Monday 1 April 2024

Disney you say...

So how did my love (some may call it obsession) of Disney come about?

When I think back Disney has always just 'been there' in my life. I remember as a child growing up in the UK we would watch 'Disney Time' a movie clip compilation show that would appear on the TV at special times of the year. 

I have a vague memory of one of my very first trips to the cinema being to watch 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', although I can't be sure this was during its initial cinematic release as I would have only been about 4 years old. But growing up in the 1970's and 1980's Disney was simply a part of the pop culture we were exposed to.

I very recently re-discovered an album that I still own to this day and which was probably bought for me as a child, it's dated 1975.

Then in November of 1990 during a trip to London we made a point of visiting the then brand new Disney Store on Regent Street; it had only opened that month and was the first Disney Store outside of the US. I have this photo of me wearing the Mickey ears that we had bought. I remember them being of a very hard, shiny plastic and that they dug into my head so hard it meant wearing them for anymore than a few minutes just wasn't doable! Oh how times, and ears, have changed!

Then in 1991 Simon and I made our first trip to Orlando, Florida which was kind of by accident. We had originally intended to go on vacation with my parents who were planning a trip to Austria but I'd gotten the dates mixed up and had booked the wrong weeks off from work. It was also the time of the Gulf war and the rumours were that flights to the US were 'going cheap' so we decided to take advantage and book a Florida vacation. However, when we came to make the booking we soon found out that the rumours of cheap flights were just that, rumours! But as we had chosen where we wanted to go we decided to book the vacation anyway staying in a hotel on International Drive.

On 30th July 1991 we made our way to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for the very first time and stepping onto Main Street USA I just knew I was 'home'.
Taken 30th July 1991, waiting for the fireworks.
Since then there have been numerous trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris, one trip to Disneyland, one Disney cruise and Simon has been lucky enough during work trips to visit Tokyo Disney Resort. I have lots of books and memorabilia, handbags, clothes and just the odd one or two Disney themed tattoos! Oh and I co-host a Disney theme parks podcast with my very good friend Michelle, called the Disney Dream Girls.

So yes Disney plays a big part in my life and I think it always will. 

There is something in the ethos of Walt Disney and the company that he created that draws you in. But it is still hard to explain what it is exactly that drives this love of all things Disney and the indiscernible magic that it creates. It's in the story telling, the attention to detail, the characters, the customer service, the ability to leave the real world behind for a little while and for everyone no matter what age or background to enjoy something together. 

Some will look at Disney and the theme parks and assume it's 'just for kids' but it is so much more than that. And to use a quote attributed to Walt himself from the opening of Disneyland in 1955, and then immortalised in plaques at both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom...'here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy'...oh and remember 'adults are only kids grown up anyways'!

Thursday 21 March 2024

What to write...

What to write about...where do I begin?

After such a long hiatus from writing this blog I wonder if it's time I reintroduced myself? After all the person I was in 2012 when I started the blog is different from the person sitting here at the keyboard today...if only by the fact that I'm twelve years older, two stone (28 pounds) lighter and I'd like to say wiser, but who knows!

So here goes... name is Jayne. I find myself just entering the second half of my 50's and am very blessed to be retired, married to my best friend of nearly 39 years, we have a couple of amazing grown-up kids and somewhere along the way I developed a love of Disney.

It was that love of Disney that initially gave me the idea to write a blog, I wanted to share that love along with the knowledge and experiences that I'd gathered over the years. I also wanted to share my Disney daydreaming as I looked forward to, and planned for, my Disney vacations. But as the years rolled on and circumstances changed so did the topics that I decided to write about.

Disney will always be apart of who I am and something I will always want to write about but there are now other topics that I am passionate about that I would like to share. The transition from a working mum to a retiree. My personal health and well being journey that started in 2014 and is still ever evolving. A love of Star Wars that has grown and evolved through cosplay adventures and a new family of friends. A sense of discovering who this new retired version of me could be and what interests and adventures are out there that I have not yet even thought of!

I am extremely fortunate that in the last couple of months my partner in crime, my husband Simon, has joined me in this retirement malarkey and we are navigating this change to our lives together. We are beginning to make plans for the year (and years) ahead and are looking to make the most of the time that we have in front of us. It is taking a little getting used to but one that we are thoroughly enjoying.

We have a few travel plans booked, some cosplay events for this year are beginning to get scheduled, I have a weekly podcast that I co-host called the Disney Dream Girls and Simon has numerous art and prop making projects on the go. And within all of that we try to keep ourselves as fit and as active as possible so that we can continue to enjoy the time we have, for as long as we can and in the best shape that we can be so that life can be lived to its fullest.

