Barcelona beach break?

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I never thought of Barcelona having beaches before. Yes I knew of a beach resort outside the city called Sitges but in the two times I have visited the city of Barcelona I never realised they also had beautiful sandy beaches.

Why we were there

My hubby was invited to attend a conference in the city for work and so I decided that baby and me would tag along for a few days to get some much needed vitamin D.

His conference was on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area close to the port and opposite the museum of natural history. It was also virtually on the beach.

Weather

The weather in early December was 18 or 19 degrees which if you’re Mediterranean is Baltic but for a British person that’s summer! As most Spaniards thought it was cold the beaches, and yes there are more than one, were virtually empty on what we’d class in England as a gloriously sunny day.  They also have beaches that are well kitted out with showers, toilets & play equipment so great for families.

The plus point of Barcelona over a more traditional beach place in Spain such as the Costa del Sol or one of the islands is the fact it’s Barcelona! So you have lovely beaches but in the evening you have all the delights of a big cosmopolitan city and if you’re bored of the beach you can look around the sights of the city.

Culture in Barcelona

Having been to Barcelona a few times before I’d been around the city to the usual tourist places like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and the Park Guell – Gaudi’s fantastical Park. Even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in. The queues were always hours long. The beauty of visiting in December is there were no queues for any of the big tourist attractions- brilliant!

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Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

I think it’s fair to say the cathedral blew us away once we got into it. I can only describe it as Star Wars like as it was so other worldly but the stand out thing for me were the stain glass windows that had Picasso style artwork in their design. A unique blend of colours and shades that perfectly made use of the light coming into the building. I would love to spend a full day in the cathedral watching how the windows react to the different light in the day. So beautiful I highly recommend a visit and to think at the moment it isn’t even finished.

Barcelona Cathedral

After visiting this extremely famous Goudi place of worship we then went and visited another more ancient place.  The original Barcelona Cathedral, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, to give it its official name. Located in the Gothic quarter it was again a place I hadn’t visited before because the queues were far too long. This one was built in the 13thand 14thcenturies.  We lit 10 candles here to remember Violet, Arthur, my Nan, friend Alethea and other friends who are going through a bad time. Amazing architecture and a huge achievement when you think it was built without modern day technology. The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will probably take as long to be built (currently scheduled for completion in 2026) and the builders now have every bit of technology.

Aurora loved both buildings and gazed amazed at the beautiful ceilings and windows.  It was so peaceful and although I’m not religious I love the calming atmosphere in these buildings as though they have absorbed the love they have witnessed over the years.

Jet2 great with babies!

I also need to mention how amazing Jet2 are when travelling with babies. The cabin crew were brilliant helping us with bags onto the plane and then taking baby for cuddles while we got our luggage into the overhead lockers.  They were 100% better than when I’ve flown with EasyJet and Ryanair. Who I’ve listed in order of horrendousness with Ryanair being the worst offender.

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Aurora enjoying her first flight experience

In short I’d highly endorse a winter sun break to Barcelona so get looking at those Jet2 flight deals now.

Happy flying

Love Sarah x

Distraction number 1

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You may remember a post I wrote a few months back now about how I tried to not worry about my pregnancy by deliberately creating other things to do or organize in my life in order to stay busy.  One of these was an extension and house renovation project.

Extension and house renovation

This two storey extension project began back in April and comprised of two new bathrooms, a new kitchen, full house rewire and new central heating with new radiators.  Getting rid of a very narrow galley kitchen and extending the back of the house to create open plan living with a large kitchen dining space.  We would also get a new bedroom upstairs so we’d have more room for visiting family and friends to stay with us.

Sacrifice

Our old boiler was ripped out in April so we lived in our house for 4 months with no heating or hot water and for the most part had no rear wall either just chipboard.  Thankfully we still had an old electric shower so that was the sole source of our hot water other than from a kettle.  A temporary kitchen was set up in our lounge and dining room. We had our oven, washing machine and dryer and sink all in the one room with all our downstairs furniture.  Our fridge freezer had to be moved into the hallway next to the front door.  It was a combination of camping and being in an episode of Steptoe and Son. 

