A Reflection on 2013

A Reflection on 2013 V&V

After the mad rush in the few weeks run up to Christmas I can’t believe it is Boxing Day already!

Looking back on the year it doesn’t seem five minutes since last Christmas.  This year has certainly flown by in a blur.

It has certainly been a bumper year for vacations.  I had a mini break to Newcastle and two mini breaks to Nottingham early in the year.  The breaks in Nottingham were to celebrate significant birthdays of two members of my family.  In the Summer I had a well needed relaxing holiday to Lucerne and in September an even more relaxing holiday to Newcastle and Northumberland, this involved staying in one of my favourite places.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to go on my planned weekend away to Oxford with my family to celebrate my birthday.  The day before we were due to go away my mum slipped on the stairs and broke her leg in three places, so she needed a bit of help to get her sorted out around the house.

The year was tinged with sadness when early in the year one of my blogging friends passed away suddenly.  I still miss him, especially when I am out and about with my camera when I wonder how his photographs of the places I am taking would look.

I have been lucky to meet other new blogging friends along the way.  I even got to meet one of my blog friends for the first time earlier in the year on one of my mini breaks and again later in the year on one of my longer vacations.  We thoroughly enjoyed both occasions.

As you have come to expect from me I had many day trips out including two to London.  The second one became rather eventful when the coach broke down just outside London on our way home.  We ended up being trapped on the coach for four hours!!!

The summer weather was just perfect and we spent many evenings sitting out on the patio, dining and then waiting for the sun to set.  This was a welcome relief the previous year it seemed to rain almost continually in England.

Despite all the toing and froing we even managed get the guttering replaced and to have a new bathroom fitted along the way.  It is perfect to soak in the new bath, enjoying a glass of sherry, each Sunday evening before dinner.

I don’t know what 2014 will bring but perhaps I should slow down a little?

My image shows a picture taken in each month of 2013

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A Snow Flake or Two

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The recent snowy weather ground good old England to a halt, despite it being nowhere near as severe as winters in days gone by.  In the winter of 62/63 the snows, frost and severe cold started at the end of December and continued until the beginning of March.

I was just a teeny tot when that winter occurred so I don’t remember it but I do recall a particular bad winter in the early 80s. There was deep snow making it genuinely not possible to travel far and I couldn’t get to work; it was so cold the buses had seized up… But despite that, the country did not ground to a halt! For some reason this country has forgotten how to cope with even a slight downfall of snow…

I fondly remember the time I first drove in atrocious snowy conditions. The adverse weather caused a power cut which meant my alarm didn’t go off and  I was late for setting off to a choir reunion; I leapt into my car without thinking!

I was half way through my journey to the choir reunion which involved a practice in the morning and a concert in the evening when I realised that the snow drifts at the side of the road were at least 4 times the height of my car!!! I wondered at my stupidity, but thought that since I was half way there now I might as well continue on my journey.

We had the morning practice and the weather had got even worse. After the practice I dropped one of the choir ladies off near to her house which was not far from the practice venue. When I dropped her off she gave me detailed instructions on how to drive in the snow. Every time I drive in the snow I think of her.

It was a complete white out on my journey home; I missed my turning on one occasion and had to retrace my steps. I also experienced my first slide in the snow and the best response to recover from that!

Eventually I got home safe and sound and found that in addition to the power cut there was no water supply.  The M6 motorway had also ground to a halt and become impassable due to the adverse weather and people were stuck in their cars for many hours.  But still the country did not shut down.

It makes me smile and despair in equal measures that the snow used to be far worse over here and the country never ground to a halt.  I think that modern vehicle technology has a part to play in this but there is more to it than that, we have lost the skills and ability to cope with cold and snowy conditions, because they have become less frequent over the years.  It is sad to see that this country has lost the skills to be able to cope especially when it lasts for only one day.

Growing up with Music

I first got into music when I learned to play the recorder whilst I was in junior school.  I used to practice for ages at a time mostly on my own but sometimes with my brother. The neighbours often commented on how lovely the sound was. I got far ahead of where I should have been in the ‘Learn to Play’ book.  The music Mistress was a bit of a stickler and wasn’t too impressed with this. She said I should have been practicing the same page over and over again!  In future I kept my progress to myself and when she asked I said I was always on the page she had told me to practice.  She invariably thought the pieces I had been told to practice were good enough so the fact I had  moved ahead obviously wasn’t adversely affecting my playing.

After I moved to senior school I took up the Clarinet and played in the school orchestra.  I also joined the choir.  For a time I played in the junior band, helping out on the kettle drums and percussion instruments.  As well as playing the clarinet, I made my own bamboo pipes which have a much more mellow sound than the recorder.  It was fun and challenging to make and tune them, getting one note at a time as the instrument progressed.  I enjoyed playing the base pipe in a small bamboo pipe quartet.  My base bamboo pipe was actually made of aluminium, because it was difficult get bamboo large enough.

