Monday, 31 January 2011

Mother's Pride

When my little 7 year old (then 6) won a prize for 'best attitude' at a football competition, I thought I would burst with pride. She had played her little heart out all week. She'd hacked the boys, leapt around acrobatically in goal, scored a bagful of goals and above all, had suceeded in silencing the mini Andy Grays - 'she's just a girl....she'll be rubbish...'
There's nothing quite like seeing your child achieve something like that - especially when they have a grin from ear to ear when they see how proud their mum is.

Yesterday was the 7 year old's very first gymnastics competition. She loves gymnastics, and this competition was in Berwick - a couple of hours north. The coach had organised a bus to leave Hexham at 7.30am, and we all piled on - bleary eyed and yawning. The coach had asked us to 'do' our girl's hair in French plaits for the competition. I didn't have a clue how to do this, and fortunately neither did a load of other mums! Volunteers were recruited for mums and some of the older gymnasts who could do French plaits, and the bus soon turned into an amazing hairdressing salon with nimble fingers knitting the girls' hair. Shooshes of glittery hair spray were applied to match the sparkles on their leotards. The girls looked great.

The competition itself was really entertaining. Our little girls had a short routine on the mats to complete in front of a grumpy looking old man who was the judge. I couldn't imagine him ever leaping over a vault or flik-flakking across the room, but he seemed to know what he was doing, and he scribbled lots of notes as they took it in turns to perform their 20 second compilation of moves.

After the routines, the girls were herded back to their 'holding area,' where they could watch the older girls competing. Boredom soon set in , fidgeting and general rolling about. After a while, my 7 year old appeared - crying and holding her arm against her body.

'I can't move my arm,' she sobbed.

'Oh God,' I thought - it looked serious - she's a tough cookie usually, and I didn't like the way she was cradling her arm. My immediate thoughts in this order and at this speed were - 'brokenarmfivehoursincasualtyinbloodyBerwickhowwillwegethomearminplasterhowwillshewriteshewon'tbeabletodogymnasticsinfacthowwillshedoanythingwithabigbloodyplasteronherarm........'

HOWEVER, her little friend's mum suddenly announced that she was a doctor in an Accident and Emergency unit. I was amazed. I thought she was...well, just a mum! Would I mind if she looked at it.

'Absolutelpleasedoifyouknowwhatyou'redoingthatsgreatpleasehavealook...' I was now talking at the same rate that I was thinking.

She suspected that my 7 year old had dislocated her elbow, and with a gentle squeeze of her hand, and a little bit of reassurance, she turned my little girl's arm. 'Pop!' it was back in place. Cured. Fixed. Sorted. No casualty needed, no x-rays, no plasters....a miracle! It was a very surreal moment. Almost Jesus-like! 'Giveth me thine daughter and I shall make her cartwheel again...'

I delivered her back to the holding area in time for the results and the presentation of medals.

In the 7 year old's competition, the daughter of my new Doctor friend won the bronze medal. Not only had she performed a miracle cure for my little girl, but her little girl was now proudly standing on the podium - bursting with joy, and glancing over to her mum who reflected her daughter's smiles.

In second place was a little girl from Berwick. More smiles, photos, proud parents.

I could see my little girl watching the announcer's lips. I have to admit that I was thinking 'gosh, wouldn't it be great if she...'

And then he announced the winner. It wasn't my little girl. It was one of her pals. It was the little girl who's mum died very suddenly and unexpectedly just over a year ago. The coach had accompanied her to the competition because her dad had to look after her 2 younger sisters at home. She collected her medal and clambered onto the podium. The whole of our club clapped and whooped and cheered. We knew the story. We wanted her to feel the joy we had for her as she stood there. Her mum wasn't there, her dad couldn't be there, but we were all there for her....

I'm not sure if she was just overwhelmed, but that lovely little girl didn't smile and she didn't seem to hear the applause. We took photos for her dad, but she didn't really look up to catch our eye. Despite the presence of all her gymnastics family, she looked so lonely up there on the podium. I cried for her, and for her mum who  should have been 'bursting with pride' at that very moment.

The bus journey home was quiet. Tired gymnasts, tired grown ups. An emotional day.
My little elbow girl was back to her chatty, fidgety self - flinging her arm around and practicing how to say 'dislocated elbow' fluently so that she could show off at school the next day.
Our little gold medal winner, meanwhile, was back to smiles as she tucked in to her packed lunch goodies, the medal still around her neck. There will be many more gold medal occasions throughout this lovely girl's life, and I truly hope that over the years, even without her mum there, she learns how to hold her head up, smile and enjoy these moments...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hourra pour les Gymnastes Français

Our two lovely guests
Nos deux invités belle
Our French teacher was at least 850 years old. She was thin, bony, and slightly hunched with a mouth that puckered in disgust each time I destroyed the beautiful French language. I was terrified of her.

