Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Later on the 30th...

Several doses of honey and lemon later (the recommendation of my lovely friend Joe), a couple of naps and I’m feeling almost human again. The cold is definitely on its way out. Furthermore, things have continued to fall into place absolutely beautifully and everything I have attempted to do today – or arrange to have done – has gone incredibly well. Sometimes you just have to admit to yourself that you are overwhelmed. Once you acknowledge it, and pray for help, its amazing how it all falls into place. I never thought I’d be happy the coffee maker flooded, but I have to admit I am!

Finally, the Penny Drops

You may wonder why I have put a picture of my coffee maker in my blog. Read on and all will be revealed.

The past few days have gone really well. I’ve been really busy but most things have fallen into place even better than I could have hoped. I had my best run outside ever with my personal trainer on Monday, my Pilates class on Tuesday was really challenging and I did well, I’ve started to get the house and kitchen more organised, and various bits of paperwork and business have come together beautifully. The only really negative thing that has happened is that I have developed a cold, one that seems to keep getting worse and kind of borders on flu.

I don’t “do” colds or flu anymore. You see, several years ago I had several repeated doses of colds and flu – including a very nagging cough that kept coming back. Various visits to the doctor revealed nothing untoward, just a predisposition – or so it seemed – to lots of colds. The words “run down” kept popping up in his diagnosis. In desperation I tried reflexology and did some reading about mind and body connections – how we influence our own health. The benefits of the reflexology, combined with this new knowledge, were quite amazing. The colds disappeared completely. Since then I have managed to really stay on top of my health and I really have not had a proper cold in ages. Even through the worst of our stresses this last year, I never actually succumbed to a cold. A few colds made some rather valiant attempts to catch me, but they never succeeded.

Until now that is. I’ve been fighting this cold with all my arsenal of techniques, including some over the counter medication and some more traditional remedies, but it has left me coughing, sneezing, congested and feeling like crap. Today is the worst it has been. I am totally exhausted and want nothing more than to lie down and go to sleep. This is not me at all, and anyway, I can’t go to sleep as there is a chap here fixing the ceiling in the kitchen – which was slightly damaged when we had a mild leak in one of our pipes about a month ago. Aside from which, I don’t “do” naps either – except in emergencies.

Last night, in an incident that seemed unrelated at the time, I was talking to Guy and expressing my frustration with myself. I told him how I cannot understand why I am having such a hard time moving on and getting on with life post Mom and Dad’s deaths. They had both been ill for some time, and their deaths were hardly a shock, but coming so close together, and seeing them suffer so horribly has just thrown me way beyond what I thought anything ever could.

Guy reminded me that it has only been four months since my Mom died, and five since my Dad died. He also reminded me that the last nine months – since our lovely cat Elwood died on my birthday in June last year, have been a bit of a blur of stress really. First there was Woody dying, then my Aunt – who was also my Godmother – died, and then our other lovely cat boy Jake died. Just after that Guy was offered his wonderful new job but it meant moving 150 miles – but not straight away as first we had to sell our house and find somewhere to buy – and then there would be three months of countless trips up and down the motorway, living between Derby and Reading until our new house was finished. In the middle of that time my Dad died in my arms after I had taken the doctor’s recommendation that there was absolutely nothing more could be done and we needed to stop supporting his life artificially. Even though that is what Dad would have wanted – indeed what he made me promise to do on many occasions – it has haunted me ever since. The doctor said it was not my decision at all, it was Dad’s body making the decision, but I still feel very responsible. I also cannot get over the shock of finding out that dying is not always the peaceful experience we would have it be for our loved ones. Dad’s end was peaceful, but his journey to the end was not.

Three weeks after Dad’s memorial service we moved into our wonderful new house – a home for which I am so grateful and feel blessed to have. But on the night of our move we had an accident in Guy’s car . The car ended up impaled on a spike that someone had left to stop people parking in their space near our flat in Reading – but it was too dark to see it when we attempted to turn round in a dead end street and our car ended up impaled on it. Bit of a stressful moving day that was! Less than two weeks after that, we went back to Canada for Christmas. Thank goodness we did as we had a lovely Christmas with Mom, but following that there was the stress of trying to get her settled in a new wing where she could get more care – and the slowly dawning realisation that she really did not want to be alive without my Dad and that that she would do everything she could to make sure she was not. I chose to ignore it, but in retrospect, it was absolutely obvious – in the two weeks before our arrival in Canada Mom had lost eight kilos, and aside from Christmas day she ate virtually nothing – despite constant encouragement – the whole time we were there. Three days after we got back home from Canada – which was three weeks after we had moved into our new home and a day we spent sorting out the emptying of the Reading flat - my Mom died. Mom had not appeared to be near death when we left, and there was no way I could get back in time, but I still feel horrendous guilt that I was not with her. If I’m honest, I think she wanted to spare me that, and made sure I could not be there by working so hard to present the illusion of being okay when we left, but I feel guilty nonetheless. There is nothing worse than having to call the Emergency Room of the hospital and say “My Mom has just died in Emergency” and I’m 3,500 miles away”. However nice folks are to you in that situation, you do wonder what they are thinking. Then there was the agony of Mom’s memorial service – which for me was really like a funeral for both my parents - and having to sort everything out in Canada (thank goodness I had help with that!). Since we got home there has been a lot of stress and worry about trying to get everything sorted out in Canada from a distance of 3,500 miles away and there is unpacking still to be done in the house. Not to mention the stress of five trans-Atlantic flights in five months. Oh and Alex – who has is in the middle of exams - has been having problems with a rather nasty bully and his cohorts (referred to as scissor boy in previous blog entries) and we are all trying to deal with a huge amount of grief. So while I protest that I am feeling settled, I think I maybe am not quite so settled as I thought.

Then this morning another seemingly unrelated thing happened. We have a wonderful programmable coffee maker which I can set to come on automatically every morning. I love how this device enables me to come down to the smell of freshly brewed coffee every morning. It means that when I wake up I am only minutes away from a lovely hot cup of coffee. I set it up to run last night in my usual flurry of activity before bed. This morning I came downstairs only to discover that there was a flood of coffee all over the worktop. I had forgotten to put the urn in the coffee maker. I was so cross with myself I could hardly see straight.

