Category: Wellbeing

Declutter your closet – a year of not buying any clothes

I am on a mission to declutter my house once and for all

I have been on the declutter wagon for a good few years now. I have purged my clothes many times. This year is the biggest challenge when it comes to paring down my wardrobe.

I decided not to buy any clothes in 2017

Having downsized and decluttered (and still decluttering) the clothes the DH and I have now fit into one small closet and one chest of drawers. They fit but it is tight.

I am doing this for a number of reasons.

I don’t need any more clothes. I have enough.

My friend Lisa inspired me – fast fashion contributes to landfill, overuse of chemicals and exploitation of workers.

I don’t have the space to store more clothes.

To live more simply.

Too much choice is not good for mental health.

My mom hoarded clothes.

I have gone without buying clothes before. When the DH and I were not working we didn’t buy clothes for almost three years. Our priority was caring for our growing children, and to eat and heat.

Even when I returned to work I was so used to not having any money I still didn’t shop. I saved most of my salary as the plan was to go travelling when the contract ended.

My first new clothes in three years

I was invited to a wedding. I bought a complete new outfit, dress, shoes, bag, jewellery and a fascinator. My boss remarked that he had never seen someone so excited about clothes shopping. I explained that I had not had any new clothes for three years so this was not mindless shopping, this was planned shopping and I was enjoying the whole experience. He was genuinely shocked that I had not had new clothes for three years.  Not shoes, not socks not underwear. Nothing.

Shopping is the quick fix

For many the payday weekend spent mindlessly buying more t shirts and tops and shoes that they don’t need is the norm.  A new top for the weekend or an impulse purchase that may never be worn (we all have those right) is a reward for working. Advertisers tell us to treat ourselves so we do. We deserve this, we tell ourselves, as we plunder Primark.

Investment dressing

Nine years later I still have the dress, the jewellery and the shoes I bought for the wedding in 2008. I know it was 2008 because when looking for a dress I knew that I wanted one inspired by the dress Meryl Streep wears to the wedding in Mama Mia. While I don’t wear the outfit every day (not a shopping in Aldi type of outfit) they are loved and worn regularly. The dress packs well for holidays and when I wear it I still feel good in it. The cost per wear ratio is low. I intend that all my clothes will be an investment and last for many years.

Ditching clothes in Melbourne

Last year, whilst travelling, I ditched a substantial amount of clothes in Melbourne – donated to an Op Shop. The DH and I had brought too many clothes with us and whilst we needed winter clothes at the beginning of the trip we didn’t for the last part in Queensland and New Zealand. We had also packed the wrong sort of clothes and decided to buy some clothes in Australia. We replaced heavy sweat shirts with puffer jackets that are light and warm which pack down small. Jeans were replaced with travel trousers which have since been also discarded. Because I blame them for The Rash that blighted my NT trip.

Packing light

For 11 days in the NT I lived out of a 40l backpack weighing 8kg. It was enough. Why I packed too many clothes for the trip down under baffles me still. All I need is one pair of linen trousers, one pair of cotton shorts a t shirt and a linen tunic dress. Add one pair of sandals and 1 pair of trainers, swimsuit, travel towel and undies – and that was my 11 day packing list.

Back into the closet

In 2016 and now back in the UK I completely overhauled my wardrobe. Again. I already practiced Project 333. I added some items, donated more to charity and replaced the shoes and jeans I had discarded in Melbourne. We have very limited space for clothes in the small house. One small cupboard and one chest of drawers. I converted to the KonMari art of folding and never looked back.

In 2017 I decided not to buy clothes for a year

It is now month four and I have not bought any clothes. Neither has the DH.

Have I been tempted? Yes I have. First was a cardigan on sale. One similar to my favourite cardigan. Made by an ethical clothing company, Thought. I tried it on, thinking of all the ways I could justify this purchase. Ethical, reduced, fits my colour palette. I did not buy it. It did not feel or look right on me. I put it back on the hanger and walked away.

My other temptation was when in Chester and there were a few shops with clothes I love. White Stuff. Mistral and Fat Face. I looked and touched and walked out of the shop.

I repeated to myself:

I have enough.

I need to check how ethical their clothes are.

Declutter not acquire.

Spending on clothes stopped but spending on other things started

I have noticed that I have been buying more of other stuff instead. Lovely notebooks and pens. Travel accessories.

I have justified them all.

I needed the note books and pen because I want to start a journal in long hand.

I needed the bullet journal and pen because I want to learn how to bullet journal.

I needed the Lamy roller ball pen because despite having inherited some beautiful ink pens (including a Lamy fountain pen) I am messy and ink goes everywhere, but any old biro isn’t good enough for Leuchtturm1917 note books.

I needed the pen loop for the Leuchtturm1917 journals to ensure I did not lose the pen. The pen does not fit the loop.

I needed the Travelon Anti theft bag because my old one was too small and wearing out.

I needed the travel document holder because it has RFID and is better than a poly pocket.

I needed the organisers because cables get mixed up in backpacks.

I needed the labels for the cables because I never know which one is for which gadget.

I needed the flat toiletry bags because packing toiletries is a nightmare and these have special compartment for everything.

You see how it is.

And yet

Have I started a journal? No. They are so beautiful I don’t want to spoil their loveliness.

Have I used the pen? Yes and I love it. No one is allowed to borrow it.

Have I attached pen loops? No.

I have used the handbag every day – I can carry all I need, including the new purse I also needed, a book to read, another note book that I use all the time and my diary, plus phone and lippy.

I have used one travel organiser (used all the time) as we keep all cables in there now. The others will be used when we travel. So far we have not labelled the cables.

I have used the toiletry bags because they discipline me not to take too much. However for carry on only I may go back to ziplock bags only due to airport security. We will see.

Many of the travel items were recommended by my on line friend of almost 2 years (although I have followed her blog for longer). And they are jolly useful. Because I don’t and she does have affiliate links to these items I am adding a link here. Alyson is chief blogger at World Travel Family. She only recommends things she uses and thinks are good. The blog is worth a read too.

I need to extend the no buy rule

It did strike me that I was buying much more than I usually do.

Why was this?

I had to give some thought to this. After all I write about decluttering, I help others declutter so why was I accumulating?

Because I was depressed.

Because I had Amazon Prime.

You see the list above is not complete

I have also bought:A wireless doorbell.

Bamboo toothbrushes from Holland and Barrett. And because I got free delivery if I spent £20 I got other stuff too.

Packing cubes from Muji. They were half price. I already have four sets of Ikea packing cubes.

A bed, two mattresses and bed linen from Ikea. Slipped that major purchase in.

A weeks holiday in Cape Verde.

A weekend away in Shropshire.

I realised that I was getting addicted to online shopping. So I stopped. This does not help my mission to declutter.

I was suffering with SAD and the ongoing problems with the house (lots of bills and no progress) and house clearing was making me miserable. So I shopped. And as I hate going to shops, I clicked.

I stopped. And then my hairdryer blew up. I considered doing without but I have long hair and it takes half a day to dry naturally, without sun. I bought a hairdryer.

I have stopped buying now

And now I am getting rid of all my unwanted furniture. It was a choice of paying removalists and storage for furniture that no longer suits my life or selling and giving it away. Today I have sold two sofas, two Turkish rugs, two occasional tables a computer chair and some other random things that were cluttering my life. My neighbour has  vintage desk and bureau. Another neighbour has my vintage breadbin and the other has the workbench. They are doing our garden as payment in kind.

I have moved on

I realised that I was stressed and depressed because I was planning to move and store stuff I don’t want. I lost sight of the plan. This house is an investment and we are renovating it to rent and sell. Not a forever home. I was buying stuff to fill the gap of not travelling. I have to continue to declutter to achieve my goal.

