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Invest in What Rewards You

1 Oct

I suppose I shouldn’t start with the conclusion; but if your conclusion is also your beginning then maybe its the perfect place to start.

 

I arrived back from Spain yesterday.  There’d been pretty much a veto on getting leave through the normal holiday times, so more by luck than judgement I’d ended up with a three week block off in September.  A perfect chance to escape from normal life, just me and the dog, and head off to Spain.  I decided that as well as an opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time (far too long a time!) it was also a chance to step back and review my life and where it was going.  I knew I had some decisions to make; decisions I’d been ignoring or putting off either deliberately or just because it was easier to get caught up on a tide and go along with it without really thinking.  I knew I had to do something about this because I had that uncomfortable feeling that I get when I know deep down I’m not being true to me. That unease that feels like I’m watching myself from somewhere high up and want to shout at myself but instead I just carry on watching.

I’d just sorted some stuff out at work that had been causing me a lot of ‘aaarrgh’ (I really can’t think of a better word to describe it) and I’d put that to rest and made my peace.  However, I needed to work out where I go next and what I really want.  I also still have the spectre of marriage/divorce to sort out … i.e., I’m still married and I really shouldn’t be!  I’d started picking back up some bad habits from a previous lifetime and I really wasn’t sure why.  To top it all off – what to do with La Panaderia, my Spanish escape place but also the money pit.  So all in all, not the usual relaxing break.  Throw into that 2,500 miles of driving there and back and I was setting myself up for one helluva journey – physically and emotionally.

Now I’m back.   I’ve thought a lot; I’ve tidied up a lot – both physically and emotionally; I’ve laughed a lot; cried a bit; I’ve caught up with people I love and reflected on the values that I hold.

That’s what it comes back to, the values I hold and how I want to live my life.  I’ve sort of mentioned it before, I think, but I want a simple life.  I don’t want a big house or a fancy car or expensive clothes.  I want to be with people I love, doing things I enjoy.  I want to invest in the things that reward me.   That’s not just about financial investment, its about investment of time; emotion; thoughts; caring.  Investment of me.  Don’t get me wrong, the financial investment is a big one, try running two mortgages and you soon realise how much the simple life has to be lead as there isn’t the cash for anything else!!  But in this hectic world, its the investment of time and emotion that often have the highest cost and the lowest reward.

I also realised I had to stop judging myself through the imagined eyes of others.  Why am I not going for promotion when I’ve got the exam?  Why am I not in a relationship after a couple of years of being single?  Why am I not living a more exciting life and travelling more or going out more or staying in more or joining this club or doing this exercise or …. well you get the picture.  I’m not even sure that anyone is asking those questions.  I very much doubt they are because people generally are quite rightly caught up in their own lives and have no time to think about or judge other people’s lives.  Even if they are – who cares?  I’ve realised that just because people appear to have it all and that all is wonderful, that veneer is often very thin.  As though 60 Minute Makeover came in and slapped some paint over it all and installed a 72″ tv, but as soon as they go, the wallpaper is going to fall off and the tv will fuse the whole house.

So where next?  Investing in the things that reward me.  I realise that I’m lucky to do a job that pays me very well.  Its also a job that I have allowed to cause me a great deal of stress and distress in the past.  Possibly because I’ve invested too much of my heart into it.  So from now on, my investment will match the reward.  The reward is financial and therefore I will do what I need to do to justify that reward.  The other reward I get is working with some lovely people (don’t get me wrong, there are also some complete arseholes, but I can just deal with them in a professional manner and invest only the time that is absolutely required and no more.  I certainly won’t invest them with time in worrying about what they think or what they are doing or what their next plans might be!).  So to the lovely people, I will invest the care and time that I hope I always have.  But I won’t take the stress home with me and I will treat it only as a job and not a life.  If that means looking for promotion, then I’ll consider it, provided it still fits in with my values.  But it won’t be something I abandon important things to get, things like my values, my sanity and my life.

La Panaderia?  Ah, such a difficult one.  I love that house.  Its taken time, money, love, inspiration, dreams to make it what it is.  To take it from a wreck to a beautiful house.  So much investment.  But where is the reward?  I love to go there; I love that friends can visit and enjoy the place.  But it also holds sad memories and holds me to a life I should have left behind me totally by now.

So, I’ve said my goodbyes.

