Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A Lovely Christmas

Its all gone quiet.

My brother, his wife and his 4 gorgeous children have left after staying with us over Christmas. The house has been full of fun, laughter, chatting, playing, eating, drinking, the 'Pwshhhhht' of the cousin's new soda stream, the ratatat of the toy machine gun and the glorious singing of everyone on the 9 year old's karaoke Wii game.

Its been a lovely few days...apart from the day of hell when we got back from hols to find the house completely frozen - but hey - the warmth of family soon defrosted the house...and we're pretty much back to normal now!
Walking off all the nosh and booze - my big brother, his wife and me - the wifey with all the hair!

A fab Christmas - thanks to all who made it so special

Monday, 27 December 2010

Elephant Shower

I've had a bit of time in between scoffing turkey and chocolates to download a few of our holiday memories.
The video is the highlight of the trip, but there are more photos at the bottom of the page

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas. I really have had a ball.

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Travellers Return....To an Igloo!

We are home after a fantastic week in India. We all thoroughly enjoyed it - especially the kids, and we packed in so much in one week that it felt like we'd been away for two!

We played footy and cricket with this gang of kids every night

6 year old made her own little pal - Pushpa

A trip to the barbers - the boys had their hair cut, and we all had a fabulous head massage!

Mapusa market

Washing an elepahant
Getting a good elephant shower soaking!

Unfortunately, we returned from 30 degree sunshine to minus 4 million and arrived home to find that the house had turned into an igloo whilst we'd been away! Every single pipe had frozen - showers were popped off the walls with big ice pops sticking out, toilet cysterns were complete blocks of solid ice, and the heating system was also totally frozen! What a nightmare...it was FREEZING! and the cousins were arriving the next day...

...Good job I have an amazing husband.

Yesterday, he managed to defrost the pipes, fix 17 leaks, AND get the heating going. If we'd called a plumber, it would have cost thousands. He's a complete star!

So we can now return to thinking about our wonderful holiday memories! The cousins have arrived, the house is now warm and cosy and we can finally get a wash and enjoy the festive season!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Balti's, Beer and a Bloody Good Time in Brum

Sunday 12th December 2010

Well - I'm back now, and I've had the most wonderful trip ever!

We visited loads of our old places. When I first arrived off the train though, I didn't recognise ANYthing about Birmingham. In fact I started wondering if I really had spent 3 years of my life there after all! The city centre has changed so much in 20 years - no more concrete!
Near the Halls of Residence. Pete, Nikers, Suze, Adie and me.

However, when we explored the Birmingham uni campus and halls of residence, memories soon came flooding back and we remembered stories, moments and people, buried deep in our minds, that had us roaring with laughter.
Outside our Sports Centre where we spent MUCH of our time
Niki nearly killed me 20 years ago by pushing me off this 8ft wall. We re-enacted the moment!

We visited our old houses, the OVT pub, and had a balti in our favourite curry house - the Dilshad - complete with their speciality - the enormous 'duvet' naan!
My housemates - outside the lovely 968 Pershore Road

At the end of the trip, I was just about to say farewell to everyone, when we spotted one of our old PE student buddies - Debs! She was a 'mature' student when we were there and we all loved her. We hadn't seen her for 20 years! It was lovely to have a speedy catch up with her!
Oh My God - Its our ol' pal, Debs!

A fantastic weekend girls - thank you for being such wonderful friends - I love you all - and look forward to the next time we can all be together again...whenever that may be!
Me and my my gorgeous pals - thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Off to Memory Lane

Friday 10th December 2010

When I finished my degree, I packed a red rucksack, bought a round-the-world plane ticket and made straight for New Zealand with my uni pal, Pete. We travelled there for 2 months before running out of money - completely! Thankfully, I managed to get a job as a nanny in Sydney, and after 6 months of working managed to save enough to travel home via Malaysia and Thailand. I was away for 12 months, and returned with nowt but the red rucksack - and lots of great memories.

I always remember packing that red rucksack the night before I left for the BIG expedition. Not once did I think - 'I hope I've got enough woolies in case its cold,' or 'what if I run out of money?' or 'where will I stay?' I just went.