So here is the plan

Don’t buy anymore stuff


Finish the house (involves buying things but not stuff)

Rent it out on Air B&B

Use it as a base when in the UK

House sit more

Travel more

Sell the house

Live in a warm country

What do you think of the plan?








La La Land – a metaphor for our time?

And the winner is La La Land.

But there had been a terrible mistake and someone gave the wrong envelope and it didn’t win best picture. Or it did win best picture? For a brief moment and then the prize was snatched away from them in what was either a massive faux pas at the Oscars (or not) or a metaphor for the times we live in of fake news and alternative facts. Like the film – life doesn’t turn out as you think it will – choices are made and the outcome changes.

An alternative outcome if only we put love before ambition. Or use our hearts not our minds. Or, or….

Like Brexit and Trump – La La Land had another outcome. If only we didn’t believe the lies.

In a world that is more than ever full of confusion, conflicting opinions amongst our family and friends (Brexit has divided the UK and broken friendships) and I still can’t work out if Trump is really happening or whether Bobby will emerge from the shower and all is well with the world once more we have La La Land. The dream and the reality. Based on choices we make. And are they the right choices.

And isn’t that what La La Land is all about. The choices the main characters made.

I will state right here that I loved the film.

From the opening credits (that opening sequence made me want to get up and dance) to the end which had me sobbing (choose him, choose him) much as the end of Bridges of Madison County had me inwardly shouting the same – I was gripped.

I don’t read reviews – I had seen the trailer and immediately wanted to see  it. Then a friend I have known for 40 years said this –

 my view of La La Land. I don’t call it terrible, just ho hum … 5 out of 10

–  commenting on this review of the film by THEAGE.CO.AU

Based on this I nearly didn’t go and see it. She urged me to do so because she valued my opinion. Anyway, I did want to see the film because how could I not love a film with dancing and music and set in LA?

I got tickets to see it at The Electric in Birmingham and booked a sofa. If the film was a disappointment I was going to be disappointed in a cinema I love, which would take the edge off my devastation.

Loved it. But Best Movie – it is not.

I was brought up on musicals.

My mom was an actress in the 1950’s and had Hollywood Stars in her eyes. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singing in the Rain, then The Sound of Music and South Pacific – these were the movies I grew up with.

Then I saw West Side Story.

Officially my favourite movie ever. Everything about it. The way it was filmed – as if was in the theatre at times, the conflict, the racism, the music and the dancing, oh the dancing. And of course at the end I sobbed my eyes out.

And La La Land has references to West Side Story and many other movies. Depending on what you read they are Singing in the Rain, Top Hat and Wall E (no, nor me). According to this review the scene in the planetarium at The Griffith Observatory where they are waltzing in the stars (and how lovely is that) is based on a scene in Wall E. No one has, to my knowledge, noticed the reference to Le Ballon Rouge in the Paris montage.  We all know, us musical fans, that La La Land has references to almost every great Hollywood Musical and that is why we, or why I loved it.

It also reminded me of a book I had read for my degree back in 1978/9 – The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West.

Nathanael West’s Hollywood is not the glamorous “home of the stars” but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires

Good Reads

The scene when they are walking across the film lot – with lots of scenery being moved and how they walk  from one set to another seamlessly, which when I read it back then was, for me. the stand out scene that came to mind when watching La La Land.

Researching it now I discover that one of the main characters is Homer Simpson. This is what Wikipedia says in the current entry :

Homer Simpson – a former accountant at a hotel in Iowa who comes to California at the recommendation of his doctor to restore his health. Soft mannered, sexually repressed, and socially ill-at-ease, Homer’s almost constant inner turmoil is expressed through his huge hands which have an uncontrollable and detached nature to them.

Make what you will of who we all know as Homer Simpson now – and I am not going to reference the uncontrollable small hands with a detached nature.

What did others think?

Some shared my Australian friends viewpoint – and then I asked my clever, musical, linguist friend what he thought.

 Me: I’m intrigued about how you felt about the what if alt ending. I sobbed.

Friend: it was heartbreaking as it feels like the message is you can only have one of your dreams: career or love. I wanted them to have both! Sort of want to see it again and find out they made that the real ending.

Was gutted actually… was so hoping it was true, and the sad ending was a dream. Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song.
Rarely was I rooting so much for two film characters!

And these are the words that, for me, summed up the film so beautifully.

Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song.
If only we had a picture of the alternative future in a song right now. Right now that song is ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’. Let us hope that we get the alternative future because if not I am off to find my Mediterraneo (Academy Award Winning Film) an island of enchantment where anything can happen and enemies become friends.

the mind numbing monotony of the mundane normalness of a life not travelling

Routine is Lethal

Sleep, shop, cook, eat, repeat

Notice that another shop has closed on the high street

The crapness of the Christmas crap

The fucking awful tv

The cold

the mind numbing normalness of the mundane

I am so bloody bored

Go for a walk – in the cold on a grey day to see the same thing

Bored bored bored

Waiting for the builders to start

Waiting for other people

Nothing moving forward

What if the building doesn’t start

What day is it

Light the fire

Wash the clothes

Clean the kitchen

Wonder what to eat

the small sky

looking at all the accumulated crap

no energy to deal with the crap

standing still

being ill for four weeks

seeing the same thing every day

book a holiday for 161 days time

found a house sit for when I have to move out for the builders

if the building ever happens

four consecutive winters

takes their toll

wishing I wasn’t here

being normal

round peg

square hole


I wish it would snow

fights with bureaucracy

This is not the life I was born for

what if it is always this way

there is no change without change












Why do we lie to our children?

Do you Lie?

Do you lie to your children? Have you ever lied to them or other people’s kids in the past?

You think you don’t? Think again. I have lied to my children and to other people’s children too and I am sure you have as well.

Even if you don’t have kids of your own at some point in your life you have probably lied to a child, or been complicit in a lie.

We teach children, whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers or carers, that it is wrong to lie. Some children are punished if they lie. We think it is wrong for adults to lie to adults.

It is wrong to tell lies. We say this to children all the time.

So why do we lie to children?

What made me think of writing this post is a conversation I had with my now adult son.

Santa is a myth

He said that if he ever had children he would tell them that Father Christmas does not exist.

He told me that the disappointment of discovering that Father Christmas didn’t actually come down the chimney and bring presents was enormous. And then that made him question all the other things I had told him. Mom and Dad had lied to him.

Now I am not sure what shocked him most, no Santa or that Mom lied.

Did the discovery that Santa was not real, distress him that much?

Or as a parent had I let him down by lying?

He told me that once he realised Santa was a lie, so was the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Childhood beliefs dashed in a day.

I reasoned with him that if he told his child that Santa didn’t exist his child would then tell other children and dash their hopes too. Or get bullied or ostracised by other parents.

He was resolute, it is a lie and it is wrong. He was not going to back down.

I was taken aback at this. What about the magic of Christmas, presents and the excitement? You loved Christmas when you were a child I reminded him.

Nope, apparently once the lie was exposed all that had been spoiled for him too.

I honestly did not know what to say.

After this conversation, I asked a younger person to see what they thought about the Santa lie. They agreed with my son. It is wrong to lie, therefore the Santa myth needs to stop.

What other lies do we tell children?

I would like to think that most of mine were to keep them safe. They probably don’t remember it but I told them that the car would not start if they weren’t wearing their safety belts. At some stage most kids resent the seat belt, especially when they are fidgety six-year olds as it restricts them. By telling my kids this, they always had the belt fastened and would not consider undoing it while travelling.  As lies go, I think I am allowed this one, even if it was told to get the children to comply.


