Race for life.

So it was the hottest day of the year so far.... but WE DID IT. The girls from the the Book and Pudding Group Raced for Life... though it really was too hot to do the sprint we intended..... (no, really...)

Ali, Ali, Wils and JJ/DD (not in photo) made it round the 5km course in about 70 minutes (with essential pauses on the hill to Parliament Buildings).

And we got medals to prove it!

For our American friends - Parliament Building, Stormont - it's where our elected representatives run Northern Ireland from.... I'll leave the political comments on how well they do it for another time!

The grounds are beautiful - woodland, open lawns and lovely walks... it's just on the outskirts of Belfast.

I'm not sure how many people took part but we saw walker number 5248 along the way. It was really well organised and there was a fantastic atmosphere.

Best of all was the finish line! Dad came to cheer us on as did Ali's husband and son.

The fundraising target was a whopping 389 thousand pounds (over 630 thousand dollars) but I've no idea how much money has been raised overall. I know I'm well over target so far, and to everyone who dug deep into their pockets and wallets, THANK YOU. We can all feel proud to have done something very good today. (If you haven't chipped in yet and would still like to.... it's not too late - I'll leave the "sponsor me" button on the blog for a few more days.)

I'll let the snaps speak for themselves.

Allow me to introduce.... Jennifer

I have a friend called Jennifer.

We've been friends since we were eight, when she'd come to Northern Ireland from the USA to stay with her grandmother who lived in the sweetest little village in Co Down.

It was home to many families over the summer months when I was a child. The moment school finished in June, the car was packed and we drove to the caravan park to be surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles, grand- parents and friends until the end of August.

It was bliss.

On good days, the children escaped after breakfast and only returned throughout the day for food. When the light faded at night, we were exhausted and we headed "home" to the "van". The gas mantles hissed, the curtains were drawn, and the air full of the smell of hot buttered toast and tea which kept body and soul together until breakfast.

There were so many friends. We spent our days on the beach poking around rockpools, jumping into the sea at the harbour, cycling, wandering up the coastal path to Orlock to see the seals and talking, talking, talking.

On colder damp days, all the cousins piled into one caravan for a marathon game of Monopoly that kept us going till evening.

Now, the caravans have gone, and there are houses. I moved here in 1995 and my parents followed in 2002 and we're still surrounded by old friends. I've written about it before here.

Anyway, back to Jennifer. We met at CSSM - the Children's Mission... maybe in 1970 or '71? To this day I can never remember if the middle bit of CSSM meant Sea Side or Special Service. For two weeks every summer, the CSSM team moved in, the guitars were tuned, the sandcastle pulpit built and decorated every morning with shells and flowers and we got down to some serious chorus singing and Bible teaching.

The year we both turned 21, Jennifer joined us to be part of the team in Derry and we had a blast. My friends HJ & M who are now married and live close by, were also on that team, and HJ hosted Jennifer's 21st birthday party that August. We've all been friends a long time.

As soon as they heard I was to have surgery for breast cancer at the end of December 07, Jennifer and her family booked flights and came to visit. We had a great new year's eve in HJ and M's house with lots of friends. It was a tough year, made easier by her phonecalls, bandana mailings and prayers.

She isn't just an old friend from America, she's my sister minus the DNA and now she's on the same journey. This time, it's me booking the flights....

Jennifer, a walk on the beach, a mug of tea and a good giggle are called for... but they'll have to wait a while. It was balmy this evening - the hottest day of the year so far, and after a late tea, Robo, Rosebud and I hit the beach for a dander - we recorded this about 9pm. (What were you doing at 4pm girl??!!)

We can't send you the smell of the sea, but this is the next best thing sis, so put your feet up and visit for a moment or two.... and enjoy!

Now to the rest of you.... we need to stuff this sodding disease once and for all.

Tomorrow is the "Race for life" and there's still time to put your hand in your pocket - the button for sponsoring me is on the top right hand side of this page..... go on, go on, go on. I might even let you walk on the beach next time you come by!

I'm doing this for mum and dad, and Anne and Eileen and Clemmie and Eric and Carrie and Jacky..... and now for Jennifer. Oh yes, and me too. Go on.....!