A year ago today…7

Mums play such a vital role in our lives. When they are suddenly taken from you, it takes some getting used to.

This time last year I had an anxious night’s sleep. Having been in a new job for about 2 months, I was due to give a presentation mid-morning about some proposed changes I wanted to make to the company website. I was nervous, and although I knew what I was going to say I’m just not very confident when it comes to speaking to a room of people.

The conversation, albeit brief, that I’d had with my mum the night before had helped and in her usual supportive way gave me the reminder I needed that I knew what I was talking about!

She was right of course, and the meeting went well, perhaps even better than I’d expected. I left the room and returned to my desk where I saw I’d missed a call from my dad. I called him back jokingly asking if his pocket had dialled me, as had happened once or twice before. He was very quiet and just said: “It’s your mum, they’re trying to resuscitate her.” Calmly I told him not to worry, and I’d check with work and get down to him (in Somerset) as soon as I could.

Walking back to my desk I sat down, with the realisation that I think I’d just lost my mum. Of course the tears began to free fall. People starting coming out of the meeting room I’d just been in. A few commented that it was alright, I’d done a really good job and shouldn’t feel upset. A colleague explained what had just happened. They could not have looked more shocked, probably not dissimilar to the look I had had.

I declined the offer of a lift to get to dad’s and headed off to my car. I called my sister on the way and left a voicemail message, which must have sounded quite bizarre with all the heavy breathing while I ran to the car.

It was the longest shortest drive down the motorway to dad’s. All the way in my head, I was begging God to let her be OK. Come on, she can’t just die now, she has too much spirit and life in her… But then I had the opposite thought, had dad been over-reacting? He was never very good at describing what was going on and of no use in emergency situations. Perhaps I should have spoken to him a bit longer to find out more. Perhaps he didn’t mean resuscitate, surely she must have just fainted. Yes that’s all it will be. But how will I explain that to work. Dashing off like this all for a fainting moment.

For 45 long minutes I prayed and hoped, running all sorts of scenarios through my mind. I came off the motorway and saw an ambulance with it’s blues flashing. “Come on mum,” I said, “hang on in there, we’ll be with you soon and it’ll all be fine.”

No-one could really explain what had happened, it was so quick. One minute she was returning from a walk and crossing the road to talk to a neighbour. The next she fell, trying to grab dad, asking him to hold her. And that was that. Catastrophic heart failure. Literally full of life one minute, then nothing.

Passing nurses and a paramedic eventually did get her heart re-started but it took a very, very long time. She was kept in intensive care initially in a medically induced coma to try to stabilise her, but 2 days later she wouldn’t wake up. Over the following few days we tried everything to wake her.

We played her favourite songs, took in DVDs of her favourite shows and films, we argued and shouted, swore (she hated bad language), told stories from our childhood, and even tried our hand at singing (not good, and seriously if she was going to wake, that would have done it!)

Ultimately a CT scan revealed an hypoxic brain injury so at that point we knew it was unlikely she would ever wake up. We took the decision to turn off all the life support machinery and let nature take it’s course. We had time together as a family to prepare our goodbye.

It was the most difficult thing to do. She was still there and yet gone; the only person who could have helped us deal with everything that was going on, was the one person who was no longer going to be there. She was the glue that held our family together, what would happen now?

Although it was a year ago, there are times like today when my memory of that nightmare week are so vivid, it might as well have been last week. Other times, it feels like it was an eternity ago. The year has gone quickly but has been so long and drawn out.

I still feel mum’s energy around me, which I know sounds odd but I believe now more than ever that our bodies are just our energy hosts for a while and when it’s our time to go it’s only the body that’s worn out, our energy that makes us is boundless and timeless.

So the past year has been a year of adapting to life without mum.

Most of my year, work aside, has been spent supporting my dad who after 50 years of marriage felt and still feels empty. He’s doing well though and is getting out and about. It’s still hard for him to be home alone where there’s no mum to share his day with. He has gone from wanting to sell up and move to an old people’s home to wait for God, to actually living life more fully than I think even he ever thought possible – today he’s even baked a few cakes for a MacMillan Coffee Morning.

In complete contrast he still has his sad moments. This afternoon he’s off to the local funeral directors to pre-arrange his final journey!

I wanted to be there with him this week, and I’ve tried to arrange to do lots of things to keep us busy. But not being sure what he really wants, he’s gong to do his thing; and we will do ours. We will get together over the weekend so on the actual day of mum’s passing we will go to see the Book of Remembrance and reflect on our memories and times we had with the most amazing lady in our life.

