Wednesday 27 February 2008

Go To Church And Lose A Brother?

Some of my early memories are quite vivid and every now and again I start to think of my childhood..........
We lived on the edge of a small town in the north of England and when I was five years old and my brother Godfrey was only half that age, my mum and dad tried to get us to go to church. I was, by then attending the local church school so I think they were both under pressure to attend the church, next door to it. During the services there was much sitting, kneeling and standing and Godfrey used to crawl along the pews at an amazing speed and my parents managed several times to rescue him from large ladies and gents who were about to squash him when they sat down.

It was decided, because of the difficulty of controlling Godfrey, that Mum would take me to church while Dad stayed at home and looked after my brother. There were no creches in those days.
"You will keep your eye on him, won't you?" Mum implored, as she knew only too well how absent minded my father was when he was absorbed in his music & reading and all his other hobbies that completely engrossed him.
"Of course I will," he said, closing the door behind us. I think I knew even at that age that there might be a bit of a problem looming up!

On our return home from church, Godfrey was nowhere to be seen. Dad said he could remember him playing in the garden only five minutes before we arrived home, so he couldn't be far away. Mum was very distraught and rapidly searched the house, garden and near friends and neighbours. However, he was not to be seen anywhere.
There was a duck pond down the lane and my mum thought Godfrey might have gone there on his own. We were used to going with her to feed the ducks, so he knew the way. A  local man had once told us that a horse and cart had galloped into the pond out of control and had disappeared into the water without trace, so we knew it was deep.
Mum grabbed me and together we rushed down the lane towards the pond as by now we had visions of him lying face down in the water. Thankfully, when we got to the pond, there was no trace of him, but we both remembered the story of the horse and cart that was never seen again.
I remember feeling really uncomfortable & despairing when my mum collapsed into a heap on the grass verge with her hands over her face, sobbing uncontrollably. I happened to look up the lane towards the main road and I saw an old lady holding Godfrey by the hand and she was knocking on the doors of houses along the road.  My mum dragged me and we raced as fast as my legs would carry me to the main road.

"What do you think you are doing with him?" she accused the old lady. 
The lady looked hurt and told Mum that she had found Godfrey by himself trying to cross the main road & she had been knocking on house doors trying to find out where he lived, without success. Mum caught him up in her arms. "I've been looking for him everywhere," she said "And you've been taking him further away from home."
Although I was only five years old, I can remember thinking how unfair my mum was being with the old lady, who had obviously been only trying to help Godfrey and I felt very embarrassed by her remark.
We turned towards home.
My dad was the centre of a major row and it was years before Mum and I ever went to Church together again.

Monday 25 February 2008

British Gastropod Invasion

According to a recent newspaper article, last year slugs and snails were rated as Public Enemy Number One for Britain's gardeners.
Thanks to the wettest year on record, they well and truly multiplied and chomped their way through our flowers and plants at an alarming rate.
I didn't really need the papers to tell me that as I knew only too well that our garden had been full of the pests! The RHS says that the best way to get rid of them is to sink jars of beer into the earth and the gastropods die a wonderful death! However we think this is a waste of beer! Our garden ends with a high wall with plants and high shrubs growing up against it. Beyond this is a lane wide enough to take a single vehicle and the shops on the other side of the lane have access.
Even the youngest member of our family understands what de slugging is! We have a springy fly swatter that we keep outside our back door. The slugs and snails are then scooped up and catapulted over the back wall into the lane. They then have the chance of survival and if they do get run over by a van then that is tough! We usually catapult a few at a time so as not to arouse suspicion and the children enjoy collecting them in little heaps ready for take off!
A friend of mine says that they have a homing instinct and always make their way back. She told me she had read of an experiment where blobs of red paint were put on their shells before they were released some way off and many did make it back. I thought as much as I do seem to have a number of snails with cracked shells wandering about.
One of my neighbours gathers her snails into a bucket & gets her teenage lad to release them in the park, some distance away. Another takes a bucket of the pests to the nearest duck pond, where the ducks feed on them with relish! A rather cruel method was used by another friend with a pair of scissors! I at least give mine a chance!

