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it feels like only yesterday that it was September and we were moving into our new house – yes, you can see the theme here. Where DOES the time go?!!! Seriously though, I promised Stoney an update a while back, and someone else some photos of our new home, so I’m combining all this and a year review in one blog post. And then I shall probably go silent again till I get another break at Easter…!

Anyway. Be warned. This is a VERY photo heavy post, which is why they’re all behind the cut. the page will take a while to load…

First of all, though, an update. The last three months have been very sad ones, as well as busy. University studies have taken most of my time, and are mostly going well – you can look at the Education page to view marks for specific assignments. But outside of studies, they’ve been sad because I lost both my grandmothers: my paternal grandmother at the end of October, and my maternal one just 2 weeks before christmas. Both had been ill towards the end; Nannie (Paternal grandmother) had broken her other hip and was in a great deal of pain, Grannie (Maternal grandmother) had had a spell in hospital a few weeks before but had just given up, mentally. For both, death was a release, a blessing, so to speak, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that this year has been a very bad one for our family, especially as I lost my father in January 2011. I just hope 2012 will be substantially less painful.

Dad, in one of his favorite places in the world, Scotland.

Christmas was especially painful – not just because of Grannie’s funeral, just a few days before Christmas, but because, as a cousin of mine put it, “there were too many empty chairs”. I know exactly what she meant. It will take a while to get over this. I was far closer to Grannie than to Nannie – Grannie was the lady who owned Stoneheads house, the inspiration for this blog, and a woman who was also directly responsible for my childhood love of history and who never stopped encouraging me to learn, to develop, to make the most of myself. I shall miss her greatly.

(more…)

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I was going to blog my experiences during Fresher’s week every day wasn’t I? Oh dear. I had good intentions but time just vamoosed out from underneath my feet… here I am, three weeks later, feeling somewhat… shellshocked, I think is perhaps the best way to describe it. Its been one hell of a learning curve and I’m still experiencing it. I am so very very tired all the time and it seems impossible right now that things will EVER settle down and into a routine that will enable me to get some kind of work done, but everyone keeps telling me it does happen, so I guess I  just have to have faith in them and trust that it will.

That apart, I’m thoroughly enjoying the course itself. I’m not sure I’m learning a great deal at this point – or to be more accurate, I’m not sure I’m taking in very much if only because its all a bit overload – but I may look back and see that I took in more than I thought I did at the time. There are a few teething problems with the communication support, but I guess I knew that was going to happen, and I’d rather they happened now and get ironed out than when I truly desperately need them.

In terms of the house: we’re slowly unpacking the remaining stuff. Whats holding us back now is waiting for permission to do things like put up shelving, we have a lot of books and not enough bookcases, so until the shelving goes up, the boxes are stacked in the spare bedroom. We got the all clear today though, so over the next few days that shall be done and the last of the boxes shall be folded up and go into the loft ready for the next move. Otherwise things are settling down, we’re slowly making it a home and settling in and the house in Manchester seems like a bad dream at this point in time.

Leicester itself is proving to be a lovely place to live. I’m sure its got its drawbacks but so far we’ve not found them. The people are friendly enough, there’s plenty of shops and the city centre is a nice place to be, there’s a good food market there which is always a pleasure. Mum is coming up on saturday for a visit, so we’re looking forward to that. Diwali started last sunday, so we sat and watched the fireworks from the bedroom window – we have a lovely view over Leicester itself. We’re quite looking forward to Fireworks Night now! Its so peaceful here. We found a sort of playingfield/communal area about 2 minutes walk from where we live with similarly gorgeous views over the city where we can walk Jess, and its all helping to banish the Manchester blues, as I’m coming to think of them. This place, for all its issues, is coming to mean something quite special to us both – and we certainly both really appreciate that we’re lucky enough to live here, mostly thanks to the support and help of my Mum. Jess seems happier here too – she loved the night that we spent at Mum’s (although she didn’t like being unsettled), and thoroughly enjoyed the walk we had with Mum, Suzie (Mum’s Dog), one of Mum’s neighbours, and Charlie, his dog the following morning. Jess got to meet her first cow. I’m not quite sure what she thought of it! But ever since then when we’ve met a dog she’s been much more willing, it seems, to play and be adventurous. There’s one dog in the park where we walk her sometimes called Lily who is a very enthusiastic 2 year old labrador puppy, and Jess usually ends up romping around with her like SHE’s a 2 year old pup, not a 9 year old sedately middle aged lady! She’s taken to playing with a ball too, something she rarely did in the old flat, and she adores the yard here. its a good move for her.

