Bikers, Bells and Band

It has been one of “those” days today. You know the ones, where randomness happens throughout the day and you just have to shake your head and say, “well, that was a bit good!”

Well my day has been a bit like that.

First of all I went to Stay and Play this morning and saw absolute genius in action. One of our mums is blind, and she has managed her baby very well with the help of either her own mum or a carer who was there to help guide her around and to make sure that the baby was always looked after. The baby has now grown up a little bit and is toddling around quite happily on her own two feet, but today, the mum came without the aid of either her mum or her carer, instead relying on the help of one of the other mums (a friend of hers anyway) to get her into the church hall and to get her seated and so on. The genius bit was this:


A set of jingle bells round the little girl’s ankle so that her mum could hear where she was in the hall and could track her movements easily. We were all astounded at how such a simple thing could mean such a lot – that not only could the mum enjoy some independence, but that the baby could also enjoy running around without getting too far away from mum. Of course there are always lots of people watching out and interacting with the mums and tots in the group so there would never be any real danger, but how’s that for a stroke of genius to help them both enjoy a bit of living!

Nature was also having a bit of genius this morning too. How’s about these couple of beauties?






Still reeling from the gorgeous skies and cold, crisp air, came a demonstration of something deeply moving. At about 12 o’clock, there was an almighty roar of engines going past the church hall as a big group of bikers made their way noisily up the main road. About 15 minutes or so later, they all came back again, this time doubled in number, going half the speed and leading out a hearse and a funeral cortege down towards the crematorium. The flowers on top of the coffin were in the shape of a motorbike, and the flowers down the side of the hearse spelled out BROTHER in black flowers. What a sight, and what a gesture to witness. Here is a video of the tail end of the procession so you can see for yourself.

Then this evening, I had the utmost pleasure and privilege to sit and listen to the Pemberton Old Band as they were put through their paces at a rehearsal for an upcoming contest. I have been going there for the last couple of months with Ethan, who is playing bass trombone for them, and I have heard the piece they are playing take shape and get generally better and better each week. The band has a great sound and tonight they were pushed to really play proper pianissimo and fortissimo, which was fantastic to hear. There are another couple of rehearsals to go before the contest at the end of the month, and it promises to be a great performance. Looking forward to it.

So there you have it, a couple of things that have made up my day today. Random? Or simply a reflection of the eclectic life I have?!

Either way, today has been a good one.



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Recovering From Grief

Our regular study group at church last night was a little bit different, and we had a discussion around death instead of our usual Bible study and worship. We looked at death in today’s society and our experiences of it with a view to how it will help us in our ministry to those who are grieving or who are having difficulty moving through the stages of grief and bereavement. It might sound a little bit morbid, but to be honest, I found it a really uplifting and enriching experience and it wasn’t the least bit fearful or distasteful as it might first sound.

We looked at our own experiences of loss and grief, and then we looked at various aspects of death and, using discussion prompt cards, had a chat in small groups about a couple of them.

One question that really stood out for me was “Do we ever recover from grief?”.

My initial response was “yes, of course we do”. But then we got into discussion about it and after hearing a couple of other people give their experiences of grief, I realised that I was not really in a position to answer that question quite that easily, because I hadn’t lost someone very close to me such as a spouse or a child. I have lost close family members and I have grieved for the loss of them, but I am fortunate in that I still have both my parents, my husband and my two children alive and well alongside me. That means that my viewpoint of the question is slightly different from my friend H who lost her husband within the last two years, whose answer was “no, you don’t”. She explained that she has learned to cope with her loss but she doesn’t feel secure in the knowledge that she has “recovered” as such. I was moved by her explanation and it has given me a lot of food for thought today.

I talked about this question with my husband Kevin earlier, and we talked a little bit about how grief has affected us individually and how that the idea of “recovering” from grief very much depends on the person who has died and the nature of the relationship we had with them before they died.

After a bit more thinking and talking, we came up with this analogy:

crumpled-paperIf you take a piece of paper – clean, white, unspoiled paper – and crumple it into a tight ball, then open it up and smooth it down again, you could say that the piece of paper having gone through the grief process of being crumpled up then straightened out again is still the same piece of paper as it was before, only it has been changed by it. It isn’t quite the same; it bears marks and scuffs that show it has been through some sort of trauma, and while it can still function as a piece of paper, it has been changed by it.


Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:

eggTake an egg, and plunge it into boiling water. When you take out that egg, it is still an egg and is still fully serviceable as an egg, but because of the boiling water experience, you can’t even begin to put it back to the state it was in before. The intensity of the boiling water did something to its internal structure and it cannot physically or emotionally be the same as it was before, yet it is still an egg.

And so it is with us. For some of us, recovering from grief may be a little bit like the piece of paper analogy. Yes, we go through some pain of being crumpled up, and for some of us the process of smoothing out again can be a further source of pain but eventually we get there. Not quite the same as we were before, but we are more or less as we were before we experienced loss. However, for some of us, recovering from the loss of a loved one is more like the egg. We go through the intensity of boiling water for any length of time and yet our outer shell might look the same as it was before, our innards have irrevocably changed and we cannot be the same people as we once were. We still have a function, and we still look and taste the same, but to say that we have “recovered” would be wrong.



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Manchester Storm

Wow! The weather in Manchester tonight has been AMAZING!

It started at about teatime when the sky went green – yes, green – and there was a terrific rumble of thunder. Shortly afterwards, the lightening started and we were treated to the best light show all year.

This was the view from the back of our house at 6.30pm:



This from the front showing the torrential rain and the grid which was struggling to cope a bit:


Apologies for the Manc accents on these, but two short videos I shot out of Ethan’s bedroom window:

The thunder boomed and cracked for about an hour (including the LOUDEST thunderbolt I have ever heard at about 6.45pm) before it started to ease off. The rain kept up for a while longer and the lightning was going for about two hours or so. Thankfully the thunder rolled off to the north – I don’t like it when the thunder cracks like it did tonight. It puts me in full Chicken Little mode!

There have been lots of photos shared on social media this evening including this one from “I Love Manchester” on Facebook.

As well as having an affect on transport around the city it also caused the Manchester City vs Borussia Munchengladbach match to be cancelled. The fans were prevented from getting to the stadium because the trams were stopped and the roads were gridlocked, but as you can see from this photo from the BBC, there was quite a lot of surface water on the pitch just before it was due to kick off. Not surprising really!


My favourite video of the night has got to be this one – it shows the Etihad stadium lit up by magnificent purple lightning. Awesome!

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Pressing Pause

For more like this please go to Toby Mac’s Facebook page. Blessings to you all.pause

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One Tough Mudder

I’ve got to share this – my daughter, Emma, one “tough mudder” indeed! dsc_0496.jpg

















In case you didn’t know, I’ve got a bit of an action girl for a daughter and this is her after a weekend of stewarding, camping out, then running the Tough Mudder challenge and more stewarding in Cheshire this weekend. How she does it is beyond me. She is physically very fit, constantly on the go, and loves being outdoors so this kind of thing is right up her street.

She’s a tough cookie in other ways too, having pushed herself to find work in this doom-and-gloom economy amongst other things. She doesn’t have it easy at the minute but she never complains (to me, anyway!) and she is always positive and ready for the next challenge.

She’s my hero really and I wish that I had more of her grit and determination. Good luck tomorrow on your first day at your new job, Emma. Show them you’re one tough mudder!



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Thought For Today

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Book Review – “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

outlander-blue-cover-198x300“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon



This is the first book in a series of seven telling the story of Claire and Jamie. In this, we meet Claire, a 20th Century woman who accidentally finds herself transported back through time to 18th Century Scotland just before the second Jacobite rising. Without giving too much of the plot away, Claire is kidnapped by the English Dragoons, but is rescued by a clan of Highlanders where she meets Jamie Fraser. She is desperate to get back to the stone circle where she fell through time, and sets about trying to escape from the clan where she now lives. It is difficult though, and it takes time. Long enough time for her to be married off to Jamie against her will, but she gradually learns to care for him. When the chance to go back to her own time comes around, will she go back or will she stay with Jamie?

My overall impression?

Overall I liked this book, but there were so many anachronisms and things that just didn’t ring true that they began to grate on my nerves a bit and it took an effort to ignore those irritations and just enjoy the story for what it was. I was lucky enough to watch this on DVD as I was reading it. We’d taken the box set away on holiday with us and my husband and I watched a couple of episodes each night in our caravan, and – unusually – the TV version is fairly accurate and faithful to the book. Including in its anachronisms and mistakes!

