Thursday, 31 March 2016

Endings and Beginnings

My life often goes on much the same for long periods, then a number of big changes happen within a short space of time. This month has been one of those times of change, a month of endings and beginnings.

On March 10th my mother died. She would have been ninety next year and had become increasingly frail and disabled. Her walking was very limited and she was only able to go out in a wheelchair, her memory was poor, and she was physically tired. A week before her death she was hit by a stomach bug which left her extremely weak. She was very clear that she did not want to go to hospital and my brother and I agreed she was better at home where she was comfortable and where we were able to look after her. For a few days she seemed to improve a little each day. On the night before her death she became much worse. The on-call doctor visited, diagnosed a chest infection and confirmed what we already knew, which was that she was not going to survive it. He fully supported our decision to honour her wishes and keep her at home. She died less than three hours later, peacefully and without pain in her own bed, with my brother and I each holding one of her hands. During her last few days all three of her grandchildren had been able to visit her, and all her affairs were in order. While I am sad that she is gone, there is also great comfort in her natural and easy death. She was ready to go, her body was done struggling with years of arthritic pain, and as a lifelong committed Christian she was, I am sure, ready to meet the God she had served faithfully for so many years. Along with some of the many people whose lives she had touched, we said goodbye to her at an Easter funeral which we hope was a fitting reflection of her life and the faith that sustained her,

This month has also marked the end of four years in which I have been juggling full time work (or for the last three months almost full time) with family life. From the beginning of April I will only be working two days a week. M will also be working part time from home and we will be moving into a new phase of life, where for the first time in over twenty years we will have significant chunks of time when neither of us will be doing either paid work or childcare. I feel too young to call it "semi-retirement", but in reality that is what it will be. This is the first of the new beginnings. We have various plans, the most important of which in the short term is to tackle the clutter and domestic disarray that has accumulated over the past years of busy-ness.

There have also been new beginnings for our two older daughters. Senior daughter started a new job in February and has started the process of buying her own house using the government's help-to-buy scheme for newly built properties. Or in this case a not-yet-built property - at the last check it was three bricks high! She is hoping it will be finished and ready to move in by the autumn. Our middle daughter failed her driving test at her first attempt at the beginning of the month, then took it for a second time two weeks later and sailed through with an hour of faultless driving. In the UK the driving test can be failed either by making one major mistake, or by accumulating too many small errors, known as "minors". She passed with no minors, which is quite a feat - she has no idea how she managed it! She now has the use of the smaller of our two cars (needed much less now that M has no commute and mine is much reduced), and is utterly joyous that she does not have to rely on scrounging lifts and overcrowded buses to get where she needs to go.

And so life changes. Time to take a deep breath and plunge into the next stage.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A Scandinavian Interlude

The last couple of weeks have rather run away with me so I am behindhand with posting about the short trip we took during half term. One of the budget airlines had a sale on flights during the winter and we managed to book flights to Copenhagen for £50 - that was the total return cost for two adults and one child, which is just ridiculously cheap! We left home early on the Friday morning and got home again late on Saturday, giving us nearly two full days in Denmark. For all three of us it was our first ever trip to Scandinavia.

As we were travelling with a nine-year old we did child friendly things, visiting the zoo, the aquarium, and Experimentarium City, a "hands-on" science activity place (museum? centre? I really don't know what would be the right word!). The weather wasn't great. It was mostly dry on the Friday, but Saturday threw sleet, rain and wind at us. As a result we did not see a great deal of the city as we dashed head down from bus to metro (or in one case, ferry). I would love to go back and explore in the spring or summer when the weather is better. Ridiculously, the flight times and prices mean it would even be feasible to go for a day trip.

First stop the Zoo. The highlight for all of us was the polar bear in the Arctic zone. I'm sure he appreciated the weather, but I'm not sure the same was true of the flamingos, who looked rather out of their element although their colour contrasted nicely with the snow on the ground.

Copenhagen has lots of painted buildings. Being Scandinavia, the streets were all very neat and clean, as was the metro which was very efficient and appeared to run on a trust system with no ticket barriers, just points at which passengers could scan tickets or passes.

I loved these coloured bird boxes which brightened up the street. I noticed some more near a canal the next day, so wonder if they were an art project?

We had a lot of fun at Experimentarium City where there was a section with eight activities to take part in as a family team. Here is junior daughter on the hamster wheel.

Copenhagen has a number of canals - not quite Venice or Amsterdam, but definitely plenty of water. We took a short trip on a water bus across to Experimentarium City at Christianshavn, but if we had more time (and better weather) I would have liked to take a boat tour of the canals.

I loved this little painted boat.

A rather grey and rainy Nyhavn, one of the best known areas of Copenhagen  - in better weather this would be a great place to sit outside a cafe or bar with a drink. It would also be packed with tourists, so I suppose we at least avoided the crowds!