Friends

31 August 2018

GONE FOR NOT FORGOTTEN!


The recently mentioned cotoneaster has gone! My new gardener (Pete) and his young mate laboured over it for quite a while, drilling, cutting, sweating and swearing. I could understand the swearing as I watched the operation.

What I had called a gentle shrub had turned into a monster. The hitherto unseen ‘stalks’ were a circumference of twelve inches (yes, we measured it) which had to be drilled to get the mini tree sized shrub out of the ground. The remaining stumps had to be left where they were.

They emerged triumphant after an hour drilling the twisted and gnarled overgrown trunk. I call it a trunk for want of another name. Pete then had to saw it all into pieces in order to transport them to the garden rubbish bin from where they would be collected by council workers.

Eventually the entire strip opened up to a previously intended flower bed, stones, bricks and all. The cotoneaster had been in situ since before we moved into the bungalow because it was well established then. Add on thirty years and you get the drift of the its age. Going by the height and spread when we moved in I would put it at around forty years.

I should have got rid of it sooner but, never mind, the job is done. The soil in the ‘flower bed’ is healthy enough to plant some flowers which I will definitely try to produce. I am not going to buy much, just take specimens from the rest of the garden.

So now I can see the whole of the garden from the window and am thrilled. 

29 August 2018

SPECIAL BOOKMARKS


Both Joe and I loved bookmarks and I still do. I had a fad at one time to collect as many bookmarks as I could. Usually on holiday where it was likely we would find different sorts. And, oh boy, did we get a collection. 

I have all sorts, embroidered ones and lace edged beauties, comic, and serious, and some with a motto picked up at fairs or exhibitions, usually relating to companies who had exhibitions on site. On one of our outings we paid a visit to a church that had a delightful stall full of gifts. I spotted some bookmarks with names on and there they were, one for Joseph and one for Valerie. Of course, I just had to have them. 

Joe used his but not as avidly as me. I still have them and will never throw them away. They have our details on the borders which are/were uncannily true for both of us.

Joe's (Joseph) read like this: 
Derivation from 'Yosef'' meaning 'addition to family
Origin: Hebrew
Strength: Has the temperament to reach his goals
Physical: He is a larger than life individual
Character: Intelligent
Emotional: A devoted family man

Mine:
Derivation from 'valere' meaning strong and healthy
Origin: Latin
Strength: A down to earth lady, you know where you stand
Physical: She always believes in her abilities
Character: open
Emotional: Will always forgive and forget

Is it any wonder we never threw these bookmarks away? Daft as it sounds, if I was having a bad day I would pick up my latest read, not because of the book, but for the reassurance of my bookmark. 

25 August 2018

THE ANNIVERSARY

I wrote the following story after witnessing an elderly lady gazing through her window, every day. She inspired me to write something.

The Anniversary


The mud-splattered wagon trundled away, closely followed by what appeared to be a clapped out JCB. The final operation in the building of my neighbour’s new wing was done. Flicking a faded yellow duster over the sill, I tried to envisage my house free of brick dust and the stink of wet cement. I watched the wagon until it was out of sight, willing it never to darken our street again. There were enough new buildings to take the entire Warwickshire population.

Across the road in the maisonettes an old chap wedged open his door. He did this when the Meals on Wheels woman was due and sure enough there she was, driving up Silhill Street with her Thursday fare. A robust woman, never without a hat, with a matronly chest that reached its destination minutes before the rest of her body. Seeing her reminded me that my faculties were on the blink, that one day she might be plying me with slender rations in foil dishes. The time might well come but I wasn’t prepared to admit it to the likes of her. She would turn up her snooty nose and gloat on account of the telling off I gave her the other week. I told her she needn’t think she could boss me into giving in. I said until I got the telegram from the Queen I wouldn’t be savouring any of her wares.

I tweaked the curtain to view the houses so long obscured by vans and diggers and mountainous heaps of bricks. Old Nelly and her friend Jess were attempting to reverse their car up the narrow drive and making a right meal of it. I couldn’t understand why they found such poor car control amusing but I envied their camaraderie. I had done ever since my Clive passed on.

Screwing the duster into a ball to retain the dust I turned away from the window, but hearing the honk of a horn twisted back again to see John Carrington getting out of his red Jaguar and making a fist at two scruffy urchins playing ball in his drive. Cheeky beggars pulled faces at him as they ran off. As soon as they were out of sight he retrieved the wheelchair from the back of the car, waving to me before easing Nancy from the passenger seat. She waved as John transported her into the house. They had been on an excursion to Blackpool. When I heard they were going, I appealed to the Almighty to keep them safe. Satisfied that once again he’d done a thorough job, I sent him my appreciation.

