Tuesday, 27 June 2017


As I watch my friends who are still 'at the chalk face' staggering towards the end of another academic year, I find it hard to believe that I'm actually almost two years into my life 'post teaching'.  There are elements of the job that I do miss.. especially the fun that I used to have when I was lucky enough to have time with super-motivated musicians... BUT I wouldn't go back for anything.
Nowadays I'm what can best be described as 'steadily busy'.  My days are always full of music, family, friends ..and keeping on top of house-related jobs.  I love the fact that I'm master of my own ship.  I rarely have that horrible, stress-inducing feeling of sinking under the weight of commitments.  I enjoy the fact that I can always re-schedule my day if some-one needs my time, or help in anyway.
I'm starting to enjoy myself as a musician too.  In the last three years of my teaching career I didn't touch my harp at all and I lost a lot of technique as a consequence.  Since I stopped work I've put HOURS of practice into my harp and I'm finally starting to sound confident and competent again.  On Sunday afternoon, Ness and I played a set in a concert in the local church.  For the first time I wasn't paralysed by nerves... Look, I'm even smiling in this photo!!!
I've got very little money but, as I'm time rich, I make things for people.  Last week I made this patchwork bag for my sister's birthday.  I love having the 'head space' to be creative.
It's funny... I read somewhere that it takes a month to recover from every year of stress that you've lived through.  I'd agree with this.  I worked for 26 years on adrenaline and it's taken the best part of 24 months to get it out of my system.  I felt better last summer - I feel immensely better this summer.  The only thing that suffered from this has been my waist-line... but that's the content of another post!!!!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Pictures From a Heat Wave

We managed to get two complimentary tickets for Friday at the Three Counties Show this year.
Mark finishes work at 1.00 so we popped over to Malvern for a few hours in the afternoon.
It was lovely to see all the care and attention that went into the displays..
We were just in time to see the final stages of the first phase of judging.
(Although we missed the 'parade of champions', where the best of each breed walks round the ring)

There were dark clouds over the Malvern Hills and it had already started to turn incredibly hot and stuffy.  However we were lucky that the rain didn't come our way..

I always take lots of photos of the vintage caravans.  Secretly, I'd love to have one and use it for quirky holidays.  Sadly Mark doesn't share my romantic vision (He can see all of the limitations and none of the 'bygone luxury'!!!!)

We've pretty much moved outside for the last five days.  We even got a new (larger) umbrella to keep some of the sun off the patio.  I spotted it in the Sale at the local garden centre on Saturday.  It was perfect for our Father's Day lunch on Sunday...

In the evenings Mark and I just move the chairs and table from the conservatory to the patio.
While I love my new conservatory, it's thermal efficiencies make it WAY too hot for these temperatures...

I keep moving my hanging baskets around so that they don't get too burnt up and dried out.
I've made far more of an effort with the planters this year because I know that we're going to be around all summer to enjoy them.

On Monday I went up to Cannock to collect two new fuel tanks for Mark's projects. 
Here's Mark checking them out on the decking. 

...And everyone's been making the most of the calm evening weather.
These flew over last night..

Thomas is way too hot...but I can see that he's not in pain at the moment.
He likes to start the day on his favourite chair in the conservatory.
Eventually it becomes way too hot (for anyone - not just those with a fur coat!)

...Then he sprawls anywhere that he thinks he can feel a draught.

Much as I love this hot weather, I think I'm ready for the cooler, damper couple of days that are forecast for the end of the week.  Ness and I are doing some flute and harp stuff for the local church on Sunday.  My harp has been extremely irritable in all the heat and actually broke two strings this afternoon.  I need some less extreme weather to 'calm it down' before the performance!

Monday, 19 June 2017

My Brave Mum.. and a Thomas Update.

Over the last few years my Mum has taken part in several research studies aiming to improve future management and care of Huntington's.  She knows that she's unlikely to see the benefits of these herself.. but she's keen to do everything that she can.  Generally these have been talking or co-ordination tests, with some monitoring of brain patterns etc.  Nothing too invasive or painful, just time-consuming.

