The Special Matters Festive Coffee Morning was a particular pleasure last week with a chance to catch up with some old friends and welcome some new additions to the Special Matters' family. It is very exciting as this group for families with children with special needs is growing from strength to strength. It is also a good opportunity to meet up with 'Professionals' working in this field, many of whom I've heard about, but never had the chance to talk to. I always learn something valuable and feel that I am able to pass on some good ideas at these gatherings, so it really is true that 'the way to get along is to go along'.
The snow and clear blue skies has certainly added a magical backdrop to our Christmas preparations. We have all been like 'Bambi' skidding and scrabbling from one festive gathering to another, a mince pie in one hand and a 'cough assist' machine in the other. Yes, Tilly has unfortunately succombed to a horrible, chesty cold! We withdrew Tilly from the last couple of days of school to try and 'fend it off at the pass' and prevent the virus from getting a grip of her respiratory system, but it has needed lots of secretion management and the jury is still out. No one could have worked harder at it than Tilly as she has spent her days having Ventolin nebulisers, 'shaker-maker', cough assist and then suction. This programme has been repeated around the clock every couple of hours. We are all praying for a reprieve for Christmas day at least.
To help us through this latest challenge we were very relieved to have a weekend visit to Treetops, the Donna Louise Hospice. The twinkling lights of Treetops really did look like the lights of tropical island welcoming us to rest and recharge following a rather stormy voyage at sea. We had the pleasure of taking part in the BBC Radio Stoke live broadcast at the start of our restorative retreat. It was great to meet the Presenter, Pete Morgan and see all the 'behind the radio' scenes and feeling the second-by-second tension of a live breakfast show. Always a joy, was to meet up again with Reporter, Becky Wood who has been following Tilly's story.
Tilly spent the day at Treetops, being carefully monitored by the Nurses, but still managing to have lots of festive fun including a visit from Santa. Following a family Church service at school Candice was scooped up and joined Tilly at Treetops. It was wonderful to see that special friends were also enjoying a week-end respite visit, and so a great deal of catching up on the news was on the agenda. It is so special to have these opportunities to be with families who really do understand the nature of our journey.
The girls settled in together and I ventured out into the night to help out at the Caudwell Winter Wonderland Ball. Click-clacking in high heels and evening dress in the icy snow I felt very vulnerable and longed for my usual boots and jeans, but felt so pleased that because Treetops were looking after Tilly and Candice I could attend and offer my support. The Caudwell Team were very welcoming and the Ball was fabulous. I managed to sell some raffle tickets and had the privilege of meeting some lovely revellers who were having fun and determined to help children with addtional needs. A winning combination!
I left the festivities in full swing and gingerly motored in the frozen night back to the warmth and comfort of Treetops. I was in time to settle the girls for the night and was packed up to my room with a specially made 'midnight feast', lovingly created by one of the night staff. I curled up with a magazine, the television mumbling in the background, and drifted off into a deep sleep, knowing that the girls were also safe and warm.
Saturday was spent catching up on the various Christmas jobs, whilst the girls had a visit from a Magician and an enchanting miniature daschund 'pat therapy dog', played games (mainly hide and seek) and Tilly carried on with her secretion management routines. This visit to Treetops was pure joy and so productive for me as I would never have managed to get so much done at home, and the girls were now feeling extra-Christmassy!
After fond farewells and many a festive greeting we skidded back to the frozen Staffordshire Moorlands and Daddie. Poor Daddie had been wrestling with the demands of our B&B whilst we were transported to 'Tropical Island Treetops'. Not that we're not pleased to have the business, but it was a shame that Daddie was left home like poor old 'Cinders'. We'll have to try to organise ourselves better next time.
Sunday night was divine as Daddie cooked up a Rolfie Roast and we all enjoyed tea 'like a proper family for once' and caught up on the final of 'Strictly'. Simple pleasure that bring us such joy!
Monday morning was filled with various trips to the Podiatrist and Dentist for Tilly and Candice respectively. Tilly continues to struggle through her chest infection, but remains quite cheery.
Candice and I yomped out to join hoards of mourners to pay our respects to Janet. Our lovely Snowy Owl was given a Guard of Honour by Guiding representatives who gave the Guiding salute as the coffin was taken into the Church. The loss of this beautiful lady has had a profound effect on my soul and I am still struggling to believe that I will no longer see Janet's twinkling smile and feel her warm friendsip. The truth is that I probably will as the spirit of some folk never really 'die'.
We were treated to an afternoon visit by Ian Parker and his lovely family, including their new addition Jake, the Jack Russell. It was the most heavenly of afternoons gathered around the fire, under the lights of the Christmas tree sharing stories, festive treats and catching up on the news. Apart from being great friends, Ian and his family are a great source of inspiration as Ian is a member of the Federation for Foot and Mouth Painters and creates the most spectacular pieces of artwork holding the paintbrush in his mouth. We have the honour of displaying one of Ian's famous pieces, "Chatsworth" in our dining room which is often the talking point of our visiting B&B guests, and will, one day, be carried away by one of them! We shall enjoy it until then.
We all enjoyed a late tea, 'like a proper famly for once', of Rolf's speciality fish and African potatoes and then snuggled down on the couch to watch a recording of the Royal Variety Performance. Apart from being Head of Catering, Rolf is also Head of Entertainment and always manages to save things that we all really enjoy. Rolf's Christmas speciality is Ross Kemp's Christmas Carol which he saved to video a few years ago and has been enjoyed on Christmas Eve ever since. Can't wait!
Here we are on 22nd December and Tilly is still working through her Chest infection and we are working through the Christmas prepartions. The presents are nearly all sorted, the cards are nearly all written, the shopping is nearly all completed and the cold sore has arrived. Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!