Thursday, 7 August 2014

Garage Project

Having lived in the same house in Farnham for 25 years, 2013 was the year of the "Big Move". No mean feat and not one I want to attempt again. relatively settled in a lovely house near Hindhead....2014 is the year of the "Garage Project". We're doing as much as we can ourselves and hopefully by the Autumn, the cars will be comfortably under cover. More to follow very soon.

Monday, 17 June 2013

It started on The Day after Father’s Day 2011

Monday: (day 1) 20 June 2011 The day started as usual. I took Lucy to school as my husband, George, wasn’t feeling too good. I left him in bed. When I got home he got up and watched some TV in the kitchen. He talked about going to an engineering place in Bracknell to collect the Dodge Superbee cylinder heads that we had taken there a few weeks before, and after lunch we did that. Whilst at the engineering place, George felt dizzy and went to sit in the car. As we left, he started to speak incoherently….slurring his words and not making any real sense. He knew this was happening and that something was wrong so we went to A&E at Frimley Park hospital….collecting Lucy from school on the way. We waited in the A & E for a while, I phoned G and Amy and they both came over. George was feeling a little better by now but they arranged a CT scan which he had a little later. The CT scan showed some pressure inside his head but no reason why, perhaps fluid/water for some reason. They decided to keep George in the hospital and have an MRI scan the next day. I had gone home in the meantime to collect George’s overnight stuff. I particularly remember that one of the on-duty doctors reassured George by saying “Don’t worry, we’ll find out what’s wrong and get it sorted out so you can go home”. George was never to return home again.
Tuesday: (day 2) During the day George had an MRI scan which didn’t show anything more than the CT scan did. It was decided that a lumbar puncture was needed to investigate further. George was relatively comfortable and in quite good spirits but still feeling dizzy and nauseous at times.
Wednesday (day 3) No real change, still waiting for the Lumbar Puncture. We were told it was going to happen but nothing did. I was spending most of the day at the hospital then collecting Lucy from school, going home then going back to the hospital until closing. We decided that our holiday to Italy in July should be cancelled.
Thursday (day 4) Lumbar Puncture was attempted but because of a lot of scar tissue on George’s lower back (as a result of several back operations) it was proving difficult to get the needle through so it was decided a more experienced radiologist should do this. George is getting a little frustrated now at these delays. I notice that one side (his left) of his face is beginning to droop slightly and he tells me that when walking to the toilet his feet don’t seem to go in the right direction..