I’ve updated the education page with details of what I’m doing this semester and next, and as I hand work in and get it back with results, I’ll post those results here, just as I did last year. At the moment I have a rotten stinking cold that someone gave me – euphemistically known as “Fresher’s Flu”, although its not a flu, just a nasty cold. hope it goes soon!!

On that note, its getting late and I have an early start tomorrow – its not all the life of riley, living as a student you know!!! will try to update again soon 🙂

… apologies to ol’ Rod for the bastardisation of his song, but yes, we’re moving house!

We finally got the news earlier today, and the deposit has been paid, so its all official – at least, until the day of the move and we get down there to sign the tenancy agreement! We’re moving in on 27th September, with this flat being packed up and closed on 26th September (we’re staying at Mom’s overnight).

Its a nice, 3 bedroomed semi-detached house in a nice part of Leicester. Not the best, but we can’t afford the best. Its better than where we live now, so this represents a step up in so many ways. The spare bedroom means that Mum can come to stay with us on a regular basis, as often as she wants to, (as well as anyone else, like Michiel’s parents) and I get a study of my very own for all my university studies. We have a week to get the house sorted, then I start at Uni on 3rd October.

Gosh.

Thankfully, we’d already found a removals firm and established a relationship with them, so all they needed was an address and a date. They’re packing for us, which also reduces a lot of stress, but there is still an awful lot to do in the next two weeks. But we’ll get there – we have a lot of motivation and a lot of help and support from people that count (such as our families).

But for now, for today, we’ve handed in our notice on this flat, we’ve agreed things with the removal firm, things are slowly starting to grind towards the chaos that is moving day, and … well. we’re happy. We have hope. And that’s the important part. 🙂

I’ve been reading through my grandmother’s journals, the last couple of days. These are journals from about 20-30 years ago, that she wrote every night. She’s not very well these days – she has memory problems and often struggles to remember who important people in her life are, which is a great shame, as she was a very intelligent and talented lady. Her journals are very interesting: full of little nuggets about village life, the interactions between people and I long to turn these into proper books. But the latest journals were written in 1990, and concern events that would still upset the individuals involved, who are undoubtedly still alive today, so publication, as it is, cannot happen – unless I change all details to protect people’s privacy.

She writes a great deal about the village ins n outs, as I have said, but also observations on her family (including events I honestly do not remember about myself, and other ones I do, and one I have very cherished memories of, so it was lovely to read her side of the experience as well), notations on the weather (as a keen gardener, always a priority!) and observations on international politics. She had quite a unique take on international events, including once referring to Noregia as “a bad boy”! But best of all, she’s brought my grandfather alive again, and brought the grandmother that I knew when I was young back, in a way that I cherish very much. My mother is under strict orders not to dispose of these – when Grannie is gone, I’m going to find these a deep comfort, I think. I may well share more nuggets from these in the future. but for now, in re-reading the first in the set last night, I ran across two entries which I want to share here, which are safe to share here, and which I think are very timely, given what is about to occur on Friday…

‘Thursday November 5th, 1981

…We heard on the news tonight that the Princess of Wales is to have a baby in June next year. I remember the day Prince Charles was born, so well. Mickey (my grandfather) brought my morning tea, and said “Princess Elizabeth has got a son!”

Monday June 20th, 1982

Tonight we had the news that all the nation has been awaiting with pleasurable anticipation – the Princess of Wales has given birth to the long awaited baby – and it is a boy, 7 lbs and a little bit, with fair hair and blue eyes. The poor girl was in labour for 15 hours, and Prince Charles was at the birth. He was interviewed afterwards as he left the hospital and said amongst other things that “it makes you grow up”. We are both very happy for them, and delighted that it is a boy. I wonder what he will be called? There is a bet on, apparently, that he will be called ‘George’. I hope not – it is not a pretty name and I hope they go for something more English-sounding – Edward would be much better, I think, if they have to choose a family name. But I think a John, a Robert or a David would be nice, and all suitably ‘connected’. But I think I’d choose Richard, as the best of all, if I had a say.

