April/May 2024: I like trains!

May 3, 2024 | Stuart's Patient Newsletter

I like trains!

Having spent years and years driving Matt up and down the country to various fencing competitions, setting off at silly o’clock in the morning and getting home in the early hours the following day, it is now nice to do long journeys by train. What was it the LNER advert said “Let the train take the strain.”

So, we are sitting on the train just heading out of Newcastle bound for London to see Matt, Mims, and the grandchildren. Time is flying past; I cannot believe they are 5 months old today and despite being a bit premature, they are both doing well. Noah a typical lad who loves his food, is weighing in at over 5kg and Ava who is a little more lady like, is now just over 4kg. Still playing catch up but both doing really well.

The last time we saw them was at Easter when they came up for a few days. Matt had decided that he didn’t fancy driving up. The thought of 5 hours in the car with 2 small babies was not that appealing and I think we would all agree with him!

The second option was the train. Mims who is a whizz at travel arrangements calculated they would need to book 4 seats to accommodate them all, including the babies car seats and the trip would be around about 3 hours.

However, with the amount of stuff they were bringing I suspect they would have needed a carriage to themselves! So, in the end they opted to fly.

We were a little apprehensive to say the least, but as it turned out it was the right call. The twins slept all the way up with no issues with take-off, landing or turbulence!  The flight was less than an hour and everyone arrived relatively unscathed! Mind you, we did need Maria’s Ford Transit truck to pick them up and get all the luggage in – there was no way we could get everything in my little Skoda.

As you can see from the photo, they were wide awake on the way home, watching the other passengers and enjoying the flying experience!

Between “Hello” and “Goodbye,” there was love, so much love.

I can hear some of you asking why on earth does Maria drive a Ford Transit? The straight answer is the dogs.

We have had dogs now for over twenty years, starting with Storm when the kids were little. He was a huge, black Newfoundland, weighing in at 70kg (11 stone in old money) and looked like a great black bear!  He really was a gentle giant.

When Jenny had a hockey match on a Thursday night, Storm would go along and watch. In the winter the substitutes used to fight to cuddle into him to keep warm as he was like a huge hot water bottle in the shape of a teddy bear. The girls thought he was wonderful and he loved all the attention and the occasional treat!

After we lost Storm, we downsized and got the “Boys” – Raffy and Leo, two Italian Spinoni litter mate brothers, full of life and mischief – they kept Maria on her toes as they played together, hunted together and frequently got into trouble together!

Raffy was our “Clown Prince,” always happy, always pleased to see you and he simply thought life was one big adventure. Unfortunately, we lost Raffy prematurely at the age of four – as the saying goes “Only the good die young.” Raffy was everyone’s best friend and was hugely missed, especially by Leo his brother.

We said no more dogs after we lost Raffy, Leo would be our last, but 5 months later we succumbed and got Willow, another Spinone. Well, we think she is a Spinone but Willow thinks she’s a Princess! In fact, as we speak, I have no doubt she will be curled up on the sofa with Jenny, having her tummy rubbed. Jenny is supposedly working at home while we are away, I suspect the work may get delayed and they will be having a ‘Girlie day’ which they will both love.

That leaves Leo the brightest, loyalist and bravest dog we have ever had. He was Maria’s dog, her ‘Little Rock,’ and according to Leo he wasn’t a dog but simply another member of the family, irresistible and irreplaceable. Sadly, Leo died at the start of March, a week before his 10th birthday and we are all struggling to cope with his loss.

For all of you who have lost a dog you know what it is like. They simply ask to be cared for, fed, walked, and shown affection – what they give back in return is ten times greater. They are always there for you, it doesn’t matter what sort of day you’ve had, they greet you with a wagging tail and a genuine joy to see you.

So, why am I telling you this? Simply to thank all of you who ask about the kids and the dogs when you come in for your eye examination and to apologise in advance if I start filling up with tears!

There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who chose to travel in the company of animals.

