Her Memory of Tennis in the Sunshine.

Initially there were several reasons as to why I began writing this blog. It started out in my head as an outlet for deeper feelings and how I would deal with them as they sprung up, like loose floorboards in an old house and hit me squarely between the eyes, often catching me unawares. I think that over time it will grow into far much more than that, as it has already shown signs of doing.

Today I am feeling as though another reason for writing this will be to remind my partner and I years from now, what was going through our heads, the memories we have made and the ones that we have cherished.

Since Alzheimers is a genetic disorder, there is some concern on our part, that it may follow down the line over the course of time and this may serve to remind us of some of the wonderful times we have had and how loved we both are. I would love to write his own story, and share his memories which seem far more interesting than my own, but he is not inclined to allow me at this point. It would make interesting reading though but he remains a very private person.

Last year we finally lost his mother to a lengthy fight with Alzheimers Disease, she lived a life which had been both tragic and wonderful at times. She lived to what is considered a good age, but unfortunately she could not remember most of it. In latter years, when I visited her sometimes her eyes would glisten and a flash of a memory would return, along with the excitement of being able to share it with someone. On the occasions whilst she could still tell me, snippets of stories would come back to her and she would recount them, although sometimes they would be all intermingled. To me it didn’t matter how she remembered them, whether they were entirely factual or not, it just proved that her brain was still working, despite some short circuits and that she was in there somewhere. She was a good friend to me and I have been thinking fondly again about her today, as I often do. It was devastating when she could no longer speak to share her thoughts, my last conversation with her was in October 2014 and after that her silence was awful, which the chatter of others around her was deafening, she passed away in March 2015.

She often told me about the Grand old house in Kent where they used to live as children, it was where she had grown up with her two brothers before the loss of her beloved mother in her teens, it was very clear that she was happiest there. They had a large house with Tennis courts out the back and she was playing tennis in the sunshine, they backed onto woodland behind the house and the trees offered dappled light across the house and shade when out on the court. She often spoke of the tennis courts, she must have enjoyed the game. I think it was due to it being a bright sunny day today that, it reminded me of this.  It would be a wonderful day to play tennis, I would have loved to have played the game with her.

Advertisements

My Grandmother

“Let’s go and sit on the Haystack, and whose got the lipstick?” I never knew the exact circumstances or what would follow, but somehow it symbolised Jessie, to my mother, the person whom she would know as a friend as well as family. The person I knew who was so different, a Stoic, Matriarch and Christian lady of the church and would not want to be recognised as the flirty young girl who once was, who gained three proposals before settling upon my Grandfather. I remember my mother telling me that it was something my Grandmother had shared with her once.

I am sure that there were still signs of the girl she once was to her friends from younger years and also to my Grandad and I for one would have loved to have known her better then, but by the time I came along, she was already Nanny, to look at her, you might think Grandma, but no she was always called Nanny. I knew very little about her younger years, just that she was a very attractive young lady who bore a striking resemblance to a young Princess Elizabeth, who would later become Queen. I was ten years old when I lost her, but for a moment would like to share in some of the memories I do have of this wonderful woman, whom I was proud to call family.

I recall how she was heavily involved with the church, a local Baptist church and organised the Christian Aid jumble sales to raise funds abroad. We always knew when Christian Aid week was or when Christ had Risen, since there was a poster proudly displayed in the front window for all to see. I passed a home the other day, with the same familiar purple and white Christ is Risen! text with a cross, which suddenly got me thinking about her.

She was a creative woman, I knew this since she taught me how to bake cakes, knit and read music when I was learning to play the recorder at school amongst many other things. She also taught me how to build an open fire and clean it out after it had burned away and toast bread on a toasting fork. She had a sweet tooth and a liking for “Lift” Lemon Tea, which she used to make in a tea glass with a plastic holder and a long spoon for stirring the sugar in. I have the two of those glasses still to this day the ones we used to share on cold winter evenings amongst many other sentimental treasures. She had three black cats all at once, which was unusual at the time for someone to have quite so many, they were named Buster, Timmy and Sooty and I thought they were great. Buster used to let himself in and out of the back door by standing on his back legs and pushing the handle down with his paw and Sooty was the last remaining one who lived to be 23 years old and outlived her. My Nanny could put on a fantastic spread for the whole family and cook a mean roast dinner with all the trimmings, but always overcooked the vegetables, we found out later it was due to her having trouble with the false teeth, but at the time we had no clue. I guess we were just too young to understand.

