60 new things to do now I’m 60

As I had a big birthday recently, my husband suggested I make a list of sixty new things to do now I’m sixty – there’s a challenge!

Reviving my neglected blog doesn’t count as a new thing, but I thought committing a few ideas to paper might help – as a friend pointed out, if I intend to do them all before next birthday, I’d better get my skates on!  Here’s a few ideas I have already, but I need your suggestions – the only criteria is that they should be fun and fulfilling.

Creative Fun – Tell stories at Whitby Folk Festival, create a songs and stories show with the fabulous Jamie Cook to perform at Staveley Folk Weekend in August, perform songs with a choir, learn to play my baritone ukulele . . .

New Skills – Learn (a few words!) of a new language, make something on a potter’s wheel, be an Airbnb host, master some hula hoop tricks  . . .

Outdoor Fun – climb a new mountain, swim in a new lake, canoe somewhere new, do a park run . . .

New places to visit – Slovenia, a Scottish island, Festival at the Edge . . .

Now, over to you – suggestions I’ve had already are skydiving (sorry, not very keen on heights), pole dancing (bit uncoordinated for that), drinking champagne every day (my liver and my bank balance have vetoed that one) and doing an escape room (no idea, but it sounds fun).  Also several suggestions for books I should read, films I should see, bands I should listen to, foods I should try . . .

Will your suggestion make my list?  Let’s see how many I can tick off before next birthday!

Three Lakes Challenge Update!

We did it – and how! So proud to be one of the team of twenty people who took on the challenge of rowing 38 km along the three longest lakes in the Lake District in under 12 hours last week.  We paddled the length of Ullswater in Voyager canoes, Coniston Water in Canadian canoes, and tackled Windermere – England’s largest lake – from the southern tip to the northern end in rowing boats.
voyager canoeWhat a tough but brilliant day, from setting off in the half-light at 6.30 am to find overnight snow had fallen, making The Struggle – the famously steep road linking Ambleside to the Kirkstone Pass – quite a hair-raising challenge for our minibus driver!  Thankfully we got to Glenridding safely and piled into two Voyager canoes to set off to paddle along the length of Ullswater, the calm conditions and  perfect reflections creating a picture postcard backdrop to our efforts.
canoes croppedHaving worked up an appetite it didn’t seem too long until we were back at Brathay enjoying a freshly-cooked breakfast before on to Coniston Water and into rafted Canadian canoes. A sudden blustery head wind and torrential rain had us working hard, but fortunately the storm passed and sunshine and showers – with lovely low rainbows across the lake – accompanied us for the rest of the journey.
Good photo from Tali

The final leg of the journey was the longest, but over three hours of steady rowing in whaler boats brought us from Fell Foot park at the southern tip of Windermere back to Brathay boathouse and a celebratory glass of fizz on the front lawn.

Susie’s aim – to share a unique and unforgettable experience with her family and friends – had been fully realised; it was a day all of us will remember for years to come.  Thanks to teamwork – together with the support of Brathay staff and volunteers – we completed the challenge in just under ten hours. That’s not the only record smashed as originally we hoped to raise £2,000 for CancerCare – yet the total donated has already more than doubled that.  You can still donate to this fantastic local charity here.susie canoe

Susie was able to participate fully in the whole experience thanks to a specially-designed canoe seat to support her back and enable her to paddle and steer throughout the day.  Her courage and good humour were the best motivation we could have to keep going and fulfil her dream.

“. . . and may every dip of your paddle lead you toward a rediscovery of yourself, of your canoeing companions, of the wonders of nature, and of the unmatched physical and spiritual rapture made possible by the humble canoe”.

Celebrating Life

Long time no blog post, but I wanted to let you all know that I shall be taking part in a fantastic fundraising challenge this month.  I will be joining friends to complete the Three Lakes Challenge –  rowing 38 km along the three longest lakes in the Lake District – Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston Water – in under 12 hours.  Our target is to raise £2,000 for CancerCare, a wonderful local charity that offers a wide range of free professional  therapy services, designed to help individuals and their families come to terms with and manage the challenges of a serious health condition. This challenge has been organised by my friend Susie Bate and her family.  In September 2014 (the same week that I was diagnosed with breast cancer) tests showed that Susie had myeloma, a form of cancer affecting the bone marrow.  I was lucky – my surgery and treatment happened very quickly and I was soon on the road to recovery – but Susie’s surgery to remove spinal tumours and her subsequent bone marrow transplant were much more serious and involved lengthy stays in hospital.  Nonetheless as you can see from the photo below nothing wipes the smile from Susie’s face and she continues to be an inspiration to all who know her. How typical that her positive thinking has led her to plan this special Celebration of Life for her family and friends, which will also raise money for an organisation that has helped us both.