I think partly this is because the author is American and she wrote a Scottish historical novel based on research and a romanticised view of what Scotland is and how the Scottish people were/are. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me, there were too many Americanisms in it for it to ring true. Yes, I realise it is a fantasy because it involves time travel, but even so, if a writer of historical fiction is giving a character dialogue in a certain accent or dialect, then they have a responsibility to get it right, and not project their own (romantic) version of it. The same goes for naming your characters – Scotland is very different from Ireland even though they share a Celtic heritage, yet consistently, Gabaldon uses Irish names for her characters in this book. For example, the MacKenzie clan leader is called “Colum”. Now, more commonly, the name is “Colm” (pronounced “column”), but it is an Irish name, not a Scottish one. As clan chief he most certainly would have had a traditional Scottish name. Other characters with non-Scottish names include Laoghaire (Irish),  Rupert (German), Brian (Irish), Fergus (Irish)… I could go on, but you get the picture?

Also, I got annoyed with the American versions of the Scottish terms – for example, “plaid” is a North American term for what the Scots refer to as “tartan”, yet not once throughout the book is “tartan” used for the Highland dress that Jamie and his clansmen wore.

In terms of construction and narrative arc, it was OK. There was a beginning, a middle and an end – of sorts – but I felt that it was written very much with the rest of the series in mind and so it didn’t quite have the satisfactory “wow I wonder how this is going to pan out in the future” kind of feeling I would have expected from a story of this magnitude.  I would have liked to have had a bit of parallel storytelling so that we could see what Frank was going through in 1945 in looking for Claire, especially as one of the characters she meets in 1743 has a direct bearing on Frank’s very existence, but the book – probably quite rightly – was centred on Claire and Jamie.

I am a little disappointed to be honest because this book could have been phenomenal if only Gabaldon had gone a little bit deeper with her research and tried to be a little less American in her prose. The concept and story/plot are fantastic but for me it fails in its execution a little.

Who are the main characters?

The main protagonists are Claire and Jamie, but there is a multitude of secondary characters such as the clan members, other clans, the “red coats” of the Royal Dragoons and so on, and there are lots of other minor characters which can be a bit difficult to keep track of sometimes.

Where is it set?

It is set in Scotland in 1945 and 1743.

Will I read any more by this author?

Annoyingly, yes!  I am on to book 3 of this series and I am stubbornly sticking with it even though the Americanisms and anachronisms are getting more pronounced and Gabaldon has developed a propensity for using overblown vocabulary for the sake of it. However, I am keen to know how it all pans out with Claire and Jamie and whether the history books will reflect their life together or not.

Would I recommend it to my friends?

It’s a bit of nonsense reading really so if you are into historical romance/fantasy fiction then go for it, but it’s not really for those who prefer their historical novels to be accurate (even the time travelling ones).



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Share Your World – Week 36

I have Cee to thank for today’s post. You’ll find her at Share Your World

List 2 things you have to be happy about?

Food in my cupboard, and air in my bike tyres.

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

I would love to be able to paint a picture of water, and my choice of location would be somewhere like the rugged Lake District in England, or maybe the stunningly beautiful Llyn peninsula of Wales. I am not any sort of artist though and any painting I made would probably not be fit for viewing. However, I would love to write about it. And with that in mind, watch this space! I have an idea for a story set in the 6th Century involving pilgrims on a journey through Wales to the holy island of Bardsey.

Should children be seen and not heard?

Hmmm difficult one this! I believe children have the right to be heard, but along with that right they have the responsibility to understand that so does everyone else. Children are naturally gregarious and boisterous, but they have to learn that there are times when that isn’t appropriate and adult time is valuable too. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone only for them to break off to answer their child who is pulling at them with “Mummy, Mummy” going on. Apart from being extremely rude to the person they are speaking to, they are giving the child the message that they are prepared to drop everything and answer them on the spot. Sometimes a quiet “in a minute, I’m speaking” is all that’s needed…so long as they don’t then forget to get back to the child! It’s all about manners and self-awareness for me, but no, I don’t think that children should be seen and not heard. They have a right to mix with company and be noisy if needed, just so long as they know that they are not necessarily the centre of attention and know when to be quiet.

