Very quick update!…..Good news- Pneumonia!!!

Hi all, Yes….Sorry….. I know it’s been months and months since I blogged! I’ve been a trifle busy….and, if the truth were known, a little bit under the weather. However – I have just had the first results of some recent tests and I can now tell you all that it’s looking very good…. not bad! HOORAY!

Many of you will know that for the last about 15 months I have been suffering from a pretty constant bad cough, sore throat, sniffy nose etc. probably down to the battering that my immune system has gone through. It has sometimes been a bit difficult to talk on the phone even! Since New Year I have been particularly poorly and have even had to resort to going to bed at times (shock horror!) so the oncologist and GP sent me for various tests, x-rays and scans. I haven’t seen my consultant yet but I had a phone call today, straight after she had seen the results of the CT scan, saying that all is well in the Lymphoma department but that I actually have pneumonia, so I now have some more, stronger, antibiotics! Phew!!! What a relief!

I shall find out more when I see the respiratory specialist and then the oncologist later this month. In the mean time I shall share with you these lovely pics of Annie and Tom!

Lots of love to all…. Hillyx…..

In Cognito!

Annie says "Cheers" (she's nearly 18!!!)

Tom with his first piece of 'official' London Graffiti on the Hackney Road!

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Hi everyone, Sorry – it’s been ages! Months even…… and I know a few of you worry when I don’t blog but please don’t! I am INCREDIBLY WELL!!!! In fact – the big news is that I had my LAST CHEMO on July 31st and I am now officially in ‘clinical remission’! Yes – two and a half years of being very constructively poisoned is now over and hopefully I won’t ever have to have any more. But….. if I do then I am well prepared, I know that it works and that my body copes with it extremely well. As far as I’m concerned if either Dillan, Jeffree or any of those ghastly sprats were to rear their ugly heads again then we will overcome them with the mighty R-CHOP and a great deal of the PPT! (I am so grateful to Dad for drumming into me just how important the Power of Positive Thought is!) I feel like we should have a proper party to celebrate but we seem to be so busy this summer that I am not sure when we could arrange it! However I am sure that the kids won’t let it go and we will be having our, now annual, ‘Mum’s not Dead Party’ before the year is out! The Zomorph keeps me active thank goodness but I am still suffering from the chronic cough, sore throat and husky voice which started last November. However I am convinced that I shall feel a lot better when this last lot of chemo gets out of my system so perhaps we should properly celebrate when I get my voice back!

The very last drop of poison..... Cheers!

This year has flown by – with so much going on that I haven’t found time to blog because I am usually so tired by the time I collapse into bed every evening.  I am trying to be a bit more sensible and get to bed earlier than I used to – honest….really…..I am! My wonderful boudoir has reverted to a family/ tv/homework room and I am sleeping upstairs again so the house is looking much more like a ‘well’ house again. Hoorah! Dan seems to be feeling much better too – after lots of tests at the hospital it was decided that he doesn’t have angina after all, which is a great relief! His latest project is getting his little yellow three-wheeler back on the road which may even happen next week so we could get out and about in it before this lovely weather is over.

Dan's holiday project

We have had a lovely year so far filled with visitors, excursions, festivals, theatre, music, exams, university visiting, arty stuff, Tom’s daily drawings and of course, lots of delicious dinners with friends.

Here are some of the highlights in pictures and a few words ….

A real Yorkshire winter - the best snowdrift!

Baking a Gingerbread Hogwart's!

The hard winter brought with it lots of cooking, baking and of course, eating!

Cooking Palestinian food - Yum!

Valentine's lunch with Cordelia


Just a few of us made it to a lovely cousins night out whilst Annie and Hannah went to see Matilda – maybe next time there will be even more of us….?

Cousins night out in Covent Garden

Annie and I had a couple of very special weekends with some very lovely women friends who all got together to support Selma whist Chris was still in hospital having broken his back last November. Although very sad at times it was wonderful to experience the incredible bond building up between some very special people.

Selma's Super Support Group - what a wonderful bunch of women!

A lot of my year has been taken up feeding teenagers! I love it!

It's so lovely having a hose full of wonderful young people!

Thank you to Jean and Victor for hosting this lovely lunch for the Widdall’s. It’s not often that the four of us spend time together so this was very special. We had such a laugh talking about all the dreadful things we did to each other when we were young!

A very special Widdall/Hugo lunch!

The house concert with Keith and Mick (Reuben’s Train) last May was a really fabulous event – sorry about the photo! I was far too busy feeding everyone to take any decent shots – has anyone else got any?

'Reuben's Train' at the barn - a wonderful night!

We even got Dan to come camping at this 2CV event!


One of the sad things this year is that Tod College has finally come to the end of it’s road and the art department has closed down. There doesn’t seem to be any more provision for adult education so I feel very lucky that I managed to string out my various courses over about 8 years! Unless I actually sign up to do a BA now, with all that that entails, I will have to find some more gainful employment but I do think that this is the time to concentrate on Annie and Tom’s futures not mine –  so that means we are currently doing lots of travelling around the country looking at different uni’s and courses which is quite fun! I really tried to make the most of my last year at college  and it was a really enjoyable one….largely due to the amazing Tony O’Keefe – artist, musician and teacher extraordinaire! Here is some of the work that I managed to make on the HND course.

Getting this group of reprobates together was a real challenge!

The Last Supper

You may remember this……

Independency - 15 x 2' square canvases - Oils

But this is new….. quite a challenge to make – but I was helped by Dan, my trusty technician, to assemble and hang it for the end of year show.

‘Mortal Immortal’ was the title of my show and is not just about my life but all those around me who are struggling in one way or another.

