80 fabulous years young

In March this year my mum turned 80. Some of my merry band of followers may remember me writing about my adventures doing fifty fabulous things to celebrate reaching my half century.

Funnily enough my mum didn’t think she would be able to come up with 80 things to do to celebrate this significant birthday. Just as well given that we are now in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.

But luckily we did manage to celebrate with a week long agenda of outings and family gatherings including a surprise party, ten pin bowling and lunch at the Ivy in Winchester, before the lockdown commenced.

But the best bit of luck was booking our big trip away last year before all this madness began. While discussing possible birthday treats we decided a big holiday would be fabulous, both of us had always fancied visiting Canada.

So a plan was hatched ….. three weeks in the east coast, visiting Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls and finishing off over the border in Manhattan.

The next few posts are about our adventures in North America and bits of local information which might entice you to visit this amazing part of Canada.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another year…. another challenge

Last year 3 crazy ladies, myself and my 2 buddies Debbie and Selena, did a zip wire ride  in central London in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association. As the charity is very close to my heart I suggested and arranged the whole thing.  It was a massive challenge for Selena and Debbie as both are afraid of heights. When we climbed the tower, that moved from side to side with every step, I felt very guilty when Selena was shaking with fear and Deb looked like she was going to throw up. But they were both extremely brave and we managed to raise £1104 for the charity.

zip wire challenge

This year however there is no death defying slide through the air and no coercing my terrified friends into doing something that they really don’t want to do. No this year I have been talked into running the 10k Race for life by my friend’s daughter Phoebe.

I haven’t done any serious running since I did the Bristol Half Marathon many years ago, when the weather was so vile that I was sobbing as I crossed the finish line. It wasn’t something I wanted to repeat in a hurry. But time is a greater healer, all memories of that awful day have almost been erased and it is only 10k.

Every penny raised and donated to Cancer Research can only be a good thing, so dig deep my friends and click on the link so I can’t back out of this challenge.

Carole’s Race for Life

Three Crazy Ladies

Just when I thought the birthday fabulousness was over the tenacious trio are at it again!

While scrolling through the land of Facebook I spotted an advert for the Zip Wire London. Of course the first people I thought of was Selena and Debbie, my partners in crime for the walk over the O2 for our combined big fabulous birthdays last year. Luckily for me they had had a little tipple or two just before I suggested doing the wire and agreed to do it.

Since booking our slots a very dear friend of mine very sadly died from Motor Neurone Disease, my dad also died from this devastating illness 24 years ago. So we decided to do the zip wire as a sponsored event in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association and try to raise £1000. This amount of money will enable invaluable research and fund care and support for sufferers and their families. At the time of writing we have had enough donations to get us 53% of the way to our target.

As an adrenaline junky I can’t wait to do it, Selena and Debbie…. not so much. This is a massive challenge for both of them so it’ll be really fantastic if you the reader could click on the link below, donate to this fundraising event and help make a difference.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/carolegardiner

the tenacious trio

 

 

 

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