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2021 …..

With 2022 almost upon us, time to reflect on, for me personally and us as a family, what a year 2021 has been. The challenges, as for many others, have been multifarious, each with their own mini challenges within.

We have been through a whole gamut of emotions: disbelief, shock, anger, surprise, grief, sadness, helplessness, elation, joy, relief, acceptance, pride and hope.

I’m grateful for family and friends, their support has been immeasurable. No one knows what the future holds, and after this year I know that we can face anything together.

In sixty years I’ve had two tough years previously. The very nature of life is that there will be the ups and downs. My husband has always counselled me ‘it’s not what you’re going through, it’s how you deal with it’. I have tested this fully this year.

There have been too many tears, but much laughter also. River has been a delight, we watch him grow with joy and pride.

Over the year there have been days when I didn’t know how I would find the strength to carry on, to get out of bed to face the day, even go to work: but I did, we did. We had hope and faith in the process, US, that tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, a hope for better and peace in our lives

There were days when I wished that the year was over, but that wish wouldn’t have precipitated it any quicker. Why negate this year, which has given so much happiness too?

2021 is the year that kept giving, an achievement to get through which is something to be proud of. I’ve seen so many family members, and celebrated my sixtieth birthday as well as my retirement: both timely and right for us.

Hopefully we can travel again and visit places on our list made in February 2020. Life is for living, making memories and have a belief in what you are capable of.

I wish everyone a healthy, happy new year, full of love and laughter.

Countdown to 2023

As we approach the last month of 2022, we crammed in a lot to November. A trip to Twickenham was up first with an average game of Rugby from England. View and weather though was good.

We’ve spent time with River visiting parks, Christmas displays and Southend.

I’ve seen Will Young, we’ve dined with family and friends culminating in Georgina and I’s annual London jaunt.

There’s been a fair bit of baking, Christmas prep and planning. A few walks and plans made for 2023, with a trip home for Andrew to look forward to. I’ve completed a small diy project in our bedroom too.

November was supposed to be a quiet month, but I just take things as they come and enjoy. We had news of a family engagement last week, so a wedding to look forward to next year.

I’ve made and posted the majority of my Christmas cards, so now just to put boxes together to send to the antipodes. Christmas tree, decorating and food planning are today’s task in hand.

Thursday will be River’s 2nd birthday which I can’t believe, but I’m sure there will be much fun to be had, with the prospect of so much more.

Keeping busy

It’s been full on these last few weeks. We have visited Barnsley, Leeds, London, Newcastle, a boat, a castle, theatre four times, eaten out, spent time with loved ones, caught up with dear friends and a work reunion. My cousin, Jo, also reached the dizzy heights of Kilimanjaro- what a fantastic achievement!

It’s been fun and culminated in fireworks at our local park, where we are fortunate to be able to enjoy from our bedroom. Warm and with a glass of wine!

More fun times are to follow for the rest of this year so watch this space

Bellrock and a Ruby anniversary

Last Sunday Kevin and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We stayed on the Fingal at Leith in the Bellrock Lighthouse Suite. I chose this as the Bellrock is the oldest existing rock lighthouse in the British Isles that is still an active lighthouse, is the tower on the Bell, or Inchcape, rock. This is a long and treacherous reef lying in the North Sea, off Arbroath where I was born. A visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia early Monday morning was both poignant but heartwarming.

From there we drove through amazing Scottish landscape to stay at the Torridon-just the most amazing place I have ever stayed in. Walking through the door felt like a huge hug. I cried as I entered our room, the view was so amazing. We walked, talked, ate and drank. The next day we were challenging ourselves with sea-kayaking. I was so proud of us doing this. A memory of breathtaking proportion.

Next up was the dramatic backdrop of the Isle of Skye – the misty isle and a stay at a delightful B&B. An all day trip around the island, which was full of weather, landscape changes, and information about Harry Styles, who filmed his first solo video there.

