When I was at school I loved to sing and was in the school choir and many musicals over the years. My favourites were Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 13, followed by Nancy in Oliver – with my brother who played Bill Sykes, my boyfriend. He enjoyed beating me up on stage for three nights in a row with his jemmy in his hand!
When I went to college, followed by Uni and then work, I sang rarely except on Christmas Eve where I always sang with my father at church. It was a family tradition and he had a marvellous deep voice which matched my soprano perfectly. I still love to sing Christmas carols and so love this time of year.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve sang carols with my church choir, St Michael’s, and I’ve sang with the Christian Together singers in the church and at The Hideaway cafe in Seaton who have raised money for charity. Yesterday I also sang with just three of my church choir at the Beer Best Years Club. With the St Michael’s Christingle Service this Sunday, two services on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day I will get my fill of my favourites – O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and O Little Town of Bethleham. These are my all time go to carols as they all have wonderful descants for sopranos where you sing a different tune from the congregation; usually at very high notes!
The earliest Christmas carols were actually pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced around stone circles. The word Carol actually means a song of praise and joy or a dance, and they used to be sang all year round however it is now the tradition to sing them only at Christmas. The first time I sing carols each year is at choir practise on a Wednesday in early December and the last time we sing them is on Christmas morning, and then sadly it’s all over for another year.
There’s so many carols to choose from when a service is held but I think by the time I’ve gone to all these services I’ll have sung every popular carol there is and my favourites at least 7 times. Do you have a favourite carol at Christmas?
Whether you actually celebrate Christmas or not many people take holiday from work at this time to spend it with friends and family. The Folletts will be in Beer as all the cottages are fully booked over the whole period, but on the big day itself we’re with friends in Beer – we’ll play games and maybe even sing a carol or two!
In September 2018 I found out that I wasn’t breathing properly. I had gone to Ilfracombe to do a couple of yoga classes with Dan Peppiatt of Yoga Like Water to see if I clicked with him as I was considering doing his yoga teacher training course. I pitched up thinking I was going to have this great challenging Vinyasa Flow class and in the end we sat and had a quick chat about life, and then proceeded to breathe for both classes. After the first hour I went back to my bed and breakfast and thought ‘what just happened? I paid for a private yoga class where I just sat and breathed!’
Actually what happened was the start of a transformation. It turns out that Dan discovered almost immediately that I was a paradoxical breather. What does that mean? Well basically I was holding my stomach ‘in’ constantly and when I breathed in my stomach went in even further! Basically there was no movement and I was shallow breathing into my chest area. To really understand what I’m saying just put your hand on your tummy and breathe normally. Usually what happens is when you breathe in your tummy expands and when you breathe out it goes back. Well mine didn’t, and it probably stems from when I was 16 and studying for my O’Levels. That was the moment when I can remember my anxiety and stress starting and it really didn’t go away until we started our new life in Beer.
So for the last year I’ve learnt how to breathe. I’ve spent hours re-training and re-wiring my brain to breathe as I should normally and as a result my yoga has gone from strength to strength. Usually in a class when a teacher said ‘breathe into your belly’, I’d be thinking ‘what?! I just don’t get it. How can you breathe into your belly?’. Now I get it and I’m able to relax more and go deeper into postures. I’m able to practise and go off into a meditative state.
As for the yoga teacher training, I did start it in February this year and have completed the training over seven weekends. Last Sunday was the last session and the final assessment was finished. I now need to submit a couple of essays and will be ready to teach from January if I want to. I started the course 90% certain that I wasn’t going to teach; I just wanted to learn more about yoga as it’s become my passion. I’m now thinking that I will start in 2020 so watch this space………and remember to breathe.
Since living in the South West I’ve realised the importance of regional airports (it was never an issue when we lived in Woking as we were near to both Heathrow and Gatwick). Every October for the last few years I’ve been to Turkey and travelled from Bristol, an hour and half away from Beer. This year I was all set to do the same with friends until the demise of Thomas Cook and I thought that we might not be able to go.
However Nicki and Andy Richardson of Let’s Go Travel immediately swung into action and within a couple of days had rebooked our flights so we could go, albeit from Luton! Whenever I think of Luton I think of that song by Cats UK – ‘Luton Airport OOOOOWEEEEOOOO’ or the Campari adverts with Lorraine Chase.
What an epic journey we had to get there –
1. Car to Taunton train station
2. Train to Paddington
3. Tube to St Pancras
4. Train to Luton Airport Parkway
5. Bus to the airport
6. Flight from Luton to Antalya
7. Taxi from Antalya to hotel
It would have been the same 7 legs back if we hadn’t had gone to Terminal 2 instead of 1 and had to get another taxi to the correct terminal. School girl error, reminder to self to double check the terminal….
Still I can’t complain, I got to go on my holiday and many didn’t. You can’t complain when you think of the fall out of Thomas Cook – on 23rd September it went into administration, a company that was 178 years old. On that day 21,000 people were left without jobs and 600,000 were already on holiday with them, with 1 million advance bookings. What a mammoth task to get those people home which they did, most of them on the same day.
