Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A New Discovery

I can't believe that I have never visited this National Trust place before! Gibside - an 18th century landscape park and nature reserve - a stone's throw from the chaos of the Metro Centre, and only 30 mins from home.

A picnic and a stroll (made a nice change from the relentless Moonwalk-training pace!) with good friends and happy kids in the delicious, warm Easter sunshine.

We are so lucky to live in such a lovely part of the world.

The Team. (Please note how young C has managed to balance the top of the Column of Liberty on his head)   

2 of my Moonwalking buddies - striding out and looking good!

Our girls with the Column of Liberty in the background

The 7 year old with her best pal

Friday, 22 April 2011

Valhalla Hell

I turned and looked at the 7 year old. She had water dripping off the end of her nose. Her hair was soaked and stuck to her head. She was looking straight ahead, her knuckles white as she gripped tightly onto the bar in front. She was shivering as she managed to say - 'When will it be over, when will it be over...'

I'm afraid I couldn't offer any reassurance to my 7 year old daughter on the Valhalla ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I was also soaked through, traumatised, and wishing that the ride would!

We had been told by a nice lady that the Valhalla ride 'wasn't too bad.' She warned us that we might get wet, and that there was a bit of fire in there, and 'oh yes the littl'un will be fine - its not too scary...'

The Viking boat plunged down another 400ft sheer drop into the darkness and we both opened our mouths to scream but no sound came out. I think we must both have looked like that painting by Edvard Munch - The Scream. We closed our eyes as our stomach's were left behind at the top, and finally when we landed at the bottom, we hurtled through a waterfall and got soaked...again!  'When will it be over, when will it be over...' the 7 year old said again. 'I dunno, I dunno,' I said, trying to laugh and make everything alright...but the viking boat was slowly cranking its way to the top of another precipice....

Moments later, we finally disembarked with our 4 fellow vikings - all of us completely drenched. Our legs were wobbly, our feet squelched, and we laughed - a little hysterically - pleased that we'd made it to hell....and back.

I gave the 7 year old the phone. 'Here,' I said, 'tell dad what we've just done.'

She grabbed the phone, and spoke to her dad.....'Amazing.....' she said, 'so fun......soaked....scary....the best day in my life...' her eyes shone with excitement, and her hair dripped down her back.

'Wow!' I said, 'you made it sound so great! Do you want to do it again?'

'Er....' she said, pretending to think about it, 'No. Lets go and try the Alice and Wonderland ride now...'

We did it!

Great fun...but I'm not doing it again!

2 scary people from the ghost train

Thursday, 14 April 2011

When the Saints Go Marchin In

Its been a sad week.

Uncle Billy

My Uncle Billy - one of dad's older brothers died on Sunday. He was in his 80's, and had been married to Auntie Millie for over 60 years. I used to love saying 'Millie 'n' Billy' or 'Billy 'n' Millie,' when I was a kid.

Uncle Billy was the double of my dad. I saw him in Corbridge one day, and shouted over - 'Dad! Dad!' I was so embarrassed when I realised it wasn't him. Fancy not recognising your own dad!

Uncle Billy was an amazing musician. He played the clarinet and the saxophone, and couldn't read one note of music. Please have a listen to a couple of the youtube clips here. The first one is taken from our annual 'jazz picnic' at the village hall. He's well into his 80's and still manages to play a guest slot with the Victory V Jazzmen. Oh - and that's my dad singing, and uncle Billy's son, Peter on the bass!

This 2nd clip was filmed at my 'piano christening' do. 3 generations of musical Shentons - Uncle Billy, his son (Peter) and and his grandson (Mark)....and then it all goes dark because for some reason I turn the lights down! Sorry!

They're giving him a fabulous send off on Monday - a proper New Orleans Carlisle. I've no doubt he'll be playing his clarinet or sax from above as he watches everyone take part in a musical celebration of his life.
My cousin Peter and his dad Uncle Billy

4 Shentons in the band at my dad's birthday - Uncle Joe (washboard) Peter (Bass) Uncle Billy (Sax) and Mark (Keyboards)

Uncle Joe - still taps away beautifully on the old River City Jazzmen washboard

2 peas in a pod - Bill Shenton and Ray Shenton. (Dad's usually on the piano, but occasionally gets up for a sing)


Its also been a sad week because we lost one of our friends from the Cancer Chat forum and one of the 'Blogger 5.' My dear friend David, who I never met, died this week after a brave fight against cancer. He was a lovely, witty man who I shall never forget. He wrote beautifully about walks in the woods with his dog, gathering wild mushrooms, wining, dining, lunching and entertaining - I really wish I could have met him for a beer and some lunch - I think we would have had a good old laugh together.

My thoughts and prayers are with his lovely family at this time.

This is how I'd like to remember my lovely pen friend (below) Relaxed, in the sunshine with a glass of vino in his hand. David - Thank you for being such a great friend in the short time I knew you.

