Memories of space travel

Today is the anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon.  Radio 4 have done an interesting piece looking at it from the view of women involved, Buzz Aldrin’s wife and the one woman who was in the launch control.  It’s good to hear unusual memories of a well-known event.

Which led to my own memories of visiting the tourist attraction of Kennedy Space Centre, my favourite Orlando attraction.  In a coincidence, yesterday I came across photos of our last trip there in 2007 – the only one we have made with the offspring.  In the photo, one of them is touching a piece of moonstone with a very funny look of “oh hurry up and take the photo” look on his face. 

The visits to a tourist attraction were the first thing to come to mind, but then I remembered that I have also seen a shuttle launch!  We watched the launch of the shuttle Discovery along with the oldest person in space, Senator John Glenn, who, aged 77, was part of the crew as payload specialist looking at the effects of aging.  

I can’t remember where we stayed or how long before or after the launch we were on the coast, but I remember the day being long, there being a lot of waiting.  This morning’s research tells me that the launch was quite late in the day, my memory does not give me any of those details.  I also discover it was 29 October 1998.  

It was one of a series of amazing experiences in the 90s for me, and I have loved dragging those memories up this morning.  The launch was tear-inducingly awe-inspiring.  Obviously, we were miles away – the shuttle on its launchpad was a dot on the horizon. And then the launch rockets fired. I still remember the relief that we were miles away from the incredible noise and heat.

As I get older myself I marvel more and more at a 77 year old volunteering to go on such a trip, but even in 1998, in my mid-twenties, the thought of someone revisiting his earlier life and having this adventure in his eighth decade on the planet was so impressive.  I am not great at keeping mementoes, but I did keep my ‘Godspeed John Glenn’ t-shirt for decades (that is my equivalent of treasuring it for a lifetime!).  I still have a feeling of total awe that humans are able to travel into space at all, and the feat of engineering that gets them there is astounding, to say nothing of the humans who actually go into space.  

This is a rambling journey through memories of an event decades ago, but one that has me marvelling at how much my life has contained.  It’s good to take the time to think back and reflect.

Mornings are changing

Since September 2014 my morning routine has been shaped by school timetables and the need to support the offspring to be somewhere at a certain time.  Over the past few years, the mornings have been marked by a family walk at a specific time as we shared some of the morning dog walk/run route with the teens walking to their bus.  It has been the perfect shape for my morning; plenty of time for coffee, writing blogs, preparing for work, then a specific time to get outside for exercise.  

I am good at planning, I am very aware of what is working well for me and what I would like to achieve in my mornings.  Nevertheless, it feels a bit difficult this morning.  That’s it, no more school in the family.  Work will start in September, but that is 11 weeks away and I cannot even begin to guess what that routine will look like, so I am focussing on this chapter.

So far it feels a bit the same as usual I have to say.  Except there is no teenager to drag out of bed – those with a knowledge of teens will know their sleep is heavy and it can take a while to rouse them and check they did get out of bed.  So that is an extra 5 minutes of morning gained so far.  

I am determined to keep to the usual time of blog writing, but the moment it’s over, I have to face the lack of routine, so I am extending it by fetching another coffee, following an email link down a rabbit hole.  I have discovered the husband tidying up the “Tupperware” cupboard – that is obviously what has filled the lunch-making void for him. 

I am suspecting a joint reluctance to make ourselves go out for a run.  The family walk made us leave the house, now we need to make ourselves. And we need to relish this new chapter with all its opportunities and its space to be filled with new ventures.

So I’m done – time to shape those new venture.

Learning all my life

I am thoroughly enjoying a new role in Scouts as a training advisor.  I am supporting volunteers in reflecting on and increasing their skills.  Scouts courses are really high quality and informative, either online or in a course.

You combine the course content and the experience of others around you and what you already know and put it all into action.  Learning by doing feels like a great way to learn something like building rafts, map reading, identifying trees.  

