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.

 

 

 

Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Ceroc Christmas Party at the Carnegie Room, Thetford

Driving through sheets of windswept rain, attempting to keep the car from veering over the white lines, our spirits couldn’t be dampened.

We were headed for the annual Ceroc Christmas party with our Ceroc Thetford family, among others. Of all the parties, this was one we really didn’t want to miss.

Clive, ever the gentleman, dropped me at the door, allowing me to avoid as much of the torrential downpour as possible, and went off to park the car nearby.

We had arrived early, as arranged, to help Anna and Steve with the buffet preparations and lighting, along with Matty, so there was plenty of time for a chat before the guests started to arrive.

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And arrive they did. Prepaid party-goers were guaranteed, but we were surprised at how keen so many ‘pay-on-the-door’ dancers were, considering the dreadful weather conditions. Nothing was going to stop them last night and the dance floor was soon filled with festively happy faces.

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Sylvia and Rob arrived and were quick to set up their table which groaned under the weight of raffle prizes, continuing their fundraising to help the Ugandan orphans.

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With the dance floor warming up nicely, it was soon time for the customary ice-breaker class with Steve. Three packed rows of dancers soon became four and the fun lesson began. Steve’s three moves, intermediate and with a spattering of footwork, were enough to warm up the dancers and, for those who needed it, enable them to get to know one another.

By the time the twenty minute class was finished, the buffet was open and the party could begin.  Steve, as well as being the teacher, was the DJ for the evening and invited music requests while promising to throw in as many dance-worthy Christmas tunes as he could. He did a fabulous job and the dance floor was busy right up until the last tune was played at midnight.

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The buffet was kept well-stocked, with roasted vegetable crisps, sausage rolls, cheese straws, satsumas, mince pies and chocolate fingers being among the firm favourites.

Party outfits for the evening ranged from Christmas jumpers and tinsel wrapped dresses to sparkly party attire and be-sequined shirts often only reserved for the Strictly dance floor.

Following a gift of a mistletoe sprig from Sylvia, Anna had some fun on the door as dancers entered. As word spread, some of those who had missed the mistletoe fun, headed back to the door for a giggle.

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Dennis, Ceroc Fusion’s photographer, worked his camera tirelessly around the floor, capturing the mood of the evening. As you can imagine, photographing dancers mid-move while keeping both in shot and avoiding fuzzy movement pictures and tonsil-shots of the incessant sing-along-ers is not an easy task.

The second of the Ceroc Fusion Christmas parties was a resounding success. With one more party taking place at North Walsham next week, following the usual Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday regular class nights, there is still more Ceroc Fusion Christmas fun to be had this season.

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Ceroc, Dancing, Poem, Writer's Blog

Back at The Dance Ranch

Decision is made, dressed and ready to go,

One more sweep of make-up, its Christmas you know,

Head to the city, our nerves are on high,

Wild Stallion awaits, so much time has passed by.

***

Car parked, bags ready, we head to the door,

Arms opened widely from friends by the door,

Ambient dance floor, the feel festively so,

Garlands abound, Christmas lights are aglow.

***

Tunes spilling forth from our Rob on the decks,

Wide smiling greets us from Anna, at the desk,

Time for a drink, the choices discussed,

Refreshments aplenty, rehydration a must.

***

Eight strikes the clock sitting high on the wall,

The floor starts to fill, we are having a ball,

One dance, another, then grabbed for one more,

In need of a drink, I dart from the floor.

***

No rest I’m allowed because here comes another,

Gentleman dancer, hand proffered, its no bother,

Gulp down a few mouthfuls, my throat to hydrate,

Head back to the dance floor, we’ve hips to gyrate.

***

Rob spins a tune and one thing comes to mind,

Hurry on down to dance to a Nu Line,

Giggles, true laughter, down the line we can hear,

Nicky and Clive ham up wiggles, oh dear!

***

Not one dull moment, this freestyle can bring,

Dancing with friends, and chatting in the wings,

Great to see friends we’ve not seen for an age,

Time for a shake up, time for a new page.

***

Nibbles depleted, the music is over

Its time to now to go, at the door we all hover,

Christmas greetings are many for those we won’t see,

The season is busy, many places to be.

***

Plans made for dates in the future, not far,

More dancing freestyles to come, near and far,

Next week is for jumpers seasonally adorned,

To wear at all venues, to the theme we have warmed.

***

Greetings over shoulders as we go into the night,

Hugs and more kisses as we bid friends, goodnight,

This dance night’s been awesome, my feet are quite sore,

In just a few days and we’ll be dancing some more!

***

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.

Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Tips for a safer dance floor!

People sometimes display the strangest, often not the safest, habits on the dance floor and here are some observations.

