Light at the end of my dark tunnel.

Believe or not I am still around despite the long gap since my last blog entry in December and this one.

The reality of it is that my life has been extremely complicated for me these past few months, I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that with the winter months, severe weather conditions, as well as low mood due to my depression/anxiety it did have a huge impact on my well-being, which was only made worse by some  unnecessary stress at work.  I can now say though, thank goodness that I have now emerged from the other end of that horrible dark tunnel, and once again can see the bright light shinning ahead of me.  With a conversation I had with my GP about 5 years ago, she suggested I might also be suffering from SAD. I brushed this off thinking it was just the fact it was winter months, dark when you go to work and dark when you get home, cold wet weather, and lets face it none of us like the winter months for those reasons, but I have to admit it does now look like my GP was right and I was wrong. One of the things on my agenda this year is to invest in a SAD therapy lamp, and take more vitamin D from October, hopefully this will help keep the black dog from nipping at my heels again next winter.

Over a number of years I have learnt three very valuable lessons regarding depression, firstly, that when some people think they are doing their best by helping you, they don’t seem to realize it can be more of a hinderance, and can in actual fact slow down ones recovery process, I am not saying that is the same for everyone. Secondly I know of and have heard of people who have seen family and friends suffer depression, and they believe they ‘understand’ what it is like for those sufferers, people who have never suffered depression themselves and have not gone through that personal and individual agony of depression will never know or truly understand how it really does feel, in reality they can only actually see or simply imagine what a sufferer goes through, which is not the same. Thirdly, and most importantly, each and every person who suffers from depression suffer the same collective symptoms of the illness, but the cause that triggers it can be for very different reasons. Some may suffer a life changing illness at some stage of our lives, or lose loved ones, they may witness some horrible and upsetting things in their lives, but we all cope with those problems in very different ways. But where as one person can get back up and carry on with their lives, it doesn’t mean others who have faced the same problem can get back up in the same way.

Fortunately for me I have learnt over the past 20 years how I can cope with my bouts of depression without interference from others, daily medication, self-help techniques, CBT, ways to motivate myself and a little bit of time just being left alone to do what I need to in order to pull myself through. I suppose I am one of the more fortunate ones to be able to do this, as I know others are not so lucky, but more often than not they are unable to seek the help they need in the first place.

When I look back to 20 years ago when my depression first started, and I look at things now, I know I have come along way  since then, after all I am still here to talk about it, and prove to others through my blog that it can get better, and that life can be good, in ways most wouldn’t think or believe,  more importantly however, despite every brick wall I have come up against I do some how find a way to crack and breakdown that wall down and turn the next corner. I know I am not the most cleverest of people, and as I have got older I have found I have slowed down mentally and physically, and I have learnt some hard lessons along the way, but in the end I do have this ability to be logical which is one of the tools that helps me to move on. I have firmly believed through logic that yes things can get really bad, but then they will also improve, and I like to make the most of those times as it helps me to look forward to them again if things do go downwards again, trying to focus on that helps me get better, and encourages me to try harder next time. Like my photography, I can be hard on myself to do better. More recently at work, several colleagues have told me I am too damn hard on myself, but in all honesty I have to be hard on myself as it is my way of getting back on top, it is my own way of stopping me sliding back down into the dark pit and staying there. Sometimes it can be the simplest of things in life that help people recover.

The horrible bad weather we went through this winter did mean I was unable to get out with my camera, which in itself was bad enough and made me feel low.  But in addition to that it was also the second Christmas without my dad. Some how it affected me more this time around than it did the first one without him. I think in all honesty the first year it was still so close to losing him that it hadn’t properly sunk in, and my life was on automatic with other things going on causing my stress levels to fluctuate, and get through other day-to-day trials, that I tried not to ‘over think’ about it too much, however this time around it had sunk in more and I felt it more, and it therefore had more of an impact on me.

In February I did get my first chance to go out to my local Conservation Park in Birmingham one of the afternoons I had a half day’s holiday from work, I wasn’t up to venturing off too far, but with the sun shinning a little, and despite  the temperatures being extremely cold, it was good to get out in some proper fresh air, and walk without slipping on snow and ice, but most importantly to be able to get out with my camera and see the wonders of nature. I could sit and watch these animals for hours at a time, especially the little guys below. The Conservation Park do an incredible job at looking after these animals, and they are part of a European breeding programme for the more rare and endangered species. Seeing these animals happily running around up to their own little tricks does put a smile on my face. I sat outside the cafe at the park for about an hour, directly opposite the Capuchin enclosure to have a coffee and sandwich, watching them did lift my spirits.

 

Red Panda, one of my favourites at the Birmingham Conservation Park.

 

Golden Head Tamarin.

 

Emperor Tamarin

 

Capuchin Monkey. I sat and watched this troupe for at least an hour – they are so funny and clever to watch.

 

Geoldis Marmoset

 

 

On the weekend of my birthday, I was also able to do one of my most favourite things, such as walk an Alpaca at Lucky Tails in Hurley, Warwickshire. with three of my very dear friends, I think I have converted them to becoming Alpaca lovers 🙂   I have lost count, but I believe that was my 6th visit in the last 2 years that I have done the Alpaca walks, and I am already planning the next trip there, hopefully the beginning of June…….can’t wait!!    This time I walked the handsome blue-eyed boy Norman.

Norman the blue eyed Alpaca. such a sweetheart and quite  a character is our Norman!

I wonder why it always feels so good to be around animals, they are so soothing and just may be they are far less trouble than some humans!!

With the Spring now upon us and Summer just around the corner, I am looking forward to having odd days holidays out visiting different places with lovely scenery, rivers & canal walks, plenty of wildlife, places like Trentham Monkey Forest, Charlecote Park, Foxton Locks, Albert Docks, Worcester, Stratford and the Costwolds .  All  places I have visited over the years and find that I want to go back to them as each visit is different to the last time.

I wouldn’t say I am a perfectionist, but I am one of those photographers who are critical of their own work. I look back at pictures I have taken, and tell myself I could do better with camera next time around……so where better than to go to places you have already been and try again and improve upon the last time.

Another comfort that I have missed these past four years is my rabbits, especially Sootykins, who I had for nine and a half years….which was a really good age for a rabbit, and they really were a huge part of my life. I do have a budgie called Charlie, but being a bird you can’t really hold and cuddle them the same way as a four-legged furry friend.  I did think again about last year getting another rabbit, but instead over the Easter weekend, after much thought and deliberation I decided to go for a Syrian Hamster. Which for obvious reasons in the picture below I decided to call her Patch.

