Author Archives: Jane Smith

Moving On

 

The Big Birthday has passed amidst great celebrations that lasted over a month! Guess what – I feel so lucky still and mysteriously the same person inside as I did at 69! Maybe a bit wiser!!

Food played a huge part as I dined in “different countries” from Spain, France, Mexico, America as well as Britain. Cuisine I mean of course. I’ve eaten fish, tapas, burritos, vegetarian, pizza, pasta and delicious deserts. I have tasted some wonderful wines, cocktails and gins. Now back to reality, lose extra weight and think about the next decade.

Moving on is necessary for many reasons. One year on from my breast cancer I  had my first check up and all seems well thank goodness.  I have had time to reflect on the events of last year helped by a week house sitting in Bristol, which remains one of my favourite cities. Peter stayed at home so I had lots of time to think and work out what next.  I made a list of priorities which I hope to tick off as I put them into practice. Number one is to use what time I have left (who knows what time any of has?) to live my life to the full but in ways that may not seem to be achieving all the time. Small things like walking, seeing friends, yoga, my choir and my family are valuable experiences in my tapestry that I weave and expand daily.  Some of you might wonder why I talk about these as achievements but it is easy to take things for granted so I plan to improve therefore achieve. I realise I was in danger of being in a rut. Fatigue is a lasting side effect of radiotherapy and it has become easier at times to say to myself I feel so tired I can’t be bothered but when I try I always feel better – small steps maybe but good.  Not great achievements but an important lesson. Learn to value what one has particularly oneself.

So in Bristol I did some things I have wanted to do for a while. I took a trip around the Docks in the sunshine and viewed the city from a different angle. The Matthew replica of John Cabot’s ship that sailed the Atlantic in the 15th century and “discovered” Newfoundland, now part of Canada, was especially interesting from water level.  The Docks, many converted to museums, galleries, cafes and apartments echo with the bustling commercial wealth the city.  Now technology rules but a sense of community was essential for daily life and is part of the area just different. The SS Great Britain, one of Brunel’s great developments, is now a museum but it was huge when viewed from water level.  An interesting commentary was provided by a young man in charge of the boat which brought past events and people to life.  One thing that was pleasing about the trip was the number of different nationalities just in a short hour who shared the experience with me.  Despite some of the awful events over past weeks we all enjoyed being together sharing a good time.  I revisited Bristol Gallery to see a few of my favourite paintings, also the Red Lodge parts of which are Tudor with a replica knot garden. I walked back through the city streets, multicultural, busy, varied and interesting.  A fascinating cityscape.

One guilty secret of my time: I “binge read” a series of crime books by Peter May known as the Enzo Files, 6 books! Home now I look forward to the challenges ahead.

Advertisements

BIG Birthday

On 30th July I will be 70 years old! Wow!! I wondered what other key events happened in 1947, my birth being important to my family but what mattered to the world at large. Google enabled me to find a site which listed several key things: The Kon-Tiki Expedition; India and Pakistan became separate Nations; The Cold War started between East and West (lasting 40 years, more than half my lifetime); Sound Barrier was broken; Polaroid Land Camera demonstrated; Bell Laboratories invented the Transistor; UK Coal Industry was Nationalised; US “Marshall Plan” for Europe was announced. Many other things too but some of the above affected my life in subtle ways and the repercussions of others are still happening.

I remember my first radio, a Roberts transistor radio in a red case on a turntable to get best reception, key moment for me. The Polaroid camera I had in the early 70s, some family photos still remain though faded. The Cold War hung like a dark shadow with the threat of nuclear war and the strange information leaflets telling us to get under the kitchen table covered with a thick blanket! Oh and to stockpile tins!! Unbelievable today.  My children have asked me at times if it was a real threat, it was.  Everyday life continued but amongst some of the current world events it now seems unreal. I am sure some of you will have similar memories.

