Taking Photos.

So, been a while, but I suppose this is the start of what I imagine to be a long journey. It’s been a lifelong ambition to be a photographer, ever since I can remember I was taking photos, even if it was just between my two outstretched hands, and it’s my goal one day to do it “properly” not as just a hobby.

So below are a few of my photos, taken of my family, or my dog, and I would like more than anything else, for people to tell me where I’m going wrong, and what I can do to be better. I know what I like in a photo, and what I have to do to get that, but if I’m going to make it, I need to get better. So I look forward to hearing opinions.

Until next time

J

Holiday of a lifetime

Sat here right now it’s Tuesday evening. We have been back in the UK for just over a week and it’s been a weird one. This time two weeks ago Hannah and I were sat on a sandy beach drinking a beer, and the only thing we had to worry about was wether or not to go for a dip in the Caribbean sea.

Being back though I’ve jumped back into work, and being a self employed plumber means jumping back has been a short sharp shock. I almost forgot what 6:00am felt like, and for the record, it isn’t fun. For the first half of the week I have still been jet lagged, and I definitely had the post holiday blues. All I wanted by the weekend was for us to go back, and it surprised me how much I missed the beautiful island of Barbados.

Now though, a week on, and I’m just left with the memories and the photos of an amazing two weeks. A two weeks that i feel compelled to write about, so ill start at the beginning.

3am. “It’s another beautiful day to be Rogelio” rings out loud from my phone next to my head. Hannah is already awake, just, and the first thing I hear her say on Monday the 27th May is “Baby, HOLIDAY”. That was enough for me, I was bolt upright and before i knew it in the shower. After checking, rechecking, double checking, and triple checking the lists and cases we jumped in the car and we were on our way to Gatwick airport. Thankfully we had upgraded plane seats, and breakfast in the lounge at the airport, everything was set. This was going to be perfect.An hour later we were walking into the airport. Dropped our bags at check-in and breezed past security. We mooched through duty free and both oooooohed at the Harry potter store. Breakfast was at the number one lounge and we topped it with several glasses of bubbly.

A quick trip to Starbucks, and a look round boots brought us to our time to leave. We rushed to the gate, and were directed through premium boarding, both getting comfortable in our seats as the plane taxied to the runway. More bubbles and dinner punctuated the flight, followed by some family guy and what could be described as a nap. 8 hours after take off we landed at Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados.The first thing I noticed as the door opened was the heat, Hannah looked round at me and grinned. We waited for the Virgin crew to get the wheelchair out and then made our way towards baggage claim. The air was warm, warmer than warm infact, hot, with palm trees dotted around and music in the distance. Each Bajan we came into contact with were so friendly. It was so far removed from the bore of England. Where most ignore you and any attempt at conversation is met with a scowl. Everyone here though says hello, if you know them or not. We grabbed our bags and headed for the bus.

I swear to cow. The heat. Hot. Woah. Jeans were a bad choice. Black was a bad choice. Clothes were a bad choice. This was heat like I wasnt used to. The air con in the bus was a welcome respite and we headed off down the coast towards the hotel. Several stops down windy roads later brought us to the entrance to Savannah Beach hotel on the south west coast.Completely unassuming, this white building didn’t seem like much. Not like the photos, and reception was small yet inviting. This hotel though is a hidden gem. We made our way to our room and en route we came face to face with what Savannah hides. Two long buildings, cascading down the hillside, rooms facing eachother and a winding pool between them. Bridges and palm trees over the water and at the end, a bar, another pool, and finally the beach. We walked past and my mouth fell open,Hannah had been here many times before but it made me “wow”. We found our room, 412, and got settled in.The room was large, with double doors at the end, leading to a balcony. The bed, a queen sized mahogony beauty sat in the middle, a TV on the wall opposite and tables to match. The bathroom was small but functional and it had a separate dressing table. Thankfully. Fully equipped with air con. We unpacked our cases. Laid claim to drawers, and then, headed down to the pool.

