Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Fourteen: The End of the Road (Trip)

Well, that’s it. Against all odds, I took myself out of my comfort zone, faced my fears and I did it.

It’s been quite a fortnight

Fourteen days, fourteen nights……..
Five Airbnbs, one Travelodge, four family homes
Fifty cups of coffee
Half a dozen sandwiches
Four Cuppa Soups
One cooked breakfast
Three fish and chips
One veggie curry
Thirty postcards distributed
Seventeen postcards received back
Sixteen pledge postcards sent
Five trips down memory lane
Endless hours of chatting
Fourteen blog posts
1500 Miles covered
£150 worth of incidentals
£200 worth of petrol
£180 worth of accommodation
3707 camera images
123 phone images
100 people spoken to
And at least three new friends

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A few things I’ve learnt along the way….

Buying a large bag of popcorn and leaving it open on the passenger seat is not a good idea if you have to go round corners – not unless you’re happy to pick popcorn off everything you’ve thrown in the footwell for the past five days

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You can’t eat sweetcorn with a biro* (well, you can, but it takes a long time)
Once opened, vacuum packed hard boiled eggs stink the room out *
A family sized pot of yogurt from PoundStretchers is not a bargain if you eat the whole lot in one go. With a plastic knife. Especially if you then feel sick for the next twelve hours **
There is a direct correlation between my mood and the level of the petrol gauge
Your Satnav is your best friend – don’t fall out with it.

And lucky jewellery really does keep you safe.

Travelling back today by a familiar route, has given me one last chance of thinking time. I’ve travelled miles and spent hours mulling things over in my head as the radio and satnav fought it out in the background.  I’ve battled rain, hailstones, wind and blinding sun.

I’ve pondered on subjects from the meaning of life to whether I could make it to the next service station toilets. In the privacy of my car I’ve laughed and I’ve cried; I’ve panicked and stayed calm; I’ve berated myself and built myself up again.

I’ve been spurred on by support from family, friends and strangers who have heard my tale.

Above all, it’s been an experience I’ll never forget, and one that has given me more, much, much more than I ever expected.

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Thanks to every single one of you who made pledges; suggested ideas; encouraged me to start this journey and cheered me on when it was underway.

I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

*discovered at Yarmouth Airbnb

**discovered at Scarborough Airbnb

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Fourteen: The End of the Road (Trip)

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Thirteen: Family, Babies and the Human Satnav

After the excitement of the last couple of weeks today was a rest and relaxation day at Mareseybabes and Spamhead’s 5* Hotel (AKA mum and dad’s house/my childhood home.)

It’s always lovely to spend time at this ‘hotel’. It’s nearly fifty years since I last lived here but the sound of the birds singing in the garden still reminds me of the day we first moved in. The excitement of coming home from school to a different house and a bedroom with a window in TWO adjacent walls is a memory I hope I never lose. Even then, as a little eleven year old I loved solitary pursuits such as reading, drawing and writing. To be ensconced in my room, sat on the yellow candlewick bedspread with the radio playing and a plentiful supply of books, paper and pens was heaven. If I had chocolate my life was complete.

I still have the diaries that were secretly written (one with a tiny lock and key, totally superfluous when I read what I wrote) and the drawings and scribbled notes – poems, stories, plays that made up my life. Somewhere I have the reel to reel tapes of the interviews I did with my best friend (still my best friend today despite half a century of lives that went off in totally different directions) where we giggled and spluttered our way through chats on boys and pop groups, make up and fashion. I don’t suppose there would be any way of playing them now but it would be good to try.

Back to reality, and an invite from my brother and his wife to come and see the twin grandbabies they were looking after for the day.

I offered to drive but soon realised that Sally Satnav was a dream car companion compared to my mum. Before we had gone five yards I was being redirected, and if I thought Sally Satnav veered towards panic, she had nothing on Mary, who spent the whole journey warning me about red lights and approaching cars, with a foot pressing down on an imaginary brake at regular intervals. How I managed that thousand mile road trip without my eighty eight year old mum by my side for driving advice I shall never know.

