Tuesday 30 December 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

From my point of view, I hope it will be a better one than last year!
I can remember last New Year's Eve (2007), celebrating with my daughter and grandsons, who happened to be holidaying with us. We'd all stayed up late to let in the New Year with a family friend. We'd played games with the children while we sat round the table and drank wine (the children didn't, honestly!)
Little did we know then, that within the coming year, Deb would be left a widow. Just as well we never know what is in store for us. Now I am being a damper...... but it does make you wonder.
Once again, the family have been staying with us over the Christmas holiday and we are about to let in another New Year and we cannot help but be slightly apprehensive about what the year holds for us. 
On Boxing Day we went to London Victoria by coach ( a rather bizarre thing to do as Deb was getting quite near to home again and had already travelled across England once, to be with us!) We had backtracked to London to see a musical in the West End, *Joseph* starring Lee Mead.
After the show, which we all enjoyed, Deb had been hoping to get her programme autographed but all she received from Lee, after queuing, was a pre signed photo, which was better than nothing, I suppose. She never got to chat to him, though.
I travelled quite happily back to Victoria by tube train. As long as I have someone with me who knows what they are doing, I don't mind the Tube a bit!
Deb has caught up with a good few "old" friends from school and her nursing training days and we have visited relatives and travelled to The Midlands to see Deb's mother in law, who had been staying with her other son over Christmas. A difficult time for her, as you can imagine.

Rick and Dean, my two grandson's have been great while staying with us and we have been glad of their company. Rick, the oldest who was recently diagnosed with autism, seems to be doing very well and has lost the anger that he displayed after the death of his father. He is much calmer now, and did so much better at school last term, probably because he has a special helper.
Deb and I have been reading some very helpful books on the subject of autism. I have found this to be particularly helpful in trying to understand how my grandson's mind might be working and how confused he must be when I don't understand why he sometimes doesn't respond to me the way I would like him to. I realize that I must find different approaches if I want to make breakthroughs concerning behaviour and understanding what makes him tick. Good progress has been made with those things, during the holiday, though.
One of the hardest things to deal with is the fact that Rick will only eat certain brands of food like bread and the soya milk that he has to have.  If we cannot get hold of a particular brand, he refuses to eat or drink it. (He knows it is different without seeing the container, just by taste). As he is so thin, we cannot just let him go without.
Deb has joined a few organizations and went on some trips with the boys before she came to us and she seems to be building up a better social life now.
One thing that books have taught me is just how diverse this condition is and how different each child is one from another. No easy answers, much of it is to follow instincts and wait and see.
You might be wondering how I am finding time to read these books! Deb brought a few over with her, lent by Rick's school, so obviously I have to read them fast. Every time I have an opportunity, I open up and read some more. I love books anyway and have a whole stack of books waiting to be read that I had as presents!

Our granddaughters, Amber and Millie, and parents, went back to Japan before Christmas, to visit the other grandparents and relatives, who really miss them all. They are due to fly back very soon and sleep off their jet lag before school starts again. 

Anyway....... Happy New Year Folks!
Hoping that 2009 will prove to be a good year for you all and I wish everyone peace.
Things look frightening in the middle east and the credit crunch is making our lives difficult, but surely there is always the possibility of peace in our own lives and this is my wish for you all...... peace.

Saturday 27 December 2008

The Wonder Of Woolworths

Who would have thought that we would ever lose our Woolworths stores? It is unimaginable. There has always been a Woolworths in every town ever since I could remember. When I was a child, it was the place for bargains and children could afford to buy there.

In those days, there were different counters in the store with an assistant looking after each one. It was time consuming if something needed to be bought from several counters and the queuing had to be done again, but thats how it was then. Even in small shops there was a slow queuing system and if shop keepers asked how the family were and got a long reply, then everyone had to wait!

Woolworths did move on, once supermarkets came into being and things went up in price but it was a much loved shop, always there, just like the British Post Box. It was a good old British shop and it belonged to us for 99 years, though it came over from the USA originally. 

