Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Labyrinthitis

A very young Jennifer Connoly & a strangely attractive
David Bowie in that great 80's classic Labyrinth

Nope, sadly this doesn't mean that I'm obsessed with watching that AMAZING 80's film Labyrinth (although I am slightly obsessed with that film!) but rather than I have a virus in my inner ear that's making me really dizzy all the time. Literally, ALL the time - it is NOT nice.

Apparently it will pass, but right now it's making me feel pretty grotty. So for all of my plans to do something new and exciting with my February 29th, it's all gone by the way-side as I sit here feeling sorry for myself. There's not even much that I can do for it, just wait for it to work its way out of my system.

Mr B. and I are going to Helsinki tomorrow for the weekend, so I'm hoping a good night's sleep and some rest will help me to feel much better, as we've got tickets to see the Finnish National Ballet's Coppelia on Friday night... How exciting!

Monday, 27 February 2012

A bonus day

In the UK, radio 4's PM programme are championing something called 'leap for PM' - basically, the 29th February is a bonus day, it's something we only get once every 4 years. So, it's a chance to do something you've never done before, or challenge yourself to something that would normally be out of your comfort zone.
This is the only leap I can think of at the moment! (pretty cool though!?)

After all the jumping out of a plane shenanigans, it's difficult to think what 'leap' I could make on this leap day, but I've got a couple of days to think it through. If you feel like challenging me to something, please do, meanwhile, let me know what you plan to do with your extra day!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Learning to ride my bike

Before the month of February is out, I should mention one of my main birthday presents - my, amazingly PINK new bike:



I've not had a new bike since I was 15, so I felt that, at 30, I should start the year as I mean to go on - aboard a bright new two wheeled vehicle, thus this was my present from my dad. Since I know how to ride a bike, and have done so recently on my 15 year old Raleigh Max 15 speed mountain bike, I didn't think that riding my new bike would be such a challenge. However, I wasn't at all prepared for the difference between the two bikes. Where I'm used to being able to build speed by pulling forward on my handlebars and pushing down on the pedals, my new bike is more reclined, and I am forced into an upright seated position. No matter how hard I try I can't lever myself forwards using my arms, I just end up wobbling all over the place. Same goes for trying to round corners. The handlebars are so far back, that I just can't get my head round how much (or little) I need to turn the handlebars. Believe me, watching me is a sight for sore eyes!

So when I took my lovely bike for its inaugural ride, I only went from one side of the village to the other but I think I caused more havoc than the village has seen in quite some time. I love everything about my bike, especially its vivid pink-ness, but perhaps I need to practise a little more before I earn myself a reputation as the crazy woman on the pink bike (who literally fell off every two minutes). That, and buy a helmet to safeguard against my own clutziness!

Whoever said it's like riding a bike (you never forget) obviously never appreciated how difficult it is to learn to ride a new bike at the not-so-tender age of 30!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Life Is Short

I mentioned in my last post Baz Luhrmann's 'wear sunscreen' track. I think whoever created this (Holstee - an American Brand I think) definitely took inspiration from the lyrics of that track, but I really liked this video. It's full of amazing advice for living and beautifully shot.

I for one intend to take much on board, and I may even get out on my (new pink!) bike and make some of it happen. Watch out for some photos once I have learned to ride it (that's a story for a whole 'nother blog post...!)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Reflections on 17 (happy birthday Katie)


It's my friend Katie's birthday today. Or Ballerina Katie as I think of her. She turns 17 and amongst other things will be having her first driving lesson today. An extremely talented dancer, she has (I'm sure) a sparkling future on the stage - she's determined enough, that's for sure!

Her birthday made me think about when I was 17. It's a strange old (young) age really; you're in that odd twilight between being a child and being an adult - whilst at 17 you can go and get a job, get married (with your parents' permission), you can smoke (if you want to), you can learn to drive and you can choose whether or not you want to go to school or college. Yet you're not old enough to vote, and in the eyes of the [British] law system, you're still a minor in many ways. Whilst you feel grown up, most 17 year olds (hey, most 21 year olds) rely on their parents for clothes, food, washing etc. so even though you'd like to be independent, perhaps you're not as independent as you'd like to be.

But it's full of great stuff too - Sixth form here (the equivalent of senior high in the States) is when you make all sorts of exciting decisions about your future, about where you will go for university and, to some extent, the kind of career you are likely to follow post-education. Certainly for me, it was the place and time that I made some of my closest friends and shaped many of my views of the world I inhabit. Adults (real adults that is) tend to take you more seriously, and being let loose at the wheel of a REAL car is incredibly exciting (and slightly terrifying) - and a signifier of the independence that awaits you once you've passed your test (especially, if, like me, you come from somewhere where the transport links are rubbish and having a car enables you to actually choose where you want to go - even if, like me, it does take you 18 months and 3 instructors to eventually pass your test!)

