Sunday, 21 February 2016

Death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all until it happens to someone you love and someone who occupies a space in your life and in your heart. Bereavement, grief, dying - are all words we use and hear daily but what does it really mean when those words are part of your repertoire and have deep, emotional undertones.
September brought the bombshell that my babies were going to loose their beloved grandpa, that cancer had come knocking on his door and it wouldn't take no for an answer. 

By October we knew he wouldn't see the spring bulbs push their delicate shoots above ground and burst into bloom. 

The devastation was like a black, weighted curtain that no one could see but it smothered us silently. The children struggled to comprehend that he would not be there to see the summer sun and to do the everyday things they now cherish. " if I just say my prayers, Jesus will help, he can't die." Madeline would say. By November the move to the hospice was the only option and that in itself takes a certain kind of acceptance, you know the finish line of life is in sight and there isn't anything you can do other than watch your loved one move closer and closer to it.  To our surprise, the hospice proved to be a beautiful haven where, what little time is left could  be enjoyed with a hint of normality and privacy. During this time the children suffered with a lot of heartache as they had a cruel introduction to the reality of cancer ravaging someone's body and the crushing pain of knowing time is slipping away. Our visits consisted of picnics, Madeline dancing her latest ballet steps, Fin watching the football match with grandpa on his laptop, the occasional tear on hearing another of the poems Madeline had written about the best Grandpa in the world and all that she loved about him. 
The plan was to spend Christmas Day at home, a last meal. Madeline said her prayers every single night. 

The day before Christmas Eve we drove excitedly to the hospice planning Christmas Day and all we would do. Madeline said her prayers had been answered as we were almost at Christmas Day and grandpa was doing great! 
We arrived and were greeted with a sign on the door " do not disturb". The next minutes were all of a blur as a doctor and nurse appeared and the children and I were taken in opposite directions. 
Turns out, completely unexpectedly their beautiful Grandpa had passed very quickly as we were on our way. My initial reaction was to calmly ask the nurse if I was dreaming. It just couldn't be true because he was ok yesterday and he was coming home the day after tomorrow - his gifts were under the tree. 

My second thought was that I had to get to the children who were sitting playing frustration with the doctor completely  unaware of what was about to be bestowed upon them.
 Fin went white and very quiet, Madeline was hysterical and said " I need him he can't go...." A blank space follows and I can't remember driving home.
Christmas as you would imagine was so hard, but I was immensely proud of my little beauties who through their grief still manage to think of the feelings of those around them. They reveived a telescope so that they could always look for the brightest star - and they do, everynight they look out to the sky and find Grandpa. Some may think we are mad but it brings them comfort and that's all that matters right now.

We've since celebrate his birthday and this week Madeline celebrated her birthday - and yes she cried and said she wanted to go back in time because she needed him. Needed to see him, hear his voice . She misses sitting on his knee to eat her porridge while he brushed her hair on a morning before school. It really is the little moments . 
Moving forward a few weeks and  the children have organised a sponsored event to raise money for St, Benedicts hospice. It's a good idea I think, a way to channel their grief. So on Saturday 19th March, Fin will walk the Roman wall to the Kevin Costner tree and hang a small bird feeder on in memory of his Gramps, his best friend. ( they used to love watching the birds in the trees in the garden.) 

Meanwhile Madeline is holding a cake and coffee afternoon for them to arrive back to after the walk. It will be 2-4 at the parish rooms at St Joseph's school in Washington village. We hope as many people as possible will drop in and help us raise some money to help more people enjoy their final days in comfort, peace and love with their loved ones around them. 
When someone is gone, they aren't really GONE. We can feel the empty void left behind. We can hear him in the sound of the rabbit food bouncing into the ceramic dish because that's a job the children and him did together. We can smell the wonderful, comforting smell on his clothes and in the house. It is the little moments. 

We don't remember days, we remember moments.
 I remember him when I go to get a black bin bag from the cupboard and realise it's the last one because he always made sure I was stocked up. 
So what have we learned? We really cherish the moments more than ever because you really don't know when you will hear those words ...... " I'm sorry there's nothing we can do, you're looking at a couple of months."  Life is about love and people. You loving people and them loving you.
 In those final weeks I witnessed a love so deep and a devotion so strong that I don't think I'll ever forget it or recover from the depth of it.  To have someone in your final days to hold your hand and love you is all you really need and if you find that, if you have that now, cherish it, it's a rare and beautiful thing. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What's in a photograph?

