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Rosie Scribble

Netflix

It happens every time. I discover something brilliant on Netflix and binge-watch the entire series, or five.

First it was Lost, then Breaking Bad, The Good Wife and Homeland.

This time round it was House of Cards. All four series in 4 weeks. That’s a lot of viewing. You do the maths.

But now I’m left in that place again. The Netflix hole that enters your life when a series you love ends.

Nothing feels quite the same.

The characters are gone, the story is over. There nothing to fill its place.

Occasionally you forget the hole exists and settle down in the evenings as you would normally do, only to remember that Frank Underwood has said his final line to camera. There are no more episodes to watch.

Logging on to Netflix is pointless. It’s the series, the characters, the drama, the acting you’ve been hooked on for the last few weeks that you want. Everything else is irrelevant.

So here I am, blogging instead of watching Netflix. Allowing time to pass until I can accept Frank and Clare Underwood are gone for now. Until different characters and a different storyline can take their place.

But not just yet. It’s far too soon.

 

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Couch to 5K

Running kit

If there was the opportunity tomorrow to meet with all the old school bloggers I used to tweet with every day, I wouldn’t go.

Not because it wouldn’t be great to connect outside the walls of Facebook but because I feel older, more unfit, less comfortable with impact of the passing of the years.

We’re all younger today than we will be tomorrow. I’ll no doubt look back in years to come and wish I looked as old and tired as I do now.

So aware of my need to be a little bit fitter, a little bit healthier and a little less keen to put my feet up each evening even after a long day of commuting, I’ve taken up running.

Technically it’s less of a run and more of a light jog but running sounds better. Let’s skip over the times when it actually becomes a walk.

Running doesn’t suit me. My legs ache more than they should and my knees haven’t quite decided if they are going to allow me to continue much longer.

But I’m persevering. Thanks to the NHS’ couch to 5K app I completed my first ever 5K despite not being able to run the week before because my left knee swelled up. Six weeks before that I’d never run at all. 

Couch to 5K

It took a week to recover from the 5K and I’m only just getting out there again. My calves ached from the hills. I could only hobble down flights of stairs and wearing heels was impossible. Anyone would think I’d run a double marathon, not a little over 3 miles.

The next goal is to complete another one in a quicker time. I’m totally ruling out a 10K. I’ll leave that to the youngsters.

Now I’ve put it out there on the Inter-web that I’ve taken up running it’ll act as a motivator to keep going. And in the absence of anything else – because near 13 years olds don’t like to be written about online – it gives me some much needed blog content.

Without that there’d be months of silence. Oh hang on …

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Public footpath sign

A favourite memory of childhood is getting up while the rest of the house was still asleep and heading off on my bike in search of wild poppies in the fields a short distance from us.

I was reminded of that today as I headed off to explore the woodland about a mile from our home. No bike this time but a camera instead, I headed away from civilization and into the darkness of the woods for a couple of hours.

Entrance to the wood

It’s partly an effort to get fitter but mostly the opportunity to escape my laptop, the Internet and enjoy a slower, more relaxed pace of life in the Great Outdoors.

Woodland leaves

Totally unaccustomed to exploring the countryside I went out in totally inappropriate footwear. Converse trainers as it happens.

Woodland walk

The deeper into the wood I travelled the darker and muddier it got. A more sensible person would have worn boots.

IJ didn’t come with me – because why would anyone want to log off a computer and go for a walk – so I went alone and enjoyed some rare peace and quiet and the chance to think without music blasting out in the background.

Wooden logs

Apart from startling a deer, getting temporarily lost and nearly falling in the mud twice, the trip passed without incident.

Narrow path in the woods

I came very close to trespassing on private property but diverted my course just in time. It’s not that obvious exactly where you’ll end up when all you’ve got ahead of you is more mud.

Muddy walk in the woods

The slightly random birdhouse stood out against so much green and brown. It was close to the grounds of a school and likely put there by the staff.

Birdhouse

These mammoth tree roots caught my eye too. Rare to see them so exposed, they looked a little out of place.

Tree roots

8km and 11,000 steps later, my legs ache, my hair is totally windswept and my trainers will never be quite the same again.

Woodland flowers

But there’s really nothing better than switching off and getting back to nature for a while.

River Wey, Surrey

I’ll be doing it more often.

