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Reflections on 2017

2017 has been a year full of ups and downs. Before I go on I will no doubt mention on numerous occasions:

Without further ado, lets get started…

January

My amazing friend Sabrina beat breast cancer then got married abroad, and I was lucky enough to be able to make it to her wedding reception for a couple of hours with the help of another friend. Definitely a highlight as I hadn’t seen her since I moved to Brighton six years previously.

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I also managed to make it to a tutorial for my Open University course at the London School of Economics – I finally felt like a real student!

February

The first two weeks of February were a washout with a nasty virus that wouldn’t leave me and more fatigued body alone. It was a long, horrible few days. A trip to see a friend in Midhurst was cancelled and I was pretty upset and blue.

On recovery I managed to meet Stuart in Preston Park where it snowed and we went on our first mysterious ‘assignment’. An utterly fantastic and hilarious afternoon.

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I finally got an appointment with a real medical professional who for once didn’t patronise me, tell me to join a gym or make me cry, I had some medication increased and was booked in a month later to see how I was doing.

March

My wife and I finally had a day out together and we went to Worthing. After hearing numerous horror stories I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful beach, different wildlife and lovely town centre.  It was also the first day of two solid months of heartburn.

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I wasn’t well enough to make a tutorial at Kings College London, again, but did manage to look round a few old bookshops with Stuart instead.

I went on a solo mini trip to Seaford, a local town, to sit on the beach and write. Again, I was surprised at what this small seaside town had to offer in way of views and scenery. It was also a beautifully warm spring day.

I had to give up my university studies with The Open University. I obtained a letter from my doctor supporting my decision. the university kept all my money and sent a letter saying I have to recover by November or I lose it.

April

Stuart took me to his studio before we went on an ‘Industrial Assignment’. I came home to find my wife and brother in law tucked up asleep on the sofa.

The second week of April saw Nat and I celebrate our fifth anniversary and we had a lovely little treat planned. With a cat sitter booked in, we headed off for a delightful french afternoon tea at Julian Plumart, shopping for a Pandora bracelet and then on to The Grand Hotel, a stunning luxurious Victorian hotel on the seafront where we had a suite, a queen size bed and more floorspace than we knew what to do with. Oh, and a bath – all hail the bath!

May

I joined a local gym and before working out decided to get some expert advice. I found a trainer who said his mum had fibro so thought we’d be a great match. On the day of one of my first session I was very ill after a lot of overtime at work. After emailing to cancel he replied saying lying in bed won’t cure me and I should get off of my backside. I didn’t go back.

‘Assignment Carouselfie’ with Stuart. No further words are required.

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I met dad in London for a trip on a Route Master bus and took fun photos with my polaroid camera.

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We bought Suzie Smart Car. A lifelong dream come true!

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I attended Marie Clare Future Shapers in a flash London hotel. A great but utterly exhausting day, but I met another fellow Lancashire Lass living south and we spent the day hanging out together while she looked after me.

Woo, a busy month!

June

Nat and I visited the animal rescue centre Raystede. A beautiful day and nice relaxing drive through some quiet countryside.

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I was meant to attending a blogging event – Blogtacular – but wasn’t well enough to go, as usual.

The guys from work chauffeured me and Nat in a rather posh car to One Aldwych for afternoon tea, my birthday present from Nat.

July

My parents came to stay. A lovely weekend. We took them to Julian Plumart for afternoon tea.

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I stayed with my friend for a quiet, sleepy weekend in Midhurst and went to watch her perform in her local village choir. A beautiful evening.

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August

I bought Nat horse riding lessons for us both for her birthday. Note to self, don’t learn to horse ride at 31 and definitely don’t do it with chronic pain. I actually couldn’t sit down for a week. However, riding a horse over the South Downs was an incredible, if not extremely painful, experience.

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I had lunch at The Lanesborough in London following on from a work trip. A delightful, delicious experience.

Nat and I hopped in Suzie for a spontaneous trip to a small local farm. We acted like children, got lost in a maze and attacked by the most persistent wasp ever to have existed. A jolly good day in the sunshine.

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September

I met my buddies from the ME/CFS NHS group I attended last year – the first time we’ve all been well enough to meet up together. It was so amazing to see them again.

I had a brain and head scan to see what on earth is so wrong with my painful locked jaw. I must have a huge brain as it took over an hour!

October

On a way to a local cafe to meet Stuart I fell upon a book fair. Needless to say we had the most wonderful afternoon with some excellent antique finds.

