Are You There God?

Another week of loss & pain, it’s getting harder to believe that any love remains

And in a second someone’s lost their life, another husband of another wife
One more child’s daddy won’t see Xmas this year and everyone else is frozen with fear

The season of goodwill continues with hurt & tears
And through the media the face of terrorism sneers

Our bravest of soldiers fight for these lands
To release us from violence & death from a stranger’s hands

Is this a war we cannot win?
When hate comes knocking will we let it in?

Remain steadfast and together hold strong
For this war will not be short won

But don’t give up for this evil shall not prevail
None shall extinguish our candle because we won’t let our light fail

The beautiful photograph was supplied by Rhonda over at 50 Shades of Gray Hair

May All Who Come As Guests Leave As Friends

I may have mentioned before that two of our rescue cats prefer dining alfresco irrespective of the weather and that I usually am the one to sprint onto the patio to present them with the Table D’hote menu usually just after 5am when I’m getting ready to depart to work.

Hobo has always been a fussy diner but Charlie is not quite as discerning although I think it’s fair to say that he possibly may just love food more than life itself. After wolfing down his own platter he will usually sit inches away from one of the others drooling until they submit and walk away leaving him to the spoils.

The other morning I’d dished up the day’s specials when both Hobo and Charlie shot into the kitchen as if they were being pursued by the Hounds of Hell. I thought that perhaps a fox or badger had slipped into the garden and went to investigate.

Imagine my surprise when I spotted the cunning culprit gripping the edge of one of the bowls happily munching away. It was a little hedgehog!

As some of you may remember a couple of years’ ago I purchased a hedgehog house on a whim which was eventually placed between two of the larger lavender bushes because it was sheltered and protected from the cats. It became something of a standing joke with my family as they were certain that it would never become occupied but I remained optimistic.

Last summer I couldn’t help but notice the rustling in the lavender bushes and the cats lying in wait for hours but I didn’t explore further fearing a rodent encounter. I should just mention that Milo is the biggest scaredy cat of all, Hobo’s best friend is a house rabbit whom he sits alongside for hours, hasn’t much time for other cats unless they’re kittens and Charlie’s first and only love is a tin of Felix. I even caught a baby magpie using him as a step-ladder last summer to reach the bird feeder whilst he napped (his other favourite occupation).

Since then I have noticed a mother and baby hedgehog wandering around the lawn scavenging for peanuts and slugs. My Dad’s delighted with the presence of his little “Gardener’s friends” as they protect his precious dahlias by keeping the pest population at bay.

As I suspect the hedgehogs are fattening themselves up for the big hibernation, they have become regular supper and breakfast guests lining up alongside our feline family for both breakfast and supper. Of course, at Dyson Abbey we operate an open house policy and a twenty-four hour running buffet so we’re only too happy to oblige.

It’s hard to imagine these precious little creatures which have been such a large part of countryside folklore are under threat; fifty years’ ago there were thirty-six million now there are less than a million. With the hedgehog population in dramatic decline rest assured there will always be a welcoming dish of cat food for any of these enchanting wee folk here at Dyson Abbey.

Want to help the hedgehogs in your neighbourhood? Then you’ll find some useful information over at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.


Hatred Is A Feeling Which Leads To The Extinction Of Values

So should we hate all the people who are born apart from us just because of the colour of their skin or that they pray differently to us? And before you answer that remember that your insecurities and loathing are passed onto your children.

There have been times in my life when a random act of kindness from a stranger has made all the difference and I didn’t stop for a heartbeat to question my benefactor’s religion or him mine. It didn’t make the gesture any less worthwhile because I was a Christian and the donor a Muslim. It was simply one human being helping another in need by extending the hand of friendship.

I’ve shared meals and hospitality with people of all religions and have come away richer for the experience and been grateful for it. Now if you think that our civilised society is any better than that take a look at the videos of Black Friday where so-called enlightened members of the public are shoving others to the ground and stepping over them in an attempt to grab a bargain television out of another’s hands.

