“We don’t have too much time here and time travels far too fast”…where I try to make a difference by walking a half marathon.

As I sat on the steps waiting for my walking buddies before the half marathon, it dawned on me how many people’s lives have been affected by cancer. Nearly everyone there was wearing their Walking Star on their back with their dedication to someone they were doing the walk for. There were the names of sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, friends, children. It was sobering and brought a tear to my eye. My dedication was to my dear Dad who passed away from cancer in 2007. Then I began to look a bit more closely. Not all of the stars were ‘In Memory’ of someone. Some of the stars were dedications to people going through treatment or who were survivors. We weren’t going to do this stupidly long walk in the middle of the night just for people we remembered, we were doing it for people we still had hope for.

All ready for the big night.

Surrounded by a sea of yellow made up from Cancer Society balloons and t-shirts I met my fellow walkers. We didn’t all know each other before we walked but there was a connection between us all in some way. I knew a couple of people through our children and one as a Twitter pal, now friend in real life, but by the end of the walk we all knew each other a lot better. I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t an easy walk, but being able to chat all the way round certainly made it easier on the old bones.

Before the walk began. Look at the happy faces!

My Twitter pal Melissa.



The walk began with a couple of circuits of Auckland domain as the sun had just set and then took us up Grafton Road, across the bridge and on to K Road. It was a sight to be seen; 2500 walkers in yellow, at this point still all quite close to one another. Drag queens came out from the clubs to cheer us on, customers at the sex shops looked a little confused.

Ponsonby Road was great to walk along too. Loads of support from everyone in the bars and pubs, high fives as we walked along, the odd nod from the hipsters. The atmosphere was great.

The start line. 

The walk then took us down towards the Harbour Bridge. In the ten years I’ve lived in Auckland I’ve never been down here so it was a special experience. Clearly a hang out for fishermen, teenage drinkers and couples wanting to make out in their cars normally on a Saturday night, neither the fish or the revelers were getting any peace and quiet this night! We walked under the bridge and made the half way point. The view of the Skytower and cityscape was breathtaking.

Through Westhaven Marina, around Victoria Park and into Wynard Quarter, the body was getting sore now. It was also shouting at me “this is past your bedtime, what are you doing?” But on we went. Wynard Quarter was surprisingly quiet and the walkers had started to thin out a little so on came the tunes to keep us moving. It worked and we even managed a little singalong and a wee dance.

Just past half way.

 

The walk along Quay Street was the quietest; normal people had headed home to their beds by now and there was little to look at. We also knew the hardest bit was round the corner; the steep hill of Parnell Rise. By the time we got there my hips were killing me. My feet were fine, but my head was aching. I had drunk lots of water but on this humid night I was suffering the effects of dehydration. It was getting tough but I reminded myself why I was doing this. I was raising money for the Cancer Society. I was doing to this to help people affected by cancer. I was doing this for all the people who had put their faith in me and sponsored me. I was doing this for the memory of my dad.

So pure determination, cursing and some fruit pastilles got me up that hill and back in to the Auckland Domain. The end was in sight. The pure relief when I stepped on to the grass from the concrete was immense. I would never have realised the pain the pavement could cause.

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Hooray for the finish line.

And then the finishing line. There it was in all its glory. The immense relief on everyone’s faces after we had finished is evident in the photos, but it was so worth it.

I did it.

So, would I do it again? If you had asked me on Sunday morning when I could barely move, was vomiting from dehydration and thought my head was about to explode of course I would have said no. But my body has bounced back amazingly. By last night I felt tired but my body no longer ached and when you put everything in to perspective, yes, I will definitely do something like this again. I know the answer is yes because I have done other events for charity before including two “running” half marathons. I say “running” as I’m not exactly the sporty type which is why these are events are way more of a challenge for me and probably one of the reasons I get so much sponsorship from friends and family; they can’t actually believe I’m going to do it!

I raised $838 for The Cancer Society on Saturday night. I’d like to think I’ve made a difference. If we have our health and we can give up our time, we should all try to do something like this in our lifetime. Helping others has shown me a different kind of happiness. I hope this post has gone some way to explain that.

A well deserved medal.

 If you would like to support The Cancer Society here is my page. Thank you to everyone who has supported and sponsored me so far. If you like this post, please share so we can help The Cancer Society and Walking Stars even more.

 

Thank you.

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“The world sleeps at different times. With one turn your day is now my night”…why I love Twitter so much.

