Monthly Archives: June 2011

Of Cabbages and Kings …

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“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

 Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’

The vegetable patch is exploding with growth. Spring cabbage and potatoes are vying for space. The carrot tops are waving like a feathery forest. Feeling tired tonight and needing a simple but ‘good for you’ meal we had fresh new potatoes with butter, chicken gently fried in some olive oil and with organic stock cubes and tarragon for flavour and a spring cabbage cut straight from the garden.

It never ceases to amaze me just how miraculous it feels to grow, cut and eat your own vegetables. I know I am not naturally ‘green fingered’ and I don’t honestly know that much about gardening, but I am learning by trial and error. I love the fact that the earth is generally so forgiving. I know that to get ‘perfect’ show specimens it is probably wise to follow the rules, whatever they may be, but there is so much joy in having planted those little plug plants of cabbage, weedy as they looked and now to have big green plants and eat them!

Yes it tasted delicious.

Bowling along together

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Quality time with my kids happens in various ways. Some are better than others. This week I’ve spent two half days in hospital waiting rooms. Todays was with Son 2 who went over on his ankle 10 days ago and decided today that as it was still causing problems he would go and have an X-ray.  Luckily it’s not broken just badly sprained. I did suggest this course of action a while ago in case you are wondering about my parenting, but he is 22 and a bit big to force! Still it gave us a few hours catch up time.

Then this afternoon we took Sons 3 and 4 bowling and then to Frankie and Benny’s for tea. With a 16 and 18-year-old who have both just finished exams and have a long social summer to make up on lost time, finding a window for parent/kid stuff is a struggle. Often it is in passing, over meals or maybe over the odd TV show we might have in common. I think we all miss the catch up sometimes and it is so good to just have time to play, laugh and be silly together. I think we are all conscious that Son 3 is on the verge of fledging the nest, with plans for University come October. Maybe that makes these moments even more special.

So bowling ran true to course ie: I came last. The guys in the next lane had their own bowling ball, chalk and serious scores. I can barely manage with the bumpers down. The boys look cool though and we got to watch Murray play in the Wimbledon Quarter Final at the same time.

I was thinking this morning that it’s really only my generation that started to have expectations around ourselves or are children leaving home and going off to college at 18 as a matter of course. My parents generation may have had further education too, my Dad studied at Sheffield University by night and summer schools whilst living at home. Many young men and women lived with their parents until they were old enough to marry and set up home for themselves. I wonder if with the current recession and increasing pressure of fees and living costs if the Baby Boom generation may find themselves with adult children at home far longer?

Well it was a passing, though maybe uncomfortable, thought. For now I’m enjoying the moments together as well as the independence and growing up we are all doing together.

 

The Writing Case

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Going through Mum and Dads belongings is a mixture of treasure trove, Cash in the Attic and a lesson in the joys od minimalism. I am tending more and more towards the latter. Two thoughts return again and again; that my boys should not have to go through this endless sifting and sorting and weight of responsibility and that we never really own anything, just pass it on to another generation. The latter remark was made by the nice man from the auctioneer’s. I thought it was pretty profound, and realised that a lifetime of presiding over auctions of other people’s belongings probably makes you into a philosopher.

I am keeping as little as possible. This has been a process over many months so there has been time for me to learn detachment from belongings or from feeling I ‘should’ keep things. So many things hold memories, but really the memories are not in the things. Photos are special. Sadly many of the really old ones have no labels so I am lost as to who these babies and stiff posing groups might be.

Does anyone else remember the era of slides? From the 60’s to the 80’s Mum took hundreds of pictures onto slides. Each holiday was followed by an excruciating evening ‘slide-show’ with friends. Nibbles like Ritz crackers with cream cheese were served as Dad took us through each slide with anecdotes and explanations. Usually these evenings were with best friends Mary and John and their son Iain and I would grimace and shuffle until allowed to escape to play table tennis. Monopoly or to watch TV. This week I have weeded out boxes by the dozen to try to save the gems but not hang on to every scenic view.

I found these two gems in a box with some other leather cases to match. One is a writing case with a special place for telegrams ( a forgotten missive in the days of email, fax and mobile phones). The other is the most beautiful sewing kit. Green leather case with a soft velvet lining with coloured silks still inside next to the pristine needles. Tiny tools with mother-of-pearl handles. I am keeping Mum’s writing desk, given to her on her 21st birthday in 1945 by my Granda. I think these will live in there to remind me of a time when writing was with pen and ink and sewing was an art all ladies learnt. I wont be that lady but I will use the desk and write.

