Posted in Uncategorized

Moving Day

No, this is not stressful at all, I don’t know what the fuss is about.

More later.

P.S. not feeling very ‘Minimalist’ today.

Posted in Minimalism, Moving, Uncategorized, Visa

Curate & donate

My donation box, my very messy and I-probably-can’t-lift-that heavy cardboard box of just some of our excess belongings. I have to tell you we’ve taken two car loads to the charity shop already, and we are nowhere near finished.

I feel lighter, yet the burden of knowing that it’s the tip of the iceberg is rather daunting.

Now it has just occurred to me that my lifelong habit of procrastination is another symptom of a hoarding personality. Put off dealing with that bill, applying for that visa (oh, that’s a whole other story, I could write a book about my passport, citizenship and visa debacles), all the ‘I’ll deal with that later’ clutters up later.

Before you know it, there are dozens of things you need to take care of urgently, which adds to stress and has the knock on effect of meaning that today’s small things will become tomorrow’s emergencies.

It’s like hoarding responsibilities, little jobs that, if done now will simplify later. Dealing with mail, emails, cleaning tasks, whatever it is, dealing with them now can be like a weight lifted. Leaving them to fester, as I do, just means when I finally get a few hours at home, there are many tasks waiting to be dealt with.

The *thief of time? Maybe it’s hoarding.

*Amended typo. Colour me horrified, being a card carrying member of the Grammar & Spelling Police.

Posted in Technology, Uncategorized

iPhone iRritation (RIP)

Okay, some would say I shouldn’t complain, I’ve had a good 4 years out of my iPhone 5…but this morning I am sad to report that she’s… gone.  Not a peep or chirp, nor a flicker of light from her perfect unscratched screen (I have cared for her very well). She just passed away quietly in her sleep overnight. I assume she didn’t feel a thing.

To be honest she’d been going downhill for a while now, switching off with 45% battery left, losing sound and needing to be rebooted, that sort of thing. But I babied that phone, I really did. I thought I could manage to get another good year out of her, keep her limping along. Her quality of life was pretty good. We could still download apps, I always downloaded and then deleted pictures when I needed the space, to keep her running smoothly. I didn’t even keep too much music on there; we sang, we danced, but I used Spotify. I could even use Snapchat, if I kept the battery well charged and used it sparingly. (Note on Snapchat: my husband HATES it, so I only have two people who ‘snap’ me, and I have to watch their ‘snaps’ secretly when he’s out of earshot or I can hear him rolling his eyes. True story.)

So, back to the phone –  this all came as a bit of a shock, if I’m honest. What I am most upset about are my most recent photos. My husband and daughter ran the Hardmoors Half Marathon yesterday and I had taken some fantastic pictures of them, both before, during (start and finish) and after the race. I hadn’t gotten around to sharing or downloading them yet, it was yesterday. More fool me, and I’m pretty sure there will be nothing the ‘Genius’ at the Apple store can do to recover those photos. I guess we could take a trip back up to Hutton-le-Hole and stage it, but I doubt either of them would be up for that. I am kicking myself that I didn’t share the pictures with them both yesterday. At least they got to see them…

But it’s not just for myself that I am upset with Apple (but I am upset with them, let’s be clear). My son has had his iPhone SE for 18 months. About 8 weeks after his warranty expired, his phone started misbehaving, actually having similar problems to mine. It’s very annoying for me but it’s potentially dangerous for him. At 18 years old, he’s off galavanting with his friends in big cities, sometimes late at night, and not able to rely on his phone to keep him in communication with his ever so slightly needy parents. He’ll be off to University in September and I’d like to be able to keep in contact (the phone is only one of the issues we’re dealing with here, but let’s eliminate the easy, technological one, shall we?).

I don’t believe, at their ridiculous prices (the iPhone SE retails now at £379 and the most expensive iPhone is the 7 Plus at £719 – let’s face it, people, these prices are absurd) that the phone should then last less than 18 months. And then what? You just have to buy another one?

