Prosecco Induced Poetry…

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Today is World Poetry Day and so I thought I would share a little Prosecco induced poem I wrote late last night/very early this morning in the middle of a very luxurious and romantic 5 star stay away I had with my husband. A belated wedding anniversary and joint 30th birthday treat! 

My World

“My heart sings out when I hear your name,

Your voice brightens my every day,
My soul lifts up when I hold your hand,
I love you, I couldn’t count the ways.
I’m a short little Ladey, a hobbit you say,
But in your embrace I feel sky high,
An intellectual crush, that developed much more,
That only grows as the years go by.
When I look at you, it’s the future I see,
And that seaside located seat,
To find a best friend, lover, true comrade too,
Is an occasion that’s quite unique.
I’d search for you for a thousand years,
If I had to, to find our start,
No life wouldn’t be ok, or just as complete,
Without my hearts true counterpart.”

Much soppier than it would have been had I written it before the Prosecco but the sentiment remains!

I have a few other blog entries just waiting to be published but we’re on a self imposed mini holiday so no computer access allowed so just a quick entry via cheeky phone access tonight, and in the meantime ‘Happy World Poetry Day comrades’!

  

Teenage Husband Plans…

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I have quite a few diaries from when I was a teenager and the other day I dipped into one for inspiration on a script I’m writing and I came across this gem. Aged about 14 I wrote a list of top ten good and top ten bad things to look for in my future husband. Entitled ‘Checklist for Mr Right.’ In a diary when I was much younger than that, after seeing the film ‘My Girl,’ there are a few pages decorated with variations of the phrase ‘I want to marry Thomas J!’ Now not only did I not realise at that point (aged 7!) I had already met my Thomas J, I had no idea that I was indeed going to go on and marry him!

7 year old Danielle (middle) the age I decided to marry Thomas J!

7 year old Danielle (middle) the age I decided to marry Thomas J!

Cut to seven years later, my priorities had obviously expanded to a more generalised list and it was really interesting looking back at what I wanted to find in my future husband.

14 year old Danielle (centre, in between the two girls in the middle at the front!) who made the list for her 'Perfect husband'!

14 year old Danielle (centre, in between the two girls in the middle at the front!) who made the list for her ‘Perfect husband’!

The lists are as follows;

Top ten good

– funny

– romantic

– taller than me

– manly

– knows all the quotes from Ace Ventura : When Nature Calls

– always up for adventures

–  happy to watch lots of Poirot

– imaginative

– can lift me up

– smiles with their eyes

Top ten bad

– bad breath

– dishonest

– materialistic

– doesn’t like horror films

– bad breath…seriously…eurgh

– dislikes chinese food

– smoker

– angry drunk

– doesn’t like my family

– has birds

Now I’m sorry to inform my teenage self that my husband has seen the film but doesn’t know ALL the quotes from Ace Ventura When Nature Calls, but with sixteen years worth of hindsight, I’m relatively sure that’s not going to cause problems down the line. I own the DVD so he can always learn them if it looks like it’s going to cause an issue! Otherwise he ticks off every other item on the top ten list so a 90% score is pretty good on that front.

The top ten bad list I think is more telling about my teenage self. The bad breath, and dishonesty are a given, no-one likes either of those! Likewise smoking is not an attractive habit and certainly makes bad breath worse. The birds thing is due to my fear of birds, I don’t mind them being in the world but living with birds certainly wouldn’t be ideal! Likewise horror films and chinese food was quite a large part of my adolescence, I have many happy memories of a group of six of us who hung out together as teens watching hundreds of horror films and eating and playing games and so I can understand why at 14, that was a priority! 

Then there’s the materialistic and angry drunk entry’s, at first read you’d assume perhaps someone in my immediate family was an angry drunk and that a lust for the material maybe was the ruin of my family or something. This is most definitely not the case, my parents divorced when I was 12, but it was very amicable (my brother can tell you about the burnt roast potato row of 1997 but frankly that’s about as extreme as it got!). However, I remember at 14 people at school started ‘dating’ (read – snogging in the form room!) and around the same time started drinking and generally trying to be more ‘grown up’. Every Monday morning there seemed to be a new drama because someone had had a ‘drunken’ row (and I say ‘drunken’ because how drunk can you really be on a couple of stolen hooch’s from your parents cupboard which was the general extent of the bingeing!). Likewise there used to be this ridiculous pressure to have brand names clothing (this was the brand obssessed 90’s) and all the latest gadgets or else you were a ‘loser’. For some reason, cost and value were misinterpreted as the same thing. Thankfully things are different now, materialistic people aren’t seen as cool these days, those trying to flaunt their wealth are seen more as shallow and tacky, with more emphasis is on the importance of people and relationships. These two things obviously had an affect on me to an extent that I wanted to avoid both traits in a future spouse! Luckily, one of the first things we bonded over was our love of the imaginative over the expensive; and although we have been known to have a fair few wines, ports and/or whiskys, we don’t ‘get drunk’ and the few times we have together, we’ve just been very giggly and/or very soppy drunks! 

