Thursday, 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015 - Welcome to 2016...!


Well, the past 12 months have been another roller-coaster ride but thankfully there's been decidedly more ups than downs. With rather more medical woes than I could ever have imagined, 2015 was, at times, both a physical and emotional challenge, but thanks to the support from my wonderful family and friends (and a wide variety of NHS specialists) the year has ended with a more positive outlook for the future.

Socially, I've been to so many new places that my geography has improved enormously. I've enjoyed lots of day trips here, there and everywhere, and been treated to the fabulous Britishness of 'afternoon tea'. Further afield I've travelled to Wales and enjoyed my seventh holiday in the Canary Islands! I've been introduced to the concept of pub quizzes and have been fortunate enough to have been on the winning team on more than one occasion. I've accepted awards on behalf of a local community project that I volunteer for on two separate occasions and I've also discovered a new and exciting genre that I can merrily indulge in - Steampunk.

Financially, things have taken a dramatic turn too, with a brand new job in addition to the freelance work I was already doing. Technically I've successfully completed several DIY tasks all by myself and have finally dragged myself into the 21st Century with a new smartphone. I'm pleased that I managed to achieve everything on my 'To Do' list for 2015, so for 2016 I've set the bar even higher. I now begin a brand new year full of excitement and anticipation, wondering what wonderful new adventures the next twelve months will bring... Happy New Year!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Cobwebs...


What better way to blow away those Christmas cobwebs than to take a long, sunny walk, and it's even better if you can take a mate along with you. The week between Christmas and New Year can be a strange period; especially for those off work and who have therefore lost their usual daily routine. Personally, I like to get out and about, weather permitting, so when the sun decided to show it's face this morning that's exactly what I did.

Although it's always lovely to walk my favourite route, it was especially nice to be acting as tour guide for a chum. As we walked through countryside, beside a river, we saw plenty of wildlife including robins, finches, herons, ducks, swans and seagulls. The locals clearly take Christmas very seriously as they'd decorated a random tree beside a footpath with an array of sparkly baubles - as you do! Being close to a railway track meant that the inevitable train thundered past, and when we reached our destination I could finally enjoy all things boaty.

The pub lunch was extremely welcome and the delicious sarnies and chips, washed down with coffees, sustained us during the return trek. Having fun doesn't necessarily have to cost a lot of money, you just need to do the things that make you happy. It's even better if you can share your enjoyment with a friend.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Pole-axed by The Green Fairy...


When first you get into Steampunk, you very swiftly learn that absinthe plays a large part in your new hobby, so in order to fully embrace the genre it's essential to partake of the aforementioned liquor. However, at 55% abv absinthe is to be partaken with extreme caution!

Christmas Day seemed as good a time as any for my first dalliance with the Green Fairy, so after the conventional festive revelries were all done and dusted I tentatively poured myself a large tot of the decadent emerald booze. Obviously, I'd researched the appropriate serving suggestions and although my modern kitchen is sadly not furnished with a traditional absinthe glass and spoon, a wine glass and a tea strainer seemed to suffice. As I gently dripped the ice cold water onto a heap of sugar (no cubes in the cupboard) I witnessed the 'louche' and mentally prepared myself for this new experience.

Quite what happened a short while after that remains a mystery, but I woke (regained consciousness?) on Boxing Day with a stonking headache and a strong licorice taste in my mouth. I'm not entirely certain whether or not I enjoyed myself, but it was something I'd never done before and I can now tick it off my list of new things to try in 2015. Here's to many more firsts in 2016!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Fabulous Family Festive Fun...


I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I love my daughters so much I could burst! Yes, I know most mums (and dads) feel the same about their offspring, but my girlies really do make me feel enormously proud that they've turned out to be such wonderful young ladies. They arrived at lunchtime bearing lovely, thoughtful gifts and some stunning home-made chocolate cake.

We ate sweetie things, crispy things, jammy things and filled rolls. We pulled crackers, told daft jokes and wore silly hats, because that's what you have to do at this time of year. The afternoon whizzed by, and far too soon it was time for them to go and spread their Christmas joy further afield.

My babies are all grown up now, but for a few wonderful hours it felt soooooooooo good to have them back home with me. Ahhh... makes you feel all mumsy again ... Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy...


When my faithful old office chair sadly went off to the furniture scrapheap in the sky on a Saturday afternoon, I was in need of a replacement fairly pronto. I'd seen the adverts on telly about the Argos same-day delivery promotion, even at weekends, so I figured I'd give it a whirl.

Within 2 minutes of visiting their website I found exactly what I wanted for just under £20, and 2 minutes later I'd made my purchase and had bagged a £3.95 delivery slot between 7pm and 10pm that very day. A text confirmed my information and within two hours a second text alerted me that my brand new chair was en route! Indeed, by 9pm it was on my doorstep, just hours after my old one broke!