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Thorpe P

This was in fact our second visit to Thorpe Park in as many weeks. My five-year-old nephew has become obsessed with the place, even though he’s only tall enough to go on a handful of rides. And the easiest way to end a five-year-old’s repeated requests to visit the park again, is to actually visit, which is how we ended up back there once again.

Thorpe Park watching the rides

It’s my favourite of the Merlin theme parks. I love the fact that it’s spacious and clean and because it’s mainly aimed at thrill seekers, the rides for younger children are rarely busy. We waited an average of five minutes for our favourite rides – Mr Monkey’s Banana Ride, Rumba Rapids and the Flying Fish rollercoaster.

Thorpe Park Mr Monkey's Banana Ride

IJ, now approaching 13, loves rides, but hasn’t yet plucked up the courage to brave the huge ones (like Stealth, which takes you from 0–80 mph in under two seconds, and Nemesis, a hanging rollercoaster with speeds of up to 50mph). The Corkscrew in Alton Towers was as terrifying as it got in my day with its one, possibly two loops. Times have changed.

Thorpe Park Stealth ride

This time she did try Thorpe Park’s Quantum. It’s a giant flying carpet a little like a pirate ship but this one that goes over the top, travelling the full 360 degrees. My stomach can no longer cope with anything so fast and furious so I was more than happy to watch from firmer ground below.

Thorpe Park Quantum

This visit, with IJ a little braver, I joined her on the spinning water ride Storm Surge for the first time, which we both loved. It was a 30 minute wait but worth it to ascend to a height of 64 feet and come sliding down in a life raft.

Watch for guests at the bottom of the ride who, just went you thought you’d survived it without getting wet, spray you with water at £1 a go. My brother and nephew were the guilty party in this case. We refused to speak to them for a full ten minutes.

We’re a fan of water rides (that you don’t get wet on), so we went on Storm Surge because the log flume at Thorpe Park is no more. You can get a glimpse of the disused ride over the fence that (mostly) keeps it out of view. It’s slightly spooky to look at sitting there abandoned. We prefer the log flume at Chessington World of Adventures so it’s no use huge loss to the park.

Thorpe Park Derren Brown Ghost Train

A short walk from its former home is the new Derren Brown ghost train ride due to open later this month (note the May 6th opening date has been pushed back). IJ’s class is going to try it out soon on a school trip to the park. She thinks it sounds brilliant. I think it sounds terrifying. The words Derren Brown and ghost train conjure up something mind blowing that leaves a lasting effect on you, and not in a good way! I’ll let IJ’s school friends try it out first.

We contemplated trying out Tidal Wave but decided the weather wasn’t quite warm enough because you really do get soaked. Not unlike the log flume that once was, the ride plunges you 85ft into the water below, creating – as the name suggests – a tidal wave.  

It’s fun to watch though and if you stand in the viewing area you can feel the spray as it hits the water. Stand in a certain spot and you get completely drenched.

Thorpe Park Angry Birds Land

It’s one for the summer months when we return. I’m planning to relax on the beach with a book and an ice cream and leave the bigger rides to the thrill seekers. I’m sticking with the dodgems, Tea Cups and Angry Birds Land.

Merlin Annual Pass image

Special thanks to Merlin for our Merlin Annual Passes. I’m a Merlin Pass Ambassador for 2016. We’ve been provided with family passes for the year but all opinions are my own.

For more information on Merlin Annual Passes visit the Merlin Annual Pass website. For details of Thorpe Park visit ThorpePark.com.

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We decided to start this year as we mean to go on, with lots of family trips out and a great deal less time wasted indoors. So being a  2016 Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador meant we could spend New Year’s Day at Chessington World of Adventures.

Thankfully for those of us who stayed up until midnight and weren’t quite ready for the usual day of rollercoasters that Chessington offers, only a small section of the park was open. We were able to enjoy a handful of rides, the arcades, the Sealife Centre, the zoo and the fabulous new Penguin Bay at a far more leisurely pace.

Chessington arcade

It didn’t stop the kids running around and exploring, and going on one ride after another, but it meant the adults could take things a little more slowly and observe from the sidelines when needed.

For the youngsters in the group – IJ, 12, and her cousins, 7 and 4, the Amazu Treetop Adventure with its walkways between the trees was a particular favourite, and on a bitterly cold day it was wise to keep moving.

heChessington Treetop Adventure

I fell in love with the new penguin enclosure, Penguin Bay. It was still being build went we last visited at Halloween so it was our first glimpse of it, and although it’s quite small the bonus is that you can get up really close to the penguins. From the observation point you can actually see them dive underwater, which was fascinating to see.

