Friends

16 September 2017

BLOG FOLLOWING

I am curious about people who follow blogs yet never make themselves known? I see new photos appearing on my followers list but all they reveal is the person’s name. The fact that their name and photograph appears on my blog means they have decided to follow me. Occasionally I have tried to find their blogs but they don’t seem to have them, so unless they leave a comment I can’t find them. I can find all the other blogs they visit but don’t see their names there either.
If I want to join a blog I am obliged to give name and details. That’s fine. After all the blog owner should know who has joined his or her readers list. Sadly, this information is not for the blog owner, it's for Google!
What I can’t understand is why folk become followers without knowing anything about the one they are following, after all it is not just a blog they are following, it’s a real person who writes and organises it. It would be easier to pop in for a read without bothering to join the ‘followers’ list. A bit like silent stalking, they’re there but we can’t see them.
~~~Waving to anyone who reads this without giving a name~~~
A lot of the ‘new faces’ belong to advertisers; again, I can't see why they bother when we can’t get in touch with them if we want to.
Has anyone else noticed/experienced this?
Once upon a time I had a lot of anonymous visitors, which was even more frustrating, but after one particularly bad experience with someone who preferred to insult and criticise without giving a name, I opted for comment moderation. It worked.
Meanwhile, here's a message for my regular visitors:
I love you all!
 

09 September 2017

'Value for Money' (A Repeat)

Most of the shopping had been put away. Only the packets of instant gravy and cook-in-sauces needed to be filed in date order and the milk cartons stacked so that the boys wouldn't open the last one first. Susan glanced around the kitchen then decided that the last of her purchases, the wooden rolling pin, the blue and white dinner plates, and a bouquet of silk flowers, could wait until she had supped a mug of tea. There was no hurry, so long as all evidence of shopping was cleared away before Henry finished his surgery. He was a stickler for tidiness and, with her head the way it was, she didn't want to incur his displeasure.

It wasn't the crowded supermarket that gave her the headache, it was the casual bumping into Julian, the man of her life twenty years ago. Her stomach eddied at the memory of her storming round the corner of the dog food aisle, her loaded trolley showing a reluctance to conform, veering in the opposite direction and colliding into the conveyance belonging to Julian Binchy. She was sure she had blasphemed before looking up, but Julian made no mention of it. He simply rushed to her side, agog with recognition.

Susan sat in the kitchen rocker to drink her Camomile tea. Nursing Henry's Man.United mug with two hands, she drifted back to the moment of impact when the trolleys locked in a peculiar embrace.

'Sue Fassett,' he exclaimed. 'I don't believe it.'

'It's Weldon now,' she said, reaching for a packet of Kipper's favourite mixer. It wasn't on the list but it was a great way to hide her confusion.

Flashbacks of their courtship assailed her, twenty years shrinking to nothing. It seemed only yesterday that Julian had waltzed off with Sadie, a fashion model with hooks instead of claws. That last day Sadie had been dressed in a skimpy top and bottom-hugging shorts, scarlet-tipped toes protruding from strappy high-heeled sandals. She had clung like a leach to Julian. Her Julian.

'You've got a dog then?'

His words jerked her attention back to her surroundings, replacing Sadie's image with his own dark features, the mole on his chin being the first thing she focused on. In her hand was a can of tripe which Kipper would demolish in two seconds flat. 'Labrador,' she said. 'Kipper, after the theft of same. We'd just got him home from the farm. Six weeks old, with a liking for fish. He didn't go for meat much ....' She stopped, uncomfortably aware that she was babbling.

'We?'

'My husband, Henry.'

'I married Sadie, you know.'

Susan wasn't surprised. Sadie wouldn't have been satisfied until she completely removed Julian from Fassett territory. He wasn't difficult to capture. One wiggle of those curvaceous hips and he was hers, Susan's stalky, flat-chested body immediately forgotten. The wretchedness was acute, but she was freed from her pain by Henry arriving on the scene like a rescuing knight. He was second best, but she married him anyway, liking his attentiveness and the adoration in his eyes.

Julian gave an account of his marriage, interspersed with lukewarm apologies for hindering other shoppers. One balding pensioner gave vent to his anger when attempts to secure dog biscuits were impeded by Julian's trolley. He waved his stick at Julian, almost reducing a pyramid of cans to rubble and robbing Julian of his eyesight at the same time. But it was a thief, armed with perfume and fleeing from a red-faced security guard, that prompted Julian to suggest they transfer to another aisle. Since she was fed-up with being jostled by exasperated customers Susan hinted that a visit to the coffee shop would be better, and she experienced an excited shiver when Julian endowed her with one of his lovable grins.

Julian ordered black coffee and paid for his own. Recollections of going dutch filtered into Susan's head as she tendered the money for a Cappuccino and a packet of five digestives, which Julian helped to consume while continuing the Sadie saga. Sadie had gone off with a doctor, not because she loved him, but because he would give her a good time. 'Sexually.' Julian whispered to avoid the twitching ears of a woman at the adjoining table. 'As if a research chemist doesn't know how to……'

'Shush!' Susan stopped him, fearing he might say something untoward and that she might be tempted to launch into a dialogue of self-pity. She knew about doctors, the extra hours they were forced to work, their tiredness when eventually they got home, and the irritableness. Sadie would have had quite a shock and serve her right.

