Category Archives: Life

The Long Pause

Eleven years passed between the London Marathon and the next official tick on the Bucket List… one heck of a long pause, except it wasn’t really. What happened? Life… and with it, plenty of challenges along the way.

Despite the excitement of buying our first house in 2000, we  were back on the move just six months later, having quickly learned that it’s true what they say about location being everything… The children’s park next to which our little two up two down was found (complete with pets one and two), turned out to be frequented by drug dealers, drunks and little rat bags. After a few months of the wing mirrors being kicked off the car, vodka bottles being thrown at the house and police regularly knocking on the door, the ‘For Sale’ sign went up (predictably this was torched, burning a huge hole in the front lawn) and thanks to the very buoyant housing market, we were soon on our way to property number two.

The next Cook/Fuller household came with it’s very own set of challenges. It started my love of DIY (multi-coloured rooms and hand painted leopard print the length of the hall, stairs and landing will probably do that for most people), and landed us next to yet another dealer. I should probably point out that I don’t come from the ghetto, quite the opposite, stereotypical middle/working class, fairly rural, Sussex… generally pretty dull. It would appear though, that I don’t have a great deal of luck when it comes to neighbours, and it’s fair to say that we didn’t get on from the start.

They didn’t like the fact I had no interest in talking to them, and I didn’t like the fact that they sold drugs.  Various wars ensued, as TV’s were turned to face walls and set to the highest volume possible and parties, complete with MC and night club-sized speakers (theirs not mine), resulted in most of the neighbourhood calling the police. One of the ‘highlights’ of our time there, has to be the many conversations heard over the fence. While I’m not one to pry, it’s hard not to hear when drunken voices are powering their way into the garden.

The most shocking and definitely frightening revelation, involved the lady of the house complaining to her friends about how she had had to keep telling their young daughter off for helping herself to something that wasn’t hers. ‘She knows better than that, I keep telling her it’s not sugar’ (and yes, social services were a regular visitors of theirs) eek! The others tales, while great to recount to my buddies over drinks, are definitely not suitable for release into the wider world, courtesy of the wonder that is WordPress or any other media for that matter.

Despite the dodgy surroundings, we persevered and after a few months, were surprised to learn that there would be an addition to the family. In 2002, we welcomed our son Charlie into the world; beginning our new life as parents and hopefully responsible adults. Amazingly relations with the people next door also took a turn for the better and it seemed that all would be well, but it wasn’t. I’d be lying if I said I was a natural mother, it just didn’t happen that way…

Aged just twenty three and experiencing a traumatic birth, that left me on the verge of needing a blood transfusion, (5’2 women are not supposed to give birth to 9 1/2lb babies) bonding with my new arrival didn’t turn out to be sun shining from the sky, or birds singing in the trees. A difficult fight with post natal depression, complicated the process further and made life all round, something of a rollercoaster – hair raising and seriously scary at times. My best and oldest friend (she likes to me to remind people at this point, that I am referring to length of service rather than her actual age – she is older than me by three and a half months… I like to reminder her of this), stepped up to the plate and was a massive support, for which I will eternally be very, very, grateful.

It certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Despite my problems I loved him dearly, always making sure I took good care of him. He’s eleven now and these days, we’re a pretty good team. I make sure he washes regularly, doesn’t go out looking like a wally and occasionally, convince him to get his hair cut. He in return, tells me I’m not like the other mothers… but that he quite likes that about me. His favourite quirk of mine being the fact that I am always, ready to body surf the length of the ground floor of the house, on the wheeled ottoman which resides under our coffee table. My husband does not see this as a positive attribute – I put this down to his being an only child and spending far too much time in the company of adults during his formative years.

By the time Charlie reached his first birthday, we had begun to grow out of our little house, embarking on the hunt for something with enough room to swing both the cats at the same time, and a garden for the little man to play in. Moving into home number three a few months later, the DIY began all over again and before long talk moved to expanding the family. ‘Wouldn’t it be great to start trying for a little brother or sister when Charlie turns two’ said Adrian… a week later I told him I was pregnant. On Charlie’s second birthday I was already six months into cooking baby number two and cultivating a figure that would put any self-respecting hippo to shame.

Amelia’s arrival, weighing in at almost a pound less than her big brother was thankfully, more peaceful this time.  She made us a family of four and we settled into the first few weeks together, happy and contented. Seven weeks after joining us, the peace was shattered as our baby girl became sick, spending some time in the care of the wonderful doctors at the Brighton Children’s Hospital, to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude and the life of our little Moo. Earlier lessons in life to fight for what I needed were invaluable as I pitted my wits against the local GP’s who insisted that I was worrying over nothing.

As Amelia recovered, my health declined and the S.S Depression set sail for her second voyage; the rollercoaster of the last time paling in comparison, rather like a tea cup ride versus a bungee jump sans elastic. Those who have been there will understand, those who haven’t, never will. I’m not going to bleat on about feelings, or how best to deal with this type of illness, all I will say about my experience, is that I came out the other side and lived to tell the tale.