We spent the rest of the day by the pool bar, sipping BBC’s (not that. Filthy minds. Seriously) and Pina coladas. Soaking up the sun, and watching the sun go down, Hannah showed me round the hotel before we ate, then made our way back up to the room (ahhhhhhhh air con) and went to bed.We woke on Tuesday and headed to breakfast. At Savannah beach breakfast is a buffet. They serve tea or coffee and you help yourself to a feast of fruit, cereal, juice, hash browns, fish, beans, bacon, french toast, normal toast and even an omelette bar that serve eggs in whatever form you fancy. We loaded our plates, and headed back to our table overlooking the long courtyard and pool down to the sea. It was then it really hit me where we were, and that after the months of talking and all the dreams. We were finally there.

After breakfast i went down to reception to see Dionne, the Virgin rep, and she went about booking our trips for the holiday. We were to be sailing on the jolly Rodger party boat on Thursday, on the calabaza catermeran on Saturday, and book a car for a couple of days the following Wednesday. What was also on offer two days a week was a short bus journey down to the Copacabana beach to sit on the soft white sand and enjoy a beer by the sea. It was last minute, but that Tuesday they were running their shuttle and before we knew it we were on board.

We arrived at Copacabana and escorted to our loungers. Under an umbrella we were barely 5 meters from the sea and we spent the day swimming in the crystal clear waters, sipping beer, and catching some sun. It was a beautiful day and we even managed to catch up on some sleep under the sun. The day flew and the next thing we knew, we were back at Savannah getting ready to dine at Rachael’s resteraunt.Rachel’s is one of three places to eat at Savannah. It is also where breakfast is served every day and above another Al a carte resteraunt, chopstix. Drifters is the other and is down by the beach, it’s along side a bar and pool and is the home of the entertainment every evening. More on that later.We got ourselves ready and headed over to Rachel’s. A short wheelchair ride up one floor and across brought us up and we were seated and served the most amazing dinner. We both had grilled prawns to start and the local catch of sword fish and basmati rice as our main. All the food is fresh and local and bloody amazing. Hannah and I are both foodies I may add. Nether of us eat meat, but we both love fish, we both love to cook, and are up for anything yummy.We headed down to drifters after our meal and watched as the hotel put on a native musical show, with drums, dancers, and singers. We drank and laughed the night away under the stars until it was time to get back under that air con.Wednesday, we did as we did for almost every day we were at Savannah and headed over to Rachel’s for breakfast.

Later that morning we meandered our way down through the walkways that allow the wheelchair down to the pool and we set up camp by the sea. The strong currents of the Atlantic sea meeting the Caribbean sea bring a lot of seaweed to the shore, something that’s only been seen in recent years, and for most of the duration of our stay the entire beach that Savannah sits on played host to a 2 foot mound of the smelly green stuff. A team of 10 Bajans constantly throughout the day sweated and fought to scoop and barrow the seaweed away, even though all the while more and more pushed its way forward. We sat and drank in the sun while cooling off in the pool every half hour. It was the most relaxing way to spend a day and after eating at drifters we made our way back up to the air con to get an early night for the day that lay ahead.

We should have set an alarm on Thursday but we didn’t. We got up slightly late and went down to get breakfast, a light one, as time was short, and we had to catch a bus at 10. So tight it was that I ended up running after the bus as it pulled away, and it didn’t turn round. Thankfully virgin looked after us and got us a taxi down to Bridgetown for what would be my first time and to the jolly Rodger party cruise. The boat is an old galleon, two decks above and one below. A bar in the middle and seating all around, music played loud into the Barbados sun and we were handed rum punch as we climbed aboard. Setting sail on to the ocean was bliss, decked out like a pirate ship the “pirates of the caribbean” theme sung out and we headed round to Carlisle bay to stop and get our chance to snorkel with the turtles. Already 4 rums in we donned our life jackets and snorkels and jumped into the sea, then onto a barge that took us closer to where the turtles would be. Underwater it took a few seconds before we spotted our first one. 30 of us all diving down, reaching out, feeding and touching these beautiful creatures in the clear water. They can’t see much, and one feisty one nipped a few people, but the experience was breathtaking. On the way back we stopped at a shipwreck, an old party boat sunk 19 years ago sits just 10 ft below the surface and we got a good look at the coral and marine life now living on the old vessel.

