A pat on the back

Dear Readers (92 of you, nearly up to 100 woo hoo!)

I thought I’d just send a quick writing update before my next Tokyo blog.

I have been working with a writing coach for the last three years since March 2020. Jacqui Lofthouse has a large writing consultancy and when I applied to her company, she decided to take on my project for herself. Like a coach in sports, she is there on the sidelines for me, to coach me and give me some accountability. But, like athletes it’s still down to them to get the work done. A writing coach, coaches and doesn’t teach.

Imagine if someone can’t swim and they want to learn how to swim. They go to the local leisure centre and learn how to keep afloat, kick their legs at the back and make a wide motion with their arms. If you knew how to swim but wanted to get faster and race, then you would have a coach tuning the finer points of your techniques. I have my own writing style and Jacqui has streamlined that. Side note: My grammar is still terrible.

I’ve applied to around 20 literary agents in the last couple of years. About 6 applications were off my own accord, which resulted in no replies at all, no feedback, and not even a no. I expect my work was put straight into the slush pile. With Jacqui we have applied to about 15 agents. Last year we had about 6 no’s, but some really useful feedback and some very near hits. The extra gold stamp of my book arriving on a desk as a recommendation from The Writing Consultancy bumped my words into the hands of agents.

In November 2022 we applied to a further 10 agents and so far have had 2 no’s. Not a huge return but maybe the Christmas period got in the way.

This week, I met Jacqui in Richmond, London on Tuesday in an ice cream parlour. We had 2 hours together, thrashing out more work and reviewing my last 4 chapters that I’d just submitted to her. The book is currently at 61,000 words and 29 chapters. I highly doubt anymore chapters will be added and we are just tweaking bits and bobs throughout the book now. I used to struggle to write 2000 word essays at university, and now I’ve written a 61,000 word book. Never give up on your dreams kids.

Our first meeting in March 2020 was in the British Library in Kings Cross, which became my favourite place to write, ever! Since then, we had to do all of our meetings on Zoom. So, this last meeting we made the conscious effort to meet in person in London and at a lovely location. After the trains got cancelled late Monday evening I had no other option but to drive. On a swollen knee may I add.

I woke up Tuesday morning to hear the radio reading out the amount of car accidents that had happened due to icy roads that morning and to only travel in necessary. Great start!

I drove the 3 hour journey to Richmond, Tuesday morning and waited for Jacqui whilst tucking in to some fresh Sushi. Jacqui gave me some great feedback about my final chapters and I totally saw her points for the words I’d created. We also spoke about self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

Jacqui believes I should really give it one more shot with the traditional publishing route which includes getting a literary agent followed by a publishing company, and proper books on proper book shelves.

We have decided to produce a new submission pack for agents. Our previous efforts included a book synopsis, an agent letter and 10,000 words from the book. We will now include more information about the author (THAT’S ME!), news and media articles that have focussed on my journey, some key note speeches I’ve made, previous books that are similar to my genre and a full list of my network and how it can be leveraged. Lots of work to do but a good task to get through for my own purposes too.

So I titled, this biog ‘A Pat on the back’… Becauseeeee I drove 6 hours in one day to have a 2 hour coaching session. I’ve played sport all my life and I’ve never travelled 6 hours in a day to have a coaching session. So it’s a little pat on my back as I’m hoping the universe is listening to the dedication I am putting in to make this book great. Also, I’ve given myself the pat of the back, so you don’t have too. Seriously, I don’t take compliments well and they also make me take my foot off the gas sometimes. Delayed gratification. Tell me I can’t do it. That works more. haha. Ok, but be kind.

So, if you made it this far… We are giving it one more shot to the traditional publishing route, but in the background we will still work towards a self-publishing deadline for mid-March.

Thanks for your support as always, and if you would like to recommend my page to anyone that might subscribe and get me to 100 followers that would be terrific.

I also post videos about my writing on my Instagram HERE so please follow me. You can also find me on Tiktok and Twitter @AfMarseh

Have a blessed day.

Af Marseh

Below is a photo of me at the British Library in March 2020

British Library, March 2020 my favourite place to write ever

Touchdown in Tokyo

I tend to write a lot less about my travelling experiences than I probably should. The reason is what makes my travel experience any different from anyone else’s? Everyone can go to Paris, Malaga, or Thailand and have a similar but different experience. Anyone can describe what it’s like to see the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. But, for me, travelling is always about the people and never about the place. So, when telling tales of travelling adventures I always talk about the people I meet, and that’s sometimes harder to get across than describing a city’s buildings or landscape.

