Tuesday, 27 October 2015


There was a moment in my day yesterday that I felt a whole range of emotions and I haven't been able to shake off all day today.

It was just a normal Monday afternoon. Sibs was head in her books and laptop in the study completing her homework. She had returned from school, changed her clothes, helped herself to a snack and drink during which we had the usual conversation about what to have for dinner. Just so normal...

I went to collect the post and there was a report from our sponsored child in Zambia.

Sibs was reading it out to me as I was pottering around.

There was information about M's house, what she did on the weekend, what her favourite colour was and then when Sibs got to one question and answer she just stopped....

"The most precious thing that I have is......"

In the blank was the word "nothing".

We both just looked at each other with teary eyes.

I am sad that M feels she has nothing that she considers precious and I am grateful that we are able to make a tiny difference to her and her community in gaining some degree of independence and well being.

The conversations that have been prompted by our letters from M have been invaluable and I wish she knew that she makes a difference in our lives too.

World Vision website

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Friday, 23 October 2015


In 2010 I went to a Simply Red concert that was heralded as their farewell tour. I had been a fan since the start and as a poor student I saved up my pennies to buy their tapes. Their music was entwined with so many stories of my life and the memories that I had created over time. I was really excited to see these songs performed live.

I remember being at that concert and thinking that the other people there were all older than me. Upon reflection, they weren't. I was just in denial. It was the music that made me feel ever-young.
(Incidentally, they lied about it being a farewell tour, but I have sort of forgiven them for that...)

Last weekend I went to see Robbie Williams perform in Brisbane and the same thing happened again. I was with a friend some years younger than me and she mentioned that there were many more older people there than she expected. I didn't even consider that I was one of them!! (How conceited of me.)

You see, in my mind Robbie and I are still oh so young! I still think of him as a fresh faced prankster youngster and I'm just a few years ahead of him! (Although I have to say that close up he's not ageing quite so well....!

I lived and worked in his home town of Stoke on Trent when he was just starting out with his music career. It was when the rest of the world didn't know who he was. He was Robert back then, or Rob if you really knew him well. He was the local boy that had just signed this big record deal and was about to become famous.

It was a time when I was also starting out on my career path. I had just completed some post graduate study and I was spending a year putting into practise all the theory that I had learnt during the previous 12 months. It was my first ever regular and real paycheck job. The first time I lived totally alone in a little house in Stoke and then in a flat on the top floor of a lovely old terrace in Wolstanton in Newcastle-under Lyme. It was my year of finding resilience...making it up as I went along all by myself. More memories...

I think that this tentative connection is why I feel such a soft spot for anything Robbie Williams.
He's one of a few artists that I might have bought everything that he's released. I've just felt the need to support his success.

Like many other performers his music seems to hold me in the past. Not necessarily back to my time in The Potteries, but just over the years since then. I know that it's your sense of smell that is the most powerful in provoking memories but I can catch a bit of a song and I'm instantly transported back in time.

For me, a song or a piece of music can define an era, a year, an occasion or just a moment.

I hear Madonna's 'Crazy for you' and I'm in the little cafe in Ystalyfera drinking milky coffee...
"Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and it's a seventeenth birthday party...
 Bronski Beat's "Why?" and I'm in Dan-y-Coed on a drama residential course...
Anybody who's a Welsh speaker and who's ever been to Llangrannog will understand if I just say "Nefol Dad" and "Pan ddaw yfory"?

There's countless more that I could list but that would just be self indulgent and I wouldn't know where to stop! The power that a tune has to draw me back to another time is quite a pull.

So music is good for my soul - it makes me feel like a younger version of myself.

Thank you Robbie Williams for bouncing around on stage and belting out hits from a couple of decades ago. Thank you for taking me (and most of the crowd in Brisbane on Saturday night) back to a bit of our past.
The days after the concert I revisited so many tunes that have shaped my life, and I danced like a crazy woman in the privacy of my own kitchen....!

What songs would make it onto the playlist of your life?

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Scoliosis - one year check up

It's been a full year since Sibs started her treatment for her scoliosis so time for a bit of a re-cap as we recently had a consultation with the spinal surgeon to review her condition.

The first part of the consultation is always an x-ray. We book in and after a quick gown change Sibs is then photographed with her brace on. The CD of the x-ray is then prepared and we head back to the waiting area. We read the same magazines as last time...and probably the time before that(!) before being called into the consulting room where Sibs gets into another hospital gown for a quick examination.

Dr A then studies the x-ray images on his screen, fiddles about with the mouse to take some measurements and compares the results from our last visit.

This time he informed us that the degree of the spinal curve had increased....

I could see that Sibs was disappointed but we were quickly reassured that this wasn't a big concern as we just needed to put things into perspective. Meaning - Sibs has grown 3cm in six months and the curve has increased by 1%. With a (self confessed) margin or error for his measuring, Dr A was not at all perturbed by the increase. Yes, in a perfect world the percentage would be lower and decreasing, but this is real life.
She is still under the 'magic' number of a 40% curve which is the goal to prevent surgery.

