Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cedrus Libani

I’ve done it again haven’t I? I could apologise for my whereabouts but seriously, what would be the point?? When you apologise for something, in this case dropping off the face of the earth, you should go out of your way not to do it again and frankly, I just can’t make you that kind of promise. (I am sorry though, honest injuns!)
‘ several reasons for not being around I s’pose, not least of all the fact that I purchased Photoshop Elements a while back (which is a-MAAA-zing, albeit a massive time-eater) and every chance I got, I’d have my face stuck into my monitor, but fiddling with my pictures, rather than writing about my experiences having taken them.
Let’s start with some pleasantries.
I know my last post ended with the words “how was your spring?” but how are you, how was your summer? Ours was tres busy and quite different. We had a “guest” over from Italy – when I say guest, I mean a 13 year old Italian lad, Davide, who spoke no English and was over on a kind of foreign exchange programme. I say kind of because it was just the bit where he came to us – we didn’t, nor are we, sending a child in return. The full reason for him coming over is too long and drawn out to explain (even for ME!), but suffice to say he had a good time and his parents and family back home in northern Italy were most appreciative.
We enjoyed it too. We got to do real touristy stuff like watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, braving the crowds on Regent Street for some shopping in Hamleys toy store, then the Trocadero between Piccadilly and Leicester Square, not to mention getting River Roamer passes on the Thames Clippers, sitting in the sunshine at the back of those incredibly sleek ‘boats’, speeding up and down the fantastic river Thames from Embankment down to Greenwich and the O2. We ate at Planet Hollywood, did the ‘cellar tour’ at the Hard Rock café, which apparently is big news in Italy (who knew?) and went for lots of walks through London’s wonderful royal parks.
Very nice.

Norfolk was our county of choice in which to holiday this year. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there yourself but it is quite confusing. First of all, it is a beautiful place to visit, no doubt about it. But many of the people we saw there could quite easily have single-handedly provided the inspiration for some of the, how shall I say, more entertaining characters from Little Britain.
We took a boat trip near Wroxhall, all along the Broads, chugging slowly by the house once owned by George Formby – what a beautiful place that is, seriously – and I had visions of living near the river, taking my little boat into town for my organic groceries and my Fairtrade coffee.
(Just wanna say a quick thanks to my Dad for providing me with his “dreamer” gene. We always made fun of him when he floated off to his “happy place” but now I understand and appreciate just what a marvellous place it is, and how much fun it is to hang out there!! Cheers Pops!)