So let's see where this journey is going to take us!

Friday 15 March 2024

It's Been a While...'s been more than a while since my fingers graced the keyboard to write a blog post (almost a year in fact) and I have no excuses. Although I'm sure I could come up with a few if pressed!

And even this blog post was initially started months ago, and several times over...I kept adding to it on occasion and then...well....yeah!

Like I said no excuses but I definitely need to figure out what I want to do with this blog and how I see it moving forward. 

When I started this blog way back in 2012 (wow that surprised me!) it was to chat about my love of Disney and going to the parks with a little bit of everyday life thrown in for good measure. Over the years I've spoken about various Disney vacations, my love of Christmas, tattoos, Star Wars and my approach to healthy living. Some years I've generated lots of posts and then others not so much.

Then we encountered the this was an unprecedented (a much overused word at the time!) event I decided to document the whole kerfuffle. I started on Thursday 19th March 2020 and documented every day up until the 29th August astounding 893 days! It started as a way to record the events of early 2020 and rolled into an online diary as the world that we knew suddenly became very different and took an inordinate amount of time to get back to anything like the 'normal' we knew before! But at 893 days I decided that the world was as 'normal' as it was ever likely to get and I simply needed a break from daily posting.

By the time we approached Christmas of 2022 I was missing the 'diary' that I'd inadvertently created and started to keep an old fashioned, personal diary, albeit using the power of Google Docs. There was no way I was going to be completely old fashioned and handwrite it as I know how bad my writing has become over the years! And pretty much every day since 19th December 2022 I have documented my daily life...but this time just for me.

So where does that leave this blog?

I think I want to start posting more often and post about those 'things' that are important to me, as was the original intention. 

Back in October 2020 I hit a bit of a hurdle with my writing and at the time I drafted a blog post that I never's some of what I wrote back then when we were still in the midst of the 'pandemic'...

'My decision to write was purely a selfish one; to record what was happening in my life, how the world events were affecting me and those close to me as well as from time to time chance for me to vent and express my own opinions as to what was happening and the why and the wherefore. I also like writing and it was something that I had wanted to do more of for quite a while and so 'keeping a diary' was a good excuse for me to stretch my writing muscles.

Like I said this wasn't started for any specific reason, it wasn't started to find fame or fortune or to find recognition. It was for me, by me and if anyone else wanted to read them then that was fine and if they liked what they were reading then that was a bonus.

But recently my confidence in writing took a bit of a knock...I lost my writing mojo so to speak. My writing was questioned and no doubt my writing about it being questioned will also get questioned but I am not going to let any other opinions out there stop me from doing what I want and writing about what I want, that is personal to me in a forum that I have chosen to write in.

I have been told that the manor in which I write reveals more about me than I reveal in person...does it? I don't know, I can't possibly know because I am not aware that the person I appear to be in person is any different to the person that is writing this. I will admit to not being the most talkative person and that sharing some things can be a challenge for me and so perhaps writing it down, without judgement or interruption, is easier for me.

I have been told that the manor in which I write is opinionated and aggressive; two words that I would never have associated with myself. Yes I have opinions on a variety of subjects but that is not the same as being opinionated, the definition of which is 'characterised by conceited assertiveness and dogmatism'. I like to think that I can recognise that everyone has their own views of the world and while I will always try to impart whatever knowledge I may have I know that there will always be disagreements and different thought processes and that is fine. I have always said that I will not foster my views on others providing they do the same with me. We have to accept that we will not all think the same and that is fine, it's what makes us all individuals, after all it would be no fun if we were all the same. I strive to accept that I will not always be right, that I am open to information that may change my understanding and therefore my opinion. We have to accept that change will happen, it may not be always what we want but it will happen and we need to find a way to embrace and accept it to be able to move on and change and adapt ourselves.

Aggressive; now I don't wish to sound conceited but I have never thought myself to be an aggressive person, in fact I have been accused in the past of being too laid back. I may be passionate about things that I hold dear and if my passion has been interpreted as being aggressive then I can only apologise. There may have been times over the last 220 plus days that I have attempted to express my frustrations or anger at situations, often situations that are too big for me to have any impact on or any control over and again being aggressive was never my intention.' yeah that was October 2020 and if I am honest I think this has stayed with me for longer than I'd realised. I think it stopped me from always being as open and as honest as I wanted to be. It had me censoring myself and worrying about what others would think as opposed to just writing whatever I wanted.

