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A Little Bit About…The City That We Love

I left bonnie Scotland to move to Madrid almost 4 years ago exactly. Every summer after that marks one more “anniversary” celebrating my new life abroad. This, however, is my first summer without the pressure of deciding whether to extend my stay or move home. Last year I finally changed to an indefinite contract here, saying adios to the time sensitive deadlines of my former rolling contract and to being forced to think about whether I want to spend the next however many years of my life here or back home – a decision I dreaded having to make every July until now. And wow does it feel good! Just when I thought the sun couldn’t shine any brighter, it turns out it can, when all you have to worry about is soaking up every minute of the city you live in and have become to love.

Madrid, it’s hard not to fall in love with it you see. Maybe I’m biased. But with it’s pretty buildings against a backdrop of blue sky and sunshine all year round, it’s vast collection of museums, parks and plazas, nevermind the endless terrazas and rooftop bars with a cold beer calling your name, it’s got everything you could possibly want. And each year it just gets better and better. What can I say? I’m smitten.

I’ve come to realise that falling in love with a new city is very similar to falling in love in real life:

  1. First of all there’s the gut feeling. I don’t necessarily mean love at first sight like you see in the movies, but that gut feeling you get right from the start when you meet someone. There’s either an instant attraction, or there’s not. You can tell you’re going to get on like a house on fire, or not. It’s that simple. Me? I’ve been in love with Madrid since day one. It had me at “hola”.
  2. But even if you have that initial spark like I did, there’s getting ready to “commit”. This is the hardest part. Getting over the fear, letting yourself be vulnerable, finally admitting that maybe, just maybe, this could be real and could work out for you. If we always waited until we were 100% ready to do things, we’d never get anywhere in life. So if you ask me, do it, dive in.
  3. Once you finally take the leap, you’re into the honeymoon period – you can’t quite believe this is your life and how lucky you are. You pinch yourself 10 times a day. Is this really happening?
  4. Inevitably, after the highs come the lows, meaning there might be some road bumps along the way, but if you’re lucky, they’ll be minor – the odd day feeling out of place or misunderstood – and somehow or other you’ll always end up realising you’re exactly where you need to be in life. You realise that this is your new normal. Your old life is nothing but a fond memory that you cherish dearly but can’t quite imagine going back to yet.
  5. Then I guess there’s nothing left but to live out the happily ever after (the part I never seem to get quite right!).

So if I’ve loved Madrid so much from the word go, why have I always struggled to say I want to stay here for longer? Well, because I hate having to decide between the two places I call home. I’ve always struggled fully embracing how much I love Spain because a part of me felt like I would need to give up my love for Scotland. But this year I’ve realised it doesn’t need to be one or the other. And it’s Scotland itself that has made me realise that (which means I’ve definitely found a flaw in my theory that falling in love with a city is like falling in love with somebody in real life…. it’s not normally your ex-boyfriend who convinces you how great your new boyfriend is).

I’ve always sort of struggled to express my Scottish-ness and the pride I have for my country while being here, not because I haven’t felt it (ironically being away from home actually makes me feel prouder to be Scottish than ever), but because I haven’t really had an outlet for it…until fairly recently.

I’ve met a few Scottish people throughout my time in Madrid, some I clicked with straight away but have now moved on, others I’ve just not fully clicked with at all. But a couple of years ago I met another Scottish girl and it was like looking at myself in a mirror. Yes, our journeys were different in a lot of ways, but at the end of the day, we’re just two girls who left our hometowns in Scotland, made a quick pitstop in our beloved Glasgow along the way before one day deciding to move to Madrid. The city that we love.

After an entire year of politely keeping in touch and meeting up once in a blue moon (the consequence of our over-cautious Scottish attitude to not scare each other off), we realised we needed each other more than ever. After the madness of lockdown, we subtly started to spend more and more time together, then one sunny afternoon at the start of this year, when the two of us sat on a street terrace with a glass of fizz, we simultaneously confessed our gratitude to have found another Scottish girl to confide in. We talked about how grateful we are to be living in Madrid and about how much we miss, love and appreciate home.

I swear since that moment on the sunny Castellana terrace, the universe, the stars, or whatever other greater good you may believe in, has brought more Scotland into my life than ever. Be it in my personal or professional life, I’ve came across more Scottish people in the past four months than I have in the past four years and with each encounter, I realise more and more that there’s been little bits of Scotland floating around here in Madrid right in front of my eyes this entire time – I’ve just never seen them until now.