When the Saints Go Marchin In

Traditionally, this gospel hymn is used at a 'jazz funeral' in New Orleans. On the way to the cemetery, the tune would be played as a 'dirge,' and on the way back from the internment it would switch to the more familiar upbeat Dixieland style. I suppose this represents the sadness we feel at losing people that are special to us...but then celebrates the part they played in our lives...this is for you Uncle Billy and David...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Going for the Burn

Fantastic 14 miler training walk today in glorious Northumbrian sunshine and cool wind - but its getting REALLY HARD! My feet nacked by the end, my hips now need replacing and even my fingers looked like 2 bunches of pork sausages by the time we fell into the Tea and Tipple in Corbridge for scones and Fentimans lemonade.

When I got home, the posty had delivered my Walk the Walk parcel - in it:- a t-shirt, a cap, my number (13278) and a revolting flesh coloured bra! I tried it on, looked in the mirror, and discovered that I had acquired my first tan of the year (or rather, BURN!) Look at my red nose and burnt chest! April in Northumberland and I'm sunburnt! Normally we're plodging through snow at this time of year!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Get Me to the Church on Time

The day started perfectly. I had dropped the kids off at the school bus and was whizzing off to work along the back roads. 'Somebody to Love' by Queen was on the radio and I was singing the harmonies and backing vocals at the top of my voice. I was also looking forward to the Brownies Mothers Day celebration at 6.45pm. Tea and cake at the church hall. What a great life...

...Then just as Freddie Mercury and I got to the last note of the song, the rev counter on the car dropped to zero and there was no response on the accelerator. I limped along at a snails pace. The car was still moving, but not exactly under my control...

This went on for a few miles, and eventually the car spluttered into life again, finally delivering me to work safe and sound. I thought nothing of it.

At 4.15pm, I jumped back into the car and sped off to collect Tom from a 4.50pm finish at school. The plan was to get him home, get Lizzie to Brownies for 6.15pm, go for a quick half hour training walk, then sit back and enjoy the tea and cake at 6.45pm. Perfect.

But 5 minutes into my journey, the car went 'limp' again, then just conked out at the side of the road - beside the busiest junction in the world. Bloody hell!
I made a few calls (what did we do before mobiles?!!) and my lovely friend Karen (what would I do without you?!) agreed to pick up and ferry my kids about for me until I could somehow get home. 'Tell Lizzie not to worry - I should be there for tea and cake!' I said, hoping to God I'd be right.
Green Flag said they'd be there to help within the hour, and my personal road angel, Eddie said he'd go 4 million miles out of his way with a tow rope to help with the rescue.

I got out of the car, stood at the side of the road and watched as over 1000 cars rushed past - many held up by my poor abandoned car - its little hazards blinking pathetically.

2 people stopped to ask if I was ok. 2 angels out of the 1000's of commuters and school runners. I thanked them but there was nowt they could do.

As I waited, getting colder by the minute, Eddie phoned to say he was half an hour away.
'Don't worry, we'll get you back in time for Brownies,' he reassured me.
It was only 5.15pm. Plenty time...

Eventually, the tow truck arrived with a nice rescue man inside. He looked at the engine and decided it was an electrical fault.

'I can tow the car 10 miles for you,' he said, 'but to get you home it'll cost another 50 quid.'

I was about to say 'Just do it' when my lovely, long suffering road angel husband arrived with the tow rope.
We agreed that the Green Flag man would tow the car through the busy little town of Ponteland, then we'd take over and get the car back the rest of the way home ourselves. It was 5.45pm. There was an hour til Brownies tea and cake. Plenty time...

At the agreed place, we stopped, and the Green Flag man helped us attach our tow rope. I thanked him for his help, gave him a cream egg and waved him off. Just me and Eddie now with 10 miles to go.

'DON'T brake when the rope is tight,' Eddie instructed, 'and keep calm.'

'What about Brownies,' I replied pathetically.

'Forget the bloody Brownies,' he said as calmly as possible. 'Just get in the bloody car....and DON'T..'

...'brake when the rope goes tight, I know...' I said, climbing into the car.

We set off, and I was doing really well...until we got to the humpy backed bridge at Dalton. I DIDN'T brake, but the bloody rope snapped and Eddie went charging off around the corner - not realising that I wasn't there any more!

Eventually, he looked in his rear view mirror and discovered that I'd vanished.

He returned, minutes later and retied the tow rope, muttering something about me braking - which I DIDN'T!

We set off again, and the rope snapped two more times. By the time we eventually got home, the rope was about 2 feet long and I had acquired another clump of grey hair. Not only that, but it was 6.55pm - I was now 10 minutes LATE for Brownies tea and cake. My daughter would be devistated.

We dumped my car, then whizzed off in Eddie's car to get to Brownies. Anyone peering out of their window might have thought they were watching a scene from Starsky and Hutch.
When we arrived at the church hall, 15 minutes late, sure enough, poor Lizzie was in tears, watching as all the other mums tucked in to tea and cake.
Her tears soon vanished though as Eddie and I burst through the door. She was doubly delighted to have her mum AND dad there to enjoy Mothers Day tea and cake, and fussed around us showing us to our seats, making sure we ate all the cakes that she had made....

....I'm not quite sure she realises the effort that was made to get me to the church on time, and all the people that helped make it possible - Karen, mum, Green flag man and Eddie, but hey - what does she care - I was there, and that's all that mattered to her!