So whilst keeping my 'pandemic diary' for 893 days was certainly an achievement and recorded a time that I could never have imagined we would experience, I do wonder how much of what I wrote was just for recordings sake rather than completely from the heart?

Moving forward I think I will endeavour to get my writing mojo flowing again, to be able to write from my heart and be open and honest and most importantly to write because I want to and because it means something to me.

Yes I will write about Disney, yes I will write about Star Wars, yes I will write about good eating and if you want to read along then great I'll be happy to have you here but if it's not for you then that's fine too.

As we used to say back in the day when we had just a handful of TV channels 'if you don't like what's on either change the channel or switch off the telly; no-one is making you watch it'. I think the same applies here, have a read and if you like it hang around but if not then simply move along. 

Let's see where this takes us...I just have to figure out what to write about first!

Friday 31 March 2023

Overdue Blog Post - Part Three!

Wow, so I finally have the time and space to get writing again and find myself approaching the end of March having not written anything since early January - whoops!

Luckily for me I have been keeping a diary of sorts and so have a pretty good idea of what I've been up to but am wondering how best to either summarise or move on from my last post. Which I think means this will be more of an overview and perhaps there will be separate posts focusing on some of the happenings over the last few months.

Plus I need to figure out a way to get back into writing more often...perhaps I need to go back to my diary type posts that I did over the preceding couple of years...something to think about!

But let's get back to the job at hand and try and summarise what's been happening of late.

So, where were we...ah yes Christmas! This year (or should that be last year?) was different to our usual routine of years gone by. This was the first Christmas since my dad had passed and that meant the first Christmas for Simon and I without any of our parents and while that brought about its own set of emotions it also meant that we had only ourselves to please. Which meant we were able to mix things up a little!

Molly and Dan were spending Christmas at their home, having spent the previous year with us, so we decided to travel down to see them instead. This resulted in us making the journey to Bournemouth on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day) for a few days before returning to celebrate the New Year at home.

I'd realised as we approached Christmas that ordinarily after having the big Christmas Day meal we would make use of any leftover food on Boxing Day...but as we wouldn't be home on Boxing Day this meant a change of plan. As Ethan's birthday is on Christmas Eve we decided to have our big Christmas dinner for his birthday instead and then make Christmas Day a very relaxed affair with presents and leftover food, which worked out beautifully. It was so nice to be able to enjoy the unwrapping of presents and have a very chilled out day as opposed to the usual slaving away in the kitchen! Plus because there was only the three of us it meant that cooking on Christmas Eve wasn't the big ordeal that it would have been compared to previous years. Oh and of course birthday celebrations in this house meant it was Mickey waffle time!

We had a lovely few days in Bournemouth even though the weather was rather soggy. We were able to exchange presents, enjoy some lovely meals, do lots of walking interspersed with coffees and even a little ice skating. Although on this occasion Simon decided to forgo the skating as it was very, very wet and joined me and Ethan in watching Molls and Dan enjoy themselves on the ice.

On the 29th December we travelled home with Molls and Dan making the journey as well so that we had a few days with all of us at home. We were able to make use of the outdoor skating rink in Nottingham that this year had an elevated 'skate path'...

Nottingham's Skate Path, above the Christmas market

...and when I saw 'we' I do of course mean Molls, Dan and Simon. I watched from afar and then went off in search of coffee and a little retail therapy. We saw the New Year in as a family with an array of board games and a lovely 'big' meal on New Years Day.

But by January 3rd the house was very quiet; Molls and Dan had gone back home to Bournemouth and Ethan was back at work. That left Simon and I with a couple of days to get the house back to 'normal' as we embarked on the horrible task of taking down and putting away of all the Christmas decorations; I love all my Christmas 'stuff' and hate having to put it all away. It actually took us about three days to put everything away with the majority being done by yours truly once Simon returned to work.

Well with Christmas and New Year done lets move onto January.

We started to get back into our routine of early morning (and rather chilly) walks followed by our Wim Hof breathing and a little meditation. Cold showers have now become the 'norm' for both Simon and I and these have continued regardless of what we have been up to. Unfortunately after getting back into our stride with the morning walks we had to take a little bit of a break as I suffer with chilblains on my left foot and once aggravated it becomes uncomfortable to walk on for extended periods and only gets worse if my feet get cold. So with a spell of very chilly weather we took a bit of a break from our walks.

