The Forgotten Wars.

 

 

 

 

Last night I sat down and watched some of the BBC ‘s live televised programme of the Royal British Legion Service Festival Of  Remembrance. This is always a very poignant service, and indeed a very poignant time for the entire commonwealth each and every year. Next year 2018 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War 11.11.1918.

It was a programme that my dad always watched without fail, as he did with the Sunday Service at the Cenotaph. In more recent years, we have also come to honor  those in the services who have been killed or injured, or been involved in rescuing & helping those struck down by terrorism.

We have all, been taught at school and read the books, watched films and documentaries over the years of the two World  both here and abroad. Wars and numerous other conflicts, including  Vietnam, in more recent years the war in the Falkland Islands, the war between Iran & Iraq, the IRA and so on.

In the 1950’s there were also several other major conflicts that the British Armed Forces had played their part in, that so many are not still fully aware of, except the older generation. The Korean War, also the war out in the Malayan Jungle and also the build up to the Suez Canal Crisis in Egypt, all of these are known as the ‘forgotten wars’. These are wars our government would rather not talk about.

The 1948 Act  – National Service as peacetime conscription was formulated by the National Service. From 1 January 1949, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the armed forces for 18 months, and remain on the reserve list for four years.

In short, the British government decided we needed to be prepared to defend us and our allies in case of another outbreak of war ever happened in the future. However, by 1963 National Service, in the UK came to an end. Some say it should be brought back….but that is always going to be an issue with those who believe conscription is wrong.

However, what many hundreds of thousands of people do not realize is that at the time between the early to late 1950’s there were many young men in the National Service, who went out to Korea, Malayasian Jungle and Egypt, along the Suez Canal Zone, and served alongside the regular British Forces in dangerous and life threatening conditions. The sad thing about this was because these young men were conscripted National Service men, they were never really recognized for their actual service, or recognized like the regular armed forces personnel and the Medical Corps, despite the deaths of many conscripted men during that era in the service of their country.

It took our own British government and the MOD over 50 years to recognize officially one of these particular conflicts, and to finally honor all these men with an official General Service Medals for their service in the armed forces as a National Service Conscript. My late father being one of them.

Over the last few years of his life my dad often use to tell my brother, sister-in-law and myself of his time out in Egypt in Shandur and Ismailia. Some of his stories have been imprinted in mind over the years, some good and some not so good, including the time he came across a scorpion in his bed, or when got put on report for getting sun-burnt whilst off duty. How he and his mates would go swimming in the big lakes on weekend leave. When he was told off by a Captain for not saluting a female Major in the Nursing Corp, instead he waved at her across the docks in Egypt…..the Captain didn’t realize that dad and the Major were friends from back home, and they had both worked at the same hospital in Catherine De Barnes she as a Matron and dad as the hospital gardener and he also did orderly duties. Both prior to going over seas.  Just a few years before she had saved my dad’s life when he had become extremely ill on duty at the hospital and had to be rushed into theatre.  The Major told the Captain, she never expected an old friend to salute her and she ended up putting the Captain back in his place.

When my dad passed away in April 2016, it was down to us to sort out his paperwork, belongings etc. In a metal tin tucked safely away we came across dads National Service documents, his joining papers, shipping papers, demob papers and so on a couple of black and white photos, and despite being of very poor quality, I can not part with them. It was quite a little sentimental treasure trove for me to hold on to. I sat down and looked through them all again last night after the service on tv. It seemed therefore very appropriate for me to write this piece on my dad and many thousand of other men who did their National Service.

In 1936 a treaty was signed between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Egypt called the Anglo Egyptian Treaty of 1936.  It stipulated the British pledge to withdraw all their troops from Egypt, except those necessary to protect the Suez Canal and its surroundings. Following World War Two, Egypt denounced the Treaty of 1936, leading to skirmishes with British troops guarding the Canal in 1951. Thus the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

An estimated 200,000 British troops served in the canal zone during the emergency – which preceded the Suez crisis of 1956 – and more than 300 were killed.

Attacks on the British garrison soon followed and in January 1952 the British government authorised an operation to disarm the Egyptian paramilitary police force in Ismailia which was orchestrating the violence. This was successful, but the violence continued. Riots in Cairo of an unprecedented scale followed, culminating in attacks on Saturday 26 January on British property and the expatriate community, thereafter known as Black Saturday.

British threats to occupy Cairo prompted King Farouk of Egypt to dismiss Nahas Pasha, but in July 1952 Farouk was overthrown in a military coup and General Mohammed Neguib seized power. Rather than insist on Britain’s rights under the 1936 Treaty, Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary tried to negotiate with the new government.

