My Foodbank Challenge (4)

Although I hate to admit it, I didn’t completely fulfil the foodbank challenge. I managed just over three weeks. Why did I give in? Well there were a number of reasons:

  1. I really found it hard to put together a full meal from some of the foods, as there wasn’t always things that went together. A lot of this was probably me being quite choosy about what I eat. This resulted in me snacking a lot on things throughout the day and never really eating a proper meal. I think this ended up with me eating more in a day than I normally would and consuming more calories.
  2. The lack of fresh foods was something that I am not really used to. I don’t eat much tinned or processed food generally, so this was a bit of a shock to my system. I found a lot of the food unappetising, but again probably me being quite fussy.
  3. There seemed to be far too many carbs and not enough protein. In the week that I had eggs or cheese, it was a little easier, but I normally eat lots of fish and vegetable protein as well as quite a few eggs. I ate far too much bread and quite often had unhealthy things on the bread, such as chocolate spread.
  4. There just wasn’t enough milk for me. Even on the weeks when I didn’t have cereal, I found that I was really short of milk. I found myself drinking more coffee too, sometimes instead of eating properly.

After the three weeks, I have now returned to eating what I would normally eat. I have loved cooking foods from scratch this week and have enjoyed eating lots of fresh vegetables and fish. I’m still not the healthiest eater in the world, but I have really appreciated much more variety and being able to buy the foods that i love.

I have also found that I gained weight. I think that this is down to the processed foods along with the snacking. I have heard in the past, people saying things like ” well they hardly look like their starving, they can obviously afford junk food”. I don’t think it’s quite as straight forward as that. The cheaper foods that people buy fill you up and will feed a family on a budget, but they are not necessarily the healthiest of choices. Fresh foods and meals cooked from scratch are so much healthier, but you have to be able to afford them, have somewhere to store them and have a little bit of cooking and nutritional knowledge to put a decent meal together. Unfortunately not everyone is able to do this. Don’t assume that someone has to look skinny to be hungry or malnourished.

People ask why the foodbank doesn’t provide more fresh foods. The main reason is around longevity and storage. There are some fresh foods available most weeks, as well as frozen meats and other frozen foods. On a week to week basis no one knows how many referrals there will be, how many emergencies, whether there will be single people or large families in need. The only way to provide food in these circumstances is to have a good stock of basic tinned, dried and long life foods to ensure that there is always enough to provide for people in need. This can then be boosted with any fresh foods that are available.

Another thing that has reared its head again this week, particularly on social media, are the comments around “well they can afford a TV/Laptop/ weed/cigarettes (etc), why should we be providing them with food?” There is no simple answer to this. Some people cannot manage money very well, some may not prioritise, some may be struggling all the time, some may just be struggling short term. None of us are perfect. Lots of us are lucky enough to afford the things that we like as well as the things that we need. Using the services of a foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. It is a necessity for some people. How it became a necessity is not really for me to judge.

It is a personal choice whether you choose to give to a food bank or not, just the same as it is to give to any charitable cause. I will continue to volunteer and help where I can. I hope that I am never in a position to need the foodbank, but no one knows what the future holds or what help we might need.

Whatever your views, just be kind, try not to judge others who need help and hope that others won’t judge if you ever need help.

My Food Bank Challenge (3)

Well the second week of the food bank challenge has proved more challenging than the first. I have definitely needed a few more tweaks and additions than I did last week. A couple of times I have had to add fresh vegetables to my processed meals as I have just found them so bland and I have also mixed fresh vegetables so much.

On Saturday evening I was treated to a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of prosecco, which was really nice, but I know that a lot of people who are using the services of a foodbank would not be able to afford to buy extra takeaways.

On Friday evening my daughter cooked tea for me and my husband, which consisted of fresh prawns, cream chees, chillies, linguini and garlic bread. Again this was so delicious, but definitely not on the list of items from the foodbank.

