Category Archives: Life Achievements

11th October 2014 – No.65: Get Married

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_DSC2797Elliot and I met in 2007, at a shared friends birthday party. After that, he moved away for a while but when he came back to Hastings, he rented a room at my daughter’s dad’s house and we started to notice each other a bit. Elliot is extremely shy and I am just a bit dim about other people’s opinions of me, so we went around liking each other for ages before we realized the feeling was mutual. We started dating on May 8th 2011 and got engaged when on New Year’s Eve 2012. We set our wedding date for the 14th October 2014.

Elliot and I signing the marriage register

Elliot and me signing the marriage register

We stayed at different houses the night before so we could get ready separately.  I spent the morning at my mum’s house with my sister, daughter and the rest of my bridesmaids. The morning passed in a flurry of dresses, make-up and warm pain au chocolat, with less stress and panic than I’d suspected there might be, other than getting rained on a bit on the way to the car. Our wedding was taking place at a venue called the Azur, which has stunning views as it’s basically on the beach. Incidentally, it’s featured in the movie Byzantium (quite a lot of it is filmed in Hastings, where we live), so if you want to see what the room where we got married looks like, you can see it in the scene where Saoirse Ronan’s character is playing piano.)

Hannah's Cat form the traditional archway

Hannah’s Cat form the traditional archway

Arriving at the venue, I waited with my mum for my interview with the registrar (for those of you who are not English, they have to do a last minute interview before the ceremony to make sure it’s all above board.) I was feeling pretty nervous by this point, but happy nerves. Eventually the Master of Ceremonies said it was time, so I went into the hallway and joined the rest of my bridal party. My morris side was there to support me and they kicked things off by processing in, accompanied by live music. My bridesmaids Sue and Lou went next, followed by my twin sister and my daughter, who was scattering rose petals.

 

Elliot and me with our Lucky Sweep

Elliot and me with our Lucky Sweep

At that point, I realized I’d left my bouquet in the kitchen sink. There’s a rather funny photo taken at the point I told my mum this; she looks horrified.  Finally, it was my turn, so I took my mum’s arm and we walked in. I could see Elliot waiting for me, looking awesome in his suit. We did the part of the ceremony where my mum gave me away (when I first asked her to give me away she wasn’t keen on participating in what she viewed as an archaic idea of male ownership of women, but I pointed out that to me, it was more like saying, ‘I’ve spent my life loving this person and now it’s your turn; I’m trusting you to look after her heart.’ Then she was OK with it.)

Photograph ALL the guests!

Photograph ALL the guests!

The ceremony went pretty flawlessly, Elliot came in too soon on one of his vows and ended up saying “I will” twice. When it was my turn, I did the same thing as a little joke. We signed the register and processed out of the wedding room under the tradition arch of staves my morris side does whenever one of us gets married. We had some time then for drinks and congratulations and for photographs. We got several with our Lucky Sweep. It’s a dying British tradition that a chimney sweep at your wedding brings good luck and this particular sweep is the one who cleans the chimneys at my mum’s house -he used to make the brushes dance out the top of them to entertain me and my siblings when we were children. Since it had stopped raining and was actually quite beautifully sunny, we went outside for more photos, taken by Matt; the son of a friend of ours named Barny who had quite a hand in getting us together, since he was the one who told each of us that we liked each other and this is what resulted in our first date.

The bridesmaids and grooms men with the happy couple

The bridesmaids and grooms men with the happy couple

There are always an enormous amount of photos taken at weddings, so the photo-taking went on for some time and took up most of the gap between the wedding and the meal. I got a lot of compliments on my dress, and most people were surprised to discover it had been made for me by a very good friend out of about £30 worth of curtain fabric (we had a very low budget for our wedding.) We’d paid for a special package provided by our venue, the Azur, called the ‘Grand Wedding for a Grand’, so £1000 got us the venue, the master of ceremonies, a three course meal for 50 guests and the use of the venue for our reception at no extra cost. They were even happy for us to bring our own buffet for the evening. The meal options were very nice, a choice of gnocchi or winter root soup for starters, chicken breast in Marsala wine or  (actually, I’ve forgotten what the vegetarian option was because I didn’t eat it) for the main and warm chocolate brownie with mint ice cream, or apple crumble for dessert. Elliot bucked the menu, he said it was his wedding day and he was having steak, so he did. There were some rather envious looks when it was brought in sizzling away on a hot stone platter.

