A Slight Change in Plans! – My Route 66 Charity Tour

Hello my little demons!

So, there has been a ‘slight’ hick-up, which has resulted in changing my plans with my Route 66 Charity Tour.

BUT DONT FEAR! I’m still going!

I won’t go into detail, but long story short – I’ll be going on my own now. The friend I was supposed to go with has decided he no longer wants to be my friend. Don’t ask me why, I cannot answer that. As I cannot for the life of me work out what I said or did, I am just going to assume that it’s got nothing to do with me. I also do not want to divulge into it publicly as it’s not fair to do so. I will wish him luck in the future though.

It never really crossed my mind to cancel any of my plans. We had discussed a trip around the Highlands (the NC500 – Scotland’s Route 66), taking camping gear with us, and I’m still planning on doing that in the Spring/Summer once I’ve got my motorbike. And, of course, he was going to come with me down Route 66. If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you will know that I tried to do something like this before; I was going to tour America and Canada for Charity, I had actually paid for a working holiday visa to Canada already, but my plans fell through. I’m determined not to let my plans fall through again! You can read about it here.

Plus, I really want to raise funds and awareness for Selective Mutism!

In light of what happened recently, it has made me realise that the only person I really trust is myself. People can easily let you down. So, I’ve made the decision to do this ALONE. It kinda feels poetic, actually, like one of those soppy life-changing movies that hit you in the feels. But with cars, motorbikes, food and the open road!

Hell, it’s going to be scary, but I’m hoping that I’ll build up my confidence, work on my skills filming and editing, and plan the socks off it, all in the next year or so until I go. It also has some new challenges that I never thought of before.

The three main challenges are; 1) filming myself – I have limited filming experience, other than just starting filming myself for my YouTube channel I am going to create, which involves me sat… still… at my desk, I have no idea how this will work. I’m going to research into hand-held cameras, go-pros or similar and figure out what the best options are. I know for sure that my beloved Nikon DSLR isn’t a good option – it only records 20 minutes at a time for a start! And I cannot see the screen to record myself – sitting at a desk is fine because I can set it up and sit still…. or try to at least.

2) the other biggest challenge is doing all the driving! With a second person, the driving can be split between us, but now I will be driving it all. Theoretically, I don’t see it being an issue, as I love driving and I will be taking my time seeing sights anyway along the way, so will be doing plenty of stops. I also am pretty handy, knowing a fair bit about mechanics in case something breaks, and will be considering this in the planning stage in case I need to look into breakdown cover options, researching recovery companies in the areas I drive through, and even taking a set of tools with me. But practically, I could get tired and make mistakes, getting lost or stuck. I also have to be weary when I’m taking to a camera and driving!

3) the last, and probably one of the more important ones, is personal safety. I’m sure the majority of the trip will be safe enough. I will be researching how safe areas are, making sure I only stop in safe areas and stay at hotels that have good ratings and so on. I do have some self-defense training from one of my old job roles, but I am also considering taking self-defense classes too. This is going to be one of the biggest things I will be researching and planning, especially being a female solo traveller!

On the up side though, doing it alone has it’s benefits – I can do what I want without compromise. I’m also introverted; socialising can drain me and I need to recharge, doing a whole month-long trip with someone else can get very tiring, and I know I like my own company. I can also be in control of the music. Also, being a solo-traveller, you’re more likely to get upgrades! 😉

So, although it was a huge shock and was a little upset when I lost a friend, I’m not going to let these things stop me from what I want to do in life!

Watch this space for more updates soon!
Also, watch this space for my first YouTube video – it’s currently being edited and will be uploaded soon!

~~~

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Lohikeitto – A Finnish Fish Soup

They say, when you’re writing a blog, you should find your niche and stick to it. Write content only for that niche.
I’ve never been one for sticking to the rules.

There are a number of things I enjoy in life, including, but not limited to; travel, photography, history, books, writing, cars, motorbikes, and… food. As I am planning a Route 66 charity tour with a good friend of mine, which includes at least five of those things I enjoy in life (maybe even writing and books too, but we’ll see) my blog will also include all these things. It’s only fitting.
All of these are my niche.

So, this is my first food blog post – breaking the rules of keeping to a niche.
Oh, and I should mention, I am not a chef, I have no professional training, and this blog will include mistakes, I am learning too!

Ingredients

1/4 cup of butter
1 leek (sliced)
4 cups of fish stock (you can use water)
1 pound potatoes (cut into chunks)
1 carrot (sliced)
1 large salmon (cut into chunks)
1 cup of cream (heavy or light)
Salt and pepper
Fresh chopped dill

(Oops, I forgot to add the potato into the picture!)

Method

Step 1.

Melt the butter in a pot. Add the sliced leek and saute until translucent (about 7 minutes) – try not to eat it all, as it smells so good!

Also, the butter, I found, is mostly to give it it’s oily consistency at the end and to help cook the leeks. But don’t do what I did and add too much!

Step 2.
Add the stock, carrot and potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

Step 3.

Add the salmon and cream. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until it starts to boil.

I have absolutely no idea if I had enough or too much cream in mine. I didn’t actually measure out my ingredients.


Step 4.
Turn off the heat, add dill, salt and pepper. Close the lid and wait another 10 minutes.

(I hope turning off the heat is optional…)

Then serve!

I did good… if I say so myself.
And yes, it does taste okay, and I’m still alive!


Traditionally Lohikeitto is served with Rye bread, but I find wholemeal or white goes much better.

This is certainly a quick winter warmer, and it is one of my favourites! If you have had it before, or decide to try out making it yourself, please do let me know in the comments below!

