The Opposite of Train Spotting

The last two days I’ve been on a last-minute business trip with work to Leeds, West Yorkshire (the West is important apparently) which meant getting the train from London Oop North to Leeds. This particularly train line takes me approximately 16 miles (25km – as the crow flies) away from the cathedral city of Lincoln where I was born.

While I have never been ever so fond of the place in which I grew up, it does have one extremely redeeming feature, and one that I find myself becoming more and more proud of as the years wear on.

Think you’ve never seen Lincoln cathedral? Think again. If you’ve ever seen Tom Hanks in the film adaptation of Dan Brown’sThe Da Vinci Code, then you’ve seen inside it at least. The cathedral was used for filming when officials at Westminster Abbey refused permission to film in the London Minster.

While the inside is pretty spectacular, it is the outside that always amazes me. As a child, we would play a game called “I Can See the Cathedral”, which is very similar to being the first to spot the sea whenever you got anywhere near the coast. Lincoln cathedral is perched high on top of a hill, called Steep Hill to be precise, and if you’ve ever tried to walk up it sober, well you’ll know it’s certainly not advised to do it after a few pints. While Lincoln’s alcohol consuming population curse its location, back in the 11th Century, its siting on top of the hill had the ideal defensive location. In the modern age, when floodlit at night or on a clear day, the cathedral can easily be seen from around 20-odd miles away, proving that the Normans knew what they were doing.

To add to its fame, between 1311 and 1549, the medieval cathedral was the tallest building in the world.

A number of years ago, on the train home back to Lincoln, I spotted the cathedral on the horizon, some 20-something miles away to the South. I was in awe of the fact that it could be seen from that location. I often travelled with my family to visit my Grandmother to the East of the county, where the Minster was always very visible, but I hadn’t realised it could be seen, albeit not so easily, from just past Grantham. It was that sighting, combined with the view I had as I entered the city from the South by car on another visit home, that really cemented it into my heart.

On the outbound train to Leeds I once again spotted it, quite painstakingly by staring out into the horizon. Whilst I did the same on the return train, the glare on the windows and the pure blackness outside prevented any beautiful vision.

As I head back down South, I think of the family and friends I have not had time to visit during this emergency work-related visit to the North of England. I also think of my beautiful cathedral upon the hill. While I don’t miss too many things about my home city, the cathedral is one of those that I do yearn for. Its beauty and spellbinding powers yield far more admiration from me than any London landmark ever will.

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All Frocked Up

Recently I was invited to a black-tie awards ceremony, which at first filled me full of excitement before the realisation hit that I would need a posh dress. I haven’t worn a dress that swept past my toes since my wedding day, and I wondered how much change, if any, I would get out of £100. Of course this is party season, so there were offers and I could probably find a dress for about £60-70. Still not great when my overdraft limit is looming ever closer and we’re only just halfway through the month.

I went to Debenhams and tried a few dresses on, but none that I liked enough to part with my hard-earned cash.

The following weekend, I decided to take a trip to my local charity shops, as I remembered one of them advertising party dresses in stock. I tried four shops but none had long dresses. Then I remembered about one that was further down towards the end of the High Street, tucked away from the rest.

As I walked in and found their selection of dresses, my eyes fell on a long black dress, with a Ralph Lauren label. My heart skipped a beat as I sought out the charity shop’s label, which read “Ralph Lauren Brand NEW £30”. My eyes then looked at the size – it was a size 8. My heart sank. But I had an idea. Ralph Lauren is an American brand. I found the original Ralph Lauren label and it said $119 (around £76). Which meant it was a US Size 8, and therefore a UK size 12! I had the hanger off the rail and into the changing room before anyone else had a chance to steal my beloved find.

The fitting room was poorly lit but even so I could tell it fitted almost perfectly. I recently bought a pair of Bridget Jones’ big pants which I knew would even out any lumps and bumps.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love buying clothes in charity shops. A serious lack of money while at university meant that I relied mostly on them to fill my wardrobe. I love the excitement of finding a branded item at a bargain price. So I was particularly excited to have found my Ralph Lauren dress.

But it was not to be. The person I was supposed to go with decided against going, and didn’t even tell me. I had to hear it from somebody else. The disappointment of missing out on a glamorous night out, with the chance to wear my new frock hit me hard.

While my feelings are hurt, so is my bank balance. £30 may not seem like a lot but to me, at this time of year, it is. I can’t take the dress back (although I probably wouldn’t anyway) and I don’t know when I will get a chance to wear it. I’ve recently discovered an issue with moths in the flat which I believe have caused a few holes in my clothes, and I only hope I’ll get chance to wear it before the moths start to feed on it.