Friday and a long drive to Arbroath, time with Mum and a trip to see Arbroath play, with the Bellrock Lighthouse in the distance. So we have come full circle.

So forty years of love, laughter, tears, fears, challenge, through the good and the bad times. It’s not always been easy, but neither has it been arduous. Kevin has been by my side all the way, his support and guidance and his quiet unassuming manner has compensated for my more theatrical moments and indulgences. In many ways I have been fortunate to marry a man who is very like my beloved Dad. I wish for many more years to enjoy, to plan our next trips together and fulfil our dreams with our family and friends.

And what a week

Last week we were awaiting ‘confirmation’ of our next Prime Minister. Liz Truss was duly announced last Monday as the winner, and on Tuesday she flew to Scotland to meet the Queen. Whilst frail, Her Majesty smiled and did her duty and no one thought that her death would be announced a matter of hours later.

There has been much written and reported since the announcement, so much of the content probably ready to be published. I was profoundly affected by the news, which hit me whilst we were travelling on Friday. We were listening to songs on smooth radio and so many were evocative for me of childhood memories: grandparents, Scotland, my Dad, and for, possibly, the first time I, felt the finality of his death. On more than one occasion my voice faltered and the tears came.

The carefully laid plans and protocols are in place, and whilst in the midst of their grief, the Royal Family have had to say goodbye and hand their beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother over to the nation, that she served so well for 70 years, as the next Carolean age begins, and accept the responsibility of supporting the new King. How hard must that be, I for one couldn’t do that.

Today the cortège drove from Balmoral to Edinburgh as part 1 of the Queen’s final journey. I didn’t watch it as it happened, but seeing the news later and posts on Facebook, I know that I have driven most of that route over many years. It was poignant to watch and again memories bubbled to the surface. The days ahead will see the Queen return to London and I am debating whether to travel up to feel the atmosphere, love and unity, as I did after Princess Diana died.

I’m not necessarily a Monarchist, but undoubtedly the Queen was true to her vow to serve our country for the whole of her life, and she did. During her reign she had to accept change, modernise and everything wasn’t always perfect or right, but she found a way to trust her faith and return to her promise and serve as promised. How hard was it for a young wife and mother to take on the role of Monarch whilst grieving her beloved father.

Whatever the future holds now isn’t the time to do anything other than grieve for our Queen, and give ourselves time to accept change: this will be far harder for her immediate family.

Elizabeth II 1926-2022 RIP

Retirement one year in

Well that year flew by, although it’s not been without it’s challenges.

The relief of not getting up five days a week, to meet deadlines, smoke and mirrors, pulling rabbits from hats and spinning plates, is great. I don’t regret the decision to retire, in fact it’s one of the best I’ve made.

I, and a few others, doubted that I could survive without the problem solving, the cut and thrust of work life. I have, although adapting to it has proved a challenge for both me and Kevin, as we navigate spending more time together. I’ve realised that it’s important for us to have separate interests as well as joint ones. Another challenge is to fit these in with spending time with our grandson and our extended family and our friends.

I’ve had darker days where I’ve struggled, but these past few months have seen the light emerge and I know I have laughed more frequently which really is the best medicine.

I think I have the measure of it now, so it’s up to me/us to grab the bull by the horns and book that trip abroad, go to the theatre, visit family, friends, make those cards, recycle furniture, sell clothes I no longer need, but also be mindful of allowing some downtime if and when needed, knowing that we both may not need that at the same time.

I have high hopes for Year 2 with some fantastic travel plans and more to make a reality. There are new recipes to try, the garden to tend, and maybe even a new language to learn. I want to optimise this time where we have our health, the time and resources: a privilege to have all three.

Seaside themes, Brighton, Buxton and Bakewell…..

We’ve had a wonderful three weeks whereby we’ve been to Southend, London, Oxford, Brighton, Dudley, Barnsley, Buxton, Bakewell, Helmsley and Thirsk.

