Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Welcome Break

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Hi - how are you doing? It's been a couple of weeks since I've blogged. Life is so busy! At work me and Tracy made a Poet Tree - for the poets to hang poems on!

Caroline came up with the idea a few weeks ago - and I saw a branch had blown off the tree outside the library - so I went out to rescue it. We took the dead leaves off it and Tracy added some of her knitting groups' crocheted and knitted leaves. I printed out some pictures of autumnal leaves to scatter around. We think it looks quite effective!

Poet Tree :-)

Caroline also wants to encourage people to write their own poems and add them to the tree. So she is going to put the letters

on the back of a leaf - and let people complete them in the form of a short poem. We might use
too. It will be interesting to see what happens! If you want to write one and send it to me - I'll put it on for you :-)

Still smiling after 50 years!
Meanwhile N's parents have celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary this month. congratulations to them!! That is an awesome achievement! I'm happy to report that Nathan's dad is feeling great after his operation. I think he is pretty much recovered.

Congratulations Colin & Dilys!
They are still going out and about and I'm very jealous that they have been to Birmingham on the train and seen the brand new library before I have! It is pretty amazing by all accounts. They say people are going in there just to ride the escalators. I can't wait to see it for myself.

My mum is on the mend too - she only has another week and then she can get the cast off her arm. She will be very happy when that happens!

I've had a couple of weeks off work! It is so nice to have a break and have a breather. Also, for reasons too complicated to go into here - I have resigned from the Parish Council. This means I will get some leisure time back - and most of my spare room!

Yes - we actually went on this!
I also need a bit of time to rest and brace myself for Silverdale Library becoming single staffed - i.e.-  just me! I am NOT looking forward to this at all. I will be missing Tracy dreadfully and trying to keep everything running. Wish me luck - I'll need it!! I know we are lucky that the library is staying open - and that's the most important thing. :-)

So, what have we been up to while I've been off?

 First of all we went to the Mayor of Newcastle's Firework Display and Funfair - which despite being a wet night was brilliant fun! We went on some very scary rides which made me scream - which I think is a good thing once in a while!! N also won me a BananaMonkey - which is very cute.

The fireworks were pretty impressive too! There were plenty of people there - so hopefully they made lots of money for the Mayor's charities.

We had a Business Lunch on Tuesday as N and his partner at attending the BETT Show 2014 in January and we needed to talk about marketing and other strategies. It should be quite exciting and hopefully will bring in even more orders for Jigsaw School Apps

On Thursday N and I travelled up to the East Riding of Yorkshire to visit my brother Damian, his wife Jan and their daughter Zoe. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the scenery was just beautiful. Despite being delayed by no fewer than three accidents - meaning having to go a very long way round - we really enjoyed the drive. Allerthorpe is a lovely village. There is even a Grade II listed K6 telephone box on the main street!

I liked the Ghost one myself :-)
It was really nice to see them and catch up a bit. They haven't been here fro very long and it was the first time we had seen their new house. It is great - all open plan downstairs - but the huge Aga makes it all very cosy.

We even got to pick Zoe up from school and she took us to her favourite Outlet Mall - she wanted to buy some pink Van shoes for the next day - as it was non-uniform day. We also had ice-cold milkshakes in the Café Nero. It was fun. Damian had cooked some very tasty lamb shanks in the Aga and Jan had made her (now) famous Guinness Chocolate Cake. It was all very yummy. It was a shame the next day the weather had turned very wet and windy - as we had planned to have a look round York. We decided against that in favour of a late breakfast and more chatting. We had a very nice time :-)

N was very impressed with the Yorkshire beer too!

So, I have another week off. I really need to get on with the final editing of the book - so I can get it into the Kindle store by Christmas.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Check-Up Time Again

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Bronze sculpture outside British Library
NEWTON' after William Blake by Eduardo Paolozzi 1995

This week I had my bi-monthly check-up at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire. My department was quiet and I got in there in no time. I saw Mr Hughes himself and he decided that I didn't need the camera down my nose and throat this time. Yeah! In fact he said that he doesn't know why they do it at all really as, since I had adenocarcinoma, this isn't found in the head and neck usually. What he treated were the secondaries - the primary as we know was never found. He said there's nothing they can really do - but they will do anything that makes me feel better about it. They have to keep an eye on me for five years - so he suggested maybe an x-ray or scan every six months might be better. Probably won't do anything - but at least it is something. I said that would make me feel better! Also he wants to see me every THREE months now - which is good news :-)

I asked him if much research is being done on CUP - and he shook his head. There's very little being done for head and neck cancer or CUP - although they are trying to set up a Head and Neck group at Stafford and Stoke. He mentioned a doctor who had said in the papers, that most funds are directed to research in breast cancer - as that gets most publicity, who was then shot down for saying it. I think he may have been close to the truth though.

