My very special Christmas Tree

I don’t usually bother with a Christmas tree in my little London flat.  Most years I’m heading out to family, too busy or ignoring Christmas entirely.  This year though I’ve really entered into the spirit.

Christmas cards have been made by hand, written and sent.

Christmas presents bought and wrapped.  With those that needed to be mailed have been sent and received by the recipients ready for Christmas.

A Christmas tree has been made too and decorated with some very special ornaments.  I chose some canes wrapped in willow for the ‘tree’.  I’ve then wrapped silver wire around the canes to represent the branches.  From the silver ‘branches’ I’ve hung decorations that are very special:

  • Some were Mums and had hung on her Christmas trees over the years.
  • Some were made by Mum from old Christmas cards.
  • Some have been received from around the world from my Phyllodes ‘Sisters’.  Each year our Phyllodes Support Group host a Christmas Ornament exchange between members.  Names are selected at random and distributed.  Decorations are bought and sent by mail around the world.  Over the years I’ve received some truly special ones from some amazing people who’ve also been diagnosed with this rare sarcoma cancer.  Some ornaments were sent to me from ‘Sisters’ who are no longer with us.

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It may not be straight or have perfect symmetry in the decorations but it’s super special to me.  Suffice it to say that I love my very special Christmas Tree.

 

A woman’s mind is as complex as the contents of her handbag…

A woman’s mind is as complex as the contents of her handbag; even when you get to the bottom of it, there is ALWAYS something at the bottom to surprise you!
~ Billy Connelly

Recently I was doing some more sorting.  This time through a big bag of old handbags.  Not mine but my Mums.  I’d forgotten about them.  The bag had been hidden in the bottom of a wardrobe in the spare room.

Nothing unusual about handbags you might comment… but… as I sorted them through I spotted a pattern.  Mum kept the same things in EVERY single one of them.  A mirror, scissors, pencil, comb and a tape measure!

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I now have a plethora of each and every one of these items!  I ‘get’ most of them… but the tape measure???

I also discovered a few other fun things…

AAAA Membership

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IMG_7418Membership Card to the Elvis Presley Fan Club in Johannesburg!

and a note from a man I’d never heard of!!  (errr no photo for this one!!)

Most of us may move the ‘important’ items from bag to bag.  Perhaps a mirror, an umbrella, a wallet or an address book.

What do you keep in every handbag that might surprise or confuse?

 

Lovely old crackly vinyl

Indulge this old bird for a second, particularly any youngsters reading this post…. I need to talk about my love for vinyl.   To avoid any confusion, I mean vinyl records!!

Err whaaat?

You may have seen some in a museum.  They look much like uber sized drinks coasters with grooves on them.  Larger versions of CDs really but they have music on both sides.  You need a turntable to play them.  They work by you lifting the ‘arm’ and placing the ‘needle’ carefully onto the vinyl record.  Once done, without knocking the needle or player which may result in a screeching sound, the music will begin to play.  The best ones, for me, are the records that have become slightly crackly and clearly have signs of being overused and well-loved tunes.  They’re fragile.  You can’t play them in a car and to transport them was a nightmare.  Certainly no listening to them as you’re walking to work or on the tube.  Hehe that was where the Walkman came in, if you were lucky enough to be able to afford one you could listen to your ‘chart hits’ on a recorded cassette.

Vinyl comes me in three main sizes (or at least in my collection they did)….

IMG_7083Three record covers showing the sizes.IMG_7082The three vinyl record sizes amongst my collection.

