Special Places

Special Places

I’ve recently returned from a three-week trip back to the mother country. It’s been two years since my last trip and that was for when Dad was awarded his MBE and, by special invitation, we made the journey to Buckingham Palace. Here’s a little reminder of that (sorry for the poor quality of the photo – it was taken through the picture frame)

Dad and Charlie Boy

I spent the majority of my three weeks staying in Suffolk with mum and dad. We did quite a lot of walking – in bluebell woods, coppice woods, along an old railway line – now a walking track and along the river to see a bevy of swans. During the middle week, Mum and Dad accompanied me on a road trip to Somerset – home to cider, cheddar cheese and the Glastonbury Music Festival. This part of the country was my home for eighteen years.


Mum and Dad moved down to Somerset after my brother died and I followed suit not long after. We felt a sense of connection to the happy times we’d all spent down there on our family holidays.

We lived on the Quantock Hills – designated in 1956 as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and comprising ancient woodland, heath and agricultural land. Our cottage was just a little further up the lane from Alfoxton House where poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived for a short time. Another claim to fame for the Quantocks is that Bryan Adams filmed the video for (Everything I do) I Do It for You, there.

Our family holidays were spent on Exmoor, a National Park of moorlands, valleys and woodland; of red deer and Exmoor ponies and clotted cream teas. Of Minehead, an old shabby seaside town with its pier and amusements, and “Kiss Me Quick” hats and candy floss. As kids we played in the not so crystal clear waters at the beach and lost our pocket money to the one-armed-bandits in the amusement arcade on the pier – Ah! the memories!

And so it seemed fitting that my brother’s ashes were scattered at our special place on Exmoor (no, not Minehead pier!) I hadn’t visited our special place for some time and felt the need to go. It was a damp day but as we parked up just below Dunkery Beacon and donned our wet-weather gear, the rain stopped and the sun tried hard to break through the clouds – Paul was watching over us for sure.

It’s been 34 years since Paul died and our special place has not changed at all in that time. It gives me a sense of calm and peace. It’s a wonderful place to reflect and to remember. I draw comfort knowing it will remain that way for ever and a day and that when I next visit, it will still be untouched and will remain timeless.

Chucking a Fast-Food Birthday Sickie

Chucking a Fast-Food Birthday Sickie

This week at work we celebrated a team member’s birthday with the obligatory afternoon tea. It was a lovely spread; a cheese platter, savoury nibbles, and a lovely passionfruit butter cake. A speech was made and our rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ had heads turning with jealous looks from fellow co-workers. We shared some jokes and wished the birthday boy all the best for his year ahead.

The conversation turned to who was next on the birthday list and it so happens to be the boss followed by me in June. The team can’t wait for my birthday because they are going to make a KFC birthday cake – yes, you read that correctly people – a Kentucky Fried Chicken birthday cake, and I will be chucking a sickie that day. You see, I have never EVER eaten KFC which sends my co-workers into a frenzy of disbelief. They’d be more accepting of me eating a kilo of witchetty grubs! How could I have reached my fine old age without stepping foot inside a KFC joint? They are in wonderment and treat me like I am missing a leg or some other body part.

Now my workmates are on a mission to force feed me a KFC before the year is out and I can tell you (and them) it ain’t gonna happen! It’s not like I’ve never eaten fast food before, because I have. When I was a little girl, I can remember a family day out to London which included my first McDonald’s experience. Fast food was a relatively new dining experience in the ’70s, with the first McDonald’s opening in London in 1974. I can remember standing in front of the counter. I craned my neck to view the picture boards of offerings, which I would have found overwhelming and I’m sure a grownup intervened and made the decision for me. I do remember eating a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate triple thick milkshake – no happy meals back then – it was a treat and a whole new divine dining experience.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Because a trip to McDonald’s was considered a treat back then, we didn’t eat it very often. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by fabulous cooks and in a world of hospitality, and I soon realised that there were far better food choices available to me than the Big Mac. Once Chief, a chef with a passion for fine dining and first-class ingredients came into my life, I didn’t have to go far for treats anymore.

Needless to say, our offspring weren’t exposed to the fast-food culture, the result of which meant our daughter recently had to add a disclaimer to her Uni exam paper. Whoever set the questions had made the assumption that everyone would know what the interior of a McDonald’s would look like – and she doesn’t!