It was not until about an hour ago that I realised that the java flood, and my cold, are God telling me to just slow down and be a bit more patient with myself. If I don’t, I’m going to start to make mistakes much more serious than forgetting to put the urn in the coffee maker. If I thought I was coping completely, forgetting something as simple as putting the coffee urn in place has certainly reminded me that I am firing on slightly fewer than all my cylinders. And as I was refusing to slow down voluntarily, this cold has kind of forced me to – particularly today. It is at the stage where no one wants you around - a sneezing, coughing, runny nosed person is the modern day equivalent of Typhoid Mary. Still, I’m struggling to keep going, tidying and cleaning for all I’m worth. Yet as I sit here writing, coughing and spluttering all the while, I realise that something has to give. In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that colds are often a reaction to too much going on at once. I think I could safely say that is certainly the case with me.

I think it is possible I may be trying to get the house perfect in order to hang on to some illusion of control – it’s almost like I’m thinking that if I can control that I can control my grief. A bit like I tried to control the confusion of growing up by developing anorexia nervosa in my late teens, and just about as sensible. I have to accept that I can slow down, stop rushing round trying to make the house perfect and lose the cold, or keep struggling on and be sick for weeks. That’s not my style at all, so as soon as the chap in the kitchen is finished, I’m going to curl up on the sofa and have a nap. The house can wait. A lovely lady told me once to “be patient with yourself in your grief.” Advice I am finally going to take. As for this cold, it’s hours are numbered!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

27th April 2008

Today would have been Mom’s 81st birthday, and Mom and Dad’s 51st wedding anniversary. So today was hard. I tried to just be as busy as possible and fill the day with things that were either fun, or useful. And I knew I needed, and wanted, to take a walk up to the dell where we scattered Mom and Dad’s ashes. That’s a picture of the place we scattered them, above. It’s deep in the woods, in a dell (or hollow) full of birch trees. This time of year it is full of bluebells. As you walk into the wood you can smell the little blue flowers, a really lovely delicate fragrance. They are everywhere, in fact it is hard not to step on them. Everyone in England talks about woods full of bluebells, but this is the first time I have actually seen a bluebell wood for real and walked in it. The picture does not do it justice, and I cannot find adequate words to describe the amazing carpet of blue as far as the eye can see and beyond. And to think when we decided on the dell, I had no idea there would be bluebells there. I’m so grateful we were led to this gorgeous peaceful place.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday 26th April 2008

We drove to Burton-on-Trent again this morning as Guy and Alex had appointments for haircuts and Guy and I had appointments with our aesthetician. It takes us just under three hours to get back up there, and as we were due to meet our friend for lunch we left just before 9.30am. Sadly, she cancelled at 9.40am – which was kind of annoying as we could have slept in and left much later. Our earliest appointment was 2pm. Never mind.

We stopped off at The Spread Eagle in Rolleston-on-Dove for lunch. It was always one of our favourite pubs, but lately the food has just not been up to scratch and today was no exception. We ordered steak sandwiches which were cold. It’s a shame because the manager and staff are so friendly, but the food really lets them down. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back soon. It was so disappointing. Anyway, we headed off to Burton and I managed to nip in and get my fringe (bangs) trimmed before my appointment with Eve, our aesthetician at Eden Beauty in Burton. I had an oxygen facial this time – apparently Madonna has them. Well, I didn’t come out looking as good as Madonna – who I think is looking absolutely amazing in her most recent video 4 Minutes - but I did come out looking very rested!!

After we had finished in Burton we headed back home, stopping at The Swan in Pangbourne for dinner on the way home. We really enjoyed ourselves. The atmosphere is lovely there and it is super being right on the water. Folks even moor up their boats at the moorings outside and nip in for a pint or some dinner! The staff are wonderful and the manager was very concerned as the food service was a bit slow due to the fact that they had a party of 45 in for dinner. He kept coming over to apologise and eventually offered us free drinks which was very nice. When our food did arrive it was absolutely delicious, piping hot and beautifully presented. I think we’ve found a new favourite pub!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our new living room

Here it is, our new living room as designed by Elizabeth Hothi at Laura Ashley design services. I was a bit worried as I was very brave and went for red, a colour I have never used in decorating before – but I am really pleased with the results. We already had the coffee table in the centre of the room, the painting over the mantelpiece, the bookshelf behind the chair and the piano, which is one of our favourite pieces of furniture.

When Alex started piano lessons at age 7 we looked everywhere for a piano but I found all the ones we looked at to be quite soulless, particularly the very modern ones. We were finally referred to Eric Reynolds Piano Workshop in Burton-on-Trent. If you walk through their modern showroom, you eventually come upon a lovely room at the back full of old, refurbished pianos. As we wandered through the workshop, we saw several beautiful examples of pianos with soul, from the baby grand piano built in 1899 to the piano in the corner that kept catching our eye. It was all inlaid walnut and so old you could see where the candlesticks used to be installed on the front of it. The gentleman who had refurbished it (then aged ninety!) explained that the piano had arrived at their workshops painted completely black as the owners had wanted to make it look more modern. He had begun by getting rid of the black paint, and discovered the beautiful walnut beneath. He dated the piano as late Victorian or Edwardian, sometime around 1899 to 1901. I have never had anything ever speak to me as that piano did. I could visualise it, candles aglow at the centre of a large group of people dressed in their best, all standing around singing sometime in the early part of the last century. I had to have it. I thought perhaps I was being a tad over-romantic but one look at Guy and Alex confirmed I was not the only one. We all fell in love with our piano, and bought it on the spot. It’s been with us ever since and I cannot imagine ever parting with it.

As for the painting over the mantelpiece, that belonged to my Grandmother. I’m told she bought it on impulse, loving it on sight because the old man looked so kindly. Because of his red hat, both my Mom and I grew up thinking he was Santa Claus, but inspection with a more mature eye shows an old sailor looking back at you. I’ve always been terribly fond of the painting, and used to always go and see it last thing before we left my parent’s house whenever we went to visit them. About ten years ago Mom and Dad sent the old man over with a shipment of family furniture for me and he has been one of my most precious possessions ever since. He looks good in the new living room, the red really brings out the colour in his hat and cravat. I did not plan to put him in there, he just kind of found his way one night when we were wandering round with paintings and photographs wondering where to hang them. It wasn’t until today when the furniture arrived that I realised just how good he would look!

Inspired by our lovely new living room, today Guy and I tackled the study. We moved the furniture all around and finally began to get thing sorted out. I know it sounds weird, but the room actually feels “lighter” now we have done it. It was like all the upset and sorrow over Mom and Dad had taken up residence in the room (along with all their paperwork!) and was literally sucking the energy out. Now it feels lighter, brighter and much prettier. It is not quite finished yet so no pictures! But we are definitely getting there.