Through January I was dealing with the sale of my dads house as we had signed all the necessary paperwork just before Christmas and it was now a case of working with solicitors to get everything done as speedily as possible.

We also started making some headway with our Jedi robes ready for Star Wars Celebration at Easter. And of course when I say 'we' I actually mean Simon, and his focus was on making some leather pouches for our belts to house our mobile phones. He also mastered the technique of metal casting by using pewter to make the buckles for our belts. 

For my part I had to order some different trousers as the fit on the pair I'd originally ordered was a little snug. And then there was an awful lot of research into the correct material to order for the outer cloak...something that was of the right dark brown colour and that was also of a heavy, wool like material. Suffice to say I think I went cross eyed looking at all the different options out there.

By the end of January we had found a local dressmaker that was willing (and excited) to help us with the technical aspect of putting the tunic/tabard section of the robes together. But I think I will go into more detail about our Jedi robes in a separate post!

We tried to get out for our morning walks again when the weather eased but no sooner than we had got back into the routine the weather turned rather cold again so we resigned ourselves to just get out as and when we could.

As we moved through January I was focused on getting more things removed from my dads house in readiness for the sale going through, along with the subsequent organising of Ebay sales. And my involvement with pre-school continued as we looked at the ongoing finances as well as a potential change in charitable status; so lots of research and a fair few meetings over numerous cups of coffee.

Ethan is still trying to find himself a house and we managed a viewing of one, but it was not quite what he was after,  and he had another couple of viewings cancelled at the last minute. First time buyer houses seem to go rather quickly once they get on the market - oh well just got to keep on looking.

And I think that covers January, so I will stop here and get writing the next post!

Friday 13 January 2023

Overdue Blog Post - Part Two!

So we pick up this blog post from the middle of November 2022 and something we had not done since the early Summer.

Every few months we venture into Nottingham to spend an afternoon drawing; life drawing to be precise. Our friend, and burlesque performer, Scarlett Daggers runs an event called Dr Sketchy's that takes place above a pub in Nottingham and is aimed at artists of all levels. And because Scarlett is a burlesque performer the models are always from the world of burlesque and cabaret and we are even treated to a performance from one of the models.

Suffice to say Simon is able to produce some wonderful art work using his digital drawing tablet while I on the other hand stick to paper and pencil!

A couple of my attempts
There are even prizes handed out and Simon was lucky enough to get picked for one of his drawings...

Simon with fellow 'winners' and Scarlett Daggers

I, on the other hand, was just happy to produce something that didn't look too bad!!

The last week in November took on a decidedly Christmas theme as it was time to get prepped for a weekend of decorating. So prior to that happening there was a lot of organising and cleaning through that needed to be done. 

Molly and Dan visited for that last weekend as I was not allowed to decorate without Molly being home! So we started late on Friday afternoon and by the end of Saturday we had everything in place, both inside and out. Which considering we had three trees indoors to assemble and decorate, numerous ornaments to place around the house, swags to hang and then two gardens to illuminate I don't think we did too bad.

One of my three Christmas trees...this one is ALL Disney!!

And even R2D2 got in the act with Simon having 3D printed a special Santa hat for him!!

My forward planning for the outdoor Christmas lights proved to be very helpful and everything seemed to go very smoothly and relatively easy. And I even have a remote control for some of my lights! I had a couple of outdoor light sets that didn't have a self timer which would have meant me going outside each night to switch them on so Simon introduced me to remote switches for plugs. Wow, what a simple and very satisfying product; not only can I switch my outdoor lights on from the comfort of indoors I can also switch on tree lights that are plugged into hard to get to sockets. Best buy ever!

It was then time for another week off work for Simon as he needed to make sure he used all of his holiday allowance before the end of the year. We had a day out shopping at Meadowhall, Sheffield with the aim of getting a little Christmas shopping done. So although no Christmas presents were bought we did come away with some new boots for Ethan (introduced him to the world of Dr Martens!) and some more Christmas lights for my garden and this time they were Mickey shaped ones!

We then enjoyed a couple of nights away and this time we ventured over to Birmingham. Again we thought we would be able to get some Christmas shopping done but alas we came home empty handed...suffice to say all our shopping has been completed online instead!

But Birmingham had a lovely, and extensive, German Christmas Market which was great to walk through. We had a couple of nice meals out, we walked lots and consequently had lots of stops for coffee and chat.

Back home and with our shopping focus being online I took advantage of a price reduction and bought my first ever Disney Spirit these are a big thing with Disney fans and whilst there have been some lovely designs over the years that have tempted me they are not the cheapest purchase. But I couldn't resist this one as it combined my love of Disney and Christmas and at a price I was happy to pay!

