Tag Archives: books

Celebrating Christmas 2016

It may only be the second week of January, but Christmas already feels like a lifetime ago and the memories are already fading fast. December was yet again an interesting month for our family and whilst we had irrefutable success at keeping M out of hospital, we had enough other medical crises to more than meet our quota for the year. As I have already shared, December started with a huge scare about my remaining sight when I was incorrectly told that I needed urgent laser surgery to sort out the developing diabetic retinopathy in my right eye. The hugely positive outcome that in fact the diagnosis was wrong and no treatment was required was a massive relief, but those first 2 weeks of Christmas planning were overshadowed by the frightening threat of surgery that loomed over the household.

img_3185Our medical dramas didn’t stop there. Mike took a tumble from his bike back in October when he was cycling to our local train station on his way to work and has been complaining of severe pain in his left shoulder ever since. The initial thoughts were that he may have torn his rotator cuff and so was referred onto a physiotherapist who, as well as recommending a heady combination of co-codamol and naproxen to ease the inflammation and pain, made his own referral for an MRI to be done as soon as possible. Mike had that MRI at the start of December and by the middle of the month had received a letter stating that it looked like he had a possible “avulsion fracture of the greater tuberosity of the humerus“, but that it would need to be reviewed by a consultant to confirm diagnosis. That diagnosis has now been confirmed and further complicated by the onset of frozen shoulder, a common occurrence following this type of injury. Last week Mike was treated with a cortisone injection and is already beginning to feel some of the symptoms beginning to ease a little, though we have been told it could take a number of months for his shoulder to recover completely. He struggled with taking the co-codamol and a switch to Tramadol has helped massively there. Unfortunately, despite skipping a dose of the Tramadol so that he could enjoy a glass of something with Christmas lunch, the alcohol and painkiller combination didn’t really work and he spent a lot of Christmas Day asleep, which didn’t go down well with most of my family!

img_13241As for M, well he was looking forward to celebrating his big sister’s birthday at home with her for the first time in 3 years as well as taking part in all of the end-of-term Christmas activities being held at school. Unfortunately, once again his health took a nosedive as he came down with both ‘flu and tonsillitis during that last week and was really quite poorly for a few days. We knew he wasn’t well when he decided not to go to our local pantomime with us and instead stayed at home and in bed with my Mum for the evening. The necessary course of antibiotics took their toll on his system and we found ourselves taking a few steps back from our hard-won gains from the last few months. M has gone back to school recovered to generally good health and eager for the term ahead.

img_13361Despite these small hiccups to keep us on our toes, we celebrated the festive period in style. Christmas was spent with my family down in South Wales, where we were able to enjoy a refreshing walk around the nearby reservoir in fine Boxing Day tradition. Both children were thrilled with the presents they received and have been engrossed in listening to their new CDs – Olly Murs for G and Pentatonix for M – or reading their new books, as well as the inevitable time spent playing on the Wii U that was M’s main present. This last has proved to be a real opportunity for the children to work together and pool their resources as they were keen to buy a Disney Infinity starter pack with additional characters and spent a lot of time researching and budgeting before asking me to help them buy their final choices with their pocket-money. We’ve been ice-skating, saw New Year in with friends, managed a return visit to the pantomime so M could see it too, gone on walks and spent time together as a family. All in all, the perfect end to 2016.

Enjoying a little Olly Murs!

Enjoying a little Olly Murs!

Blind Date with a Book

Books HDThere is nothing G loves to do more than read; she really is her mother’s daughter when it comes to that particular pastime. Whenever she has a spare 5 minutes, and even if she doesn’t, you can usually find her with a book in hand, curled up somewhere quiet in the house. In fact, if you ever need to track G down, the best place to start is her bedroom as the chances are you’ll find her on her bed, engrossed in the story unfolding before her and completely lost to the outside world. Mike and M will willingly tell you that I am no different, much to M’s disgust, so the occasional times when it’s just G and me in the house can be surprisingly quiet.

read-for-my-Not long into the new term, G’s secondary school announced that they were taking part in  Read For My School 2016 organised by the Book Trust, which encourages children in Years 3-8 from across the UK to see how many books they can read between Christmas and Easter. Every school that takes up the challenge is given access to the RFMS website and each pupil registered has an on-line diary in which they can record the books they’ve read, make recommendations, write book reviews and even access some books on-line to read. G was excited by this opportunity and has been faithfully updating her reading record on a weekly basis, not least because both RFMS and her school library have offered the incentives of prizes for various achievements to the students taking part. I have asked G to be completely honest about the books she adds to her list and only include those she has actually read since Christmas, telling her that others may be a little unscrupulous when it comes to winning prizes, but that I want it to be an accurate record of her reading habits.