In June 1950 my late father had just undergone his National Service basic training, as a REME at Heathfield Camp in Honiton, Devon, then a brief spell at Aberfield, near Reading, to then be told that he was about to be shipped abroad to the Egypt Canal Zone in the Dec of 1950 to Shandur and stationed with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, where he spent his first Christmas abroad as a REME until Feb 1951, when he was sent over to GHQ 2nd Company in Fayid, Ismailia  For those who are not aware of what a REME is, it a Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineer. In short these were the men who supported our troops by ensuring any damaged equipment, guns, vehicles were repaired and fit to be used in service both in training and on the front line.

In 1950/51  the trouble was already brewing, and fighting and skirmishes had started, and the Suez became known as the Crisis Zone. My dad among many others  was one of those caught in the middle of it all.

Britain faced the increasingly difficult prospect of maintaining control over the Suez Canal in the face of rising Egyptian opposition and the economic realities of the post-war world. In attempting to exert its authority over the Canal Zone, Britain came up against a guerrilla movement fed both by nationalist and religious sentiment, and facilitated by a weak monarchy and a confrontational opposition government. The 1950-54 battle over the Canal Zone set the stage for the creation of an independent Egypt and the 1956 Suez crisis. Realistically, the British Armed Forces, under the instruction of our British government were trying to protect their rights under the 1936 agreement. There is a great deal of history behind this crisis is makes interesting reading. effectively, it was the start of the Guerrilla Warfare along the Canal Zone that led to the war in 1956.

What many do not know is that the early Liberation Battalions involved ex-Nazis. Several dozen former Wehrmacht and SS officers who served as advisors to the Egyptian Army from 1950. Mr Churchill, was again Prime Minister, and had become somewhat fixated on the prospect of British troops being once again under attack by Nazis, or their protégés.

According to the Foreign Office, the British lost 47 soldiers in the Canal Zone between 16 October 1951 and 1 June 1954 and a further seven were missing and were presumed killed.

British withdrawal from the Canal Zone accelerated, and the last troops left on 13 June 1955. Though the threat to British forces in the Canal Zone was over, Britain’s concerns over the security of the Canal itself were not. The Egyptian President Nasser would nationalize the Suez Canal in July 1956, setting the stage for full-scale war along its banks between Egypt and Israel.

There is a lot to be said for the part our National Service men played out there, and the dangers they had to endure. We were so delighted when my dad finally received his medal a few years ago. Those forgotten men had finally earned their recognition as where those who served out in Korea and the Malayan Jungle. These men should also never be forgotten for carrying out their duties in war torn areas of the world. Lest we forget.

I have managed to photograph some of dads service papers, obviously with their age, (which is older than me) they are not in the best condition. My dad was also a life long supporter of the Royal British Legion, it was thanks to them that he was able to maintain a certain level of independence these last few by way of a Disability Scooter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

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Given the circumstances.

Yet again its hard to believe another Christmas is upon us, over the years I have come to accept the fact that as I get older, then so the years appear to go faster. This year has been no exception, the year has fled by, which in some ways is good and in other ways not so good.

Each Christmas time and New Year I take time out to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. This year is no exception. It has certainly been a very mixed one for me, one of personal achievements, some enjoyment, new challenges and one of sadness and sorrow.

Just one year ago this week I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the fact that although my dad had a major health scare, twice in the space of a little over a week, he was still alive and able to enjoy his Christmas with us all. What none of us realized at that time was the fact it would be his last one. looking back at 12 months ago it was all very scary.

As 2016 unfolded and I started to make plans for the year ahead, I knew it was going to be an uncertain year, more so on the job situation than anything. Not knowing if the lady whose job I was covering was going to come back or not. Only one thing was certain I knew I had another 8 solid months of commitment to my job, one that I loved doing. How many people today can honestly say they love their job I wonder. I  had made some incredible new friendships with the team I had been working with, and we still stay in touch and meet up for a meal and a chat every few weeks.

I was looking forward to a holiday, and actually ended up having two different breaks… a week up in Scotland in August as well as a much-needed long weekend break down in South Devon in early July visiting Paignton, Plymouth & Dartmouth. Then in September I started my all new important permanent job….only to find 5 weeks down the line that I am going to be made redundant in the coming April/May. Having to have more surgery, to sort out the first lot that didn’t work

In the February I was diagnosed with diabetes, which has meant some big life changes over the past few months, but the one really good thing that has come out of this is that it has encouraged me to take a lot more regular walking exercise. As  I love to go out and explore nature, and do some photography, it has encouraged me to visit new places and get much more exercise.

Earlier in the year I drew up a ‘bucket list’ I have had the opportunity of going out and doing different new things, for instance for the first time I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall & Park to see fallow deer and shoot them close up (with a camera that is!) In October I finally got to go to see London Zoo, in July the Monkey Forest nr Stoke On Trent, in October, Warwick Castle where I got to see close up an amazing birds of prey display. Early November I achieved a long time ambition of mine to take an Alpaca for a walk, also in November I got to go to the West Midlands Safari Park and a little over two weeks ago I saw the most amazing colourful display of lanterns at Longleat House and Safari Park. In August I managed to finally make the trip to Liverpool to meet up with a very dear friend.