~~~

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6 Months in the Highlands – Thanks, COVID-19!

In one of my previous posts (here’s the link), I talk about moving to the Highlands. It was just a small ‘travel’ post really, with a few pictures, intended to be a precursor to future travel posts.

But it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

And… I *might* be moving again!

Pre-Covid-19

On Feburary 24th, I had my first day at my new job – but it was in London. I travelled down to London from the southern part of Scotland where I had been temporarily living. I got to the hotel, realised it was the wrong one, so ordered a taxi to the correct one, and the next day was my induction training.

My induction training lasted two days; Monday and Tuesday, although I didn’t see much of London in that time, so no cool photos to show you guys (sorry!). By Tuesday evening, I was on a flight to Inverness.

Wednesday morning, I started my first day in the office.

I took with me, one medium/large suitcase, my laptop bag and a work laptop bag (which I collected from the induction day).

I have been living out of that suitcase for 6 months!

For the first few weeks, I had planned to get settled at work and get a feel for the area. Once I knew the best area to live, public transport routes (currently car/bike-less, don’t judge!) and how much I could possible afford, I was going to find a nice place to rent.

A few weeks in, I started looking at places, I viewed two flats, and contacted a lot more for other potentials…

Then Covid-19 hit.

Post-Covid-19

For the first few weeks before the UK was put into official lockdown, I was given the option to work from home, the last week before lockdown, I did. I found it cool and novel – I’ve always wanted a remotely working job!

Then lockdown officially started 23rd March. Shops started to shut (except for essential shops). People weren’t allowed out except for 1 hour exercise (this wasn’t set in stone, apparently, but it was ‘advised’ to limit to an hour). We had to have letters to say we were keyworkers if we got stopped by police.

I was classed as a keyworker, but was lucky that I had a company laptop so I could work from ‘home’. And, I was equally lucky that the host of the Airbnb I had booked was more than happy for me to stay with her until lockdown lifted. I pay her a small fee a month, instead of booking continuously through Airbnb – and it works out a lot cheaper.

The novelty of working from home wore off quickly. Especially since I couldn’t go anywhere! I was inside for work. I was inside on days off. Summer came, and I was inside for that too. The only time I could go out was for walks/exercise or shopping. That was the only time I could see bits of Inverness; the area I was really looking forward to exploring! When lockdown restrictions eased a little, I started to go a little further afield. Which is the next section…

University of the Highlands and Islands

This is something that is pretty close to where I have been living for the past six months. When I first moved, pre-Covid-19, I would walk through the grounds to get to the office. Post-Covid-19, I would either walk through to get to Tesco to do my shopping, or just go for a walk to get my hourly exercise.

Although it’s not exactly a destination to pack your bags to go see (unless you’re starting a course there!), it certainly is a lovely place to walk around when the sun is shining!

Culloden Woods and Battlefield

I went to Culloden Woods/Forest a few times, it was suggested to me by a colleague from work. I had no idea what to expect, I couldn’t find any information on it. But, to do something different to my usual walk around the University grounds, I went here on a day off instead.

First time I went, I was happily exploring; following the path, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, and I came across a sign that said ‘Culloden Battlefield Trail’. It didn’t tell me how far it was to the Culloden Battlefield, but I at least figured the walk might be intersting, even if I didn’t walk all the way there. But, I did end up walking all the way to the battlefield!

And, I was glad I went, as although I was only there for a little bit, it was a really interesting site. It’s the site where the Jacobite Rising came to and end in 1745. There is a visitor centre (which was closed due to the lockdown) which holds a cafe, museum and shop, there is an old cottage (Leanach Cottage), clan gravestones and memorial cairn (be careful not to walk on the grass on this bit, there are real remains there – I found that out afterwards and felt really guilty!) and then there is the battlefield itself with the different flags to represent the two sides of the battle, and there are markers dotted around with more information.

Second time I went, I visited more of the woods and forest, this time around it was really foggy and I got some really interesting shots in the fog.

Long walk to North Kessock

I add emphasis on the ‘long walk’ here, because I was out for six hours! I walked all the way from Cradlehall/Westhill, through Inverness City Centre, over the Kessock Bridge and into North Kessock and Craigton… then back again. I was sore for a few days afterwards.

Again, I got some really interesting shots. North Kessock is a lovely little place, right on the edge of Beauly Firth, I found a lovely little swing seat on the edge by some woods, there was a fog coming in which hid part of the Kessock Bridge. I saw a few sights walking through Inverness too.

Inverness Castle and the Islands

When lockdown started to ease, and the shops started to open, I decided to go back into Inverness to do some shopping. But the main part of my walk into Inverness was to see Inverness Castle! No trip to Inverness is complete without at least seeing the Castle!

Unfortunately, the Castle was closed, but not because of Covid, but because it’s undergoing some renovations, so I wasn’t able to go inside. When I get back to the UK after my contract abroad, and if I get my old job back in Inverness, I am looking forward to seeing it again, hopefully go inside this time!

As well as Inverness Castle, I also had a wander along the River Ness. A little further down is what’s called ‘The Islands’ or ‘Ness Islands’, which, as the name suggests, is a colletion of islands on the River Ness. There are a few bridges across them so you can walk along them, and they have a few trees and lights up along them (which I can only imagine look nice in the evening).

Motorbike Ride to Nairnshire

One day, I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend from college. He was coming up for a tour of Scotland on his motorbike and decided to pop in to see me. He brought his spare motorbike helmet and we took a trip out to see Nairn, an area I had hoped to see when I first moved up, pre-Covid-19. And yes, I am aware there is still a Covid risk, but luckily he had already had Covid and had the anti-bodies. There was no risk of spreading.

