Thursday, 31 July 2014

A day which redeemed itself eventually

Well, what a day!

I managed to leave work an hour over shift , and got to the car park opposite the BBC . When I say opposite, it is as the crow flies. It used be a quick little walk across by another little car park, but at the moment it's a longer walk.

The new Jubilee Square which is under construction  has cut off the entrance to our building, and we have to go around the block to go through the back door at the moment. Which is nice.

Anyway, I got to my car in the delightful NCP Car Park, walking up one flight of stairs, inhaling the revolting smell of urine soaked steps, and got to my car. As you drive out of the car park, you turn right  - you're on what is called St Nicholas Circle.  A huge traffic island  with a Holiday Inn plonked in the centre of it. Which is nice.

As I drove out around the circle, my car died . Just stopped, lights flashed on the dashboard, and that was it. No power whatsoever. You can imagine the delight of all the drivers coming up behind me. Despite my putting the flashers on, and gesticulating wildly for them to go around me, there were horns going, a few signs ( who knew two fingers or even one could convey such a fervent message?)
and I really did start to worry. How could I get the car to a safe position? Would my back end get shunted?

No one came to help....I was trying to phone for help without success, but then I gotr lucky. Help arrived - it wasn't the  cavalry, because he'd got out of a car, but he really was a knight in shining armour. His name was Paul Dickinson and he was  from British Gas...taking charge of the situation, he caught the attention of two Polish guys walking past .They couldn't speak any English, but with sign language he got them to help and all three of them pushed my around the traffic island to the hotel with the car park I'd just come out of.

Paul, thanks very much! And I'm sorry it took so long to get your breath back.And thank you to the car breakdown man with no teeth who arrived and was so cheery as he helped get the car started.

Three hours after leaving work, I finally got home, tired, and hungry.

But there was good news....for the last few months, I've been trying to find a suitable suitor for my lovely little dog Boo.  She may not be fussy, but I am, and I'd been looking for another black patterdale cross border terrier for her to have pups with. I'd even mentioned on twitter that Boo needed a dog....and I got accused of pimping her out on the internet!

Anyway, the problem has become a pressing one...Boo is in season and Shreddie, a lovely Jack Russell who also lives in the village ,is determined to have his evil way with Boo. He sits outside our gates howling to get in. He follows Boo on her walks with Mr Thinking of the Days, and today was lying in wait in the lane hiding in the long grass, and as they walked past, he pounced. |Boo had to be carried home held high so he couldn't get her.

Anyway, tonight I've sorted out the bridegroom (well it is "wedding season") for Boo. He's such a handsome chap , exactly what I wanted and he's so like Boo to look at , it's untrue.


They're meeting on Saturday and I'm going to be encouraging her to do what I told my children never to do, and that's sleep with someone on their first date. And apparently  their "date" is going to cost me seventy pounds.

Still, that's cheaper than what my car is going to cost me tomorrow, as I need a new starter motor, battery and a few other little bits.

But although I was so cross and flustered earlier ,stuck in the road in a car which wouldn't move, and cursing all the unhelpful people who honked their horns at me, it's a great feeling that there are genuinely nice ones who go out of their way to help someone. People like Paul Dickinson.

I'm also excited about what could happen in about nine weeks time. The patter of tiny paws that's a day to look forward to.......

Today's track is from the incredibly talented Jimi Hendrix...a song that I found myself singing as I drove home tonight - Cross Town traffic



Monday, 28 July 2014

One of the loveliest days ever....The Wedding

It's two months since my darling daughter was married. It's gone by in a flash, and there isn't a day that goes without me smiling or laughing at some memory of the day itself.

We woke to rain. I 'm not just talking about a soft refreshing shower. Or  a steady teeming of rain. Or even a heavy shower. This was an angry, persistent rain which showed no signs of stopping.

And it didn't. The windscreen wipers in my car couldn't keep up with the water and spray as Mama and I made our way to the hairdressers, and again on journey home. I'd also picked up my friend Dimple who was going to make up Lucy, Mama and I. She saw Mama's distress at the rain and told us that in India, when it rained on your wedding day, it was said to be heaven's way of showering you with blessings.

