Holidays !

We have just had a lovely two week break on the island of Fuerteventura. It was wonderful to spend a couple of weeks without alarm clocks, school, work and to do as we pleased.

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The weather was warm, around 23 degrees most days, down to 14 in the evenings. The locals walked round in jumpers and coats, whilst we wore swimwear, t-shirts and shorts.

The hotel was in a quieter resort and was a sport hotel, which was fantastic for Oscar as the pool was cold so he still had plenty to keep him entertained. We had tennis, badminton, squash and basketball courts, a football pitch, and table tennis. So plenty to keep him busy and active, whilst I could lie on my lounger reading plenty of books. Perfect.

A five minute walk down a small hill took us onto a prom and a twenty minute walk to the local town (the hotel provided a free shuttle bus), we loved this walk as it was very open stony land, full of chipmunks and tiny lizards. We started taking an apple from breakfast and feeding it to them.

We booked a couple of trips to break up the holiday and see more of our island and took a day trip over to the neighbouring island, Lanzarote. This island was very different, even though it was only a half hour boat trip away. The boat was glass-bottomed and Oscar loved watching the fish swimming around it, until we started sailing when the waves started making him feel a little sea sick so we moved to the upper deck and he was fine. Lanzarote is also a volcanic land, but this one is still active and we had a tour of it and the national park created after the last eruption. It was amazing to feel how hot the floor was, and they have created a cafe and use the heat from it to cook the food, like a giant barbecue. The beaches here where very different, black sand from the volcanic rock and popcorn stones from coral.

We also had a jeep tour of Fuerteventura, it was very bumpy and lots of fun. The guide was hilarious and very knowledgeable.

In the evenings after dinner, Oscar played football until sunset, then he joined me on the bar and we played cards and pool.

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It was lovely to get away, catch up on some reading and sleep, have lots of quality time.

 

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Why ?

Why do I blog ?

It started a few years ago during a quiet spell in work, we were talking about our ages and things we wish we’d done by ‘now’ and it led to the 50 things list.

One of the things on the list was to start a blog, the original idea was that I would write about the challenges and the fun we had along the way, what I never expected was that life would throw some very difficult challenges my way, and that blogging would be one of the hardest things to do.

When I first started out it was easy, lots to write about, lots of ideas, but then life closed in and writing about it was really tough, so I found myself not doing it. However now, I’m in a better place, emotionally, and am enjoying setting myself time and routine to write about ‘me’ again.

Unfortunately the list was put on hold the last year or so, whilst I was looking for regular employment and concentrating on a stable family, and emotional life. Time is passing quite quickly so with only a few years left before the big 50 hits it’s time to get back to it.

I’ve been looking through the remaining ‘to do’ and have started making plans for some eventful experiences this year, although looking at the list I’m pretty certain some of these will never be done, so do I change the list, or leave them blank and unfinished ? and if I change them, what would I change them to ? Some of the challenges are very singular and I’d like, if possible, to make them a little more family based.

What do you think ? To change or stick ? Do I write a new list based on current circumstances, or wait until after the big birthday and start a new list ? Too many decisions… please help !

 

A day at the opera

I’ve always loved the ballet, the music, dance, grace and beauty but recently I’ve been seeing adverts and posters for opera performances, so for my birthday last year I was given tickets to see a filmed, live performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly from Glyndebourne.

We arrived at the beautiful Liverpool Philharmonic, and was greeted with a cold glass of Prosecco and  shown to our seats. The performance began, and from the opening of the first act to the interval everyone was mesmerised.

The costumes, stage settings, music and singing were beautiful. It was simply stunning. The performers were perfectly cast, Lieutenant Pinkerton had a very American soldier look, the marriage broker was very slimey, Cio-Cio San, the Geisha (Butterfly) had so much emotion, it was wonderful. Although I’ve never seen either this or Miss Saigon before I was aware of the story, and whilst it was sung in traditional Italian we did have the benefit of English subtitles.

During the interval we had a choice of a staying and having the full Glyndebourne experience with an indoor picnic or could venture out. We chose to pop across the road to an Italian restaurant and had an Italian Antipasto and Arrabbiata prawns with flat bread. It was delicious.

Then back for Acts 2 and 3, again the acting, singing and emotion was breathtaking. The lady next to me didn’t know the story and was very grateful when I handed her a tissue near the end. The experience was something I am looking forward to repeating, and will try at some point this year to see a live performance.

I would say, for anyone unsure about ballet, opera or even classic theatre the live screenings are a great introduction, especially for children. You get a look backstage, some insight into the production, cast, characters and story line.

The best day of my life.

I was inspired by a friends blog to write about my own experience of the best day of my life. The day my son was born.