I want to make sure that volunteers know that they can access all of this great training.  For any of us, taking some time to think about what skills we have and how they can be transferred, or reflecting on what we would like to learn next and working out how to go about it, is not something we do easily, it never feels like a priority.  I want to encourage people to spend just a few minutes checking what they are learning, and what they want to learn next and to show them just how very skilled they are.  Believe me, Scout volunteers are hugely skilled – amazing, inspiring people.

Learning has always been a priority for me, but more so as I get older.  I get a real buzz from learning something new, it was why I volunteered with Scouts in the first place.  It’s uplifting to be involved in an organisation that sees learning new skills as a lifelong passion for all.  The more we can create an atmosphere where people enjoy learning for the sake of acquiring skills for life and increasing their own confidence and resilience, rather than to acquire a paper qualification, the better.  And demonstrating that to the children in our local communities will reap rewards far into the future.

The joys of the city.

I know I write about this a lot, but living in Birmingham is a real joy for us as a family.  There is of course a lot of bad about the city, if I may be political (I don’t need your permission actually dear reader), a policy of austerity shows its effects on a population of a million fairly dramatically. There is a lot of good though. Green spaces, cultural events, community organisations.

All of that came together yesterday in a lovely, if under-publicised, Song Festival, held at the Birmingham University Green Heart – an outdoor amphitheatre which has just been created.  Choirs from all over the Midlands were invited to come along and sing with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Halsey and the mesmerising Music Director of the CBSO, MirgaGražinytė-Tyla.  To be conducted by world-renowned conductors and accompanied by an internationally acclaimed orchestra is one of those opportunities that living in a city offers.  

We were able to cycle to the venue, off road pretty much all the way, surrounded by green and birdsong. The rain stopped long enough that it was a pleasant, although chilly, evening.  Sitting outside surrounded by modern and Victorian architecture and listening to beautiful varied music and witnessing the joy of hundreds of people singing for pleasure together was a beautiful way to end a Sunday.  

Refinding theatre

I enjoy going to the theatre.  I love the whole magic of a story coming to life in front of a live audience.  I find the relationship between actors on a stage and me as an observer tantalising.  I marvel at the craft of voice and movement coming together.  The way a group of people use a physical set fascinates me.  I am intrigued by the lighting and the music and the sound and props. Everything about theatre I love. There are few shows that I don’t enjoy. I may not enjoy everything about it, but I can just about always find something to fascinate and intrigue.

So why have I not been to the theatre much recently?  Strangely it has been a reaction to the offspring growing up.  I had a project going to lots of Shakespeare plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford with the eldest offspring (it was supposed to be both, but the youngest rebelled very quickly).  When I say lots of Shakespeare plays, I mean them all – the RSC committed to putting them all on over the years.

We were doing well, missed a couple due to life circumstances, but had seen pretty much everything so far.  Then the eldest was due to leave home.  And something clicked in my brain.  My excitement at booking a whole season as soon as it was released disappeared.  I could not make myself book the winter season in advance, and then not even during the season.  The mailings and emails about the summer season were ignored. 

Friends have told me I have missed some good productions, but somehow the mojo has gone.  But last night reignited that a bit with a good production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at The Rep in Birmingham.  Theatre takes me out of myself, makes me look at a bigger picture, allows my brain to process life.   It also gives me a tiny teeny little window into what some women suffer from hugely – empty nest syndrome.  This is literally the only symptom of it I have experienced. 

So I am going to embrace this other, slightly random, lesson that theatre teaches and start booking some RSC tickets for when the offspring is home this summer. And get myself to The Rep more often – what a superb theatre that is.

It’s what we’ll remember…

Rewinding to the weekend before illness struck – we belatedly celebrated a teen’s birthday.  We moved the celebration to the Bank Holiday weekend due to exams falling on and the day after the birthday itself.  

We decided to go on a mini-road trip to the beach.  The coastline of the UK is one of my favourite things about this country.  Yet I choose to live about as far from it as I possibly can. No, I don’t quite understand that either, but nevertheless I love Birmingham.  And we proved we can have a day on the beach whenever we want.  

As we were travelling in convoy as a group aged from pre-teens to their 70s and two dogs, we decided to make life relatively easy and headed to Weston-super-Mare, as most of Birmingham does on these occasions

The journeys were smooth and involved various stops for various types of refreshment. Walkie talkies were used in the cars to keep up a fairly sustained level of family banter and earphones were used by those who did not join in.  The dogs were just content to be with their beloved humans and heading somewhere.  I love their trust of just being in the moment – they know they will be well and cared for, but have no idea what they will be doing.

The day had been planned with a longish dog walk on a nearby dog-friendly beach to start, followed by brunch in the dog-friendly café and then heading into Weston itself, which has reduced access for dogs on its beach.

We arrived at the dog-friendly beach in rain.  Not too heavy, so we set off anyway.  We totally didn’t see the signs warning about mud, so one person’s shoes got very muddy. About half way up the beach the rain changed from light to that horizontal yet fine rain that you get at the sea which soaks you, but you sort of don’t notice you are soaked until you realise that moving your body is much harder with the extra water logging effect.  So, we decided to head to the café.  Which was not yet open. So, we walked a bit more and then headed to the café which was adorned with a large notice saying no dogs allowed.  So much for the plans.

Back in the cars soaking wet and coffee much needed, we started part two of the plan and headed into the main resort.  Car heaters helped to dry us off, but first thing was to buy some dry trousers for those really struggling.  

Of course, the rain then stopped and we spent a lovely afternoon of lunch and coffees and ice cream and more beach walks and time in the pier fun fair.  Cafes accepted, indeed welcomed dogs, so we ate well and those of us not on the pier (which does not take dogs) were able to hide out with papers and drinks very easily.

We drove home in lovely sunshine and found dinner in a beautiful pub in Worcestershire.  Weston turned out to be very dog-friendly and – possibly due to the weather – not very crowded.

Reflecting back the day to the birthday boy I apologised for the morning plan which had been so wrong in the end.  He laughed and explained that that is what we will remember, we will only ever tell stories about getting wet and muddy and the café not allowing dogs, not the pleasant afternoon.

Indeed, just over a week later, I finished this piece which I had started several days ago.  And even this close to the event, I couldn’t think of much more to say about the afternoon, Reading the paper over a peppermint tea will probably not remain in my memory for long.  The walk along a beach in weather that was beyond inclement really will.

Here’s to the things that go wrong to enable the family stories. 

Counting the blessings after the curveball

I have half attempted blogging over the last few weeks, but have not managed to complete one; I had forgotten the cathartic benefits of writing stuff down and putting it “out there”. Today I need the catharsis.

Yesterday was one of those days that come out of the blue and knock you for six.  Thursday had been lovely, starting with a family run and ending with dinner with a friend and her group of friends who are very delightful and interesting and strong women.

Then it went downhill fast with the offspring waking with a very high fever.   Something made my maternal flags go up, so I sought medical advice.  All of a sudden we were on the way to A&E with a case of suspected sepsis or meningitis.  Neither were happening thank God. It was a long morning of tests and waiting for results, but the end result was that we were given the all clear for those nasties and sent home with a stash of antibiotics.

It was a shocking reminder that life can be fragile, things go wrong quickly and in a moment life changes forever.  Yesterday ended well, with offspring feeling better and the whole family at home.  Nevertheless the Mama-brain has spent many hours with the what-ifs, and processing the fact that I had forgotten about meningitis being a thing for teens, that I had started to think that those scary days of watching little ones be very poorly were behind me.  The scary days just involve someone much taller than me, but they’re no less scary it turns out.

I went to bed thankful for our NHS, for the friends that stayed by me via text all day, for the support of family, for having jobs that enable us to switch to a family focus with no notice (or in my case to work part-time). And most of all, that the offspring is getting better and those nasty illnesses were not a reality I am living with today.