That's why Jo's Friends: Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation is so important - they are raising funds for their own research projects. I really must get some more pins to sell - and if anyone is looking for Christmas cards - they do sell them on the website - here.
Mum with her cast on

Nathan tries it out
I'm not the only one to have been visiting hospitals recently either.

My poor mum has broken her wrist and has had to make several visits to get the cast right. She fell off her bottom stair - can you believe it? This made my dad call the Stannah people and get a stair lift installed right away. They were very quick! We've all had a go in it - it's great fun!

While we were in London Nathan's mum and dad went round to visit my mum and dad - to male sure they were okay. They even took over some cottage pie and trifle to keep them going? Isn't that lovely? My parents were very happy! We were pleased that someone was checking on them while we were away!
Nathan's mum has a go too!

Then when we got back from London, Nathan's dad had to go into hospital for a small operation. They kept him in overnight to make sure there weren't any complications - and I'm pleased to say he is now home and recovering well. While he was in the hospital he didn't ask for flowers or chocolates or even grapes - he just said "Bring me a pie for when I wake up - steak or pork will do!" So N took him a pork pie - and I brought him a steak one next day. I think they aided his swift recovery :-)

 Hopefully he's not lifting any dishwashers or refitting his bathroom just yet...

Back at work a crisis is looming - Tracy has applied for a job driving the mobile libraries. I have a feeling she will get it - she passed her HGV test just so she could apply! I'm not sure how I'm going to cope without my favourite (and only) colleague. (Sniffle, sniffle...) Silverdale Library will never be the same again without her. She set up the Knit and Natter, Crochet and Chatter Group. Look what they have been working on for the Innocent Smoothie Big Knit campaign:

Hats for Innocent Smoothies

Raising money for Age UK

How cute are they?

Sorry to end on a sad note there. I do think Tracy will make an AWESOME trucker though - one of Albert's Angels :-) Look out for her in a mobile library on the roads of Staffordshire.

Here's a little something to cheer us up - well it made me laugh anyway. It's an advert for some Fentimans soft drink - that I picked up in London:

Looks innocent enough..
...until you put your fingers where instructed :-)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Eurogamer Expo 2013

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Sarah and Laura at Eurogamer

 Last week we made our annual pilgrimage to Eurogamer Expo - at Earl's Court. This time our group had grown - as well and Myself, Nathan, Laura and Mawb - this year we were joined by Jo (Mawb's significant other ) my brother Dom, his wife Sharon and daughter Sarah. All keen or budding gamers!

We managed to find a hotel even closer to Earl's Court than last year. In fact when you stood on the front steps of the hotel you could see Earl's Court at the top of the road. The rooms were small (like last year) but the staff were always there, very friendly and would help you with anything. I think a lot of gamers were staying in the hotel - as Jo and Mawb were kept awake the first night by five likely lads enjoying vodka and singing along to Britney Spears.

The hard-core gamers among us had super-duper blue sparkly wristbands that allowed them in an hour earlier EVERY day of the Expo. The less experienced had an afternoon wristband for Thursday and a full day on Friday. We had a day off on Saturday - and packing-up duties Sunday morning!

It wasn't too busy when we first got there on the Thursday - after the fast train down from Stoke Station. After telling Sharon how interesting the Developer Sessions in the lecture theatres were - we went to the first one for The Evil Within - the latest in the Resident Evil franchise - and nearly put her off for life. It was extremely graphic and gruesome - the highlight being someone being disembowelled by a chain saw. Nice.

Lau and Sar playing Tearaway

Luckily the following day we saw a presentation on Tearaway -  a very cute game available on the PlayStation Vita. Made by the people who made Little Big Planet - it is just my kind of game. Puzzles, challenges, music, art and a story. I will have to borrow Nathan's Vita so I can buy a copy!

Another interesting one is Beyond: Two Souls - which is a psychological, movie-like game where you get to live someone's life and make their decisions. it is from the people who brought us Hard Rain last year. I did play that - very badly - and got quite a traumatic ending. That's the thing with these games - everyone gets a different ending. This one looks intriguing and beautiful. it as made with real actors - Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page, who spent three years making it. The characters do look very like them. We listened to David Cage, who made it, talk about his labour of love. We are all looking forward to trying it. Hopefully I'll be able to keep my characters alive a bit longer this time!

There were a lot of people there is costumes from various games. There was a whole Cosplay (as this is known) competition running throughout the Expo - and we watched a couple of the events on stage. There were some VERY impressive outfits - there are some very talented folk out there! Nathan was particularly impressed with a chap in shades, a purple suit wielding a large purple weapon (!) from Saints Row.