But isn’t that what the Santa myth is all about. Compliance. Santa knows if you have been naughty or nice. A lie to get the kids to act the way we want them to behave. Shocking really. I am sure I never told that one. And if I did, I am sorry. It was wrong.

Lies we tell children

I just googled lies we tell children, and found this. Apparently Santa is watching you is NBD (no big deal – I had to look that up too). The one about saying the dog has gone to live on a farm when it has really died is ranked as ‘cringing’ for wrongness. I remember being lied to about my first dog dying. It hurt more so when I finally worked it all out. After all, you wouldn’t say Granny has gone to the farm. That said, how many times have you heard the phrase ‘they’ve gone to a better place’ when someone has died? If you are not religious this is of no comfort at all. And if you are a child a better place for Granny is in her home, baking cakes or whatever Granny does nowadays.

Another lie, ‘it won’t hurt’ – yup my daughter still remembers the blood test that hurt. A lot. This was not a lie I told her, this was down to her Dad. Not just me that’s not a perfect parent then. I was cross about this. My poor daughter was traumatised. Given that as her dad had had to have a blood test when I  was pregnant with her he had nearly fainted, how could he have lied to her?  Nope, never lie about hospital procedures. Or the dentist.

I am sure that these sort of lies can give children phobias or irrational fears. Being told it won’t hurt and it does, could put you off a dentist for life. Perhaps it is only you that feels this pain?

Or it may be people are scared of the dentists because they have been told horrible accounts of visits by their parents. Just tell the truth, and if the truth may them scare them, manage expectations at the least. (See blood test above).

The art of diplomacy

Yet we need to remember the art of diplomacy – and teach that to our kids, because sometimes the blatant truth can hurt.

Would I tell Granny her pasty is horrible when she thinks she is the best pastry chef ever? Well no. I told my Nan I didn’t like pastry and guess what, I still don’t. If our child brings home a painting from school that is hideous, would we tell them? Interesting is always a good word for those moments, I found. My mom used to ask her class to tell her about what they had made or painted, she never ever said ‘what is it?’

Encouragement builds confidence

Of course it is not helpful telling your child that they are a beautiful singer or talented artist if they aren’t. We have all seen those X Factor Contestants that cannot sing at all and are in total denial. How many times have we heard the words ‘my Mom says I have the voice of an angel’? Why lie to them? Don’t set them up to fail or give them an inflated ego. Because no one likes a big head. Confidence is good, arrogance is ugly.

Yet I believe that we need to encourage them if they love singing or painting, even if at first they show no signs of talent. They may get better. They will have lots of fun, so let them dance/sing/paint like no one is watching. Even the most talented artists have to practice their art – singers have voice coaches, dancers and musicians practice for hours everyday.

I am so glad that my mom let me try everything I expressed an interest in. The violin, the recorder, swimming, ballet, ice skating and ballroom dancing. I knew my limitations, I did them for fun. And it made me believe that I could do whatever I put my mind to, I was not frightened to try new things nor scared of failure. I found out for myself my talents. I knew I wasn’t going to be an olympic swimmer, yet I still enjoyed training with one.

Set up to fail

A while ago I heard this story and it made me think about how we can make or break someone’s life in a matter of moments. A young girl, first week at school, was trying out for the choir. The music teacher told the class that if she put her hand on their shoulder, they must stop singing as they were not a good enough. This girl felt the hand on her shoulder and didn’t sing again for years. At that moment she was labelled a bad singer, she was five years old. In her fifties she summoned the courage to join a singing group, and now enjoys singing with a choir. All those years with no music in her life. Because of the tap on her shoulder at age five. Told that she was not good enough. A failure at five. Maybe she wasn’t the best singer there, yet to take that joy away from someone so young was wrong. I am sure it could have been handled so much better. Not lied to, of course, but encouraged.

That is why I don’t like gifted and talented programs in schools. If you are not ‘gifted and talented’ then what are you? If you are on such a program can they not give you an inflated ego, being told you are better than others? Everyone has a talent – we are all gifted in our own way. It is up to parents, teachers, work colleagues, managers and friends to help an individual to discover and nurture that talent. Like the girl who was told she couldn’t sing at aged five, at fifty she discovered she could.

So is it good to ever lie?

Can the truth hurt?

When does diplomacy become a lie?

Do you have a talent that wasn’t nurtured as a child?

And most importantly, do you believe in Santa?









I had suggested to my son that as he wasn’t religious, and didn’t believe in Santa, perhaps we need to cancel Christmas. That’s fine, he said. We don’t really go overboard with Christmas anyway. It is just another day. As he hates roast dinners, he doesn’t even like Christmas Dinner.

In 2011 Phil and I were in Melbourne for Christmas. We had planned on Skipping Christmas altogether and probably taking the dogs for a walk on the beach instead.



When life gives you lemons

You don’t have to make lemonade.

Yup. You know, when people say you need to make the best of it, it will get better, pull yourself together, blah blah blah.

Black Dog visits.

You need to crawl into your bed and sleep, sometimes as I have done, each day till 11. I sat on my decking every afternoon, in the bit of sun we have had last week, and read 5 murder mystery books. Outside is good. Sun is good.

Supermarket ready meals have been the staple diet for a week.

Last week I did not shop, nor leave the house for 5 days. I saw no one apart from my family and my neighbours, briefly over the garden fence, as I obsessed about washing and pegging out every day because it was sunny. Texted the shopping list to my husband.

On Saturday I eventually got myself dressed in something more than tatty shorts and t shirts (I can not do PJ’s during the day, don’t get that at all) and went out of the house. I coped, although being in a car was a struggle. I had lunch with my family which was good. I even managed some shops (we need stuff for the trip down under) and then came home for a snooze before changing to go to the University of Birmingham Proms.

It was good to get out. Wear proper clothes. Be with people. Talk. Eat proper food.

I have not done one thing on the long To Do list. I have let people down. Possibly won’t get the husbands tax return in before we go. Not booked a service for the car. Not checked out whether we can add some total strangers to our car insurance.

I haven’t started on the big building project. Seven months of living with a crappy kitchen, and here I am. Avoiding builders and kitchen people and not making decisions. Heating ready meals.

On a rainy Sunday, I thought it would be a good idea to go to IKEA. Take the son to choose a desk and husband to choose a mattress. You see now how my brain is not functioning properly.  IKEA. Sunday. Rain.

Fortunately we know the shortcuts, walk anti clockwise and exit through the entrance. Rebels that we are.

And. Buy. Nothing. Yes, we went to IKEA and bought nothing (except lunch). We need to eat. Remember we have lived on take out and ready meals for a week. We did not go into The Market Place. I bought no tea lights, lampshades, paper napkins or glasses. Nothing. For that alone I deserve a medal.

Today, I realised that I was not being kind to myself. Yes we have been in the house for 7 months and still have no decent kitchen. Realistically, can I go away for 4 months and leave a builder and a team of kitchen fitters, plumbers and electricians  in my house, knocking down walls and not be here?

No. I can’t.

Can it be done in the next 4 weeks? No.

Why has nothing happened in 7 months? That is what I was beating myself up about. We moved, we downsized, we had too much stuff. Mother in Law was ill, seriously ill. Many journeys were made up and down motorways, a care home had to be found. My husband was exhausted, upset and needed emotional and practical support.

Then there was death, taxes and funerals. Paperwork, sorting through carefully labelled possessions, decisions to dump or donate.

Phil and I managed to get away for a couple of weeks to make sure our well being was being looked after. 

I managed to book many Australian related things although I still don’t know where we will stay in Brisbane or how we will get there. It is on the To Do list.

