Best laid plans…

Well, to say that this summer has been a bit strange so far would be somewhat of an understatement. I sowed all my seedlings at the end of April with a spring in my step and hope in my heart. I was especially excited about growing chilli plants for the first time. As the first nascent shoots appeared I was thrilled at the prospect of what lay ahead and excited to plant up the allotment.

Sadly, my health had other ideas. I had had niggling back pain since my birthday in early spring but I didn’t think much about it as I have often had back pain being tall and having had scoliosis as a teenager. I ploughed on and went down to the allotment and planted all my leeks. I was chuffed but I was also in pain, it had really hurt to do it. The following night I paid the price as I was awake all night with terrible back pain, it was agony. It hurt so much I decided I had to see the doctor and I am someone who avoids the doctor as much as possible. The following day I saw a GP who checked me out and told me to take paracetamol and co-codamol and do some back exercises and to come back if there were any problems. I felt reassured after this, however, I noticed that afternoon that I was starting to have cramping in my right thigh that was really painful. I had never experienced that before. That night the cramping got so severe that I had to jump out of bed at one point and I immediately started to black out because I was in so much pain. I managed to lie down until my vision cleared and I came round and then I rang my sister, a doctor, because I felt pretty scared.

The rest of that week I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law and they really looked after me. Unfortunately the pain continued to increase though and by the Friday (I had seen the GP on Monday) the pain was so severe that I couldn’t actually stand up. I would cry out in pain if I tried to put any weight on my right leg. At this point, my sister decided enough was enough and called an ambulance. I cannot praise Steve and Paul the ambulance men enough.  They were so kind and funny and helped so much when I was frightened and in pain. They gave me gas and air to take my mind off the pain as they got me into the ambulance and drove me to Manchester Royal Infirmary. The doctors at the hospital were amazing. So kind and thorough and they put me on some stronger medications. They kept me in overnight as they wouldn’t let me leave when I was still in so much pain. The following morning, the new much stronger pain killers had kicked in and I was able to go home, which was wonderful.

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Game of Thrones Series 6 Episode 1 Musings!


Well my friends, Game of Thrones has returned and what an absolute corker of an episode to start this year’s run of episodes with. I’m going to work my way through the various comings and goings of this episode! As Myranda (RIP) would have said, “let’s begin…”

I loved the fact that the show picked up where it had left off last year as the camera zoomed in to Jon Snow’s cold corpse. The plaintive howls of the locked up Ghost the only sound at Castle Black. Helpfully Ser Davos must be a friend to animals, as, on going to investigate Ghost’s whining, he spotted Jon’s body. With the aid of Jon’s handful of remaining supporters he was able to steal the body away. Edd realised immediately that it was Ser Alliser’s doing and was dispatched by Ser Davos to fetch Ghost. Melisandre, never one to miss out, popped along and dispensed one of her “I saw it in the flames speeches.” Well, we all know how reliable they are! However, this one claimed that she saw Jon fighting at Winterfell and I have a hunch this one might turn out to be true…

Meanwhile, Ser Alliser holds court – the men up in arms. “Murderers! Traitors!” they shouted. Alliser gave a speech about loyalty and stated his case for killing Jon: that Jon betrayed them by allowing the wildings through the wall and giving them land. In a charming piece of victim-blaming, Thorne stated that Jon forced a terrible choice on them that they simply had to take. Hmmm maybe that will help you sleep at night, Alliser. Nevertheless, Thorne knows that there are a few within Castle Black who will not buy this “all for a nobler good” line he is selling. Locked in a room with Jon Snow’s body, the veritable smoking gun of this scenario, Jon’s loyal supporters realise the peril they are in. Edd’s very gung ho and all for going out in a blaze of glory (© Jon Bon Jovi) but wise old Davos suggests they may have friends to help them, people who owe a debt to the late Jon, and so off sets Edd, presumably in search of wildlings! Yay!