The tragedy in Paris is truly overwhelming and whatever I say will be woefully inadequate. Furthermore, if these terrorists succeed and we become suspicious and full of hatred towards all Muslims, then these extremists will have won.

Our thoughts & prayers are with those in Paris and know that we stand with you; God Bless you all


Our Last Goodbye Was Never Said

Times had been hard for eight-year old Tammy and her mum since her Dad had died, even more so when her mum had been made redundant from her office job last month. With a sad Christmas looming without her Dad her mother said that they were going to have to be “careful” and asked her not to be too disappointed if Santa didn’t bring all the toys she’d scribbled on her Christmas list.

She was trying so hard to be good and never mentioned to her mum the doll she so badly wanted that walked and talked and was being advertised on the television all the time although she would gaze at it longingly through the toy shop window. Once she’d been brave enough to slip inside the door and finger the silky gauze of the doll’s dress.

They’d had to give the car up when her mum received her last pay cheque so now they walked into town but that wasn’t so bad as they played “I spy” and sang their favourite Christmas songs all the way which made the journey more fun. Mum had explained that she wouldn’t be able to give her any pocket-money for a while until she had found a new job but she didn’t mind as she knew her mummy was clever and would soon get another job.

On her way home from school every day she passed an elderly gentleman smartly dressed with medals on his chest like her daddy used to wear. She noticed he carried a tray of paper poppies and when he noticed her looking at him, he smiled back at her. “What are those for, mister?” she asked and he replied that he was selling the poppies so that people wouldn’t forget all the soldiers who had died. She checked each pocket of her tatty Disney purse which her mum had bought her last Christmas but unfortunately there were no pennies to give the man so she just smiled shyly and carried on walking past.

From then on he’d wave to her every day she walked past on her way to school when he told her that tomorrow was his last day selling poppies so he hoped he’d see her again. Tammy dashed home from school and shook her money-box to see whether she had any coins left. Right at the bottom was a shiny twenty pence piece which she proudly placed in her purse ready to give the old man because she just had to have one of those poppies.

The next day she was up early for the rainy walk into town with her mum on this gloomy autumn day and after carefully checking that she still had the twenty pence piece she made sure she’d put the purse into her pocket. When they reached the old man she stopped opened her purse and took out the coin which slipped out of her fingers and before she could catch it, rolled down a storm drain.

Tammy was distraught and began to cry, big huge racking sobs. In between the tears and howls she managed to breathlessly murmur “It’s really, really important that I buy one. I just gotta have one so my Daddy knows that I haven’t forgotten him”.

The old soldier was deeply moved by this small sobbing child and immediately bent down and looked her in the eye and said “It just so happens I have this special one left and I know that your Daddy would want you to have it”. Pinning it to the lapel of her coat, he stood up and saluted her.

The little girl wiped her nose and stood up straight and saluted the old soldier back just as she had the last time she had seen her daddy before he had been deployed to Afghanistan. For just a moment the sky cleared and a rainbow appeared. Tammy’s tear-stained face gazed up and blowing a kiss she whispered “I’ll never forget you, Daddy”.

Dedicated to all the families of those in the armed forces past and present serving our countries throughout the world; we are and always will be indebted to you for your bravery & sacrifice


Sew Much Fabric Sew Little Time

The old dear handed me a bag of old photos last week that she had come across whilst having a clear out and I have spent a week in scanning heaven; simple things. I’d asked her to dig out my first school photo so that I could participate in a Twitter anti-bullying campaign. The photo in question shows me as a truculent and sullen four-year old who clearly didn’t (and still doesn’t) enjoy having a photo taken and also bears a strong resemblance to the children from the cult horror classic “Village of the Damned”. Mum still hasn’t been able to locate said picture (probably burned it not wanting a reminder that her child was the Devil’s spawn) but whilst searching she came across some other hidden gems including this one of my sister, Beverley Big Pants modelling one of my hand-made outfits!

