Trees of life

I often find the adverts while scrolling through Facebook quite annoying, but recently one caught my eye. The Woodland Trust is dedicated to the protection of woods and trees throughout the UK by planting trees, restoring and caring for woodlands, especially ancient woods. In this particular advert they were offering the opportunity to buy memorial trees in a woodland of your choice and to help fund all this amazing work.

My dad grew up in the West Midlands, in the Black Country. My grandparents eventually settled in Halesowen and every Whitsun break as a child, my family would spend a week visiting them and going on lots of day trips. Heading off in my granddad’s mini clubman, we went to Clent Hills, Kinver, Hagley woods and many other lovely places for long walks on hills, through bluebell covered woods, in land sea-less sandy beaches (Kinver). There was always time for egg and cheese sandwiches and a cuppa from a proper teapot heated up with my granddad’s calor gas cooking ring.

These were treasured times that I look back on with so much love, the countryside was so beautiful and I loved spending time with my grandparents, especially granddad.

So imagine my joy when I discovered that there was a place just 5 minutes away from my grandparents old house in Halesowen called Uffmoor Wood. I made a donation and bought 3 trees in memory of my dad, granny and granddad Gardiner, in Grove 2 of the woodland.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to go and visit along with my mum and son number two, Jake. We had a lovely walk and saw quite a few deer milling around on our way down to Grove 2.

The trees aren’t actually marked in anyway to identify who has bought which tree, you just enjoy the woods knowing that in some small way you are contributing to the vital work of the Trust.

Lost in France

Three years ago my good friend Annette gave me the most amazing present for my 50th birthday. In that year to celebrate becoming half a century I planned to do 50 fabulous things and this present certainly added to that fabulousness.

Annette gave me the use of her gite in the Dordogne area of France for the week and I took along 2 of my besties Bev and Deb. See what we got up to by reading this There and back again

Nestled in the heart of the Foret de la Double in the beautiful Hamlet of Chadenne are not just the one but now three gites owned by my fabulous friend. Since our visit Annette has been very busy renovating the 2 empty buildings that were next door to our gite.

In addition to Cepe, our home for the week, a 2 bedroomed perfectly formed beauty that sleeps 4, there’s Sanglier and Cert. Both have 3 bedrooms and sleep 6. All decorated to a very high and tasteful standard.

All three gites have their own private terraces and use of the communal outdoor swimming pool.

Please take a look at their website to see for yourself the wonderful photos and find all the information you need about the area and activities.

As I said in my original post, Annette is the most amazing host and as a guest you feel so welcomed in every way.

I am definitely planning another trip as there is so much more to see and do, also I really want to see the new gites and garden because Annette and her husband Peter has worked so hard to this all happen.

Walk the walk

Yesterday I went on a blustery and at times, soggy trip down memory lane. When I first started my nurse training in 1985 I lived in the then new nurse’s accommodation tucked behind the general hospital at Uphill in Weston Super Mare.

In those days student nurses were the slaves of the workforce. Sometimes I needed to let off steam after being bullied by the nursing assistants who believed they were in charge, being made to clean the sluice with a toothbrush or just having survived long stretches of very busy shifts (often 10 in a row).

I loved to walk the length of the beach from Uphill sands to Birnbeck Pier, it was a long enough walk to dampen down the frustrations, have a blub and to talk myself back into continuing my training. Thankfully these episodes of doubt were few and far between so often I could just enjoy the walk.

The walk yesterday was full of children chasing the tide out and dogs chasing balls. As the tide was only just going out the causeway over to the pier was quite treacherously slippery, but I made it over with no broken bones or without falling into the drink.

When I got to my destination I was saddened to see the state of the pier, I hadn’t see it for quite some years. As a child in the 1970’s I regularly visited Weston Super Mare and the pier on day trips with my grandparents, and of course I would have a little trot on it at the end of my walks during my training.

Birnbeck pier was designed by Eugenious Birch and was opened in 1867, it is the only pier in the country to link the mainland with an island, Birnbeck Island. Since 1882 it was the base for the RNLI to launch their rescue boats as it is the only location for launching in any tide. Unfortunately due to safety they had to relocate in 2016.

