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25.5.20

Never See Him Race Again

2015, Douglas, Isle of Man

I'm stood in the driveway of a house of the rudest Manx people I have ever met, but have given £20 towards the air ambulance for the pleasure so I will bloody well enjoy it.

Agos Leap, the watching spot most TT fans dream of being able to view from and here I am.
First time on the island, first race I've ever seen and I am technically "Living the dream".
At this point though I still don't really like bikes. I am still just here to spend time with my brother and am a fan of William Dunlop after watching the film Road. I wasn't quite a fan of Michael at this point. William was the one I was drawn to initially.

We listen to the tannoy in the distance and the crackly radio.
A bike revs and then we hear "First bike away!".
"Ready Lauren?" my brother says and all of a sudden I become overwhelmed and the adrenaline rushes through me.
I burst into tears and start having a panic attack. Within seconds the first bike is shooting past. My body is so overcome with all of the emotions, the panic attack takes full force and this time I let it. Not worried at all.
I look at my brother. His smile as big as mine. We just look at each other in the eyes and he knows. He knows exactly how I am feeling, exactly what I am thinking.
I know that our bond, our almost 30 year old bond, just got even stronger.
I am reminded again, more than ever before, of how lucky I am to have this man in my life. And I will never ever forget and never stop being grateful to him for introducing me to this.

He tells me when William goes past, and even though it's a matter of intense seconds, the feeling of being so close to someone who was part of why I was there, not just stood at the paddock but on the machine he was so passionate about, and that made me admire him and his family, was incredible. So fast though that you can only just notice them, and they certainly don't see you.
But so close that it is enough to feel like a dream come true. To see someone racing, a hero of mine, was so much more satisfying than seeing them standing in a paddock.

Every lap my brother would point William out to me. I hadn't yet mastered the ability to read the bike numbers from a distance and at the speed they were going!
It was the last day I was on the island and I was watching part of a race before I had to go to the airport. That was when I noticed Michael. Just as I was about to leave we heard the commentator say that Michael hadn't made it to wherever he was next due.
I then had 5ish hours of not knowing if he was ok. Realising how worried I was made me know, for sure, that this was my passion. That the Dunlops, first and foremost, were my passion.

Going home I realised what a different person I now was. And a couple of months later, speaking to William Dunlop on the phone was a moment I will never forget. I never thought I'd be the type of girl to be excited and made up over speaking to a bike racer.

Soon enough I had the Legs of Man tattooed on my thigh, along with 15 stars to symbolise 2015 as well as other things.

2016

My TT break was booked and I had set myself the challenge of meeting William. I'd even tweeted to say he was the celebrity I would most like a selfie with. He liked that tweet.

That year not only did I get to watch them race but I got to meet them both...and had a D tattooed on my wrist for Dale and Dunlop.
3 months after the TT I was in Ireland with my brother. An Irish road trip for our birthday with the soul purpose of visiting Ballymoney, to go to Joeys Bar and the memorial garden for Joey and Robert.

2017

TT 2017 came and for two weeks I was there to enjoy the sport. I hadn't set myself a challenge of meeting them again. Seeing them race was enough for me.
I remember, clearly, the senior race. The red flag and then immediately wondering if it was a Dunlop.
Had they already gone past?
How the hell would I react?
The news came through that it was Ian Hutchinson and although I was still sad and in shock there was a big feeling of relief that it wasn't a Dunlop.
I left the island with a number 3 tattoo on my middle finger in tribute to Joey and Michaels race numbers. And as it was my 3rd year on the island.

2018

I was gutted, gutted doesn't feel like a strong enough emotion really, that I didn't go to the TT. It affected my mental health which sounds so dramatic but that's just how much the sport and the island mean to me.
Listening on the radio wasn't enough.
William left practice early so it almost felt like a relief that at least I wasn't missing watching him race. Selfish I know. Really selfish. 

July 7th, 2018

He's gone. He'll never race again. I'll never see him race again. 
I didn't realise the hurt I would feel or the shock I would feel at someone who I didn't even know dying. 
I didn't realise I would cry for days. For weeks. That even almost 2 years on I still feel so heartbroken.

2019

We're walking around the paddock and it feels different, to not be looking out for William as I had done before. To not be able to point him out to my boys. To have the memories of 2015, 2016 and 2017 flood back as if they were only yesterday.
To watch from Conker Trees, where the photo above was taken, knowing that I couldn't recreate that photo any more. That none of the bikes that were racing past were him. That I couldn't say to the boys "that was William".
And although there are other racers to support and follow, he was the first I was a fan of. He was the reason behind my passion.
And I hate that I will never see him race again.


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Bluestone Wales Highlights | Five Things

Last year myself and the boys were lucky enough to be invited along to stay at Bluestone in Wales for 5 days.
I'd seen Bluestone a lot over Instagram and Twitter for a few years so to actually have the chance to visit was super exciting and I had high hopes.
Holidays as a solo parent are pretty daunting. I'd managed a 2 night stay in Milton Keynes which was pretty simple and of course a 5 day stay at the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man gave me an insight into what the drive would be like with just me and two boys (we drove to Liverpool then got the ferry to the island) and stayed in a tent for the time we were there. 
So, although I managed to get through that holiday going to Wales did seem like a challenge but one I was excited about. 
I'll break down our days in a separate post but wanted to do a Five Things Highlights post as we had such an amazing time.

