Days Out And Cream Teas

One thing I have missed during 2020 is visiting beautiful historic houses and landscaped gardens. They are always a treat for a day out, especially when they include a cream tea.

I was thinking of a joyful day I have in my memory bank. It was a day when Goldfinch and I were at a location that has been used in many a historic drama. The scene of romance and tension, passion and rejection. I loved that day!

Nature, Green, Trees, Woods, Forest

I have absolutely no complaints about my time with Jack – 2020 has allowed us so much time together (especially the last five months)! But a lit of that time has been indoors and our walks have been mostly around the same areas. It would be fun to go visiting beautiful sites with him. Well….we will have to wait and see what the coming weeks and months entail. Jack and I spend a substantial amount of our time working together for the charities we love – which by the way – are thriving.

We have been overwhelmed by the incredible spirit of volunteers who have been supporting each other in their assigned social support groups for the past nine months We are also amazed that donations are not dropping. We have seen so many beautiful letters from volunteers who say they would like to donate to specific funds which are used to render aid to people in economic distress.

Because of the way our finances are legally managed we are able to divert funds away from projects that are postponed and use that money to help people who need it most. Sending aid through France and Belgium is often the most effective way to make the most of those funds because of the taxation laws in those countries.

It is exciting to see these organisations working dynamically and efficiently. I know Jack would love to be out in those areas we know are most concerning currently. But we have a lot of people, a lot of volunteers in every land who are very knowledgeable of local needs. Jack has been taking on more and more work and now works as a director helping to make major decisions affecting all aspects of the charities we work for. He has been a very busy bee this year. He likes being busy. He likes having someone to share this with.

When we have the chance – I think the two of us deserve some time to wander around a pretty house and gardens and enjoy cream tea together. But it will have to wait – we have more important tasks at hand.

Getting Our Hands Dirty

Love, Holiday, A Couple Of, Beach

Jack and I were able to spend a couple of days working together as volunteers the other day. Due to social distancing restrictions we are not allowed to have as many volunteers on one project. However, we were able to see some of our friends/colleagues and we had a great time catching up with them.

It was nice to be doing some manual work outside. I have been stuck indoors and dealing with a mix of patients and paperwork – probably more the latter than anything, which is just the way things are now in the health service.

I am feeling happy because I was working with Jack. People definitely see us as a couple now. That means so much. Around a year ago…Jack and I were meeting for the first time in over four years. We made peace…less than a month later we made love. Three months of secrecy before we started to let family and close friends know.

Somehow 2020 has meant that we could grow stronger without being in the spotlight. People have had better things to worry about. He and I have been together for almost a year and for anyone who might not like that…well it is too late for them to ruin it.

I Have Friends Everywhere

Photographer, Photo, Woman, Outdoors, Nature, Travel Jack! I know what you have been up to! I have friends everywhere. Don’t pretend with me!

Jack sometimes reads my posts. I know he does because sometimes he will ask me if I have been writing about him or Goldfinch. I have been open and honest with Jack about him coming back into my life at a time when I was in love with someone else – but that’s another subject.

He made me laugh the other day. I asked him a question and he became flustered on the phone. I was asking about the filming he had told me they would be doing the day before. He is not good at hiding things. Later that day I received an email from some friends of mine who had met him for the first time. They have been out in Africa, and they happen to be in the area Jack is currently posted. Not only that they happened to see him when he was doing some filming with a group he has been working with.

Relaxation, Mountains, Top View, NatureIt all made sense! Jack – lovely Jack – was asked by one of the young men about whether he is married or has a girlfriend. Anyway…my friends told me how Jack answered. Blush! Jack!!!

It’s great to have eyes and ears everywhere! I so want to see that video!!! Jack is a keeper!

I do wish I was with him. But I also feel very purposeful here because there is a big need here for the whole NHS. I do find voluntary work more purposeful. It’s not within my reach to do what Jack is doing right now. I have to be able to pass all the assessments – fitness and emotional strength and everything. I did pass, years ago. But since then a lot has happened. Would I pass again? I have no idea. But these long days and demanding conditions while working for the NHS are making me feel a bit more confident about my chances for requalifying.

Happy Anniversary To Me

Tomorrow – 4th April – is the anniversary of what I consider the best day ever. Well…perhaps not the best day ever, but the first day of what I consider the very best period of my life. My first day as an international volunteer.

assduJoy of joys! I will be working tomorrow. But when I come home, I am going to break into the Lindt chocolate my manager gave me and perhaps pour myself a glass of wine. Only because, I want to mark one of the most miraculous things that happened in my life. To be one of a handful of single women, out of many tens of thousands of applicants invited to be an international volunteer – it felt like a miracle had occurred.

