this is lemonade

A mindful, grateful, creative life: Life constantly hurls lemons at us. I’m on a mission to make lemonade as best I can, by God’s grace.

Malvern Hills


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Scaling heights: Queens and high hills

If I believed in previous lives I could, without a doubt, tell you that I was an ostrich. Actually, forget about multiple reincarnations. I am an ostrich mocked up as a human being. (I just got a picture of that. It’s ridiculous.) I am an expert in living in denial, pretending like it’s never going to happen so that it will go away. At times, I have been known to completely refuse to prepare for something that is bound to happen, because I feel so overwhelmed by what I have to face. I end up panicking and doing everything last minute, or even having to wing it. Stupid, I’m telling you. If only I could bring myself to pop over for tea with Her Majesty from time to time, I’d have been the first decorated ostrich in the Kingdom a long time ago. I am so accomplished at digging holes in sand where there isn’t even any sand around!

I do not just buckle at fears. I mean, this applies to how I tackle fail at packing for travel too. I see a myriad items and pieces of clothing that I have to collect from all corners of the house, and I envisage an organised and packed suitcase. And the conclusion I invariably draw, is that I can make the one turn into the other by sheer willpower and remaining completely immobile. A procrastinating ostrich is a terrible beast. I suppose much of my inaction is related to things I desperately do not want to do, places I do not want to go. I often have a choice in these matters, but I know that I should make the choice that I do not want to. So, I try to make it all go away by sticking my head stubbornly in the sand and chewing it.

Fears, as we all know, do not have to be rational. After we have talked ourselves into being ok with something, we can still get to the point of almost getting into gear to face it, only to suddenly and completely freeze. On the other hand, I have some real, deep-seated fears that propel me into positive action. The desire to overcome them, motivates me to try to tackle them.

I do not like heights. I know in my mind that there is nothing to fear, and yet my body will tense up and it will be a mission to keep going. What really annoys me, is that my fear is tied to my lack of confidence in my own body to keep me upright. I’m not even talking about scaling a high mountain. I’m talking about the inability to walk up a tame hillside when the wind is approaching from the wrong direction. Perhaps it isn’t so much a fear of heights, as a fear of falling. And it doesn’t have to be falling from a great height either. Perhaps my fear is of a loss of control. Of stumbling into an indefinite slide and tumble…I fear…hiking. There I’ve said it. Snigger all you like. It absolutely infuriates me.

I LOVE the outdoors. I LOVE walking. When I lived in Hamburg, one of my favourite things was the German obsession with the Spaziergang. The culture of taking a leisurely walk with friends, combining with my other passion – a good ole natter. Finding a good coffee and cake or ice cream along the way never hurt either.

Alfred Wainwright is my hero, with his beautifully illustrated and fondly crafted pictorial guides to the Lakeland Fells including charming stories and anecdotes from walking over some of the most beautiful terrain in good ole Blighty. And yet, I had barely touched the foot of the gentle Barrow a couple of years ago, before the incline became too much to handle. Thankfully, there were few witnesses to my display of cowardice. One day, I will respectfully set foot on a little ridge somewhere in the Fells…

However, today’s story is a little more positive. There is hope yet.

Malvern Hills

Earlier this year, as the Olympic torch was passing through Stroud, I was on my way up the beautiful Malvern Hills. I took a gentle route starting not far below St Ann’s Well, approaching from a steep little road going away from town past some lovely cottages. I made my way up towards the Beacon, the highest point along this beautiful hill range. Most of the way has well laid footpaths to make it accessible to more people, although scree does make me nervous when I am going downhill. As you approach the Worcestershire Beacon however, there is a short part of the route that requires a gentle amble up well worn but slightly more undulating paths.

The weather was beautiful – sunny, but with a good breeze. Having almost reached the hilltop, the wind was quite spectacular. In fact, that was the reason why my walking companion wanted us to go up there. And, having made it to the top of the hill, except for another ten metres or so, that’s where I buckled. With the hillside gently sloping away, I settled in a little nook just below the summit, where there was shelter from the wind. I decided, I thought, that I had made it just shy of the top and it was a good achievement.

