I am in a horrible state of anxiety and so I thought that the best thing I can do is to put it all into words and then read it back to myself, just to see how ridiculous my fears are and just how stupid my thoughts sound when shared.
Thursday I am travelling to Japan, Tomorrow is my last day at work until Valentines day and Wednesday I travel to London, no big deal that, I was in London over the weekend (Weekend Blog to follow). However I have not been out of the country since 2020, when I managed to get a trip to Japan (yes this is not my first trip there on Thursday) squeezed in about a month before Covid gripped the world and we were in lock down – and everything got mighty weird for a couple of years thereafter.
Please also note; the last time I travelled to Japan was a mere few weeks following my Father’s death and my headspace at the time was a a little flaky to say the least. Yet I am still more anxious about this forthcoming trip (already cancelled and rescheduled from last year ’22) and I can’t begin to explain why I am nervous. The only reason I think I can explain my nightmares is simply because it has been so long since I last left the UK that I feel like a blundering novice, I’ve forgotten more Japanese that I have ever learned and for this particular trip, I also need to get an internal flight.
I feel utterly inadequate to face an international flight on Thursday – Yet practically everything is ready, even the whole Japanese immigration system is done via an app in advance, yet my nerves will insist that I have fucked this up too. Have I packed too much, too little, taken on too much to do. Is my footwear appropriate and what the fuck an I going to eat when I don’t like fish?
Now I know I am starting to sound ridiculous, it’s like there is a whirlpool of thoughts rattling around inside my head and 90% of them are illogical and not one of them includes the plane falling out of the sky. Airports I always find anxiety inducing, flights I love and I have managed to get myself completely lost in Japan before now and still got to where I needed to be. So, please, brain calm thy tits and allow me to enjoy this trip without your nonsense!
Which is easier said then done, which is also why I am writing and I thought I would try and document the trip here as I go, as I get a portable WiFi to (ab)use so, time permitting, I should be able to write as I go along. At least that way I can see that my fears were unnecessary, she says hopefully, and it is just the whole pandemic drama which has triggered this irrational anxiety.
In some respects, I suppose I could be subconsciously connecting my last trip there to a traumatic event in my life and this could be the root of all this mental confusion. I wont know until Thursday comes and I’m on my way, until then all I can do is make sure I have all that I need and remember my passport!
How the Hell do you spend the day in London with £20?
Sometimes, the urge to travel conflicts with the bank balance and that can result in sulky faces and stomping feet.
But a tantrum can be avoided and adventures may still be had, even with £20.
For if you don’t mind travelling on the National Express, you can easily get a ticket to London for about a fiver. It’s a 3 hour journey from my home town in Leicester, so travelling near 7am means you get to the Capital for around the time places are starting to open.
Taking food and a flask cuts down on a lot of expensive. It might appear quite retro to break out a lunch box and a flask of tea, but seeing as something as simple as a sandwich can cost nearly a fiver, that’s a fiver saved and can be put towards a nice souvenir instead.
Water points are also to be found throughout the city to top up your own water bottle, stay hydrated, look after the world, reduce the use of single use plastics and all that jazz. Plus, saves money!
Travel, however, is a necessary expense and I always have my trusty Oyster card on hand for zipping around the capital in search of adventures and usually top this up by a fiver upon arrival into London. You can check your balance and add funds prior to your journey on the website if you don’t like standing in queues or arguing with machines.
It is worth noting that you can also use your Oyster Card on Buses, Boats and the London Cable Car.
Sometimes places are close enough to walk to and you will find plenty of maps with easy directions around London. Or you can hire an electric bike/scooter. Last time I hired a bike it cost me £3 for 24 hours and I used it to get from the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern. Which was a rather pleasant bike ride along the Thames. (this price may have since changed).
Summary: a fiver for the National Express and a fiver towards city travel. We’ve used a tenner out of our budget so far.