There were numerous occasions during the twenty years when Susan wished she had married Julian instead of Henry, certain that her first-love would be more tolerant of her clutter and disorganisation. She leaned forward to catch what Julian was saying, deafened by a commotion coming from a nearby table, where three bellowing kids were hell bent on driving their mother insane.

Julian raised his voice. 'She knew I wouldn't cope alone, but not once did she offer to cook me a meal or do a bit of washing. All I ate for months was sandwiches. I lost count of the times I rang to ask for help.'

Fancy not being able to cook, Susan thought, studying her nibbled biscuit. Goodness, Henry could produce a souffle at the drop of a hat and his bread was always done to a turn. In fact, for a whole month after the operation to remove her appendix, he provided the most varied and appetising meals.

'Couldn't get in the sink for crockery,' Julian said. 'I asked Sadie once if I could use her dishwasher, but she refused.'

Henry, of course, wouldn't leave the house if dishes were waiting to be washed. 

'And the laundry just piled up. I got fed up in the end and bought new shirts.'

'Couldn't you have put things to soak while you were at work?' Susan asked.

'How could I, with the sink full of crocks?'

Susan drank the last of her coffee and thought of Henry doing the washing when she was laid up - his, hers and the boys. There wasn't a sock left for her to do when she was mobile again. He was brilliant with the washing machine. He even controlled the programmes to avoid over-spinning which apparently minimised the ironing.

'That's enough about my problems,' said Julian. 'Tell me about yours.'

But Susan hadn't any to relate. In one hour Julian had unknowingly demolished every one. The mind was a funny thing, it played tricks without one knowing, blotting out things like meanness and self-importance. But Julian had lost no time in reminding her and the pedestal had finally collapsed.

'I'm afraid I must dash, Julian. The boys will be home from school and there's Henry's tea to prepare.' Ignoring his forlorn look, she picked up her bag. 'Goodbye. It was very pleasant seeing you again.'

Before he could reply she trotted off to collect her trolley, already planning a change to the evening menu. She would freeze the cod and serve instead an asparagus starter, fillet steak with pepper sauce, green beans and potato salad. Henry's favourite. Long overdue.

When the blue and white china plates were washed and positioned on the dresser, Susan arranged the silk flowers in a terracotta jug. She gathered up the cellophane wrapper, a profusion of rubber bands, and the till receipt. She glanced at the total, the most she had spent in one go for some considerable time. Sixty-nine pounds exactly. The check-out girl had smiled as she said it, then asked if it was more or less what Susan expected. Susan had replied that it was the best day's shopping she had ever done. Real value for money.

06 September 2017

STRIKES, I HATE THEM

a typical view of my road
Where I live there has been a rather long strike of bin men refusing to work because of some dispute over working hours, job changes and redundancies. It has, of course, affected the public, but it seems we don't count in this disturbance. All trash, including garden waste and recycling materials, is no longer collected. Well, I lie, some men did come to collect stuff but they weren’t legitimate refuse collectors. They worked for the council but not on the bins and they did it to remove stuff from the roads. The worst of it is that the strike is likely to go on until Christmas which has most people crying 'Heaven help us'. 


Some folk in neighbouring areas just throw out their rubbish, making no attempt to bag it properly or at all with the consequence that they became inundated with rats and other undesirable creatures. I was furious when I read about it. It doesn’t take a minute to bag anything that would encourage wildlife, or seal stuff to stop smells. As my neighbour said, they don’t all think like me!

It has been several weeks now and my road is still a picture. You wouldn’t know there was a strike on. Why? Because people here are proud of their environment and make every effort to keep it clean and tidy. Our wheelie bins are carefully filled, boxes are folded so they fit into the bins, plastic bottles are squashed down to nothing, and food leftovers are sealed to avoid foxes getting the smell.

Our televisions are full of pictures like of other areas and the mess residents have made. You would think their roads were actual tips. 


I was so incensed by the reports of constant bickering and apparent helplessness in other areas that I sat down and wrote this for insertion in the local newspaper.

“At this time of strikes and turmoil I feel compelled to write in praise of the majority of residents in Sutton Coldfield, in particular Conchar and neighbouring roads. Throughout the upheaval caused by the current dispute between bin-men and council we have seen pictures and film of the rubbish left on streets. It is noticeable that bags of rubbish are thrown on heaps, along with discarded boxes etc, without any thought that we, the public, might help to tidy things up. This is not in support of strikers but for our own feeling of well-being.

Not once in all the weeks of upheaval has rubbish been dumped on the road where I live.  Admittedly some residents dispose of it by taking it to the proper refuse collection points, but not everyone can do this. Instead they tidy things up. What is to stop others from flattening boxes or indeed cutting them so they lie flat. Most of us do this anyway, strike or no strike. It takes no time at all to make disposal easier by securing bags so that nothing falls out or pack them so they fit into wheelie bins. We do it anyway, strike or no strike. It’s all a matter of pride and common-sense.”




 

02 September 2017

SECURITY CONSCIOUS

I am a most security conscious person. Even when Joe was alive I was the one who double checked doors and windows, and still do. These days you can’t be too careful.
The last job of the day is to check all doors and make sure keys are in their rightful places, the last doors to check are at the front of the house.
I have an inner front door and an outer porch door facing the road, both of which need careful checking since they are the main entrances. Outside the bungalow there is a lantern light that goes on at night.