Eager to assemble my new toy, a quick glance at the instructions was all that was needed and in a record-breaking nine minutes I was able to sit down in comfort at my computer once again. Sometimes the internet is a wonderful thing.


Friday, 4 December 2015

Carry on Canaries...


OMG, where do I start?! Just returned home from a whole week of Spanish sunshine and pina colada slushies and I'm already checking out prices and dates for my next holiday. With my old school chum as my co-hort it quickly turned into 'Two Go Mad With a Selfie Stick' as we took every opportunity possible to capture every fabulous moment for posterity. 

The rooms were spotlessly clean, the drinks were plentiful, the entertainment was rather good, the staff were the friendliest people on earth and the location was perfect. We bought new shoes (obviously), trawled around 'tat' shops giggling at rude bottle openers, put the world to rights laying on sun-loungers on the beach under the stars and decided that midday was officially wine o'clock.

It's amazing what a bit of sunshine and a few palm trees can do to two fifty-somethings, as we re-lived our teenage years, albeit with slightly greyer hair and much more disposable income. It may be some time before my liver recovers...

Friday, 20 November 2015

Steampunk...


I'm not generally a very 'with it' kind of person and have never really been into the latest fads or fashions, however, since I got my first proper understanding of Steampunk I admit I'm utterly hooked. I'd originally heard the term over a year ago on a tv show about bespoke cakes (a couple were having a themed wedding and wanted a Steampunk cake) but at the time I just didn't 'get it', but I do now.

I've always liked Victorian clothing, and paraphernalia, and I do like anything a bit quirky or eccentric, so it was only a matter of time before I discovered something that'd be right up my street. Only time will tell how long this new obsession will actually last, but for now I'm enjoying sticking brass cogs and keys everywhere and trawling charity shops for anything vaguely appropriate that I can wear, which is in keeping with the genre but doesn't make me look a complete fool in tescos. Ah, the utter joy of finding a brand new hobby it quite exhilarating...



Thursday, 19 November 2015

Having a Moment...


You know that feeling, when you hear a song that you've heard a hundred times before, but for some reason or other this particular time it catches you emotionally unawares? Well that just happened to me. 

Whether it's related to the fact that in recent days there's been lots of upsetting stories of tragedies in the world on TV and in the newspapers, or whether I'm just 'having a moment', I'm not at all certain. Maybe it's a combination of both, but when it happens it really can stop you in your tracks and force you to think about the genuinely important things in life.

For this reason, please just indulge me as I dedicate the Cilla Black song 'You're My World' to my beautiful twin daughters ... You're My World

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Shout Out, Get Out, Stay Out...


I'm rather pleased with myself because I managed to nab a coveted spot on another free Professional Development course that my new employers run, and this time there was more in-depth training on the Health & Safety aspects of fire hazards, which goes hand-in-hand with my new role as a Fire Evacuation Steward. These are transferable skills I can use in any situation, including when I'm at home.

The highly experienced trainer pulled no punches and I have to admit his shock tactics worked. I now know that the majority of fires are caused by electrics, and that you should never use a multi-way for plugging in anything that produces heat (hair straighteners, fan heater, etc). I also learnt that it takes just two and a half minutes from the first wisp of smoke before you become unconscious, and that given the amount of electrics in bedrooms nowadays you should have a smoke detector in them, with an absolute minimum of two in each home. We were also warned that despite the romance of a candle-lit bath, fibreglass (which many baths are made from) is highly flammable and you really don't want to find yourself sitting inside a ring of fire!

As landings, stairs and hallways are your pathway out of a burning building you should never have anything in them that would be a trip hazard in a dark / smoky environment. Also, closing all doors wherever possible is the best way to keep any potential fire at bay long enough for you to exit safely, and unless you're a fully trained fireman, never ever attempt to put a fire out yourself or return to a burning building. The main message however was just three simple things; in the event of a fire, shout out, get out and stay out!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Lucky for Some...


Despite the uncertain weather forecast and the fact that it was Friday 13th, when an opportunity for a road trip presents itself when you have a day off work, it would be churlish to turn down the offer, which is how I ended up in a lovely old town with a quayside looking at gorgeous boaty things.

It's great exploring shops with your mates because you can simply relax and be yourself, and nobody judges you when you sniff an incense stick a little too hard and end up with a runny nose. Despite a distinctly fresh breeze it remained dry for the most part, which led to numerous photo opportunities in close proximity to churches, wildlife and rather large statues.

