Archive for the 'General' Category

Lucy

On 28th January 2017, my mum, Lucy Mary Hodgson passed away after a long battle with Lymphoma. Here is the eulogy I read at her funeral.


Thank you for coming to celebrate Lucy’s life with us. It means a lot to see you all here. We can’t possibly hope to fully capture her in this eulogy – everybody has their own perspective, but we’ll do our best. When I say we – my Granny Mary and aunt Paula had a big hand in this.

Lucy was born in Stratford upon Avon on 20th April 1956. She was the eldest daughter and the third of seven children. Mary, her mother, described her as “an exceptionally beautiful baby who rarely cried”. Some qualities are clearly set at a very early age.

The family moved to Woking when Lucy was five and she attended the Providence Convent School, which was situated on the site of this church. She was a confident little girl and played the leading role of Little Red Riding Hood in a school production.

However, as she got older and changed schools she became shy, quiet and self-effacing. Perhaps because of this people often underestimated her. She was amongst the first intake when the new St John the Baptist School opened here in Woking.

She enjoyed spending a lot of time at the swimming pool with her sisters and by the age of twelve she could swim a mile. Throughout her life whenever she was near the sea she’d want to get in for a quick dip – even in ridiculous Welsh winter conditions.

On leaving school she went to work at Slocock’s Nursery and studied horticulture concurrently at Merrist Wood.

Later, working in the greenhouses at Woking Park, she met and fell in love with the park’s foreman, Adam Hodgson. They married in 1979 and moved to Guildford where Adam started a landscaping business – Adam the Gardener.

To help the business Lucy became adept at administration and book-keeping. They bought an early Amstrad PC, and she was soon an expert with spreadsheets and accounting software – long before most people even knew what they were.

They had four children: me, Alice, Florence and Abigail. Lucy loved motherhood; her children were her pride and joy, she adored their company and would do anything for them.

Lucy had fond memories of her own childhood camping holidays, travelling all over the UK in a succession of family minibuses and converted ambulances. She kept up this tradition with her own family, making numerous trips to France, North Wales and even the Isle of Man to see the TT Races. Sometimes we joined forces with Sheila, Stephen or our friends’ families, camping en-masse so all the children – and adults – could play together.

She also took the family further afield to soak up the culture and sunshine in Malta, Cyprus, Florence, Rome and Florida.

Lucy travelled to Sri Lanka on her own, to Vietnam with her sister Sheila, and on a variety of European trips with her mother and as many of her siblings as possible. She loved to savour the local sights, cuisine and wine with her family.

She would have loved to have travelled more – she dreamed of seeing fall in Vermont, and of visiting her brother-in-law Piers in Australia. She loved to hear about all her children’s adventures too – firing her own imagination.

Her husband Adam was a keen motorcyclist. He and Lucy attended many events together including all night rides and large weekend events with the local classic motorbike club.

In 1994 Adam died in a motorcycle accident, so Lucy was left to close the business and bring up her children alone. His sudden death when Abigail was only two was a crushing blow; but she faced this, as with all the challenges life threw at her, with dignity and fortitude. She was a very private person and kept most of her worries to herself.

Adam supported Crystal Palace football club. Lucy took up his season ticket and we cheered them on from the Holmesdale Terrace together for a couple of seasons. She supported them ever since – taking great delight on the rare occasions when they embarrassed a much bigger team. I still remember her singing variations on “Que sera sera” when they were doing particularly well.

When we children had all started school or university, Lucy looked for work and for a while had three part-time jobs – helping various small businesses with their admin.

Finally, she began working in the office of Woodbridge Hill Surgery, just around the corner from her home. She loved the job and adored the people she worked with. She started small, effectively just sorting the post. Over time she grew tremendously, taking on more and more complex roles. She worked her way right to the top, becoming Practice Manager – an achievement she was rightfully very proud of.

Lucy had many hidden talents. In Woking at her old home there are several remarkable paintings completed when she was in her 20s. She carried on dabbling throughout our childhood, and in more recent years became a fixture at a local art class, developing her own signature watercolour style and making some good friends. Every year she would exhibit her work and sell her own Christmas cards – and then downplay her accomplishments.

