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Always You

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It is Mum’s birthday today, something which won’t mean a lot to you but it means the world to my family and I. Our mum is the glue that draws us all together, especially at this time of year, as we remember her unique gifts, her tranquillity and love of life.

An old colleague of mine once told me that when you lose a parent you are changed forever and that, if you are not careful, you family fractures apart. He was right and I can’t deny that losing a parent is utterly heartbreaking. It is a path we must all walk and it is something we all dread, a painful scar that each of us has to carry on our hearts. A scar that can break open and leave you raw and bereft when you least expect it. It brings you to your knees. But what the expectation of such a loss and the grief fail to capture is that which lies beyond losing your loved one. That for every tear cried, for every moment where you fall to your knees knowing you won’t see your dear friend and confidante again in this life, there is a reason to keep on living. There is a strength that comes from walking through your grief with your friends and family by your side to dry your tears. There is a compassion towards others that grows within your heart from knowing how it feels to lose a part of you. There is an understanding of how short and precious life is. What I am trying to say is that there is always a reason to lift your face to the sunshine and be thankful that you have life. You have a chance to wake up tomorrow, to tell someone that you love them and become the very best of who you are. To live on, inspire and lift someone else that needs their tears wiping away. I have been reminded of that today by the love my family and friends have shared as we pulled together once more and celebrated Mum’s life.

In the time since we lost the light of our family, we all changed a lot. My beautiful sister and her family made their dreams of a country home and rural lifestyle come true through their hard work and determination. My wonderful big brother and his family had the courage to move overseas and start a new life on the other side of the world, the sun shining down on them. And my ever strong Dad is rebuilding his life as we speak and in so many ways that I can’t put it all down on paper. I am so proud of them all. And me, well I had a bit of a rocky time with losing my fiancé and career, letting go of my dogs. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I am building my future, following a lifelong dream of moving overseas to work with sharks.

My colleague was right in that losing a parent did fracture our family but not in a negative way. Instead of lying down and giving up on life we all stepped back, took time to grieve and then put our best feet forwards again to life. We pulled together, held one another up and despite the geographical distance remained very much a family. It isn’t easy and there are days when I crumple and miss the open arms that comforted me when life seemed hard. The wonderful, magical laugh of Mum’s that made me smile from ear to ear. She had a wicked sense of humour and a sparkle in her eyes that lit up our world.

But you know what? It has been worth getting up each day when the world seemed full of darkness, just so I could remember those moments. So I could grow a little more. It has been worth it for the opportunity to practice becoming a better person by trying to be more like Mum. She was a truly beautiful soul and, with that in mind, I will leave you with my favourite memory. To me this says it all about how each of us could be a little more thankful for what we have and see the beauty in the simple things that make our lives so precious.

I remember one New Year’s Eve before Mum was ill, when the family were all together to celebrate the start of the coming year. We had spent an evening eating good food, laughing and sharing stories, playing games. It was noisy, fun and colourful and then this one question left us all silent. The room went quiet as we pondered the most appropriate answer. What would we choose to be? We took it in turns to answer as we drank our wine and came up with choices such as ‘I’d come back as an eagle’ or ‘an oak so I could live a long time’. Basically each of us went for the grand, the long living, powerful choices. My Mum, she simply said she’d come back as a chaffinch. A regular garden chaffinch, because they were pretty and had a nice life living in her garden, eating bird food from the table and being in the sunshine.

May each of you take a moment today to appreciate the view from your bird table and smile.