However, Tokyo 2020 (In 2021) was a unique experience that I know I was fortunate enough to experience. I never usually talk of places at the time of me being there, as I’m generally working and never want people to find my blogs or thoughts. You never know what can happen to you if colleagues or governments find your reflections. Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo was amazing, and is amazing, and the people of Japan are just unbelievable in comparison to some of the western civilisation. Japan and Japanese people are just the best you can find. And the food is my all-time favourite food. I could eat Japanese food every day for the rest of my life. 

I’ve been on some adventures in my years, but this was like no other. It makes me excited just thinking about it again. So here goes…

On the last day of working at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I met with the sports manager for Tokyo 2020. I had two spare tickets to the Closing ceremony at the Maracanã stadium so invited him and his colleague. We had a great evening and got pretty drunk before the heavens opened and a storm descended on Copacabana. A great evening to finish the games and we stayed in touch by email for the next few years, before I headed to Tokyo in October 2019 for the Olympic Games test event. This was the confirmation I needed that I would be involved in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

We all know March 2020 then happened and the Olympic Games were postponed for one year. No more international travel and the acceptance that I may not be attending the Olympics this time. 

Tokyo was not open for international travellers from March 2020 until October 2022. They were against any international workers for the Olympics. But boxing had a special pass because of current issues in the sport. Getting me on the flight took a lot of effort, especially as the UK was then put on the red list for international travel, but I was prepared to do what was required. 

Before flying to Japan, I would have to get three negative PCR Covid tests, one day after another, 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours before the flight. The Covid tests had to be from a specific verified Japanese test centre and my closest centre was an hour away at Bournemouth Airport. These Covid tests had to then be sent to a consultant in London who had to stamp them with a Japanese government stamp. My flight was on a Saturday so this was touch and go if I would get the stamps back in time from the consultant. As well as this I had to have a letter from the Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee to show at the boarding desk, written in Japanese and English. Three tests, three stamps, three letters. 

It’s difficult to get excited about a trip when you’re unsure if you’ll even get on the flight, but after very thorough checks I was finally in my seat J26. Window seat and 3 seats to myself so I could eventually lay down across them and sleep. 

After the 14-hour flight from London Heathrow to Tokyo I had to gather all of my documents for the checks on arrival. I exited the plane and was immediately ushered with the rest of the passengers to another testing centre. I had been wearing my face mask for 14 hours and had to keep it on for a while longer. 

Passengers were escorted into the airport covid testing centre where you’d enter a private booth and spit into a tiny funnel. Whilst I waited for the results, which would take thirty minutes we were instructed to download a location app on our phones and enter our details, passport number, and apartment location. You also had to sync this app with your live location settings on your phone so that you could be tracked at all times. 

As I waited in the lounge area for my number to be called the tension grew. Imagine failing a test at this point. It wasn’t worth thinking about. They’d whisk you away and quickly isolate you. The staff sat behind a check-in desk and two numbers written in Japanese were displayed in big digital red letters. They’d press a button to change the numbers and then call them out in Japanese followed by English. It was getting closer to my number, number seventy-eight. 

‘Seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven and … seventy-nine’ The Japanese lady shouted from behind the check-in booth. 

Huh, what? Where’s seventy-eight? What have I done, I’m positive, oh crap this is it, I’ll be in a two-week quarantine in Japan. 

‘Eighty, eighty-one, next ‘

You know when you think you’re ill and now you have a headache, and you feel your temperature rising? Yeah, that. Am I sweating? Maybe I do have a fever. Shit!

‘Number seventy-eight, eighty-two, eighty-three’. She shouted once more. 

My Christ, that was close, but I was out. Well, kind of. 

Next level unlocked. 

After three and a half hours since landing, I finally got through immigration and was met at the arrivals gate by Ken. Ken was a twenty-three-year-old colleague from Tokyo who was currently studying in the US. He’d been waiting at the airport since my flight had landed and was even holding a sign saying #YOUGOTTHIS, which had been decorated in all different colours. Ken welcomed me to Tokyo and gave me two tickets. One was to get my dedicated taxi from the Airport to my hotel and one was to get me to the venue in three days. Ken was not able to travel with me in the taxi due to my covid quarantine rules and my isolation requirements. I had to get into the back of a dedicated taxi which would take me the thirty-minute journey from Haneda airport to Nihonbashi. 

