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I can’t cook.

I can’t cook.

There I have said it. I, as a 40 year old professional woman, can say hand on heart that I cannot cook. And more importantly, it’s a skill I really don’t particularly want to learn.

I have a very nice kitchen it has to be said. And this kitchen is rammed with the latest appliances and whizz bangy gadgets imaginable. But I have no idea how to use half of them, nor have removed some of them from their packaging (my state of the art scales bought from a very ponsy homeware store in Harrogate last May is testament to that).  My oven itself is something special. So special in fact I can’t even decipher the hieroglyphic buttons on it. Its main use is to store my wine collection; it provides the perfect temperature to harbour a bottle or two of good Kiwi Pinot Noir.

I have tried to attempt the cooking thing before. But for some reason I struggle with the whole timing thing. And ingredient thing. And basic creativity thing. Some amazing food does come out of my kitchen, just not made by me. And I really have tried. I have a wealth of cook books on my shelf from some of the most amazing chefs across the world to give me inspiration. My kitchen even contains a fancy contraption built in to the wall to rest your ipad so you can follow your chef heroes why you create your work of art. And I, in true Riley style, have made great use of it. I use it to hold my washing basket instead.  

As swanky as my kitchen is, we are like oil and water. It was after a recent attempt at this cooking thing that I was reminded that kitchens and the Riley just don’t mix. That I am cursed when it comes to one and all food construction.

I recently had three friends announce to me one Sunday, they would be passing through town and would stop at my house for a nice Sunday night dinner. I strongly suggested (in fact it could be said that I practically got down on my knees and pleaded) that we go to my local pub instead. The fact they know me and know I can’t cook to save my life; I would have thought this a much better (and safer) option for all. But no, they insisted on coming to mine.  And in their natural pain in the arse style, they requested a full all singing all dancing roast dinner. Total buggers.  So in my typical “refuse to be beaten” type way, I set about to make the best roast dinner they have ever seen.  And I did.

I cooked them a roast chicken dinner that would make even Delia proud. It had twice cooked potatoes, green vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and my very own gravy (I kid you not!).  I am not joking when I say this meal was a true work of art. I was proud. There was a lot of blood sweat and tears (literally) that went into to it (including me defrosting one big ass chicken in a bathtub of hot water because it was too big to fit in the microwave). My friends thought it was amazing and were beyond eager to taste my food delights. But the cooking curse that plagues me struck again. Just as I had plated it and was carrying it to the table, I dropped the entire thing on the floor.

Boom.

And that was that. One roast chicken dinner for four, gone. In all honestly I actually thought my friends would cry when they saw the meal they’d driven 300 miles and waited four hours for, strewn across my kitchen floor. I saw one guys bottom lip quiver quite strongly when a roast potato rolled over and hit his foot.  I didn’t cry. No, in all honesty,  I swore a lot (more about the dish I broke as it was one of my ikea favourites and the idea I had to take on that world of hell to replace it made the profanity fly) and just laughed. Proper laughter. The kind where you struggle to breathe and snort your wine across the room, type of laughter.  This was just another typical event in the life of the Riley so there was nothing else for it really.

So there ended my cooking attempt for 2013 and we ended up where we should have been right from the start. My local pub.  And I took great joy in reminding them, that yet again, I was right. 

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Why oh why do I live here?

This weekend I was reminded of one of the big reasons I reside here in the UK.

It is very easy for me to leave.

Don’t get me wrong, the UK is amazing. Geographically about the same size as New Zealand, it is a land mass of diversity. For each of its big cities, it has 10 times the amount of quaint little villages, the kind you see on “chocolate box” lids. With is gorgeous beaches (Cornwall is one of my favourite places in this world), rolling hills and years and years of history, you never get bored here. It has many highs and some lows (need I mention the weather) but it has one major benefit rivalled by none. Its location.

Being situated in the northern hemisphere opens up a whole new world. Literally. With 166 of the world’s 196 (roughly) countries being located in the northern hemisphere, it’s easy to see why. I was comparing travel plans with a friend today and it amazed even me, how much I have done in the last 12 years.  The ability to go to France for lunch (which I’ve done seven times), Western Europe in a day, Eastern Europe in a weekend and North American, Africa and Asia in a long weekend (all of which I have done), just why wouldn’t you?

