It never rains but it ….

Sunday 27 November 2022

… pours!

Yes, Wednesday begins with water actually pouring from my kitchen ceiling as I potter down to make my 6am cuppa! I sprint, like Usain Bolt himself, back up the stairs to turn off whatever tap is causing the deluge to find that… the tap is broken and there is no stopping the endless torrent of scalding water from swirling across my bathroom floor.

Arghhh … help?

Last time this sort of thing happened, I had a man in my life who just seemed to know what to do and … ooh I remember now…turned the water off! Something about a ‘stopcock?’ I vaguely recall. The only question is…where the devil do I find one of those?

On the off-chance that the male of the species are just programmed to know how to deal with DIY disasters, magnetically drawn to mechanical solutions by virtue of genetic birthright, I wake up Small Boy. It’s an early hour for a teenager and apart from running around like a headless chicken brandishing saucepans and throwing towels into the deepening pools of water, he isn’t much use.

I briefly contemplate the horrific indignity of calling up an ex-bloke to ask for guidance, but, sternly reminding myself to have a ‘crumb of self-respect’, pull myself together and instead start scouring every door and cupboard for inspiration. Near the front door, after 2 minutes which feel like 2 hours, I find a dial that I turn and turn until…

Da Dah…!”

the water stops.

Gosh, I feel triumphant. Look at me averting disaster like a pro! Searching for a stopcock anyone?W ell allow me to show you how! Who’d have thought?

Who indeed? For only 4 days earlier, I’d met my old lab partner from college for a catch-up and trip to a local art exhibition. On this occasion I’d managed to book us tickets for January instead of November! Not my finest hour but, the gallery managed to rebook us and my dear friend loved the chaos, for it allowed her to fondly recall my ‘hopelessness‘ in the world of Physics practicals. “I think I just did all the work, while you sat there being pretty and being chatted up by ****” she recalled with a merry laugh.

I have no memory at all of ever being pretty, plus ‘Hopeless’ is that a little harsh? Admittedly, there was the unfortunate incident with the radio-active source (I was banned for a fortnight after that particular mishap) and, looking back, we did have to throw out the charred remains of my first every attempt to wire up a simple circuit to light bulb. So possibly, she has a point but … I am pretty sure I got there in the end. I fact… I aced Physics A Level.

Could I be on track to ‘ace plumbing’ too? I decide, on balance, stop at the stopcock and hand over to the professionals. With a fair degree of relief, I call the plumber and head to work…

We all get wider…

Friday 18 November 2022

This week, I concede that none of us can stop the march of time….

Its all begins back in August, with the arrival of my niece’s wedding invitation,

Dress code: black tie”

My offspring all hit the shops, finding finery and sharp suits that will also be worn for uni balls and (for Small boy) musician gigs. But for their old single mum…gosh it’s a good few years since I needed anything quite so formal! In fact I have to go as far back as my former (slightly more) glamorous life as a married woman, when ex-hub’s job occasionally afforded the occasion for a posh-frock.

Hang on a tick” I cry, “I think the odd outfit may still be (gathering dust) in the wardrobe!”

And indeed two of them are, both, to shamelessly name drop, worn originally for royal occasions! One is brown and one … ahh one is a sumptuous green velvet number with a scalloped neckline and fitted floor length elegance!With great excitement I try it on and fall instantly in love with the gorgeous thing again. There is just one little snag….the zip refuses to proceed past my waist!

But ‘it’s only August’ think I! The wedding is months away and I resolve to trim back into a dress I previously wore in the previous millennium (and before children were even thought of.) I resolve to rediscover the body I had 25 years ago.

So, I run, I stretch and I scrunch. I spurn delicious buttered break-time toast, toil through the working day fuelled only by miserable sachets of cup-a-soup and track each morsel on a calorie checker app! Alas, none of it makes even an ounce of difference. So when I am out for a drink with an engineering friend, recounting my lack of progress, and he offers to ‘construct me’ back into the garment, I decide, after laughing fully out loud, that enough is quite enough. It is simply never going to happen! The figure I was in my late 20s just has to be consigned to the history books.