My daily dedicated taxi

As I was driven from the airport I kept an eye on the streets of Tokyo as I knew I wouldn’t be seeing much of it for the next two weeks. I was due for a three-day hard quarantine in my hotel room, followed by eleven further days of just bubble-to-bubble isolation. 

I arrived at my hotel and was instructed about the rules once more and that I should stay in my hotel room for the next three days. I would do a covid test the next morning and put the test inside a plastic tray outside my door. But not leave the room. I’d also have to do another test on day 3. I was not allowed outside the hotel or even into the corridor. 

The box meals and covid tests left in trays outside rooms

I was given three meals per day, all delivered to my door and left inside a plastic tray. The instructions even said, ‘No vegetarian option.’. Each day you’d wonder what you’d get in your next meal. 

Every box contained a bread roll. That was a given. Then some mushrooms, some noodles, and either chicken, beef, or fish. I wasn’t going to be fussy and I was intrigued to take on the culture. It did feel a little odd eating chicken in lemon sauce with rice at nine in the morning. 

My morning box meals

It tasted very nice to be fair

Three days in complete solidarity is very interesting. You’re dying to see someone. Anyone. I stood at the door with my eye looking through the peephole just to see if anyone else would be in my corridor. I think I’m ok in my own company, I walked up and down the room, which was about ten steps long. I stretched and did some press-ups to get the blood flowing. You’ve probably already said it in your head, but yes, it felt like a prison. Even the view outside my window was just a brick wall of the building next door. 

After three days and two negative covid tests, I was allowed to go to the boxing venue. The boxing would be held at the legendary Kokugikan Arena. It’s famous for being the main Sumo Wrestling venue in Tokyo. First built over one-hundred years ago and its latest revamp was in 1985. Each morning I would have to call a phone number that would send a private taxi to the front door of the hotel. I would have to leave the hotel and immediately enter the taxi. The arena was only a five-minute car journey and I would be greeted by a colleague at the gates who would chaperone me to the office. 

I met the team and had my own desk away from them. They were still a bit wary as I had just arrived from the UK and we were on the red list for Japan. I would have to wear my mask at all times including outdoors. On arriving on my first day, I was given more instructions. 

I was not allowed to walk around the venue without a chaperone. I was only allowed to use a certain set of toilets, which had the signage ‘Toilets for exceptional foreigners.’ Quite the compliment I thought. The other stipulation was that I had to wear a yellow armband for my duration at the venue. To show that I was quarantining. I took it all in my stride. If these are the rules, then that’s the rules. Back home in England, 65,000 spectators had just attended Wembley Stadium for the Euro Semi-Final of England versus Denmark. And here I was only able to go to a specific toilet, being chaperoned and wearing a yellow armband. 

Lavatory dedicated to exceptional foreigners

These were all necessary actions and I still felt privileged to be in Japan. One outbreak of the virus would put the entire Olympic Games in jeopardy. 

For part 2 of life in Tokyo please subscribe to my mailing list.

Watching the Euro finals in my hotel room at 4am

Rejection on your first day back

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year and all that Jazz.

It’s been a strange week. I was in the starting blocks ready to burst onto the scene for 2023. Then after catching that retched lurgy over Christmas and being in bed for three days It’s been more of a slow stumble out of the blocks.

I am feeling quite happy with myself that I didn’t start new beginnings on January 1st. I’d already started grinding way before that and January is just another part of the journey.

January 4th was a lot more difficult to get started than expected. Was it the weather? The dark days or that constant cough that won’t get rid? Then at 3 pm, I got rejected.

But it was a boost. I had a reply from one of the leading literary agencies in the country. Now, you may think this is disappointing, but it was such a near miss.

The agent said that they can totally see the value in the book and how it will make a fantastic companion to cancer sufferers and their families… BUT… without a platform already behind me, it’s difficult to sell books based on this. They suggested that I need a bigger online platform and community before getting any deals.

It’s bittersweet obviously. Just to get my book read by these people is a huge achievement. They get sent hundreds of entries per week. AND they appreciated my words.

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY MAILING LIST (And your friends and family)

I have 7 more agent applications outstanding and awaiting their replies. I have in my back pocket to self-publish in March, so I do have a deadline on this project.

I’ve created a list of sports athletes, comedians, and social media influencers that I plan to ask for support with the marketing of the book. The dream would be to have the book on a shelf in Waterstones and then it gets turned into a TV show by Netflix, BBC, or ITV. Although if I have to self-publish and then create my own script then that’s the path I will take.

All in all, January is an awful month in the UK. Definitely need to plan January holidays much more, but for now, my entire life is being poured into this book. I’ve put work, money, and social lives on hold until this book is released and available to the world.

