Friday, 10 June 2011

An afternoon with friends

On Wednesday afternoon the local MND Association branch visited Aston Pottery for a demonstration and then for tea. These are really good afternoons when those of us with MND and friends and families spend time together.
Watching the demonstration

Although it was windy, the rain held off and from time to time the sun came out. Aston Pottery is near Witney and produces its unique brand of tableware, and also has an Aladdin's cave of a gift shop and a big beautiful café. The 18 of us started with the pottery (I believe it's technically known as slipware) demonstration given by Marian, one of the potters. She showed us the processes from pouring to completion - well, not all of them, I seem to remember that there are 27 separate processes in all, taking over two days. She was, I must say, an excellent teacher - well organised, expert and enthusiastic about her subject. I certainly ended with a great appreciation for the skill of the potters and decorators and the vision behind the whole enterprise.
Marian at work

It's amazing how split-second some of the timings need to be: for example, too short and the teapot handle is hollow, too long and the spout is solid. And there's no mass-production here. It all depends on the human factor. I was especially impressed by the glazing process, which is dipping the article into a suspension of four minerals for a few seconds. As it dries the design is completely covered in the creamy deposit. Only after the final firing at 1100+˚C does the deposited suspension melt into a micro-layer of glass.

After the wonders of potting, we proceeded to the joys of eating some of the locally made cakes and having tea from, of course, Aston pottery.

This is always the best part of such afternoons, when you sit and talk (or just smile) with your friends, and enjoy what you might call fellowship. In one way it's tinged with sadness, as you're aware of friends who have died since we began going. But there's also that great optimism and humour which is oddly a mark of the Association members. Anyway the slabs of cake were vast - and delicious.
Anne and Rachael facing us, with the Durkins

In the café
I forgot to mention that I'd been to the MND Clinic in Oxford on Monday morning, to see my new consultant, Kevin Talbot. There I'd been greeted by Anne, the Association visitor, and then was seen by Rachael Marsden, the clinic coordinator, who gave me a peak-flow

breath test and a quick interview, before I went in to see Professor Talbot. He agreed with Dr Donaghy's diagnosis of PLS (where the upper motor neurones are affected). He had a student there, which was interesting as he explained my symptoms to her. It's an excellent set-up.

It was nice seeing Anne and Rachael again at Aston on Wednesday afternoon. It feels like integrated care.

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