Those who know me well know that where ever I am, I'm always snapping away with my camera. Spotting the perfect picture or capturing a moment that I need to snap as it will help me remember the moment. 

I adore taking photos, for me they are an investment for the future, for a time when I wake up and realise I'm in the later years, I want to be able to sit and be lost in the beautiful days I was blessed to have with my children, family and friends. I know I'll smile, I'll cry and I'll remember the days when I really did have it all. They're also capturing memories, emotions and more poignantly - people. 

Some photos have that little bit more significance because they capture a really strong emotion, this photo is one of those. It gets me everytime. ❤️

I remember everything about this day. 
That's my boy, right there - with his Grandpa who'd just found out that week he had cancer. They'd gone for a little walk to watch the boats go by in the harbour and I was inside with grandma and daddy, pregnant with our daughter. It was tough. You wonder how it'll all work out and how you'll cope, but somehow you do. 

The months rolled by, my baby arrived early as hoped so Grandpa got to hold her before his treatment began. 
Eight months later and things picked up and life carried on, not the same, but mostly the same. 
The happy, baby filled years of wonder and sleep deprivation  rolled by......... Then that beautiful, sweet bubble of love and happiness burst, not with a loud, astounding pop, but with more of a slow puncture. A crack, that slowly opened and swallowed up everything I knew and loved. From the outside no one else really noticed until somehow life was how I had never imagined it could be yet I hid it - mostly behind the picture of a perfect family life because from the outside we had it all. On the inside it was a living nightmare.

And it was in this chapter that my camera saved my life. I began to take pictures of everything. People, flowers, natural beauty and mostly my children who saved my heart and my soul.  And so my blog " some kind of wonderful was born". It wasn't that I was always happy and living in some kind of fairytale as it may have appeared but more that I was living in some kind of hell and the only way I knew to survive was to look for small glimmers of beauty, love and hope. 

I saw beauty in the small things that were all around me and slowly, so very slowly the heartache became lighter and from the outside, normal life resumed although very different to the perfect life I'd once known.  
It's now a different normal, one I wouldn't have chosen but nonetheless it's our normal and it's happy. 
Taking photos for me allows me to see beauty and realise that when you look closely enough, it really is all around and in the least expected places. 
I feel blessed to have such a strong, supportive  family and the most wonderful friends - this lot have been there through thick and thin and I feel blessed to have them in my life. 

They are like family to me and have helped me ride the stormy seas.
 I always described those toughest of days, weeks, months ( years) as feeling I was on the smallest boat in the middle of a stormy sea with no sight of the shore. Alone. As the past two years have rolled  by, the shoreline has become slowly visible and nowadays I can feel the sand between my toes as I step ashore. Gently ready for a new chapter, to share new adventures and see what life has to offer. 
When I think of that I can't help but smile, I just wonder what my camera will see in the coming years, what memories it will create - it's exciting and I can't wait!


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Sweetpeas for summer

Sweetpea are one of my all time favourite summer flowers. Delicate, simple and beautifully fragrant. So finding Manor Gardens near Darlington, were holding a pick your own sweetpea open day was an invitation I coudn't resist! 


 Arriving at Manor Gardens I was met by owners, Barney and Clarey with their three young children. They are so friendly and warm and instantly made me feel like we were old friends. Their gardens are such a haven away from the hussle and bustle of life. I did wonder if they'd notice if I just moved in. 

We collected our scissors and headed toward the sweetpea garden, the smell was heavenly and the colours stunning. 


Madeline adored choosing her own colour scheme and hunting for the perfect stems to complete her bunch. 


There were lots of other beautiful flowers to choose from including Delilah and sunflowers. Clarey was so welcoming and we had a few lovely chats about her venture here in the North East.  It's one of a kind and a beautiful, relaxing way to spend a summer morning. 

Apart from the pick your own flower days, Manor Gardens provide flowers for all occasions including weddings, special events and venue decor. They can personalise a display or bouquet for you or take you round the flower gardens and help you pick and mam your own. I couldn't think of anything more thrilling as a bride than to choose your own fresh flowers for your wedding.


