Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Exciting Day for the Munchkin

YD is a bit of a drama queen.  Literally!  She loves all aspects of the performing arts, singing dancing and acting.  She also enjoys a bit of modelling… anything to grab the limelight really.  Her latest step towards stardom was the lead child in a short film called 'Closed Doors' made by some very talented people at York St John University and we have been invited to attend the VIP screening in York this evening. 

YD plays ‘Lucy’ the battered child of a cruel middle-aged Victorian doctor.  Her beautiful young mother falls in love with a handsome young soldier and they plan to run away to America… but their plan is foiled when the father overhears them talking and intervenes.  However, his health is failing due to the fact that he is being systematically poisoned, ironically with his own medicine.  He then dies, leaving the lovers free to escape to a happy future across the Atlantic.  And the twist is... 'Lucy' is the murderer.  That's my girl.

I didn't do the plot justice in my description because the concept of the film is great and the cinematography described in the script looked as if it was sheer brilliance.  The cast, the crew and especially the director were lovely and all seemed very impressed with YD, though I have to say that she takes direction well and is always impeccably behaved on set.  Of course I am a bit biased, but I also thought her acting was excellent, although we shall have to wait and see the finished article for proof of that.  It must be good as it was one of just five films selected for this screening, in the presence of industry professionals.  I personally can’t wait to see it.

YD is beside herself with excitement as she has never been to a premier or seen herself on the big screen before.  She has had her outfit sorted out since the weekend and has planned her hairstyle (and back-up hairstyle) as well as talking me into a slick of lipgloss for the evening.  I will need a copious supply of tissues for the screening.  I am, and shall be a very proud mummy.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Magpie Monday

This is a fabulous STOMPA Casa bed I found on eBay.  They retail at around £1,200 but I snapped this one up for just £200.  It was in absolutely immaculate condition when I collected it... to look at it you wouldn't know it wasn't brand new.  The desk pulls in and out to make a large surface area when you need it and it also has a built-in bookcase.  The sofa under the bunk pulls out into a guest bed which I have been told is really comfortable and it has built in storage under the seat cushions for the spare bedding too.  The family selling it were lovely and even threw in the desk chair, bedside lamp and ceiling lampshade, lavender duvet set and matching curtains!  YD was and still is delighted with it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Appleby Horse Fair

Just to prove that I am still alive, I thought I’d write a few lines today.

This week is a very exciting week because next week marks the beginning of the Appleby Horse Fair.  Appleby Fair runs for a week in June, ending on the 2nd Wednesday in June, in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria.  It is probably the best known of the horse fairs attended by Romany families travelling from all over the country to meet up with old friends and conduct business. It is world famous, the largest of its kind in the world, and attracts a huge gypsy gathering.

It has existed as a fair for horse trading since 1685, under the protection of a charter granted by James II.   The field on the outskirts of Appleby originally known as Gallows Hill, due to its usage in earlier times, is now called Fair Hill and looks over the town of Appleby. During the Fair, horses may be found everywhere - in the river, on its banks, along the roadsides or tethered outside hotels and shops.  Young people wash the horses in the River Eden and are then ready to show them off. The tradition of racing and trotting the horses along Flashing Lane takes place throughout the day.

So what is it so exciting?  It’s the fact that the travellers use a piece of land at the end of our lane as a ‘stop-over’ to rest their horses.  Every morning this week there has been a different collection of the most beautiful traditional gypsy caravans and carts on display, with horses tethered nearby.  It really is a sight to behold and one I would not want to miss for the world.

There are lots more pictures here

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Nothing Especially Interesting.

I was observed teaching again today.  It’s not my favourite thing if I’m honest, and it can be quite demoralising having my resources and paperwork scrutinised and teaching methods criticised.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to be told that it was all good and there is no higher praise than to be told by the person 'grading' you that they will be taking some of your teaching practices and resources and using them in their own practice.

On a different note, DH’s rehabilitation is going well and continues to be a constant source of entertainment.   He has been practising his fine motor skills this afternoon so I suggested that he peel some potatoes for dinner.  Every chore is a challenge for him as he suffers tremors and spasms on a regular basis.  Sometimes his hand will lock onto something, another time his hand will open suddenly and he will fling what he is holding across the room.  I’ve lost count of the number of times he has dropped the potato and thrown the peeler into the pan of water.  However, as he gets tired the spasms get worse so I’m going to leave the room now before I am impaled by a potato peeler... If you don't hear from me tomorrow, hopefully it will be because I'm en route to see Take That... not that I have been stabbed to death with a kitchen implement!!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Take That

I never liked Take That.  I was too old to be into ‘boy bands’ by the time they were created and they certainly didn’t sing anything I wanted to listen to.  Even the most ardent fans must concede that when you hear their original early recordings now, they just weren’t that good. 