I can’t say the same for our son who, under pressure from his peers no doubt, has been exposed to the joys of the burger and the nugget, which did lead to my first experience of a drive-in (or is it drive-through?) McDonald’s a few years ago. I ‘d picked him up from somewhere – I can’t remember if it was work, a night on the town or sports event – anyway, he was starving and ‘pleeease Mum, could we stop’. I went to park up. “No Mum, use the drive-through” (or is it drive-in?). ” You’ll have to show me what to do Tom”. The panic was already setting in.

Firstly the menu board (it would have made more sense in hieroglyphics). I think at this stage I pushed the intercom thingy to place the order. Tom had to lean over from the passenger’s side to do the talking – a conversation ensued and I could tell he was well-versed in this practice. We then proceeded to the payment window, and finally on to the collection hatch where his order was already waiting for us. “Wow! that was quick!” I exclaimed. “That’s why it’s called fast food Mum”. He patiently replied; his eyes towards the night sky. It was a revelation! We drove home in silence; Tom made his way through his ‘food-stuff’ while I opened the window to let the stench out.

So as you can see, I AM experienced in fast-food culture but really it’s not what I call ‘proper food’, let’s face it, it’s shit, and once you’ve read Fast Food Nation, you’ll never want to touch a string-fry or suck your cheeks in to a triple-thick milkshake ever again.

You can imagine my fear of being presented with a lovingly team-constructed KFC birthday cake, so if you have any tips on how I can avoid my fate in June, your advice will be greatly appreciated! Bon Appetit!

Bluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

Bluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

I’ve neglected my blog and WordPress for the last few weeks. Life got really busy – as I’m sure you can all appreciate – and then the mad preparations for the festive season followed by the need for us to transform ourselves into the ‘new us for the new year’.

Christmas was wonderful and exhausting at the same time; the offspring and their partners came to stay. We entertained every day either with friends at home or out on the town. The cocktail shaker was dusted off and the espresso martinis were free-flowing together with the Aperol spritzes. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than having our house full of family – just like it used to be – the long hair blocking the sink, the makeup strewn around the bathroom, the endless piles of washing, the phone and laptop chargers snaking from every available wall socket, the stacks of sunglasses and heaps of swimming towels – it was brilliant! And the laughter, oh! the glorious laughter.

We traveled a couple of hours north to our favourite spot on the Sunshine Coast for a day on the beach. Chief was stung on the foot by a Bluebottle jellyfish while walking along the shoreline. By the time we were home, the story had morphed into “I was swimming a mile out and was bitten by a shark!”

Over the last few weeks, there has been an invasion of Bluebottle jellyfish, with thousands being blown to the shores of Queensland beaches. Last weekend alone, there were over 2,500 beachgoers treated for stings. The little critters wrap their tentacles around limbs and release their sting which I’m told is very painful. Fortunately, the surf lifesavers were on hand with bags of ice and advice. We’ll probably be giving the beach a miss for a couple of weeks.

Bluebottle (Portuguese Man ‘o War)

And then on the 2nd January, the house fell silent. The offspring headed back to Adelaide and Chief and me back to work. The tree has been ‘undecorated’ and packed away for another year, the beds stripped and the cocktail shaker back in the cupboard – for a while at least. About that – I’ve discovered a great online community, Hello Sunday Morning, which has become the largest online movement for alcohol behaviour change in the world. There is a great app Daybreak, which offers professional support and tools together with an online community supporting each other.

I’m feeling a bit flat, to be honest, but have lots of things to look forward to this year, none more so than our 30th wedding anniversary in June – I know, right! Where have the years gone? We will be celebrating by taking a short break in Hong Kong later in the year. I’m pleased to say that we have survived what is being dubbed as Divorce Day, January 8th, the most popular day for couples to commence legal divorce proceedings, according to lawyers (a UK study). After the pressures of trying to achieve the perfect ‘chocolate box’ Christmas, it’s enough to send any rocky marriage over the edge. They wait for the kids to go back to school and then – bang!

Dad update: By the time you read this, my dad will have had a pacemaker fitted which is the result of all the shenanigans in Dubai way back in October. Hopefully, that will be it and a return to full fitness is on the cards. All the best for a full recovery Dad x.

So that’s my round up for the start of the new year as I start to plan my trip to the UK in April, I’ll leave you with some images of our time over Christmas – happy new year everyone and may your 2019 be one full of good health, happiness and laughter – you have to laugh every day!

