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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

the day of the London Marathon

So, after all the preparation, the early morning training sessions, setting off at 6am on cold winter's mornings, and even giving up rugby for a few months so he wouldn't get injured , my son Callum finally got to run in his first full marathon. And what a marathon to start with...the London Marathon itself.

It's something I've watched on BBC television for many years, and it's compulsive viewing. For the first time though, I went down to watch it along with our family and friends.

What a wonderful day...with London showing off in the sunshine...Mr Thinking of the Days and I passed The Tower of London,

before making our way to a standing point where we met other Pancreatic Cancer UK supporters .

We all shouted every time we saw  runners wth their distinctive charity running vests, and I started to go cross eyed as my eyes scanned the waves of runners coming towards us. Thousands of them, most running for their chosen charities in memory of their loved ones.

All sizes, all shapes, from all over the world, some cruising past casually where we were at the 12.5 mile mark, some struggling already. Then came Callum - he saw us, I was screaming his name, and he came over, gave me a big hug, and ran off looking as fresh as a daisy. My eyes filled with tears of pride , so I turned took this photo and composed myself.

Of course I was fine after that, and we then joined up with our daughter and her husband , my eldest son and his girlfriend, Grace and Rich, Danny and Alex and even Cammo who is over from Australia. We waited by the 23 mile mark,

 but began to wonder where Callum we waited and waited. His knee which had proved troublesome a few weeks was giving him problems from mile 15 onwards, and when we finally saw him, he didn't see us. He was firmly focused on the road ahead, pain etched onto his face, dragging his leg slightly.

But he finished, and we caught up with him afterwards at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Conference Centre by Westminster Abbey. That's where many of the charities hire rooms to welcome their runners, give them massages and a place where they can rest and meet up with their supporters. Here was his lovely girlfriend Elly and her family and friends who'd also come to give support and so a photo of all of us was taken. I love this....


And this

Callum could hardly walk by now, but managed to get to the restaurant for a curry

And to have a laugh and a joke wit his brother, sister and his gorgeous cousin Ollie, who we reckon looks a little like Tom Hiddlestone

He's still walking like John Wayne, but is ecstatic at raising what will eventually be over £4,000 for such a good cause...for research into pancreatic cancer  and support for those who have it and their families. People like his uncle Dave and grandmother

But of course this is just one story out of millions who were there.

What a day. All those runners, over 39,000 of them, and the huge crowds who came to watch. The sense of camaradie and fellowship and fun which was all around. The millions of pounds raised for such worthwhile charities.

What a day...what a bloody brilliant, beautiful, emotional and proud day for so many people.

Then what a sad day the following day as we learned about the army captain aged 31 who died after collapsing at the marathon. RIP David Seath.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Cherry blossom days

When the cherry blossom is out, you know Spring is here. It's the law. Just the sight of the blossom fills me with joy and a sense that all will be well. The cherry trees are showing off their finery in towns, cities and gardens everywhere in April.
There's one tree though that means the world to me. It's fifteen steps from the back gate of the BBC studios where I work, and this week I keep nipping across to see it, touch it, stand underneath it and look up at the pink canopy of blossom set against a bright blue sky .
And if I focus slightly to my right, there's Leicester Cathedral in the background.

 Turning around, I love the way the blossom looks almost ethereal set against the silver grey and powder white  historic Guildhall.

 And then if I stand close up to the blossom, it's so easy to be completely overwhelmed by the pale pink perfection of the petals.
But the beauty of the blossom is so fleeting, you have to appreciate it while you can. There's something quite magical about seeing something so transient against a backdrop of buildings hundreds of years old.

I know it's officially Spring, but outside the sky is dark and large hailstones have been falling this evening. Will the cherry blossom still be there when I go back to work on Tuesday?

Monday, 4 April 2016

smiling and gardening on a spring day

It's been so long since I've been able to get out in the sunshine to do some gardening, and it was such a joy to do just that this weekend.

It wasn't hot, a mere 14 degrees Celsius, but I cannot tell you how good it feels to have the sun on your face, while doing some digging and weeding.

 It's an instant tonic to be able to wander around the garden  and see the daffodils, paper white in the light....

and to watch the pale blue flowers of the pulmonaria unfold. They do well here, on the right hand side of my garden, in claggy clay soil shaded by next door's one hundred year old oak tree. They may be pretty but I'm not keen on their common name..lungwort.

This glowing  clump of dironicums  are an instant boost in spring, their buttery yellow blooms are so cheery, they make me smile. Or are they dironicums? I think they are. My friend Edna from a village about twelve miles away kindly dug up a small clump for me on a visit to her garden about five years ago. I do remember her telling me to divide them in September time...which I need to do this year.

I love their common name.though ..leopards bane.

I smiled as I saw the shadows of the strands of  holly trail over the old brick wall which divides our garden from the old chapel

Further along  it was good to glimpse the periwinkle flowers peeping from the laurel hedge.

On the other side of the garden, on the left of the cottage are lots of bluebells which have amassed , the flowers haven't yet come out but I'm going to have to move them later because these pretty as a picture pink plants were here before them.

Of course I wasn't alone in the garden, the gang of three kept me company. It was good for them to race around in the sunshine . I didn't manage to get a photograph of Winnie, my grand dog who was staying for the weekend - she couldn't sit still. Boo had wandered in for a nap on Winnie's snuggly blanket in the kitchen, but wherever I was working, Eric was sitting beside me, chewing on a tennis ball.

When it was time to sit down for a breather , they all joined me though - on the bench beside the kitchen door with one sitting each side of me and one on my lap. I had smudges of  dirt on my face and scratches on my hands, but as I looked out into the garden, I couldn't help but think... "Isn't life grand!"

When it was time to sit down for a breather , they all joined me though - on the bench beside the kitchen door with one sitting each side of me and one on my lap. I had smudges of  dirt on my face and scratches on my hands, but as I looked out into the garden, I couldn't help but think... "Isn't life grand!"  

Sunday, 27 March 2016

A day remembering the reinterment of Richard III

Saturday marked the first anniversary of the reinterment of King Richard III here in Leicester.

Services were held, exhibitions opened and books launched as we remembered the heady, exciting yet reverential and remarkable day twelve months ago.

I've blogged before about the events leading upto the occasion itself....but I've only just realised how much I've done are the links

But yesterday was a day of celebrating and remembering. Kirsteen Thomson who lives a few miles from Leicester opened her art exhibition at the Guildhall.

She's been fascinated by Richard III for many years. In fact, the King passed by the back of her garden over five hundred years ago. She painted the spot twenty years ago, ...and behind the green door in the painting lies the intact drawbridge to the old castle in Kirby Muxloe.

She's painted Leicester Cathedral, the Guildhall and other local landmarks as well as other places associated with the last Plantagenet King. Fotheringhay, where he was born, Edinburgh, Yorkshire and Wales. There's also a book about Richard III filled with her paintings ...

Another book launched yesterday was "How to bury a King" by the Reverend Pete Hobson. He's the man who was given the responsibility of  doing just that...the redesign of the cathedral and preparing it for the reinterment.

And that's something that has never been done before , so it really was a step into the unknown. Pete though is so calm and level headed , and in the build up to the pomp and pageantry of last year,
he remained quite serene every time I interviewed him.
His book tells  the inside story of what happened behind the scenes .

A CD was also launched on Saturday featuring the music during the services at Leicester Cathedral last March performed by the choir from Leicester Cathedral. I still remember the shiver at the back of my neck during the Sunday service when they sang.....

And a new, different portrait of Richard III was unveiled on Saturday at the King Richard III Visitor Centre. Back in February, the centre asked people to send in their photographic memories of the reinterment in Leicester. Over ten thousand images were sent in from all over the world, and the result is this, a rather stunning , three metre high , photo montage portrait of Richard.

I love it.....and when you look closely, you can  see some of the original photographs

Local dignitaries laid white roses at the statue of Richard just outside the Cathedral on Saturday too with quite a crowd there to watch.