One day after one of my snails flew over the wall, I heard a muffed scream as some one walked by and I crouched low behind the wall hoping that whoever had been scared of the flying missile would think a bird had dropped it!

Public Enemy Number Two was listed as the harlequin ladybird. This was branded the "most invasive ladybird on Earth!" by British scientists writing in the journal BioControl. Although the harlequins have been around for a while now, they are still not that common where we live and when I did eventually recognize one in the garden, Sam rushed to get his camera and took several pictures. In his haste he managed to knock the creature into a spiders web and although he tried to retrieve it, he managed to lose it. 
The photos turned out to be disappointing and the ladybird was only as big as a pinhead so couldn't be identified at all.

I wonder if these two pests will keep their place in the list of Public Enemies of Britain's Gardeners this year? Or will something even worse invade the sanctuary of our beloved havens of peace and tranquility, which is of course, the British garden. 

Saturday 23 February 2008

A Spiteful Sister!

Quite often when I sit down on a park bench or other place where I feel I will have a bit of peace and quiet, some one inevitably chooses my bench to sit on and starts to tell me all their family troubles!
Have I got a sign on my head that says HERE IS A GULLIBLE PERSON WHO YOU CAN UNLOAD ONTO?
If I'm in a hurry I make some excuse to go, but sometimes I feel obliged to listen, like the other day!

A lady of around my age sat  herself beside me and while I was eating my sandwiches, started telling me about a terrible thing that had happened to her husband.
Apparently, her very elderly mother in law had just died. There'd been a family split beforehand. Her husband and his eldest sister had been totally ostracized when their younger sister & husband "took over" their mother while she was frail and had persuaded her to sign everything over to them.
The youngest sister, husband and boys went to live in the house, which was now theirs and when the son or his eldest sister tried to visit their mother, they were not made welcome and sometimes not even permitted over the threshold.
On the occasions that they had managed to slip in secretly for a visit, their mother told them that she was not being treated very well, sometimes having no one to cook for her, and as she had poor eyesight she found things very difficult. She was left alone for hours at a time. She bitterly regretted what had happened.
Some time before she died, her son took her a birthday gift but was told by the family that he couldn't see her as she had the flu. The younger sister took the present and shut the door in his face. That was to be the last time he would ever visit the family house again.
Unknown to the son or his older sister, their mother had been put into a home, where she had died.
The older sister had received a phone call from a complete stranger, who told them about the death and which funeral directors to get into contact with.

However, not only did the younger sister take all the estate and keep the death a secret, she also prevented her siblings from seeing their mother before the cremation. Apparently, as executors of the Will she could do that.

The lady dabbed her eyes and told me her husband was now a broken man and not in the best of health himself.
I was quite overcome with this tale.
What a spiteful thing to do! Preventing them from seeing their mother and keeping the death a secret.

I was left wondering if this could ever happen to my family, when I get too old?
I walked away with indigestion!

Thursday 21 February 2008

Who Am I?

Five year old Amber seems to be having an identity crisis. 
To be fair, she was plucked out of a Japanese nursery school and a home where she had happily lived with parents and sister, Japanese auntie, and grandparents and almost immediately started an English Reception class, all less than a year ago and the family is now living temporarily with Harry and me. So there's no doubt that she is a very adaptable little girl and she is doing well at school and learning our culture very quickly.

However there is some mix up going on in her head and before she went on holiday she was looking long and hard at me when she eventually said, "You are not part of my family."
ME.  "Yes I am. I'm your Grandma."
A.      "No you are not Japanese."
ME.   "I'm part of your English family."
A .     "You don't speak Japanese so you can't be family."
ME.   "You have a Japanese family like Mummy & an English family like Daddy."
A.      "No, Daddy speaks Japanese!"
ME.   "He is English but he speaks Japanese."
A.       (Getting very annoyed) "He is Japanese, he is, he is!"
ME.    "He is my son."
A.       "No, no he is MY son!"