Overall it has been a very mixed and eventful year, and despite the turmoil in my life it has been a year that I have manged to cope with and stay pretty well on top of and come through the other end of it. I’m not going to kid myself or anyone else for that matter, but the combination of the right medication, positive thinking, photography, keeping busy with the new job and an incredible group of family and close friends is what has kept me going.

This season however doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Like many others they too have lost family and friends throughout the year, and it has felt very strange that as we approach Christmas day I have had to come to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be with us this time or ever again to celebrate Christmas.

Because of my Dads failing eyesight the last couple of years, it meant my sister-in-law and myself would sit and write Dads cards for him. This year however I have found it an almost impossible task for me to sit down and write my own cards to family and friends. this past couple of weeks or so it has hit me more harder than ever and I have found myself having a little cry every time I think about how much I miss him, and how much I will miss him not being around at Christmas for the first time ever in my life.

My Dad was always very much a man of tradition when it came to Christmas, and this is something I have always embraced, he always used to look forward to his Christmas lunch, he had to have the turkey leg on his plate with the usual mix of sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes and always lemon & thyme stuffing, a pint of bitter and then Christmas pudding and custard to finish (in the old days every year my mom used to make her own for all the family, from scratch and my dad brother and I used to have a hand in the preparation and mixing of the puds) At 3.00 pm we were always ready to sit down to watch the Queens speech and then later on a cup of tea and mince pie.

Every year since I can remember, Dad  always bought himself, my sister-in-law and me a Poinsettia plant for Christmas. Usually after a couple of months they would shrivel up and die, that’s just the way it is with this type of plant.  Dad always had the knack on how to keep his going for several months. When he passed a way earlier this year, his Poinsettia from last Christmas was still sitting on his kitchen windowsill. I decide to take it home with me, not really expecting it to last very long. Dad had given me a tip earlier in the year as to how to best water it, every few days put some warm water, never cold water, at the bottom of the plant pot and sit the plant in it. The plant is thriving, and it is a year old this week, although it doesn’t have the usual big red leaves, it is full of healthy green ones, I’m sure Dad has been helping me to keep an eye on it these past few months.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead will be another very challenging one for me, come the spring I will have to start the process all over again of looking for another new job. So much uncertainty ahead. Hopefully the chance to go and explore new places and do lots more photography. Health and finances permitting, I am already planning my holiday for next Sept. One of my main ambitions for over 20 years is that I have wanted to go on cruise to see the Norwegian Fjords. I have heard of so many people say what a beautiful and unique experience it was for them, and this is something I feel will be absolutely spectacular to photograph.

At the moment in my thoughts it’s all about trying to remain positive for the year ahead, and getting though my first Christmas without my Dad……and as the poem says, For I know that in my heart you’re here.

 

To all my family, friends and readers I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year ahead.

A new road ahead.

It has been a very long strange and mixed 12 months. Some really rough and tough times these past few months on a health level and with the passing of my father in April,  but also some great times on the work side, and also the chance to develop my love of nature and photography and visit more places in order to do this.

Having said that I am now at yet another crossroads in my life, and yet I am seeking a new challenge and am looking to take the next step forward. In two weeks time on August 5th my current contract comes to an end, and yet again I will be looking for a new job, to some to find a new job it’s as easy as tossing a coin in the air, but for those of us who suffer depression and anxiety, it can be a very daunting prospect.

In many ways I have been very fortunate with this current position, I have far exceeded my own expectations and discovered new things about myself in my ability to tackle and solve problems and overcome a lot of obstacles. I have been able to maintain a  high level of professionalism, Iv’e been able to do so much in-depth work, and not just doing one or two stages of a job and then passing it on to the next person to do their part, but I have been able to follow many stages of an entire process through from start to finish. In addition to this I have been able to implement several new job procedures and carry them through to prove they can and do work, and Iv’e learnt a great deal about the rail industry, and I have also been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible and wonderful people and make some wonderful friendships in the process. Overall I have exceeded my own expectations, and I believe in all honestly exceeded my employers expectations of me, and I have to say that does feel good, and it also makes one feel proud to have made such an achievement.

One thing is for certain, I do feel a little more confident about my future job than I have done for many years, that is of course providing I get the right opportunity by a company willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity to prove myself. For the first time in many years I actually feel confident in my own abilities.

I have had a great year discovering the local nature reserve, through all the changing seasons, made friends with a Robin who I called Buddy. He has in recent weeks  flown the nest with his little babies, and despite knowing I will most likely never see him again, unless we both happen to make return visits to the reserve and his particular favourite tree. I do feel very privileged that I was able to make friends, share a trust and have a special bond with a wild bird and be able hand feed him.