Little Patch, Syrian Hamster. I was going to call her Dora (as in Dora the explorer,) as on the first weekend I had her she managed to slide down from a table and wandered around the lounge and managed to get under every nook & cranny to play hide & seek with me.

Whilst hamsters sleep during the daytime and come out and play at night, it gives me the chance to spend a good hour with her to play and pet her before I go to bed. Overall, having her climb in and out of my hands and up on to my shoulders is very relaxing, she is very well-behaved, and has only bit me once, that was on the second day as she was still trying to settle in to her new environment. And let’s be honest…. she is so cute and adorable, and to all intense and purposes she is very clever, and she is a wonderful little addition to my home life.

The beauty, survival and wonder of wildlife,flora and scenery amazes me no end, and I am always inspired by this old favourite hymn, and I often wonder what Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)  was thinking about at the time she wrote it, the words are so simple and yet so meaningful.

Chorus
All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all.

Verses
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well….

Alexander, Cecil Frances, (1818-1895)

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

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What is Christmas really about?

With Christmas now almost upon us, it’s only natural to reminisce of Christmases past. I can always remember when I was a young girl, my mom used to say to me, that as you get older the years will seem like they will go faster, so don’t wish your life away. For me, at the time, it did seem like a very strange saying. However, when you are young and just starting to grow up from a child into a teenager and then into an adult, it is the realization that these are actually true words of wisdom.

As a child, I looked forward to Christmas each year….it was always the sadness that when each Christmas was over, I couldn’t wait until the next one. But as a child, the year between each Christmas seemed to go so slow.

Over the last 30 plus years, it has been more noticeable that it seems that as you get through one Christmas, then the summer, that suddenly Christmas is upon us once again. You start to ask yourself the big question about just where has the last year gone.

The one thing I have noticed over a number of years is how people’s attitude towards Christmas has changed. There is no doubt about it, we are in a generation where new technology, and money has dramatically improved a lot of people’s lives, and so therefore a large percentage of ‘a younger generation/children’  have grown up with the ”I want” attitude.

With each passing year I have noticed an increase in the younger generations becoming more obsessed with wanting to do better each Christmas with their presents. Mobile phones, ipods and ipads, tablets and computers, Xbox and PS4 games and consoles, designer label clothes and so on. Not only this, expensive presents are more readily accessible throughout the year, not just at Christmas time. A new smart phone bought for a teenager this summer, according to them, will be out of date this December, and so will need to be updated to the very latest one this Christmas. Or a pair of designer Nike trainers, worn only half a dozen times, now look scruffy and outdated in their design.

I was born in the mid 1960’s and I grew up in the 70’s, and for those of my readers who are of the same age group as me, I’m sure you will remember that times were difficult, and I mean really difficult. If your parents worked in the car factory industry such as Rover Solihull or Longbridge, which were at the time the biggest employers in the Midlands, then likely as not they would be laid off from work or on strike near Christmas, so money would be extremely tight. In spite of all this I have always remembered my childhood Christmases with such fondness. One of my strongest memories was of my  mom each year singing one particular song to me and my brother, and even now I still play the record every year around this time – The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forget – by Nat King Cole.

The money was not around back then, my parents always tried their hardest to do right for us each Christmas. New clothes, shoes (all non designer) but practical for the year ahead. Games such as Scrabble, Cluedo, Frustration and jigsaw puzzles, then there were vinyl records, audio cassettes. selection boxes and a ‘main present’ such as a portable transistor radio, or a cassette player, or a bicycle which would have to last at least for the next  5 years (depending on how much or how quickly you grow) I remember I had my one and only bike for Christmas when I was about 9 years old, and I had it for over 10 years, and I even took and passed my cycling proficiency test on it when I was about 12 years old. In the end I out grew it and it became battered and rusty, but I was so sorry to see it go, but we had to make room for something else in the garden shed.

But I have to say that our up bringing has made my brother and I more aware of what Christmas was all really about. Traditional values, as every year we had the school Christmas Carol Service, a reminder that without the birth of Christ there is no Christmas. Just before my 3rd birthday my mother passed away, and all I had was my older brother and my dad, but then a year and half later dad remarried and in doing so we became part of a big family.

For me, since I can remember, the special charm of Christmas was always about my entire family, the togetherness, doing the simple thing of putting up the tree and decorations, Sitting around the table for Christmas dinner, and then the big family get together on Christmas night, with my Aunties, Uncles and Cousins. On Boxing day watching some films together on television. Playing the games, doing a jigsaw together that we had as one of our Christmas presents.

It was, and for me still is, the very simple things about Christmas that made it special for me.

In recent years I have often had cause to doubt and challenge my own religious beliefs, and have even doubted on occasions the existence of Christ, and as I have got older and more of my family have passed away, or I have had to face so many major health issues including my depression, some how it has made me return to my faith, because what ever the bad things that have happened to me I have come out of it the other end, and it makes me realize just how much more important this time of year really is. It is not about expensive presents, it is not about what the t.v. adverts want to have you believe. I have been annoyed by companies like Curry’s PC World who advertise the great big up to the minute television screens and say ”that’s what Christmas is all about”. I am also annoyed at Sky TV advertising that Christmas is about the big football matches being seen on their channel, them also saying this what what Christmas is about.  In this day and age it seems to be the thing to tell youngsters it is ok to tell them that this is what Christmas is all about.  It reminds me of two of the the 7 deadly sins, greed and gluttony. If only Christmas was less complicated now as it was back then.

Christmas is a time to remember that it was time of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the journey of the Magi, also known as Three Wise Men who came bearing small but simple gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to celebrate his birth, in a small stable in the town of Bethlehem, and more importantly spreading the message of hope over fear, near and far.

It is important that future generations remember the reason of the existence of Christmas being a Holy celebration. To some it is just a story in a book called The Bible, there are those who doubt the story  ever happened, and there are those who want to believe it is just a lot of nonsense. But for what ever reason that is why Christmas does exist, and for Christianity it is the most important date each year. It may just be a story book to some, but the Bible is the oldest and most fascinating book ever to exist, it has more versions than any other book in publication and has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. As of September last year, the full Bible has been translated into 636 languages, the New Testament alone into 1442 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1145 other languages, and over 5 billion copies have been sold worldwide.  But whatever the statistics are, it has and always will tell the same story and hopefully continue to give Christmas it’s true meaning.