Other things to worry about

Thankfully it did work in taking my mind off worrying about the baby for a lot of the time as instead I worried about the mess and chaos. I concerned myself with ordering the relevant materials needed in time and designing the kitchens and bathrooms.  We also boxed and bagged our belongings so they could be stored in the loft as the rewire and new radiators meant all of the floorboards being ripped up.  Then was the day-to-day dealing with the dust, mess and noise from builders.

Just relax

I remember the midwives and specialists telling me I should try to have lie ins and naps to help with fatigue caused by my pregnancy and the hole in my heart (see this earlier blog post for more details on this).  I just laughed when they suggested it, explaining the builders arrived at 7am everyday and you try sleeping at lunchtime when there is hammering, drilling etc.

Building work later than due date

Unfortunately our building work also ran over schedule and our baby Aurora arrived ahead of time by a few weeks. So it did mean we had to get alternative accommodation when we first came out of hospital.  Thanks to an AirBNB stay and then some amazing next-door neighbour’s, who leant us their house while they were on holiday, the baby avoided most of the noise and dust.

Now the hard work begins

So now we are slowly decorating, unpacking and sorting out our new-finished house bit by bit. It isn’t easy with a newborn baby but we are so happy with our new kitchen space. We can fit more than one person in there at once, and the bathrooms are exactly what we wanted. Despite the craziness and my doubts half way in we’re pleased we went ahead with it in the end.

Kitchen

So far we have almost finished the kitchen space.  We went for a navy blue kitchen with copper accessories and a white mistral worktop, which is a solid acrylic that can emulate marble. It is stain proof so much more durable, with a baby and a clumsy mummy we felt that was essential. The pendant lights were from Wayfair.

The stools I adore and they are from Cox and Cox.  Whatever you do though if your health visitor says they love them and want to know where you got them from, don’t tell them to just google Cox.  That caused a lot of laughs when the hubby overheard!

New lounge area

The seating area of our new downstairs extension will eventually have a new sofa. But for the meantime with the budget blown we have created a little lounge space with Ikea Poang chairs, stools and rocking chair.  Added into this is a gorgeous rug from Dunelm, a sheepskin rug for cosiness, an original Moroccan silver lamp purchased in Marrakesh in January and some silk cushions that I’ve had for about 20 years.  The best buy is probably the faux fur stool I purchased today from Aldi for only £14.95 but looks more expensive don’t you think?

Eclectic

I love being quite eclectic with my décor so there’s a real mix of new buys from the high street, old vintage things like the silk cushions I have had for years and hand me downs. The lovely chunky wooden coffee tables were from my mum.  I like to get the odd piece from our travels hence the lamp from Morocco we saw in January. I also got bright coloured fabric from there that I will swap into that room for the summer, when we can then open both sets of bi-fold doors across the back of the house.

Have you bought any lovely things for your home from your travels?  And if so please share your finds as I’d love to see them?

This project has really helped to take my mind off things and it continues to be a passion of mine, although I’m miss impatient so want to finish it all at once when it will be a long term project over the next few years as we have an entire house to decorate and dress.

Please share some of your favourite home photos.

Speak soon, love

Sarah x

Always Violet Skies

P.s. please ignore the state of our garden we will look at that next year! lol

You might enjoy these other blog posts –

Design inspiration in Morocco


Somewhere after the rainbow – what happens if you lose your rainbow?

Mothering after loss

Luck, God or just random shit?

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I don’t know if I believe in luck.  I stopped believing in God as a teenager when I saw the suffering in the world and learnt more about science and history.  I then liked to believe in everything being made from energy and read a lot of books like “The Secret” that talked about putting positive energy out there to get the same back.  Similar to Karma in what comes around goes around.

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I still have a fondness for churches.  Here’s Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Energy and Karma

The energy, karma and positivity mantra was the way I always lived my life.  Some people believe in God but I have liked to believe in the ancient energy of mother earth, not in a chanting naked around Stonehenge way, but the idea that we’re all made of energy always seemed more scientific and therefore believable.

Violet is born

Violet came along and we were told at her 20-week scan about her heart defect and that it was bad luck.  She was an undiagnosed breach baby and I had her naturally afterwards we were again told “oh you had very bad luck there”.  Then Violet got her heart fixed by surgeons at Alder Hey hospital and all the time we channeled positive energy.  Other family members and friends prayed for her in a multitude of different faiths.