That aside, I have also this year had to cope with the diagnosis of  Diabetes,  problems with my kidneys and cholesterol level, another lot of surgery and then in April the sudden and unexpected death of my Father.  An extreme combination of  similar problems that 15 years ago brought to my knees, and  my first dealings with  depression, but now despite how hard it is to cope with all this…some how I have managed to cope and  I have come to realise that it is due to a combination of the right daily medication, some really incredible family and friends, the pursuance of my love of nature and photography, and a job I love doing, but more importantly positive thinking and the confidence in ones own abilities, and to try not give up so easily.

So, my next step forward is to take a much-needed short holiday up in Strathpeffer  in Scotland the week after my job comes to an end, give myself chance to recharge my worn out batteries, take in the wonderful Scottish air, scenery and hospitality, take plenty of photographs and discover the wildlife up there, and also hopefully treat myself to a glass or two of some very fine single malt whisky from that region.  But, I do realise that I also need time to think about what sort of job I would like to do next, and how to balance my work life with managing my diabetes and also prepare myself  mentally for upcoming job interviews. So who knows what new opportunities await around the next corner.

 

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Many thanks for stopping by

 

Felt by my heart.

The past month has been really tough. In the space of a little over one week my father had gone from sitting with us at his bungalow merrily chatting away to each other about steam trains, birds & animals, his national service days and family and one of his favourite TV shows. We had even been making plans with my brother and sister-in-law to take him to Weston Super Mare for a day trip in June, and then in September to The Severn Valley to see the Flying Scotsman whilst it was on tour and stationed on display there, something we were all very much looking forward to. We were having our usual conversations that we have on a Sunday morning gathering, or on the phone of an evening, and then suddenly a week later my dad was gone.

Although it has been in my eyes more noticeable about how much frailer my dad had become over the last 6 months I had never thought we would lose him. It just seems that you feel that your parents have always been there for you in the past and I suppose you feel a sense that they will always be there for you for ever.  I can remember when I was a child I always though mom & dad will ALWAYS be here for me, they would never leave. As I got older and began to see the truth and the ‘negative’ side of life and existence I then realised my dream of them being alive and with me  for ever and a day was just so unreal. Life can be so cruel.

Part of my depression which started just a little over 15 years ago was caused by a really bad year prior to my moms death on 29th April 2001. I had been very unwell physically after having to deal with 2 lots of serious surgery, and then depressed for several months before hand, without really realising it, but as they say the straw that broke the camels back was when I had to face my moms death, and then a few weeks later I had to face major life saving and life changing surgery, and for the first time ever my mom was not there for me anymore, at least not in the real physical sense. Fortunately, my dad was there for me and has been there for me ever since.

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Shortly after my mom passed away, I can remember thinking to myself I never want to go through all that again, I hoped and prayed I never would have to. The decision to stop all medication, agree to a DNR and no further intervention was something  my dad, myself, my brother and sister-in-law had to mutually agree to. All moms organs were failing, and to agree to resuscitate her was pointless. We had to agree the same reasoning  for the same nightmare with my dad. I know deep down the horror of all of this will never go away, and having to make that decision again brought back so many bad memories. Despite of all this, over the past couple of weeks it has been good to talk to family, friends and work colleagues about the good times, the good memories and some of the wonderful times we have shared over the years with both my parents.

After Dads funeral service, as we all came out of the church into the area where all the flowers were laid, people came up to us, family members as well as friends of the family, dads club friends, old friends and  neighbours  from many years ago when my brother and I were still kids,  My sister in-laws, sister and her husband  came up to me, we hugged as normal and then Mick said it all in one simple sentence which truly summed up my dad, he said  ”your dad was a really good man, a really great bloke, a proper gentleman”. And I knew how true this was. The same thing has been said by my family members as well as dads bungalow club friends and his neighbours.

Dad has never been a drinker, only on social occasions or the occasional can of stout or bitter at home. He gave up smoking in 1981/82. He never gambled, just the usual couple of quid on the Grand National each year. Over the last 12 or so years he enjoyed his games of bingo, which for him was more a case of having a bit of a social life with his friends and was a way of maintaining his level of independence. When mom passed away, despite the rest of the family being there for him it had left a huge emptiness in his life.  Being part of the ‘bungalow club’ helped him in some ways to rebuild his life without mom.  It  gave him the chance to take some holidays to Weston Super Mare and Weymouth, as well as odd days out for coach trips or meals out with friends from the club. It was his social life outside the family, but first and foremost he was a family man and with that he was a true gentleman.

