Karma Has No Deadline

The recycling centre near us is inappropriately named Chelson Meadow conjuring up flower strewn pastures and whilst it is situated on the outskirts of Saltram House the stately home, which was used during the filming of the 1995 Sense & Sensibility, there is nothing very beautiful or fragrant about an industrial yard surrounded by cars and enormous waste skips.

I’d loaded up the car one afternoon as my Dad had been instructed by my mother to have a clear out in the shed and I wasn’t totally surprised by the amount of junk he had stored waiting for a moment when it would all come in “useful”. As much as I admire his optimism there was never going to be an opportunity other than an apocalypse when we would have the need for so many useless items.

My Dad had insisted on carrying out the recovery mission himself and I could tell how reluctant he was to part with most of it and may well have snuck one or two items back in the shed whilst I wasn’t looking. Once all debris had been safely deposited in the trunk of the car, I drove off in the direction of the recycling depot.

As I checked in with the pleasant young man at the gate, he told me to look out for the skip manned by the “cowboy” and as I drove through I easily identified the man in the Stetson leaning up against this huge industrial skip. I backed my car up to enable me to open the boot and start removing all the junk.

I was disappointed that the labourers were too busy leaning against the skips and chatting to assist me with unloading lots of scrap metal but could still break off from their conversation to bark numbers at me to ensure that I dumped the right items in the appropriately numbered skips. Tired from another early morning and full work shift, I struggled to unload most of the scrap metal and as I dragged a large slightly water damaged mirror over to the skip, one of the older chaps, who’d watched my herculean efforts, put his hand up to prevent me from throwing it into the skip and told me to rest it safely against the side as it “looked interesting”. Being a shrewd girl, I realised at once that this canny old man was planning on reselling the item and had I not wanted to tempt the fates with seven years of bad luck, I would have let it slip from my fingers to the bottom of the dumpster with a sarcastic “oops”.

I jumped back into the car less than impressed with the whole experience and slamming the car door shut headed off home, stopping at the entrance gate to shout out to the young man who had greeted me earlier.

“Actually you got it wrong love; they’re all a bunch of cowboys”!

And as I drove off into the sunset I suddenly remembered how the mirror became water damaged recalling that it had been dispatched to the shed when Hobo had taken an instant dislike to his reflection and instantaneously decided to mark his territory as all good cats do. Needless to say I laughed all the way home and couldn’t help but think that in the end, we did indeed get our just rewards.

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Hi-Yo Silver, Away!

One of the most legendary characters in our village is a gentleman by the name of Roger who has lived alone since his wife passed a few years ago. He’s an independent soul despite being fairly disabled and reliant on an electric Mobility scooter but that hasn’t clipped his wings any.village 002 He’s a great friend of my Dad and often pops up the allotment for a glass of Dandelion wine when his mobility scooter can be seen weaving unsteadily across the pavements on the return journey to his bungalow.

However, his greatest achievement is the weekly shopping trip he makes to the local supermarket; a mere ten-mile round trip from our village on his mobility scooter. It is nothing short of a miracle that he safely negotiates the winding country lanes, glorious in the summer less so in the winter, avoiding the thundering juggernauts headed for the same industrial park. These country roads were no doubt, designed for horse-drawn carriages of a bygone age and anyone who has tried negotiating them during the height of the tourist season whilst crawling behind village 010a slowly driven tractor, will no doubt be able to testify as to how treacherous they can be.

He is a regular customer of this supermarket and after an early morning phone call they will always have one of their own scooters available for his use within store and whilst he’s shopping will charge his battery ready for the homeward journey; now how’s that for customer service!

I noticed recently as I passed him en route to the supermarket that some joker had placed a sign on the rear of his scooter which said “The Lone Ranger Rides Again”. As this is one journey that he alone can make, I don’t suppose that burdened with his shopping there’ll be much room for a kemosabe.

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From The Cradle To The Grave Underwear Comes First

Last summer the village had its very own crime wave although the local community constable felt it unnecessary to consult with Scotland Yard. There had been a string of petty thefts from many local gardens and always the perpetrator made away with the same booty; knickers.

