Not for the faint hearted

What makes your blood turn cold? Is there anything that makes you want to curl up in bed and never leave? Even if it means missing out on that drama filled episode of Love Island? 🙈 (I know, serious stuff, right?)

I get the fear when I look at my vastly declining bank account on the 20th of the month (I should have shares in Zara – like, for real!)

I get the fear when I am hungover AF and its 8pm on a Sunday night. I’m questioning the meaning of life over a dominoes and would rather stick needles in my eyes than go to work on Monday.

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I get the fear when I’m running around like a headless chicken, which is pretty much every day. I met my neighbour for the first time last week… he was laughing just a little too hard at me, breathing out my behind, red faced and slightly sweaty after just making the number 22. ‘Your the girl who’s always running for the bus.’ Seemingly infamous around these parts. 

We all have things we hate doing, feel like we would rather run a mile than face up too. Facing your fears – we hear that a lot right? Easier said than done, my friends, easier said than done.

I read something recently about the legend that is Will Smith, overcoming his fear of jumping out a plane at 14,000 ft to possible sudden death (also known as Skydiving!)

He spoke about how on the other side of fear, is the best life you can live. It’s a YouTube video if anyone is feeling inspired… the man would have you jumping out without a parachute he’s that convincing! 

For my 30th last year, my brother Ross who lives in Australia and his lovely other half Debbie bought me a skydive that expires in 4 weeks. I mean… a bag or pair of shoes would’ve sufficed. Who else would want to throw me out a plane for my birthday? 😜

Naturally, you google, don’t you? NEVER google kids. Got the cold? Your leg needs amputated. How many calories are in an Indian take away? Death! How safe is sky diving for females…? You get the picture. Skydiving granny loses teeth? Death from laughing! 😂 Good old Google.

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But seriously, when was the last time you felt exhilarated and stepped outside that warm, cosy little comfort zone? When was the last time you thought ‘I actually DID it!’

I honestly couldn’t remember mine. Maybe starting a blog? Doing 6am exercise class while shouting about unicorns and hugging strangers? Does getting a skinny latte with no syrup count?

Maybe it’s going on a first date? Recording a Facebook live? Speaking your mind?

I get the fear trying to tell my hairdresser she made me look more like a member of Hanson than that Taylor Swift number I was hoping for… mmm please stop! Da da daaaaaa. 😳

Funny, isn’t it? We spend so long worrying, obsessing, scared stupid about overcoming something, saying something, or worry what people might think of us. Wasting sleepless nights over the inevitable… when we know we HAVE to do it. 

When my boss asked me to say a few words at our work annual summer conference with over 100 people attending – I happily agreed. I was SUPER delighted. What a great opportunity! I was calling Chris, feeling super chuffed to even be asked. It was a huge deal for me. 

That night, on the 22 bus home, my self doubt crept in like a thief in the night, an old nemesis tapping me on the shoulder. Hello public speaking, it’s been a while.

What I would say, who would all be there. What. Have. I. FREAKIN. Done? I can’t. I can. What’s even happening? My mind was shutting down and telling me to run and never look back! 

Public speaking is something I am sure will resonate fear with many people and I guess that it’s definitely a huge human commonality… and nice to know I’m not the only one who has the fear of collapsing with nerves. 

One of my biggest limelight moments was circa 1990, where I managed to have a nativity play called off and then postponed while playing a donkey in Bethlehem.

Nerves got to me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I desperately needed the toilet and was too scared and nervous to ask anyone as I was on stage. I was hot under the heavy, long face mask and wired head of hay as hair. The sea of faces staring at me as my line was fast approaching. What will I do? 

I knelt down and pretended to tie my hooves (aka – my new Clarks magic steps buckle shoes… anyone else remember them?) Everyone was looking directly at me but my line failed to escape my mouth. 

Before I knew it, one of the wise men started pointing and shouting his mum over for help while telling me that I had been in an ‘accident.’ I don’t think he knew my name… so before I was whisked off stage, the last thing I heard was along the lines of ‘The donkey made a mess!’ 

I recall trying to pass my nerves as apple juice, praying my sharp 4 year old antics would buy me an out of the stables card… but I was busted. The play was cancelled and my pride was battered. Damn wise men! The incident stayed with me for long, long time… my Mum likes to remind me every so often, you know, for the banter. 

After a couple of restless and exciting  nights with lots of practise, the day had arrived, it was summer conference o’clock.

