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.

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

Birmingham……. a view of my world!

There is one thought often crosses my mind and I have so wanted to have the opportunity to carry out a long term wish, whilst at a job interview on Monday of this week, I was finally able to fulfill that wish!

Although I was born in and have lived in a town known as the Borough of Solihull, which is on the outskirts of Birmingham, it means that Birmingham  itself has always been a huge part of my life, and has been very important to me throughout various stages of my life. I suppose realistically I have seen it change, grow and develop as I myself have grown, changed and developed over the last 5 decades, and like any major town or city across the world it is a modern Metropolis. I have a huge interest in both of these parts of the West Midlands as my father and his parents, grandparents were born and raised in the District of Knowle in Solihull, and my mom and all the rest of her family were born and raised in Birmingham. Solihull and Birmingham are however joined in many significant ways through its entwined history.

Known as England’s ‘second city’ since around the time of the  First World War, it has over many decades become more and more interesting to me. Birmingham and its surrounding areas known as the Black Country holds a wealth of history, and had adapted itself to modernization without significantly spoiling itself and has still maintained some of its originality, culture and charm. Although I dare to say some might  disagree on that score, and I suppose like any body, which is human nature, they would defend their own heritage knowing and comparing its origins and history to anywhere else. It would be true to see that any one born and raised in London for instance would quite categorically state that London is the best place on earth to live, eat and breathe and therefore could not be beaten. As I could also see and understand that our cousins across the water in the USA might comment on their own state being far better than the next one.

One thing is for sure, Birmingham has evolved into a well-developed modern Metropolis, and yet it has been able to maintain so much of its character, beauty and its originality within the history and design of the City. Its evolution is still going on, and will continue for many more years in to the future. In most areas of  Birmingham you can see new buildings going up that still stay within the designs and architecture of the original existing buildings and its surrounding areas, but at the same time new modern buildings exist that prove Birmingham is not a little undeveloped back street area and that it can’t compete with the likes of rest of the Europe or even the world especially so in the business and financial sector. I was fortunate to have worked in an area of Birmingham for over 20 years in a place called Aston which is less than a mile outside the city, as a result of this I saw Birmingham almost every day and have seen the likes of working in a modern warehouse and office complex, and yet, less than a minutes walk from the door of that building was a little bit of peace and tranquility in the form of the canal network and you can see some wild birds, beautiful flora and scenery.

Presently, central Birmingham is undergoing another major transition by creating a new tram /metro system, which to all intense and purpose will mean better travel,  better for the environment, and better easier transportation for its thousands of  residents and daily workers, shoppers and visitors.

I have often walked through various different areas of the city center and on numerous occasions wondered what a bird’s-eye view would look like of this incredible ever-changing city.  You can move between new and old buildings at the drop of a hat, and also between busy streets and then a quiet corner and a bit of tranquility in a matter of moments. There are some short walks and bus rides that take you within minutes from a busy market and shopping center to a park, recreation ground or nature reserve.

There are so many tall buildings in the area, but they don’t always give the best view across the city and where you can stand on the top floor of one building, the view may be blocked by other tall buildings. Fortunately on Monday however I was finally able to get that long-awaited view across the City of Birmingham and some of its neighbouring towns, from the window of the 26th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Birmingham, oh boy and what a terrific view it was too. Before leaving I asked the interview at the end if she would mind me taking a couple of photos, (luckily I did have my camera on my, which just goes to prove you might never know when an opportunity arises) and she was than happy to let me.

 

FEB 2015 - MISC (14) FEB 2015 - MISC (16)

FEB 2015 - MISC (22) FEB 2015 - MISC (20)

 

 

Whilst I was standing there looking out across at this fair city, my mind suddenly went back to when I was a youngster growing up and a particular poem by sir John Betjeman which has always been at the back of mind because it says a lot about his view of what progress is in the modern world, but somehow I sometimes have to disagree with him. Although, I do  recall someone telling me at the time he was in this particular poem referring to Milton Keynes….. as the concrete jungle. Or I wonder whether just through his eyes he just envisaged what might happen in the future everywhere…..I hope not!! However, I am often reminded that it is important to remember that progress is very important not just for the present, but for the future.

