RIP HM Queen Elizabeth II

Yesterday’s news seemed to come from out of nowhere and even though many of us knew this time would pass, none expected it to happen so quickly and with so little warning. We are a nation in sorrow. 10 days of national mourning have started with all the pomp and circumstance that this wonderful monarch deserves.

70 years of dedicated service to her country and I feel so fortunate that we were able to mark that occasion and celebrate with her earlier this year. I’m sure I won’t be alone in grieving this one individual who has been a constant not just in my life, but in the life of this country and many other countries around the world.

“Well done, good and faithful servant” – may you rest now in peace.

 

Eating Out with Allergies in Umbria

It has been quite some time since I lasted blogged and boy have those months been busy! Amongst other things we’ve celebrated a 16th birthday, survived the onslaught of BTEC and GCSE exams – as well as nearly all the results – some big changes at work and a performance in the West End by G and M. With so much going on, it’s been difficult to find time to put the proverbial pen to paper, but having just come back from an amazing 10 days in Italy, I was determined to find 5 minutes wherever I could to share our travel experiences.

Unusually, I didn’t do as much research on safe places to eat before we travelled as I have in the past, but having seen how well Italy accommodates those on special diets on our quick jaunt there a few years’ ago, I was hopeful we might have reasonable success. And so we did. With a little light touch internet searching on the ground to assist us, we found some amazing places to eat.

Our journey started in Pisa where we walked to see the Leaning Tower before heading for a quick pit-stop in Florence for lunch, and finally on to a beautiful farmhouse just outside Orvieto, where we spent the first week of our holiday. We didn’t eat out much whilst we were there, but the meals we did have were brilliant:

Hard Rock Cafe Florence: A holiday simply wouldn’t be a holiday without lunch at the local Hard Rock Cafe. I can’t say we go as far as planning our destinations around the HRC locations, but it is pretty much always one of the first things M asks about once he knows where we’re going. The Italian approach to allergy-friendly eating was a little different than we’re used to, with no separate menus, but we did have an extremely knowledgeable server who was able to tell both G and M if their selections were safe or not. G picked the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, whilst M chose  a starter of chicken wings, followed by the grilled chicken sandwich. Their plates were cleared in the usual fashion when we eat at a HRC and I’m told that the gluten-free bread rolls were the best that they’ve eaten anywhere in the world.

Antica Cantina, OrvietoOur base for the week, La Grande Quercia, was a fabulous farmhouse found on top of a hillside overlooking the cliff-top city of Orvieto and mid-week we decided to venture there for an explore and a lunch at the Antica Cantina restaurant. There were some great local specialities on the menu and M was delighted to learn that all of their pasta dishes could be made gluten- and dairy-free. The children started with a plate of parma ham and melon before G enjoyed a platter of goats’ cheeses with gluten-free bread and salad, and M selected the rigatoni with a tomato and smoked bacon sauce. Mike and I also chose regional dishes and we all very much enjoyed our first proper Italian meal out.

Trattoria del Buongusto, Marmore: Our one big day trip out was to the awe-inspiring Marmore Falls, the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. We spent our time exploring the various trails and climbing to get the most amazing views of all 3 tiers of the falls. We managed to buy a very basic hot dog lunch at the Falls themselves as there were no allergy-friendly options on offer, but our dinner at the nearby Trattoria del Buongusto more than made up for a somewhat scrappy lunch. Disappointingly they didn’t have any gluten-free pasta available the evening we were there, but our waitress was brilliant and helped translate the menu for us as well as letting us know which dishes could be prepared gluten- and dairy-free. This time G chose a cold meats and cheeses platter with salad and potatoes, whilst M feasted like a king on a mixed seafood platter starter followed by a mixed grill entree.

January 2022: 100 years of insulin

11th January 1922 – 11th January 2022

100 years to the day that the very first dose of insulin was administered at Toronto General Hospital to a 14 year old boy called Leonard Thompson, who was on the brink of what would have been a fatal diabetic coma.

