Monday, 30 September 2013

Good Things....

I picked up a horrible cold from the kids at school at the end of last week...
but the weather on Saturday morning was far too nice to stay at home feeling miserable.
We hurtled through the food shop then headed off for the Worcestershire+
Shropshire border and my favourite stretch of the Severn Valley.
This time we parked by the river, just south of Bridgenorth, and followed a trail
through National Trust land round the edge of Dudmaston Park.
There were some fabulous opportunities for early Autumn photos...
The trees were just starting to turn by the 'Big Pool'..

The house is closed to visitors on Saturdays so the parkland was really quiet...

We crossed the main road and followed the footpath to the north,
 up a valley with further small pools and fishponds...

It was a beautifully tranquil spot...

Eventually we followed a track out of the valley and started to walk south again,
along a gentle ridge with great views...

This house, near the church in Quatt, is in the process of being restored.
The sandstone panels round the windows were carved at some stage in the past.
Now they are really weathered - but you can just about make out the design...

Shortly after I took this picture a lovely elderly gentleman wandered down the lane.
He stopped to chat and offered us a taste of the late season raspberries that he'd just picked.
We started chatting (as you do!) and he explained that he'd lived on the Dudmaston Estate all his life.
His father had been the Gamekeeper and he'd been born in the Gamekeeper's Cottage.
I felt really privileged to be talking to someone who had such a detailed knowledge of the area.
He gave me some 'top tips' for the best places for Autumn colour photos - which I'll definitely be following up!

Then we wandered back across the fields to the car....

....and our picnic!
Other good news in 'Stand and Stare-Land'...
My Mother in Law's tumour is benign.
Obviously there are still further decisions to be made with regards to treatment
and her health needs to be monitored....
But we don't have to deal with the 'Big C' - Thank God.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A trip down memory lane...

This is the Oxford of my memories..
The curve of the High Street - buses, bikes and tourists..

The University Examination Hall..
(I actually took my Grade 1 Music Theory exam in this enormous building - aged 7)

The Jewellers where Mark found my engagement ring...

...And colleges where I went on Language and Linguistics courses while I was studying for my A Levels..

University security men outside the Sheldonian Theatre - and a graduation ceremony taking place..

Oxford's Debenhams - Home of my Mum's "Great Ryvita Scam"
(She convinced us that Debenham's Ryvitas were the most exotic food stuff on the planet - rather than the cheapest option.  Oddly enough, my sister and I still have an obsession with crackers and savoury biscuits.  Early training lasts...!)

Boswells - Home of pretty much anything and everything.
(I actually bought 8 X 100Watt light bulbs there on Saturday)

This is the Oxford of new memories...
made last weekend during my Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary Weekend.
Oxford Prison and Castle..

I left Oxford in January 1991 when the prison was still in use...  The castle is now a museum..

While the main building has now become a luxury hotel....

My parents opening some of the huge number of cards from family, friends and neighbours..
Grandad and Youngest Niece - exhausted by the process!!!!

~ X ~
A warm welcome to my new followers.  I will come and find your blogs at the weekend!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

It's all good! Well almost....

Life has been altered beyond all recognition in 'Stand and Stare-Land' over the last two weeks.  I have stuck to my new school year resolutions and..
  • Sleep (the real stuff that lasts for hours - not crashing out from exhaustion, then fretful wakefulness from midnight onwards) reigns supreme!  I feel great and could take on the world.
  • Work is fine.  I'm making decisions with a clear head and a sense of perspective.
  • I have Evenings....... real ones!  I have the energy to walk, read, do household chores, chat to friends on the phone and even go out and socialise.
  • My weight has dropped by some 4 kilos - just in 2 weeks.
Now that I've reflected a bit, I can see that it wasn't really work that hijacked my life..... it was my atrocious sleep patterns.  I can also see the way that I constantly adjusted my life to compensate for my sleep deprivation.  It's been a bit like coming out of a long dark tunnel..... and I'm ridiculously excited about it all at the moment!  Life without a 'dragging tiredness' is much more fun.

