Snow

Iceland2 2018Long time bucket list item rose to the top recently, when I noticed that Icelandair were now flying from Belfast, from the little airport 15 minutes from my home. Local travel agent had a package for February, and I was just about to book it when I mentioned it to my daughter in London. “We want to go too!!” meaning daughter and grand-daughter, named appropriately Aurora. But I’m flying from Belfast! Package abandoned, and much scurrying about the internet as we tried to source appropriate flights. A friend says she knows someone who specialises in packages to Iceland. Daughter considers it rather expensive., and persuades me to do separate flights, and she would get a place to sleep using the Internet. Iceland specialist offers to arrange trips while we are there to suit my ageing inability to walk long distances or climb steep steps into coaches, and daughter agrees. I pay for all flights and the Iceland package, leaving food shopping and eating out to daughter, as these happen. As February approaches, husband in care with dementia is admitted to hospital with pneumonia. Cancellation considered, but he conveniently passes away 4-5 weeks before the trip. I’m sad, but relieved his Alzheimers journey is over. All good considering, funeral over, visitors away, legal paperwork begun, packing commenced, and Iceland becomes my post traumatic respite holiday. Paul would have said, ‘ You go!!’ He used to call ME Bossy Boots’! Thank you, Paul!

Our flights would arrive about an hour apart, and our driver Olav would collect us both, and drive to the Blue Lagoon for our first Icelandic experience before dropping us off at the ‘Ice Apartments’. On the morning we leave, daughter texts her flight is cancelled. Frantic attempts to re-book with another airport produce a result. I take a taxi to my local airport, ETD 10am, and as we approach the airport my taxi driver says my plane is delayed. Checking in, it will leave at 18:00, snow is starting to fall as I settle in for the long wait, relax buying duty free wine, cosmetics, and availing of a free facial. By 19:30 I’m in the air, and 3 hours later arrive in a severe blizzard. Blue Lagoon now out of the question, daughter texts to say they can’t even get into the accommodation, so I book a night in another guest house. Driver negotiates expertly through increasing snowfall, we find accommodation 2 and settle for the night. Next day, driver collects us complete with all bags and my walker and we arrive at accommodation 1, negotiating badly parked cars blocking our entrance way. Daughter to discuss previous night’s access problem with owner of apartment next day, and we settle ourselves, exhausted and stressed in the very welcome and cosy beds.

Next morning we head off with driver on the arranged plan to the Golden Circle, on snowy roads, visiting the Thingvellir National Park, and stopping at the Secret Lagoon for a swim in the geothermal heated water. Amazingly we encounter many cars that have accidentally driven off the edge of the road, probably tourists in hire cars, according to Olav. Lunch at the Farmers Cafe overlooking the cows munching at their hay, we enjoy an excellent Icelandic lamb dinner, and head off in the deepening snow for a photo shot at the Gulfoss waterfall and see a geyser erupt at Strokkur.

Plan for next day is to talk to accommodation admin in nearby shop, proving difficult to locate, and we explore the local shops, have coffee, see the tall church and enjoy an Icelandic pancake day treat for lunch. Apartment admin eventually located, and it appears I have not forwarded to daughter an email explaining access to apartment, which arrived day after husband’s death and thus out of my radar. Daughter hurls abuse at my poor email review management as she is embarrassed, but negotiates 50% reduction on first night. This has not appeared in my bank, but I put it down to bereavement expenses.

Our last full day is to drive to the south coast. Olav has brought his 8 year old daughter as company for Aurora. It is snowing hard, and he suggests a city tour seeing interesting sites, walking on the frozen Pond, a visit to the Whale museum, and lunch in the Perlan restaurant overlooking the city. Still snowing hard and roads to the south have been closed. Daughter suggests snowboarding for the kids, and Olav helpfully finds a suitable hill, having thoughtfully packed boards in the boot of his 4-wheel drive. We join the queue of cars waiting to drive south, it’s getting dark, but we eventually make it, driving again through snow clad high mountains, and find a delightful restaurant where we enjoy welcome Icelandic fare. And the day ends on a high note, as we stop at a place Olav knows is good for watching the Northern Lights. We are not disappointed, and Olav parks in a dark spot for us to enjoy the amazing treat we had come to see, the Aurora Borealis.

