The Last Post


It was my pleasure and privilege to play the Last Post and Reveille on Sunday not once, but twice.

Angel Memorial

The Angel Memorial, Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley

The first time I played was for my church as we observed the silence at 11am with the rest of our country, and then later in the afternoon at a Service of Remembrance at the Angel Memorial in Boggart Hole Clough.

Each time made me think about the hundreds and thousands of times that the act of Remembrance has been observed in the 98 years since the first one in 1919, and the hundreds and thousands of times that the Last Post has been sounded at funeral services for fallen comrades around the globe who have died since their service days ended.

So what is it? What is the Last Post? And why is it played at Services of Remembrance and at funerals?

There is a long history associated with the Last Post which goes back to before the 17th Century where British troops were stationed in the Netherlands. The Dutch had a tradition of “taptoe” (which is where we get the word “tattoo” from), a custom that signalled the closing of the beer taps, which was a sign that the working day was over, and this was adopted by the British, where at the end of each day, as sentries were inspected and the military camps were made secure, a bugle call was sounded at each one to signal that the inspection was complete. Bugle calls were the easiest way to communicate orders, or to give information quickly and over a large distance. For example, Officers would be called to their posts by a particular call, the troops would be called to the mess tent for mealtimes with another call, they would be sent into battle with another set of calls.

And so, at the end of each day, the bugle call was used in order to tell the camp that the final inspections of the sentries was underway. Unsurprisingly, the first sentry post’s call was signalled with the “First Post”, recognisable to all who heard it. The call went along subsequently, ending with the last one, where the “Last Post” was sounded. This one was a longer bugle call and signalled the end of the working day for the camp. In battle situations, the Last Post was sounded at the end of a battle to signal to the wounded that fighting had ceased and to guide them to safety and rest.

The British also used the Last Post tradition in colonial times in North America, where it became “Taps” (to a different tune).

In recent times, the Last Post during Remembrance services has taken on a different meaning, and has two purposes. The first is to symbolically end the day, and the second is an implied summoning of the spirits of the fallen to the cenotaph.

The Last Post is always followed by a period of silence – usually two minutes – after which another call is heard, either “Rouse” or “Reveille”, which in military use is a signal for soldiers firstly to wake up, and then to get up.

All interesting stuff, and here’s my take on it.

Whereas the sounding of the Last Post during a Remembrance service is a symbolic ending of the day, when it is sounded at a funeral that can be taken to mean the symbolic ending of a life here on earth. If that is so, where does that leave us with the sounding of Rouse or Reveille after the period of silence? To me, I can’t help think that it is a reminder to us that once our lives here on earth are over, we will be woken in God’s presence at the end of days.

So there is a little potted history of the Last Post, and how it has been used over the years in different contexts. As its meaning has changed over the years and it continues to evolve, new generations will come to know it and bring their own interpretations to it. I just hope and pray that it will continue to be partnered with the Reveille too to remind us that one day, we will also rest in peace and rise in glory.

 

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Trust


A thought for the day:

 

“God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand His wisdom but we simply have to trust His will.”

 

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An Autumn Walk


I went on a walk with my husband today round our local park, Heaton Park in North Manchester.

I have loved this park since childhood. It was my old stomping ground and I enjoyed walking, cycling and sledging round it with my friends on many a happy occasion. We have climbed trees, went conkering, fell in ponds and streams, played football, flew kites, got lost in the woods, petted the horses and the peacocks, fed the ducks, played on the swings and tormented the council gardeners (sorry Dave!)  on the long, happy days of summer – and quite a few in the darkest winters too.

It is a great park, and it has loads to do and see. As a kid, the attraction was the wide open spaces that were adult-free and the endless time that we could spend there. Later on, when I had my own kids, the attraction was the great long pathways and open spaces where I could let them run free or ride their bikes in safety as we enjoyed the fresh air together. Even later on still, I am enjoying the park again for – you guessed it – its open spaces, the chance for clean fresh air and the gorgeous woodlands that take up most of its space.