1.  The Views

I've always loved Wales, it's one of my favourite places and I've got a lot of memories of visiting as a child. I've never been as far into Wales as we did this time, with Pembrokeshire being the far West of Wales I was looking forward to seeing more of the country.
Not only was the drive there beautiful, and the areas around Bluestone beautiful, but even the views from the park are stunning. The accommodation we stayed in was an upside down house so the lounge and kitchen were upstairs. This was especially nice in the morning making a coffee whilst looking out over the views of the park and the woodland in the distance. 
Even going for walks around the park or simply to the activity centre and swimming pool was enough for us to be able to take in the views.

2. Accommodation

We stayed in a Gateholm lodge which as mentioned above is an upside down style lodge. There was a double bedroom with an ensuite bathroom (consisting of a bath with overhead shower, toilet and basin) there were two other bedrooms which both had single beds in them and a main bathroom which had a shower enclosure, toilet and basin. 
Upstairs was open plan kitchen, dining and lounge area. It was so spacious, with a dining table and 6 chairs, a coffee table, a tv unit (with tv) and two large sofas. The kitchen had everything we needed with loads of storage space and worktop space. 
Although there was only 3 of us and we could have been in something smaller it actually felt lovely and would be somewhere we would stay if we returned. It would be ideal for a bigger family too with the amount of beds and space. 

3. The local area

We did have one day where we left the park to explore the local area. We ideally wanted to visit a couple of castles but it was difficult to park so instead we "had an adventure" which is where we just drive not really knowing where we are going. 
We ended up at the most beautiful beach in Tenby and sat there for a while with the whole place to ourselves. It was just like being in a postcard, it was so stunning. Beautiful sand, blue water and pastel buildings and houses. 
After a while it started to lightly rain and although we sat in it for a while we had to leave as we'd only put 2 hours on at the car park. We took another adventure and went for fish and chips. 
Honestly, this was the most perfect place to just go out in the car and drive and get lost knowing that wherever you end up will be beautiful and have something to do. 

4. Free activities

I'll be writing a separate post about going to Bluestone on a budget. I planned our stay not based on a particular budget but I there was a particular figure I didn't want to go over and as a solo parent, money was/is limited, but I didn't think this should affect or prevent us from having a holiday. Bluestone does have particular activites which are free. 
We made a visit to the Adventure Centre every day for the boys to use soft play and for us to have a game of crazy golf. There was a bouncy castle in the adventure centre too which was really lovely for the boys to be able to use too. 
There is a lovely park near the village centre which we only visited once as we found it on our last day, and obviously the walks around the park are just incredible and mean that, for us at least, there was no need to pay for any additional activities. 
And, the best bit, the swimming pool. I was most nervous about going swimming with just me and the boys, especially with the slides and lazy river but we had the most amazing time and so much fun. We loved it that much that on the last day, instead of leaving at 10am to drive home, we instead stayed and left at 3pm so we could make the most of the pool!

5. Memories

A bit cheesy really but it has to be the last of our highlights. I think there were certain ways there could have been improvements to the holiday, and things I felt were missing, but it didn't affect our holiday and isn't anything the boys would have picked up on. 
We all had a cry on the Thursday night and on the Friday which means a lot I think. It's definitely somewhere we would recommend and consider visiting again. 




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24.5.20

Chicken, butternut squash, spinach and creme fraiche pasta (with loads of other ingredients!)

Naming recipes is funny isn't it? When there are loads of ingredients. You're supposed to just pick out some of the ingredients and not mention the others in the title and then BAM! There's the list of ingredients and there is a lot more than the 4 ingredients shown in the title. 

I'd placed an Asda order and saw a recipe for butternut squash and spinach pasta. It looked really nice and the good thing is you can add the ingredients to your basket in just one click without having to search for them all on the online shop. 
The day I was due to make this recipe I looked at the ingredients and realised the main sauce I was due to use for it hadn't been added to my basket and therefore delivered. So it became one of those "bung everything in and make it up as you go along" dinners. 
It turned out AMAZING and I'm super grateful for Asda not adding it to my basket! 


When it comes to this recipe I think you can put in however much of everything so haven't added weights or how much of each thing you need. Just go with it! 
Pasta
Butternut squash 
Spinach
Chicken 
Lazy garlic
Creme fraiche
Parmesan
Blue cheese
Tomatoes 
Caramelised red onions 
Garlic bread

Roasted the butternut squash for half an hour then added chicken and roasted for another 20 minutes. In this time the butternut squash was easy to mash up and to combine with the chicken.
Cook pasta.
I fried some lazy garlic, baby plum tomatoes with some spinach until the spinach had wilted, and then combined this with the chicken and butternut squash. 
In a saucepan I added some creme fraiche, and grated in some parmesan. 
Once this was heated and the parmesan had melted in with the creme fraiche I added the pasta and mixed so it was covered in the sauce. At this point you can add more creme fraiche or parmesan to have the perfect base sauce for your meal. 
I then added the chicken, butternut squash, spinach and tomato mixture and stired this through with the pasta, keeping it on a low heat. 
I then added a little blue cheese, and mixed it through the pasta, lastly adding some caramelised red onions. 

Serve in a bowl with garlic bread and grate on some more parmesan. 


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