Tuesday 29 January 2008

The Terrible Twins

My husband Harry is an identical twin, half an hour older than his brother.
They were born long before scans were invented & it was a complete shock to their mother, when a second baby popped out!
Their father must have been still suffering from shock when he entered the name Harry on the birth certificate instead of Harold, the name he had been instructed by his wife to use. He entered his second son as Laurence & they have been known as Harry & Larry ever since, like Tweedledum & Tweedledee, opposite sides of bookends, very alike even now.
When they sit together, they cross their legs in the same way & at the same time & have the same mannerisms. They visit each other twice a week & phone each other several times a day.

It must have been a nightmare for their teachers, as when they were young, they wore identical clothes & often changed roles to the point of accepting each other's punishments. They were known as "The Terrible Twins".
Even today they are often mistaken for each other & people get very confused when one of them completely ignores a friend of the other twin.

By far the funniest incident occurred when our daughter, Debbie, was marrying Rupert at the church where we were very well known. The bridegroom, best man & the rest of the congregation were expecting Harry to appear with the bride at any moment, before walking up the aisle together. The bridesmaids were already outside the church & there was an air of expectancy hanging over everyone.
The vicar suddenly noticed Larry sitting in the pew near the front, with the other relatives.
He seemed agitated & rushed over . "Harry, you are meant to be with Debbie, what are you doing here?" He managed to gasp. Of course he didn't realize that there were two of them, never having met Larry before.
During the wedding reception, several people asked Harry why he kept changing his suit, not knowing that Larry was also mingling with the crowd in a suit of a different shade & style.

A few years ago, Larry injured his back & was supposed to be lying flat while recovering. Harry was up a ladder painting the outside of his brother's house, when he was noticed by some one who knew Larry was on sick benefit. Now that took a bit of explaining!

In case anyone is wondering ............ no! I have never muddled Harry with Larry & neither has Rhoda, my sister in law ............ at least, not that I know of!

Saturday 26 January 2008

The Yearly Sparrow Exodus

Well, here it comes again, The Big Garden Bird Watch organized by the RSPB and not an effing bird to be seen!
A month ago my tiny garden was heaving with birds & 30 sparrows at a time would come to my bird feeders, so tame that I could easily walk amongst them without them panicking. 
For some mysterious reason, probably only known to the birds themselves or to experts who devote all their time to studying birds, all the bird population does a flit just before the Big Garden Bird Watch. 
I suppose we are lucky to get birds to visit at all, living in the middle of a city. Our garden is less than 50ft long & only half as wide. We have a few high dense shrubs that the sparrows like to hide in, which is a good thing as we have had several visits from a sparrow hawk. We have patio, no lawns and lots of plants growing in tubs as well as a couple of tiny ponds.
Next door has half a dozen cats of assorted colours but the bird feeders are high up, away from moggy reach, so casualties are few and I don't ever put seed on the ground. I might have had more luck with a moggy watch!
So why do birds decide to leave the city in January, just before the Bird Watch? Maybe some one out there knows the reason.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Invisible Dinner Ladies!

School Meals Supervisor or SMSA for short. Sounds grand doesn't it? In ordinary English it means dinner lady, which is one of my part time jobs.
One of my working colleagues exclaimed to me recently, "You know, the children stare right through me when I tell them off, its just as though I'm invisible!" Before I could stop myself, I exclaimed, "That would make a good title, Invisible Dinner ladies", (thinking of my Blog) She gave me a strange look & I added, "For a story." My Blog is , of course a secret. However, I knew exactly what she meant. Children do blank you out, hoping the trouble will go away.
In our large, urban school there are more than 90 children in each of the playgrounds and the noise is almost equal to a jet fighter going over head. Only it never does go over head. Its there all the time! No wonder I have ringing in the ears!
Its been pouring with rain for days & indoor play caused through rain, is one of our worst nightmares. We are, though, a stoical lot & only go indoors during a heavy downpour & we don't let drizzle put us off. During this kind of weather, every day is a bad hair day for fine, straight hair like mine.
The little children are highly dependent on the two of us, (3 if we are lucky). Most of the time is spent doing up zips & trying to get awkward little fingers into the ends of their gloves. I would be a rich lady if I had a pound for every coat I have done up, but money is not what it is all about. Even though we are much needed, we are not well paid.
Obviously we have to like children & a knowledge of First Aid helps, as there is a regular supply of blooded knees & elbows to deal with, occasional nose bleeds & other minor injuries. The rest of the time is spent sorting out disputes & helping children not to kill each other.
When  the wind blows from the north east & rain slashes into my face, I wonder, "What am I doing here?"
Then I am reminded occasionally by the tiny tots who give me a hug or take my hand, that yes, I really do like the job.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Chucking it down

Unfortunately, I was confined to bed last Friday with a really bad stomach bug. The rain was chucking it down all day and slashing into the windows. (It wasn't even Friday the 13th, but felt like it.)
Sod's law would have it that it was the day that Harry had booked up to see "Mama Mia", a musical that everyone was raving about & I was really looking forward to seeing it as we don't often go out these days.
I realized there was no way that I'd make it & there was nothing left to do but to try and give my ticket to someone else.
Kaiko, our Japanese daughter in law, jumped at the opportunity, so I just resigned myself to listening to the radio, in bed, while they went.

Now, I am an avid people watcher & also love to listen into other people's conversations in the bus. I often say to Harry,"Shush a minute," when he starts to go on about the weather or some other trifling thing, in a big loud voice because he is rather deaf. I am listening in to two old ladies  one of whom is slagging off a horrible daughter in law & explaining in detail the terrible things she has done. There's me trying to get to the most exciting bits  & Harry keeps going on, "Why what's the matter?" He seems to take no notice of my facial expressions at all!