November

I didn’t recover, thus lost my university fees.

I headed for a restful weekend in favourite place on earth – St Annes on the Sea. With the help of staying in a luxury guest house a two minute walk from the seafront I had a relaxing, sleepy time and saw some of the most beautiful sunsets and chatted to some wonderfully friendly people. Lancashire is definitely my spiritual home.

Nat and I stayed in a hotel on Brighton seafront a few minutes in a taxi from our home. With a mahogany four poster bed and sea views it was a lovely treat, and dinner at Prezzo was indulgent and delicious.

I started working with Jody Shield – the healer, coach and mentor and got taken under the wing of her and her amazing team.

Nat and I went to a local Christmas Craft Fair at Brighton Open Market, a stones throw from our house.

December

Mom came to stay while Nat was at a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Convention. We had a lovely festive weekend including a buffet and Christmas song evening with Stuart.

I attended both the Advent and Carol services at my local church which is a beautiful example of architecture with stained glass windows and a stunning original organ.

Christmas (early) at my parent’s house was the most festive I’ve felt in years, with gifts, decorations and Christmas dinner it was quite perfect indeed.

Nat and I also went with Stuart to a traditional night of ghost stories as told by the Victorians in the run up to Christmas.

And so I finish writing this on the 21st December, with the real Christmas day still to go. I have of course omitted most of the parts where I have felt dreadfully unwell for most of the year, and I simply couldn’t include every wonderful lunch or tea/coffee shop visit with Nat, lunch and serious selfie dates with Stuart (or Dr Mystery as I prefer to call him) and the many wonderful times with my parents or I’d never get this post finished! I have also seldom mentioned my beloved Trinny, the fluffiest, prettiest nurse around. 2017 wouldn’t have been the same without her…

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I also haven’t written about my job. I work with an amazing group of people who I am proud to call my friends and colleagues and I am being supported in my ever changing career no end. They take me to and from work to save on energy, run my errands if I am too unwell to go out and are just an awesome bunch who look after me, so a huge thank you to everyone at Consec 🙂

I am currently working on my hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations (whatever you want to call them) for 2018. But the product of that is definitely for another blog post…

So as I bid farewell to 2017 I want to take a moment to express gratitude to the friends who have checked on me when I’m ill, not got annoyed when I cancel plans for the fifth time and bought me loads of tea!

Here’s to a fabulous 2018!

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Coast and Countryside

My wife recently spent some time with her parents north of London so my friend and I saw it as a perfect time to hop in Suzie Smart Car and have a gentle wander in the countryside. We ended up somewhere between Woodingdean and Rottingdean in the Brighton suburbs, a place called Happy Valley that holds the mystery of an unsolved murder from decades ago. Not so happy it seems. It was a mixture of bleak countryside, coastline and microclimates, a very eclectic place indeed.

We saw numerous butterflies I am yet to identify, heard the chirping of birds that I certainly didn’t recognise from my Midlands birdwatching days, got trapped in what felt like a field of thistles and discovered a narrow fallen woodland. All in all a good Sunday afternoon with great company

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The gate that takes you from the chaos of Brighton into freedom.

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Barbed wire surrounded us everywhere we went.

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Perhaps the tiniest poppy in Sussex.

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The only butterfly that kept still long enough to photograph it.

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Roots clinging to the ground.

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Upturned trees pulling the chalk out the ground with them.

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This doesn’t do the sea view justice.
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Beautiful Birmingham

Every June around my birthday I go back to Birmingham to spend a few days with my parents, see friends and to relax. This year I was extra lucky as not only as it warm and sunny, but I managed to spend some of my birthday (which was also father’s day) with my parents. We enjoyed tea in the sunshine while laughing at old memories before I left, first class train tickets in hand (and a bag of lovely pressies from my parents and friend)

I was definitely in need of a break when the visit home came around. Although my fatigue and pain tend to be less intense in the hot weather, I have a more general ongoing feeling of exhaustion. A couple of the afternoons we all read until we fell asleep and I had glorious two hour naps. My parent’s have a beautiful garden that blooms all year round and I couldn’t resist but take lots of snaps, especially around dusk with the gorgeous sunsets. We also visited a local park to feed the ducks bird seed and meal worms where a goose stuck it’s head up my dress and pecked my camera. Luckily I escaped unharmed!

Here are some of my favourite photos of the garden and park. I know in years to come I will look back at these photos with a smile and remember all the great moments of this long, lazy weekend.

