SEPTOBER!

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September and October have actually been quite bright weather-wise … but, as I’ve been sat in a deep dark hole for the main part I’ve really not appreciated it.  I’ve not taken the time to trudge through the autumn leaves or smell the coffee this past couple of months as my family and my lack of sanity have become a full-time job.  Fact is if I haven’t been dashing about here, there and everywhere or juggling balls thrown at me with velocity, then I’ve been found rocking in a corner screaming and a wailing .. Halloween couldn’t have been better timed!

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One thing I will say is I’ve had to open my eyes and have asked for help – shocker!  Turns out I was struggling with Clinical Depression and I’m not afraid to admit it .. it would seem that losing my Mum, dealing with my Dad’s Mixed Dementia, as well as being primary carer for a child with profound special needs, and dragging up the other two, in addition to the onslaught of middle age and the medical complications that come with, has a knock on effect for a (former) perfectionist do-er like me!

I took myself off social media, stopped blogging (due to lack of time, energy and motivation) and battled a nasty bout of Bronchitis and an even nastier bout of depression.  I cried a lot of really ugly, face contorting tears, then I slapped myself hard and sought help.  My doctor has been AMAZING (good old NHS at it’s best), I’ve also had counselling and attended a 6-week Stress Management Course. Unfortunately for me my depression isn’t just psychological – it’s very real and,as my doctor kindly pointed out, it’s a curse of the strong and how I haven’t given into it before now is a testament to my strength, but in the grand scheme of things has had a profound effect on my sanity.  Lucky for me, at a time when I start to wrestle with the big black dog, mental health issues have become far less of a social taboo and are starting to get the recognition and support that they deserve.  All the more reason for listening to your body, learning to love yourself and asking for help from family and friends.

I’ve had Carole King’s song in my head for most of the month,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbKE0gJETA0 initially as a negative, but then I believe with a little more clarity this became more uplifting.  Carole King was such a talent, a beautiful soul, and I can remember dancing around the kitchen to this song with my lovely Mum.

 

Here’s to learning to cope and to love myself! x

AUGUSTABLE MOTHERING

An open letter to my darling brood…..

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Dear ‘winks

This letter is an apology of sorts – only it’s not.

I was going to harp on about your lousy Summer 2016, the fact that there were way too many PJ days, dvd days, garden days, days at the local park and days when Mummy could barely function … but actually I’m not going to apologise.

In years to come we will be able to chalk this summer down to a steep learning curve, a time of adjustment of adaptation, of constraints and concessions – YES – even more than normal!!

I look back on summer’s past and the neatly categorised daily pictures of exciting trips here there and everywhere even the odd holiday (although I know these are few and far between – finance and Arch health permitting).  Previous summers have been splattered all over Facebook and Twitter for friends and followers to marvel at our fun and frolics … yes, we’ve had some really good times!!  In defence of your Dad and I, we did plan on whisking you off for a long-weekend in sunnier climes (we had our hearts set on Ibiza), but when the respite carer went AWOL all bets were off.  Your father is just thankful that, in my wisdom, I didn’t let him book the flights… so that couple of grand can be put towards a future jaunt for certain.

You’ll learn that life has it’s ups and downs.  Admittedly for us those downs can be pretty brutal and there are also some pretty big pot holes and obstacles in our way – but you have to admit, we’ve had some almighty highs too and some wonderful opportunities.  (Namely No 2 your first holiday being 2 weeks in Tunisia – before all the hoohar, and we ALL had an amazing holiday with Rockley in France last summer …. I think we’ll be going some to beat that!)!  Fact is, right now we’re in a trough … you know we sometimes see on the news or on YouTube where the ground literally opens up and things slide down.  Mummy is currently in that there hole!!

On the bright side – you were all fed and cleaned.  (Granted there were a few cheats along the way, you practically lived off sandwiches, things on toast [Heinz 50% less sugar beans included] and regular takeaways).  I know that you’re not complaining about this in the slightest, however, I am scolding myself that I’ve broken the ‘No more than one McDonald’s per month’ rule, no more than one takeaway a week rule, the more fruit and veg less sugar where possible rule … in fact I have failed epically on the nutrition front.  My much coveted (tasty start to the day by ramming at least 5 a day into you) breakfast smoothies have been infrequent to say the very least, and home-cooked meals have been scarcer than scarce, unless Dad was cooking.  (I can only apologise for that – but he is trying).

On occasion you’ve both stepped up admirably – finding (under supervision and strict instruction) the self-sufficiency of making some simple meals… when you’re both students you’ll be glad of the crash course.  Your washing up still needs practise!  Funny that – ho hum.  (Oh and just because you don’t do a good job – doesn’t mean Dad and I will do it for you – we’ll just make you do it again, so I’d take heed and make more of an effort).

Teamwork is paying off.  I appreciate all the times you’ve stepped in to help when I’ve faltered – even No3’s random smiles or bursts of chuckle have saved me from a fate worse, on occasion.

So – whilst I attempt to keep the family in order, care for Arch and care for PaPa – I’m afraid there’ll be a whole lot more haphazard parenting on my part and ‘stepping up’ required on yours.

Personally, I believe that you’ll thank me in the long run  (one day YOU WILL have to do all this stuff for yourselves anyway) and in the interim I am eternally grateful to all 3 of you for hanging in there, not writing Mum off completely and for taking her major lapse of mental clarity and ability in your stride.

You’re good kids and, as if I don’t tell you enough, I love you … but if you could stop eating socks, respond to my nagging even when you’re on the iPad and go to bed when you’re asked, I might love you even more!

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Mum xxx 

 

 

The Sunny Bits in JULY

I was surprised there were so many good bits this last month – but there’s no denying it.  The desperate hours were punctuated with some good stuff.

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I was football/taxi Mum through the rain and the shine – all in the name of keeping on keeping on.

Endless hours in hospital meant I read a book in just a couple of days.   Conspiracy by SJ Parris was a revelation to me.  A historical novel, set in the reign of King Henry III, followed the journey of an ex-monk/heretic/spy.  

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Not something I’d normally pick up (one of the benefits of reviewing means extending my diversity)I nonetheless found it compelling and having devoured it so quickly meant I could just about keep up with the  chronological timeline and historical references.  If you like history, suspense and intrigue it’s definitely worth a read.

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Walking to school I saw a butterfly struck by a car on the main road and rescued it from further harm.  After a few minutes composing itself and a hefty slurp from a blob of ice pop – it flew off seemingly none the worse for wear.  If only some of us could recover from our knocks so speedily.

 

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A neighbour’s gorgeous clever cat had kittens and I was lucky enough to see them just a day after they were born.  It reminded me of when my cat had had kittens when I was just small and there’s nothing quite like it.  Those gorgeous, tiny bundles of fur guided by the scent of their mother’s milk was just so special to see.

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July is always a mad month of celebration with the birthday of my two boys.  I now have a teenager and one who verging on teenager in my midst.  Despite a very poorly sickly birthday for No 1 both boys managed more than a few smiles and received lots of love and wishes and some very thoughtful pressies.

No 3 is growing in stature, personal opinions (!) and confidence before my eyes and seems to have found her niche.  She started gymnastics just a couple of months back and is already showing promise.  Moreover, she’s enjoying it, is enthusing about attending the sessions and practising regularly too.

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Her first gymnastics performance ,to celebrate the Olympics, was really heartwarming, despite her nerves, she pulled it off and was almost as proud of herself as I was of her.

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Box creativity has also featured highly in July.  I can’t even remember what product came in the box now – because the box itself was most definitely the highlight.  Hours of fun, hiding in it, making a den and even being a box!  It’s not long since made it’s way to the recycle bin (after a few days of lying dormant and edging nearer) …. Shhhhh don’t split on me!

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Little Mr Independence did another Scout camp, on one of the wettest weekends EVER!  I’ve never seen quite so much mud and the washing machine most definitely worked overtime on his return! So much was the ingrained dirt and general despair that some items didn’t even make the wash – they just made their way to the bin.

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Some precious time with my girlfriends was just what I needed this month, and a trip to the flicks to see Absolutely Fabulous the movie raised some much-needed smiles.

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I have to be honest, I think, following all the hype, we expected more of the movie.  Whilst I’d definitely watch it again when it comes out on dvd, I haven’t found myself raving about it.  An impressive line up of celebrities, and Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders are just as fabulous as they were in the TV show, but I felt that the story was lacking something .  Don’t get me wrong the laughs were frequent but my sides weren’t split, which is what I was hoping for.  Maybe it’s taking a little more to hit my funny bones this month, all things considered?