It was not an easy pregnancy, from three months the morning sickness began, only it didn’t limit itself to morning, it was morning, noon and night. Some days I left work, went straight to the hospital to be given injections and put on a re-hydration drip. On a good day I would be home in a few hours, others I was kept in overnight.

At twenty weeks I went for my routine scan and discovered two things, first I was having a boy and second I had a low placenta. They said it may move as the pregnancy continued and not to be too concerned. However that changed very quickly. Two weeks later I began to bleed. After a couple of hours of waiting, the bleeding stopped and I got to hear my boy’s heartbeat. Everything was fine but the placenta had pulled further down and this meant a C-section would be needed, eventually.

Things settled down for a few weeks and was progressing as expected, even the sickness stopped.

Then, with two months to go everything went into free fall.

Sitting at home one afternoon watching television I had the strangest sensation, like a rubber band had snapped inside and then the bleeding really started. A quick phone call to the maternity unit and my mum and I made a quick dash to the hospital and was admitted to the delivery suite.

The placenta had started to come away and I was in slow labour, they had to stop this as quickly as possible. Within an hour I was hooked up to numerous drips and machines, on total bed rest and fifteen minute observations. I was given steroid injections to boost babies lungs, and gave me a dead leg. Thankfully the intervention worked and the contractions stopped, as did the bleeding, and through it all my little man was totally fine, oblivious even.

I was moved onto the long term stay ward, with three others in a similar situation. For the next two weeks I wasn’t allowed out of bed, and had to be taken to loo in a wheelchair. After this I was allowed to get up but not off the ward. Every day I got to hear my boy’s heartbeat and every other day I had a growth scan to ensure he was doing well, and he was.

The problem was that I wasn’t doing so well. My white blood cell count had gone through the roof and they couldn’t understand why. This was putting extreme strain on my kidneys and liver, by the end of three weeks in hospital my consultant was really concerned. Although the baby was doing well, if left much longer I was at risk of kidney failure and serious lifelong problems.

On the Monday they came to discuss options and after a bit of negotiation we agreed on Thursday for a planned C-section, however I was to have blood and urine tests twice daily and if things deteriorated further then I would go straightaway.

So twenty-eight days after being admitted I was to have my baby !

On the Thursday morning, I went and had a shower, changed into the lovely backless theatre gown and paper knickers, then mum and I walked down to theatre. First I had a quick scan for them to take further measurements and make the finally decision. It was one I was dreading, epidural or general anaesthetic. I was hoping for the first but it wasn’t to be. Unfortunately the placenta was once again causing issues and stem bleeding and keep control of the situation it was better for me to be under a general anaesthetic.

The short walk to the theatre was going well until the nurse said ‘say bye to your mum’, it was as if she’d told me I’d never see her again, the nerves kicked in and the tears began. The poor anaesthetist spent the next five minutes trying to calm me down enough to take deep breaths without sobs and snot getting in the way. Then off to sleep I went…..

A good few hours later I woke up on the ward, baby-less for the first time for seven months. He decided to cause his own chaos on arrival, he went from being perfectly happy and healthy to his lungs collapsing and being resuscitated within a few minutes. He was transferred to the special care baby unit (SCBU), put on oxygen and into an incubator and being fed via a tube through his nose. I had to wait until the following day to see my beautiful boy. Once I was allowed out of bed there was no stopping me, I would have breakfast then disappear down to SCBU until they threw me out in the evening. I could only touch him for a short time through the port holes in the incubator, it made changing nappies (especially dirty ones) interesting. Feeding was small and often, 2ml of milk pushed slowly down the tube into his stomach every hour. Too fast and he was sick, too slowly and he got gassy. That was when he wasn’t pulling the tube out ! He was naughty from day one….

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By day five, I was at breaking point, all I wanted was to hold my boy. The hormones kicked in and the tears and sobs arrived. The nurse was an angel and knew instantly how to solve the issue. It took around ten minutes of changing tubes, replacing equipment but finally I had my baby. I had my first and the best cuddle ever. The nurse said the first contact should be skin to skin as this helps both mother and baby regulate bodies and bond.

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Boy did it work, within two days he had really improved. His oxygen levels stabilised and he was out of the hot room and breathing independently. After twelve days we was up on the ward with me and exactly 14 days after being born we came home. He was closely monitored for the first year but never looked back, I however deteriorated as the year went on. Blood clots and Graves disease (caused by the pregnancy) meant almost seven years of treatment and operations and finally now, 12 years later I’m healthy again.

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It was the most traumatic time of my life, has given me some of my greatest problems to overcome but I wouldn’t change it or him for anything.

 

 

 

 

The allotment so far…

2018, the year of the sunshine and heat. For us it was the year of the tomato !

