Friends

28 February 2011

Celebration Day

I know house sparrows are common everyday sort of birds but we did miss them when they’d gone. We went from plenty to none in the space of a few days.

Yes, there were enough of them to keep us worrying that they would eat all the food put out for interesting birds, those more colourful and exciting than the ordinary brown sparrow.

We lived in a huge 5 bedroomed house with a long garden, situated near fields and woods, a river and a golfcourse, the ideal place to capture the attention of our wildlife favourites.


Woodpeckers visited daily, along with a diverse number of assorted finches, different kinds of warblers, wrens, jays, blackbirds, treecreepers, long tailed tits, nuthatches, crested tits and many other similar varieties, as well as an assortment of hawks, ring necked doves, crows and magpies, but no pigeons. We didn’t want pigeons. We didn’t want sparrows either but we had plenty of them.

Then the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) started to worry us with tales of the rapid decline of certain birds and we began to notice the drop in numbers of our daily visitors. It was a slow process, nothing to be concerned about. Or so we thought. However, as the years went by we began to believe it. Just think, without birds we could lose our planet!

Twenty years ago we moved house. Didn’t go far, just over the rooftops, so to speak, to a road parallel to the one we’d lived in for so long. We did go a little further uphill though, thinking then of approaching old age and infirm limbs! Consideration had to be given to future journeys to the shops in the (unlikely) event that we might have to abandon our cars. The new residence was to be a bungalow so stairs wouldn’t be a problem, this idea coming after a spell when I suffered a broken ankle and had to negotiate stairs by sitting on the backside.

We definitely downsized, the bungalow being more like a fairy cottage after the big house with the picturesque stained glass windows. Oooh but I did miss that grand staircase that I should only have used when wearing a crinoline dress … like in the films.

But I digress!

The garden was lovelier and more attractive than the last one, wider, longer and very mature.

(click here for more views of the garden)

It had more fruit trees and two lawns and with the trio of ponds, each one cascading into the next, I just knew the herons would come. They did, along with most but not all the bird varieties we’d been used to, and only about five sparrows which rapidly reduced to none. We’d only moved across the rooftops, surely they could fly uphill?

Well, from that day to this there have been no sparrows. We have plenty of dunnocks but NO house sparrows. Let’s face it, twenty years is a long time to be without sparrows! I actually thought they were extinct, that is until yesterday. Whilst eating dinner I happened to look out at the garden and … well, blow me down, there were two house sparrows at the seed feeder. They were back again today and they brought a friend. My Guy reckons they’re about to start a new dynasty. Hopefully we’re back in business. All I need to do now is get rid of the perishing WOODPIGEONS.

25 February 2011

Rabbits

Once upon a time I had a beautiful dream. I dreamed of white rabbits … fluffy, cuddly ones with pink eyes. There is an old saying that ‘Friday night’s dream, Saturday told, is bound to come true be it ever so old.’ Well, I didn’t have long to wait ‘cause the dream was on a Friday and I blabbed the next day.

Having already explained the dream to young son over breakfast, we got ready to go out shopping. We had finished the essential part of the expedition and were walking to the bus back home when I suddenly stopped and looked in amazement at the local pet shop. There in the window, frolicking for all the world to see, were two white rabbits with pink eyes. Unbelievable! This, I thought, was definitely an omen. Since the sighting had broken the dream there was nothing for it but to go into the shop and buy a rabbit. Yeah, right!

I never realised I was gullible until that day. Two young rabbits, a hutch and food were purchased when the shopkeeper said they were the last and ‘it would be a shame to part them’. Yeah, right!

Only later did I find out that it’s very difficult to tell a buck from a doe when they’re young.

But gullibility aside, Jon and I began to enjoy our rabbits. I bought books and did a study and discovered that buck and does should be separated before they were old enough to breed. Well that was okay since they were only young rabbits!

I used to like a lie in on a Sunday as that was a no-work day but not long after we’d purchased the little dears I was rudely awakened by young son crying because one of the rabbits was covered in blood. You’ve guessed it, Mommy rabbit had given birth. Heaven help her, she was only a nipper herself!

Remembering the bit in the book about the buck being a cannibal at heart and the added advice to get him away from the doe before he could start eating his youngsters, and definitely get him away from the doe so that further sexual activity could be avoided, I shot out of bed, raced outside, opened the hutch and grabbed the buck by the ears. We shut him in the outside shed and, yeah, you guessed it, we popped out to buy another hutch. But that wasn’t until I’d seen the babies. Aaaaah so cute.

