Sunday, 29 July 2007


“So what did you enjoy most about your trip to Northumberland?” I asked the boys as we set off on the long journey home after our short break away.
“For me it was either meeting the blogging ladies or Alnwick Castle” said Idle Jack.
“I liked either the Castle or the purple ladies” interrupted Quiet Mousie, my youngest. “Thank you for taking us mummy, it was the best day of my life,” an uncharacteristic gush from him.
“Yes, thanks mum, it was brill” agreed Idle Jack, “When can we go again?”

Not a bad turn around for a sulky, petulant teenager who, 72 hours earlier had been huffing and puffing in the car next to me,
“Why do we have to go all this way to meet a bunch of’s weird!”
Unusually for the little one, he jumped on side with his brother, “What if they’re horrid and they ruin our holiday?”
“Look boys, I wouldn’t be going to Northumberland if it wasn’t for these strangers.” I had reassured them. “I have heard so many wonderful things about what a great place it is from @theMill's blog. And you know what mummy’s like-I get nervous about meeting strangers myself, so I wouldn’t make us all go somewhere if I thought it was going to be horrid.”
They were clearly going to take some persuading.
“And anyway, whatever happens you will be going to the Harry Potter Castle.”
Silence. Those two magic words. Harry Potter. Bright eyes, eager looks.
JK Rowling has hypnotised every child in the land. And I had exploited this obsession to full effect in order to convince them that Northumberland was the place for a short visit this six weeks holiday.

We set off at 6am to try and avoid Manchester and rush hour traffic. By 10am our stomachs were already leaping into our mouths over the fair ride dips of the old Military road which runs adjacent to Hadrians Wall. First stop enticed us into the Roman Army Museum and next I sat drinking flask coffee as the boys battled, purchased swords in hand as Barbarians V Romans in the grounds of Vindolanda.

We were fortunate to stay in a luxurious hotel in Hexham. However I wished throughout the trip that we had opted for a B&B or @the Mills Spitalford Cottage for the duration so we may have been closer to the bloggers and the main attractions of our stay.

It was a significant trip. No-one realised, least of all the boys the significance. Two years ago me and the boys went by ourselves to York, the Yorkshire Dales and East Coast. On that trip I could barely drive at times for tears stinging my eyes as I tortured myself listening to Dido and Whitney Houston. Me and their dad were separated at the time. I wasn’t prepared to see another six weeks holiday ruined for them, so I mustered the courage to take them away by myself and try and give them the best holiday I could. In fact it was a thoroughly miserable holiday without their daddy...we all three spent much of it crying and cut it short in the end. Although I don't know why really because at that time all we had to go back to was an empty house...

This holiday, Daddy couldn’t get any more time off work. Or maybe he didn’t relish the prospect of meeting the bloggers quite as much as me...But in any event I decided weeks ago that it was time to push the boundaries of my courage and drive by myself with the boys to this place I had always wanted to visit. I had an incentive this time, meeting a bunch of strangers and hubby safely at home. And so I ignored the flashbacks along the journey to that dark time two years ago. Workaholic Hubby texted and rang us along our journey, following the adventure.

The trip was worth it for me-it proved my strength of character with the confidence and sense of achievement it gave me. It gave me a ‘peace’ and a closure on certain things especially with the timings...a kind of ‘Orange Man’ Blog meets Diary of a Country Bumpkin Blog. Those who have followed my story will understand what I am talking about. It was something I wondered if I could ever manage a few months ago when I felt so ‘lost.’

It was worth it to see the delight on the boys faces when they saw the majestic Alnwick Castle and followed the Battleaxe to Broomsticks Tour and Dragons Quest. Idle Jack now wants to start Archery classes after a short archery session and several shots on ‘bulls eye’ in the grounds. Quiet Mousie was mesmerised by a magician called Brian.

It was worth it to see the stunning countryside-a cross between the spectacle of the the South Shropshire Hills where I live, and the more rugged, wild landscape of the North Yorkshire Dales I used to frequent. At times the countryside took our breath away and the clouds and showering weather only served to accentuate the landscape and the colours of the hills.

