MID-YEAR RESET FOR 2022
Once upon a time, in the green kingdom of North Wales stood a fortified castle, now a luxurious hotel and art gallery where history, stories of the custodians and guests who have stayed there, remain secure within the walls - this is one such story.
Hi there! While I had intended to write to you before now, I've been living in a dream since returning from Bodelwyddan Castle in August and December 2021, and most recently Easter 2022, when we managed to escape the madness of COVID and Omicron to treat ourselves to the same garden lodge suite with a private patio.
Our expectations were low, but we were pleasantly surprised when restrictions were partially lifted, allowing us to celebrate Valentine's Day at Fredrick's Islington.
In London, I celebrated my 60th birthday at the Shard with my girlfriends continuing over the Bank Holiday Easter weekend with my fiancé at Bodelwyddan Castle.
GRIEF & LOSS
Then as life was returning to normal, my 14-year-old Staffordshire Bull-Terrier died on 5 August 2022. Exercise has been my saving grace through loss and grief. Now, with the cloud of sadness lifting, the temperature at a scorching 28 degrees and climbing this Sunday morning, I now feel able to focus, complete this blog and share with you the impact Wales has had on me.
With its beginnings as a WWI recovery hospital and subsequent transformations into a college, museum, and arts centre in the 1980s and luxury hotel in the 1990s, Bodelwyddan Castle has lived up to expectations. There was an air of impeccable elegance and meticulous precision in the reception; the oil paintings on the walls were exquisite. I was blown away by every inch of the hotel.
We had such a good time that we're returning to Bodelwyddan Castle for the fourth time in 2023. Before experiencing the recent heatwave in the UK, I would have been willing to wager that the log burner would have been used throughout this visit.
Although I was born and raised in London, my affections were immediately transferred when I returned to Wales. Of course, I can't say what my life would have been like if ill-health hadn't forced me to change my lifestyle, but I can't imagine being as happy or healthy as I am now. I had no idea it was possible to feel so comfortable in one's own skin. It was a bizarre epiphany. Do disasters occur from time to time to nudge us off the wrong path and onto the right one?
It is always difficult to leave somewhere that holds so much meaning, but this is offset by the knowledge that we will return. This region has a distinct wildness about it, with its peaks of hills, mountains and valleys; a place where nature can make you feel small but not insignificant. It is no surprise that this wildness is reflected in the cuisine of a region steeped in tradition, hearty and wholesome to guard against the harsh weather.
This stage of my life I refer to as "growth." Everything I went through during the past two years of lock-down was a learning experience. The future is all about becoming every aspect of the version of myself that I was meant to be. I cannot wait to return to the place where my mind is still, where I am at peace, my heart is calm, my vision is clear, where my soul is filled with passion and where I can reclaim and reprogram my life.
Packing Pre-Planning Wardrobe
Few experiences can match the indulgence and enjoyment of sitting cross-legged on my bed, clothes scattered everywhere, soft music playing, scented candles burning, losing myself in the serenity of my bedroom. Moments of bliss and relaxation while contemplating what evening dresses go with which accessories, makeup, shoes and all the things that I need to consider when planning an outfit for the unpredictable English weather. Planning my outfits helps to minimise stress and allow me to get on with enjoying my time away.
The wardrobe basics I acquired complement the classic items I already possess. Two comfortable travel outfits,three pyjamas, one traditional tea dress, three dinner outfits, one picnic outfit, and, most terrifyingly, two swimming suits and Kimonos will be required. I was tempted to use the word "cover-ups" instead of "kimonos," I opted against it because the goal of my weight-loss journey was to learn how to clothe my body.
The style of my staycation wardrobe is minimal, and I have chosen some essential core pieces with a stylish twist. Comfort was key when deciding on my outfits. My goal was to create a wardrobe combining 50's Hollywood glamour with a relaxed vibe and, I think this staycation presents the perfect opportunity to showcase outfits that can be layered and transition from summer to autumn and the potential to change the social narratives about dressing plus size mature women.