Here’s the elephant in the room – why are we all so dependant on our smartphones? I’m not judging, I will admit to being a little lost today without mine. It’s been only a few hours, but so far: my cousin’s granddaughter was born, and I missed the Whatsapp message (but I did see her daughter’s Facebook post and pictures, beautiful);  my plumber texted me to arrange to come out to fix the boiler, but luckily had the landline and called me on that (and yes, we have a landline, how retro); my Fitbit battery ran out – it now will not show the correct time because to do that…you got it, it syncs with my iPhone. So I’m one hour and fifty two minutes behind, just hoping I can get it to talk to an old iPad so we can get back to the correct time. It’s a little unnerving.

Meanwhile I am waiting for my new employer to contact me (they have an email address but no landline) with details of my contract; my yoga classes are booked via an app on my phone, though I have found a way to do that online; I bought bus tickets from a mobile app for First Bus which still has some unused tickets on it; and mostly it’s still about those photos I won’t get back.

Imagine, a woman of my age being so reliant on a piece of technology, what hope do our young people have? I’m not addicted to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and all those other apps they are on all day long, but still I am experiencing a significant amount of inconvenience.

I am taking the carcass of my phone to the Apple shop tomorrow to see if anything can be done, but I fear it will be a dead loss (pun intended). I shall have to wait for my son to return from his latest travels to check the status of his, but we may need to take it for emergency medical attention as well.

My current thought is that we might both (probably the whole family) migrate to a different brand in the very near future. One that, even if it behaves like an Apple phone (which it won’t), would be cheaper to replace annually and still not reach the exorbitant costs of a new iPhone.

My sister likes her Motorola Moto G5 Plus. I’m currently considering my options if they can’t revive my phone. Any suggestions?

RIP iPhone 5, we’ve had a good run of it.



Posted in Uncategorized

Returning Resident Visa…check! 

Quick update… I was impressed by the very efficient service when collecting documents: there were 5 people in front of me waiting for the office to open at 9am. They opened at 9:00 on the dot, within 6 minutes I had my passport (and my visa, thank goodness- sorry for the spoiler in the title) in my hand and was out the door again. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Waiting for UKVI

Just so you know, purchasing a priority service with a targeted time frame of 5 days does not mean you will receive any contact within the 5 day period. Just as, in Zambia, if someone tells you they will come back tomorrow, they don’t actually mean tomorrow, they just mean it won’t be today. Some point in the future, maybe, (if you are licky) but definitely not today and possibly not any time soon. 

I digress. 

In fact I received an email to advise that my passport was ready for collection after 9 working days (10 if you count the day I submitted the paperwork).  Considering that without Priority it can take up to 6 weeks I believe they quote, 9 days is pretty quick. 

They cannot and will not tell you what the decision is, even if you pay to call the enquiry number. The very pleasant young man did tell me the decision had been made on 12 June and that I could expect to hear something within 10 working days. It was in fact a lot faster than that, but they obviously have to cover their backs, ‘Don’t make any wild promises that might come back to haunt you!’, that kind of thing. 

So we’ll sit here in the 9th in a cool little extortionately priced cafe and wait for the collection office to open. 

It’s important to take time to slow down, stop and smell the coffee beans. 

(By the way, I think I’m allowed to take one of these coffee bean bags… “Open your purse…” – Sheila F. Remember that?)

More later when I have an actual decision to report. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Returning Resident 

Warning- unless you need a visa for the UK, this post is mega dull! This is my life right now, no apologies. 

So on to the next phase – applying (again) for a Returning Resident Visa. I applied at the end of 2015, and was granted one; it expired a year ago. 

I only applied at that time because I knew a return to the UK was likely at some point BUT a) I had no idea how long the process would take and b) I didn’t know that they only gave a validity of 6 months. Had I known all that I would have waited. 

I just hope it won’t hurt my application this time that I already had a visa and failed to take up residency. 

So off I went with more evidence than I probably needed, got as far as submitting my documents and sat in front of the person who would take my biomemtric details only to be told that the Immigration Expert who helpe me complete the application had purchased the wrong Priority service. Later I’ll have to apply for a refund, but immediately I had to exit the visa office to use their computers in the foyer area to buy the correct Priority service. 

€224 and 15 minutes later, I’m back in front of her again and we’re in business. 

On the plus side, instead of 15 days it should now take 5, which is excellent news when I’ve got travel plans on the 23rd June and they currently have my brand spanking new passport. 

Another balls-up with this application, I wasn’t aware til I got there today that you could pay extra to keep your passport while they decide. I didn’t feel the need to once I had to pay this new fee, as this way should only take 5 days, but when it was going to be 15 working days, it would have been good to know, I could still have gone away as planned. Like I say, a balls-up. 

I hadn’t anticipated quite how stressful this process was going to feel now that it’s such a crucial step. I’ve done what I can, there’s no interview in this process so you don’t get to explain face-to-face or argue your case. Everything you want to express has to be explicit  in the application form and the documents you submit. It is out of my hands. 

Now I wait. 

#visa4UK #returningresidentvisa 

Posted in Uncategorized

Passport Part II

So far so good – not only did I manage to submit my passport application, the official I spoke to let me keep my current passport until the new one could be collected. That was a huge relief as I had booked a weekend in England to support Husband and Daughter, both of whom are clearly complete nutters and were running the Snowdonia Half Marathon. (They ran, they finished, got the t-shirt and TWO medals!)

Anyway, he (Nice Embassy Man) told me that it would take 2-3 weeks to get the passport back, and 13 days later I got the call. Hence I am back to collect it. 

I’ll report back once I’ve got it, but I must say so far my experience with the Embassy staff this time has been great. They’ve been helpful, someone actually CALLED to tell me it’s ready and when the call dropped before she finished telling me what to do, like a decent human being she CALLED  BACK! 

Emails have been answered almost immediately, and I mean like within 15 minutes. I think that’s quite impressive. 

Like I said, I haven’t actually got the passport yet, but I should have it within the hour. 

Meanwhile here’s a Frenchman in a kilt. 

Breakfast in Paris: you never know what you’ll find. 

Update: after just 1h40 mins of waiting this time, passport is in my hands. The fact that I somehow look like I belong in The Addams Family is somewhat unfortunate in a ten-year passport. But I can start the next step now…Returning Resident Visa for the UK. #iloveredtape

Posted in Uncategorized

Into the unknown…

I am about to disappear into the vast abyss that is the US Embassy here in Paris in the hopes of renewing my passport – that alone is a stressful event, I find (queues, paperwork, pictures, payment…take a number, hurry up and wait). 

I, however am in the unfortunate position of needing it expedited, hence the personal visit. Eek. 

They will take my phone away on the door, so here goes nothing. Wish me luck, y’all.   (Not sure where that came from, there must be a Texan nearby.)

No photos of embassy, not a wise move. 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Montage of Seattle/Olympia Photos

Just in case you were expecting a travel log – it’s a photo log. Too much to tell, but what a great place. We LOVE Seattle (though we do NOT love the traffic!) and Washington in general. Olympia is a very cool little town, the downtown area is very arty and inclusive, has  a great vibe. (Did I just use the word vibe? Am I officially a hippy now?)

Enjoy. We did.

Posted in fitness, altitude, Uncategorized, Yoga

Yoga, hikes and a Bobcat

Not all at the same time, you understand, or even on the same day. It could have been, though. Had our hikes been less populated, I may have been tempted to strike a peaceful balance beside Snow Lake or on Rattlesnake Ledge (ooh, maybe not up there, actually. Bit scary. The ledge, not the rattle snakes. There aren’t any rattlesnakes here, or so I am assured). The bobcat was a bit of luck, and not at all what I expected to see in the back yard.

I’ve lumped them in, because they are my most interesting thoughts over the past few days.  No other reason. I could have labeled the post ‘Sunday – Tuesday in Sammaish, WA’, but would you be reading now? No, I didn’t think so. So here’s what we’ve been up to.

We moved from Olympia to Sammamish on Thursday night to take advantage of a house exchange we’d arranged through Homelink International. Great idea, we’ve got use of a local couple’s house for a week with no exchange of money.  They will visit our cottage at a separate time, all signed and sealed in our exchange agreement. If you’ve never considered it, I recommend it. This is our fourth exchange and we’ve got another one imminent in Sicily.  Leave me a message if you’d like more information – it’s a really cool way to travel to different places and often you can use your hosts’ car as well.