The effect of  Richard's reinterment on Leicester and the county is huge - symbolically, historically and financially.

Working so close by to the cathedral, I'm amazed at the numbers of visitors there over the last year. To hear American, French , Canadian and even Australian voices as I walk past would have been very unusual a couple of years ago. Not now though.

Visitor numbers in Leicester and at the Bosworth Battlefield centre where Richard III was killed remain high, hotels are running at eighty per cent capacity,

It's been estimated this week that the reinterment  has brought £59 million worth of business to the city, and that's a conservative estimate.

But let's not just talk about money...there's a buzz about Leicester now. Our Midlands city has been put on the map historically, there's a pride about the place, and that's due to the 'Richard III effect' as it's known locally.

Of course our football team, Leicester City, have also been hitting the international headlines. The stuff of dreams, the story about our team who were languishing at the bottom of the Premier League in March last year, has now become a global phenomenon. Little Leicester City, are now at the top of the league, inspiring everyone ....and it's been suggested that Richard III , even though he died over five hundred years ago, could be responsible.

I'm not kidding. Some fans say since Richard was reinterred, the football team has had a runaway success, and that the facts speak for themselves. Is it a coincidence ? Or is it a form of "King Power" which incidentally is the name of  the stadium where Leicester City play?

Whatever, Leicester has changed since a dead king was found in a city car park and was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral. And it's a very positive change too.......


Monday, 14 March 2016

Days of running and raising money

Before you get excited thinking I'm running and fund raising, I'm not. I couldn't even run for a bus let alone a mile, half marathon or a full marathon. Just watching people run makes me feel prostrate with exhaustion.

The last time I ran was at my children's village school mother's day race. I disgraced myself. Within about ten paces I fell  - I'd ruptured my calf muscle. Ice , rest and elevation I was told. I tried but my youngest was only a toddler, it was difficult. Within four days I felt ill, my foot was so cold, and within half an hour of seeing the doctor I was in hospital. A huge haematoma in my calf was diagnosed. I couldn't drive for six weeks and had physio for five months. That my dears,  is why I don't run!

But my son Callum has been running since Christmas  and he's training for the London marathon. Not that he's ever done any long distance running before either.

He made up his mind last year to run in London next month , all 26.2 miles of it. That's why he's been pounding the country lanes and city streets before dawn, getting into shape.

I'm impressed by his determination and by the fact that he's running the race to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK. It's a cause very deep to all our hearts in our husband's mother and brother both died from this cruel and insidious disease.

 Callum's much loved Granny Beryl  was 76 years old, and David was only 59. They were both much loved and always remembered.

So, as well as training, Callum has to raise £2,500 for the charity Pancreatic Cancer Research. He's held a disco over Christmas, , and organised a slap up lunch at his rugby club in February which raised hundreds of pounds.

Here he is with Jenny, David's wife

Such a good afternoon followed by a cracking game of rugby.

So there's only six weeks to go until the London Marathon and Callum's training schedule is moving into its final phase. This weekend he ran his first ever event - the Silverstone Half Marathon. I'd never heard of it before , but this event at the home of British motor racing , attracted over 10,000 runners.

It was cold but sunny and it was mostly on the flat running lap along the racing track. What a great day and I was able to see Callum pass by four times.

By the time the race was half over I managed to meet up with Callum's girlfriend and her parents Ian and Ann Louise who were also there to support him , and we whooped and hollered as he came to the finishing line, in a respectable 1 hour 55 minute time.

I think it's safe to say he was cream crackered by the end....but was on a real high too...

And we were all very proud of him.

He wasn't the only one running for Pancreatic Cancer Uk of course , there were over thirty of them, all doing their bit and running in memory of someone close to them. At the London Marathon there will be 120 or so running for the charity amongst the  38,000 runners taking part.

It's going to be a blast and all our family will be there and we reckon Callum will have about 20 people cheering him on as he pounds through the streets of London. If you would like to sponsor him, here's the link.....

He, we and the team at Pancreatic Cancer UK would be so grateful. They're supporting those affected by the disease, investing in research, and  lobbying for greater recognition of pancreatic cancer. They say that for that for too long this disease has been sidelined.

London we come....

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Two very different gardens in Copenhagen

It's four weeks ago today since I visited two very different gardens in the Copenhagen area.

A grey cold day at the beginning of February isn't the ideal time to see these outdoor spaces in their full glory of course, but there were compensations. You can see the bones of the garden , the hard landscaping and it's fun to imagine what they look like in the lushness of the summer months.

In the morning, Lucy and I went out to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which is about forty km away from Copenhagen, a mere thirty minutes by train. we were there to see the artworks for sure, but I was very interested in what the garden had to offer.

The museum is set overlooking the sea and Sweden...yet at the front entrance, it looks like what it was...a 19th century home.

 It was built in 1855 for Alexander Brun , a Master of the Royal Hunt and if you're wondering why it's called Louisiana, well, he married three women who were all named Louise. At least he never called any of them by the wrong name in the throes of passion.

But in 1958 the then owner  Knud W. Jensen opened this place as a museum of modern art. And before you even arrive at the front entrance, you can see that this is a museum which is a major player. This Henry Moore statue simply can't be ignored.


 At the back of the original house you can  still see part of the garden as it would have looked when Alexander and any of his three wives were here.

But the main house now has two modern wings where the main exhibitions are shown...all sleek white walls  and glass which bring the outdoors in, especially in the
 Giacometti gallery overlooking the lake.

And in winter the starkness of the steel grey sky and sea are offset by the sixty or so sculptures dotted around the garden by Alexander Calder...

Miro, and many others.

In some areas, though , the trees look as if they have carved out of the ground...I admired  the patterns of the roots on show


before following Lucy back towards the house, where I could imagine all the Louises sitting on the verandah looking out to sea.

Indoors there are numerous exhibitions which are constantly refreshed, as well as 3,000 works in the permanent collection. Warhol, Lichenstein, Picasso, they're all here...but Lucy and I were intrigued and completely drawn in by Resistance, the exhibition byMindaugas Lukosaitis  


A hundred or so finely captured sketches showing the horrors of conflict, soldiers, the people  defending themselves , their homes, the bloodshed ....there's such an immediacy and vibrancy here.

And we couldn't ignore the whole wall of colour which sent us virtually cross eyed... a whole corridor of blue and red squares

by Francois Moreliet whose work is based on telephone numbers taken at random from the telephone directory.
But this is a post about gardens in Copenhagen, so onto the University of Copenhagen's Botanical Garden, which is a mere two minutes from the hubbub of central Copenhagen.
A slight mizzle by now, but it was our last afternoon in Copenhagen and I was determined not to miss it. With twenty four acres and twenty seven glasshouses, there's quite a lot to see but entrance is free and it's well worth a visit.

The stars of the show for our visit on a winter's afternoon were the glasshouses. Imposing, Victorian, I adore the ornate class of these standing proudly on the hill.

And once inside , they took us to different continents, different worlds....

And in the largest, most central palmhouse there's a beautiful cast iron staircase which you can climb, and then walk around the perimeter at the top of the glasshouse and look down on a tropical rainforest...

and then as you walk through the other glasshouses, there are progressively cooler, drier gardens .

 But as with so many botanic gardens, this is a place for serious research which was built on this site at the beginning of the 1870's. This is where the city's old fortifications were  - you can see the old ramparts where the rock gardens now.

The lake was created from where the old moat used to be....I really love how the designers worked with the space , highlighting the origins of this space, not completely obliterating them.

The Botanical Gardens are fascinating even though many the 13,0000 species planted here were hibernating for the winter. To be able to spend an hour or two wandering around admiring the views, and the planting of the glasshouses made me feel very content indeed.
What a lovely final day to our trip to Copenhagen. I can't wait until next time , and although Copenhagen is a city for all seasons, next time our visit will be in the summer!