Nowadays you are more likely to see me walking or cycling in the hills and valleys of the Upper Teme and Ithon in Powys or walking in the Alpujarra mountain range in Southern Spain than in Birmingham or London.

Orchids near Newtown

When I am on my own, I take my Spanish podcasts with me to help reach my goal of being able to converse well in Spanish.

Birmingham still feels like “home”.  It is where I was born and where we brought up Tom and Jack but since my retirement from parliament in 2010, after 18 years as the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak MP, it has been great to swop the weekly journeys to and from London for less frequent and longer-lasting trips to the countryside in Wales and Spain.

Cilfaesty Hill

Work as an MP was all-consuming but, despite predictions to the contrary, I have taken up retirement with relish and the days seem to fly by.  One of the downsides has been the effect that my enthusiasm for cooking, particularly baking cakes, has had on my waistline, so some attention must be given to reducing my weight this year.

Taking myself off to Spain last spring also led me to the delight of the Kindle – not just to avoid carting books around but to enable me to keep up my subscription to the FT and New Statesman wherever I am.  I spend so much time reading this stuff that I am afraid I have found myself lured back into the world of politics and wanting to put my oar in again – hence the decision to re-launch this website and to join the twitterati.

Keeping the old website going has had a few interesting spin-offs.  I was delighted to receive emails from people who had read the piece about my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, in which I wrote about the impact of seeing the suitcase belonging to Stella Popper, a victim of the atrocities there.  Matias in Uruguay had also particularly remembered Stella’s suitcase and wanted to know more about her.  Just before Christmas, I heard from Margaret and Debbi, who are related to Stella.  Margaret wrote:

My sister’s birth father’s name was Popper (as my sister) and a few years ago we started to research her family tree and discovered her ancestors originated from Austria, they came to the UK by boat in the early 19th century and travelled to Liverpool and took roots. Her father came to London where he met and married her mother and settled here. My sister still has family in Liverpool and they have given her lots of information and copies of documents from the past. She also has a copy photo of Stella Popper’s suitcase and a member of her family has the original photo which they are going to give her. We are researching information on Stella as we know she was a relative to my sister but not too sure yet how she is related. We now plan to visit Auschwitz next year and Stella’s suitcase, so thank you for the information and we will keep you informed of any new information we may find…

Unfortunately, I did not retain the records of the first person who contacted me about Stella whilst I was still an MP.  You were going to do some research on Stella, so if you see this “update”, please let me know what you have been able to find out!


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