On the plus side, the spread that I had initially has lasted me for the two weeks and I still have some left. I have not drink a full jar of coffee or used a full jar of chocolate spread. I also still have bread left as I am running out of ideas of what to put on or in my bread and there are only so many beans and spaghetti that one person can eat in a week. I have not used any of the sugar at all, as I do not have any in my tea or coffee.

Milk has been an issue again and I definitely cannot manage with only one litre of milk per week. Even though I have had porridge made with water this week, I still have not had enough milk.

I am definitely eating too many carbs and I find that I am eating more calories than usual, but it is not keeping me as full for as long, which means I seem to be snacking more often, which is not really a good habit to get into.

This week at the food bank we had eggs and cheese, which is really good news for me as it means that I can up my protein intake and also add a little more variety to my meals. It also gives me an extra choice of something to put on or in my bread.

Here’s to week Three!

My Foodbank Challenge (2)

At the end of the first week of my foodbank challenge, I have to say it has been an interesting week as far as food is concerned. I’ve managed quite well with the food that I would have been allocated, but in all honesty, most of it is food that I would not normally eat.

That’s not in anyway a criticism of the foodbank, as the food it provides has to have a long shelf life and be fairly straight forward to cook, with the minimal amount of preparation.

I started the challenge on Saturday, with cereal and milk for breakfast. I soon realised that I could only have a small amount of milk on the cereal if I was going to have enough for the rest of the week. Consequently the cereal was pretty dry (either that or I normally have an unusually large amount of milk), but I managed to eek out the milk for cereal all week.

I did feel constantly hungry the first day, but I’m not sure if this was all in the mind. I think that I was fairly strict with the amount of food for the first few days, as I was worried that there would not be enough food for the rest of the week.

I have found that a lot of the processed food has very little texture to it and also left me with quite a bit of indigestion. Some days I wasn’t sure which foods to put together to make a meal, but it definitely helped having a small amount of fresh food to add to the tinned food during the week. I had tinned chilli with potato wedges, made from a fresh potato. I also had a jacket potato one day with a tine of beans and some grated cheese. My pasta sauce was mixed with pasta, a tin of sweetcorn and a tin of mushrooms and a sprinkle of cheese on the top. This made enough for two days.

I had super noodles which I really didn’t like. Tinned rice pudding had, for me, the most awful taste and texture, so I’m not sure that I’ll be having that again. I also ate more bread than I would in a normal week as it helped to fill me up.

I didn’t use any sugar at all, as I don’t have this in tea or coffee. I didn’t have any coffee at home, as I didn’t have enough milk and I can’t drink it black. I had herbal or fruit teas, again because I can’t drink normal tea black.

I did have one cheat this week and that was on Thursday when it was my mum’s 85th Birthday. I took her out for lunch, which I appreciate I would not have been able to do if I had been relying on the food bank, but as there are no other celebrations at the moment, it did not seem fair to not treat my mum on her birthday.

I’m really missing freshly cooked food and a wider variety of foods. It hasn’t probably been great for me eating so much processed food, but not snacking on sweets, biscuits etc during the day has probably been good for me. I am definitely a grazer so it’s been hard for me not just being able to grab what I want when I want.

So now I’m all ready for week 2!

My Foodbank Challenge

There has been so much controversy and discussion over the last few weeks around foodbanks, free school meals, Covid Assistance etc. In March I started volunteering at my local foodbank two afternoons a week. I really enjoy being around other people and it also made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile.

There are so many people in need of assistance these days and thee foodbank provides a really good service to people who need it. People can end up needing help from a foodbank or similar service for all sorts of reasons. It may be that their personal circumstances have changed leaving them struggling financially. They may have difficulty with mental health issues, disability or addiction. This year has been particularly bad, with people losing their jobs or having lower incomes due to furlough .

I have met people who have been embarrassed to find themselves at a foodbank for the first time in their lives and apologising for needing assistance. I have met young people who find themselves living alone without any support from their families and finding it impossible to keep to any sort of plan or budget. I have put food parcels together for people fleeing domestic violence who are living in hotel rooms.