I have so many wonderful memories of the times spent with my dad. His passion for coarse fishing was passed on to me and my brother. I can still remember the first time I went fishing with dad and the first fish I caught. I don’t know who was more excited,,,,dad or me. Another great passion was his gardening which I have continued to learn from him over the years, and still love doing when I get the chance (although I have to admit the last 16 months have been difficult to maintain it as I have been unable to do the work physically due to recovering from 3 lots of surgery in that time) I only have a small garden area in the yard behind my flat, but have learnt how to get the best from it thanks to my dads knowledge and expertise. There is a certain satisfaction in growing your own runner beans, tomatoes, rhubarb as well as growing several Fuschias from my own cuttings and nurturing 3 or 4 roses.

My knowledge and love of birds, animals, butterflies, fishing, gardening and the countryside have all been down to my dad. Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s dad rented 2 allotments from the local council. Each weekend and in the school holidays my brother and I used to go there with him a lot. The allotments were adjacent to one of our local parks called Jubilee Park, and each time we went down there we always used to have a game of football or cricket in the field before starting to work on the allotment…just the three of us. Then we would cross over the little brook, and see who could get across without getting their feet wet…..being the smallest and youngest I always lost, but as I got a little older, I also got a little wiser and started  taking  my pair of wellies with me 🙂

I can still see dad now in my mind, at the height of each summer season when it was time to reap the benefits of his hard all year round work, pushing his wheelbarrow from home to the park…empty, and then filling it up with sacks of home-grown potatoes, onions, runner beans, carrots, broad beans, garden peas and beetroot.  Bunches of Sweet Williams and Chrysanthemums for mom as well as containers full of homegrown blackberries and raspberries ready for the pies and jam making.  But there was nothing better than eating a few fresh peas, broad beans or berries straight from the garden. At the bottom of the allotment he dug out a small pond and each year we used to watch the frog spawn waiting for them to become tadpoles, then frogs.

As dad got older, then so his health began to give him problems. Late in the 1980’s due to severe arthritis in his ankles and feet he had to give up first one and then the other allotment. But by then my brother and I were both growing up and those days of kicking a ball around down the park with dad had gone. Dad was now content to grow what he wanted to in the garden and greenhouse at home.

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s I became a Special Constable, and despite mom and dad being very proud of me for becoming one, I was always their little girl and I know how difficult it was for them to see me go out on a late night/early morning shift knowing I was on duty at the pubs & clubs emptying times, where even back then there was always an element of danger involved, and always the fear of being assaulted or hurt on duty. Ever the worrying, caring parents.

It’s always important to hold on to all those good memories, and they have helped me get through these past couple of weeks. I have been happy to share my memories with family and friends. I am so going to miss our little chats, and showing dad my photo’s of my latest find in the nature reserve, his stories of the days in national service, his childhood in Knowle, his grandma who bought him up, but I am so glad he has told me so many stories from his past. My father touched my heart like not other person could, and for that I am truly grateful.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt by the heart. Helen Keller

 

Being Frank about Frank.

This has been one of the worst weeks of my life ever, and to write this particular post is extremely difficult. Trouble is where do I start!

The family tradition on a Sunday morning for over 25 yrs has been for my brother, sister-in-law and myself to meet up at my dads bungalow and spend a few hours with him chatting, laughing, drinking tea, coffee and just generally catching up on the week’s news and goings on.

Instead of going to the bungalow this Sunday for that tradition we have gone there for the first time without Dad being there today, or ever again.

Just a little over a week ago on the Friday, my father had to be rushed into hospital with severe chest pains. This was a similar episode to what he had experienced just prior to Christmas. Unfortunately, this time the problems were far more severe and far more complicated than any of us could imagine, including the teams of doctors who have been looking after my Dad this past week.

The most difficult thing to comprehend was that even up to a few days before he was admitted to hospital last week, he was still a very proud and very independent man, apart from recently having a cold which had gone to his chest, he was still going out on his mobility scooter, going down his local shops, attending the local club to see his many friends every Monday and so on. My father had experienced severe arthritis in his feet and ankles for many years, suffered a heart problem which caused very low blood pressure, was blind in his one eye due to Macular Degeneration and was starting to lose the sight in his other eye, he had other arthritic joints including in his hands, and over the last 5 to 6 years his hearing was not very good. But despite all this he was determined to remain independent for as long as he possibly could, and refused point-blank to have carers to look after him. For an 84-year-old man he had a lot of health problems and disabilities, but was very determined not to let it beat him.

When he was admitted to the hospital a little over a week ago, it was obvious he was quite poorly, but until 3 or 4 days later we were not sure how poorly. To begin with he had developed ‘borderline pneumonia’ which despite aggressive treatment with high doses of iv antibiotics to try to bring it under control, just didn’t work, it basically turned into full pneumonia, which in a matter of hours developed even more complications. I don’t want to go into all the details, but suffice to say one problem lead to another then another, and by Wednesday morning we received a phone call that required us to attend the hospital out of visiting times due to have having now been moved onto one of the High Dependency Unit (HDU) for Cardiac Care (CCU)

When my brother, sister-in-law and I arrived there we were shocked to see Dad all wired up to tubes, leads and connected to several different monitors and numerous drips. Following a meeting with the HDU team and the consultant we had a clearer picture of what was happening. The news was not good, but despite that they were hopeful that having identified yet another bug in his system, that by bombarding it with more antibiotics in the next 12 or so hours they could deal with the problem and hopefully bring it under control. However, we were also told that if this did not happen then it would be the worse case scenario, due to his main organs now starting to go into failure.

