What I’ve learnt from clouds

I'm on holiday by the sea in Devon. In fact, I can see and hear the sea from every window in the house we're staying in. It's been lovely! The other evening, I had a bath in this amazing bath:

I listened to the sea and watched the clouds. It was sooooo relaxing. I'm going to apologise to my friend Thor, who studies clouds, because I'm pretty sure my analogy isn't remotely meteorologically correct (I'm not even sure if that's the right spelling!).

There were grey, rain clouds and fluffy, white clouds. The fluffy white ones were still and big and there consistently and the grey, rain ones were drifting speedily by in the strong wind. Every now and then the grey ones covered the white ones and you only got glimpses of the white ones. And then sometimes the grey ones were really thick and completely obscured the white ones. But the grey ones passed over and the white ones came back again, still big and white and with the sun reflecting on them in the same place.

On my Calm app, Tamara (the woman who narrates it -we're on a first name basis 😉) says every day 'emotions pass, this too shall pass'. And it's like the clouds. The bad, nasty things are just dark clouds temporarily covering up the white, fluffy, exciting things, or the good things in life. Good things are still there in the background even when the dark clouds pass over. You have to work harder to see them, but they're still there.

Not exactly a difficult conclusion to come to, but it made me feel good at the time I was watching clouds (which I love to do anyway!). Plus, for once, I get to brag about somewhere beautiful I've been šŸ˜‰

Planning a Weekend Away

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see my niece who was born premature. It was a bit touch and go for a while and she was in hospital 2 hours away. Most people on finding out this information, would have jumped in the car at the next available time possible, even if it meant driving there and back in one day. I physically can’t do that – doing that would have meant I’d have ended up in hospital too. So we planned to go see her a month after she was born. Which I was obviously massively frustrated about. Having a chronic illness and travelling takes considerable planning as it is, but having an illness like mine which isn’t very stable at the moment is more complicated and there are certain things I have to do or check out first when planning a trip. At the moment, I mostly stay put at home because I’m not well enough to be able to make trips. However, my niece was more sick than I was and in the NICU, so this was an exception! Here’s how I plan for a trip:

  • Find out where the nearest hospital is, and then where the nearest trauma centre is. If there’s not one within 20 minutes ish of where I’m going, I don’t go. Most people go on trip advisor and check out local attractions and restaurants before deciding where to stay. I go on the NHS website and make sure the nearest hospital has an endocrine department! 
  • Packing medications/’equipment’. I tend to take 1.5 times the amount of medications I’ll need away with me, just in case. If I go away for more than a couple of nights, I also take things like my BP machine, thermometer, blood glucose machine and sharps box so that if I feel weird I can do checks myself and adjust meds like I would at home rather than having to guess or go straight to hospital. Basically if you’re ever ill when you’re away with me I can probably give you a similar service to an out of hours GP (disclaimer: Joking). This is what I took with me meds wise when I went away for 2 weeks. That was a while ago, I take more daily meds now! 

  • Documents. I have a letter explaining why I need needles and saline for security points, and also saying that people can’t confiscate or withhold my medication. But I also carry factsheets (translated into other languages if need be) about my condition and what drugs/tests/treatment need to be done in hospital. Some of my drugs are controlled so I take prescriptions as evidence they’re mine when I go abroad. I don’t have magazines in my hand luggage, I have lots of (prescription) drugs! 
  • Travel. Car is the best option because we can pull over and have rests whenever we want. I get a lot of pain from travelling and it tires me out even though I’m not driving, so we don’t tend to go far. I find places like airports and train stations hard because of the amount of walking/standing involved. Flying isn’t an option right now since it makes me very ill currently. Especially if there are delays- the last time that happened I had to ask the cabin crew to sort the temperature fast to avoid them delaying the flight further by sending me to the ER. 
  • Accessibility. I use this word to encompass everything I check out, not just ‘is there a lift because I have issues with stairs’. So things like is there parking nearby? Do the places we’re going to have toilets? Air con or do I need layers? Places to get water? Places/benches to sit down? Is there a lot of walking involved or do I need my wheelchair? Is there somewhere in the day I can have a nap? Are there places to eat which fit in with my normal diet? 
  • Accommodation. I can’t stay by myself overnight, so I had to visit my niece when my husband or my mum was available to be in the same hotel overnight, just in case. But on other occasions, like visiting friends or family, I suss out things like is there a bed/sofa bed (I can’t sleep on the floor) or make sure that the room I’m sleeping in isn’t too hot, dusty or damp. It’s not because I’m fussy, it’s because those things make me sick!
  • Meal times. I have ‘windows’ of time where I need to eat in to help manage my conditions. So brunches, late lunches/dinners can cause me problems. I also need to know what foods roughly I’ll be eating in advance so I can balance out my carbs for the day. I carry a lot of snacks with me, so, again, I’ve got you covered if you suddenly get hangry. šŸ˜‰
  • Nap times. I nap most days as it is, but I definitely can’t go away and do more than usual without scheduling in some lying down quietly/nap time every day. It sounds boring, but it’s that or I go to hospital. Helpfully, I seem to have a similar nap schedule to lots of my friends’ babies! 
  • Emergency injection buddies. I usually go away with my husband but if I do go away or out for the day without him, there’s always one person who I’ve trained in how to use my injection and what to say to paramedics dispatch if need be. 
  • Activities before/after. If I’m going away, I won’t do much/anything the week before or the week after. Except for medical appointments. Basically I’ll spend most of the time in my pjs lying down and doing the absolute minimum. Sounds like most people’s idea of heaven, but I’d much rather be a functioning human being and have a social life that doesn’t just involve Netflix and Facebook! šŸ˜‰ 