It would seem that the local lasses had attracted the attention of a criminal mastermind who had taken to trophy hunting. No house or garden was off-limits to this determined & adept individual who’d scale walls to pull off a heist and soon became known as the Phantom Knicker Picker!

I’m ashamed to say that even Dyson Abbey fell prey to this cunning criminal but frankly anyone brave enough to remove my mother’s newly laundered smalls from our washing line must have had a death wish and/or balls of steel. During a daring dawn raid my titanium re-inforced party pants (my deflector shield in my continued fight against the dark side) were also snatched. It would seem our robber baron did not discriminate in his choice of victim or undergarment and clearly had no shame either.

Until the bandit is apprehended Chez Dyson knickers for the time being will remain secured being dried in our utility room courtesy of Mr Zanussi and not gently being caressed by a Devon spring breeze.

Should the stolen swag and the culprit ever be discovered it will be interesting to see if all village ladies will be forthcoming in identifying their own belongings or regretting not hanging out the Victoria Secret’s or Janet Reger lingerie.

Sans my mother's newly laundered smalls

Sans my mother’s newly laundered smalls

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The Writing Process Blog Hop

Delighted and grateful to have had the baton handed to me from the very lovely Eva over at The best and the worst via Twitter no less!

Myself and the other nominees have all become familiar with each other’s work from a daily Twitter event #BePositiveHour inspired by AKA Literary Agent Terrie Wolf. So if you are in dire need of a positive thought or have one to share then pop on over between 3pm-4pm. Although, I usually contribute prior to going off to work to fight the good fight with the Evil Queen; as it’s a bit like putting on my titanium-reinforced deflector shield pants in my war against the dark side.

The challenge is to answer four questions regarding my writing process, so without further ado here goes:

What are you working on?
As most of you know my Dad had a stroke last October which left him semi-paralysed so in-between working full-time and being the main carer there are just not enough hours in the day so regrettably the current answer to this one, is very little! However, I do still blog and I am writing additional chapters to the Honeymoon Stories as I’m hoping that particular story ain’t over yet.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?
I write adult fiction or chicklit based on real-life events and people mainly about life as an expat living in Turkey with the mad, bad & downright crazy and Devon village life with my eccentric family & neighbours ; although the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I would say that my style is wholesome and gentle with a shedload of humour & occasional tear thrown in but I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself too much and would rather readers make up their own minds.

Why do you write what you write?
Well I started this blog two years’ ago whilst working in a dusty little Turkish shop in-between serving customers when I was a real “Billy No Mates” having just relocated to a new country miles away from my family. Its made me a better writer as have all of you but as you know being an avid people watcher, real life, people and events inspire me. Even photographs speak to me almost begging me to write their story and being a good listener I’m fortunate that others share their stories with me too. An inscription in an old book or gravestone can also have me wondering about the life of the person concerned, were they loved,were they happy and what were their dreams?

How does your writing process work?
I handwrite all my original ideas into an A5 notebook with a fountain pen which somehow makes it all the more special for me. I then type it up onto my laptop and start the hideous process of editing which takes me forever and leaves me feeling like I’m chewing my own tongue. I agonise for days before publishing just one blog post and afterwards always feel that I could have phrased something better or done it differently.

So now its over to you! I know that we all have demands on our very busy lives so everyone & anyone, new or experienced bloggers are invited to participate with no pressure and those that do please put your post links in the comments under this post so that we can get to know you too. Well, go on what are you waiting for …..

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Photograph by one of my talented blogging friends Rhonda over @ 50 Shades of Gray Hair

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Sometimes You Will Never Know The Value Of A Moment Until It Becomes A Memory

My Auntie Mary and Uncle Arthur were simple country folk; he worked in the same family furniture shop his entire life whilst giving up his spare time to be a special constable. They had married young but a stroke meant that my beloved aunt would never have the children she yearned for. Her generous heart overflowing with love was instead lavished on my sister and myself along with a constant stream of cats. Who else would always have the time to soothe away a cut knee or understand a child’s desire for the latest must-have toy.

