Mayflower 400

Dear friends

Growing up in Southampton means that you know about at least two famous historical ships – the Titanic and the Mayflower. And this year is 400 years since the Mayflower sailed from this port town.

The thing that impressed me most about hearing the story of the Mayflower is that it’s about a group of people that fled religious persecution. It’s essentially the story of a group of people who wanted to live and worship differently than the dominant religion at the time and were being persecuted for that. They gathered together, got a ship (the Speedwell), and sailed from Holland to Southampton where they met the Mayflower ship, which had set out from Rotherhithe, London. The Mayflower was carrying 102 passengers who wanted to build a new life, in peace, across the Atlantic Sea. Half of those passengers died within the first year in their new home (mainly from disease having arrived in November 1620). But essentially they were colonisers, settling where other people already lived. That always seems to end in pain for those who lose their land for no other reason than someone else wants to live there! This website gives a great in sight into the full story of the event and it’s position in terms of native Americans and the colonisers: https://www.mayflower400uk.org/education/the-mayflower-story/.

So, these past several months one of my work projects has been conservation work to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial (aka Mayflower Memorial) here in my hometown, originally constructed 1913. As it is literally a 5 minute walk from my former primary school, I can’t tell you how many times, over 40 years ago, I saw the memorial and heard the story of the Pilgrim Fathers.

The commemoration weekend here is in 2 weeks – 15 August 2020. Despite knowing about the commemoration date for the last, well, hundreds of years, the Culture team were a little slow to get going on the conservation work and had to be rescued (financially) by the Property team. An exemption request submitted to Procurement was eventually approved and a specialist main contractor was appointed in February. However with stone to be sourced and carved, completion of the works for the commemoration weekend was always ambitious. And then, the pandemic was declared!

The first half of the contract took place in the stonemasons yard with lots of photographs being sent showing the stonework progression. I really wanted to go to the mason’s yard so was rather disappointed that the pandemic meant this was too high a risk to take, especially with 5 of us at home, since the yard was in another town.

However, with site works commencing in May, I was finally able to visit site and hold external site meetings, rather than conference calls. And this past week, with copper Mayflower ship back atop facing West, the upper layer of scaffolding came down to reveal the refreshed mosaic dome, renewed stone work and, at night, a beacon light shining out from it’s quirky Art Nouveau/ Arts & Crafts style fire basket metalwork. The memorial isn’t the tallest of columns, about 15 metres or 50 foot. And it’s location means that most people in town probably will never see it, unless they make an effort.

But it is a story, an event that happened, 400 years ago and, like with any real event, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I am descended from people who, not wilfully, were transported across the Atlantic Sea from the African continent to work and effectively colonise islands of the sea. Many of them died within months of arrival, from disease, from hard labour, from abuse, from broken hearts. Though there is no specific monument with their specific name that I can definitely say they are my descendants, I still feel proud that somewhere in my family history, I am descended from survivors.

“Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus,…

“… life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.


“How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

“Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.”

Russell M Nelson, Prophet and Apostle, April 2020 General Conference

Change is necessary for progress…

Dear friends

It’s been more than 10 weeks since my last post and much has happened, in your lives as well as mine.  Change is necessary for progress is my personal motto, it has been for a very long time.  In modern speak, I suppose that would show I have a growth mindset.  Anyhow here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been experiencing these past weeks 🙂 

1. Children grow – when our eldest was about 9 months old, a friend gave me some advice which I believe she had received from another friend who is a mother of 10 children.  That advice was, remember it’s a phase.  Whatever seemingly difficult stage you or your child is at, view it as a phase.  This advice has served me well and has certainly helped me to remain sane! I strive to apply it to other aspects of my life, other relationships.  I think one day we will realise how brief mortality is and we’ll see all things clearly (see 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12) For now, when I had to buy yet another pair of school shoes for our youngest, Son2 (approaching 10 years old) and discovered he’s now in the smaller men’s shoe size, I thought, it’s a phase… what size feet will he reach as a grown man!?

