Embracing 60 – surprise party and the value of blogging

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I had no doubt I wanted to share this photo but I pondered the title.  Yes it was my sixtieth birthday recently.  I’d been very specific about my age when I was in hospital over the past year and they had me down at one stage as 60 – NO! I said, I’m not 60, I’m 59 – a big difference in my eyes, fiftties sounds younger, sixties sounds, well, old.

So here I am, 60 and proud of it.  It’s a fact, it’s a number.  But does it really mean anything?  I opened a card just the other day from a fairly new friend who had never known my age.  She couldn’t help adding a comment to the card that we had chatted, shared things and experiences together, laughed and more and she couldn’t believe I was the age I was and said it proves age is just a number.  I don’t know her age.  Somewhere between 30’s and 40’s.  Does it matter?  What matters is that we clicked, we get on well together, she always makes me smile.  She said I was an inspiration but she inspires me.  We inspire each other, what can be better than that – peer inspiration, the best.

After the difficult year I have had, I felt blessed to reach my 60th and even more so when a surprise birthday celebration was arranged by my close family.  I had an inkling that we were going to do something, I thought a small family meal out together somewhere.  I was urged to be ready in time and was frantically trying to get my Christmas gift of earrings from a friend through my ears that I had not done for nearly a year, didn’t even know if the holes would still be there.  Success and then I made my way out the door to be greeted by a huge white limousine.

It was a wonderful surprise and I sat sipping a taster of Champagne as I floated in the car to our destination.  It seemed unreal.  In my mind I kept thinking I knew where we were going as we took different turnings and changed my guess as we went past.  We ended up arriving at one of my favourite haunts some years back where we spent many happy times, a fairly local hotel where I had partied, had family brunches with Santa and enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of the health spa.  After capturing our family group outside the limo, I ventured inside, not prepared for the surprises that moment by moment dawned on me.  Some of my closest friends who had supported me so much during the past year were already seated in the lounge area, scattered so it took me a few minutes to take it in and tears of emotion and joy escaped my eyes.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  How they had all managed to keep it from me at a time when we were wishing each other a Happy Christmas and not expecting to see each other until the New Year I do not know.  I never suspected such a surprise.  It brought a warm glow to my heart and I treasured every moment.

I have dwelt on this more than I intended and it is hard to express in words how I felt.  I had not felt able to make plans myself because I had not long had my last treatment of chemotherapy and was still recovering, and somehow it being the last of the cycle made it more difficult though I should have been pleased.  As I write this I have enjoyed a joyous Christmas at home and spent a couple of days away at a family party where most of my family were present and I met once again with the youngest member, just under a year old, my niece’s son.

I would never have imagined years ago that at age 60 (which always seemed so old when I recall my own parents reaching that age) that I would have a teenage daughter and be mid-way through a degree course at University.  I have a wonderful family, dear friends and a range of interests that keep me happy most of the time.  There are challenges ahead but there is so much to be thankful for.  I am returning to study in January and this will bring its own pressures which will again mean that my blogging will no doubt go on hold again, but it is not something that I want to let go of.  It is something that I want to return to again and again as there is something so special about it.  I have tinkered with different aspects of social media.  Each has its place, benefits and downfalls, but to me nothing gets near to what blogging can do.  It opens up a whole new world and the opportunities are endless.  Whenever I come on here I get lost in what I am doing and never feel that I have wasted my time.  There is always something that draws me in to read more and I know that it is always there for me if I need it.

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Chatham Maritime – a different view September 2015

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

I’m now catching up on what I’ve done over the past couple of months when enjoying the freedom to go out and about in my car and on the train.  These are photos taken at Chatham Maritime, just round the corner from the Chatham Dockside outlet shopping centre, Dickensworld tourist attraction, Odeon cinema, restaurants, coffee shops and an ice cream cafe which apparently is well-worth the queueing, and lots more besides.  If you are interested in learning more about the area take a look at Chatham Maritime Trust’s site.  The Trust is a registered charity and guardian of the Chatham Maritime Estate which has lots of history.

Beyond the boats, which can be seen in the photo below, is St Mary’s Island.  This island is very small and filled with modernish residential houses.  The island inspired one of my poems which was a bit gloomy and in no way represents what I think of the island.  I thought I had shared the poem before but on checking don’t think I have so when I find it, I’ll share it.