Mama smiled and said " We will be very blessed today indeed!"

And do you know what ?We were. There was one moment at midday when I saw Lucy's face looking through the window, and I nearly cried. How were we to get her to the church, and everyone across the field to the marquee?

I didn't cry but my son Billy did as he saw his big sister in her wedding dress. As did Mr Thinking of the Days too. She looked beautiful, stunningly lovely in her old lace wedding dress.


But miraculously, the rain stopped ten minutes before the wedding ceremony, and as planned we were able to walk down to church.

My boys and I 

At the church gates


And I simply adore this picture of Harry and Lucy with their bridesmaids, Ellie, Sarah, Emma and Grace as they walked through the village to the marquee

And this one is another favourite by the field gate...

And that's where I'm going to stop with the photos. There are so many of them, all so well taken by Matt Horan , if I included all of my favourites , this could just become the longest blog in history.
Instead, I'm going to leave you with a video taken by my gorgeous nephew Ollie. He's a photographer and videographer who made a short video of the highlights of Lucy and Harry's big day.
It captures perfectly the very essence of the day....the anticipation, the emotion, especially when Billy sees his sister in her wedding dress, when Mr Thinking of the days sees Lucy dressed up for the very first time, the fun, the laughter, the love, and some of the shenanigans which occurred later. The dancing...oh the dancing, where we danced all night to a brilliant disco from Alex Wright.And sharing it all with our lovely family and friends who came from far and wide.
The video  arrived today, and I've cried and laughed each time I've watched it. And above all, each frame shows off my darling daughter...beautiful, vivacious, unspoilt and so much in love with her new husband.
Why not sit down with a cup or glass of something and have a look....
The track "Into the Mystic "by Van Morrison was their first dance, and the other tracks were featured in a wedding soundtrack which were given as favours to all of our friends and family
So thank you Ollie....and here he is, strutting his stuff later....

Saturday, 26 July 2014

A day in the land of King Richard III

News of King Richard III continues to dominate in the city of Leicester. Plans are well underway for his reburial in the Cathedral next Spring, and his statue, which used to be in Castle Gardens, has been moved, cleaned and re situated between the Cathedral and the brand spanking new King Richard III centre which officially opens today.

On Tuesday though there was a press preview day, and at 8.55 am I was there live on air waiting to go in. Just before the stroke of 9am , I was invited in - the first journalist to enter the building.

The centre , which has cost £4.5 million , stands on the site of the mediaeval friary of the Grey Friars where the king's remains were buried over five hundred years ago. It's housed in the old Alderman Newton's School, which was then taken over by the Leicester Grammar School. It's a beautiful Victorian Gothic building which has been transformed.

So, I went in and during the morning, walked and talked my way through the centre in a thirty minute outside broadcast .

21st century technology is used to tell  the story of  our  mediaeval King's life and times in the War of the Roses.....

And the throne looked so inviting, I just had to sit on it for a while.....

Animations and displays tell the story about the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, where Richard became the last King of England to be killed in battle.

On the first floor, there's the incredible story of the most exciting archaeological find in recent years, which used modern science and technology to identify the bones of Richard III. It seemed surreal to be walking through the exhibits and photographs of the dig, which I visited  so recently here on display.

I interviewed Caroline Wilkinson from the University of Dundee who had come down from Scotland to visit the centre..she recreated the incredibly detailed facial reconstruction of Richard from his skeleton, which looks so remarkably like portraits of Richard.

Here she is on the left with Sarah Levitt, Head of Leicester Arts and Museums.
And one thing, I felt compelled to do, was take a selfie with Richard III himself.


I also interviewed Richard Buckley , Director of the University of Leicester's Archeological Services who led the search for Richard. He really is the most modest and self deprecating of men and always a pleasure to talk to. 

And on display was an amazing 3D replica of the bones of Richard III , created by Loughbrough University.

