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.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Nice Things and Good Times..

The doorbell rang on the Friday evening of our NEC weekend and our lovely neighbour from across the road handed us a parcel.  "What's this?" said Mark "I don't think I've ordered anything from Australia."  "Ooooh," said I in a very squeaky voice "THAT'S MINE!!"
...And it was full of fabrics.  A lovely gift from across the blogosphere from Susan at Granny Smith's Quilting (Click on her name to hop across to her blog.  I am in AWE of her quilts.. they are beautiful)

Behind the floral fat quarters, Susan tucked these musical designs as a special surprise.
They are fabulous together.  I want to make something for my music teaching spaces, but I can't quite decide what/how yet...
Thank you again Susan - such a lovely and unexpected gift!

On the subject of Music - I've just got to the end of my second 'financial year' of private instrumental tuition.  I'm pleased to report that my business is growing more or less as I hoped.
It's all very 'low key' and laid back.. but I'm just about making enough to cover all the household and food bills, plus a very small amount for pocket money for myself.
I think the most important thing is that I'm happy, so my pupils get the best of my enthusiasm too.  I now have four harp pupils, six piano pupils, one violin pupil and some A level coaching.
The best things of all???? No crazy management team and NO OFSTED!

And finally... we've found a car to replace the one that was written off in the accident.
(All our cars have names, generally based on their registration plates, so 'Silver Su the Disco 2' is coming to live with us on Friday.  I'm very excited!!)
In addition, we took the Silver Marcos out for a 'post-winter maintenance shake down drive' yesterday afternoon.  She behaved perfectly - which cheered Mark up no end!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mark's Project at the NEC

Good grief... is it Thursday already?
Anyway, here's a few photos from our weekend as part of the Classic and Restoration Show at the NEC Birmingham.  The Disco 5 hire car did a great job of towing the Marcos on the trailer round the west midlands motorways and in through the doors of Hall 11...
It always seems a bit strange to be driving around these large halls on set up day...

It took a few hours on Thursday to clean up the Marcos (she'd collected plenty of water when we drove through several showers on the way).  We also had to off-load the display boards and carpets from the club van, and set up the whole display.  By the time we left on Thursday we were already pretty tired...

The weekend was fun but exhausting... three more very early mornings and long days.
By the Sunday morning Mark just wanted as much sugar as he could reasonably eat on one iced bun!

Younger niece I. joined us for Saturday and Sunday.  She's been working with Mark for the last two years on the project and is very enthusiastic about the cars.  However, this was the first time that she'd got the chance to come a show.  She enjoyed the chance to sit in the other cars on the stand and generally assess the engineering and design that's needed to finish our project.

We also put her to good work at the end of the show when everything had to be pulled apart again..

When Mark went to get the Disco and trailer, I sat down to eat in the middle of all the chaos.
(At events like this it's important to take every advantage for 'fine dining'... haha!!)

In the end it was easier to push the Marcos out of the hall than try to get the car and trailer in through the doors.  As the lightest member of our team, niece I. got the chance to steer while we pushed.  You can see that she can't wait for the day when she gets the chance to drive this car for real!!!

Fortunately the daylight just about held until we got home.  I think we did a 14 hour day on Sunday.  Mark took the day off on Monday so we all had chance to relax and recover..

Since the weekend we've been trying to resolve the issue of the damaged Disco 2.
On Monday afternoon Mark and I went to look at 4 cars that are similar or lower spec/mileage than ours, at several different garages.  All of them were more money than the insurance company has offered - so Mark is spending a lot of time having very irritable conversations with them to try and bring about a resolution.  Bearing in mind that we are completely 'blame free' in this whole episode AND we have a 'like for like replacement' policy... we are starting to feel  extremely annoyed about the whole thing.
There's lots of other stuff going on... but I'm running out of time today so it will all have to wait for the next post.

Monday, 27 March 2017

'C' is for.. stuff that makes me smile

'Crafting and Creative Projects'
Here are the placemats and coasters that I made for Mum for Mother's Day.
They're made with poly-cottons and brushed cotton (rather than batting) so they should go through the washing machine without problems. This was my first 'go' at anything like this so I was really pleased with the result.  Mum really liked them too.
I've also been flexing and stretching my 'musical creativity' recently.  I write material for harp on a regular basis but it's been a very, very long time since I last wrote anything for piano.  This week I finished a piece called 'Prelude' for one of my intermediate piano pupils.  It's been nice to exercise my brain in a different way... and quite challenging to make sure that the music is of the right level to have 'durability' but still accessible to a 11 year old boy.
'Cats getting in the way of crafting'
Thomas is really back on form.  I took him to the vets last Wednesday and she said that his heart was good, the thyroid tablets are keeping his weight up, and he's enjoying a pain free life with the pain medication.  He was slightly puzzled to find Mark sewing on badges in the conservatory.. he jumped up and started to play with the thread and needle.
Eventually Mark gave in and 'fussed' him for a while.  The net result is that we now have new black tops for the show that are generously covered in white cat fur!!