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

I never used to visit the Island until a couple of years ago when a friend told me they often went there for walks.  I had seen no sign of anywhere much to walk but one day was determined to find it.  I parked on the island and eventually managed to slip through a footpath between houses which took me onto the perimeter pathway.  From there I was right beside the river estuary (if that’s the right way to describe it – never one for geography).  It was a beautiful sunny day and I wish I had the photos to show you here.  As I walked around, the high fencing/walls beside the path hid the houses and all that could be seen was the path and the beautiful views of shimmering water and bobbing colourful boats.  It seemed to have taken me to a magical place that I never knew existed, it didn’t feel like the Medway I knew – another hidden gem.  Walking further round to one end I came across an amazing massive sculpture, the Mariners, which was to mean more to me in the future – more on this in another blog.  Here is the link to the sculptor Sam Holland’s website.

I am to-ing and fro-ing a bit in time, but I wanted to share how worthwhile it is – if you find yourself near Chatham Maritime and St Mary’s Island – to stop off and take some time out for yourself.  There are two bridges which go across to the Island, one where the cars go and one where there is a lock, and this is the best route to the pathway from Dockside (though watch out for the parking restrictions).

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

The pictures shown here do not do the area justice but they are a reminder to me of the day I visited.  I can’t walk far so stopped off by the pub and visited the Co-op supermarket.  The cool breeze is always so refreshing and lifts my spirits.  The pub the Ship & Trades is a great meeting place and – unlike here – is often very busy with a convivial atmosphere.  I can thoroughly recommend the food and they are always very helpful with meeting special dietary requirements.

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

The following photo is one of my attempts at having a different perspective and I liked the way the shapes made geometric patterns.  I sort of like it.  Now I’m off to see what other photos I can share with you.  Kay

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Timelapse – return to blogging – Brighton West Pier

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

This photo was taken from my hotel room in Brighton when I escaped with my daughter for a couple of days before returning home for my last cycle of chemo treatment which I am having today.  I have very mixed emotions and hoping that I don’t end up back in hospital.

My post today was prompted by the realisation that people were still reading my blog and if I left it much longer I might never return.  I realise how much I have missed the blogging world but I have taken time out to get out and about as much as possible before I am restricted again.  I have also been experimenting with other social media, Twitter in particular, but there is no comparison.  I find Twitter fascinating but there is not the same sense of community that I feel might be gained from being part of the blogging world.  I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this.  There’s a lot of social media options out there and for me they each serve different purposes and it’s finding a way to use them without social media taking over your life.

I’m just going to leave it there today.  I’ve still been taking photos which I will catch up on and blog about.  My Apple desktop is a scattered mess of photos which will no doubt give me inspiration.  I’m keeping calm and relaxed and there is just something about the photo I have chosen for this blog that takes me to a different place.

Off the beaten track in the Kent Downs, England with a visit to an art studio and The Black Horse Inn at Thurnham

Copyright Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright Kay/wavesandpebbles

I had a few hours to spare so went for a drive in the Kent countryside with nowhere particular in mind.  I was on a busy dual carriageway and waiting for something to lure me away.  A sign for Hucking Estate showed a place for walks and picnics, so I flicked my indicator and headed off into the narrow lanes and tree tunnels.  A nightmare I usually avoid, dreading coming face to face with a vehicle that will be obstinate and refuse to back away.  I hate reversing especially if someone is edging towards me impatiently.  But thankfully that was in my mind, it didn’t actually happen.  I stopped by the roadside to take photos which on their own do not do justice in conveying the splendorous views that surrounded me amidst peace on that cool sunny autumn day.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I noticed a sign at a vague crossroads to an Art Studio.  Intrigued, as I love discovering unexpected places, I followed the sign until I came to a dilemma.  A choice of a no through road or turn off to the right.  Well, I thought, it is perhaps most likely along the no through road and at least I will come to an end, whereas the other road could take me who knows how far.  Mere seconds along the no through road and I was regretting my choice.  There were no passing points, nowhere to go if another vehicle appeared, especially if it was a tractor, and no way I could reverse unless I could manage a straight (or curving) line.  Recalling a theme within a book I am reading*, I tried to convince myself that it was less boring to follow this road and that I must let my fear ride alongside and ignore it.  I eventually arrived at a farm where there were lots of tractors and the people living there came out to see me.  It was good to meet a friendly face and I was reassured that there were no tractors due to arrive and if another vehicle did appear, it was possible to somehow squeeze past.  I was kindly given directions to the Art Studio which was but a few minutes away.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

And so I came to arrive at This Art of Mine Arts & Craft Studio.  I was welcomed by a friendly dog from the neighbouring house and discovered that the Studio was in fact closed but there was someone there.  I was welcomed in and had a guided tour, discovering a wonderful place that offered workshops (which included decorating pottery and jewellery making) and also an area dedicated to open access to just turn up and pay as you paint pottery.  It was really spacious and light, with plenty of examples of work that had already been done.