It was during one of those reflective moments alone in my candlelit room that, on a subconscious level, I was able to deal with my weight loss. Rather than the physical changes in my appearance, the emotional changes in my way of thinking had made me feel so much more alive and comfortable in my own skin.
I needed to reflect before adding any more clothing that I would not wear to my wardrobe. Thank goodness, the timeless and treasured "once in a while" pieces I own will fill the occasional "black-tie dinner and dance" gap that will always play a role in my life.
This millennial lady believes herself to be energetic, lively, and cutting-edge. Age is not only accepted but also cherished. However, the "frumpy" and substandard clothing for mature or plus size women on the high street is unacceptable. Everyone should have access to high-quality high-street fashion. I'm not going to make any more concessions. Ageism and other similar stereotyped ideas will be challenged by my wardrobe.
My aim is to design my wardrobe around the elegance and dignity of mature women. I am literally seeing life through different lenses, and this is reflected in my comfortable, easy to wear shopping choices. Classic, simple, and neutral pieces are perfect for whatever my social schedule entails. I used to fixate on size tags and how well an item could hide my body, but now I focus on proportions and how my clothes fit me. I have experimented more with the neckline and various silhouettes that are fun, frivolous, and flirty.
Losing inches through exercise has not only enhanced my life but has also made me more confident to wear what I love. Of course, what I “love” to wear could mean different things on different days. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me as I continue this invaluable journey that has restored, uplifted and enriched my life.
"Every day we are presented with two choices Evolve or Repeat"
STYLISH STAYCATION/HOLIDAY PYJAMAS
Even though pyjamas are a uniform for lounging around, your discerning sense of style shouldn't be sacrificed. Because of COVID, there is an abundance of loungewear available right now, which makes sleeping in your underwear insulting and walking around in a dressing gown unnecessary.
Even if you have a room of your own, you may need to get up in the middle of the night or call room service. If an emergency occurs, you need to be prepared to run out of your room at any moment. Rather than taking the extra time to get dressed, wearing pyjamas ensures that I always look presentable on any occasion. I own dedicated sets of travel pyjamas, so you can still look cute even when I have just woken up.
This coveted orange octopus print from the New York Label Chelsea Peers, The Curve Premium Collection, is the latest addition to my luxurious travel pyjama collection. The satin revere top with a comfy elastic waistband for the high-rise relaxed-fit trouser is perfect for staycations, breakfast or lounging on a balcony or patio.
SATURDAY NIGHT DINNER & ENTERTAINMENT
I enjoyed myself. I did not want the evening to end. I was dancing, smiling, talking, laughing, unaware of my clothing. My shoes were not pinching, no uncomfortable shapewear, no need to sit down as pain had been forced to do for the past four years. The newfound freedom in my body had left me exhausted and exhilarated, not just physically from dancing and conversing but also emotionally. Weight loss has given me a life of freedom that I had never expected. That night I had moved out of the shadow cast by my weight gain and into the light.
Later that evening, as we strolled hand in hand under a clear black sky peppered with stars, a deer appeared from somewhere in the trees. We both stop dead in our tracks and stare at each other. Gracefully it crosses our path through the walled garden pausing only to look around and graze. As I take a few deep breaths, I reach into my purse for my iPhone and take a picture. There is a myth that the appearance of a deer or stag is also synonymous with change.
That night I had no difficulty walking or standing, and my feet did not hurt. There was no urgent need for me to retreat to the security of our suite and close the door behind me. As my lids grew heavy, I recognized Yolanda for who she had always been. Eventually, my thoughts settled into a stillness that allowed me to close my eyes and drift off to sleep.
SUNDAY MORNING & AFTERNOON TEA
Afternoon tea is more than a meal; it is a ceremony. Few experiences can match the sheer decadence and enjoyment of a beautifully presented and meticulously prepared afternoon tea. An opportunity to indulge in an English custom, a platter of stunningly prepared and presented sandwiches, freshly baked, buttery pastries, served with the imitable combination of Cornish clotted cream, seasonal fruit preserves and a pot of tea shared with those closest to you for a moment of bliss and relaxation.
