28 February 2014

A few pictures from Australia

Relaxing time ... do not disturb

You looking at me?

Oh for a quiet life!

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24 February 2014


He had known by her choice of words that the view would be spectacular. Incredibly stunning was the way she described it and now he saw for himself that it was. Fully expecting to see a horse and cart enter from the far end of the lane Mike kept close to the hedge on the opposite side of the house. A blackbird hopped away with a soft squawk. In the distance he heard a rumble of thunder but knew that rain would not appear that day.
The smells and sounds of the country were comforting. Not since he’d left home had he felt so lighthearted. He could breathe here, unlike his mother’s house where every cluttered room produced feelings of hysteria. Feeling suddenly carefree, he hobbled across the narrow lane and sat on the kerbstone, surprising himself by a childish display of defiance against his mother. ‘Don’t sit in the road wearing a hole in your pants,’ she’d shout from the garden gate. ‘D’ya think I’m made of money?’
Mike Simmonds had grown up fretting about what mother would say about everything he did. Not for him the carefree childhood his friends had, boys whose mothers joined in their fun, laughed with them, and fought ongoing battles with neighbours. But his life was put in perspective with that first letter from Yvette.

They were both aged fourteen when they became pen pals through a scheme started by their respective schools.  It was an endeavour to cross the language barrier which in their case didn’t work. Yvette might have been a French girl but her command of the English language was better than Mike’s so all her letters were written in English.  It suited Mike, him being a bit of a lazy scholar.
Yvette Dessen was born in her English grandmother’s house in Yorkshire, the house he was now looking at. The way she had described it Mike had spent his teenage years believing it to be haunted and even now he wasn’t sure. When she moved to France the yarns about friendly ghosts and spirits ceased but Mike never forgot them.  One in particular had obsessed him, about a spirit’s playfulness when it moved Yvette’s toys to another room and returned them when it thought she was tired of searching.  How would it know, he thought, determined that one day he would seek the answer. However as the years went by the need to know lessened and his early life was taken up with more sporting activities.

The exchange of letters continued. Mike was told about Yvette’s courtship with a handsome French student; he heard about the break-up of the relationship, consoled her through her sorrow, encouraged a new ambition to be a writer, and gave an opinion on a first draft. In return he described a love of cricket, his pride at being picked for the local team, and his despair over a car accident in which he had broken a leg.  
Neither of them married though each had many lovers. Their letters were unwisely descriptive of their respective affairs but the knowledge helped them understand the pain being suffered on termination. Mike and Yvette were on the brink of getting together, planning a future neither of them had hitherto envisaged.
The plan was that they would live in her grandmother’s house. It had been empty since the old lady died and now belonged to Yvette, that is until fate stepped in to thwart the idea. It was strange how fate had organised their lives, giving both of them parents who needed the attention of their offspring. Yvette’s widowed mother suffered from an early onset of Alzheimer’s while both of Mike’s parents were stricken with paralysing arthritis. They passed away peacefully within seven months of each other and Yvette’s Mom shortly after that.
Two years on Yvette herself died of a massive heart attack. Mike was informed by solicitor’s letter in which it was also stated that she had left him the house in her will. Mike was brokenhearted. Although they never met Yvette had been his friend for more than forty years, she had been his lifeline when things were going bad, his saviour when in the depths of despair. He couldn’t imagine a future without her.

It had been a long journey from his home in Devon. He wasn’t used to driving such long distances. He had left the car at the end of the lane, little realising how long the walk would be to the house. In the event it had been the right thing to do since there wasn’t much room for a parked car.
He looked up at the sky, smiling at the sudden appearance of the sun. Yvette’s kind of day. How many times had she written rejoicing when summer arrived? Mike fingered the keys in his jacket pocket, took them out, gazed at them, put them back again, hearing the clunk as they touched his mobile phone. The keys had been in his possession for a whole week but he had put off visiting the house, actually in two minds about coming here at all. Several nights had been spent tossing from side to side in his bed, wondering if he could face the prospect of going inside a house he should have lived in with Yvette.
The appearance of a well cared for white cat convinced him that he should venture forth. The animal wore a red collar, reminding him of the one he’d sent to Yvette when she acquired her beloved Spirit. He had thought it a strange name but it wasn’t his place to criticise the naming of her pet. He had, though, offered the opinion that he thought it was a little unusual.
‘Unusual?’ she wrote. ‘How can you say it’s unusual when you named your dog Coal.’
Mike had no answer to that but he considered naming a black dog Coal was a mite better than calling a white cat Spirit. It reminded him, he wrote, of cleaning fluid. Grinning at the memory he leaned down to stroke the creature, hearing the little bell tinkle as the animal moved its head to accommodate his scratching fingers. The cat looked up with what Mike could only describe as knowing eyes. 
Once again he took out the keys, only this time he kept them out. After a brief check he selected what he assumed to be the key to the front door.  Closely followed by the cat, he crossed the lane and walked towards the house, stopping only briefly to look over the wall at the view beyond. He saw gardens brimming with colour, jagged paths running between lush green lawns, and a goldfish pond with lily pads on the surface. The cat scaled the wall, disappeared under a hydrangea bush. Probably got his eye on some fish, thought Mike, as he took the final step to the front door of the house.  