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 I can’t quite believe the controversy surrounding Mrs B and little Miss B- it comes to a lot when a mother can’t express her love.  I regularly smother all 3 of my children in kisses (although No 2 is a little more reluctant in public nowadays).  I think affection is so incredibly important and my daughter regularly kisses me on the lips.  It’s innocent, it’s lovely and it’s precious.  All this picture tells me is the adoration and love between a mother and her mini-me!

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By far the most joyous part of July for my mini-me was a weekend spent celebrating the 10th Birthday of the LS29 Group at Nell Bank in Ilkley with family, friends and a new froggy pal.

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This teeny weeny frog was saved from a stampede of excitable wellington-clad little people and gently paraded around and shown to all and sundry, until being returned to the safety of the pond.

My children adore nature and share a love of  the great outdoors, So having the freedom of roaming about outside in the fresh air with few constraints was their idea of a perfect weekend. Especially when discovering animals, mini beasts and bugs.

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I confess to innumerable early nights during July, creeping into bed,  watching Love Island, eating chocolate and generally feeling sorry for myself – for which I have no excuses!  Sometimes life just calls for reality TV and over indulgence.  Hands up – I’ve just been that way out of late.

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My special little man made me super proud when he played a New York taxi driver in his end of school production.  IMG_1753 (2)

Some seriously impressive lighting techniques were employed (sadly not evident in the photo) which made the performance all the more special.  Animated further by a timely press of the horn.

More creativity was celebrated when my daughter used a solitary sock to make a rather fabulous new outfit for Barbie.

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My little fashionista was therefore absolutely thrilled when her second cousin very kindly sent her a set of mannequins and dress-making bits to further improve her designer skills.  It was such a lovely thought and they’ve already been used on numerous occasions (a real boon for the wet days during the school holidays). Thank you so very much.

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I only had the time for one other book this month, but Marian Keyes didn’t fail to disappoint.  I liked the fact that this book was full of short stories and punchy anecdotes – just the ticket for a busy mum with a silly busy life and a lack of concentration.

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http://bit.ly/2b7SLpn Whilst in truth I prefer her more meatier offerings this couldn’t have been on my bedside table at a better time.  It even made me feel almost human.

A few days of heat, in between the July showers means I’ve actually got a bit of a tan.

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Though I’m less than impressed with the strap marks(a real bug bear of mine)!!  Who knew a walk to school and back could be so exposing – despite wearing factor 30!  Always make sure you protect yourselves kids.  Late afternoon the sun can be menacing – even in Yorkshire!  Time to apply the factor 50 methinks.DSCN0077

Another day of Yorkshire sunshine saw us at Leeds Unity Day.  We bumped into friends, more dogs than even No 3 had time to befriend,  and No 2 did did me proud in a dance battle on behalf of Breakin’ Through Leeds.

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The kids that could learnt some pretty impressive circus skills and even showed some sibling ‘unity’ which is always a blessing.

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The title of ‘Good Deeder’ of the month most definitely goes to No 2 who found an abandoned Morrison’s trolley whilst we were on a local walk.  He didn’t think twice about pushing it uphill for well over a mile (despite it’s wonky wheel and rotten sense of direction) to return it to the local store.  That’s my boy!

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So, it’s not all bad, but the wheels most definitely came off for me this month! I’m trying to find my way again and I know I will given time, but for now I too am feeling decidedly wonky!

 

COUNTING SMILES (Part II)

I’ve agonised over this post and there hasn’t been the opportunity for me to do a ‘July’ post as yet, because my time has been sparse and the good in my life has been particularly slim pickings.  There will be one, once I get a grip, but for now, I figured I might as well try to explain.  I honestly don’t know where to start … and I fear I will most definitely ramble.  I am not strong, nor heroic, nor robust … right now (if ever)… So, as lovely as everyone always seems telling me how valiantly I cope with everything; with Archie, with my Dad, with the family, with what I’m going through.  I feel owt but.  I feel like I am failing epically in all areas – starting with my own sanity!!

I guess the beginning is a good a place to start as any.  I say the beginning but my woes, to be perfectly honest, seem to run riot with no real beginning and no end in sight.  It’s all a bit of a blur (just as blurry when the tears dry up).  If I didn’t joke my way through this I’d cry – so bear with, whilst I blunder through the bad quips.

You know how someone asks you ‘How are you?’ and you say ‘I’m fine!’ because that’s what they expect, and that’s what they want to hear and well for appearances sake it’s just the easiest option. The question wasn’t really a question after all it was a ‘pleasantry.’  We all do it as a ‘conversational in.’  No one really wants to know that you’ve had a very real and very recent cancer scare, that you’ve just had an almighty row with him indoors that has thrown your marriage into question, that you tripped over the dog this morning and stubbed you toe and it’s still throbbing, or that you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over a year.   So we establish that you’re fine, that they’re fine and hastily sketch over the inner torment and then you can talk about something mutual and less important, the task in hand.  The fact that the kids are driving you momentarily insane over ‘Pokemon Go,’ yes, you can both have  a good laugh about that.  Or the weather – how English that we can just say ‘I’m fine, you, lovely day/awful weather,’ and job’s a good ‘un.  You can smile and make on your merry way. Well, here’s the news, about to shatter the equilibrium.  I can’t lie any more.   Behind the facade (which I hasten to add is already crumbling) is a broken mess of my former self and she’s anything but ‘FINE!’

My life has never been ‘easy’ (far from it), I’m not the perfect Mum or wife.  I’m not strong or brave or indestructible.  Fact is I’m a bloody mess.  There I’ve said it.

It’s an effort to get out of bed on a morning, but I do, because I have to.  Ironic really because, as exhausted as I am, when I’m in it I’m normally doing anything but sleeping, with crying and worrying high up on the agenda. Even reading is pitifully infrequent of late.

I’m avoiding social media.  I don’t want to hear about my friends perfect lives with their perfect families and perfect jobs.  Yes, I’m bitter and I’m envious.  Above anything I hate jealousy – but here I am the green-eyed monster in me coming to the fore, coveting every life I see on there, any life but mine.  It doesn’t matter that I know, hell we all know, Facebook is false.  A showcase of what we want others to see.  Painting ourselves in a picture of perfection and prettiness so the whole world can gasp and wow at how the other half lives.  I’d love to think that I’m the exception to the rule, that I’ve always been honest on there and that I’ve painted life as it is, which I have – in the main.

What I don’t showcase for the media world to see are the pictures highlighting my imperfection.  The tears behind the smiles.

We don’t do ‘normal’ round our house (never have and never will), but revert back to the beginning of June and a standard day tended to comprise of; an early start  getting everyone up and organised, a walk to school (to combat kidney problems and to prevent ceasing up- I swear I’m nearer 90 than 40! The change is just as hideous as everyone says I tell ya! ), several phone calls from my Dad, usually of a repetitive, forgetful and despondent nature, a visit to Dad most days full of happy tales and buoyancy in the hope that today – he won’t tell me how he wishes he were dead and how life isn’t worth living.   (I have to check up and give myself peace of mind) and then I spend upwards of a couple of hours or so on the phone to sort out his latest gaff (cancelling subscriptions- he signs himself up to anything and everything, chasing appointments, co-ordinating calendar dates, checking pills, etc, etc), emails, chores at home, collecting No 3 from school, feeding Nos 2 & 3, setting up and plugging in No 1 and conversing with the daily Angel about Arch care, making tea and juggling after school activities …. Crawling into bed not much after 9 at best and often before – utterly exhausted and cranky as hell- but unable to sleep! It’s as if as soon as I get my body where it needs to be it turns round to me and goes ‘Nur, nur, fooled ya!’  So then it’s another sleepless night, listening to the traffic and the planes, whilst my head pounds with worry over whatever’s next on the agenda.

Then there was one particular day at the beginning of June which started out no different, except I also fitted in making birthday cards for the kids, doing a tray bake for some event or other, oh and receiving a phone call at around 7.30 pm, in between stops of the Mum taxi.  No one else heard the phone, or couldn’t reach it (from the sofa), or tuned out (due to electronic devicitis)!  I put down the chocolatey palet knife and checked the answer machine … It was the doctor – needing to speak to me urgently about a recent ‘routine’ blood test, with emphasis on the ‘urgent!’

I haven’t shared the worry of the past two months since that fateful phone call from my Doctor about the blood tests.  Those damn blood tests that showed that I quite possibly have cancer.  The following trips to and from the doctors, the hospital, the needles, the enemas, the surgeries, the biopsies, the mardy consultants, the waiting (hell the waiting hell!) and the fact that they whilst they still haven’t found anything I can’t expel that sigh of relief because they still can’t be certain.