Exhibit A. Back at the start of summer, when incidentally I was stuck in a non-writing rut, a few recently acquainted Scots had plans to hang out one weekend for a few drinks. While for them it was probably just a regular Saturday, that night changed things for me, the next piece of the puzzle clicked into place. There was just something about being surrounded by other Scots who understood exactly what I had been internally processing and struggling to put into words for the past 4 years – the highs and the lows of life abroad, the constant conflict of passionately loving both the country you come from and the country you now call home. There was something about listening to Caledonia. There was something about listening to the bagpipes play. There was something about four people from different parts of Scotland coming together and sharing their strangely similar stories. And of course, there was definitely something about hearing said stories told in our dulcet Scottish tones.

Admittedly, I don’t know whether it really was a combination of those things or simply the combination of several beers, glasses of wine and vodka-lemonades…but regardless, something clicked that day. Whether I stay in Spain or move back to Scotland one day, that night will forever hold a special place in my heart. I looked at the other three and realised I had Scotland right there in front of me.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there’s been something in the air recently. Between the majority of us not having had visitors since 2019 and none of us getting to go back to the homeland half as much as we would have liked in the past couple of years, it’s like we’ve all needed to come together more than ever.

So to all of my fellow Scots here in Madrid – old friends and new – thank you for opening my eyes recently. Thank you for the inspiration to write again after months and months of being stuck in a rut. Thank you for the inspiration to write specifically about this. But most of all, thank you for being my little piece of home here in the city that we love. The chats, the banter, the memes, the voice notes, the sing-songs, the moments we’ve shared no matter how fleeting….they mean more than you’ll ever know. You’ve made me fall in love all over again.

A Little Bit About…A Chapter Finishing

I’m not much of a reader. When I do read, I’m one of those people that can’t put the book down until I finish a chapter. If I know I’ll run out of time or I’ll fall asleep and not be able to finish a chapter, I just don’t start it. Arguably that’s maybe what makes me “not much of a reader”.

Are there actually people out there capable of putting a book down half way through a sentence, half way through chapter 18 on page 237? That just seems like madness to me. Like having the TV volume at 11 instead of 10 or 12….utter madness.

But if I’m not a big reader, why am I talking about finishing chapters? Well because a few weeks ago I wrote about fresh starts, and how important they are. But what I didn’t really touch upon was that for a new chapter to start, another one has to end.

Yes, sometimes the thought of closing a chapter in your life can be daunting, as you realise you’re leaving a small part of you and your life behind. But most of the time closing a chapter is the best thing that can happen, because ahead there’s nothing but brand new words on a brand new page, untouched, unknown and full of exciting new twists and turns.

For the first few months of this year, until around Easter time, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that an important chapter of my life had come to an end. It might be because I turned 30 in January, it might be because I changed job in February, or it might be because I finally got some closure in March on what, for many years, has been my most important relationship until now. Regardless of the reason, I definitely felt like one chapter closed and another one was about to begin. And although some people might have been left with a “bad taste” in their mouth, longing for more adventures in their 20s, anxious about starting a new job or nostalgic about past love and relationships, I chose, and continue choosing, to look ahead and focus on what was next.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all human, so it’s only natural to feel that longing, anxiety and nostalgia. But the key is acknowledging it, then moving on to the positive. There is something revitalising about getting closure on one thing and starting something new, about finishing something the way it was supposed to finish. We do it every single day, without even realising, like ending our sentences with full stops when we send emails in work, or closing the front door when we leave the house. So why shouldn’t we do it for the big things in life too?

Some chapters last just a couple of weeks, some a couple of months and some last for years. People come into your life then fade out, opportunities come about then disappear, you yourself change the way you think, act, feel. That’s the best thing about it, chapters are often unpredictable. Who wants to read the same book over and over and over again?

I was lucky that when my last chapter ended, I was flung into the next chapter: a fun filled summer of mini weekend trips away, quality time with close friends, getting to know new friends and with a bit of luck, a trip to the homeland to look forward to in August. The thought that the summer months are flying by at the speed of light only makes me appreciate every minute of all the fun in the sun even more.

That’s the beauty of it, some chapters are so good that you don’t ever want them to end even if they have to. So if you ask me, we should all appreciate every moment, experience and person that we’re lucky enough to come across in life as if each one was a carefully chosen word in the most riveting chapter of your favourite book.