So far so good?   Indulge me further…

I’ve finally opened up the couple of moving boxes that have been packed up since 1998 when I left for Australia.  They were stuffed with vinyl records.  I haven’t opened the boxes until now as I didn’t own a record player anymore but still I couldn’t bear to part with the vinyl.  There’s something so special about vinyl records.  Unlike most people I don’t remember what was my first record I bought or where – although I suspect it may well be in this collection somewhere.  I do however remember saving pennies to buy the latest music.  Venture into the record shop, spend hours searching it out, listening on headphones to endless other records I couldn’t afford and finally handing over my pocket money for one single record.  Leaving the shop carefully carrying my new purchase and eager for it not to be knocked or bent before I had the chance to play it.  My choice of record was probably influenced from my listening to the Sunday night charts show.  I’d often record the show onto a cassette tape.  It was a tough job.  On a Sunday night you’d be glued to the stereo with your finger on the pause button listening intently to the top 40.  Cleverly you’d pause the recording between records so as to avoid the chatter of the DJ making the perfect mixed tape to listen to all week.   I’m quite sure that hour or so was a blessing to parents around the country who got peace and quiet whilst we carefully listened to the chart show in our rooms.

What a total indulgence these past few weeks have been for me.  I’ve bought a record player that records to my computer.  Importantly I’ve been able to listen to each and every album in turn.  Most of them hold great memories for me.  Many of them make me cringe.  I can honestly say my collection is varied and eclectic.  I’ve loved it…. I’m not sure my neighbours have though??

IMG_7080 IMG_7081I also discovered a host of singles.

IMG_7084Again varied, cringeworthy and brilliant.

Amongst them one single that I remember playing over and over to annoy my big brother…

IMG_7087Yes the B side… My Brother!

One of the first singles I pulled out of the box when I first started this job was this one:

IMG_7085Couldn’t have been more perfectly timed as I discovered that I was playing it when Issy passed away.  Her favourite opera and one that we’d promised to see/hear in Milan in January but due to health issues didn’t make.

Crazily, I also discovered several flexidiscs which were presumably given away free with newspapers/magazine etc:

IMG_7086And even crazier was this flexidisc.  Issued by the Conservative and Unionist Central Office:

IMG_7088Oh yes… a flexidisc that was sent to all households in 1964 to help ‘swinging voters’ decide who to vote for in the election.

“Songs for Swinging Voters” [features on Side 1: John Citizen; Nationalisation Nightmare; and Four Jolly Labourmen. Side 2: One Man Band; Poor Old Jo; and John Citizen] a six-track flexidisc of anti-Labour singalongs issued by Conservative Central Office

If you want to listen to a couple of the tracks I’ve uploaded them to my Soundcloud – John Citizen and Nationalisation Nightmare.  Hmm I wonder if this technique was to be used again it might work… perhaps instead of a flexidisc they could send the songs to every itune account for free.

There has been a substantial amount of ‘cheese’ in my collection and I’ve loved relistening to them all.  I’ve recorded quite a few albums and singles so that I can now listen to them through my i-devices.  I’ve even recorded the entire Wind In the Willows story perfect for long car journeys.  I am so very much looking forward to listening to them over and over and over again, crackle and jumping and all.

As for the vinyl.  I think it may be time to deliver it to my big bro, together with the record player and recording device so that he can indulge in our past for a while too.

Tower of London Remembers : Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

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To mark one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World war, an incredibly impressive and striking art installation called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘ has been installed (and continues to be installed) at the Tower of London.

I understand that it was the imagination of ceramic artist Paul Cummins who proposed the idea and with the assistance of stage designer Tom Piper, the project is coming to fruition.

888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British military fatality during the war, will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat over this Summer.

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I’ve seen photographs and listened to commentary on the radio talking about the installation but truly until I arrived there on Wednesday evening I’d not realised the full extent of the impact.

The installation itself is stunning, rich red in colour, each poppy beautifully crafted and individual in it’s perfect form.  Yet together creating this image of blood pouring from the Tower into the Moat in such a striking and moving way.

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We arrived shortly before the evening’s Roll of Honour was to be read.  As we stood looking down into the Moat we listened to the Yeoman Warder reading out a list names.  Each name and rank was read with care and respect.  The Yeoman looking up at the silent group of onlookers and pausing after each name.  At the end of tonight’s long list of names of soldiers who had died too young and lost their lives fighting for our Great Britain, an officer moved up to the ‘mound’ and played the Last Post.  Each note resonated around the Moat and almost clung to the Tower before drifting off into the evening’s last light as the sun went down.  Still and solemn silence from the large group of onlookers with most of us occasionally dabbing an eye.  An incredibly moving experience and one I shall remember for a very long time.

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Since attending, I’ve now registered as a volunteer so that I can play a part in this installation but more importantly to honour the men and women who gave their lives in  World War I.

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Poppies can also be purchased here and I understand will be dispatched after Christmas 2014.  The sale proceeds are going to support 6 UK service charities.

If are in London before the installation is dismantled carefully on 11 November 2014, you MUST go to see it.

Five years has passed….

Hi Mum

I can’t believe it’s been five years since you left.  Sometimes it still feels like yesterday when we watched you close your eyes and go to sleep. Sometimes it feels like forever since I heard your voice.

So often I find myself reaching for the phone to tell you something or just to have a chat – I wonder when I’ll stop doing that?

As I start a new chapter in my life, I’ve been sorting through some more of your things and found some great pictures and cards.  My home phone also broke recently so I plugged in my old one only to discover a whole heap of voicemail messages from you.  How strange to hear our voice after all these years and to know that I won’t hear it again.

Five years since you passed is also significant for me and my health.  I found the lump on the morning of your funeral.  Gosh it’s been a strange five years.  Five years is so significant in cancer terms as most are able to consider it to be the point of ‘all clear’.  As mine was a special/unique/rare/whatever variety, I get to continue the regular checks beyond the five years.  It’s so odd to think you knew nothing of this part of my life, the cancer bit!

Anyway, thought it was time to post some more pictures of you…

Mum TennisSherborne School House Cup Winning Team of 1956

MumGlamI wonder why this photograph was taken?  Looking v glam

21and18Mum at our birthday party celebrating my brother’s 21st and my 18th

BarbadosHolsMum and I chilling in Barbados

MumPartyingBrilliant!  Love that I’ve found a pic of a squiffy Mum with a ciggy!

Miss you Mum

x

Happy Birthday Pops

Dad BirthdayCelebrating Dad’s birthday!

What you can’t see in the bottom left picture is that Dad is trying hard to suppress his own giggles as he watches his Grandson Joe have a very infectious giggle-fit…. below is a selection of pics of ‘the other party’!

JoeGiggles

(***Sorry Joe, you told me I wasn’t allowed to post it on Instagram but you didn’t mention my website!  Love you oodles x)

 

Pure Viva Cleanse – Results

I completed the 3-day juice cleanse yesterday evening.  I haven’t felt the same ‘clean’ feeling that I’ve felt with previous cleanses and find myself a little underwhelmed with this package.

Was I hungry during the 3 days? Yes.  I found having 6 juices a day a struggle.  I would have preferred less juices during the day but a larger volume in each ‘serving’.  Each bottle was only 330ml in volume, mostly sweet in taste and thinner juices than I’m used to.  This culminating in my going to the fridge more often (with 6 juices a day), feeling unsatiated and the sweetness leaving me with a craving for breads. This package, being just the juices with no instructions or timetable, meant I neglected to drink as much water as was probably required, I felt ‘clogged’ and I constantly craved food.  Usually at the end of a detox or juicing period I find that if I crave ‘food’ then it tends to be healthy options, fruit, salad or nuts.  The sweet taste of these juices has left me craving unhealthy options so I wonder if my body isn’t alkalised following this cleanse.

Did I get congested?  Yes.  Despite my taking digestive stimulator capsules in addition to the juices, there was little movement!  TMI?

Do the juices last in the fridge? Yes.  There was less separation of the juice content during the 3 days but a good shake before drinking is required.

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Calorie counting?  On each of the juice bottle labels are the nutritional facts of the content.  This includes the calorie count for each.  I was surprised that each bottle had 200-250 calories meaning that for a 6 juice day this worked out at approximately 1,300 calories.

 

Would I do it again? No.  I didn’t feel this pre-prepared juicing plan provide me with anything more than the juices which I could buy from Pret or similar outlet selling cold-pressed juices.   Although caveat to that would be that as this was an offer at £59 +delivery it may work out cheaper.

Would I recommend Pure Viva Cleanse? No.  I didn’t feel the overall service was great.  Ordering was cumbersome, my only phone contact disappointing and the juices were just juices ie no plan, instructions or information.

Oooh and the all important question….

Did it work and results? As a ‘cleanse’ probably not.  I don’t feel ‘lighter’ nor that wonderful ‘clear’ sense of being that I usually feel after 3 days of juicing.  I did however lose another 1.5kg.

My Prom 14 – Duruflé, Ravel and Simon Holt

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As you know from previous posts, I love going to different concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and I’m also a huge fan of the Proms.   The diversity of the Prom concerts put together over the season means also that even a seasoned Promenader or classical music aficionado will be challenged by some pieces performed and also learn to love or hate new composers/compositions.

Fortunately for me, Pod organises our Proms season by sending out a list of concerts that he and his wife are interested in attending a few weeks before they go on sale.  I, together with other friends, reply with our choice of concerts that we’d love to join them for. Pod then patiently, and repeatedly, redials the booking line number at the moment the clock chimes 9am and until his call is placed in line with the thousands of others who are keen to secure Proms tickets. This year he was only 4,000(ish) in line and successfully managed to secure all the tickets requested.  What a star and quite some feat of patience.

Tonight saw the first of my Proms season.  Our party of four consisting of Pod and Helen, Pod’s brother Ciarán (pronounced ‘Kier-Ron’ (Irish)) and myself.  We met first for a drink and bite to eat at The Queens Arms, a fabulous pub hidden in a Kensington Mews.  Wonderful company, lots of tales and laughter together with great food setting us up perfectly for our short walk to the Royal Albert Hall, climbing the stairs to our second floor box and devouring a cooling ice-cream for dessert before the start of the performance.

Tonight’s programme consisted of pieces by Ravel, Holt and Duruflé (pronounced ‘doo-roo-flay’).
Conductor – Thierry Fischer.
Performed by the wonderful BBC National Orchestra of Wales together with the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the National Youth Choir of Wales.

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Love love loved the pieces by Ravel.  New pieces with which I was unfamiliar and ones that I would love to hear again and to once again lose myself in Ravel’s music.  I found La Valse utterly mesmeric and could listen to this again and again.

Duruflé’s Requiem was, in the main, unknown to me.  However some pieces I recall Mum performing as part of a Marlborough Summer School choral week and other pieces reminded me of long summers in Taizé some many moons ago.  Again pieces that I’d love to listen to again.

Simon Holt’s world première of Morpheus Wakes however was a work that sadly didn’t do a thing for me.  I found it jarring on the ear and wondered if the high pitched composition would find itself in a sci-fi film of the future (a genre of film that doesn’t appeal to me).  Certainly, and sadly, not a piece of work that I want to listen to again.

That’s why I love the Proms programme – I always find something familiar, something challenging and something new in each and every Prom.

Proms14SelfieThe ‘somewhat blurred and looking like a loony‘ obligatory selfie!

PROGRAMME
Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937) – Valses nobles et sentimentales, for orchestra
Holt, Simon (b. 1958) – Morpheus Wakes (BBC commission; world première)
Ravel, Maurice (1875-1937) – La Valse, for orchestra
Duruflé, Maurice (1902-1986) – Requiem

BBC Listen Again – Ravel and Holt here Ravel and Duruflé here

Juice & Cleanse …continued

Following on from my earlier post, the second part of each day consisted of the following juices:

3. Lunch – Cucumber, Watermelon, Mint, Lime
4. Dinner – Beetroot, Apple, Carrot, Turmeric
5. Supper – Celery, Cucumber, Lime

As per the instructions I interspersed the juices with lots of water, some with bicarbonate of soda and some glasses with psyllium husks.  I also had a bath with Epsom salts and wrapped up warm before going to bed to help the detox.

Each day is the same throughout the detox.  5 juices, lots of water with psyllium husks, bicarbonate of soda and a lemon shot first thing.  Before your morning shower you use the body brush to wake up the lymphatic system and at night a bath in Epsom salts.

The part of the instructions that I neglected to follow was not to overexert or play competitive sport during the detox.  Many of you will know my obsession with playing tennis when the sun shines and this week is no exception.  I’m also redecorating so between tennis matches performed my own Bikram yoga going up and down a ladder with a paintbrush in this ridiculous summer heat.

I did have a headache during day 2 of the cleanse but wonder if despite the pints of liquid and water that I was drinking, due to the heat and exertion, I was simply dehydrated. As I’ve not had caffeine or a normal diet for quite some time (mostly juicing) I don’t think it was a withdrawal.

The juices are all delicious.  I’ve enjoyed trying combinations that I don’t usually juice and I’ve surprised myself liking grapefruit and turmeric!

Was I hungry during the 3 days?  No albeit full of liquid.  Generally I tend to make thicker juices than those on the detox so mentally I felt ‘hungry’.  But reminding myself it’s only 3 days and getting prepared mentally for a detox helps.

Is the Psyllium Husk enough to keep the bowel moving?  (Possibly TMI)  By the middle of day 2 I felt I needed to take a couple of digestive stimulator capsules, but everyone is different.

Do the juices last in the fridge?  Yes for the 3 day detox however they do separate a little more each day.  I found that I would need to vigorously shake each bottle more as the detox went on.

Would I do it again?  Definitely.

Would I recommend Juice & Cleanse?   Yes.  Easy website to discover plan options, simple ordering process, well thought out and prepared plans, fast delivery of well packaged juices and plan content together with a wonderful personal service.

Oooh and the all important question….

Did it work? Is my Tummy Trimmer?

During the detox I lost 6.5lbs or 3kg and YES my tummy is trimmer!

The Sanctuary

Gosh I can’t quite believe the news.  Ok so I’m late to the party and completely missed the announcements a few months ago… but the Sanctuary Spa is closing!

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The Spa has been part of my London life for many many many years.  Just a few cheeky examples of times there would be:

I took Mum one year as a treat.  We had a marvellous day mooching between the jacuzzi, steam room, swimming pool and of course treatment rooms.  We lunched together and felt totally pampered by the time we left in the late afternoon.  I can recall Mum saying how special she felt at having been treated to this day, spending it in a fluffy robe, being spoilt and how she’d never done anything so extravagant before.

I’ve been there with friends for spa days.  When you absolutely need some down time.  I love that no mobile phones were allowed in the spa and that you it meant that you couldn’t check your email or receive panic calls from the office.

I’ve been treated to days there by friends.  Most recently when I helped a friend’s parents organise, pack up and ship their possessions overseas and sell their family home when illness and frailty got too much to do the task themselves.  What a treat for me though and quite undeserved.  A day of pampering, a glass of bubbles, pampering treatments and luxury.

I’ve used the spa as a retreat when surprising people and returning to the UK from Australia.  It was a gem.  I used to get a flight landing at Heathrow in the early hours of the morning.  Piccadilly line into Covent Garden with my rucksack on my back.  Arrive at the Sanctuary and check-in for a day of jetlag recovery and spoiling.  Sleeping on the loungers in the warmth of the spa, drifting off whilst watching the carp fish swim beneath me.

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Only for me to emerge from the spa in the early evening, rejuvenated, relaxed, jet-lag-free and ready for a party!

I was also a member of the Sanctuary Spa Gym for women.  It was probably in the early 90s when it first opened.  I remember it being wonderfully inexpensive and just the perfect place for me to work off some blubber (not that there was much then!).  I used to get the tube to Covent Garden in my gym gear early in the morning and do a class or gym session before a shower and short walk to the office.  Then I’d head straight back there after work for another workout, shower and change before going out on the town.  I can honestly say it’s the only gym I managed to get to 5 times a week – always with the promise that I was in town and near the bar afterward!  It was a great gym and I was so very unhappy when they finally realised they could charge a whole lot more than they had been to those of us who were there from the beginning.

So when they finally close the doors at the end of this month, it’ll be with a little sadness.  I’ve enjoyed many visits to the Sanctuary Spa with many people, many occasions but always feeling that little bit more wonderful for it.

sanctuary-spa swing

We shall all certainly miss the swing!