First drink together

Our first drink together as a married couple

The meal was of course followed by toasts, which we kept limited. Elliot’s cousin Be made one, since he was the best man -it was well put together and very funny. It is also the reason large numbers of people now refer to us as ‘Lizziot.’ My mother made a speech full of in jokes for me, which was very sweet but lost on most people, especially as my mother is a very quiet speaker and most of the room couldn’t hear her. Elliot wasn’t going to make a speech but ended up doing it off the cuff after our Master of Ceremonies announced him as doing one (obviously assuming he was planning on it.) It was short, simple and perfect. While dinner was being digested we took the chance for some more photo’s and then went back inside to socialise and welcome our evening guests.

My morris bells and Elliot's Joker socks

My morris bells and Elliot’s Joker socks

Our evening entertainment was a fantastic ceilidh band called the Sugarloaf Band and we had a whale of a time dancing the night away to their wonderful Irish music. Elliot and I had our first dance alone, consisting of an awkward shuffle in random circles because neither of us can waltz. We did actually try to get lessons but our teacher kept cancelling on us due to laryngitis, so we gave up.  Fortunately with ceilidh dancing you have a caller giving instructions, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the dance, it’s just a load of fun. It’s also not that easy in a fishtail dress.

Swapping headgear...

Swapping headgear…

We spent a happy evening chatting to our guests as they enjoyed the dancing and buffet, and all the guests that weren’t Elliot’s family commented on how many of the guests actually were his family -Elliot has a very large family and we had them visiting from places like Denmark and America as well as all over England. For our wedding cake we’d selected a chocolate cake shaped like a caterpillar. I thought it would be a waste of money to buy the usual fondant covered fruitcake that you usually get at weddings and I figured a party cake from our local Marks and Spencer’s would do fine (and it did.) Since Elliot’s cousin Sam had used a sword to cut the cake at his wedding, I’d been joking to Elliot that we should outdo him and use an axe -I was quite surprised when he suddenly produced a giant battle axe (courtesy of Be.) We duly used it to decapitate the caterpillar, which was funny until Be said ‘Now it’ll never be a butterfly’ and my daughter started crying. I think she was pretty tired and overwhelmed by then.

Cutting the cake :)

Cutting the cake 🙂

All good things come to an end and eventually we had to go home. Surrounded by joy and good wishes from our loved ones, we piled into a taxi with all the gifts, which we wouldn’t open until the next day. We got back happy and exhausted, made some tea, got into bed and watched Armageddon, since it was on TV.  It was a perfect day and I couldn’t have had it go any better.

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The doomed caterpillar cake meets it’s fate

2014 Annual Review

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Hello! It’s time for my first ever annual review (of how well I did at my goals for 2014), so let’s just dive straight in:

What went well this year?
 I ran the Hastings half-marathon in less than my target time of 3.5 hours
 I also did a five-mile race, this is the most running I’ve done since…ever
 I caught my first fish
 I abseiled (rappelled) down 128 feet of building for charity
 I started the Trefoil Guild Bronze Voyage Award and it’s satisfactorily in progress
 I got a B in my maths G.C.S.E. Hooray, I can do higher math now!
 I got married! Best decision ever!
 I have (to date) written 15,500 words of my novel (breaking my personal record)
 I finally learnt to roller-blade
 I mastered my natural shyness about singing in public by appearing in the Hastings Gang Show and singing two solo numbers
 I also tidied up some loose ends and finished a couple of minor projects, as well as regaining an old friend I thought I’d never see again.

What did not go well this year?
 I set the target too high for my goal: ‘Write at least 1000 words per day at least 5 days a week)’ I’ve decided to ‘mini-habit’ this in 2015 -50 words a day is so small I can’t possibly fail at it and will most likely write much more each day, therefore both establishing a daily writing habit and encouraging over-achievement rather than failure. I can always move the bar later.
 National Novel Writing Month: I did well for the time I could put into it. I found it highly enjoyable, it just didn’t mix well with full show rehearsals and performances. Verdict – I took on too much. Next year I will not be mixing NaNo with any other goal. I might do Camp Nano instead…
 Go to America, meet Elliot’s family etc: Plans changed, money was needed elsewhere, this is now planned for April 2015 (fingers crossed anyway)
 Take my Grade 3 flute exam -okay, honestly, I barely worked on this…it just didn’t appeal this year, so it’s a 2015 goal now.
 Road test ideas for easily maintained and automated businesses; take further if poss. This didn’t happen because I’ve been testing out a business idea that is not easily maintained and automated…but it is super cool and my husband is into it, so maybe that’s better?