Everyone tells me the first year of losing someone close is the toughest, and I couldn’t agree more. It won’t ever get easy, I’m sure of that, but it will, I hope, get more bearable.

Mum, if you are listening in, you really are the wind beneath our wings. I’m sorry you had to go, you are missed like crazy; thank you for all the great memories – we are trying to make more, but it’s never going to quite be the same. I’m even trying to get dad to come on a Spa day, remember the one we had? Just 3 ladies chilling in their white Terry Towelling robes! Loved that day for so many different reasons. Not sure dad will but who knows, I never thought he’d love your Mary Berry cookbook!

Love you mum, always and forever.

Aromatherapy: Benefits and Uses

Aromatherapy is a healing art that treats the whole person – mind, body and spirit. At a recent “Live Well at Home” event hosted by Medvivo and Care South, we asked Complementary Therapist Fiona about this holistic approach to healthcare.

What is aromatherapy?

It is a healing art based in nature. It adopts the holistic approach, so treats the whole person – mind, body and spirt. History notes that the use of flowers, plants, and their essences have been used as far back as 1800 BC to heal, relax and energise.

As an aromatherapist I use plant extract essential oils in a therapeutic manner. Essential oils are hormones extracted from aromatic plants such as flowers (chamomile), leaves (eucalyptus), flower tops (lavender), roots (ginger), needles and twigs (pine), wood (sandalwood), fruit (lemon), resin (frankincense).

This highly concentrated essential oil contains all the aroma and therapeutic properties that have been used for thousands of years in fragrance, flavour and medicines.

These Essential oils are applied in a variety of ways. For example massage, pre-blend creams, inhalation or compression. These oils can take anything from 15 minutes to several hours to absorb into the body fully, and tend to leave via exhalation or perspiration.

What are the main benefits for using aromatherapy?

The best thing about aromatherapy is that if you work with a qualified aromatherapist then the benefits are endless and can help treat a number of conditions as the treatment should always be freshly blended on an individual basis.

I find commonly that a blend for an individual one week could be very different the next, to the point that the oils smell very different for that individual each visit. Every day, hour, minute we are developing, growing, adapting as human beings, so as an aromatherapist I am always seeing what the individual needs on that particular day to treat them holistically.

How can you use aromatherapy?

Essential oils are very potent so the recommendation is 2 drops to every 5 mls of carrier. A carrier could be almond oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil or even a base cream for example. I would never go more than 8 drops per blend. If using the blend for an older person or a child it should be half the strength.

Avoid mixing more than 3 essential oils in the same blend. The reason for this is that all oils are categorised as a Top note, Middle note, or Base note:

Top uplifts, Base grounds, Middle balances.

Thinking of your 3 oils you always need what I call a bridge from base to top, i.e. you should never use 2 tops and a base as no middle ground for them to cross over and benefit you.

I would always recommend leaving oils to soak into the body for at least 12 hours before washing, this is to gain maximum benefit.

For use in a bath, oil burner, or inhalation of the essential oils I would recommend a product fit for that purpose, or seek guidance from a qualified professional due to potency and being flammable. Do not directly ingest essential oils.

Which oils work best for what purpose?

The most common things I treat are stress, depression, grief, anxiety, muscle/joints aches and pains. These are the most common ones I use along with the main reason I use them for. Please note some oils have a long list of health benefits to meet the individual’s holistic needs in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned.

  • Benzoin (base) – insomnia, anxiety, stress. Creates a euphoric feeling
  • Bergamot (top) – stress. Balances negative thoughts
  • Black Pepper (middle) – aching and stiff joints, poor circulation, catarrh, cold/ flu. Don’t use on the face
  • Roman Chamomile (middle) – good all-rounder for body, and mind. Good if have a dull ache
  • Frankincense (base) – great for stretchmarks, scars, dry skin, respiratory system
  • Grapefruit (top) – great for stress and very fast to absorb in to body
  • Juniper berry (middle) – great for most things, however not to be used if you are pregnant , or have kidney irritation
  • Lavender, Lavandin, Lavender spike (middle) – great all-rounders for mind and body; lavender is good for sharp pain and lavandin more relaxing than Lavender
  • Ylang Ylang (Extra 1, 2, 3) (base) – emotional oil, good to relax, and calm. Use in low doses of can feel sick or develop a headache

All oils can be very potent so use under guidance if unsure of quantity to use. I mix my blends for massage with a Grapeseed oil as no known allergies.

