It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas apparently – but for me (being Australian) I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that it’s freezing cold and I’m wrapped up like a mummy for most of my waking hours.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas recently – mostly because it’s December but also because last weekend was my annual family Christmas party. 70 of my relatives head to a caravan park by the beach to wish each other merry Christmas, celebrate the silly season, play volleyball, tunnel ball, beer pong, announce the winner of supercoach, and see how Santa makes his entrance for 2014 (previous entrances have included fire trucks, speed boats, Harley Davidson’s, tractors… the list goes on!). The family Christmas party is hands down my favourite day of the year. My family are completely mad in such a loveable way – functionally dysfunctional and the most loving, caring, kind, hilarious people I’ve ever had the good fortune of knowing and it was the first time I’ve ever missed it.
This will be my second icy Christmas in the UK – last year I spent it with the Pleasance family up on the North Yorkshire moors in a very sweet little place called Fangdale Bec. It was all so foreign to me. I’d never experienced cold like that before. I was out walking with my friend and his beautiful little sister and their gorgeous little puppy uno and I saw one of the things that makes my inner child smile more than anything else in the whole wide world ; a giant puddle. I was wearing borrowed wellies (gumboots for my Australian readers) and a Barbour wax jacket (they took pity on me for not having any idea just how cold it gets up there – it’s practically north of the wall you know) with a big grin on my face i did a big run and jump in to the giant puddle. I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t actually a puddle – maybe it was at some stage in its life – but it now was just solid slippery ice. I fell and slid across the ice and then stumbled around like an awkward baby giraffe until I made my way to the edge and back on to solid ground in a giant fit of giggles. We took walks through the forest and up on the the seemingly endless moores – it was a little bit of magic.
Christmas Day was everything I thought a British Christmas should be. It was cold, we had hot cups of tea, two open fires and were all huddled around the Christmas tree handing out gifts one by one and watching them open them. I love buying Christmas presents – it makes me so happy to see someone enjoy a gift that I spent time (weeks) searching for. I bought Ell a vintage film camera and film, a hand pressed flower necklace in resin for his mum, a turquoise ring for his sweet little sister, and a selection of craft beer for his brother. With the exception of Ell I’d not met any of them before – so it was nice to see them open and enjoy their presents. We all are our fill of Christmas food – and I ate Yorkshire pudding for the first time. I am so grateful that they took me in to their home and let me spend Christmas with them.
This year I’ll be spending Christmas with my cousin Cazz, her husband and their three little girls at their home in East London. Spending the day with family including three little sugar filled devils will be fantastic! On Boxing Day we are going to see the local Panto too. Such fun!
Stay jolly wanderlusters – sending love and happy Christmas vibes to you all x
Breathe deep – let all the air out of your lungs and think of all the wonderful things you already have to be grateful for.
Last night I was lucky enough to attend the first Express Your Gratitude Workshop in Clapham North. Put together by two beautiful and inspiring women – yoga teacher Adrianna Zaccardi of Infinite Beings and Emily Riggs of The Gratitude Journals.
The 2.5 hour session started with a sitting meditation where each person was asked to focus on just one ting they were grateful for that day – we continued to focus on our breath and hold on to that feeling of gratitude. This really helped me relax and let go of all that had been worrying me before entering in to the studio that day. I was lost in the rhythm of my breath and the gratitude in my heart.
We began to move – all the while focusing our breath and Adrianna reminded us to focus on what we are grateful for. It was a truly wonderful class – physically challenging and giggle educing. Adrianna has an incredible ability to describe how to get in to each of the poses correctly – allowing us to focus inwardly and on our breath. It was time for shavasana – I closed my eyes and surrended my body to the mat. Adrianna came and covered us in blankets and talked us though a guided meditation focusing on each part of the body and what we could be grateful for. We finished by chanting Om three times – feeling the energy vibrate through us almost bought tears to my eyes.
We all sat cross legged in a circle – enjoying some home made healthy snacks and herbal teas while Emily introduced us all to the wonderful world of gratitude. Craft supplies were passed around and soon we were each making our own personal gratitude journals – complete with gratitude mandalas. It took me back to the craft days I remember having at my aunties house as a child.
After the class I walked home – full of appreciation and child-like enthusiasm – ready to use my new gratitude journal for the first time.
I can’t wait to see what their next workshop will bring.
Big love wanderlusters – I am grateful to each and every one of you x
Sometimes you just have to go with it.
Enjoy the moment…
One sunny day in London Drew and I went off to explore some street art.
It was a Saturday and neither of us had any plans – which was a nice change.
So off we went on a little adventure – this is just the tip of a very large iceberg that is London street art…
What and where is your favourite street art?
I was staying with my friend in her Clapham apartment. I’d only just arrived in London and I was spending my days and nights looking for flats and jobs and daydreaming of adventure. I spotted a Facebook post from Rebecca Litchfield. She was upset because the model that she’d booked for the job had pulled out at the last minute. I messaged her immediately and she said she’d love to have me involved. We’d both been wanting to work together for a while so it was almost like it was meant to be.
I met Rebecca at Clapham Junction and we caught the train out to a station nearby the manor house we would be shooting in the next morning. Matt and Richie met us at the train station. It was the first time Rebecca had met either of them but they all knew each other from urbex forums. We did the standard introductions and then we were off. It was only a short 15 minute drive to Bull Manor. We weren’t technically meant to be there so we parked the car around the corner and then under the cover of darkness we quietly snuck down a muddy path and… that’s where we came across out first obstacle. All the winter rain had turned what was previously a large ditch in to a rather deep creek. Luckily we came across a fallen tree and we all took turns in crossing the rotting log on to the opposite bank. Richie went first with his sleeping bag in one hand and his camera and clothes in another. He made it nearly all the way across before slipping on the rotting bark and falling in to the water. He pulled himself out pretty quickly but the main concern was the camera. We needed to get in to the manor first before checking the damage. After Richie had slipped we all knew to be extra cautious and we passed all our camping gear across the creek before crawling along to the other side.
Once we crossed we then had a whole new challenge to face. As silent as could be we had to climb a rusted old fence – the boys being such lovely gentlemen helped me across silently we crossed fields and jumped more fenced this time they were covered in barbed wire. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive when we approached the house and I saw the razor wire that surrounded the building. Luckily my new friends knew the way in. The rest of our entrance I’m going to have to leave out but it was very challenging and took us a rather long time with all of our gear.
When we entered the house the first thing that surprised me was all the stuff! No one ever moved out of there. All their things were just there. Left to rot. We couldn’t see much in the night and we didn’t want to turn our torches on just in case someone saw us – so we set ourselves up with a few candles for light and sat around chatting in to the wee hours of the morning. Everything in the house was damp so we sat on bin bags to keep the moisture out. It was a freezing night and I was very grateful to be dry and in a very toasty sleeping bag. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Richie – all his clothes and his sleeping bag were damp from his fall in to the creek. We chatted late in to the night and they all exchanged stories of their adventures. I listened intently – they certainly fanned the flames of my wanderlust fire. Urbex is like a whole new world to me and a very interesting one at that.
By the time we went to sleep I was completely exhausted. We rolled our bin bags out on the floor – jumped in to our sleeping bags with our pillows zipped up inside with us. I slept like the dead. who would have thought? We woke at first light and I saw the true haunting beauty of this abandoned manor house. The house itself was 4 stories high and an impressive stained glass ceiling. We could only reach the first two stories as the other staircases had rotted and fallen down. The boys ventured further than we had using a ladder that was in the house. We got my hair and makeup ready while we were waiting for the sun to rise. Then we spent the next few hours shooting barefoot around the decapitated house… I have never been so cold in my life! My feet completely lost feeling but somehow were still really painful. Thank goodness it was worth it. It was so so worth it.
I had an adventure. I had a brand new experience. I made some wonderful new friends and we created some beautiful images.
Love to hear from you so leave me a comment below or tweet with me @jessicaswander.
Until next time wanderlusters.
Oh dear wanderlusters, it has been a while… I’ve missed you dearly I promise.