Today started off badly. I woke up, essentially still in the middle of the night, at 4.15am. No children up, but the humidity and heat here was unbearable. I got an email that pissed me off. I got a phone call that meant that I was housebound again for the third day in a row. It was not the morning I was hoping for.

After ranting at the husband while he rushed around looking for keys, wallet, phone etc on his way to work, I took to Twitter to vent my (anger is too harsh a word) dismay, and there it was, support from people I have and haven’t met online. I am generally a very positive person so of course I apologised for my negativity. Don’t want strangers thinking I’m a nutcase of course.

The support and love on Twitter is fantastic. I first realised this when I was up for night feeds with my eldest daughter when she was an infant. At 2am in New Zealand most are tucked up in bed, but I was able to chat on my iPod (my weapon of choice at the time) with people who were enjoying their days in Europe. My multi tasking skills are second to none.

Five years on this support and connection continues. There is not a day goes by where people don’t say ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Night’. If you see people saying something like this in your timeline take the opportunity to reply, I have no doubt whatsoever that you will put a smile on someone’s face.

So, today I am a sleep deprived, frazzled, frizzy mess, but a few choice words from a few people online in New Zealand AND around the world have cheered me up.

If you want to say “Good Day” to me on Twitter follow me @NZ_judester – I’ll definitely wave back.

 

“Everybody’s looking for someone that they can adore. Give them what they came here for, always leave them wanting more.” On being a 38 year old fangirl.

The year was 1988, my walls were plastered with posters ripped from numerous magazines, namely Smash Hits and Fast Foward. Alternating around my eleven year old self’s bedroom; Kylie, Jason, Kylie, Jason. Neighbours was big but these two were bigger.

Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan

It had begun earlier than this. I remember my parents saving up tokens from The Sun newspaper for a huge Adam Ant poster which hung proudly on the chimney breast in my bedroom. I remember every Sunday plugging my headphones in to listen to the Top 40 on the radio, and later trying to record my favourite songs without Bruno Brookes talking over them. I remember my friend Maria and I kissing my Rick Astley poster good night when we had sleepovers…yes, Rick Astley. I was destined to be a fangirl. I always was a fangirl, come to think of it.

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Every week I would fastidiously cut out lyrics from Smash Hits glue them on to paper, slip them into plastic wallets my dad had stolen from the stationary cupboard at work and file them away in my red and white heart ring binder that matched my wallpaper (what you could see of it) and my curtains. The late eighties were really the time to be alive! This weekly ritual continued way into my teens and into the nineties. The artists changed so did the posters. Next came Bros (Craig was my favourite), then New Kids On The Block (I liked Jon – I had a habit of liking the least popular member as I felt a bit sorry for them) and then I found Rock music, and then Grunge.

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No time for teeny bopping, I was a lumberjack shirt, Doc Martin, floral skirt wearing grunge girl who could be found at college band nights (getting nits from headbanging – true story!), in garages where my teenage boyfriend’s band where practising, watching Nirvana Unplugged and saving up for Extreme, Guns N Roses, and Little Angels gigs. It was THE BEST. We went to Wembley, Milton Keynes Bowl, Bournemouth International Centre, Southampton Guildhall (Okay, those last two are not so impressive) to see bands…always accompanied by our parents; was usually my dad and my friends’ mums. We were living the dream, the dream of a 14 year old rocker.

As I got older Indie music came into my life. My Saturday job was at HMV. I started on an hourly wage of two pounds and thirty four pence, having turned down a better paid job at British Home Stores. CDs were cooler than towels and clothing, and I was right. I got a 30% discount at HMV and basically every single penny I earnt went straight back in the till, minus some beer money for the weekend. I learnt so much there though from the people I worked with, heard so many different kinds of music and had my ears and eyes opened. The gigs continued but were more small venues with new and up and coming bands. My 17 year old self would follow along with my older colleagues after work on a Saturday. They would buy me drinks but look after me and it was a great time.

So you see, I missed out on Take That the first time round. I knew their music of course, but it wasn’t my time to be a Take That fan. At Uni we would listen to Never Forget loudly, very loudly, at house parties on repeat, and Back For Good was a staple on my excessively large boom box, but I wasn’t a Thatter.

Then just as I was about to emigrate to New Zealand they reformed. I remember watching Take That For The Record and everyone talking about it next morning in the staff room at work. It made a real impact on everyone. The nostalgia was there, even for those of us who thought we had missed it the first time round. Somehow without us knowing Take That had got into everyone’s psyche. They really are a British Institution. That year I got married and one of our wedding gifts, from a friend who I had often drunkly watched the Pray video with, was The Ultimate Collection DVD. The husband laughed ironically, I was smitten.