The front door opened onto a large living room. The wallpaper was heavy with beige coloured flowers and the furnishings looked sadly dated. The room contained a sturdy three piece leather suite neatly arranged to get full benefit of a fire that once would have roared in the blackened grate set beneath a wooden mantelpiece with tiled surrounds. There were no ornaments on the shelf, just a big round faced wooden clock that had stopped ticking at nine minutes past one. Mike wondered which half of which day that was.
Putting the bunch of keys beside the clock Mike crossed the room and opened the door to the next room. There was no hall, one room just led into another. Here he saw a highly polished table and four chairs with upholstered seats the same russet colour as the heavy curtains. The table was laid for two people that Mike thought very strange. He was sure Yvette’s grandmother had lived alone? There was another fireplace, laid ready to light with wood and coals. At the side of the hearth was a brass bucket filled with more wood and coal and a brass jug of tapers. All ready to light. Looking round Mike imagined that the room would have looked very cosy when lived in.
Slowly he walked to the window, looked out at a small garden and the same colourful flowers he’d seen earlier. If he was to live here he would have great pleasure tending the garden.
Hearing a noise behind him Mike quickly turned. He stood quite still, trying to determine what it was he had heard. For the first time he sensed an atmosphere. As would be expected in a house solely occupied by an old lady the furnishings and décor were old, yet there was an air of youthfulness he couldn’t place. Would it be possible for Yvette’s childish influence to have remained all these years? Marking that down as absurd he continued his tour of the house.

Going through a second door leading from the dining room he found himself facing a steep staircase, lit only by a skylight at the top. Mike’s arm brushed against a light switch. He pressed it and a shiver of thankfulness passed through him as the stairs were flooded with light. It wasn’t in his character to be scared of the dark but there was something about being enclosed in a narrow place, in semi dark, that made him slightly fearful.
Telling himself not to be silly, he began what seemed like an interminable climb.  As he neared the top he noticed two doors either side of the staircase. Obviously bedrooms, he thought as he stepped onto the small landing then entered the room on the right.

It was a complete contrast to the rest of the house. Judging by the deep pink eiderdown, floral pillowcases, and feminine knick-knacks on a three-mirrored dressing table, he knew that this was a young lady’s room.  Perhaps her grandmother had kept it in readiness for Yvette. He remembered the tale she told him about two ornamental lambs that were painted with fluorescent paint, how they were each placed in front of two mirrors, and how scared she was of the four lambs that glowed in the dark. He recalled that she mentioned putting the ornaments in the drawer and out of curiosity he opened one of the drawers on the right. They were there, lying side by side. Marvelling that they were still there after so many years he picked one up to admire it when he heard a noise behind him. He whirled round, and stopped in amazement when he saw the cat sitting on the bed. It was definitely the cat he had seen outside, the same red collar, identical markings on its face, and the same knowing eyes.

‘Hello, puss,’ he said, putting out a hand to stroke it’s head. ‘Now how did you get in?’ Mike was certain he had closed the front door when he came in.

The cat purred loudly, a contented sort of noise, then jumped off the bed and scampered through the door. Thinking it wrong for the cat to be here at all, Mike followed.

Cat had gone into a second bedroom. Mike was just in time to see it jump onto a rattan chair that had been painted white. The chair was by another dressing table, similar in style to the one in the other room, but there were no adornments, just a bulky envelope. He picked it up and saw his name printed on it in black ink … Mike Underhill. Sitting on the bed he quickly opened it and drew out a set of keys, identical it seemed to the ones given to him by the solicitor. He felt in his pocket but the keys weren’t there. Thinking he must have put them down somewhere he rushed out of the room, closely followed by the white cat.

Mike searched the house but the search proved fruitless. He was mystified. He looked at the keys again and wondered: if these are mine how did they get into the envelope? As the cat brushed against his legs Mike had a weird feeling that the damn animal knew more about it than he did.

Remembering that he had dropped the keys by the clock Mike went again to the front room to look on the mantelshelf. It was a half hearted move because he’d looked there before and knew they wouldn’t be there. Pondering over the mystery he sat on the settee to think it through.

The cat jumped on Mike’s knees, settled, put it’s head on his thigh. And that’s when Mike remembered Yvette’s yarns about ghosts and playful spirits. ‘Spirits!’ he said aloud. The cat moved its head to look at him. ‘Spirit,’ whispered Mike. ‘Is that you, cat?  Recalling that the keys had been tidily placed in an envelope, he went on, ‘Or were you known as Yvette in real life?’

The cat gave a contented meow and settled back down.

23 February 2014

Sights in Norway

~ A scene in Norway ~
Click pictures to enlarge

While Joe was off somewhere looking at a Moose I wandered off to look at this house. If I had known he had found a Moose, (which I'd spent every available minute looking for and failing to find) I wouldn't have gone off alone. But then, I might not have found this spot either.

An unusual but attractive decoration at the foot of the gallery steps

Further along the road I found this lovely dog, probably the most photographed dog in the area. But there was something else here that one day I would learn to dislike. 

