Busy, busy being creative..!

Friday 27 November 2015

Walking on Fire

'Take a deep breath and just walk,' Scott calmly told us as we queued barefoot with around 90 others on a dark and wet November evening. We were about to walk across fire burning at a temperature of 1500°F. That's HOT.

On Friday 13 November I completed my first ever fire walk, ticking off no.30 on my 40/40 project list and raising funds for local charity – Penny Brohn Cancer Care.

I’d actually been dreading it ALL day. I can’t remember the last time I’d felt so nervous about something.  I started to wonder – why on earth did I put this on my list? Mr CA on the other hand was as cool as a cucumber and not flustered by the thought of it one bit. I'd roped him in to join me you see...

The weather all afternoon was atrocious – hail, wind and rain so I was thinking to myself – I’m sure it will be cancelled! I held a small hope that I’d get an email saying it was to be postponed.  Nothing like that happened though and soon enough we were sitting with a whole bunch of other ‘Fire Walkers' having our Fire Walk training by Scott Bell. Scott is a bit of a Firewalking expert being THE Guinness book record holder for walking the furthest distance on Fire. OK I thought. This chap knows what he’s doing.

The training, which lasted about an hour, covered all kinds of things including some interesting facts (I love a good fact!) about fire walking in other countries and how it has been a part of some cultures for thousands of years. In Bulgaria for example each year all the girls in one particular village (no idea where!) are put inside a church and the wooden door burnt. The hot ashes are then spread out on the ground and the girls have to walk out across the hot coals. Any girls who get blisters are apparently not virgins!! I wonder …..do the boys of the village have to go through this too…..!? Curious!

Just across the border in Greece, some northern Greek villagers walk barefoot across a bed of burning wood coals as part of a three-day celebration in honour of two saints. Everyone gets in on the act and on the 23 May each year a massive circle of fiery hot coals are spread out for everyone to walk on. All ages. Nothing about virgins or rites of passage at this event.  

The story goes that a local church caught fire and a passer-by could hear screams coming from inside. They got closer but couldn’t see anyone and yet they could still hear screams and crying. They burst into the church and ran through the flames and smoke to discover that it was the two effigies of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen who were crying out to be saved. They were scooped up and taken out of the church and no one was hurt. 

Scott also shared with us how is it possible to walk across hot coals and not get burnt. Without spoiling it – there is a science to it. It's not a case of Mind over matter and if you spend all the time thinking ‘I’m walking on wet grass – you actually miss out on the real experience. If you are interested in the details – I’ll let you go google to find out.  I’ll say this though – you can’t dawdle or stop as then you will get burnt!

After the training we all bundled outside to finally Face the Fire! This was IT! Oh Heck, no backing out now….

We were towards the back of the line so watched quite a few go before us. They all seemed remarkably calm. I can Totally Do this I thought!

Then it was my go.

As I took my first few steps remembering to wipe my feet on the grass first, I didn’t feel anything. It just felt soft. I was surprised (and a bit disappointed). I could feel the heat on my arms from the fire but my feet? Nothing. I needed to do it again. The second time I walked a little slower and as I got towards the end I could feel some very hot parts on my feet. I wiped my feet on the grass at the end to get rid of any bits of coals that may have been stuck to my feet. I felt something that time.

Mr CA was trying to take a video of me – but unfortunately he had it on the wrong setting so this meant I had to do it again. Third time.

This time I took a really deep breath and focused on each step. The Prodigy – Firestarter – Twisted Firestarter blared out of the speakers and there was a buzz as the audience watched. I stepped onto the hot coals which were both black and red in equal measure.  It was soft and like warm sand. The sparks were flying as the wind blew them all around me. It looked pretty amazing.  This time as I walked I could feel some hot spots on my feet. Once at the other side wiping my feet I suddenly felt amazed and rather elated.

Not only had I walked on fire after feeling rather freaked out about it all day I’d done it THREE times! WHOOO HOOO!

How often does THAT happen in other areas of life? You know, once you actually get up and DO IT it's never as bad as it seems??

With black sooty feet we made our way back into the Rugby Club to collect our certificates, clean our feet and put on our shoes. The rain started again as we stepped inside – having stopped long enough for nearly 100 people to have walked across fire – and lived to tell the tale.

Once inside I could feel those hot spots still on my feet and my right foot in particular. On closer inspection I could see and feel that I had two very small blisters on my right foot near my heel.

Oh I thought – some physical evidence! I felt thankful I wasn’t Bulgarian.

My coat, hat and scarf still smell smokey. My feet are fine and having walked on fire - THREE TIMES (in case you missed that bit earlier) I'm thinking hmmm what else can I do?

A MASSIVE Thank YOU to everyone who has sponsored us so far! If you haven't and you think that was a pretty cool challenge and would like to support the amazing work of Penny Brohn please do!  I set up a dedicated sponsor page. Thank you x

Tell me, is there something you want to do but fear is holding you back?

Let’s talk!

