Family Gathering in Poole.

After a comfortable night in Aaron’s bed (he was relegated to the loft) I woke before Billy and went downstairs for coffee and breakfast before bringing Billy a coffee. Since the shower was empty, I then used it so it would be free for everyone else to get ready in time for church at 10.30am. (Helen and Mike went to the gym early and showered there, so there were only 5 of us needing the shower, which helped.)

Everyone looked very smart – and I was glad I’d brought along a maxi-dress as my legs were absolutely black with bruises I hadn’t realised I’d acquired the day before. After a short walk, we arrived at the church and briefly saw people before the service. It was a normal Sunday morning service but with Olivia being the guest of honour – and she was very good throughout.

Afterwards, we went to the Church hall to have a buffet lunch, relax and meet everyone properly. Let me introduce the cast:

Billy and Raji’s dad (Robert) was Judy’s cousin.
Judy (married to Gerry) is mum of Dave and Mike.
Mike is married to Helen, and they have two sons, Aaron (18) and Joe (17).
Dave is married to (another!) Judy, they live in America and had Olivia, 8 months ago.

Helen, Mike, Aaron and Joe, we have stayed with before and they’ve visited us. Similarly, Judy and Gerry are familiar as both hosts and visitors. ( Here, and here for example.) All of them are absolutely wonderful people and we love them. They were all particularly supportive too, at a time Billy and Raji needed it, before I knew them, and it’s made them very close. Happily for me, they’ve taken me into the family readily and I too, love them and feel close.

Because they live in America, I’d never met Judy and Dave before though I have got on well with them on Facebook, which has been nice. This was my first time of meeting them and it was great to do so at last. Whether it’s because of being family and very like the others, or whether it’s because of knowing them though Facebook, it already felt like I knew them so it was very comfortable and easy. As for Olivia, she’s an absolute little star – she was so good and more so when you consider she’d already spent a week in Slovakia with her maternal family.

The other thing to mention about this side of the family is that they are not short! Have a look at the photos – bear in mind that at 5’8″ I am not used to being the smallest member of a party (Olivia and (Granny)Judy were the only two shorter than me!) and that Billy is 6′ 3″ – and there was no tip-toeing or squatting going on:


This is a particularly lovely picture of Olivia with her daddy, uncle, grandad and cousins:


Afterwards the immediate family went back to Gerry and Judy’s for a drink in the garden, sitting in the sunshine which was rather pleasant. At Helen’s request, we got a very nice photo of Joe with Olivia on his lap:


The day flew by and before long it was time for us to take our leave as we were going to a BBQ with Helen and Mike’s friends. It was our first BBQ of the year and very nice, though it did get quite chilly in the evening. It was nice of everyone (rugby club friends of Helen and Mike’s) to welcome us too. By the time we got back to the house, I was quite cold, though that may well have been as much to do with tiredness as the weather, so it was quite nice to relax in front of the TV for a while before turning in.

Billy, Raji and I had a long drive on the Monday but we managed to squeeze in a quick visit for a coffee with Judy, Gerry, Dave, Judy and Olivia before we left – it would have been such a shame not to have had the chance to see them again before we left and I’m pleased we managed to fit it in. We then had a smooth journey home and arrived around 9pm.

It had been lovely to see the family again – and meet some for the first time – and we really must try not to leave it too long before seeing them next time.

Wembley: FA Cup Final City 1 – 0 Stoke

Apologies in advance for this being a bit long and a bit emotional – and not perfectly written! I’m sure you’ll appreciate that it was a HUGE day ๐Ÿ™‚

I ALWAYS watch the FA Cup Final, regardless of which teams are playing in it. It’s the grand finale to the football season and I love the occasion. (You may recall mum and me watching it in the garden in 2009 ) It was hard to believe that I was going to actually be at Wembley for the final, watching it live. Hard to believe I was going to Wembley to see City (having previously been to see England) It was therefore beyond comprehension that I was going to watch CITY in an FA CUP FINAL at WEMBLEY!

Before City were even known to be in the final, Billy, Raji and I had made plans to drive to Dorset this day ready for a family Christening on the Sunday, and then when City were through and I found out I’d got a ticket, I felt I wouldn’t be able to go. Fortunately for me I have a sports mad husband and B-I-L and they were both very insistent that I must go to the game. They both came up with the same plan too, completely independently of each other. And so it was that they got up at 3am without complaint, and we set off at 4am for London where we planned to stop off before continuing the drive to Dorset after the match. We had set off this early expecting heavy traffic and many delays on the M1, but that good old Law-of-Sod came into play and we had a very smooth journey indeed. We started to see football fans as we got further south (City, Stoke and Huddersfield) but must have left sufficiently early to have missed most. We parked at Denham station, hopped on the train that obligingly arrived just a couple of minutes later and after a short (18 minutes) trip, arrived at Wembley by 10am! Still no complaints from the men, though I did apologise for my over-cautiousness.

I’d had texts from Mum saying she was drinking her cuppa from my/dad’s City mug for luck, and from my brother with a photo of him in his City shirt ready, as well as others from various friends. Finally, driving done, I could start to get excited! We walked up through the stadium surrounds and it was great seeing the flags and scarves everywhere, and feeling the buzz. I had to have a picture to prove I was there – sadly the ones showing the Wembley signs were of me with an upside down scarf, which Billy hadn’t noticed! A passing steward pointed it out so we tried again – but missed off the word “Wembley”:


Since City had been allocated the west side of Wembley, it meant that the Green Man pub which Billy and I had enjoyed so much last time, was a designated City pub and so we made our way there – trusting Billy’s memory and sense of direction, which got us there in the end, albeit by a bit of a circuitous route ๐Ÿ˜‰ To our disappointment though, once there, it seemed match tickets had to be shown in order to get in so I suggested we get a picnic and camp out on the roundabout we’d just passed (and which had infamously been a sea of Blue for the semi-final) Billy was having none of it though and said I should go in and enjoy being with fellow Blues to enjoy the build up, and that he and Raji would go off and amuse themselves for the day. So I called Rick, the secretary of our North East supporters club to check he was already there, and then said goodbye to my two chivalrous escorts and went on in.