This Christmas day it will be very difficult again, as it will be the second one without my dad. But at the same time, happy that I can spend it with my brother, sister-in-law, nephews and their girlfriends. It is good to have those happy memories from my childhood and teenage Christmases. I enjoy listening to a few old Christmas Carols, and songs, a couple of drinks to toast my family and friends present and past (fortunately I do not drive) and a couple of days just to relax and unwind from the recent work pressures and recharge my batteries whilst watching a couple of old movies. If the weather is decent, a long walk in my local park with my camera. What more could any one ask for at Christmas time?

This year has been yet another very difficult and tough year, and I have managed to come through it in one piece and that I have not lost any one dear to me. I have had my fair share of up’s and downs, but through it all I am very grateful and thankful to my family, friends including my new friends at work, and of course to God.

It is strange to think, that as I am sitting here writing my blog tonight, it is Saturday night and tomorrow will be Christmas Eve. But with all that in mind, I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas & Happy, Healthy New Year, and I do hope you can all make some very happy Christmas memories for yourselves this Christmas.

           Christmas Past 

Oh happy days, the snow fell over-night, 
we have a white Christmas in our sight.
Only a few more days and nights, 
Christmas will shine bright of white.

Remember those beautiful Christmas Eves, 
when we gathered round our colorful trees.
Remember when we caroled down the street, 
sang Christmas songs oh so sweet.

Memories are precious let’s not forget, 
don’t do anything you might regret.
Christmas is the time of year to share, 
to treasure family far and near.

This Christmas with the lights shining bright, 
reflecting God’s blanket of white.
Sing sweet songs in memory, 
past Christmas’s history.                                                    

Poem by Melvina Germain

Many thanks for stopping by

The Forgotten Wars.

 

 

 

 

Last night I sat down and watched some of the BBC ‘s live televised programme of the Royal British Legion Service Festival Of  Remembrance. This is always a very poignant service, and indeed a very poignant time for the entire commonwealth each and every year. Next year 2018 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War 11.11.1918.

It was a programme that my dad always watched without fail, as he did with the Sunday Service at the Cenotaph. In more recent years, we have also come to honor  those in the services who have been killed or injured, or been involved in rescuing & helping those struck down by terrorism.

We have all, been taught at school and read the books, watched films and documentaries over the years of the two World  both here and abroad. Wars and numerous other conflicts, including  Vietnam, in more recent years the war in the Falkland Islands, the war between Iran & Iraq, the IRA and so on.

In the 1950’s there were also several other major conflicts that the British Armed Forces had played their part in, that so many are not still fully aware of, except the older generation. The Korean War, also the war out in the Malayan Jungle and also the build up to the Suez Canal Crisis in Egypt, all of these are known as the ‘forgotten wars’. These are wars our government would rather not talk about.

The 1948 Act  – National Service as peacetime conscription was formulated by the National Service. From 1 January 1949, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the armed forces for 18 months, and remain on the reserve list for four years.

In short, the British government decided we needed to be prepared to defend us and our allies in case of another outbreak of war ever happened in the future. However, by 1963 National Service, in the UK came to an end. Some say it should be brought back….but that is always going to be an issue with those who believe conscription is wrong.

However, what many hundreds of thousands of people do not realize is that at the time between the early to late 1950’s there were many young men in the National Service, who went out to Korea, Malayasian Jungle and Egypt, along the Suez Canal Zone, and served alongside the regular British Forces in dangerous and life threatening conditions. The sad thing about this was because these young men were conscripted National Service men, they were never really recognized for their actual service, or recognized like the regular armed forces personnel and the Medical Corps, despite the deaths of many conscripted men during that era in the service of their country.

It took our own British government and the MOD over 50 years to recognize officially one of these particular conflicts, and to finally honor all these men with an official General Service Medals for their service in the armed forces as a National Service Conscript. My late father being one of them.

Over the last few years of his life my dad often use to tell my brother, sister-in-law and myself of his time out in Egypt in Shandur and Ismailia. Some of his stories have been imprinted in mind over the years, some good and some not so good, including the time he came across a scorpion in his bed, or when got put on report for getting sun-burnt whilst off duty. How he and his mates would go swimming in the big lakes on weekend leave. When he was told off by a Captain for not saluting a female Major in the Nursing Corp, instead he waved at her across the docks in Egypt…..the Captain didn’t realize that dad and the Major were friends from back home, and they had both worked at the same hospital in Catherine De Barnes she as a Matron and dad as the hospital gardener and he also did orderly duties. Both prior to going over seas.  Just a few years before she had saved my dad’s life when he had become extremely ill on duty at the hospital and had to be rushed into theatre.  The Major told the Captain, she never expected an old friend to salute her and she ended up putting the Captain back in his place.

When my dad passed away in April 2016, it was down to us to sort out his paperwork, belongings etc. In a metal tin tucked safely away we came across dads National Service documents, his joining papers, shipping papers, demob papers and so on a couple of black and white photos, and despite being of very poor quality, I can not part with them. It was quite a little sentimental treasure trove for me to hold on to. I sat down and looked through them all again last night after the service on tv. It seemed therefore very appropriate for me to write this piece on my dad and many thousand of other men who did their National Service.

In 1936 a treaty was signed between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Egypt called the Anglo Egyptian Treaty of 1936.  It stipulated the British pledge to withdraw all their troops from Egypt, except those necessary to protect the Suez Canal and its surroundings. Following World War Two, Egypt denounced the Treaty of 1936, leading to skirmishes with British troops guarding the Canal in 1951. Thus the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

An estimated 200,000 British troops served in the canal zone during the emergency – which preceded the Suez crisis of 1956 – and more than 300 were killed.

Attacks on the British garrison soon followed and in January 1952 the British government authorised an operation to disarm the Egyptian paramilitary police force in Ismailia which was orchestrating the violence. This was successful, but the violence continued. Riots in Cairo of an unprecedented scale followed, culminating in attacks on Saturday 26 January on British property and the expatriate community, thereafter known as Black Saturday.

British threats to occupy Cairo prompted King Farouk of Egypt to dismiss Nahas Pasha, but in July 1952 Farouk was overthrown in a military coup and General Mohammed Neguib seized power. Rather than insist on Britain’s rights under the 1936 Treaty, Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary tried to negotiate with the new government.

