jofuller

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Life: I’m Planning My Own Personal Brexit
I voted to remain and, like so many people who voted the same, I am finding it hard to come to terms with the uncertain times we now find ourselves in.
I am single, 46, childless and self-employed. I have an interest-only mortgage, no pension and no one ― as yet ― to care for me in my old age. I know I am not alone in my situation, a situation which to others, perhaps with a more secure financial and family plan for their future, could be seen as a bit tragic, but I don’t see it like that at all.
Every now and again you need a good shake up in your life. The end of a relationship, redundancy, death of a loved one, health issues, the turning of British politics on its head. Anyone of these major events can be turned into a life-defining opportunity. You have a choice. Life doesn’t have to floor you when it doesn’t go according to plan, it can give you the guts to follow your heart and turn sadness and fear into liberation and adventure. You choose.
At 32 I was made redundant from my job in telecoms. I was single, had just bought a flat and I knew that if I didn’t do something constructive with my redundancy money I would just fritter it away. I had no idea what career path I wanted to take but, more importantly, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be in an office. I wanted to be more creative. I knew that if I banked my money for a rainy day, put on a suit and commuted, I would find myself once again in a job that only met my financial needs and, long term, there was no satisfaction in that. So instead I rented out my flat and went on an adventure. My purpose was to make a decision as to what new career I wanted to pursue when I returned if indeed I was to return.
The thought of travelling alone was terrifying me, and I had it in my head I would be the only 30+ female solo traveller in the whole world. How wrong I was. I met so many awesome people and a lot of them were women on their own and many of them were 40, 50 and 60, I wasn’t as ground-breaking as my ego had led me to believe.
My travels took me from Southeast Asia to a long stay in New Zealand, and then across to Australia. I met a boy in the idyllic setting of Byron Bay and I followed him back to Sydney. When I discovered he was a small time drug dealer and not an electrician, I made a quick escape with a broken heart and flew to Bangkok. I hooked up with a girl – who has now become one of my best friends – and we headed out for the night in that crazy Asian city. We rode elephants, played pool with “Lady Boys” and were so disturbed by a sex show that we did a runner without paying for our drinks. It was a night of many memories and the night that changed my life. I woke up the next morning, dazed, confused and hungover. It was hot and humid and I was sweaty and dehydrated, but the first thought that entered my head was “I’m going to become a hairdresser.”
It was a damascene moment. Somewhere, sometime, I must have a planted a seed in my subconscious. Hairdressing had never been on my list of jobs to pursue, but here it was, presenting itself to me, and it ticked all my boxes. I could travel with it, it was creative, it was a skill that would never be automated, I could be my own boss, I wouldn’t have to put on a suit and sit in an office, tick, tick, tick. And so I declared to my friend that I could now make my way home. I had found the answer to my question. My quest was over.
I am continually grateful for the opportunity I had to be able to take 18 months off and explore the world and myself. Every day whilst doing the job I love I am thankful for that “devastating” redundancy 14 years ago that had the potential to create overwhelming uncertainty, but ultimately prompted me to change my life for the better.
I am now planning my next change. I am determined to live a happy and fulfilling old age without worrying about money or my relationship status. My dream is to be able to work from anywhere in the world from my laptop and the way I want to fulfil this is to become a writer. I am planning my own Brexit, should you be planning yours?
This article also appeared in The Huffington Post 
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Life: Holidays, House Music and Hip replacements

I first went to Ibiza in 1988 for my 18th birthday. It was the summer after Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling had been to Amnesia, taken ecstasy and danced to the Balearic Beats of the legendary DJ Alfredo, the rest, as they say, is musical history.  I wasn’t hanging with the cool crowd that summer, in fact I have no idea of my whereabouts on the island. I blame too much cheap Malibu, and the overexcitement of being abroad without my parents.

I definitely went to see the fake Four Tops perform at the casino and I think I went to Ku, but I can’t be sure. I remember having a flirtation with a boy who I later saw stumbling down the road with a toilet seat around his neck. My taste in men hasn’t improved much but thankfully my taste in holidays has.

