed me!).  Try it, it’s very insightful and interesting.  It’s especially good to do whilst making resolutions.

Chapter One to come…

Living on the Edge (of the world…)

Living on the Edge

  1. An idiom for living an unpredictable life (can have positive and negative connotations depending on the person)
  2. Someone who lives on a rocky precipice
  3. Living on the outskirts of a community
  4. Being at the end of the world

Well, for the last fortyish years, I’ve done three out of four, although we have fspent various holidays in properties on the side of mountains.  I’ve lived on the edge of a villiage and I currently live a stone’s throw from the sea (turn right and you’re there, the edge of the world).  However, the most relevant definition is the ever-changing unpredictable life which we undoubtedly all lead.

It’s easy to live on the edge when you’re sixteen.  Living an unpredictable and free life can be exciting, and with a distinct lack of responsibilities, can also empower you to take chances.  I can remember turning sixteen and feeling that my whole life was laid out in front of me.  A blank canvas ready to paint a million colours upon, and in an unruly design.  A Jackson Pollock so to speak.  Therefore, the most exciting time ensued: freedom, college, parties, new places, new experiences…living on the edge with no real plan.  I was allowed.  Like I said you’ve no responsibilities.  However, it’s never that simple is it? Living on the edge can become uncomfortable.  You HAVE to plan sometimes, and you can’t just lead some hedonistic reality which selfishly revolves around you.  Also, if you’re like me and living with (a then undiagnosed) disability, you’re tardiness (due to living on the edge), you’re perceived to be flaky and very quickly people get the wrong impression of you.  Stuff happens, you become afraid and very quickly ‘living on the edge’takes on another, more sinister meaning.

As it happens, my youthful freedom lasted a very short time compared to the last twenty odd years of slog.  A lifetime of living precariously on a cliff-edge of frustration, fear and bad luck.  I’ve had to lead a structured OCD life through the fear of failing or not being. able to cope.  Being a young mum made me aim for perfection.  No chances were taken and a hermit life seemed the best way to cope.  My wits couldn’t take it any other way.  There’s too much ground to go over, and I’m not really into dragging up old issues and scenarios.  However, I will bring you to this time last year: November 2018.

Before I got ill, as in slightly mad and in the throws of a breakdown.  Where the dark days were drawing in on me, I had this feeling of living on a knife edge.  I felt I was walking the blade and that any minute I could slip, or be pushed and that my life would be over. (Paranoia was my best friend).   This meant my family’s too.  You see, part of the anxious years prior to this meant I was the one who drove and led the family. No one’s fault, just that awful C word which made me protect all the ones I loved and push forward with a bullet proof vest.  I felt I had no option.  I had to be infallible.  Only,that’s not possible is it?

Imagine walking a dangerous knife edge – like a tight-rope, with one partially working eye.  It’s not fun and it’s not clever.  Anxiety, palpitations and insomnia came into play WAY before the dark clouds gathered.  I had no idea what was coming, I’d always been the one to cope.  I’m the strong one.  Living on the edge? I was afraid and that’s not a place I enjoyed being.  I felt that the free-fall was going to kill me.  I thought my life was over.

The rest you know.  Let’s fast forward to November 2019.  I’m living on the edge again.  But, this time it’s euphoric and full of hope and happiness.  You see, I’ve taught myself to live a little.  At one time I was scared of my own shadow,birds and the wind,..now I walk miles with the RDog, on a wild and windy beach.  She chases the birds for me and we walk to, what feels like, the end of the world.  It makes me feel bold and brave, like I can do anything.  Once upon a time I couldn’t leave the house.  I now feel like I can do anything.  My sight loss, mental health and responsibilities don’t define me.  I’ve shed the heavy cloak which was threatening to drag my over the edge and now I’m a ballerina, avec tutu, pirouetting in that edge and having the time of my life!

Charity

October 2019.  How did that happen?

I could talk about lots of things.  How I ran around Newcastle and did ‘amazingly’ well with my guide for Retina Uk (and raised £1000).  How I’ve returned to work and find I love teaching again.  How the darker days are affecting my anxiety and it’s like the dusk is drawing in until March.  How I’m having to constantly remind myself to look after my mental health.  How I can’t lose what I’ve learnt about myself.  How I’m worth it for many and many are making my life richer by us holding each others’ hands – being each other’s cheerleaders.

This all said, I want to look back at perceptions. Unfortunately, for all the open minds out there, there are some closed ones too.  This can be through things like ignorance (which is fine if said person is open to learning new things – after all, we are all guilty of ignorance).  However, one laughable trait some share is the ‘snobbery chromosome’ (This is where I count myself lucky).  People who have this inherent self interested belief that they are better, and to some extent, are more entitled to breathe the air we all make.  This one is harder to change, and, as my good friend Karl will tell you…although that woman looked down her posh nose at me (and my carer) recently, what she didn’t know was: I am blind.  I was with my carer (who is highly intelligent).  And, I have a family, home, job and that I was getting drunk on my own hard earn money (at the end of term may I add).  None of these things define me.  What does define me is my spirit.

What she actually needs is my sympathy and understanding (not my annoyance).  After all, maybe we need to be charitable to others less understanding than ourselves?

As humans, we all bring something to the party when we come across a word.  After all, we are all different and our own cognitive thought process is generated through what we know…or think we know.  Each word has a prior knowledge, something we are inherently taught from a young age.  It can be built upon from from outside influences – our own context.  And fed by the who, where and why? Enabling the brain to interpret our understanding.

Example: The word ‘tits’.

If I were to ask the question ‘How are the tits today?’ to a range of people, I would undoubtedly be given various responses:

‘They are itchy and swollen’

‘They’re looking good’

‘You disgust me’

‘I’m just going twitching now so I’ll let you know in a bit’

Or, less articulate responses of a range of facial expressions, offended horror, and snorty pig noises in varying degrees, could also be provided.

