Sue's life

Location: Hungerford, Berkshire, United Kingdom

Ex-Solicitor who suffered a stroke in 2001. Am divorced and have two kids - Sarah who is 27 and Christopher, 25. Norman is my partner now and we like to get around as much as possible.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

July 2006

I was right in saying that I wouldn’t see much of Sarah. She was all around the country visiting friends and her new company’s offices in London, but then she doesn’t get back this way often.
July sees in HADCAF (short for Hungerford and District Community Arts Festival). For a small town (Hungerford is not much bigger than a village) this takes a lot of beating in the quality of contributors. People throw open their gardens, Performers come from all over to play/sing/act/racont in the Croft Hall (seats about 100 max) St. Lawrences’s Church and other venues. This year the quality of HADCAF was exceptional. Internationally-renowned pianist Jill Crossland played a concert featuring Glenn Gould, Mozart, Schumann and Debussy, which left my hands sore with clapping. And two weeks later young Lithuanian, Martyna Jatkauskaite played over an hour of Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and Prokofiev which gave Norman tears. She is also a very beautiful young lady. We had a great laugh with the Unsinkable Clerk.
On the 8th, Macmillan put on its annual Music and Fireworks with the South Berks Concert Band in the grounds of St. Gabriel’s School, just south of Newbury. We took a party of 10 friends and picnicked on the lawn. The weather was bitterly cold for the time of year but a great time was had by all and ending with a superb firework display musicked by Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and a fiery Macmillan’s logo at the end. Fireworks are so expensive these days and it is all over too soon. As we drove out of the car park it started to rain.
On the 23rd, we went to Lechlade to have lunch with old friend, Dora Gurnett and Dave. I have known Dora for over twenty years and our kids went to the same school. At on the 27th we went down to Devon to visit Gill and Graham Giles at their hotel just outside Hatherleigh, near Okehampton, ( On the way we stopped off at Buckfast Abbey which is beautiful, especially as the Monks built it themselves in the first third of the 20th Century. The gardens are lovely, although not as lovely as the Lost Gardens of Heligan ( where we went the next day. Gill is a great chef and we were thoroughly spoilt for both days. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Monday, July 17, 2006

June tunes

Henry and Carolyn Moore held a lunch party at their farm in Elcot (ostensibly to celebrate their joint 60th birthdays) and we met a lot of old friends and ate and drank very well. This bodes to be the start of a series of 60ths as we are now of a “certain age”, so watch out for the next couple of years.
The next day we met Frances Maude, who had come to give the local Conservative Party a bit of a boost. He gave a rousing, positive speech and convinced us all that David Cameron is the right guy for us. Our local MP, Richard Benyon is a local boy, young, enthusiastic and dedicated. Just what we need in this neck of the woods.
Norman’s Rotary Club held a Black Tie, Murder Mystery evening at the Bear Hotel, which ahs been totally refurbished and a very pleasant place to eat, be it in the restaurant or hotel bar. ( A lot of fun was had with pregnant nuns and sex mad monks and in the end, it didn’t matter, who killed who.
Rotary also held a jazz evening at the local British Legion club which was well attended and introduced some bright new local talent – especially in the torch singing department.
Halfway through the month we went to London to have lunch with Christopher, who has just moved house and to see Show Boat at the Royal Albert Hall. All in all a very good day.
I decided to get out of the U.K. for my birthday this year and so decamped to Jan and Ron’s apartment in Moraira again. Spain was very hot (I suppose normal for this time of the year) but we ate well and drank well and did the Times crossword on the cool balcony of the flat.
Sylvia and ken were going to come out to stay with friends Mick and Edna, who have a villa at Denia, just down the road but at the last moment, Ken went down with a painful ear infection which meant he couldn’t fly. Luckily we met an English couple, Mike and Ingrid, who have a picture framing shop just underneath the flat and they made up the sixsome at the restaurant for the evening. Mick and Edna have a picture framing business in Hungerford and environs, so relationships were quickly established.
Sarah has changed jobs but will still be staying in Singapore. She has come home for a couple of weeks holiday before starting her new job but I doubt that I will see much of her as she will be gallivanting around England to see old friends.
Christopher has some more exams next month and is studying hard for them.