Free things to do in London and I think this is going to be a whole separate Blog in itself and I’ll make a full list of places (that I know of) which don’t cost anything to visit.
Of course if you want to attend an exhibition or event, this is going to go over your meager pennies, but the idea of this blog is to travel on a shoestring budget, it’s the same with tourist attractions, they can be overpriced and over crowded with the exit through the gift shop to suck more funds from unsuspecting travelers.
I’m going to use places of worship here as an example; To visit St Paul’s Cathedral will cost you an £20.50 entry fee, yet walk a mere 20 minutes and cross to the south of the river and you will find Southwalk Cathedral which is free to visit. Just as beautiful and rich in history, and you might just meet Hodge the Cathedral cat.
Travelling on a tight budget can be done, can be fun, can lead you to discover hidden charms among all the tourist traps and you still a tenner left for a fresh cuppa when your flask is empty and a couple of postcards as a memento of your visit.
The idea: 2022 was the first year in a while where we were free to finally leave the confides of our homes and explore again with less restrictions. Therefore, after feeling stuck in Leicestershire for (around) two years, I made the New Year’s Resolution to leave Leicester to visit elsewhere at least once a month for a whole year.
So, I smashed my goal and then some. In conclusion, I have discovered that I am drawn back to the same places and need to shoehorn myself out of familiarity to spread my wings further to explore more unknown parts of the UK going ahead.
A lot of these were day trips or exhibitions/events. Only two were actual holidays, and the majority were booked in advance, travelling on a budget that reflects my finances. Including a day trip to London that I did on a mere £20 (including transport).
I am left with a lingering love for both Edinburgh and York, longing to return and explore more as both a rich in history and have so many hidden secrets to discover.
However, there is still lots more of the UK and the world for forthcoming adventures as I look ahead to 2023 with a couple of trips already on the horizon and itchy feet to continue to explore and enrich my life.
Here we go again … after a brief interlude of indulgence, the promises of the future changes are upon our lips, though motivation is buried somewhere under a pile of Christmas chocolates and the New Year feels more anxiety driven than inspiring.
Everything feels shiny and new, yet it’s all exactly the same. Such is the enigma of our lives. However it doesn’t have to be so, my goals this year are linked with my forthcoming 50th Birthday this year, my success with last year’s challenge and the need to address what does and does not suit my life. Which will mean letting go of clutter, both mental and physical.
The Pandemic no longer feels like a crutch of excuses as issues that were neglected during this time will need to be finally faced, and my first journey overseas since 2020 is fast approaching in a few weeks. So my head is all over the place currently, which is counterproductive and just steals sleep with worry.
One thing therefore I aim to adopt this year, is to cease reaching too far ahead and to simply take one day at a time, tackle one thing at a time and be more still in my mind.
I have no unrealistic time frames for my next goals and I hope you’ll join me along for the ride as I recap last years shenanigans and look ahead to what mayhem I can cause as I approach 50.
I don’t think I’ve ever successfully achieved a New Year’s Resolution and seen it through to the next New Year. Yet, I am pleased to say that I have been 100% successful with the challenge I set myself in January 2022 – to travel outside Leicestershire at least once a month for a whole year.
With three short trips still planned over the Christmas period to wrap up the year, I have been able to spread my wings and venture beyond my home city… Something that previously been impossible because of Lock Down restrictions.
Occasionally I felt like I was making up for lost time and had an urgency to this goal initially, for I had experienced what loss of freedom felt like and I wanted to do the most I could… just in case…
This feeling/sensation ceased as the year developed and I drew in this need to rush for a more lazy relaxed pace. To really stop and take pleasure in my surroundings.
What could I possibly challenge myself with next year? I am starting January off in style with a twice delayed trip to Japan, which I would like to Blog about as I’m there (time permitting) I’m currently apprehensive about this trip, more to do with strikes and hold ups in the UK than the actual through of being thousands of miles away from home on my own, but these are only possibilities and one I shall cross when I get there.
