Whilst I rarely do the lottery or any gambling, every August I do a bet to predict the 4 winners of the English football leagues. It's something Mr S and I have done for years as a bit of fun and as we watch the results come through on Saturday afternoon it adds a little bit of interest as you look for the scores of 'our' teams. I've had success over the years, just one winner is only a few pounds but on my best year I predicted 3 of the 4 and my winnings paid for a long weekend at a spa. Most years I get a little return on my money.
I love my football, people are always surprised by my knowledge but I grew up surrounded by boys so it became a way of joining in. I've been attending matches since I was 7 and was a season ticket holder at Bristol City for years. The football I know is far removed from the Premier League, it's the lower divisions with the occasional trip to Wembley for play offs or the Johnsons Paint trophy final. It's where the footballers are part of the community or where a former student becomes a player of your local team. The special needs school where I teach works closely with our local league team, this is the good done by football clubs often eclipsed by money and scandal.
Despite my love of football I happily admit that I don't study form for my bets the choices are simple hunches and it gives me fun throughout the season .
If I was to rescue one item (not people) from my burning house, it would be this painting of a local landmark just a few minutes from our house. It’s a beautiful picture, I love the colours, the blue of the sea, the delicate colours of the flowers and the white of the lighthouse and the location really is as beautiful as it looks in this picture. However this picture is so precious to me as it is the closest connection I have with our baby boy whose ashes were scattered here. Whilst the nurses gave me photos of him I prefer to remember our darling little boy by the real time I spent with him wrapped up in his little basket and now through this beautiful picture which everyone can appreciate without ever knowing the true significance of it in my life.
The picture was bought a couple of years after our tragic loss and the moment I saw the painting hanging in a local gallery, I knew it was fate. I was with my Mum when I saw it for the first time and upon understanding the significance of the picture she just went into the gallery and passed over her credit card. It is the most precious present I have ever received.
I am relieved that we didn’t choose to leave our little boy’s ashes at the baby remembrance garden at the crematorium. It is a significant distance from our home as I needed specialist treatment from the nearby hospital and I didn’t want to be separated by lots of miles from him, I needed him close. I love that he is in such a beautiful place and that I can be there in minutes. I have never gone there to cry or mourn and I’ve never left flowers or teddies but it’s my place for stillness and being at peace. By nature of its location it’s a place I often would walk our dog, I run here and take the children here on walks, rarely a week goes by when I’m not by the lighthouse. Seven years later, I don’t experience the raw, painful grief I once felt, if I’m on my own and just thinking I simply feel very sad and wonder what he would be like at this age. It helps enormously that we have our children. I am spiritual and look on our two children as a very special blessing. Our two are one year in age apart and our son’s due date was exactly the middle of this year. I comfort myself that by losing one so much longed for and loved son we were able to have two amazing children. It is not a consolation but helps me to try and make some sense of what happened to us.
Originally I had planned for the picture to hang in our bedroom but at the time we had just had an extension built and it looked perfect in the new bright, airy room. This room is now the children’s playroom and I love that it is a room full of fun, happiness and play. It seems right that the painting is on the wall there at the heart of family life.
I love this dress, after my wedding dress it is my favourite dress ever. The special events are woven into its fabric and even buying the dress has a story attached! I bought the dress a few days before Christmas in December 2000, I needed, fancied a new dress for the Christmas party at Mr S’ golf club and dashed to the shops on the afternoon of the party. It was a lovely time in my life and definitely a very special season of Christmas sparkle, it was our first Christmas in our new house, my Nan was spending what would be her last Christmas with our family and Mr S and I got engaged.
When I walked into Monsoon I saw the dress and loved it. It was the only one I tried on and it fitted perfectly, when I went to pay for it, it had been marked down to half price! On leaving the shop, I was so excited and happy and I bumped into my favourite ever football player. Now the night before I had been at the derby match, which we had won so I was still ecstatic about the result and despite generally being quite calm and collected I turned into a star struck fan, all I could say to him was how well he had played the night before and that he was my favourite player. After all these years, Scott Murray remains my favourite City player, at least I got to tell him!!
I wore the dress to the golf party and felt amazing in it, it just skimmed where it needed to and despite its simple looks it is flattering and looks beautiful on. A couple of months later, I needed a dress for our engagement party, I knew my pink dress was the perfect choice and again felt wonderful wearing it. This dress has always been my go to dress, I have so many photos of it in amazing places, at a restaurant overlooking Sydney Opera House, on my 30th birthday at the London Eye and the Ritz hotel, swaying in the breeze on a Caribbean island. It can be dressed up or down with a pretty cardigan or denim jacket, flip flops or strappy sandals. If I was to choose one dress to symbolise the happy, sparkly me it would be this dress, my beautiful fuscia pink silk dress sprinkled with a few sparkly sequins.
On this year’s wedding anniversary card to Mr S, I used one of our wedding photos, I do like a personalised card! We have some amazing wedding photos as we married in Rome and were able to have our photos taken at the Trevi fountain. I felt amazing on my wedding day, bathed in the love of my new husband and my family and wearing the most beautiful dress I have ever worn. My dress was a simple and stylish design by Suzanne Neville called Songbird. I never intended to wear a formal wedding dress, we wanted a small, intimate and relaxed wedding and to dress accordingly. I remember at the time being inspired by Bianca Jagger’s wedding outfit. However I was persuaded to visit a bridal shop to try on some wedding dresses and my friend and Mum came to help. I always wanted my dress to reflect me, I had never dreamed of a fairy tale princess wedding dress, I’m not a pretty and fluffy person. I wanted something simple and stylish which was comfortable for me to be me on my wedding day. I tried a few dresses on and to be honest I felt like a little girl dressing up, they were lovely dresses but not me. However when I tried on the Songbird I really did know it was the one and what I wanted to wear to my wedding. Twelve years later I still know I made the correct choice, I smile when I look at the dress in the pictures and remember how special it made me feel, the touch and fall of the silk, the perfect fit and the simplicity of the design. I kept my accessories very simple, pearl earrings and a necklace and a tiara in my hair and the look was perfect for our Roman wedding. My dress is now packed away among tissue paper in a special box, perhaps one day Little Miss will want to try it on or perhaps on our 25th anniversary we’ll have a party and I’ll display it or have it altered for the more mature me.
This is the sketch the shop gave me when we ordered the dress to help with the accessories. Its in my Mum’s memory box as she and Dad very generously paid for the dress. I’m sure the pin marks come from pictures and inspirations being pinned to it.