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

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Given the circumstances.

Yet again its hard to believe another Christmas is upon us, over the years I have come to accept the fact that as I get older, then so the years appear to go faster. This year has been no exception, the year has fled by, which in some ways is good and in other ways not so good.

Each Christmas time and New Year I take time out to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. This year is no exception. It has certainly been a very mixed one for me, one of personal achievements, some enjoyment, new challenges and one of sadness and sorrow.

Just one year ago this week I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the fact that although my dad had a major health scare, twice in the space of a little over a week, he was still alive and able to enjoy his Christmas with us all. What none of us realized at that time was the fact it would be his last one. looking back at 12 months ago it was all very scary.

As 2016 unfolded and I started to make plans for the year ahead, I knew it was going to be an uncertain year, more so on the job situation than anything. Not knowing if the lady whose job I was covering was going to come back or not. Only one thing was certain I knew I had another 8 solid months of commitment to my job, one that I loved doing. How many people today can honestly say they love their job I wonder. I  had made some incredible new friendships with the team I had been working with, and we still stay in touch and meet up for a meal and a chat every few weeks.

I was looking forward to a holiday, and actually ended up having two different breaks… a week up in Scotland in August as well as a much-needed long weekend break down in South Devon in early July visiting Paignton, Plymouth & Dartmouth. Then in September I started my all new important permanent job….only to find 5 weeks down the line that I am going to be made redundant in the coming April/May. Having to have more surgery, to sort out the first lot that didn’t work

In the February I was diagnosed with diabetes, which has meant some big life changes over the past few months, but the one really good thing that has come out of this is that it has encouraged me to take a lot more regular walking exercise. As  I love to go out and explore nature, and do some photography, it has encouraged me to visit new places and get much more exercise.

Earlier in the year I drew up a ‘bucket list’ I have had the opportunity of going out and doing different new things, for instance for the first time I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall & Park to see fallow deer and shoot them close up (with a camera that is!) In October I finally got to go to see London Zoo, in July the Monkey Forest nr Stoke On Trent, in October, Warwick Castle where I got to see close up an amazing birds of prey display. Early November I achieved a long time ambition of mine to take an Alpaca for a walk, also in November I got to go to the West Midlands Safari Park and a little over two weeks ago I saw the most amazing colourful display of lanterns at Longleat House and Safari Park. In August I managed to finally make the trip to Liverpool to meet up with a very dear friend.

Overall it has been a very mixed and eventful year, and despite the turmoil in my life it has been a year that I have manged to cope with and stay pretty well on top of and come through the other end of it. I’m not going to kid myself or anyone else for that matter, but the combination of the right medication, positive thinking, photography, keeping busy with the new job and an incredible group of family and close friends is what has kept me going.

This season however doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Like many others they too have lost family and friends throughout the year, and it has felt very strange that as we approach Christmas day I have had to come to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be with us this time or ever again to celebrate Christmas.

Because of my Dads failing eyesight the last couple of years, it meant my sister-in-law and myself would sit and write Dads cards for him. This year however I have found it an almost impossible task for me to sit down and write my own cards to family and friends. this past couple of weeks or so it has hit me more harder than ever and I have found myself having a little cry every time I think about how much I miss him, and how much I will miss him not being around at Christmas for the first time ever in my life.

My Dad was always very much a man of tradition when it came to Christmas, and this is something I have always embraced, he always used to look forward to his Christmas lunch, he had to have the turkey leg on his plate with the usual mix of sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes and always lemon & thyme stuffing, a pint of bitter and then Christmas pudding and custard to finish (in the old days every year my mom used to make her own for all the family, from scratch and my dad brother and I used to have a hand in the preparation and mixing of the puds) At 3.00 pm we were always ready to sit down to watch the Queens speech and then later on a cup of tea and mince pie.

Every year since I can remember, Dad  always bought himself, my sister-in-law and me a Poinsettia plant for Christmas. Usually after a couple of months they would shrivel up and die, that’s just the way it is with this type of plant.  Dad always had the knack on how to keep his going for several months. When he passed a way earlier this year, his Poinsettia from last Christmas was still sitting on his kitchen windowsill. I decide to take it home with me, not really expecting it to last very long. Dad had given me a tip earlier in the year as to how to best water it, every few days put some warm water, never cold water, at the bottom of the plant pot and sit the plant in it. The plant is thriving, and it is a year old this week, although it doesn’t have the usual big red leaves, it is full of healthy green ones, I’m sure Dad has been helping me to keep an eye on it these past few months.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead will be another very challenging one for me, come the spring I will have to start the process all over again of looking for another new job. So much uncertainty ahead. Hopefully the chance to go and explore new places and do lots more photography. Health and finances permitting, I am already planning my holiday for next Sept. One of my main ambitions for over 20 years is that I have wanted to go on cruise to see the Norwegian Fjords. I have heard of so many people say what a beautiful and unique experience it was for them, and this is something I feel will be absolutely spectacular to photograph.

At the moment in my thoughts it’s all about trying to remain positive for the year ahead, and getting though my first Christmas without my Dad……and as the poem says, For I know that in my heart you’re here.

 

To all my family, friends and readers I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year ahead.

Walking with Alpacas.

Hands up if you have ever walked an animal, other than a domesticated pet such as a dog? What! None of you!

Oh dear, then you’re missing a real treat!

As my readers know I am a bit of an animal and nature lover, and I do love to explore places where there are different animals. All the better if the place I am visiting is somewhere other than a zoo or nature centre.

I love to do something a little different every now and then, and recently decided to try to tick another to do off my bucket list.

One of the most unusual creatures I have read about over more recent years, and only seen in zoos is the Alpaca. This is an animal related to the Camel and Llama family. I have always been fascinated by its lovely characteristics facial features and its temperament.

A couple of years ago I started to read articles and see advertisements about being able to ‘go for walks’ with these beautiful creatures. Earlier this year I came across a website and a particular story about a young lady called Sarah Booth.

In Sarah’s own words….

”I went on an alpaca walk and it turned out to be a life-changing experience…..
I’d just been diagnosed with a serious illness and my partner, Stuart took me on an alpaca walk as a treat to cheer me up. It was amazing, and I decided that I wanted to live and work with alpacas.”

I thought to myself, that sounds just like the sort of day out I would enjoy….an Alpaca walk, and this particular place it was not that very far away from where I live.

With a session booked online for mid morning  Sat 21st Nov, a couple of train and bus journeys planned, I found myself there, looking across this big 6 acre field and farm watching all these beautiful animals grazing and enjoying the November morning sunshine.

Prior to my walk with my chosen Alpaca, I was able to take a little walk around the farm, where there were free range chickens, ducks and turkeys all happily running around in a great big open space. Obviously  this was agreat photo opportunity for me. Camera….free roaming animals, what could be better. Oh, and I must not forget Stella!!

The other visitors arrived between 10.30 to 11.00 am and we all spent a bit of time listening to Sarah explain a bit about Alpacas in general, as well as about her own herd. Then we were all led out in to the yard where a group of male Alpacas were ready to be chosen and taken for a walk around the farms field.

One by one we were introduced to ‘her boys’ as Sarah affectionately called them. We were told their names, and a little bit about their characters and temperaments. If I had the choice I would have loved to have taken each and every one of them for a walk….alas, I was only allowed one. The little guy I chose was Dodge.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the next 40 plus minutes. It was an absolute joy to be able to take this little guy for a walk around the field, along with my other co walkers and their chosen Alpacas. We were also allowed to walk in the next field where all the girls were.

What is also wonderful about this experience is that because these are such gentle creatures, they love to be stroked and they allow you to cuddle them, and their fleeces are so soft and delicate. My whole experience with these animals left me feeling  soothed and relaxed, and wanting to go back there again very soon.

This is an experience that I really do highly recommend to any animal lover, especially if you want to try something different, and especially so to any one who wants to get up close and learn a bit more about these adorable animals.

