If I woke up tomorrow and were free to do anything you wanted with my life, what would I do and who would I be?
The easiest part of the question above to answer is that I’d still be me! Yes, I’ve made some blunders in my life and with hindsight, like most of us, I’d do a fair amount differently. However, I try not to live with guilt or regret, I accept what happened and move forward, hopefully a better person from from what I’ve experienced and learned.
So who am I? A business owner with an ambition to become 100% virtual and as a Virtual PA, I’m on my way. Before I discovered The Suitcase Entrepreneur, I’d decided I wanted to travel the world, a decision which was prompted by a big change to my lifestyle. I’d explored Virtual Assistance for a while as my husband wanted to live abroad and we would still need to earn a living. Then my marriage broke down and my husband moved out two weeks after I was made redundant. Left with a mortgage, I could have looked for another full-time job, but took the decision to sell up, split the proceeds and use the savings to become self-employed and start my business.
That was more than three years ago and I’ve grown so much, have improved in confidence and learned an incredible amount. I like who I am and wake up every morning looking forward to working with my clients.
I had toyed with the idea of using my savings to buy a round the world ticket and travel, when a random internet search revealed pet-sitting sites and there was my solution! Pet loving owners around the world need someone to care for their pets in their own homes from a few days to months on end. I’ve started to do this in the UK around my on-site client commitments, but am looking forward to travelling further afield, meeting some fantastic people and exploring the area where they live.
Even if money was no object, I can never imagine not working and in that instance would most probably volunteer, but I’m happy with who I am and where my life and ambition is leading me – what about you?
As mentioned in a previous post, some of my days are filled with dog walking & working with very little of consequence to photograph or write about. So today, I looked through my past photos & came across these beauties – aaaah, kittens!
Last year I received a phone call from my daughter who lives in an apartment in a city 25 miles away. It was gone midnight & she woke me to panic about a cat in the car park who was following them, mewling pitifully. After a lengthy conversation of me reasoning with her to leave it outside as it would most probably have a home. If not, no doubt it would still be there to be rescued in the morning. My parting comment to her & her boyfriend was “You’ll only do what you want anyway!”
Lo & behold, the following day they had a cat in an apartment where no pets were allowed. The vet pronounced it a female in good health if a little thin & Sarah posted adverts hoping to find puss-cat’s owner. She was saddened to receive many calls from people who had lost their cats, but not this one.
Meanwhile she became fond of this friendly black & white cutie, but was going on holiday abroad…. Mum, of course, borrowed a cat travel case & fetched kitty home. Unfortunately although she was affectionate with people, she terrorised both our existing Chloe-cat & Hayley-dog.
But Sookie, as she was quickly named, thrived growing sleeker & fatter – too fat really with a round tummy. Yep, this stray had obviously been thrown out because she was pregnant! I was living with my son & daughter-in-law & they were delighted at the thought of kittens – they weren’t disappointed as you can see.
This is where Hayley should have been, but there she was – gone!
Entering woods from a different direction, I’d forgotten that this path led to an open glade, complete with a pond. Hayley hadn’t forgotten – she’s a labrador water diviner – I’m sure her dad must have been a seal, her mum an otter. As she suffers with hip dysplasia, I tend to keep her away from water in winter, but by the time I reached her, she’d actually broken through a thin layer of ice & done this:
Hayley has a mission, she has to rescue any branch or log drowning in the water & will amuse herself for ages retrieving pieces of wood, even submerging her head completely to reach them as they bob under water. There was a large log that proved particularly difficult as it’s girth was too big for her jaws & all she ended up doing was spinning it round & round. So frustrating 🙂
After a good roll in the grass, she selects her favourite branch from the newly rescued wood pile & patiently carries it back to the car. She’s never happy to leave it behind, but if brought home, she’d set to & shred the wood into little pieces with her teeth.
We have a routine once home, I have to sit down with Hayley on my lap for the first half hour of her exhaustion, otherwise, she follows me round & won’t settle.
One of my favourite walks close to home is on a former colliery site, now a country park & one of many in the area. These sites are great for dog walkers & cyclists, but their existence means the mines, industry & employment has gone, which is sad.
These parks have great views as you’re actually walking on the pit tip, the slag heap of waste left behind when the mines were dug out. There’s little nutrient in the great mounds of grey shale, so only hardy grass & scrubby bushes can survive. It’s not at all suitable for crops, but sheep often graze & there were some woolly brown ones enjoying the sunshine today. It was a parky morning, clear & bright but icy cold, frosty underfoot so not too muddy.
I love the evidence of history that can be viewed, a full 360 degree panorama from the top of the hill. Looking east over the top of my house, there’s at least two coal fired power stations on the horizon – the steam from the cooling towers indicating the direction of the wind. Moving southwards & focusing a little closer, there’s a small valley with the towers of a former textile mill peeping above the trees. The cotton mills were initially powered by the river Meden which had cut through the limestone & created the vale. Later they were steam powered, fueled by coal from the mine, delivered by rail & it’s still possible to walk part of the route. The old mills have been featured on the Most Haunted programme.
Moving on, just below the horizon & again higher than the trees of Sherwood Forest, the pair of headstocks from the former Clipstone Colliery can be seen. The workshops were demolished when the pit closed, but the headstocks left intact as a historical monument, although a local MP now wants the land redeveloped.
Continuing south west & the five modern wind turbines featured in my post #5 can be seen on the horizon – no steam from these clean machines! Further westwards & Hardwick New Hall nestles above the trees. A grand Elizabethan house built by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury – Bess of Hardwick, a magnificent woman who outlived four husbands & amassed their wealth.
