Simply Splendid

I have been in my new job as a research nurse for 4 weeks now and one of the joys of this new venture is the bus journey to and from work. No I am not going completely mad and I’m not usually a lover of public transport. But it has given me the opportunity to read a lot more, I have always been a prolific reader but mainly in bed or in the bath.

I have just finished reading the most amazing book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. This is a story about 2 women in Afghanistan that is so beautifully written it had me crying on the bus, it also invoked feelings of disgust, loathing and anger. But mostly it made me feel extremely lucky for growing up and living in a country where I am free. Free to do what I want to do, to be independent and valued.

Here is a part of the book I would like to share, these are the rules imposed on women in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over power, as written by them;

You will stay inside your homes at all times, it is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside you must be accompanied by a Mahram, a male relative. If you are caught on the streets alone you will be beaten and sent home.

You will not under any circumstances show your face, you will cover with a burqua when outside, if you do not you will be severely beaten.

Cosmetics and jewellery are forbidden

You will not wear charming clothes.

You will not speak unless spoken to.

You will not make eye contact with men.

You will not laugh in public, if you do you will be beaten.

You will not paint your finger nails, if you do you will lose a finger.

Girls are forbidden from attending school, all schools for girls will be closed.

Women are forbidden from working.

If you are found guilty of adultery you will be stoned to death.

The book is heartbreaking as the story of the 2 women’s plight against cruelty, injustice and hardship unfolds in a country desperately trying to make it through relentless adversary.

The author has now set up the Khaled Hosseini Foundation that does fantastic work supporting Afghan nationals returning to to their homeland after fleeing during all the troubles, also re building homes in war torn areas and to help women and children.


War secrets of Bristol

My youngest son, Jake, is a budding thespian and belongs to a community theatre group. As his number one fan I have watched all his performances and a couple of weeks ago the group put on another outstanding play.

Thanks to funding from the Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery and a lot of research the ACTA Community Theatre told the story of the Mustard Gas factories in Bristol in a production called Gas Girls.

During the last 6 months of World War 1 there were 2 factories in Bristol; Avonmouth and Chittening, full of women filling bombs with the toxic and deadly mustard gas using charging machines. Contrary to the name it was actually a liquid that, due to the design of the machines, leaked constantly. As spillages were a regular event the Mustard Gas was absorbed into the floors and walls,  meaning the workers were permanently exposed to the harmful effects.

The employees were paid much better wages at these factories than in other places of work such as in service, but they suffered many distressing symptoms. These symptoms included; raw and inflamed throats, blisters and rashes, burns, conjunctivitis, nosebleeds, bronchitis and gastritis. So serious and common were these illnesses that there were on site hospitals at the factories and staff were checked on a daily basis by the medical team. The recorded visits to the hospital in the Avonmouth factory were as high as 80 to 90 a day. At this factory in that 6 month period in 1918, 1,100 people were employed and 710 of those were affected by Mustard Gas poisoning, there were 1,400 reported illnesses and 3 deaths directed related to Mustard Gas. Unfortunately for some the misery didn’t end when the factories closed, chronic conditions such as gastric pain, mental inertia, cough, breathlessness and weak memory plagued them until their deaths.

I have to say the production was the best I’ve ever seen from the group, each and every cast member were outstanding, delivering professional and moving performances. I’m sure you’ll think me biased but my son’s monologue was fantastic and moved me to tears. But don’t take my word for it, these are some of the comments from their facebook page;

“It was more than I imagined it to be, incredibly moving”

“It was outstanding, poignant and funny”

“I was surprised just how professional the show was, it felt like you were part of the drama, very intense”.

I watched the preview performance as they are taking the show on the road in June, so if you live in or near Bristol you still have a chance to catch this incredible play.

These are the dates and places;

10th, 11th and 12th June at the Avonmouth Community Centre at 7pm

16th June at Wickham Theatre, (University of Bristol) at 7pm

21st June at Withywood Community Centre at 3pm and 7pm

24th June at Orchard School Horfield at 7pm.

I will definitely be watching it again.

jake's monologue

end of the war

Jake as foreman


factory girls

medical checks

Going for gold part 2

At the beginning of March I jetted off again to bonnie Scotland for orientation for volunteering at the Commonwealth Games. I have been accepted into the medical team and will work as a first aider at the opening ceremony and rugby sevens event.

These are the twentieth Commonwealth Games and the third time that they have been hosted by Scotland. I am one of 15,000 volunteers known as Clyde siders.

I was part of the first group of volunteers, there were 4500 of us in the Emirates stadium in the east end of Glasgow, where the badminton will be held. The orientation extravaganza was hosted by sports presenter Hazel Irvine and Capitol Radio’s Des Clarke. ¬†Although it was a very entertaining 3 hour spectacular it didn’t really enlighten us about what to expect in the coming months.

We did however get to see our uniforms, I must admit I have been a bit worried about these since seeing a mustard coloured top in the volunteering centre when I went for my interview.I don’t think a colour that resembles vomit looks good on anyone and would have put a damper on the whole experience for me. So imagine my joy when visions in red and grey were modelled for us and we get quite a lot of kit.

It goes without saying that I am very excited about the whole thing and can’t wait to get up there in the summer and do my thing.

clyde siders uniform

After the orientation event I had quite a bit of time to kill in Glasgow so I made my way via Scotland’s very efficient and cheap rail network into the city centre. As a fan of Charles Rennie Mackintosh I made a bee line for the Willow Tea Rooms for my lunch.

This little gem came about as a result of a collaboration between the Art Nouveau designer and Catherine Cranston, between 1896 and 1917 he designed and restyled all 4 of Catherine’s tearooms in Glasgow. The building was originally a 4 story warehouse and in it’s hey day it had several different dining rooms. Mackintosh designed not only the exterior and interior, but the menus, cutlery and even the waitresses’ uniforms.

Now I’m afraid to say it looks a little tired, they is only one dining room on the first floor and the ground floor is taken up by the gift shop. But the food was very nice and reasonably priced.

willow te room sign


I have another role specific training to attend in June and I hope I’ll have more time to wander around and explore this lovely city some more.