In June 1950 my late father had just undergone his National Service basic training, as a REME at Heathfield Camp in Honiton, Devon, then a brief spell at Aberfield, near Reading, to then be told that he was about to be shipped abroad to the Egypt Canal Zone in the Dec of 1950 to Shandur and stationed with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, where he spent his first Christmas abroad as a REME until Feb 1951, when he was sent over to GHQ 2nd Company in Fayid, Ismailia  For those who are not aware of what a REME is, it a Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineer. In short these were the men who supported our troops by ensuring any damaged equipment, guns, vehicles were repaired and fit to be used in service both in training and on the front line.

In 1950/51  the trouble was already brewing, and fighting and skirmishes had started, and the Suez became known as the Crisis Zone. My dad among many others  was one of those caught in the middle of it all.

Britain faced the increasingly difficult prospect of maintaining control over the Suez Canal in the face of rising Egyptian opposition and the economic realities of the post-war world. In attempting to exert its authority over the Canal Zone, Britain came up against a guerrilla movement fed both by nationalist and religious sentiment, and facilitated by a weak monarchy and a confrontational opposition government. The 1950-54 battle over the Canal Zone set the stage for the creation of an independent Egypt and the 1956 Suez crisis. Realistically, the British Armed Forces, under the instruction of our British government were trying to protect their rights under the 1936 agreement. There is a great deal of history behind this crisis is makes interesting reading. effectively, it was the start of the Guerrilla Warfare along the Canal Zone that led to the war in 1956.

What many do not know is that the early Liberation Battalions involved ex-Nazis. Several dozen former Wehrmacht and SS officers who served as advisors to the Egyptian Army from 1950. Mr Churchill, was again Prime Minister, and had become somewhat fixated on the prospect of British troops being once again under attack by Nazis, or their protégés.

According to the Foreign Office, the British lost 47 soldiers in the Canal Zone between 16 October 1951 and 1 June 1954 and a further seven were missing and were presumed killed.

British withdrawal from the Canal Zone accelerated, and the last troops left on 13 June 1955. Though the threat to British forces in the Canal Zone was over, Britain’s concerns over the security of the Canal itself were not. The Egyptian President Nasser would nationalize the Suez Canal in July 1956, setting the stage for full-scale war along its banks between Egypt and Israel.

There is a lot to be said for the part our National Service men played out there, and the dangers they had to endure. We were so delighted when my dad finally received his medal a few years ago. Those forgotten men had finally earned their recognition as where those who served out in Korea and the Malayan Jungle. These men should also never be forgotten for carrying out their duties in war torn areas of the world. Lest we forget.

I have managed to photograph some of dads service papers, obviously with their age, (which is older than me) they are not in the best condition. My dad was also a life long supporter of the Royal British Legion, it was thanks to them that he was able to maintain a certain level of independence these last few by way of a Disability Scooter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

Individuality and Character.

One thing I have learnt over the years are that no two people are ever really the same, there may be some similarities in all our lives in comparison to others, but the biggest difference, I believe, is our own personal character and individuality and ultimately how we deal with situations that arise because of those two factors.

One of the first things I learnt about my depression 18 years ago was how long it took me to admit I had a problem and to seek the help I wanted,  I say wanted rather than needed because despite how I remember feeling at the time I knew logically there was something that could be done to help me, and I suppose there was a point that I wanted to get better and wanted to accept help, that I believe was my character and my individuality. Even then it took a long time for me to be open about what I had experienced and what I was going through. I started telling myself I was weak, the more I said this the more I believed it, and as a result of this then the more my confidence diminished, as did my abilities to do things and my interest in life itself.

What we do, how we express ourselves, how we go through life with joy and sorrow are really what define us, how we accept the good and the bad and learn to ‘move on’. We all carry risks that can ‘trigger’ episodes of depression. For most people they are lucky they don’t experience depression, but then at the same time if they haven’t experienced it, they would never understand that there is another path to follow, another direction one could go in once you reach rock bottom.

On over hearing a conversation on one of my recent bus journeys, it made me realize this fact. We all have experienced similar situations in life in ways that people can associate themselves with, in very similar circumstances, but then the answer isn’t always the same as the other persons solution to their own problems. As was the conversation I overheard, I often hear friends talking about a difficult situation and one offers the other their advice because that is what they did in their circumstances, ”oh, but you need to tell him this”. ”No you should or shouldn’t do that”. I’m sure you all get the general picture.

For many years now I have battled my depression and various levels of high anxiety. I know of many people who have had depression and are still dealing with it in their own way.  My own way of dealing with it, is not necessary the same answer for some one else. We all have to ‘find the right path for ourselves’. I know several who like myself have turned to photography or art, we have all found a talent within ourselves that lets us express ourselves, and at the same time deal with life’s problems.

This past week I recently was given some really great news, I had passed my 3 month probation period in my new job. The strange thing was I knew I had been doing well, but there was always those niggling self doubts, always those creeping levels of anxiety, and periods of lacking confidence in myself.  The last 5 years of my life I have  spent looking for ‘security and stability’ in my career, each time I had to settle for a temporary contract. Then in September last year I finally got a permanent job, only to be told 5 weeks into the job that company restructure meant I would lose that job in April this year. Obviously, at the time it was a very disappointing and  yet another huge blow. In April when I did finally get made redundant, what was going through my mind was that I have got to start all over again, the job seeking, finding a new job, settling in with new people, how would we all get on, how would I find the job. Basically all those usual uncertainties, but realistically I needn’t have worried…..which is easy to say now.

I have been lucky, ‘my individuality & character’ I am certain is one of the factors that has helped me get through yet another uncertain period in my life, as has balancing my time with doing things I love such as nature visits and photography.  But more importantly, so has the help of the great team of people I now work with, they all have their individuality and characters which is what make them a great team to work with. On Monday when I was told the wonderful news about my job becoming permanent, I suddenly felt that I was now further along in my life that day than I was the day before. Once again I have found a little self-confidence and enjoyment and a great bunch of colleagues who I am proud to call my friends.

Who knows what lies ahead, but for now life is good.

A Psalm Of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;–

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Thinking about it…..

I Sit And Think.

I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
and people who will see a world that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet and voices at the door

by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

I was recently asked a question that has made me sit up and do a lot of deep thinking.

I was asked ….Who or what inspires me the most?

The poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘I Sit And Think’ really sums it up well.