I remember that in the summer months, we would congregate at Nanny and Grandads’ house for Sunday Lunch and family gatherings under the huge weeping willow tree which stood in their garden, I was devastated when years later, my Grandad cut it down, it held so many memories. Nanny attempted to teach me to crochet, but for some reason, I could not do it, preferring to knit. Years before I came along, she had once ran a haberdashery store from the front of the house, which by the time we came along had been turned into her bedroom, but the wooden shop style fitted cupboards remained and held a plethora of the stock she had kept when she closed it down. There were bolts of fabric in there and packets of best knitting wool, which I craved to be able to knit something wonderful with since there was so much of it. Instead at the time I hadn’t the skill so ended up knitting small dresses and outfits and blankets for my Sindy dolls and Teddies.

Nanny would not have approved! She always kept things for best, there were cupboards full of things she was keeping for best when she died. But whilst she was alive and well, there were recycled buttons and unravelled wool for making things like that but I was just a child. She and Grandad were both really good at recycling things, I think my own quest for recycling came from there frugality.

If Dad had got his way, I would have borne her middle name Florence as my own. As a child of the 70’s I am grateful that Mum won that debate since the ridicule once I arrived at School would have been unbearable. The Magic Roundabout was a great program for kids, we used to watch and enjoy it but I didn’t want a living hellish part of it as I was growing up. For a sensitive child having a strange name was already difficult enough in a world full of Emma’s. In my infants school alone, there were as many as three Emma’s in every class I had. I craved for a more common name like Emma so that I might just fit in.

But back to Jessie. We had fun, we used to go to their house at weekends. Saturday night into Sunday, with my cousins and my brother, we would stay over and all head off to church together the next day. It was walking distance from Nanny and Grandads’ and because he couldn’t fit four children and two adults into his car, Grandad would drive down and bring Nanny back in the car afterwards. This served two purposes, we would walk there and back, which involved playing on the way home and so would be sufficiently tired by the time we reached Nanny’s and Lunch would be almost ready by the time we all arrived there. Since my Brother was four years older than me and the eldest, and my cousins were only a year or two around me in age, there were safety in numbers and our grandparents only lived four roads from the church, it was deemed safe for us to walk home without getting into too much trouble. Nanny would be putting the finishing touches to the Sunday Lunch that our parents would join us to enjoy when we arrived back. Sometimes, I would be able to help with the cooking.

On other occasions she would bake and I loved baking with her.
I remember being invited to Nanny’s one day to help her bake some cakes. She had one of those 1950’s kitchen store cupboards in her house, with numerous doors and drawers, which served as an extra work surface when needed and small children were assisting in the kitchen. There was also a blue Formica covered kitchen table, which was her work surface for rolling out pastry etc. and after my grandparents passed away, I inherited the table for a while, for sentimental reasons. I had to get out the kitchen steps to be able to reach the top shelf of the cupboards which contained a large selection of Homepride Bakers with Bowler hats, who held all the wonderful ingredients we needed for baking. Along with a selection of Cornish pottery with the blue and white stripes. I loved being in her kitchen. It looked out from a huge double sink over the garden. My Grandad had built the kitchen as an extension years earlier for her and it was just the right size and had become the hub of the house. On this particular occasion though, I’d been invited to bake with her and she had let me have free reign. Nanny loved to make scones which were would be later drenched in butter and jam whilst still warm from the oven. It was our treat for making them she said. Margaret, was our Minister’s daughter from the church and had been invited to join us on this occasion.
We assembled the ingredients to make the pastry and Nanny asked what we were going to make. She had hoped for some jam tarts for a cake stall maybe, or just for tea, but creativity kicked in and we made furniture.

