The Great British Stay-cation

This year I am looking remarkably white. Not in an elegant, swan-like fashion, though, more like a blindingly luminous substance-like fashion. In short, I haven’t seen the sun for a while.

But all is not lost. No, for my paleness has enjoyed a rather great holiday at home in the UK. Instead of lounging about by the pool in precious little, I have lounged about on the masseur’s table in precious less.

The British ‘stay-cation’ often gets a bad rep as the rainy sort of holiday you don’t really want to take but that is better and less expensive than not going away at all. Either that or a cheap alternative for the environmentally conscious. And I suppose that could be true, if you decide to holiday around the corner at your Auntie’s in a tent. But if you choose your destination well, it could flatten any jet-setting, globe-trotting extravaganza you want.

Here are my personal favourites when it comes to holidaying at home:

London

I don’t think it is even necessary to explain why London is on this list, but I will give it a go in case anybody needs some extra encouragement. The Queen, dungeons, theatre…London is bursting with things to do, come rain or shine, and if you book train or bus tickets in advance, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Every trip I have taken to London has been different, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

My favourite memory: watching Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. I will admit that it was so good, I cried.

My most recent memory: pretending to be a local by using an Oyster Card for the first time on the tube. Casual.

Porlock

This is an adorable coastal village in Somerset, where I enjoyed many a camping trip as a child. If you enjoy being outdoors, walking and beautiful views, this is the place to go. Just make sure you check the weather forecast before setting off!

The Manor

Forget the weather. It can rain, snow or throw down buckets of ice and you will still enjoy The Manor. This is a sport, craft and spa hotel near Okehampton, Devon, which offers you all kinds of activities that don’t depend on the British ‘summertime’. My hands-down favourite part of holidaying here is the pottery because you end up with a personal, handmade memento to treasure forever.

So there you have it, my favourite stay-cation destinations. Where do you like to holiday in the UK? Let me know, I’ve still got a few weeks of summer left…

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How to beat your fear of failure

‘While I am so afraid to fail so I won’t even try. Well how can I say I’m alive?’ – Rollo Armstrong, Dido Armstrong Life For Rent

As someone who is used to success, the pressure to maintain a clean record is difficult. For some, trying not to fail can be crippling.

But why do we fear failure?

Usually, a failure is associated with a judgement that is larger than the failure itself. For example, failing an exam could lead to negative judgements, such as ‘I’ll never make it as a…[doctor, engineer, etc.]’. The greater the importance of what we set out to achieve, the greater the judgement we impose upon ourselves for not achieving. Concepts such as ‘your life’s ambition’ and ‘the be all and end all’ cause us to focus on one goal alone which, if missed, makes it seem like the world is crumbling around us. With pressures like these, no wonder some of us are afraid to fail.

‘If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories.’ – Richard M. Nixon

How to overcome this fear

Simply because it is understandable to fear failure, does not mean it is unavoidable. In 2013, Forbes published a really helpful article called 5 Ways To Conquer Your Fear Of Failure and this is what I gained from it:

Just as a runner has to break through ‘the wall’ to carry on, we have to feel the fear, walk around in it, and break it down to come out the other side.To beat the fear that stops us reaching for our goals we have to think logically:

Suppose I do fail.

What are the next logical steps?

Can I draw something positive from my missed target?

What have I learned?

By answering these questions, we will be better prepared to adjust strategies and reach our goals the next time around.

And if that isn’t quite enough, here’s an encouraging quote by someone really successful:

‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.’ – J.K. Rowling

Donating time: my experience of volunteering at Oxfam

I love being a busy person. So when I found myself at a loose end recently, I panicked. I scoured my local high street for extra work, willing to try my hand at anything.*

As it turned out, my local Oxfam bookshop was looking for volunteers to help keep the shop open. In case you didn’t know, Oxfam is a leading UK charity that fights global poverty in over 90 countries.My local shop had lots of volunteers already but, in the nature of this work, they are not expected to work fixed shifts so there is always room for more.

I made inquiries and applied for a job there without a clue what was expected of me – was I to be on the shop floor or behind the scenes? Two days later I was invited to come into the shop and began work almost immediately, familiarizing myself with the layout and tills. It’s not often that an application process will be this quick but, like many other charities, Oxfam need people to help.

We often forget that charity shops simply could not operate without volunteers – selling, pricing, sorting and more – because so much emphasis is placed upon donations. And whilst material and monetary donations are extremely valuable, they must go hand in hand with donated time.

I calculated what I would have earned had I spent the hours I volunteered working at a paid retail job. For a student, it was a substantial amount.Yes, I could have done with the extra cash, but the knowledge that I had effectively donated that money to a worthy cause was much more satisfying than buying another Dominos.

So I would encourage you to volunteer your time too, at Oxfam or any other charity. You need only spare one afternoon a week if that’s all you can manage. It all adds up.

* I even considered applying for a job that required a ‘fit and strong young person’. Judging by the size of my biceps, that was ridiculous.

Writer’s block: what happens next?

Write, write, write and keep writing. If you want to get noticed and get paid, if you want to make a name for yourself – you must KEEP WRITING.

But what happens when the ink runs out? You keep scratching at the paper, but nobody can read it. You pierce straight through.To use a more modern metaphor, let’s say Microsoft Word is ‘not responding’.

It’s infuriating. Debilitating.

Commonly known as ‘writer’s block’, the inability to know what to write next can put the fear of God into those who want to earn a living from their craft. They being to question any ideas they may have or have used in the past. Will this come across as too…personal, boring, offensive?

This fear of failure stops a writer in their tracks. They effectively block their own creativity through misguided reasoning and the problem of wordlessness becomes a vicious cycle.

You might say, having a definition of this is all very well, but what can you do about it? Nobody can tell you what comes next in your story, blog or poem. A teacher once told me that she wrote absolute rubbish. It is only by wading through the rubbish that you will stumble upon a gem – or at least, something worth keeping.

Even if you decide to dispose of everything you churned out, hopefully, you will retain the momentum to keep going. Keep a diary and reread it a week later. Something that seemed mundane last week could be this week’s dynamite.