Dream on, Dreamer

I’m not sure if there is any correlation with this spell of scorching weather, but lately I’ve been having some epic dreams; real edge-of-your-seat, night-long dramas, with casts of thousands and plots so tightly woven I would doubtless make millions if only I could re-create them back here in the real world. Which sadly I can’t. Which sucks.

Last night, for example, involved some kind of (low recall rate being my barrier to fame and fortune) city-wide treasure hunt, at the end of which I purchased four beautiful and ingenious Dartmoor crystal tumblers (despite being pretty sure Dartmoor crystal is not even ‘a thing’, I am reluctant to divulge details of the tumblers here, seeing as that is the one part of the dream I can recall in detail – look out for me on Dragons Den at some point in the future..).

A couple of weeks ago I dreamt of losing the gem stones from my grandma’s ring, which, depending on which dream meaning website you look it up on either means I’m soon to shuffle off this mortal coil or run into a big streak of luck (I know which I’d prefer).

I’m not normally a great believer in dream interpretations, primarily because (as demonstrated above), they tend to vary wildly, implying a total lack of reliability. But many years ago two dreams I had did challenge my usual pessimism.

The first was in the summer of 1989, when I was only seven years old. I know this because it was just days before the Marchioness disaster, a fatal collision between two rivercraft on the Thames in London on 20 August 1989, which resulted in the deaths of 51 people, most of whom were in their twenties. I remember dreaming of a boat in a narrow river channel, packed with people who were dancing late into the night. And then, suddenly, the boat capsized and everyone was in the water. When I subsequently saw the news on television my blood literally ran cold.

The second was probably around the same time. In this dream, I was introduced to a girl on the first day of term at school. Her name escapes me now, but I remembered her so well from my dream that when, on the actual first day of school, I saw her sitting at the front of the hall in assembly, I walked right up to her and called her, correctly, by her name. Oddly, it transpired she lived in our parish, and subsequently our parents became friends through our local church and she would sometimes came to my house after school when her mother was working late.

It’s disappointing to me that those are the only two concrete examples I can give of dreams that were clairvoyant in their nature. Some do say that children are more likely to exhibit clairvoyant tendencies than adults, before the onset of adulthood beats their belief in anything supernatural out of them. It’s likely, therefore, that my only two chances to predict the future in my dreams have passed. But don’t expect me to give up the ingenious Dartmoor crystal tumbler design just yet…

sweet vanilla heaven

Doldrums and Reality Checks

Oh hello, Doldrums, I wasn’t expecting to meet you again quite so soon after our last underwhelming encounter. But here you are at every junction and fork in the road, my little friends the inner critic and the procrastination monkey sitting stoically by your side.

So, what’s it to be this time, Doldrums? Because you really have done the not-good-enough theme to death now. What’s that? Oh, you’re playing the even-if-you-were-good-enough-so-are-loads-of-others card. I see. At least you’re showing some originality for once. Top marks for that.

Yes, I suppose you’re right, Doldrums, there are a great many talented writers out there who are already taking a slice of the pie, and the laws of physics (or maths? I never was good at those subjects) would decree the pie is getting smaller. And yes, it’s probably also true to say that – talent or no talent – my chances of getting anywhere near the pie in the first place are slim.

But you know what, Doldrums? I just read a news headline about a girl who is dying of cancer at 29. So whilst there is breath in my thirty three year old body I will NOT give up on this dream of mine-despite what you, my critic and my monkey might do to try and change my mind. Until next time…


Philippine Dream

Today I have been mostly planning holidays. Well, one holiday to be specific, which has been booked on a carpe diem whim and is now shaping up to be something rather special. The catalyst for this trip was, as regular readers of this blog will know, the tragic passing away of a very special person who recently came into our lives. Now, in memory of his adventurous spirit, we are intending to have our very own adventure.

Starting in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2014, we’ll then fly to the Philippines where I’ll hopefully begin to tick off two items from my newly created bucket list; swimming with whale sharks and diving with sharks. We’re also going to do some trekking through rice terraces, visit a village that suspends its dead in coffins from the side of a cliff and, if time allows, also go to some bat caves and take a zip wire down from the highest bridge in the Philippines (a particularly tough challenge for me due to my fear of heights, but hell, why not. After all, you only live once).

I really couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to break away from the normal routine and recapture the essence of travelling that I miss so much in my everyday life. It will also no doubt give me a huge amount of inspiration for my writing – something that I’ve felt, much to my immense frustration, has been lacking in recent weeks. It may take a very (very) long time to pay this holiday off but I know it will be worth every penny. Life is for living and it is trips like this that make it feel so much more exhilarating.

Bucket List

I’ve been hugely fortunate in my life to have already done some incredible things, among them: living in a mud hut by myself in Kenya; spending a week on a desert island in Borneo; going on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania; taking in the wonder of Halong Bay in Vietnam by boat; diving with green turtles in Malaysia and watching the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. So when I decided to sit down today and write my bucket list, it’s fair to say the bar was already set extremely high.

