How to…

…Lose Weight.

This is more of a prospective rather than retrospective blog post. I have gained weight. Just over half a stone. It’s not loads but it’s enough to cancel out some of my jegging choices…as well as some of my older dresses. I blame two things:

  1. Turning 26.
  2. Marriage (loving bastard).

Luckily for me I’ve managed, with little to no effort to remain a size 10 from about the last eight years. My mother told me of this evil myth called the metabolism, and in a prophetic, ghost story type way told me that one day it would creep up on me and ruin my life. It turns out that the day I turned 26 this evil myth materialised into reality and now I can no longer do up my trusty denim shorts (one of only two pairs of shorts I own – I live in Wales, any more would be excessive to say the least). Now, when I have put weight on in the past I’ve counteracted the swelling by running every day for two weeks and eating only scrambled eggs for breakfast and lunch, hey presto, a whole stone gone in a fortnight. So when I weighed myself about a month ago and felt a little unpleasant feeling in the pit of my larger than usual stomach as I realised the scales weren’t broken (I’d been trying to convince myself of this for a week) I set off on my scrambled egg mission. For two weeks I was the queen of poached or scrambled eggs, I didn’t even know how to make poached eggs before I started and now I’m epic at it. At the end of this fortnight I weighed myself and was deeply surprised to find that I had PUT ON WEIGHT!

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Book Review…

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan

This was the third book I managed to polish off on my honeymoon and it was just as delicious as this sentence implies.

Review of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

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Honeymoon Activities

On my honeymoon I read. I also did other lovely newlywed-related activities; I learned to shoot an arrow (incase my new husband should try to run away) and drive a segway. I also spent many a hilarious hour trying to teach a very long-limbed man how to row a boat, and got bitten in the face by a dog (she didn’t like strangers touching her back end – girl after my own heart) as well as partook in other honeymoon specific activities  (….bamchicawowow). But apart from all that exertional activity, I read.

I used to read an awful lot. I spent my entire childhood in books which eventually led to my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. However what with the invention of Netflix and highly portable internet devises, my reading time began to twindle but recently I started to fear that my brain was becoming an addled mess of Americanised smush. So I packed my hand luggage full of trusty books (don’t get me started on Kindles) and lugged them all the way to Scotland (where, luckily for me, internet was not in infinite supply).

This leads me to my point (knew I’d get there eventually): Reviews! I am great at criticising, being critical is a particular talent of mine, consider me blessed with the infinitely arched eyebrow (figuratively speaking, I actually can’t raise one eyebrow, I’ve spent hours of my life trying, it really feels like something I should be able to do). So I shall be reviewing each of the books I read during my Scottish retreat, starting with The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton.

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Musings on…

…Marriage.

Now I’m not yet married, although come this time in June I will be a full-on married lady and I recently went on a trip where I was surrounded by a lot of people asking me why on earth I was getting married at this age (I’m 25 by the way). Of course I gave the usual (and obvious) “because I love him” answer but I can’t deny that the questions got under my skin; in a world where 42% of marriages currently end in divorce (and in our current “weddings/Disney fairytale/I’m a princess” society, I think that’s only going to get worse), what makes me think that I won’t be part of that statistic one day? And given that marriage doesn’t mean the same things in society that it used to; the ability to live together, have children, etc, what point is there in marriage anyway?

Engagement Shoot

So I’ve been thinking it through and I reckon I can answer the question “why am I getting married at 25?”.

Engagement Shoot

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, I’ve found a man who is fine with me wearing my cloak in public – it’s important to find someone who accepts you for all that you are.

