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Toni's Blog

An attempt to document my running, travels and family events. Probably of most use to me to aid my lousy memory, and to share the ones I like best from Billy's fabulous photos.

Updated: 2018-03-06T10:49:36.602+00:00


Welcome to the world Rose Emmeline


In a hurry to join the human race, Rose Emmeline Harvey arrived shortly after Nick and Kat got to the hospital on 10 March 2017 at 7:10pm. She's a beautiful little girl weighing 6lb11oz, and Mum is doing brilliantly.

Ali came home for the weekend and so we waited together for our chance to meet her.

Pretty sleepy, but she held on to my finger so tightly, I didn't want to let her go.  She snuggled into my arms and has that heavenly baby smell... what a sweetheart, our little rosebud.

She's in good hands, with a Dad and Mum that treasure her.

Goodbye Nelly


12 December 2015
After a rapid decline over a week with daily visits to our wonderful vet Kevin, we had to let our sweet Nelly go.   A huge hole in the fabric of our lives, that will take some time to grow around. Lots of tears, but she'll be remembered as our friend - Billy's ever present companion, Toni's running pal, and the reason we saw so much of the UK in the van.  A beautiful and sweet natured dog, followed everywhere with billowing shed fur.  We'll miss you Nelly.

Nick and Kat's Wedding Party


20 June 2015After the legal event in the Peak District with just parents and sibs, the party was really a fantastic event - with a Frontier theme. Neighbours agreed to parking next door and Martin, the farm manager,  agreed to camping and a big tent in the hay field behind the house.Blake and I did a dawn raid on a nearby field to pick wild daisies, and Kat added some from our garden. Ali and Blake worked on the cakes.  100 guests in all - Coyboys, Indians and even a cactus!Sadly Grandpa Harvey fell ill a week before, so the grandparents had to cancel their plans to attend. The big surprise Owl flying in to deliver the rings was comical, and pretty much a FAIL - after a thunderstorm, he would not leave the perch! But everyone got to admire all the other birds they brought along.Nick and Kat laughed about their meeting and made vows. Nick's comments about Ali even made her cry. The band played ceilidh folk music, and I worried about tent poles collapsing on impact with frantic dancers, but it was still standing when Billy and I got back from the hotel where we stayed the night.Everyone took a mug home, and the guest who travelled the furthest was from Blake who acted as MC![...]



OBE June 2015

A huge surprise to be on the Queen's Honours List for an OBE for services to Energy Development, and after initial feelings of self-doubt and sense of inadequacy, I decided to just brazen it out. The Monday in the office after the announcement was the worst, but after time I've sort of grown into it and actually now feel a bit of pleasure when someone mentions it.  I had tea with the DECC Permanent Secretary today with other recipients, and  got a nice letter from the Energy Secretary of State.  The local paper ever interviewed me!
Local paper link
Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

How very strange.  I think the kids got a kick out of it and Ali seems keen to meet the Queen when I get invited to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to receive the badge.  I do wish that Mom and Dad were still alive, they would have been impressed by the Royalness.

On 8 Dec, Ali and I went to Windsor Palace when I got to speak with Prince William for a minute or so about shale gas before receiving my award. Finding a hat was the hardest part and the curtsey went OK.

Gas Kiln Pottery first results


Too long since I did a blog post! Spending more time in the pottery studio since I got a gas kiln - the glaze results are unexpected usually, so I'm trying to go back to first principles and do lots of test tiles.  Which is pretty boring, but I'm throwing away fewer pieces.  Still just using Southern Ice Porcelain, but I'm down to my last bag now - I need to resist the lure of something new when I can't control what I do now! Here's some recent results -1) Bowl with reactive slip which was always mud brown in the electric kiln is really dramatic with gas.2) Glaze that was celedon green in oxidising electric kiln is red in reducing gas kiln - but only on one side!3) Black stain in porcelain slip then carved and glazed in matt glaze has interesting foggy/fuzzy edges4) Most of the underglaze oxides are predictable, e.g. cobalt blue, but chromium oxide just turns baby pooh brown instead of green - which I now have read is do to the ball clay in the matt glaze. Really ugly!5) Billy's now finished my pottery studio extension to house the kiln but here it was before the building went up around it and full of test tiles.  Its a bit scary to light it, and I'm struggling to see the cones and know when to adjust the flue, but hopefully more experience will help.1 Reactive Slip2 Derek Emms Copper Glaze3 Black stain porcelain slip  4 Underglaze colours5 Boring test tiles[...]

Spring cleaning


Its too cold to do much in the garden, so Billy and I are taking on sorting out cabinets and closets and trying to coral all the dust bunnies.  Nelly must think it is spring, even if it hasn't warmed up as she's shedding in clumps.  A garbage bag full of fur after brushing today! If was more crafty, I'd figure out how to spin it.... but can't quite get too excited about wearing Nelly socks?

Farewell Mom


Sunday morning we scattered ashes off the pier at Juanita Beach in Kirkland,which hit Nick hard. For me, driving by her old condo pulled my heartstrings even more.

It was blustery and cold, but we tried to think of a word or phrase that made us think of her. Miller's "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" made us all smile - How many times we'd heard her say that growing up! And its pretty good advice for an adult in social situations too...

I said "sufficiently surrencified", which Mom said her Mom wanted them to say instead of "I''m stuffed!" after dinner. It never really caught on with us, but would make us laugh.

Her brother Lymie and sister Janie spoke at the funeral, describing her as the feisty and stubborn baby of the family. How odd to think of her in that way, when I saw her as the peacemaker and calm one.

 Billy made Mom a lovely urn and one little one for each of the 4 kids.  It was surprisingly heavy when filled, making it feel more substantial and somehow valuable.

Sorting through her things was really painful. Hard to give or throw anything away that felt personal, but we had to.  I wished I could have taken an antique chair, but how would I have gotten it to the UK? A brass lamp pushed my bag to the weight limit.

There was great comfort in spending time with Stormi, Miller, Linnie and Missi. We didn't want to go home, back to our normal lives. And the grandkids wanted to be together too.  When will we all meet again without Mom's birthday to celebrate? A wedding perhaps?

It struck me that for all the business, charity and church friends that Mom had, the ones that really mattered at the end were family.

My Mom passed away last weekend


It was after a long decline, and a release as she had lost her grasp on reality.  But now I want to remember her as she was before, when she was the centre of my world as a baby, then the peacemaker between and comforter to four kids and all our pets.  I don't remember her complaining about all the hassle of running a home that was always open to friends, adapting to new towns, people and places following Dad's  career. She took it all in stride.I'm thinking about what to say at the Memorial Service, after my uncle who will be an eloquent speaker, about her integrity, good works and religious life.I'm Toni, the oldest, chief troublemaker (but not the only one!) and as kids do, I mostly I took her love, interest in me and support for granted.  It was only when I became a mother myself - and of only two little monsters, that I realised that what I had come to expect Mothers did was actually very difficult to do.  The mob of kids that descended on our house, trips to the emergency room, treaties negotiated between warring siblings, while entertaining Dad's business guests.  The weekend trips from Chicago to Michigan (8 hrs each way!) with extra kids and dogs, packing all the food and gear...I count 12 different houses that we lived in, so many school and sports events.  She told me once that she felt bad after she'd left her post after dropping her pencil in the snow when the sun went behind the mountain when she was on gatekeeper duty while we were ski racing in Breckenridge. (And I thought a little rain while watching Nick play rugby made me a hero).But its her foibles that I recognise most in myself.  She rear-ended a car while teaching me how to blow bubbles in chewing gum... (yep, I've had less of an excuse to run into a car).And when she was my age she used to read what we called "lady and the castle books", you know the picture on the cover, gothic suspense fiction like Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt - where the virtuous governess had to work out the mystery for herself, using her intelligence and bravery. (OK the escapism I read now has a few vampires and werewolves, but Mom introduced me to fantasy).Sometimes she messed up our names, calling me Linnie or Missi and then looking exasperated - struggling to bring the right name to mind.  I suspect you'll hear me call my son Nick - Miller, or Miller -Nick today.Most of all, we knew she was always there for us kids and grandkids. Mom had an incredibly positive mental outlook and if there is anything I want to emulate it was her ability to make the best of what she had, welcome change and to truly be happy.[...]

Happy New Year 2013


Wow, 2012 year flew by! Licence Round, talks at conferences and the resumption of fracking decision.

Christmas was incredibly wet and miserably cold, but I loved celebrating at home with the family and all the traditional stuff - wrapping packages, stockings, music boxes and making cookies.  We got in a walk on Boxing Day - the one break in the rain - classic pose, Ali texting as we walked.

