Three Hundred and Sixty Fifth Post

So here we are on the last day of the year, which also happens to be the final day of my 365 day writing challenge. As with all challenges (and indeed years) there have been highs and there have been lows. There have been moments when the words have flowed like molten gold, many more when they’ve stuttered like a dying car engine. But what matters is I stuck with it through thick and thin, and I feel proud of my achievement. It’s kept the motor of my writing inspiration running throughout 2013 and got me to a positive position from which to start 2014: The Year of the Edit.

I will still write regularly in this blog over the coming year, but the posts will be fewer and farther between. Before signing off for 2013 I would just like to say thanks to all those who have been reading and encouraging me along the way. It’s meant an enormous amount to hear your feedback and read your comments, and I hope you’ll all stick with me in 2014 and beyond.

This is Belle365 signing off from Hong Kong. Happy New Year 🙂

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Hong Kong: Day One

After an eleven hour flight, only three of which we actually managed to sleep (and even then only fitfully), we touched down in Hong Kong at 2pm this afternoon. One train and an expertly blagged free bus later we were standing outside our guest house on the 13th floor of the infamous Chung King Mansions hammering on the door and staring forlornly through it at the empty reception desk. Fortunately it was only a few minutes (and a passing cockroach) later that someone appeared to let us in. Somewhat less fortunately we were then asked to pay the  balance in full for our two night stay (£100), despite me having thought I’d done this months ago through the booking website. Unable to get online to verify this (great idea Tesco banking for refusing to let customers log on from abroad unless they confirm a text message you’ve sent them – however Three, as I’ve discovered today to my chagrin, don’t automatically set new customers up with data roaming when abroad. How then, pray tell, am I meant to confirm a text and log on if I don’t have phone reception to receive it?) we reluctantly handed over the cash before being led to our cell-like “double” room.

The trauma of the room behind us we attempted to shake off our tiredness and go out-a plan made somewhat trickier by the horrendous backache that’s crept up on me over the past few days and is now not only fully fledged but also, it would seem, here to stay (bodes well for the days of trekking ahead…). It took all of my strength to get out of the guest house but happily once we were out things improved immeasurably.

We’ve spent this evening wandering around the night market, sampling lots of yummy street food and taking a promenade along (culminating in a night cap overlooking) Hong Kong’s stunning harbour. I’m still in pain with this stupid back ailment but we are at least firmly back on track with the holiday enjoyment, which is very much the most important thing. Next stop New Year’s Eve and I cannot wait!

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See you on the Other Side….

After months of waiting I can hardly believe today is finally here. In ten minutes we will be setting off for the airport to catch our flight to Hong Kong where we will be seeing in the New Year. Then, on January 1st we will be flying to Manila to begin a twelve day adventure that will take in the mountainous regions of Northern Luzon, the famous world heritage Cordillera rice terraces and Cebu in the Visayan islands, where we will be diving with whale sharks and thresher sharks as well as doing our bit to help with the typhoon relief effort on Malapascua island.

It’s been a long time coming and has taken a huge amount of planning, so it’s an amazing feeling to finally be ready to embark on the journey. Though this will no doubt surprise many people who know me to be a social media addict, I’m actually looking forward to two weeks ‘off the grid’ (which will stand me in excellent stead for my 26.2 day sponsored social media silence in February, in aid of my Rome marathon effort in March – training for which will be firmly on the back burner for the next two weeks, but will be resumed in earnest upon my return).

I will, of course, fulfil my final two posts of this year’s Belle 365 daily blogging challenge before heading off into the wilderness, so will have a chance to wish you all a Happy New Year once we have touched down in Hong Kong. Which means all there is to say for now is ‘see you on the other side’!

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The Great Sibling Debate

Though it pains me to admit this, as an only child I have grown up to be a bit of a princess. When I was younger I had no shortage of toys and pretty clothes (some less pretty-we don’t talk about the puppy fat and lumberjack shirt phase-that never happened), and if I wanted something my parents (or, if they said no, my grandparents) would invariably give it to me. I suppose it’s fair to say that I was spoilt, but whilst being an only child does have its many benefits, I always craved a brother or sister to share it with.

This craving has, I suspect, directly influenced my choice of relationships. My best friends all have siblings and my boyfriends have all had large families. There’s nothing I love more than coming down to Devon where my boyfriend’s family lives and spending time with him, his parents and four brothers on the farm where they live. It’s about as far from my princess roots as I could get, but it gives me an enormous sense of belonging and I enjoy having surrogate brothers in my life.