We went to Fort George to begin with, it was closed, but we were still able to walk on the pebble beach and around the old Fort. We then got back on the bike and headed to Nairn Beach, where we wandered about, sat and caught up, had lunch and then headed back. We stopped at Sueno’s Stone – a 9th Century Picto-Scottish standing stone, Clava cairns and the viaduct close by.

My next adventure

I can’t talk too much about my next adventure. I have mentioned it a few times, so it’s not exactly a secret. But I don’t want to dedicate a whole blog post to it just yet, as it hasn’t been officially confirmed.

However, I will say; I was recently given the opportunity to go to anther country, with the company I work for!

At the moment there are a few issues with Covid-19; the borders being closed and, I have a few issues with my visa. But when things have been sorted, if I am still able to go, I will give you more updates!

~~~

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Reflections – The Girl Who Whispered… and kept fighting!

Hello, my little demons! 😈

I just want to say thank you.

Bare in with me as I explain why.

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Today it hit me how far I have come. A few weeks ago I got verified on Google and bought my first domain thegirlwhowhispered.com. Six months ago I started my new career and moved to the highlands. Nearly a year ago I handed in my thesis for my master’s degree. Two years ago I graduated with a BSc and published my second book; “I Fell in Love with a Psychopath“. And, three years ago I published my first book; “It’s My Mistake“.

It had it’s ups and downs, not quite passing my master’s degree, break-ups, health scares, cancelling trips, blood, sweat and tears. A few times I questioned what I was doing, if I was on the right path, if I was wasting my time. But I somehow kept going.

It doesn’t stop there either, as you may know, I had selective mutism as a child (hence ‘The Girl Who Whispered‘) and I was diagnosed with depression after coming back from Australia. And I will admit, I was suicidal at one point.

(c) Penny Hooper

Now, I am waiting for my start date on my new contract, moving yet again! This time to a different country! I will be (finally) finishing my Master’s Degree in the next month or so. And my thesis is being published in a research journal! I am working on getting another book published (editing isn’t fun, guys!) I am planning on setting up a YouTube channel (this is a big deal, for someone who had selective mutism!) I am also planning a charity tour down Route 66 with a good friend of mine (I already have an invite to the Harley-Davidson Museum!) filming it for my new YouTube channel, and I have plans on setting up my own publishing business!

I’m damn proud of myself. Proud that I kept fighting on the bad days. Proud that I finished my BSc (which took me 5 years!). Proud that I fought to contest my master’s degree (and won!). Proud that I have two books published.

I’m also excited about my future!

From that little shy girl who whispered, and who only wished for happiness.

Not to be rich.
Not to be famous.
To just be happy.

I wish I could go back in time, to tell little Penny… keep fighting! One day, you will be proud of yourself!

Now, why do I say thank you?

Well, I say thank you to everyone who had my back. To my close friends who stuck around. Who had my back on the bad days. Who made me laugh. Who supported me when I felt no one ever would (Lee, Gabi, Dan, Dave, Mozz to name a few, and of course, my mother too!)

I also say thank you to those who didn’t have my back. As weird as that sounds. Those who said I was a nobody, those who didn’t believe in me, who bullied me and belittled me, who went out of their way to send me nasty messages. Thank you, for giving me something to prove you all wrong.

I also want to thank myself, for being so strong and badass… because my success means I can continue to help others!

~~~

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Goodbye Goldi-locks

Well, they’re not gold, my locks, but it’s catchy, don’t you think?

…Yes, hello, my little demons! 😈

You might be following me on social media and have already seen that I have had my hair cut off! …It’s short!

….Is it suddenly cold or is it me?

I had the intention of getting my hair cut short anyway as I am moving to a hot country in the next few months (thats another story, watch this space!), I had booked myself into The Hair Chair in Lanark, after going down to see my parents, and it was the salon’s suggestion to donate my hair to charity!

What a fantastic idea!

So, I got the two ladies to photograph the progress (thanks, girls!) and then style it into something cool (in both senses of the word!)

As I don’t live in the area anymore, having moved to Inverness for work (yes, I have a full-time job that I love as well as writing!), I had to take my locks with me and post them from there.

… I must admit, it was a little weird having a little paper bag with hair in it!

When I got back to Inverness, I got in touch with The Little Princess Trust to ask about the process (I don’t currently have access to a printer, so I had to put a hand-written note in with my hair!) and they were extremely lovely to speak to.

So, I wrote them a letter, wrapped up my hair in a plastic bag to keep dry and popped the plaits into a padded envelope.

Yes, the envelope is being reused, I had the intention of buying a brand new envelope when I went shopping last, but after forgetting to pick one up (although, I seemed to remember to pick up a motorcycle magazine!) I decided to reuse one I already had – I figured it was more environmentally friendly and I saved my pennies (ha!)

A few days later (unfortunately I couldn’t get to the post office while working – awkward hours!) I decided to venture out into the outside world, taking a trek down to the local Tesco’s where the nearest post office is located.

Okay, I cheated taking that photo of my legs, the first one came out blurry and awkward, so I had to stand still on the pavement… I must have looked a right idiot standing like that while I photographed my legs.

I know, why take a photo at all? Well, then I wouldn’t have this funny thing to tell you… and brain decided it would be a good idea… I’m still not convinced! But you all get to see my cool boots!

Anyway… back to my hike… trek… okay, short walk… to the post office! It was touch and go for a while, when it started to rain…

This photo is not sponsored by Cranfield University… don’t look at the logo! Stop it!

But I finally made it to Tesco’s!