Why write a bucket list? Because in two and a half weeks’ time I will be turning thirty two – an age that two of my friends who tragically passed away this year will now never grow older than. It’s a desperately sad and sobering experience when people the same age as you die. It brings a lot of things into sharp focus and makes you realise what’s really important and what’s of little or no significance at all. It also makes you want to squeeze every last drop out of life that you can, because heaven only knows when your time will be up too.

I’ve spent a long time coming up with this list. Whilst experiences and travelling make up most of it, I felt it was important to also have some personal life aspirations and altruistic goals thrown into the mix. I’m pleased as I read it back now to see that only one thing on the list (no.14) is about ownership of something, which should hopefully help me to achieve no.37…

And so, without further ado, I give you…Belle’s Bucket List:

  1. Swim with whale sharks in the Philippines
  2. Dive with sharks
  3. Complete a marathon
  4. Go to Las Vegas and fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter
  5. Go husky sledding, see the northern lights and stay in an ice hotel
  6. Go on a writing retreat
  7. Have a novel published
  8. Dance in Rio for Mardi Gras
  9. Trek Machu Picchu
  10. Go up, up and away in a hot air balloon in Burma
  11. Visit Tibet and Nepal
  12. Rave at Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock desert
  13. Volunteer on Christmas Day
  14. Own a house
  15. Learn a choreographed dance
  16. Stay in a hut on stilts over a tropical sea
  17. Hula in Hawaii
  18. Stay in at least five homestays in remote villages
  19. Read 100 Booker Prize-winning books
  20. Take a trip on the Orient Express
  21. Exchange wedding vows with someone I love
  22. Have someone call me “Mummy”
  23. Get back to nature in the Galapagos Islands
  24. Go on a cruise
  25. Canoe in the Amazon rainforest
  26. Float in the Dead Sea
  27. Party in New Orleans
  28. Give blood
  29. See a polar bear in the wild
  30. Ski in the Canadian Rockies
  31. Stay on a ranch and ride horses
  32. Go on a road trip
  33. See Ayers Rock
  34. Eat in a world class restaurant
  35. Be an extra in a film or TV series
  36. See the pyramids in Egypt
  37. Stop worrying about money
  38. Overcome anxiety and self-doubt
  39. Take a giant leap of faith
  40. Make someone feel less lonely

Active imagination

Last night before I went to sleep I watched the second episode of my latest televisual addiction, The Returned (a French drama series about a group of young people who die in a coach crash and mysteriously re-appear ten years later as if nothing happened – if you haven’t watched it yet, do, you can catch it on 40D). With hindsight this wasn’t the best idea, since I was alone in the flat at the time. It also didn’t help that the light bulb in my bedside lamp chose to die as soon as the episode had ended, leaving me sitting in total darkness feeling somewhat freaked out.

Unsurprisingly, I woke up this morning having had a restless sleep. Not just restless, in fact. I’d had a dream – or rather nightmare – that I was the main protagonist in a slasher film, the whole of which had played out over the course of the dream. It was the most bizarre experience – I was the wife and my husband turned out to be the murderer. In the final scene I vividly remember thinking that I wanted desperately to run and hide, but I knew for the sake of the film I had to stay and provoke the murderer into having a pop at me. Fortunately in the end I managed to escape his evil clutches – unlike almost all of the other characters.

I really do admire my imagination, but I don’t half wish it would take a chill pill once in a while…


Sleep deprivation should be classified as an illness – and a serious one at that. Admittedly it affects different people in different ways, but few could claim not to find their mental capacity somewhat lacking after a bad night’s sleep.

I’ve always admired my mother tremendously for how well she copes with chronic insomnia. She’s suffered from it ever since I can remember, and has tried every suggested remedy under the sun to tackle it, with little effect. For some time she resorted to prescription sleeping pills but stopped taking them – much to her credit – because she hated feeling like a zombie. Now her sleep patterns are left to chance, and whilst some nights are better than others she still regularly wakes after a few hours and is unable to drift off again before dawn breaks.

Speaking as someone for whom sleep has always been a source of great comfort, I find the very concept of chronic insomnia unbearable. On those few nights where I have lain awake in the dark alone with my thoughts, I’ve felt a rising sense of anxiety that this, the one vestige of escape from the prison of my own hyperactive brain, was being threatened.

Because of course it’s not just the body that sleep helps to repair. It also helps restore the mind. At highly stressful times such as exams and relationship break ups, sleep is the only thing that takes us away from our stressors for a few short hours, allowing us to drift away and dream of other things. Without it, we are trapped in wakefulness, unable to switch off from daily life.