One final request, to give me an increased chance of being a bigger brand, please subscribe to my mailing list so that I can add this to my selling point to potential agents and publishers.

Thanks, Happy New Year and stay healthy.

Lots of love

Af Marseh

Delayed Gratification is on hold…

Dear Fans… and subscribers (the 28 of you)

It’s been a productive week in the world of book writing and the finish line (if there is one), is feeling closer. 

To be honest, I’ve kept the book writing to myself for the last couple of years. For a few reasons. 

The number one reason was down to trying to perform delayed gratification. I’ve threatened to write a book, comedy, and scripts in the past and as soon as I got started people would be very complimentary. I found that this was not helping and I’d soon just ‘get the likes’ and that was enough. 

I think it’s important to carry out delayed gratification when setting any goals, but this past two weeks it has been slightly different. I’m so close to the finish line, but just need some extra support to help me stumble over it. After keeping my book to myself for so long, it is now in the hands of new readers and it’s very encouraging to see the feedback I’m getting. 

I’ve taken a bit of a gamble with this book. I’ve put any other life goals on hold until this is finished and to the best standard, I can deliver. I work at sporting events such as the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. After each event, people are always interested, in which event you’ll go to next (mainly so they know if they should keep in contact or not). Each time we finish a contract, and someone asks me I always reply with ‘I want to write a book and then go into TV’. 

So, this time round I am not doing anything until this book is complete. I’ve had to move back in with my mum (again). I sometimes pick up a couple of shifts in a friend’s coffee shop to get some pocket money. Although mainly I just focus on book writing every day. If that’s not sitting at the desk writing and editing then I am building my social media pages, designing front cover ideas, branding and marketing, and trying to build up my network.

Whilst working at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games I probably didn’t read a page of my book for about four months. I kind of needed this break away from it, because when I returned to it in August I thought ‘Yeah this is fucking powerful. This is great.’ I am my own biggest critic, so I know I am proud of this work. 

I know people think it’s an odd decision to try and change careers at my age, but for once in my life, I feel like I have a special talent for something. That’s writing, and telling funny stories that are also thought-provoking.

I shared the book with my sister about four weeks ago now as I needed someone else to believe in this project. She read the entire book in six hours. All thirty chapters and sixty-thousand words. She said it was a real page-turner and she couldn’t put it down. As fantastic as that was to hear I did kind of feel like ‘it’s taken me three years to write this and you read it in six hours.’ 

The book is now in the hands of five other readers all with differing knowledge of me and the story as well as their relationships with cancer. The feedback so far has been so helpful and amazing. 

I am still waiting on eight agents to get back to me on my applications, but I’m also working in the background to self-publish in March time. 

I am excited to share it with you all in 2023.

This week my good friend Dean Record who set up yougotthisaf.com has now also purchased www.afmarseh.com and www.afmarseh.co.uk. I am fully professional now. Just need the headshot photos to be taken. 

Thank you for reading and have a great week. 

If you could be so kind to share my page with friends and family and get them to subscribe to my email list that would be fantastic. 

You can also comment on this blog post below. 

What do you think would be a good number of book sales to target myself with? 

Af Marseh  

P.s oh and tomorrow is my cancerversary of being 6 years all clear from cancer. Even though I am writing about it every day I’d totally forgot about it. Only to be reminded by my Facebook memories. So I am taking that as a positive that for the first time it is not consuming my mind. It was a race to get to 5 years all clear as that was the remission dates I was given. Happy days.

A day at the library. I love writing there

It’s… Af Marseh

Dear Subscribers and Fans… Lol

Just a short update today as we head towards the end of the year. My book is 80% in the final draft. I just need to finely tune the last few chapters. I am wrestling with some of the words. It’s as challenging as any of the physical challenges I’ve done.

Today I spent eight hours inside Dorchester Library. The libraries are the best kind of writing environment for me. It’s quiet, you’re surrounded by books and also by people working on their own personal projects. It inspires you to keep working.

As well as that I have now synchronised all of my social media pages to Af Marseh. It’s strange to take such a long time to decide on a name. Your own name at that.

I’d appreciate all the follows, likes shares onto my new instagram, twitter and tiktok pages @AfMarseh

Three weeks ago I applied to ten top agents through my writing coach Jacquie. We have had one ‘This one’s not for me’ rejection so far, but I was fine with that to be honest. One of the agents is that of Ben Fogles. I’d love that connection. I can see it now. Ben and Af New Lives in the Wild. Fogle and Af on their wild adventures. A dream!