Her skeleton is still maturing and Dr A believes that she still has some growth to go so the next six months will be a pretty crucial time. There's nothing that she can do apart from wear her back brace as much as she can. Her body will grow as it will and we just have to wait and see.

On a 'normal' day my little superstar wears her brace close on to 24 hours. It's off when she showers and when she does some sporting or dancing activities but that's it. I don't take for granted that she is committed to wearing it. I know that she is trying so hard to prevent any surgery.

As I've mentioned in previous posts we are extremely fortunate that her scoliosis is relatively pain free and if her curve hovers around a mid 30s degree then any discussion around surgery is likely to be for the cosmetic look of her back. Sibs has indicated that this is not an issue for her and I'm so glad. In an upright position there is no sign of scoliosis. It does not prevent her from any of the activities that she enjoys and apart from some clothing issues she is coping beautifully.

Just in the last few weeks she has managed a pretty busy schedule of rehearsals and performances in a dancing show in the city. It's probably the longest periods of time that she has not worn her brace in the whole of the last year. She would spend a day at rehearsals and after a quick shower would be back in her brace as soon as she could. I was a little apprehensive that she would experience some back pain being without the support of the brace but thankfully this wasn't the case.

Watching her on stage was a joy. She smiled all the way through and I could see just how much she enjoyed it, actually, make that loved it!

In some of the potentially unforgiving stage costumes I have to admit that I was looking out for the shape of her spine and whether her movement appeared restricted. Biases aside - she did great!

We are approaching the hot Summer months now, so I know that it will become uncomfortable again. We'll just have to start cranking up that air con! I know she also gets frustrated at not being able to wear some of the let's say 'skimpier' summer outfits, but secretly I'm actually ok with that one!

So that's where we're up to. No major changes, no major decisions to be made just yet.

Oh and of course, each hospital visit is obviously followed by a treat at the nearby chocolate shop. Can't go past the thick Italian hot chocolate whatever the weather!

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Just an update on a few weeks holiday.

Back to real life this week.
Back to lists, packed lunches, schedules and routines.

I wrote this post a week or so ago. I logged onto the computer this afternoon intending to write about something else and realised that I had never pressed publish on this one. So even though it's a bit out of date, I've just added a bit to the end and I'll write a scoliosis update another day. 

The last few weeks were a glorious mix of relaxation and activities. During the school holidays we managed to grab those few slow mornings that we craved where we just pottered around the house. Sibs came with me to my yoga classes and one morning we called back in the little French coffee shop around the corner to indulge (supporting a local business is very important!)

We drove up the coast where Sibs spent a bit of time with a school friend and I carried on a little further to Noosa. I packed a book and some crochet and prepared myself for silence and solitude. I almost ignored a text that invited me for a drink but decided last minute that I couldn't really turn down the words 'sundowner drink at Sunshine Beach'.... Could you?

Then followed a few days of girls time in Noosa where we got up early and visited Eumundi market and stayed out late and walked up and down Hastings Street. 

During the few days in Noosa we managed to fit in a late celebration of a few birthdays and managed a catch up with lovely L and the kids.

Afternoon picnics in my day were soggy cucumber sandwiches, warm orange squash and maybe a custard cream biscuit to finish. An afternoon picnic 'Noosa style' was a falafel salad, a grapefruit, avacado and goats cheese salad and a lamb and herb salad. There was also different types of bread and the best cheese platter outside of France. The cheese didn't last long enough for me to take any photos!

The cake was shared between the three birthday guests hence the number 95 - their combined ages!

The next day, as a birthday gift from her uncle, Sibs was treated to a hair appointment in a salon overlooking the river. It was almost like being on a boat looking out to the water at the pelicans flying past. 

That was definitely one of the slow and relaxing days of the holiday.

So what else did we get up to? There were a few shopping outings to spend the numerous birthday gift vouchers, a movie, some clearing out of accumulated stuff that seems to breed in my house and the expected holiday time baking to restock the freezer. The occasional meal out was another welcome perk of a no routine fortnight.

Towards the end of the holiday things got a little busier as Sibs was rehearsing for some dancing performances at one of the Southbank theatres. It was an exhausting but incredible experience for her but her smile on stage made every hour that she put in worthwhile.

I helped out a little backstage and got to experience that wonderful theatre camaraderie with the young performers all pulling together and supporting one another. Took me right back to my teenage years....

So after a houseful of people over the last weekend I am slowly getting myself back on track. The bed linen and towels have been washed, the floors mopped and meals have been prepared for the week ahead. 

Tonight it's netball for Sibs, tomorrow it's my choir night and Thursday there's piano for Sibs and singing group for me! (Why did I think it was going to be a quieter week!)

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