Stem Cell Research – what do you know?

Stem Cell Research – what do you know?

Today on Pirate FM, at work, I talked about Stem Cell research.

My brother Martin before he died

Just before Martin died from AML

I know that harvesting blood cord can help The UK Stem Cell Foundation with its research – did you know that?

And whilst it does cost money to privately bank cord blood, it can also be donated – but only in 8 x UK hospitals.

I was gutted I couldn’t do anything to save my brother and it has shaped my future, and that of my family.  Will it change yours?

Find out more.

The outlandish world of holiday complaints

Not many people can claim (or would want to!) they have been sent a photograph of a poo for their job!  But if you have ever worked in the customer relations department of a major tour operator – as I did for my first ‘proper’ job – it would seem that anything goes!

Poo-gate, or more-tellingly the ‘who dunnit’ photograph was accompanied by a letter detailing that when they [the holidaymakers] returned to their room from a day out, they found someone else’s poo in their toilet. To prove it wasn’t theirs, they took a photo and sent it to yours truly! So how do you go about investigating that one?

From murky stuff to the we-need-our-hands-holding: ‘I can’t believe we got bitten by mosquitoes: we were not warned in the holiday brochure.’ And yes I am referring to far-flung, exotic locations, not a beach in England! To people who like to examine the neighbouring tables’ breakfasts: ‘The table next to me had three sausages with their breakfast and I only had two.’ Or:  ‘The people on the other side had three teabags in their pot and I only had one!’   Whether absurd, suspicious or downright implausible, I had to politely answer them all; including that ‘good’ old British attitude of expecting everyone else to speak the lingo: ‘I can’t believe the taxi driver in Prague didn’t speak English! This has totally ruined our holiday.’

Don’t get me wrong, amongst these, there were some serious issues which were truly awful and which you would stop at nothing to resolve, but funnily enough it is mostly the preposterous ones that stick in your mind!


It’s Monday and I find myself drawn to the blog instead of my real work 😯

To start the week with a smile, I wanted to share this letter and article with you that I found in The Week magazine this year.  IMG_2321 from The Week magazine

I love The Week as not only do they bring you little gems like these, they also condense the news into highly-readable, bite-sized pieces from across the world and top it all off with a fabulous cartoon on the front cover depicting one of the week’s major news stories.

Harvest Festival

Live Simply so others may simply live Mahatma Gandhi

Live Simply so others may simply live
Mahatma Gandhi

Today at the Harvest Festival service in church, the shocking statistic of 22,000 kids dying every day from poverty concentrates the mind.  And here’s the phrase that stood out for me:

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” Mahatma Gandhi

Curate in a tent - Rev Caspar Bush - spends a week in a tent

Curate in a tent – Rev Caspar Bush – spends a week in a tent

Having taken the obligatory items for the food bank collection to the service, and with the vicar undertaking a week of hardship in a Shelterbox tent to highlight the good work done by the Helston based charity and RELEASE international supporting those persecuted for their Christian faith, I felt rather churlish for our lack of effort.

I had tidied out the cupboards to find the food bank items – tomato sauce, pesto jar, jelly, chicken soup.  But really, with the freezer full of food and plenty to keep us going, we really are beyond lucky.

So the family challenge this week is to use up everything in the fridge, the cupboards and not waste anything and can we do it for less than £20.  Can we do it? Well it will take some effort but we’ll give it a go.


Daddy’s Away again – Ops Normal

So the husband has deployed ‘indefinitely’ on Op GRITSTOCK.

What is Op GRITSTOCK? Well – it’s the UK’s response to the EBOLA crisis in West Africa. Clearly, when I first found out – I had a cry… My doctor friend explained the disease to me – and the risks. Hubby has reassured me that he won’t be taking any risks, yet this week I know he has travelled to Liberia, Sierra Leone to see an Ebola treatment centre, Guinea and back to Ghana.  Last time he went away for 6 months to Afghanistan, he told he wouldn’t take any risks, but recently I found out he was shot at and he’s never told me the story…so I’m not so sure he’s not keeping out of danger. Especially, as every day passes, more and more cases of ‘westerners’ being affected and infected hit the media – though why an American freelance video cameraman is more newsworthy that the thousands of Africans currently dying from the disease is somewhat distasteful.

I know that my husband has every reason to come home – us. I know that he is the best person to do the job he’s currently assigned. I know that if the United Nations fails in its mission to support those in need, then the risk of epidemic and the global knock on effects are substantial. I know it’s right for humanity for him to be doing this.

But away indefinitely means our house moving efforts are on hold, and continued mother living in our dining room. It means I’ve postponed his 50th birthday party.  It means that I’ve just booked to take our son away for his birthday and planning for hubby to not be around.

And yet, when he face timed tonight, he was confident he’d be home within the month…I’m not so sure. In fact I won’t allow myself to believe it until I know he’s on a flight home. Maybe its a defensive mechanism.  Maybe its pragmatic. Maybe its just fear of disappointment.  For me, it’s the best strategy.

After all, at home it’s gotta be Ops NORMAL!

‘Please sir, may I go to the toilet?’ The (curious) traditions of a dining night

When I tell my civilian friends I have to wait for permission to go to the toilet at a ladies guest night, they usually fall about laughing, or look at me with disbelief! But waiting for the ‘admin break’ [that’s toilet-stop to you and me!] to be announced at these formal, but friendly, dining nights is just one of many long-standing customs followed.  Punctuated by pomp and ceremony and far-removed from the real world, the formality of dining nights starts with the dress code; usually something along the lines of:

 Dresses should be calf-length or longer and shoulders may be uncovered provided that the dress is not unduly revealing. 

