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  1. Return of the Polyp

    June 25, 2016 by Amy

    When you have a baby, your world revolves around it. It’s your world of experience, so it’s often all you have to talk about.
    When you are an investment banker, and your life is consumed 24 hours by the job, it’s your world of experience, so it’s often all you have to talk about.

    I am ill. My world is revolving around me being ill. It’s my current world of experience, so it’s all I have to talk about. I’m sure it’s driving my husband mad, so I’m going to talk about it here instead so that I can talk about other important issues with him, like where the biscuits are and the hilarious thing that Nanny Plum said.

    It all started years back with chest pains, most recently reported on last April during the great reveal of Philip the Polyp. Fast forward to last Friday and the chest pains returned. In hindsight I shouldn’t really have driven home from work, but I did, and I collapsed once I got in. Thankfully my awesome husband Alex was there to put me to bed. I went to the walk in clinic late night once things had calmed down to a dull throb and was told I’d taken the right medication. Biliary Colic was banded around and sounded pretty accurate to what I’d experienced, but nothing concrete other than a recommendation to see the doctor on Monday, which I promised I’d do.

    I didn’t get as far as Monday – by Sunday night I’d had a migraine and was in A&E – I’m not used to migraines. I ended up on a drip due to dehydration. No biggie, just replenishing the supply. Again I was told, doctors in the morning, please.

    So, on to Monday and my first appointment with the new family doctor at our new doctors surgery. She is brilliant. Bloods were taken to test for liver function and thyroid function, and a full organ scan requested. I feel listened to and looked after.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love the NHS.

    A week on and there’s no change for me – I’m breathless and I have a constant ache, punctuated with shocking pains every now and then. Work have been amazingly supportive and are letting me work from home, with a longer term plan being discussed this Monday.

    As such, I am forced into the position of doing something I hate – resting. Oh, I’m terrible at resting. I get so bored and feel so unproductive. But folding the washing leaves me exhausted, so there’s little option. I’m ducking out of and writing off social engagements – I was meant to be walking in a parade today; nope. I am meant to be filming an audition next weekend; nope. I am hosting a Games Night on Tuesday; n… well, Alex will host it, I will take it easy and head up to bed when I get tired.

    Anyway, I’m using my poor old blog as a place to document what’s going on. Hopefully there’ll be an update soon, for everyone’s sake…


  2. Hoburne Naish – the sequel

    April 3, 2016 by Amy

    We went away this week as it was Easter half term and the smallest Hansford was home from school. Looking at the prices of holidays during the… well, the holidays, did genuinely make me weep originally. I thought there just wasn’t any way we were going to escape home over Easter.

    As a last ditch attempt, I had a look over at the Hoburne Naish website. We stayed at Hoburne Naish last year and reviewed it for Approved Family Friendly, so it was on my radar. However, given the fact it was Easter, I didn’t expect that there would be anything in our price bracket. I was over the moon to see that a Chewton Lodge was available for our dates and in budget too – fantastic! And so we arrived on a windy Saturday to our home for the week.

    Photo credit: https://www.hoburne.com/holiday-parks/accommodation?park=naish&start=10

    Photo credit: https://www.hoburne.com/holiday-parks/accommodation?park=naish&start=10

    I was very impressed. We’d gone for a mid-level two bedroomed lodge so my expectations weren’t too high. But here’s what we found;

    A private driveway outside the property – isn’t it annoying when you have to move your car away from the accommodation?

    The living room had plenty of seating, plus a decent telly with FreeSat and we were able to plug in our laptop to watch films. Lovely and warm with gorgeous curtains and matching furnishings.

    Fully decked kitchen with oven/hob/microwave/kettle/toaster as expected, a dishwasher, washing machine, loads of storage and a full height American style fridge freezer. Very impressive! Completely child friendly too – no scary cords hanging down, sharp corners of worktops cut down to rounded edges, etc.