I haven’t shared the additional worry that whilst all this has been playing out I’ve been caring for my Dad, whose health and mental stability seems to go up and down like a tarts knickers and most days those knickers are down well below the knee!  When I’m not with him I worry about him, when I’m with him I worry all the more.  I worry for him and I spend endless hours rallying around trying to sort out his care, to get some sort of support – any additional support – because there is only me and I am not enough. The hour the social worker did her assessment must have been the only hour in the past 8 months that he seemed perfectly able and coping admirably, because he really isn’t.  He is in denial and he doesn’t want any help – but he isn’t coping admirably and  I can’t do this on my own.

 I feel like I’m quite clearly speaking another language entirely because no one with the means and authority to help is listening to me.  It would also appear that I’m wearing a pair of milk bottle-bottomed glasses and ear defenders – because right now I don’t see or hear a way out of anything.

In the last week alone  I’ve spent 8 hours on automated phone lines, or talking to incompetent customer service personnel- trying to cancel subscriptions that my lovely Dad has signed up to in his boredom and loneliness.  In addition I’ve spent over 2 hours filing paperwork (I caught him one fine morning with a big pile of important documents and his trusty shredder!)!  I kid you not there was more importance in that pile of filing than the utmost importance of my two youngest kids place on making sure that their toast has the thickest possible spread of Nutella!

I registered my parents with TPS for unsolicited telephone calls and junk mail many moons ago, when I still lived at home, and have re-registered and clarified this from time to time, as these things inevitably mount up again as our details get banded about to all and sundry. I don’t know how they managed to get themselves onto so many lists, or where these incorrigible sales ‘terriers’ get their lists from.

In the past months my Dad had signed himself up to two subscriptions – several copies of both lay unopened on the sideboard and a company providing dinky toys!  He’s had the Jehovah’s Witnesses in for tea and biscuits and signed up to two charity lotteries and ironically a telephone cold-calling electronic filtering system that was costing a small fortune each month- I kid you not!!

After my Dad’s health and well-being and my children’s – this week, extricating him from all these unnecessary commitments was my ultimate objective.  Time Magazine – I have to hand it to them – were incredibly understanding, professional throughout and helpful, even promising a refund for copies not yet received.  Many thanks to the young man at the end of the telephone who listened to my plea, who understood my angst, who didn’t take it personally and who did everything in his power to ensure I put the phone down with a smile – which I did momentarily.  The other magazine company (who shall remain nameless for now) were abysmal.  After 40 minutes of to-ing and fro-ing, my face turning from red, to blue to pewse, I’m not sure that I’m any farther along – in fact I fear my pleas and instructions fell on profoundly deaf ears.  However, if my father continues to receive copies, invoices, etc, I think I may just have to name and shame.

My apologies go to my Dad’s lovely gardener, Kevin, to whom I extend my thanks – not only for his hard work and friendliness towards my Dad, but for his common decency and honesty.  Kevin told me last time I bumped into him that on one occasion my father tried to pay him for his services three times on the same day.  Fortunately he was decent enough to refuse payment and to advise me of the same.  He also, in a very tactical and kindly way, refused to cut my father’s already beautifully tidy and trimmed hedges after having done this job just a week or so previously, despite my father’s insistence!

I am however, less impressed, with the chancer who knocked on my father’s door and advised him that his lawns needed cutting, did a shoddy job, and took a handsome payment for the same.  You also seem to have taken my Dad’s best long garden shears- mistaking these as your own property I’m sure!  Perhaps if this blog makes its way around Yorkshire as it normally does, one of its thousands of readers will be alerted and be able to salvage the situation, in so much as the reprobate won’t be able to prey on another vulnerable soul.  I’d like to think that my Dad’s very expensive garden shears (that he’s cleaned, sharpened and oiled religiously since I was a child) will be returned to him, though I fear I’m living in a fantasy world.  At the very least I hope that perhaps my blog will bring the attention to any other vulnerable readers, or those with vulnerable family members and friends that they care for – so that they don’t befall the same mistake.  I hate the fact that there are some people, ‘lowlifes’ out there, that prey on those like my dad.  Despite putting up signage to detract door-steppers and chancers…. My blood is currently boiling!

It’s the school holidays and, thus far, we’ve barely stepped outside the house.  I’m exhausted, weak as a newborn kitten, and most days it takes every effort just to drag myself out of bed and put some clothes on.  I can’t remember when I last put a face on, despite that fact that I actually require a bucket load of concealer!

The house is such a mess, full of clutter and madness – definitely not helping my state of mind and yet the time and energy to tackle it just isn’t there.  Again, so overwhelming and so time-consuming even making a start is leaving me dumbfounded.  My mojo is missing .. any motivation and former orderliness gone AWOL.

I’d gladly watch mindless TV all day, rocking and dribbling.  Although the reality is I’ve never been a fan of dribbling!  Besides Archie prefers CBeebies and in the periods of respite from Mr Tumble and friends I’ve enjoyed watching the Rio Olympics.  I haven’t been completely useless.  At least whilst I’ve sat in my misery I’ve sewn name badges on all the new school uniform (yes already purchased – get me), a feat in itself, and I’ve constantly monitored Archie’s gastro-feeding and hydro-flushes and ensured he hasn’t self-harmed, (although there has been the odd moment when he’s had a self-induced major nosebleed).  His current favourite thing is ramming anything and everything down his throat until he dribbles like crazy and is ultimately sick.   (Probably another reason why I’m not a fan of dribbling!)!

So, think of me as you will … self-obsessed, attention-seeking, gaga – I’m not proud of how I’m feeling, but I’ve found it incredibly cathartic being open and honest about my mental state in this post.  I always thought of myself as one of the strongest people I knew, a ‘coper,’ but it appears I’m not, far from it.

However, life, as they say, or in my case ‘the show’ must go on.,,,

 

Tainted Love

 

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‘Go to sleep Toots,’  ‘I love you – but Mamma’s got to go to work now.’

‘Nita’s through in the lounge room and she’ll check on you.’

‘I love you baby’ – ‘You are Mamma’s world.’  ‘Sleep sweetly my angel.’

Gently she released the length of her satin dress from her daughter’s hot, sweaty grip and slowly stroked the warm wrinkles, that most definitely weren’t going anywhere.

The window was open wide and a warm musky draught swept into the room carrying the groans and the banter of the punters below.   The heavy footfall readily cramming into Frank’s Gaff was unmistakable.

Lola shoved the window down to the last inch and pulled the drapes across to dull the noise.

One last stroke of her daughter’s beautiful face as she pulled up the faded coverlet and kissed her brow.  This was no place for a child.

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A last glance in the walkway mirror and she saw the creases of motherhood, but they wouldn’t notice.  She pushed a tendril of her long locks hastily behind her ear and pursed her lips together to spread the rouge more evenly.  Dread sat in the depth of her stomach.  Damn Frank for changing her set. Too many memories, too much hurt and heartaches

She was so tired.  Tired from running, tired from waiting, tired from wishing , from hoping and from regrets.  The running had to stop.

At the bottom of the stairwell she pushed the heavy door ajar and the atmosphere hit her hard.   The smoky warmth of the air, the musky stench of masculinity and the closeness of the evening all flooded her senses.  Too much hard liquor was already greasing the bar.  Testosterone was high tonight and the floor was sticky.  She needed a little loosener herself.

‘I’ll take a double Jack please Lil’ she nodded to the harried blonde behind the counter, already rushed off her feet.

‘You’re on in 5.’  Frank bellowed from the corner of the bar where his peers leered in her general direction.  She smiled through gritted teeth.  It was a damn good job he was paying her.

She smoothed her hand once more down the creases on her thigh and adjusted the corsetry beneath her bust.   Another deep breath.  She hadn’t realised she’d been holding it in.

Lil slammed the drink down on the bar in front of her and she clutched at it gratefully, before necking it back in one fell slug. Barely tasting, barely breathing.

The picture at the back of the bar by the optics caught her eye hauntingly.  A burning sensation hit her stomach from the Jack as she felt herself tied up in those chains. Trapped, destiny unknown.

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Hell, she was pissed at Frank for changing the set list.  She wanted to break those chains, to hear those beads ping and rattle all over that floor, she needed release.  She loved the song but even years later that part of her life was still raw.

A deep breath and she was on the stool, ready for action, depressing the button on the mike and nodding at Jake on the piano for her cue.  Another deep breath.

Her head hung, her brunette locks shielding her face from the men and their smoky outcrop, the unwanted attention and the force of nature.

Microphone in hand

Slipping from the stool with the mike cord wrapped loosely around her wrist, her heels met with the floor and she raised her eyes from beneath her heavy lids and long lashes to meet her audience.