A little talk ensued about relationships. The difference between sons & daddies. I went on to explain that Auntie Debbie was my daughter, Daddy's sister. Rick and Dean were cousins. Thought I had better not mention the obvious racial differences as she had not even noticed them!
Amber replied, "They are family but you are not. Nor Grandad! You are very mean to talk like that!" she said, stamping her foot and flouncing off!

I gave up, feeling a little confused myself, but one thing I know is that she has a stubborn streak in her, just like I have!

Monday 18 February 2008

The Ripples of Sadness

A stone thrown in water sends out ripples. 
Did you not realize, my sweet, tormented friend, all those years ago when you took your own life, that the ripples of sadness would still be affecting others?

The daughters you left behind are now around your age. The age you were when you met your sudden demise. But you are not forgotten, how could you be? You are part of the family memories. The happy times when our children played together, as well as the sad times when you became ill.
Why couldn't you have clung on to life? Recovery was surely just around the corner?
When we first realized what you had done, we felt horrified, angry, guilty, despairing and shocked. One sensation after another, but above all, we missed you and the girls needed you so badly.

Your grandchildren will never know you. Are you aware of them? Are you happy now, where you are? I need to think so and my faith urges me to believe that you live on.
Your birthday is near again. I never seem to forget it! For a long time I put the flowers near your photo, on the piano. That need is long gone and the photo is somewhere, but I do think of you sometimes when I least expect to, like today. But your children are still affected by what you did.

If you were alive today, you would be old and I cannot picture you like that. Would we still be as close as we were before, or would we have drifted apart, my sweet, tormented friend?

Saturday 16 February 2008

Silence is Golden, Isn't it?

Silence, so deep that you could almost cut it with a knife!
I can hear the clock ticking, the boiler firing into action as it heats the radiators and Harry turning the pages of his newspaper, but that is all.

Earlier this morning the house was a cacophony, heaving with all the family noises, shrieks of laughter, little squabbles and noisy games, breakfast sounds while eating in a rush. There were last minute checks .... passports, coach tickets and rummaging in the attic, as Sam and family got ready for their holiday. Debbie, our daughter, up early to say goodbye to them and Dean, her youngest son, managing to come down in time to join in with the farewells. Rick, the eleven year old, somehow managing to sleep through it all!

Now, they, too, have gone back to their own town, miles away and Harry & I are in complete silence!

Family reunions are a blessing which we enjoy, but how is it that when we are all together, the bustle of family life can seem too much? We are sometimes longing for peace, time, space and a quiet place to do a crossword puzzle or read a book without interruption.

Now, the silence does not seem perfect at all! It engulfs us in a threatening, lonely, even boring way.
Within a few days, Harry and I shall be quite used to it and by the end of the week, when the Japanese contingency arrives home from their holiday, it will be like a riot going on - a blast, shattering our peace!
Why does life have to be so extreme?

Thursday 14 February 2008

Washday Greens!

Since our family came back to live with us, the washing machine is much in use & I recently stopped to think how difficult it must have been for my mother to do the washing when I was a child.
I remember she used to have to get up very early on a Monday morning & light a large gas boiler that she had previously filled with buckets of cold water. I used to watch her grate up a hard bar of Fairy household soap. She filled "dolly tubs"to rinse the whites with. She used to scrub & sluice off the dirty hankies in the old stone sink.
Between boiling & rinsing everything had to be mangled carefully & again after the last rinse. Mangling was a hazardous task as you could scald yourself from the boiler & squash fingers in the mangle. Then there was starch to make up & certain things had to be dipped into it.
A whole weeks washing would need to be dried somehow. On a fine day, out on the washing line in a yard or garden. Sometimes the line would snap & the washing would be dirty again. On a wet day it all had to be draped round an open fire on a "maiden" which was a kind of wooden clothes horse, sometimes taking days to dry. Then the mammoth task of ironing. What a palaver!
However the smell of the hot washing coming out of the boiler is one of those never to be forgotten smells ............ a smell of wholesome goodness that even now sends me into a state of nostalgia when I remember it. Funny how you can "remember" a smell!
I am really glad that I do not have to face all the hard work that my mother had to.

