Saturday, 24th February: AGM for the local MND Association at The Grove, Bournemouth

I attended the AGM for the local East Dorset & New Forest Branch at The Grove, Bournemouth this morning.  It was nice to catch up with the members of the local group, who have helped me in my fundraising efforts during the last year.  They all work extremely hard to help local sufferers and their fundraising efforts carry on tirelessly year after year.

The Grove in Bournemouth is a unique hotel offering a beautiful holiday retreat for cancer patients and those with life threatening illnesses – carers, families and friends are all welcome.

The staff provided a lovely room for the AGM with delicious cake and refreshments.  Apart from the usual business arising, there were presentations to long serving members and also a talk from Dr Charles Hillier, Consultant Neurologist, on Gene Therapy, which will definitely be the way forward for treatments in the future.  It’s a very technical area but it was explained in simple terms.  In the 1990s they only knew about the SOD1 gene but their knowledge is increasing exponentially.

Sharon Owens, Speech and Language Specialist, gave a talk on Voice Banking, which enables those losing their voices to keep their identity – 1600 phrases are entered in to a special computer program, which then means it can reconstruct words and phrases using your voice.  I know Rosemary used to say she felt invisible when she was unable to speak any longer, so it must be a relief for MND sufferers to know they can still be heard.  Only a few years ago you were limited to whatever voice was in the system but nowadays there are many choices.

Among other things, the local East Dorset & New Forest MND Association group have funded the purchase of four computer laptops and twelve sets of earphones so patients have the opportunity to bank their voices as soon as they are diagnosed.  Funds donated are directly helping people in the local area.  Well done to all involved in this initiative.

They also gave a breakdown of upcoming events – keep an eye out for the MND Association at the Highwood Gardens Open Day at Charborough Park on 5th May and in Sturminster Marshall 14th/15th July for their afternoon tea weekend.  There is also a golf day at Barton on Sea in June – see the website’s What’s On page for details.

The Final Show of the Strictly Come Dancing Tour

It’s definitely a military operation getting the audiences in and out of the O2 at the same time!  Staff with megaphones direct people to keep to the left and it’s a real sea of people!

We made our way to our seats ready for a great evening’s entertainment.  In the TV series, we loved to watch Debbie and Giovanni and Joe and Katya for their amazing dance routines and Sue and Kevin always brought a smile to our lips and were looking forward to their live performances.  The show started with Ore Oduba introducing the dancers and judges (Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli) and a group dance – the sets and lighting are brilliant and if you don’t have a very good view there are two giant screens for the close ups.

The celebrity line up included Debbie Mcgee, Joe McFadden, Susal Calman, Gemma Atkinson, Davood Ghadami, Jonnie Peacock and Alexandra Burke along with their professional partners.  We really enjoyed seeing our favourite dances again along with the professional group dances.

They danced two dances each, one in each half, and the audience voted for their favourite couple.  The final evening was won by Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton.  It was definitely worth seeing live – I don’t know how they have the stamina to do so many performances!

We joined the queues for the tube to Waterloo and the last train home, getting to bed by 2.00am with work the next morning!

Day Out in London – Kensington Palance & Diana’s Fashion Story

Well, I was up early this morning to walk the dogs before catching an early train up to Waterloo.  The train left on time and was quiet and comfortable, the only problem being that we gained the extra five carriages much later in the journey, which meant we were nearly there before seeing the tea trolley!

We made our way on the tube to Queensway, the nearest station to Kensington Gardens.  Luckily the sun was shining and we strolled through the gardens as we made our way to Kensington Palace, the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Eugenie.  It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th Century.

It’s fascinating reading about the history of the building and the kings and queens of yester year, particularly in relation to the succession of the throne and connections with royal families of other European countries.  As we meandered around we came to the Diana Her Fashion Story Exhibition.  It was lovely to be reminded of Princess Diana and seeing what she wore as she settled in to her royal role.  I remember seeing some of the dresses in the papers at the time.  It must have been really hard having the cameras watching your every move and people dissecting what you were wearing.

The tailoring was exquisite and it was interesting seeing how her fashion choices changed over the years.  She blossomed from a shy bride to a confidant woman, with some poignant photography on display.

We were glad we made the time to visit this exhibition and we made our way to Kensington to find a bite of lunch and came across a lovely Italian restaurant, which apparently was one of Diana’s favourites – Da Mario.  I must admit the food and wine were delicious!

After a much needed lunchbreak, we made our way to the O2 for the final treat of the day – The Strictly Come Dancing Tour.

Kingston Lacy Snowdrops – Saturday 10th February

We decided to visit Kingston Lacy today to see the snowdrops.  Unfortunately the rain arrived sooner than we expected but we decided to go anyway.  Lucy, our Airedale, came along wearing her MND Association t-shirt.  She didn’t mind the rain at all!

We went round the dog walk at the edge of the gardens and met a number of people along the way, some of whom had also lost friends to this dreadful disease.  The gardens are beautiful, especially at the moment with the carpet of snowdrops and Rosemary always loved the gardens at this time of year, planting snowdrops in her own garden so she could see spring was round the corner.

Co-incidentally we met Sue, Rosemary’s local MND Association volunteer visitor, who we hadn’t seen since she used to visit Rosemary before she died in November 2016. The volunteers give much needed support during the course of the disease. It was lovely to catch up and fill her in on everything I had been doing.