Wombat Update

Wombat Update

Several of you have inquired how my Dad is doing after his unscheduled stop in Dubai.  In case you’ve missed the news, Mum and Dad were flying home from Australia and Dad was taken ill on the flight, and rather than just the two-hour stopover expected, they ended up staying for three weeks. Paramedics were on the plane before the Captain had applied the handbrake, and following preliminary tests, Dad was taken to the medical centre at Dubai airport.


Extensive tests revealed a ‘problem’ heartbeat, and for a time it was looking like a pacemaker would be required.  Instead, Dad was fitted with a total of three stents and following a period of recuperation in a hotel, was given the all clear to continue the journey home to England – exactly three weeks later.

We have all learned something from this experience and in no particular order:

  • Travel insurance is a very good thing.
  • Dubai is a great place to be taken ill.
  • That Filipino health care professionals don’t stop smiling and treated ‘Mr. Richard’ like one of the family.
  • Skype is not permitted in the UAE; thank heavens for WhatsApp.
  • None of us should be flying for longer than 8 hours before having a break (at least one overnight stop).
  • If anyone questions why you are spending so much money on flying business class and decide to travel ‘cattle class’ – totally ignore them, especially if it’s your daughter.
  • Most importantly learn to do EVERYTHING, so when your ‘rock’  isn’t with you, and you have to deal with life’s unexpected challenges, you’ve got this.
  • When you really have to step up to the plate and take over the reins you (or Mum) can actually surprise yourself and do it
  • My Mum doesn’t know this but she is totally one of life’s true Amazon Warriors.

So that’s it, some lessons learned and some takeaways for us all. And Dad?  He’s gaining fitness and pleased to be home even if he does have a mountain of insurance papers to sift through – let Mum do them!

What about you, have you experienced an unexpected travel stop?

Social Media Beyond the Grave

Social Media Beyond the Grave

I don’t know about you but Facebook has become my personal assistant and go to for remembering birthdays of friends and family. It has even replaced the sending of birthday cards but also opened up the number of birthday wishes received. Of course it hasn’t replaced cards to my close loved ones but it has made me lazy – have you seen the price of cards these days? I remember my son telling me once as he handed over my birthday present, minus a card, that buying cards is for rich people!

Last week I received a Facebook birthday reminder and for a split second the warm and fuzzy birthday feeling washed over me and then a moment later was replaced with intense sadness that it was a terrible mistake – you see, this person passed away over two years ago. How can I possibly help her celebrate when she is no longer with us? She would have been the same age as me but was taken from us too soon. Why haven’t her family closed her account? I could ‘unfriend’ her so I don’t receive notifications any longer but that seems a weird thing to do – what if she’s watching me and she knows I’ve ‘cut the cord’ – maybe that’s why her account is still active. Perhaps her family can’t bring themselves to close her account or prefer to keep it open for friends to visit.

Have our social media platforms become a shrine of remembrance for when we’ve gone? Are we living in hope that we may one day receive ‘a sign’ from our loved ones on the other side?


By the time I’m in the old folk’s home, hopefully some tech giant will have invented an app for spirits and the afterlife so we can keep in touch beyond the grave, although I’m not sure if this would be a good idea – do we really want to know – actually no, I don’t.

If my family are reading this, please make sure you delete my online presence when I’m gone – remind me to give you the password!

What are your thoughts on keeping our loved ones social media accounts active after they’ve left us?

Our Growing Family

And it’s not even a baby on the way or a new pet!

Chief and I headed to Adelaide last weekend to catch up with our children. We all used to live there but Chief and I fled the nest (way too early) to take up new opportunities in Brisbane – anyway, I digress. We hadn’t seen Tom our son since last November and our daughter ‘Flossy’ since Christmas so we were really excited to be catching up with them and their lovely partners.

Saturday morning saw all six of us heading out to the McLaren Vale, one of the premium wine regions of South Australia – I hark on about how lovely it is all the time, but it really is! We ended up at S.C Pannell for lunch where we enjoyed each other’s company, super food and taking in the lovely views and soaking up the gorgeous Summer day.

