A Moment in Time

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I love photography, taking pictures of every aspect of my daily life and I have thousands of them stored on my computer. The Bloke bought me a beautiful Canon camera a few years ago and since then I have started to learn how to edit and develop my favourite images. However, some of the best pictures that I have taken recently has been with my iPhone – it’s easy to quickly take a snapshot of a particularly special moment and I savour the memories that are stored forever in that single image.

This one was my favourite from last year. It was the final day of the school term, I had visited the Christmas market with some of my colleagues, indulged in hot Bailey’s with marshmallows and had just met The Bloke. We were meeting a friend for a meal in a pizza restaurant in Brindley Place, Birmingham and as we were walking over the bridge I stopped to take this picture on the bridge overlooking the canal. It was a cold but clear evening, everything was lit up with beautiful lights and decorations and there were hundreds of people walking around, armed with lots of bags and huge smiles on their faces.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening – we had lovely food, great conversation with a valued friend and The Bloke and I returned home to a warm house, sleepy cats and an evening of cuddles on the sofa under a blanket.

It’s the little things that make life worthwhile…

What about you guys? What are your favourite recent photographs?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

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Serenity

It’s a dark and cold Friday night and after a long and busy week I’m feeling a little frazzled. The temperature outside has dropped and tomorrow’s weather forecast is predicting heavy snow.

At times like these, I like to revisit photographs that remind me of slightly warmer and more relaxed times. My favourites remind me of beautiful and serene places that I have been privileged to visit and some wonderful experiences with some of my favourite people…

The view of the Italian landscape from Pompeii, 2012

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The Seine and the Eiffel Tower, Paris 2010. The Bloke and I sat by the river and watched the sunset

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The sunset from the train home after spending the weekend with Mum

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A day spent at the spa with my friend, who had generously bought me a pampering session for my birthday

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Alexandria, near Washington D.C., 2010

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Hope you all have a relaxing Friday night!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Tracing the Past

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My grandparents on their wedding day

The greatest man I have ever known was my grandfather, Alfred. A northern Englishman to the core, he wore a flat cap and grey cardigans and regularly asked me if I was ‘courting’ anyone (which seems a bit silly now as I was 10 years old at the time). He was a warm, funny and a quintessential gentleman. I remember that he always had a little white paper bag with a selection of chocolates that he would give to us whenever we saw him. He made up his own lyrics to different songs, my favourite being ‘Me Grandfathers Clock’, and had sayings like “Eeh, put skin on yer back like velvet” every time he ate custard. My sisters and I adored him and would look forward to his visits. He had a hard life, he and my grandmother were poor, but my mother’s memories of her own childhood were filled with happiness, kindness and love, and she never wanted for anything. He put his family first, working manual labour jobs and even becoming a a coal miner at one point, but he never talked about himself.

Unfortunately, he died when I was 16 years old. He developed senile dementia and I witnessed him deteriorate from a healthy, intelligent and witty human being to the point where he didn’t know where he was or who we were, in an awful hospital that has since been closed down. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take the time to get to know him properly.

A few years ago I had a little bit of time during a holiday, and so I decided to trace my family history. Growing up I had just my parents and two younger sisters – my mum didn’t keep in touch with any of her distant relatives and was an only child, and my father’s family disowned him when he married my mum and so it was just the five of us. I had virtually no information to start my research aside from a single photo album. I spoke to my mother and asked her for any details, but my grandfather had always remained reasonably private about his early life and so she could only give me vague memories of things that he had shared during her childhood.

It turned out to be a fascinating experience. My grandfather, born in 1919, was living with Frank and Margaret, and took their surname until the age of 14. When he left school he was given his birth certificate so he could find a job. He discovered that his mother’s name was actually Emily, and so he adopted her last name from that point on. My mum told me that he knew a woman called ‘Big Emily’, who he assumed was his mother, but he never knew for sure.

I signed up to Ancestry.co.uk and obtained a copy of his birth certificate, and written on there was ‘Emily…’, but had no father registered. By sheer luck I found Emily – one of her other children, my grandfather’s half-brother, was researching his family history and had posted a picture of her (looking like my grandfather in a wig) and this led to quite a fascinating set of discoveries.