Secondly, I’m not sure age has much to do with it, if I was 18 then may be I’d understand that question more but whilst I don’t always feel all grown-up, technically I am, I mean my body is only going to age and fail from here on out (positive thinking), so I may as well get married while my breasts still look good without the assistance of a bra because I’m sure as hell not wearing one of those torturous things on my wedding day (comfort first, all the way). I also don’t see getting married as settling down. Chris and I aren’t in our 30s and getting married because we want to have babies in quick succession and forget what it feels like to go to cocktails bars and have sex on the stairs (although I am aware that this will eventually happen – but it’s not that comfy anyway). I see this as the start of our adventure together, we still want to travel and experience new things and get really pissed in gross bars sometimes; getting married doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to stop harbouring dreams and ambitions and all of a sudden get excited about kitchen appliances, and to be honest it’s proper weird that quite a few people seem to assume that! I’m really not seeing getting married as our end game, it’s the first pass in our match (…of rugby, obvs, I would’t be bringing football into this).

Engagement Shoot

Which brings me nicely onto thirdly, I know marriage isn’t going to be plain sailing, but then I don’t think any relationship worth having is; people are complicated, evil, funny, selfish, wonderous creatures and I think our world history proves that we do somewhat struggle to live in harmony. Plus if you look at all the best relationships in your life they will have been tested at some point and the fact that it has made it through that test only means it’s a stronger, better relationship. I obviously wouldn’t be marrying Chris if I thought every day was going to be a struggle, but I’m under no illusions that some will be, in that way I think I have a realistic vision of what I’m getting myself into (a life-time of watching a 6ft5 man bang his head on things).

Dot and Lucy Engagement Photoshoot

And fourthly (is that a thing?), I’m not a fortune teller (although I have tried – got a crystal ball and everything), of course I can’t say that Chris and I will 100% stand the test of time, no one can ever say that because life has a way of curve balling one through it’s already twisted path. My parents are divorced, and they’re both married to divorced people (funnily enough) so I’m pretty familiar with marital breakdown and to be completely honest I did think I would stay away from the married state for this very reason, but then I met someone who changed my mind. I can’t promise anyone that I’ll know and love them forever, they can’t either, what I can promise is that I will always give the relationship my very best shot; the best chance at forever that I can give.

I know that we don’t technically need to be married but it’s bloody nice! I want to be a team; a family; a little Kelly Clan. I think that in this way marriage means more than it ever has done, it’s no longer a necessity, it’s a choice, it’s more about love than it ever has been. And I take that choice quite seriously, not every woman is as fortunate as I to have it.

Engagement ShootAnd FINALLY: because I love him.

#Soppy

Selamat Pagi!

Unfortunately there shall be no pictures accompanying this post because whilst in Ho Chi Minh City my handbag was cut off me by a gentleman (not so gentle) on a moped, who then promptly drove away with it. Let us all hope that his life improves to the point where he no longer has to traumatise tourists in this way, unfortunate bastard. Without my phone I was unable to take pictures and document the remainder of the trip, so you will have to settle with my well thought out words, good job I’m a writer.

After Vietnam I headed to Brunei, the self-proclaimed land of peace! It certainly is very quiet there but this by no means straightened out my learning curve…

10 things Brunei has taught me:

  1. Brunians love gold, they can and will paint anything and everything gold. Something I fully intend to apply to my own life.
  2. Watching monkey’s play in the wild is such a lovely, heart-warming experience. It also made me make funny noises – like the noises I make when I see kittens.
  3. The shopping in Brunei is ACE… and very sparkly.
  4. I’m really allergic to insect bites.
  5. Being a couple of feet away from a real live crocodile will make you want to sit on your hands.
  6. Air conditioning is a gift from the people, to the people, heat is a test from the heavens: who can stay awake the longest (I’m not a winner in this game).
  7. The South China Sea is very beautiful, especially when viewed from a cushioned sun-lounger.
  8. A successful politician either speaks without actually saying anything or just states the bleeding obvious.
  9. Very rich countries should really think about providing toilet paper in their public toilets. Really.
  10. Probably couldn’t live in a country where alcohol is banned for very long (I’m thinking around two weeks, max).