The three of us sat with dad at his bedside all through the afternoon, evening into the night, early hours of the morning hoping and praying for some improvement, some sign that the antibiotics were killing the bugs and sepsis in his now very old and frail body. Throughout all this time the HDU nurse constantly monitored him, took blood gas samples and made sure he was comfortable and never in any pain or distress. The HCA’s kept us going with copious amounts of tea, coffee, water, biscuits and toast. This was not the first time I had found myself in this position, I was there for my Mom, and a few months before that I was there for a very dear friend Pat, but even having been down this road before it does not make it any easier when it happens again.

Just before 8.30 am Thursday morning the doctors did their ward rounds and came and took us aside to tell us that the blood tests throughout the night had shown no sign of improvement, and that his main organs were now in failure and the septicemia had gone past the point of being reversed. They were very sorry but there was nothing more they could do for Dad. It was the words every family never wants to hear.

We had to make the agonizing decision of agreeing to unhook him from the all the monitors and discontinue his medications except sedation and pain relief, all this however was to be held off until we had managed to have a think, then go home get freshened up and be back at the hospital by 11.00 am. Once we were back in the unit the much dreaded process of taking away dads medications and tubes was started. We knew all that was left for us to do was sit with Dad, talk to him and place him in Gods hands. He was very peaceful lying there, and we could see that his pain was well under control. We sat with him throughout the rest of Thursday, into the night and into the early hours of Friday morning. It was just before 6.30 am on Friday the 8th April, the day of my 51st birthday that whilst we were holding his hands, dad slipped peacefully away.

It is still very hard to believe he has left us, but knowing he is now at peace and with Mom is very important to me.

I cannot thank the NHS medical staff of Solihull Hospital Ward 17 and the brilliant team on CCU who did everything that was within their power to try to help save Dads life. They never gave up on him until they knew there was a point of no return, and that there was nothing else they could try to do to save him.

In one way we look at it as being a blessing, had he survived all of these complications of liver, kidney damage along with his other health problems we have come to realise this means he would have lost the one thing that had remained very important to him, his independence.

My Father was very kind, loving, considerate man. He had been a wonderful Father, Husband, Grandfather, Uncle and a friend to many who knew him.

Dad was born Francis Henry Westwood (known as Frank) on 6th November 1931, and in the early 1950s he was conscripted to do National Service. He trained as a Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineer or REME for short, and he was based out  in Egypt during the Suez Canal Zone Crisis. It was not until 2003 that our government finally recognized those in the National Service who were involved in that conflict, and agreed to finally allow them their rightly deserved medals, dad being one of those.

I have some wonderful memories of my Dad. My brother and I have a lot of stories that he has told us over the years. we owe our love of gardening, angling and knowledge of country life to Dad. His passions in life were his family, they always came first, his gardening and fishing.

 

Death Is Nothing At All – Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.

Rest in peace Dad, now reunited with Mom and all the other family members who had gone before you.

FAMILY STUFF (34)

Dad as a very young and handsome man.

FAMILY STUFF (21)

With my brother Alan and me. The days when Dad had wavy black hair

FAMILY STUFF (99)

With Mom.

FAMILY STUFF (122)

A wonderful granddad

Hello 2016…..

It feels very strange that once again we are celebrating and ‘letting in’ another New Year. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we said goodbye to 2014 and welcomed in 2015.

As one gets older it does seem as though time passes quicker. and these past few days I have been reflecting on the past year and wondering what of the new year ahead.

For me personally 2015 has been another one of those very mixed emotional years of  joy, contentment, satisfaction, frustration, worry, uncertainty and of course sadness.

After a very uneasy start to 2015, due to ill-health resulting from some emergency surgery in the previous November, and a result of  being out of work for a few months, the year did look as though it was going to be a completely bad one. In between job seeking I turned to my photography and art to help me through the bad days.  In the early Spring things did steadily pick up when I get a temporary 3 months work contract, that unfortunately didn’t work out (and because I spoke up about and pointed out a serious H&S issue and the risk of a serious accident happening I was termed a trouble maker – then as it happens about a week before my temp contract was due to become permanent a serious accident did occur when I was not on shift,  I then happened to say to my  supervisor I’m not going to say I told you so, but didn’t I  tell you so…… and a  couple of days later just before the H&S executive was due to come in and carry out an inspection, I was very conveniently told my services were no longer needed  (although i have to say a rather pathetic excuse was used to get rid of me at the end of my contract) Had I the energy and commitment at that time to fight it as unfair dismissal then I would have, and by all accounts I would have won, but the last thing I needed at that time was more stress. My priority was to find a new job asap, so I could pay my bills.  In some ways I feel lucky that I did leave because despite my insistence about improving H&S they were not interested and I felt in a way it was good to be removed from that danger.  So by late June I was out of work again, but fortunately within 48 hours after a job interview I found myself sitting behind a new desk in a new office and looking at  fresh new challenges, meeting new people and making new friends.