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Hypno Me Happy

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Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, you are feeling veeeeery sleepy…..I decided to have some hypnotherapy sessions recently to conquer my fear of removing my scuba mask underwater. My brain mistakenly believes that if I remove my scuba mask whilst underwater I will die. No half way house, no ‘I may be uncomfortable but I will survive’. Nope, my brain believes no mask will result in sudden death. My brain took great pleasure in showing me exactly how it will react when my mask is removed during my latest scuba diving holiday. I had planned to practice removing my mask to become more comfortable with it on this holiday and with a very dear friend of mine. For those of you that have followed my blog, you will know I am moving overseas in 43 sleeps and part of my plan is to qualify as a scuba diving instructor. I want and need to get comfortable diving without my mask on and, being me, I am going completely over the top with preparations rather than just trusting it will be okay on the day. I have already spent a day in a pool with my old instructor practicing taking my mask off and that went well. I have sat in the bath and filled my mask with water from my pink elephant watering can whilst I relaxed with the bubbles and that went well. I survived; I definitely didn’t die suddenly on either occasion. My brain now believes that being underwater in a swimming pool or bath and removing my mask is not a problem. But the ocean…..whoa that is entirely different apparently.

My diving holiday mask moment went something like this. My dear friend and I went diving, the scenery was stunning and we had great visibility. We went deep and I got narked almost immediately – for those of you that don’t dive, it is a condition that leaves you feeling quite ‘drunk’ underwater and it isn’t particularly conducive to diving well and safely. I was narked and quite frankly couldn’t have cared less if I sank to the bottom of the ocean. I was giggling away to myself, could hear music in my ears and really had very little idea of what I was doing. We went shallow to ease the symptoms and pottered about looking at the beautiful reef and did our safety stop at the end of the dive. I was feeling tired by this point from being narked and my friend kept making me laugh with various underwater impressions from films we have watched together. Some things just make me giggle and I couldn’t stop laughing and flooding my mask with water.  In the end I had to face away from said friend so I could regain some form of control and sort my mask out. I must have been confused from laughing so much, as I turned towards him and thought he gestured for me to try taking my mask off. He knows all about my mask fear.

I was feeling brave, I could do this, I could so do this. I whipped my mask off and looked straight at him. For a fraction of a second it was all good, I had done it, I had actually not died from taking my mask off in the ocean. And then it all went wrong. I panicked; oh I panicked and looked like such a chump. My poor friend had hold of me at the waist as I hyperventilated. I kicked like an angry child who’d had her sweets taken away, looked at him pleadingly (at least I think it was pleading, maybe it just looked like insanity?) and wheeled my arms around as I tried to explain to him in sign language that I was going to die, I had no mask on. Sudden death would occur if I was not removed from the water at that very moment. Being the lovely calm chap that he is he didn’t let go of me as I bolted for the surface. Not that I noticed or cared. I was so far beyond reason it was ridiculous. We made it to the surface, I cried. We made it back to the boat; I cried again. He tried to reassure me it was no big deal. I cried some more and, in a high pitched unintelligible voice that sounded somewhat like a seal, I stated I was going to be the worst diving instructor ever. Ever. Another friend then wandered over and asked if it was a good dive, I cried some more and resumed the high pitched seal impression. I am an ADULT….seriously not cool. I think I failed to mention that my dear friend that I was diving with is someone that I, well, how can I put this? Oh let me be honest…I would like him to think I am awesome, cool, gorgeous, intelligent, basically one super cool chick that he would like to have in his life. Evidently after that performance he is more likely to think I am demented and insane.  And sadly he will be reminded of that if he reads this. Also, it turns out he wasn’t gesturing for me to take my mask off underwater at all anyway. Marvellous.

I don’t particularly want to go through that kind of embarrassment again, so I am pursuing any means possible to get over my fear and have booked myself onto a course of hypnotherapy. I genuinely believe that my mask fear and my willingness to understand and overcome it will give me compassion and make me a great scuba diving instructor in due course. Come the day I have a nervous student who can’t get their head underwater, who has a panic and a wobble of confidence at times, I will be able to help them through it to achieve their dream of becoming a diver. I am hopeful that hypnotherapy will be an incredible experience I can share with my students. And so far it has been just that.