So its quite funny that for this weekend trip to Birmingham I spent ages fretting about what to take. I should have just grabbed the bag in the morning, hoyed a couple of pairs of knickers in, a toothbrush and the train tickets and off....but no. On the night before, I made 2 rounds of sandwiches and charged my phone and music machine. I packed the camera with spare batteries, and IRONED some pyjamas. I even got a flask out ready to make some tea in the morning, then checked the train times, wrote them down, then checked them again - 3 times.

How and when did I become such an organised, meticulous old lady?

When I get home on Sunday, I will have to pack for our trip to Goa...not just for me, but the whole family - God! How will I cope with that?!!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Brum Brum

Off to sunny Birmingham this morning for a weekend with my pals that I was at uni with. We're going to visit all the old haunts - pubs, the campus, the curry houses and not forgetting - the delightful places we used to call home - 968, Pershore Road and 102, Selly Oak...its 20 years since we left there - blimey!
 This photo is us saying goodbye to Susie at the airport in Beijing last October. She lives in Australia, and has recently arrived for a trip home to Blighty. I'm meeting her at Birmingham New Street station this afternoon, and the others later on. Hooray!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snowy Scenes

The white stuff just keeps on coming. Everyone is just so fed up with it now...apart from the 9 year old who has had his 3rd day off! AND I've just looked on the website and they're off again tomorrow!

Here's an update of pics since the last dumping this afternoon...

Life is hard in the trenches...

...But at least we have somewhere warm and dry during the day.

My mum hasn't been anywhere!

Looking down the road in our village

Looking up the road from outside the pub...which is sadly shut due to the snow.

Icicles in the garden

Mad kids in the garden

Monday, 29 November 2010

Base Camp Everest

Well, both schools were officially CLOSED today due to 'severe weather conditions,' so the only thing on the curriculum today was sledging and the construction of Base Camp Everest.

The snow is now up to my knees, with more forecast.

Susie - If you're reading this in Australia - please stop your kids praying for snow for your trip to Blighty - the prayers have been answered and we don't want any more!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Night Sledging

We're so lucky when it snows because we have a perfect sledging hill behind our house.

We've got about 6+ inches now, so we took to the hill this weekend to brush up on our sledging skills. Yesterday's sledging didn't last long because we all got FREEZING COLD very quickly. The 6 year old cried all the way home with a frozen thumb, but was DETERMINED to go out again this afternoon.

Conditions were perfect. A fresh fall of powdery snow, and no icy wind. It was great. We stayed warm and we flew down the hill like little rockets...we loved it so much that we didn't realise that it had gone dark! Pitch black in fact!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Oh sNOw - not again!

I drove home from work last night in the most UNBELIEVABLE snow storm.

I have driven in snow plenty of times before, but never like this. The flakes were the size of saucers and they were hoying down so thick and so fast that my windscreen wipers couldn't cope. Everyone crawled along the A1 at a snail's pace because no-one could see a thing. It was really quite scary!

Usually there's very little snow around Newcastle and much more where I live - slightly to the west and up in the hills, but as I travelled west it fizzled out and turned to rain....

....until the early hours of this morning.

'WHOOHOOO!' yelled the 6 year old when she peered out the window this morning. 'SNOW!!!'

'Oh God.' the 9 year old said. He hates snow as he can't bear to be cold.

The 6 year old got ready in seconds and leapt out into the freezing white stuff to let the hens out. The door to the hen house was frozen solid and when she finally got it open, they refused to come out. They HATE the snow as much as the 9 year old. Last year when we had all the snow, hubby had to dig them a path to the greenhouse where they camped out for the whole of January and most of February.

'We're NOT coming out! Do you hear me?!'

The hens eventually trudged out, and, much to their relief, we chucked them in the greenhouse with their food and water. They're still there now.

