Depression: The Storm that Rages Within

* Note:  This post is a jumble, because my mind is mishmash of emotions, but if it can help one person to know they’re not alone, then my making myself vulnerable on such a public forum will not be in vain*

Something I haven’t talked to anyone about for almost a decade if my disease; the one I’ve been in remission from for almost as long. Without meds or any kind of treatment.  I bet almost of you made the leap to the Big C, but no, I’m not talking about cancer.  I’m talking about depression.  I know that I shouldn’t be ashamed of it,  but there is still a stigma attached because you don’t look ill, or if you just think positive thoughts, everything will be easier, or there’s nothing wrong with you or you really need to just learn to cope better, or I listened to a motivational podcast which said you only really find true strength when you’re alone.  I can list hundreds more of these snap out of it! things people say because they’re either plain ignorant, or  think they’re being supportive. In the case of the latter, I get that they mean well, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Looking back, the signs have been there, all through the remissive period.  I just did well to hide them from everyone, even those closest to me.  For a long while my blog entries have leaned towards something being off, but I never thought it could be that I was spiralling downward into a relapse.  It had been almost ten years, for goodness’ sake!

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t have psych therapy – I was merely given anti-depressants for six months (told I’d drink them for at least three years) and left to my own devices.  I grew to a whopping almost 80 Kg’s and I didn’t care.

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The photo on the left was taken in April 2012 and the one on the right was August 2018.  I’ve subsequently lost about another 9 Kg’s since then as a result of my illness.

I was a happy, fat person (and I mean no disrespect to anyone that is overweight), until one day I was brushing my hair and I saw my mom’s reflection in the mirror.  She had tears in her eyes because her daughter was gone.  The girl in front of her had a smile, but it was empty and she her size was exacerbating other health issues.  In that moment, my brain dropped a gear and I made a change.  I started gymming (which I am now able to admit became an addiction) because the endorphins replaced the meds which I cut cold-turkey shortly after.  For reference, this is not the right thing to do, because it can have immediate, dire effects.  It may also give the prescribing physician a heart attack.  In my case it didn’t, but it could have.

This round I’m seeing a psych (along with taking meds – different ones than before), but will have to stretch the consultations out due to constraints on my medical aid benefits.  I have an amazing support structure, so I should manage.  If I can’t, I will seek help; that is one promise I have made to myself, and I will keep it. I can’t speak for all people suffering from this silent, often invisible disease, I can only speak for myself.  I want to be heard, I need to be heard – with understanding, empathy and no judgement and the psych is helping in a way my well-meaning friends are not equipped to.  He gives objective advice, with practical tools that I am learning to apply in my life.  Some days I win, some days I lose, but I’m trying.  Friends sometimes offer ill-informed-although-well-intended-advice, but sometimes I just want to say please don’t, because I’m confused enough already.  Platitudes have their place, but for me in a fragile state of mind, hearing something in the line of life is a metamorphosis, or nobody determines your happiness except you or you have a life some people could only dream of, you should be grateful is enough to send flames flaring out of my nostrils because I didn’t choose this!  I would give anything to be the person I know is somewhere inside this shell that comes to work every day.  It’s not like I want to be on this emotional rollercoaster, but I am, and for now, the machine operator doesn’t seem to be slowing this (not)funfair down any time soon.  I have to just ride it out.

I’ve been told by many people that my personality and sunny disposition are my best traits; that people gravitate towards me because I’m open.  Truth be told, I don’t make friends easily; If you are my friend, then as arrogant as it may sound, you can count yourself lucky.  As Harriet so rightfully pointed out the other night over a cup of jasmine-infused-rooibos, (my) friendliness costs nothing, but (my) friendship is an expensive gift.  Once I’ve let you close, I am probably the most loyal person you will ever meet, often to my own detriment, because I often allow people to get away with murder, but I’m working on saying “No!”  Despite what many people see as a friendly, outgoing person,  I’m awkward and shy and I either hide behind humour when I’m nervous, or I sit at a vantage point where I can merely observe, until a polite amount of time has passed and an “out” presents itself.