Is it of some comfort to read that the struggle to shift a few pounds for other women ‘of my age’ is a fairly common one? Why yes it is! Much is written on the subject and Everyday Health’s article ‘5 reasons its harder to lose weight with age‘ it typical in outlining: age-related muscle loss, hormonal changes, slowing metabolism, general busyness and lifestyle changes as key factors. I am also cheered by some findings too that a ‘bigger butt’ is also caused by widening pelvic bones. In summary, with a mixture of rueful regret and a fair dose of relief, I reason that accepting a changing shape is just all part of growing old gracefully.

So tonight, I have a final Friday night strut around the kitchen in my lovely green dress (clipped in with washing line pegs) before packing it away to donate to the local hospice. I also review the brown number, bought a good 10 years after the green and a hopeful dress size larger. It may not be quite as glamorous or ‘show stopping’, it may be the colour of my old school uniform, but it is still very nice, allows me to move, has a nice swirly skirt, ticks a re-use recycle box (I’ll possibly announce it as ‘vintage’ to sound a little more fashionable) and … it fastens! So bravo for the brown and wedding here we come…

Going a bit greener: 1 year on…

14 November 2022

Twelve months ago, UN COP 26 climate talks in Glasgow were described as the

last best hope for the world to get its act together

and avert climate breakdown. As world leaders gather in Sharm El Sheikh, for the latest global check on planet saving progress, evidence suggests they have yet to fully do so.

Restricting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees was the headline pledge in 2021, a level calculated to:

  • keep 10 million homes safe from rising seas
  • reduce water scarcity significantly
  • protect countless people from life threatening heat and humidity
  • preserve more of our ecosystem

Surely a priority to unite the nations? But, alas, no … or maybe not yet. The IPCC currently forecast that temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees could be seen as early as 2050. That is within the next 2 decades. That is now pretty much within all our lifetimes and signals decline, not progress.

Why not?’ we may ask in disbelief,

but turning the mirror inwards I also need to face the question,

What have I done to help to protect this wonderful world?’

Look, I’m not deluded, it is clearly to the world-wide stage that we must look for the solutions that will steer us away from climate catastrophe. But, closer to home, I also vowed, in November 2021, to try and mend my ways and care better for my carbon footprint. So what of me?

Looking back at last year’s post, I believe that my quest was to make ‘one new environmental move per month‘.

Well, soap now reigns supreme, as both shower gel and shampoo have been banished for good from my bathroom to reduce the plastic trash in our blue recycling bin. In fact, following last year’s ‘Going a bit greener’ post, I was given so many shampoo bars that I’m still making my way through them – those little lathering blocks last for months! With Christmas on the horizon, if you are looking for some greener gifts, I can certainly recommend the eco-suds. There are so many gorgeous products to choose from, it is difficult to go wrong and every beauty reviewer from Cosmo to the Good Housekeeping Institute will offer you a ‘top ten’ but for endless and affordable quality, do check out my favourites at Gruum!

Our water usage is also down significantly (bringing the additional bonus of a £120 bill reduction) A loud maternal voice achieved this one, educating teenagers in the art of not setting the washing machine off with one ‘jumper I just must have for tomorrow’ circling round in the drum, insisting that the dishwasher runs on a full load and generally shouting (a lot) at my offspring’ for their insane habit of running the shower for 5 minutes before getting in!

And finally our cleaning products have gone greener as Ocean Saver hit the supermarket shelves and now stock my kitchen cupboard. Every bit as effective as other products but run on plant-based refills, making a further reduction in the dreaded plastic packaging.

But… a little bit like the world leaders, one year on, 3 or 4 changes has fallen sadly short of my bold monthly pledge. So I’m giving myself a much needed wake-up call and, on my drive to work this week, the radio bring me a timely inspiration – Zero-waste mum! Otherwise known as, the fabulous Jen Gale whose household of mum, dad, two kids and a dog, have filled the general waste bin only once in the last 9 months! She sound super enthusiastic in her interview and makes it all sound very achievable. Nonetheless, I might start a little smaller. The grey bin is emptied once every 3 weeks in our corner of the Northwest. I, with mostly only 1 kid now and zero canines, am going to aim to have it emptied once every 6 weeks.

“And that…” I tell Small boy “… is my New Year Resolution for 2023!”

Why not start now?” he replies

I guess he is right; no excuses! After the general waste bin is next emptied, we start the 6 week clock. Glancing into the murky depths of the current bags of grey-bin garbage, I think plastics will be the challenge. The helpful words of recycling guru Jen Gale remind me that soft plastics are now recycled at the supermarket, but this still leaves lots of food trays, margarine tubs and yogurt pots. Maybe we’ll just have to get less of them.

