Those 40 minutes… (An ode to Running)

I’m not the best or the fastest runner.

But those 40 minutes of running alongside trees,

the smell of the soil and the greenery around,

listening to music,

people watching, imagining what they are running from or to,

those stress, worry-free minutes when my body just feels alive and my mind can only hear my heart beat.

Breathing in the morning air, starting the day with a clear head.

A truly special level of mindfulness.

Pure bliss.




A foster carer, a former priest and other super humans: A night to remember

Thursday, 14th of June

Hannah picked me up from home. We are heading to BySea cafe in Portswood. The next live storytelling event is about to start in a couple of hours and I’m a tiny bit nervous. But I can’t wait. Exhilarated.

I keep hearing this in my head. Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest…And an acre before us…

Today is going to be a special one, I can feel it. As soon as I’ve read about the speakers.

Hannah and I went early to set up. It was all done in less than half an hour, we even had time for a cup of tea and an enormous slice of cake. The portions at Bysea are huge.

Tea and cake, BySea Portswood

I’m a little nervous because Debs asked me to host tonight’s event, talk at the start, introduce the speakers and bring it all to an end after the last speaker.

I love chatting but I never spoke in front of an audience before. I guess I did if you count the short speech at the last year of primary school, when I was 12 (which my cousin wrote for me, she was 18 at the time and was just about to study pedagogy to become a prime school teacher, she always wrote beautifully) and about 3 years ago the eulogy at my aunt’s funeral which again my cousin wrote, but this time it was for her mum and I was reading it on her behalf. Hardest thing I had to do in my life ever. To the day.

But I never ever spoke in English in front of an audience.

I don’t get too stressed nowadays, not any more but I was still a bit anxious. And also excited.

What’s the worst it could happen? 

Just before 8pm.

The place is buzzing. Debs and Hannah were worried not many people will show up, there were a couple of other events on the same night, but the place is full.

Time to go up!

I don’t want to look at my notes much so I look around, at our guests, into their eyes.

God everyone is staring at me! Why?

You are talking to them you silly. You are the centre of the attention. They are supposed to look at and listen to you.

I panicked for a second and I forgot a couple of things I needed to say, it’s OK you can mention them late, so I went ahead and introduced our first speakers.

Jon and Chris.

(I struggled to find the right words that can capture the beauty of their story. I hope I did it justice).

A sweet couple,  Jon and Chris came up on stage, and read out loud their story in turns. The story of their beloved daughter Katie. From the little I learned about her through her parents, she must have been an amazing human being. Despite all the tough ‘challenges’ (I hate this word, it cannot capture the pain, the torture, physical, emotional and mental that one can experience) life through at her, disability, cancer, she was determined to live life to the full.

She lived on her own, she drove, she studied at University and although when she was first diagnosed with cancer she was given a few years to live, she lived 17 more years. She proved them wrong!

She was incredibly strong, brave and considerate until the very end. The night before she died she listened to her friend talking about her everyday problems and worries, although she was in terrible pain herself. That’s the kind of person she was.

Jon and Chris went on to talk about how they are dealing with their grief, after Katie passed away 18 months ago and how their faith helped them. A friend once told Jon how grief is like a circle, the circle is all about the loved one you lost and at the start, you are in the centre of the circle, you cannot see past the sadness and the chaos. But as time goes by, you get out of the circle and it gets smaller, you can see beyond it, but it’s always there. You learn how to live with it. (I hope I remember it correctly, I got emotional at this point, it reminded me of my aunt, her death and how each of us are coping with it, in different ways, two and a half years later).

They took up new hobbies, e.g. Jon went on a cooking training class so she can teach others how to cook and they still do things Katie liked, not to reminisce and feel sad, but because they enjoy them too.

By the time they were done, I was already in tears. But it was time to get up and introduce the next speaker. I was so emotional I forgot to thank them publicly, on the mic, after I’ve given them their ‘I shared my story’ badges. What an idiot!


Next up it was Dominic. He started off with a poem (he had the smoothest, most beautiful voice, I hope he seriously considers my suggestion of him start doing podcasts)…

Breathing under water

I built my house by the sea.

Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.

A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
-and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.


Sr. Carol Bieleck, RSCJ
from an unpublished work

Dominic’s life was full of ups and downs, a friend used to call him Forrest Gump. And by the end of his talk I understood why.

