Monday Meditation: Mothers and Daughters at Christmas

IMG_4331As I write, it is 2 am on Christmas Eve. I can’t sleep. It’s been a busy and quite an emotional day and I have too many thoughts going around in my head. For the first time in many years, I got to spend a few hours alone with my daughter, whom I miss more than she can understand, and later my elderly mum arrived for a few days with us. We three generations of women chatted and laughed and had our photos taken – although I doubt any of them will see the light of day since we couldn’t get it together long enough for all of us to stop laughing at the same time! The photographer – my husband – wasn’t any better, he was laughing so much at us, his hands were shaking so most of them are out of focus anyway.

But although it’s lovely to have photos to look back on, I don’t need them to remind me of today, I will always remember it. 

I will remember sitting outside in the winter sun having a cup of licorice tea as I waited for R to arrive. I’d had a busy morning making sure everything was ready for Mum, even down to sweeping the moss from the paths so she wouldn’t slip; I was over-excited about seeing my daughter, who works so hard and has such a busy time with three teenagers that I only see her three times a year, but never on her own. I took a few minutes out of my busy schedule to breathe and enjoy the warmth and brilliance of the sun in a cloudless blue sky, which had been absent for so long. It was a welcome sight and it made me smile.

I laugh as I recall how I had planned to meet her on the drive as she pulled in and give her a big hug as soon as she got out of the car, only to have her rush past me calling ‘I need a wee!’ and dash off to the bathroom. (She would not be impressed if she knew I had included that gem, but she doesn’t have time to read my blog so I’m safe). As soon as she returned, she said, ‘Shall we do that again?’ and I got my hug before she emptied the car of all the items she was returning from her brother or donating to our household in yet another clear-out of her home. She is very much the minimalist and nothing outstays its welcome.

We sat outside and she told me all about the party they’d had the previous evening, laughing at the compliments she’d received from her guests for all the food she must have spent hours cooking, which was actually delivered to her door by the very nice man from Waitrose!

After a while, I took her to look at the sheltered housing community where we are hoping to get Mum settled sometime in the next year – I need constant reassurance from my family that I am doing the right thing and she gave it the thumbs up. A man was walking his little dog, which wanted to say hello, and he told us his mum lived there and how it was a close-knit, friendly community and that his mum was really happy there. I was heartened by his comments.

We then went round the corner to Waitrose – how did we manage without them? – to choose some flowers for Mum, momentarily shocked to see that all the beautiful  Christmas bouquets from the day before had disappeared,  but we found one bunch of creamy-white roses in bud that did the job. We returned home for lunch of homemade carrot and sweet potato soup and waited for Mum to arrive.

I will never forget the look of sheer joy on my mother’s face when she greeted her grand-daughter, whom she hadn’t seen for two years. Or the long hug, and the giggling, girlish chatter of my daughter, taking me back to before she became a wife and mum, a coper in difficult circumstances, a hardworking exams officer and foster mother. Watching my mum and my daughter teasing and joking, my daughter laughing so much she had tears in her eyes, was present enough for me.

My mum is very deaf and very stubborn, she refuses to wear hearing aids and misses a lot or mishears, which can lead to some amusing conversations at times, she forgets easily and becomes confused, but today seeing her laugh so much and enjoy my daughter’s company took years off her and it was a sight to behold. I smile at the memory.

We had dinner together, a vegetarian curry cooked by my husband, took our photos and then it was goodbye to my daughter as she returned home to discover what havoc her boys had wreaked while she was away. I am sure there would have been nothing left in the fridge had there not been a Waitrose delivery that afternoon! (I’m really not getting any commission for this extended advert!)

Mum and I spent the rest of the evening watching first a Michael Ball concert – not my cup of tea, but she really likes him – and then an André Rieu concert, both at ear-bursting decibels (‘it wasn’t that loud’) before we called it a day.

And this day would have made Christmas for me, except I get to do it all over again on Wednesday with my son and his family and then my daughter’s family will be descending en masse for New Year’s weekend. A week of musical beds ensues!

I am very fortunate to have family willing to travel distances to spend special occasions with us, and that my husband is willing and able to make the long journey to pick up Mum and take her home again. I know there are many who aren’t able to be with those they care about or who are isolated for whatever reason, and I never take my family for granted.

However you spend Christmas, I wish you peace and good health. And thank you for all the support you have given me this year, I appreciate all your comments and encouragement.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

And now I’m off back to bed!

