Sunday, August 16, 2015

Update and countdown

Image result for hadrian's wall

5 weeks today, Jane and I will be setting out on our walk! 135 miles from Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway along Hadrian's Wall. As beautiful as this is, I'd like to hope that if we see any clouds like this, that we'll be relatively close to our evening's B&B.

Image result for hadrian's wall

And I'm anticipating it will be like the first photo, i.e., empty wilderness (more or less - England is very crowded...). I'm telling you now, Jane, that if we run into something like the above, I might just turn around and head home...

Image result for hadrian's wall map

euntes autem puellae! (*you go, girls!)
With the Roman legion behind us, surely we've got this?

We were having a bit of a chat last night, Jane and I, and have arranged to meet in Manchester and travel on to Newcastle together. It's going to be a long day for both of us. I've booked myself a train to Manchester from Southampton leaving at 7:15, but it's a direct service, and will only take just over 4 hours. I want to avoid changing in London. I hate fussing with the underground, particularly when I've got luggage to contend with too. Jane will be arriving into Manchester after a long-haul from Ontario. Phew!

I went out last weekend with my sister and bought a few necessecities and it was lucky I had her with me because she limited me on my spending. As I'm currently using my Canadian credit card, everything is costing me a fortune, so it's good to have someone with you who can cut you off when necessary. I bought a waterproof jacket and pants, hiking pants, two pairs of socks and a microfleece which will be beautifully warm. I'm going to ask her to come over a few of days before I go too, to help me pack and organise.

Otherwise, things are going well. I started my job two weeks ago and so far, so good. It's not particularly challenging, but I don't hate it (so far), like I did the other one. It's a very small company - less than a dozen employees - but well run and far, far less chaotic than the last one. It's a job I can walk away from at the end of the day and simply forget about and there's a lot to be said for that. I've got my train pass, the morning coffee shop crew said they'd missed me and even remembered what I drink (I've been gone 9 months, so their collective memory is pretty fantastic), and it's an easy walk from the station, so it's a pleasant enough commute. I know it's only been two weeks, but why do I feel like this is temporary?

Anyway, it's been going well enough so far.

I spent yesterday clearing, cleaning and tidying my room and it feels SO much better. I still had stuff hanging around in bags and containers from when I moved back from London several weeks ago and it was beyond time that I got myself sorted out. Almost everything now has a place. There's still some stuff to be sorted and/or organized, but it's looking and feeling a hundred times better. I lit a little bowl of incence too, and that's helped renergise the space.

I feel a book (or 5) bursting to come out but I can't seem to find words to put on a page. I know it will come and certainly being back in the Forest is the right place to be. It's wonderful to be back here - Sunday morning sounds are so peaceful: birds, horses' hooves, the odd bawling cow or pony in the distance. I was up and at it by 7:00 this morning. By 9:00 I was feeling restless, so was happy when my sister said "Let's go for cake!" I drove down to the village where she's staying and we spent a few hours hanging out. It's great to have her so close by.

It's a beautiful Sunday evening here and I feel relaxed and calm and content (and still a bit restless, but I'm okay with that). It's nice to feel like this again after having such a hard time in London. Amazing what coming back to where you belong can do for you.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Looking up!

Well, I finally heard from the Donkey Sanctuary and unfortunately I was unsuccessful there. I got some great post-board feedback though, which is always beneficial, so can learn a lot from that.

I was getting anxious this morning, as I had the other job offer hanging in the wings, and leaving it too long looks bad for many reasons: it could indicate that I can't make decisions, it leaves the Agent in an awkward position as the go between, and the employer could change their mind because they don't think I'm serious about it.

I called the Sanctuary and fortunately it didn't take someone long to get back to me and update me. I was then able to accept the job with the chartered survey company. I am genuinely thrilled to be starting there - I'm a bit nervous as it sounds like it can get quite busy, but the more confident and comfortable I get, the better I'll be. I'm confident the right choice has been made, although I'm a bit disappointed Sanctuary job didn't come through after all. But to be able to stay in the New Forest is not a bad consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination!

I was offered the opportunity to do some temp work if it came up, but opted to just enjoy the rest of my time off before I start working again. It's been really good for me, and overall I feel much more positive and relaxed.

My sister and I went to the oceanside village of Lymington yesterday for a few hours. It's quite a pretty village, although it was drizzly and cool for the most part. We had lunch and poked around a little bit. I bought some t-shirts for my hike in September, a book (£1!), some cake, went to the bank, and I picked up a few things at the chemist. Then we went to another, smaller, inland village called Burley. It's in a lovely spot, but is limited with respect to village business. It's got some witch shops and I bought several new crystals there, but otherwise there isn't much around and we left after a brief visit.