I was so nervous when I went for my first introductory ‘chat’ and I sat there meekly on the chair hoping she couldn’t read my mind and that I wouldn’t blurt out too much information. To be honest, I was expecting the therapist to look like Mystic Meg and have the voice of Alice In Wonderland’s Caterpillar ‘Whooo…are….you?’ I expected to be made to look into her eyes, cluck like a chicken when commanded to do so and then be back in the room in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. She was actually a normal person, there was no looking into eyes and I have not yet clucked like a chicken. What I have done is spend an incredible couple of sessions learning all about fear management, how to reduce anxiety (Lordy knows I need to master that one) and have had a kip on a comfy couch and retrained my brain in the process. I discovered that I am totally aware of everything my therapist says when I am lying on the couch and the sessions appear to work. I haven’t yet delved too deeply into my mask fear, as she is easing me into this gently. However I do feel relaxed, calm and can visualise removing my mask underwater without my pulse going through the roof. That is a good start.

The part that is baffling me though is the appropriate etiquette for when one is being hypnotised. How am I supposed to behave when being stared at whilst lying on a couch? How should I look? What should I do? Being stared at is generally un-nerving for most people and I am not a fan of letting anyone ever see me sleep (in case I dribble a lot). As such, I find this situation quite difficult and way outside of my comfort zone. I just can’t figure out what I should be doing. I have given this a lot of thought and have taken to spending a large portion of my time on the couch trying desperately to keep still and to ‘look’ hypnotised. Yes, that is correct, I try and look hypnotised as I don’t want my therapist to think I am doing it wrong. It is ridiculous. So far I find my right leg has a mind of its own every time I am on the couch and I fight a weekly battle to try and stop it from lashing out at my therapist as she tells me to relax. Apparently involuntary twitching is normal when under hypnosis. Still, kicking her in the face would seem excessive. I also worry that if my breathing speeds up she will think I am coming ‘out’ of being hypnotised. To combat this problem, I have started holding my breath for as long as possible so that I look like I am breathing slowly due to being so relaxed. The only trouble is that I then feel a bit short on air at times, my heart starts racing and I need to suck great lungs of air in surreptitiously. Not easy to get away with in a silent room when you are trying to look appropriate. Oh, I also don’t dare swallow either in case that isn’t supposed to happen – which doesn’t help with trying to prevent dribbling. An hour is a long time not to swallow…After going through this malarkey for what seems like ages every session I usually give in and relax from sheer exhaustion. I can’t help wondering that if I relaxed sooner it may be even more beneficial.

But on the other hand, what if I relax too much and let out an almighty fart? Then I really will need therapy.

Dog Tired Wings

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Who knew growing new wings could be exciting and yet so tiring. A wing-production roller coaster of a ride. I have found myself pretty dog tired today. I am on the verge of leaving behind all that is familiar and safe to me in order to chase my dreams. To live my authentic, creative life surrounded by my true passions and loves. To live in the sunshine being a dive instructor, a singer, writer, artist and hoping my life path will inspire others to take a chance on their dreams. It sounds amazing, it is amazing. I just hadn’t realised I would feel so tired inbetween the crazy excitement of these changes. Someone pass me my blanket, a bonio and a warm fire please. And whilst you’re there could you give my tummy a tickle? Thank you darling.

I mentioned in my first blog the ‘interesting and challenging’ events of the past few years and it’s fair to say that yes they have left their mark. Some are very funny marks and moments and are a great story to share. But there are also some deep, murky marks and I am busy excavating these at the moment.

I leave the UK in seven weeks time to start the next chapter of my life, which I have loving titled Book 2. I am going to broaden my horizons, my life and spread new wings. Smile at the sun and fly free to be me. No-one has stopped me from doing this before but, like many people, I bowed under the pressure of expectations from myself to conform and be what others expected of me. To put aside my dreams in order to please others and keep me firmly in my conventional, somewhat musty cardboard box. Well stuff that, I am busting out of my box one kick at a time. This path has been twelve years in the making – yes, alright my box is made of quite thick cardboard and I had found myself quite comfortable in there at times.