Yes, Pastry furniture. On a baking tray, we rolled, moulded to create a three piece suite each, sofa and two chairs, with pastry arms and cushions made from Jam. They were kind of like tarts, weren’t they, but much more inspired! Margaret and I had such a wonderful time and since there was still a little of the pastry left over for a more traditional jam tart, Nanny also got her wish. But the sofas were out piece de resistance, and I can remember her mother’s surprise when we answered her question, “So, what did you make today?” when she collected Margaret later that day and we chorused “Jam Sofas and Chairs” “I’ve had such fun, when can I come again?” she said. Her mother’s eyebrows went up and she took her away, I don’t think she was allowed to come and play again.

Christian Aid week was always hard work for Nanny, she would spend the weeks leading up to it, collecting and sorting through donations from people. They would be dropping off sacks of jumble for the sale, and Grandad would be getting cross that she had taken over his garage again and he had to park on the driveway instead. Since we lived in the next road, Mum and I would be called upon to help and sort things through before they were sold. We were not well off, so if there was something that we needed in the clothing department, then Nan would let us have it just for helping, since the items were donated for people in need. If there was a toy there, we had to make a donation from our pocket money for it. I am sure that it encouraged our love of bargain hunting in later years. Nan’s philosophy was that these were donated goods for children and families in need and if we were in need, we should also do what we could to help.

There was always heaps of clothing, toys and bric-a- brac and it all had to be sorted out. Nan’s kindness was a double edged sword though, since I often received clothing which had been donated by families locally, I would then turn up wearing things at school, since we did not have a uniform at our school, only to be bullied for being poor, and wearing someone‘s old clothes, or wearing something that Mum had made or altered to fit me, amongst other things.

Nanny must have been great at selling though, she was always busy at the jumble sales, there were regulars who would queue up to come and buy from her stall no matter what and we would be roped in to help. My brother and I once had our photograph taken for the local newspaper chattering away on some toy telephones we had picked out from the jumble sale. There are just not enough of them around now, Jumble Sales. Time has moved on with the arrival of boot and table sales, have we lost the community spirit which used to surround these events and the joy to rummage. My curiosity never wanes but rummaging is now met with displeasure for messing up someone’s display. I miss the jumble sale.

I remember fondly those Saturday nights spent at Nanny and Grandads’ house, the boys used to sleep in the back bedroom, whilst the girls used to share the big room at the front with Nanny. We were always getting told off for talking late into the night and giggling. It always backfired though, when we would be awake several hours later when Nanny came to bed, then she would keep us awake with her snoring. One Sunday morning we were discussing that Nanny snored, much to her horror when we demonstrated just how loud it was, to the boys amazement, she retorted with “Well you all talk in your sleep” We sat there in disbelief. Grandad corroborated her story, yes they said, you don’t stop talking even in your sleep. We were amazed and immediately asked what we had been saying. It wasn’t as interesting as we thought it would be, but nevertheless it must have hatched a plan in her head. The very next weekend, they decided to prove it to us.

We all stayed over as usual and had forgotten the conversation during the week which had followed. Some time after we had all gone too bed, Nanny opened the bedroom doors to our room and the boys. There she sat in the hallway, poised with tape recorder and microphone and recorded my cousins and I having a conversation, from two rooms away. So there were four children across a hallway conversing in their sleep. At the breakfast table the next morning, she played us the tape to our absolute amazement.

As an adult, I have a picture in my head of my dear Grandmother, sitting in her hallway on a Saturday night tape recorder in hand, just to prove her point and realise that I am so much like her in so many ways. If I have a point to prove, I will go to any lengths to do so. I am also stubborn, just as she was. It’s been over thirty years since I have seen her, but I am so pleased to be able to tell you these small stories about her.

Learning to Fly

It was a time, when Nectar points meant fun! Nectar points for the uninitiated, are store card points as a Thank you for shopping, whilst your spending habits are dissected. But at the time the possibilities were endless. You could save them up indefinitely and use them for experiences, instead of falling back on them to cover the emergency shop when you are broke, or being sent vouchers with an expiry date, which you would find weeks after they had run out and your rewards would be useless.

We had been saving them for a couple of years, to do something fun together and not knowing at that point that my partner had a fear of flying, I had booked the surprise for both of us to have a flying lesson as an anniversary present.