This grade 2 listed pier has been closed to the public since 1994 and it’s been placed on the “at risk” register compiled by British Heritage as it’s in a very poor state of disrepair.

But all is not lost, rumour has it that the RNLI may potentially take back ownership of the pier and hopefully restore it to it’s former glory. In addition to this there is the fundraising organisation called Friends of the old pier, that are working very hard to help achieve this aim.

I really hope that the old pier can be restored and then maintained so it doesn’t get in such a state again. You never know who might visit, after all it was good enough for the Beatles in 1963!

To squeeze or not to squeeze

We’ve all seen the adverts on TV for pads for bladder leakage for women. I have always found them to be irritating, but the most recent one particularly gets on my nerves somewhat. It has various women talking about their little “accidents” and leakage saying that it’s perfectly normal and the solution? wear a pad! I know it’s a commercial but nearly all the women are relatively young, believing it’s acceptable to regularly “lose a couple of drops”, are they going to wear pads for the rest of their lives?

Yes bladder leakage is a problem, particularly following pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor takes quite a bashing to say the very least. It’s no wonder weakness occurs. Also as we age, even if we haven’t had children, the pelvic floor weakens.

But the pelvic floor is a group of muscles which can be strengthened with just a little bit of daily effort.

When I started my nurse training back in the 80’s at the age of 18 the best bit of advice was given to me by the head of the School of nursing, when she was giving a talk to all the new students. She said that we could prevent becoming old ladies that wet ourselves by simple doing regular pelvic floor exercises from that moment on.

At that time she suggested holding a wee mid flow for a couple of seconds each time we used the toilet, things have moved on a bit since then. Although this is still a good way to find your muscles so you know what to exercise.

A quick Google search led me to this simple regime:

Squeeze the pelvic floor as quickly as possible, rest for 3 – 5 seconds, repeat 10 – 20 times. Repeat exercise twice later in the day.

Interestingly the makers of these pads also have exercises on their websites, starting simple as above and progressing on to include abdominal exercises. It’s just a shame they don’t mention them in their ads. exercises here.

I am aware that not all bladder leakage is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles and the solution is not as simple as doing daily exercises. I am not suggesting this is a fix for everyone.

But if it is the cause of the problem then surely it makes sense to raise awareness and promote these exercises rather than just advocate the wearing of pads. Especially if the problem is caused by pregnancy and childbirth in early/mid adulthood, that will result in a long time wearing pads for something that can be fixed with education and effort.

I think that this education should start earlier, get it into the school curriculum to start children, boys and girls,  thinking about taking responsibility for their wellbeing in adulthood.

 

toilet

 

 

Just say yes

Over the years I have become a fan of the TV show “Say yes to the dress”. If you have yet to experience the delight let me enlighten you; there are bridal salons in New York and Atlanta, these are the 2 original salons to open their doors to the cameras to film brides choosing their dresses for the big day. We the audience share in their journey of trying on usually over-priced gowns while often over analysing their choices and crying buckets of tears.

Since the early days of Kleinfelds in New York other shows have cropped up in locations such as Las Vegas, Canada, Ireland and here in England hosted by Gok Wan and David Emmanuel.

The brides come in all shapes and sizes and from all different backgrounds with varying budgets and tastes. One of the most common denominators though is the entourage, a lot of the brides that feature on the shows, especially in New York, bring enormous groups with them to help them select the perfect dress. She usually wants them all to like the one she picks, not just have an opinion on how it looks on her, but actually love it as much as she does. These entourages can sometimes be as many as 20 people, how on earth can anyone expect that many people to all love the same dream dress. This evitability ends in tears and a lot of the time the bride will leave without selecting a dress, because she doesn’t seem to have the backbone to stand up to her friends and family and go with the dress she loved in the dressing room before showing it them.

Another common theme is the mother; often the mum will have a fixed idea of how she would like her daughter to look on the big day. A lot of the time on these shows they usually imagine their daughters in princess style ball gowns and often that is so far removed from what the bride has in mind. This makes for a very difficult situation because these brides are looking for their mother’s approval and set themselves the almost impossible task of keeping everyone happy.

