Until The Very End

During one of my visits to the hospital to see the old fella I spent some time with the spritely gentleman in the next bed who was ninety years’ young. He’d had a similar accident to my Dad but said he had sadly resigned himself to never returning to his lovely little bungalow with the beautifully tended garden.

He confided in me that he had never had cause to stay in a hospital before and had kept himself busy nursing his wife through a stroke for the past twenty years. As I made us both a cup of tea in the small ward kitchen the nursing sister told me that when his wife was eventually admitted to hospital he used to visit her every day come rain or shine and would stay from early in the morning to late at night.

As we chatted over our cup of tea and a chocolate digestive biscuit he proudly told me with a twinkle in his eye that he had been married to the love of his life for sixty-nine years but smiled as he said “mind you, we’ve had our ups and downs”. As an incurable romantic I had to ask him if he knew the first time he met her whether she was the one and without hesitation he said “absolutely”.

He said that he’d first met her at a fun fair and after he’d sweet-talked her into sharing a dodgem ride he’d asked her to a dance and three children and seven grandchildren later they were still together. After another chocolate digestive he went on to tell me that she was now in a nursing home and he would be joining her at last. I remarked how nice it would be for them to be together and he leaned forward and whispered “She has dementia m’dear and hasn’t recognised me in over ten years but I’ll be happy if it’s my face that she sees every morning when she wakes and the last one she sees before she goes to bed.”

As I sat holding his hand he smiled and I could see his mind wandering back to happier times and I envied him as he had found that which all of us longed for but which many seldom find within their lifetimes. I choked back a tear as I realised that he already knew how blessed he had been.

Everyone knows how to love but only a few know how to love forever

old hands

Have Yourselves A Merry Little Christmas

Of course, I couldn’t let this special time of the year pass without wishing you all a Happy & Safe Christmas from everyone at Dyson Abbey here in blustery old Plymouth. I hope you all get to spend time with those you love and are surrounded by laughter on this special of all days.

Be filled by wonder, be touched by peace & believe in the miracle

From our house to yours

From our house to yours

The Bell Still Rings For All Those Who Truly Believe

Hello friends!

I know it’s been a while but for those that don’t already know my darling Dad had a fall last week whilst the old dear was away on a Turkey & Tinsel weekend with the Women’s Institute. No doubt getting up to go to the little boys’ room without putting the light on he fell and shattered his hip waiting there from 5.30 am until much later when he was discovered. Regrettably, because he had had been sat there for so long his blood pressure dropped and he had another stroke in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

I can’t deny it’s been a tense week with Dad critically ill where he hasn’t known any of us. However, I am delighted to say that we have turned a corner and he’s back on the road to recovery. Whilst it’s a road we’ve taken before it’s one he won’t be walking alone and with Ayesha’s Passing Out Parade in June, I rather think his stubborn determination and heart will have him waltzing along rehabilitation street.

So on Christmas Day we will be heading off to Burrator Ward in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth to bring some festive cheer to the old fella along with a trunk full of Tupperware boxes stuffed with Mum’s homemade seasonal buffet; that’s if he’s no longer a “Nil By Mouth” patient! Beverley Big Pants and I will be traditionally dressed in our Christmas Jumpers and rather splendid earrings bearing a strong resemblance to the the Ugly Sisters, the grande dames of pantomime; oh yes we will!

So I want to take this opportunity to wish all doctors and nurses a safe & happy Christmas and thank them for giving up their family holidays so that we can all still have time with ours.

I think as you grow older your Christmas list gets shorter because the things you want can’t be bought.

Decisions, decisions ...

Decisions, decisions …

A Camera Is A Save Button For The Mind’s Eye

When it comes to photography I am no Rhonda, Gunta, Rebecca, Marianne or Madhu. I’d hoped that over the past four years some of their skills would have rubbed off on me but regrettably the photography fairy has failed to sprinkle a little pixie dust on me. I’ve been privileged to work with some of the very best WordPress photographers on joint projects but I still lack the fundamentals when it comes to capturing a great shot.

In honour of Pet Fostering week I thought I’d snap a couple of photos of Milo one of our failed fosters to help promote how worthwhile it is taking an animal in to provide them with the best possible chance of finding their furever home. I mean, after all how difficult can it be photographing your beloved pet, my blogging friends Animalcouriers do it all the time!

Two hours later, I’d broken out in a sweat, got through two bags of cat treats, a stiff glass of wine and still hadn’t managed to get a good shot of Milo; well one that didn’t make him look like yellow fang evil psycho cat. Eventually my perseverance paid off or either my subject was tiring and decided to submit gracefully to my bribery. You can see Milo’s close up here in which he’s a great ambassador for rescue cats and we succeeded in getting our message out there that fostering saves lives.For those interested in fostering head over to your local rescue where I’m sure a warm welcome awaits.

I have a true appreciation for the talents of all my photography blogging friends and their endeavours to provide the sleek glossy pictures that regularly grace their blogs but I realise that a lot of work goes in to providing the completed article. So I’m curious, tell me what’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done whilst trying to capture that perfect shot?

"Enough already"

I’m the reason my family couldn’t put out the nativity scene this year as I ate the three wise men – Milo”

I drink out of the toilet - Hobo

I’m not ashamed that I drink out of the toilet – Hobo

I steal the neighbour's Koi Carp from his ornamental pond

I steal the neighbour’s Koi Carp from his ornamental pond – Chloe Hellcat

This is me after I stole a bag of cat nip & I'm too stoned to move

This is me after I ripped open a bag of cat nip & I’m too stoned to move – Charlie

We Never Know The True Value Of Water Until The Well Runs Dry

A burst water main managed to bring an entire city to a standstill on Thursday with flooding causing problems on main access roads and water supplies to many households interrupted. From mid-morning until early evening many of us were left with no water supply at all.

The old fella in true gardener style keeps a series of rain-water butts strategically placed around the garden and generously offered us a cold water bath, however, I think it’s safe to say that my germ-conscious mother was less than unimpressed and frankly if he’d continued to press the point he may well have been facing a cold water shower of his own.

The local water company was bombarded with complaints both via the telephone and social media ranging from not being able to make a cup of tea to having a bath. Whilst their engineers battled in severe wind and rain to fix the problem they also arranged deliveries of water to those most vulnerable in the area.

Normal service returned to our water supply by early evening but I thought that all the negative and self-absorbed comments a tad ridiculous especially when there are millions of children throughout the world who don’t have access to clean water day in and day out. For us it was a minor inconvenience for them, life & death. I would like to hope that this has served as a timely reminder especially at this time of year of how blessed most of us are to have easy access to clean water, healthcare, a roof over our heads and food on our tables.

water

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
candle

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.

hedgehog

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

candle

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

village

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!

dressmaking