Friends

26 May 2016

WE WAS BRUNG UP PROPER!


Congratulations to all who were born in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s and early 70s!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then, after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles or childproof doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitch-hiking.

As children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Takeaway food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, curry shops or Subway.

Even though all shops closed at 6pm and didn’t open at weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death! We shared soft drink with our friends from one bottle and no-one actually died from it.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner shop to buy toffees, gobstoppers, bubble gum and some bangers. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in them, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No-one was able to reach us all day, and we were okay. We would spend hours building our go-karts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with Matchbox cars. We did not have play stations, Nintendo, Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on Sky, no video/DVD films, no mobile phones, personal computers or internet chat rooms.

We had friends and we went outside and found them.

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Only girls had pierced ears! We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt and the worms did not live in us forever!

You could only buy Easter eggs and hot cross buns at Easter time!

We were given air guns and catapults for our 19th birthdays. We cycled or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell – or just yelled for them.

Mum didn’t have to go to work to help Dad make ends meet.

Rugby and cricket had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn how to deal with disappointment. Imagine that! Getting into the team was based on merit.

Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bullies always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of… if they did it was an embarrassment.  Anyway, mostly they actually sided with the law.

Our parents didn’t invent names for their kids, like Kiora, Blade, Ridge or Vanilla.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all.

And YOU are one of them… CONGRATULATIONS.

You might want to share this with others who had the luck to grow up as kids before lawyers and the Government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you’re at it, show it to your kids so they know how brave their parents were.

22 May 2016

THINGS DON'T LAST FOR EVER!

I’ve lost my cleaner!

No, not the vacuum cleaner, I’m referring to the lovely half-Italian lady who helped around the house for two years. She was great, the sort you could have a laugh with or confide in. She was helpful when she needn’t have been and so was her husband. He was the sort of man who could do just about anything. When I bought new standard lamps he was the one who assembled them because my Joe was too poorly to do anything.

Paola and I became friends and I really looked forward to her once a week visits. Unfortunately her heart was on setting up her own business. Not cleaning, although that might have come into it... no, she was hell bent on dealing with fingernails. She went on a course and learned all there was to know about treating and decorating nails. Slowly she built up a clientele and managed to find some local accommodation. Like all new ventures it was slow to get off the ground but gradual word-of-mouth brought in more customers. I was pleased for her and knew that her time as a cleaner was on the cards to come to an end. That day came two weeks ago.

Paola tried hard to fit everyone into shorter hours which, of course, didn’t work. To maintain financial income she wanted to do both which, as we all know, can be difficult. She decided to cut down on clients, meaning those she ‘did’ for, i.e. me. To be fair, she tried very hard to keep her customers; it was the customers who finally ended it for me.

Paola’s proposal was to clean three houses in one day and still have part of that day to herself. She needed a day off. Her mind had started to wander and she started to get fretful. Not a good state of affairs when she’d made all the preparations to go it alone. However, Paola persisted with the idea of cleaning for three families and put forth the following proposition.

1. She would clean for Barbara, daughter-in-law of Bill, in the morning. She lives two roads away.

2. In the afternoon she would clean for Bill, a man of great age (101 in May) who lives opposite me.

3. Late afternoon was my turn. Only, I didn’t want that. 

4.  Paola went back to the drawing board and finally suggested cleaning for Bill late afternoon/evening. Only, Bill didn’t want that. 

5.  Back she came to me with the awful news. Since housework in the latter half of a day didn’t appeal to me either, I called it a day.

It was very sad but I had to think of my own comfort. And Charlie’s, of course; even cats like a rest during the day. And that’s how Paola and I saw the end of a pleasant two years.

What do do. Well, I couldn’t give up the idea of having a cleaner, not when I’m having trouble with the spine which doesn’t allow for a lot of bending or anything energetic. Vacuuming is a no-no and so is mopping floors. I can do things in an upright position provided it doesn’t take too long. Reaching great ages can be very off-putting!