I was asked by one of my besties when I was moving home. Not if, but when. And I couldn’t answer him.  New Zealand is my home. I was born and raised there. I return every year, sometimes more than once a year. It is a truly beautiful country, no one will deny that. But it for all its beauty, it is isolated. Very isolated.  Before I moved to these fine Brit shores, I had been abroad just a handful of times. Most of my holidays were taken in NZ, tripping round the islands, round and round and round again. The few times I managed to venture off shore, Australia, Pacific or Asia was about as far as you could get before you needed a second mortgage or an extra months annual leave. That is just not the case here. Before I got my UK citizenship, I managed to fill five passports since arriving in the UK. I have lost count on how many places I have been, but realise there is just so much more to see.  This weekend I have booked a trip to Dubai, France, Italy and Spain for this year alone. And I am already booked to go to the US (twice) and the Caribbean.

My travel bucket list is building every day. And so far all but one are easily achieved from this side of the world. So as much as I love New Zealand, miss New Zealand, right now, I am happy to be 11,682 miles away.

“Does this mean I have a fat brain”?

I don’t cry. Ever.

Fact. 

Well it used to be a fact until this week.

Anyone who knows me well can verify I am not really an emotional person. To be honest, the gushing of one’s emotion is one of those few things that scare the living hell out of me.  The whole weepy-getting-in-touch-with-ones-feelings just ain’t me and I try to avoid at all costs. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the cold hearted bitch this is making me sound. I do have feelings and I do care a lot about people, some very deeply, some way too much and some not at all, but I just show it more on the inside rather than outside.  I am a straight up sort of person, “a spade is a spade” kind of deal where you always know where you stand. As I have said before, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I believe in giving honesty and respect to others, just in a less fluffy type way. While I will smile or get frustrated or laugh or love, the one thing I won’t do is cry. So this week has been very interesting for me as I have come close, very close to buying water proof mascara.  

The week has been mixed with some big highs and some deep lows.  It started first thing Monday morning when I had a “come to Jesus” moment with someone very special to me, someone I care very deeply about.  It’s not the best thing to kick your week off with a moment of utter sadness.  Cue cry session number one.  Kleenex became my favourite friend for a number of hours that morning but after several heartfelt messages, it was all sorted and the mutual love was returned.

Tuesday saw a complete one eighty of Mondays emotions to kick off the day.  I received confirmation of some great news in relation to my job.  I won’t go into details, but it did make me very happy indeed and set the positive tone for the rest of my day.  Wednesday looked to continue that theme of greatness with me waking to the fantastic news that a close family member had finally done the honourable thing and proposed to his wonderful girlfriend.  He is a special guy so to know how genuinely happy and excited he is, gave me a true sense of elation.  And going by the hundreds of likes and comments on his Facebook page, my sentiment is shared by many. Cue cry moment number two. But Wednesday afternoon saw my elation turn into one big giant ball of stress. After leaving one of the more difficult meetings I have been in for a while, with a pounding headache and a lot of work to do, a stiff drink was required to calm the nerves.

And here we are on Thursday. The biggest emotional roller coaster of them all. D-Day. 

Today is Anzac Day. For those of you who are not aware, Anzac Day is the New Zealand and Australian version of Remembrance Day. Originally it was to remember those Australian and New Zealand troops who lost their lives at Gallipoli in World War One. But as with other remembrance services, now is to remember all of those men and women, both alive and dead, who have given their all to serve their nation.

Anzac Day is a special day for me. It has become more so as the years go on. I am a firm believer in remembering the past. Not living in it, but learning from it and using its highs and lows to shape our future. I have a couple of military veteran folk who share a special and rare place in my heart.  I care about them deeply and it is because of them and all those like them that I take this day to remember all they have done. I personally believe that a person can do nothing more selfless than to serve their country. And to me, this demands the highest respect.

For the last 20 years I have attended the Anzac Day Dawns service.  At my home in Auckland, New Zealand this is held at the Auckland Domain and here in London, at Hyde Park corner.  Most years I attend alone by choice. It is a time for me to reflect and give thanks in my own personal way for what all those men and women have done for us.  But this year I am attending with my friend. As a fellow Kiwi, the importance of Anzac Day is as strong with her as with me.

As the title “Dawn Service” suggests, it is at dawn. And in England it’s an early one at 5 am. This basically means I had to be up at 3 am, giving me a total of two hours and fifteen minutes sleep. Standing there in the dark, opposite the Australian and New Zealand monuments, surrounded by so many men, women and children, all there for the same reason as me, I feel immensely proud to be a Kiwi. Couple this with The Ode, the Last Post and me standing next to Flight Lieutenant Bain, watching her salute at the national anthems and cue cry moment number three. One of the reasons I attend the dawn service alone is the risk I run of turning into a blubbering mess. That in itself is something I don’t usually want witnessed by a stranger let alone anyone I know.

After mopping my tears I leave the dawn service knowing that one short hour later will be make or break time.  I head to the hospital to get my brain scan results. My wonderful Lupus consultant had sent me for an urgent brain scan to understand why I have been suffering from a headache for the last six weeks.  Today was the day I get the results. I had tried to move the appointment as it clashed with the Anzac Day Dawn Service and work.  But my consultant insisted I see him.  Now, I can honestly say I was not worried about the outcome, but I can also honestly say, that I know perhaps I should be.  And this feeling grows more intent in the hour drive to the hospital.  The fact I am already in a more emotional state then I have been in for months, my consultant runs the risk of getting a sobbing 40 year old woman on his shoulder, or one immense hug.  But in actual fact, he gets neither.

I have to say my consultant is not only the best doctor I have encountered for a very long time, but is also one of the funniest. He has this natural ability to make me laugh like few have ever managed. If I could bottle his sense of humour and sell it, I’d be a very rich person and there would be far fewer unhappy people in the world.  So today was like no other day.  Before I even entered his office he had me and his assistant, practically wetting myself from laughing.  All the previous anxiety and teariness had gone by the time I sat my bum in his office chair. I was feeling good. I refuse to have cry moment number four. So bring on the verdict.

And he did.  As it turns out I have some inflammation of the brain.  Apparently one of the many side effects of this bugger disease Lupus is inflammation and blood clots of the brain. Inflammation is the lesser of the two evils and will require an intensive drug treatment for the next six weeks to relieve it.  It will mean even more pills to add to my already extensive daily pill routine with some to treat the brain, some to prevent side effects from the brain pills and some to make sure the brain pills and side effect pills don’t clash with my long normal daily pill intake.  In short, I am being turned into a human rattle. And while my consultant was rambling on telling me the ins and outs of my brain and how much grey matter I had (good) and no white spots (bad), all I could think was “does this mean I have a fat brain”?

It’s been an emotional week so far, but things are looking good. While my emotion dam has busted and the Riley tears have flowed (well dribbled) somewhat, normality is being restored.  Besides I have new things to focus on. Just with a fat brain.

“Can you keep a secret?”

Here we go again.

Those are five small words I seem to get asked a lot. An awful lot. I don’t know what it is, whether I have one of those faces or not, but for some reason I seem to be the one that gets asked those tiny words, frequently.

I am pleased to say I am good at keeping secrets. No not good, exceptional. I can honestly say that. If you utter those five small words to me, I can guarantee you I will keep true to them. Take them to the grave and all that. So you can only start to imagine some of the secrets I am harbouring right now. Big, small, exciting, weird, forbidden but not illegal (well not in the western world anyway).

So today was an interesting day as I was asked not once, but twice “can I keep a secret”?  I began to wonder why is it that as soon as someone has a secret, they have this overwhelming desire to share it. A secret is meant to be a secret for a reason. It needs to be kept hidden, so why feel the urge to confess it? And more importantly, why feel the need to tell me? I can only guess the secret teller trusts the secret receiver emphatically. And as that secret receiver, I can’t help but feel a little honoured that I am trusted in such an important way. Fortunately I can admit I am not really into gossip that much.  In all honestly I can’t really be bothered finding out who’s shagging who, who has done what to whom and who will be doing whatever next? I am a bit oblivious to that sort of chat and usually am the last to find out  Giving me a secret is quite wasted as it will often have little to zero impact on me. And maybe that it is why I keep getting trusted with them.