See it?

Look carefully to the right of the picture. 
See it now?
Yes, it's a wheelie bin. One of those dreaded things that people in the UK have had foisted on them by our respective councils. I didn't realise Norway was so advanced all those years ago.

21 February 2014

Saying Goodbye (No, not me!)

After reading Ron’s compelling piece on saying goodbye to a loved one when death approached reminded me of three events in my life ... and one enormous regret.

My mother was a nurse.  Although she hadn’t practised nursing for many years I reckoned the experience would have instilled in her some commonsense as well as compassion when my father was taken ill. I was wrong. Many years later an item in the press reminded me of her and prompted me to write the following:

A recent court case in this country (see here) concerned a woman who was told she could not visit her 78 year old mother since the old lady had had a stroke and would be unable to recognise or communicate with her daughter. The article went on to say that the daughter was deprived “of the opportunity to speak with her mother before they were separated forever by death”.

This story disturbed me. It took me back more than 50 years, to the year my Dad died. Believe me he was far too young to die and it broke my heart because I had been unable to say goodbye.

When Dad had a severe heart attack we discovered that certain valves in his heart had collapsed. After a period of hospitalization he was given strong medication and sent home with the warning that under no circumstances was he to get stressed. He was to be kept quiet and calm. In those days medical science was not as advanced as it is today so there was little hope he would survive.

I was married and living away, without any access to the house. Mom had taken my house keys the day I left and never gave them back. Consequently I had to knock the door or ring the bell whenever I called to see my father. Mom continued to work, leaving Dad alone in the house.

One day I called at a time when I thought Mom would be at home, only to find a note on the front door which read ‘SICKNESS, DO NOT DISTURB. PLEASE DO NOT RING OR KNOCK THE DOOR.’ The back of the house was also locked and bolted. You can imagine my dilemma.

Trying to suppress my anger I went away to ponder on what to do next. The telephone had been put out of bounds to outside callers because it was felt that Dad might be anxious to get to the phone before it stopped ringing which could cause some anxiety.

A plan was devised. I wrote a letter to tell him that I would ring at a certain time and that I would use a three-ring code so he would know it was me. It worked. Twice.

I expressed my disappointment that I couldn’t just call to see him but all he said was ‘You know what your mother’s like’. I did, I also thought her new rules were way over the top.

As I said above, I managed two phone appointments before he passed away. He died alone and I wasn’t there to say goodbye. Just like the article, it was forbidden!

Even though I frequently told myself that it was done ‘for the best’ I have never fully got over the fact that I wasn’t there for my father. Indeed, no-one was there for him.

Ron’s post covered the importance of saying goodbye to loved ones, both for them and for ourselves. Of course, it can’t always be arranged, especially if geographical distance makes it impossible. However, there was no such thing between my dad and me and that’s why I took it so hard.

Mom when she was young
Mom died in Australia at a time when visiting someone abroad was impossible. In those days there were strict rules about doing so and the cost was prohibitive. In truth I found it a blessing. I had suffered at her hands, mentally and physically, and there was no love lost between us. I have written reams about our poor relationship but won’t plague you with details right now. Strangely enough, she was alone when she died with no more than a solicitor and a landlord at her funeral. Yet she had family out there in Oz, her own and that of her second (newly deceased) husband, who I never met. Speaks volumes, don’t you think?

Dad’s sister, my Aunt May, was more like a mother to me than my own; she was a marvellous cook and a real comforter in times of need, always there for me as well as my friends. If ever we were at a loss to know how to spend our time they would 
Dad and May, long, long ago
suggest we called on Auntie May. It wasn’t a ‘cakes’ thing, although she did feed us like there was no tomorrow, it was the fact that she had time for us, talked to us, did things for us, and always made us welcome. So, when she aged and dementia crept in I was there for her. She and I would laugh about nothing. If I said the house was falling down she would laugh ... because she didn’t understand. She didn’t have the ability to get cross but she knew how to laugh over nothing. She was a tonic, even though she wasn’t aware of it. I would sob when I left the house, knowing that her descent into unknowingness would soon change to a journey to heaven.

I visited her frequently in hospital and when it was time for her to make that journey I held her close and told her that Uncle Ted was waiting for her and that she was to give him my love. I remember she opened her eyes and smiled. Something she hadn’t done in a while. My aunt passed away during the night and I knew ... I just knew. The phone call came early in the morning to break the news. I was so glad that I’d been with her as she prepared to free herself from the restraints of earthly living and go to the place where her husband waited.

Thank you, Ron, for emphasising the importance of saying goodbye to our loved ones.

19 February 2014


Picture courtesy of

The voice travelled across the field like a whirlwind of crows. Giving an exasperated sigh, Rab stopped casting his line and leaned against the gnarled tree. He wondered if he would ever escape his mother’s continuous efforts to monopolise his time.

It was just like the old days, mother nagging son, son hiding from mother. It wouldn’t be so bad but he was forty-five years of age, more a mature student than a junior.  Despite himself, he couldn’t help smiling at the idea of his mother standing in the garden calling ‘Mature  Student’. The name was the forfeit he paid for being the youngest son. He was now a senior executive and well respected but to his mother he would always be Junior. And he hated it.

