A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Friday, 30 September 2011


It's far, far too long since I last blogged.  I'm sorry about that.  I've been a tad busy celebrating my graduation.  I had a big party last Saturday with sixty friends who I think (and hope) all enjoyed themselves with the help of an old friend of mine who plays the saxophone brilliantly and 'did his stuff' with a couple of his jazz-playing friends.  Oh, and we also also had lovely food done by Cafe Bar One, who managed to cater around all my billions of allergies, and those of my friends with other allergies/intolerances, which include gluten, dairy, egg white, quorn, and a low potassium diet.  Quite some achievement.

I hired the hall of St. Barnabas' and St. Jude's church - Barney and Jude's - which is the sister church to mine.  Barney and Jude's hall was done up earlier this year and has gone from being quite drab and unremarkable to being lovely, welcoming, relaxing, and a great venue for a huge variety of events.  I was looking for somewhere within my/my parents' price range when Barney and Jude's had just had its face-lift.  We went to have a look and it was perfect with tables, sofas, a platform area for the musicians, a bar (usually used for tea and coffee, but less of that and more wine and beer at my party), a variety of lighting options, and all in a decent sized hall at excellent rates.

We'd booked the hall from 4pm so that we would have time to set up and decorate.  At first this seemed like a long time, but actually it was just about right, although we'd had to take our party clothes with us and change in the toilets.  It might've been nice to come home to get ready, but we couldn't work out when we might be able to fit in a trip back here as the drinks and glasses were being delivered to the hall at 6pm, the food at 6.30pm, and the party starting at 7pm.  Before that there were banners to put up, photos to put onto boards and find places for, balloons to blow up, tables to move, light switches to locate (this took longer than you might think!), general decorating with party paraphernalia, and other bits and pieces.  Mum and J did most of it, while I did the 'quieter' things so that I had energy for the party itself.

I had a fantastic time.  I have some wonderful friends, I really do.  I'm so thankful to them for coming and helping me to celebrate and for giving me such a wonderful evening.  I'm reluctant to put up photos of the party on here because I haven't asked those in them if it's okay to do so, but I will leave you this evening with a couple of photos of the band:

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The big event

I've been away, and am still away at the moment, in London.  I came down on Wednesday and have been staying with my brother, M, his wife, N, and my two young nephews, O and D.  It's been an exciting time for various different reasons.  Firstly, it was O's first week of school last week.  He's taken to it easily, but D has found it more difficult at nursery without O there too as he's never experienced nursery without O.  D has been the tearful one in the mornings, but apparently (and happily) he's been absolutely fine soon after M has gone home. 

The next exciting thing is that it's D's third birthday next weekend, I brought his birthday presents down with me and gave them to him on my first evening here so that I could see him opening them.  He's well into firemen and Fireman Sam at the moment - his party is going to be Fireman Sam themed - and I bought him a wooden fire engine and figures for his present.  His brother O has had a toy fire engine for a couple of years, but D was desperate to have one of his own.  I knew he was into firemen, but didn't know how desperate he was to have his own, and for the first ten minutes of having it he kept wrapping the box up in the birthday paper again, pulling the paper off, and shouting, 'Surprise!'  He was almost shaking with joy, bless him, and at bed time he wanted to take it upstairs with him so he could look at it in bed.  He then came skulking back downstairs, slunk across the living room floor, and threw himself on me, giving me an enormous hug.  It was like he didn't have enough words to say thank you :o)  Utterly delightful.

Now the main reason for me coming down to London this time, and my really big news, is that I graduated on Friday at The Barbican.  I had the most fantastic day.  My brother, M, came, my mum and step-dad came down from Edinburgh, and my dad and step-mum came down from Newcastle.  There were also two people I've met through the course of my degree with the Open University, and the (grown up) daughter of a friend I've made through the OU but who couldn't come herself.  What was also lovely was that another friend I've made through the OU - F - was graduating at the same time and was only one person in front of me in the ceremony, as we were both graduating with First Class Honours in Literature and our surnames are alphabetically close to each other.  F lives in Edinburgh so I often see her when I go up there to stay with my mum.  It was wonderful to be graduating with her, and we went together to get robed up.

The Vice Chancellor of the Open University is called Martin Bean.  Each graduate was presented to Martin Bean - a very jolly Australian bloke - and I have to say that it does tickle me that I was presented with my degree by Mr Bean, even if it's not the Mr Bean.

After the ceremony I eventually managed to find my family again amongst the crowds, and after we'd had a coffee downstairs we made our way outside, hailed a couple of cabs, and came back to my brother's house, where we were greeted by N, O, and D.  O and D had a little bit of time with Grandma, Poppa J, Grandad, and Granny B before going to bed, but once they were settled (and re-settled as they got up a couple of times, probably because of the excitement of so many family people around) the rest of us ordered Indian take-away for a celebratory meal.  Of course, I couldn't have this because of my allergies, but M made me some wonderful stuffed peppers and potato wedges, and rather than joining them in the champagne they all had (it contains sulphites, to which I'm allergic), I had some lovely apple brandy with Appletiser.  I do miss joining in with things like take aways and champagne, but there are some delicious alternatives, and what I had on Friday certainly felt like celebration food and drink.

My various parents have gone back home now, and I'm going home tomorrow, but I've had a wonderful time, a celebratory time, a very happy time.  I have a lot of good memories to take away with me, and I'm looking forward to getting copies of photos from all who took them, include the official photos.