I’ve never thought of myself as attractive, and after being told by my first ex-boyfriend, “You’ll never be a pretty woman”, the picture I had of myself was cast in stone.  It’s been extremely hard for me to accept compliments about my appearance and it’s been going on twenty years since those words stung my soul.  Last year at Sarah’s wedding (my first time ever as a bridesmaid) I was told you look beautiful and I had to fight the noise in my head telling me anyone can look beautiful with professional make-up and hair and an expensive dress, but it’s only for a few hours.  I’ve come to realize that the debilitating voice of depression is always there, even when I think it’s packed its bags and buggered off to the Bermuda Triangle.

I’ll admit, for a very long time, I was the proverbial ray of sunshine, living in my oblivious little bubble – I refused to watch- or listen to the news because it affects me negatively and sometimes I hear things that trigger bad memories for me.  I am extremely sensitive too, with the memory of an elephant.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  As far as I’ve been able to, I have tried as far as possible to have the mindsets of be grateful, count your blessings, live and let live and everything happens for a reason or everything that is happening to me is taking me to a higher level of consciousness.  It is only now, for the first time ever that I am seeing a therapist that is helping me understand that through almost the entire time I thought I was fine and over it (because that’s what people expect of you), the depression was still there, just well hidden.

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At this stage, I am not going to go into what triggered my relapse, or just how deep the degeneration is, partly because I’m scared of being perceived as weak and because I feel like I have failed myself and others.  These are things that I must work through (and my support network is being amazingly patient and caring) but until I have, the story of my setback will remain mine.   Maybe down the line I will, maybe I won’t.  I’m not going to make promises, unsure if I’ll be able to keep them.

Someone I know through work, Ida (or as she’s known Awesome Ida) popped in today.  She has a debilitating disease of her own, so understands what I’m going through.  I haven’t shared much with her, but somehow, she’s always touched base with me when I’ve needed it most.  She said to me this morning, “You need love now girl, and you need to love yourself.  If you have a good day, celebrate it!  If you have a bad one, remember that it’s okay not to be okay.  You have to have the same love and patience with yourself that you do with others. Some days will be easier than others.  If you need to take things ten minutes at a time, do it.  And remember that you are loved.”

Last night I went to have my nails done; something many people question because it’s a luxury or it’s expensive or surely you can just paint your own nails.  Not that I need to explain myself, but it is something I do for me.  For my self-care.  It makes me feel good about myself and the art is representative of what I’m feeling.  And I’m supporting a friend’s business, which on some level makes me feel like I’m contributing to a bigger picture.

Once Elena’s previous client left, she took one look at me, having last seen me before I was admitted to hospital following the Major Depressive Episode that resulted in my relapse and my resolve crumbled. Completely. I spoke, she listened. I cried, she squeezed my hand.  She asked me if I have suicidal tendencies, because I told her I don’t want to be awake, but I was honest that while I’ve thought about it, there is still a sane part of me that knows I have a purpose (even when it feels like I don’t); I explained that the reason I don’t want to be awake is because when I’m asleep, it’s the only time my thoughts are silent.  She was awash with relief and I was comforted to know that she had the courage to call me out on something potentially fatal.  In that moment, her care touched me very deeply.

I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with my nails, a thunderous sea-storm because I feel like I am in a storm being tossed by the waves.  This was the final result.

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I’m glad I opted for the lighthouse, because even though I’m up and down most days, when I look at my nails, I will be reminded (for the next fortnight at least), that there are steadfast beacons in my life that will guide me to safer shores.

As is custom I sent the photo of my nails to a number of my friends, and Carmen replied with this zoomed-in screenshot, caption with “Do you see the face, Misfit?”

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I did see the face (on the finger next to the lighthouse) and I sent it to Elena.  It wasn’t planned, it just happened.  I like that it looks distorted, almost alien-like, because it’s how I feel – a foreign creature in a familiar pod, a lost Misfit in her bodily shell. On some level I think maybe God, or The Universe or Some Other Higher Power is telling me that the storm is indeed raging within, but that light will drive out the darkness eventually. I just have to keep taking things as they come, even if it is just ten minutes at a time like Ida said.  Time, it’s said, is a healer.  I know this to be true.  I just need to have grace with myself and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Will you look at that?  I just platituded myself  😀

Almost 33 and 33 lb Lighter

I’ve done it!  I’ve finally lost 15 Kg (or for those of you metric measurers, 33 lb).  