Not only was she a very talented artist, she could name most plants by their Latin names, and tell you when to prune them. She loved gardening, and every year she had some Gooseberries, Raspberries and Sweet Peas on the go. She could help you with your tax return. She knew all the details of football leagues and transfers, Formula 1 fixtures and tennis tournaments (all of which are quite incomprehensible to the rest of her siblings). She was a friend of the Royal Academy, a member of the National Trust and of the Guildford Cinema Club. She became engrossed in TV series as diverse as Star Trek, Doctor Who and Masterchef. More recently she took up badminton and proudly stuck to a workout regime at a local gym.

She loved music, attending festivals and gigs at first as a teenager, and then later with her own children. She saw some really big names over the years. Her vinyl record collection is huge – and she would relish the opportunity to get them out and dance around the living room, usually with one or more of her daughters. Whenever we were planning to embark on a long car journey, she would compile a mix-tape to liven up the trip and make the miles fly by.

She was also a big reader, regularly losing herself in a good book. Her most recent accomplishment was completing the entire back catalogue of Kate Atkinson.

Although she lived in Guildford she came every Saturday night to Woking to attend mass here with Mary, and then to stay and catch up over supper and a glass of wine.

She was never particularly evangelical about her faith – it was a very personal thing. She knew where she was going, and that gave her strength right at the end.

Lucy had a sweetness and kindness about her that made her the perfect restful company – she was one of those people that made you feel better the moment they appeared. She was funny, sympathetic and constantly good natured.

Nevertheless, she had strong views about everything, from politics and current affairs to books, films, artists, as well as food and travel.

I loved chatting with her over a long drawn out breakfast (her poison was bacon) discussing anything and everything, especially if it was on the front page of the Guardian.

She was open-minded, with no big expectations of you. She wasn’t pushy, but rather wanted you to find your own way. She would love you whatever you did – and she loved to hear all about it, too.

She got great pleasure from simple things; a new baby, cats, a Belgian chocolate truffle, a Stevie Wonder track, chickens, jigsaws, Sudoku, a good cheese, a glass of Petit Chablis in the sun, and all of our big family gatherings – especially Christmas in Woking and new year in Cheltenham with Stephen and Helen.

Of course, the new baby Lucy was most excited about was Alice and Angus’s daughter. She was thrilled to be a grandmother and loved to spend time with little Astrid, see the latest photos and to hear about every stage in her development.

A little over a year ago Lucy was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive blood cancer. One of the things I’m most proud of is how she faced up to it: Her attitude was always strong, positive and forward-looking. Although she was often scared, she found the strength to push on through and take on the next challenge. Even at her lowest, she never gave up hope.

In her mind, the future was always bright. And of course, it still is – it’s just that now we’ll have to face it without her gentle loving presence.

Sporadic

I know, I know. I’ve been a bad little blogger. I’ve not been keeping you amused very much of late. The truth is I’ve just fallen out of the habit of writing regularly1 and I’ve found it difficult to get myself back into the groove.

I’ve sat down umpteen times to write about something and just been completely unable to make any headway. I’ve started writing, thought “that’s complete crap” and just closed the browser. My in-built self censorship has got in the way a bit too: I’m quite shy by nature, so when a difficult subject comes along I can find it hard to talk openly about it, even with close friends and family. The same carries through to my writing, although to a lesser extent.

It’s not like there’s been nothing for me to write about. Plenty’s happened since I last wrote anything much about my life. There’s a couple of things I want to get out there over the next few days and hopefully that’ll kick me back into blogging. We’ll see.

1. It’s not just here either – my posts on mailing lists and fora have almost completely dried up too. Some might argue that it’s a good thing ;)

I’ve been blog-tagged

Sheila² got me: The object of the game is to reveal 5 things about you, which most readers probably don’t know, then nominate 5 friends to do the same.

