Thursday, May 31, 2007

Swan song

The other weekend I went out for a walk and came across a lake with some swans on it so I couldn't resist taking some photographs of them. On the whole the swans were quite obliging but weren't really into posing and were more into preening and feeding. I was still quite pleased with some of the resulting photos though.

The photo's show Mute Swans and it was once the belief that upon death the otherwise silent Swan would sing beautifully - hence the phrase swan song. In the UK it is a criminal offence to harm a swan and to interfere with nesting swans in any way. It is also a fact that all Mute swans in the UK are owned by the Queen, though she only exercises her prerogative right to them on the River Thames.

Photographing wild birds was quite a challenge as they are unpredictable, but I enjoyed it. It makes getting the good shots very satisfying. I liked the interaction between the two swans in the first photo. The second photo is of a swan who was busily feeding and I caught him/her just as they raised their head so you can still see the water running from their beak. Happy with the shots I had taken I went on my way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mum's the word

Thought I might provide you with an update. My mother is now home from hospital so I went up to see her. She was really pleased to see me and was so much brighter than when I last saw her which was great. For a start she recognised me this time! However, she is on a lot of meds which still make her disorientated from time to time, especially straight after taking them. This distresses her a bit so we looked them up and found she was on one or two that didn't seem to make sense so I noted them and told her to make sure she asked the doctor about them.

The thing that bothers me is that other than dose her up they seem to have done very little to help her and she certainly can't remain on the meds forever as she is very immobile and they affect her too much. I had a word with my father and apparently she is seeing someone this week (he thought they were from physiotherapy) so we'll see what happens next.

I took her some flowers and she told me she was glad to be home because she couldn't sleep properly in hospital. and she hated the food. We had to laugh as apparently when she was first admitted to hospital the doctor asked her if she knew where she was and she said 'Great Britain'!.. well, he didn't ask her to be specific! Anyway, I was glad to see that she was more herself.

Thanks to all of you who have popped by and left supportive comments. They are very much appreciated along with all your positive thoughts and prayers. Esecially as I'm not so good myself right now. Thank you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Time for a Bath

The city of Bath Spa is a great place to visit. It is of course the home of the mineral baths, first discovered by the Romans, and then later became fashionable with the Georgians and Victorians. It is also the setting for many Jane Austen novels, where the heroine would often spend time in the fashionable society there. One weekend recently, I decided it was about time I re-acquainted myself with the delights of Bath and it's numerous diversions (as Ms Austen would say). The day I chose was fine but not sunny and as ever Bath was teaming with shoppers and tourists.

Like any city centre, Bath has the usual high street shops deposited along the main roads, but it also has many fine shops and smaller more unusual shops too, selling gifts, jewellery and couture. The photo above shows one of the smaller side streets. Down this street there is a shop called 'Ben's Cookie's' which makes the best cookies I have ever tasted. Needless to say, that as I ambled down this narrow lane, a strange force pulled me towards the doorway of the cookie purveyors and then the sweet aroma carried me to the counter where I was powerless to resist. One fine cookie later I continued contentedly on my way and popped out near the Roman baths.

The Romans occupied Bath shortly after their invasion of Britain in 43 AD, being drawn to the area by the hot mineral springs situated there. They knew it as Aquae Sulis (literally 'the waters of Sul'). Increasingly grand temples and bathing complexes were built in the area, including the Great Bath. This was rediscovered from the 18th century onward, when the assembly rooms and pump room were added and has become one of the city's main attractions. The main entrance to the Baths is shown in the photo above.

I passed by this and wend my way down the adjoining street until I came to the park which is situated by the river. I captured a view of it in the photo above showing the band stand and an example of the gorgeous buildings for which the city is also known. Many of the buildings in Bath would have been present when Jane Austen moved to the city with her father, mother and sister Cassandra in 1801. The family remained in the city at four successive addresses until 1806, however Jane never liked the city, and after leaving it wrote to her sister Cassandra, "It will be two years tomorrow since we left Bath for Clifton, with what happy feelings of escape." Despite these feelings, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are largely set in the city.

I carried on past the park and then crossed the river to walk along the opposite bank which afforded me the lovely view of Bath Abbey, shown in the photo above. Originally a Norman church on earlier foundations, it was rebuilt in the early 16th century and transformed into a grand monastic church with Perpendicular architecture. The river walk took me down towards Pulteney Bridge and the weir (photo below). Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon and was completed in 1773. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across the full span on both sides. I climbed the steps by the bridge which took me over it and ventured back into the city centre where I found a small cafe to revive me before continuing.