Gathering Nuts

May started with a trip to Witney to see Pat and Mary and then on Tuesday it was Macmillan evening. Being on the Newbury committee is very therapeutic for me as I can still put in. Also the greetings cards that I make and sell are a very small mote but as well as the small financial effort I can raise for the Charity, I get a lot of help with my speech and language from Shirley who comes round Tuesdays and Thursdays and works with me.
During term time I go to a course at the Ormonde centre every Wednesday for 4 hours. The Ormonde Centre is tagged on to Newbury College and provides education and support for disabled people. The course that I attend is Creative Writing and I work along with other less-abled people in creating stories and discussing current topics which all helps in our rehab.
At the end of last year, the Government decided to cancel the funding for the course and transferred it to 16-18 year-olds, teaching them how to read and write. After having written letters to several organisations, we have been given enough money to keep the course open for the next academic year which is a great relief to not only me but the other people on the course, for some of whom it is their only opportunity to get out during the week and would otherwise be housebound.
May is the time of the Newbury Spring Festival and we went to several concerts, including Jacques Loussier, The Soweto Gospel Choir, The Piccadilly Dance Orchestra, The Swingle Singers and the Philharmonia Orchestra with soprano, Susan Bullock. All of which were super evenings.
This month also we went to visit an old friend, Dora Saint, who is now in her nineties. Dora used to write books under the name, Miss Read and has written over 40 books translated into numerous languages. Her husband Douggie, who was a schoolmaster in Newbury until his retirement, died last year but Dora, who is now registered blind still has a great zest for life and is very good company.
Going back to Macmillan, we had a Wine-tasting Call My Bluff fund raiser, held at Cheam School which was financially very successful. Erica the committee chairman is a human dynamo and we are all inspired by her enthusiasm.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

April 2006

We arrived back from Egypt at Gatwick at 1.30 on the morning of the 2nd and got back with a couple of hours snatched sleep before we were off to Anth’s for lunch. Back to anonymity for a week to recover from Egypt then back into the social whirl – on Saturday 8th we hosted an Umbrian evening for Cancer Research UK where we raised around £700 and met up with some old friends and made some new ones.
On Good Friday we went to Witney to see Pat and Mary and then on to Clacton for Easter with Norman’s family. Sarah, meanwhile, was spending a week in Japan and has sent us some interesting photos. Email is so handy.
Jan and Ron came up together with Sandy and John for the Ale Tasting on Monday night and Hocktide lunch on Tuesday and in all we had a wonderful couple of days. Teach these Essex folk a bit of real old tradition. (Clacton-on-Sea only dates back to the late 1800s).
We had some good news from Chris – he has passed his second year’s exams for his Chartered Accountants qualification and now only has one year to go (he got his name in the Times, albeit along with a couple of thousand others.
The (short) month ended with Ken and Liz coming west from Pinner for lunch on Saturday the 29th and we discussed Egyptian things as they had just got back from an Egyptian Sea Cruise – the Gulf of Akaba, Suez Canal and Alexandria.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What a March!

Started like a snail and then just accelerated. Not much happened until we went to Ken and Sylvia’s for dinner on the 11th and then went to see Andy and Judith on the 14th.
However on the 18th, we went to Egypt.

We flew to Taba, at the northern tip of the Sinai, from which you can see Eilat in Israel, Aqaba in Jordan and The Saudi Arabian coast. We stayed a in a very nice hotel – the Hyatt Regency.
While I was lazing around by the pool, Norman got in a couple of days scuba diving. He says that he just did the reef which was great but never got below 28m and that it was good just to be under water again. He got me on the glass-bottomed boat and I was looking down on what he had been crawling all over (figuratively speaking) .

The fourth day we met the other people on our tour- there were only two so we had superb service from the guides and drivers all through the holiday and lots of help for my wheelchair.