After all that picking we were ready for some refreshments, a beautiful selection of drinks and homemade cakes were available - the children even had a choice of popcorn in a cup or homemade cheese stars and hearts. Even the refreshments stand was beautiful! 


Everything about Manor Gardens was stunning. It's an idea like no other here in the North East. Clarey and Barney have lots of ideas and plans so watch this space ................ 
You can follow Manor Gardens on Facebook, Twitter an Instagram to keep up to date with their plans. 
Keep an eye out for their pick your own open days! It's one not to miss! 


Manor gardens August 2015

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Dear Mum, I love you

It's Mother's Day once again. A day I am blessed to celebrate both as a mum and with my mum. I'm aware that one day this may not be the case so I am going to drink in all it entails and feel lucky. 
My two little ones appeared this morning with homemade cards created at Grandma's house while I was at work. I love the thought that has gone into them and Madeline's little poem she wrote, reduced me to tears. 

" Mum is the best
Without any rest 
She runs around
And makes everyone proud
She multitasks everyday
I don't think anyone else could do it this way.
She cooks brilliant food
And she's never in a mood 
Mum is the best
Mum is the best
She welcomes every guest
But the most thing I love about her is that her love never runs out."

Fin drew a beautiful rose for me. 

My parents had taken the children to buy me a small gift for which I am so grateful, but the best gift has to be the squashed cupcake that Madeline had hidden in her school bag since Friday. She had bought it at the comic relief cake sale. I have to be honest, I'm not sure I'll eat it- but I love it and all it symbolises about the sweet girl that is my daughter. 

Today we will head out to one of our favourite little spots, quiet and peaceful, and I will enjoy the company and presence of my two little joys who really are the essence of who I am. This past two years have been a tough journey, sometimes so painful that it has taken all that I am to keep smiling and carry on but my conviction to give the children a happy, loving childhood has kept me going alongside my family and some very special friends who have supported me relentlessly.  

While I am blessed today, I am aware of the pain and sorrow some will also be feeling. 
There are those who have lost their  mum and today will feel lost and sad, it's a day to endure. Go to a place that you feel close to your mum, close your eyes, see her smile and remember all that she was and all that she had helped you become. Say her name, remember her and don't be afraid to let the tears roll. If your babies have lost their mummy, bring her alive with photos and stories about her. Write her a letter, draw her a picture. I love this poem and think it will resonate with lots of people today 

There are those who have lost their children, what pain as a mother could be greater? I know of a mummy today who's heart will be heavy and eyes will be full, I am interviewing her soon for an article about her beautiful girl, my past pupil who died two years ago. Sarah, the little girl with the chocolate button eyes and the sweet smile. I know there are a lot of mummies out there in the same situation and my heart aches for you. I will not take my children for granted today. 

Wishing you all a happy Mother's Day however it is spent and wishing peace to those who need it today.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A hidden gem on your doorstep.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of calling into Washington's new little gem, "The Green".   Florist come tea shop come delightful gift emporium, The Green has something to offer everyone. With a rustic, vintage vibe, The Green owners Kelly and Wayne have recycling, up cycling and promoting local craftsmen and artists at the heart of their business. 

Once home to The Washington Green Library, many locals have fond memories of childhood days spent in the beautiful building choosing the next great adventure to take home. When the library closed it's doors, Kelly and Wayne were drawn to its deep history and the village that was once the heart of the town. 
Their aim was to create somewhere to bring back the community spirit, it certainly has done that in the few weeks it's doors have been open. Local artists, crafters and makers have all brought in their products to sell in the shop, it really is a treasure trove of goodness.

As a tea lover I was thrilled to find that the tea of choice was ' storm tea',  I opted for a fruity herbal while the children enjoyed lemonade in old school milk bottles and a piece of Victoria sponge cake, freshly home baked.  A good selection of coffee is also served. In keeping with the recycling theme,  all the coffee and tea is given away as compost to anyone who would like it! It doesn't get much better than that for keeping your carbon footprint low! 

  Not only are there gorgeous gifts, pretty home accessories,delicious teas and cake on offer but also a stunningly different florist. I love to photograph flowers so  It was like Christmas Day for me with all the vintage style flowers and beautiful arrangements.