I had 4 to do lists on one page the week before last.

I thought I was managing things in my usual control freakish way.

I wasn’t. I took my eye off the back burner and missed things I would have normally noticed. That pot bubbled over.

And life imploded.

Bloody hell and I was pissed off about a kitchen.

That sleeping in, doing nothing, eating crap food, it wasn’t about the kitchen, after all. The other stuff that has happened, you know that imploding stuff and let me tell you it was shitty, bad, scary stuff, was the tipping point.

I coped with the travelling the grief, the exhaustion. I coped with the shitty, bad scary stuff. And then I sat in the sun and read crime novels and ignored the world.

I am still not making lemonade, let me tell you. Bloody impossible in the crappy kitchen.

I will not be ‘pulling myself together’ when the Black Dog visits. Nor will I ask anyone else to do so.

I am cherishing every moment with my lovely family.

Because this happened.

I saw a photograph of a woman I have not seen for over 22 years. Not a close friend,  but at the time we were friends for a season and a reason. I knew she had been in a terrible accident and is in recovery. Has been for a couple of years. Not much more than that, most of it gleaned from fund raising activities and posts on Facebook. Her real friends, who I got in touch with, asked me to send a photo to her as that would help with her memory recall. I did. Nothing prepared me though for seeing her, surrounded by her friends for life, who had taken in a birthday lunch with a bottle of bubbly to share with her. The vibrant, intelligent, beautiful woman I knew was in a hospital bed. No longer on a life support machine, it was clear that she had a long road to recovery.

Was the bad shit I experienced as bad as what my friend and her family and friends have gone and are still going through?

Thankfully, no.

It was still bad shit though, and on a scale of bad scary shit, it was horrible and I never want bad, scary stuff like that to happen ever again.

And then this happened.

Lisa Cherry Beaumont, a life coach who through coaching empowered me to make big changes in my life, I credit with this. The context was, as ever, she was helping someone clarify a confused message about forgiveness.

In order to be happy you need to:

1. Realise that you’ve fucked up in the past.
2. Sit down in your bedroom on your own and make a list of how you’ve fucked up.
3. Forgive yourself for it; recognise that you did the best you could with the awareness you had at the time.
4. Make a promise to yourself that, with your new awareness, you’ll make better choices next time.

And this is what I thought. If I can screw up I need to acknowledge that others also screw up.  Understanding this will help with understanding why that bad, scary stuff happened.

I have messed up.

Other people mess up too.

I did the best I could at the time.

Other people are doing their best, at the time they messed up.

I forgive myself.

Other people can also forgive themselves for messing up.

I am making better choices.

Others can and will make better choices.

I needed to practice gratitude. Stop the negative thoughts. I am not a failure.

The kitchen works. The people who lived here before us made family meals in it and so can I. I have clean hot water, a fridge, a microwave. Food, heat, a bed and a roof over my head.

1. Realise that you’ve fucked up in the past.

The kitchen can wait. I dealt with the lemons and I did good. I didn’t make any lemonade.

I took the Black Dog for a walk. 

In the rain. And noticed things in nature.

No such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes.

Came home, looked at the to do list. Put going for a walk in the woods on the top of the list and in my diary for every day for the next four weeks.

Started working though to do list. Made phone calls that needed to be made.

I remembered that someday is code for never.

2. Sit down in your bedroom on your own and make a list of how you’ve fucked up.

Acknowledged that listing what I have not done (see above) was very negative of me.

3. Forgive yourself for it; recognise that you did the best you could with the awareness you had at the time.

Recognised that writing (which is when I am in flow) has helped me gather all those virtual post its that I had in my mind, keeping me awake, stopping me from moving forward, and now they are gathered on one page, letting me see the whole picture.

Realised that basically writing stuff, is my therapy (as well as that walk in the woods).

Sometimes a week of sitting in the sun, reading crime novels and living on ready meals, can be how I am kind to me. (I have a good tan and my Vitamin E levels must be high).

How can I possibly help others apply their oxygen masks before putting mine on first? 

How can I help me, if I have not got the tools I need, the resources at hand. Not practiced self care.

Admitting that I cannot handle it all, right now, is not failure.

Realising that I am not superwoman. I have come a long way in the past few months. Achieved so much. I have to remember that.

4. Make a promise to yourself that, with your new awareness, you’ll make better choices next time.

My choices now are to focus on my family, going for walks in nature and the big trip. Eat properly.

The kitchen can wait. The house clearance can wait. Not cancelled, parked. Until November.

Sometimes things do need to be put off.  I was spinning too many plates and if I didn’t put some away, there was a danger of breaking them all.


PS Just sent text to husband to ask him to get dinner. So much was I in the flow, writing this, I ran out of time to shop.

PPS He didn’t see text. Have sent him for sausages. Compared to last week, that is proper food. He suggested supermarket lasagne. He got two no’s.











Conversations at the corner cafe – Xenos my friend

As I entered the corner café, a stranger said hello.

Saying hello to strangers is not what the British do.

I said hello back and we fell into conversation.

We discovered we had at least one person in common.

And that we both loved Greece.

We talked about other cafes in the area, how another café had told him about the corner café. The best Greek food, and where to get it, the best tapas and SE Asian food. And how Moussaka from the corner cafe had won me a day with James Martin.

We talked about afternoon tea.  How a local café turned a poor review on TripAdvisor, due to them handling it professionally, into a success and brought more customers to the café.

He recommended two places for afternoon tea, one in Edinburgh another in Bournemouth, in the Echo building. Where Bill Bryson used to work I said. Yes, that would be right, he said.

I had been thinking of following the trail of Little Dribbling as a holiday idea before I go on the next big trip. And here I am getting café recommendations. How did he know?

We agreed that Tilt needed sofas.

Our conversation – it was as if we were speaking in code. A language no one else knew or could understand. We were not intentionally excluding anyone, yet this conversation of shared experiences,  no one else in the cafe that day understood.

I told him my story of the church in Santorini. He never questioned that I was led to the spot by my mom, she chose where I was to scatter her ashes. People with faith who know the story tell me God was guiding me. I think that connections with people you love don’t end at death. I think he thought that, too.

We talked about great places to eat, how he visited islands in Greece where no one speaks English. That this was the best Stifado he had eaten outside Greece.

He needed to take his own advice and book his trip to Greece he said. Make it happen instead of talking about it.

Two hours we talked. Two strangers.

I don’t believe in coincidences.coincidence

Later that day I sat down to start working through the Life Purpose Alchemy workbook that Lisa Cherry Beaumont asked me to review.

And I thought about my conversation with the stranger.

Because when he got up to go he asked if he could give me his card. I recognised the name, he is a life coach.

The person we both know is a life coach. I told him about Lisa, my life coach and how much I had changed since being coached.

He wants to live in Greece, as do I. I thought that we may end up working together in Crete combining our talents and skills. Not knowing how.

Today in the workbook I have been working on the section where Lisa asks you to

free-write some ideas about what you could do to earn a living. Play with ideas, without restriction. Don’t worry if it sounds crazy or too “way out” – put all your ideas down and don’t limit or edit what you write. Use more paper if you need to

and I thought about that conversation with the life coach in the cafe.

How comfortable we were sharing information with each other. How defined our goals were. How we believed that anything was possible. How open we were to possibilities. How positive our language was. How we said what we thought. How we went with the flow.

It struck me that this can make some people uncomfortable. We have been conditioned to limit our self belief. From childhood. The day you sing for your teacher and don’t get chosen for the choir you stop singing, perhaps forever. You fail a test and label yourself a failure. If you are not in the ‘gifted and talented’ stream at school, you believe that you will never be gifted or talented at anything.