The children are always secretly slipping strange objects into the washing that are not usually found until the programme has ended. I recently found a bright green, very clean looking "my little pony"that sprang from some item of clothing, startling me with the unexpectedness of it. Not long after that, I pulled out a soggy heart shaped note book and a little red glass heart, both treasures that had escaped my pre wash search. I consider myself very lucky that the red felt tee shirt from a Bratz doll did not colour the whole wash pink!
But by far the strangest thing that could ever have messed up a wash was found in Amber's trouser pocket, before it even went in. A raw, green Brussels sprout! As no one in the house likes Brussels sprouts, where it came from we will never know!

Maybe she goes to Sainsbury's when we are not looking!

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Another award!

Many thanks to gonebacksouth for this new award that has been especially designed by you! Wow! I'd only just got over the trauma of putting in the last one! Now my son, who helps me is just about to go away for a week! Eek!

Here is my list:

Sunday 10 February 2008

What Irks You?

What things annoy you or really irritate you? Sometimes I find its the little things that annoy me, like other people leaving the lids off toothpaste or leaving marmite and jam pots sticky, or sitting on a park bench before realizing that some moron has left chewing gum that has stuck to your clothes. (A devil to get out of material of any kind.)
One of the silly things that truly irritates me, is when I see a man who is bald, straining and greasing half a dozen or so hairs over his bald pate. To do this he has to part what hair he has just above one ear and stick it down with grease. If he is lucky it sticks like glue to his head but if its windy it stands up like a cock's comb. I subconsciously feel the need to snip off the offending strands with a pair of scissors. Why would a bald man need to do this? What is wrong with being bald?

My boss in my second part time job, is so indignant if anyone sits on a table and has trained us not to do this but if anyone of us needs to go to a training session or lecture and the tutor happens to be sitting on a table whilst talking, we are all uncomfortably neurotic about it!

I am asking my family what irritates them.
Kaiko my daughter in law, had been living with us for two months and apparently suffered the most excruciating irritation without saying a word. (Typical Japanese.) Then one day she asked if I had an oil can for the squeaky living room door. No one else had noticed it was squeaky. It was a kind of family squeak that was so familiar that our ears didn't register the sound. It was easily remedied and she asked if she could oil the children's bedroom door too!  Another squeak that had gone unnoticed.

Sam says he doesn't like public snogging! This reply has amazed me as he did his fair share when he was a younger! The reserve of the Japanese culture must have rubbed off on him after all those years he spent in that country!

Harry says that he can't think of anything that annoys him, (except me, sometimes!) However, the rest of the family thinks it would be easier to list the things that DON'T annoy him!

I really could write a book about my irritations but graffiti must come really high up on my list. Why is it that every inner city in Britain seems to have this problem? Surely this is as antisocial as housebreaking, car theft or shoplifting. So why isn't something done about it? When these little vandals get  caught, what happens? An ASBO more than likely. They are like trophies to teenagers! I would like to see  graffiti hooligans scrubbing off their "work" with nothing more than a toothbrush and a bucket of soapy water. That would take the smirk off their faces! 
Bonfires are another of my pet hates! it is so annoying when thick, grey smoke engulfs a small city garden like mine, usually on a nice day when I've put the washing out. Fortunately this does not often happen as I think my neighbours know how I feel.

I get pretty mad with the Government for a whole range of things but is it really true what the papers were saying recently, that a man in England was claiming social benefit for his four wives! What?! We're not even allowed to have four wives or husbands in this country so why should we be taxed to pay for other peoples'? When in Rome do as the Roman's do, I always say! I respect the laws of other countries so why shouldn't other people, when they are here?

