Sunday, 17 July 2016

A week in Devon

Bantham Beach

Bantham Beach

Hope Cove

Hope Cove

Hope Cove

Salcombe Harbour

Salcombe Harbour

Buckfast Abbey



Ness Cove, Shaldon

 Ness Cove



Salcombe harbour

We've just arrived home after a week in Devon. After our holiday there last year it was inevitable that we'd go back, and this time we stayed further south near Totnes and within driving distance of so many beautiful towns and beaches.  It really is a stunningly beautiful part of the country, I can't believe we'd never been there before last year.

We stayed in a farm cottage with fabulous sports facilities - swimming pool, badminton court, tennis court, full-sized snooker table, table-tennis, boules, golf. Just brilliant, especially if you've got teenagers in your group and they need something to keep them entertained.  I really enjoyed our morning dips in the pool, and trying my hand at badminton again, although I don't have the energy for the game these days.

The weather was pretty mixed for the first few days - as you can probably tell from the dramatic skies in some of the pictures above - but the second half of the week was much better and we managed plenty of beach time.

We managed to visit a few towns: Salcombe, Totnes, and Dartmouth, as well as the fabulous beaches at Shaldon, Blackpool Sands, Hope Cove, Thurlestone and, our favourite, Bantham Beach (top two photos).  I haven't edited any of the photos, just thought I'd publish them as they came, although I'm yearning for a new camera.

It was just the three of us this year: me and my two girls, and I wonder every year whether this will be the last time we all go away together as a family.  They're getting to the age where they may prefer a holiday with their friends, or boyfriends, and No.1 daughter has already said that she doesn't know what she'll be doing next year, so it could just be two of us, but whatever we do I really want to take our greyhound Alice with us. We didn't take her this year, and as my brother was away at sea, she had to go into kennels, and by all accounts didn't cope very well.  She became quite stressed and refused to eat, and has been quite subdued since she came back home. Poor girl.

Now that we're back I'm daydreaming once again about living there. One day maybe.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Saturday mornings with Miriam, and reasons to volunteer

Not so long ago I wrote about loneliness, and how it's currently an epidemic for our elderly population.

A couple of months later I took my own advice and contacted the Royal Voluntary Service who run a befriending service in my area. A couple of weeks later, and following the required safety checks,  I was on my way to my first befriending visit with Miriam, an 87 year old lady who lives less than a mile away from me.

I was nervous and so, it turned out, was she.  It's one thing saying you'd like to visit an older person in their own home, but it's quite nerve wracking when you finally get to do it.  What if we didn't like each other? What if we ran out of conversation? What if...?

As it turned out we needn't have worried because within a few minutes of meeting, the kettle was on and we were having a cuppa, a choccy biscuit, and a good old natter.

It's been six months since I started visiting Miriam, and it's become part of my weekend routine. Every Saturday morning I call round to see her for an hour or so, and we watch Saturday Kitchen together, talk about all sorts of things - nothing is off limits - and more often than not we have some real belly laughs.  We've spent time looking for her childhood home town on my iPad, we even found a photo of the school she attended in the 1930s,  and I've introduced her to the joys of social media. She's picked it up really fast too.  These days if we need to check something, she'll say "Can you ask twitter?"

She has a wicked sense of humour - when she asked me if I could pick something up from the pharmacy for her I said yes, of course, what do you need? "Condoms," she said, "I've got my eye on the 83 year old fella down the road".

I know Miriam looks forward to my visits because she tells me.  She enjoys the company and knowing that she will see someone every week. She recently told me that she used to stay in bed on Saturdays because there was nothing to get up for. Now, she looks forward to my visit and gets up and dressed, does her hair and 'makes an effort'. It's quite humbling to know that our visits mean so much to her, but it also shows how vital this type of service is.

It's not all one-way though, because I get a lot out of it too, it's very rewarding and let's be honest, if feels good to know you're making a difference to someone. But more than that, she's become a good friend, she's had an interesting life and I love asking her about it, plus she's given me some cracking advice over the past few months.   Visiting her is a pleasure, not a chore, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who's thought about volunteering.

This week is #VolunteersWeek.  There are so many ways you can make a difference, and if you can make that weekly commitment of an hour or so it really is worth doing, I promise.  It doesn't have to be befriending, there are plenty of other ways to volunteer that might suit you better.

