Ups and Downs

cast and crew.jpg2017 started so well with my delightful trip to Barcelona (see previous post)  and then the beginning of rehearsals for Steel Magnolias. I was blessed with a wonderful cast and crew and it was an exhilarating feeling to be back at the Neath Little Theatre and involved in my first directorial production in almost 12 years. So it was full steam ahead.

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My fabulous cast 

Steel Magnolias is a beautiful play. It was a great film but in my opinion, the play is a better option. The film is a watered down version of the play in that we meet many different characters and visit a variety of locations. In the play we meet the 6 main characters only and the story develops from the conversations that take place in one setting. We learn about their relationships with their partners, families and friends from the sometimes hilarious conversations they have while assembled at Truvy’s Hair Salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana on a Saturday morning. The action unfolds here. We are the onlookers as these ladies prepare themselves for the social events of their lives: weddings, funeral, parties. Here they are applying their public faces while at the same time revealing their very private selves by confessing their deepest fears, greatest hopes and heaviest burdens. It is a beautiful play – a bittersweet, tragicomedy, fulfilling experience. If you get the opportunity to catch a production in your area, then do so  and don’t let anyone say that it is a play for women only. Men need to see this play, too!

My wonderful set courtesy of Paul and Lee and thank you to Tony of Nine Croft Road and Celtic Prop Hire for the props.

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Towards the end of the rehearsal time, I ironically found myself embroiled  in a tragic drama all of my own. It was a Saturday evening at the end of February at 11:30pm. I was comfortably catching up on Series 2 of Broadchurch and could hear what I believed to be  the doors banging upstairs, caused, as I thought at the time, by a draught due to the open windows in the bedrooms. When the banging became a nuisance I decided to resolve the problem once and for all by pausing Broadchurch, climbing the stairs and closing all open windows.  I reached the landing only to find the upstairs bathed in a golden light which I couldn’t fathom for the life of me. Looking out of the  bathroom window I discovered that the golden light was coming from huge, raging orange flames shooting out of the camper van and the car. They were both ablaze. This caught me completely off guard and very slowly panic started to creep in. I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. Instinct made me rush for the phone, dial 999 and get the fire engine to the house as soon as humanly possible.  I could not begin to imagine what would happen next!! There was banging, popping, fizzing and all sorts of firework sounds coming from the scene!! The flames were stretching higher and higher and there was NOTHING I could do! After what seemed like an eternity the engine arrived only to find that it couldn’t get down to the house from the top of our drive and therefore the hose had to be unravelled, attached to a hydrant and dragged some 150 yards to the vehicles. Barred from going outside the back door, I sat helplessly at my kitchen table in despair! By 3am, the fire was out and the shock of the evening set in. A sobbing me thanked the police and the firefighters for their efforts and away they went leaving me grieving pitifully the loss of by life companions. For those who read my blogs and know me, you will know that my van, aka Vin Diesel, has been a prominent feature in our lives over the past 18 months and now, he was gone!! Gone!

I was heartbroken. I am still hertbroken. The van was also packed ready for our next trip. Camping equipment, awning, tables chairs, bedding, karting overalls, helmets, winter coats, clothes, jackets, you name it – it was in the van. The car was also reasonably packed with clothing, bedding, chairs, duvets, pillows and things that are just left in a car! All gone up in flames.  Seeing them both in ruins was so difficult. Watching them being towed away was heart wrenching. The fire caused damage to the driveway, the electric cables, my hot tub and the guttering and windows of the house, but thankfully, nobody was hurt and we were lucky to get away relatively lightly.

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van 5  van 7van 6  van 4

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Two months down the line I am still vanless. The insurance companies have been wonderful and peace has been restored. However, I miss my dear little van so much. I drive around in my new car and see VW campers cheerfully zipping down the roads heading for fun holidays and feel such a pang of longing. I am keeping an eye out for a new one as I have become accustomed to  being a proud and happy ‘Dubber’ so, as they say, watch this space.

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The best is yet to come. I’m retired! 

 

The End and the Beginning!!

Oh my! It has been such a long time since I wrote my last blog! Where has the time gone?? I am now settled into the life of a retired 50 something year old and finding myself so busy that the lap top has been through a stage of neglect and running around has taken precedence. Time to slow down, methinks and open the office door and spend more time at home! Or was it that the run up to Christmas had became all-encompassing? It took me nearly 3 weeks to decorate the house.

