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Thursday, 30 April 2015

A day of thankfulness

When I wrote last week's blog post, I was worried and upset. It was so upsetting to watch with the world of the devastation that the earthquake in Nepal had caused. I was even more worried when my son told me about his close friend Sam.

The oh so gorgeous Sam was missing in Nepal. I spoke to his Mum Alison who seemed very positive and together over the phone. That was an act of course...she and her husband Martin were desperately frightened. In classic British understatement mode, Martin smiled wryly as he told me "well, we've had better weekends!"

But on Monday lunchtime, there was good news when Alison phoned. Although they'd not heard from Sam directly, they had received a phone call from the Mum of another trekker who was with Sam. They were alive!

I drove out immediately to see them and to record this listen, and hear what happened by clicking here:

It was wonderful to share their relief and absolute joy , and to take a photo which says it all...

My son was over the moon to hear the news that Sam was safe. They are part of a close knit group who met when they were eleven years old, all starting out at their new high school. Always in and out of each others houses, it's been great to see them grow up together.

One of the highlights for me has been our annual village barn dance ..and every year, the gang have met up in our garden on late Saturday afternoon in June

to pitch their tents on our lawn ,and off to Shirley's barn at the other end of the village...all dressed in jeans, checked shirts, boots and hats, to dance like crazy to old tunes and dances from a band, a caller, and then strut their stuff until 2 or 3am at the disco afterwards.

 Sam even travelled back from Brussels one year just for the weekend to be with his friends at the barn dance. Happy times. Now of course, they are all scattered all over the UK and the world. My son Callum went off to Oz for two years, now Tommy is in Columbia to teach English, Tom is in Peru, George is in Hong Kong, Andrew and Gazza are closer by.

They're all having adventures and learning about life, which is as it should be. Although we don't know yet how Sam is ,or when he'll be home, there's one thing he will have learnt for certain and that is just how precious life actually is.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Very different days this week

It's been quite a week. A strange week. And when I say strange, I mean an emotional, shocking week in some respects.

At the beginning of the week I heard from my friend Shannon. She has a benign brain tumour, but her latest MRI scan shows that it has grown again and is now perilously close to a major vein. Her neurologist says he and his colleagues cannot operate. It is too dangerous. Next stop for her is a date with a radiation oncologist, if that's an option.

On Monday I stayed behind after work  to interview a man and as he talked, tears began to run down his face. He asked me to forgive him for being too emotional. There was nothing to forgive, he was recounting one of the most pivotal parts of his life, and besides, tears were trickling down my face too by now.

On Tuesday, I went to another interview in a large Leicestershire village, with a lovely older couple who have been married sixty six years. I knew they had quite a story to tell, but I could never have guessed just how surreal their story was.

Doctors often say that when they see a patient, they talk about a certain ailment, sometimes it's a trivial one, sometimes it needs treatment. But many times, it's just as the patient is leaving the room. that they will turn and say while I'm here doctor, I must just tell you about another pain, ache or problem. They then come back and sit down, and the doctor realises this is a major problem or fear that the patient has.

There's a similar moment when I'm interviewing someone, just as we finish talking, when I switch off my digital recorder, and put my notebook away. As I put them in my bag, whilst hunting for my car keys, something tells me there's something more. That's what happened on Tuesday....I found out right at the end I was talking to a man who had been one of Hitler's bodyguards, but he didn't think that was relevant.

When I say it was a jaw dropping moment, I almost lost the power of speech. I can't tell you much more now, because those interviews won't be broadcast until 7th May, but I can tell you they've given me lot to think about.

I was going to end this blog with something nice that happened this morning. Something which put a  smile on my face. But I can't do that. As I've been writing this, I've had a phone call from one of my sons who is desperately worried about one of his closest friends. This gorgeous boy who's stayed with us so many times and who has the loveliest smile and nature, is in Nepal. A couple of days ago, he was starting an expedition, a trek, an adventure. Since the earthquake, there's been no contact since. I 'm hoping with all my heart everything is fine and dandy, he's well and it's just that he can't access the internet or phone.

