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Happy New Year!

6 Jan

I’ve been extremely quiet on the ol’ blogging front over the last 6 months. This is about to change, I promise.

As I begin to make new plans for 2014, I spent time reflecting on the many many great times, memorable experiences and personal achievements of 2013. And not one to miss a trick (read social media fad), I made a flipagram:

Flipagram: My Year in 2013

In summary, I saw in 2013 in Donegal, visited Berlin, London, Ibiza, Dublin, Orkney, Prague, Exeter. Went to 7 weddings and 3 hen weekends. Celebrated 3 engagements (and asked to be a bridesmaid at 2 of them!), 1 baby, two 18ths, three 30ths and a 60th. Went to a couple of gigs (Glasvegas, Stone Roses, Kings of Leon, Jake Bugg, Disclosure, Ocean Colour Scene, The View to name a few). First bungee jump, first snowboarding lesson, one year all clear, and lost 4 stones…

All in all, it was a very good year! No wonder I didn’t have time to blog!

White Girls Can’t Jump

22 Apr
'Spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick'

‘Spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick’

Despite a small fear of heights, I’ve always had an incline to do a bungee jump and a skydive and always just thought I would get round to doing them in Australia. But then a few months ago I thought ‘why wait until Australia?’ and went about finding where I could bungee jump in Scotland.

I came across Highland Fling (what a brilliant name for a bungee jump company!) based in Killiecrankie, just 3 miles from Pitlochry, and they boast at 132 ft, the only bridge bungee jump in Scotland. Preferring the idea of jumping over water, rather than concrete, this was the one for me.

Team Bungee

Team Bungee

Along side the jump, myself and two friends, Allana and Valerie, decided to raise some money for a local charity close to us all – Ayrshire Cancer Support. Our initial target was £500, but thanks to some very generous donations from our friends and family, we smashed that target and raised over £2,500! Wow.

So on the first Saturday in April, we went up to the bridge over the River Garry in Killiecrankie and jumped off it! Despite being nervous before hand, when I got up to the platform suspended underneath the bridge and saw all the jumpers getting harnessed in, and all the safety routines and checks carried out by the 5 guys, all my fears went away and I was ready to enjoy it. So on the final words of my guide, ‘spread your wings like an eagle and fly like a brick’, I jumped!

I Once Ran Away With the Gypsies

3 Apr

I’ve been slacking on the ol’ blog posts the past few months, so I’m trying to catch up… watch out for posts on Belfast, Berlin, hats, bungee jumping and Ibiza, but for now here’s a bit on Dublin!

Molly Malone stands with her cart at the end of Grafton Street

Molly Malone stands with her cart at the end of Grafton Street

I’ve been to Dublin several times over the years, the first time when I was 17 and my first of many seasons working at Loudoun Castle Theme Park. Back then , the Cadonas – a well-known ‘travelling’ family in Scotland (also known as gypsies) – owned the theme park, and at the end of every season, they packed up the rides and took them to Dublin, Limerick and Cork, then on to Dubai for the Winter. Being short on willing travellers that year, they asked me to go to Dublin with them. My parents weren’t too happy about it… and that’s how I once ran away with the gypsies.

Two weeks in a luxury trailer in Clondalkin – one of the roughest parts of Dublin, working 4 hours a night in a burger van for 400 euro a week, 17-year-old, impressionable me thought I had it made! It was an experience and a half, but apart from a couple of shopping trips to Grafton Street and a handful of drunken nights in the infamous Red Cow on the M50, I didn’t get to see much of Ireland’s fair city.

A busker plays his tin flute on Dame Street

A busker plays his tin flute on Dame Street

Then, when I started Uni at Dundee the year after I made a load of Irish mates and have since spent many a memorable weekend in Ireland – Belfast, Derry, Ballymena, Donegal, Meath, Dublin, Newry, Coleraine – to name a few. But again, never to see much of what Dublin has to offer – aside the pubs that is.

So when I planned my mini Irish adventure over the Christmas holidays there (Dublin – Belfast – Donegal) I made sure I had some time to finally be a tourist in one of my favourite cities.

I had already arranged to meet up with and stay with Uni friends, but I had half a day to myself to do as I please. I set off from my hotel in Temple bar early doors, and walked along Dame Street to Trinity College, not having a lot of time, I resisted the urge to go in and see the book of Kells. Instead I stopped to greet Molly Malone at the bottom of Grafton Street before having breakfast at a nearby pub. After that, I walked along to Merrion Square where a memorial to Oscar Wilde can be found perched on a rock with a drink in hand in the corner of the park. It’s a nice quiet spot to sit and read some of his many famous quotes, my favourite being – “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”.

Oscar Wilde hanging out in Merrion Square

Oscar Wilde hanging out in Merrion Square

I then walked down to St Stephen’s Green, along to St Patrick’s Cathedral, onto the famous Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle and St Audden’s Gate. Crossing the River Liffey, I walked along it and up by the fruit market to the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square – a memorial to “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”. Finally I walked down O’Connell Street, by the Spire (completely missed the Post Office – doh!) and back to Temple Bar to meet my friend Sarah and get on the rip.

Outside the iconic gates of the Guinness Storehouse

Outside the iconic gates of the Guinness Storehouse

By 6pm, a few too many baby Guinness and some new friends made later, I had to get myself over to my other friend, Lynsey’s place down at the docklands, to head out with her and her friends for her birthday – the rest of the night can only be described as a blur. But as the saying goes, when in Rome…

The next day I was as rough as a dog and on the bus to Belfast – but that’s for another time.

A view across the River Liffey

A view across the River Liffey

The famous Temple Bar

The famous Temple Bar

Surprise Wedding Video!

27 Mar

One of my bestest and life-long friends, Allana (now Mrs Broon) got married at the weekend and I wanted to do something special, memorable and a little bit different for her big day!