Goals for 2015, including but not limited to (and in no particular order):
• Complete a beginner’s archery course so I can start competing
• Go to America to visit my husband’s family
• Take my daughter to Disneyland Paris
• Have a go on a trapeze
• Take my Grade 3 music theory exam
• Actually work on my Grade 3 flute exam
• Start refreshing my piano skills so I can help my daughter with her lessons
• Do more stuff with my daughter –baking, science experiments, crafts, maths etc
• Finish the first draft of my novel (daily writing and NaNo)
• Increase the size of my family (Elliot and I are officially trying for a baby!)
• Implement more sustainable techniques in the way I live e.g. grow my own veg

CONCLUSION: 2014 was a good, productive year that could have been more productive if I had avoided some scheduling conflicts but probably was as good as it was going get because weddings are a massive time/energy/money suck even when you plan really simple ones. I’m now really looking forward to next year! I wish everyone as much joy in themselves and their lives as it is humanly possible to feel; here’s to another year of inspiration, small wins (and big ones) and friendships old and new!

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23rd March 2014 – No.17: Complete the Hastings ½ Marathon

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20. Half-Marathon - Copy

When I was in school, I hated P.E. (along with Mathematics, it was my least favourite subject). So you can be forgiven for wondering why I would sign up for an endurance running event of 13 miles, covering some very steep terrain in a circuit following the original town boundaries. I had one motivation for this and it’s ridiculously shallow; I wanted the big shiny participation medal you get if you finish. So, I entered soon after the 2013 half-marathon, fully intending to do the thing properly. I would start training in January 2014, as recommended by the organisers. I kitted myself out with suitable running gear, sports bra, trainers etc. Well, the utterly atrocious weather that winter put paid to my training before it had begun. I’m not kidding, rain, hail and gale force winds battered the whole of Britain for weeks and caused cliff-falls and sections of train-track to collapse; it wasn’t an appealing prospect to go running in it. The race route goes up Harley Shute (very long steep hill) and onto Queensway (this is a road race, so the motorway was closed to traffic), in the middle of which is the five-mile point and a clock. I was surprised to discover my time was just over an hour. I began to hope that my estimated finish time of 3 and half hours, which I had calculated based on apparent walking speed during the walk to Rye (it being the same distance of 13 miles), minus lunch breaks etc, might be erroneous. I ran occasionally, mostly getting tired out quickly but once finding the rhythm of it and doing quite well. I came to the conclusion that my poor running skills might be due to technique and not fitness; after all I was walking the route with no problem, faster than some of the runners.

route

route

(Or go to http://www.raceroutes.co.uk/route/156/196/hastings-half-marathon for an excellent map of route with interactive elevation display)

Around the halfway point, up on the Ridge, the weather changed. The sun disappeared and a light rain began, followed by a sprinkling of hail. My fingers swelled, numb with cold, stiff in their movement. I distracted myself with the excellent running playlist my fiancé had put on my phone and kept going. Occasionally, I would pass groups of scouts holding out cups of water, or members of the public holding out sweets and orange slices. I was grateful for all but none more so than in the last mile, where I think if the peel was edible I would have swallowed a quarter of an orange whole. At the ten mile clock, I noted my time was 2 hours 16 minutes. I pumped my fists in the air, celebrating, only three miles left. I sent a text my fiancé to start heading to the finish line to meet me. A second lot of rain and hail began, worse than before. I bore through it, turning onto All Saints Street, where I spotted my mum. I was pleased to see her cheering me on, got pumped up and started running again, which I had been doing periodically, forgetting each time that I lacked any real ability.
The final three miles of the race are totally flat, familiar territory to me and should have been relatively easy. However, a combination of dwindling energy resources and a brutal assault of hail so thick I had to shield my face reduced my speed to an almost-crawl. I could barely force my frozen limbs to keep going, even when the finish line came into view. Marshalls and spectators called encouragingly that I had only meters to go but exhaustion convinced me running was not in my best interests despite this support from strangers. I may well have walked over the finish line if I hadn’t spotted the clock, reading just a few minutes less than three hours. Suddenly, I’d be damned if I finished over three hours, so I dredged up one final burst of energy and crossed the line running.