I did a little bit of shopping to get myself some dinner (and a little treat for myself). Running up and down the shop like a mad woman… this way to the chicken… this way to the tea bags… oh I need… better go this way… ooo, what about cake….? Is this way to the… nope… okay, screw it… ooo…. what about if I got some decent instant coffee… HOW much?! Okay, tills…

When shopping was done. I was free to continue on my quest… to the post office!

And alas!… posted my hair off to The Little Princess Trust!

After weighing the parcel and seeing if it fits the “large envelope” sizing (it didn’t!), the conversation with the lady on the desk was funny:

Her: “Is there anything flammable in this?”
Me: “No, it’s just hair.” 😊
Her: ….
Her: *puts the stamp on the parcel*
Me: ….
Her: *finally reads the address*
Her: Oh! *points to the lable*
Me: Just clicked, has it?

Hahaha!

She then proceeds to ask me how long it was before and praises the charity.

I leave feeling pretty good about myself. Even though it’s raining again – and harder this time.

BUT, this happened…

Look closely, you can just about make out the rainbow.

taste the rainbow

…..I think it’s a sign.

… that it had been raining while sunny….

Anyway, when I got back, I made a well deserved cup of tea and sat down with my cup cake I bought from Tescos.

My little adventure to Tesco’s complete.
Now I can relax.

Oh, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on my email inbox over the next week or so, as they apparently will be sending me a certificate! Win!

Update 18/09/2020: I received my certificate yesterday, check it out at the end of the blog! 🙂

Thanks for coming on this little journey with me! I’m really glad my long hair, that had been annoying me for ages, will light up a little girls face one day, when it’s finally made into a wig!