And, if in a debate, this does not make ones opinion more intelligent than another’s.  After all, there’s no right or wrong answer for interpretation.  We all have our views on Brexit, Boris, immigration etc. But I’m not right and you’re wrong is not even an option.  Also, we all make mistakes.  We are only human!  My lovelies, It’s not black and white (unlike my inverted keypad).

Interpretation is invariably extended to the world of art.  For the record, I love art.  I used to paint and (apparently) was quite good.  I loved getting lost in the act of creating something visual but with hidden depths.  Baring one’s soul on the canvas, for the world to try and see, was always an interesting experience when people used to offer their insights and opinions (something fun or meaningless for the artist can often provoke a deep reaction from another – and vice versa).

One of the awful side effects of losing my sight has been that I struggle to interpret what I’m seeing.  This makes me feel thick and therefore, makes me paranoid about how people perceive me.  But people, for the benefit of my mental health and your cognitive interpretation, I need to explain something.  It might take me a little longer and I might need some visual clues but I’m not daft (well in some senses I am but that’s another kettle of fish entirely).

Art galleries, big houses and museums, have always been a firm favourite of ours.  (Mostly) free, warm and providing hours of thought provoking entertainment, we can regularly seen musing  around some ‘educationsl’ (as the children eye rollingly call it when being faced with a trip but secretly loving it) place on a wet afternoon.  However, of late, this has become more challenging.   I require a personal guide (Him when he can remember or be bothered) to read signs to me and reassures me that what I’m seeing is actually there and not a figment of my brain’s imagination of trying to make sense of something incomplete.  I also require said guide(s) to help me in the crowds, remind me of stairs and direct me through dark passageways.

How frustrating for a forty-young lady about town eh?

And all that without the perceptions of the Joe Public.  At a recent exhibition, I couldn’t even get near the images.  Yes, it was the artist’s life work but  did half of London have to turn out on the same day as me?  My genetics really did me no favours that day.  Firstly, at 5 ft 4, I could not see over heads.  Secondly, as the eyes wouldn’t work, I needed assisted aides.  People stared at me (I’m either drunk or rude, they think).  Bravely, I opted to grab the large print guide and read my way around.  This led to interesting responses such as: ignorance (people continued to ignore me and push me), disbelief (looked at me like I was mad because I was READING A LARGE PRINT GUIDE FOR BLIND PEOPLE) or, looked scared of me because I had some invisible disease.

So imagine my delight this half term, when we decided to take the Rosie Dog for a walk around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park! Four enormous Damien Hirst sculptures were there for all the world to see!  (Plus other magnificent installations too) No discrimination (wittingly or unwittingly – both which occur in my daily life) was to be found.  Their size meant to could really see them.  The signs were of epic proportions which meant I could read them.  They are situated in a country park, which meant there was no crowding.  Lots of different people of varying ages, shapes and sizes were taking it all in.  For the less able bodied there were footpaths.  Furry friends were allowed too.  And all for a few quid to park in the car park!  The best bit was though that I was really able to interpret and debate the art with my family.  We made an interesting panel: Him, Little E (11), our uncle who is a sixty-something Yorkshire butcher, and me…there were some hot discussions and some insightful and refreshing viewpoints.

One sculpture was called ‘Charity’.  Based upon the 1960’s collection tin for the Spastics (now Scope) Society, the bronze sculpture really makes you question what charity is.  Not only do you remember the word ‘spastics’ and all its negative connotations linked to disability and narrow mindedness, it also makes you think about where that charity goes and what does it mean?  The broken box and the crowbar suggestive of corrupt causes.  The state of the figure alluding to neglect.  The history of the piece showing how the world has apparently changed.      The nature of the subject promoting need of help, sympathy…The very title ‘charity’ suggesting multiple interpretations and opinions…

And this is the thing:  context.  A bronze made in 2003, looking at a charity from the sixties, and now studied in 2019 – 60 years.  However we read it, whatever we understand, we all have something to bring to the party.    But, to truly grow as people, to smudge the black into the white paper, we have to open up our senses to each other’s thoughts and feelings.  Consider the context.  That’s what charity means.  Being kind.

Sunbathing

Where’ve I been?  Some have asked these last couple of weeks.

Well…

Whilst recharging my batteries like a solar lamp, I’ve mostly been contemplating my next move in this thing called life.

It’s exciting isn’t it? Looking at new horizons, whilst laying horizontal with the sound of sea, cicadas and Swannie’s 2019 playlist on a loop…but having the time to actually think is something I should have cherished more, because when I got home, life hit.  Children made noise (even my furry one), Hotel Ramblings has been at full occupancy for the holidays, and  Karl needed Prosecco…but whilst I’ve been taking Rosie Dog for her daily, I’ve had some time to think about life, and well…

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’ve not come up with a life changing masterplan.  Unfortunately, there’s  no blueprint hidden in a safe in a discreet bank in Switzerland.  No, what I have discovered is that I’ve spent forty (ahem) years worrying about EVERYTHING, when in actual fact there was no need.  Bad stuff has happened.  We’ve survived. We are here.  So what’s the worst that can happen? (Bravado I know but…)

So in between the above shenanigans, revelations, and unpaid workload, this summer has been spent: sunbathing (yes I know the dangers but…).  Running miles upon miles along the coast – until tragedy (now I’ll come back to that in a minute).  Reading some fabulous and some not so, books.  Helping people drink alcoholic beverages, and (here’s for the disappointing bit) being, sadly, sucked into a non-writing void caused by a very busy home, noisy children, a needy RDog, etc. which all made me further evaluate that life is running away from me (do I really keep mentioning the drain of house life?)

So, what have I discovered and decided about this plan? You ask (get on with it woman!)

Well, let me tell you some stories…

Recently, Him’s life oracle (true story), told him to take that trip to Las Vegas that we’ve been asked to go on, as ‘life’s too short’.  (Cliche maybe, but as previously documented, the magic oracle has rarely been wrong.). She has also told us that the planned extension will go ahead and that Him’s Wife (me!) is aworrying and needn’t as ‘she’s good at what she does.  Therefore, hope springs eternal that our money tree (surely we all have them?) grows and that my confidence and ability do too.