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The Priory in Cartmel a stunningly beautiful place

Her surgery was a permanent fix.  People told us how lucky she and we were that she survived but we thanked science and the talented people at Alder Hey.  We continued to think in a positive way and raised funds from our belated wedding reception for Ronald McDonald House to thank them for their support of us in providing accommodation when Violet was in hospital.

Violet sick again

Then when Violet got sick again being admitted into Manchester Children’s Hospital we continued to channel positivity and friends/family prayed again for her.  After just over a week she seemed to turn a corner, we rejoiced and thanked everyone, mother earth, God, everyone’s prayers were answered…but then she suddenly died.  When we got her post mortem results, and then over 18 months later an inquest verdict, to be told she was just very unlucky and she died from something so extremely rare that no one could believe it.

Arthur

We then got pregnant again with Arthur our rainbow and were told at his 20-week scan that he had irreparable brain damage and once again told that we were just very unlucky again.

Karma is fake

Now if I was to believe in karma both of these things should have been lucky instead. I’m the person that buys food for random homeless people and sometimes helps them even further, for example I bought a homeless guy a sleeping bag in winter when he was sat sobbing because someone beat up and robbed him.  Over the years I have raised thousands for charity.  I’ve also only ever had rescue animals and do the middle class thing of sponsoring a child in Africa, so whilst I don’t do this as a quid pro quo or usually tell people whenever I do something kind, I should have a lot of good karma saved up right there. So I think the loss of my two children shows this karma thing is pure nonsense as for luck well….

As for God

As for God…I know lots of people who have lost children and are comforted by their faith. I on the other hand can’t believe in anyone or anything that can cause that kind of pain for anyone.  The pain my child suffered in hospital in the weeks before she died, and that of other children suffering in hospital too, means if there is a God then he is a cruel unkind one, so why worship him/her?   I actually in a way admire those child loss survivors who do still believe, as they’re certainly stronger in their faith than I am.

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We still light candles for our babies when we travel just in case – here’s the inside of St Ann’s Church in Manchester the epicentre of the city

Positive thinking

I still try to think positively, as it helps me to cope day to day but I do it more because I think that Violet wouldn’t want me to be upset or negative and me being miserable and negative isn’t going to bring Violet and Arthur back. I also now have the adorable Aurora to care for so need to be the best version of me for her sake.

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An autumnal walk in the park with colds and coughs hoping the fresh air does us good

Kindness and compassion

I believe kindness, compassion and good manners aren’t exclusive to those who are religious and my experiences over the last few years have shown me that often these qualities can be missing just as easily from a religious person as they can be present in an atheist.  I like to treat people with kindness and respect regardless of who they are. Blame my mother for this one as she clearly raised us well.

So to summarize I’m not sure what I believe anymore and maybe as one of my extremely clever friends said, “perhaps life is just a lot of random shit that just happens and if you survive then you either learn to deal with it or you don’t end of”. Not quite as eloquent as Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates” but I can really identify with my friends version.  If religion is how you learn to deal with life’s challenges then good on you, it’s certainly better than turning to addiction or not coping at all.  Each to their own and I think child loss survivors need to push on anyway they can.

How do you cope with things or spur yourself to carry on beyond what you used to believe was your limit?

Love Sarah

Always Violet Skies x

AvMA a virtually unknown charity

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Most people have never heard of an amazing charity called AvMA – Action Against Medical Accidents, probably because until the worst happens you have no need to seek them out.

Introduced to AvMA

We were introduced to this organisation by the Manchester coroners office, when we were first informed that there would be an inquest into our daughter Violet’s death at Manchester Children’s hospital.

The coroners team said it was highly likely that the Manchester NHS trust would employ their own barrister for the hearing, when it finally happened, and that they wanted us to feel supported, as though someone is on our side. They said they didn’t want us to be bullied by the trust’s representatives and that an organisation called AvMA might be able to help.

Legal aid?

You may now ask “well what about legal aid?” It turns out that no matter what your financial situation in this circumstance legal aid is not available for an inquest hearing.  Can you imagine the additional heartbreak and stress for anyone who is grieving a loved one and believes their death might be because of negligence or an accident but has no free legal support?  We were quoted upwards of £1000 by several solicitors to pay for legal advice and support for the inquest.

No win no fee?