With every box emptied and floor swept, I bid the house goodbye.  That’s all it is, bricks and mortar (or bricks and yeso, to be accurate).  Someone else will turn it into their dream.  This will let me cut ties that need cutting – and, importantly, free up cash each month that I can start investing in a new dream.  What that dream will be, I’m not totally sure yet, but that’s the good thing about dreams, they can appear when you least expect and they can change each time you open your mind.

The other parts:  I’ve reflected on paths I was starting to follow and decided to turn back around and take different ones.  Different paths that will give rewards I deserve, not shiny baubles that might be fun for a little while but have no substance. Like the Turkish Delight in Lion, Witch & Wardrobe – wonderful to indulge in, but at what cost?

All of this I could probably have worked out sitting at home.  But its the other things you realise on the physical journey that are important.  Like realising I could do it on my own and that it really wasn’t that big a deal.  Realising that on the bits that I really could have done with someone else there, I managed and that actually even in a couple I wouldn’t have necessarily been any better off!  Don’t get me wrong, it would have been lovely to share parts of the trip with someone, but it didn’t spoil the trip being on my own.  Realising that even the scary bits (like being completely lost and screaming at a satnav that didn’t understand I couldn’t drive through a statue; like sleeping in a service station car park curled up next to a dog that either barked or snored with equal loudness) I could cope with a find a way through.  Hell, give it a couple of days and I’ll have turned those into amusing anecdotes!

Now I’m back and my conclusion is now my new start.

In the short term there’s going to need to be investment in sorting out a lot of things that aren’t all within my control; but only if I start putting that investment in, will things move forward.  Like starting up a small business, its only by putting the work in early on that you get the rewards later.  So my life is a my small business for now.  A lot of work, a lot of time and effort and energy needed – but the rewards at the end of it will be worth it because from now on I’m only investing in the things that reward me.

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cake, cake, glorious cake

17 Oct

It has been pointed out to me that I’ve been a bit remiss with updating on my blog.  So my apologies if anyone has suffered any cake withdrawal symptoms or has been aimlessly wandering the streets of Bedford, confused and dazed as to the best place to go for cake and coffee.   My only excuse, or excuses as they are two-fold – are that I was put to work at home for the last days of my recuperation and now have a beautifully painted dining room.  And that sentence gives a clue to the other bit … I’ve had to go back to work.  After 8 weeks off, that was a bit of a shocker.  Words need to be had as so far the only coffee has been instant.  I do now have my coffee machine there, so this will be fired up soon (in theory I was on 4 hour days and there was only me in the office so didn’t seem worth making a whole pot, but the 2nd person has returned from hols so I think he’ll help out).  In terms of cakes, I did try to do my bit today with a bake sale in aid of 100 marathons in 100 weeks ( http://www.raceto100.co.uk – see the link at side of this blog ). *

bake sale

Modesty, however, prevents me from giving a review of the crumbly, rich chocolate brownies; light and fluffy red velvet cupcakes or even the perfectly risen and evenly baked orange, almond and yogurt cake.  Instead, I will ask anyone who purchased one of the cakes and who is reading this, to feel free to add comments.  Message to a certain person who put in a plea for delivery … if there are any left, I’m at the big house tomorrow afternoon for a meeting and will bring some along!

Anyhow, I digress.  Those poor souls are still wandering aimlessly like cake-zombies (ooooh, little reminder – The Walking Dead starts on Friday in UK, cannot wait.)   The Review.   Today I’m going to tell you about the place that has almost become my second home.  When I die I wish my ashes to be sprinkled there (although there is probably some health and safety reason why that can’t happen, but you get the impression).

Fancies (on Facebook as Homebaked Desserts), Roff Avenue in Bedford.  In terms of geography, Fancies is a little too close for comfort to some of the less attractive parts of Bedford.  The street itself isn’t too bad – and is handily on the route to and from Bedford parkrun, making it a very useful place for a post-race recovery drink and carb re-load.  But there is a cut through to The Land of The Doomed.  The Doomed, however,  seem not to travel far from their doorsteps or maybe they are just drawn to the cafe by the bus station (where you can drink instant coffee surrounded by the aroma of, well, pee – and I’m not sure if its human or animal and I really don’t want to dwell).  All I can say is, when you enter Fancies you enter a world of old-style tea shop.  The cakes are served on a selection of unmatched, old fashioned plates that wouldn’t be out of place on your grannie’s tea table.  Quaint, chic and so, so pretty.  If I didn’t know I wanted to go back there, I’d be swiping those plates into my handbag (and by handbag I mean the special suitcase handbag I’d take in specially to do this).