And while I was shopping I couldn't resist picking up this decoration just for Simon!!

Because every Christmas tree needs a dancing stormtrooper!!
And now we were into December and the season of chocolate...high cocoa and high quality chocolate of course...
Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar
And as we moved into December the weather decided to acknowledge the season and turned rather frosty and cold. After a couple of early morning walks in freezing temperatures with very icy pavements we decided that staying home in the warmth with a hot coffee was the better and safer option. Although we still maintained our routine of cold showers, Wim Hof breathing and meditating.

We enjoyed a fabulous night out for my birthday (actually on my birthday) at La DeDa Cabaret in Derby. It was another fun filled night out with burlesque, comedy and cabaret and I even had 'Happy Birthday' sung to me by the audience.

Out, out!
The following morning we were out early with Ethan in tow to head out for a posh breakfast as part of my birthday celebrations. We have discovered a deli in Nottingham (Delilah Fine Foods) that does an amazing breakfast that suits our keto way of eating perfectly...the pancetta is to die for! I even picked up a few Christmas pressies from their array of food goodies on sale too.

Oh and I also did rather well on the present front with even my old team from pre-school surprising me with a rather appropriate Star Wars themed gift...

My birthday weekend also saw us take a trip up north to hook up with our very good friend, and my podcast co-host, Michelle. This was a chance for a catch-up as well as an exchange of Christmas presents. We decided to meet up at Meadowhall Shopping Centre as this is about half way between where we both live. 

The day started out a bit grey and foggy but as we ventured further north the weather conditions took a bit of a turn. It started with seeing reduced speed limit signs, along with signs warning of 'salt spreading ahead' and then everywhere turned wet which quickly turned into slush on the roads and before we knew it all but two lanes of the motorway were covered in snow! And that was all in the last five minutes of our journey. But we arrived safely and after a few hours spending time with Michelle (and shopping!) the weather improved and the roads were all clear for our return journey home.

But seeing Michelle did mean that we could surprise her with a very special Mickey Mouse figure...

Michelle & Mickey!
...all printed, assembled and painted in Snow White (Michelle's favourite princess) colours. Suffice to say Michelle was blown away with it. I will share more details in a later post to explain how this all came about!

And then the day ended rather strangely and unexpectedly. We arrived home to find a lady wandering along the road to our house...she looked lost and so we stopped to ask if she needed help finding somewhere. It turned out that the lady was homeless and on seeing us asked if we had a phone she could use as she needed to call the emergency services as she wanted to 'kill myself'. At that I quickly phoned through for her and we then spent the next few hours trying to get her the help that she needed.

Both the ambulance and police services were reluctant to help explaining that it wasn't a job for the police but for the ambulance and vice versa! They were both experiencing severe delays and could not give us an estimate of when someone would be able to get out to help the lady. So in the intervening time we found a bench and supplied her with hot cups of tea, biscuits and a blanket to keep her warm as well as talking with her to see if we could figure out what had happened and whether there was anyone that could help her.

It turned out that she was under the care of a local trust who support the homeless so we decided to try and sort the situation ourselves by calling them. As luck would have it the person that Simon spoke to was an old school friend which helped make everything that bit easier. Ultimately we ended up driving the lady to the local trust just a few miles away and cancelling the ambulance. The police did call us back when we were enroute to advise us of the same information that we'd already found out ourselves. We explained what we were doing and they expressed their gratitude. We can only hope that the lady herself has been able to get the help and support that she very evidently needed.

On a lighter note...I did manage to complete two suitably themed jigsaws during the lead up to Christmas...

As we moved towards Christmas we had another busy weekend that saw a night out for me with the pre-school ladies and a busy Sunday for Simon as he was a guest speaker at Nottingham Video Games Expo.

Simon has been asked numerous times over the years to speak at various video game events about his career but has always declined. He is always much more focused on what he is currently working on rather than looking back at what has been. But as this expo was so close to home he decided to give it a go and see whether or not it was something that he would like to do more of in the future.

And Simon being the organised and professional individual that he is had spent the preceding weeks producing a presentation that documented his career making video games that spans over 35 years!! Check out his website for more details of his extensive portfolio!

Simon in full flow delivering his presentation
Signing autographs for fans!!
I think it probably surprised us both at just how interested people were in all aspects of his career and we spent a lovely couple of hours chatting and reminiscing. So will Simon be taking part in more of these type events in the future? Who knows...I think it will all depend on where, when and the time involved. But as least Simon now has this experience to refer back to and will be in a better position to make decisions around any future requests.

