Roman Holiday

HAPPY NEW YEAR! How have you all been? I hope that Christmas was all that you hoped it would be and that you’ve had a great start to 2019! As for me, I arrived back home last night after an 8 hour drive and, what turned out to be, a very enjoyable break in Rome. There was the odd emotional moment but I let them come and they did…and then they went but there were also some very happy moments, some of which I thought I’d share with you…

HAPPY NEW YEAR! How have you all been? I hope that Christmas was all that you hoped it would be and that you’ve had a great start to 2019! As for me, I arrived back home last night after an 8 hour drive and, what turned out to be, a very enjoyable break in Rome. There was the odd emotional moment but I let them come… and they did…and then they went but there were also some very happy moments, some of which I thought I’d share with you….

Rome is a very strange place; it has more graffiti than I’ve ever seen in any city in the World, it has potholes that you could bury a badger in and it is extremely dirty, in many places there were bags of rubbish piled up in the streets. However, you can walk along narrow, cobbled streets (do not wear heels here ladies!), with their tiny boutiques full of Italian chic and then come across something like this:

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There are immense monuments to the city’s glorious past that just seem to rise up before you from nowhere. We found this one whilst on the hunt for lunch and were lucky enough to get the last remaining table in a restaurant just opposite; what made it even better was that the sun was shining and it was warm enough to sit outside! Can you imagine looking at this whilst tucking into the most delicate mushroom risotto? Heaven! Saying that, I’d chosen the risotto as my stomach was in revolt after 2 or 3 days of eating nothing but pizza and pasta; it says something about a culture when the ‘light’ option is risotto!

What many people don’t realise about Rome is that, just outside the city there are mountain ranges that, if tackled, offer the most beautiful views and one of the best ways to get to them is on a motorbike, so that’s what we did. Glorious bend after glorious blend led us through tiny villages and beautiful countryside that seemed to subtly change with every kilometre.

 

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After 100km or so we finally stopped for lunch in a grotty looking cafe that served wonderful food (I was told that any restaurant in or around Rome that doesn’t serve great food will close down within a month or so!). We chatted about the ride up there as bikers are prone to do, enjoyed our lunch and some coffee that was like rocket fuel and  eventually wandered outside for the journey back. At some point the weather had decided that it would stop being warm and sunny and, instead, would give us some cloud cover and drop the temperature by 8 degrees or so; it was absolutely bloody freezing! The guys decided that the route back through the mountains could potentially result in the loss of extremities so we took the motorway instead…..4 very experienced bikers, full of coffee and with a straight road ahead of them meant that we hit speeds of 240 kmph but at least we got back to the warmth of our friends’ house in double quick time!

I should point out that this trip into the mountains was taken on New Year’s Eve and 5 hours on the back of a powerful bike, travelling at high speed through twisty, winding roads is not exactly what you’d call relaxing. Once home, there was time for a quick change of clothes before it was off to the supermarket to stock up on booze for the evening’s festivities and then shower, slap on some make-up, party dress and I was good to go! I started to feel a bit weary around 11pm but all thoughts of sleep were drowned out by party music and the noise of 15, over-excited Italians all talking at once (how anyone actually follows the conversation is beyond me!)

Close to midnight I was looking longingly up the stairs and was, mentally, already in my PJ’s and tucked up in bed with my kindle but then the countdown began and everyone rushed outside; curious, I followed. The view from my friends’ house is, well, Rome…pretty much all of it and it was ablaze! There was an absolute sea of fireworks as far as the eye could see and the noise was unbelievable! Lights in every colour, flashes, speeding rockets, spinning fire, raining droplets and the sound of 10,000 drums, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! Sadly I was too busy enjoying it to take any picture – sorry about that! The excitement of that kept me going until 01.30 but then I took myself of to bed – the last of the revelers crashed at around 5am but were up the next day at 10am to prepare lunch for 20 guests!

