Life Less Ordinary

Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK showcasing weird, wonderful and transformational life experiences

Whether you have diced with death, experienced something extraordinary, or just have a downright weird story to tell, we want to hear from you. If you would like to pitch an idea for the Life Less Ordinary series, please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with 'LLO' in the subject line.

Burlesque Has Given Back To Me The Life My Stroke Took Away

Anna Higgs - stroke survivor and burlesque dancer

Burlesque Has Given Back To Me The Life My Stroke Took Away
Burlesque has given me back my life, my confidence. I am a disabled performer and I don't care what you think, I'm here to make a difference. My stroke happened to me so I can change the way people think of disabled people. If you were to look at me you wouldn't think there is anything wrong. That's why I needed to do this dance. I needed people to see what was wrong with me, what I have to go through and how I have fought for everything.

My Life Is Like Most People’s, Except I Do Almost Everything Nude

Rich Pasco - co-ordinator at Bay Area Naturists

My Life Is Like Most People’s, Except I Do Almost Everything Nude
I came to know myself as a naturist. To me, this is like a nudist but with more: it means accepting 100% of my body from head to toe, with no parts to be ashamed of or hidden away. In my religious moments, I consider the human body to be God's divine creation, far superior to any man-made clothing, deserving neither shame nor degrading exploitation. I feel closer to Mother Nature when I'm outdoors without the barrier of clothing. In weather pleasant for nudity, clothing feels oppressive and confining.

After The Tsunami Hit Thailand In 2004 I Couldn’t Leave Those In Need Behind

Natasha Whiting - founder of Acorn Overseas

After The Tsunami Hit Thailand In 2004 I Couldn’t Leave Those In Need Behind
In the months that followed the tsunami, living in a small tent at the edge of a camp of 600, I saw things that I never imagined were possible. Dead bodies, swollen beyond recognition crammed into refrigerated containers with only a tattoo or a piece of jewellery to identify them. Businesses ruined beyond repair so we raised money to help to rebuild them. We helped a mechanic get back up and running and a fisherman and his fleet get back on the water.

Planning For The End Of My Life, Aged Just 17, Made Me Live A Life That Ensured I Wasn’t Forgotten

Lucy Watts MBE - patient Leader, Writer, Speaker, Charity Ambassador and Blogger.

Planning For The End Of My Life, Aged Just 17, Made Me Live A Life That Ensured I Wasn’t Forgotten
As my mum, my hospice nurse and I sat going through the plan and documenting my wishes, I suddenly blurted out that I was scared I'd die and be forgotten, that nothing would be different or better because of me and my life wouldn't have meant anything. It even surprised me, what I'd said, as I'd not consciously ever really thought about that. That sudden exclamation would change my life.

I Can Taste Words And Sounds - And I Wouldn’t Want It Any Other Way

James Wannerton - president of the UK Synaesthesia Association

I Can Taste Words And Sounds - And I Wouldn’t Want It Any Other Way
Thinking back, my very earliest memory of tasting sound would be when aged around four and a half. This was when my mother used to take me to pre-school on the London Underground. I can still vividly recall reading out the station names as we passed through them (I was learning to read and write at the time) and I can remember each station name had a different taste. These taste experiences certainly didn't seem odd or make me feel different, so I don't recall ever mentioning it to anyone until I was a lot older.

At Nine Years Old I Was Imprisoned In Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Tomi Reichental - engineer, author and human rights activist

At Nine Years Old I Was Imprisoned In Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

So we were pushed in. We came to this long hallway. On the left side, we saw benches. There was a chemical smell that hung in the air, and there were metal trolleys with bars on the top with hangers on it. And on the right side, we saw these heavy metal doors.

Again the soldiers were barking orders at us. I didn't understand. They were speaking German. But Auntie Margo conveyed the order that we have to undress and put our clothes on the trolleys and the blankets, to leave everything there.

Everybody began to undress. The soldiers were standing on the side, and they were joking and smiling, making remarks and faces.