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Invisible Disabilities Week – My Story

IMG_4186I just learned today that it is Invisible Disabilities Week. As someone who has spent her whole adult life with an invisible disability, I thought I would share this ‘short’  anecdote on what it is like to look strong and healthy but struggle with a pain and disability that is not obvious to the casual observer. I know I promised short, but this wasn’t planned and you know me, this could go on a bit, for which I apologise in advance – but there are some nice photos too (and yes, that is a packet of crisps in front of me!)

Many moons ago, in a county far, far away, I had a prolapsed disc that refused to heal. I was in my early twenties with a toddler son, had spent a couple of months in bed on the advice of my doctor but could not get moving. I did, however, read the complete Thomas Hardy oeuvre and while doing so, discovered my son was teaching himself to read when he looked at a paragraph containing lots of t’s, p’s and s’s and announced, ‘Look, Mummy, that’s like Top of the Pops!’ (A popular BBC chart programme).

 I had three weeks in hospital on traction where even hospital staff would leave my meals by the side of my bed while I lay flat on my back unable to reach, because I was young and they were preoccupied with the older patients. Eventually, I was sent home with a steel reinforced surgical corset and instructions not to spend a lot of time sitting. A few weeks later, I had my check-up appointment at the hospital. There had been no improvement. Despite the ‘no sitting’ command, I was kept waiting – and sitting – for two hours for a five minute chat that ended with ‘come back in a few weeks’.

Afterwards, I had to wait in reception for a sitting ambulance to take me home. Unfortunately, it was almost lunchtime but there was one ambulance leaving before the lunch-break and I inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. I was in excruciating pain, all the while knowing that things were going to get worse not better for my trip to the doctor (a constant theme in my life) and all this sitting was doing me more harm than good.

A driver came over. He had one seat left. He looked at the elderly lady next to me with a stick. She had told me she had been to the audio clinic to have her hearing checked. He looked at me. Young, smiling, long shiny hair. He chose the elderly lady.

I wanted to cry. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next hour, possibly longer, before another ambulance left. Not only was I in pain, but despite the corset, I didn’t have enough strength to sit upright, I kept tilting.

I eventually made it home about 3 p.m., having left home at 8.30 a.m. Up until that point, I hadn’t sat for more than half an hour at a time in several months. The pain was so severe I almost passed out before I could get upstairs to bed. My poor excited son had to make do with the briefest of hugs before the painkillers took hold and knocked me out.

That was a long time ago. During the interim decades, things have improved and got worse and improved in a monotonous recycled pattern including surgery, torturous treatments and therapies, car accidents and so on. My overall health is much improved since I changed my diet and lifestyle, gave up prescription drugs that never helped and always made things worse, and took my health into my own hands. However, despite seasonal improvements during warm weather, I have never regained my strength and full mobility.

IMG_4182And yet… just yesterday, my elderly mum was lauding my efforts to look after her during her stay at the weekend, saying ‘It’s lovely to have my daughter back, back to normal!’ A smile and a talent for acting work wonders in reassuring others, but they also help make a disability invisible and raise expectations.

29935072_UnknownOn Saturday, we took Mum out to see the barges on the canal. She had a lovely time, sitting in the sun eating ice-cream – where unexpectedly, an owl and a hawk where among the patrons! – happy that the three of us were able to have a rare outing together. I usually stay at home.

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29935168_UnknownShe went home next morning and I spent the rest of the day sorting out all her files (with the help of a green smoothie of course).

This morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. My whole body felt like I had been kicked by a mule, my back was on fire, I had no strength, I was exhausted despite twelve hours in bed. I couldn’t get dressed. When I did get up, about 11.30 a.m., I sat with a heated pad on my back while my husband brought me herbal anti-inflammatory drops and an anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric juice.

Two hours later, I am dressed and writing this post. I will soon be making phonecalls on my mother’s behalf. I will call her to see if she is ok after the journey home. I won’t of course tell her how I’m feeling.

As someone recently said to me, we have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives. If someone is rude, irritable, in a bad mood, unwilling to contribute help to some event you’re organising or collect your kids from school etc. please bear in mind they may be suffering a devastating migraine attack or a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis; they may have an undiagnosed brain tumour, they may have insufferable chronic pain, MS, ME, or any number of invisible conditions. If they are behaving ‘inappropriately’, they may have Asperger’s, anxiety, dementia, having a panic attack, depression or on the verge of going into a diabetic coma.

