Friday, 28 February 2014


Last month my fabulous friend the divine Ms. Amanda DEVINE eloped to Gretna Green after a fairly Whirl-Wind Romance to marry the love of her life, and he really is rather lovely, Mr. Patrick BOWDEN.
This month a lady whom I worked with and who is beautiful both on the inside and the outside Ms. Jill MARSHALL will walk down the aisle and make an honest man of Mr. John MELLOR.  I am sure that John is really quite lovely, but I haven't met him yet.  I loved that my invitation to their wedding 'requested the pleasure of the company of Benedict CUMBERBATCH and Hanya GORDON.'  I wish!  Unfortunately I think Benedict was busy, otherwise engaged. Damn!
I rather like Weddings.  Well, I like other people's Weddings.  I haven't had one of my own.  No one has ever even asked!  I know!  How rude!  I quite like all of the speeches.  All of the Toasts.  All of the Champagne.  I quite like all the photographs.  I quite like the flowers, the gifts, the bouquet (the throwing of the bouquet: The throwing of the wedding bouquet was introduced from America and it is said that whoever catches the bouquet will be next to be married) and the dress, the cake and all of the organisation.  Oh and the confetti.  I like confetti.  Confetti has replaced rice or grain in modern times, the rice was thrown at the bride and groom to encourage fertility.  So now you know.
I like that two people have met, fallen in love and decided to exchange rings and exchange vows and declare their love for each other in front of God, in front of their families and in front of their friends.  I think that that is something worth celebrating.  That two people have made, are making a public declaration to each other of their love and commitment.
I quite like all of the traditions, myths and etiquette of Weddings.  For example, the bride stands on the left of the groom during the marriage ceremony to allow his sword arm to be free ready to fight off other men who may want her as their bride.
Apparently the choice of colour of the Wedding Dress is also important (note to self: don't get married in red... and probably not pink...):
Married in White: You have chosen right.
Married in Blue: Your lover is true.
Married in Pink: Your fortunes will sink.
Married in Green: You will not long be seen.
Married in Red: You'll wish you were dead.
Married in Yellow: Ashamed of the fellow.
Married in Brown: You'll live out of town.
Married in Grey: You'll live far away.
Married in Black: You'll wish you were back.

On the way to the church it is fortunate for a bride to meet a lamb, a dove, a spider, or a black cat but a pig or funeral, are bad omens.  It is also fortunate that if on the journey to the church the bride sees a policeman, clergyman, doctor or a blind man.  The groom should give a coin to the first person he sees on his journey to the church for good luck.

And then there is the rhyme: "Something old.  Something new.  Something borrowed.  Something blue.  And a silver sixpence in her shoe."
Something Old: Represents the link with the bride's family and the past. A common solution many brides choose is to wear a piece of family jewellery or their mother's or grandmother's wedding dress.  Something New: Represents good fortune and success in the bride's new life. The wedding dress is often chosen as the new item.  Something Borrowed: To remind the bride that friends and family will be there for her when help is needed. The borrowed object might be something such as a lace handkerchief or an item of jewellery.  Something Blue: Symbolises faithfulness and loyalty and dates back to biblical times when blue represented purity. (It is therefore fitting that I made 'something blue' for both Amanda and Jill as I am nothing if not representative of purity!).  A Silver Sixpence in her Shoe is to wish the bride wealth, both financial and happiness.
So, charge your glasses Ladies and Gentlemen; join me in a toast: "Wishing Love, Health, Wealth, Success and Happiness, yes, lots and lots of happiness, to the Bride and Groom".



Saturday, 22 February 2014


Before Christmas I received an invitation.

I was invited to attend the 'CONTINENCE CLINIC' at Leicester General Hospital (LGH).  I always refer to it as the 'incontinence clinic' - but my GP always corrects me, as the correct and more positive terminology (we have to at least try to be positive about these things) is the 'Continence Clinic' - anyway... I wasn't thrilled about it.  It hadn't been high on my 'To Do' list.  Not something I wanted to do.  Not something I wanted to think about.  Not a charming day out.  I wasn't looking forward to it.

Anyway, I was certain that I had a shred of dignity as I walked in there...

I mean, I consider myself to be a fairly open and honest person.  I talk to my friends.  I confide in my friends.  (I'm BLOGGING about it now.)  And like to think that they feel the same way about me.  Can ask me anything.  Can tell me anything.  But within five minutes of meeting Janet - the Continence Clinic Nurse - we were discussing bowel movements and the like, and certainly in more detail than I usually care to discuss them!