Lunch was very welcome and really tasty. I scoffed down a rather delicious veggie chilli, returning a couple of hours later to stuff my face with a gloriously indulgent and scrumptious scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam! Some folk may be a tad wary of such an ominous date, however, if today was anything to go by, Friday 13th is actually extremely lucky for me.



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Head Hunted...


I must be doing something right at my new job, as it appears that I've now been head-hunted by another department. I found out that my services were required via an email out of the blue, and I had to pinch myself when I realised who it was from - one of the administrators in a brand spanking new, multi-million pound building, which has only been open a couple of months. I had a sneaky peek inside it a few weeks ago and was overawed with it's magnificence ... and I'll now be freelancing in it!

The even better part is that it fits in perfectly with my other work, so it'll simply be an additional source of income as and when I'm needed. OMG, it even has actual palm trees inside, yes, real palm trees! It'll be like having a holiday but getting paid to be there. I'm so stupidly excited I feel I could burst at any minute. Woo hoo...!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Tons of Storage...


As I'm well aware that my main computer is on it's last legs, and will soon be making its way to the pc scrapheap in the sky, I decided to shell out for some external storage in order to ensure the safekeeping of my important files and documents should it decide to suddenly go out with a bang. This decision coincided with the latest Clubcard Boost promotion by Tesco, which was rather handy as I only ended up paying out four quid to protect all of my data.

The joys of 'click & collect' meant I simply had to pop to my local store once I'd received a text to say my new gadget had arrived - what could be simpler? I now have two terabytes of space to fill at my leisure, which should more than cope with my ever-expanding photo collection as well as a ton of Word documents and spreadsheets, along with whatever else I find lurking on my current hard-drive. As they say, "Every Little Helps...!"


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Coffee and Cakes...


Less than 24 hours after my posh night out on the town, I was sober enough to pop round a friend's place to admire her recently re-decorated home. Never knew I could be quite so jealous of someone else's wallpaper! As caffeine seems a decent cure for a hangover it was an ideal scenario to put the world to rights over a coffee, while enjoying extremely yummy fresh cream cakes filled with raspberries, followed by flapjacks topped with toffee and marshmallows. Thank heavens for elasticated waistbands.

Seeing what a great job my mate's done has now made me start thinking about new ideas and possible colour schemes for my own pied-a-terre. I don't have a vast budget and will be limited by what I can achieve by myself, but I think that by next spring I'll have managed to put together a few ideas and give the old place a bit of a re-vamp. There's nothing like the idea of a new project on the horizon for firing up the creative juices. How exciting!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Hobnobbing...


No, I haven't been doing anything weird with biscuits, I've simply been mixing with some Council Bigwigs at an awards ceremony at the local Town Hall. It turns out, the voluntary litter-picking project which I write blogs about had been nominated for a Community Neighbourhood Award in the 'Action Against ASB' Category, and I was invited to join them. It was a very posh and proper affair, with real champers and expensive nibbles, not to mention the fact that a selection of local dignitaries were on hand-shaking duty.

We were presented with a framed certificate for being nominated, so that was lovely. Professional photos were being taken constantly throughout the evening, so we'll have to see if we can get our hands on some of those for our blog. After spending time 'networking' with all the other groups who'd been up for various awards, we all sat down to watch a couple of presentation videos before the actual awards were handed out.

Although the project didn't win in the end, we met a few old friends, made some new friends, and a jolly good time was had by all. I think I may have consumed a tad too much free bubbly cos I can't actually remember much after the speeches. Oh well, it would've been rude to refuse - hic!




Thursday, 29 October 2015

Unexpected Treat...


While pre-arranged nights out are great, unexpected last-minute nights out are a very welcome surprise indeed. An email out of the blue regarding a Quiz Night at a local pub led to a flurry of social media messages, and a few hours later I was being chauffeured to a fun evening out with my mates! Didn't see THAT coming when I crawled out of bed this morning.

After 3 hours of drinks, chat, cheesey tunes and even some correct answers, we'd managed to win meals and wine! What had started out to be a cold, wet and rather miserable Thursday ended up being extremely entertaining. Just goes to show, you simply never know what's coming next...

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Catching Up...


When you're insanely busy, it's nice when you can finally manage to schedule an afternoon natter with an old friend. When I met up with my gal pal in town it was rather chilly outside, so we popped into a nearby cafe to de-frost and catch up with each other's gossip. Even though it'd only been a year since we last got together, and we've regularly texted each other in the meantime, it was good to be able to put the world to rights over a large Americano and a latte.

In fact, we'd both clearly done a lot more than we first thought in the previous 12 months because an hour whizzed by, as did 2 and then 3! It was only when it started getting dark outside that we suddenly realised how long we'd been nattering for! So, after warm hugs, and promises not to leave it so long the next time, I headed back home - via the chemist to buy some throat sweets. I have a feeling I may need them later...