You see, I need the latter to happen and sooner than you think.  On Sunday 8th September, my lovely running guide and I are doing the Great North Run for Retina UK.  No problem, you’d think, but an old injury has stopped play and I’ve not trained for a week (depression is beginning to shroud) This means I’m crapping (it’s not swearing as it’s named after Thomas Crapper the lavatory maker) myself that I’m going to bomb.  This will not only let my supporters down but also my public as we have front starting line passes (cos’ then no one gets in my way ‘no one puts baby in a corner’)  and we’ll be live on the telly (set your VHS recorders now on timer).  Upshot – I feel sick.

But, (don’t hold your breath but do sponsor as it’ll help) the good news is my leg is feeling better so tomorrow I am having a short test run.  I am super petrified it’s all going to go wrong.  So I’ve ordered enough rock tape to mummify Mo Farrah and I literally have it all crossed.

That’s the Immediate future, and my summer in a little nutshell (I also had some fabulous time in Greece with my family)

However, it’s back to work on Monday and I now require the strength of confidence to actually teach again. But rather than dwell on my immediate insecurities (see previous reevaluations whist doggie walking), I’m all about focussing on the wish list.

Aren’t we told we need a five year plan?

Drumroll please…

THE WISH LIST/FIVE YEAR PLAN

(don’t quote me EVER on this and remember it’s about aspirations not realism.  What’s the point in making a boring list?)

  • Extension (full plan,no compromise)
  • Happy and successful children (who can drive me around)
  • – Mortgage free (quickly)
  • Second home in Greece (plus jetty and boat)
  • Anti-ageing cure (non-negotiable)
  • Perfect work/life balance (can you imagine?)
  • Self replenishing/funded wardrobe (sponsored by the Parisian fashion houses)
  • Write that best seller (this must happen as I’ve four unfinished novels)
  • A cure for retinitis pigmentosa
  • Global warming to reverse
  • World peace

NB.  if The Oracle has any thing right, then I can tick a couple off.

Let’s discuss:

Obviously, you’d think the cure for RP would be my ultimate goal.  But is that what I’d really wish for over living a comfortable and happy life?

Back to the sun-bed revelations…I’m not being flippant and ungrateful, but the blindness thing I’ve decided I can now manage. This is the thing, the thing I’ve thought about the most…I don’t care like I did.  If the sight goes then I’ll manage.  You see, I’ll always have love and laughter, and blindness will not diminish my intelligence.  I am me.   My blindness, which, if truth be told, my mum noticed problems at the age of five.  I’ve been living with this all my life.  I just needed to get over it.

Why should it ever define me?

It won’t any longer.

This is what I know:

Well, people look, judge and stare.  They can do what they want but they’ll never have the magic beans I have.  That’s what I’ve learnt on my (always broken, it doesn’t matter which one I bloody pick) sun lounger: I’ll always have my friends and family; I’ll always have a brilliant life – it’s what I was born for; It’ll never be dull (see previous); I’ll forever have laughter and love because that’s what I surround myself with.

What do I need the most then?   Let’s get past the WISH LIST and in the words of the Lionel Richie himself ‘we’re gonna have a party’ and ‘Jambo Jambo’ (to experience this you need to attend Him’s bar where consumption of negroni and Peroni are essential).

Life is for the taking!  We need the good times…

But, for the other twenty three other hours of the day….

I fight back and grasp life .  It’s called bloody living and I enjoy my good and fulfilling life, unashamedly.

So, although it might be too late for me, help me raise money for others facing inherited sight loss.  All you need to do is bloomin’ well get your hand in your pocket and sponsor me for the Great North Run 2019:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/madramblings

Please keep us RP sufferers and our amazing community alive and support us wholeheartedly.

See you Sunday!

Mrs S xxxx

Bus Ramblings of a Blind Butterfly

A couple of weeks ago I needed to write this down so I didn’t forget.  You see, over the past few months my life has changed, well my outlook, so much, that I can’t risk losing what I’ve learnt.  But best laid plans and all that…it’s as I sit here on a ‘notsospeedyshuttle’ with blue neon lights and bouzouki music assaulting my ears (think pimped up ambulance for holiday makers), that I feel that it’s all the more important to contemplate the positive and embrace the beauty of life.

And no, my sharings have nothing to do with hot Greek islands.

So what mice upon a dark January day I collapsed and fell out of life.  It had been building for a while.  They’d been a desolate numbness about me which grew into a kind of claustrophobia; choking me.  I felt that life was grey and I was being smothered by the fog.  I craved the outside.  And no, not the world exactly (I couldn’t be around noise and people. This is something I’ve just had to endure to get me onto the pimped hellios ride).  Instead I felt an overpowering urge to lose myself in nature.  It turned out that being on the beach with the RDog began to heal my tattered and anxious soul.

The world can be a unfriendly place.  It’s hostile environment creating sheer drops and impassable rocky climbs to make it feel like you’re often pissing in the wind.  The weather (temperature, colour of the sky, rain wind speed…), the actual day (Saturday afternoon to Sunday night I felt perpetually sick.  Monday’s I couldn’t raise a smile) and the time (it’s too early, it’s too late. I want my duvet wrapped round me like a sausage roll always) would send me into panic and despair at many a point.  All spiralling the excuses of why I shouldn’t do something as easy as enjoying my world.

That’s right, all the shitty crap that I was going through meant that I couldn’t raise a genuine smile or warmth within my heart.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no cold hearted bitch, it was just that it felt dead inside for me.  The Fear being that if I felt happy or excited that some evil force would whip away my happiness with another hand.  For some reason I never felt I deserved happiness.

So where is happiness when you look for it?

I’ll tell you where – it’s everywhere.