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I stopped, bent over, gasped for breath. A small person wrapped itself around my waist, shouting ‘Mum, you won!’ I hugged my lovely, well-meaning (if somewhat mistaken) daughter and staggered over to my fiancé. He helped me sit until I’d recovered enough to go collect my finisher’s medal, the big, shiny lump of brass I’d worked so hard for. Afterwards, I discovered my biggest issues were not the sore feet and legs I’d expected (they didn’t even hurt) but the violent shivers that continued well after I’d peeled the sodden clothing from my frozen skin and the stomach cramps and persistent nausea that refused to dissipate until I finally managed to eat something later (at which point I ate a massive bacon sandwich and bag of Doritos and none of it touched the sides.)
So, I finished 3257th out of 3428, beating the bottom 5% of runners (171 people) with my time of 2 hours, 58 minutes. Everyone says this is a perfectly respectable time, especially in view of the fact that I walked most of it and didn’t train. Oddly, I find myself unsatisfied, not with the time but the amount of actually running I did. So, the day after the Half-marathon, I signed up for a five-mile road race that’s in May. I have started training, (e.g. I’ve been jogging twice) so maybe this time I can run more of the course instead of walking it.

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Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

13th November 2013 – No.44b: Learn to Play the Flute; Grade Two Exam

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Flute Grade 2

I began studying for my Grade 2 flute exam shortly after I completed the first. Like last time, I chopped and changed the tunes I was learning, as I found some more or less enjoyable to play than others; but eventually I ended up with this selection: ‘Marche Militaire’ by (Franz Schubert), ‘The Liberty Bell’ (J.P. Sousa) and ‘Humoreske’ (Michael Rose), the last being my unaccompanied piece.  I also had two new scales, in addition to the ones from last time; A minor (harmonic or melodic at my choice) and D major (2 octaves)

I booked my exam for the 13th November, and once again booked my pianist Rebecca to accompany me in the exams. The day of, I went to rehearse at her house. Marche Militaire, I was pretty satisfied with; having practised it the most as it was the first in the book. The Liberty Bell, I had practised the least, as it was one I’d switched to later. Humoreske was always going to worry me, as it was the solo piece. Other than that I felt prepared. As per the plan, we then piled into Rebecca’s car and drove to Bexhill.

About five minutes before we arrived at the exam hall, Rebecca suddenly shouted ‘F*CK!…I’ve forgotten the music.” There was no time to go back, and my copy of the sheet music didn’t have the piano accompaniment on it, so there was no choice but to carry on to the hall and explain. Fortunately, someone had cancelled their exam later in the day, so they let me have that time slot instead and we went back to Rebecca’s house again. A quick cup of Earl Grey and another practise later, we tried again, this time arriving with no problem.

Most components of the exam went pretty well, although I once again flaked on the arpeggios (especially E minor), which is ridiculous really because I know them so well. I played D major perfectly on one breath, which I had never been able to do before. I thought my unaccompanied piece was alright. ‘Marche Militaire’ went great. The only blip other than my E minor arpeggio was ‘The Liberty Bell’. It was all going swimmingly, then in the fourth from last bar, I missed a note and blanked. I didn’t manage to come in again until the last note. Now I only missed three or four notes and Rebecca said it was the best she’d heard me play it, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

It was agonizing having to wait three weeks for my results. It was even more agonizing to check the ABRSM website and see my result – Pass. This is going to sound stupid, but I was devastated. I really wanted a Merit, I was sure I’d done enough to earn one, and so had Rebecca been. The worst part, was I couldn’t find out what went wrong until the breakdown arrived in the mail. It was nearly a week later that I finally got the breakdown of my results.

First, the bad news. For ‘The Liberty Bell’, I received 19/30 – a FAIL. Despite my performance having, and I quote, ‘rhythmic performance with clarity of articulation’, those last two bars I missed cost me dearly. Why am I being dramatic about this? Because there’s a really good chance not failing this segment would have got me the overall merit I was after.

For ‘Marche Militaire’, I got 23/30, a pass. While the character of the march was ’emphasised in (my) clear tonguing and rhythmic control’, the ‘repeated notes were not clear’. Ok, not bad, moving on. Unaccompanied piece, ‘Humoreske’ – 26/30, a merit! Yippee! The tone was ‘well-supported’ and the notes ‘confidently conveyed’, it was ‘a stable and effective performance’.

I also got a pass for my sight-reading (it’s not my strongest skill), a merit for my scales and (get this) a DISTINCTION for my aural test, 17/18! Who’d have thought it? All together, a respectable 116/150, exactly what I got last time, 4 marks off a merit. Well, it took me over a week to stop being pissed off that a relatively tiny mistake cost me my goal and to see that a pass at Grade 2 is still better than a pass at Grade 1 (I did, at least, get better. And in truth, I did pass two graded music exams in the same calendar year, so I did well.)

I can be very hard on myself and hold myself to high standards but that’s probably why even when I fail to achieve my goal, what I’m left with is still a good result. And hey, this is just an incentive to try EVEN HARDER next time to get what I want. Next step, Grade 3….

Yes, I'm wearing purple fluffy slippers :)

Yes, I’m wearing purple fluffy slippers 🙂

 

14th of April 2013 – No.30a: Compete in a Beauty Pageant

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I had been meaning to enter the competition for Hastings Carnival /Miss Hastings for a long time but had not had the confidence. Even so, I couldn’t shake the desire to try, so in 2013, I plucked up my courage and entered.

The photo I used to enter.

The photo I used to enter.

The competition is actually just a public interview, unlike American pageants there is no talent section or modelling but you do have to wear something nice and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to trot out the shoes I bought with my birthday money. These shoes are the Best Shoes Ever. They are Irregular Choice ‘I’m Bossy’ shoes in green and they have little bunny buttons sewn on the toes. (You can see them here http://www.polyvore.com/irregular_choice_im_bossy/thing?id=28626862)

The only problem is I had nothing that went with them, so my friend Sue and I made a pink polka dot skirt and sewed little rabbits along the hem. A few days before the competition, my poor little Emi came down with a bug and subsequently passed it on to me, albeit much more mildly.  I was really worried that I was going to unable to participate through illness, however I continued to prepare and even managed to get down to the nail salon the day before (accompanied by Elliot to make sure I was OK, even though the smell of the nail stuff gives him a headache- there’s love for you). I got pink polka dot to match the skirt.

A couple of hours before the competition, I began getting ready, dressing in the pink polka dot skirt, plus a cute cream cardigan and the Best Shoes Ever. A friend came over to do my make-up, watched like a hawk by Emiko, who is fascinated by her as she looks rather like her ‘Operetta’ Monster High doll. There was a mild panic when she accidentally dropped the mascara brush on my skirt but with a little soap and water we did get it out eventually. I added a few accessories, a bracelet Sue made me and a turquoise necklace Elliot bought me, then we said goodbye to Emiko and her babysitter and drove over to the venue.

At the beginning of the competition

Photography by Alun Sambrook – At the beginning of the competition

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who had turned out to support me and began feeling quite excited and happily nervous. All the contestants were rounded up and taken to a room downstairs for the pre-contest briefing and the opportunity to meet last year’s winner, the Mayor of Hastings, and the rest of the judges. We had a wait of ¾ of an hour until the pageant began, so we started chatting amongst ourselves and getting to know one another. I mostly talked to one of last year’s princesses, who told me she was a cheerleader and rode horses. She seemed very nice, as did most of the girls.
Finally, it was time and we were guided out to parade in front of the audience and judges, before going backstage. From there we were called up one by one for our interview. When it was my turn, I stood up straight, smiled my best beauty queen smile and walked elegantly (I hope) onto the stage. Taking my seat on the bar stool, I answered a series of questions from the compere.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - Being interviewed

Photography by Alun Sambrook – Being interviewed

“So, tell us a little about yourself,” invited the compere.
“Well,” I smiled charmingly, “I volunteer as a Girlguiding Leader with the Rainbows, I love to dance and I am learning to play the flute.”
“And how long have you lived in Hastings?”
“I was born here.”
“In the Old Town?”
“Er, no, central Hastings”, I answered, caught off-guard for a moment as there are no hospitals near the Old Town. There are none in central Hastings either, so it was a stupid answer to the question and internally, I was thinking ‘I probably should have just said yes.’
“What prompted you to apply for Carnival Queen?” he continued.
“It seemed like a good opportunity to promote our lovely town and at the same time make friends and enjoy new experiences,” I responded.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - Being interviewed

Photography by Alun Sambrook – Being interviewed

“What is your favourite thing about our town?” the compère asked, as he had to every contestant. Knowing that every girl before me had said the same thing I was planning to say, namely that the town’s events were the best thing, I ad-libbed from my practiced answer a little at the beginning, before ending with my rehearsed response:
“I think Hastings is a place where people can really be themselves and feel free to express their individuality. I also love the sense of community that comes with events such as Jack in the Green, Pirate Day and of course, Hastings Week and the Carnival.”
“Thank you; let’s have a round of applause for Elizabeth!”
I stood up and walked off-stage past the judges, smiling and waving as if I were the Queen of England, catching a glimpse of my adoring fans (Elliot and my friends) as I walked past. Once all the contestants had been interviewed, we were allowed to hang out with our friends and family until the judges had finished deliberating.

All of my friends asked me how I was doing and I told them I was having fun. Rosie wanted to know if I’d been nervous and I told her truthfully I’d been more nervous about the flute exam. Elliot was disappointed that none of his photos had come out well. One friend had brought all her kids to support me, which was nice. Soon enough it was time for the results, so along with the other eight finalists, I walked back on-stage and seated myself to await the announcement.

Photo by Elliot - The announcement

Photo by Elliot – The announcement

Photography by Alun Sambrook - All the contestants

Photography by Alun Sambrook – All the contestants

The crowns and sashes were laid out on the table and the thrones were positioned at the front of the stage.  The compère seemed determined to draw out the suspense as long as possible, listing the various prizes for the winners, but even so, I was surprised when one contestant’s mother, standing far too close to the stage, yelled out:
“Get on with it!” but  the compère continued unperturbed. The title of Second Princess, he informed us, went to a 14 year-old, the youngest contestant. That was when I knew I hadn’t won. I just had a gut feeling about it, so I was graciously accepting when First Princess went to one of last year’s Princesses and the titles of Old Town Carnival Queen and Miss Hastings went to a girl who’d previously been the Hastings May Queen. Not so the rude mother, who shrieked:
“What a crock of sh*t!” and stormed out, leaving her poor daughter on the stage to face the embarrassment of everyone pointing her out and muttering to each other. While I felt sorry for her, I felt even sorrier for the new Carnival Queen, having her victory moment marred by such an outburst.

Photography by Alun Sambrook - The winners, with everyone else

Photography by Alun Sambrook – The winners, with everyone else

My friends all said they were genuinely surprised that I didn’t at least get Princess but I didn’t really think much of my odds to begin with which is why the goal is ‘compete in a beauty pageant’ and not ‘win a beauty pageant’. You might be wondering why I would bother going for something I believed I had low odds of winning but then if I never entered then my odds of winning would have been 0 and not 1-in-9, so there you go.
P.S. And yes, I did spend the next morning crying in my bathroom  but I know in my heart that in the eyes of my friends, fiancé and family, I am beautiful and will always be a Queen. I’m not giving up.

Thanks go to Alun Sambrook for the use of his images.

24th February 2013 – No.70: Become a Girlguiding Leader

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Lou (Purple Bird) and me (Blue Bird)

Lou (Purple Bird) and me (Blue Bird)

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Brownie. My mother was a Brownie and my grandmother was a Brown Owl. My mother always said that when I was old enough I could join Brownies but when I actually turned 7, she said I couldn’t. We couldn’t afford for both myself and my twin sister to go and it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to go and not the other.

When I grew up and had my daughter, I pictured her being a part of Girlguiding. It’s a lovely way for girls to socialise and to learn new skills. Because of her diagnosis of autism, her father and I enrolled her in a school for children with autism and/or speech and language disorders. It became even more important to me that she learn how to socialise with non-autistic children, since the majority of people she meets in her life will not have ASD.  I put her on the waiting list for Rainbows, which is Girlguiding for 5-7 year-olds.