The most tricky situation in my opinion is when the mother is paying for the dress and wants the bride to wear only a dress that she likes, regardless of whether her daughter actually likes it or looks good in it. This sometimes escalated into the mother refusing to pay for a dress because she does not like the style, even if her daughter looks beautiful in her choice.

Her choice… surely if she is able to choose her life partner, then she is quite capable and should be able to choose her own gown.

As a mother of 2 wonderful sons I am never going to experience this special time between mother and daughter. But if I did have a daughter and I was paying for her dress, I would want her to have a gown that makes her feel beautiful and fabulous, and most importantly her choice.

Ultimately surely your daughter’s happiness is the most important factor.

 

 

 
Happily ever after

A life less ordinary

I don’t know about you but I find it quite annoying when non celebrity folk are referred to as ordinary. I’m talking about you and me, who are not members of royalty or famous for being on film/TV for singing, acting or presenting etc.

For example when the Queen’s honours are announced it’s usually reported about celebrities who get honoured for simply doing their job or for the amount of charity work they do because of their high profile status. It’s much easier for them to make a huge impact in charitable causes because of their ability to mix with fellow influential and wealthy individuals.

Then the “ordinary” members of the public who have been honoured may get a mention in a small column in the paper or a foot note on a social media post. But these people have to work considerably harder and jump through many more hoops to achieve enough to be worthy of such an honour.

But in my view no one is ordinary. We all have personalities, skills, interests, professions and quirks that make us unique and stand out. We are all capable of doing extraordinary things on a daily basis and many of us do,  through our family life, work, hobbies, sports or voluntary activities.

Last week I had the honour of helping a group of old friends by helping with the dressing for the local Gang Show. The Bristol South Scout District produce a Gang Show every year and is written, organised and produced by 3 members: Dave Wall, Catherine Elkins and Sue Lewis who I have known since my scouting/guiding days in the 80’s. The show is made up of a cast of cubs/brownies, scouts/guides, explorers and leaders. There is also a small backstage army of ex scouts, leaders, family and friends who do the scenery, costume, props, dressing, sound and lighting.

Every year they put on a fabulously entertaining show that is fantastic value for money. Everyone gives their very best, works hard and support each other through each production. Working backstage as a dresser is very rewarding and just a little bit manic at times.

This is a big commitment , 4 evening performances and a matinee on Saturday, also 6 months of planning, writing and rehearsing. This is in addition to the time given up for running of the cub/brownie/scout groups alongside family and work commitments of the leaders.

Not so ordinary members of the public me thinks.

 

Just let me be me

 

make up

I’m sure that many of you have seen this post do the rounds on Facebook. It crops up quite frequently, a lot of the time posted by women. Sometimes, although rarely, posted by men.
I can usually ignore posts that annoy me, I tend to not waste time thinking about them or commenting on them. But this one really does get on my nerves every time I see it and read some of the judgmental comments that people write.
Please don’t misunderstand me, everyone is entitled to their opinions and I respect that. But this particular make up debate goes on and on and is often instigated by women.

If I didn’t wear make-up I would look at best homeless and at worse close to death.

Whose opinion is that? Mine.
Do I feel pressured into wearing make-up every time I leave the house? Never
Does it really matter to anyone else if I wear make-up so I feel I look better? No
Does that make me vain? I don’t think so.

I admire women who go without make-up, either all the time, or who just wear make-up on special occasions. Because it is their choice, as it is the choice of women who want to wear it every day.

Do I think that some women would look better with a bit of make-up? Yes
Do I also think that some women wear too much make-up or sometimes get it a bit wrong? Yes for sure.

But it is not my business, I would never  judge them or make them feel bad about their choices. I keep my opinions to myself unless asked for advice.

We women need to stick together, support each other and the choices we make. We are all doing the best we can and we should be bigging each other up, not judging or criticising.

In the words of Tanya from Mamma Mia-Here we go again, we should be bolstering…..
So please bolster !

tanya

Who is Nathan Moore?

Who is Nathan Moore you may well ask. That is what some of my friends were asking on Facebook and when I returned from my Butlin’s 80’s weekend in September.