As a youngster, I used to race the length of the lane past the old dairy and through the gate of their backyard where the welcoming fragrances of Dianthus, sweet peas, old English roses and creosote welcomed me after a school day. My Uncle’s runner beans were trained along a row of canes meticulously tied up in a row in military precision alongside rows of carrots and new potatoes. Fruit bushes also lined the wall and butterflies flitted amongst the flowers in his sunny cottage garden.

Their lavatory or “privvie” as my aunt referred to it, was situated outside next to the garden shed and there was no fitted kitchen with appliances such as washing machines and fridge freezers. All her cooking was done on a scrubbed pine table which rested against the old slab stone sink and the food was kept in an old scullery. Many a winter’s evening I would sneak out to the toilet hand in hand with my sister frightened that some unimaginable creature or possibly spider would launch itself at us in the twilight. For some reason food never tasted as good as when my Auntie Mary cooked although my favourite meal was Sunday high tea in their dining room, when my uncle, after sharpening the bread knife, ceremoniously sliced the freshly baked bread and the table would be laid out with homemade preserves, butter and cakes all in cut glass dishes. My uncle once confided in me that the secret to making the very best tea, along with good old-fashioned tea leaves was half a spoonful of sugar added to the warmed pot before letting it brew.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but these days were the stuff made of fairy tales and as a child I never truly appreciated the generosity of these kind folk but when I often think of them now I realise how very fortunate we were to have them. The smell of creosote and Dianthus will even now transport me back to those halcyon summer days full of picnics and Sunday teas. Sadly, they are long gone now but I hope they knew what a blessing they were to a young child.

Love the people God gave you, because he will need them back one day


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At First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified

After a sumptuous home cooked late Sunday lunch followed by a glass of wine or two, my friend Barbs & I decided to enjoy one of my Dad’s favourite strolls through our churchyard armed with a flask of hot chocolate freshly made by his own fair hand; saturday 029after all what woman could fail to be impressed by a stroll amongst the dead followed by a cheap non alcoholic beverage. No doubt, it was these generous & small romantic gestures that had helped capture my mother’s heart!

This particular chilly winter’s afternoon we walked through the historic graveyard reading the inscriptions on all the old headstones. As we sauntered back to the main gate we were alarmed to realise that because it was Sunday, the churchyard had closed early and a fastened padlock hung around the gate which had been secured by the warden sometime earlier whilst we were otherwise occupied. Ironically Barbs, the original “horror flick chick” went into panic mode whilst the evening twilight started to draw in and as the image of the Michael Jackson Thriller video popped into my head, I had to suppress a fit of the giggles. My “I see Dead People” impersonation also failed to impress either. Both of us were regretting the decision not to bring our mobile phones with us and neither were we looking forward to unintentionally participating in our own episode of “Most Haunted”. We quickly established that all three entrance gates had been padlocked and we were well and truly imprisoned. As I had a dodgy knee I offered to hoist Barbs over the wall but as it was fairly high, it was unlikely that we would be able to climb our way to freedom so we settled down preparing ourselves for a rather chilly night amongst the headstones

Suddenly someone appropriately whistling “I will Survive” alerted us to the fact that we were no longer alone and on further investigation we realised that someone was stumbling home from the pub having taken a shortcut through the lane that ran alongside the cemetery.saturday 022 In desperation we tried to attract their attention before realising that it was Ernie the Turbo, one of my Dad’s allotment buddies, tight as a tick having consumed several lunchtime shandies in the Rose & Crown. As we tried to catch his attention over the wall, Ernie stopped whistling momentarily. We continued to call him but all to no avail and we realised that extreme measures were called for if we didn’t want to spend the rest of the night in the graveyard so I unsteadily hoisted Barbs a few feet in the air in order that he could see us. However, a terrified Ernie took off as if he was being pursued by the Living Dead when Barb’s pale face & torso slowly levitated over the top of the wall whilst chanting his name and looking no doubt like a supernatural apparition.

As luck would have it, our intrepid “hero” hightailed it to my parents’ house for alcoholic fortification whilst incoherently ranting that his dead mother’s ghost had manifested in the graveyard having promised on her deathbed to come back to haunt him should he ever become romantically involved with Maureen, the farmer’s widow; whom she considered most unsuitable owing to the fact that she always wore her trademark red lipstick. His late mother was somewhat of a harridan who had haunted in him life so it was no surprise to either of my parents that he thought that she would now come back to haunt him in death.