Waiting in Chairs

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I love the NHS. I even work for it. It is a glorious and supremely ethical institution. Nye Bevans’ whole philosophy of healthcare free at the point of delivery is something to be celebrated and treasured.

The man who brought the health service into being was Aneurin Bevan, a Welsh miner who became a Labour politician. Nye Bevan was handed the responsibility for healthcare and housing by the new prime minister, Clement Attlee, in the first post-Second World War government.

Bevan fought passionately for the NHS. In parliament on February 9 1948 he urged ministers and doctors to “take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world: put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration”.

But like all bureaucratic institutions it has its moments of madness. This afternoon I went with Son 3 for an outpatients appointment. We waited on the waiting room chairs for half an hour to see the Consultant.  He decided that a further test would be helpful so we waited another half hour for that. No problem there.The Birth of the NHS

Then we waited again and went back in to see the Consultant and to arrange for some surgery. Next was the booking in bit. That meant waiting on more chairs to see a nurse, then more chairs to see someone for a pre-op assessment. We have seen an awful lot of chairs.

Bu the genius underneath it all is the care and the technology. For son 3 this means they will construct him a whole new eardrum. How amazing is that? The Surgeon explained how he will do that. with diagrams. They will cut into his face at the top of his ear and use some of the skin from there to make a new eardrum.Its both scary and awesome at the same time. We thought we had just gone for a review today following an operation last summer. I think we had both conveniently forgotten that this might be a possibility and expected a quick in and out visit. So the chairs were a surprise.

But on those chairs we had time to reflect. Son had time to consider the options and make a decision. We caught up with each other about Life. We talked about holidays and families and University. He told me his plans and told me off for scratching my skin. sometimes nowadays it takes an appointment or a car ride to have time to connect, the boys all have busy lives and so do we. But it is always good to have some time. So thank you Chairs for the opportunity. Thank you NHS for being there.

Sunny Summer Sunday

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Sunday being a day of rest we took the day off from house clearing. So nice to have a break from lifting and sorting. I had a lie in till nearly eleven o’clock when I realised I’d better make with the ‘Im leaping out of bed right NOW’ look. At 11 on the dot a nice aging rocker man arrived on the doorstep, money clutched into a sticky roll in his hand and went away grinning carrying son 3’s old drum pedal as sold on eBay. Son 3 wasn’t actually in so I dealt with that.

It has been a glorious English summer day. The sort people imagine we have when they don’t think its raining. The summer days we fantasise about from foreign shores or when we are old and all the summers were like this. That meant taking Mum out was a production. We took the dog too so of course he has his own bag with water and bowl and dog biscuits. Mum has a jacket and sun hat and a blanket in case she gets cold, tissues and wipes and a spare pad just in case. I’ve learnt to be prepared. The windows in the car went up and down depending on animal and people’s tolerance of hot/cold/draught. To a different garden centre today, one where we could sit and have lunch outside. Lovely salmon salads with new potatoes and a lemon and dill dressing ( 2 between 3 of us was plenty). We had some confusion over what Mum wanted. Todays phrases were ‘I don’t know what to do” and ‘What do I do now?’. She seemed confused and as if she doesn’t know whether she is thirsty, wants the toilet or which bit is uncomfortable. So we do a lot of guessing games until we get it right. Sometimes its very frustrating for all of us. Some days I feel my patience stretch thin like a piece of clingfilm. The heat doesn’t help. Ice cream did. Funny that.

When we got back I felt mean for making her walk down the corridor to her room. She was tired and wanted to go in her wheelchair, but I knew she could do it and its so important to keep her on her feet and her circulation going that a little walk after an afternoon in the wheelchair is important. Anyway she forgot I was mean by the time we were back at her room and we settled her with cool water and her feet up in her chair for a nap.

So back to the house to nod off gently to ‘Morse’ on the TV whilst waiting for a Freecycler to collect an old white wardrobe. And now we are going to go out for tea and sit in a pub garden whilst the sun shines and the summer is here for today.