Two strangers, not limited by can’t. People who don’t wait for someday. Who have dreams and make plans. And put a date on it. This scares people because they like the comfort of limited self belief.

That way they can’t fail.

If there is only one bus a day, I will get it. The first ferry of the season that will get me back just in time for my flight, could be cancelled if the weather is poor, book me on it. Get on the wrong bus, fate will intervene. Telling me I can’t do something is merely laying down a challenge.

The stranger too found himself on islands with one bus a day with no one who spoke English. He discovered he could speak Greek better than he thought.

I guess that if you get on the wrong bus in Corfu, a bus full of locals with goats and chickens and not tourists with sunburn, and two minutes later the bus that gets stopped by the police as it is unsafe, you realise that it has happened for a reason. And when there just happens to be an English girl on this bus (she is teaching English in a remote village) who directs you to the right bus, you just know that things have a way of working themselves out.

Yet somewhere along the way, in between being a carefree student, and becoming a mom and getting a mortgage and jumping on the work, watch, spend treadmill, I forgot this. Instead I opted for safe choices, because that is what I believed I was supposed to do. Get a job, get a house, get married, have kids, get into debt, watch the news and get depressed. Be normal.

Don’t talk to strangers.

In Greek the word for stranger is the same as for friend.

Xenos (Greek: ξένος, xénos, plural xenoi) is a word used in the Greek language from Homer onwards. The most standard definition is “stranger”. However, the word, itself, can be interpreted to mean different things based upon context, author and period of writing/speaking, signifying such divergent concepts as “enemy” or “stranger”, a particular hostile interpretation, all the way to “guest friend”‘ one of the most hallowed concepts in the cultural rules of Greek hospitality.

In my workbook I wrote:

A social media language café, where people can learn Greek and English, life coaching, I could coach people to declutter, fulfilling my need to socialise and help people clear their lives of whatever is holding them back.

I told Lisa that going through the workbook was like playing pass the parcel and unravelling the layers to get to the prize.  The prize? A map of my life. Yet the map is a jigsaw, that still needs to be assembled. I haven’t completed all the exercises yet, I’ve unraveled the layers, found the jigsaw, now I have to build the map.

What I have discovered is that everything that I have done and everything good that has happened to me, the lovely people I have met, the crappy things and the horrid people, has made me who I am now. I needed to unravel those layers. To find my purpose. The map is a jigsaw and I can’t find my way until I put the pieces together. When I am uncomfortable it is because I have forced the wrong piece in the wrong place, as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Sometimes pieces are missing and we have to go find them.

Or they find us.

The conversation in the corner café was a the missing piece I needed to place in the jigsaw to discover what my authentic life looks like. It is pretty much how it looked at age 23 as I got off the bus full of chickens and goats in Corfu and thanked a stranger.

I asked the life coach if I could write about our conversation.

He said yes, but only if I didn’t say he wolfed down Stifado like a wild animal. I don’t think he will mind.

Addendum 3/6/16

Recently, while in Winchester, I met a Greek bar man and talked about the word Xenos. He told me the word I was looking for was this.

Hospitality, the official English translation of ‘philoxenia‘, doesn’t do justice to the concept as it does not encompass its main element, which is generosity of spirit. The Greek noun ‘xenos’ initially meant ‘guest’, acquitting the meaning of ‘foreigner/stranger’ at a later stage.

I have recently returned from a week on Skiathos. Yes, Greece still feels like home. Never a stranger there, always a guest.




Unclutter my life – letting go of the vinyl Part 2

It is Record Store Day on April 16th. While others will be clamouring over special releases on vinyl, we will be hoping people may want to take ours off our hands.

As part of the downsizing and reducing clutter, we are letting go of the vinyl. We have bought a Sonos sound system and Phil is currently downloading his CD collection on to his laptop. Personally I think he needs to cherry pick them and upload them on an external hard drive or invest in Spotify. It is his choice.

However, I think it is his way of saying goodbye. When he let go of the tapes he did this.

And listed them all so that he could cross reference them with his CD collection and see where the gaps were. Not sure where the list is now, post move.

Most of the singles went a while ago.

Before we decided to downsize we were reorganizing the music. While this worked in the big house, it doesn’t work in the small house.

The thing he said he will miss the most is the physical connection, holding the sleeve, looking at the art work and the reading of the sleevenotes. Apparently this is a thing and Phil seems to know who produced what album and who played the bass on every record that has ever been made.

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I have suggested he keeps a few using the Marie Kondo method. If it sparks joy, it will stay.

Ikea make picture frames for record sleeves, so we can enjoy the artwork while listening to the album digitally.

The other solution is make visiting record stores part of our travels. This way he can touch the sleeves and read the notes, and even listen to them.

Indeed this is what we already do. Our Melbourne friend for whom we house sit for, runs the media marketing for Record Store Day Australia. On her recommendation we visited a few stores in Melbourne last year.

Doing this combines three of our favourite things to do in Melbourne. Ride the trams, visit record stores, eat good food and drink great coffee at quirky cafes and burger joints.

Every suburb has a plethora of cafes, many have record stores,  and are all on a tram route.

There is also usually some great vintage shops to visit too. And graffiti.

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Back to the vinyl.

Northside Records in Fitzroy

Rathbone Records in Northcote

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Basement Discs 2 Block Place, Melbourne

They seem to have a no photo policy, but I took these anyway. While we were there there were some students making a film there. This is tucked away in one of the arcades, in a basement as the name suggests, so you have to keep a look out for it as it is easy to miss. Nearby there are lots of cafes and a great arcade to explore with mainly up market shops and a visually amazing cake shop, Hopetoun Tea Rooms, that there is almost always a queue for.

Rediscovery in Ballarat

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This one was not on the list we were given, we discovered it all by ourselves. It was up for sale on our last visit, so it may no longer be there.

Next door to it is a café selling vinyl. Perfect.

Of course we don’t just browse record stores in Melbourne.

One of my favourite in the UK is Carnival Records in Malvern.

The excuses that I, Phil and other people give, when struggling to let go of stuff,  are numerous.

We will miss it when it has gone

It may come in useful someday

I need to keep it just incase

It cost a lot of money it seems a shame to get rid of them

It may be valuable

I hoarded everything. I had hundreds of dust gathering books, thousands of photos, and duplicate kitchen gadgets. Because I had the space.

Add to those dozens of duvets, pillows, towels and sets of bed linen. All neatly organised and labelled in storage bags. And never used.

The vinyl and the CD’s are taking too much space in this small house. The sound system, amps, decks and speakers, overwhelm the small rooms. To find a CD would involve me going through 8 storage units. To find an album on vinyl would take forever. With Sonos I can click and play.

And Phil can get his touchy feely time with album sleeves at record stores around the world.

Because we cannot lose sight of why we did all this. Declutter, downsize, to pursue a life of more travel and less cleaning.

Update December 2016

Around 500 LP’s are boxed up, together with hi fi and speakers, to go to Carnival Records tomorrow. A couple of friends have been around and cherry picked 30 each. They have gone to where they will be loved and played. We have kept about 20 that we love (well 5 I quite like and 15 I have no interest in At All) to play and or adorn our walls of the small house.






Winchester – the walkable city

Winchester was once the capital of England. As a regular visitor to this small city, I have walked almost every where there is to walk in Winchester. The beauty of it is that one moment you are on a bustling high street and the next walking through the calm water meadows. If you are feeling energetic climb to the top of St Giles Hill for magnificent views of the city and beyond.

