Friends, Happiness, Well-being

Looking backwards, and forwards!

I recently did one of those Facebook game things, the ones that you do in insane moments of utter boredom. It was my 2020 horoscope based on my Chinese birth sign, which is evidently the Pig. According to the horoscope, 2019 had been a poor year and 2020 would be much better. It was incorrect, 2019 has been fabulous. If nothing else it saw me cross off two, yes two, things on my bucket list.

Bucket list item number 1: a trip to Iceland to see the northern lights. I’ve shared my photo with you, and I swear that is the northern lights. Sadly, I didn’t have a camera up to the job, but they were there and I saw them. As for the stars, for me and my aspirations of being an astronaut, that was almost as exciting as the lights themselves.

But Iceland itself is such a magical place. The scenery is just out of this world. My favourite visit of the trip was to a small village, Eyrarbakki, to the south of Reykjavik. We stayed at the home of a friend, and I can without a shadow of a doubt say that evening was the best of my life, the views, the horizon was so clear, the sea, the snow, being cosy by the fire, eating authentic home made food. It was so special, that Iceland has now gone on to my husband’s bucket list.

Bucket list item number 2: Paddleboarding. Less Jennifer Aniston and more hippo on a wobble board, but I did it. In the salubrious surroundings of Bristol Harbour. To be fair, the views from the board were fabulous and it was great to see the city from a different perspective, but it’s not the most welcoming water ever! The one thing I wish I’d done differently was fall in. I think if I had fallen in and removed that fear, I might have gained confidence more quickly. I’m definitely going to do it again.

Paddle Boarding in Bristol

Parasailing in Albufeira

Highlight of the summer: parasailing. I’ve always wanted to have a go at this, but never found anyone daft enough to do it with me. Enter an old family friend who let slip she’d give it a try. As ever, I bounced on to the boat, thinking this was great fun, and only at the point of lift off did I start to consider where I was and what I was doing! It was fantastic. It was so quiet and peaceful, with great views of Albufeira from the sea. The only downside was that even from that short ride we could see pieces of plastic floating in the ocean.

Special occasions: two weddings. Absolute belters. Both so completely different, but both relaxed and definitely about the love of the two people getting married, rather than the actual wedding day itself. One in a field in Staffordshire, one on a boat in Bristol. One spring wedding, one autumn wedding. It was a real pleasure and privilege to be invited to them – they will be hard to beat.

Travels around the UK: we flew to Belfast for a friend’s 60th birthday party, which included a food tour of the city. If you’re ever ,looking for a good traditional Irish breakfast, the restaurant in Belfast City Hall is the place to go. I’ve been fascinated with Irish History since I did my first degree, so to be able to visit the city was a real treat for me. We did a Black Cab tour and the knowledge of our driver was second to none.

We also embarked on a tour around the North West of England, specifically Burnley and the Lake District. I’ve never visited Burnley before and was pleasantly surprised. Despite the weather being awful, the scenery surrounding the town was just stunning and our hosts were so incredibly welcoming that poor weather did nothing to dampen what was a fantastic weekend. As ever, the Lake District didn’t disappoint. We stayed in Bowness and abandoned our car for a few days, using buses and boats to travel around this fabulous part of the UK

Townley Hall, Burnley
Trentham Gardens

2019 was also a great year for catching up with old friends. I’d found myself in somewhat of a slump at the beginning of the year and said yes to more opportunities, throwing myself into them with gusto. I went on a fantastic hen weekend to Bath, it was actually great to stay in the city for a few nights rather than just pop over from Bristol for a day trip. I met a friend that I’d not seen since we left school and spent a lovely afternoon catching up on news during a walk at Trentham Gardens. I met another school friend for a coffee in Bristol that lasted for a good few hours, as we too caught up on 30 years worth of gossip. And I reconnected with an old family friend and her family. Again, we’d not seen each other for about 25 years, but it was like no time had passed at all, and it was this re-acquaintance that provided me the opportunity to go para-sailing.

But perhaps the best thing for me in 2019 is I finally started to get a grip on my mental health. It’s been a long time in progress, but finally I can say I am in my happy place. I am content, and I have actually started to look forward, rather than wallow in the past. My initial reaction to anything isn’t panic first act later, I’m starting to get my head around a calmer response to events and to take things a little more in my stride. I’ve realised that I don’t have to be perfect at everything all of the time; that I dont always have to enter insane challenges to prove I can do something, that I dont have to have a proper qualification for everything I do. I still have a long way to go, but finally I am enjoying meandering along the way, looking at the sights, rather than staring solely at the destination.

So, bring on 2020! If it’s anything half as good as 2019 then it’s going to be a wonderful year.