In many ways I feel very lucky in that respect, even though the job is not the easiest one, it is interesting, it is within a very specialized industry (its main manufacturing site based near Paris in France) and as a result it is challenging and at times can be frustrating and stressful. But I have to say overall I really do love my current job and the people I work with and my clients, and only wish it was for keeps instead of just a 12 months contract. I am now half way through my 12 months contract and unless I am really very fortunate that the young lady whose job I am covering doesn’t come back from maternity leave, then I will have to leave and face even more new uncertainties in this summer.  My only hope now is that the young lady who has had gorgeous twin boys decides that her life is best spent seeing and watching her sons grow up and develop instead of coming back to work.

I have learned a huge amount in such a few short months, and I know there is a lot more to learn in the coming months. Working with Excel formulas is now an automatic daily task and I routinely work with several different formula based spreadsheets,  where as before although I have worked with Excel spreadsheets it was never as in-depth as what I am doing now. It is extremely challenging and the work has to be very accurate and as my colleague keeps telling me ‘reconciliation Sue reconciliation’  which is vital in this role. So in nutshell, one really good thing has come out of this, it has given me much more experience to add to my CV when I have to go job hunting again later in the year, and I have also found that in some areas of the job it has helped to give me more confidence, something I have needed to gain back in such a long time

The rest of the year has had its usual ups and downs. I had to face more surgery in October which had left me with a serious complication from last years surgery in November for an abscess.  I have to go back and see the consultant in a few weeks time and if the results of that are good, then that will be another step in the right direction and another problem out of my way.

I am hoping to treat myself to a holiday this spring, there have been several places I have been wanting to visit and have never had the chance. One of the areas I have wanted to visit for many years is along our South East coast, especially  Wareham near Dorset where I would love to see Monkey World and the incredible work they do there. The chance to go there with my camera would be exceptional. The world of primates and their behaviour is something else that has always fascinated me. There are also some other fascinating places along that coast I would love to see, such as the  Jurassic Coast in Dorset as well as Bournemouth, Swanage, Portsmouth, Southampton and then the inner counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxford, there is so much out there that I would love to explore.

Where I am working at the moment, I have been very fortunate that we are right close by a local nature reserve, as a result of this, although I wasn’t  able to have had a holiday again in 2015 it has meant I have been able to get out and about to local places with my camera and brush up on my photography skills which in turn has increased my passion in wildlife photography and bird watching and scenery.  This is again something I would very much like to expand on this year given the right chance to pursue it, and perhaps even enter a few photo competitions. I even made a new friend in the reserve, a little Robin who now allows me to come right up to him within about 3 to 4 feet away and let me take photos of him. In addition to this I leave him a little bit of fat ball and bird seed ( and I found out a few months ago he is partial to a few odd crumbs of a well know brand of digestive biscuits) In more recent weeks I have been gradually getting him to come onto my hand and feed off me that way, he flutters above my hand, but is still not quite sure yet.  This will be a challenge for me over the coming weeks, to get him to trust me enough to come and settle on my hand to feed.

 

KNNR - DEC 2015 (2)KNNR - DEC 2015 (16) KNNR - DEC 2015 (51) KNNR - DEC 2015 (3)

The one thing I am really thankful for (that despite two very severe angina attacks that my father suffered in the lead up to Christmas week, both were severe enough to put him in hospital for a couple of days at a time) that he has come out the other side of it and is still with is. He still isn’t out of the woods yet, and has a long way to go with having to see a consultant cardiologist this month and having more tests and some changes to his heart medication, but it was a relief and it was so good that he was out of hospital in time to be able to spend Christmas day with us at my brother and sister in-laws, despite not feeling too good still.  Over the last two to three years, Christmas has become more precious to me in certain ways, because it means another one where the family can as a complete unit spend time together. It isn’t about who can buy the best presents or who spends the most money, it’s most importantly about family time. Throughout most of  the year our lives are so busy, that we tend to have very little time to celebrate until it’s such an occasion as Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I always see members of my family throughout the year, but for us all to sit around the same table on Christmas day and share the meal, a couple of drinks and some chatter is for me very special. It is as people have said to me over the years we only ever get to see the entire family of aunts, uncles, cousins together if it is a wedding, special birthday celebration or a funeral.

