More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Monday, 18 January 2016

Best laid plans...

Yesterday in London was the memorial  of a dear old friend. P and I had been looking forward to it for months, as we'd been unable to go to his funeral. As I'm still struggling with peripheral neuropathy from the chemo, I'm not yet able to walk very far, so the journey would necessitate taking the wheelchair, sticks, cushions and other paraphernalia that have become a part of everyday life for me.

When I became ill last February, one of my greatest sorrows was that I couldn't play guitar (I could just about knit, although very badly!) and when I eventually picked up my guitar again five months later, I was shocked to find that I couldn't remember many of the songs I'd learnt in the weeks and months preceding my ill health. Added to that was the fact that my voice was so weak I could barely keep in tune and I must say the overall impression of the two together was not pleasurable.
Roland and Sheelagh in their garden
However, as playing guitar and singing had been a constant in my life for so long, I gritted my teeth (and probably so did everyone else around me) and continued to play and sing every morning, as much for therapy as anything else.  So when our friend Sheelagh asked me if I would play at Roland (her husband's) memorial, my kneejerk reaction was to eagerly agree, without thinking about the fact that I was still very rusty and hadn't played in public for over a year, nor for that matter, about the logistics of getting to London and back in a day.

So as the time approached I felt cautiously nervous. As time passed my voice was improving, getting stronger little by little and my guitar playing seemed to be in parallel. I only had to do one song, among 21 other performances, mainly from actors, producers and playwrights as Roland was a theatre director. Previously this would never have bothered me, but now I felt an unfamiliar feeling of apprehension.

Then came the first blip... the frozen shoulder! This made it incredibly painful to play guitar, especially at the bottom of the neck as increasingly my arm wouldn't stretch that far. No problem I thought, as the song I'd planned to sing was one which has a capo on the fifth fret and my arm could just about comfortably do that and, I reasoned, it would be good physio for it.

As the day approached we planned it in detail, arranging for friend Maggie, to come with us to share the driving with P. Another friend Peter, was bringing us a picnic lunch on our arrival. All was set for a smooth and enjoyable day and we were both excited about getting back into the swing of normal life with our first major trip since I'd been unwell.

In the week or so before the memorial I started to feel very tired and fluey, but assumed it was just some cold virus that I'd picked up over Christmas, as we'd seen many more people than usual. Then I started to ache and feel generally unwell and started to wonder what was happening. Was it psychosomatic? How could that be? I really wanted this trip and wouldn't wish to get anything that might jeopardise it. Also it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to sit comfortably as I had a stinging feeling across my buttocks.

I asked P to take a look at it. He quickly noticed that there was quite an extensive rash from my coccyx, down my left leg to the back of my knee. The district nurse was called, but couldn't really say what it was and thought it was a reaction to a new body butter I was using. Unlikely, I thought, so in the absence of any other advice I saw the GP who immediately recognised it as shingles and put me on a course of anti-virals. At this point it was still four days before the memorial and ever hopeful, I convinced myself that I'd be fine after taking the pills for a few days.

I had a routine follow-up appointment with my consultant two days later, who seemed to be quite sanguine about my affliction, but didn't recommend going to London as I might give it to someone else (highly unlikely I thought, as they would have to touch a weeping blister :) - on my bottom!). Anyway, next day dawned and I can't say I was feeling any better at all, so very reluctantly I wrote the email to Sheelagh telling her I had to pull out.

That afternoon P went off into York and in an idle moment I had the idea of making a video of the song. After a few minutes I realised that this was far too ambitious at this late stage and decided to settle for a recording. I could email it to the tech person at the Tricycle Theatre to be played when my turn came. Sorted. The recording went surprisingly smoothly, more because of my pragmatic attitude than anything else. By the time I got to the fifth take, I'd decided it was do or die - despite any imperfections there might be, this take would be it, warts and all, just like a live performance. I stuck to it, see what you think?

