It’s now just over a week (!!) until I embark for the sunny shores of Sydney, to spend Christmas with my sister and her family. I wrote a bit about how excited I was for the trip here, but that was a few months ago now and things are getting closer, and much more real. I’ve never spent Christmas abroad before, and neither has Mr ANN, so that’ll be something completely new for us. I’m so excited – but I’ve also realised quite what I’ve got left to do. Here’s what my going away checklist is looking like at the moment.

falalalalalalalala.

Wardrobe ¦¦ It’s sweltering over in Australia at the moment, with temperatures regularly over 30°C. That’s not something my pale British self is used to – but I’m certainly not complaining. My wardrobe may need some serious looking at, but there’s nowhere to buy shorts in the UK in December so I’ll just have to make do.

Christmas presents ¦¦ These have almost all been taken care of – we decided to adopt all our UK family members an animal each from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey, which is a cause close to my heart. Most people in our families are grown-ups who just buy everything they need themselves, and we have no desire to clutter up their lives with things they don’t. So an animal adoption suits us all very well. For the non-grown-ups, well there’s only my nephew in the UK, and we’ll get him something else to go with his animal – some books about it, I think, and maybe an Attenborough DVD. The other niece and nephew will be in Australia, so we’ll be taking presents with us for them. We’ve been asked to bring out some books so have been delving into our childhood memories for our most loved stories (and then buying them online – how very Millennial).

Packing ¦¦ I’m a last minute lassie when it comes to packing, but I think I should probably start getting some bits and pieces together now. Especially because it’s so cold here that I just can’t conceive heat. I keep trying to pack jumpers before realising what I’m doing. This could take a while. Any tips, anyone?House sitting ¦¦ We’re going to be staying at my sister-in-law’s (well, my brother-in-law’s sister, that’s my sister-in-law… right?!) place while she, her husband and son are in New Zealand visiting family. It’s such a generous offer of them – and they’re letting us use their car as well! – but I’m quite nervous we’re going to ruin something somehow. We’ve already been warned not to turn on the ceiling fan in the bedroom because it calls the police… Help?

In-flight entertainment ¦¦ We’re flying with Asiana and I’ve heard a vicious rumour that the in-flight entertainment isn’t up to much. It’ll probably turn out to be fine, but I’d rather be prepared – because realising that you’ve got 4x 11-hour flights to keep occupied and only one hastily-purchased trashy magazine to entertain yourself with (purchased solely for the free nail polish, obvs) is not the best way to start a trip. I’ve got some books but I’m thinking some podcasts might be more realistic given my anticipated attention span.Korea ¦¦ Speaking of Asiana, we will be stopping over in Seoul for a brief spell in both directions. Whilst I don’t think we’ll leave the airport on the way out (4h stopover), we definitely will on the way back (19h stopover, with hotel provided by Asiana – thanks!). So we need to think about what we’re going to do, the things we absolutely can’t miss, and how on earth I am going to stay warm given I don’t have space in my suitcase for a whole entire cold weather outfit that will be used for less than a day. Has anyone visited Seoul? Any travel tips or recommendations?

Work ¦¦ Things have been suspiciously quiet at work recently, which means there shouldn’t be too much I need to get squared away before we leave. It does however make me anxious that something is going to suddenly hit my desk the day before we leave. Oh and I’ve got to cobble together something respectable to wear to the Christmas party this week, too…

House ¦¦ Remembering to eat all the food in the fridge before we go, put the heating on timer so the pipes don’t freeze, let our neighbours know we’ll be away, put the bins out… Boring stuff but we’ll regret it if we forget it.

Do you have a pre-travel checklist?

-Rachel

10 years ago today I had my first spinal fusion. Having been diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 12, every rapid growth spurt had made this day increasingly inevitable. The three operations I ended up having were horrendous, each in their own uniquely awful ways, but that’s a story for another day.
Today was the day to celebrate my new, straight(er) spine and titanium hitch-hikers and the journey we’ve been on together. This spine of mine has had a pre-tty interesting 10 years and I wanted to mark it’s 10th birthday in a suitable fashion.
First, I treated you to a nice lie in. Nothing like some horizontal time for a tired spine. Remember when I was on bed rest and I insisted I’d never need to sleep again? Well…

For breakfast, I made gluten free pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Hella better than hospital food, let me tell you. Let’s not mention the fact that you, dear spine, probably triggered my coeliac disease as well. This is your day, and we don’t pick fights on birthdays.
In the afternoon we headed out and bought some provisions for the party we’re throwing you at the weekend. I wonder how many other spines get parties? Oh well. Good thing you like to eat all the same kinds of things I like to eat.


In the evening, we headed out to watch the Christmas Lights Switch-on & Fireworks Happy 10th Birthday Rachel’s Spine Fireworks down by the river. Thanks, Bedford Borough Council! They were beautiful, spectacular, and they even played ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. Do you remember listening to that while we were recovering? 


