Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

It’s funny. We started this journey in October 2014 and despite knowing just how difficult it was going to be, we could never have anticipated a separation that lasted this long and lives that would be affected this greatly, but here we are! I have been in the UK 280 days today (Over 9 calendar months) and finally the visa saga is drawing to a close.

I think that even though we have struggled (And I am sure you have all noted our intense struggle), we should not be underestimated. Yes, we knew that this was going to be a crazy ride, I knew that I would be lonely and we knew that this would take a toll on everyone involved – The point of the story is that we reached the goal in the end, despite all the challenges we faced. We did it! (Well almost).

On the 22nd of July 2015, after daily check-ups with and at Teleperformance and hounding and annoying as many people as humanly possible, my husband finally collected his visa. Exactly 11 weeks after submission, he has a settlement visa in hand and we can now move forward with our lives. So what was the first thing we did you asked? Most certainly breathed a mutual, continent separated, sigh of relief. It was surreal. I spent the day in a somewhat shocked daze, walking around in disbelief and taking in the realisation that finally my family would be joining me and the new battles of life in another country for them begin. Shortly after the sigh of relief, we paid for the air tickets and made it official. My husband and my beautiful children will arrive in the UK on Thursday the 30th of July 2015! And the countdown couldn’t possibly go any slower.

I really cannot explain the elation that we are feeling. It is a mixed bag of emotions… On the one hand, we are finally getting what we set out to do all of those months ago but on the other, it is the end of an era. The end of a limbo in which we have been living for what feels like a lifetime. Will I remember how to be a wife? Can I go back to being a good mother? Will I remember how to share a home with 3 other people when I have been on my own for so long? There are nerves, anxiety, disbelief, happiness, sadness, anticipation and excitement. It feels like I am getting on a plane and leaving South Africa all over again… Only this time, I won’t be alone.

On Wednesday, I put up a picture of the visa across my social media platforms and I could hardly believe the support that we have received. It is overwhelming. It is like each and every one of our friends and family members have walked this long and treacherous road with all of us. Seen our longing, felt our sadness, shared in our frustration and wiped away our tears. Without all of you, no doubt this journey would have been far more harrowing. To all of those who have cared enough to be a part of this, we thank you – Those that I have met and those that I haven’t. Thank you for your messages, your likes, your comments, your shares and overall just thank you for supporting us from afar.

This looks a little like an Oscars speech but it isn’t really, I just feel it necessary and important to thank everyone involved! Like my crazy ‘landlord and lady’ who in the time I have moved here, wiped my face, held me as I cried, watched me suffer, helped me move, accepted numerous Argos deliveries, drank with me, fed me, showed me the ropes and then decided to have a baby –Without these two taking the plunge, I would never have had the guts to do it myself. And my mother, who if she had not so graciously opened her home to my husband and children, we would be in a far different situation – Thanks Mom and Ken for housing my little family for 9 MONTHS (What we hoped would be 3-4), you are almost an empty nest… finally!

And of course… the strongest man in the world. My husband.

I do not know many men (if any) who would watch their wives move halfway across the world without them to brave a foreign country alone. Giving up all freedom to move in with his in laws, to parent two children (One of which is not his blood relation), to financially support himself and the girls while continuing to fund his visa costs and every now and again a guitar and some eBay shopping for me. To tirelessly and relentlessly push on through delay after delay. To calm his psychotic wife when she was having a lonely episode and to listen when I felt like our worlds were falling apart at my doing. To buy me flowers when I didn’t get the house I wanted or send me a Lindy Bop dress in the wrong size (Oops). He has held my hand through the bad times but held my heart through the worst and I could not thank him enough for being this man because without him at my side, I never would have had the courage to shift my life back to the country in which I was born. I am so grateful that he continues to remind me every day that despite everything we have already conquered and all the hardships that our marriage has faced, we are soul mates and stronger for it. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We falter. But now we are in a place that our marriage and our family can be proud of – We achieved what we set out to do and in only a few days we would have successfully moved our family across continents! No one could be more proud of us than me.

I missed my 30th birthday with my family, my husband’s birthday, Christmas, Hayley’s birthday, Mother’s day (In the UK), Easter, Mother’s day (In SA), Father’s Day, Dakota’s birthday and soon our 3 year wedding anniversary among many other things (Including the birth of my nephew) – But for all I have missed, we are about to gain so much more…

And NOW the work begins.