A million love songs later, listening to TT4 albums in the car, watching The Circus DVD on repeat while breastfeeding  an infant going through a growth spurt, chatting lots to my friend who was a big fan the first time round, I found myself really liking the music, but still not a fangirl.

Then about this time last year I saw the new incarnation of Take That; Take That as a threesome. Everything changed (pun intended).

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Over here in New Zealand, we get The Graham Norton Show a week after it airs in the UK. I saw Gary, Mark and Howard and fell in love. It was at that moment I became a fangirl again. It was like being a kid again. But what was different now? It was the notion of a fandom.

I have been an avid twitter user for seven years now. I didn’t realise the potential on twitter for being a fangirl. A quick search found Gary Barlow’s profile and it was quickly evident that he uses it to engage with fans a lot. The search continued and I found the other band members and then what was actually more interesting is the fans. I started to follow people from all over the world including UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Germany…everywhere. Together we share pics, links and chat about the band. I have lived vicariously through them as they have gone to dates on the UK tour, the European Tour, Dubai. I have smiled with joy as they have finally met their idols, got their autographs and their selfies. I have also been slightly jealous, but mainly happy for them!

So, I quickly caught up with what I missed. Being a fangirl on the other side of the world to your favourite band must have been hell before the internet. YouTube is my friend. The technology frustrates me sometimes (like this morning when a live stream failed) but for the most part it makes me a very happy lady.

What I have really loved about the fandom is how accepting they are. They don’t care if you have liked the band since day one or if you have only just found out about them yesterday. A fan is a fan, and any support for their favourite band is good. (A side note here, maybe that is because I choose who I follow on Twitter carefully and make sure I follow positive, friendly people, but that really has been my experience of the fandom.) I would love to meet some of these people in real life, but I know that’s unlikely, as unlikely as it is for me actually seeing Take That live…New Zealand really is the other side of the world.

And what about Take That? Why them? Well, for me it is more than the music and the performances, it is about their story, twenty five years in the making. I find their friendships, the break up, the make up, their chemistry intoxicating. Their engagement with their fans is second to none and they do so much for others. If you don’t know about it all check out Take That For The Record https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoR-SPdMOyo and Look Back Don’t Stare https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvfSRMJEFg you might surprise yourself.

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So what have I learnt from being a fangirl? Passion. It is good to have passion. Find something you love, and it makes you happy. I know Take That are not everyone’s cup of tea, but for goodness sake, find something YOU are passionate about. I have learnt to not judge other people’s tastes. I stop myself from criticising other people’s tastes. If they’ve got a passion, and it makes them happy, then good on them.

There you go. I was destined to be a fangirl from an early age, maybe it’s in my DNA, but right now I am proud to be a Thatter, so I’m off to listen to the new songs, look lovingly into the eyes of Gary Barlow and read some fanfiction. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

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“Sometimes we don’t know what we’re waiting for. That’s the time to be the first one on the dance floor”…where I extol the joys of dancing.

When I was a young child I begged my parents to let me go to ballet classes. I went on, and on, and on about it. My mum said I was the wrong shape, and sent me to Judo. True story…and one that my mum, about 32 years later has still never lived down! It comes up in conversation quite regularly, or should I say, I bring it up in conversation quite regularly? I need to get over it really. I’m not one that normally holds grudges, but this is something that has stuck with me. Thankfully we laugh about it now, but I have the last laugh really as I don’t find myself doing an Uki-goshi every day, but I do find myself dancing.

Maybe my mum was right, not about me being the wrong shape, but maybe I didn’t need ballet lessons. Life has taught me how to dance. Dancing is one of my favourite things to do. Let’s be clear here, I am no Beyonce, but that is my main point here today; you don’t have to be good at dancing, but it can make your life better, happier and much more fun.

A few months ago on Twitter, my timeline was all a flutter about No Lights, No Lycra (you can find out more about it here http://nolightsnolycra.com/) and I was intrigued. The premise is clear, it’s a case of the name tells you all you need to know; for one hour you can dance to a wide range of music, with the lights off, in near darkness wearing whatever you want. Simple.

It is a genius idea for several reasons. It is cheap. Where I go costs $5 for one hour, no membership, pay as you go, none of this signing up for life and promising your first born. The timing is perfect for me, and other mums, who I must admit seem to be the main target audience; 8pm, kids are in bed, husband is home, boom, I’m out the door. No one can see what you’re doing. If you’ve ever tried a Zumba class and found yourself three steps behind in every song, this is the thing for you. You simply dance to your own rhythm and if that so happens not to be the rhythm of the music it doesn’t matter as there is no one else to keep up with or see you. See? Genius.