*Must use toilet before*

I wore my best professional ‘I’m an adult’ dress, woke up extra early to have a coffee and even brushed my hair for the occasion. I was first up on stage, introducing our chairman and kicking off the day.

I had read over my notes 1000 times, it was hardly a novel . It was like I had the memory of a gold fish. My brain was frozen over. Need wine. Large wine. Straw. Help.

The room started to swell with people arriving, so did my fat fingers! It was like that panic you get when you can’t get a ring off in Topshop and you think you might have to surgically saw it off or send for fairy liquid… the panic is real, right? As I tried to lift my glass of water my hands trembled ever so slightly. 

‘Knock em dead’ my boss whispered to me. It was time.

I quickly shoved a piece of rather large shortbread in my mouth (great delaying tactic) and had my last gulp of water. Why did EVERYONE have to come today? They all came to see me pass out and die on the spot, obviously. 

I made my way up to the stage, the voices from the tables were quieting and all eyes were turning towards me. The microphone taunting me… 

Negative thoughts started to swarm my head and I could feel that self-doubt creeping in. Why am I doing this to myself? It’s self-sabotage! My leg started to tremble ever so slightly, but I drew a deep breath and tried to think of everyone naked. Then had to quickly revert. Cancel that! Abort mission! I work with these people! Ok, focus. You can do this. 

‘Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for coming along to today’s annual summer conference…’

And just like that – I was done! Pow pow pow! I survived! No one died, I got a few laughs and the more I spoke, the more I wanted to stay up there! I was so proud of myself I wanted to pat myself on the back. If I didn’t look a little weird then I possibly would have.

I had a few smiles and nods as I returned to my seat. I shoved my remaining short bread in my mouth and text Mum quickly.

‘Mum, made it out alive! No fainting or projectile vomiting, now eating shortbread and mentally conjuring up ways to become a world famous speaker. See you soon.’

I spent so much time fearing something I actually ended up loving. The fact that I pushed myself outside my normal comfort zone made me feel well…. pretty amazing!


I guess that by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, you have that ‘I actually did it!’ attitude and it feels amazing, like you are on a high. As Will Smith said, the best life we can live is on the other side of fear. 

What scares you the most?

So jump out that plane at 14,000 ft, go on a random blind date with a stranger, run a marathon for the first time, book a holiday all on your own… quit your 9 – 5 day job and travel the world! Start everything over if you’re not happy. 

I guess it really comes down to this. Find your own worth from within and not from what others think of you. Worrying about tomorrow is wasting your today. Always believe you can, even when your fear is irrational, because you will. And no matter how big the fear is, you, my friend are bigger than it. Anyway… wouldn’t you regret the things you didn’t do in life the most? 

Half the fun is in trying and making hilarious, forever stories along the way… and if all goes wrong? 

There’s always Love Island, a bottle of wine and another day to slay! ❤️

Ash x

*** MIC DROP ***

Beyonce "The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour" - Los Angeles

 

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Dubai Diaries

Before it all went pete tong.

Before it all went pete tong.

It was no secret that I was going to Dubai from the very second Emirates accepted my credit card payment – well, post initial panic that I had booked the wrong dates that is. I casually screeched the news at my parents, text my ever-so-interested friends, dropped it into conversation at my local newsagent. I didn’t hold back in letting any of my clients at work know either  ‘What was that Mildred? You’re watering your plants? Cool. Well, err, I’m actually going to Dubai in a few weeks… don’t know if I’ve already mentioned it? BEAT THAT SISTER!’

Some might say I was pretty casual about the whole holiday scenario, not hyper at all, nope, not me. It was a new adventure, a new beautiful destination, a huge change of scenery and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love getting a bit of sunshine at this time of year when it’s this miserable at home?

Our best friend Steph, moved out to Dubai around a year and a half ago for work which:

1) Left the team a vital man down and us in tears (I only wear waterproof mascara when she is around now)

2) Now means we get THE best presents from Victoria’s Secrets AND cheap booze home at the holidays

3) Provided us with the perfect excuse to go over and visit any time we wanted and see her face

So, with the latter in mind, the girls and I booked a flight in hope that we got to see this new, amazing, glamorous, surreal lifestyle our friend was now living, additionally in hope that we would not be arrested or detained for being our drunk and disorderly good selves. Amen.