Years ago I read The Color Purple.  Way before Whoopi immortalised Celie, I was struck with her ‘God is everywhere’ epiphany. The reasoning that he is in every flower, blade of grass, the sky etc. was the basis of her religious rhetoric, has stuck with me ever since.  And whilst I waited for my soul to regenerate and heal (it takes time, like growing a tree) I began to not only notice stuff around me but I felt it cocooning me in a gossamer of silk.  I became a chrysalis.  And like my premature Auntie B covered in cotton wool and lotion, seventy two years ago (my nana thought it was the scrumped apples and she didn’t know babies came from ‘there’), I grew stronger every day.

I marvelled at the beauty which surrounds us.  Obviously, I can’t see everything clearly (there’s five senses you know) but on a good day I notice the sheer brilliance of Mother Nature and how she created birds – the aerodynamics are miraculous wonders of evolution.  On many an inclement day I scan the empty horizon and see nothing but sea, sand and sky.  Miles and miles of an ever-changing landscape (daily) which reveals secrets of the sea and its precarious nature and force; showing us mere mortals how insignificant we are.

It’s like I’m Lady Macbeth’s alter ego.  Whereas she channels the devil, I have unwittingly absorbed something heavenly (I’ve purged the poison).

Claptrap you think?

Well, maybe I do sound a bit airy fairy.  And maybe you sense I’m going to start walking barefoot and extolling the virtues of free love (no, but I have bought some insense to charge different energies in my house).  But becoming a butterfly gives you wings (as does a Jagerbomb and then some).  It means I can not only see the world in all its technicolour but feel it too.  I’m learning to fill up my soul with happiness and close up the veins and arteries which absorb the poison of life’s negativity (drains we call them).

To say I’ve been tested over the past three weeks is an understatement.  Returning to work and a busy house has meant I’ve had to take deep breaths and remind myself what I’ve learnt (also the incense and some yoga has helped) And whilst packing all the bloody house and a kitchen sink, in readiness for our summer adventure, I’ve reflected upon my happiness.

We are tested.  It’s how we learn to roll with it…

The packing has been shite.

The day has been long (I’m still on pimp my ride).

The airport terrifying at times (including the airport being lit by emergency lighting with wires hanging from the ceiling).

Plus, having to find our ride in a dangerously busy (buses, buses moving everywhere!) and dark pick up point.

Do I care? No, I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be here.  And not just in the physical sense too.

I’m learning not to sweat it (fingers crossed for air con)

Warrior’s Stance

What makes a true warrior?  When you’re in the depths of training, there’s more than physical stamina which needs building, it’s the mental psyche that needs a push too.   Now I’m no solider serving for her Maj (patriotic salute), but I when my life became fight of flight, there was only one option.

It was 20 something degrees on Saturday morning and I was a woman on the edge of reason.  Yes, not only was I wearing big pants and a slick of lipgloss, but I was seriously sweating like Bridge Jones in the Bangkok jail, with no hope of escaping (I was very nearly in my bra too).

Quitting was not an option.  And this is why…

There have been many times I have felt like quitting in my existence.  Times where I have felt out of my depth and that I am struggling to tread water.  For example:  my first week of teaching.  I was literally thrown in at the deep end, off the coast of Ireland.  I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath in the deep black waters of the Atlantic Ocean; a shiver of sharks circling for my fresh meat.  Quitting was not an option, instead I focused, dug deep and powered on through.  A couple of weeks in and I began to hit my stroke and made the lengthy journey to America.  It takes time to cross the Atlantic.

It takes time to heal too.  To be successful is only possible when you look within yourself and face your fears.  Digging deep.  One defining moment for me was when the parcel delivery driver (all my shopping is online as shops have been a step too far…) asked me if I worked nights?  Being greeted by a bleary eyed sloth every day must have created a persona I neither lived or deserved.  I wasn’t even working.  My body had given up.  But, and this is the thing, a germ of survival wouldn’t let me give up.  It grew like a bacterial infection I neither desired or could fight.  I wanted to show her that I was normal.  Ultimately, it seems I was too weak to give in to my inner duvet hiding strength.

So where do we pull it from? I’m sure that there’s many of you who have been in similar situations: sink or swim as they say.  What makes you carry on and fight your way through?  Well mine was my family.  You see, you can’t quit when there’s people who rely on you can you?  Nearly twenty one years ago I gave birth to the Big E and from that day I knew there was no room for self pity and self destruction.  There’s a natural animal instinct which kicks in, and with time and rest, your head takes over the physical hurdles.  Being a mum means you have to be just that: a mum.  You might collapse behind closed doors but when they’re their, well, you function.

But that was then and this is now.

Going back into the workplace was always going to be tough.  My goodness, the very thought of the place used to make me feel sick and shake.  They say you should never look back to move forward.  However, sometimes it’s good to look back to see how far you’ve come.

Back to my Saturday run, quitting was never an option.  Tempting as it may have been to curl up and die next to a field (and no doubt be quickly covered in flies) my steely determination (I like being steely), has pulled me through.  Therefore, as temperatures soared, I more plodded, rather than powered on through.  Now don’t get me wrong, dehydration was getting to me.  When Him rang about the whereabouts of the Middle One (the morning after the prom and the all night field rave), I was preoccupied (she must have no battery left, she’ll be fine.  Now back to me) and begged for the rescue water team to come by in the ‘van’ with supplies.  And so, with the promise of a mobile water station and three kilometres to go, I used that inner steel and kept going…

Only, the knight in shining black van armour never materialised.  As I painfully reached the last kilometre, the temperature was pushing 24 and delirium set in.  What was I thinking?  But I knew I’d finally made it and as shoddy state as I was in, I was determined to finish.

Him arrived as I was turning onto our road.

‘Fifteen minutes’ I stated ‘what if I’d have collapsed and died?’

‘You didn’t’ he smiled and handed me the loveliest clearest, coldest litre of water I’ve ever set my ‘boob job/Botox money’ (mega money) eyes on.

‘Jump in and I’ll take you all of ten metres’.  My hero.

