Center Parcs, Ceroc, Daily Life, Dancing, Kite flying, Moving house, Writer's Blog

Finding the positives from 2018

I am no different to everybody else. My family have their fair share of ups and downs, sadness and tragedies but nobody wants to hear about all of that nonsense. The glum stuff is for keeping hidden behind closed doors and away from prying eyes. I don’t want to depress my readers, especially this close to Christmas.

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I wanted to share some of the awesome times from the past year. There have been some real highlights and some great times so read on for a bit of a positive vibe.

The end of the staffing struggle

After a period of ups and downs, advertising, searching and interviews, we finally secured two excellent IT Technicians, and not a moment too soon. I had spent the previous months trying hard to manage the IT department as well as do the job of one or two technicians so I was very grateful to secure an amazing team. Life is certainly much calmer at work nowadays.

Settling times

My son, Daniel, secured himself a job at a local private hospital, after a period of insecurity as the cafe he was managing was going through changes and, subsequently, closure. He loves his work and is now much more settled. His issues following his brain surgeries over the past years seem to have settled and the side effects are now bearable, even if they have not subsided. He has rid himself of a troublesome and unreliable flatmate, turning his spare room into a games room – what else?

More settling times

My daughter and her husband were able to finalise the purchase of their first home. A beautiful four-bedroomed detached house on a new development outside of Norwich. They had rented since they first got together and are so pleased to have overcome a far-higher-than-normal number of snagging issues. I don’t think they will buy from Charles Church/Persimmon anytime in the future but they now have a fabulous home. They also secured great new jobs this year so all is well in the Woods world.

New addition

At the start of September, we welcomed the newest addition to our family – a gorgeous granddaughter, called Harper. Her parents are my husband’s oldest son and his lovely fiancee. Harper is now just over three months old and she is an adorable delight. I have genuinely never encountered such a contented baby. This has given us a great excuse to travel a couple of hours down the road to visit them and their little family as often as we can. We have also made new friends, Harper’s maternal grandparents, Pauline and Guy. You can never have too many new friends and we look forward to getting to know them better each time we visit.

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Speaking of new friends

When I mention new friends, it seems wrong not to mention old friends. We have so many friends and acquaintances through our hobby, dancing. We have far too many friends to mention but it’s worth mentioning that we almost lost touch completely with a few of our friends, because we became wrapped up in a couple of quietly-controlling dancing friends who monopolised our weekends and, through the medium of sneaky comments and suggestions, we almost, but not quite, completely lost touch with some very good friends who we had known and become close to, through dancing for years. Luckily, we were given a lifeline when those friends suddenly and unexpectedly became jealous of our visiting alternative dance venues and enjoying any dancing time without them. It’s funny how the penny suddenly drops and you feel freer than you have done for months. We realised we had become too reliant on these two, quite frankly, dull friends. The upshot is that we now have more dancing friends than ever and have rekindled an almost-lost friendship. We are both eternally grateful for all of our dear friends.

Not losing Mum

This time last year, Mum was not looking like she would be able to crawl her way to Christmas but, with some lifestyle changes, plenty of drugs and intervention from doctors, she is still with us all. Mum may not be in the best of health – far from it – but we are lucky to have had her with us for another year.

Workmates 

Turnover of staff has meant a number of new additions to the school over the past months and I am lucky to be blessed with some lovely people in my working life.  I am not generally one for socialising with colleagues but with such a lovely bunch it is difficult not to keep in touch.

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Blogging and writing pages

I have almost completed my Comprehensive Creative Writing course which I am taking with the Writers Bureau and, as part of this course, it was suggested that I set up a blog and start sharing my unpublished works on my site and social media pages. This has been a successful starting year to my writing. I have had a handful of short stories published, a couple of poems and have started to build a portfolio which I am secretly quite impressed with. I have the starting chapters of four novels rattling around in my laptop but have not yet decided which one will take my full attention in 2019. Watch this space for more!

New gnashers

I am not going to go on and on about my new teeth but I am seriously pleased with them. From my baby teeth, I have always had a large gap in the front which I hated from High School when I was bullied about them. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a dentist who, over the past few months, has created me some new teeth with no gap at all. Everything feels nice and secure and they look better than they ever have done. That’s all I am going to say but its a huge positive!