    The family bathroom included a jacuzzi bath – minimal bubble bath + button = hugely excited five year old + ALL THE BUBBLES! As per last year, the accommodation was desperately lacking the cheapest of things – a little step. Due to this, the smallest Hansford wasn’t able to wash/brush teeth independently as she couldn’t reach, although it did lead to amusing Supergirl impressions instead.

    The twin room was amusing – the beds seemed almost 3/4 size. If we’d been away with my stepbrother, all near 7 foot of him, he would have been disappointed. However, perfect for the smallest Hansford.

    The double was lovely – again, the great furnishing continued throughout, the curtains did a great job of keeping out the light (we’re used to blinds at home) and the ensuite was well set up. Mind you, the shower screen which folded in half inwards would probably be a challenge for many in terms of getting out of the thing.

    It was lovely, comfy and cosy, even against the force of Storm Katie which took down a fair number of both junior and well established trees throughout the New Forest.

    Location-wise, it was a quick walk down to the local stony beach with a bit of sand which Mr Hansford and the smallest Hansford enjoyed lots. On site there’s also the outdoor pool (open from May onwards), plus the still brilliant play area with its safe location, single entrance/exit to take the pressure off wild eyed parents and loads of play options.

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    We were well placed, just a couple of minutes away from the pool (bit cold, smallest Hansford ended up with blue lips) and the main centre which recently underwent a complete refurbishment and is now blissfully light and airy. Within this there is a great schedule of events for all ages running throughout the week. It’s reassuring to see that the Ents Manager was still the same chap – it shows that he must enjoy his job, and hints that Hoburne make for good employers, which is nice. Ents teams tend to have a quick seasonal turnover, so consistency is great.

    We made it to the annual Easter Egg hunt – I admired the Ents Manager as he skilfully made an indoor egg hunt (did we mention the storm?) still good fun for ooh, about 50 kids. There were prizes and party dances to follow. However, the smallest Hansford sunk into a sulk and spent the next hour underneath the table, later citing (and this is a direct quote); “I don’t want to be told how to dance – I want to be free!” As such, rather than make her do something she didn’t enjoy (because it’s everyone’s holiday, not just ours), we didn’t make use of the fantastic itineraries that week which included line dancing, family frisbee tournaments, dancing competitions, games, music, live performances and the rest. However, we were delighted to have our own little holiday home to return to after jaunts.

    Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    Bournemouth Oceanarium. Photo credit: Alex Hansford

    We tried to get out when we could. Within easy travelling distance was Southampton with plenty of shops (and rain), Bournemouth with it’s glorious sandy beach, pier, entertainments and Oceanarium, plus plenty of other tourist attractions including the New Forest Reptile Centre (don’t expect the world – these are mostly animals which are local to the New Forest), Paulton’s Park and farms aplenty.

    The beach at Hoburne Naish. Photo credit: Alex Hansford.

    The beach at Hoburne Naish. Photo credit: Alex Hansford.

    Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was down with the worst throat infection I’ve ever had, plus my first ever migraine (ah, bless!) so it was up to the other two Hansfords to get out and about. But I was so very grateful for the very comfy accommodation. When you are ill, you just want your own bed. But this one certainly did the job.

    Also, I am now a huge fan of self catering holidays. Of course you can go and eat out whenever you want – there’s a lovely Wetherspoons-style restaurant on site, plus the local restaurants within a short drive – but we saved a fortune by taking some food with us, eating in of a night and doing a top up shop halfway at the local Morrisons.

    We headed back on the following Saturday, fairly well rested and happy with our lovely family time. Normally we return from a vacation needing a holiday, but this time was different. I think we’ve found that place which we return to as a family – Hoburne Naish.


  3. To my students

    December 26, 2015 by Amy

    We’re steaming towards 2016, which means it’s nearly 12 years since I started teaching. Alright, admittedly that’s then 8 years since I then stopped teaching, technically, then returning later with that drama programme. But either way, the point is that that some of those 9 & 10 year olds I taught way back when are now old enough to be having their own kids, finding the loves of their lives and well, being adults themselves.