So it is much to people with insomnia’s credit that they’re able to function near-normally despite not having the respite that – the odd restless night aside – the rest of us take for granted. Truly I take my hat off to them, because if I even get an hour’s less sleep than ‘normal’ (which, for me as for most others is between seven and eight hours) I am noticeably (hopefully only to myself, but I’m sure it rubs off onto others on occasion) irritable, anxious and struggle to cope with even the most simple of tasks.

“To sleep perchance to dream” – wasn’t that what Hamlet said? And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do exactly that.

This pic was taken on my 2011 travels, and captures a moment when me and my friend Alistair had partied so hard we conked out on the beach. Ah, happy memories..

Is there a cost to reaching our full potential?

So many of us spend our lives rushing around, jumping from one task to the next with scant regard for the strain we’re putting on our minds and bodies by not giving them a rest from time to time. But if we spend too much time resting will we ever achieve our full potential?

According to Dictionary.com, potential is defined as “possible, as opposed to actual,” or “capable of being or becoming.” Would it not follow, therefore, that to reach one’s full potential one must be entirely capable of becoming their best self? And that to be entirely capable one must be entirely focused all of the time – thus relinquishing leisure pursuits and anything unrelated to the ultimate goal?

Take wanting to be a published author as an example; it’s all very well wanting it, but if you don’t have the drive and determination to stick at it when the going gets tough how can you expect to succeed? It’s a well-known fact that even JK Rowling herself was rejected countless times before finally reaching the heady heights of success. She achieved her potential only by working through the low moments instead of giving up, and rising, Phoenix-like from the ashes of the rejection pile to come back stronger and more inspired than before.

Of course the danger of not resting enough is burn-out. It would clearly be unwise to never take a break from your desk, because your productivity levels would suffer due to tiredness. Nobody can concentrate for eight hours in a row – well, maybe David Blaine, but apart from him no one (surely?)

The key to achieving your potential, then, is simple (and best said in the words of the great Winston Churchill himself): Never, never, never,never give up. Unless, that is, you are in dire need of a rest. And, perhaps, an accompanying glass of chilled Pinot Grigio. And on that note…

I think this is the best photo I’ve ever taken, and it perfectly encapsulates the concept of never giving up. This was part of an exhibition at the London Zoo – ants are just the most amazing creatures!

Hot tub dreamin’

Since Hot Tub Cinema the other week hot tubs have (unsurprisingly, I suppose) been on my mind. And not just my mind, it would seem, as a friend of mine has now decided he wants to hire a garden full of inflatable ones for his upcoming birthday (how brilliant is that?!)

Looking back beyond hot tub cinema I think the seed of my obsession may actually have been planted last summer when, two days before I was due to attend the Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridge, a friend who’d had to drop out offered me her ticket for ‘Bathing in the Sky.’ For the princely sum of twenty-something pounds I had procured a ticket to what I couldn’t have known then would prove to be a lifeline on the third day of a particularly muddy festival.

Inside this veritable Garden of Eden were not only the most delightful wooden hot tubs, set amongst a leafy green Hobbit-esque enclave away from the grubby horrors of the camp site and stages, but also shower facilities that would leave even the filthiest of revellers gloriously clean. In short, the two hours I spent there with my boyfriend and my best friend were amongst the best of my life, and I emerged feeling like a new woman.

Given my soon-to-be-part-time employment status I’ve no idea why I started browsing the internet and torturing myself with all of the amazing hot tub options on the market (although I couldn’t help but notice Arctic Spas do an ‘extreme bargain’ option on reconditioned, used hot tubs – surely I could save up for one of those?!), but what I am increasingly beginning to feel is that, until I have a hot tub to call my own, I simply will not have ‘arrived’ in life.

Picture this: After a hard day’s work you come home, walk through the door, hang your coat up and go upstairs to change into your fluffy white bath robe and slippers. Moments later you walk through the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of chilled Prosecco and open up the doors to the patio, upon which sits a glorious hot tub. Steam swirls invitingly up from its surface as you remove your robe and sink beneath the water. Within moments your troubles are all but forgotten and you are transported somewhere else entirely; your muscles relax, you close your eyes and you are home. Doesn’t everyone dream of this?

Okay, maybe not everyone, but few could deny a hot tub is a welcome addition to any ski holiday. Thus far in my skiing career (and I use the word ‘career’ loosely) I can’t say I’ve been able to afford a chalet with its own private hot tub, but just as in my previous example I imagine it would be a thing of great beauty and a most enjoyable experience to dip a post-ski frozen toe into the warmth of the water within.

It’s the decadence, really, that I covet. Nobody needs a hot tub to survive, granted, but what a lovely treat to come home to. There must surely be some research somewhere on the positive benefits of owning one; I’d hazard a guess they reduce stress in much the same way as owning a cat (though don’t quote me on that).

But until my freelance career sky rockets I’m sad to say my dream of owning a hot tub – reconditioned or otherwise – looks to be just that: A dream. So in the meantime I suppose I’ll have to make do with stroking the cat (and, come to think of it, I should probably start saving for a house to put the hot tub in…)