Emily was living with her Auntie Margeret and Uncle Frank in 1911, and according to the census she was working as a belt maker in a factory. Her mother, Mary (Margeret’s sister) had committed suicide in 1905 by swallowing nitric acid after losing a child at the age of just a few months and her father, Frederick died in 1898 from TB. My grandfather was born out of wedlock in 1919, and he continued to live with Frank and Margaret, which makes me think that Frank was the father. I remember my grandfather once told me that Frank was an abusive man, recounting a memory of a clock being thrown into a fire, and my mum added to this that he died of diseases brought on by alcoholism in the early 1940’s. Margaret never liked my grandfather and was quite openly hostile towards him, but he never understood why. It makes sense that her dislike of him could have been caused by her husband’s infidelity with her niece.

Emily went on to marry a man named Charles in 1927, eight years after my grandfather was born, and NEVER told anyone in her family that she had another son. It was only when I contacted them that they were aware of his existence and after I explained to them my findings and emailed them my pictures of him they accepted it without question. I then discovered that Emily lived in the next town to my grandfather and she died in 1989, only eight years before him. She is even buried just a few plots away in the same cemetery. How heartbreaking – they could have passed each other in the street on a number of occasions and wouldn’t have known.

Yet despite the obvious sense of abandonment he must have felt, he was a hard-working, kind and generous man, and I was very lucky to have him in my life, even if it was just for a short time. It’s amazing how resilient some can be in the face of adversity.

I learned a lot during the process, particularly in the fact that I have a strong working class northern English bloodline that is extremely evident in mine and my sisters characters even to this day. What I found most fulfilling about the experience was being able to share my findings with my mother. She was astounded at the photograph of Emily, who was her grandmother that she had never met, and I was delighted to reveal a family history that she would never have known about. We’ve agreed that we are going to visit the graves of our ancestors to pay our respects.

Now I have a little bit of history that I can tell my own children…

What about you guys? Do you have interesting stories in your family history?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks.

Reflections of Summer: My Favourite Posts

It’s almost the end of the UK summer and in a few days I will be back at work, ready for the start of a new academic year. The last few weeks have been the quickest I have known for a long time, and while I have spent a large amount of time doing school – based activities I have been able to relax and catch up with friends, films and some much needed sleep.

I have blogged on a daily basis, my posts reflecting my mood and ideas that I have thought of during my adventures. I still have a number of posts to finish off, which I intend to do this weekend, but I thought it would be a nice idea to share with you my favourite and most successful ones of the last six weeks for those who may have had a blogging break and missed them. Rather than reblogging each one, I have collated the all into one post. To view them, simply click on the images below.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

Revisiting My Youth

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A Tale of a Sociopath

The Teachings of Ralph Wiggum

The Teachings of Ralph Wiggum

Would You Like Fries With That?

Would You Like Fries With That?

There is Always a Light

There is Always a Light

29 Things Television Has Taught Me

29 Things Television Has Taught Me

A Children's TV Presesnter?

A Children’s TV Presesnter?

12 Reasons Wy I am Rubbish at Being English

12 Reasons Wy I am Rubbish at Being English

I Am White

I Am White

Let's Talk About Blogging Numbers

Let’s Talk About Blogging Numbers

Pearls of Wisdom From a Thirty-Something Man

Pearls of Wisdom From a Thirty-Something Man

The WordPress Community Experiment

The WordPress Community Experiment

12 Things Men Should Know About Women

12 Things Men Should Know About Women

I Remember

I Remember

Things People Say...

Things People Say…

If We Were Having Coffee

If We Were Having Coffee

Blog Envy and Trolls

Blog Envy and Trolls

If I Knew Then: What I've Learned About Blogging

If I Knew Then: What I’ve Learned About Blogging

10 Things I Love About My Country: Music

10 Things I Love About My Country: Music

Why I Don't Believe in Soulmates

Why I Don’t Believe in Soulmates

 

What about you guys? Which of these has been your favourite post of the summer?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Revisiting My Youth… and Wishing I Hadn’t

Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post

Loneliness is an interesting feeling, particularly when it isn’t evident that you’re living a lonely existence.

One of my biggest blogging regrets is that I didn’t start one sooner. I have always kept journals from a young age and I have boxes that are filled with notebooks full of the ramblings of my younger self.

As an experiment I thought that it would be a fun idea to return to those notebooks for the first time in years and revisit my youth. I’ve seen quite a few inspiring posts based upon a similar concept and I invisaged that I would be able to glean some insightful content that would make me smile and remind me of happy memories of my life, experiences and of who I used to be.

I wish I hadn’t.