Yes there will be those that know how to play the system and take advantage. There are those who may not prioritise food for their families. There are those that may have come too reliant on assistance and may not ever be able to mange on their own.

Whatever the reason being someone needing this type of assistance, I don’t feel I am in any position to judge.

Never Gone To Bed Hungry

I realise that I am in a very privileged position having never really known hunger. As a child, our family weren’t particularly well off, but we always had food on the table. Dad would hand over his wage to my mum each week and she had a tin with slots in for all the different bills. We always had money for food. My mum tells me that there was a short period of time when my brothers had free school meals when my dad was off work, but I certainly can’t remember this. The only time we ever went to bed hungry was if you had been naughty and got sent to bed without supper, although my brother informed me recently that he kept a stash of food in his room just for those particular moments!

I also know that my children have never known real hunger. They have had three square meals a day throughout their lives. Even after my eldest daughter left home for university, she always knew that we would help her out with either money or a few bags of food when she came to visit.

I know that I over eat. My meals are generally healthy but I top that up on a far too regular basis with sweets, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and baked goods. I also buy too much food, waste too much food and have the privilege of being picky about which brands I choose.

So What’s The Challenge?

At the foodbank, we have sometimes discussed whether we would manage on the food that the service users receive. The food is mostly tinned, dried or long shelf life. It is the staple things that most people have in their store cupboards. We also are really lucky that we receive donations of fresh food which allows us to give out fresh food alongside the staples. The food is expected to last for a week.

So I have decided to set myself a challenge of living for a month on the food that I would receive if I relied on a food bank. I’ve not done this to prove that it can be done, but to understand the harsh realities of people who are really struggling to make ends meet.

Armed with the standard list, I went to the supermarket today and bought the items (thought I’d better clarify that I didn’t take them from the foodbank!) Luckily today in the foodbank we also had a few fresh items, so I added those to my list too, to give a true reflection of what I would have received had I needed a food parcel today. My challenge will start tomorrow morning and the food should last me for a week. I am hoping to continue the challenge for four weeks.

I will update you next week on how I have got on. I will be honest if I have waivered, cheated or just given in altogether.

The whole point of this is to raise awareness around food poverty and the work of foodbanks and other similar services. I want people to think about the amount of money they spend on food and to count their blessings that they don’t have to wonder where their next meal is coming from.

I would also like you to consider making a donation to your local foodbank. You can donate food, toiletries, cleaning products, feminine hygiene products or cold hard cash. If you’re unsure what to donate, contact your local food bank and ask them what they need.

As one of my daughter’s friends posted on twitter recently : “You’re a lot closer to having to use food banks than you are to doing your weekly shopping at Harrods”

A Cornwall Holiday (4)

I am told that no holiday is complete without a boat trip, so today we decided to take the Enterprise Boat Trip from Trelissick to Falmouth. From the cottage there is a woodland walk which takes you to the landing at Trelissick, where the boats run to Falmouth. We set off in plenty of time, as we did not know how long it would take us and we also intended to have some lunch at the café at the National Trust Gardens at Trelissick.

We arrived at the gardens at around 11-30, but they were closed. Online it showed that they were open and that you had to pre book online, but it was all locked up. Pretty disappointing really, especially as we had just missed a boat at 11-15am and the next one was at 1pm.

We walked down to where the car ferry was running and watched that for a little while. Luckily we had a few snacks and a flask with us so we passed the time until the next boat was due.

The boat trip itself is run by Enterprise Boats. There were only a few passengers, but we chose to sit outside as we wanted to see the scenery. It was very bracing! There was a small amount of commentary at the beginning and the end, but for the rest of the journey (45 minutes in all), you are left just to enjoy the scenery.

We got off the boat at Falmouth and headed straight for lunch at a tea rooms that had been recommended to us.

Dolly’s Tea Room – Falmouth

This had been recommended to us in the information that came with the house we were staying in. It is a very quirky tea room, which doubles us as a wine and gin bar on an evening.

