Sunday, 22 January 2017

Celebrate Burns

Which day on January's calendar brings a mix of poetry, haggis, whisky and celebration? It has to be Burns' Night of course! 

We've had those few weeks of post Christmas blues, Christmas debts, broken New Year resolutions  - or that's what we are brainwashed into believing if you read all the newspapers. Most of us are just getting back into the routine of things again and back to normal life after all the indulgence of Christmas. 

Burns' Night is always a welcome celebration after those first few weeks of January and buckling back down to routine - one of the first celebrations on the calendar in the New Year. We always celebrate Burns' Night in our family. For us, it's a way of remembering Rob's family - his mother and father who were born in Scotland. A way to think of Rob's heritage and remember those who are now absent from our lives. When it's Burn's Night I always remember fondly Rob's dad reading Burn's Selkirk Grace before the meal at our wedding breakfast. 

The very first Burns' supper was held in 1801, when Burns' friends got together to mark the fifth anniversary of Burns' death. They celebrated his life with readings of his works, a haggis supper with tatties and neeps (that's potatoes and turnips) and a speech dedicated to the Bard (now known as the Immortal Memory). Despite a short life, Burns wrote many poems and songs, which have been enjoyed by generations. Many of us will have sung in the New Year recently with a rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne', probably Burns' most famous song. 

We always used to enjoy a Burns supper when Rob's parents were alive and we continue to keep up the family tradition every year now. We usually enjoy a supper of haggis, neeps and tatties and perhaps a wee dram of whisky. There will be lots of Burns Night celebrations being held all over the country tonight. Usually they start with the Selkirk Grace, then the haggis is piped in, with 'Burns' Address to a Haggis' being read to the audience, then a toast to the haggis. Recitals are performed after the meal including 'The Immortal Memory' and then toasts are made to the lasses. The evening finishes with the audience standing with crossed arms, joining hands and singing 'Auld Lang Syne'. It's all great fun! 

Do you celebrate Burns' Night or your family's heritage? 

Pictures taken from Pinterest

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Which Books Are You Reading?

Which books are you reading?

I'm currently reading a fictional book 'Circling The Sun' by Paula McLain. This is actually a fictional and historical memoir based around the facts of the colourful life of Beryl Markham - the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo. Much of the book focuses on her childhood and life in Kenya and takes the reader through living a tough childhood and life during the 1920s in a Kenyan valley. It takes us through Kenya's spectacular landscapes and gives a slice of living in colonnial Kenya with its isolation, partying and scandalous divorces. So far I'm loving what I've read up to now, her story is remarkable, but it's the setting that's captivating for me. The descriptions of Kenya takes me straight back to our honeymoon and while I'm reading it I'm constantly conjuring up memories of the African savannahs; the wild, dangerous and exotic animals; the red, dusty sands and tracks and the feeling of being thousands of miles away from anywhere... I love a book that can do this. 

I've also a few non fiction books about dogs on the go - partly because I love dogs and I'm in the middle of writing another memoir about my first year with Ted and partly because we are still training Ted. India Knight's book 'The Goodness Of Dogs' has many good tips on training and is a fabulous read for any dog lover. As I read in a review of it somewhere, it is written as though you are sat down and having a chat with a dog loving friend. There's plenty of humour to enjoy, which gave me a chuckle and reminded me of Ted. 

I'm also dipping in and out of 'Dog Songs' by Mary Oliver a Pulitzer Prize winner for her poetry. As the blurb on the cover describes, this is a collection of poems celebrating the special bond between humans and dogs and illustrates how dogs can 'open our eyes to lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection'. A thoughtful and endearing read and I can definitely relate her experiences with her dogs to my own dog Ted and dogs I've had in my life previously. 

Rob was given 'Very British Problems' by Rob Temple for Christmas and I have to say I've been sneaking a quick read of it every now and again because I follow 'Very British Problems' on Twitter and the Tweets always bring a smile to my face. It sums up how we Brits are often socially awkward but very well meaning. A book to dip in and out of and give you a laugh when you need one. 

Then I've a couple of books on 'style' that I'm checking in and out of. One of them was a lovely surprise gift from a friend when I was unwell before Christmas. She knows I'm a bit of a scarf collector and was interested in this book aptly named 'How To Use A Scarf'. It was a lovely surprise to receive it and a great motivator when I felt unwell to get dressed up and try out a new scarf style. Just the ticket to feeling good. I'm still dipping in and out of it to try new ideas for my scarf collection. Maybe my scarf collection and the new ways to wear them could make another blog one day! 