    I generally have a pretty good memory, but when it comes to names I am as useful as a chocolate teapot on a fireplace. For the first term, most children in my class were known as Sweetie or My Lovely. I just could never get a handle on names. A decade on and I haven’t a chance of remembering the names of any of them. But I do remember the funny moments. And it’d be a shame to forget those. Needless to say, all names are made up because I can’t actually remember any of them.

    Sultana (9) asking for the Ooh La song while the year 5 class worked. After she sang it for me, I realised she wanted Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy by Queen.

    Jareth (10) explaining why the £ sign and $ sign reverted to different sides of the cell in Excel with “*sigh* Because Americans just don’t think”.

    Shabana (9) rocking out the wooden cut out saxophone during the sax solo of Merry Christmas Everyone, and my class being the best performance at the Christmas show that year despite me being off with the flu.

    Zoey (10) bringing me back a little necklace from her holiday which I still have and I still wear.

    Mansoor (10) buying me a kingsize Mars Bar for Christmas from his own money; still the most meaningful gift from a student I’ve ever received.

    Oliver (10) cracking out serious dance moves to Banana Phone.

    All of these kids were brilliant in their own unique ways, and I genuinely think about them often with high aspirations of how they have turned out. I can only hope that they are all happy, kind hearted and doing what they want to do, having remembered my life lessons on questioning everything, being open to opinions and using their imaginations. So to all of the kids out there – you may be adults now, but don’t be in a rush to be grown ups. Keep your imaginations burning brightly, and make sure your kids do too one day.

    Miss Wake


  4. We are in

    July 27, 2015 by Amy

    Hello lovely blog readers!

    It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The result is that I have more things to blog about, so… you know. Less blank spaces. *Sweeps away three months worth of tumbleweed*

    The good news is that we are in our new house and it is lovely. Really lovely. As bizarre as it sounds, it’s like this has always been our house, and that the previous owners were caring for it until we were ready to move in. People have jested that this is a grown-up house. And I’m happy with that – this is the house. This is where we live and are going to live for a very long time. I suspect I will only finally leave this happy home in a box.

    I found the moving day completely stress free, which can only mean that Alex was going through hell. The removal team, WS Removals, were fantastic. A great bunch of lads, very professional but good fun too. And so quick – we were lucky enough to be able to collect the new house keys at 10am, so we were in by lunch.

    unpackingOne of my guilty pleasures is unpacking. If we are ever staying elsewhere overnight, it’s a secret joy for me to find temporary new homes from all that has escaped with us in our bags. And all though I look a bit puffed out, it made my day to find homes for everything in the new kitchen.

    The space – it’s glorious. I have swung my cat in most rooms (in my arms being cuddled rather than by the tail, admittedly).
    Alex has installed all number of cables and wires that do things.
    Everything has a place.
    We have a stunning kitchen table.
    We have a modular sofa from Nabru so we just added an extra bit and changed the covers. Bam – new sofa.
    We have changed the kitchen light fittings to make them a little bit steampunk. Not over the top, just a little bit.
    We have a mortgage (gulp) including pennies for a loft extension.
    I have a creative room. A room specifically for music, sewing and costumes.
    Alex has his own dedicated office space, and will be getting a bigger one soon – half the new top floor.

    gardenI have begun to weed the garden and understand its contents. Going from a little courtyard and patio to have a full on garden is a revelation. The patio door is always open. I have actually befriended spiders. Wasps trapped in the kitchen peacefully walk onto my finger so I can take them into the garden. I am becoming Snow White. I have so little idea of what most things in the garden are, I’m still getting my head around it all. The neighbours all have allotments with huge crops of fruit and veg. We plan on having a little bit of a foody corner in our garden – we’ll keep the allotment offers at bay for another few years yet.