I have said many times that you couldn't pay me to go back to being a teenager, as it can be such a brutal time as you work out who you are, what you think and who to stick with, but if I were to go back and meet my 17 year old self I would tell her to be less afraid, to enjoy the freedom to make mistakes, to worry less about the future and to enjoy the present more - people expect you to trip up on the path to discovering who you are - that's part of the fun! I would advise her to think about what kind of career she really wants, because it's the decisions you make now that can really alter the paths that lie open to you, but ultimately to enjoy making those decisions because life is too short to stress-out about those things, and not knowing is just as valid an option as knowing . Be thankful, for the friends you do have and don't worry about the people who appear to not like you - in the grand scheme of things those people will have little bearing on your life. But, above all, enjoy being relatively carefree: 17 can feel like the weight of expectation of adulthood is bearing heavy on your shoulders, but you're not quite there yet. You will spend enough time as an adult, so enjoy being a child, and enjoy being 17, whatever that means to you!

Fab advice from Baz Luhrmann
It's all been said before, and in fact, I probably couldn't put it better than Baz Luhrmann's 'wear sunscreen' (hear the track at this link) But whatever I think, and whatever reflections I have on 17, I hope Katie makes it her own and has an amazing birthday today - because that's all part of the fun!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Ballerina break

After all the madness of launching myself out of an aeroplane, coating the entire house in icing sugar and the wonders of a hosting vintage-styled-tea-party with my friends, Mr. B decided to treat us both to a relaxing break away from it all. So, on Monday, after putting the house into some semblance of order (only semblance, mind!) we battled through snow drifts and icy roads to get to North Norfolk and a little hotel called Titchwell Manor.


Now, neither of us is particularly skilled in the art of stopping. But, probably for the first time ever, we just about stopped and managed to relax. As in we arrived and Mr. B said "shall we go to Burnham market?" (a little town nearby) and I said; "you know what, can we just watch a film?" - so that's exactly what we did, in our luxury bathrobes with Puppy Ballerina by our feet, we stopped and watched a film.  And it felt incredibly indulgent, but like we were ACTUALLY on holiday. We spent some time on the beach (I shall post photos soon, when Mr. B has edited them), wandered around Wells and Burnham Market, but in the end, not doing very much at all was all the break we needed and wanted.

We certainly came home feeling rested. I shan't mention the fact that Mr. B locked his keys in his car boot on the final day, or that as a result, we delayed our departure by a few hours waiting for the breakdown man to arrive, as it really didn't do anything to detract from a wonderful break. In fact, in lots of ways because it slowed us down, we were about to luxuriate some more in the comfort of the lounge area whilst waiting to be rescued.  After all, it wouldn't be a ballerina holiday without some mis-hap, and I was pleased that it was this, rather than anything else!

All in all, it was the perfect end to a perfect birthday. I haven't known 30 for very long, but I am confident it is going to be a good year.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A few birthday photos


I believe I can fly..!
Cool as a cucumber (almost literally)
I love how I look like an astronaut in this pic
Just LOOK how enormous the guy I jumped with was.
He was a full foot taller than me (and possibly a little bit too)

A much more civilised celebration
I actually iced the pink cake.
And the smarties one! V proud of myself.



Saturday, 4 February 2012

I did it!

After what can only be deemed a dreadful night's sleep, the day I've been anticipating finally arrived. No, not the big 3 - 0 -, but the day I promised to complete a tandem skydive in aid of the UK eating disorders charity, BEAT  (If you're new to my blog, you can find out why I chose to do this here.) With forecasts of snow for pretty much the whole of the UK, I was really quite concerned that it may be postponed, and thus all the psyching myself up I've been doing would have been in vain. But, fortunately, as you can see from my photos, the sky was as blue as blue could be, and although the temperature on the ground was hovering just below zero (degrees celcius), it was a crisp and beautiful morning, and nothing was going to stop the jump going ahead.

I was scheduled to arrive at the airfield at 8.30am, but was warned that I could be there until sunset if the centre was busy. Fortunately, it being the middle of winter, most people were still wrapped up warm in bed on a freezing cold Saturday morning, so it was very quiet and I was booked onto the first jump of the day - something of a relief since I think the longer I waited around the more nervous I would have become.

By 9.30 I'd met my tandem diver, (Dave - none other than the world record holder for the highest landing of any skydive - he apparently landed on top of a hot air balloon. Don't believe me? You-tube it!) I'd had my safety drill and was strapped tightly to Dave in a tiny plane that was swiftly ascending to 12 thousand feet with 7 or 8 other novice and experienced skydivers. 