Chessington penguins

We’re often guilty of only spending times on the rides when we go to Chessington, but now we’ve seen the penguins and spent more time exploring the zoo, it’s a section we won’t neglect next time.

It was a little cold to stand and watch the penguins being fed while their keeper told the audience more about them, but that’s also marked on our list for next time.

Chessington penguins

Next to the Amuzu Treetop Adventures are these unusual creatures, which are apparently the largest living rodents. I’ve no idea what they are called. The one on the left seemed keen to pose for the camera.

Chessington Zoo 2

Expect lots more updates from the 32 attractions that comprise the Merlin Group. We’ll be visiting many as part of their ambassador programme as we’ve been given complementary Merlin Annual Passes. We made great use of the one we had last year and if you visit theme parks regularly they are definitely worth it, as paying individual admission prices on the door can quickly add up.

The BIG New Year Sale

The Merlin Annual Pass is currently on sale if you’re interested in purchasing one or several, with prices starting at £99.

With a Merlin Annual Pass, holders can experience some of the UK’s biggest and best attractions, including the Coca-Cola London Eye, THORPE PARK Resort, Dream Works Tours Shrek’s Adventure! London, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers Resort, LEGOLAND®, Windsor Resort, The National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham and more. Special benefits and discounts will also be unlocked.

Premium Merlin Annual Pass holders get priority entry to all of Merlin Entertainments’ UK attractions as  well as exclusive short break offers, three Share the Fun vouchers where a friend can join you for just £10, three Fastrack vouchers at Resort Theme Parks worth £5 each, money saving perks as well as complimentary parking at Resort Theme Parks.

The BIG New Year Sale ends at midnight on Monday 15th February 2016.

For more information please visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.

MAP Ambassador Rosette

Special thanks to Merlin Annual Pass for our family day out at Chessington!

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2015 tags

Usually at this time of year I’d write a round-up of my favourite blog posts of the past year. It would be a way of looking back over the year’s blog content and reminiscing a little at the things we’d done and the journeys we’d had.

But this year a full time job, a three-hour daily commute, my own business and a 12-year-old child (not in any order of importance) has meant that lots of exciting things have happened this year, there just hasn’t been the luxury of time to write about them.

I must try harder in 2016 even if it means throwing together a post on a train, a little like I’m doing now. (Note: I’m not on a train, I’m just throwing this post together.)

So instead I’m reflecting on the posts I could have written but didn’t, because it’s been another happy, crazy unpredictable year. Let’s just assume I did write them. Here are a few highlights:

The obligatory Christmas post where we enjoyed a blissful few days relaxing with family, and for the first time in years we could spend it at home rather than travelling back to the north (as my parents live near us now). No travelling across the country, battling with suitcases on a packed (and probably delayed) train meant it was perfect.

Our trip to the X Factor Live Final at Wembley Arena, which was one of the best nights we’ve ever had. IJ loved seeing Reggie and Boolie as she’s a huge fan. Showing my age, I was more wowed by Rod Stewart, although Little Mix were exceptional and Louisa Johnson was without doubt the deserving winner. Seeing all the work that goes into a live production was fascinating, particularly the fact that the crew were building the set in the ad breaks!

The blog about my new job at an edtech company in London, which I enjoy so much I actually don’t mind the commute. Despite thinking my years of sitting on early morning commuter trains were over, I realised I’m still drawn to the bright lights of London and couldn’t be happier.

All the blog posts about observations I’ve made during my daily travels – particularly the morning I sat next to a photographer who spent the entire journey photoshopping three beautiful, slim models to make them look even slimmer and even more perfect. There was so much I could have written. Perhaps I’ll return to that one.

The blog post about launching my monthly subscription box service, which was a definite highlight of the year and has kept me busy doing something I love, despite not having many hours in the week to do it. I love having something that is mine that I can grow and develop as I wish, and that in it’s own little way gives back to others too.

Then there were all the blog posts about our days out, mostly to London where we love staying overnight in hotels that are really too expensive for us. The usual blog posts I write reflecting on life a little, the occasional rant about some injustice I’ve allowed to get under my skin and the blogs about blogging, because I often fill this blog with them too.