On arrival we went up the stairs and there was a sign asking us to sanitise our hands and ring the bell so that we could be shown to a table. We sat in a window seat. the tea rooms themselves are in a big Georgian building which is decorated in an eclectic mix of wallpaper, with various wall hangings, informative and amusing blackboards.

We ordered sandwiches and I had homemade soup with a chees scone. The food came quickly and was presented in a lovely array of mismatched china crockery, all adding to the quirky atmosphere. The food was really good and the staff were really pleasant.

We then had a short walk around Falmouth, purchasing big pasties to take back to the house for tea and then boarded the boat back to Trelissick. The woodland walk was shorter on the way back (had taken a few wrong turns on the way there) and we were soon back at the cottage.

The fire pit was lit and we warmed up the pasties and peas, taking them down to the fire pit and once again enjoying a lovely relaxing evening. Afterwards we went inside and enjoyed a few drinks whilst playing cards.

Everyone’s Heading To St Ives

The following day we decided to drive to St Ives, mainly for cream teas in a café there that was described as having the best cream teas. St Ives was unbelievably busy considering it was the last week in September. We parked in the overflow car park and headed straight to the recommended tea shop.

Olives Cafe – St Ives

We arrived at the café, but it was busy both inside and out. We were told that a table would be about 20 minutes and we opted to wait as the reviews of the café had been so good. After about 15 minutes we were told that we could have a table and we ordered our cream teas. There was a choice of scones all of which were delicious and large. The tea came in a nice big pot, so you could get several cups. The food was so appealing when it came that we were so busy digging in that we forgot to take photos, but take my word for it, it was definitely worth the wait.

After our cream teas we walked through the little streets of St Ives looking in some of the shops, but it was so busy, it was hard to keep your distance from other people and because of this, not really a pleasant experience. It’s great that the area is having lots of visitors, but difficult in the small towns to make it feel safe.

We walked up the very steep hill back to the car and decided to go for a drive to find somewhere a little quieter, when we came across a little gem.

Penwith Pitch And Putt

On the drive back we spotted a sign for the pitch and putt at St Erth. What a brilliant little place this is. It has a 12 hole pitch and putt, a crazy golf and a football golf. We chose to play pitch and putt, which we haven’t done for years. It’s a lovely course, well set out, clean and well looked after. We had a really good laugh and managed to get all the way round without losing any of the balls, although we had to dig a couple out of the little streams that were running through the course.

Afterwards we went for a coffee in the little café and had just got inside when it started to pour down with rain, Luckily it was a quick but heavy shower and it had cleared up by the time we had finished our drinks, ready to head back to the cottage after another lovely day in Cornwall.

A Cornwall Holiday (3)

Another beautiful sunny day again in Cornwall. Our plans were to go and enjoy a day at the beach and hopefully for me to be able to swim in the sea.

Porth Beach

We initially intended to go to Watergate Bay, but on our way came across the very beautiful Porth Beach. The beach is fairly narrow, but the tide goes out a long way, leaving a long stretch of really flat sand. A stream runs into it from one side. There are tiny coves and bays all the way down, allowing people to sit in what appears to be their own little area. It gives protection from the breeze(not that there was much breeze today) and also allows families to contain small children in a smaller area on a large expanse of beach.

We settled on the beach with our chairs, drinks and snacks. It was really hot and sunny just like a summer’s day. I was going to wait for the tide to come in a bit before going for a swim, but having looked at the tide times, realised it was still going out and low tide wasn’t until 4pm!

I made my way down the long stretch of sand to the sea. The lifeguards were there and there was only a small area between the flags that was safe to swim in. I headed into the extremely cold water, but once you were in, it was a great feeling and your body soon adjusted to the temperature. It was hard to swim in as it was really shallow for quite a way out, however there were some enormous waves which allowed you to swim with them as they came into shore.

It was a really great feeling and I spent quite a bit of time in the sea and went back in for another dip later on, even persuading my husband to join me.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and soaking up the sun, before heading back to the cottage

Pizzas and an Open Fire

Ruan Dinas, where we are staying has it’s own jetty, which has a fire pit. In the evening we cooked pizzas in the cottage, made up gin and prosecco cocktails, then made our way across to the jetty(literally 10 seconds from the house). It was dusk and it was so relaxing and enjoyable to sit by the open fire, drinking eating and laughing. We even did the obligatory toasting of marshmallows on sticks over the flames.

As it got dark and the tide was coming in we went back up to the house and played cards for the rest of the evening, whilst having a few drinks and snacks and proper belly laughs.

A Cornwall Holiday (2)

We awoke to glorious sunshine on the first full day at the cottage. Sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee we sat enjoying the calm and tranquillity. Other than the squirrels through the trees and the various birdsong, it was silent and so peaceful. The sun was shining over the river, with just a couple of boats sitting in the water, making it look like a true picture postcard.

We sat for a while before having breakfast and then set off to go to the local garden centre, as one of the locals had told us that they did fishing tackle, which you just have to have when you’re so near the water.

Carnon Downs Garden Centre was a really enjoyable place to look round. We purchased fishing gear and a very exciting windy crabbing line (a step up from winding string with a hook round a piece of wood). We had lovely sandwiches in the cafe which had a gorgeous view out of the large windows.

We then set off into Truro in search of wet suits as we were planning to swim and hopefully paddle board. Unfortunately Truro was completely devoid of wetsuits and we came back empty handed.

Back at the cottage, we sat outside for a while, as the tide was completely out and we couldn’t fish or swim until it came back in. Later fishing rods and crabbing lines in hand we went down to the quay (literally a 30 second walk from the cottage). It took about 5 seconds to catch a crab with a cheap piece of bacon on the crabbing line and a bucket full within about half an hour. The fish however, were not for catching.

I managed to get into the river and swim (I had bought a wet suit before I went). I have had open water swimming on my bucket list for some time, and I was not disappointed. After the initial entry into the water, which takes your breath away, it is really invigorating and you truly do feel alive. The only thing was, I felt quite constricted in the wet suit, so next time I will give it a go in just my swimming costume.

St Michaels Mount

The following day we made the journey to the lovely area Marazion, in order to walk across the causeway to St Michael’s Mount. Unfortunately we could only get tickets to the island and gardens and not to the castle itself. This was to limit the number of people on the island at any one time, which is understandable at the moment. You can only go to the island if you have a ticket for the castle or gardens.

It was another sunny, warm day. We parked near to the beach and the then walked over the stone causeway to St Michaels Mount. The view of the castle from the shore is breath taking. The causeway is a nice walk and the tide was still going out, leaving the rock pools at the side of the path which are always full of interesting wildlife.

Once of the island, there was a one way system in place and we walked round to the lawned area where we bought sandwiches and coffee (and cakes of course) then sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine and the spectacular views looking back towards the mainland.

We then went to the gardens at our allotted time and walked through the terraces. There were some stunning flowers and plants and some huge succulents. We really enjoyed walking around in the sunshine.

After this we had a quick stop in the gift shop before walking back across the causeway and to the car.

Still in search of wetsuits, we decided to have a drive to Penzance to see if we could find any there. We parked at the harbour and walked into the Town Centre, but again no wetsuits to be found ( unless you want to spend £500). I’m not sure what else there is in Penzance itself, but I have to say I was a little disappointed (Sorry Penzance) I think I expected something a bit more quaint and piratey and maybe a police man on the corner bemoaning his lot.

A Cornwall Holiday (1)

After all the ups and downs of the last few months and lots of “will we, won’t we” in relation to holiday bookings, we finally had our foreign holidays cancelled for this year (I thought I would be disappointed, but actually quite relieved). We were fully refunded for all of them, so a few weeks ago decided to book something in the UK.

We decided to book a week in a cottage in Cornwall. Pretty straight forward you would think, but not as easy as it seems. After lots of searching on the internet, most places being fully booked, we finally managed to find what looked like a lovely cottage in Coombe, near Truro.