I had already been a full-time volunteer since the age of sixteen. I had put in at least one thousand volunteer hours each year and additionally worked to support myself on a part-time wage. But now at the age of twenty-nine, I was assigned as an international volunteer. My life was to be wherever they sent me from then on. I would no longer earn any money at all.

I don’t really get these people who go on TV and say they have always dreamed of being a popstar. Being an international volunteer is the best! The best ever ever! There is no other career like it!

I have no idea how this world economic system is planning to crawl out of the current blow it has been dealt. But if you want to get involved in volunteering – there is a huge amount of work to do. Best place to start is on your doorstep. There is a lot of work ahead!

A Harvest Of Smiles

My life is truly blessed. I get to work with people from fractured backgrounds and patiently train them with new skills and watch them as they grow in confidence and courage.

Girl, Swinging, Hairstyle, Swing

I get to see broken hearts heal and for timid souls who would not make eye contact before develop the deepest most beautiful smiles.

Planting seeds of hope, watering them, cultivating them with encouragement and support, reaping the smiles and joy of strong healthy vibrant energetic people who have become like family.

I don’t want to let anything or anyone interfere with my voluntary work. Jack feels the same.

But everything has changed within just a week’s time frame. We are regrouping as it were. Large projects off. We have had numerous conference calls and the long and short of it is, every single volunteer has been put into a small team. That small team is geographically grouped. each member is responsible to make sure the rest of the team have what they need. We are going to look after each other in any way. Some might help getting shopping to their home. Some might need help paying their rent. We are going to make sure we look after every volunteer. They have given of themselves unselfishly, for years, decades, lifetimes – there is no way we are going to let them down now.

Love and smiles…even through stressful times. We are going to come through this with stronger love than ever before!

My Weekend Is Really Taking Off!

I wrote this little post last night (Thursday night) just before I went to bed. Then I realized I had a post scheduled about Jack coming back to London. I had to edit that and update it…and here is the reason why!

hoameI have been on the phone to Jack. Poor Jack should have been asleep, but he put up with my excited chatter. Something amazing has happened. I have to work on Friday morning, but after that…I am not back in work until Monday morning! I have two and a half days off in a row! Yay!!!

That means that I don’t have to interrupt my weekend with Jack. That is really good – really really good! He will be here with me on this very sofa this time tomorrow!

So amongst other plans we have for the weekend, we are going to have lunch with an important director to talk about Jack’s work out in the middle east and future projects. We are also going to an event which will feature some of the young lads (in their late teens and early twenties) that Jack has helped, who are going to be part of the programme. These lads all think the world of Jack.

teamsWe also have a training session for some work we are doing in the summer together, along with about two hundred other volunteers. I am really excited that Jack and I are going to be in action together as two volunteers working together this weekend. It means so much!

Anyway, I have come home from paid work and tried to do as much work as I can (unpaid voluntary work) – completing an audit of the accounts for a local charity and sending out an email to regarding health and safety training to about a thousand volunteers all in a database I help to maintain.

I have a few things to do still, and then I will sleep. The more I do now, the more I get to enjoy my weekend with Jack without any anxiety that I have a lot to do.

I can’t wait to see him!

A Rose Tinted 2020 Vision

2020 vision1.jpgWhat will next year bring for “Jack” and me?

This post I am writing before I go away to spend some time with my family during the holidays. Both he and I are going to tell our close family members that we have been “dating” and plan to continue doing so.

I am going to tell my family something they may find hard to grasp, because they didn’t want to hear me say it in the past. I am in love with him. Despite everything that went terribly wrong, I never stopped loving him.

By the time this post is published, they will know and will have had time to question me at length and understand what is going on. I have given it a lot of thought. I have been writing things down to tell my family. I may even take the opportunity to finally introduce them to my posts on CRUSHED CARAMEL.

lovely viewJack has an event early in January, at which I will be making my first “public” appearance alongside him. Sick with nerves? Oh yes! But I am keeping my focus on how much I love Jack. It am anxious about the challenges that will come. It’s not pleasant to be at the mercy of opinionated comments from strangers. My main strategy to deal with it is going to be simply not to look. I am just going to keep my rose-tinted loving outlook.