Our journey home was thankfully less eventful, and we can look back on a holiday never to be forgotten.

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Paris 2018

Depression is poking its finger at me as I lie in a strange bed in Paris, unable to sleep again after the first few hours. There is no radio, although if there was it would not be in English. There is no wifi either, I have used up all my phone data so I can’t get radio 4 on my phone or tablet, my one reliable way of getting to sleep, especially if its something boring. I play a few games off line but I’m bored if I’m not scoring. I’m considering how over the years I have consistently lost all the people I have ever loved. Except maybe Niall, who does try to help and rarely criticises. And the lovely grandchildren who are all just too far away to really get to know properly, too far away to influence, far away from the life I know and love, some of them more comfortable communicating in a language I don’t understand well enough. The Czech in-laws are kind, but communication is poor, and I don’t know how much Niall has explained to them about my health problems. Walking has become a major issue and it is an embarrassment to me that I need so much help in a big city I don’t know well. I want to do it, to explore with them places in Paris, but even with a rollator or a stick I tire easily, finding tube train changes and escalators difficult even with Niall’s amazing acceptance and practical help. His clever and pretty wife attacks him verbally when he offers to get an uber taxi for me, complaining bitterly about the cost. I don’t like to explain to her that I can well afford to pay for it, but Niall knows. I’m told I should be grateful for this room provided by her parents for 35 euro for 3/4 nights, but I’d rather pay for a decent room with wifi, a higher bed, and a better shower with some safety features such as a non slip mat. I have brought my best classy clothes with me, but it only gives an impression I am well and able to do anything they suggest. Allowing my hair to return to its natural grey has had no effect, no suggestion that I expect the status of an elder to be upheld. Perhaps I should start saying more clearly what I want, but I’m then accused of whining. At least the tears help the effects of the dry eyes associated with RA. Count your blessing, people say, but the monetary ones will never make up for the personal losses. New friend Gerry is kind and clever, but I find him physically unattractive. Sorry, Gerry, even gays look after their appearance. And there’s no proper coffee here, the final insult in a place called Paris!

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My favourite words

leitmotif – a motif or theme associated throughout a music drama with a particular person, situation or idea.

 

 

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Poem

Ireland is a field of green

England is a gracious Queen

Czech Republic is a castle

America is a gun

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Their favourite things (Chris and Paul)

IMG_20170618_173631.jpgChris

Poetry: ‘He wishes for the cloths of heaven.’ W.B.Yeats.

Music: Finlandia

Poetry: Yeats ‘Had I the Heavens’

embroidered cloths…’

Places: Scandinavia, Donegal

Style: Habitat, Conran

Hobbies: radio hamming, politics

Defining feature: entrepreneur

Paul

Paul in the snow 2010

‘Frost on my moustache’

Music: Schubert, Chopin, Classic FM, jazz, blues, and so much more!

Places: Galapagos, Isle of Wight, China

Interests: F1, wildlife, raptors

Hobbies: pottery, woodwork

Defining feature: Coping well with dementia.

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A Theme Park for Northern Ireland

It was on a visit to Paris some years ago that the inspiration struck me. Parc Asterix was based around the story of Asterix the Gaul, which I had avidly consumed from the comic books as a child. At the theme park, local cultural influences were used to inform the youngsters visiting the park about their own local heritage. And I started thinking, what if we had a park like this in northern Ireland?