In one lesson, she gave us all a story written in French. It was set in Tahiti, and each person in our class took it in turns to translate a couple of sentences out loud to the rest of the class. As my turn loomed I got terrible butterfly pains in my stomach and a sense of impending doom. When she nodded at me, I could hear an intake of breath from the rest of the class. They knew I got nervous, they knew I wasn't great at French, and they didn't want me to be shouted at and made to cry. They were all rooting for me.

I cleared my throat and thought, 'come on, Lisa - everything will be fine...'

I began fairly confidently. The Tahitian tribe were having a meal. I knew all the fruits, and translated them expertly into English. Woohoo! I was doing well. Last on the list of 'le repas traditionnel des tribus', however, was 'Gateau aux noix.' 

I hesitated for a moment. I knew that gateau was cake. But was the hell were noix's?

My teacher stayed very still and quiet. Like a snake. One wrong move, and I knew she'd attack. Fangs, poison, no mercy.

It was then that I had a eureka moment. Noix.... Hmm..... Well, Noir is black. So maybe Noix is the plural of noir. Black cake....Black Gateau......Got it!......Black Forest Gateau!!!!

I blurted it out in relief, waiting for my teacher to say - 'well done, Lisa, marvelous translation...'

But she didn't.

'Black Forest Gateau in TAHITI?' she screeched. 'Black Forest Gateau in TAHITI!' she repeated - just in case someone hadn't heard the first time. Each time she said it, her spit sprayed across the classroom. I could see my classmates visibly shrinking in terror as she delivered me a tirade of abuse and a bucketful of humiliation.

Tears blooped down onto the words of the book - 'gateau noix' laughing up at me.

'It's nut cake,' I heard one of the class swots say....

I'll never forget it. We laugh about it now, my friends and I. 'The Black Forest Gateau in Tahiti incident,' but it definitely made me HATE learning French and hate trying to speak French....despite loving everything about France......

So it was with great trepidation that I accepted the role of 'host' to a couple of French guests within a group of young gymnasts from Paris.

I needn't have worried. We have just spent a wonderful weekend with our guests - a mother and her 7 year old daughter, staying for 3 nights - all organised through a town twinning association and my 7 year old's gymnastics club. We spoke fabulous Franglais, drank beer, did the sights and, of course, spent a day doing  gymnastics - (well, the little ones did the gymnastics bit!)

Un temps merveilleux faire de nouveaux amis et de parler le français sans un enseignant horrible dessus mon épaule .... pas gâteaux aux noix, il suffit de plaisir, de rires et d'amitié ....j'adore le Francais, mais, je remercie Dieu pour Google Translate!
Visiting Newcastle's Quayside
Les Gymnastes de France et Angleterre
My little gymnast. Wish I could do that!
Great friends - despite them not understanding a word that they said!

Cherry, Jill, Liz... - you'd have been proud of me!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Chop and Change

I've had my first haircut in 12 months!

If I'd left it to grow for 12 months in normal circumstances, I probably would have looked like one of the Bee Gees (without the beard of course!) However, I was as bald as a coot in the first half of last year, so it didn't actually get that bushy! It seems like 5 minutes ago that I was a baldy lady, so the haircut on Friday was a significant and wonderful occasion!

Bloody hell, I needed it! Looking at the 2nd picture, I hadn't realised what a granny I had become! What a curly, fluffy, grey mop! On the plus side, I could have had free bus rides, cut-price swimming and a pensioner's portion of fish and chips at our pub...nahhh, not ready for that yet.

Anyway - what do you think? I'm getting a colour put in next week to cover the grey - what should I go for? Blondes? Reds?

Tony - if you read this - I know what you're going to say -  yes, the skinheed look was fun for a while, but its so bloody cold in the north that I need at least a bit of hair to keep me warm!
New style Shents - After my 1st haircut
Grandma Shents - just before the haircut. Bloody hell I look ancient!
Hair coming in nicely last summer - and gosh, don't I look well for someone on the sick!
Beach Babe - in public without a wig or a hat for the 1st time! Look at those Pixie ears!
The lovely Wiggy. Oh no it isn't! Ohhh yes it is!
Long hair, with highlights - couple of summers ago.
Long term options. Should I stay 'short and chic' or go back to being 'long and sophisticated....' Comments welcome!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Happy Birthday 7 year old!

In the olden days, we used to have fabulous birthday parties in each other's houses. Pass the parcel, musical bumps, musical chairs, jelly, ice cream, fairy cakes, party dresses....

Nowadays, we spend hundreds of pounds giving our small children the biggest, the best, the most unusual, the most entertaining, the most WONDERFUL birthday party experiences that we can. Magicians, bowling alleys, cinemas, softplay warehouses etc. all cash in on our desire to deliver the perfect party.

Last year, both of my kids missed out on having a birthday party cause their mum was either recovering from the boob op, or chemo-ed up to the eyeballs. I remember promising them that 'next year' we would make up for 'this cruddy year...'

As the 6 year old's big day approached on 9th Jan, I was thinking hard about how to give her a fab party. Do I take her and all her friends to Whitley Bay for a spot of gambling in the amusements, followed by fish and chips, and a dip in the sea? My dad once took me and a group of my friends to do all those things on one of my birthdays. It really was fabulous, but we were about 12 years old. Do I take them all to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal followed by enormous Pizzas at the nice Italian place....Hmmm. I decided instead to ask her. See what she really fancied doing.

