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Rosie Scribble

The undiscovered

The Path to the woods

People so often say that we fail to notice what is on our own doorstep, which is why we had no idea this path existed, let alone that it lead anywhere.

After two years in this part of Surrey, and given my love of travel, it seems crazy now that we’ve taken day trips to London, explored the Capital, flown off to the States but failed to spend any time exploring the area literally a short walk from our front door.

Then someone mentioned the local woods, and we discovered for the first time that just beyond that path lies the undiscovered. So we set off to explore.

Girls walking a long a path

IJ will tell you then when it comes to making good use of your free time, there are a million things better than spending time outdoors. The xbox 360 being just one of those things. But in a rare case of mother-tweenager agreement, she decided to come along.

The path ran along the edge of farmer’s field, home to these beautiful horses, before narrowing as it steered us into the woods.

Horses in a field

 Beyond here the girls discovered rabbits, a grass snake, squirrels and possibly also a Gruffalo.

Entering the wood

We also discovered this Gruffalo-sized hut in the middle of nowhere.

Hut in field

The path continued uphill for several miles, taking us somewhere but we weren’t sure where. And then we reached this.

Bluebells in the wood

A separate wood, miles from anywhere, full of bluebells. It’s called Violet Woods.

Bluebells in violet wood

Too delicate to walk through, we walked along of the woods to the end where we discovered these huge flowers. Lilies perhaps but I’m a little uninformed when it comes to the names of flowers.

White flowers

And then we retraced our steps home.

Wooded path

To think this has been here all this time and we’ve only just discovered it.

Now to find out what else we’ve been missing …

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Vintage retro icons

I’m drafting this post with an old-fashioned pen (one of those things with ink you hold between your fingers) on a piece of plain paper (flat material, originates from trees, no spell-checker), in the waiting room of a station where there isn’t even a screen displaying train times.

It’s all very alien and a little bit 1982. Any time now I’m expecting to discover the 20p coin hasn’t been invented, there’s no such thing as Facebook and the only way you can really communicate with someone is by actually speaking to them in person, face to face with eye contact and everything.

In a nutshell, I have no phone; at least not one that works. It’s a long and not particularly interesting story but I’ll relay it anyway to ease the slow passing of time without Internet access.

Life without a phone feels very strange. The pace of life feels slower. I have no information at my fingertips, and suddenly I am in need of train times, dates, my calendar for tomorrow and an update on my Words With Friends status.

I have none of the above.

The last time I felt so disconnected from the rest of the world was the time I queued outside a telephone box only to discover I didn’t have enough change to make a call.

The not so interesting bit goes as follows. I remembered this morning that my phone contract was about to expire. Rather than facing the unthinkable – life without a smart phone – I decided to go into the phone shop and get it sorted.

It all seemed so straightforward. I got my shiny new phone and accepted the assistant’s offer to set it up for me. All my data, apps, settings and the like would be transported via the cloud from my old phone to my new, as if by magic, the assistant told me.

Except the shop’s fastest-than-super-fast-internet was too slow, so the process faulted leaving my phone data stuck somewhere in that cloud, never quite making the journey through space, or whatever route travelling data takes.

So here I am. Phoneless, data-less and disconnected.

There’s the opportunity here, of course, to relax and do nothing; to reflect a little and enjoy some quiet time.

Instead I’m sharing the drama of my phoneless existence while wondering how many important emails I’ve missed, how many voicemails I’ll have to pick up when I’m back in the real world and how many text messages are sitting on my phone waiting for me.

My right thumb, usually so active on the phone screen, is twitching a little, unused to this lack of activity.

Several hours later, back in the year 2015 with my new phone fully updated, it turns out that the number of emails, texts and voicemails I missed amounts to a grand total of zero.

That’ll teach me for not making the most of my brief time back in a pre-internet existence.

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Blogging concept

This isn’t a post about the term mummy blogger. I sparked off that debate five years ago. A lifetime ago, in blog years. The blogosphere has evolved since then, although I’m sure the topic still comes up once in a while.

It’s more a post questioning where my blog fits in the vast blogosphere, triggered earlier in the week by a message from Twitter informing me that several people in my network we’re tweeting about mummy bloggers.