How will our relationship develop? I don’t know. The past few months have been so wonderful. I can only hope things will be equally as wonderful despite possible challenges. The big question mark in my mind is…what about our lives? He is still immersed in the lifestyle I led before I was victim to a crime. He is involved in all sorts of projects for various charities. He has events and projects (some abroad) planned throughout 2020. He has been asking me to reserve certain dates so I can attend charity functions and social occasions with him.

long road.jpg

But what about us? There is a long road ahead. Is it going to be even possible to merge our lives together completely? I don’t think I can re-qualify for international volunteer status. My head is still a problem. They can’t use me the same way. So if we were to merge our lives…he would have to give up international assignments, because they won’t split couples up (well, married couples). So…if he wants to stay in his purposeful life…we will have to continue to live separately. Or if he wants to put me first, he will have to be content with UK assignments only, which is all I qualify for at the moment.

2020 together.jpgIt’s going to be hard for him to make that kind of decision. I don’t want to pressure him in any way. In fact, I don’t want him to have to give up that life. It hurts to think of having to slow him down in doing something we both passionately care about. Maybe that means that it would be better just to carry on the way we are, so that he can live the life of an international volunteer. He already has an assignment in the Middle East and one in Central Africa in the next few months. I am going to have to get used to him being away for weeks at a time.

This is hard because if you love someone to the extent that you want to go where they go and always be close to them…the thought of having to live separately until the person you love is ready to give up the life they love for you – it is hard. So so hard.

I am just going to be content with what we have now. I am his caramel blonde girlfriend. I am his lover. Come 2020, the whole world can know about it. He is my lover!


A Waste Of Time?

he and me1.jpgThere is no better feeling than laying down gazing up at the night sky with Jack.

I have a picnic blanket with a wax base to it and a fleece top. But we have had to be all wrapped up. It’s been cold and damp lately. It matters not.

There is no better feeling that just laying next to him looking up at the stars. You can see more stars when you leave London.

It is so easy to forget the rest of the world when I am with him. That’s not what he and I are about you know. We are both passionate about volunteering. We have both given a large amount of time to charities. I should sit down and do the math. But I know it is a minimum of 1000 hours a year for each of us. So, whatever the total is, between the two of us we have racked up well over 50,000 hours as volunteers. Imagine that time was money – he can earn a lot more money than I can. But suppose it was £10 per hour – that would be £500,000. When you think about it that way, you can see how much we have both given up.

Will the world forgive us for wasting some time together now? Just he and I, laying in the grass, staring up at the sky together and talking. Sometimes not talking at all actually, just listening to each other’s breathing and feeling each other’s heart beat.

Happy Anniversary To Me

I am not sure where to begin with this post. Well…my train of thoughts began when I was queuing up to pay for my crispbreads and a bottle of chardonnay. I noticed that behind the counter were a row of large bottles of spirits – whisky, vodka, gin, vermouth. Their prices were reduced dramatically from around £29 to £16.


I commented to the cashier that they were large reductions, to which he asked me if I wanted to buy one. I said I didn’t want any, but I said that I wondered if they have been reduced because of the current state of politics, which the cashier and the man queuing behind me found amusing.

sad timesOn the way home, I started thinking about some of the things that have already happened in 2019. It’s been quite eventful in ways. I found out something wonderful about six weeks after Goldfinch had left, and then five weeks later, I lost my little apricot sized bundle of joy. Now as a family we prepare for what is to come as our precious one is facing cancer. “Eventful” times – sigh. Feeling a little sad tonight. It will pass after a good night’s sleep. But for now, writing about it is helping.

I felt a little overwhelmed pondering all this, as I walked along the busy London high street not far from where I live. Then I remembered something. Today is the day that is marked in my diary with a heart.


The 4th April is circled because it was my first day as a full-time volunteer. I had applied to be one for ten years. And then at long last, I was there. It felt like a miracle. I was one of a handful of single women, out of 600 other full-time volunteers, based in England. One of around 100 single women out of 20,000 full-time international volunteers worldwide.

special lunch.jpgAfter one year as a full-time volunteer (on a trial basis) you find out if you will be accepted as a permanent one. So the following 4th April became a day for celebration.  We normally had a special lunch to celebrate with a group of close friends. Every diary I have had since then has had 4th April marked as a special day for me, the anniversary of my first day as a full-time international volunteer. 4th April always marked down in my diary as the best day of my life.

This evening, after a day at work, working for money, I felt so frustrated with the futility of my current situation. Money has its uses – it  allowed me to buy some food tonight and will buy me a flight to Australia to see Goldfinch. But it feels so empty.

