Well thank you Vietnam……

for making my first mid-life crisis, empty-nest adventure so wonderfully brilliant. From Hanoi to Hue to Ho Chi Minh city,  I have fallen hopelessly in love with this wonderful country and it’s people and quite honestly I can’t wait to go back.

Because that’s the beauty of modern technology. If you can use the internet, all the information you need is available to book your own itinerary. We trawled through Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Air B&B, making notes, reading reviews and finally pulling a trip together that we hoped would tick as many of our boxes as possible in three weeks. We booked a mixture of Homestays, overnight trains, budget hotels, treks, cruises, street food tours, cooking courses, taxis, internal flights, mopeds and even a posh hotel, all from the comfort of our kitchen  before we left, our accommodation when we there or even the airport at last minute.

And amazingly, nothing went wrong. Not one single thing. It all turned out to be a brilliant adventure from start to finish, all of which I will tell you about and pass on tips in my next series of blogs.

I know I keep harping on about it but life is short and there’s a big amazing world out there, offering experiences that you can’t ever really describe but which enrich your soul and hopefully make you a better human being. This fifty-something window of opportunity is too good a chance to miss especially if you’re still fit enough and brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

 So follow my blogs over the next few weeks as I try and show you that life at fifty doesn’t have to mean a Thrifty Fifty Travel card or a Saga Holiday. It’s not too late for an adventure and it’s never, ever too late to chase a sunset!

 

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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfullness

If I’m honest, after two years studying A level English Literature in sixth form, very few quotes stick in my mind. I remember sobbing down the phone to my friend Mandy at the injustice dished out,(by men of course) to poor Tess D’urberville,  and having King Leah’s ‘How sharper than a serpents tooth it is to have a thankless child’ quoted back at me by my dad, (pretty impressive for a copper from the East End of London) but Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Heart of Midlothian’ with its Scots dialect might as well have been Chinese to a 17 year old in a rural Cotswold comprehensive. If I’m right and I’m probably wrong, I vaguely remember that Jeannie walked from Edinburgh to London in bare feet.  Sadly that’s all I remember, sorry Sir Walter, I’m sure if I read it now, having lived in Scotland for twenty three years, I might now have half a chance. Milton’s Paradise Lost was, at the time equally tedious. The only paradise being lost as far as I was concerned was in my precious teenage socialising time.

But reassuringly there are a few quotes that I do remember. Shakespeare’s King Leah’s ‘Nothing comes of Nothing’ has been thrown out into the ether a few times when I’m on my parental high horse and Jane Austen’s ‘There are certainly not so many men of good fortune in the world as there are pretty women to derserve them.’  and  ‘ A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of’ are also favoritesShallow, I know, but it will always have a special place in mine and my pal Mandy’s heart. If I remember rightly, at the time I also had an unhealthy teenage crush on a portrait of Lord Byron, a bit weird, I know, having a crush on a poet who’d been dead for 150 years but that’s what unruly hormones can do to a woman. Encouragingly though for my ever hopeful English teacher, I was inspired by one quote, a quote that has stayed with me over the years, the first line of John Keats poem Ode to Autumn.

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun’

And such has been the glory of this Autumn in the Highlands of Scotland, I’ve been inspired  to revisit the poem and in honour ofJohn Keats re read the whole thing. For this Autumn has been mellow in every sense of the word as high pressure, sunshine and stillness, sadly absent from Scotland during the summer months, has settled upon us and soothed away the hurt of daily weather forecasts of grey, wind and 12 degrees. As a child of the rolling Cotswold countryside, I have always loved autumn, a time of harvests, mists, berries and dewy spider webs and if I’m honest I have never felt it to be quite the same living beside the sea in the North of Scotland. This Autumn, however, has proved me wrong and I cannot tell you how many times I have stood  staring out of the window in complete awe of the beauty of our planet. The stillness and low sun has brought out an intensity of colour that is truly magnificent and day after day we’ve been royally treated to morning skies of pink and gentle mists rolling along the Moray Firth. The evening skies have also been spectacular; pinks and blues sometimes tinged with gold as the sun sets over the hills to the west. And as if Mother Nature has felt that she couldn’t  repay us enough for the rubbish summer, she’s thrown in flocks of geese, flocks (or bevy) of low flying swans and jumping dolphins, all merely the warm up acts for her piece de resistance, beautiful starry skies and The Northern Lights. Glorious.

So glorious has it been that I set out for a walk early this morning before the light frost disappeared and as I walked down the road toward the beach, a deer stepped out in front of me, calmly stopped, looked me in the eye and then gracefully disappeared into the bushes. Even the deer was mellow. The beach was deliciously empty apart from the sea birds and instead of walking at my usual pace I decided to follow the lead of the deer and be mellow too. Interestingly, at this point, my phone decided that it too wanted to be mellow and shut itself down for no apparent reason. As a consequence, I was treated to a feast of beauty that I would not usually appreciate. Have you ever looked at a lobster trap close up as it really is a work of art? Even the seagulls, the bane of our wee Highland toon were majestic as they rose in a silvery flock against the intensity of the blue sky.

John Keats wrote his poem Ode to Autumn in September 1819 after being inspired by the glow of the sun on a stubble field. He wrote to his friend  ‘How beautiful the season is now. How fine the air – a temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather. Dian skies. I never liked stubble fields so much as now..’

Dian translated from the French means divine, and even if you have no faith, this autumnal feast of Dian beauty has inspired many. The Nairn Facebook Page Nairn Rocks has been brimming with photos of sunsets, sunrises, Northern Lights and blue seas, the love it or loathe it modern way of sharing good things with each other and more importantly appreciating what we have on our doorstep. If John Keats were here now, I’m  sure he could have put it all into words. Sadly I am unable to match his poetic prowess. I would like to think, however, that he’s currently looking down and smiling, content in the knowledge that a wee girl of average intelligence in a small town comprehensive, was inspired enough by the beauty of his work  to remember a line from one of his poems and finally learn to appreciate him thirty years on.

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John Keats 1795 -1821

Honey, We Need to Talk About Dylan….

In my last post from Ibiza I forget to mention that we did not, in fact, travel back alone for in our custody was a little friend who has now come to represent something significant. Let me introduce Dylan.

Dylan, (not quite sure how he got his name), in his physical state is nothing more than a piece of dried lime peel but he has eyes and a mouth and of course a name and because he has a name he has a personality and to be honest,  we have all become a little bit attached and because we are a little bit attached, we are all becoming increasingly concerned for his well being. You see Dylan is homesick, pining for the sun, his maker and the place of his birth and basically he needs to be taken home and as Amelia was very cleverly given custody of poor little Dylan, some difficult decisions now have to be made.

The upside, if there is one, to getting older is wisdom, the type of wisdom that comes from experience and if used sensibly, can help us to point ourselves and sometimes others in the right direction. It’s not easy to quantify, often it’s just a gut feeling, a feeling that something just is  the right thing to do.. At the beginning of this blog, I said that life is short and sometimes when we are suddenly  given choices to make that we weren’t expecting, it’s easy to take the safe option even when you have youth well and truly on your side. What we have to remember, however, is if the safe option doesn’t actually make your soul happy, then it really isn’t the safe option at all.