And I love my new hairstyle… so, big shout out to the girls at The Hair Chair in Lanark, Scotland!

~~~

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Touring America for Charity!

A few friends will remember that I had planned a trip around America and Canada for a charity. I was going to go to Canada first, find some work, save up, and then travel around, maybe even visiting other countries. All doing this to raise awareness and funds for a charity.

I was deadly serious about it too, I had bought my Working Holiday Visa to Canada, got police certificates for it, set up a page, I even got a few people invested, including a few celebrities – at least they shared my posts.

But, due to personal reasons, I had to cancel it all. And I felt defeated that I failed and let people down.

I was also met with a lot of negative criticism from friends and family. “Why don’t you do something smaller?” “Do you even have a plan?” I had lots of people think that I was just after money from them when I asked for support, but in reality I just wanted them to help share the word, to show that they were rooting for me and wanted me to succeed.

I lost friends over it. And I felt like I had proved them right; I failed.

I never stopped thinking about it, what I missed out on, the friends I lost, it still eats away at me. But I also never stopped believing that one day, I would do it! I’ve always been one with big ideas, and yes, a lot of times they don’t work out, but I also believe that people can do big and amazing things if they work and persist. And I want to be one of those that didn’t give up, and made a different!

So, I am planning it all again!

This time I plan to go to America on a food, bike and car tour, raising awareness and funds for charities that support world hunger, mental health and/or child abuse.

Most people know I love my cars, having tinkered with most of the cars I have owned, from basic maintenence such as services or timing belt changes, to going mad and stripping it for track. I also love my bikes, having wanted to get my bike licence for years but keep putting it off due to the costs. I love the naked, deep sounding Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs (the Triumph Bobber Black is on my Christmas list!)…and of course, who doesn’t like food?

As for the charities, mental health is extremely important to me, as I have had, and to some small extent, still suffer with mental health issues myself. I had selective mutism when I was a child (to read more about this, I wrote a post about it here), which caused no end of probelms growing up, even to this day it causes a few issues. I then developed depression and anxiety because of it.

And of course, stopping world hunger and child abuse are both important to me too.

For this trip, I plan to set up a YouTube channel to document it, setting little challenges for myself along the way, so that people can watch my progress. I plan to visit sites of interest, places like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, watch a Monster Truck show, try out an electric motorbike, eat at the best food joints, whether that’s street food, restaurants, maybe even try wild hunting, I plan to find the best roads to travel down – yes, Route 66 may very well be on the list, maybe even meet a few interesting people – I have a few in mind, if I can pull it off.

It’s going to be big, requiring a lot of planning and it’s going to cost a lot, I know that. It might not work out the way I plan, but either way, I plan on going one way or another. I have to.

I also may not be going alone. As I have been discussing the idea with a friend of mine who is also very interested in going. He’s a massive foodie and car nut himself, and loves America!

Planning might take a while, as there is a lot to sort, and I have just signed a 12 month contract with work (that’s a story for another day!), so I have plenty of time to plan, make contacts and save. I also have yet to get my bike licence! I also plan on getting a few sponsors, such as travel companies, bike/car companies, even clothing companies, if I can.

Either way, I am extremely excited to start off this new adventure, to visit more of America, experience new things, meet new people, and most importantly… make a difference!

I’m moving to the Highlands!

Hello my little demons,

Some of you may know that I have been looking for work, and it’s been a tough few months trying to get back on the career ladder. But this week, all my hard work has paid off!

And, what better place to move to? The Highlands!

81682024_2912592225633718_7654147362360655872_n
(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

I took a little trip up there for an interview, and from where I currently am, it was a long train journey, yet I managed to do it within a day. But what a long day that was!

I set off early in the morning, got on the train, headed for Edinburgh first, had a quick train transfer and then up through the Highlands, arriving just before lunch time.

82453141_2912592158967058_2641919286683107328_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: inside the train, somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

The train took overall just over 4 hours to get to Inverness, where my interview was. I took some sandwhiches I pre-bought the day before, and a load of sweets to keep me entertained. I forgot my magazine I bought as I rushed out of the door to get my first train but luckily took my charger for my phone, so I could prepare on the train for the interview and just watching the world go by.

82220002_2912592265633714_4537422305847934976_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Dalwhinnie Train Station, Scotland.

As the stops when by, I wondered what the areas were like, and wondered about the possibility of one day getting off at one of them to go explore. Aviemore is high on my list of stops, and Dalwhinnie was certainly a possibility, being a fan of the whisky.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I was there a little early. Giving myself enough time to get off, stretch my legs, have a quick look around if the weather was kind to me, have a tea-break and then find the bus to my interview.

81752257_2912592322300375_7767083402854924288_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

I headed straight to the Victorian Market opposite the train station, after doing a small bit of research into the area before hand. I figured that was the best place to find a range of cafe’s and it was indoors so I could escape the cold and/or rain when I get off the train.

It was smaller inside than I was expecting, but it was a cute little place. There were a few cafe’s inside, I found one where I sat upstairs in a little section and relaxed on a comfortable sofa for a few minutes with a pot of tea while googling where to get the bus from.

81877693_2912592472300360_8765863633629478912_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Pot of tea at a Cafe in the Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

After a long break warming up with a pot of tea and finding where the street is to get my bus, I decided to get up a few minutes early and go for a wander around Inverness, at least down to the River Ness as it wasn’t that far from where I was.

But as soon as I got out of the safety of the covered market, I realised it was raining – was a little difficult to know that where I was sat!

But I decided I had already made the decision to go, so I was going!

82181985_2912592582300349_1512224243658522624_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: River Ness, Inverness, Scotland.

The weather was terrible, it was freezing with a bitterly cold wind going through the town and it was raining. But I still managed to get to the river to have a very quick look and snap a few photos.

I didn’t stay there long though, as I decided to go back, see if there was an earlier bus or find somewhere else to go get a drink and sit down, or at least find somewhere warmer!

In the end I decided to just get on the bus and head to my interview.

I didn’t see much else of Inverness, I literally had my interview, got back on the bus and was lucky to get on the next train back home. I didn’t even stop to have dinner (I had a left over sandwhich I ate on the train!)

But, my hard work paid off… the long train journey and the cold Highland weather was worth it… I got a call the next Monday saying they’d like to offer me a position.

Now I’m just waiting for my start date so I can book temporary accommodation.

Keep an eye out for future travel posts from the Highlands!

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If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Website: thegirlwhowhisperedblog.wordpress.com