A Little Bit About…Independence

Independence is a controversial topic for us Scots. Debates on freedom, individuality, the future of a nation. But today I’ve been reflecting on a different kind of independence, my own independence.

Do you ever wish you were still 5 years old and someone could take care of everything for you without you having to lift a finger? Today I’ve had one of those days where I had a knot in my stomach from the moment I got up. And I don’t even really know why. But when your stomach is churning and your heart is racing, the why doesn’t really matter does it? All that matters is getting through the day, bit by bit.

I love being independent, I do. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I wasn’t as determined as I am to be quite so independent. Particularly in weeks like this week, when nothing major has happened, certainly nothing terrible, but small things keep piling up, one on top of the other. Hassle after hassle, a domino effect of inconveniences, anxious gut feelings, and unexpected roadblocks.

I like to think of myself as “Little Miss Independent”, the modern day woman. Which means it’s hard for me to admit to being overwhelmed. Even when I do start to feel it, I put it off and tell myself I’m fine until a day like today arrives, when there’s nothing else for it but to admit to being vulnerable. As we so expressively say in Scotland, I’m “scunnered” with just about everything.

As I left work tonight and headed to my laser hair removal appointment (oh the glamour!), I was torn between wanting to bump into someone I knew just so that I could give them a massive bear hug to make myself feel better, and not wanting to look anyone in the eye just in case I unexpectedly burst into tears at the very notion of human interaction. Do you know that feeling where you feel like you might burst into tears at any given moment? Not because you’re sad or upset, but because it’s like you need a release of emotions.

Anyway, I decided there was only one thing for it: to blast my favourite songs through my headphones while I took some deep breathes…and to head into Zara to treat myself (they don’t call it retail THERAPY for nothing).

But as much as a pretty new tweed blazer helps every situation, the problem wasn’t quite solved. Yes, I managed to distract myself for half an hour, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling. So, I headed home and called in the big guns via video call: mum and dad! It was a nice reminder that I have some of the most amazing friends and family both here and at home who are only a phone call away if I ever need them.  

That being said, it doesn’t mean that it’s not still in my make-up to want to be independent, to want to do things for myself and to deal with emotions on my own. Particularly over the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve become so used to living alone and dealing with things in my own way that I hate having to ask for help or admitting I’m overwhelmed. But I guess everyone needs a helping hand now and again and that’s ok.

Now that I’m feeling more relaxed, I’m away to try on my new Zara purchases so that I can at least look fabulous taking on my never-ending to do list for the week. Priorities, right?

A Little Bit About…Being Disaster Prone

My Dad jokes with me all the time that I’m “high maintenance”. I’m just one of those people that attracts ridiculous situations. I’m not actually high maintenance (at least I hope not), but if someone’s going to fall, spill something, or get stuck somewhere…it’s me. I’m THAT girl. It’s got it’s advantages – I mean what would I even write about in my blog every week if this sort of stuff didn’t happen to me? – but naturally, it’s got it’s down sides too…like the very literal falling, spilling of drinks and getting stuck in lifts. To name just a few events that have happened to me recently…

As much as I’d like to deny it and pretend I’m cool and collected 24/7, I have to admit to being a full-on calamity Jane. And this week was just one of those weeks where I couldn’t help but laugh at how true that really is sometimes.

It started last Sunday, I went away for the day with a friend of mine for a spot of lunch and a drink. Half an hour into our lunch, I somehow spilt my glass of white wine down my white blouse. Not a complete disaster, but not a great look having half a see-through blouse!

Monday went relatively smoothly, no complaints.

But then came Tuesday. I was still half asleep while switching off my phone alarm while lying down, and somehow I managed to drop my phone on my own face from above….and burst my lip open. Forty five minutes and an ice-pack later, it finally stopped bleeding. Thank goodness for having to wear a mask all day in work, that’s all I can say.

Wednesday was going pretty well and I was all set to go to boxing after work. Until I got there and realised I had a bag full of kit…..but no trainers. Rookie mistake. Rushed home to pick them up and head back for a later class….only to realise the next classes were fully booked. That’s what I get for trying to be fit and healthy, right?

