This was Mum’s 87th Birthday in July last year. We had a tea party, balloons and cake and sparkling wine. This picture is Mum with her four precious grandsons, the light of her life. Their hands reaching out to her and hers holding on just say ‘Love”. Mum died peacefully two weeks later.
Manchester, England on a wet Monday August Bank Holiday. We dropped son 4 at the airport for a trip to meet his dad and other family in France for a weeks holiday. After a brunch there ( gasp at prices) we waved him off through the departures gate. Looking cool, his main possessions a phone charger and iPod on his first solo flight. I was 40 when I made my first solo flight. Kids nowadays eh? Cue, grumpy old woman music.
The missus and I set off solo together for the bright lights of the city centre. Its Manchester Pride weekend. We had skipped the drama and show of the Parade on Saturday. Clubbing and partying is not our thing either. but its fun to be there and to celebrate everyone’s right to love and be loved. We had a great lunch in Velvet on Canal Street. We waved at the narrowboats ( bit of a theme that this weekend!). We wandered round the stalls, put umbrellas up and down and said ‘Hi” to some of the people on the charity stalls, mental health, Quakers, Metropolitan City Church, Lesbian Community Group to name a few. And then we went and rocked out with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus singing their hearts out in the rain. A great, big, bad sound it made me smile. Proms in the Park was good, it would have been a LOT better on a sunny summer day. I had fantasies of sitting on the grass, the sun on my face music to sing along to. By this time the missus was cold. Well I did ask her if she was taking a jacket, but oh no. Who’s the smarty pants now then? If it had stayed sunny an evening of Toyah Wilcox, 4 Poofs and a Piano and the Original Bucks Fizz beckoned. I think you probably have to be from the UK to understand any of these or even have heard of them at all!
On the way home we passed a pub that I had spotted on the way in. It sits like a little beacon of old town in the middle of sky-scraper buildings. Coming from Stoke-on-Trent the home of The Potteries I can’t pass a Minton tile without oohing and aaahhhing in admiration. This little gem has been beautifully preserved. It’s also For Sale. Brief moment of landlady bubble comes out of my head. Nah. But someone please keep this little treasure alive.
Of course I had to Google it when I got home. This place seems to have stood still in time. One of Manchester’s oldest and certainly most distinctive pubs, here is a little review I found which sort of sums it up
Look at it!
Not only is it distanced architecturally from its surroundings, but it also happens to sit quite proudly on its own little concrete island. Aw, bless it. And look at it! Appears to be made out of ceramic, with a lovely green little roof garden awash with foliage.
I bet it’s haunted. I just hope it’s haunted. Truly they are missing a trick in not offering candelit all-nighters round Hallowe’en time. I cannot think of anything better.
As it stands, though, it stands proud. It feels like the city – and the world – has grown up around it; ol’ Peveril standing resilient, defiant. You can imagine the place emerging from the fog after hours of hostile travelling on foot or horseback – a glowing, warming, welcoming beacon for the weariest of souls.
Well, it still glows. When the sun shines, Peveril reflects it right back. Now it offers respite from the pace of the modern world. It feels like the heart of Manchester and, at times – when you’re surrounded by friends and cold drinks – it feels as though it beats for you.
The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family and among the world’s most threatened animals.
Location: Southwest China – to the east of the Tibetan plateau
Habitat: Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests
Wild population: Less than 1,600 mature in the wild
Mum and Dad took on a whole new project when they retired in the 70’s. It combined Mums love of education, creativity and children with dads passion for engineering, DIY and travel. They became travelling puppeteers and called themselves the Puppet People. Their mission was to share ideas about saving the planet and conservation with young people all over the world. Over the years they made many friends and travelled to far off places from Russia to Assisi, the school next door to the Highlands of Scotland.
I have to say it sort of drove me mad at the time! Luckily by this point I had left home and was living my own life nevertheless turning up to shows periodically became a strange sort of family torture much like the slide shows of earlier childhood!