New Year’s Day involved lots of eating and people yawning but the next day dawned bright but freezing cold so my best friend Will and I and his cousin Manuel (our host) wrapped up warm and set off for Frascati. From there we went to Castel Gandolfo, this beautiful old village is on the edge of a huge lake and is home to the summer residence of the Pope; lucky guy, the views are amazing:

 

We drank cappuccino outside while watching the world go by, we ate Porchetta in pizza bread, we wandered through market stalls and smelled all the delicious aromas they had to offer and marveled at the beauty of the landscape before agreeing that we were all cold and tired and it was time to go home. As we circled the lake to pick up the road back to Rome the sun began to set and, despite the temperature and our heavy eyes, we had to stop and just watch……

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I cried a little on Christmas Day because I wasn’t with the man that I loved, I cried again on New Year’s Eve for the same reason BUT in between those times I was with friends, people who care about me and want me to be happy. I was welcomed into an Italian home by people who are hospitable, charming, generous and unfailingly kind. I was hugged and kissed by everyone who crossed the threshold and I even learned to speak a little Italian with their patient coaching. Before leaving, I had wondered if I would be better off spending Christmas and New Year alone; I’m very glad that I decided to spend it with these wonderful people instead! Oh and I mustn’t forget Stella, our host’s beautiful dog who let me hug her when I felt sad and made me laugh by doing a 4 wheel drift on the kitchen tiles when she was racing to get her dinner. We went for several long walks with Stella and I was reminded of what it is to be joyful; I want to be as free and as happy as that little dog and, over the last 2 weeks, I came close ;O)

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Lisa x

PS. If you ever fancy a trip to Rome my friend Manuel has a super little B&B for rent just yards away from the Colosseum ;O)

 

One Step At A Time…

Do you have any phobias or fears that you know hold you back in some way or stop you from trying something that you’d really like to do? Mine has always been a fear of heights; three rungs up a ladder and my knees seem to liquefy and my stomach feels as though its full of butterflies…on speed! 

Do you have any phobias or fears that you know hold you back in some way or stop you from trying something that you’d really like to do? Mine has always been a fear of heights; three rungs up a ladder and my knees seem to liquefy and my stomach feels as though its full of butterflies…on speed!

Now, as I like to travel, I’ve had to conquer my fear of flying and, on the flight back from the UK I actually managed to look out of the window during take off and landing without having a fit of the heebie geebies. That gave me a bit more confidence, to the point that I started thinking  about jumping out of a plane (attached to someone who knows what they’re doing and with a parachute obviously); the thought no longer scared the crap out of me. Oddly, the fear is less when I’m 35,000 feet up in a plane than when I’m standing on a ladder…

One of my closest friends, Floriane, knows about this fear and does everything she can to support me and help me get over it, including taking a 4 hour round trip that should have included a bungee jump somewhere in the middle. After I went as white as a sheet and bottled out, having briefly glanced over the edge of the bridge into the abyss below, she didn’t complain or try to bully me into it, she just said ‘OK we’ll start smaller’.  From that point on, we have climbed stairs up to castle ramparts, walked along walls and generally taken every opportunity to get high…no wait that doesn’t sound right…high up maybe?

Anyway, yesterday we decided to take a walk in the mountains. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny and, as we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks, we had plenty to catch up on. We walked upwards and onwards and eventually reached the top and WOW!! What a view! Here, I took a couple of photos for you:

 

They can’t do justice to that view but they’ll give you an idea – the sea on one side and the Alps on the other, just amazing!

We carried on and came across an old fort with a wall all round it (I’m sure there’s a name for the particular construction but I have no idea what it is). I looked over the edge – OK no  problem – then Floriane proposed that I stand on the wall…hhhmmmmmmm. The drop was around 20 feet I suppose, I can’t be sure as I’m rubbish with estimated measurements (although, allegedly, men find this quite endearing) but, for me with my 3 rung issues, it was pretty damned high. What did I do?

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I stood on the wall! I wasn’t particularly comfortable and I can’t say I enjoyed the experience but my knees remained in solid form and I felt pretty damned proud of myself. In terms of conquering this particular fear, it’s one step at a time (although, in the case of this particular construction, not literally…for obvious reasons ;O) )

What about you? Any fears that you’re trying to conquer right now? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you

Lisa

x

This is Why I Hate Surprises….

Any of you who read my post from yesterday will have realised that  I have teeny problem with thought separation inasmuch as I can’t stop the little buggers taking sides and beating the crap out of each other. One the one hand we have Captain Positive and his little band of perky cheerleaders and on the other Captain Doubt who is constantly throw a spanner in the works or, failing that, beating cheerleaders over the head with them.

Any of you who read my post from yesterday will have realised that  I have teeny problem with thought separation inasmuch as I can’t stop the little buggers taking sides and beating the crap out of each other. One the one hand we have Captain Positive and his little band of perky cheerleaders and on the other Captain Doubt who is constantly throw a spanner in the works or, failing that, beating cheerleaders over the head with it.