The same day I said goodbye to Paola, on went the thinking cap and out came the computer. I needed to see what was on the market in the way of household help. It took about a half-an-hour. I saw a well-established company’s advert for household cleaners with reviews pointing to a reliable establishment. One phone call was all it took to convince me I was doing the right thing and one week was all it took to get my own cleaning lady. And what’s more it’s not costing me as much and I’m covered by insurance, something that didn’t happen before.

Her name is Hannah, a petite good looking young lady with a lovely manner and energy to die for. In addition she does a brilliant job; quite the little whirlwind, yet thorough. I left her to sort out her own routine and I swear she didn’t waste one little minute. Oh, to have such energy! I still feel guilty for being unable to tackle the major household tasks but I still try to do my bit for my own self-satisfaction. ‘Take it by degrees’ is my new motto, I’ll just have to see if I can do that ... er ... with Hannah's help. 

Praying now that the gardening and window-cleaning guys stay put!! I would be in a mess if they disappeared. 

19 May 2016

LIVING DRAMA ... by request

(Fulfilling a request from Lillian to show this short story. Apologies to those who read this before.) 

LIVING DRAMA

‘I dated your son for five years, five years and one month to be exact.’

Kay Bennett looked up from her laptop and wondered if she should continue with her plan; it had taken long enough to type even one sentence.

Feeling despondent she clicked Save and leaned back to think what to say next. She could hardly say she and Roger had met up a tree or that she was playing Jane to his Tarzan. It was the truth but no-one would believe it.

Although the windows were gaping the room seemed airless. Kay jerked open the neck of her blouse and prayed for cooler weather. Roger had written a poem about her room but it was totally untrue. He made it sound glamorous instead of being littered with magazines and generally untidy. Every day she vowed to clear everything away before he came but there were usually remnants of the last meal on show, dishes unwashed, the kitchen table a dumping place for jars of Marmite or Marmalade, depending on what time he arrived. Yes, the poem was totally misleading but as Roger said, an estate agent would appreciate it if they decided to set up home together. Kay knew he would sulk if she told him she could never sell the house. It was her parents’ home; her mother would turn in her grave if she thought her cottage was being abandoned.
Of course, Roger’s mother knew about his poet’s mind and unique sense of humour. But she couldn’t know how they teased and taunted each other, each trying to outdo the other with wit and poetic lines. His penchant for rhyme gave him top dog status, at least in Kay’s eyes. He won the game with poetry and won her heart in the process.

Kay looked aimlessly around the room. The outfit she was to wear that night was hanging on the door; an inappropriate dress for her figure but she’d managed to squeeze into it at rehearsal. It would be her first solo role, the part of a shop girl.

If she hadn’t joined the drama group she and Roger would never have met. The room was filled with mementos of different plays. Hanging on the wall by the fireplace was a framed bill board announcing a performance of Blythe Spirit in which Kay and Roger had tiny roles, their first time in a new partnership. They had been teamed together from the start. She was Cinderella to his Prince Charming, Juliet to his Romeo. They were so right together, a perfect alliance. The prompt jokingly complained there was nothing to do when she and Roger were on stage.

Roger said he had fallen in love with her during a performance of Love Story. He had leaned across her sick bed and quietly declared that he had never seen anyone so beautiful. He said it with such feeling, his voice trembling with emotion that Kay couldn’t be certain if he was still playing a part or if he really meant it. He assured her afterwards he meant every word.