List at least five of your favourite first names.

baby-nameAs a writer I’m forever trying to come up with names for my characters, and it can be a traumatic experience I can tell you! Some names conjure up a set of expectations and I try to match those expectations with my characters and sometimes I like to play around with them and name a character the opposite of what the reader would expect. However, my own personal taste – if I were to have the privilege of naming an actual child again – are very traditional. Here’s my favourites, in no particular order (the first two are my own children’s names!)


Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was very grateful to see a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for several months. We had been very close for a number of years but there have been a few spanners in the works this year and we have drifted away from each other recently, so I was extremely grateful that we could spend some time on Friday catching up and just enjoying each other’s company again.

Coming up, I’m looking forward to Ethan going back to college and Emma starting her new job next Monday.



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Finding Purpose

It’s back to school this week in England and for the first time in nearly 18 years, I have not had to do any sort of stationery or uniform shopping for my children. I have watched Facebook light up with the pictures of my friends’ children on their first-day-back photos (or as some wag dubbed it, “National Stand In Front Of A Door Day”) and my teacher friends posting status updates about how they can’t sleep etc, and it has brought about very mixed feelings for me.


This time of the year always represents a kind of new beginning for me – always has done. September for me means new school year, new pens, new notebooks, new shoes, new winter coat, new start, renewed goal-setting. In some ways, September is more of a New Year than, well, New Year really. For me it’s the chance to start over, make new promises to myself, wipe that slate clean and get on with things with a new sense of  intention and enthusiasm.

As well as having this feeling because of my children and their school careers, recently I have experienced it for myself in the shape of my OU degree, where the modules begin again each September.

But this year is different. Emma has long since left university, my OU career is over, and Ethan is in his last year at college and he is studying music, so no need for the quick trip to W H Smith’s this year with him! It kind of makes me sad that it’s over, but there’s more to it than that and it goes a bit deeper.

This year, I feel that my own sense of purpose is being tested. As you may know, I don’t have a job and at my age and with my health record it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to just walk into one anytime in the near future. I no longer have any studies to look forward to, and my children don’t need me to mother them the same now as they did when they were at school. Emma is a fantastic, independent young woman now who, though she is still my little girl, she is a person in her own right. Ethan is almost a man now and has very firm ideas on what he wants to achieve from life, and neither of them need me to the extent they did before.

I do have hopes of my own, but a lot of that depends on a long and complex process within the church. For this week, this month, even the rest of this year, I have nothing to do and nothing to feel purposeful about. And it’s a scary feeling.

I wish I was one of those people who look at emptiness as an opportunity rather than a threat, or one of those who look at having no responsibilities as a life of ease rather than a life of boredom, but I’m not. Of course, there are day to day things that I’m involved with and that I enjoy doing but being fulfilled like that is not quite the same thing as having a sense of purpose. I suppose it’s a bit like the old “empty nest” syndrome of yesteryear, and it puts me in mind of Ria in Butterflies. Of course I’m not anything like her in lots of ways, but that sense of “what about me?” rings true with me at the minute.

Perhaps I’m impatient, and perhaps I’m showing a lack of faith by feeling that way because I know that the story is an ongoing one, and God hasn’t finished with me yet. But what do I do in the meantime?

meh2I have got a couple of writing projects on the go, but with no deadlines they are just waffly notes and incoherent storylines at the minute. I have got a couple of pieces of music that I want to arrange, but same thing, with no deadlines there is no need to get worked up about them just yet. I can’t settle to crochet very much (my eyes need testing and I don’t have a pair of glasses that I can see the stitches properly with unless I hold it right under my nose at book-reading length, and besides, it’s too hot still to be crocheting blankets or hats!) and besides which, I don’t have any orders outstanding so, yup, you guessed it, with no deadlines to hit there is no urgency in getting a project planned and prepared.


And there you have it. This September is most definitely a “new” time for me – an emptiness that I have only kind of experienced once before. This time however, I do have a couple of things that are keeping me going more than they did last time and I thank God that I do or else I wouldn’t know how to cope at all.

I’m not used to having my Septembers being so blank and empty, and I wonder what is going to come along and fill it all in the coming weeks. I hope and pray that when something does come along it will shake me out of this dip I’m in just now.

Anyone else feel this way when their kids grow up? I’d love to hear your take on it if you have experienced it or know someone else who is going through it. Drop me a line below and share your story with me.