  With Mother's Day around the corner, there is an amazing choice to put a smile on her face. 
  Any lady would be thrilled with any of the flowers or arrangements from here, so pretty and individual. 

 The green have some really exciting plans in the pipeline including           'crafternoon tea' which as the name suggests is a good helping of tea and cake alongside learning a new craft. Keep an eye out for upcoming events. It sounds very exciting! 
Kelly and Wayne's enthusiasm is infectious and they have big plans for the future. I have a funny feeling The Green will soon earn a reputation for itself well outside of Washington Village. I can highly recommend a visit. 
You can follow The Green on Facebook and Instagram by searching "The Green".
   I think this seat has your name on it.....



Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Corbridge - the best things come in small packages.

Half term arrived and it was time for my yearly R&R trip to Corbridge, the small town with the big heart. 
For the past few years my family and I have made the short trip to Corbridge to the cottage we now see as our second home. Dilston Garden Rooms is owned by the most welcoming lady and from the moment I arrived I felt right at home. 

    I was thrilled to catch up once again with Alan and his six hens. They happily followed us around the beautiful gardens and visited our cottage early morning to let us know the eggs were ready to collect. My children and I padded bleary eyed, dressed in our PJ's to gather eggs for breakfast, a perfect morning ritual.
At the end of the garden was what I can only describe as a hobbit House. Dressed in glowing fairy lights and with a cosy open fire pit and goat skin throws, we spent many an evening slowly toasting marshmallows while planning the  following day's adventures. 

  Each morning after breakfast we would make the 15 minute walk in to Corbridge to meander around the shops and enjoy a coffee at one of the many tea shops. 
I have to say my most favourite shop is the brand new children's book emporium on Watling Street  - Forum Books kids! 

This is a must visit if you have children, grandchildren or simply a love of books. Owned by Helen Stanton, it is sister to - forum books which is, in my opinion, the best book shop in the North East. Helen is so knowledgeable and has a wealth of experience in this field. Forum Kids is a place for children to really love books,  there are so many fantastic books that you won't find in other mainstream stores and children are actively encouraged to pick up and read the books. During half term there was a wonderful variety of craft activities and story times. 
Helen has some  fantastic plans for the shop including revamping the magical garden, I can't wait to see it! I highly recommend a visit, you won't be disappointed - just make sure you clear your bookshelves before you visit as you will certainly not return home empty handed. 

   I had heard very good reports about " Il Piccolo" and decided to visit for lunch on my daughters ninth         

  Il Piccolo is an authentic, friendly Italian restaurant run by Sicilian born chef Manuele Orto and his wife Pam. From the moment we arrived I felt very well looked after and very much at home. The decor is warm and inviting and the choice of food was exceptional. I must add that while we were there my childhood hero happened to stop by for lunch. Yes, non other than Steve Cram!! I was so tempted to ask for a photo but was well aware that he was out to relax and so I managed to contain myself - I guess I could, at a push say I've had lunch with Steve Cram. 
Pizza all round was the chosen dish and it was delicious, thin and crispy with just the right amount of topping, following this a visit to the in house ice cream parlour was a must. After the children had chosen their three scoops,  the sundaes arrived and Madeline was even treated to a birthday candle. The pear sorbet has to be the most delicious thing I've tasted. 
    After a little visit to the deli to pick up a few Italian delights we left well fed and having thoroughly enjoyed the whole Italy meets England experience. 

If a take home lunch is what you need there are more than enough choices, all of which are delicious. 
Grants Artisan Bakery is mouth watering, everything is displayed beautifully and I have never been dissappointed with any of the food I have sampled. 

I think they make the largest meringues I have ever seen! A couple of doors up is JA Stobo & Son, greengrocer and fruit shop. This is the place for the freshest, largest fruit in town. All the usual fruit and vegetables can be found alongside some more unusual items! 

    For more unusual food the Corbridge larder, a delicatessen and coffee shop is a Corbridge favourite. Stocking both local and continental foods it certainly has that something special. 