Therefore travelling within the UK each month and a long international trip simply wouldn’t be achievable in the first couple of months and I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Hence my new goal is something I’m taking on, which could take a few years to complete and I’m not giving myself a timescale to work within.
This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, which is to visit every city in England. I’m aware that a few places were added to the Cities list earlier on in the year for the late Queens Jubilee, so I will need a full list of all Cities in England to begin with and check off those I’ve already done. I’m tempted to do the whole of the UK and visit Wales and Ireland more, so I guess we’ll see how that goes.
My biggest challenge is, I don’t drive. So this will all need to be done via public transport. Which will be interesting.
I don’t know how long this will take, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride?
The lingering effects of this pandemic can still be seen and felt throughout the world, like a scar that you just can’t help picking at. Getting back to normal, when normal doesn’t feel normal anymore, yet the mundane is agonisingly slow but at the same time life is fast slipping away. We live in this circle of existence that feels flawed and the only way to make sense of it all is to grasp what time we have and then impulsively waste it starring at social media, green with envy of a perfect life that is probably created by a troll bot anyway. Cyberspace is even more flawed than reality, yet we dwell there in the hope of grasping some serotonin or dopamine to get us through another day.
Pre-Pandemic times, I had an hour for my lunch, which gave me the perfect time to write here, to happily blog and share a little of my life in my happy corner of the internet. Now I get just a mere half hour and by the time I have sat down and eaten, lunch is over before I have the chance to open WordPress. The sheer workload on our shoulders has been challenging, not that I’m complaining, I do love my job, but that work/life is heavily swayed towards the work element. Leaving me tired and aching.
I’m looking ahead now, as the festive season fast approaches and with it a New Year. I want to focus on realistic changes I can gain and questioning old goals which serve me no purpose anymore. I am 50 in 2023 and as that milestone is within sight I am more compelled to discard things (and, sadly, sometimes people) that are simply dragging me down or holding me back.
I don’t care to be slim, just healthy. I don’t need to be rich, just mindful with what I have. I can’t wear make up and fashion doesn’t interest me. So my life as a Crazy Cat Lady in training is starting to develop into a comfortable blanket of apathy with a light seasoning of I can’t be arsed and a dash of I couldn’t give a shit. And I couldn’t be happier.
Although time is my one precious commodity, which I do need to be more mindful with, especially when it comes to that precious half an hour lunch break, so I’m thinking maybe the way forwards, without dropping off from writing altogether is simply to adopt a more ‘flash fiction’ approach to blogging with small bite sized lunchtime friendly offerings.
So this is my trial blog, within that time frame and I guess we see where this idea flows …
Good Morning, it’s been a while since I tapped letters to life, September to be exact. I’ve had a break from writing recently for personal reasons and a lingering hiatus developed.
Yet I enjoy writing here and the theme which has developed over time is one I am passionate about, so time to cease my procrastination, dust off my old notes and breathe life back into my words, share some less than adequate photos and see if there is anyone out there still listening?
A personal reflection of my ongoing UK adventures …
Part 1 of a 3 part series
Note: Not including my home city of Leicester as I will do a separate list for local places of interest. Also, not including London, as that will possibly cover several such lists because the capital is so vast and rich with hidden treasures. Northern Ireland isn’t on my list I’m afraid as I’ve not been there (yet) but you will find Scotland and Wales included.
I feel mildly obsessed with Edinburgh, despite it being a new city upon my ‘ticked done’ list. I long to return and would gladly go tomorrow if I could without hesitation, as I know that there is so much more to discover and explore and I have only just scratched the surface of the hidden treasures to find there. So I keep finding out little snippets of information, saving details for future visits for I know that it won’t be too long before I shall be back there.