As you can see, the porch is narrow. Not quite big enough to sit in even though it greets the sun and provides plenty of heat. Last night I checked both doors at around 10 o’clock, making sure they were both locked so I could sleep easy. I don’t go to sleep that early but I like to have good long read. By this time, Charlie was out and about in the garden or wherever it is he goes.
I drifted off to sleep at around 11 o’clock and the next thing I heard was what I thought was someone knocking on the inner front door. It was 2 o’clock. Jeez, I was petrified. Then I realised it was the inner porch door that was being knocked. Whoever it was must have broken a window to get in the porch.
I thought it better not to move for a while. If I went to the door I would be seen through the frosted glass. I waited, all was quiet. Still I waited, wondering what to do. Then I heard it, a very loud Meow.
I have never moved so fast in my life…. 
Charlie must have slipped into the porch when I was locking the front door and there he had to stay, from 10pm until 2am. No bed to lie on, just a cold tiled floor. And I never heard a peep. Daft thing is every night I check that he hasn’t slipped past me…. every night except that one. 

30 August 2017

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, WE HOPE


Remember Alex, the guy I didn’t recognise? Well I recognised him last time he came, with two others, to fit a new carpet in the bedroom. That’s it now, no more workmen (not even the handsome Alex) and no more jobs to be done – unless, of course, things break down. I can do with saving the pennies to spend on other things, like food!
Friend Judy and I sat down recently and worked out our future. Not together, of course, she lives in one house and I live in another, miles apart from each other. It was a necessary chat, she being 85 and me only 83. Nevertheless, we both face similar futures. We both live alone, both in bungalows, both being independent people, and both needing to think about our future. While we’re mentally active and can still drive it’s probably a good time to get morbid and think or plan ahead. But what is ahead? Worry? Frustration?
As already stated, Judy lives alone and like me she worries about her future. We discussed this at length recently, both of us worrying about what would happen if something awful happened and we (singly) couldn’t get help.
Both of us have remotely placed family members, too far away to be of any help
in an emergency. We both have neighbours but not the sort who pop in to see if we’re okay. We have alarm buttons on our persons which can be pressed in an emergency and help will come running, but what if we simply passed out before we could press the button. We could be lying in our respective houses for days (heaven forbid) without anyone knowing.
With all this in mind, and after discussing it with Judy, I decided to approach my neighbours with an idea. It was Alex who gave me the idea and I shall probably be grateful to him for evermore, even if I do forget what he looks like!
Last evening, I approached the neighbours, two ladies who are sisters, and put an idea to them, explaining all of the above. The question I put to them was ‘how about if I sent a text by phone, a one word message that just said ‘okay’ or ‘hello’ … a one word message that needed no reply, just sent to assure them that all was well. If they didn’t get such a message on another day they should come running to check that all was either well or not well.
I sent an email to Judy to tell her the plan was accepted with my neighbours and her response was ‘you are very brave’. I hope that doesn’t mean she will go on worrying without enlisting the help of her neighbour.

26 August 2017

GIVING UP!



I am at my wits end with the squirrels in my garden. I spend good money buying bird seed – FOR THE BIRDS – and squirrels scoff the lot. Well, no more. I get too worked up over it so I have decided to save my money and spend it on something else. What that something else is will no doubt come to me as time goes by.

Last year I bought a new bird table and loved it. The roof on the old one was partially wrecked by the squirrel but the table itself was still in use. The other day I noticed that the roof had virtually disappeared. The panels were lying on the ground, well gnawed by said squirrel. That same day I noticed the gnawing was taking place on the new bird table. That did it! Either I kill the squirrels or I stop using the bird tables.


I still have a lot of bird seed and nuts waiting to be doled out so, rather than throw it away, I have decided to sprinkle it on a bed of weeds at the back of the garden and when disposed of I will stop feeding them altogether. I’m afraid my sanity needs to be considered more than the birds.

Nothing works. Many things have been tried by experts – and failed. There is nothing one can do about the squirrels. I feel sad for me and the birds, though. Thank goodness there is plenty of natural food around for my feathered friends -  I just hope they get on okay when winter arrives. 

19 August 2017

FANS

HOT WEATHER MEANS FANS.
I don’t mean human admirers, I mean these:





They are the most efficient way I have ever found to keep cool. A few weeks ago the UK tried to match parts of the US in high temperatures and I can see why there were so many complaints of overheating. How do people keep cool when temps rise so high? Fans, that’s how, although it does make the wrist ache after a while. It is something I discovered in Italy when the heat reached abnormal heights.  

I had five fans but lost one. All of them were purchased in Italy, one in Herculaneum, another in Pompeii, and one from Amalfi – my favourite place to visit. The others were from Sorrento. It was a family joke that every time I went to Italy I forgot to take a fan and had to buy another. Hence the 5! I used to get a few strange looks when I used one but I didn’t care. It was better than having to put up with streaming perspiration and the only way to cool me down. 

One very rude lady (perhaps ‘lady’ isn’t the right word) called me a stuck-up, four-legged creature, one that provides milk. She was English which immediately but temporarily made me despise my own race. People like her should be eliminated. I have to say, though, that waving a fan does give the air of la-di-dah’ness but it was wrong of that woman to air her opinion for all to hear.

Maybe one day she will get her comeuppance and, please God, let it come from someone with a fan! 