Before I knew it, Jill and myself were throwing back our last-minute ciders and pizza at Glasgow airport while making a run for the departure gate (In our heads, we had champagne and oysters at the emirates lounge – we shouldn’t have pinned our hopes on an upgrade) Once on the plane and a ‘good few’ complimentary vodkas in, we were high as a kite… or an Emirates flight for that matter.

I found myself sandwiched in the middle seat on the 8 hour flight. To my right aisle, an elderly woman named Cynthia, who managed to tell me her intriguing life story in between very regular toilet breaks and requesting vast amounts of gin and tonic. To my left window, my partner in crime Jill, who found it rather hilarious to press my assistance buttons to order alcohol continuously throughout the flight – which left me looking like an extravagant economy class diva. We found ourselves in a pretty great position to hear a frantic woman a few rows behind us in a very entertaining screaming and shouting match. Apparently, her brand new white converse had been subject to spillage and that someone (I felt sorry for whoever the someone was) owed her £56 pounds due to accidental red wine damage. It went on for a few minutes until the now burgundy converse owner threw her napkin directly at the flight attendant demanding cash from someone! What a hustler! People around us whispered and rolled their eyes ‘She better shut it – she’s going to get arrested!’

After the drama had dissolved and the 8 hours worth of vodka and hilarity was starting to wear off, came in an announcement from the captain. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for… the feeling of the warm sun against your skin, the taste of ice-cold daiquiris and mojitos and an ache in your feet from dancing the night away! Cabin crew, will you please take your seats.’ And buckle up we did, because it was going to be one hell of a journey.

Now, I don’t know exactly what I had in my mind for Dubai, but what I saw when I arrived exceeded every image I ever had and any expectation I ever had. We checked into a hotel in the city centre on our first day (rooftop pool, oh, HI!) then we headed down to the dream that is JBR beach. After making it in one piece through crazy Dubai traffic, we arrived to a beautiful, picture perfect beach on a 30 degree day with barely a cloud in sight.

As we lay down on the sand, sunglasses on, I remember thinking that I wish my life was made of small moments like that, just simple, but perfect. Best friends, laughing over nothing, swimming in the water, eating frozen yoghurt with our toes in the sand while singing along to some classic ‘Return of the Mac’ channelling our inner Mark Morrison’s. It all felt pretty surreal. Camels and banana boats to the left of me, Jill’s nose stuck in 50 shades of Grey to the right, towering sky scrapers behind me with a crystal clear sea rolled out in front and as far as the eye could see.

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I felt like someone had picked me up and dropped me on the front cover of a First Choice holiday brochure it was so beautiful.. minus the fact I was blinding passers-by I was so pale and that I was also sweating rather profusely. To overt attention away from the fact I was both sweaty and white (super attractive, right?) I talked Gail into coming to do some hand stands down near the water with me and being the absolute sweetheart she is, agreed to even get involved. Now folks, I must admit that I’m usually a pro at the old hand stands and cartwheels. I mean, I used to do them around my room up until, I don’t know, like a few months ago… sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch me whip out a cheeky handstand on a night out.

So, there I was, trying to look all Beyonce ‘Drunk in Love’ on the beach incorporating a bit of a Jay-Z swagger walking down to the water. Gail signalled that she was ready to take the pictures even though there was about 10 people with kids who stopped to watch me. First handstand, nope, didn’t get it right. Damn it! The pressure was now on, people were peering over there sun glasses in anticipation of this girl, on the beach, with crazy concentration levels while making random acrobatic movements. Jeez, how does Louis Smith do it with all these people watching?

Second attempt, YES, I was up, perfect picture. Oh, no…noo… to far over! I suddenly managed to flip into some sort of weird crab position, landing on the solid, wet, wet sand, THUD. The population of JBR beach must have thought an off the Richter scale earthquake had hit or perhaps that some large mammal had found itself beached on the shore. I had winded myself pretty badly. I let out a loud squeal, a squeal so high-pitched that I’m sure the dolphins were tuning in on my frequency. OUCH. I crawled back to my towel as onlookers scurried on.

Now, I was more like Beyonce ‘Sober in Pain’ with a bit of Jay-Z who’s just been kicked in the nads swag. Oh, not to mention that I had sand indented into my back for about a day.

And that kids, is how it’s done.

