Trip of a lifetime - part three

So, here we are on the morning of Friday 18th of January as the sun was rising over Edinburgh Airport. The journey today was a flight from Scotland to Gatwick, the underground and then train across to Heathrow and finally the flight at 6.15pm from there to Cape Town arriving at breakfast time on Saturday morning.

Another day, another flight, another bag full of supplies for my journey, although excitement not hunger was bubbling in my tummy. This was it! All the waiting was over, at last it was time to fly to South Africa!!!! The flight to Gatwick was merely a hop, skip and a jump away.

I'll be honest with you, my new hairstyle was a bit of a shock. I've never had a fringe this short before and did feel very exposed - how can I hide my frown lines and wrinkles now? Steve and I had chatted about this beforehand and it seemed the only thing to do was "Own it!" and so that was what I did.

When I was strolling around Duty Free shopping at Heathrow, I espied the MAC counter and it dawned on me that my new haircut might as well be a springboard to upgrading my make-up too. The assistant helped me try out lots of new colours of lipstick and much to my surprise I decided to go with this purple, called (fittingly enough) Model Behaviour. I managed not to blurt out my story to the girl which was quite restrained of me. From there I decided to have some new eyeshadow too and chose the complimentary shade called "Can't stop, Don't stop" Dazzle eyeshadow. I applied some there and then, adopting this new image before I was due to meet up with the other models. A new blusher, and I was feeling miles better with my new look. Photo shoot here I come! 

After an 11 hour flight we landed smoothly at Cape Town to a beautiful day. 

Cape Town airport was clean and cool - welcome to the land of wall to wall air conditioning. We were collected from the airport and taken into the harbour area of the city to our hotel.

We all were clicking away as the scenery flew past us. The light was dazzling and bright after the overnight flight.

Located bang on the waterfront is the Table Bay Hotel, our 5 star base for the duration.

Decorated in the old colonial style, this hotel is all you could wish for as far as luxury goes. It was opened in 1997 by Nelson Mandela and has a plaque proudly displayed at Reception to this effect. Situated on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront the hotel is placed in one of the most prestigious locations in the city and sits in the shadow of Table Mountain. 

Five travel weary models in the lift on the way up to our rooms. Some of us (me) looking more washed out than the others!

What can I say about my bedroom - not too shabby!

The view from my bedroom sealed the deal - yes, I must, absolutely must, visit Table Mountain! It was with a sense of almost disbelief that I took in the sights from my expanse of window. How on earth have I pulled this off? What have I done to deserve this? I really can't believe my luck - talk about #pinchme #Imustbedreaming

We arrived in time for breakfast which was a huge array of every type of food you could conjure up for the start of a day. The plan was to eat and at lunchtime we were to be taken off for our wardrobe fitting and to meet our new choreographer. All was going really well, but by mid-afternoon I suddenly had a downturn health-wise. I think over the 24 hour period I hadn't eaten or drunk enough and had to have some re-hydration salts to get me out of the slump. The team were great and also contacted the hotel to get me an appointment with the Head Chef to discuss my dietary requirements. Once my outfits were all checked and fitted, I was driven back to the hotel to get things underway. For the rest of the stay, I had my own chef at the end of the phone as well as the chefs on set being made aware of my needs. Food and drink sorted, I was soon back on form.

Sunday was a day off for the models and production crew. We all had different plans as to how best to spend the day, but had agreed to have breakfast together. After a very long breakfast (4 hours in fact) where I'd spent time with each of the models from the early-birds to the sleepy-heads I gathered my things together and caught my lift out to the base of Table Mountain to catch the cable car to the summit. 

The circular cable car was cleverly designed to have an outer shell that rotated as it ascended, and dotted around the shell were several unglazed windows which afforded everyone the perfect photo opportunity as it passed in front of you.

I fancy that this will be the only one of the seven I will ever see, and somehow that made it even more special for me. What is also remarkable is that while I was visiting one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, so was my daughter. Sasha was spending her 30th birthday in Halong Bay in Vietnam - what globe trotters we are!

It was from this vantage point that I first saw the idyllic beach of Camp's Bay glistening tantalisingly in the far distance below. Little did I know, that the tiny little pool in the corner of the photo would be where I would get my one and only sea swim in South Africa.