If the agents don’t work out then I am working behind the scenes to self-publish in March 2023. I need all the support and love to get this out as far as possible.

With that please ask your friends, families and colleagues to subscribe to my website (by entering your email into the box on the top right of the home page) and follow my socials.

Once the book has been released I’d like to take it on a public speaking/ stand up comedy tour to really give it the personal feel.

Thanks for reading and see you next week

Af x

Guess Who’s back, back again…

Hello again, 

I’m writing with eyes full of water. No not tears. Allergies. Why me, Why me?

Anyway, Apologies it’s been so long. I’ve been on the rat race. A ‘normal’ job. I’m not sure if it was this job in particular, but this one hit differently. I was a commuter and a 9 to 5’er who never actually works 9-5. It’s a trap. Living for the weekend and even some of them you aren’t free. Well, I didn’t intend this first blog back to be a rant but hey it must be on my mind and I am just typing as I go. 

I’m back to being unemployed and I have put the job applications on the back seat for now. 

I HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK!

Yes, that needed to be shouted and in capital letters as it was bloody hard. 60,000 words and that’s not including edits and re-writes. The further you get into writing a book the more difficult it becomes. Today I have stared at pages for way too long with no writing. I have changed 5 words. But they are crucial to the feel of an entire chapter. So, even though the quantity is not there it feels like the quality has improved and it is more hard hitting.

Each morning of doing that morning commute I would look around the platform and see carbon copies of men and women everywhere. Expensive shoes, Airpods in their ears so not to miss one call or notification and a strong large coffee in hand. Maybe it gets easier and if you’re providing for a family then I guess means must, but for me, having a life where you need coffee to function is not for me. Don’t get me wrong I love a morning coffee and it’s a routine. But that train station platform coffee. No thanks. I am taking a financial hit for the time being and life is not comfortable, but I am hoping to build something from this time.

I am rambling here, but I am going to start weekly posting. Not that many people reads these but it’s good practice. Routine, discipline and engagement. 

Book update:

I have had a few rejections from literary agents. But good rejections. Some nice feedback and some I simply didn’t fall into their genre. It was the happiest I’ve ever been from a rejection. It made me think ‘wow I’m actually doing this’. It’s actually in the process. I have 12 more agents to submit to, after this I will go towards the self-publishing route. I have written 56,000 words and one more chapter to add in and polish. I am looking for front cover designs and ideas. Marketing, social media, partnerships. There is so much more to do than just write words on paper. 

Some may think what’s the point. Just get on the rat race like the rest of us. And maybe it will fail, and maybe I will be stood on a train platform with a coffee in my hand in 6 months’ time, but at least I’ll have no regrets that I didn’t try. 

This is just a short ranty return to blogging post, but If you have read it then I would love love love it if you can enter your email into my subscribe box. That way you won’t miss a post, you can read them in your emails or not, but most of all I can sell this book to the masses. 

Thanks for reading, and don’t suffer in the cold too much with these heating scaries. Get a hot water bottle too. 

Ta Ta

Af x

Completely pointless photo of me boxing just to have a photo on this blog. Will do better next time I promise.

Tokyo 2020 – The next adventure

Dear ‘Fans’,

It’s been a while since my last post. To be honest not much has happened in the last 16 months so there’s been little to write home about. But now… we travel once more to the land of the rising sun.. JAPAN.

I write this with a great sense of pride because I have achieved a lifetime goal. Not one that I set for myself in ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ class, but I can’t believe I get to say this… I’m working at my THIRD Olympic Games. The third one, three Olympic Games. London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. I have to pinch myself.

It wasn’t the easiest mission to get to compared to recent events, but we know the world is not for travelling at the moment. You can’t even sit in a pub with more than 6 people at a table so I’m fully aware how privileged I am to have travelled from the UK to the other side of the world.

The week before my travel date, Japan had added the UK to its red list due to the Delta variant. Travelling from a red list country I now had to get tested each day 3 days prior to my departure. This test had to be done in London or at Bournemouth Airport, which is over an hour’s drive from my house and £99 per test. Ouch.

After receiving the negative results, three government letters signed by the doctor, a certificate of eligibility, a written pledge, an invitation letter and a completed questionnaire I was off on my way to Heathrow Terminal 5.

The flight was fairly full considering we are in a pandemic, but I managed to get lucky with a three seater to myself, which I would take full advantage of later that night by laying down and getting some sleep. Who needs business class? Just the one movie watched on the 12-hour flight. Jumanji 2, three stars.

