Saturday, 4 May 2013

I have decided that with Grace’s successful completion of the London Marathon two weeks ago this will probably be my last contribution to Simon’s blog. She did brilliantly completing the course in 3hours and 54minutes and to date has raised almost £2,900 for the Multiple System Atrophy Trust, the only UK charity dedicated to providing specialist support to all those who like Simon are affected by MSA; a life-limiting neurodegenerative brain disease.
I went down to London for the weekend with my other daughter Eve and her family to support Grace and we had a fantastic time rushing around London to cheer her on in Bermondsey, the Docklands and Westminster.
In Grace’s own words:
My first marathon was the most incredible experience both physically and emotionally. The hours of training prepared me physically, but a 21 mile training run is a million miles away, pardon my pun, from the feeling of running 26.2 miles through the streets of London. The crowds cheering across Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and coming up the Embankment on the home stretch were a tonic to tired legs and in general I felt truly fantastic up until around mile 22. My legs started to get heavy at that point. My thoughts went to my dad and what I was running for and I found the inspiration to keep going and push through the final miles.
Thank you to all of you who sponsored me – your kindness is greatly appreciated. I was very touched by your generosity and the messages of support I received.
Eve, Grace and I in Horse Guards Parade with Grace showing off her medal
After the race we joined some of the people who are part of the small team in the MSA London office. It was good to put faces to names and voices and to meet two of the other runners – there were only four runners for the charity including Grace. I particularly enjoyed talking to Lyn, the Trust’s part-time administrator as her husband was diagnosed with MSA in 2007 and died aged 51. I have never had the opportunity to talk to someone who has experienced the same distressing deterioration in her partner and in particular the feelings that are engendered. Lyn does a lot of work with MSA support groups and is the key to the smooth running of the charity.
Not a day goes by without me thinking of Simon several times and sometimes of course I feel sad but he will always be part of my life whatever the future brings. The past year has brought me closer to my children and friendships have deepened. I’m enjoying my freedom and independence and looking forward to going to Sierra Leone (where Simon and I met when we were both newly qualified teachers) in October with six local teachers who are visiting their link schools. I still don’t feel able to reorganise Simon’s barn office and work in there myself and there are still some of Simon’s personal things I can’t part with but neither of these bother me. The time will feel right one day and in the meantime I am enjoying the lovely spring weather and seeing all the new growth and life. What an amazing world we live in and I am definitely one of the very lucky ones. I hope you feel the same way and will take time to look for the good that is everywhere.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

One year on

It’s a long time since I’ve felt like writing but feel I must this week as 6 April approaches, marking the first anniversary of Simon’s death. The year has gone so quickly and apart from the obvious not much else has changed. I haven’t wanted to make dramatic changes at home or in my life; flying off somewhere exotic, engaging in a social whirl, reinventing myself or withdrawing completely have not interested me. I’ve just wanted things to continue as they were. There’s always a lot to do, too much really and sometimes I’ve felt like the bird that somehow managed to get into the loft one night. It woke me up flapping about and trying to find a way out. I rush around madly and sometimes I think for what purpose. I’m fit and healthy – what should I be aiming for in the next twenty years?

I can't work how to get this the right way up!
 During Lent I was following Christian Aid’s ‘Count Your Blessings’ and Paula Gooder and Peter Babington’s ‘Love Life Live Lent Be the Change!’ little book of reflections and I’m missing them. It’s good to be reminded of how fortunate I am and we are living in the UK, for example 2.5billion people in the world do not have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to the toilet. It’s also been good to consider positives rather than negatives every day so I think I will start at the beginning and read through them again. Some reflections have really resonated with me – Be more curious, Be more peaceful, Remember more, Have more fun!