Royal connections

Winchester is steeped in history. Henry VII had a castle here where his first son, Arthur, was born. Yes that Arthur, he of the knights of the round table Arthur. The Castle is at the top of the town. At the the bottom of the town, near to the Almshouses and the park is a statue of King Alfred who in 871 AD was crowned King of Wessex and established Winchester as his capital.

Dedicated to God and the public service

Winchester College was established in the fourteenth century by self made man, William of Wykeham. I am not sure how many Bishops or politicians they educate now, but that was his vision at the time. As you walk around the city on the weekend, you will see the groups of handsome rich young men dressed like Harry and Wills. The younger boys will be at a pizza joint with visiting parents. At over 35k per annum to board at this school, I guess pizza is all you can afford.

Literary connections

Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. The house she lived in on College Street is not open to the public. You can however visit her house in Chawton just 17 miles from the city.

Keats wrote Ode to Autumn whilst in Winchester. There are also Sherlock Holmes connections.

Winchester Discovery Centre  is worth a visit. It houses the library, a gallery with regular exhibitions and a café and shop, where you can buy the book, Look Up Winchester.

Look Up Winchester

The book Look Up Winchester is the perfect book to take with you on a walking tour of Winchester. Available from the Library or the Winchester Cathedral shop for £6.99 this is how they describe the book.

A fascinating book taking you on a tour of Winchester’s historic High Street – from an unusual perspective…

Authors Rodney Graham and Christopher Newberry thought it a great shame that some wonderful architectural details are missed, simply by people never looking up! Above the High Street shops is a wealth of wonderful history; and as well as looking at the features of the buildings, the book also tells the captivating stories behind the facades.

The book comes in a handily-sized small format, perfect for carrying with you as you stroll down the High Street – looking up

Nothing to add. It survived my book cull. That is a good enough reason to buy it.

The French Connection

Every time I go to Winchester I hear people speaking French. Over lunch in the pub on my last visit I met two girls from Paris. You will come across market traders over from France for the day. Many of the waiting staff in the many gastro pubs are French.

The French love Winchester. It is a day trip for the French as much as the English in the south may pop to Dieppe on a day trip. This is because the city is easy to navigate in a day, there are lots of good places to eat and the markets are so very good.

Which neatly brings me to –

The Markets

I think Winchester has some of the best Market Days in the country. The local council have worked with local and some not so local traders to build these markets and they are now a very popular with local people  and visitors to he city.

The Council provide the gazebos, and the pitches are of a reasonable rate. The arguments I have heard from some councils (Sandwell I am looking at you) is that market traders take the custom from the regular shop keepers on the high street. As the occupancy rates of shops is high in Winchester, as is the number of independent stores and coffee shops, this does not seem to be the case. It also makes the shops up their game to be honest. There is no room for complacency when customers have a choice.

Gets off soapbox and continues writing…

The Farmers’ Market is held on the second and final Sunday of each month. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest farmers market in the UK with between 80 and 95 stalls. Go early and have breakfast, get your provisions and then have brunch. Some days they have cookery demonstrations. All traders are from Hampshire and the quality is very high, organic meat, game, beautiful heritage vegetables and homemade bread and cakes. There are no plastic bowls of cheap veg here.

You can however get bowls of veg (cheap but of the highest quality) from the store in front of Marks and Spencer. This stall is one of the many that you can find at the General Street Market. This runs along the high street, with food stalls and local coffee shops to stop by for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

The Art and Design Market is held on the third Sunday of each month between March and December. Lots of Vintage and Bric a Brac, great for browsing and buying unusual items, such as old cameras and typewriters.

There is also a Christmas Market held in the grounds of the cathedral. It is not as big as the many German Markets in England, yet its location is second to none.


I am not a shopper. I try not to buy stuff. Winchester however, has enough quirky independent shops to keep my browsing habit happy. The staff at Mistral are simply the best. Friendly, helpful, not pushy and the music is good. It is the only place that I actually enjoy clothes shopping. If you like the big chains, they are here, including Debenhams, Marks and Spencer and Primark. However, I urge you to check out the smaller retailers both in the shops and on the markets. Many of these are not on the main high street in the centre, so you do need to leave the main shopping area. If you like Vintage and Retro this is the city for you. More information about shopping can be found here.

The best way to find these is to wander off the main street and explore the city. Who knows what else you will find? There is a particularly good book shop in the Kingsgate area of the city, near to the college.

Leave the city behind

Step off Bridge Street for a moment and you are on the bank of the River Itchen. Winchester City Mill owned by The National Trust sits atop of it, using the power of the river to turn the millstones to grind the flour.

Or you can walk along the river by taking the steps next to The Bishop on the Bridge. This route takes you past The Almshouses, toward The Bishop’s House and then over the water meadows at the rear of the college sports ground. After a 20 minutes peaceful river walk you will arrive at The Hospital of St Cross, a group of Grade 1 listed buildings, dating from 1132. I have walked to almost everywhere in Winchester, yet, despite walking along the river many times I have never been here. That is something I will put right on my next visit.

Food and Drink

I have my favourites in Winchester. For breakfast or brunch it is always Black White Red, opposite the library. They understand brunch. The eggs are perfectly poached, the avocado is smashed and the bacon is free range. Offering healthy juices and granola, pancakes with maple syrup, and the full English, they have breakfast covered. They are open all day, but I have only ever been there in the morning, but if the wine and food in the evening are as good as their coffee and eggs in the morning, you are in for a treat. I am particularly fond of this place as this is where I met a lovely gentleman who inspired me to write this about loneliness.

Addendum January 2017 – Black White Red has now changed – my new favourite brunch venue is Forte Kitchen. Perfectly poached eggs.

There are a number of pubs in Winchester as you would expect. My two favourite are locally run No. 5, part of The Ideal Collection, and a Fuller’s pub The Bishop on the Bridge. The food at the Bishop is hearty pub food, while the food at No. 5 is possibly less pubby, concentrating on locally sourced, seasonal produce. I would drink beer at the Bishop and wine at No.5. Both have good outdoor space.

After dining at either you can cross the road to The Black Bottle for some wine tasting.

The Black Bottle: where new and familiar red, white and rosé wines are available by the glass. A selection of 32 of our 140 strong bottle cellar are dispensed through our Enomatic dispensers. Each of  our four machines hold 8 bottles with machines dedicated exclusively to red and white varieties. This means that at any one time we have a wide range of red, white and rosé to sample by the glass.  Our machines are individually  programmed to serve our specific varieties of wine at their optimum temperature: an ambient room temperature for reds and a gentle chill for whites and rose, allowing all of our wines to express their flavours fully.

A quirky place, with 5 rooms over 2 floors, you load up your token and choose your wine from the Enomatic dispenser. You can also buy wine by the bottle but the dispenser is much more fun.

My most recent discovery is El Sabio a Spanish restaurant that has been in Winchester since 2008. The tapas were excellent as was the organic wine. I will definitely be returning.

Other good places to eat are the recently refurbished Ghandi for Indian food, although I have only ever had take out, and the relatively new Palm Pan Asia which was recommended to me by people I shared a table with at The Black Bottle. There is also The Black Boy a traditional British pub, decorated with an eclectic mix of art, clutter and taxidermy.

Where to stay?

I used to get to stay in The Grade II listed Tudor House  when family lived there, and only recently have had to stay in hotels in the city.  I have stayed at No.5  which is comfortable and city centre based so while handy for the shops and dining options, there is some traffic noise and it is a very lively pub on Saturday evenings. There is also The Black Hole which looks every bit as quirky as The Black Bottle. For other places to stay, the Visit Winchester website has lots of suggestions. From caravan sites, B&B and Hotel Du Vin, there are plenty of options.