I did a little shopping and some more walking, not really going anywhere but going down this or that street, going left or right as the mood took me. One such turn took me down a more quiet back street shown in the last photo. The dominant style of architecture in Bath is Georgian and many of the prominent architects of the day were employed in the development of the city. As a result Bath has many fine terraces, however, the original purpose of much of Bath's fine architecture was as purpose-built lodging houses, where visitors could hire a room, a floor, or (according to their means) an entire house for the duration of their visit as alluded to in Ms Austen's writings. If you find yourself in Wiltshire then I recommend a visit.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This is just typical. I have not been feeling at all well for the past few days so I went to the doctor. I have been feeling quite fuzzy, with dizzy spells and getting frequent headaches. The doc says that I am stressed which was a bit of a surprise. Apparently I am so good at coping that I'm fine until I'm not, if that makes any sense. Oops. I am very good at bottling things up and getting on with life and supporting others but it seems that I've been neglecting myself.

The doc wanted to know what was going on in my life at the moment. As you know, I have been extremely worried about my mother but as ever it's not one thing but an accumulation over time. I have recently changed job, and also I have had a hard time with my studying after my books and work were stolen with my laptop (impacting on my essay deadline and revision for my exam). I don't write much about it but I am also getting divorced and I've been handling the separation myself.

I underwent a traumatic separation from my husband and he is pushing for a quick divorce as his girlfriend does not want him married to me anymore. I don't want to get into details but this woman has been a constant thorn in my side. Don't get me wrong, I certainly do not want to stay married to him but I needed time to assimilate all that happened before progressing. I have found it hard to cope with two things. First that I have failed at something that my life once revolved around and second that someone who I once trusted with my life could behave so awfully at times.

So, I have been thinking. I need closure so now
I want the divorce quickly. I also want him to come and remove the rest of his stuff that he has left here despite constantly being asked to shift it. I also want him to stop using this postal address as I am receiving his mail. The doc said to think about things I could change to reduce the stress in my life so this would be a good place to start. I'm having a couple of days off work. My mother is doing well, all things considered and I will visit her again soon (though I will need to be driven as a fuzzy head is not best for driving). Then I am going to take charge of things and make a few changes and start looking after myself better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ray of Sunshine

(pic found on web)

I just wanted to thank all of you who have dropped by and left supportive comments and who have sent positive thoughts and prayers for my mother. It appears that they are working. Although the hospital still hasn't been able to find out exactly what is wrong, my mother is much more comfortable. The pain is more under control and she is sat up in bed on her own and is much brighter. She is mostly lucid (apart from just after she has taken her drug cocktail), is eating regularly, and from all accounts is starting to boss people around again so I know she is feeling better.

The doctors think that they should be able to investigate the cause of the pain by the end of the week but for now they are giving her time to stabilise as her muscles were in spasm from the pain. When I spoke to my father I could tell he was happier with how things were going too. This positive turn of events is quite a relief and I will go up and visit her again soon. Keep the positive thoughts coming!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Still worried

I went to visit my mother in hospital yesterday and she is not looking at all good. At first she didn't even recognise me. The drug cocktail she has been prescribed has her feeling extremely disorientated and nauseous and yet she is still in a great deal of pain. I really think they need to do something to alleviate the cause of the pain rather than just dosing her up but the consultant will not be back until tomorrow.

When I got to the hospital she was lying on the bed holding onto a damp flannel which she held across her eyes and forehead like her life depended on it. She just kept repeating that she didn't know where she was and that she couldn't take much more of this. Later when she was a little more lucid (it comes and goes in waves) she told me that the flannel is the only thing that is keeping her sane. I had taken her a small fluffy black dog with really soft fur and she held it in her other hand mumbling about how soft it was. I think it really helped her have something to hold on to.

Being diabetic my mother has to take insulin and so it is important for her to eat. Unfortunately as she is feeling nauseous it is hard to get her to eat, but it is so important that she does. I had taken her some fresh fruit salad as I know my mum likes fruit. Thank goodness that I did as everything the hospital gave her made her feel worse but she ate some of the fruit before becoming disorientated once more. I insisted on seeing the nurse and her drugs have been adjusted slightly in the hope that this will help.

We are still uncertain as to what is wrong with my mother but it seems likely that two or three of her vertebra have crumbled causing the discs to slip and press on the sciatic nerve. I am terribly worried that this will mean that she will be wheel chair bound for the rest of her life now. My mother is pretty disabled anyway but fiercely tries to keep mobile as much as she can, even if it is just a few metres that she can walk. I know that if she can't walk at all this will upset her very much.

At the moment though I just hope that they do something to help her soon. It is extremely upsetting to see someone you love in such much distress and not be able to help. I stayed for a while and held her hand though she nodded off for much of the time. When we left I promised her I would return soon and then I went to have dinner with my dad. We took him to a nice pub nearby and bought him dinner which he enjoyed immensely. I didn't want him having dinner on his own. He is holding up okay but I can tell he is worried. I am too. Thanks for all your kind comments. Please keep sending the positive thoughts, they are much appreciated.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I'm back from my trip to Brussels. The meeting was successful and I actually had a few hours to have a quick look around. I took some pics with my mobile phone and I will post a few very soon however right now I have other concerns. While I was there I received a message to say that my mother had been taken ill and today she has been admitted to hospital.