AmbulanceAll the thousands and thousands of hours I have given to volunteering. At least 30,000 hours in 18 years. 30,000 hours, thousands of people who I have had the privilege of working with, who knows how many miles travelled? And because of what happened with Jack…I made a silly mistake and went to a park on my own late at night, and after being the victim to a serious crime woke up in an ambulance.

houseI miss my life so much. My chosen career, my world, my home. I am safe here, but I do not belong here. I live in an area with people who have a vast amount more money than integrity. I just found out that one of the big houses in our road has been bought by one of the biggest names in the British music industry. Oh dear me – another swanky pretentious neighbour. I should not say that. I don’t know them myself. I just want to be back with hundreds of others who work full-time and do not earn a penny. That was pure happiness.

I am feeling a little dismal tonight. It’s my anniversary – but I am not feeling very celebratory. So forgive me if you don’t think I am being balanced. I just miss my life so much. I will go to sleep soon. Another 15 hour work day Friday and then I have the weekend ahead when I will be doing some voluntary work.

I am going to share another little memory with you. My Dad had a record player and a collection of records. However, the speakers did not work. You could listen to music using headphones, but the connection was dodgy, so you had to hold it in place while you listened to music. Dad wanted to share his music collection with me. So he would put the headphones on me and let me listen to his albums, while he held the connector in place.

He had a Barbara Dickson album. There were some great tracks including one that I fell in love with. It had such sad lyrics, but I loved it and I found from a young age I was walking around singing these mournful lyrics at the top of my voice. I was around the age of four or five and singing “don’t they know it’s the end of the world?”

I was delighted when a popular singer named Sonia released a cover of the song when I was still quite young. I thought I would include both versions below:

The Way I Felt That Day!

There was one day when I had the most incredible news of my life. Have you ever received news that meant so much to you that your heart leapt? News that gave you a huge surge of elation.

When I saw the picture prompt from The Haunted Wordsmith it brought back to my mind that elation, the heart-leaping, spirit-soaring, joyful jubilation of hearing news that you have been longing for throughout many years.

Humpback Whale, Jumping, Breaching

I remember that day vividly. It was such a strange day in many ways.

I think I have mentioned that it was March 1997 when I first became involved in a local charity’s project and started my career as a volunteer. In May I started study leave for my GCSEs. I didn’t do any revision for my exams – I was fortunate to be able to rely on the many years of paying attention in class and doing my homework. But I was so glad to be free! At last I found something purposeful.

roofersI was able to work on some extraordinary projects throughout the north of England and Wales and worked with thousands of people. I became part of a core team that helped to train new volunteers. There are some very special people I want to write about in the future.

constructionTen years later, I left home in order to be able to work as a volunteer in a part of Southern England, where there were a stack of projects and not many volunteers (partly because the cost of living in that area is so high).  Although the first year was hard, because I missed my family and friends up north so much, it did not really take me too long before I started to feel at home down south.  I made many wonderful friends and fell in love with the countryside.  I ended up living on the grounds of a beautiful stately home and being allowed to roam their gorgeous estate, and because they trusted me, I paid peanuts for my accommodation, which was another fortuitous factor in my volunteer career in the south of England.

For all that time, I gave at least twenty hours each week to voluntary projects for which I was unpaid. In addition I worked on a part-time basis to earn the money I needed. I learn to live frugally and I am very glad of it.

I longed to become a full-time international volunteer. I had met many who were. But I was given a very realistic description of the challenges that are involved in that role. The accommodation is very basic and modest – well small, very small. There is a a strict schedule and volunteers are often required to work “over-time”. There can be challenges when sharing kitchen and bathroom areas with other volunteers who come from different backgrounds and cultures. The physical demands and difficulties in the various challenging assignments can be exhausting.

For many reasons, the number of single men vastly outweighs the number of single women. There are many many part-time roles for women, but the role of a full-time international volunteer is so tough, that it is normally only men who are invited to take up this role. The physical, emotional, mental tests they put you under are designed to reveal if you really can take on a self-sacrificing role and if you really can be sent anywhere in the world and adapt to any way of living. Many men cannot hack it. Yet in general, they are more likely to endure and remain in this role for longer.