And most of all, just because someone with a disability or chronic illness can do something one day, doesn’t mean at all that they can do it repeatedly, or even ever again. My mum thinks that everything I do when she is here is what I do every day. She has no appreciation of the superhuman effort I make when she – or anyone else – is here, to make her stay comfortable, to give her something to tell her friends about, some nice memories. But once she has left, I am back in bed, desperate for rest and relief.

Please note: This was written on the spur of the moment as a plea on behalf of others, not for sympathy. I am used to the ups and downs of my life and make the most of it. I am a positive person who laughs a lot and I enjoy seeing Mum doing things she wouldn’t otherwise get to do and I know it means a lot to her that I join in. 

Ps It did get a bit long, didn’t it? Oops…

Feeling Overwhelmed: World Mental Health Day

Monday Meditation: Osteopathy, Rest & Recuperation in Nature

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!

The Mood Booster: Raw Chocolate Mulberry, Banana & Walnut Smoothie

Copyright: Chris McGowan

British Humour At Its Best In The Face of Blind Ignorance

This is a health and wellness blog and I rarely venture into current affairs except to express compassion for the victims of terror attacks or homelessness etc.  However, I have to comment on this tweet posted by an American man to justify Americans carrying guns: he actually tweeted that England has a terror attack every hour! As some wag replied: We don’t even get a bus every hour! Now, instead of being trolled or inundated with expressions of outrage, the replies to his statement are actually hilarious and get funnier as the thread goes on. As well as feeling proud of my fellow Brits, I get a smug satisfaction in knowing that this guy’s feed will be clogged to the gunnels with these replies. Please read if you can, it will  make your day and make you proud to be one of the many who  don’t share his viewpoint.

My justification for posting this is that it will make you feel better knowing that there are people in the world with a sense of humour and humanity, and laughter is good for you.

Update:

The man in question has since deleted his tweet but here are a few screenshots of some of the replies to give you a flavour, the tea and terrier ones went on for quite some time.  Having later looked at his own feed, I wouldn’t recommend it, it’s really disgusting and not worth the negative energy.

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Some Fine Tudor Buildings – And Albert’s Shed!

When we went to Shrewsbury recently for my birthday lunch, we got lost. And when we made the return trip home, we got lost. Some helpful drivers assisted in rectifying our poor navigation by pomping their horns and making hand gestures. We did eventually find the vegan bistro and we also made it home in one piece – just.

While stopping and starting and turning around, I took some snaps of some of the Tudor buildings for which Shrewsbury is famous. Unfortunately I had left my camera at home and these were taken with my iPhone. The light was appalling, it poured down just after we left, so they don’t present this county town at its best, but do give a little flavour of the birthplace of Charles Darwin. There are over 660 listed medieval and Tudor timber-framed buildings from when the town was a centre for wool trading.

Here are a few: IMG_3878IMG_3875IMG_3821IMG_3814IMG_3819IMG_3788IMG_3874IMG_3820

Oh, and Albert’s Shed – I have no idea who Albert is or what’s in his shed, but to have one in the middle of Shrewsbury is pretty impressive!

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Two Beds, A Birthday & A Bouquet of Flowers

If you’ve read The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force! you might be interested in how things turned out, after the parquet was restored – that is, how the room was finished, and Mum and the family’s reaction.

Here is the finished room:

It is no mean feat decorating and furnishing a room that has to be used by toddlers, teens, twenty-somethings and my 87 year old mum! In its previous incarnation, it was painted in aqua and mostly used by the older boys, but more recently, it is increasingly used to sleep in by my youngest grand-daughter and my mum. The boys these days come on day-trips and mostly use it as a bolt-hole once they’ve raided the fridge on arrival!

They wanted white walls – but they’ve been brainwashed by their minimalist mother! My grand-daughter likes purple!! But she is three. I opted for a very pale yellow.  I find yellow welcoming and uplifting but not so energising that you can’t sleep. It makes me smile.

My mum hates yellow.

She also dislikes wooden floors.

She was coming for her birthday visit and things were not looking promising.

There was the problem of the bed. The old bed had been our daughter’s: it was her half of the set of pine bunk beds she shared with her brother. All the grandchildren and my mum had used it. It had a memory foam mattress and was very comfortable. However, when my husband took it apart, we were appalled to find that it was cracked around one of the bolts holding it together and a slat was also cracked. I dread to think what could have happened when Mum used it. It was time it retired.