Normally zero birthdays don’t bother me, like any other birthday there is the promise of a new year ahead with good and bad things, rough and smooth patches but continuing friendships and creating new memories. Three score years and ten are somehow different! So how am I celebrating? I had my wonderful trip to Venice. Next there is a month long list of events with friends and family so how lucky am I? Lunches, dinners, visits and treats with dear friends, these have begun already! Our yearly choir concert was a marker for me of the past year’s health challenges and the support the choir have given me. It was a huge success raising £750 (not sure of dollars sorry) for a children’s bereavement charity called Winston’s Wish. We were ecstatic so went to the pub to celebrate! Yesterday a friend organised a Cocktail and Afternoon Tea, very British as we were in a marquee in the pouring rain! An Italian Meal with yoga friends Tuesday, Supper at a local pub Friday with my Book Club, lunch with darling Trisha at a Lavender Farm will be special. A big family get together in August when we can all be together, three generations of my family. On the day Peter and I have decided to have a quiet time of reflection, special meal at home and just enjoy the fact we are together after 45 years.  Seriously, I do feel very lucky and blessed.

Thank you too for reading my ramblings and your continuing support.

Flaming June

June has been a surprising month not at all what I had anticipated.  Finally, Peter and I managed another 3 night break away after months of me suggesting places from Spain, Croatia, France, Scotland and back to Wales.  On Monday 12th we sat having a “sundowner” when I mentioned an apartment I had found in Bowness-on-Windermere in The Lake District, Cumbria.  “Book it” says Peter, the only available date was Friday 16th for 3 nights, yes the following Friday!  It was available so I grabbed it.  Well someone was guiding us as it was a beautiful, attic conversion in an old house in the woods above Bowness with a great view of Lake Windermere from the sitting room window.  With stops the journey took over 5 hours (nothing to our friends in US) but to us Brits it’s a long way!!  Everything is comparative, we never thought about 6 hour round trip to airport when we lived in Spain.  It was well worth the effort. Friday evening we had a superb meal in a local bistro with good wine. Suitably relaxed we walked the half a mile uphill back to our retreat.  It took a long time but a comfy bed awaited so a good incentive!

Saturday morning we woke to brilliant sunshine which lasted the whole weekend.  Hot but fresh – perfect.  After a breakfast of fresh Danish and good coffee in a local bakery we got a boat (cruise boat) across the lake (one mile across) to Lakeside.  A steam train then runs alongside the lake for about 5 miles which was a real treat.  We stayed on and made the return trip, full of nostalgia for me as I remember steam train journeys as a child.  Boat trip back to Bowness, much busier now with tourists of many nationalites.  We managed to find a wonderful deli run by a young couple with a range of meats, cheese, pickles, olives etc but we decided on pastrami sandwiches, the best I’ve had since I was in Manhattan over 10 years ago – well worth the wait!  We found a secluded sheltered spot and ate our picnic over-looking the lake.  We were unsure what to do next but decided on a movie, air conditioned theatre and friendly staff.  Popcorn too.  The movie was Churchill starring Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson which has had some bad reviews but we enjoyed it.  We could have booked a three course meal at a local restaurant  for afterwards (including the movie ticket) but saw the deal after we had seen movie!  I was tired so maybe not best time for a big meal but I thought it was an enterprising idea for cinema and restaurant.  We had an Italian instead which was just right.  Up the hill again and another great night’s sleep.

Sunday back to the lake but we crossed this time on a small ferry which pulls itself over on wires, I don’t understand how it works but it was a great way to cool down!  On the other side we walked up to a restored Claife Viewing Station originally built in the 1790s which had wonderful views of the lake. Next we walked 4 miles (and back!) alongside the lake through woods,  families were picnicking on the “beaches” generally enjoying the rare sunshine.  It all reminded Peter of Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie, Ohio, where he attended a conference.  Some of you will be familiar with this place.  Back to the deli and we stocked up for evening meal in the apartment after packing so much into 2 days.  One treat awaited for the next morning before returning home. (Note the rare photo of the Smiths together!)

