Author Archives: Jane Smith

Laziness or Good Time Management?

January started a bit differently to how I anticipated with a referral back to the Breast Care Unit.  Everything has worked out well and yesterday I had the All Clear. During waiting times I began to think of how I use my use my time, do I fill it up with things to do or am I enjoying my time? Probably a mixture of both but I want to enjoy this next decade of my life.

Large chunks of our days are spent planning, shopping and cooking meals which mostly we enjoy but do any of you sometimes get bored of this activity?  I do so have decided to cut some corners and have a delivery from a company called Hello Fresh which was recommended by a friend.  I await my first delivery next week of three meals to tempt Peter and my taste buds, all the ingredients except oil, salt and pepper are provided.  Meals are packed in a box with icepacks in case we are out so food remains fresh.  Monday 29th marks a change of routine as the only decision I need to make is which meal to cook first. On offer is Balsamic Steak with Red Cabbage and Potato Wedges; Tray-Bake Chicken with Roasted Vegetables, Tomato Salad and Minty Salsa; Thai Pork Stir Fry with Green Beans, Holy Basil and Rice (not sure of Holy Basil as it looks like Basil in the photo!). There is an option to choose different recipes but initially I have taken the easy route by choosing a Classic Box.  Directions are included with glossy pictures to make the process error free so I will report back on progress.

The question is am I being lazy or is this good time management?  By taking the drudge out of the meals I am free to enjoy cooking them but also freeing up time to do other things.  My life is full and active but increasingly I am allowing myself to stop, relax and just be.  In an early blog I mentioned a W H Davies poem Leisure which remains a favourite and a reminder:

“What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare …”

First published in 1911 it is so relevant today. So my aim for 2018 is to stop, stand and stare at times and my goodness what I see.  Sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, robins, tits, pigeons and crows come daily to our garden with their various rituals.  The sparrows inhabit our big green hedge and are a constant source of pleasure to people passing by with their constant chatter.  We live in the centre of town, opposite a fire station and garage but are so lucky with our feathered friends.  Some of our human friends who live in the middle of countryside rarely have birds due to changes in farming techniques.

One more question for all of you – what motivates you to start writing? Please don’t say start!!

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Merry Christmas Everyone

I thought I would send a photo of our local Christmas lights at the Town Hall.  It doesn’t do the display justice as it is grand, colourful and leads through the whole of our main street and market place but it represents what a strong community I live in.   All year the Christmas Lights Team work long hours planning, preparing, repairing and generally getting ready for the big day – Switch On Day – usually first Saturday in December.  The team are all volunteers giving freely of their time and expertise, a mix of ages and sexes but committed to providing a spectacular centrepiece for our town.  Fundraising events, donations, food, entertainment all provided by volunteers and local businesses.  During the day things start to build up with a Christmas Fair, Father Christmas visits too and last minute checks on equipment.  Over the years the displays have become more sophisticated but so have costs such as insurance and equipment.  The volunteers work tirelessly especially during the last few days.  Their reward is seeing families, friends and visitors gather around the magnificent tree around 4.30pm in readiness for the big moment.  A local child, often representing one of the local charities, is chosen to help the Mayor switch on.  This year there are stunning special lighting effects which make the surrounding trees and buildings look magical.  People come from miles away to visit and view the lights, donation boxes help fundraise for next year – forward planning here.  Many of the shop keepers have individual trees lighted up on their shop fronts all adding to the magic.  The lights stretch about half a mile through the town.  Carol singing and cheering all add to the excitement.  I am so proud to be part of this community but especially want to say the whole event demonstrates the power of people coming together for the greater good.  Thank you to my Town.

Special thanks too to my blog friends, you are an amazing group of talented people who have given support, love and encouragement to me across the miles.  Merry Christmas to you all and your friends and families.

Experiences Old and New

I hope my American bloggers enjoyed a Happy Thanksgiving Celebration yesterday with family and friends.  Thanks to everyone for your supportive messages last month.  Peter is visiting the hospital for various tests and this week we are meeting with the Consultant to discuss results.  We hope for a diagnosis, treatment plan and information as although Peter is brave and stoic it will help to know what we are dealing with – fingers crossed.

