forever young

Of all the photos of our fabulous weekend away, this is my favourite by far.

Yes, I  know my head is a bit chopped off and my dress is hitched up a bit too high and well, knees are ugly – all knees are ugly.

But I love what it represents. The feeling that it encapsulates.

In that moment, I was eight years old. Completely absorbed in what I was doing. Completely unaware that I was having my photo taken. I was in my own world. My own happy place. I didn’t care what anyone else was doing. Whatever anyone else thought of me.

I was relaxed and happy and having a whole lot of fun.

I love the spotty wellies and the tie dye dress combo.

Most of all, I love the stance. Sturdy. Determined. Focused. Strong.

In moments like that, we can be forever young. Time stands still. Age is meaningless.

Moments like that cannot be manufactured. They’re magical. They come from nowhere. Unexpectedly, we are suddenly caught up in the magic of the moment. And then all we have to do is go with it.

Marvel. Wonder. Savour and enjoy. Let go. Forget.

Immerse ourselves in the here and now.

Connect with that ‘forever young’ corner inside each one of us.

People often comment how lucky we are to have such a good group of friends. And yes, we are all grateful for what we have. I know that. None of us take it for granted (although sometimes I think we don’t realise how special and unusual what we have is – when you’re init, you maybe don’t see it…). But we all know one thing: it’s not luck. It’s taken a lot to get us to where we are today.

friends 2A lot of years for a start. Some of us have been working on this for approaching twenty years. We met together every week when our kids were toddlers. We’ve dealt with our kids bickering. We’ve worked through our petty jealousies about our kids’ achievements. We’ve seen our kids grow from toddlers to teenagers. None of that’s been easy at times.

We’ve all been willing to have a go at new things. We’ve had our adventures. It’s great how not everyone does everything. We feel able to say ‘no, I don’t want to do that.’ So some run. Some dance. Some sing. Some cycle. Some do yoga. Some eat cake. Some go to the gym. Some shop. Some go to church. Each to their own. Give it a try and see if it’s for you. If not, no worries.

We’ve stuck with it. That’s important too. Different women have come and gone in that time. Some have stuck. Some have drifted away. Friendship has been a priority in our lives. We’ve put time and effort into it. There may have been seasons where individuals have withdrawn a little when we’re dealing with big stuff to do with our work or family or health, but we’ve come back. Friendship matters.

friendsI was reflecting this morning on how friendship is built on a series of steps. Tiny steps sometimes. Everything we do and say matters. It has an effect. When we do or say something a bit selfish of unkind, we move a step away from that friend. When we do or say something thoughtful or kind, we move a step closer to that friend. Of course, over time, these little steps forwards and backwards generally balance out and we maintain a healthy friendship. If there are too many steps away, then we start to lose touch, drift away – that friend may not want to spend time with us so much if we are putting them down constantly (even if we call it teasing). And a succession of steps towards will bring us closer to a particular friend. Something to ponder on maybe…

So what three things would I say are the secrets of a friendship group like ours?

  1. A thick skin

There’s a lot of teasing goes on. It would be easy to take offence. Learning to brush off the small stuff is really important. Everyone is so comfortable with each other that everything is out there. We lay ourselves open to be teased. There’s no place for being oversensitive and taking everything too seriously.

2.  Trust

We talk about A LOT. We expect what’s said when we’re together to stay between us. We are very relaxed together. We trust each other to allow us to be ourselves and not judge us. If we were on edge worrying what everyone was thinking of us, our times together would not be as freeing or as much fun. We want to have a safe space to be ourselves and for that to be OK.

3. Acceptance

We are all different. Very, very different. We each have a different role to play in the group. There is never any pressure to conform. We have very different opinions and beliefs. We allow that. We don’t feel the need to make everyone think or behave like us. Everyone is allowed to be themselves. No one dominates. We make space for each person to express themselves. So yes, sometimes people can get on our nerves. That’s life. That’s the nature of being in a group. We accept each other as they are. That’s how it works.

In our group (which is constantly changing), everybody takes a thousand tiny steps – each comment we make, each thoughtful gesture we make, each time we put ourselves out for each other. That’s what friendship is all about. We each get out what we put in. A cliche I know, but it really is that simple.

So yes, I am lucky, but no way was it luck that we got to where we are today.


