Sunday, September 28, 2008

Basil supervises the laundry...

We love the way Basil comes out to keep us company when we are hanging out the washing. I snapped this from the bedroom window just after Phil had finished. It looks very organised; when I do it, it's a bit more haphazard.

We had a lovely day - went to Ness Gardens in the afternoon. Took lots of photos and talked.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm very proud that Liverpool is Capital of Culture and very fond of the city. It's where I went to college and it has so many wonderful buildings. It's really exciting to visit nowadays as there is so much going on and you never know what you'll find round the next corner.

Work was crazily busy again today. The weather is just gorgeous though so I made sure i got out for my lunchtime walk. Work again tomorrow, though, just my luck to be working during this Indian Summer!

The news from the financial sector gets worse and worse. It's a worrying time for sure...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This large spider is an art installation on Exchange Flags in Liverpool. It's hung with crystals that really sparkle in the sunshine!

This week has been really busy - plus it's the week with my Saturday at the end of it so it's feeling endless. How did I EVER work full-time; doing two late nights each week and every other Saturday? I'm a lazy so-and-so!!

During the summer, when I was working so much less I had the luxury of time to do stuff, without constantly chasing my tail! I loved that feeling! This week I'm back to my blue-arsed fly impersonation!

It's not helping that this cold won't go away and I'm tired. I had to give up half-way through aerobics as I was hot and dizzy and breathless and I feel like my head is full of cotton wool. I'm conscious of how much I take normal health for granted.

Work has been just frantic. I've so much to do I'm not sure what to tackle first :)

Anyway, enough of the moaning. I need to remember i like to be busy... and that there is a bar of chocolate in the fridge at home - unless Sian has eaten it!

I forgot to say someone tried to colour in Basil's white bits with green felt tip on Wednesday. The effect was not good. Basil is so easy going to allow that. Or maybe he is colourblind?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Despite three of us having heavy colds, we went over to Liverpool today to see an exhibition by the microsculpter Willard Wigan. The exhibition was in a gallery attached to the Hard Days Night hotel in North John Street, a hotel with a Beatles theme! Outside the hotel are large photos of the four Beatles and I took this pic of Paul for Quiet Rage cos Paul is her favourite!! QR, if you and yours return to Liverpool we promise to book you in for a night at this hotel as I'm sure you'd LOVE it!

The exhibition was amazing. Please click on the link to find out more about Willard Wigan. I saw him on TV and he is a piece of art himself...I'd LOVE to photograph him! His work is just astonishing. During his TV interview he mentioned that he once accidentally INHALED a sculpture he'd worked on for days! Imagine how horrible that would be!

The weather has been perfect these past couple of days - I wish I'd not been feeling grotty as I'm sure I'd have appreciated it more without the bunged up nose and constant sneezes.

We have made the big decision to book our holiday to New York City next year. Lucky we did, as already flights are scarce for the time we want to travel. We'll be there from 2rd May for four nights. I'm so excited and can't wait to show the girls all my favourite places.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blissful Artist gave me this lovely award! Thank you so much. I hope all the regular visitors to my blog will be "friends forever" so please, accept this award from me with love!

I've been feeling vaguely uneasy because there is "CHANGE" looming and I don't do well with change. I like things to stay pretty much the same and things have changed a lot for me in the past year. Some of it has been good (like my wedding photography) but some of it very hard to bear (like Karen's death and the loss of another friendship that meant a lot to me).

I suppose I don't like change because often I can't control it and I need to feel in control to feel safe. I'm trying to change this attitude and let things unfold, to accept I can't (and shouldn't) ever be able to control everything in my life.

Anyway, this latest change may seem rather minor but it's bothering me. The riding school Sian goes to is up for sale. It's the same place I do RDA. There are no guarantees the school will continue. Sian is really upset - this is the third school to close while she's been there. I'm really sad as RDA may finish if the school becomes a livery establishment or if the new owners don't want to support RDA.

