Monday 23 September 2013

Visit to Hever Palace and Gardens: Jousting!

On our recent visit to Hever Castle, we really enjoyed the beautiful gardens and exploring the building itself.  The highlight though was the jousting.  

Whilst going around the castle, we heard an announcement to return to the front of the castle at 2pm for the tournament procession.  We had lunch and prayed and then went back to the front of the castle.  There we were met with actors dressed as King Henry the Eighth and Jane Seymour, whose childhood home the castle was.  The procession was led by Knights dressed in red and blue.  As the boys were wearing red and blue tops, this decided for them which teams they would support.

The jousting itself was preceded by a long and silly speech by the king and lots of messing around by people dressed as pages and knights.  Pretend fights, people falling over and knights racing around the track posturing at the opposing team.

It was great fun.  The jousting was quite realistic and the sword fighting was good fun too.  The whole performance lasted over an hour (it was still going when it started raining and we headed for the car).  It included a stunt scene where a girl playing a page was put in a sack and dragged by a horse, which was quite realistic and thrilling.

I found a couple of video's of the jousting on Youtube, below is an example of one of the better ones.

Visit to Hever Palace and Gardens: The Gardens

We visited Hever Palace and Gardens a few weeks ago.  A good friend had recommended it and Kooky Little Sister went previously and had good things to say about it (she has posted beautiful pictures here and here).

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, which wasn't as big as some of the castles we'd visited (such as Leeds Castle and Edinburgh Castle).  The contents were interesting enough and reminded me of Leeds castle (refurbished rooms from different periods).

The gardens were absolutely beautiful and in bloom.


Thursday 19 September 2013

Circle of Moms - Top 25 European Moms 2013

This year I have been included in the Circle of Moms Top 25 European Moms blog competition which aims to find the top 25 blogging mothers in Europe. 

I am currently number 14 of 42. I would love if readers voted for me. You can click through on the image below or the button on the sidebar to vote. You can also vote once every day until 4th October.

You  might remember I participated in two of their competitions last year:
Top 25 Faith Blogs by Moms where I came 41st of 294 with 1688 Votes
Top 25 European Moms 2012, where I came 46th out of 111 with 146 votes.

Holding my Tongue and Getting Moving

There are so many times when I have spoken and regretted it but I have never stayed silent and regretted it.
There are so many times when I have spoken and regretted it but I have never stayed silent and regretted it.
There are so many times when I have spoken and regretted it but I have never stayed silent and regretted it.
There are so many times when I have spoken and regretted it but I have never stayed silent and regretted it.

That is my mantra this morning. Every time I want to shout at someone or vent my bad mood, I remind myself of the above fact. It is one of those days, turning into one of these weeks. I have been finding myself getting anxious about so many things and allowing myself to get wound up. This morning I woke up and I could feel the rage bubbling up. After many years of hard work I have learnt to manage and short circuit my very nasty and somewhat violent temper. But every now and again it bubbles up and stamping on it, pushing it down and holding it back does not work. It just makes it worse when it erupts.

The last few days have been nothing special: work, home, cooking, kids, a little blogging, some visiting. But for some reason, all sorts of ordinary situations have caused me to break out in disproportionate anxiety. Looking back I am starting to realise that there are all sorts of issues that I need to face up to and grapple with. The one annoying me the most is work. No matter what way I try to approach my work, I have realised I have to face up to the fact that I HATE, HATE, HATE my work at the moment. I am a people person, I love to work with people, I love to help and encourage people and make a difference. I have a wonderful team and a very fair manager, but I cannot stand a moment more plotting statistics and trying to make sense of them. I am getting to the point, where I literally cannot. This is coupled with the fact I leave at 4pm as my husband is waiting outside to pick me up. If someone starts a meeting, or a long conversation or a telephone call at 4, I start panicking and feeling sick from anxiety because I know my poor husband is waiting outside, probably has to get to a job and we have to get out daughter to Arabic class and I have to nurse the baby. Did I mention that I have to come in on my day off for a meeting this week about....performance!!!