Malvern Hills

But then, I caught sight of the  toposcope at the very peak, designed by Malvern architect Arthur Troyte Griffith. To be precise, I caught sight of the words on the side of it that told me that it was erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Fortunately for me, I made my first ascent of the Malvern Hills in Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year, at a time when the country was in great anticipation of the Olympic Games. It gave me that extra impetus to brave the wind, and practically crawl up to the very summit. Yes indeed, Queen Vic gave me a kick up the bum and told me to do those last ten metres since I was up there already. I was not likely to get another chance to do something so momentous for another little while, so I might as well just do it.

So. I made it up to touch the toposcope. On the Worcestershire Beacon. At a mere 425 m  or 1,394 ft (according to Wikipedia). I’ll have you know, I clung on for dear life while we snapped a few photos for posterity. I will not show you them. The strong winds were whipping my hair upwards giving me an extra foot in height, even though I did have it tied back. To the traumatised cyclist out there somewhere, who had just approached via the ridge to witness a crazed woman shrieking and laughing manically, I apologise sincerely. The wind was buffeting around my ears, giving me the illusion that no one could hear the racket I was making… until I took those few steps back to the nook where I hid before and realised how beautifully quiet it was if one was not exposed to the wind…

But I will share with you, a souvenir of my little adventure:

Malvern Hills

To end, I may be mostly ostrich-like, but I do have my moments of brilliance when I will kick into reverse-ostrich mode and find some grit to make me do things that continue to amaze me afterwards. These moments may mean nothing to someone like the poor cyclist or a couple who preceded us up the hill, one with a child on his back and the other pushing a buggy with another child clambering about in front of her. But for me, they are moments where I made a brave decision, and half a year later that shrieking moment still makes me smile just thinking back to it. There is no lemonade bubblier and sweeter than that.

I hope that you will join me in braving those little challenges this coming week. We all have our fears. Others may dismiss them as silly, but if it is a fear for you, it is REAL. But it is yours to confront. You may not completely overcome the fear, but that shouldn’t stop you trying for those little victories. (Woohoo! *Punches the air*.)

Maybe one day I will tell you the story of the glacier and the fjord…

If you are interested, here is a YouTube video I stumbled across whilst writing this post. Jon Bywater kindly shot some footage of their little amble up the hill and it’s lovely.

and

I came across the following beautiful, inspiring and uplifting post by John D Burns on 3 December. I wanted to add a link so that I would remember it: Treasure In the Hills. It just made me smile! :)


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Frivolity and friendship (2)

This is my second award nomination post in a series of four this season :) Here’s the first, and here’s one I did earlier

And here’s a little snippet of my life today: I stumbled across this song during the Paralympic Games. I was drafting a post with the lyrics in, but hey, just check them out yourself on the YT page. It’s a super duper cheesy song and I have some days when I like cheesy. this is lemonade is about giving things another try, one more time, and another time, and again…and again. Even after you have given up. Just one more time.

Forget what lies behind you
Heaven walks beside you
You got to give it one more try
One more time

So here’s another thank you to the lovely Laura Williams of North Highlands Art who nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. One of the wonderful blogging friends out there, who inspire me! Go check out her blog and her wonderful talent that I mentioned here.

  • One Lovely Blog Awardyou and mie – I’ve a million things pinned that I want to make from Cherie’s crafty ideas!
  • Shared joy is a double joy - Addia’s heart-warming photo blog full of lovely snapshots from life in Sweden. And there’s more to see on her Pinterest boards too!
  • Carr party of five – Lis is one witty, bubbly, lady who writes quirky and cheering posts!

 

The one thing I love most about blogging is the people behind the blogs that I have “met”. All the bloggers I am mentioning in my awards nominations I have held conversations with in the comments, by email, twitter or even on Pinterest. I am going to be presumptuous and call them friends. Having just passed the sixth month mark of blogging, and having falling off the blog wagon for the month just gone, I can say that this friends-making is my biggest incentive for writing and writing again!

Hello friends! Thanks for reading, for sharing your inspiration and for your continuing support :D


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READY

This is the food of champions. Protein packed. Flavourful. Satisfying. Oh whatever. I’m not swimming any lengths today or scoring any goals or pounding any tarmac. I’m just going to eat like a champion and then strike some keys and talk to some fabulous people.