I am looking forward to 2016 in some ways, in other ways I am being very cautious, I do have goals that I would like to reach, I look forward to new and hopefully exciting challenges, and at the same time i would like to find more inner peace and contentment. I hope and pray that wars and terrorism will cease, and I hope that the year ahead will be better and brighter for everyone.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and may you find happiness, good health and peace and may the year ahead be a brighter one.

 

 

Year

Happy, Happy New Year!
We wish you all the best,
Great work to reach your fondest goals,
And when you’re done, sweet rest.

We hope for your fulfillment,
Contentment, peace and more,
A brighter, better new year than
You’ve ever had before.

By Joanna Fuchs

INDIAN BLUE PEAFOWL - DUDLEY ZOO - FEB 2015 (143) Edit

Happy New Year 2016 – photo created by Sootykins/ Sue Westwood Photography (C) 2015

 

Many thanks for stopping by.

Prayers for the people of Paris.

Yesterday morning like millions of people across the UK, rest of Europe and the world, I awoke to see and hear about the senseless act of terrorism and mass murder in Paris on Friday night.

Only 2 days before people from all around the world joined in the day of remembrance the signify the end of 2 world wars and numerous other conflicts around the world since then. The remembrance day signifies the loss of lives of millions of people in the armed forces as well as civilians and special services agents who gave their lives willingly in order to bring about future peace for all the future generations, and to stop similar ‘World Wars’ from happening again. These brave people fought against such horrific ideals such as fascism hatred and barbaric acts created by the likes of Hitler. and his devoted followers. Overall, the wars became justified for the reasons behind them, and as a result it has overall made the world a better place to live in. Had these wars not been fought, then our lives would be so much different and without any doubt they would have been for the worse. The younger generations have been given so much by the fact that these world wars took place, and made their future so much better than it would have been had Hitler not been stopped.

Over the years our world governments have had to make major decisions to go into countries to fight wars to prevent the situation becoming worse and to protect our countries and the people in it. Not every one will agree with this reasoning, some will say their own governments were wrong for making those decisions at the time, many believe conspiracy theories why the USA, Great Britain and other major powers around the world got involved with the likes of the Falklands War, Iran & Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. Had these decisions not been made at the time and had our troops had not gone in to these countries and fought these conflicts, the outcome could have been quite different. Instead our governments would have been blamed for not getting involved and not doing anything and just sitting by and letting matters get worse. No one could ever predict the outcome of becoming involved in these wars or conflicts.

What I do try very difficult to grasp is why there as these  groups of people around the world in our modern world, who believe and think they can justify their causes, mainly in the name of their religious beliefs by going out and attacking, murdering so many innocent lives and in such away. This is unacceptable, and it is mass murder and terrorism in the worst form, there is no justification for what and how they are doing it.

Most of the attacks on innocents have been carried in recent years have been done so by factions or groups who claim they are doing it the name of their God and  for their religious beliefs. This is a huge shame, for as we know, no God would justify the behavior that these faction groups who claim the reasons they are carrying out these atrocities, what is worse is that so many of our religions around the world are good and some of these religions and the people who practice and truly understand their beliefs  behind their religions are being given a bad name by these minority groups, it is unfair to blame people who practice a good religion, which gets ‘tainted and even twisted’ by these factions, this in turn leads to even more hatred around the world.

I’m not a dreamer, I am however a realist and I know there will never ever be world peace for ever and ever….it is just not going to happen. There will always be conflicts around the world and  countries will always take up arms and fight each other, but it has to be for the right reasons. But I do hope that one day these horrific acts of terrorism will stop. happening.

In the wake of this recent act of terrorism, I was in complete horror of how calmly these gunmen and bombers entered the theatre and restaurants and gunned down so many innocent people who were after a busy week were taking time out to enjoy a part of their lives with families and friends.

My heartfelt prayers go out to all those innocent people who lost their lives, who have been injured as do my prayers to their family and friends  who’s lives have been shattered by this barbaric act of terrorism.

Over the past five months I have worked for company Railtech International, whose main office  is based in a part of France called Gennevilliers which for those who are unsure of their geography, Gennevilliers is a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, in the Hauts-de-Seine département of France. It is located 9 km from the center of Paris. My only hope and prayers are that none of my colleagues and their family or friends were in Paris Friday night, and that they are all alive and safe.

 

 

 

Twenty-Third Psalm
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters. He
restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the
paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for
Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they
comfort me. Thou preparest a table before
me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou
anointed my head with oil, my cup runneth
over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow
me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell
in the house of the Lord forever.

R.I.P.  –   for all those innocent lives lost in this most horrific act of terrorism.

The memory of this day will never go away, it will remain in our minds to remind us that there are such evil people in this world who carry out these acts.