Saturday, 24 October 2015

You've Got Mail...


Even though it's the weekend, I decided to log into my employee email account from home just to see if there were any new messages, and I'm rather pleased I did. There was one of those "Dear Colleagues" emails, that you assume doesn't really apply to you; "We're delighted to tell you (ok, now I'm listening) Unions...negotiations, blah, blah, blah... PAY RISE (YAY!) backdated to August (HURRAH!)..blah, blah, blah..."

I've only been in the job five minutes and have already been given my first raise! I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming (nope - definitely real). What with the festive season just around the corner, and my fabulous holiday to the Canaries still to come, the timing of this happy news couldn't have been better. Yo ho ho...

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Another New Role...


When your new employer offers a wide range of 'Professional Development' courses free to all staff, it'd be rude to turn down the opportunity to learn new skills, not to mention all the brownie points you gain (and it looks great on the CV too). That's how I became a fully trained Fire Evacuation Steward!

I can now get everyone safely out of a building and to the nearest fire assembly point, and I know how to avoid potential bottle-necks, as well as identify and use a variety of fire exit locking systems. Hopefully, it's one of those things I'll never actually have to put into practice, however, should the need arise in the future I'm now confident I could rise to the challenge. Now, where are all those hunky firemen...?!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Community Service...


I've done my fair share of volunteering over the years, and my most recent venture has been my involvement in a local project to help create a nicer environment in the area close to where I live. A small but dedicated team of 'Community Wombles' does all of the hard work, picking up litter and liaising with the council to get larger dumped items removed from the green spaces, woodland and stream, while I simply promote awareness by taking photos and writing regular blog posts. We've actually received awards for our efforts, which has been a nice surprise and has helped to motivate us to organise events.

In the past we've run a 'Dog Awareness Day' in order to attempt to highlight the unsavoury issue of dog poo, and this weekend we held a 'Picnic & Planting Day.' The aim was to plant hundreds of crocus, snowdrop and daffodil bulbs, along with wild flowers, which will become a floral legacy for future generations to enjoy. We were joined by various other volunteers who assisted with the digging, and it was wonderful to meet so many like-minded people. The weather was kind to us and by lunchtime all the tea had been drunk, cakes and biscuits eaten, the plants were in situ and various contact details had been exchanged with our lovely new friends. Life doesn't always have to be about making money, it can be just as rewarding giving something back for a change...

Keep The Green Clean Link: 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Winging It...


One of my favourite Richard Branson quotes is "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say "YES" then learn how to do it later." ...which is how I ended up in an unfamiliar room, in a strange building with people I'd never met before, acting as if I was completely in control of the whole situation!

Obviously, things could well have gone pear-shaped very quickly. However, when your new bosses ask you for a favour, and you spend an entire morning drawing on every shred of common sense you possess in order to justify their unwavering faith in your abilities, doors that had previously appeared locked and bolted suddenly begin to open and new opportunities start to emerge. I must say "Yes" more often!!

Friday, 2 October 2015

My New Inflatable Toy...


As my cardiologist insists that my blood pressure drops below impending stroke range immediately (if not sooner), I've now been given a brand new monitor to use at home for the next eight days so that they can discover whether the figures are genuinely sky high 24/7, or if I'm simply suffering 'white coat syndrome' whenever I'm within range of an NHS facility. It's all fancy with buttons that beep - how exciting (mustn't get too excited or the numbers will go up even higher).

The initial reading was, in fact, low (that's a first), but I guess by this time next week I'll be closer to finding out whether or not further cardiac intervention will be required. Just as well I didn't have to do this last week while I was getting sozzled every night in the land of 'all sheep and no vowels'!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

I'm Back in England!


Wow, what an adventure! I've just returned home from a fantastic long weekend visiting friends and until now I had no idea you could cram quite so much into 3 days. I've visited places that I'd never knew existed and met some truly lovely people. I've eaten everything from a delicious risotto to a scrumptious pavolva thanks to my Cordon Bleu hostess, and I've consumed the equivalent of a small swimming pool's worth of chilled white wine. I was even chauffeur-driven through the countryside with the roof down in a very zippy Mercedes sports car with my hair blowing in the breeze!

The weather was extremely kind throughout, so we were able to fully enjoy the sights and sounds of a historic town, a stunning cult TV series location and a fabulous castle surrounded by beautiful gardens under blue skies, with the sun shining down on us all day long. It's been an emotional whirlwind of heartfelt greetings and heart-wrenching goodbyes, but travel is addictive and the more I do it the further I want to go. For the moment I need to unpack my case, along with my many wonderful memories, and let my liver recover before looking ahead to Lanzarote. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Anti Virus...


