Book Review: One Endless Summer by Laurie Ellingham

One Endless Summer

A friend said she’s really enjoyed this book and on her recommendation, and the fact it slotted into a category in my 2017 Reading Challenge (A book with one of the four seasons in the title), I downloaded it immediately without reading the blurb – but here it is for you.

“Three best friends.
Three continents.
Three months to live.
How long can you keep a secret?
Three best friends are embarking on an all-expenses paid trip of their dreams. The only catch? Every moment will be documented on film.
Lizzie’s battle with cancer is coming to an end, and now she’s ready to embrace adventure for the very first time. There are only three months, but it is Lizzie’s time to finally start living!
Jaddi is known for her stunning looks, flirtatious attitude and many conquests. But Jaddi has a secret and on this last trip together she needs to decide whether her best friends will ever know the real her.
Samantha has always been the ‘grown up’ of the group, the one with a five year plan. What Lizzie and Jaddi don’t know is that Sam is trapped, and her perfect life isn’t quite what it seems…
As they trek across the globe Lizzie, Jaddi and Samantha must come to terms with loss, love and trusting one another. But will it all be too late…”

When I started the first chapter it was evident that not only was this a book about cancer, but about brain tumours in particular.  Now far too many people close to me have been affected by this horrific disease over recent years, and I wasn’t sure I could face reading a book with this as a key theme.  But, I’d already paid to download it – so I decided to start reading and then stop if I found it too distressing.  (Giving myself permission to stop reading a book is rare – hey, I persevered through The Goldfinch – but these were extenuating circumstances.)

Well, I can tell you now – I didn’t have to give up.  Whilst Lizzie’s brain tumour was fundamental to the storyline – and some of the things she talked about were all too familiar – it was always there in the back ground rather than being totally in your face throughout the whole book.  And a bit like the current Macmillan adverts – it showed that just because you have cancer / a brain tumour doesn’t mean you’re not still a friend / daughter / sister / lover too.

The 3 best friends are all very different – and whilst initially you think Lizzie is the one fighting a personal battle with the brain tumour – actually, all 3 of the friends have different battles in their own lives.  Each chapter is told from a different friend’s point of view – and I don’t think there’s a rigid pattern to the chapters – but they link together really well.

The descriptions of the different places the girls visit were great – helped by the fact that I’ve been lucky enough to visit many of them!

The story twists and turns dramatically – some of it more guessable than others (I sussed Jaddi’s secret fairly early on) – but all makes for a very enjoyable summer read.

I don’t want to give too much away though – read it for yourself and see what you think! I will definitely be looking out for more books by Laurie Ellingham.

 

** It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention the fact that brain tumours are a massively underfunded area for research – and if the book has moved you to want to donate to further research  – then we are heavily involved in fundraising for Brain Tumour Research in memory of our family friend Finlay Church who died in 2015 aged just 11.  You can donate in his memory here.  Thank you. xx **

 

 

Advertisements

The Bog Slog

My friend Mandy has written this FABULOUS piece about the mud run we did a few weeks ago. So proud to have been a part of it (and pleased Mand didn’t include the picture where I did look like a hippo!!)

The Davies Diaries

It didn’t occur to me to question why it was called the bog slog. I had signed up to do a mud run and had a romantic notion of skipping through fields with my mates, sun shining down on us as we laughed and joked, creating happy memories. I was in quite good spirits that morning – make up on, hair straightened and all set to get on with it.

20160319_085452816_iOS Before

A huge group of us signed up for the 5k mud yard mud run to raise money and awareness for brain tumour research. Fin was just 11 when he lost his battle to this killer. 11. No parent should ever bury a child. We’re just not programmed to cope. Many of us watched this pan out from the sidelines unable to find the words or reach out in any meaningful way. I, for one, felt totally useless. I wanted to help…

View original post 871 more words

Social media recognition

Today we were out for lunch, and totally randomly, the Dad of the family sitting on the  table behind us was someone I used to work with 20 years ago – and I probably haven’t seen him for 15 years!  He had his back to us – but popped over to say hello. I was concerned he had heard my familiar dulcet Brummie tones (we sat next to each other for 3 years studying for our Chartered Accountancy exams)  – but actually, it was his wife who’d recognised us!  I’d never met her before – but she thought we were familiar from her husband’s Facebook…..