2. I’ve decided to look up more, seize the moment, capture now, be a little more impulsive and take more photos of life as it happens – like this photo (no filter) of our yellow sky, pink sun, as a result of Saharan sands a few weeks ago.  Related to this, I’m going to post more photos, probably of trees and skies as this reminds me to see the beauty all around.  We live on a beautiful planet which serves life well.  We, humans, need to serve life well too. 

3. The long awaited restructure began at work and some of my older colleagues have been taking stock of what their pensions look like and is it worth retiring a few years early.  I’m in the generation that’ll work till 67 years so it’s not something I’ve paid too much attention to (I probably should but I’ve not…)  So I was traveling to a meeting with two older colleagues, both male, and one mentioned his wife retired several years ago, she earned quite highly so they were OK.  The other chuckled, commenting his wife never earned much and “my wife retired at 23!” I impulsively stood up for his wife and said, “I don’t think she would call it retirement, I’m sure she did a great job raising your sons!”  He did accept this but I realised how many people out there devalue their own family, because they are making a different contribution.  I’m so glad that as a working mum I could still stand up for my sisters.

4. Glass an hour – this is a little mantra I’ve been telling myself in relation to drinking water.  It’s like the fruit & veg, 5 a day, here in the UK.  I’m blessed to live where I can turn on a tap at home and work and drink safe water.  I know many in the world can’t do that and I, sadly, remember a time when living at my dear mother’s home and she’d been unable to pay the water bill and it was cut off (I don’t think they are allowed to do that now).  I walked a couple of miles each day to public toilets to fill bottles of water to bring back home.  So I appreciate water and what it means for our health.  I don’t think we can ever drink too much but we can certainly have too little, so, as I’ve noticed myself feeling thirsty more often, I’ve tried to drink a glass of water each hour.  I always feel much better and less tummy aches when I do this.

5. I mentioned the long awaited restructure at work began.   I’m one of the few whose salary will increase, quite significantly, as a result of this due to the grading of my job.  Our jobs have now been aligned to public sector gradings and although people many are grumbling that it’s less than private sector pay, I say, well, go and work in the private sector if you want to earn that kind of money; don’t expect public taxes to pay ridiculous amounts for you not to deliver!  And around the time the restructuring consultation began, I was approached by the local school of architecture to see if I’d be interested in studio tutoring 🙂  Of course!!! 

6. The world wide General Conference #LDSconf was, in my humble opinion, absolutely sublime. I am steadily working my way through all the talks, starting with those given by the apostles.  I can only suggest you listen to it – check it out on LDS.org or on YouTube.  I don’t have a favourite but memorable messages for me are: am I Sad, Mad or Glad?; women in these last days; the need for humility.  

7. Finally, the changing world.  The past 10-12 weeks have seen human tragedies on an increasing scale of horrific-ness (i.e shootings, terrorism acts) plus natural incidents, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes.  And then political incidents across the globe affecting whole countries and regions.  For comfort in these difficult times, I gain comfort from the words of prophets reminding us Who wins in the end and I am striving to be on that team. Elder Dallin H Oaks reminded us of these words from 20 years ago in his talk at conference:

I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world.  If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel, we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way.  We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.

President Gordon B Hinckley, November 1997.

And the prophet said…

Dear friends

This past weekend (first weekend in April) was General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which I am a member.  This happens twice a year, six months apart, and is when the general (world wide) leaders of the church address the general membership and the world.  With satellite and internet technology, wherever we are in the world, we can receive the messages, virtually instananeously, through live streaming, audio and/or video as the conference takes place at church HQ conference centre in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

As a Latter Day Saint I believe in living prophets and I trust that, for our spiritual safety, when they speak, we should listen and follow.  For me it’s​ no different to the trust the ancient Israelites had to have in Moses, that if they followed him, they would gain their freedom from the Egyptians where they were in a state of slavery.  Which ultimately is what happened.

