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Archive for May, 2018

As I travelled home after finishing my latest assignment I had no idea that within a few hours I was to receive news that would change my life exponentially and forever. News that I been ‘praying’ for, hoping for, but beginning to reconcile myself to possibly not ever getting.

My daughter and her fiancรฉ were busy planning their wedding, now just 2.5 weeks away and it was all systems go. She had the best fun planning this wedding, buying this and that, ordering little surprises for her bridesmaids, flower girls and her Mother (me ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

So when I got home, tired but excited to be in the final planning stages of the wedding, I had no idea what news was waiting for me. Greeting me at the door as if nothing was different from all the dozens of times I had arrived home after being away, we hugged, chatted briefly and made a cup of tea ๐Ÿ™‚

Relaxing in the lounge she said, with a very straight face, that she had a little gift for me! Oh, that girl. Always full of gifts and surprises for people. I had no idea what to expect and set about opening the gift-wrapped box, thinking it was probably something to do with the wedding………little did I know.

Holding her phone up to record my reaction, and with firm instructions to not shake the box, to hold it still and open it at a certain angle, I complied. I’m used to her doing this type of thing, so my expectations were that it had something to do with the wedding, possibly something made of glass, which is why when I saw what was in the box, it took a good few seconds for my brain to register what I was seeing!!! Talk about a brain spin. Mine did a complete 360 degree loop!

OH. MY. God!!! There nestled in the box was this…..

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

the best news ever!!!!

Staring at the words on the baby grow as if I had never seen English words before, it took me all of about 30 seconds to comprehend what I was seeing….my head whipped up at an alarming rate and the incredulity on my face was something to behold. You’re pregnant??? A tearful nod from the Mother-to-be and I was out of my chair in a flash, absolutely hysterical with unadulterated joy. I never knew sounds like that could come out of my body!!

At just on 3pm on the 12th May 2018 I got the best news ever!!! I was gong to be a Granny!! Oh how much I had hoped that my daughter would one day have a baby, for her to experience the exquisite joy of being a Mother, of holding that tiny little mite in her arms and know that she was the lifelong guardian of that precious bundle. For years I had hoped that she would have this experience and now finally it was true; she was to be a Mother and I was to be a Granny.

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

I’m going to be a Granny

The tears flowed and the questions flew…when was it due? How are you feeling? What now? OMG is this really true and many many more. Once we had all settled down and the enormity of the news settled like a mantle over my shoulders, I realised that my life had changed exponentially and would never be the same again.

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

this is what was nestled inside the Daddy’s box ๐Ÿ™‚

They had their first scan done just the day before ๐Ÿ™‚

first grandchild, we're expecting a baby, i'm going to be a granny

Due in January and just the size of a poppy seed ๐Ÿ™‚

Isn’t that just the most miraculous image in the world!!! And so the adventure begins!

 

 

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A few days ago I looked at my calendar and suddenly realised that this ‘big’ pilgrimage of mine that I have been talking about for months was only 3.5 months away!!! Shock and horror. Where has the time gone and how did this suddenly creep up on me. Although I have joined the #walk1000miles challenge for 2018 again, I have been quite lazydasical about getting out and walking….always at the back on my mind is the thought of ‘hey, I walked 240 kms across Portugal and Spain last year on my Camino’ ergo I should be fit!! Uhm, no!! Not really. In reality I’ve really slacked off and once I reached the magic number of 1000 miles in 2017, my brain said “okay, enough already, time for a break”.

Then we had winter. Enough said on THAT subject. Urgh. Mind you I was lucky enough to experience snowfall in Montgomery, Wales that turned the world magical.

snow in wales, snowing in the uk, winter wonderland,

the WW2 Monument in Montgomery

However……with the prospect of 136 miles from Winchester to Canterbury ahead of me, the realisation that I best kick my ass into gear has hit home.

pilgrimage winchester to canterbury, the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, pilgrims chapel winchester, pilgrims chapel canterbury, following the pilgrims way

Pilgrims’s Chapels Winchester and Canterbury

And so I have started training in earnest once again and boy has my fitness level dropped since September 2017. Blimey. So, although I have managed just over 373 kms/ 233 miles since 01.01.2018, I figured I best get my act together and do some serious walking again.