When I left, I decided to carry on and head back to the main road.  In doing so, I ended up arriving at one of my favourite restaurants, The Black Horse Inn at Thurnham that I had not visited in a long while.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I wasn’t hungry when I arrived so had a lemonade and sat outside on the terrace in the sunshine.  Enticed by the daily special menu, I lengthened my stay and enjoyed a tasty three course lunch ending with a luscious Creme Brûlée.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandnpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandnpebbles

I was full and sat relaxing, reading my book in the cosy historic atmosphere of the Inn.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

The Black Horse Inn is licensed for Marriages and Civil Ceremonies.  It is a beautiful place with a special landscaped area for ceremonies.  There is also accommodation that can be booked.  Ideal for wedding guests or if you are having a special celebration and want to be able to have a drink and not worry about driving home, or if you are visiting the area and want somewhere different to stay.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I am including the following photo as it shows more of the immense outdoor areas available.  The sun was so bright that the angle I took it has affected it but in black and white it does provide you with a picture of what it is like – perhaps it adds a hint of romance.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

The Black Horse Inn is a very friendly and welcoming public house and restaurant (with accommodation) and I thoroughly recommend a visit if you find yourself in the area of Maidstone in Kent, England.  Their website can be found here.

I never ended up on the Hucking Estate but information on this Woodland Trust area, and other areas within the Kent Downs – AnArea of Outstanding Natural Beauty – can be found here www.kentdowns.org.uk.

This Art of Mine Art & Craft Studio – information can be found here.

The book I am reading is Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear, written by Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat Pray Love.  Here is a link to The The Guardian Q & A with the author.

Supersonic Car’s World Debut at Canary Wharf – The Bloodhound Project

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I never know what I am going to come across when I go out on one of my day trips.  On my recent visit to Canary Wharf, London on 23 September 2015 I stumbled across the World debut of this amazing supersonic car, the focus of the Bloodhound project.  A link to the website and information of this day can be found here http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/news/bloodhound-supersonic-car-makes-world-debut.

I came across these vehicles and wanted to know more.  Fortunately, I arrived at a time when it was not too busy and was allowed in.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

This is where it was held.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

This is the mission statement for the project:

“Create a unique, high-technology project, focused around a 1000mph World Land Speed Record attempt. Share this Engineering Adventure with a global audience and inspire the next generation by bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics to life in the most exciting way possible.”

It was very special to have the opportunity to see this unique vehicle, along with a couple of promotional jaguars.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Canary Wharf, London, England

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I went for a train ride yesterday and ended up at Canary Wharf.  I had hoped to see some of the 15 street pianos that were there but I somehow missed them.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day and I took a few photos.  I arrived on the Docklands Light Railway, which is strange as I was sitting facing forward and could see ahead into the other carriages so could see the train swinging from side to side unlike the old London underground trains where you sit down the sides facing the people opposite and can’t see the other carriages.  This has changed on the new underground trains, they are more spacious so at less busy times you can walk though the carriages and see them curving round.

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Canary Wharf had a great atmosphere outside in the early evening and I discovered an Italian restaurant that I would really like to visit Amerigo Vespucci, it had a very enticing menu.  It is a restaurant with an alfresco bar open with tables and chairs on the terrace overlooking the water.

I happened to be on Twitter this morning and linked through to someone who had favourited one of my tweets.  His latest tweet was on visual storytelling and microblogging.  On clicking through to his article, I discovered the app Steller (which is free) and had a go at using it.  Here is the link to my first ‘story’ on Canary Wharf https://steller.co/s/4ukCuGNSfbR.  If for some reason this doesn’t work visit me on Twitter – see link to the right.  This app can really tell a story.  There are different themes and you can write text either separate from, or on, the photos.

The original Tweet was mainly about a different, new (updated) visual storytelling app Storehouse.  I am just downloading that now for free and hope to blog about it soon.  Social media and it’s related parts are really eating into my time and I daren’t go there this morning else the day will be gone but I am really enjoying finding out more about it all.

Here are just a few more photos of some of the buildings.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Mum’s Legendary Chocolate Cake

Love this post and Anna’s blog, especially the letter to her mother which you will find if you visit her blog. Kay

Anna Buckley's Blog

IMG_7338[1]It’s moist, sticky, irresistibly chocolaty, ridiculously easy to bake and is even yummier the next day!

August is the month where all those Christmas party conceptions come to bear. Nearly every day we seem to be celebrating the birthday of a family member or close friend. We don’t go much on gift giving excesses but we do like to celebrate these special days with food and more specifically Mum’s chocolate birthday cake.

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