I’ve been mega crazy busy – I finally found an incredible job! I’m working in digital marketing and events management for a company called Gertrude & Ivy in Battersea. It’s a big career change for me but a very welcome one. If someone wanted to pay me to be a full time wanderlusting gypsy princess/blogger then that would be fantabulous – but until that day comes I’ll content myself by organizing super fun events and creating engaging content for our clients.
Settling in to London is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I’ve been looking for a flat and viewing lots of places that seem promising – which means I’m still living out of a bag and staying at friends places. I’ve learnt to accept peoples kindness – which was a surprisingly hard lesson to learn. I wasn’t really accustomed to people giving so much and I’m eternally grateful for the lesson and to them of course.
Another surprising discovery is my desire to have a place to call my own. I have always been a little bit nomadic with my sleeping arrangements even when I was settled in Melbourne and working full time – I’d sleep over at friends houses or go visit family for the night and then commute back in to the city the following day to work but I always had a space that was entirely mine to call home. It was a tiny space in a tiny room… but it was my space. It’s where I kept my treasures – my photo albums, my journals, my sentimental belongings. It’s a comfort that I didn’t realise I so desperately needed.
As always I do love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or tweet me @jessicaswander
As of today I’ve been in England for 45 days.
I’ve been up to York and walked along the walls, seen York Minster, Walked up on the North Yorkshire Moors, been to lots of pubs, been welcomed in to people’s homes to spend Christmas and New Years. I’ve been driven through old towns, slept the night in a dilapidated manor in the name of art, wandered the streets of London, partied till dawn and practiced yoga with one of my idols and made lots of new friends…
Needless to say its been a wicked time.
But now I’m ready to get settled in to living and working in London. The whole reason I decided to move here was because I just wanted to change the focus of my life to what I wanted rather that the life I was leading previously which was wholly focused on what other people wanted. That might sound a little selfish but I know that changing my life focus to be on what makes me happy I will then be in a position to actually help others more.
So now the challenge has been finding something that I want to do and finding someone who will give me the opportunity to do it. My work experience has been mostly in Finance Administration and not much else but I’m hopeful that the right opportunity will come along.
I feel like I am exactly where I need to be right now. I love London. I love my new friends. I love my old friends who have settled here and I love getting to know my cousins. Now is the time to get settled in, put my backpack away and create the life that I think I deserve…
Now back to finding the perfect flat…
I arrived in England just a few short days ago on the 16th of December and since that time I’ve been incredibly amazed by the kindness of strangers. I had been warned that people weren’t as friendly and to expect rude people everywhere in London but my experience has been quite the opposite. Our plane flew in to Heathrow at 6:30 in the morning and my friends Dad came to pick us up from the airport. He had offered to have the four of us stay the night. We drove to his house which was in the Cotswolds a beautiful place with amazing old buildings. We all showered which was incredible after 48 hours of travelling from Koh Phangan and then went out for lunch at a cute old local pub. That night we had a delicious roast dinner and just sat around the table talking and laughing. The next day it was time for me to head to London. I caught the train in to London and it was a little overwhelming. I was still exhausted from travelling and my backpack is VERY heavy. I had to find a New Oxford Street to go pick up a letter and then I had an appointment to set up a bank account that afternoon. I asked many a kind stranger and no one seemed to know how to get to New Oxford street. Eventually I met a nice man who looked it up on google maps for me and I was on my way. Now I can’t stress enough that I look hilarious with my backpack on. It’s big and its heavy and I’m a little girl. I got on to the underground to make my way to tottenham court road and nearly fell over a lovely lady. She then offered to help me sit down with my backpack on so I could have a rest. She then asked me where I was going and if I needed any help. I explained where I was off to and she said that once we get off the underground she would check her phone to make sure I’m headed in the right direction and even offered to walk me there. I declined once I realised that I could see the building I was looking for when I left the station and thanked her for her kindness. I arrived at the visa office, picked up my letter and was off to the bank. The bank manager was so kind (and young) we spoke about travel and adventure, parties and art. I left the bank with a smile on my face. I am absolutely astonished at how wonderfully kind people can be.