So the conference actually all began last weekend with the women’s session where female church leaders spoke on trusting the Lord and not leaning (Proverbs 3:5-6), the beauty of holiness and being faithful, certain women, in the New Testament sense.  And then an Apostle (Henry B Eyring) spoke on the peace that we can only receive from the Lord Jesus Christ; it was sublime.

When you prepare yourself for conference, it’s as if the speakers are speaking to you, personally.  The words resonate within my spirit as I hear words of truth.  There were admonitions to be kind, charitable, true, faithful, how to recognise and follow the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, how to not live by fear, how to overcome the world. 

And the prophet, Thomas S Monson, in his Sunday morning address, asked: We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? And the answer: I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety.   And to develop and keep a strong testimony: read the Book of Mormon, each day 🙂  And the promise if we do this? 

As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.

I am very grateful for the simplicity which is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ – it is a the greatest blessing in my life and that of my family.  I love our Saviour, Jesus Christ; I’m grateful that He speaks still through living prophets, same as anciently – all things have been restored.  

next appointments…

Dear friends

The next appointments arrived at the weekend – pre-assessment and then an admissions appointment for surgery.  The latter under the care of Dr R, not the same consultant, and the procedures are not listed.  

I looked up Dr R.  He’s a gynaecological oncologist.

At least it’s only a few days to wait now.  I called to confirm the admission appointment, a week after the pre-assessment.  

I’m trying hard to not be anxious.  I’ve told my boss what’s happening – I don’t know if I’ll be in work towards the end of the month! And I’ve told a colleague I’m working with – our youngest son’s were born within days of each other. His son was diagnosed with retinal cancer months later.  We can talk.  He did say to me you’re religious, that will be a great help.  It is.  He understood that it’s the waiting for now; the not knowing what, if anything, is wrong; the silence from every health professional – we agreed that they must be trained not to mention cancer unless they’re fairly certain. The first medical professional to say it with their son was when they sat in Great Ormond Street hospital!  

So I’m hoping that next week they’ll be able to give some answers, let me know what will happen the week after, and what happens from there.  I’ll let you know 🙂

for the ladies… update

Dear friends

Not long after the last post about this, I received two appointments in the post; one for December and one more urgent one, for last Friday, for a hysteroscopy to rule out any more serious condition, such as cancer.

(I decided not to post about my feelings leading up to this appointment, in an effort to reduce anxiety and not appear alarmist. We all have different ways of dealing with anxiety and stress!. The idea is to help someone with my posts, not to create more stress!)

I went to the appointment on my own, my dear husband was working and the younger children needed picking up from school.  I’d met with my Mummy at lunchtime – hot chocolate (with a couple of ibuprofen for me!) – who was very pragmatic about everything – oh, there used to be a very nice gynaecologist at that hospital a few years ago…  it’s probably just a polyp or cyst or something…

A few minutes before my appointment time, Dr M called me into his office where I met Dr H and medical student G. After some banter on comparing lengths of training for doctors versus architects, and the salaries, I was asked to explain everything, in my own words, the situation, everything, and I mean everything.  It was like opening up the bedroom door when my dear husband and I are together.  I knew the consultant needed to understand but still… awkward!  Dr M did a hand drawing of a womb and lining – clearly he had done this many times – and explained the procedure and what he thought, from the ultrasound, the problem was, a 16mm polyp on the womb.  They would remove that during the hysteroscopy.

So then it was time for the procedure.  They were pleased I’d prepared myself with ibuprofen and then 2 nurses came in, screen pulled, strip of everything from waist down and have a seat, use the towel to cover yourself … and there I was, seated on a half chair with leg supports, in my socks (was that a hole in the toe?), when I made known I was ready and the screen was pulled back to reveal the 5 medic people.  I began to focus on ceiling as, with my legs in the supports, not a dignified position said the older nurse on my left, and Dr H began raising the seat up and tilting back (though I honestly couldn’t sense the back tilt).  Speculum….  (attempt 1) … can I have another, long speculum, gel again… (attempt 2 and I recalled a practice nurse telling me to always mention that a long speculum is needed for cervical smears) – let your knees drop down more… you have long legs… Dr M, there’s a polyp right by the cervix opening, you should come see?  So Mum was right, I think, as I hear Dr M come closer and I focus on the ceiling tiles (why are they so unattractive in hospitals when ceiling manufacturers have so many options for so many situations, it looks so dated…) OUCH!!! And I grip the hand rests.  That really felt like a needle went in!!  Ohhhh, I touched it with a cotton bud! (Dr M)  

