Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter Holidays

The Easter holidays are rolling past fast, Max digging in to some serious A level revision (though he has a LAN party planned for the weekend and has offered to drive Vicki back up to Oxford tomorrow so is getting some respite other than our requests for help with odd jobs).

Meanwhile Rosie has her first full-time job! She is starting in London on Tuesday, which is rather tight given our Easter weekend plans, but hopefully she will manage the first few days by commuting and we will see what we can achieve in a day or so up in town as soon as she has a 'weekend' off. She has done very well to get this one, the second round of interviews being a whole day of activities, so we hope to toast the start of this new phase of her life this evening.

...when we will have the whole family together! Ben has just called to say he has got an early train, so will be with us in time to eat. Luckily I had planned a slow-roast lamb so there will be plenty to go round, and he will be able to see his sisters before they leave next week.

I was also delighted to be invited to join our conductor's second choir this week: they are better singers and more professional in their approach, meeting up around the country and performing small concerts. I will be able to meet them all at a retreat planned at the end of May which should be great fun, provided I can keep up with them.

Rosie and I had a short but lovely drive this morning through the sunshine and bluebells to local business Fickle Pickle, who take old furniture and repair and repaint for very reasonable prices. I was looking for a cabinet that might suit our kitchen and Lynn showed us round her busy barn workshop, finding a piece that might fit the bill. She was very keen to visit Normandy so we can hopefully work out an exchange of favours at some point.

Meanwhile I have been weeding and planting in the garden, as it bursts into Spring leaf and blossom. Such a wonderful time of year, and the week-long clear, sunny skies have been fabulous.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Happy 80th Birthday Daddy!

After another couple of days in hospital this week it was touch and go whether our plans would come to fruition, but luckily Sunday dawned bright and sunny, Dad was home and in fine fettle, and most of us managed to get down to Somerset and celebrate in style!

Rosie and I were supposed to be making Scotch eggs but Martin dragged her down to the boat instead, so they were doing this (anchored with friend Mike on Beaulieu river for the night)
whilst I had a different kind of help from Vicki:
But it all turned into a good table of food
 we were able to sit outside in the sunshine,
 and Daddy looked fine in his Birthday cloak.
Will and Tom in the back garden

The nicest one of Daddy
Jenny and I managed to pull together enough food and Sean provided drinks, and what with Kerry doing decorations and our children helping out with preparations and washing up it all went smoothly.
Dad and his three daughters

Daddy seemed genuinely surprised and delighted to see us, and it was super for siblings and cousins alike to catch up whilst all enjoying having the birthday boy back at home and looking well again.

Cutting meringue cake in Vicki's birthday present cloak

Family getting back to business
The timing was not right for Jon and family, but we did pretty well to get nearly everyone else together. Ally and the children had to scoot off to reach Embo that evening, Martin took all four of ours back to drop off Ben, and Jenny and I did some final tidying up before she came back with me to catch a train home this morning. 

Almost as though it never happened! But he has some good memories to prove it did. 
Happy 80th Birthday Daddy x

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Happy Days

Nothing important has really happened this week. But a few good things have made me happy.

Martin wanted to go off in Drifter for an evening, and managed to persuade Rosie and a local friend that this would be fun. I had other business to attend to but they went off happily in my absence and have just returned (to warming roast lamb) after a really lovely trip, anchoring off Beaulieu in a calm sunset.
In their absence I prepared goodies for tomorrow, mowed the lawn (full of moss) and received a rather wonderful invitation to join a choir retreat over the May Bank Holiday, which I accepted with unseemly alacrity.

Rosie has been busy sorting out her life: whilst awaiting news from job interviews she has had her teeth checked (so nice that they all have Martin's perfect teeth but I can't help being jealous); hair trimmed and been sorting out her wardrobe. How lovely to be on the cusp of independence, we all have our fingers tightly crossed for her!

Max is now on Easter holidays so is busy planning LAN parites and being reminded to revise. Vicki is filling her time (I went to see Noah with her this week on a whim, what a bizarre film!) before shooting back up to Oxford,  and we are hoping to see Daddy before too long, though he has been back in hospital again this week with a DVT. Being nearly 80 is obviously a tough business.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


We have a somewhat over-familiar relationship with the RAC.

In successive years we have called upon their services more, and added to the package, so that now the whole family is covered and each car for home start, breakdowns, tow home, free fish n'chips...

But every year we seem to get our money's worth. This time it was my little Bluebell, freshly MOT-ed and returning from Basingstoke to collect Rosie off the train from her very-much-wanted job interview in Oxford.

We had barely nipped into the rainy, rush-hour traffic when a funny hum made me pull over onto the hard shoulder. Smoke was coming from an abjectly-flat rear wheel and the RAC confirmed they would race to our rescue after Rosie ventured out to confirm our number plate (I know...) and motorway marker.

And so we stood on the M3 bank in the rain for 45 minutes or so, Rosie in her smart interview suit and shoes, as Bluebell had her hip replacement.
The tyre was badly ripped and the rain pelted down hard just as soon as we were back on our way, so on many counts we were lucky not to have suffered more.

The most joyful news this week was of course the birth of wee Jemma Rose on April 1st, fantastic to hear everyone is doing well, and we are all desperate to see her and the new family, fingers crossed it won't be too long.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Drifter Drifted

Hoorah, our first proper trip out in Drifter!
It was a super warm and sunny day: Martin had gone down to Drifter overnight to get on with some jobs, whilst I stayed back to collect Rosie from her day-long interview in Guildford and let everyone catch up on sleep. But we were up and off before long, arriving to find Martin all ready to sail after a nice cuppa and some pineapple bread.

And it was good! We were well wrapped up (even sunglasses) and everything worked despite having been pulled apart and put back together, a feat of achievement for Martin on his first grown-up boat.

After some zig-zagging down Southampton Water we decided we were peckish so popped into another MGL Marina for a hot lunch at a local pub in the sunshine, then back to the boat for a slightly-stressful manoeuvre off the finger mooring and an easy goose-wing back up to Hythe.

That's my kind of a sail: nice weather, interesting bits n' bobs to see, civilised lunch and back home in time for G&Ts.

Sunday was Mothers' Day and Rosie had been up early before disappearing to Jigsaw to set out a scrummy breakfast feast including fresh berries, bagels and salmon, yummy!
Max and I did some jobs in the garden (well, he mowed and I pottered), Ben called to wish me a happy day (as I munched on his fudge) then Victoria provided freshly-baked crackers, dips and bubbly for a late lunch. Martin and Max cooked up a delicious pork joint dinner in the evening. No shopping, no planning, no cooking, no cleaning... nice!

This morning the chap came to re-enamel our en-suite bath, which was already badly chipped when we moved in 15 years ago. He has spent most of the day stripping, sanding and then spraying up there, giving the bath a sunbed treatment after each application. Now we need to leave it to dry for three days before we can use it,but hopefully it will be worth it!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Devon Delights

I had a jaunty trip down to Devon this week: kind Rosie and her husband had offered lunch at their glorious rural retreat near South Moulton, together with some helpful advice relating to my new business, so I abandoned the family and thoroughly enjoyed the drive down the A303.

Victoria has been away in Normandy with a group of friends from university, some of whom stayed overnight en route. They were off early Friday morning, packed into the little red car with warning triangles, fluorescent jackets and route-reminders ringing in their ears. Fortunately they let us know they had arrived safely, but meanwhile we have been without lil' red for a week.

Max has therefore needed ferrying to and from college/rugby/friends, and Martin had completely forgotten that without either me or the extra car he could not get to his MOT appointment (nor his dentist) and must be around for various taxi services. Oh how lovely it was then, on several counts, to see Vicki safely returned last night, car and friendships intact and having spent a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable few days in Dipdalle.

My hosts entertained me to delicious lunch and coffee and were generous with both time and tips. It was really good to talk through my ideas and learn from someone who has experience in a similar field. I am hoping they will accept my offer of some time in Normandy by way of thanks for their friendly involvement.

Denise and Paul then provided G&T, lamb shanks and strawberries, fun chat and divine B&B at Clawton (a great drive with narrow, steep roller-coaster roads, very exciting!) so we caught up on their doings (and the ever-expanding MSL empire) before a blissfully quiet night.

Denise and I took a short walk in the morning around Roadford Lake, with its intriguing new sundial, before she set me on the route back home
I managed to find Stourhead Gardens en route so stopped for a coffee and wander around the gorgeous lake with its magnolias in bloom and the tail end of daffodils nodding everywhere.

Plus The Bristol Cross (see below) about which the salient fact is that in 1735 there was a petition to remove it from the streets of Bristol as "a superstitious relick and a public nuisance". After it was removed and re-erected on College Green it was again dismantled on the grounds that it "hindered people from walking abreast". A similar erection in Winchester's town centre (the Buttercross) has become a much-loved meeting place, yet was also almost sold into private hands in the 18th century. Fortunately the residents of Winchester had other ideas.

I also had a chance to wander around the gorgeous village church which boasted the prettiest of gravestones
So a thoroughly enjoyable little break for me, with some useful contacts and information to show for it too. Thank you so much, Denise and Rosie (and husbands) for a lovely couple of days.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A March Mixture

Martin and I took a rare lunch together one sunny day last week, stopping off at a carpet shop (for our bedroom, where the carpet was decaying even when we arrived 15 years ago) then heading for The Plough in Sparsholt, where they serve delicious draught cider and sandwiches.

Little Bluebell has done a fair few miles over the last fortnight, first nipping up to Oxford on another clear and sunny morning to fetch Victoria home for the Easter holidays.

Magdalen from Bluebell's window
Blossom was just popping open on the trees as we took a little wander around the meadows and stopped for coffee and cake in Vaults & Gardens before heading home.
...where we found Max showing another fencing man (not brandishing an epee, rather a tape measure) around the garden in the hope he will provide us with a quote for our fallen boundaries.

Daddy went into hospital for his hip replacement some two weeks ago now: Jenny travelled here from London after her Marketing course on Saturday and we had an enjoyable catch-up, setting off for Shepton Mallet early morning so that we could pop in to surprise Daddy.

Kerry had been staying with Mummy so we were able to wish her a Happy Birthday when we saw them both at Daddy's bedside. He had been kept in over the weekend after a large blood clot formed and he had to have a further operation. However, he was looking well and was delighted to receive the i-Pad Air we gave him as an early 80th Birthday present on behalf of all the siblings.
Unfortunately he suffered complications which ended up in him being transferred to RUH Bath overnight a few days later, and though they ended up not doing any further operations, he did have a hard time getting his gut settled, being on intravenous fluids and then fluids only for several days.

I went back to stay with Mummy for a couple of days this weekend to help with driving and general sorting of things in Daddy's absence. We visited a couple of times and were appalled to find that despite trumpeting the value of cleanliness and disinfectant measures on the front page of their website, the hospital was in practice far from vigilant.

Nurses were not interested in helping Daddy when he had been sick or was having trouble, and failed to provide any kind of clean-up, save to remove used bowls and tissues when we alerted them. Nor were visitors checked or encouraged to use sanitising gel. We could have been anyone, walking in to see any patient, covered in grime and worse, for all the notice they took.

You have to wonder at a system that acknowledges the importance of hygiene yet on a practical, daily level completely ignores the most obvious breaches. Even an average mother would wipe down a sick child, offer some kind of mouth-wash and exercise caution when re-introducing food, and would limit their visitors. Suffice to say we were delighted when they decided to discharge Daddy.

But wait. Discharge HOME? For a man of nearly 80 who hasn't eaten in over a week, is dizzy if he stands, has low blood oxygen levels and has had little if any physiotherapy after a hip operation due to being hooked up to catheters, blood transfusions, antibiotic/other drips and oxygen; whose sole carer is herself 75 and who needs to have some confidence that all is well before accepting that responsibility?

I spent a while on the phone to both hospitals and to Daddy conveying, with the smallest possible threat, that it would be mad for them to discharge Daddy home when the original hospital was perfectly happy to accept him back and complete his care. Fortunately everyone saw sense and Daddy eventually called to say another consultant had been to his bedside with the immortal words "there has been a change of plan".

So after a busy couple of days up and down to Bath (past our former village, Ubley, though it was not convenient to stop) I left Mummy to rest for a few days before, with any luck, Daddy comes home to be nursed by her until he recovers his strength.

Just before I left we were luckily able to visit Mummy's dear friend and honorary Personal Assistant Gwen, who has been a fantastic support and looks after her well with cinema evenings and delicious meals, and who kindly let us have a wander around her beautiful cottage garden (and sent us home with books and shears and smiles).

Max had suffered a large abscess on his front tooth last week, his NHS dentist telling him he would have to have it pulled out. I had arranged for him to see my (private) dentist so in my absence Martin took him along. She was able to evacuate all the nasty pus and says it is worth attempting to save the tooth. I have greater confidence in her than the NHS (which is why I changed) so it seems again we are going to have to pay for what one might expect to be provided free (certainly for students).

Bluebell's oil light came on on my way home, and I had postponed her MOT to go to Somerset, so she went in for her medical afterwards...and came out with flying colours. 

I have just received an email from Mummy saying that Daddy, too, is finally getting back to his normal self, though he will stay in hospital for the weekend to ensure he is eating and walking more reliably.So maybe everyone will come out with flying colours after all.