Social Media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thegirlwhowhispered

Twitter: twitter.com/penny_hoops

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_author/

www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_photo/

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

Hello my little demons!

Sorry this Christmas Special is a little late, been a little busy lately. But hopefully better late than never, right?

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, read it here!

So, a small update before I begin which my Christmas Special blog post!

In 2009, at just 21 years old (ten years ago!), I went to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. With my ex-boyfriend. It was both an exciting trip and a nightmare!

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Looking at the above photo of me (yes, this was on Christmas day!), you would think I was a happy person, but Christmas back in 2009 was horrendous.

It hadn’t even been a month into my Australian Working Holiday Visa yet I already had lost a lot of money, had a nasty break up with my boyfriend (I talk about this in my previous post), my relationship with my family in Australia was on edge and was now starting to question what to do with my life.

My ex and I had a small plan to build a new life in Australia, my Aunt and her husband had done just this, so we questioned whether we could too. But after finally realising the person he was, I knew that new and relatively young plan we had was crushed.

Now what do I do?

Over the Christmas period my mood was low, not only had I broken up with my boyfriend, I didn’t know what to do with my life, I was unknowingly suffering with depression and I was away from my close friends and my parents, whom I had never spent a christmas apart.

Christmas day 2009 was spent at the house of my Aunt and Uncle’s friends’, along with my step-cousin and a friend of his. It was a very hot day, as unlike the northern hemisphere where we hope for a white Christmas, Australia is in the peak of their summer. It was that warm that a couple of people took a dip in the pool.

Christmas 2009 016(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: A selection of prawns freshly caught for Christmas.

Christmas dinner was a BBQ, mainly focusing on freshly caught seafood, including some rather large prawns and playing a few silly games like this fun spin on Russian roulette which involved a plastic gun which would fire a pin into a water balloon

I remember having a phone call with the other side of the world with my parents at one point. I went off into the dark garden to take the private call and at the time feeling a little upset at the thought of what had previously happened, but then my parents opened the flood gates when they rang.

Luckily the day wasn’t a complete waste with my low mood and homesickness, I do remember a few laughs and good times. I remember my step-cousin’s friend disappearing and someone found him in a bedroom asleep. I took photos as my step-cousin and one other person started drawing something obscene on the side of his face, I remember him waking up and sitting down in the garden again, with a few people making puns, all the while he had no idea what was on the side of his face.

DSC00693(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Secret santa present from my step-cousin.

I remember my step-cousin had me as a secret santa and had bought me a remote controlled lamborghini and I was extremely happy with it, not just having a cool gadget and a cool car, but the fact he knew me well enough to know I’d like it.

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(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Side-show Penny.

I remember someone had the bright idea to stand underneath a hanging plant and looked like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons, and a few others, including myself took part in this ridiculous photo opportunity.

I also remember someone bringing out their pet rat and I instantly fell in love.

So, although it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had, it certainly was one to remember.

Christmas 2009 048

If you liked this post, please do give it a like! And feel free to leave a comment!
~Penny (Aka The Girl Who Whispered).

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If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Website: thegirlwhowhisperedblog.wordpress.com

Social Media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thegirlwhowhispered

Twitter: twitter.com/penny_hoops

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_author/

www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_photo/

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Hello my little Demons! I’m back with another travel post!

Between the 6th and 8th of December I took a trip down to Reading for a job assessment, but rather than booking a cheap Premier Inn hotel, I decided to book somewhere a little different; The Wokefield Mansion, and make a little trip of it.

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Photography by Penny Hooper (c) Please do not copy / reuse without written permission from myself.

Wokefield Mansion

History

Wokefield Estate has been around since 1560 when the first house was built by Sir Edmund Plowden (1518-1585), an English lawyer, scholar and theorist. However, back then it was known as Oakfield Park.

Unfortuatenly the estate has seen many change of hands over the years, unlike many estates which have been passed down through the family over the generations.

It had also seen many changes, with renovations, gardens, new mansions and buildings being built, and even occupations, from being a family estate to a business (and not just a hotel!)

It had only been passed down through the Plowden family until 1627 when it was sold by Edmund’s grandson Francis and sold to the Weaver family.

In late 17th century it was sold again and went to the Pearces, and in the late 18th century it went to the Parry family.

It was Charles Parry who rebuilt the house in 1720 to the Mansion now seen (the Mansion in which I stayed the night). It is said that it was built to look much like Kinlet Hall in Shropshire (although I personally like the look of Wokefield Mansion).

In 1742 it was sold to the 1st Earl of Uxbridge, Henry Paget. But the 2nd Earl of Uxbridge (who’s name was also Henry Paget) sold the estate to Bernard Brocas (who owned the nearby Beaurepaire).

It is estimated that around this time, the estate was landscaped with avenues, woodlands and water, which can be seen on an old map of Berkshire made by John Rocque (a surveyor and cartographer).

Although Bernard Brocas passed away not long after he aquired the estate, the Brocas family enlisted Sir John Soane to make some ‘alterations’, although I cannot find what alterations were made in this time.

In 1839 the estate was put up for sale again, and went to Robert Allfrey.

In the early 1900s it was sold again (along with the rest of Allfrey’s fortune) to Alfred Palmer, of Huntley & Palmers, a british biscuit maker based in Reading.

Palmer undertook a complete renovation of the house’s interior which included Adamesque plasterwork and a wooden staircase screened by columns.

In 1936 the house was again sold to the De La Salle brothers, The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and of course, became a school called St. Benedict’s Approved School.

In 1967 the house becomes a grade II* listed building.

The estate (totally the mansion and 35 acres) was then sold to Style Conference Limited, a leading corporate training centre operator. The mansion house was converted into a 60 bed conference and hospitility venue and opened mid 1986, the outwer buildings also being converted to provide a further 41 en suite rooms.

In the early 1990s the farm and a further 140 acres were purchased to redevelop the site, where a 18-hole golf course and driving range where constructed, along with two gyms (one small and one large), swimming pool and sauna where house in the mansion house, and other outdoor activities such as archery, climbing and ropes course.

In 1998 there were a few buildings and extensions demolished and redeveloped, and a new building built specifically for BMW.

In the 21st century it appears the history of the estate and the company that owns it becomes a little fuzzy, with companies changing and new companies being generated, but somewhere along the line the estate followed a more hotel orientated occupation.

In 2015, the Executive Centre building was damanaged by fire, which affected 100 of the hotel’s 222 total rooms, though the fire was contained within a newer part rather than the historic house.

My Review