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

3 in 1 : North Downs Way, Vanguard Way, Greenwich Meridian Way,

I’ve been working in Oxted since 01.05 and I’ve managed a few walks up to and through the Titsey estate, some of which takes me along the Pilgrim’s Way on the North Downs, albeit just a little way.

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

The Pilgrim’s Way, North Downs, Oxted

The brilliant aspect of the walks in this area is that there’s a substantial amount of uphill walking which is giving me an excellent cardiovascular workout. The first day I did that I thought my heart was going to pop right out of my chest!!

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

a good cardiovascular workout

This was a tad disappointing since last year, when I was working here, I used to follow that route almost daily and after a few weeks was climbing to the top of the ridge, hardly out of breath. Clearly my fitness levels have indeed dropped.

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

walking along the North Downs

Walking in this area is always a pleasure and the views from whichever level you choose to walk are spectacular, at any time of the year.

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, titsey place

View from the ridge; Titsey House in the distance

And now on the cusp of summer is no exception. The trees are sprouting leaves by the million; some of which are that fantastic luminescent green that seems otherworldly.

the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

summer greens

The rapeseed fields are ablaze with tiny bright yellow blooms that spread like butter across the landscape, so bright you could surely see them from space!

rapeseed fields, the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

Bright yellow rapeseed fields

I’ve seen a few walkers, quite a few dogs and a number of rabbits. The weather has been spectacular albeit very hot for long distance walking. We had loads of rain over the previous weeks and the ground in many areas has been sodden, like a quagmire and traversing these areas has been a bit of a challenge!! I took a walk through a small copse of trees hoping to see bluebells like last year’s crop…but sadly most of them have already faded.

bluebells, the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

just a smattering of bluebells left

I’m mindful of the fact that we may well have a lot of rain in August and September, in which case I’ll have to be walking through said quagmires which is decidedly unpleasant…..I may just have to get the wellies out! LOL But I’m hoping for days like this..

titsey place, the pilgrims way north downs, follow the pilgrims way, pilgrims way winchester to canterbury

across the fields at Titsey Place

And so the training has begun in earnest. I’m planning on walking from Broadstairs to Folkestone in the coming weeks and that should give me a good workout as I’ll be walking with Pepe (my backpack) fully loaded. As always Gemini (my walking poles) are in hand to support me on my walks. I really love those poles now and feel quite naked when I walk without them.

Titsey Place and Gardens

Titsey Place and Gardens

 

 

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I saw this graph going around the various Camino pages on Facebook and thought I’d share it with you.

How interesting to see where people are from, and which routes they walk.

Camino statistics 2017

Camino statistics 2017

I must admit that I was surprised at how few people were from the UK.

It’s also useful to note that not all pilgrims register for a Compostela on arrival at Santiago. I met quite a few pilgrims who were walking their 3rd or 4th Camino and weren’t bothered about getting a Compostela (certificate). So I guess the numbers are higher than shown here.

As for myself, I’ll be sure to obtain a Compostela for every Camino I complete ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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The 2 seasons I love the most are spring and autumn. The vibrant colours at each end of the spectrum vibrate with their own special energy.

The colour of Spring is yellow;

Fabulous daffodils

Daffodils in Limpsfield

Daffodils in Limpsfield

Gorgeous tulips

Tulips at Titsey Place

Tulips at Titsey Place

And beautiful rapeseed fields

Rapeseed fields Surrey

Yellow rapeseed fields in Surrey

What a joy it is to see this fabulous sunshiney colour spread far and wide in wild abandon.

How can you not feel happy when you see these glorious flowers.