When I was living on a shoe-string in the south of England, I was involved with projects all over Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Dorset and Bristol and beyond. I was also handling the accounts for local charities and had to deal with a complicated situation where a celebrity had made a huge blunder (it was sorted out eventually, but we almost had to get the police involved). To earn my crust, I worked within healthcare – I had a bank contract for zero hours a week. There were always shifts available, but mostly I worked for two six hour shifts a week. For two years I managed to live on my wages from twelve hours work, so I could devote more than thirty hours each week to working with charities on an unpaid basis. I was happy, very tired at times, but deeply happy.

construction clothesNow a special man, a friend, created an opportunity for me (I will save that story for another post!) and some time after that I received a telephone call, asking me if I would be able to travel up to London for a training day, as they would like to start using me on important projects on the site where all of the UK projects and around 25% of international projects were organized from. I was thrilled!

I went for the training day and fell in love with everything and everyone. My heart was bound up with the site in London which was an absolute hub for volunteers. There were 540 full-time volunteers at the time. (That number rose to 800 during the next three years.) Around half were married couples and the other half were single men. There were around ten single women, five of whom were over sixty years of age and had been widowed. There were also around 200 who worked their part-time. Over half of those part-time volunteers were single women. I was told again and again that it is extremely rare that any single women would be asked to become full-time volunteers, because of the challenges involved. On occasions, when it did occur, it would be if a single woman had a very specialist skill that was needed. Over the next six months I drove backwards and forwards between London and my accommodation on a countryside estate. It was seventy miles each way. I was doing two night shifts each week in London. I must admit doing night shifts did effect the rest of my week. But I managed. I had a very difficult and demanding schedule for six months during which I often felt I had jet-lag.

care assistantThe night shifts were necessary because they had an infirmary for volunteers who were seriously ill. Most of the patients were well into their nineties and were now effected by dementia, although their mobility was excellent. Most of those we were caring for had sacrificed opportunities to marry or start a family of their own because they were devoted to volunteering. So now, we became their family and gave them a very special standard of nursing care, marked by love and appreciation for all they had done and how special they were to all of the people they had helped over the decades. We also had patients who were receiving palliative care as they had advanced cancer, including some young ones in their twenties. Very brave. They could have returned home, but they wanted so much to keep their hand in volunteer projects for as long as they could and be near the other volunteers who had become like a family to them.

Then one day, they asked me if I was willing to come to London to work for two day shifts, the first was a Friday and the second would be the following Monday. I jumped at the chance. Working night shifts meant that I had very little chance to meet many other volunteers, just the direct team I was working with in the infirmary for volunteers who were seriously ill.

But during the Monday night shift I worked a few days before I was due to do my first day shift, since the day I had been trained six months earlier, I found out some news. I had mixed feelings. Suzie, the girl I was working with, told me that another part-time volunteer, who was a single woman, had been invited to become a full-time volunteer. Her name was Marta and she was German. I had never worked with her. She was a psychologist.

I wanted to be happy for Marta, who I had never met. However, I was crushed. All my hopes seemed dashed.

I drove back to the countryside on Tuesday morning after my night shift and stayed in bed all day, weeping. But then on Wednesday and Thursday I walked out in the woods and muddy fields through the pouring rain. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I was so bitterly heart-broken, but I couldn’t tell a soul about it. I found myself wishing I had never known the joy of meeting so many wonderful people and the satisfaction of slaving for others. I had never been so overwhelmed with sadness. It was awful!

dining room.jpgOn the Friday morning, I left my accommodation at 4.30am to make sure I was not late for the 6.30am arrival at breakfast, they had asked of me. I was rather nervous of walking in alone to a huge room where 400 would arrive for breakfast. I still remember who I was sitting with around the breakfast table that morning.

After breakfast I went to the infirmary and received my work assignment for the day. It was so different to be there during the day-time. I was able to do some work with Suzie, but also spent time with other volunteers I had never met before. I met Marta for the first time that morning. Kevin, the supervisor who had been coordinating my shifts for months asked me how I had heard and seemed to apologise to me because I think he knew how much I would have loved to be there full-time. Several of the volunteers I worked with during the day were very chatty but the question was asked of me several times, would I like to be a full-time volunteer. I was on the verge of tears again and again. None of them could know I had cried for the previous three days because I was convinced there was no possibility of being asked now that Marta had.

nervousI had lunch with Suzie and Nadine (another of the girls I worked with in the infirmary) and Nadine’s husband James. After lunch, we went back to work. Kevin asked me if I could make sure I was available in about half and hour and asked me to be at his office by 1.30pm. I made sure I had finished my tasks and was there at the time he had asked of me.