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel

'Mortal' paper and steel


Life Drawing

Life Drawing

'One Life'

For those of you who don’t know, I have been doing a daily photo journal since March 2010 and the above is simply our daily lives in print – it makes fabulous wallpaper! It is a wonderful way of documenting and proves just what a fabulous time we have had through some very hard times!

We only have one life …… Live it!

Love and strength. Hillyx

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A Happy and Healthy New Year to All!

Hello all!

I can’t quite believe how quickly this year has flown by – suddenly Christmas is over and we are preparing for the last day of 2012! And what a year it’s been! Since my last missive we have, of course, been up to all sorts of things. Some of the highlights being October half term in Devon with Jody and Kevin including a visit to Granny Mollie, an impromptu house concert with Mat Martin and Myshkin, a hysterical school reunion in Northampton, the Arty Farty Exhibition Party, Christmas,  the ‘Mum’s still here’ party….. I could go on and on and on….. but I shall spare you all the details this time! This is just a very quickie as we are changing our broadband supplier tomorrow so I thought I had better blog now just in case it all goes horribly wrong and we are without a connection to the rest of the world for a while! I’ve had a few emails wondering if all is ok as I didn’t get around to sending Christmas cards (as usual!) so……

It’s now over 2 years since my diagnosis and I am very happy to report that all is extremely well with me on the health front, apart from having had the usual winter cold for nearly 5 weeks now, which is not too bad and only delayed my chemo by a week. I am managing on a maximum of 20mgs of morphine twice a day,  and the next chemo is January 30th. After that I may only have to have a couple more treatments with any luck! I did have an ‘interesting’ few days when I tried changing over to a morphine patch which didn’t go too well resulting in me being incredibly ill with typical heroine withdrawal symptoms – really not nice at all!!!! I haven’t been brave enough to try again yet!

Dan hasn’t been feeling too good over the last few months and has recently had some tests which have identified possible mild angina so he is now rattling with the various drugs they have given him and is trying to make some lifestyle changes. I feel some dramatic new year’s resolutions coming upon us, exercise being the main one – but none of my family will play badminton with me….. chickens!!! Annie and Tom are both good apart from colds and have had the most amazing Christmas with the family in London. They both said it was one of the best and were spoilt rotten as usual!

That’s enough for now – I shall leave you with a few photos and go and prepare some more food for tomorrows celebrations!

Lots of love to you all and a very Happy New Year! – Hillyx

Oh….. a Date for your Diaries! February 16th we are having another house concert with ‘Reuben’s Train’. Check them out at and let me know if you would like to reserve some tickets at £20 for dinner and concert.

What a lovely few days we had in Devon despite the miserable weather!

Tom learning how to breathe fire!

A hysterical reunion weekend at the Northampton Hilton

Richard and I had a day-trip to London to see the 'Bronze' exhibition - Amazing!

All ready for the Arty Farty Party - what a lot of hard work!!!

Tom and I get Christmas cuts from our lovely friend Ross at Pimps and Pinups in Spitalfields

Weekends at Oats Royd often look a bit like this these days! A lot of fun and laughter!

What a beautiful, misty, freezing morning in the Pennines

It's all too much!

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What happened to the Summer?

There it was….. gone! And what a summer it was! Florence….Womad….Citroens….Weddings….Festivals….Edinburgh….Visitors….Camping….Exam results and even a bit of Chemo! All is good on that front by the way – I had chemo again last Wednesday which went very well. I was a bit tired for a few days but now I am feeling absolutely fine! My consultant is very pleased with me and pointed out that I am now over half way through this treatment which will go on until July 2013. I am down to between 15-30mgs of Morphine twice a day and seem to manage very well on that – so the doc is very pleased with me too! I am only a little bit worried as we go into the colds and flu season (Tom is feeling very grim as I write) but hopefully I shan’t get whatever he has!

It really has been a wonderful summer – I have done as much as humanly possible with my amazing children (who still don’t mind being seen with me even though they are teenagers!) and I know they have both had the best summer too! Dan has been in his element showing off the best car he has ever owned (for this season anyway!) and has had many people marvel about his extraordinary interior restoration skills! Maybe he should change careers?! We have had lots of lovely friends to stay and I have even managed a few arty things just for me…. I am definitely one of the luckiest people on the planet!

So now we are back into a more settled routine of school, college, work and play! I have started college again and I am really looking forward to what will have to be my last year. I am  very keen to do some more oil painting whilst I have the opportunity. In fact I intend to make the most of absolutely everything that’s on offer! (no change there then!) We are quite a small cohort this year so I have a nice big space to fill and I wasted no time in making my mark on it, just in case! Big space = Big work! Yippee!

Playing around with a piece of sticky-back vinyl Blue Peter/Matisse style!

Annie’s GCSE results were fantastic and she is now settled in to 6th form doing French, English Lit. Psychology and Media Studies and Tom also has 3 GCSE’s under his belt with a B in Spanish which, at his age, is fantastic! He is now embarking upon the serious 2 year GCSE course and is working hard. He has chosen Music, Art, Resistant Materials and Geography as his options.

Dan has also been working very hard on the lead up to the big Citroen rally for months/years and it still hasn’t stopped! He is now designing a book of the event which means ploughing through thousands of photographs which I think, secretly, he thoroughly enjoys! The ICCCR has taken over his life this year and even took over mine during the event, as it turned out that I wasn’t just organising the catering side of it but ended up desperately trying to organise a bit of everything! My heartfelt thanks go out to my friends, Catherine, Steph and Tamsin who gallantly took over the cleaning of the toilets on the campsite when there was nobody else to do it (thereby hangs a tale which I would really rather forget)! Amazingly, the general consensus of opinion is that it was the best ICCCR ever – Ha! They couldn’t see what was going on behind the scenes!!! Sadly, I had so little time off that I didn’t really get a chance to appreciate and enjoy it, but I do have this one photograph of a lovely gathering with our friends who were there on the Friday where I managed to relax for an hour or two before the next drama unfolded!