So then, here’s five things you might not know about me:

  1. My dad and I went to watch the Isle of Man TT several times on his classic bikes, including a Matchless G3LS (350cc single), an AJS 500cc twin and later a Honda CB750 (the rest of the family followed in an old VW Minibus). The Honda was my favourite at the time, though I look back on the 350 most fondly. The last time we went, the I.O.M. Steam Packet Company crashed one of their ferries into Douglas harbour. Joey Dunlop was a boyhood hero of mine, so seeing him win at the TT was pretty special.
  2. At school we built a wall-climbing robot that got us second place in the local Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. It used compressed air and suction cups to climb up smooth surfaces. I did all the artwork – it was probably my first proper bit of design. Looking back, it was a bit rubbish. The awards were held at the old motor racing circuit at Brooklands in Surrey.
  3. On the same day I had a look around the Sultan of Brunei‘s old private plane which was housed there. Very plush. A few years later at college, I became friends with Steve, who comes from Brunei. The plane was still at Brooklands when I visited an Auto Italia event with Owen & Anne a couple of years ago. The three of us finally made it out there for Steve’s wedding earlier this year.
  4. I’m a founder member of the Kusatado Ninja and I’ve got the bright yellow jersey to prove it. We took turns “racing” mountain bikes round in circles for 24 hours. I use the term “racing” in the loosest possible sense – we didn’t do very well, but we had a great time burning round on bikes, burning on the blazing sunshine and getting high on RedBull. Wonderful.
  5. When I was a kid, we used to live right on the River Wey, in Guildford. We had a large canvas-covered canoe that my dad, my sister and I would row up and down the navigation, carrying it around the locks and generally having a laugh. We had a big adventure one day after some particularly heavy rain. The current carried us for miles, we took some interesting detours through water-meadows (they take the overflow when the river floods) and nearly got dragged down the odd weir. In the end we had to phone my mum and get her to come and collect us in the minibus.

You know what? It was good fun reminiscing about that lot. Good times.

And with that I tag you Weon, Matt, Simon, Rich and other SimonAndy.

Commute!

Man, this morning’s commute was hard work. It’s not very far, but this morning I rode out onto the Tewkesbury road into a headwind that nearly had me going backwards. I bet it’ll have swirled a full 180° by the time I come to ride home, too.

Even so, the ride always becomes more fun when I get into town. Inevitably most of the traffic gets snarled up at some point, so I can often bomb past it all. This morning it was especially good, as I traded places with a rather nice Porsche 911 several times, before eventually beating it to the town centre. Winner!

Right, I’m off to get some new batteries for my head-light. It’s slightly disconcerting when it fades away to nothing as I’m riding around a big scary roundabout…

That web-geek conference in Brighton

d.Construct 2006

I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s successfully messed up my body clock but I don’t think I can blame anyone but myself for that…

So, I arrived in Brighton on Thursday night after a surprisingly trouble-free train journey. After checking into the hotel, I wandered up the road to Heist for the pre-conference social gathering. I met some new people, caught up with the usual suspects and generally had a good time. We finished up at a random pub on the sea-front at about 3 a.m.

Just under five hours later, my alarm went off. I staggered downstairs where I self-served myself the biggest breakfast of all time, before wandering up to the Corn Exchange, venue for the conference. A bit of fresh air did me the world of good, so I was feeling surprisingly wide awake by the time I got there. I grabbed the freebies, downed some coffee and got chatting to some more of the peeps before we were called into the auditorium.

The conference itself was ace. We had talks from Jeff Barr, Simon Willison & Paul Hammond, Jeremy Keith (twice!), Aral Balkan, Derek Featherstone, Thomas Vander Wal and Jeff Veen. Various other attendees around the internet have dissected each of the sessions so I won’t go into detail.

Obviously it wasn’t all perfect. Biggest problem for me was the lack of leg-room in the auditorium. Maybe it’s just my bad knees?

The good stuff made up for that though. Aral’s “Mash my Flex up” presented Flash to me in a whole new light. Derek Featherstone came up with a series of gotchas and examples of deeply inaccessible coding on some very high profile sites (hello Google Calendar). Finally, Jeff Veen stole the show (as per usual). It was one of his inspirational tour-de-force talks, leaving most of the audience thinking “Yeah, this stuff is ace! Let’s go and build it, right now!”