Andrew and Glen come from near Hastings. They are a lovely couple and we laughed a lot together.

We were driven to Sharm (100 miles south) as there are no internal flights from Taba. We then flew to Luxor, over-nighted there and flew to Aswan the next morning. After looking at the dam, the lake and a temple that had been moved out of the water, we got on a boat and cruised gently up to Luxor, which took three days, where we saw the Valleys of the Kings and Queens - spectacular.

We then flew on to Cairo where we stayed at the Conrad for three nights and visited the museum and looking at some of the old things they have got there before seeing an old mosque, an old synagogue and an old Koptic church.

The last day in Cairo we went to the Pyramids, where we watched an eclipse of the Sun and saw the Sphynx and did the Son et Lumiere bit.

Because of the lack of internal flights, we then drove back to Taba, under the Suez Canal and up the Sinai peninsular back to the Hyatt - a very boring 6 hour drive. Thank God for air conditioning.

All in all a great holiday.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


If you’ve never seen the film “Kinky Boots” then you have missed something special. We went to see his at the Corn Exchange in Newbury and I haven’t laughed quietly to myself for a long time. (Norman had an audible giggle when the male black lead declared that he came from Clacton)
We have decided to do some serious travelling this year and have just booked a fortnight in Egypt, lazing about on the Sinai Red Sea coast before taking the Nile cruise and then spending a couple of days in Cairo. We have also booked 4 weeks in October near San Diego, California, on a Rotary house swap. We will be on an avocado orchard when not sight-seeing. Ken and Liz from Pinner will be coming with us for the first part of the journey, flying to San Francisco and then driving down through L.A. to Ocean View. We may get to go to Tijuana as well if we have time.
On the 15th, it was Norman’s Mum’s birthday (89) and we went down to Clacton to celebrate. It was good to see Jan and Ron again. The next day it was back home to see the local amateur dramatics society put on the Flower Drum Song which went down very well.
Our neighbour across the road, Mr Dods, died this month. He was 94 and was a real neighbour in the true sense of the word. He used to look after our garden for a long time until it got too much for him but he still took our rubbish bin out for the collectors every week but recently had to stop that as well. It is lucky that the Dods family is big and supportive as Mrs. Dods (almost the same age) is now on her own and very frail.
On the 26th we drove to London to see La Boheme at the Royal Albert Hall. We took Christopher for lunch and made a very pleasant day out. With the disabled badge in the car we were able to park right outside the hall and only had a 20 metre walk to the entrance.
I am packing up the clerkship of the Town and Manor ( as I have been doing it for too long. Sylvia will make a great job of it, I am sure. It will leave me more time to travel, and I Like that.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

January 2006

Hello 2006.
Sarah came back from Florida on the 3rd and we were going to go to Birmingham for the day on the 4th, but I had an epileptic fit in the morning and so we thought it better for me to recover gently, so she went alone. I felt a lot better by the evening but am now suffering from a permanent neuropathic pain down my right side (which I cannot feel, so it’s damned confusing). Hopefully it will go away before too long.
Sarah went back to Singapore on the 6th. She is never home long, that girl, but I can’t imagine her settling back to life in England. Christopher is doing well at PWC and I will be glad when he has got his qualifications and doesn’t have to study so much. He is even giving up his rowing as it is too time-demanding to stay at the level he wants to row at.
On the 14th we went to Mike and Pearl’s for a potato and filling supper to raise money for Cancer Research. There were many old friends there and we raised quite a lot.
On the 19th Norman, Anthea and I took the train to London where we were to stay as guests at Annabel’s time share flat in the West End. Annabel had sorted out a hectic schedule for us and in the afternoon we went to the Royal Academy in Piccadilly to see an exhibition of 17th century Chinese art and culture – absolutely stunning. The evening found us at Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Woman in White. I was very impressed – especially with the set being projected onto plain flats. The singing was good too. The next day we went to the Natural History Museum to see an exhibition of wild life photographs, winners of the Time Life awards. For all these museum visits, I get a wheelchair which Norman pushes and it is a lot more comfortable than walking round. After that we went and had a look round the Brompton Oratory, where I had never been before and on to an Italian restaurant, much used by Princess Diana and her kids, for lunch, before back to Paddington to catch the train home.
Not content with that, in the evening, we went to a silent film show at the Croft Hall (Buster Keaton’s The General) which was raising funds for a new arts complex in Marlborough. A very entertaining evening – and they even had a man playing the piano, just like the good old days.
The Bear Hotel, Hungerford has been bought by a family concern and they have spent a fortune refurbishing it (I believe they found a load of asbestos too). It now looks really great, and the food is reputed to be better as well. In order to prove this, Ken and Sylvia invited us for a dinner on the 21st and true – it is now a very recommendable eatery. Maybe Michael Winner might even go there.
The 29th we hosted Pat and Mary from Witney for lunch. I got some old photos out and bored the pants (not literally) off Norman, so he and Pat went through a load of music.