Earlier this year, I was determined to go by an exhibition of Ray Harryhausen and his creations, someone I have admired since childhood and I was not prepared to miss this and as the exhibition entered it’s last few weeks, I made the step into the unknown and booked tickets! Ironically it was cheaper for me to travel from London to Edinburgh than it was for me to try and get from Leicester, so I had a cheeky stay over down the old smoke first. However it was upon this first solo trip to Edinburgh where I not only got to see the creations of the late great Ray Harryhausen, that I also got drenched to the skin and fell head over heels in love with the city.
Prior to this year, I had only ever visited Edinburgh on day trips usually as a passing stop when travelling elsewhere. This year I faced a difficult decision, push myself out of my comfort zone, step away from my usual obsession with London and travel to Scotland for an exhibition – or miss the exhibition …
Following my late Father’s funeral, I returned to Edinburgh once again as I just needed to get away by myself and travel to ease my aching heart. This second trip to Scotland opened my eyes to just how much more there is to explore, despite having crammed as much as I could into four days, at least this time it didn’t rain.
I have a permanent scar on my ankle from when I first visited Yorkshire as a child, carelessly wearing flip-flops in bracken I was bitten by an Adder, the UK’s only verminous snake (having a whole week off school as I recovered). Needlessly to say, York had left it’s mark on me and I have returned various times throughout the years, most recently in June. I am attracted to the history, the Vikings, Tudors and legendary Highwayman Dick Turpin. I admire the architecture of York Cathedral and the small rambling Shambles. The air feels thick with ghosts and near every pub you enter has it’s own spooky tales as they’re rich with history and local ales.
York is also home to the impressive Railway Museum – Here you will find a small part of my own family history – The Swannington Incline winding engine is preserved here. Doesn’t sound too exciting I realise, however there is/was a huge wall sized image of the old pump house and cottages, where upon my Mother loudly declared during one visit: “I was born in that window” … This maybe worth a blog on it’s own?
My Dad’s ancestors came from Yorkshire, so there is a little of this district within my blood and just as Edinburgh I feel drawn to return and explore more. I am returning at Christmas for a day trip on my way to Whitby, which brings me nicely to my next place upon this list …
To this day the Whitby Goth Fest still remains on my to do list, however I have had the pleasure of finally getting my dark little heart to the North Yorkshire seaside town in true Bram Stoker homage. I am drawn to many places for many reasons, history and literature are significant interests which guide my wandering soul to various locations throughout the world and for Whitby it was the whole Gothic subculture alongside the alluring pull of the Dracula myth (I have since took this passion one step further and journeyed to Transylvania – but hat’s a blog for another day).
Whitby is beautiful and relaxing, a quirky English seaside town with all the trappings you would expect at the coast, fish and chips, seaside rock, arcades and souvenir shops. It holds a special place in my heart because for a long time, it felt like a dream, like it was somewhere way beyond my reach, somewhere I would never be able to get to … My doubts were cast aside as I found the first steps towards embracing adventure and travelling and Whitby was my first goal, giving me confidence and freedom!
For Christmas this year I am going away alone to Whitby, to get away from painful memories and to create new happy travelling adventures instead.
This dates back to my teenage years, so forgive me if there are no recent photographs, neither have I visited Wales in such a long time. Yet it holds a nostalgic place in my heart and therefore made it onto this list to share with you. I feel this ache within my soul when I ponder over old memories of Wales, another me, younger, fitter, keen to try mountain climbing and various other outdoor pursuits that I think now I would struggle with (but would still try). We, my school friends and I, would visit the stunning Aberglasslyn Hall each summer for a week of activities, packed lunches and late night pub crawls, somewhere between a child and adult. Collecting experiences and memories along the way.
Having climbed Mount Snowden, Hiked the Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr & Tryfan trail and visited Gelert’s Grave in Beddgelert, among other activities. Snowdonia National Park is full of rich wild nature, steeped in legends and history. Hopefully one day I would like to return once again and re-visit this wonderful part of the country and awaken happy memories along the way.