The strict, often cruel teachers at the boarding school he went to, put him down, repeatedly told him he ‘won’t amount to much’.

Later in life he discovered he’d like to become a priest. It wasn’t an easy ride, he couldn’t even afford to buy the essentials on the list he was given, and he’d often borrow from the church in Portswood.

Five years after he became a priest, he suddenly, fell in love. He gave up priesthood to marry the love of his life.

After that he dealt with redundancy ‘One day I was a chief operative for a charity, the next day I was down at the job centre’  and other hurdles that came his way over the years.

His message: Life is unpredictable, you never know what the next day will bring you, but life is also beautiful, and when you learn to breath underwater, to face everything without drowning or giving up, you build a deepest, most meaningful appreciation for life.


The third speaker, Sam lost his dad to cancer about two years ago.

He found it hard to process his grief, until he discovered open water swimming.  ‘Those fifteen minutes when swimming becomes automatic and you don’t have to think about moving your arms or your legs, those fifteen minutes of clarity of mind’.

When I heard this my mind went straight to meditation and how I feel when I do my yoga.

And just after I thought of that, surprisingly, Sam said ‘my friends told me when I described it to them, that’s similar to meditation’.

I kept thinking what was the one thing that helped me the most to overcome my grief three years ago. Writing. That’s what helped me. This blog. 

Sam started a website since, Sporting Heads, where he shares stories, similar to his of mental health benefits of sports and exercise.

Jenny (ft Annie)

The last speaker Jenny (with the help of her dear friend Annie who interviewed her) is a foster carer. She fostered 52 children in 13 years!!

Jen shared incredible anecdotes of her life as a foster carer. What came across strongly was Jen’s unconditional love and care for the children, despite everything that comes with fostering a child.

A little girl she fostered used to defecate every time someone compliment her. Every time someone said ‘Isn’t she lovely?’. She is now doing much better, thanks to Jen.

This is just one of the many stories she shared with us.

Jen wouldn’t be able to do what she does without her support network, her friends, her family, her husband and ten children, and the community.

It’s not always easy, actually it’s not easy full stop. Most children come from troubled families, some they’ve been neglected others have been abused, they often struggle emotionally and physically, but with Jen’s love, care and patience, they grow stronger.

Annie read as a letter from one of Jenny’s foster children. It was impossible not to tear up.

I could sit and listen to these two ladies all night.

What a great way to end this wonderful evening.

At the end I got the chance to chat to some of these wonderful humans.

I asked Dominic about the poem he recited and told me how he came across it. He read it in a friend’s book, an American priest and was actually written by a nun. He gave me a copy to take home. What a sweet man.

I had a great chat with Annie, who I found out earlier amongst a million other things she does, she runs Communicare, a Southampton mental health charity tackling loneliness and isolation, which I recently signed up as a volunteer. Superwoman!

I went home feeling inspired, touched, blessed, happy, honoured I got to introduce and hear the stories of these amazing people.

If you have a story to share, get in touch. Everyone has a story. We all have a story. And that’s what Touch is all about, share our stories, learn from each other, touch each other’s lives.

And if you get the chance, come along to one of the events. Intimate, inspirational, so beautifully simple, humanity at it’s best.




Blogmas day 7- Wind and Rain. And Christmas shopping

Today didn’t start very well.

Disrupted sleep, bizarre dreams. And I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. My legs ached. A lot.

But I gathered up all my strength, got ready and got out of the flat. It was windy and it rained pretty badly but I snuggled up to my shawl, crawled down the stairs and opened up my already half broken umbrella.

It did nothing. The wind was so strong the umbrella completely broke on my way to work, my hair was ruined and looked as if I came out of a 60s movie all day and my already battered legs got soaking wet.

Not a good start. Fortunately at lunchtime the rain stopped so I made my final Christmas shopping purchases i.e. wrapping paper, gift tags and Christmas cards and a new umbrella!

On my way home I normally walk through Bedford Place, living in the area and all and I expected it to be busy with all the festivities planned but it was pretty quiet. The only Christmas related event was three lovely ladies dressed up as elves giving out free sports massage vouchers. Not sure if I missed it….

I’m about to go to my first viewing now. I’m feeling a little nervous. I don’t know what to ask, what to observe since I’ve never done this before. How do you decide if you want to live with a complete stranger assuming he would want to live with me? It will be an interesting experience either way.