I stayed two nights in a single room in the Mansion house, it was a small room, with a large single bed with a beautiful picture of a map of Berkshire hanging above the headboard, a large modern flatscreen TV on the wall, a lovely large ceiling window with single-pain glass, complete with very long and thick curtains that reached all the way up to the ceiling, there was a handy desk over by the window with details of the services the hotel offers, two bedside tables, one sporting a vintage style radio and the other a vintage style telephone. Although the vintage style of the room, it was also very well updated with USB charging points in the walls.

The room was also equiped with a large wardrope with a safe, mini fridge, tea and coffee with real ornate mugs, extra quilt and pillow and ironing equipment and the decorating was fabulous, with unique pictures of plant and flower diagrams, golf pictures, and old prints.

The bathroom was a huge shock, being nearly the same size as the main area, which was very mordern inside. A large bath with a shower over it, and large and clean sink and toilet, complete with large fluffy towels, bottles of shampoo, shower gel, soaps and a cute little De Vere Duck and more plant diagrams in frames.

The bed was extremely comfortable, probably one of the best night sleeps I’ve had in a while, and was very happy with the service I received both checking in and checking out a few days later.

Due to my long drive there, my very busy day the next day at my Assessment Day and the long drive back the next, I didn’t spend much time exporing the grounds or facilities, but I did have a small wander around on the last day before setting off early for the long trek back to Scotland. I was surprised to see there was a gentleman on a golf buggie collecting rubbish from the grounds and bins, and was very happy to see a little bug hotel near the carpark next to the Mansion house. The grounds looked excellently kept, all clean, well kept and beautiful and it was beautiful both inside and out, especially in the evening when the front was lit up with beautiful and tasteful lights.

I also spent a few minutes at check out speaking to the staff at the reception, after the guy found out about my profession and was thus very enthusiastic to chat and wished me a safe journey home.

Of course, there were a few bad points about the hotel, such that, when travelling down at night when it was cold and foggy, it was a little difficult to find the main entrance, and even on the estate, it was a little difficult reading the signposts and locating the car park. The hotel room was a little difficult to locate, the room was cold one day because the only heating was a large radiator which was tucked behind the large curtains and was left on low. The room was a little on the small side, having to squeeze past the bed and the TV on the wall, knocking it a few times by accident. I also wasn’t told where the bar, resturant or other services on the hotel’s estate were, even if I wanted to or had the time to experience.

A few other issues, such as the thin walls where I could hear my next-door-neighbour cough, the noise from the bar downstairs and the single-glazed glass window where all small negatives but easily acceptable given both the age of the house and the fact it is a listed building.

Despite the negatives, I would happily return to Wokefield Estate and stay again, aside from the fact I stayed because I had an Assessment Day to attend in the area, I felt like I had a little mini holiday and would recommend others too! Especially when my stay was only £71 a night!

All above photos are copywrited to Penny Hooper (c).
Please do not copy/share without prior written permission from myself.

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Also, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting comments from an outside source, this original post is from WordPress, original website: thegirlwhowhisperedblog.wordpress.com if you are reading this from outside of WordPress, please do let me know, I would love to know how far and wide my blog posts are getting and thank you everyone who has commented already.

If you liked this post, please do give it a like! And feel free to leave a comment!
~Penny (Aka The Girl Who Whispered).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Website: thegirlwhowhisperedblog.wordpress.com

Social Media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thegirlwhowhispered

Twitter: twitter.com/penny_hoops

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_author/

www.instagram.com/thegirlwhowhispered_photo/

Samhain, All Hallows Eve and Ghost Stories – Halloween Special!

Some of my close friends will know, Halloween is my favourite holiday! It’s the one time of year that the majority of people dress up as something ‘scary’ and in a way celebrate the dead and all things weird yet wonderful. Why do I like this? Well, only a select few will know that not only have I got a few ghost stories of my own, as well as been able to predict a few things, but I have a fascination with parapsychology.

For those who don’t know, or probably think they know but are a little misinformed, parapsychology is a study of paranormal psychological phenomena (such as telephathy, psychokinesis and clairvoyance). It’s not to be confused with paranormal investigators! (But ghosts and spirits can be a part of it). And, as far as I am concerned, parapsychology is a little more ‘science’ based than paranormal investigators. There are even legitimate research laboratories set up around the world for the study, one of my favourites is the Koestler Parapsychology Unit based here in Scotland, at Edinburgh University (link at the bottom of the blog post). I am interested in one day completing at least the online course for interest, but have also been considering a PhD and conducting real research (plus, wouldn’t it be a cool talking point to say that my PhD was in parapsychology? I’ll call myself Dr Spooks!)

Continue reading and there might be a few spooky stories of my own!

Where did Halloween Originate from?

Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. This year it falls on a Thursday. Many people around the world celebrate it; United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, even China and Japan.

Some people believe Halloween originated from the pagan religious festival ‘Samhain’, others, however, believe that Halloween is a solely Christian celebration.

Samhain

Let’s start with Samhain.

the-festival-of-samhain-is-celebrated-in-glastonbury

Photo from: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain

Samhain (pronouced “sow-in”), is a Gaelic word for “summer’s end”. It is a typically ancient Celtic spiritual tradition, possibly originating in Ireland 2,000 years ago (the Celts also lived all over the United Kingdom and parts of northern France), celebrated from the 31st October to 1st November (the mid point between autumn equinox and winter solstice) to usher the “dark half of the year” and to welcome the harvest. The Celtic New Year was November 1.

After the harvest, the community began celebrations around a wheel that, due to friction, would create sparks and flames. This is said to represent the sun. Cattle were sacrificed and people would take a flame back to relight their fire in their own homes.

The Celts also believed that a barrier between worlds was breachable during Samhain, believing that this time of year was associated with death and also believed the dead would cross over during this time.

By 43 A.D., the Celtic territories were conquered by the Roman Empire, and over 400 years, two Roman festivals (Feralia, a day in late October for commemorating the dead and day to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees – probably where the tradition of bobbing for apples came from) were combined with Samhain.

It’s possible that Samhain was merged with these two days to eradicate the original pagan festival, as there was a Persecution of paganism under Theodosius I in 381 A.D., who reigned as co-emperor of the Roman Empire. Theodosian created “Theodosian decrees” which meant practicing paganism was banned, visits to temples forbidden, and remaining pagan holidays were abolished, among others. He also declared that pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones to now be workdays.

Christian Halloween

The name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ eve”, which, “hallows” means saints. November the 1st was a day to celebrate all the saints and martyrs, originally called All Saints’ Day. October the 31st just so happened to be the eve, which, of course, was also important day of celebration.

But, All Saints’ Day was originally on the 13th of May, originally to celebrate Martyrs, but Pope Boniface IV changed it to the 1st of November and incorporated a celebration for all saints.