Addendum January 2017 – Most recently I have chosen to stay at The Premier Inn. Although slightly out of town, has plenty of free parking and you can still walk to the centre of Winchester from the hotel. Soundproofed rooms and very comfortable. 

It does quirky

I hope this has been useful for anyone thinking of visiting Winchester. I love the city. I find something new on each visit. Yet it is so compact, you could cover a lot of ground in one day. And you can’t help loving a city that does this. Even the street furniture is pretty.

One Mans Trash….

AKA the recycling centre. Regular readers will know that I have spent a fair bit of time in the past few weeks, recycling my stuff. I heard the centre in Winchester ‘rescues’ good quality items and has a little shop. On this visit they had a perfectly good piano, doors, a toy car and some interesting furniture.  The only other place I have seen this is at Brecon, where I picked up some Wedgwood China. And the bits they can’t sell they use to decorate the garden. One mans trash is another mans treasure. A great place to pick up some vintage items at rock bottom prices.

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The Mornington Peninsula Wine Tour

The Mornington Peninsula is in the top 20 must see places as voted for by The National Geographic in 2015.

Our friends who we were house sitting for had given us a list of suggested places to visit and we were gradually working through it. Some were based in central Melbourne, others involved taking tours (when wine is involved this is wise). The Mornington Peninsula was on the list. I did a bit of research on the companies that offered tours here and based on excellent reviews, booked to go on the Mornington Peninsula Wine Tour with Melbourne Coastal Touring.

After an enjoyable day in the Yarra Valley, on a gourmet food and wine tour, Phil and I were looking forward seeing a different region and sampling the wine and food it had to offer. We were not disappointed.

We were picked up at promptly from St Paul’s, just opposite Federation Square, at around 8 am. Jason, our driver, tour guide and owner of the company, waited while we finished our McDees breakfast (classy I know, but it was an early start) as we did not want to mess up the clean minivan with our trashy breakfast. Although the rest of the group asked where there coffee was. Then it was time to hit the road and we headed out of the city. Jason used the drive time to get to know the group, who we were, where we were from, and gave us a rundown of the itinerary for the day. After a drive of just over an hour, we reached our first stop for the day.

The Colourful Beach Boxes of Mornington

First stop was to see some colourful beach boxes and a stroll along the beach. After an early start and an hours drive on mostly freeways, the opportunity to stretch our legs and wake us up was just what we needed.

This was July 2015 and winter in Melbourne. We were so lucky with the weather.

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Arthurs Seat

As we drove up to the hills from the beach we stopped at Murrays Look Out to admire the views from Arthurs Seat.

2 Macs Farm

We had a quick diversion to 2 Macs Farm as one couple on the tour had requested this stop for a talk about permaculture. This gave us the opportunity for a look around the place.

This is somewhere that I would have liked to have been able to spend more time at. Jason said their Slow Sunday Lunch was renowned in the area. What a shame it wasn’t Sunday.

T’Gallant Vineyard

And so on to the real reason we were here, the wine. (Obligatory picture of vineyard cat included).

First stop was T’ Gallant vineyard. The slightly quirky host had some interesting stories to tell about wine and vineyards.  The one about winning a vintage bottle of wine worth thousands in a raffle, that some eccentric professor had bequeathed to a university in Leicester was a bit far-fetched (and I have not found anything on Google to back up this story) yet she was fun and told us after she did this for fun as she was minted. Yes, that’s what she said.

Phil and I indulged in a couple of bottles to take home to celebrate his upcoming 60th birthday. Then we were off to the next stop, to do some wine and cheese tasting.

Green Olive

Next on the tour was Green Olive for some cheese and wine tasting as their neighbours, the  Main Ridge Dairy that is usually included on this itinerary, were closed for a holiday.

Beautiful setting, lovely creamy cheese and some good wine, and an interesting range of goods in the shop. We chose a bottle from their Kelpie range of wines to take to our friends in Sydney. They liked it.

Montalto Estate

The first thing you notice here is the sculpture collection.Since 2003 they have hosted the Montalto Sculpture Prize, the winning sculpture wins its creator $30,000 and Montalto acquires the work.

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Of course it would be rude not to taste some wine.

As well as cats I am also good at finding Moggies aka vintage Morris Minors. I learned to drive in a car like this….

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Red Hill Epicurean

And so to lunch. Which was excellent. Phil had the Piccantosa pizza cooked in the woodfire oven and I had the gnocchi di pollo washed down with a glass of wine. Lunch is included in the tour. The setting is just lovely, not too formal, in a former warehouse they call The Shed.

There is also a small shop at the front and photos showing what the building looked like in the past and recording the refurbishment to what it is now.

The Epicurean is housed in what was once a warehouse and has an interesting history. It is next door to a hardware store with this painted on the side. Did I say I was a train geek too?

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Red Hill Estate

Our last vineyard of the day. I got one shot of Jason, our brilliant guide for the day, that’s him propping up the bar, not drinking. The group was really bonding by now (that would be the wine then)  we all got on well and had some interesting conversations. Makes the day even better when you have a good group of people to share it with.

There was some interesting artwork, and comfy sofas and more wine.

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The Red Hill Estate had magnificent views of Western Port Bay.

Beautiful setting, but by then even I was a little wine weary. Next stop, chocolate.

Mornington Chocolate

I have included it here as it was part of the tour I was on. After visiting the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie this was underwhelming. The itineraries may vary by season and I expect they also take into account reviews of customers when tweaking the tours. The stop at this chocolate shop is not now on the itinerary. It has now been replaced by a visit to Merricks General Store, which seems much more in keeping with the other venues we visited.

Mock Red Hill

The wine tasting may have finished, yet Jason persuaded us that trying  Mock Red Hill local cider would be a good idea. Well he was driving….

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Me, being the geek that I am was more interested in the old machinery.

And the fire.

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Oh, and the cider. That was good too. Mock Red Hill is a family run Demeter certified Bio-dynamic apple orchard. Had to look what that meant of course. Organic then.

Bio-dynamics is an advanced organic farming method based on the research and teachings of Rudolf Steiner.

And so back to Melbourne

Everyone in the group thoroughly enjoyed the day.It was well paced and good value for money. It is a perfect taster day to explore the Mornington Peninsular and made me want to spend more time there. We went in the winter and the weather was perfect. The next day it rained. Would that have spoiled it? No, as most of the places you visit are inside, yet it was lovely to have a stroll in the sunshine on the beach.

About Melbourne Coastal Touring

Melbourne Coastal Touring is a family run business. Jason and Athena, the company owners, have been in the travel industry since 2004. This is what they say on their website.

We started as travel agents in 2004 and were inspired to start our tour company after failing to meet the needs of our clients with the tour product available

Jason was born, raised and still lives on The Mornington Peninsular and you can tell he loves introducing this area to his customers. His commentary during the day was informative and he answered all our questions as only a local, in touch with his community, could. He even showed us where he plays cricket and his old school. That is truly the personal touch.

He was greeted with warmth at all the places we visited, and not just because he was bringing a van load of tourists. I reckon he has the best job, driving around, chatting to his clients and visiting his mates all day.

The customer service is excellent.  It is easy to book on their website and Athena responds swiftly to email enquiries. I would certainly recommend Melbourne Coastal Touring for this tour. I am back in Melbourne in July 2016 and will definitely join them on another tour. Probably Phillip Island to see the penguins.

Disclaimer: I paid for this tour and I was not asked to review it (apart from on Trip Advisor which I now have).


Not making New Year Resolutions

All they do is set you up to fail. They are mostly about giving up. Giving up smoking, drinking, sugar, biscuits, cake. All the things we like.