After that is time for some Christmas gift wrapping.

Christmas wrapping

Here’s to Friday! I’m already exhausted but I can’t wait for the weekend. It’s going to be an awesome one.




Blogmas day 6- Legs and decs

I’m currently sitting on my sofa, legs stretched out. I can barely feel them, but I can definitely feel the pain when I have to climb even the smallest step. I’m sure strangers on the street noticed my funny walk on the way home as I couldn’t bend my knees. I had a laugh looking at the expression on their faces.

I just came home after my PT session. On Monday after all the fun, cheese and mulled cider I couldn’t possibly exercise afterwards. Well I could, but I would have probably thrown up. I’m glad I re-scheduled it for today! I was tempted to re-arrange again because I had an unbelievable amount of chocolate the last two days that made me feel really heavy and sleepy after the sugar rush and I got sore throat but I knew I shouldn’t.

It was a tough session but I’m proud of myself for making it until the end. I can’t believe I managed to push 59 kg with my legs, that’s heavier than myself!!! Apparently some have already dropped out, but I’m determined not to. Fingers crossed. Sam is such a great trainer, he pushes me when he has to but he swiftly moves to another exercise when I struggle. Having the gym to ourselves with my own music on makes such a difference!

At lunchtime I got some desk Christmas decs. The miniature Christmas tree looks perfect next to my miniature Elsa (I still love Kinder eggs, hence all the random toys on my desk).

Sheba managed to find two advent calendars for herself and me yesterday and I’m really happy we can keep our annual tradition going, even for the last time!

I spent a lot of time on Spareroom over the last couple of days. It’s unbelievably difficult to make a decision but going for my first viewing tomorrow…

But first… I can’t wait for the Christmas Spectacular at Bedford Place.

Now time for dinner, rest and music. Today I’ve discovered this beauty that hit home, Forgotten How to Fly by Clay.  I fall in love with music over and over every single day… I’ll leave you with that.




My first In Balance Hot Yoga experience

About a month ago at the Networking and Breakfast event organised by Women Who Do  I met Benedita, who recently moved to Southampton and gave up her career in hotel management to start In Balance Hot Yoga.

Since I discovered and fell in love with Yoga, I can’t stop talking about it so I was instantly drawn to Bene and we started chatting.

A couple of weeks ago I met Bene and her partner Ian for a coffee to learn more about them and what they do and I absolutely loved them.

Bene is originally from Portugal and she worked in London for years. She fell in love with yoga after going to a hot yoga class and she loved it so much she trained, as well as her partner Ian, under Dylan Ayaloo, the Founder of Hot Power Yoga in London,  who I really want to meet after everything Bene and Ian told me about him.  Yoga and her teacher training guided Bene through self-discovery and reaching a higher level of self-awareness, exactly what she needed at that point in her life. It seems that’s how most people fall in love with yoga, it comes in their life when they need it the most.

She started teaching yoga part-time alongside her full-time job and she realised that’s what she wanted to do for a living. After she moved to Southampton to work as a general manager at a local hotel, she decided it was time to chase her dream. She quit her job and herself and Ian started In Balance Hot Yoga. They run classes every day and regular workshops at the top floor of one of my favourite places in Southampton, Harbour Lights, overlooking the marina.

Harbour Lights
Harbour Lights

My bestie, Sheba went to a session a while ago and she messaged me afterwards saying ‘Just finished the hot yoga class, it was incredible!’, so after meeting Bene and Ian, who asked me to try it and blog about it in exchange for free classes, of course I said yes. I really wanted to try it anyway and I would have blogged about it even if they hadn’t offer me free classes.

I only blog about things I’m passionate about and I really want to and yoga is now part of my life and one of the very few things I do daily.

So last Saturday Sheba and I booked ourselves at the 11am beginners class. We decided to walk there as the route to Harbour Lights is beautiful, through the city centre parks, Oxford street and Ocean Village. I forgot how beautiful, charming and peaceful this part of the town is.

As soon I walked in the room, I felt the heat in every part of my body and memories flooded in. It reminded me of home on a hot summer day, during a power cut, sitting in the living room sweating, waiting for the power to come back on so we can turn the air-con on but in the meantime using whatever we can as a fan.