Just got back from my annual pilgrimage to Boots for my flu jab and I can't believe all the negative comments I've had. Yes, I'm well aware of all the old wives tales and scaremongering, (no it can't give you flu, no your arm won't drop off, no it can't prevent colds - that would be called a COLD jab), but I've made an informed decision to try to protect myself against whatever particularly nasty strains of influenza are likely to be doing the rounds this winter. 

While I fully appreciate there's no guarantees, I've at least done everything I can to avoid catching it, while hopefully preventing me from passing it onto others (you're welcome!) Those jammy enough to be entitled to sick pay don't seem to comprehend that when you're self employed and are unable to work due to illness, you don't get any money.

There's also the hypocrites apparently aghast at the 'stuff' I'm willing to have injected into me once a year, while they're more than happy to regularly ingest meat that's been vaccinated numerous times throughout it's brief life, along with fruit and veg grown in chemically fertilised soil and liberally sprayed with a variety of pesticides! 

I despair of the naysayers who indiscriminately infect innocent bystanders before they become bedridden for a fortnight, laying there whining on Facebook about how ill they are. Just don't expect any sympathy from me!

Right, rant over, I've been a brave little soldier and I'm now off to eat my sweeties...

Sunday, 13 September 2015

For A Limited Time Only...


When you hear the news that an old flame has passed away, it can be a bit of a surprise, especially when they were several years younger than yourself. It also doesn't help the situation when you're contacted by your ex, via text, email and facebook, informing you that an old friend has also died, when you already knew from another source anyway. The thing about this getting older lark is that you have to accept the fact that people you once knew will end up dropping like flies during your senior years. Not only does it tug at the heart-strings; being sad for the families they leave behind; but it can really make you sit up and take notice of your own mortality.

I now have more years behind me than I'll have ahead of me, which is a rather unpalatable truth I'd rather not dwell on too much. However, when your exes start popping their clogs it's time to pull your metaphorical socks up, stop wasting time on people and things that are never going to enhance your life, and make the most of every moment. Carpe Diem...

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Playing With My New Toy...


After an busy week, which began with a Bank Holiday and included juggling shifts at two different workplaces and a quiz night, it's nice to finally be able to chill out for a while. It's even nicer when the sun is shining and you have a new toy to play with outdoors, which is why I've been for a lovely long walk, snapping pictures on my new mobile phone.

It takes a while to get used to new gadgets, even longer when you're technically-challenged, but I'm gradually learning what I can get out of something with only 5 megapixels at my disposal. I'll always use my faithful old Nikon for important photos like holidays or big events, but I have to say that this new alternative is quite useful, with it's ability to take panoramic and night-time shots as well as a range of other options. Hmm... I have a feeling this could turn out to be rather a lot of fun...!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I'm Ready For My Close-Up...


My phone rang this evening and it was the hospital cardio-respiratory dept (thought I was finished with all the heart stuff until next April). Basically, they have regular reviews and new quality control measures, that have recently been put in place, which means that they must now produce log books of important clinical results and findings.

Apparently, my heart scan was "so beautiful" and "such a fantastic example" (of two faulty valves to the left chamber) they would very much like me to go back up there for another scan next month, and use my images (anonymously) for their departmental logbook! They'll pay for my transport and will also provide me with whatever I need on the day. Who knew I had such a photogenic insides?! It'll be entertaining if they want topless shots showing the scanning process - ooo errrr!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

No Longer a Luddite...



After many years of shying away from hi-tec mobiles, preferring my trusty Nokia 1208 for all of my calls and texting needs, I've dragged myself kicking and screaming into the twenty first century and have now purchased my very first smartphone. For most people this is no big deal, however, anyone who knows me will be able to confirm that this is totally out of my comfort zone. I can write HTML code but when it comes to running my finger across a small, shiny screen I'm flummoxed.

Opening the box to my new toy I was a little thrown by the array of additional gadgetry and paperwork, but I took a deep breath and just kept on telling myself that 'Rome wasn't built in a day', and that I'll simply have to take things one step at a time (or one app at a time!) Who'd have thought it - little old me now all caught up with the rest of the world. How exciting...!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Experimenting...


In order to earn some 'pocket money' I've been undertaking paid experiments at my local University for their psychology students. When I first started doing this I simply wanted to make some easy cash-in-hand, but I have to say that there's far more to be gained than a few extra quid in your purse; you meet a truly eclectic mixture of oddballs and you get to do some bizarre (and often fascinating) things.

So far I've watched and reviewed video clips, worn a swimming cap with wires sticking out to track my brain-waves, been involved in the initial stages of creating a brand new video game, tried to count coloured spots on a screen whilst wearing 3D glasses, and much more.