The beginning of the year was snowy and cold, which meant digging and getting the plot ready for what we wanted was almost impossible but then the weather changed in quite a dramatic fashion, from frost and snow to tropical temperatures and hose pipe bans.

At the start of the year we had a few very large beds, which I found difficult to manage and wanted to make into smaller, easier to work from all sides without walking over. However with the lack of time it was easier to leave a few covered and just work on half the plot.

A couple of these we sectioned off and two we left and planted rows of potatoes, let them do the hard work for us.

 

The first things to be planted where the garlic, onions and shallots. However we lost 3 patches of garlic to the fox, who very strangely kept digging it up. The sweetcorn vanished, probably mice but then a few months later sweetcorn appeared and grew in a totally different bed on the plot, so maybe they just borrowed it ! I was given some Brussels sprouts and broccoli seedling plants from a neighbouring plot holder, neither of us had ever grown these before, so we just put them in and watered along with everything else and bingo, it worked.

Everything in the greenhouse went bonkers, the tomatoes produced so many that we haven’t bought any over six months and still have a freezer full. The chillies also over produced and even giving bunches away we’ve got enough to last another year. I made a mistake of planting a few too many courgette plants and we had so many that my mum made a few trips to my Auntie’s cafe with them, as well as giving them away to friends and neighbours.

I got a couple of pumpkin plants and a butternut squash, neither of which I had grown before, but thought they would fill a large area easily and anything they produced would be a bonus. And produce they did, we got enough pumpkins for a decent Halloween carving plus one small butternut squash, which feels more like a family member than a food stuff.

We put in two ponds (one preformed plastic one, and one an old bath) and started planting flowers and bushes around to encourage wildlife into the plot. The fencing was rescued from a skip as the church next door was having it replaced. It’s in good condition and just needed attaching.

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I also found two rose bushes that have been planted for sentimental reasons. One for Phil and the other for my family.

Yellow roses symbolise love, joy and friendship. Pink roses symbolise admiration and grace. So the names and colours are very apt. Oscar’s sunflowers were beautiful, they were the small multi-headed variety and they flowered right up until November.

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At the end of September, once the main bulk of the growing was over, we get spent a few weeks of hard work and started separating the beds into smaller patches and wood-chipping the paths. There’s still quite a bit to do, but it’s looking more manageable and the plans for 2019 are coming along well.

Lets hope for another great growing year ahead.

Allotment update August – part 1

Everything is growing ! We have been harvesting and watering for weeks, it’s fantastic.

I’ve grown lots of new veggies and had good fun learning along the way.

The ponds have really settled now and both ponds have fish, and they all seem very happy. The planting around the ponds is continuing, its looking pretty and colourful. Next year when the plants fill out and the bulbs come through it should be lovely.

The tomatoes and chilli plants in the greenhouse have gone crazy, even growing out of the windows and roof ! We have beef and cherry tomatoes at the allotment and plum tomatoes at home. We have hundreds of red and brown onions, although the shallots didn’t do well and we lost 3 patches of garlic to a greedy fox but I don’t think we’ll go hungry any time soon.

The courgettes are ridiculous, I’ve never had so many. I’ve stopped picking them and now have huge ‘marrows’ instead, but finally they’ve stopped producing new smaller ones. The pumpkins are getting bigger and I noticed a tiny butternut squash on one of the plants.

The plans are beginning for next year as I want to get a lot more fruit bushes planted and fill some of the empty beds with permanent crops, also I’m looking at getting some asparagus, artichoke and many more brassica plants in next year. The Brussels sprouts and broccoli I was given by my neighbour have done really well and I’m looking forward to planting many different ones next year. The joy of having so much space is the freedom to ‘play’ and try new things.

 

Bletchley Park

Whilst away at half term we also visited Bletchley Park, home of the code-breakers of world war 2. A fascinating place and somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, Oscar wasn’t keen until we got there and then was intrigued with lots of code cracking and solving puzzles.

It was quite a small house and grounds with ‘huts’ that up to 10,000 people lived and worked in during the war. It was a top-secret facility and even the locals didn’t know exactly what it was being used for but would have noticed the amount of people coming and going especially at shift change time.

When people where recruited they had to sign the official secrets act and were warned that divulging information even to family would lead to prison, they have had stories of children discovering parents not only worked there but could speak and translate many different languages.

Most of the first recruits came from Oxford and Cambridge universities but by the beginning of the war 75% were women recruited from the Women’s Services (WRNS, ATS, WAAF)

It was amazing to see the Enigma machine and to play with a replica to understand how it worked and just how complicated it really was. The most famous code breakers were Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, Bill Tutte, who built the Bombe the machine that eventually broke the Enigma code.

The film Imitation game was the story of Alan Turing and the making of the Bombe and Bletchley Park.