Schools are on holiday so we have a few weeks to get the girls placements in school – Hayley will be going into Year 5 (Bumping up and missing out on the last half of Grade 4) in September and Dakota into Reception year (Like Grade R). We already have some hopeful waitlists and I am working tirelessly with the admissions team to get them where we want them to be – This, no doubt, will be sorted sometime during August.

J-P has his second interview set up for what sounds like a really good job which will see him starting work very soon (A place they have been holding for him since a Skype interview in June).

And then in 2 and a half years time, we go through this whole visa process all over again – BUT AT LEAST THIS TIME, we will not be separated and it will be the final one before the ILR and citizenship.

So there we go… no more miserable visa posts and moaning blogs about the settlement process. We made it this far and the next blogs I write will once again start including my girls and our lives and the adjustments we have made. Thank you again to everyone who has followed and supported us… It would never have been possible without you.

Xxx

Shevy

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Heart break means strength. We have no choice but to be strong when we have nothing else and so we wear our shells for all to see. You cannot hurt us, your words cannot destroy us. We are strong, We are independent and need for nothing or no one. The walls are raised, the limitations set and the expectations removed, for without expectations there can be no disappointment. We become hard, we are unfeeling. We think that we must appear indestructible and then we cannot be broken. If no one will see the cracks, we allow no one to force them open. We care for nothing on the outside, show no emotion. Appear solid and cold, no doors to be opened for those around us. We walk around as smiling zombies, no trace of humanity, nor a hint of emotion.

We think that we must appear indestructible and then we cannot be broken.

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And then… someone comes along and everything we thought we needed to do to keep everyone out is the very thing we need to stop doing to allow one person in. We know what is good for us but we choose to ignore it, we attempt to keep up the façade. We think that if you don’t see us, you will never know that in the deep dark recesses of the stone mind, the human lingers. We rage a war within ourselves, the ever problematic head versus heart. We weigh up the consequences, wager the odds. Spend hours saying the right things and yet acting out something else entirely. We remain guarded, shielded. We think that if we pretend that we are still that statue with facial expressions, people will not see through the curtain. We are extra careful, making sure the little things aren’t there to give us away.

But in time we realise we are human and cannot keep this up after all, we cave. We crack. We give into our raw human interiors and realise everything that everyone assumed we held together has fallen down. In a wave of passionate release, we reveal our true selves. We drop the walls, we open the doors and the tear duct flood gates empty. Overwrought with all that has been held inside for oh so long, we crumble. We break down in the hopes that that someone who came along, will be willing to pick us back up again…

But they don’t. They realised they wanted us for who we were as unfeeling, uncaring, ‘strong’ people. They decide that the weakness is too much, and the emotion is too strong. They decide that what they thought they wanted to see, they didn’t. They asked for truth, they asked for explanation, when they received what they asked for they chose to ignore it because they are weak.

They do not know for what they ask.

And so the cycle continues, we go back to being statues. We go back to being guarded at the realisation that they cannot handle who we are. They do not know for what they ask. They cannot be blamed though, for we should have known better, we should have known that the reason they could not handle us was not in fact because they were weak. It is because they too were statues, we were only further along in stony progression.

And what did we learn? Was it better to have allowed the ice to thaw or should we have remained entombed in our own form of protection. As the saying goes, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Those that cannot handle your life force, don’t deserve presence in your life at all.

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Be you. Be Ice. Be Fire.

Just be.

The opposite of happiness is not to be unhappy, I have learned that instead it is too be lonely. Alone and lonely.

It is an interesting thing to learn that something you thought to be true your whole life actually turned out to be a load of rubbish. In my case, I believed that I disliked people so much that the only thing I ever wanted to be was on my own. I spent a lifetime trying to get some ‘me’ time, cherishing the rare moments I had alone on the way to work or in the bath. A few months after arriving in the UK, I was alone. I had my own place and the thought of finally living on my own was an exciting one – Not to say I was not deeply disturbed by being separated from my family but the luxury of my own space is one I have never been easily afforded.