11 August 2017

FENNY'S QUEST

Concealed by dense hawthorn, Margaret watched the young soldier rake the earth with his hands. In the diminishing light his fair hair blended with his khaki uniform. She could not see his face, but she imagined him to be handsome. As she adjusted the paisley scarf over her tawny hair, she wondered what he would say if he knew he was being observed. Unexpectedly, the soldier straightened and brushed the dirt from his hands, then rested his weight on his heels. Margaret drew a sharp breath as his head swiveled in her direction. Certain her presence had been detected she ducked swiftly behind the bush, and was reassured to feel her bicycle propped against the grey rock, facing the house in which she lodged.

A commotion near the old barn told her that the fearless fox was on the prowl which meant that Sean Bannister, her iron-muscled landlord, would soon burst upon the scene. Sure enough, the heavy kitchen door shot inwards, casting a rectangle of light across the cobbled yard. Margaret sighed and turned away, silently lamenting the disruption of her quiet scrutiny.

While Sean circled the yard, brandishing his shotgun and bellowing vicious intentions, she looked once more over the barred gate to the fallow field. But the soldier had gone, taking with him the mystery of what lay beneath the ground where for three nights he had been rummaging. Filled with the frustration of ungratified curiosity, she swept aside her cloak and jumped on her bike, determined that tomorrow, before darkness descended, she would inspect the field for clues.

After a supper of potatoes and beans Margaret described the young soldier to Aileen, the landlord's wife, a tall, lean woman with greying hair.

'That'd be Fenwick O'Brien,' said Aileen, letting the sock she was darning fall to her lap. 'Always comes in March to search for the Springer's name tag. Been lookin' nigh on ten years. Won't rest 'til he finds it.'

'But he's gouging the soil, Aileen. Is the dog buried there?'

'Oh no. Dog's with us. It's Sadie I'm talking about. It's a sad tale, if you've an urge to hear it.' Aileen waited for Margaret's agreement before continuing. 'It happened on St Patrick's Day. We were celebrating with fireworks and a bonfire. Poor Fenny joined us, even though he was on compassionate leave. He was just showing the disc to his cousins ….'

'The disc?'

'Sadie's disc. She originally belonged to Fenny's young wife, Lucy, and when she died of pneumonia he had her wedding ring melted down and transformed into a dog tag.’ Aileen leaned back in the wooden armchair. ‘The night of the celebration, the cousins started a jig. Carefree with whiskey, so they were. It was trying to keep out of their way that caused Fenny to drop the disc. That was when the barrel of fireworks exploded. He was killed outright.'

Margaret was aghast. 'Are you telling me that the man burrowing in your field was a ghost?'

'I am. T’was a dreadful accident, and him just back from Lucy's grave.' Aileen flinched as she uttered those last words and glanced at the shuttered window as if expecting to see the soldier there.

Ludicrous was Margaret's opinion of Aileen's tale. The man she had witnessed was as real as Sean, only much more pleasing to the eye. Troubled souls did not burrow in moonlit fields. Despite the intensity of the peat fire, Margaret shivered. Abruptly, she reached across the range for the blackened kettle. If ever she needed a cup of strong tea, it was now. Moving to the stone sink, she swilled the enamel pot and spooned in the tea.

The outer door flew open and Sean rushed in with the liver and white Springer at his heels. 'Fenny's here again,' he announced, putting a reassuring hand on the animal's head. 'Sadie was frettin' to find him. Sure, it was as much as I could do to get her in.' He looked at Margaret who was pouring tea into three mugs. 'Ah, tea. Just the substance for a tired body.'

The following morning, bent on disproving the absurd fable, Margaret interrupted her journey to the village school. She wanted to examine the field at close quarters, needing to establish the authenticity of her own sighting. The soldier would have had a legitimate reason for scrubbing about in the dirt, though for the life of her she couldn't think what that reason might be.

She waded through calf-high weeds to the spot where he had toiled. Except there was no spot. The growth was undisturbed, the ground rock-hard; there was no fissure and no evidence that for three nights a pair of hands had probed the soil. In spite of her scepticism, Margaret shuddered. Unconsciously, she began to retreat, her eyes riveted to the alleged site of FenwickO'Brien's yearly emergence.

As she prepared to climb the stile she noticed something glisten in the base of the hawthorn. A bottle top, she thought, thrusting a boot-covered leg over the bar and berating herself for letting her imagination run riot. But, astride the stile, she hesitated. What if it had been the disc? What if it had been safe all those years, protected by vegetation, or wildlife ... or Lucy. Margaret was bewitched by the novelty of such a phenomenon and though she tried to dismiss the idea as idiotic she went back.

Thankful that her arms were covered, she burrowed through a grimy mat of twigs, snagging her nails and tearing ribbons of skin until eventually her fingers closed on the circular object. She stared at it in amazement. It was not silver, as she first thought, but gold, and genuine by the look of it. It resembled a flattened ball about an inch in diameter. Ignoring her scratched and bloody hands, Margaret fished in her pocket for a handkerchief with which to clean the metal and she rubbed until the grime was removed and the name Sadie was revealed.

At school Margaret pondered over her find, giving only half her attention to the children, whose paint-smeared white pinafores were in danger of becoming totally coloured with purple, black and red. The dog tag lay heavy in her pocket and she frequently took it out to scrutinise the intricate engraving round the edge. It was more like a locket than a dog's tag, but there was no hinge and she felt stupid for trying to locate one. Why would a dog be wearing a locket, for goodness sake, but she giggled when she thought of Sadie being inspired by its splendour to find a canine beau and wear its picture around her neck. Margaret checked the classroom clock, wishing it was time to go home and report the find to Aileen, then she climbed down from her desk and went to attend to the restless children.

Aileen had a hot meal ready when Margaret got home, baked ham and roast potatoes with sprigs of rosemary and carrot sticks adding colour. Margaret hung her cloak on the door hook and washed her hands at the kitchen sink. She moved quickly for Sean was waiting to say grace. As always his words stirred her, for where she came from grace was never said.

They ate in customary silence, Margaret hastily cramming food into her mouth in order to get the meal over. However, although she finished in advance of Sean, she waited until he laid down his knife and fork before venturing to speak. Laying the gold tag in front of him, she said, 'See what I discovered in the field.'

Anguish crept into his face as Sean picked it up.

Aileen gripped her husband's arm and with her free hand took the disc from him. 'After all these years,' she murmured in a solemn voice. 'Fenny'll rest now, bless his soul. And so will Lucy.' Aileen fondled the Spaniels's ears. 'I guess this one’ll be glad to get it back. Sure, she's been too long without her mistress.'

'Fenny must have loved Lucy very much,' Margaret said.

'She was the air he breathed. He worshipped her and she him.' Aileen put the tag on the gingham cloth, absently centring it on one of the blue squares. She eyed her husband who was lost in his own reflections. 'Sean took it badly. Felt guilty, bonfire being on our field. It was twelve months before he could talk about it. It was Sadie who pulled him through.'

Margaret offered to put the disc on Sadie's collar, but Aileen shook her head. 'Sure, Fenny needs to see it first or he'll never stop scouring. You'd better plant it in the field, somewhere where he's bound to find it.'

So Margaret returned the tag. Initially she had found the legend of Fenwick O'Brien fascinating, but now, as she poked black cotton through the hole, she questioned the validity of her actions. Did they honestly believe that hanging the dog's tag on a bush would put an end to such foolishness? 'A pointless exercise,' she muttered as she tied the thread in a knot and let the tag dangle. Aileen and Sean would be pleased it was reinstated and it suited her to oblige, but before the week was out she vowed to cut it down for it would serve her well when she saw fit to marry. As a measure of defiance, she flicked the disc so that it spun. 'To be sure, Fenwick O'Brien, you'll be digging that pasture til' kingdom come.'

The wind howled round the eaves that night. In the barn the hens made such a racket that Margaret left her bed to peer through the window. She was astonished to see the yard lit by moonlight, assuming that with such a wind it would be pitch black and the rain would be sheeting down. She opened the window and leaned out. Beyond the silos, the line of silver birch trees swayed. A barn owl hooted and was answered by its mate. Margaret expected to see Sean wielding his shotgun, but the yard was deserted. Sensing movement she scanned the outbuildings, watching for the recalcitrant fox, but it was only Sadie nosing for vermin.

It was chilly for the onset of spring. Margaret hugged her shawl and started to turn away, but something about Sadie stopped her, something gleaming at her neck. She trembled and drew the shawl closer. As she watched, Sean appeared at the kitchen door. Sadie bounded to him and he hunkered down to stroke her. He seemed to freeze for a moment, then he put his hands round the animal's neck and tugged her collar round. Sean Bannister smiled as he fingered the gold disc. 'Sure and about time, Fenny lad. About time.'

09 August 2017

HANDKERCHIEFS


People don’t seem to use handkerchiefs these days but Joe and I always liked them. We weren’t dressed properly unless we had a clean hankie. I have tried paper tissues but didn’t like them. I mean, why should we have to pay to blow noses and what do you do with them when used and you’re away from home. Nah, give me linen every time.
My aunt was a stickler for ironing handkerchiefs, always making sure the folds were EXACTLY right. She was eleven years older than me and we were born in the same month so it didn’t take me long to catch up! Yes, I too have grown to be methodical, and probably fanatical, when I do some ironing. It brought me some kind of satisfaction so what the heck! I guess the aunt felt the same. At least Joe could use a linen handkerchief without worrying that it looked like a piece of rag. Anyway, his professional appearance demanded linen rather than scrappy tissues. You should have seen him in his business suits with just the corner of a handkerchief showing on the breast pocket. Ooooh is it any wonder I fell for him!!
Joe’s hankies are still in the cupboard, packed in the original basket he kept them in. Over the months since he died I have almost thrown them out but then nostalgia would overcome me and they’d be put back in the cupboard.
How daft is that? I didn’t go doolally over his suits or shoes or gloves or scarves or books, so what’s with the handkerchiefs? Is it because I laboured over them? Oops – I don’t think labour is the right word since I loved ironing and matching borders so they looked newly acquired.
Lately I seem to have acquired some sanity, realising that when I go someone else will have to dispose of them … all at once. No-one else will want them since I’m told that handkerchiefs have been replaced by tissues. Anyway, one at a time is all I can cope with and even then I feel emotional. I’ve managed two so far, only another thirty-eight to go. 

04 August 2017

THE NEW BLINDS


Yes, I know I have talked about my blinds before but this is about the latest acquisition and the problem of getting rid of curtains.