(And obviously you meet someone you haven’t seen for many years when your 5 year old has got herself dressed and appears to be channeling a refugee whilst wearing school tights, denim skirt and white tank top with boots that are too small so she takes them off to walk in just her tights, with a bizarre flowered headband and scruffy hair …………)

My husband isn’t as prolific on social media as me (not many people are!) but has still been recognised at rugby matches and shopping with the kids by people who’ve never met him in person because they’ve seen photos of him on my profile.  Actually – when our daughter first started at her new school last September, one of the mother’s commented on first meeting him that she’d seem him naked – from behind sat down working in a hotel in New York on one of my photos I should add!!  Although having starred in a charity calendar this year – an awful lot of people can say the same (in fact a local estate agent came up to him at lunch today to say he was on her kitchen wall in the buff ………)

Calendar 1

Calendar 3

And if anyone would like a calendar (raising funds for one of Finlay Church‘s charities – Brain Tumour Research) – then there are just a few left!!

Think about nothing…….

So today was the day I got to be a geeky guinea pig!

I arrived bright and early at the University research area ready for my exciting day. Initially that was blood pressure readings, blood samples, height, weight and body fat analysis (yep – that wasn’t the best reading, but I hoped my stats would improve as the day went on!)

Then I had to complete a questionnaire about how I felt / feel about certain things – pretty bog standard questions that you might get in a survey in Cosmopolitan magazine – although there were less (although not none!) about sex, and some were a bit weirder.  The weirdest being ‘for each of your children (and there was enough space for 4 kids, which is quite rare!) do you get on with them worse than average, average or better than average?!  Totally unsure how you benchmark such a thing against other people?!?

Then started the memory and IQ tests.  This was like some weird Krypton Factor (or The Cube if you’re under 40) / Tap the Frog / 11+ exam hybrid.  Lots involved shapes and sequences and patterns which, in places, I found REALLY HARD – but I think I made up for it by bossing the numbers and words.  Although in places that was really tricky too.  There was a list of about 20 different word pairs – some related to each other, and some not.  The researcher read them all out to me – and then went back and asked me to name the second word for each first word.  I was RUBBISH.  I couldn’t believe I was so rubbish to be honest!  But we had to repeat the thing – with the same words – four times.  Third time I got one wrong, and fourth time I got a full house – BOOM!  Lots of the tests were talking to the researcher, some were written, some involved cubes (my eldest’s pet hate when doing her non verbal reasoning for the 11+) and then some was on an electronic tablet.

This was the particular bit that felt like Tap the Frog – just without any frogs!  It was incredibly intense and lots of the tests were clearly designed to scramble your brain (I described it as a headf*ck to the researcher – and she neither confirmed nor denied that that was the technical term!!!)

After that – and a quick sandwich lunch – we were over to the old hospital campus next door for an MRI.  Whilst I’d had one of these on my knee before, I’d never actually been totally inside the tube – and people told me it was VERY claustrophobic and noisy.  I had to remove anything metal (apart from my underwired bra – apparently those are fine!), lay down on the bench, put in ear plugs and on headphones and was slowly wheeled into the tube.  I’d been warned to bring my own music as the music the university have isn’t the best – so 80s love songs it was! There were then about 6 different MRIs.  These all had slightly different noises – there was one like the photocopier was persistently jammed, one that sounded as if you were in the spin cycle of a tumble drier, one that sounded like someone was using a pneumatic drill to get into the machine, and other banging noises.  However, I still managed to fall asleep!!  After each 5 or 10 minute MRI the lady doing the scans would talk to me / wake me up.  For most of them I was allowed to close my eyes – but for one of them I was told I had to keep my eyes open and think about nothing!!

Of course, when you’re told to think about nothing you brain, which is used to juggling kids / home / work / organising charity events / planning a Florida trip for 12, immediately starts thinking of stuff.

So I tried to imagine nothing…….