We’ve visited the seaside, the countryside, been to the theatre, watched some cricket and even been down a coal mine. We’ve spent time with family and friends, enjoyed fantastic food and imbibed maybe too much. The sun has shone and I’ve laughed so much. River continues to change and is funny, confident and a joy.

This is what I had hoped retirement would provide, and after almost a year of adjustment I think I’ve worked out how to make it happen.

Time and people are precious so I’m going to be very busy making the most of both.

Magnificent women

What a momentous day! An English senior football team has won a cup on the international stage. I do hope that this is a platform to build from and opens up many opportunities for women to thrive and achieve, and shows how formidable women can be.

A little over three weeks I had news of the passing of one of my Aunts. I have been fortunate to have a plethora of both Aunts and uncles, of which one remains. Both Auntie Mabel and my Mum are the last of their generation and it was so lovely to see them this weekend.

The funeral was on Monday and I was so disappointed not to be able to attend. Mum attended to pay our familial respects, and we were all together this weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of her youngest sons.

Auntie Ina was a quiet woman, who derived so much pleasure from her family, friends, bowling, bingo and dancing with her beloved Jim. Always a smile and never seemed fazed by what life threw her way. I have many memories from early childhood seeing them, and the fondest of memories of meeting their twin sons in 1978, and again at their daughter’s wedding in 1984.

A reconnection in 2019 at Jim’s funeral has been lovely, and their heartfelt wishes when my Dad died last year very comforting.

My life has been full of women who have made such large contributions to their families, and communities with their gentle, unassuming manner, and with their children I am lucky to enjoy spending time in their company. Sitting with so many last night and listening to their recollections, frustrations, and fears it proved an emotional evening to celebrate such a joyous occasion whilst grieving.

The groom and his entourage were so smart, with the bride and daughter stunning, and there will also be a welcome in our home to whoever would like to visit.

I did rather drink a tad too much, four baby Guinness shots, but with lots of dancing I woke this morning feeling fine.

The drive home was good, although we did almost manage to have another scrape with a lorry!

Once again I am reminded of how life can throw that curved ball, unexpectedly, and to make the most of enjoying time with all my family. The last photo of my beautiful grandson in his new Chelsea strip

Two weeks, two countries, two birthdays.

Andrew came to visit, the first time in four years, and three years since we last saw him. There was lots of catching up with family and friends in Scotland and England, so lots of miles covered. My mum was thrilled to see him, and we visited Dad’s grave which was poignant.

Andrew taught Kevin to play poker and they enjoyed some quality time together actually playing in a tournament, which resulted in a 3am cab home.

Whilst over we celebrated Andrew’s birthday and mine which was so good. We hadn’t done that since 2010.

Andrew met his nephew, River, who was unsure at first, but very quickly warmed to him and they were playing football in the garden. it was good to see them interacting and we will certainly keep up contact via FaceTime.

We also had the political upheaval of resignations, forcing Boris Johnson to resign. Seeing the fall out from this playing out was one of those where we’re you moments to talk about in the future.

The last two weeks have also given me impetus to book some opportunities to travel, and we have plans for at least another two destinations. Life is for living and I’m going to give it my best shot!

And in a flash two weeks have passed and Andrew has endured 3 flights, 1 more to go, then a 2 hour drive to get home. It has been so lovely to have him here, we’ve talked, laughed, seen more Teslas than I knew existed! and it felt so comfortable to have him here.

Yesterday we went to see Elvis the movie, which was amazing. Austin Butler was superb as Elvis, I found it sad, thought provoking and I remembered where I was the day I found out he was dead. I left the cinema visibly emotional, I couldn’t speak. If you can go and see it on the big screen.

Fathers Day 2022

A strange day although wonderful at the same time. Great to spend time with Joe, River and SpongeBob SquarePants! Also Georgina and Kevin.

Although this wasn’t the first Father’s Day after Dad died, in some ways it felt as if it was, as I had made a card for last year. It’s those little things that make it real.

He wasn’t far from my thoughts as he is most days in one way or another. Seeing Joe with River does help enormously and spending time with all family is precious.