The older nurse starts making conversation with me – were you at work? what do you do? what kind of buildings do you work on? at least you can go home after this! (Sympathetic smile!).   I join in knowing there’s a long way to go, they’ve not even given the local anaesthetic!! 

OUCH!!! That felt like a needle too!!! Ok, there’s no point continuing, we’ll do this under general anaesthetic. Said Dr M, and that was that! The screen was pulled, I could hear the room empty and when I emerged Dr M was alone, writing notes.  

Give me a minute and I’ll explain all.

Then back to his hand drawn womb to demonstrate what he saw – polyp at cervix opening and area of abnormal cells on the other side which started bleeding when I touched them. So, considering how uncomfortable you were I feel it best to do the hysteroscopy, biopsy and polypectomy under general anaesthetic. Any questions?

I had many but asked him only two.  1. Since these have to be done under general anaesthetic, can’t the right ovary situation be looked at at the same time – surely that’s more efficient? (He had explained earlier that a laparoscopy – small incision in abdomen plus camera – would be required to do investigate the right ovary).  So that’s the plan – he was a little concerned about the length of such a procedure but agreed it made sense. 2. was any of this related to age? Only the irregular, shortening of periods; not the womb thickening, bleeds in between or the pain. 

Dr M did say he’d try to get a date within the next month.  Older nurse came back with form to fill, writing the procedures as Dr M listed – she’s having an MOT – he drily said to the nurse. (MOT –Definition from the free dictionary online for my friends not familiar with UK terms. MOT. [not an acronym] (UK term for a full-body scan medical exam; derived from the Ministry of Transport test car inspection).   Pre assessment were closed that afternoon so it’ll probably be another visit before the procedure.  And then I was free to leave.  

That evening I read up on possible diagnoses (bad idea) … cancer survival rates seem to be measured in chance of living five years… in five years our youngest will be 13 years old…  I read up on how a laparoscopy is done… I also discovered that not all abnormal cells are malignant…  I think you can find anything you want to on the internet if you look hard enough!

Following a priesthood blessing a couple of days later, which my dear husband administered, I no longer feel so anxious! Heavenly Father knows me and I do trust Him that he’ll guide the doctors in all the investigations and procedures. Ultimately, I know everything will be alright.  For now, I need to learn to be patient and wait… 

seeing the good, tender mercies

Seeing the good and tender mercies can missed, like seeing the juxtaposition of old and older in this Normandy village

Dear friends

My last post – small things -set the scene of last week’s events – it was a difficult week! But I should say that during this, I did notice the Lord’s hand and his tender mercies, protecting our family – I especially felt this when the clutch on the car failed.  It could’ve been a lot worse!

It could’ve failed the day before, on our way to church (children and me in the car, we would have all missed partaking the sacrament), or on our way back home from church (all five of us again and none of us took coats – it wasn’t raining but it’s not mid summer!), and we live about an hour walk from church.

It could’ve failed on Saturday when I use it the most – Son2’s piano lessons, Daur1 work (drop off & pick up), Son1 pick up from late shift at fast food restaurant.    

It could’ve failed on Friday, the chauffeur evening, when the three older children were in the car and we were traveling on the motorway at 60 miles per hour on our way to or back from the stake centre in the next city.

It could’ve failed on Wednesday when I had the pelvic scan and in the afternoon I took my dear husband, down the motorway at 60 miles per hour, to an eye appointment at an out of town clinic, before coming home to take oldest siblings to evening Seminary.  