My mother suffers from diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, curvature of the spine, asthma and one or two other medical conditions, whose symptoms seem to merge into one mass medical condition that seems difficult to for doctors to tease out and treat effectively. As you can imagine, she is pretty disabled, on a number of drugs and she has good days and bad days. Just over a week ago she developed an abscess under her tooth and the dentist had to remove the tooth. This left her with a very painful jaw which got more painful as days passed. Last weekend an emergency doctor prescribed her some painkillers which seemed to help at first but then she got much worse. It seems that while I was away she went downhill rapidly and is now in great pain, in her neck, shoulder and down the side of her body. The doctor prescribed morphine but it is not working and has made her disorientated and sick, so she has been admitted to hospital so that they can get the pain under control. Then they can investigate what is wrong and hopefully treat her.

I am currently waiting for the consultant to see her. I hope they make her more comfortable soon. I am hoping to go and visit her over the weekend (we do not live in the same city), but at the moment she is not up to visitors. I am going to go and see how my father is bearing up anyway so I apologise in advance if I am not visiting you all as much as I would like. Please send my mum lots of positive thoughts. I really am quite worried.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I'm a big fan of comedy. Lets face it, who doesn't like to laugh? It's often hard to find decent television comedy though. Many of you will have heard of Scrubs even though you might not have watched it. As the name suggests it's set in a hospital and follows the medical career of JD a trainee medical doctor and his best friend, Turk a trainee surgeon. I happened on this a few years ago when I switched channels and have watched ever since.

So what keeps me watching? It's well written for a start. It's a strange mix of lightweight silliness and occasionally dark comedy. It uses comedy to explore emotion, relationships, life and death often in an oddly touching way for a comedy.

While I'm away in Brussels I thought I would leave you with the following clip. It features Colin Hay singing 'Overkill'. In the episode the main characters have just fallen out after finding out things about each other that they would rather not know. The episode follows them trying to cope with and then overcome the situation. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bob-kat goes International

I have recently changed jobs. I am still working for the same organisation but moved into another area to broaden my experience. This is all part of my grand plan to take over the world someday, or at the very least earn more money.

So... I am currently out of my comfort zone, not in the panic zone but definitely not comfortable. I have a whole new language to learn in the form of a new set of acronyms and the learning curve is pretty steep. Who would have thought that two areas of the same organisation would be so different! I'm sure many of you know what I mean, you start a new job and although you recognise the words as being English, they seem to be using it in an entirely new way. I know that in 6 months time I will be talking the talk too but right now I often get the feeling that I'm in the Twilight Zone. I remember an episode where a man awoke one day to find that the world had shifted and language had changed, words that were once familiar had new meaning and that is pretty much how I feel. It is good though, I relish a new challenge and I am hoping this job will prove to be interesting.

Next week I am being sent to Brussels for two days to attend an International meeting. This is a completely new experience and will hopefully be a great opportunity for me. I love travelling and seeing new places but unfortunately I suspect I will mostly see the inside of the meeting room. The meeting is due to last all day so I'm guessing the scene will be similar to the pic on the left. That's me with my feet up on the table, though I am not sure what Boris Johnson is doing there!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What time is it?

I was looking in my work diary and not for the first time it struck me how planned my life is as an adult and how important knowing the time is. My schedule is full of meetings and appointments which break my working days and weeks into chunks of time where I have to be in certain places at certain times. I feel naked without my watch. I pride myself on being punctual and professional for the meetings I have scheduled.

That is why I love it when I have a few days off as I often don't wear a watch. Time doesn't matter so much, my days are my own to do with as I please without any demands being made on my time. The stress of having to be somewhere on time is replaced with the relaxing feeling of not having to be anywhere at anytime unless I choose to do it. Am I unique in this feeling? Absolutely not. It is a symptom of modern living, but sometimes I long for those carefree days as a child when I measured time with a dandelion clock, where the number of blows it took to scatter the seeds would tell what time it was. I took the above photo on a recent day out - one of four days in a row I had over a bank holiday weekend where time wasn't so important and enjoying myself was the priority.

After I snapped the picture I picked one of the dandelion clocks and blew once, blew twice and then three times, which told me it was three o'clock when I took this photo. Near enough for me on that sunny day.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spring clear out

It's been a bank holiday weekend here in the UK so I took full opportunity of the extended weekend to get round to 'things-I-have-been-putting-off'. Like clearing up the spare room that became a bit of a dumping ground for 'stuff' ever since my separation. Talking of which that was over a year ago now so it was definitely high time I sorted it out.