And so it was I sat at Gatwick airport, smelling divine having deliberately emptied a  Tom Ford tester all over myself. Short Cuts was going on holiday, back to Ibiza to spend the week in a villa celebrating a 50th birthday. I did have my reservations. There was a mix of personalities, eighteen in all. We have been friends a long time, but we don’t live in each other’s pockets like we used to. How would it be, all of us together again under one fabulous, sun-drenched roof?

My tips for going on a villa holiday in Ibiza with 18 friends who are almost 50 and haven’t really grown up much.

Shop locally – always worth visiting a couple of supermarkets and sussing out the best one. In our case, the best one was the one which sold an outstanding Cava for €1.85. This became the benchmark for pricing.
“How much was that?”
“Gosh, that’s more expensive than a bottle of cava.”

Unsurprisingly, not many things were cheaper than a bottle of Cava. My bog standard shower gel was more expensive as were Toblerones and cauliflowers. It was suggested that we fill up the jacuzzi bath in the master bedroom with Cava, just for the hell of it, but our middle-aged sensibility kicked in when someone pointed out the hefty deposit we stood to loose.

Poolside – Fill the pool with inflatables. Much merriment is to be had watching your friends mastering the art of riding a blow-up yellow seahorse. Morbidly hanging a pink flamingo from a dead tree and watching it slowly strangle itself in the wind, not quite reaching a point of decapitation is also recommended. By the end of the week, our pool resembled a tragic homage to Sea World. An orca and a crocodile had joined the menagerie, and a second sea horse had been purchased to replace the first one, which unsurprisingly had developed a slow puncture.

Audio books are the way forward. Lying in the sun reading a book is, to me, one of life’s greatest pleasures. Now I’m getting lazier and going slightly blind, listening to a book means I don’t have to turn the pages or get prescription sunglasses.

Eating – Go away with people who like to cook and people who don’t want to cook but are happy to clear up. Also, a couple of petrol heads who are looking for any excuse to get behind the wheel of a hire car are very useful for trips to the supermarket and the general running of errands.
Eat as a group. There is something heartwarming about eating outdoors at a long table pretending you are the Waltons.

Music – The awesome Ibiza Global Radio provided chilled tunes for the day but Spotify took over in the evenings. In honour of the birthday boy, we had an evening of tasteless hits from his teenage years in the 70’s. Tracks by Racey, Brotherhood of Man, Sweet and The Bay City Rollers. I am pretty certain we are the only people – past, present and future – to have danced to Tiger Feet, twice, in Ibiza.

Go Clubbing – You’re on the White Isle, it has to be done. Like the old days, make a big thing of getting ready. We adorned ourselves with gold tattoos whilst drinking Cava – did I mention it was €1.85 a bottle. Our outfits were meticulously picked. Was I a ‘Nana looking like Rhianna’ or was I rocking it in my short skirt and sensible heels? I did feel that I was slightly channelling the look of a LadyBoy as we left the villa.

I go out in my hometown of Brighton with the same crowd, girls and gay boys and the last time I spoke to a straight, single man was in 2012. I go out in Ibiza with girls and gay boys and the only people I talk to are straight, single men. Nothing beats a selection box of tanned men wanting to dance with you and buy you beers at 10 euros a pop to make you feel like a woman again. I danced till dawn in my new M&S memory foam wedges and pleather mini skirt and when we hobbled into our taxi home the sun was coming up happy days.

Hire speed boats – Surprise yourselves as to how easily the life of the rich and famous comes to you whilst casually racing across the Mediterranean at high speed. Diving off the back of a boat and goosing each other whilst snorkelling is all part of the Champagne lifestyle I’m led to believe. Stopping to watch the sunset away from the crowds with some of your oldest and best friends, can get a tad emotional – but that could be the cava. Finish the evening off by begging the bus driver to take you to a Drive-In for a dirty burger.

Follow these tips and I can pretty much guarantee, that like us, you will have a holiday to remember. A harmonious and fun filled time was had by all. However, we did leave one of the party behind in Ibiza. Not because he was having a midlife and decided at the age of 49 to say ‘fuck it’ I’m moving to Ibiza, but because he fell off a bar stool and fractured his femur. How fitting to go away with 18 friends, average age 46 to celebrate a 50th birthday and one of them comes home needing a hip replacement. Enough said. Same again next year?