In 1000 A.D. the church also made November the 2nd “All Souls’ Day” a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain.

All three days are collectively called Allhallowtide.

Pumpkin Carving

On Halloween, pumpkin carving is a tradition, sometimes called Jack O’Lanterns in America. This is where a pumpkin is hollowed out, a face calved into it’s side and then a candle being placed inside to light it up.

This tradition originated from Ireland, but it wasn’t pumpkins that were originally used, as they weren’t native. Originally turnips, potatoes and other root vegetables were used, it wasn’t until Halloween made it’s way to America that pumpkins were used, as it was found they were easier to calve than root vegetables.

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Original Jack O’Lantern, Turnip Carving.
https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/jack-o-lantern-turnips-ireland

The name ‘Jack O’Lantern’ is also from an Irish folktale. According to the story, a man called Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could use to buy their drinks. But Jack decided to keep the money and put it in his pocket, next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing.

The Devil was eventually freed, under the condition he would leave Jack alone for one year, and should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.

The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing a tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree so the Devil could not come down until he promised Jack he would not bother him for another ten years.

When Jack died, God didn’t allow Jack into heaven for his actions, but the Devil also didn’t allow him into Hell. Instead, Jack was sentenced to roam Earth with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and became a ghostly figure called ‘Jack of the Lantern’, which eventually was shortened to ‘Jack O’Lantern’.

Trick or Treating

It is suggested that the practice of trick or treating originated from the custom of “Souling”, baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collect soul cakes in return for a prayer for the dead.

Soul cakes, or soulmass cakes, were often market with a cross, much like the Easter/Lenten hot cross buns.

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Picture from: https://www.instructables.com/id/A-Witchs-Afternoon-Tea-Celtic-Style/
(includes a receipe if you’d like to recreate them yourself!)

Of course, the phrase ‘Trick or treat’ wasn’t used back then, the first mention of this phrase can be dated back to 1951 from a Peanut Comic Strip, but the actual origins are unclear.

Now, trick or treating has become a tradition for children to go knocking on local doors in exchange for sweets, usually dressed up as something scary!

Dressing up

The act of dressing up on Halloween can probably be dated back to Samhain, where villagers would disguise themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away unwanted visitors/spirits.

It was also a tradition shared with Christians, who believed Allhallowtide was the last day for the dead to seek vengeance on their enemies before moving on. People would dress up to avoid being recognised from being a target of this vengeance.

Now, the act of dressing up is left to parties and children who take part in trick-or-treating.

My Own Spooky Experiences

Something doesn’t feel right

A few years ago, probably around 2013, I took a trip to Conwy, Northern Wales (home to the smallest house in Britain) with my partner at the time. We both lived in Warrington so getting to Northern Wales was easy.

It was a cold day, which made for a good day exploring as there weren’t many people about, and so we took a trip to have a look around Conwy Castle.

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Photograph from www.castlewales.com/conwy.html

At first, it was great, hardly any tourists, because it was the wrong time of year, it was cold but dry and I always love my little days out visiting new sites, so I’m happy exploring too. We had just seen the smallest house in Britain and now we were having a wander around the castle, I was snap happy with my camera. As always.

But as I got closer to one of the towers, I had a very unsettling feeling towards it. I hadn’t had that feeling anywhere else so far in the castle except that one tower. I told my partner I couldn’t go near it and he just looked at me oddly. He was a sceptic (I didn’t hold it against him, but I did hate the looks he used to give me). But he started to read out the board next to the tower, and told me why couldn’t go near…

…it was the prison tower.

Imaginary Friend

This is a story that I will be turning into a book eventually, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will explain a little about it.

My experiences with all things paranormal started when I was a child. When I was very young, probably still at primary school (ages 5 to 7), my brother and I had an imaginary friend; Sammy.

I don’t remember much about this because I was still quite young, so most of my memories have gone, the only memories I do have was remembering telling my mum that my missing hairbands were probably lost because Sammy hid them.

My mum told me that this imaginary friend, Sammy, used to live in the corner of our ceiling and would hide things for fun.

My mother at the time was a sceptic, and she believed my brother and I were just blaming things going missing on an imaginary friend, not wanting us to get into trouble. My brother also had a very vivid imagination when he was young, mum would get teachers from school worried about some of the stories he used to tell. Mum still to this day remembers the story about the Tiger in the backgarden. I’m suprised my brother never followed in my footsteps and became a writer!

But her scepticism quickly vanished after what she thought my brother and I had outgrown our imaginary friend became a lot more than just an imaginary friend…

She used to work at the primary school my brother and I went to, and because of such, became friendly with a few of the other mothers. One lady had approached my mum asking her for advice, asking if my brother and I ever had imaginary friends. After my mum gave her advice that “don’t worry, they grow out of it.” The mother proceeded to tell my mum that her son had an imaginary friend…

…called Sammy…

…who lives in the ceiling…

…and hides things.

My mum told me this a few years ago, and I can’t say I was surprised, after all the other things that had happened to me over the years… she also explained that the other mother’s son told her that Sammy was looking for his parents. Somehow we figured out that Sammy had died in an accident, car accident or something similar.

But I have tried to search for information on such an accident in the area I grew up (near Laws Woods/Park, in Swindon, Wiltshire) and I couldn’t find anything in any records. Although, a lot of locals have had ghostly encounters in Lawns Woods, my mother and I have heard a few stories in the area, a woman in white searching for something, ghost animals, even amature ghost hunters went to the area and believe they saw a woman in white being carried.

Lawns Woods used to be home to the Goddard Family, with remains of an old church and graveyard apparently for the family’s pets, an old ice house up on the hill, remains of an old sunken garden, a site where Tutor Mansion used to sit, then an 18th Century Mansion, both no longer there. But with so much history in the area, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few ghostly goings on in the area. Including the ghost of Sammy that used to haunt the children in the area. I just wish I could find more information about it.

References:

Here are a few links if you’re interested in reading more about some sites I mentioned in this blog post:

Koestler Parapschology Unit

Lawn Park

Goddards in Swindon

Paranormal activity in Lawns Park

History of Halloween

History of Samhain

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Keeping in theme of the spooky, check out these links below.

New Story idea! – Butterfly House
Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue
New Story Idea – “I fell in Love with a Psychopath”
My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

If you’re interested in my other travel/historical posts, check these out:

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…
Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem
Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire
Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Don’t forget to like this post and follow me!
And feel free to comment with any of your spooky stories!