The views from the plane were utterly breathtaking and, whilst I have never been particularly afraid of flying, it made me wonder why anyone would find this anything other than awe-inspiring. I was completely grateful for Dave's experience though, as it was a relief to feel that I was in safe hands as we made the final preparations for the jump. Instead of panicking about what might happen, I felt confident that I was well looked after and that I could (try to) concentrate on enjoying the experience. 
photo copyright Richard Wheatley, British Parachute Schools
Once at the desired altitude (about 12 thousand feet), there was no time to think, just a few last minute checks, and we were out of the plane. With no parachute and only Dave and gravity as my friend, I thought I would find it hard to concentrate on anything other than the fear of hitting the ground, but I found it surprisingly exhilarating. We fell free-fall for about a minute before the parachute was released, and I enjoyed every last second (as you can probably tell from the silly smile (no, that wasn't just  g-force, honestly) on my face in the picture above!)
photo copyright Richard Wheatley, British Parachute Schools
When the parachute was finally released, I was amazed by how serene it felt to be floating through the air: my sister had raved about this after parascending in Turkey, but I think it's got to be experienced to be believed. From way up in the sky, it's easy to believe that you're the only person alive, and that you are merely surveying the land laid out before you.
photo copyright Richard Wheatley, British Parachute Schools
I can't imagine a better way to usher in a new decade of my life. I know it's cliched but it was completely empowering: the adrenaline rush of the skydive, followed by the calm serenity of the parachute to earth was a perfect reflection of how I hope to embrace life in the future.

Here's to 30 years on earth. And here's to the next 30 being even better than the first!


(oh, and just in case you're feeling flush, and would like to donate to an EXTREMELY worthy cause, my charity sponsorship page is online for just a few more days at www.doitforcharity.com/hannahj - please consider it if you can)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Blonde or brunette?

For years and years I've harboured a secret desire to be brunette. I was born blonde, and although my hair has become darker the older I've got, my 'virgin' hair colour has never been anything darker than a dark golden blonde, but I've always thought that I would love to try dark hair - it looks so chic and sophisticated to me. 

But. And this is a big but: Whenever I have suggested going darker to a hairdresser, they generally recoil in horror and say "you're so blonde, it wouldn't suit your complexion." So, when a new hairdresser was cutting my hair last week and suggested that a semi-permanent colour would make my hair shinier, I assumed that she would be of the same mind-set. Hence, I booked myself in for a colour, and happily skipped along to the salon yesterday evening.

As soon as I sat down I felt that something wasn't quite right. The colours she thought were close to my natural colour were chocolatey and definitely brunette, and no matter how much I tried to convey what I thought my natural hair colour was, she was having none of it. Agreed, my highlights were quite a lot paler than my natural hair colour, but I think that was making my root colour seem darker than it actually is when it grows out. And I always feel like I'm trying to tell the hairdresser that my hair is nicer than it actually is, and she thinks I'm a fantasist or something.

But, y' know, you trust the hairdresser, so I went with the flow. I knew it was going to be darker than I think my natural colour is, but the result was quite alarming:
Now, I'm not saying it's not nice. But I'm not entirely sure it's me. It's SO dark. My hair has NEVER been this dark. Ever. 

So now I'm not entirely sure what to do. I have always wanted darker hair, but I wanted it on my terms. I didn't choose this colour. I thought I was going back to my 'natural' colour: dark golden blonde. And this just isn't that... Watch this space; it may yet change!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Dear 30...

I can't believe it's the first of February already. This can only mean 2 things: 1) it's 4 days until I parachute my way to my 30th birthday & 2) in five days time I actually turn 30!

A long time ago, when I was little, I used to think that anything over 18 was grown up. When I turned 18, I felt younger than I did when I turned 15, so that milestone moved to 21. When I turned 21, half way through my degree, I still didn't feel like a proper grown up, after all, I went home to live with my mum every time there was a university break. So, every year since, I've expected to feel more grown up, and every year since, there's been a reason why I just don't feel grown up at all. Despite a mortgage and a ring on my finger and a career, and a job after that career, I still keep wondering when I will ever feel like a proper grown up.
Will I ever feel grown up?
But this is it: I have decided. 30 is the new 21 is the new 18! I am ready to tackle adulthood head-on now. Really I am. There's not even a tiny part of me that wants to run away and hide in childhood, REALLY! Ok, so maybe there is a part of me that will always feel like a child, but I am going to make a wild statement and say I am willing to embrace my 30s with the intention of making it my best decade yet.

The potential is enormous, but I'm going to leave it there. I don't want to tempt fate, but I just want to make this little address, in advance:

Dear 30s, 
I am so looking forward to finally meeting you on Sunday. I am sure we're going to become best of friends and share all sorts of adventures together! 
Until Sunday, all my love, Hannah x