Twitter obviously considered it relevant I know this. And for a minute I hesitated, outside the local newsagent as it happened, bottle of milk in hand, and logged on to Twitter from my phone.

I wondered what was being discussed, if it was a topic I could add to and if I was missing out by not being online. But Twitter was too slow to load; I got impatient and gave up.

But the term mummy blogger has stuck in my head ever since. For the last couple of days I’ve looked back with fondness at the years I spent blogging about IJ’s funny sayings and the things we did together.

There’s not so much I can write online about her now she’s nearly twelve.

It isn’t just that posts documenting her latest obsession with Sims 4 would get quite dull and repetitive after a while. It’s more a privacy thing. I need to respect her privacy and, by way of example, teach her that this is the Internet and we all need to be careful what we put out here.

So that leaves me with far less to blog about. Or perhaps its more a case of working out what I can write about that is tied less to my role as a mother.

Which perhaps is really the issue here. It’s not about being a blogger or a mummy, or a mummy blogger, or not as the case may be. It’s more about the joy that comes watching your child grow up but the slight sense of loss that comes when they start leaving childhood behind.

And, perhaps even more significantly, where that leaves me, and one day, you.

IJ is at school as I type this. She often contacts me during the day but hasn’t today. That’s a good sign. She’s with her friends and doesn’t need me. It’s left me twiddling my fingers a little and wondering what to do with the extra time.

So I’ve filled it by writing a blog post that doesn’t really have a clear thread running through it. It jumps from one thought to another in a slightly haphazard way. It started with the word mummy and ended up talking about IJ, with her on my mind constantly as I wrote the words in between.

Perhaps I still am a still mummy blogger after all. Not that labels matter. I’ll just carry on blogging and see what happens.

Perhaps I could write a blog post about working out where you fit in in the world as your child starts to grow up and become more independent.

Perhaps, in a way, I just have.

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Intruder

Door handle

IJ was on the edge of sleep. I was sitting on the end of her bed relaxing with a book. All was well.

And then.

As if sensing our vulnerability.

Our peace was interrupted.

There was an intruder in the bedroom.

His timing was perfect, no doubt to catch us off guard, to wreck the greatest havoc.

A wake-up call perhaps, reminding us not to get too comfortable.

A reminder that you never really know what is around the corner.

That life is unpredictable.

One moment it was calm. The next moment, acutely aware of the intruder’s presence in the bedroom, all hell broke loose.

I braced to tackle him, all instincts telling me to do the exact opposite and run away. To protect myself.

But IJ was relying on me, telling me to help, telling me she needed protecting. And growing more hysterical by the minute.

He was forcibly removed in the end. I’m still shaking at the memory so will omit the details here.

IJ won’t talk about it today. After taking hours to settle, she’s exhausted.

I simply say this. To the next huge, black spider that decides to run across the carpet and rudely disrupt our evening routine.

We’re ready for you.

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Tropical birds in Jamaica

Standing proud in the sunshine. I adore the colours on these tropical birds, caught on camera in an aviary in Jamaica.

So much nicer than the grey pigeon I’ve just spotted outside my window …

This week’s Gallery theme is: Colour. Visit the Sticky Fingers Blog for more entries.

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Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

It was, without question, the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever visited and exactly how I imagined the Caribbean to look.

Sand the colour of light vanilla that sinks between your feet, palm trees lining the shore, and the sea so clear in parts you can see tiny tropical fish swimming beneath the surface and the curves of seabed below.

The Caribbean Sea, Cayman Islands

In the Cayman Islands, 180 miles west of Jamaica and 150 miles south of Cuba, we found a little piece of heaven. It’s the most beautiful stretch of sea I’ve ever swam in. Warm, clean, as close to perfection as you can get.

IJ, too, was in her element, catching fish with the little red bucket we bought from a nearby shop for just a few dollars. The beach felt safe and there was the added reassurance of lifeguards keeping a close eye.

Caribbean Sea, Cayman Islands

Our cruise took us into the port of Grand Cayman, where we’d chosen to spend the day on Tiki Beach, part of Seven Mile Beach on the western shore of the island. It’s regularly classed as one of the world’s best beaches.

iki Beach sign, Cayman Islands

While many of our fellow travellers opted to go scuba diving, snorkelling and turtling during their time in Grand Cayman, we decided we wanted to do nothing better than fulfil the ambition of relaxing on a Caribbean beach and swimming in the sea.