My Dad sensing that something was awry decided to take an evening stroll up to the churchyard himself and was able to alert the warden who was laughing so hard when he eventually liberated Zombie Girl and I from our ghostly confines, he could barely get the key in the padlock.

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Happy Is The Home With Little Feet

Most of you know that I am an avid people watcher and love public transport for that very reason so after a retail therapy day with my friend, I decided to catch the bus home. As it was full to capacity owing to the dreadful weather we’ve been having, the only seat available was one next to a youth tenderly cradling a new-born baby. He smiled and we struck up a conversation, when he told me he was the proud father of the new-born infant and I couldn’t help but think of the phrase “kids having kids”.

Unlike most of the other parents on the bus who were otherwise distracted texting or chatting away on their mobiles ignoring the pleas of children, the teenager never took his eyes of his child for a second. He was clearly besotted and already an expert at handling such a small child. He confided in me that he and his girlfriend lived at his mum’s but didn’t have much so was going to technical college to improve his career chances and to be able to provide something better for his little family. He said that he couldn’t wait for the day when his baby was old enough to play football with him.

As I strolled home from the bus stop in the twilight I hoped in my heart that they made it because they already knew that the road that they had chosen was no fairy-tale and their lifetime of sacrifices was really just beginning. Something told me though that his child would be rich in the things that mattered the most and surely that is the most important gift of all.

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Honesty Is The Best Policy But Insanity Is The Best Defence

I’m not sure how I got talked into attending one of the church coffee mornings to introduce some of the village pensioners to the wonders of internet shopping but that’s how I found myself in the church that cold morning utilising the vicarage’s Wifi and armed with my trusty laptop.IMG_0589

Expecting the odd elderly person to show up I was surprised when fifteen arrived but delighted that they knew how to operate the tea urn and truly grateful a few minutes later when I was nursing a hot mug of tea to ward off the cold in our draughty old church. I was pleased to see that one of two of them had brought along their laptops and the vicar and I spent a few minutes sorting out their internet connections before chatting to them about the benefits of internet shopping.

Fifteen minutes into the event and a couple of the pensioners got up and fetched their coats, apologising as they thought they were attending a bingo session. The charms of online supermarket shopping will always, of course, lack the appeal of a full house. Whilst at times it was frustrating explaining things to people who were born long before the techno age, their childlike enthusiasm was infectious and before we knew it, it was lunchtime and time for another round of tea. No army of pensioners ever marches on an empty tea urn don’t you know.

Over tea and custard creams the conversation continued with our audience fascinated by the ease of choice available to them online without even leaving the comforts on their own homes particularly as it hadn’t been shopping-like weather of late.

“How’s your handsome young man”? enquired Beryl who clearly had no filter and no volume control much like her friend Joyce. Beryl’s husband Albert just sat alongside her smiling vacantly and nodding and I’m guessing he’d had a lifetime’s experience of doing just that.

“Errr he’s not my young man anymore”.

“Was it your big feet that he didn’t like, darlin’? There’s always been big feet in your family, it’s because you all used to be hefty bog trotters”, referring to our Irish roots.

“Yes, well thank you for that; always nice to know how much we have evolved from when we were cloven-hooved cave dwellers, we now use cutlery even when we don’t have company”. I said regretting the decision not to wear a bullet-proof vest that morning under my sweater.

“That’s nice dear, good manners are so important especially when you’re a spinster with feet the size of dinner plates; just as well you can cook. Oh yes I forgot it’s your sister that bakes. Well never mind love, you’ll always have a home with your mum and dad”.

“Anyway, Beryl she’s not fat, are you sweetheart? You’re just easy to see” Joyce chipped in.

I was grateful to the vicar when he chose that very moment to collect the discarded cups creating a welcome distraction from the discussion regarding my marital status and obvious lack of attributes.