That’s not to say I don’t still love the time I spend at home. Christmas always has been and always will be a favourite time of year for me as it allows me to go home, close the doors and spend some much needed time relaxing and recharging with the small family unit that comprises me, my mum and step dad (my dad being up in rural Yorkshire where he runs a self catering cottage that requires a manager to be in full time residence over the festive period should anything go wrong).  Being only three of us for Christmas means no big family rows or tensions, just quality time en famille, and for that I’m truly grateful.

I feel fortunate to have struck this balance between spending time with big families and retreating to my small (but perfectly formed) one, and though sometimes I still wish I had a sibling with whom to share the familial memories and obligations, I wouldn’t change my situation for the world. Many people don’t have any family to speak of at all, so I know I am a very lucky girl.

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Being Driven Round the Bend

There’s nothing like a bad traffic jam to bring out the worst in people. Today I spent five hours in the car covering a distance that should have taken three and a half hours. There was an accident on the M5 (allegedly, though I saw no evidence of this when I passed the police cordon after spending forty five minutes at a complete standstill), and by the time I pulled off the motorway for a much needed caffeine fix it’s fair to say my mood was considerably damper than it had been when I embarked upon my journey.

Back on the motorway the “accident” cleared and I was on my way, practically tasting the delicious freedom at my disposal. Unfortunately, however, an urgent toilet break at Exeter  that saw me crossing three lanes of traffic without properly completing my mirror, signal, manoeuvre procedure led to a rather offensive dressing down via the medium of sign language from an irate man in the car beside me. And so the journey continued.

After what felt like an age I pulled off the final dual carriageway and began making my way through the country lanes towards my destination. It was at this point that the road in front of me was blocked again; this time with sheep rather than people. This was not, it’s fair to say, to be my day.

Thankfully I did eventually reach my destination, a place I have no intention of leaving for the next thirty six hours until it’s time to drive back up to Heathrow for my flight to Hong Kong on Sunday. Read that and weep abusive driver….

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He’s Behind You…

I’ll admit it: I love panto. Not a sentence I would have been caught dead saying a few years ago, but now I’m getting on a bit (having reached the grand old age of 32) something’s changed. The embarrassment of youth has faded and, in its place, a newfound respect for the magic and comedy of pantomime has sprung up (rather like Jack’s beanstalk, if you’ll excuse the simile).

The thing is this: Life can be too serious. Bad things happen to good people; death, disease and poverty are rife in our society. Sometimes it’s just nice (for those of us fortunate enough to have the luxury) to be a little silly; to watch something ridiculous that makes us laugh and takes us far away from reality (on a magic carpet ride-sorry), evoking the unbridled joy and innocence of childhood.

And on that note, it’s wonderful to see the enjoyment that the children in the audience glean from a good pantomime performance. When Wishee Washee throws the sweets and a mad scramble ensues there’s a palpable sense of delight that’s hard to manufacture in these modern times of computers and smartphones.

What I’ve loved most of all about the pantomime at Windsor for the past few years has been (and here’s another sentence that I never envisaged saying) Britain’s Got Talent’s Kevin Cruise. The best supporting actor I’ve seen in years, he’s a true comedy talent and national treasure (also someone I’d quite like to be my male best friend).

In short I think it’s safe to say that panto’s a tradition that’s set to stay in my family (oh no it isn’t…). Roll on next year…

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New Beginnings Part Two

Yesterday I spoke of new beginnings and adventures, and as a follow on from those sentiments I’ve saved this Christmas Day post for two very special people.

This couple have had a hellish start to married life after losing a dear friend who was usher at their wedding, then being evicted from their home by their mad elderly landlady and, most recently, having to endure illness over Christmas time (which they are having to work most of due to a lack of holiday).

These two, in particular my beautiful friend Bridget, have faced these hardships with the utmost of strength and fortitude, never once  complaining about their lot and simply getting on with things and facing them head on.

I have so much love and respect for them and just want to publicly acknowledge that I think they are amazing, and I wish them all the love and happiness that they truly deserve in the new year ahead.

So here’s to new beginnings for you too, Harry and my darling Little B. I wish you both a very Merry Christmas. May your year be filled with pandas and unicorns, and may you find the way ahead free of all burdens and obstructions. Love life. Seek adventure. Be happy.

Happy Christmas Everyone xxx

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