There may still be boxes and suitcases, and we still have a long way to go before it is all organised and gorgeous, but it despite that, our house is beginning to feel like home. And after everything we have been through since last June, it really is lovely to finally be home.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Settling in Back at Home

I have spent the last few days in the usual fog of jet lag, although I have done everything I could to fight it – including a Pilates class and a session with my personal trainer on Tuesday. Just unpacking seems to take so long, and of course there is still the unpacking from the move to do. Thankfully this is a little less metaphysically daunting now that we have sorted out so much of the things we needed to do for Mom and Dad’s estate. The hurt doesn’t go away, but the anxiety attached to it is slightly less intense, and this allows me to confront the boxes slightly more effectively.

We’ve had some nice evenings this week. Although Guy has been working long hours, we’ve managed to spend some time together just watching television and relaxing. We downloaded and watched two more episodes of Desperate Housewives which we all enjoy and last night we watched the old film War Games with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. It spoke to Alex in the same way it did to me at his age (which was about how old I was when the film was originally released) – when it pointed out that in a nuclear war the only way to win “is not to play”. We all really enjoyed the film and Guy and I had a good laugh doing a bit of “remember when”. The computers seemed so huge in the film, and as for the floppy disks – could they have been any bigger? I had to laugh when I remembered part of the reason I originally went to see the film (Mom and I went one night when Dad was golfing) was that all those years ago, the fifteen year old me had a crush on Matthew Broderick!

Today I had another Pilates class which challenged me and made me feel I am really moving forward toward my goal of healthy strength. Guy is working late again tonight, this time very late indeed on a very big project. The office is absolutely full of people. Skype is great, I can see him in the office and check in to see how it is all going. The plus side is he is working from home tomorrow. Alex and I had a super TV dinner – pizza, salad and ice cream – and watched three episodes of the new series of Scrubs. It was really good fun.

Tomorrow our new living room furniture arrives and I am really looking forward to that. We have chosen a colour I would never have thought I would – various shades of red, biscuit and cream with mahogany wood. I used the design service at Laura Ashley and I am really excited to see how it all comes together. Pictures to follow!

21st April 2008

We are safely home again and I am absolutely wacked. I don’t know how I can be this tired. Surely I am used to jet lag by now? I’ve spent a lot of today sleeping, and just trying to catch up.

21st April 2008

The picture above is of Union Station, taken from the window of our room at the Royal York. Not visible in the photograph, but in view just beyond the station, were Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands.

Although we were not feeling at all hungry, we went to the Old Spaghetti Factory on The Esplanade in Toronto for dinner last night. When I was about Alex’s age, my Mom and Dad took me there for dinner, and we went more for old times’ sake than anything else. It had not changed at all, and is a great place for a tasty, filling, value for money meal. The décor is very retro, and reminiscent of a funfair, with tiffany lamps and the horses from a merry-go-round in the centre of the room, with tables scattered between them. It was lovely to go back again.

As we are flying out this evening, we arranged for a late checkout, and ordered breakfast to the room. As usual, we all had trouble sleeping the night before our flight, until about 7.30am when we all fell heavily asleep. Breakfast was scheduled to arrive at 9am, and when it did I awoke startled, tumbled out of bed in my pyjamas, hair askew, trying to maintain what little dignity I could in front of the immaculately dressed waiter. Breakfast was beautifully presented on a table which we simply pulled chairs up round. It hardly cost any more than the breakfast we had in the restaurant the day before. Why have I always worried about room service being expensive? In the grand scheme of things it is hardly ever any more expensive than a restaurant – and there is something quite bohemian about eating off china plates and silver cutlery in one’s pyjamas.

We took our time getting packed up and when we had no excuse to linger any further we headed off to see Casa Loma. Again, this was for old times’ sake. Mom, Dad and I had always talked about going and never did. I’m finally learning that you have to carpe diem and not leave things – or else you might never do them. I know for a fact neither Mom nor Dad every visited the castle. Mom was right when she said Casa Loma probably might not be that outstanding once you have seen all the castles that I have seen in England and Europe. Having said that, it was still a stunning property, especially considering that not only is it practically in the centre of Toronto, but there are ordinary houses just across the street. There was also a commercial being filmed so we had the added excitement of lights, cameras and people shouting “quiet please”, “ action” and “cut”! We hardly noticed that this meant there were a couple of rooms we could not see properly. I did enjoy the fact that the cost of the audio tour was included in your admission and that it was very entertaining. I particularly liked the conservatory and also Lady Pellatt’s bedroom suite. It was decorated in Wedgewood Blue – apparently Lady Pellatt’s favourite colour. It is mine as well.

After nipping back to the Royal York briefly to collect a mobile phone we had left behind, we headed towards the airport. As we were a bit early, we decided to go to a mall. Coincidentally, we chose Sherway Gardens, the mall that Mom and Dad took me to the day I left Canada, 13th March 1989 – because we were too early for my flight! I had not been back since, and it was quite emotional walking through it remembering that day. It is a lovely upmarket mall and we all enjoyed perusing the shops, although nothing was purchased. Eventually we headed off to the airport and the British Airways lounge.

I’m looking forward to getting home now.

19th April 2008

I woke up a bit nervous this morning as today was our visit to the CN Tower. I used to love heights. When I was a little girl, my Dad took me up the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls. Mom waited on the ground. I thought she was crazy. Now I understand why she did not want to go up. Having said that, I’m not the sort of person who lets fear stop me from doing something I want to do. When I developed a fear of large birds, I did a falconry course. When I realised that abseiling (rappelling) was something I was really quite afraid of, I took the first opportunity (tagging along when Alex went abseiling with the Scouts) to go a 60 foot abseil. So I was not going to let a little acrophobia stop me from having a great day out with Guy and Alex.

Guy had booked lunch at the 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower to encourage me so I was actually quite looking forward to the experience. The 360 Restaurant is at the top of the CN Tower and, as its name suggests, revolves slowly around 360 degrees so that over the period of about an hour you get a complete view of the city of Toronto from your table.

On our way across to the tower, we saw lots of folks either preparing to climb the stairs of the tower and also lots of folks who had clearly just completed the climb. Most of this was being done in aid of the World Wildlife Foundation. Indeed, my friend Becky and her family (the ones who we got together with on Thursday night) were climbing the tower that very morning. We did not see them, and as it turns out they had completed their climb well before we arrived for our one o’clock lunch reservation. The nice thing about having a reservation at the restaurant is that you get to go straight to the head of the queue and the wait for the elevator is not very long at all. The ascent takes only 66 seconds, but when you are in a glass lift with a touch of acrophobia and a huge fear of elevators, it feels like forever. Although I have to confess the view is quite incredible and well worth facing your fears for.