Although it seems like a lifetime ago now, we were all gripped by Olympic fever and Joseph and Annabel went to a ‘one day try out’ at our local athletics track. It was a boiling hot day, with very little shade and there was quite a crowd of youngsters taking part. They all got to try the 100m, the 400m relay, the high jump and the long jump. It all seemed to be going fairly well, but I do want to digress, slightly, and focus on Annabel for a second.
Over the years, I have often mistaken her stubbornness for confidence, her sometimes difficult nature for an air of indifference, for being comfortable in her surroundings. But watching her in this group of mostly older children damn near broke my heart.
I’d say that in total there were about 35 children ranging in age from 7 to roughly 13 years old. The guy in charge chose four captains who in turn set about choosing their teams, one by one. Naturally, being athletics and all, the taller kids were chosen first and pretty soon, the only ones left were the youngest girls. When it got down to the final handful, I sat up and started whispering under my breath not to let Annabel be the last one chosen, not the very last one. I could see her hands wringing behind her back, her head dropping, her left foot kicking at the dirt like she didn’t mind.
But I could see she did mind.
She was plum last and she trudged to the very back of her much taller team-mates who had begrudgingly chosen her, looking across at the last minute to see if I was watching. I caught her eye, gave a nod and a smile and showed her a clenched fist in a sort of “wahey, you’re part of a team, go for it”, kind of way.
She wasn’t all that convinced.
In fact, she was even less convinced when the first event was the 100m. I winced as I saw her get away from the starting line in last place. To her immense credit, she kept on pumping her (relatively) little arms and legs, catching up with the only other small-ish girl out there.
Hurrah, second to last place, a result. She gave a brief look over her shoulder as she crossed the line, taking a healthy dollop of satisfaction that she wasn’t last.
Anyway, the day progressed, the sun got hotter, the water intake higher, and eventually they were on the last event of the day; the long jump. At least now she could sit with Joseph while they waited for their turn. And although the sand-pit for the long jump was on the other side of the track from where I was sitting, my heart still gave a little squeeze when I saw how hard she was trying, how fast she was running.
Annabel gives the illusion of someone who is confident beyond her years but it is just that; an illusion. I knew how much extra effort she was putting in to running up to the sand-pit and doing her little jump, with that ‘huge’ crowd stood around where she was landing.
But anyway, the day ended and of course, during the walk home she regaled to Joseph and I with how her day had gone. Joseph has reached the mental maturity now whereby, rather than immediately counter her comments with “no you didn’t” or “you liar”, he now looks at me, let’s me know that his sister may be bending the truth somewhat, and allows her to continue with her version of events.
Well, he sometimes allows her this luxury.
The nice thing is that she recalled her day as one of fun and enjoyment, as being chosen to be with the “big children”, as helping score points for the leader board, rather than anything negative.
Speaking of Olympics, after many attempts to order tickets online to see something, anything, we secured tickets to see Team GB play …….. handball. Ok, none of us actually knew what handball was but the important point was we were going to the Olympic village, we were off to be a part of history.
Handball (in case you don’t know), is fast and furious – and very physical – and it is quite literally football but, ahem, you use your hands instead of your feet. Still, the game is extremely popular across the rest of Europe, with the UK still finding their feet, so to speak, and Team GB it has to be said, got annihilated by France, the final score being something like 14 million goals to 6. Great fun though.
We also saw, weeks later, the football finals and semi-finals at the Paralympic games, watching Russia crowned champions, with Ukraine in second and Iran for the final medal place. It was great watching Iran celebrate beating Brazil (Brazil??!?); they couldn’t have looked more surprised if they’d tried. I seem to remember Iran getting the biggest cheer too; so little seems known about their society, everyone seemed genuinely chuffed for them.
After a couple of weeks of days melting seamlessly and wonderfully into each other, we were lucky enough to have a long weekend in one of our favourite places – the good old Isle of Wight. M has been wanting to take her Mum (a big fan of the Royal family) to Osbourne House for ages and so, after talking to me nicely for several months and ensuring I had plenty of calm-me-down medicine and yoga moves for combatting the stress that would undoubtedly follow, I agreed that yes, it would be a nice idea to take her Mum to see it.
(I did comment for her to give me a call when they got there safely but M flashed me one of her rarely used “don’t you dare” looks, so I packed a bag for myself too).
To be entirely fair, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.
No, really.
I love the IOW so much, my companions would have to be pretty bloody-minded to spoil it for me. Ok, so she can be bloody-minded I s’pose, but it seemed she had been “spoken to” by M as well. We were all on our best behaviour and as we always do, enjoyed walking up to the National Trust’s Old and New Batterys at Alum Bay, visiting Warren Farm for our must-have scones with home-made jam, fossil hunting on glorious sandy beaches, eating out every day on slightly too-rich food and generally relaxing wonderfully.

I want to write something else, a million miles away from the sunshine and happiness of our holiday. I was going to put it in another post but thought, no, hang on, it’s all part of your summer, get it in there.
Another reason for being absent, apart from my new Photoshop addiction, is this. At the same time as we were sitting in our seats at the Paralympics, a couple of hundred miles away in north Wales, our very good friend Ian – Joseph’s godfather – was competing in a road cycling race. About 90 miles of road had been cordoned off to traffic, but that didn’t stop one obviously confused woman careering onto the road, barely a hundred metres from the finishing line, oblivious to the waving spectators and marshalls waving their flags at her. Unfortunately for Ian, she was also entirely oblivious to him and knocked him from his bicycle, both of them travelling at speed. Exactly what happened next is not entirely clear but the result was Ian being taken, in an ambulance, to the Royal Liverpool University hospital where they specialise in spinal injuries, and being operated on within a very short space of arriving.
To cut a long story short, and following transfers from Royal Liverpool to King’s College hospital in south east London, and more recently a transfer to a private hospital with a fantastic view (Ian’s words) of north west London, seven weeks on and he is still flat on his back. He has got some limited movement back in his upper arms, some very limited movement in his right leg as well as a general return of sensation in various other places below his neck. His incredibly positive outlook had started to waver during his time at King’s, primarily because he wasn’t doing anything. Today however, marks the start of a rigorous rehabilitation programme in his current plush hotel-like surroundings. Hopefully, as they prescribe him fewer drugs, as his days are filled with exercise and exertion, as he naps less throughout the day and sleeps better throughout the night, as he regains his day-night balance, his outlook will once again become sunny, his goals seemingly achievable once more.
And hopefully with that, his wife (M’s work colleague), will also see a bright future, as will his two girls (one of whom celebrated their 9th birthday yesterday, with us, in the confines of her Dad’s small, triple-glazed new home for the immediate future).
Chin up Ian, stay strong. We’re all rooting for you.
That was our busy, fun, testing, difficult summer in one post.
I said it before, I’ll say it again; how was your summer?

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