Friday (day 5) They are still talking about doing the Lumbar Puncture. George had a shave this morning. George was seen by a neurologist, on Friday afternoon, who ran through some tests with him whilst I was there. The neurologist wrote in the hospital’s patient’s notes “Malignant Meningitis ?”. The hospitals don’t really like these notes being read by visitors, but I was glad that I did. I didn’t mention this to anyone as it was only a suggested diagnosis at this stage.
Saturday (day 6) Finally, the lumbar puncture was performed. Preliminary results show an infection but not what that is. A course of antibiotics are started intravenously as a precautionary measure while waiting for the results to come through.
Sunday (day 7) Very hot day in the hospital….stifling and airless. The doctors are now thinking it might be some sort of meningitis either bacterial or viral. They have to grow a culture from the lumbar fluid for 5 days. George has had so many visitors that we have been asked to limit the number at any one time. So many people have been to visit him.
Monday (day 8) For the last few days George’s walking ability has been deteriorating. He can’t walk on his own so he has been trying to use a bed bottle for weeing but this isn’t always easy and he keeps insisting he wants to get up to go to the toilet. There aren’t enough staff available for this to be practical as he needs supporting and supervising. He isn’t happy about this at all. A big set back this morning. When I arrived George was sitting in a chair, he’d had a messy “accident” and needed cleaning up. The male nurse was using a hoist to get George back into bed but George had some sort of seizure and collapse. They called the “crash team”, it was panic stations for a while and I feared the worst but after a little while George regained consciousness. (With hindsight, it would have been far better for George if the worst had happened then)
Tuesday (day 9) Still no results from the LP. George is a bit uncomfortable, he says his back and his legs hurt, probably from the collapse the day before. He has suffered from the seizure. He is less able to hold a conversation, remember anything for too long and can’t really stand unaided. It’s becoming a bit of a battle to get him to think about having a shower and/or shave. George is still receiving lots and lots of visitors. He seems to perk up when there are more people around and several people comment that he doesn’t seem too bad. He talks about going on holiday when he gets out. He is eating very well as he has been given steroids (to help his symptoms) and these are known to increase one’s appetite.
Wed (day 10) This afternoon the results of the Lumbar puncture come back and it's not good news....not good at all. The nurse and doctor ask me to come to their room and they explain that it is malignant meningitis. They have had no experience of this and explain that they have looked on the internet (as I already have done) and they tell me that the prognosis is not good. They are going to arrange for the Consultant and a Macmillan nurse to speak to me today and then contact the Consultant Oncologist at St.Luke's in Guildford about the course of treatment to take. As this is quite a rare type of Meningitis, only the Consultant Oncologist will know anything about it and what to expect. George has been told that it's quite serious but not what the prognosis is. I hadn’t told Amy, young George or Lucy yet either until I have talked to the Consultant Oncologist as I didn’t want to mislead them in any way. They talked about George coming home (perhaps within the next few days) and then going to St. Lukes's for treatment as an out patient. This afternoon/evening he was really unsteady on his feet and confused and starting to imagine things had happened that hadn't, so I’m beginning to think that coming home might not be a good idea, especially as the deterioration is quite noticeable from one day to the next. I have spoken to George’s twin brother and he is going to come up from Devon to see him very soon.
Thurs (day 11) A brave but uncomfortable smile.
Not easy to keep things together as I know what is going to happen and of course George doesn’t yet. Early this evening the doctor and Macmillan nurse have a chat with George and talk to him about the severity of his condition. We agreed beforehand that if he asks he should be told how severe it is and what the prognosis is… the kindest possible way. He did ask and was understandably very shaken up and upset. How would you feel if you were told you only had a few weeks left to live? He asks if the children know and I say not yet, I need to get them all together and tell them at the same time and that won’t be until Saturday morning. I had a talk with the doctor this evening and she said that the Consultant at St.Luke's says there is not really any benefit in chemotherapy as it never works, in these cases, and just makes the patient's last few weeks miserable....and it probably is weeks, not even months. They are still (optimistically) talking about him coming home with help coming in several times a day or a care home or Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, which is nearby to us. Of course, George will have a say in the matter as well.
Fri (day 12) For a couple of days now I had been asking if George could be given a shower and a shave as he was looking a little unkempt. Although the staff were very good they were also very busy so I specifically asked if George could have shave etc as his twin brother was coming tomorrow. (George confusedly says to me that he has been told he isn’t allowed to drive. I said we’ll see how things go and not to worry about it).