 

 

  INEXPENSIVE PROGRESS.

Bestride your hills with pylons
O age without a soul;
Away with gentle willows
And all the elmy billows
That through your valleys roll.

Let’s say goodbye to hedges
And roads with grassy edges
And winding country lanes;
Let all things travel faster
Where motor car is master
Till only Speed remains.

Destroy the ancient inn-signs
But strew the roads with tin signs
‘Keep Left,’ ‘M4,’ ‘Keep Out!’
Command, instruction, warning,
Repetitive adorning
The rockeried roundabout;

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small ‘amenity,’
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

Leave no old village standing
Which could provide a landing
For aeroplanes to roar,
But spare such cheap defacements
As huts with shattered casements
Unlived-in since the war.

Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through.

And if there is some scenery,
Some unpretentious greenery,
Surviving anywhere,
It does not need protecting
For soon we’ll be erecting
A Power Station there.

When all our roads are lighted
By concrete monsters sited
Like gallows overhead,
Bathed in the yellow vomit
Each monster belches from it,
We’ll know that we are dead.

By Sir John Betjemen.

Many thanks for stopping by.

R.I.P. Sootykins.

Over a number of years I got frustrated with people, namely non pet owners, saying animals are just dumb creatures and that people are more important than animals.

This could never be more untrue. Yes, people are important, of that there is no doubt. But for those of us who have been pet owners, and have had the privilege of keeping a pet, and caring for it, tending to its needs, spending quality time with it then we are the ones who appreciate that they are more like special companions than just dumb creatures. I still very much remember the day my twins Sooty and Sweep were born!!

When I was approaching my 40th birthday in order to mark this special occasion and  after many years of deliberation I decided I was going to have a rabbit. I had wanted one for many years, but several reasons and excuses prevented me from having one. So I finally took the plunge, I bought a beautiful lop eared pure albino and called her Venus. However, after a couple of weeks because I lived on my own  and had to leave her on her own most of the day at home, whilst I was at work, I started to feel little pangs of guilt.

Rabbits are very sociable little creatures, and ideally  do need to be paired up. However, one has to consider the fact that rabbits are rapid breeders. But hey that’s nature. So I decided Venus needed a female companion, and duly went and found a beautiful mixed brown coloured rabbit, similar to those in the wild. Now, what to call ‘her’. I say her because I insisted at the pet shop it had to be another female, after all I didn’t want a population explosion on my hands, and they very confidently told me it was definitely a she.  Straight away I noticed she was into constantly munching her hay….and other bits and pieces quite happily, and so came up with the name Munchkins, and  affectionately called her Munchy.

Fortunately they were both of a similar age and therefore able to get used to each other and get on well rather quickly, in no time at all after a week or two of gradual introductions and play time together, they became best of friends and so I was able to put them together in the hutch as constant companions.

It was after about 4 months I noticed, some ‘funny’ behaviour going on between them, and decided to get this checked out. true to my suspicions, Munchy was not a she but a he. Young rabbits are very difficult to sex, hence the reason the pet shop got it wrong…..oops.

So, a change of plan. I bought a second hutch in order to keep them separated, but allowed them some together time in the play pen, whilst I kept an eye on them and played gooseberry making sure they got up to no hanky panky, this was until Munchy was 6 months old and able to be neutered.

I recall one Friday evening early July, about a week before my appointment at the vets to have Munchy neutered, my phone went off and I went and sat in my bedroom talking to a friend for about 15 to 20 mins, then returned to the lounge to find Venus and Munchy stretched out next to each other  and licking each other. Thinking no more about it I put them back in to their individual hutches for the evening and giving them their usual bit of fussing I let them settle down for the night. This was my usual  routine with them.

It was about a month later, on 8th August 2005 whilst getting ready for work, that I noticed Venus was acting a little out of the ordinary. She was even more affectionate with me than usual, and was pulling some of her fur out from her chest and belly. I had read that this was a sign of nesting, the female prepares a nest of her own fur when she was expecting to give birth, this apparently also happens, I read when there is a pseudo pregnancy. Knowing I had taken necessary precautions to ensure they did not mate I knew this could only be a pseudo pregnancy.

I thought no more about it throughout the day, other than worrying if she was unwell. She had been eating and drinking well on the morning. Getting home from work that evening I had the biggest shock of my life. On seeing Venus that evening, I got worried again, she was stretched out in the litter tray and instead of coming to the front of the hutch to have her usual fuss and treat from me, she just turned her head around to me made a little grunt and then turned away from me. My first instinct was to get her to the vets.

Rabbits are very resilient creatures, but once they are ill they can start to go down hill very fast. I searched around the main part of the hutch for her favourite toy to see if I could interest in playing. I couldn’t find the toy so I had a little feel around the ‘bedroom’ area of the hutch which is sectioned off with a door at the front of the hutch, but has an arch at the back for easy access for the rabbit. Having had a feel around, my hand then touched something very warm and soft and it moved. I quickly pulled my hand away, my very first instinct was there was a rat or a mouse in the hutch, and how the heck had that happened. I sat there in the chair on my balcony for several minutes stunned, and thinking what I should do next. Then it occurred to me, there was no way any other animal could have got in to her hutch. There were no holes or openings big enough for anything to get in or out.

I decided to be brave, and opened the door to her bedroom area, had a good look around and at the back of the hutch I found to my total amazement these two tiny little grey baby rabbits with no fur (known as kits or kittens) under the hay tightly snuggled up to each other. I sat there in shock for well over 20 minutes.

Now of course Venus behaviour all started to make sense, she wasn’t ill at all…..far from it in fact, she had become a mummy and Munchy was a daddy……and I had become a grandmother!

The next couple of weeks I was on tenterhooks wondering if they were both going to survive, I never saw Venus tend to her babies during the day and wondered if she was feeding them, and they were therefor going to survive.  I then learnt that this is normal behaviour for rabbits, and in order to protect their babies they tend to feed them of night-time. And fortunately one of these nights I couldn’t sleep, went on to my balcony and found her feeding her twins. I knew then everything was going to be alright.

It wasn’t long before the twins came out of their bedroom and started to make their appearance in the main part of the hutch, their little eyes started to open and they had started to grow fur. Venus even trusted me by now to handle them. What I hadn’t expected was that it was jet black fur. For me it  was strange that a pure albino lop for a mother, and a sandy golden brown daddy could produce two jet black babies….such a beautiful freak of nature. It turns out that female rabbits are pregnant for only a month. With that timing my mind wandered back to the night I had that phone call and left them alone for about 15/20 mins…..and in that short space of time the deed was done!

Over the coming weeks and months I had to make different arrangements so that they all stayed together as a family, and they became house rabbits.  I had decided I couldn’t part with them and just had to keep them. When thy were old enough to be sexed, I found that one was a buck and the other a dow and hence I come up with the names Sooty and Sweep. As soon as Sooty was old enough I had him neutered.

I lost Venus the same day as Micheal Jackson died, I was too lost in my own personal grief with Venus and didn’t know until the following day about  MJ . I found out that albino breeds of rabbits don’t tend to live long. I lost Munchy about 18 months or so  later and then Sweep about another year later.

For me Sooty especially has been an incredible companion, a very loving and affectionate creature. I have always tried to spend as much time with him as I could and learn as much as possible about the language of Lagomorphs. I know what little quirks he had, what treats he loved the best, and he sensed when I was down, when I stroked his nose he used to purr and shudder out of contentment. we had a very special bond with each other.

It was when I started to write my blog just 3 years ago this very week, that I decided to write as my pen name Sootykins after my beautiful little boy. In his own little way he has inspired me. He has made me smile when I have least expected it. I am going to miss the mornings and evenings when he used to stretch out across my chest and snuggle his little head up to my chin and lick it, he would lie there contentedly for about an hour.  Of a morning, he wouldn’t eat his food pellets until he had a few raisins from me, or some fresh carrot or broccoli, hand fed of course. And of an evening when I was getting him settled down for the night he used to come to the front of the cage begging me for his special rabbit biscuit or yoghurt drops. For people who have never had a pet, of any sort, they really are missing out a lot. Pets bring so much pleasure, they are soothing, calming, friendly and trusting and are wonderful companions. When I have had periods of stress he has helped me to stay calm.