So, the first time I went I coerced a friend to come with me and it was amazing. Like everything in life, you get out what you you put in, and believe me, we put a lot in that night. By the end of the hour we were dripping in sweat, hearts beating fast and full of happiness. A mix of dance, hip hop, pop, rock spanning across the decades from the 60’s to now had us breaking out all the moves. It is the perfect stress relief from everyday life.

That night I learnt a lot about my dancing style. I really am an arms dancer. No matter what music, my feet generally do the same thing, but it’s the arms that define the genre! Dance music from the early 2000s? I’m packing boxes and stacking them on shelves like nobody’s business. Chuck in some Trance and I’m waving them in the air as if I’m praying to some imaginary dance god in the sky. Put on some 90s pop, and I’m pointing to everyone in the room (that I can’t see) and waving side to side. Slow the tempo to some RnB…and I just don’t know what to do. I seriously think this is the only music I can’t dance to. A monotonous sway is about all you’ll get from me if some R Kelly comes on (showing my age there a little).

I also learnt some must haves if you are off to No Lights, No Lycra. Water. Take water. If you are going to dance your little heart out like no one is watching (because they are not) you will need some. Slippy shoes. The first week I went, my running man to Snap’s The Power was unfortunately impeded by my Converse…of course I didn’t wear Cons back in the early 90s, my Hi-Tec trainers were void of decent grip and I had the moves like the best of them. Now, the name would suggest no Lycra is needed, but I’m going to put my neck out here and say some Lyrca should be worn if you don’t want to do yourself an injury. It was a sad reminder of my age and the fact that I’ve had two children that after the first week I realised, never go to No Lights, No Lyrca without a sports bra on. How times have changed. I never needed one when I used to go clubbing in Southampton or Newcastle, but now it is a necessity for dancing. What has become of me?

So every Wednesday I toddle down to a local community hall and dance my heart out in the dark for an hour, and I love it. But I am not just a dancer in the dark.

I dance everywhere. Spoitfy was made for people like me. I am the person dancing round my kitchen while I make dinner. I am the person dancing round the living room with my kids. I am even the person dancing (and singing) in the supermarket aisle – yes, honestly. If a good tune comes on, I’m there. I appear to have a low tolerance for embarrassment, but I think that has come with age as I realise the joy that dance can bring. Joy, not only to the person dancing, but to those who are watching. More often than not you see a smile on the faces of the people who see you dancing, not an eye roll (although my four year old is beginning to perfect this move).

The best time to dance though is a wedding. I have two weddings coming up in December and I plan to dance my little socks off all night. The last wedding I went to I was nursing a three week old and we didn’t even make it to dessert of the meal. The wedding before that, although I was bridesmaid, I was 7 and a half months pregnant. Some dancing did happen, but I was tired, heavy, nauseous and drinking milk to try and curb my indigestion (that’s how I rock pregnancy!). So come December, I will be ready to kick my heels up.

So this blog post has got me thinking about the best dances of my life, and what surprised me was a few of these were a lot more low tempo than the kind of dancing I’ve been talking about here. Dancing brings people together. It creates memories, along with the music you are dancing to. After all music is just the soundtrack to our lives.

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The best dances of my life (in no particular order)