In order to leave feeling truly free I am clearing out all of my belongings and we all know that means I am also clearing out my mental clutter and hopefully healing old wounds. Not an easy task, as I have clung onto every childhood toy and have the remnants of a three bed house and all her furniture and stuff to let go of. But I have done it. I spent the last few weeks clearing through every box, relived every moment and cried and laughed my way through it all. I was confronted with happy memories of my beautiful mum who died nearly three years ago now, sad memories of the loss of my wonderful woolly Airedales and the pain that came with two fiancés walking away and leaving behind two lives for me to dispose of. And the best bit….the childhood toys. They were hilarious and it had me in stitches when I realised the crap I kept. I think my favourite had to be my Take That tour programmes from the 1990s with my hand written comments from each tour of when a member of Take That waved/winked/pointed at ME. Of course they were waving at me. Evidently I believed I would be marrying Howard from Take That (according to my comments) and yes I also spent a day camped outside Robbie Williams’ house once. I was that cool. My friend tried to steal his pants from his washing line but sadly she couldn’t climb over the high garden wall despite our best efforts. Robbie I am very sorry we tried to steal your underwear.

Anyway, I have done it and recycled, sold and given away everything other than some basic furniture and the kit I will need to take with me for life overseas. I would like to say it has left me feeling free but so far it has left me feeling a wee bit tired and surprised at the result. I feel like I have pulled this massive sticky plaster off my face and it has unexpectedly whipped off my features in the process. Eyebrows, lady moustache and all. I didn’t expect that to happen.

Having done all of this clearing out of the old, I am busy growing my new wings and they are fine wings indeed. I am on the most incredible journey right now and these wings are going to support me through thick and thin. They need to be both beautiful to the eye and sturdy. Somewhere between angel wings, swan wings and ‘built to fly all day’ albatross wings. Definitely not Dodo stump wings. This could be an interesting look. So far it is going well but I think I need a rest. I am perched on the edge of my cliff, looking at the abyss and testing out my prototype wings before I leap.

So if you will excuse me I am going to take myself off for a rest, burrow down into my blankets and snore like an old dog without a care in the world. My wings can wait for tomorrow. 50 sleeps and counting.

Swimming Ridiculous

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I have taken up swimming. Nothing exceptional, I know, but I am not a natural swimmer and in six months time I have to pass swimming tests to become a Dive Master. Real tests. In the sea, where I am required to not only swim considerable distances but to also survive, tow along someone else with me and look like I know what I am doing. Dear Universe I pray you don’t give me some giant man-beast to tow during my tests. Have pity on me, you know I am about as good at swimming as a moth that has fallen into a swimming pool and believes it can flap its way out.

You see this is all a part of my grand master plan to turn myself into a graceful mermaid/diving instructor this year. And if I can’t sort the swimming out I am well, let’s face it, a bit buggered really. In a bid to become said mermaid I have taken to the local pool this winter with my new multicoloured swim hat, pink goggles in hand and, damn it, I forgot to shave my legs. Excellent start.

Oh and I have discovered that my hat makes me look like a Chupa Chup lolly. A Chupa Chup lolly with hairy legs.  Nice.

I haven’t been taught front crawl before and I need to learn how to do this and do it well. I don’t want to be THAT person, the one who completes their Dive Master swimming test in the slowest time known to PADI. All red faced wheezing and half drowned. Just call me No Points Hodgson? That is so not going to be me. I am going to be the graceful one, first to finish in lightning speed with a smile on my face. All long legs, swaying hair and looking super cool as I nonchalantly rise out of the water like a bond girl. Alright that will take major surgery, my legs don’t know the word long, but it’s something to aim for.