Known by all as Rab, Richard Aloysius Benjamin Kendal decided to ignore his mother’s call. He had come here for peace and quite, to fish and to contemplate his future. Elaine had been gone a long time but this was the first time he’d found someone who fitted in with his lifestyle.

Elaine Kendal died in childbirth, taking their son with her. She was twenty-four and the most stunning woman ever to walk the earth. Everything about her was beautiful. Her looks, her body, her character. She had only to gaze at him with those sparkling blue eyes and he was putty in her hands. She had been his world; from the time they met he wanted nothing else but to be with her.

Their marriage was a secret affair, wedded bliss without the crowds. Two people in love.  His mother never forgave them for denying her presence at her son’s wedding although she did rally round when Elaine died. Rab thought it was more to do with losing a grandson than a daughter-in-law. The two had never really got on. In fact, she didn’t get on with either of his brother’s wives. Jacob, the eldest, said to ignore it, whilst Adrian reckoned it was a ‘Mom’ thing, a kind of reluctance to take second place in her boys’ lives.

Elaine and Rab had such plans for their first born. Rab had been so sure they were having a son and he was right, only he wasn’t to know that until Elaine died. He’d spent months planning to teach his son everything, things like football and fishing, even dating girls when he was older. He even started to collect miniature trains in the hope that father and son would bond together over the Flying Scott and other well known engines.

That was twenty years ago. Twenty lonely years spent working his socks off trying to cope alone, his mother doing her best to remove the desperate isolation that refused to go away. Oh, it had eased a little but the guilt remained. Rab blamed himself for Elaine’s death. If he hadn’t made her pregnant they would still be together. It was a terrible cross to bear.

When his mother discovered that the sympathetic approach didn’t work she changed her policy to one of chastisement. She began to nag, to force him to face the world and get on with life. Rab felt it was all right for her, having divorced his father she hadn’t actually lost someone she loved.

It was time he moved out. His brothers had repeatedly told him so. Adrian said that returning to their mother’s home had been a huge mistake and Rab was finally beginning to see sense. It had taken him long enough. 

A year after Elaine’s death Rab entered a new phase of existence, working through the days and months like an automaton.  The guys at the office helped by inviting him to golf clubs, football games, and nights out until gradually he adopted the routine of a single man. Most of the time his heart wasn’t in it but he persevered.

Sunday mornings were taken up with swimming at the local baths. He swam like a fish and according to the ladies he was very easy on the eye.  Equally fascinated were the female members of the book club that met on Wednesdays. Rab would go armed with preparation notes and it rarely registered that the group leader always got him to speak first, leaving the ladies inwardly drooling.

The decision to enrol at night classes was the best idea he’d had. It was through Brenda, the art teacher, that he started painting landscapes. After a year he fancied himself as a great artist but his mother wisely ridiculed his dream. He supposed she was trying to protect him from disappointment although a positive attitude would definitely have had a more constructive effect.

Painting was his salvation.  Landscapes were what he did best. Weekends were spent touring the countryside with Brenda, hunting for paint worthy scenes. When she was otherwise engaged he would take advantage of fine days to set up his easel by a lake or a shingled beach. He was turning out some good stuff and Brenda’s praise escalated. So did his ego. He did so well he started to sell his pictures at the local market.  He became well known as an artist and his life took on new meaning.

Until he and Brenda fell in love.

Rab was drawn to Brenda almost as soon as they met. How well he remembered the first time he had seen her, how taken aback he was by her uncanny likeness to Elaine. In looks she could have passed for Elaine’s twin, the same sparkly eyes, soft, wavy auburn hair that Rob loved to run his fingers through. Their build was identical, as was the intelligent way they had of thinking things through. What’s more they had matching ideals.

As their friendship grew he discovered that she had the same temperament as Elaine, a placid disposition laced with spikiness when confronted by careless workmen. Rab was astonished that two women could be so alike. 

Yet doubts existed. Yes, he loved Brenda, but he had loved Elaine the same way. Now he was confused because he couldn’t be sure if he was making her a surrogate for the wife he’d adored.

Rab gazed into the lake, seeing the ripples made by a jumping fish, but all thoughts of fishing were now abandoned. At the top of a nearby bush a yellowhammer chirped its message. It was a bird Rab easily recognised having read somewhere that the yellowhammer’s call sounded like ‘a little bit of bread and no cheese’. Easy for him, he thought, the world was its oyster, no worries, no nagging doubts. He rubbed his hand against his chin, feeling the forming stubble, wishing that dilemmas were as easy to remove.

What should he do? Should he break off the relationship with Brenda? He shivered, even on that warm day the thought of separation made him go cold. How could he cut himself off from Brenda’s warmth now that he’d got used to it. But wasn’t that the problem? Wasn’t her warmth bringing about the resurrection of his first love? 


His mother’s voice cut through the depression. Slowly Rab pushed away from the tree and got to his feet. It was no use ignoring her summons any longer. Reluctantly he drew in the rod and creel and packed his fishing tackle away. Stepping over the thick tree roots he made his way to the field gate.