A REAL summer

There was a lot of grumbling, and yes I do realise just how hot it was, but summer 2018 was awesomely warm. a few short weeks after heavy snowfall, we were beset with a glorious heatwave which lasted for most of the summer months. It was such a lovely season, I personally could not have asked for more beautiful summer weather. My husband and I were able to visit the beach and parks which gave him plenty of time to fly his kites (you can read all about this in some of my other posts) and me to do some writing.

Nieces and nephew

We are lucky enough to have three nieces and a nephew on my brother’s side. Somewhat ideally, they are aged 11, 9, 7 and 5 and they are a fabulous bunch. As with all of our family, we don’t see enough of them but have been  blessed to spend more time with them this year than ever before. We plan to do more next year so they will soon be bored with us!

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Winter Wonderland

We decided to pay for a holiday to Center Parcs, just a few miles down the road from us in Elveden, while the Winter Wonderland was in full swing. The whole resort is lit up for Christmas with sparkling white lights adorning the woodland pathways, and numerous seasonal events taking place around the site. Its truly beautiful and we made this a Christmas present for those who came with us. We hired a huge four-bedroomed lodge, each bedroom with its own en-suite. The lodge had a games room and a sauna as well as the usual kitchen, dining and living areas and was such a luxury to be there before Christmas. We loved it so much that we have booked again for next year with the addition of the new granddaughter and her mummy and daddy, too, who have never been there.

2018 has been such a positive year all round that the positives have far outweighed the negatives. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019 for all of my readers.

 

 

 

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Center Parcs, Daily Life, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Help! Mid-life crisis alert!

Does anybody, like me, wake up some mornings wishing they could start all over again, having made such a pig’s ear of their life so far? I am having one of those days today and I don’t usually write on bad days so this is new territory for me.

I have just returned from a midweek break with my husband, three of our children and our son-in-law at Center Parcs. We have been there lots of times before and always enjoy it for different reasons. This time, we booked ourselves into a luxurious executive lodge with four bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, and we also had a sauna and a games room boasting a pool table, a multitude of board games and an X-box.

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We often try something new and this time, along with spa sessions, badminton, table tennis, long walks and swimming, we booked ourselves onto a pottery painting session. We had so much fun all week but I have returned to normality feeling completely exhausted and extremely fed up.

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Before we left, I had been really good and managed to lose four pounds in weight as I was quickly becoming one of those frumpy, menopausal middle-aged ladies who I do not aspire to become. While we were away, I avoided the sweet shop, enjoyed just one dessert and made as many healthy choices as I could. I had half of a pizza one evening with some wedges but always had healthy breakfasts. I ensured I had plenty of exercise and my pedometer didn’t hit below 17,000 steps each day with one day reaching 28000 and another, 24,000. I kept track of everything using my weight loss app and assumed I would not lose anything while I was away and, at most, gain a pound or two. I was devastated to step onto the scales yesterday morning to find I had gained five pounds, in five days. It seems impossible to me that I could gain that much over such a short amount of time. So, on top of everything else, the diet/healthy eating has begun with a vengeance. It certainly has not helped my overall mood.

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The usual back-from-holiday washing was easy to plough through. Tracksuit bottoms, leggings, t-shirts and fleeces all being easy to dry and put away, no iron required. Job done.

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A small amount of cupboard re-stocking at Tesco, then we decided to use the free time to do some Christmas present shopping. We had been put in the mood for the forthcoming season as our break was Winter Wonderland themed, and numerous twinkling white lights,  Christmas trees, garlands and faux snow had set the scene, putting us in the mood for Christmas.  We even had a luxurious wreath on the front door of our accommodation.  The whole Parc was alight with Christmas, including an awesome midweek fireworks display culminating, for the benefit of the younger guests, with Santa arriving along one of the zip wires across the festively-lit water sports lake.

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Returning to the shopping, both of us were physically tired, but we ambled around the city centre shops and successfully purchased a number of gifts. Pleased with our achievements, we headed home to snuggle up with a healthy vegetable risotto and to watch Strictly and catch up on some previously recorded TV programmes.

