My Week In Happy: The Theory of Everything and Chinese New Year


Chasing memories

On Wednesday I decided it was time to boost my girl geek score by going to see The Theory of Everything. The film charts the life of Professor Stephen Hawking, the celebrated theoretical physicist and cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time.

I was expecting there to be more ‘sciencey bits’ but the story shows Stephen living and loving with a diagnosis with motor neurone disease while acing it academically.

Stephen’s relationship with his wife Jane was the main focus of the film and reminded me that I had in fact seen his daughter Lucy speak at TEDx Salford last October. Lucy is an author and works closely with her dad to write adventure stories for children explaining the science that is the foundation of the wonders of the universe.

I came across a talk that Lucy gave at the World Science Festival in 2014 and related to her feelings about chasing memories of childhood – she’s just a couple of years older than me, so maybe it’s a life-stage thing?

Perhaps there’s something about being in mid-life that fuels the desire to go back and put things in order and revisit the connections that have made us who we are today?

A trip into China Town

As it is Chinese New Year I arranged with a few friends to share a meal in Manchester’s China Town. We shared a delightful meal at Yang Sing on Princess Street. This place offers an extensive menu including many vegetarian choices. Thanks to Angie Chan and Adrian Lunsong for recommendations.

There was  a great buzz about the place and the restaurant was decorated with red lanterns. I noticed many of the women customers wearing red jumpers in honour of the New Year.

We are entering the Year of the Sheep (usually represented by the ram). If you’d like to know more about the Chinese signs of the zodiac check out this iWonder guide.

Manchester has really gone to (China) town in terms of the scale of the celebrations this year. For details of the main event on Sunday 22nd February, and everything else that is going on visit the Celebrate Chinese New Year in Manchester website.

After our meal we headed to St Ann’s Square to see a taster of the ‘Hong Kong Pulse 3D Light Show’ being projected onto the side of St Ann’s Church. A spectacular burst of colour and culture played out before us.

You may notice in the films below a transport theme as the film of the show at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong is sponsored by Cathay Pacific, Manchester Airport and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. WARNING: Films contain flashing lights.


My Week In Happy: remembering Muriel


It feels slightly wrong to start a blog entry about my grandmother passing away with my usual “My Week In Happy” prefix, but at 90 years old Muriel Breen did have a long and happy life. I am grateful that she continued to enjoy her interests into later life, that she made friends easily and had a kind heart.

She was the mother of my mother Carol, wife of my late grandfather Gerard Breen, and grandmother to myself and my brother Ellis – we called her ‘Granny’. She was a dear friend and confidante to my mother through thick and thin.

Granny with me on my graduation day in the gardens of the Shackleton Building.

Granny with me on my graduation day in the gardens of the Shackleton Building.

Muriel was a talented painter and pastel artist well into her eighties, loved the ballet and saw the funny side in everyday things.

She had an amazing spirit and was extremely independent, living in her own home until she passed away. This was made possible with the care of my mother, who was with Granny until the very end.

In the last five years of her life Muriel became increasingly frail and struggled with the limitations of her ageing body. The biggest blow was when stomach problems left her only able to eat foods that were pureed or disintegrated easily in the stomach.

She really missed being able to have the foods that she loved and preparing something palatable became a focus of each day. It became something of an obsession and even my mother’s patience was tested after hearing about Granny’s special trifle recipe for what must have felt like the millionth time!

I asked my brother to write something in memory of Granny and this is what he said.

My memories of Granny, by Ellis

Farewell Muriel

Muriel with a photograph of Venice by Carol Breen (modelled by Ellis Breen).

She was always upbeat, positive, loving and humorous. She loved to talk endlessly but always had time to listen to anyone as well. My first memories of Granny were formed when I visited her home with Granddad. She had a poodle who was as loving and vivacious as her owner.

Later she moved to be closer to Mum and, after Granddad passed away, enthusiastically resumed one of her great passions: ballroom dancing. I was always impressed by her energy and love of life and for some time she had a very lively social life which many of the younger generation would envy.

I had talked a little to her about her time before my birth in recent years, but in some visits over this last Christmas, despite a failing memory, she elucidated with great clarity on many parts of this. Her love of ballroom dancing dated back to the WWII era, and she enjoyed any opportunity to socialise.

She had done very well at school, and had wanted to continue her education, but opportunities for women to do so after the war were severely limited. Instead, after settling down with Granddad, and looking after Mum in her early years, she ran a small shop and became a well-loved member of the community.

She was a keen reader all her life, and loved culture of all kinds – a passion which she passed on to the rest of the family.

The times of her youth were tougher, and more socially conservative in many ways, but her pragmatic and positive spirit seems to have got her through.

She always looked on the bright side even in the last few difficult years. Probably my fondest memory of her was seeing her delighted as I, my sister and Granddad kicked a football around in the park. She always took the greatest pleasure in seeing others enjoying themselves.

My Week In Happy: Life gets in the way (in a good way)


IMG_1022Hello! I think this is the longest time I’ve left between blog entries  since I relaunched the in August.

However, this does not mean I’ve been short of things to be happy about.

First up, here’s a write-up I did of the show and tell tea party hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks on Sunday 25th January.

Some great talks on everything from code-breakers to music makers, plus Katie demos her new robot…

Thing two. Thank you to everyone who kindly commented on ‘Can smart cities be kind cities’ – I have many more thoughts on this and will certainly be revisiting this theme very soon.

Thing three. I’m working hard ahead of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday 10th February. More of that next week.

Once that done I’m pledging to myself that it will be business as usual for ‘My Week In Happy’. Onwards and upwards!