  • An empty room – what colour is it?  Why is it empty?  Are there any windows?
  • An open field – what’s over the horizon?  What crop is growing?  Are there any cows?
  • A blue sky – are those clouds? Ooh, it’s like the Philadelphia advert!

Right Libby – visualising ‘nothing’ isn’t helping you think of nothing, so just focus on the inside of the MRI scanner……

  • Hmm, what’s the scuff mark?
  • Did someone with a big head scrape it on the side?
  • And why does that look like there was tape on there before that’s been pulled off and left a residue?
  • Why would you hold an MRI scanner together with tape?

Right Libby – focusing on the inside of the scanner isn’t working.  Blur your vision and don’t think of anything.

  • Hmm – why don’t I do some pelvic floor excercises rather than waste time?
  • Wonder if that will show in brain movement?

So all in all – I’m not very good at thinking about nothing!!!

It’s been a great day – I’m exhausted but really enjoyed it (I am such a geek!)  I don’t know my results (which is tricky for a control freak) but hopefully should get some feedback in the Autumn.

And if anyone in the Birmingham area would like to take part – they’re still looking for volunteers!!

Guest Blog: What is strength?

Last year my lovely friend Emily wrote a Guest Blog. Today she sent me an email with what you’re about to read, and asked if I wanted to share it.  I couldn’t be more proud to share it with you all, and honoured that Em asked me to post it.

Lots of love to Emily – and Finlay. xx

What is strength?

An odd subject for a blog I grant you, but an issue that has been buzzing around my head just lately – begging to be addressed.  So here we go…

I like to think I am a fairly strong person.  Before children, when I was young, carefree and drinking wine with my work colleagues in various London bars, I used to think of strength as just physical.  Can I lift that heavy box?  Of course.  Can I re-arrange a conference room, moving various chairs and tables? Hell yes!  Can I renovate a dilapidated house, stripping wallpaper and knocking down walls?  No problemo!

Strength was measured by exertion.  My working hours were long, my social life packed.  I thought I was busy.  And then I had kids…

A 28 hour labour will make you reassess strength.  Now I discovered that any physical tiredness I once felt before kids was nothing compared to the intense toil of motherhood.  Sleepless nights, sore leaky boobs, the drain of the emotion that comes with being a mum. And the worry!  How many situations of impending doom can one person imagine?  What if he falls out of the open car window as we are driving along.  Hang on, have I even put him in the car?  What if a dog attacks him when we are at the local park?  And on, and on.  Endlessly.  Now strength was measured mentally.  Emotionally.  Could I get through another day without sobbing at a really intense episode of Bob the Builder?  Unlikely.  Sometimes Bob’s deadlines are really cutting it fine!

Life with children is fun, full and hectic!  Soft-play centres are my new drinking establishments of choice (often tea and a biscuit).  Football on a Sunday my new overtime.  My strength comes from my children, shuttling them to various activities, seeing them have a good time.  Life is pretty great.

But this last year has tested my strength even more.  Just twelve short months ago, a very close friend was dealt the most devastating of news.  Her gorgeous little boy, Finlay was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma Brain Tumour.  Fin has gone through brain surgery twice, has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a clinical trial.  He is about to embark on a second round of gruelling radiotherapy and he is, quite simply, my new hero.  My new definition of strength.

Because throughout this horrible journey, Fin has been truly amazing.  He is brave – overcoming his fear of cannulas; funny –  ‘Why can’t I eat white bread!?’;  and truly inspirational – he has raised over £35K including gift aid for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research and also broken a Guinness World Record!  And still he goes to school, trains for his black belt in karate and continues to be a kind and caring little boy. Oh, and did I mention the Pride of Britain nomination?  Put simply – He rocks!

Of course, there have been dark moments.  This is hell on earth and any parent’s worst nightmare, but during this most horrific of times there have also been moments of sheer beauty – ones that will be treasured forever.  Acts of kindness, generosity and friendship that have gone above and beyond.  People are good, and I have seen that goodness in abundance.