What ever are we going to do? It makes all of us in England feel very vulnerable. What other much loved and taken for granted thing is going to disappear from our lives?
Whatever are all those employees going to do now from the Woolworths shops? Just think how they must feel.

Monday 22 December 2008

The Reason For The Season

Lets make Jesus the reason ...... for the season. 

It is easy to forget the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. It has become an eating  and drinking binge and an orgy of shopping and spending more than we can really afford, that sometimes means struggling to pay back during the next year. 
The early Christians hijacked the day from a pagan festival and made it into their celebration of Jesus' birth. Now we are having the true meaning of Christmas taken away from us by all manner of things....... political correctness, and all the many things the media throw at us because that is what they think we want and need.

I have enjoyed watching my granddaughters in their nativity plays at school. The Inn keeper and the shepherds and even the kings, who obviously wouldn't have got to see Jesus for another two years, if you think about it.
The Carols by Candlelight service at Church has now taken place and we look forward to going to Church on Christmas Day with our grandsons who will be staying with us.
These are all meaningful things to Harry and me. Of course, the other things, the traditions of Christmas are enjoyable too and we enjoy a good Christmas dinner the same as any one else. It is also good to give and receive presents and family seem to be an important part of Christmas too.

It is my observation from reading other blogs, noting comments on mine and listening to the local radio, that there is a yearning for spirituality that the "Powers That Be" are not aware of. In the end, people are sensible enough to draw their own conclusions and generally do not want to change Christmas for "Winter Holiday", nor does the average person want to be told what to think or believe.

Whatever your personal view on faith, I wish you all peace and joy during this Christmas season. Happy Christmas from all of us!

This hand made nativity set is a "family heirloom" that is practically falling to pieces. It was made quite a long time ago but I haven't the heart to bin it.

Friday 19 December 2008


PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

All little girls love unicorns, stories about unicorns and toys involving unicorns and my two granddaughters are no exceptions.
I remember when I was a small girl passionately wanting to see unicorns, fairies and mermaids. I was really very disappointed when I knew that there were no such things.

Back in the summer I was snapping away in the city of Bristol and found these two magnificent creatures on each end of the Council House. The first one was taken with the sun shining on it and that showed up the gold! The second one is identical except that it faces towards the other one, but it was in a slightly shadier position, so the gold does not show up quite as brightly.

I wonder why there are unicorns on top of the Council House? Well the Bristol coat of arms has two unicorns surrounding a ship and a castle, so that must be the reason. The two unicorns in the coat of arms, guarding the Council House.

According to the internet, unicorns have been a part of the culture of China, India and western countries for thousands of years. They are mentioned in the Bible and they have been used by Scotland's Royal household.

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.

The lion was the symbol of England and since England beat the Scottish throne, the two creatures have been depicted in the British coat of arms. Unicorns feature in heraldry and many legends.
The horn was supposed to have magical powers and was much sought after. Unicorns could only be tamed by *pure* maidens, who would be able to lead them and let them eat out of their hands.

So I wonder why unicorns have lasted so long in the modern world? You'd think we would have dumped them by now, but they still seem to appeal don't they?

This post was prepared for Photostory  Friday, hosted by Cecily and Mama Geek.

Monday 15 December 2008

Beginners Luck

This is my December entry for Jeff B's invitation to write a fictional story about a particular series of events. You can find out what it is all about on his blog, Word In Edgeways. Why not have a go?

The telephone had been ringing all evening. I wasn't in the mood to take calls and I just wanted to get on with my book. I enjoy my own company. Whoever it was could wait.
The answer phone kicked in.
Message One, the automated voice droned.
"Hey mate, we're at the Rose and Crown and a whole lot of us are meeting up at Ed's Casino afterwards. Expect to see you later."