Originally I answered the question instinctively. My answer was very simple, I’m inspired by people who like myself have been able to ‘overcome’ severe health issues, whether on a physical or mental level, and escape near death experiences. For me it summed it what incredible abilities we all have, to fight our battles, no matter how hard they are, or what odds are stacked up against us. Then there is the question why have I been able to overcome these obstacles and fight back at my depression?

Then I got to thinking more deeply, as why I gave that answer,  or even why we have been able to overcome these massive obstacles, and I had to try to narrow down my answers and analyze constructively.

To begin with what initially became a ‘recovery tool’ about seven years ago, has gradually built up to become a passion for me, because from it, it has helped me in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

My passion for photography has inspired me enormously over the past few years. It has greatly contributed in many ways to my well-being, both mentally and physically.

There is without a doubt a form of art in photography, but for me it’s a lot more than that. Photography has taught to me to evolve, for want of a better word. It has made me understand more, become more knowledgeable and it has taught me self-discipline and in addition to this, it has encouraged me to go to places I probably thought I would never go to. It has opened up my mind and opened up my life. It’s given me a new direction and a new purpose. One of the things it has allowed me to do over the last few years is to move out of ‘my own personal comfort zone’, get back into socializing and mixing with people including family and friends. I still don’t like huge crowds especially noisy ones, it makes me nervous and anxious, but I think in all honesty it is more to do with the fact that I just enjoy peace and tranquility…..which is probably why it explains my love of nature.

On and off over the past 17 years whilst I was going through some of my worst bouts of depression and anxiety, I lost interest in a great deal many things.  With depression it affects each and every one of us in different ways, myself personally, I felt that I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone I stuck to the minimal basic routine of working sometime eating and sometimes sleeping, other than that I sat on my own and cried until I had no tears left to cry, and had no emotions left in me to express. Just always negative thoughts, no ambitions or interest, and no matter how hard people wanted to try to understand how I was feeling, they just couldn’t understand. The only thing I can remember ever wishing for in those dark periods of my life was an off switch so that I could completely switch myself off from my life and the world in general.

Depression is one of those illnesses you have to experience to truly understand what it does to you, how it makes you feel, including the overall effect on your ability to just function normally in life or to just live.

Once I had started in my recovery process, I got to getting back to a little bit more normality, and bit by bit edging out of my depression zone into a new comfort zone. Now I can honestly say, I have moved out of my comfort zone and have become a little more adventurous, enlightened and a little bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. Although, I have to say there are still times I have self doubts, and lack confidence in myself.

My photography has enabled me to go out exploring, it has given me the chance to prove to myself I can do something and do it well and learn something new in the process. It has increased my interest and therefore my knowledge in nature and wildlife as well as history. they all go hand in hand, and that is what inspires me.

How many times does one go for walk or run just for the purpose of needing to exercise to stay fit and healthy?

For instance, I see a great many people in parks taking their dogs for a walk, or people going for a quick jog with their earphones in listening to music and concentrating on running to the beat of the music, some go to local parks with bags of bread to throw down and leave for the wildfowl to help themselves to. Others use park as a short cut to get somewhere else. I see a lot of ‘basic stuff’ going on, but rarely see people with real interest in their surrounding area of beauty.

Whenever I visit a park, any park, I like to take in the surroundings, listen to the birds, sit down near the lake, get close to the flower beds and have a look at the bees on the flowers, watching butterflies fluttering by and trying to identify the species. In the summer especially I enjoy taking a little picnic lunch and I like to explore the area I am visiting. All of this in itself drives my passion to take photos and capture those once in a life time moments for ever. In the past I would just simply hear a bird sound and think about what species of bird it was. Now, however, I love the opportunity to actually try to see that bird, find out where it is, and just watch it for a while, see its beauty and study its character. It encourages me to learn about its surroundings or its behavioural patterns. Just over a year ago, I persevered and made friends with a little Robin who after several weeks of patience, fed out of my hand, and did so every day for several months until it was time for him to fly off with his new little family to pastures new, however I was able to get up close to him and he allowed me to take some photos of him. A permanent reminder of just how close you can get to nature and how fortunate I was to be able to do this.

My interest in birds, wildlife and nature has meant I have been able to explore other places. I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon, and see herds wild Fallow Deer roaming freely over the acres of beautiful parkland next to the River Avon. On the same estate they also have a flock of rare breed Jacob Sheep. This year I was able to sit and watch a pair swans and their little family of  cygnets on the river looking for food by diving down into the weed, and trying not to get tangled in it.

Part of the wild herd of Fallow Deer at Charlecote Hall nr Stratford Upon Avon. They roam freely on the estate, but are cared for by the estate staff.

Beautiful wild Poppies, and varieties of other wild flowers growing all around the estate.

A beautiful Peacock Butterfly, spotted resting in the long grass.

A couple of the rare Jacob Sheep, part of a large and thriving herd at Charlecote Hall estate.

Walking up to Charlecote Hall and its beautiful estate. Sometimes the Fallow Deer graze on the grass at the sides of the path. It’s lovely to sit on the benches at watch them.

A Mute Swan tending her young on the stretch of the River Avon that runs through the Charlecote Estate.

My photography has also encouraged me to go to different places as well as return to old familiar ones. When I was very young, my brother and I would go on a coach trips in the school summer holidays with mom and dad. A couple of the places we used to go to often was in Wales, normally Rhyl or Aberystwyth, or to Blackpool to see the lights. My memories of Wales in those days were of a little seaside town, shops that sold ice cream and rock.  Beaches that were pebbles and stones and unwelcoming, as well as the unfortunate experience of it raining almost every time we went there. In my mind for many years I told myself Wales held no interest for me to go back there, neither did Blackpool.

When I was in the Special Constabulary back in the late 1980s and early 1990’s, myself and several other friends from the Specials did a sponsored charity jump and rescue in to the sea at Tenby, also in Wales, with the RNLI. I can still remember how nervous and anxious we all were, there were about 10 of us, the sea was extremely rough and choppy that particular day of the jump and we were in old police uniforms over the top of wet suits. On the morning of the jump we had thought about cancelling it, but then realising this is exactly what the RNLI do on a daily basis, it made sense to go ahead and do the jump, thus enabling us all in raising quite a bit of sponsor money for the RNLI and our maternity hospital special baby unit back home in Solihull. I do clearly remember we all joined in with a couple of hymns, Eternal Father Strong to Save…… which included the line ‘For those in peril on the sea’. And a couple of verses of Abide With Me, a last-ditch attempt to stay strong and focused. Fortunately for us, we all did the jump and were all rescued from the sea and arrived back on shore safe and sound. We went back to Tenby a few months later for a plaque dedication and cheque presentation service at the RNLI. That was the last time I went to Wales. At least until May of this year.