Mark has worked really hard to get the current project looking good for the 'Restoration Show' at the NEC next weekend.  Obviously she still needs paint, glass and a new interior - but the new wheels and all the mechanical modifications under the bonnet give a pretty good idea of his creativity.  It's also given him the motivation to start scheduling the final stages of the build.  Hopefully I'll be posting pictures of a finished car by the end of the year!!!

And the meanwhile there's been no confirmation of the situation with regards to the damaged Series 2 Disco - so we're still waltzing around in this wee beastie..

Actually we've become rather fond of this car and a custody battle is starting to develop.  This week Mark has got her today, I'm driving her tomorrow, Mark has her on Wednesday, we're sharing Thursday and I'm driving Friday! This was a photo of her first 'grass between the wheel treads' moment at Croome Park yesterday afternoon!!  A little bit silly, but also fun...
Ofcourse there's always some serious stuff going on in the background... but these are things that have made me smile in the last few days

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The New Conservatory ... and other things that shine!

The old conservatory did excellent service for almost 20 years...
But it was poorly insulated, leaked and severely restricted the light in the dining room.
Now I have a lovely light new room, with carpets that match through the whole of the ground floor.  I'm SO pleased with it. 

There are a few patchwork cushions and a small quilt in there at the moment that I might replace.  I've got some lovely pale purple/grey/blue/green fabrics in the stash that will make a new quilt and a few cushions.  I've also decided to move a few bits from my blue and white pottery collection onto the window sills.... I just need to have a sort out in the kitchen and decide what's going where!

Yesterday Mum and Dad came round for a little 'celebrating the finished conservatory' lunch.
I got out my two tier cake stand, tea plates etc. so that we could do the whole thing 'in style'.  We sat and chatted in the sun for about 3 hours.... which was so relaxed and lovely.

And - yesterday morning - this wee beastie arrived on the drive too!
It's a brand new (26 miles on the clock) Discovery 5.
It's the car provided by the insurance company until our old Discovery is sorted out.
(Basically we've got it because the 'normal' vehicles provided to cover periods of accident repair aren't capable of moving a full size harp or towing a 3 1/2 tonne car trailer!)
It's ENORMOUS and it took me several hours to pluck up the courage to drive it!
Now I've got used to it... I actually quite like it. 
Ofcourse 'Petrol Head Mark' has fallen in serious love!!

Sadly my old Discovery was declared a 'write off' this morning - so we're now in the process of negotiating a settlement and finding a replacement.  We won't be buying a Discovery 5 though... Mark told me last night that this car is currently being sold for £65,000!!!!!!!!  (Now I'm even more nervous about driving it......!)  Mark's tasked me to go up a local 4X4 garage this afternoon and see how much a similar condition, 15 year old vehicle will cost.
How did I ever find time to teach????

Monday, 20 March 2017

Life's been a bit crazy...

 Last week I had to take a little 'bloggy break'.
There just didn't seem to be enough time to read posts or write anything of my own.
However, I used the time productively...
Here are the 'pocket warmers' that I made for elder niece L., specially for those cold Leeds mornings when she's catching the bus to her work placement.  I hope that she'll think of Thomas when she looks at the little sleeping cat!
I cleared the conservatory (with some help from Mark when it came to the larger bits of furniture!)

I made endless cups of tea for our workmen
as the old superstructure came down and the new one was erected.
The new carpet is being fitting this afternoon so I'll do a proper 'new conservatory post' later in the week...

When I did Mum and Dad's ironing, I noticed that the napkins they use as table mats in the garden were looking very threadbare.  I found some bright poly-cottons in the stash and started to make some replacements for Mother's Day..
I collected some wheels for Mark's latest car project.

And helped him put them on the car on Friday afternoon.
(We're both SO pleased with the way that they've created the 'modern retro' look that we wanted)

THEN... on Saturday afternoon... we were involved in a road accident.
Basically we were travelling past a road junction at 30 mph.
A driver just didn't see us and pulled out into the side of the vehicle.
Fortunately everyone was ok..... but her car has been written off and the damage to ours could be worse than it looks.  The front of her chassis hit our rear passenger wheel and we suspect that the rear axle is no longer correctly aligned.  She's accepted full responsibility for the accident, but we're now into the inconvenience and paper-chase of sorting things out....

This week I'm hoping for a few days of 'calmer waters'!!!!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

You are what you eat..