And not forgetting all the posts I wrote about IJ, now twelve and totally awesome in my unbiased opinion. She’s majorly into YouTube at the moment, both watching and creating videos. The highlight of her year (after the X Factor) was seen all her YouTube stars at the premier of Joe and Casper Hit The Road.

We didn’t have tickets the the premiere. We just accidentally wandered into it and were then allowed right up to the front where the stars were all being interviewed. That would have been another great post if the extra hour I’d like in my day had ever materialised.

So that’s about it. A whole year summed up in five minutes. All that’s left to say is Happy New Year. See you on the other side!

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Hello blogosphere

an image of single fallen leaf on ground in a ray of sunshine on the earth

I get the sense this blog is trying to tell me something. When I logged in this morning it felt as if it was shouting at me. It was full of comments waiting for approval – all highlighted in an angry shade of red.

But it wasn’t just that.

The majority of the comments were telling me where I could buy cheap cosmetics online and the best place to find Louis Vuitton bags. The message was clear. Firstly, I need to update my spam catcher plugin, and secondly, I need to stop neglecting this blog.

Either that or I need to improve my beauty routine and buy a new handbag …

The blogging absence hasn’t been deliberate. It just ends up slipping to the bottom of the priority list when life is so busy, as it has been. Thank goodness for schools, teachers and that sense of routine that returns with the new school year. Work while parenting in the school holidays with no childcare is a guilt-ridden hell.

But that was then.

Now, it’s a new school year and a new chapter, which is what I love about September. It’s a time to start new exciting projects. A time to look back and reflect about what went before, plan for the future and take next steps. I actually prefer it to the New Year, which just doesn’t have the same sense of the newness about it for me – more a sense of nervousness about the unknown and what might be.

So with the busyness of summer behind and with it the need to stop juggling far too many things, I’ve got my weekends back and a little more time on my hands, to blog, to relax and to clear my head.

The result is a new excitement about life again and a desire to start blogging about it all. Or at least some of it. This is the internet after all …

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Silent Sunday

Sun through the trees

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Girl with red hair in Thessaloniki

Walking along the promenade on a stormy evening in Thessaloniki it was the girl with the bright red hair that caught my eye. Sitting with her friend the two teenagers were laughing and chatting together as they rested by an ancient monument celebrating Alexander the Great.

I felt it summed up the area perfectly: a mix of old and new, past and present, ancient Greece meets modern day. A place with a youthful vibe steeped in thousands of years of history.

Located in Macedonia, 540km north of Athens, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and home to more than one million people. Founded in 315 B.C by Cassander of Macedonia it was named after his wife, Thessaloniki, the sister of Alexander the Great.

Thessaloniki Greece

I spent five days there as part of this year’s Blogtrotters Greece tour, exploring both the newer and older parts of the city, checking out a selection of the local restaurants and mixing with some of the locals.

I found it an intriguing place with its lively bars, restaurants and pretty cobbled backstreets all set against a backdrop of ancient historical buildings, monuments and relics.

Restaurant on Old Street Thessaloniki Greece

Cobbled side street, Thessaloniki Greece

Modern apartments have built up around Roman ruins as if someone dropped a jigsaw puzzle and mixed up the pieces.

Apartments next to Roman ruins Thessaloniki

Roman ruins in Thessaloniki Greece

The modern restaurants opposite the ancient Turkish bathhouses, and the office blocks that rise up in the background, all exist in sharp contrast to one other.

Restaurants and offices by Turkish bathhouse Thessaloniki

Turkish bathhouse Thessaloniki Greece

There are cosy coffee shops, outdoor markets, boutiques and shopping malls, all a short walk from each other. You’ll find churches next to apartment blocks and small family run businesses just a street away from larger international brands.

Street art in Thessaloniki Greece

Outdoor market Thessaloniki Greece

There are fish markets and flower markets with one smelling substantially more pleasant than the other.

Fish Market, Thessaloniki Greece

Flower stalls Thessaloniki, Greece

Overlooking it all is The White Tower, the most famous landmark of Thessaloniki, built during the Ottoman era falling the fall of the Byzanitines.

It’s a former prison with a grisly past, now a museum telling Thessaloniki’s history over five floors and offering stunning views over the city (that would probably look better on a sunnier day).

The White Tower Thessaloniki Greece

View of Thessaloniki from The White Tower

To the visitor the different pieces of Thessaloniki shouldn’t fit together, but oddly they do.