And now, feeling the agony of parting, she knew she’d been nothing more than a gullible fool.
Kay wanted to tell his mother that it was entirely her fault. Her continual denigration had sent him in search of a dream; one they’d enjoyed together for five years and one month. Kay could tell her it was selfishness that made her attack her son’s activities. She knew she would never lose him but she couldn’t resist aiming blows at his self-esteem. He was a devoted son so Kay could only put it down to insecurity on his mother’s part. She would have felt even more insecure if she’d known what was going on.
~~~

Needing air, Kay left her desk and pushed the window further out. Birds were swapping places at the feeding station, blue tits, a robin, and a swanky woodpigeon trying to edge his way in. The garden had sprung into life. She gazed at the marigolds lining the edge of the small, tidy lawn, took in the new rose on a bush she’d once thought was dying. Did beauty ever really die, she wondered? Leaving the window open, she turned back to the room.

There was a pile of photographs on the coffee table. She was going to sort them out the night before but her heart wasn’t in it. Memories got in the way of the healing process but it had to be done. The decision had to be made whether to keep them or … or what? Roger certainly wouldn’t want them and, if he did, his meddling mother would only throw them away.

Squatting on a rattan stool, pushing an empty coffee cup to one side, she selected a picture of herself with Roger and Roger’s dog. They walked Bessie in the park three evenings a week. The animal was never happier than when she ran wild around the trees and chased daring rabbits until she flopped exhausted at Roger’s feet. Perhaps she should keep that one; the dog hadn’t done her any harm.
The gifts Roger gave her were heaped in piles. DVDs, romantic films they both cried over, books, birthday cards she’d held close to her heart, the purple fur mules, silk scarf, and a gold chain bracelet. And of course, the photographs!

Selecting a more recent snapshot Kay gazed at the countenance of the man she had adored for five years and one month. And still did, even though he had now vacated her life. He looked so handsome in his business suit, the one taken in a hotel room, looking e HHHHe …slightly ill at ease because of his preference for more casual clothes. The less the better in her view since his body was that of a sun worshipper, lean and bronzed, with no sign of an ageing flab.

There was nothing they didn’t know about each other, no area left unexplored. Likes, dislikes, concerns and worries were shared, support given when business matters needed careful thought, praise when things went right.

Holidays were zealously planned until the time came, when enthusiasm quickly turned to reluctance as they went their separate ways. Roger with Mother and Kay with a friend. Wardrobes were examined, items discarded if they no longer fit the tune of their lives. He helped with the shopping; wanting to choose the colour and style of her outfits, examining his choice in the long fitting-room mirror. Kay smiled at the memory and the insaneness of it all, but the smile faded when she remembered her impulsive suggestion that he let his mother go away on her own while he came away with her.

Fingering one of the CDs, Kay silently reminisced. Their love of music was a shared experience, quickly realised when Roger turned up at her door armed with CDs from his own collection. Every one already on her list of favourites. Kay remembered the first one they played together, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers … Islands in the Stream. It was claimed as their song and they rocked in unison whenever the CD was played.

Suddenly compelled to hear her favourite, Kay reached for another disc and took it to the record player, leaning against the wall as the music tumbled into her mind: Somewhere Out There. She remembered the tingling that crept over her as they listened, hand in hand, sitting close on the green rug in front of the fire. It was Kay’s first sign that she was truly in love. Listening to it now was pure torture. Impulsively stopping the music she hurried across the room, back to the computer, cursing when she saw it had gone into hibernation. Quickly pressing the button, she brought it bring it back to life, began to type.

Angry words bristled around her brain as her fingers raced over the keyboard. “YOU NEVER KNEW THE HALF OF IT,’ she wrote. ‘YOU NEVER KNEW IT WAS ME HE TURNED TO WHEN YOU HARASSED HIM ABOUT HIS WORK.’ She paused to wipe a single tear sliding down her cheeks; then sat, elbows on the desk, hands covering her face, giving way to grief.

~~~

There were bad times. Roger’s important job gave him headaches and he could have done without the continual hassle. He frequently had to juggle the amount of time he had to give to his work with the demands of life with Mother. He was in a real dilemma when things went wrong at home. Sometimes he couldn’t think straight. He often said his head was in turmoil and he didn’t know which way to turn. Kay had the not unpleasant task of soothing away his troubles. She was good at that. She always seemed to know the right words to use.

Kay was appalled at the amount of chores he was expected to do, the sort of chores best done by women – laundry, ironing, and other general household tasks. Having to juggle a responsible job and maintain the domestic arrangements wasn’t fair. It was fine for women, they had supreme organising talents.

So what was wrong with the woman who bore him? She wasn’t infirm and her work, whatever that was, only took up a few hours a week. Kay had to bite her tongue when he talked about it, reminding herself that she was the pacifier. It wouldn’t have been any use nagging and telling him to act like a man instead of a mouse. Though she had to admit it had crossed her mind. In her darkest moments it occurred to her that she was the sop he needed rather than the woman he desired above all else. Kay dabbed her eyes with a tissue to stop more tears spilling out.