The drinks carrier

Why would you even consider crossing a dance floor, whether it is packed or empty, with a drink in your hand? I can, in some small way, understand crossing an empty hall but when the same hall is likely to be packed with scores of dancers later in the evening, surely even the slightest of spillages is going to be a hazard? During busy dance nights I have often witnessed people carrying drinks straight across the floor, through dancers spinning and moving in all directions and I can but wonder whether they stop to think what would happen if one of those dancers were to plough into them with their drinks. Liquid spillage would cause untold mayhem, and often does, when a simple walk around the edge of the room would cause far less danger.

Ignoring your partner

When you learn to partner dance, one thing you are taught early on is to keep eye contact with your partner and especially with their hands. Without such observation, the follower would have no idea what move is coming next, which direction to move in and which offered hand to hold onto. Interaction between dancers is key to reacting to such visual cues and leads. As the lead it is important to look at your partner for safety reasons to allow you to gauge how to be an effective leader. Its no use zoning out midway through a dance, and then expect the dance to go well.

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Trying to lead a partner who is drunk

Partner dancing requires concentration and coordination (see above) and dancers who come along to dance events well under the influence of alcohol are often putting other dancers in danger of injury. While it is not seen very often, once now and again we see a dancer arrive at a dance having had quite a bit to drink, and then to continue drinking throughout the evening. Their dancing becomes more erratic and they pull harder as they try to stay upright because of impaired balance. My own husband has suffered a shoulder injury when trying to lead a clearly inebriated lady who was flinging herself around with abandonment. He politely asked her if they could finish the dance early, and he led her back to her seat but a lot of dancers do not have the confidence to do that. It is our responsibility to remain alert and capable of leading or following.

Bumping into other dancers

Inevitably, bumps will sometimes happen although not as often as you might imagine. Most dancers are aware of the space around them and lead their partners into free space with confidence. However, the odd bump is always going to happen and the only way to resolve such incidents is to check over your shoulder (for example) that all is well with the other couple, smile and politely mouth the word ‘sorry’ and move on, a little more carefully. Minor collisions can mostly be avoided but do happen. Be kind and remember nobody bumps into you intentionally.

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Treating a beginner like an advanced dancer

Dance teachers cannot reiterate enough, how important it is not to dance above your partner’s level. This is more applicable when your partner is a beginner but always be aware of limitations. Some dancers do not want to be dropped almost to the floor or may have injuries which restrict some moves. Mostly, the dancer will tell you if they need you to be careful, but always be aware of your partners level which you can often gauge by how comfortable they appear. In general, when dancing with someone for the first time it is good etiquette to start off with easier to follow moves, progressing until you feel you have matched their level. Most dancers do want to be stretched (figuratively) to their limits and learn new moves but do it with manners and take it down a level or two if they appear to struggle.

Let’s have a lesson right here, right now

If a partner doesn’t follow your move, don’t stop the dance and try to become a teacher in the middle of the dance floor. Unless they ask you to show them by stepping through the move, they would more than likely prefer you to carry on dancing and either sneak the move in again with a clearer lead or leave it out. Its quite embarrassing to be stopped in the middle of a crowded floor to be shown how to do a move which you have clearly not followed, often because it was not led well in the first place.

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The hand hold pressure

One of the first items covered in a beginner class is the hand hold. Ceroc dance leads are told to offer their hands at waist height with palms facing inwards and with thumbs as far away from the follower’s hands as possible. Thumbs are not there to press on the back of the follower’s hand and they are most definitely not there to stroke your partner! The grip should be loose enough for escape to be possible but just firm enough to push against each other and for the lead and follow to take place with ease. The follower drapes their hand over the lead’s offered hands in a hook shape with wrists low. Again, thumbs should be kept well out of the way. Neither one of you should be squeezing the other’s hands, a gentle grip is far more conducive to a flowing dance, whereas a tight grip can hurt the dance partner.

Be honest if you are being manhandled!

If, during a dance, you feel any physical discomfort – maybe a move twisted your shoulder or your lead is being unintentionally rough – you should feel able to mention it quietly. Most dancers will be more than happy to adjust their moves to prevent this from happening but if it continues, never feel afraid to make your excuses and leave the dance floor. Nobody should suffer injury or feel unsafe on the dance floor.

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Don’t dip if in doubt

If you plan to dip your partner, make sure there is plenty of room around you and you have a firm grip on your partner, who you will already have ensured is capable. On occasion, ladies being dipped have hit the floor and injured themselves, actually been dropped or crashed as they are dipped int someone else’s dance space. You look a fool if you don’t do this properly and you risk injury and embarrassment to your dance partner. If in doubt, leave it out!

Remember, every dancer deserves to be treated politely and safely on the dance floor. let’s keep it a friendly, fun and accident-free zone.