The words came without forethought – committed to memory and they seemed to cling to the fog in the air.  Momentarily everyone stopped.  All eyes on Lola.  Glasses down, bottles poised, as they  lapped up her husky delivery and hung on her every word.

The back door banged.  Men were still pouring in from outside, the heat getting closer, the floor getting stickier with damp.  The storm was here.

Her eyes fixed on a gentleman at the back of a room, shifty and sodden.  He’d squeezed in past the regulars, past the truckers and found a place at the bar.  He looked younger, handsomely out of place.  Water slid from his leather jacket, his dark hair dripping.

Unfaltering from her throaty vocal she watches as he beckons to Lil to bring him a Jack on the rocks and then she notices the cigarette, damp and crumpled – tucked behind his ear … just like he used to do.

Continuing her act Lola sashays across the floor – flirting and singing openly at the men at each table in turn as they eyed her intently, silently braying for her attention.  Her eyes furtive, constantly returning to the gentleman clad in leather, who is now seated at a table at the back of the room, his feet in a puddle – his damp cigarette now smouldering in his lips.

 

 

*20 minute piece  ….  from a Music prompt (& picture) at The Bowery, Write Night with Alison Taft  1st July 2016*

SUMMER DAYS! …. It’s JUNE I tell ya!

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Notice I said ‘days’ not weeks or longer!  Where are the long sunny days for pity’s sake, the weeks in the garden and the hosepipe bans??  So much for Summer Lovin’ – I’d love a bit of summer, but it would appear to be in short supply thus far!!

Now, I’m only going to hit you with the positive stuff, as is my way for an end of month post.  This month has been all about growing up, sucking it up and hamming it up wherever possible.  So here’s this month’s fix of things that have managed to raise a smile against the odds…

We had two birthday’s in June – those of my husband and my daughter, both which we celebrated to each of their likings.

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For Pete we took a family stroll around Swinsty Reservoir, which is a beautiful and peaceful walk, a little testing at times (pushing Archie in his wheelchair) but a good 2/3 hour workout that we all enjoyed and the weather was relatively kind.  Just over halfway, we decided to stop and check out the Tea Room at Washburn Heritage Centre.  http://www.washburnvalley.org/tea-room-with-exhibition

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There was an incredibly steep path to get up there … pushing an Archie it was exceptionally difficult – and ‘hands up’ I wasn’t strong enough – Pete had to take over.  When we reached our destination it was worth the wait for the Millionaire’s shortbread alone!

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It was a lovely setting and the staff were very friendly and attentive. We sat outside in the sunshine – the kids loved the stairs/stage where they perform outdoor theatre on occasion.  I treat us all to lunch (a small gesture for the birthday boy – from his wife on a paltry income) but salmon sandwiches, tea, scones, cakes and juices and we found the energy to roll down the hill and continue our walk back to the car.

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For anyone who loves a walk I’d definitely recommend this one.  It’s one of our favourites.  The kids love to explore the shores of the reservoir, the paths and the trees, and my husband always skims a few stones!

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The 6 books (goodness knows how) I read in June went from the helpful to the bizarre and most places in between.

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From an ‘out of my comfort zone’ point of view, I enjoyed reading Goodbye Heiko Goodbye Berlin.  I wouldn’t have chosen it and it was a bit eclectic for my taste.  It also tested my German language skills which were more than a little rusty after a 15 year hiatus!  I was surprised how much I learned reading about the East/West divide, the Berlin wall (and the falling of the same), the politics, the extremism of being young, and alternative, growing up in a time when the country was in a constant state of flux.  Oh and surprisingly no mention of The Hoff!?*  If I’d have written the book I’d have had to have mentioned the Baywatch lothario- and to be fair it would have segued into the text perfectly!

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My favourite of the books I read this month was undoubtedly Cecelia Ahern’s latest offering The Marble Collector.  It was an easy read, an emotional read  http://bit.ly/28WpHMP .  I don’t want to give the story away – but it struck a chord with me in my present situation with my Dad.  It was cleverly and sympathetically written and it had real warmth to it.  You can read this and reviews of other books I’ve read on www.goodreads.com.

The second birthday this month was Scarlett’s 8th!  We’re still not entirely sure how that happened.  My gorgeous girl had already had a birthday party in the park with friends with a dance session by the fab Rawgina & Beanz, a bouncy castle, a rainbow cake and generally an overdose of excitement and sugar!

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We were in Center Parcs when her actual birthday fell, as we’d pre-booked a break with the LS29 Group, a support group for families with children with special needs.  We always have fun on these excursions and it was good to celebrate with family and friends … and the birthday frog even came to visit!

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 We had more cake (chocolate fudge) and the most bizarre flower opening candle thingumy (sent from Granny Jill)  and we’d taken lots of pressies and cards for her to open too.

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The birthday girl chose the activities on her birthday and decided on swimming and caving!  You can’t go wrong with the swimming pool – a firm favourite with all of us

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As for caving . er well we hadn’t been caving at Center Parcs before, and the least said about the later probably the better … as Pete pretty much got stuck!  Probably a trip he won’t forget in a hurry.  Fortunately for him no emergency services were required to extricate him … but seeing the width of the shoulders and the size of the hole, the instructor showed Pete a secret door with an escape route! Shhhhh.   The boys loved it though and whilst Scarlett had a couple of hairy moments she stuck it out to the end.

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On the evening, we had been booked into the entertainment Party in the Parc (a music and dance extravaganza) as part of the LS29 Group and subsidized in part by the Suzie Baxter Fund.  It’s thanks to charities and sponsorship that the LS29 Group is generally funded to enable families with children on specialist benefits and requiring specialist provisions to access activities that wouldn’t necessarily be possible.  Thank you to all those people who help to make these activities happen.  It means a great deal to families like ours.

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Jem’s taken a recent shine to Bean Boozled!  I’d love to say we all share his taste – but I’d be lying.  This said we spent a hilarious hour waiting for the entertainment to start whilst playing ‘Jelly Bean Roulette!’  Now I’m a huge fan of Jelly Belly beans as a rule … but vomit, grass and baby wipe flavours left me pretty cold!

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Jem liked to think he had the upper hand … but he got caught out himself on more than one occasion! Ha!

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It rained a fair bit during our stay – The Lakes in summer is on a par with Yorkshire – as lovely as it is – wet seemed to be the default setting.  So we spent a lot of time in the arcades after hours!  I’m a bit of a fan of slots (despite their money guzzling tendencies) and the motion games, dance machine and air hockey were all heaps of fun too.

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My kids  both seem to go through shoes like fun!  There was a time when a certain person got 4 pairs of school shoes in one term!!  Anyways – a big shout out to Ralph Lauren.  Scarlett’s last pair of school shoes were navy blue leather pumps with rubber toes and I think they’ve lasted her almost 6 months- which is practically unheard of!  Moreover she says they’re incredibly comfy and I think she’d wear them every day if I let her.  I played a blinder when I saw a pair of summer canvas pumps in the same style in TK Maxx the other day – so I snapped them up for the summer months … on the proviso that the rain stops and she can get some wear out of them!!

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School Sports Day is always a blast and we were gutted that it was rained off last year.  Despite the inclement weather we managed a sunny afternoon and had some success with the skipping and long distance events!

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At the end of the month my friend Soph and I did out own sporty challenge in the form of the 10 mile Midnight Walk for St Gemma’s Hospice, in support of their 10 year anniversary and in memory of both our lovely Mums.

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It was a physically and emotionally tiring evening …. but, bar sore feet at the end of the night from pounding the pavement,  it was a huge success and I managed to raise over £100 for a very worthwhile cause too.  My Mum spent just her very last day at St Gemma’s and the nursing staff were exceptional and I was so relieved that she passed in such comfortable surroundings and with such care.

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Scarlett ended the month on a fundraising high too, baking chocolate drizzled shortbread biscuits for the Brownies Quiz Night all by herself (turns out she’s a master baker and I think she might just get a badge too).  With her efforts, and those of her brownie pals, they managed to raise a very respectable sum for Martin House Hospice. I’m so proud of her already understanding how important it is to support good causes.

Speaking of good causes it’s Training Day from school tomorrow and if I want to survive it I most definitely need some sleep!

Zzzzzzzzzz      x

 

COUNTING SMILES (Part I)

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I used to absolutely love watching Michael Aspel as a child.  When he swooped in with that big red book and announced ‘This is your life!’ I was fascinated by these ‘celebrities’ and their histories, their relations and relationships, their careers.  Even when it was someone I didn’t particularly know or have much interest in I would watch avidly, – as their life unravelled.

I always wondered how my life would play out.  How would my book be filled?  What did I have that I would be proud of?  What friends would come out of the woodwork?  Who have I had a positive impression on?