And this brings us to the last full week before Christmas. Ethan's last day at work was the 16th, as he'd got left over holiday to use up, while Simon had to wait until the 21st...and it is from there where I think the next post will pick up!


Saturday 24 December 2022

Time for an Overdue Blog Post - Part One!

Well it's been a while since my last blog post at the end of October so figured I'd better put finger to keyboard and get writing!

Thankfully I've had the presence of mind to make a few notes over the last few weeks as I'd really like to try and keep the diary approach to writing going. So what's been happening and where to start?

Let's kick off with a bit of Disney travel news. For the first time since 2019 I can now say we have a Disney holiday booked but this time it will be a first for us as we have booked a cruise! Not only will this be our first Disney cruise but it will be our first cruise ever!

After a lot of debating and being swayed by friends who have this year experienced both Disney and non-Disney cruises we have taken the plunge and booked ourselves a place on the Disney Dream sailing out of Southampton, UK next September. Our 7 night cruise will see us venturing north as we take in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and Sandnes in Norway. This does mean lots of research ahead for me not only about the ports we will be visiting but also all about cruising Disney style.

Since the end of October we have continued with our early morning walks getting out most mornings although we have now resorted to wellies when we venture out over the fields. 

Our cold showers each morning are now embedded in our routine and I have now joined Simon with the Wim Hof breathing method. I have surprised myself by being able to let myself 'indulge' in this 10 minute practice and this in turn has resulted in me giving meditation a try. I have always been reluctant to try meditation as the thought of 'giving in' to something really didn't sit very well with me at all...the act of 'giving up control' felt very alien to me. But after getting used to the calm of the breathing I have now started with some simple 10 minute meditations and have surprised myself with how easy they have been and how I have actually been able to 'let go' and simply 'be' in the moment.

At the end of October we were able to join a Star Wars troop with our Joker Squad buddies at Leicester Comic Con. This was the first time trooping with Joker Squad in over three years! And although we were small in number we were still able to entertain and make people smile. 

Then in November we hooked up with our East Midlands Garrison crew at a local pub's Sci-Fi quiz night which helped raise money for the charity PASIC. 

Not sure how good Stormtroopers are at pulling a pint!!

We had hoped to attend PASIC's Christmas Party earlier this month but as we both had a very slight cold we decided to stay away as all the children attending would be immunocompromised and we didn't want to risk passing anything on.

At the beginning of November Simon had a week off from work and we took advantage of the time productively. We dragged Ethan out shopping with us for a day, luring him with the promise of food and coffee and while he came home empty handed Simon did pick up a couple of shirts.

Next I had a day booked with Saint Heywood at Acadia Tattoo for my latest round of Disney ink. This time it was combining my love of the attraction 'It's A Small World' with the art style of Jerrod Maruyama...

Work in progress

Line work done and colour just started

Finished result

It was then time to take a trip 'up north' for a few days. We started by having a couple of nights in York staying in an old fashioned style of hotel which kind of evoked 'Fawlty Towers' type vibes! But York was as lovely as ever; we walked for miles, drank lots of coffee, had some lovely meals out (great to find a Byron Burger restaurant and a fab tapas too!), more walking, chance to play with my new camera, shopping and more coffee! A short trip which resulted in new shoes for Simon and new jigsaws for me courtesy of the York Outlet mall.

After York we moved a little further north to visit Stockton-on-Tees for a couple more nights. The reason for visiting here was to revisit an area that is very familiar to both Simon and I. For me this is the part of the country where I was born and so consequently I still have lots of family members who live in the surrounding area and who I hadn't seen in a fair few years. For Simon he had spent around 5 years working in Stockton, and living there during the week as it was too big a distance from home to commute. We both have lots of great memories of the area, and of the people, and so it was great to get the chance to re-visit after a lot of years away.

We were able to see quite a lot of my relatives over the course of a couple of days and we have vowed to return when the weather is kinder (it was rather wet!) and the days are longer so that we can explore further.

Throughout the last couple of months I have been trying to clear stuff from my dads house and as a result have become quite skilled at using Ebay! Consequently there has been lots of cataloguing of items, photos taken, items listed, sales made, items packed and trips to the local post office. And every time we get a delivery it means that boxes and packing materials have to be saved; thank goodness we have a shed for storage!