When Emiko turned 5, she joined the 15th St.Leonard’s Rainbows, run by my friend Lou. I spent several weeks sitting at the side of hall observing her sessions, during which time I slowly reached the conclusion that I still wanted to be part of Girlguiding, even as an adult. So, I volunteered to be a Leader, adding it to my list. I handed in my application, completed my CRB check, bought my t-shirt and picked out my Rainbow name. All the Leaders take on a nickname for the kids to call them by; in my unit there is: Purple Bird and Orange Bird (Adult Leaders) and Piglet and Tigger (Young Leaders). I decided to be Blue Bird.

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Purple Bird, Me, Woodpecker (Brownie Young Leader) and Piglet

To become a full Leader, you must complete a qualification, although you are referred to as Leader even before you have finished it, as long as you have made your Promise. Whenever anyone joins Girlguiding and on various other occasions, you make a Promise. The wording differs slightly for Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Senior Section and Leaders but essentially carries the same meaning.

I made my Promise on the 24th of February 2013, four days after my 25th birthday, on World Thinking Day, a day when different units of the local area come together and participate in various fun activities. At the end of the event, everyone remakes their Promise together and anyone who is making it for the first time comes to the front of the group and says it before everyone. There was another woman making her Promise, so we stood and recited it together. When I joined, the Promise was:

I promise that I will do my best to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.

Although now the promise is:

I promise that I will do my best to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.

Having completed my promise, I received my necker (triangular scarf), woggle (ring to hold ends of scarf together) and tabard (thing you pin badges on).  I should have got a promise badge too (to show that I had done it) but I had to wait a bit for that because the guide shop had run out and were ordering more in.

Now, in September 2013, I have been involved in Girlguiding for a year. I have nearly finished the qualification. Recently, I started helping in our Brownie unit too, where I am called Sunflower. Next year Emiko will move up to this unit and she can’t wait to be a Brownie. She is fourth generation Girlguiding (even though she was the third of us to join, me being the last) and she loves it. We both do. I may not have got to experience guiding as a child but I get to experience it with my child and that is so much better.

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22nd of July 2012 – No.27a: Get One or More Guinness World Records (Pirate Day)

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In 2011, our record was beaten by Penzance, Cornwall, with 8,734 pirates. It was too late for us to do anything about it that year but we were all determined to get our record back. People from far around pledged their support. So in 2012, Hastings once again prepared to be a pirate town. Earlier in the year, an attempt at the record had been made by a group of people in North Carolina which, sadly for them, was unsuccessful. We were optimistic. http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/avast-me-hearties-pirate-day-festivities-under-way-1-5016635

On the 22nd of July, Emiko and I once again dressed up, and headed into town to find our friends. It soon became apparent that the world and his wife were out for the day, swashbuckling buccaneers enjoying the glorious sunshine. The area we had used at the last record attempt was too small, so the pirates of Hastings were assembling on the beach. We met up with Barrie, Emiko’s father and a little while later were joined by my fiance Elliot, who was dressed in the most ninja-like pirate costume he could pull together, because he thinks ninjas are better than pirates.

My fiance, Emiko and me waiting while they counted all the pirates.

My fiance Elliot, Emiko and me waiting while they counted all the pirates.

It was apparent to everyone even before the total had been announced that we had beaten the record. While we’d been busy taking photos and videos and marvelling at the outfits, the number of people on the beach had swelled immensely.  We could no longer hear the band over the sounds of people’s voices and beneath the midday July sun we wilted in the packed crowd. It was a relief to everyone when silence was called for and the results were announced -we’d smashed the record! A staggering 14,231 Pirates had gathered in Hastings, winning us back our title, which to my knowledge, we still hold to this day.

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-4000/largest-gathering-of-pirates/

http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local/hastings-smashes-world-record-on-pirate-day-snatching-crown-back-from-penzance-1-4084532

My friends and me Pirate Day 2013, (not a record attempt, because we still hold it)

Sue, Lou and me Pirate Day 2013, (not a record attempt, because we still hold it)

Oh, yes and on the 18th July 2015, I took part in the successful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Number of People doing the Charleston’previous record 319 dancers (Australia), our record 503 dancers (Bexhill, East Sussex, UK), making it my third group World Record. Although, I believe it was subsequently broken in October of 2015 by a group in London with 975 dancers. I’m still trying to think what to do for a solo World Record.