I was so nervous before I went though. I had been fighting tears most of the morning and I was not sure i could keep myself composed in front of Kevin. In addition I was going to have to tell him that I could not do as many night shifts as normal for the next month because I had to attend a training course and I was going to be moving home. I could no longer afford my accommodation (even though it didn’t cost a lot) so I was moving into a spare room that was part of a farmhouse, where I would be helping care for the animals on the land.

beforeWell, I knocked on the door, and Kevin opened the door and closed it behind me once I had entered. I was surprised to find one of the directors named Rod, who managed the entire facility there.

I sat in front of them very nervously. They asked me if I was enjoying my work there. They wanted to know how I was finding the travelling and how was doing night shifts effecting my regular week. I found it hard to talk, I am sure I felt myself crimsoning. Then they started talking to me about why Marta had been invited to become a full-time volunteer and how her experience in psychology were needed because they had a volunteer who had cancer who had suddenly lost her husband who had a massive heart- attack and died in one night. His bereaved wife had suffered a serious nervous breakdown and was in need of specialist care.

I nodded. I knew there were good reasons why Marta had been chosen. I knew I should be happy for Marta and for the infirmary that the needed skills had been available at the right time. They explained to me how very hard it is to obtain approval for a single young woman to become a full-time volunteer and how it was only given in exceptional circumstances. I nodded.

Then they explained that the infirmary was becoming busier and busier and they needed to expand it. More rooms, more volunteers. They knew I was one of the most experienced of the volunteers in healthcare and that I had showed already by my reliability and my attitude that I was eager and willing. They said they had hoped that I might be able to help to train new volunteers and to advise them more closely on needed equipment. They asked me if that was something I wanted, would I like to be more involved? Would I!

And then…

…they told me that when they had asked for permission to invite Marta to become a full-time volunteer, they had decided to request permission to invite another single woman to become a full-time volunteer, because they felt there was so much need within the infirmary. They said that they had approval to invite Marta two weeks before. And they told me that during the course of that very morning they had been informed that they had permission to invite another single woman in as a full-time volunteer…

…and that single woman was me!

I must have looked completely shocked. Well, I was shocked! Speechless. It had never crossed my imagination they would be able to invite both of us to become full-time volunteers. They said if you don’t believe it, here it is in writing. They handed me a long white envelope with my bame typed out on the front, and told me to take it home and think carefully about it and to let them know. But they wondered if I could give them an idea if it was likely I would accept. I was gobsmacked! “YES YES YES!” They asked me if I minded if they told the other team members, because the whole team had wanted me to become a full-time volunteer. I said “of course!”. We opened the door and all three of us left the office. Suzie was just outside the door and I remember her looking at me with a quizzical expression.

afterAt 2pm there was a meeting for all the infirmary staff. The supervisor and the director I had been in the office ran through some important information with the whole department. They then asked if everybody knew that there was going to be a new full-time volunteer joining the team. Everyone nodded and affirmed they knew Marta was going to be joining them. Rod shook his head. He said, “haven’t you heard that we are going to have another full-time volunteer?” Everyone was surprised and asked who? Rod and Kevin pointed at me!

I will never forget the reaction of the rest of the team! Everyone was so pleased. I was hugged by everyone. Some of the team said they had been praying for me to be invited in.

What a day that was! That picture right up at the top – the picture prompt – that is just how I felt. Heart-leaping, spirits-soaring, joyful jubilation! That was exactly the way I felt that day! I had never felt so utterly thrilled about anything. After the day was over, I went out to the car and rang my parents and my sisters! Then I drove over to some very close friends I was spending the weekend with. Three girls who I had worked with on many volunteer projects and loved the company of. They were thrilled for me.

Within a month I was living in London, sharing a tiny flat with Marta and Suzie. Three of us sharing a bedroom. Bunk-beds and a wall-bed. We shared a tiny kitchen and bathroom and had a living room which had a two-seater sofa and and armchair and a desk. But we had French doors and a balcony that looked out onto a lovely view of a green park with a cedar tree and a luxury apartments development where footballers, popstars and people had too much money lived next door to us. I still reckon we had a better view than they did as they were looking at our much more modest block of flats!

Moving to London to become a full-time international volunteer was like a dream. It was like coming home…even though I had been happy before.  I was happy on a different level. Everything felt right. The routine, the dignity, the rewarding work, the huge numbers of people I saw and worked with. I found I didn’t miss receiving wages. My main assignment would be in London, but at any point I could be sent elsewhere. I loved the astonishing variety London life offered. I found that I was thriving in this life-style.

I was deeply joyful and content – my life was challenging at times to be sure but deeply satisfying. I was truly happy. And then Jack was invited to become a full-time volunteer…