A clue as to why it works lies in its history and its people. Greeks, Ottomans, Jews and Armenians lived together for 500 years, which has resulted in a city rich in different tastes, languages, traditions, beliefs and cultural values growing and existing together.

The city itself has built up in layers over several centuries with influences from King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, the Romans, Byzantines and the Ottomans,  merged with western ideas and eastern traditions. The result is something unique.

Umbrellas Thessaloniki Greece

What keeps the city alive and gives it its vibrant and welcoming feel is its young people. It has a strong student community thanks to the presence of Aristotle University and the University of Macedonia.

Areas of the city, such as the port, have also been developed in recent years to appeal more to the younger generations.

The port in Thessaloniki, Greece

Old warehouses have been converted into bars and restaurants, which have increasingly grown in popularity, like the Kitchen Bar overlooking the water’s edge – all changes that helped Thessaloniki become the European Youth Capital, 2014.

The Kitchen Bar Thessaloniki Greece

The Kitchen Bar Thessaloniki

Old and new, past and present. The girl with the red hair and her friend were sitting metres from the waterfront, relaxing away from the lively buzz of the city. It is an area where young and old alike hang out. Couples sit together looking out into the water. One elderly man sat there fishing, alone with his thoughts.

An old city with a young heart, more characterful than beautiful, Thessaloniki is like a treasure trove waiting to the explored, with something to offer everyone and many hidden gems along the way.

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Blue sky

Many years ago when I used to blog every day and spend the majority of my time on Twitter, I’d grow twitchy if I missed a day’s blogging or if I found I had nothing to blog about.

The solution would have been to go out and do something worth blogging about. Instead I stayed indoors staring at my computer screen waiting for inspiration to strike.

Then I would click around the internet and comment on a few blogs before tweeting some more.

I’m not sure Instagram existed in those days, and there were certainly no Pinterest. If they had been around no doubt I’d have spent my time on there too.

In many ways those were happy, special times. Unique times in the evolution of the blogosphere.

I look back with fondness even if far too much of my life back then was spent online. It gave me the confidence, eventually, to seek a life offline and I’ve ended up with the slightly more balanced life I have today.

The purpose of writing all this is because today I’ve had the same twitchiness. The same urge to write a blog post. The same feeling of unsettledness struck when I realised it was nine o’clock and I hadn’t posted anything new on here.

So I’ve logged back on after logging off to write a quick post.

There’s not a lot to say except returning to the daily routine after my Greece trip has been far easier than expected. There’s reassurance in the nine to five, of regular bedtimes and early morning school runs.

The main highlight, all of that aside, was looking up from my mobile phone and noticing the virtually cloudless blue sky. Not in Greece, but here in the UK.

Plus this eagerness to blog, to put something down on screen, even if it is mindless waffle, it’s a blog post, it’s blogging. During my trip to Greece, surrounded by 40 other bloggers, I realised I’d missed it.

So here’s to blogging, routines and mindless waffle. Without them, life wouldn’t be quite the same.

My fingers have now stopped twitching.

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Trees in Alice Holt

There’s something slightly unsettling about the day after returning home from a trip, as if you’re not quite in one place, but not quite in the other either.

You’re no longer in holiday mode but not quite ready to return to reality and all the preparation, organisation and routine that brings.

You’re left somewhere in between, which means it hasn’t been an ordinary Sunday.

School uniform hasn’t been washed; there’s been no supermarket shop and the majority of unpacking hasn’t been done.

I’m living out of my suitcase, not quite ready to return everything to its rightful place.

Part of me is geared up for the next country, the next adventure, not quite ready to settle at home.

The solution turned out to be forgetting it all and heading out into the forest. Alice Holt near Farnham to be precise.

foxgloves

It felt good to be out exploring somewhere new again, camera in hand.

The calming effect of nature.

Meadow

Just enough to make the mind wander a little.

Just enough to make you think you’re somewhere else.

Giant wooden owl sculpture

Just enough to help you cope with the fact that you’re not, and tomorrow it’s back to reality.

Just enough to leave you knowing there will be more travelling, more experiences.

And all is well.

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Athens from the air

I’m not a huge fan of flying after the fire incident at Charles de Gaulle Airport when I was flying off to Africa. Thankfully the passing of five years has eased the anxiety that plagued future plane journeys to the point that I can now relax and enjoy the ride a little more, which is a relief because there’s something uniquely special about viewing the world from a seat 35,000 feet above land.