It is a cycle unlike any other.

To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible.

Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.” –  S. Clothier

LEO 2014 -2024

Golden oldies!

Whilst we all know none of us last forever, no one has told our mothers this!

Maria’s Mum is in her late 80’s and my Mum is now in her 91st year and whilst you do expect ‘upset’ occasionally, we all got a bit of a scare last Saturday.

Most people enjoy a good time on a Saturday however, last Saturday my Mum was in Cramlington A&E and Maria’s mum was in the RVI, also in A&E !

Maria’s Mum had had a fall, but I am pleased to say she didn’t break anything, just bruised so hopefully, will make a speedy recovery. My Mum however, is best described as stoical.

We called in to see her last Saturday evening after having walked Willow. Mum hobbled to the door to let us in and when we enquired what was wrong, she simply said she “Had been sitting funny.”

I have no idea what that really means, but mum was definitely in some discomfort with her leg. Anyway, Maria took one look and suggested it might be a little bit more serious on the grounds that one of her legs was twice the size of the other and very hot!

So, after; a 111 call, and a trip to Hexham walk-in centre, and a discussion that “No Mum, it won’t wait”, we arrived at the A&E department in Cramlington at 11 o’clock at night with Mum still insisting we were all fussing too much and it could wait until she saw her GP on Monday!

I obviously lead a very sheltered life, as there were some very, very strange sights in A&E in the early hours of Sunday morning.

One chap with a nose that was at the very least broken and with blood everywhere, was explaining to his wife that he had no idea how it had happened until his mate chipped in and said “The bloke in the pub you swore at, smacked you on your nose”. The wife did not look impressed, but what made me smile was all he was worried about was could his wife get the blood out of his black and white Newcastle football shirt or would he have to buy a new one!!

I was a bit concerned Mum would be upset by some of the sights but when I asked her if she was alright, she said not to worry as she had seen a lot worse in the War!!

What really made me laugh was that when Mum was having her leg examined, she was asked about her tablets. I chipped in with a list of her medication to help the nurse, who was very grateful – it’s quite a long list – and was then asked if I had a medical background?

I explained that I was only an Optometrist, but before I could say another word Mum produced as if by magic, a G.T. Harvey and Partners calendar from her pocket and thrust it into the nurses’ hand, insisting we would give her an excellent eye examination and provide her with some lovely spectacles!  –  who needs a marketing department when we have a one women marketing machine!  I did suggest to Mum that perhaps there was a time and a place for everything to which she retorted, “Business is business and you have to seize every opportunity” – I had no words to top that!

Anyway, Mum is fine, she had a blood clot in her leg which is now being treated with anti-coagulants. I suspect she hasn’t realised that this type of problem can be very dangerous and even life threatening……sometimes I think that ignorance can be bliss.

The North Tyneside Riviera!

 One thing I have noticed as we have travelled South is how wet the fields are. Some are just very muddy, but others have large amounts of standing water – I suppose this is yet another sign of global warming.

In the late 1990’s when Global warming was first becoming a political topic, I had a lovely lady in from Whitley Bay who ran a Guest House.

While she had heard of global warming, she wasn’t sure what it was. I explained to her that as I understood it, it meant the average temperature around the world was increasing too rapidly due to humans burning fossil fuels. She paused after my explanation and asked did that mean it would get hotter in Whitley Bay? I said that in all probability it would. “Excellent” she said, “I am all in favour of global warming, it means Whitley Bay will be the new St Tropez”! – There are many things I can imagine in this life but unsurprisingly, that is not one of them.

Well, we are now approaching Kings Cross so I will end there. Time to go and see the twins and find out how much they have grown.

I hope you are well and I look forward to seeing you when you are next in the practice.

Best wishes,

PS: The dispensing opticians have asked me to let you all know that the new range of Stepper frames have just arrived. These are a more conservative range to complement the high fashion, brightly coloured frames of some of our other ranges – Sometime I forget that I have to put work information into these ramblings!