It is a grey old day today. Fog and mist all day and that autumnal dampness that gets under your skin. I took the dog for a walk wearing my winter coat, only its second outing this season. funny to think that this time last year the UK was in the middle of ‘The Big Freeze’ and we were slipping and sliding our way around whilst snow and hoar frosts made the landscape into Narnia under the Snow Queen.
As I get older I appreciate the seasons more. I don’t dread winter any more for its dark nights and mornings. I like the festivals that the seasons bring for the celebrations of light. I like putting on my winter coat and feeling ready for any weather. Watching the leaves dropping from the trees reminds me that December is almost here with family Christmas and celebrations. And then the year turns and we wait for the light to egin to return.
Today I was looking through photos from October when the Missus and I had an escape to Rhodes. Winter is a good time to get out those photos and finally do something with them. I have a project in mind with old family photos to make a scrapbbok for future generations. So many old photos. And then all the images stored on computer, ones I keep meaning to make into albums or frame and put on the walls. So many winter evenings and weekends that could occupy.
This afternoon I am cooking a shepherds pie for dinner with the family. Pottering in the kitchen and creating comfort food, looking forward to seeing everyone together at the table. looking at pohotos, reading my book, catching up on emails. I am very grateful.
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.
I am writing an eulogy. Summing up a life. Remembering moments. Telling stories. Collecting memories. Anyone who has ever written one will know how hard it is. My mind keeps going completely blank. I tell myself that I have been writing about Mum for months, sharing every day gems and the joys and sorrows. And still it is hard to do. I keep starting again. The boys are writing their own words to join with mine. Everyone has been thinking about it today and you can feel it in the house.
I have looked up other words from more famous or clever people. I talked to my sister from my other mum and she told me how she had written a letter to her Dad. I understand that no-one wants a CV, especially one that is dry as dust. It could be like one of those awful courses you go on with work where everyone is supposed to introduce themselves with their name and place of work. It becomes a competition to see who can be the most experienced/cleverest/highest earner. Then again no-one wants to hear of sainthood. The best eulogies seem to combine affection, humour and somehow capture the essence of the person who is gone.
I have been searching for a quote, a few pithy words, a poem, a line. And yet in the end it will be what it has always been – an act of love, speaking words that come from our hearts, raising a smile. In the meantime these few words have made me smile or seem to catch a glimpse of what I want to say.
Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly shedding its cocoon. It is a transition to a higher state of consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh, and to be able to grow.
“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Legend
“The highest result of education is tolerance.” Helen Keller
“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”
Oh and then there are the reindeer ears. This story must be told. At Christmas time on our regular trip to the garden centre Mum found these ears. They play music too. She insisted on wearing them all the way round the shop. One or two people looked askance. Most smiled with us. “They can use me for advertising” she said. We brought the ears home this week. They still make me grin.
I think everyone knows who should do.
The funeral is arranged.
The notices are in the papers.
Cards and messages and flowers, hugs and kind words surround us.
Tomorrow is A level results day. Son 3 is waiting . It will be a happy day I am sure. We are proud of him. This will be the first family moment that Nana is not here for. But she knew already he will do well, whatever happens.
I catch myself thinking to tell her things or noticing little moments of loss. My colleagues gave me a beautiful orchid today.Mum always managed to keep them growing beautifully. She gave me several. I killed all of them. Maybe she’ll help me keep this one!
Dail Mail Today
Headlines in some of the todays British tabloids concern the shocking statistics of over 100 under fives admitted to NHS hospitals in the last year suffering from anorexia.
Where the ins and outs of those headlines are not so clear, nevertheless we all know of the worrying trend for young girls in particular, but also some boys to become caught up in the devastation of eating disorders.
Being on the weight loss journey makes me even more conscious than usual about the politics of food and diets. I don’t have girl children so I don’t think I as exposed as some Mothers are to the impact of the diet police on young minds. Boys in my experience tend to deal with being fit in a more pragmatic way and one based around exercise as a way of controlling weight. Of course that too can get out of hand.
It seems that little girls are hardly out of playgroup before the group pressure and competitive edge kicks in. All those super cute clothes in baby girl sizes can so easily cross over into little sexy misses trying to be teens before their time.
Now I was a chubby child. I didn’t like it and I was conscious of it. But when I look back on photos of my 11 plus self I see a healthy pre and then teen girl. I had a healthy diet like many of us growing up. Not much processed food, fresh veg and fruit. Drinks as a child were water or milk. That’s not to say I didn’t have treats, butterscotch angel delight still holds fond memories as do sherbet dips and fruit salad sweets. My sugar addiction was alive and kicking by the time I was 7 or so but lots if outdoor activities and healthy meals kept me steady until late teenage when I had more control over what I ate.
The tragedy of eating disorders at a younger and younger she seems not just the loss of childhood and the family trauma but also the desperate searching for control in an alien and chaotic world, that the ED seems to signify.
So what can you or I do? I have no special magic wand or fancy answers. I wish I did.
But it makes me wonder if we can try to keep food simple, keep mealtimes a place for families to share more than just food and as a society do our damnedest to ensure that we don’t let either fat fascism or the diet police take over our own heads.
We live what we believe after all. Let us believe in our children’s right to have a happy and healthy childhood and to know they are beautiful and healthy whatever size they wear.
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Never mind the Baby Boomers and Generation X, my kids are the Harry Potter Generation and as the story reader who became as delighted and in awe of the books as they were, I guess I am sort of that generation too. We waited in eager anticipation for the new copies of each book. After the first two I ordered at least three copies at a time from amazon on pre-order. As they grew to read the books for themselves we couldn’t wait but had to each have our own copy. Summers were a joy of Harry and Hermione and Ron. Mrs Weasley was my magical role model, how I would love her skill with a wand in the kitchen and for tidying up the house.
Each film we have seen together, a family outing, usually the preview showing or on the first day. My eldest though, refused to come. Having seen the first film he retired in disgust, it could never live up to the books and the wonderful readings by Stephen Fry that he listened to nightly. For years after bedtime stories were past he would listen till he fell asleep.
On Tuesday I went with sons 3 and 4 to see the final film, The Deathly Hallows Part 2. I almost didn’t want it to come. It certainly feels like an end of an era. As they are now 18 and 16 its rare to find a film we want to see together at the cinema. Of course they want to go with their friends. But this was special, this was Harry Potter, and that made it a family occasion for the true believers. I thought it was pretty good, I liked they way they did the ending and it was fun to see how the characters had grown up too.
But the best bit is that the books are still here. It’s a while since I’ve read them so I can feel an HP session coming up, although I’m disappointed that I can’t yet read them on my kindle.
What is it about HP that caught the imagination of millions? Good and Evil of course, the wonderful fantasy of school stories and every childs dream of living away from home in a magical place. And then of course there is the magic, the humour, the story of love and loyalty, of sacrifice and bravery. It is truly epic in its breadth and storytelling. JK Rowling you are a very special writer and I thank you for the joy you have given me and my family over the last 10 years or so.
In politics Lenin died and Ramsay MacDonald became the first Labour Prime Minister and Edgar Hoover became head of the FBI
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin was first performed in New York
Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) is founded in LA
The summer Olympics take place in Paris and Johnny Weissmuller wins 3 gold medals
Other people born this year are Doris Day, Marlon Brando, Josephine Pullein-Thompson, Henry Mancini, Clement Freud, Tony Hancock, Charles Aznavour, Lauren Bacall, Rosamunde Pilcher, Truman Capote, Jimmy Carter, William Russell, and Margaret Ashcroft ( my Mum)
Deaths in this year : Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, E. Nesbit, Franz Kafka, Mallory and Irvine ( lost on Everest), Frances Hodgson Burnett, Giacomo Puccini,
Mum shares her birthday with Nelson Mandela ( 93), Richard Branson (61) Martha Reeves (70), John Glenn (90)
Today 18th July 2011 Margaret Richardson ( nee Ashcroft) is 87. We celebrated in style at her home with sandwiches and crisps and birthday cake. Sparkling water and some sparkling cava were enjoyed. Her friend George came and visitors popped in and out. And we all sang Happy Birthday whilst Geordie ( the dog) had another sausage. Here she is with her grandsons, girlfriend and the dog.