It was worth it to see the bright, beaming face and twinkling eyes of @the Mills daughter as she greeted us at the door of their beautiful home. I didn’t see my boys much that afternoon-they went off with the daughter and the dogs, bouncing on trampolines and playing in the beautiful gardens. Then when it rained they re-inacted scenes from Harry Potter while watching Harry Potter Videos with the wands we had purchased from the Castle Shop. Because of the rain we never did get to the most beautiful beach in the world. We talked about it a lot over the two days but it still remains an enigma which I will have to follow up on next years trip to the Northumberland Coast....

It was worth it to see Crystal Jigsaws panoramic views and corner of Northumberland where she gets her ‘inner peace.’ It was worth it for the kiss and hug I got from Amy, Crystals daughter. She is as boisterous and lively as their little puppy, Sparky, and her smile lights up the room. All afternoon she called me ‘lady’ in between hijacking my boys who I only saw when they wanted food.
It was worth it for the ‘strange’ experience I encountered when I went into one of Crystals bedrooms and my heart started palpating. There was definitely ‘something’ I felt there and so did the others.

It was worth to see @theMill again and meet Exmoor Jane who both came to join us at Crystals for the afternoon.

And it was worth it to be welcomed home to the barn by the Workaholic Hubby who was standing in the courtyard in the rain to greet us and unload the car as we fell out of it, drunk with fatigue, late on Friday evening.

What about the bloggers, I hear you all ask. Well, I always knew they were going to be warm and bright and funny and interesting. I always knew I would feel safe, comfortable and at ease in the company of Crystal, @the Mill and Exmoorjane. My only real surprise was seeing @the Mill is as attractive as she is! I had built an impression of someone wise and somehow pictured her with a purple rinse- I couldn’t have been more wrong!

What made me smile the most as I drove home from Crystals is how far I have come in the short time since meeting the Welsh/Shropshire PurpleCooers just a couple of months ago when I was nervous but excited. I must be almost blase at meeting the purple coo blogging brigade-this time I didn’t have any butterflies or trepidation...It was just as if I was looking forward to seeing old friends....I could have stayed a week and we would still have been pushed for time with so much to talk about and so much in common...

So, as my band of friends and Christmas Card list gets even bigger I think how lucky I am and the only thing I wonder is...

...where shall I visit next?...

Until another day

Bye for now

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


Where is the time going? My Nan always told me that after you turned 21 your life just flies past. Now I am nearly twice that age does that mean life moves at twice the speed?

It is already nearly the end of July and another six weeks holidays are upon us. Quiet Mousie's holidays came two days early as he was poorly at the end of last week with bad throat and glands and a raging temperature.

Luckily I had pushed on well with most of my orders-so I was able to sit alongside my little limpet while doing the finishes touches to the order I had in from Muddy Boots,merchandise for her shop which I designed/created and hope sells well for her...

‘Idle Jack,’ I am pleased to say, made it through the whole term without a day off sick, which is a first! Now he has broken up he can get up when he pleases, slob around in his PJ’s and announce as he does most days that “I’m having a lazy day today mum...” Still I can’t complain, my best number one son turned 14 yesterday. That is another fourteen years which have passed in the blink of an eye.

We celebrated by going to see Harry Potter-Order of the Phoenix. I do believe Ms Rowling has us all hypnotised. It was most enjoyable and when his copy of the new ‘Deathly Hallows’ book came through the post yesterday, I did rather wish I had it sent to me so I could ‘speed read’ it first before giving it to Idle Jack!

We have rather a Harry Potter theme week planned as we set off tomorrow on our first ever trip to Northumberland in pursuit of Alnwick Castle, aka Hogwarts, and of course some of the Northumberland Purplecoo brigade.

Since I joined the Blogging community I have heard so much about Northumberland, a place I have never visited. A couple of weeks ago on a whim I announced to the workaholic hubby that I would love to go. He has all his holiday entitlement booked for this year, so can’t get away. So instead I am going by myself with the boys and he is going to stay home and work and look after the dog! So me and the boys for just 3-4 days will go on our very own adventure...