I do realize that by now I might have offended some one with these views & they really are only my views for what they are worth. However, if you are sitting on a table, with strands of greased down hair across your head, and have more than one wife or husband, who loves squeaky doors, kissing in public, a lover of graffiti and planning your next bonfire, then I am truly sorry!

Thursday 7 February 2008

I've Got An Award!

I was amazed yesterday to receive an award from Mother's Pride!
After hours of confusion & staring at it hoping it would jump onto my blog somehow, I think I have finally cracked it!

I have found quite a few lovely blogs and I have awarded the big E to the following people not in any particular order. Anyone who is not in this list already has one! I'm also hoping that by the time you receive the awards you haven't already received one from someone else quicker on the mark than me! In which case you can have bloody two!
Please send to ten other people & visit the links. Hope you all have fun and find it easier than I did! 

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Una Ragazza Bella

I was going to write about the absurdities of "Political Correctness" but thought, "Hang on, I've only been doing this blogging for 5 minutes, better not write anything too controversial!" So instead, I am writing about something fairly unusual (for us) that happened on a bus a few nights ago.
Harry and I had been out for a lovely evening with friends.
As we knew we would be having a couple of drinks and we never drink & drive, we left the car at home and caught a bus to our city centre. No problems going ...........
Coming home, just before 11 pm, we waved friends off, as they boarded their bus. We were now back on our city centre, not a good place to be late at night, but it still wasn't that late.
We were faced with three choices. We like walking, but that was not an option as we would have to go through a most unsafe area to get home.
We could get a taxi or bus it. We walked a short distance while we were deciding, but happened to come to the bus stop first. There were already several people waiting and this bus would take us almost to our door. So we joined the queue.
What was the fracas going on? A young, small, pretty teenage girl lying in the gutter, her back in a pool of water. A very irate man, not much older, trying to get her up and trying to reason with her. She was blind drunk and obviously didn't know what she was doing or saying. She staggered to her feet and started screaming obscenities in Italian and English.
The bus drew up and our small queue boarded it, the drunken girl followed us and went to the back of the bus without paying. The driver did not say anything. The red haired lad told the driver that he'd pay for the girl and he joined her, sitting on the seat beside her. He kept scolding her for making a spectacle of herself and for putting her feet up on the seat in front.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed she'd taken off her coat and was lying on the floor stroking the leg of the man sitting directly behind us. The young man who had taken responsibility for her, some how or other managed to get her back into her seat, his face now as red as his hair! He tried reasoning with her one minute and being angry the next, but nothing seemed to work. 
"Sebastian, Sebastian ..... I love him ..... he is my husband ...... he is my lover," she exclaimed with her lilting Italian accent.
"Shut up, will you!" Redhead replied, "Can't you see everyone's looking at you!" and so it went on.
I was suddenly aware of her standing right by us now, only clothed in a tiny skirt and tights. She looked as though she was about to take her bra off. Harry was trying to turn his back on her as she started to rub up against him.
No one said anything .... bus driver taking no notice and boyfriend not rescuing her this time. Harry did not think it was Christmas come early and was looking so embarrassed.
I looked into her glazed eyes and said, "I'd go and sit down, love, before you fall." Ridiculous remark, but it seemed to cool her ardor and she went back to her seat. 
Still no one saying anything in the bus but lots of eye rolling by now.
Our stop came fairly soon afterwards and the driver never said a word as we disembarked.  As we walked past the bus. We turned to see where the couple were sitting, Redhead still trying to control the girl's behaviour, she, still resisting and carrying on the antics.

Normally after a night out, we'd have a bedtime drink to wind down, and discuss our outing, but this time the scene in the bus, played on our minds & prevented us from settling down.
Was the boy she was with, taking her home to save her from being harmed on the city centre or was he  also going to take advantage of her?
She must have parents somewhere who worried about her. Why did she have to get into such a state in the first place? She was just about young enough to be our grand child! Took a long while to get to sleep as I worked out the possibilities.
I guess I need to get out more!