Back to the front crawl. How do people do this? I have never been so nervous on my first trip to the pool, despite my dear family spending time showing me beforehand what to do. My attempts in said pool have so far involved head butting the end of the pool a number of times, which really confused me. No-one else seemed to head butt the end when I watched them swimming. How did they know it was near? Ah, the dashed line on the pool floor. Apparently that is the indicator of the end of the pool. I thought it was just a pretty decoration. Could they not write on the pool tiles ‘watch your head, end approaching’ to avoid confusion and head injuries? Note to self – watch the pool floor at all times. Great, now I have swum into someone’s backside. I was so busy watching for the dashed line that I forgot to look up and I head butted some poor old lady square in the bottom. I mean, really, who does that. Perhaps I should get out now.

There is also the issue of how to actually DO front crawl. There seems to be a lot of windmilling of arms going on, kicking of legs and I’m also supposed to breathe. With so much windmilling and kicking and watching the pool floor I am finding breathing quite tricky. I have been advised to pretend I am licking my shoulder to get the right position for breathing whilst continuing to swim. First attempt at this and what did I do from concentrating so much on the concept? I actually tried to lick my shoulder, choked on a lot of water and promptly burst out laughing in the middle of the deep end and half drowned in the process. This doesn’t go down well in a pool full of serious lane swimmers at 7.30am on a Monday morning. I need to work on my breathing or buy a snorkel.

And the part that really fills me with dread….the lanes. The lanes of doom scare me senseless. I am like a sheep without a herd and I just don’t know which lane I belong in. If in doubt, choose the slow lane. Slow lane is a lovely place to be. It is a very wide lane, it takes up most of the pool and it is full of old people that I have come to adore. There is the cheery middle aged lady that is even worse at front crawl than me. She is a learner too. I like her for the simple fact that we get to encourage each other and I can also remind myself quietly that I am not the worst, I am second worst. Then there are the two elderly ladies that don’t appear to do any swimming. They seem to just hang out at the end like two birds on a wire, wittering away and putting the world to rights. God love those ladies and their hot air. There is the wiry old chap that doesn’t swim but conducts some form of underwater physiotherapy whilst holding on to the side of the pool. He has nearly kicked me in the face a number of times as he rotates his leg and thrusts it wildly out into the blue. I rather admire his lack of care and his crazy underwater moves. But my personal favourite is the very old man. Let’s call him Burt. He looks like a Burt and he is awesome. He is there week in, week out with a big smile on his face and he is the oldest person I have seen alive. He also appears to be wearing actual underwear in the pool; both where underwear should be worn and also on his head. I have tried to get close enough on a number of occasions to establish if he is in fact wearing pants on his head but then I start to look like a stalker. From what I can tell they match his bottom attire and so I have come to the conclusion that they are in fact pants. Until I get to know Burt better I don’t feel it would be appropriate to ask him outright if he has pants on his head. I mean, I have a Chupa Chup lolly on my head so really I can’t speak. In addition to this, Burt has his own unique style of swimming and I rather like it. He swims like a very wonky, overenthusiastic frog wearing pants on its head. You see I feel very at home in the slow lane amongst these people. It is where I belong, my comfort zone, my nest. People say hi to me in here but I don’t think this is going to help me pass my Dive Master.

Ugh, the middle lane. Not quite the fast lane but definitely a different zone to my beloved slow lane. The people in the middle lane are mean and quick and really good swimmers. They are probably all on ‘swim faster’ drugs, high on their achievements as they fly through the water and whoop when they beat their best times. Oh I hate his lane, hate it. It has taken me a month to get up the courage to even go and look at this lane. I told myself I have to do this and really how bad could it be? Very bad, so bad I burst into tears on my first attempt. I tried to keep up with my windmilling kicking crawl and my awesome hat of many colours but they are so damn fast! I got half way through a length, panicked at the demon swimmer approaching me from behind with a look of murder on his face, promptly headbutted the lane barrier and licked my shoulder. Excellent. I retreated to the slow lane and wept into my goggles.

