Now is the winter of our discontent……

The title of this blog is the opening line from Shakespeare’s Richard III, but how would you read it?

I read it as, although we’ve been through some challenging times, that better days are to come. I’m being positive, as it could be that we are to face even bigger challenges on the political landscape for the coming months. I’ll stick with the former!

This week has had the full gamut of emotions: sadness, joy, happiness, pride, and coupled with a short break away-just enough for a recharge. Christmas cards made, some cleaning, a catch up with friends and booking a few things to do was a welcome distraction. A weekend with River and a family birthday party was delightful and seeing the next generation growing up giving joy to all.

Our journey to Sussex to my Auntie’s cremation was good and again family bonds were highlighted with some beautiful photos and words shared at the service. Auntie Alma was a tiny lady in stature but had a big heart, a beautiful smile, an infectious laugh, fiercely proud of her family and much loved. We will get together again on 1st of November in Scotland to reunite her with her beloved Joe where we will no doubt recant further stories and enjoy more photos over her 9 decades.

We travelled to Emsworth to stay at one of the Harbour Deckhouses. I follow the owner on Instagram and have enjoyed seeing the transformation to a holiday let. His blog ( award winning!) jpslifeandloves.com and pages are such a great read and I would recommend a stay. Photos don’t do it justice

A trip to the Hambledon vineyard proved very interesting with the history of cricket stumps and bails moving from 2/1 to 3/2. The sparkling wine was also excellent and washed down the cheese selection. Again worth a visit if nearby. They do afternoon tea and dine and vine and with a new visitor facility due to be open in April, we will certainly go again.

A walk around Emsworth was lovely before returning to get ready for our dinner at the Crown and Anchor at Dell Quay.

We arrived home on Wednesday and it felt like we’d been away much longer. Thursday was productive and on Friday we picked up River. He was so good and is growing so quickly. Saturday saw a trip to Oliver’s second birthday party and it was so special to see the little ones interact and play.

Mum is doing well and we are looking forward to seeing her next week. A catch up with Oz was great and news of Andrew’s poker wins.

It’s true what they say about how did we find time to work, but I suspect that priorities shift to accommodate the time.

Scotland the Brave

What a week! Elaine and I took mum home; she hadn’t been there since late June so we set priority on some tasks to complete.

On Sunday we made a list and worked our way through during the week. We saw family, neighbours, enjoyed good food, and crossed things off the list. The priest who officiated at Dad’s burial came round and we have made inroads for support over the coming weeks.

This has been overwhelming for us to do, and especially for Mum to be reassured that as she becomes established in new routines and old ones too, these can be adapted as and when.

Mum has been brighter in her own home, no longer living out of a suitcase and with her bountiful accessories around her.

Dora has provided much comfort, although being in season, proved a challenge, but we managed at least one good walk a day, something I want to continue to do. Another trip to the vet as she may have eaten some paracetamol from a blister pack on Thursday provided additional excitement we could have done without.

It was hard to say adieu yesterday morning and Mum put a brave face on. She has good support in neighbours and family around her, and she will both find hard but enjoy the quietness to reflect on their life together, no doubt talk to Dad and reacquaint herself with those memories, love and give Mum the time she needs to adjust. Due to a family bereavement Kevin and I will return by the end of the month, and we have Facebook to keep in contact.

Travel and travails

Over the last few weeks there has been much mileage put on the clock. We’ve been to Colchester, Devon, Sussex and London. We’ve gardened, completed financial wizardry and celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary.

Sadly we’ve lost a couple of dear people in our lives, and that is always a time of reflection, but they both had lives well lived and have left us and their families with precious memories.

I’ve spent time with dear friends and Kevin and I have also managed some time together. We saw the latest James Bond film, which I enjoyed and also became quite emotional at a few junctures.

It’s strange beginning the day later with less structure but so far I love it, although I do ensure that I achieve something every day, no matter how small.