I just loved the heat. I’ve been living in the UK for 9 years now and I still miss the sun and the heat.

It also smelled amazing thanks to the burning incense sticks, which makes a huge difference, if like me, scents make you fall in love with a place and enhance your experiences.

The actual class was amazing. Bene is a hands-on instructor, helping you correct the poses if you don’t get them right and her voice is calming and smooth. For me the yoga instructor is the most important, essential element of a yoga practice, they are the ones guiding the session and to enjoy and fully embrace yoga, you need to find a teacher who inspires you and Bene is a truly inspirational human.

We started and ended the session with three oms which I found deeply spiritual and beautiful and we went through most of the main yoga poses through a vinyasa flow, fast-paced and empowering.

I smiled when Bene mentioned how our balance on the mat reflects what’s going in our lives. It is 100% absolutely true. When my balance is off is because my mind is troubled and I worry or I’m sad about things. Give it a go. Stand on one foot and check your balance and take a minute to look inwards and acknowledge your feelings in that moment.

The last pose before Shavasana was the fish pose which is becoming one of my favourite. It reminded me of when I was a child lying on the sofa upside down, feet up, my head touching the floor, feeling the blood flow through my head. I still sometimes do it…

Throughout the class random memories kept coming up, the heat reminded me of home so much my mind immediately went there, hot summer days, at home, at the beach, with family, with my friends. I felt relaxed, calm, happy, during and after the session.

I’m definitely going back again. Who knows what will happen next time?

One the reasons I love yoga, other than the physical benefits is how it helps me discover myself in ways I’d never imagine, and I learn something new every time. I’m still on the early days of my self-exploration journey and so far it’s been amazing.

After our yoga class, we passed by No4 cafe and wine bar on Canute Road. Shebz always wanted to try it so we decided to be spontaneous and treat ourselves to brunch. Delicious!

No4 brunch
No4 brunch

We then wandered into town, popping into one of my favourite shops, Rice-up, a local wholefood independent grocery shop in the city centre. I love their choice of tea, herbs, spices and nuts, my favourite isles to browse!

What a beautiful day it was. Thank you Bene for making it incredible. I can’t wait for my next session! If you decide to give it a go, come and say hi, I’d love to meet you 🙂

I’m always fascinated by how others get into yoga, you can read my story here, share yours in the comments below if you want to!




Yoga Tuesday

Today was emotional.

I have just finished my last session of my 31 day yoga revolution with Adriene Mishler.  I started crying even before it started.

I can’t believe it’s been a month already.

It feels like yesterday I reluctantly decided to give it a go.

I never in a million years thought I’d stick to it, let alone I’d actually look forward to getting back on my mat every single day. It’s been the highlight of my day for the last month.

I’ve written all about it recently if you want to find out more.

Today is all about what I learned from it, besides strengthening my body, my balance, my posture. Besides the physical benefits of it.

I learned how to be aware, present in the moment.

I learned how to let all my worries and negative thoughts fly away whilst I concentrate on my breathing and my inner smile.

I learned to be more mindful and confident.

Above all I learned to love and care for myself. I learned to trust myself.

I feel I’ve grown so much within the last month, more I’ve grown over the last couple of years.

Yoga will always now be part of my life. And it’s all because of Adriene. I’ve been to yoga and pilates classes before but never grabbed me enough to keep going.

But Adriene with her wicked sense of humour, spontaneous singing, calmness and genuine love for what she does showed me the way.

Adriene, if you happen to read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I felt, as I’m sure thousands of people who have followed your yoga revolution programme have, the love and care you put into this.

I feel grateful, blessed and privileged I’ve been on this journey with you.





Patience is the path

Happy Tuesday! Well. Sort of. It’s been a challenging day for me.

I found it extremely hard to concentrate.

I spent most of the day at work writing my PDR. I know that PDRs are supposed to be useful and necessary (although I believe that a large part of it is not of any use depending on your role and responsibilities, it should be shorter and more concise) but surely I’m not the only one that’s dreading it?

So I had to exercise my patience and perseverance skills. Every time I got distracted (and that happened A LOT throughout the day) I put my music back on and wrote a little bit more, and then a little bit more.

And I’m almost done. I should be done by tomorrow. But oh my Lord it was hard to keep going.