The day came and we checked the weather report, jumped in my car, a Saab convertible put the roof down and headed to the countryside I had selected a different airfield to our local one, so that we could see different scenery and explore it. It turned out that my partner had other plans, he would collar the instructor and see if time would allow and they would swap his part of the deal so that I could extend the experience. He would have his feet planted firmly upon the floor watching from the club house whilst I took off and he would enjoy a pint or two of Guinness and a cigar, it was a beautiful sunny day in the countryside and a pleasant place to pass the time. He succeeded in his plan, and since I had only ever travelled by air once for a holiday, I was excited, I knew that this was going to be different and I was looking forward to it, but slightly disappointed that he would not get to enjoy it with me. However I was going to get a long lesson, which was great.

I was introduced to the Pilot, a man who shared the same name as my father, but thankfully had a much more relaxed manner about him. He was friendly and informative and showed me all of the controls in the Piper 125 which we were going to take out. I clambered in, full of excitement and hoping that I would remember it all. I asked what happened if the engine failed. He told me not to worry since this type of plane could still be landed safely if the engine cut out, it basically glides. As we took off, he took us up over the countryside, I was in awe, I knew it would be beautiful. But it was so calm up there, I took a couple of photos in the cockpit. I seem to recall that we travelled at around 2700 feet, but may have that wrong.

As we climbed everything grew smaller, people disappeared into dots, cars and lorries, into matchbox figures disappearing completely and trees and green spaces turned into a blanket of fields as we floated through the bumpy clouds. Colin allowed me to take the controls and told me how to move the rudder to change direction and the pedals to keep it steady. He could see my interest and excitement in the process and when I asked him to show me how to loop the loop, he obliged. We travelled quite some distance and talked along the way, I was able to see my home town, fly over my parents and our house. Along the Estuary past the pier and up to the docks, where I could see small cranes and brightly coloured containers being unloaded from the ships, It looked so much better there from that height. I was on top of the world. I loved every minute of that flight and decided that I would love to do that again as soon as possible. As someone who was claustrophobic in certain environments, I was not sure how I would feel up there, but to my relief it was wonderful. We had the small window open in that plane and the thermal breeze floated through.

I remember saying to him that I had to resist the urge to put my foot on the accelerator like in a car, since it would upset the balance of the plane and there seemed to be no sense of speed up there, but you were still travelling, it took some getting used to, but I think I mastered it.

As we headed back, Colin explained that it was a wonderful job, that he could fly over to France in less than an hour, have a nice lunch and a bit of sightseeing and be back in time for tea. I was hooked on the idea, that one day I would learn to fly and when I got that lottery win, there would be a small plane in there somewhere to do just that.

He asked me if I was sure that I hadn’t flown before as I seemed to be so at ease up there, I must admit that I felt no tension, it had all just floated away whilst I was up there. Flying back, Colin told me I was going to land the plane. I asked if he was sure, he told me that he was confident in my ability, we came in to a lovely smooth landing and I couldn’t help but be pleased. As I taxied the plane back to it’s parking spot, past the bar, my beloved was standing there, waving and with an ear to ear smile.
I jumped out and he ran over to me, he’d been worried since we were only supposed to be an hour, an hour and a half had passed and we hoped that I had not got him into trouble. He asked Colin “how did she do?” “An absolute Natural she should learn to fly”…. he replied.

I had to tell him all about it as we drove home around Sunset, he decided that if we ever could afford it, then we should make it happen. Six months later we returned for another lesson.

Thirty Years, Just Think!

 

In our family we think about Birthdays wherever we are in the world, but if we are together usually on that day, If I am speaking to my father, he has what we refer to as the “Just Think” moment. It is when he reminisces about the time I was born and tells me about it. It draws me close to him for a moment and gives me the warm fuzzy feeling, it is nice that he still remembers. I had my very own “Just Think” moment for a very special lady in my life, so Happy 30th Birthday to my Little Sister.

Thirty years ago tonight
As this poem I try to write.
We were expecting to arrive,
a child who would change my life.
Was so small when I kissed her,
So pleased to have a little sister.

At twelve years old, I’d have never bet
A new sibling I would have met.
I went to sleep asked Dad to wake me.
“If she comes along I want to see!”
But with other ideas you didn’t delay,
And so very quickly you were on your way.
Arrived so quickly they had to run,
Mum there with baby by half past one.