Aberglaslyn Hall – Picture from Wiki
A close neighbour to Leicester, a mere 20 minuets upon the train. Nottingham is a frequent place to visit, having only just popped there on Monday to visit on my day off work and planning on a return trip to catch up with friends in two weeks. This city holds a fond place in my heart for many reasons, from gigs at Rock City – back in the day when this nightclub hosted some huge names in the metal scene, to it’s quirky ancient pubs, great dining and it’s rich history, thick with the folk law of Robin Hood and his merry men.
Beyond the city itself you will find Wollaton Hall, which is also known as Wayne Manor in the Christopher Nolan Batman Films. The Castle has had a recent facelift, meaning visitors are finally able to return to this historic landmark after being closed for so long and the entire city is built upon a vast network of caves, these have had various uses throughout history from wine cellars to air raid shelters. Nottingham also hosts (one of) The oldest Inn in History ‘Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem’ which too leads to the caves.
There are many places and many good friends within Nottingham which keep drawing me back regularly, which is why Nottingham has made it’s way upon this list. I shall be covering a few places within Nottingham in their own blogs in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
For now I’m going to wrap this list up there, as I failed to narrow this list down to a top 10 and decided to make this a three part blog which 5 locations explored in each part.
Hopefully this will serve as a good way to get myself back into blogging once again and I’m looking forward to sharing more of my favorite places and near adequate photography. – Until next time …
Sometimes you don’t have to go too far or take too long for shenanigans to be had. As local establishments have their fair share of hidden treasures to explore and it just so happened that on Saturday morning, I happened across (by that I mean finally got round to) attending the ‘I Grew Up 80s’ at Leicester Museum & Art Gallery.
Born in 1973, the 80’s have held a very soft spot in my heart since that era. For me it was a time of change and development, finding out who I was forming my own interests. It was with this passion for nostalgia that I found myself bouncing around the exhibition as though I was a giddy teenager once again as I was greeted with toys and memories from my childhood, which felt just as fresh on Saturday as they did all those years ago.
I admit that I don’t feel old enough to view a huge chunk of my life on display in a museum, I’m 50 next year, I can’t wait, I’m comfortable with my age and looking forward to this event with enthusiasm. It was exiting to see so much that I had thought lost to the dusty recesses of my mind.
Some were such simple items; A MacDonald’s ashtray, a pound note, football cards, fashion, videos, movie posters, games and puzzles – a whole range of artifacts, some of which I actually still have in storage personally – I considered the realistic possibility that I could put on such a display myself with my horde I store, or at least very nearly…
One thing I had noticed, as more of a personal observation than anything else, is that all the toys and games which I held dear to my heart were all aimed towards boys. Everything from Star Wars, to Lego, to He-Man, D&D, Transformers and such were usually marketed towards little boys. I had no interest in Girls World or Barbie, I found (and still do) Cabbage patch dolls quite cringe. I have to thank my parents for allowing me to be one of the boys, a shameless Tom Boy growing up and in these latest years of my life discovering more about myself and becoming at peace with who I am.
Just a short blog while it’s fresh in my mind – I hope you welcome this trip down memory lane as much as I have experiencing/writing about my little adventure back in time.
Back to work this week after four days in London to attend Hyper Japan 2022 Festival and other wonderings around the capital.
This was, I think, my fifth time attending the Hyper Japan Festival but the first time visiting Evolution London as a venue. As in previous years this event had been held at The Olympia or The Tobacco Docks, prior to the pandemic. Obviously this was the first such festival since the plague and people were very keen to attend over the three days it was held.
A Brief Overview
“The UK’s biggest J-culture event, launched in 2010. The event introduces the diversity of contemporary Japan, from manga and anime, to music, fashion, food, traditional culture, gaming, technology, tourism and more. In addition to a fantastic line-up of exhibitors (companies and Japanese local government), the event is jam-packed with individual exhibitors, stage performances, workshops, seminars, and more.“
Naturally, me being me, arrived in London in eager anticipation before the event opened , so while I waited for my partner in adventures to arrive I took a walk to this big posh house, hopefully for a cuppa tea, but obviously they didn’t get my fax. So I sat on the steps in a deliberate attempt to get into as many tourist photos as possible.