Grace was home for Easter weekend and we did lots of ordinary but nice things together. She did a twenty mile run, her last long run before the London marathon in less than three weeks time now. She was very touched when several villagers she’s known all her life sponsored her after reading something she’d written about MSA for the village magazine. She’s now got over £1,200 sponsorship representing lots of small donations which is very encouraging and keeps her going.
Mark and his family are coming to see me tomorrow and he’s bringing his book, ‘Black Market Britain 1939 to 1955’ with him. It was published last week by Oxford University Press. You can buy it on Amazon for a mere £52!! Simon would have been so pleased and delighted as it has been a long time coming and he was constantly chivvying him about it.
On the home front my home roof is being redone and has not been without incident. Part of an old chimney fell into the loft when it was being dismantled, thankfully the floored part of the loft and the snow and strong easterly winds arrived the day after all the Yorkshire stone slates were removed. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much for three nights and water from melting snow found its ways through the bedroom ceilings.
On the actual anniversary of Simon’s death on Saturday I will be in my village church as a guest at my friend’s daughter’s wedding and on the following day I’m joining a Golden Wedding Anniversary lunch in a local pub. Mary and John were one of the first couples we got to know when we moved to the village so our friendship goes back a long way. Relationships are so important aren’t they?
The last picture taken of Simon in February 2012 - he's trying hard to smile

Friday, 1 February 2013


Can you be busy and hibernate? I don’t think so but I feel as if I have been doing just that. It’s certainly lovely to wake up to a white world and silence and there were a couple of mornings in January when it was exactly like that. Keeping warm is a problem in my draughty chapel so I’m so pleased to see the lighter evenings which bring the promise of new life as the bulbs spring up in the garden.

My white garden on Monday 21 January

There have been lots of moments of sadness in 2013 so far and I haven’t felt like adding anything to the blog. Several things have triggered the sadness. Here are just a couple of the triggers. I changed my internet provider and all the emails disappeared from Simon’s computer as did his address book. In some respects it was not a bad thing as the emails addressed to him have stopped coming but there were messages I’d kept because of what they contained – special memories of him from several work colleagues and friends received after he died. I should have printed them out or saved them in a folder but hadn’t got round to it. Then last week I noticed that the emerald in the ring Simon bought me soon after we were married had fallen out when I was wearing it. I probably lost it when I was sorting out toys before the mum/baby/toddler group I help with on Friday afternoon. The ring was made by the husband of one of Simon’s art college friends and we both loved it. But i tell myself it is only a thing and not important in the great scheme of things. As a visiting African teacher said, ‘At the end of the day if I’m alive and well and have eaten then I’m happy’.

The sheep know how to get their lunch

Just listening to a special CD called ‘Voices of Promise’ made in 1999. It came out of a competition made possible by Marks and Spencer and the reason I bought it was because one of the tracks was composed and recorded by a girl I used to teach. A talented musician and singer, Jenny wrote about ‘The Guiding Hand of Tomorrow’ and I like to think she was inspired to some extent by my geography lessons. I loved teaching so I always enjoy going into schools and running workshops. This week I was in a small school in Hampsthwaite, a small village not far from Harrogate. They are just beginning their journey towards becoming a Fairtrade School and the children and teachers were a delight to work with. I took my six foot inflatable Fairtrade banana which is always a firm favourite with primary school children. Now I’m looking forward to the visit to Skipton of a Palestinian Fairtrade olive farmer and a representative from Zaytoun, a community interest company founded in 2004 to create and develop a UK market for artisan Palestinian produce. Simon always teased me and called me Mrs Fairtrade. I miss him.
My village church in the January snow

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Happy New Year

So much has happened since I last wrote, which I suppose is not surprising given the time of year but where to start is a problem. So many highlights and lots of good times in the past two weeks and this morning my niece gave birth to a healthy second son who’s going to be called Teddy. His dad had a heart transplant not quite four years ago so that makes Teddy and his big brother Liam very special indeed.                                                                                                                              

I’ve really enjoyed all the celebrations especially ChristmasDay in Harrogate, walks with friends (one of whom was a past student who I hadn’t seen for twelve years), ten pin bowling with my son and his three children, spending time with my amazing aunty, her daughter (she was one of my bridesmaids) and youngest son and my niece, all of whom I’d not seen for ages. I’ve not enjoyed all the rain but today is dry and so was yesterday. Of course there were times when I felt sad, usually when I was driving and alone in the car.

It would have been Simon’s 65th birthday on Friday so Eve and family decided to walk up his favourite hill, Simon’s Seat. It was drizzly, very boggy underfoot and misty on top but the boys sped up and down with no difficulty and in record time. Granddad would have been very proud of them, especially Daniel who is only three. He would have enjoyed being with them on Christmas Day too as they played very happily with their Lego all day.

Continuing the theme of walking, here’s a challenge for all the females and males too maybe. It’s called Walk in Her Shoes and the challenge from 4 to10 March, to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 10th, is to walk 10,000 steps a day in solidarity with African women and girls who walk many miles each day to collect water and other necessities. For example, each morning 14yr old Ayanna, from Ethiopia, sets out on a 6 hour, 22km round trip to collect water for her family – that’s half a marathon. Collecting water is time-consuming, exhausting and dangerous and limits the time that women and girls like her can spend attending school or working. Everyone taking part is sent a pedometer to track their steps. By experiencing just part of what women and girls like Ayanna endure on a daily basis and raising £100 along the way will help to build boreholes and taps in communities, giving women and girls the time to fulfil their potential and providing clean water to thousands.
It’s a great challenge to take on with friends or colleagues, so please spread the word and form a team! I’m hoping to.For more information and to register go to

My youngest daughter was in the US for Christmas and had a brilliant time. She continues to train hard for the London Marathon and needs more promises of sponsorship (for the Multiple System Atrophy Trust) to keep her going on dark wet evenings when she runs after work. If you can sponsor her please go to

Sorry no photographs today. I've tried to upload without success. I promise to try harder next time.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas wishes

The Advent candle is lit, most of my cards are now up, I have a roaring fire, just two sleeps until Jesus’ birthday and it’s not raining! What more could a girl want?
So many cards I have received have contained thoughtful messages which I really appreciate. A few cards were addressed to Mr and Mrs and one or two to just Simon so I’ve been writing letters and doing some detective work to find contact details. I was particularly pleased to receive this response from Michael Diamond who was Chair of the Yorkshire Arts Visual Arts Panel for part of the time when Simon was the Visual Arts Officer for Yorkshire Arts from 1978 to 1985 (Michael’s ‘real job at the time was Director of Bradford Museums).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
As you know, Simon and I had become just Christmas card friends over the years, but our initial contact was, I think, important to both of us and certainly left a huge impression in my mind. I was of course, as others witness, immediately impressed by his imagination and enthusiasm, and by the way he constantly came up with that extra little dimension for everything he dealt with. Our ‘big moment’ came when Peter Murray at Bretton Hall College submitted a grant application for £1000 to pay for a sculpture trail to be installed in the grounds at Bretton the following summer. Simon and I looked at each other and both said ‘this could be much more than just a one-off job’. We went to Bretton to talk to Peter, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was born. So there you are – it was me and Simon wot did it! I left Yorkshire in 1980 to become Director of Birmingham Museums, so we drifted somewhat apart. But although we never became close buddies I always remembered that ‘big moment’, and Simon’s huge contribution to it. I am really saddened that such a huge talent is no longer with us’.
Yes of course I am missing Simon lots and last week I had some days when I felt really low and certainly not peaceful in mind and spirit but I went to witness a wedding of a local girl who I used to teach on Friday lunch time and then had a lovely time at the Smiley Faces Christmas party – also in church as that’s where the mum/baby/toddler/grandparent group that I help to lead every Friday afternoon meets – and my spirits lifted. The couple getting married were bubbling over with happiness and I have rarely seen a bridegroom so excited. It was lovely to hear him say that it was the most right thing he’d ever done in his life. Yesterday afternoon was also special as I was invited to join the Malhamdale ladies and a group of Muslim ladies and their daughters in the Quaker Meeting House in Airton. After lunch together, lamb or vegetable hotpot and red cabbage, we made 150 Christingles which we later took to Kirkby Malham church (after tea or fruit punch, Christmas cake and Wensleydale cheese, scones and Stollen) where they were distributed this afternoon during a special Christingle service. I worked with a lovely lady and her two daughters and niece from Bradford and a Dutch lady, who had just arrived to spend Christmas with her sister who lives at High Trenhouse on Malham Moor.