It's all so uncertain...I think it's that which is "getting to me" rather than the change. We don't know what will happen or when. The worrying thing is that there are rumours that the horses are all up for sale, including my darling Bruno. I'm not sure if I should start looking for a new place for Sian now or let things go a little longer. What to do, what to do....

Well, nothing I can do will alter what's to happen so I had better just try to accept it and trust that whatever the outcome, as my guru Susan Jeffers says - "I'll handle it".

A couple of weeks ago I joined Frodsham Photographic Society - Phil and the wildcat are already members. Last night was the first time I entered a competition; I'm not the competitive sort and I was so nervous! I entered some of my favourite photos in the "Entry Level Digital Images" category and I could feel my heart pounding like crazy as the judge talked about them. To my absolute delight, I came first, second and third! It was such a thrill to know that the judge liked these photos that are all important to me.

The picture above came first - it was taken at a wedding at too high an ISO but converted it to mono and played around a bit and this was the result...I love it because of her beautiful smile...

The frog was taken the first time I used the macro lens. I noticed the frog on the edge of my pot pond and crouched on the deck in the rain to take this. I loved the vivid blue of the pot and I was pretty happy with the DOF. It was on the front page of my website for ages.

I can't take all the credit for number three as Phil suggested the crop. This was taken on a Big Cat day with members of the Photographers Corner.

All in all, I'm really made up - I'll probably never have the guts to enter another competition but it was a lovely experience :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

This photo was taken in Chicago. We called these towers the Corn Buildings as we thought they resembled cobs of sweetcorn...

We had a lovely weekend. We didn't do anything majorly special. It was just a happy time...On Friday night I went out with my girlfriends for a few drinks. It was great to catch up after not getting together over the summer holidays with everyone being away at different times. On Saturday we pottered around doing chores and then went to watch Sian ride. On Saturday evening we all watched TV together.

Sunday I got up early and made everyone pancakes. I put a balti chicken curry into the slow cooker as Phil and I were visiting his friend M and his fiance, also M, to discuss our plans for photographing their wedding in November. I'd not met either of them before but they were both lovely! I'm REALLY excited now about their wedding. We are invited to the evening reception, which was a great surprise to us both.

The curry was lovely and I'd made apple crumble to follow. Oh, it all sounds really banal but it was just nice - nice and ordinary and fun :)

I hope everyone had a good weekend, too!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I will never forget what happened on this day. Phil phoned me and told me to switch on the television. I could not believe what I was seeing. We were due to visit New York City two weeks later. I will never forget the horror of seeing my favourite city attacked. It feels like only yesterday.

We postponed our trip until the following spring and it was wonderful to see the spirit of New York unbroken. Americans always make us Brits feel so welcome. I do feel there is a special bond between us and I hope we can bring the girls to NYC next year.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Am not sure I like this picture. I sort of do, but then again...

I have been asked how I met Karen. I'm not sure if I've written about this before but in any case, I like the story and it will make me smile (and probably cry too!) to relive it!

Phil and I got a home PC in the 90s and at that time I had no idea what I'd do with it apart from a bit of word processing. We spent a bit of time searching for the most outrageous porn we could find (that very soon got dull, especially for me!) but after that I couldn't think of much to do with it. We were on dial-up then and it wasn't cheap so idle web surfing for hours wasn't for me. I remembered how I'd had a few short-lived penfriends from foreign countries as a child and wondered if there were any sites that could match up people who wanted "email penfriends". I found a site called Cyberfriends that seemed ok. I posted my details and got TONS of replies! I made a point of replying to all letters. It soon became apparent that some people were not my cup of tea, some were downright weird but a few were great - normal friendly people who, like me, were curious about other people in other parts of the world. Through Cyberfriends I met Karen, as well as Jim in Las Vegas, Quiet Rage and the Blissful Artist and we have been good friends ever since.