On Sunday she left some paperwork with me that outlines the latest research project.  This requires a completely different level of involvement from the patients.  Basically she will go through a screening programme - then donate some of her cerebrospinal fluid (which surrounds the brain and spinal chord) for this latest research programme.  The CSF will be used to identify and evaluate biomarkers and pathways for HD (and other conditions).  It will also allow the researchers to develop a greater understanding of the Huntington protein, which causes HD, and some chemicals produced by the brain that are also thought to be closely associated with HD.

I'm popping round to their house tomorrow morning to find out exactly how serious she is about taking part.  Knowing my brave and determined Mum, I expect that she's pretty set on doing it. 

I think I've said it before... but I'm always super-proud of my Mum!!!

There's better news on the Thomas front too.  He's responded well to the increased level of pain killer and has lost the 'distant' look in his eyes.  I think (hope and have EVERYTHING CROSSED) that his time on the planet may be counted in weeks again.. rather than days.  He wanders round the house, cursing the heat and generally shouting at me for non-specific failures.  That's Thomas 'back to his normal self' for the moment.  Thank you (and purrs) to everyone who left a comment on my last post.

Hope you are all enjoying the weather!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


It seems that Thomas - my beloved elderly cat child - is coming to the end of his days.
We've had several other occasions over the last fourteen months when he's been very ill and we've been able to help him with tablets/pain medication but for the last week or so, he's just been restless and unsettled.  I know that. at 20 years old, we were on borrowed time with him... but you can't help hoping that you're going to squeeze another few months of time together.
I am SO upset....
For many reasons, it hasn't felt like the right thing to go on a two week holiday this year.
We had our long weekend at Spa circuit in May and there are no plans to travel until October.
However, we're very lucky to have a beautiful part of England on our doorstep....
On Friday afternoon we went for a walk on Hartlebury Common (near Stourport in Worcestershire).  It was a perfect 'early June afternoon'... warm but not roasting and gorgeous skies.

We made our way down from the common to the bank of the river Severn, then followed the tow paths into the canal basin/marina.  It's been restored over the last few years and is a fascinating place to explore.  The combination of locks and docks makes it feel a little like a Escher painting!!

Mark always has time for a Sundae!!!

We walked up the High Street and took a quick look in one or two of the shops.
I found a lovely cotton skirt for £2.95 in a Charity Shop. 
It's blue and cream and the label says that it was made in Italy.... perfect when the weather improves!
Then we retraced our steps back up to the car park on the common
(and came home to the challenges of elderly cat care....)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Excuses for Being a Bad Blogger...

First of all we went on a road trip with the Marcos.
On the first night we stopped over in Kent at the lovely 'Five Bells' in Brabourne.
This was our room for the night...
..And here's the spectacular open-plan bathroom.!!!
(It's great for one night of romantic luxury but I don't think I could live with it on a permanent basis.. I like to have some privacy when I'm chilling in my bath)

Then we pottered down to the Tunnel and caught a late morning train to France.
After another four and half hours of driving we reached our base for the weekend -
A hotel near the Spa race circuit on the far side of Belgium...

On Friday morning we were up really early and started to explore the track.
We've heard masses about this circuit but never attended any racing there before.
It was so exciting....
There were only two other Marcos cars at the event.
They were racing in the Sixties Endurance Race.
We spent a bit of time chatting to their drivers in the pits.
(Sadly neither of them managed to complete the gruelling two hour race on Saturday evening but it was great to see them out on the track during the practice and qualifying sessions.)

The Spa circuit is on a significant hill-side.
On Saturday we explored all the pedestrian tracks to the furthest points of the track.
The main pits is behind Mark's shoulder in the distance...
(These track days are always something of a keep fit exercise!!)

We stayed at the circuit to watch some night racing on Saturday evening.
When we came back to our car the light was perfect for this atmospheric shot of our car..

She got lots of attention and lovely comments everywhere we went..
(Not bad for a car that Mark restored from nothing in the garage!!)