I made my way to the garden and grabbed a burger as I passed the BBQ since I had no idea when I’d next get the chance to eat. The gang were in the marquee guarding the beautiful new flag the branch had just got – it looked brilliant and plenty of photos were taken with it.

Rick kindly got me a drink – though for speed of being served he had to get a can of Stella rather than draught beer, and since I was driving later, I just drank about a quarter of it to be safe. I’d barely had anything to drink all morning on the drive (because I’d only need to keep stopping for the loo) so was pretty thirsty, but managed to stay sensible. It was great to see everyone again, especially Rick and Mark whom I love to bits, and the atmosphere was already building up nicely, though we all agreed it was all a bit surreal. Just a few snapshots of the pre-match fun:
I was relating the tale of me balancing a pint on my head on my last trip to this pub and of course that started us off again ๐Ÿ˜€ Mark had been saying for about an hour that he wanted a burger before he finally went off and got one – and then whilst he was gone, Uwe Rosler made an appearance and the marquee emptied fast as everyone went to see the legend. I stayed and guarded our stuff and was then laughing at Mark when he returned to find he’d missed it all. There were a couple of lads who jumped up on a handy picnic bench to get the singing going and decided everyone had to learn the words to the Balotelli song (..he’s a striker, he’s good at darts…) so it was sung over and over with more people joining in as they learned the words. One lad decided he had to strip off his shirt to reveal a nicely toned, tanned and tattooed torso, prompting everyone to sing that he’d been to the tanning shop. Just as this died down, up jumped a much older man with, shall we say, a less appealing torso and a large beer belly who was delighted with his own song claiming he’d been to the pie shop ๐Ÿ˜€ Mark’s next bee in his bonnet was that he wanted to be outside in the sunshine and as he was wearing shorts we could only conclude that he was after a tan! So we took down the flag and folded it neatly before joining Dan and the others in the garden. (We were so lucky with the weather as the forecast had been for showers, sometimes heavy, but in fact it was sunny and fairly mild, though slightly breezy at times.) Dan introduced me to “Sharon” his lucky inflatable dolphin mascot, so I introduced everyone outside to Kitty, (I’d already done so with those inside) who was pleased to receive good luck kisses. ๐Ÿ™‚ (The other major good luck charms there on the day were Elliot’s begraggled scarf – if that could talk, I reckon it’d have a few tales to tell, and I wore my dad’s City badge again, as I had for the semi-final. Actually I am sure there were thousands of good luck charms and mascots there – we’re a superstitious bunch ;))

In this City video, at about 2mins 52 secs, if you look top right, you just see me in the background ๐Ÿ™‚


Rick wanted to get inside the stadium early enough to put up the flag so a couple of us went with him and the others joined us later, wanting to enjoy a bit more of the singing and atmosphere in the pub first. We couldn’t put the flag right in front of our seats but we got it fairly close which was great.


We then went and got a drink – I paid ร‚ยฃ2.70 for a small bottle of water, having had my own bottle taken away and the water decanted into a cup on the way in! (That was my usual match going water bottle which was just the right size to go in my bag, and now it’s gone ๐Ÿ™ ) Since this was also put in a cup, I had no chance of saving any for later so had to drink it all before the game. It turned out to be my last for several hours, though adrenalin and euphoria meant I hardly noticed at the time.

Soon it was time to be back in our seats (well, in front of them, we never actually sat in them all afternoon!) and it was time for the build up. I can’t describe the noise, the colour, the expectancy, the excitement, the whole sense of occasion. Both sets of fans were magnificent and sang, clapped, roared and waved their flags (I managed to keep mine in tact to bring home, but it got a good wave before kick off.) Having made a point of learning the words to “Abide with me“, I was disappointed that the song was mangled (by varying the tempo too much) by the official singers. However, I enthusiastically joined in with the National Anthem and, not for the only time that day, had a tear in my eye thinking how much dad would have loved it. Mum and Rick were watching at home on their TV’s and Billy and Raji had gone back to Denham and after finding a greasy spoon and having a good breakfast, were now in a pub and watching the match on TV. So I was spiritually with all my family as we all watched, and with my many friends at home cheering City on for me, and with those Blues around the world not at the match but every bit as caught up in it as those of us there, and physically with my beloved Blue family all around. It was a magic feeling. We greeted our team enthusiastically, and when the Stoke team were read out, we did the Poznan ๐Ÿ™‚

And then we we were off! I’ll leave the detailed stuff (including the moments that Huth and Yaya could have had an early bath!) to the online match reports by MCFC and the Beeb, not least because it all felt like an amazing dream. I was SO proud of the way the team came out and played. We had it in mind to do the Poznan in the 24th minute, in honour of Neil Young’s 24th minute winning goal last time City won the FA Cup, but at 23.5 minutes, City had a corner…. which took forever to take! We barely made it to get the Poznan in that 24th minute, but somehow we did, just! ๐Ÿ™‚ We created chances and by half time had had 10 shots to Stoke’s 2 – how it was still 0-0 I don’t know! (Well, actually, Stoke’s keeper had a bit to do with it ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Throughout the match, the (very inebriated) man next to me, who had (for some unknown reason) given me his sunglasses to look after for him kept asking me what he’d given me? And where I’d put them. And would I be giving them back at the end? In the end I answered his question before he asked it and promised him he could forget about it as I had them safely stashed in my bag and would be sure to return them! He also kept trying to kiss me and I had to keep turning my face as I repeated that I was happily married – I ended up with a slobbery cheek and eye by the end! It was all good natured though, and just a part of the general air of excitement and fun.

Into the second half then, and we were starting to think it was going to be one of those afternoons where the ball just will not go in the net. When up popped Yaya! OMG! I think I ripped a vocal chord cheering! We went MAD! We did the Poznan again and my neighbour was so drunk he was pulling me over the seats in front ๐Ÿ˜€ Did I care? Erm, nope! The MotM was awarded to Balotelli, who did indeed have a good game and acted in a much more mature fashion than usual. However, tough call as it was, De Jong was my choice – some of his tackles were superb. This really was a team performance though and they all did well – and I was pleased that Zaba came on as a sub as he has been fantastic and deserved to play a part.