  1. At my 21st birthday party my best friend and I whirled around the room to Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve got you babe.” We were high on life, budweisers and peach schnapps. Dressed to the nines in a working man’s club, it was one of the best parties I have ever had. We had our whole lives in front of us and the song just seemed so appropriate at the time. Looking back, we’ve done all right for ourselves, and I think it is safe to say we have both followed the paths we wanted to. That night however, I did end up sleeping underneath the dining room table in my dress so it wasn’t all plain sailing.
  2. Our first dance at our wedding was The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”. Chosen because of our mutual love of The Beach Boys, the words, but mainly because of its short length 2 minutes and 53 seconds. Ten years ago we danced around the dance floor to this, looking into each other’s eyes, DJ Maniac’s crazy lights flashing (he had some silly name like that!), husband praying for it to end. It’s still mentioned in the family today. He’s a big dancer after a few drinks, but dancing together in front of all our friends and family was not his favourite moment in our history. We should have practised, and then we would have realised that it’s a bit of an odd speed too; too slow to bop to, and too fast to slow dance to!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. Parish Hall Disco, 1990. On the first Friday of every month there was a disco. It was THE social event of the month if you were 13. It was there I had my first kiss while slow dancing, which really means hugging while going round in circles, to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It could have easily been to Phil Collins or Chris De Burgh as these were favourite “slowies” of the DJ there, so I think my musical memory got off there lightly. The kiss? It was like a washing machine. We didn’t last.
  4. A recent one for you. Two weeks ago my bestie and I went to see Robbie Williams in Wellington. We were six rows from the front, he came on stage to “Let Me Entertain You”, and we he said “bounce”, we bounced. Oh yes, we bounced. We felt alive. More importantly we felt like the 22 year olds we were when we first met, before husbands, before kids, and we were taken back to our old dancing days. It sparked a memory of us at The Big Day Out in 2000 in Auckland going crazy to The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. We have some special moves. IMG_3814
  5. Again at my wedding, this special, special dance, this time with my Dad. I actually don’t remember the song this time. There were more important things to remember. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before and had begun treatment. After some chemotherapy though he decided to postpone his treatment the month of our wedding. He knew how it would make him feel and he was determined to enjoy every minute of the day and night. We married in a hotel and they had a booked a room, just in case Dad needed a rest. He didn’t. He didn’t miss a single second. We took to the dance floor and he twirled and spun me over and over again. The smile on his face was amazing and I will always remember it. It made the day the most special day. I emigrated to New Zealand about 8 weeks after that, and Dad continued his treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, the lot, with his next aim to get to New Zealand to see our new life there. He was a determined old bugger and he did it. I am so glad he got to see me marry someone who in so many ways is like him. He was so very happy for us. I am so glad he got to see New Zealand and understood fully why we would move to the other side of the world. I am so sad he never got to meet his beautiful granddaughters. He would have been so proud of them, of me, of us.

Uncle T's photos 041Life it too short. Go and dance now. Dance like nobody is watching. Dance like your life depends on it. Do it, now.

“We’re all just pushing along, trying to figure it out”…in which I start my blog and explain why.

This is not the first time I have blogged.

In fact, there are several blogs out there in the depths of the internet with just one post on them. I can’t even remember what they are called, let alone the password for me to carry on there. You see, there lies my problem. I love the idea of blogging. I love writing, being creative and communicating. My problem has always, however, been audience. So this time I have vouched to persist and keep writing, and how I’ve done this is to decide that my primary audience is, wait for it, me.

I recently wrote something. I sat down one evening, just me and the laptop, and I wrote. And you know what, it felt good. By trade, I’m teacher, an English teacher at that, and so writing and reading has always been a core part of my life. But here’s where it all went haywire. Nearly five years ago I had my first daughter, and two years after that another followed. You see, children in my case have derailed my brain, not my life, just my brain. For the past five years I have been first and foremost Mummy, and I am just beginning to grab some more of me back. This is not a complaint. I love being Mummy, but the time has come to start getting me back, and starting this blog is one way of doing it. There are big plans for the next two years in ‘Operation Find Myself’ and I’m starting with my brain.

Over the last few weeks I have been chatting to friends, in real life and online (although thankfully for me these two worlds do crossover) and they have been so encouraging in my ideas. Thank you – you know who you are. Through these conversations it occurred to me what I was doing wrong before when I tried blogging. I will try to explain here:

  1. I didn’t have enough time. Being a stay at home mum can be as busy as you want it to be. I chose to be very busy. We play, we create, we go out lots. When they are tiny it is all focused on poos, wees and feeding, and yes they sleep, but I took the advice to rest while they did (or at least watch reruns of Jeremy Kyle or binge on DVD box sets!). Now they are getting older they play together, there is kindy and school (next year), there is more time for me. I am not planning on going back to full time work until they are both at school in two years.
  2. I chose a theme. I have attempted to blog about teaching, which I am very passionate about, but ran into issues about privacy etc…I worried about wrongly mentioning students in class or my school being identified. I tried parenting but see #1 here…no time. This time I am going to write about what ever takes my fancy. I already have some ideas. They are wide ranging, and if I were to have a theme it just wouldn’t work. Will it affect who reads it? See below #3.
  3. Most importantly, I worried too much about who was going to read it. Who would read it? Would they like it? What would people think about me? Well, I’m older and a little wiser now and I realise that life is too short to have these worries. As I said earlier, I am writing this for me, and hope that somebody will eventually come on this journey with me, but it’s not the be all and end all.

So here I am, first post nearly done. This time I promise to be back and write some more. What’s to come? Expect some posts about social media, friendship, fandoms, parenting, relationships, reading.

This is me. Come along for the ride.

Jx