Admittedly when a friend first suggested I checked out CancerCare‘s services, I was dubious – I don’t take kindly to illness and would rather avoid it whenever possible.  I secretly thought it might be a bit depressing to be in the company of other people who were or had been ill, and that the organisation might be a bit gloomy.  How wrong I was! CancerCare in Kendal has a lovely bright, airy building with kind, cheerful and welcoming staff.  Before long I was having deliciously relaxing aromatherapy massages with a wonderfully skilled therapist, and have since joined a singing group which meets weekly. Far from taking things too seriously, we have a great laugh together (and home-made cake!)  Under the inspiring guidance of our natural voice teacher David Burbidge – who has a knack of encouraging people to enjoy singing even if they think they can’t – we learn simple harmony songs from around the world and are often amazed at the beautiful sounds that we manage to make together. CancerCare Logo 2014 secondary white blue.1CancerCare offers a raft of other services including counselling, hypnotherapy, Alexander technique and children and young people’s therapies, as well as a range of arts and crafts groups. It has worked with over 22,000 local people affected by cancer and life limiting conditions over the last thirty-odd years, so I’m sure it will have touched the lives of some people reading this. I would so appreciate it if you would visit the JustGiving page which Susie’s daughter Natalia has set up and help us to reach our target.

I’ll let you know how it goes – it’s a while since I did the kind of leisurely paddling which is normally the limit of my exertions! Here’s hoping for some spring sunshine and maybe the glimpse of a kingfisher or two.

‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’. – from ‘The Wind in the Willows’


Good News and Thanks

The rollercoaster reached a peak yesterday with the news that my test results are clear, therefore no need for any follow-up treatment except for careful monitoring.  I feel very lucky to have got off so lightly and can concentrate on recovering my strength and mobility without that anxiety hanging over me.  So definitely time for some thanks!

Thank you to my husband Garry, for all the love and care, delicious meals, cups of tea, and positive thoughts.  Not to mention such glamorous tasks as helping me shower and drying my hair – you have been the best nurse.

Some of my lovely cards and flowers

Than you to all my wonderful family and friends, for all the support, lovely meals, kind messages, flowers, gifts, visits, trips out for lunch and coffee, and help with hospital appointments.  I couldn’t have done it without you! 🙂

The NHS, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve rather taken for granted before having only had minor ailments.  (Though if we need reminding of what our country would be like without it, listen to 91-year-old war veteran Harry Smith’s impassioned speech here). The care I’ve had from my surgeon and a skilled team of nurses and other staff has been exemplary, and I will take a much greater interest in the politicians’ plans in future.

My body, which like your body is an amazing piece of kit.  Mine has swum in a few lakes, climbed a few mountains, walked over burning coals once (thanks Matt!) and most astonishing of all conceived, grown and produced two brand-new human beings. So harbouring a few dodgy cells is a mere blip in its otherwise unblemished career and I’m taking good care of it on its journey back to full health.

Me enjoying the autumn sunshine at Sprint Mill

Special thoughts are with my friend Susie who is receiving treatment for myeloma, and with the health professionals who are caring for her.

Poem of the Week


Stephen Dunn

A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all
the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,
with its perfect bridge above
the crocodiles,
and its doors forever open.

Life is a Rollercoaster

Ashamed to say it’s over a year since I wrote my last blog post. I had a pause while I got to grips with training for a new job doing health education in schools, then never got round to taking it up again. So in the spirit of an annual ’round robin’ here’s a very brief outline of some of our family’s highs and lows of the past year.

The bad news: In February, my husband Garry got made redundant after 23 years in a job he loved and was brilliant at.

The good news: He’s still doing the work he loves but now he’s the boss – result!

The bad news:  In March, our eldest son Chris injured his knee so badly when out slack-lining (don’t ask) that he now needs an operation to fix it.

laughing-monkey-16660689The good news: An enforced rest period meant he had lots of time to concentrate on studying for the final year of his degree.

Hahahaha just my little joke – I meant he was able to get on with his longtime ambition to take a comedy magic show to the Edinburgh Fringe, the biggest arts festival in the world.

10615993_816089475103197_6426291970961838699_nAnd although there were over three thousand performers to choose from, every single day a crowd piled into Chris’s show until it was bursting at the seams and garnered a clutch of glowing reviews.  Read about his amazing August here.

The bad news: This month, I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine check.

The good news: It’s early stage and very treatable.