I still couldn’t shake the feeling of doom and gloom which had settled over me. Nagging at the back of my mind was my mum, who has been ill for a few years but had plateaued lately. Before we left, we had batch-cooked a bunch of pies and delivered to her freezer and agreed we would pick her up and take her over to see my daughter and son-in-law’s beautiful new home, recently purchased and now ready for visitors. As suspected, when we called her to arrange times she told us she didn’t feel well enough to go over. It’s possible that she didn’t but there is always a reason not to do something and I knew she wouldn’t bother before I even called. Then I started to beat myself up for being so heartless.  I know she is poorly and it must be very hard but she is her own worst enemy. She doesn’t encourage visitors and refuses to go anywhere. This results in my brother and sister-in-law, and my husband and I being poked at if we don’t visit enough. Its harder than you would imagine, to visit a poorly mother who you have never felt close to. There has always been an acidic relationship between me and my mum and, even though she is ill and alone, I have to psych myself to even call her as she drives me mad. Call me heartless, call me a bitch but it is how I feel.

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The trouble is, and I don’t mean trouble in the usual sense because it isn’t, we have five children of our own, all grown up, and my husband also has a mother who is also on her own. We each have a brother and sister-in-law and don’t spend nearly enough time with them all. We also have a new granddaughter who lives a two hour drive away so we have to factor in visiting to see that part of our family, too. We both work full time and my husband is physically tired in the evenings while I can’t resist checking my emails out of hours and helping with problems where I am able. As Manager of the IT Services department of a busy private school, sometimes issues need to be dealt with there and then.

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We used to dance two or three times a week but, as life takes over and changes happen, we are lucky to dance once a week and maybe twice if we have the energy. We always dance on a Wednesday night as I have a regular commitment to demoing while my husband is a Taxi Dancer, helping beginner dancers, on alternate weeks. This cut down in dance nights surely isn’t helping my fight with weight either.

On a Sunday, we have started meeting friends and/or family and I go off on a three mile walk while my husband takes off on his mountain bike with a friend, or joins us walking on other occasions. We keep as active as our commitments allow.

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We have two more breaks planned for the near future. The first is a dance weekender at a luxurious local holiday centre and it encompasses my 50th birthday while we are there. I am not looking forward to being fifty one jot. I already feel tired and listless and the only burst of energy I get is when I step out onto the dance floor. Maybe I missed dancing while we were away last week. It’s only one week but I guess I didn’t get my fix. There are plans for a birthday celebration while we are at the weekender with dance friends so that will be nice.

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We have another long weekend booked with my brother- and sister-in-law at the start of May which we are looking forward to. We haven’t thought further ahead than that.

So, I have a few reasons for feeling so low right now. Post-holiday blues, weight gain, fast-approaching age of fifty and an aged, ailing mother.

However, I have so much to be thankful for. I have the most caring, supportive, fun-loving and amazing husband I could wish for. Between us we have our five grown-up children, one of them married to our lovely son-in-law, one settled with his fiancee and their baby daughter and three who have yet to settle down but have good jobs and plenty of years ahead of them. I worry endlessly about them all, but never quite feel I give them each enough of my time. While they are mostly more than capable, I have been around a lot more years and so I like to be able to offer guidance and support as needed.

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If anyone out there has the answer to what is clearly my very own mid-life crisis, I would be grateful for all suggestions. So far, I have spent the weekend exhausted and crying hard enough to give myself a headache.

Center Parcs, Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

Winter Wonderland, day one

Of the quick Tesco breakfast, we were really not keen,

The trays full of eggs on the counter, we’d seen,

You cant have them scrambled and Benedict, no,

There is no salmon either, the choices were low.

 

Spirits still soaring, to the road we all made,

The convoy of three, we were not dismayed,

At the Parc entrance, we are greeted with snow,

Adorning the trees and the sign down below.

 

Parked up and ready, we grab our swim bags,

Head for the Center, our speed did not lag,

We’ve all been before, so we know all the drills,

So we head for the Starbucks, for hydration refills.

 

Building our energy, of work we’re relieved,

Make for the Plaza, racquets to retrieve,

An hour filled with badminton, we just did not stop,

Expending our energy, day one from the top.

 

Bump into colleagues and people we know,

Gives us a chance to stop, go say hello,

Time up, more hydration then head for the pool,

This place like a sauna, we need to get cool,

 

Swim, seems like hours, is really quite fun,

We shattered but this week only just begun,

The rapids and slides, a source of our squeals,

Racing each other, keep close to their heels.

 

Head to our lodge to unpack and have food,

Have planned for a barbie, we are all in the mood,

Bagged are the bedrooms, our gear is unpacked,

The barbecue started, the coals they are stacked.