Reading material:   Local newspapers, Elle Decor (had me doing some aspirational shopping which was ill-advised in the midst of decorating the house) and a handful of my magazine cast offs.  Also, The Times – which is handy as I mainly read it for Caitlin Moran’s columns, but I often forget to buy it, but this means I have an excuse to pop into Fancies to see if they have the day before’s paper when I’ve forgotten to buy it just so I can catch up.

Customers:  I’ve done some great eavesdropping in here!!  I’ve been in a few times on my own, mornings are best – you get the ladies who, not so much lunch, as ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and gossip’ and ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and plan charity events with a level of organisation generals going to war would be proud of’.   I do think I may have dropped off during one conversation though, as one minute I was hearing about someone who’d sold their house, moved out of Bedford into nearby village, hated it so moved back – to the same house they’d sold, but had then decided again they didn’t like it and wanted to move back to the village.  Somehow I think I warped out here, as next they were saying someone had been snatched by pirates and taken off to be slaves.  I hope this was a film they’d seen or book they’d read, as I’m not liking the idea that somewhere between Bedford and Bromham there are pirates roaming with a side deal in slave trade.

Seating:   No matching, regular sized tables here – its all a mish-mash of sizes and types of table with a jumble of different chairs.  If I can get a suitcase-handbag big enough, the large wooden dining table is coming with me.  The seating is all inside, but chatting to the lovely lady who works there (and I believe owns the shop), they are hoping to have outside seating in the back garden next year.

Coffee:   I tend to go for the latte – for those who prefer their coffee not on the strong side, this is the place to go.  I could do with it a bit stronger, but you know, the rest of the place is so perfect, I don’t actually care.   The cup size is perfect, not so small it runs out and not so large I feel daunted.   They also do rather delicious smoothies and the most dazzling array of teas – but I haven’t brought myself to try the tea as it just seems wrong (and Tea would spoil the alliteration of my blog heading).

Savoury:  it used to just be croissant with melted cheese and tomato, but this has expanded to bagels with cheese and onion marmalade.   I can heartily recommend either.   They take a little while to be served, and they always warn you of this, but its because they are warmed properly so you get a crisp, foil wrapped croissant, with melty cheese and flakey pastry.  Not a microwaved squidge of pastry that manages to be both hard on the bottom but soggy on the top.   Its well worth waiting for and the wait really isn’t that long as why would you want to rush away?  The only disappointment I’ve had is the cheese scone (though I admit I may have been spoiled by The Cheese Kitchen scone).  When I tried it, the scone was too crumbly so when I tried to butter it, I ended up with crumbs that I had to try and squish together with the onion marmalade (sticky, tasty, could eat it by the spoon).

Cake:   What can I say?   Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  You enter to an plethora of cakes of every type and size displayed on the counter under old fashioned covers.  Trying to choose takes me longer than it took to pick a house.  This has been further complicated by the recent introduction of chiller cabinet – which meant Banoffee Cheesecake.  I may have developed diabetes just looking at that cheesecake.  Clearly if I was going to get diabetes just looking at it, I may as well try it and be hung for a lamb as a sheep (note:  no lambs or sheep were harmed in the making of this blog).  It was devine, but sweet, sweet, sweet!    They have ginger cake, with chunks of preserved ginger on top – sticky and moist and so gingery you think it should be singing in Girls Aloud and looking pale.  The fig and chocolate chip cake – never heard of this before, glad I tried it.  Intriguing, moist, not too sweet.  But the cake I judge by:  carrot cake.  This is how carrot cake should be.  There are nuts, there are bits of fruit, there are bits of carrot you can see and there’s a topping that melts in the mouth.  The cake is moist but not soggy, firm but not dry.  I shouldn’t have to describe it, you should be heading there NOW and trying some.  If you don’t like it, I’ll eat my hat.  Well, I won’t actually – but I’ll eat your carrot cake for you.

Overall impression:  Really? you need to ask?

Not sure why I haven’t got a photo of the carrot cake or the fig and chocolate chip cake, I think I eat it too quickly.  Instead – coffee, croissant and smoothie.  Aka – bliss!.

a blissful morning

* http://www.raceto100.co.uk   please take a look, there’s a link at the side of this blog:  Simon Buckden running 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise money for Help for Heroes and raise awareness of PTSD

Coffee and Cheese

21 Sep

For those who have heard me rave about various cafes, this choice of first place to review may be a little surprising.  Especially as the venue’s name would not suggest cake.  Perhaps that is with good reason.