The same goes for obituaries.  I have a morbid fascination for those too.  I am always touched by the lovely things that people write of when remembering loved ones.  We all do it.  Whenever we lose someone our minds scavenge all those amazing moments that we spent with that person; the times we shared, the advice they gave, their laughter and the smiles that they raised.

Writing my Mum’s eulogy was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done.  A wonderful woman who dedicated her life to her family and friends, to me.  She taught me so very many things, and she did such a lot for others; she cut their hair, she made them things, she helped them, she was a great listener and she made them smile.

I’ve been distant for the past few months, floundering since losing my Mum, that one very stable and constant in my life.  Moreover, helping my Dad through his grief, and my children through their first major loss too.  Looking for answers, talking, finding a way to carry on through.

It’s no secret that my Dad has struggled.   This very able and independent, strong father figure, who I have always looked up to, has become an older man and a shadow of his former self.  A big part of him disappeared with Mum.  As days drew into weeks and months, I knew that my Dad was taking things particularly badly.  The grief was deep set, understandably, but he wasn’t doing anything to counteract that grief, that abandonment, and more worryingly,  in a lot of ways I could sense him giving up on himself.  He started to lose track of things, forget things, make some silly mistakes, some judgement errors. I researched grief and memory problems, spoke to friends, spoke to doctors, but no one listened. Everyone seemed to say the same.  ‘He’s grieving, give him time. ‘ Apparently it was all part of the process.  Through all the sleepless nights, I remained unconvinced.

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I have three young children, my eldest with profound special needs and yet here I was worrying for my father as much if not moreso than them.  I don’t have any other close family.  I’ve felt for months now like it was ‘me against the world.’  I had to pursue my concerns. I had to be heard, so I pushed, and I pushed, and I pissed a lot of people off.  I started to think it was me losing my mind.  I was so stressed and forgetful, my organisational skills have taken a nose dive and things were starting to slip.  I knew I wasn’t coping, I was forgetting things, I was overwhelmed, I was constantly tired and with any number of aches and pains and minor ailments….I was run down.  Was it just me?

After what seemed like an eternity, people started to change tack.  Friends admitted that there had been the odd instance where things Dad said or did were out of character. He’d been out of sorts, he’d shown confusion, or he’d done something silly, he’d forgotten a date, blanked a friend in the street.  Things got progressively more bizarre and in some cases worryingly dangerous. My Dad was becoming vulnerable and unstable.  Whenever I wasn’t with him I was worrying myself into an early grave, but at least people had started to take notice.  It took a lot of planning, and a great deal of persuasion on my part, but eventually I convinced my Dad to visit his doctors with me and despite their shrugs and non-committal, but with my abject persistence, I managed to get a referral to the Memory Clinic.  It was anything but easy.  There was a great deal of waiting and more weeks of worry.  Especially when I myself desperately wanted to be proved wrong.

Anyone who really knows me will tell you that I’m the most impatient person in the world… ever!  So waiting for appointments, which took months, waiting for tests, more weeks waiting whilst my Dad absentmindedly avoided or rearranged appointments and then more weeks waiting for results, all the while seeing my Dad deteriorate.  It was agonising.  I’ve spoken to friends who have experience of these problems, trying to glean information, coping mechanisms and most importantly reassurance.  I’ve cried A LOT, on occasions I’ve laughed and I’ve worried all the more.

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After endless months of waiting and worrying, at the beginning of this month, I took my Dad to the Memory Specialist for a consultation and finally we were given the diagnosis of mixed dementia.  My Dad has Alzeimer’s and Vascular Dementia.  It’s taken a while for me to get my head around it and I’m no medical expert, but I spoke to a Doctor who put it into succinct terms.  Alzeimer’s is shrinking his brain – whilst Vascular Dementia is cutting off the blood supply. So, it’s a double-whammy and quite possibly the worst possible scenario.

My Dad is in denial.  He thinks that the Doctors are plotting against him and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him, other than his advancing years. Yet, in another breath, he’s apologising to me for forgetting important things and for being a burden to me – a thing that his presence will never be.  He knows the score, but he refuses to accept it.  Oh and then when he remembers – he forgets!

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I’ve spent the last month driving backwards and forwards the same few roads between my home and his.  I’ve cleaned, I’ve shopped, I’ve paid bills and I’ve arranged things for him.   When I haven’t been with him, I have spent endless hours on the phone trying to get some support in place for him (which is a minefield and a completely different ball game than when I sorted support for Archie.  Different councils work very differently).   I have filled in countless forms, as well as fielding the numerous calls daily, often hourly from my Dad – repeating the same things minute after minute, after minute.

I read somewhere that one of the worst things that you can do with someone who is struggling with any form of memory loss is to challenge them about it or point out their repetition.  So, I’ve just started each conversation as if it’s been the first and not the 12th or 20th!  It’s not easy, and I’m probably losing my mind a little in the process – but I’m learning.  My patience is actually growing,  possibly at the same rate as my exhaustion.

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I’d be lying if I said that everything was going to be alright.  I’m a realist and a really bad liar. I already know that it’s not.  I don’t always get it right, far from it, but I’m neither blind nor stupid, though some may beg to differ.  I do find that on days when I’m at the end of my tether a long ugly cry or sweary rant (out of ear shot of the children) does wonders!

I have been close to breaking point recently.  I’m so run down and I’m thoroughly  miserable.  I’ve been letting myself go to the dogs of late (and I don’t mean the track!) and I hate myself for that.  I do have pride after all.   I miss my Mum like crazy.  Especially knowing that she would handle all this far better than I ever could – with practicality, efficiency and good humour.

So, with her in mind, and on behalf of my Dad, I’m sucking it up, and raising the bar.

When I can’t count on much else in life – I’m counting smiles and making smiles count!

Mayday! Mayday!

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I can’t lie and say everything’s fabulous on Planet S-J because it’s not, hence the late posting. However, what I will say is there have been a few positives this last month – so I’m going to share.  This blog post has meant several very late nights/early mornings and a labour of love – but finally it’s completed!

Blimey … this month started with a bang literally … the house shook and Facebook and Twitter both unreservedly quaked in their boots as everyone felt the tremors far and wide!  Was it an earthquake?  Lightening strike?  Apparently it was the sonic boom of a fighter jet as it made it’s way over Leeds!  Who knew … The earth certainly moved for me… but I wouldn’t go so far as to buying a ‘Sonic Boom’ T-shirt!?* (Yes, I mean really)! As the planes continue to fly overhead, and as the  weather gets warmer, it just reminds me how much I need a holiday and I just wish I could get myself on a jet plane somewhere … but I’d have to prise my sunglasses off my posing daughter first!!

This month might have been the end of the rugby season – but rugby has been the start of something big for my No2 son.  Proud as punch to be nominated as the Yarnbury RUFC’s Under 11’s Most Improved Player of the season.

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Naturally we’re all thrilled with his efforts – but there’s none more proud of his sporting prowess than my sports-mad Dad.

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I’m proud of all his efforts, especially when Jem lends himself to helping charitable causes.  His involvement with  Link Universal and being the face of the Salt & Light Project is developing slowly and fundraising links are now live.  If you would like to support this cause then please feel free to give using your mobile phone via Instagiv by texting LUUK Team Jem to  70660 to make a donation of £5 Or to donate more text LUUK Team Jem£10 to 70660. Or you can donate via Paypal.  The poverty stricken, elderly, children and people with special needs in Romania need our help.  Every penny counts.

I’m afraid with my life pretty much imploding this last year (let’s not even go there), I’ve not managed to be very involved with Horsforth Walk of Art 2016 thus far. IMG_8894

This said, I’ve knit a couple of squares (one with a resident butterfly) for the knitted caravan (a real labour of love that I can’t wait to see) and produced some brightly coloured knitted bunting too.  Next month it’ll be all about the ‘wild horses’ and helping create something wonderful with a renewed friendship between Horsforth St Margaret’s and Penny Field School.   

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I might not have my daughter’s energy- but, thanks to the encouragement of my Fitbit Charge, my kids. and a modicum of willpower. I’m at least trying to help myself.    In no uncertain terms I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to get happy with myself right now…. but I refuse to be defeatist about it.  If it means more walks to school, more trips to the park, less alcohol and a chocolate ban then so be it!

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Despite my funk I’ve still managed to get out and about this month.  The very lovely PR whizz that is my good friend Lady Rach invited me and our mutual fab friend Ann Marie along to the official launch of Mansio Suites – the fabulous new and exclusive apartments in Leeds City Centre.IMG_9080

   Available for short or long stays, the suites are ideal for single occupancy and can also accommodate up to 4 in their 2 bedroomed apartments.  Sleek and stylish these 26 serviced suites are minimalist – whilst offering all the mod-cons including; HD smart TV, Wifi, fully operational kitchenette with integrated appliances and Nespresso machines.  Handmade mattresses by Harold Spinks, an extensive range of Molton Brown  toiletries and a welcome basket of all the essentials you might need during your stay, only emphasizes the luxury afforded to guests.