But that's not the end of the story. P planned to attend and worked tirelessly all day to get everything ready to be able to leave me safely on my own all day. He decided to get the train to London, even getting an upgrade into first class with complimentary coffee and sandwiches, arriving in good time for the event.
As consolation P thought I'd enjoy this surreal pic of
Kings Cross station taken as he was leaving
He spoke to the engineer and arranged for me to send the mp4 to him which I duly did. All well and good,.. except I didn't hear till P got back that only half the song had been played, as the equipment turned itself off in the middle, leaving the audience wondering what was happening, eventually realising there was no more and breaking out into frustrated applause. I checked what I had sent to see if the fault was mine but there it was in its entirety. Ahhhhh... the best laid plans...

Thanks for dropping by x

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge

Last week I received a nomination from Pete Mitchell, my old guitar guru, to take up a photo challenge to post seven pictures of nature on seven consecutive days, at the same time nominating another photographers to give it a go every day. I was a little reticent about it to begin with, but I have to say it was a lot of fun once I got started. It gave me a reason to look back over many of my old photos and rediscover their stories. My seven days ended today and I thought it would be good to have a record of the photos I chose, hence the purpose of this blog, also to see what you might think of them and which were your favourites and why?
Nature Photo Challenge
Broccoli Romanesco
I came across this Broccoli Romanesco several years ago in the market. I'd never seen anything like it and was so fascinated I couldn't bear to cook and eat it. The conical florets are a perfect example of fractals in nature.
Django and what he thought was his breakfast
One very proud cat with his prey. Eat your heart out David Attenborough! NB No bunnies were harmed in the filming of this shot.

I can't tell you what a buzz it gave me to find this treasure
I found this nest in the garden in Wales and was blown away on catching a glimpse of the vibrant turquoise eggs. I think they may be robin's eggs, but you may know more?
Philip and Ava treading the untrodden snow
Love the colour and texture the lichen has added to the rough-hewn stone
Been trying to cover nature in as many different dimensions as possible in seven days. I was in a slight dilemma here, just couldn't decide which image, so I posted two: the first reminds me of a Russian fairytale, though it was shot in the woods at RHS Harlow Carr, and the second is an old Yorkshire Dales barn. covered in brilliant yellow lichen - you choose.
Could be the Small White, pieris rapae?
This butterfly was having the day from hell! First of all it was locked in the conservatory overnight, and must have been completely dehydrated by the morning, then it was set upon by one of the cats, who must have taken a bite out of its wing. As it was lying lifeless on the mat, I assumed the butterfly must be dead, but after removing the cat, I looked again and it had started to flutter its wings. I usually have a camera at the ready for moments like these, so I quickly grabbed it and took this photo. It recovered fairly quickly after that, so I carefully scooped it up and set it free in the garden, from where it flew off to get some well-earned breakfast.
I've always loved the roadside verges in summer,
 particularly the tracery of cow parsley
A couple of years ago at the Whitby Folk Festival, we took some time out to visit local friends. On the short journey this field of corn caught my eye, glowing luminously in the sun. Of course, this brought the car to a screeching halt so I could get a quick pic on my phone.
Submerged ancient forest of Borth
Dark foreboding sky - perfect backdrop for this massive rainbow
Another dilemma day. I'd planned to have this photo of a rainbow in Ireland to finish off with, but I couldn't bear the idea of leaving out another favourite of a submerged forest. So... another bonus image :). The rainbow appeared just as the coach was leaving the Kerry Woollen Mills, during one of our knitting tours.  The submerged forest was shot on our local beach in Wales. The ferocious storms of a couple of years ago played havoc with the beaches in Cardigan Bay, removing thousands of tons of sand and stripping away layers of peat to reveal the 4500-6000 year old forest of oak, alder, yew and birch trees.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my stroll down photographic memory lane, hope you did too! It was just what was needed on these damp, dismal and dark days to bring some light and colour. Good to be reminded that the days are getting longer now and spring will be here before we know it.  So meanwhile why not light those candles, wrap yourself in a favourite handknit and tuck in by the fireside with a drink of whatever makes you feel good. In Denmark  they call this 'hygge', pronounced a bit like clearing your throat (????), and thought to be derived from our word 'hug' (more likely vise versa). So give yourself a hug, snuggle down with a good book or some knitting and find enjoyment even in the worst of winter weather. Thanks for dropping by x

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year!**!**!

Warmest wishes to you all. May sadness, sickness, poverty and war continue to be rooted out and much progress made on the rocky road to happiness, health, prosperity and peace for all people.