I can still remember Karen's first email; we had so much in common and were reading the same book! I was fascinated by her life in rural Canada which was so different from my own. we emailed almost every day. Karen was a trained typist and I was (and am!) a one-finger, one thumb person, but we never ran out of things to say to one another. I confided in Karen, as she did in me, we helped each other through difficult times and we made each other laugh.

Karen was always busy doing tons of different things; the only thing that ever slowed her down were allergies in the summer that affected her breathing. She got shots for those. We talked often about me going to see her but my girls were small so it always "when they are older".

Very gradually, Karen's health deteriorated. She had tests but nothing was found. Doctors hinted that it was "all in her mind" and I remember her anger and frustration at this. Slowly she had to give up things she had always done and her life became more limited.

Eventually she got a diagnosis - primary pulmonary hypertension.

In some respects it was a relief to know what demon she faced but it's a scary disease and early detection would have made all the difference. Sadly it is very hard to diagnose as most doctors will never come across it. Nothing Karen had done had caused it; she was just unlucky. Her lungs were already badly damaged by the time her treatment started.

As always, Karen was positive and cheery and determined to get well. Then one day at work, I checked my email and read one from Karen that stopped me in my tracks. She basically asked me if I could go to see her as she was unsure how long she had left. For Karen, who was the least dramatic of people to say that was a huge shock. I rang my boss, asked for some unpaid leave, rang Phil who told me I should go and he'd manage fine in my absence and then we booked my flights.

I'm the sort of person who gets lost in railway stations and the idea of flying to Canada was daunting to say the least. Especially as I had to change planes in Toronto for Edmonton where Karen would meet me. I was both excited and terrified.

I lost count of the number of people who told me I was insane to fly alone across the world to meet a "total stranger". I was told Karen might not be sick, she might not even be a woman! This was despite the fact our friendship was already about 7 years old by then!

When I reached Edmonton and saw Karen, it was like coming home! It was not like meeting a stranger; we just started chatting and laughing and acting like old friends. We had two amazing weeks, doing simple things like visiting family and friends, talking for hours, driving around her neighbourhood. I can't explain how natural it all was (just as it was when I met Quiet Rage for the first time!)

One of the things Karen and I shared was a relaxed approach to meals - we'd happily miss breakfast and have ice-cream for lunch and eat dinner whenever we felt like it! Karen introduced me to the joys of coffee at breakfast, Dairy Queen and "everything" bagels! I introduced her to a proper cup of English tea :)

When I left I gave Karen a gold charm I'd bought in a jewellers in Grande Prairie. It split in half and I had the other. My half said "we are together" and hers said "friends for ever". Mine went on my charm bracelet, hers on her necklace.

The drug treatment didn't work well and Karen eventually had a double lung transplant! This cured the PPH but she developed diabetes and the strong anti-rejection meds had lots of side-effects. I kept hoping to go back to see her but she was often in hospital. She was no longer strong enough for much emailing so we spoke on the phone instead.

I believe that some people are destined to be our friends and that I was meant to meet Karen. I'll always be so grateful for the Internet because of the great friendships it has brought into my life and for how it has made the world seem a smaller, friendlier place!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Karen's kind sister in law sent me this beautiful memory book of Karen, plus details of the service and a service card. The sympathy card was made and sent by Denise (Mrs Nesbitt) and the photo is of me with Karen on Thanksgiving Day.

The memory book surprised me; it included a definition and explanation of the name "Karen". I always used to say that if I was blessed with a third daughter I'd have called her "Karen Anisa" or "Anisa Karen" after two of the women I love, admire and respect most in the world. I found out from the book that Karen is the Dutch & Danish version of Katherine, so Karen already has her namesake in my Kate...

The book has many lovely photos of Karen - smiling and enjoying life. I wish she was here so I could ask her how on earth I'm ever going to get used to losing her!