Back to Winterfell we go and she is looking mighty fine and spruced up compared to her relatively recent smouldering days. The Boltons (boooooo!) have done a fine rebuilding job. Psycho Ramsay mourns his late fellow psycho Myranda. Meh, good riddance. Ramsay swears vengeance and, in a touching display, instructs her body be fed to the dogs. It’s what she would have wanted, she loved those dogs! Roose, meanwhile, whilst happy that Stannis is dead, offering to reward the “man” who killed him *cough cough*, is annoyed that Theon and Sansa escaped! Hah! Roose knows that the Lannisters will be after him for his betrayal and he needs the fighters of the north to stand a chance against them. The north will not fight without Sansa though. Roose subtly threatens to disinherit Ramsay if he cannot provide an heir with Sansa Stark. Ramsay looks suitably aghast at this prospect!

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Emerging From The Age of Stuff…

I feel like I am living through the age of stuff. There are endless things to buy and junk up our homes and lives with. Our whole economy seems to be based on shopping for things and I have definitely done my share of that, but something changed in me. I could see that the things that were meant to bring me pleasure ultimately became a burden as I tried to find homes for CDs, books and DVDs in my small house. It really became mission impossible and so the books and ephemera overflowed, order died and my spirits wilted. I started to dabble in decluttering. I loved the idea of having an ordered and tidy home. I would raid my book shelves and create piles of books to go out, and yet they rarely made it past the threshold. Doubt, and often, Catholic guilt would kick in. Can I really give away an expensive book I haven’t read? Perhaps I should sell it? What if I want to read it in the future? Maybe my sister would like it? Endless justifications for not ridding myself of stuff would appear in my mind to the point that I just felt totally stuck. If I kept it I felt miserable and swamped, if I let it go I felt guilty and miserable. But like all great stories, I found my happy ending. I stopped beating myself up and gave myself permission to just let go. I have become an expert at binning stuff and supplying the local charity shops. Coupled with not buying stuff any more, my home is slowly but surely transforming. Marie Kondo’s wonderful book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” really, really helped but the thing that really made the difference was just being kind to myself through the process.

Now I am getting down to some of the harder stuff: presents that people gave me that I no longer love, many journals that I wrote during a difficult time in my life, the nitty gritty I guess. I feel much more able to tackle that though now, taking it bit by bit, following what feels right and trusting my intuition. Whilst I will never be a minimalist, I love my stuff too much, order out of chaos is emerging and it feels both empowering and uplifting.

Creating A New Fruit Garden

At the end of last year I asked for and received a new allotment. Although I liked my previous allotment a lot, unfortunately, as soon as late August/September came around, it was shady pretty much all day long due to some enormous trees. This really cut short the growing season so I thought it might be a good idea to ask if I could move. The new allotment I have been given is fab – it even has a shed – but it is much less spacious than the old allotment and there is less room for my vast array of fruit bushes. As a result, I need to find a new home for them and my front garden is looking like the perfect location.

The front garden has always been a bit of a neglected space as it doesn’t receive a huge amount of sunshine but it should receive enough to plant my now homeless gooseberry and currant bushes. I plan to grow them as cordons as I don’t have a lot of room but I really love the idea of putting the space to practical use and getting some tasty fruit out if it.

I plan to take some before and after pictures as the job progresses. I aim to keep it as low maintenance as possible and use a bark mulch to suppress the weeds once the bushes are planted. I think there is real potential in this idea.

I will have a few flowers too though. I have a large pulmonaria which I planted to provide food for the bees which is doing really well. Also, by some miracle, the snapdragons I planted there last summer are still alive- I think it must be due to the mild winter- and I am hoping they hang on and put on another wonderful display this summer. Exciting times ahead!

Mr Holmes

Mr Holmes brings us a nonagenarian Sherlock Holmes played by British acting royalty Sir Ian McKellen. In this particular iteration of the much loved detective, his mental acuity is failing which makes for a refreshing change on the usual take. Holmes fights his fading memory to try to recall what had caused him to give up his sleuthing ways thirty years prior. He recalls that there was an incident that prompted his withdrawal from public life and from being a detective, but the reasons are scattered fragments in his weakened mind. The film takes us through different time periods and countries as Mr Holmes attempts to stave off further mental decline with various remedies, so that he can solve this mystery.