So peace reigned once again in Valerie’s household, that is until I was roused by young son to tell me that Mom had given birth again. Seemed I had not been fast enough getting the male rabbit out of the hutch. He must have performed even as she gave birth. And I always thought jokes about breeding rabbits was an exaggeration. Yeah, right!

Then there was the day the buck escaped from his hutch. I’d only gone there to refresh his food and the minute the door opened he was off after his Missus who was conveniently eating grass on the lawn. It was a long time before I caught him and even then I wasn’t sure if I’d captured the buck or the doe … if only I’d had the foresight to put an identifying collar on the wretched sex-mad animal.

This was, of course, a long time ago and I can’t remember how many young we had altogether, but believe me there were A LOT.
Naturally I had to find homes for the babies … couldn’t possibly keep them all. So I put a notice on the staff notice board at work. X number of Baby Rabbits for Sale, good homes wanted, or words to that effect. Say the number was 12, within the hour someone had multiplied it to 24, and then another bright spark changed the figure to 48 … and so on. It was the joke of the office. Some wise guys offered sexual advice for rabbits and one recommended consulting the Brook Street Bureau. You can imagine, can’t you, the bawdy tones used by the male employees? Ladies were a bit more circumspect but even they bordered on the unthinkable! One thing I will say, though, the entire episode lifted the spirits of the ordinary working man … and woman.

I did sell the baby rabbits; For what seemed like an age I was transporting the damn things all over town but believe me my strength was waning along with my love of rabbits. In the end I was obliged – out of desperation - to sell the randy buck, hutch and all, and was left with just Mommy rabbit who eventually died of old age.

So if ever you dream about rabbits on a Friday night I beg you either to keep the dream to yourself or ensure you stay away from pet shops the following day; as the saying goes ‘Friday night’s dream, Saturday told, is sure to come true be it ever so old.’

20 February 2011

DES RES FOR SALE (Repeat)


Dearly beloved,

I can’t wait to show you my new home, hopefully soon to be our new home. It was on one of my restless days that I found it, when I was wondering how much longer it would be before we were together for all time. I’d felt agitated since my arrival. Not having you by my side is something I have to get used to but, my dearest, it is going to be hard. In an attempt to calm my soul I went to explore the hills and valleys of this unusual place.

As you know, walking has always been hard for me but strangely it now feels easier. It’s difficult to describe the sensation, it’s almost as though I’m weightless. I know that’s challenging to the imagination considering my size. But it’s true, I seem to glide rather than walk. I’ve put it down to the conditions, with air as pure as this I’m bound to feel different. Tell you one thing, though, I can breathe easier. There must be a no smoking ban here as well. The environment is considerably healthier, the grass is greener and the sky is a heavenly shade of blue. Oh and the everlasting scent of flowers is divine.

But I digress. I’m sure you’re dying to know about the house.

I had wandered away from the beaten track and almost missed the notice secured to a mossy bank by a twig. In my opinion it was a silly place to put it, I mean how would people know there was a house for sale when the paper was almost obscured by foliage?

Desirable Residence in Heavenly Location’

The word heavenly attracted my attention. I wondered where it could be. There was no place on earth that could be described as heavenly, not in this day and age, yet that was the portrayal that captured my imagination. Since I was destined to stay in this new territory I decided to check it out.

The agent, a kindly man with a striking white beard that tumbled from chin to portly chest, told me that the abode had been vacant for a long time. I assumed it was because there were no near neighbours, something that didn’t bother me as I am quite keen on solitude. At least I was until the day I found friendship of a different kind. With you, my darling.

As soon as I entered the unusual structure I knew it was exactly what I was looking for: comfortable, relaxing, soothing, and above all a million miles away from reality. Don’t misunderstand me; I am happy with reality but this place with its pure white freshness, gentle curving surrounds, strewn pillows, and an ambience ripe for love was perfect for dreaming.

Breathing in the calming atmosphere I wandered around, nosing in light and airy cupboards that smelt of roses, half expecting to find hidden secrets. All I found was an engraved talisman, vibes from which produced strange inner sensations. Happy people were here, I thought, and happy people would come again for at that stage I had almost decided to go ahead with the purchase.

The bedroom was extraordinary. No bed, just mattresses on the floor. Not mattresses as we know them, my love, these were soft and downy, like huge feather pillows. I admit to lying on one to see how it felt. Dreamy is the only way I can describe it but that wouldn’t anywhere near conjure up the true experience. If you can imagine the far-away sensation that comes after a bout of flu you might be more aware of what I’m trying to say. It was like lying down and forgetting everything.

It was the bathroom that really brought the decision to a head, a pristine white tiled palace with gold taps sitting proudly at the end of a bath made for two. Two cotton robes draped on a chair and soft white towels neatly folded on a long tasselled stool convinced me that the room was waiting to be used.

And so it would be. I remember thinking this is where I would take my lover. We would indulge each other in warm suds, searching, soaping, drying each other with fluffy towels, then move as one to the array of plump white cushions. There I would place my lips on his in an emotional demonstration of desire. That was the effect of the newfound accommodation.

It is cool and sunny, in fact quite a pleasant day. My purchase is complete. I sit outside wondering how best to describe the new quarters to you, hoping you will like them as much as I do.

The sky is so blue a few small clouds like cotton wool stand out in 3D style. Lazily leaning back against the willow tree, I’m contemplating our future, wondering how you will take to this heavenly place. I’ve called it Cloud Nine, reminiscent of the fantasies we shared.

Signing off now, sending all my love and hoping your journey won’t be too painful or tiring. And please God, don’t let it take too long.

15 February 2011

POWERLESS

He stood at the door and watched as she slowly lowered herself into her chair, her hands gripping the narrow arms as she tried to level out the descent. He had to force himself not to go to her aid, recognising her need for independence.

Once an outgoing, vital person, with numerous interests both in and out of the home, his wife was now in rapid decline. Jed was afraid to touch her lest he caused her some pain. Although she never complained he caught the odd wince when his handling was less gentle.

Satisfied that Martha was settled, Jed went into the room to get her reading matter, a paperback, the only thing she had left to do apart from eat and sleep. Gone are the days when she fanatically enjoyed working her many crafts. Or jigsaws, though not the easy kind, she preferred difficult ones, working without pictures, forming scenes in her head as she concentrated on fitting each piece. There was always a project to do when all else was done. Now she couldn’t even hold a heavy book in her misshapen hands.

It broke his heart to see her suffer, though she never complained. Sometimes he had to leave the house, seek refuge somewhere, see people, do something different; the only way to get some solace. The whole sickness regime wore him down. He didn’t know what to do and if he was honest he didn’t want to know. He yearned to have the fun years back, when there were no worries about ill health.

In years gone by, they danced at the local ballroom. A practised dancer, Martha would whirl round the floor in her special dress and high heeled satin shoes, her flame coloured hair flying behind her, while he tried desperately to keep up. She would pull and tug and remonstrate that he wasn’t trying hard enough.

But he did try. He had always tried to do his best for her. He guessed that sounded as though she was demanding when she wasn’t. It was just that he loved her so much and couldn’t bear her to suffer disappointment or hurt.

He looked up, realising she was watching him.

‘Are you in pain?’ she asked.

He moved to stand beside her chair, one hand stroking her grey hair. ‘No, my dear, I was just besieged by a memory.’

‘Best leave the memories to me,’ she replied, smiling. ‘I’m better equipped to deal with them.’

And she was! Another example of her sense of humour.

Thinking back over the years he smiled, remembering. Martha’s humour was the first thing that attracted him to her. She was sitting in a coffee bar, breaking squares of chocolate from the bar and dropping them into a paper bag wedged between cups. When she saw his inquisitive stare she explained that she intended to throw the chocolate away because she was on a diet. At his suggestion that she could simply toss away the whole bar she countered that it would be too quick and wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of handling each little piece.

The first years of their marriage were great fun, starting right on their wedding day when she tried to explain to the priest during the ceremony that the ring went on the third finger of the left hand. On honeymoon she hid her underclothes lest they offended her new husband, and when their daughter was born she wanted to spare him from seeing her undressed. Those were the good old days when she was young and fit, full of life and a trifle silly.

There were no regrets. Martha’s life had been good, and still was. Although she had fond memories she wasn’t one for constantly remembering the past. Her style was always to live each moment and move on. Sometimes she’d felt a little claustrophobic with the pressure of remembering to order. It was too difficult to go down the route of reliving each long gone experience. She’d always wanted to be free to have her own opinions and ideals; they had shaped her life, shown her the way to proceed. She supposed she was thought of as unsentimental and in a way she guessed that was right. She wasn’t frivolous but light-heartedness suited her best.

And now here she was, confined to the house and sometimes the chair, surrounded by love and compassion yet still feeling stifled. Was that a sign of getting old or had she always felt that way? She sighed and opened the paperback book, one she’d chosen simply because the title intrigued her: Up Close and Personal, written by someone she’d never before heard of. She read the first few pages until she heard the softly closing front door. Glancing at the clock on the sideboard she saw that it was three o’clock. Much too early, she thought, for a visit to the Queens Head. Thoughtfully she returned the book to the table beside her chair.

She knew all about Jed’s quandary. Despite his unwillingness to be tied down to domesticity he was a good and kind man and she loved him dearly. However, coming to terms with his impatience of long term ill health had taken her a long time. Her first encounter had been when his father had a stroke. Jed was first at his bedside but subsequent visits were well spaced out, prompting fierce arguments between them until she recognised that he hadn’t sufficient aptitude to get more closely involved. But it didn’t mean he didn’t care, that’s why she had vowed not to be a drain on their everyday life.

As if that thought was a reminder, she painfully stretched an arm out to the side table and selected a pill bottle from an array of similar bottles, all with caps ready loosened. Damn these fingers, she cried, as she shook out two easy to swallow painkilling capsules.

‘Hi Mom,’ said Danny as he and Babs let themselves into the house.

‘Hello, dears,’ called Martha, straightening her plaid skirt so that she would look more respectable for her children.

Carrying flowers and a basket of fruit, brother and sister entered the room, both of them trying not to appear shocked at their mother’s appearance. In a short space of time she’d shrunk to nothing, from healthy plumpness to this emaciated existence. The doctor put it down to inactivity, lack of appetite, and old age.

‘Where’s Dad,’ enquired Danny.

‘Probably gone to the park,’ Martha said. ‘He likes to get out when the weather’s fine.’

Danny inwardly seethed although he knew better than to say what was on his mind. His father had always cut and run rather than face up to domestic situations.

Martha could see that her eldest child was privately at war with his father and wished there was something she could say in Jed’s defence. Instead she asked Babs to brew them a pot of tea and reminded her that the biscuit tin was still full of her favourites.

Babs chuckled. ‘Oh Mother, I’ve brought you some more. I thought you would have eaten the others by now.’

With Babs out of the way Martha turned to her son and said, ‘Don’t feel badly about your Dad.’

Danny shrugged. ‘It upsets me when he leaves you alone so much.’

For the first time Martha admitted aloud that she preferred it that way. ‘It means I can wallow when I’m on my own. I have to put up such a front when your Dad’s here.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he loves me,’ she said, ‘almost too much.’ She knew that Danny would never understand but she tried to elaborate. ‘He lives in the past, you see. He always has done. I think he’s afraid of what the future will bring. I’m more realistic. I don’t let on too much when I have pain because I can’t take too much fuss. Your Father does a lot for me but I prefer not to wear him out. It’s selfish, I know, but then we’re both selfish. We know when to keep our distance and when to allow some dependence upon each other. It’s about knowing each other, Danny, respecting who we are, but in a strange sort of way it shows how much we care about each other.’

She didn’t enjoy seeing the tears in Danny’s eyes but she’d had to be blunt. She just hoped he and Babs would finally realise that although their parents had faults their relationship was as strong as it ever was.

At the end of the afternoon visit Danny and Babs left the house by the front door, leaving Martha still sitting in the chair. Just before the door closed, Martha heard Babs say ‘Well, I for one don’t understand it. Wouldn’t you think that being in love would make people more accommodating?

One day, thought Martha, you might be more understanding of the human race. Being in love is wonderful but it doesn’t necessarily iron out all of life’s wrinkles.

14 February 2011

Cherished Mementos

On the right of the picture is a silver medallion with my Dad's initials engraved on the centre shield. I have no idea if it was a special gift to him or if he had it made but I remember that he wore it with his fob watch every single day. I guess when I was young I never thought to ask. When Dad died I adopted the medallion and still wear it on occasions.