Afterwards, we had some of The Good Hot Chocolate (basically chocolate shavings) and watched some Gilmore Girls. Aren’t you glad we have Mr ANN to watch things with now? He’s much better company than Fred SP ever was. Sorry, Fred, it’s not your fault you’re only a cuddly toy.
Well, spine of mine, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. Today, you’re still making your presence felt in all sorts of ways but I know it’s just so that I don’t forget about you. No hard feelings. You’ve taught me a lot; about real lives and the real people who live them, family, pain, joy, determination, loss, faith, empathy, friends, resilience, luck, how kick-ass nurses can be, and which ones are the good pills. Also, you gave me some really awesome scars which are not only some of my favourite things about me, but a fantastic way to wind people up – shark attacks, freak accidents involving Edward Scissorhands, or my true identity as Frankenstein’s Monsteress.
Here’s to the next 10 years. I wonder what will have happened by then? 
Love,
-Rachel


In honour of Halloween, I’ve been delving into some local history and unearthed reference to a local ghost. Black Tom of Bedford was a highwayman in the Bedford area in the late eighteenth century. According to various sources, he was either generally well liked apart from his penchant of relieving people of some excess wealth, or alternatively he was a scourge on the local population, damaging trade and frightening locals. He was named ‘Black Tom’ due to his black hair, and possibly due to his unethical conduct, and was eventually arrested and thrown into prison for his misdeeds. He was sentenced to death, and was hanged on the junction of Tavistock Street, Union Street and Clapham Road in Bedford and buried nearby.
black tom bedford ghost story a nesting nomad blogger bblogger

And here’s where the history lesson turns into a ghost story; Black Tom was apparently buried with a stake driven through his heart to prevent him returning again. It may not have had the desired effect, because he has been reportedly seen around the area where he was buried, with his head either bowed pensively or lolling due to the effects of being hanged, depending on the account. Those who saw him thought it was just a drunk in fancy dress, until the figure vanished. 
On a more positive note, it’s said that the hanging of Black Tom was one of the many events that inspired the famous prison reformer John Howard to campaign for (amongst many things) the abolition of the jailer’s fee, paid by prisoners to the jailer for ‘upkeep’ and release. It is said that Black Tom was hanged because he couldn’t afford a sufficient bribe such that the jailer would put his petition before the judge, which was likely to have led to the reduction of his sentence. 
The area is now a roundabout, which I sometimes drive over on my way back from the supermarket. They did some roadworks there recently, which looked quite extensive. I wonder if they dug up anything interesting? Surely a gallows and related burials must have left some traces. Still, this new found knowledge will certainly liven up my drive home from the shops, and I’ll try not to crash the car whilst peering around for a figure who looks like a drunk wearing fancy dress.
For me, learning the history of where I live is important; it makes me feel more connected with my surroundings. Whether or not I believe that long dead criminals sometimes rise from the dead to roam the land once again, I know a bit more about the things that happened around the places where I go about my daily life, and why they happened. I’ve also learned a little about prison reform, and life in Britain in the 1700s. History repeats itself so they say, and even if it doesn’t, its effects can nonetheless be felt around me every day.
Happy Halloween everyone! Do you have any local ghost stories?
-Rachel

Hi fellow nomads,
You may have caught wind of my recent trip to Jersey if you follow me on my Instagram. Just in case you don’t, I will recap briefly for you. Last weekend I went for a long weekend on this lovely little island with my husband, my bestie and her husband. We had a jolly old time, food poisoning not withstanding (long story), and saw as much of this gorgeous island as we could.
We nearly got swept away by waves which dashed against the rocky shore.

We wandered around amongst ruined castles on clifftops.

We spied France across the sparkling water.
And we learned some important lessons about Jersey. They are as follows.
Look twice // It turns out that the entrances to roads, private driveways, car parks and slipways straight into the sea look surprisingly similar from the road. Check twice before you head down it.
Durrell // A visit to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is always a pleasure, regardless of the weather. We visited in the pouring rain and I loved every second, and I loved it even more when the sun came out. I can’t recommend this place enough.
Weather // We Brits love to talk about the weather, but even in my whole life of talking about and experiencing weather, I’ve never enjoyed fog in quite the same way as I have on Jersey. Actually, all the weather was pretty spectacular come to think of it.

When is £10 not £10 // The tennerfest is a festival during October in which lots of fabulous restaurants on Jersey put on special fixed price menus. It’s a fantastic idea, but since its inception a decade ago, inflation has taken its toll. Menus are rarely £10 any more, and even if they are, it’s sometimes best to just order one course you really, really want from the menu rather than three you don’t quite.

Roads // If you like driving large cars, don’t come to Jersey. If you like driving down large, straight roads with plenty of space and preferably multiple lanes on each side, don’t come to Jersey. Or be prepared to take public transport or taxis everywhere, because oh my the lanes get narrow. They’re absolutely beautiful and charming, of course, but a menace for hire car wing mirrors.
The hills are alive // Actually there are just a lot of them and they seem to move into your path, depending on where you want to go. If you want to walk on Jersey, which I’d recommend, bring good shoes, good knees and lots of enthusiasm.
G&T Time // If you’re flying from London, your flight time will barely be long enough for you to throw down the necessary inflight cocktail before the harassed looking flight attendants whisk it away from you, ready for landing. You have been warned.
Have you been to Jersey? What did you learn?
-Rachel