But I hadn’t quit.  I had ran my run and survived.  The fact I felt sick and like I had sunstroke didn’t matter – even having a wee wasn’t working.  I was alive and still, errrr, breathing.  All I needed was a massive ASDA shop to arrive (like I said delivery drivers are my new social circle).

Twenty minute later, after putting away the goods solo – only I wasn’t as the field raver was sleeping off field rave since 7am (what did I say about solely surviving for my family).

So…

After a long strong word with myself in the dark, I knew to survive, I had to toughen up and buy some kit.

My amazon basket was full (and remained so as my card was declined due to me using my lost card rather than my replacement.  Long story involving my middle one…).  In the mean time, before I found the correct card and awaited one of my new delivery friends (did you know that when they contact you they tell you their hobbies? Mine likes cooking and swimming)  I carried on through..,

And so I, literally, ran with it! I powered through Sunday and had an active rest Monday, with only a (I say only, my lovely instructor is a demon in Lycra disguise) barre class to strengthen and wonderfully relax to.

Quitting wasn’t an option either, when on Tuesday night, my complaining big mouth had got me into creating the playlist for spinning.  You see, when you create a very fast and eclectic list, you’re to be prepared to both a) suffer, and b) take the heat full on – Kylie’s locomotion? Both iconic and genius if you ask me! (And that’s what I get for slating his Cher on nineties week).

The mountain climb paid off tonight though (as did the Amazon order), as I ran my fastest 10K this season!

This week has been tough (and it’s only hump day).  Back to work and sweaty hot training schedule.  And don’t even mention the family…

Looking back, looking at that person who could no longer feel. Well.  That person has been left at the bottom of the mountain, or on that coast of the Emerald Isle, as my starting analogy took you to.  I’m fighting through the toughest terrain, or blackest, inhospitable depths of the mighty ocean.  But I’m surging and feeling good.

Maybe this warrior is winning her war.

I’m running the Great North Run on Sunday 8th September for Retina Uk.

If you would like to donate to this warrior, then sponsor me here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/madramblings

Cow

Cow [noun]

  1. A sweaty, hairy female animal, which swats flies with its tail.
  2. An informal term for a mean mouthed woman (see also bitch)
  3. The title of a rather funny book by @hotpatooties

Translations:  For those of you who are EAL or studying an additional language: vache, αγελάδα, or, krowa.  In the terms of inserting the Polish noun into a sentence ‘krowa’, it could be used in the following ‘Straciłem moją krowę’ – I have lost my cow (notice the change of the vowel as it belongs to someone).

Cows are udderly beautiful in the respect that they push out their young and pump out litres of fresh milk, all with now fuss.  The original vegans, they are the earth mothers, hippies, the most chilled of the farm.  As humans, we rely on these animals and suck them dry like greedy babies.  They never complain and are the ultimate symbol of Mother Nature.  However, as with everything in life, some others like to spoil this image by negating it with definition 2.  Using these beautiful serene animals as a way to ‘call’ a female is insulting to the ‘vache’ instead of looking at it positively, where could be actually seen as a compliment.

N.B.  some females fuel this negatively with little ‘cliques’ and lack of understanding.  They give cows a bad name (See also ‘bitches’ because Rosie Dog is s ‘bitch’ and she is beautiful and loving)

Cows also like to hang out in a herd.  They like company and a good ‘moo’ with each other.   Their chats resonate across lush green meadows full of cow shite (we all do it) and make us feel relaxed and at one with nature.  You could say that when they’re ‘cowing’ in a field, they are on a catch up wine night.  They are like the loose woman of the farmyard.  They are all working mothers who love their bodies, embrace the curves and don’t care if they’ve got three stomachs.  They are real women.

I am a cow.

Well, if I was to tell you that my current state is generally definition 1.  You might wonder why? Maybe you’ve not seen me for a while, maybe you don’t know me?  At present you might think I’m still breastfeeding my eleven year old, that I’m putting on weight, I’ve developed a coating of fur and that I’m rather smelly.  Whatever the case ‘cow’ connotes an image.  But, to save you the time and thinking, I can tell you that it might have something to do with being deep in training in the middle of June (you can decide what of the aforementioned fits me).

Monday’s 10K

After a tense 36 hours, I needed to run.  The fact it was 22 degrees didn’t phase me as my other option was to cheerfully kill someone.  Therefore, I got run ready and braved the bizarre elements of heat and an overcast sky threatening of rain.

Very quickly the sweat began to pour.  This I like.  Call me weird but it’s instant gratuity to feel all the crap pouring out of one’s pores.  After a meat fuelled barbecue on Sunday (I don’t even like meat), I felt like I was purging myself (the cow in me was reclaiming the vegan),  The run was bringing the body out of the red and into the black.  So, even though the heat was on, all was good.  It wasn’t until the third kilometre things got full on…

Dirty black filthy flies buzzed around my head, like the pig on stick in Golding’s dystopian tale (How on earth did he manage to write that whilst teaching? He actually wrote the thing at his desk!  I barely have time to do a register).  I had to think quick.  Flies are Hell to me, my room 101.  I don’t say this lightly either as all God’s creature ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ (wedding hymn nearly 16 years ago), are precious.  And as hard it is digging deep to love those pesky mice who keep infiltrating the home, I can’t even think about harming anything that breathes (I do realise this contradicts my earlier statement about ‘cheerfully killing’ but you don’t have a family like mine…).  Therefore, my chosen plan of attack was my ponytail.  I swished it like a jersey cow and found it did little to get rid of the blighters but it kept my mind off them whilst I swished to the music and it felt almost liberating like a little girl skipping without a care in the world.

There I was, sweating the fat out (my boob sweat patches made me look like I was needing milking) swishing flies and with only Jeremy Vine and Stephen Fry for company.