On TV there was a big boxing fight,
We watched it at home that very night.
Between Big Frank and Tiny Tim,
I’d got you a bear and that’s what I named him.
The first little bear, but you had a few
This was the one that I gave to you.
Arrived to visit Mum and her tot.
And placed him beside you in your cot.

As time’s gone by she’s big and grown,
Things changed a bit when the nest I’d flown
But tried to be there for her as I may,
Would offer her a place to stay.
Would attend the home for a visit,
Be there when needed to baby sit.

We’d go out for Ice Cream at the “Eating Pub”
When aching and sore, my back she would rub.
She really was the sweetest kid,
The one that we all called “The Didd,”
It’s because she was the Diddie one
Smallest of three to Dad and Mum.

For a cause, she’ll stand up and fight.
Her teeth and claws may give you a fright.
Slender and swift, she’ll pounce like a cat.
Would like the last word and that is that!
Looking at her, I’m pleased to state,
She has about her the family trait.
Being there for you, when up or you’re down,
Always happy to stop for a coffee in town.

Will help you with the odd household chore,
And shopping with her is never a bore.
Don’t know what’s been decided to follow which path,
When we’re together, don’t hold back just laugh.
I love her so much, just as I ought,
Of course there’s been times when we fought.

On a few occasions I have met her friends,
But that is not where the story ends.
Going about with her long fiery hair,
Says what she means without a care.
She’s arty and clever and ever so loud,
But she’s my sister and makes me proud.
Through thick and thin this I have learned,
And to achieve her own success I’ve yearned.
With her there’s certainly no room for faking,
And her successes will be of her making.
She gets up on stage and sings her heart out,
Excitement abounding she’ll jump and shout.
So now that the baby has finally shown,
She’s a woman today, I’m pleased to have known.
Doesn’t matter how near or how far,
Travel required by train or by car.
But always know we’ll be together,
Through thick or thin, my sister forever.
So please raise a glass tonight to drink,
And as you do, say to her “Just think”

Keeping it for Best

045The tattered duvet cover was once her best one, she had purchased it after moving into the house, five years before. It was embroidered with silver and pewter and gunmetal on a white background, she would dress the bed in it, if there were people coming over who might see it as they were going past the room.

She looked at the now faded colours, the bleached marks, pulls and loose threads. There was fur where the dog had been laying on it and a small hole, where the spark from a candle had fallen. It had caught on the bedpost and formed a small tear. She suddenly realised that all of this had significance.

This is what Life can be like just after five years… With all that gets thrown at it, it can become tired, exhausted in fact. But you can still find comfort in it, however battered it may be. When others take a look, they can see clutter, old things of the past, things that should be thrown away, but yet you are inclined to take comfort in some of the past and the sentiment you hold for it.

The Tale of Boomerang.

037

This is the Tale of Boomerang,
Right from back where it began.
A story from long time ago,
Never thought would love a little car so

Thinking of the trips in this, they’ll go far,
As they made their plans for the little car.
Of a beautiful Saab she would often dream,
Not usually red, she had seen one in cream.
Planted firmly upon her wish list,
Her sights set hard, through time she wished.
For this was a dream she set out to achieve,
A possible goal made with time to breathe.
But her licence would come and a date he’d set,
When her dream would come true and that car she’d get.
They travelled the country far and wide,
A passenger then just enjoying the ride.
Emotional journey to her old car farewell,
they had moved on it was time to sell.
She thought of all the ones that had been,
Of all of the sights, she had finally seen.
Days out in the sunshine when the weather was fine.
Trips off to France to load up on wine.
The roof down the breeze and wind on their faces,
A clear stretch of road, enjoying the races.
A short while passed and he wanted to upgrade,
But with the red car she wished she’d stayed.
The first car she had from passing her test,
It was the one that she loved the best.
Driving past one the pang it sends
As they went along in their Mercedes Benz,
Don’t get me wrong although it was fun,
The Saab was much better in the long run.
Think of the joys in little red,
All of those journeys we wore some tread.