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Daybook Entry 15th August 2016

8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 15th August 2016

Outside my window… the sun is setting, throwing up a beautiful peachy glow over things in the garden

I am thinking… about doing a long-distance walk next summer, inspired by the beautiful countryside in North Wales where I have just been on holiday. There is a route from Holywell that winds its way from chapel to holy site to standing stones to chapel westwards towards the Llyn peninsula and then on to Aberdaron on the tip which, it is said, has been used by pilgrims for centuries. The whole route is around 135 miles and if I do walk it, I would probably mix camping out in the wild with B&B’s and proper camping overnights. My fitness levels need to be improved – a LOT! – before I seriously consider it, but I think it would be something good to set my mind to doing for both physical and spiritual healing.

I am thankful… for the two weeks of family time I have just spent in Wales in our little caravan. Things have been tense and stressful for too long recently and I think we all needed the break away from the routine and grind of daily life. There was a time when I thought we wouldn’t be able to have a holiday this year, even a cheap one camping in a farmer’s field like we did do, so yes, I am extremely thankful that we were given the chance to do that.

Family time camping in Wales

Family time camping in Wales

I am praying for… strength, wisdom, insight and guidance for myself; healing for a battered and bruised friendship; a light at the end of this very dark and winding financial tunnel I am travelling down.

I am wearing… shorts and a t-shirt. It’s been a hot day today in Manchester.

I am creating… a story about two friends who promise each other they will get together with each other if neither of them has a partner by the time they are 30. It’s a plot that has been done before (many times!) but there will be a twist to mine which I don’t think has ever been written yet.

I am going… to have my hair cut tomorrow. I have done it myself for the past couple of years and as there is still some money in the kitty from our holidays I’m finally going to have it cut by someone who knows what they are doing and who can even up my dodgy layers at the back.

I am wondering… if this broken tooth will hold up til next Monday when I can get to the dentist to have it fixed.

I am reading…  “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon. Kevin was given the box set of series one for his birthday and we watched it bit by bit in the evenings on holiday. I enjoyed it so much I have decided to read the book too. It’s a great story, one of my favourite genres, where Claire ends up slipping back through time from 1945 to 1743 and the eve of the Jacobite rising in Scotland. there are a lot of historical anachronisms, but they are forgivable because the storytelling is so good.

I am hoping… for a better night’s sleep tonight than I had last night. It was a good old-fashioned tramadol night last night, complete with twitching, restlessness, itching and hallucinations which have left me feeling a bit hungover today. Sleepy, not quite ‘with it’ and wondering if what I dreamed about someone being pregnant is just a flight of fancy or if my subconscious has picked something up and is playing it back to me under the guise of tramadol-induced ‘sleep’.

I am learning… to let go of things even though it hurts to do so.

In my garden… the hydrangea bush is a gorgeous colour this year. It has been pink or blue in the past but this year it is a beautiful lilac/purple colour. I think it can be explained by the change in soil pH after the removal of a tree next door a couple of years ago. I read somewhere once that the acidity or alkalinity of the soil where a hydrangea is situated has an effect on the colour of the blooms, and I think that’s what has happened here. I’d post a photo but it’s gone dark now. I’ll try and remember for next time.

In my kitchen… we had pasta which was brought back from Italy by Ethan a couple of weeks ago. He was on a band tour with Bury Music Centre and thought I might like to have some genuine Italian pasta, which was very thoughtful of him. It was multi-coloured and very nice. I did a chorizo, mushroom and tomato sauce to go with it – delish.

A favourite quote for today… “Young people might have lots of energy to run fast, but older people know how to read the map”

A peek into one of my days… 

Sunset at Nant Gwrtheyrn, Wales

Sunset at Nant Gwrtheyrn, Wales

This photo is one of my favourite from my holiday this year. A glorious sunset, the sounds of the waves below us on the beach and my son in silhouette setting up his camera to take some shots of his own.

One of my favourite things… the taste sensation that is sweet and salty popcorn mixed up together. Oh my word!

Post Script: My postscript today is a thank you and an apology to Mary. First of all, thank you for your lovely card which arrived the morning I left for my holiday, and an apology that I didn’t get to send you a postcard from Wales because I took your card with me but forgot to bring the envelope with your address on it! I have sent you a couple of cards in an envelope so you can see a bit more about where we were on holiday – expect it in a few days!



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