Sat (day 13) Peter came. George seemed pleased to see him. Peter was frustrated by George’s confused manner, no change there then. It’s really a matter now of deciding what to do next. As there is no treatment George probably shouldn’t be in the hospital. He can’t really come home as there is no way we could cope with the loss of bodily functions. If he had a fall there is no way we could help much. The intravenous drugs are now stopped and George is given painkillers for his back and anti-sickness drugs only.
Sun (day 14) The nurse on duty tell me that George was taken to the toilet early in the morning by the night staff and as the nurse went to get something, George tried to get up on his own and fell to the floor. Plenty of visitors still. George is sleeping a lot and watching TV a lot. Difficult to have much of a conversation.
Mon (day 15) 4 July 2011 George is getting more and more agitated about toilet arrangements. He can’t understand that he can’t get up and has to do it using the “in-bed” arrangements that have been made. The hospital notes say he has had another fall. Lucy got so frustrated today when trying to get her dad to order his food from the menu. Before she’d finished reading out each choice he’d forgotten the previous one. It has been decided that George should be moved to Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice as soon as possible. This is good news.
Tuesday (day 16) Arrangements have been made that George will be transferred to PT Hospice on Thursday morning. Lots of visitors still coming to see him and he definitely perks up when there are lots of people around. We clean his teeth and put in his eye drops before we leave every evening making sure that everything is to hand including his mobile phone which he can’t use as he can’t see the keypad properly.
Wed (day 17) last day in Frimley Park Hospital
George is sleeping a lot and I encourage him to watch his favourite programmes on the TV. He has no IV drugs attached which he is pleased about although his arms are quite bruised from previous needles
Thursday (day 18) 7 July 2011 George is moved to Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice in the morning. A difficult move which made him very tired and he slept for a lot of the day. He is in a pleasant room but I’m not sure whether he understands where he is or indeed why. We make his food choices for him and make sure someone is with him to feed him at mealtimes. Visiting is at anytime which is good and home is only a couple of miles away. We bring him magazines to look…..not that he can read but we show him the pictures..
Friday (day 19) The care that George received at Phyllis Tuckwell really was excellent. The nursing staff found it quite difficult to change George’s pyjamas as his range of movement was getting limited. He hates being shaved. He has a catheter inserted so there is no more anxiety over weeing. The staff on reception comment that he is the most popular patient at the hospice with so many visitors.
Sat (day 20) We had to make sure that George had food that didn’t need too much chewing as he was finding this very hard and not having much success. He didn’t really have much of an appetite but we felt we should encourage him to eat. Lucy brought him a Winnie the Pooh mug which he recognised.
Sun (day 21) 10 July 2011 George is moved to bigger room which makes it much easier to receive the large number of visitors that are coming to see him. He is really struggling to make any sort of conversation with anyone or to make anyone understand what he wants or doesn’t want. He is beginning to find swallowing difficult and it’s not really possible to brush his teeth for him any more. His chest is starting to sound congested so the doctor prescribes something to dry it up.
Mon (day 22)
We are still trying to remain cheerful around George. He sleeps a lot of the time and when he is awake he doesn’t appear comfortable always seeming to want something or wanting to say something but can’t. We take some photos…not that we want to remember him like this but I think we would have regretted not doing so. The nursing staff do all they can to make sure George is comfy and that we have everything we need. We are there from the morning to late at night…..making sure there is some one there at all times during the day.
Tuesday (day 23) When we arrive in the morning the nurses tell us that George can’t be given any more fluid as it is causing him to choke. I know then that there isn’t too much time left. We do all we can to make sure George is as comfortable as possible and we keep talking to him although he can’t answer. We can’t begin to understand or feel what he is going through.
Wednesday (day 24) It’s really just a matter of time now…..George’s breathing is becoming more laboured and noisy…..he’s not really awake much…’s getting torturous to watch and listen to him…..or imagine how he must be feeling…..but of course we can’t…..he is just suffering and has been for some time now.
Thursday (day 24) 14 July 2011 I know from the time I get there that this is likely to be his last day. The doctor has a word with me in private and she says much the same thing. He doesn’t seem aware of anyone in the room….no awareness of anything at all. George’s breathing is slow, noisy and intermittent. There are large gaps between some of his breaths. Present in the room are me, Lucy, George, Mum, Eric, Amy, Si, Peter and Jason. Midday comes and goes…..we are still waiting and waiting. Approaching 1.30pm George’s breathing is very harsh….getting slower….larger gaps between breaths….then at 1.35 he stops breathing….just stops….with his eyes still open. We hold his hands and cry…..and hold each other and cry. I close his eyes for him. After about five final minutes with him, I go to inform the nurse.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Father's Day approaches.....

