February

February seems to have come and gone with the blink of an eye – so different to January, which always seems the longest month of the year after all the festivities.

We celebrated Rose’s birthday at the beginning of the month and had a lovely trip to London to visit her and David and go out for lunch. We ususally drive to her flat in London, which makes it easier for me with my breathing problems and definitely makes it easier when the weather is cold as my breathing suffers more in the cold. It had actually been snowing the day before and was perishing cold.

A few weeks ago we visited the gardens at Benington Lordship, they open them every year, as they have a fabulous display of snowdrops. It’s always something I look forward to, as the days start to become a little longer. The weather had begun to change. It felt quite mild and the sun was out. The snowdrops didn’t disappoint and looked so beautiful. It’s always very uplifting to see them and feels like the start of the gardening and flowering season, with the whole year still ahead of us, days becoming lighter and longer and the sense that everything is starting to come to life again in the garden.

We went away to Nottingham soon after for a lovely family wedding, Rob’s niece’s. It was a beautiful wedding and the weather became surprisingly even warmer. We’d hired a cottage for us all and had a fabulous time.

Now we’ve reached the end of the month nearly and the weather has become even warmer, reaching up to 20 degrees in some places. Rob has actually mowed the lawn for the first time ever in February and the crocuses and daffodils are out in full bloom in the garden. Like many, I’ve been digging a few more summery things out of my wardrobe, but those big coats, jumpers and scarves and gloves are still out.

Last year’s February can be remembered for the bitter cold and the ‘Beast from the East’ storm and this year’s is going to be remembered for record temperatures and glorious sunshine. We started February with a little snow and we’ve ended with a beautiful early spring.

Wrest Park in Winter

January and February can be harder months for getting out and about. The weather can put us off, as it’s often very bleak and cold and days are shorter. It can be surprising how beautiful and different places can look at varying times of year. I like to revisit places throughout the year to see them in a different light and different way as the months and seasons change.

Wrest Park is a place we go to often, it’s an easy place for me to manage walking now I get quite breathless, as it’s fairly flat with good pathways. It’s very wheelchair and pushchair friendly, a great place to take our dog Ted and very child friendly when we bring little Freddie with us. There’s a great play area and a cafe where you can sit out. I like to sit outside, even in the depths of winter and bask in those snippets of sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. It can be very uplifting and I feel it’s important for my wellbeing both mentally and physically.

We have visited a few times this winter and it was a glorious sunny day when we went a few days ago. It looked such a contrast to summer, with frost lacing the ground and layers of ice over the water. There was an early morning mist, but the sun was breaking through, burning it away, which looked quite spectacular.

The birds were enjoying a good singsong as we walked through the woods and there were three beautiful cygnets ducking and dipping for food through the ice. A red kite kept on circling above us. And those first signs of spring – snowdrops about to open, trees in bud, daffodil shoots – all that promise of what’s ahead of us.

Winter time can be so underestimated, as there’s still so many beautiful things to see.

Winter Time

After such a beautiful summer, with its soaring temperatures, followed by one of the most glorious autumns, we’re heading towards the shortest day of the year and those dark mornings and dark evenings and sometimes those days that never seem to come daylight. Real winter time.

Winter time can be defined in different ways. The Met Office using the calendar year and making winter the three months following the 1st December, because December, January and February are generally the coldest months.

Some define winter according to the winter solstice, that being the day we have the least sunlight and the day when the sun is positioned furthest away from the earth as it orbits the sun.

I think for most of us, the weather can define how we think of winter. During November the weather always seems to slide seamlessly into colder, darker days and by December it usually feels like winter is underway. It has done this year anyway.

We seem to have had a real mix of weather over this last few weeks from crisp, cold and frosty days to gales, wind, storms and wet, foggy and misty weather. Some areas have even had snow. The whole range. With such a variety it’s no wonder we’re always talking about the weather in this country.