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The mammoth job began early in December, however,  it was a case of ‘little and often’ as the decoration boxes were stored in the garage and wtreeere very awkward to access. The walk between the garage and the house became quite tiresome so, after much deliberation and failed attempts at getting my disgruntled ‘stop-turning-the-house-into-a-grotto’ son involved in this festive activity, I settled for putting up the Christmas tree only. This took me a full 3 hours as the lights were tangled and seemed pretty nigh impossible to untangle and place neatly and strategically on the tree. I must add that instead of buying one box of lights with lots and lots of twinkles, I strangled the branches with 3 sets of 200 lights! What a palaver! This followed with a wild panicked search looking for an extension block to accommodate multiple plugs – 3 felfor the lights, one for the TV, one for the DVD and one for the Now TV. Oh and what to do about the lamp??? By the time the tree was up and the lights placed I was exhausted and needed a glass of wine or two! Thus ended any further attempts at decorating but it was definitely the beginning of endless Christmas cheer!  Wine, Elf and a lit Christmas tree! What could be better??

The next day I managed to conquer, effortlessly, the breakfast room. Followed by the kitchen 2 days later. That took another 3 hours. The tinsel refused to stay up and the drawing pins kept bending as I tried to loop the tinsel around the room. Ahhhh!!!  This was because the picture rail had been painted and for some reason the pins refused to stay, or because I chose the same holes as last year which had by now doubled in size resulting in the pins slipping out!!  Then the whole lot would fall down! Climbing up and down the ladder became a nightmare due to my bad hip so the wine had to rescue the situation again and put an end to any more festooning!! And this is how the story continued for the next 3 weeks and still, on Christmas Day, the decorating was not finished!! Oh well!! No one noticed. At least the lights were a success and the house had a warm cosy glow, filled also with a welcoming cinnamon and berry aroma from the numerous candles burning from every corner possible!! The transformation, indoor and out, was so magical it stayed this way until January 17th! Yes, my friends, I must confess that my decorations have only been down a week! BUT there is a reason. After such a traumatic lead up to the great day, the day itself and the ensuing week, I felt the need for some escapism and so dropped tools and flew away leaving Christmas in tact until
my return.

Barcelona to the rescue!

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Oh what a beautiful place. It was my home for 6 years many years ago but the ties there are as strong now as they were then. There followed 5 days of catching up, eating, drinking and making merry. An Easy Jet flight for £48.50 could NOT be ignored. It would have been very rude of me to do so and so, with a cabin sized suitcase a few euros, a non-reserved seat I set off on a cold Monday morning for a week of pure delight!

Ahhhhhhh! The joys of being retired! 

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to be continued……….

Go, Kart, Go!!

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So, where to next?? My son has taken up go-karting! It may be a bit late in his young life to become the next Ayrton Senna but he is pursuing something that is bringing him great enjoyment, has met some great people and has certainly grown in confidence since being part of this team. So, my weekends are no longer my own anymore but we are having a good time even though I spend the race time with my heart in my mouth watching these karts go round the circuit at the speed of light!!  Our local karting club is at LLandow in the Vale of Glamorgan , South Wales where we race with a great team called Silver Fox.  We are relatively new to this compared to everyone else in the team but we are learning and bringing a little humour to the camp!silver-fox-logo

 

Click on the links and check us out

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I have certainly seen quite a bit of England in the last few months, mostly the Northampton area and its wonderful karting circuits – Kimbolton and Whilton Mill. There was also a visit to  Dorset and the Clay Pigeon circuit and Gloucester to Rissington. That’s lots and lots of miles in Vin, the T4! And I say lots and lots as  we always get lost on our way to each race meet!! We got lost on our way to Kimbolton – twice, when leaving Rissington we always end up in Cheltenham, and please don’t ask where I went wrong coming home from Whilton Mill. I am beginning to despair with it all. There is one further trip this year to Shenington so my fingers, toes and everything else that can be crossed are crossed!!

kimboltonOur first visit to Kimbolton saw me going 57 miles out of our way! I didn’t get off the M1 as Mary, my GPS on the phone went to sleep and neglected to remind me where to exit the M1. But I don’t know how I got on to the M1 in the first place as I should have been on the M42….. but there we go!! We finally arrived at midnight when everyone else had gone to sleep but the next day dawned bright and sunny and the weekend turned out to be a scorcher and lots of fun!! The boys work hard all day working on the karts, racing, drinking tea, more kart mechanics, changing parts, and  on and on and on……, while the two gorgeous mams prepare PIMMs, chat, read, visit friends, watch a race or two, drink wine, prepare a bbq and basically have a relaxing time!! I am loving it!!

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Setting up!!                                                                                                  Relaxing and sunbathing!!

kimbolton-3    BBQ number 1!!

kimbolton-5   Midnight heat!!   kimbolton-6 BBQ number 2

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Top Team!!!

clayClay Pigeon was another great weekend. We set up camp and the racing was first class. Despite it being October, the weather was lovely, the camping cosy and the racing wizard!! It got a little cold in the early morning but with duvets and pillows and blankets galore there is nowhere warmer and cosier than in the van and inner tent! Not to forget the copious amounts of tea we drink ALL day and something a little warmer at night!! We all camped together in the ‘corral’ and spent a wonderful team weekend together. The BBQ was ‘a la extraordinaire’  this weekend with chicken and meat actually cooked in an oven and a delicious home made coffee cake to finish it all off. So much food but all polished off by hungry karters and tinkerers!!

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The karts

 

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The home xxx

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The Workplace

 

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Watching Rosberg win!! Nooooooo!!!

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the-team

How on earth could I have made time for this when I was in full time employment?

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Where Was I?

Retirement means that we can base important decisions on whims.

Senior moments crop up far too often these days! I started out on this blogging journey
wsenior-momentith a clear and definite route  as to which way this blog was going, as it was my first ever attempt at blogging!  I had a plan ( I have planned my working day for the past 34 years!! ) and each page was going address a certain topic  (all in chronological order!) which I aimed at sharing with other early retirees in order to offer support and encouragement during this next phase of life. I had not planned on early retirement and I know many people who struggle when they step off the treadmill and wake up to a brand new life and so that, in short was my intention with this blog, but unfortunately, like my life from a very early age, I am finding it impossible to stick to said route/plan and find myself steering away in all manner of directions!! I digress!! That has been a life time complaint of mine, even on school reports – ‘Janet find’s it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand’, ‘Janet’s ability to digress is outstanding‘! All my life I have found it difficult to stay on course and have found that the route to anywhere I go is never smooth and incident free!! But that is what makes this life such fun, and long may it continue as I ride the rocky road of retirement which I hope you will continue to share with me despite the crazy twists and turns on the way.  Life is indeed different now for many reasons but different in a most wonderful and enjoyable way.

Life does NOT end when you retire – it begins!

So read on , jump aboard and let’s have some fun!! And don’t forget to share some of your journey with me!!

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So, to re-cap the retirement journey to date  (you can catch up on these pages by clicking on the pictures) when I was ready to face the world again I:-

  1. Joined a health club and went swimming.va-logo
  2. Started a flower arranging course,flower-2gel
  3. Lunchtime socialising nancytaylor_4
  4. Tried my hand at Network Marketing. I signed up with Forever Living and fell in love with the products. They are all aloe vera based and I drink the gel every morning and use the creams daily and I feel like a million dollars!!
    Take a look at my FB page that I named Glow With Aloe and if you would like to try something or simply have some info on the products or the business, just get in touch and I’ll help all I can!
  5. Bought a Campervan and inflatable hot tub!! vw-logo
  6. Became a local radio DJ!!radio tircoed
  7. Started a Book Club book-club1

book-club-titleA year into my journey of recovery as a retired 50 something I decided that I wanted to read again! When I became unwell reading went out of the window. I have always been a reader – whenever I had the time to read, that is (now a thing of the past) and there was always a book beside the bed. Sometimes it would take me weeks, even months to finish one book, others it would be just a few days, but there was always a book!  Then,  kapowfrom nowhere, I could not open a book! I couldn’t concentrate, retain words or follow a story! Fast forward two year and I had to take action! It was time to do something about it! I set up a Book Club – messaged all the people I knew who like to read, invited the to my house for a chat about starting and Book Club and voila!  I haven’t looked back! We meet every 5 weeks to discuss our chosen book while sipping on a vino or something similar and picking our way through  a variety of savouries or indeed, sweets, with occasionally a loaded table of delicious platters, soups and wonderful things to eat! Recently, we have been meeting at a local hostelry, the wonderful Celtic Lodge, which is a warm and cosy place to meet and discuss our books. The members’ ages range from the 20s to the 70s and we all bring colour and our own style to the group. It is so much fun! So if you are looking for something to do with your retirement time I would suggest you set up a group of some kind to meet up every 5-6 weeks and no pressure!! Simply enjoy!  Why not try some of our chosen books. Come back and tell me what you think. You can visit out FB page here, and another Blog I have created which is listed above!  Here are 2 recently read books I would recommend. Click on the titles and read what some of the Book Club members think of these choices. Enjoy!

big-little-lies review-big-little-lies

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Already planning my next Blog so bye for now! Keep smiling because life can be sweet!

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Tea, Talk and Take it easy!

So, I am back. I have had a few days away from the laptop. and how refreshing it was. However, it is now back to my journey. As I am want to do, I have steered away from my path of travel and taken too many side roads so let’s get back on track!

va-logoI started my retirement journey and road back to health visiting the health club every morning for 9 months where I swam, ate and talked! Two years later I am not such a good visitor to the pool. I try, honestly and with this beautiful weather I make much more of an effort but my days are so busy now that I don’t make enough time for exercise. Shameful really. But there is nothing like a bit of exercise to give you the energy to attack each day with vim and vigour so I try and go as often as I can.  I exercised in the indoor and outdoor pool  – walking up and down, running up and down, a dreadful attempt at breast stroke up and down, float kicking up and down, dumb bells for arm strengthening and all this because I am not the world’s best swimmer!!  I also sit in the steam room for a couple of minutes and had the best compliment ever which I must tell you about! I walked in one morning and was asked if I was Italian. My hair stuck to my head, my mascara and eyeliner black around my eyes, my voluptuous body bursting out of my size 12 swimsuit (bought when I was a stone lighter, I must add)  and I’m asked by a swarthy,  dark gentleman in a strong Italian accent, “Are you Mediterranean?” to which I replied, “No, I am Welsh but I do speak some Italian.” “Ah!” came the reply, “when you aopened the door and awalk in I think you are Gina Lollobrigida!!!!”  Oh joy! Such beautiful words to lift the spirits and make you feel like a million dollars. Thank you kind stranger, never to be seen again!

Then came my flower arranging which was mentioned in a previous blog.

**An up date on that blog for a moment. **

I believe I mentioned that I have been asked to arrange a wedding posy. I have been practicing. What do you thing?

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Bouquet 5                   bouquet 4

I am enjoying this and my house and garden looks beautiful!! I’m taking orders!!

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Next came my socialising! This is the easiest part of being retired! Socialising and journeys! I feel I need to share with you, visitors to Wales especially, just a few of the wonderful plmumblesaces to chill out and relax and catch up while you eat – afternoons and evenings. There is a beautiful seaside town on the Swansea coast called Mumbles. Mumbles is a beautiful little gem of a seaside village with shops, cafes, bas and restaurants. This is one of our favourite meeting places. Tea or coffee to begin with, cruising the shops to follow and a nice light lunch to round off the day.

Cafe 93 is a lovely little cafe. My favourite here is the bagel cafe 93and cream cheese with smoked salmon. The salads are large and the cakes and biscuits are wonderful. It’s a cosy little cafe a great place to relax and chat after a few hours window shopping.A great little novelty shop is Eden, and for some unusual clothes you must visit Splash! and Goose Island, Rowbbery’s for shoes, but only on the sale, and the hardware shop is like Aladdin’s cave. Visitors to this area need to visit the Lolovespponsvespoons shop. You will find beautiful ly carved love spoons to take home. But no visit would be complete without a lick of a Joe’s ice-cream the best vanilla icecream this side of Italy. Vanilla is the best, in a cone or a tub with the chocolate sprinkles and nuts! The best!!joes

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You could go a little up market and take a walk to Verdi’s. There you will have a beautiful view of the bay from the outdoor seating area and you have a choice of loads of flavour ice-cream. The apple crumble is wonder full .Not my picture. I borrowed it from Google images.

no 6hundredAnother chat cafe to visit is a very small place in Ynys Tawe called No6hundred. A lovely café that serves tasty cakes, a well brewed pot of tea and yummy sandwiches to name  but a fe delicacies! You are surrounded by beautiful gifts, clothing, candles and jewellery it’s perfect place for a catch up or a relaxing, indulgent afternoon.

 

cafe chameleonAnother little gem is Cafe Chameleon in Ystradgynlais. small, quirky, friendly and full of atmosphere. The food is homemade and ‘different’. there is also a good selection of vegetarian dishes and healthy choices with pulses and beans of all sorts. Again, there are items all around you which are for sale and another great chat and catch-up place.

 

Close to home, one of my favourite catch-up cafes is a moruzzi.relatively new place here in Neath called Moruzzi’s. Full of character, friendly, busy a lovely cafe where shoppers gather to have lunch and tea and where I go simply to relax and chat with friends. A must on the menu is the pulled pork sandwich, the pasta and the home made lasagna is to die for!

I could go on for ever on this page but I think I will leave it at that for now. The walls of these little places hold a number of my stories deep in their crevices. They have helped me on my journey of recovery and they have now become places I go to chill. ;laugh, relax and sen my retirement hours! It’s such a shame they offer calories, especially when I started the page with the hours of exercise I once did!!