The school buses arrived on time - much to the kids' disappointment - and I'm now gazing across fields of white, and skies of blue. Very, very beautiful....but I think I'm with the 9 year old - I'd rather have the summer back again!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Clean Sheets and Dirty Tactics

Our poor little 9 and 10 year olds got a damned good stuffing today at football.

15.....yes, 15-Nil. It might have been 30-0 if it wasn't for our brave keeper.

It was cold, damp and gloomy, and the pitch was as clarty as hell.

They battled away as best they could, against a team of big, tough, solid little bruisers.

Every time the other team scored, their euphoric coach kept clapping his hands and saying 'Howay lads, lets keep a clean sheet,' not 'hard lines, other team - good effort keeper.'

On the 15th time he said 'howay lads, lets keep a clean sheet,' I wanted to get the clean sheet and stuff it up his hairy nostrils.

For once, we had a couple of subs - and their nasty coach didn't think to say 'Go on, hoy an extra couple of your players on for the last 5 minutes...' He preferred instead to watch as our little lads (and our one lass) were well and truly hammered, dejected and worn out. What a sod.

But you know what - they never gave up. They kept on battling, and they never ONCE argued amongst themselves which is sometimes what you see in other more 'superior' teams when they have a wobble.

I could almost feel tears prickling in my eyes when the final whistle blew and I watched them all trudge off, up to their eyes in clart. But after a little chat by their lovely coaches, they peeled away laughing and scrapping like little puppies - squirting each other with the water bottles and already forgetting the 15-0 drubbing.

They all deserved a medal - and as for the opposition's coach, well he's still trying to get a big clean sheet out of his nose....well, in my dreams anyway!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pen Pals

When I was about 12, the school set us up with 'pen pals.' You could choose the kind of person you wanted to write to, and which country they were from.
I couldn't be bothered to try and understand Spanish or French, and I also didn't like the idea of chatting to a girl about things I wasn't interested in - ie. fashion, make-up, horses etc. so I ticked the box that said 'boy,' 'sports' and 'America.'

I ended up with a pen pal called Jimmy Lassiter from Texas. He would send me pages and pages of elaborate stories in big loopy writing. His photo, (if it was actually him!) showed a big all-American sparkling-toothed, blond-haired, blue eyed, Robert Redford boy. We wrote to each other for a couple of years and I really liked him, but we never met - probably just as well really, as some of his stories were a little wild! We lost touch eventually and I sometimes wonder what he's doing now.

I've got some new pen pals now. Tony, Rose, Carole, David and others...met through the Cancer Research Forum. They are lovely. They help lift the spirits of so many people on the forum when they themselves are going through their own hell. They also need a lift sometimes.

I know I've got this song on everywhere, and you're probably sick of it, but am I bovvered?
Today, I'd really like to dedicate it to my pen pals. As very special pen pals, you have made such a huge difference to the lives of so many people - and that's just in the very short time I've known you all...

'It's not about the time that you have
It's how you cry and how you laugh
Who you love and how you mean it'

Keep going dear pen friends 

And Tony - lots of cute girls in this clip - note the spotty-dressed, shuffling cards lady that does nowt but look lovely!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Viva La Vida

For the last couple of weeks, even more than ever, I have realised what a fabulous life I lead, and what a wonderful life I live.

It's coming up to a year when I found the 'bloody lump.' It's weird, because just 6 weeks before I found it, I was on an amazing 40th birthday celebratory reunion trip to Beijing with 4 of my closest friends from university days.

I distinctly remember, on a number of occasions on that trip, thinking to myself - 'something is going to happen to one of us soon.' I didn't know what it was, I didn't know who it would happen to...but I knew it was going to be bad.

I have no idea why I thought that, but on the plane on the way home, I thought 'If something bad happens to me, at least I've spent a fabulous week in a memorable place with my dearest friends...'

A few weeks later, I found the lump and made an appointment with a GP. Two days before the appointment, I played hockey with all my hockey pals. I remember thinking, 'This will be my last game.'

I've just come home from the leisure centre where I've spent the last hour whacking a plastic puck around the main hall - with my hockey pals again. I had 10 months away...but it wasn't my last game.