White Kid Gloves and an Evening Scarf

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Now we aren’t a debutante type of family. And I haven’t heard too many stories of my ‘greats’ attending evening balls. But at the bottom of a cupboard in the back bedroom I found two pairs of unworn, as new white kid ladies gloves. They are so soft you just want to sit and stroke them. The silk scarf conjures images of a dashing pair in the 1920’s or maybe even earlier. He, with his scarf tossed nonchalantly around his neck. His black tie and tails, starched and pressed white dress shirts and gold cufflinks. She in a long white dress, a corsage on her breast and a little black fur wrap in the days before fur was bad. The evening bag would glitter with sewn on sequins and imitation pearls and the white gloves with their distinctive pattern would complete her elegance. Who would not admire this pair?  She links his arm as they step down from their cab and sway into the ballroom, smiling and greeting friends, then cutting a dash on the dance-floor.

And yet somehow those gloves were never worn. What story does that tell? A broken romance? A lover lost in the War? Somehow the gloves and those scarves were treasured and taken care of through the generations. They were special to someone. Maybe now they have found the light of day again they will be worn by a bride, loved by a retro teen or form a costume for the theatre. And they have fed my imagination and given us a story if only for a moment

Green

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I’ve been inside too much today. Trips to the dump don’t really count as ‘going out’ do they? Well today they did
So I would like some green in my life tonight. Sweet, soft breezes and summer scents on the air. Sun and light and shady walks through the woods.
And just for tonight Im sharing that thought through this picture. It’s the best I can do for now.
Green for spring and summer, rest and relaxation, soothing and refreshing. Trees and clear cool water.Meditation and peace, walks with friends. Good for the soul.

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Not the Antiques Roadshow

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Three full days sorting and sifting and clearing at Mums old house. I may never want to see another bin bag or go through another box. It makes me long for minimalism.
You know that old chestnut, what would you take if your house was burning (assuming everyone is safe). I don’t think they would ever have been able to say! That’s what happens if you just keep everything!
Today I had a book dealer round to look at their shelves and shelves of books. He dismissed them all as ‘charity shop’ and offered twenty quid for the lot. I turned it down. I’m making a bet I can make more than that off eBay or amazon. And the charity shops will still benefit too.
In a box at the bottom of the wardrobe in the spare room were a collection of very Old christening gowns. Hand sewn with delicate lace or embroidery, they are so poignant in their tiny symbolism. The treasured memories of each of those darling babies long grown old and passed on.
Tomorrow they come to take most of the furniture and packed up treasures away. We have kept those that mean most to us all. The boys have chosen things to remember thirty grandparents by. I have boxes of photos to collate on winter evenings. I will out together some scrapbooks and frame some for the walls.
The rest goes to auction. I don’t think I will be there. It’s not Antiques Roadshow or Cash in the Attic, this was their life.
And when it’s all done I will be glad. And we can concentrate on the living, mum and all.

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Summer Solstice

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Stonehenge

It is Midsummers Day. Summer Solstice. The Longest Day. It’s all about Light, Sun and Celebration. From the dawn of time it seems we humans have marked and celebrated the return of the sun. It gives us life, light and warmth. Without it we would have no food growing in the fields, no harvest. Without the sun I feel miserable. The light cheers me so much that I know I need to make sure every day that I get outside and let it seep into my bones and brain. In the winter I use a light to top up my SAD days but it’s not quite the same.

I like to notice the solstice at summer and winter. To mark those turning points in the year. To remember what has gone in the last 6 months, let go of what I no longer need and remember to welcome in that which I wish to attract. It is a quiet way to be centered

At this time of year people gather at sacred sites and places of beauty, hills and stones. Stonehenge is a familiar sight on the news at Midsummer. Pagans and hippies, travellers and druids are attracted to its Ley lines and old spirituality. I have never been at midsummer. I don’t want to go then when I imagine it is heaving with people and cameras and newscasters. But I have been at other times both there and to Avebury, a circle of stones of truly ancient times. Both have blessed me with their steady presence, the energy of thousands of years hovers around you. I know it sounds fanciful but then again I don’t see how it could feel any different. I have felt the same in other places of worship, from lofty cathedrals to a tiny shrine to Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The concentrated essence of prayer, where human spirit touches the divine is always there.

So at midsummer I send you blessings wherever you may be, and sun and light and peace.

As the sun spirals its longest dance, Cleanse us. As nature shows bounty and fertility. Bless us. Let all things live with loving intent. And to fulfill their truest destiny.” Wiccan blessing

May the sun shine bright on your joyous days,
And the rain refresh you through peaceful nights;
May summer show you God’s wondrous ways,
And prepare you for heaven’s great delights.
From Irish-American Blessings & Prayers by Andrew M. Greeley.
Image Credit: Blessings of Summer by Thomas Kinkade