Since we got back I just seem to have been 'chasing stuff'.... the dull post holiday washing and ironing piles; filling the empty food cupboards and other similar delights!  BUT I've also been catching up with family and friends; enjoying the sun at a picnic with an ex-colleague on Thursday and spent most of today on another road trip to Leicester.
The calendar for June looks slightly less crazy... so hopefully there'll be more frequent posts in the near future.  I hope that you are all enjoying the Bank Holiday.

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Special Evening...

Here's Mark and I on Saturday evening...
all dressed up for Mark's Long Service Dinner at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Mark started work with JLR 25 years ago this summer.
The evening celebrated 25 years, 40 years and even 50 years for employees across the whole company, so there were about 1200 people at the event.  We were slightly taken aback by the size and scale of it all, but it was really well organised and great fun.
The evening started with a formal photo.
(I've taken a photo of the photo so it's a little blurry.. but you get the general idea!)
..Then there were drinks, a four course meal, a full stage show (based on music from 1966/7, 1976/7 and 1991/2) and an excellent live band.  We finally got back to our room in the hotel at 1.30 in the morning!
The ladies on each table received these small bouquets.. so pretty!

Luckily for me, one of the ladies didn't want her flowers so I took a second bunch for Mum and Dad.  They've helped me with a lot of things recently and it was nice to be able to  give them a little surprise to say "Ta".
We got home (more than a little the worse for wear!!) by mid-morning on Sunday.
When we looked in the photo packaging more closely, we realised that the company has given us a further dinner voucher, which can be used at all the main chain restaurants.
We thought it would be nice to save it until mid-July, when Mark received his offer of employment from the company, and then we can enjoy another (slightly more low key!) celebration of his 25 Years.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Projects, Plans and Other Time-Consuming Activities...

Here's a recent photo of Thomas.  If cats could speak, he'd be saying
"Mum, please BE QUIET!  Why don't you do something peaceful like a blog post??"
So here's a flavour of what I'm up to...
~ There's been lots of instrumental teaching.  I've picked up another harp pupil AND did some coaching for a Year 13 student (which ended last week).  A number of my pupils have also asked for extra time or additional lessons for various reasons.
~ I've been asked to learn lots of material on both the harp and the piano so I've had to expand my practice regime.  I'm now starting piano practice at 7.00 each morning (good thing we're detached!!).  My sister and I have got a medium term plan which involves some challenging flute and piano playing, so I need to brush up my technique.  I'm currently re-learning one of the late Beethoven piano sonatas which I studied at Uni. (back in the dark ages!!).  It's hard to explain just how good this makes me feel... but I'm sure that you fellow musicians out there will know what I'm on about!
~ We went away for two nights over the May Bank Holiday weekend.  We stayed at the lovely little 'motel style' guest house that we normally use for the Donington Historic Festival.  It's a great set-up for the car and fabulous value for money.   The weather was SO COLD but we still enjoyed the first racing of the season.
~ My Blue Discovery was finally towed away by the insurance company last week.  Sadly the Silver one also has had to go back to the garage that we bought her from... She has several issues that need to be sorted while she's still under warranty.  To be honest, Mark could fix her.  It's just that he's so busy with work, other jobs at home AND his building/maintenance programme for the Marcos cars.  Unfortunately, dealing with all of this is extremely time-consuming because the Garage where the Silver car is being fixed is over 30 minutes drive away...
~ There's been a steady stream of low-level jobs to deal with in the house - Such as the light bulb in the extractor fan popping; small things breaking and the whole boiler system developing a curious resonance in the loft!! (Which was resolved by cleaning all the lime-scale off.........!?)
~ AND the tray in the Shower has cracked... leaving a nasty stain on the lounge ceiling.  Grrrr!  'Kevin the Builder' is coming at 12.00 to start the process of removing the old shower and replacing it with a nice non-leaky new one.....
Thomas is not going to be impressed by all the mess and dust from this latest disruption!!!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Yeah.... We did it!!!!!!!!!

Mum and Dad were super-anxious when we set off on Wednesday morning.
There were so many things that could have gone wrong... but we dealt with the challenges as they came along and had a really nice time.  I think my role as 'useful third person' contributed to this, but it's also fair to say that Llandudno is a great place to go with someone who has mobility issues.
We stayed at The Grand, which is right on the sea front and has fantastic views.
It's a cheap hotel to stay in and is very popular with coach parties.
(We chose it because we didn't know if Mum was going to cope with being away from home, and we didn't want to waste too much money on expensive rooms if we were forced to leave early.)