Afternoon Tea in the Golden Drawing Room, with extended views along the drive to the castle gates ensures the ultimate afternoon tea experience.
FINAL DAY GOING HOME
The sun was about to break through the window and realised that Lindell's side of the bed was empty. Lindell was standing in the living room, silently staring out at the sunrise, his silhouette framed against the early morning light. The room was chilly, and I immediately regretted abandoning the comfort of my bed. He turned towards me, took off his dressing gown, draped it around my shoulders and put his forehead to mine.
Having enjoyed a hearty breakfast, someone made the spontaneous decision to leave for home without any fuss or fanfare, an idea that set everyone else in motion. Chairs slid across the stone floor, causing everyone to stand as voices urged elderly relatives to move, and spouses called to one another. Others also offered farewell greetings and expressed the hope of meeting again soon. Handshakes, backslaps, cheek kisses, and hugs were prohibited by COVID restrictions. Next, everyone was heading to their cars, more or less in unison, calling out to each other again with final goodbyes and goodbye messages.
So when I contracted DVT in my right foot, suffered a stroke and gained weight, I lost more than mobility, independence, and confidence. I lost my identity. To lose one’s identity is to lose one’s soul. June 2020 I was determined to redirect my attention AWAY from comfort eating, promises that I would start tomorrow, past weight loss failures, television programmes like my 600lb body and telling myself that “at least I am not that big” and, more importantly, that psychological black hole that had become a vacuum for any auto negative thoughts.
My "mantra" of no negativity, no dieting and no weighing myself" remains unchanged. It was simpler to begin intentionally making better choices by moving more, concentrating less on weight reduction and more on getting back into some healthy habits and routines, such as moving more, stretching more, exercising more, and eating a little healthier.
My comments would appear to be common sense to many, and I would agree. However, as we all know, "common sense" does not always equate to "common practice"!
I fully expected to have a few mishaps at the start of this journey, but knew I could just laugh them off and share them with you here in my blog. I think the most important thing is to remember who you are and not let the person you are trying to become run your life.
Just because something hasn't been accomplished yet doesn't mean it can't be. I didn't set an unrealistic "goal" this time, simply to achieve the "minimum." Every morning, all I wanted to do was get out of bed when the alarm went off and get ready. Each morning, I thought, "Well, I'm up now, might as well do something". I can't convey how excited and proud I felt each morning that I exceeded my capacity to achieve the "bare minimum."
Although I enjoyed my time in Wales, I was glad to return home and pick up the reins of my fitness regime, so I could be fitter and return. A certain restlessness appears to have followed me home, and it could not be ignored as it had been previously. As I lose weight, my inner peace, freedom, excitement, and happiness increases.
Many things in our lives give us confidence and validation; it might be a house, family, friends, hobbies, your pet. All of these things contribute to your self-esteem as a human being. I have discovered that I place 90% of my identity and value on how I look and how being overweight makes me feel. We must continue to engage in things that make us like ourselves more and enrich our lives and for me that is exercise. I like the exchange rate as exercise gives me a lot more than I could ever put in.
Self-belief, self-trust, and self-acceptance are all tools that can help you gain confidence. The key to developing long-term confidence is regular action, even when you don't feel like it or don't believe it. It's easy to get motivated and say you want to lose weight, but it's considerably tougher to wake up week after week and work out. When you take small steps regularly, it shows that you have self-discipline. Today, September 7th 2022 I celebrate 2 years 3 months of persistence and consistently getting up putting one foot in front of the other and exercising.
During our most recent visit, we did more than just celebrate my 60th birthday; we spent time together, reflecting on and appreciating each other. After spending a week in the rolling hills of Wales, I'm inspired to write. Meanwhile, I dream about us huddled together in front of the log fire or inhaling the sweet scent of the walled gardens as soon as we open the French doors. So, this blog ends where it began, in a castle in north Wales where happily ever after’s come true.
Please join me in my next blog when I will tell you all about our staycation in Oxfordshire, packing for your significant other and black Tie fine dining aboard a steam train.
Until next time X