Life continued to tick along and over the following years, jobs changed and more furry friends came to live with us (two dogs, five hamsters, two rats and a rabbit – just call me Noah). We finally decided to tie the knot, ten years after meeting and threw ourselves into the terrifying task of organising a wedding. Always looking for ways to make the most of every opportunity, we combined the wedding with the children’s baptism, enjoying a beautiful candle-lit ceremony (which was luck more than judgement, thanks to an ancient setting and a well-timed power cut) and fabulous party, to celebrate two more special milestones.

After almost seventeen years together, the road has often been more than a little bumpy. But we’ve hung in there and between us, we seem to make it work. All the while our mostly happy, crazy, lovely, challenging and at times maddening lives continue to whirl around us.

By the time 2011 came around, we were pretty much settled and I was ready to go off on my adventures again…

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It started with a marathon… London 2000 – how not to take on 26.2 miles

As years go, 2000 was pretty eventful…
In the February I reached the ripe old age of twenty-one, tackled the London marathon in April, graduated from University and had my first of several car accidents in August (still no recollection of it to this day), and finally bought my first house in the December.
If you ever feel like going for broke… I’m your girl.
I attended University in Brighton, East Sussex at the Eastbourne campus, dedicated to Sports Science, Physical Education, Physiotherapy and Podiatry. Needless to say I wasn’t the most ‘applied’ student, preferring lay-ins to lectures, but had a great three years and despite my fondness for my bed, came out with a 2:1 and honours to boot.
While this entry isn’t dedicated to University as such, an early experience did teach me the importance of research…
Stood with one of my Uni friends in the kitchen of her flat, she decided it was time to tell me she was gay (living firmly on planet Amie I hadn’t an inking). I should make it clear at this point that I have no time for homophobes, bigots, racists, or other unpleasant members of society; nor did I give a fig which team she decided to play for.
What tickled me most, was the discovery that we had a fairly large gay community on our campus; the vast majority of whom had applied to Brighton with hopes of a carefree, liberated lifestyle, only to find themselves in the blue-rinse capital of Sussex – fondly referred to as ‘God’s waiting room’.
As disappointments go, hers was fairly major.
I should probably get back to the point…
Deciding that 2000 was the year when I would start to seize the day, I secured a marathon place via a children’s charity, and committed to raising £1000 for them in return for my entry.  Family, friends and colleagues rallied around me  and before long, the funds had been pledged and the training commenced.
Having spent three years studying sport and exercise, I was well-equipped to get myself suitably fit and to prepare, for the first of what would become my bucket list of achievements. My part-time job within the fitness team of a local health club afforded ample opportunity, willing running buddies and facilities to train, so I was well and truly set.
Did I use this to my advantage? Did I heck!
Now we’re not quite talking the late Jade Goody in her tennis shoes here – I had all the fancy event kit and some very nice new silver trainers (which were half a size too small – they cost more in the next size up). It’s fair to say that after a few weeks of running, I decided that my ‘natural’ fitness would probably see me though, and I would be able to go back to my usual routine… of Uni parties and McDonalds breakfasts.
Preparation is key when taking on anything, physical or otherwise, but there is a reason I am famed for my ‘gung-ho’ attitude and refusal to admit (in the short-term at least), that I could often do better when it comes to planning.
Having chosen totally the wrong place to spend the night prior to the event, the following morning was spent in a tornado-like rush. The train was caught by the skin of my teeth and breakfast – consisted of a pot of fruit salad hastily munched on the train. Not really the appropriate fuel for the day’s activities…
Reaching the starting point with the rest of the fun/slow/charity runners, I was surrounded by a plethora of colourful characters. Giant Rhinos, London buses and a group of guys dressed as chickens accompanied  the rest of us, caught up in the atmosphere and raring to go.
Not wanting to spend the entire distance alone, I introduced myself to the lady next to me and asked if she’d like a companion for the run. Admitting that her nerves were as frayed as mine, she readily agreed and together, we embarked on the famous journey.
Our partnership didn’t last long. After the first mile she stopped, announcing there and then that if she went any further she would probably die;  promptly whipping out her mobile phone and calling for rescue. wishing her all the best, I carried on , smugly feeling that my training must have been ok after all.
Despite enjoying the surges of energy from the crowds and the thrill, of running past the famous landmarks, my confidence was short-lived. As I hit the sixteenth mile, an old hip and knee injury reared its ugly head, artfully aided I am sure, by the excess stone and a half I was carry and the dodgy, but very pretty trainers that my feet had been shoe-horned into.
As the pain grew I was reduced to a walk, then a hobble as my toes decided to join the party and my lower body began to feel like it might actually fall off before the day was out. At mile twenty I was overtaken by the clean-up coach, collecting the participants who had admitted defeat and were waiting on the side of the road to be retrieved.
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a moment where I was tempted to climb aboard (runners tummy had kicked in and the sports drinks had run out), but failure was not an option and I gritted my teeth, determined to make it to the end. Picking up a fellow stray shortly after, we agreed to get each other across the line no matter what, and arm in arm we made our way to the finish.
The thing with any event is that at some point, they have to pack up and go home, and as we completed the last gruelling miles of the course, we spotted the finish line… in the process of being dismantled. Having completed the route in just under seven and a half hours (I think the guy in the massive diving suit may have had a time close to mine) I was well and truly broken.
With pain so bad I could barely hold my weight, I was swiftly wrapped in Bacofoil and guided to a seat. Thankfully the very kind people of St John Ambulance gave me a lift to the train station, where I sat in a crumpled heap, until finding my way home and crawling into my beloved bed.
Having read this far, I doubt I have inspired you to have a go…
Do I have any regrets about doing it? Surprisingly none.
I could say that I wish I had trained harder, had lost some weight, bought some proper runners and avoided spending a week on crutches, but we all know that hindsight is 20:20.
The experience tested my mind as much as my body, confirming to myself that I’m made of some pretty strong (some might say ridiculously stubborn) stuff.
I get that from my Granddad, the man who I miss dearly, and who spent the entire day of my marathon effort recording and re-winding, in the hope that he might spot his  naughty little Granddaughter as she made her way past the cameras.
Would I do it again?
Never say never…
Note to reader: As you can see, I have had some difficulty with the formatting of this post, but if you like my blog please follow or share, there’s much, much more to come!