That moment was revolutionary and from then on, life was never the same again for millions of people across the world.

Having discovered an effective treatment for diabetes, Frederick Banting, Charles Best and Dr James Collip were awarded the American patents for insulin in 1923, which they then sold to the University of Toronto for just $1 each. This life-saving treatment they gave away with no desire to sell it on for a profit, understanding how important their discovery was to all who live with diabetes and that it would no longer be the death sentence it always had been. Unbelievably today thousands worldwide, in both developed and developing countries, are unable to afford even a fraction of the insulin they need to not only keep them healthy, but keep them alive. 

I’m forever grateful for this discovery and the generosity of those who developed it as without it I wouldn’t be here today, nearly 36 years since my T1D diagnosis.

Welcome to Adulthood

18 years ago, as we waited for you to finally arrive, I wondered what I would want to share with you when this day came: what stories we’d have to tell, memories to reminisce on or words of wisdom for you to take with you as you stepped out into the adult world.

I’m still considering even now what knowledge I can usefully share, what words will express the depth of love we have for you…will always have for you and how we will support you as best we can as you find and take the next step of your journey. 

I know to share that we loved you from the first moment we knew we were expecting you.

Felt awe when I first felt your kick, reminding me of your presence even though I was yet to meet you.

Fell more in love with you the first time I held you in my arms with a fierce protective love that only grew stronger as I fed and comforted you in the middle of the night; and every day since.

Worried about you, fought battles you never knew were there and made the best decisions we could to keep protecting you and allowing you to grow to be who you were meant to be.

I’ve watched you grow and change from a contented baby to a awesome big sister and now, on the cusp of adulthood, a young woman I’m proud to call my daughter.

Is that enough? I still don’t know, but as we celebrate your 18th birthday today, know that we love you, always have and always will.

Love you always sweetheart xxx

October 2021: Racing towards winter

Somehow October has raced by and we’re already in November and starting the countdown to G’s 18th birthday and Christmas. However, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass by to mention just a few of the things we did manage to fit in to the end of September and October.

I was invited to be a part of the judging team for the first ever FreeFrom Christmas Awards and was delighted to accept the honour. It felt extremely strange to head back to London for the judging session after last year’s online involvement for the main FFFA21. I had a fab afternoon tasting and judging entrants in the After Dinner category and, as ever, there were some cracking entries. The full list of winners can be found here for you to peruse at your leisure, but in the meantime I’ll tempt you with a couple of photos of the delicious Tesco Finest HoneyComb Dome and Morrisons’ The Best Gingerbread and Butterscotch Sponge pudding, both of which were well-deserved winners of a gold award.

Mike celebrated a not-particularly-significant birthday and we kicked off a very early start to G’s 18th birthday celebrations with a long-awaited trip back to the theatre for the first time in 20 months to see the fantastic “Everyone’s Talking About Jamie“, which we all loved. It was simply amazing to be back to doing something we love and have missed hugely since the first lockdown happened. We have more trips planned over the next couple of months as a number of shows that G has been desperate to see are passing through our local theatres on their UK tours.

Finally, the month was seen out with a plethora of half-term activities, some more interesting than others. We finally redecorated our hall, stairs and landing – something that Mike had promised my Mum would be done before G turned 18 and something he’s managed to squeeze in just under the wire! I enjoyed my 2020 Christmas present, the hire of a Morgan sportscar for a day and now have a 15 year old who is very keen for us to have one. We managed a day trip to the Pensford viaduct so that M could take photos for his GCSE photography project and naturally had to stop for a fish and chips lunch at Salt and Malt in nearby Chew Stoke. Mike and the children also completed their annual pumpkin carving session, whilst I simply sat back and savoured the odd Pumpkin Spice Latte or two.

Today

Today some of my memories of this day 17 years ago are starting to fade, the details less sharp, less present than they have been in the past.

And yet, at other times, my memories of you feel as clear as if they had just happened yesterday

Today I can hear your voice and sense your presence even though 17 years have passed.

Today is simply for quiet reflection and time shared with G and M, the grandchildren I know you’d have loved.

September 2021: New Opportunities

September: the month where everything seems to reset and start anew. As I have previously mentioned, G has made the move to a local college to study a BTEC in psychology instead of continuing with her A-levels. She catches the train to college 3 times a week at the moment and following an apprehensive start, has embraced that challenge as well as discovering the joys of travelling by public transport -delays anyone? – instead of simply being able to walk to school.

M has settled well into Year 11 and our delayed Year 10 parents’ evening revealed that he is doing extremely well and his teachers are expecting good things from him with his final GCSE results. He was unsurprisingly identified as being clinically vulnerable and was offered his first COVID vaccination as part of that first cohort, which he was keen to take up as soon as he could. Our GP has been very switched on this year and he has already has his ‘flu vaccination too as has G.  Unfortunately, September also saw M testing positive for COVID and having to self-isolate for 10 days, which was not ideal at the start of his new school year. He has been unwell with it and spent a lot of time either sleeping or coughing without much let up. We’re hoping that the vaccine, which fortunately he did have more than 2 weeks before he got ill, will do its thing and that recovery doesn’t take too long.

There has also been some great opportunities that have manifested thanks to G and M’s involvement with the young people’s forum at our local hospital. M was invited to join the judging panel for this year’s staff awards a few months ago and was later asked to be part of the presentations of some of the awards to the winners. Never one to miss the opportunity to dress up, M chose a brand new suit and wore it proudly into the hospital for both of the presentations he was able to attend. The first recognised the value and compassion shown by one of the receptionists, especially when speaking to bereaved families, and the second was to recognise the hard work and efforts of the vaccination team over the last 18 months. He particularly enjoyed meeting the vaccination team, even if his first question was about when he could have the COVID vaccine – little were we to know that his invitation for it would be waiting on our doormat when we got back home!

And finally, I was invited to become a member of the interview panel for a new clinical nurse specialist role within the gastro department at the hospital. I was super excited to receive this invitation and had a great afternoon turning my interview technique in a different direction to the usual finance-based questions I find myself having to ask. I even got to flex my acting skills as I helped run the role play element of the interview. It was a real privilege to be involved and fascinating to learn more first-hand about the process undertaken to select the right candidate for the job.

Summer Photo Round-up 2021

As well as our travels to the Lake District this summer, we also enjoyed theatre trips, filming, beach visits, hair-cuts, boules and a journey to the moon:

Enjoying the best of the Lakes – Part Two

When I said that the second half of our week’s holiday was just as busy as the first in last week’s blog, I wasn’t joking. Everyday saw us exploring a new corner of the Lake District in a myriad of different ways:

Borrowdale ValleyOur walk here was inspired by an article I had read about the so-called “Borrowdale Banksy” and a desire to see if we could find one of these stunning pieces of art whilst we walked the hills. Sadly we didn’t manage to uncover the location, which is a something of a secret, but we did find some stunning views and had the chance to climb the most spectacular hill of slate to look out over Derwentwater. It was a challenging walk, but we had a glorious day for our trek around the loop.

West Lake Adventures: During our visit to Lake Windermere, G and M spotted several people paddle-boarding and kayaking on the lake and asked if we could squeeze a similar excursion into our week for them. We hadn’t previously booked it, so were a little sceptical about what we might find, but were lucky to come across West Lake Adventures who offered a 2-3 hour kayaking session on the much quieter Wastwater. Wastwater can be found at the foot of Scafell Pike, which meant some absolutely amazing photos of both children and Mike kayaking with a simply jaw-dropping backdrop.