This month has been reflective in many ways but I have had some old experiences which are helping me deal with my stress levels and new experiences which have been very thought provoking,  I will tell you one old experience which we have repeated over many years.  A regular walk of ours is along part of a canal near to our house, we have various routes to and from it but the canal part of the walk remains consistent.  Different seasons add to the experience but this time of year is our favourite as less people are using the canal and fewer cyclists.  The light is different therefore the views of surrounding countryside seem enhanced.  Lots of wildlife thrives alongside the canal and various ducks, moorhens and occasional fish inhabit the area so it is interesting.  Occasional hazards occur when a local fishing club hold competitions and block the path but on the whole each group of people (and animals) co-exist. Strange specimen featured!

The highlight this weekend was a heron.  I wonder if it is the same one that we have seen over the years but is probably an offspring.  I keep meaning to find out more about herons as I am fascinated by their inscrutability and patience. This one waited for Peter to approach him, seemed to pose for the photo, glanced around then took flight looking majestic.  These birds look so elegant even when flying despite their long legs.  Our next encounter was with a pair of swans who swam right up to the bank, pecked at some reeds, then seemed to pose for the camera before gliding gracefully off.  I wondered at first if they thought we had some titbits but they didn’t seem bothered.  The two incidents enhanced our walk.  I reflect on magical moments like these during the dark grey days.

My new experience is Gong Bath or Sound Yoga (Suntatya Yoga).  Whilst yoga is one of my main exercise routines of the week this is totally different. Several of my friends have followed my example despite my not talking about my individual experience (unusual!!) as each person’s reaction is different. We assemble in a local hall, normally 8 or 10 of us, with yoga mats, blankets, cushions, comfortable clothing and lie on the floor for an hour with our eyes closed! BUT during this time Helen, a young qualified yoga teacher friend of mine, plays a variety of sounds using singing bowls, gongs, bells, pebbles, rain maker and other instruments but I am unsure of all the names.  Occasionally Helen reads a piece of poetry near the end of the session or plays a piece of music. One week around Harvest she played Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold which conjured up various images for me. I have given a brief resumé of the sessions as it is impossible to describe. We are in a totally safe environment, in soft light and the effect for me is total relaxation. Apparently the scientific theory is that toxins are released by the sound waves which help release stress, thus helping the body heal and restore itself.  I cannot say anything other than during the past year it has made an unbelievable difference to my stress levels.  I sleep well the night of the session and the feeling continues for a several days.  It is important to drink lots of water to rehydrate thoroughly as the toxins continue to be released.  I am unsure of why this works for me and for other people I know, I am pragmatic yet spiritual too so might be susceptible.  Two of my friends are deaf and wear hearing aids which they remove for the sessions but they experience similar feelings.

Old and New Experiences indeed but invaluable at this stage of my life. Relax is my word of the moment.  I hope you NaNo Challenge writers are able to do the same! Good luck for the last week amazing people.

Brief Interlude

October didn’t work out quite as we had anticipated and carefully planned. We hoped for a five day break in Cornwall, one of my favourite parts on Britain.  It was a last minute booking due to work pressures on Peter and timescales on three big projects.  I decided on The Cormorant Hotel in Golant, near Fowey (pronounced Foy), right by the river and named after the main seabird that inhabits the area.  Luxury boutique-style hotel, seems the trend at moment, but small with friendly staff.  We had a river view room with a Juliet balcony overlooking the garden and wonderful coastline leading down to the sea.  

The weather had taken a severe turn for the worst and the south west was landfall for Ophelia but early last week she had not arrived.  The journey down was beautiful crossing moors including Bodmin Moor famous for Jamaica Inn. Interesting small towns along the route offered coffee and lunch. Finding the hotel was like a treasure hunt despite directions but eventually we arrived and settled in for the night.  Pre-dinner drinks offered unexpected entertainment in Anne and Ron from New Zealand.  Anne is an international judge of Airedales and the couple were enjoying a break in her judging schedule.  They had arrived from Baltimore that day and were due in Yorkshire at the end of the week.  We spent an interesting hour listening to hilarious stories of the world of top dog shows including Russia as well as their lives in Australia as breeders and farmers. Time for dinner.

Wonderful menu choices but I opted for local scallops, mixed fish chowder with honey pannacotta for desert, topped off with an excellent bottle of Spanish Rosé. Sorry photo of scallop starter gone wrong!

