Late as usual! Happy New Year!

 

We have a wonderful time with the house filled with family and friends, tables filled with laughter, chatter and beautiful food, the kitchen filled with everyone contributing to  long lunches followed by nightly feasts, card games and other games keeping us up late, the occasional  evening watching DVDs, days of long walks and sailing on our beautiful harbour, floating in the pool, walking on the beach at Pearl Beach, wondering at the wonder of the star-filled skies. It has, as ever, gone all too quickly and the first to leave will be Simon tomorrow, heading back to Peterborough and Arrowsmith. Not really rested with all the mayhem going on, as he puts it, but certainly refreshed! I think he is looking forward to more routine and his quieter life for a a while but he is also looking forward to being home later in the year and putting down roots and moving into a new phase of his life. It has been so good to hear from many people of the changes/progress they see in him (I have to remind some people that improvements is not a good way to describe his changes, at least I don’t think so, the negative connotation being that he was less before).

I am heading out to an Art gallery shortly and just quickly want to wish each and everyone of you the happiest of New Years, and may 2016 be filled with joy, laughter and much love.

I leave you with the words of Neil Gaiman:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it’s this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

– See more at: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html#sthash.a7vl1Z39.dpufIMG_0867

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Casa Loma, the 35th anniversary party for Arrowsmith and it is good to be home!

It is just over a week since I have been home. Whilst we have been having sweltering days, my first day home was a record breaking 41C, there have been snow flurries in Peterborough, though Simon says it is not too cold yet as most days are over zero degrees Centrigrade. How quickly we adapt! We would have thought that was freezing (literally, ha ha!) in our first winter in Canada.

Lucky me, I have enjoyed long lunches with friends, dinner with friends, sailing on the harbour, meeting up with my writing group, lunch with Emma and her friends, they have all grown into such lovely young women, a 50th birthday dancing the night away, long walks with Rusty through Balmain and going on the People’s Climate Change March. What a mix! It has been fun and this week holds more of the same for me, and into the mix is finding time to write as I plough on with Simon’s story which is slowly taking shape.

Simon is looking forward to coming home, his brain needs a break he says! He is working hard to try to master 6 handed clocks before he comes home, but he seems not to be too desperate, which is a good thing, as with desperation can come disappointment, should he not master. His time is decreasing and he is doing extra homework to help as he asked Matt what he could do to improve his time, showing great initiative. More of that and his academics in another post another day.

As I wrote the other day, we had the opportunity to meet Barbara Arrowsmith Young at the party to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Arrowsmith school. A bus was arranged from Peterborough which was a very relaxed way to travel down the 401 expressway rather than the somewhat fraught drive – I don’t think I will ever get used to driving in 12 lanes of traffic! We dressed in our finery and the students who were over 18, the parents who were able to go and all the Arrowsmith teachers piled onto the bus, the bus was full of chatter until the driver announced he didn’t know where he was going as we sped along the 401!  Jill took charge, as ever, and steered him right to the door where upon Simon announced “I’m home!”. And he was right at home, the castle reminding him of Hogwarts, comfortable in his colourful shirt and red trousers, he is his father’s son in that regard, mingling  and chatting! The party was held at Casa Loma, the only castle in North America, all decked out for Christmas so looking more beautiful than grand.

The atmosphere was one of great celebration, so much love in that room, for Barbara and for all the Arrowsmith staff. We parents have much to be thankful for, our children’s lives transforming before our eyes. There were speeches and we all got teary as a father spoke movingly of his daughter’s life before and after Arrowsmith, she who wasn’t expected to finish high school and who couldn’t cross the road safely is now planning a round the world trip having finished a university course.  Simon raising his eyebrows at me as I got out my hanky. The teachers and staff from the Toronto Arrowsmith school talked of their favourite Arrowsmith moments – too hard to pick as there were so many. I particularly loved the talk by the cognitive teacher who said that while there were many moments in the classroom it was the emails, letter and phone calls sometimes long after the students had left the programme that were her favourite moments – the call or email to say I have just met the man who I am going to marry, I have got into Med School, I have passed my driving test, I have moved into my own apartment, I am going on a backpacking trip by myself, I have cleaned out my closet and tomorrow I am going to clean out another one – all these attesting to things these students could not have done before they undertook the Arrowsmith programme, all manner of things which most people take for granted and which they expect. How thrilling it was to hear how much these students have achieved, and how their participation has allowed them to dare to dream, just as Barbara hoped it would.