I noticed a couple of days ago he was not himself, and this morning he died in my arms.  I am so going to miss my little Sootykins, he has been a huge part of my life these past 9 years, he has been there for me at my low points, he has been so loving, and I am sure in his own little way understanding. Now at least I know he is with his mum and dad and sister….all together again.

It’s too early to say if I will have another rabbit yet, right now there is a big empty hole in my life, and I am so missing my little companion.

 

 

R.I.P my beautiful  Sootykins –  8th August 2005 to 8th November 2014

JUNE MISC 2014 (219)

Such a wonderful, affectionate trusting friend and companion.

Thanks for stopping by.

The week from hell!!

It’s so true in the saying that we all have our week from hell. I think mine has been during this past week  or so.

Following on from my last blog about my cousin Janice, tomorrow  (5th November) we will be paying our respects and saying our final farewells to her at the funeral, but hopefully later in the day going over some wonderful memories as we shall also be celebrating her life. It is never easy to accept the death of a very dearly loved family member or close friend, but somehow we do learn to cope and  get on with our lives. It is way difficult for some than others. I know that tomorrow for many family and friends it is going to be a very difficult and emotional day.

Having heard that particular news about my Cousins death the other week, our family have been hit with another huge blow. On Thursday of last week we received  the news out of the blue that my Mom’s only remaining sister Aunty Ethel (or Aunty Titch as she has been affectionately called by family for many years) has been diagnosed with breast cancer. There are only three options available to treat my aunt and her life threatening illness, and one of those is unquestionably not an option, however at the tender age of 86 and suffering heart problems, we have to grasp at that little thing called hope and try to remain positive and hope that she comes through this with the removal of the tumor and two weeks of intensive radiography treatment.  And yet the strange thing is, over a number of years, I have noticed as a general rule, when we go through this type of situation, we tend to have more hope for others than for ourselves if we were facing the same problem. I wonder why that is the case? I wonder what it is with that element of humanity that we feel that way?

Having been somewhat under the weather myself last week, and especially so throughout the latter part of the week and weekend, on Sunday morning I found myself wondering whether I should or should not attend my local A&E dept, hoping they could discover why and put a stop to some very heavy rectal bleeding which had been going on for about 3 days and nights  on and off. I decided that with modern medical technology the way it is, there would be a simple answer and a simple solution, deal with it and be able to send me happily on my way back home….job done.

On reporting the A&E reception, explaining my problem and being seen within 30 mins, I found myself being sent by ambulance from my local Solihull A&E over to the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham as an emergency admission, on route my BP fell uncomfortably low enough for the ambulance  team  to have to stop the ambulance in order to monitor me and administer IV fluids and oxygen and get my BP back up and of course the good old-fashioned raised legs posture works very effectively for blood loss and shock.  I do remember very suddenly my eyes went very blurred and I couldn’t focus and felt like I was going to pass out,  I have to say the whole experience has been very frightening.

I was duly seen  by the ward doctor shortly after my arrival there, who did his initial assessment, examination on the ward where a bed had already been booked for me, but I then had to wait to see the Consultant Surgeon on call who was already in theatre doing emergency surgery, before a decision could be made as to whether I would need to be operated on to discover the cause and site of the bleed and put a stop to it.  Or whether they would do a camera investigation, the first instance was to see if the bleeding would settle on its own.  As a result of the uncertainty I was not allowed to eat or drink anything until very late Sunday night….. a roast beef salad sandwich at 11.30 at night. Over 24 hours without food or water, despite what people say about hospital food…. it was the best sandwich I had tasted in ages.