I don't know enough games to recognise everyone - but they were very pretty to look at. There were also a lot of zombies around (yes - they let them in Earl's Court - no problem). Sharon got stalked by one - but managed to shake him off before she got bitten and turned into one herself! Well, I don't think she got bitten....

Visiting the Queen

On our day off, Dom and Sharon wanted to see Buckingham Place. I took them off to Hyde Park Corner on the tube and we walked through Hyde Park. It was a glorious sunny day - very warm for late September. There were tame squirrels running around and digging in the ground - oblivious to tourists taking close-up photos of them. We walked down The Mall and admired the Canada Gates outside the palace. We saw the Union Flag flying - and found out later that Prince Edward was at home.

Horseguards Parade
There were lots of people milling around - and a group of foreign film-makers in various military uniforms who seemed to be making some kind of movie outside the gates. We watched for a while and tried to work out what was going on - but I still have no idea what they were up to!  Then we saw some soldiers in red jackets and highly polished helmets on beautiful horses trotting over the road. We followed them through St James Park, past the lake with the pelicans, to Horseguards Parade. After watching them face down another group of horseback soldiers in blue jackets for ages,  we wandered off to see what else we could find.

Sharon on top of the World
We walked past the Downing Street, but a machine-gun toting police officer put us off trying to have a walk past Number 10. We went over to Trafalgar Square and saw the fourth plinth with its huge blue cock by German sculptor Katharina Fritsch I was telling D and S that it changes every so often - but didn't know how often exactly. I do know that the next one will be there for 2014/15 - once it is chosen. They have a shortlist already!

Seeing the London Eye in the distance Dom said he wanted to go on the London Eye. We headed in that general direction - then crossed the Thames over Hungerford Bridge. There was a Food Festival going on down the South Bank - there were some gorgeous smells as we walked towards the London Eye booking office. There was Korean, Japanese, French and many other kinds of food. Even a marquis where Jamie Oliver's chefs were going to give cookery demos.

We saw a Duck Bus - and I was telling Sharon what fun they were - taking you round the streets of London to see all the sights then drive right into the Thames! Sharon seemed quite keen - so we said if the queue for the Eye was too long we'd go for that instead.

In the Victoria and Albert Museum
Luckily we got on the London Eye  - as the next day we saw on the news that the Duck Bus had burst into flames while in the river and everyone had to jump off into the Thames! That would have been a trip to remember :-)

The Eye was fun - we enjoyed the entertainment in the queue - especially the clown using a banana to phone his mum! The views were wonderful - although it did go a little misty and cloudy when we got up there. After that we tried one of Tom's Pies - from a pop up street stall and walked over to Embankment so that we could get the tube to Harrods. We got there, via the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we had a look around the Jewellery exhibits.

A bit of retail therapy later we arrived back at the hotel tired and ready for a sit down before our night out.
Beer at Belgo's

We had some great meals out. The first night it was Belgo's - the subterranean Belgian bar where you get served by monks. They have a massive selection of continental beers (my personal favourite is Floris Honey Beer) and does great sticky chicken, moules and frites. Jodie - who used to work with Nathan and me at Leek, came along too - with his lovely girlfriend Clare from California. it was nice to catch up with them.

The second night, Friday, we went to Pearl Liang, a Chinese restaurant in the heart of Paddington. It was a great choice by Mawb - we all enjoyed the food and the table had one of those lazy susans so the waiter put down the food and we turned it round until it got to the correct person. I went for sweet and sour chicken with pomegranate seeds. Also it was the night that Sharon learned how to use chopsticks! We have the evidence!!

Talented News Review Team

Then after food we had a very pleasant walk over to Little Venice, down Regent's Canal and then to the Canal Café Theatre to see the News Review there. We saw it last year - so we had to bring everyone to see it. It changes every six weeks, and it had different people this time. We were sat right at the front - and it was hilarious! A mixture of jokes, sketches and songs.

Friends Reunited
On our last evening we went down the South Bank to the Founders Arms. We have been there many times - but it is always good. Si came along too - although Heidi was feeling under the weather and stayed home to watch Strictly Come Dancing. :-) We took this photo - not realising that the chap outside was getting in on the act! I believe it's called photobombing :-)

Then all too soon it was Sunday morning. We had  our final continental breakfast in the Lord Jim and packed our rucksacks ready to go to the station. Nathan, Sarah and Laura went over to Earl's Court for a final hour at the expo - before we had to head off home. We had a short stop off at the British Library Piazza and then lunch at the Euston Flyer before catching our train back to Stoke.

We are already looking forward to next year....

Fun on the tube :-)