River is blossoming and his character becoming more apparent. He laughs and his face is very descriptive of how he is feeling, and the joy he gives overwhelming.

Yesterday I travelled to Scotland on the train, as Elaine and I look to get mum settled in her home and support her in her new normal. It was strange to arrive at the station without mum or dad on the platform and returning to an empty house. Her neighbours have been brilliant keeping the house and garden maintained.

The next few weeks will be intense, and the spectre of Christmas will begin, cards, gifts and the annual afternoon tea and shoe shopping. With a new year not too far off, even with the harbingers of doom doing their best to provide negativity, we need to seek a flip side to look forward to it.

Autumnal equinox

A month ago I blogged about resilience, and three weeks of retirement has proved that still more is needed, although there have been lighter moments and joy to be found.

I don’t really want to wish time away, but I won’t be sorry to see the back of 2021.

The news of impending food shortages, Christmas pandemonium, gas/electricity issues, rising costs ……. Unfortunately, I remember the three day week, the power cuts and candlelight of the 70’s, but here we are, it will pass and equilibrium will be found-I hope!

Tomorrow will be spent making lists, prepping for the weekend, and a clothes pick up. The next few weeks are busy and with new ventures on the horizon let’s hope that this year can end with much needed positivity, love, laughter and time with friends and family.

Yay! Retired!

Yesterday was my last day at work. A weird situation, with no office, laptop, phone or computer at my disposal, but it was a good day nonetheless.

The last six weeks without students and staff, have given me the time to process retirement and to reflect on my achievements during my sixteen year tenure. I can look back with pride and humility at them, and so many will continue to provide an impact on teaching and learning for years to come.

These next weeks, months and hopefully, years will provide us with so much: the opportunity to do what we want to do, with who we want to share it with, in places far flung and in the UK.

Opportunity to be creative, unrestrained ( oh no! That could be a mistake) to make time for me, us. We will need to allow a transition period but we will take that in our stride.

More time with River and to see him blossom and grow into a confident, much loved, kind, little boy.

It’s time to look forward, take pleasure from every day, make precious memories, explore the world, my mind (often a scary place) and be less stressed about the small stuff (most stuff is small stuff!)

A few photos from the last week with a few of school and some projects that I led.

Enjoy! I know I will

Resilience 2

2021 has been, so far, a year of so many difficult challenges and the last few weeks have provided a few more. I know that this is life, but so many in such a relatively short space of time.

We, as a family, and as individuals have been sorely tested and I have to say, it’s been a struggle.

A struggle to keep it all together, a struggle to remain strong, a struggle to keep smiling, a struggle to be resilient, a struggle to accept change, a struggle to say goodbye.

All the above are emotionally draining, I’m exhausted by strength and dream of not having to be this resilient. I don’t want to keep taking another hit, wondering what’s next.

Notwithstanding the above I have had great support from family and friends, which is how we are getting through so much. Hopefully the next few months will provide an easier path, comfort and I am happy to relinquish being strong for the time being. A new chapter is about to begin so here’s to that!

There is much to be joyful and thankful for too, and I want to end with that positive note. I have gained enormous respect and feel proud of family and friends that have wrapped their love around us. Thank you all.

The Big 60-I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy……

For my 60th birthday yesterday I hosted an outside gathering to celebrate.

The weather forecast had been good for the day, then it changed to rain and thundery showers. The canopy I ordered was delayed so I was in disarray that the gathering may not happen or we would be very wet.

My wonderful hairdresser, Shelley, offered me a canopy and duly delivered it on Friday. When I picked up my macaron order later that day, the lovely Hanane offered the use of a pop up gazebo: problem solved. Such kindness shown – I was overwhelmed.