So that’s what I learned from Brunei but stay posted for a blog on what travelling in general has taught me, some say life is a stage, I think it’s class room – not that I learned all that much in school – I’m getting it all in now.

How To…

…Survive long haul flights!

Last week I arrived in the amazing Vietnamese city of Hanoi, after around 28 hours of travelling. We set off at 5am on Tuesday morning and arrived at the hotel at around 3pm on Wednesday afternoon…scrap that – around 34 hours of travelling (if I’ve got my maths right, which frankly is entirely unlikely).

Now I’ve only ever done one other long haul trip in my life, a nine-hour flight to Calgary, Canada. It was pretty bad, everyone told me that it would be completely fine because I’d have lots of movies to choose from and could sleep the rest of the time or make friends with fellow passengers, that sort of thing (it didn’t help that I was travelling entirely alone). However, when I got on the plane I quickly realised that I was on the EasyJet of long haul flights, with tiny TV screens, sporadically placed around the economy class cabin, during the entire trip they played three films, one of which was Harry Potter (seen, like a million times already), We Bought a Zoo (don’t watch it, Matt Damon how are the mighty Jason Bourne fallen) and one other film which must have been really bad because I have irrevocably scrapped it from my memory bank. All the films also looked like they had been bought by one of the flight attendants on a layover in Thailand at what I can only assume was a particularly dodgy pirate DVD market.

Up in smoke went my optimistic hopes for making new flight friends when I found that I was sat next to two hardcore mathematicians on their way to Calgary for some kind of clever but dull person conference. They spent 9 hours discussing a complicated equation involving the letter C. That’s NINE HOURS of in-depth debate and argument about what “C” was, and 9 hours of me refraining from telling them that it’s actually the letter at the beginning of a word that would perfectly describe them both. By the time I got off this flight I was a mumbling wreck. I met up with a bunch of people I’d be travelling to the hotel with and we made friends (finally) but then after I’d arrived at the hotel, had a shower and came down to dinner, they reintroduced themselves – yes ladies and gents, I’d looked so bad when I got off that plane that once I’d washed and put a little bit of makeup on I was genuinely unrecognisable from the sweaty, greasy, mumbling plane person they’d first met. And they say you can never have a second first impression.

So, understandably I was not looking forward to a 12 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur (followed by a three-hour flight to Hanoi) and was determined to be more prepared than the last time. So I’ve put together seven tips on long haul flying, to help anyone who finds themselves having to spend nearly two whole days in motion:

  1. Stretchy trousers! One must have stretchy trousers, I refer to mine as ‘yoga pants’, basically elasticated waist band floppy things that Chris bought me back from Indonesia (I know someone else who calls them “Poo Pants” – better name). When it was safe to do so I removed my belt (I listen to the safety announcements) I went to the toilet to change from jeans to freedom. It was ace.
  2. Fluffy socks! Flights are cold places and the blankets they give you are like bigger but shitter pashminas so pack a pair of bed socks in your hand luggage – cosy.Fluffy Flight Socks
  3. Snacks! I didn’t know this but (and I don’t know about other airlines) but from the time you step on a Malaysia Air flight they behave as if you’re already in the time zone of the plane’s destination. Which essentially meant that at what was British breakfast time I was being served dinner, and then what was around 12am British time I was served breakfast. This sort of thing just messes with your head as well as your stomach and can result in a good 10 hours without a second meal so I recommend buying many snacks in the airport and then just eat when you’re hungry and don’t ask any questions. Best way.
  4. Cosmetics! Apparently long haul flights are really bad for your skin. There are millions of YouTube videos about it so I did my research and did my best to adhere to the skin ritual I had learned, I had to make a few bits up because I couldn’t be bothered to buy any new products which essentially just resulted in me having a really slippy face for 12 hours, however, it was a pleasant distraction from the boredom of sitting in the same seat for that long.
  5. Don’t try to look glamorous! I’m one of those people still suffering from the hangover of glamorous air travel. Actually I’m not old enough to have properly experienced this so it’s like having a hangover without the good drunk bit firs (but whoever remembers the drunk bit anyway?). I tend to think that air travel is some sort of smart event and try to dress as such but I have now tried twice to look like a glamorous mystery woman of the world when getting off a long haul flight and twice I have failed most spectacularly. I think I’m just going to accept that I will always look as shiny and greasy as an oil slick and deal with it. Plus when you look around, everyone else looks a wee bit slick too so we’re all in the same boat (plane).Malaysia Airlines Blanket
  6. Don’t go alone! Travelling alone sucks, not seeing lovely things in far away countries but the actual getting to those countries. I literally could not have made it through 34 hours of traveling all by myself, which is actually something that Chris does all the time, for which I take my (hopefully soon to be a traditional, conical, rice-picking) hat off to him.
  7. Travel with some one who’s freakishly tall! Another great thing about Chris is that he’s deformed (6ft5), which resulted in us getting awesome seats with epic leg space.