Donning those easy-to-find polo-neck and ankle-length smocks, everyone meets in the Mess [formal bar!] for pre-dinner drinks, before being summoned to the dining room; sometimes by a gong or trumpet!  Filled with speeches, toasts, many courses and an abundance of wine, these are – sometimes tediously – long evenings set against a backdrop of traditional customs.  Or in my case, a backdrop of minor and not-so-minor faux-pas! In addition to the admin breaks, other defining customs include:

  • Standing behind your chair whilst waiting for the top table to enter and only sitting after the grace.
  • Resisting the natural urge to pull out your chair, as protocol states that a ‘gentleman’ do it for you.
  • And the evening finishes with the passing of the port decanter: always to your left and sometimes not allowed to touch the table between each person.  If you have managed that little feat, the next challenge arises: as tempting as the glass of port in your hand is, after enduring a long evening of speeches, rich food and lots of drink, you can not let a drop touch your lips until the Loyal (Her Majesty, the Queen) and Heads of State Toasts have been made.

That brings me back to my not-so-minor faux pas; aside from regularly forgetting most of the above, my most cringe-worthy dining night moment still has the power to make me laugh to this day:  I really didn’t like the look of the fish starter placed in front of me at one function and noticed a very appealing platter of vegetarian delicacies a little to my left.  Having enjoyed several of these tasty morsels, I was mortified when the lady sat on my left kindly asked me to stop eating from her plate!   😆 😳 The rest of the meal passed mostly in excruciating silence, as I wavered between an uncontrollable urge to giggle at my faux pas and extreme embarrassment at what she must have thought when I kept helping myself to her starter!

If you have any funny anecdotes about dining nights, please share!

Conquering cleats!

Judging by the laughter emanating from my husband, as I picked myself up from the floor – complete with trainer still attached to my bike’s pedal – the sight of me falling over whilst trying cleats for the first time, is the funniest thing-ever!

Having not fallen off my bike since I was a child, that slow-motion feeling as the inevitable happens did bring on my giggles and yes, I did feel a bit of an idiot.  However, I am consoled by the saying that everyone falls over at least once whilst getting used to cleats.  My advice: practise on a soft landing and where there are no onlookers; particularly unsympathetic husbands!

Doing too much? Complete Madness.

Yet again I find myself pondering why there are not 48 hours in every day instead of 24; wondering if I’ve taken on too much, and surrounding myself with stress…

In the past few day as as we’ve headed back to school, which of course requires new shoes, uniform checks and clubs and activities administration, such as piano lessons (why did we change the day?), swimming and martial arts, I have decided that it would be a really good idea to place our house on the market, consider volunteering to set up and run a scouting group and attend the first PTA meeting of the new academic year.  The latter requires supporting the school with the production of a charity cookbook (and having done one before I know the stress involved), whilst organising husband’s 50th birthday and coping with the changing dynamics of my mother moving into our dining room.  This, with husband currently overseas, and about to take on a militarily challenging new responsibility that is not only potentially life-threatening, but also will require extensive global travel.

Now, with little time left for self-examination, I have come to the conclusion that I am MAD! And I need to learn to say ‘no’ … but that would mean less opportunities for my children to grow and develop socially, less fundraising to support my children’s education, leaving a potentially explosive mother-daughter relationship fighting over the kitchen (and there are too many sharp knives in there), and I’ve always known my husband’s job is dangerous and that is why he finds it exciting (as I did too when I served in the Royal Air Force).

So MAD I may be, but a well intentioned MAD woman!

From civvy, to milly, to civvy

Seven years ago, Juliet and I met online desperately seeking answers!  Having just found out that we were moving to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, we were full of questions: what furniture should we take, what would the houses be like, did we need to ship winter coats, should we stock up on anything in case the local shops didn’t sell it…?

Aside from having a marvellous sense of humour, I soon discovered that Juliet is also the master of quotes.  My personal favourite was: ‘Stick a fork in me, I’m done”.  That pretty much summed up the hot and sweaty summers in Cyprus.  Tina came along a year later and I will also never forget my first proper meeting with her as I thought my daughter, who had been playing ball with Tina’s dog in the searing sunshine, had killed said dog from heat exhaustion….

We shared the same horrors of the welcome pack, which detailed such niceties as: what to do in the event of an earthquake and you might find snakes, scorpions, Cyprus widow spiders and processionary caterpillars in your garden, as well as cockroaches in your house!  And boy did we find cockroaches!  To this day, I still remember many stories about them; including one from Ali, who woke up to use the bathroom and found one of the offenders sat on her toothbrush!  Ali, if you are reading this, imagine, if you hadn’t needed a pee that night….or if this was not the first night said cockroach had befriended your toothbrush….!

We shared the same experiences of living on a military base overseas, which was not unlike a colonial lifestyle with plenty of socialising and heat, where pretty much everyone knows everyone and every need is catered for; a cinema, a bowling alley, a school, a doctors, a dentists, a gym, shops, hairdressers, florists etc.  We met teachers, midwifes, doctors and dentists on a professional basis in the morning and then found ourselves rubbing shoulders with them on the beach in the afternoon, or in the Mess in the evening;  dreading the day we needed a smear test or some other personal trial!  We saw and supported our amazing friends who were coping with the worries and physical pressures of being left on their own for months at a time; looking after children by themselves, thousands of miles away from the support of their families, whilst their husbands were serving overseas.

And now, the three of us are back to the rain and normality! Based in Kent, Cornwall and Cambridge we chose to live outside the wire and want to reminisce with and hear from you.  Whether it is about Cyprus, being a military wife at home or overseas, adjusting to life in civvy street, coping for months on your own, or something quite unrelated, we want your comments.   Whether it’s about the Med, the MoD or just plain mad, we want to hear from you!