It has been a long journey, although honestly, not as hard as I expected it to be.  I think it is going to be harder to maintain motivation levels now that I know the battle is won.  

 Here are before, during and after photos

This photo was taken in August last year.  I hadn’t started gym yet, and at the time the photo was taken, I had no desire to exercise either.  I was actually quite comfortable in my little (well large), round body.  I was very happy (evident from the smile on my face) when this photo was taken – I was with my mom and Aunty Carol for a girls’ weekend in Cape Town.  On this specific day, a special friend, Jakes, joined us for a visit to BouldersBeach (it’s a sanctuary for African Penguins).  Now as I look at it, I am actually appalled that I let myself go to the extent I did. 

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This photo was taken about two weeks after I joined the gym.  A few friends and I took a hike to the local dam.  (FLTR:  Ilayna, Liza, Elizabeth and I.)  Everything is board-walked, but it is downhill all the way to the dam and a very steep uphill all the way back!  I was huffing and puffing my lungs out by the time we got back to the car.  

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In November last year I was invited to a Moulin Rouge evening at a gallery owned by a friend.  By then I hadn’t lost much, but my face does seem slightly less round in this photo 🙂

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As time progressed a number of people who also go to the gym, but whom I don’t know from Joe (or Josephine) Soap would approach me and tell me that they’ve noticed the change, even though I couldn’t really see a difference, I could feel it on my clothes.  Every second month, there would be an improvement on my fitness evaluation and I felt so incredibly proud.  I couldn’t wait to get home and share my stats on Facebook.

I had my most recent evaluation this past Wednesday – in some areas I showed an improvement, in others a regression, but all things considered (being away for a week and not able to gym, and being booked off sick for always three weeks with the damn flu), I did damn well. In two months time I turn 33, and my next evaluation will be round then too.  But as I am now, don’t I look damn good? 

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I’m feeling a great deal more confident and enjoying the fun of shopping for clothes that highlight the new, slimmer me.  My mental attitude has changed a great deal too – I feel a lot more positive about life and I’m seeing the beauty in the small things that are so often taken for granted, like this morning’s sunrise. 

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Inside Out Challenge

For those of you who don’t really know me, I often suffer from brain itches (which is the term for a song that sticks in your head) and today’s one is courtesy of the sexy Bryan Adams.  It’s called “Inside Out” and I thought it would make a good basis for a BlogLand challenge.

Inside Out

 The biggest lie you ever told

The biggest lie I’ve ever told was to myself – an ex-boyfriend of mine was into things I knew were wrong, but I so wanted to be accepted that I convinced myself that they were okay.  Thank goodness I didn’t get sucked in.

Your deepest fear ‘bout growin’ old

I don’t fear “growin’ old” so much, but I fear “growin’ old” alone.  I am an extremely social person.  I value my family and my friends deeply, but I know that as time moves on, my family members will die and my friends will move on to have their own lives.  I’m scared of being left behind, and alone.

 The longest night you ever spent

Fortunately I’ve only ever spent long nights partying!  Cousin Lara and I went to one of our family reunions one year and we had such fun.  When the party was over, we went to a local haunt until it closed and then went to the beach and watched the sunrise, laughing about all sorts of things.  Happy memory 🙂 

The angriest letter you never sent

I wrote a letter to the ex that broke up with me on Facebook.  I never sent it because I decided not to give him the satisfaction of stealing anymore of my sunshine and happiness. 

 The boy you swore you’d never leave

There was Peter.  I really thought that my first love would be my last.  How so very wrong I was.

 The one you kissed on New Year’s Eve

I don’t remember his name, but I remember telling Cousin Lara – and she nearly died laughing…turned out the guy worked for the local waste company.  For months afterwards she teased me about kissing the garbage man.

 The sweetest dream you had last night

I didn’t have a dream last night, or wait, maybe I did…I can’t remember though

 Your darkest hour, your hardest fight

In late 2008 my gynaecologist found a tumour (*note, the photos are not for the squeamish*) on my one ovary.  She had to operate to determine if it was malignant (thankfully it wasn’t), but I was scared.  It was a hard fight to think that at the age of 29, I had lost another love (for a second time), had my appendix out and then to have to hear that I might not be able to have children because I could have cancer.  Then in 2010 I was diagnosed with depression…I can stand proudly, smile and say, “I have overcome.  Anything that life throws at me in the future, I will overcome – I have a wonderful, omniscient Heavenly Father whose timing is always perfect.  The trials he brings across my path mould me into a better person.

 Chorus

I wanna know you – like I know myself

I’m waitin’ for you – there ain’t no one else

Talk to me baby – scream and shout

I want to you know you – inside out

I wanna dig down deep – I wanna lose sleep

I wanna scream and shout – I wanna know you inside out

I wanna take my time – I wanna know you mind

Ya know there ain’t no doubt – I wanna know you inside out

The saddest song you ever heard

There are two:  Concrete Angel by Martina McBride and Butterfly Kisses -Daddy’s Little Girl by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.  Both those songs make me cry every time I hear them.

The most you said with just one word

NO!

The loneliest prayer you ever prayed

“Please Lord, don’t let me die.”

 The truest vow you ever made

“I will never forget you.”

What makes you laugh, what makes you cry,

Laugh:  My family, friends, animals, people in general

Cry:  Cruelty to animals, cruelty to the elderly, child abuse

 What makes you mad, what gets you by,

Mad:  Pretentious people, being falsely accused and people jumping to conclusions about things without having all the facts

Gets me by:  My family, my friends and the occasional glass of red wine in a bubble bath

Your highest high, your lowest low

Well, I was very high yesterday after having done very well at my fitness test, but my highest high would be hearing the words, “you have the potential to write an award winning novel.  Don’t you want to enter your manuscript for the Sanlam Youth Literature awards?”

Lowest low:  I have had lows, but not one of them has been a rock-bottom-lowest-one.  I always come out on top!

 

These things I want to know

Chorus x 2

Day Five: Six Places

I haven’t had much access to the Internet lately, hence only getting around to updating my blog now…

Continuing with the Challenge…

Six Places:

1. I am in love with Singapore. I have visited the country twice, the first time just after the tsunami hit Thailand in 2004, and then again with my parents in 2009. If I could land a job there tomorrow, I would leave South Africa at the drop of a hat – I love the people, the mix of buildings old and new, the culture, the food and the fact that it is so clean. I am definitely going to visit the country again – hopefully sooner rather than later.

2. Argentina – I already have the brochures…so now it’s time to start saving for the holiday.

3. Montagu – this quaint little village town in the Western Cape of South Africa has an attractive charm about it. It also holds fond memories of the Rugby World Cup 2007 and a girls’ weekend the following year, which helped me get through a shocking break-up. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it is freezing in winter.

4. Cape Town – without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on this earth – from Table Mountain, to Simon’s Town, to Boulders Beach, to the V&A Waterfront, to Kirstenbosch, to Hout Bay – the city is alive with culture, food, sunshine and some really gorgeous men.

5. New York – while I have only ever read about the “City that Never Sleeps” or seen it on TV, part of me wants to sit under a tree in Central Park, sipping a coffee from Starbucks while I show off my purchases from Saks 5th Avenue. I want to see a Broadway show too…

6. Home – it’s where my heart is. It doesn’t matter what the building is, if my family and friends are close by, that’s where I want to be.

Day Four: Seven Wants

Seven Wants…

Now this is a fun topic!

1.  Mercedes Benz

Preferably a C200 Kompressor, either white or silver, with either a grey or beige interior, an automatic transmission and a sunroof.

2.  A Holiday in Europe and Argentina…

 I’m particularly fascinated byItalyandFrance(it’s the food and the language…). 

As forArgentina, I want to go there is I can tango in the cobblestone streets with a mysterious dark South American stranger.

 3.  To Be Remembered

As someone who touched someone’s life…one of the biggest things I have learnt in recent times is to be nice to everyone I meet, because they truly may be fighting some kind of battle.  Kindness costs nothing, yet it is a great gift.