A moment's respite with friends in the sunshine!

This was one time when I most definitely did overdo it! It took a couple of weeks to recover and stop hurting – so next time I shall just say NO!!! (remind me!) Dan and the kids had a fantastic time though – Annie was part of the Entertainments crew and had a great time sorting out all the amazing bands, running a lighting rig and a sound desk and even stage-managing which was great experience for her! Tom found his niche serving in Selma’s kitchen and really enjoyed working his socks off. So much so that Selma booked him for another festival so he did well earning lots of money this summer. Dan spent a lot of time on his stand selling his newly designed T shirts and chatting to everyone which is what he loves doing! There was a very good turnout of about 5000 people at the event and we think we even made a small profit! That must be deemed as a success and congratulations must go to all the volunteers who helped make it “the best International meeting EVER”!!!  It was a bit tiring though…..

And a good time was had by all!

The summer began with Annie’s 16th birthday in Florence – and what a wonderful time the two of us had! It really is a beautiful city and although it was really hot we coped! We did all the usual things – travelling around on the open-topped tourist bus to castles, museums, art galleries and parks, seeing the most incredible things! We also…. ate a lot! (surprise surprise!) The restaurant that Annie had chosen to have her birthday meal in turned out to be so good that we went back several times! We had the best time!

I have now fulfilled my 2012 New Year’s resolution which was to take both my children away, one at a time and have a very special holiday with them. It was such a success – maybe I should do it every year….. I had better start saving up again! A few pics….

Annie's birthday cake - she was treated like a princess

So many gorgeous Florentine bottoms!!!

Learning how to make the best Tiramisu!

Annie meets Anthony in St Gimignano!









No sooner had we unpacked from Italy than we were packing to go camping at Womad for Tom’s birthday! We were incredibly lucky to get some tickets from our cousins Alan and Libby (via Jean and Victor) as A&L live in the wonderful Charlton Park House where Womad is held. That meant that although we weren’t actually ‘Glamping’ we were camping with the use of A&L’s many bathrooms, their ice machine, tea, coffee and the odd glass of wine! What luxury…. It was Absolutely Fabulous!!!

Heading off for a shower at the 'big house'!

A very imposing residence as you can see!

Wonderful Weather at Womad!!!

Then there was a weekend at Towersey Festival with Debbie and the gang! We met up with Keith and Mick of Reuben’s Train again and are trying to find a date for them to come up to do a gig at the barn early next year – I shall let everyone know when we have decided when! It was another great weekend with Annie whilst Dan was recovering at home and Tom was off working with Selma and Chris again at Galtres Festival. He had such a great time and so did we. Sally and alan were there with the babies and I had a lovely surprise when Sal produced the two little’uns both wearing Annie’s old (hand-knitted by Enid) babygrows. Does anyone remember what we used to call them? ;-)

Sophia and Amelie in the famous Arran condoms!!!

Next, in early September it was the boys! My godson, Savino and his friends, Jo and Mitch came up for a few days and filled my kitchen with laughter! We all love having them around and the Johnsons stayed for most of the time too so we had a ball! Every meal there were about 10-12 of us (I did seem to be cooking for a lot of the time) but I loved it of course!

A good time was had by all!

Picnicking in our favourite valley

It was just like 'Swallows and Amazons'!

It took a while for us all to settle back into a routine again as September was so full of exciting weekends! After the boys left we drove up to Edinburgh for Jenny’s 5oth birthday party, visiting John and Juliet in the south west on the way. The journey from Dumfries to Edinburgh was spectacular via the Dalveen pass. It’s definitely worth a special detour to drive that road if you are ever anywhere near! I have promised to take Tom back there one day – he absolutely loved it! Sadly I have no photos but I do have this one with John and Juliet and a Henry Moore at Glenkiln.

Posing with Moore's Standing Figure

Dan in his pride and joy outside Cramond Mill, Edinburgh

We stayed at this great B&B in Cramond where Jenny’s party was. Elaine and Ali, the owners, have since been to stay with us for a couple of nights so we currently have a couple of nights in Edinburgh in the bank!  The following weekend was the last camping weekend of the summer (I hope!) and the kids and I had a fantastic time at Fell Edge Festival where we talked, laughed, cooked, danced and all had a  surprise haircut from a lovely new friend, Ross! He is a great hairdresser – it was such fun to sit outside a barn, with just the onlookers for a mirror, as he snipped away. I told him he could do whatever he liked with it… and he did! Luckily for me I absolutely love the result!

Feeding the five thousand on the last night!

Recently I made a flying visit to London on my own for a very special birthday… It was Jean’s 80th!  She can get a bit side-lined in the birthday department (as she is such a spring chicken in comparison with 97 year old Victor) so I decided to ‘pop in whilst I was passing’ and give her a surprise! And surprised she certainly was!!! Alan and Libby were in on the conspiracy so had made sure there was enough Coq-au-Vin to go around and we had a really fabulous evening with Debbie popping in later on as well! I think that Jean had a very Happy Birthday!

Don't you just love surprises?!

Well folks….. you’ll be pleased to know that’s all for now! Sorry there has been such a long gap but I have been very busy LIVING LIFE!!!! :-) I hope to be seeing some of you soon but I am trying to hunker down a bit now and make some art, in fact I started a big new oil painting at the weekend. I am hoping to have an ‘arty-farty Christmas selling party’ in our new gallery on December 1st. Let me know if you would like to be part of it and put some work on the walls or if you would like to come and see the exhibition…. I shall send out some proper invitations soon!