I recognized Uncle Max's voice immediately. He wasn't related to me. He'd always been known as Uncle Max by everyone in the area. He was around fifty, with a beer gut, as he liked to go down to the Rose & Crown every night. He was a very confident type, a bit eccentric and liked to dress up rather loudly. He was a very friendly, kind man who would share his last penny and help anyone. No wonder he was so popular.

This was his flat and his phone, but since the night of the fire, he'd done me a great favour and put me up.
This block of flats overlooked the back of another identical block on the other side of the street. It was there that the fire had happened. Just as well there were fire escapes. Most of the flats were ruined by smoke damage and Uncle Max had helped everyone down the staircases in thick smoke.
He had looked weird that night dressed in a yellow floral shirt and yellow shorts, white shoes and socks and even a panama on his head. What was he thinking of dressing up like that for on a cold night?

The phone rang again.
Message Two........ the voice of the answer phone droned on.
"Come on mate, I know you are there. We are all waiting for you, old chap. See you soon."

I thought back to the night of the fire. It had started on the first floor and the smoke had billowed upward, blackened windows and threatened to choke everyone in the building. Every occupant was forced out of their apartments.
I had lived on the second floor and everything I owned had been damaged by smoke, although I'd managed to get out via the back of the buildings down the fire escapes, like everyone else. There were people above and below me but as far as I knew, everyone had escaped unhurt.
Every property in the building was ruined and no one was allowed back, even though the fire engines had got the blaze under control fairly quickly.
When Uncle Max had taken me in, I soon learned that he'd been due to go on holiday the very night of the fire. He had been intending to head for Heathrow Airport, not very far away and his destination was Hawaii. He'd put on his holiday outfit thinking that all he had to do was to was to jump into a taxi and get on and off his planes till he landed. The fire had messed up his holiday completely and his clothes were black and had been discarded. His holiday was cancelled.

The phone rang persistently.
Message Three...........
"We're leaving the Rose & Crown now and heading for Ed's Casino. Hope you're on your way, mate. If not we're waiting for you. We're in for a good night."
Uncle Max sounded chirpy.

I groaned....... Uncle Max was an extrovert. He liked to be the centre of attention, a real 'life and soul of the party' type of person. Nothing wrong with that except that I was the complete opposite. All I lived for were my books. I had always been a bit of a recluse. I went to the office five days a week, did a good job there as a book keeper, came home and swotted. When I wasn't swotting I read books for pleasure. I was happy enough. I would have preferred a quiet night in at home. However, I now had no home and Uncle Max had been kind to offer me his home. 
Most of the other residents seemed to have found other places to live. Some had been rehoused miles away, some were staying with relatives or friends, but I wanted to stay in this area near my work and didn't have any one I could ask. So I was in Max's spare room until further notice. He had really become an uncle figure in my life. I just wished he was a quieter type of person like me, that's all.

Reluctantly, I put down my book, grabbed a jacket from the hook near the door and went out into the chilly London night air. The door slammed shut behind me as I turned up my collar and set off round the block.
Ed's Casino wasn't very big as casinos go and was only a short distance away. The bar sold expensive drinks and there was a roulette wheel and tables for Black Jack and Poker. There were a few scantily clad girls whose job it was to try to entice the clients to drink more and to part with their money at the gaming tables. Not my cup of tea at all.
I hadn't got much money to gamble with as I was still waiting for the Council to rehouse me and for the Insurance to pay up for the possessions that I'd lost in the fire. I made up my mind that I would have a quick drink and  place one bet and then go home. That way Uncle Max would not think of me as ungrateful or stand offish.