I feel the need to discuss running sounds at this juncture (my spinning instructor should take note of this, there’s no Cher, Backstreet Boys, or McFly)

Obviously I have to make sure my running sounds are both entertaining and mind stimulating.  After all, they say cows are intelligent, thus proving my point that whilst training, I not only like my Spotify (cows like music too), but some hot debates on The  ‘Vine’ show (I had to really dig deep when Boris was mentioned but I powered through up the Fry and what a treat!). I digress…

There I was, four kilometres in and I decided (as it began to spit), that I’d run further – as you do when it threatens a thunder storm (do cows go under trees?).  So, I changed direction, lost the flies and felt good about the world.

On the fifth kilometre, I gained another colony of the little pukers – did you know they’re sick on everything they land on?  And found myself mid debate on dental problems in the elderly (as much as I supported this, it was gruesome listening to overgrown gums etc. when you’re fighting the equivalent of a ‘plague of locusts’ at the gates of Hades).

Like a super runner in an ultra (yeah right!) I made it to my half way point, sent a picture to my running guide and turned, experiencing all the previous issues in reverse order; other than The Vine, who had moved onto the debate about seagulls holding people hostage in their properties (again, is the world ending? My other animal fear is things with feathers and wings).  I powered through and made it home in good time.

Being a cow gave me power.  The thought of being bovine made me finish strong.  To be a cow is a symbol of femininity  and honour.  These domestic, Trojan creatures are the backbone of what it is to be a woman.  The tragedy is they don’t get to choose and they have no voice.  They symbolise women one hundred years ago – a group of beings being controlled by man for their own gains.  Therefore, you need to understand the following:

We should all be embracing the cow in us, overcoming hurdles and barriers and breaking through to show the world how it’s done.  It’s about the mindset and not the image (take note Love Islanders).

And for that reason we need to step away from the negative.  If you feel yourself living up to the ‘derogatory’ stereotype, ask yourself why?  Remember how wonderful cows are and how they don’t deserve the negative press.  If you’re afraid that you’re swerving into definition 2, it’s never too late to change.  Find your inner cow and my last piece of advice: nie trać swojej krowy.

I’m running the Great North Run on Sunday 8th September for Retina Uk.

If you would like to donate to this old cow (it’s my least favourite day today as I’m another year older) then sponsor me here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/madramblings

My Humbled Footprint

One of the big questions in life is ‘why are we here?’ , very deep, very intense, and too much to consider on a sleepless (the birds are up but not much else) Monday morning.  So why am I even considering this soul searcher then? Well, it’s more about the footprint we leave…

Seventy five years ago hundreds of thousands of young, able bodied and incredibly brave men, descended upon the Normandy beaches, in an incredible push to free Europe from Hitler’s fascist regime.  Thousands died and many more were injured.  Some had been present four years previous, when the allied forces faced a bloody retreat from the beaches of Dunkirk…Imagine, all those men; the nervous energy.  They’d have made hasty coded goodbyes, sought peace with God, and savoured final flings with sweethearts…most of them younger than my eldest.

Last week’s anniversary commemorations sparked a wave of stories, letters and poems, all evoking a sense of pride and humility in oneself.  Even the pacifists amongst us are well aware of the horrors that had to be endured to provide a freer world and future for all.  Brave and afraid, those men had no choice, but they did have a plan. And when you plan well, well you can’t possibly fail.

One of the things they had to do was overcome adversity – adverse weather, conditions and enemy fire.  Everything needed to be planned precisely.  Decoy messages were passed and paratrooper dummies were dropped in elaborate hoaxes to fool the Germans.  Bizarre tanks were created called ‘Hobart’s funnies’, which were the tank equivalent of a Swiss Army knife – there was nothing they could not do.  Whole communities were turfed out of villages so secret training could be given to the troops…All this monumental  preparation and meticulous planning could not control the weather or influence, or predict, the enemies’ reaction.  However, what we could include was the knowledge of our resilience in the face of arrogance.

Much was written about the arrogance of the Americans who saw themselves as the white charger coming to rescue us useless Brits from annihilation – but what is less known is the way they very quickly learnt to respect us and admire us for the way we had just carried on through such adversity.  A relationship was formed on respect.  Therefore, whilst our men bobbed around and waited for two days, in the English Channel, for ‘a typical cloudy June dawn (just look at it out there today), a low tide and a full moon, to propel them towards the beaches…Hitler was sleeping soundly (no one dare wake him to inform him of the raids).  His top general was making a flying visit from France to Germany, to present his wife with a pair of shoes, for her 50th birthday (most people didn’t even have shoes in Paris by this point).  And thousands of German troops were tricked by the aforementioned decoys.

Our men were valiant and overcame, on what Is now known as ‘The Longest Day’. You cannot fail to be humbled by our heroes – many fallen.  But, these men weren’t gods.  They were mortals with faults and flaws and regrets…they all had a shared purpose though.  They fought for love, life and liberty.

We all have our own battles and I’ve often said that we need to be mindful that others are probably fighting something of their own, there’s always someone worse off, etc.  But our journeys aren’t easy.  Very often when we are faced with adversity, our determination pulls us through.  I’ve spent years overcoming obstacles.  I’ve naturally find ways to cope with degenerative sight loss.  Something I could do even five years ago isn’t possible now.  However, I’ve found ways round it.  You just do don’t you?  But, sitting down and assessing what I ‘do’ to actually ‘do’, is another matter entirely.  Just like ‘Hobart’s Funnies’ I’ve had to use weird and wonderful inventions to enable me to succeed.  My latest product is (I’m sorry to my good friend Karl here as it appears there’s another way rather than burning your fingers) a liquid level tester.  You basically stick it on your tea cup and it bleeps and vibrates when liquid reaches it.  No more spilt water (our burnt fingers).  My mum (and Him as his nose is bigger than Rosie Dog’s) has been helping me ‘assess my life as a blindish girl’.  We’ve been breaking down everyday tasks and looking what I do to succeed.  Mum said (when we’d discussed the fact I need supervision taking hot things out of the oven and the fact I can’t see boiling water) ‘but nobody would believe that this clever woman who uses other senses to succeed, needs supervision’.  That’s it though isn’t it – in the face of adversity we endeavour to succeed.(Something I need to be mindful of whilst training through the current deluge).