Back in the day when I was a hard-up student, I decided to put my dressmaking skills learned at school to good use. As I was so dire in the cookery class my harassed teacher had been relieved to offload me and school chum, Louise onto the dressmaking teacher and rescue my poor family from potential salmonella poisoning when they were constantly forced to eat my latest incinerated culinary offering. To be fair I can follow any dressmaking or crochet pattern to this day and my ability with both smocking and ruffles was the envy of the class, however, none of the above qualified as “high fashion” statements at that time. In my limited and immature view, an abundance of sequins including various other adornments compensated for a lack of cutting edge style.

My mum gave me some old material and lining which she thought might just keep me busy and out of trouble and fortuitously my sister became the recipient of my needlework endeavours. There was just one small problem in that I lacked any talent in design or creativity. However, I clearly thought I was going to be the next Stella McCartney whilst I threaded my mum’s old Singer sewing machine with shirring elastic and frankly in my opinion any missed stitch could be resolved with a shedload of sequins.

Fortunately for Beverley Big Pants, my dressmaking hobby was short-lived as I discovered boys. However, trawling through these pictures I think it might be time to dust off the old Singer as the duvet set I have bought for my sister for Xmas is just sat here begging for some sequin lovin’, in fact if I started now I could have completed the first two letters of her nickname by tea time. Happy Days!


Jealousy Is When You Count Someone Else’s Blessings Instead Of Your Own

When I was at junior school one of my fellow pupils and arch-rivals was a small motherless child called Tanya who was the youngest member of a large noisy family which usually had one or two members detained at her Majesty’s pleasure at any one time. She regularly arrived at school fairly dishevelled in her sisters’ scruffy hand-me-downs and spent most of her time asleep on her desk where for the most part she remained undisturbed by the teachers. We had eyed each other warily on the very first day of term and since then there had been an air of antagonism between us.

I had a severe attack of the green-eyed monster when my mother at the bus stop one afternoon invited her to tea as if she were one of my best friends. I pleaded with her to withdraw the invitation but she was adamant and scolded that if I couldn’t be a gracious host I could remain in my room until it was bath time so begrudgingly I joined in the tea party pulling faces at Tanya whenever the opportunity presented itself and the old dear wasn’t looking. Naturally, I was too young to realise that this unloved child’s animosity was merely a shield against the harsh world in which she lived.

Imagine my disappointment when Tanya became a regular visitor for tea at Dyson Abbey. Despite this she was no less hostile with me even when I was forced to share my toys and meals with her and to add insult to injury she was always given a bag filled with my mother’s homemade baking treats such as butterfly cakes or maids of honour to take home with her.

Of course, what my seven-year old heart couldn’t understand was that my wise old mum knew this poor child was sorely in need of a good meal and it would be unlikely her proud family would accept charity so by inviting her for tea each week she was ensuring that this small neglected youngster would have not only a substantial meal but also for a short while a little compassion which was otherwise lacking in her young life.

Unfortunately, for Tanya her circumstances changed when her wayward father was incarcerated once again but on this occasion social services stepped in and just as fast as they started our shared afternoon teas came to an abrupt end as Tanya was despatched to live with a distant relative a few miles away.

It wasn’t until many years later that whilst queuing up at a supermarket checkout as a young twenty-something the woman in front of me said that she knew me and it took a while for me to realise I was standing in front of my old adversary, Tanya. We exchanged rather formal pleasantries but as she finished her transaction at the till, she made to walk away but then turned around and surprised me by saying “thank your mum for me, I’ve never forgotten her kindness; those tea parties with the delicious cakes and trifles were the only thing I had to look forward to back then”. And just as quickly she was gone from my life for the second time.