I knew the look I was going for months ago.  Far, far away from what I normally wear, far away from the comfy everyday clothes. I planned and planned. I scanned the internet stealing ideas from all over the place. I wasn’t going for “pretty” or “beautiful”…..those are never words I would use on me.  More “special” or “unique”. 19-8-49

I wrote about my skirt in an earlier blog……… Hardcore Princess……The skirt made me feel amazing – so amazing that I bought it twice, in black and grey from Kirsty Doyle.  Next came the shoes…..these had to be a statement.  I’d pondered the idea of Irregular Choice shoes for years but never actually got around to buying any. This was my perfect chance to indulge.  Choosing which pair would prove way more difficult than I’d thought, but eventually I found them, not too high (I’m already quite tall and very rarely wear heels).  They had to have a bow and flowers and maybe some mint green if at all possible…….It was as if these shoes were made for me.20-8

Then it was pretty simple – 2 tops and a tiara lol. Honestly, every girl should have a tiara at least once.  I’m from an era that didn’t do prom and I had the teeniest wedding ever.  My party was the excuse to wear all the beautiful things I’d ever wanted.

And it worked.  I put on all these individual items and felt amazing, special and confident.  Like this was the me I was always meant to be.  Realising that my wardrobe needs a full overhaul and I need to feel this good everyday……OK, maybe not everyday but more often.  I love that clothes have the power to make you feel completely different about yourself.  I now have to find a way to make tulle skirts practical all year round.

I could feel myself calming down the further away from home I got, and the journey was just over an hour.  The laughing started and the cries of  “It’s all about you Helen!!” (in joke) began.  By the time we arrived, I was ready. Ready to totally embrace what was to come.  It would all work out the way it would because there was no other choice.  I was going to throw myself into it and maybe my guests would too.

As soon as I opened the door to our stunning venue, I was blown away.  Dales Chapel is a beautiful old converted chapel. Based on the pictures I knew it would be lovely but had no idea of the scale to this building.  Like children, Helen R, Amanda H and I ran around, trying to find all the bedrooms and discovering endless stairs.  This was definitely the right choice of venue.  So we unpacked the car……..No wait, we opened a bottle of bubbly then unpacked the car.  We had 2 hours before people would be arriving and I wanted to get the place dressed before they got here.  Nothing fancy, some balloons, fluff the paper flowers and lay the table.

19-8-3It was lovely as everybody arrived. They were all as excited as me, all amazed by the house and the space and the plans, all commenting on the little things…….and that’s when I thought that this might actually work…….Honestly, I’m not usually the pessimist!!

Once everyone (barring Ruth and Gill) had arrived, we all went up to get ready into our party clothes. First night was to be a fancy, proper party. My vision had everyone putting the effort in, as if they were going somewhere special.  We had to be ready for the whole weekend and our first team had to serve the “Drinks on arrival”…….and oh they did……as we all got ready into our party clothes, Barbara and Sandra got ready into something quite different but completely hysterical…… We drank coffee, ate cake and went shopping??  Haha, I’m sure that last part was pure exhibitionist of all our behalves but we did. We walked 200 metres to the local shop……where nobody batted an eyelid at the 2 maids in waiting and the grown woman in a tutu and tiara…..This town has clearly seen it all before!!

Next up was evening meal. Last minute change of plans meant Helen R was doing this alone……One woman and 13 meals?? Don’t stress it’s Helen R (with a little help from Amanda H, lets not talk about the chopping of carrots!) – she can cope with anything, and she did.  As we mulled around, she steamed, boiled and roasted a full roast dinner and it was delicious.  Followed by Amanda H’s huge homemade pavlova.  We were all stuffed and happy.  We spent the next couple of hours playing games at the table, Thumbs being a big hit and the sound of laughter filling what was a huge echoey space when we’d arrived earlier that day.  The rest of the evening was taken up by drinking cocktails and laughing into the small hours…….well 3am.  Seemed like a good combination to me!

afternooon teaI was up ridiculously early for someone who had been drinking all of the day before. It must have been the excitement. Anyway as I went downstairs at 9ish, the breakfast team had already started…….For the next 2 hours, Gill and Sarah served fruit, pancakes, tea, coffee, muffins, bacon, sausage……the works…..oh apart from hashbrowns (found in the freezer just too late lol) I’m not kidding, this was like being at a buffet in some hotel. After breakfast we all got ready. This was free time, time to split up, go and discover the village, read a book, quiet time.  A few of us wandered through the village (me still dressed as a princess) looking at the local shops, some stayed back to enjoy the peace and quiet.  The weather was glorious, so when we got back, we sat in the garden. More drinks flowed and more laughing happened.

We were instructed by the Afternoon tea team that we were not allowed in the kitchen (which is effectively the whole downstairs!!) until we were called for.  So we all disappeared into our rooms. All my ladies got changed into their Vintage Tea Party clothes.  And we waited!