So New Years Day is today and its resolution time:

1) The diet and gym thing, of course.  Stay on target until I visit Mom in Feb - no EXCUSES!

2) Put work aside. It's so easy to slip into answering work emails on the weekend and on leave days.  And hard to say no to more meetings, squeezing out potential leave. So I resolve to book out my annual leave this year in my calendar and PROTECT it - and actually take it.

3) Data management. I've been pretty good backing up personal stuff - music, audiobooks and photos, but I've got a huge backlog of work emails and files that need to be properly archived at work.... but not to do in my leave time (2!) again.

4)  Running... hmm, not much there but the couple of miles with the dog a few times a week. Really the dog and I would both benefit from more regular runs.  But it is a joy to be healthy - no plantar fasciatis or sore achilles. When I was running more I always had tweeks that threatened to be chronic. So once there's more light, I resolve to start running from the gym to work again - find the balance.

5) Enjoy my days, treasure confidences and snuggles with the kids, laughs and holding Billy.



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2011 Christmas week in the Algarve, Portugal.

A great break from the dark and dreary rain in London. Despite the Easyjet ordeal, Ali, Billy and I we're happy to find that the RCI swap resort was a nice one, and our two-bedroom unit perched on a cliff overlooked the sea. With internet access (if you sat in one chair only?)!

On Christmas morning we found a church service ongoing in the Ilbuferia old town, but realised that it didn't mean much to us in Portuguese.  But the atmosphere and people-watching were great.  Billy and Ali enjoyed the Cataplana served in a copper lidded pod with clams and pork, while I revelled in the carb offerings ( a glorious week off my diet!)

By the time Nick arrived (after spending Christmas with Kat's family) we were ready to venture out in our tiny Panda car and Billy found us two great walks in the mountains.  The weather was perfect, cool and sunny and we couldn't understand why most of the holiday units were closed up - but appreciated the lack of crowds!  

 The only liability of walking in the mountains of Portugal is the dogs! We were barked at from every house, and the packs in the villages scared Ali who remembered the risk of rabies in India.  But we came to the rescue of a puppy that wanted to follow us, and had to re-enforce the owner's gate with plywood taken from a neighbour's shed... I wonder what they'll think?

And we made it home in time to hear the New Years Eve fireworks snug in our very own bed!



3 December 2011 - Santa Run

An incredibly patient and brave Clews family (and Billy) saw us off on a private Santa Run (the weekend before the official Lincoln Santa run) which ended up at Petra and Adam's house for fantastic blueberry scones.
It was great to catch up with Colin, Steve and Gary (definitely a pun as I stood little chance to catch up so they waited... and waited). THANKS Guys!  Inspiration to take this running thing more seriously, if only so I can hang out with such great people.



Mom's birthday Amazon certificate went to buy a fantastic bread Book - Tartine. And we've had great success baking it in my pottery kiln.  But its agony now as I'm trying to limit carbs to keep control of my eating... How I miss bread!

End of the Road Festival


Aptly named this year as it will be the last time we go.  While the bands, setting and comedy was great, there are just too many people now. Add to that the disco music after the live music ended at midnight to 3am was just unbearable in the campervan. By Sunday the sleep deprivation was caught me sleeping on the grass at midday!But, it was a great way to spend the weekend with Nick and Ali - meeting up at random times; Ali and me for massages at the Healing Retreat, and Nick's guiding us through the sea of tents to tour his huge teepee. We could enjoy Nick's friends, then wander off to see something else and meet up again. Texting though the days to rendez-vous at favorite band's performances and relaxing in the sunshine saving a good place before the next show.   I missed a few bands I'd planned to see because I couldn't drag myself away from the comedy.  Some real surprises - I liked "Midlake", and disappointments - "She Keeps Bees" were loud and we ran away when they started. When the rain came in as Ali left on Sunday, we braved it out for a while and felt blessed that it had held off as long as it had. Nat and Abbey looked miserable in their flip flops and windbreakers while I sat cosy in my down parka.So next year we're going to try a different music festival - maybe WOMAD?[...]



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My amazing brother transcribed old 8mm videotapes and sent them to me - Here's one clip-




How hard can a family photo for Grandpa on Father's day be???? This must be the most unphotogenic family ever...  OK, with bits in our teeth after Nick's slow roasted ribs, we were challenged.