We swam back to the jolly Rodger and once aboard dried off, grabbed more rum, and set sail once more for the west coast.The west coast is a little different from the south, the Atlantic meets the Caribbean sea along the south so the waters are more choppy, but the west is pure Caribbean. It’s calm, blue, beautiful. We sailed up and stopped just off the shore and all exchanged our tokens for lunch. Hannah and I and macaroni pie, rice and peas and fish. A typical Bajan lunch and it was yum! We drank some more and enjoyed the sun and views and then the crew lowered the plank and the rope swing. We skipped the plank but took our turns swinging out into the blue sea on the rope, a few times we swang and had a blast, families were piling 4 and 5 people on a single swing with several passes. Everyone was happy, drinking, dancing, singing. It was so much fun. In an earlier post you’ll see how the payback was for Hannah. As someone’s that’s chronically ill something like this is a big challenge. I was and am so impressed and proud she put herself out there to do this, she did, and she nailed it, and we both had the best day. After the rope swing we sailed back down the coast to party music, we danced and sang all the way into Bridgetown until it was time to depart. We left with big smiles on our faces and could talk of nothing else all the way back to the hotel. It’s a day neither of us will ever forget. We will definitely be doing it again! We got back, showered, ate and got back to the room. I wanted Hannah to rest after a long day, and it turns out she needed it to. The travelling and swimming had taken its toll. She needed to recover some spoons, and just that she did until we woke the next day.

Friday was a chill day. We woke up in our own time, went for breakfast and headed down with a book (Mythos by Stephen Fry, jolly good read, cracker of a book, utterly spiffing give it a ganders) to the pool. We talked, sipped cocktails, and dipped in the pool as we felt like it. Now. I haven’t mentioned it yet but it was always my plan to propose to Hannah on this holiday. I’d known for months that I wanted to, I’d got the ring, but I just didn’t know how, or where i wanted to pop the question. I didn’t want to wait too long, providing she says yes I wanted us to be able to enjoy it and celebrate, but I also wanted to enjoy some of the holiday first. Hannah and I have always been completely content in each others company and don’t need anyone else or groups of people to make us happy. So I saw it fitting that wherever I do it, it’s just us. We have both been drawn to the beach, so after deliberating with myself every day until this point, I settled on what I wanted to do.

The day drew to a close. The sun sets in Barbados at about 6 yet it stays at nearly 30 degrees at night. I convinced Hannah (didn’t take much persuasion) to take a short walk along the beach as the sun went down so we could take some pictures. I chose a spot by some palm trees and propped the GoPro facing the sea with us in front. “don’t worry, it takes a picture every 10 seconds” I said. As I put my arm around her and we looked out over the ocean. My heart was racing. I hadn’t been nervous leading up to this but now I was getting shaky. I found it hard to swallow, and as I held Hannah close I was sure she could hear my heart thumping against my chest. I ducked down and pointed out behind Hannah to the distance and asked if the beach out there was Copacabana, thankfully, she turned and looked because as she did, i pulled the ring that I had descreetly slipped out of my bag out of my pocket and got down on one knee.

Hannah turned, her face a mixture of shock and happiness, her eyes welled up immediately as I asked. “will you marry me?” she couldn’t contain herself “yes, yes, yes, yes”! She said as I slipped the ring onto her finger and rose to hold her close. Hannah on her tippy toes and me bent down, we stayed there together for a while by the sea as we took it in and both grinned and kissed. Happy was an understatement it was perfect. I had booked an al a carte dinner at Rachel’s that night and we got a bottle of bubbles to celebrate, and made our way up for dinner. Dinner was amazing, lost in the moment we ate and chatted and drank and sat on the balcony under the stars taking it all in. It really was a perfect day and after we made our way back to the ahhhhhhhh air con before getting some sleep for the real celebration the next day.

Saturday 1st June. We woke early, the frogs singing their morning song (a high hoot kind of sound the frogs of Barbados make) and the sun already making 8 am hot! We dressed, threw sun cream, camera and phones in the bag and headed down to breakfast. We ate fast, some toast and a coffee, and then waited at reception to be picked up.The sun tours van flew round the corner and the driver got out to welcome on the van. Hannah and I were the last two to climb aboard for the short trip across to Bridgetown port and it took no more than 10 minutes to get there. We pulled up and walked round the corner before we caught our first sight of our ride for the day.

The calabaza is a catamaran, twin hulled, with tall sails that were stowed away and a luxurious bar and seating area inside. At the front are two nets stretched across the open sea and Hannah and I went at sat at the front as the captain set sail for Carlisle bay. The water swelled and the boat pitched as we were handed our first rum punches and we took in the views with the wind in our hair. We stopped at the bay and as we had done 3 days before we pulled on our snorkelling gear and dove into the water to swim with the turtles. This time there was only 12 of us, and with much more time we saw many more. They swim up, brushing past our legs, taking food from our hands before they rise to the surface for air. It was amazing to see these guys up close, and after half an hour with them we swam over to see the shipwrecks again.

After swimming and diving we headed back to the catamaran, the crew welcoming us with more drink and fish cakes we set sail properly for the west coast. The captain let the sails down and we flew along the coast. Hannah talked me through every landmark on the way down to our mooring point and when we got there we were treated to a spot of lunch. More macaroni pie and flying fish this time and it was incredible. We swam to the shore and let the Caribbean sea take us as we relaxed in the waters. We could have stayed there forever but half an hour later we were back on the boat making our way back. The wind stronger as we headed south meant a faster ride. The water though was more choppy and we held on for a ride. The sea splashed up through the nets, soaking us as we sailed and we spotted countless flying fish gliding Infront of the cat. The scenery was amazing, and i could have stayed in that moment forever. It was the best way to celebrate and we both wished we could do it again straight away as we disembarked back at the port. Our bus took us back, and with memories of a perfect day swimming round our heads we headed back up to our room and the ahhhhhhhh air con.

Holiday …

Holidays are pretty incredible right.

As I’m writing this I’m sat next to my Hannah as we have a drink and she gets over a nasty spout of tummy pain. It’s Thursday, and 4 days into a two week holiday on the beautiful island that is Barbados. Hannah has been on this island thirty something times now, she travelled here for the first time as a 12 year old with her parents, and has been coming back ever since, she knows the ins and outs of the island, the little private beaches, the best places to eat, the quiet spots and the hidden treasures this place has to offer.

Me on the other hand, this is my first time. I myself haven’t traveled much in my lifetime. A week in Spain, a trip to Disneyland, and a fortnight in turkey just about sum up where I’ve been in my 27 years. But this place is different to anything or anywhere I’ve been, it’s paradise.

Stepping off the plane you’re hit with the 30 degree heat like a slap. But the first thing you notice is how friendly the people are and just how laid back those said people are. As Hannah calls it, the whole island is on “Bajan time” roughly half the speed of what we are accustomed to back in the UK. The roads are old, and well used, the houses are mostly unfinished, the whole place on first impression just seems chilled. It’s different, but I love it.

From the airport we took a short bus ride to the hotel, from the outside a white, reasonably sized building, unassuming and blended to its surroundings. It certainly didn’t look like it did in the photos but the Savannah beach hotel hides a gem.

Through the labyrinth of walkways and corridors you end up faced with a long courtyard, rooms flanking either side and a winding pool through the middle. Bridges and palm trees intertwining through the pool and at the end a bar, a small resteraunt, and finally the beach. It’s stunning. It’s the Caribbean.

So far, 4 days in, we have eaten in 2 places and spent the day on a pirate ship drinking rum. We have spent one of the days on Copacabana beach in the white sand and have swam in the Caribbean sea, first and foremost though we have just been relaxing and winding down, settling in to Bajan life.

Travelling as a Spoonie couple means you carry much more than you normally would. Alongside the normal cases packed with clothes, swimwear, shoes, everything we may need for two weeks in the sun, we also come sporting a feeding pump, feeds, hydration bags, tubes, and a big bag of meds. We are ready for anything.

Today though has shown both sides of what it’s like to have and live with a chronic illness.

We started the day down at breakfast, we both ate well and had a good amount of coffee, we made our way back to the room and got ourselves ready in the little time we had to get the bus to the capital city Bridgetown to take a ride on the jolly Rodger party ship.

On the jolly Rodger we started off with a rum or two and headed out on to the Caribbean sea, a quick stop to snorkel with turtles followed by a visit to a shipwreck brought us to a stop on the west coast of the island where we ate lunch and they brought out the rope swing. Hannah and I both had the best day, we laughed, danced, drank, swam, and both swung off the side of the boat into the warm blue sea. Today is a day I’ll never forget, however cut to 3 hours later, and the toll of all the walking and drinking, dancing and swimming are taking their toll.

Hannah is in a lot of pain and struggling to get off the toilet. The pain in her abdomen is so bad she’s shaking and with her head resting on the wall of the toilet, she can’t move. All she can do is wait for it to die down, that could be 5 minutes or it could be hours, but that, coupled with the fibromyalgia pain and arthritis means she’s in for a night that most of us couldn’t imagine. Thankfully she can med and rest and in a day or so of rest, she should be back to come kind of normal, but for now, it’s spoon saving mode.

We have had an amazing 4 days and the next 10 prove to be just as incredible but as always chronic illness is always there in the background and makes no bones in reminding us it’s there.

Hannah though manages to get through it all with a smile and for getting through it the way she does I’m more proud of her than she will ever realise.

I’m just glad we are in paradise.

Jack

What is a Spoonie?

My guess is if you’ve ended up here, you already know what a “Spoonie” is. But if you don’t then grab a pen and paper.

Up until the beginning of last year, I had no idea what a “Spoonie” was. Before I met my other half I had zero clue what it meant to be chronically ill, but over roughly 1 year 5 months, 1 day, 6 hours, 34 minutes and 12 seconds I’ve come to understand exactly what it means.

A “Spoonie” is a person with one or more chronic illnesses. Illnesses that range from arthritis, to Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia to MCAD. They may look the same as everyone else, and often get the comment “but you don’t look sick?” But where “normies” (someone like me who doesn’t suffer with illnesses, and can go all day on a few hours sleep) can get up in the morning, they can shower, change, do their makeup, make breakfast, walk to the bus, or drive to work, work all day, shop, cook then clean, and still have energy for more, “spoonies” just can’t.

A “Spoonie” in a nutshell is the short way of saying that someone has a set amount of “spoons” in a day (spoon = unit of energy) and once they are spent, it takes a recharge to get one back. “Spoonies” have to plan everything they do in a day. Each day is different, one day they can have 10 spoons, the next day they may only have 2, but every day takes planning, and even the smallest of tasks can use more spoons than you might think.

Walking to use the loo can feel like climbing a mountain.

Each illness brings different symptoms, at times they flare, and at times they ease, but the rollercoaster that is life for a “Spoonie” is never ending, and getting through each day is always a challenge.

I will elaborate more about specific illnesses, but right now I have a coffee to drink with my very own Spoonie, Hannah. I’ll be introducing her soon and she is my inspiration for doing this, so thankyou my love.

Hopefully for someone that had no idea, you now know something you didn’t! Spoonie life is something that has changed everything for me and in the best ways. I hope that for others out there that are living the same they can find a place here they can enjoy a little read and maybe even have a say yourself.

Until later. Keep smiling

Jack

Where to begin ….

I always wanted to start a blog, but never knew what to write about, but as my other half told me as we shared a bath last night, “Just write about what you know, write about you and your life, write about what makes you happy”.

So here goes, this is the first of many ramblings about love, life, fatherhood, food, work, holidays, and first and foremost, being a Spoonie Spouse.

More on all of that later, but for now, my name is Jack, I am in my late twenties, I am a father of 2, and partner to the most amazing human. I’ve worked in trades my whole life, yet writing has always been a passion. So if you’re here, thankyou for stopping by, I hope in some way by reading this blog you smile, or you think, or it atleast gives you something to flick through whilst you’re on the throne.

Keep smiling

Jack