I had endless fun going all around the county and sometimes further afield to perform in concerts, old people’s homes, hospitals and many other places.

One memorable occasion was singing at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in the Saturday evening concert.  We were the last choir on stage and the schedule had slipped so we performed a lot later than planned.  We sang several encores and eventually got home at 5am in the morning after watching the sunrise on the way home.

 At the Christmas concerts we were always joined by former pupils and they were a lot of fun.  On one occasion when it was time for the orchestra to play I had 10 trombone players standing right behind me.  It was so loud I could hardly hear myself think, let alone play!

The event I loved the most was Christmas Eve, singing carols by the Ironbridge. Over the years more and more local people turned up and joined in. The singing only lasted for 30 minutes, but by the end of it you knew that it really was Christmas…

I have kept all the programmes from the concerts we performed in and I still enjoy getting them out from time to time and remembering the pieces we used to perform.

On and off over the years I have carried on with my music. Although I am currently in a lull,  I do feel it calling me again…

Tree of Light

At the beginning of December many Rotary clubs throughout the United Kingdom launch their annual ‘Tree of Light’.  The concept of the ‘Tree of Light’ was introduced into Shropshire from South Africa in the 1990s by a county Rotarian. For many years, since its inception, my father was a member of the small committee of Rotarians that run the Telford ‘Tree of Light’; these Rotarians are from the four Rotary clubs of Telford.

The name and symbolism of the ‘Tree of Light’ reminds us that there can be light and hope even in bleak circumstances.  The main aim of the ‘Tree of Light’ is to serve the public and the community which is at the heart of the Rotary organisation whose motto is ‘service above self”.

People are invited to sponsor a light on the tree in memory of a loved one (or a cause dear to them) and the monies raised are divided between local charities. The commemoration of a loved one around the tree provides a sense of wellbeing to those who take part.

The names of the nominees are displayed around the base of the tree, on the ‘Tree of Light’s web page and also published in the local newspaper.  There is always one main charity to which half of the monies raised is donated; the other half is split equally between the Rotary clubs that administer ‘The Tree of Light’, for them to donate to a local charity of their choice.  This year the charities are the Telford Hospice, Landau (supported employment), Hope House Children’s Hospices, Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Princess Royal Hospital Breast Cancer Support Group.

My father spent many a long hour in the run up to Christmas attending committee meetings or sitting upstairs at home processing names and lists for publication under the tree and in the local newspaper.  His involvement included receiving phone calls from some of the sponsors who had queries   about their request.  He loved the premise and the concept of the ‘Tree of Light’ and that it provided a treasured service to people at this particular time of year.

Christmas is a time for families and friends and also a time for remembering absent friends and family.  The ‘Tree of Light’ is a welcome opportunity to remember and cherish absent friends, it is only fitting that my father’s name now appears amongst those names that, alongside his fellow Rotarians, he helped commemorate over the years.

Chocolate Box Memories

Weekend chocolates and candies were one of my favourite sweet treats when I was a youngster; I especially liked the taste of the perilous green ones. There was always a box in my stocking each Christmas, although the stocking was in reality a pillowcase. The Christmas memories unfold and roll back into one happy memory. Family, friends, fun, laughter, the occasional tear, frost, snow, school concerts. I also remember singing on the bridge at Ironbridge each Christmas Eve and singing carols in local pubs, hospitals and old people’s homes. This started off as fun but because money was often forced on us we ended up giving money to charity too. So many happy faces over the years…

The chocolates even remind me of the class bully at my junior school. One day I had just collected a chair from the side of the room and got to my desk with it and he appeared at my side and ordered me to give the chair to him. Without thinking I answered ‘no’ which was quite out of character for me because I was really shy and timid and wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He put on an angry stance, went red in the face and stomped off without saying anything. He never bothered me again until one Christmas when I had been given some weekend chocolates by one of my school friends. He asked (nicely) if he could have one. Due to his circumstances I knew he would never have the opportunity to have such things so I said yes and he said thank you. Lessons learned for both of us I think.

The pink Quality Street tin on the right also brings back memories, with its Victorian images and chocolates double wrapped in foil and cellophane. I used to try and smooth the foil out as flat as possible, hopefully without a single crease, then fold it up as small as possible. I also had fun experimenting with the cellophane layer in front of a camera lens. I remember the purple wrapper created very interesting effects on architecture. In one of my cupboards I still have one of those old tins, although now it is filled with buttons rather than chocolates.

All those years ago I didn’t appreciate how many memories a box of chocolates could hold locked up inside…