Watersports, Cayman Islands

So we did exactly that and nearly missed our coach back to the shore in the process because we were enjoying the experience so much, and also because IJ was reluctant to leave the water.

The clouds in the image below gradually crept across the sky during our time on the beach and just as we were leaving, we got caught up in a tropical storm. Our trip in late October was just at the end of the rainy season but we were mostly very lucky with the weather.

The Cayman Islands, Tiki Beach

Back at Carnival Freedom the staff welcomed us back on board with warm towels so we could dry off. It felt a little bit like coming home.

Then it was off again to Mexico and the port of Cozumel. But first there was a dance show in the onboard theatre and a three-course meal in the Chic restaurant. The rest of the night would be spent playing in the arcade, because travelling with an eleven-year-old sometimes requires a little bit of compromise.

We travelled to the Cayman Islands with Carnival Cruises for Cruise International Magazine on a six-night Caribbean cruise sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and calling at Jamaica, Cayman Islands and Mexico.

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Falmouth, Jamaica

One of the best things about cruising is waking up in a brand new part of the world. After a day spent exploring Carnival Freedom, playing table tennis on deck, relaxing in the sunshine and over-indulging in the restaurants, we awoke to find ourselves off the coast of Jamaica, just outside the port of Falmouth.

The Port of Falmouth, Jamaica

After a day at sea its something on a celebration on a cruise ship when you first glimpse land ahead. We were hit by a wall of heat as we stepped from our air conditioned room on to the balcony, where we watched with fascination, like the newbie cruisers we were, as the ship slowly guided itself into the cleanest port I’ve ever seen. Admittedly that’s not many.

We were mesmerised for a time by the colour of the sea. There’s no filter on this shot. It really was turquoise.

Sea off Jamaica

We debarked to the sound of traditional Jamaica drums being played on the dock and quickly found ourselves amongst colourful market stalls selling an array of traditional gifts.

Then we were were driven into the Jamaican countryside, with only a quick glimpse at the obvious poverty that exists a short distance from the well-stocked shops.

Jamaica was hot but bearable, humid, full of colourful vegetation and absolutely beautiful. It’s red soil reminded me fondly of Africa, a region certainly close to Jamaica’s cultural heart.

Pink Jamaican flower

Our destination for the day was Good Hope Estate, a 20 minute drive from the port on the edge of the Martha Brae River. It’s a former sugar plantation set in 2,000 acres of lush countryside. Its location 600m above sea level meant there was a slight breeze, which took the edge off the heat.

Jamaica lake

We were new to the world of cruise excursions, but the attraction of the Good Hope Estate excursion provided by Chukka was that it offered a variety of activities and also promised to offer a taste of Jamaica. When you’re only there for a short time, there’s a definite need to experience as much as possible.

Dune buggies, Good Hope Estate, Jamaica

Bar at Good Hope Estate

Rather than attempt the dune buggies, the zip wire over the whole plantation and the river tubing, all of which were available, we opted for the more sedate activities of walking around the aviary of exotic birds, enjoying a Jablum coffee and taking in the gorgeous countryside.

Tropical birds

Swings at Good Hope Estate

IJ enjoyed the playground and assault course but was particularly taken in by Duke, one of the horses that took us on a carriage ride around the plantation, because he appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean, which means he has celebrity status.

Horses at Good Hope Estate, Jamaica

Climbing frame at Good Hope Estate

Not to be missed, once you’ve explored the grounds, is a tour of Good Hope Great House with its original orange cedar floorboards, rare mahogany furniture, lush gardens and stunning views over the estate.

The Great House, Hope House Estate, Jamaica

The grounds of The Great House, Jamaica

Built in the 1700s it’s the former home of John Tharp, the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica. IJ was most fascinated with the grave room, which really is a grave inside a house. It belongs to Elizabeth Williams, the young bride of the original landowner Colonel Thomas Williams. She died of malaria aged 24.