This article also appeared in The Huffington Post

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Life: Raving, Red Stripe and Reminiscing

From my late teens to early thirties, I couldn’t get enough of going out.  My weekly routine started on a Thursday at a late night bar, Friday and Saturday night clubbing, and Sunday all day drinking –  purely because it was a Sunday. Monday, and particularly Tuesday, generally feeling pretty shabby, Wednesdays had a slight sense of normality about them, and then back on it again, because it was Thursday.

So far removed from my routine 20 years later of yoga, eight hours sleep, regular meals and the occasional glass of fizz. Today I gain as much pleasure being in bed by 2300 with a good book as I did queuing for hours in the rain to get into a club or a rave.

My clients are mostly my age and often a song will come on a playlist or the radio during an appointment which sparks a memory – albeit blurry –  of the decadent lives we used to live. Sleep deprivation, lack of nutritional food, in fact, a general malaise when it came to wellbeing, the rite of passage that is ‘the clubbing years’.  We were the first ravers, we danced to acid house and floated through the 1990 Summer of Love.

We were the generation that stuffed ourselves into small cars and drove around the countryside looking for clues in phone boxes, which led us to lose our minds dancing around a field in cycling shorts blowing on whistles. We sweated beyond recognition in badly ventilated warehouses, not concerned in any way that in the next room the floor had just collapsed. DJs were gods and we prayed to them with our ‘hands in the air,’ ‘reaching for the lasers,’ begging for just ‘one more choon.’ Pills and Red Stripe were the usual bounty for a 90’s clubber, a tub of Vicks, an overpriced bottle of water and 20 Marlborough Lights in your handbag.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in an orderly queue with a legitimate ticket to see the legends that are Mike Pickering and Graham Park ‘spin the wheels of steel,’ alongside a symphony orchestra with their show, Haçienda Classical.

NB: My handbag contained none of the above.

There can’t have been an available babysitter that night in the whole of town; 1000+ middle-aged, middle-class ravers, re-living their 20s. Every track gloriously taking us back to a time before mortgages, mobile phones, glamping and prosecco.  There we were, once again, ‘putting our hands in the air’ and getting a sweat on.  So grateful we had chosen seating instead of standing and weren’t too far from the loo.

A few days later I was with a client, one of those I secretly refer to as a Superwoman.  Most of my clients are Superwomen, they keep their families alive, have jobs or run their own businesses, don’t get much sleep, but still, manage to keep fit and have great social lives. The aforementioned Superwoman had also been at Haçienda Classical. We reminisced on the evening and the debauchery of our mid-twenties.

Midway through her appointment, her boys were deposited back into her care by a tall, dark, handsome man. A tall dark handsome man I recognised.
Who is he?
Why do I think I know him?
He recognised me too I could see him scanning his brain, dipping into the dark recesses of his memory…Who is she?
And both of us silently wondering: Have I slept with you?

Maybe it was just recent events and conversations dredging up memories of distant times. If I’m honest – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – there are a few blurry moments, with a few blurry guys. But was this tall, dark, handsome father of three one of them?

Thankfully not. Transpires he owns a local deli. Phew! Awkward moment averted by the mutual admiration of Superwoman and me for his homemade pasta. It was only his lasagne I had tasted.

As much as I enjoyed my clubbing years, and I wholly believe that we should regret nothing, I wonder how much damage I did to my mind and my body. Mentally I could feel the effects of smoking, drinking and recreational drug taking, and in my early 30s, I started to clean up my act.

But there was a lot to be said for the random conversations and friendships that were made in the girls’ toilets of a sweaty club. Of sharing a ‘cheeky half’ with your mate. Of going back to someone’s house until the early hours – drinking tea and talking drivel.

The friendships I have today with the people I collected from those hazy days are some of my strongest. They may have been built on the unstable foundations of an ‘all-nighter,’ but they have, unlike many of my brain cells, stood the test of time. Long may they, and the odd trip back to the Old Skool, continue.