My favourite bit of the whole park is the area round the boating lake, and this is where we walked today. I took quite a few photographs, but here are a couple of my favourites from today. You can see the amazing colours of the trees as autumn starts to take hold, and the glorious blue skies throw the autumn colours into greater contrast.

 

If you want to find out more about Heaton Park, please click here. For an even better view of it, why not pay a visit yourself? It’s a great place, I promise you.

 

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Daybook Entry – 4th November 2017


FOR TODAY 4th November 2017

Outside my window… the night sky is alight with fireworks and bonfires. It’s that time of year again!

I am thinking… that I’m glad I had my hair cut last week (professionally this time) but I am going to have to keep straightening it until it grows a bit and the curls drop out a little.

I am thankful… for my two wonderful children who have grown up to be such wonderful young adults.

In the kitchen… a new recipe of mine which I have perfected over the last couple of times of trying it, we had pearl barley risotto with chicken and mushrooms. Delish!

I am wearing… grey and blue. Not a reflection of my mood, thankfully.

I am creating… lots of stories! I am about 6 weeks into my Masters degree work and I have got short stories and flash fiction coming out of my ears at the minute. I am loving the creativity of writing, and of finding characters who speak to me so I can tell their stories. I will post some on here, but I have to be careful that I don’t share something which I am going to use as an assignment later or on else I could be caught out by the anti-plagiarism rules with the OU.

I am going… to go for a walk in Heaton Park tomorrow afternoon. Pictures to follow.

I am reading… “Rather Be The Devil” by Ian Rankin for fun, but oodles and oodles of other stuff for my Masters. I’m developing a bit of a crush on Victorian gothic horror at the minute which started out as research but is now turning into entertainment .

I am watching… “I know who you are”, which is a Spanish crime thriller shown on the BBC over the summer. I discovered it yesterday and I am hooked. It is the story of a lawyer who is accused of murder but who has lost his memory of any events before the alleged murder. It is in Spanish with English subtitles, so it needs some concentration (ie, no crocheting or Candy Crush while it is on!) but it is well worth it. Again, something I started to watch for research purposes but is turning out to be an entertainment piece too.

I am praying… in thanks for the safe delivery of a friend’s new baby, for the safe delivery of another friend’s baby in a couple of weeks and for the safe gestation for another friend who has had two heartbreaks in the last year. God is everywhere in creation, and for that I give thanks.

I am wondering… how I am going to get through the next 8 weeks until Christmas. As ever, the family calendar is FULL and if I don’t count studying, I have got 5 days between now and Boxing Day where I am not committed to something or other. I always go through this wobble around this time of year and I have never come unstuck before, but nevertheless, the next couple of months are going to be busy.

I am looking forward to… Boxing Day…!

From the boardroom…I really want to make these this year.

DIY ~~ making string ornaments.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/456974693425566704/

 

I am hoping… Ethan and Megan are having a good time in Scotland this weekend.

I am learning… that I am stronger than I think I am.

Around the house… things are very quiet for a change. It’s weird.

I am pondering… how to present a discussion for my BAP* in a couple of weeks.

A favourite quote for today…

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself, you are listening” – Lisa M Hayes

One of my favourite things… is a book and brew in bed before sleep.

A few plans for the rest of the week: church tomorrow, Stay and Play then a pre-BAP meeting in the afternoon then band on Monday, band again Wednesday, Study group Thursday, praying at a funeral on Friday, band Friday night, then Messy Church on Saturday. Yes, it’s a tad busy this week!

A peek into my day…

I sit next to Gareth in band, and this is his “unique” way of keeping his music tidy during rehearsals *ahem*

Postscript:

*BAP – Bishop’s Advisory Panel. This is the 3-day selection panel where my suitability for ordination training is assessed and decided. I will be attending BAP at the end of November and there’s a bit of preparation to do before I go, including (and not limited to) booking my train tickets and deciding on how to invite a discussion around one of the church’s marks of mission.

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Our Daily Bread


I tried to make bread today. Yeah, I know…bread right?

I have only ever made it in a bread making machine before, but my friend Hils has recently begun to make her own bread and I was inspired to have a go myself after she shared a loaf of focaccia bread with me last week. Hers was delicious. Packed full of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, rosemary, garlic and red onions… I had to try it for myself!

So today I tried.

D’ya wanna see how I got on?

Well let me tell you, finding a recipe for a “standard” focaccia bread is nearly impossible. So many to choose from! With water/without water; with lots of oil/with only a drizzle of oil; with sea salt/with rock salt; with/without toppings and fillings… The list was seemingly endless.

Once I had weeded out the ones I could understand the measurements for, (note to my American friends: how on earth do you manage with cups of stuff??) I settled on what seemed to be a fairly easy one to a) measure out the ingredients, b) understandable terms like “fold” and “knead” and c) wasn’t going to take up the whole afternoon to make.

It turns out the one I chose was by Paul Hollywood and if you know your bread and your bread masters, then you will know that if it has Paul Hollywood’s name on it then it was going to be a cracker. I remember seeing him make this on GBBO a couple of seasons ago and there were certain tips gleaned from there that I remembered as I went along. “Oil your work surface” being the most important – or so I thought.

This is how the first mix went:

Not pretty is it?

I turned it out because no matter how much I “folded” it in the bowl, it was still the consistency of porridge and was sticking to my hands and fingers so badly that I was starting to look like I had webbed feet instead of human mitts.

Pretty soon though, I had a lovely smooth (if very sticky) dough.

Now, if only it had stayed at that consistency I would have been so pleased! But it seemed that Paul Hollywood’s tip of oiling the workbench just made the dough stickier and more slippery in my hands and soon returned to a horrid gloopy mess. I can’t share a picture with you because I was so traumatised and Kevin was laughing so much, between us we couldn’t operate the camera.

Anyway. I managed to get it into a lump/mass/blob of goo and get it back into the bowl after about 15 minutes of wrestling – sorry “kneading” – it on the worktop.

This is what it looked like (please ignore the bottle of gin at this point. It was purely medicinal):

The recipe said to leave it for “between 1 and 2 hours in a warm place, or until it had doubled in size”. Well, to the master Paul Hollywood, he might remember what his goo looks like and be able to calculate what “double in size” actually is, but I’m not a master nor am I Paul Hollywood!

I had to recover, so I took my medicine with me to the living room and caught up with last night’s X-Factor for a couple of hours and when I returned, THIS is what greeted me:

Alleluia!!! It has risen!

I turned it out onto the worktop again (floured this time because my friend Hils said it might be in need of a bit of “dry”) and managed to get it kneaded for about 20 seconds before it returned to its original gloopy/porridgy mess. Now, Mr Hollywood’s instructions said that I would have a “lovely soft dough” at this stage.

Wrong!!

I had the Quatermass experiment going on in my kitchen and I was not winning the fight by any stretch. Not even a gluten-filled one.

Next was to “cut the dough into two equal portions”. Well let me ask you, dear reader, have you ever tried to cut a bowl of porridge in half? With a knife? If you have, you will know that any incisions made are quickly swallowed up, and there is no such thing as a “cut”. Same with my dough.

A little tip for PH when he rewrites his recipe, I would suggest that this stage is reworded to “separate the lumpy, sticky fluid into two blobs as best you can and if you manage to get them equal sizes then well done you!”.

I then pressed the two bits of “dough” (I’ve run out of synonyms for “sticky porridge”) roughly onto two baking sheets and covered them up with two damp tea-towels. I was reminded of what they do at the scene of a sudden or unexplained death. Can’t think why…

Quickly put out of their misery, I left them to it for about 15 minutes (a moment of self-preservation more than anything) and then finished them off with oil, rosemary and sea salt.

They didn’t look too bad going into the oven.

And so there they lay for 30 minutes or so to bake, as per Mr Hollywood’s instructions. More “medicine” for me…

We have an electric oven and the temperature is fairly even throughout it. So how on Earth did THIS happen??

Looks like I got Ebony and Ivory focaccia bread there!

To be honest, after the massive fight I had with that dough at the various stages of mixing, kneading, rising, kneading, shaping and finishing, I’m mighty pleased with the results, even though they are two-tone in shade.

We ate the darker one (tasted really good and the texture inside was lovely, springy and had a beautiful crust – Paul Hollywood would have been proud!) and I have put the lighter one in the freezer for later in the week when I can summon the energy to wrestle with more ingredients to make some soup or something. I might even give it to my friend Hils as a thank you for introducing me to this new fascination of mine.

I can’t see me making bread every day, but after the fight I had on my hands today, I’ll certainly be giving thanks for those who do provide us with our daily bread.

 

 

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Daybook Entry


Daybook EntryFor Today… 11th September 2017

Outside my window… the weather is having a party today. It’s sunny for now, but in another couple of minutes it will be stormy and throwing it down again. It’s been like this since yesterday morning and it is showing no signs of changing any time soon. I can only think that it if it so horrible here with high winds and heavy rain, it must be a million times worse for those in the Caribbean or in Florida.

I am thinking… that I’m glad things are back to “normal” after the summer break. I have always loved September, and I have always loved the sense of normality that comes with it. I love the summer holidays too, but September is always a special time of year and I love that sense of routine and normality that it brings.

I am thankful… for the new duvet my mum and dad have given us. It is lovely and cozy and just perfect for this horrible weather.

I am praying for… everyone who has been affected by natural disasters recently.

I am wearing… a clean t-shirt and my pyjama bottoms. I got soaked to the skin earlier so wanted to get my comfies on.

I am creating…  a piece of writing on the American Civil War. I want to turn it into a screenplay and so I’m blocking it out and making copious notes as I go through research and reading for it.

I am going… to meet with the new DDO (Diocese Director of Ordinands) tomorrow. He will be guiding me through the exploration stages of my vocation in the coming months and this will be our first meeting.

I am wondering… whether I can squeeze a nap in before I have to go and cook the tea tonight.

I am reading… “The Seagull” by Anne Cleeves. It is the eighth book in the Vera Stanhope series.

I am watching… “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix. Not my usual kind of thing (too much swearing and sex in it for me) but it’s fascinating to see how relationships ebb and flow in a confined space such as a prison, and I find it interesting to see how the script is written and how the programme is put together.

I am hoping… to get my hair cut soon. It has gone through the “cute and curly” stage to the “frizzy and uncontrollable” stage really quickly.

I am learning… that small changes in my morning routine are having a big affect on my productivity.

In my garden… things are starting to die back now as Autumn is starting to creep in.

In my kitchen… we are getting inventive with our food choices for mealtimes. Tonight will be something simple, like pasta with prawns and pesto. Might throw some peas in too, purely for alliterative purposes.

A favourite quote for today…

day quote

A peek into one of my days…

We spent a couple of days in Portsmouth last week to see my daughter’s passing out parade, and we spent a little time at the docks. This is a selection of photos from that time – the Spinnaker Tower (views are AMAZING!!), the Historic Dockyard showing HMS Queen Elizabeth (the UK’s newest aircraft carrier), HMS Victory (Nelson’s flagship, most famously used in the Battle of Waterloo in 1805) and the building in which the Mary Rose is housed, Henry VIII’s most expensive warship which sank in 1545.

One of my favourite things… is drinking Ovaltine at bedtimes when it is raining hard against the windows.

In other news: I said earlier that I liked September because it feels like a new start, and this year is no exception. I am going to be studying towards my Masters degree this year in Creative Writing, again with the Open University. I will be learning more about the process of writing as well as writing lots of stuff myself, and I will be learning about critiquing other students’ work which will be something new for me. I will hopefully be able to share some of my jottings and things on here in the coming months, but only once I’ve decided that they won’t be forming the basis of any of my work which will be marked by the OU. The last thing I need is to be done for plagiarism – even it it is of myself!

Things are progressing with my vocation exploration, and I will be going for my selection panel at the end of November (not next week as originally planned). I am preaching this Sunday at my home church, which I am looking forward to immensely. I might publish my text early next week if it goes down well enough on Sunday.

Blessings to you all.

 

 

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Catching Up


It’s been a whole month since I last updated you with what’s what, so here’s where we are up to on the Mushy Cloud.