So, back to the original question ‘Why are we here?’.  Well, our men were here seventy five years ago, to pave the way for a freer world.  There footprint, like their fathers and grandfathers, thirty years previous, should never be forgotten.  We should take from them the message of respect, bravery, and steely resolve, to build ourselves a good future.  We should never waste what they gave us.  ‘Therefore, how do we do that? Well, let’s ask ‘Why am I here now?’, me personally, my journey is difficult and arduous, but it’s nothing compared to what others have to battle.  But, as I said it’s about my footprint and that’s something I want to leave firmly behind for my family to build upon.  Who knows what the scary future holds, but my sight won’t be holding me back.

As long as someone can supervise me.

Keep Smiling. Keep Running…

Bumps in the road (those policemen always trip me up), nasty hillocks on a trail run, and 100m hurdles, which are bad for short people like myself – these things are all sent to test us.  So that’s why, after three attempts (you’re reading number four), this ramble has taken some doing.

After a run up to sunshine and happier times, as usual, life doesn’t really get any easier.  But no, this isn’t about searching for sympathy, more about how we have to overcome life’s little curveballs.  Or, if you’re like me, life’s massive asteroids…

I’ve now lost the sight in my left eye.  Thankfully, we all think it’s temporary.  We think that the MoominTroll has shared his shitty cold with me.  Hours of NahNah Jah (yes that’s me.  Him wanted to be Grandchacha so I wasn’t going to be the boring one) resulting in the moon faced one sharing his infected snot and tears with me.  It appears I’m back at wandering seemingly drunkenly with the RDog upon the shore.  Yesterday’s stroll was an interesting stumble across the sand, where I repeatedly fell in sandy troughs and well dug holes.  Furthermore, I can’t wear my sunnies and this means the glare makes it run even more; more so than the nasty swollen mess Him awoke to on Thursday morning, with horror and shock (he will probably sleep in a different room if it continues).  Therefore, I’m currently back to square one and hope it’s a temporary blip.

His royal majesty continued with his gifts when a one eyed JahJah was put in charge of the moon face mini Phil Mitchell (in a polo with his chubby neck – wos’ going on?).  He continued with his sweet sharing nature, by doing a ‘roly poly’ poo change and smearing said poo on my shorts and top.

And Nan has once again defied the doctors and has pulled through a second hip replacement, pneumonia and her ailing heart keeps going.  But that’s another story …

Before these unfortunate events, things had been on the onwards and upwards trajectory.  Training was going well until the crusty slit eye revealed its witchy self, plans were being made for the future – one I couldn’t see myself in six months ago, and new doors were opened and mysteries being solved.

You see, training is scary.  I’m trying to run 7K a day at the minute.  However, it takes me a while to leave the house.  Old anxieties and feeling ‘on parade’ on the parade, mean I have to build myself up.  Once out, I feed off the buzz, like I once did at the nineties raves.  But then I struggle to see bollards.  Holiday makers are, well, bloody blockers as they walk five a side along the path.  Then I stumble on some stupid hump or hole (that could be a new game) – who put that there? (Problems that only started last summer).  Nan’s dramas meant a lengthy time at the hospital (good job it’s s steep walk up top of a Warburton’s Yorkshire hill) and the fact that (temporally) I’m too blind to run, means my plans have gone awry and I feel like my arse ‘is the size of a small country’.  Therefore, I’m currently spinning for my life and silently panicky about a) the schedule, and b) the bikini body.

Part of my future planning has been health, fitness and that bikini body.  Happy fitness endorphins are what have kept the black dog from swallowing me up.  Also, creating a rainbow on my plate means I’m getting fully loaded (we wanna get loaded and do what we wanna do!) with all the vitamins I require (no beige please, it does nothing for me and drains me of colour / food, furniture and clothing), both mean I’m constantly thinking about body and mind.  Then there is the other reason – who wants to see a ‘that’ jumping off a boat into the sea (think Shirley Valentine – ‘he kissed my stretch marks’).  It does also need noting that a summer adventure was something I couldn’t have contemplated a few months ago.  After the year we’ve had/having, we’ve decided life’s too bloody short (not actually had an opportunity to holiday hunt due to above issues).  But not only that, we’ve all decided that it is time for me to be released back out of captivity.  So like a baby lion, I’m being taught how to fend for myself by attending a ‘Living With Sight Loss’ (LWSL) course.

Now those of you who know me will realise that the thought of such a thing makes me want to cut my ears off so I can’t listen to such shenanigans and talk.  But, learning to be a grown up, partially sighted woman, I had to fully pull up my big girl pants and attend…

So I did.

And wow! I was not expecting that!

After a shaky start where I was strong armed by Jim into an witless room, it started to get better after the formal round robin intros you always have to do at these things (can I just say at this point Him loves a training day unlike me who can’t stand them).  And without boring you all too much with information about white canes, how you know when your guide dog is having a poo and how to pick it up, and gadgets which talk to you (you wouldn’t bloody believe it!), I want to talk about the penny dropping moments when I thought – oh my god that’s me!.  And the bits where I thought ‘twenty years and I never knew that!’.  Revelations were abound and I found an app that reads texts, colours, faces and handwriting for me (very unkind on the ageing on the faces but brill for tricky writing to decipher).  The app is free for anyone and is worth a look if you get eye strain in general.  It’s called ‘seeing AI’.  However, as I was the only one who had technology and not a ‘dumb phone’ (seriously, I’m informed that’s what my mother et als. text and talk phones are called) I was the only one messing about with it (TBF I did plenty of messing with the canes, lights and pens too).  But, we (my sexagenarian plus gang and us) had a jolly interesting and good time.   We all learnt so much about our own private battles and hilarious stories.  We discussed hurdles and how to overcome them.  We all felt braver as a result.  It’s amazing what you can achieve by talking and this is why…