After lunch and a trip to a couple of wineries, we went our separate ways to spruce ourselves up before heading into the city to meet friends in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Adelaide comes to life this time of year as the Adelaide Fringe rolls into town. It was a tight turn around and within the hour, Tom and his girlfriend Christie were back in order for us to travel into the city together.

Just as we were all assembled and ready for the off, Tom gathered us around for an announcement – in that short time of rushing to get ready to go out, he had managed to squeeze in a marriage proposal and Christie said yes! We had no idea so it was a complete and wonderful surprise to us. How fantastic to be welcoming  someone as lovely as Christie into our family; I’m going to be a mother-in-law!

Apparently Tom was going to pop the question in a more romantic location when we were in the picturesque McLaren Vale but not everything had aligned for him and he ended up bottling it.

Tom made sure his proposal was by the book, asking Christie’s father’s permission and researching which knee to go down on beforehand. Apparently there is no clear historical origin of proposing on bended knee but it probably stems from similarities to kneeling during prayer, kneeling while receiving honors from royalty and other ceremonial situations. I can remember when Chief proposed to me it was pouring with rain so he put a plastic bag on the ground to kneel on first – ah!

So the rest of our weekend away turned into celebrations of all things wedding and love. Of course there was a beautiful ring involved which will surely sparkle and dazzle for many many years. No date has been fixed yet but I know you have to ‘book early’ for your perfect venue so it could be a year or two before I’ll be in my glad rags and new hat.

I can tell you one thing though – it doesn’t half make me feel old, having one of my babies embarking on such a huge next chapter of life!


Showing up for your dreams

“You are the only person who can live out your dreams and to do so, you must be present, take chances, take risks, and grab opportunity when it’s thrown at you. If you’re not there for your dreams, they won’t happen. It’s not possible.”


Originally posted on Sugarfreesweetness as If change is ‘as good as a holiday’, then why are we so afraid of it? by someone who is more than special to me. Hop on over to read the full post and to make comment.

The Tears of Tiny

I’m offloading emotional baggage; I am cleansing my inner self. It’s been inside for over forty years. I have a wonderful friend who has been on her own spiritual journey for some years now and she is there to offer me words of wisdom, inspiration and guidance at any time if  I’m ever in need. To be honest, I am yet to ‘find’ my inner self but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, I’ll keep looking. During my last visit to Adelaide and a gathering with dear friends, the conversation turned to our childhood memories and how for some reason the bad memories surface ahead of the good ones.

I can remember some happy memories, for instance; dad being home from work early enough to read our bedtime story one evening and changing all the words of Jack and the Beanstalk to something that made my brother and I roar with laughter. The long summers that went on and on. Making tents out of the sofa cushions and licking melted ice-cream off my wrist at the local fete. Bad memories can be recalled quite readily and my friend said that I should write down the bad stuff – get it out, so here goes.

For my fourth or fifth Christmas (I can’t remember which) a Tiny Tears doll was delivered to my arms (via a box with a see-through front.) I loved her. She was my baby and her name was Tiny. Mum made her some little toweling nappies. I bathed her and puffed Johnson’s baby powder over her.  I put her to bed in the cot my clever Uncle made. When mum hung out the washing, I was next to her hanging out Tiny’s little clothes on a mini clothesline. My Gran knitted her matching jumpers and twin-sets with leftover wool from the ones she had knitted for me. I can remember wheeling her along the pavement in her doll’s-pram. There was a serious lack of suspension and she bounced up and down so violently that she vibrated her way to the side of the pram. I took her out and carried her. When friends came over we played hospitals with our dolls – I remember using the perspex lid of the record player as an incubator. I was devoted to my crying, nappy-wetting doll and we went everywhere together.

Tiny and Me

Fast forward a few years to the day Julian the Hooligan came to visit. The name says it all; that’s simply what he was. To this day I don’t know how it happened and I don’t have any recollection of the incident but Julian the Hooligan pulled out all of Tiny’s eyelashes. I think I was so upset that I blocked the memory out. I’m sure that I screamed and screamed but I can’t remember it. Tiny just wasn’t the same and I agreed for mum to send her away to the Mattel Dolly Hospital to have new eyes fitted. Wonderful I thought – my baby will be home in a few days as good as new and normality will be restored.