Perhaps it’s the lack of an internet connection that frees up some precious thinking time. Perhaps it’s the fact that there’s not a lot else to do. Perhaps it’s the view. Flying over The Dolomites as I type this, with one eye on the computer screen and the other on the window, it’s hard not to feel inspired by the planet we live on. Right now I want to explore every single bit of it.

Clouds over Greece

To set the scene more fully, I’ve just spent four action-packed days in Thessaloniki, Greece having flown there via Athens earlier in the week. I’ve been part of the team of bloggers that make up this year’s ‘Young at Heart’ BlogTrotters Greece tour. I was part of the very first tour last year when I spent the same amount of time in Athens looking at street art, visiting the historical sights, spending an afternoon on the beach and eating my own body weight in food.

So that gives you a hint at what is to come in future posts when I write about the trip in more detail. I’ll be posting more once I’ve caught up on some sleep, had some time to reflect on it all and spent some time with IJ. I’ve missed her a lot, although the sun and sand certainly helped compensate, and thank goodness for WhatsApp.

Right now I’m doing what I always do on the return leg of a trip whilst sitting on a plane. Feeling calm, relaxed, without a distraction in the world and knowing I’m heading home to IJ – I’m reflecting on life a little and making some decisions.

Flying over Greece

Having just spent four days with a group of creative bloggers from the travel, fashion and beauty sectors, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the issue of age. I was acutely aware at the beginning of the trip that I was almost two decades older than many of the bloggers. I wondered how they viewed me, if they were aware of my age and if they were thinking I stood out as being different to them.

I found myself looking back with fondness to the time when I was young, keenly interested in fashion and photography and spoke with excitement about the places I’d visited in the world and where I wanted to go next. Then I mourned the passing of time a little.

But then I got a grip, realised the age paranoia was mostly in the head, and decided the attitude that I was too ‘old’ to view the world with the same young, excited mindset where everything is there to be discovered, wasn’t really getting me anywhere.

Greece from the air

So the decisions I’ve made, inspired by the young creatives I’ve been around and the places I’ve visited, include taking the photography course I’ve wanted to do for years, continuing the children’s book I started writing last year, travelling more and exploring more.

As well as that I’m not going to view the childlike excitement I often have about the world as age-inappropriate.

Who knows where this will lead. Hopefully a lot more blog posts. How appropriate that the theme for this trip was Young at Heart. I’m sure there’s a part of us that never really grows up, nor wants to.

Flying over Paris and starting the decent into London Heathrow as I revisit this post and type a little more, the layer of cloud that previously looked like frothy whipped cream has become thicker, a little greyer and the gaps now nonexistent.

But it doesn’t matter. It can mean only one thing. And it has to be the best thing about the return leg of a journey you’ve made without your family: the realisation you’re almost home and they are waiting for you.

London from the air

Let the adventure continue …

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A coconut tree

As we powered along the Mexican coast in a catamaran, the spray from the water a welcome relief in the heat, a small island began to emerge in the distance. Remote, uninhabited, and lined with row upon row of lush green palm trees.

As we got closer we spotted the hammocks in the water, the line of sun loungers on the beach and the whitest sand I’ve ever seen.

Approaching Passion Island, Mexico

It was one of those moments when you quietly think to yourself: I’ll remember this forever.

We’d arrived in paradise, officially known as Passion Island, a 45-minute journey by catamaran from the Mexican port of Cozumel. It was the final stop on our Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruises for Cruise International Magazine.

Coconut trees

The island was beautiful, small enough to explore in a couple of hours and extremely well maintained.

It was the perfect tropical island hideaway on which to escape it all for a while. It’s long stretch of beach never felt overcrowded. I could genuinely see myself living out my days there, never returning to the UK, surviving on a diet of fresh coconut and sea air.

Passion Island, Mexico 1

There would be plenty of IJ to do too. With a supervised children’s play area, trampolines and basketball nets, I was confident she’d adapt quickly to island life, should we decide to make it our forever home.

The kids play area Passion Island, Mexico

I could have spent our time drinking at the small bar in the centre of the beach or shopping in the handful of boutiques dotted across the island. Instead I chose to do nothing except relax and soak up the sunshine.

IJ, who will tell you she can’t exist without the internet, played happily for hours without a computer screen in sight.

Playing on Passion Island, Mexico

If you’re travelling with children, the fact that they can play under the watchful eye of the staff, while you relax a little, is perfect.