Myself and the other three girls in the video, Claire, Louise and Vicky, have all been friends with Allana since we were at Darvel Nursery – almost 25 years! We had to wait on Claire coming back from Oz before we could film it and Vicky has a bun in the oven… but nonetheless we did it.

It was unveiled for the first time during the wedding speeches… and it’s a belter even if I do say so myself!

I heard it through the Grape Vine…

8 Feb

A few weeks ago when I was on Mashable (one of the few websites I visit everyday) I noticed several articles about Vine. Not liking to miss a trick, I was straight on it and downloaded the app (just now it’s only available in iPhone app format).

In short,  Vine is a six-second video app. It’s only a few weeks old and owned by Twitter. The idea is to create short and simple clips to share with other Vine users as well as your friends on Facebook and Twitter etc.

Here’s what the app looks like on your iPhone:

Manchester City FC's Vine

Manchester City FC’s Vine

There’s not much else to it really. It’s fun to experiment with and see how others are getting creative with it. And it’s fascinating to see how quickly it’s catching on – when I downloaded it last week only 3 of  the 2,000 odd people I follow on Twitter had it. This week that number’s rocketed to over a 100!

Here’s one of the first clips I made:  How to draw Elvis

Flowers, flowers everywhere…

4 Sep

Flowers, my house is full of flowers. It’s nice. It’s a reminder of all the love my family and friends have been showering me with. I had my first surgery nearly two weeks ago at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, since being diagnosed with cancer. It was fertility conserving surgery, a combination of LLETZ and laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery to remove some lymph nodes in my pelvic area to test for spreading.

I’m now at home recovering and patiently waiting on the results. My surgeon said everything went well, and I was even discharged the day after my operation, but it still hasn’t stopped me thinking the worst. I’ve been more emotional these past few weeks than I have been and I think that’s because the severity of the disease is finally starting to sink in. It’s devastating to think I might need a hysterectomy and therefore unable to have children. However, there’s no point dwelling on the ‘what ifs’. Here’s to getting the all clear!

‘Flowers in a beer mug’ – one of my many bouquets of flowers


The ‘C’ word

18 Jun

I’ve always had the mentality that ‘it’ll never happen to me’, so when I found out yesterday that I have cervical cancer it was earth shattering. I think I’m still in shock. I have a thousand and one questions and thoughts going on in my head that I can’t make sense of yet, I’m gutted and I’m scared.

I need to go home, not because the treatment is bad here, if anything I believe it would be far better than in the UK, but I need my family and my friends now. I’m gutted that I have to leave Korea, I’m not finished here yet, I had so many plans and my tan’s not at its optimum. But at the end of the day my health is number one, so I need to pack up, ship out and head home, get on the battle gear and start kicking cancer’s arse.

It looks like this Korea blog has just turned into a cancer diary… I’ll try limit the depressing posts, I promise.

Kung fu panda – he’s going to help me kick some ass!

My Virtual Wedding

16 May

Teaching abroad for a year, I was gutted that I couldn’t make it home for one of my best friend’s weddings on Sunday. But with technology these days and the best friends ever, I was still able to be a part of the wedding day celebrations.

Thank you Skype!

Check out my virtual take on Mr and Mrs Alexander’s Big Day: My Virtual Wedding

Me and the Newlyweds

Here’s to the newlyweds!

Wakey wakey!

17 Mar

I had hoped that I might get invited to a wedding whilst in Korea, but never did I think I’d be asked to a wake…

Thankfully it was no one I knew directly, but the father of my favourite Korean teacher, Lynn. I was told he had been ill and bed-ridden for some 20 years so his passing came as a blessing to the family. And as seems to be the way in Korea, everyone and their granny is invited!

I got a phone call late on the Friday night from my vice director at the school who told me the news and asked myself and the other foreign teacher if we would accompany them to the funeral tomorrow (Saturday) – what do you say to that? Another phone call on saturday morning informed us that it’s custom to give MONEY at a funeral – 30,000 won as standard – which is near enough 20 quid! So before we knew it, we were dressed in black and on our way to the hospital to pay our respects, not quite knowing what to expect, but hoping the buffet would be worth the money.

My kids: Joey, Lucy and Jemma in their Hanboks for the Lunar New Year

I didn’t know this until afterwards, but the family are Buddhists, which is quite uncommon in Korea. But that meant the whole affair wasn’t as morbid as it might have been if they had been Christian. Following the directors’ lead, we were lead into a room which had a shrine to the deceased, as the family stood at the side dressed in black hanboks (traditional Korean dress – see the photo above for an idea). We bowed twice to a photo of the departed and once to the family. After that we were ushered to a table, told to sit on the ground, ate squid and seaweed, drank beer and had a good ol’ natter. Overall a more pleasant afternoon out than I had anticipated.

Saddling up!

30 Aug

Departure minus 16 days…

My flight is booked, my visa is on it’s way, I’ve purchased a big ass suitcase and my leaving party is on Saturday… it suddenly feels all the more real.

I’m working my last full week and I’ve already started to say a few good byes… which is proving tougher than expected.

I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for me in South Korea, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous/ apprehensive/ scared/ and daunted by the whole prospect of upping sticks and moving across the world to teach kids who speak a language I don’t know. I just need to keep telling myself that these feelings are natural (right?).

I’ve become increasingly sentimental in the last few months and the thought of having to say good bye to my family and friends here in Scotland is heartbreaking….  I know I’ll be a wreck when it comes to saying goodbye to my dad, my sister and my 6 month old nephew at the airport (my mum has already said she can’t face it – which is understandable considering she broke her heart when I moved away to Uni in Dundee!)

Nevertheless, as a hero of my grampa’s once said: “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway”.

John Wayne

I better get packing!