By Fiona Gillman, Complementary Therapist

About Fiona

Fiona has been interested in Complementary Therapy since she was a teenager, however it wasn’t until her 30’s that she took the plunge and gained the ITEC level 3 qualification in Aromatherapy, Swedish massage, and Reflexology. For the last 8 years Fiona has worked as a trainer for Care South, until this year when she chose to commit fully to her love of Complementary Therapy as her own business was really starting to grow. Fiona now splits her time between Orchard Osteopaths in Chard, Somerset and delivering therapies to individuals in the comfort of their own home, in Somerset, Dorset and Devon. “I am so pleased to say that I love what I do, and love helping others to feel better!”

You can find Fiona on Facebook or by contacting Orchard Osteopaths.

Thank you to Fiona for letting me share the information above on her behalf, hope you enjoyed and found the information helpful. I am a big fan of aromatherapy, although I’ve never tried Bergamot – that will be next on my list to try. Have you tried any and if so what do you use them for?

A New Core Workout

About two months ago I started to see posts on Facebook about something called “FloatFit” from a company called Aqua Physical. It looked like a class that combined yoga / pilates / HIIT training into one, with one very distinct difference. The class took place on water in a swimming pool!

A couple of instructors at DW Sports, the gym I’m a member of posted that they were going for training and we should expect to see the class available for booking soon. We were warned though that places would be limited, due to the size of the pool and number of floats.

It was another 6 weeks before I was able to book on a class. You literally have to be online at 8am of the morning bookings open for the coming weeks’ classes. Anyway, the wait was sooo worth it. Although I spent a good 50% of that first class in the pool and not on the float, I could feel the effects of the workout.

I now try to get to at least two classes a week and set myself goals for each week.

Week 1: stay on the float for longer than the warm up (Done!)

Week 2: stay on the float for the duration of the rocker move and be able to squat and jump on the float (Done!)

This week, I wanted to be able to do the squats sideways on the float. It’s quite difficult to explain, but initially we only did squats standing across the width of the float, facing forward. When we moved to standing longways facing the side, I could not stay on the float at all.

The class on Thursday had a lot of sideways squats and after the 3rd round I did manage to stay on the float, but only managed at best half a dozen squats.

In today’s class, success!! I had already fallen in the pool so when it came to switching the squat moves from front to side, I decide to jump the transition. It worked, and although I did fall in once, I successfully managed to jump into the transitions for a full 360 degree turn around the float, not just for one round but two!!

All I have to do now is see if that success continues with next week’s class.

In the meantime the remaining goals include:

  • Jump the burpee moves
  • Complete full push ups
  • Complete mountain climber without needing the odd pause
  • Perform the higher version side plank

I’m sure the instructors will add more moves to the routines, so more may well need to be added to this list.

It’s such a fun class and a really great workout, so if you ever have the opportunity to try it out, I’d highly recommend it!

A symphonic evening with…

North Wiltshire Orchestra

As a child I learned to play the violin. I only studied for the first exam, giving this extra curricular activity up so I could concentrate on my exams. How I wish I’d continued to play. I love music, all genres, particularly when it’s played live. Never is that wish greater than when I get to listen to the magnificent North Wiltshire symphony orchestra.

Made up of more than 50 amateur musicians, I am in awe of their abilities. Not just as individuals, but for the group themselves. The music is faultless, and with the magical setting in St. Andrews Church in Chippenham, each concert has you walking on air when you leave.

Spring Concert

Last night it was time for their latest event and we were presented with a programme that included:

  • Schubert’s Overture to Rosamund D644
  • Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 1 K412
  • Smetana’s Three Dances from The Bartered Bride
  • Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 Op. 70

I arrived just before the start and as ever all the good seats were already taken. (Note to self: arrive a good 20 minutes early to get a good seat!) Not to mind though, I took my place to the right of the centre stage of musicians and prepared myself to sit back and relax as the evening of music got underway.

The music flows effortless and you can’t help but let it completely envelope you. The accoustics are incredible in the church setting and you can’t help but feel your soul is genuinely touched by the music.

I sit reflecting not only on how impressed I am with the musicians that sit playing in front of me, but also on how centuries ago this was being written as original pieces of work with no Google or online playlists to refer to.

In a million years I will never understand how anyone can pull together all the elements that go into building such a symphony, combining stringed, wood and brass instruments.

Instead I sit, listen and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

It comes to an end all too soon, but thankfully it’s not too long to wait for their next event!