    Festive Things

    Last week I would class as particularly festive and I felt like I was properly getting into the Christmas spirit. I love the build up to Christmas anyway, but if I wasn’t sure Christmas was on its way, I definitely was by the end of it! 

    Carol Service 

    A friend, his mum and aunt and I saw the Westminster Abbey Choristers perform a lunchtime carol service at Symphony Hall. Apparently it was the first time they’d performed out of a church or abbey setting. The boys are all aged between 7 and 13/14 and performed carols both unaccompanied and with an organ. The hall was almost packed and the boy who started the concert off with a solo of I Saw Three Ships must have only been about 9 and sung beautifully without any backup from organ or the choir- that must take some nerve! They sang traditional carols in English, Latin and German and there were a couple of congregation carols as well. It was a really lovely hour!

    Christmas Market 

    Symphony Hall is really close to the Birmingham Christmas Market so we had a quick wander through part of it. I’ve been to the market most years since I’ve lived down here so it’s something we do every year. It wasn’t too busy because it was mid-week but at weekends it can be packed. 

    Christmas at Blenheim Palace

    The next day, my husband and two friends went to Blenheim Palace to see the Christmas Trail. Each garden has been designed by a different artist and has a different theme which comes alive at nighttime through different lights, sounds and fire used. The photos I have won’t do it justice but it was incredible. We got there about 6pm when it was properly dark and spent about 2 hours on the trail, but we did stop to look, sit down a lot and eat toasted marshmallows. My favourite was the Electric Waterfall which was essentially a slope covered in colour-changing lights: it was pretty hypnotic! Afterwards we had (posh) hot dogs and pulled pork rolls which were very good! There were also things like mulled wine and waffles available as well. 

    A really good week! Going to the market and a carol service are definitely things which I consider essential to feeling Christmassy every year. What are yours? 

    Places I’d Like to Travel To

    A friend and I were talking about this last night and it got me thinking about places I’d like to see. If money or circumstance were no object, where would I like to visit in the world? Some people travel for specific reasons, like they’ve got a particular interest in history or culture or architecture or trekking. I tend to travel to places based on where I feel ‘drawn’ to, although I can’t necessarily put my finger on what it is that draws me to specific places! I like learning about people and their lives. I’m reasonably well traveled in Europe, but when I look on a global scale, I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a map of where I’ve traveled so far in the world:


    That’s a lot of places untraveled. So, in no particular order, here’s some places I’d like to travel to.

    Washington DC, USA

    Ok, so this is at the top of my list, if I were to put them in order. Having spent a lot of time sofa bound in the last 4 years, I’ve filled my time watching american political shows, including all seasons of West Wing 5 times through. I find american history and the political system really interesting and want to visit the famous landmarks I’ve been watching on TV.

    New England, USA

    Before becoming ill, I would have always opted for stunning scenery over city travels every time. I’ve always loved the look of the countryside here, West Wing helped with that as well, but the colours of Autumn/Fall in particular have always made me want to visit. I don’t know why specifically here, but it looks beautiful at this time of year!

    New York at Christmas

    I’ve been to New York, we went as part of our honeymoon. And the first three places on my list are doing absolutely nothing for broadening my travel map! But there’s something about New York at Christmas that I feel particularly drawn to. The fact that it’s cold, there might be snow, New York seems to go all out for Christmas, I don’t know. I just think it would be great to experience it.