Next day after a breakfast including lots of local produce we set off of Fowey, home of Daphne Du Maurier.  Peter was feeling a little unwell but we set off as planned towards Mousehole (pronounced Mowzle) where we had booked a small, fisherman’s cottage.  Fowey was well worth another visit as I didn’t make it to the Du Maurier Museum.  The weather turned showery so we made our way to Falmouth for lunch and a wander.  Next was Penzance, Newlyn then Mousehole as there are great artists galleries as well as home of the Newlyn Artists. We had planned a coastal walk to really visit these the following day so went to find our cottage.  It was better than expected, so comfortable and well equipped with a scrumptious hamper of local food and a good bottle of wine.  We planned to light a fire in the hearth following a forage for food from the deli in the village which was highly recommended.  I became more concerned over the next few hours about Peter but we continued as planned.

During the night Peter developed a high fever and finally told me he had difficulty peeing, was in pain and it was getting worse.  He insisted on waiting until morning before trying to see a doctor.  Early in the morning I made the decision to take him to Penzance Hospital.  We arrived at 9am and he was seen at 9.15am.  The staff  were wonderful, Peter has “Men’s Problems” as he insists on referring to his symptoms.  The doctor fitted a catheter and told us to visit our own doctor when we got home, if we were residents there he would have carried out further tests. We left hospital at 12.15 and I knew Peter wanted to go home although he said no.  We packed up and drove home, 6 hours in the storm which had hit with a vengeance.  Our own doctor has referred him urgently to the local hospital but his appointment is not for another week.Then the catheter will be removed, testing will begin, diagnosis then treatment.  I hope by November we will know what lies ahead.

Another added issue has been with our internet, now fixed.  We have had to buy a new television, phones and await the next thing! October has been a challenge!!

“Sublime or Ridiculous?”

September has been a busy, interesting month with another week in Bristol, a day at the seaside, visits to a garden exhibition and a beautifully restored National Trust House plus seeing two movies.  On top: lunches with friends, book club, yoga and singing, also your support, all helpful positive things to relieve some of the fatigue which is improving slowly. I keep telling you all how lucky I feel, not complacently I hope.

Sublime may seem a strange heading for a blog but it has different meanings, my use refers to art, architecture and inspiring achievements. Ridiculous is obvious although as you will see it held a few surprises! My first example was an exhibition of sculpture in a local National Trust garden.  I shared an exhibition set here with you last year of stained glass flower sculptures but this time was very different.  Several of the metal pieces were awesome and delicate, others were ridiculous. The setting enhanced the work too. I could not find what technique the artist used to create the sculptures  and ran out of time sorry. I hope you enjoy the images I’ve included.

My week in Bristol was based in a different part of the city, more multicultural and I met some fascinating characters on my journeys into the centre by bus.  As I mentioned last time I love Bristol,  the highlight was visiting St. Nicholas Market with my grandchildren and all eating different street food from various countries then sharing them. Memories of the day remain and I cherish them.

I visited Clevedon with a friend to photograph the pier which was a feat of Victorian Engineering. Boats still pick up from the pier to take visitors along the North Somerset Coast, a trip I am determined to make. The houses epitomise the wealth of past eras, some from trade in Bristol and people becoming upwardly mobile. Sunshine made the day more enjoyable with the reflections from the water and feel good factor.  I hope the photos help you to capture the beauty of Clevedon Pier.

We moved on to Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate lived in and expanded by four generations.  I originally visited 10 years ago and the changes were amazing.  The interior of the house reflected the Victorian interests in art, technology and innovation.  Many original pieces of furniture remain all beautifully restored by National Trust experts and volunteers. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to visit the gardens but did pop into the Church which was a history lesson itself. Two photos give a glimpse if you are ever in this part of the world. Tyntesfield would be on my sublime list.

Finally, the ridiculous. By chance on our wanderings with my son and family we came upon an exhibition in the Centrespace Gallery which houses temporary exhibitions. Umbrella Covers were the subject of this fascinating exhibit. Nancy 3 Hoffman Director and Curator of the Umbrella Cover Museum hosted our visit.  Nancy 3 is the current Guiness World Record Holder for Umbrella Covers.  Her home and museum are on Peaks Island, off the coast of Maine. A true eccentric and enthusiast, not as ridiculous as we initially thought. Nancy 3 played her accordion and we joined her in singing the Umbrella Song.  My grandsons were fascinated. We all had great fun, do check out Nancy 3’s website.

The Movies were Dunkirk and Victoria and Abdul, very different but both thought provoking. Quite a month!

 

 

http://www.umbrellacovermuseum.org

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.

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.