..and in my father-in-laws case the all the tests show that he has Vitamin B12 deficiency.
All G.'s symptoms - extreme fatigue, irritability, depression, character changes and loss of memory and understanding - have come from his very poor diet.  He's fallen into a cycle of being quite aggressive about avoiding food too.
Fortunately, we understand that this can be treated with injections and supplements.
We hope that the injections may trigger his appetite again and there won't be too much long term damage.  (G. ate an entire Weatherspoon's big breakfast AND apple crumble while he was on holiday with us in November, so there's hope!)
Mark and P. are also talking regularly, which is keeping the 'bigger picture' of family relationships calmer too.  As a result, I feel a lot less anxious and stressed about this area of our life!
It's been a bit of a crazy week though...
- My beloved Series 2 Discovery is ill again.  (Solution - borrow Dad's sporty old Nissan 200SX and enjoy the twin turbos... Woop, woop!)
- I spent four hours at Accident and Emergency yesterday afternoon with a friend who had major heart surgery 18 months ago.  (Outcome - the pain wasn't his heart, just the muscles/bones in the chest cavity... what a relief!)
- Dad's asthma is really bad again and he's spending a lot of time at the doctors. (Positive - he's finally working with a doctor at the surgery who seems prepared to put a more systematic review and long-term action plan in place.  Now I've just got to encourage Dad to be honest about the challenges of being Mum's carer and the correlation between her 'bad days' and his own health)
- We're having the conservatory replaced next week.  I really need to start clearing it...
In the meanwhile...
- I want to send niece L. back to uni with some 'pocket warmers'.   I haven't started them yet and I'm having a coffee with her late tomorrow morning.  She goes back on Saturday.  Eeek!
- I'm somewhere over halfway through the lacy knitted scarf that I'm making for my friends birthday... next Tuesday.  Eeek, eek!!!
- I've also been enjoying loads of lovely social chats.  I'm off again in half and hour to pick up the Nissan and drive to Redditch for a gossip with an ex-colleague.
How did I find time to work???!

Monday, 6 March 2017

And the consequence was.....

There are three main characters in my 'in law' story....
G. - my father in law
(Defined by running his own cycle shop business in Oxford and his passion for gardening; retired at the age of 82; bought first floor flat retirement flat nowhere near old house BUT near brother-in-law;  literally bored out of his brain...)
P. - my brother in law
(Has worked with father all life without taking on any real responsibility; maximised his relationship with his father for substantial financial gain; makes a habit of lobbing words, facts and falsehoods very much in the style of a certain recently elected President; a difficult man to get on with...)
A. - P's long term partner
(A very kind woman... currently exhausted by the situation)
G. should have been staying with us for a long weekend from Friday until tomorrow. 
On these occasions I've always gone to Oxford to collect him and taken him home again at the end of his stay - about 280 miles in total.  He told P that he no longer wishes to visit us... so we went down anyway to chat to him and find out what's wrong.
Basically he's depressed and neglecting himself.  He can't cope with the 'upheaval' of planning for a few days away.  He's also got some short-term memory loss problems.  Doctors etc are involved and we'll find out the results of a wide range of tests on Wednesday.
In the background P. has been engaged in the usual verbal 'white noise'.
(One of his most recent gems was to accuse me of having no idea how to look after seriously ill elderly people.............!!)
My wonderful Mark dealt with everyone calmly and kindly..
G. knows that we love him.
P. knows that, with the best will in the world, we cannot drive 140 miles to put eye drops in his fathers eyes.
P. has also been reminded that, if he wants help, we respond better to pleasantries than abuse..
A. knows that we think she's a saint...
We got back to our little haven in Worcester at 6.00...
and by 6.05 Mark had poured the wine!!!!
More time with L. today... and lunch with Mum and Dad.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Saturday 'Show and Tell'

We've had this old footstool for years.
We bought it with a suite from the Co-op in Worcester in the mid-90s.
The suite was replaced years ago but this was too useful to be thrown away.
It's mid-90s colours looked ok with the old carpet...
but it's not looking great with the new one!
So I'm making a little quilt to cover it.
I'd been saving these fabrics for some kind of project for the lounge..
and this seems like the perfect opportunity to use them!
The main section is just 5 X panels of random 'quilt as you' strips.

There's going to be a narrow cream border
then the side of the quilt will be five of these floral print squares.
(The floral pattern is actually a beautiful screen print....
which I picked up for £1 a metre in a clearance bin!)

In the evenings I'm also working feverishly on this lace scarf.
I hope that I'll be able to give it to my friend for her birthday in 10 days time.
I love the effect, but the yarn is an absolute pest to work with!

On Thursday morning, niece L. and I went for a walk and lunch in the Wyre Forest.
She's doing a nursing degree in Leeds so her holidays tend to be at slightly weird times.
It was such a luxury to be out and about under blue skies!

The paths were really water-logged..

but we managed to walk a decent length loop around the forest tracks
and along the old railway line.

It was lovely to catch up with all her news.
This evening Mum and Dad are coming for dinner.
We're having Shepherds Pie (a good one for people with HD)
Tomorrow we're off to Oxford to try and tackle some of the 'in-law issues'...
Between you and me, I'd rather stay at home and craft...
but Mark would like my support (which is fair enough!)
I am, however, taking the birthday scarf with me to work on.
I'm hoping that I'll feel less like throttling people if I can keep my fingers occupied!!