Simply scramble-fry an egg or two, smash some avocado with a crack of pepper and a splash of lime juice. Oh, throw in a pinch of cayenne for that extra kick to get you started. Pile it generously onto some Kallo Organic Rice Cakes and crunch away. Delicious!

I’m ready :)

#15 | READY

Photo A Day Aug | READY thisislemonade.wordpress.com

In an attempt to console myself for there being no gold medals to cheer for right now, I’m watching this.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's photo a day challenge. I'm exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It's a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know - I'd love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]


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ARROW

Where shall we go today. Shall we take a small step forwards or a big step backwards? Or hey, why not a strong, confident leap into the unknown?

When I was little my dad used to love taking us for an after dinner stroll along pavements, past rows and rows of houses and up a hill to the local patch of green. We didn’t have family holidays, but I have fond memories of spending precious time together, just walking nowhere in particular. I guess that’s why I was so at home when I lived in Germany, because the Germans love a good Spaziergang.

In the UK, we are fortunate enough to have a large network of generally well signposted public footpaths that direct us through thick forests and open fields, following alongside canals, fording streams and even trailing the coastline. Many footpaths give walkers right of way over private land. In recent years, I have grown to love exploring new paths. Most towns will have them, even in London. You can start off in a built up area and end up to your surprise, in a meadow of wild flowers. This is a great place to get started if you’re interested.

There isn’t much unspoilt countryside to dream of in the UK, but I enjoy how a lot of paths take you through farmland, maintained woodland, round the back of someone’s garden and along dirt tracks and bridleways. When it comes to putting on your boots, trainers or wellies to blow a few cobwebs away, it really does almost feel like we live in an equal society.

#14 | ARROW

Photo A Day Aug | ARROW thisislemonade.wordpress.com

Further links that may be of interest (more via the Visit Britain link - as above):

  • Walk 4 Life – great site where you can set up a walk challenge or get involved in one!
  • Ramblers Free Led Walks (London 2012) – walks around Olympic locations led by volunteers. I’ve also seen maps around town showing you nice green routes you can take on foot to the Olympic sites.
  • Walk England – more walking stuff.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's photo a day challenge. I'm exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It's a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know - I'd love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]


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Mo Farah running away from things…

I have inserted the photo as a thumbnail so that you will click through to the site.

Mo Farah Running Away From Things

Follow this link to see a serious tribute to one of our great Olympians from London 2012…it is evidence that some of us are self-medicating in a bid to overcome Olympics withdrawal syndrome.


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RING[S]

Just two weeks ago today, we hid behind our sofas, held our hands over our eyes and peeped through our fingers at our television screens in homes all over the UK, as the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony began. We crossed our fingers and toes and hoped that Danny Boyle would enchant us with some improbable magic. Deep down inside, we feared that his enchanting film of 2008, Slumdog Millionaire was an award-winning fluke. As we looked out at our overcrowded public transport, closing down high streets, gridlocked traffic and murky grey skies, we braced ourselves for a cheesy rose-tinted view over our fabled green rolling hills.

Then, something beyond magic happened. A seemingly haphazard montage of utter mayhem exploded into a beautifully lit stadium. The stadium we still hadn’t come to terms with actually finishing on time. We are British, we don’t meet deadlines, we don’t do success, we don’t impress…look at Crossrail et al…However, Mr. Bean, a giant Voldemort, sick children dancing on hospital beds and a parachuting monarch aside (oh, and we invented the WWW what, really?) for many of us who stayed up until the end, the best bit was the finale. No, not Sir Paul silly, I mean the lighting of the Olympic flame!

If there was anything that represented Britain today for me, that was it. Yes, we are known the world over for our history, and we do spend a disproportionate amount of time contemplating the fluff in our navels. But most of us do live day-to-day as though we believe the children are our future.

We may come across as a cynical, grumbling, pessimistic nation but when challenges come, we have grit and we have hope. We try to look for the best in others and foster the potential that we seek out. And we try our best to invite everyone to the party and have fun. We don’t ask them to follow the same groove as long as everyone can dance together somehow. And our favourite national past time is doing our bit to help that person with two left feet find their rhythm.