Some tasks have been a little tedious, admittedly, but most have been enjoyable and a few have been absolutely hilarious. My reward for being introduced to these 'mad young scientists', and being part of their weird and wonderful experiments; along with a very favourable exchange rate; is that I now have a nice big wad of euros to take to Lanzarote. Carry On Professor...!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Coach Trip...


Now... all of my friends and family members know full well that I never, ever consider holidaying in the UK. It's entirely a personal preference, but I'd much rather spend my time, money and effort on flying somewhere fabulous with long beaches, guaranteed sunshine and plenty of palm trees, instead of wasting an entire day held hostage on a bus at the back end of some horrendous traffic jam, only to face cold, wet weather at the other end. 

However... my old school chum has very kindly invited me to stay with her family over 200 miles away, and as this get-together is seriously overdue (by several decades!) I've decided to bite the bullet, pack a cagoule, get on a coach and head for the hills in order to spend a few fabulous days re-living my mis-spent youth.

We've both been trying to schedule some quality girlie time together for the past few years, but work commitments, ill health and life in general has always got in the way. I'm now happy to announce I've just purchased my return coach tickets and we WILL be having that long awaited reunion.

Sometimes you simply HAVE to make things happen - iechyd da...!

Friday, 7 August 2015

New Neighbours...


It's always a concern when neighbours who you've grown very fond of over the years move away to pastures new, leaving you with a fear of the unknown regarding who you'll end up sharing a wall with, however, I needn't have worried. Six months down the line all is well and slowly but surely we're all getting to know each other.

Although they appear to have rather complicated living arrangements, with two 'mummies' and numerous small children, it's actually quite amusing to have an 'alternative' family next door. With so many little ones playing in their back garden it's inevitable that the odd meerkat (toy!) or ball ends up on my side of the fence, but they really are no trouble at all. Phew...!


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Garden Party...


When you have a day off work, it's really nice if you can spend your precious spare time with your mates. It's even more fabulous if there's copious amounts of lemonade, yummy cream cakes and delicious home-made scones involved; along with general chit-chat and some decent laughs thrown in for good measure.

As the weather was warm and sunny it meant we had the luxury of being outdoors in the garden all afternoon, which is always a welcome bonus. Pretty flowers, glorious sunshine, a hilarious pet rabbit, stunningly beautiful doves and great company is, in my opinion, the recipe for an absolutely perfect Thursday afternoon. I'm very lucky to have such lovely friends...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Sunday Constitutional...


When the weather's warm and dry, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than to take a friend for a stroll around your local outdoor spaces. A seemingly mundane route, that you've taken a thousand times before, suddenly becomes a guided tour of all the flora and fauna you'd long since taken for granted. By showing others all of the wonderful and interesting aspects of the area it can really open your own eyes, letting you see your previously familiar world in a whole new light.

This can be an appropriate metaphor for life, and a valuable lesson to take on board. Try to look at the things around you as if you're seeing them for the very first time, and truly appreciate their wonder. Life is short, and precious, and today I think that the penny finally dropped for me. As the late, great Nina Simone once sang; "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feelin' good. ..."



Friday, 31 July 2015

The Results Are In...


After weeks of hell, not knowing whether the lumps I have on my neck are cancerous, or not; all the scans, xrays, blood tests, a rather challenging morning at the cancer clinic in the haematology department followed by day surgery for a biopsy, I finally have a diagnosis.... I DON'T have cancer (phew!) I DO have 'reactive lymph nodes' that will need further investigation, but I can't tell you how much weight has now been lifted off my shoulders. To top it off, I've just seen my cardiologist and although he confirmed my heart murmur there's no immediate need to operate (another phew!!) I'll need to have annual scans but that's easy peasy.

I am a very lucky girl indeed, and it's things like this that make you sit up and take notice; appreciate what you have and focus on living life to the full. Right, I must now book my travel insurance - España, aquí vengo...! 

Should re-name this blog Life Begins at Fifty Three and a Little Bit...!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Has Anyone Seen My Mojo...?


I appear to have lost it somewhere between the middle and the end of July.

Juggling work schedules, a hectic social life and numerous NHS appointments has certainly been keeping me very busy these past few weeks, but now it's all caught up with me and I need to slow down and allow my body, and mind, to recover ready for when I have to return to the cancer unit to be told the results of my biopsy. 

The good news is that I've now got the stitches out of my neck, and with the dressings finally off I can begin boring everyone rigid with the phrase "Wanna see my new scar?!" Every cloud has a silver lining...

Monday, 20 July 2015

Day Surgery...