Thankfully things have improved since the early days. I have become a better swimmer and I can do a version of front crawl for a number of lengths. I have even managed to find myself a home in the middle lane – though I think I have bumped everyone up into the fast lane. It seems crowded in there lately. My problem now is I have become overenthusiastic and of the opinion I could maybe go faster. I decided it would be a great idea to swim a length as fast as I could last Friday, to get an idea of how fast I can swim if I am being chased by a shark. I feel it is important to know this in the event of either a shark chasing me or me wanting to keep up with a shark swimming away from me. I love sharks. Anyway, my mini swimming test went well, I was quick(ish) and I didn’t head butt anyone. But I have been on Ibuprofen ever since for a bad back. I think I was a little too keen. I think I may be in the slow lane again next week. Checking out Burt with his pants on his head.

Making Lemonade From Your Lemons

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We all get handed lemons in life from time to time. Sometimes they come to us in easy to handle, bite sized chunks that can be fixed with a good slosh of gin, tonic and ice. I like those kind of lemons….they add zest to life, give a good story to tell and keep us on our toes for some personal growth. But then there are those big, waxy, mean lemons. You know the ones, they sidle on up to you when you least expect it, when you are happily skipping through life, face to the sunshine, smiling like a child whilst singing Bill Withers ‘Lovely Day’ at the top of your voice. Then damn it, you are unexpectedly floored with an eye full of lemon juice, surrounded by slippery pith and with your knickers on show. THOSE kinds of lemons are the ones I’m talking about.

I have had my fair share of those lemons in the past few years. Just your ‘run of the mill’ stuff one goes through, at least that is how I like to palm it off. Just a couple of run-away grooms, a flooded house, loss of a loved one, loss of career and the odd wobble here and there as I waded through it all. Come to think of it, those freaking lemons were the size of grapefruits and quite frankly I do believe they were being thrown repeatedly at my face like some bizarre version of human coconut shy. Anyway, more on that story another time, I am digressing from the lemons.

So, I was chatting about the above fruit bowl of disasters with a dear friend of mine the other day and yipping in excitement as I described my plans for the future and wiped the pith from my skirt. She said the most memorable line I have heard in a long time ‘wow, you really are making lemonade from your lemons’.

You really are making lemonade from your lemons

Doesn’t it just sum up life perfectly? Yes, we all have lemons and yes the big ones floor you. But we can all do something to turn our lemons into a more palatable experience or maybe, dare I say it, to make our lemons the start of something truly fantastic. So here it is. My guide to how I have made my lemons into lemonade.

a)      Slice and dice

No-one can eat a lemon whole without choking, as far as I am aware, and I am no exception to this. To cope with big lemons I need a bigger knife. Manageable chunks = the way forward for crisis survival without losing your marbles. Sure it’s not original and neither will that phrase ever sell a book but it is true. Call it Baby Steps, call it One Day at a Time, call it anything that works for you. The important thing is the slicing. Go, slice your mental lemons and stand back. Look at what they really are….pathetic slices of sour fruit that you can cope with. Yes, your heard me, you can cope with. Label those slices as each of the issues that you need to tackle, one at a time, to get your world back together. When dealt with one slice at a time they are still sharp but they make a mighty fine gin and tonic to help you along the way.

b)      Mix it up

Your world is one big fat lemon. Been there, been on my knees and have come close to giving up entirely. Haven’t we all. But you know what, I have come to realise that there is always something to smile about if you look hard enough. Some of my funniest moments have occurred during my darkest hours and the laughter at those times pulled me through. I assume it was laughter but then maybe I was losing the plot and becoming hysterical? Either way, even if it is just for a moment and is no more than a twitch in your facial muscles or is a raucous belly laugh at the moon – go and find someone or something to make you smile today and remind you why life will get better in time. Why every lemon can be mixed with some decent ingredients and made into a cake. And if you can’t find anything to make you smile, just smile anyway and annoy everyone with how well you appear to be coping. That in itself is very therapeutic and satisfying.

c)      ???

You see this is where I run out of sensible ideas. That was it. I appear to have survived on (a) and (b) alone, which doesn’t exactly make a survival guide for anyone. Evidently I won’t be writing a self help book anytime soon.