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We helped yet another charity this month with Archie and his school supporting Radio Aire’s Cash4kids.  He dressed up as a rather fetching super hero (which with just a few minutes notice I was pretty proud of).  I’m so proud of my No1 superhero and it’s always good to support such a fantastic cause.

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We enjoyed a ‘Party In The Park’ for our glamorous  friend Helen’s 50th Birthday celebration (not that you’d guess her at a day over 40)!WP_20160513_002  On a night when I wasn’t feeling 100% (and less than sociable). figuring  we ‘might just manage an hour,’ we ended up in it for the long haul!  It was great to let loose with friends and Helen’s husband had organised for her favourite Leeds band, Hope & Social, to play a set for her.  (For the orchestration of one the numbers he joined them on the kazoo)!  What a great bunch of guys and real talent.  Their own material and the covers they played were equally enjoyable.  I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of them. I’m thinking we may have to seek them out next time they’re playing the Brudenell… I can feel a ‘girls night’ coming on. (Oh and I still think Rich Huxley is like Dick of Dick & Dom fame!)! IMG_0019 (2) IMG_0015IMG_0017

Even more celebrations in the park ensued in the form of the Queen’s 90th Birthday.  A brass band, choir and military veterans made it an experience for children and adults alike. IMG_0035IMG_0053 (2)IMG_0039

We spent the day at Roundhay Park supporting the LS29 Group and indeed Martin’s House Charity at the Dragon Boat Race!  The theme of the LS29 boat was ‘Noah’s Ark’ so we were all encouraged to come as animals.

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Archie’s tiger onesie fit the bill, and Scarlett

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made an impressive Dalmatian until she took her ears and nose off … but I’m not sure your Leeds Rhino’s T-shirt was altogether a massive effort Jem!

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I took Dad out for lunch the other week and discovered Fentimans!

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I’d say a pretty perfect drink on a hot day…. and I’m quite fond of the style glass bottle too.  It seems a little retro to me.

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 The best thing on the box in May has had to have been  Marcella…. Absolutely SUPERB … ITV you excelled yourselves, I’m not sure which was sharper; the plot or Anna Friel’s cheekbones.  The last scenes almost had me jumping out of my skin!  Marcella- what have you done??   If there isn’t a second series then I’ll be up in arms.

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Following the disturbance of Marcella and as I just love a good book – especially a self help book – Emotional Agility by Susan David rates highly.  Give it a go. http://bit.ly/1TZ0Wh3   It certainly opened my mind to change!

I can only mention two films this month – both which have moved me to tears, both different, but with a sentimental theme.

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I was invited to the first UK preview screening of Me Without You in Leeds and couldn’t have been happier.  I dragged my girlfriend along – even though I wasn’t sure it would be her cup of tea.  I was desperately excited – but also incredibly apprehensive – worrying that the film wouldn’t do the book justice.  I needn’t have worried on either count.  Emilia Clarke was perfectly cast in the leading role, as was Sam Clafin.  Have to say I was thrilled to see my Aussie hearthrob Steve Peacocke (of Home and Away fame) in there too, and Matthew Lewis played Patrick with a wonderfully calculated comedic edge (he’s come such a long way since Harry Potter). (Local boy done good).  I was so pleased that the humour shone throughout- possibly the most important element for me, considering the subject matter.  This said, that didn’t mean I didn’t have to reach for the tissues on more than one occasion.  Ann Marie and I were scrabbling about for tissues and snivelling throughout. Please tell me that they’re working on the film rights for the sequel too??

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Go see it- you won’t regret it. Take tissues… in fact take lots!

The second film I watched is only 4 minutes long and I’m going to share it with you here. It’s a gem of a film from Germany and has been featured at 180 film festivals and won 59 awards.  The makers have had offers from Disney and Pixar and it’s easy to see why.  Just 4 minutes of your time … ENJOY 🙂 http://bit.ly/1X9eqwO

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I’m lucky to have some terrific friends who think of me and mine often, and know me only too well.  My ‘sista from another mista’ recently gifted my daughter (an avid reader) a set of Enid Blyton books that we’d both read as a child and gave my No2 son The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys.  They couldn’t have served us better.  Already we’ve expertly made paper hats, tied knots and have lots of other exciting discoveries on the horizon.  Thanks so much pal.  When you’ve so very much to deal with yourself – it means the world to me that you’re so thoughtful. My children are hugely appreciative and can’t wait to tell you themselves. xx

Until we find out what’s up with my inners… I will endeavour to keep on walking, doing and exploring with my troops.

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he joy and inspiration of a FitBit means that we’ve walked and  explored, rambled and meandered all the more … It’s definitely having a positive impact on my mental well-being (I swear the men in white coats are permanently camped around the corner), but it’s yet to make an impression on my body.  Phhhht!

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In the absence of natural perfection I’ve been faking it – with a whole lot of lovely pampering by the girls who can.

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My gift to myself this month was a half’s day pampering at Tranquility Day Spa with my gal pal Alex where I had a luxury manicure and luxury pedicure, as well as having my brows and lashes primped and tinted.  The girls there are super lovely and do a terrific job.  Thanks so much ladies for helping me to get the best out of my ‘me time’ and for helping me feel good about myself, against all odds!

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More praise goes to my gorgeous girls Ann Marie and Steff – without which I’d be truly bonkers!!  Just a couple of hours in their company with a mug of herbal tea, some fruit skewers and a great deal of honesty and laughter and I feel almost human!

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As life ploughs on through the tough stuff, which in my case appears to get progressively tougher, my children regularly encourage me to stop, take stock (hug it out) and try to get a grip – however difficult that happens to be.  I think I’m going to have to draw on this in the months to come and hopefully tap into their seemingly endless energy too.

Deep breath… let’s see what next month holds.

GETTING ARTY IN APRIL

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It’d be fair to say April hasn’t been the best.  Not only has Yorkshire (indeed the whole of the UK) been showered with EVERYTHING precipitation-wise … but I’ve been showered with a whole lot of sh!t in other areas of my life too.

It started off OK – with a ‘date night’ in Leeds on April fools.  We had a sitter so snook out early for a bite to eat at All Bar One in the Electric Press Building .  The service was super quick, attentive and friendly and the food and cocktails were delicious.  The evening was off to a great start.

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A trip to the theatre followed …

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The show was a really lovely surprise.  I’d won tickets  through a competition in Leeds City Dweller Magazine, and as Archie was in hospital for the duration of the show we actually won tickets for – the entertainment company kindly deferred us to this show.  We didn’t have a clue what we were in for but I can only say  BIg Girls Don’t Cry at Leeds Town Hall was fantastic.  We were singing along and dancing in the aisles… it was one of those really wonderful, and totally unexpectedly so, evenings that we couldn’t have organised so well if it had been planned.

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IMG_8441 I was invited to attend an exclusive launch event this month for the new IMI clinic in Leeds.  They  were unveiling their premises and a fabulous new dental care system Perioblast. IMI is a unique health clinic dedicated to treating periodontal disease with a new and world-first dental protocol.  The first clinic in the UK and they chose Leeds!  What a coup.  I am sure the people of Leeds will soon be onboard with this new dental technique, which has already made a huge impression in Italy.  The premises were wonderfully stylish, albeit clinically minimalist, and guests were served a wonderful array of Italian fayre and Aperol and champagne cocktails.  In the absence of my PR friends, I enjoyed the company of beauty in the form of the very lovely Hazel Latner, currently crowned Miss Leeds and her handsome beau Ben.

I had to leave a little earlier than intended, already feeling out of sorts, and things went downhill from thereon in if I’m honest.  My late Mum’s birthday wasn’t easy for me emotionally, and with my birthday just a few days later, and a deep rooted pain racking my body,  it was a particularly tough week.  

We did, however, take my Dad out for a lovely lunch at Dick Hudson’s in Eldwick (one of my old  haunts that I hadn’t visited in some time) on my birthday and the food was lovely – I even managed to crack a few smiles, thanks to my entertaining brood.

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 I was flagging a little after lunch – so we put it to the kids as to what would be the best way to spend the afternoon without driving Mum into the ground.  We took a trip to Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough, for a bit of fresh air, a face off with a couple of swans, and an hour or two on the penny slots (Archie particularly loves the lights, the music and gets carried along with his siblings excitement)  and the  day ended on an exhausted high.