Who is Nathan Moore? My chalet mates, aka Lisa, Liz, Karen and my sis in law Sharon, were discussing when we were trying to decide our Saturday night of entertainment. We knew we wanted to see Jason Donovan and sing “Especially for you” to him. On the stage before him was this Nathan Moore. After a quick stalking session via Google we discovered he was part of the boy band Brother Beyond and we only recognised one song from their hey-day in the 80’s. We did debate giving him a miss after branding them as one hit wonders.

But we were all ready to go out in our retina burning bright colours and crimped hair, so we thought we would give him a chance.

80's chicks
We staked our claim right in front of the stage as we were preparing for the wait for Jason and wanted pole position. We didn’t even stop off at the bar and went in shifts to protect our spot, we were so committed.
I am happy to report that in fact Nathan Moore is a fabulous entertainer, he did sing that one song we knew, ( “The harder I try”, in case you were wondering), but he also performed many other tunes so well and dare I say it……he was better than Jason! He also did photos at the end which of course Sharon and I had to do.

 


I know a lot people give Butlin’s a wide berth believing it to be a manky and dirty place swimming in Norovirus. But this is the second 80’s weekend I’ve been to in Minehead and I found it to be very clean. These events are very well organised, entertaining and good value for money. I highly recommend giving them a go.

A tale of two boy bands

This year I was fortunate enough to see 2 boy bands play live. The two occasions could not have been any more different, even if I planned them to be.
I need to tell you about the second event first. My bestie tart friend Jane and her daughter Phoebe invited me to go with them to Birmingham to see Westlife. I’ve never really considered myself to be a huge fan of theirs but not able to turn down a night away, I was all for it.
But oh boy I was not disappointed, they put on a fantastic show and I sang along to every song so I must be more of a fan than I first thought. They also did an outstanding Queen tribute which was an unexpected treat.
The three of us had a fabulous time filled with music, alcohol and a lot of laughs.
A word to the wise though, if you need walk alongside the canal to go to and from your hotel, it’s probably best not to knock back as many of the 2 for 1 cocktail combos as we did, it made it a bit tricky to safely negotiate the sometimes narrow paths and little bridges.

 

 

The first boy band story is very different. This was definitely a case of being at the right place at the right time.
As soon as I discovered Take That was coming to Bristol I knew I needed to be there. I must admit I wasn’t their biggest fan in the 90’s but they have grown on me over the years. Their stage presence was legendary and I wanted to be a part of it.
Unfortunately I fell at the first hurdle when trying to get tickets, it was a combination of not being fast enough and not waiting long enough on the phone. But not to be put off, I remembered dancing around Hyde Park a couple of years ago outside the Summer Festival, where they put on a fantastic show which I could just about see on the big screen, through a gap in the fencing.
So armed with our prosecco supply my bestie George and now friend Emma planned to listen from a park next door to the stadium. I assumed lots of people would have the same idea, but as it turned out we were the only three sad Muppets there, sat on our camp chairs sipping warm fizz from plastic cups.
It soon became apparent when the time came for Rick Astley to be on stage that we couldn’t hear a thing and George needed a wee. So we packed up and headed to the stadium with the intention of finding a better vantage point.
And then the miracle happened……. While George was in a well-known fast food outlet using the facilities, Emma and I were approached by a man selling three tickets for £20. Our faces must have immediately taken on looks of suspicion as he went on to explain that he was the driver on an organised bus trip and not all the passengers had turned up. He just wanted to get some of the money back and not waste the tickets. As we were still not convinced, he proved their validity by getting George through the barrier. Emma and I wasted no time stowing our camp gear in the storage area and getting ourselves onto the pitch.
The night could not have been any better, we could not believe our luck. We were in time for the last Rick Astley song, he was fantastic. Take That were out of this world, they really are the greatest showmen.
So take that chance, plan something small, it may turn into something bigger and much more than you ever imagined.

 

Worked to death

I’ve always been interested in gymnastics and as a child in the 70’s and early 80’s I loved watching the greats such as Nadia Comaneci, Nellie Kim, Olga Korbut, Elena Shusahunova, Elena Davydova, and many more whose names I can’t remember.

I used to get the Gymnast magazine every month, poured over the photos, read all about the championships I would never see on TV as in those days there were only 3 channels and gymnastics didn’t get much air time, and found out random facts like Nadia Comaneci liked to put butter on her chips!!!  I daydreamed about being able to somersault and fling myself around the uneven bars like all of amazing gymnasts of this era.