Basket ball nets on Passion Island, Mexico

There was a slide, craft activities as well as old-fashioned games.

Children's play area, Passion Island, Mexico

We did enjoy the sea although there was rather a lot of seaweed, which put IJ off initially, but once you get into deeper water it quickly disappears.

Passion Island, Mexico

And then there were the hammocks, which once you’ve managed to manoeuvre yourself into, you could relax and enjoy the sea air, which many of the visitors did, glass of ice cold beer in hand.

There were inflatables on the water too from which you could dive into the sea, if you were brave enough, which neither of us were.

Instead we relaxed and enjoyed the setting, not quite believing we were really there, until it was time to leave.

Palm tree

Our guide, Alejandro, had somehow managed to remember the names of every single person who travelled with him on his catamaran. That meant when it was time to leave he called each one of us by name.

So reluctantly we were escorted safely off the island and back to our ship.

Carnival Freedom arriving in Mexico

Had his memory not been quite so incredible, we’d perhaps still be there.

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Blog on computer screen

There’s an exceptional piece of writing in today’s The Sunday Times by columnist India Knight called ‘Facebook’s grieving chief shows the Internet can speak human’.

It refers to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent Facebook update following the death of her husband, David Goldberg. In it Sandberg shares her extreme grief and torturous last month at a time when she would have been forgiven for hiding away, for leaving her job, for never being seen in public again.

As Knight mentions, not only has Sandberg sparked a global discussion on grief and shown it’s acceptable to talk about it, she’s highlighted the more human side of the internet away from online attacks, trolls and Twitter abuse. An Internet where people share, care and support each other and discuss aspects of their life. Knight refers to it as Internet B.

The idea of Internet B made me think immediately of the blogging community. Sharing raw grief, cancer treatment, marital breakdown and survival. Sparking conversations, gaining support, showing life in all its colours. That’s what bloggers have been doing for years. Sharing, supporting, surviving. There’s a wealth of human experience out there. Perhaps we could go as far as saying bloggers created internet B.

But there’s something more.

While not everyone wants to share aspects of their life online, for those that do – like Sandberg last week – it offers readers a more rounded view of life and places a value on being real, not keeping the more difficult aspects of life out of view as if they don’t happen and can’t be talked about.

On the page before Knight’s column there’s an article on eating disorders. It makes reference to the perfectionist traits often seen in anorexics. And that’s the point here. By being real online and not being afraid of sharing the more difficult aspects of life, we’re being far more human than any magazine article that glosses over the truth and airbrushes out the parts we might not like.

We’re painting a far more realistic picture about life. We’re showing that no one is perfect and life isn’t perfect, so striving for perfection is pointless. We’re speaking human.

Long may Internet B continue. As for Sheryl Sandberg, I hope one day she is able to post online that she’s okay, that she has survived this trauma, that she has found her new normal. I hope her recent post isn’t the last we hear  from her for a while and that she continues to update us all.

Internet B is here for her like it’s here for all of us.

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Cherry tree

*Warning: this post might act as a trigger for anyone who has experienced baby loss*

I stood behind a lady in the supermarket queue yesterday. She was holding in her arms, very carefully, a plastic doll. A nurse stood by her side.

When the pair reached the front of the queue, the lady with the doll in her arms stepped forward to pay for her shopping. She wasn’t buying much, just two outfits for a baby.

The clothes were the size of her doll. Judging how carefully the doll was cared for, it was mostly likely the clothes were for her. She didn’t have a baby with her. The doll was her baby.

My heart broke for her and, perhaps selfishly, I tried to put out of my mind the reasons for her carrying round a doll in her arms. The reasons for her caring for it, for clothing it and for holding it so close.

Although I only saw her briefly, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss. A loss for what she didn’t have. For the gap in her life that doll was replacing. For what or whom she’d lost. For the obvious impact it had had on her.

She paid for her baby clothes and quietly walked away with her nurse. I don’t know where she went. I don’t know what the future holds for her. All I do know is that wherever she is she’ll stay with me for some time.

I’m a little more grateful today for what I have in life, particularly the little girl sitting opposite me.

But I’m sad too for the lady with the doll. And for all those like her, who don’t carry a doll round with them, but who feel that loss just as deeply.

If feels only appropriate here to mention the following websites for anyone in need of support:

NHS Choices – Mental Health

Mind

The Samaritans

The Lullaby Trust

Sands

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