We thought we had come up with the perfect solution and were very proud of our find: a wooden bed that had a trundle bed underneath so the younger boys no longer had to sleep on the floor, and 3 storage drawers. The existing mattress fit perfectly, I bought a new duvet cover and some colourful cushions. But as soon as I saw the completed construction, I knew it was too high for Mum. It was the night before she was due to arrive when the room was not quite completed, but enough that she could use it. There was no option but to cross our fingers and hope that our only other alternative would work if my fears proved correct.

She loved the floor. She spent some time admiring it and asking questions. We told her the whole story of how we’d discovered it, the difficulties in restoring it and how long it had taken. She listened and ackowledged. We were prepared for the next question but it still made us laugh:

‘What kind of carpet are you going to put over it?!’ Oh, Mum. Every one of our neighbours is green with envy at our new floor. The rest of the family love it. Only Mum would want to carpet over it. It’s a generational thing. For her, wooden floors are associated with having a low income, you had bare boards or at best lino over it. Fitted carpets were the height of luxury and meant you were in a higher income bracket. She really can’t understand our fascination with wood. She likes the feel of carpet. We put a rug by her bed (backed by non-slip underlay) and she was ok.

The next hurdle was the colour.  I was ready for her next question: ‘What colour is this?’ ‘Vanilla, Mum, vanilla ice-cream,’ I lied. ‘Oh, right, it’s very nice.’

And so to the final hurdle, the bed. I could sense her nervousness and building anxiety as she looked at it and I stepped in to reassure her. I acknowledged that it was too high and we weren’t able to change it, but we had a suggestion: my husband would dismantle the single bed upstairs and bring it down for the duration of her stay. This we did and will have to do every time she comes to visit. One final final problem (or so I thought): she  couldn’t have it positioned with the headboard in the alcove under the window as she didn’t feel comfortable getting in and out of bed on that side. (At this point, there was no chest of drawers in the alcove). So it had to be positioned with the headboard in the middle of the room.

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But we were still not done with the bed issues. I took one look and said to my husband, ‘I know what’s going to happen, the pillows are going to slip through the gap in the headboard and end up on the floor.’ My husband was of a mind to cross our fingers once more and see, we might get away with it.

Of course, we didn’t! So next day, he found a large piece of cardboard and attached it to the headboard with bicycle ties! Not the look I was going for, but it worked!

She slept well in it and was happy with the arrangement.

Phew!

Mum had a quiet birthday, watching her new André Rieu dvd, eating Carrot, Apple & Spice Cakes with Cashew Frosting and curry (not together!)

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Mum’s birthday was complete when she received flowers from my brother who has recently emigrated to the US, she was convinced she would never receive flowers from him again – or indeed, see or hear from him.

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The day after her birthday, she was returning home, but not before the Littles arrived to see Gran on her birthday, and to inspect their new room. They loved it! They especially liked the pull-out trundle bed and all the drawers with their toys in.

We can never have much of an overlap of visits by Gran and great-grandchildren as there is too much potential for tripping over racing toddlers and racing cars! Also, these days Mum tires easily and her deafness means she can never follow the conversation. So we keep visits short, just time for lunch together and then my husband took her home, while I got to spend the afternoon reading stories as well as catching up with my oldest grandson, newly returned from working in France – oh, and given there was no Gran or daughter-in-law present, we took a sneaky look at the Tour de France too!

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Ps The painting by the window was done by my eldest grandson when he was still at school and the stars above the picture rail were made by my three year old grand-daughter, who gave them to me for Christmas. The boomerang above the door was a gift from our Aussie friends to our son when he was small and has been there since we moved here 30 years ago when he occupied this room. There is a smaller one above the door in our daughter’s old room. No-one can bring themselves to remove them, a small part of them is still ‘home’.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

When you are in a good mood and in pain

Having lived a life of intense pain through a series of injuries, it was refreshing to read such a positive post from Nikki on smiling through chronic pain and challenging the stereotype of misery by leading her life as positively and happily as possible, even though it often means people think she has experienced some miracle cure! I can identify with this. I remember many years ago having a visit from friends who hadn’t seen me for some time but knew of my physical difficulties. They were astounded to find me sitting at the table surrounded by course materials when they arrived, in the middle of writing an essay. I was excited to see them after all that time, I was smiley, sociable and happy despite being in appalling pain. They were very confused. It just didn’t compute. As Nikki points out, smiling and living positively is a way of coping with pain not evidence that you are cured or no longer need support. In my case, it is also a means of reassuring those around me, that they don’t need to worry or tiptoe around me. Furthermore,  I am not my disability, I have a personality and that personality chooses to be positive and greet you with a welcoming smile, despite what’s going on inside. Being in a good mood is contagious, pass it on! 😊
Please visit and comment on Nikki’s original post.