On the left of the picture is a piece of shrapnel. A strange thing to keep you might say but it also produced a memory. During World War 2, when men were called in to fight or do munitions work or, in my Dad's case, to do skilled work on aeroplanes, the women took over the men's peacetime jobs. My Mom spent several years as a bus conductor.

One of her shifts meant that she had to start out early and walk to the bus depot since no buses were available at that hour. It was winter and it was dark. There were no street lights and all hell was going on in the skies. I don't know the detail but I know the end of the tale. As she walked a piece of shrapnel landed in front of her, narrowly missing her head. It wasn't a big piece but the speed with which it fell could have caused serious damage.

Mom kept the shrapnel as a good luck piece and when she died it came to me. Who knows, maybe that's why I've always been lucky.

11 February 2011

Valentine's Day

He showed me total happiness
With the ecstasy of a soft caress
Upon my cheek, so pale and wan,
And I knew my love had just begun

He took me gently by the hand
And led me into wonderland
Where pain and sorrow were unknown
And we never shared a tear or frown

In reckless earnest we embrace
Still enchanted, side by side
Wordless caring, quietly sharing
An eternal love we cannot hide

My Valentine

04 February 2011

By way of a change...

THE PARENTS' WEDDING PICTURE

By way of a change I thought I'd show some very old family photographs that were once shown on my Sepia Saturday blog.


CLOTHES MAKETH THE MAN! Just look at my Dad in his plus fours, is he a dandy or what? For an exceptionally quiet man he had remarkable dress taste. His Sister, my Aunt May, seemed quite comfortable to be standing next to him.

According to Wikipedia: Plus Fours were described as an "extravagant, careless style that fit right in with the looser fashions and lifestyles of the 1920s" Plus Fours are trousers that extend 4 inches (10 cm) below the knee (and thus four inches longer than traditional knickerbockers, hence the name). As they allow more freedom of movement than knickerbockers, they have been traditionally associated with sporting attire from the 1860s and onward, and are particularly associated with golf. My Dad never played golf.

Women will be Men! Or put it another way, they like wearing the trousers! That's my Mom on the right, with Auntie May.

Same two, t'other way round. At least one got back to normal dress!

THE GRANDFATHERS

My father's father, Grandfather Harry, was an artist, carpenter, cabinet maker, father of six, and from all accounts a sexual harasser. However, as this is a public blog I won't disclose the details. My father got his love of woodwork from Grandfather Harry and my only regret is that I didn't have a brother who could continue the line.

Grandfather Harry started a family scrap book to which all family members contributed, There were sketches, paintings, photographs, and writings, each one lovingly displayed on it's own page with a flimsy protective leaf to preserve the item. My father was the keeper of the scrapbook but it mysteriously disappeared when he died.

The family was deeply upset over the loss. One or two pieces remain, found amongst a bag full of loose photographs, some cut to size, all with ageing sellotape marks where they'd been stuck elsewhere. It is thought they were taken out of the scrapbook at some time and simply cast aside. This snippet was definitely a Grandfather Harry offering since it was signed by him. Isn't it sad that something so old and at one time precious should have been treated in such a way… the following being one of them.

Next picture is of my mother's father, Grandfather Smith. Nothing is known about this man except that he was my grandfather and father of eight. He was rarely talked about and I don't recall him ever being referred to by name. My Mom left home at eighteen and went off to be a nurse. She was ashamed of her large and very poor family and seldom kept in touch. All contact was discouraged ... if it hadn't been for my Dad I would never have met any of the relatives on mother's side.

The photograph shows grandfather as a serving soldier in the first world war.


This picture, mounted on card, was issued by the Royal Family and given to servicemen.
At least, that's the story I was told.

DAD'S SIDE OF THE FAMILY

Grandfather, Grandmother, and six children

Grandma with the three eldest, George, Elsie and May, none of whom are still alive. In fact, out of the six only two remain.

Grandma with the baby of the family, Uncle Norman, who was 20 years younger than my Dad. I was born seven years later


Grandmother and me ... Oooops sorry, that's the wrong picture



This is Grandma and me. Sweet or what!

Grandma was a staunch Methodist and belonged to an organisation known as Christian Endeavour. I think this must be the same Christian Endeavour that started in Portland, Maine, in 1881. She always wore a badge with the initials C.E. which I used to think were her own since her name was Charlotte Eliza.

That's it, life history in pictures. As for my Mom's side of the family, very little is known, not even a picture to gaze at.