I first met the Carringtons, one wet, wintry day, in the supermarket coffee shop. Several years ago now. We shared a table. John manoeuvred the wheelchair so that his wife faced me. A woman of ample proportions wrapped in a blue wool coat the identical colour of her laughing eyes. She tutted as she pulled a wayward ringlet, irritated by its bounciness. That was Nancy, my prospective neighbour.

They called me Lizbet instead of Elizabeth, the name I was blessed with. It rolled off Nancy’s tongue like syrup off a spoon. I loved it. It made me feel special. God himself knows how I needed someone like her to latch on to…. her presence in my life went a long way to removing some of the loneliness.

I visited her every day when they moved in. My intention was to help her cope with the disabling arthritis but she was strong enough to handle her disability without my assistance. Nevertheless, she was happy for me to see to her hair. Whenever I brushed those dark locks I would remember the first time I saw her tug that obstinate curl and recall the words John had uttered in the coffee shop as he covered her hand with his: ‘I only promised to love her until she was sixty.’ I remember Nancy’s beaming face when she demanded that when the time came he would grant a ten year extension, and John’s choked reply, ‘You got it, lady.’

Finally withdrawing from the reverie, I noticed that John and Nancy’s door was closed. Normally I gave them the thumbs up before they disappeared into the house but I’d been so taken with reminiscing I missed the opportunity. I silently begged them not to take umbrage.

A cloudburst of loneliness washed my soul as I returned to the kitchen. The fire that had blazed before I began my prying window vigil had reduced to almost nothing. Seizing the poker, I stoked the dying embers until flames reawakened then threw on more coal nuts. I counselled myself not to be silly but it didn’t work and I rounded on poor Clive when I saw him grinning from his wooden picture frame on the dresser. It’s all your fault,’ I grumbled, ‘leaving me here alone.’

The rain roused me the following morning, I could hear it thumping on the garage roof and water whooshing from the down pipe onto the front slabs. It reminded me that the soak-away needed attending to. I was in the process of castigating the All-Powerful for designing such a rotten February when I heard footsteps on the path. Dragging myself from under the warm quilt, I advanced to the window and peered out. ‘Good Lord,’ I muttered. ‘It’s Postman Pat.’

The postman was holding a pink envelope. I was surprised because I had no reason to receive letters. Being childless and without relations to speak of my quota of mail had long since lapsed. Except for the bills! And there was no trash mail thanks to John arranging with the mail preference people to stop it.

Nervously, I descended the stairs to pick up the envelope, examined it front and back for evidence of the sender’s identity. The writing was sort of familiar. Slitting it open I extracted a card depicting a single scarlet rose. Curiously I looked inside. There was a photo of Nancy, John and me, taken one summer’s day in their garden. There was also an inscription......

“Ten years have elapsed since Nancy Rose and John William Carrington
adopted you as friend and comforter.
Happy Anniversary, dear Lizbet.
Please accept this invitation to share Nancy’s ten year extension.”

Can you imagine my delight?

22 August 2018

WILL SHE, WON'T SHE?

I have a book that is very old. It came into my possession when my parents died and left everything to me. I haven’t read it yet! Why? Because the print is so small … it was in those days. Several times I have taken it off the shelf fully intending to give it a go, but never got beyond the first few flimsy pages.

The book’s title is ‘London Belongs to Me’ and was written in 1945 by Norman Collins who at that time had written seven books. Today I decided to give it another go. If I only read one flimsy page at a time I might eventually get through it.

I have attempted this before and given up so I hope that now I have more time on my hands I can at least read one page per day. Only one, I hear you say! The real reason is that the eyes give up by the end of one page.

So far I have gleaned that the writing is good and includes a touch of humour.

It was Christmas. Time four-thirty on Friday 23rd December 1938. Scene set in an office where the staff members prepared to celebrate, or as the author described ‘Bethlehem now broods encouragingly over London’.

“Mr Battlebury had dropped into Scott’s for a dozen six-and-sixpenny oysters and had ordered a bottle of Hock to go with them – which is why he arrived back in Creek Lane, E.C.2., carrying his gaily tied-up parcels, a lot later and a good deal more genial than he generally arrived.’

Mr Battlebury’s staff had not gone so far afield. The typists had rushed off to the neighbouring Lyonses and Express Dairies and Kardomahs (two flight up and mind the old oak beam), and had stuffed themselves with slices of rich dark pudding or hot flaky mince pies. The male staff, of course, had made for the pubs.”