I had a lovely holiday but I wonder, one month on, how many people out of the 21,000 have found jobs…….
So I’ve now been on this earth for more than 50 years…….what to write at this stage of my life? Such a lot to cover however I’ve limited myself to 5 things that I’m grateful for –
- First has to be the new life Barry and I have created in the beautiful fishing village of Beer. Who knew that turning our backs on the corporate world for good in 2016 would lead to this wonderful and fulfilling new life where we help others to escape from work? Life is unrecognisable from three years ago.
- Second I’m grateful that Mum is now down in Devon with us, Alex and Simon are settled in Seaton, our town next door, Richard and Rachel are getting married in the garden next May and Josh has started his new job post graduating this summer – all leading to a sense of inner peace in my now 50 year body.
- Third I’m glad that my 50 year old body is probably fitter than its ever been with daily yoga and having started yoga teacher training this year (there are still aches and pains but I’m responsible for them!). I may never teach but it’s been great learning new skills and breathing my way to a calmer Helen (the family may disagree that I’ve changed……), but I feel better mentally than ever before.
- Fourth I have to mention that I’m grateful to be surrounded by a cocoon of friends, old and new, who celebrated with me on Saturday. My oldest friends came from Italy and London and what a special night of 80’s music it was!
- Lastly I’m grateful for the confidence my teenage and twenty-something woman never had. When I was hurtling towards 50 I finally realised that I can say ‘No’, I don’t have to make excuses for myself and basically it’s my life and I can do what I want with it.
That’s my list in a nutshell. Who knows whether I’ll have another 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 45 years – my marvellous grandmother had her 95th birthday last July. Would I rather be 49? Maybe, but I’ve decided I’m going to fully embrace my 50’s!
Regatta Week is over for another year, the fourth one we’ve experienced since moving to Devon permanently in June 2016. It was as fun filled as ever, jam packed with activities such as barrel rolling, decorated rafts and beach huts and the best fancy dress competition ever.
At the end of Regatta there is a Seaside Songs of Praise service on Charlie’s Yard. This is right by the beach and it used to be where boats were built years ago. So much about Beer is centred around our beach and our love of the sea. The beach and sea are still the providers of a way of living, with working fishermen and boats that can be hired out to fish for mackerel. Then you have the keen luggers and sailors who use the sea for the thrill of sailing.
One of my favourite hymns was sang at the service and it’s about asking God to protect those who are on the sea –
Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm doth bind the restless wave.
Who bid’st the mighty ocean deep, it’s own appointed limits keep.
O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.
O Trinity of love and power, our brethrn shield in danger’s hour.
From rock and tempest, fire and foe, protect them whereso’er they go.
And ever let there rise to thee, glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
Enjoy the rest of the summer and if you are lucky enough to swim in the sea stay safe out there!
‘The Happy to Chat’ bench. Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello. Similar signs are slowly popping up around many towns and villages and the Beer Coastal Community Team are early adopters of the initiative. Loneliness is a serious health condition. One study found that social isolation over a long period can have the same risks as smoking 15 cigarettes, and according to a recent poll, 27% of elderly people said they feel isolated some of the time or more often.
Of course it can be impossible to spot the signs of loneliness. You can’t tell just by looking at someone what they’re feeling. In Beer we’re hoping that our Happy to Chat benches might make it easier for people who feel alone to have a chat with someone just by passing the time of day. The results of the benches in Taunton and Burnham have been very positive. As Detective Sgt. Ashley Jones says ‘they help break down the invisible wall between strangers who might be sitting side by side but are uncertain about starting a conversation’.
I’ve often said how friendly Beer is. When we arrived I was amazed at the amount of strangers who said hello as we passed each other in the street. And since we’ve got our Grand Puppy it happens even more! I’m a big advocate of saying hello and smiling at everyone now as I walk along. If you smile broadly at someone more often than not they can’t help but smile back – try it sometime.
The signs in Beer went up last week. Jack Ratt, Beer Regatta’s new Smuggler of Fun, who joined the Committee last month, was the first person to try out the benches which are placed at Charlie’s Yard and on the Jubilee. Jack said ‘I look forward to meeting lots of new people and having interesting conversations with them’.
June seems to have passed by in a complete whirlwind, although that seems silly to say as summer has definitely arrived this week. I always know it’s June as Barry collects the hanging baskets and the front of Garlands becomes a riot of colours, and all our regular guests return for their usual week (or two!).
Well June has been a mammoth month with the Follett household doubling in size so it seems we’re bustin’ out all over, like the song from the musical Carousel. Mum moved in first bringing with her the downsized contents of her old three bedroom house in Bournemouth (big thanks to Mr Follett for managing to sort out a whole side of our garage so that she didn’t need to pay for storage). Then later that week Josh moved back home as university has ended. He’s now the proud owner of a 2.1 in History from the University of Exeter and we couldn’t be more proud of our young man.