Somehow I don' think these will be portraits they will treasure...



The Swift Half 2011

Here we are standing in the toilet queue.. I think Petra was cold not desparate.  My worst time yet on a half marathon, but it was a lovely day out and great to see old friends (Nigel, Steve, Petra and Gary) and new (Brad and Simon).

Strange that a few hours of exercise can make one feel positively virtuous about eating hot dogs, beer, ice cream, then fish and chips for dinner.  I'll do it again just for the excuse to eat anything I want!



Finally the empty nest is within view... Nick's offer on a flat was accepted today! A vicarious thrill to go through the process with him. Probably not the most shrewd investment - we should have put Billy to work on a fixer-upper, but this place was bright and well-cared-for with its own nice little garden. It just seemed to fit Nick just right.  And the current owner is immigrating to Australia, so Nick might even get a good deal on some of the furniture. Happy day!



Ali and I watched the Royal Wedding at Millennium Square in Bristol. It was a great day out with our naff commemorative flags giving commentary to Japanese tourists.  And then we watched the police remove squatters after the anti-Tesco riot near her house.  What a different world!

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At the VW fairSurely they lost a letter? Easter Anglesey Campervan TripLunch break!The coastal pathWe started the holiday week at at VW fair - way too many stickers and tatoos on sale, but pretty cool to look at the old VWs.  We need to get some beads to hang from the rear view mirror!The weather held for 6 perfect days walking around the coast of Anglesey.  Despite the half term week and   my fear of crowds we rarely saw anyone and found a couple of wild campsites.Wild camp at RSPB siteDinner preparationsBoth of us struggled with rotten colds, so we only walked 3 hrs a day, then read in the garden in glorious sun at country pubs, or in grassy meadows. Rain arrived before our last planned section by Beaumaris, but I'm glad we'll have a chance to go back again[...]



Work work work...

My running has been dismal. Arriving at the office by 7:30 and dark evenings, its only just the last month that I've been running again.  And without a base, my achilles is slowing me down (as is the extra weight).

But with both kids signed up for the Swift Half in May, I want to run too!



A-Z Things about me: (idea copied from Petra, but it is fun)A~Age: 54, whew not possible. I was sure that by this time I'd have had the makeup and high heel things sorted. B~ Bed Size: Tiny to fit antique 4 poster... that squeaks ...TMI?? :-)  C~Chore you hate: Hoovering - dealing with the tangled cord, dog hair that is impossible to pick up, and so noisy I can't listen to my ipod.D~Dogs: Nelly, sweetheart GSDE~Essential Start your Day Item: Cafe Latte - worth getting up 10 min early to fuss with the machine. F~Favorite Color: That's so hard to answer - the green of newly leafed-out beech trees, the turquoise of  tropical seas, frosty greys and blues of the mountains.... depends! G~Gold or Silver: Gold, but can't afford to replace the gold earring I lost, so I wear silver.H~Height: 5'2" - and I refuse to measure myself because my Mom says she has shrunk... horrors, NO!I~Instruments you play: cello once, expertise long forgotten. Some days I wonder at all the stuff I once knew...J~Job Title: Sr Geoscientist, little do they know. Should be "enthusiastic amateur". K~Kids: Ali is 24 and Nick is 26, again not possible, how could this happen so fast!L~Live: Commuter faux village outside London, but the train ride to Westminster is not too bad.M~Mom’s name: Eleanor, but I don't blame her for going by EllieN~Nemesis: Glazing. I can throw beautiful pots but continually destroy them with incredibly ugly glazes and cracks from smoking naked raku.O~Outlook: optimist, definitely.P~Pet Peeve: Television noise, particularly when there's no even anyone watching it!Q~Quote from a Movie: Dune - Litany against fear      "I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me.And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain." R~Right or Left Handed: Right, boring I know.S~Siblings: Three, all younger and wiser, Linnie, Missi and MillerT~Time you wake up: 5:20 and rush for 6:10 train.U~Underwear:Daydream about vampy sexy stuff, but alway reach for comfy.V~Vegetable you Dislike: beets, and the way they can contaminate a whole plate of food!W~What Makes You Late: looking for stuff, keys, ipod, wallet, blackberry, train pass...X~Xenophobia : fear of confident people with perfect hair, polished nails and expensive suits.Y~Yummy Food you Make: can't claim any but cinnamon toast.Z~Zoo Animal Favorite: Always the big cats.[...]