As my own father died in 1998, Father's Day hasn't been of any great significance to me although the children had always bought their dad a present and we always took him out....generally for a meal. This didn't happen in 2011 as George (their dad) wasn't feeling too good and hadn't been for quite a few weeks now. We said we'd wait until he was feeling better and then take him out. Little did we know that this was to be George's last Father's Day.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Autumn Equinox 23 September

The Autumn Equinox is the point of balance in the waning year. It is the late harvest - of fruit and berries in the hedgerows. It is the time to thank the mother Goddess for bounty and abundance received gratefully and stored for times of want during the coming winter months. From now on the power of the Sun will recede as its shadow describes and anticlockwise spiral, returning to the womb/tomb.

Now is the time to reap your reward,
As we celebrate the last dance of the Sun lord.
Light and dark balanced on an ear of wheat
As the last grain signals the harvest complete.
Give praise to the Earth Mother
As she dons her wintry dark cloak
And her Autumn rains the earth will soak.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

My husband George

(I wrote this for the vicar to read out at my husband's funeral on 28th July 2011)

George was born Michael Straker, son of Barbara Straker, twin brother of Peter Straker, on the 23rd of December 1949 at 05.40 hrs in the morning, Liverpool.

Single mothers were not treated well in the Forties and although they had a sister, they were immediately distributed to the care of the Lancashire and Cheshire Child Adoption Council.

In January of 1950 the twins were chosen for adoption and collected by their new parents at 11.30 am on the 8th February.

The new parents were called George and Mary. Michael being the elder by 25 minutes had his name changed on the 5th January to George as you all know him today, and no, Pete's name wasn't changed to Mary!

After Miss Widowson’s pre-preparatory school, Mostyn House Preparatory School for Boys and St. Edwards Public School, Oxford, it became clear that
George was more a “hands on” kind of a guy.
To this end an engineering apprenticeship with Saunders Roe on the Isle of Wight in the Hovercraft Division was embarked upon in 1966.

After this time George was introduced to a man called Dudley Gahagan, through his then girlfriend's father, who operated a car sales and repair workshop in Aldershot called Rees Bros.

George joined Rees Brothers in Elms Road, Aldershot as a vehicle technician and in 1973 a 16 year old Martin Savill also joined the company.
Martin recalls that it was obvious from the start that George had a fascination for all things mechanical and how they worked.

It was at Rees Bros that George had the opportunity to drive many old and exciting cars, something he loved doing. Martin remembers him making a rare TV appearance on the “Magpie” programme, driving Mick Robertson up the test hill at Brooklands in a Bugatti, sadly before the days of video recorders.

Martin left Rees Bros in 1979 and George left a year later to form the Aldershot Motor Company where Martin went to work with him there.
George expanded the business to include the Aldershot Car Valeting centre, cleaning cars for the motor trade, mainly for Charters. George employed numerous young people during that time and he was always willing to give somebody a chance and offer them encouragement.

One of his favourite sayings was “If you all listened to me, you’d be a lot better off” and he was probably right.

During his time at Rees Bros., George met Jane through close friends and their romance blossomed. They got engaged in June 1977 and married 6 months later in January 1978. A year or 2 later they found they were expecting their 1st child but Jane unfortunately miscarried at 5-6 months. As recuperation, they went to Pasadena, California to visit George’s family on his mother’s side and spent a month travelling from L.A. to San Francisco and through Reno to San Diego. After visiting Las Vegas and New York they returned home.
Amy was conceived, and then born on 26 September 1981.
A happy and entertaining child, Amy enjoyed ballet, swimming, riding and ice-skating and began her education at St. Christopher’s school in Farnham.
Amy very much enjoyed outings with her father and when she moved onto St. Catherine’s School in Bramley, George enjoyed taking different cars to their open days, dressing in his straw hat, shorts, socks and sandals – knowing full well that his footwear irritated Amy.

George was a keen and enthusiastic member of Aldershot Round Table and was at various times Chairman, Treasurer and President. George also completed two parachute jumps to raise money for charity with other Round Tablers. As you can imagine George was also at the forefront when Aldershot Round Table took part in the National Banger Racing event several years in a row. The cars were prepared in the garden at home!

It was in 1982 that George bought the Dodge Superbee and that was the start of many motoring adventures from drag racing to circuit racing and was probably his favourite car of all the many cars he had owned.