Despite all hazards we arrived in one piece and were greeted by Geoff and Cathy at the door, a crying baby apiece. We had cuddles, gave bottles, oohed and aahed, soothed and smiled, danced with them to Queen, then, thinking (despite their undeniable cuddly cuteness) how glad I was that those days are over, we left as we’d arrived – Geoff and Cathy at the door, a baby apiece.

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Ignoring mum’s ‘Whoops!’ as I backed out of the drive and off the kerb, we set off to Baskerville’s for lunch.

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A three hour sleep on the sofa this afternoon, a home cooked meal of fillet steak and a visit from my lovely niece, Lynda (with hilarious teaching tales) all combined to recharge my batteries.

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Tomorrow, I’m saying goodbye to all my London family, and (no doubt weighed down with enough food to keep me going for weeks) heading back up north to the Blackpool clan. I can’t wait for cuddles with all my favourite grandchildren. And the husband if he’s lucky…

In the bedroom, I check the flowers – daffodils, a taste of spring – and know that for now, all’s well at the 5* Hotel.

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Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Thirteen: Family, Babies and the Human Satnav

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Five: A Little Trip Around My Head

In the interests of continuity, day five, a non travelling day, still deserves a short mention.

Today has been a catch up day; printing out orders, catching up with emails and texts, planning the second half of my journey, debating whether to venture out (after a wrangle with my PFC (physical fitness conscience) I decided I’ll get enough fresh air and exercise once I set off again on Thursday), throwing washing in the machine and repacking my case.

In between jobs, I got to thinking about how this long-planned trip had coincided with a big dip in my mental health.

At the risk of repeating myself (when has that ever stopped me, before??) I need to lay a little background for those who missed my Facebook post about ten days ago.  In a nutshell, I’ve suffered from depression for the last thirty five years.  After the first few years, which included severe post natal depression, a stay in hospital and several visits to a lovely psychiatrist, I did manage to stabilise, with the endless support of family and friends – and some little red pills.

Over the years, like most people, I’ve faced numerous stressful situations which, again with love, help and support, I’ve coped with.  The pills balance the serotonin levels in my brain.  They are not ‘happy’ pills, they are ‘normality’ pills, and in the last few weeks I’ve realised, despite what I thought,  I still need them.  It really is that simple.

Having pondered long and hard about posting a long, personal, confessional status on Facebook, I was amazed and hugely touched by the responses and messages, both public and private, that I received in the following days.  They confirmed my belief that we do need to pay regard to mental illness.  We do need to be open and unashamed if we’ve suffered, as so many have.  And it’s good to be honest about what has worked for each of us.  Not everybody needs anti-depressants, and not everybody needs counselling.  I’m waiting for counselling but I’m also aware that that alone is not the full solution for me.  At the age of sixty four, I’ve had enough time to get to know my body and mind, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last couple of weeks it’s that I need to trust my instincts.

Despite being a pretty sociable person, I enjoy my own company and never really mind being alone, so the last few days have given me a great opportunity to really think about things without interruption.  I’ve said before that I’m a great believer in everything happening for a reason – call it fate – and this project coinciding with such low feelings is just such an occasion.  I knew when I planned this trip that I was taking myself out of my comfort zone, I just didn’t realise quite how far I would be pushing myself through some very dark places.

Now, I’m happy to say, the fog is clearing, my mood is beginning to stabilise, and I’m feeling joy again.  My family and friends have told me they’re proud of me, and for once I’m going to admit I’m proud of myself.  I set off last Friday, feeling vulnerable and shaky, and arrived home yesterday, strong and optimistic.

 

One more rest day tomorrow, then I’m off again, for part two of this exciting adventure, which has turned out to be not just a road trip but also a winding journey around my head.

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And this is just one of the ways I recharge my batteries
Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Five: A Little Trip Around My Head

Finding Myself Part One

Amongst other things, I am a collector, a hoarder, a messy person.  A very, very, very messy person.  I know this because my husband tells me regularly, whilst he’s following me around, picking up shoes, underwear, banana skins, orange peel, dirty cups, scraps of paper, lids off pens……I know this but I never really think about it.