Brainless Blogger

I may be chronically ill but I am also me. And me_ Well I am not afraid to be goofy or weird.So be you!

Sometimes you are in pain and you are in a very good mood. And isn’t a contradiction. It is life with chronic pain. I have a migraine today and it isn’t a pleasant one but I am in a good mood for no particular reason. I have also rested, used ice, migraine balm and a few other things to maintain this level of pain. And I am currently writing this post listening to ABBA gently in the background, because it is in my Groovy playlist. And I am in a Groovy mood. Gently, because I am rather sound sensitive. And unfortunately head bobbing is something I cannot do. So sort of sucks that migraines are ‘difficult’ when you are in a good mood such as they limit you substantially. All the fun I could be having and certainly cannot. Not with this one.  But chilling to some good tunes will…

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My Burnt Quinoa and a Yummy Banana Chia Pudding!

Because I think it’s important to show the disasters as well as the successes, here’s a quick post to show you things don’t always go as you expect in a health/food blogger’s world:

Here’s what happened to my dinner last night:

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It was supposed to be a fruity/spicy quinoa dish, with cumin, ginger, mushrooms, dates, sweetcorn and some veggies on the side, but even the most dedicated foodie can get distracted by the cycling at the Giro d’Italia! It practically needed a chisel to remove!

Here’s what I actually had!

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Unfortunately, I lost the mushrooms as they were in with the quinoa and there was no time to redo it as the steamed veggies were ready, so the chopped dates and some pinenuts were added to the steamed carrot, leeks, sugar snap peas, asparagus and sweetcorn, with a little alfalfa on the side. It was surprisingly good.

But just to make sure I wasn’t going to be malnourished I had a lovely banana chia pudding afterwards 😉

I forgot to take a photo but the ingredients were:

banana, a little coconut water, chia seeds, soya yogurt, baobab powder, ground cashews, all blended, and served with a sprinkling of chopped medjool date, chopped cashews & dessicated coconut. Yum!

Here’s a video showing you how to cook perfect quinoa (although it’s a little overcooked for my taste, I don’t like it so soft and mushy!).

Quinoa is a complete protein and can be used in savoury or sweet dishes, you can also buy quinoa flakes for muesli-type breakfasts or smoothies. It needs some spices or sweetness added to give it flavour, or you can cook it in vegetable stock. It’s also gluten-free.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Being Thankful During Difficult Times.

I have so many things to be thankful for. I know that and am grateful. For one thing, my family.

I had planned an amusing post about the Easter weekend visit from our littlest grandchildren, their first Easter with us. We had lots of fun and the weather co-operated long enough to have an egg hunt in the garden on the Sunday morning. (More later). Then, that evening something horrible happened – not to us, thankfully, but to our young neighbour. Three ambulances with flashing lights were there for two hours, but he was gone. He was 34 years old and leaves a wife and two young children, one so young he will never have any memory of this time or his dad, the other much older who will remember and miss him forever.

This sad event has affected me very badly. I can’t stop thinking about them and how they’re going to cope, and if they’ll even be able to stay in their home. Fortunately, they have a lot of close family around them, supporting them.

It took me most of the week to realise that the depth of my sadness and growing depression was not caused just by the shock but was mostly about the young children. It brought back memories of when my brother and father died suddenly and tragically, in separate events, and I had to process it all whilst still caring for my young children and trying to keep life as normal as possible for them, when it was anything but for me. I found it incredibly hard. This realisation brought on a bout of sobbing I never thought I’d experience again. Neither of them knew my brother (my son was just a toddler and my daughter not yet conceived), my daughter doesn’t remember my dad. (You can read about him in the Original Writing section of the menu).

During that following week, I heard of three others who had lost their lives – all this whilst also sending positive thoughts to three friends who are undergoing serious medical treatments, and fielding repetitive calls from my elderly mum.

I shelved my Easter post idea, I hadn’t the heart and it didn’t seem appropriate.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump.

I had no desire to post, no inspiration, no energy. I ate copious amounts of (raw) chocolate.