My daughter’s words in her Christmas newsletter ring true with me too so I’d like to finish with them. I hope this Christmas finds you healthy, happy and not far away from someone you love. I will be with Eve and her family on Christmas Day so I will certainly be near to four people I love very much.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


I’m just back from a walk on Barden Moor followed by an amazing cake and cappuccino in a little cafe at the entrance to Strid Wood. What a treat being out with good friends and enjoying spectacular views in all directions and all of it almost on my doorstep. It’s the third walk I’ve done in the cold, crisp, bright weather we’ve been enjoying. On Wednesday and Thursday I went exploring on my own and discovered some footpaths and a lane I’ve never walked before. On both occasions I was out for about an hour and a half and only saw two other people and they were in the distance. All the time Simon’s Seat was in view above me – that was Simon’s favourite hill. When he was fit and healthy he walked up it every weekend often with a rucsac filled with bricks and large books if he was training for one of his ‘big’ Sherpa expeditions. There is a short steep ascent and a more gradual one – of course Simon opted for the challenging one. I sometimes went with him but more often than not he left me ironing or doing schoolwork. When I did go with him we both loved the scramble to the top and the views across to Parcevall Hall and down to Skyreholme. It was easy to imagine him standing at the top looking down on me as I walked along Skyreholme Bank – a warm feeling like the wintry sunshine.
Simon's Seat  is the rocky outcrop in the distance
 I was finding November difficult so decided on the spur of the moment to see if I could book a couple of days in Parcevall Hall, the Bradford Diocesan Retreat Centre. It turned out to be a good decision as the two days away were peaceful and very refreshing. The staff at Parcevall Hall are so caring, the food is delicious and it is lovely and warm which is not always the case at home. I wrote letters to go with Christmas cards abroad and did a lot of thinking. I have decisions to make but decided not to make them. I’ve never been on a personal retreat before. I can definitely recommend it and hope to do it again soon.

Can you see a glimpse of Parceval Hall through the trees?

 I’ve just lit my Advent candle – no calendar this year. I wonder if my grandsons have opened most of their calendar doors already when I arrive tomorrow morning. Perhaps they will have more self discipline this year but when there’s chocolate it’s very tempting. I’ve got a lovely Christmas story book to read them. It’s so easy to forget the real meaning of Christmas isn’t it? I’m going for a minimalist approach this year and hopefully all the razzmatazz of Christmas won’t blur the real message of hope and love.

Friday, 16 November 2012


What a lovely week we’ve had weather wise in Yorkshire.  What's it been like for you?
Grace’s first week at work in London has been a long one and I think it’s going to take her a while to get used to getting up at 6.30am and starting her commute three quarters of an hour later and not getting back to my friend’s home in Laleham until 6.45pm. So far she’s most impressed by the free tea, coffee, cold drinks, soup and fresh fruit which she can help herself to all day long. The team she’s working with are very welcoming – they’ve already taken her out to lunch and drinks are planned after work tonight. So I guess I don’t need to worry about her.
I was in London myself last week for a Think Global Conference and also stayed with my friends Anne and Bill in Laleham. The conference was in the same area of Central London where Grace is now working so I did the same commute – once was enough for me. I am too old for commuter trains when you have to stand for the entire journey packed in like sardines. Travelling to and around London made me sad as Simon used to do it so often. I came home very weary and to be honest I’ve felt weary ever since so perhaps it’s time I gave myself a break. I had a great evening last night though at a Fairtrade Fashion Show at Skipton Girls' High where I used to teach. The school band helped to create a lovely atmosphere and there were lots of interesting stalls so I did some Christmas shopping. My favourite buy is a shopping bag made by artisans with disabilities in Tanzania using a recycled flour bag, lined with fabric and with a recycled rubber long shoulder strap. Somehow I think I won’t be giving that away.

Just watched Team Rickshaw complete their 411mile journey for Children in Need and I’m so impressed by their achievement. The challenge for them was enormous but with the support of the team, their families and all the people they met along the way they’ve made it and raised well over £1m. Fantastic! The film of the best bits of the 8 day journey from Llandudno and London were brilliant and I’m sure that all of them are now brimming with confidence and ready for more challenges in the future.

Come to think of it that’s exactly what I need, a physical challenge. A friend and his wife have just returned from trekking in the Himalayas and spending some time in India. He couldn’t stop talking about it when I saw him, he was really buzzing. However, I think something simpler for me - maybe learning to swim. I never learnt when I was young because I had constant ear problems and there was no swimming pool nearby. For me that would be really scary. Simon on the other hand was a really good swimmer and two of my grandsons are brilliant in the water.