Anyway, I was lying in bed, chucking up in a bucket (sorry if anyone reading this has a delicate constitution) and I suddenly was amused by the thought that there were possibly other people watchers out there.
What would other people think about the strange looking pair in the coach or at the theatre? 
Kaiko is a slim, pretty and young person & Harry is, well...... older & white haired & rather rough looking. Would they think he had chosen someone to order from the Internet? Would they think that Kaiko was so desperate that she had  to choose an old man? Was she sacrificing herself so that she could come to England? For obvious reasons, she could not be his daughter!

Oh well, get back to my bucket, but at least I have the idea for another blog!

Thursday 17 January 2008

Indoor Snow Scene

Rick, my eleven year old grandson, came downstairs & said, "Grannie, I think Amber and Millie have done something wrong."
My daughter, Debbie, who was visiting us for a few days, had been remarking that it was very quiet upstairs especially as there were four children in the house.
Alarm bells ringing, my son, Sam & I went dashing upstairs.
Rick led us into the spare room that Debbie had been sleeping in.
The scene that awaited us was unbelievable. I had no idea that half a packet of wallpaper paste could go so far when sprinkled around to create a snow storm! Why ever didn't I throw it out? What a stupid place to keep it under the guest room sink, even if it was in the cupboard.
All four children looked decidedly sheepish. 
Dean, my 9 year old grandson & Rick looked  somewhat guilty and both of them had smirks on their faces but denied any knowledge of the act. Amber, aged 5 was saying, "It wasn't me." Millie, aged 3 insisted it wasn't her.
I wonder who really inspired this?
Maybe we shall never know!

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside!

"You have to be over sixty to get on here, mate," called out a cheeky male Pensioner to a youngster trying to get on our bus.
Harry & I were upstairs looking down on the unfortunate young lad who was waiting to board the bus packed with senior Citizens, who were going on an outing using their free bus passes for the first time. We were heading for the local seaside which was an hours ride away.
I expect the youngster felt as uncomfortable getting on our bus as I would feel walking through a group of hoodies. A bit intimidating with a fear of the unknown. We must have looked as though we had all been let out of some institution for the day without a carer! Of course most of them were much older than either Harry or me! 
Being able to hop on a bus for free, opened up new horizons and we started to make these trips most weekends using the money we saved to buy a meal in a restaurant or a pub lunch with a drink. No need to worry about driving!
Trouble is that we must get to the bus stop by 3.30 in order to get a place in the long queue for home because dozens & dozens of pensioners are in a similar situation & do not want to be caught in the rush hour. The buses go from half hourly to one hourly after that time. Sometimes there is a real stampede when the bus arrives and people are ticked off for queue jumping. Our age group was brought up to queue properly and wait our turn & will not tolerate that sort of thing. There is always some one who breaks the rule though & needs to be "put in their place"!

Our Japanese Invasion - and how we survived it

"Grannie, get out of this house, Grandad, get out of that chair, it's my house, my chair!"
Three year old Millie is going through a possessive phase at the moment and thinks everything belongs to her! Only six months ago Harry and I were living in our fairly large town house by ourselves. Pensioners, apart from my two part time jobs, living a quiet life, only pleasing ourselves, with nothing to hurry for, or worry about, in our lives (quite boring really!) - apart from the RAT, that is, but that's another story!
In August we suffered an invasion from the Orient! My son Sam and his Japanese wife Kaiko, five year old Amber and of course Millie, came to live with us. Coming from a bilingual family Amber and Millie could understand English well enough but as they had never lived here before they only spoke Japanese which made talking to them extremely frustrating as they could understand me but not I them! They soon learned not to speak to me in Japanese!
Deciding to 'up sticks' and build a life over here, they came almost like refugees with most of their possessions crammed into just two suitcases.
Amber settled into school very well and both children started speaking English at an incredible rate.
I would like to be able to write "and we all lived happily ever after" but this is no fairy tale. We are a real family with real people, each with individual needs and habits. At first, we all thought it was like a wonderful holiday but after a month or so, Harry and I felt shellshocked and felt a little bit like it wasn't our home anymore. We all felt claustrophobic, except for Amber and Millie who loved all the extra space they had in a large English house after living in fairly cramped conditions in Japan where space is a premium. Harry and I are really pleased to have the family with us and adore the children. Following some initial heated differences of opinion we have settled into a pretty good style of communal living and maybe after six months we are now much more tolerant of each other. We have grown used to waiting for the bathroom, finding a slot to do the cooking in our kitchen and sharing the car. Occasional nights when the children are wakeful means we are all wakeful, and crotchety the next day. Did we really mange to survive sleepless nights when our children were young? Suddenly we felt our age.
When I think about it, I feel we have really achieved something and I am very pleased with the last six months. There is no way Harry or I could have survived that long with our in-laws, not even for a fraction of that time, without a murder or two taking place!
We might need to get along well for another six months, but hopefully Sam will get the job he wants, buy the house around the corner and that will be the ideal condition for all of us. Until then we are quite enjoying our situation.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Gordon Bennett!

As a child, I often wondered why people were always exclaiming my father's name. It happened to be Gordon Bennett!
After many years of nudge nudge wink wink type comments referring to my Dad's name, it was a relief when I married Harry and became Mrs Maggie May. Eight years into our marriage, Rod Stewart put paid to that for ever!