 

 

Last Night the DJ Saved my Life

PaulBack in March I was introduced to a very remarkable man, Paul Johnson. I had gone to a fundraising evening for another remarkable little person, Jacob Phillips. Jacob is now 3 years old but he was born with a form of cerebral palsy and needed a life-changing operation out in St. Louis in America. His parents and grandparents are very good friends of mine and I have beejacobn actively attending fundraiser activities for Jacob over the past year. In fact, my son raised over a £1000 by doing a sponsored swim for him way back when the fundraising activities first begun. So proud of him! They needed to raise £70,000 to cover the operation and follow-on treatment and are well on target thanks to the generosity of  people out there. We hear enough about the bad that goes on in the world but the good out weighs the bad by a multitude!  By the way, you can check out Jacob’s Journey and read his story here  or follow his progress on Face Book.

Let’s get back to the evening. Paul and I ended up sitting on the same table at the fundraising evening. As we got talking I realised that Paul couldn’t see me. Paul was born without sight, but despite this he is a DJ on a local radio station and spends his spare time collecting for charity having done everything from sponsored walks to even driving a car (off road of course) to raise money for worthy causes. He is constantly promoting local talent on his radio show and has a huge following. Read about Paul’s visit to the Paul O’Grady show here.

 

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During the evening we talked about all manner of things and I mentioned that I was assistant director of a play that was soon to open at my local AmDram theatre, Neath Little Theatre. I was invited on to Paul’s show to promote the play and the theatre, which I eagerly accepted. It was a great experience and incredible to see Paul at work. I was amazed at the studiodj – quite state of the art considering how small it is, very professional with some great people there. I instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of it! Having never done anything like ‘Djing’ in my life before, I was offered training by Mike, the station manager, and I now find myself on air once a week with Mike on the Breakfast Show and loving every minute of it! I will be hosting my own slot in September for 6 weeks on a Wednesday afternoon from 1pm – 3pm covering for one of our DJs who is off to Australia for a visit. So as I said way back at the beginning of the blog, we are never too old to try new things!

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First Steps – Flower arranging

What I found very disturbing after I escaped the big black hole was that I was unable to read! After having spent years reading books and documents and papers to do with Education, and years of reading paperback and novels for enjoyment, and not as enjoyable books I was forced to read for my English course at college, now here I was unable to sustain the concentration to read more than a few words on a paper!! Ok. No worries the reading crisis would have to be dealt with at later date.

So, the first thing I did ‘Out of my Comfort Zone’ was to join a Flower Arranging course!

flower arrangingEveryone I know, close family and friends, split their sides at hearing this as, to be fair, I am not exactly the most visually creative person to walk this earth. My hands are not delicate and I am very messy! I have no particular interest in flowers per say and quite happy to buy a bunch and dump them in a vase of water, place them on the hearth or a windowsill and enjoy the sight. So, off I went! A complete novice! Wow! Wow! Wow!! When I got home after that first lesson, I can honestly say that I thought my head would not get in through that back door. I couldn’t believe that I had created such a thing of beauty! I had never imagined that arranging flowers could give such pleasure and boost confidence and pride!! A year on, I still attend classes, own a complete set of new tools, ravage my garden of every bit of colour that pops out of the ground ( much to my mother’s dismay, but well worth it when I see the pleasure and delight in her eyes when a beautiful arrangement is presented to her on a weekly basis! ) I have even been asked to arrange the flowers for a September wedding!! So there you go!!

My new found entrepreneurial head is now seeing pound signs! I’m not dismissing the idea of making money in phase three of my life. In fact, at the speed I am spending it I will no doubt be looking for some kind of employment over the next 5 years to supplement my income. Mmmmm on line flower arranger is beginning to sound good!

Here is a collage of some of my arrangements. I made the top left hand corner arrangement as a present for my sister’s 60th birthday. ‘Tea and Cakes’. She was delighted, I’m happy to say. The bottom middle one was made for a cousin who had no idea what to take to his auntie’s 85th birthday so we nipped into town,bought a few flowers and …. dah dah! A nice arrangement just looks so impressive and really, who doesn’t like a room with some flowers in it?

flower collage

I have a great teacher. His name is Jonathan Lloyd Davies! He lives and breathes flowers and makes the art of arranging look so simple. jonathanHe is so patient and simply wonderful. Check out his website here

 

I have now been asked to create a bouquet for my friend’s September wedding!! The is my first commission!! Yikes. But I’ll do it! There is no room for negativity!