I arrived in Tokyo at 2pm local time which was about 7am in the UK and for my body clock. We were ushered to a covid test straight away where we all had to spit into a funnel that is placed into a test tube. Individual funnels and individual test tubes may I add. I waited patiently for my number to be called up so that I could proceed to immigration. The announcers would call the numbers over the tannoy for the latest negative test results.

“Number 314, 315 and 316 come to the gate please”

That’s great I thought. I’m next, I held my ticket in my hand number 318. I’m ready, set me free into Tokyo…

“Number 317” she paused … “319 and 320 please proceed to the gate”

huh, what? what happened to 318, that’s my number, why have they skipped my result? Have I….have I tested positive? Are they going to put me into a pen for two weeks all alone, this will be one embarrassing walk of shame if I’m ushered away by the Quarantine Police. (Which are a thing by the way).

Five of the most agonising minutes later and I heard…

“Number 318, 321, and 322 please proceed to the gate”

Holy mother of Lucifer thank you lord. I’m through. A long walk back to immigration to show all of my paper documents and eventually I was through and onto Japanese tarmac. I was met by Ken who will be a colleague of mine. He flew in from Chicago a month ago and had waited at the arrivals gate for over 3 hours with a sign saying You Got This. I really appreciated that. Not just the sign, but I’ve done the airport meeting job before and it can be a long and boring day.

As I stepped out of the airport terminal I stepped straight into a private (and luxury) taxi that would take me straight to my hotel in the city. I’d been wearing my face mask for sixteen hours now and had forgotten what fresh air felt like. I arrived at the hotel to a food parcel of chicken, bread and pasta. Luckily, I still had some of my Wine Gums left over from the flight for my desert.

I’ve now been in my hotel quarantine  for nearly 60 hours. I do a covid test each morning of spitting into the funnel/test tube contraption and the hotel staff pick it up from my door at 9am whilst dropping off my breakfast. I managed to do 1800 steps in my hotel room today so trying to stay active.

It’s been a long detailed process, but the safest one and that’s what we need right now. I feel so lucky to have made it here. I’m looking forward to getting out and seeing the boxing venue very soon.

I’m currently trying to increase my social media following for a different personal project I have going on. If anyone would like to support me with some followers, then my social handles are…

Twitter: @Af_Essex_Boxing

Instagram @YouGotThis_Af

Please enter your email in the subscribe box on my home page.

Thanks for reading.

Af

I know life is tough for a lot of people at the moment. My posts and words are never made to make anyone jealous or show off a ‘good’ life. I hope that my adventures can make people happy, interest people and inspire people. I hope these games will show a unity for the world again. Be kind and be a legend.

Your First Lockdown

Your first Lockdown

As we get closer to being released back into the wild, we might start to reflect on the past 3 months. Time that felt like it would never end, has suddenly crept up on us, and we are now adapting and thriving in new ways. 

Lockdown has meant different things to everyone. I don’t believe two people have lived the same lockdown. We’ve had different living arrangements, family, children, people to care for, obstacles to overcome and anxieties to manage. 

Friends on furlough, family with health scares, children to entertain and a new solitude to try and understand. 

This is a message to everyone that is coming out of Lockdown feeling that they’ve not used the time wisely!

Week by week and day by day we’ve had to adapt to changes from a virus, government guidelines and daily challenges. It’s been tough. Every time are ships starts to settle, something new arrives and rocks the boat once more. 

Our social media has told us; about parents parenting better than us, creative minds learning instruments, languages and reading books. But.. it is important that we do not compare ourselves. We are all on our own race. It’s easier said than done. Including for myself. I struggled watching the world after a few weeks and for the first time since I opened my Facebook account in 2007, I deleted my account for a month. Deleted twitter and unfollowed numerous accounts on Instagram. At a time when we were told to stay connected more than ever, it became a time to have stronger connections with less people.

A friend asked me how difficult lockdown was. To be honest I have enjoyed the solitude and the extra hours in the day, without the commutes to work. I mentioned to my friend ‘I’ve done lockdown before. 3 months of isolation. It’s been like cancer treatment but without the chemo or stress.’ It might sound extreme, but I don’t think I’m alone with this. That was my first lockdown. 

I think the ‘most productive’ people I’ve spoken to are the ones that have suffered trauma before. My friend experienced a major car accident 2 years ago and endured his own 6-month lockdown in 2019, has dealt with this better than most. Doing online courses, starting a new profession, keeping fit. Adapting and thriving. The only difference between this lockdown and our traumatic lockdowns is that everyone has been isolated at the same time. We didn’t have weekly zoom quizzes because everyone else was too busy.