    We still have lots to do – we’re taking out the archway between the kitchen and dining area, redecorating, and of course planning Halloween. It turns out that 31st October is a far bigger deal over in this neck of the woods, and I’m thrilled. I love giggles and families doing something together. To have an entire community getting stuck in is something I’m just not used to, but am more than happy to embrace. According to our neighbours, the previous owners of this house had a pretty decent standard of Halloween decoration and a good reputation for giving out goodies. I’m happy to take that on 🙂

    As for Little L, she now has a HUGE bedroom which doubles up as a playroom. The day she arrived at our new house (TOP TIP: she’s stayed with my parents for the first three days), she wandered blissfully happily into the garden, knelt down to feel the grass, then laid down in it to make a grass angel. It was heartwarming to see that we clearly made the right decision in moving house to somewhere she can play in the garden.

    And as for those original school choices from back at the start of the year, guess what? Little L now has a place in one of the top schools in MK.

    So yes. New starts. In more ways that one – more about that later.

     

     


  5. Sold!

    April 21, 2015 by Amy

    Guess what? One day on from the last post and we received a offer of the full asking price for our house. That never happens. Or at least it never used to. But say hello to a buoyant housing market. Literally, houses go on the market in the morning and go under offer in the evening.

    And now it all gets really exciting! Oh wait… nope, no it doesn’t not it all goes very quiet while everyone takes money and does things, reporting things, finance things. So we wait. And we wait.

    It hasn’t all gone wrong yet. But we’re at the bit where we don’t have any power to move it forward, so. We wait.

    Still waiting.Sold


  6. Make Your House Sellable

    April 10, 2015 by Amy

    We are generally tidy people. However, I’m crap at cleaning, so we are fortunate enough to have a lovely lady come in once a fortnight to give everything a good seeing to (fnar). But we do have a fair bit of clutter, or ‘personality’ as we’ve come to call it.

    In viewing various houses, we’ve learned things that make a house look like an appealing home.

    1. Crank up the heating and open the windows. Economical madness, I know, but it makes the viewer feel warm and comfy yet gives fresh air throughout.

    2. Everyone has to take their shoes off. Our carpets have been vomitted on copiously by our cats, and have been professionally cleaned as many times. None of this matters though – a ‘no shoes’ rule gives the impression that this house must be kept in its pristine state.

    3. Flowers. Strike that – green. Doesn’t matter if it’s artificial (as long as it’s the good kind), but a bit of fresh colouring makes the house fresh. You’re selling a lifestyle as much as a house.

    4. Declutter. Strip back as far as you can. On viewing day, everything in the bathroom is hidden except the fake plant and the toothbrushes.

    5. Lights on. If you have energy savers that take a while to warm up, stick them on before you leave the house. Speaking of which…

    6. Get out of the house. It makes a viewer feel awkward having you there, and you won’t be able to resist earwigging otherwise.

    bath

    HIDE EVERYTHING.

    All our cables are hidden, laptops shelved, Elite gaming kit under the sofa, crap on top of the bookshelves removed. All but one bin is put in the garage. Cushions are organised. The computer is hidden behind a guitar. All medication, cups, glasses, books and random notepads from the bedside table are shoved in the wardrobe.

    room

    No really, hide EVERYTHING.

    The result? Space. Clean lines. Funky yet unobtrusive colours. A lifestyle. If you live here, you too can have an uncluttered world of peace. Your plants will grow healthily. You can make bread in your breadmaker. You can have an even better life.

    During the original Moving Up post, we were on Monday and having photos taken of the house. The house listing went live on Tuesday. We have had four viewings, have another two coming up, and have received an offer. IT IS FRIDAY. So if you have a garage, throw out as much as you can (be ruthless), move all non-essentials into it, then have a box ready to run around the house prior to viewings to hide all those random things in. You too can sell your house!

    Coming up: It’s all gone wrong (probably)


  7. Moving up

    April 6, 2015 by Amy

    I like to be productive. I struggle to relax because I see it as unproductive. So when there’s a job to be done, I am… well, productive. So when my husband sent me a link to a property on Rightmove, we decided to end a year or so of window shopping and start viewing some properties.