Luckily, we have had some beautiful days interspersed with all the bleaker weather. There have been some glorious mornings that start with a beautiful sunrise and then some stunning sunsets, which finish the day on a spectacular note. These days are such a treat during these winter months – the days when you can get outdoors and enjoy a good walk, the sunshine, nature, beautiful views and see winter at its best.

There’s also all that festive sparkle, as we nearly reach Christmas too. Thoughts of those winter traditions spring to mind – mulled wine, hot ciders and spiced punches. The aromas of the festive cooking – oranges, cinnamon, spices welcoming you inside. Christmas cake, mince pies, hams cooking on the hob, turkey, duck and beef roasting in the oven. A warm fire and candlelight. I look forward to these and this weekend’s Christmas preparations…

A Favourite View

We were lucky enough to spend a few days in the Lake District earlier last week and amongst some very rainy, wet and cold days we were fortunate to enjoy some glorious winter sunshine. We decided to drive up to the Western Lakes and spend some time exploring around Coniston Water.

I say ‘explore’ but it is a favourite area of ours, probably my most favourite spot, so we know it quite well. Whatever time of year we visit, the views are always stunning. When we arrived on this particular day, the views took our breath away though. It was a still morning and the waters were calm, the sky very blue and the bright winter sunshine was reaching through the bare trees casting both light and shadows at tbe same time. The reflections of the mountains and trees in the blue and black pools of water were amazing.

We were the only people there, so very different from the crowds and the heat of summer. During the hot summer, the meadows here were full of families picnicking and the lake was busy with kayacks, canoes and swimmers. The small car park was packed full to the brim with cars. On this day there was nothing but peace. We were able to quietly amble around and soak up the views, Ted ran safely off lead and explored the meadows and splashed in the water.

I couldn’t quite make my mind up, ‘When was this place at its most loveliest?’ When you are swimming or kayaking in the lake, in the heat of summer, the skies blue with large fluffy clouds hovering over the mountain tops or on this peaceful, crisp winter day, which offered nature at its most magnificent and calm?

Autumn’s End

We’ve been so lucky to enjoy such a beautiful autumn this year and during November, I’ve been enjoying and savouring those last sunny days of autumn. There’s been so many glorious displays of colourful leaves both on the trees and on the ground.

The park looks different each day, as more and more leaves have fallen. Some fall gently like confetti on those still and sunny days and some have been blown away harshly on wilder, wet days. The trees are becoming more bare as we slide nearer to winter and the colder, darker months.

The landscape looks so different as the freshly fallen leaves cover the ground, there’s something special about walking in them, kicking them up in the air as you go. The flora in the woodlands has changed colours, now in its last flurry of golden browns and golds before much of it dies back and goes dormant for winter.

The low sunlight filters through the woodlands, illuminating those last snippets of russets, reds and golds. There are few leaves on the trees now as autumn clings on and we’re about to leave November.

Fields are still green, but the growing grass is slowing and the grass is wet and damp with mist and dew. The weather has turned colder and wetter this last few weeks, the skies grey and dull with mist and drizzle. The temperature has dropped and we’ve even had a few frosts. I prefer the cold frosts and a bright crisp day to the fogs and greyness of this late November. If it’s going to be winter very soon with the nights drawing in, hopefully we’ll have more bright, crispy cold days than those days when it doesn’t seem to come properly light somehow.

At least as we reach the end of November, and if there are grey, dull days, there’s the the glitz and sparkle of Christmas beckoning. It’s like a bright warming light in front of us. I already have my Christmas preparations underway. I usually start early having ended up in hospital seven of the last eight Decembers, I feel pressure to be organised ‘just in case’. I’m aiming very hard for a hospital free December this year and having just had a reasonable clinic, I’ve no plans to be back at hospital before January.

I’m established on preventative oral antibiotics and nebulised antibiotics to try and stave away the chronic pneumonia that keeps rearing in my lungs if I pick up an infection and to help with respiratory infections. So far, so good and I’m keeping busy with Christmas preparations and enjoying life while the going is good again. I’m also trying hard to avoid the winter bugs going around.