After an amazing dinner at Steph’s favourite place at JBR ‘The Cheesecake factory’ (any type of cheesecake imaginable with portions of food the size of your HEAD) we headed backs to the hotel to get our glam on for our first night out in Dubai at ‘The Address.’ It was ladies night. For those of you who, like me, love cosmopolitans, good music, great surroundings and more importantly FREE booze – it’s your dream. When we arrived, the view was breath-taking. Dubai’s skyline mesmerized me so much, I almost forgot that we could get free cocktails for 4 hours. The four of us gathered around a small candle lit table with an abundance of cosmos, chat, laughs and some seriously questionable dance moves.

We were on a roll, the minute one had finished, we were back up a the bar, nudging our way in for our delicious freebies. As I was standing, quietly minding my business while trying to gauge the attention of the bar staff, a rather odd-looking man held out his hand to some fast paced salsa song and tried to dance with me. Now, when I say dance, I mean drag me around the floor, spinning me around in hope that maybe I knew a few ‘moves’ which clearly, I didn’t. After a polite smile and a few thumbs up while pointing over to the girls with my drinks from the bar, I managed to make my speedy get away. He then proceeded to walk up to the table, tried to plant a kiss on my cheek during which he managed to spray half his whisky drink all over me! Smooth. I mean, was it not bad enough when prince charming almost pulled my arm out my socket trying to salsa me into a frenzy, he felt the need to share his drink with me too? Before I understood what happened, he was gone, leaving nothing but Gail and I howling with laughter at the bizarre, unnecessary yet hysterical scene we had just witnessed. Shortly after, the free bar closed and we made our way to the next destination… maybe not quite as sober as we had arrived.

This time, we headed for Baristi beach to catch some last drinks before home time. Inside there was a sea of unrecognizable faces, a cloud of sheisha filled the air, the beach waves just a minute wonder from the bar… it just oozed beach-bum brilliance. We only stayed for a few drinks as we had a long day ahead of us on the Friday for our Brunch and we had been warned not to get too carried away by our resident tour guide Steph, so we all grabbed a taxi and headed back to the hotel.

Now, most people, would have went to bed, it was already after 2 am. After Steph left us to go home, Gail, Jill and myself decided we weren’t so tired after all and were still up for carrying on the party. We headed down with our free drinks token to Nelson’s bar within the hotel where we were greeted by a bouncer and a couple of I.D checks (brownie points already, Nelson’s!)

Inside, there was a nautical theme. I felt like I was on a boat and no, it wasn’t because of the shots we had just downed at the bar. After claiming our free drinks, we were told that we only had about 45 minutes left. So, we grabbed our vodkas, presented our best dance moves in the middle of the floor to the likes of Aerosmith and Katy Perry – I think at one point we were cuddling each other in the middle of the floor screeching in true karaoke style ‘And I don’t wanna miss a thingggg.’ Thankfully, the bouncer separated us and told us to ‘make fast tracks.’

While on route back to the hotel room, we suddenly thought, what better night-cap than another Jager bomb? I mean, that will definitely put us right to sleep.

As we made a pit stop at the overcrowded bar, we bumped into Rob. Rob, bless him, was a retired architect who had been working between Abu Dhabi and Dubai most his life. He was late 60’s early 70’s and from Glasgow, so, when he heard our accents he was overjoyed and keen to chat to us. Funny that, isn’t it? I guess it’s much like finding a can of Irn Bru on holiday, you know it’s going to be there somewhere, it’s just SO exciting when you find it, a piece of home, some familiarity.

Rob had on a worn baseball cap, his white free-flowing hair peering out from underneath, sitting just to the shoulder of his vivacious Hawaiian oversized shirt. He was slim, a chain smoker and enjoyed talking about politics. The deep lines around his long face told a story and boy, did he have a few for us. We bought Rob a few Jagers in exchange for tales about his time in Dubai. After asking if any of us were single and verging on creepy man territory, the girls and I sobered up ever so slightly and made the eyes at each other. You know, when you need removed from a situation immediately? Yup, those one’s. After being moved on by the bouncers anyway, we said our goodbyes to our new-found friends at Nelson’s and eventually made our way up to bed…

Our big brunch day out was now only a few hours off and I had a feeling we might not be as fresh as we originally promised. My mind was racing and I couldn’t sleep with excitement… or was that the vast consumption of red bull? Our first day in Dubai had been absolutely amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the holiday. I didn’t want to close my eyes as I didn’t want the day to be over. After a few minutes, I eventually managed to drift off into a deep sleep with nothing but the cities bright lights left on… Oh, yeah, and my data roaming.