The thing is… after a few months of being alone, it grew lonely. I left my closest friends and family in South Africa and I have not found it easy to make new ones, not because I am an ogre to get along with but because financial constraints mean I don’t get to go out or leave the house with an audience very often. I don’t get along well with everyone and in fact most people just do not appeal to me… I am happy with the few close friends I have made and have, I am not really interested in adding to the friends list for the sake of it so I will continue to be fussy in the social aspect of things.

After a little while of being lonely I decided to get Bella – It took me months to find her, hours to bond with her and mere weeks for me to lose her again. She was the one piece of happiness I have had in a long time and today that was taken away from me (through my own fault) along with the chance of seeing my children any time soon.

So am I unhappy? No. I am absolutely, unequivocally lonely. I have never felt more alone in my entire life and the mere thought of spending time stuck at home by myself brings random and infinite tears to my eyes. I feel like I am being suffocated, like every breath I take clutches my insides on the way down and it hurts. I feel like I am drowning, that when I open my eyes all I can see is the eerie black of nothingness. As someone who used to get a full 8 hours or more of sleep a night, I now get only 4 or 5. I hate the thought of going to bed, not because I do not want to enter the lonely dream state I have come to accept but because sleep means the dawning of another day of being alone. Another day on my own. Another day to fake a smile to the world and pretend everything will be ok. Another day to feign strength, to try not to be clingy or needy, to not admit that I am human and every day that passes is another scratch into my bleeding soul.  Waves and waves of grey hit me every minute of every day. I am lost and I am no longer running.

I have spent 8 months and 8 days feeling this way.

A lifetime of needing alone time has culminated in me never wanting to be alone again.

I am not afraid to openly admit that I have failed myself. That I am weak, that I need people. That I cannot sustain this hermit life much longer and that being glued to my phone is not the answer.

How I long for a soul that will not leave me… like my Bella did and like souls before her.

I ache for the day I come home to noise. To voices.

I yearn to come home and take just 5 minutes longer in the bathroom because that is the only alone time that I have.

I crave human interaction that exists outside of virtuality where words are said because they are meant and not because they are obligatory.

One day… people will look at me without pity, without sympathy and without wonder at what I am doing and have done.

One day.

Cacophony of silence

I berate thee

You placate me

Not forever you say

But here in darkness

To breathe

To stay

I tire of the company

Living only for one

I watch

The world goes by

Without me

Not a second thought

No one dare try

Smiles, laughs

Only shadows care

And in my solitude

I ponder, I wait

Change comes not

Loneliness, my fate

Time passes

I stand still

Non-changing

Faux resolve

You think me strong

My head, weak

Heart unfeeling

Do I dare speak?

To say what comes

To mind, my dear

Will only do harm

And so the noisy

Silence persists

I plug my ears

I block the sound

Arms enveloping me

Soul shielded from

The storm

Darkness here

My only friend

I long for her

To bring me home

The last page of another book and I feel my heart break a little more.

The word bound artistry leaves my soul longing, aching, needing from the core.

It hurts to end the story here, for it to end so soon

For over another protagonist to think, to dwell, to swoon

I watched them as they grew, as they were moulded from page to page

To watch them make their own mistakes, adventures to engage

Now I must put them all to bed, forget who they’d become

Even after all the time in my imagination they have swum

Truth to be told, they’re all I’ve known and these characters I adore

They kept me coming back, the author knowing I’d need more

Who knew in this literature that I would ever find such friends

To shut the world out, bedside lamp on, soon became the trend

I was enthralled and threw myself into their stories and lives

Reading of monsters, of dragons, of vampires, of friends and adulterous wives

No matter who the story was about, the subject of this art

Almost every character crept in, made space, got comfortable in my heart

But now this book is over, the characters gone their separate ways

Left to find a new book on which to spend my days

Farewell my friends, our time together has been sweet

Until I read of you again my friend, until once again we meet.

It has been a couple of months since my last blog about my husband’s settlement visa application for the UK – The last post I did was in February called Taking over Me in which I was asking for you to all bare with me only a little while longer for J-P’s visa to be issued and for life to return to some sort of normality. Those who know me or have me as a friend on Facebook (or even follow me on Twitter) know that things did not turn out the way we had planned – Instead J-P’s visa was declined and we were forced to start the process all over again.

Our first settlement visa application was on the basis that I had not yet been here 6 months – This meant that the financial requirement is considered for the 12 months prior to application only. Having earned in South African rands with the awful exchange rate and also changing jobs (and having a drastic pay cut) meant that we were already very close to the line in terms of actually achieving this requirement of GBP18 600 per year (In the last 12 months). We had been advised that maintenance payments could be included in this calculation and so we used this to push us over the edge and apply with the hopes the visa would be approved. Sadly, it was not and due to South Africa’s maintenance orders not being recognised in the eyes of UK visas and immigration, J-P’s visa was denied on the basis that we did not make the financial requirement.

I remember that day that I got the call, I had already gone onto planned leave and J-P and the kids were due to arrive any day, I had gone to watch a movie to kill time while I waited for J-P to go and collect his visa and then book his air ticket – When he called me I was sitting on the bridge over looking the River Kennett, the sun was out and it seemed like it was going to be a beautiful day – I was not prepared for my husband to tell me that his visa had been denied. That we had just spent GBP885 for nothing. It was all I could do to immediately book a ticket back to my family and I flew the next day, uncertain of our future and unsure of being able to continue with this pursuit of a settlement visa so that we could continue our lives in the UK.

When it happened, I looked at this like it was the worst thing in the world but when I think about it now, it was merely a hiccup. Had I known before I left that the visa would be declined, I never would have left South Africa. I said from the start that there was no way I would be here for 6 months (The second way of application) without my family before a visa could be applied for and I was not prepared to stick it out without them for that long… Well, here we are, I have been here 6 months and we are about to apply again.

On the 20th of April 2015 I will have been working for Portman Travel for 6 months and have successfully been earning enough to make the financial requirement – At the end of April (beginning of May depending on how long it takes for the documents to arrive) the second visa application will go in on the new basis that I have lived and worked in the UK for 6 months earning a salary that would in the financial year (6 months before and after application) meet the financial requirement for sponsorship of my husband’s settlement visa. When I went back to SA in February I had every intention of giving up, of canning the whole idea. I was prepared to give up the new life I had built here just to be back to my family knowing how difficult it had been without them in the 4 months preceding the visa rejection. I was convinced otherwise by my husband and our visa consultant and so, came back to the UK with a heavy heart but a renewed determination to do everything we needed to to make this visa happen, despite the challenges, despite the cost. H was re enrolled in school and went back to Grade 4 slightly later than everyone else as by now she had missed the first few weeks of classes and thankfully J-P works for an amazing company who allowed him to stay on a little longer until the visa could be re applied for. I got a new tattoo and came back alone, hoping it would be the motivation I needed to get through the next 3-4 months it would take to resolve this.

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A second visa application means more money – Sadly since the first application, the cost has increased – Our timing has been fairly awful to say the least. Where it was just under GBP900, it is now closer to GBP1000. A new NHS surcharge has also been implemented (As of the 6th of April 2015) where all long term visa applicants are also required to prepay a charge to make use of the NHS for their intended period of stay – J-P’s additional NHS surcharge is another GBP600 on top of his application. Unfortunately documents that were valid for the first application are no longer valid so off my husband went for a second TB test (Another R1000) and a new police clearance certificate, tax clearance certificate and certifications of documents. All new payslips, employment letters, bank statements etc had to be obtained and I will have to send off another envelope filled with original documents from this side before he can even submit the online application again. What was supposed to be over already has turned into an extremely long, harrowing, expensive experience – BUT I KNOW that once they are here, it will be well worth all the sacrifice.

As soon as my documents arrive in South Africa, J-P will then process his online application once more, go in for his interview and re submit all his documentation. In February 2015, nearly all visa applications were being processed in 15 working days but sadly that number has gone up to 30 days for March 2015 – Many being rushed in before the NHS charge implementation date I am sure. I am hoping that the number is reduced again for April / May thanks to these new charges that may put people off from applying – The sooner J-P’s visa comes out, the better.

This time, we have no reason to believe it will be rejected – I meet the financial requirement, we meet all other requirements, we have everything we need for me to be an adequate sponsor of my husband’s visa, all we need is the UK visa’s stamp of approval and we can get along with the rest of our lives and we are nearly there – Hopefully no more than 6-8 weeks away now. It does mean that the children will not go to school until September but that actually works out quite nicely, D will go into reception year (Grade R) as this is the school year that she turns 5. Based on Hayley’s age, she will then be pushed into fifth year and will not be held back yet – That we will look at based on how well she is coping. Hubby has already been in touch with recruiters and has had some positive interest on his CV pending his visa issuance, this is great news as we will be able to get back into the financial swing of things fairly soon. I will also take some more leave but this time, I am waiting to actually have a flight date before I go off for ten working days to spend some much needed time with my beautiful family who I am missing considerably!

Thinking about this visa all the time has led me to discover a few interesting things that may be of use if you are planning on moving over to the UK – I feel that there is a lot of information dotted all over the place and it can get very confusing when you have a complex application / situation as I do.

*** RETAINING SA CITIZENSHIP ***

I am not an SA citizen so I did not give a second thought to this until now but it is important to note that if you manage to successfully obtain citizenship of another country without first having applied to retain your SA citizenship, you will lose your SA citizenship and you will then only be granted permanent residence to SA – It is an administrative and logistical nightmare. As J-P is coming over on a settlement visa (When and not if it is granted), it will be valid for 33 months after which he will apply for an extension for a further 33 months. After that time, he would have been in the UK for 5 years and will be required to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) by doing the Life in the UK test, doing a new English test and proving the financial requirement again in order to gain permanent residence in the UK – It is at this time, once ILR is granted that if he wants to apply for citizenship (Which he does) he will need to apply to retain his SA citizenship before obtaining his British citizenship.

*** CHILDREN HOLDING DUAL CITIZENSHIP ***

Luckily my girls have British passports as well as having their SA passports, this is because I was born in the UK. Under the age of 18, they cannot lose their citizenship in SA as minors but it is important to note that they need to apply to retain their citizenship after they have turned 18 – I still have to get clarity on how to do this because to me the ruling says they would not have lost their SA citizenship as minors but you cannot apply to retain your citizenship if you already have dual citizenship. I will look into this much closer to the time because by then, I am sure the ruling would have changed another ten times.

*** PERMANENT RESIDENCE EXPIRY ***

In the worst case scenario, J-P is not granted extension visa’s or ILR and this could mean that there is a possibility we would need to return to SA. If this is the case, I only hold a permanent residence certificate. Thankfully, those do not expire as long as you apply to the specific rules given on the certificate (if any) or you return to SA at least once very 3 years. Guess what family, you will be seeing me for holidays and visits – Not only because I want to see you but because I also need to make sure that if I need to return to SA permanently, I can :).

It has not been an easy road but I think back to me making the decision to come over and I know it was the right thing to do – I never intended to be away from the girls and J-P so long and as I said earlier, had I known I would never have left but then we would never have had the opportunity to know if this could work or not. It has been extremely expensive but thankfully money can be replaced, credit cards can be repaid – As soon as J-P is here and working again, we will be able to make that up fairly quickly. Money will be the last of our worries as long as my family is back together with a bright, hopeful future.

Now all we ask is that you hold thumbs for us, that this time, our second try, the visa is approved and issued fairly quickly (Hopefully 3-4 weeks instead of 6-7 but if it is approved I will take what I can get) and that I have my family here with me sometime between early and mid June. Unfortunately, the delayed visa issuance means that we will not be able to return to SA this year for a holiday because financially and practically we would just not be able to, but that will mean that next year’s visit will be all the more special – Especially because I will get to meet my nephew who is making his entry into the world in July this year :)

I remain hopeful that the next post I share that has anything to do with the visa is to tell you it has been issued.

Thanks for all your well wishes and positivity in the meantime! I have been here 184 days today… and counting.

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Close your eyes, open wide and take a bite. Now listen. That sound that you hear, crunching in your ear? That’s the sound that drives me to a madness I am certain I need a diagnosis for and its only one of many annoyances that push me to the brink of insanity day in and day out.

I am no psychiatrist but I am certain that I need to see one, you see I am pretty sure that I suffer from a condition called ‘Misophonia’. No, I don’t hate all sounds… only most of them. I don’t complain about your noises because I want to irritate you, I complain about them because they genuinely are the reason that people like me want to injure other people. It is an almost uncontrollable rage that creeps over me and all that I can do is plug my ears and hope it will end soon, before I do or say something I regret.

Over time, I have learnt to block out some of the sounds but it is impossible to block them all out. I am human after all and my hearing is one of my senses that is still near perfect, to my own detriment. Add my unexplained hatred for noise to my obsessive compulsive disorder and we have a healthy combination of crazy in a crusty bucket.

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Snoring

Ask anyone that I have ever shared a bed or a room with just how much I can handle a snorer. Simply put, I can’t. I grew up sharing a room with my sister, most of that time in a bunk bed, many a night spent kicking her in the back through the chipboard to wake her up so I could sleep. It was not uncommon for her to wake up with her nose inches from a pillow that I was contemplating suffocating her with (I am not actually going to admit to trying to suffocate her here). Ask my husband about our nightly ritual and it will always involve me going to bed and falling into a deep sleep before he is even permitted to lay down – Heaven help him if we watch a movie or something on the laptop in bed and he dozes off. I have been known to pinch his nose closed, throw water on him and sometimes get out the threatening pillow. (Again, not going to admit to any suffocation).

Breathing

I really wish people did not have to breathe. (No, that is not the reason for my pillow suffocation antics – not that I have ever suffocated anyone). I have tried to explain to too many people that we have noses through which to breathe in and mouths with which to breathe out – Alas, some people have never mastered that co-ordination and breathe in and out of their mouths alone thus allowing for an awfully loud huffing sound with every breath bound to try drive me nuts. I don’t think I would have a problem with mouth breathing if it could be done quietly but every oral inhalation is generally accompanied by a raspy throaty noise that cannot be explained as anything other than gross. I get that you need your mouth to breathe when your nose is blocked but there is no need to do it in my ear, on top of me, in my face where I can neither run nor hide.

Sniffing

And if you are going to breathe through your mouth because your nose is blocked and you are ill, I suggest you avoid sniffing and sputtering at the same time. The thing about Misophones is that we see sound, which probably explains why we hate it so much. The sound of your sniff gives me visions or mucus travelling its path from your nose to your stomach – If that sentence did not just make you want to be ill, I don’t know what will. Don’t sniff. Just don’t. It is unattractive, unhealthy and unintelligent anywhere near me and a pillow.

Swallowing

If you are not swallowing your snot, I commend you. That, however, is not license to turn your oesophagus into a drain. It is possible to drink or sip quietly and swallow sweetly without pain and injury. Walking around listening to people swig liquids like they’re auditioning to be a roto rooter drain cleaner is hardly my idea of a good time.

Nail biting

The sound of silence is beautiful, silence or some really good music through my earphones. Seeing you munching on your talons is a sure way to kill my sound of serenity. I don’t even have to physically hear you chewing or biting your nails to get annoyed because if I see you doing it I am already imagining the sounds… the sounds of the teeth on nail, grinding and gnawing away. Not only am I now hearing that unnatural crunch, I am imagining you swallowing those talons and feel sick all over again.

Hand rubbing

I appreciate it if you are not biting your nails in my presence but that doesn’t mean that you should be rubbing your hands together instead. Why do people even do this? The only time a hand rubbing is effective is when Gargomel in The Smurfs does it and that is because he is EVIL and wants to kill Smurfs. Are you evil? Do you want to kill Smurfs? No? Then WHY are you rubbing your hands together. If you are rubbing your hands furiously like you are trying to start a fire, perhaps you should consider moisturiser. Only dry hands sound like scratching sandpaper.

And of course, chewing.

There is no sound worse than the sound of someone eating. Other people, myself, pets, babies. You name it, I cannot hear it. Every meal of the day is eaten while trying to block out the sounds of gnawing and squishing and squelching and crunching. At one point, this irritation was so bad that I had to eat a meal in a different room from my husband and children altogether because the sound of them eating would cause me to snap. Most of the time I have learned to deal with this irritation but after a long stressful day, even the softest sound can set me off and eating is bound to be one of those sounds. I have been at such a point of desperation that I have used a pillow on myself to try and drown out the sound of the chewing but alas, this is near impossible.

Now that I have successfully worked myself up by replaying all the sounds that annoy me most in my mind, it is time for dinner – Wish me luck.

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