“Don’t you think the vicar’s got a touch of the George Clooney’s about him” whispered Joyce. Now if there were ever a man who was less like George Clooney, it would be our “woollie-pullie” wearing vicar – God love him. Unquestionably, one of the most diligent and kindest souls I’ve ever met but certainly not film star status; although I feel sure that his wife and mother would contradict me on that point.

Fortunately, we resumed the online shopping conversation and the vicar and I were kept busy checking that everyone had completed all the relevant information and were happy with their choices.saturday 013

“Are you a Tenna lady, Joyce”? and so the conversation continued who knew there’d be so many considerations when choosing incontinence pads?

“Albert, did you really mean to order a case of Irish Whisky?” I asked as he sat quietly tapping away on his laptop. Without uttering a word he glanced at his wife and then back at me again. I nodded sympathetically completely understanding the nature of his dilemma and recommended a repeat weekly order having realised then that some burdens are just too onerous to bear without inordinate amounts of Dutch Courage.

As I pondered on the way home whether I too needed fortification in the shape of my Dad’s dubious homebrew, I couldn’t help but recollect one of my Grandma’s fondest sayings “Some people brighten a room when they enter it and others when they leave”.

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Honesty Is A Very Expensive Gift, Don’t Expect It From Cheap People

Today my Dad answered a random phone call from a call centre when a young man proceeded to tell him that he was telephoning regarding a minor traffic accident that my Dad had allegedly been involved in. As his car has sat on the drive since last October when he had his first stroke, the young man had become flustered when my Dad interrogated him further and had abruptly hung up. The caller’s number had, of course, been withheld which prevented us from reporting the call to the authorities concerned.

My Dad is a savvy old chap and would enjoy speaking to anyone who would indulge an eccentric pensioner (particularly as he’s now fairly housebound)so most telephone canvassers regret calling our house on account of the fact that they won’t be meeting their sales targets on a day their automated switchboard dials our number.

However, you do have to ask yourself what kind of person deceives the most vulnerable in this callous way to obtain their financial information. What would make anyone want to earn their living misleading and defrauding someone of their life savings? Most people would be startled to receive such a call and in that anxious moment, may inadvertently provide personal details to the unknown caller. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had some crappy jobs, some of which I’ve absolutely loathed but at least I’ve not suffered from insomnia as a result of obtaining my salary through others’ misfortune.

As we live in a techno age where it is virtually impossible to catch the perpetrators, one has to ask how low can scammers sink. I’m guessing most of you will be able to tell me?

cold call

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Never Let A Stumble Be The End Of Your Journey

Today was a good day in fact, a very good day!

As some of you already know sometime in October my Dad had the first of three strokes and overnight our lives changed radically. Overwhelmed was clearly an understatement to what we felt when my Dad was diagnosed and the full extent of his condition realised. We’ve adapted and adjusted accordingly in some of the most unexpected ways. Lots of things we learned the hard way but always with humour even when I accidentally locked him in the house alone with a packet of sausage rolls, bunch of bananas and bar of chocolate for lunch. Returning from work several hours later to a ravenous father, who owing to his paralysis was unable to open any of the items I had left for him.

I am a pragmatist, which I suppose is my coping mechanism and always feel better when facing a situation head on so I didn’t waste any time in contacting the wonderful society that is the Stroke Association who swiftly put in touch with the appropriate organisations. We met some amazing people along our journey and some not so much but for the generous souls who willingly gave their time and help, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The outstanding ones will always shine in a drab arena of bureaucracy and jobsworths; and for those that wouldn’t or couldn’t find it in themselves for one kind word or gesture which could have made a world of difference during this dark time, you’ve made us appreciate the ones that have all the more. We are not the first family to be shattered by this news and will no doubt, not be the last but I hope in some small way this gives encouragement to those facing the same arduous battle.

So this morning when he was able to balance a knife in his hand for the first time in months I had to choke back a tear or two. I appreciate that this is only a baby step but in our world its HUGE and I did say that this year I intended to celebrate the small successes. I remain humbled and inspired that my Dad has maintained his good nature throughout the ordeal and never faltered once, however, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had a few wobbles but frankly, I reckon that if he can stand it then that’s the very least that I can do for him.

The Old Fella

The Old Fella

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