Thursday, I went to the post office to pick up a lovely surprise parcel from home. But no thanks to Brexit, even that turned into a song and a dance. Aside from my poor mum already paying tracked delivery from her side, I had to end up paying ridiculous customs fees all because they now inspect the packages. Ugh!

Friday, again relatively smooth sailing.

I spent Saturday out and about all day with various groups of friends, soaking up the sunshine. Then I was on my way out for dinner with friends on Saturday night when the ankle strap on my sandals broke half way to the restaurant. And what was worse was it one of those ones where there is no possible way to keep the shoe on your foot without it. Thankfully I managed to tie a knot in it to at least get me to the restaurant and then home again later. Albeit my that point I could hardly feel my foot thanks to the very tightly tied strap round my ankle.

So out of a 7 day week, I had 2 disaster free days. Are those good odds? Who knows! The main thing is that I’ve at least learnt to laugh at myself. And I thankfully don’t seem to be the only one out there…DISASTER PRONE PEOPLE UNITE!

A Little Bit About…Being Sociable

Do you ever find yourself making plans then secretly dreading it when the time actually comes? You might not always admit it, but I reckon that’s happened to all of us. We feel this sort of pressure to be sociable, to be on top form all of the time. When the stone cold reality is that sometimes we would rather nothing more than some “me” time. As lazy as that may sound. 

I know I’m only at the grand old age of 30, but I think as we get older we seem to develop less tolerance for plans (and people) we’re not 100% up for. We seem to gradually whither our social group down to the most important family and friends. Consequently accumulating a repository of excuses as to why you “can’t make it that day”.

Admittedly I sometimes have the opposite problem. I’m like a little social butterfly who is too sociable for my own good. Those of you that know me well would probably even say I’m more of a social budgie that doesn’t stay quiet very long. But regardless of the social butterfly or budgie debate, the simple fact is that I’m an extrovert at heart, so I get my energy from being with other people. Meeting people, connecting with people and sharing stories and experiences with them is what I love more than anything. That being said, I’m human. So sometimes even I can’t be bothered having to be sociable.   

And what I’ve found is that when you first start to live abroad, you find yourself saying yes to all sorts of plans. At the end of the day, that’s what you moved away for, right? To meet new people, to experience new things. But what no one ever tells you is that even in a foreign country, you sometimes still get that feeling of wanting time to relax, without having to go here, there and everywhere. And let me assure you, socialising in a second language is just as tiring, if not more so, than normal.

But I’ve been in Madrid for close to 4 years now, and without realizing, I’ve slowly but surely carved out a social life with those friends here that matter the most. The ones that could quite easily be my friends and family from home. That doesn’t mean I don’t still meet new people and say yes to plans, of course I do. In fact if I’ve learnt anything recently, it’s that some of those new people and plans end up being some of the best ones. But I’m also realising that quality outweighs quantity.

Your social life doesn’t have to be tiring if you’ve got good people around you. The ones that look out for you, the ones that make you laugh, the ones that get you and know exactly what you mean. And if you’re really lucky, there’s even the ones that know when to give you some alone time.

It’s been a slow burner, but I’ve somehow done it, I’ve found my people.

A Little Bit About…Fresh Starts

Deciding to make a fresh start can be hard. Whether you start a new job, join a new gym or make a new group of friends, let’s face it, it’s daunting. And normally an emotional rollercoaster: excitement, nerves, confusion, enthusiasm, tension, all rolled into one. And why is it, that no matter what age you are, that very feeling of being the “new kid on the block” is as vivid as it was when you were only 5 years old? It never gets any easier. But after a while, you get used to it and learn to turn it on its head and appreciate it.

Yes, the unknown is scary, and yes, leaving what you know behind – people, places, comfort zones – is terrifying. But when you’re new, you have the best license in the world in my opinion – the license to learn (and my favourite part of all…asking all the silly questions under the sun and no one can judge you for it).

Of course, fresh starts can mean different to things to different people. A fresh start might simply be starting off a new week on a Monday morning with a positive attitude. It doesn’t always have to be a big life change. That being said, I personally find it easier to start afresh with the smaller things if I’m also starting afresh one of the big things.