As I approached Ed's Casino, the doorman looked me over and let me go through the swing door. I was astonished at what met my eyes. There seemed to be a sort of party going in full swing and everyone was singing 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow'. Uncle Max was revelling in all this attention and was positively glowing.
A middle aged lady who seemed vaguely familiar was handing Uncle Max a bouquet of yellow roses, which he was obviously thrilled with. I noted how he really seemed to love the colour yellow, thinking back to his holiday outfit.
I glanced around the casino and recognized many faces of residents from the block of flats where the fire had been. The woman was the wife of the manager of the casino. They'd lived in my block. That's where I'd seen her.
She took Uncle Max by the hand and started to address the people.
"This gentleman here," she said in a choked voice, "Is responsible for saving the life of my disabled son, Pete. He can't walk and he's too heavy for me to carry and the lifts were out of action because of the fire. I was beside myself and didn't know what to do." Tears were streaming down her face by now as she continued.
"Then this wonderful man came and put Pete over his shoulder, thinking nothing of his own safety and guided us both down the staircase."
Uncle Max beamed with pleasure and everyone started to cheer and applaud.

Eventually they all went off to do their own thing and Uncle Max noticed me.
"Come on, old chap, while you're here lets place a bet before we go home. It will be good for you to get away from those damned books." He playfully slapped my back.
Uncle Max knew the ropes when it came to gambling, but I didn't have a clue. I really wasn't that interested. I turned out my pockets for him to see and threw my last few notes that amounted to fifty pounds, down onto the deck, together with all my loose change. With his help I placed my bet. The betting stopped, the wheel turned and I looked away and waited for them to confirm my loss.
A cheer went up from Uncle Max.
"Hey, mate, that's beginners luck. Want to place another bet?"
I shook my head. I knew when to stop. I was staggered to see the thick wad of notes that made up my winnings. A considerable amount I reckoned.
I passed it over to Uncle Max.
"Get yourself another holiday," I said, pushing the money into his hand.
Uncle Max counted it out.
"Hey, mate, there's enough for the two of us to go to Hawaii. Yes, you're coming with me, mate."
There was a part of me that doubted very much whether there was enough money there for the two of us to go to Hawaii, but I guessed that he really wanted me to go with him. As I said before, he was a generous man. Could I really stand his loudness and his boundless energy for two weeks? 

I looked at him fondly, and guessed I could and I maybe I'd take some books with me.
"Tell you what, mate," Uncle Max piped up, "I'll treat us both to some new holiday clothes. I know just the place to go."
Every one laughed, but I inwardly groaned........... not yellow!

Friday 12 December 2008

Its That Time Of Year Again.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

For some reason we seem to keep this card from year to year and it always turns up somewhere or other in the Christmas displays of cards.

This little, rather tacky Nativity model was bought recently from a charity shop at a very cheap price.
The reason that I bought it was because I thought that my granddaughters would ask me questions about it and I could then explain who the characters were. I thought it would appeal to small children more than the traditional picture above.
Having been brought up for their first few years in Japan, they are officially Shinto/Buddhist.
This is because they were born over there and they have inherited this religion. It's more of a tradition than a personal belief, though.

It has turned out that there was no need for me to have to explain anything about the little figures, because school is teaching them about Christianity already.

I was really pleased when Amber, the oldest granddaughter, told me that she believed that Jesus had died for her and that he is now in Heaven. She explained everything to me in great detail.
I was amazed because I didn't think that state schools still taught Christianity, as the one they go to is not a Church School. Well, after all it is Christmas, so why shouldn't they be taught what Christianity is about?
Maybe the other religions will get a look in later on........ I don't know, but for now, I am pleased that the school has started the ball rolling.
Millie the youngest granddaughter took one look and said,"Oh no, that is so embarrassing."
As we thought this was a rather unusual thing for a four year old to say, we asked her what she meant.
"There are too many people in the house, there are only mean to be three!" So obviously she also has been taught about the fact that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were in the stable.

My Grandsons are already Christian, the oldest by choice and the younger one is thinking about taking a step further. They are familiar with Church and go regularly.
In the end, it has to be a personal decision. It is my belief though, that if children don't know what the faith is about, they can't make a decision and that would be a great pity, I think. 