I remember my next door neighbour knocking on my door in floods of tears the day that Robbie left.  Naturally I made her a cup of tea and sympathised, but I’m not sure that I even knew who he was then.  I don’t have any recollection of Take That disbanding at all.

Even I have to admit though that Robbie has churned out a fair few decent tracks during his solo career.  In my period of ‘singleness’ between husbands I may have even danced to a fair few of them.  However, I was only barely aware that Take That had reformed, thanks to the Morrison’s advert and their singing the theme tune to the film, ‘Stardust’, on Jonathan Ross sometime in 2008.

However, I was absolutely blown away by a televised recording of their live concert ‘The Circus’ when it was shown.  I instantly rushed out and bought the CD and kept the recording on Sky+.  Consequently, having now memorised every word to every track, I now admit to being a fan.  Even so, I wasn’t over-excited by the fact that Robbie has re-joined the band... it felt a bit like 'jumping on the band-wagon' (pardon the pun) to me.

Now the tickets to their forthcoming concerts were announced just in time for my husband to buy some for my birthday last year.  However, despite heaping on the hints, he managed to miss buying any, instead presenting me with a Take That DVD for Christmas.  Needless to say I was absolutely gutted.

It seems as if everyone I know is going, friends, colleagues and sister-in-laws.  I was lamenting my loss to one of my work mates last week (another person who is going) and she told me that another colleague was selling a couple of tickets and suggested that I contact her to see if she still had them.  No chance, I thought, but I emailed her with my details anyway.

Lo and behold, guess what’s just arrived in the post….?  2 tickets for Friday’s concert at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland!!!  I am overjoyed.  Somewhere, someone is smiling down on me.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Very Sad Day

I don’t really have much to say today.  I have had a very eventful day but my thoughts and prayers have been and still are with the parents and family of Emma Newton.  Emma was a bright, beautiful and extremely talented young lady whose life ended tragically yesterday in a freak accident in high winds on the back road to Corbridge.  She will be missed by all who knew her.  Rest in peace x

Monday, 23 May 2011

Magpie Monday

Well, this is my first Magpie Monday, where I share a second-hand bargain I have found with you.  I absolutely love trawling through charity shops and of course, eBay.  This week's offering is a set of 8 beautiful pressed glass sundae dishes that I found in our local Scope shop for £2.50.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

For All My Crafting Friends

I was going to join my great friend Mama Syder with Silent Sunday, but I had such a fabulous, inspiring day yesterday that I just had to share.  I’d been invited by a friend to go to an exhibition of quilts at a nearby stately home.  The quilts were just AMAZING.  There were well over 100 on display, from small wall hangings to giant quilts that would swamp a super-kingsize bed!  They were made in every colour you can imagine and using a multitude of different techniques.  There were also patchwork teddies, bags and items of clothing.

There was one section of the exhibition that really caught my eye – ‘Project Linus’.  Project Linus is a volunteer non-profit organisation, named after the ‘Peanuts’ character who never went anywhere without his blanket.  They aim to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatised, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, home-made, blankets and quilts.  Project Linus originated in America, and started in the UK in March 2000.  By the end of June 2010, Project Linus UK had delivered an incredible one hundred and twenty thousand plus blankets across the UK.  Volunteers make blankets and quilts for all ages from neo-natal to teens are provided free to families with need.  This is their weblink which is broken right now (they are fixing it as I write so please keep checking!):  www.projectlinusuk.org.uk or you can email Lyn for more information.  Apparently there are around 70 regional coordinators throughout the UK who collect and distribute the quilts.  This is the American weblink where you can also find lots of information as well as free patterns and ideas: www.projectlinus.org

I’ve made patchwork and done some quilting before, but only small things.  I used to make patchwork hats for my girls when they were small (in the 1990s) which were so popular I used to sell them for pin money.  But I have been inspired by the beautiful quilts in this exhibition and will definitely be having a go when I have a little more time and I am absolutely going to be making something for Project Linus.

Before I left, I bought patterns to make two different ‘wholecloth’ hand-quilted cushions as starters.  Next thing on my shopping list is a quilting foot for my sewing machine as we have been assured that it is possible to make a bed-size quilt in a day with a machine!   My friend and I finished the afternoon with a civilised cup of tea in the cafĂ© before a leisurely drive home.  We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

These are just a few of the wonderful things we saw…

This hand-made Baltimore quilt was made by a 70 year old lady for her 50th wedding anniversary.
Gorgeous patchwork teddies.

Four Seasons: a machine quilted wall hanging
This chasuble and robe were made by the ladies of the congregation for a lady vicar in Australia

This Christmas quilt was made by different members of the same family each making one square.

Top, Quit for a Child: Bottom, Sutton Ho Quilt

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Visit from a Stranger

We had an unusual experience last night… we actually saw the Nocturnal Child.  I'm not making this up, it really was her.  In person.  Despite the fact that she was not at college, we hadn’t seen her for days, although there has been the usual trail of dirty dishes and destruction to evidence that she is still alive. 

She came into the front room at about 10pm, in pyjamas, looking like something the cat dragged in.  I almost didn’t recognise her.  No really… her hair has, at some point this week, changed from brown to a very dodgy orangey/blonde.  It looks like a bit of a peroxide disaster… trying to strip the brown dye out of her naturally blonde hair. 

She dyes her hair as often as most people change their bed sheets, and being of a changeable nature, tends to go from one extreme of colour to another.  It’s as dry as straw, with split ends so bad that it’s permanently frizzy.  I keep warning her but to no avail.  One morning she’s going to get out of bed and her hair will still be on the pillow… watch this space…

Friday, 20 May 2011

Woman in a Red Dress

As a natural redhead, I spent most of my 1970s childhood being dressed in green, and occasionally pink, purple or brown.   I don’t remember ever having a red dress, because one of my mother’s mantras was that ‘redheads shouldn’t wear red’, along with ‘blue and green should never be seen’ and other similar fashion faux pas.   Consequently I grew to hate the colour green with a passion.  In fact, I must have been in my 30s before I ever seriously considered the colour for my wardrobe. 

My mother always maintained that I was ‘strawberry blonde’ but mostly I was tormented at school for being freckly and ginger.  Any insult you can think of, I was called.  Mercilessly.  I started dying my hair when I was 13 or 14 and didn’t stop until I was about 22 or 23, when I had a sudden change of heart and began to embrace my gingerness.  Of course, I dye it now, but that is mostly to cover the greys… sometimes it ends up red, other times more of a dark or mousy brown… it just depends on which hairdresser is doing it and how free they are with the foils.

Anyway, I digress.  I love red but only usually wear it at Christmas, always wary of the warning drummed into me against it ‘with my colouring’.  Also, being big, I always imagine I would look like a giant tomato waddling down the street.  I do have red shoes and handbags but generally wear them with denim, black or white to spruce up an outfit.  However, I was very daring during the Easter break and wore a red t-shirt on a day trip out.  I bumped into a friend who commented later that I had looked ‘stunning’.  Now stunning is not a word often used to describe me nowadays and I was really heartened by the complement. 

I had bought a couple of dresses in a smaller size in the DP sale a few months ago and was delighted to discover this week that they now both fit.  So I took the plunge yesterday and wore a completely red outfit to work.  Admittedly, I was underpinned by SPANX, but I wore a red and white poppy print dress with a scarlet cardigan, shoes and bag.  I even swapped my usual ‘barely there’ nude colour lipstick for an outrageous and slightly tarty pillar-box red.  I didn’t care what anyone thought or said, because I felt fantastic.  

I am so glad I did.  I’ve had a really rubbish few months and have been increasingly feeling down.  But from the time I walked downstairs for breakfast, I had nothing but complements!  From my children, my husband, other mums in the school yard, my students, work colleagues, the girl that served me in Specsavers and again yesterday evening when the same friend popped over for coffee and exclaimed, ‘Wow, red is certainly your colour!’ when I opened the front door.

It is amazing how much better I feel today and how less stressed I am as a result of these genuinely kind words.  It only takes a second to say something nice to someone but it might just make an enormous difference to the way they feel about themselves.  I’m definitely going to make a point of telling people that they look nice from now on - everyone needs a boost from time to time and I might just make someone’s day!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Being in Recovery

Living with the symptoms of stroke is a challenge, not only for the person suffering but also for those who care for them.  It is, in fact, 'whole family' experience.  DH is rehabilitating well, but as with any recovery he has good and bad days.  Today is a particularly bad day bought on, I believe, by the stress we have been put under this week by the people planning to squat in our house. On a bad day he has more mobility issues, he gets very mixed up and his speech is extra slow. 

Even the postman took pity on him today while I was at work… DH couldn’t speak properly or hold the stylus to sign for a recorded delivery package and the postman bought the packages right into the house for him.  You have to laugh though… there’s no point in being upset or angry about it.  I leave that up to him.  His best trick is saying one thing but thinking he’s said something completely different.  He then argues with you to the point of stomping (shuffling) out of the room.  He also has no concept of time… how long things take to do or when you need to start doing something to finish at a particular time, for example cooking a meal.  He does try, bless him, and we do our best to humour him.

DH was planning to make a stir fry for the kids’ tea, but completely forgot about the fact that it would need rice or noodles and some kind of sauce to make it a balanced meal.  If I hadn’t intervened, they would have ended up with dry diced turkey and soggy veg drowning in soy sauce.  Mmmm yummy.  He’s planning to make me something to eat while I take YD to Brownies this evening… I’ll let you know how it is tomorrow – if I survive the night!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Woeful Wednesday

After saying I didn’t want to bore you all with tales of woe, I’m really not having a very good week.  Monday was OK but yesterday was just a catalogue of disasters. 

Regular readers will know how much I am enjoying my college course (not).  I have got less than 3 weeks left until the final deadline and then I’m done, so there is light at the end of the tunnel… or so I thought…

I still have one fairly substantial assignment to finish, part of which is ‘mapping’ my skills and learning against a set of competencies set by the examining board.  To complete this, and more importantly identify any ‘gaps’ I need to fill, I need to have been observed teaching on four separate occasions over the academic year and all before Easter.   Typically, as I’m rural based and therefore difficult to get to, mine started late and through no fault of my own, I’m now way past the Easter deadline.  I was booked to have my final observation last week, which was moved to this week.  Annoying, yes, but still manageable.  Well surprise, surprise, she emailed and cancelled on me again, leaving me no option but for her to come next week – which is my last actual teaching session  – and more importantly then only leaves me ten days (a week of which is half-term) to ‘plug the gaps’, with no further teaching opportunities before the deadline.

I was then called out of class during the afternoon by the department head, who also happens to be the person marking our action research project.  I was hoping for some feedback on the assignment (or at least a pass/fail indication) but instead she asked me if I would teach some classes at the college next year.  I know her already on a professional level so I know that she’s a really lovely woman and I imagine she’d be great to work for.  Plus, of course, the money as a sessional teacher is great!  Had we not been moving I would have seized the opportunity with both hands, but we are so I can’t.

Then to top it all off, when I got home I had a call from the agent managing our property in Essex yesterday informing me that our tenants have indicated that they have no intention of moving out at the end of their notice period next month.  This means we’ll have to take them to court to gain a possession order and on expiration of that, apply to have them evicted, which will take time and cost money, neither of which commodity we have in abundance.  We already know that they have wrecked the house and it needs a complete refurbishment before we can move back in and that the deposit they paid won’t come close to covering the cost of the repairs and so on.

They say these things come in threes.  They certainly did yesterday.  I could have cried.  In fact, if things don't improve today I still might…

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Building Bridges

On top of Stephen’s illness, we also lost Nan in April.  She had been very frail and had lived with us until we moved up North in 2007.  Until then I’d been her carer and the children were very close to her. Towards the end she was bedridden and had dementia so has had no quality of life for the past two or three years.  Sadly, her health, both physical and mental, had been deteriorating for many years and she had suffered a severe stroke in December which had left her almost completely unable to communicate, move or speak.  Although I was very sad that she died, I had already grieved for her as I lost my Nan a long time ago. 

My Mum’s side of the family aren’t very good at relationships.  For reasons unknown to me, the older generation of my family stopped talking years ago.  This had a dramatic effect on my cousins and me as we also lost contact as a result.  We had been very close as children, spending every Sunday and Christmas together, going to Pontins for Easter and sharing many happy, sunny school holidays at the beach, with 7 of us travelling in my aunt’s old Austin to Canvey Island, Chalkwell Bay or Southend on Sea.  Fortunately, after a period of over 15 years, I found a cousin on Facebook about eighteen months ago and we have exchanged emails and kept in touch since then through there.  

Something good has come from Nan’s passing though.  I am now back in touch with and have been able to spend time with my aunt and cousin as well as meeting his lovely partner.  I’m hoping that we can spend a lot more time together once we’ve moved back down south... not only is my aunt an excellent cook but she also makes a mean cake!!!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Finally I'm back!

Thanks to all of you who have messaged me over the past couple of months asking why I haven't been writing and when I will be again.  Many of you will know that DH had a stroke in February… apart from not having the time to write, I really wouldn’t have wanted to bore you with tales of woe, dwelling on the sad side of our existence.

Life has moved on considerably since then.  DH has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy and is making good, if slow progress.  He is still unable to drive though.  As a result, he is not able to work at the moment so his employer is moving us back to sunny Essex in July.  

We have mixed feelings about this… sadness at leaving our friends, our church and beautiful Hexham, but happiness at being back in our own home with our old (life-long) friends, family and of course the prospect of consistently better weather and not being cold all the time!