Hello spring

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On 11th September 2017 I set off on my first Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, via the Portuguese Coastal Route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca and the Central Way from Tui to Santiago; 240 kms along one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

Portugal was fantastic and I enjoyed the most wonderful weather and scenery along the whole route. My favourite towns were Vila do Conde, Caminha and Valenca, then the delightful Padron in Spain and of course the 2 cities: Porto and Santiago (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

I was very lucky to witness the swinging of the botafumeiro at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral on the night after I arrived. It was a phenomenal sight with hundreds of pilgrims gathered in the cathedral to give thanks for a safe journey and to witness this amazing event.

Apparently the botafumeiro is swung every Friday evening at mass and at other times/days if someone pays to have it swung. It’s not a given at every service. I can however recommend attending the pilgrim service even if, like me, you are not religious. It’s a beautiful building that resonates with the history of the aeons, of the prayers of the thousands if not millions of pilgrims who have humbly knelt there for religious reasons, and filled with the gratitude of pilgrims who are quite simply happy to have arrived safe and in one piece…and even some who have not….blisters being the most common ailment.

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After a few months of excitement and anticipation, on the 26th April, just a few days after my birthday, I finally experienced a flight in a Spitfire.

flight in a spitfire, biggin hill heritage hangar, ww2 spitfire, flying in a spitfire

just before the victory roll, which was absolutely amazing

My wonderful daughter had booked me on a full-on Spitfire flight for my birthday. What an extraordinary experience.

flight in a spitfire, biggin hill heritage hangar, ww2 spitfire, flying in a spitfire

coming back down to earth…my wonderful daughter

From the time we arrived till we left a few hours later, the on-site staff were welcoming, cheerful, helpful and informative…clearly love what they do.

Don, the pilot, was absolutely terrific and made my flight so special; from the time I climbed on board till I disembarked, totally exhilarated, he ensured that my flight was interesting and informed – talking me through the take off process, pointing out landmarks and executing that ‘freaking amazing’ Victory Roll. We saw so many amazing sights from the air; flying from Biggin Hill across Kent to Folkestone, then along the coast past Dover – a fantastic view of Dover Castle, Deal – another castle, Sandwich, Ramsgate, Broadstairs (I could see our house from the air ๐Ÿ™‚ ), Margate and finally Whitstable, where we turned back inland.

The coastline is stunningly beautiful and I thrilled at the views. I could even see Calais in the distance!!!

We flew over Leeds Castle which looks as amazing from the air as on the ground, past Canterbury; the cathedral standing out like a beacon, and as we approached the Medway I could see Rochester Cathedral and Castle in the distance. One thing that did surprise me was how close the River Thames is to the River Medway!!! In the far distance I could distinctly see Canary Wharf and the City of London! amazing.

flight in a spitfire, biggin hill heritage hangar, ww2 spitfire, flying in a spitfire

Don the pilot and me

 

The whole flight was absolutely thrilling and if there were a 100 star rating, I would give it 100 stars. Don, the pilot, made the flight so special by pointing out landmarks….I felt safe and comfortable throughout the whole flight. I loved the victory roll and wish I had asked if we could do it again!!! LOL I was so trepidatious beforehand but oh my word….it was so much fun.

flight in a spitfire, biggin hill heritage hangar, ww2 spitfire, flying in a spitfire

safe landing

After I reluctantly landed, and came back down to earth again, we were treated to a tour of the hangars – it was absolutely thrilling to see so many of these beautiful craft at close quarters, as well as many others.

flight in a spitfire, biggin hill heritage hangar, ww2 spitfire, flying in a spitfire

hello! we’ve landed

This truly was a unique experience, something I will never forget. The in-flight videos that were provided as part of the package were a fantastic bonus and so far we’ve watched them a number of times LOL It certainly brought back all the thrill of the flight for me. I’ve made a short compilation of photos and videos. Needless to say…I did cry LOL… it was either that or scream from sheer exhilaration.

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