So here goes, will keep you posted and try to keep more successfully on the environmental trail before COP 28 is on the news reels. Maybe what both I and the world leaders need are 4 or 6 monthly reviews of progress to keep us on eco-track….

Great-Aunt Becky…

Sunday 6 November 2022

A week of fantastic news for our family. My mum’s post-surgery histology report is positive. Her cancer has not spread, which is a terrific relief and means radiotherapy, not chemotherapy. And one of my niece’s has her first baby, a beautiful little boy. I set out to find a gift and am happily strolling around the aisles of new-born fashion; cosy baby-grows, adorable fleecy pram-suits, little dungarees… when my phone pings. It’s my eldest child…

” Congratulation Great-Aunt Becky!”

Great-Aunt Becky.. well wrap me up in woollen shawl and lace me into a pair of stout shoes … I sound positively ancient!

Yes into my head pops the image of ‘great-aunt Lucy‘, Paddington Bear’s aged guardian from ‘Darkest Peru!’

To my dismay, when I reacquaint myself with the writings of dear Michael Bond, it transpires that lovely Lucy, with her fading fur, felt hat and wicker basket, is only a regular aunt, an entire generation younger than my new familial role. Indeed, mention of great-aunts of any kind, in our literary annals is notably sparse and, I now discover that aunts themselves … well to put it mildly have a bit of an image problem.

Aunt ‘Em, from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the once pretty young wife now ‘grayed‘ by her tough life on the Kansas farm. The villainous Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge from James and the Giant Peach, and the cruel Mrs Reed, aunt to Jane Eyre who opens the novel with the shocking scenes of the small orphaned girls locked up in the mysterious Red Room after defending herself against her bullying cousin.

Gracious… maybe literature was the wrong direction to look to for inspiration. After all, idyllic family units rarely rear children suited to the kind of adventures that heroes such as, Paddington, Dorothy, James and Jane must face to make the plot a winner.

And a label such as ‘Great-Aunt’ does not have to define us! Why, I recall, my chest modestly puffed out with pride, sporting a new green top, I was recently described as ‘stylish’ and ‘the cool mum‘ by my daughter’s flatmates. On the other hand, I tell my niece, I am quite happy for our wonderful new arrival just to refer to me as ‘Becky’!

Getting life in perspective …

Sunday 23 October 2022

My mum has her first surgery and comes home to recover. It is not the end of the story. Hey this is the big C, is it ever going to be the end of the story? But for now; just right now, before Tuesday’s hospital visit and next Monday’s operation results, the cloud that has defined the last few weeks lifts and I feel… happy!

Yes, not just ‘okay‘, the luke-warm version of wellbeing I often settle for, but actually properly happy. My mind is only lightness, my mood upbeat, and all the little things in life seem joyful.

I do nothing special with the weekend. On Saturday, I run with my run buddy. Small boy and I hang out in the garden hot tub, putting the world to rights. I cook curry for my mum and drink some (appalling) fizz a work colleague gave me mid-week. On Sunday, we take the tram into town to shop Dinner Jackets for a family wedding, mooch around the music stores and browse the book shops. The Squares are decorated with dainty Halloween lanterns. We dine on Pad Thai noodles, steak sandwiches and terrible pies and … it feels fantastic!

I guess it’s relief, a welcome respite from the stress and worry of the previous weeks. Or possibly one of those profound pauses in life when you (momentarily alas) cast aside the trivia that often takes up so much our time and focus instead on the things, and most importantly, the people who really matter. ‘Getting life in perspective’, I think it’s called. Well for however long it lasts…I am going to enjoy it…

The big C…

Thursday 8 October 2022

Thursday 8 October; a day I’ll never forget! After a couple of weeks of wondering and waiting my mum gets confirmation that she has breast cancer and my world is rocked to its foundation …

At the moment they think it is stage 1 and treatable, but the initial diagnosis has thrown us into a world of further tests and scans, so at the moment I just have everything crossed for ‘no new information’, because I realise that I am simply not yet ready for anything more serious.

For my mum is quite a character; a huge personality brimming with life, mischief and incredible kindness. Ever present, energetic and exuding a sense of immortality…except of course … no-one is… none of us lasts forever and in the past week, as we waited in limbo for the results of biopsies and radiographs, the vision of a world that did not include her hit me like a train.