Kardomah Caf├ęs were a chain of coffee shops in England, Wales, and a few in Paris, popular from the early 1900s until the 1960s, but now almost defunct. I don’t know about you but I remember Lyons and Kardomah and the coffee drunk in both. It was at a time when coffee was banned in my family, so drinking it on the sly was like an adventure. There was a theory that coffee was bad for growing children. Hmmm! I wish my parents could see the present generation!

Back to the subject of this post……. okay it might not interest anybody else but to me it was like taking a step back in time

Wish me luck in what I consider to be a mammoth task. If I read a page a day it will all be over in 639 days!

Go on, I dare you, work that out!

19 August 2018

MY SPECIAL TIME

I truly had this special time and wrote this around 2009 




Without fail, the moment occurs. It’s been going on for years, same time, every day. Seven thirty, precisely!  I’m talking about the silence, that wonderful unbroken calm, so hushed I hold my breath for fear of creating a disturbance. Even the birds are respectful; twittering and wing flapping seemingly not allowed. Everything stops. There is no movement anywhere, even the breeze is at rest. The world outside my window is motionless. Even time seems to stand still, except that the clock proves otherwise. It doesn’t last long, maybe four or five minutes, but long enough for me to take stock and thank the Lord for giving me those few precious moments.

Specially for me? A colleague didn’t think so. When I mentioned it she thought I was quite mad… not in so many words … I could see by her pitying expression she thought I was in need of psychiatric help. Am I mad? In those few minutes, am I bordering on insanity? I think not. I believe I have been given that special time to ponder and prepare and count my blessings without the hindrance of everyday life. And I am deeply grateful!

~~~

which time is YOUR special time?

16 August 2018

TV DEBATES



It happens on television and it happens on radio. OK, you ask: ‘what the heck is she talking about?’

I am talking about debates, but not debates per se. Get two or three people discussing crucial matters on TV and you will hear a jumble of voices where everyone talks at once so that listeners cannot interpret what is being said. The debate, serious or otherwise, is difficult for the listener/viewer to understand what it is all about simply because all those present continually butt in when others are talking. It kills discussion and irritates me beyond words. And how rude these ‘experts’ are to think they can interrupt others when they are talking, especially if the subject is a serious one. It irritates me no end.

A debate on radio today would surely get the silver cup for unruly determination to prove a point, disregarding the fact that two others were doing the same thing. There should be a person in charge who has the ability to stop it in its tracks because the listener can’t pick out what each one is saying. Yes, I know there is such a thing as freedom of speech but, correct me if I’m wrong, surely it is courteous to let others put their point of view without fear of constant interruption.

One lady deigned to say ‘please let me finish’ but nobody bothered to accede to the request. It is this sort of behaviour that stops me switching on. 

12 August 2018

HERE WE GO AGAIN... tralala

Once again new locks had to be fitted to those doors not seen to the last time the locksmith came. The main one that needed attention was the kitchen door. I could close it but the key lock wouldn’t work.

Same guy came out as before and he didn’t waste a minute sorting things out, attending to three doors all in all, two repairs and one brand new lock. I had to have more keys cut for my various key rings - lady next door has a set in case of emergency and I have two sets, one to use and one to save in case I lose the first one…lol. I then proceeded to exchange the old keys for new ones. Not difficult job, you might will think, but my advancing years are resulting in memory failure and utter bewilderment. I have to be really strict with myself. Writing it all down isn’t enough, I have to have the visual, something that will say THIS IS THE DAMN KEY YOU WANT. IT HAS BLACK MARKER ON IT – REMEMBER? Then I sit down and curse my advancing insanity.

Next morning, couldn’t unlock the door! Have since discovered that I can lock/unlock providing I only do a quarter-turn with the key. Remembering that will be a problem until I get used to it; in the meantime I have labelled both sides of the door, tiny stick-ons that tell me to DO QUARTER TURN ONLY.

Saints preserve me from going completely bonkers. 

However, Pete, my new gardener, suggested I check the key that came with the lock. Guess what? It worked. It seemed to Pete, therefore, that the newly cut keys were useless. It reminded me that exactly the same thing happened before… the brain had forgotten. Oh well, since I cannot get to the shops, I will have to put up with it. At least I can use the duds – providing I remember the golden rule not to turn the ‘dud’ keys more than a quarter! 

08 August 2018

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (repeat)