This article also appeared in The Huffington Post

 

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Life: Birthdays, Boys and Bold Baristas

I – and coincidentally like many of my clients – have my birthday at the beginning of May. We are the products of hot August nights in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t have kids, but my godson and his little sister, provide me with a more than adequate kiddie fix. When the little sister announced that for her sixth birthday she wanted an intimate “Yoga and Smoothie” party with five of her closest friends it got me thinking about my impending name day.

NB for my sixth birthday I had measles and a Wimpy.

I lost my mum a few years ago and since she passed away I haven’t really celebrated. My birthdays were always big occasions – it falls on May the 4th, International Star Wars Day – I loved gathering everyone together and feeling the love, but for the past few years, I’ve been a bit of damp squib.

I now know that this withdrawal and unwillingness to socialise was part of my grieving process.  So difficult to recognise the signs and acknowledge your behaviour when you are deep in it. With so many of my friends and clients sadly starting to lose their parents, grief, and how to cope with it, is becoming an all too common conversation over a haircut and a cuppa.

One thing I learnt is that there are no rules to grief and that it affects us all, mentally and physically, in very different ways. At the beginning I lost my hearing for a few weeks, everything sounded to me like I was underwater and being in large crowds of people was unbearable. Was it my body’s way of drowning out the world and the desperate sadness that just wouldn’t go away?  But one of the positives that comes out of such dark times is the discovery of your true friends. They are the ones who cut you some slack no matter how withdrawn you become, and who will welcome you back into the real world with open arms when you are finally ready to make your re-entry.

And so it was for my birthday that myself and a very special friend, one who never gave up on me – and I know I gave her good reason to at times – hopped on a plane to Amsterdam for the day. We arrived in time for coffee and pancakes and were home in time for dinner. It was a decadent day and very special. I then gathered together all those other wonderful friends who had been there for me over the past few years, for an evening of too much food, too much fun and too much fizz.  It felt great to celebrate again and a major corner on the road of grief had been turned.

I didn’t have a date for my birthday, but that was OK.  I had recently read a great article by Julie Birchall which put my crazy mind to rest. She has never been single and has never tried online dating. She has always met men whilst doing the things she loves. Her theory on internet dating is that you are just swimming in a pool of other lonely people, the common denominator being that you are all desperate to not be lonely anymore.

I used to refer to Tinder for some dating, but I got tired of the soullessness of looking at pictures of men in football shirts with a fag in their hands, topless selfies in front of the bathroom mirror, or proudly posing with an extraordinarily large, dead fish – that is not a euphemism, but yes, I was tired of looking at pics of those too.

My love affair with Tinder came to an abrupt end whilst ordering an Americano from a handsome and very flirty young Barista. He cheekily said he had seen me on Tinder and the flattery I felt was soon crushed when in the same breath he decided to tell me how much fun his mum was having with it. I quickly drank my coffee, deleted the app and decided to take a leaf out of Julie Birchall’s book. I will spend my time pursuing the things I love, writing, travelling, comedy, yoga and drinking coffee – slowly. The list is endless and most certainly does not include swiping left or right.

I know of many wonderful internet dates that have ended in long lasting relationships, but I am ever hopeful of an old fashioned, organic meeting. Perhaps locking eyes with a Jedi Knight drinking coffee in an airport lounge,  a yoga mat under his arm, laughing at the book he has just had published, might be a step too far, but it would be the perfect ending.

This article appeared in The Huffington Post

 

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Travels: The Peak District, Cake, Walk, Cake repeat

When my delightful friend Emma B proudly told me she had won a spa break to the Peak District in a charity raffle, and asked would I like to be her plus one for a weekend comprising mainly of cakes and facials, how could I refuse?

We didn’t really have an itinerary, but there were a couple of places we both wanted to visit and a couple of places we unexpectedly stumbled upon. Here are my highlights and recommendations, but ultimately I would suggest, if you have the means, take a trip to this wonderful part of the UK.

It did make me wonder why I go abroad…

Chatsworth House

If, like us, you hold a deep affection for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, then a trip to Chatsworth House is a must. Not the birthplace of Jane Austen or historically relevant in anyway to the novel, but the location that was used to bring Pemberley, the residence of the brooding Mr Darcy, to life in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth. When Firth’s Darcy stripped off and dived into the lake in the grounds of Chatsworth, only to reappear a few moments later, sopping wet, his white shirt flowing freely from his breeches –  *blush* – his portrayal of the infamous anti-hero set many a modern day, corseted heart a flutter and, realistically or unrealistically, set the bar for many of us as to what makes the perfect man.

