Smile at a Stranger. Tomorrow he/she could be your Saviour.


In the aftermath of yet another horrific incident i.e the Boston bombings we ‘normal’ human beings are left reeling at the unfathomable motives behind it.

We have all seen the shocking pictures of casualties and of the 2 calm faces of the suspects mingling amongst the crowds. What are they thinking? Who can even begin to understand how their minds work. They are part of  the human race yet so far on the edge, out of the norm that no person with any empathy with fellow marathoners in our human race can comprehend.

We feel outrage and sick to our stomachs that they can engineer to do something so devastating to others, are they so full of hatred that it had made them unhinged? Whatever way we try to fathom it we never will. There will be more to follow and more tragedy for innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On the other hand look instead the wealth of human kindness and selflessness witnessed by those that rushed forwards to help the injured with no thought for themselves. They did not personally know the victims, they did not know that more bombs were not about to go off. They did not know that buildings may fall and endanger themselves. They just acted on instinct to help others. There may have been more in the death toll if not for these people.

The striking image of the poor man in the wheelchair with severed legs and the helpers,one of which is physically clamping his femoral artery closed to stem the life ending flow of blood. If not for his actions the man could well have bled to death in the mayhem. These are the people you want to be around, god forbid we should ever find ourselves in similar circumstances. And who are ‘these’ people?

These real life heroes are all around us every day. The man we pass on the street on our way to work, the lady on the bus, the people we may even judge in a negative way because they are different. Look around you tomorrow, should you ever unfortunately be in the wrong place at the wrong time and something terrible happens, the chances are there is someone in the vicinity that would jump to your aid and potentially save your life.

So go on why not smile at a stranger today because you never know that stranger could turn out to be your saviour one day.

Do something that scares you every day! Go Skiing!

DSC_0101  Isn’t that one of those dittys/ that go around that is supossed to enhance and challenge your life? It seems a bit much  to say ‘every’ day, maybe once a week/month would be enough to stimulate the grey matter and get the endorphins circulating. However on our annual ski trip that’s exactly what happens. It scares the bejesus out of me in various degrees EVERY day!

This is my 4th year skiing, this time we are in Avoriaz and as everyone knows the older you are when you start the harder it is. We all watch in awe at the little dwarf commando skiers age no more than 7 whizzing down the slopes in a stiff upright but oh so confident manner that put us oldies to shame. However they are young, have no fear, have a very low centre of gravity which means when they fall they are pretty much already on  the floor!

I take the arbitrary ESF lessons and end up with the inevitable  crusty old french guy who churns out the standard lines every week. ‘Follow my line!’ Yeah that’s fine if you are next in line to him but 7/8 people back in the snake means you can’t see or hear him so you are pretty much on your own. If he speaks English it is a bonus. So it’s a case of go with the flow and do your best.

So day 1 – 3 is Ok (after all I have been in level 1 for 4 years!) I am cruising at the top end of the class. Then Day 4 hits and we go on steeper slopes.! The fear kicks in and all the good techniques and form are replaced by the survival/’get me to the bottom of this mountain the size of Everest at any cost’ stance = BAD!

Day 4/5 is the wobble day when I struggle with the decision of jacking it all in and spending the rest of the week in the gym/spa.

The afternoons are taken up with leisurely ski trips and frequent vin chaud/hot chocolate stops with the OH who has learnt (the hard way) to ply me with platitudes and to big up my skiing skills at every occasion in the deperate hope I won’t throw in the towel and leave him without a ski companion in future years. It’s a fine line!

If I get over the wobble (which I have always managed thus far) day 5/6 are challenging/scary testing lessons but (once over) Oh so exhilarating! I feel good, alive, like I cheated death again and feeling invincible!

I have made progress in small steps, I feel good about myself for holding in there and I definately did something every day that scared me! Tick!