This news has just knocked me for six. It has been quite a week.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Nesting days

At the back of what was the outside loo of our cottage in days gone by,

 is a wooden and wire storage space. It's covered with ivy and virginia creeper and houses various bits of paraphernalia such as plastic garden pots, some logs etc. It isn't pretty and may look pretty awful to you, but to me it's a very special place.

At the moment this space is acting as a maternity home to not one family but two.

At the top amongst the ivy is a little wren's nest and we've been watching this little songbird for a while now in the garden.

She's been flying around for a week or so, but it was only a few days ago that Mr Thinking of the Days realised that she had a nest so close to the house. There are eggs waiting to hatch.

Meanwhile in the profusion of ivy underneath the roof, there is also a robin's nest. We've always had robins around  the cottage, they're quite cheeky and like to perch on the wooden fence outside the kitchen window. And when it's cold, they pop onto the window ledge as if to say "Hello, any chance of some more seeds or nuts?"

But there's frantic activity at the moment with a robin constantly flying in and out with food, so we know the eggs have hatched. And as robins have two broods a year, this could be the start of a new robin dynasty.

Meanwhile, I hope to see all the chicks when they're old enough to fly, and luckily Boo and Eric our trusty terriers will protecting the birds by ensuring no cats come close by.They don't like cats, but do like to lie on the patio in the sun idly watching the birds fly above.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Days enjoying other gardens and helping to raise money too

I can't tell you how lovely it is to see the sunshine  these days. With the soil growing warmer and more colour in the garden, it's time to head out to other people's gardens  for inspiration, to appreciate what they've achieved, and to relax with a piece of cake after a nice walk .

Yes, the Open Gardens season has begun....

The Yellow Book details hundreds of gardens all over the UK which open each year for charity, and since its foundation, the National Gardens Scheme has donated over £45 million to nominated beneficiaries, of which nearly £23 million has been donated within the last ten years.

That's a lot of money, which is shared between charities such as Macmillan Cancer Care, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Carers Trust, Parkinsons UK and others.

There's a garden not too far away from me, just across the county border in Northamptonshire in the village of Clipston which has opened for many years. I've been meaning to go and see it for ages, but never quite seeming to get around to it. Well, on Easter Monday, I made a special effort to get there...and I'm so pleased I did, because it was the last time it would be open for the charity.

The garden is called The Maltings, and it lies to the side of a lovely red brick cottage, on a gentle slope.

To the left of the garden behind the house, there's a beautiful spring garden, a mass of colourful primroses and spring bulbs.

Two ponds are connected by a stream

And the owner Julia Connell has erected lots of signage,


and oh so helpfully, there are masses of plant labels, which is not only useful but an outright necessity when there are over forty varieties of roses in the garden, as well as sixty types of clematis.

There's also some amusing and interesting features...including this owl, which was used as a decoration for the one of the obstacles on the cross country element of the eventing completion at the 2008 Bejing Olympic Games.

And many of the visitors were admiring this unusual planter....

At the top of the garden, as well as a large lawn, there was a large barn, where the useful in a garden became quite decorative too.

I must confess I like looking at the utilitarian parts of a garden....the strawberries grown in hessian bags, the raised vegetable beds, and the old greenhouse with a very productive peach tree.

And then it was time to sit in the sunshine with a cold drink, admiring the magnolia , and everyone else's choice of cake. There was a fair selection of delicious looking cakes and good size portions too. My mother and I rather regretted having had so much to eat at lunchtime.

The main thing I regret though is not having visited this garden before. I now won't be able to see the seventy varieties of clematis or smell the scent of the forty types of roses there in summer.

The owner of the Maltings Julia Connell has created a wonderfully diverse garden here

and she and her team of helpers have raised a staggering amount of money during the years the garden has been open. Over this Easter weekend alone, 1046 visitors came to see the garden, and in total during the  ten years that Julia has been opening., there have been 8,895visitors. This has meant that altogether, Julia has raised £25,000 for the National Gardens Scheme and nearly £10,000 for local charities too.

 That's what I call good news...and a lot of hard work. Sadly, the Maltings won't be opening again, but in the meantime, there's so many more gardens to see and enjoy which will be open this year. I've promised myself that I'm going to be visiting a fair few. Why don't you do too?