So when the 6 year old said - 'Can I just have some friends around for my birthday and play a few games....' I was relieved.....but also a little nervous.

My nerves stemmed from the 9 year old's 5th birthday. It was a Cowboys and Indians party at our house. I remember watching in horror as evil little checky-shirted midget cowboys trashed our house, spat hot dogs all over the cakes and wrestled each other like hooligans whilst I tried to play 'Pin the Badge on the Sheriff.' I was traumatised after that, and vowed never to have a party at our house again.

However, the 6 year old has got LOVELY friends, so I agreed.

We all had the most fabulous time, and the 6 year old (now a gorgeous 7 year old) only cried 3 times - which I don't think is too bad when it was her party - and one of those cries was because she bashed her head on a door....

We played the Mars Bar Game, pass the orange under your chin, pass the balloon between your knees, the memory game, musical statues, pass the parcel, and pin the tail on the elephant.

A civilised party tea!
No fighting, no spitting, no swearing, no nipping and no throwing food. Just laughing, dancing, giggling fits, excitement and lots of fun - for everyone - me included!
Here's the birthday card from my dad. We laughed and laughed, as this is EXACTLY
what she kept doing in India after watching all the guys shinning up the coconut trees!

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my beautiful little girl.
You are a bundle of joy, and bring us so much happiness and fun!

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Aussies Are Here!

You may have read about my recent excursion back in time to my uni days in Birmingham.

Susie was one of my best pals at uni. We cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats together for a laugh one summer. It took us 17.5 days. No fancy support vehicles, physios and maintenance crew. Just us, our bikes, a tent, a stove and a map. We hated every bloody bit of it - but we did it and made a canny bit of dosh for charity.

We also travelled around Europe together. When we set off we were fat, white and brunette. When we returned 3 months later, we were black as coal, blond and anorexic.

Susie married an Aussie called Paul and they live in Newcastle....sadly, not the wey aye man Newcastle Geordie land but the Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. They have FIVE kids!

3 of Susie's 5, plus my 2.

Anyway, they ALL landed at my house yesterday and stayed the night on their way back to London from visiting relatives in Edinburgh. It was fab, and not only did England win the Ashes the night they were here, but we also provided them with a lovely brain-freezing minus 4 degrees morning when they left today.

I cried as their train pulled away from the station at Corbridge - stuffed full with Susie's lovely big smiley family and their luggage. I'm so glad they stopped by. Not sure when I'll see her again, but I hope its real soon.

Here we are - about to set off for 17 and a half days of hell
And here we are...20-odd years later!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

'We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.'  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Oh how different things were last New Years Eve.

On the afternoon of New Year's Eve 2009, I was sitting in my dressing gown in Hexham General Hospital - waiting to be called for a lumpectomy operation. I felt quite excited actually. The cancer was going to be cut out, and I could start 2010 without the bloody lump inside me.

I walked down to the operating theatre, and signed the consent forms. There was a buzz in the air. It was New Year's Eve after all, and the theatre staff were busy discussing where they were going and what they were doing - once they'd finished operating on this wifey. I recognised one of the theatre nurses. She always used to be at softplay when the kids were little but I'd never spoken to her before. I remember thinking 'God - I thought you were just a harassed mother - and here you are looking after me in an operating theatre.' She was so nice to me. One mum to another.

The next thing I remember is hearing voices saying 'Bye! And a Happy New Year!' 'Have a great time...'
My name was being called gently, and I remember smiling and saying 'Happy New Year everyone, Happy New Year.' I was still alive, totally drugged, high as a kite and felt wonderful!

Back in my room, as the anasthetic wore off I made a few phone calls to my family to say I was out of theatre and still alive. I don't really remember much about these calls, but people tell me they were amazed because I sounded like I was calling from a party - drunk as a skunk!

Hubby was taking the kids to a New Years Eve party at the village hall with a live band. I was so pleased they were doing something to keep them busy. It made me feel more relaxed in my hospital bed.

I tried to grab some sleep, but the clock on the wall was ticking so loudly that it was impossible! I watched the hand coming round to midnight, and at that moment a nurse came in with a champagne flute full of orange juice. I asked her if she would open my window. The room was stifling hot, but most of all I wanted to hear Hexham Abbey's bells ringing in the New Year.

As time progressed, the drunken revellers replaced the sound of the bells - it was good to hear people partying and having a good time. As things quietened down, I looked towards the window, and noticed big, fat, white flakes of snow falling down didn't stop for days - but people still battled in to visit me in hospital - my darling husband and beautiful children were my first foots the next morning....

And so this New Years Eve was very different. An early drink and a game of cards at the pub with the kids, followed by home and 'The Karate Kid' film - all snuggled up together in front of a blazing stove, flickering candles, the twinking lights on the Christmas tree and a glass or two of sparkly. No parties, no revelling, no fireworks....just being together...with my lovely family to bring in a brand new year.