So, in a nutshell, here it is: I’m thousands out of pocket due to unclaimed benefits (not just the DWP ones, trains, planes and mobile phones…), I could have been fast tracked through airports ALL THESE YEARS (I’ve paid, paid many a time…), and I’m not mad.  Seriously, I’m not mad.  Have I ever told you about the hallucinations?? Floating women walking dogs on the beach, brick walls, things jumping out at me and random inanimate objects moving, I’ve see it all.  I always felt it was to do with having some shite vision, taking tablets, and being dog-tired from the treadmill of life.  But no, it’s not that and I’m not ready to be carted off (it’s only if these things talk to you or smell).  In fact, it’s something called Charles Bonnet syndrome https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/charles-bonnet-syndrome/a condition which is to do with sight loss and the brain’s reaction.  Imagine my face when the lovely lady from the blind society began discussing a lecture she recently attended – ‘that’s me!’ I exclaimed.

We agreed it’s good to talk.  Otherwise how would we know?

So, on the time it’s taken me to write this (it’s like been running with severe cramp), I’ve reconstructed the shaky self into someone who is ready to take Monday by the horns,  the eye looks much improved and Him has kept me entertained for the past two hours with old raving videos (is that still the word?) on YouTube.

We have to see the obstacles in our way as an assault course.  To overcome is to be successful.  To keep going shows tenacity and to do it smiling shows that the dark days are lifting,

Check out my JustGiving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/Madramblings

And sponsor me to stumble around Newcastle for https://retinauk.org.uk/

A Girl’s BestFriend

It’s been Mental Health Awareness Week and I want to begin this diatribe with talking about my dog.  Those who hate dog parents (yes, I’m proud of what I am) talking incessantly about their fluffy children (new parents aren’t nearly as bad they say), please bear with me.  If you’re a cat person, rat keeper or not keen on canines in general (there’s that quote ‘the more I meet people, the more I love my dog’), then you still need to keep reading.  You see, I believe my Rosie Dog has saved my life more than once.

Rosie the Wonder Dog, Rosalina, Sausage and Pudfibg Face, bounded into our lives in November 2016.  A bandy black and white liver-faced bundle of fun, who literally knocked us all for six (she knocked me over at such a force, I smashed my face so badly that it looked like I’d been beaten up).  A ‘Lennie’ among dogs; breaking everything is her crazy path (my glasses), yet petrified of stairs and her own reflection in the glass, Rosie the Puppy-Dog forced her way into our affections.  The baby whirlwind melted our hearts and barged her way into our tidy home.

Rosie became ours because she needed us and we needed her.  We were united at a time where she was lacking a home and we were reeling from a time, which felt like we were walking over Flanders after the Armistice (our garden also began to resemble the fields too).  Her need for our attention made us leave the house on cold and wintery days; embracing the great outdoors.  And, as she started to sneakily creep, like our love for her, into our living room (she’s going to live in the hall), into our beds (no way am I having a dog in my bedroom, in fact, she’s not even allowed upstairs), she became our baby – my favourite child, and I became her dog kissing mummy (I swore I’d never call myself this).

Within a short space of time, we realised that Rosie’s faithfulness, love, affection and cuddles, were the greatest medicine.  She has this sixth sense where she can tell when you’re not right.  If you cry she sits on your knee and tries to lick your tears.  If you’re poorly she won’t leave your side.  And, as we speak, she’s sitting lovingly beside the MoominTroll, who has just developed chicken pox.

Her most recent life saving role involved making me get out of bed and onto the beach.  In the dark days, she needed me as much as I needed her.  She cuddled me, walked miles with me and showed me such unshakeable love, that the family rechristened her the ‘Therapy Dog’.  You see, she’s got the softest and kindest nature.  All she’s ever had is a houseful of love and that’s taught her to reciprocate it.  She’s done that in spades.

Roaming with Rosie has helped me feel safe.  It’s given me confidence and helped with the loneliness and isolation that depression can bring.  She’s also given me time to reflect and think.  The miles trekked have cleared my head and made me realise that time is a great healer.  She’s slowed me down (not when she’s pulling me in the sea) and made me take things in their stride.

When you go through a life changing situation, it’s important to stop worrying about the future.  The mountain appears insurmountable and the peak out of reach.  So taking one step at a time with the RDog has enabled me to begin to shed some of the worry weight (she’s also lost weight and the vet is super impressed with her current physique).

And if I think back, there was a time that I couldn’t turn the sound of in my head.  It buzzed constantly.  An ongoing chatter of anxiety and worry made for bouts of insomnia and made me feel like I couldn’t escape.  I couldn’t see a future beyond the mess I was in.  Healing with Rosie has calmed my brain.  I feel excited about the way forward and no longer feel anxious that it’s all going to go wrong (well that’s a lie but it’s not nearly as bad).  Today we went for a training run (she’s no guide dog as I had a stumble) and I thought ‘How would I like to be remembered?’.  Now, let’s get this straight, I’m in no way wanting it all to end, instead I realised that I don’t want to be hashtagged #RIPwomanwhowprkedreally hardandneverdawherfamilyandfriends, or #RIPblindlady, or even being forgotten because I’ve spent the remainder of my life hiding.  Instead I wish to be celebrated as being someone who was loved, who achieved great things for others and herself, and to have ‘Dame’ on my obituary would be a bonus too.

Diet, exercise, family, friends, kind words, holding hands, kisses, prayers, angels, elephants, Buddhas, white feathers, horoscopes, numerology, music, laughter…are all ingredients to help you mend.  But, the biggest piece of advice I can give you, if you are feeling like you need saving is to get a furry friend.  They listen, keep you company and show you an uncomplicated love.

Have a fabulous week!

#thedogwalkingbaglady

Follow my journey with Rosie, by sponsoring me for The Great North Run 2019, in aid of Retina Uk, at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/madramblings