Anyway,  I was promised a big surprise last week which led to an inevitable 3 day battle between the two Captains who have set up opposing camps somewhere in my cerebral spaghetti. The surprise giver was my best friend who is the kindest and most well intentioned person in the world. Unfortunately, he seems to think that I am far more well-adjusted than I actually am and dismissed all my pitiful whimperings about hating surprises as well as my increasingly hysterical demands to know what we would be doing, where we would be going, who with etc etc. All he would reveal was that we were going on his motorbike, it would be a new experience and I would have a great time……

Yesterday duly arrived and my friend arrived with his bike and a very large rucksack.

“So I’m carrying the rucksack then?” I was eyeing it suspiciously and it was glaring back.

I tried to pick it up with one hand and then put it back down.

“What the bloody hell have you got in here?????” I was convinced that it was full of rocks.

We argued for a while about the weight of the thing (I thought at least 30kg while he insisted no more than 10!)

“So how far is this place” I asked to try and smother the temptation to find a set of scales

“Just under 200km……..here I’ll help you with the bag”

Panic 2My first thought was ‘just hand the bag back, say thank you very politely and go back indoors’ but then I thought ‘no! stop being such a wussy, your best friend has arranged a lovely surprise for you so suck it up’.

I handed over my sunglasses to be put in the rucksack (fortunately they don’t weight very much) and spotted two things which looked very much like cycling helmets or the helmets you wear to climb mountains…….or jump off bridges attached to giant elastic bands…….

Captains Positive and Doubt were barged out of the way by Sergeant Panic who was  screaming at the top of his lungs and banging frantically on the back of my eyeballs trying to get my attention. The Team Positive cheerleaders pushed him over, sat on him and jammed a pom pom in his mouth…..

I put my foot on the foot peg which is roughly the size of bourbon biscuit and hoisted myself up. The rucksack ensured that my first attempt failed and my second, although successful was anything but elegant.

“By the way [person he knows I don’t like] is coming with us…….” my friend said casually

Sergeant Panic had poked cheerleader 1 in the eye, spat out the pom pom and now had Captain Doubt by the lapels, was shaking him violently and demanding to know why he wasn’t doing anything…….

An hour into the journey and the good Captain and his Sergeant had stuffed all members of Team Positive into the broom cupboard and were sitting down with a number of distant cousins including Paranoia and Anxiety. There is not much to do on the back of a motorbike other than look at the view and listen to the voices in your head; as it was motorway for almost the whole damn journey it was standing room only for negative thoughts after….well, not very long at all really.

I swear I did my best. Captain Positive made a bid for freedom when I saw a sign for an Outdoor Activity Park but he was rugby tackled by Disappointment when I realised where we were actually going.

A race track. To watch a race. With thousands of other bikers.

This was not a new experience at all, there would be no adrenaline rush (which I was desperately praying for by this point as, in my experience, an adrenaline rush can kick the arse of pretty much any negative emotion) and I had worried myself sick for 3 days, for what? Captain Positive chose this moment to point out that that’s exactly why worrying is a waste of time but Corporal Anger kicked him in the crotch and he shut up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love motorbikes, I especially love watching my friends race as it’s exciting watching someone you know hurtle round a track at breakneck speeds but it’s something I’d done many times before. Why give me all this nervous anticipation for an Endurance Race I’d never heard of full of riders I didn’t know??

tantrumI’d like to say that I took all this in my stride, thanked my very kind friend and had a lovely day. I’d like to be able to say that but I can’t because it didn’t happen. Team negative seemed to have taken control of my facial muscles (forcing them into a frown) and my vocal cords (which they’d somehow manipulated so that all I was capable of was hhhmphhh).

Captain Positive, no doubt holed up somewhere with an ice pack on his balls, refused to take part in anything all day so it was party time for Team Negative. All I could focus on was the pain in my back (from the rucksack which would still be heavy on the return 200km journey), the guilt I felt for not appreciating the surprise day out, the unbearable, unrelenting noise, the heat and the masses and masses of people. I tried, I honestly did, not least because I was feeling bad about the way I was treating my best friend but the day just went from bad to worse….