I started there and then to write down the ways this idea could be developed. I thought about the stories and the people I’d read about in Irish culture. St Patrick, Mary Ann McCracken, the giants of the Giants Causeway, the Pirate Queen, Niall of the Nine Hostages, ….. Some people’s stories were based in northern Ireland, others further south or across the border in County Donegal. I wrote it all down, and soon wondered how it could be developed. The first place I approached was Bryson House in Belfast, where it was read and praised as a brilliant idea, but suggested I should work on a ‘business plan’. And there was astonishment that a nurse (as I was then) could create an imaginative plan such as this. I felt honoured, and started finding out about business plans. Sadly, I was to discover this was not my forte!

The idea lay in a cupboard for years, followed by a few new attempts to raise interest and work on how to do a business plan. Then in 2017, I noticed a request from Belfast City Council for ideas on uses for the area called ‘The Giants Park’, an area of reclaimed land on the western shore of Belfast Lough. I contacted the council by email, and had a reply from Sabine Kalke, project sponsor for Belfast City Council Property and Projects. She invited me to take a tour of the site and discuss my ideas. She and the site manager were very enthusiastic, and showed me and area of the Giants’ Park site that would be suitable. Sabine suggested seeing a person at Ards and North Down Council’s Go For It programme. They were also enthusiastic, and in turn referred me to a business advisor at the UnLtd portal, and gave me pointers to people who might help do the business plan.  However all these suggestions failed as there seemed little interest. Sabine had felt that funding could come from Peace Money, Cities of Culture money or even council funds, but these seem to have failed.  So it seemed that despite initial interest, and indeed enthusiasm, the problem is funding. So in case anyone else might show interest, I am posting my idea here as copyright, for anyone else to read, hoping someone may help provide either funding or a business plan, which I outline here below.

A THEME PARK FOR BELFAST 2017……IMAGINE……..!!

The Vision:

To enable all residents all residents of Ireland, especially those in the north, to find a way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The River of my Life

I sometimes think my life is like a river, as it tumbles over rocks, and streams down towards the ocean.

When God created rivers, he did not make them go straight from the mountain to the sea, like the canals created by humans. He created them to meander, and sometimes double back in great horse-shoe curves. The small trickle that starts in the mountains is fed along the way by the influence of the many people who have impacted our lives – parents, siblings, friends, relatives, Sunday School and day school teachers.

The stream that started in the mountains which was me trickled hesitantly along, unsure of the way. My church connections were like a tunnel, trying to force me into their way of thinking, which succeeded to some extent, until I flowed out into the open air and examined the world around me, questioning why and how, and finding new springs that linked into the main stream of my consciousness.

Church and family influences encouraged me to follow the teaching of Jesus, which I did, while at the same time often disagreeing with their interpretation. Secondary school began to change my perspective, and I saw the hills around me as new challenges to be explored. Summer trips to France broadened me even more.

And so I began to grow into an adult river, usually flowing stronger as it went, but sometimes held back by obstacles, or changing to a trickle as events around affected its course. Training as a nurse introduced me to new channels of thought and gave me confidence to explore the world around. Meeting my husband Chris was the point where my river began to flow alongside another stream, and together we became strong. With children we became part of the wider world of families and friends, forming delightful pools of relationship, places to swim and share our lives. Life was a joy until tragedy hit in the form of serious illness: a huge boulder, thrown into the middle of the strong stream, causing turbulence and fear. We floundered around, grabbing for any rocks that would support us: healing services, prayer, doctors, friends. But sadly, this strong river was split in two. The part that was Chris trickled away to nothing, as he was absorbed into God and eternity. The remaining stream had difficulty finding the river bank, but when it did, it stayed close to it, and because it seemed a strong bank, the river felt strong again. The stream that was Chris returned to me in dreams and seemed to be always there in a part of my consciousness.

My husband Chris died when my three children were small. He was the biggest single human influence in my life. When we met it was like two rivers flowing together in parallel until eventually they joined to become one. When he died, the river narrowed to a smaller stream, but was soon joined by other stronger streams – friends and family. I felt then the strength of my relationship with God which was like the river banks, providing strength, security, integrity and meaning to my life especially when the water became turbulent, as it often did!