December 2005

Very remiss of me but I have been away from the Blog for too long. So here comes December.
In Hungerford each year the local Round Table sponsor a Victorian Extravaganza evening and this year was super. The shops are open in the early evening and serve hot toddy. The assistants dress up in Victoriana and there are hot chestnut vendors and rides for the kids. Old traction engines provide power for fairground organs and the town is virtually shut to traffic while people roam the streets. A really great evening and the weather kept fine for it.
We went down to Clacton on the 15th to take the presents as this year we were having Christmas at home. Norman’s family are all well and this year there are two new baby girls.
The 18th saw us hosting again, this time just a drinks and nibbles evening, but well catered by Jill Owen and Paul.
Sarah came back from Singapore on Christmas Eve and Christopher came home too. We went to the Three Tuns at Great Bedwyn for dinner as Sarah was flying out again on Christmas Day to go to Florida for a friend’s wedding. Chris was at his father’s on Christmas day and came back Boxing Day. Shirley and Pip and Anthea and her brother came over a non-Christmas lunch where Norman cooked a nut roast loaf (Shirley and Pip are veggies) but the rest of us lot had duck. Thank goodness everybody drank wine.
On the 27th we took Christopher back to London and went to the Tate Britain to see the Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition and followed it up in the afternoon, going to see High Society at the Shaftsbury. A very pleasant day out in London.
The next day was John Winchcombe’s birthday and he nobly provided a very nice lunch at a Spanish restaurant in Newbury – thanks John.
We then went down to Clacton for a quiet New Year – end of 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

November got off to a quiet start (thank goodness, says Norman) and on the 2nd, I had a very pleasant night out with the girls when the Ladies Dining Club went to the Tally Ho at Hungerford New Town while Norman was at his 41 Club (Martyn Crocker and all his mates).
Sarah went to Cambodia for a couple of days and sent some interesting photos back –
And on the 12th, Norman and I went to the Corn Exchange in Newbury to see Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the West Berks Operatics. Once I had battened down to the fact that this was not Covent Garden, I settled in and enjoyed the evening. One thing about the Corn Exchange (and other museums and cultural places) is that as I am classed as disabled, Norman gets in free as my carer. We also get pretty good seats.
When I let him out, Norman earns a crust or two teaching “mature” people how to use computers on a one-to-one basis. He has a lot more patience than me and so can sit quietly by and let people learn at their own pace. One of his clients is crippled with arthritis but Norman has found him a special pad so that he doesn’t have to try and hold a mouse. It is amazing what tools are out there to help us not-so-abled.
Back from Cambodia, Sarah popped over to Australia for a few days work on the 18th and we went to visit Sue and Richard Carpenter in Bishops Waltham.
On the 19th I threw a dinner party for 13 and had the catering done by Gill Owen. Once again Gill excelled herself and a good time was had by all.
Sarah was back from the Antipodes on the 23rd and it was her birthday on the 25th. I phoned her and she seemed to be enjoying herself - she even sent some snaps to prove it.
Roll on Christmas