I Was The Most Hated Man In Australia

Dan Ilic - comedian and producer

I Was The Most Hated Man In Australia

Watching at home, I was disgusted. I thought this was crazy. A whole bunch of assholes were basically making reality TV out of this tragedy, and it was abhorrent. I thought, I need to write something about this. I need to write about the media exploitation of this disaster.

So I did. In my mind it was like a Robin Hood affair - I thought I was doing a good thing, kind of like robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

But for me, the pun came first: Beaconsfield: A Musical in A-flat Miner. I know what you're thinking: grade-A pun. (My dad loved it, so whatever).

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1

Dr Mary-Claire King - American Cancer Society Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1

We got home, walked up the stairs, opened the house... and it was absolute chaos.

Someone had broken in. Everything was completely trashed. In retrospect what must have happened was that my then husband had often worked at home, and whoever had been casing the neighbourhood must have left our house aside because he was often there. But that day, of course, he hadn't been there, so we were vulnerable, and we were robbed.

Confessions Of A ‘Fake’ Parenting Expert Who Debuted At Number One On The New York Times Best Seller List

Adam Mansbach - author of Go the F**k to Sleep

Confessions Of A ‘Fake’ Parenting Expert Who Debuted At Number One On The New York Times Best Seller List

I get up there, and I read the book to two hundred people, and the response is good, but I don't think much of it.

I go home, I go to sleep, and when I wake up the next morning, Go the Fuck to Sleep is ranked 125th on Amazon.

Now, as a literary writer, I didn't even know they made numbers that low. And by the end of the week, the book has shot up to number one.

David Bowie Took A Chance On Me And Changed My Life Forever

Suzi Ronson - manager, producer and consultant

David Bowie Took A Chance On Me And Changed My Life Forever
He stood up and walked over and showed me this photograph in a magazine. It was of a Kansai Yamamoto model with short, red, spiky hair. He said to me, "Can you do that?"

As I'm saying yes, I'm thinking to myself, that's a little weird. It's a woman's hairstyle, and how am I going to actually do this? Inside, however, I'm excited - this is a chance to be very creative. He was rock-star thin, white skin, a long neck, a great face - if I could pull it off, it would look fantastic!

Losing My Memory Helped Me Discover Who I Really Was

Cole Kazdin - Emmy Award-winning producer and writer

Losing My Memory Helped Me Discover Who I Really Was

It took about six months for me to recover. My memory just came back slowly over time. And then I must have been fully healed, because a few months after that, Adam and I broke up again. Only this time I knew it was coming because we'd done it before.

I wanted this fresh start. And I got it. I lost myself completely, and then got myself back, almost as if following a script, replaying my entire history with Adam. Nothing had changed.

But this time, that was comforting. Because if nothing changed, it meant I knew who I was. That I was a real person. And that even without my memory, I was still me.

I Rowed The English Channel In A Bathtub

Tim Fitzhigham - comedian, author and adventurer

I Rowed The English Channel In A Bathtub

It's the fastest I've ever rowed in my life. It's so fast that my lungs are beginning to die. And the reason for this incredible burst of speed - some would say legendary burst of speed - is that just behind me, bearing down on me, is an oil tanker.

It's five hundred metres long, and it is bearing down on me with incredible speed, which is why I am rowing faster than anyone has ever rowed in their life. I am desperately trying to get out of the way of that massive oil tanker.

Did I mention, by the way, that I am sitting rowing in a bathtub?

I Left My Life As A Filmmaker To Create And Live In A Sustainable Tribe

Filippo Bozotti - founder of Tribewanted Monestevole

I Left My Life As A Filmmaker To Create And Live In A Sustainable Tribe
We eat together, work together and learn from one another. It's about collaborating instead of competing. Living sustainably isn't easy - growing things yourself is always twice as hard as buying it; the soil is low as the locals say. We have to deal with wild boars, hail storms and droughts, but a freshly picked strawberry somehow tastes different than a Frankenstein-strawberry from the supermarket.