Janet, I have to say, was really really lovely, (considering she quite literally has a 'shit' job) and put me at my ease - probably a good job as moments later she was poking and prodding and inserting things in places I'd much rather she didn't.  One of those occasions when you lie there thinking, 'I really should have shaved my legs'!  You feel you at least should have made some sort of an effort.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, and spare you the details, and despite the fact that Janet really couldn't have been any nicer, I felt, an hour or so later that when I left the clinic, I left without my dignity (those of you have had children probably can relate in the 'loss of dignity' stakes - but we don't talk about these things in too much detail either, and I haven't had children so I wouldn't know).

Apparently a lot of people with MS do suffer from incontinence and/or constipation, and have bladder and/or bowel problems.  It isn't something to be embarrassed or ashamed about.  But you do.  But you are.

Apparently it is estimated that around 200 million men and women suffer from 'involuntary urine discharge disorder' or incontinence.  And although it is not a 'disease' it is a 'health disorder' which can be embarrassing, is something that people understandably do not wish to discuss, and is something that can certainly impact upon people's quality of life.

So, there you go.  Just thought I'd share!  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  I do really appreciate it.  Not an easy topic to approach.  Not something you want to talk about - perhaps you rather wish I hadn't. Anyway, thanks for listening/reading.  I just want people to know that whatever it is that they are going through, they won't be going through it alone.  You are never alone.

World Continence Week (WCW) is supported by the International Continence Society (ICS) and is being held 24-30.07.14.  More details are available on their website:

Thursday, 13 February 2014


Valentine's Day.  A celebration of love. A day, a whole day celebrating love and affection.  Hurray.  Bring it on!  I'm single, so I should be one of those people who dread Valentine's Day.  I don't.

Valentine's day is associated with romantic love, with courtly love, and the day has popularized the tradition of the sending of cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts.  Valentine's Day or Saint Valentine's day has only recently been celebrated as the day of love.  The 'day of love' was traditionally 12 March, which is Saint Gregory's day, or 22 February, which is Saint Vincent's day. The patron of love was Saint Anthony, whose day has been celebrated on 13 June.  Blimey!  That's a lot of love and a lot of days to celebrate.

There was a tradition of sending valentines anonymously, I'm not so sure if this is as true in modern times, although I did receive an anonymous card a couple of years ago and still to this day I don't know who it was from. Other traditions said that, if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine’s Day, it meant she would marry a sailor.  If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy.  If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a rich person (her happiness upon marrying a rich person does not appear to be determined!).

Why do we need a day to tell us when we should tell people that we love them?  Show people that we love them?  Surely you should tell and show the people that you love them every day?  Are my expectations unrealistic? Or am I just grumpy because no one appears to want to be my Valentine?  I think that the people that I love know that I love them; I certainly hope that they do.

Over the years people have always recorded their passionate feelings in love letters, Valentine's day is a good day to remember and celebrate these; such as the famous love letter of Ludwig von BEETHOVEN, which was addressed to his 'Immortal Beloved' (the identity of whom still remains a mystery) and which concludes:
"ever thine
ever mine
ever ours".

And, well, Valentine's Day, it is a good excuse for a bit of poetry.  Personally, I think this is my favourite of all:

How Do I Love Thee?
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
(March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

This week (10-16.02.14) has been Random Act of Kindness #RAK Week,where we have all been encouraged to promote the well-being and happiness of others through words and actions and kindness.  Last week's BLOG was on the topic of kindness. I thought that RAK week was a timely reminder to be a bit kinder to yourself, to promote your own well being and your own happiness too.  So, Happy Valentine's Day. Whether you have a significant other or not.  Let someone know that you love them.  Let me know! Love Yourself! Yes. Let there be love.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


Kindness is a behaviour which expresses a concern for others, for their well-being and their happiness and which aims to promote the well-being and happiness of others through words and actions.

It doesn't have to take long and it doesn't have to cost much to engage in an act of kindness, to be kind.  Why don't more people do it?  And do it more often? 

Bob KERREY said that, "Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change."  He could be right.  Stephen FRY suggested that "The more in the World you encounter kindness... the better the World always is.   And all the big words - Virtue, Justice, Truth - are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness."

World Kindness Day is held on 13 November.  Random acts of kindness or 'RAK' now has its own week.  This year RAK Week will be held from 10-16.02.14 (next week).  During RAK Week, you are encouraged to go above and beyond to make others feel special.  Everyone likes to be made to feel special, don't they? There are a hundred tiny ways that you can make someone feel valued and appreciated.  A thousand little acts that can make someone feel thought about and cared for.  A million tiny ways that you can make someone feel loved.

Why not try any or all of the following:
♥ Call someone
♥ Send a card or a letter
♥ Visit someone
♥ Take someone to the movies
♥ Make them a cup of tea
♥ Bake them a cake
♥ Give someone a complement (but mean it)
♥ Make someone laugh
♥ Give someone a hug
♥ Smile at someone

Perhaps we should all try to be a little kinder.  To make time to demonstrate kindness.  And be kind to everyone, even to those people who don't deserve it, or who deserve it the least, as it could be true that they are the people who need it most.

I am very lucky.  I am the recipient of much kindness.  There are days when I don't know what I have possibly done to deserve such warmth and generosity and affection from my family and especially from my friends.  But I certainly am grateful for it.  There are days when I am aware that I am taking far more than I am giving; when those two little words 'Thank You' do not even begin to express the level of gratitude that I feel towards those people who show concern, who make me feel cared for, and happy and loved.

I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am; I have people who are prepared to put my needs and feelings as their priority.  Who are prepared to be kind to me.  I am hugely thankful for this.  But it is important not just to promote the well-being and happiness of others, but to be a bit kinder to yourself, promote your own well being and your own happiness.  Yes, be a bit kinder to yourself.  So, take a hug, find what it is that makes you happy, truly makes you happy, and do more of that.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


have actually read, 'A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes' by Professor Stephen HAWKING.

The book attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the big bang, black holes and light cones, and discusses the possibility of time travel and wormholes and explores the possibility of having a universe without a quantum singularity at the beginning of time to the non-specialist reader.

I'm not showing off, as when I say I've read it, I mean I read every single word that appeared on each page.  And although I knew what each individual word meant, well the majority of them, the sentences and paragraphs into which the words were formed were fairly incomprehensible. Yes!  To be honest I don't really think I understood it at all.  I have just written the phrase "having a universe without a quantum singularity at the beginning of time" but I don't really even know what I mean.  I understood that the truths the book alluded to and explained were interesting and important, and I wanted to understand them, but, no, it was science and all a bit beyond me, probably quite a lot beyond me to be perfectly honest.

I  remember watching the programme 'Hawking' some years ago when it was originally shown on telly.  Probably sometime around 2004, well that was when it was made.  Ten years ago!  At the time, I knew who Professor HAWKING was, obviously, as I'd read his book, he's the brilliant Mathematician, Physicist, Cosmologist with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Motor Neuron Disease (MND) who knew all about 'Big Bangs' and 'Space' and 'Time' and was in a wheelchair; but I didn't know who Benedict CUMBERBATCH was.  I just remember being very impressed at the time with the acting, with the sensitivity towards the role, with the way the determination and dignity with which Professor HAWKING accomplished what he did, completing his PhD, whilst bravely facing the unknown in terms of his health and medical condition was captured.

I have also seen the 2013 film also called 'Hawking', which shows footage of Professor HAWKING as he goes about life at Cambridge University in his former role as the 'Lucasian Professor of Mathematics' (a post he held from 1979 to 2009 - and which was previously held by Isaac NEWTON in 1663) and now as 'Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology'.

In this 2013 film Benedict CUMBERBATCH was interviewed about having played the role of Professor HAWKING in the 2004 film.  Although he only spoke for a few moments, and, of course, he was taking about MND, what he said was very perceptive and resonated because he articulated some of what I feel having been diagnosed a few years ago with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  He mentioned 'flights of stairs' and 'even ground' both of which are a particular nightmare for me as I really do have the most terrible balance issues.  He expressed perfectly the "feelings of vulnerability" and the "terrifying prospect" of "a body that locks you in".  It is lovely that someone actually understood this fear and articulated it.  MS is, to a large extent, because it is neurological largely a 'hidden illness' and I don't wish to compare MS to MND which is a frightful, horrific, cruel disease, but I am able to relate, and to have a strangers understanding, especially such a high profile stranger as Benedict CUMBERBATCH is very reassuring.

People often say to me, "You look OK", when I express that I don't feel well. Which is nice, as you don't always want to be told the truth in terms of how terrible you look.  And I have good friends who are brutally honest and do tell me.  But, I have also had people comment: "Oh! You are really lucky; you've got a disabled parking badge."  To which I have to remind them that I was awarded a disabled parking badge because I am 'disabled', not because I am 'pretty'!

Professor HAWKING is something of an inspiration to me.  His strength and courage and bravery show a tremendous will and a tremendous thirst for knowledge and for life.  Indeed "We are very very small.  But we are capable of very very big things."