I will offer you these words instead though: If all else fails I suggest you duck as the lemons come flying at you, run like hell in the opposite direction and hide. Wait it out with a big glass of red wine and a vast bar of chocolate. Remind yourself that there is always someone worse off than you doing exactly the same thing. And if it helps, I spent Valentine’s Day 2009 having a romantic ‘dine at home meal for two’ all for one. I’ll be damned if I am missing out on those deals. There is nothing like an entire bottle of pink cava and a three course gourmet meal to make one feel better.

Words Fail Me

ImageLet’s face it ladies and gents, we all mess it up on dates. We try so hard, we come across wrong and say/do the complete opposite of our normal relaxed selves. In short we can turn into needy, embarrassing crazy people on dates. Some of my friends are having a tough time with that little thing called Love right now. So this is for you. In a bid to cheer you guys and gals up….here is my worst date ever.

It was our first date, the first time we had met at all, my one and only Internet date and hell yeah I was out to impress. Dieting had occurred, my best heels were prised onto my feet despite the fact I couldn’t walk in them and my outfit was so tight I couldn’t breathe. Go girl! Things were going well, lunch was ordered, we were getting on famously. I was managing not to trip over my stupidly high heels or expire in my tight clothing. I was doing okay apart from choking on my salad at times – note to self, salad is not date food, balsamic vinegar sprays everywhere. Result. We talked, we laughed, he said he’d like to meet my dogs, I made up crap about liking his hobbies. We went back to mine – I figured it would be fine, he liked dogs apparently. He’d had Labradors…well behaved normal dogs. Are they like Airedale Terriers in any way, shape or form? Um, no, not so much. Anyway, I let him into my home, my beautifully cleaned ‘check me out’ chick pad. The dogs went absolutely nuts. Really nuts. He shouted with terror in his eyes ‘Oh my! They are big’ as they jumped up and down at him as if he were in fact a giant Bonio. Who put my dogs on speed tonight!?! I seem to remember Paddington (my dog, not the bear. I don’t have The Paddington Bear in my house) head butted him at one point and my date was cornered in the hall. I was scrabbling like a demented woman for the back door keys in order to get the dogs out – knowing my date was one foot out of the front door already. I always keep the keys in the kitchen drawer, always, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I literally searched the entire house as if my life depended on it. There was me tottering around in my heels, shouting ‘down’ a lot at the dogs, panicking as to where the f*ck I’d put the keys.

And then it dawned on me, there was only one place I hadn’t searched….the kitchen bin. In all my nerves I had put the keys in the kitchen bin. The bin. The big, smelly, almost as tall as me kitchen bin. I could have cried, I really could. I hate bins, they smell and make me wretch. The phrase ‘Yes Miss Hodgson, you will die alone, surrounded by Airedales’ sprang to mind a lot, it still does. I casually remarked to my date, who by now was very much covered in dog spit and scratch marks, ‘Oh the keys must have fallen into the bin’ Yeah likely. Keys just don’t do that kind of thing. I then proceeded to empty the entire contents of the bin onto the kitchen floor, whilst still trying to look hot in my heels. I waded through the pile of food and rubbish until I found the damn keys. Ten minutes, it felt like ten hours, of bin foraging through watery eyes….Needless to say I found the keys and got the dogs out. Needless to say I was utterly humiliated and smelt of bin, needless to say I still shudder at the memory. But the funniest bit….THAT absolute disaster resulted in a second date. I have no idea why or how. One can only assume he was high on bin fumes.

See…even when you behave like a complete idiot, when you really think it can’t get much worse, there is always a silver lining and some reason to laugh it out and keep smiling….so go on, laugh at me, I really don’t mind. The whole point of sharing this is my hope that it will make one of you smile tonight.

And for the record, no I didn’t learn. I’m still useless at looking cool and can often be found making a chump of myself in my daily life. I figure it makes everyone else look better and after all it has inspired me to get this started. Cup of tea anyone? Bourbon? We have a lot to talk about.