On Sunday morning, Megan and I did a Hot Power Vinyassa class first thing, (more about that later) and then we all set off  on I90 to the Alpental Ski Area parking, and headed straight uphill (with the masses) to see Snow Lake. It’s just over 7 miles round trip (up and back the same route) 1800 feet of climbing, highest point was 4400 ft.

The effort was worth the views, most definitely. If I had to give a future hiker advice it would be get there early and avoid summer weekends. Autumn might be a lovely time to go, midweek and after the kids all go back to school!

Unfortunately, on Sunday there was a scourge of loud, rather obnoxious people intruding on any peace there may have been – the hike was beautiful otherwise. A particularly loud group were shouting and doing cannonball jumps into the lake off a rock –  generally showing off to each other and disturbing the tranquility for everyone. Shame, as it was a beautiful spot.

On Monday we drove Megan back to Olympia to work (boo!) and back to Sammamish. A full day’s driving before 10:30, with a nice little break in the middle at our favourite breakfast spot in Olympia,  New Moon Cooperative Cafe , a really great little independent cafe in Olympia, excellent breakfast at sensible prices, wide choices available for meat-eaters and veggies/vegans alike. Highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

‘Where’s the bobcat?’, I hear you ask. Well, on Monday evening, we’d returned to our temporary home, and I was sitting on their back deck (facing the house for some reason) when Jack suddenly pointed behind me, and there, not 10 metres away, was the bobcat. I think I startled her (looking at photos, we think it was a female) and she trotted into next door’s garden. She didn’t go far, as my husband spotted her sitting under a tree next door. She started heading back towards us and then she spotted us again and legged it into the woods behind the houses.  Behind us is a small thicket and behind the trees is another close. It’s surrounded by houses, this area is wholly residential, a sort of commuter town for Seattle. She must have walked through multiple suburban gardens to end up in our back yard.

There’s a regional state park about two or three miles away, it’s only 600 acres but they do have black bears and bobcats so maybe she’d gone for a bit of a stroll herself. Checking out the domestic pet situation over here. I grabbed my iPhone (not the greatest tool for hastily snapped photos of moving wildlife, but it was all I had handy) and these are the rest of the pictures I managed to take.

I know – I’m no David Attenborough, but it’s all I have for you, folks. If you don’t like it, move along!

As for the yoga – as discussed in a previous post, I’ve been trying to fit more yoga into my life and after a pleasant first ‘hot yoga’ experience at Corepower Yoga in Seattle, I thought I would try the local one here which is Hot Yoga Experience. I’m not sure what they used to heat the studio at Corepower, but here they use far infrared to heat the room to 103°F which is the equivalent of around 40°C. They had a special offer going, so we signed up on the spot!

Not sure exactly what I feel about ‘hot’ yoga, compared to ‘normal temperature’ yoga – the heat definitely helps to warm up the muscles, much quicker than during a regular class. I felt more flexible and able to hold the postures in the heated room, and didn’t feel faint as I thought I might. But the sweat! Oh dear! I don’t know if sweating really helps with toxins or with yoga, and there are conflicting opinions about whether or not you burn more calories during ‘hot yoga.

It wasn’t why I went so I’m not really worried about that, but there was one article I read that suggested that, because you are abnormally warmed up, there was more danger of injury as you work beyond your natural limits, and push further into stretches or postures. So far this has not been the case for me, though just the act of going inside to an extremely hot room, when the sun is shining outside is kind of unnatural. However, I have a special introductory offer, limited time to use it and if left to my own devices I might only manage 30 minutes of gentle yoga per day. So. I went.

Today we wandered up Rattlesnake Ledge and the views were also worth the effort. It was only 4 miles round trip, and not at all steep. Lots of humans at the top again, but better behaved today 🙂

I’ll add a few pictures of that as well because it was a glorious day, and the return (same route again, not keen on those really) took us back down to the shores of Rattlesnake Lake, which proved to be a lovely spot for a quick swim before heading back to base.

That’s all for now. I am camped out on the back deck, waiting for my friend to come back. Here, kitty-kitty-kitty.