As well as this reading challenge, the school library has been running other events throughout the year to encourage their pupils to read, an approach which has really impressed me. At the start of the school year, G wrote her reasons for wanting to meet author Huw Powell and during 20160210_160919the recent half-term, she penned an acrostic poem as part of another competition to mark Harry Potter night in early February. These initiatives not only encourage the children to read, but also help them develop key writing and literacy skills in a fun way, something which really benefits G as, despite her passion for reading, she struggles to capture her imagination and express her thoughts on paper.

Just before half-term, G came home absolutely buzzing with excitement about the “Book Blind Date”, which she had taken part in during her day at school. This time the school library had wrapped up a number of books and added a tag which simply contained 3 or 4 words hinting towards the theme of the story. G had chosen one which intriguingly stated:

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and was desperate to see what book she had picked. She waited until we got home and then, with great fanfare and both M and me watching, she ripped the paper from the front cover to reveal her selection. Her choice, 20160210_160938“Shipwrecked” by Siobhan Curham, was something she’d probably never have chosen for herself, but this fantastic idea of a blind date with a book really appealed to her and offered her a new author to experience and perhaps a new genre to further explore. I loved this particular event as it grabbed G’s attention and those of her friends, as evidenced by the flurry of text messages that followed the grand reveal as they compared titles, and even appealed to M, who is desperate to know whether he’ll have the chance to take part when he’s in Year 7!

“Magic never dies. It merely fades away.”

This time last week one of my heroes died.  I was saddened to hear that Discworld-creator and Alzheimer’s advocate, author Sir Terry Pratchett OBE had sadly lost his battle against this unrelenting disease and I was left with the sense that our world had become just a little less colourful as a result.  With typical Pratchett-esque humour, a series of tweets, written in his own incomparable style, announced his passing, taking a lead from one of my favourite of his characters, Death:

I first discovered the Discworld and its diverse cast of characters in the late 1980s and quickly found myself reading, and re-reading, his books as I waited, often impatiently, for the next one to be published.  My Dad and I shared a love for the Discworld and my Mum often commented that she knew when either of us was reading one of Pratchett’s books as they caused us both to laugh out loud, something no other author had ever done.  Our joint appreciation for Pratchett’s fantasy world is one of my fondest memories and even now, I find myself transported back 20 years, to times spent sharing our newest discoveries in his latest novel whenever I revisit these tales these days.

tPratchettIt’s difficult to explain what made Terry Pratchett’s books just so un-put-downable to me.  His clever play on words frequently made me laugh out loud – who can forget Twoflowers’ explanation of an “Inn-sewer-ants-polly-sea” in “The Colour of Magic“?  His unashamed use of characters or plots from other authors was delightfully skilled – and the 3 Witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were not a patch on Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and naive Magrat Garlick in “Wyrd Sisters“.  His sense of humour was evident in almost every word he wrote.  I loved nothing more than waiting to see the plot twists and turns that each new storyline would take and spotting the sometimes obvious, sometimes more oblique references to popular culture.  And in every step of my adult life; be it at university, in the work-place, waiting at the school gates or in our EGID world, he has oft become the common bond that starts a friendship or fills a gap in the conversation.

In the days following his death, Terry Pratchett’s fans have given him tribute by taking ideas from his books to create a fitting memorial.  The first was a petition asking Death to “Reinstate Terry Pratchett” because Terry himself said that “There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this” and already nearly 30,000 people have added their names to this request.

The second took an idea from his 33rd Discworld novel, “Going Postal”, which saw the advent of a communication system, somewhat comparable to the internet.  When a key character dies, a message bearing his name is sent down the lines on an unending journey to ensure that it is kept alive indefinitely because “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.” Keen Pratchett fans have developed code that is being embedded on websites to ensure that his name is similarly forever encoded on the internet.x-gnu

In the past few days, I have started to revisit his books, many of which reside on my book-shelves, and have found myself to be once again amongst old, familiar friends.  The humour never fades and with each reading, I discover a small nuance that I hadn’t noticed before.  Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, Captain Vimes and the Discworld have been a part of my life for nearly 30 years and I look forward to introducing both G and M to these adventures in the not-too-distant future.

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“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

– Reaper Man