Stingray at Isla Contoy
Originally uploaded by platinumprints
A glorious week in Mexico, walking on the beach, riding bikes around Isla Mujeres. Short by a day with Gatwick snow cancelling our flight, but we truly felt we deserved margaritas on the beach when we finally made it to the island.   Fantastic food from breakfast cassula (baked eggs and beans) and cuban roasted plantain and grilled chicken.  And more margaritas!

We enjoyed a day trip out snorkeling and visiting a bird sanctuary where we saw fantastic frigate birds and had achiote roasted fish on a barbecue under a palapa on the beach.

(image) But by the end of the week we had tired of the cheesy seasonal soundtrack that played all day at the resort and we'd seen all the sights and walked all the beaches on the little island.... so we looked forward to the return to the frozen north.

And we just made it home before the next storm hit!



WWFOR Lincolnshire Lollop 9 October 2010

Billy, Nick and I went to Lincolnshire to run the 5th annual WWFOR at Petra and Adam's farm in 1.4 mile loops. I ran 10k and Nick ran a MARATHON!  Billy rescued the sausages from the kids cooking (take off the cling-film before inserting in oven!) and scouted for wood for his lathe.  Adam and Petra's house is absolutely incredible and they made us feel so welcome. The very best campsite we've ever found overlooking their grounds! Click on the photo below for a short video of the event.

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Bristol Half Marathon 5 September 2010

It just started to rain as Ali, Nick and I started for the race village. Waiting until the last possible minute to leave our raincoats at the bag drop, we took our places at the back of the pen, as the skies opened on us.  Nick and a friend of Ali's (named Nick too), started off fast, and got faster. The rain stopped, and we even had some sunshine under the bridge, about the time we saw the Nicks, headed the other way on their way back into town.  They finished in 1:45!

(image) (image) (image) Ali and I planned to run 10 min miles and then walk 0.1 mile at each mile marker.  We pretty much stuck to it until about mile 9, then Ali started having pain in her hip so we walked a couple more times each mile.  But she was smiling throughout.  We finished together in 2:20 - two minutes faster than the Bath half we ran together in the spring. Not bad as Ali really hadn't trained during her summer break. A short video follows:
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Next on to the WWFOR 10K at Petra's Lincolnshire farm!



A long drive to the north coast of Scotland, but worth it! Here was one of our campsites  - our campervan was the only vehicle by evening. We woke early to hear the fishermen heading out, but the crush of August holidaymakers did not travel far enough north to crowd us. We had a rainy day on the drive up to Inverness, so decided to visit the Culloden visitor centre. I'd first learned about the battle of Culloden in 1746 in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series so I had a fantastically romantic idea about it before seeing the battlefield. Culloden Battlefield (photo by curtis_welsh)I had to leave the multi-sided cinema dramatisation - the horror of war in the 18th Century was too much for me - flintlock guns, swords and incredible bravery of hand to hand combat.  The exhausted, starving Scottish Jacobites in tartans fighting the professional English redcoat soldiers.  The computer simulation of the battle was fascinating.  I wish we had walked out to the clan stones on the field, but the rain was tipping down by then.  We also visited the site of Rossal, where crofters were evicted during the subsequent Highland Clearance - an early version of 'ethnic cleansing'. The Clearances stemmed in part from the attempt by the British establishment to destroy, once and for all Clan System, which had facilitated the Jacobite uprising - and combined with Culloden, destroyed the culture and sent my ancestors to immigrate. I can imagine that the scenes are even more emotive for a Scot!The midges drove us to the coast where the breeze would take them away. NASTY little beasts that are too small to see until they bite and then itch for days!  When we had campsites in the woods, we had to close ourselves up tight, dashing out only to make very hurried toilet stops. Not much of a wilderness experience locked inside a closed vehicle!  But the coast was magical - while Billy took a wood turning class for a day I took Nelly for a long run and then went to watch the seals and knit by the sea.  There really isn't a well defined coastal path, like in Cornwall or Pembrokshire - I guess they just don't have the traffic, so it was occasionally a bit scary, not knowing how close you should walk to the cliff and collapse scarps appeared when you were not paying attention and the fog descended.  All in all a great adventure![...]