Ruth, Amanda B, Cheryl and Yvonne put on a very traditional afternoon tea.  The table was straight out of a vintage tea room, a vintage dinner service kindly donated by Amanda H sat on a table full to bursting with teeny sandwiches, cakes, scones, chocolate strawberries….the works.  Three tier cake stands, flowery napkins.  Milk bottles filled with flowers.  It really was beautiful.20-8-2

And relax………next planned in was a pamper session.  I’d asked everyone to bring something that could be shared or used by everyone.  I brought all my nail varnishes, others brought lotions and potions, creams and candles.  We all drifted off into our own worlds yet were still all together.  Discovering a reflexology book and having Helen R the great masseuse was hilarious.  “ooh I can feel that right in my chest”  “but squeezing here should relate to your eye Sandra!!”  And then the drink started flowing again.  Oh and the snacks, cold bacon sandwiches, cheese on toast (thanks Cheryl) and sausage sandwiches.  We put a movie on…..less said about that the better lol.  And talked and laughed….and laughed…..and laughed till it hurt.

Our last team, Joanne and Lorna were far more relaxed haha, and Im not sure we had room but we managed to make our way through more fruit, pastries, muffins  as people prepared to leave.20-8-3

I really think that it was all the little things that made a difference, all the extra things that we did to make it special.  The fact that people wanted to come even though it meant arriving at 10.30pm or cycling across the moors in the wind or knowing they were leaving for a family holiday straight after.  I don’t want to miss anything out, but I’m sure I have and I’m also sure that you all have your own memories, little jokes exchanged with your room mate after we’d all gone to bed. I really wanted people to have fun and leave with happy memories and I really think that is what we achieved.  I was blown away by the effort everyone put in, the thought that happened before you arrived, the planning, the getting together in your groups.  This was not about me (lol), this was about us.

I was going to bed on one of the nights and Lorna stopped me to tell me what a wonderful time she was having. She was beaming and I felt my heart leap, because that was what I’d hoped for, that level of happy. I hope you all felt it, because I know I did.

Thank You Ladies x


About a year ago, I made the desicion that I was going to do something special for my 40th Birthday.  I’m not big on birthdays, have never had a party (ever!!) but felt like this birthday was significant.  I spent weeks pondering what to do or where to go, to have a family thing or to include friends or better still include a bit of both.  Right from the off, my birthday would be indulgent but very much about making other people happy, giving people some fun memories.

Eventually the choice was made…….A beautiful converted chapel, Dales Chapel, was booked and 13 gorgeous women invited to join me for a weekend of complete indulgence.  Now I’m not going to lie. I thought I would invite all these women and they would very kindly refuse, finding some excuse to be anywhere but with me in the middle of the school holidays……But no. They all said yes. I was completely thrilled and amazed and super excited.20-8b

Now I know that I have a tendency to become slightly obsessed about things, especially when I’m excited, but I made the decision to not make any other plans until we had got Christmas out of the way………I wanted everyone to be focused on MY party.

I mulled over lots of different themes, 70’s, boho, flapper……..I even tried to fool the girls into thinking it was going to be a Star Wars party for a while, but eventually I decided on a Vintage Tea Party, and at Easter, we all got together to start organising.  Now I’m not one for being told what to do, but with so many of us I felt it was important that nobody got left out.  In the group, there were lots of close friends but also those who knew others less well.  With the help of Helen R, we allocated rooms and then divvied up the meals.  Nobody was going to get left doing all the washing up. Everyone would be part of a meal, start to finish, then they got time to enjoy the next part.  I loved that within the meals were women that never really had had the need to work together in the past.  Mind, who was to say this would even work?

20-8Right from the beginning, I knew that my party outfit was going to be very important and it was. I was beyond excited about making it happen. It was going to be all the little things that made the difference.  But I wanted everyone to feel the same.  Dress code was……Something that makes you feel amazing, pretty, girly and feminine.  Now there were ladies in this group that I have never ever seen in a dress…..I mean we are all going to and from school and church in our normal everyday clothes.  This had to be special. It was the only thing that I was adamant about.  You see I thought about it all, and as much as this was my party, I really wanted all these women who had chosen to spend time with me to have the best time ever, to feel special and different from the everyday.

As the weekend got closer and closer, my house became fuller and fuller of all the things I needed to make it work. Homemade drinks with little bottles to put them in, paper flowers all ready to be unfluffed when we got there, shoes, skirts, sweetie jars, napkins……..honestly my house was full to bursting, there was no escaping.  I even set about making candles in teacups as gifts for my guests.  But as the time grew closer, my nerves began to show……What on earth am I doing?  What if they hate it? What if they all cancel? What if they get bored? I am going to let everyone down and it’s going to be a disaster……….I don’t think I’ve been so churned up for a long time, even having some meltdown about my tiara on the morning we left, and I know it was all nerves. Maybe that’s the reason I don’t do parties…

Anyway there was no turning back now……we pushed and shoved and crammed everything we had into the teeny car that would take us on our adventure and we were on our way………….