Lots of love Hx

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A quickie before I fly off!

Thank you everyone for turning out and supporting our wonderful Palestinian events! The fundraising breakfast was extremely successful and held on the only good day of the summer! We even had the boat on the water that day! And then, when our young Palestinian friends arrived, we had an amazing weekend, full of laughter, friends, food, art, music and dance – all the things that make life worth living!

A few pics….

After the performance at Calder High School

What an amazing night this was! Annie and Paul did a really interesting talk and slideshow of the Aida refugee camp where the kids come from, then we showed a film about the water (or lack of it) in the camp, and the dancers DANCED!!!!

Such amazing passion and energy!

Sunday was a ‘day of rest’ for them – we got up late and then went for a picnic in The People’s Park in Halifax where an extraordinary game of football took place! I eventually just HAD to join in on the Palestine team! It was too much fun not to – but I have to admit slightly regretting it the following week as I hobbled around on very achey hips! But it was most definitely worth it!

The game in full swing!

Where's the ball?!!

My lovely boys!

These are the lovely lads who stayed with us – Yazan, Mohammed, Ahmad and Abood. They all call me Mum and treat me with great respect! When we said goodbye to them the next day they lifted me up on to their shoulders! Terrifyingly wonderful! Thankfully I don’t think there is a photo of that!

After the picnic we all went to the Imax in Bradford to see ‘Deep Sea’ in 3D. It caused much amazement as some of the kids have never even seen the sea before. Water in Palestine is a rare commodity so after the cinema we went to the new fountains in Bradford where everyone had a ball!!!

Much hilarity!


Monday came and they had to leave for Liverpool (I feel a song coming on!). While we were waiting for the coach to take them, Abood and Ahmad gave Bridget and me a Dabke lesson…. it’s actually very difficult to do but I just about got the hang of some of the steps. It was great fun anyway!

My first Dabke lesson

Then we said a fond farewell and they set off for the rest of their cultural tour of the UK. We weren’t too sad this time though as the kids had already persuaded me to take them down to London the following weekend to see them at their last performance in Notting Hill.

Something (rather important) that I haven’t mentioned yet is the opening of our new ‘gallery’ at the bottom of the building (in Dan’s old workshop). We somehow managed, against all odds, to get it all ready in time for the Midgley Open Gardens and Studios which all happened on the same weekend as the Palestinian visit and concert. So we opened our studio for the first time and showed an exhibition of photos from the young people of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem and a collection of artwork made by me, Tom and various friends. Tom and I were both very thrilled when we actually sold a piece of work each! YIPPEE!! This reclaimed space is going to be extremely useful for all sorts of things I think. We have already had a talk with film show in there – and it could be used as a meeting room, performance space, film club, pop-up restaurant – and I am hoping that after the summer Dan may use it as a space to make some interesting sculptural pieces that he keeps talking about! We are planning to have a showing of ‘The Promise’ one weekend in October. Watch this space! If anyone has any other ideas for using this wonderful space let me know!

The 'id19'gallery opens on time!!!

We did go to London the following weekend to see ‘The Art of Resistance’ at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill – what a wonderful venue. I highly recommend a night out there if you live close by!

Carousel on the South bank

On Westminster Bridge

It was another great night followed by a wonderful weekend tagging along with our friends seeing the London sights on Saturday and going to Thorpe Park with them on Sunday (which has cured us all of the need to visit another theme park ever again!) before saying  a very sad goodbye for another few years! One day we will get to Palestine – when I have finished having chemo and can get travel insurance! So sometime after July 2013!

Talking of which…I am feeling great these days! I have now recovered from the madness of the last few weeks and am looking forward to having a lovely week in Florence with Annie. I seem to be able to manage a very busy life with getting quite a lot of rest when I need it. I certainly don’t stay up as late as I used to (except when Babs came to stay!) and I generally stay in bed writing emails and blogs etc. on my laptop in the mornings until I’m ready to get up, and I sit down a lot more! I even watch TV now and again!!!


Other recent excitement has been Annie’s ‘Non-Prom’! She decided that she didn’t want to enter into the americanised charade that is now common at the end of GCSE’s so didn’t go to her school prom but had a cocktail party for 4 of her best friends instead! It was a really lovely fun day which degenerated into a fabulous evening which included everyone and lots of delicious food as well as a few cocktails – and nobody got drunk!

And of course the other thing that has been foremost in our minds recently is the rain! Thankfully, as I write it is not raining but, in common with many parts of the UK, we have had big floods down in the valley which have made Hebden Bridge look like a very sad little town! Thank goodness last Friday the river didn’t actually burst its banks again, but it was a very powerful, raging torrent which was really quite terrifying!

Hebden Water in flood

You will probably all have heard on the news about the Great Yorkshire Show being cancelled after the first day on Tuesday! Annie and I were there doing some research for our up-coming event in August and it was shocking! What will be our campsite was wrecked already and then the heaven’s opened and we were subjected to another deluge. It was devastating for all the traders for whom it is the most important date in their calendar. Hopefully we will get a bit of dry weather over the next four weeks to allow the ground to recover!

Next on the agenda is a busy summer starting with Annie’s 16th birthday in Florence! She and I have been on a diet recently trying to lose a few pounds so that we can put it all back on next week! She has asked me to remind all friends and family that would normally give her a birthday present that she seems to have enough ‘stuff’ already! But, if you would like to, she would love it if you can donate to a very good cause instead…

…After we heard one of the amazing Palestinian women talk about education in Palestine last March, Annie decided that she wanted to fundraise to send a young Palestinian to University.  It only costs about £300-400 per year for a University course there (against about £9,000 a year to send someone to a university here) so we plan to try and raise enough to sponsor a student for 3 years. We have raised £60 already! This is completely Annie’s idea – and I am delighted that it is what she really wants to do!

Then for Tom’s birthday weekend we will be having a great time at Womad (unless the rain continues!) and in August, the big event of our year at Harrogate. The 15th ICCCR (International Citroen Car Clubs Rally) where well over 3000 people will be coming to eat, drink, be entertained, look at loads of amazing cars and be very merry! The dates are August 9th – 12th and day visitors or campers are very welcome! There are great bands on every night! Look at for all the info. It would be lovely to see some of you there!

Right…. I’m off to pack and work my way through the ridiculously long list of things to do before I go away tomorrow! At least I can tick off ‘Blog’!

I shall leave you with a picture of my finished oil painting which I so enjoyed doing – can’t wait to do some more! It was painted on 15 canvases and measures 10′ x 6′ so I’m looking for a very rich person with a very big wall to buy it!!!

Love to all…. Hillyx

Independency 1-15

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Fantastic Day! Lovely Day! Beautiful Day! Wonderful Day!

I’m sure there’s a song there somewhere………!

Today I got the results of the PET scan that I had last Tuesday – and I’m ALL CLEAR!!!! Words can’t describe what a relief that is!

So then, I went to college and threw lots of oil paint at lots of canvases! It was great!!! This is just a little taster!

I am in such a mess!

And….. whilst I am here, I should throw in a photo of our Murder Mystery Dinner last Sunday! We had a wonderful weekend with Vinny, Maurice and The Johnson’s as you can see!

Busy time coming up….. we will be painting the new gallery space this weekend, London the following weekend… Breakfast for Palestine on May 26th (please come and support us!) then chemo, end of year show followed by camp for half term and then our lovely Palestinian friends arrive for the weekend of June 16th – and I don’t want to think much further than that!!! Have a great May all!………….Lots of love Hillyx

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Contrary to popular belief…..

I am still here! You may want to get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine – this could be a long one! (only because I am so well and have been able to do so much!)

It’s been a while for all sorts of reasons – the usual one being trying to fit way too much into our lives and also I’ve had huge a few technological challenges over the last couple of months….. a new camera to replace the drowned one, a new mobile phone which is impossible for a grown-up to understand and most importantly I have had to get a new main computer for the kitchen as the other one overheated and fried itself! AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!! I hate computers! Our broadband supplier had problems and then it seems our website was hacked which caused untold problems for Patrick who looks after it for us (thanks P!) Thank goodness (and you lot) for my trusty laptop – what would I have done without it? I have managed to retreive data from my old computer but re-loading it all….blah blah blah that’s enough of that!

So – where was I? Well….. Barcelona of course –  was Absolutely Amazing! Tom and I had such fun, walked so far, saw so many wonderful sights and ate sooooooo much!!! Tom loved all the Gaudi architecture and the Miro paintings. We even bumped into my friend Claire and her husband Kevin which was extraordinary and we spent a lovely day with them at the Sagrada Familia. It was very special spending a whole week with Tom – I am now really looking forward to doing the same with Annie in Florence for her 16th birthday! Any Florence tips gratefully received!

Tapas on our first night

Whilst we were away I had the very sad news from Brian and Ann Marie that Brian’s Mum, Eleanor McGuigan died very suddenly. It was a real shock for everyone and we will all miss her. She was such a lovely, kind woman and a wonderful ‘surrogate grandmother’ to Annie and Tom. We all had a lovely but very emotional time at her wake – she had a tremendous send-off with several hundred people packed into the church… even Dan came which is almost unheard of! Bernie and Brian came to stay for a few days the following week coinciding with a visit from David and Catherine and a good time was had by all!  As we had so many for dinner one evening I invited Paul and Chris as well and we all had a very jolly time! It happened to be the 2nd anniversary of doing my blipfoto journal that day so I baked a cake for all to enjoy! For those who don’t know Blipfoto is where I post a photo a day on the internet – if you want to have a look at my daily picture journal go to (you will probably have to create an account but it’s free)

The 730th photo!

We have been busy as usual with friends, college, school, work, citroens, theatre visits and wonderful Palestinian women! Last Thursday was ‘International Women’s Day’ and Annie and I were very involved in a visit by 5 young Palestinian women from Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. It really was an extraordinary week of talks, workshops, mayoral receptions, singing, fabulous food and first-hand learning about the terrible situation that they live in, in their respective parts of Palestine. These five young women would never have been able to meet each other in Palestine as it is just too difficult for them to move around their own country so it was a very special,  interesting and wonderful meeting!

Our 5 lovely friends - International Women's Day

It was June 2010 when the young dancers came for their life-changing visit – and what a wonderful and humbling experience it was for all four of us. We will continue to try and raise awareness and funds to help them all. We are planning for the youngsters to visit us again in June and maybe one day Annie, Tom and I will be able to visit them in Palestine! Last Sunday Tom and I got up at the crack of dawn to go and join in a worldwide protest called  Welcome to Palestine at Manchester airport. A group of our friends were leaving on a flight to Tel Aviv having openly declared that they wanted to go and visit their friends in Palestine.

Activist Tom and Paul getting away from the crowds!

Historically you would have to say that you were visiting the holy land in order to get through the checkpoints at Tel Aviv to visit friends on the west bank. Some of the travellers had already been told by email that they would not be allowed to fly and that their money would not be refunded either! When they tried to check in the Jet2 staff turned them away and even made a show of tearing up their boarding passes – effectively operating an Israeli checkpoint at Manchester airport – Tom and I found it really shocking! We had a small victory in that even though they weren’t allowed to fly Jet2 finally issued a letter agreeing to refund their fares but that’s not the point really…

As is the norm in this house we have had ‘hot and cold running guests’ as my Dad used to say! It’s been lovely but I really must calm down, knuckle down and get on to some paperwork, citroen stuff and college work! Saying “yes” to everyone and everything is all very well but it’s really difficult trying to fit everything in! Just for myself I’ve even signed up for a 6 week trial at the gym in Hebden Bridge but I have only managed to go 3 times in 2 weeks and I have to admit that I don’t really think it’s my ‘thing’! What it has shown me though is that I am now much stronger than I thought I was and I don’t feel like my body is going to break any more! That’s a great feeling! So my next plan is to start dancing again – I have discovered a swing/jive class in Mytholmroyd on Tuesday evenings – does anyone fancy being my partner?

We seem to have been to the theatre a lot recently as Annie has become really passionate about the theatre and I just don’t seem to have the capacity to say ‘no’! We saw Time Gentleman Please at Harrogate theatre – a really wonderful dance show by The Demon Barber’s which mixes Folk dance with contemporary and street dance. It was fantastic! The following week we went to see Derren Brown at the Lowry in Manchester which the kids and their friends really enjoyed. I thought it was ‘interesting’ but I wouldn’t go again! Then it was the Northern Broadsides production of Love’s Labours Lost at Dean Clough. We loved it! It was extremely well done, very funny, marvellous music and we all thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a really good first Shakespeare for Tom! Next was Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at the end of March then an absolute highlight last week was The Pitmen Painters in London. It is a wonderful production – go and see it if you possibly can. There was a particularly funny bit in it where one of the actors made a slip and said blackhead instead of blackleg and the whole cast corpsed followed by the entire audience! Maybe that shouldn’t be considered good but it had the effect of reminding us that these are real people acting – no photoshop in sight! And they very masterfully picked it up and carried on as if nothing had happened.  So that’s the arts budget well and truly spent up! (It’s a good job we’ve just entered a new financial year!) Live theatre is so wonderful and inspiring – I have decided it’s time I learned to paint after the Pitmen Painters and Annie is looking at theatre courses to do after her A-levels!

Philip and Alejandra came for a few days before Easter which was lovely – we had lots of little sight-seeing trips out in the car as we are not very busy with work at the moment. We took them the new-ish Hepworth gallery in Wakefield  - we are extremely lucky to have a gallery of this calibre so close by. It’s the third time that I have been there and every visit has been a delight! Dan took this photo of me sitting in one of the vast picture windows in contemplative mode, looking very much like my mother I think!

Inside Barbara Hepworth!

I was thinking about our friends the McGuigans who, just a few weeks after losing Eleanor lost their sister/daughter, Aileen at a very young age – We were due to go to her funeral the following day and I was sitting looking at the extreme beauty of my surroundings, watching my lovely family enjoying themselves! What an incredibly lucky woman I am to still be here to enjoy all these wonderful moments! Aileen’s funeral/wake was fabulous – a really colourful celebration and I got to wear my favourite jacket of many colours that Debbie bought me in New York! There were some great musicians there and it turned into one big jam session – I had great difficulty dragging Annie and Tom away to drive home in a raging blizzard so I would be able to go and have chemo the next day!! We made it back ok but the next morning the whole of the M62 was impassable so my consultant couldn’t get to the hospital. But it all worked out fine, they asked me how I felt, weighed me, checked my bloods and gave me the poison!  My next dose is May 30th.

On Easter Sunday Debbie, Sally, Alan, Sophia and Amelie came for Bunny pie! What a lovely day! I wish I had managed to take a photo of the pie but they ate it too quickly! Debbie stayed for a few gentle days (I tried not to make her laugh too much!) then we took her back to Watford and spent part of the Easter hols there picnicing with Sally, babes, Irena and Savino, going to the Theatre with Alejandra and having Cocktails and burgers with Vinny and Maurice! Anyone would think that this sharing the Sundae was a fight to the death! I think Tom’s winning though!!!

Bloody Sundae!

We came back from London via Weston-Super Mare. Yes, I know it’s the wrong way.. but it was a very lovely detour! We went to see ‘Grannie Mollie’ in her new house at Sandford and took her out for a drive and a lovely lunch in Cheddar. (I hope you don’t mind me telling everyone Mollie, that you are now 92 and just as amazing as ever!) Mollie lives in a ‘retirement village’ which surpasses all ideas I have ever had about such places. Her house is a very beautifully restored old cottage full of character. She teaches an art class every week and still has a studio in her upstairs bedroom. I would like to book myself in now!

So it’s back to school, work and college now. Tom did really well in his GCSE Spanish speaking test yesterday and bounced out of school saying his teacher predicts an A star! I don’t actually think it’s because I took him to Barcelona…. it’s because he’s very clever and has worked really hard! Annie is currently desperately revising 1000 words of French vocabulary amongst other things for her exams which start very soon.

We haven’t got much work at the moment which is a bit of a worry and hardly any bookings in the flat. So please pass the word around to all your friends that Yorkshire is the place to come on holiday this year! (pass it on!). I am now trying to get some new work together for the end of year show and for the opening of our new ID19 gallery at the bottom end of the barn. It should be opening on June 16th when we have our young Palestinian dancers visiting again and putting on a show at Calder High School. Put a note in your diary – Saturday June 16th will be open house with an artistic and Palestinian slant.

And this is what Dan has been up to (when he hasn’t been working or ‘working’ on the forthcoming  ICCCR in August Look at his gorgeous dashboard which he has fabricated and lovingly trimmed and the newly-trimmed seats made by a friend of his who trims very posh cars and airplanes for a living.

Have a look at Dan’s new website He has been working very hard and at the moment he is down in ‘the gallery’ with Ian finishing off the woodwork so I can get in there over the weekend and paint it all white. Although I am not sure that will happen as even if they do manage to finish I am currently in bed with the dreaded lurgy so I don’t really feel up to decorating! The up side of that being it’s the only way I seem to have time to blog these days! I’m sure it’s just a bug but they do seem to hit a bit harder these days so I shall be taking it easy until I feel a bit better. Annie will make sure of that!

Ok…. enough! If you’ve made it to the end of this you deserve a medal! I’m going to have a nap!

Lot of love Hillyx

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Another Chemo in the bag!

Hooray! With the help of 3 courses of anti-biotics I was ok to have my very delayed session of chemo last Wednesday. All went well and as usual I came home from hospital, went straight to bed and slept for 16 hours! And when I awoke I felt absolutely fine – the chemo had completely wiped out any vestiges of the flu! I haven’t even had much nausea this time either. So we made it to London for Kim’s birthday party which was, in Tom’s words “the best party I’ve ever been to”!! The meal was absolutely delicious, the snow fell as expected and the staff at the pub were particularly friendly, joining in with the snowball fights and getting as drunk as all the party-goers!

What a fun night!

Sarah and Debbie made the birthday cake!

We stayed in the pub until 3.30am when a little group of us trudged up the road to the Travelodge where Debbie had booked one double room just in case we couldn’t get home because of the snow. We were very glad that she had as it was the last room in the hotel so we ended up with seven of us in one room – it was a hoot!

Will they ever stop drinking??!!!

I think Annie and Tom were quite amazed at both the stamina of us oldies and just how much wine everyone could drink! This photo was taken at 4.35am and I think we turned the lights out at 6.30am! I slept at the foot of the bed with with Fiona and Debbie’s feet and Annie, Tom, Stuart and Sarah slept around each side of the bed on the floor! Quite an experience!

So…. It’s off to Barcelona tomorrow for me and Tom! I am feeling fighting fit again and really looking forward to spending a week showing Tom the amazing sights in Barca. Annie is going to Cornwall with Hannah so Dan will be able to have a lovely quiet week working and spreading bits of car all over the kitchen table with impunity!

Happy half term and Valentine’s day to all!  Hillyxxxxxxxxx

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A very late Happy New Year to one and all!

Well… it’s still (just) January at least!

I’m afraid I’ve been mostly out of action this year. On New Year’s day I came down with a massive dose of Man-flu!!! (actually, sinusitis, conjunctivitis and a chest infection) which is still plaguing me as I write – but I am tucked up in bed…. I promise!!

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season – we certainly did! It was action-packed and so so much better than last year! I managed to talk Dan, Annie and Tom into doing something different and dragged them, out of their comfort zone, to the southern faction of the family! (Watch out you northerners – it might be your turn next!). Annie was really up for it but the boys would rather have been at home I think! Anyway – it was my call this year – Ha! We set off with a ridiculously full car and spent a lovely day with Auntie Jean near Bury in Suffolk. We hadn’t seen her since September 2010 so we had a lot to catch up on and laughed our heads off as we always have done!

Auntie Jean on top form!

I took a delicious pheasant casserole and some amazing chocs (thanks J&K!). We then spent a very comfortable night in the Travelodge before heading to Debbie’s to deliver our wonderful consignment of local meat and veg, Christmas cake, Champagne etc. It was a quick stop as Annie and I had to press on into London to meet up with Vinny and Mop before going to the theatre to see Matilda. What a day – apéritifs at Thomas’ flat in Aldwych, a delicious dinner at Kitchen Italia then off to see ‘Matilda’ which was extremely good! It certainly deserves it’s 5 stars from The Guardian! Annie was in her element! Mop, Vinny, Thomas, Prosecco, Pasta and Theatre… all in the same day! Then it was back to Vinny’s for delicious cocktails with Prosecco, Limoncello and lemon sorbet. There was much merriment! Hic!

Christmas Eve was spent largely preparing the mountain of food for Christmas Day. We were 14 for lunch and I’m sure we cooked more than 14 vegetables – it was FABULOUS!

Too many cooks? Never!!!

This year, as Tim, Taoa and Ben were in Oregon there was room for us and Jean and Victor – a wonderful addition to the occasion, Jean’s christmas pudding with Victor’s Rum sauce being one of the many highlights! We did miss T&T&B though…. we eventually managed to talk to them on Skype when we were all four sheets to the wind and they were just preparing their lunch!

What a meal! What a day!!

Another highlight was a very funny game of pass the parcel when Philip licked Alan’s nose and Sally got a forfeit which said “Perform a jazz standard with another person”

You should have seen the excitement! Debbie immediately took up poll position at the piano, Sarah on lead vocals behind her, Kim did some wonderfully funny (pissed) backing vocals and a very pregnant Sally dragged Alan on to the floor to dance! And the song…… Summertime??!!!!! It was magnificent! A friend of mine makes these little parcels out of beautiful hand made cards and paper and I swear that she must have made them for our family! (We were very good at it anyway!)

On Boxing day the four of us went over to Vincent and Celeste’s and had a lovely afternoon with them and some of Celeste’s family then back to Deb’s for the traditional Bubble & Squeak Supper by which time I couldn’t eat another thing! Philip and Ale managed to do it justice though! All in all it was a really great Christmas with lots of love and laughter, way too much food and far too many presents as usual! Wonderful!

Then it was back yo Yorkshire to recover for a few days before spending New Year’s Eve with Steve, Anna and Tom et al in Ilkley. That was also great fun! We had an excellent meal with some magnificent wines that Steve had been saving and lots of champagne. The teenagers all watched movies and snaffled beer etc. and Steve and I were to be seen later on jiving to Jools Holland whilst most of the others slept on the sofa! I have no pics of that night….. can’t think why! :)

Unfortunately I woke up on New Year’s Day not with a hangover, but a nasty sore throat and a very blocked nose which has steadily been getting worse and worse. I  was desperate to fight it off as we had a trip to London planned the following weekend and somehow I managed it (just about). It was a flying visit, picking Richard up at 8am on Saturday morning, lunching with Mop in Kensington and then checking into our hotels. (The Earls Court Premier Inn is very good and was very cheap too!) A quick visit to the Serpentine Gallery, a snack in Covent Garden then Dan, Annie, Tom and Richard went to see ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ whilst I had dinner with Mop and Derek. The play was a great hit with them too – it is sooooo funny!! On Sunday we took in the South Bank where the highlight was The Landscape Photographer of the year exhibition, then Somerset House (interesting city planning/architecture exhibition) and – the main reason for our visit  - the Leonardo Da Vinci. By this time I was exhausted, full of cold and I have to say extremely pissed off that the National Gallery sold quite so many timed tickets for what was quite obviously the same time! It was an absolute bunfight and really not very enjoyable. It may have been the ‘exhibition of the century’ but only if you were privileged enough to be at the private private view! Dan was a real ‘trooper’ and drove us all home whilst I collapsed in the back of the car! The following day I had to go to Manchester but when I got home I went to bed and stayed there for 6 days!

So this is the reason I haven’t been in touch everyone! Sorry…. I really have been extremely unwell. Thank goodness (and everyone) for my laptop! It has kept me sane over the last 3 weeks. I obviously couldn’t have the chemo which was scheduled for Jan 11th but it has been rearranged for February 1st so I absolutely MUST be well by then. I’m on a second course of anti-biotics now, this time ‘industrial strength’ so I really should be on the mend very soon! Besides it’s Kim’s 30th birthday meal on Feb 4th AND… I have flights for me and Tom to go to Barcelona on Feb 9th so being mended is absolutely essential!!!!

Anyway…. enough of that. I shall report again after I’ve had the chemo. Ans, as I haven’t been taking that many exciting photos of events recently, I shall leave you with a photo of ‘Little Becky’ who lives on the shed roof. She has been a bit chilly these last few days!

Little Becky in her new coat!

A Happy and Healthy 2012 to all. Lots of love Hillyx   xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Nearly Christmas – One year on!

And what a year it’s been! I am very pleased to report that I am still in very rude health and have survived well the excesses of the last few weeks!

Milan was fabulous! I had an amazing time – the recital at La Scala was possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been! Everything about it – the building, the people, the soprano, the music, even the sandwiches were beautiful – it was a wonderful experience!

On top of the world (the Duomo actually!)

The Duomo is spectacular! We stayed with Callum and Manuela in their lovely apartment, chatted a lot, ate very well of course and did a lot of walking around the city. All four of us went out for a meal with Franco’s family on our last evening there. It was a very typical Italian gathering – with much food, wine and laughter!

The following week I had a quick trip to London to see ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ with Mop and Debbie. I can honestly say that I have never laughed so much at the theatre! I had to massage my jaw in the interval – it was aching with all that excercise! We had a lovely two days together and I actually went to the hairdresser for the first time in 23 years! Surprisingly it was really quite ok and what’s more – I am very pleased with the result!!!

Not as scary as I had imagined!!!

The next excitement on the agenda was the much anticipated ‘Oats Royd’s got Talent’ party! Actually I think some were dreading it – but what a triumph it turned out to be! It was conceived by Annie who decided that we should have a gathering of a few folk, who came last year to our ‘Dragwitch’ dinner, to celebrate the fact that I am still here in spite of everything!!! It really was an incredible evening, quite old-fasioned like ‘music in the parlour’ – and I had no idea just how talented we all are! There were so many highlights – but this is one of my favourites….

Annie and Sarah singing their hearts out!

Tom also sang and all were amazed by his fabulous deep, rich voice – we need to encourage him to do more! His latest news is that he did one of the oral parts of his Spanish GCSE last week and was given an A! I am so delighted – in fact I think we must have a quick trip to Barcelona before the end of this academic year to inspire him even more! Now there’s a plan!!!

Annie and Tom break up from school on Friday and we’ll have a few days of shopping and wrapping before heading south for the festive season. It is many years since we went away for Christmas as A&T have naturally always wanted to be at home but after last year (which I really don’t remember too much of) I suggested a change from the norm and everyone is up for it! So we leave here on the 22nd to stay at the celubrious Travelodge near Auntie Jean’s (who we haven’t seen for over a year) –  before going further south to spend Christmas Day with Deb’s lot, Philip & Alejandra and Jean & Victor.  Annie and I have tickets to see Matilda on the 23rd – she is very excited! It’s her ‘prize’ for doing so well at school this term and passing her Grade 6 piano exam with Merit! We plan to stay with Vinny afterwards and then head to Debbie’s on Christmas Eve to start peeling veg!

So, as you can see, all is good…. the kids are doing extremely well at everything, Dan is getting stuck in to his new ID19 design/gallery ideas and I am going to college and trying to make work to sell in the gallery! Here is the result of a life drawing class I went to last week (I hate life drawing with a vengeance) but I actually quite like the result for once!

'Larger than Life' drawing!

I’m actually looking forward to having another go next term – I’m playing around with doing really huge drawings at the moment which is really exciting but physically quite hard work!

That’s it for now. I shall report in again after I have my next chemo on January 11th. In the meantime I hope everyone has a great Christmas! We will probably see quite a few of you over the next couple of weeks but if not – come and see us next year!

Lots of love and a MERRY CHRISTMAS from us all…. Hillyx

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