An Overnight Stay In Bristol

As it is such a long drive from Yorkshire to Truro we decided that we would have an overnight stay in Bristol to break up the journey (in truth it was also because I had a voucher for a free overnight stay at any Village Hotel and Being a true Yorkshire girl, I didn’t want to waste it!).

One of the lovely things about the journey was that my husband had put some CD’s in the car just in case we got bored with listening to the radio. One of the CD’s was one that had been recorded by our daughter. It just said “The Jennings Family Favourite Music” on the front. It had so many great tracks on there that were linked to lots of events and memories over the years. We had a really good sing along and also reminisced about why each particular track was on the CD. Neither of us could remember when she had made it, but it was definitely a good way to pass some time on a long journey.

We arrived at the Hotel at about 4pm. The hotel itself is very modern and quite Hi Tech, well especially for us over 50’s. The room was clean and had a huge bed. Other than wearing masks in whilst moving about in the hotel and being unable to get in the lift with anyone else, it was very much business as usual. We had a table booked for the evening, so decided to have a quick coffee before getting changed and going for food. However, it was a lovely sunny afternoon and after sitting outside in the sun for a while, decided to order from drinks from the bar. Needless to say we never got changed before our meal, as it was just so lovely to be sat in the sun enjoying a drink and a chat.

The following morning I got up early and went for a swim in the pool before breakfast. I was in the pool on my own for the first 15 minutes or so which was lovely. A couple of other people got in soon after, but I was able to enjoy a nice peaceful swim to start the day.

We then went for breakfast, which was slightly different due to the current restrictions in place, so there was no ” help yourself”, everything was served to you. This didn’t alter the enjoyment and all in all it had been a relaxing start to the holidays (A bit like staying in the hotel at the airport the night before you fly)

An Afternoon In Polperro

As we couldn’t get into our accommodation until 5pm, we made a stop at Polperro along the way. This is somewhere I had not been before on my holidays to Cornwall. It is a picturesque fishing village, very quaint and pretty. We had a walk through the village and then stopped for lunch at the museum café. The museum itself wasn’t open, but the café was serving food outside and as it was another beautiful day, we sat overlooking the harbour eating delicious sandwiches stuffed with fresh crab.

We then had another walk through the rest of the village, then onto the beach and across the rock pools. By the time we had been to the supermarket for supplies, before going to the cottage.

Ruan Dinas

The cottage we had booked is called Ruan Dinas and is situated at Combe near Truro. We followed the directions given by the owners of the cottage, which took us down a small track. There were a few hairy moments or two along the way, but at the bottom of the track was a beautiful bungalow with an amazing view of the river.

Once inside we were impressed with the open plan layout, well equipped kitchen and comfortable seating. The bedrooms are large and lots of storage (always pack too much stuff!). We unpacked and had a coffee before walking down to the waters edge. It was high tide and there were young people swimming in the river, as well as people kayaking and fishing. It was such a beautiful evening and it really felt like I was on holiday at last.

We had a hearty home cooked tea, including a couple of glasses of wine and pudding and custard. The ginger sponge pudding had been made by my friend, who had been to the eye hospital for an examination and had to wear sunglasses whilst making it as her pupils were so dilated. As you can imagine, she got a lot of sympathy and from then on the pudding was renamed “one-eyed ginger sponge”.

It’s The Little Things

Time is really marching on this year and as we are still managing the effects of Covid 19, it has been quite hard to find things to write about. However, I decided to look at the positives and concentrate on the little things that have become more important over the last few months.

Celebrating A Milestone

At the end of July, it was my youngest daughters 21st Birthday. In the weeks leading up to it, the “lockdown” situation was altering on a weekly basis, so we had to adjust our plans accordingly. Luckily on the weekend of her birthday, the weather was fine and warm and we were able to have some family and friends over to celebrate her birthday.