It was a long time before they got round to sex. In the beginning it was just talk. Kay had been reluctant to give herself to a man before marriage so they contented themselves with teasing, cheeky innuendos. Some merely made her laugh; some made her want to pursue the margins of temptation. They agreed that she shouldn’t go where she felt uncomfortable. Photographs changed her ideas. Seeing him undressed, his manhood rearing, she soon wanted the real thing. They began to experiment, to see how long they could last before their bodies exploded with desire. At those times Roger said he couldn’t live without her. Certainly Kay felt she couldn’t live without him. Only now did she recognise that Roger was a mother’s boy. Only now did she realise how much her life would be ruined if they married.

But nothing lasts forever. At his home the domestic row that had been brewing for weeks finally erupted. The situation was serious. Kay never heard the full story and never will. Roger abruptly pulled the plug. All Kay had now was silence … and memories. It happened two months ago and she was only now getting used to the pain of abandonment. Never again would she hear his voice or see his beautiful face. It was time to exist without him. And she would.

During those months Kay had done a lot of thinking. It had come as a shock to realise how much she’d been used. She’d been a fool, a pawn in the game he played to thwart his mother. The knowledge didn’t alleviate the hurt or relieve her shame.

The screensaver on the laptop showed a picture of Roger, taken when he was sunbathing in France, the white swimming briefs bulging in such a way that Kay’s thighs jumped. ‘Never again Roger,’ she whispered as she set about removing his image from her screen.

‘I dated your son for five years, five years and one month to be exact’

Seeing those words again she began to type, finishing the sentence. ‘….. and I have great pleasure in handing him back.’

She wouldn’t send it, but it did her good to say it. The affair was over. No more intrigue, no more Roger, no more father of her unborn child. It was all an act, drama without end, the performance of his life. But her role would continue. There must be no more tears, there were plans to make, a future to face, a child to love. Lifting her eyes heavenwards Kay prayed she would never be as possessive and suffocating with her own offspring.

Goodbye Roger. Take good care of your mother.


15 May 2016

TRIBUTE TO A FRIEND

Recently I attended the funeral of an old friend and WI colleague. Pat became County Chairman after me and was very popular with the members. I worked alongside her on the Executive Committee but had known her a lot longer. She was a fun person, someone who knew the WI inside out. She knew all the rules and could always be relied on to give sound advice. Whilst serving as County Chairman she became very ill with throat cancer, something she coped with extremely well considering she could no longer speak. She didn’t deserve that. Not our Pat. Not the woman who could pour oil on troubled waters or boost the confidence of hesitant members. Pat, who could maintain a sense of humour no matter what, who was the first elected Chairman to be heartily cheered into the role by members. Literally! When the announcement was made at the ACM that Pat was to be County Chairman the entire audience cheered and clapped. That’s how popular she was. It was never done before or since. 

Two weeks before she died I received a letter from her because she had only just heard about my Joe. They got on well, he would greet her with ‘Ah, it’s my lady with the hat’ and she would respond with some remark about his smile. Sad that they have both gone.

Yes, Pat was well known for her hats, and always fashionable ones. Wherever she was, whatever event she attended, she always wore a hat. I don’t think she ever went out without one. Because of this her close friend and colleague at WI arranged for flowers to be placed on Pat’s coffin, the flowers were white and the arrangement was ... yes, you guessed right ... it was a hat. I would have liked to get a photograph of it but it didn’t seem right doing that at a funeral.

The service was at a different crematorium to our local one and not as practically designed. Probably because the local one is newer and lessons had been learned. It was a shame because the congregation sat in one large middle section which prevented those sitting middle to back from seeing or indeed hearing the service. From my position I couldn’t even see Pat’s coffin so my farewell thoughts had to fly over heads. I’m sure it didn’t matter to Pat but it did to me. I suppose I just wanted her to know that without her WI would never be the same again.


Well, that's me and funerals done.... hopefully future posts will be of a lighter nature. Thank you for your patience.