Ready for a trip to the post office

And with it being the run up to Christmas I decided that a review of my Christmas decorations was in order, particularly my outdoor lights. I knew I had a couple of sets that were not working 100% so I decided to invest in some new sets; this resulted in three sets of string lights and a light-up tree!

Obligatory testing of lights!

This did then mean a few days tidying the garden (in the rain) to get everywhere ready as well as planning out how to get everything plugged in. Having had some new outdoor sockets installed over the summer I had the power but needed to make sure that we had sufficient weatherproof boxes for all the cables, plugs and extension leads. Plans were drawn so that when it came to putting them all up it should be a relatively straight forward process.

And we have reached mid-November so let's leave it there as I make a start on a new post.

See you soon.

Saturday 29 October 2022

Since we last spoke...

After a few weeks away from the keyboard I thought I would check back in with a bit of a look back over what I've been up to of late...and if truth be told I've attempted to start this post many times over.

It's not that I haven't had something to write but that I've simply gotten out of the habit of writing. Whilst doing my 'lockdown diary' (for want of a better description) I had a 'reason' for writing something every day. I had given myself a challenge of writing a record of what was happening to me and the world around me. But after completing 893 days worth of my diary I had begun to feel that all I was recording was the mundane, the every day happenings of my life and that if I was to write it needed to be less often and with more to write about.

I knew that recording my life as a 'diary' would have days where nothing much happened or nothing that I felt was worthy of being written down, and as the pandemic moved on and life became more 'normal' there was less for me to muse about and pass comment on. And on the odd occasion that I did venture out into the realm of opinions I was disappointed by the negativity levied my way in return. After all I was writing to document my life and my thoughts and not to please others. But I discovered that this did not sit well with my innate nature of wanting to please and not cause anyone I stopped writing. I didn't want any confrontation with anyone and I let that (and them) stop me doing what I wanted to here we are and I am going to attempt to write more often than I have of late just because I want to.

So what have I been up to over the last six, or more, weeks?

Well, our usual routine has continued and we attempt to get out first thing most mornings for our daily walk. Weekdays we tend to be out and about around 8am and stick to a shorter route of a couple of miles while at the weekends we may stretch our legs a little further or simply venture into the likes of Nottingham for more of an urban stroll. Since getting a fitness tracker back in the middle of May I have now recorded just over 300 miles walked, which I think is pretty good going. Not only is it good for us physically to be out and about by simply moving and absorbing vitamin D, but there is something about being outside in the fresh air that is good for the sole. It also gives Simon and I the time together and the time to talk without the trappings of 'life' getting in the way.

Cold showers are still apart of my daily routine although I have drawn a line in the sand and am sticking to my limit of 3 minutes and 30 seconds! I understand the beneficial effects that cold showers can produce but it doesn't mean I have to like them! Simon is now persuading me to try the Wim Hof breathing method which I think I maybe taking him up on...I will report back at some point in the future and let you know how I fair!

Over the course of the last few months we have made a few tweaks to our diet and exercise routine. We are still following a keto/low carb way of eating but have reduced the saturated fat content to see if it can make any difference to our overall good health. We have also increased our strength training sessions from twice a week to three times a week with a further two workouts that concentrate on body-weight exercises aimed at core/abs and legs. We have found a doctor to work with who understands the keto way of eating and approach to a healthy well being and we are fine tuning what we do and how we do it. As part of that we are still using an intermittent fasting approach to our meals with our first meal of the day now being around lunchtime rather than first thing in the morning. All of these approaches seem to be working for us, both physically and mentally.

The beginning of September saw us take a little day trip over to Macclesfield to visit my tattooist Saint Heywood at Acadia Tattoo. It had been about thirteen months since my last tattoo and I still had a number of ideas for what I wanted and where. By the end of the day I came away with a new piece to my left leg, a small addition to my right wrist and Simon came away with some script to his right arm.

Left leg - Three Good Fairies from Sleeping Beauty; Fauna, Flora & Merryweather
My smaller tattoo was in remembrance of my dad who passed away in March. When my mum died in 2015 I had a small gold star inked on my wrist to remember her by, as we all inevitably become stardust when we pass, and so it was only fitting to have the same again in memory of my dad.
Gold star for my dad

Script for Simon...a quote from the book Slaughterhouse 5 'So it goes'

And I already have another date booked in the diary for the beginning of November as I still have more ideas for yet more Disney themed ink.