The other bit of good news is that Josh’s girlfriend, Alexandra, has managed to get a job in Exeter straight after university so she’s moving in temporarily as well in a few weeks time. Then we really will be bustin’ out all over! I have to say I couldn’t be more happier to have all my family around me. Mum is going to be moving to a new house in Seaton in the Autumn, a few houses away from Alexandra and Simon. I just need Richard and Rachel to move here and Barry and I will have a full set!
Seriously it’s wonderful to have people you love around you and living close. We’re feeling pretty lucky with our lot at the moment. It’s a bit like the good old days when family never really moved away. This way you’ve always got someone to talk to, help you and look out for you. What a blessing that is.
When I was at Virgin Media we were actively encouraged to take a volunteer day each year to do something to give back. I can remember a really hot afternoon clearing Himalayan Balsam, an invasive plant in many areas of the UK, where if you leave it unattended it can take over huge areas. I also spent a great day on a beach clean in Norfolk where we had to make a note of every piece of rubbish we collected.
Last Wednesday the Beer Coastal Community Team (CCT), in conjunction with a local company Xylem, arranged a litter pick at the Beer Head Car Park followed by a walk through the footpaths of Beer. We had around 15 people with us collecting rubbish which was mainly caught in the hedgerows. Barney the puppy came with me but was more interested in playing with another dog………..! Last month there was also a beach clean with Xylem, where BMW car parts were found, probably still being washed up from the Napoli that ran aground in Branscombe in 2007.
The 4 main benefits of volunteering are –
- It connects you to others – I’ve certainly met many more villagers by leading the CCT.
- It’s good for your mind and body – Whilst I run The Folletts, the CCT has given me an opportunity to learn new skills, whilst supporting the village to continue to be the best place to live, work, visit and holiday in.
- It brings fun and fulfilment to your life – I can really relate to this as I wanted an opportunity to give back to the community in which I live.
- It can help make a difference – Our CCT has recently delivered a new village logo and website to support the local community with an up to date what’s on diary and marketing.
Xylem are a water technology provider and it was good to meet some of their employees who volunteered for these events to help keep our beautiful village and beach clean. Thanks to you all and our new Village Manager Karin Frewin.
I am in love with a ball of fluff – our Grand Puppy! Meet Barney Dimmock, our daughters new puppy. I’ve never owned a dog before and this Labradoodle has stolen my heart big time. As Alex and Simon both work Barney comes to Garlands for doggy day care Monday to Thursday (and other times as Barry misses and pines for him when he’s not here).
As I’m writing this he’s lying underneath my chair having a puppy dream; I’m hoping of chasing the wild rabbits away in my garden. Sorry Alex, I know you like them, but they’re eating all my flowers. He’s probably dreaming of other doggies though, like Jackson, our guests dog last week, who he absolutely loved playing with. When Jackson left, Barney walked round to the Beach House cottage for three days in a row looking for him to come out to play!
I’ve realised that having a dog is a great time waster. As he’s little Barney doesn’t want to be on his own so I’ve spent hours sitting in the sunroom reading my book so he’ll settle down. We took him to the beach hut on Good Friday and it took us 40 minutes to walk there from the car park as he wanted to stop and say Hi to every other dog (and there were a lot of dogs being walked on the Esplanade that bank holiday). He then quite happily went to sleep in the hut whilst we had a cup of tea and watched the world walk by.
Yes, I do love Barney. He’s going to help reduce my stress (not much of that in Beer), help me reach my 10,000 steps a day (not hard to do on a daily walk up and down those hills), lower my heart rate (and breathe……), improve my social life (not that I need that living in Beer), and add even more meaning and purpose to my life. What’s not to love?!
The Grizzly is nothing to do with a bear! On Sunday 10th March 2019, over 1,600 people will start to run this 20 mile race along the Jurassic Coast, starting on the Seaton seafront and running along some tough cliff paths and beach, through the village of Beer and over to Branscombe (and back). It’s not for the faint hearted and last year was undertaken in a snowy blizzard as the photo from Visit Beer shows.
The race is organised by the well respected Axe Valley Runners Club and is supported by volunteers who undertake all the organisation and marshalling on the day. They describe the race as “twentyish muddy, hilly, boggy, beachy miles of the multiest-terrain running experience”. One part of the race is called the “Stairway to Heaven”; a steep ascent up the side of the cliff………….
If 20 miles seems out of your league there is also a Cub run of 9 miles on the day for the less able runners – over 600 people will do the shorter distance but this is still a tough route. Any surplus cash raised by the race is donated to charities and since the first race in 1988 more than £394k has been donated to local and international charities.
Each year the race is given a name. Whoever makes these up obviously has a sense of humour –
2018 – May the Course Be With You
2017 – Pearl’s A Stinger
2016 – Grin and Bear It
2015 – Dash to Delirium
For all the course names going back to 1988 see here http://www.axevalleyrunners.org.uk/grizzly/history
This is a great weekend to be in Seaton, Beer or Branscombe. There are events going on throughout the weekend including the GrizQuiz on Saturday 9th March at The Gateway and a children’s run. There are stalls during the day and most of the shops have decorated their windows Grizzly style.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not a runner – come along and help cheer on and support these dedicated people running for charity.