They travelled to town for a funeral,
Journeyed back talking through it all.
And in an unknown place that they passed,
Sharp intake of breath and they were aghast.
They stopped up the road, couldn’t believe their luck.
With the car at the garage, the man was stuck,
There’s been thirteen people for it, I’ve been sent.
Take it away, as for you it was meant.
She skipped out to the car to see it again,
A smile on her face, she’d get it, When?
The chance of getting her dream car back,
Excitement of driving, she’d no longer lack.
He arranged with the man and did the deal,
No comprehension of how she would feel.
Once again she’d got her red car,
He’d come right back a shining star.

Later when the time was right,
He asked her if she just might
A suggestion that they would chop him in,
Not sure about that, it would be a sin.
Looked at a car, eyes wide with awe,
To get rid of red, would leave her sore.
But sense kicked in as he was growing older,
They thought about something much, much bolder.
She drove him away shedding a tear.
He’s been there for her, for many a year.

The new car arrived and was all that she hoped,
But about little red, he often joked.
Thought it was cruel, she would never forget,
Stabbed each time with the pain of regret.
One day when they travelled out for the day.
Crossing back across country from the bay.
You’ll never guess what he took her to see.
There was her Red, as bright as can be!
Waiting for her and ready to go,
Her name on the plate he’d proudly show.
Life would surely never be the same,
They sent him away, now they’ve got him again.
Drove with the roof down, not even a care,
Windswept and laughing happy to share.
They drove him back home with wondrous smiles,
As he readily ate up the miles.
Swept up in a moment he’s back here to stay.
We never really, should have sent him away.
Should let you all know, that as I recall,
He’s not very little, there’s room for us all
The tale of Boomerang, was once little red.
You should keep him forever, That’s what he said.

George’s Hidden Treasure

CAM02143

When we came and found it,
We looked here and there.
Picked a spot to sit,
but wasn’t even a chair.
I thought I’d tell what I know about George,
And the friendship that we would forge.
You see, the house it had been stripped,
Of all his worldly goods.
Or so we thought, as we tripped,
Around the sheds and woods.
But as we ventured all around,
The odd treasure still to be found.
An occasional thing had been replaced,
Or scattered about, a little defaced.
In the sheds hung his old tools,
The scavengers, were only fools.
Inside the house there was a table,
But with small minds they weren’t able.
For a moment to stop and think,
As to why it was covered in ink.
I wanted to do a little research,
In the garden, of pine and birch.
There’s bottles and baskets and old clothes,
Digging around an old treasure trove.

Picture a place with a scene of beauty,
Looking around at nature’s bounty.
A place filled with such mystery,
As I began to research his story.
There were pots that had been made by hand,
Strange things I’d found buried on the land.
Antique ladders, a walking stick
To get you about when you’re in the thick.
A painting or two hidden above the stair,
Behind the wall when I stripped it bare.
Writing was not just his legacy,
He was an artist who craved to be free.
Visiting ladies to the hilltop would clamour,
To his studio to sit, with none of the glamour.
He would sit alone and he’d paint
In the house, so cold and very quaint.
Perhaps he had some heating supply,
Upon which he could rely.
There disrobed on a couch she might lay,
Whilst the farmer was off, making hay.

Around these parts it was said, he’s a scribe,
The odd bottle of brandy was known to imbibe.
Walking around, you should take a look
Searched to find copies of his book.
For this is the place he chose to reside,
Next to the house where the horses will ride.
Lived there alone and up there he hunted,
With coldness of winter he was confronted.
Wrote books about writing and he had laid claim,
of stories and cooking which wasn’t so plain.
There was a short doorway, it wasn’t so tall,
But it did for him, he was decidedly small.
Some time ago I read of his travels,
But with time, the story unravels.
But over the years, the things that he crafted
Remain buried here and they’ve lasted.
Things he created, sit out the back,
There in the garden, a wonderful plaque.
His scattered remains of the man he once was,
We leave it right there, just because.
Although the scribe has temporarily vacated,
The delight to share, is unabated.
The place where he once took his pleasure,
He still resides in his time of leisure.
As guardians here now we’ve been sent,
His spirit has shown, for us it was meant.
For right up here might be where it began,
The house that belonged to a little wee man.
He visited once to bid us adieu
Now raising a glass to him, Salut.