Camps Bay has a glorious stretch of beach, but the waters can be quite treacherous with mighty Atlantic rollers and riptides too. It's patrolled by lifeguards who display flags on the days it's safe to swim there.  

It's difficult to explain the significance of this view and what it meant to me to be here, like this, particularly on my own. I know for most visitors this breathtaking sight is photo-worthy, but I had to stop to gather my thoughts and yes, even congratulate myself on being here. I felt such a sense of achievement at being not just so far away from home, but at having come so far, health-wise. Six years ago I was trapped at home, literally crawling from sofa to toilet, held hostage by bowel disease. My journey from illness to full health (documented here) was a huge learning curve, one which found me removing myself from conventional medicine after several steroid induced psychotic episodes. Modern day medicine didn't agree with my sensitive system, leaving me for a while high and dry without any way to get well or treat my symptoms. Determination to turn my life around fuelled my motivation to find a way forward, which I did. I make no apologies for the graphic details of my illness as sharing my story may help others to get well through diet and exercise too - the method is simple and the results are life-changing. So life-changing in fact, that I was a bit choked to realise I had come away from the hotel without doing any research on Table Mountain and it's facilities. Who'd had thought that six years down the line I'd be an ordinary traveller who didn't even need to know where the nearest loo was before leaving her hotel? I do believe that my life is all the sweeter for having been through this journey. Poor health is not to be wished upon anyone, but the upside of illness is that it gives one a different perspective on life compared to someone who has always been well. I savour my everyday life much more because of having lived with bowel disease since I was 18. Over 40 years of yo-yoing back and forth from doctor's to hospitals has taught me to be grateful for the simple things such as eating good food without any repercussions or being able to go for a walk without worrying about loos on the way. My life is a joy, and I'm so grateful for my journey.

I spent a couple of hours following the path around the top of the mountain and taking snaps of the surrounding peaks of the Twelve Apostles range. The top of the mountain often sits shrouded in clouds, but I was lucky to have a clear view in scorching sunshine - hat and long sleeves were the order as I was told not to get sun burnt for the photo shoot next day.

Once I came back to the hotel I met up with Evon and we went for a mooch around the harbour area at the back of the hotel. The choice of eating venues was huge and there was lots of touristy things to do, such as shopping and listening to music.

We stopped and sat for a while to listen to these talented youngsters play and sing. Evon and I both bought a copy of their CD - they call themselves the IThemba Ensemble.

After an hour or so we wandered back to our hotel, stopping for some more shots along the way.


It had been a long day. I hadn't slept on the overnight flight so after dinner in my room I took one final look at the view and had an early night. My pick-up with Evon was 4.25am the next morning, so I needed all the beauty sleep I could get!

                                                                      Anna x


Trip of a lifetime - part two

Early on Monday morning on the 7th of January I'd flown from Newquay to Gatwick arriving just in time for breakfast. I was on my way to the South African Visa Office to apply for a work visa for my upcoming trip to Cape Town. Directions were in my phone and also printed off along with every other document I could possibly need to cover the three weeks I was away from home. The trip to London was a real whistle-stop affair. At the last minute, just as I landed at Gatwick in fact, my friend Ann invited me to join her at home for breakfast. A couple of hours later she accompanied me across London to the visa office where the deed was done. We had a late lunch nearby after which she shepherded me back across the city to deliver me to Euston Station. By teatime I was on my way to Manchester for my Wardrobe appointment the next day. Newquay to London, apply for visa, then London to Manchester all in one day, check!

I spent the night in central Manchester at the Abode Hotel. The sight of this super king size bed, three pillows wide was heaven. Lay a bit of luxury on me baby, if you must!

And yes, a big echo-y bathroom is fine with me too.

After breakfast the following morning I went to find the venue for the wardrobe appointment which was only a few minutes walk away from the hotel. Next, well of course you know what would be next ... a bit of retail therapy! First a couple of charity shops and then TK Maxx. I was very restrained, but found one or two things that were bargains enough to warrant being squeezed into my bags.

I can always find room for another pair of shoes, or two!

It was great to meet up with Paulina again. We were both equally excited about the forthcoming photo shoot. Like me, Paulina works full time (she runs her own cake making business in London), but she has staff and therefore she too had cover for the trip. 