After the goal we were bags of nerves! To a man, we had hands over faces, we bit nails, we scrunched up scarves, we watched the clock and willed it down. Every free kick, every throw in Stoke had, we expected them to score. City couldn’t possibly break the 35 year habit and actually win….. could they?

The whistle blew. City HAD! We had WON! If we went nuts at the goal, it was nothing to realising we’d won! I wasn’t alone, however, in also having a cry. If only dad (and his dad) could have seen this. And yet, having been praying to them throughout the match, maybe they did! I certainly felt close to them just then. It wasn’t just me though. Young Josh, (who I think is brilliant and I love him) ,who’d been as loud as anyone singing, and looked more a nervous wreck at 1-0 than any of us, cried with the older fans who’d seen City’s last trophy win. Happy tears of gratitude and an element of disbelief I think. But the tears didn’t last, and the flags were soon waving again, singing recommenced, hearts burst with pride.

Having been singing all through the match, you’d think we’d have run out of voice and energy, but we happily belted out more songs, including “We are the Champions” which set me off again as it had been dad’s platoon’s song and he used to love singing it.




We shared a moment of sympathy with Stoke fans and we all applauded their players as they went up for their medals. They reciprocated and stayed on to watch and applaud our players as they went up for theirs – I think both sets of fans were fantastic on the day and as far as I’m aware there was no trouble, and I think maybe there was a lot of mutual respect shown and possibly a slight rise in estimation of each other.

When City lifted that cup, the emotion was pure joy. To be there, to know you’ve been there for the boys trough thick and thin, to know they are your heroes, a new generation of legends, to feel the love for all your fellow Blues, to be a PART of it all – was absolutely indescribably wonderful. I could hardly take it in – not just because I’m more used to the lows than the highs with my club, but also because there was just so much noise, colour, movement, and raw emotion throughout the day. In fact it took me a few days to process it all and sort it into some sort of order.

Eventually, I knew I needed to make a move as there was still a long drive ahead. I took my leave of everyone, with cuddles and kisses all round, and headed to the station to get the train. As I found the right queue, I realised Billy had my ticket, and though he’d said he would come and meet me, I didn’t see how he would find me in the mass of people. His phone had died, so he used Raji’s to call me, and after several missed calls between us (too noisy to hear) we finally managed to talk to each other. He’d got a policeman at the other end to let him through the barriers to come and find me and we had to get another policeman to let him back through to my side. He gave me an enormous cuddle and said “You lucky, lucky thing, seeing your team lift the FA Cup.” I was too overwhelmed to speak so just squeezed him tight – I love being married to football fan as he knew how I must be feeling and squeezed me back. ๐Ÿ™‚

Despite the long queues, Wembley have got a good system and it wasn’t long before we were on the train back to Denham. Stoke and City fans mingled peaceably and I was pleased to see one City fan talking sympathetically to a couple of young Stoke lads. They hadn’t expected to win, they said, and agreed when he asked if they’d have taken European football and an FA Cup final at the start of the season. They all parted on good terms. Raji was waiting for us when we got back and my first priority on getting back to the car was to have a long drink of water as I was very, very thirsty. We decided to get on the road and have food and a proper rest at the first services, and this worked out nicely. It had been a great idea to park at Denham (thanks Bloovee) and had worked perfectly. We were in Poole with the family by 9.30pm and at long last I got to have the long awaited MCFC End of an Era Champagne I’d been hoarding since 2003!

Kippax Blue’s photos here.
MCFC’s 60 second highlights.
MCFC’s extended highlights.
MCFC’s tunnel cam.
MCFC – the train journey home.
LOADS of City videos and pictures on the City site, so happy exploring ๐Ÿ™‚

St George’s Day 2011 – Eastbourne

As in previous years, (2010 2009 2008 2007 ) St George’s Day 2011 was mine and mum’s special day together, in memory of dad.


We hadn’t slept particularly well but were looking forward to our day and started, as always, by exchanging cards and little gifts. We’d brought a bunch of roses with us, and had them (minus the one we’d taken to the crem) in a jar in the room, and we mum made two of them in to buttonholes for us to wear.


I’d managed to leave Kitty’s England shirt at mum’s (she was a late addition to the party) so mum made her an outfit ๐Ÿ™‚ For those of you who don’t know her, I really must write a post to introduce you to Kitty sometime! She’s quite a character and supports Newcastle, City and England and always wears the appropriate shirt for any game she attends or watches.


The weather forecast had been good but given that it was still April, we had both packed for sunny-but-not-hot weather – and had already found that the day before had been very hot. We therefore ditched our usual smart attire for t-shirts (our buttonholes looked a little out of place really, so we removed these at lunchtime.) We spent the morning reacquainting ourselves with the shops in town, noting what was still there and what had gone. (It must be a good few years since I was last there, though mum had been last October.) Since mum wanted a couple of new pillows for home, and we’d found our pillows in the hotel uncomfortable, she bought some for us to use that night, and I bought some Millies Cookies to take to Uckfield next day for Easter, but otherwise, we just enjoyed browsing.

After a picnic lunch in our room, we spent the afternoon on the seafront and pier and were unbelievably lucky with the weather – 27 degrees, bright sunshine and everyone in a relaxed and holiday mood. We even caught the sun a bit ๐Ÿ™‚

By late afternoon, we finally realised we hadn’t yet had a drink (of alcohol that is) which was not what dad would have wanted at all! So we wandered into town hoping to find room at a table outside a pub. We particularly hoped to find one at the Duke of Devonshire – the only pub (or indeed, disappointingly, ANY place!) that was celebrating St George’s Day. Sadly, it was full as was the one next door. Neither mum nor I feel comfortable walking into pubs without a male escort and we decided to walk further down to Wetherspoons, with which we’re a bit happier as it’s more a family friendly chain. We found it almost empty inside, though there were a few people out in the garden at the back. We waited at the bar behind two others and several more people came in and formed a sort of line along the bar. We were not happy when some of these were served before us and we got a bit restless. The duty manager caught our eye and said someone would be with us soon which mollified us a bit and we waited our turn. We were completely taken aback when the same man then served a couple who were clearly behind us and as they were holding a menu, we think it was because he thought they were going to order food (which they didn’t) which was wrong in our opinion. We were both so annoyed that we left in disgust.

We walked back to the other bars and fate lent us a helping hand as there was now a table free outside so mum grabbed it and I went into the (empty) pub to get our drinks. Slightly annoyingly, we’d decided to have a half of Carlsberg each in Wetherspoons as they sponsor England(football team), but this pub didn’t have it. (We ended up with Grolsch which I rather like for its deep, full taste.) It was heavenly sitting out in the hot sun sipping cold beer watching the world go by, though poor dad looking down would no doubt have been saying it was about bloody time as he’d have been on his umpteenth drink by this time ๐Ÿ˜‰


It was so pleasant that we had two drinks before moving on to the seafront for some chips from the corner chippie that always used to serve the best chips in Eastbourne. It was now a Harry Ramsdens so we decided we’d eat in, and even had a 3rd beer with our food – dad would have quite liked that we thought.

We took a slow walk back to the hotel afterwards, and though we hadn’t exactly done things as dad would have, we felt he’d have enjoyed us enjoying our day. Next year, we really must have Billy with us to help us out with the drinking as we are such light weights ๐Ÿ˜›

Happy 8th St George’s Day by proxy, dad. Happy St George’s Day to every English man, woman and child. ๐Ÿ™‚

City 1 – 0 ManUre FA Cup semi-final (Wembley)

There is nothing like a derby to get the nerves tingling – and a derby which happens to be an FA Cup semi final at Wembley is worse than most! I had a ticket but there was no way I could go since I was already planning to be away for Easter, so another member of the North East Blues supporters went in my stead.

I couldn’t settle all day, though a friend coming round for coffee in the morning distracted me for a while which was nice. By the time match time arrived I was, like most Blues, in a high state of nervousness – I fully expected us to lose, but the hope that somehow we could do it, was almost unbearable. I was wearing all my usual match day lucky clothing/jewelery etc, and I added my dad’s City badge which mum had recently found. Despite being convinced it would be for naught, I couldn’t help myself, I set the scene ready:

FA Cup semi final ready

All morning I’d shared in the build up with other Blues via Twitter and enjoyed traveling fans’ comments that the M6 was a sea of Blue, with very few Reds to be seen (and we all know why that is don’t we? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I knew that there were plans for City fans to do the Poznan as the ManUre team was read out before kickoff, and loved it when it was done – also loved the commentators’ saying that they could feel the stands shaking, and having to explain what was going on ๐Ÿ™‚

When the match started my stomach was in knots – and City didn’t start too well! When Berbatov failed to convert 2 great chances early on (one a great save by Joe and one a missed sitter) I felt it was a matter of time before they scored! ๐Ÿ™ And then….. after 25 minutes or so, my boys woke up! They played football. They had belief. They looked like a team. We could almost have done without the break, but happily the half time talk must have gone well and City carried on where they left off.

I really was on the edge of my seat, praying to dad, my grandad, Neil Young – anyone up there that would listen, in fact ๐Ÿ˜‰ – and when Yaya scored, I was jumping up and down and screaming with delight – the whole town must have heard me! ๐Ÿ˜€ Once I calmed down slightly, I was clock watching! I couldn’t believe we were 1-0 up, and I certainly couldn’t believe we would keep it that way. I kept waiting for United to go up a gear – they are masters at doing this, just when you think they are down and out, and they are very dangerous when it comes to scoring late on. For whatever reason, be it the loss of Rooney, the fact that Sour Alex was still serving his touchline ban, or that City were having the better of it despite the absence of Tevez, ManUre just didn’t find that edge. Things got worse for them when Scholes got a straight red – which was a correct decision but to be fair, I don’t think there was any malice in his actions – he and Zab both had a right to go for the ball, and Scholes was just beaten to it, and had his studs that little bit too high. Happily Zab is a toughy and he was able to go on – indeed, I felt it was good fortune that we had him back in the side again after he’d been absent (visiting his seriously ill father at home.)

When 5 minutes added time was announced, I was extremely anxious and shouting at the TV asking where on earth that had come from and Stephen (who had appeared downstairs after watching the game in his room until then) told me to calm down and that we’d won it. Ha! I know the danger of that kind of thinking! As it turned out, it was City who came closest to scoring late on when Yaya had an excellent chance but couldn’t keep his feet. Every man in Blue was a hero. Hart had made soem fantastic saves. The midfield had battled hard. The defence was magnificent. And even Balotelli had a good game. I was so proud of every single one of them.

And then the whistle blew! Cue hysterical screaming and joy from me (I had a sore throat until Wednesday!) . And thousands of other Blues. And probably thousands of ABU fans around the country too! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I was deliriously happy – but at the same time, couldn’t quite believe it. Billy had been playing cricket all day so I went and joined him at the club for a much needed drink (so I put my champagne back in the fridge as I didn’t want to waste it.) They’d watched the second half in the club so naturally we talked about it when I joined them. Th other City fan was quietly happy. An older United fan gave me a rueful smile. A younger one mouthed off about hating City and buying success (! Oh the irony!) and said Scholes did not deserve a red card! Apart from him, every Man Utd fan to whom I have spoken has been magnanimous. ( One, a colleague, came to my office on Monday and said “Thought I may as well get this over with!” ๐Ÿ˜€ )

It took me a few hours to really calm down and it was fun going online and sharing the happiness with other Blues, and reading reports, and reactions.

At last! City in a Cup Final!

As it turned out, it was Stoke that won the other semi, and I confess I’d rather we’d played Bolton as we just don’t seem to be able to cope with Stoke. Ironically, the league match originally arranged for the Cup Final date was at home to Stoke!

MCFC’s 60 second highlights here.
MCFC’s extended highlights here.
Tunnel Cam here.
City Square video here.
Reactions here – Mancini, Kompany, Lescott, Sweep, – various other FA Cup videos too, just explore City TV
Kippax Blue’s photos here.
Football Pundette’s blog here.

Mother’s Day – both sides.

On the Wednesday before Mother’s Day, Nel spoiled me as I was going to be away for the actual day. I am often away as I obviously like to see my own mum on the day, but this year, it mattered to Nel as she had been planning her treat to me for months, so we settled on a day to have as OUR Mother’s Day together. She hired a DVD for us to watch together – Mulan (the 2009 Chinese film, not the Disney cartoon!) which we both really enjoyed, and she bought us takeaway to eat whilst we watched it. She even got some sweet nibbles too, though we didn’t actually have room for them. She also bought me a beautiful card with a cute kitten on it, and some lovely soft, fluffy slipper boots which I sat stroking all evening ๐Ÿ™‚


The whole evening was very special because I often feel I struggle as to be a good mum to Nel – she and I are so different in many ways and she can be very needy at times, giving me doubts about my ability to provide fr her needs. The fact that she went to so much trouble and expense made me feel that maybe I do get somethings right, and that she does know how much I love her.

On the day itself, I was at Mum’s, having driven down on the Saturday so that I could spoil her. We had a nice morning and then at lunchtime, I finished cooking the dinner I’d prepared at home and brought with me. I set the table, with a card outlining the menu: starter (prawn cocktails๐Ÿ˜‰ main course (goulash, new potatoes, broccoli and garlic bread๐Ÿ˜‰ dessert (apple crumble Angelique*, with cream); and coffee. Since I was driving afterwards, we had a bottle of Elderflower and white grape fizz with our meal. (Photos courtesy of mum who had the foresight to take them ๐Ÿ™‚ )


(* Apple Crumble Angelique was a basic crumble recipe which I played with by adding a tin of Nestle Caramel on top of the apple, and rubbed in some cinnamon with the crumb mix.)

We took our coffee to the armchairs afterwards and mum took a photo of me/her cards on the mantelpiece/her new fire – which we had on so we could admire it ๐Ÿ™‚


I then went off to my football match and then drove home. At the last services, I sent my usual “At last services, will be about an hour” text to Billy, Nel and Stephen, and Stephen replied (I have copied exactly):

Okies, happy mothers day! I was going to make you breakfast but forgot you weren’t here, so tomorrow? or dinner so i’m awake…Or lunch on wed/thurs x

That was sweet – he usually just mumbles “Happy Mother’s Day” and maybe makes me a cup of tea. So, the Wednesday after the day itself, Stephen cooked me my dinner – having left the choice of what it was to me, as long as it had instructions ๐Ÿ™‚ So I chose fishcakes and chips with bread and butter, and he cooked those perfectly at the time I requested. He set the table/tray including condiments, buttered my bread, and even cleared away afterwards. That was really nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

I felt very honoured to be treated by both children and to know that they love me enough to have wanted to do so. I also feel very lucky to have my mum to spoil and love doing so. I think this was my first year of really having the very best of both worlds.

Escape to the moon.

With mum’s birthday being a Friday this year, and City playing at home on the Saturday, I was able to take advantage and combine the two for a short trip and I drove down to Chester on the Thursday afternoon.

I had a lovely smooth drive down – I love people but I also need time out alone to recharge my batteries and with the price of petrol being so ridiculously high now, I am making fewer trips and getting much less time out. By the time this trip came round I was desperate for some space – at home I don’t get any as there is always someone home and usually someone in the same room as me even if we’re just watching a DVD. At work my office is constantly visited by colleagues as well as patients, and of course the phone rings frequently too. In both places there are some influences who are negative and the only way for me to offer support/sympathy and to stop myself being dragged into descending gloom, is to have little breaks from it. So it was that I thoroughly enjoyed my solo drive and arrived just before mum got home from work.

After a relaxing evening catching up, a lovely dinner and a few drinks, we went to bed, though the very strong wind woke us up from time to time through the night. In the morning, mum’s birthday, I insisted on making her her tea and then her breakfast, and mum opened her presents and cards. Our household had picked a theme of The Moon for all her presents as mum likes to have a calendar showing the phases of the moon and we’d been unable to find one. She now has a nice chart showing them as well as a few other moon related presents – thanks to Nel’s brain-wave coming up with this theme. Mum also had lots of other nice cards and presents – no more than she deserves ๐Ÿ™‚

Mid morning, we set off to find a new fire and fireplace to replace the very ancient one that came with the house, and which mum wants to replace before decorating the living room. We had a lovely drive into the Welsh countryside and eventually round back into England – we know how to have a good time ๐Ÿ™‚ We found the perfect fire and surround which will look beautiful in my second home mum’s living room and the man in the shop was really helpful without over the top hard-sell. We then wandered round the few local shops and mum got a couple of other things she’d wanted (at bargain prices too!) and we had a lovely fish and chip lunch before returning homeward – via CostCo, as I wanted a couple of bits.

Since I insisted on mum doing no chores for the day, I prepared our tea – simple though it was. We had a Covent Garden soup with ham sandwiches and crisps, accompanied by a bottle of scrummy wine which one of mum’s friends had bought her for her birthday. Afterwards, I went and got the birthday cake I’d made the day before and hidden, and before we knew it, the day was over.

It had been lovely to spend mum’s birthday with her and though what we did may not have been exciting, we enjoyed it. Happy Birthday to my perfect mum, the most wonderful woman to ever walk the earth ๐Ÿ™‚ And of course, there’s the nice new fireplace to come sometime in the next few weeks….

Nel’s 18th Birthday trip

After breakfast and present opening, Nel, Billy and I set off for Manchester and made good time getting there. We decided to drive to our first stop, which seemed a good idea at the time, it ended up taking us in circles around the city centre before we finally ended up where we wanted. Further time was spent trying to park, but at last, we made it and entered the University of Manchester Museum at around 2.30pm. We were particularly interested in the Egyptian exhibits especially the mummies and their stories, as an appetizer or the following day’s arrangements. Nel and I also enjoyed the evolution exhibits -fossils, dinosaurs, extinct animals and the evolution of existing animals. Billy and I braved the vivarium, though actually all the animals were behind secure glass so it wasn’t too bad. This is a decent museum with small but well thought out exhibits, and it’s free of charge so well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Next we I decided to drive to the hotel and check in so we I could ditch the car after so long spent driving, and relax. Again,we took a bit of a tour of Manchester though not as stressful as the previous one. We found the hotel which we’d chosen so as to be close to the Trafford Centre ready for the next day’s activities, but I was slightly nervous about my car (with its City stickers) being so deep in enemy territory.(It turned out to be fine and in fact I hardly saw any references to football.) We checked in and were pleased enough with our rooms. Nel had a double to herself and Billy and I had a family room (basically the same sized rooms, but ours had a sofa bed in it (in case Nel felt insecure in the night and wanted to come in with us (which she didn’t).)) We’d paid extra for Nel to have Wi-Fi access during our stay so she set that up on her laptop whilst I had a cup of tea and freshened up and then we headed off for dinner.

Nel specifically wanted a Chinese meal as her birthday meal and the friendly lady on reception had advised us that there were several Chinese restaurants in the Trafford Centre. Although it was only a short walk, it was about ร‚ยฃ3 for a taxi so as it was a cold night we decided to take the warmer option, on her advice, and picked up a business card of a local firm. They operate a system whereby you call and are put through to the next available driver so that you don’t have to wait long, and we only waited a couple of minutes before we were picked up. We looked around the various restaurants before settling on the Yang Sing Cathaywhere we had a gorgeous meal sharing half a crispy duck for starters, and a beef, a pork and a lamb dish with noodles and rice for main. A little strangely, diners are given a knife and fork by default so we had to ask for chopsticks as Nel and I prefer chopsticks, though Billy was happy with his fork. Nel and I had a glass of wine each whilst Billy had beer and we enjoyed a relaxing, beautifully cooked meal. Then Billy suggested we have a look to see what films were on at the cinema and I realised it was Wednesday so we could make use of an Orange Wednesday (two-for-one)deal, and so we went and watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (part 1.)

It was just as well we did use the Orange Wednesday deal since tickets were ร‚ยฃ8.30 EACH! Good job that isn’t our local cinema as we wouldn’t ever get to go! It was a good choice of film, even though Nel has seen it twice already (it was her choice and apparently she likes to watch films a few times.) Billy and I have both read the book but having seen all the previous films it was nice to see this one. Nel and I got the giggles after once scene in which big, bad, scary, snake falls down a hole with our heroes cautiously peeping over the edge. Now you know what happens next don’t you? It’s obvious that the snake is going to leap up at them. You know this, I know this. I knew it at the time too. So I was all tensed up waiting for it. Then when it happened, I leaped a foot in the air with arms raised. Nel found it hilarious and every time one of us would master the giggles, the other would set us off again. ๐Ÿ˜€

After the film, we got a taxi back to the hotel, which was just as well as the fog was so thick we could barely see a thing – good job the taxi driver knew the way. At least, he did in the end, after making a scary U-turn at one point and driving rather fast given the poor visibility. Anyway, we turned in for the night, Nel to watch TV and chat to friends online, and us to an old, slightly saggy and lumpy mattress which nonetheless wasn’t too bad. I was so tired I felt like I was on a ship, and it was just nice to lie still and not be on the move.

In the morning I enjoyed the breakfast picnic bag provided (little pre-packed bowl of cornflakes with milk, croissant and muffin) with coffee, and later Billy and Nel had a croissant and muffin respectively, before we checked out. It was a very short and easy drive to the Trafford Centre and to my surprise, there was plenty of parking space.

First stop was Appy Feet where Nel was keen to try out a fishy pedicure. It was very quiet at the time so happily, they could accommodate her immediately so she sat for 15 minutes with her feet in a fish tank whilst the fish nibbled away all the hard, dead skin on her feet! She loved it and said her feet were really soft afterwards – I think she might be hooked! (Good job there is a store in the Metrocentre now too.) The staff were very friendly which added to the enjoyment and made it fun so we left there feeling good about the day ahead.

After a little wander, we stopped for lunch though we had to change our plans for this as we’d intended picking up something light from Greggs or similar. Sadly, nothing like that existed there so we went instead to Pizza Hut and had the all-you-can-eat buffet which was delicious. The service was good too – quietly efficient and friendly without interfering.

Nel wanted to go and play on some of the machines in the casino area and managed to win some sweets. Billy mischeviously challenged me to a game of air hockey which I love – and I thrashed him! ๐Ÿ˜€

Finally, it was time for the main point of our trip: The Tutanhkhamun exhibition at the Museum of Museums. This was brilliantly done and really brought history to life. Very well worth a visit if you get the chance before it closes on March 26th this year. I liked the fact that headphones and audio guide are provided on entry and we could all go round at our own speed. The exhibits start with life size arrangements of how the archaeologists saw each chamber as they discovered them before going on to reproduce each item in painstaking detail. Most importantly, Nel loved it. ๐Ÿ™‚

After leaving the exhibition, we decided to head off home since none of us wanted to go shopping (and in any case the shops would all be the same as any other shopping centre) and we were soon on the M60 homeward bound. It was a very tiring journey with thick fog the majority of the way, reducing visibility and speed and increasing the amount of concentration needed to drive. At the last services, Nel wanted a burger from Burger King and then surprised us by buying us each a thank you present – Maltesers for Billy and daffodils for me. I just about remembered in time not to cuddle her in public, but it was such a lovely thing to do. ๐Ÿ™‚

And so, that was her 18th birthday trip. All that remained to do at home was to make her the cheesecake she’d requested and drink champagne so she could keep the cork and silver coin for luck.