Which of course we didn’t. After running off to drop off various laptops, bags and miscellaneous freebies off at numerous hotels around Brighton, we all congregated at The Terraces for the Snipperoo sponsored after-party. Alas, I missed out on the free-bar (which ran out in about ten minutes flat). That place closed somewhat earlier than billed, so a bunch of us went-a-wandering, eventually ending up in Sidewinder. Again, I finally crawled into bed shortly after 3 a.m.

Just under five hours later, my alarm went off. I staggered downstairs where I self-served myself the second-biggest breakfast of all time, before checking out and wandering up to the station. After a surprisingly trouble-free train journey, I got home to find that I’d lost my house-keys and ended up climbing in a window. Utter genius. Where did they turn up? Bottom of my wash-bag. Go figure…

Of course one of the best things about the whole conference was the backnetwork. I didn’t have to collect business cards from everybody I met. Instead I logged on, added them to my network (all done with XFN) et voila! I have their contact details. What’s more, it picks up people’s blog posts that mention , along with any Flickr photos tagged with dconstruct06. Madgex, that was an inspired idea!

“Are you OK?”

I looked up at her with what must have been a look of blind panic across my face. I had absolutely no idea where I was, what the hell was going on, or indeed who she was. Why is everything blurry?

Mr Hodgson? Are you OK?
Erm… wha?

I can see now. Oh, hang on. I know this place. You’re a nurse aren’t you?

Um, I think I must have passed out.

You see, about five minutes earlier, they’d taken that fetching blue plaster off of my hand (mmm, yellow and smelly) and handed me a leaflet explaining what might happen. The first thing in there?

You may find you feel faint or nauseous — don’t be alarmed — this is because your limb has been in a cast for some time.

I wandered out into the waiting room, then almost immediately got called into another room to wait for the doctor to get around to me. So I sat down to wait for a while. Next thing I know, I’m looking up at the nurse, wondering what the hell was happening. They moved me onto the adjacent bed and put an oxygen mask on my face.

I was feeling relatively normal after about ten minutes, so the doctor came back. He said it’d continue to hurt for a while (he’s right, it does) because I haven’t used it for weeks. No bat or raquet sports, pneumatic drills or power-tools for the time being. Jogging or swimming is fine though (boring!). Come back in a couple of weeks for a check-up.

I asked about mountain biking and he said I ought not to for a little while — but my commute on the road ought to be OK. That amused me, given the state of Cheltenham’s roads. I may also have neglected to mention I have a tendency to hoon off speed bumps and and down flights of stairs en-route to work. I might have a spin on the Cove tomorrow and see how it feels.

Oh, I still appear to be operating left-handed. What gives?

A fetching shade of blue

This is what happens when you fall off your mountain bike.

So I went to see the fracture clinic today.

I explained to the doctor how it happened, obviously telling the whole story, because I’m starting to feel a bit silly every time I say “I fell off my mountain bike“. He took a look at the x-rays and frowned. “Hmmm” he said, before going to get the other doctor.

Ooooh-kaaay then. What the hell does that mean? I’ll just sit here and worry for a while then.

They returned and had a short dicussion before deciding that they didn’t need to operate after all. “We’d like to, but only because it’s more fun. These heal up perfectly well in the vast majority of cases.”

Phew.

So they gave me this shiny blue plaster. I go back in three weeks to have the plaster removed and a bit of physio on my fingers. Hopefully it’ll all be fine…

Later on, at work, Maxine commented that it looked rather festive. Maybe I should have asked for red?

Proper broken!

Well, my busted hand didn’t seem to be getting any better, so I took a trip down to casualty to see what they thought. Obviously I was armed with stories from friends along the lines of Oh, there isn’t much they can do, they’ll just strap your fingers together or something.

Some hours later, I emerged with a cast from my fingers most of the way up to my elbow. Great. Still, the break looked ace on the x-ray. I’ve snapped the outermost metacarpal (I think) good and proper.

It’ll be interesting to see how I cope with work for the next few weeks. I guess I’ll have to become ambidextrous with the mouse…