Just recently I asked my lovely Facebook friends to donate just £1 each to try and boost Fin’s fundraising to over the £30k mark.  And I was staggered at the response.  Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years donated.  Colleagues who don’t know Fin, but who know me, digging deep, helping him to smash his target! Thank you my lovely ones – your kindness is appreciated more than you know.  And this got me thinking again about strength and what it really means.

Because ultimately, more and more, I realise that strength comes from love.  I worked hard at my career, because I loved my job.  I got through a gruelling birth and the pitfalls of parenting because I love my children.  And our love for Finlay makes him strong.  And he is loved more than he will ever know.

There is still a long way to go for Fin on his journey.  Every day brings extreme highs and lows – like the worst rollercoaster in the entire world.  Ever.  But his amazing family will continue to fight for him, because they love him.  As friends, we will continue to support them, because we love them.  And if you are reading this, you can help too.  You can #fundthefight to help find a cure for horrible brain cancer, and make sure that no other family, no other lovely children like Fin, have to prove how amazingly strong they are.

You can donate any amount to Fin’s fund here and you can follow his journey on his Facebook page.

Thank you xxx

Operation Teddy Bear – World Record SMASHED!!!

I’ve blogged before about Operation Teddy Bear and the accompanying raising of its awareness with #opteddybear selfies – but yesterday was THE BIG DAY – and is ‘one day in May’ I will never forget!!

A couple of weeks ago we found out that Finlay was going to need further brain surgery – and just a few days before the big day – so we gave him the choice of whether we postponed, or went ahead without him.  The mature, sensible, lovely boy that he is, he recognised how much work had gone into the preparation and told us to go ahead anyway. So on Thursday 30 April Fin had a 7 hour operation. It went really well and he was excited that he could be video linked in to the Operation Teddy Bear event.

The night before we were picking up bears from the various places around the Alvechurch area where they had been stored – my children were literally drowning in bears:

IMG_3084

IMG_3085

Then on Sunday May 3rd it was an early – and wet – start at Alvechurch Cricket Club. If we’d arranged for Guinness to come out and witness the event we would have had to pay them a few thousand pounds – and we wanted that money to go to the charities (Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research) – so we went down the route of providing loads of evidence to support our attempt instead. This meant independent witnesses were there every step / bear of the way and everything was photographed and videoed.

So – off we went!! At this point the bears could sit on plastic to stop their bottoms getting wet – those later on weren’t so comfy!

I laid 500 (as in put them down, not laid like a chicken!)

IMG_3135

and other members of the Op Teddy Bear team did too:

IMG_3136

IMG_3137

All through the first few hours we were able to FaceTime with Fin in his (dry, warm) hospital bed!!

We broke the UK record of 1,996 within a few hours, and as we approached the existing world record of 4,041 we found that the wifi was down at Fin’s hospital and so we couldn’t get him to watch live – but we photographed and videoed it all for him. In Fin’s absence, a little boy called Oscar – who was treated by Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a life threatening heart condition as a baby – laid the world record breaking bear! (Cue loads of sobbing from me and the rest of the team!!)

IMG_3139

IMG_3096

But we weren’t going to stop at just scraping the record – we wanted to SMASH it – so on we went!

There was a steady stream of wonderful people volunteering to lay bears – and a huge queue of people to help ‘feed’ the layers with bears! It was the Alvechurch Picnic In The Park in the neighbouring park, so there were loads of locals to come and help and watch and it had the most amazing feel of community spirit.

Onwards we went…….bear after bear after bear. They had to be bears, not any other kind of stuffed toy – and they had to be touching at all times. I took my role as bear police very seriously (I suspect there will be children in the school playground this week pointing at me saying ‘there’s that nasty lady who shouted at us to keep away from the bears’!!) but we couldn’t risk the line being broken.

DCIM100MEDIA
Credit: Anthony Hill

Then, there was some real excitement  – someone really important had arrived at the attempt. IT WAS FINLAY!!!! The whole ‘wifi is down’ had been a ruse, in fact the Church family were bringing Finlay out of hospital! So 3 days after 7 hour brain surgery, he’d done so well, he’d been allowed out – and he was able to come and join us. Cue LOADS more weeping from me and the rest of the team!!