This post and photography is for Photostory Friday, hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Sunday 7 December 2008

The Hospital Visit (Memory Lane)

I had been warned that we would not be allowed to see Godfrey for two weeks while he was in the hospital. Hard as it seemed to us, it was considered best to sever all links with home. It was 1948 and by today's standards it seemed to be a very cruel hospital rule.
I was just six years old by then and Godfrey was two and a half years younger than me.

The hospital was a tall building with lots of identical windows.
Godfrey was handed over to a "no stuff or nonsense" sister, and off she went with my screaming, struggling brother. We were told to wait outside the building so that we might wave goodbye to him through the window.
He was on the third floor, I think and when he appeared at the window, he looked as though he was putting up a pretty good fight, as the sister's hat was hanging from the side of her head.
The poor child must have thought we were abandoning him for ever.

With heavy hearts we turned and went towards the bus for home. I don't think anyone spoke and we were all fighting back the tears.
Dad went straight into the wash house, when we got home, and started to make Godfrey a steam roller out of empty syrup cans. That was the way that he coped with the situation. 
Mum was upset to think that Godfrey would have to go to sleep without his favourite green eiderdown with the frill around it. He used to stroke the frill and make comfort noises as he went to sleep. He had not been allowed to take any reminder of home with him to the hospital, not even  a toy or any kind of comforter. Those were the strict rules of a hospital in that era.

Years later Godfrey told me that he deliberately pooed the cot that he had been put in, as a punishment to the sister who had taken him away. Apparently she was very cross with him. I also learnt years later, that Godfrey's double hernia operation was one of the first to be done free, when the National Health Scheme first started in that year. He was very lucky as the year before, my parents would have been charged for it.

We all got on with our regular routine while he was away. Dad at work, Mum at home & I was at school. We had no phone so I don't know whether my parents ever got any news of my brother.
As the time came nearer for him to return home, we started to be in brighter spirits. I drew pictures for him and the steam roller made from syrup cans was now finished.
I was at school on the day he was due to return and I knew he would be there when I got back. The day seemed to really drag on for ever and I told everyone who would be bothered to listen to me that my brother was coming home! No one seemed to be really interested and even the teacher just politely said, "Oh that's nice," without as much enthusiasm as I would have liked to hear.
School eventually finished and I ran all the way down the road as fast as I could. I burst in through the door and there he was! Godfrey was home! I was surprised to find him in tears. Indeed he was having a tantrum.
Mum had been told he couldn't pedal his beloved blue car for three months until his scars had fully healed up. My parents had completely forgotten to hide the thing from sight and had quickly stuffed it between the settee and the wall. It had taken Godfrey just a few seconds to find!
The home made steam roller did nothing to appease the anger he felt and displayed. No one could console him and he eventually calmed down and fell asleep. He never was interested in the frilly eiderdown again and had totally forgotten the pleasure that it had given him before.
The pedal car was hidden from sight for the next few months and life went on as normal.

Friday 5 December 2008

International Day

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

At the school where my granddaughters attend, they recently held an International Day and invited the pupils to pay a pound to wear outfits from other lands. This was in aid of Children In Need.
Obviously Amber and Millie each put on  their Japanese yukata. Children made a real effort (or their parents did) and they came dressed in beautiful Spanish costumes, cowboy outfits, African robes, and anything else you could imagine.

A fair proportion of children at school are of mixed race as are my granddaughters, or more correctly, dual nationality, or mixed heritage. Not like when I was a child and the term was half ----. I'm sure it wasn't intended to be unkind, it is just the way things were then.

Millie, the youngest, has a best friend who is Anglo/ African and they truly love each other. They really do look very good together and throw their little arms round each other in greeting each day and don't like to stray from each other's side. They have started having each other round for visits and now the bigger sisters are getting friendly too.

I think it is really good that children are encouraged to celebrate and be proud of both of their inherited countries.
One thing I have noticed though, is that the children of dual nationalities do seem to  be rather beautiful! I expect I am very biased!

These photos and my story were published for Photostory Friday hosted by Cecily and MamGeek.

Wednesday 3 December 2008