 

Chilled and exhausted, we plan for a stroll,

Head for the bar, and some cheeky alcohol,

Everyone’s tired we are done in by nine,

Head back for a sauna, its time to unwind.

 

Day one almost over, we’ve all had a blast,

Do it again tomorrow, this fun it will last,

Archery for the boys, ladies spa morning ahead,

But for now, no more energy, we are going to bed!

 

 

Center Parcs, Places to write

Center Parcs Day 4 and 5

This morning is Spa morning. Originally planned for the morning after dancing but has turned out to be the morning after getting a stiff neck and back from watching football, instead. No break at Center Parcs is complete, in my opinion, without a trip to the Aqua Sana spa for treatments, spa sessions or both.

With numerous steam rooms and saunas on offer, set around the revitalising outdoor quad complete with spa pool where you can enjoy powerful jets and bubbles to massage away the aches and pains. There is a zen garden on the lower level and balconies with various styles of relaxing seating on the upper level. Water beds, both single and double are their for your relaxation, along with a supply of cool, but not chilled, water and fruit for your enjoyment. The compulsory softly piped relaxation music fills the air and unidentifiable fellow guests adorned in white spa robes and towels wander around in a truly zoned out of the real world state.

Hubby and I had just left the intense heat of the Tyrolean Sauna, he had headed to the ice fountain whilst I was braving the tropical rain shower – when I say braving I managed as far as my upper arms, squealed a little too loudly, and stepped straight out. Gone are the days when I would launch myself full on into the plunge pool with my children! I emerged to find hubby talking to his nephew who had apparently started working at Center Parcs only a few months previously. We had spent the usual amount on entry to the Spa and we discovered that if we had known he worked at the Center and had contacted him he would have been able to get us in on the best mates rates EVER – a fiver each! Will be storing that little gem for future reference, indeed. He visits the spa before starting his shift on many occasions – what better way to prepare for a day as a busy lifeguard?

We opted for the Pancake House for our lunch as we had not visited there before. In hindsight, we could have chosen from either sweet or savoury pancakes, but in our innocence, some might call it greed, we felt that etiquette dictated we have a savoury followed by a sweet. Who wouldn’t – now be honest! Wow! We were so stuffed that we positively rolled from the restaurant, bloated and ready to relax. Heading for the beach at the edge of the watersports lake, we found ourselves two sun loungers and melted into them with ease.

Only managing an hour or two of sunshine, as it was by this time very intense, we showered back at the apartment and headed back to the centre for the last evening of this break. We found ourselves at the end of the children’s disco when the DJ was hotting up for the remainder of the evening. We were in the mood for a dance, we hadn’t danced all week which was unusual for us, so we found a secluded spot where we wouldn’t look like we were showing off and had a few dances. No dance shoes meant dancing bare foot but we ended up dancing until midnight. We didn’t partner dance Ceroc all evening but had a fun jigging session. Was such a great vibe. The DJ was excellent and knew how to keep a floor filled with modern music and a fair bit of cheesy thrown in.

Dancing with no shoes results in this mess:

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Our last day was a simple one. We packed up the car and vacated our apartment by nine. We had breakfast at Foresters Inn – a hearty full English if you please – followed by badminton at the centre. I didn’t win but was a close second. We walked, we sunbathed on the beach and had lunch and coffee on the terrace above the village centre. Beautiful sunshine kept us there until mid afternoon when we decided to leave for home. This has been such a great week. Hubby is truly the best company I could have asked for. We have laughed over 95% of the time, with the other 5% given to my complaining about being saddle sore from cycling for one day. At least I have proved my point and we wont be hiring those dreaded two wheeled monstrosities next time.

 

 

Center Parcs, Places to write

Center Parcs Days 2 and 3

Having promised hubby we would have a day at the main lake while he fished, here we are, two portable but comfy chairs, his fishing gear, can’t tell you what it is or what each bit does – I know what the rod is – because I wasn’t really paying attention during that lesson. We won’t be needing the sun cream which we optimistically packed as it is overcast and quite chilly, although maybe when then day reaches a sociable hour it might warm up a little.

Sitting here, by the lake, has given me the chance to write, albeit with a pen and paper rather than anything electronic – I am accident prone and wasn’t about to tempt fate so close to the water’s edge. If you are reading this on my blog it has been carefully edited and typed up at a later date. I have written my blog post, sorted out some acrostic poems which I promised for a dinner party at the weekend and started to write an erotic story for my next coursework assignment.