We were greeted at the reception of the restaurant and shown to a table right by the window. It was amazing. Toronto was quite literally at our feet. Guy got us a bottle of bubbly, and we decided to work our way through the menu. The food was just wonderful. I cannot recommend it highly enough. We were allowed to take our time and spent nearly three hours just eating, relaxing and taking in the spectacular view.

After our long lunch, we made our way down to the observation deck and stood (in my case, for milliseconds) on the glass floor. Looking down like that is a mind blowing experience. Guy and Alex were a bit more relaxed about it and stood there for a bit longer taking in the view literally beneath their feet. The elevator ride back down is quicker, and I was much more comfortable going down, especially when the elevator operator revealed she makes 80 trips up and down every day and has never had a problem.

I have to say that the experience of dining at the top of the CN Tower was simply wonderful, and something I will remember forever. The food and the company were just the best, and it was the most fun I’ve had in ages!

18th April 2008

We headed off to Toronto this morning, arriving at The Royal York around lunchtime. We ate a quick lunch in the Royal Deli downstairs while waiting for our room to be ready. Unfortunately it took ages so we had to leave to meet my cousin Dawn and her husband Gary before we could get into our room.

It was so nice to see Dawn and Gary. They took us to Moxie's, a really nice little place on Yonge Street. We had soft drinks, some snacks and a really good chat. It was a lovely afternoon.

We were running a little late by this point (slightly complicated by the fact that we had left our car park by an emergency exit and so were having some difficulty finding our way back in!) but managed to get across to my cousin Holly and her partner Gary’s house just after our planned arrival time of 6.30pm. We had a wonderful evening with Holly and Gary, plus my cousins Ruby and Heather, and Heather’s two children (who are totally grown up now) Jessica and Sian. It was so nice to have some time with everyone. Alex went out for a drive with Sian and his pickup truck, and it was a really lovely break for him, away from us.

We arrived back at the Royal York quite late this evening. It is such a lovely place, with an incredible lobby. It almost feels like stepping back in time to a more golden age, perhaps the thirties or forties. Our super room was ready and waiting for us. I cannot recommend the Royal York highly enough. It is everything you could possibly wish for in a hotel - a bit of faded grandeur coupled with excellent service. Nothing is too much trouble. It is well worth paying extra for a superior room. Certainly for us – after paying more than £300 per night for something so much smaller in Paris two weeks before – the $259 per night charge seems very good value for money indeed. The room is really large, with two bathrooms, two very comfortable Queen size beds, a sofa, desk, armchair and various other comfortable pieces of furniture plus two huge cupboards for our clothes. I’m told we have a lake view room. Of course, it is too dark to see much of the view tonight, although I can make out Union Station across the road. I shall look forward to seeing more of the view tomorrow morning!

17th April 2008

The Charcoal Steak House has not really changed. It is still a bit pretentious, although a lot more informal than I remember it being. Diners were even wearing jeans. The food was extremely good, but in terms of value for money I have to say I found it a bit overpriced. We did find a very nice Canadian wine at a medium price point that Guy and I enjoyed. I do think it is important for restaurants to offer a good, well priced selection of wines. It was a fun evening, and the steaks were delicious. I can't say I would recommend it above any other restaurant though, both due to the fact that I have had much nicer meals at the same price point, and also because they have never quite got the balance in terms of their service. The waiting staff still seem to have that edge to them - almost as if you are somehow not quite worthy. And I'm sorry, but if I'm the one sitting there paying $250 for dinner and they are the ones waiting on table, I do not think I should be feeling that way!

We got lots done Wednesday in terms of administration and so were able to really enjoy our evening out with my friend Heather and her family. We met up at East Side Mario's on Highland Road in Kitchener and had another super meal. The service was great and we were not rushed so were able to linger and chat which was fantastic. Kudos to this super restaurant for its wonderful staff and consistently delicious food at a great price point. It was so nice to have a good visit with Heather and her family. It was a really lovely evening.

Today we managed to just about finish up with everything in terms of paperwork - not quite, but almost. We went to my friend Becky's house tonight. It was not far from the hotel in a very nice subdivision. She has a lovely house with a fantastic deck, and the weather was so nice we were able to sit outside enjoying a glass of wine. I met her husband of nearly twenty years for the first time (!) and we all got on really well. Alex especially enjoyed having some time with kids his own age as Becky has two sons. He played street hockey with them and had a ball messing around on bikes etc. It was so nice to be able to catch up with Becky again. She had even found some old photographs of Mom and Dad at a party for me which were a real delight and I'm so pleased to have them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Did I Worry?

I did not sleep at all well last night. I was worried sick about everything I have to do for Mom and Dad’s estates, about the taxes, administration and everything in between. I woke up this morning with a sense of dread. I need not have.

First thing this morning we met with the wonderful lady who was my Dad’s accountant for many years. Not only did she used to visit my Dad in hospital when he was sick, she came to both my parents funerals despite the fact she was in the middle of losing someone herself. She is also a kick ass accountant who I cannot recommend highly enough. By two thirty today I realised I need not have worried as everything was in hand. Not only had she given me a really good estimate of the tax for next year, she had got refunds for both my parents’ estates for this year. As she completed the returns in less than four hours, I assumed I might pay a premium. This was not the case. Her charges were more than reasonable – in fact, less than last year! What a star, and what a super lady.

I’ve also got a fantastic lady who helps us at my parents’ bank, and our financial advisor has a wonderful assistant. I even managed to find some really nice folks at Services Canada to help find out what on earth happened to my Dad’s death benefit. (I still don’t understand how anything can be called a death benefit, but there you go.) Okay, everything is not totally sorted, but not sleeping last night was a complete waste of time.

It was a lovely treat to hear from an old friend (in terms of how long I’ve known her, not how old she is!) this morning. She has invited us round to her house for a drink on Thursday night, something I am really looking forward to. I’ve also managed to catch up with my very oldest friend (again, in terms of how long I’ve known her, which in this case is virtually since birth) and sorted out a meeting with her and her family tomorrow night at one of our favourite restaurants. It may be a sad visit in terms of having to sort out everything with Mom and Dad’s stuff, and being confronted with their loss at every turn, but I’m grateful for all the really nice things that are happening as well.

Tonight we are going out for dinner to the Charcoal Steak House. It’s kind of an institution in Kitchener, and I sort of felt the need to go there. It’s the sort of place you go when you have “arrived”, if you are a local. So we’ll see if it lives up to its reputation. Last time we were there was many years ago with my Mom and Dad. Dad wasn’t much into it, as he didn’t have an ounce of pretence to his name, and the Charcoal did once have a reputation for being a bit pretentious. I’m interested to see how it has evolved. I’ll let you know tomorrow!

Monday, April 14, 2008

We're Here....