I can honestly say it's one of the best decisions I've made recently, just wish I'd done it sooner.

Are you a volunteer, or have you considered doing it?

Monday, 30 May 2016

Success happens one pound at a time

eat less, move more

One of the unexpected repercussions of my daughter's illness, is that it's prompted me to take stock of my own health.

When you're a single parent and your child becomes ill it hammers home the message, more than ever before, that you are it. The buck stops with you kiddo, so look after yourself.  I've always know this, of course I have, but when you're faced with an uncertain future it really does concentrate the mind on what's important.

So I took a long overdue look at my health and more importantly decided to do something about it.

To cut a long story short I've lost 2 stone (28lbs) since January.  I could have probably lost a lot more than that, but I didn't want to do a diet plan or go to a weekly weigh-in class - just not my cup of tea - so I decided to try the 'eat less and move more' approach.

Nothing fancy required, no weighing out of portions, or counting points or calories, just quite simply eating less than I normally did and getting more exercise.   I take the dog for longer walks, and have recently started going to Zumba classes, which I love! (now there's a sentence I didn't expect to be writing this year!)

First of all I cut out unhealthy snacks between meals - all the cheeky biscuits, cakes, crisps and chocolate bars that I was in the habit of eating regularly had to go.

In their place came fruit, yoghurts and nuts.  I allow myself two snacks a day nowadays - one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and they're usually a banana or apple, and a handful of nuts.

For breakfast I eat the same as I always did - cereal, usually a bran flake type cereal, muesli or porridge - but I use semi-skimmed milk and I watch my portion size.

For lunch, I might have a sandwich, soup, or sometimes a jacket potato with a healthy filling, or my current favourite, poached eggs on granary toast.

For dinner, it'll be fish with plenty of veggies, pasta or a big colourful salad with salmon or tuna.

I still have treats at the weekend though - maybe a takeaway or a meal out, and a couple of glasses of wine - because it makes it easier to maintain the good behaviour for the rest of the week.  But here's the difference: I don't overdo it, and when the weekend is over I go back to my sensible eating plan.

eat less, move more

I still have a long way to go to get to my ideal weight (I want to lose 6 stone altogether, no biggie...)  but the difference is that I know I can do it. It's such a change in outlook to think that I have control over my eating, and that even if I have a bad day it's not the end of the world. I just start afresh the next day and keep going.  I'm taking control of my weight one pound at a time.

Eat less, move more. It's not groundbreaking stuff, but it works.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

When life throws you a curveball

Well, this is a bit of a surprise isn't it?

I wasn't expecting to blog for a while, if ever, after taking a prolonged break but here I am again. After an unexpected start to the year, I've had little time to blog, but recently as life as started to settle down again I've began to miss my little corner of the internet.

This year didn't get off to a good start for us.  In January my 16 year old daughter, aka Tall Daughter, became seriously ill.  It was all very sudden, completely out of the blue, and was a bit of a shock to us to say the least.

Out of respect for my daughter's wishes I'm not going to discuss her medical condition on here, so please bear with me for sounding cryptic, but all I can say is that thankfully it's not a life-threatening illness, but it is a life-changing one.

She was diagnosed and treated very quickly courtesy of our wonderful NHS, and continues to get excellent care and treatment. At the moment, she is at home and settled and we can see a way forward, but it's had some pretty devastating repercussions for her.

Her illness has resulted in her missing huge amounts of school at the beginning of the year and has only been able to return to a part-time timetable, which has meant missing some critical parts of the GCSE curriculum and most of the revision classes, yet despite this she has soldiered on and, so far, has sat all of her exams. She has a few more to go, so fingers crossed.

The last few months have been very difficult for her, and she's worried about the impact it'll have on her GCSE results.  We've had many long conversations about what she'll do and what will happen if she doesn't get her predicted grades, but her health has to come first and we'll just have to figure out the rest later. I'm incredibly proud of her.

You know that saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans"? That seems particularly apt this year.  We were just getting to the stage where I had lots of free time, with one daughter at uni and the other one due to start college, and both of them developing into very independent young women,   But this year isn't turning out the way we expected it to and, hand on heart, I can tell you that this is the hardest thing I've had to deal with as a parent.

But, we have a lot to be thankful for, and as I keep saying to Tall Daughter, everything is going to be okay.

Anyway, how are you? How has your year been so far?