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We had a good laugh at the expense of poor ‘Spidey’ who must’ve been stood on the junction for a good 3 hours in the cold and the rain  (as he waved as we passed on the way in and again on the way back home)… but his advertising must’ve worked on us at least – because the kids opted for pizza’s for tea!

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One way I found through the pain, that made it a little easier for me to ‘suck it up’ this month, was to kick back a little with the pressure to conform, go easier on the chores and to get creative. I don’t indulge myself in ‘the arts’ anywhere near as much as I’d like to so making some birthday cards for friends, a little knitting and even a little bit of writing (I WILL finish my novel before I die!) gave me some much needed therapy this month.  My lovely friend (ex Archie’s Angel Anna) said she loved hers and thought it looked like her – which was my intention. Phew!

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I think my favourite card design, however,  was one I made totally on the hop, and rather last minute (in fact during Jem’s hour long B-boy session at Leeds Rhinos) for a forgotten party of one of Scarlett’s friends.. . The pain has made me a total dufus this month, but I think I pulled it off.

I was rushed into hospital a couple of weeks into April, in lots, and LOTS of pain (amongst other even less attractive symptoms, including chronic back pain, cramps and peeing blood) and the lovely paramedics blue-lighted me into Jimmy’s as my blood pressure plummeted.  The jury’s still out on my exact diagnosis – but thoughts are that I’ve passed, or am still in the process of passing, a kidney stone or two.  Two weeks further on and I’m still getting sporadic symptoms and am exhausted.  I never thought I’d say this, as I hate to take medication of any kind, but thank goodness for Tramadol. Here’s hoping the last of the little buggers makes it out of my system quickly because I’m not handling this level of pain so well and the pain relief is knocking me out!  I’ve never been quite so dysfunctional and despite my kitchen being painted and tiled and taking shape – there’s still a great deal to do and I’m not in a fit state to expedite things! Phhhhhht…

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The only benefit of spending the best part of a week in hospital was that I read two REALLY good books this month.

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The first book I read was  Perfect Daughter.  It’s the book  I’d been allocated to distribute for World Book Night! As I was in hospital, the first handful of copies were distributed to hard-working, helpful and lovely nurses, before I was able to distribute them to teaching staff, dance teachers, friends, non-readers in the main, or those that don’t have the time nor the inclination.  Having read the book myself I was able to rave about it and encourage the recipients to give it a go.  You can read my review here http://bit.ly/1U6IK9y It’s definitely worth a read.

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The second bookI read in hospital was  A Parcel for Anna Browne.  It’s been sat on my bookshelf for some time, but as I’ve been reviewing books in lightening frequency it kept being usurped.  I’m SO glad I finally had chance to read it (literally in a couple of days) because it was well worth the wait. http://bit.ly/1rrnkZv Enjoy.

I’ve been make up-free in the main this month – with barely enough energy to get out of bed and get dressed, nevermind put a face on, but this little tube of cleanliness has been a godsend.

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Make up or not I always like to end my day with a facial wash and despite my poorliness, this kept me squeaky clean and spot free despite everything going with my body.

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I’m hugely proud of my daughter’s growing confidence and the fact that she’s started attending Rawgina & Beanz B-boy Dance sessions at All Hallowes Church on a Saturday afternoon with Jem is really helping her.  She’s fit as a whippet and really supple and is getting the basics down quick smart, whilst making new friends … Meanwhile along with making new friends Jem is working on honing an enviable six pack and tightening up on some impressive new tricks.

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Jem’s head spins, freezes and flips are getting more and more sleek.

Speaking of impressive, Jem and I managed a trip to London early this month to update his voice reel.

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He’s currently back on commercial radio with his ‘Heinz 50% less sugar baked beans’ which always makes me smile.

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What’s making me smile all the more though is that he’s recently been approached by Link Universal and instated as an ambassador of their forthcoming Salt & Light Project.  This is a charity venture which we hope will raise lots of much needed funds for the economically deprived city of Hunedoara,  Romania.

I’m so incredibly proud of Jem and his determination to back this project.  The fact that his Headmistress and school are in full support of his efforts can only be beneficial.  I’m hoping he can educate them on the situation and encourage their support .  You can read more about The Salt & Light Project here http://bit.ly/1rOis12 and I’ll ensure you ‘ll hear even more of his fundraising antics in the coming months.  I’ll be urging those of you who are able, to please support Jem in his mission any way you can. #TeamJem

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On Saturday night I ended the month at a joint 40th Birthday Party for a couple of my girlfriends… they both looked suitably sparkly(albeit not wearing green or pink) and I’m really glad that despite feeling rough as owt- we managed to pop in for a couple of hours to catch up with friends and raise a glass of fizz (unfortunately for me the fizziest it got was tonic water).

Well, despite ailing, it’s been another frantically busy month!  Here’s hoping May will bring sunshine and decidedly more fizz and sparkle of a positive (although not necessarily alcoholic) nature, and I’m hoping NO hospital time for Team W-F whatsoever … that’s certainly what I’ll be working on come what May!

 

S-Jx

 

 

Marching towards the Sunshine

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I REALLY want to believe that there is far more good than bad in this world, though ‘ll be honest I’m find it hard.  After all; bad news sells, everyone loves a scandal, the pantomime baddie gets all the best reviews, you know the drill.  Still, I for one love a feel good story, a random act of kindness and they’re all over Facebook and Twitter right now,  which is heart-warming to see.

IMG_6969  IMG_6979IMG_6980 Arch, Scarlett and I performed our own ‘Happiness Mission’ last month when I heard of an old friend’s daughter who was very ill in hospital, and so decided to pay her a visit with a bag of goodies to cheer her up.  Just days after her 9th birthday she’d been transferred over to the LGI for surgery, as an emergency case, and we found ourselves back on Ward 42 – though this time in a visiting capacity.  Archie was particularly excited to see so many familiar faces (although I made it clear we weren’t stopping!) and imagine his surprise when he found a very pretty albeit  poorly little girl in his bed.  I’m thrilled to say that the patient is now back home and doing well and hope that  our cheery visit and bag of tricks might have played just a little part in her recovery.

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This month, just as I learn to manage my pain better, I’ve had a tooth extraction (my first ever and I hope to goodness never to be repeated) and a cancer scare (all a bit sudden – but just yesterdayI had confirmation that it’s NOT – phew!), and only one trip to A&E with my soldier (AND he was seen in double-quick time as he was oozing his insides)…. See, I can always find a silver lining!  I’ve cried at more than one soap (happy and sad tears – I’m an emotional wreck of late – damn hormones),  I’ve enjoyed a few glasses of fizz (both celebratory and medicinal, but have given up counting) and found myself wearing a particularly bright red lippy (the jury is still out on that one)!  One of the lowest points of the month was getting a crumb or something equally annoying stuck beneath my space bar.  I’ve never used my hoover attachment with quite such dedication or force, but with so little success. *sniff*  It is still driving me truly BONKERS – touch-typing IS A NIGHTMARE with a defunct space bar!!  One of the many excuses for my tardiness – but that’s my lot.

I shouldn’t complain.  I’ve heard woeful tales of friends battling much bigger demons of late and my heart goes out to each and every one of them.  I can only apologise for my ignorance.  Sometimes, too busy cocooned in my own little drama, I unintentionally lose sight of those around me.  So, in the throws of the school Easter hols when tempers are often frayed, and glasses of wine regularly ‘super-sized,’ I urge you to think of those around you, as I am.   It’s amazing what can be hidden behind a smile.  Don’t be too quick to judge.

In the meantime, let me skip you through the things in March that have tickled my taste buds, put a spring in my step and a smile on my face… and that includes the first few days of sunshine this year which have given me some much-needed solar-power!

 

MUNCHY SEEDS

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I discovered these delicious new (or at least to me) snacks on a trip to London recently. I’d not heard of ‘Munchy Seeds’ until now, but  have fast become a fan.  The business plan stems from a New Zealand sheep-farming family, with 4 children who were very much encouraged to munch on seeds instead of putting their hands inside the sweetie jar.  As a relatively health-conscious mother myself I can totally see their appeal.  They’re a wonderful balance of health and naughtiness with the vital nutrients that seeds contain and perfectly hit the spot when I need something to tide me over.  I’ve been particularly drawn to the sweet ones, (although I can recommend the Chilli Bites with a good glass of wine) and sweet or savoury – the flavours are equally moreish.  