The bad news: This time next week I have to say goodbye to a breast that’s led a pretty blameless life and did a good job feeding two babies.CELEBRATING THEIR 4OTH BIRTHDAYS PINKY AND PERKY ARE MAKING A RE

The good news: I get a hi-tech implant built using pigskin, which means my boobs will hereafter be known as Pinky and Perky.

The bad news: Chris has also got an October date for his knee operation, which means I’ll only be chief invalid for a fortnight before my position’s usurped by a drama queen on crutches. Father-Ted-007

The good news: We’ve scored the box set of Father Ted for some post-op laughter therapy 🙂  Any more suggestions for happiness boosts gratefully received!



Poem of the week

A one-line cheering mantra in giant neon letters I saw last week at the Edinburgh Museum of Modern Art. _48669907_creed_466 (2) - Copy

Small is Beautiful

1582Whenever I watch Glastonbury at home on the telly, I feel rather thankful that I’m getting a better view than the tiny dots at the back of the crowd (and that I have the luxury of indoor plumbing).  However as you know from previous posts, I’m crazy about live music so I love a good festival.  I just prefer the ones where you can be up close and personal with the performers and only have a few yards to crawl to your tent at the end of the night – for me that’s a perfect summer weekend.

The gorgeous weather helped to make two July weekends in a row the pinnacle of happiness for me – Furness Tradition followed by Music on the Marr, both small but perfectly formed events with something for everyone, from soulful tunes to foot-stomping bands with storytelling and dance thrown in for good measure.  I’m sure no big festival can ever match them for warmth and friendliness, and it’s wonderful to have a platform here in Cumbria for young and talented musicians to showcase their skills on the same stage as world-class performers with years of experience.    Continue reading

Coming soon – the Edinburgh Fringe!

994281_10152925602845207_1115211060_nHaving the time of our lives here in the beautiful Lake District, with tropical sunshine, outdoor swims in breathtaking locations and music, dancing and storytelling festivals galore.

Will share the happiness soon but in the meantime please click here to enjoy a guest post I wrote for award-winning blogsite The Quirky Traveller – if you’re a new visitor to the Edinburgh Fringe this year you need my top tips to make the most of it!  And if you’re a veteran, why not share your favourite tips below?

Father’s Day Gifts

546120_461213067244937_869093068_nIt was Father’s Day yesterday – traditionally a time to say thank you to dads everywhere and perhaps give them a token of appreciation.  Mine isn’t here to do that, so I thought I’d write about the gifts he gave me instead.

My dad was old-school, in that he wasn’t present at the birth of his children and never changed a nappy – men didn’t much, at that time. Though come to think of it he wasn’t too hot at some of the masculine roles either – it was my mum who painted the house and wallpapered, and took charge of the finances (counting coins into carefully labelled envelopes in those pre-direct debit days).  Nevertheless he was so delighted at my early-morning home birth  that I seem to remember a tale about him jumping on a bicycle half-dressed and rushing off to tell my grandmother that he had a daughter at last (after three sons), ignoring the racing pedals cutting into his bare feet.  Seems a little unlikely (surely it wouldn’t have taken a minute to put his shoes on?) so perhaps like all the best stories, not meant to be taken literally!    Continue reading

Love, Life and Loss

017Another spring, another photograph of my favourite bluebell woods in full bloom – and a reminder that it’s over a year since I started writing my blog.  I’ve been silent for a while, not quite knowing how to write about happiness at a time of sorrow, as news of three friends coping with sudden and shocking bereavements has reached me over the last couple of months.

I guess we all fool ourselves that we are in control of our lives, until something so harsh and unexpected confronts us with the truth – that we really don’t know what tomorrow holds for certain.  Our human need to make sense of things, to understand and piece together the jigsaw, is challenged when life is shattered so suddenly.  We have so many questions, yet there are no easy answers.    Continue reading

Happy April Fool’s Day!

How great that we have a special day to celebrate jokes and pranks!  Apparently as far back as the Romans many different cultures have had days of foolishness around late March or  the beginning of April – perhaps there’s something about the time of year, with the turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to light-hearted moments.  (Especially so this year when winter has outstayed its welcome – we’re all ready for a bit of spring fever).

Traditionally the laugh is usually at someone else’s expense, and involves tricking the gullible into believing something far-fetched.  My favourite was one pulled by the much-missed astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who on the morning of 1st April 1976 announced on the radio that a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was about to take place. He said the planets Pluto and Jupiter were temporarily causing a gravitational alignment and if listeners  jumped in the air at exactly the right moment, they would experience a strange sensation.  So convincing was Patrick that the BBC received hundreds of phone calls from excited listeners – one woman even reported she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room!     Continue reading