I also treated myself to Anna Harvey's 'Timeless Style'. I love Vogue magazine and fashion, so I was interested to pick up a few good tips from an ex Vogue editor. I'm still have this book close by, popping in and out of it when I feel the urge. I find when I've been battling with ups and downs that to try and make an effort to look good can help. 

That's my reading for now and I've always a whole lot more stacking up and waiting for when I'm ready for a new read. Here's a few waiting and ready: 

I better get a move on. Too many interesting books and that's just a few...

Thursday, 12 January 2017


January and arriving with it another brand new year and leaving a previous one behind. January 2017 rings familar with January 2016 for me. I started 2016 waking up and in my own bed and feeling much better after arriving home late on New Year's Eve following nearly a month in hospital and a few months of being unwell. Bring on January 2017 and although I'd not physically been in hospital for a month, I'd been in and out of hospital and made many trips there due to being seriously unwell yet again for those months ending the year. So both times starting a brand new year with fresh new hope and resolve to recover and regain my health once again. And starting the year with an even bigger appreciation and anticipation for life and what this new year may hold.

I'd begun to feel a lot better and brighter during those immediate few days before Christmas. I didn't dare to hope that it might last and I might feel well again. But it did and I'm much better now following those two awful bouts of acute rejection and all that comes with it. The heavy treatment, the harsh side effects and the mental and emotional anguish that comes with knowing that my body doesn't want accept my new lungs. The not knowing which way things may go. Will the treatment work? Will things deteriorate even more? In this world of transplant things can spiral out of control so quickly. It's not an exaggeration - it's happened to friends - we've lost friends unexpectedly and we have friends still, who are battling hard at this moment to overcome the fate that rejection can bring. Organ rejection is challenging in every way and is physically, mentally and emotionally gruelling. 

So January 2017 brought respite and relief for me just in that I knew I'd turned a corner in this battle - that I felt better and stronger was a good sign and this week after a visit to clinic, the signs are still looking positive. The routine tests showed that I'm now stable, that I've overcome this setback for now,  that I've beaten these rejection episodes. I'm still not totally through it. My lung function has declined by 25% now, but there's still a chance and hope it may improve now I'm stronger and able to exercise properly again. My medication has been altered yet again to help matters, increases in some, decreases in others to try and maintain the delicate balances needed to prevent infection and rejection flaring. I've been given a steroid inhaler too, to continue treating and preventing the airway rejection. There's still more clinics in the next weeks and months to check progress. I don't mind any of this, as I count myself lucky to have got this far - to have been able to hang on to some reasonable lung function and to feel well again. It's been the best Christmas present and best start to the new year I could have asked for. 

My new year resolutions aren't big ones. Just going through all this has enabled me to re-evaluate things yet again. My priorities are to keep on working hard on my health, recovery and becoming stronger again. If I can keep my health, then I can work on my other resolutions. Rob had just retired when I fell ill, suddenly he became my carer again. Now in a new year we are starting off again with our retirement plans. More time together, more memories to make. We're expecting a new grandchild, so helping Sarah and Oli and spending even more time with family will be a big priority.

Then I hope to continue working with our Transplant Group at the hospital with our support group and the other initiatives we've been involved with. We set up the support group to help patients going through transplant and its ups and downs. It's strange as the tables were turned in those few months before Christmas and members of the support group gave me so much support, which helped me through the difficult parts. It was much appreciated and made me realise even more how vital it is to have a support network of people who understand properly and can share their own experiences to help each other. 

I've also recently become an ambassador for Papworth Hospital Charity and plan to continue to promote my book 'Life is for the Living' to help raise awareness of PH and transplant and funds to help and support these causes. My last big priority and challenge for this year, is to complete my next book. I've been working on it for a while, but have been stopped in my tracks over the last few months. So I've restarted the work on it now, purposefully aiming to complete my first draft.

They are all goals that are closely related to my priorities, things that have been ongoing already, but with being poorly again made me realise they are things that will always be close to my heart. The things I find important that give me a good balance in life. Time for family and friends. Time for important causes that have affected my life and time for myself through my writing. 

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy New Year. I hope you have lots to look forward to, new plans and memories to make and that you're still sticking to those New Year resolutions whatever they are. For those struggling with their health, I hope the new year brings hope, strength and the opportunity to feel better.