At the same time, I have become acutely aware of my weight this week. After attending a registry and seeing pictures of myself looking like I was pregnant with twins, I felt rather shocked and confused. I have never cared about being bigger, nor has hubby minded. Over the last few weeks I have been watching my eating habits and I have lost a little weight, so the pictures were shocking to me. Part of the reason is that I don’t walk as much as I used to. It’s hard to find time in the busy day and I don’t always feel safe in some parts of my neighbourhood. Hubby doesn’t always have time to accompany me and I found myself getting very, very annoyed with him as over the course of the last year I have lost my strength and stamina. (I seriously had to work hard to hold my tongue this morning).

We are also looking at secondary schooling for Little Lady at the moment, which I am finding very stressful. She has just sat her 11+ exam for grammar school. We get the results in mid October, we also have to submit five options for a high school by the end of October. Instead we would like for her to attend an Islamic madrassah school and I am trying to find out as much as possible about good schools and their enrolment process and requirements and get our applications in early. It feels like such a momentous thing and a turning point that will affect the rest of her life that I am scared of making a wrong decision or not doing enough for her (I also know that most of our family and friends will not support our decision and I am gearing up for their response).

I keep telling myself that I should be grateful, that I am lucky to have so many blessings in my life. But being grateful doesn’t mean putting up with things that make you miserable. I realise now that I have to take responsibility myself. The only thing that helps me to take care of my anxiety is to take action. So this morning I will be speaking to my manager and explaining my situation very carefully. I will ask him to give me 20 minutes notice if he needs me to stay after 4pm so I can manage my other responsibilities a bit better. I am also going to start looking at courses for a proper qualification in the area I did my degree in (psychology) so that I don’t have to do work that makes me want to hit someone. I am going to start walking every day after work. The early morning is ideal, but it’s still too dark at that time. I am going to have to make time for myself and stop feeling guilty about it. I am going to keep making dua to Allah (SWT) to find a way for my daughter to have an excellent Islamic and academic education that helps her to serve this ummah and fulfil her potential. I have to trust that Allah (SWT) is listening and steers us towards what is best for us.

So this morning I will try to be calm. I will try to hold my tongue and smile. I will try not to kill anyone (but no promises) and I will take action on the things that have made me feel anxious and unsettled for so long.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Visit To Scotland (Summer 2013): the Trossachs

After visiting the pretty village of Luss in the Trossachs National Park, we decided to make our way round as much of the rest of the park as we could manage.

From Luss we made our way up to Tarbet and Inveruglas, both as scenic, if not moreso than Luss and with lovely views of the Loch and with paths through wooded areas to explore.

I was a little wary of Little Lady clambering over rocks, but shea nd her friend followed her dad like a pair of little goats, not getting scared at all.

Hubby had to take a big jump get onto this rock.  I really love this pic.

Our next stop was at the Falls of Falloch, which we could hear but not see.  After walking through woods, we came across this sight:

The falls were gorgeous and my husband and the girls clambered down the rocks to dip their toes into the water.  My 75-year old father-in-law decided he was going to take a dip, removed his tunic and jumped into the freezing cold water.  I couldn't believe it!  My mother-in-law just rolled her eyes ans giggled.

We made a few more small stops on our way round and drove back down the other side, enjoying the view.  By the time we got back to where we were staying, we were thoroughly exhausted.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Visit To Scotland (Summer 2013): Luss Village and Loch Lomond

During our last visit to Scotland, we visited Loch Lomond  in the Trossachs National Park and loved it.  A very nice lady at the visitor centre recommended we visit the village of Luss.  This time round dad-in-law was with us, as he hadn't been before, we decided to visit again.

We reached the village and the first thing we did was go to the lake shore which is sandy and larger than you would expect for a lake.

The kids and we enjoyed paddling in the cool waters.

 Gorgeous is the exception.  He refused to take his shoes off or go near the water except to lob stones into it.

"Loch Lomond...white pebbled shores on which its gentle billows murmur, like a miniature ocean, its promontories rising from the deep water, rich in wild flowers and ferns" (John MacCulloch 1824 - The Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland) 

One of the highlights of our visit last time was a speed boat ride.  Last time it had cost about £35 for the family to hire one boat for one trip.  This time we were being charged £10 per person which came to £80 for a short trip.  We had to give it a miss.

The village itself is very picturesque and we enjoyed the short walk around, including the tea shop and a small art exhibition with some really beautiful pieces.

Beside the village there is also a lovely wooded area which the kids could explore.  This was one of the nicest places in the Trossachs National Park, but one of many lovely spots.