Today is puttering on the computer, but tomorrow needs to be a bit more focused and productive: laundry, unpacking the bags that are lying around my room and putting things away, some reading...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Interviews and photos and whatnot

It's been a busy two weeks - and I'm definitely not complaining. It's been really good to spend time with family and keep myself moving, rather than lazing around my room in London and spending too much time by myself and in my head.

First up was a trip to Wales, which is always lovely. The weather was fantastic for the most part and my sister, cousin and I took a walk one day to a place called Ogmor Castle, about 1.5 hours from Carmarthen. We spent most of the day there, returning about 5pm.

There's a nature preserve in between the castle and the coast and it takes quite a long time to slog through the dunes to reach the beach, but reach it we did and we spent some time relaxing by the water.

While we were in Wales, my sister, cousin and I started our own investment group! We got very excited about learning about the stock market, buying shares, etc. so set up an online bank account for our funds. We're each going to invest £20 per month and when we get to a particular amount, say, £250, roll it over into some stocks or shares on the stock market and see where it takes us. We've started the initial research into the FTSE 100, how to buy, where the best place to invest is, etc. It's tapered off a little bit the past few days, but I certainly have time over the next week to clarify a few things with the bank we chose, do a little research, and send out some thoughts on some stocks I think would be a good buy. At this point, it's small potatoes, so we're not going to see big returns, but the more comfortable we get, the more we learn and the more risks we're willing to take (diversifying as much as we can when we get to a point that it's feasible) then hopefully we'll be able to get to the point of seeing our money working much harder for us, rather than us working harder for it.

As I had an interview with an agency on Monday, so we headed back to England on Sunday, stopping at another cousin's place near Bristol to visit for a few hours. Although it's always fantastic to see her and the family, it's never often enough.

Tuesday afternoon, my sister and I headed to Sidmouth, in the beautiful county of Devon. We took a bit of a roundabout route to get there (unintended), and it took us almost 4 hours - the regular route takes 2.5. Still, we weren't in any particular hurry and it was quite a lovely trip. A bit drizzly and foggy (!) once we got closer to the coast, but otherwise uneventful. Our hotel was basic, but comfortable and only a few minutes walk from the seafront. Sidmouth itself is a typical seaside town, a bit tired and in need of some TLC, but has everything you would need (including a great looking art store, a health food store, a cinema, and a fab yoga studio). It's located on the Jurassic Coast of England, which is filled with the bones of prehistoric creatures, millions of years old. It has soft red cliffs, which is a bright contrast to the green fields and pastures and not what I was expecting. For some reason I thought they would be gray!

Anyway, I had my interview at the Donkey Sanctuary on Wednesday morning and am still waiting to hear the results. I feel it went quite well, but it can be hard to tell sometimes. I know I could have answered some questions much better, but did very well on others, so it's up to the interviewers now. I hope to hear tomorrow.

I would love this job. It's a new position, so is a 'make it your own' position. I can start with a blank page and get myself organized and set up just how I like. The area is beautiful, it's in the middle of nowhere (as far as anywhere in England can actually be at least), by the ocean and I'd be working with animals, something that I would really be able to get behind and honestly get joy from. Fingers crossed please everyone!

There are a few blind/vision impaired donks in this paddock. They have their own sighted donkey pals who lead the around!

We spent a couple of hours wandering the grounds after my interview and it's beautiful. There are 500 donkeys at this sanctuary (the 'HQ' of 5 around the UK), each with its own story. They have sanctuary for life and some are used as therapy donkeys, some are blind, some are just old. They are well cared for and well loved here for the rest of their days. They really are quite lovely animals.

Thursday afternoon I had an interview with a chartered surveying company in Southampton. I challenged myself and drove to town (!) and once I'd parked, promptly got myself turned around trying to get out of the parkade. I arrived at the office several minutes late after taking the long way around, but that was okay because the interviewers were trying to fix an Internet issue so were later than me! Phew... :)

The interview went well (I have since had the job offer, so if the sanctuary position doesn't come through, I am still good to go - as soon as I accept it that is) and it sounds busy and challenging, so I'm well pleased. I'm still also getting calls from agencies who have found my CV online and are calling about positions I might be interested in, so overall the time away from work has been positive, fun and very worthwhile. I'm feeling better and now that I'm settled back in the New Forest - for now - already I'm more relaxed and happy.

Friday my sister and  I headed back to London to collect the last of my things and my rent deposit. We spent the morning in another New Forest village - Brockenhurst - and found ourselves at one point in a herd of donkeys ('s that for a sign?).

This little foal is less than a week old. The babies are so cute!

