Monday I spent back up in the North East with the Queen's Terrace Girls (how soon before that becomes shortened to The Queens?). Linda, Toni, Kathy and I all shared a house in Jesmond, Newcastle back in the early 80's and have kept in touch and been firm friends ever since. Indeed they are my oldest standing friends over 30 years later.
Lately our trips up to Newcastle have been condensed into a single day, not even staying over night so there has been little time to catch up with friends, only family. I had to make a concious decision to put aside a day just for my friends and we scheduled it in for December and a little Christmas celebration. As most of the girls live out in Northumberland, Morpeth was chosen as the place to meet. It was lovely to catch up again, and also to see Sue, one of our other friends who has been around through the intervening years although never actually lived with us. We shared some prosecco and had a lovely meal at the Electrical Wizard, shared our joys and woes, with a sad departure of a husband having walked out for one of the girls, and the joyous news of an impending wedding in around six months for one of the other girls. See, good and bad in tandem. Always.
Afterwards we managed to have a quick tea at a local Italian restaurant with my sister Eileen and her boyfriend Richie. Too quick although I know I will see them later in the week when we will have more time together.
Tuesday I spent haring around the house cleaning everything that didn't move, although I think the cats may have had a spray of furniture polish and an accidental encounter with the hoover along the way. I had set aside two days to sort out things for some lovely friends who were staying over later in the week, but as we shall see, unforseen events took over and I was left with making the most of one day and getting as much as possible done as I could. I also had a slimming world weigh in, and after my indulgences of yesterday thought I would have blown it, but I guess the exertion of the housework worked in my favour and I lost two and a half pounds, bringing me to my lightest weight for some years. Hurrah.
Sadly Wednesday saw me undertake numerous trains (6), cars (2), metro (1) and taxi (1) journeys to travel to and from Northumberland again for the funeral of my cousin Linda who has unexpectedly passed away. She had been in hospital the fortnight before with COPD, discharged as she was getting better then re-admitted last week as she took a turn for the worse. Deaths of loved ones are never easy, and sudden, unexpected passings leave you particularly unprepared for the impact they inevitably make.
The service was beautiful and conducted by a humanist who outlined much of Linda's life and the people and things that she loved and held dear. Such a sad day.
It was a long day, and we didn't stay for the wake, which I now chastise myself for, we don't get to see our wider family very often and really should have stayed longer. A trip up in the New Year will definitely be on the cards.
Thursday was up bright and early to finish some last minute chores, make the beds for the guests and a quick visit to the supermarket. Then it was off on the train again but this time to Nottingham to meet up with my friend Kim who had flown over from California to catch Frank Turner's 2000th show in Nottingham. We met at the train station, then headed to the bus station to put her luggage into a locker and to meet with Amy. We wandered up to the Old Jerusalem Inn for a spot of lunch before meeting up with Simon and Richard our friends from Wales. After a bit of sightseeing we wandered down to Turtles, a Caribbean eatery where we met up with Lauren and Steve, which almost completed our little band of merry people. Simon had been working all day so met up with us just before going into the gig, so we were all there, our little circle of friends complete,
The show was great, crowd was in good form and Frank sang his heart out and gave it 150%. I'd not done any of the dates on the current tour as I had gotten a little Franked out over the past few years, but I enjoyed this one immensely, up on the balcony looking down at the frenzy of the audience beneath. It was a good show, although I was a little disappointed to learn that he hadn't much varied either the set or the adlibs between songs from the whole tour. I know its a strenuous life-style touring, and must be extremely tiring but would have liked to have seen something a wee bit different for what had been built up as a very special event. Not so much for myself more for those who had taken in a gig or two of the tour. Still, I've never done the job so I guess I shouldn't criticise.
Friday Simon, Richard, Kim and myself headed to Bakewell for a meet up with Rue and his adorable son Elijah, before Simon and Richard headed back off to Wales. We had a wander around, and a lovely lunch in the famous Bakewell Pudding Shop, one of my regular haunts when in Bakewell. After leaving the lads, me and Kim headed off to Chatsworth for a tour of the house and gardens, which was lovely. Every Christmas the house has a theme and this year it was the Nutcracker Suite so the rooms of the tour were decorated with toy soldiers and ballerina paraphenalia, multiple christmas trees adorned with sweets, some a little on the tacky side, some very well executed, and also a real life ballet dancer performing her piece on one of the great stairways.
Its always lovely to catch up with my music friends, we never have enough time, especially when some of them live so very far away. I'm pleased to have been able to see so many friends and family this week, albeit in very differing circumstances. Relationships are the most precious things we have, especially when we don't get to see some of our friends and family on a day to day or even weekly basis and I don't want to take any of them for granted. After a very lazy morning on Saturday I drove Kim to the train station for her onward journey to London before her flight home to Santa Cruz on Sunday.
Sunday has been a slow starting day after the busy-ness of the week. With the house suddenly empty again, and feeling a little bereft my thoughts turn towards my family once again. It's the 5th anniversary of another traumatic week up in the North East which saw the end of Sylvia's illness and her passing out of this life. I miss her more as the years go by and still catch myself almost reaching for the phone to call her up for a chat every now and again before reality kicks in and the sense of loss that inevitably brings with it. She was the best of sisters, and today is a time for reflection and remembering and thankfullness for being able to share a lovely person for the years that we had.