However my side quest was not in vain as I discovered an interesting exhibition nearby, I made a mental note of this, made my way to greet my friend from Lincoln and finally to Hyper Japan 2022.
I have been ridiculously excited about this event as there are a lot of features I love, there is usually a whole food hall with tasters and samples to enjoy, a huge Nintendo presence, a lot of information on travel and tourism and a large focus on Japanese Culture, history and Sake. None of which (apart from the Sake) where there! … I am going to give the organisers the benefit of the doubt as this was the first festival since lock down, I also have the experience of previous events for comparison and this was nothing like previous years.
To begin with the venue of the event was really dreadful to find, with no nearby tube stations and no parking. I felt that the place lacked basic requirements; no water, no WiFi, no ATM, no charging points, no inside seating areas, no space around the stage, no on site catering and aggressive security staff… However these are are issues I feel relate more to The Evolution London and not necessary Hyper Japan organisers.
Having said that, I felt that there was a lot missing from the actual event itself. with only a few food stalls, with 45 minute queues, no Nintendo, very little relating to Japanese Culture, history or travel. The majority of the stalls were all kawaii pinky products, funkos or plushies. I felt like there was very little variety and the whole set up felt more like a large market than an event.
But that didn’t stop me having fun, I was with good company after all and we enjoyed people watching, admiring the cosplayers and making the most of a weekend in London. Even though we had brought ourselves a three day ticket. I felt we had covered everything on the Friday afternoon and we started to look at other things to do over the weekend.
Keeping with the Japanese theme, we discovered a Miffy pop up event at Ichiba Japan Centre, so seeing as we were in the neighbourhood, it would be rude not to pop in to a pop up event and (as usual) we were there early! Far be it for us to sit and twiddle our thumbs while we wait, there’s more shenanigans to be had, even within half an hour… So it just so happened that Ichiba is situated right near the Upside Down House and it had just opened, clearly this was a side quest that was just meant to be.
Inside the Upside Down
By the time we had defied gravity the Miffy event had opened up and we took our seats to learn Origami, eat Japanese food meet Miffy and spend way too much on Washi Tape, which became an ongoing theme.
In the afternoon we returned to Battersea to Evolution for the afternoon session of Hyper Japan and this is where things got messy. The gates were locked, long before the morning session was due to end, meaning that we were kept waiting outside in extreme heat for what turned out to be nearly two hours, instead of 30 minuets. We were in the 3 day ticket line, meaning that this was actually a short wait in relation to those who had just got a Saturday afternoon ticket, who were left circling around the park for hours as the organisation collapsed into chaos with some people reporting on social media that they were still waiting at 5pm, when the event closed at 7pm. There are a lot of complaints online, which are quite valid due to the circumstances – most of which I could write a whole blog on alone.
So we made the most of the afternoon, once we finally got in, watched some sword fighting, met Hello Kitty and spent way too much money on more washi tape.
Before retiring to a pub to make plans for Sunday Shenanigans …
After the previous days mayhem, we decided to go early for the last day and this turned into a final shopping spree, with a last look around to buy items which have caught our attention. Say our farewells to friends we had met up with, grab some Japanese food for lunch and even more wahsi tape!
Finally leaving the 2022 Hyper Japan around 2pm, with the event finally closing that day at 5pm.
However, this doesn’t mean our weekend was over. Remember the exhibition I noticed at the big shiny house I popped by on Friday? Well this turned out to be the ‘Japan Courts and Culture’ exhibition at The Queens Gallery Buckingham Palace. It would be rude not to attend, after all it fitted in with the whole theme of the weekend and gave us one final adventure.
What a truly magical way to end the weekend, with such an incredible collection of beautiful Japanese craftsmanship and not a single roll of washi tape in sight.