I can remember mum picking us up from school a few days later, and I could tell by her manner that something wasn’t quite right. Tiny was back except it wasn’t Tiny. You see, the Dumb Dolly Doctor had given her a new head instead of new eyes but the head was a Mark II Tiny Tears and she was completely different. My baby had gone, gone forever. Clearly, the Dumb Dolly Doctor had not thought about the consequences of his actions ( I’m sure it was he) and obviously had no children of his own – idiot!

I was inconsolable. I would have rather had Tiny with no eyelashes than a new head – it was one of the darkest moments of my childhood – and why hadn’t they sent the old head back too – where did that end up – landfill? A mutant toy just like Sid’s in Toy Story?

mutant toys

I did eventually learn to love my new Tiny of course and we did eventually bond although she was never quite the same and I still mourned my gone baby. I carried on playing with her until I started secondary school where new friendships were formed and new adventures began.

I hung on to my beloved Tiny for years – my son found her when he was a toddler and I didn’t think there would be any harm in giving him a doll to play with. Tiny’s arm eventually came off – probably when being rugby tackled by said toddler.

Tiny even came to Australia with us in 2005; she had been living in a box inside the wardrobe for years but I couldn’t part with her just at that moment. Then one day a few years ago I knew it was time to say goodbye. I bet you’re expecting a burial in the garden befitting a beloved pet accompanied by prayers, flowers, and tears. I wanted to give her a loving home but with a broken arm, even the op-shop didn’t want her. But I did neither; it wasn’t a gracious goodbye – it was ordinary.

So there you have it. Bad stuff that happened when I was a child and although I was scarred emotionally, life goes on. Far greater emotional traumas came and went in my life, eventually moulding me into the stronger and resilient woman I am today. Although we are all likely to experience some kind of emotional trauma as children and young adults, and I’m sure some of you have suffered far worse experiences than my twice-headed doll, it’s how we deal and cope with these experiences that help shape us into the people we are today.

Move Over Dad

Move Over Dad

Dad, you’ve enjoyed your 5 minutes of fame and now in honour of Mother’s Day, it’s Mum’s turn.

You know the phrase ‘behind every great man, there has to be a great woman’ well I know you would be the first person to agree Dad, that Mum was always there for you; supporting you over the years when you travelled up to London to attend various committee meetings and branch meetings. Mum also mucked in with the practicalities of the London Bikeathon and spent many an hour standing on the pavement, outside supermarkets and shopping centres tin rattling for local flag days. I’m sure the hardest times were when you were away on the Botham walks for weeks at a time – you were missed!

So Mum, I take my hat off to you for demonstrating wifely support and patience over the thirty odd years Dad was involved with Bloodwise – well done you!

As we celebrate Mother’s Day and all things mumsy, I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks Mum; thanks for always being there for me – ALWAYS. You really were there for us every day after school. I’m sure that I’m a major disappointment to my children as they were  ‘latch-key’ kids for awhile. Thanks for cooking lovely meals, and for allowing us to walk to the sweet shop on our own – ‘ten pence worth of sweets, no bubble gum or chewing gum please’.

Thanks for letting us go out on our bikes ALL DAY. You knew we would come home when we were hungry or it was dark, I’m sure you would have worried about us until we were home safely but you never said.

Thanks for teaching me how to knit, to cook and to garden, and although I was and am useless, having the patiences to teach me how to draw and paint.

Thanks for teaching me compassion and empathy and how to laugh my head off at the most stupid of things!

Thanks for being there for all those long laborious hours when your grandson came into the world only to sneak out and leave us to it when it was all over.

Thanks for being there when your granddaughter flew into the world – although you weren’t really!

And most of all Mum, thanks for giving us your blessing to move to the other side of the world with your only grandchildren. We broke your heart but never once did you ask us not to go or show us your pain – you gave me wings but I just flew too far!

Thanks Mum xx

Must Fly

Must Fly

The time has come for me to make my trip to the UK for Dad’s investiture at Buckingham Palace. My suitcase is packed – lightly, but I am travelling with an extensive shopping list from Chief. Spending a total of 22 hours in the air is certainly an endurance test but at the same time, a period for reflection. You do feel that your life is in suspension while you’re up there seeing the earth from a different perspective – I like to take stock. I’ll watch a film or six, read my book, eat and drink then TRY to sleep.  I arrive into Heathrow where it’s a good 20 degrees or so cooler than Brisbane, early Friday morning.  It will be a shock to my system but hopefully keep me awake until I reach my final destination.  I’ll catch up on the flipside!