The leak could’ve been nearer the middle of our room, rather than the corner.

And the mouse, well, that could’ve gotten to the front room and scurried all over my dear husband and I during the night… nibbling toes…. eeewwwww….

From Apostle Elder David A Bednar (April 2005):

the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

for the ladies…

Dear friends

Back in the spring, you may recall if I shared it, that I started experiencing pain/ aching in my pelvis, right side, after my morning jog.  I’ve been experiencing aches on that side for a few years but it started becoming quite intense.  I’ve been to the doctor a few times, the last time the GP (after telling me to lose weight) referred me to physiotherapy (about a year ago) which helped marginally.  So about 6 months ago when the pain started increasing, I knew I should go back but was reluctant since I thought I’d be dismissed.  Then, around the same time as the upping of pain, I noticed more frequent, irregular periods.  Something was clearly happening down there!  After the mammograms, I gained a bit of courage and called the doctor’s surgery.

The surgery has started a triage system, so I had to tell the receptionist why I wanted to see a doctor.  I’ve had this pain for a few years and it’s getting worse.  Doctor will call you back.  An hour or so later a doctor calls me back and within minutes offers me an appointment for the same afternoon.  This was amazing to me, previously one would be offered an appointment the following week, or at least a couple of days later.  Clearly the triage system is clearing appointments.

Dr L was very nice, listened to my story and asked what I thought it was. Self diagnosis!?  I said I’d, of course, been checking the internet and figured either hernia or something with the ovaries, cyst, but, you’re the doctor!  Can you feel anything pushing out? No. Unlikely to be a hernia.  Have you heard of endometriosis?  Based on what you’ve said that’s what I think it is, it can usually be treated through hormone pills/ injection so I’m referring you for a pelvic scan.  At last!!  So the scan was last week.

My appointment letter noted that I was due both an abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound – basically both external and internal.  I’ve had both before – external ultrasound with the children and internal some time ago following an early miscarriage.  My dear husband was also in attendance. 

Same!  Hard work isn’t it?

Said Dr G as I said we had four children and continued to chat explaining what was going to happen and putting me more at ease.  I’ve decided that gynaecological sonographers (they’re still doctors) must be the customer service equivalent of the doctor world – so kind!!  Her previous appointment had cancelled so she had as much as an hour for us!

External scan – while feeling like I was going to wet myself – was relatively quick.  Right ovary looked the right size, nothing on or around it from that view – i.e. no cyst or tumou .  Quick toilet break and then the internal.  I mostly focused on a single spot on the ceiling and my breathing until pain – oh, is that tender?  Followed by a bit more prodding to firmly establish that, yes, that is tender, sore, painful.  It felt like a good 20 minutes and she said little more until I was released to get fully dressed. So the verdict? Right ovary is low down, squashed under the rectum, and could have some endometriosis behind.  And have you heard of adenomyosis?  Well, this is your womb (showing blurry black and white images on the monitor) and normally we’d expect to see a white line showing the edge of the womb about here – she indicated a grey mass – but for this stage of your cycle this is really thick. Adenomyosis is basically endometriosis in the womb muscle lining but the cells can’t shed, so the womb muscle lining gets bulky.  We’re looking for markers for adenomyosis and this is one of them.  I’m going to put you in my book of interesting cases so I can follow up.  Your doctor will refer you to the gynaecologist, and if were me, they’ll probably want a biopsy of the womb lining. 

To be honest, I’m hugely relieved that she found something abnormal – that the pain I’ve been experiencing has a reason behind it, even though it’s not quite diagnosed and I’m not sure what will be done to resolve it, I mean, can surgery raise an ovary, or is it more likely to be removed?  And yesterday I received a call from my doctor, notifying that the referral has been made.  So I’m waiting for the appointment letter and researching on how a womb lining biopsy sample is taken!  