And y'know what, on 10th December 2010, I am meeting all my uni friends again - not Beijing this time - but Birmingham - where we did our PE degrees. (Yes- you can do a degree in leaping around!) We intend to get hammered, eat curry and visit all our old haunts and the revolting houses we called home.

One of my uni pals is travelling all the way from Australia to meet up with us again. Its not far for me on the train from Newcastle to Birmingham, but oh - how far I've travelled this year....

On that weekend, it will be exactly one year since the GP said 'I need to refer you...you need to prepare yourself...have you got support...etc...' With that in mind, I will raise my glass, thank my family, my friends and celebrate my wonderful life. Viva La Vida.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Old Friends

Thank you Jill, your mum, dad and fabulous 92 year old gran for having me and the 6 year old over for lunch yesterday. It was great to catch up - even though we probably needed another week of yakking to come anywhere close to really catching up!

It was great to see you all. For those that don't know - Jill is my oldest and dearest friend from school (31 years we've been friends!), and now lives abroad - so any time snatched with her is very special. Despite living 40 million miles away, she has been right beside me all the way through the cacky few months this year.

The photo has me (the one with the very short, VERY grey hair!), Jill, my 6 year old and one of Jill's sister's girls.

And here we are on my wedding day - Jill bridesmaid! - with our other school pals - Liz, Cherry, Katy - and the bloke in the middle? Well that's my lovely husband of 13 years!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Smart Lad

I have never seen my 9 year old son look so smart and handsome!
I had to take him to a cricket presentation evening last night, and the lads all had to wear their county ties. They don't make county ties for 9 year olds - so I had to make the 'man' tie fit him. He still looked lush, and I was the proudest mum ever.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Geordie Jiggers

Sometimes, we have mad half hours in our house.

These 2 should have been in bed, but instead they decided to dance a Geordie jig, to a Scottish reel in the style of Irish dancers with a few Brazilian soccer skills thrown in...whilst eating a biscuit.

Eat your heart out Flatley!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Curly Wurly Girly

The 6 year old is well known for her haircuts. 

Last week, she won one in a raffle. No point in me having it - not sure I'm going to need a haircut for a little while! So I booked her an appointment for this morning.

I thought I'd better just give her a quick nit check before we went as she is a nit magnet. Fortunately there were no little beasties partying in her hair. I've invested in a 10 quid nit comb called the 'Nitty Gritty' which seems to grab hold of every little speck in her hair - so thankfully we seem to have eradicated the problem altogether!

The hairdressers was a very posh place, and they looked after her like a little film star whilst I sipped a complimentary filter coffee and the 9 year old lounged on the leather settee flicking through car magazines.

She opted for a general trim with some beautiful big curls. I thought I'd better take some photos afterwards because I knew they wouldn't last!

Sure enough, within a few hours she was up to her eyes in clart playing footy with her brother and a group of lads. When she trouped off the field, smelling of fresh air and with roses in her cheeks, there wasn't a curl in sight!...But she still looked gorgeous!

Posh Hairdressers Face with Curls
Normal Cheeky Face With Curls
This is why she's well known for haircuts!
When I was supposed to be looking after her and her best pal, they decided to have a go at cutting each others hair.
Which meant she had to have an emergency bob for a while!
...But then she always had the Dolly Parton wig.
She's fast asleep on this photo and I got the fright of my life when I came to kiss her goodnight...
...But not as big as the fright I got one night when she wasn't even in her bed!
10 minutes of panic before I opened the doors of her wardrobe...
She's a handful my little Curly Wurly Girly - but by God she makes us smile!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Goan on Holiday

Hubby and I have spent some wonderful times in India.

We travelled around Rajasthan for a few weeks marvelling at EVERYthing, and we bought my beautiful, simple engagement ring from a little shop in Delhi. We honeymooned in Tamil Nadu in Southern India for about 40 pence...and basically fell in love with the place. But we haven't been to India for quite some time - since the honeymoon, in fact.

 Above - a shabby, scabby room...with an unbelievable view - yes - that's the Taj Mahal in the distance!