4.  To See my Friend Kerry Again

She lives in Johannesburg, and needs a break – and we need to catch up…I can see us reminiscing up a storm over a bottle of wine, or giggling about something silly over cocktails.  I must make a plan – for her to either visit me down at the coast (which I think will recharge her batteries) or for me to go up there…

5.  A Place of my Own

Not just a place where I live on my own, but a place of my own, that I own.  I don’t want a lavish place, but just something comfy where I can leave my own personal stamp.

6.  To Meet my Favourite Authors

James Patterson, Jeffrey Deaver, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Townsend and Michael Connelly…and then invite them all over to dinner at my house, which will be cooked by my chef, Luigi or Michél (whom I will have recruited during my European holiday).

7.  To have an Unlimited Supply of my Favourite Perfume

Calvin Klein’s Euphoria…I’ve tried many perfumes, but this is number one in my top three.  Number two is Chanél Chance Le Tendre and Number three is Givenchy Very Irresistible.

Day Three: Eight Fears

I am not going to elaborate too much on this topic because I don’t want to dwell on it for too long…

I don’t fear death, but I do fear dying by either drowning, fire or suffocation.

If it has more than four legs, I’m scared of it – except if it is a praying mantis, then I feed it jam with a teaspoon.

Being alone – I can handle my own company for a day or two, three at most and then I need another breath in the house.

 Being involved in a car accident where someone is killed and I survive.  I don’t handle guilt well at the best of time; I don’t want to have to try to deal with Survivor’s Guilt.

Finding out that I might not be able to have children.  I want to be a mom one day – I love children.

My parents getting Alzheimer’s Disease – I can’t imagine what it would be like to have them not knowing who they are or who I am. 

Confined spaces, lifts in particular – this stems from an incident when I was six and was stuck in a lift with my mother for almost 24 hours before someone heard our cries for help.  Ever since then, I will rather take the stairs.

Being raped.  Enough said…

I’m looking forward to the next bit of this challenge – Seven Wants, because then I can share my indulgent dreams with all of you 🙂

Day Two: Nine Loves

Nine Loves…

I uhm’ed and ah’ed about this one quite a bit, but I realized I have more than nine – deciding on the top nine was the difficult bit. 

  1. My Parents

Yes, yes, it probably sounds so clichéd, but it’s the truth.  Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  They still chide me when I do something wrong, but are supportive of me in every way.  I sometimes think about what life will be like when they’re gone, and it breaks my heart – the time we have is so precious…

  1. My friends and Some of my Family…

 …Most of them anyway, although honestly, I love some a lot more than others. 

 I can count on a single hand the really awesome friends I have (and this is in no particular order) – there is Kerry in Jo’burg – no matter how much time goes by without us seeing each other, we are always able to pick up where we left off, and she is always there when I need to talk. 

Elisabeth is another top-notch friend – sure, there are days when she makes me so angry I’d like to throttle her, but I will never find another friend like her – she is loyal, caring, always willing to listen, and always around with a helping hand to help plan or clean up after a get-together.  I love the way she always brings me back to earth – even though the ride is sometime bumpy.  She said to me one day that I am her “honourary sister” and that made me feel so special. 

Geri & Dan in Durbs – who strangely enough are friends I met online (in a trivia chat room).  We met in person in November 2002 and just gelled so well.  They have two gorgeous kids and they are always willing to open their home to me.  They were Godsends in January when we had our car accident – the towing company wouldn’t come and get us out until we paid the money upfront – (really now, talk about unreasonable), but when I phoned Dan and Geri with the details, they didn’t hesitate to immediately transfer the cash and get us sorted.

Cousin Lara – while we live in the same town, and don’t see each other as often as we should, when we do, well, there are always tears – tears from laughing so much that our tummies ache. 

That’s not all of them, but if I have to list everyone – this will end up being a thesis-long post. 