My actual wedding day with my wonderful husband! My Thomas J!

My actual wedding day with my wonderful husband! My Thomas J!

It got me wondering what would stand out to Scarlett when she’s a teenager, in those years of teenage angst and Dawson’s Creek type emotions (which lets be honest spill over into our twenties as well!). When she looks around at her peers, what will stand out to her as something she doesn’t want to emulate, or what will she especially want to keep hold of as a teen? I’m relatively sure that she won’t have the same passion for Poirot as I do, and chances are she won’t know all the quotes from Ace Ventura When Nature Calls (“Oh look, it’s the monopoly guy!!” I’m assuming that will have made sense to…say one or two of you readers?!). But there will be things that she won’t necessarily even discover yet till she’s quite a bit older. 

As for her future partner, who knows, right now her entire life is a blank canvas. Maybe they are already in her life, maybe it’s someone who’ll steal a soft drink from her aged five(!) or maybe she won’t meet them until she’s much older. Of course maybe she won’t choose a partner, whatever she decides, her tastes will most likely change throughout her life. Mine certainly did, I’m not as bothered about what food my husband chooses as a treat, or which TV detective is his favourite (that’s a lie, it needs to be Poirot!), My husband smokes a cigar from time to time but I find that quite distinguished (1920’s chic!), I wouldn’t want him to be an occasional cigarette smoker and luckily he no longer is. The rest stays the same but he ticks every box. Admittedly, my list isn’t particularly exclusive, I’ve always wanted my husband to be a good man, which he very much is. And let’s be honest, not many women would want a man whose breath smells, is mean when drunk, lies all the time and hates their family! My teenage self kept her options relatively open, which in hindsight is sensible. We all change as we grow older and if Scarlett wanted my advice on who to pick as a life partner (which I assume with quite a bit of confidence that she will not!) I would tell her to try and work out what she wants from her own life first, discover her core values and then and only when she’s confident of those and self assured in who she is, then try and find someone who shares those core values. And of course one hell of a spark helps too!

One thing I will try and pass on is diary writing, at the time I sometimes wondered why I bothered but looking back now is priceless! As Scarlett grows up, I’m hoping she may be interested in reading her Mother’s equivalent age and perhaps in the times when she thinks her Father and I don’t understand her, she may be able to read my diary and realise I wasn’t so different to her (either that or she’ll realise that we’re on totally different planets and she’ll know she’s not quite so strange after all!)

For now I’m putting away ‘the perfect husband list’ and sitting back to enjoy the company of my real life ‘perfect for me’ husband, and then perhaps, just to be on the safe side, it’s time for him to learn a bit more of ‘Ace Ventura When Nature Calls’…!

Comic Relief Danceathon…

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Comic Relief. It began in 1985 and has become a landmark in our calendars every March. In 2002 they were joined by BBC Sport and Sport Relief became a bi annual sister of the family that Richard Curtis began 30 years ago.

This being the 30th Comic Relief is quite exciting, maybe more for me because I also turned 30 this year! I grew up with Comic Relief and every year have made a donation. I am passionate about charity work, thoroughly enjoying getting involved in events throughout the year but Comic Relief (otherwise known as Red Nose Day) has a special place in my heart. That’s why I jumped at the chance to take part in a first, on Sunday 8th March, a group of us headed to Wembley and took part in a six hour Danceathon. Hosted by Claudia Winkleman with plenty of other celebrities who took part and mingled with the 2,000 strong crowds we Disco danced, raved and ballroomed our way through six hours! With twelve different dance styles being taught (including a half hour learning the thriller dance!) we certainly had enough to keep our feet busy!