Tuesday June 21st, 1982

On the T.V. news today, we saw the first picture of the new baby prince – or rather, of the top of his head, as his mother and father brought him home from the nursing home. It seems incredible that they get mothers up and about so early these days. Both parents looked proud and delighted, but I expect all they want now is to be left alone to enjoy their baby and each other….’

She never does say what she thinks of William as a name, but I find it interesting that she likes Edward, John and Richard – all names with less than ideal connections, Edward (as in Edward VIII, he of the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson) would have made William Edward IX instead, John, of course, from Prince John, Robin Hood fame, and Richard – well, we all know what happened to Richard III! It surprises me as she was something of a historian – it is from her that I get my love of history.

I wonder, when will we see the next generation?

I’ve blogged in the past about the Dutch version of Remembrance Day – 4th May, the day before Liberation Day, when the Netherlands was formally freed from German Occupation in 1945. Its a day when all those who have died in war or times of strife are remembered, and is very close to the average Dutch person’s heart.

As we always try to do we settled down this evening at 6.55 for our own little ceremony: we light a candle, and watch (if we can) the ceremonies on Dutch TV via the internet. This year was no different. Shortly after or just before the end of the 2 minute silence at 7pm (8pm Dutch time), there was a mass movement of people in the Dam, the central square where the National Monument is situated. Heart in our mouths, we sat there, clutching each other, both of us thinking “NO!”, and praying it wasn’t a terrorist strike, while the Dutch Royal Family and politicians were rushed to safety. You can see the whole thing on the video below, although any commentary will be in Dutch, alas. If i find anything on the BBC/English sites i will post links later.

Turned out it was simply someone fainting and falling against a metal barrier, which sounded like a shot. Given the situation last year where someone had driven a car at the Dutch Royal family, people were understandably nervous, but all due respect to the Dutch Queen & Royal family, they came straight back out, once the true situation was clear, even though they must’ve been nervous and shocked – Hell, WE were shocked, still are, and we’re nowhere near it….

Fortunately the person who fainted had light head wounds, but is otherwise okay – when it happened, someone nearby started screaming which certainly didn’t help matters. I can only thank the Gods that it wasn’t a terrorist attack – the amount of people in that square, it would have been a terrible, terrible event….

Update: I’m now getting from Michiel (who is getting this from various Dutch news sites) that no one fainted: the whole incident was started by a guy who was either talking to himself or on the phone during the 2 minute silence and who was asked to be quiet and be respectful by members of the public. Reports at the moment describe the man as being dressed like an orthodox jew, which is really strange. the man’s response to said “shushing” was to start screaming – and of course, the panic was then triggered, including a metal barrier being pushed over, which made the sound like a shot that Michiel heard. Some people were hurt in the panic, it looks like several children were hurt and at least one little boy has had his leg broken, poor thing. I’ll post more as i know more. Still nothing on the BBC though.

And now to the news i alluded to in my earlier post.. I had an email this morning from the people at Schmap, a new kind of internet guide, asking if they could use one of my photographs for the seventh edition of the Manchester Schmap! Its only on the shortlist at the moment, they were just basically asking if it’d be okay if it goes on the shortlist, and i won’t get any money from it, but the recognition alone is great and i’m so pleased with myself!!!

I’ve had a look around the site and it looks quite good, although there’s not a huge amount in Manchester yet – and i’m not terribly impressed that they’ve got the Lowry, which is in Salford Quays, (North East of Manchester city centre) in Withington, which is in South Manchester…!!! and yes, i’ve emailed them to tell them.

This is the photo they want to use, and i’m so pleased they’ve asked me, and of course i’ve said yes – i’ll post a link if and when it goes up, which will be in late may…

… break out the wool and start crafting. That’s what one 98 year old did, when she was trapped for 30 hours after the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, she spent the time crocheting. To my mind, that is one seriously cool lady… [reported on the BBC].

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