If you are not giving up something you may resolve to take up things you don’t do because actually you hate them. Like running, or yoga, or salsa. I spent £100 on trainers for running two years ago. Worn them five times. Twice last weekNew Year Resolutions are therefore a list of stop doing what you love and start doing what you hate. That is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Where is the fun in that?

Top of the list – lose weight

Come next week Weight Watchers and Slimming World groups will be heaving. These companies love New Year Resolutions as they make them the most money. First timers will not only sign up for membership but will buy all the ‘essential’ tools such as point counters, Eating Out Guides, weighing scales that calculate the ‘smartpoints’ in your food and even bloody tape measures. Because none of us have one of those at home.

Lose pounds

The one thing I can guarantee that you will lose by joining one of these clubs, is pounds. £’s. And, yes, if you have the discipline, the motivation and the drive you can and will lose lbs too. And you can do this without joining the groups if you are that motivated.

Confession time

I know this because I was a Weight Watcher. For years. I had all the books, the gadgets, and yes I did achieve my target weight at some point, cannot recall when. For years I was the classic yo yo dieter. I even became a helper at my local meeting because that way I didn’t have to pay. The team of helpers were a lovely bunch, it was sociable and I thought it would keep me motivated. I was the greeter and keeper of the cards. The first person a new member would meet. Within minutes I could tell if they would lose weight. I was never wrong.

Be kind to yourself

There’s is a reason why airline safety films instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.

Those working in a caring profession, nurse, care worker, trainee nurse, probably would not lose weight. My theory was that they were so outward focussed caring for others (thankfully) that they neglected to care for themselves. Also shift work, eating at different times together with biscuits and chocolate on the wards, makes keeping to a food plan more difficult. Busy nurses miss lunch breaks and so eat and run, care workers race to appointment to appointment skipping meals. Finding time or having the energy to cook from scratch is also hard, the fast food route is tempting after a long shift. I am not saying that if you are a nurse or a care worker you can’t lose weight just that your job makes it harder to keep to an eating and exercise routine, so that needs to be factored in.

I have paid my money and still not lost weight

This group thought that all they had to do was join the club, pay money and the weight would drop off. With no effort from themselves. I call these the blamers. These are also the group that will spend the most in the shop. Every gadget, every book, and all the sweets, chocolates and snacks. They would swear each week they had stuck to the plan, and in the first week may lose a couple of pounds and from then onwards lose no more. Every week they will ask the leader about the points in a curry or chips. This group are also serial club joiners. When Weight Watchers doesn’t work for them they join Slimming World and slag off WW to all that will listen. A couple of months later they have left that group, declared that they have big bones or some medical condition that makes it impossible for them to lose weight and give up. One year later, they are back, the WW plan has changed and this will work for them. Almost certainly they weigh more than they did a year ago. And so it goes. The diet industry love this group.

Thin means happy (it doesn’t)

These are the ones that believe losing weight is the gateway to happiness and success. They will also buy all the gadgets, but not the sweets and chocolates because fat is a bad thing. They can calculate the points/calories of every meal and always put their hand up in meetings to answer questions. Other members will identify them as the expert and ask them questions. They will lose a lot of weight at first, achieving their goal weight in record time. Leave, and next year be back to do it all again. This is because they make no other changes in their life, expect the weight loss to do it all for them. They stay in the same job, the same relationship, the same routine and as soon as they get to the desired weight, start eating how they used to and stop exercising. Often members of this group have experienced mild depression, that they have not faced up to. I know this because this was me.

Say goodbye to diets

Eventually I threw every book out (donated to charity) and dumped all the gadgets. I am still overweight but have stayed the same for 10 plus years now with few exceptions. Lost a lot when I was travelling. I was more active and eating better quality food. Especially in Fiji and SE Asia where I ate lots of really healthy foods and drank hardly any alcohol. Definitely no wine. Swam every day in Fiji, walked miles in Melbourne, did lots of trekking up mountains on the road in Australia. When I was ill earlier this year I dropped 7 lbs in a week. Clearly the key to my weight loss is to live on a  Fijian island or be ill. I choose Fiji.

Back to not making resolutions…

Ok, this turned out to be a tirade against the diet industry which is not what I started out to do. And while I said at the beginning that resolutions were either stopping what you love or starting what you hate and that is a recipe for failure, I realise that drinking too much booze, eating too much crap and smoking at all are generally not a good idea. What to do then? What, instead of resolutions we can choose to make plans to do things that give us joy. If our well being improves we may be in a better place to make better choices for our physical health too.

It comes down to this.

if you always do what you always did then you will always get what you always got

I plan to…

Do more. See more. Get a life.

I am in truth a bit of a couch potato. Going out is so much effort. Give me a cooking programme and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and I am happy. And missing out. Can you believe I never got to eat chicken wings at The Butchers Social? And now I can’t. Nor had Sunday Lunch at The High Field. See what I mean… I need to get out more.

Be a tourist in my own backyard

I have a great city less than a mile away from my home. Birmingham has some of the best places in the country to eat out at. See Full to the Brum if you don’t believe me. Michelin starred restaurants to pop up street markets and lots of indie food producers.

I bemoaned the fact that in Melbourne you can get a great brunch or a burger in every neighbourhood and there is nowhere in Birmingham. Turns out there is, not so many, which given the population of Birmingham is just wrong, but then again,  you can’t get a decent curry in Melbourne.

Experience more culture and history

I have National Trust Membership that I hardly ever use. Indeed I have used it more in Australia than the UK in the past 5 years.

Birmingham has great theatres, concert halls (ELO already booked for June) and art galleries.Birmingham Museums Trust holds the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art anywhere in the world, numbering over 3000 paintings, drawings, prints and examples of decorative art and design. It also hosts The Staffordshire Hoard.

Enjoy green space

I will go for more walks. I can see Lightwoods Park can be from my bedroom window and Warley Woods is also nearby.Getting out into green space is nature’s Prozac, and if there is some sun, even better.

Move more

To be honest I just wish I were fitter. Fitter so I can climb mountains and walk around Uluru and not be so achy. And that is down to me. Wishing for it isn’t doing something about it. Wishing is a poor relation of dreaming, and to make either come true you need a plan.

I am beginning to like walk/jogging in the park (see green space above) and yoga. Possibly because I didn’t make some proclamation about what my resolutions will be for 2015 and didn’t start them on January 1.


I will write more. It is the one thing that I do that when I do it, time flies.

Make a house into a home

I will spend much of the year making this new small house an amazing, uncluttered home. A safe harbour when I need it. (And a pension).


In the UK and overseas. There is so much of the UK I have not seen, Scotland, Ireland and East Anglia. Australia in June/July/August and fit in Greece before or after that. I may even do the whole of the number 11 route at some point. Or not.

See Friends

I will spend more time with friends, especially those that have had a bad year. Getting back in touch with old school friends has been a highlight of the past couple of years and there are some friends I don’t see enough of.

See what happens

There are probably more things I will do. Who knows what life will bring. This time last year I hadn’t any idea what 2015 would bring. A house sit in Melbourne, a house move and major downsize, a revelation about clutter (took me 30 months to work that one out) and it is all documented on my blog.

I have found this blog tremendous help – when I thought I was getting nowhere with the decluttering it  was a measure of just how far I have come.  I know I have helped others to get on the decluttering journey and that makes me happy. I know it has made me a better writer. It is also great therapy.

Am I still Travelling Coral? Well that has always been the plan and life, after all, is a journey. You have to decide what that journey looks like (see plans above)  make it happen yet notice when you need to go with the flow. And that  is why a travel blogger can write about decluttering and write about anything she bloody wants to write about.

And I can do what I want to do, and I intend to fly.