My holidays as a child were spent on the East coast-Withernsea, Bridlington, Filey, Scarborough. I always thought it rather grim with the cold North Sea and perpetual rain until I realised in more recent years that Nan could never afford to go at ‘peak times’ so we must have always been there ‘out of season!’ Still, it never stopped me enjoying my times in a caravan-I still remember the smell of the calor gas and the sound of the rain drumming and the seagulls tip tapping on the roof of the van.

No, a bit of rain won’t dampen my spirits if it decides to continue on our trip to will be raining back home, no doubt...So we may as well be away having a change of scenery and in pursuit of joining 'Dumbledores Army' in the North East...

So until we return

Bye for now

Thursday, 5 July 2007


I am sure that for those of you who are following my journey of self discovery in the Orange Man Blog, it may appear that I am someone who has had more than their fair share of knocks. So you may therefore find it hard to believe that until recently I wasn’t someone who ‘got down’ very often.

Over the years I have always been a positive person, one of the ‘half full’ rather than ‘half empty’ brigade and some might even say an eternal optimist. Maybe it has just been my finely tuned survival instinct however I have always been one to see the good in things and people and always believed that things happen for a reason.

Anyway, since I have had more dark times lately I have had to find coping strategies and so I list below my 5:-

1 Count my blessings and think of people who are less fortunate than myself.

This is why I love Cait O’Connor’s blog so much and I always count my blessings. Whatever tough time I got from my Nan’s domineering and controlling character, she took me in and brought me up rather than letting me go into a children’s home. My life would have been very different.

It is never hard to think of someone you know, or who is in the news who is worse off than you.
For example with my illness, I occasionally have periods of prolonged pain and that tends to wear me down. I try to be grateful and give small blessings because at least I can still walk. And at least I won’t die from it; At least I am fortunate enough to not work now and so (in theory) I should be able to live my life at a steady pace; At least it is not one of my children suffering...

2 Busy myself.
This in more recent years has proved my salvation, particularly through my business. I use DISTRACTION to maximum effect! I busy myself and my head so much that I don’t allow myself to dwell on negative things. I am by nature the mistress of overthinking! So it has also proved a useful strategy and worked well for me for resting my brain and allowing me time to heal.

3 Take some time out and be kind to myself.
It has taken me nearly 40 years and I still have some was to go to perfect the true art of relaxation. But if I am feeling a little fragile I can now sometimes allow myself the luxury/permission to ‘chill out’ read a book, do my nails, have a massage, eat junk food, indulge myself in whatever I feel like doing.
And it also still never fails to make me smile and feel like a naughty girl for being so rebellious, daring to sit at the PC or read or something 'self indulgent' when there are chores to be done! I still have a way to go with this, but I am getting there...

4 Surround myself with the people I love.
My 'bestest' friends are usually just the tonic! I have a close circle of 5-6 main ones and they all give me something different; one gives me ‘tea and sympathy,’ one is really practical and rational and provides welcome advice to my emotional thinking; one is mature and wise and calming; one is a riot and makes me laugh; and the other is so self consumed and talks about herself all the time it helps me forget my problems!
Also having fun with the boys or a bottle of wine by the chiminea with my husband is good too.

5 If all else fails...Music....

Mean and moody Gorecki or relaxing Ludovico Einaudi, or housework to Take That!. I can sometimes sing myself out of the doldrums! Or occasionally if I am very blue I will allow myself to wallow until I hit the bottom. Eventually there comes a point when you hit the bottom and the only way to go is up...I have to do that to myself sometimes-think about something SO much that I sicken myself of it!! Then I can shout inside my head “STTOPPPP!” I have found that I can block the negative thoughts from my mind then whenever they creep in by distracting myself and thinking of something different.

Thanks for tagging me Annak-I am very conscious that so many people are already supporting me with The Orange Man Blog and I didn’t want them to get ‘fed up’ of me always blogging/being on the site! However this blog has also 'cheered me' to see that at least, of late, I have discovered some ‘pick me ups’ and coping strategies that DO WORK FOR ME....

So until another day

Bye for now