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Chatsworth lived up to all expectations. It is not just a romantic hunting ground, a place to run around the manicured lawns in imaginary billowing skirts whilst handsome bachelor’s admire you from afar, it is beautifully preserved both inside and out and has a great history. We didn’t find our Darcy but we did have an amazing cream tea.

Monday’s

The Peak District is closed on a Monday. I think it is closed for cleaning. It is so beautiful and well kept, I can only assume that there is a silent code that you clean your area on a Monday. Sadly, this did affect our plans to visit Eyam, the plague village. I was keen to visit the museum having read the wonderful book A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks but sadly it and all the tea shops were shut. It looked very beautiful, it didn’t need cleaning and unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to make a return visit.

Instead we headed to what was surprisingly a very interesting discovery, the David Mellor design Museum in Hathersage.  I had never heard of David Mellor the designer –  only David Mellor, ex tory MP and now DJ on Classic FM –  but it turns out that in the 60’s, David Mellor the Designer designed the traffic lights that we stop at everyday, bollards, bus shelters, pedestrian crossings, benches and cutlery, what a guy?! It really made me think of the everyday things in the street that are taken for granted, somebody somewhere put a huge amount of thought into their design and functionality and that person was David Mellor. Never will I take a traffic light or a bollard for granted again.

Bakewell is too big to shut for cleaning on a Monday.  It is however full of tea shops selling cake and the ubiquitous Bakewell Tart and its friendly rival the Bakewell Pudding. We saw it as our duty to sample both the tart and the pudding and I have to say that the Bakewell Pudding from Bloomers of Bakewell topped our personal league table of Bakewell baked goods.

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Walking & Wildlife

One of the main activities in the Peak District is walking but, as we are soft Southerners, we were quite unprepared and arrived without walking boots or wellies, so were restricted to a not too muddy walk that we could do in our trainers.

The gods, it would appear, were on our side and there was a wonderful walk from the little paradise of Hope Valley to the beautiful village of Castleton which was pretty much 90mins in a straight line, through perfect fields of lambs, dry stone walls and streams filled with ducklings.

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It was thirsty work simultaneously walking and cooing at all the baby animals, so when we arrived in Castleton we welcomed the restorative properties of a cold pint of shandy, before we went foraging for cake for the return journey. The Ramblers Rest cafe provided us with a suitable selection from which we picked a slab of coffee and walnut and a slab of lemon Victoria sponge. They were both equally delicious and provided the essential nutrients that we required for the walk home.

Where to stay?

If you want a small, independent spa hotel in a beautiful location, with friendly staff and a super chef in the kitchen, then I can highly recommend Losehill House.  The website looked fabulous, but it didn’t prepare us for the beauty and tranquility of its location within Hope Valley.

Losehill was an old Ramblers Rest and had been closed down when the first foot and mouth epidemic hit the UK in 2001. Thankfully it has been revamped and reopened, the stunning view that the hotel allows, made available to be enjoyed once again.

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We started each day with a sauna and a swim in the indoor pool followed by a most luxurious hot tub experience. Sitting outside on the deck in a large wooden bowl of bubbling hot water watching the sun slowly climb over the surrounding hills, listening to the birds and the lambs, was almost ethereal.

We pampered ourselves with facials and massages, and we ate the most incredible dinners. A highlight for me was turbot with a cauliflower ‘risotto.’ I’m not a fan of menus that use inverted commas to describe an item on the menu, but I was sufficiently impressed with my ‘risotto’ to overlook the inverted commas.

And so it was we said goodbye to Hope Valley, the lambs and the hot tub. We left a few pounds heavier and coffered a few local delicacies – namely Bakewell Puddings – for the journey home. We were chilled, relaxed and, like always, invigorated by our little trip away. We didn’t find our Darcy but we did find a little piece of paradise tucked away near Sheffield. #Searchingfordarcy… the story continues ….

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This article appeared in The Huffington Post

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