Love & Adventurers

L-R Team Penny Brohn! With the other brave Firewalkers, Richard (Mr CA) and I with our certificates, Celebrating with a cuppa tea and a muffin! (of course..)

The event was run by UK Firewalk and hosted by Clevedon Rugby Club as part of a Clevedon Community Charity event. Some of the photos are a mix of my own, UK Firewalk and some were taken by the fabulous Penny Brohn Fundraising Team.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Five go to Lundy Island

Lundy Island - here we come!

Running a retreat has been a dream of mine for some time and having successfully run a number of online courses I felt ready to take the leap to create something bigger. Something much bigger!

It was to be A Creative Adventure with all the excitement of a Famous Five book, but for adults. 

Set on a secret (ish) Island where we could explore, create, laugh and have fun (maybe meet a mad professor and solve a mystery?)

Somewhere that would challenge us and where we could drink lashings of (alcoholic) Ginger Beer…

Somewhere we’d hopefully spot some Puffins.

Lundy Island. The mystical isle off the coast of Devon that’s only three miles long and half a mile wide. A tiny place that’s a world of its own. This was where I wanted to hold my first retreat. Somewhere that would hold a real sense of adventure and yet wasn’t actually that far away. Oh and had a feel of The Famous Five about it…!

In fact the ‘Mystery’ would be ourselves. I saw this as an opportunity to offer some ladies a creative break away from day to day life and step away from distractions to focus on themselves and what they wanted in their lives. Combining my Creativity, Adventure & Nature (CAN) ethos I created something that I hoped would also speak to others who were looking for a retreat with a bit of a difference.

Dates were booked for May, Four lovely ladies signed up and off we went….!

We were due to arrive by boat – but the weather meant that we had to arrive by Helicopter. The Adventure was off to an exciting and unexpected start.

The views were absolutely stunning. I was lucky enough to go up front with the pilot. I felt very lucky.

Our luggage would follow so we set about making our way to The Old Lighthouse where we were staying. Straight up the lighthouse we went to survey the island from the highest point.

Old Light, completed in 1820 and obsolete by 1897, was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander. Built of Cyclopean blocks of granite, it stands on the highest point of the island. The keepers' quarters are still divided into the two original flats, Lower and Upper. Unusually for Lundy, they look out over the northern part of the island. It was soon discovered, however, that this lighthouse was in fact too high and often obscured by fog so wasn’t very effective. Another light house was built at another point lower down.  We were staying in the Old Light Upper.

Being right at the very top of the island like this meant we could see the full island from here. It felt very magical indeed. Even the sound of the wind sang to us as we were buffeted about – it can be rather windy here! We had warm clear days and lots of sunshine.

The two days on the island actually felt so much longer. There was no TV in the lighthouse or Wi-Fi. There was a connection sometimes but it was very patchy and really we wanted to be engaged in our surroundings. Not be online.

Ours days were a mix of creative explorations individually and as a group, eating together, one to one coaching and sometime was spent down the pub, The Marisco Tavern. The local and only pub on the island which has won Pub of the year since 1986…!

We had space to explore, to create and to challenge ourselves.

For such a small island it held so much wonder. We were also there the same time as the Anthony Gormley sculpture LAND celebrating 50 years of The Landmark Trust who have looked after Lundy since 1969.

Sadly I didn’t get to see any puffins on this trip – other than the ones on the stamps and the pencil I bought as a momento, but that really didn’t dampen the wonderful time I had running the retreat and seeing the transformation of each of the ladies over the few days that we were together. I felt really honoured. It was fun, it was exciting, it was calming, it was enlightening, it was magical.

Here’s what the 'Puffineers*'  had to say about the trip:

"A delightful combination of holiday, inspiration, freedom and creative fun with a lasting impact of new directions and happy memories. I would do it again tomorrow!"
Alison Stephenson, Costumier


"Morwhenna inspires with brilliant adventurers and gives opportunities to really question yourself in a fun, safe group of supportive fellow artists & puffineers! Had the best fun."
Rhian Wyn Harrison, Illustrator


"I came needing space to rediscover me – needing to re-connect with my first love, photography. Needing to get some clarity on my work as an artist and on balancing aspects of my life and integrating them. 
And thanks to The Creative Adventurer and the magic of Lundy, I have!"
Lisa Tregenza, Textile Artist


"Windy, Wild, Friendly, Sheep. Had some lovely Creative Adventurers in our brief time here. Hoping to spy some puffins today and adventure some more!" 
Justina Hart, Novelist & Poet

- a person who goes looking for puffins and creative adventures on Lundy Island.


I’ll be running one again next year so if you’d like to be the first to know when I’ll be taking the next Creative Adventure to Lundy Island – please make sure you are signed up to my playletter – or reply to this post so I can put you on first refusal. There will only be four places available. I can’t guarantee we’ll arrive by helicopter next time although I can guarantee a Magical Creative Adventure!

This is really only a snapshot of the trip – but one that I hope makes you think – “I want to go next time!” ps You don't have to be an artist to enjoy this Creative Adventure!

Tuesday 10 November 2015

I have failed (or have I?)

