Wednesday, 25 February 2015


Just for a laugh, and a bit of self indulgence:

For my 60th birthday party daughter Jess complied a timeline of my is a small selection !
Comments aren't really needed for pudding basin cuts.......why did our mothers do this to us ?
Hair bands.....and the kids in matching granny knit jumpers

I adored that dress...bought with my first Saturday job wage. I earned 27/6d for a day working at Stead and Simpsons in Hendon. I think the dress cost £1.19/.6d, so mum lent me the rest. This was 1970....I was 15.

My American Lit lecturer just informing me that his zip had broken in his trousers
Me.....a very suntanned teacher....just returned from a US holiday.

Another teacher pose....with my Sheboygan High class.
My first visit to Venice.
I'm on the left, wearing one of my mother's dresses, which I absolutely loved and wish I still had.....although as it would never fit in a million years, perhaps it is best that I don't still have it.

I had to get rid of the frizz and dead ends after Jess was born
but never mind about my hair.....what about Marks ? 

I went back to being dark for a while. If you are taking notice here, you will see that I, too, used a pudding basin on my daughter. Sorry's a mother thing.

oh heavens...another damn perm. I think this was the last one...never to be repeated.

yes, looking lovingly into Kevin Costner's eyes !
I don't know why it took me so many years to have the gap in my front teeth fixed !
Then began the orange phase......I loved it.

Sometimes the orange was maybe a bit too much ! I seem to recall
most of this came off on the pillow case at night.

Then came the wigs:



and finally, enough hair growth to get rid of the wigs. ( They are still in a drawer in my bedroom.....what do people do with old wigs ?)

The post chemo curly phase

and finally, back to normal

except when my hairdresser of 24 years decides it is long enough to put up !

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Berlin and Birthdays

15 years ago, when my father was celebrating his 70th birthday with us, we gave him a cheque, some guide books and a hand made voucher, indicating that the cheque should be spent on a trip to Berlin. My father was a conscripted sapper in the Royal Engineers, reaching his 18th birthday in 1947, and was sent to Berlin, to be part of the occupying force during the Berlin Airlift.  He left Berlin 3 days after the Russian blockade on the city was lifted, and had always wanted to return.

Handbook issued to British occupying forces
in Berlin in 1946.

My dad led a complicated life....and for various reasons, he never got around to organising the trip to Berlin. After he died in 2007, Mark and I determined that we would go in his place one day.
My surprise birthday gift last week was a much better organised Berlin trip. Jess and Matty bought the flights, and Mark had booked the hotel. So, last Saturday, Mark and I set off for 3 nights in Berlin.

We’ve had an excellent time. The Berlin Film Festival is taking place at the moment, so red carpets abounded. We went to see a new Ian McKellen film, “Mr Holmes”, which was delightful. The Film festival experience made it very special. The screen was huge, the film theatre was fabulous.....and we did have to walk along a red carpet to get in , although as you will notice it was much too cold to wear anything that could be considered properly appropriate for red carpets. Thermals were worn at all times.

Other highlights of the trip included visiting Norman Foster’s dome above the Reichstag,

 staying at the sumptuous Adion Hotel,

and seeing Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, which must be one of the most haunting architectural designs ever. The  building incorporates huge voids, recognising the absence of Jews in Berlin. The above installation  " Shalekhet" ( Fallen Leaves) By Menashe Kadishman consists of 10,000 heavy iron plates cut to resemble faces. Visitors walk across them making an incredibly disturbing noise.It is a very powerful museum, not without humour though......did I want to buy some kosher gummi bears ? No, I resisted the temptation.

I also enjoyed trying to work out what I recognised from my one and only previous visit to the city, in about 1986, before the wall came down in 1989, and before reunification.

My last visit through Checkpoint Charlie involved a long wait while the bus was checked over, by very serious looking soldiers. Now, people pose with what I expect are actors, by a fake control box, and yes...there is a McDonalds right next to it.

The main difference seemed to me, was that the city centre I recalled....was obviously, in the west of the divided city. 
On my last Berlin trip I stood on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate, and looked to the east.....this time, our hotel, the Adion, was nestled between the American and British Embassies, in what was the Eastern sector..behind the wall.

Now,  the centre has moved east ! Whereas the Brandenburg Gate was the far eastern point of the pre-unified city, it is now very clearly the centre. With the Bundestag in the Reichstag, all emphasis has moved eastwards. Finding Gucci and Armani ( aswell as Primark and H&M ) in East Berlin was strange, recalling the tales of shops selling nothing from my previous visit.

The real highlights though, were attempting to find places my father would have known. I was born 6 years after he returned from his National Service, and his 9 months in Berlin, so it was all quite fresh for him, when I was a child. He used to tell me stories about the underground trains that went through the Russian sector and about going to the Opera in the Russian sector. 

One of dad's programmes from his opera trips in Berlin in 1949.

 He told me about his German girlfriend Christa. He told me about the hours he would spend at the  Naafi. His favourite story was about using the Olympic stadium for  athletics training. He loved the idea that he had run on the same track as Jesse Owens.

So, finding the street on which he worked, the Naafi, the Opera House, and the stadium were important.

We managed it all, and could even use his U-bahn map. ( There are a few other lines now, but it was still possible to use his map to take us to Kaiserdam Stasse, the Zoo and to the Olympic Stadium. It was a shame that the Opera House is being renovated, and was under wraps....but I could make out the columns, and dad would approve of it being returned to its former splendour.

I expected to be emotional when I saw the stadium. I knew it was still there, and although it has been updated, I knew there had been a decision to retain its basic design, which was a pretty iconic but clearly fascist architectural style. What really surprised me though, was how emotional I felt when we found the Naafi. The building now houses a theatre, a hotel and a parking garage....but it was unmistakable...... and my 20 year old dad used to play snooker there !

Dad's photo of the Naafi. Adolf Hitler Platz was renamed in 1946 as Reichskanzler Platz, which had been its name until 1933. It is now called Theodor Heuss Platz......but the buildings around the platz remain completely recognisable when compared to my father's photos.

The use of the building has changed, the lettering and decoration has changed...but the structure remains the same.

Somehow dad managed a very creative ( or accidental) double exposure with this photo....the dark area at the back, being the inside of the stadium.
I couldn't manage a double exposure with my digital camera, but did try to stand in a similar spot, in the platz in front of the stadium, as dad must have done. It has hardly changed.

20 year old Mike Whelan, inside the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium, in 1949

We ended the trip by asking the taxi driver to stop at the Airlift Memorial as he drove us back to the airport. It was 7.30 in the morning, only just light, but it made the perfect end to the trip.

I wish, I wish, I wish that Dad had made the trip, but I am so pleased we finally did it on his behalf.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Celebrating 60

What can I say ?

Celebrating 60 has been pretty good so far, and it is another 5 days before my actual birthday.

By last Friday I had received a number of interesting gifts:

from the staff at Overgate !

from Treena
from Annie

Saturday started with  a bit of a surprise, being told that I would not be working in the shop on my birthday next week, as I would be in Berlin, courtesy of Mark ( who has sorted out the rather magnificent looking hotel, opposite the Brandenburg Gates, and Jess and Matty who have organised the flights ). I suspect there will be a blog from Berlin !

Next, Jess and I went to get our hair done....and considering I had no hair at all just a little while ago, I was quite amazed when my hairdresser ( another Mark....Mark Riley, in Huddersfield) told me he was going to put my hair up...surely it wasn't long enough. Apparently it was.

Jess and I , leaving the hairdressers, with our "up dos"
After much fiddling around with photos for the walls, and feather arranging for the table centres, we set off, and then got the room at the hotel ready.

The staff at the hotel were great, and Jess, Matty, Mark, Jan and I soon had the room looking as we wanted it.

Jess created a time line of my hair styles, from 1957..aged 2, until 2015.
So, we got ready.....and then it all began.

Wonderful live music from Georgia Harrup, who was part of "Team Tom" in last season's "The Voice".

Incredible cake by Rachel Mary Shaw,,

Rachel Mary Shaw and Josh....cake makers 

Lots of family, friends from way way back, neighbours, and friends from each stage of my various careers ! ( Teaching, Education Administration, Nursing and from the Overgate Hospice shop )

with Lesley and Martine,  who I worked with on the gynaey ward in Halifax

with Izzie and Liam, just before things got going

Clark, clearly recognising that the prosecco was not real champagne.

Another of Jessie's with a frame.... ( Carole with Liam and Izzie)

Mark, toasting me.....and mentioning the wonderful NHS  and the blogging community who have been such a support to me during the last couple of years. ( I should have toasted him, for being such an amazing support aswell ! )
I particularly asked for no gifts, but suggested people might like to donate to the Hospice instead. The collection buckets contained £500 by the end of the evening. I was thrilled with people's generosity.

...and I think, a good night was had by all.

I cant quite work out what is happening with arms in this photo of Jess.

Janice and nurses

Janice with oldest friends....started school with Jan in 1959, Graham...first serious boyfriend from 1970

Treena from Overgate, me and Martine...crazy nurse.

with Jess.....and Matt, and Melody in the red trousers just on the edge of the first house mate when I began teaching all those years ago.

and finally......Mark and I, dancing the night away.