Windows in my bungalow are huge and so were the good quality curtains. I realised straight away that the design would probably not appeal to younger people, nor would they fit modern windows, so it was thinking caps on. I came up with the idea of approaching charity shops which these days seem to take anything – except good quality curtains! I had heard that fabrics would bring in money but apparently not curtains! Hmmm if they’re not fabric, what is? Then there were the nets. Yards and yards of lovely white lacey curtains that I had no further use for. They didn’t want those either. This is what I was obliged to do. Because of the sheer weight and size I couldn’t dispose of them in one go, therefore week by week curtains were put out with the rubbish, taken away and probably burned. How sad is that?

All the new blinds are in place now and I love them. The rooms are so much lighter and much more attractive… and cleaner than nets. Because I couldn’t get up to the high curtain tracks the dirt was more obvious. Even Joe struggled to do it and he was a lot taller than me. Still, it’s not the height but the precarious position one has to take on stepladders. Fear became a regular visitor when faced with this such tasks.

On the left is the blind in the kitchen or, in other words, a view of the garden! Actually the blind is creamy white though you'd never tell from the picture. On the right is the quaint toilet which has a convenient window that shows what is on the outside. I have been known to put flowers in the basket. They look good inside or out.


The place felt cleaner the minute those dismal looking nets were pulled down and the overall appearance of each room is quite delightful. Now it’s all light and airy and, even better, more attractive.

The company who made the blinds must have been in their element because, each time some were delivered and fitted, I ordered more. Now every room except the lounge has a new look and I’m loving it.

28 July 2017

NO MAN IS WORTH CRYING OVER


This was written and posted in August 2009 and almost immediately forgotten. I came across it recently and decided to air it again. 

NO MAN IS WORTH CRYING OVER



A little something written after hearing 
a man tell his daughter that no man was 
worth crying over. 




I could hear the words as distinctly as if father was sitting alongside. The expression was a frequent comfort when the break-up of teenage romances threatened to ruffle my sanity but it did not occur to me to question the criticism of his own gender. Dear father, always on my side.

The wind lifted my hair. The bridge wasn’t an ideal spot for contemplation but I’d needed to get out of the silent house and away from Kenny’s leftover possessions. I shifted to ease the pain of stone on flesh and to massage the weals on lower limbs. The roughness of the bench wasn’t something Kenny and I noticed when we were courting. Far below, the water frothed and foamed and smashed against the riverbank. I had no coat. I hadn’t bargained for a storm.

Kenny had promised to ring as soon as he reached Seattle but I didn’t expect a call until he’d fought off the jetlag. Notwithstanding, I was in possession of a fully-charged mobile phone … just in case. Kenny was to manage the overseas office short-term. Nine months to a year, he said. It’ll soon pass. Short term to me suggested weeks rather than months. I could have coped with short-term. I wondered if the future would look less bleak with children to care for. We didn’t have kids. Kenny couldn’t deliver the goods. 

No man is worth crying over.

From habit, I blinked away the tears.

Kenny did everything he could to make amends for his deficiency. He really stretched himself to get the house we wanted, with a fabulous garden and an adjacent field the size of half a football pitch. Ideal for kids. On our fifth anniversary he presented me with a new Peugeot. My shopping car, he called it. That was the day father had his heart attack. The car was useful for ferrying relations after the funeral. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t cry.

The rain was holding off but the wind was still on the wild side. A polythene bag was caught on a nearby sycamore, one minute billowing like a windsock, the next deflated and limp. For about the fourth time I checked that the mobile was switched on. The idea of missing Kenny due to an oversight was too awful to imagine. He was all I had in the world; I wasn’t sure I could struggle through a whole year on my own. Or even nine months. I stood up then and paced about, needing activity to stop myself dwelling on the awful reality of a solo existence. Symptoms of impending lamentation, a tightening throat and burning eyes, were hard to resist. 

No man is worth crying over.

Oh father, how wretched you were to advise repression. How desperately I need to cry.

A pair of mallards flew over the pathway, circled, then landed gracefully on the swirling water. The suddenness of their appearance startled a cyclist pedalling furiously with his head held low. In the process of recovering his balance he saw me on the bridge, watching. He laughed sheepishly and hunched his shoulders as if to verify ineptitude. Like Kenny did sometimes when he was playing the fool. At that point, as I was picturing one of those private moments, the mobile rang. I stumbled against the parapet in my rush to answer.
__________


‘I miss you already,’ Kenny said. ‘God knows how I’m going to manage without you.’ He sounded very despondent. 

I soothed him, restoring his composure with maternal phrases. It struck me how like a child he was. My child. It had taken his departure to make me see how bonded we were, bound together by the very childless fact that hitherto was so upsetting.

You’ll have to come over here, Peg. I’m all at sea on my own. I feel quite severed.’

I couldn’t answer. I was too choked. Joyful tears cascaded like a waterfall, the deluge that had waited too long for release. Father’s words were as distinct as if he was standing next to me. No man is worth crying over. But it was a voice from the past, no longer as important as when I was young, or as influential. My man was definitely worth crying over.

‘Just imagine, father,’ I whispered as I switched off the phone. ‘Your little girl has grown up at last.’

21 July 2017

CHORES, LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM

Gone are the days when household chores were undertaken without much thought. We just did them. No sweat!

Making twin beds each day was no problem, in fact it was something I enjoyed doing. I was proud of my beds, and the way they were ‘dressed’. To me they weren’t just somewhere to sleep, they were part of the room’s attraction and I intended to keep it that way. This is what living in a bungalow does for me, it didn’t matter so much in the big house because the bedrooms were upstairs and out of sight.