Fortunately I was able to avoid emergency surgery , but I was kept in for 2 days and overnight until the bleeding had decided to stop of its own accord  Sunday night.  Further investigation, blood tests, poking and prodding believes at this stage  to be a nasty little polyp in the bowel, but since the bleeding had stopped they did not want to disturb me any more and start the bleeding off again by putting a long tube and camera inside me. Although my hemoglobin level was very slightly low it was within normal acceptable range, and come Monday another test also showed a very slight dip but still within a safe range. I was finally released home Monday night, pending further investigations via an outpatients appointment in the coming weeks via a Sygmoidoscopy procedure.  However I have been given instruction if it happens again before going in for the camera test, I have been told to call an ambulance or get myself straight back to A&E.

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, I returned to work today only to find termination of my contract waiting for me for the Friday of this week rather than 25th  November. Now that the lady whose job I was covering has returned almost 2 weeks, I am now surplus to requirements. So come next Monday, yet again I will be going through all the turmoil of trying to find another new job. There are two more temporary contracts at the place I do currently work, one which I have applied for and am waiting for an interview date, and one which I will be applying for when it becomes advertised, and my manager who knows both of the dept managers/team leaders has promised me a glowing reference.

I think I can say in all honesty his has been my week from hell….and I can only hope it does get better.

It is when you get weeks like this it is so vitally important to try and remain positive and focused. And I do have to question myself, just how much can any individual take in such a sport space of time? And despite all the various emotions I have been experiencing over this past week, I do think I have learned to ‘deal’ with it better than I thought I ever could. So there is a lot to be said for thinking positive, and trying to remain that way.

 

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Treasured family memories.

There is a lot to be said for memories. We all hold our own dear memories about the past whether it be regarding family, friends or even something about one’s self.

In the back of my little brain I have a stash of many good and an unfortunately a selection of bad memories, that as they say goes with the territory.  But the ones I have and always will cherish and hold onto dearly are those regarding my family. These are the ones that are most precious to me and the ones when times are bad or just sad I think back over the wonderful family that I have been part of for almost half a century.

On my bookshelf stands a small family photograph that I took when I was much younger, it has always taken pride of place among all my photos and souvenirs.  I still remember the evening I took that photo with my first  little disc camera. It was taken at one of my Aunty and Uncles house on the  traditional Christmas night family gathering back in the  1980’s. Our family back then consisted of my mom, dad, brother as well as my aunts, uncles, cousins and my great cousins who were youngsters at the time but now grown up and with children of their own. Unfortunately over the years most of the older members of my family have passed away, and for me personally that is why it is so important to enjoy and cherish all those very special times we had when growing up.

Today however has been another very sad day for our family at the loss of my cousin Janice (affectionately called by me ‘Aunty Jan’ ) and despite all the sadness today, I was able to grasp some of those fond and cherished  memories and especially that one in particular treasured photograph. It’s a times like this that you really do understand how important family is…..and how important those memories are and why they become so cherished.

 

Your Family

Your family are people, you can depend,
If you get in trouble, they shall defend.
They are the one’s that understand,
Always willing to give you a hand.

Your family, you should always cherish,
Without them you would probably perish.
Your connection with them is very deep,
If something happens, together you weep.

You family can help, your confidence build,
With their love and support, you’ll feel fulfilled.
Just don’t forget to show your appreciation,
That will strengthen your relation.

by AnitaPoems

In loving memory of my cousin Janice Spalding, a wonderfully dedicated and loving wife to my late cousin Graham. A wonderful and loving mother to Joanne and Michelle, and mother in law to Steve and Andy, and grandmother to Ellen, Jack and Joe. And for me  an incredible cousin and friend, as well as a wonderful friend to many others.

TIME

They say that time can heal all wounds
and this I know is true,

So time is what it’s going to take
For every one of you.

And when enough time has gone by
in weeks or months or years,

Fond memories of the times you’ve shared,
will then replace your tears.

But as for now a brand new star
lights up the Heaven blue,

Brightening up the darkest nights
to help you make it through.

And even though God called her home,
she’s never really gone,

Remaining always in your heart,
her memory will live on.

by Patricia Capansky

R.I.P.  ‘Aunty Jan’  now at peace and reunited with Graham.

b. 19th October 1944  –  d. 22nd October 2014.