Keeping in the familam

I always enjoy spending time with my family and many of my adventures in 50th fabulousness has involved my immediate kin. Some of which might not look like much to some people but very fabulous to me….

beauty and the beast with boys

Watching the live action Beauty and the Beast with my lovely lads Scott and Jake

coffee with neices

Coffee and cake with my beautiful nieces and my mum

One of the problems with a busy life and geography is that I don’t always see much of my extended family. So when my cousin Amelia messaged me to say that she was in Bristol with her family, I jumped at the chance of meeting up. In town to watch something at the Hippodrome they had the best part of the day to kill before they headed off to Weston Super Mare. So we had a spot of lunch and a ferry boat ride around the Bristol Docks. It was a fabulous day because we hadn’t seen each other for quite a few years and I finally got to meet her lovely daughter Sophia, and plans were made for me to camp out at their house for my volunteering stint at the Athletics World Championships. For which I am eternally grateful.

bristol day out with the athendriou's

Once Sophia heard all about my nieces she was desperate to meet them so of course another fabulous event needed to be planned. So later on in the year the “Family Diners” group was born. Amelia and Sophia accompanied by my uncle Peter and aunty Robbie came down to Bristol for a round of crazy golf, coffee and lunch, with the rest of the Bristol clan.

We all decided that life was too short not to do it all again so the Family Diners club reconvened at Chez Amelia/Ged/Sophia in Reading for a weekend after Christmas, not technically in my birthday year but fabulous all the same. We had the most amazing and relaxing time catching up on lost time and resolving to keep making an effort to continue getting together, hoping to include the rest of the extended family.

 

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You’re a wizard Harry

I’ve always had a passion for dressing up, so I jumped at the chance to don my Bellatrix outfit, grab my friends Selena, Debbie and Liz, (aka Hermione, Madame Pomfrey and Death eater), and go on a Harry Potter pub crawl. These themed events were happening all over the country, Potter fans met up in their finest costumes, moved from pub to pub and then ended up in a nightclub to dance the night away.

It was very fitting to have one of these crawls in Bristol as JK Rowling is homegrown. She was born in Yate, just on the outskirts of the city, in 1965. Her family then moved to nearby Winterbourne.

Everyone looked fantastic dressed up as their favourite characters. Unfortunately despite our efforts we did not win any of the best costume prizes, But we had the most fabulous time.

 

All dogs go to heaven

While relaxing with the Sunday paper I came across a lovely story about a local hero that I had to share.

Whizz

Whizz the Newfoundland has been posthumously awarded the PDSA Order of Merit, the animal equivalent of the OBE. This exceptional dog worked most of his short life as a rescue dog for the Royal Naval Rescue, Severn Area Rescue Association and the Marine Volunteer Service. His owner, David Pugh, started training Whizz at the age of one and during his career he saved over 9 people including a young lady who almost drowned while suffering from an asthma attack.

Not only did he work hard patrolling the Bristol Channel and the River Severn with his teenage handler Ellie Bedford, he also raised a huge amount of money for charity. They demonstrated their rescue skills at the annual Bristol Harbourside Festival and also other Newfoundland Water rescue days where sponsored volunteers would be rescued to raise funds. David set up Newfound Friends which since it’s beginning in 1990 has raised over £750,000, CLIC Sergeant and the Oncology Units at Bristol Children’s Hospital have benefited from this money.

whizz and boat

If all that wasn’t enough, Whizz also brought joy to countless children and adults living with cancer by visiting hospices and hospitals.

Sadly Whizz died earlier this month from cancer at the age of ten. His cousin, Tizz, and his handler Ellie accepted his award of his behalf.

tizz and ellie

In Whizz’s memory, Newfound Friends will be holding a sponsored rescue event at the Docklands Scout Project, on the Isle of Dogs, to raise money for the PDSA  on the 5th of September of this year. For more details follow this link Whizz/PDSA

Santa’s on the run

Last weekend myself and 2 of my workmates, Stephen and Vicky limbered up in Millennium Square in Bristol for the annual Santa run in aid of Children’s Hospice South West.

Eddie and Jill Farwell had 2 children with life limiting conditions and had to travel miles from their home to receive care and respite for them. So in 1991 they decided to set up a hospice in their area. Little Bridge House was opened in 1995 but it was very soon apparent that this much needed service was unable to cope with demand. A second hospice was therefore opened just on the outskirts of Bristol called Charlton Farm in 2007. In the same year Little Harbour was created in Cornwall.

All of these fantastic places are full of dedicated staff providing specialised, holistic care for all the family to make every moment special and enhance quality of life as much as possible. But all this costs a lot of money and they rely heavily on fundraising.

Hence my friends and I dressed as Santa’s to do a 2km around the centre of Bristol. It really was the most surreal experience to be surrounded by hundreds of Santa’s of all shapes and sizes. Even the pet dogs made an effort in their festive doggy suits! But what made me laugh the most was the reaction of the general public, there were many people standing along the route cheering us on, but there were also many blase people who obviously thought it was perfectly normal to see 1500 Santa’s on a fun run and just walked along as if nothing was happening.

It was really good fun and it was the first time since I’ve recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome that I’ve run any distance and it felt good.