An opportunity came about because of my interest in birds and wildlife, it meant I had the chance to go back to Wales to an RSPB  reserve on a coach trip in May. At first I was put off  by the idea of it being Wales, the memories of those old stony, wet seaside towns came back to me. However, I decided I was going to go outside my comfort zone again, and so booked up the day trip to Lake Wyrnvy RSPB.

To my amazement I had the most incredible day, the scenery en route, as well as the scenery around the lake was absolutely magnificent. I saw several species of birds just a few feet away from me through the hide window. The lake itself and the area immediately surrounding it was stunningly beautiful. No more was the Wales as I remembered it so long ago as a little girl.

Looking down and across the incredible and beautiful view of Lake Vyrnwy in Wales from the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.

Looking across and up at the hotel from the other side of the lake.

A chance to see a Greater Spotted Woodpecker up close from the RSPB bird hide window.

Another close up at the bird hide of a male Chaffinch. He was going back and forth collecting food from the feeders to feed his youngsters in a nearby nest.

The highlight of my day….we heard him several times, and then suddenly there he was, a beautiful Cuckoo. My first ever sighting of one, whilst we were walking up a lower section of the mountains to a waterfall.

It was just a few weeks later I went on another trip to Powis to the Royal Welsh Show, it was very crowded and in all honesty very commercialized, but enjoyable all the same. Normally, I would see the outline of sheep in a field from a distance. At the Royal Show you could walk up and down long pathways seeing close up all the different breeds of sheep, and could also see how their character, facial expressions differed.

In July, not long after I started my new job, I went on a long weekend coach trip ‘down south’. This had already been booked up a while beforehand. One of the places I had been hoping to visit the past couple of years was the New Forest, and I had heard of the wild ponies roaming freely in the area. In addition to this the location we were staying was a Warners Holiday Village in Hayling Island, and a couple of day trips included the New Forest on the Saturday morning, Bournemouth in the afternoon and on the Sunday a day in Portsmouth visiting the historical naval dockyard, and the highlight of the weekend was a tour of H.M.S. Victory, the flag ship of Lord Nelson. The combination of all these sights meant I took several hundred photos and as a result have some wonderful memories captured forever on camera.

 

Wild Ponies walking in the road of one of the villages in the New Forest. Of course the coach stopped and gave way to these local inhabitants.

A packed Bournemouth beach on one of the hottest days of  summer.

On board the H.M.S Victory, the chance of a life time be one of the most historical ships in British history.

At the ships wheel on H.M.S. Victory.

A piece of history, the exact spot marked by a plaque, where Lord Horatio Nelson fell and died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Throughout this past 12 months I have been fortunate to have visited many places, odd day trips here and there including Alpaca walking, visiting Monkey Forest, Iron Bridge in Telford, Twycross Zoo, several  parks and nature centre and much more, I have  been able see so much and capture it on camera. I like the idea of challenging myself to do better in my photography by encouraging myself to go the places again and do better next time. I can now set myself goals, and make the effort to achieve them. I have learned to appreciate wildlife, nature and even history more than I could ever have imagined. there is so much more out there that inspires me and its down to my passion for photography but it is also my passion for photography that inspires my love for nature and wildlife.  Capturing the moment and being able to look back and understand something about what is in each photo. All of this inspires me….

As the poem says

and think of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been:

Of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.

Thank you for stopping by

 

 

New triumph….a new chapter for 2017.

Since the earlier part of this year my life has been somewhat ‘intense’. This has meant my blog has been put on hold for a few months whilst I focused mainly on job searching and dealing with other personal issues, as well as some occasional days out with my camera to preserve my sanity. Fortunately, I have had some great days out and have some new stories and photos to publish on here in the coming weeks.

The realization in February and March, knowing my job was soon coming to an end in mid April, having to be made redundant after only 8 months in this last job…… left me feeling rather low and at times very despondent. Inevitably, the situation of looking for and applying for and then attending any interviews became rather scary and bought on several panic attacks. In addition to all this I was having to ‘adjust’ to being on two new medication for my diabetes, which also had some rather unpleasant side effects.

Then I had to consider the next stage of my life……starting a new job, settling into it, meeting new people, becoming acclimatized to the new working environment, learning about the job what to do what not to do and so on. At times it became quite difficult…..but throughout all of it, I knew I couldn’t give up and therefore had to ensure it all didn’t become too much of a burden for me.

I believe as you get older, that despite your many years of experience and proven skill sets, it becomes a lot more difficult to compete for jobs, especially with the younger graduates that companies want to take on so that they can ‘mold’ them into shape, and into the image that the particular company wants them to be.  What has become more apparent these past couple of years is that employers are not prepared to pay better wages and so willingly take on youngsters for minimal pay in the name of apprenticeships.

This time however, financially, I was actually in the position where I could allow myself up to a maximum of around 3 months to find and start a new job without having to worry about paying the bills or having to sign on with the DWP and have to claim benefit for being unemployed. The turmoil and stress of that alone, having to fill in forms, attend weekly meeting at the local job centre, keep a record of proof that you were looking for and applying for jobs was something I did not want to have to go through again with them. This time I held the Ace card, and was in a position to be a little bit more selective about what jobs I went after, and whether to accept or not, the first job that came along that I was offered….simply because it was a job, and not because it felt right for me.

Realistically, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I did not want to be dictated to by the DWP or be answerable to them. I worked out my plan, first stage was to update my CV,  I shortened parts of it made sure I kept to the truth but made it a little more interesting and eye-catching to read and posted it on several reputable job sites. I had to work out a routine of job searching, setting up email alerts, covering so many hours per day on the computer looking at and applying for jobs, filling in application forms and so on. And in addition to this I knew I also needed to ensure I had proper breaks on the days in between, and got out into the fresh air and ate regular meals to ensure my diabetes remained well-managed, have plenty of exercise and kept my mind focused on other things such as my interest in wildlife and photography and day trips with a local coach company.

To my surprise, within a matter of 2 days of posting my CV I had quite a selection of different agencies phoning me up….I have seen your CV online on either CV Library or Monster etc and I am recruiting for a job which I believe will be just right for you. Great I thought, some real interest, then came the crunch….wrong location, too far to travel (everyone assumes you drive a car) or it was part-time hours, a temp only position and so on.