Howard Eaton was there from Vancouver, now with 5 Eaton Arrowsmith schools and the Director of Research, research which is proving that there are permanent brain changes, increased lighting up within specific areas of the brain related to specific cognitive improvement exercises. The rats, who inspired Barbara, whose brains grew in a stimulating environment aren’t the only ones! Arrowsmith students brains grow too!

Barbara talked about the prospects for Arrowsmith, strategic directions that are being forged that will allow more students to access the programme. There is so much hope and excitement for the future where increasing numbers of students will be able to realise their potential.

After the talks it was time to head back up the 401 but not before we had a chance to be introduced to Barbara and I thanked her for her life’s work which was changing Simon’s life, and a quick photo.  It was too quick because there were so many other parents waiting for their chance to say their thankyous too. A quick thank you does not seem enough.

I was re-reading the article where I first read in some depth of Barbara’s work. At the end of the article, having described Barbara’s struggle in early life and how she devised the exercises which allowed her to overcome her learning difficulties, Janet Hawley writes

“I put it to Arrowsmith Young that her life sounds a bit like Sleeping Beauty waking up after being kissed by the Prince.

“Yes” she replies with a soft laugh, “but I was my own prince”.

Barbara’s work has allowed all the Arrowsmith students to be their own prince too.

 

 

Back on board but sadly not on the Orient Express!

Just a quick post to say a post will be written tomorrow (sorry Richard!), we are finally home after our amazing trip. We are getting sorted and settled, albeit  we are only here until early September when Simon heads back to Arrowsmith for his third year in Peterborough, changing his brain further and surviving another Canadian winter. For the moment we are enjoying the Australian winter, it was a heady 23C sunny day in Sydney today!

Stella was here!

imageAnother glorious weekend with Stella, such a busy time but such fun too! Simon would have liked to have been here too but it is just too far for a quick trip home for the weekend from Peterborough unfortunately. He was freezing in Peterborough whilst we sweltered in Sydney – no other word for it, hot and humid and energy-sapping!

I picked up Stella from her meeting and we headed to Parramatta to the Riverside Theatre (designed by our friend Byron as I learnt later!). We saw “Timber”, a Canadian production, part lumberjack, part circus and lots of fun – though the acrobatics through the band saw were terrifying and as for juggling with axes – clever but scary (for me!). It was put on as part of the Sydney Festival which hosts an amazing variety and number of shows. Tomorrow we are going to the Spiegeltent at midnight to see a show!

Friday saw me catching a ferry to Milsons Point to my course, with Patti Miller, at the Australian Writers Centre – fascinating learning about memoir writing. I am not sure that I will actually write my memoir but maybe! We met up at Darling Harbour where Stella showed me her family name on the Welcome Wall for those who came to Australia by sea, what a great way to remember their journey. We then went onto to the Beautiful Whale exhibition at the Maritime Museum showing extraordinary photographs by Bryant Austin, life size photos captured after weeks and months floating near the whales to get to know them.

More culture on Saturday, Pop to Popism at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – another great exhibition, onto the movies to see Birdman, I am still trying to work out what I thought of it, cinematically brilliant, brilliant acting but too strange a story. Our day finished with a boat trip up the Lane Cove river, finding a mooring, cracking open a bottle of champagne, watching the sun go down whilst a pair of sea eagles swooped around the bay. Heaven!

Breakfast at Kazbah and then it was time to say goodbye to Stella, as I left her at her next destination. Great aunt Stella had a wonderful time with her dear friend Meryl’s daughter and granddaughters.

In the meantime Simon trudged back and forth to Arrowsmith, worked hard on his cognitive exercises and achieved another mastery in Word! Well done, Simon!

Well, here I am!

Home at last!  Almost a week now, and yet I still feel somewhat disconcerted by the heat, humid and Christmas decorations! After the cold of Peterborough where the Christmas lights twinkle against the snow, and the beautiful Christmas lights in London, Christmas feels out of place here in Sydney! Still, it is good to be back and have some time with my lovely husband before his hip replacement on Wednesday.

We have wined, dined and partied since I got home!  Last night saw us at Otto’s in Wooloomooloo where we arrived by boat (such fun as it feels so terribly decadent, even if we were dressed in our wet weather gear!) and such beautiful food! On my first evening back, which seems like a while ago now, we dodged the rain to go to Il Capello, our local Italian, pizza for Michael, salad for me – perfect! We sat out on our balcony with Emma on Thursday night, enjoying beautiful steaks and red wine, discussing politics and solving the problems of the world! Dinner with friends on Friday, partied on Saturday night, it’s been busy!

Simon, meanwhile, has recovered from his nasty bug, having been looked after by good friends on Monday and Tuesday.  Lynette, Stuart and Zac took Simon home with them to give him a good dinner and a quiet night another night, as the end of term approaches it is quite noisy at Argyle. Simon enjoyed the soup that Lynette made especially for him for dinner and at Arrowsmith the next day. How lucky are we to have made such friends who keep an eye out for Simon, the Arrowsmith community is very special, so caring and thoughtful. It is really reassuring for me, now that I am so far away.

Simon’s golfing fun!

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Back in Peterborough now! At last there is time to write about our time in Sydney! We have so enjoyed being with our family and friends – there is something irreplaceable about the familiarity of home, so much so that despite having been away for almost 6 months, once home again it seemed as if we had never been away.
Pictured is one of the highlights of our time in Sydney! Golfing with Dad is always an adventure for Simon – this time particularly so! The first four holes went very well, Simon’s golf much improved even though he hadn’t played for months and months, Michael being delighted to be able to play at all, being only 3 weeks post knee replacement, but getting to the fifth hole proved too much! Driving over the EXTREMELY narrow bridge somehow the wheels got stuck pointing in the wrong direction so that once over the bridge the golf cart veered off course and straight down the embankment, with Simon shouting “WHAAAAAAAAAT!” before Michael realised what was going on! The intrepid golfers scrambled out, rescued their clubs, climbing up the embankment to be met by the astounded green keeper who went to get the golf pro who said they had never seen this happen before! I collected two very wet and smelly golfers, leaving behind the stranded golf buggy – the talk of the golf club for weeks to come! Michael and Simon giggled all the way home in the car and have enjoyed re-living the tale many times since! It is a game that will be often remembered!
Simon also had a golf lesson, much less of an adventure, but he was amazed to find that his golf had greatly improved, despite having not played for months, apart from 4 holes! He thinks that that the improvement is because of the changes happening in his brain due to the Arrowsmith programme. We have now heard some stories about Arrowsmith students finding that their sporting abilities have improved subsequent to undertaking the programme; this is, for Simon, an unexpected bonus of all that hard work!
Now we are back in our little apartment it seems not long since we left! Looking out of the window, we can see a glorious sunny day but the current temperature is -11, rather a shock after our balmy Sydney days. Back to putting on layers to brave the cold to top up the fridge, even though Amanda had been so wonderful and left some goodies so we didn’t have to go out in order to make ourselves dinner when we got back last night. Back to Arrowsmith for Simon and back to knitting followed by a much needed trip to the gym for me tomorrow!