Carole and vicky santa's galore Stephen, Carole and Vicky

The Journey begins (17th July)

After months of travelling back and forth to Glasgow the day had finally arrived to set off for my exciting journey of volunteering at the 20th Commonwealth Games. My chariot taking me there was the Megabus Gold from Bristol travelling through the night. I always used Megabus to travel to London on the cheap but had no idea about the overnight service until another volunteer told me about it.

The bus was running late, putting me in a bit of a panic, but eventually I was settled into a seat next to a poet talking very loudly on her phone about the illustrations in her new book. I was just wondering how I would survive a 9 hour trip without killing her when luckily she got off at Cardiff.

We stopped at Cardiff for nearly an hour while most of the seats were cleverly converted into single and bunk beds. One of the drivers said something to me in a very broad Glaswegian accent that I didn’t understand, but he gestured to me to follow him so that I did. My bed was upstairs and very comfortable it was too, I slept surprisingly well except for an attack of leg cramp which was nigh on impossible to walk off on a moving bus converted into beds.

We did get into Glasgow a little later than planned but all in all I was very impressed with the service and raring to go on my big adventure.

 

commonwealth games

Doing our bit

In a moment of madness I thought it would be a good idea to walk 5 miles around Bristol in the middle of the night. On the 12th July my best friend, Jane, and I are doing the Midnight Walk in aid of St. Peters Hospice.

This is Bristol’s first and only hospice for adults suffering from life limiting conditions. The original concept began in 1978 with the appointment of a community nurse, with another 4 in post by the end of that year.

St. Peter’s Lodge opened in Knowle in 1980 for inpatients with 8 beds. I worked there from 1984 to 1985 before I started my nurse training. That year was invaluable to my future career, I was taught basic nursing care, gained so much experience in communicating with patients and their families and how to deliver good holistic care.

The hospice soon outgrew the lodge and moved to a purpose built site at Bentry in 1998 and by 2013 they were treating 2,675 patients a year.

It’s a common misconception that hospice’s are just places that people with cancer go to to die, but they offer an awful lot more. Services include; community nursing, day care, physio and occupational therapy, complementary therapy, psycho/social spiritual care and nursing care in the inpatient unit or by the hospice at home service. All of this to support the patient and their family and loved ones through their journey.

But this comes at a cost, £18,000 a day and the hospice relies on gifts from wills, fundraising and a bit of NHS funding, there are quite a few St.Peter’s Hospice charity shops dotted around Bristol and they do a fantastic job raising much needed money.

The Midnight walk has been going for a number of years with the option of doing 5 or 10 miles around the centre of Bristol. As Jane and I haven’t really been keeping up with our power walk training as often as we planned to, we felt 5 miles would be challenging enough.

All we need is some generous and kind people to sponsor us and our quest. So please feel free to click on the link and part with a quid or two, we will be eternally grateful.

Since writing this post unfortunately We’ve had to pull out of this event but will be making a donation to the cause.

midnight walk

 

War secrets of Bristol

My youngest son, Jake, is a budding thespian and belongs to a community theatre group. As his number one fan I have watched all his performances and a couple of weeks ago the group put on another outstanding play.

Thanks to funding from the Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery and a lot of research the ACTA Community Theatre told the story of the Mustard Gas factories in Bristol in a production called Gas Girls.

During the last 6 months of World War 1 there were 2 factories in Bristol; Avonmouth and Chittening, full of women filling bombs with the toxic and deadly mustard gas using charging machines. Contrary to the name it was actually a liquid that, due to the design of the machines, leaked constantly. As spillages were a regular event the Mustard Gas was absorbed into the floors and walls,  meaning the workers were permanently exposed to the harmful effects.

The employees were paid much better wages at these factories than in other places of work such as in service, but they suffered many distressing symptoms. These symptoms included; raw and inflamed throats, blisters and rashes, burns, conjunctivitis, nosebleeds, bronchitis and gastritis. So serious and common were these illnesses that there were on site hospitals at the factories and staff were checked on a daily basis by the medical team. The recorded visits to the hospital in the Avonmouth factory were as high as 80 to 90 a day. At this factory in that 6 month period in 1918, 1,100 people were employed and 710 of those were affected by Mustard Gas poisoning, there were 1,400 reported illnesses and 3 deaths directed related to Mustard Gas. Unfortunately for some the misery didn’t end when the factories closed, chronic conditions such as gastric pain, mental inertia, cough, breathlessness and weak memory plagued them until their deaths.

I have to say the production was the best I’ve ever seen from the group, each and every cast member were outstanding, delivering professional and moving performances. I’m sure you’ll think me biased but my son’s monologue was fantastic and moved me to tears. But don’t take my word for it, these are some of the comments from their facebook page;

“It was more than I imagined it to be, incredibly moving”

“It was outstanding, poignant and funny”

“I was surprised just how professional the show was, it felt like you were part of the drama, very intense”.

I watched the preview performance as they are taking the show on the road in June, so if you live in or near Bristol you still have a chance to catch this incredible play.

These are the dates and places;

10th, 11th and 12th June at the Avonmouth Community Centre at 7pm

16th June at Wickham Theatre, (University of Bristol) at 7pm

21st June at Withywood Community Centre at 3pm and 7pm

24th June at Orchard School Horfield at 7pm.

I will definitely be watching it again.

jake's monologue

end of the war

Jake as foreman

 

factory girls

medical checks

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