He was well enough to lay some bears – here he is with one of our independent witnesses, having hit the 7,000 marker!

Fin and Nigel

and here he is ‘feeding’ bears to his Mum!

IMG_3107

Still we were laying bears – those that had been donated over recent weeks by generous people all over the country – but also brought along on the day.

IMG_3104

We’d even sourced a generator and some floodlights in case we needed to keep laying after it went dark, and were on our 3rd pair of independent witnesses!!

IMG_5235.JPG

But then – the end was in sight. And we’d done it – laid every bear and completely annihilated the existing world record!! Obviously I was weeping far too much to actually take any photos as Fin’s siblings laid the last few bears and then Fin himself laid the final bear………

[Edited to add – thankfully my husband wasn’t such an emotional wreck and took photos of Fin’s younger siblings laying the penultimate bear – and Fin with the final one – phew!!!]

IMG_3140

IMG_3141

IMG_3110

IMG_3111

These are photos from our phones, so not the best quality in the world, but I think give a really good feel for the day. It was an amazing day to be part of – and really highlighted how much the entire community is behind Fin and his family. All of the evidence will be sent off to Guinness for them to check and hopefully issue Fin his certificate – and getting in the printed edition of the Guinness Book of World Records itself is his dream.

But the record attempt was only part of it – the main reason was to raise awareness and funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research – so if you feel inspired to donate, the Just Giving pages are still accepting!

It’s now the morning after the day before.  My husband and I (and I expect other people around the village) are struggling to walk today (my Fitbit shows I walked 12 miles yesterday – I could have just done the Birmingham 10k – which was also on yesterday – twice instead!!).  The longest time I sat down in the 14 hours we were there yesterday was for a wee!!  We also have 15,534 wet teddy bears to dry and distribute to the various charities who have supported us – but pretty soon it won’t be ‘All About the Bears‘ anymore……………..

The category for The Gallery over on the Sticky Fingers blog this week is ‘one day in May’- and this is one day in May that I will never, ever forget!

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Operation Teddy Bear

I am not blogging as much as normal at the moment, as pretty much all spare waking minutes – and some sleeping ones – are being taken up with Operation Teddy Bear.

Builder Bear!
Builder Bear!

I’ve mentioned before about taking bear selfies and it would still be GREAT if you could do them and share on social media with the #opteddybear hashtag – and if any of you are / know a celeb – please rope them in too!! Join the motley crew of Olly Murs, Sir Alex Ferguson, Angela Griffin et al!

Also – there’s still time to donate teddies! All the details of Bear HQ and drop off points are on the Operation Teddy Bear website and Finlay’s Journey on Facebook.

And if you don’t have teddies to donate – then good old fashioned cash is also appreciated – here’s the Just Giving page link.

Please help the inspirational Finlay break a Guinness World Record and raise loads of cash for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research.

Thanks everyone, from me – and the rest of the #opteddybear team – and most importantly, Fin.
xx

Show Me Your Teddy Bear – The Photo Gallery week 225

From the outset I need to declare an interest in this week’s theme! I’ve known Finlay since he was a baby – and am heavily involved in organising Operation Teddy Bear – to the point that I’m dreaming about teddies!!

Actually I blogged about Fin last year – when the Gallery theme was ‘Spectacular‘.

Since then Fin has continued with his treatment – and living the life a 10 year old boy should with school, fun with family and friends, and some of his favourite sports.

He’s also passionate about raising money for both Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research – which we are supporting with Operation Teddy Bear – as well as trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The support from people far and wide has been astonishing – from donations of teddy bears and cash – to #opteddybear selfies on social media – from people who know Fin – and others, including some celebs! We’ve still got almost a month until the event on May 3rd – so any support that you can give would be massively welcome. The Just Giving site is here.

I’m off to scour the charity shops of the Lake District for teddies whilst we’re away for Easter!

So – here are the Price family with their #opteddybear pictures:

IMG_2724 IMG_2718 IMG_2715 IMG_2725 IMG_2711 IMG_2714

And the construction company we own also managed some ‘Builder Bears’!!!

IMG_2794 IMG_2793

Please pop across and see other people’s teddy bears:

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery