Daybook Entry – New Year’s Eve 2016


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFor Today… the last day of 2016

Outside my window… I can hear some isolated bursts of fireworks going off locally. The weather is mild to cold but not frosty yet.

I am thinking… about some changes I need to make in myself, my outlook, my worldview and my expectations.

I am thankful… for so, so much! Where to start? Well, first and foremost I am thankful for the ever present grace and love of God in my life. My faith in him (and his in me) has got me through so much this year and I am thankful to have reached this point still in one piece.

I am praying for… Charlotte and Kieran who are dealing with the most heartbreaking loss anyone can imagine; my brother who is going to be having an operation in a couple of weeks and is facing a long recovery time afterwards; Roy, Margaret, Iain and Megan who will be taking a big step next week; Emma who is starting a new job on Tuesday; Ethan who has got a high-pressure time ahead this term.

I am wearing… a happy smile this evening as I look back at what has happened this year.

I am creating… a new way of thinking. I have come to realise that my thought patterns and behaviour patterns need an overhaul if I am to ever make progress with my life. For example, I am desperate to write a full length novel but fear of failure is holding me back. I know I have the skills (talent is as yet still untested), but I keep talking myself out of doing anything about it because I think my story is not good enough, or that people won’t want to read it and so on. I am trying to create a new way of thinking about myself where I concentrate on the positives of what I’m doing rather than worrying about the (unknown) negatives.

I am going… to put my new thinking into action over the coming weeks and let’s see where we are by half term.

I am wondering… whether I ought to do something about my physical health as well as my mental health this year…

I am reading… “Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs. I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I have already bitten into and bought this latest one in the Temperance Brennan series. I have had my eye on it for a little while and I was really chuffed to be able to buy it on Boxing Day. I’m nearly at the end of it and to be honest, I can’t wait for bedtime tonight so I can go and finish it!

I am hoping… that our financial difficulties will be eased this year, if not resolved somehow. I have faith that we will be ok.

I am learning… to ease up on myself, to lower my expectations, and to celebrate the small things.

In my garden… we have a gazebo erected over our deck area at the back of the house. We put it up there for Christmas Day so we had somewhere dry to put the settee out while we had the long tables set up for dinner. We haven’t got round to putting it down yet but I rather like it and might persuade Kevin to keep it for a while.

In my kitchen… we have some snacks and treats waiting to eat while we watch the final Harry Potter film later on tonight.

A favourite quote for today…

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A peek into one of my days… I’m going to cheat here and show you a few photos from December as there’s too many to choose from!

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A bonus little video for you: filmed outside our house on Christmas morning as we played for our neighbours before church. Hope you enjoy it!

One of my favourite things… is planning and researching things for writing about. One of my least favourite things is spotting when “research” becomes “procrastinating” and getting a move on and to get writing.

Post Script: This year has been a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows, and this is my chance to acknowledge those difficulties and joys and to say a public thank you to everyone who has got me through it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the months and years will know that from time to time my mental health takes a hit, and that my family’s financial situation is not particularly secure or hopeful. This year has been the worst we have endured and we have come close a few times to crossing the line. However, we have been blessed on so many occasions by the kindness and support of family and friends who have seen us through. With gifts of food and other necessities, and on more than one occasion the gift of money, our family and friends have literally saved the day. Ethan would not have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with the music centre had it not been for an anonymous gift of a substantial amount of money which was put through our front door the day before the deadline for payment. More recently, we were facing a very lean Christmas with no spare cash to be able to buy any presents for anyone but again, from anonymous gifts, we not only were able to get some gifts for our children but we have enough now for both Kevin and I to be able to replace our glasses in a couple of weeks. We are both desperate for an eye test and new glasses but until this money came in, we were getting very anxious about how we were going to pay for them. As I said, we have been extremely blessed and we are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in 2016. The grace of God has been in abundance in our family this year!

Some high spots have punctuated the seemingly endless struggle to “get by”, such as our family camping holiday in Wales this summer (again, paid for as a gift to us – and boy are we glad for that gift!). We were joined by my brother and his family for a few days, which was a great experience, and I got to enjoy some spiritual time in a very special part of the world. I finally finished my studies and I got my degree this summer which is an achievement I never in a million years thought I would ever do. Kevin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year too, which, as with my degree, is an achievement and milestone I never thought I would ever see. But we did and I am proud to have made it with my best friend and partner in life.

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:

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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?

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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.

 

 

Phew – Made It!!


It’s been a busy few months on the Mushy Cloud and you may have noticed an absence of blog posts for a while. I have recovered from my heavy (oh so heavy!) workload now and I hope you will rejoin me as I start my blogging experience again.

In case you didn’t know what has been happening, I have finished my degree after studying 5 modules in 3 years with the Open University and have been working hard on my final assignments.

I was studying a course in advanced creative writing, which involved learning more about the different forms of writing including my (new) favourite of writing drama. Drama is a cover-all term for radio plays, stage plays, screenplays etc and I wrote a 30 minute screenplay for my final assignment which is something that I never thought I would ever be able to do. I loved writing it and am anxious about how it will be received and whether it will earn me enough marks for me to pass at the level I want. It is a story set in 1918 and the present day and is about a soldier from the trenches who is brought to a military hospital in Cheshire where he meets and falls in love with a nurse. I didn’t set out to write a love story but when the characters start talking to you, you have to go with the flow I guess.

My other module was on Children’s Literature, which involved learning all about the history of children’s literature as well as thoroughly getting to grips with a big range of texts. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I signed up for it, but I have thoroughly loved it and I have read some books that I would never have thought of outside this module, such as ‘Buffalo Soldier’ by Tanya Landman. A brilliant book and well worth a read.

So both of these modules represent the culmination of a 20 year journey for me, and if all goes well and to plan, then I am in line to be awarded a 2:1 degree in July. I will let you know how that goes.

In other news, I tried running in an attempt to get my body moving and to combat the long hours I had been putting into studying. It didn’t go well and I gave up far too easily, but I will be getting going again soon. Either running or cycling. Or swimming. Yes, swimming instead. Easier on my poor feet!

It took me a long while to recover after my final assessment went in – too much reading in a short space of time left my eyes a bit tired and my brain very mushy, not to mention the kinks in my back from being sat for long stretches at the desk. I haven’t been able to read very much for a week or so, but my creative streak had a flare and I did some art work instead and it was nice to do something a bit different this week.

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Work in progress – sunflowers in pastels. It’s all about the process not the result

It has been a whirlwind of activity at church too in the last few months and now that I have finished my OU studies I am really looking forward to getting on with that more fully again. I have been on the ministry team in delivering two funerals, which I’ll perhaps tell you about in another post, including the back-stage ‘tour’ I had at the crematorium after my first one. That was an amazing experience, fascinating and reassuring in equal measure. There is no need for families to worry that their loved one will be mixed up with someone else, or that the staff won’t be careful etc because the system behind the scenes is like a military operation and is done with the utmost care and compassion.

There’s been a lot on at band too recently, which I’ve managed to juggle reasonably well. I was invited to conduct Lees Band on Whit Friday and my own band of Todmorden Community Brass Band has been rather occupied too. It really has been a mad couple of months!

Me with the board carriers at Lydgate with the Lees Band in the background
Me with the board carriers at Lydgate with the Lees Band in the background

 

Todmorden Band at Salem Fields in Hebden Bridge. The sun burst out just after this photo was taken and I have been burned to a crisp on my conducting arm and neck. Ouch!
Todmorden Band at Salem Fields in Hebden Bridge. The sun burst out just after this photo was taken and I have been burned to a crisp on my conducting arm and neck. Ouch!

I’ve got a couple of weeks of invigilation coming up now, but I have got a couple of writing projects I want to work on and can’t wait to have the time to start properly.

So there you have it. It’s been busy, it is still busy, and it’s going to stay busy. But there’s now room for creativity and reflection as well, which makes for a happier Pam and a calmer Pam too.

Onward, always onward!

 

 

A Good Day at the Office!


I have had a great day at the office today!!

I played with a couple of my bandies at Chatsworth High School in Salford this morning for the children and staff there. They were incredibly receptive and it was a complete joy and privilege to be part of their assembly this morning. The children there have a range of difficulties but they all, to a one, were able to join in and share back their love and joy with the music….especially the Jingle Bells!!

We started off by playing Deck The Halls (one of my favourite carols) and then we followed it up with Away In A Manger and Silent Night. Then we started to ramp up the noise levels and we handed out lots of percussion to the children and had them standing up at the front with the band. We played Jingle Bells (only about four times!), Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and then Frosty The Snowman before tackling The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Now, let me explain my use of the word “tackling”: the arrangement we play from is the Salvation Army Carol Book  – commonly called “the red book” because it is, well erm….red – and to save space in the book, lots of the songs at the back are written with lots of repeats, dal segno signs, da capos etc and can be a bit tricky to follow where you’re up to, especially if you’re not playing the melody. Here’s a copy of the solo cornet part for the 12 Days so you can see exactly what I mean when I said we “tackled” it earlier.

 

The tune was ok, although it was just a bit tricky to count backwards through the verses while still blowing, but from the second cornet part downwards it just went to pot the further on in the song we got. Poor old JT on the bass part was completely lost and just randomly parped along as he saw fit! We fell about laughing at the end of it, but the kids didn’t notice (thank God) and they thoroughly enjoyed the noise and the standing up and sitting down and all that.

We finished with another rendition of Jingle Bells (hurrah, you can never have enough Jingle Bells…) and then We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

The children were really, really appreciative and kept saying thank you as they were being led back to their classrooms, and I think I shook hands with about 40 new friends today!

We had a tour of the school after we’d played and it was a truly humbling experience to see how these young people manage their daily lives. The facilities are FANTASTIC and the sensory room was a particular revelation to me. I’d only ever seen those rooms on TV before, but to see one in action was amazing. Some of the children were as sharp as tacks and they greeted us with big smiles and hugs as we went round their classrooms.

I was so chuffed to be asked to join in today and it really was a great day. You can see a picture of us playing here. I’m the second from the left (the pale one with a fat face!)

Can’t wait for tomorrow morning now when there will be three classes from Victoria Avenue Primary School in church for us to share the Christmas story with them. So exciting!!