Not sure why I felt the urge for a cheese scone, but there it was.  It may have been the memory of the one I ate at the weekend or maybe it was the lingering odour of Ed’s fart (for anyone who doesn’t know, Ed is a dog.  not my husband.  though my husband’s farts are worse).  So using the excuse of needing to get a Halti head collar for Ed (glad I specified he was my dog and not my husband or that would have taken this blog down a whole new line) and deciding I’d go to the pet shop in Castle Road rather than traipse across town to the retail park, a cafe trip could easily be built in.

Castle Road is one of the nice bits of Bedford.  For the record, there are only two nice bits of Bedford – Castle Road and Embankment.  They run parallel to each other so its probably not a coincidence.  Its the sort of place that makes you think you are in a posh suburb of London, which doesn’t necessarily make it sound good to some people, but to me, it is.  It has everything I want – numerous cafes, Spanish food, Italian Deli (ridiculously cheap and gives great hints on Limoncello), reclaim shop, art shop and an old book shop.  Haven’t actually been in the book shop but I like that its there.  To give a further clue of the sort of place it is, it also has a shop called ‘country pursuits’, which is where I was going to get the Halti.

But first the important stuff – coffee and cheese scone.  Which leads to …. the review:

The Cheese Kitchen (http://www.thecheesekitchen.co.uk/) is half cafe/half shop, selling as the name would suggest a huge variety of cheese.  I could also have bought chilli jam (nearly did as misread the price tag as £1.35 but it was actually £3.35, no jam should be over £3.00); wine; triangle shaped oat cakes or giant olives from a huge wooden bowl on the counter.

Reading material:  Independent and 220 Triathlon magazine – I could comment on this odd choice, but all I can think is that having gorged on the scones a normal person would need to do something fairly extreme to burn the calories.  I’d brought my own paper and magazine (another odd thing – in the shop across the road, most of the papers were hidden by a copy of the Daily Mail over each pile of Sun, Times, Express etc.  Is this some new marketing ploy on the part of the DM or a special protest by a local resident?)

Seating: the majority of seating is outside.  Which makes it dog friendly – in fact when we popped in at the weekend there was no space outside as it appears Cheese Kitchen is the preferred stopping point for labrador and retriever owners (Country Pursuits seems to know its market).  As it was a little chilly and threatening rain, I opted for the bench seats in the window, which does give the option of people watching and make you feel like a kid as the seats are really high and you can swing your legs (or you can if you are only 5′ 4″, taller people may struggle with this, I feel sorry for them.  Swinging your legs while on a high seat is right up there with swirling round when you where a sticky out skirt and pretending to be a pony when you run and noone is looking.)

Coffee:  large is giant.  So giant that it took all of the scone, a long wait while a couple of people were served and then a slice of cake to finish it.  I went for latte (flat white hasn’t made it to Castle Road yet).  mid strength, very hot, good flavour.  A perfectly acceptable coffee though nothing spectacular.

Savoury:  the Cheese Scone (I’m using capital letters as it deserves it).  today they warmed it and buttered it for me, at the weekend I had it cold so I’ve tried both ways.  Either is good:  warm it was slightly chewy but easy to devour in high speed; cold the flavour of the cheesy top made the mouth burn in that ‘really good cheddar and possibly hint of mustard’ sort of way.

Cake:  this was the downfall.  I wanted the rhubarb crumble cake slice, but was too late.  Instead I went for carrot cake – so disappointing was it that I didn’t even finish it.  The cake was too damp, it looked like a sponge rather than having the ‘mixed up’ texture carrot cake usually has.  Weirdly it had no nuts in it.  I know that they are probably catering to the ‘tick list’ of Castle Road children (private school, dance lessons, Kumon maths, musical instrument, food allergy) but no nuts, in a carrot cake?  frankly, that is nuts.  Worse, the topping was sweet and cloying.  Cream cheese frosting needs a slight sharp hint to it, this was like sugar cream clinging to my teeth.

Overall impression:  worth the visit for the scone, but if you want something sweet and cake-like, I’d try elsewhere.  Disappointingly, the main reason for my visit to the area was for a halti but Country Pursuits was closed so I still had to traipse over to the retail park.  But at least I had the scone.

For the record – Ed hates the Halti.