Last weekend I was in Scotland for a family wedding which was such a beautiful occasion. Everything was on point and a day full of laughter not blighted by the rain. It was the first wedding I attended where I didn’t cry and the band were on the X factor!

On Friday we had the funeral of Uncle Tony who died on the 1st May. He lived a full life, with travel, work, family and friends. The service was lovely and although a sad occasion it was good spending time with family with a meal afterwards.

Next week Andrew is visiting for two weeks, which no doubt will be a whirlwind, with lots of catching up to do. the house is different and he will meet River for the first time!

Summer approaching

Summer is just around the corner with glimpses of the better weather.

I’ve travelled to Scotland twice, watched Arbroath FC win, although didn’t secure promotion this year. There are so many exciting developments at the club so maybe next season. Dad would have been chuffed at their performance this season, and I can’t believe it’s a year since he died. We all still feel his presence around us, we still tell his jokes and it was lovely that Georgina and I were with Mum on the anniversary and visited his grave and had a margarita pizza in his honour. It was what he always ordered.

We’ve had lots of fun with River in the sun, he is really developing in character. He knows when he is being funny and is starting to understand if someone is sad. Cuddles and kisses are frequent and unsolicited. Nursery are very complimentary about his speech too-he’s a joy!

I visited the chelsea flower show for the first, but not the last, time. I loved it, even though thunderstorms peppered the day, they didn’t dampen our enjoyment nor spirits in the slightest. Seeing the cacophony of colour, the design structures, the swathes of planting – I was inspired, so no doubt there will be tweaks to my little plot. Can’t wait for next year.

Next up is the queen’s platinum jubilee, a celebration with family next week, then another trip north, and preparation for Andrew visiting for a couple of weeks in late June, early July. Can’t wait

Where did March and April go…..

The last eight weeks have flown by with outings with River, trips to Scotland, Bruges, Spain, Surrey and Sussex. Our first tentative travel experiences were successful which have given me confidence to do more and soon.

We’ve delighted in great company, fantastic food and seeing lots of family and friends. The weather has been great too. We’ve visited the theatre three times to see plays really different in type with more booked coming up.

I took Mum to meet Giovanni Pernice from strictly cone dancing (reigning champion in fact) which she was thrilled with. He was so lovely too. The show was fantastic, so good I’ve already bought tickets for 2023!

We’ve celebrated Mothers’ Day and I’m so grateful for all the women in my life who have provided support, love and time. Time spent with them is always fulfilling and rich with joy and laughter, safe in the knowledge that they can also lift you up when you need it.

Our daughter’s birthday celebration in London yesterday was fantastic, food fantastic, in a great trattoria in shoreditch followed by a roof top bar near St. Paul’s.

I really don’t know how I had time to work. A more relaxed day today with family with sunshine and laughter.

March is here

The last four weeks have been so full of wonderful places to visit, some I’ve never been to before after living here for 36 years in March. we’ve celebrated Joe’s 30th birthday, made an addition to the garden, I’ve made cards, done some painting, and tried out a few new recipes.

The recent storms were frightening but luckily we escaped relatively unscathed, just a couple of fence panels lost. As our neighbour has a garden business hopefully these will be replaced soon.

There’s been some sad news about former colleagues, emphasising that life is short and to take opportunities as they arise. I have been surprised by how I do not miss working, and how easy it has been to establish a new routine. Getting up later, going where we want, when we want, not having to wait until the weekend to do things.

We have a new member of our extended family, a little girl, and we can’t wait to meet her. I do hope it’s soon to revel in the newborn stage.

With travel restrictions to Australia lifted we will see how best to facilitate either visiting or Andrew to visit us. it’s been 4+ years since we’ve visited and there’s so many parts still to visit.

March and April will be very busy and we will be travelling abroad for the first time in 2 1/2 years. I do hope it will be not too strange and that we can sort out any necessary paperwork with ease.

A theatre trip beckoned last a Thursday with a weekend of rugby and family enjoyed