Life’s little (and big) disappointments can be hard to handle sometimes. Disappointments can be more hurtful than anything else, because you are given hope which is then often cruelly snatched away.

Talking to a friend about it, she said when disappointment strikes you just have to dust yourself off and carry on, which I think is a good mantra to have. Basically, don’t let disappointments get the better of you.

As for the dress, it hangs on the front of my wardrobe. Like me, it anxiously awaits the moment it will finally be given its chance to shine.

The Power of 15,000 Views

Today I hit a milestone with my blog: 15,000 views. I have published, since January 2012, 234 blog posts (this one, assuming it makes it into the “published posts section” will be 235). I know that I haven’t written anything for a while. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, other than the fact there’s been a lot going on; mostly in my head, which has resulted in more sleepless nights than I care to admit.

235 blog posts and I still feel lost in life. I feel the frustration of having spent four years at university only to end up doing the same job as I did for 12 years before that. Except now I’m not making sure cancer patients get their diagnostic tests and treatments on time. Now I make sure the relatively wealthy get their Michael Kors handbag or their Jimmy Choos without too much of a delay. Maybe this is the reason I can’t take my job too seriously.

But it’s not all bad. Last Friday I attended a free journalism workshop, a taster session for a journalism Diploma I’m considering doing in the new year.

I feel the sadness at spending another Christmas alone, or rather, without that special person in my life. Christmas adverts, like the latest offering from department store John Lewis, make it clear that love is the ultimate goal at Christmas time. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang in December 1984 and earning its place on all good future Christmas compilation albums, “love is the light scaring darkness away”. I have to admit I could do with some light in my life right now.

But it’s not all bad. This year, I won’t be physically alone. I’m making sure I spend Christmas Day with people who care about me.

I feel the pressure of being overweight, of having a balloon-sized stomach caused by food intolerances, of having bad acne at the age of 36, of stress causing my scalp to flake and scab.

But it’s not all bad. My skin is clearing up, albeit slowly, and I had a hair cut at the weekend which saw three inches of my beloved locks on the salon floor. But I look in the mirror and I see a new me, and I see at least a physical change where I struggle to make those mental ones.

2014 has been a tough year. I’m still struggling to find my place in this city, in this life. Right now I have so many physical afflictions that I can barely look at myself in the mirror. But it’s not all bad. Because tonight I wrote another blog post, and as long as I can write, I know that I’m on the right path. I may not have had much inspiration lately, but tonight I was motivated by the 15,000 views on my blog, because it means that people are out there reading what I have to say. I could lie and tell you I write for myself, which is partly true, but like most bloggers, I write because I want people to read it. I want to inspire, to amuse, to entertain, to sadden. I want people to know they are not alone in what they may be going through. The Thirty-Something Crisis, or The Mid-Life Crisis, or The Quarter-Life Crisis, at whatever age it occurs, is not kind. It treats everyone differently, and knows no mercy. This is my journey through it, and I thank you for keeping me company during these dark nights and not-so-bright days.

The Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)

John Lewis Christmas Advert (2014)

What Are Those Marks On Your Face?

That was the question I was asked tonight in Subway, my current fast-food of choice. As he packed my honey oat bread with meat and salad, he obviously pondered this question before asking me: “What are those marks on your face?”

I looked at him for a moment before answering.

“Sadness.” Was my reply. Well, my first reply. I had been crying on the train on the way home, so I figured my mascara had run.

“Mascara.” My second reply, after he failed to look convinced by my first answer.

Before waiting to see if he would be convinced a second time, I grabbed the bag with my six-inch Italian BMT and bottle of water and left. I got across the road and down the street before I could finally locate the mirror in my handbag to check what these mysterious “marks” were.

In the mirror was nothing, except a few bags under my eyes. Not even the remains of any mascara, since I recently replaced my waterproof one for a normal one.

As I put the mirror back in my bag, I considered what my other answers should have been. Disappointment? Acne? I have a pretty severe breakout right now.

Whatever the answer, he should have seen no marks upon my face. What he should have seen was my smile. In fact, he should not have seen my face at all, because I should have been at home hours ago, making food there. I should not have been arriving home at 8:45pm because I chose to sit in a pub alone with a pint rather than going home.

I feel the tears stinging my eyes again. I think of the man in Subway, and wonder if he has ever seen someone look so lost in life.