Exercise, Walking, Women's Health

Learning to walk

It would appear that I’ve been doing it all wrong.  You might wonder, how hard walking can be, but seemingly it’s harder than you think!

As you know, I’ve been having a few issues with a bit of a flimsy pelvic floor, but I’ve also been struggling quite a bit with sore hips and a bad back, particularly after long walks.  I’ve found some great exercises on the internet, but am always wary about getting too engrossed in videos on the internet just in case you get the technique wrong.  I have recently become quite scared of exercising, which is frustrating because I love it, but I am terrified of doing some more damage to the lower half of my body.  Whilst we were in Bristol, I made an appointment to see my Kinesiologist, who recommended I also saw her daughter, a physiotherapist that specialises in muscular skeletal conditions.  I was keen to know where the pain was originating from, was it my feet, my hips or my back.

As it happens it was none of the above.  The problem stems from the sacroiliac joint.  Who knew it could cause such chaos if it’s not working correctly!  On top of that it would also seem that as well as having a flimsy pelvic floor and a core that is shot to bits, I also have little by way of any kind of action in my glute muscles.  It would appear that my joints have literally been hanging off my ligaments and my muscles have not been doing any of the work at all.  As a consequence, my joints have just been merrily grinding against each other, causing the stiffness, pain and soreness – and why I look like an elderly lady most mornings before I get moving.

photo of person walking along seashore
Photo by Matt Hardy on

Exercising pelvic floor muscles aren’t going to resolve this.  This requires some hard core back to basics to get my body functioning in a way that will support me for the years to come.  I need to learn to walk again with proper posture and alignment, I need to learn to use my glute muscles so that they do the job they were designed for.  These are tiny, tiny muscles that need to be worked – not the big showey offey muscles, but the deep muscles that support the body and enable it to function correctly.

It would seem that the pelvic cavity is like a bucket.  You need to keep the bucket level, if it’s not, then things spill out.  In order to get the bucket level, you need to tuck your pelvis under and keep it level when you walk!  This, apparently will help my spine to stay straighter and avoid lordosis in my spine.  Then while I’m keeping the bucket level, I need to engage my glutes with every step.  I need to try to stop over working my joints.  How hard can this be?!?!?  I am mildly terrified that I will get it wrong and create other imbalances in my body which will need to be corrected at a later date.  

photo of woman wearing pink sports shoes walking
Photo by Daniel Reche on

In the short term I’ve been provided with some stretches, some simple exercises, have been encouraged to try swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, walking on the flat and in particular avoiding hills and cobbles – so Albufeira with its cobbled hills is going to be a bit of a challenge!  I’m also not too sure how my beloved yoga is going to fare, even there I think I need to go back to the beginning again, hyper mobility in my joints has also meant that I’ve not actually been stretching or strengthening muscles, more grinding the joints, which is never a good thing.

Husband is a big believer in there being something that is a trigger for change.  The fear of premature arthritis in my hips and sacroiliac joint is enough of a trigger.  Since I’ve started the stretches, the pain in the morning has already started to subside, so at least I do know there is some relief on the horizon.  I suspect it’s going to be a bit of slow journey, and I also suspect I’m going to have to make several visits to a physiotherapist to make sure that I’m not doing myself further damage.  It’s always nice to know where you are, where you are starting from and the positive steps you can take to bring about change.  Fingers crossed 6 months from now there will be some progress, the pain will have subsided and I may be able to increase the amount of exercise I can do – correctly.

So … when I originally set up my blog I called it ‘Walking Back to Happiness’ because I’d had to give up running as I had just too many injuries to carry on through.  It seems the title is more appropriate than I’d ever imagined as I have to go right back to the beginning, walking little and often, this time treating my poor, damaged, body with a little more love and tenderness!

Food and drink, Healthy living

Partied Out…..

… and it’s still over a week until Christmas.

I once worked with a chap who turned vegetarian at Christmas.  Not because of some great ideological turnaround, but because he just ate far too much meat and couldn’t face eating it ever again.  I think I might have arrived at that point.  I may manage some chicken, and some fish, but red meat is definitely out.  Joined by cheese and wine.  If I never eat red meat or cheese, or drink Prosecco or wine again, I will be very happy!

How has this state of affairs come about?  This year, rather than spending a chunk of time in Bristol during Autumn, we decided to split it into two smaller chunks, one at the end of October, during which we went to a wedding, and another in early December to provide us change to visit friends and family in the run up to Christmas.   Don’t get me wrong, it’s been lovely to catch up with everyone – we didn’t manage to fit everyone in that we wanted to see, but the endless cycles of dinners has taken it’s toll.  

shallow focus of white icing covered cake on white ceramic plate
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on

I’m not a big drinker – maybe one or two glasses of wine with a meal – but even that is too much to face.  I am, however, a dessert and cake eater, I’m one of those people with a pudding stomach, yet I can’t face another dessert this side of Christmas!  I don’t even think I can face my beloved Mousse de Chocolat when we are back in  Portugal.