 Above - Everywhere we went, we could join in a cricket match. This one took place on the roof-top of a sacred temple in Amber. The lad in the checky shirt was called Govind and we wrote to him for quite a while before finally losing touch. I wonder where he is and what he's doing now.

So anyway, when I was lying on the settee after my operation back in January - 8 foot of snow piled up outside, and 15 years after these photos were taken, one of the things that kept me going was the idea that 'when it was all over' I would return to India - hubby and me....but this time, we would take our 2 kids, and give them a sample of the tastes, the smells, the colours of this wonderful country.

And so today, with a few clicks of the mouse it was done. The 4 of us are off to India, the week before Christmas - we're playing it safe by going to Goa, but its India, and I know we'll all love it.

All I have to do now, is write the begging letters to the schools to get permission to take the kids out, renew 2 of our passports, organise visas, get our jabs, and be super-ultra organised for Christmas which will be happening just 2 days after we get back!

Better get on with it then!...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Come and See My Puppies!

I am very, very allergic to animals. Even elephants. If I go near a horse or even wear the coat of someone who was riding a horse I get itchy eyes, sneeze like hell, and get what my dad still calls 'the breathin' - ie wheezing!

However, that doesn't mean I dislike animals - and when the offer came to go and see my neighbour's 'born that day' spaniel puppies, I was over in a shot - wearing swimming goggles to protect my eyes, and a hanky over my nose and mouth. (Not really - but I did make sure I didn't breathe when I went in!)

What a lovely scene. Proud mum with 5 brand new healthy pups all snuggling in. Ahhhh!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Miner Point

When I was about 8 years old, my dad took me and my brother to France.
We ordered a meal in a lovely little restaurant in Auxerre and before it arrived, dad helped me to find the loo. It was in a shed in the back yard. Without thinking, he made sure I was in, bolted the door - from the outside - then returned to enjoy his dinner.
I was trapped. I rattled the door a few times, shouted 'help' a few times, then just leaned against the spider-webbed wall and waited. I even remember singing 'Cushy Butterfield' - an old Geordie song, to pass the time.
I didn't panic, and I didn't cry.
I knew my dad would come and rescue me. And even after 15 minutes of staring at the grubby walls, and singing 'And they caal her Cushy Butterfield and aa wish she wor here!' for the 20th time, I never had any doubt in my mind that my dad would come and get me.
He did. And after much apologising, we hugged, laughed and got on with our dinner.

A poor comparison, I know, but being locked in a toilet in Auxerre for 15 minutes is the only time I have experienced being physically 'trapped.'
Watching the drama of the Chilean miners unfold, meanwhile, has been overwhelming. I, like the rest of the world, have been glued to the TV screen over the last couple of days in particular - watching through tears as each miner emerged from the capsule - into the arms of their familes after 69 days of being trapped - 700m under the surface of the earth.

For 17 days, they were trapped without any contact with the outside world. I simply cannot imagine how they coped during those 17 days. How did they keep going? How did they not collapse in despair?
'Hope, belief, faith.' These are all words that we throw in to our conversations every now and then, but I think these must have been the three words that all 33 men focused upon to keep them going.

Once the rescue mission was underway, 'hope, belief, faith' became key words for those responsible for the operation, the families...and even the rest of the world - united, for once - and inspired by the power of the human spirit.

Why am I writing about this today? Well, apart from the fact that I have been incredibly moved by the scenes on telly - I also wanted to highlight the fact that those 3 words - hope, belief, faith - simply MUST be a part of our every day lives.

A few months ago, I felt like one of those miners - stepping out of the capsule. Battered and bruised, but safe.

I have a few friends at the moment, however, who may feel that they are 700m below the surface of the earth. Some are having treatment for cancer, some are about to be treated for cancer, and some are waiting to see if their cancer has returned. They could give up, collapse in despair, but they don't - however difficult it may seem. I've never met most of these people, but I think about them every day, and I wanted them to know that.

I know it is easier said than done, but we must never stop hoping, never stop believing, and we must always try to keep faith in our rescuers - whoever they may be....