I love period dramas & fondly remember Upstairs Downstairs (the original), but more recently I’ve been avidly watching the award winning Downton Abbey. There’s lots of programmes & series made for UK terrestrial TV, but rarely is there something of pure quality.
The storyline is similar to Upstairs Downstairs, following an upper-class family & their servants. Both groups have their life problems & family disputes which draw in the viewer, but there’s also the interaction between the classes. Living so closely together, especially as the servants tended to stay in post for years, they would have been involved in each others’ lives. The loyal servants would have been privy to sensitive information or witness to scandalous events. However, I’m sure the servants’ lives would have been much harder than that portrayed in Downton Abbey, as they do seem to have a fair amount of spare time.
I love the ladies’ fashions of course & the gradual changes from the structured corseted outfits of the Edwardian era, to the softer flapper dresses after the first world war. The change in attitudes is also featured – the beginning of the end of the upstairs downstairs lifestyle.
Although Downton Abbey is set in Yorkshire, it’s filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. It’s fascinating to watch behind the scenes documentary, to learn of the fine attention to historical detail & see interviews of the cast & their stories of filming in such a grand location. The present Countess of Carnarvon has also written a book about Lady Almina, the 5th Countess who lived at Highclere at the same time Downton Abbey is set.
I haven’t taken the photos today as I’ve had a busy day working, end of month invoicing for a client. But there’s two news stories that made me smile over the last couple of days. People randomly having good luck & possibly coming into large amounts of cash – how absolutely wonderful for them 🙂
A retired couple in Northumberland had been planting pansies in a 2,000 year old Roman coffin for 30 years! An ornate marble sarcophagus was sat in the garden of the house they bought in 1982 & not listed in the deeds – I wonder if the vendors have watched the news? It’s apparently almost identical to another Roman sarcophagus in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican & may be worth as much as £100,000 – brilliant!
Then today, the news reported a man & his dog had found whale vomit on Morcambe beach, also possibly worth £100k! The hard lump of ambergris is used in the perfume industry, especially in very high-end scents. How on earth did anyone discover that fact?
The foul smelling substance is secreted by sperm whales, possibly to protect their intestines from he irritation caused by the beaks of their prey, squid & cuttlefish. Once vomited, the ambergris can float around in the sea for years, gradually hardening & developing a sweet smell.
Well, I’ve learned two pieces of trivia – what ambergris is used for, & rather morbidly, that sarcophagus means “flesh-eater” in Greek.
Most labradors will eat anything, they’re veritable dustbins! My previous golden lab Amber was anybody’s for a strawberry. Strawberries, apple, orange, grapes & any vegetable apart from celery. She was a hoover, nose to the ground snuffling up everything she came across.
This is a photo of my current lab, Hayley on a walk today. She loves green vegetables & we give her the crunchy centres of cabbage & broccoli stalk, but she won’t eat red veg – red for danger perhaps? Anyway, such is her love of brassicas that here she is, tugging & pulling up the remains straight out of the ground in the field!
Meet Kiruba, my Asian elephant 🙂
As mentioned in my last post, on impulse I signed up to adopt a tiger on the WWF website. As this only cost a few pounds per month & as I’d seen a news report about the dreadful poaching of elephants, I wanted an elephant as well. How can anyone kill such magnificent & noble creatures? It brings tears to my eyes, but the soft toy reminds me that I’m doing a little towards protecting the species.
Kiruba is around 40 years old with a son called Anand & a daughter Tula. She’s the matriarch of a tribe of about 20 elephants living in the Corbett National Park at the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. The population of Asian elephants hasn’t declined quite as much as the tigers as there are approximately 40-50,000 left from 100,000 in the year 1900. They are still on the endangered list though & there’s nothing quite a cute as a baby elephant is there?
They make good soft toys – when we were babies, my brother didn’t have a teddy bear, he had a cuddly toy elephant called Empt, which he carried everywhere holding onto his trunk 🙂
This is the newest addition to the household – meet Kamrita 🙂
She’s a Bengal tiger, about 9-10 years old, with two cubs (a male & a female) & she lives in the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal. I’ve ‘adopted’ her through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) after watching one of their ads on TV, which followed a read of the book ‘Life of Pi‘, which may be a blog subject itself. Tigers abound!
It’s not expensive, only a few pounds each month to become one of Kamrita’s adopters, but it felt so good to do so. I don’t usually have cuddly toys, just a couple bought for me by family, but I wanted a reminder of the magnificent beauty of these endangered animals. Now I can carry-on smiling as I stroke her, knowing my money is going to a worth-while cause.
Like all tigers, Kamrita has her own individual pattern of stripes & the WWF can monitor where she is when she crosses an infra-red beam, thus triggering a camera. It’s important to keep an eye on tigers in the wild as they’ve declined in numbers from more than 100,000 at the turn of the century to as little as 3,200 today – a reduction of more than 95%!
I’ve ordered some business cards today. This was prompted by a 25% discount at Moo.com.
I’ve been using Moo for a while because not only are the cards excellent quality with various finish options to choose from, but you can design your own cards. As it’s possible to upload many different images, it’s fantastic for photographers, or anyone else who’s business is very visual, to feature their work. I tried using wordles on the back of mine, until someone I met at a networking meeting said it looked confusing.
That’s the beauty of Moo, order a few cards then change the design for the next order. A friend of mine always creates his very personal Christmas cards with Moo too.
Another attractive benefit is the infomality of their correspondence – it’s so friendly 🙂 Sign-up to Moo’s newsletter which is full of innovative ideas of how their customers design & use their
This was the wordle design of my old cards & I can’t wait for my new ones to arrive.