In clearing Mums house we have sorted boxes and boxes of puppet related ‘stuff’. Some, including many puppets,has gone to the museum in Glasgow run by one of their closest friends John Blundall ( the maker of Parker from Thunderbirds!) Take a look at this here I have a pile of puppetry books put aside for a friend who is just starting out with his own puppetry / performance career and some the boys have kept as memories.
This week Mum has been up and down, sometimes clear sometimes not. We were chatting about my bracelet that she and Mrs T got me for my birthday. It is a Lovelinks one where you can attach charms and glass beads and I love it. I wanted to get something from Mum as a sort of special Mum reminder. Daft I know. Its not like I really need that but it had sort of got into my head and I loved the idea. So we talked about the different beads and I mentioned one I liked was the panda and baby one. I said it reminded me of the WWf and she got it straight away, “O that’s about who we were” she said. I like another one too with “mum” on one side and “I love you” on the other it goes both ways. Anyway my panda arrived yesterday and is on my bracelet. it will always mean something special that we both knew what it was about.
Mothers and Daughters –Valse Frontenac
Mothers and daughters
Were daughters and mothers
Not so long ago.
We give and take
And take and give
Along time’s endless row.
Love is passed
And love received
To be passed on again:
A precious heirloom
Twice, twice blessed,
A spiritual cardigan.
I’ll put it on
And treasure it,
The me I have received,
And when the roles
I’ll have what I most need. So may our love
Go on and on,
A hundred thousand years;
Mothers and daughters,
Daughters and mothers,
Through joys and other tears.
This is all I can say today. There are no regrets. It may be time soon to say Goodbye.
For my 50th birthday we took a trip to Rome, the Missus and I and Sons 3 and 4. We had a wonderful few days of culture and pizza. The two statues were in the Colosseum museum, if you are that old it’s no wonder you’ve lost a head or two. i though it was only fair to show no discrimination between gender when broken. And both are still beautiful.
In a whole different context this photo was taken on the island of Anglesey in North Wales, one of my favourite places. This was incongruously placed at a workshop/ cafe we stumbled across selling jams and jellies. The owner had developed a passion for collecting old and broken signs, advertisements and of course That Car.
Mums’ world is getting smaller. Where once an afternoon of sitting at a pavement cafe, ice cream in hand, and watching the world go by would have been heaven now it is all about the ice cream. She had a little tub of chocolate and Welsh cake ( yes Welsh cake!) flavour with a little plastic green spoon. After a minute or two she said rather plaintively ” I’m not getting any”. I realised she was using the spoon as a straw. It has elements of tragi-comedy this relentless journey towards the ending of this life. Even in this week I’ve seen a change in her. I have to remind her of the boys names and which is which on the photo we gave her today from her birthday tea on Monday. She didn’t remember which room was hers when we got home. She seems to be diminishing. Each time I see her I wonder how long we have. Silly to think ike that maybe but it is there at the back of my mind all the time. I don’t want her to go, but I hope she can before the dementia takes her away.
She must have been having a conversation with someone else at the home about age and birthdays, a favourite topic! She said
” I was talking to someone else and they are 87″,
I said, “That’s like you Mum, you’re 87 now aren’t you?”.
“How can that be?” she says, “How can we be the same? I don’t feel like they are my brothers or sisters”
. She didn’t understand that being born in the same year meant being the same age. Sometimes the cognitive dips and signs of another spark in her brain that has fizzled out take me aback and I find it hard to speak for a moment.
At her party we had a lounge room to ourselves with party food laid out on a table and flowers and a big birthday balloon. Another lady , who had just moved in and was also quite confused kept wandering by and knocking at the window. We invited her in of course and she sat drinking juice and eating a sandwich. ”
Is it someones birthday?”,
Yes its Margaret’s, Margaret this is Phyllis”,
“How old is she?”,
“Margaret is 87″,
” Oh not as old as me then”,
‘How old are you?”,
” I was born in 1921″,
“That makes you 90 this year then,”
” Is it someones birthday?”,
“Yes its Margaret’s, Margaret this is Phyllis”
…….repeat ad infinitum.
You have to laugh as they say, or you’d cry.
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.
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.
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.
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