#10 | RING[S]

Photo A Day Aug | RING[S] thisislemonade.wordpress.com

That’s why I’m glad this first gold rush only lasts about two weeks and we get a break before the paralympics kick off. I’m exhausted! We’re team GB, we don’t do medal hauls. We play fair, do our best and smile gratefully if we get a bronze. We’re the champion of the underdog and we don’t know how to cheer our team onto a win. If you want proof, just look at a few examples here, here and here!

So, there cannot be too much discussion about the legacy of these games. Where will this immensely successful Olympic Games leave us as a nation? How will we deal with all the success after the big party is over? Our Prime Minister has been attracting criticism for talking of reducing the number of hours sport should be taught per week in schools. The debate over public funding continues and the data analysis of which sports are more represented by which social groups, is happening even as the games are being played out. We are reminded that there is so much more that needs to be done.

At least we proved to ourselves that in spite of all this, the old adage continues to ring true: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Our games volunteers showed us that, our athletes demonstrated it convincingly. Crucially, we need to work as a team. Funding helps, research helps, but let us not forget, we were all team GB – all of us waving our flags, painting our faces, braving the weather, yelling at our screens, reaching for our hankies. We all have the will, it’s a question perhaps of whether or not we know what to do with success and how best to live well with it.

The motto of a school I used to know well was simply: Success through effort and determination. Seems fitting to me. Let’s not forget that Olympic flame and the much discussed legacy, that inspiring of a generation. It can be done, with a healthy dose of cynicism of course.

[This post is one in a series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's photo a day challenge. I'm exploring ideas and often writing off the back of the idea of the day. It's a chance to relax a bit in August but also do something slightly different. If you take part let me know - I'd love to see how you get creative with the daily posts!]

FF: Mitt Romney must be envious LOL

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I present to you the loony Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. I bet Mitt Romney is wondering how Boris got away with saying all that (in fact, made everyone chuckle – even those that don’t like him very much).

I just had to post this for some comic relief. The tension is mounting as the opening ceremony is approaching and it’s all getting very exciting. I’m almost ready. Need to put the food in the oven :P


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FF : Fashion {03 Pretty Pink Patriot}

In case any of you may not have noticed (you most certainly will have if you have been trying to get anywhere in London recently) the Olympic opening ceremony is this evening. I’m all set for being amazed by the British talent. Hopefully the opening ceremony will not resemble the handover ceremony in Beijing a mere four years ago. I’m going to be all positive and celebratory and work myself up into a frenzy of blushful patriotism. Voilà! My frivolity knows no bounds!

FF : Fashion {03 PrettyPinkPatriot} thisislemonade.wordpress.com

Laure Ring / Carolina Bucci Earrings / Jigsaw Hammered Bangle Set / Rare Opulence Rose Babydoll Dress / Alexander McQueen Skull Clutch in Pale Pink / Giuseppe Zanotti l26108 Shoes / Lancome ‘Vernis in Love’ Fade Resistant Gloss Shine Nail Polish

Happy weekend and let the games begin!


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Olympics Special : Dear visitor…

Welcome to London! The first athletes taking part in the London 2012 Olympics arrived at the beginning of this week, and huge lorries ferrying the press packs and their paraphernalia are blocking up all the roads, all amid the security row taking place in Westminster. Who’s to blame? How did it all come to this, just a couple of weeks before the games, when there were seven years during which preparations could have been made?

But, dear friends, fret not. London is well prepared. What with regular helicopter flights under cover of darkness, missile sites dotted around the main stadia and plenty of signage designed to empower you when your coach driver doesn’t know where s/he’s driving you on the controversial Olympic superhighway, you’ll be fine. And believe me, nothing has been left to chance. We are prepared to the point of having rehearsed the one skill Londoners are all born with: the art of queuing.

OlympicsSpecial - thisislemonade.wordpress.com

As Londoners, we live well in chaos, so I decided I would do my bit to help you see beyond it and reassure you about attending the Olympic Games if you are visiting our beautiful capital for the first time. Perhaps you have been reading recent press reports about four-hour queues at Heathrow and are considering whether or not to request a refund of your Games ticket or to exchange your flight for one to warmer climes. Allow me to give you a preview of our wonderful Olympic city. As you can see from the photograph above, we are a generous nation. Someone with insider knowledge of the whereabouts of a secret queue-free passage to the opening ceremony decided to give us a wink and a nod. As I am a typical, sharing Londoner, I am posting the tip in case you missed it.