So imagine my joy when I was able to join a group on Facebook called  Gymnastics – A golden era, focusing mainly on gymnasts from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, sharing photos, videos and information about all my favourites.

Since reading the posts I have a discovered a gymnast from the 1970’s I hadn’t heard of. Her name was Elena Mukhina and her story is a tragic tale of a career cut very short by injury. There isn’t a lot of information about Elena online, when I did a search the limited sites about her all seemed to have the same content almost word for word.

Elena was born on June 1st 1960 in Moscow and was brought up by her grandmother from the age of 5, after her mother died in a house fire. She became interested in gymnastics at a relatively late age and trained at the Central Red Army Sports Club.

Her coach was Mikhail Kilmenko who was well known for coaching the male soviet team. He was keen to bring in elements from the men’s competition in Elena’s routines especially in her floor work and on the uneven bars.

The hard work paid off for Elena and she shone at the 1978 World championships in Strasbourg, showcasing a full twisting double back salto dismount on beam, twisting Korbut flip on the uneven bars and a full twisting double back somersault which she did in her floor routine combined with the beautiful and graceful ballet inspired artistry that the Soviets were famous for.

Despite the successes in the 1978 World Championships, the Russians were still reeling from their defeat at the hands of the Romanians, in particular Nadia Comaneci, in the 1976 Olympic games in Montréal. The pressure was on for the women’s team to do well and win big in the next Olympic games in Moscow in 1980.

Unfortunately Elena broke her leg in training in 1979 and was put in plaster to recover. But Mikhail was under orders from senior soviet coaches to get her training as soon as possible so that she would be ready for the games. To that end her cast was removed too early, Elena knew that her leg was not healed properly and told him that it was crooked and not strong enough to train on. An Xray revealed that the bones had separated again and she was sent immediately for surgery.

Once more the race was on to get Elena championship ready, in addition to perfecting her routines, she was also doing gruelling weight loss training to lose the extra pounds gained while recovering from her surgery. Her coach wanted her to include more complex moves into her work, only really performed by men at that time. His idea was to add the Thomas Salto to her floor routine. This was a move perfected by American gymnast Kurt Thomas, a one and three quarter flip with one and a half twists finishing with a forward roll. This required a lot of strength and speed to achieve the necessary height to be able to complete all the twists and flips and be in the correct position to safely finish in the roll. Hence why it was considered a skill for the men’s competition.

Elena knew that this element was extremely dangerous and repeatedly told her coach that she risked serious injury. But despite the weakness in her leg and her exhaustion from the extra weight-loss training, she was heavily encouraged to continue to try and perfect the move. Just two weeks before the Moscow games Elena was training in Minsk, her coach was away for a couple of days, so she was left under the supervision of other coaches from the national team. While practising the Thomas Salto she couldn’t find the height required and crashed landed on her chin, snapping her cervical spine. The accident left Elena a quadriplegic and she remained in a wheelchair until her death from complications of her paralysis at the age of 46 in 2006.

In one of the posts on the FB group somebody raised the question if Elena hadn’t been injured would she have continued to excel in the national team, do well in the 1980 Olympics and become even greater than she was in those few short years of her career. The obvious answer is we’ll never know, but looking at some of the quotes from a rare interview she gave to Ogonyok Magazine after years of silence about her time in the Soviet gymnastic programme, it seems to me that she was never happy and always felt very pressured during her career. She said “We’ve always placed a high value on risk, and a human life was worth little in comparison with the prestige of the nation; we’ve been taught to believe this since childhood“, she also said “Apart from the gym and gymnastics nothing existed, I didn’t have the right to be ill, problems outside sports simply didn’t exist“.  From these quotes I believe she felt like a cog in the wheel, just doing what was expected of her, whatever the cost. I think her  most profound quote though was the one immediately after her injury, as she lay on the floor she thought to herself “Thank God, I won’t be going to the Olympics“. She never criticised Mikhail, her coach, for what happened to her. She always believed that he was also a victim of the system.

Here is a compilation video of Elena in action, some in competition , some in training. In the training footage I see an exhausted, pale and thin girl trying her very best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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