The planning was very different to a normal party, with the shopping list including masks, antibacterial spray and wipes, as well as hand gel. We managed to stagger the guests so that there weren’t too many people at the house at one and as the weather was good we were able to keep people socially distanced in the garden.

I was so glad that we were able to do this and at times it was a little emotional, seeing people that we had not seen in person since March.

Walking In Burnsall And Trollers Gill

One of the things that I had missed whilst we were restricted with mixing with others, was going out for a walk with friends. Again at the end of July, whilst we still had a little more freedom, we went for a walk with friends.

We started at Burnsall which is a lovely area of the Yorkshire Dales. The walk takes you down by the river and it was lovely to see families out in the fresh air, playing on the fields and in the river. It was a dull day, but the weather forecast promised that the showers would stop by around 11am. Unfortunately, true to form, this was not quite right and for the first hour or so we had heavy showers and got absolutely drenched.

Our spirits weren’t dampened and we carried on walking. I think we were just relieved to be out in the fresh air and having a good laugh whilst we walked. eventually, the sun came out and we dried out and remained dry for the rest of the day.

After walking along the pretty river, you then come to more open land and then eventually walk up Trollers Gill, which is a limestone gorge. It is quite rocky and due to the rain, it was also quite slippery. Once at the top, you then follow the paths and farm tracks back into Burnsall.

We walked nine miles in all and then treated ourselves to coffee and cake at the café. This si one of my favourite walks, as the changes in scenery make it really interesting and there si so much to look at. It is also a good length and challenging enough, but not exhausting.

All in all it was a great day out, a beautiful walk and a chance to relax and enjoy being out in the open air, having a laugh with good friends.

Welcome Back Theatre..

Last week I travelled to London to go to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre with my eldest daughter. I can’t explain how excited we were to finally be able to go and see a live theatre performance after such a long time. I have never been to this theatre before and it was a really great experience. The seating was set up so that you were not sat near other people, vastly reducing the capacity. We also wore a mask throughout the performance, but once the show started, it was easy to forget.

The show was Jesus Christ Superstar, which was performed socially distanced. It was amazing to see how the production had been adapted to accommodate the measures, without affecting the emotions and the feel of the story. Before the show started it had been raining and the staff did a stellar job of sweeping the water off the stage to make it safe. The announcement “Welcome back to theatre”, elicited a big cheer from the audience.

There was also a break after the first three songs, as it was raining again and the stage needed to be cleared of water. Luckily, once it was up and running again, it stayed dry and warm and the performance was able to continue without another break.

The voices of the whole cast were outstanding. The movement and dance on the stage was amazing . As soon as the first notes were played I felt really emotional and it was clear that most of the people in the audience were really moved by being back at a live performance. It was one of the best productions I have seen.

I, like many other people have really missed live theatre and can’t wait for some measures to be put into place so that performances can begin again. The industry at the moment is devastated and the loss of jobs and income for so many people is really worrying.

If you’re not a fan of theatre, it might be hard to understand how important it is, but for me it is the one place that takes me away from everything else in life. Whether I come out wanting to sing and dance, or crying my eyes out, I always feel so much better. Over the years it has been so good for my mental wellbeing and has been something to look forward to after a hard week.

Sarah, My Friend

Yesterday I sadly said goodbye to my lovely friend Sarah, who lost her fight with breast cancer. Throughout her illness Sarah remained positive, determined to live her life to the full, provide for her family and to have no regrets. She was a shining example to all those who knew her and will be missed by so many people. So this is my tribute to Sarah, an amazingly beautiful and brave friend.

When colleagues become friends

Sarah and I had been colleagues for some time, working within the same department, never working on the same team, but passing the time of day, chatting whilst we worked and occasionally working on an enquiry together.

Then, a supervisor made a decision that would change both our lives forever. The teams were shuffled around and Sarah and I began working together on a day to day basis. We were both a bit put out at first, not because we didn’t like each other, or couldn’t work together, but because we were both quite happy on our own teams, we had our own friends, but we decided to make the best of it and crack on with our work.

I am eternally grateful for that decision. Working with Sarah brought us closer and we soon realised that we had quite a lot of things in common, crafting, reading, musicals travelling, amongst other things, but we also had the same ethics. We both valued family life, knew how important our friends were and were both determined in our work to provide the best service that we possibly could to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

When the teams were re-shuffled, Sarah and I continued to be firm friends both in and out of work. We were able to talk about anything, had some amazing experiences and supported each other through some really difficult times.

A shock diagnosis

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was called for an early mammogram due to a trial in the local health authority. She had no symptoms at all, but it was discovered that her cancer was already well developed and she was swiftly taken into hospital for a mastectomy, followed by gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. Although Sarah knew that her cancer was incurable, she certainly didn’t take that lying down. She did this without complaining, always smiling and having a firm belief that when one treatment wasn’t working, there would be another one that would.

She was determined to live her life to the full and no matter how ill she was she always had time for her family and friends. She cared for both her girls and her mum, despite being exhausted some days. She told me often that she was not afraid of dying, but was always concerned about the effect that her death would have on other people. She was reluctant to let people know when she was suffering and always had a goal to work towards.

Sometimes there were tears, when she was clearly worried, particularly in relation to her two daughters, but generally when you asked her how she was she would say that she was doing alright.

The hardest time was a few weeks ago, when her treatment was stopped and she knew that there was nothing else that could be done. She was initially rocked by the news, but again set about making plans for her family, dealing with unfinished business and trying to make things as easy as she could for those around her.

Sarah never stopped fighting and was determined to keep active for as long as possible and it was only in the last few days of her life that she was unable to do this. She was able to be cared for at home and spend the time that she had left with her family and close friends. I feel blessed to have been able to spend time with her, not only in the last few weeks, but over the last few years. I am also really grateful to her family for allowing me to be there and to the other friends who have given unending support.

A lesson in living a good life

I have learned a lot from being friends with Sarah. Mostly that you should live a good life, not waste time complaining about the things that life throws at you, but to accept those things and do all the things you want to do anyway.

It is true that none of us know how long we have left with our family and friends. Sarah taught me that it’s important to make each moment count. Take pleasure in the little things. Make goals for your life, no matter how small they are. Don’t let small things grow into big problems and don’t put off things that you really want to do. Try not to bear a grudge and remember that a small  kindness can be a huge thing to someone else.

I am definitely a better person for knowing Sarah and I hope that some of her kindness and selflessness has rubbed off on me.

Long lasting memories

I didn’t want to end this blog on a sad note as Sarah would definitely not approve of that. Everyone that knew her will have their own memories, from nights out, lunches at the Ivy, theatre trips, Christmas do’s and many other celebrations. There are so many memories, some of which I talked about in my previous blogs,  but here are just a couple of my favourites

Sarah wanted to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and talked myself and Sharon into taking part in the moonwalk. This was a 26 mile walk, through London, in the middle of the night, wearing a decorated bra. This was a tough but amazing experience. Sarah encouraged us around the whole 26 miles, never losing her enthusiasm. When we reached the finishing line the following morning, Sarah was the only one out of all three of us that was still able to walk around. It was through this experience on the night and the training before hand that I got to know Sharon and we have been able to support each other and I hope we will continue to do so in the future.

In February this year Sarah and I went on an overnight stay to a spa. We had a lovely relaxing couple of days in some very luxurious surroundings. We were able to spend some quality time together, talked, laughed and cried. As Sarah was feeling quite tired at this stage, we weren’t exactly party animals and ended up tucked up in bed at 9pm, with a bottle of prosecco, watching Love Island.

 

I know that it will be hard over the coming weeks,  months  and years as we will all miss Sarah so much, but I will do my best to remember the good times, to focus on the laughter rather than the tears and to live the best life that I can.

Sleep well Sarah you’ve earned your rest.

I will look for you in the colours of the rainbow, the brightest star and the prettiest snowflakes.