  And of course to keep the children happy we had the obligatory visit to Skrumshus, the sweetshop in the heart of the town. It really is every child's dream. 
    For a little adventure, a short drive away is the Roman Wall. One sunny afternoon we headed off to find Sycamore Gap and the famous tree used in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood.
It was a beautiful walk in the late afternoon sun, we quite literally stumbled upon the tree as we climbed up and over a hill. It is, after all just a tree, but for some reason it is quite breathtaking. 

   The tree stood completely alone, not a particularly big tree but it was magical. My camera worked really hard that half an hour, my boy took a little time out while he waited. This is a must see in my opinion and I will definitely return in the summer. 

No trip to Corbridge would be complete without a visit to RE the renound store stocking all manner of REcycled, REscued and REstored items for the home. 
   Think back to being a child in the best sweet shop you've ever been to and you will have some idea how It feels when  entering the store. It is a feast for the senses and you will never leave without something and will always need to come back for more. 

RE opened in November 2003 and has gone from strength to strength gaining a strong following. For those who can't make the trip, there is an online store with lots of goodies to be had.

There are so many other fantastic independent sellers in Corbridge, from jeweller Kirsty Taylor who has made a few beautiful pieces of jewellery for me over the years to Aganthus, a gorgeous giftware, jewellery and soft furnishing store to name but a few. There are also some beautiful walks along the river bank at anytime of the year.
Corbridge is really a hidden gem in the heart of the North East but once you've visited you'll get the bug and will certainly want to  return. 
Hope to see you there soon. XOX

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New year Rest-olutions.

Christmas is such a busy and often stressful time. I was determined this year that Christmas would not enter my life until December 1st, that included gift buying, card writing, decoration planning and general Ho,Ho,Ho- ing. I planned to have a stress free christmas. So that was my first BIG mistake. With so many things happening, two weeks with no internet and a nice selection of bugs,  my stress free christmas became a bit of a race and I never did get any cards written, never mind about posted out. 
Note to self - start Christmas planning in August this year....... 

That said we had some wonderful moments and I certainly treasured them. 

The tradition I love the most is the annual choosing of the tree. Careful consideration needs to be given to the shape and sized the tree. It just has to be 'the one'. 
We found ours at a gorgeous little nursery in Leamside, Durham. 
This little tree came home with us for the holidays. 

Decorating one tree just wasn't enough. We are lucky to have a gorgeous forest just next to us and we often go for adventures.  On one of our walks we passed a little christmas tree and decided to decorate it with a few decorations to make a stranger smile. Lots of people walk their dogs through the forest and we all know we have days where we smile on the outside but we aren't smiling on the inside.
 We did this with the hope that is might make someone smile, even just for a minute. 

This really got us in the spirit of Christmas and all that was left was to see the man himself - Father Christmas. After a few frantic phone calls it turned out that you really did need to plan ahead for your annual visit with Santa. Eventually, we managed to book a sleigh ride to a little hideaway, nice and understated, no crowds and our own slot in his gorgeous little lodge. This is one for the diary next year if you have little ones. 
 Look up Knitsley Mill, it has a gorgeous restaurant attached so you can make an afternoon of it.

The letter was written, and posted.

We were well on our way at last, tree up - check. Santa visited - check. Gifts wrapped- check. 
All that was left was to have fun and enjoy it!  We enjoyed a lovely little celebration on Christmas Eve with special friends and the children made reindeer food, cookie Christmas trees and Christmas muffins. 
We watched Santa fly past the moon as we walked to our local church for a family friendly carol service. So much fun.
   All the children enjoyed making cookie Christmas trees. 

  Lots of varieties of reindeer food were concocted! 

    Finally the day itself arrived and we had a fantastic time, lots of fun, love and family time. 

As the new year approached I did what most people do and started to think about what I could do or change in 2015, I'm not one for resolutions as such, but my father came up with the best idea - a New Years  'rest-alution' - I loved it! I'm so bad at taking time out to rest and always find something that needs doing.  So I'm really going to try hard to do this. I sat with my little  notebook and a cup of tea  and wrote down a few little things that would help me get more rest and relaxation but were also realistic. 
I'm quite happy with my ideas so far but  I'd love to hear some of yours - things that help you relax or time saving tips for a busy mum of two. 
Leave your comments below, I look forward to adding some of your ideas to my list to ensure I do a lot more of this.............
A happy and healthy 2015 to you all!