The reason I am saying this, is not to ‘rub it in’, about not being productive during your lockdown. I repeat ‘No two people have had the same lockdown’. The reason I am saying this… is that when you reflect on your lockdown you must understand it was for your own reasons. It may have been a time to just sit down and watch Netflix for a few weeks. That’s equally as beneficial as getting bigger muscles to some people. It may have been a time to reconnect with your partner, maybe even realise you don’t actually like your partner.

Our lives are constantly on the go and life is whizzing past us at a million miles per hour. It’s a time to reflect on what we enjoyed during the slower pace. The simpler things in life. Who made us feel special? Who we missed? Who we could count on? What direction in life we move in?

Those that have been on the front line have been working tirelessly and I salute you. My feeling is you might not have to buy a drink for a while. We owe you!

The rest of us that have slowed down have gone back to basics. Being nostalgic, riding bikes, taking walks, just sitting and enjoying the sunshine. Let’s not forget how the simplicities made us feel.  

So, whether you spent this lockdown in tears, with anxiety, sleepless nights and gradually conquered those emotions. Even just a little bit… That’s a win! 

If you learnt a new language, baking skills, DIY habits, gardening, a flatter stomach. Keep it going…That’s a win! 

If you learnt to tell someone you missed them, loved them, can’t wait to see them. And you can now express your emotions. That’s a win!

If this was your first lockdown congratulations!  

Be PROUD and celebrate the wins no matter how big or small they may seem. 

Now let’s move forward to becoming even better versions of ourselves…

Af

Time for Change

Make that change

I like people, I’m a social butterfly, people give me energy and inspiration. 

I hate people, I love being alone, people drain me and give me despair.

This virus is differentiating these people easily right now. I have been isolated for 8 days just leaving the house twice. 

The Change curve has never been so easily visual to watch people resist any change. 

Those people still in denial, we can’t change and have to accept that. 

They would rather resist any part of social conformity even if it meant cutting off their own nose to spite their face, saving thousands from dying or killing your gran. 

One more thing to realise about the change curve is that you don’t go through these stages just for acknowledging Coronavirus. 

It’s every stage for every change.

Working from home is a change which weeks ago we denied got angry for having to sort home arrangements and eventually we sorted a home office. 

The children being in or out of school which first we denied and then got angry about having to home school them but now have ideas and work plans in place. 

The shutting of pubs and shops and eventually the total lockdown that will come. 

The faster you can change from denial, whizz through anger and then end up at acceptance and problem solving then the stronger you will be in this crisis. 

As the Reverend Neil Biles would say “If you do not prepare…. You WILL Fail” 

What right have I got to talk about this? Why should I give advice like some sort of know it all? 

Firstly, I’ve accepted and watched this virus from the beginning and been called out sorts of scaremonger for it. Now it’s here.

Secondly, I spent 3 months in Isolation during chemotherapy where my blood counts were so low that if anyone gave me any sort of virus or infection, I would have become critically ill and risk my life. I know how boring it can get. Pick up the phone and MAKE THAT CALL!

Thirdly, spending 3 months in the county of Turkmenistan one of the few dictatorships left in this world where the entire nation has a lockdown curfew at 11pm every night (This is 2017 and to control people nothing to do with a virus). 

You have no freedom to do certain things like take photos or leave windows open. 

When those privileges of freedom are taken away from you it’s how you deal with that to prepare for change. Denial, Anger, Acceptance, problem solving. 

So, get ready for the BIGGEST change of our generation. PREPARE! 

It is not ME, it is WE. 

I am ready for that change as I have been there before, this time I have prepared everything, and I have my life jacket firmly on so that I can support others that might need it in weeks to come. 

Everyone has family members and people in their local community that will need the extra support. There will be people that just sort themselves out and watch Netflix for the next 4 weeks. We don’t need to encourage these people. 

There are people who do want to make a difference but first you must administer your own life jacket. 

Fix the roof when the sun is shining. For some of us there is more than a current light drizzle. 

WE, not ME! 

Blog – The Worst Day of My Life

The worst day of my life

“I’m just going to have a brief look back to see how far we’ve come.”

A sentence I said to my friend James whilst on a 15km long walk last week.

I’ve had a couple of low weeks recently and with not much happening or moving forward. I’m currently unemployed and been unsuccessful with a couple of job applications, I’m waiting on Christmas before making any decisions, and I am more single than I thought I was.