Around the middle of September we had another road trip and this time we headed over to Birmingham as we had a concert booked. We have been long time fans of an LA based band called She Wants Revenge who over their career have had moments where the band has no longer been together and so getting an opportunity to see them live in concert has been rare. We saw them for the first time in a very small nightclub in Sheffield back in 2012 and we thought that would be the only chance we ever got to see them. Fast forward to 2019 and an announcement that they were back together and touring which led to us seeing them in Islington in London; and again we thought that would be the last time we would see them live. And then lo and behold a new tour was announced which seemed initially to concentrate on the US but before long they announced dates for the UK and Europe and with a date announced for Birmingham it meant it was a no brainer for us as it was only an hour away. So the band we thought we would be extremely lucky to see once we have now seen three times, and each time we have seen them they have played small venues and each time they have been phenomenal.

A little later in September we were able to join our fellow Star Wars cosplayers at Huddersfield Comic Con as part of the East Midlands Garrison and spend a day making people smile, posing for photos and raising money for the charity PASIC. We opted for Stormtrooper for Simon and Governor Pryce for myself.

This was our first time out trooping since Simon had broken his wrist back in May and happily we have another date coming up towards the end of October with our good friends from Joker Squad.

And in other 'geek' news Simon was approached by the soon to be opening 'Derby Computer Museum' about his time working for Derby based computer games companies Gremlin Graphics and Core Design. Inside the museum there is a room dedicated to British computer games from their beginning up until around 1999 and Simon has been able to provide them with some artwork as well as a video interview. Core Design produced the game Rick Dangerous which Simon developed way back in 1988/89 and still to this day is the game he will get asked about more than any of the others he has worked on.

Simon was only too happy to get involved and donated a signed poster, scans of his original drawings and notes, as well as spending a couple of hours recording the interview. Although we did have a slight recording issue when memory cards became corrupted so he did have to sit for a second recording! But this did mean that on our second visit I was able to donate a working Nintendo Gameboy and games to add to their collection. The museum will be opening on Saturdays from the 3rd December and we have been invited to their launch party towards the end of November!

At the end of September we had a few days booked away to go and see Molly and Dan down in Bournemouth. The last time we'd seen them was in July when they had travelled to see us for a weekend so it was great to be able to take a few days off and spend a little longer with them. 

The visit also involved a trip to Ninja Warrior in Southampton! Molly and Dan had been there earlier in the year and were very keen to get Simon to have a go (they knew better than to ask me!!). Thankfully Simon had recovered from his broken wrist (with no help from the promised physiotherapy that never materialised!) and was more than happy to join in the fun. I took on the role of videographer and photographer for the day while they all threw themselves around from one obstacle to another. And whilst it was not something that I would do it was a great couple of hours of fun and sweat and was very well organised. There were two courses to complete as well as a very large inflatable course all of which you could complete as many times as you wanted within your booked session time. I think Simon was pretty pleased with his efforts and managed to 'keep up' with the 'young 'uns'!

Posing after two hours of warrior stuff!

Over the course of our time in Bournemouth we had some lovely meals out, walked lots of miles and encountered an arts festival that had taken over the whole of the town centre. There was even a 'Drum and Base on a Bike' event happening which took us slightly by surprise as we wandered through the town. It was a completely separate event to the arts festival and involved around 200 or more people cycling while drum and base music blasted out; it was a most peculiar, yet invigorating site to see.

On our way home from seeing Molly and Dan we took an extra night to stop over in Surrey so that we could catch up with Simon's work colleagues who are all based in that area. Simon had not seen his colleagues in person since February of 2020!!

Just before we embarked on our time away down South I decided to buy myself a camera; a proper DSLR camera! Photography is something I've fancied having a go at and have never really had the time or the inclination. With Molly having studied photography and subsequently set up her own business (Shutter Studios) I've always hand someone on hand should I need something 'proper'! My photography is normally limited to my phone...which to be fair does a really decent job but I wanted the challenge of learning a set of new skills, and proving to myself that I can rise to the challenge.

So over the course of our time away and the last few weeks I have started to use the camera and begun to figure out what all the buttons mean and even dip my toes into the proper lingo. Although I do feel the need to carve out sometime to watch videos and read up on the subject so that I can get the best out of it. The organised side of my personality wants to learn how to do this all 'properly' and in a logical orderly fashion and the challenge for me will be to 'just have a go' and figure it all out on the fly. So this will be a challenge not only from a technical stand point but also allowing myself the time and the creativity to simply try and not worry about conforming to any 'rules'!!

And before I waffle on anymore I think I will bring this post to an end and make a start on the next one!

See you soon.