In 1986 when Paul Burch of Charters wanted to buy Aldershot Motor Company’s premises to use as a bodyshop he offered George a job at Charters and so began a new episode. After a short while George settled into a new role as Export Sales Manager, selling tax-free Peugeots to the armed forces based mainly in Germany.
In the meantime, George and Jane had parted and gone their own ways.

Lorraine started working at Charters in 1987 and soon after, their relationship began…. secretly at first (or so they thought) causing much amusement amongst the other members of staff.

In the summer of 1988 George and Lorraine moved to Monks Well, Farnham next door to George’s mother and father.
Sadly, George’s mother died from Alzheimer’s disease in 1992 but his father lived on for another eight years….still brewing his own beer and baking his own bread.

In 1993 George took part in one of the greatest adventures of his life – The London to Sydney Rally. As co-driver to Freddie Preston, the dynamic duo and 105 other classic car enthusiasts (or nutters) took a month to drive from London to Sydney. They were crazy enough to do a similar event in 1995 – the London to Mexico Rally.

Lorraine left Charters in 1993 and 1994 saw the birth of young George and from then on there was never a dull moment in the Hampson household. Always up to mischief (and still is) he managed to break both his arms in separate incidents in his early years.

George and Lorraine married in 1996 and then Lucy was born in 1997 completing the Hampson family.

Young George and Lucy both attended the local and excellent Barfield school and enjoyed many happy years there.

In the meantime, Amy had qualified as a beauty therapist and with George’s help opened a beauty salon, firstly in Guildford and later in Fleet. George was always proud of what Amy had achieved and enjoyed being involved in all aspects – they had a healthy father and daughter relationship.

A drop in the market of selling tax-free cars meant that George was made redundant from Charters in 2005. Try as he might George never found suitable employment again although he did purchase and renovate a house to keep himself occupied and out from under Lorraine’s feet!

George was very active in the school PSA and later became a parent governor at the school. He played an important part in discovering the “misdemeanors” of the previous “rogue” headmaster.

Always keen to put something back into the community, George became a Magistrate at Guildford Court at the beginning of 2006, a role he enjoyed immensely.

Young George and Lucy finished their junior school education at Barfield school and moved onto Salesian College and Farnborough Hill respectively which pleased their father as these are excellent schools.

As a family, everyone has got on very well together over the years and Christmas became quite an event at the family’s houses - George enjoyed these gatherings and he always made it his job to cook the Christmas dinner.

Quite recently, Amy had decided she would like a change of direction and a less stressful lifestyle so gave up running her beauty salon business, of which George was secretary, and became the manager of Estee Lauder in Guildford Debenhams which she is currently enjoying.

George’s health had never been particularly good having suffered two collapsed lungs in the 1980s then problems with his back and several operations to put this right. In 2009 George was diagnosed with lung cancer and also a form of latent TB which had been lurking undiscovered for a long time.

An operation was followed by some months of grueling chemotherapy but George battled through and was given the “all-clear” after subsequent follow-up appointments and scans. During one of these scans it was found that George had blocked arteries to his legs which prompted another major operation and again, George came through with flying colours.

Throughout most of his health problems George still enjoyed a pint at the Running Stream in Weybourne with some of his oldest friends including Tom, Joe and Gus.

However, several months ago, George mentioned that he was getting headaches which was unusual for him and he had unexplained feelings of nausea. In June he casually mentioned this to a doctor during a routine follow-up appointment and the doctor arranged a CT scan but before this was done he suddenly became quite poorly on the afternoon of 20th June whilst out in the car and Lorraine took George to Frimley Park Hospital.
George never returned home as, after tests, he was eventually diagnosed as having malignant meningitis which was caused by his lung cancer returning in a more aggressive form. This is sadly untreatable and incurable.

After 2 and a half weeks in Frimley Park and having received many many visitors, George was transferred to Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice who made every effort to make sure he was comfortable. The visitors didn’t stop and a quick glance at the visitor’s signing in and out book at reception proved that he was the most popular patient at the hospice.

After a week at the hospice and after quite a rapid decline, George lost his fight for life....a devastatingly upsetting and very very sad day for all.

This was taken on our last family holiday, a year ago.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


The Summer Solstice is the time of the longest daylight when the Sun reaches the apex of its yearly cycle. This triumph of its power is also the start of its decline, as the year changes from waxing to waning. Summer flowers assume a deeper hue in the heat, and the migrating birds of Spring who have now had their young will sport and play until they depart before the Autumn Equinox.
The Sun God reaches the height of his power,
As all the plants are now in flower,
The longest day brings strength and vigour,
As we pursue our aims and goals with rigour.
Now is the time of abundance and light,
We rejoice in days so happy and bright
Knowing that we grow in wisdom and might.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Understanding Equinoxes and Solstices

Equinoxes occur twice a year when the is sun crossing directly over the Earth’s equator (into the other hemisphere) and a solstice, also twice a year, is when the Sun reaches its most northern and southern extremes which are marked by the Tropic of Cancer (in the north) and the Tropic of Capricorn (in the south). These tropics are imaginary lines of latitude around the earth and are about 23 degrees north and south of the equator.

On the dates of the equinoxes, day and night are equal in length.

* The Spring (or vernal) equinox falls on or around 21st March which is when the Sun moves into Aries and marks the beginning of Spring. The Sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere and brings the summer months.
* The Summer solstice falls around the 21st June when the Sun moves into Cancer and marks the beginning of Summer.
* The Autumn equinox is around the 23rd September when the Sun moves into Libra and marks the beginning of Autumn. The sun crosses the equator and moves into the southern hemisphere giving the summer months and leaving the northern hemisphere to the Winter.
* The Winter solstice is on or around the 21st December when the sun enters Capricorn and marks the beginning of Winter.

Note that these zodiac signs are all cardinal signs and indicate the beginning of the seasons, the fixed signs are in the middle of each season and the mutable signs are at the end and getting ready for the change into the next season.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring Equinox 2011

The Spring Equinox is the point of balance of the waxing year when night and day are of equal length and there is tension between the relectiveness of the dark winter period and the activity of new growth rushing headlong toward Midsummer. It is also the festival of Oestre, the Goddess of Light who brings fertility and whose name is the origin of Easter and words like oestrogen, the hormone stimulating ovulation and fertility. It is appropriate that this season is celebrated with eggs.

The dancing hare foretells the spring,
With the fertility and new life this time does bring,
Gay Eoestre dances on the earth,
As seeds and flowers come to birth.

Tulips and daffodils come into bloom,
And life sprouts from the Earth Mother's womb,
Chickens lay their eggs now the light is growing,
Catkins and blossoms on the trees are showing.

The Sun reaches forth with his hand,
To the Maiden of Flowers returned to the land,
Their dance brings new balance into our life,
Planting the seeds to overcome strife.

We grow with the flowers and the trees,
Winter's gloom banished on a spring breeze.
The joy of new birth enters our hearts,
As we look forward to Beltane's love.

Perigee Full Moon 20th March 2011

We’ve all heard so much about the biggest and closest moon this weekend but what does this really mean?

The 2011 full moon in March is on the same day as perigee which is the moon’s closest point to Earth for this month. The Moon’s orbit is elliptical and not circular so perigee and apogee (furthest away) happens every month but this perigee happens to be one of the closest encounters and the Moon won’t come this close again until 14th November 2016.

Most people know that the Moon is responsible for the tides in the seas and oceans and full moons bring higher (and lower) than usual tides. This is because the Moon and the Sun are lined up on opposite sides of the Earth so the gravitational pull on the large bodies of water is the greatest. Perigee full moons can bring even slightly higher and lower tides.

So this “Super Moon” isn’t really bigger although it may appear slightly larger in the sky (14% bigger) particularly when rising and setting on the horizon and it certainly isn’t responsible for any earthquakes.