 

Let me introduce to The Lucky Tails Alpaca Farm

Lucky Tails Alpacas is a small and friendly farm run by Sarah and Stuart. Its situated in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside on the borders of Birmingham, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. It is home to some of the very best alpacas in the country. We have genetics from all around the world including an award-winning stud imported from New Zealand-SILVERSTREAM FORERUNNER OF ANZAC. We invite you to come and see for yourself.

info@luckytailsalpacafarm.co.uk

Dexter lane
Hurley
Atherstone

CV9 2JQ

 

Let me introduce you to some of the Alpacas and other animals on the farm.alpacas-4 alpacas-12 alpacas-36 alpacas-63 alpacas-88 alpacas-102 alpacas-104 alpacas-117 alpacas-177 alpacas-183 alpacas-187 alpacas-195 alpacas-197 alpacas-204 alpacas-206 alpacas-209 alpacas-214 alpacas-220 alpacas-229 alpacas-237 alpacas-255 alpacas-262 alpacas-281

My companion for the walk 'Dodge'. Delightful little fella

My companion for the walk ‘Dodge’. Delightful little fella.

alpacas-315 alpacas-325

 

Some of the other charming little animals on the farm. all left to roam around free…. what a wonderful life they have.

chickens-11 chickens-16 chickens-25

 

Not forgetting Stella……

dog-1

Stella...part of Sarah and Stuarts family.

Stella…part of Sarah and Stuarts family.

ducks-3 goats-6 lucky-tails-alpaca-farm-347

 

 

turkeys-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this was an amazing couple of hours, and is something I do highly recommend doing if you get the opportunity. I do however also recommend wellies and old jeans.

Stella is adorable, as are the little goats they are all very friendly, they do however like a bit of fuss and the chance to leave some muddy footprints on you.

I’m looking forward to my next visit in a couple of months time.

 

Thanks for stopping by

 

 

 

Outrage with FIFA……how dare they!

With most of the daily news stories I try not to take too much on board, after all too much bad news can after all be very upsetting or depressing.

This morning whilst on one of my bus journeys to work I had a quick glance at the Metro newspaper (supplied free on our West Midlands buses). The headlines caught my eyes and so I picked it up and read the main story. having read it I found myself actually feeling totally outraged and at the same time frustrated for our football players, and at the same time proud that our players are prepared to show defiance over the no Poppy ban by FIFA.

FIFA have said that our footballers will not be allowed to wear any representation of the Poppy on matches that will be played Remembrance Day, and I quote    ”FIFA has banned players from wearing poppies because the world governing body prohibits ‘political, religious or commercial messages’ being displayed on the pitch”.

How dare they term our Remembrance Day as a political, religious or commercial message. They are the ones who are making the political message by making a ban in the first place…HOW DARE THEY!

For me and I dare say for the majority, the day is a day that as a country it is a commemorative occasion, and as people we stand united as a nation to remember and thank so many  who sacrificed their own lives to make this country and the world a better place for all. If people do not want to believe that and pay tribute, then that is their own choice, no one is forcing them to, however it does not give the likes of FIFA the right to dictate to us that our players can not wear an emblem that recognizes something very important in our history  past and present and something that is a long-standing tradition. Without the freedom this countries fallen has fought for, then my guess is  FIFA would most probably not even exist.

Why do FIFA even believe Remembrance Day  comes under any of the headings of political, religious or commercial message?

The only message it says is let us be allowed to show our respect to and remember the many fallen brave men and woman of this country and the Commonwealth who gave up their own lives to make the world a better place for the rest of us. The only difference is that we as a nation choose to remember these brave people once a year every year on the same date because it is a marked time in world history and they all deserve that recognition and thanks even if it is for just only one day each and every year, because after all it is a very important day.

I for one am proud to wear my Poppy as a way of showing my respect and thanks, this is not as a political, religious or even a commercial message or statement.  It is to say our lives could have been so very different, had it not been for the millions of people not have given their own lives to protect the future of so many millions of others.

 

misc-july-2013-special-57

Than you for stopping by.