I cringed as I walked home reprimanding myself for being so mean-spirited and as I walked past a gift shop window I noticed a hand-painted sign which was part of the pretty shabby chic display. It simply said “Kindness begins with me“. It was inevitable that I bought it and it still hangs in my kitchen as a constant reminder that a simple act of kindness is like your fingerprint on the world and years later you can still hear its echo if you listen very carefully.

Beverley Big Pants, Prince the Pup & Yours Truly

Beverley Big Pants, Prince the Pup & Yours Truly

I Was Never Ready For You To Leave

Loss whether it’s through bereavement, divorce, separation or estrangement is one of the cruellest and often difficult emotions that we have to deal with during our lifetimes.

Grief sucks all the joy out of our lives and leaves us with a crippling sense of incomprehension. It’s hard moving on and starting all over again when you’ve been forced into an unwelcome change that was neither wanted nor expected. It’s the anesthetized sensation which causes the slow burn that spreads from your heart to your throat not to mention the dull pain in your head that thwarts sleep and inhibits daily mundane tasks.

It’s the quiet times you dread most of all when a fleeting memory comes crashing into your consciousness like a speeding bullet that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and disorientated. Grief’ll get you every time and the anger that follows wraps everything in your world in a grey dense foggy cloak which even the smallest brightest ray of sunshine is unable to penetrate.

Heartache is like an unwelcome intruder and I don’t think it ever goes away; not really. We just learn to live with it; one traumatized footstep at a time. The thing is there is no miracle cure for grief, no wonder drug that can ease our suffering because we think that if we did stop the hurting we might just find ourselves finally letting go when we’re scarcely ready if we ever are.

So if you find yourself in this situation, take your time, my friend; there is no wrong or right way to grieve. There can be no time frame when it comes to the healing process but above all be kind and patient with yourself because I promise that one day you’ll wake up and the sun will be shining again.

“The only people who think there’s a time limit for grief, have never lost a piece of their heart. Take all the time you need” – Anon


Tea Is Liquid Wisdom

Mary still remembered the very first time during their courting days when David took her home to meet his large family. She recalled the warm and inviting house where noisy laughter echoed throughout. She’d been overwhelmed by them all at first but gradually blossomed as she was welcomed into a household that lived each day as a joy, embracing and celebrating every moment.

She frequently used to admire her mother-in-law’s tea service which adorned her sideboard only being brought into use on the most special of occasions such as birthdays, christenings and Christmas. Each delicate cup and saucer had a gold leaf glaze and decorated with an array of cottage garden flowers. When Mary had first seen them she’d been enchanted with their fragile beauty. As a child her resentful family had never had any money for such luxuries and mocked those that spent their hard-earned cash on things that weren’t either functional or edible.

As the years progressed one or two of the porcelain cups had been chipped by inquisitive grandchildren or lost their handles when dropped during over rigorous dishwashing but their appeal never diminished for Mary. It was true these tea-cups had witnessed a lot of happy and sometimes sad times but even when her mother-in-law moved into sheltered housing after her husband passed she wouldn’t part with the one remaining cup and saucer. As far as she was concerned it held a cupful of golden days and loving advice in every sip. Most of her family apart from Mary couldn’t understand her attachment to the past or such a kitsch item and would have assigned it to the dustbin had she not been so insistent.

When eventually her beloved mother-in-law succumbed to pneumonia she’d bequeathed her beautiful tea-cup to her and as Mary gingerly unwrapped them from the newspaper surrounding the delicate china, tears rolled down her cheeks as she recalled her adored mother-in-law’s generous and kind spirit. She gently turned the fragile cup over in her hands, the porcelain so fine that it was almost transparent and thought about all the treasured memories that she was holding in her palm. At the bottom of the box was a note in her mother-in-law’s beautiful copperplate handwriting which simply read “come & share a cup of tea, my home is warm, my friendship’s free”. She smiled through her tears as she celebrated her mother-in-law’s life in the only way she knew how; by having a cup of tea. As she sat at the scrubbed kitchen table overlooking the garden she nursed the warm amber nectar in her hands and it comforted her just as her mother-in-law had done in life.