I end the week with a sense of relief, achievement and feel good factor. I cant wait to get home to my comfort zone. Will I be here next year! Of course, it you don’t scare and stretch yourself every year/month/day you will never experience the satisfactory high of knowing you came through and conquered a fear!

I might even manage level 2 next year! Go for it!

So this is the scenario every year, and every year I get a bit better and a bit more confident, this year I tackled a red run, that must be progress.  I wasn’t too petrified.DSC_0128

I have a love hate relationship with fear, I can never let it beat me and without it life can be dull and too safe so I’ll keep to my motto: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Its worth it!   DSC_0108

Taking the Rough with the Smooth. Paradise Found.


Last Year in November I think I found a slice of Paradise. I have embarked on more than my fair share of backpacking/roughing it holidays, I have paid my dues and gone through the initiation rights to be called a traveller and not a tourist. Some of the tales of places we have stayed across the world could make your hair curl but this is not one of them. Our third and no means last visit to Thailand was on an altogether different scale. Roughing it? Oh no, we ‘Smoothed’ it big time and I liked it!

We stayed on two islands, firstly the very beautiful and famous Ko Phi Phi but we avoided the bustling backpacker town of Tonsai and continued on the ferry to go around the corner to a tranquil and azure blue water beach. Here we had a week of snorkelling and taking it easy. I have Scuba Dived many times in Thailand, the Red Sea and Spain (!)  and been slightly disappointed at times, in all those deeper dives I have never seen such an array of colorful and abundant marine life as I saw around these islands, here you need nothing more than a snorkel mask and fins (optional) We even managed to hit Maya Bay (The Beach) and virtually have it to ourselves, it really is a stunning location!

All perfectly idyllic but no, the slice of paradise I was talking about came in the second venue which was Ko Lanta and the Layana Hotel.

The Layana is a small scale boutique hotel that promises to make time stand still for just a moment and to create a harmonious and tranquil setting. It did not disappoint. The moment that you enter the tree-lined drive, magic starts to happen. The first day we lay by the smooth saline pool (its composition equivalent to human tears apparently) and I just drank it all in (not the pool I hasten to add) The beautiful palm fringed manicured gardens to the left, the infinity pool reaching out towards the beach and sea with a serene buddha statue keeping guard on the right. We truly thought we had found heaven. The staff were discrete and very hospitable, we lay in the glorious sunshine until suitably toasted then cooled off in the glassy aquamarine pool only to start the routine over again. We were treated to cold flannels by the passing waiters and constant top ups of iced water. As if that wasn’t enough they would re-appear with fresh chilled fruit from time to time.

Once night falls the restaurant and bar areas come alive, the beach side dining terrace lit by candles and fairy lights in the trees was pure romance. To eat amazing food in the balmy night air to the sound of the lapping waves was perfection.

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I have never wanted time to stand still so much as when we had 1 day left. I sat on our the balcony listening to the unfamiliar birds singing, watching a rare little cloud waft across the sky, Enjoying the  last moments of enveloping heat around me  and feeling a million miles away from the stresses of real life. I wished I could freeze the moment and remember every detail so that I could replay it back at any time.


But all good things must come to an end and this was no exception . I felt a definite tinge of sadness as the staff waved us off on our departure, it felt like leaving home but I did manage to capture those moments in my mind and writing this on a cold and dreary February day in the UK  has taken me back there to all the sounds, smells and sights I was lucky enough to experience in Thailand and at the Layana. Perhaps I have indeed managed to freeze a moment in time, I will recall it whenever I need to be transported away from reality and to a calming place.

I have learned and experienced so much from travelling and roughing it on many levels around the world, there is a rich, colourful and vibrant planet out there not to be missed. These days we are eager to tick off that bucket list as if there really is no tomorrow. we  ‘go’ and ‘do’ as much as possible, of course one day for all of us there won’t be a tomorrow but don’t forget to ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘soak in’ the small details no matter where you are. I found a rare peace, serenity and  ‘happy place’ in a sometimes frenetic life by ‘smoothing’ it just this once!