Now without further ado, it is with great pride that I present to you the safest doors on the London Underground system – otherwise know as the “Tube”. In some cities, the presence of graffiti may insinuate an element of danger – the threat of unrestrained self-expression, perhaps even over-enthusiastic boredom. But never fear.

Just above the aforementioned door, is a plethora of information. At your first meeting with this noticeboard, you may find yourself in a minor state of breathlessness. But you need not panic if you made a mad dash for it and only just managed to squeeze into the Tube carriage as the doors were closing. You are in the prime position to access everything you need to know about travelling on the Tube. And you will quickly learn never to jump hastily onto a train again. Please pay attention to the following scenario, with careful reference to the above photo.

It is possible that your spontaneous and successful dive onto an overcrowded train triggered a dangerous passenger emergency during the brief instance of which, you most certainly should not be found smoking. The likelihood is that you trapped your rucksack in the doorway thereby causing the train driver to reopen the doors and make an announcement to all passengers, warning them against doing what you just did. This inevitably results in a delay, thus unleashing the combined fury of the native London commuter monster onto yourself. But fear not.

The emergency alarm is right next to the door, just above the average eye level, in case you should miss it as you become mesmerised by the beautifully worded signs around it. If you are unlucky, you may look where I just advised you to look, and find a sign taunting you and telling you that the alarm is located next to the door opposite. You may look in vain, as it will possibly be obscured behind the head of an unfortunately tall and uncomfortably contorted fellow passenger. But shall we trouble ourselves unnecessarily? Best not. In such an unlikely situation, should you become overwhelmed and thus less able to stand, you would not be able to reach up to pull an alarm anyway and there are dedicated seats available for those who find themselves in such a condition.

Do bear in mind, not to settle too comfortably in your seat however. Should it transpire that another traveller was hapless enough as to have activated the emergency alarm, s/he may need your seat more than you. Regulate your breathing as the train driver announces that “the train is being held on the platform due to a passenger alarm being activated”. A silent Londoner does not indicate a happy Londoner. Prepare yourself to witness the glares, the rolling eyes, even an involuntary hiss or a fuming grunt.

Do your utmost to avoid causing a delay during the Olympics. The likelihood is, before you considered making your small contribution, the commuters around you were already running late due to signal failures, leaves on the track, adverse weather conditions or somebody deciding that strolling along the track instead of getting onto a train might be more likely to get them to work on time. That is before throwing into the mix, the extra zillion people expected to turn up for a few weeks to watch athletes competing for speed.

Remember, nobody actually hates you.

On a side note, using the emergency alarm as a support for standing upright invokes a penalty in much the same way as travelling without a valid ticket. It is polite to avoid committing both of these offences, even if you feel safely smothered under someone’s armpit.

Of course. Should you invoke a penalty fare, you may become once again overwhelmed, and need to lower a window for ventilation. Please however, be aware that this does not constitute an emergency of the kind that requires the opening of the door, ever.

I hope that this post will reassure you that London is an extremely safe and welcoming city. If in any doubt, remember the great British maxim:

Disclaimer: The above post is not to be taken in all seriousness. Please be advised that under no circumstances should you attempt to access the secret passageway to the Olympic Games.

In all earnestness, if you are indeed a visitor, please be as warmly welcomed in my city as on my blog. London is full of people from all over the world, and I suspect that is part of the reason why nothing runs immaculately. But then I wouldn’t change anything if it meant forfeiting the city’s mixing pot of ideas and dreams that is always brimming over… If you hear someone speaking a language other than English, they are just as likely to be a Londoner as they are to be a tourist. I love living in London, for all its foibles. And hey, we paid (and will be paying indefinitely) for the Olympics so we might as well try to enjoy them (I’m saying this ahead of the ranting I will no doubt be doing in a week or so). I’ll probably catch some of it on the telly if I don’t spend most of it trying to get to and from work.

Do you have any Olympic plans? Will you watch the opening ceremony? Will you be following any of the sports or rooting for any of the athletes?

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