Friday, September 05, 2008

I just met the couple whose wedding I'm photographing on's certainly going to be different AND their baby son is being christened at the same time! This looks as if it's going to be an unusual and unconventional wedding - a sort of "fly by the seat of your pants" affair for the photographers. What is clear is they want mainly candid/reportage photography which is great. I'm quite excited as well as terrified.

But the weather forecast is terrible...!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I was making my daily visit to Akelamalu's blog yesterday and found not only that she's given me the lovely award below (thank you so much!) but a really fun handbag meme! Now she didn't tag me to do it, and I'm not going to tag anyone else, but I was interested enough to tip my bag out on the floor and photograph the contents. I was astonished at how much stuff I cart around all the time.

The contents are : small brown Radley purse, Radley umbrella, Radley card holder (you may have noticed I'm a bit of a Radley freak!), comb, scent, lip balm, hand cream, nail file/buffer/polisher, handwash, hairbrush, pen, Sharpie pen, Filofax, Flash drive, cheque book, sweeteners, notebook, mirror, business card holder, little book of Confidence, laminated affirmations, glass pebble with heart on it (gift from Sian) and a re-useable carrier bag in its holder.

What shocked me more was that the bag was missing some of its usual contents - my phone, my compact camera, my keys and my MP3 player!!

I have now removed the notebook and comb from my bag, but I really NEED everything else...honest, I do!

I would like to pass on this lovely award to the Blissful Artist and to Quiet Rage - two very special friends of many years - you embody all these qualities and more!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A courtyard at Laycock Abbey which was used as Hogwarts in one of the Harry Potter films!

Well, it's a sad day as the summer holidays come to an end and my girls return to school tomorrow. I will miss them so much when we are all spending our days apart. I know there are mums for whom the holidays seem too long but I have never felt that way somehow. I am going to be counting the days until our October break when we all get to go away together to the Lakes.

Yesterday was nice as Kate had a bunch of friends round and Sian had her best friend Laura to stay. It was great having a house full of gorgeous, lively, funny teenagers.

In some ways I like September as it always feels like the start of a "new year" in some respects (I loathe January so always feel September makes a better start to the year...)but as I get older I'm terribly conscious of time passing - this summer will never come again and next year Kate will be 16. Where have all those childhood years gone? I don't wish them any other age than the age they are right now - beautiful and bright young women who are the best company imaginable - but sometimes I miss my "little girls" who only yesterday were my babies. This week I had some very happy news; a friend is expecting her first baby! I want to tell her to cherish every second as time goes by so fast...but she won't understand quite what I mean as she comes to terms with colic and nappy rash, sleepless nights and teething, the decisions about breastfeeding and vaccinations, weaning and routines. Often you feel a baby is a baby for so long...and then suddenly you're checking their GCSE coursework for them! One minute they are starting school, the next you're wondering about university.

The song from Mamma Mia (Slipping through my fingers) is playing in my head again. I'll be crying in a minute!! Funny, I never thought of myself as very maternal, certainly not a "natural mother". Motherhood came hard to me; I still don't feel I've ever quite got the hang of it - never really earned my stripes as it were. No-one ever said "you're a good mum"! But I love my girls beyond words, more with every year that passes and hope I've managed to be, if not "good" then at least "good enough".

Kate & Sian, thank you for being my wonderful daughters.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Exchanging rings...

We got a lovely thank you card today from S; Phil and I photographed her wedding in July. We had a great day and it was lovely to get the card and a long message from the bride! It makes all the effort and worry worth while...

We have another wedding this Saturday; please send me some prayers/positive thoughts as you all know me by now....I'll be TERRIFIED! I just want to do a good job for the couple. I'm meeting them on Thursday for the first time.

I have houseful of the girls' friends right now; it's lovely having them all here. Oh I'm dreading Wednesday and "back to school".

I'm going to Frodsham Camera Club tonight with Phil and Akame. Should be interesting...!