But…..

All I have to do is see where I was last year and look how far I have come to know that this is not the end. I love the quote “It will all be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end”

I nearly died!

One day last November 2016 I was so ill I nearly died and it wasn’t even the cancer that did it. I went into hospital for a third day in a row of chemotherapy treatment and could not sit up straight in the waiting room chair through exhaustion. The nurse asked if I was ok and started to check my observations. My heart rate was beating irregularly through the roof and would not settle.

Within seconds I was put into a wheelchair and rushed upstairs in an elevator to another ward whilst being uncontrollably sick into one of those sick buckets that look like a cardboard hat. I don’t know what was happening, but they had pumped me with 14 hours of chemotherapy the days before and the anti-sickness pills were wearing off fast.

Have you ever had pins and needles in your head? It was the most nauseating feeling ever. And I was getting hotter and hotter. The nurse that was pushing me in the wheel chair was panicking and went down to level 1 of the hospital rather than taking me up to level 4. She couldn’t find the ward and then when she pushed me back into the elevator she crashed the wheelchair into the side of the wall. That made me be sick again into the sick bucket which was now at its full level.

The week previously my sister had taken a photo of me when I was really struggling. I asked why she did it and she said I can’t always just focus on the positives. She then took this photo of me while I was out for the count.

The worst day of my life

 

I was laying on the hospital bed with my eyes shut, plugged into an ECG machine, with blood coming out my arms where all the needle pricks had not properly gone into a vein. I did not want to move one single finger or my eyelids in case that was the thing that raised my heart rate that extra beat to finally finish me off with a cardiac arrest.

One of the biggest reality checks of how dangerous chemotherapy is, is when the nurses administer the bags of it into you. They are covered in full protective clothing including protective gloves up to their elbows and they put the bags under red bits of plastic so that you can’t see the bags of fluid. You’re sat there thinking this nurse can’t get one tiny bit of fluid on her skin because it’s so dangerous, yet she’s pumping this fluid directly into my veins.

I was laying there thinking “great I’m on my way to surviving cancer and I’m going to die of a heart attack instead.” I remember it clearly. I was speaking to God or whoever was in my head listening to my thoughts and thinking “please just give me one more chance and I’ll be good and I’ll do all the things I’m meant to do. I’m not supposed to die yet, I’ve got so much more to do. I’ll be nicer to people, I won’t drink as much, I’ll eat more vegetables, I’ll be nicer to animals. Please just let me get through this.”

Soon the drugs started working again and I woke up some hours later. It was simply terrible and no words will ever justify that feeling of thinking I was about to die. I was meant to be in hospital for one hour that day. I was discharged 3 days later.

That day taught me a lot about myself and life.

What a bad week really looks like

Like I said, I was feeling low the last fortnight and partly is because I am waiting for the next AFventure. I love having time off work but it gets boring, I love being back home and spending time with family, and I love England but seriously it is so colddddd!!! I can’t deal with this temperature and it being dark at 4pm.

But all these times of being alone and having time to think is a good time to reflect on what has past and what is in the future. A good time to just stop and look backwards for a minute and see how far I have come, before looking forwards again. Something has changed this week and I am more determined than ever to reach my full potential and accomplish my dreams.

Recently I walked the 15km along the Jurassic Coast from Bowleaze Cove to Durdle Door with my friend James. Walking long distances can really reflect a life’s journey sometimes. It has uphill struggles, It has downs, sometimes you lose your path, the views at the top are amazing, you cross paths with people at the right time, sometimes the sun is shining on you and sometimes when it rains it pours. You can look back from time to time, and you can focus on the end goal but ultimately you must live in the now and enjoy the journey while it’s happening and take it all in!

Taking a picture standing on the edge and enjoying the view

 

You can’t just look backwards because that’s not the direction you’re going. You can’t just look at the end point of your walk because you might not even be able to see it yet. Just enjoy the walk you’re currently on. Enjoy what’s around you now and take it all in because before you know it they’ll be something else around the corner to tackle or enjoy.

Walks are always so true to life analogies too. Some of my favorite ones being ‘some of the best views require the toughest journeys’ and ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey’.

And that is where I am at now, just taking a pause to look back at where I started, before I continue my journey to reaching the top of my mountain. Confident in the knowledge that after every low moment I’ve ever had is when the most exciting things are just around the corner.

Live in the now!

‘You’re off to great places, Today is your day, You’re mountain is waiting, so get on your way!

Dr Seuss

Dr Seuss- You’re Mountain is waiting