Never Doubt Your Instinct

Remember those halcyon days of childhood when your mum bought your school uniform a few sizes too big knowing that you would eventually “grow into it”? The fact that you spent the next couple of years rolling up your sweater sleeves because the cuffs came down to your fingertips was completely irrelevant.

That was around the same time that you could play in the street in relative safety or accept sweets from well-intentioned neighbours, postman and family friends all of whom had achieved the benevolent uncle status without the fear of some sinister ulterior motive. Living in a small cosseted village community I doubt whether my parents ever worried about my safety back then as I played hopscotch and rounders at the local park all day rushing home just in time for tea.

Nowadays graphic pictures are broadcast into our homes daily by the media and it’s a knife-edge these days for parents wanting their children to develop confident social skills whilst insisting at the same time that they don’t talk to strangers. During my childhood the press was still heavily censored and adults talked about heinous acts in hushed tones. Times have changed along with the introduction of the internet age and it seems that no image is too explicit to be shared on social media along with sensational tabloid headlines.

Have times changed that much or are we more informed these days. Is a little bit of knowledge a dangerous thing and has it made us less trusting but then again do we need to be? Is the world a sadder sicker place or has there always been less scrupulous souls whom we have been less aware of? Certainly, recent newspaper headlines in the UK would suggest so when formerly esteemed family entertainers have been charged with varying sex crimes which were largely overlooked for some years by people who frankly should have known better.

So I suppose my question is was the world a truly safer place back then or were we just less enlightened and a tad naive?


Oh My! What A Big Following You Have

As most of you know I am a huge Twitter fan and find it other than blogging an engaging form of social media. Like most things it took me a while to get to grips with it. It’s easy to dip in and out, picking up conversations from one day to another and is fairly low maintenance (a bit like me).

My pet Twitter peeves are Tweeps who follow and then unfollow you within seconds of you returning the favour in order to drive up their following. Additionally, I hate those automated direct messages urging you to subscribe to their You Tube Channel, like their Facebook Page, buy their book. Now that’s just a bit forward when you haven’t even been formally introduced!

Likewise I prefer not to interact with those whose tweets continually scream “it’s all about me, at least pretend to be interested in others; didn’t their mothers teach them it’s rude not to share? In my opinion any form of social media needs some sort of interaction or sharing to make it worthwhile. A lot of people who I follow are animal lovers, small businesses that I enjoy giving a little plug to, my fellow bloggers, animal rescues or other like-minded individuals. I’m always going to be a sucker for a wicked sense of humour!

I make no apologies for retweeting an animal on the euth list looking for a home because social media has been proven to save a life in some of these situations and you never know whether a potential home or rescue will pick up a tweet and provide that poor animal with a last-minute reprieve. I get exasperated with people who pointlessly tweet cute animal pictures all day, every day but can’t slot in a rescue animal in need of a good home; are they any less cute? If every Tweep retweeted just one homeless pet a week think of the audience that animal or the rescue shelter would reach and it’s such a small thing to ask. I also think it’s important to share any missing family members (after all that could be us one day) and charity events. I think Twitter etiquette decrees if someone retweets you that you return the favour; after all variety is the spice of life and it would indeed be a boring world if we all had the same interests. In addition I also like to retweet you, my fellow bloggers when I’m online as I’m more than happy to promote your books or posts, give a shout out to any small businesses so I like to think I’m well-balanced; there are, of course, those that would disagree with that including my family.

One of things I enjoy the most is the interaction particularly when you are short of time as I have been recently. It takes a few seconds to drop a tweet to check on somebody whether it’s an injury, family illness or loss of a loved one. A kind word via a tweet costs nothing & can make all the difference in someone’s day. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

For those of you on Twitter, I’ll see you on the other side but in the meantime, what are your social media peeves?

social media