 But what about my secrets? If I am the trusted keeper of secrets for others, then who do I tell mine to? Well I have to say I am a “wear your heart on your sleeve” kind of gal so I have very few secrets. Everyone pretty much knows everything about me. Weelllll…..almost everything. Because I do have one secret. And it’s a biggie to me. I won’t comment if it’s good or bad. But I will say it is life changing and I have been keeping it close to my chest now for quite a long time. And before you ask, I can tell you that I will not be asking “can you keep a secret” to anyone.

My secret is safe with, just me.

 

Why now?

I have thought long and hard about starting a blog and for a number of reasons (excuses), haven’t. They centre mainly around two key areas:
A) the time and effort it takes to keep a blog updated (aka I’m lazy)
B) is my life really that interesting for people to be bothered reading?
So why now? Well today was just a normal beautiful spring Sunday in England where I spent the day with a friend touring the gorgeous villages that make this country so…gorgeous. And it was when I finally got home that it hit me. This is going to be a very big week for me. A make or break week as the saying goes. “Why is that” I hear you ask? Well not to dwell to much on the detail, but a bit of back history is needed to understand.
Just over two years ago I got diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or more commonly know as Lupus. What is it? In a nut shell, it is an autoimmune disease where my immune system doesn’t really work and it attacks my body. It can affect the joints, skin, nervous system, blood vessels, reproductive system and organs such as heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Its a cheeky little bugger of a disease and can be very unpredictable, with long periods of illness (called flares) alternating with periods of remission. It carries many different side effects from swollen and painful joints, constant headaches, ulcers, extreme exhaustion, hair falling out to the erosion of organs. Oh and the cherry on the top, it can kill you. There is no cure.
Now many people live with SLE. And ordinarily they live very happy, pretty healthy lives if they are diagnosed at a normal age. The average age of diagnosis is early twenties. I, however, got diagnosed at 38. My diagnosis came as a result of being treated for the wrong condition. I had suffered the oh so common practice of Lupus misdiagnosis. This meant I spent seven years getting treated for something completely different. And that coupled with further missed diagnosis opportunities in my twenties, meant by the time I was 38, I was pretty much knocking on deaths door. I was EXTREMELY (yes it is worth the shouting caps) fortunate to find a doctor who literally diagnosed me with Lupus by looking at me. It took a blood test to confirm it, but he could immediately tell by my appearance that I did indeed, have Lupus. In essence, I was sick, very very sick. Organs-so-badly-damaged-they-have-started-to-shut-down kind of sick. And there so started the two year intensive medical treatment to bring me back to health. Not to fix me, but at least give me a life.
And this brings me back to the “so why now?” question. Well I have been steadily improving over the last two years and my health was starting to balance out. I’m feeling somewhat normal-ish. My double stranded DNA (a key indication of Lupus) has finally gone into normal range of 4. I was 120 two years ago. But I will always suffer from flares and it was during my most recent one of these last week, I went to visit my consultant. In my appointment I mentioned that I have had a strong headache for over six weeks. There was a definite flicker of alarm that passed over his face and as such found myself having an urgent brain scan the next day.
And this is the week I get the results. Unfortunately the timing clashes with Anzac Day Dawn Service, an event I have attended every year for the last 20 years and refuse to miss. So in true Riley fashion, I tried to move the appointment back a few weeks and was told that it was “imperative” the consultant must see me that day and will rearrange his schedule to ensure that he can. Eek!
If I am honest I am not worried about the results. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that deep down, properly deep down, the kind of deep where my soul is hiding, that there is an ever so teeny weeny niggle of concern. So I have decided there is no time like the present to start this blog and share all that is the excitement of my life with anyone who so chooses to read it.
I have Lupus, yes.
But Lupus will not define, me.
Will not own, me.
And sure as hell, will not kill, me.
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