    I used to have a recurring dream about Japan and Vietnam, I don’t know why. I’m well aware they’re completely different places, but for some reason they appeared in the same dream. I know very little about Japanese culture, but from what I’ve read, it’s a completely different experience from anything I will have ever encountered before. It also looks like an incredibly beautiful and interesting place. A friend I went to school with is currently living out there and I’m enjoying looking at her photos and reading her blog.


    This is definitely a ‘I want to see stunning scenery’ place. My ideal adventure in Canada would probably involve hiking and being off the beaten path, although I like the sound of a cabin in the woods so that I wouldn’t need to worry (or worry less anyway) about being eaten by bears in my sleep. I’d also quite like to visit Niagara Falls- my parents visited this Summer and their photos look great.


    We briefly went to India for a friend’s wedding, but while it was culturally an amazing experience because we were there for the wedding celebrations, we didn’t see much of India. Elephants are my favourite animal, which you can see elsewhere, but why not here? Plus there’s so much culture imbedded in Indian traditions which we just don’t have in this country, but an Indian friend introduced me to in the year we lived in France together. I’d like to learn more. The Taj Mahal looks like an incredible place to visit as well.

    Machu Picchu

    Maybe a traveler’s cliche, but this has always been on my list. How on earth did people build that, that high up?! My friend and I yesterday were saying how when you go to ancient places and imagine the history that’s happened there, you get shivers. This is definitely ones of those places for me I think.

    The Great Wall of China

    This is similar for me as Japan- it’s a completely different culture, which has roots from years and years ago. I think I’d see this as an adventure challenge, so I’d probably want to walk the length of it. I don’t necessarily feel drawn to the rest of China, but I definitely feel intrigue when I see images of it.

    A country based in the desert

    I haven’t put a lot of thought into this one, as you can tell! But when we were flying to India, we had a stopover in Qatar, and seeing the cities and roads built in the desert from the air as we landed made me want to learn more. So when I got home, I spent a lot of time reading about life in Qatar and what it’s like living in such a dry country and the traditions there. I don’t know if I’d want to visit Qatar specifically, but the idea of seeing a completely different life and architecture appeals.


    Specifically to see the Northern Lights. I’ve actually seen the Northern Lights a few times from where I grew up as a child, but it’s never the full ‘display’. It would be really something to see the full spectrum. I’ve been to Norway before and it had amazing scenery and lots of cultural appeal.

    There are probably lots of other places I’d like to visit, but these were the ones that came up when I was consciously thinking about it. Where would you visit?



    Day 25 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge isĀ memories.Ā 2016 has been a bad year for making memories in general for me. I left my career in teaching, I’ve spent more time in hospital than ever before, my niece died… There’s plenty more, but that’s not the point of this blog. Aside from the horrible things, I’m really struggling to remember the good things because my memory is really poor at the moment. However, another blogger wrote about how she’s made a happiness jar full of good things that happen, which she writes on pieces of paper and adds to it throughout the year. I think I might start this, not necessarily as an annual thing like she does, but so that when I’m feeling a bit fed up about everything I can remind myself of the good or funny things which do happen. Nice suggestion, Nikki! šŸ™‚

    A memory I do like to think about is when my husband and I were in Death Valley on Honeymoon last year. We spent a couple of hours in the evening/nighttime star gazing. There were sun loungers on the terrace outside our room, which is a bit ironic because there’s no way you’d want to be sunbathing in Death Valley when the sun’s up- you’d fry. But the temperature at nighttime was lovely and warm, the animals and insects were out in the desert below which you could hear, and the sky was really clear. You could see every star in the sky as it’s a protected Dark Zone. It was really peaceful and relaxing. There were other people doing the same thing, but no one was really talking, everyone was just taking in the atmosphere. In a city, it’s easy to forget the enormous-ness of the world, and even in countryside, there are still trees and mountains which ‘get in the way’ of your line of sight. Here, the whole sky opened up and it made me have a different kind of respect for the different parts of the world and how we only ever see a tiny part of it, no matter how well traveled or broad our horizons might be. Even though we didn’t actively do an awful lot in Death Valley, it was one of the highlights of the trip for this reason. I loved other bits of the trip as well, and they’re also great memories, but I particularly like this memory because of the way it made me feel settled at the time.