 The ‘Choccy Ginger’ beauties are  my particular downfall.  A proper little packet of heaven I assure you.  They’re ridiculously tasty enrobed in a really good dark chocolate, and, whilst there’s an element of yin and yang, I’d take these dangerously tempting morsels over a regular chocolate bar any day.  IMG_6743 (2)

They do tubs too, and, whilst, by my own admission, I’ve never been brilliant at sharing, or holding back for that matter, (at least where snacking is concerned), the tubs are particularly useful.  Great to keep in the car or a travel bag.  Or if you snaffle them all – just shrug it off as ‘seeds’ – it’s all good!

I’ve even managed admirably eating/chewing on just one side.  Where there’s a will and all that!

 

THE MERITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Now, I’m averaging about 2.5hrs sleep a night at the minute .. and, when I do, with my jaw purposely open ajar, there’s a lovely wet patch of dribble when I awake from my slumber. – Who said middle age was meant to be attractive!!  Anyway, my lack of sleep has seen me catch up with a whole host of friends this month, normally at silly o’clock.  On a typical Friday night/Saturday morning I’ve; seen in several inebriated pals – had some very bizarre conversations, witnessed a break up and a birth …. so there’s something to be said for being awake and responsive at 2.30 am!  Massive CONGRATULATIONS on the later- as I know the new Mummy normally reads my blog (not that she’ll have much time right now!).  I can’t believe that I haven’t been around to wet your little man’s head yet – but I will … just as soon as life permits.  I can’t wait to meet him and congratulate you all.

 

TOP TUNES

I love the aptness of music and as I thrummed the steering wheel of my bus in angst on the way to the LGI this month Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDK9QqIzhwk  played on the radio and I couldn’t help thinking how appropriate it is for Arch and me!  I cranked up the stereo and sang it from start to finish with Archie bobbing about(completely oblivious to the real drama he had the starring role in) in my rear view mirror!

My song of the month is Charlie Puth; Only One Call Away!  I’ve heard it a squillion times on the radio and it always makes me smile in a melancholy way.  That too was playing when I was driving my gorgeous soldier to A&E and I think this song totally sums up our relationship.  It reduces me to tears whenever I hear it, I love the lyrics, the tune, oh his voice is stunning and it’s totally ‘singalongable!’  I’ve only just seen the YouTube video and he’s a seriously cute geek  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxuY9FET9Y4  Makes me want to be back at school eyeing up the boys and wearing lycra … obv!!

 

GREASE

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Sticking with the musical them, I must mention our family trip to the theatre at the beginning of the month.  It might have been at a lesser known theatre (Lawrence Batley, Huddersfield), and an amateur production.  but Grease was most definitely the word.   We knew one of the leading actresses, Alex Goodhall-Munroe (not the Alex Munroe of stunning jewellery fame – though those two should TOTALLY get together)… ‘Our Alex’ used to be one of Archie’s Angels and headed up the cast together with her talented sister Isabelle, a fellow blogger,  found at http://www.isabellekategm.co.uk/ Isabelle Kate

Alex is a dancer/actress/sensational singer.  A very well-cast Rizzo.  Alex Rizzo

When she sang ‘There Are Worse Things’ … I broke out in goose bumps.  Having been in the industry myself, I’m a harsh critic (read that as Simon Cowell-esque) and, whilst not one to offend and I would have smiled sweetly even if Alex hadn’t blown me away, – but WOW, she was note perfect.  I wish it was more provincial shows like this that had talent scouts for major West End or Broadway shows in the audience.  This gal has stage presence and is one to watch.  I know Alex wants to follow her dreams and, if her performance that night was anything to go by then SHE MUST!

 

LITTLE SPOON

I have a new girl crush.. Reese Witherspoon (Little Spoon) is just SO gorgeous and her LA home is fabulous … As I embark on a major house overhaul (oh where do I start) I look at her wonderous surroundings and dream.  My humble abode and MAJOR budget have such restrictions.  We’ve still to find £squillions to continue to adapt the house to fit our family’s needs now that Archie’s medical care is ramped up.  I absolutely love her decor (which I  might struggle to pair down for a Leeds suburb – mind) and I seriously want a sunken trampoline!  Almost as much as Scarlett does after our sunny Easter Monday in Robert’s Park, Saltaire!

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Take a look at the Witherspoon-Toth residence here.  http://www.vogue.com/13419190/reese-witherspoon-birthday-home-tour-shop-the-look/?mbid=nl_032216_Daily&CNDID=38777461&spMailingID=12790257&spUserID=MTIwODMxNjU0OTE2S0&spJobID=703593629&spReportId=NzAzNTkzNjI5S0

Funnily enough Scarlett and I caught the end of Legally Blonde last month and we both thoroughly enjoyed it!

In short, Reese is stunning, has great taste, is a fab actress, has 2 dogs (if she’s a dog-lover she simply has to be a good person) and she loves bees … what’s not to love!

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INDEPENDENT WOMEN

I’m proud of my regular girl crushes and that I still plenty of impressive female role models to hold a torch to.  I hope I myself prove to be one one day.

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My lovely and talented girlfriend Ann Marie and I had the opportunity to attend he International Women’s Day event at Harrogate Conference Centre hosted by  the lovely Christa Ackroyd (an old friend of my Mum’s) and we were weren’t disappointed.  It was a very full day of networking, inspirational speeches, and making friends,  fuelled only on Harrogate Spring Water, nervous energy and a pocketful of business cards!  We came away with stacks of contacts, business proposals and very sore feet!

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Of all the wonderful and very humbling speakers I personally saw on the day, I was particularly struck by the gentle, but powerful, and incredibly inspirational talk given by endurance athlete Ness Knight.  For such a pretty and diminutive young thing- she packs a real punch and most definitely takes ‘can’t’ out of the equation.

 

CELEBRATIONS

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Mother’s Day this year wasn’t easy – but my children were the sweetest and most supportive they could possibly have been.  For me it was all about the thought and the effort, rather than the expensive or grand gestures, and the homemade gifts and cards and not forgetting breakfast in bed (with beautifully written menu) were absolutely priceless.  My Mum would have been hugely proud of her grandchildren’s best creative efforts, as was I.  I couldn’t be more proud of my brood. xxx

 

As we celebrate the merits of reading on World Book Day when I ushered my very own Big (but not necessarily so) Bad Wolf and TinTin

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I can highly recommend the three fabulous books of the five I read this month, all quite different but with equal ranks of brilliance; 

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  each has their own merits and I’d say grab yourself a brew and read one.  Without too many spoilers take a look at my reviews and decide which one to tackle first.

The Mill Girls of Albion Lane http://bit.ly/1TS7vXI

Wickham Ham http://bit.ly/1Qrgr02  and

The Living http://bit.ly/1S30KMH

 

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Easter has been a funny one year – indeed my children are still in the throws of their Easter Holiday – despite the bank holiday break being a distant memory.  As a special treat I took the children into Leeds to Hotel Chocolat and to meet Beau Bunny.   A delicious and fun Easter treat.

 

GOT THE DECORATORS IN!

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So the tail end of March, and for the forseeable, will be all about trying to update my home and make it more pleasing and live-in-able!  De-cluttering, re-decorating and generally jujjing up for the first time in years!  Massive thanks to my lovely gaybours for their very generous donation of a paint voucher they won and the equally lovely team at Turner & Wood who have not only honoured the voucher, despite me having had to sit on it for some time, through illnesses, upheavals, loss and hospital time which pretty much plagued my life last year!   Here’s to a lick of fresh paint in all areas of my life from now on.  I have to say I am particularly fond of the wonderful Farrow & Ball range and Stony Ground is just perfect for the feature wall in my kitchen!

 

CROWNE PLAZA LEEDS

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Speaking of re-vamps, I had the pleasure of being invited to the relaunch of the Crowne Plaza Leeds, after it’s incredible £1m refurbishments and electrical overhaul following the horrific Boxing Day flooding.  It was hosted in style, with a welcoming speech by Marco Frik, General Manager, who explained a loss of £1.2m in revenue as a result of the aftermath,during it’s 9-week closure to carry out essential works.   The hotel is certainly looking resplendent now and, celebrating with bubbles and a delicious fayre of the finest foods, I’m hoping business contacts have been very much reignited.  It was great to see such an impressive turn-around, to speak to the management team and to rub shoulders with Louis O’Reilly the lovely Irish Doorman that I remembered from ‘back in the day.’  My gorgeous date Lady Rach, and I, found ourselves specials of the day, teeheehee …  of course we had to be!

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I loved the new running station in the hotel foyer – a perfect example of bringing the hotel up to speed.  A Map highlighted different running circuits in and around the city together with healthy refreshments. For me, there were strong hints of Nike and the Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt film What Women Want.  Massive well done to the team at Crowne Plaza Leeds on an impressive rebirth.

Is it me or do my days/weeks/months get ever fuller?????

OK … away we go into April already … and this red lippy’s fooling no one! xx

 

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