The wardrobe session over, it was time for the creatives to look at shots of the permutations of outfits on all of the models (there were five of us in total) and make some decisions. The tweaking and pinning are part of this session too, although the fitting of an outfit here doesn't always mean it will be worn by that model on the day. See? I'm gradually learning how very fluid this whole process is. Scripts too, can change right up to rehearsals so you never really know who, which and where never mind what is going to happen. By the time I got to the end of the trip to SA I felt I had learnt a lot more about the business than ever before.

By teatime that evening I was on Manchester station on my way to Scotland.

I arrived in Edinburgh about 10pm to find that my hotel, Motel 1, was only 50 metres away from Waverley station. The crisp white sheets were calling, and I didn't resist for long.

This is Milo, guard dog at my sister's house in St Andrew's my next port of call. Don't be deceived by his size - he's a loud and ferocious little fella. Entering or even approaching her house can be a noisy affair, but I can say that once the barking stops, he's a bit of a softie really. Between Wardrobe and departing for Cape Town, I had 10 days to while away so it was a great opportunity to visit Dianne and also see my other sister, Sandra for a couple of days too. Dog walking, charity shopping and lots of talking was how we spent our time together, plus taking a few blog photos too, of course.

I thought the plan was for my shoes to be the star of the show, but Milo had other ideas.

On the 14th of Jan I had another little train journey to make - back to Edinburgh for the night so that I could catch an early train to London to collect my visa. It was obviously vital to the whole trip that I had a visa otherwise I wouldn't be able to travel. I therefore arrived with sweaty palms and a feeling of dread deep in the pit of my stomach. These kind of things have a habit of going wrong for me and I can't help thinking that the pungent aroma of doom precedes me. Sure enough, on arriving at Reception I was tackled about why I was two hours early. Not only that, but why had I altered my appointment time on my paperwork? My response was that this was done by the Manager who had interviewed me as she agreed to an early collection due to the fact that I would be travelling all the way from Edinburgh. The ensuing phone call to her department announced that the woman at the desk (me) had altered her appointment time and was the manager there to substantiate my claim? No, of course she wasn't. The accusation was repeated to other operatives and my countering followed each time. Increasingly I protested, she objected, I became slightly more forceful, and somehow this resulted in my being allowed into the inner sanctum and directed downstairs to the interview room.

However, things didn't improve much at the next stage. I was called forward to the desk and asked for my receipt. This was a photocopy of my passport, plus a printed receipt with my appointment details attached. Why had I altered my collection time? Not me, your Manager did it. Have you had a text to say it's ready for collection? No. The passports don't come in untiI 4pm. Then why was I told to come at 2? I don't know. Neither do I. Much muttering to operative in the next booth. I was then asked for proof of identity.  You have my passport - that's my ID I chirruped. No, she responded, I need your ID, something else, your driving license. I don't drive, I don't have a driving license. You must have ID to collect this. But you have my only ID - you have my passport. I need something else with your photo on it. This wasn't going well. My passport has my photo on it - the receipt has my photo on it - and here's my face. You must show me photo ID. I proffered various other cards (senior rail card, Scilly Travel Club card) and in the midst of this heated exchange a mumbled voice came from the next booth. The interviewer's attitude changed from full on battle-mode to resignation to acceptance.  At last common sense had prevailed - my face did in fact match the photocopy of my passport and I was allowed to receive said passport with visa which somehow had magically appeared. Hurrah! I had defeated the idiocy of bureaucracy and Cinderella was indeed going to the ball!

I virtually skipped around the corner to the Montcalm Hotel where I had arranged to meet up with my blogging friend Jacqui aka Mummabstylish

We spent a lovely couple of hours together, chatting about all things blogging of course and then about my forthcoming trip. We've met before and it was great to catch up with Jacqui in person on her latest news - she's a grandma, being one of the most amazing things, as she looks so blooming young! Or is that just a sign of me getting old? We got the waiter to take some shots of us, but he missed my fab new shoes!

And there was the obligatory selfie of course!

I'd arrived early in Edinburgh the day before and what a super surprise it was to find a huge branch of TK Maxx only minutes away from my hotel. Somehow I got bit carried away and bought a whole new outfit to wear to my lunch date with Jacqui! 

Yes, these were too much of a bargain to be left on the shelf. So very me, I can hear you cry!

The next evening I was back in St Andrews for a couple of nights before it was time for me to make my final journey south. The day prior to leaving,Thursday the 17th, was a busy day for me as I had received a message from the client to say that they wanted me to have my hair cut and it took until the very last day for the instructions to come through. I had done my homework in advance though, and found a swish hairdresser in the town where I'd made an appointment with the salon owner Sophie Butler to style me up, ready for the shoot. 

Sophie did a great job, giving me a very sleek do which she assured me could be roughed up for a wilder look. I had to send some shots through to the client for approval before I left the salon. The cut really enhanced the colour too - no rinses or filters required, hahaha!

I'll be honest with you. I had deep reservations about this haircut. The fringe left me with nowhere to hide and felt very severe for my strong features. I think the style looked fabulous on the model in the proposal, but she was the right side of 30 with a heart shaped face with a button nose and cheekbones you could hang your coat on. Anyway, the deed was done with no time to think about it as I was due to catch a train to Edinburgh within the hour.

I spent the evening of the 17th of January in Edinburgh once more, this time out at the airport. 

Friday the 18th of January had at last arrived! I had an early start for the 8.30am flight to catch from Edinburgh to Gatwick and then a later flight from Heathrow to Cape Town. OMG, my adventure truly was about to begin!

Anna x


Look Fabulous Forever search for LFF Face of 2019

Hello and welcome to this special post where today I'm working in association with the beauty brand Look Fabulous Forever. As you'll see from the title, the brand is looking for an over 50 fabulous, vibrant woman to be their Face of 2019. Are you an inspiration? Do you defy your age, stepping outside the ordinary to define yourself in your very own way? Are you full of the joie de vivre? If so, then follow the link here to apply or maybe even prompt someone who you thinks fits that description. 

Here's what the team at Look Fabulous Forever have to say about this competition - 
Last year we ran a search to seek out a ‘Face of LFF’ - an older woman whose attitude to life would reflect everything that Look Fabulous Forever seeks to encapsulate.She would also be a warm, enthusiastic and vivacious older woman who had taken risks which had pushed her well outside her comfort zone. From hundreds of deserving entries we selected 3 women - one who was named the Face of LFF and 2 runners up. Meet the winners here.

We’d like to hear from women over 50 who believe that age is no barrier to living a fabulous life. Women who have challenged perceptions of how older women should live their life, overcome adversity or found a new hobby or even made a big life change that has led to their happiness.

The overall winners prize includes:

·       Professional makeover and photoshoot

·       £500 cash prize

·       A range of LFF products

·       Personalised colour and style consultation 

·       Ongoing appearance as the Face of LFF 2019

Plus there are 2 runner up prizes also.

Dates: 19th Jan - 24th March 2019

Last year I was lucky enough to work with Annee, the Face of 2018. Annee is blessed with good genes she said, when I complimented her on her youthful skin. Between that and her pretty features I could understand why she was chosen to represent the brand for the year. But not only that, she has such a gentle nature and warm personality it was easy to see how she won the hearts of the judges. This year it could be you - so be brave and fill out the form!

Talking of brave, yes some of you may think I'm either brave or mad to be swimming in the winter in just a swimsuit, but honestly I seem to be part of a growing trend. Yes this habit was maybe once viewed as an extreme sport, but with the latest evidence that cold water bathing has huge health benefits, I'm pleased to say that I am positively mainstream now. If you need further persuading then click on the link here to read about cold water swimming. 

Yes, if you've read the article, you'll see the report shows not only benefits to general health, but also for mental well-being. At last this subject too has become centre stage and is (hopefully) about to shake off the stigma that once surrounded it. Ill health isn't a matter of choice and I've suffered from various health problems over my life, some of which I've discussed and some I've shied away from. My winter depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder, to give it its proper name) has been more or less completely banished by this simple act of sea immersion. There's no need to swim for miles or stay in the water for long either - a quick dip would work wonders. 

During the latest spell of winter weather I've seen photos on Instagram of fellow swimmers ploughing through icy lakes (yes, with actual chunks of ice) and trekking along snow covered boardwalks to reach their chosen patch of endorphin-inducing water. If you don't believe me see Julie P and Ella Chloe here. Forgive me for harping on, but honestly you can't knock it until you've tried it. Then, and only then, once you've experienced the mighty afterglow, will you understand what all the fuss it about!