Without really realising it, I’ve lost myself a little bit in the last 6 to 8 months. Not in a dramatic way, just in a “life gets in the way” kind of way. Between adapting to life after lockdown and balancing my much needed social life (considering I’m so far away from family and friends) with being COVID-19 responsible, I let some of the important things in my life slide a little bit. I gave work my all, but outwith that, I got lazy. I was eating what and when I could, as opposed to enjoying each and every meal. I was being inconsistent with exercising, some weeks I’d train 3 times a week, then do nothing for 10 days. I even stopped writing. Something I used to love and do religiously every Sunday. I started to look at it as a chore, as “yet another thing” I had to fit into my busy week.

So after months of losing myself without really even realising, I recently had the opportunity to start afresh one of the big things – I started a new job. Same company, some of the same people, but a very different role. Naturally, I felt like a fish out of water at the start (and still kind of do), but I’m getting there day by day. And the change in routine and perspective has done me the world of good. It weirdly feels like since then, I’ve had a fresh start in all kinds of ways. I’ve started training regularly, got a food plan in place, have a balanced social life and low and behold….I’ve started to write again.

That’s right, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. I’ve taken a big break from my blog over the past 6 months and although it’s not been entirely deliberate, it’s been needed. That being said, it’s weighed on my mind a lot. So thanks to a good friend of mine here in Madrid who inspired me and encouraged me to get back to (as well as the few glasses of wine we had together), I’ve finally talked myself into taking the time to write again. No pressure, no guilt, no expectations. Just a girl doing what she used to love again… I’ve realised that all of the best fresh starts in my life have been the ones that happen naturally. I’ve not necessarily made the big, bold decision to start afresh, yet a series of decisions and life choices lead me to do so. And at the risk of sounding a bit too sentimental, I’ve grown the most from those experiences. New experiences – be that new people that come into your life or new opportunities you end up taking – should always propel you forward; they should never pull you back. So onwards and upwards we go…

A Little Bit About…Change

Sometimes we see change coming, sometimes we don’t.

In my 3rd year of high school they announced they were building a new school and we would be “temporarily” relocated for two years to two different buildings. Right in the middle of our most important school years: our exams!

In my 3rd year of University, just as I finally figured out which building was which and had a great group of friends, it was time to pack up my little life and start my 4th year at a brand new University, this time in Spain.

In my first job once I graduated, I was lucky enough to be part of a programme which moved us around every 3 months, department to department learning about different areas of the business. New boss, new team, new learning curves every 3 months.

Just over 3 years ago, I decided to change things up again and go on the adventure of a lifetime, moving back to Spain to start a new job.

You would probably think that after all of that, I’d like change, right? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret…I’m don’t. And that’s ok.

If anything, I’m used to change. I can handle it, maybe even more so than some. But it doesn’t mean I don’t go through the same rollercoaster of emotions as everyone else every time sometime changes and throws me for a loop.

Change can be good or it can be bad, big or small, expected or unexpected, immediate or gradual, deliberate or accidental. But most importantly it can be welcomed or feared, embraced or resisted.

There’s a quote by British writer Alan Wilson Watts which says “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance”. And that’s exactly what I tell myself every single time something in my life changes, be it good or bad.

Over time, I’ve learnt my own way to deal with change and that is firstly allowing myself to freak-out, fully embracing any or all of possible emotions like denial, anger, sadness, happiness, excitement, fear. Then once I’m done…I just take it in my stride.

You can probably tell the whole reason I’m writing this is because change has come calling. Well you’d be right (I’m as subtle as a brick sometimes, I know, it’s a great quality of mine). However, this change is more like a combination of lots of little changes which seem to all have happened at once. It’s nothing big, bad or scary. It’s nothing I can’t handle. But it’s still change. So I guess there’s nothing else for it…time to man up and “join the dance”.

A Little Bit About…Living Abroad

I’m a Scottish girl living in Spain so you would think “living abroad” would be an obvious topic for me to write about, one which would roll off the tongue easily. But weirdly, it’s not. It’s one of the most complex ones.

I arrived back in Spain at the end of August after a glorious three week break at home at my Mum and Dad’s, where – after quarantining for 14 days, thanks Coronavirus – I got the chance to catch up with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family. The 1st of September also marked my three year anniversary here in Madrid, so it only seemed right to finally tackle a post on my time abroad so far.