Rivers and streams can run through marshy places, swamps or mud fields. Its course can be altered by obstacles. These represent times of illness or sadness. It can become polluted or muddied as health declines, or if the banks are strengthened through faith in God and following his leading, can start to flow again more vigorously. When healthy it can support life, both vegetable and animal. My river has flowed through all of these.

An obstacle in early life was my mother’s illness, a marshy area. Later, my husband’s illness and death was like a huge boulder being thrown into the middle of the river, causing it to split in two. The part that was Chris trickled away to nothing, as he was absorbed into God. The remaining stream had difficulty finding the river bank, but when it did, stayed close to it, and because it was a strong bank, the river grew strong again.

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Family stories or People Watching

Researching my family tree takes me in all sorts of directions. The people I know well and those who are close to them is the easy bit. Most families have members who know a little bit about other people to whom they are related, but who distance themselves in a way that says ‘This far and no further…’ It could be shyness, or a feeling that they are higher up the social scale, or even feeling lower on the social scale. They may not even know why! My mother, I was told, had an ‘inferiority complex’, which apparently meant that she felt not as accomplished as those in her social circle! This made no sense to me. Perhaps it was because her mother died when she was 12, and a step mother who had no children of her own, took charge! I’ll never know why, but one thing I did know – I did not want to be like that! Yes, I was quite shy at first, but as I left home and developed as an adult, I had no fear of talking to people as equals. To me it seemed just as wrong to envy people as to look down on them. Everyone had something good to offer. I found this fascinating! And maybe that was why I got nick named ‘Nosey Norah’!  And it fascinated me seeing how differently people behaved, even in the same family!

Well, my paternal grandmother was a very stern lady. She never gave her grandchildren anything – presents, kisses, nothing! I never warmed to her as a child, though later I learned she had had a very hard life. She gave my father the Christian name of ‘Catherwood’ as that was her maiden name. The Catherwoods came across to me as a wealthy branch of the family, but it later became apparent to me that there were 2 types of Catherwoods: the more religious ones who read and even wrote theological books, and the more secular (and more financially wealthy ones), who had large houses and owned race horses! We only ever heard stories about them!

Many years later, I became a member of a large Presbyterian church which had a reputation of being a ‘socially climbing’ church. I soon found out that a Catherwood called Harry was a member there, with his second wife Adrienne (of TV fame when she presented a childrens’ TV programme as ‘Miss Adrienne’). My mother disapproved of second marriages, especially when the first wife was still alive, so feelings were mutual and the gap had widened. Whereas the more religious Catherwoods were completely accepted, and even looked up to! Anyway, the time came when Harry died and it was announced from the pulpit that all were welcome to the house after the funeral. So I decided to go, in the interests of family history and developing the family tree. It was a large house in a well-to-do area, and the welcome seemed warm. Glass of wine in hand, I chatted with Harry’s youngest daughter, an ITV presenter, and then unfortunately in the crowd I knocked over a large vase of flowers in the hall, where it smashed! Adrienne was polite but cold, and she still cares not to speak when we meet in the street.

Another Catherwood, Fred, of the more religious Catherwoods, who married the daughter of a famous London preacher, John Stott, was much admired by my family, but still kept at a certain distance. His father, Stewart, my grandmother’s brother, owned the Rosapenna Hotel in Donegal, where my mother’s sister Myra was manageress for a time. He was a strange enigma: a social climber who espoused the evangelical Christian tradition, and often invited preachers to stay. It was only after my mother in-law died that I discovered letters written from Rosapenna by her husband Harry, my father in law, when he attended a Christian conference and had a room in the hotel. I was amazed to read that he felt quite insulted to be given a room that was nothing more than a boxroom, and demanded to be moved to something larger! And his personal impression of the hotel owner was nothing if not cynical regarding his Christian witness!!

Later, on Facebook, I met his son Christopher, who has been friendly at a distance, and has to some extent restored my faith in the Catherwood branch of the family…. but there’s none so strange as family!

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