The smell of grilled pork was enough to make Rab forget his troubles for a while.  Cooking was what Rhoda Kendal did best. Watching her serve roast potatoes from a willow pattern dish, five on Rab’s plate and two on her own, was making his mouth water. He couldn’t wait to start eating. That was one of the things about fishing, it gave him a tremendous appetite.

‘Brenda phoned,’ Rhoda informed him as she doled out spoonfuls of sprouts. ‘I told her you were out fishing; she said she’d ring back.’

Oh God. The nervousness came back. His hands felt clammy. What could he say when she rang? The last time they’d spoken the conversation had ended on a precarious note, his rejection of an invitation to meet her father leaving her bewildered and just a little exasperated.

Placing a jug of steaming gravy in front of him, Rhoda urged him to start eating or the Vicar would arrive before they’d finished.’ 

The Vicar! Rab had completely forgotten he was coming. If only he was in a better frame of mind he might enjoy seeing the man. Rev. Beresford was a great guy, a widower. He’d been a big help at Elaine’s funeral, the only one who could offer solace as well as common sense. It was perhaps fortuitous that he was calling when Rab was feeling so down. Rab began to eat the meal somewhat heartily, feeling suddenly brighter, as if a magic wand had been waved over him.


Reverend Beresford put his hat on the telephone table and swept into the room. He was full of bonhomie, greeting Rhoda like a long lost friend instead of one he’d seen only the day before. He approached Rab with equal friendliness, offering his hand and patting him on the shoulder. ‘So nice of you to invite me round, Rhoda. The church bazaar will benefit from your expertise,’ he said.

Not only did Rhoda help with the floral decorations, she also planned the layout of the stalls. The vicar swore no-one else did the job as well, a sentiment that Rab thought was slightly over the top. It pleased his mother no end; she preened like a peacock under his praise.

Rhoda gushingly invited him to sit down and proceeded to lay her plans on the table. They were to peruse them to see if there was any way they could expand the number of stalls at the bazaar.

Rab was about to join them when the telephone rang. He tried to ignore it but Rhoda was adamant that it would be Brenda and therefore he must take the call. Rab felt his confidence wane. He muttered something about ‘being out’ and gesturing to his mother to give Brenda his apologies.

Reverent Beresford looked from one to the other, obviously mystified by Rab’s reluctance to talk to his lady friend.

The afternoon wore on with Rab feeling very low spirited. When the plans were finalised the Vicar, after declining a third cup of tea, rose to leave. Rab handed him his hat, inwardly reeling from the man’s direct gaze.

‘Why don’t you come and see me sometime,’ the Vicar said. ‘I generally take a glass of something in the evening and you would be more than welcome to join me.’ Without waiting for a reply, he left the room to say goodbye to Rhoda who was waiting by the front door.


That evening Rab did call to see the Vicar. He had been intending to go to the Golden Goose but half way there he changed his mind. It wouldn’t hurt to go and see the old guy in his own establishment. The fact that he had deliberately avoided speaking to Brenda was worrying him. No matter how he felt about things avoidance was uncalled for. She, after all, had done nothing wrong. The worrying part was that she was so sweet natured she wouldn’t think anything was amiss. That was even more upsetting.

Although a fairly regular churchgoer it was the first time Rab had been inside the vicarage. He was surprised by the warmth of the decor. For a single man the Vicar had extremely good taste. The furnishings were comfortable and inviting and the soft lighting made the room quite cosy. What surprised him was seeing one of his paintings in an alcove next to the fireplace.

‘I liked the way you captured the serenity of the lake,’ explained the Vicar. ‘The picture suits this room, don’t you think?

Rab smiled as he thanked the Reverend. It felt good to know that his work was appreciated. Glancing through the window he saw a tidy garden edged by tall trees, the waning sun producing shadowy shapes on the lawn. In the centre there was an arrangement of colourful flowers in a large stone pot, its shadow stretching out to touch a wooden bench at the side. He committed the scene to memory.

Rab was invited to sit in the armchair facing the one used by his host. Reverend Beresford’s chair was beside a coffee table already laid with a tray of drinks. Holding up a glass and a bottle of scotch, he enquired of Rab’s preference. Rab declined the whisky on the grounds that it might affect his driving and asked instead for a small glass of white wine.

After a good half an hour of untailored conversation, Rab raised the subject of his relationship with Brenda. It wasn’t something he had intended to do and he wondered if the peaceful ambience of the room had influenced his thinking.

‘Ah yes,’ said the Reverend, ‘I detected something was wrong when you refused to talk to her on the phone.’

And so Rab divulged all, starting with a résumé of his life with Elaine and how, after all these years, he still missed her.

The vicar placed his glass on the table. ‘That’s understandable when you were so much in love.’

Leaning forward, Rab placed his elbows on his knees, resting his chin on his hands. ‘Vicar,’ he went. ‘I also love Brenda. The only trouble is I’m not sure whether it’s my love for Elaine showing through. Elaine and Brenda are so much alike I often think Brenda is the reincarnation of my wife. I can’t let the relationship continue while I’m so uncertain.’