13 days left of being 40 and I’ve failed in completing everything on my 40/40 project list.

In fact, I knew I’d fail way back in August when I didn’t manage to go to Edinburgh for the fringe festival or actually further back – in July as I didn’t go to The Secret Garden Party. I’ve known for months I’d never complete my list this year before I stepped in to being 41.

And how did I feel about that?

At first disappointed and annoyed. I should have tried harder, I should have done this or that differently so I’d have had the money I needed to go to some things – especially Burning Man etc etc…

Should Should Should…

That is such a dangerous word – and I think needs to be banned!

‘Should’ focuses on the negative and undermines in an instant what has been achieved.
By switching perspective, dumping these Shoulds and instead looking at each thing on my 40/40 project that I HAVE done, I feel proud as there’s a whole bounty of amazingness!!

Studies show that it is a natural human condition to firstly focus on the things we haven’t done – rather than looking at what we have and celebrating that. Start to notice when you do it and when others around you do it. Notice how it makes you feel. 

I’d say it makes for a tiring and unfulfilled life. I’ve learnt this first-hand having spent many years with that mind set. It’s hard work and there is never that feeling of contentment. Especially if others around you also focus on what’s not been done.

I’m not suggesting that we give up and not aim to achieve what we set out to – rather to look back at what we’ve achieved so far and to celebrate that.

We always have a choice in how we respond to situations.

So ask me again – how do I feel about not completing my 40/40 project and I’ll tell you that I feel GREAT!

I’ve completed 11 so far and each experience has been amazing, bringing much joy and connecting with so many people. This really is what this project is about. Making connections, having new experiences and having fun.

I know that if it weren’t for this project I doubt I’d have completed the things I have so far. I’ve pushed myself. That to me feels like an achievement. Yes I do think – heck how on earth can I support and coach others if I can’t even complete my own goals. My answer? Better. I understand what it’s like and it’s about changing perspectives. Celebrating each step. 

So what have I achieved so far?

Well I completed a 190 mile adventure from The Brecons to Morwenstow following roughly
in the footsteps of the 5th Century saint Morwenna. I raised £909.25 as a result for The Stroke Association.

That’s an achievement, and to be honest was the biggest one on my list that I wanted to complete.

I’ve also: 
  • met Danny Wallace
  • had Blue hair
  • been skinny dipping
  • stayed on Burgh Island
  • had a cocktail created for me
  • been up in a hot air balloon
  • organised an 1930s party – which I created a film for, made a moon and saw friends I’d not seen in a long time. Plus we had some brilliant dancers!
  • created and organised my first Creative Adventure Retreat on Lundy Island. That was also a big achievement for me and was brilliant fun with four awesome ladies!
  • had my first experience of being a TV extra (still working on being on Dr. Who!)
  • currently taking part in the Sketch Book Project – I have my sketchbook ready to fill!
  • went to Edinburgh to celebrate Beltane with friends – wonderful!
  • been in the audience of Deal or No Deal (yet to be on a game show)

Actually that is quite a lot to have achieved in a year. Especially when you consider what goes into actually completing these things. The ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. Alongside all this I’ve been developing my business and I’ve also completed my Reiki Master training.

So Yes I feel good about what I have achieved so far…

Seeing that this is a project of my own creation and knowing that I’ve failed in completing all these things by my 41st Birthday – I’m extending it. So this 40/40 project is going to be about my decade of being in my 40s. A slight tweak.

As I was working through the experiences I also realised that I wanted to completely enjoy them and it wasn’t just about ‘crossing them off the list’ If that had been all it was about then I expect I could have rushed to get them done. That though starts to add pressure and for me takes away the enjoyment of the actual project in the first place.

I’ve also discovered that I really love organising things. The party, Beltane, Lundy, The Brecons 2 Morwenstow trip….I’d kinda of started to realise this after planning the Moroccan Adventure a few years ago, but I was surprised just how much I enjoyed all the aspects of each thing I organised as part of this project. So no more will I have the belief that ‘I can’t organise things’. This is now replaced by – ‘I can organise things and I enjoy it!’ (A revelation)

I still have time to complete some other things on my list so we’ll see what happens between now and my birthday. In fact I'll be completing one this week! A Fire Walk in aid of Penny Brohn!

I also want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of each of the 40/40 project experiences so far. YOU are what have made it GREAT!

I really like this quote which I ‘refound’ recently and though it very apt.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. 
Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. 
If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.” H. Stanley Judd

How about you? Do you tend to focus on what you’ve achieved or what you’ve failed at? Does the thought of failing at something stop you from doing it?

Love to hear from you!



A snapshot of a few completed 40/40 project items!
L-R - Hot air balloon, 1930s style 40th Birthday Party, Lundy Island Adventure, Cocktail creation on Burgh Island, Walking the South West Coast Path as part of Brecons 2 Morwenstow, Beltane in Edinburgh, The Mermaid pool where I Skinny Dipped at midnight, Blue hair in progress, Having a pint with Danny Wallace.