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.
I remember the first time I went to the famous Palio horse race in Siena in Italy. I must have been about six years old, and was on holiday with my mum, my stepdad and my best friend and her family. Siena itself is a lovely place to behold, but when this race comes to town – as it does twice every year, once in July and once in August – it’s something else. Thousands of people line the streets, many waving flags in support of their horse –each of which represents a parish of Siena. The supporters walk through the city towards the central square (in reality more of a concave ‘shell’), filling it up to capacity before the race begins – which it does amidst much pomp and ceremony.
The race is over in seconds – it really is a blink and you’ll miss it affair – but whilst it’s a fantastic spectacle the thing that’s always captivated me has not been the race itself but the flurry of activity afterwards. For if you look up at the balconies – which pre-race are lined with mafia-types in suits and dark glasses – you’ll see them suddenly empty, as they go in search of the jockeys that have failed to bring their money in. Apparently some years the jockeys have been pulled off their horses and even killed (so the legend goes) after losing the race, which is why you’d be hard pressed to find any of the losers in the vicinity once the final whistle is blown.
It’s been a few years since my last trip to Siena, so I’m more than a little excited about attending this year’s first Palio on Tuesday. Dark glasses at the ready…
Today is my last day as Communications Manager at the NSPCC. It’s been a rocky sixteen months to say the least, but as I sit here on the verge of saying goodbye I do have fond feelings for the organisation that’s given me the chance to really prove my worth as a communications professional. More than anything I will miss the many lovely people who I’ve met here. It’s funny (or maybe not) how it’s not until the very end that you’re able to see all of the good points shining through the frustrations and problems. But there have been good points as well as the bad, and I have grown stronger as a person as a result of this experience.
I’ve ended on a high with a lovely lunch at the Breakfast Club with some of my colleagues, and am now ready to close this chapter of my life and embrace the challenges ahead. Who knows what the future will bring, it’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure. But if the events of the last few weeks have taught me anything it’s that you only get one shot at life, so you may as well make it your best.
The surprise Mother’s Day visit didn’t get off to the best of starts when I arrived home from the supermarket to find half of the dessert ingredients contained an ingredient Mum’s allergic to. Fortunately I cottoned onto this in time to avoid Mother’s Day being memorable for all the wrong reasons, and managed to claw victory from the jaws of defeat by pulling off a pretty decent two course meal (which, since you’re asking comprised pancetta-wrapped tilapia fillets with new potatoes, sugar snap peas and a lemon and caper sauce, followed by baked peaches stuffed with a mixture of amaretti biscuits, brown sugar, lemon zest, butter, almonds and pine nuts – the latter two ingredients being removed in Mum’s portion in order to avert severe anaphylactic shock.
With Mother’s Day celebrations ticked off the list I trekked from Weybridge to East Dulwich (via two trains and one rail replacement bus service) to meet friends for lunch at the Bishop, a delightful public house on Lordship Lane which was just what the doctor ordered for an afternoon of catching up, scoffing, quaffing and watching a spot of rugby. The staff are friendly and attentive – in particular Chris, the charismatic Manager for whom no request is too much trouble – and the food is quite simply divine. After a series of underwhelming Sunday roasts in similarly underwhelming pubs I felt I’d hit the jackpot today, with a gorgeous cut of prime beef served alongside a mound of fresh vegetables, crisp roast potatoes, a giant Yorkshire pudding and an individual gravy boat and portion of horseradish sauce (being a horseradish addict this last detail particularly delighted me). The Manager’s recommendation of a glass of Malbec was the perfect accompaniment, and a few bottles and several desserts (top tip: The chocolate pot is to DIE for, and I don’t say that lightly) later we rolled out the door feeling sated and content.
And so to the weeks ahead; ten more working days in my current job before a trip to New York and the start of a new job and part time freelance career. After two years of living miles apart my boyfriend has just moved to London for four months which couldn’t be more perfectly timed. Things are changing and it’s about time too. In the words of Orange, the future’s bright.