When you see the ruddy glow to the skin as that rush of blood shows on the surface, then I ask you to consider that same rush of blood reaching the brain, energising the immune system, blasting through your fat cells and boosting your metabolism. I'm part of this growing revolution who chooses sea swimming over medication to keep myself well. 

Care to join me?

Anna x


My trip of a lifetime - part one

In case you're not up to speed with my news, I've been off the radar for most of January, away on the most amazing trip of a lifetime. On Friday the 4th January I boarded a Twin Otter plane flying out from St Mary's to Land's End. As I sat next to my dear friend Kate, I chattered on, bubbling with excitement at the prospect of three weeks off the islands. The purpose of my trip was to travel to South Africa, Cape Town to be precise, with the JD Williams production team to attend a photo shoot for the spring fashion campaign. The three weeks covered a visit to Manchester for the wardrobe fitting primarily and then a trip to Scotland to visit my family until we flew out to South Africa. This was yet another #pinchme moment in my life - I could hardly believe my luck that I was one of only five models being flown out for this event (two models from Cape Town joined us on location).

I felt like a kid let out of school. Excitement mixed with disbelief at my luck!

I left the islands behind, flying in to Land's End on a chilly winter morning. My first two nights were spent at Keigwin House in Penzance owned by friends and ex-Tresco residents Stuart and Fran Brint. They're very well suited to this way of life and are warm and welcoming. The premises are clean and comfortable, as well as being ideally placed for a walk along the promenade and the nearby shops. As you know, I'm not averse to a bit of retail therapy and managed to while a couple of hours away in the town before I dropped in to catch up with a friend who has relocated to Cornwall. Penzance is part of a thriving artistic community which was apparent even within the shopping centre. 

This was in a florist's window - isn't is beautiful?

What a great showcase for the creativity of these youngsters.

I don't drive, and we don't have cars on the island where I live, but if I did, then this baby pink motor would be my dream car. Oh, and doesn't it go really well with my coat?

Have food, will travel. The biggest feature of my everyday life is my food. Clean eating, without any additives, preservatives or nasty surprises is not just important, but is vital to my well being. My health story is featured here in case you think I'm just being faddy. Therefore, when I travel I take what I need to eat on the go. Airports and railway stations can't be relied on for my supplies so I always travel with a plan of where I'll be and what I'll need en route. This little cache is for Sunday the 6th when I was leaving Penzance by train to Truro and then out to St Mawgan where I was spending the night near Newquay airport. Lunch, dinner, breakfast and another lunch are all here which means no stress for me as I book into a guest house to find that they don't have the simple fare that I need. By lunchtime next day I'd be crossing London, food to hand for my meal on the hoof.

Penzance railway stations marks the end of the line in Cornwall for most travellers, but for me this was the first of many train journeys over the next three weeks. 

Ensconced on the train and time to try to get a selfie that captures the grinning excitement of the next stage of my journey. So far, I've travelled by jet boat, Twin Otter plane, minibus, train and next it's a taxi to tonight's destination. My flight from Newquay is at 7.25am with a 6am check in time. My evening comprised of dinner, TV movie and an early night. I wish I could say that I slept well, but the excitement had my mind racing the minute my head touched the pillow. At 5am I was up and dressed, waiting for my taxi to the airport.

What a lovely, joyful meeting this was. This is an Instagram friend, Laura Evans aka St Ives Mermaid and this was our first face to face meeting. Laura and I had tried to meet up in St Ives on the previous day, but she was working and I was short of time, so we decided that the fates were against us. Imagine my surprise when she breezed into the airport lounge, wearing a fabulous flower crown and oozing star quality! Oh, that girl is a living wonder. Neither of us had mentioned our forthcoming flights, so it was a brilliant surprise and boy, how we talked! We're very similar, outgoing types, but our back story is also similar too. During the summer months, Laura attends all sorts of water based events, dressed in her mermaid's tail, swimming up to the beaches and harbours in her corner of Cornwall to the absolute delight of children and adults alike. We chatted about our travel plans - she was on her way to Austria to stay with a friend and was looking forward to frolicking in the snow (snerrr as she called it). I followed her photos with delight as she did indeed have great fun in the flurries of white stuff. Laura and I hope to organise a swim together on the islands this summer - I'll keep you informed when that shapes into a definite plan.

Arriving into Gatwick at dawn was the next stage of my journey. But more of that next time ...

Anna x

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