So this is me…

If I’m going to make a record of my adventures, I guess I should start from the beginning…

British by birth but with ancestors from all over, I entered the world kicking and screaming in our little bungalow in Pevensey Bay, East Sussex on 3 February 1979. Spending the first few years of my life on the South Coast I enjoyed the usual things that small people get up to… taking myself off to the bus stop aged three, eating fried eggs made of play-doh, wading in the mud flats of the local beach, inviting my playschool friends to ‘luncheon’ (seriously) and generally being a little bugger.

My younger brother (and partner in crime) arrived in August of 1982 and the family was complete for a while. I won’t bore you with all the gory details, it’s all a bit of a cliché from there and not what this blog is about, but suffice to say the home was broken and life was generally challenging until the age of seventeen – when I met my future husband and shortly after left the family home.

The one thing I am glad about, is that my childhood taught me that failure is not an option (something I have a bit of an issue trying to be reasonable about), that I would always be able to take care of myself and that if you want something you have to go out and get it. As a result I am fiercely independent (often to a fault) and hopeless at asking for help. I am determined that my children will grow up to be happy, confident and secure… and proud of their bonkers mother.

As a teenager I took every opportunity to be out. Challenging my liver frequently, dancing until I couldn’t stay awake, dying my hair blue and getting my first (of amazingly only two) tattoos at an age when it definitely wasn’t legal. Luckily I had a group of very good friends to look after me who I sadly don’t see as much as I would like, but who are still there in one form or another.

Life finally started to settle down when I met Adrian, the man who works tirelessly for us and keeps my feet (mostly) on the ground. Together we have two children, Charlie and Amelia who keep us busier than an entire hive of bees; as do our menagerie of animals which drive us nuts (especially our book-eating rabbit), but make our house a home. Without him my adventures would be impossible and I am eternally grateful, that he understands and supports my need to go off exploring from time to time – without which it is fair to say that I would be even more of a nightmare to live with!

Sport and exercise have always been a major part of who I am, competing in everything possible during school, gaining a BSc (Hons) from the University of Brighton in Exercise Science and for a short-term working as a fitness instructor at a local health club. Now I’m (ahem) a grown-up, physical activity is my personal passion once again. I love to run, box, work out in the gym and most recently have got into cycling… you’ll hear more about that soon.

In terms of creative hobbies I’m one of those irritating people who can turn my hand to most things, from upholstery to fencing (garden not sword fighting… yet), DIY to cake making – my chocolate fudge concoctions are  a particular favourite with my army of willing guinea pigs. It’s fair to say though, that I do take on too  much at times and have been known to be up baking at 2am, which is when food is most definitely not good for the soul.

Professionally I work for a local telecoms provider in a number of roles, one of my favourites of which is Charity Events Co-Ordinator and allows me to get involved with a number of good causes, helping to raise money and take on various adventures in the process.

If there’s a challenge I’ll be there and I’m always looking for something new to take on. For ages I’ve been encouraged to create a blog and have finally decided that it’s time to get on with it. Writing is one of my favourite things, which I hope will one day, be something I can really make a more substantial part of my life.

For now this will be my place to plan, share and record my adventures (some of which will be historical at first) and hopefully contribute something interesting, honest and entertaining to the global community.

I hope you enjoy it. Please share and follow if you do.

A