Happy 18th Birthday Nel

Today I am the proud mum of a beautiful 18 year old woman.

She’s kind, caring, generous, lovely and very, very precious and I hope she has a wonderful birthday trip, on which she, Billy and I are shortly embarking.

We’re off to see Tutankhamun and visit a museum where there are lots of exhibits Nel wishes to see. She is also keen to have her feet nibbled and enjoy a Chinese all-you-can-eat-buffet. So we are having 2 days away (staying at a hotel) with all the activities chosen by her.

More when we’re back, but for now:

Happy Birthday my darling daughter. We love you very much.


A busy New Year with friends.

On New Year’s Eve we did as we usually do, and had a meal with our friends (Louisa, Sol, John, Dana, Claire, Simon, Tim and Geraldine). In previous years, I’ve felt rather under dressed as they have “suited and booted” or glammed up, according to gender. This year I finally decided to wear a dress and heels – and they were all casual! How come they all know what they’re doing and I don’t? ๐Ÿ˜‰

After a quick drink (very quick 2 mouthfuls in my case since we were late thanks to Billy, so he had to finish my drink!) we went to Quattro Mori where we had booked a table for 8pm. We had to wait a short while while they set up our table and it was very busy in there. We faffed about a bit getting seated since Tim insisted he had to sit next to Simon – which was, in hindsight, a big mistake since they fed off each other’s silliness and got louder and ruder as the night went on, making me slightly uncomfortable.

There was a bit of confusion about my starter when they brought me hot jumbo prawns with rice, instead of Prawn cocktail, and then told me they hadn’t got any prawn cocktail left, so I ended up having pate. The rest of our meals arrived without incident and then some had dessert too – Billy being teased for choosing hot chocolate fudge cake with STRAWBERRY ice-cream! ๐Ÿ˜€ Drink flowed VERY freely, though I only had 2 glasses of wine myself. At the end of the meal, a few of us wanted to work out roughly what individual choices had cost and pay that, but we were over ruled in favour of an equal split – which I didn’t think quite fair given the variation in food and drink consumed. It worked out an expensive meal and I wouldn’t be keen to return there in future.

Usually we remain at our restaurant until shortly before midnight and then wander along to a (packed) pub to see in the New Year. However, this year, we were out early, and we ended up in a pub of Louisa’s choosing though a couple of us were not keen and said we’d prefer somewhere else. The Grapes was very quiet with only a handful of people in it which would have made it ideal for sitting and chatting together, but very loud music was playing on the juke box all evening so we couldn’t really talk. We discussed moving on to somewhere else, but as some had put a lot of money in the juke box, they wanted to wait for their songs. And so it was that we stayed there to see in the New Year, though Louisa and Sol disappeared early as they’d apparently got a party to attend. Once we’d dutifully welcomed the start of 2011, we escaped to our longed-for beds. The evening was a bit of a let-down really, compared to previous years which have been great fun – I think next year we’ll be back at the Chinese which we’d all enjoyed last year, and I shall certainly be a bit firmer in saying where I would or wouldn’t like to be as midnight strikes.

When we got home, Billy and I were ready to fall into bed, but just as we were getting ready to do so, Nel came in, in floods of tears. Billy got to her first and he was absolutely brilliant! He spent the next 20 minutes or so cuddling her, calming her, letting her soak his shirt front, promising her it would get better and generally being that perfect man we girls need when we’re upset. I was so pleased Billy had been on hand as I felt he did a much better job of reassuring Nel than I’d have done, and she was much happier by the time we all went to bed at last.

I woke the next morning feeling absolutely dreadful – banging headache, really tired and generally ill, which could not have been alcohol related given I’d only had the 2 glasses of wine with dinner and only orange juice in the pub! I felt very hard-done-by, though having read my entry for last year, I can see it’s a common theme! I could only put it down to tiredness since I’d had such a busy holiday period, culminating in a late night, and dozed, showered, massaged my head, had coffee and breakfast, dozed again and finally succumbed to a couple of Paracetamol to try and feel better in time for the day ahead.

By the time we’d walked to Pat’s for our traditional New Year’s Day meal and games, I did feel better and happily, was able to enjoy a really good time . This year’s between-course game was an origami one – let’s just say that my attempts at making a frog and a pig were woeful ๐Ÿ˜‰ Steph was the runaway winner, though Paul and Raji did well too. We went on to play Trivial Pursuit as usual, with the girls getting to the centre long before the boys but failing every time to answer the Blue question as chosen by the boys. The boys won after correctly answering a ridiculously easy blue question. Pft! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We also played a couple of new games: The Logo Game, which we all enjoyed, and Articulate, which wasn’t bad either, though the sand-timer kept getting stuck. The day’s games ended a draw, with girls and boys winning 2 each – and we ran out of steam to play a decider. Barbara had done well to be here since she was recovering from flu, and was actually drinking only water all day! I suspect next time, the games will be less calm and orderly as she and Pat ply each other with drink again ๐Ÿ˜€ Yet again, it was a lovely day and Pat is definitely the “hostess with the mostest.”

I slept much, much better that night and woke feeling myself on Sunday – just as well as we had more socialising to do! It was Sol’s 40th birthday on Monday and Louisa had organised a surprise party for him Sunday afternoon. She’d asked for a contribution of as much ice as possible, so I spent the morning making lots, and then at 1.30pm Billy and I went on ahead and Raji came a little later. We arrived to see Sol placing balloons outside and he told us she’d cracked and told him about the party so he’d been helping to get things ready. Louisa made the ladies a Poinsettia cocktail on arrival and it was gorgeous, and very drinkable, though I paced myself and had just 3 all afternoon. Claire, Simon, John and Dana soon arrived, as did more people with children around the same age as Louisa and Sol’s too so there were soon lots of little people running around. They were all pretty well behaved but we were careful to look where we were going so we didn’t trip over them ๐Ÿ˜‰ We left at about 5pm or so, after a pleasant afternoon of drinks, nibbles and conversation.

So ended a very sociable Festive Season, with just one day to try and catch our breath ready for normality resuming on the Tuesday.