    We'll build a Lego house

    We have a lovely three bedroom house which we’ve made our own. We use every bit of it (productive, see?) and it works perfectly for us. Well, almost. There are three things we wanted to change;

    1. Garden. We currently have a little patio out the back which looks out on to the marina. Beautiful views, but not much fun when you’re four. We have a lovely courtyard in the front with a planter for veg, then patches of grass around the property that need mowing. But we long for a safe, secure, private rear garden. It doesn’t have to be huge, just enough to kick a ball, have a picnic, that sort of thing.
    2. Space. We have two bedrooms and an office. While friends are welcome to stay on the sofa bed in the living room, we’d love another room to put people up in. Something with a bit more privacy.
    3. Schools. We find out in a week’s time what primary school Little L will be start at in September. I’m not a huge fan of the available options, and we’re aware that she needs a good push to keep her engaged (she outsmarts us a lot of the time) which the current schools won’t necessarily do. So better schools would be really good.

    We saw our first two properties on Friday (soulless, small garden). Two more on Sunday (both small gardens). Then three on Thursday (cold, old) including the perfect house. Great school area, perfect size, lovely garden, excellent condition. We saw it again on the Friday and had an offer accepted on the Saturday. We had our house valued the same day and we’re having photos taken today (Monday). Our house will be officially on the market tomorrow.

    I know this could easily all go to pot. But the owners of the new house don’t have a chain, and we have a ‘niche house’ so it should get plenty of interest. So we’re 5 days in to our adventure with buying this new house. I reckon the whole thing will take about three months, but you can place your bets now. Housewarming date to be confirmed…

    Next up: Make Your House Sellable


  8. God Bless the NHS

    March 6, 2015 by Amy

    About 18 months ago I began having pains behind my ribs. A normal, regular, generally achey one, then occasionally a stabbing pain of sheer force which would cause me to arch my back in gymnastic style, remove my breath and leave me unable to move. Back in July 2013 I was told I had some polyps in my gallbladder, but not to worry. So I didn’t, and the pain continued (hurrah for Motilium and Buscapan) on and off.

    Fast forward to panto rehearsals and a couple of near misses of a full on attack, thanks to the kindness of fellow cast members supplying me with food to give the polyps something to do rather than flare up.

    Tick tock – the new year arrived and the pain continued, along with wonderful new symptoms like shortness of breath, tiredness, heart palpitations and nausea. An excellent time to remove Motilium from the pharmacy shelves, THANKS, MEDICAL COUNCIL. So I had to see the doctor, if only to get new meds.  He asked many questions and poked and prodded like a goodun.

    We next find ourselves at last Monday where I had an organ scan so see if there were any lumps or bumps anywhere. Yep, you can see why I’ve been quiet of late. The result; I still have polyps on my gallbladder, the largest of which is 8mm. Nearing the danger zone of concern – polyps of a larger size can become cancerous, but this one it seems is “not yet of concern”. I shall be monitored, rescanned annually, kept up with meds, and basically have to wait it out until it gets big enough for them to remove.

    So let’s get this clear – it’s not Cancer. Hurray! But it’s not going to be removed until it could be. Which, in all honesty, is a bit rubbish. I’m quite frankly cross that I have something in my body that I do not wish to have in my body. However, you will be pleased to know that I have found a way to make this unpleasant visitor feel more likeable. I have named it. Phillip. Phillip the Polyp. Say it out loud, it’s great.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Phillip.

    This is someone else's Phillip, but they could have been separated at birth, honestly.

    Not actually Phillip.

    If you want to ask about Phillip, you’re welcome to. I’ve always been open about everything else, so I’ll be open about this new development too. Onwards and upwards, eh?