Yesterday morning was so busy: finishing touches, preparation, food delivery and getting the face on. It had rained heavily overnight, so I said a little prayer and asked Dad if he would have a word with the man upstairs. It worked as the sun shone and as family and friends arrived it was just perfect. Early arrivals helped and the food was plentiful, the drink flowed and there was much laughter, old friends reacquainted and new friendships burgeoned. Mum made it too and it was a real tonic to have her with us, and River got to meet two great grandparents, which was so wonderful to behold and he was such a good boy during a busy day: animated, smiling, a real credit to his mummy and daddy.

Unfortunately, due to being unwell, a few people couldn’t make it, but hopefully we can meet soon and celebrate separately.

I cut the beautiful cake that Georgina had made, and I thank her friend Vickie, who made the topper and table confetti. Georgina insisted that I make a ‘speech’ which I duly did and I had to mention Dad as it was our first get together since he died. I did a couple times, think I caught a glimpse of him, as usually he would sit at a table and just people watch look up and smile. I felt his presence nonetheless.

Some people left, others arrived and more food was cooked and drinks made. At eight the England match was on and we watched from outside, wrapped up against the cooler temperatures. A 4-0 victory was a welcome early present.

Today is the big day, and I have been very fortunate to receive so many gifts, which I will open later.

Wow, sixty years old, in my head I’m still 26, my body some days feels older but it is a privilege to age and as retirement beckons next month I will run headlong into the new decade and enjoy every moment safe in the knowledge that I have such love in my life.

Many thanks to all those that celebrated with me either in person or spirit. Love as always to my family far and wide, I know I’ve been a bit of a manic Mon these last few days, but yesterday did come together as I hoped and a day that I will remember forever.

Almost midway through 2021

It’s the last weekend of June 2021 after a busy fortnight.

Mum had her op on the 16th and it was successful. She is recovering well, well enough to travel down south for a bit if R&R. Hopefully she will regain her strength and progress every day.

The hurly burly of life is in full swing and whilst not quite counting the days, I know that there are only 9 weeks left till retirement.

I will be celebrating a big birthday next week, not quite how I’d planned it, nor the envisaged plans of 60 things to do, but that will happen, just a little more slowly. I have managed to go out, out and meet a few friends which has been so nice. I made a trip further south to do something for myself that will be a reminder of who and what I am.

The remaining three and a half weeks of the summer term will be full of anticipation, joy, uncertainty and sadness as I approach the next chapter. I am ready for it!

Grief and the passing of time

The last two weeks have passed so quickly and I have been busy-perhaps too busy.

Dad’s funeral was lovely, the sun shone, people came from afar and we feel we gave him the send off he deserved. I wrote and read the eulogy which hopefully had the right mix of humour, pride and love expressed. Mum wanted a celebration of his life and that was what we did. The very essence of Dad was felt on the day. There were lots of tears, hugs and all as socially distanced as possible. Support and love has continued to be given to Mum, although she is now in self isolation up to the 15th.

The day after, we had family drop by and also visited Lunan Bay near Montrose, a favourite place of ours. It gave time to reflect on the past weeks and how there will be change in the future.

Last Saturday there were goodbyes and a straight forward drive home. The garden had really bloomed in my absence, only a few casualties of seedlings and tomato plants.

Very quickly ‘normality’ prevailed and work beckoned. There was a lot to do, also to catch up with friends and family and people have been so kind. The many cards and flowers have been uplifting.

Yesterday I had rebooked to attend a macaron masterclass and I was so looking forward to it. Half way through I became very unwell, after about 45 minutes I was ok enough to return, but was left jaded and with a headache. I returned home to go to bed whereby I slept.

Either Friday’s prawns were dodgy, although no one else was ill, or perhaps it was my body just saying-slow down. Grief is about dealing with losing someone and it’s also about adjustment and realignment to change. There are changes for all of us in the coming months and we will embrace these changes as a family, supporting each other as we go. My default is to organise, prioritise and do; perhaps after yesterday I need to release myself just to be and begin my journey of change.

Mum has her op on Wednesday so we are all praying for a successful outcome. This will give Mum time to reflect and adjust too. We will support her any and every way we can.

A whirlwind week

This is my first experience of arranging a funeral and thanks to Dad and his comprehensive list, a wonderful funeral director and priest it has not been as hard as I had expected on a practical level.

Elaine, Mum and myself have broken things down into manageable chunks and each day have achieved something. My brother in law has also helped with some admin too. The funeral is all arranged, with much thought going into clothes, touching mementos, flowers, readings, hymns, songs, ways to stream the service to Tasmania and charities for donations, so that we honour the memory of Dad, his interests, likes and loves. No black, and the charity’s are: heroscharity.org and ticrappeal.com. This encompasses homing of retired racehorses and research for cardiovascular disease, both close to Dad’s heart.

We have had so many cards, flowers, offers of support and help that the kindness shown has been overwhelming.

Everyone says the same thing about Dad’s quiet, unassuming manner-a gentleman. So much respect for who he was and what he did. Dad has been an inspiration and my moral compass throughout my life, and I will emulate the inner and outer contentment Dad had as I retire later this year.

But, it’s very hard too. Hard to comprehend we won’t physically see Dad again, although I do have video footage over many years to look at when the rawness has receded. I hear a creak in the hallway here and momentarily think , oh it’s Dad……… His study is where he spent time and sometimes a casual glance into the room, there is an expectation to see him sitting on the sofa, reading his elite racing journal and for him to look up and smile.

We’ve laughed and cried, looked through photos, people have shared photos with us and everyone is a precious piece of Dad’s life.

We have enjoyed some very touching moments between us, on one occasion Mum brought me to happy tears as she shone brightly like a star in choosing her outfit for the funeral.

I’ve cooked, cleaned, organised as I cope by being busy. I don’t think it has fully hit us yet, but Mum has been remarkable so far in her approach to the funeral preparation, insistent that it will be a celebration of Dad’s life, of which she was a part for 65 years. What an amazing woman!

Elaine has potted on geraniums that Dad started earlier this year, so seeing these flourish will be lovely. We will continue to support each other and family have visited us almost daily, which hopefully will make things easier on the day.

Till next week

Winning the lottery.

Our beloved Dad was taken into hospital on Wednesday after becoming very poorly and Elaine and I travelled up as soon as we could but Dad succumbed to the many conditions he suffered with and died in the early hours of Thursday morning, as he had lived, with dignity, quietly without fuss. This was how Dad always did things. Whilst at the age of 88 his death was not necessarily unexpected, the swiftness was a shock, although for Dad the speed was a blessing.

It will take us some time to process this, and there is much to do and arrange to ensure that we prepare a celebration of Dad’s life. He was unassuming, gentle, cheeky, and as one dear friend has remarked, Elaine and I won the Dad lottery. Oh yes we did and we will miss him so much. There is much I want to write but the rawness makes it too hard, so for now a selection of photos and I will put into words later about this wonderful man, I’m so proud to call my Dad.

Father-a man in relation to his child or children.

A Celtic Blessing
Deep peace of the running wave to you,Deep peace of the flowing air to you,Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,Deep peace of the shining stars to you,Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.May the road rise to meet you;May the wind be always at your back;May the sun shine warm upon your face;May the rains fall softly upon your fields.Until we meet again,May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Almost a year ago

Last year almost to the day I found out that we were going to be grandparents, and I was thrilled.

Since December 8th, River has been such a joy in our lives and I’m so proud of Joe and Nicole and how they have taken parenthood in their stride. We all know it isn’t easy, the challenges are many but the joys outweigh any a hundredfold.

He is thriving, and his personality shines through. It is the best feeling.

This afternoon we took a trip out to Burnham on Crouch, a favourite haunt of ours when the children were small. We strolled along the promenade, the wind whipping through our hair, and the sun came out later where we felt the warmth from both the solar orb and the familial pull of hope, the future and more memories to be made.