Inside The Great House, Hope House Estate

Inside The Great House, Hope House Estate, Jamaica

We dined in the sun on traditional jerk chicken. Had I been keen, there was Appleton Rum Tasting too, but we had a busy evening at sea ahead so it was best to stay off the alcohol.

We had a fabulous day and were made to feel incredibly welcome by the Chukka team. Good Hope Estate really did give us a taste of Jamaica, its people, its history, and its cultural heritage. Just enough to want to go back and spend more time there.

Martha Brae River, Jamaica

Next time though, I won’t make the mistake of forgetting to apply insect repellent!

From Jamaica we continued along the Caribbean Sea to the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited … the Cayman Islands.

We travelled to Jamaica with Carnival Cruises for Cruise International Magazine and were kindly hosted by Chukka during our time there. For more information about Jamaica visit: www.visitjamaica.com

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Fort Lauderdale Port

It’s possibly the most excited we’ve ever been, waiting at Heathrow Airport on a warm October night for the bus that would take us to our hotel for the night. The next morning we’d fly to Miami International Airport then travel on to Fort Lauderdale and later cruise the Caribbean.

It’s somewhere I’d one day hoped to visit – the Caribbean – but never really believed I would. White sands, water so clear you can see the bottom of the sea bed, palm trees, island hideaways and sunshine. Who wouldn’t?

Private Caribbean island

But the reality is that I’m a single parent and my budget doesn’t stretch to holidays, let alone long-haul flights and exotic locations. Certainly not the sort you add to your bucket list.

So imagine our off-the-scale excitement, mixed with disbelief and slight bewilderment, when we were invited to spend a week on board the Carnival Freedom cruising around the Caribbean for Cruise International Magazine.

We said yes before we’d even seen the itinerary: Jamaica, Mexico and the Cayman Islands. All very manageable! It was, without question, the trip of a lifetime.

But first we had to get there, and I’m not a fan of planes, but feel the fear and do it anyway, they say, so we did. And it was worth the nerves.

Arriving in Miami at midnight our time to bright sunshine, we took an hour’s drive to our hotel for the night. Jetlag meant we were up early the next morning, ready to start our day at 4am. At least it gave us plenty of time to explore.

Fort Lauderdale

IJ soaked up every minute of it as we walked round Fort Lauderdale in the sunshine wandering into shops and coffee bars and admiring the yachts docked near what turned out to be a small private beach.

The trespassing wasn’t intentional, but thankfully no one said anything as we turned up at the edge of someone else’s pool. The jumper wrapped around my waist and out ultra-pale complexion no doubt a sign that we weren’t local and didn’t really know where we were or what we were doing.

Carnival Freedom

Back in more familiar surroundings on the road leading back to our hotel, we spotted Port Everglades, and in the distance the Carnival Freedom being loaded up with supplies.

Hours later, following an incredibly swift onboarding procedure, we boarded the ship to the sound of live carnival music being played on deck. And our Caribbean adventure began.

Leaving Miami

First stop … Jamaica.

Special thanks to the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Post Hotel and Carnival Cruises.

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close up of a clockwork

The thing about ageing is that with those extra years and extra lines comes something else more valuable than the beauty products that attempt to hold back the passage of time or the hair dye that hides the ever increasing grey.

It’s a respect, in my case, for the passage of time. A growing appreciation that our time on this earth is short and that every minute spent feeling angry at the stranger who barged past you on the street, the rude colleague or the shop assistant who ignored your request for help, is a minute lost.

Call it a middle-age thing, but as the years left behind you match the number of possible years ahead, there’s a growing sense that time is precious and needs be well spent.

It’s also a time, I’ve found, when you look back on your life, reflect on the future and realise that this is it. This is your one shot at life. Whatever you want to do with our life you have to do, or at least attempt. None of us will get this time again.

But with the process of ageing comes something even more valuable. Suddenly it doesn’t matter so much about those lines around the eyes, the slight looseness around the jaw and the slightly larger middle.

Slowly but surely as time passes, as you experience more of this world we inhabit, one thing that I’ve started to experience, after many decades, is the one thing the beauty brands can’t bottle: self-acceptance.

Life experience teaches you that there’s no point trying or pretending to be something you’re not – the extrovert when you’re actually quite shy, the public speaker when you’re anxious about standing in front of an audience.

That time is far better spent discovering who you are, what you value and playing to your strengths, and not comparing yourself to anyone who isn’t you.

Because the alterative is spending your life wanting to be someone else, someone different, someone taller, someone thinner.

The thing about ageing is that you eventually accept that you can only be you. So, really, time is better spent just being yourself. Life’s too short to strive to be anything else.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes this week. It turns out that getting older isn’t so bad after all.

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Sir Ranulph Fiennes queuing to register for the MDS ©LizScarff

After much hesitation yesterday morning I ventured out for a short 15 minute run. Admittedly it was more of a jog than a run interspersed with large sections of out-of-breath walking. It took me the rest of the day to recover.

I’m still feeling the effects of my exertion today. It’s a worrying reflection on my fitness levels.

Having spent the week following the progress of Sir Ranulph Fiennes taking part in the Marathon Des Sables, largely from the comfort of my sofa, I felt inspired to take on my own fitness challenge.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Marathon des Sables day two

Inspired by his exceptional efforts at the age of 71, I’ve set myself some running challenges of my own, although I can’t see a marathon being one of them any time soon, if ever.

If you haven’t been following the #RunRanRun hashtag on Twitter, Sir Ranulph has been running six marathons in five days across the South Moroccan Sahara desert in what’s described as ‘the toughest footrace on earth’.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes leaving the start line on the third day of the Marathon des Sables ©LizScarffFieldcraftStudios

That’s a gruelling 156 miles across one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, battling against the sand, the heat and no doubt the desire to give up. Crossing dried-up lakes, taking in dunes, ergs and djebels in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Rory Coleman at checkpoint one  day three from the MDS ©LizScarff_FieldcraftStudios2.jpg.jpg

On what’s called the ‘long day’ competitors complete two marathons in one day, which involves running through the cold of the desert night.

It’s not a challenge for the faint-hearted. It takes super human effort and a mental toughness very few of us possess. It’s been incredible to watch Sir Ranulph, with the support of his trainer Rory Coleman, battle on day after day. I, for one, couldn’t do it.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Rory Coleman on the last stretch of the long day ©LizScarff_FieldcraftStudios

The Marathon Des Sables celebrated its 30th edition this year. Over 18,000 runners have taken part to date. This year Sir Ranulph joined over 1300 runners from 50 different nations; all taking on the challenge for different reasons.For Sir Ranulph it was to raise essential funds for Marie Curie.

Ranulph Fiennes Marathon Des Sables for Marie Curie

Runners tackle the distance at their own pace with 72 medical staff on hand to offer support at checkpoints along the way. The fact that supplies for the event include 2.3kms of Elastoplast, 6,000 painkillers and 150 litres of disinfectant says it all.

Marathon des Sables first climb on day two ©LizScarff

Runners are also required to be self-sufficient and carry their equipment and food supply for the duration of the race, in a backpack. It means food supplies are light, high-calorie and limited.

Day one food rations - lunch ©LizScarff

When you consider that Sir Ranulph has suffered a heart attack, undergone a double heart bypass and battles with diabetes, taking on this challenge was not without its risks.

In fact there were times throughout the race when there were genuine concerns for Sir Ranulph’s health. It looked at one point as if he would need to pull out. He needed medical treatment on his back and reported several times feeling dizzy during the race and feeling the strain on his heart.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes seeing the doctor for his back ©LizScarff_FieldcraftStudios

Incredibly, yesterday evening, the news came through that he had made it. He’d crossed the final finish line and become the oldest Britain to complete the Marathon Des Sables. I’m lost for words as to what an amazing achievement that is.

Ranulph Fiennes completes the Marathon Des Sables

There’s a beautiful quote on the Marathon Des Sables website that sums up the message Sir Ranulph’s success gives us all. It says simply this:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang.

Here’s footage from the final two days of the race including the moment Sir Ranulph crosses the finish line:

There’s still time to donate to Sir Ranulph’s marathon efforts. Text RUN to 70007 to donate £5 to Marie Curie. You can also visit Sir Ranulph’s Just Giving page.

Photography ©LizScarff/Fieldcraft Studios.

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