Category Archives: Birthdays

Surprise!

I love surprises; giving them, that is. And in October we pulled off a cracking one. My brother Bob lives in Spain in the Costa del Sol, and with his 70th birthday rapidly approaching, my sisters and I decided to surprise him for his birthday, after checking with my-sister-law Lesley what their arrangements were for this day. After all, we didn’t want to arrive and find they had gone away on a trip themselves to celebrate.

As the three of us hadn’t had a holiday together for two years we agreed we would make this trip a week long, instead of just a couple of days. I’ve been to Spain on many occasions – staying with my brother, Lesley normally arranging flights and Bob meeting us at the airport; and the last time booking through a travel agent ­– but this was the first time we were “going it alone” which meant I had to find a suitable apartment for the three of us; not an easy task. Then there were flights to book, and arranging a taxi from the airport. I found the whole thing very nervy and stressful and couldn’t relax until we were finally in our apartment. The apartment was disappointing in that it was shabby, not at all looking as clean and fresh as the photos showed, but the linen was clean and the beds comfy and we did have a lovely view out over Benalmadena Marina in one direction, and mountains, town, and busy main road and 24 hour bars in the other – very noisy all night. Still, it was only for one week and we were close to the beach and promenade.

Room with a view of Benalmadena Marina.

Bob’s birthday being the next day, we spent a lazy morning, grabbed a bite of lunch then made our way up to the venue. We peeked around the wall to where we knew they would be, spied Lesley who pointed that Bob was inside the bar and in the three of us walked. “Surprise!”

“Surprise!”

“Happy Birthday To You…”

Oh and how it was. The look on Bob’s face, at first disbelief, then confusion, then utter joy at us being there for him was pure magic and a treasure to behold and remember. One of the bar staff, realising who we were, grabbed Bob’s camera and began taking photos; we were too engrossed in our hugs and kisses and tears (mostly Bob’s!) to notice or even think of taking a picture. Everyone (apart from Bob) at the party along with all the local bar owners knew we were coming and made us most welcome. A good time had by all.

After a fabulous day we fell into bed exhausted but woken up a few hours later by lightning. No thunder, just a marvellous nature light show out across the sea. The flashes continued until daybreak when torrential rain came down and thunder like I’ve never heard exploded all around. One clap was so loud, the building shook. We later found out it woke the whole town. Apparently some 1,200 lightning bolts were recorded in the Malaga region that morning. (News report detailing the storm)

The rain stopped but the morning overcast so we ventured by bus into Malaga to explore the city, hoping to take the open-topped bus tour. Bob joined us. When we reached Malaga the rains came again. A quick dash into a restaurant for a coffee whilst it eased. It didn’t, so we made for a shop selling pac-a-macs and thought to explore the magnificent cathedral close by. The queues were horrendous so we decided to take a bus up into Mijas, our favourite town, and have lunch there. There was an hour wait for a bus so instead we went back to Benalmadena to enjoy a meal there. We found out later that most of Malaga had been badly flooded due to the rain, and nearby Torremolinos and Mijas without electricity for most of the day. Good job we didn’t go.

The next day, and for the remainder of our visit, the temperature was back up to 28 degrees, the sun shining gloriously and we managed to spend three days relaxing on the beach ­­– bonus! ­­– as well as partaking in our favourite things when holidaying­­, such as food and Sangria – of which we’ve now become experts.

Enjoyable lunch at Marina on our 1st day.

It was a tearful and sad farewell when it was finally time to take the taxi back to the airport and home but a week I’m sure our brother will look back and remember with love and fondness. As will we. And I will certainly miss the sunrises over the Marina!

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning

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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.

Birthday Girl

15 weeks old

Vivvy at 15 weeks!

It’s hard to believe but Ms. Vivvy will be three years old next week! Wowee, where has the time gone? We adopted her just under two years’ ago and she’s been an absolute joy…and in unexpected ways. She’s not only gorgeous, well-behaved (mostly) and adaptable, but she’s so friendly and cheeky that she’s got quite the reputation here in the village where we live. We’ve lived here over twenty years now and until we started puppy-walking for guide dogs we only really knew a handful of people. That wasn’t helped by the fact we were both working during the day, too. Walking Vivvy has changed all that and now we have made so many lovely new friends and we really enjoy exploring the gorgeous countryside surrounding us.

Almost 3!

Vivvy – almost 3!

Because Vivvy has loads of doggy friends in the village I wanted to throw a ‘four-paws-party’ next weekend to celebrate her birthday and invite her chums along for fun and games in the garden. AJ thinks I’ve taken leave of my senses 🙂 While considering logistics I think he might be right. One of Vivvy’s BFFs is a sensitive little girl who gets stressed about the vagaries of the outside world, and her mum is currently trying to get her to come into our garden so that the girls can play while we enjoy a coffee, but until that happens I can’t consider a party without Vivvy’s special pal in attendance. Then there are a couple of dogs who don’t like each other, one who is very possessive over balls, another who barks incessantly when he gets excited…all in all, maybe a party is a trifle ambitious.

So, I’ll be making a special liver cake (yuk!) for our birthday girl (with candles of course) and she’ll have a special outing to the seaside  (her most favourite place on earth) and extra special hugs from us.

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Proud Daddy!

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July Happenings

July has been hectic even manic at times! A Roller-coaster of a month so far and it’s not over yet!! A red letter day was 10th when my youngest grandaughter Alice aged 10 appeared on the West End Stage, in London, with her Stage School. The Shaftesbury Theatre is at the heart of Theatreland. A coach full of excited performers and their families left the West Country, where we live, and drove to London. Anxious parents (and grandparents) dropped the children, with their teachers, off outside the theatre then we had a whole afternoon to spend in London. We chose to go to Covent Garden which was a short walk away. We made straight for an Italian Restaurant, one of Evie’s favourite places (Alice’s older sister aged 12) where she chose her usual ham and mushroom thin based pizza. Oh and olives to start with mini ciabatta rolls sizzling in garlic butter. Peter (known as BapBap by the grandchildren) and I (NanNan) had a delicious, rich, beef stew with gnocchi and Kate (Mum, our daughter) had roasted vegetable calzone. Perfect to set us all up. The olds also had an excellent glass of red wine each. Feeling suitably revived we wandered the stalls. Street musicians, acrobats, and students from the Royal Opera House sang, danced and performed around the squares. Tourists from many different countries followed their tour guides or just sat absorbing the scene. Sun shone gloriously, we managed to eat various flavoured gelatos to round off the afternoon, oh and fitted in some retail therapy. BapBap carried the bags patiently! Then it was time for the show.

The theatre is beautifully decorated, three tiers soared into the roof but we were in the front of the stalls. 16 different Stage Coach Schools from around the country as well as London gathered to perform, the standard of each school was incredibly high. We cheered loudly when our school came on in the second half but they got a standing ovation at the end of their performance. The theme of their piece was Land Girls (and boys) in the Second World War. The hair was in 40s style, with a modern twist, and uniforms of dungarees and shorts. They looked great. I know I was a proud grandma! They sang a selection of popular songs from the time with back-shots of real people projected onto a screen. Ages ranged from 10 to 16, the polished performance was worthy of that great theatre. FB_IMG_1468739361811Freddie Underwood, the Principal and Director beamed with pride. What a night.

A trip to Wales to see my niece Rhiannon graduate on 14th with a Masters Degree in Education. You have seen photos of Rhiannon in a previous blog. We were pleased to be invited and again proud of her achievements, a single mum who teaches full time.  On 19th her daughter Kerys graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, we were unable to attend but what a pair of amazing women they are. 20160714_161836

The other big occasion was between these two events on 17th when we hosted a family reunion at our small house. Luckily the sun shone as a total of 35 of us gathered (all my immediate family plus some of my cousins) aged from 84 down to 3. It was the first time for 15 years since the majority of us last met, none of the 7 young children were born then. My 5 grandchildren were there aged 3-12, my 8 year old great-nephew, a 6 year old cousin, 3 other great-nephews aged 16 and 18 and Kerys 21. Plus of course their parents and grandparents. Lots of champagne flowed, everyone brought food ranging from vegetarian pies, home-cooked gammon and beef, chicken dishes, salads galore, desserts, cheese, cakes you name it. Not much was left by the time everyone had gone home! The photo gives a small flavour of the day. received_1042511749178271

Wednesday 20th was my big Choir Concert. We sang the song we wrote earlier this year, When Will I See The Sun, for only the second time in public plus a range of other music from old English folk songs to a moving song, Pura Mame, from Figi honouring our ancestors. Another wonderful night, a dear friend was there to cheer me on and might submit a comment!20160720_195234_Burst05[1]

My birthday is on 30th but my son Matthew is 45 on 27th and my grandson Pete is 7 on 1st August so more celebrations to follow! Pete will be in New York with 16 members of the American branch of his family.

August will settle down and we can recharge, maybe.

A New Friend

Hello.  Thought I’d better pop my head over the parapet to introduce myself. I’m new here and rather nervous, but my owner says you are all friendly so I mustn’t be afraid. (Deep breath…)

2016-06-02 20.49.37I’m a travel bear, bought for my new owner, Kit, by a friend because Kit was so broken-hearted when Bunny was bunny-napped whilst on holiday with her and her sisters on the island of Rhodes last September. Bunny was never found, never returned. I heard rumour he didn’t want to come home because he much preferred soaking up the sun all day on a deckchair on the beach. I can’t say I blame him and I do hope for his sake, and for Kit’s, that that’s true. I’d hate to think he’s still spinning round and around in that great washing machine in the sky…

The lady who gave me to Kit told me before she tucked me up in my little cardboard box that I’m going to have a lot of fun because Kit loves to travel and party a lot and that she will always take me wherever she goes. And it sounds like my adventures are going to start soon; in three weeks’ time, she’s off on her travels again. I only hope she remembers to take me. I’m sure she will and, as she also has Thugs Bunny whom she takes places too, I’m going to have a companion so I won’t get lonely when she’s not there. Gosh, I’m so looking forward to my new life instead of being stuck on a glass shelf in a shop in the middle of nowhere (well, in Wales actually, wherever that is) because the other Travel Bears that shared that shelf with me weren’t very sociable and rarely spoke to anyone.

However, between you and me and the backyard fence, I’m not so sure about her family. They’re a funny lot. They’re mad, in fact. Total loons. I’ve reached this conclusion very quickly. You might recall back on Easter Sunday it was Kit’s mother’s 90th birthday. The “proper” family gift was to be a group photo of this grand old lady with her family down four generations, the photo to be enlarged onto a canvas and framed. Well, I caught a glimpse of this photograph and this is it!

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What do you think? Totally mad family, yes. I going to have some fun in the future  with this lot, I can tell.

Oh, I haven’t t2016-06-02 20.50.31old you my name, have I? I’m Mr Tumble. Kit gave me that name because she had great difficulty pulling open the box I was sleeping in when she unwrapped me and I tumbled out to the floor. I’m all right, I didn’t hurt myself. But from that moment she picked me up and gave me a squeeze and cuddle I knew I’d come to a good owner.

Well, that’s it for now and hope you’ll have me back soon to tell you all about my adventures with Kit.

PS: And just to put the record straight… here’s the real family group photo, with Mum in the middle with her four children on the sofa with grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered around. It is a shame that one grandson and great-grandson (little George – who’s not so little now) were unable to make the party, so I’ll have to persuade Kit and her loony sisters to organise a summer bbq so we can do it all again.

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TTFN

Mr Tumble

April Treats!

April has been a mixed month for many of us but I have been very lucky and believe me I am not complacent. I have sent positive thoughts to all of you but thought I’d share some of my April treats with you in the hope they make you smile.

Technically, my April Treats began on 31st March but I claim poetic licence! My dear niece Rhiannon was 50 in January so I bought her a token for a two hours spa session in Bath. Her daughter Kerys, who is 21, came with us too so we made a merry inter-generational trio. Our adventure began at midday when we decided rather than shopping we would go for cocktails. A favourite bar of mine is All Bar One which serves food, coffee, and alcohol all day plus plays jazz or “good” music, my definition, in a lovely atmosphere. We were fascinated with the names of the cocktails and shakes, some of which had a teapot symbol beside them. Our helpful waiter, Alex, explained the teapots were suitable for two people. I expect Prohibition might have been similar but not as colourful. I wanted a change from my usual dacquiri or margaritta so was happily guided by the girls. Rhiannon and I had a teapot of Raspberry Berry Surprise, the base being gin, and Kerys had a “shake” which came in a small milk bottle, the base was vodka. image6They were delicious, especially with the homemade nachos to soak up the alcohol, but we decided not to have more than one as we had a long afternoon ahead! So a good start.

Next stop was the Thermae Spa in Bath, built over some of the old Roman Baths I think, on three floors. We excitedly got changed, donning our robes and slippers (provided) and headed up to the open air pool on the roof. The sun shone gloriously, as the water is a great temperature we floated gently admiring the views of the hills around Bath and the Abbey Courtyard below. On the next floor down are four aromatherapy steam rooms plus a treatment studio. We had previously decided to forgo the treatments and enjoyed the healthy cleansing of the steam rooms, I can’t remember all of them but the eucalyptus was potent! In between each room we had a shower in the mineral shower to refresh ourselves. In the basement is a beautiful pool full of minerals (apparently) and not many people. I gave the jacuzzi a miss and chose just to wallow and enjoy the relaxation. After two hours we showered and changed then on to the food treat.

We were treated by my brother to afternoon tea with prosecco in the Pump Rooms. Wonderful. Linen cloths, crystal chandeliers and classical music quartet playing softly, very civilised. The tea arrived and we were shocked image4as it was impossible to eat it all, we brought some home with us! Delicious doesn’t cover it. Our waitress picked up on birthday celebration so the quartet suddenly began playing Happy Birthday and a gorgeous chocolate muffin with a candle arrived while the staff sang and other customers applauded. Rhiannon didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and was overcome with emotion. She thought we had arranged it but waitress told her they try to do that for special occasions. The staff were professional but so helpful and friendly. A gentleman at the next table took a photo of us image2as a memento. A lady at another table came over to thank us as she had received some bad news so her husband brought her to tea from the hospital and we had made her smile. What a treat, hard to top but …

We came home where Peter, my husband, had another bottle of prosecco chilling and had booked a table in our local Italian Restaurant. We rested and sipped then off the four of us went – more food! It was excellent, usually is, and the waiters also picked up on birthday so sang! What a day. We came home unable to eat or drink another thing and fell into bed happy and content.

Two other treats for me too, one I’ll tell you about next month – Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy in London. Then the Choir Convention in St. George’s Chapel, Brandon Hill, Bristol. We sang our song to 600 other members of choirs from across the West Country. It was a blast!

I hope I’ve made you smile but most importantly I hope you all have a good month of May, perhaps with the odd treat!

www.allbarone.co.uk

www.thermaebathspa.com

www.romanbaths.co.uk/pump-room-restaurant

www.casa-restaurants.co.uk

www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk