In New York

In New York

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


We have been here at Overlea for almost five days now and are nearing the end of our stay. How can I begin to describe this experience? Well, I can start by saying that it has been a privilege. After the death of her husband Michael, at sixty-one, from Motor Neurone Disease, in January of this year, Frankie Woods decided to open their home, Overlea, to newly diagnosed people and their families. We are the eleventh family to have stayed here this summer, with two more families to come. The Woods had planned to spend their retirement here but now Michael is buried in the wood which he planted on Overlea land. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the generosity of spirit and openness of heart shown by Frankie in offering their beautiful house and land to families like us. We will never forget Overlea and although we have never met her, we will never forget Frankie.

It is not an overstatement to say that this place is idyllic. From the decked terrace, which runs all along one side of the house, the guests have a magnificent view of the Somerset Levels. Fields and hills, as far as the eye can see. The two fields sloping down before the house belong to Overlea, to the left, a young wood - a new bench just visible, a hint to tell us where Michael is buried. It's not far from the Badger Sett he built. Birds gather to feed in a special area made just for them, beneath a handy tree in which they can conceal themselves from watching guests. Binoculars are provided. Michael was a naturalist and had written a wildlife column for the Western Daily Express for 15 years. Frankie often illustrated his work and there are many examples of her artwork around the house. Everywhere there is evidence of intelligent good taste and an eye for beauty. The peace of this place enters your soul.

The house is adapted for use by a disabled person. In fact, there are two wheelchairs here. One is motorised. The idea is that someone living with MND can test drive it, try it on for size, if you like. Roch has tried it once or twice. Tom has sped about outside on the terrace, showing Dad how it's done. We are just about to embark on the works to adapt our house and we have picked up so many tips and ideas. The outright winner is the toilet that washes and dries you! No hands required. Gotta have one of those.

But the star of the show has to be the Hot Tub. Really, nothing for me can beat lying in the hot tub on our first night here, beneath the stars, gently massaged by the bubbling water, all of us together in peace and luxury! Now that's a memory to treasure.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Happy Anniversary to us!

It may be of interest to note here that it was our 20th Wedding Anniversary on Tuesday. We celebrated in style! Roch had booked a room in a very posh Mayfair hotel. As the room wasn't ready when he arrived, they bumped us up to a deluxe suite! What luxury. We ate out at Langans in Stratton Street and had a scrumptious meal. Our fellow diners just oozed wealth - I mean, you could smell the money folks! We had a great time pretending we were used to the highlife. Actually I could get used to it only too easily. However, the highlight of the evening for Roch came as we prepared to leave and he realised he had been sitting with his back to George Graham's table. I was severely admonished for failing to recognise such an exalted personage (the closest I got was remarking that there was a guy at the next table who reminded me of Jacques Chirac, balding and rather 'weaselly' looking - turned out to be George). Now if it had been Arsene Wenger, I think Roch would have taken him back to the hotel instead of me...Anyway, lucky for me Arsene didn't show so it was back to the hotel for a nightcap (later, minus an arm and a leg, we retired to our suite.)
Just thinking, two years ago we were planning our first trip to New York and we didn't know about the MND although we realise now it was already affecting him. A year ago, we were looking forward to taking the kids to New York and he was walking with a stick, now he walks with two sticks and we are preparing for the wheelchair. You know, that's not as bad as we were expecting. It's true, in a way it's a merciful disease, because you do have a chance to get used to the changes. Well, we are being given that chance. I do appreciate that not every case is the same and some people don't get much chance to get used to one change before the next is upon them. It's not easy, but believe it or not, it could be worse.