I sit alone, breathing in the silence of early morning. Outside the dawn is beginning to break. From where I sit, huddled against the cold, I can just make out the awakening light through the trees. Soon there will be bird noises. The tiny creatures will need to fluff their feathers to keep warm. They’re lucky it didn’t snow in the night although it would make a nice scene for me to look at. All my nights are spent in this chair because a recurring dream dictates that I do not go to bed. Did I say recurring? The word should be used loosely because each one has a difference.

Have you ever had a nightmare, one so scary you dare not shut your eyes again? Did you experienced the cold sweat of relief when you realised it was just a dream? That’s how it used to be with me but now… now there is no reprieve. I am doomed to spend my days and nights in fear.

It started a year ago, after the office dinner-dance. I had been dancing with the handsomest man in the party, presumed to be an invited guest from another branch of the firm. Yes, I fancied him.  And why not?  We were free agents. Newly freed, both divorced from our partners, both childless and living alone.

His name was Nick. Friends laughingly referred to him as Old Nick because he was older than most of us by about twenty years. With his dark looks, age didn’t matter.

That evening I fell for the smouldering eyes and the way he held his head to one side when he spoke. You may think there was nothing remarkable about that, but you can’t see what I did. The gesture seemed inviting and I was determined to find out to what I was being invited.

I wore black that night, a strappy, slinky number that suggested more than it showed. I know he liked it by the way he fingered the straps as we danced. I’d only ever danced inches away from a partner but with Nick I was held close to his body, the way I’ve seen in films. We moved in unison, swaying, his body moulded to mine. I didn’t know I was that lithe, to be honest.

It was like that all the way through the evening. I had the greatest time and as the night wore on I began to think about what might happen at the end. Would he want to take me home? Would I invite him in? Of course, I would. He’d got me rearing to go and I was determined to see it through.

You can imagine my frustration when he left me after the last waltz. ‘Catch you later,’ was all he said before disappearing through the double doors to face the moonlit night alone. It’s a man thing, I realised, as I lay in bed and went over the evening events. Even so, ‘catch you later’ was very off-putting. A girl didn’t know whether he meant it or if it was merely an opt-out. Later on that night I was to find out.
           
Nick came to me as I slept. In a dreamy state I welcomed him in my arms. It was him, yet he looked different, older. The handsome face was, well, odd. If I told you it was distorted you’d think, yeah, that’s how dreams are. I tried to recall how he looked at the dance but those striking features eluded me. Now all I could see was pockmarked skin and bloodshot eyes.

Although his suggestion that we go on a train journey was met with surprise, I agreed.  How we got there is a mystery but, yeah, that’s how dreams are. We were comfortably seated in a compartment, the only two people there, when he suddenly got to his feet, dragging me up as well. The next thing I remember was being hustled along the corridor. I dropped my bag and began to fret about losing the valuables, credit card and cash, but Nick wouldn’t stop. Instead he dragged me further along until we reached the door. The train was rocking with speed as he pushed it open and tried to throw me out.

I woke up screaming. My face and throat were wet with sweat. The duvet was on the floor, pillows strewn on top. It took a long time to regain my calm and grasp that it was only a dream.

Normally I forget dreams the minute I wake, but this one lingered.  It haunted me through the tea and toast, it bothered me while I dressed, and worried me even more when I was ready to go and couldn’t find my bag. Had I left it at the hotel? Still somewhat taken aback by Nick’s sudden disappearance I’d walked home, trying to analyse the whole thing. There was no need for money and my house key was hidden under the pot in the garden. I never took it with me when I went dancing.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the office was to ring the hotel. No, Madam, no lost property was handed in. I went round the staff, asking questions. No, Maria, they said, they hadn’t seen anything lying around. Perhaps you didn’t take it to the dance, suggested my closest working companion. I was pretty sure I did.

I reported the loss to the hotel, the office administrator, and the police.

It bothered me that I should lose a bag in a dream and then find it really was lost. 

After doing the important things like notifying the bank, I settled down to work. In fact I worked extra hard in the hope that the awful day would end quickly. 

There wasn’t much of interest on television but I carried on watching until my eyes began to blur. A hot shower and an early night would be good, I thought, and then bed.

I climbed in, hugged the comforting duvet to me, tugged the pillow into position, then went straight to sleep. For once my overactive thoughts left me in peace.

He came again that night, his presence announced by repeatedly uttering my name. Ma-reee-ya, Ma-reee-ya. It made me shiver. He was dressed in black with a white silk scarf knotted at the neck. Facial growth covered his chin, dark whiskers that made him look older than his years. His distorted features were now quite grotesque, sunken cheeks, a lopsided nose, swollen lips, one eye open, the other closed. He was friendlier than before, although his grip on my hand was vice-like as he invited me to accompany him for a walk.