But somehow life got in the way of my procrastinating and here I am at the end of September, still trying to express in words what it’s like to live abroad. So here it goes…

First of all, I feel so lucky and blessed to be having the experience I’m having. In only 3 short years, I’ve established a real little life. And I know that sounds ridiculous, and maybe obvious from an outside perspective. But when you first arrive in a new city, it’s not that obvious. It’s hard to imagine that one day you’re going to get to a place where you know where you’re going, where you have a routine. I remember one of the biggest highs being when I started to bump into people I know in the street, something which back home would seem standard and mundane suddenly made me feel like I had somehow established a big enough network of friends and acquaintances and colleagues in a city with over 3 million people to actually meet people I know. I now have a favourite hairdresser, and nail salon, and food shop. I say things to my friends here like “I’ll meet you in the usual bar”.

I guess it’s like starting a new relationship with someone; somehow one day they just feel familiar, as if you’ve known them your whole life. That’s the feeling I have here in Madrid, like I can’t remember life without it.

Speaking Spanish has been a massive advantage for me and my journey here in Madrid, and one which has thoroughly enriched my experience. That’s not to say you can’t move abroad without speaking the language and still have a great time, but connecting with people “fluently” in a different language is – to be outright corny about it – a magical experience. By no means do I speak 100% perfect Spanish, but when you’re able to express yourself enough in a foreign language to actually reflect your personality (as opposed to telling everyone you meet what kind of pets you have and what your hobbies are), it’s such a natural high.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s parts of living abroad which I struggle with. My Mum and I were talking one day and she jokingly asked me if it ever feels like I have two lives, and my honest answer was “yes, it does”. It’s silly to say, but it’s an odd feeling talking to your friends and family back home and saying “I went down to such and such a place down the road” and them not really having any idea of what you’re talking about as they’re not familiar with where you live, with the streets you walk every day or with the people in your life. I’m such a people person and struggle with the fact that some of the most important people in the world to me are a thousand miles away from each other and can’t even communicate in the same language. Now maybe that’s a bit of a trivial “first world problem” to be moaning about, and I should just be grateful for having so many great friends in my life no matter where they are, but it’s definitely something I think about.

My heart will forever lie in Scotland, and I think that deep down I know I probably want to settle down there one day, but right now there is nothing and no one that could convince me to give up my life here in Spain. It’s my home away from home and somewhere I truly feel I belong (and that says a lot considering it’s 22 degrees outside and the Spaniards are already wearing long trousers, wooly jumpers and boots while I’m out in a t-shirt and skirt. Foreigner alert!).

A Little Bit About…Surprises

I’m a massive fan of surprises, both surprising other people and being surprised. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about the look of joy and elation on someone’s face when they didn’t see the surprise coming. Over the past few years, I’ve arranged more surprises than ever. It’s like I caught a bug for it: I did one, it went well, so I did another.

My friends and I have arranged surprise baby showers, surprise appearances at engagement parties, and I’ve even surprised my friends at the airport. But some of my favourite surprises were for my Mum and Dad’s 60th birthdays. For my Dad’s 60th, my Mum and Dad were coming out to Madrid for the week, so my Mum and I surprised him with tickets to the Madrid Tennis Open and tickets for a Real Madrid game and he was over the moon. But I has ALSO co-conspired with my mum and dad’s close friends who also flew out to Madrid that very weekend to surprise them both. The reaction was priceless (partly because of the surprise in general, partly because they dressed up in the world’s craziest wigs and false teeth haha best surprise ever). A year later, for my Mum’s 60th, my Mum and Dad were again coming out to spend the week in Madrid. This time we surprised my Mum sitting in a bar one afternoon with someone tapping her on the shoulder and it being my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. Again, another priceless reaction (less fancy dress involved this time though)!

Then there’s surprises people have planned for me. A few years ago, I invited some of the girls to my flat for a girls night in, with the idea of having a takeaway and a few glasses of wine. Not long after they arrived, I headed out to pick up the food from the takeaway place 5 minutes down the road. But when I got back to my flat, food in hand, my key wouldn’t go in the door. I thought to myself, “that’s strange”, as I knocked for one of them to open from the inside. All I could hear was giggling and footsteps running about all over the place on the wooden floors. After what felt like the longest 2 minutes, they finally opened the door and shouted surprise: they were all in matching pyjamas and had set up a pamper night of face masks, foot spas and manicures.