You may ask “what about no win no fee” though but this also isn’t available for a coroner’s inquest as this hearing looks solely to find the cause of death not to apportion blame or result in any type of compensation.  In order to get a pay out you would have to have a separate legal proceeding in front of a judge rather than a coroner and this would be after the inquest and is a separate legal action entirely.

AvMA

AvMA provides free independent advice and support to people affected by medical accidents (lapses in patient safety) through a specialist helpline, written casework and inquest support services. They can put patients in contact with accredited clinical negligence solicitors if appropriate. They also work in partnership with health professionals, the NHS, government departments, lawyers and, most of all, patients to improve patient safety and justice.

Our case

For us it meant having a trained barrister examine all the documents associated with Violet’s death and care whilst in Manchester Children’s hospital. This proved invaluable to us as she requested certain things we hadn’t noticed were missing, such as when we asked for a copy of Violet’s medical records the hospital hadn’t included any of her X Ray results, of which there were many. We then had time to request them ahead of the hearing.

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Violet in hospital watching TV

Judy, the barrister that volunteered her services to us, was amazing. We had a conference call with her a few weeks before the inquest and were pleased to see that she’d pulled together a list of her main concerns that all tallied with ours. She had done extensive research, including combing through not just the post mortem report but also the medical reports and all of Violets notes (that we couldn’t bring ourselves to sift through again). She also consulted various medical professionals she knew to get their advice on things.

Support during the inquest

At the inquest itself both Julia the representative from AvMA and Judy our barrister were amazingly supportive. Judy asked all the questions we wanted and cross examined some of the witnesses, the various specialists and consultants responsible for Violets care while she was in the hospital. We passed Judy notes from the table behind with any additional questions that came to us while they were giving evidence, and before the coroner had finished with a witness, Judy always double checked with us that there was nothing else we needed to ask.

Saved further emotional trauma

I was originally instructed by the coroner to read out the police statement I had given immediately after Violet died and Judy said she could ask for me to be excused from doing this because I was heavily pregnant and the additional stress it would cause.  We didn’t even realise this was an option and the coroner said he would admit the statement to the records as a printed document instead.  This saved me having to undergo further emotional distress on the day.

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Violet playing with her balloon the morning of the day she died

Outcome

Ultimately the inquest couldn’t bring Violet back and we got some answers but not really the resolution we wanted. However I’m not certain we would have received these same answers if we hadn’t have had AvMA and Judy helping us. It was a traumatic day with lots of tears, so I doubt we would have had the strength or wherewithal to ask so many questions ourselves. Their help and support at what was an extremely vulnerable time for us proved to be priceless.

Legal expenses

Judy and AvMA only invoiced us for their expenses, which totalled less than £200, including travel costs from London and an overnight stay, so when you consider the thousands a barrister would normally charge this was a bargain. We’ve since given a larger donation to the charity too, so we can help them to help someone else like us who find themselves in an impossibly heart wrenching situation.

Caring charity

AvMA operate as a charity offering support to parents and families like us whose loved ones have died or been seriously injured because of what might have been a medical accident.  This will be the hardest most traumatic time in their lives and as a result they are certainly in need of support, especially around something that could result in answers, justice and in the case of proven negligence, when someone is seriously injured, later on a possible future financial payout too, that could make the difference to quality of life.

I know this charity isn’t as attractive or as immediately heart tugging as a animal, Children’s charity or a cancer cause but rest assured they can make a huge difference to people’s lives at a time when there world has just ended.  When they are already struggling to deal with the grief and shock of losing someone, in our case our 15 month old daughter.

It won’t happen to me…

You never think this type of thing will happen to you. That one day your perfect little life bubble could burst and you lose a child or someone close to you but if this happens then you certainly need legal support from someone like AvMA as life at this time is overwhelming and devastating enough without adding a looming inquest to the list.

If you can afford to donate to this amazing charity, even if a small one, then please do so as you could help someone like us who has said goodbye to their child. If you’re a legal professional and would like to donate time or expertise to work with the charity to help someone like us then please do take a closer look as we’re so grateful to Judy for giving up her time and expertise to help us.