I have always believed myself to be content with my own company, proudly stating this on many occasions. However, what struck me about those diary entries was just how lonely I was. I have been known to rant on my little blog, but the rants that I discovered in those notebooks were of epic proportions. I hated everyone and everything. I was heavily in debt, I couldn’t afford to heat my house or eat properly and I was angry at the situation I had got myself into. Large amounts of the pages were taken up with financial charts that were designed to resolve my circumstances and pay everything off, but they never seemed to work. I was bored, I hated my job, my family, my friends. I wrote the same things again and again, and it never seemed to occur to me that I needed to change things if I wanted the situation to get better. I was man obsessed and desperate for affection – I had written about my ‘feelings’ for male acquaintances that I only have moderate recollections of now and I spent pages and pages quoting my favourite romantic movies and creating imaginary scenarios in my head where my knight in shining armour would rescue me. I wasn’t living, but merely existing, and despite being surrounded by lots of people, I felt completely and utterly alone.

There was one particular paragraph that made me stop and stare.

‘I procrastinate and talk utter sh*te to myself over and over again, making false promises to myself and those around me that I never follow through with, getting through life from day to day and not really achieving anything. At the end of each day I sit, alone, on my uncomfortable couch in a messy house watching inane programmes on the television until the early hours of the morning that only serve to make me want to believe that life is like the movies…’

Wow.

Admittedly, my existing memories of that particular time weren’t great, even before I decided to read the diaries – things were tough – but to my recollection other times had been far tougher and my current recollections were nowhere near to the level that I had recorded on those pages. As I read more and more I started to become frustrated with myself at my words, my hatred, my anger. I saw those words from the point of an outsider – I wanted to jump into them, slap myself and point out all the good things that I had in my life. I had a job, a house, pets, friends and a family, however disfunctional. I had everything.

While I can look back at that period of my life through seemingly rose tinted spectacles as the person that I am now, my words told me that I was lost and unhappy and yet couldn’t give a reason as to why. I wasted so much time wanting things for my future, when I should have been living for the present. I rang my mother and told her what I had discovered, and her response put everything into perspective:

“You may not feel this way now, but you must have needed to write it down at the time, so in a way it was a positive thing for you…”

She was right, as she always is. I did need it. As my blog serves me with an outlet to vent, to talk, to discuss, so did those journals. I needed to put pen to paper and release everything into the open.

I took those pages and shredded them. Hundreds of them. And with each piece of paper that was destroyed, I told myself that I am not that person anymore.

Hopefully, I never will be again.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

I Remember

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I remember the tent in the hallway, pretending that we were on holiday.

I remember the Christmas Days, sitting around the table. I remember the food, the laughter, the chatter. I remember feeling part of a unit, a team, a family.

I remember his jokes. He would always sing songs and ask me if I was ‘courting’ yet, despite the fact that I was only ten years old. I remember how much my sisters and I loved him.

I remember ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’

I remember the last day, where I was the only one that wasn’t crying. I remember running down the road, signed T-shirt in hand, elated that I would never have to see them ever again.

I remember the long hours, the Ajax and the boredom. I remember the embarrassment of the face paint, and footballers on Sundays. I remember the smell that would permeate my clothes and linger for hours after a shift.

I remember waiting for him to call.

I remember the smell of his aftershave on his sweater that I wore.

I remember the Miller Man, the bikini, the music and the British Chippendales. I remember the lock ins, the cigarettes and the burnt holes in the carpets. I remember the Aqua bar.

I remember the B&B and the jealousy. I remember the black dress that was totally unsuitable for the occasion.

I remember Barber, Greig, Saint-Saens and Beethoven.

I remember the letter that offered me the chance of a new life. I remember that my whole life easily fit into eight boxes.

I remember the cocktails, the dancing and the hangover.

I remember sitting in the long grass in the sun and watching them run up and down the hill, shrieking as they lost their shoes.

I remember the Empire State Building, the piano and the bag. I remember the sand, the Ferris wheel and the graffiti. I remember the sore feet, the chess and the sunburn.

I remember the feeling of being utterly alone and helpless as I walked into that room almost every day.

I remember the kiss.

I remember staring at her in the cage, and knowing that she was the one. I remember the mornings she would wake me up at 4.00am, wanting to be fed. I remember the cuddles, the TV, the snoring. I remember her face at the window every evening.

I remember the tower, the sunset, the lock on the bridge and the river. I remember the gypsies, the tambourines and the latch. I remember the graves, the maps and the language.

I remember the first young faces, staring at me with the assumption that I knew what I was doing. I remember pretending that I did, hiding my terror behind a smile and a song.

I remember lying on the beach, watching the world go by. For those short hours, responsibility didn’t exist. Fear didn’t exist. Life didn’t exist.

I remember the box on my doorstep.

I remember the answer machine messages of my song.

I remember the microphone, the mad Irish girl, the promise, the snuff and Sinead O’Connor.

I remember the superheroes, the spaghetti and the phone call. I remember the awkward waitress and the free cranberry juice.

I remember the amphitheatre, the pool and Whigfield. I remember the waterpark, and the screams that she made as she was going down the waterslide.

I remember watching as he unwrapped the paper, after I waited for nearly two months for him to do so. I remember the expression on his face.

I remember the cheque, the train journey, Varsity and her tears as she realised I was standing outside her building. I remember the text and the meal.

I remember The Villa, Skunk Anansie and the concerto.

I remember the American girl. I remember his face when I surprised him. I remember the Gap sweater, the box of twinkles and the concert. I remember the flutes, the car journey and the programme.

I remember the Eye, the sunset, the teddy bear and the city during a wonderful weekend.

I remember saying goodbye.

I remember the screaming the lyrics until my voice was sore and spilling my beer down his back in the Golden Circle.

I remember the bracelet and the cards.

I remember finally knowing. For the first time, all was clear.

I remember opening the door…

 

What about you? What memories do you have?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge

Me Grandfather’s Clock.

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My Grandfather was a stereotypical northern English man to the core, and the kindest, sweetest person that I ever had the privilege to know. For those that are familiar with the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, my grandfather was very similar to Eric Morecambe – he had a silly sense of fun and an eclectic sense of humour, and some of my happiest memories are of him proclaiming that the sponge pudding and custard would put the ‘skin on yer back like velvet.’ He loved music and liked to make up silly lyrics, and even though he passed away in 1997 I still remember every word to his version of ‘My Grandfather’s Clock,’ written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work. I’ve written it in the way that I remember him singing it to my sisters and I – he had a broad northern accent – so would say words like ‘me’ instead of ‘my’… While I am not expecting others to understand or even enjoy, this means a lot to me.

So, for a bit of a laugh, find the song on YouTube and I challenge you to follow the lyrics within the song!

Me Grandfather’s Clock – Alfred Elliott

Now me Grandfather’s clock,

Was a Waterbury watch,

It could live forty days without food.

With a small ‘at on its head,

And me father’s mackintosh,

It was dressed up like a Piccadilly dude.

Though it stood in the ‘all,

‘Cos the cupboard was so small,

And we ‘ad no place the food for to store.

So the butter and the eggs

And the little mutton legs,

We out them in me Grandfather’s clock

 

Now me Grandfather’s clock

Was me mother’s primulator,

And through the park in it we used to ride.

There was me and Polly Perkins, Liza Jane and Treacle Tommy,

Screaming Jimmy and the twins all stuck inside.

Now me Granddad, who was dead,

Changed his mind, got up instead,

And the sight that met his eyes gave him a shock.

For the man with the coal,

Couldn’t get it down the ‘ole,

So we put it in me Grandfather’s clock.

 

What about you guys? Are there any songs that mean a lot to you from your childhood?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/to-the-tune-of/

A Dented Bucket List

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I love Bucket Lists – lists of things that we wish to achieve/see/do before we die – and last year I spent hours creating the ultimate Bucket List that combined all the smaller ones that I have made over the years. I’ve made a good start on it too and have been able to cross quite a few things off…

However, I was inspired when I saw the idea of the ‘Dented’ Bucket List, created on the RawrLove blog in support of the much missed Rarasaur, who had suggested the idea herself. I decided to create my own – focusing on things that I would never deliberately see and do, things I never hope to experience and things that I have experienced already but would have been on the list. These are not meant to be judgemental towards anybody else and their lifestyles, they are based purely of personal preferences and are in no particular order.

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1. Cage dive with Great Whites. Not even if there was money involved. Never. Ever.

2. Have to start my life again from scratch with almost nothing.   

3. Live through the coldest two weeks of the year without gas or heating under a duvet, with just 25 pence in my bank account.

4. Wear fur.

5. Attend a bullfight.

6. Do drugs. I’ve never tried any of them aside from cigarettes and alcohol because I’ve never had an interest to and never will – it’s something that has never appealed to me.

7. Buy and/or listen to Justin Bieber’s music.

8. See Justin Bieber in concert.

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9. Go camping. 

10. Skydive. I have a terrible fear of heights and flying, and so the two combined are even worse. While it appears on a lot of Bucket Lists that I have read, it will never appear on mine.

11. Bungee Jumping. See number 10.

12. Lick anything from someone else’s belly button.

13. Complain about having a job. While I may complain about my workload on occasions, as most people do, I have never, and will never, lose sight of the fact that I have a good job and I am very lucky to work there.

14. Watch Twilight again. There’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

15. Eat boiled egg. Eww. The smell is enough to make me feel sick.

16. Spend the night in a haunted building. I don’t see the point in scaring myself for fun.

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17. Be ‘too old’ to do something.

18. Lose sight of the importance of a good friend.

19. Perform on stage in a play. I have recurring nightmares about being in front of an audience and not being able to member my lines.

20. Make The Bloke wear a matching outfit, unless it’s fancy dress.

21. Get another perm. I looked like a blonde reject from an ‘Annie’ audition.

22. ‘Grow up.’

23. Pose naked. Nobody needs to see that. I envisage people running away and screaming ‘my eyes! My eyes!’…

24. Forget. Forgiveness is one thing, forgetting is a whole different matter.

25. Expect anything from anyone.

 

What about you? What would be on your dented bucket list? I’d love to hear your ideas!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

http://queenrawr.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/dented-bucket-list/

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/list-lesson/

 

Letters From The West

The theme for this week’s photo challenge is ‘Letter.’

Here are some of the examples I have seen of letters in the last few years, from the neon signs of Piccadilly Circus to the handwritten letters of love on Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Pere Lachaise… As always, I’d love your thoughts.

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Piccadilly Circus, London

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The words of JFK’s most famous speech, carved in stone next to his grave, Arlington Cemetery, Washington

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Letters of love, written on Oscar Wilde’s tomb, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

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Letter carved into the ruins of Pompeii, Italy

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The entrance to the British Library, London

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‘I amsterdam’ letters, Amsterdam

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to ‘like’ my Facebook page – simply click on the icon at the top of the sidebar…

Great Expectations

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I dislike the idea of expectation. To expect something suggests a sense of entitlement and this can often lead to disappointment.

In the last thirteen years there have been only two things that have remained unchanged and constant in my life: my bank details, and my little cat. Everything else is different. My family, my friends, the place that I live are different. Indeed, I am different.

As I was growing up I had a simple, if somewhat naive plan. I was going to go to university, become a session musician, get rich, get married, buy a house, have children and live happily ever after. I did everything that was expected from me, in what could have been deemed to be a socially acceptable order. I didn’t make waves or cause problems. I was a good girl.

What I discovered is that even the best laid plans do not always come to fruition. At the age of 32 I find myself working as a music teacher. I live in the UK’s second biggest city with my long-term, long-suffering partner and our three cats in a rented property, and I’ve moved house six times in ten years. I have no savings (thanks to astronomical vets bills over the last year) and I’m not rich. My parents are divorced and I haven’t seen or spoken to my father in twelve years.

I realised that I wasn’t cut out to be a professional musician – the competition for performing roles was too high, and if I am being brutally honest I was devastated because I simply knew that the profession wasn’t the right one for me. My expectations of what my life was going to be were dashed, and I was left feeling disappointed and lost. However, hard work, a little bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time gained me a teaching role, and it was through this that I met my partner.

No, my life isn’t what I expected it to be. It’s far better.

I work in a profession that I enjoy, where I get good results and have a great relationship with the students. My mother is my closest friend and a constant source of support. I have fantastic friendships with genuine people and a relationship with a man who has supported me throughout it all. I am not financially rich, but I don’t want for anything. I’ve eaten good food, drank good cocktails and listened to fabulous bands in concert. I have been able to travel a little and see places and things that I could only have dreamed of when I was creating my life plan all those years ago. While the trials and tribulations have been tough, the journey has been exciting, I have worked hard and I love the idea of not knowing what is going to happen next.

I have few expectations from life, and make no apologies for this. Of course, I have dreams and little goals that I set myself, but I can only expect from life what I am willing to put into it. Always hope, always work hard, but never expect.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/great-expectations/