I really liked this film. It had a somewhat dark air initially and I wondered if it would be too bleak but by the end I was enraptured and completely charmed. It could also be called “How Sherlock Holmes found he had a heart.” If you are looking for the fast paced wizardry of Cumberbatch’s Holmes then this film may not suit you, but if you are looking for something slightly different then this film is well worth a look. Laura Linney, Milo Parker and Hattie Morahan make up a really strong supporting cast and the English countryside that Holmes has retired to is really very beautiful on screen. All in all I was thoroughly pleased with this one.

As an added bonus, the film featured one of my favourite instruments: the unusual glass armonica. I had seen one before in the film Mansfield Park and had been really captivated by its almost ethereal sound. I was surprised to learn that it was invented by the famous American Benjamin Franklin. Here is one in action, I think it sounds magical!

Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers)

Just back from this little gem broadcast live from the Met in New York. Oh wow, it was beautiful. So touching. A tale of the life long friendship between two men, Zurga and Nadir, and the woman, Leila, whom they both love. The famous duet ‘Au Fond du Temple Saint’ gave me absolute chills when it was performed in the first act and the final scene made me cry. It was so moving!

Maybe it’s an age thing but these days I gravitate towards entertainment that touches my heart, reaches into my soul and makes me feel alive. This beautiful opera most certainly did all that. Life-enhancing stuff. The opera also had some really cool special effects: the tsunami at the end of act two and the diving for pearls which opened the performance. Very realistic. Such a great show by all.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I love Star Wars. It’s that simple. I loved it when I was a child, when I was an adolescent and now as an adult. It spoke to me of life, love, loss, destruction, rebirth and hope. So when the often dreamed of Episodes VII, VIII and IX were announced I was beyond thrilled. What’s more, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were on their way back as part of the deal. It seemed so perfect. Over the past few years we have had occasional titbits of information to keep up the excitement: the new cast members, filming locations and, of course, the ensuing fan theories about what the plot of the new films themselves would actually be. Tempting though it sometimes is to immerse oneself in such speculation, I like to see things fresh, a task that has become much more difficult in the age of the internet and spoilers. Lucasfilm, however, did a magnificent job keeping a lid on many of the key plot points. Before going in to see The Force Awakens, I had only allowed myself to watch the two teaser trailers and the first proper trailer. I didn’t watch any of the TV spots or international trailers and, having watched them this afternoon post-TFA viewing, I am glad of that. So, the film…

It’s a delight. JJ Abrams really has done a great job. There’s so much nostalgia involved when one watches Star Wars that I was welling up and teary from the get go. As soon as the music kicked in I wanted to blub, but there was no time for that as we were launched straight into the action, meeting an array of new characters and learning what was taking place in this particular corner of the universe and how it pertained to the bigger picture.

No specifics or spoilers from me, but what I will say is I loved the whole cast. The newcomers do a great job and are completely believable in their roles. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a stand-out as a scavenger who gets caught up in greater things. I have nothing but praise too for John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. BB-8 is adorable and has a couple of really funny moments – he made me burst out laughing at one point. Humour, is something this sequel does well. It’s not gratuitous, and never takes away from the peril our characters find themselves in, but it adds a few nice light touches and you never get that heaviness of a film taking itself too seriously.

What about the dark side? They are suitably dark! The First Order exudes the appropriate amount of menace as does Kylo Ren. They are not to be trifled with and are a real threat to the rebels. Their weapons are more deadly than ever and they are totally ruthless. Such an improvement over the dreary droid and clone armies of the prequels.

I felt like the film had a great balance. Some lighter moments, some very dark moments. There are a few great cameos but it never becomes too much of a nostalgia fest as the narrative is always moving us forward. It’s a perfect reintroduction to the characters we have loved for decades and mixes them up beautifully with the new cast. What’s more this film made me care about the new cast as much as I care about the originals, that is probably the highest compliment I can pay it.

I definitely plan to see the film again soon and can’t wait until more people have seen it so that we can discuss the nitty-gritty! I hope it makes bucket-loads of cash! The force has indeed awoken and long may it stay awake!