Barristers donating time

Judy explained to us that she understood a little of what we had gone through with Violet, as her daughter had been premature so she had spent lots of time with her in hospital and luckily she was healthy now but she knows how scary it can be to be a parent of a sick child.  She said she can’t begin to imagine then losing them and then the stress of the coroner deciding to launch an inquest into what happened too.  After reading our case she felt compelled to help us.  A truly wonderful lady and we will be eternally grateful to her for her help and compassion.

Here’s a link about AvMA please take a look and consider giving them some support if you can

Thank you

Sarah, Pat & Angel Violet

Always Violet Skies xxx

Design Inspiration – Modern Morocco

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This is the first of hopefully many design inspiration blog posts I plan to write, as for those that don’t know me I adore architecture and interior design. I take a lot of photos of it especially when we travel.

My inspiration

We are also about to begin a home extension and remodel so I’m collecting lots of lovely design ideas to give me inspiration about what we’d like for our new home.

When we visited Morocco last month I took about a thousand photos of architecture and interior design, both modern contemporary and ancient traditional, so this is my first post where I look at modern eclectic Moroccan design.

Salut Maroc hotel

I was honoured to be given a guided tour of one of the newest and chicest boutique hotels in Morocco; the fabulous Salut Maroc in Essaouira.

Each of the 11 bedrooms are individual and have been personally designed by the owner, who also designed all the fabrics especially for the hotel, having them handmade in Morocco. Anyway I will let the photos speak for themselves…

Patterns aren’t scary

Don’t be scared of patterns & colours even if you think they may clash.  Love the overall effects here.

Feature walls

Why not embrace a feature wall and create a beautiful mural as artwork?

Bathroom inspiration

Bathroom inspiration why stick to cream and white – cheer things up go for vibrant blues, yellows and embrace patterned tiles!

Vibrant lounge and dining spaces

Even lounge, dining and entrance spaces can be cheerfully designed fusing modern and classical design touches with colour and pattern.  Don’t think I’ve ever seen the Mona Lisa in such an eclectic setting!

Garden or patio inspiration

I’m someone who is guilty of sticking to neutral colours or black and white when it comes to interiors but I think a pop of colour from a nice rug, cushions or even a burst of wallpaper on one wall could help to lift the dreariest of UK winter days!

Get the look on the UK high street

To get this type of look from the UK high street check out

Next and their Brighton or Studio by Next range 

John Lewis fusion range for furniture & cushions

For tiles check out Tile Giant’s Moroccan Bizarre range  or Geometric range

There are lots of others out there on the high street and smaller homewares stores that are embracing the Moroccan influence for this coming summer season.  Feel free to share any finds or your own photos with me.

My next design inspiration post will look at traditional Moroccan design.

Love, Sarah xx

Making new memories

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It can be very difficult when you’re grieving the loss of your child to remember those that are living and that you still need to invest time in your relationships with others especially with your husband or partner.

Special anniversaries

One crucial thing we did as a couple was to ensure we planned and booked time in our diaries in advance to mark important anniversaries and occasions.  Making a dinner reservation, booking a hotel for the night or even flights for a weekend away ensured we couldn’t decide to give it a miss when the date came around.  Occasionally one of us would say we weren’t in the mood and the other would encourage and persuade.  

I once even went out to dinner in a lovely restaurant with hardly any make up on and hair was scraped back (as I wasn’t in the mood to try to look nice as it felt too superficial). The fact we did it made the next date we had slightly easier.  The more we forced ourselves the better we actually started to feel about going out and the less guilty we felt about “enjoying ourselves when we had lost our most precious daughter”.

Here’s a photo of me with hubby, minus make up, after being encouraged out last year.  I cheered up when all the lighting was Violet and I was served a Violet cocktail almost as though she planned it!

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Travel

Anyway we still keep this up over a year on and sometimes it can still be difficult for us but we make sure we take time out.  A few weeks ago we celebrated the anniversary of our very first date so my hubby treated us to a night away in Cartmel in the Lake District with dinner, bed and breakfast in L’Enclume.

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Cartmel Priory

I will talk more about the amazing food we enjoyed in my next post but I wanted to share that even though we are fortunate to travel and dine in some amazing places our lost children are never far from our minds.

Before we headed home I visited the amazingly historic Priory at Cartmel that has an 800 year old history and lit candles for Violet and Arthur.  I also took some photos of the amazing building.  You can see them all here http://violet-skies.com/portfolio/cartmel-lake-district/

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Inside Cartmel Priory