Monday, 18 July 2016

Seashells and sandals

"What shall we do today?" asked Mark.
"Let's go somewhere we have never been before," I replied.
So that's exactly what we did.
After consulting Google and the BBC weather forecast.
Mersea Island was our chosen destination. It's a charming place in Essex, with a causeway separating the east and west, which floods at high tide.
We arrived fairly early in the morning and to our delight we were the only people on the beach. It felt as if we'd discovered a secret location. Tommy set to work digging with his spade and I assisted with sandcastle creations and collecting seashells for decoration.
We wandered aimlessly along the sand, admiring the brightly coloured beach huts and stopped at the cafe for ice-cream. It made a pleasant change to visit such an unspoilt part of the Essex coast.
As the day passed by the beach came alive with water sports and kite running. Families opened up their beach huts and pulled out deckchairs and teapots.
Lunch time came and we treated ourselves to locally sourced fish and chips, lazily ate whilst watching the wind surfers and fishing boats and fantasising about owning a pink beach hut.
Thanks for a special time, Mersea Island. We hope to see you again soon.

The happy beach huts.


Sandcastles.


Love these little feet.


Digging.




Collecting more seashells.


The sun shone so brightly Tommy even took his jacket off.


The best fish and chips. They always taste better on the beach, don't you think?

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Catches thieves, just like flies

Recently, I have compared myself to Spider-Man.
Does this mean I'm regularly dressed head to toe in tight, blue and red, Lycra?
Erm, no. How unflattering this would appear on my body shape!
Does this mean I'm currently climbing tall buildings and swinging on my spider web, in the dead of night?
Not at all. Although that does sound like fun! Oh hang on, I've just remembered, I'm a little scared of heights, maybe that's not the best idea.
Okay, so I wouldn't make a very good Spider-Man.
However, he did once quote those fabulous words, "With great power comes great responsibility!"
That's what I'm talking about. This power verses responsibility thing.
And, personally, my Spider-Man experience is referring to, in the workplace and out of the workplace.
Firstly, let me start with in the workplace...
Two errors were discovered on the back cover of one of our (printed!) academic books.
Which was pretty surprising, almost impossible, considering.
Considering the text was provided by the Publisher and he missed the two errors.
The form containing the text was then passed to the Production Manager, he didn't spot them either.
Next, the Designer laid the copy out, he failed to realise the mistakes.
The Production Assistant proofread, she did not highlight the errors.
The Publisher checked the proof for the cover, along with the Marketing Manager, and guess what? They didn't see the two errors either.
Finally, the cover was sent to the author for his approval, and he signed it off, with the errors. Therefore it was sent to print, and even the Printers did not recognize the errors whilst all pages were on press.
In all my years of publishing experience, I have never known anything quite like it. Worryingly, many human beings missed something, two somethings to be precise, which once you're aware of are so flipping obvious!
No one can really blame anyone, yet production always feel protective towards and responsible for their publications.
Therefore, the production department, myself most definitely included, are feeling less confident and more anxious.
At present, I am working on four magazines and seven academic books. I'm in charge of budgets worth ridiculous amounts of money, and responsible for publishing (correctly!) a lifetime of achievements, research and discovery, from respected Professors and Doctors.
I'm finding press days slightly more stressful than ever.
Can you now see why I feel like Spider-Man?
Granted, I am not a brain surgeon, people's lives are not at risk (thank goodness).
My risk is thousands of pounds, the credibility of very credible people, the confidence in the publishing company who employ me, and my professional career on the line.
Phew.
And don't even get me started on the responsibility out of the work place, with my darling Tommy.
I love him to pieces. Frighteningly, my little man relies on me, and his daddy of course, one hundred per cent.
Actually, being Spider-Man now sounds quite easy.
If only I had a body that was made for Lycra and I wasn't scared of heights.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Stars of the future