Sunday 3 February 2008

The Dangers of Recycling!

A few months ago I noticed I was limping because of a pain in my right foot. The whole foot felt as though it was on fire & really hurt when I walked. My chiropractor pulled the affected foot about & asked if there was anything different in my lifestyle. After a very long, hard think, I realized what had caused it. Recycling!

Since Sam & family had come to live with us, there seemed to be much more to recycle.  All his beer & lager cans had been stamped on to make them more compact, using my right foot. (After a course of treatment, the foot pain eased, but this cost a fortune!) As we give all aluminium to a church scheme sponsoring a little girl in India, I was becoming embarrassed by the sudden influx of beer cans & tried to arrange them at the bottom of the bag, hidden from view. Didn't want people thinking that Harry or I were were verging on alcoholism! Now I use a little hammer to flatten the tins & my foot is back to normal. For people like us, who have no garage, recycling can present problems. Our kitchen is overwhelmed by little bags, boxes & bins, each packed with something or other that we have been urged to save by the Council.

The large wheelie bins are only emptied once a fortnight, so we really do need to recycle or there'd be no room left for real rubbish & anything left outside the bin will not be collected.Just looking at some of the houses round here, with small front gardens filled with bags of rubbish, makes it obvious that they are multi let homes. The bins  overflowing with rubbish do attract rats. (I will write about MY rat very soon!)

The Council also provides a box for a variety of things, including paper, glass, foil, tins, spectacles, shoes, batteries & textiles. This is emptied every week & believe me, is heavy when filled! We have separate compost containers provided for house hold food waste & I also have two compost bins in the small garden, but have stopped using these for now, on account of the large number of  fruit flies that somehow or other find their way into the kitchen. For a small yearly rent we have another large wheelie that we can fill with garden waste & cardboard. All this is made into compost & probably sold at a profit by the Council. Bit of a cheek that!

All this recycling is very time consuming & you have to be fairly fit. If you don't get a hernia or slipped disc lifting the heavy boxes, or damaged feet crushing the drinks cans, then you might forget what goes where or which day things are collected. You really need to be with it! Oh, & I still have to walk half a mile to the nearest plastic bank as the Council does not yet pick up plastic for some obscure reason. Is our city unique with all this nonsense? And why don't we get a reward for all the hard work?

Friday 1 February 2008

Its All Sam's Fault.......

I used to be a moderately competent housewife with two part time jobs. My house looked reasonably presentable, if not gleaming. I used to read lots of books & follow the soaps on TV. I used to do gardening & enjoy watching the birds & be at everyone's beck & call. I used to do a lot of things. Until recently, that is..........
My son, Sam put paid to all that when he asked me if I'd like him to set up a blog for me. A what?
He had to explain first of all what a blog was as I'd never heard of one & was wondering what I'd let myself in for.
I couldn't imagine anyone would be interested in my writings & thought it would be even more unlikely that I would want to read other peoples'. How wrong I was!
After Sam found me a few suitable sites, I found I was completely hooked!
Other people's blogs seem more interesting, well written & witty, but very inspiring. You bloggers are an interesting lot! I find an entirely new aspect of life has opened up. There's the thrill of receiving first comments & wondering what other people will write about next and the frustration of making a draft only to discover that someone else has written about that very thing & pipped me to the post!
In the meantime, I have an untidy, filthy house & a garden that needs attention & even the birds seem to have given up on me, in disgust!
How do other bloggers manage? Are you all super efficient types who get up at dawn to tidy the house before settling down to a few hours blogging? Do you all have to employ cleaners so that you can blog? What is your secret?
Apart from Sam, no one knows of my secret blogging. Everyone must be wondering why things are in such a mess.
Harry asks me, "What ever are you doing? What is the matter with you? Where is my dinner?"
Well something's got to give, but it ain't going to be my blogging!