Becoming A Surrogate Was Better Than I Ever Imagined

Sarah Taylor Jones - surrogate and parent

Becoming A Surrogate Was Better Than I Ever Imagined
I was a straight surrogate, so we would be using my eggs to conceive a child. We started artificial inseminations in my house, and within two months we were pregnant. Making the call to my lovely couple to tell them they would be parents was the best feeling. I was changing their lives. How many times can you say you've changed someone's life forever? I was on cloud nine, as were they - we were all achieving our dreams - theirs of being mummy and daddy, and mine of being a surrogate.

Becoming A Mermaid Gave Me Strength And Freedom

Linda Agren - mermaid and teacher

Becoming A Mermaid Gave Me Strength And Freedom
As a child I was amazed by the glitter and the wonders, as a young teenager I started fearing that my love for mermaids meant that I would have a heart as cold as the ocean and remain alone forever, that whoever came close would drown. As an adult however, I realised that they make a pretty good role-model, especially for young women, because as a mermaid you're strong and independent because no-one can do anything to you or your body that you don't want them to. They are powerful enough to drown whoever might cross the line, but they can also choose to love.

Meeting The People Who Have My Son’s Organs Made Me Feel Whole Again

Deanna Santana – public education and relations manager at Sierra Donor Services

Meeting The People Who Have My Son’s Organs Made Me Feel Whole Again
We learned that Scott saved the lives of five people through organ donation, gave sight to two through cornea donation, and has restored mobility to 73 others through his tissue donation. These gifts that Scott gave helped carry me through the darkest days of my life and we began to volunteer for Sierra Donor Services, the organ/tissue procurement organisation that facilitated Scott's donation.

Six Years Ago A Terrorist Took Aim At My Head, Fired His Gun, And Missed

Bjørn Ihler – activist, writer, filmmaker, survivor of the attack on Utøya in Norway in 2011

Six Years Ago A Terrorist Took Aim At My Head, Fired His Gun, And Missed
Six years ago I returned from the brink of death. I returned to a family that had heard me almost get killed over the phone. I returned to friends from across the world who had sent messages of love and concern, who had spent the night awake, searching for any sign of life, waiting for my Facebook update at 2:30am, soberly stating "I'm at home and safe". I returned to a community, to the people surrounding me, to people who were ready to support me through the difficult times ahead. It wasn't easy, neither for me, nor for them.

I’m A Grandmother, I Have HIV, And I Can’t Pass It On

Samantha Dawson - mother, grandmother and manager of Body Positive

I’m A Grandmother, I Have HIV, And I Can’t Pass It On
I was diagnosed there and then. It was a total shock. I felt like a cloud floating around the room, unsure what to think and feel. My cousin had come with me to the clinic and when I told her she was screaming and wailing with shock and upset. She thought I'd been given a death sentence, as did I.

I’m Not A Rude Bitch Who Blanks You, I’m Face Blind

Evie Prichard - journalist and writer

I’m Not A Rude Bitch Who Blanks You, I’m Face Blind
Coping mechanisms help me to navigate the world and keep track of people, but they're not foolproof. I'll memorise a list of someone's characteristics so that I know who they are - something like: the ginger guy with the square-ish nose and the weirdly-shaped mole who I see at X's parties. But all it takes is for one element of the list to change and I'm completely lost. Some people, often the attractive ones without prominent features to memorise, I never manage to recognise at all.

The Day I Left 75 Relatives To Die

Yabome Gilpin-Jackson - author, social scientist, academic and consultant

The Day I Left 75 Relatives To Die
I tried again to wrap denial around myself by my refusal to look back or cry. The pain threatened to break me so I could only dissociate and watch in a black and white reel at the silent crowd whose morbid farewell I could feel pressing at my back with every inch of road we covered as we drove away. It was the day I learnt that the feeling of a farewell cloaked in the shadow of death was worst than the finality of a loved one's funeral. The pain in my body in that moment far surpassed what I'd felt just nine months prior at my father's funeral. So I did not, could not, say bye when we drove away.

I Changed My Name To Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins – nanny

I Changed My Name To Mary Poppins
I know in my current employer's phone I was saved as 'Emma Poppins', so when I read there was to be a new Mary Poppins movie, and that she was voted the number one ideal storybook nanny on childcare.co.uk I started thinking... and thinking... what if I really did change my name?