I did attend several interviews only to find that I received the feedback I had done really well…. but only just narrowly missed out, and was in a few instances  a close 2nd choice, when it comes to jobs, unfortunately there is not silver or bronze medals…..you just simply have to go for and obtain gold. In another couple of instances, someone had just that little bit better experience having already worked in a commercial office and the other job someone had already had experience working in an insurance office background, in another job I missed out purely because although I had a great administration background and wealth of experience, they believed I would become bored in the particular job and therefore felt I was over qualified!! The most annoying part about that was that I was never given the chance to find out or disprove them. I have always felt that you can’t actually get bored in a job, on if you let it. Even when there are quiet times there are still always things one can get on with.

There was another job which I had to say no to because the salary was ridiculously low, I told the recruitment consultant about this in our meeting, and that I couldn’t afford such a low salary, I was only interested in getting an interview for the job I had actually applied for through her recruitment company. I did get the feeling she wasn’t listening to me, and her mind wasn’t fully focused on dealing with me in the office, which I thought her attitude was very rude, she put me through for the interview anyway for the one I wasn’t interested in but didn’t put me up for the interview I actually applied for, but instead she had got jobs on her board that looked as though because they were only £7.50 to phr she was desperate to get people interviewed for them so she could get them of the board and get her fee for getting the jobs filled. In the end I reluctantly agreed and  just thought anyway the job interview experience would be good for me. When she phoned me about the outcome of the interview, I said no the money was way too low, her response was ‘Why did I not tell her this at the time I was in her office? Suffice to say I chose never to deal with her again.

Then, there was one was for a customer service colleague for a big ‘financial company’ based about a mile or so from where I live. When I attended the interview, I was shown a round a very large office, it was not what I expected and didn’t like the idea that it was in actual fact a call centre, and realistically lacked that personal level of customer service. The company came across that they were more concerned about achieving call targets, and answering the phone quickly, dealing with it and moving onto the next caller without really seeing the problem through.

As an experienced customer services administrator I am more interested in dealing with that one customer, giving them the best service, resolving the issues and completing the task before moving onto the next customer (may be I am just a little old-fashioned in my attitude of what proper customer service is all about!!) When I was asked at the end of the interview if I could see myself working in that office, I had to think hard and be careful what I said. I thought to myself, firstly, I desperately needed to get back into work, the salary and bonus system were good, it was closer to home, I didn’t mind working the odd Saturday on a rota system with a day off in the week, there was a good pension available and the job was permanent, and there was a structured training process….. but somehow I just couldn’t visualize myself working there, instinctively it did not feel right for me personally. I didn’t like the idea of a big call centre  and it made me feel uncomfortable. In the end I had to be honest and said not really, and added that I couldn’t see the job as a customer service role at a level that I have been used to. When I left the interview I had hoped that I had said the right thing to ensure they didn’t offer me the job. As it turns out a few days later they phoned me, they were impressed with me at the interview but took on board what I had said at the end and therefore had decided not to offer me the job. This was a big relief for me.

Two days after that particular interview I attended another interview for a rather well-known company whose humble beginnings started in Birmingham in the same year as I was born in 1965. When I read the advert on Indeed, for me it sounded like a really great opportunity. The salary was lower than I have been used to, but still adequate all the same, but having said that the job details, which would be in customer services appealed to me. It was exactly what I was used to, but in yet another different business background. There was room for progression, benefits, pension and logically being paid a lower salary meant paying lower tax. When I applied for this job, I suppose I really didn’t expect to be contacted by the company, I believed I would just be another application, my CV would not appeal to them and it would go on the no pile of applications.

I have learnt over the past five years that for every 25 job applications you make, whether via an agency or directly to a company, you would be lucky if you heard back from 1 or 2 of them.  Since February I have made, well over 350 applications on-line through job sites and agencies,  most of which I already knew I was over qualified for, or for which the job never really existed, or they were still advertised externally even though internal employees were going to or had already filled the posts. Worst case scenario, if I couldn’t get a job soon I would have to contact the DWP and be answerable to them, and so needed proof I had been applying for jobs in the meantime.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call on the Tuesday morning and asked if I would  be able to attend an interview at their UK Head Office in Birmingham (where the job would be based) for that Friday 23rd June at 2 pm. Of course I would. As usual I did my normal research on the company prior to the interview.  The chance to work for such a great company was now becoming more realistic, all I had to now do was prove myself at the interview.

On entering their big head office, I introduced myself at reception and said I was there for the job interview and who it was with. As I was about 25 minutes early I didn’t mind sitting down waiting in the reception area, and I picked up an old book about the story of the Michelin brothers and what they did, what they were responsible for inventing in the old days  (a bit more valuable research to show my interest about in the interview)

The time of the interview came around, I was met in reception by the customer services manager, then taken to an office and introduced to one of her colleagues and so the interview began. Some how I immediately started to feel relaxed and at ease, and for once had a little bit of confidence, and felt an element of positivity, and said to myself its time for me to shine. The interview, which included a couple of tests, lasted just over an hour and a half. Instead of one job available for a customer service advisor, there was also now a second job available for a customer service administrator. I was asked which one would I prefer if I was offered the job. Either, I replied, I had experience in both roles singularly and as a combined role. A couple of times I even made the two interviewers laugh. I had already thought long and hard the day before, and wrote them down in my notes, about what questions to ask them. Overall, I left the interview feeling a sense of relief it was now done, and I also had a thought at the back of my mind, I really would love to be offered this job…..it just felt right! I was advised that there were going to be more people interviewed after the weekend, and I would be advised of the outcome asap.

Last Tuesday morning, 27th June,  I received the phone call, and to my total surprise I was being offered the job as customer services administrator, they had apparently already made up their minds when I left the interview Friday afternoon. I was asked when would I be able to start….and so a brand new chapter in my life starts tomorrow (3.7.17) Obviously, I am very nervous and a little bit scared, but at the same time I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life, meeting new people, and working with a new team, and learning a new business.

Throughout this entire process these past few months, the most difficult thing I have found myself doing is to try to be and to try remain positive. I knew I would get a new job, but the burning question was how long would it take, and would it be right for me.

Start Where You Stand Poem – Berton Braley

Start where you stand and never mind the past
The past won’t help you in beginning new,
If you have left it all behind at last,
Why that’s enough, you’re done with it, you’re through.

This is another chapter in the book,
This is another race that you have planned.
Don’t give the vanished days a backwards look,
Start where you stand.