It got me thinking about the difference in food between Bristol and Portugal.  I’ve tried, I swear I’ve tried, to eat as healthily as I can when we’ve been in restaurants.  I rarely order meals that involve chips only had one turkey dinner (which was a belter at the Lazy Trout at Meerbrook), but it’s the sauces.  I had Seabass at Alton Marina in Stone which was just devine – but it came with a ratatouille based sauce.  At Cote’s in Quakers Friars Bristol I had salmon, again divine, but again with a ratatouille sauce.  Everything comes with a sauce and I like plain!  Portugal plain!  Where the fish is the star of the plate! 

In light of recent, over eating events, I am also going to try introducing a 12 hour fast.  I first heard about this on Rangan Chattergee’s, podcast ‘Feel Better, Live More’ with Professor Satchin Panda.  If I think back to my childhood ‘tea’ was on the table at 5.00pm – primarily due to evening activities which my sister and I took part in which required us to be back out by 6.00pm.  After that the kitchen closed. We weren’t the sort of family that did supper, a milky drink before bed but that was it.  Occasionally we’d have a biscuit or two in the evening, but that largely depended on how recently the food shop had been done!  Breakfast was usually about 7.00am, so that meant we’d ‘fasted’ for up to 14 hours between meals.  Apparently this is good as it allows your body to digest the food properly, before you go to bed and stops the digestive problems that come with eating too late into the evening.  Outside of that 12 hour window, you still eat normally – it’s just that the long break between dinner and breakfast helps the body along.

I’ve also googled steps you can take to minimise the effects of over-indulgence.  According to US News the best ways to manage a food hangover are

  • Fill up on water and other clear liquids.  I know I don’t drink enough water and am trying really hard to drink more water.  I’ve added some peppermint oil to the water too, hoping that will get my system moving more quickly.
  • Eat healthy meals, avoid missing meals and try to get back onto an even keel as quickly as possible.  Getting back to Portugal will help with this as the food is far more plain.  Husband is also a superstar at cooking meals that will make my insides smile!
  • Eat fruit and vegetables; increase your fibre intake.  Again, I know I fall short here, particularly with vegetables
  • Include some exercise – don’t go mad but introduce some exercise to get digestion moving.
  • Think about habits.  This is key for me.  To think about what habits led to the situation in the first place and identify things you would like to change.  What I’d most like to change is my lack of will power, how easily I give in when people ask if I’d like a Prosecco, or if we’re having dessert.  I have got to start doing what suits me, not other people.

I cannot quite explain just how bad I have been feeling, I felt death was inevitable, or at the very least my stomach might explode.  I slept for an entire day as I was certain I had flu coming, I had shakes and I ached from head to toe.  Whilst I have tried to eat as well as possible in restaurants, it’s been the habit of eating extra bits that have made the situation worse.  The odd chocolate during the day from the tin in the middle of the coffee table, the odd chocolate chunk shortbread from Starbucks, the odd pastry from a bakery because I’m only here for a couple of weeks, the odd desert with meals when we have been out.  All in all, it probably amounts to eating fairly badly, between meals, for the past two weeks.  This is the habit that needs to stop, especially as I already know that white flour in particular makes me feel fairly lousy.  

close up of salad in plate
Photo by Jill Wellington on

I’m not going to bother with a plan.  I’m pretty rubbish at making and keeping to plans – I always forget to look at them.  I am equally bad at tracking food too! I’m just going to take each day as it comes and try to do the best that I can.  But in the short term I am going to aim for:

  • Avoiding alcoholic drinks
  • Avoiding needless cakes and chocolate
  • Avoiding red meat
  • Avoiding cheese

I’m not saying I will never have these things again, I’m not going to go mad and exclude things for ever, but I’m going to try my very best to take a break from them and see how it affects my health and overall wellbeing.  At the moment the mere thought of eating any of the above makes me nauseous, but either way, I really cannot go on feeling quite as bad as I do at this moment in time!  I don’t own any scales so I can’t monitor any weight loss, so it will all be based on feeling – how I look, how I feel, the energy I have and how I fit into my clothes.  If at the end of the day I can give myself a green tick in each of the 4 areas above then I’ll consider it a good day.  Once I have mastered those I might think about adding other things in, or re-introducing them to see what the effects are.