As it happens, the views from Mum and Dad's balcony were worth millions...
This was the view to the right, over the town and towards the edge of Snowdonia..

This was the view straight ahead across the bay...

And this was the view to the left, along the pier...

We were allocated a table on the edge of the dining room, with more superb views and plenty of space.  A seagull became convinced that Mum's hand movements were going to result in food, so it came to watch her eat at some stage during most meals...

The hotel keeps costs down by operating a buffet service for meals.  This is problematic for someone with HD so I got Mum's meal first, while Dad got his own, then they started eating while I quickly got my meal and caught up.  It worked ok because Mum has to eat slowly and I'm a fast eater (a teaching legacy I suspect!!)
On the first morning Mum managed to walk with her frame to the end of the pier...
..... then it was time for a coffee stop!

After lunch we even made it quite a way along the Promenade...

By the end of the day Mum had walked further than she had done for months.
We were all a bit bothered about how she was going to feel in the morning....
....To everyone's delight the gentle movement on the flat had loosen up some of her muscular problems, so we decided that everything was ok to drive up to the car park at the top of the Great Orne (the peninsular above the town).  Here's Mum with the spectacular view towards Conwy and Snowdonia...

Then Mum noticed the Tramway..... and the next thing we knew she'd decided that she was confident enough to tackle the steps (so typical of her fighting spirit when she's on form!).  Mum and Dad had an interesting hour riding the tram down into town and back up again, while I had a walk between the upper stations and took a few photos.

 I think the break/sea air did everyone a lot of good.
(Mum and Dad are very close, but they do drive each other a bit mad sometimes...
It was nice to be able to step in and 'head off' some situations before Dad's patience was tried and Mum got fractious - a difficult feature of the way HD affects the brain). 
I hope that we can do something similar later in the year.
AND the house was mostly in one piece when I got home!!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Door Opener in Chief!!!!

In just about an hour I'm leaving for a short break in North Wales with Mum and Dad.
Thomas was completely unimpressed with the idea that one of his 'servants' should be even considering the possibility of leaving him...

After all, who's going to fill his food bowl at 4.30???
Male servant never feeds him before 6.00!!!

I hope everyone plays nicely!!!!!!!!!!
I hope I don't come back to this scene when I get back on Saturday!!!
Basically Mum and Dad have always loved going away, and travelled extensively before this stage of Mum's HD took hold.  Last summer they had two holidays that didn't really 'work' because of Mum's needs and they lost all confidence in travelling, even cancelling a trip to a cottage with all the family at the end of October.
These three nights away are a kind of 'test trip' to see if we can find the right elements of a holiday for the next few years.  I'm going along to open doors for the wheel chair, share the pushing and help to keep everything calm.......
Will report back at the weekend.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Celebrating 50 Years...and Other Nice Stuff

On Wednesday evening last week my Mum celebrated 50 Years of Mother's Union membership.  Here she is (in the plain purple top) with the some of the other ladies of Claines Mothers Union, my Dad, me (right at the back) and my sister (second from left).
It was a really poignant evening because, coincidently, the speaker for the evening was from the Huntington's Disease Association.  This meant that the group first heard about everything that Mum had done for the organisation (in Oxford, then in Manchester and lost recently in Worcester) then they heard more about the challenges of having a disease like this in the family.  They particularly became more aware of the health issues and enormous decisions that it creates for myself, my sister and her girls...
But most of the evening was about celebration.
Mum received a huge bunch of blue and white flowers (the colours of the Mothers Union)

We all chatted.....
(Mum's HD means that she rarely smiles, but she was really happy here!)

...and ate plenty of cake

AND FINALLY... my silver Disco has arrived!!!!
Although a small failure of a connection piece and a hose meant that she came home on the back of a recovery truck this lunch time.  Fortunately my wonderful husband has already found the fault and will be able to fix her tomorrow morning.
I hope that you are all enjoying the Easter weekend.