My book club read this month is Haweswater by Sarah Hall.  Coincidentally, Haweswater Reservoir was 20 miles north of us so Peter was happy to divert.  A valley was flooded to create a new reservoir to supply water to Manchester and a dam constructed.  The work commenced in 1929 and was completed in 1940. Inspired by the building of the dam the book is a fictional story about the village of Mardale that was originally in the centre of the farming community, their lives and the impact of the dam.  I was so overcome with the beauty of the place I forgot to take a photo! Peace and tranquillity with all that history under the water.  It was an emotional experience, I have discovered my family originally came from this area in the 1790s so Cumbria remains in my genes.  I recommend the book which is a well researched first novel by a sensitive writer. I’ve also read and enjoyed The Wolf Border Sarah Hall’s latest novel which was also set in Cumbria but begins in Idaho about the re-wilding of wolves the Lake District.

I always feel I’ve been away ages following one of these breaks and think I enjoy them more than longer breaks these days.  Just to note the weather has returned to “normal” for summertime which makes the whole weekend even more special. Another June Surprise was an unexpected lunch with friends at their house. Two added guests arrived which I think will make you smile!

Gallery

“Mish-Mash”

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I have found it difficult this month to write a blog! I had loads of random thoughts (Mish-Mash) about various activities I have done in the past month and cannot focus enough on any of them to develop them fully. … Continue reading

Singing with Macapello Choir

One year ago I told you about my Macapello Choir at a singing day at a big Choir Convention in Bristol, I cannot believe a year has passed but then it has been a challenging year.  Macapello Choir’s latest performance was on Sunday 9th April 2017 at this year’s Choir Convention.  Some of you may remember reading about last year’s Convention where we performed the song we had written ourselves, When Will I See the Sun. This year we managed to be slightly different to all the other choirs by walking onto the stage singing, yes singing and walking! Risky!!  We performed four songs in total. First walking on, two songs whilst on the stage, the fourth as we walked off again, singing! Wow despite our reservations it went down a storm!

The Convention brings together 16 choirs from the south west of England for a day’s singing.  The first part of the day consists of combined singing, about 500 people together, in four part harmonies.  We learn the songs on the day so it is always fun and a great way to meet new people.  We have a lunch break then same format applies.  Four experience musicians lead the day but in the evening each choir performs a variety of songs.  Some choirs were ambitious this year which added to our anxiety levels.  One large choir performed a piece by Bruckner another a piece by Elgar, this is the level of choral societies rather than community choirs so we were suitable impressed.  One group sang a tribute to David Bowie, other performances range from Gospel through Swing to Classical.  Standards vary of course but everyone is enthusiastic and enjoy the performance.  Accolades from one’s peers always feel special.

We had to wait until the second half to perform our songs again making us nervous.  The adrenaline kicks in once we start but our leaders keep reminding us to breath, smile, relax, focus – all at the same time! We began with Well I woke up this morning with my mind set on Freedom … a lively, uplifting gospel song.  We settled ourselves down then sang Your Children which I have told you about before.  Next was our ambitious  Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold one of the themes from the film The Hobbit. The Basses have the lead in this and as we only had 3 we were apprehensive, especially the three guys! Well, we earned a standing ovation.  In shock we walked off the stage singing Famba Naye a rousing African song which many of the audience knew so they sang along with us.  We  managed to keep within the time limit – just – 8 minutes for the whole thing! Our choir leaders Dave and Lisa were over the moon as the other choir leaders congratulated them on our achievement. Sadly I’m not able to share all the sound files.

What a night!  We sang on the coach home although we were exhausted. I love being in my choir as many of you know but an occasion like this makes me feel so proud of a group of people of all ages (top heavy on over 50’s at moment!), backgrounds and skill levels who come together to make such wonderful music.


The venue is beautiful with great acoustics.