I’m an artist and a photographer, so I notice things all the time: the way the light falls, the colour of a shirt or a fence panel, a handsome profile, the shadow made by a chair leg. Details, so many details.  When I’m out, cameras banging against my body, finger poised over the shutter, my eyes are constantly flickering from side to side, finding the unusual, the odd angle, the strange activity.  Indoors, I notice the way the shadows fall, how the sunset reflects on my wooden desk, my grandson’s mouth as he tells me a story, the line of my granddaughters back as she arches into a tantrum.

What I don’t notice is the clutter.

Having recently read an article in defence and praise of clutter, I had the sudden urge to do a tour of my house and not just look, but actually see what was clogging up every shelf, every corner, every cupboard.  I would photograph them all. The only rules would be that I wouldn’t move or rearrange anything to make a better shot; and I wouldn’t edit the images.  Every item would be recorded exactly as and where it was.

I noticed things I’d walked past twenty times a day without a glance, I thought about the objects I was seeing.  They had stories attached. Some took me back years, some weeks or days, but as I excitedly continued to snap each and every one, I realised I wasn’t just finding clutter, I was finding myself.  These obscure items are part of my history, and part of what makes me ME.

Writing this post, and uploading the images, I realise this isn’t a blog that can be done in one sitting.  There are too many items, too many memories, so much more of me to find.

To be continued…..

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Three strange, and somewhat rude, teapots found in a junk shop years ago, and in the background, nursery and school photos of my eldest grandson.
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My husband, aged about three, on a perspex stand.
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In the days when we all sent off films to be processed, this print arrived with a pile of others. Looking at it sideways, my only thought was, “but we haven’t got a denim sofa…” (turn it, you’ll see). My husband turned it this way and admitted he’d taken a photo of my behind without me realising.
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We moved house in 1986, partly because I had a growing cake making business and needed a room to store equipment. This was a wall in the room, which became a doodle area for the kids. When we decorated, we left the patterns on the wall.
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Part of the wall in the cake room that we didn’t paint over. The kids’ heights were recorded over the years, along with doodles and comments.
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The second hand chair bought in Lancaster thirty years ago and forever known as ‘Little Chair’ due to it’s short legs.
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Little Chair was soon joined by two more little chairs. This one was donated by our lovely antique dealer friend, Martin. The books, behind, have been picked up in junk and charity shops along the way.
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Dusty bluebirds that have spent twenty years flying nowhere in our downstairs loo.
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A post card sent to me by my best friend for the last 52 years. It’s now stuck on a cupboard door in the cake room.
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Food colourings from the cake making days.
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Monkey candle holder, bought on a weekend away. It caused a big row, as my husband thought it was a waste of money. I love it.
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Some of the hundreds of tapes we’ve made and collected over the years, now obsolete as we’ve no tape player.
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A sign of the times. The two singers were bought years ago, and the money box was handed down by a great aunt. I have never really thought about them very much, but now I realise they’re quite offensive.
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A few of the many photo albums before it all went digital.
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The legs that live in the garden. About twenty years ago we were out for a walk with friends when we passed a clothes shop that was closing down. A sign in the window said, ‘everything must go!’ As we walked on I told my husband I’d love the plastic legs that had been used to display stockings. He ran back and bought one for £1. Seeing my shock and disappointment that he’d only bought one, my friend ran back and bought the other one. They lived on the garden wall for years until the wall fell down. Now they blow around the garden and get stuck in bushes.
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One of the many stained glass windows/mirrors, made by me after attending a Leaded Light evening class thirty years ago. Had such fun and still see some friends I made there. Polar bear from Ikea, I loved its shape and the way the light shines through it.
Roy Rogers, a home made hardboard wedding present from forty years ago. I wrote to thank the couple I thought had sent it.  Turned out it wasn't them, and I never did find out who gave it.
Roy Rogers, a home made hardboard wedding present from forty years ago. I wrote to thank the couple I thought had sent it. Turned out it wasn’t them, and I never did find out who gave it.
Finding Myself Part One