I Met The Men Who Killed My Son

Sandra Poole – primary school teacher and ambassador for Restorative Justice

I Met The Men Who Killed My Son
I met first with the man who threw the punch that killed Tom. He approached the door and turned as it to leave before he had even fully entered the room. I said: "Come in and speak to me; we have got this far." He did, he came in and sat down and we spoke for around two and a half hours.

As A Teenage Soldier I Was Numb, Focused On War And Ready To Kill The Enemy

Wayne Sharrocks - former British Army Soldier

As A Teenage Soldier I Was Numb, Focused On War And Ready To Kill The Enemy

A month after arriving one of our battalion stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and he was killed. I was stood right next to him. Ten days after that, someone in front of me stepped on another IED, and that is when I got injured. The psychological effects of my army training were so deep that it rewired the way I thought and felt. I'd seen many things during my time in the army but it took something like that to snap me out of that mindset.

Trekking Through The Arctic Helped Me Beat My Cancer

Jack Williams - explorer

Trekking Through The Arctic Helped Me Beat My Cancer

Finding out I had testicular cancer was like being warped to another dimension, looking in on the rest of the world as they live their lives as though they haven't even heard of cancer. I had the most incredible support, all around me, but, that very moment felt extraordinarily lonely. I have always been an avid outdoorsman and when I discovered the Fjällräven Polar, a competition to join an expedition through the Arctic, only days before my surgery, my mission was clear.

I Ran 26 Marathons Around The World In Alphabetical Order

Keith Simpson - retired physics teacher and marathon runner

I Ran 26 Marathons Around The World In Alphabetical Order
Four years ago I had no idea what my body would limit me to and initially I was trying to follow Eleanor Roosevelt's idea: "Do one thing every day that scares you". Now I try to apply the phrase I suggested at the beginning "why not?". I have seen so many of my teenage peer group and more recently acquaintances who are only concerned with the past, what they did then. I intend to enjoy the present, look forward to the future and the challenges it can provide me with, to make the very best of the limited time any of us have on this amazing planet.

I Escaped Moors Murderers Myra Hindley And Ian Brady

Tommy Rhattigan - author

I Escaped Moors Murderers Myra Hindley And Ian Brady
I could smell her heavy perfume and hairspray. Standing face-on to me, hands dug deep into her coat pockets, the woman looked me up and down. She said nothing and instead threw me a quick smile which I returned, letting her know I felt comfortable in her presence and was approachable. She then stepped a little closer with a bright wide smile spread across her face.

A Cycling Accident Shattered My Bones And Olympic Hopes But Now I Really Am Living The Dream

Charlotte Roach - founder of Rabble

A Cycling Accident Shattered My Bones And Olympic Hopes But Now I Really Am Living The Dream
I was incredibly lucky, if you ride a bike, you're going to come off. You just hope it's not in front of an oncoming Land Rover, going downhill, with a trailer of logs behind it. But then my luck drastically reversed and owe my life to a passing Leicester Tigers physio and the Air Ambulance service. Without whom I would certainly not have survived.

I Didn't Know What Inner Strength Was Until My Husband Took His Own Life

Poorna Bell - executive editor at HuffPost UK

I Didn't Know What Inner Strength Was Until My Husband Took His Own Life
What I think inner strength is, is an ability to truly see the world for what it is and bend with it: always changing, shifting and growing. To press yourself into the moments as they arrive rather than always wondering what could go wrong. And while you will always carry the ones you have lost with you, the strength that beats alongside your heart keeps it open to all possibilities.

We Sold Everything We Own To Travel The World With Our Son In A Motorhome

Jennifer Constant - travel writer, blogger and nomadic family adventurer

We Sold Everything We Own To Travel The World With Our Son In A Motorhome
Ethan took his first steps alone next to a castle in Portugal, touched his first piece of snow in the Picos de Europa mountains, said his first word (wow!) on top of Europe's highest sand dune in France, rode his first metro in Barcelona, and chased his first wave on a paradise beach in the Algarve. His and our lives are full.

I Delivered A Baby Girl On My Firefighting Shift. The Next Day She Became My Daughter

Marc Hadden - former firefighter from South Carolina

I Delivered A Baby Girl On My Firefighting Shift. The Next Day She Became My Daughter
The doctors told me that the baby was already going to a good home but said I should talk to the birth mom and tell her of our interest in adopting the newborn. I did just that - I told her about my family, how we wanted more children and how much we would love and care for the baby girl. I then left, hopeful, and returned to work.

I Was Held Hostage At Gunpoint

Emma Slade - ordained Buddhist nun, yoga teacher and author

I Was Held Hostage At Gunpoint
The fear of dying gave me a deep sense of how precious my life is and of how much I did not want to waste it. This feeling began to slowly seep into my life and led to my decision to leave the City and begin a long quest to feel clearer about the meaning and potential of my own human life.

When My Kidneys Failed Me My Sense Of Humour Thrived

Jess Bancroft - freelance writer and illustrator

When My Kidneys Failed Me My Sense Of Humour Thrived
I stepped away from the dark side; I let Darth go. I may have been holding on to an increasingly threadbare sense of humour, but what was more important was what was hidden within it - a sense of hope. You see for me, the two things are irrevocably intertwined. So I turned off R.E.M. and put on Beyoncé. What else can you do?

I Left Priesthood For The Woman I Love

Dan Murtah - Teacher, comedian and former priest

I Left Priesthood For The Woman I Love
At 27 years-old I was wrong to think I knew how my life would turn out. If I have learned anything it is that life happens to you. There are surprises, sorrows, and opportunities that I can't even imagine up ahead and I am lucky enough to have the woman I love to share those with.

Losing My Husband, Daughter And Leg Taught Me The True Meaning Of Resilience

Victoria Milligan - personal trainer, mentor and writer

Losing My Husband, Daughter And Leg Taught Me The True Meaning Of Resilience
I thought I would collapse from the pain of my grief, I literally imagined myself melting into the floor in one big grief puddle. I look back now, four years on, and wonder how I have survived. I suppose the reality is that I had no choice. Time doesn't stop just because a major tragedy happens in your life and I had three bereaved children, who had lost so much already, to look after. I was determined they were not going to lose me too.

I Went Blind For A Year

Georgie Morrell - stand-up comedian, writer and actress

I Went Blind For A Year
I went from being a spunky 21-year-old storming around London with no clue about who she was or what she was doing, to an isolated child-like woman who couldn't or, better yet, wouldn't adapt to her new-found blindness.

I Woke Up From A Coma Locked-In My Own Body

Kate Allatt – motivational speaker, trainer and lecturer

I Woke Up From A Coma Locked-In My Own Body
I over thought 24/7, seven days per week and felt horrific anxiety and fear. Fear that my husband may be encouraged to switch off my life support machine in the early days. I also suffered severe boredom, sleeplessness - because you slept out of boredom during the day - and experienced graphic hallucinations, that no one warned me or my family about. I was scared shitless of dying, then at other times, I wished I could physically pull the plug on my own life support machine.

A 150mile Sahara Desert Race Taught Me Anything Is Possible

Harjeet Johal, writer

A 150mile Sahara Desert Race Taught Me Anything Is Possible
Nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when I first saw the empty infinity stretch out in front of me. I could hear it goading me. What right do you have to be here! It shouted. This was mankind's most deadly theatre. It had consumed armies; halted dictators and sucked the life out of the unprepared. It was going to chew me up and spit me out.

It Took A Barracuda Attack To Make Me Realise I Wanted To Live

Maggy Whitehouse - comedian, minister and author

It Took A Barracuda Attack To Make Me Realise I Wanted To Live

The barracuda was right there; lurking. It was enormous, with great black marks like portholes down its side and teeth that made me shiver. It was side on when I first saw it and about 20 metres away but it flipped in less than a second to face-on and came towards me so fast it was like a blur.

It is true that time slows down in a crisis. I remember the terror - and I also remember thinking very clearly 'I want to live.' Until that moment, I hadn't been sure.