 

 

Click here to hear Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

Venice

On Monday 20th February I set off for the airport to fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport. Very excited! I met Rhiannon, my niece, we had lunch and flew off at 15.20 in fog. We were assured by Easyjet staff that our plane had extra sensors so no worries.  We landed at Marco Polo safely on time at 18.30 Venice time.  Only had hand luggage so cleared quickly and went to the Alilaguna Water Bus to Lido.  I had done this in the past but all was changed, much larger and modern!  Very exciting but dark of course and yes misty.  With the help of a handsome young official we boarded our vaporetto (water bus) at Lido for our hotel at St Elena. He was concerned that “it was dark there and did I know my way!”  Rhiannon was slightly disconcerted by this conversation (in perfect English) but I quickly reassured her that I knew where we were going.  We arrived at the hotel and I explained who we were BUT I was speaking bad Spanish instead of bad Italian!  The Reception Staff were amused by this but it set the tone for our whole stay of friendly, helpful service.  We had a wonderful supper in the hotel restaurant, with our first bottle of Prosecco of the stay, and an early night.

Next morning we were up refreshed and raring to go.  Had a good breakfast for 9 Euros each and set off. We bought 3 day Vaporetti passes which were so useful in that we could hop off and on as many times as we wanted without hassle of buying tickets each time.  That morning we walked into San Marco alongside the Grand Canal, sadly still in fog, but in good spirits. We passed the Giardini Gardens, the site of the Biennale Exhibition featuring International Artists shown in 1920s Pavilions representing the different countries staged every 2 years. It is also the start and finish of the Venice Marathon, yes a full Marathon!  We passed The Arsenale where the great shipbuilding industry was based helping support the power of Venice.   It was Carnavale which is a very special time in Venice, lots of people in elaborate costumes posing in the hope a photographer will feature them.  I spoke to several international photographers over our stay who said people queue up to be photographed free and just want a copy.  For the photographers it is an ideal opportunity to expand their portfolios.  Two of our favourite subjects are featured below, in many ways it was like stepping back in time.  Venice was packed and buzzing with excitement.  We walked miles that day until we were exhausted and went back to the hotel for another superb dinner and yes more Prosecco.  Our hotel was on the tip of the main island but in a less crowded residential area with a park and small restaurants.

I was pleased to remember my way around and Rhiannon enjoyed being guided to familiar sites including St Marks Square, the Campanile, the Doge’s Palace and less famous parts which featured Venetians going about their daily lives including the police boats, ambulances, garbage collections and delivery men all on the canals.  Everything is transported in by boat which adds to the traffic on the Grand Canal.  We walked through the Fish Market and Rialto Market, hence the statutory photo of Rhiannon on Rialto Bridge.

One morning the hotel arranged a special water taxi for us to Murano to a glass factory.  It was fascinating to see glass blowing skills in the tradition which dates back to at least the 15 century.  We didn’t buy any but it was wonderful to see.  Sadly our video didn’t come out well enough to show you.  That day we also visited the Guggenheim Museum as an antidote to the beauty of La Serenissima.

A high spot of my trip was meeting up with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for 18 years.  We studied together for our Masters’ Degrees, although Louisa was 30 years younger we became firm friends.  She married a Venetian after returning with her degree and now has three beautiful daughters and lives on Lido.  She lectures to Art Tours, Cruise Ships, at the Biennale Exhibition and to various visiting University student courses so continues the experiences we had.  Louisa took us to a wonderful Venetian restaurant, Anice Stellato, which was hidden away where we had one of the best meals I’ve had for a long time.

Sadly it all ended too soon.  Rhiannon will return with her boyfriend Jon and take a trip on a gondola, not something to do with your aging aunt! I think it will be my last trip but one I will treasure.  We took off on Friday 24th February in fog! Whilst I had wanted Rhiannon to experience Venice set against a bright blue sky the misty, foggy conditions added to the glamour and mystery of this beautiful city.

I’ve attempted to give you a flavour of Venice but please try to visit yourselves if you haven’t been already, if you have I hope it brings back good memories.

 

Gallery

Good news

On Thursday February 10th 2017 I was discharged from Oncology Department all clear! Regular yearly check  ups now from July 2017 for ten years,  but if I am concerned or have further problems I must contact my Breast Care Nurse … Continue reading