As you might know, I have just finished a four-week placement at another church prior to my BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel – selection panel to be a candidate for ordination training) and I am back at my own church this week. The placement itself was a fantastic experience and I met lots of lovely people, as well as learning more about my vocation and what God is calling me to do. I also had a very different experience of how to “do” church and that’s something that I will be reflecting on between now and my BAP.

I was straight back into my own parish ministry on Monday morning at our annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic with the little ones at Stay and Play. We said goodbye to 8 children as they move on up to “big school” in September and we are looking forward to seeing some new families in September when we get back.

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Last Thursday (a slight overlap with my placement and today’s ministry) I met a lovely family who were preparing for the funeral of their beloved Gran and Mum, Jean. We talked a lot about what family meant to her and I was moved to hear their stories of her life and how she treated people with love. It was Jean’s funeral today and I contributed the prayers during the service, as well as accompanying the vicar at the graveside. I had one of those lovely moments where my online life met my “real” life, and I met one of my blog friends at the funeral. He introduced himself at the end of the service, and it was absolutely fantastic to meet him in person – hello Andy!!

We are heading off in the wobbly box next week for a few days away in the Lake District. It has been a long twelve months since we were last on holiday and we can’t quite manage the full two weeks this year, but the few days we are going to be away are going to be a very welcome tonic after the hectic (and sometimes frantic) things we have been working through as a family recently. No doubt there will be photographs and updates while we are there, including – I hope – a series of sunset and sunrise shots from the top of Hardknott Pass. Please pray for good weather for that overnight expedition for us. I’m not bothered about having good weather for the rest of it – tea tastes as good under canvas as it does in the open air when it is drunk out of a tin mug – but for the night we decide to do the photography on top of the world it would be nice to have some clear skies so we can see the sun come up properly.

A couple of weeks ago I received a delightful postcard from my blog friend Mary in the USA. It showed a photograph of Niagara Falls and it reminded me of the trip I went on with North Music Centre in September 1987 to the same place. We played an afternoon concert on a bandstand in the park at the top of the falls and I remember the spray from the water managed to wet our music even from that distance away. We also had a trip on the Maid of the Mist boat to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, which is also depicted on Mary’s postcard. Thank you for the card Mary and thank you for the fabulous reminder of what a wonderful, natural world we live in.

In other news, I am trying to write a computer program that will help with crochet design so am on a crash course of learning coding (my head hurts) and how to apply maths and logarithms to what is essentially a textile art form. Not easy and anyone with any experience who can do this thing for me I will gladly talk to and get help from. I have also been trying to hone my writing discipline because since my degree I have gotten out of the habit of writing every day. I have started to keep “morning pages” and even in the short while I have been doing it I have seen an improvement in my word-craft.

That’s about it for now as I can hear my crochet hook calling me. Here is a picture of a bee I have designed. He doesn’t have a face yet as I’m not sure I like him to have a black or a yellow face. What do you think? The wings are still in the prototype stages too and so haven’t been attached yet. Sigh. A work in progress indeed.

My faceless bees – which is better? The one with the black end or the yellow end? The wings are still a bit dodgy too…

That’s all for now. Until next time, cheerio.

 

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On Placement – Part One


It has been a while since I updated you all about what’s happening with my spiritual journey so I thought today was a good day to share with you where I am up to.

You may know that I am currently in the stage of discerning God’s call and what it means for me and my life, and having gone through several stages of inspection and indeed introspection, I am now moving on to another stage of my journey.

I have been given a date to attend a Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP for short) in September, where I will go through a three-day “interview” process where I may – or may not – be recommended to go for further training in the church. As part of the process so far I have seen two vocational advisors and an examining chaplain as well as having several conversations with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) about what God’s call sounds like to me. During that process, it has been highlighted that I have little experience of church outside my own circle, and so I have arranged to do a short placement with a neighbouring parish to see how they do things there.

I started my placement today at St Michael’s in Alkrington, and I am going to be there for the next three Sundays with a view to learning as much as I can from a different priest-in-charge and from the congregation there.

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It has been a long day – my first service was at 8am this morning – but I have met lots of new people and seen three different styles of worship with three different congregations. First was a said Eucharist, which means that we shared holy communion but there were no hymns and all of the prayers and responses were spoken not sung. Next was a service at 9.30am which was a sung Eucharist, which you can probably work out is where we share communion but sing hymns and responses. Both services were very different from that which I am used to, but it helped me focus on the reasons why we “do” worship in church, and how we relate to each other as fellow worshippers.

I had a cup of tea after the service with some of the congregation members and I think I have found a new set of friends in the needlework group who meet on a Monday afternoon! The ladies there promised me a noisy afternoon of knitting and nattering so I’m going to take my crochet hooks with me and head off tomorrow for some fun and chats with them. I also spoke to a gentleman who at the grand age of 93 still plays euphonium in the church brass band, and with whom I have a “date” on Thursday evening at band practice.

Later on, I went to a Family Service which was a totally different service in terms of style for families who are looking to have their children in faith schools. There was over 70 children there and wow, what an experience!

I was introduced to all three congregations and prayers were offered for me and my vocational call. I was touched and humbled by the response of the church today because I don’t remember ever being the focus of attention quite so much before, and to know that there are about 200 people who prayed for me today was an amazing feeling.

I have learned a lot of things today – not least that 93 year old gentlemen can use a smartphone better than some children can! – and I am looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks with this group of lovely people and sharing ministry and mission with them for a short while.

So. My pre-BAP placement has begun and so too has the next stage of my discernment journey. I hope to keep you up to date with how things progress, and I’ll perhaps blog about what is involved with BAP too as things progress there.

 

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Manchester 


In the wake of the atrocious attack in Manchester last night, I feel have to say something. But like so many people today there are simply not enough words to express just how sad,  shocked, upset, fearful, determined, defiant and united we feel as a city.

Mancunians are renowned for our understated attitude to getting on with things and coming together as a community to stand in the face of adversity. This isn’t the first time Manchester has experienced violence like this and I don’t suppose it will be the last. While that saddens and angers me, I am reassured by the resilience of my fellow Mancs in that we will carry on.

For those who are pointing the finger and trying to divide us, my message is that we are all children of the same God and we would do well to remember that. Darkness will never overcome darkness, only light can do that. Hatred can never overcome hatred, only love can do that.

For the people of Manchester my message is, stay strong our kid.

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Daybook Entry 22nd May 2017


For Today… 22nd May 2017

Outside my window… the evening is cooling down a little. Some clouds in the sky but some bright sunshine too. A great metaphor for life!

I am thinking… about a painting I’m working on for a friend

I am thankful… for the space to think today

I am praying for… the country’s young people as they are in the midst of exams

I am wearing… my hair up and my smile down

I am creating… I am between crochet projects at the moment, having finished this last night.

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I am going… to be involved with two hospital funerals tomorrow, where people have died with no next of kin. The first person has some friends and extended family who will be in attendance, but the second has nobody but us laity and clergy to pray for her.

I am wondering… whether we can afford to go on holiday this summer. The car is not fit to tow the caravan and we don’t have the money to fix it, and we won’t have the money for site fees and food while we’re away so it’s unlikely we’ll be able to go. I’m wondering if something will turn up really.

I am reading… “Monk’s Hood” by Ellis Peters. It’s the third book in the Cadfael series and was a free download from Amazon.

I am hoping… to have my poorly ankle manipulated this evening.

I am learning… to be patient.

In my garden… the grass needs cutting but the lawn mower is broken. This post is starting to feel a bit like a moan-fest now!

In my kitchen… we are having a surprise for tea. Emma is here with her best friend and they are cooking something for us all. It smells nice and they have a great track record, so I’m quite looking forward to it.

A favourite quote for today…

A peek into one of my days…

This is my daughter, and I am very proud of her. She is extremely fit and healthy, and she loves running and doing all sorts of physical challenges. This weekend she ran “Tough Mudder” in Grantham, and volunteered to be a marshal for the other racers on Saturday. She has completed four now and has already got the next two planned. Go Em!!

One of my favourite things… is seeing my children flourish and thrive.

 

 

 

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