What makes your heart sing? Rainbows, shooting stars and glorious sunsets, maybe?
Are there things that you love to do in your spare time? Whether you're a black belt in Judo, collect key rings for your exceedingly large key ring collection, or you just like taking long walks, I think it's food for the soul. Rather like love and laughter.
Things which make your heart sing.
Personally I like to read books, take photographs, write stories, make cards. There are lots of things my heart likes to sing along to.
My cousin and his girlfriend like to dance. Latin and ballroom style. They have only been learning for a year but already they are winners of trophies. Now there's something which I'm sure makes their heart sing, in union. It's a pastime which brings them closer. Plus it enables them to keep fit and unleash a competitive nature whilst travelling the country together.
Not bad hey.
I actually suggested to Mark that we become dance partners, who knows we could be future world champions? But I was met with a glare and an abrupt, "No chance!"
Oh well, I guess Mark has his football, his dancing feet are firmly planted in football boots. Yes football definitely makes Mark a happier person, unless his beloved Arsenal are losing. As much as I cheer when football season is over and my husband and car return to me, I'm glad he has a hobby, a sport, something to focus on.
I shall certainly encourage Tommy to play sport and learn hobbies, and appreciate the wonders of nature. I want to hear his heart sing! He may even show an interest in dancing? Currently we jump around the lounge together to music, it's sort of dancing.
Last Saturday afternoon, my cousin Jack and his girlfriend Jessica performed at our local sports centre, at an all day competition. And myself, my mum, aunties and uncles and cousin Sarah had third row seats to the stars of the future.
It was so much fun. A splendid way to spend an afternoon of entertainment. Made even better due to the fact they reached the semi final.
Well done Jack and Jessica.

Getting ready for their heat.


Here they are, Jack and Jessica.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Where are the stairs?

I always smile when I approach the house on the bend. The one near my parent's house, the one with the little gate in the front garden and the vegetable patch in the back garden. At least it used to have a vegetable patch.
My first memory is running around that vegetable patch, being chased by my mother because I wouldn't go to bed.
So desperate was she that I behave myself and retire to my bedroom, that she threatened to call a policeman if I didn't go to bed as I should.
Eventually this worked as I ran up the stairs to my bedroom, much to my mother's relief. However, I was then distracted by my dolls and refused point blank to actually get into my bed. That's when our doorbell rang and my exasperated mother said, "It must be the policeman, now get into bed please!"
I remember feeling very naughty and squeezing my eyes shut so no one, including a man in a blue uniform, could tell me off for not being tucked up in bed, asleep, as a child my age was supposed to be. But then I heard lots of different voices, followed by laughter, and I plucked up the courage to creep out of my room to investigate.
I peered through a doorway and discovered it wasn't a policeman but the Brown family; the tall lady and man, and their children, who were buying our house.
So that was my first memory, dear readers, in the house on the bend, with the wooden gate and vegetable patch. My first house, until we moved literally around the corner to the bungalow. "Where are the stairs?" I kept repeating on moving day.
It has stairs now, therefore it's a chalet bungalow. Plus it has an extended lounge, green carpet replaces the patterned one. Accompanied by a whole load of happy memories.
Family birthday meals in the kitchen, sleepovers in the bedroom, a paddling pool in the summer and snowball fights in the winter.
I love the fact my parents still remain in the house and today my son plays within the same walls and garden. I'm often telling him little stories regarding my childhood in the chalet bungalow. He especially loves the garden, exploring the stepping stones, and I love following him, always in awe of how much the shrubs and flowers have matured. There's a raised area I used to pretend was my tree house and a shed I used to pretend a pixie lived in, always makes me chuckle when I remember these things.
Now I have the pleasure of watching Tommy lost in his own imagination in my parent's garden.
And long may it continue.

Grandpa's shed, where a pixie once lived




Through the stepping stones


Friday, 3 June 2016

A nurse named Janet

Whenever my life is ticking away nicely, I feel as if the big man upstairs likes to remind me, "Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be too complacent. Suddenly, something could come your way and test your coping mechanism."
My dad has steadily, over the last year, lost weight. He sees a nurse regularly owing to the fact he's diabetic. The nurse also noticed these pounds slipping away, due to recording his weight and checking his general health. Bemused by the weight loss she ordered him to have a blood test and a full body MOT. We were grateful that someone was looking out for him, yet concerned about the test results.
It turned out my dad had a cyst in his liver. This cyst needed to be examined further. After anxious waiting it was confirmed it was nothing sinister. Phew, how lucky did we feel.
But, yes I'm sorry, there is a but - we then received another letter. The cyst was bothering one of the doctors, they wanted a panel of experts to examine further, in case it was a rare form of cancer.
Uh oh, someone mentioned cancer.
Someone was right.
It was a rare form of cancer.
Our worlds tried not to collapse. We all tried to be positive and to hang onto the news that it could be operable.
They just needed to check the rest of his liver, his kidneys, and ensure his body could handle a major operation.
Cue lots of hospital appointments and more worry.
Dear readers, my dad, and his family, have been incredibly lucky. The doctors were reassured my dad is still very fit for his age and the cancer was currently contained. Therefore they removed the offending object. He rested in hospital for a few days and came home in his pajamas, frail yet happy to be home.
We've been warned it's the type that could return so he'll have to be monitored.
I'm painfully aware that not every cancer story has a happy ending. I thank my lucky stars that so far this one has.
Life really is a funny old game, one day you can be minding your own business, then BANG! Bad news hits you right between the eyes.
I for one will be eternally grateful to the lucky stars.
And a nurse named Janet. A nurse who thankfully decided to investigate my father's weight loss.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A pinch of imagination and a splash of sunshine