Help arrived in the form of my brother and sister-in-law. They are about to emigrate to the US and are doing their farewell tour. It was touch and go as to whether I could get through without any waterworks! I really am extremely happy, and indeed excited, for them as they are moving to be near two of their children and their three young grandchildren. My mum on the other hand is very unhappy and convinced she will never see them again. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince her otherwise.

We had a busy, lively and very chatty 3 days. Lots of eating, lots of talking – till 2 am – we even played a silly game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? ( I won, not that it was a competition ;-)). My sister-in-law loved walking in the surrounding countryside, fulfilled her desire to have a ride in our Morris Minor and learned how to make a wholewheat loaf from scratch (no breadmaker involved!). My brother brought an ancient photo album of us when we were kids that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and which brought back lots of memories, a few tears and some laughter. Oh,  and we watched The Tour de Yorkshire cycling!

The tea towel was an attempt by my brother to hide his shiny pate whilst I took the photo, and the cardigan over my husband’s head was a hundredth attempt to see if the night-time screen on his iBooks page was working!! My sister-in-law is pretend-stabbing Heston Blumenthal’s Persian Christmas Pudding, which we had been saving for them since Christmas. They loved it. My husband is from Yorkshire and decided to don the new top our son (from Lancashire) gave him and go for a ride during the early stages of the race, no doubt imagining ‘if only…’ The Carrot, Apple & Spice Cakes with Cashew Frosting were a nice afternoon treat.

We ate homemade soup with homemade rolls; watermelon, curry and brown basmati rice with a green salad; pasta with tomato, veg and red lentil sauce, vegan parmesan cheeze (soaked almonds patted dry and ground with nutritional yeast and a pinch of dry mustard) and green salad, and a lovely fruit salad with vanilla CoYo coconut yogurt. We made a family-sized banana berry smoothie with tiger nut milk for breakfast (but no cacao, see Paul’s ‘Too Much Cacao’ Banana Baobab Smoothie!). The weather was just mild enough to enjoy it outside. The apple and cherry trees were in blossom, the forget-me-nots were making a show and the birds were very busy and very loud!

By the time they left, my physical energy was exhausted (in a good way), but my spiritual energy was restored. I felt like my old self again. Yes, my eyes had misted over when we had waved them off, but mostly I was happy and rejuvenated. We had FaceTimed all three of their children and spoken to their American grandchildren. We Skyped my son and chatted to my daughter on the phone. They were relaxed, amusing and chatty despite he taking time out from a busy working day and she being in the midst of invigilating exams – a tiring and stressful time of year – and it was wonderful to hear her so. They made arrangements to visit them too before their final departure.

So, now I feel up to posting some photos from Easter Sunday:

Raw chocolate crisp nests with homemade marzipan eggs were quickly separated and split up as Littlest Little liked the eggs and Elder Little liked the chocolate! Outside, it quickly became apparent that Littlest Little had a thing about silver eggs: he rejected them in favour of the red and gold ones, but his sister was happy to oblige!

They managed to find all the eggs and make it inside before the heavens opened – I wish I could post the picture of Littlest Little with more chocolate around his mouth than in it! The Easter bunny was extremely generous and had even handmade and wrapped all the silver eggs himself;-) It was a lovely, amusing time (oh, apart from the catastrophic flood from a burst radiator in the dining room just as dinner was about to be served! Our son was an absolute hero, stemming the tide for nearly 3 hours before a plumber arrived).

Thank you, family.

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Dad and Dave’s cherry tree currently in blossom

Rest in peace, Jamie.

Also published on Bernadette’s 52 Weeks of Thankfulness page over on Haddon Musings

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ducks, Daves and Detours

Some of you may have read my post An Impromptu Mother’s Day Adventure or How We Survived the Vortex that is Our Local Bermuda Triangle …, and were kind enough to say you found it amusing, well, here’s a little sequel for you…

But first, I must tell you that the other day someone used the search phrase ‘how far away from Fiji is the Bermuda Triangle?’ and guess where they were directed? Yep, my Mother’s Day post! If you’re reading this too, I am so sorry I couldn’t be more helpful answering your question.

On with the sequel: we have established that my husband has a reputation for going off road, or at least off the road he’s meant to be travelling, and ending up somewhere else. What you may not know, is that he’s also terrible with names, and since he knows an incomprehensible number of Daves, he tends to use this generic name whenever he gets stuck. This is relevant later on.