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Our team was made up of myself, Tim, George and Laura with my husband acting as our tour manager/driver for the day! We left Cheltenham bright and early after dropping Scarlett off at Nannie and Grampa’s and finally got home around 9.30pm that evening for a takeaway and a hot bath! We had a brilliant day and at the end of this week, we’ll find out how much the event raised. Our team still has a quiz night to be held to add to our total but if every person there raised £100 each, we’re easily looking at a £200,000 total for the day! As it came under 48 hours after sleeping rough for the night (see my last blog post for details) it was certainly a bit more challenging than I thought it would be; and still today, two days later, I can feel the after affects on my muscles! The upside of that is that I get lots of massages from my husband and an excuse to have plenty of bubble baths (the candles and wine are a bonus but obviously necessary for the recovery!)

I remember watching Comic Relief with my parents when I was younger (see pictures below) and am very much looking forward to watching it with my daughter and husband in the future. This year she’s more interested in trying to eat the red nose instead of wearing it but it’s a start!

1995 - my Mum, Dad & brother in their noses!

1995 – my Mum, Dad & brother in their noses!

20 years later, Red Noses with my baby girl not much younger than my brother was.

20 years later, Red Noses with my baby girl not much younger than my brother was.

Anyway, back to Wembley! Looking around us as we were dancing there were people from all walks of life, older, younger, from every different sort of background and ability and every single one was getting their groove on! Some took breaks, some didn’t necessarily finish for whatever reason but everyone was there for the same purpose, to dance their absolute socks off to raise as much money for charity. People you wouldn’t ever normally socialise with became part of your grapevine, someone you wouldn’t choose to spend your day with gets involved in a group hug at the end because, although you may be different, you’ve achieved something kind of awesome together! And that’s what I love about charity, it’s all encompassing. People from all kinds of places working together for a common cause, and during these events you get to chat to people who you’d never normally come across. At the same time, you may not necessarily be able to change the world with one danceathon or a sponsored silence or a 10k run, but if you can make a tiny difference in one persons life, isn’t that worth it? It may seem like charity causes are never ending, but you only have to look around to see the differences that are made. Whether it be local facilities for families who can’t afford them, or increased life expectancies, or medical breakthroughs or more villages with schools and water. Yes, it’s an ocean and there are so many places and people that need help and support; yes, sometimes it can feel like efforts aren’t helping but if you look around, it won’t take you long to see the benefits that these donations make.

The five of us had a great day and the aching muscles were more than worth the amount of fun we had at the event. Particular highlights include Marcus Brigstocks rave dancing and Rufus Hound temporarily taking over when one of the instructors microphones malfunctioned, we danced to funk with a man in a chicken suit, and took part in the Thriller just behind some women dressed as adult babies! Richard Curtis mingled with us all as we danced and there was a really positive atmosphere throughout the 2,000+ people there. And during all that sweating and swaying, we all raised much needed funds for local and international projects, and that kind of day is definitely worth dancing about! Although…maybe not again for another few days yet..!

Sleep Easy…

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This weekend was a busy one. On Friday night I took to the streets with 50 others to ‘sleep rough so others don’t have to’, with Cheltenham YMCA, dubbed on twitter as #SleepEasy2015 or just #Sleepy2015.

We all met at 7.30pm to get our boxes, and until midnight, there were activities in the sports hall and in the car park. We took part in Zumba to keep warm as the wind picked up and before heading to bed we took part in a quiz that the organisers had put together. Most people also decorated their boxes which were then judged at 9pm. Now I know that at this point, it sounds more like a jolly camping trip rather than a hard hitting experience! However, the sobriety of the situation was never far from all of our minds and the fun activities were a way of keeping spirits high. 

My home for the night!

My home for the night!

From midnight, the real event began, we all headed ’to bed’, which in some cases were well equipped with sleeping bags and a couple of boxes, and on the other end of the spectrum (in my case as I don’t own a sleeping bag) a couple of sheets, plenty of jumpers and one box that meant my bum and legs stuck out into the night air. Now, before you even start to feel sorry for me, know that after this event, I went home to my Mums house (who had had Scarlett for the night) and went to bed and slept for four hours so before I go on, no sympathy needed!

It was a very mild day but with no clouds in the sky, it was a cold night and the strong wind made it feel much colder. As we got into our boxes and said goodnight, the reality of what homeless people face every single day really hit us all. The wind meant the boxes shook, and you could hear cars on the nearby road and trains on the nearby train tracks. My friend (and homeless neighbour) Erin summed it up perfectly with a tweet she sent saying she felt ‘exposed’. We knew we were safe, there were staff in the sports hall ready to help if any of us needed anything and most of us had our phones to update on Facebook and twitter and the like which kept us relatively close to the friends and family that we would probably turn to for help if we needed somewhere to go. People that those who end on the street don’t necessarily have to go to, they certainly don’t have a phone or internet connection to reach out to people.