  1. Books

I cannot function without books.  Sure, the Kindle is a great invention, but to me, there is nothing like the feel of turning a page to find out whodunit.  I have been gifted some old books over the years, and there is something magical about the smell of the yellowing pages that makes me wonder what those books had seen before they landed on my shelf.  My love of reading is something I inherited from Mom (another reason I love her… Dad on the other hand doesn’t understand why I spend a fortune on books that I am only going to read once…) 

  1. Cooking

While I am by no means a foodie like some of the blogger friends I have, I do love being in the kitchen rustling up something to eat.  Mom has a number of kitchen gadgets, which makes the exercise all the more entertaining.  I am totally in love with (her) Russell (Hobbs Bread Machine).  I have mastered a Cottage Cheese and Herb Bread and on Sunday I made a Trail Mix Wholewheat Loaf (it was almost perfect, except that all the raisins were on the outside of the loaf.  Generally I am not a bad cook (well, nobody has died from anything I’ve made), but heaven knows, I am definitely not a contender for Masterchef… 

  1. Writing

I have been blessed with a vivid imagination, a knack for telling a story, and a love of words – this combination has grown into a love of writing.  I enrolled for a novel-writing course with the South African Writers’ College.  I am loving every minute of it and I am so inspired because the feedback I have been getting from my tutor has been constructive, but always positive.  One of my dreams to be on the New York Bestseller’s List – who knows, maybe this is the beginning of realizing that dream. 

  1. Children and their Innocence

Even though I don’t have any of my own, I love children.  I love their innocence – like a friend of mine’s daughter telling the minister’s wife that she has big nose.  Her mom is cringing with embarrassment, yet the little one doesn’t realize that she has just committed a social faux pas. 

  1. A Good Red Wine

Elisabeth and I hadn’t been friends long, but she took it upon herself to turn me into a red wine drinker – and I love her for it!  There have been countless evenings when I have polished off a bottle with either her or another friend – and always felt better for it.  A spicy Shiraz on a frosty evening wards off the cold – and what’s better, the empty bottle doesn’t tell secrets… 

  1. Rainy Weekends

 Because then I don’t have to find an excuse to lay in bed all day watching DVD’s or reading a book or working on my novel.

  1. Chocolate

It doesn’t matter what shape, size, form or colour – if it is chocolate, I love it.

 

Day One: 10 Secrets

I have to get back into blogging!  The intention is there, but to actually sit down and get a post done is the problem…work really keeps me busy and in the evenings I am pretty much to pooped to sit in front of the PC for another hour or so.  But, I need to, so I’m going to – even if it means that I have to blog from bed…

An update of one of the blogs I follow was in my inbox this morning and it looks like it very well may be the kick up the bum that I need to get my blog going again…

It is a daily challenge which requires me to write a piece for ten consecutive days, starting with ten secrets about myself.

It is a daily challenge which requires me to write a piece for ten consecutive days, starting with ten secrets about myself.

  1. I am secretly in love with CSI detectives – for years I was absolutely besotted with David Caruso, but I’m over him; his fixation with his sunglasses now gets on my nerves.  I find Eddie Cahill (Detective Flack in CSI: NY) absolutely gorgeous – must be those blue eyes…
  1. I want to be Dr Who’s companion.  But then David Tennant must be the Doctor.  I will always be thankful to my friends Lisa and Leon for introducing me to the Doctor.  There would be a huge gap in my heritage had they not.
  1. I have a love of peanut butter in any shape or form – even ice-cream.  Just the other day I bought myself a tub of peanut butter swirl ice-cream from Woolies and even though it is way too cold for ice-cream, I sneak a teaspoon or two into my mouth after supper.  No-one else is allowed near my ice-cream.
  1. I wish someone would find me (or I, him!) that loves me for who I am, how I am, no matter what.  I’m tired of being alone.  This feeling is exacerbated every time I hear friends of mine are getting married, or those who are, are having kiddies, or I catch the bouquet at a wedding – just last week I caught my third consecutive bouquet – not a good hat-trick to have.
  1. By the time I went to school at the age of six, I still couldn’t tie my shoelaces.  Seriously.
  1. The quickest way to get me to fall asleep in front of the TV is to put David Attenborough on – there is something about his voice that puts me to sleep.
  1. If I could, I would eat Italian food every day.  The passion and love that goes into Italian cooking makes it tastier.  I would love to tourItalyon a little Vespa scooter from North to South sampling the food – not caring about the weight I will undoubtedly put on.
  1. I am fascinated by snakes and crocodiles – particularly when they come packaged as shoes and handbags. 
  1. I love big band music.
  1. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher – when I hear on the news what happens in schools these days, I’m relieved I’m not.