But surprises don’t always work out as planned. Thankfully, sometimes a failed surprise can provide just as much as entertainment as the surprise itself would have done. Last year, I flew home to surprise my mum and take her to a Westlife concert (yes 30 years and 60 years old and we still turn into the biggest fan girls when we hear “Flying Without Wings”). The only issue was, I actually arrived in Scotland before my mum did, as she was abroad on a trip with friends. So without even thinking about it twice, I let myself in to my Mum and Dad’s house with my key, grabbed the car and went to visit my aunt and uncle and cousin for the night before surprising my mum the next day. Little did I know that the neighbours – who are always great at looking after the house and keeping an eye on things for my Mum and Dad if they are away – had spotted the car going missing from the driveway….cue panic stations! Here was me obliviously causing havoc!

What made me write about surprises this week? Well because I was going to surprise my family by flying home this Friday for a family get together, but (no) thanks to Coronavirus and the Government rules in place about quarantining, I had to break the bad news early that I WAS planning on surprising them, but couldn’t anymore. I’m gutted, both about the surprise falling through and the prospect of having to spend 2 weeks in self-isolation during my hard-earned summer holidays. I guess the plus side is that I’ll have plenty of thinking time to plan my next surprise…!

A Little Bit About…Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine so they say. After my recent weekend away, I can vouch for that being true. Here’s why…

I’m unfortunately very prone to headaches and in particular, to migraines. Although I’ve managed to get them under control over the past few years by cutting lactose out of my diet, I still often get tension headaches and sometimes the odd migraine. Last week was one of those weeks. I had a pretty sore head all day Monday and Tuesday, and I figured it was maybe just tiredness, but by Tuesday night, my whole head was pounding and every single source of light or sound, no matter how small, felt like a sensory overload and was multiplied by hundred. I took the medication I normally take, which normally works, but I woke up on Wednesday feeling awful. Blurred vision, dizzy, nauseous, pounding head. I went to the doctor who gave me an even stronger tablet, but after 24 hours and 3 of doses of medication, I still wasn’t feeling 100%. I stupidly went into work on Thursday, eager not to miss too much and trying to shake off the pain, but after a couple of hours and yet another visit to the doctor who gave me an even stronger dosage of medication, I had to head home. Back to a dark and silent room. 

I had a weekend away with the Spanish girls from work planned from Friday to Sunday, and mid-week, mid-migraine, I seriously doubted whether or not I would be able to go. But the good news was that the weekend we had planned was a mini luxury girls weekend, in a 5-star hotel with spa access. I figured in the worst case scenario, the girls could go out and explore and I could spend all weekend in bed nursing my migraine. After all, if you’re going to have to spend all weekend in bed, it might as well be in a 5-star hotel room, with Egyptian Cotton sheets, fluffy pillows and wearing one of those fuzzy dressing gowns they always give you in fancy hotels.

But thankfully I woke up on Friday morning feeling much better. A little drained, but much better. I went to work, suitcase in hand, ready for the weekend. But still with the expectation I might have to call it a night early and rest up. Little did I know that as soon as the three of us left work that afternoon and headed in the car to our destination, it would be like magic…migraine no more! 

First up, we spent the 3 hour car journey singing our hearts out to some of the most iconic pop tunes and Spanish “reggaetón” music known to man, before arriving to find a gorgeous hotel in the most tranquil spot. We spent Friday night at a candlelit dinner in the hotel courtyard with a live pianist, before having a few glasses (maybe bottles…) of wine and heading to bed. The next day we did a tour of the nearby town Caceres, then spent the afternoon having the spa to ourselves before getting dressed up to go to Atrio, a spectacular Michelin star restaurant in the heart of the old town of Caceres where we enjoyed an out of this world 23 dish tasting menu. On Sunday we spent all morning at the outdoor swimming pool before heading to a nearby town square for lunch to fuel up before the drive home to Madrid. We laughed all weekend, from start to finish, telling old stories, catching up on gossip and taking pictures. 

Although I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends both at home and here in Spain, one thing that never fails to amaze me about my friends here in Spain is how even though I grew up approximately 2000km away, speaking a different language most of my life, in a completely different culture, the three of us have so much in common and it feels like we’re all one in the same. That made us laugh even more. The fact that we grew up listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows and movies (albeit with funnily translated names into Spanish) and wearing the same latest fashion trends. 


The most important thing was that we relaxed. We forgot about work and migraines and Coronavirus. I feel like a new person this week. Laughter really is the best medicine! Either that, or a life of luxury is, I’m not quite sure. But for the sake of my bank card, I’m going to go with laughter.