Summer Concert

This will take place on Saturday 11 June 2016 at 7.30pm at St. Andrews Church again. The programme will include music by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Dvorak. If you are in the Wiltshire area and might enjoy an evening of live symphonic music played by an incredible local orchestra, come along. I strongly doubt you will be disappointed.Tickets are available in advance or on the door.

Keep in touch with latest news from the Orchestra on their Facebook page or check out their website at www.northwiltsorchestra.org.uk

I will never be able play a musical instrument like these guys do; so instead I get to do the next best thing: spend time listening to the magic they collectively produce.

Well done North Wiltshire Orchestra on another phenomenal concert; I eagerly await your summer concert. See you there!

Microwave chilli con carne

Do you ever use your microwave for anything other than re-heating food? In general that’s me too, with the exception of this dish. It’s a recipe I often use and is courteous of my mum who first came across the recipe some years ago – I think I was still at college, so that makes it a good couple of decades old!

Minced beef (500g or 250g packs work just as well!)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Tin of tomatoes
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons chilli powder
Tin of red kidney beans, drained and washed (small or large, depending on amount of mince being used)


  1. Microwave the onion and garlic with the beef, cover on high for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir to break up the mince, and add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and chilli powder. Stir.
  3. Cover and microwave for 20 minutes on high, stirring after 10 minutes.
  4. Add red kidney beans. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  5. Leave to stand for a few minutes and serve.

This dish is ideal for freezing and using for mid week lunches with jacket potatoes!

Butternut Squash Soup

Here’s one of my favourite recipes that’s so easy to make you can be eating it within half an hour. It used to take much longer just because of the time it took to peel a squash, but thanks to Mary Berry, I peel and chop in just five minutes – I never thought to use a vegetable peeler, always struggled to cut through the thick skin with a knife!!

1 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in 1 pint of hot water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good pinch of ground cumin
Good pinch of ground coriander


  1. Put the squash and onion into a large saucepan
  2. Add stock, cumin and coriander
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender.
  4. Transfer soup into a liquidiser and blend until smooth
  5. Return to the saucepan and reheat gently
  6. Season to taste and serve

Ta-dah, perfect with buttered  ciabatta rolls to warm up any cold day!

Butternut squash soup

What did I do this week?

Don’t panic, I’m not intending to bore everyone with a list of things I did this week. Although the one thing I finally got round to doing this week, was to order a calendar for my work desk. And this year, I’m going to make much better use of it!

I forget the endless Fridays where I am frustrated at the number of things I haven’t got round to. I’m getting better at not letting this get me down, particularly as I know for sure that I have not been whiling away the days doing absolutely nothing. Instead I have probably doubled the amount of work on my plate and achieved plenty, just not what was on my to do list that day or week.

Does any of that sound familiar? It certainly seems that way when I share my frustrations with friends.

So this year’s calendar has been specifically purchased with that in mind. I will not be adding my usual tasks to the calendar; instead I will be using it to make a note of the extra tasks I’ve been involved in or that needed unprecedented attention. This way, at the end of every week I can quite easily see where my time has been spent! And it doesn’t require any additional effort – just got to remember to do it!

The to do list will remain, and I’m hoping this very simple approach to workload management will take away some of that heavy feeling of underachieving each week.

Dare I say, I’m almost looking forward to returning to work to test out my theory!

Make the most of rainy days

It’s raining; it’s pouring. The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head;
And he wouldn’t get up in the morning!

Day 2 of one of the wettest weekends ever! Yesterday was a complete washout. I got up nice and early to take part in the local Park Run, got soaked to the very core and had zero motivation to do much other that eat and drink plenty of hot tea for the rest of the day!

So today, I have risen with plenty of motivation to make sure I get absolutely the most out of the day. Initially I had intended to go for another run, but as it was raining and learning from yesterday’s misery, I decided instead to make a nice hearty breakfast and get a few things done on the computer – in the hope that according to BBC Weather, there would be a break in the rain about 10am.

In case it helps anyone else, here are the 5 things I want to get done today:

  1. Write a couple of blog posts (one in progress!)
  2. Make some homemade soup and bread (planned for lunchtime)
  3. Tidy the house, wash any outstanding pots and pans – why not give the kitchen floor a good clean (started earlier)
  4. Sort through paperwork and ensure all bills are up to date (completed)
  5. Catch up with correspondence – check the diary for any upcoming birthdays or special occasions (also completed!)

I’ve got music playing in the background, a bit of “Best of the Sixties” and it’s true, music really can lift your spirits – and I’m getting a bit of a workout as I bop along to the tunes!