So when, at orchestra a few days ago, she risked sending me a mildly obscene gesture and cheeky smile as someone asked, for about the 20th time, ‘what bar we are going from?’… it brought a lump to my throat. Whirring round and round in my mins was the voice that said, what if that’s the last time we are at a rehearsal together and I see her face grinning across the room?

Ansd last Sunday night when she called incensed, to discuss the Strictly Come Dancing results show, I wobbled again.

What if …….?

On this occasion, I panicked so much that I cancelled my plans for this Saturday night and arranged instead to go around for a ‘Strictly viewing party’, because suddenly every moment with mum felt too precious to waste. And all the little things… those tiny details we often take for granted … well I realised how important and special they truly are.

So the initial cautious diagnosis, and treatment plan almost comes as a relief from the far grimmer scenarios I thought we might be facing.

I am aware, or course, that no surgery will be easy, as she is over 80. In fact mum’s first question to the consultant is,

“I didn’t know that anyone my age could get cancer!”

Alas; they. In fact, the National Library of Medicine reports that ‘one in ten’ breast cancer patients are over the age of 80. If there is a mixed message, it arises from the cessation of the screening programme at the age of 70 in the UK. This does not, as I’ll admit I thought, indicate a reduction in risk rather that the increase in other health risks results in the programme not longer being cost-beneficial for the NHS.

Let’s be thankful that mum’s cancer seems, at this point in time, to have been found quickly.

For now, I hope and put on a brave face; brave for mum and brave for my children. And only occasionally, usually as I am on my own in the car, do a let a small tear fall ….

Middlesbrough

Saturday 1 October2022

When your children spread their wings and head off to live and study in other towns and cities, one very nice outcome for you as a parent is the chance to travel to and explore these new places too…

My Eldest is on placement in Middlesborough this year. Whilst she will admit to missing the bright lights of Newcastle, one upside is that she is a good hour closer the me than usual, so it is very easy to pop over for a day visit. And that is exactly what I do this weekend.

“What shall we do first?” asks my girl, as I rap on the door of her student house around midday.

“Food please!” I reply, hungry after my drive to this corner of North Yorkshire.

A short 5-minute stroll takes us to a great cafe where it is the famous local delicacy ‘parmo’ for my daughter and a truly delicious three-bean chilli for me. So good is the food that I am tempted to try the pudding menu. But my eldest is full and I ruefully remember, my (pretty ambitious) quest to get back into a dress I last wore in the previous millennium(!) for my niece’s wedding so I too forgo a further course.

Instead, we wander into the town centre and waste a happy half hour shopping small luxuries that are beyond a student budget but well within ‘mum-treating’ range.

It is briefly back to the student house to drop our purchases before we hop into the car to explore a ‘pretty beach‘ my Eldest has passed on her weekly GP visits.

And so it is that I discover Saltburn; what a little gem! We park the car in front of an elegant terrace of Victorian grandeur and descend to the cove beneath. Marked out by the imposing Hunt Cliff, the beach may well have been a centre for smugglers in a bygone era, but today is the perfect spot for a bracing walk along the windswept sands. Despite it being the first day of October, hardy children are playing in the streams and paddling in the sea, you could probably surf on a slightly warmer day. We traverse the sands and rocks and then reward ourselves with a drink in a bar overlooking the sea.

Thereafter it is back up the very steep hill to the car and as we stop to catch our breath, we spot the far better way to make this ascent; the Saltburn Cliff Tramway. This small tram-car, was first opened in 1884 to replace a vertical hoist and is now the oldest water balanced funicular still in operation in Great Britain. It is a must for our next visit!

As the Autumn sun begins to fade, we return to the student house and, after a fine cup of tea, I it is time for me to head home. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday …

Whose job is it to correct my kids manners?

Friday 23 September 2022

Shouldn’t that be me?

Now let me be clear, I am in no way suggesting that no-one else can ever challenge my offsprings’ behaviour. Take school for example; without questions I would back staff to intervene to promote values of manners, kindness and respect. Nor do I expect socially unacceptable behaviour, such pushing to the front of a bus queue to be ignored. In this event, I would applaud the driver for sending any of my charges straight back to the end of the line. No, I am concerned with one scenario only, that being when I am actually there … even in my own home! Surely, oh surely; that is my domain?

I certainly thought so, a kind of unwritten rule of inter-parental respect, and, hence, on 12 August when I hear the topic raised by journalist Nina Warhurst on radio 5, I am quickly cheering her on.

In my opinion” she posits, “if a parent is present then it is no-one else’s job to tell a kid off

Spot on Nina” I contribute on Twitter. The nation, however, is more divided. Endless contributors call, text and tweet-in to assert their right to, (surely the only word for this is) interfereif they spot a minor out-and-about with their family who dares to drop a P and Q or, heaven forbid, leaves an elbow resting on a table! The self-appointed etiquette police are passionate, casting themselves as the gallant guardians of British values and the very fabric of our society.

So I am aware that not everyone is with me on this issue however, here is why this single mum would, politely, like you to ‘butt out‘ if you’re in my home or see me with my family and think you can improve our behaviour or manners.

My family unit is close knit one. I’m likely to be biased but I really do find my children remarkable, resourceful … and very kind. And I love this. I am also not afraid to admit that in our world these values are often prized far more highly than etiquette. When for example I arrive home exhausted to find that one of the trio has made tea and tidied the house as a treat, my heart overflows. And do you know what, if someone then eats with their elbows on the table I am absolutely going to ignore it . Because I want to recognise and value the kindness and not mar the moment with relatively trivial nonsense. On the memorable day, back in 2017, when I forgot to leave work to collect Smallboy from the year 7 pantomime and he set off home alone, in the December dark and rain, his young sisters had to set out to find him. We were all so overjoyed to finally see his tiny, bedraggled figure heading up the hill, that we did celebrate by eating in the lounge with our feet on the coffee table and … even phones out! My kids are a well behaved and acceptably well-mannered lot but every now and again the moment is not about manners.

Additionally, I would just never dream of commenting on other children’s manners either whether their parents are present or not. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to parties and sleepovers. I have not been afraid to set a standards on ‘going to sleep’ and have been known to burst into the room, at 3am, demanding that sleepover rebels (usually led my one of my own brood) ‘cut the noise and get off to sleep‘. And of course, I have stepped in when there is a threat to safety; on the occasion, for example, I awoke to the horror of an 8-year old Smallboy and his sleep-over friends, jumping from successively higher steps on the staircase into the hall, I stopped it on the spot! But table manners and standards of politeness … no, not ever!

Why not?‘ I hear you cry. For me, the better question would be ‘Why? Most of the time, I wouldn’t have even noticed, I always saw a child and friend, not a checklist of dos and don’ts. Even if I did, I have no idea why a young person might not be saying ‘thank you‘ as I serve the party tea. They could be too terrified to speak to ‘someone else’s mum’. They might be taking their cues for behaviour from the party host and, if your children are like mine, when little they tended to show off quite a lot, whenever friends came to stay! But above all, it is simply not my place and it is not the time. Nobody has sent their children to my house for a lesson in etiquette; they have come to have fun!

And the notion, of not letting manners dominate and take the joy out of a situation is one I occasionally puzzle over when my trio visit their ‘down south’ family. For my in-laws are true devotees of the etiquette handbook – even elbows on the table at Maccies is frowned upon! Upon their return from a trip to Centre Parks with ex hub, I still recall a furious Prom dress daughter recounting the tale of her brother being made to sit down, write out and recite 10 table manners every morning before he was allowed to join in any holiday activities … which I found incredibly sad. Because he hadn’t packed his little suitcase and gone on the trip for lecture in 18th century decorum, he’d just wanted to spend some time with his dad. But hey, ex-hub’s domain and his values!

But they are not mine! I know that for many ‘manners maketh man‘ but it is ‘morals that maketh this mum’ and that’s a flag I am sticking with! So whilst I respect that not all agree, I am unshakeable in my belief that in my home or if I am present, I do know best because I know my children best. If someone is in my house, steeping in to ‘help out’ and correct my offspring’s manners or behaviour, however well intentioned, they need to hear that it does not feel supportive it feels presumptuous and judgemental.

When I do need help, because we always do on occasion, I will ask for it. Until then, ‘No thank you!’

When fortunes are not written in the stars …

17 September 2022

Horoscopes; I don’t know many who really believe them but I know lots of people, myself included, who read them! If you’re like me, they make a quick, fun, scroll item with a morning cuppa on the rare occasions when you have the time to wonder what the day might bring.

And so it is that this morning I am greeted by this exciting news…

“You could feel like a millionaire today, Pisces. Money matters seem to surpass your expectations. You might want to spend time fixing up your home or perhaps shopping for yourself..

Well, even general cost of living challenges aside, after the recent run of luck I’ve had, this is so far from the truth that I nearly splutter my tea across the table! So come with me astrologers, as I recount the ‘money matters’ of this particular Piscean…

First my car; poor old Windsor! Transporting me to the rehearsal for a local music festival, my trusty Toyota find himself reversed painfully into a post. Main light smashed, bumper crunched and several hundred pounds needed to restore his rear end to its former glory.

Hot on the heels of his trip to the body work garage, Windsor is soon in the woes again. The engine management light glows yellow. A very nice RAC person comes around to the house and diagnoses a possible fault with the GDPR … or is that the EGR valve. I google the likely cost, gulp in panic and when the light thereafter goes off, hold my breath, cross everything and have been tentatively driving about, hoping for the best, ever since.

Thirdly we turn to Small boy. He starts college in an uncharacteristic wave of enthusiasm. After one week, he is shopping files and highlighters, leaving me to ponder what has happened to my laid back boy. In week two… he is actually seen using them, colour coding extensive notes on complex chemical compounds, and planning time for revision. Seriously, where has my son gone?

“I’m starting as I mean to go on” a serious Small boy explains, “and I’m going to need a new laptop!

Well this is very true. The battered old grey beasts I bought for both of my younger children in Lockdown have long since given up the ghost. But the thought of funding this purchase from a bank balance already hit by car repairs, fills me with despair so I text his dad.

But before ex-hub can even respond, comes the fourth financial challenge of the season and it is Small boy again. This time a rather nervous and apologetic voicemail from the home landline informs me that the great goon has left his iphone 11 on the bus!

“ARGHHHHH!”

I am still embroiled in this one. Mum the detective is on the trail of the bus driver to whom, someone at college reports, the phone was handed, a couple of stops after Small boy got off. Mum the realist has contacted the phone company to put bars on the device and my insurance company to find out how much they (and I) will doubtless be forking out to replace the phone. If they accept our claim at all that is as, not once, but twice in the last 6 months they have already paid out for screen repairs to … the very same iphone 11!

Hence, am I feeling ‘like a millionaire today‘ with matters financial ‘exceeding my expectations’? Errr, that would be a ‘no’!

On the other hand, tonight is a Lotto rollover so perhaps I should squander my one remaining fiver on a ticket? More probably I should stop reading those horoscopes and buy myself a cheap bottle of plonk to ease the financial pain. But hang on a tick … did they not mention something about ‘shopping for yourself’! Maybe there’s some truth hidden in the mystic words after all…

A new era …

10 September 2022

Gosh; a momentous week!

A new prime minister and a new head of state for the country. On Monday it is all about Liz Truss and a political lurch to the right. On Tuesday I feel trepidation at her early proclamations. By Wednesday I am wide eyed with terror. But as Thursday draws to a close an even bigger story breaks, the queen passes away peacefully at the age of 96 and a historic 70 year reign as our monarch draws to a close.

It dominates the news reels. The cost of living crisis, the rail strikes, postal strikes, barrister strikes … even the football fixtures make way for a brief period of calm as the country looks back on the life of the woman who was part of our world and history for seven decades. A reassuring constancy, ever dignified, ever diplomatic and often at the centre of an eventful family life.

Yes, one reason I think that, royalists or not, we can all relate to this moment is that the nation knew her as daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. Many of us have known first hand of family love, family ups and downs, the pain of family loss and … it resonates.

It certainly feels poignant for me, because Thursday 8 September, is also my late Dad’s birthday. At a time of change and new challenge locally as well as nationally, it is the perfect time to visit his grave and spend some time in the peace of the cemetery thinking out loud and hoping that, somewhere out there, he might be listening.

I tell him of the national stories and also update on news closer to home; Prom-dress daughter and her new Edinburgh flat, my eldest finding her feet on hospital placement, Small-boy starting sixth-form, Forest back in the top flight of football and … of course my lovely mum, still bringing light, laughter and happiness into the world.

It is very therapeutic talking to someone who just ‘listens’. Feels good to re-ground myself as daughter, mother and friend. A firm foundation on which to prepare and look ahead to the new changes and opportunities that Autumn and Winter may bring.

All too soon it is time to head home, but as I turn to walk away, I remind him to ‘look out for the queen‘….