Somehow Team Negative grabbed Granny Agoraphobia from the Sunnydale Retirement Home for Old Neuroses and I started to really panic. I tried to explain to my friend but he was justifiably pissed off with me, because I ‘d been a miserable git all day, and wasn’t really in an understanding mood. In the end, I was in floods of tears and insisted that we go home; I just couldn’t cope any longer. The day had been ruined, Team Negative had won and, as a result, I think I may have lost my best friend……

Lisa

x

 

It’s My Round……

Do you have a local, a bar or a coffee shop where you can walk in and be sure of finding someone that you know? You can sit down for 10 minutes or a couple of hours and just chat with people about anything and nothing. If you’re feeling down they’ll buy you a drink and listen to your woes and you do the same for them if they’re having a rough day. Do you know a place like that?

Do you have a local, a bar or a coffee shop where you can walk in and be sure of finding someone that you know? You can sit down for 10 minutes or a couple of hours and just chat with people about anything and nothing. If you’re feeling down they’ll buy you a drink and listen to your woes and you do the same for them if they’re having a rough day. Do you know a place like that?

For me, that place is here on WP; granted there is no-one serving drinks (something for the marketing department to think about!) but there is everything else that I love about a local. It’s warm and comfortable with a constant stream of chatter and laughter. What makes it even better is that I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear (be honest haven’t you chatted with your WP buddies in your PJ’s before now) and I have zero social anxiety (always a big plus).

FriendshipIn just a few months I have made friends with people who come into this bar from all over the World, (that’s you guys by the way). You are funny, patient, kind, loving, charming, understanding and completely non-judgmental. You are always there with a comforting word, some wise advice and a virtual hug on the days when I need it most.

I have felt your suffering as you made yourself vulnerable, shared your deepest fears and doubts; at those moments it feels so natural to hold you and tell you that you are loved. I have laughed with you as you recounted hilarious tales about your life. We have even chatted about politics and religion with calm and pleasant interest in each others opinions. You’ve shared poetry which made me weep and verse that filled me with joy.

I have learned from you, each and every one of you so, if you stop by the bar today, I’d like to buy you a drink, give you a hug and say thank you.

Lisa x

Friends

No, not the awesomely brilliant TV series, you. Are you one of those that has an abundance of friends? Do you walk into bars and everybody knows your name, are you hailed by 20 people as you walk half a mile down the street? Perhaps you’re a loner or you don’t like opening up to others and therefore only have a select few but very close friends?

No, not the awesomely brilliant TV series, you. Are you one of those that has an abundance of friends? Do you walk into bars and everybody knows your name, are you hailed by 20 people as you walk half a mile down the street? Perhaps you’re a loner or you don’t like opening up to others and therefore only have a select few but very close friends?

I fall into the second category simply because I really, really don’t like meeting new people (brain empties itself and all saliva disappears simultaneously) and because it takes me a very long time to share anything ‘real’ about myself. However, yesterday I understood the benefits of being a friend to everyone.

IMG_6123I was with my best friend and we’d gone over to Saint Jean Cap-Ferrat for lunch and then had a lovely walk along the shore, took some photos, I fell over my flip flops once or twice; a not untypical day. Anyway, after half and hour or so of strolling around we decided to go back to the car (actually it was more a case that I was sweating so much I feared I would dissolve and demanded that we go back to the tiny air-conditioned sanctuary that is my car).

My face close enough to the vents to get my eyelashes sucked in, I turned the key in the ignition and……nothing other than a slightly embarrassed coughing noise. My car was poorly! Fortunately, my best friend knows everyone and within 10 minutes a lovely young guy arrived with a set of jump leads. Not only that, after another brief conversation in high speed French (there isn’t really any other kind to be honest) with another friend, an appointment had been made and we were on our way to the nearest Fiat dealership.

An hour later I was back at home with my car restored to full health. Had I been alone it would have been a very different story. While I have learned enough French to have a reasonable conversation, my knowledge does not extend to explaining that my car is telling me to check something and refusing to start. I don’t know what I was supposed to be checking but there was an exclamation mark so I assume it was important. Added to that I have virtually zero sense of direction so there would have been a very slim chance that I could have guided someone to me who did have said knowledge.

So, what would I have done? Panicked, lost every atom of moisture in my body while waiting for someone to rescue me (it was really warm yesterday), berated myself for learning the French words for shoes and boots but not engine and gearbox? No, I’d have called my best friend of course :O)

Whether you have 100’s or just one or two, value your friends because you never know when you’ll need them. Thanks Will :O)

What do you love most about your best friend? I’d love to hear from you.

Lisa x