Friday, 9 September 2011

In passing

Do you ever overhear snippets of conversations and wonder how on earth they fit into the whole?  I was passing a couple of young men the other day as I trundled through the campus of Northumbria University on my way home, when I heard one of them say to other, 'I have a real hatred of shoe laces.'  Was this a comment out of the blue?  Was it part of a wider conversation about shoes?  What does this guy hate so much about shoe laces?  I was almost tempted to turn around and chase after them to ask.  I resisted in the end, thinking that they might think I was stalking them, or at the least very strange.  No comments from the back! ;oP

On a completely different note, I saw the most terrible thing from the bus window the other day.  We were going down the main shopping street on the edge of quite a deprived part of Newcastle and I saw a young man, who I presume was the father, put a cigarette into a child's mouth.  The child must only have been about 4 or 5 years old, and the 'father' was clearly instructing the child on how to light the cigarette.  It was an awful sight.  It's bad enough to see teenagers smoking, let alone very young children being plied with cigarettes.  It made me angry, and so angry that I felt sick.  I think I would go as far as saying I consider what I saw to be child abuse.  What about you?

Friday, 2 September 2011

On the buses

W and I have been to Beamish Museum three times this summer, most recently on Wednesday.  It's a great day out - a 'living' open-air museum, covering a vast area, depicting life in the late 19th century/early 20th century in northern England.  It's a fascinating place, lots of fun and great for all ages.

The first time, W and I went in my car, taking my attendant-assisted wheelchair.  W pushed me around in it all day, and although she doesn't mind doing this, it is a heck of a lot of work, especially on the cobbles and up and down the hills at Beamish.  The second and third times we went, W drove and I got the bus so that I could go in Taz (my electric wheelchair) - much better all-round, although it did mean a pretty early start for me.

I think the first time I went to Beamish in Taz was in late July.  It means getting a bus from my house into town, and then a bus from town to Beamish, which is in County Durham and takes almost an hour on the bus.  When the bus from town (28) arrived at the bus station the driver informed me that I wouldn't be able to get on the bus because the ramp was broken, but then it transpired that because this bus service is advertised as accessible, and it was the bus company's fault that this particular bus wasn't accessible, they have a legal obligation to get me to my destination.  The bus company ended up paying for a taxi to take me from Newcastle to Beamish, costing them £28.80.  I was told that the same thing would probably happen on the way back.  The route is covered by the numbers 28 and 28A buses, both of which do a circular route, though ever so slightly different.  As it turned out that day the weather was atrocious so W and I abandoned our Beamish visit after 4 hours of getting soaked, and the first bus that came was the 28A, the ramp of which was working fine.

I thought that the ramp on the 28 would probably have been fixed by the time we went back to Beamish on Wednesday, but it turned out not to be.  Again the bus company paid for a taxi to take me from Newcastle to Beamish, this time costing them £15.50 (they used a different company).  After a fantastic day together (about which I'll do another post sometime soon with some photos), W and I headed for the exit and the last bus (W waited at the bus stop with me before she drove home).  It arrived, and it was the 28 with the broken ramp, so we had to go through the rigmarole of having the bus driver phone through to control to get them to sort out a taxi and to pass on my details so control could phone me back and let me know how long I'd have to wait.  The call took longer than usual to come through on my mobile and when it did, control were ever so apologetic, but they couldn't get me a taxi as it was rush hour and all the taxi companies they'd tried were busy.  Instead they were sending a bus from not-too-far-away Chester-le-Street to take me to Newcastle.  A whole bus just for me!

While W and I waited for this personal bus service to arrive, a family of three generations came to the bus stop to find that they'd missed the last bus back to Newcastle.  They weren't very happy.  I explained my own situation and said that if they were sending a whole bus just for me then it'd be really mean of the bus company to refuse to take them too, seeing as I was going exactly where they wanted to go.  We decided that we'd team up and they could chance it.

Then the bus arrived.  Not only did I have a whole bus to myself, but I had a whole, bright pink, double-decker bus!  All for me!  Just me (so far as control were concerned)!  Well the bus driver was a cheery fellow and he had no qualms at all about taking the additional passengers, and he let them all travel for free :o)  I get free travel on the buses anyway as a disabled passenger :o)

But the saga wasn't over.  No.  Just as I was getting on to the private, pink monster-bus, the 28A doing it's last journey for the day to Chester-le-Street pulled up at the bus stop and said that control had been on the radio saying that we may have to swap buses because they suddenly realised that the double-decker wouldn't be able to get under a low bridge on the 28's usual route.  It would've made sense to swap the buses over as there were only 7 of us on the pink monster-bus, whereas the single-decker 28A was jam-packed with people standing in the aisles.  However, it was decided that the pink monster-bus would divert from the usual route of the 28, at first going all round the houses and then onto the A1, so as to avoid the problem low bridge.

After setting off, the driver put some lights on for us inside the bus, then he started playing with them, flashing them on and off saying that it was party time and he thought we should have disco :o)  I was secretly glad when he didn't continue playing with the light switch as he drove us round some fairly twisty roads.  Then he said that we needed some music, but he didn't have a stereo so someone should sing.  Well the family of three generations had two very young children amongst their number, so they started off singing 'The wheels on the bus go round and round' :o)  It was all very jolly, and totally, totally mad.