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I didn’t think a night on the street would necessarily affect me emotionally, I knew it’d be cold, I didn’t expect to feel so lonely and so vulnerable. My husband was away in Belfast and needed to sleep well for work but my retired Dad got several text messages during the night essentially just needing reassurance and some good luck messages. And all this for one measly night! At 6.30am we were all welcomed into the sports hall for a breakfast of sausage or bacon rolls and a hot cup of tea! In the grand scheme of things, this was not really a huge deal! At around 3am I needed the toilet, had I been on the streets, I’m not sure what I would’ve have done; as it was I just went into the sports hall and used the toilet before returning to my box, (doing a couple of jumping jacks to try and warm up a bit!) by 4am, the cold had got through to my bones. I was breathing into my gloves and then putting my hands on my knees to try and get a tiny bit of warmth to the throbbing joints. I put the sheets over my head and tried to breathe enough to create some warm air. I bent up into all kinds of strange shapes to try and get as much of me into this rather small box as possible. When those positions caused painful pins and needles and aches and pains, I got into a different one. All of this made for not a very good nights sleep at all! Overall, I got 55 minutes sleep between 4 and 5am, the rest of the time was just trying to get through. 

I was determined not to go into the sports hall which we were told we could do if it got too much or we felt ill or whatever. I thought of every person on the streets who would give their right arm for one night in a sports hall and I knew I’d be letting my sponsors down and the homeless down by giving in. 

By the looks of Twitter, most of my comrades failed to get much sleep as well and all of us in the morning were proud to have lasted without resorting to the sports hall. As we took our group picture before everyone headed back to their regular lives, nobody cared about being photographed without makeup or looking tired, we had all been through an emotional experience together with a whole new appreciation for how charmed our lives really are. 

For me personally my biggest problems that come to mind are as follows;

1. Sometimes the timer doesn’t work on our boiler so we have to manually turn it on and off.

2. I’m constantly staying up late writing or similar and so I’m quite often a bit tired in the day.

3. Being self employed, my husband and I can’t always guarantee when invoices are going to be paid so we have to be careful about paying bills and food etc. and sometimes have to temporarily dip into our savings. I know I know, cry us a river..!

4. We work most weekends so often miss out on social events we’d like to go to.  

For someone who relies on the street for survival, their worries are as follows;

Praying the weather is kind so they will stay at least dry.

Fearing falling asleep in case someone takes what little they have or worse, attacks them.

Trying their hardest each day to scrape together some food and water to survive another day sleeping on the streets.

Exhaustion at an entirely different level and cold to their very bones which does not leave you.  

When I got back from the night, I slept for four hours straight away but went into a bit of a shivery sleep as if I had the flu or similar. That night I went to bed at 8.30pm still exhausted and struggled to sleep because although our house was lovely and warm, the cold that had seeped into my bones still hadn’t left me. I couldn’t get comfortable because my joints and muscles ached and I still felt a bit fevery. It was not an experience that left me straight away. It took a good couple of days to recover from it and that was one night!!

For those that live on the streets, they don’t have the luxury of a hot shower, a warming cup of tea and a comfortable bed after a difficult night, and frankly the night we had, with strong winds and 7 degrees out, we had a very easy time of it considering. I don’t even want to know how much harder it would be if it had been colder, or raining. Or how frightening a thunderstorm would have been. Or how upsetting it would be if I couldn’t have spent the evening catching up with a friend and texting friends and family. I found it incredibly hard and yet realistically had it easy.

The total amount raised is not yet confirmed but I personally raised £150 which isn’t necessarily ground breaking but it will help and if all 50 of us raised the same amount it’s £7,500 which could make a real difference to the homeless people of Gloucestershire.

It wasn’t the end of my weekends activities but it was certainly one of the most powerful events I’ve ever been a part of and although it was very exposing, I would do it again to try and make more of a difference. My baby daughter will hopefully never find herself on desperately hard times, and if she does, there are friends and family around who would do anything to help and support her. Some people aren’t in the same situation and need people to be on their side; so for all those people who find themselves in desperately difficult situations but don’t have anyone to help and support them, it was an absolute privilege to in some tiny way, fight for each and every one of them.   

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