Even 'minor' surgery can be an ordeal, not just physically but emotionally as well. I'm so lucky to have wonderful friends around me who offer up their valuable time to take me to hospital appointments, even at the crack of dawn, and who are also kind enough to stay with me throughout the entire procedure.

It's not just the hideousness of going under the knife that's hard to deal with, but when it's a biopsy the mental strain of knowing that this is going to be what decides whether you have a potentially life-changing disease, or not, is a lot to take on board.

I'm so grateful that I didn't have to face this scary day on my own, and I know that although the two week wait for the results is going to be mental torture, I'll be well looked after. Some things really are priceless, and genuine friendship is one of them...

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea...


There's something quintessentially British about indulging in Sunday afternoon tea at a fancy hotel restaurant, surrounded by traditional English meadows; which is exactly what my friends and I were doing this sunny, summer afternoon.

Pots of freshly brewed tea arrived as soon as we were seated, along with milk jugs and a bowl of sugar cubes (haven't seen proper sugar cubes for years!) The sandwiches were sliced to perfection into identical sizes with crusts cut off (obviously), and carefully placed on the bottom of a 3-tiered cake stand. My eyes almost popped right out of my head when I saw the array of cakey treats and scones; thank heavens for elasticated waistbands! Everything from strawberry jam and cream to the moistest (yes, that's a word) carrot cake I've ever eaten were all very much a joy to the taste-buds.

Wow, thank you to my fabulous friends for inviting me. Next stop, The Ritz!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Spoilt Rotten...


What a truly amazing day I've had, courtesy of my gorgeous, grown-up twin daughters. I met up with them mid-morning, close to the local railway station, from where we travelled to a place I hadn't been in donkeys years. It was my first time on a train in over 9 years and I was stupidly excited. On arrival we headed straight for the town centre where browsing market stalls and girly shopping stuff was the order of the day.

Lunchtime we went to a really lovely 'gastro pub' and I was treated to the most delicious sandwiches on earth. They then surprised me further by presenting me with the most fabulous solid gold ear-rings! We then did more shopping and ate yummy ice creams before heading off to a nearby waterfront where we admired glorious boaty things until it was time to make the return trip back home. 

I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it felt to be given such a lot of very happy memories to take home with me. I love my special girlies as big as the sky. I always have, and I always will...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Say Cheese...


A phone call from the hospital on Tuesday meant a visit to the ENT Department less then 48 hours later to 'have a chat' with a surgeon about my reactive lymph nodes. Wasn't expecting him to almost immediately shove a camera up my nose and down my throat and I have to admit that it stung somewhat. How I managed to avoid sneezing or gagging I simply don't know.

He had the obligatory poke around and announced that he was adding me to his urgent list for a biopsy on Monday morning. Just like my GP and the cancer consultant at the haematology unit, he told me that he 'suspects' a lymphoma, but the only way to be 100% certain one way or the other is to remove one of the lumps and send it to the lab.

Got to admit that it's all feeling very real right now but I'm choosing to consider it a positive thing that the NHS is acting quickly so that I'll at least know the diagnosis sooner rather than later. With any luck, I'll have the results before I see my cardiologist at the end of the month. The excitement never ends...!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

More Tea Vicar...?!


I was just minding my own business, walking along with my camera down to the local quayside, when I heard the sound of bicycle bells ringing and people whooping loudly. As I turned round I couldn't believe my eyes. There were a large group of over two dozen men and women riding bikes in various stages of nudity! Instead of boats and barges I ended up photographing boobies and bums - blimey! (Not entirely sure the bell ringing was absolutely necessary in order to gain attention, given that their rude bits were all hanging out in public!)

The last time I saw so much genitalia on my birthday it was a rather raucous affair in a pub of ill repute during my hedonistic youth, so seeing so many dangly bits on my birthday, right outside tescos, was something I never could've anticipated in a million years - how fabulous!

Well done to the World Naked Bike Ride people for the birthday surprise. Goodness, that made me feel quite unnecessary, pass the brandy mother...!

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Very Happy Birthday...


The sun was shining, the sky was blue, so off we went on a pre-birthday trip to the coast! As I'm an outdoorsy person there really was no better way to celebrate than to be treated to an entire day of all things boaty and watery. We laughed at novice windsurfers, ate lunch in a fancy restaurant and walked miles along the sand; discussing everything from beach hut colours to wondering what the mini-pontoons were for, while avoiding stepping on jelly-fish.

Being chauffeur driven to lovely places and spoilt rotten all day long was an exceptional treat indeed, and a happy memory I'll always cherish. I'm so very lucky to have such wonderful friends, and it doesn't go unappreciated. Sometimes, the best gifts don't come wrapped in fancy paper...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

NHS Merry-Go-Round...