Early morning coach to Heathrow!

So there you have it – ram your hand luggage with stretchy trousers, fluffy bed sock, snacks, shit loads of moisturiser and a really tall person (they probably won’t fit that well) and the whole thing turns itself into a random motion movie day. Go get travelling!

The power of…

…acceptance.

So as mentioned in my last blog post on what care homes are teaching me, my Oma is my idol, she is The Legend. But she has Vascular Dementia which is a very cruel decease because it seems that when someone in really old all they have left is their memories, their life experiences; the children they’ve raised; the adventures they’ve been on; the big achievements of their lives, but Dementia strips you of all of these things, leaving you with only a few moments of the present that disappear quickly into the misty blue hole of the mind where all other memories and knowledge have also travelled.

I LOVE visiting my beloved Oma every day but it is emotionally draining. Visiting her is a whole world of highs and lows. One minute she’s providing witty banter, the next she’s trying to remember who my mother is (that would be her daughter) and what my mother’s name is (that would be Georgina, the name she bestowed upon her as a baby). Or she’s worried about her son Stuart because she thinks he’s recently been in a serious car crash – which he was…in around 1975. That sort of thing. Sometimes I leave the care home and just cry the whole walk home, it just seems so unfair, she’s such an amazing woman who has had the most interesting life (she’s a German woman who married an English solider in 1949 for goodness sake), she shouldn’t have all that taken away from her! But she mostly just laughs when she realises who my mum is, and that it’s 2015 and that made me realise that I have as much control over this decline as she has. Neither of us can change the inevitable, and I’m not an uber scientist able to delve into the depths of chemistry for a cure, so all in all I’m just going to have to accept it.

The only thing I can control is how I feel and how much better I can make her daily life, whether she remembers it or not. That is what every other visitor at the home is doing, that is what every other resident at the home is doing. They would be weird if they liked loosing their marbles, but there is nothing they can do so they live with it, they make the best of it, the wonderful nurses there keep happy and upbeat at all times – every one has accepted that this is currently an inevitable part of growing old and are doing their best to make it as painless as it can be. And actually she’s doing okay, she has her bad moments but she knows who I am, she can’t remember what day it is or which city she lives in but she can remember what my name is, and for some reason she can remember that I’m getting married on 30th May, random woman.

This is a “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” thing. Apart from I don’t believe that God grants me this wisdom, I believe it is within my power and learning to teach myself acceptance; to grow from my experiences and be able to congratulate myself when the choices I make come good and learn from the choice that come out badly. My stepdad always says “the luck you get is the luck you make yourself” which has always stuck with me. I really do believe in fate, I believe opportunities are put in our way but I believe that it’s up to us how we utilise these opportunities, how we recognise them and benefit from them – that is the luck we make. I want to take responsibility for my own life; for the good and the bad – it’s all within my power. And I learned all this from visiting a care home full of some very confused but lovely old people. These old folks are teaching me an awful lot – just wish they knew it!