Things change, though. Or rather people do. I gave up the twin beds and got one large. Ooooh, all that room to sleep in was heaven even though it meant more walking, round and round, on a daily basis, when I made up the bed. I can’t remember when the breathlessness started but start it did, and always after the morning ritual of making the bed, which necessitated a daily hike round the bed. That was when I realised I was getting older and things had to change.


Bed-making was eased by the introduction of fitted sheets but, after a while, when those sheets needed washing it got to be a struggle to replace them with clean ones. It’s the back, you know, plus that tendency towards breathlessness.

I dealt with it, as you do, until it got to be a worry. This meant a rethink was required. What to do? I remembered when Joe was quite poorly, and bedlinen had to be changed more regularly, I got into the habit of taking the washing to the launderette. They washed and ironed – for a price – but it was convenient and meant I got the clean sheets back in double quick time. Now there is only me, and only one bed, so I started to do my own laundry again.

Until now.

Two large sheets is all, top and bottom, but they were a struggle to fold and impossible to iron, as well as being a struggle to fit on the bed, not to mention all that walking round and round the double bed.  It got that I was having to sit down between each move so I knew I had to do something about it.

Back to the launderette. By this time the price (£12 UK money) had risen to £15 although that wasn’t the reason for the rethink. The shop is a car drive away and if you asked me to walk there and back it would be like asking me to polish the moon. I began to wonder what would happen when the car was disposed of.

Two weeks ago I saw the mother of Paola, who used to clean my house once a week. Her mother had moved from cleaning houses to taking in washing and still collected laundry from the house opposite. Aha, I thought. I waited for her to come out and went over for a little chat…the sort of chat that sounds like a plea for help.

After explaining what I wanted I was disappointed to learn that she was too busy, but after a while she backed down and said she would do it for £10 per sheet. That made £20 in total for one wash. Well, what else can a body do when desperate? We exchanged phone numbers then went our separate ways.

This week was the turn of Molly Maid to visit. Molly Maid is the name of the
outfit that does house cleaning. Two or three ladies come every third week (my arrangement) and will do anything. The agency stipulates that windows can be cleaned as well as ordinary housework, at a price of £11 extra. They know when they’ve got you in a corner, so to speak. A few weeks ago I mentioned my need to have windows cleaned internally (I have a regular window cleaner who does the outside only) and Tina, who heads the team, said she would do it – FOR FREE, but ‘don’t tell the agency boss’.

Now Tina has come up trumps with the laundry. Changing bed linen is part of their duties but not washing them. We got into a discussion about the price of laundry, something Tina felt strongly about. After a few rants on her part about how physically able people were making money out of us oldies, simply because we had no choice. I nearly passed out when she grabbed the sheets and said she would do them. FOR FREE! Apparently, she was incensed by the way people seem unwilling to help.

So off she went, sheets over one arm and the vacuum cleaner pulled along by the other. She returned the washed laundry three days later.

I can’t offer her money but maybe an occasional box of chocolates? I don’t want to offend her and ruin a good relationship. My way of helping could be to provide things for her regular bring-and-buy stall – something she does to help charities. Books galore are waiting to be disposed of so maybe that’s the way to go. Helping her would help me and hopefully repay her kindness. 

15 July 2017

DON'T GO TOO NEAR THE WATER

‘Don’t go too near the water.’


Little Meg could hear her mother’s voice but the seriousness of the instruction didn’t seem justified. She was a big girl now. And the water looked so inviting.

Meg had been brought here for her birthday, the trip to Morecambe Beach being part of the weekend celebrations. She’d had some super presents, a scooter, and a dolls house with REAL furniture.

A smile played round her lips and she mentally hugged herself. She’d wanted a dolls house for so long. The inside was lovely, the walls were papered and there was carpet in all the rooms. She loved the tiny chairs and tables, the clock on the kitchen wall, and the bed upstairs, and the bath, and the rocking horse in the bedroom. There were even tiny coat hangers on the hook on the door. It was exciting to have her very own dolls house. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends at school.

Meg really wanted to go home and play with the house but since they were here for several more hours she might as well explore.

Surreptitiously looking round, Meg saw her mother talking to Gran, their colourful beach chairs turned away from the sea. She slipped off the blue and white flip flops that had been bought specially for the beach. The sand felt soft against her bare feet, it tickled a bit but she loved the feel of it. If she pressed her feet down she could see the shape of her own feet.

Kneeling on the sand she felt a splash from a big wave. She didn’t realise she was so near to it. Meg leaned forward to sniff the water and a little bit went up her nose. She sneezed. Tasted the salt.

Fascinated, she watched another wave forming. If she hurried she could duck under it. Scrambling up she darted to the very edge of the water and waited.

It was like being in the shower. Turning her face into the spray Meg laughed happily when the water fell away from her face. This was fun, she thought.

Her mother called again. Meg turned and waved, didn’t see the next wave coming. It was bigger and more powerful, knocked her off her feet and dragged her into the sea. Coppery hair fanned out as she struggled against the water.

She felt herself sinking, down, down, down. She reached out to touch the sea bed but it wasn’t there. Instead she was grabbed from behind, arms gathered her up, floated with her. A piece of driftwood glided past, narrowly missing her nose. She giggled, tried twisting her head to look at her rescuer.