Unfortunately, I think my new found energies may be taken up by family worries in the next few months.  Mark's Mum had a scan recently and she found out at the end of last week that she has a brain tumour.  We are waiting to find out the details - she has an appointment on Tuesday. 

Last night we went to Oxford to take Mark's Dad out for a birthday meal.  Mark's parents have been separated for almost 20 years but his Mum always phones on his birthday.  She hadn't rung this year so his Dad was already concerned.  Mark had the unpleasant task of explaining about the tumour.  Difficult....

Mark is also very involved in the final stages of a major project at Land Rover.  He's doing lots of extra hours because the contractors are working to his design and brief for the conveyor systems.  He's keeping a remarkably calm exterior but I think the his stress levels are rising.

The main problem is that Mark's Mum lives in Lincolnshire.  The journey between Worcester and Sleaford is very awkward - the roads are either extremely busy and frequently clogged up motorways or slow 'A' roads.  We can't visit her for an evening, as we can with Mark's Dad. 

We're not quite sure where all of this is going at the moment.... but I'm glad that I now have the energy to be a bit more useful!!!!


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Happy Birthday Mum and Dad!

My parents share the same birthday - the 7th September.
This year Dad was 74 and Mum was 70.
My sister offered to host a party for family and friends.
Some of my parents oldest friends came down from Manchester
and over from London.
It was great to catch up with people that we see very rarely..
My sister set up the food indoors...
but the weather stayed mild and dry enough for everyone to move into the garden..

Mum had loads of cards and flowers....

....while Dad enjoyed catching up with his oldest friend
(they started Primary school together)

September is a month of celebrations.
Today Mark's father is 79.
In two week's time my parents will celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
On the 30th my youngest niece will be 14...
and her father also celebrates his birthday in early October.
Lots more parties to come!
~ X ~
Thank you for all your supportive comments on my last post
 - I really appreciated everything that you wrote.
I've stuck to my plans and I'm 'cautiously optimistic' that things are falling into place.
I've read somewhere that it takes about 3 weeks to embed or change a habit
but I've already noticed the difference in my energy levels and moods
(especially this weekend, when I've had very little time to myself.)
I'm definitely sticking with things this time!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Getting a Grip...

This week I've started my 25th year of teaching.  I started work at a small Upper School (actually a Secondary Modern) in Buckinghamshire back in September 1989.  I've taught ever since - without a break for Maternity Leave but in a variety of schools and situations, which has kept things interesting.

This week has caught me in a slightly pensive and reflective mood. 

I still love being a teaching as much as I always did.  I adore getting to know the kids, and trying to match my enthusiasms to their interests so that we both benefit from being in the classroom.  I think I'm lucky to have chosen Music teaching as my career.

BUT.... I'm not keen on the idea that another 12 months of teaching is going to have another 12 months of 'wear and tear' on me. 

IF.... I handle the 5.45 alarm calls; the 70 miles commute; the considerable workload; the additional concert schedule and stress generated by the general staff politics in the same way as last year.... I will just end up in the same place at the end of the year.  I was drinking a bit (sometimes a lot) too much wine; far too much coffee and virtually no water.  I slept badly and the sleep deprivation made the stresses and stupidity harder to handle.  I was too tired to function in the evenings and the cycle just kept on repeating and growing. Standard stuff really.....


SO.... I'm implementing some 'New School Year' Resolutions.
  • Exercise every evening - in the form of walking (while the weather is dry and we can get out) and Pilates (when the weather is wet).
  • No 'habit drinking' - especially while I'm cooking or continuing through the evening after the meal while I'm watching TV. 
  • Driving myself whenever possible, so that I can get home a little earlier and start dinner before Mark gets home.
  • Doing everything I reasonably can to ensure that I sleep properly when I go to bed.  (This may result in a trip to the Docs - but we'll see..).  If I slept every hour that I was under the duvet, I'd never be sleep deprived again! 
  • Working out some of my priorities.  I can't remember the last time I went out to be sociable mid-week because I'm become frightened of missing out on sleep.
  • Keeping a sense of perspective - after all, 24 years at the chalk face must generate some useful prior experience!!!!!
Wish me luck.....

I hope that the new academic year is going well for everyone.