Boredom crept in so I have just returned from a lovely long walk on the pretext of needing the toilet and lovingly bringing my fisherman a coffee from Starbucks in the village square. Several leg stretching wanders later, saw me return with sandwiches, crisps, soft drinks, chocolate and tales of my viewing of various outdoor activities ranging from the brave to the downright heart stopping – and I was the firmly grounded one.

Fisherman husband was a happy bunny, having caught over thirty roach and silverback fish (I saw many of these catches – almost ended up face-slapped by one when he wrestled it from the grasp of a very cunning baby Grebe who spent his day watching hubby’s rods very closely!) On one occasion, I returned from a walkabout to find hubby grinning widely, happily showing me a photo of the 3lb Bream he had landed while chatting to a fellow fisherman.

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Five hours and more later, we deposited the fishing gear back at the apartment, the smelly net being left on the balcony to dry out , we showered and headed back to the village centre for a game of badminton. We purchased our court midway through a session so we ‘lucky’ enough to have a session and a half, over an hour, of sweaty rallies. I cannot explain enough just how much my husband giggles – I don’t mean laughs, I genuinely do mean giggles like a girl, while we are playing badminton. He giggles at good shots, he giggles at missed shots and generally becomes a bit strange. But there is never a dull moment. I have discovered that if you mention enough times how lovely the day has been (while hubby has been wallowing in fisherman’s heaven) and you tire him out immediately afterwards, he will take you to a Steak Night hosted by Café Rouge where you can both relax and enjoy food, copious amounts if you opt for dessert – I felt it would be rude not to partake so ordered a huge Eton Mess Sundae (his dessert, while richer was much smaller so I was good enough to share a little…) Having notched up over 22,000 steps on my Fitbit – that’s a lot of lakeside avoidance I can tell you – I felt I deserved it.

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I have not devoted a whole blog page to day three of our break as we had a luxuriously non-strenuous day of doing not much at all.  Our plan had been to go to our usual dance class in Thetford which is only ten minutes from Center Parcs, and hubby would go to a local pub to watch the England vs Croatia semi final match as I was due to demo and had to be there. However, plans changed when we discovered that the class had been cancelled because of the football – a kick in the teeth for non football fans but sensible decision due to lower expected numbers on the night. Instead we quite literally lounged around the Sports Café, secretly securing a good spot for the game along with numerous others of the same idea. The vibe was a good one and we enjoyed coffees, alcohol, snacks and laughter all day, until the moment that Croatia scored their second, and ultimately, winning goal. Even then it was with a pride over how well England have fought for this placing, that we left the centre in good spirits, albeit a little disappointed.

Center Parcs, Places to write

Center Parcs Day 1

If I have calculated correctly, this is my 13th break at Center Parcs in Elveden. Samey, some might say but in seventeen years it’s become our favourite place and I confess we plan to return again before 2018 is over.
This is our second stay in the Breckland apartments, somehow we have managed to book the same room as last year. The apartments are lovely, a view over the golf course and just a few steps from the Aqua Sana, most convenient.

Once the car is parked and the cases unpacked, you enter a whole other world. Set in the beautiful forest, sharing a habitat with grey squirrels, roe deer and muntjacs, rabbits and a multitude of bird species, you are never more than a few steps away from awesome.

I had vowed to hire bikes with my husband on this occasion so we dutifully collected them, feelings most definitely mixed. I haven’t been on one for around eight years but it really was like riding a bike. Contrary to expectations, off I cycled without trepidation.

We enjoyed a couple of hours in the swimming pool which was busy with both departing and arriving families. The rapids were constantly busy and, fearing for the loss of my teeth, I waited patiently for gaps between bodies before daring to venture down them.

Tiredness overcame us so instead of eating out we headed to the Parc Market to buy pizza to cook back at the apartment. This we enjoyed on our balcony and, once rested, we headed back out to explore on the bikes.

I spent lots of time stopping to film deer and birds and, after a general mooch, around we both agreed that exploring the site was better on foot, with more time to take in surroundings and wildlife. Not to mention the unmentionable – my poor bum and bits which were already saddle sore.

We’ll return the bikes to the cycle centre later in the week. They can sit quietly in the cycle park outside the apartments until we do.