The Vicar looked thoughtful. For a moment or two he remained silent, just sitting there gazing at Rab. Finally he asked ‘Remind me, how long has it been since Elaine died?’

‘Twenty years.’

‘How do you know they look the same? Forgive me for saying this but if Elaine was alive now she might look entirely different to Brenda. I fear you are living in the past, Rab, and it’s time to move on. Anyway, is it so terrible to have the same strong feelings for Brenda as you had for Elaine? Doesn’t that prove something?’

Rab hadn’t expected such a reply. ‘Prove what,’ he asked?

‘Why, my friend, it proves that you are capable of great love. Now, if you stop comparing the two women you might understand what I mean. I don’t want to sound too severe, Rab, but Elaine has been gone a long time. The shock of losing her was monumental but you moved forward. Naturally you will never forget her but now you need to look at Brenda in a new light. She isn’t Elaine, and you know it. You are merely tormenting yourself. For pity’s sake, man, don’t feel guilty for falling in love a second time.’

At first Rab felt wounded by these remarks, but then an element of common sense crept in. ‘So you think it’s all right to love two women in exactly the same way?’

‘It’s not ‘exactly’ the same, Rab. It’s a new love, and a new life. Have you talked to Brenda about it?’

‘Good Lord, no.’

‘Why not?’

Rab didn’t know the answer to that question. He had wanted to discuss it with Brenda but it had never seemed the right thing to do. He didn’t know how she would take the fact that he loved her as he had loved Elaine.’

Reverend Beresford reached across and picked up Rab’s glass. As he stood to pour more wine, he suggested that Rab explained his feelings to Brenda as soon as possible. ‘Trust me, dear boy, she will be grateful for your honesty.’


Rhoda quizzed her son about his evening with the Vicar. ‘I’ve been worried about you for a while now,’ she said. ‘You and I have never been able to discuss things, that’s why I invited the Reverend round here. If anyone can talk sense, he can.’

‘How did you know I’d been to see him?’

Rhoda admitted that the Vicar had reported back.

After a moment’s silence Rab started to laugh, and Rhoda laughed with him. ‘Your old Mum isn’t so bad, you know. I might be an old nag but I have your interests at heart.’

Rab gave his mother a huge hug and whispered in her ear,’ I love you, Mom. I’ve been such a mental mess lately.’

‘I know son. I know. And I hope it’s all over now.’ Just like a Mom, she pecked his cheek, then went to brew a pot of tea.


That evening Rab rang Brenda at her home. First he apologised for not taking her call and then he asked if she would like to go out for a meal the next day. ‘I’ve got so much to tell you,’ he said. Hearing her cheerful acceptance made him feel good about himself. In fact his heart felt full to bursting knowing that finally his future was sound.

16 February 2014

This made me laugh....

Sent by email, thanks Pat!


An award should go to the United Airlines gate agent in New York for being smart and
funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo.

For all of you out there who have had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for you.

A crowded United Airlines flight was cancelled.

A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travellers.

Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."

The agent replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first; and then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."

The passenger was unimpressed.

He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?"

Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone.

"May I have your attention, please?" she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal.

"We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who does not know who he is.  If anyone can help him with his identity, please come to Gate 14." 

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United Airlines agent, gritted his teeth, and said, "F*** You!" Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in line for that, too."

PS .... although I don't like the use of the F word, I still found this funny!

15 February 2014

Some kind of bird ballet.....

For today's Saturday Special I have decided to point you in the direction of Denise, my American friend who started life as an English girl.  I was so delighted with one of her photographic posts and the associated captions I just had to share it with you. Click on her name to go straight there ...and enjoy!


12 February 2014


Aren't old photographs fascinating? This is my Mom and Dad's wedding picture. Dad was the eldest of six, the last was yet to be born. Look at the outfits worn by granddad and grandma on the left. And don't they look happy? Only the best man had a smile on his face ... perhaps he knew something they didn't. Here's a more modern one, taken when I was a child. The rest of the grandchildren came later. 

My family on my Dad’s side was both musical and artistic. Sad to say I know very little about Mom's family.

Starting with my grandfather who ‘played piano by ear’ the family members developed their own form of music, playing the piano, dancing or singing. Most were artistic … woodwork, art, craftwork or dramatics. Only now, as I look back, do I recognise the surfeit of talent in the family.

In view of the fact that I was a downtrodden child, with a mother who offered no praise or encouragement and constantly reminded me to ‘know my place’ and ‘speak when spoken to’ I went through life thinking I had neither appeal nor aptitude. Only now do realise I wasn’t too bad at a lot of things, but especially craftwork and writing.

My Dad was an artist too, but his imagination and creativity was not with the arts. 
He was a whiz with wood. By trade a carpenter and joiner, if there was wood to be turned he was your man.  

He loved to surprise Mom and me, doing things in the home when we were out. New bits and pieces would appear. I particularly remember door handles, big and extraordinary works of art that were the talk of the neighbourhood. As a child I was the proud possessor of a magnificent fully furnished dolls house, a dolls cradle, pencil cases, needlework boxes with three tiers, and a wonderful desk and stool, tongue and grooved to perfection. When I married he delighted in creating things for my new home, a radio stand that was an exact wooden replica of the bird bath, a cork topped, carved legged card table that was the envy of the family and fought over when he died. I still have the desk.