  9. A new year, a new me

    January 23, 2015 by Amy

    That’s a misleading title really – I’m still me, but I have different priorities this year. I’ve not blogged because I’m too darn busy. And I won’t be blogging regularly (not that I particularly was) because I am excited about other things and other writings.

    I spent Christmas between my lovely, wonderful family and my lovely, wonderful panto famalam (pictured). Panto (Rapunzel) went exceedingly well – full houses every night, many giggles, 72 custard pies received and countless shenanigans both backstage, onstage and at the pub. No post show blues for me this year as I’ve been cracking on with co-writing next year’s panto, which is all jolly exciting.

    faces

     

    Family Christmas was really lovely. As a child, Christmas day was spent at my grandparents. Everyone would cram in, open presents, eat, fall asleep then somehow we would make it home. As a teenager, it was Christmas with Mum then Boxing Day with Dad. And then everything changed. I didn’t have a mum anymore, so I didn’t have somewhere I was meant to be on 25th December. We had Christmas in, Christmas out, Christmas with the sibling-in-laws. Then everything finally came together – Dad and my Step-Mum got married and bought a house together. The grandparents had a house big enough to fit us all in for. 2014 was the first time I’ve spent Christmas Day with my dad since circa 1990. And it was the whole family together, just wonderfully warm and brilliant and happy and relaxed and great and… Christmas. Sharing a bottle of wine with my Step-Mum, Little L harassing my step-brother (she’s 3 foot, he’s about 7 foot, it’s a hilarious pairing), decorating the dinner table. Just wonderful. Same again next year, I think.

    Merry Christmas. (A bit late.)


  10. The educational lottery

    October 24, 2014 by Amy

    We’ve just completed the online application process for L starting school in September 2015. It was harder than you think.

    When we moved to Milton Keynes we were a happy young couple, keen for a new start and excited at the prospect of having our own house with a view. We had no plans to have children and didn’t know that L would be popping along a few years later. As such, we didn’t consider the whole ‘family’ thing when we were looking at houses. Fast forward five years down the line and we realise we *do* have a lovely house in a lovely road, but the catchment schools? Yeeeeeah.

    At first we were okay with the catchment school, which we shall call Buckaroo High. As an ex-teacher, I know how much pressure can be felt during OFSTED inspections and how their report is not always a true indication of school life, so I glazed over the “Requires Improvement” grading. They were probably having a tough day.
    I popped in and asked if we could arrange a show around and was told they didn’t do that – once your application is in and you’re allocated the school, then you get to see what it’s like. Okay.
    But then someone on a large MK parents group asked for feedback on the school. I was expecting encouraging comments, anecdotes of children achieving and happily enjoying school life. Instead…

    duck

     

    Yep. Not one person came to the defence of Buckaroo High. I know it’s “just” a school, but every parent wants to give their child the best chance. We decided that Buckaroo High was not what we were aiming for.

    Cue a someone emotional search (I’m rubbish at this sort of thing, it weighs on me like I am letting my daughter, my country and planet down) for a school we had any hope of getting into. Not in catchment, no siblings already there, L isn’t in care or under supervision… Then along came a glimmer of hope in what we shall call Firefly Academy.

    An email asking about showarounds was replied to by the Vice Principal, no less, welcoming us in. We had a nose around today. It was lovely – the teachers looked chilled (it was the last day of term, to be fair) the children happy and not manic, older pupils were running errands around the school (Responsibility! Trust!), lots of incentives (a tea party with the headteacher at the end of the week to reward WOW pupils!). But you know what I spotted? Loads of resources. Happy kids. Happy parents on the way out – not begrudging, or fed up, or desperate – happy. Potential. The best chance.

    So that’s it. The forms are in. We have no hopes of getting into pretty much any other school in Milton Keynes (except Crappington School – *shudder*), so we’ve gone for Firefly Academy in at number one (please please please) and Buckaroo High in second (hey, it’s better than Crappington School).

    Now it’s just a quick 6 months before we discover our allocation – easy!

    *Runs and hides in the biscuit barrel*