Posted in Real Life

The Life Balance Chair – weekly update #2

This week I actually made it into the gym EVERY DAY and so that is my little victory for this blog posting. We are lucky enough to have a gym in our garage with a treadmill, punch bag, multi gym and exercise bike. You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world to pop on some gym kit and wander in. Not so. You really have to want to go in and part of that is remembering the great feeling of getting a little gym time in.

Part of my success with the gym this week was having a training partner. My younger son Connor had a week off work and is a huge gym enthusiast. Making an agreement with him and spending some quality time together in the gym really helped. So much so I thought I’d use this week’s blog to share his thoughts on maintaining a healthy life.

So he calls it the ‘Life Balance Chair’. Imagine a chair with four legs. The legs are made to fit the chair perfectly. They are equally strong and together they enable stability, comfort and balance to the structure of the chair. That is until one or more of the legs become unstable or wobbly.

Consider that in life we need four core things (the four legs of our personal chair) that enable stability for our bodies and minds.

  1. Physical Strength. This is about maintaining an active lifestyle to promote good physical health. It doesn’t mean being the strongest person or giving yourself a difficult goal it means doing some exercise, being mobile and keeping flexible and supple in a way that helps you to live from day to day in a physically healthy way. For me that means doing some stretches in the morning, spending time in the gym regularly (not just staring at the equipment) and walking the dog.
  2. Biological Strength. This is the one I probably struggle with the most. This one is about eating well enough. This is not about dieting or going crazy but more about eating a balanced diet and looking after what’s on the inside. Perhaps taking a multi vitamin or some vitamin C, getting a flu shot in winter, eating good (but not excessively naughty) food, eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on alcohol, sugar and carbs.
  3. Psychological Strength. This one is so important as it allows you to not feel guilty about spending time on your well-being. It’s about good mental health and self care. So in short, doing things for you. Just you. It might be getting your nails done, taking up a new hobby or spending time meditating or watching your favourite film. It might be admitting when you’re struggling and allowing yourself to talk it through or get help. My plan is to use the Calm app to promote a better sleep pattern and to calm anxiety through meditation and deep breathing. I’m also thoroughly enjoying my new card-making hobby, which provides an outlet for my creative side.
  4. Presentable Strength. I love this one, perhaps because it comes more naturally for me, and probably most of you than some of the others. This is about using your strengths to help or better others. It’s about sharing the things you’re good at, being a listening ear or a good friend, spending time with people and being encouraging. It’s surprising how good this makes you feel and has a big impact on your Psychological Strength.

So those are the four legs of the ‘Life Balance Chair’ and when Connor and I were talking about it I suddenly realised how important it is to have each of these areas of my life in balance. If I neglect a strength (or chair leg) then the chair becomes unstable and wobbly. If all four legs are neglected then the chair is no longer fit for purpose. It no longer provides stability comfort and balance. In effect I’m running on empty.

So here I am taking care of my Presentable Strength by sharing a special moment between my son and me. Which happened while I was taking care of my Physical Strength during a gym session. I’ve just finished making some Christmas cards, thereby adding to my Psychological Strength by taking time to do something I really enjoy and in just a moment I’ll be going out for a nice meal this evening with my husband when I will of course be thinking about my Biological Strength and will only have one glass of wine (because I deserve it) ….  instead of a bottle!

I really hope that this blog post resonates with you the way it’s helping me. Have the most splendid of weekends and a healthy happy week ahead.

Big love, Jules x

Posted in Real Life

Getting Started! Weekly update #1

Good Morning, happy Saturday!

A day later than planned but here’s my first weekly update. I thought I’d use this opportunity to explain briefly what I’m trying to achieve.

Each week I will post an update on the happenings of the week, mostly focussing on little victories, those little things that I’ve achieved which make a day feel like it’s been worthwhile. It might be success in gym challenges (any time I spend in the gym being active is a gigantic victory tbh!), it might be cooking delicious healthy meals, celebrating doing something new or just having a good day. So this blog is mostly for me because how can I expect anyone else to be even vaguely interested in my personal weekly small achievements? However if one person reads it and finds one post interesting or uplifting that that’s another little victory for me. Committing to writing a weekly blog also means I am more likely to achieve the things I want to during the week ….. because who wants to be left with tumbleweed for a picture and nothing to say?!

So whilst I’m lucky enough never to have experienced periods of deep depression, like most people, I’ve had challenging times in my life. I’ve always managed somehow to battle through. Lately and I’m going to be completely honest here, I’ve felt a bit redundant at home.  I’m now over 50 (where the hell did all the years go?), my children are grown ups and they need me less. And because we live in an era of ridiculous house prices and rental costs my two have not fled the nest. I do endeavour to give them the space and privacy they need to be as fully independent as they can be whilst still living in the family home. However, that leaves me with less to do, less to worry about (which is lovely but unnerving) and with lots of time on my hands.

So with that in mind the first thing I’m celebrating in this post is spending less time during the day watching an endless stream of quiz and home improvement shows (although Phil and Holly will be forever on in the background with This Morning) and more time starting a new hobby. I’ve decided on card making because it satisfies the creative in me. How long it will last and whether I will be any good at it is anyone’s guess. However, I’ve absolutely loved spending time this week mooching around Hobbycraft and picking up pretty things to decorate cards with.

I’m a complete and utter beginner and am already enjoying doing lots of research on techniques and materials to use. I’ve even started making (see main photo). The aim is that this year all our friends and family will receive ‘lovely’ home made cards and if they aren’t all that lovely or perfectly finished at least they have been made with love!

So that’s post #1 and my first small victory – starting a new hobby. It’s a good start right?

Thanks for reading. I’m excited about the future, about sharing my little victories with you and kick starting a new period of my life in the most positive way I can.

Big love

Jules 🙂 x

Posted in Real Life

My Family And Other Heroes – Lest We Forget

For the past couple of months I’ve been researching my family history. In doing so it suddenly became clear how many of my ancestors were involved in WW1. As I searched for my relatives, their forces war records reluctantly opened up to me and I was staggered by the realization that so many of the men in my family had served. So this blog post is in tribute to them as we head towards the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of the Great War.

Today I’m thinking of and paying tribute to those closest to me especially those who served in WW1 and my great uncle John who made the ultimate sacrifice during The Great War.

I’m certain there’s much more to discover because much of this post simply reflects my father’s side of the family, but for now here’s the roll of honour for my family who served during the Great War, WW2 and beyond. I promise to think of you all this Sunday, the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

First of all a nod to my great grandfather William Reynolds who was born in 1853 and who was a gunner in the Royal Artillery. Serving for at least ten years (records being sketchy) I wonder whether his example influenced his sons during their time in the forces.

Frederick Thomas Reynolds. My grandfather (photographed below) – born in 1891. Joined up as a gunner aged 18, served with the 2nd Battalion The West Yorkshires and was awarded the Bronze Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. During WW1 he fought with the 8th division in France and Belgium. On 1st July 1916, he fought in the Battles of the Somme at Pozeires. Hundreds were lost in the ensuing battle but my grandfather Frederick Thomas Reynolds survived and continued to serve his country.

IMG_3128

An extract from his diary almost two long years later after action at Villers-Bretonneux on 25th April 1918 records

“All different regiments mixed up but managed to hold Jerry for about 1 hour …. Jerry got his tanks in action. 2 followed by 3 more. Troops retired to railway and hung on there. Jerry got village but paid for it. Tried to make a can of tea on 4 bits of candle …. Jerry shelling very heavy all the time. Got hit about 5-30pm and began to feel effects of gas …….. Lorried to Amiens clearing station. Treated for gas …… got a bit of sleep. First for 48 hours.”

So difficult to imagine but thank you Grandad for hanging on in there and for coming home to your family.

Albert Reynolds (great uncle) born 1885. Bricklayer Albert joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner in 1903. He served in France from August 1915 to March 1916 and was awarded the Bronze Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Alfred McCarthy (great uncle) born 1886. Alfred was a miner. He joined up in 1915 as a 29 year old. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, received the British War Medal and Victory Medal and was discharged aged 32 having fallen victim to Malaria.

William McCarthy (great uncle) born 1888. William joined up in 1915 leaving his job as a hospital porter. He was discharged in 1920 having served with the East Kent Regiment The Buffs as a sergeant. He served in France during 1915/16 and Bangalore in 1918.

Walter McCarthy (great uncle) born 1891. Walter enlisted age 18 joining the Prince of Wales Own Regiment (West Yorks) having worked at the arsenal in Woolwich in number 2 cartridge factory. Quite the character, Walter’s medical and conduct records are interesting reading, providing an insight into what life was really like for a soldier during the early twentieth century. He served for ten years and received his medals for the time he spent fighting in France, Belgium and Malta. He was discharged in 1919 due to wounds received during active service. The photograph shows Walter and his fellow soldiers posing for a post card that Walter then sent to his mother Sarah McCarthy, my great grandmother.

 

Walter

Thomas Kent (Jnr) (great uncle) born 1897. Thomas was a machine hand, signed up aged 18 and served as a rifleman in France in 1916/17 with the 5th Battalion Kings Royal Rifles. He was taken prisoner in 1917 for over a year until being repatriated on 27th November 1918. Like the others he received his medals and was discharged in 1920, having served for four years.

John McCarthy (great uncle) 1885-1916 John served as a private in the Queens Own Royal West Kent regiment. He was wounded in the Persian Gulf in 1915 and was mentioned in dispatches with the 2nd battalion. He was initially reported missing at Kut-el-Amara and confirmed dead on 31st October 1916. He paid the ultimate price, made the greatest sacrifice. The following letter was sent to his mother in April 1921.

JMcMilitary

I fully expect to discover more ancestors who served during The Great War. Unfortunately my research has been hampered due to the loss of many hundreds of thousands of documents during Second World War bombings. However I’m sure they will eventually reveal themselves to me one by one as those above have.

With WW2 in mind, it’s only right to pay tribute to two of my uncles who served during the Second World War. One of my uncles who I barely knew, Herbert McCarthy Kent, enlisted in 1941 at Bulford, near Salisbury aged 28 and served for the rest of the war. And uncle Fred (Frederick George Reynolds) who, in later life kept detailed records of his father Frederick Thomas’s time in WW1, together with a fascinating account of the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment 1914-1918 himself served in the Royal Air Force (photo below). Uncle Fred was ground crew, utilizing his skills as a motor mechanic and spent time in both India and Canada, latterly as air sea rescue.

UFred 

And so finally to my husband, Brian Cliff who served in the Royal Navy as a Chief Petty Officer Weapons EA from 1988 to 2000. Brian was awarded three medals during his time in the Navy, something he is most humble about and always plays down. I love the connection that he has with the forces and serving his country. I’m as proud of him as I am every other relative who has served and fought for our country.

My final thought here though is for another. For a stranger amongst millions of strangers, who all played their part in WW1. As I walked the dog several days ago on a misty, chilly autumn evening I noticed a large red poppy attached to a lamppost. Quite on it’s own. There are dozens down in Caterham village, fixed to posts, in shop windows, on railings and attached to hedges. Lovely tributes filled with thoughtful messages to those who lost their lives, to those who served and to all who played a part in WW1.

For some reason though, this one stood out on it’s own away from the town centre in a quiet residential road and just around the corner from my home. The name type written across the centre of the poppy was Lieutenant Carleton Wyndham Tufnell. A quick search of forces war records revealed that he was born in 1892, lived locally and was educated at Eton. He served with the Grenadier Guards and gave his life on 6th November 1914 aged just 22 during the first battle of the Somme at Ypres, in order that that we may know the life and the world we now live in.

So to Private John McCarthy, to Lieutenant Carleton Wyndham Tufnell and all who served, sacrificed, kept us safe and changed our world, although it doesn’t seem quite enough 100 years later …. Thank You!

 

All photos from family archives, thanks Chris!

Posted in Book Review

Jessica’s Promise by Jill Childs

Hot on the heels of one of my most favourite books of 2018, Gracie’s Secret comes another Jill Childs cracker, Jessica’s Promise.

Angie lives next door to newcomers Teresa and Craig and their two girls, Fran and three year-old Jessica. Harassed Teresa, desperate to make her mark in her chosen career happily takes up the offer of babysitting services from kind neighbour Angie.  Continue reading “Jessica’s Promise by Jill Childs”

Posted in Book Review

The Proposal by SE Lynes

The day after I read The Proposal a stranger knocked on my door asking if I wanted a quote for non-existent repairs to my roof. I held my barking dog close, muttered ‘no thanks’ and slammed the door in his face. Such is the power of SE Lynes new magnificent, dark and twisted thriller.

‘Come in, she said. I want your life story. What she meant was. I want you.’

Continue reading “The Proposal by SE Lynes”