‘Keep still, Meg.’

The voice was squeaky, not one she had heard before. She wriggled in the great arms that held her so tight. They were covered in a red fabric. She didn’t know anyone who wore red.

Further and further they went, moving steadily along the coastline. Meg wedged her chin against one of the huge arms and peered into the gloom, wanted to ask where they were yet fearful of knowing. She couldn’t think why it had suddenly gone so dark. She wasn’t REALLY frightened, just a LITTLE bit trembly.

A few minutes later she saw a shaft of light ahead, coming from an open door. That’s why it was so dark, she thought, they were in a tunnel.

Her rescuer piloted her towards the door.

The cave was breathtaking. Meg took it all in, the splendour of it, cave walls lit by lanterns, glow-worms flitting around the ceiling like moving stars, and the biggest cobwebs she’d ever seen. Right in the middle was a table made of sea shells, the colours glowing in the light.

‘Come in, come in,’ said the King, adjusting his lopsided crown.

Meg was lowered to the seaweed covered floor, her hand held fast so she wouldn’t fall. For the first time she could see her rescuer, a QUITE ugly gnome.

‘She was very good,’ the gnome told the King.

‘Oh I’m hopskippingly delighted,’ said the King. His voice reminded Meg of Freddy, the grown up boy next door. He had the same croaky voice. But the King was a lot older. MUCH older than Daddy. Daddy didn’t have a beard either.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

Suddenly the room was filled with more gnomes, hands covering their mouths as they stared at her.

‘What?’ she asked.

Her gnome, her rescuer, whispered in her ear, ‘You should never ask a King how OLD he is.’

Meg looked at the King, thinking she should say she was sorry, but the King had sat down at the rickety table with his back to her. He wore a cloak of green seaweed which had caught in the chair. Meg moved across to tug it out but stopped when the gnomes loudly exclaimed in horror.

‘What?’ she demanded, brushing away a silver fish swimming too close to her face.

As if they were automated the gnomes put their fingers to their lips, shushing her.
Her own gnome whispered again, ‘We do not touch the King.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he’s the King. The Almighty Ruler of the Seas.’

‘Well, I’M going to speak to him,’ Meg told him. Defiance wasn’t in her nature but she didn’t like being told what NOT to do.

Looking fearful, the gnomes huddled together, then shuffled back so she could move to the front of the table. She wanted to ask the King why he didn’t allow people to speak to him.

Grasping hold of a steel rod that was wedged in the ground, she edged forward. The floor was very slippery and she felt something crunch beneath her foot. Looking down she saw a mass of broken shells, heard the gnomes complaining amongst themselves. Meg supposed the King would tell her off for being clumsy.

Slithering and sliding, she at last reached the other side of the table, sat on a chair opposite the King.

‘Ooooh,’ she said. ‘Why are you crying?’

The King raised his head. Tears coursed down his cheeks, his tongue trying to catch them. ‘Too much salt,’ he said. ‘Too much salt.’

‘Don’t you like salt?’ Meg asked, ignoring the horrified noises coming from the gnomes.

‘It doesn’t like me,’ replied the King.

That was a MYSTERY. Meg wondered how salt could take a dislike to anyone. She didn’t like salt but she didn’t think it was offended by what Daddy called her faddy ways. A shoal of fish swam across the table, she wondered if they’d taste good with chips.

Realising the King was looking at her, she returned her attention to him. ‘Why are you crying,’ she enquired a second time.

‘Nobody talks to me,’ the King explained. He seemed VERY sad.

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know.

‘Is it because you’re the King?’

‘I don’t see why that should make any difference.’

‘How old are you?’

In the background the gnomes muttered and tutted amongst themselves.

‘I’m VERY old and VERY lonely,’ admitted the King.

‘How can you be lonely with all these gnomes around?’

‘They don’t speak to me. They don’t make a sound when I come home from my travels. I haven’t got a friend, either.’ More tears spilled out of his eyes.

Meg felt bad. He seemed a nice old man, and his white beard was beautiful. It made her want to push her fingers into it, curl it into ringlets. ‘I could be your friend,’ she said. ‘I always speak to my friends.’

The King beamed at her. Suddenly he stood up. ‘Let’s dance,’ he said.

Meg had never danced before but she went round the table to join him. She held out her arms, eager to see what dancing was like. But the King didn’t take them, instead he stood by her side, put his gnarled hand on her shoulder, and jigged on the spot. Meg jigged as well. She started to giggle, and the King giggled too. Her rescuer joined in, and then the gnomes. And the cave was a riot of laughter.

The King yelped with delight, ‘At last,’ he cried, ‘the gnomes have found their voices.’

Meg didn’t like to say they hadn’t lost them.

They jigged the afternoon away, and the gnomes joined in. Meg was so tired at the end; she just collapsed on a bank of seaweed. I’ll just have five minutes, she thought, using her mother’s words.

‘Wake up, wake up.’

Slowly, Meg opened her eyes.

Oh there you are, young lady. I thought you were going to sleep forever. Your chips are waiting. You’d better hurry up before they get cold.

Rubbing her eyes, Meg tumbled off her bed. Her picture book fell on the floor. ‘Can I have salt on my chips,’ she asked, wondering why she suddenly had a desire for it.