People say things about the NHS but I’m grateful that we have it – I’ve paid national insurance and taxes so I’m glad it’s there.  It may not be perfect, mistakes can happen and things can take time, but at least it’s there for all. 

chauffeur service update

Dear friends

It’s chauffeur night. Actually, it’s been a chauffeur day and right now is my break = 🙂 I read an article recently about how we feel most at rest when we are alone – I concur!

View from our longest road trip, Normandy, France

I am like many parents I’m sure where personal chauffeur for our children is part of the job description.   And let’s face it, we wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Our eldest daughter, Daur1, has recently labeled this time as older siblings road trip.  For me, it’s when I get to hear what’s really happening at college – X loves college because she can get high everyday!…  I know what weed smells like now!… I’m disappointed with Z, he tried ecstasy! Class A drug!.. The sniffer dogs were in college today.

I’m sure it’s not a complete den of iniquity but I’m glad the children are comfortable with opening up with at least one of their parents.  I tried not to get too concerned about the interest and exposure to illegal drugs! 

So, my chauffeur duties today have been: drop dear husband at train station before 7h; drop Daur2 close to school before 8h20 (so I can get myself to work for 9h meeting); pick up dear husband from station; wait and pick up Daur1 from station; take Son1, Daur1 & Daur2 to Stake Youth Seminary & Activity – older siblings road trip plus one (i.e. Daur2); and then drive back home. 

So, I’m looking forward to the drive home and hearing the news from stake youth. I am grateful that they enjoy being with their peers at church and I know I will look on these days, evenings, fondly… one day… maybe sooner rather than later since Son1 turns 18 years in the coming days 🙂

thoughts on these times – September 11

Dear friends

It’s been a while but trust me, I’ve been particularly good with daily personal journal writing this last month or so.  It’s been busy with the end of summer, results days, back to school and college for the children and new year out assistants at work.

Today is September 11th. The day when 15 years ago, for many of us, life changed as we knew it.  I’ve seen a few things on Facebook – it’s probably a date that, so far, has defined 21st century government responses to war, conflict and terrorism.

When I moved to London, five years before those aeroplane attacks, I was aware of bins and post boxes being sealed, I’d experienced bomb scares in the underground; the IRA was the primary organisation identified but then I recall other attacks that began in Brixton, London with a nail bomb outside Iceland supermarket one morning.  Brixton is one of the black areas of London with high proportion of Caribbean and African descent residents.  It was truly awful.  Then, a week or so later, another similar bombing on Brick Lane, heart of one of the Asian London communities.  And then, Soho, Central London was targeted, a bar and 3 people died.  The attacker was arrested not long after.  A lone attacker, apparently a Neo Nazi. Having just checked BBC news, his attacks all took place within 13 days.  Living in London at the time, it was terrifying, not knowing if your community would be next and trying to maintain your regular life.  

I’m recalling this and thinking that 15 years ago was truly awful – the scale of impact I’d not experienced before.  I was at work, lunchtime, and a colleague was on the phone to her daughter who worked for an investment bank in the City (of London). My colleague began telling us what her daughter was relaying that the New York office said a plane had gone into a tower, and there was another.  We began logging into the internet and soon after my dear husband phoned, he was home with our two children, asking if I knew what was happening, that he was watching the news.  We know the rest. 

Things were awful then. And before that event.  And since that event.  Since then we’ve had the 7 July 2005 bomb attacks on the London Underground, the Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall, the school girls in Nigeria, Charlie Hebdo office, Norway youth attacks, Paris and Nice, France, not to mention numerous individuals who have lost their lives in tragic and seemingly avoidable or random circumstances.

But despite all this, I don’t despair.  I do have a hope and I do believe that life can be great and wonderful and happy 🙂  We are not alone.  We never have been and the God of the universe knows us and stands ready and able to comfort and strengthen us through the craziest times and emotions that we may have to face.  

The Lord loves us.  Keep going! Strive!

This is a bit longer than I thought to write but hopefully this will be of help to you in some way and that you enjoy the video and the rest of your Sabbath day.