IMG_1448After the earlier post, he invited me to accompany him to his bike-fit session at a bike shop called Bicycles By Design. The shop is 15 miles away – more or less, depending on whether or not HB is doing the navigating: when we did our recon last week, it was 30 miles away because we made several unplanned detours! As you may recall from the earlier post, a bike fit involves setting up your bike to fit your particular physical quirks so that you can ride in comfort and avoid those niggling aches and pains from riding in the wrong position.

As exciting as that prospect was, I politely declined, citing hair washing and nail filing, and I looked forward to having a few hours on my own playing indie (or Indian as hb insists on calling it) music very loud, while eating raw chocolate almonds* and bantering on social media. No car keys to find, no bike parts to admire, no iPad problems to sort out (despite spending years working with computers, he just can’t fathom how to tweet or message on Instagram).

Friday morning came and all went according to plan. Hb left early for his bike-fit. It was a lovely morning and I had breakfast outside, while listening to the birds and watching the bees. Bliss.

He arrived home, happy with his bike adjustments and no impromptu sightseeing – or so he reckoned. However, on putting his bike away, he noticed Dave, the bike-fit guy, had left a shop quick-release on the back wheel instead of replacing his own. He had to take it back. He was going to have a quick bite to eat and set off. The sun was out, the bike shop is on the river, it was going to be a quick in and out, so I decided I would go with him.

Surprisingly, we had an uneventful drive and pulled up outside the bike shop. It was in a lovely setting, part of an old building that used to be the china works but is now a Youth Hostel, café and the bike store. The cherry blossom was breathtaking, the sun was shining and it was so quiet. Just the river flowing behind us and the occasional whoosh of beating duck wings flying by.

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Hb went in and returned the quick-release to Dave, then we spent some time by the river and the canal which runs alongside it which used to serve the china works with its bottle kilns, tar tunnel and tracks, but is now home to a large colony of mallard ducks.

 Bottoms up!

We realised it was getting late and we needed to set off home before the rush hour.

First, though, we had to find our way out of the vortex of these 4 small towns!

I don’t really need to say it do I? We got lost. Again. No, we still don’t have a Sat Nav. In all fairness, the signage in this area is woeful, and that’s putting it mildly. Several times, you arrive at a junction and the sign will indicate that the town you are aiming for is in fact in both directions at once! So you ‘discuss’ the alternatives and whichever you choose, inevitably end up having to go back on yourself, spinning round and round the local plughole until it finally spits you out, dizzy and exhausted, and barely speaking to each other, as both are adamant their way was the right way!

On the way there, we had passed what looked like some lovely public gardens and I suggested that on the way back we take a look to see if Mum would be able to manage a visit – she is coming to stay for a few days soon. Needless to say, we couldn’t find them. They just disappeared. I had made a mental note of whereabouts they were, I could describe the row of cottages nearby, the railway bridge and so on, all of which we found, but no gardens. Apparently sucked into the vortex.

By this time, we were both tired and hungry so we agreed to give in and made it home without further issues.

Apart from the energy-sapping journey home, it was a lovely afternoon. Next time though, can we just borrow the Tardis?

Oh, and Dave the bike man? His name was Rob!

*Highly recommended, but be warned, very moreish!

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The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

An Impromptu Mother’s Day Adventure or How We Survived the Vortex that is Our Local Bermuda Triangle …

28064096_Unknown… Actually, the fact that it was Mother’s Day was almost incidental. The adventure wasn’t planned because it was a special day. It just happened to coincide with the clocks going forward, Spring conjuring up a spectacularly sunny day, and Hb wanting to scout out a bike place some distance away for a bike fit session the following week. (For those of you who are not members of a family whose lives revolve entirely around bikes and their mechanical whatnots, this does not mean getting sweaty in a large room on a stationary bike, but having your bike adjusted to give you the optimum fit, thereby (hopefully) avoiding any aches and pains in neck, back, hips or knees).

28063888_UnknownI don’t know about you, but I always feel discombobulated when the clocks go forward, it takes me ages to adjust. I got up at my usual hour which was now halfway-through-everyone-else’s-morning time, but before I could reach the shower, my favourite Daughter phoned me for a Mother’s Day chat. (I have only one really). Having been given a cup of tea in bed, she was instantly abandoned by her boys in favour of a Minecraft game and as I was in the role of bike widow, we were able to have a rare, uninterrupted natter until eventually son number two demanded she put the phone down as he’d brought her breakfast in bed. It would be some time before I got mine.

28063760_UnknownI had my shower, then tried to phone my mum, but someone else had got in first, she was busy throughout 20 minutes of trying. I knew she could be in for the long haul and I was starving. A Papaya & Pear Smoothie* beckoned. My whole morning was already awry, when Hb announced his plan for a quick drive to the bike place and asked if I’d like to come. Normally, I would politely decline on the basis that I planned to spend the day watching paint dry or filing my nails, but it was a lovely day, I was going stir-crazy and there was a possibility of seeing water, flowers, trees and birds along the way, so I decided to take the smoothie and go.

Now, normally when we go off in the car I make sure we have plenty of food and drink, a chair, cushions, jigsaw (well, maybe not), because inevitably a ‘short drive’, or a ‘quick there and back’, turns into a ‘why don’t we take the most circuitous scenic route and get lost again’ trip! We have no Sat Nav. We got lost in this same vortex last summer and I should have known better when Hb’s response to taking food was ‘we won’t need it, it’s just a quick-there-and-back.’ Famous last words.

There are four towns popular with tourists that form our local Bermuda Triangle. (I know, but you know what I mean). We can never go straight to the one we want without going round and through the others first, then having found it, we can’t find our way out of it again! Last time, we pirouetted in so many concentric circles, we resembled water going down a plughole and I thought we might end up Down Under.

This morning, or rather lunchtime as it now was, we set off, only to put in some early practice by instantly returning home via a circuit of our block. Hb didn’t feel confident without a map. He had one on his iPad. We came back to get it. It made no difference. The other towns were well signposted, but we couldn’t find our destination for love nor money. I kept saying helpful things like ‘we’ve been past this already’ and ‘I remember seeing this earlier…’

Beeeep. What’s that? Some gauge or microchip had registered a drop in tyre pressure. We needed to look for a garage. Great. Now two things we needed to look for. I, and three dogs, spent 20 minutes in the sun in cars with windows ineffectively cracked open for non-existent air but plenty of petrol fumes, while our drivers checked oil, tyre pressure or bought armfuls of snacks. None of us was in a chatty mood when they finished. The car still noted a drop in tyre pressure.

We were just about ready to turn around and head for home when I got very over-excited at a small signpost indicating left down a narrow road, and I couldn’t get the words out quickly enough as I realised Hb hadn’t noticed. Too late. The local cycle club, of which he is a member, will never appreciate his decision to carry on to the next layby to turn around, rather than mow them down like skittles, as would have happened if he’d responded to my hysterical navigation!

Having arrived in the town, and successfully winning a game of chicken over a single lane ‘Weak Bridge’ to reach a car park, I was so glad we’d persisted as I then spent a peaceful hour sitting outside a lovely old pub on the river in the sunshine, watching the water and the world go by.

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The Weak Bridge, a single-lane iron structure that was just the width of a medium-sized car. BMWs were a bit of a push and their drivers – young and male – extremely rude and impatient! 

 

 

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The water was flowing quite fast, I almost missed this shot of the canoeist 

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After trying to convince me a floating log was Nessie’s cousin shimmying by, Hb strolled off to recce the town for the bike shop. This is always a mistake. He always gets lost. He found his way back just before I sent out the St Bernards, by which time my stomach was telling me I had missed one or other, if not several, of the various meals/snacks/juices it was used to, and a bottle of fizzy water was not going to cut it. I knew we should’ve packed proper sustenance. Being vegan and gluten-free makes it extremely difficult to find emergency rations when your blood sugar starts diving. And now we had to navigate the Triangle again and avoid being sucked into its vortex.

First, though, I had a lovely if somewhat frustrating not-Mother’s Day chat with my son (the signal kept disappearing). He always calls on Mother’s Day but pretends it’s just a normal everyday call because I’ve spent decades telling them I don’t need over-priced cards and flowers to make me feel special. He was just back from a 110 km ride in wind, sun and dust – see what I mean about my family of bike enthusiasts, he does this for fun!  (See the link below to read more about his Mother’s Day surprises).

After a couple of wrong turns, we made it home unscathed. I had my juice, phoned my mum, everything returned to normal.

Hb plans to do this 30 miles-each-way journey next week on his bike. I’ll put the St Bernards on standby.

The car has an appointment with its mechanic.

For those of you who may not have seen it, here’s a link to last year’s light-hearted Mother’s Day post  A Tribute to My Children

*See my Instagram feed for the ingredients @pearsnotparsnips

And here for your delectation and amusement is The Pushbike Song!

Copyright: Chris McGowan