However you spent your New Year, I hope that 2011 will be a peaceful, healthy and happy one for you all.

A Perfect Family Christmas.

We had a lovely quiet, calm, family Christmas and I really enjoyed it. It’s one of the least stressful Christmas times I’ve ever had, I think. Not because we have any of the stereotypical family arguments at this time, but just because there are normally so many things to organise and places to be, things to do. This year, everything just fell into place somehow and even the Christmas dinner almost seemed to cook itself with no hassles.

On Thursday (23rd) Nel and I were due to drive to Chester to collect mum but with the weather having been so bad we were trying to decide whether to call it off. In the end I made the decision to drive, with the proviso that if the roads seemed too dangerous, I’d turn back. Happily, the A69, M6 and M56 were all completely clear and smooth running and the only difficulty we encountered was that it was so cold that the screen wash didn’t defrost until 3 hours into the journey despite the addition of neat winter screen wash then near boiling water! Since the salt sprayed up from the road was so thick, I had to stop at every services to clean the windows – but then they iced over almost immediately. In the end, I was using neat de-icer to clean them which was slightly better, though the lack of clear vision did cause me to drive pretty slowly so that it took much longer to do the journey than usual. Happily, the return trip was trouble free since I could now wash the windscreen and so Mum was with us for Christmas. I was so pleased as I’d have been devastated if it had been otherwise. Billy had titivated his den so that it was a warm and welcoming bedroom for her – and he’d even bought flowers and arranged them on her bedside table, which earned him Brownie points with both wife and M-I-L ๐Ÿ™‚

On Christmas Eve we had a wander into Hexham, and had a coffee break in Cafรƒยฉ Nero for which Nel joined us after her dog-walking. We cooked the two turkey crowns, the gammon joint, as well as a goulash for dinner that evening. I also made the stuffing for Christmas dinner, using the homegrown sage harvested earlier in the year. During the week or so before Christmas, the whole family had been asking me when they could start the Christmas food and drink and I’d replied “When Mum/Granny is here” (you’ve never seen a family so keen for her to arrive! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) We therefore started on the goodies that evening ๐Ÿ™‚

On Christmas morning, Mum and I were up first and had breakfast, showered and dressed before anyone else appeared. Raji was next, having got up early to wrap his presents ๐Ÿ˜‰ Eventually, by about 10.30, everyone was up and we were ready to open all our presents – and there were lots of them despite promises to keep it all low key this year. We all did very well, and for Billy and I the theme was books. I now have loads of unread books which is treasure beyond compare – I love the anticipation almost as much as the read. ๐Ÿ™‚ The cats all enjoyed the paper as well as their stocking which Nel had bought for them – she had bought one for her hamsters too so the pets all got to enjoy the day as well. After we’d tidied up, I told everyone they could do as they pleased until dinner and that I wanted them to present themselves at 12.55 ready for a 1pm dinner and they were to be prepared to have a fun, festive, family meal. And they did. The “children” don’t normally like to eat with us but they know how much Christmas dinner means and we had a really lovely time with everyone relaxed, laughing, and clearing their plates. After the Queen’s Speech, Mum insisted on washing up and Raji dried, and then Mum, Nel and I played Cluedo which was fun. Next, the Wii, which we’d bought last Christmas,came out and the men and Nel demonstrated Bowling, Golf and Boxing for mum. Still full after dinner, we all just nibbled as we wanted rather than having a proper tea, and I had a play with the present mum had given us as a family – a wooden Sudoku board. I’ve never been able to do Sudoku and just not got the knack, but I started dabbling and Raji gave me some pointers and that was it – HOOKED! All over Christmas I was playing with it and it’s now permanently placed on the chest in the living room ready to be played. In the evening, Nel and Mum watched Coronation Street and the day drew to a pleasantly chilled close.

On Boxing Day Stephen, Billy and I went to our Newcastle v City football match, Mum and Nel had a girls’ day together and Raji went to work.

On Bank Holiday Monday, we girls all went to the Metrocentre and though it was busy, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. We found a parking spot without too much trouble, and we managed to get round the shops we wanted as well as being able to have lunch in our favourite coffee shop. We all bought something in the sales and were pleased with our bargains – Nel definitely came out tops though and seemed to get a lot for her money ๐Ÿ™‚ She and I then trekked over to Pets at Home to get some hamster bits she wanted, leaving mum in the car, and then we drove home. We had roast beef for dinner, but just as I was dishing up, there was a power cut! It’s a good job I like candles and have some strategically placed battery operated LED lights for just such eventualities because the power was out for two hours! (It was a widespread one too, affecting a large part of Hexham, and my only guess is that some snow and ice may have thawed and flooded something causing the outage.) So we ate by candlelight, mum packed by candlelight, and just as we settled down to amuse ourselves (by candelight) for the evening, with a saucepan of water boiling on the (gas) hob for a cuppa – the power returned ๐Ÿ™‚

Mum and I left after breakfast on Tuesday to go to the City v Villa match and then on to her house where I was staying for the night. Lee had been house and cat sitting which was a last minute arrangement and one that suited both he and mum admirably, and Rocky was pleased to have his Mummy back and enjoyed lots of fuss. We had an easy egg and chips dinner, a few drinks, and then an early night. I must have fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow as I woke up in exactly the same position as I landed on going to bed ๐Ÿ™‚

On the Wednesday, we mooched round her nearest shops and had lunch in Pizza Hut (where we were very dissatisfied with the service, though the food was perfect) and then I had a very smooth drive home in the afternoon.

I really loved having mum stay with us (her first visit to us for a couple of years, what with our various other commitments and her hip operation) and everyone else had too – even the pussy cats who were quick to spot a cat lover! (Zeb was particularly taken with mum’s lap whenever she was trying to read her newspaper, which was funny.) Everyone had entered into the spirit to give me a perfect family Christmas with those I love most in this world, and Billy in particular had done a lot to help make it happen.

2010 was not an easy year, but it did have a perfect Christmas to round it off ๐Ÿ™‚

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