Well that's the football season over with.
Oh apart from the European Championship, but I don't mind that so much as it's only once every four years, plus it's a good excuse to meet friends and be patriotic. I love an excuse for a get together, preferably one where we can barbecue, then all shout and cheer at the telly. No I don't mind European Championships and even World Cups, especially if England actually haven't been knocked out.
The season I'm referring to is the September to May months where I loose my husband and car every Saturday. Mark is football mad, plays in a local team on these Saturday afternoons, then watches every match possible on the big screen. Therefore Tommy and I amuse ourselves on Saturdays, thank you very much.
But now it's over and I have reclaimed my husband and car! Which means we are a (mobile) family again ALL weekend, with a whole bunch of stuff to delve into.
As long as we remember not to spend too much money. Because outings these days can cost a small fortune and alas we do not hold a never ending supply of money.
Although I've always believed, with a pinch of imagination, and hopefully a splash of sunshine, you don't necessarily have to spend big to have lots of fun. Some of the best pleasures in life are free.
I think we proved this fact last Saturday when myself, Mark and Tommy, took a trip to the footpath down the road, the one which leads to the forest.
It was time to see what mysteries and adventures we could unravel. And it didn't cost a thing, except the £2 for Tommy's ice-cream at the bottom of the forest.
Now you can't begrudge a kid a £2 ice-cream, can you?

The path to mysteries.


Collecting flower fairies and making wishes.


On the look out for forest dragons.


I wonder if pixies live in this tree?


Time to rest.


My boys.


Searching for ducks.


Collecting stones.


Pretending to be a giant.


Buttercups.


Races.


Ice-cream time.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Mary Poppins and the cake bowl

When Mark informed me that his brother and nephew would be visiting at 9am one Sunday morning, I nearly experienced a meltdown.
Notice the word 'nearly'. I am proud to report, I remembered in the nick of time, that I have turned over a new leaf.
Thus, I did not have a meltdown. Because I am trying my utter hardest not to have meltdowns and to be far more casual in my approach to life and visits.
Allow me to paint a clearer picture. It wasn't the thought of 9am that was disturbing me (my world begins at 5.45am week days and a little bit later at weekends) or the fact I think my brother-in-law and nephew are people who should be avoided whenever possible. No, the mere mention of Gary and Will does not mean I erupt in ugly boils and run, shrieking, "Please God, what have I done to deserve this!"
It's nothing half as dramatic as that.
I simply realised, if I want to move forward in this world, I have to stop pressurising myself in my quest for perfection.
Unless your name is Mary Poppins, she who is perfectly perfect in every way, the P word does not exist.
I have decided the P word was purely invented to make me feel inadequate. Especially when entertaining.
This is why I tried not to have a meltdown one particular Sunday morning. Brother-in-law and nephew wanted to visit on the exact same morning husband I were welcoming other friends to our home, for the very first time.
So what, you may say. And yes, you relaxed experts may well say that.
I am just not used to it.
However, Mark and I have promised this year to be more sociable for Tommy's sake and ours. Which is why I am the first to admit we are out of practice with guests and visits.
The last couple of times we entertained, I put too much worry and concern into the event.
Fast forward May 2016, we invited friends for lunch, accompanied with a play date for the kids. And I gave myself firm instructions to not stress over the house and food. Guests do not expect perfection. A great ambiance yes, a memorable time, I hope so. But not necessarily the P word.
Therefore, Gary and Will visited at 9am, just after Tommy and I had finished decorating cakes. The baking equipment was still unwashed and uncared for, but for once I actually wasn't bothered. It was a beautiful sunny morning and we sat in the garden eating cakes and drinking squash. That was for more important than cleaning messy bowls. Besides, preparation is the key, I'd made the pasta dish the night before. (I'm learning!)
It also dawned on me that Gary would not be offended if I chatted to him whilst chopping the salad and hoovering the tiles.
It was actually a very relaxing morning and I carried on this mood until our friends entered our home for lunch and play date.
I think, it's far more important that guests are welcomed to a house where the host is not anxious and agitated, over little things which do not really matter in the grand scheme of things. Such as, the fact I still had the cake mixing bowl in the sink.
Boy, have I come a long way in these matters. And it's so much more fun.

Tommy helping



Reminding myself to enjoy the preparation.



Cake time.


Squash time.



Play date.


Copycats.


Think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.