Whinlatter Forest: When G said she’d love to horse-ride whilst we were away, M made it equally clear that that wasn’t something he wanted to do and so we looked for an alternative adventure for him for a different day. The answer was a forest segway trail with Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest. Whilst the boys tackled the trail, G and I headed off on a search for the Gruffalo, which led us to a most perfectly positioned picnic area looking out over Derwentwater, somewhere we returned to with Mike and M to enjoy our lunch. We were very impressed by the cafe here too as it served the most amazing allergy-friendly sandwiches and ice-creams, something that came in very handy when we realised that Mike had left the children’s packed lunch in the fridge back at Brockwood Hall.

Morecambe Bay: Our final stop as we began our homeward journey, and one I insisted on, was at the delightful seaside town of Morecambe Bay. Of course best known for it’s iconic statue of classic British comedian Eric Morecambe, Morecambe Bay is more than just this depiction of its most famous son. We had perhaps the best weather of our whole trip as we strolled along the prom and walked out along the stone jetty to gaze back at the peaks that had been our home for the last week. Charming in every regard and the perfect ending to a truly stupendous holiday.

Enjoying the best of the Lakes – Part One

The one thing we made really clear to G and M when we booked our week away in the Lake District was that it was not going to be a “lie on the beach or in the hot tub” type holiday, but rather one involving lots of exercise, especially walking. M has recently been confirmed as having hypermobility and so has been having physiotherapy to work on the strength needed to support his hips and knees as his intense growth spurt over the last 18 months has had a knock-on effect on those. I was a little concerned that he may struggle whilst we were walking and climbing far more than normal, but thankfully his joints held up well to all the challenges presented.

Black Combe – the first walk we tackled was just a 10- minute drive from our home-base at Brockwood Hall and an ambitious one for our first full day in Cumbria. We didn’t make it all the way to the very top, but got high enough to enjoy some spectacular views, albeit we weren’t quite able to see all the way to Scotland, Ireland and Wales as the very best days allow. After so many months of staying so very close to home, it was simply glorious to be out in the fresh air and feasting our eyes on a completely different part of the country.

Cumbrian Heavy Horses – G has been a fairly keen horse rider over the years, though it has been a while since she last rode. Mike found the opportunity for her to ride whilst we were in the Lake District at this centre a mere stone’s throw from where we were staying and booked her in for a 2 hour ride on the Sunday morning. Despite it being the wettest day of our entire week, G absolutely loved the ride and came back with a beaming smile. Mike joined her for the ride and managed to get some great photos of it all.

Silecroft & Haverrig beaches – wanting to get out of our lodge for some fresh air and a stretch of our legs, I suggested we headed to nearby Silecroft beach for a somewhat blustery walk. It was undeniably cold, grey and windy, although spotting a seal swimming and popping its’ head out of the water was a definite highlight for us all. A mere 45 minutes or so later, we finally gave into the moans emanating from both children and climbed back into the car. Much to their disgust, I convinced Mike to drive a little further around the coast so we could walk the sandy beach at Haverrig as well. Much to all our delight, it was as if we had entered an entirely different climate and instead of the grey blusteriness of Silecroft, we basked in glorious sunshine, whilst G and M clambered up and over the dunes.

Lake Windermere – no visit to the Lake District would be complete without a day trip to one of the Lakes and so we headed to Lake Windermere for almost a full day. We parked a little outside of the town of Bowness-on-Windermere and stumbled across a beautiful lakeside path as we strolled towards the centre of the town. The plan was for a lakeside cruise with Windermere Lake Cruises and we picked one which would take us on a circular route starting and ending in Bowness. It then turned into a busy day as we squeezed in a quick visit to the World of Beatrix Potter -another of my holiday picks – although we’d have been hard-pressed to spend much more than the 30 minutes we did spend there. Our evening finished with a fish supper courtesy of the wonderful Vinegar Jones that I mentioned in my last post.

The second half of our week was just as busy as the first, but you’ll have to tune back in to Part 2 to find out what else we did!