The selection of delicious homemade cakes freshly prepared by a colleague (thank you Craig!) brightened my day and lunchtime was a pleasant break. Sunshine makes any day better (although it’s harder to concentrate and be motivated to keep working when the sun is shining outside and you are stuck behind a desk) and spending lunch with my best friend in the sun is one of my favourite things to do.

Sheba and I went to where most Solent people go if they fancy quick lunch, Mettricks. I do love this place. Not only because it has delicious food, great coffee and tea, good vibe (love the leather armchairs!) but also because it is local and independent.

That’s what I think Southampton needs more of. Character, uniqueness, individuality (no more chain restaurants and shops!). And Mettricks is one of the very few independent cafes in the city centre, with Halladays being my all time favourite! If you haven’t been, you should!

We spent our lunch chatting, whinging, laughing, dreaming of sunny holidays and travelling, craving new beginnings, whilst having a nice cup of tea.

Not sure what to make of the tea I had-trying new things is always exciting- it was one of the weirdest tastes I’ve ever experienced (it’s called Lapsong and it’s very smokey, it tastes how I’d imagine boiling a tree brunch or a stick in water would taste, if that makes any sense!). But I loved sitting in the sun chatting away with one of my favourite people, and occasionally waving at Solent Colleagues passing by.

Although there was this baby, he must have been around 10 months old, maybe a bit younger, sitting just opposite us, who wouldn’t stop giving us death stares the whole time we were there, not smiling at all, not even once. It was the first time I was ever scared of a baby!

death stare

And then I came home to do my Yoga practice. Day 24 woohoo.

And today’s theme was patience! Either irony, coincidence or an opportunity to continue practising patience!

It was a 47 minute long session, that I just finished doing. And it has completely and utterly relaxed me.

So I guess my message for today is patience is a virtue. Is not in any way or sense easy. But the more you practise it, the better you get at it.

And remember to enjoy every little moment, even when you are patiently working towards your goals, dreams or aspirations, whatever they might be. You do not want to miss the present because you are only looking forward to the future.

I’m not sure that everything it is as it should be, as often Adriene says, but I’m now super ready to face tomorrow.



I relapsed, now what?

Happy sunny Sunday!

I just came back from a run and I feel great. I love the high, my body flooding with adrenaline and endorphin.

I sometimes exercise at home and as you might know, I’ve been doing Yoga every day for the last 20 days and I love it. I’ve recently posted about it if you want to know more. You can have a read here.

Yoga relaxes me, I feel more confident and has already taught me a lot on how to love and take care of myself. But I need cardio in my life. I need the high and I desperate want to improve my stamina and strength.

I love Zumba and dancing. I can’t afford either right now, and when it comes to dancing, there are not many options in town (if you know of any do let me know!).

I love running. I know it’s not for everyone. For me, putting on music (I highly recommend the personal running mix on Spotify, it picks up your tempo first and selects songs based on your pace and the music you love), looking around, enjoying the moment (and often stopping to take a photo to remember that moment) the air on my face, my heart beating fast, is one of the best feelings in the world.

But I don’t go running that often. I often come back from work tired, hungry and I struggle to find the motivation to get out and go running or do any form of exercise.

So I often relapse. As I do with most things.

I eat healthy most of the time but I can’t resist a treat and LOVE a pizza on a Friday.

Some days I struggle to stay positive and I let myself become sad and depressed. And some days I feel like doing nothing at all.

But I promised myself that every time I relapse, I need to get back on it. And since then I feel much better. Because I know a moment or a day of weakness doesn’t mean I should let myself go, I should not give up.

Coincidentally, I recently came across relapse management in a book I’ve been reading on CBT, An introduction to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Skills and Applications (Westbrook D. et al, 2007). It’s a heavy read at times but very educational.

Relapse management is such a vital skill for everyone to develop. Not only in therapy but in daily life. The book suggests to ask yourself the following every time you relapse:

  • How can I make sense of this?
  • What have I learnt from it?
  • With hindsight, what would I do differently?

In this way, you learn more about your vulnerabilities, weaknesses, yourself and also gives you a plan, so after each set-back you can still get back on it and reduce the chances of relapsing again.

So that’s my message for today!

Relapsing of any form does not mean giving up or starting from scratch.

Relapsing means you are a human being and if you look at it as a chance to learn more about yourself and improve your mental and physical wellbeing, you’ll feel much happier and confident.

Amen 🙂