Whatever happens today, I do not intend to put either the heating or TV on. That’s just a sure fire way of getting nothing done and ending up having unexpected naps!

Now I have to go, because guess what? The sun has put in an appearance….!! Not kidding either, especially as this is happening a whole 15 minutes earlier than forecast. So looks like Lady Bella and I will get our morning walk without our rain gear! Hurrah. We need to go though as rain is forecast for the rest of the day from 1pm (and presumably that will arrive early too now!!)

Have a great Sunday everyone!

The Dryathlon is almost over

Like a lot of people, I enjoy a glass or two of wine, especially after a hard day at work. It was by chance that I came across the Cancer Research campaign for Going Dry for January at a time when those glasses of wine were increasing in frequency. So what better way to stop that habit, and join in with some fundraising.

If I was to summarise how the month has gone, it would be very slow, slow, fast, what, is it over already?

Week 1 was by far and away the toughest, particularly with friends and family all commiserating the end of the first week back at week with a few drinks. All that talk about needing a drink made me feel like the spoiled child who throws a tantrum the minute she can’t get her way.

Thankfully after a session at the gym, all was good again with the world and any thoughts of a drink disappeared. I did wonder how I would cope with the rest of that weekend, let alone the rest of the month!!

I need not have worried though, for that weekend, or any other day since. Thinking about it, I’m not even rushing now to have my first drink of the year. Probably back in that first week of January, I might have planned to have a bottle in tonight so when the clock strikes midnight, I can treat myself. But no, as I sit here now I just want to stay dry!

So many articles talked about the health improvements you’re likely to experience by not drinking. I have to say I was a complete non believer to begin with. I did not feel better, I still struggled to get to sleep, then stay asleep; I struggled to get up in the morning and my concentration was still as bad.

Some four weeks later, hand on heart, all those areas are much improved and I want that to continue beyond January. So although I am soberly celebrating the end of January, with an intention of continuing to stay dry, I would like to raise a toast to everyone who has taken part and helped to raise more vital funds for Cancer Research.

Well done everyone, cheers!

Home delivery disservice

Hand on heart, I didn’t expect to have another reason to rant. Today my gripe and groan is about a home delivery service! So please do forgive, or enjoy, my latest rant!

Having moved house about 4 months ago, I finally made a decision on some bedroom furniture during a visit to Homebase. I ordered a 3 door wardrobe, chest of drawers and bedside table and didn’t object at all for the two week wait to have the items delivered by Argos.

The service from the beginning was turning out to be quite an informative experience. You get an email to confirm your order and a phone call soon after to confirm the order date. A couple of days before the order date you then get a text to advise of a delivery time slot and that the driver will call you to confirm when they’re an hour away. Nice tracking so you can sort of plan your day.

Thankfully my plans today were a little delayed which meant when I got a phone call from the driver to say they’d be with me in half an hour, some 5 hours early, I was at home. That’s where the happiness ends….

The door was knocked within that half hour and the two delivery drivers began bringing the 5 boxes of furniture to the house. As I live alone and the furniture is for the bedroom I asked if it would be possible to take the items upstairs. Didn’t think it was too much to ask, thought it would be part of the service.

The reply? “No, they’re really heavy. Plus we have loads on today so we haven’t really got time.” He gave me the latest Argos catalogue, I explained I already had one, he said “well now you have two.” Great, thanks for that too!

With the last of the 5 boxes gently laid in the hallway, I was asked to sign for the delivery and given the advice:

“Try emptying the boxes first and then take the items upstairs one by one. That should make it much easier for you.”

Thanks so much, would never have thought of that. Maybe they should try feeding that back to the company – Argos, Homebase, or both I really don’t mind. Better still, why not suggest packing the boxes with less in them so the overall weight isn’t quite so heavy?!

And while they’re at it, maybe they could also ask for some customer service training (why on earth is it important to me to know I can’t be helped because they are busy?) and / or some physical training!

It took me just over 20 minutes to take the items upstairs, breaking down just one of the boxes. Yes, they were indeed heavy; and I worked up a good old sweat in those few minutes, getting myself a nice big blister somehow in the middle of my hand!

Maybe it’s my weird logic, but when an item is clearly marked as required two people for handling, perhaps you should use two men – you never know, it may even make the item feel a bit lighter, and it could then be carried a little further… like upstairs!

So the items are upstairs now ready for building, which I may do another time now. I feel better for the rant, so now I will get on with the rest of the day. Happy Sunday everyone!!