Because the evening was on the cool side, I slipped a shawl around my shoulders. A gift from a friend, beige coloured, embroidered with peacocks and my initials MD in the middle.  We took the path that led to the lake, pausing now and again to kiss, and for me to suffer the rising nausea each time he pressed his lips against mine. I had no choice but to surrender since his hold on me was like steel. I remember it so well. I also remember his hysterical laughter as he pushed me into the lake.

Struggling to keep my head above the murky water, I screeched and screeched that I couldn’t swim.

Then I woke, still shaking with fear, horrified to feel so drenched. My rose patterned nightdress was soaked with perspiration, the duvet wrapped so tight I sweated with the heat.

And so it goes on. Every night he tries to kill me, each attempt different to the last. His face is skeletal now and the more gruesome he gets the worse the torture. The fear is so great I am afraid to sleep lest he should succeed.     

The man called Nick, whom I met at the dance, rang me not so long back. He apologised for leaving me so hurriedly and suggested we meet up for a night out. I turned him down. I could no longer be sure if he and my ‘dream’ man were one and the same.

The psychiatrist had lots of explanations about my state of mind, none of which I understood. I mean, I was normal before all this started. Wasn’t I? Anyway, the psychiatrist reckons that dreams are figments of imagination. You know, I would believe that if it wasn’t for the fact that my handbag was found beside a railway line some 90 miles from where I live. I suppose someone, somewhere, is wearing my lovely shawl since it is nowhere in the house and I am not careless enough to mislay things without knowing.

So I sit here breathing in the silence of early morning. Outside the dawn settles in. From where I sit, huddled against the cold, I can see sunlight filtering through the trees. Soon there will be bird calls. They are lucky it didn’t snow in the night. It doesn’t matter to me; I’m too tired to go out these days. Since sleep is something to dread I sit here, alone with my thoughts, and wonder how much longer I must exist in this dream, doing nothing else but link figments of imagination until they resemble life as it was.

If I could differentiate between fantasy and reality things would be different. Maybe I should turn the tables, take the lead, form a plan; a successful one. My best friend thinks I am incapable of rational thought; she may be right but it would be good to try and prove her wrong.

Elusive thoughts often flutter through my head, ideas on how to bring an end to this mental incarceration. Perhaps I should not have turned Nick down after all. Maybe a daytime rendezvous would help me see things more clearly. What’s that old adage? Do unto others as they do unto you? Ah yes, now we’re talking!


It’s quite light outside now. The birds are fighting each other for food. A woodpigeon lands on a slender bough in the cherry tree, seesaws until the branch settles to a stop. A feral cat lurks behind the hydrangea; watching, waiting; food for a week. I too am watching … and waiting. A chance is all I need, I think, as I turn to gaze at the phone. ‘Hello, Nick,’ I’ll say. ‘How’re you doing?’

05 August 2018

GARDENING AND DRIVE CLEANING

(Lawn has since lost the yellow colour, it is now off-white)

I HAVE A NEW GARDENER.

I have a new gardener. Not permanent, one that I can call in when the big bushes need a trim. He is part of a bigger company but lives near. The guy, together with a colleague, did everything: cut back bushes (and there are a lot), cleared overgrown paths that were full of weeds, even swept up afterwards. There was a list of things he will and can do on the big van and one was ‘jet wash patios and driveways. Ok, you’ve guessed right. I booked him to clean the drive.

This guy (Pete) is a whiz at punctuality. If he says one o’clock, he arrives five minutes before so that he actually rings my bell at one o’clock etc. He meticulously writes everything on his notepad so that he knows exactly where he should be at any given time. A man after my own heart since I’m a stickler for punctuality.

When I had the drive cleaned before the workmen had tanks of water on their wagon but this time Pete relied on me to supply it. Well, he’s mainly a gardener. His wagon is loaded with machinery, no room for water! Not to worry, he said as he tried to lock a hose to the garden taps. That was the first hiccup; he tried another, and another, and then he went out to buy a new fitment for his hosepipe. That didn’t work, either. On investigation, another tap wouldn’t budge. ‘You’ll have to get a plumber to deal with it,’ he says.

That was yesterday. I don’t know whether it was my pleading voice that did it but the plumber came straight away and unjammed the tap. Of course, I sent a text (getting good at that) to the gardener who responded immediately with ‘Will Monday be okay?’

Of course it would.

How about that for service? And patience?

03 August 2018

Driver's Nightmare, by me


Driver’s nightmare

(by me)
Green light says Go
Indicate, turn right
Foot down, hurrying
Home for the night
Ball speeds towards him
Just a game
Football crazy, future fame?
Parents’ tears shed
On fragrant flowers
He wouldn’t be told
That son of ours
Who can they blame?
Who was remiss?
There should be a law
To stop upsets
Like this