Uncle Norman was musical. He was the youngest of Dad's family. This is him when he was 80. I don’t recall him ever playing an instrument but he sure could sing. He had a fine voice; it reached the rafters in church. From birth he was a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. Judging by his stunted growth you would not have expected him to have such a fine singing voice. He sang with a well known choir for years and was a popular member of an amateur dramatics group run by the church drama group. Nearly always the star of the show, people would ask if Norman had a part before they paid for tickets. They knew they’d have a good laugh if he was in the show. He died a few years ago, but his memory lives on for many folk.
 Encouraged by Ann, Norman’s wife, who is acclaimed for her work with oils, Aunt Florence took up painting. She delighted in transferring images of her garden to paper, with which she taught me everything I needed to know about plant life. However, her special talent was marquetry, producing wonderful pictures from different types of wood veneer. 
Three Scottish cousins played in the National Youth Orchestra, but the one who shot to fame was Susan: noted concert pianist, writer. She was the first girl to enter the music faculty at Kings College, Cambridge, and is to this day a joy to listen to.

My musical career (said with tongue-in-cheek) started when Mom sent me for piano lessons given by an elderly professor of music, at any rate he seemed old to me. I did quite well, gaining two certificates from the Imperial School of Music. The third attempt would have been a doddle if the examiner hadn’t stopped me playing, pointed to a random piece in the sheet music, and ordered me to ‘start again from there….’  That’s when I realised he knew I was playing from memory.


I couldn’t read music … but my memory was fantastic.


The Professor was a dirty old man. He would sit beside his pupils close enough for legs to touch. He liked to squeeze young girls’ thighs as they played. I was very young and shy and scared of adults. I couldn’t fight him nor could I tell my parents. Mom would just accuse me of lying. My immature brain decided that if I memorised everything I could get away from him faster, hence the discovery of fraud at my music examination.

In those days girls kept that sort of thing to themselves. I guess we were ashamed to admit, to put into words that a dirty old man was stroking their thighs. How embarrassing was that?

The stroking didn’t stop at the thigh. I remember my skirt being pulled right up and fingers tugging at the elastic round the knicker leg. I remember making the excuse of wanting the toilet in order to jump off the piano stool and get away from him.  

I began to miss lessons, played truant, naively thinking no-one would notice. One day I caught a bus into town, whilst at home the police were organising a search party. Oooo the hiding I got for causing everyone so much worry! None of that ‘are you all right’ rubbish.

But that, as they say, is another story.

10 February 2014


It's not the greatest of pictures but I treasure it because it took me a long to time to track this Treecreeper. Every time I thought I'd got him he scurried further up the tree. And believe me it was a tall tree! 

Enlarge for a better view

08 February 2014

A View of Italy

We've had many happy times in Sorrento and the surrounding areas 
and as I looked at this video I wished I was there again. 
Buon giorno!

06 February 2014

AN IRISH TALE (repeat)

Donna told us the tale during our extended lunch break, extended because the boss was away playing golf. Donna McNamara was the cleaning lady in the offices of the building firm where we worked. Congregating in the rest room, away from telephones and other interruptions, my fellow secretaries and a couple of clerks would settle down with our sandwiches and a drink, prepared to hear for the latest of her Irish tales.

Donna was a great one for reminiscing. Considering her age she had a perfect memory. After she’d finished her cleaning duties she would put away her dusters and hang around until she felt the coast was clear. Then she would saunter to the middle of the office and announce that she had another story to tell about her in-laws. She could tell an amusing story when she chose and the ones about Jeff’s family were certainly that. The mere mention of her in-laws had us scurrying to the rest room to sort out the chairs.  

But to start at the beginning….

Donna and Jeff went to Ballycastle, in Northern Ireland, to attend the wedding of Jeff’s sister Maureen and Patrick O’Leary. It looked like being a solemn affair but after a sombre religious ceremony things really hotted up.  For a start, Patrick and his brothers drank whiskey as if their lives depended on it. Illicit stuff, or so we were told. Patrick claimed it was brewed in Bushmills but if that was the case Donna couldn’t imagine his very strict and upright father allowing it through his front door. Of course that was a very long time ago.

Maureen looked splendid in white. The billowing skirt successfully hid the reason for a rushed wedding and a sizeable bouquet provided the finishing touch. It was a huge collection of seasonal pink and white flowers with lots of draping ivy that threatened to hide the dress altogether. Maureen needn’t have worried that her pregnancy showed. She looked like a princess as she walked up the aisle of the ancient church on the arm of her proud father, Paddy McNamara, himself wearing a huge smile. Sitting in the family pew Donna wondered if he actually knew he was about to become a granddaddy.

Patrick the bridegroom wore a stiff collar and a stiff back. Earlier his father said he looked as if he’d been strapped to a railway girder but Mrs O’Leary argued that he was simply a proud man. Mr O’Leary snorted and begged to differ. He claimed that his son was over-acting; adding insult to injury with the remark that no man in his right mind looked happy on his wedding day. Patrick seemed to take it all in good part and certainly there was no malice written on his face as he waited for Maureen to reach the altar.