The world won’t care about your old defeats
If you can start anew and win success;
The future is your time, and time is fleet,
And there is much of work and strain and stress.

Forget the buried woes and dead despairs,
Here is a brand new trial right at hand.
The future is for him who does and dares –
Start where you stand.

Old failures will not hold, old triumphs aid,
Today’s the thing, tomorrow will soon be.
Get in the fight, and face it unafraid,
And leave the past to ancient history.

What has been has been; yesterday is dead;
And by it, you are neither blessed or banned.
Take courage, man, be brave and drive ahead –
Start where you stand.

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

Spring at last.

What a dreadful few months this has been. Since before Christmas I have been back to fighting those darn demons again, but with spring on the horizon things are starting to look up a bit better once again. Through out these 3 months I just haven’t had it in me to write my blog, despite so much going on in my life.

The news that I was told in October that I would lose my new job, totally gutted, along with several other colleagues, it was a bolt out of the blue, and as the time is drawing ever so close to the finishing date (sometime during the first 2 to 3 weeks of April) it has become more and more difficult to comprehend what is going to happen job wise in the future. Already the job searching has begun, and last Thursday I had a job interview for what I do see as a perfect job and an added bonus it is very close to home. Just one thing, so many people have been interviewed for the position, I won’t know for a few more days yet but I doubt very much if I will get it, but at least I managed to get an interview and tried my best.

However, one thing is certain now in my mind, this current job I am in was not meant to be after all, and may be it’s for the best I am being made redundant. I wonder if anyone remembers the old saying, although we can’t see it at the time, things happen for a reason. I believe in this case it to be completely true. But it has given me several more months of very valid experience and knowledge in another specialized industry.

It was the first Christmas and New Year without my dad, and somehow we got through it, although it was very sad and strange not to see him Christmas morning, and then round the dinner table with my brother, sister-in-law and my nephews. It is also very strange to realize that next month, on my birthday, it will be the first anniversary of dads passing. I can’t believe where this past year has gone, it just does not seem real without him around.

The dark mornings and evenings with the dismal weekends throughout the winter months, travelling too and from work have taken its toll on my physical and mental well-being. In January I ended up with a virus that knocked me off my feet for a few days and then a severe bout of laryngitis in February. On top of all this I found out my diabetes has got worse and I am now on daily medication for this as well as new medication for a couple of other problems associated with the diabetes. Not really the best start to the year.

My daily routine starts when I get up between 5.45 to 6.00 am each morning and get ready for work to start a journey to work that takes about 1.1/2 hrs plus. This includes two bus journeys as well as waiting around time for connecting to the 2nd bus services and then a 15 to 20 mins walk down what has to be one of the dirtiest, and most dangerous roads in Birmingham which is a route to a major freight company in an industrial area. On the good side they say a brisk 20 min walk is good for you every day.  The road and footpaths are littered with rubbish that has been deliberately dumped, including large truck tyres, as well as the rubbish thrown out of the windows of speeding cars. The footpaths are blocked by trailer lorries which one has to walk into the road into oncoming, and sometimes speeding traffic in order to get around these parked vehicles. Normally I would be able to avoid this long walk and take a short cut, but unfortunately there is major bridge repair work going on which means the short cut is cordoned off until further notice. I’m guessing it will re-open the week after I’ve finished this job!

On arriving at work each day for an 8.30 am start I then have to deal with one particular male colleague who has to be the most arrogant, big-headed, loud mouthed and disrespectful person I have ever had the misfortune to meet in my entire working career. This has lowered my mood considerably over the past few months, but now I won’t have to work with him much longer which is a huge sigh of relief.  The rest of the team I work with are a fantastic bunch, and it is down to them that I have managed to survive and get through each day in this job, and the fact I have been able to learn so much about the concrete industry. Then, on finishing work between 5.30 to 6.00 pm I have to repeat the same journey back home, this time through a crowded city centre and finally manage to get home around 7.00 to 7.15 pm. feeling exhausted, but not able to get ready and go to bed because of having to have a light meal in order to have my evening medication and allowing the meal to digest before I can go to bed. If only life was so much more simpler.

This is a very long day with travelling and working in any ones book, and to do it through the winter months and through the dark mornings and nights has taken its toll on my health. Thankfully the past couple of weeks has been a big improvement, lighter in the morning when I leave home and of an evening when I leave work, which has made it more bearable and also a few warm mornings with some bright sunshine and blue skies.

The Saturday mornings I have had to work, which is one in every third Saturday, have usually been the better Saturdays regarding the weather, but because of having to be up at 5.00 am to be in work for 7.00 am by the time I finish around 10.30/11.00 am I am too exhausted to do anything, including going out with my camera. On my free Saturdays the weather has been dismal and so this has kept me indoors.

With all this going on I can understand why so many British love to go to warmer, sunnier climates during our winter months.

The last couple of Saturdays I did finally manage to get out and about with my camera, a trip to my nearest local zoo in Dudley and then last week-end to the Birmingham Nature Centre. Just pushing and willing myself to get out on both those days has helped me to start fighting back those demons. There is something about being around animals that does help to lift ones spirits. It means that with the better weather comes the chance to get out and about more, go on walks which in turn should help the diabetes and my blood pressure. I even have a couple of day trips planned. I also want to find time to relax and do some fishing in the summer months. I always used to find sitting on a river bank watching the fish rising to the surface and splashing, hearing the birds singing and the water rats and voles diving in and out, always made me smile and even gives me inspiration. In all honesty I think they all look forward to the spring as much as we humans do.

I probably say this every year, but I do love spring. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start, a colourful time of year, to see the carpets of  daffodils and crocuses rising from the ground, it warms the heart, and also allows our souls to breathe again. I realise I have a few  busy and uncertain months ahead of me, the stress of job searching, then starting a new job, working with new people, adapting to a different environment all over again, improving my diabetes, but I also intend to give myself some me time whilst out exploring with my camera, this is something I haven’t done properly for a few months.

 

Approaching Spring

Spring soon will be here
Away from the winter’s snow
Drying up every frosty tear
And causing the landscape to glow

But the shine of spring I need right now
I need all the help I can get
To wave goodbye to this past winter
In hopes that I can forget

I’ve lost all my real friends
And almost ever other friendship too
Right now I am just amazed
That I haven’t yet lost you

The approaching spring will hit restart
It’s something that we all need
The approaching spring will fix our hearts
And allow our souls to breathe

by Matt Burgett

 

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