As we reach the last week in November, our family have already started our traditional run up to Christmas. We enjoyed our Papworth transplant group’s Christmas party on Saturday – the Christmas jumpers were out in force. On Sunday we went on the Santa Express at the Nene Valley Railway with all the family and little Freddie. It won’t be long before we’ll be bringing down the Xmas decorations from the loft and choosing the Christmas tree.

After a stunning autumn and great November, with Christmas looming there’s so much to look forward to as we head into December and winter.

Here’s to November

We start November and I feel that cringe deep inside about those long, cold winter months ahead and those shorter days and longer nights. I also have that fear of more bugs and hospital, which seem to have become a bit of a winter tradition in my life as much as Christmas is. As we move nearer to winter time, I find myself needing some motivation and inspiration to conjure up of all those good things about these darker months.

On the health front, I’ve had my flu jab and I’m on preventative measures to help my lungs over winter. I’m at clinic for checks every few weeks. I’m trying to keep fit, rest, eat well and avoid the bugs where I can. I know I’m as prepared and ready as can be, so it’s just a case of one step at a time and taking each day as it comes and fingers crossed to stay in good health.

As for the rest, the start of November has been such a pleasant surprise. It has been very cold compared to the milder temperatures we’ve had recently, but some of the days have been so glorious and sunny that we’ve wrapped up warm and been out and about in the countryside. We’ve been enjoying all what remains of the stunning autumn scenery – those golden trees and leaves against brilliant blue skies and fluffy, high clouds.

It’s scenes like this that have reminded me that the winter months can be just as much fun as those of summer and have me thinking of all the positive things to look forward to.

It’s lovely to dig out those warm winter coats and woollies, those snuggly scarves, hats and gloves in anticipation of cold, crisp walks with our dog, Ted. Those walks on a Sunday while a roast is cooking in the oven. The warm house and delicious smells when you return.

If you don’t want to cook, a country pub with a roaring log fire is hard to beat. I remember walking into a pub high up in the hills on our way back from Christmas shopping in Bowness last year. We were the first to arrive at lunch time and were given a huge welcome and told to sit by the fire – it was a perishing cold day. They piled more logs on the stove for us and we warmed ourselves while we waited for a delicious hot lunch.

Then there’s preparing hearty winter dishes for dinner, cosy dinners by candlelight and cosy nights by the fire with the curtains all drawn. The dog by my feet – or more often than not snuggled up beside me. Soft cosy clothes, socks and slippers. A cold and dark night is a great excuse to wrap up under a blanket in favourite chair and read or indulge in watching a box set or two. Of course, scented candles are a complete ‘must’ and that’s after a long pampering soak in a hot bath.

Then there are the glorious sunrises and sunsets to enjoy – the sunrises are late enough to catch a glimpse of when you wake up on a winter morning and the sun sets nice and early and well before bed time. Then the excitement of waking up to fogs, mists, heavy frost or snow – not so exciting if you have to go to work or travel – but beautiful if you can watch from inside and go about your day without the hazards to worry about.

Then there’s the glamour and glitz of ‘Strictly’ – now a recognised winter staple – the sparkly costumes, the fabulous dancing as we move through Halloween, Bonfire Night and towards Christmas.

Christmas – it’s probably the biggest most excitable thing looming as we step into November. November is the time I usually finish off buying all the presents and start the wrapping in readiness for December. I love a Winter Market or a Christmas Market. We’ve even managed to visit one already last week at Holker Hall and it was such a perfect sunny day – beautiful stalls with an assortment of wonderful goodies, warming pit fires, a live jazz band and delicious hot food and drinks.

I love the build up to Christmas – the anticipation, the preparations and then the actual festivities and day itself. Christmas shopping, Christmas carols, Christmas concerts and Christmas parties.

Well, I think I’ve found enough lovely things to think of for now to inspire and enjoy myself until January at least! What do you enjoy about the winter months?

Happy November everyone!

Five Years On…

I relax in the sunshine on a seat looking over the salt marshes and out to sea. I soak in the stunning view, breathe in and out deeply savouring the salty air deep down in my lungs. Those precious lungs – well precious heart and lungs, but lungs more precious and fragile than ever now as they take the brunt of every storm my body weathers since my transplant five years ago. I can feel the gentle sea breeze and mellow sunshine on my face. Birds are gathering for their journeys to warmer climates, but singing and twittering as though it’s high summer. Beautiful September sunshine on this the fifth anniversary of my heart and double lung transplant.

I remember a time I’d been here in Norfolk before, over seven years ago now. Rob pushing me in my wheelchair along board walks to the beach when I took the call to say I’d been placed on the active transplant list. We were on holiday at the time trying to make the most of life or what I might have had left of it. We were trying to make sense of a situation where I’d found myself terminally ill and been given only two years to live if I was lucky. At the same time, I’d been told I needed a heart and double lung transplant and that on average the wait for this operation takes two years. Three people a day were dying while waiting for a transplant. The odds felt against me and I had to prepare myself both ways – preparing to die and preparing to live. A confusing situation but survival was my only focus.

Then my mind flits to four years ago when we came back here again. It was the first anniversary of my heart and double lung transplant. No wheelchair this time, my health restored. I could walk for miles by now, my strength recovered. It had been an incredible first year since my transplant. Suddenly I could do all those things that everyone takes for granted – simple things like showering, pushing a trolley around the supermarket, driving and even ironing and housework. Just simple things and I would even pinch myself that it was all actually real; that ‘yes’ I had my health back and I’d been given the best gift of all – the gift of life.

Five years on now and I’m back in Norfolk with my family to celebrate this incredible milestone. As I sit here, I think of all the incredible things I’ve been able to achieve because of my donor. From first simple steps like taking a shower to living my dreams and being able to travel abroad again. I’ve visited New York and many cities across Europe, plus been on a mediterranean cruise and travelled on the Orient Express.

I’ve seen Sarah and Rose both graduate, establish their careers, then Sarah marrying and then, the best of all, the birth of my first grandchild, Freddie and now we have another grandchild on the way. This is so exciting for me, life always brings so much to look forward to. Every extra day I’ve been given is special in its own unique way.

Our plans this holiday have come unstuck a little as I’m actually struggling with parainfluenza virus and alongside that pseudonoma pneumonia that always flares and inflames my lungs when I’m fighting any illness or rejection of my new organs. With the support and help of my transplant team though, we’ve managed to make it here. I’m on intravenous anti-biotics and allowed to do them from home or where home happens to be this week, rather than being hospitalised – it’s not new to me, I’ve done this often now over these years post transplant.

Being immunosuppressed can bring its challenges. I’ve already been back to Papworth again since we’ve been here, because my longline stopped working, my veins are poor now, but they sorted things out and got me back on track to continue our special celebrations with family. I have the Transplant Team there to thank for getting me through thick and thin and being able to reach this five years post transplant mark.

While we’ve been here, we’ve already celebrated Rob’s 60th birthday and our 28th Wedding anniversary – more milestones to add to many. Every single one is special. Five years post heart and lung transplant feels a very special milestone in more ways than one. Only 50% of lung transplant patients survive five years and beyond – it’s always been my long term goal to achieve this and it feels a huge achievement given the struggles with my lungs over the last few years.

I stare out to the sea and know that I’ve been fortunate, not only to have received my transplant in the first place, but to be given all this extra time with my family and a second chance to experience so many new opportunities and challenges that life brings. The horizon spreads wide in front of me and it fills me with hope for so much more to come. Well there’s a new baby to look forward to next spring, that’s going to be amazing for a start…

There isn’t a day goes by where I don’t thank my donor and their family for my gift of life.