It was an attractive couple of newly-weds that posed for photographs in the church grounds. With family cheering them on they kissed for the regulation picture, only breaking apart when the photographer gave the say-so. Donna said her tears welled up as she recalled her own wonderful wedding to the bride’s brother two years before.

The marquee which had been installed in a neighbouring farmer’s field was filled to capacity. The tables were placed in an E shape so that the guests could easily see the happy couple. They could also see the bridesmaids and were able to witness the amount of drink that passed the best man lips. Alex was his name, better known as Bluey on account of his fingers. Donna explained that farmers in those days had to crop spray by hand and Alex took it literally, managing to get blue spray on his fingers as well as the crops.

The amount Alex had to drink was the reason he came close to giving the game away. He was at the end of a slurred but humorous speech about the bridegroom’s possible inadequacies as a husband when he suddenly called for a toast, lifting his own glass and begging them to give three cheers to the happy threesome.’ Fortunately by this time, relieved that the speech was over, the well-oiled guests burst into tumultuous applause and cheering so the blunder was lost. 

After the reception family and friends headed to the McNamara cottage situated alongside the narrow-gauge railway. The bride’s parents squeezed in Jeff’s little car, Dad in front and Mam and Donna squashed in the back with the leather holdall full of wedding gifts. Donna wasn’t on really friendly terms with her mother-in-law and she had to force herself not to complain about the wafts of alcohol that drifted from the front passenger seat. Mother wasn’t too bad although she’d had more than enough of the hard stuff. Donna guessed she’d started earlier than the wedding itself. 

Now, according to Donna, Mam-in-law wasn’t a drinker but she did need her nerves soothing at the thought of her daughter marrying an O’Leary. The accident by the railway tracks hadn’t helped. Dad-in-law had gone out very early in the morning to get a load of peat for the fire but the overloaded wheelbarrow hit a stone, overturned, and sent clods of peat all over the rails. He’d had to trek back to the cottage to get help clearing it away before the next train came along. The trains didn’t run very frequently which was as well because it took him and two neighbours to sort it out. And then he had to get back home, change into his wedding outfit and hope to God his daughter wouldn’t throw a tantrum.

That wasn’t the only catastrophe. Finishing his shave by the kitchen sink Paddy dropped shaving cream all down the white shirt. Another task for his poor wife who was slowly losing  patience.

But the worst was yet to come. Paddy was in such a rush to get changed that he shoved his leg in his wedding trousers so hard it tore a hole where a hole shouldn’t be. Of course, Mam-in-law had to set to and get it mended, hoping against hope that the hire shop wouldn’t notice when the suit was returned.

Nothing untoward happened at the party except, as already stated, Patrick and his brothers got very merry with the drink while poor Maureen tried her best not to nag. She commented to Donna she thought it was a little early in the marriage to start asserting herself. That wasn’t Donna’s opinion … she told us girls that she’d have had Patrick’s head on a block before he could say I’ll have another. Actually we always wondered why old Jeff was such a quiet soul.

It wasn’t until the do wound down and the happy couple had left for their unknown destination that Mam-in-law decided to fill the Kelly lamps in the kitchen. She didn’t want late evening to descend and find they were unprepared. There were three lamps altogether. They hung from the ceiling, one near the window wall and two either side of the big black range. That’s where Donna sat, on a well-worn horsehair couch long enough to accommodate three people.

Mam-in-law sang as she worked. Humming a few bars of Danny Boy, she leapt onto the couch, beside Donna, then leapt down to fill the lamp over by the sink. Jeff cautioned her to be careful but didn’t pursue it when she gave him a scornful look. Job complete, she returned to secure it on an enormous hook in one of the black beams. When all three were done, she settled on her chair by the range and went back to her whiskey.

The four of them had a bit of a sing-song and Dad-in-law told stories about Maureen’s growing up days, occasionally shedding a few sentimental tears. Donna helped Mam-in-law get supper ready, setting the table, silently wishing she could go to bed instead. She was tired after the hectic day and anyway the wedding had put her in the mood for a bit of canoodling with Jeff. She knew by the look in his eyes that he felt the same. But it didn’t do to be rude to his family so she ate beetroot sandwiches and tried to concentrate on more reminiscences about Maureen and Jeff.

Jeff thought differently. After another hour of football talk he nudged her and suggested they retire for the night.  She hastily agreed and was just about to rise from the couch when she felt an awful pain in the head. She screeched, Jeff shouted, his Mam cried ‘Sure and Begorrah, I’ve done it now,’ while Dad rushed over to grab the Kelly lamp that had fallen from its hook.

A great fuss was made of Donna with Mam-in-law repeatedly saying how sorry she was, trying to make amends for what she called her lackadaisical approach to filling lamps. Even after they had the gas installed she never ceased trying to put things right. In a strange way the accident cemented the relationship between Mam and daughter-in-law. You could say it had broken the ice the hard way and, as one of the clerks said, it was mother-in-law trouble of the first order.