Dr Turi King was also there for the preview....she's the University of Leicester geneticist who  with her background both in archaeology and genetics, was approached in the very early stages of the dig. She was asked if the skeletal remains of a “good candidate” to be Richard III were to be found, would she be interested in overseeing the DNA analysis? Her answer was yes, and the rest is history!

And there was a fascinating computer generated animation which was developed by Steffan Davies and Jonathan Gration from de Montfort University. which shows a digital reconstruction of Grey Friars Church, where Richard was buried and his remains discovered, and the now-lost original tomb, which marked the grave.


Meanwhile, back on the ground floor , is the actual site where Richard was found. Instead of being outside  in the elements,  an indoor space has been created to protect the site and where visitors can sit in quiet contemplation

The architect who's done so well to create this centre yet sympathetically restore the Victorian building is Paul East

At the end of the tour, there's a chance to buy all things Richardian. Books about him, pens, mugs, you name it, it's there and all ready to buy.

But outside ,workmen were still building a wall at the back of the centre - I do hope they finished it before today!

 So, by now the new King Richard III Centre will be open and filled with hundreds of  people. It's well worth a visit, and as I left the centre on Tuesday, I was so sorry that my American Aunt Avril and cousin Melinda were still in Leicester to see it for themselves. they were here  only a few weeks ago., and would have loved it. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Days in the week leading up to THE wedding of the year....

So, at the end of May, my darling daughter got married to the lovely man she met in Australia four years ago.

Within weeks of their romantic engagement in Florance, we were swept up in a whirlwind of wedding planning. Where would it take place? When would it be? What type of wedding? All seemingly big decisions , which were made without fuss and quite quickly.

It would be a wedding from home, in the village church down the lane where brides have been married since the twelfth century, carrying on an ancient tradition.

And the reception would take place in a marquee in the field behind our cottage, thanks to the generosity of Ian and Sharon, our friends and next door neighbours ,who gave us the use of  their field.

At the beginning of the week, the marquee men arrived and quickly set to work in the sunshine

My darling mum,  known to most of us as Mama ,had arrived the day before , so while the marquee went up she had a grandstand seat to watch the proceedings.

And by the first evening , when the bride to be arrived home, in a car
full of important things - the dress, the shoes, the bunting, the orders of service, decorations, etc, she gasped with delight  as we sat in the garden with a bottle of prosecco to look at such an important feature of her wedding day.

What happened during the next few days are a blur. A busy blur of frenzied activity, laughter, frowns, goodwill , hard work , pulling together , and a real sense of friendship as we all went about doing what needed to be done for the big day.

Lucy's brothers Billy and Callum took a few days off from work to help, and Grace and Ellie, two of Lucy's bridesmaids were here for three days, working their socks off, as was Harry the bridegroom . On Friday Sarah and Emma the two other bridesmaids had arrived and they were all in the marquee dressing the tables, stocking up the bar, and doing a hundred and one jobs.

Lucy had already made 108 metres of bunting the week before, and by Friday afternoon, most things were in place.....

And yes, the posh loos had arrived!

Meanwhile Mama and my friend Dot had finished decorating the church with flowers.....

Then back in the kitchen, after making about 600 canap├ęs, I sat down with Mama and my friend Eileen who'd arrived to pitch in to hull 60 pounds of strawberries....

And we found that when you're sitting down , chatting and having a glass of wine at the same time as hulling, the job doesn't seem too bad!


By now, we all were tired .It was time to get changed, and go down to the pub in the next village for a meal..and to celebrate my birthday and the wedding anniversary of Mr Thinking of the Days. That's one birthday and anniversary I won't forget in a hurry....being with our extended family - my most favourite and most loved people in the world and with friends, knowing the next day was going to be the biggest day in my daughter's life so far.

But before we made our way home ,, I received an unexpected surprise....a delicious and delightful looking cake made by Grace, who I've known since she was a few months old, and who will always be part of our family.

By then I was nearly in tears of love and gratitude, not just for the cake, but for everything. But I was also excited and apprehensive at to what tomorrow would bring . After all, torrential rain was forecast, would I sleep, would everything be ok? Would Lucy and Harry enjoy their big day?