Going through the boxes turned out to be quite a cathartic experience for me. I still couldn't bring myself to throw some things out. I couldn't quite part with some of my wedding memorabilia. The fact is that it is a piece of my past and I will keep it for now, lest I regret too great a purge. So I have stowed it in the attic to deal with another time. But many things did go and I have a huge pile of things to take to a car boot sale sometime soon. The cash will go towards my planned holiday in Vienna. Out with the old and in with the new. Seems apt for Spring somehow.

The photos are of the Clematis I have growing in my garden. It is a trailing plant and every year I cut it back a little to encourage new growth and it brings forth these lovely blue / purple flowers on the new growth. I am not one to get over sentimental but the analogy seemed apt for my clear out. I took these photos the other day. Hope you like them.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Spring and summer arrived all at once here in the UK with unseasonably warm temperatures and sunny days. When I was sat at my desk revising, everytime I looked out of my window, I could see the garden growing and getting more jungle-like, as my hectic schedule of work and study have left little time for the art of gardening.

So I ventured out into my garden the other day, hoping that some wild beast or carniverous plant wasn't lurking and ready to pounce from the camouflage of the foliage when it occurred to me that my garden may look a bit unruly en masse, but that everywhere I looked I saw natural beauty.

Of course, I immediately rushed into the house and grabbed my camera and started snapping away and experimenting with my zoom lens. These photos are the result. The first photo is of Bamboo, the second is a Date Palm, the third is an Acer Palmetum (Japanese Maple) and the last photo is of my huge Phormium (Nea Zealand Flax). I love how sculptural these plants are, from the zagged spikes of the Phormium and Palm to the delicate leaves of the Acer. The colours too are magnificent from deep reds to variagated and lush greens. I hope you like them too.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Raglan Castle - The Great Tower (Part 2)

When I visited Raglan Castle in April, I took so many photo's that I thought I might share some more with you, this time more focused on the Great Keep. The view of it in the photo above was taken while I walked around the castle from a grassy embankment. You can get some idea of the scale of this structure as there is a person to the left of the keep who is dwarfed by it somewhat.

As I explained in my last post, the castle was begun by Sir William ap Thomas, a veteran of the French wars, who grew wealthy through exploiting his position as a local agent of the Duke of York in south-east Wales. He began building the Great Tower in 1435 but he was never to see it completed, as ap Thomas died in 1445. The building work was continued by his son, William, who took the surname Herbert, and it subsequently became known as the Yellow Tower of Gwent. You may not be able to tell in these photos but the tower is constructed from sandstone that has a yellow tinge, hence the name. The keep is an unusual hexagonal plan which is clearly shown in the footprint of the floor as shown in the photo above. It is also surrounded by a water-filled moat as seen in the next photo.

The tower has it's own apron wall with small towers, the tops of which have been destroyed. I was intrigued however, to find a doorway in one of these towers leading down to the water (last and next photos). This was patently used to gain access to the moat, and could have been used for a number of reasons, the most mundane of which would be maintenance.

This massive tower was designed as a place of last resort in the first half of the 15th century and its gradual additions made it virtually impregnable. Much more of the original tower would be visible today were it not for the "slighting" by the parliamentarian forces after the siege of Raglan Castle in 1646. When Raglan was surrendered near the end of the Civil War, a decision was made to demolish the Tower completely. Men were set to work with pickaxes in an attempt to destroy it from the top. This failed, however and two sides were undermined until these partially collapsed. The impressive remains still stand - testimony to the great building skills of the day. The photo below really illustrates how thick the tower walls are, and shows where gap where the undermined walls once stood.

Interestingly, the castle started as a late medieval social statement, and ended as one of the strongest Royalist castles of the Civil War. It was not built specifically as a defence as the other great castles of Wales had been. Instead, it was designed mainly as a statement of wealth and influence. Within the Great Tower, there was a single large room to each floor, and the entire structure echoed the power and influence of its builder.

The floors and internal structure of the castle are now gone of course, but the main staircase still remains and visitors can climb the spiral to the top of the keep and are rewarded with a magnificent view of the rest of the castle and the Welsh countryside. The photo above shows the towers of the main gatehouse while the next photo shows the Fountain Court.

I had a really great time exploring the castle. As I was there in the morning there were very few other people around and the air seemed heavy with the passing of time and history. I would have loved to have seen it in it's full spendour - the walls would have been plastered, there would have been oak floors, ceilings and panelling, glazed windows, opulent furnishings (the castle even had it's own library which was destroyed in the seige - the loss of the books is recorded as a great historic loss), curtains, paintings and wall hangings. Today, you get a hint of it's past from the ruins. Raglan is one of my favourite castles and I really do recommend seeing it for yourself if you ever get the chance.