    The tripĀ 

    Day 15 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is the trip. The best trip I’ve ever been on was our honeymoon trip to America. It was great to travel around California and New York but it was also the first trip my husband and I took by ourselves, aside from the odd weekend or few days away. 

    It was also the first time either of us had done a driving holiday, seeing lots of places. I’ve been backpacking but it’s a very different experience, and, because we had a car, we could do and see different things than if we were using public transport.

    The trip didn’t originally include New York, but we added a few days in because we had to change flights there. This was by far our favourite place, and we were able to see a musical on Broadway, which was a dream of both of ours.

    The landscapes and views we saw are now some of my favourite places in the world and I love looking at the photos. I spend a lot of time watching TV and lots of programmes tend to be set in New York or the LA area. Now that I’ve been to the areas, I feel like I know a bit more about the geography and history of the States, so I can enjoy them in a different level.

    #30bbdaysofgratitude challenge

    Week 8: 30 before 30

    Here’s how I got on in week 8 of my 30 things before 30 list: 

    4. Volunteer for a charity. A charity wanted patients to complete a survey so I volunteered. But I’m not ‘the right demographic’ so they didn’t want me! 

    18. Read all of the Harry Potter books in order. I’m currently on the final book, the Deathly Hallows. 

    23. Listen to proms concerts. This week I watched the Last Night of the Proms. I can still catch up on others on Iplayer, but the proms are now over!

    25. Play Pokemon Go. I played in Wokingham this week and apparently managed to catch a ‘less seen’ Pokemon! 

    27. Visit a castle. I visited 3 this week! All in Wales- Abergavenny, Usk and Raglan. 


    Day 10 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is nature. I grew up in the countryside so nature has always been a big part of my life. I like living in a city for many reasons, but I like the space you get from being in the countryside and the peace that comes with it. I particularly like looking at views of water or from a high up point. I’m less fussed about wildlife or animals, they might make the countryside better, but they’re not what I’d seek out. So I thought I’d share some of my favourite places. 

    I grew up in the Lake District. This is one of my favourite ‘lakes’. I’ve been here a few times- it’s not a well known path, looking out over derwent water and Keswick.

    I lived in BesanƧon, France for a year and one of my favourite things to do was to go for a run or a wall around the ‘boucle’, the river bend that was at the centre of the town. There were different zones to it so different aspects of nature and history to take in.

    Not strictly nature by itself, but I liked looking out over Central Park in New York seeing the contrast between the green of the park and the grey of the city. I sat here with this view for a good half an hour taking it all in. 

    Also in the States was Death Valley and the desert. A really different take of nature for me, since I usually associate it with green and living things, so seeing it sparse and barren was a real contrast. Plus we could see all the stars, it was lovely!

    Yosemite was beautiful. Pictures and words don’t do it justice. It’s huge. Your eye can’t fully appreciate how massive it is.

    Nature and beautiful things don’t just have to be out in the middle of nowhere. I loved Lausanne in Switzerland for the peacefulness you got down by the lake but still with city conveniences nearby. 

    I’m lucky to have seen a lot of nature and the contrasts across different landscapes, but these ones are my favourites to go back to. 

    #30bbdaysofgratitude challenge

    Visiting the UK: Alnwick

    Alnwick (pronounced Ann-ick) is a hidden gem of North East England. It’s a small town located close to the Scottish Borders in the county of Northumberland. I’m biased, growing up in neighbouring Cumbria, and having got married in Alnwick a couple of years ago, but all of our wedding guests loved the place, despite most not having heard of it beforehand! It’s a characterful town surrounded by rugged landscapes perfect for walkingĀ and nearby stunning sea-views and coastlines. Here are some reasons why you should visit:

    Alnwick Castle

    alnwick castle

    Photo: Alnwick Castle, Ally Hook

    The castle was used to film parts of the Harry Potter Films, such as the flying lesson. Dating back to the Norman Conquest, it’s not a castle in ruins andĀ you can look around both the castle and parts of the Stately Home, as well as the castle grounds. There are regular events and exhibitions which take place (some Harry Potter themed!), aimed at both adults and children. You can explore it at your own pace or following a guided tour.

    alnwick castle 2

    alwnick castle 3

    Photos: Alnwick Castle, Ally Hook

    The Alnwick Garden

    grand cascade

    Photo: The Alnwick Garden, Paul Harrison

    Next door to the Castle is the Alnwick Garden. The Garden has many different sections or themes, including the Cherry Orchard and the Poison Garden. On entering the Garden, you see the Grand Cascade and other water sculptures- don’t stand too close if you don’t want to get wet! Like the castle, the Garden has different events and displays on at different times of year. We went around Hallowe’en and found lots of spooky additions to the grounds, as well as musical performances.

    sculpture garden

    scuplture garden 2

    Photos: The Alnwick Garden, Paul Harrison

    water sculpture

    Photo: The Alnwick Garden, Beccy Bernamontalnwick garden 5

    Photo: The Alnwick Garden, Elaine Altuccini

    The Treehouse

    treehouse outside

    Photo: The Treehouse

    Close to the entrance of the Garden is the Treehouse Restaurant. This is where we got married and is well worth a visit, even if it’s just to walk around the raised walkways and rope bridge! There is a small bar/cafe area, The Potting Shed, or you can eat in the Restaurant itself. The food is incredible and features a lot of local produce.

    treehouse 2

    Photo: The Treehouse Restaurant & The Potting Shed

    treehouse 4

    Photo: Rope Bridge at The Treehouse, Paul Harrison

    treehiouse 5

    Photo: The Treehouse, Verity Barnes

    Barter Books

    barter books

    Photo: Barter Books, Luke Dawson

    Found close to Alnwick centre, Barter Books is a large second hand bookshop with a book or section for pretty much any topic you can imagine. Also inside is a lovely cafe area and log fires, where you can sit and read to your heart’s content.

    barter books 2

    Photo: Cafe area, Barter Books

    Getting to Alnwick

    Because it’s rural in comparison to other parts of England, driving is the easiest and most convenientĀ way to see Alnwick andĀ the surroundingĀ area. If you drive from the South, you’ll drive past the Angel of the North, which you can stop off at and explore.

    angel of the north

    Photo: Angel of the North, Stuart Young

    By train, the nearest mainline train station isĀ in nearby Alnmouth, 4 miles away, with bus services running to Alnwick. The nearest international airport is Newcastle, with Edinburgh a couple of hours away. Bus services, taxis and mobile phone signal can be scarce in the area, depending on the time of year/day/season, so it’s best to plan your journey ahead of time!


    The weather on the north east coast tends to be pretty windy, but it’s very variable, meaning that it can be pouring with rain in the morning but blue, clear skies by lunchtime. Whatever the weather, it’s still a stunning place to visit.

    These are just a few of my favourite places in Alnwick, there are plenty more and also in the rest of Northumberland.

    Ok Then, What’s Next?

    Originally Posted on: https://mytrendingstories.com/en/profile/ok-then-whats-next/

    Banner Photo: Paul Harrison

    Photos either my own or credited to photographers mentioned and used with consent.

    Week 1: 30 Before 30

    Last week, I decided to write a 30 Things Before 30 List. Here’s how I got on at the end of the first week.

    9. Go for a picnic in a park or forest. My husband went to Sainsbury’s while I was at a medical appointment and we went to sit in the park and have a picnic. It was really good weather and pretty quiet and peaceful, sitting underneath a tree in the shade. I won’t say that I’ve ‘done’ this completely, because I still like the idea of a picnic in a forest too!

    18. Re-read Harry Potter in order. I borrowed the set of books off a friend and started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on Friday. I’ve so far read 100 pages, mostly while sat outside, which has been lovely! 

    23. Listen to Proms Concerts. I’ve quite enjoyed doing this. Instead of going to bed for a lie down or a nap in the afternoon, I’ve laid down on a picnic blanket in the garden, listened to proms concerts and cloud watched. This week I listened to: the First Night of the Proms; Prom 3 which included Mozart, Haydn and FaurĆ©; Chamber Music with Debussy, Dutilleux and more Mozart; Prom 4 Ravel and Rachmaninov; Prom 6 Gospel Prom, and Strictly Prom. I did start to listen to one with a Beethoven Mass and some Poulenc but decided that if I made it a ‘you must listen to them all’ thing, it might become a chore and become less fun. Just because I have time, doesn’t mean I have to spend it on things I don’t love as much! Definitely not ‘done’, but a good start.

    25. Go Pokemon Hunting. A friend and I planned to do this, and then an impromptu BBQ meant that there were more people to play too! This is most definitely not ‘done’ yet, I want to play in some more places which aren’t just my garden and the street outside, but it was still good fun. Particularly when we realised we were fighting some kids, but had to ask for help because we didn’t know all the rules. I guess it’s not really meant for 30 year olds!