Beautiful ponies.

Traffic jamming. No matter what, you are NOT allowed to rush the animals in any way. If that means getting stuck behind them while they wander, so be it. Which is exactly what this herd did. There were more than half a dozen vehicles behind them crawling along until the donkeys decided to get off the road. 

Truly, who can stay miserable around here? It's magical!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Planning to plan for Big Plans - plus photos!

Look at me, blogging twice in a week! It's almost like I have time on my hands or something...

I've had another up and down week, but am feeling quite positive today. I'm off to the Hampton Court Flower Show with my friend and her mum, so am really looking forward to that. Hampton Court was on my 'to do' list, so this crosses that off with a bit of a bonus. The flower show is a big one, on the scale of the Chelsea Flower Show, so it will likely be busy and quite fantastic. We're heading over about 11:00.

I've been awake since just after 5:00 - not unusual. There was a thunderstorm and some rain last night, which has cooled things nicely. It's supposed to get sunny and warm later in the day, but I for one am certainly appreciating the drop in temperature this morning. Quite refreshing!

So what's been going on?

Monday I took myself to Wisley Gardens, a Royal Horticultural Society garden about 20 mins drive from me. I'd been once before, but just sequestered myself on a bench by a pond to do some reading in the fresh air rather than walking around. This visit I spent time wandering around the acres of beautiful and well-tended gardens. I was there for about three hours, stopping on occasion to just relax and read my book. Some photos below, showing only a small selection of the huge variety of plants and flowers they propogate. There's still more to see, as I didn't see the entire place - it's very big! I've got plans to go back with a friend sometime in the next couple of weeks.

These are very new, very fuzzy Moor Hen chicks. The sun was directly behind me, so I couldn't see the screen on my phone very well, hence the slightly out of focus photo.

The past couple of days I've been feeling a bit better about things (except the heat). A woman at one of the agencies I've been in contact with (and with whom I've got an initial interview on 13th July) sent me an online assessment to complete - audio typing, Word processes, etc. I blew the audio typing one, but the rest of the assessments put me in the Advanced category for Word & typing speed, which negated the audio portion. Regardless, she sent me the audio typing one again and I did MUCH better the second time around, which pleased me no end. I know I'm good at this stuff; sometimes you just need a little reminder now and again to boost your self-confidence again.

I was also told that the company she was recruiting for - a chartered surveying company - wanted to interview me as well. So I now have an interview with them on 16th July!! Very excited. I won't know about the job at the financial company probably until some time next week, but hopefully I'll at least get an interview. Always good experience, even if you don't get the job. I'm still terrible at interviews, so have to take some time to prepare properly. There are loads of interview websites out there with excellent suggestions about what to say, what to ask, what NOT to say (!), etc. An hour or two spent on there, along with some thinking about my work experience and various scenarios and finding something appropriate to wear (I'm not a clothes horse) and I should be fine.

I ALSO got a phone call from the Donkey Sanctuary and was invited to interview with them on 15th July!!! So excited!!! It's 2.5 hours from the New Forest, so I've provisionally booked a hotel for the night of the 14th for me and my sister. It's definitely doable as a day trip, and the hotel can be cancelled up to the 13th July if needs be, but I just thought that we might as well enjoy it a bit while we're at it. Either way, it will be fun.

I took myself to the town of Weybridge on the train on Wednesday. I hadn't really been and wanted to find myself some new thrift store duds. I'm not sure I have the patience for that sort of thing. I stopped in a few and saw a bag I really like, so I'm planning a return visit on Monday to get that. I may do another, more thorough, search for clothes. I wasn't there long, as I wanted to get a few items and once I'd done that, I was pretty much done. One high street, after all, is much like the next really.

Yesterday I paid for my walk at Hadrian's Wall, which I'm doing with Jane in September. I ended up putting it on my CC (my Canadian one). I've been putting aside money each week to this point for it, but I simply wasn't going to make it, particularly as I'm in that in-between place where I'm not replenishing anything and still have two weeks to go before I get my rent deposit back. The CC was the only way to go if I wanted to do this and I reallyreallyreallyreallyreally did. I need to do the walk and I have to say that, when I emailed Jane to let her know, I did tear up. It was the same feeling that pushed me over here, so I know it was the right thing to do, regardless of the additional debt I've taken on for it. It will be SO worth it. And so much fun! I'm really excited about doing this with Jane, too. It'll be amazing.

So, definitely feeling much better today. I suppose it's just a matter of DOING things and feeling like something gets accomplished every day, pushing you forward rather than just letting it pass you by in a blur of pajamas, Facebook, reading and overanalysing everything that enters your head.