Tag Archives: Reading

Solutions, not problems

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Like many people my mind is always full, busy, racing and at times overloaded.  It’s full of family, the day to day things, ideas, clock watching, memories, limitations, the weather, problems, recipes, housework, life, wellbeing, health, people and also solutions.  Family and friends ask me for advice, recipes, inspiration, opinions, books, things, stories, a mug of coffee, pocket money, support and solutions.  Strangers make conversation with me in queues or on trains, in passing.  People I don’t know ask me how I am each day.  Social Media is ablaze each day with people who live in my phone some asking if anyone wants a cup of coffee or glass of Prosecco, offering bacon sandwiches or responding to a tweet or status.  People talk and engage each and every day in a variety of different ways.  I talk to the telly from time to time, I listen to the radio and agree, sing along or disagree.

I like being able to offer solutions and I’m known as The Solutioneer, it’s what I do and am good at.  I can moan like the rest of them but I can also offer solutions, they might be bonkers or spot on but I give it thought.  I hate the phrase thinking outside the box or blue sky thinking but when a problem appears I try and remove myself from the immediate and look around to see what resources I can bring to a situation.

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This morning on BBC Radio Berkshire Andrew Peach was talking about the closure of Reading Bridge and the impact it will have on everyone who uses it as well as those who don’t use it but will be challenged with the increase of traffic as drivers seek to find a route that doesn’t involve leaving home at 5am or arriving at a destination late.  I phoned in as I normally do and said I had an idea.  As I said some of my ideas are bonkers but some are spot on.  I think my idea was spot on!  The bridge is to be closed as I have said and this is a ridiculous time to do it, it’s exam season and stress levels are high.  So the bridge needs repairing but in this instance the solution is bigger than the problem.  My solution is a simple one – provide shuttle buses either side of the bridge so that those who normally use the bridge can at least cross it by foot and catch a lift the other side.

Some years ago we had roadworks in Wokingham and a friend of mine who regularly used the dug up road was going to be hugely inconvenienced.  She was talking one evening about how she was going to juggle a detour AND get her children to school on time AND get to work with time to spare.  I kindly (stupidly) suggested she dropped her children to me and I would get them there, she needn’t get caught up in the roadworks and we would all have a journey walk to school.  That worked well and everyone got to where they needed to on time, we spent the journey chatting and we were gently exercising.

I’m regularly incensed by drivers and parking around school so decided to look into organising a Walking Bus.  The council did the risk assessment on the route I suggested, I did a parent consultation, sorted routes and rotas, organised everything, involved the press and we set off for our first Walking Bus with a cameraman and journalist.  The children enjoyed it and each time they walked they had a stamp on their card which when full entitled them to a free swim at Carnival Pool.  The council went one step further and allowed the parents using the Walking Bus to meet at the library car park and gave us free parking permits to use whilst the bus was walking.  We were joined by the Police, councillors, teachers and the press – even on that awful day in July 2007 when the heavens opened and we all got soaked!  But we walked in whatever weather, reduced the traffic around school, took gentle exercise, the younger children chatted to the older children, people made friends and stress levels went down.

Years ago a health visitor (HV) was suggesting ways in which to get my non sleeping child to sleep through the night.  I tried every idea thrown at me a warm bath, chamomile or lavender bubble bath, lavender cream on toes/chest/behind ears, warm milk, gentle lighting, calm story before lights out, warm milk and then did controlled crying but ended up exhausted.  I felt like my child had all the control and I did all the crying.  HV asked me if the solution was bigger than the problem to which my reply was a big fat yes, of course it was.  HV kindly suggested that I stopped trying to fix something that was both knackering and exhausting us and fretting our child so I nodded in tearful agreement and thought about it.  I thought about what she said and realised that YES the solution wasn’t working and intact was making the problem worse.  So we stopped with the controlled crying and put said fretful child into our bed where she slept all night.  Result.  Although we had been woken up once and had got out of bed once, as soon as she was in our bed she drifted off to sleep and we slept too.  Waking up after 6 hours sleep to a toothy grin and a gurgle was the bonus.

Sometimes the solution is bigger than the problem or it’s staring at you but you can’t see it, or sometimes the solution is simple yet effective.  Whatever the problem there’s got to be a solution and a solutioneer.

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Village life

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I grew up in a village called Hurst, near Reading and Wokingham in Berkshire. Back in the 70s it had very few pavements and no street lights. Life was very easy then and it didn’t seem to rain.

We lived in an old forge, close to the pub (of which there were lots) with fields behind us stretching as far as the eye could see. We used to ride on the fields, part of which became a golf course and country park. When the fields were being dug up the lorries carrying the gravel to the A329M used to rattle past the house on a regular basis.

With no public transport we rode or cycled everywhere, carefree, we used to amble on horseback for hours or scuttle off on our bikes – no cycle helmets and flared dungarees flapping in the chains. Danger didn’t seem to exist in our childhood, all we knew was we needed to cross the B3030 or A321 safely, don’t talk to dirty old men with boiled sweets, be home on time and go somewhere safe if the Broadmoor alarm sounded and it wasn’t Monday at 10am. And the sun always shone.

The village had lots of large houses with sweeping lawns and grand driveways where we used to play with our friends or grandchildren of the owners, sometimes we would have to sit quietly whilst the grown ups chatted and drank tea out of dainty cups with tea leaves. Apparently famous people lived in the village but they were just people we knew and we were never star struck. A regular visitor to our friends was Christopher Biggins who we saw a lot of, his laughter filled a room. I remember the fist time I saw him on telly and was gobsmacked – there was someone I’d had lunch with and he was on the telly!

I went to the village school for a time and hated it. Maybe my experiences would have been different had my father not died when I was 9 and I was bullied for not having a father, who knows, but I did use my bullying experiences in the assemblies I gave when I was in the police. My brother went to prep school at the age of 7 and I missed him dreadfully, I wanted to go too!

My brother and I used to get into scrapes together and then lose our voices whilst staring at the ground. One day we were climbing over the hay bales and Amy from the pub came round to shout at Mum. Blimey she could swear and loudly. Mum stood by the fence with us either side, keeping us out of sight, whilst we were taking it all in. After that we were even more wary of Amy who could easily have been a Dickensian character.

There were 2 shops (Bagleys and the village shop), a butchers, another shop that became the newsagents for a while and a petrol station. And pubs. Lots of pubs! The Cricketers is now long gone but there’s still 4 left. Speaking of cricket there’s a cricket club where I met Big Welsh, we had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun! We got married at the village church where my father’s funeral was and where Mook was christened.

Shortly after meeting Big Welsh I saw the bright lights of Wokingham and before I could scuttle back to my childhood home in the village I had bought a house. It was only after being stuck in a traffic jam that I realised the bright lights were infact the level crossing, but too late I had swapped my small, sunny village life for a life in a market town.

Reading

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On Thursday I went to vote, there was a sombre air in the room and the folk perked up when I walked in, turnout was less than 40% so they probably hadn’t had many people through the door and I was something different to look at. I looked at the long list of MEP hopefuls and the one party that jumped out at me was something like “I’m English, not British”. That irritated me as I’m married to a Welshman and our children are half Welsh/half English (unless it’s England v Wales and then they’re Welsh).

Today I read a news article on netball. I didn’t really like netball as I didn’t like the netball teacher. I loved lacrosse and my first lax teacher was an inspiration, firm but fair. A good teacher encourages you to like, appreciate and explore what is being taught.

Then I read the news to see that a number of books have been dropped from the English Lit GCSE syllabus. Why? Oh I cried. Why? I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird and loving it, neither caring that the author wasn’t English nor being bothered that the story wasn’t set in the leafy green Home Counties village where I lived. There was a whole world happening beyond the Ha-Ha and the hedge and books encouraged me to explore.

A good teacher encourages you to use your imagination. If that imagination is confined then I despair. I spent my youth with a nose in a book, I idled away prep sessions with a book hidden in a text book, I commuted to London with a new book on a weekly basis, I spend hours reading.

Reading is in Berkshire but the appeal of reading is worldwide.

Our introduction to Reading Rockets

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I’ve known Matt (Reading Rocket’s director of coaching) for a while and he has often said “come along and watch a game of basketball” but for one reason or another the dates never really tallied with our frantic diary. However in the Easter holidays there was a game that we were able to go along to and crikey are we glad we went!

Yes yes we were glad! The girls had dabbled in basketball at school but I’d never seen a game in full flow so it was a steep learning curve! Very steep! I knew the players were tall but let’s face it being 5′ 2″ then I think 5′ 4″ is tall. I looked at the programme and some of them were 6′ 9″, that’s not just tall that’s really really REALLY tall!

From the moment the game started we were cheering and groaning in all the right places along with a loyal crowd of home supporters, we got into singing “let’s go Rockets” and there was of course much hurrahing and clapping. Matt kindly explained some of the rules to us and in the quarter breaks I did a quick search on how to play basketball so I felt a little bit more knowledgeable. It was a fast moving game, with a huge amount of skill and ball control, the players didn’t shout at each and gesticulate crazily
like other sports when they’re like here, here, here, here – to me, to me, to me (frankly that’s just telling the opposition your game plan) and it was exceedingly family friendly.

We are going again, I think you can say we’ve got the bug!! Laree was booked on the holiday camp the following week and seeing a game in full flow she was excited and l’ll share with you more of that another time. The Rockets play at Rivermead in Caversham which is easy to find and where there’s plenty of pay and display parking.

Anyway don’t just take my word for it, why don’t you go and see for yourself – take all the family, take your friends it’s a fabulous atmosphere, it’s family friendly, it’ll inspire you to pick up a ball, it’s fast moving, it’s our local team, it’s brillYANT!

Thanks Matt for the family ticket!

Spare Brides by Adele Parks

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Many years ago after reading an article about Adele Parks in Junior magazine we started chatting about her books, book covers and life in general. Since then I have read most of her books and enjoyed them immensely, so I was hugely excited at the opportunity of reviewing her new book Spare Brides.

First of all the cover is stunning and I will readily admit I do judge a book by its cover. I was most certainly not disappointed by the cover of Spare Brides or the story that unfolded when I snuggled down with the dog and a cup of tea (that went cold!).

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The story is set in the 1920s and is Adele’s first historical novel. I am fascinated by days gone by and when I was reading it I felt I was actually there. I could quite easily imagine the voices.

The voices are of course Sarah, Ava, Lydia, Beatrice. Four women who are all living after the war, each with their own struggles and stories. An amazing group of women. Strong and delicate in their own ways. The moment a certain man appeared and walked out of the café on Marble Arch I too was desperate for the handsome stranger to reappear.

Without giving too much away it’s worth clearing your diary and settling down to read.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Nellie Williams
February 2014

Reassurance at Royal Berks

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The title sounds like a chapter from the mini series that I’m making up in my mind! In reality ‘Reassurance at Royal Berks’ is what we had when Big Welsh went to A&E with a frightful headache and concerns following his recent heart operation. By recent I mean Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday. The ink was only just dry on his discharge notes!

A&E is never a great place to be but 3 or so hours after he’d been seen, triaged, assessed, ECG, bloods, blood pressure and given a complete check through he was given advice and discharged. Free to go. Home.

It wasn’t how we planned to spend our Saturday afternoon, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t too bad.

Edible & enjoyable gift ideas

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We’re heading into the final few days of rehearsals, end of term performances, Panto, school reports, mock exam revision timetables and a teenage birthday party to throw into the pot, never mind the shopping, planning, housework stuff and day to day busy life that I might complain about but I thrive on!

However, I’m going to stop for a moment over the weekend and do a double check of what I’ve got, haven’t got, should have got and must get.  I will be armed with a notepad (pretty much like this that my fabulous friend Vicki got me from notonthehighstreet), pen, wrapping paper, tape, ribbon and tags, listening to tunes or the children, with a glass of wine and a mince pie.

It wont be any mince pie, oh no!  For years we have eaten mince pies from Warings who are both local and friends, I should imagine for many more years to come we will continue to do so. I’m no expert on mince pies, yes I can make them but when someone else makes them so much nicer than you then you’d be mad not to delegate!

There’s 2 types of mince pies on offer from Warings, I can’t choose which is my favourite one though!  I will leave it to you to choose – do let me know!  

Here’s a few gift ideas for you, incase you are in need of an edible and enjoyable gift ….

Grab a few packets of mince pies, pop a few in a nice tin like this one from Bodlon or a decorated box, tie up with a nice bow and a thoughtful tag and look see it’s a delicious gift.

Baking Masterclass – what’s not to like?  I have been saying for ages to Alan Waring that I will do a Baking Masterclass and as yet I have not got round to it, but next year I will make a big effort to as a) it’s a year of birthdays with a 13th, 45th, 50th, 16th and 10th and b) I’m going to!!

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