It's not easy dealing with unexpected medical woes while trying to avoid taking any time off work, not to mention maintaining a busy social life, but somehow I'm managing, despite undergoing more tests and xrays. An emotionally challenging appointment with a lymphoma consultant this week means I'm now on yet another list; this time waiting for biopsies. Well, that's something new and 'exciting'!

I'm fully aware that I'm extremely lucky to have the support of my wonderful friends and family during this particular saga, who cheer me up when all I want to do is mope. Endless blood tests have made my veins a tad sore, but thanks to 'Team Karen' I'm actually in a really good place mentally. I'll give you all a great big hug ... once my arms are better.

Now, my birthday is looming and someone mentioned cake...!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Lumps and Bumps...

I'd only gone to see my GP to discuss my upcoming cardiology appointment, but after simply asking for a second opinion on a small lump on my neck the focus swiftly altered and I was immediately booked in for blood tests and a scan! I must admit, all I was expecting was confirmation that all was 'normal' so this sudden turn of events took me totally by surprise.

In less than a week I'd undergone both procedures and a few days later I was back with my GP to find out what the hell just happened. Apparently, anything to do with iffy lymph nodes throws the NHS into panic-mode, which is why I subsequently ended up with an urgent (within 7 days) referral to the haematology department at the local hospital! It's the first time my doctor said the word lymphoma out loud, but I'm choosing to ignore it and am assuming it's just a virus of some description.

I don't have time to be ill - I'm far too busy living the dream...



Thursday, 25 June 2015

Let's Get Quizzical...


Well, I've already enjoyed several Quiz Nights, and a Quiz with Musical Bingo, and now I've been to a Quiz with a meal! The event was a fundraiser for a local Wildlife charity and the venue was a fabulous posh golf club right next to a beautiful lake. As it was such a warm evening it was the perfect place to chill out with a drink while watching ducks and moorhens swimming among the water lillies.

Being veggie, my yummy jacket spud was covered in cheddar cheese while the carnivores tucked into chilli. The quiz consisted of questions our team were actually able to answer, for once, and although we didn't win any of the raffle prizes a thoroughly good time was had by all.

What an excellent way to spend an evening; stunning location, great company, delicious meal, fun quiz and all in aid of a worthwhile cause. Well done to the organisers - can't wait for the next one!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Viva Espana!


Woo hoo... another holiday in Lanzarote, BOOKED! I adore the Canary Islands and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be returning there this year. Although I've been to Lanzarote twice previously I've never been to Costa Teguise, so this is even more exciting. There's lots of new places, new people and new experiences to look forward to, not to mention all that gorgeous sunshine!

As I appear to have lost more weight since my Gran Canaria adventures last December I'll need some new clothes, and new swimwear too. It'll be fantastic to be lazing around on a vast beach under rows of palm trees being surrounded by bird-of-paradise flowers again. I can almost taste those sangrias and mojitos already! Now where did I put that Spanish phrase book...?!

Who Said "Girls Can't Do Flat-Pack?!"...


With my spare desktop pc now all hooked up to the internet in my lounge, I decided that it needed a nice, new computer desk to sit on rather than the grotty-looking second-hand atrocity that was currently proving to be quite an eye-sore. After measuring the space and spending an age searching online for just the right thing, I finally found what I was looking for in Argos. As it was going to be a bit too heavy to haul onto a bus I decided to pay a few quid and get it delivered, and a couple of days later the van pulled up and my lovely new desk had arrived.

I had my tool kit ready as I eagerly tore open the box and fought my way through a mountain of polystyrene, bubble wrap and plastic bags to locate all of the different pieces ready for assembly. I'd never seen 'locking nuts' before, let alone used them, but embracing all things new I slowly but surely worked my way through the instructions, and voilà! In just over an hour, and without a single tantrum, I'd put together a fabulous and fully-functioning computer desk, with locking wheels and pull-out tray all moving as they should, with absolutely no help whatsoever from anyone else. No, it's not 'rocket science' but I'm actually quite proud of myself.

Monday, 15 June 2015

If At First You Don't Succeed...


Several weeks ago, my spare desktop pc decided that for no apparent reason it no longer wished to connect to the internet via wifi. I googled til I was blue in the face, but despite learning a load of new words and abbreviations; SSID, WPA, WEP, Hexadecimal (yes, apparently that's a word!), and so forth; it just wasn't happening.

However, I was determined to have a second computer online one way or another, so after watching dozens of Youtube tutorials and experiencing many, MANY failed attempts I finally managed to hard wire it. Hurrah! I realise that there's tech bods out there who'd have been able to have it all up and running within minutes, but the sheer joy of knowing that I've conquered a few of the mysteries of home computer networks all by myself is immense. YEEEEEEEEEEEEES!