And yes, you'll have to wait for pictures of the bride, the dress and the wedding shenanigans until the next blogpost....!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A day which was meant to be

I went to a very special wedding on 24th May....that of my darling daughter. I haven't blogged about it yet because I'm waiting for her to do the honours first - after all it was  her special day! Later this week though, I will post photos and thoughts of the most amazing , emotional, beautiful day..

But this Saturday lunchtime, I 'm thinking of another wedding which is taking place today, thousands of miles away in Louisiana in the good old US of A.  My friend Shannon is getting married to James...and their love story is something out of a fairy tale.

Shannon and I have known each other for about six years....

and last February we met up in Ely in Cambridgeshire with her lovely daughter Lauren and two other writers  Denise and Susan. See here

Let me tell you about Shannon. She's beautiful, fun, feisty, full of Southern charm, dynamic and a damn good writer. She also has an inoperable brain tumour.

When we met in Ely, although we laughed til we cried, there was also an underlying sadness for Shannon....and it wasn't just the brain tumour which was causing concern, things weren't going right in her personal life.

By June, Shannon was in the middle of a divorce, and received the worst news from her doctor, that surgery wasn't an option to get rid of the tumour.

She flew back to Louisana  the next day determined to live her life to the full. And sitting next to her on the plane was an airline pilot called James. They talked, they laughed, they kept in the contact, and as for the rest....well, dear reader, she is marrying him today!

So today Shannon, I wish you all the happiness in the world with your handsome pilot as later this afternoon as you walk down the aisle .

 James, you've made my friend so happy already...I can't wait to meet you.

Have a lovely day today and all the other days to come...

Today's track is for you both .....


Monday, 7 July 2014

Days when it's time to stop and ....

High summer, which here in England means temperatures of about 20 Celsius if we're lucky. Not for us the certainty of being able to eat outdoors when we feel like it and the assurance that plans for days out can be kept to.

Which is why it's been a wonderful surprise to have visitors, one from Canada and three from Seattle from across the pond....and to be able to do things we normally can't.

I love being outdoors on an English summer evening. To be able to drink chilled glasses of prosecco while feeling the softness of the grass underneath my feet. To have friends and rellies around for supper and eat under the early evening sun

and sit outside into the long evening until darkness falls at way past 10pm...

even though it was a bit nippy by then...and even Liz from Toronto was feeling the chill.

Last Thursday the Americans arrived and were here for the 4th July too...

which we didn't celebrate with fireworks. We don't do fireworks ever here . Living in a thatched cottage,  being clumsy, and setting off fireworks would be too risky. Instead we chose the safer option, which cousin Melinda and Aunt Avril wanted to do, was to go and see the Leicester of Richard III. Greg decided on a game of golf.

But we did have nine for supper around the kitchen table - all family, laughing , drinking, eating and talking,....and oh how we talked .

When they left on Saturday lunchtime, and my darling daughter headed back down south,the house suddenly seemed very quiet, especially after such a very busy week.

A feeling of tiredness washed over me, and I decided that I would embrace the quietness and solitude.
I would do what my mum is always telling me to do...stop and smell the roses.

I haven't got any roses left in my garden but I did find time to sit in the garden , smelling the herbs and flowers

My faithful furry faced friend decided to follow suit...

and that , by and large was Saturday. Apart from cooking , washing and ironing and going to the allotment, I did nothing.

Sunday was even more restful... I really did stop . I read, and listened to Radio 4. I caught up with the Archers, and a wonderful documentary about the musician Jeff Buckley's visit to London twenty years ago . Do listen, it's available until this Sunday to listen again to.

And then in the afternoon, Boo and I settled on the sofa for a ringside seat watching the men's final at Wimbledon.

Bliss, even though I felt exhausted afterwards. It's tiring watching tennis.....

One thing I will never tire of though, is listening to Jeff Buckley's music.Today's track is one of my favourite tracks of his - it's called "Everybody here wants you".The beat, the voice, the emotion, and the passion still get me every time I hear it.....

Listen, love it and press repeat.....