So the flight did not really get much better. When we had got on, the man in front of us insisted on pushing his bag into the overhead locker, despite the fact there was no room. So when he opened up the locker mid flight, my own bag fell and hit me on the back of the neck. I nearly saw stars. He and his wife could just not understand it later when I was visibly and verbally upset as he got up BEFORE THE SEAT BELT SIGN WAS TURNED OFF, opened up the locker above my head again and left it open. The plane was not fully parked and it is so dangerous doing that. Idiot! Some people just should not fly. I was mildly calmed down by the fact that despite their huge rush, and although they got off the plane before we did, we overtook them, got through immigration, retrieved our luggage and were leaving the arrivals hall whilst they stood still waiting for their luggage which I cruelly hoped was in Beijing.

We had a good run to Kitchener in the rental car we got from Avis. It’s a Chrysler 300, one of the limited edition ones, and it is very nice indeed. After a great dinner at East Side Mario's on Highland Road (where they remembered us from our last visit in January!), we were very happy to call it a day. It was nearly ten o’clock (three in the morning for us) so I thought we did really well.

Saturday morning we set off for Sarnia to visit my cousin Esther and her family. We had such a lovely weekend with them. They are such hospitable people and we all get on so well. Esther is an amazing cook. Everything was just delicious and she makes it look almost effortless. She is also great at sharing recipes and has really got me excited about cooking again. I’m so grateful to Esther and her husband Craig for all the help and support they gave us when Dad and Mom passed away. Their boys are lovely too and Alex had a super time with them.

We stayed with them until this morning when we set off for Kitchener again. Our first stop was Winston Park Retirement Home, where Mom and Dad lived until their deaths. We wanted to say hi to some folks and let them know we were in town. We’ll pop back again, and Alex wants to spend some time there as he has made some wonderful friends there. He can do that when we are having some of our meetings about Mom and Dad’s estates later this week. I have to confess I found it very hard going back to Winston Park. Everything reminds me of Mom and Dad and I’m finding it quite hard to deal with. In fact, almost everything we do and everywhere we go there are things that make me think of them.

We’ve spent the rest of the day chilling out. We spent a bit of time at Fairview Park Mall doing a little light shopping and I even had a manicure. I had been complaining about my nails so Guy encouraged me to do that. It really made me feel better. I don’t know why having neat and tidy red nails makes me so happy but I find it bizarrely comforting. I’m either very easily pleased or incredibly shallow!

Tonight we are off to the Crock and Block Restaurant in Kitchener. I don’t know why we keep going back to places that remind me so much of Mom and Dad. It makes me sad, but on the flip side folks always recognize us and make us feel so very welcome. It’s amazing how many people remember us. I don’t know what it is about us, but we seem to be pretty unforgettable. It is really wonderful.

En Route to Toronto - Friday 11th April

The more I fly, the more I dislike it. I try to look on planes as buses, and not worry about them, but if you scratch the surface I’m a very nervous flyer. I shouldn’t be. I’ve flown dozens of times and despite a few rough landings I’ve only had one really scary occurrence, when the plane could not land properly and we took off again virtually vertically. But if you scratch the surface, I’m one very nervous traveller.

So when the plane lost power this morning for the first time whilst still sitting on the sky bridge I was concerned. When it lost power the second time I was very nervous indeed, and by the time they brought the engineers in I was beginning to perspire almost visibly. I find this very embarrassing, because as a seasoned flyer I really do not think I have any excuse to be afraid. But afraid I was.

Finally the captain announced that everything was sorted out and that he, the engineers and crew could confirm it was safe to fly. Now a dear friend of ours is a pilot with the very same airline I’m flying today and know that there is no way they even consider taking off unless everything is absolutely perfect. Also, as the pilots are also on the plane they have a vested interest in ensuring everything is safe. And yet still I was not comforted.

Then, just as it looked like we could go, a hailstorm blew in from the north, and all take-offs to the north were suspended. AARRGGHHH!! This did nothing to ease my mind and caused us yet another hour’s delay for the storm to blow over and planes to be de-iced. Finally it was time to go, but by then I was just about as nervous as I could be.

I prayed and I do feel much safer, although I will be very glad when we arrive in Toronto. I always dread landing in Toronto due to the “lake effect”. As Toronto is on Lake Ontario there are some very interesting wind effects which make almost every landing bumpy – bumpier than almost every other airport I have been to. The flip side is that if you are taking off in the evening, Toronto airport is one of the most beautiful airports to take off from because of the way the city is lit. It is quite stunning, and as the lake effect does not seem to affect take off, it is usually very relaxing. So it is really the best and the worse of experiences flying into and out of Pearson International Airport.

I’m finding the whole idea of this visit a bit daunting as it is the first visit since we scattered Mom and Dad’s ashes in the dell at Sulham. It seems wildly ironic to me that they are there and we are going to Canada. I always loved arriving in Canada when we were visiting Mom and Dad - particularly when they lived at home, before Winston Park. They would always greet us so happily, even when they were not very well, and we would always sit and chat, having a drink and a few nibbles. I never realised how much I would miss that. So now there are no Mom and Dad waiting for our arrival it seems rather sad and flat.

The folks at the Holiday Inn Kitchener are very nice though and we have stayed there so often this last year that they always recognise us and treat us very kindly so I have to be grateful for that. And we are going to visit my cousin Esther and her family tomorrow which I am really looking forward to, as well as other family and friends throughout the week, so I am lucky to have those things to look forward to as well. It is just all the stuff about the estates I find daunting, mostly because if I am performing my duties as Executrix then my parents must be dead – something I still have not come to terms with. Every time I have to handle the death certificates my blood just runs cold and I feel such a sense of loss. They were so ill, particularly this last year, I thought I was prepared for their passing, but I was not and it is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.

I also dread arriving in Toronto because the immigration folks are often hard to deal with. I know a lot of people want to immigrate to Canada, but I am not one of them. Unfortunately, all the warning flags go up when they see how often we have travelled to Toronto in the last year, and they often cross question us. Usually once I have said about Mom and Dad being ill or them dying it sorts everything out, but it always makes me very nervous. I’m also keen not to upset anyone, but I find it very irritating when Canadian immigration officials seem convinced that we want to live in Canada. Canada is a lovely place to visit but we have a super life in England and I really have absolutely no desire to ever live there again, particularly now my parents have died. It’s always going to seem rather sad for me, although I hope in future to come to terms with it enough to travel some of the parts of Canada I have never been to, and also to show Alex and Guy some of my favourite places like Québec City and Ottawa.

Don’t get me wrong, most immigration officers are very nice, and they are only doing their job. Some even make an effort to ask about things like our local football team, or mention a trip to England they enjoyed. It is just the ones that get a little carried away that are upsetting. Like the one who accused me of running home to Canada and kidnapping Alexander when he was eight months old. Guy did not get much holiday then and he had urged us to go in advance so we could have more time to visit with Mom and Dad. The official would not accept Guy was coming after us, and refused to make phone calls to confirm that. He had me terrified. I stood my ground though and he did let us in, but only after I got very stroppy and told him to either arrest me (which I assured him would be very embarrassing for us both) or let me pass. Thank goodness he saw sense. Then there was the official not long ago who, after determining we did not want to live in Canada, spent what felt like ten minutes listing reasons why he felt we were very stupid for wanting to live in England. He obviously had not enjoyed any of his visits to our green and pleasant land! It’s always okay in the end though, and for that I am very grateful. I just hope we get in without any hassle.

In the meantime I had better sit back, relax and enjoy the flight like Guy and Alex are doing. Guy is watching Apple TV shows on his MAC, and Alex is playing with the games on the entertainment system. I just wish the rather intense turbulence would let up a bit. I know turbulence can’t hurt you, but it’s making me very nervous indeed!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Another crazy week in the 21st Century Household

I have found this week challenging to say the least. We always seem to arrive home from somewhere just in time to pack to go somewhere else. This raises my dilemma. I love travelling but I hate packing! It is not just putting things in bags, it is getting them washed and ironed to put into said bags, making sure you have what you need etc. Even my mantra of, “If we forget something, we can always buy it” no longer comforts me. Added to this is the fact that I do not just pack for me, I pack for the whole household. With the exception of personal toiletries and electronic items, Guy and Alex normally pack nothing for themselves.

This situation is partly my own fault. It arose out of me packing Guy’s bags when he travelled for business, particularly in the days of Commerce One. Guy always made an effort to get home, even if it was just for the evening as often as he could. So when travelling in Europe, instead of leaving Monday and travelling through to Friday as many of the others did, Guy would pop home Tuesday and Thursday night. I cannot begin to describe how much this meant to me. So I became an expert at having a bag ready when he did pop home, so that we could spend the maximum amount of time possible together. Eventually this lead to Guy “forgetting” how to pack, even for vacations. And even if he did remember how, frankly he does not have time anyway.

As for Alex, well, that was my fault too. When he was little it was of course much easier just to do it myself. I then forgot to delegate this task to him at the correct age, and our lives have been so frantic these last few years, it is just easier for me to pack his clothes for him. Having said that, Alex did virtually pack himself for his weekend at Guy’s parents so we could be on to a good thing.

Aside from packing, I have been trying desperately to get the house clean and tidy. I really have to organise a cleaning person when I get back from Canada. The house is far too big for me to manage on my own. Well, it isn’t if all I want to do is clean, but frankly life is far too short for that! I did manage to do the kitchen and utility room floors yesterday. This is a thankless task, involving a lot of scrubbing and mops, and waiting for one bit to dry before I can do the other. My kitchen and utility are huge and you would not believe how long it takes to mop 500 square feet of tiles. Having said that, I am incredibly grateful for such a lovely big kitchen and utility room, so please do not think I am complaining! It is just that by the time I had cooked dinner last night it seemed that the floor was already beginning to get dirty again. Perfect housewife I am not!

I’ve also been putting up three new light fittings which I ordered from Laura Ashley. They are beautiful cream fittings with crystal droplets called Lara pendants. Sadly the crystal droplets are all individually wrapped and tied with elastic bands and each light fitting takes over an hour to get ready to put up. It is also a very painstaking task as I do not want to damage any of the lovely crystal droplets. By the time I had finished the first one I had a raging headache and no patience left. Two more to go!

Exercise has been occupying my mind as well as last week was a bit of a disaster on that score – only one run, one Pilates class and one walk. This week just has to be better. I did well in my personal training session Monday and I ran again today so that is a start. I’ve also packed all my running gear so I can exercise in the hotel gyms while we are away. I’m still trying to make up for last week though. I’m such a perfectionist it drives me crazy when I do not exercise as I should. My personal trainer says I should not be so hard on myself. Pilates is not on this week as my instructor is away. I’ve missed it actually. Although I’ve been practicing Pilates long enough to do floor work on my own, the Polestar classes really make me work well beyond that level and give better results. I do feel so much better when I exercise, and I cope with stress more effectively as well.

Guy is frantically busy at work as well, so is working long hours and this makes planning meals a challenge. I’m getting better at flexibility though. Goodness knows I should have mastered it by now! I just know he’ll come in about 8.30pm Thursday night and we fly out Friday morning. I can’t complain though, he cleaned Alex’s fish tank tonight and that is a horrible task, one I avoid at all costs. The fish look so much happier now!

Well, it is back to the packing for me….

Sunday in Paris - 6th April 2008

Our Eurostar train was not scheduled to leave until 5.43pm, so that left us with virtually a whole day in Paris on our own. We woke up to a hazy start on Sunday morning but the very air itself seemed full of excitement. We could hear the helicopters circling overhead, and when we turned on the television we found out it was the day of the Marathon de Paris. Thousands of runners were there from all over the world to race through the streets of this beautiful city. We decided on a slow start in view of this, and had a leisurely breakfast in the Cluib President restaurant before returning to our room and getting ready to check out.

The concierge at The Meridien agreed to keep our luggage for us so we could go sightseeing unimpeded, and we got out our metro passes for another day of exploration. As we walked to Porte Maillot metro station, we saw two little boys, their mother’s hand in one hand and flags in the other. The flats were inscribed with “courage Papa” and “allez Papa” and must have been encouragement for their father, a runner in the marathon. They disappeared into the metro station in front of us. As for us, we decided to start our sightseeing at the Traocadero. Most of the iconic photographs of the Eiffel Tower were taken from the Trocadero. and the view really is quite spectacular. The Trocadero itself is beautiful as well, with gold statues on each side and a landscaped park down from the huge steps. If you are hungry you can get a gauffre, or French waffle, to munch on whilst you gaze at Gustave Eiffel’s creation. They are always on sale from vendors at the Trocadero. Today, however, we were still full from breakfast, and our view of the tower was different than ever before as thousands of runners were pouring through the street between it and the Trocadero. It was just incredible. It did, however, mean there was no easy way across to the Eiffel Tower unless we wanted to run in front of the marathon runners which seemed a very unwise idea! So we decided to go back to the Champs Élysées. We got off the metro at FDR (Franklin Roosevelt) and walked down to the Jardins desTuileries. These beautiful gardens at the foot of the Champs Élysées are very near the Louvre. There are chairs in the gardens which you can sit in for free, if you can find one available. Two people left just at the right moment and Guy and I sank into the wooden deck chairs to watch the ducks on the pond. It was really idyllic, sitting there in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon.

As we walked back through the Place de la Concorde, we stopped to take some photographs. I love the Place de la Concorde, which is ironic as I normally have a real aversion to places where awful events took place. But for some reason I find it very beautiful and manage to ignore the horrible history that took place there.

Our feet were rather sore, so we hopped back on the metro and stopped for a coffee in Fouquets. Our waiter was rather moody this time and I was disappointed, but that is a risk you take in Paris! The coffee was good, but when the bill is 16 Euro for a café crème and an orange presée, you expect the coffee to be good! Our experience on Saturday at Fouquets was much more memorable. By this time we needed to go back to the hotel to collect our luggage. As we had the day pass for the metro, we decided to be frugal (for the first time that weekend!) and take the metro to the Gare de Nord. It is not a difficult journey and it only took us about half an hour. The Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord is a bit confusing, and not nearly as nice as the facilities in England, but it was okay. We did a bit of shopping and chatted to a fellow traveller, who claimed that he had a shop just beside the Apple Store in Regent Street and commented that one of the gentlemen waiting near us was wearing one of his shirts. When we asked which shop he meant, the gentleman said “Ted Baker”. Whether he was the iconic gentleman himself is still unknown as I (probably rather annoyingly) refused to ask the question. I don’t know why I do that. It is not the first time I have met someone famous and not acknowledged their status. I like to think it gives them some modicum of privacy, but as said gentleman had virtually announced himself, perhaps he wanted to be recognised. In which case, if he was said gentleman, my sincere apologies to Mr Baker!

Our journey back on Eurostar was very nice, except I ended up sitting backwards which I really don’t like to do at speed – and believe me the Eurostar travels at speed – at least in France anyway. I also have to say, having chosen to travel Leisure Select class, that I would hate to travel standard class. Although the service and food – including the champagne–in Leisure Select are excellent and served to you at your seat, the seats, décor etc seem very tired. I suppose it is because they are well used. There is a class above Leisure Select called Business Premier and I am sure that is probably more salubrious in terms of accommodation. But as I say, the food and drink were excellent in leisure select so I do not like to complain!

We had a super journey, except for the bit back in London when our tube train was invaded by football or rugby fans (I’m still not sure which) bellowing and shouting and generally being very intimidating. I was relieved to arrive at Paddington, although unfortunately many of them got off with us. Luckily they were being cordoned into “holding areas” by the police to await their trains, so Guy and I were able to wait for our train in peace. Meanwhile, my mother in law had taken Alex to Dorking station and he was en route to Reading. By some amazing serendipity, we arrived in Reading on our train from Paddington only moments before Alex did, so we waited for him. I did a bit of a double take when he walked through the ticket barriers in his topcoat looking so very grown up! I must admit I really did miss him so I was very pleased indeed to see him. After hugs all round, we all hopped in a taxi and went home. A wonderful weekend was had by all.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Another Day in Paris - Saturday 5th April 2008

Saturday dawned a bit cloudy but Paris still looked beautiful to me! After a late breakfast in the President’s Club restaurant at the Meridien, we were off to explore one of our favourite cities in the world. Our hotel is ideally placed for sightseeing at the top of the Champs Élysées near the Arc de Triomphe by the Porte Maillot metro station. We got a two day ticket for the metro which means you have unlimited travel on the underground (subway), trains within Paris zones 1 to 3 and also buses.

We started off by heading to Opera, so we could have a look round the Galleries Lafayette and the other shops in the area, as well as the gorgeous home of the Paris Opera. From there we headed off to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It is one of my favourite churches and never fails to move me with its beauty and sense of peace and holiness. Today was no exception, especially as there was a service in progress, the music being played by a group of young musicians. Walking round this incredible building with its stunning Rose Windows and beautiful carvings was just amazing with the fantastic singing and orchestral music. The thing that strikes me about Notre Dame is that if you stand looking up the aisle past the magnificent stained glass windows to the sanctuary you would have no idea of the beauty that is just past it on either side in the striking Rose windows. Incredible.

We decided not to climb to the top of the cathedral due to my trepidation about the height and also the actual climb, so from there we travelled back to the Champs Élysées for lunch. We ate at The Entrecote, a favourite of ours about halfway down the Champs Élysées at 15 Rue Marbeuf. Their menu features their “Formule” which is a set menu of salad and steak frites. It is wonderful, particularly the salad dressing and the sauce on the steak, and for us no visit to Paris is complete without a stop there. It was delicious, although this time it did not seem to be very warm, which was quite odd. It was our first less than perfect lunch at The Entrecote, but I’m sure they were just having an off day and would not hesitate to go back.

We then hopped back on the metro for a flying visit to the Louvre. We spent the majority of our time in the Denon wing where the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are located. There are many other beautiful paintings and sculptures there too but so many folks just rush by them in their hurry to get to these two famous exhibits. We took as much time as we could to enjoy this amazing museum.

As there had not been very much food the night before we decided to have coffee and cake at Fouquet's, situated on the Champs Élysées itself. Fouquet’s is justifiably famous for its amazing food and patisserie and has been visited by the rich and famous for many years, but ordinary folk can enjoy it too. It’s expensive, but worth every penny, particularly if the weather is fine and you can sit outdoors people watching. Sadly the outside tables were all taken but we were seated in the window by a very friendly waiter. Guy chose to have a chocolate pastry and I had a millefeuille. Each of our lovely patisseries was served with a small glass dish of fruit and cream, almost like a parfait, and the coffee came with little baby madeleines that were simply delicious. We just took our time and watched the world go by in this famous little bolthole.

It was a bit of a rush getting back to the hotel after our idyll, but we managed to get ready in time for our cocktail and buffet dinner at the AUP Coombes Gallery on rue Colonel Combes. Our taxi driver had some trouble finding it, and as it is a relatively new building to AUP Guy did not know where it was, so we were definitely fashionably late this time. It was a fun evening though catching up with still more people from Guy’s university past. We both really enjoyed it.

The 20th Anniversary Reunion Visit to Paris - Friday 4th April 2008

We had a great journey on Eurostar and arrived at our hotel, The Meridien Etoile, in the early afternoon. We are staying in their President’s Club, so are on their executive floor, the eighth. Our room was very luxurious – small but perfectly formed as is typical of hotels in the centre of Paris.

Our first visit was to Apple’s offices on the Avenue D’Iena so that Guy could meet with his people there and have a look at the refurbishments that are being done. The building itself is lovely and I was shown out on to an amazing terrace off the sixth floor. It was a gorgeous clear day and Paris was quite literally at my feet. The terrace itself was a huge L shape, and would be a super place for a party! On one side, it looked over the home of an ambassador and over it to the dome of the Sacré Coeur at Montmartre. Just to my left was the Eiffel Tower. I could see miles into the distance. It was incredible. After coming back inside, I amused myself by reading (Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith) whilst Guy worked.

Around four o’clock we made our way over to Guy’s university, situated on the Avenue Bosquet, to check in for the reunion. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s reception at the Elysées Biarritz, a theatre and reception venue on rue Quentin Bauchart in the eighth arrondissement . Our taxi got us there just after the eight o’clock start – not quite fashionably late! It was a great opportunity to meet up with a lot of Guy’s old friends, many of whom I already knew. The champagne was flowing freely, although there was not very much food – just a terribly chic buffet – gorgeous but very small portions when we had not eaten properly all day. The company more than made up for it though and we had a lovely evening.
The evening wore on and we all got very hungry so set off in search of food, but by this time it was nearly midnight so it proved very hard to find. In the end, Guy and I abandoned the expedition and went back to the hotel. We ordered Club Sandwiches from room service which were delivered very promptly and were amazingly delicious. I really do not think I have ever had such good food from room service before. Often it is cold and takes ages, but this was wonderful, and very cheerfully delivered as well!

It was an exhausting day, but really good fun. I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

And so the week begins...

We had a fabulous weekend with our friends. It was a wonderful break. Their new house is just beautiful. I had a few scary moments going up to the first floor via a ladder as there are no stairs - and gazing out over the most incredible galleried landing with only three floor boards between me and the abyss – but it really was worth it for the lovely view. The back of the house is nearly all floor to ceiling windows looking out on two acres of prime Buckinghamshire countryside. It is going to be amazing when it is finished. It was really lovely to catch up with our friends as well.

We stayed in the Premier Inn at Milton Keynes. Normally I like a bit more luxury than that, but we knew we would only be in the hotel just to sleep so we decided to take the budget route. We took two rooms so Alex could have his own space and both were clean and relatively spacious (although I’m glad we weren’t all three of us in one room!) and we felt they were good value for money. Unfortunately, very early in the morning, one of the cooking staff managed to set the grill on fire in their kitchens downstairs, resulting in a rude awakening with the fire bell ringing. When we went downstairs, the receptionist said it was a false alarm, despite the fact there was very clearly smoke everywhere in the dining room, seeping out into the reception area. When Guy queried how it could be a false alarm when there was so much smoke, the receptionist insisted that “it” had been a fire on the grill but “it” had all been put out (since when do you have to “put out” a false alarm?). Of course, if you have a grill fire and an extractor fan system, there is a very real risk of the heat causing fire in the exhaust system beyond the actual site of the grill, but she could not understand that, and simply stood there keying in the code whenever the alarm went off again. Guy did point out the fire department should be called to check out the situation, but she did not seem to feel that was necessary. Not a very good advertisement for health and safety!! We were too nervous to sleep again, so went back up to the room and got ready to leave. This was the point at which Guy found the leaflet about Premier Inn’s “good night’s sleep guarantee”. Well, we had not had a good night’s sleep. It had been a very short sleep and a very rude awakening. So Guy went downstairs to query this with the receptionist, again pointing out to her the huge health and safety violations that she had made. We got a full refund for both rooms! So, kudos to Premier Inns for honouring their guarantee, but a bit of a worry about their health and safety procedures!!

Monday started off a very busy week. Alex was still writing “mock” GCSE exams and Guy was in the thick of things at work. As for me, I updated my website and then spent ages trying to get the house organised. I made quite a dent in the study. If I’m not careful, it will be neat, tidy and organised before long! I also did my first run outside with my personal trainer, Judith. I did quite well in the end, but isn’t it amazing how things can follow you your whole life, lying quietly dormant only to jump out and bite you on the ass when you least expect it? We started off with a brisk walk, and then Judith suggested I set the pace with a slow jog. So off we went…for about four minutes. Now I have worked myself up to the stage where I can run for twenty-five minutes without stopping, but suddenly I wasn’t in Berkshire anymore. I was ten years old and back at St Margaret’s School in Elora with the girls in my class jeering me as I struggled on one of the very long and hilly runs our gym teacher used to set us. (I was not an athletic sort at all, and by the end of these runs I would be gasping, much to the delight of the girls who used to bully me unmercifully. One time they even got behind me and started to push me up the last hill, laughing and jeering all the way.) Back in Berkshire again, I could not get my breath, the whole idea of running outside seemed insane and I was sure everyone was laughing at me. I was struggling so to breathe, I actually had to stop running! I was so cross with myself, but Judith was great and encouraged me to just relax and try again. So it was a success in the end, but what a lesson in the nonsense we all hang on to in our minds. Do I remember the compliments I used to get about my fantastic grades? Do I remember the fun times I had later on after I left St Margaret’s? Nope. I remember the gibes of a bunch of bullies. It’s daft, and the sad thing is, I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to make that distant, ghostly twenty-eight year old laughter go away. But I’ll be back out there with Judith again next week, and this time I’ll be ready for the ghostly bullies of the past with a mental list of positive qualities and achievements most of them would be hard pressed to match.

Today it was more cleaning – I’ve got to find a cleaner, I really do!! The house is too big for me to manage it alone. I did, however, discover a wonderful little tool on my new Sebo vacuum cleaner that allows me to dust the skirting boards without having to bend over or wipe them down. I was disproportionately pleased by this. Every once in a while there is a sign I am getting too wrapped up in the housework and I need to broaden my horizons. This was one of those signs. Luckily it was time to go to Pilates which was brilliant. I’m getting so much stronger, and between Pilates and personal training (plus a bit of work on my own), I’m looking more toned and getting some lovely definition in my muscles.

We had a bit of a shock tonight. We were happily toasting the nineteenth anniversary of the day Guy and I met with a nice glass of champagne when we noticed a great big splash of a puddle on our kitchen table. On closer examination we saw a very large wet patch in the ceiling. It was so bad that Guy has had to cancel a planned business trip to Ireland today and the plumbers are still trying to sort it all out, planning to come back tomorrow at 7am. I hate the damage water can do. It is so insidious, travelling undetected for great distances and causing such damage.

I’ll just have to concentrate on looking forward to the weekend, and the trip Guy and I are taking to Paris. Alex is going to spend the weekend with Guy’s parents and he is really excited about going to see them on his own. So please God we will all have a lovely weekend!