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Climbing Elm Grove

I’ve lived in Brighton at the bottom of a mile long steep hill for six years. Until recently I had no idea of the views from the top as it is too far and steep to walk and buses are infrequent. Today we hopped in Suzie Smart Car and went to check out the views. On one side you can see nothing but greenery and the sea beyond, the other the lined streets of coloured houses in Brighton and the curve of the Sussex coastline. We were surround by the sound of grasshoppers, birds and the gentle breeze in blowing through the leaves. The roadside was lined with plants and flowers. These photos do not do the view justice, but I had to share them to tempt you to the top of Elm Grove.

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Raystede Animal Sanctuary – Sussex

My wife and I have recently bought a car. The car of my dreams, a lifelong wish – a Smart Car. She’s called Suzie, and last weekend we went on our first drive out in her to the countryside, roof down, wind in my hair (not like the movies, I looked like Donald Trump when we got home!). We’ve wanted to visit Raystede for many years but a two hour trip on public transport wasn’t going to happen, it’s less than half an hour from our house in the car! Animals and wildlife are such great therapy if you suffer from any kind of health problem or are just in need of a destress, so we probably couldn’t have picked a better time to go. We spent time being nuzzled by horses, followed by geese, shouted at by moorhens and shown off to by the resident male turkey. Its wheelchair and disability friendly too.

Raystede are such an important and wonderful charity,. They rescue up to 750 battery hens every year, many of which never regrow their feathers, re-home every kind of fluffy animal you can imagine and provide wonderful habitats for wildlife such as hedgehogs and bats, and havens for insects and birds alike. If you are ever in Sussex I would strongly recommend a drive into the glorious countryside to pay this fantastic centre a visit.

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Exploring The Familiar

Living in the chaotic, cramped and endlessly busy town of Brighton, I rarely get to enjoy the place I live. Tourists and annual swathes of students swamp the streets, seafront and city centre. Parks are packed with people either dancing with fire, smoking drugs, or both. Tourist attractions such as the Royal Pavilion (where I got married, the only bit of quiet time there!) have queues round the corner and are so noisy inside you really can’t get a feel for the place. I’m surprised the pier hasn’t sunk with the sheer number of people fighting for the best view to photograph hanging off the railings and the North Laine is a place where you are invisible and only worth being shoved aside. Oh, the beach. Well, don’t even attempt it on a sunny day. I could go on, but I won’t. Escaping the chaos for a day is a rare occurrence, usually only attempted when travelling with or meeting someone.  Recently I spent some time in London with dad and met my friend Stuart for coffee in Trafalgar Square. He mentioned how he often forgets how he loves being a tourist in London and I have to say I completely agree. Not only do the sights never fail to amaze me no matter how often or how many times I may see them, but I love the anonymity of it all too. Everyone lets passers by go about their day, no invisibility or shoving required, and who knows, you may end up chatting with a tourist or two (my sneezing fit and a family sightseeing from the Caribbean made for quite an amusing conversation). The coffee shops were full, but we still got seats and thoroughly enjoyed many a much needed brew.

I’ve called this post Exploring The Familiar as this is the only part of London I seem to visit with my camera in hand. I love the splendor of Buckingham Palace, the elegance and beauty of the police and military horses, the green and colourful gardens alive with buzzing insects, squirrels, ducks and birds. It’s also very easily accessible and close to Brighton. So despite a very high pollen count and many a sneezing fit that day, dad and I had a perfect day wondering through London, travelling on the Tube and even riding on Route Master Buses.

Here are some of my favourite photos of the day…

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Birmingham In Bloom

A recent trip back to my homeland brought with it all the joys of spring. After the chaos of urban, concrete Brighton and not a grass verge in sight, endless trees, blossom and spring flowers are a beautiful change. Many of these photos were taken in my parent’s beautiful back garden. Enjoy…

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A adult great tit helps it young fledgling to feed.

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A trip to the stunning Birmingham cathedral never fails to amaze, especially surrounded by the white blossom and last daffodils of the season. 

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Even in the evening rush hour the cathedral grounds are awash with beauty.
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Seaford In Spring

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Escaping Brighton over the viaduct.
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Train views.
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The bluest sky of 2017.

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Twitching (bird watching).

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Very happy to be out of Brighton.
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The colour of this water looks like anywhere but the English Channel.

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Secret beaches beyond the rocks

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A break in the throngs of dog walkers.

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Jornaling on the beach.
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Back to Brighton, for now…