Where There’s Çay & Wynonna, There’s Dancing!

A chance encounter on Twitter reminded me of one of my Turkish road trip stories when we made one of our many sixteen hour journeys from Tinky Town back to Ahmed’s family in Kahramanmaraş

You may remember Ahmed’s reluctance to spend money and subsequently on one overnight trip when our hunger pangs got the better of us we decided to stop for something to eat. Ahmed speedily passed all the brand new roadside inns and pulled up in a tiny remote village alongside a ramshackle building with a corrugated iron roof.

I was less than impressed with Ahmed’s choice of venue but not altogether surprised nevertheless at this point as I was so famished and tired that I grudgingly climbed out of the car, slamming the door behind me to register my displeasure.

On walking through the door the biggest surprise of all was hearing the golden tones of Wynonna Judd coming from a ropey old sound system in the corner of this tatty café where the only customers were two elderly Turks drinking çay. Well I thought if it’s good enough for Wynonna it’s good enough for me and if the worse should happen and I should perish from food poisoning then at the very least the last thing I would hear would be a decent tune.

The elderly Turk behind the counter sporting a white apron informed me “very, very good girl” pointing to a very old but treasured picture, taking pride of place on the wall “you know her”?

I assured him not personally but I was the very proud owner of the Judds’ greatest hits CD which I had played to death especially “Grandpa“. How could one not be a fan of Wynonna; she has the voice of an angel, is a fellow animal lover and as a bit of a wordsmith myself who appreciates a great lyric, sings some kick ass songs.

My mood lightened and I relaxed whilst Ahmed placed the order which was swiftly delivered to the table by the elderly waiter. A few minutes later calling to his colleague he turned the volume up for “Mama he’s crazy” and accompanied by the other two customers performed a traditional Turkish dance to the melody. I’ve never laughed quite so much but I’d like to think I was laughing along with them as they hopped up & down waving their white napkins in the air and singing the word “crazee” with abandon.

It occurred to me as they danced that Wynonna had probably never dreamed that when she recorded this track it would be playing in a dusty old café on the other side of the world but I felt sure somehow she’d approve of people united in laughter and music, regardless of race, culture or religion, on one crazy hot summer’s night in Turkey.

pide

When Mother Knows Best

After watching one too many television programmes extolling the benefits of renovating your house on a shoestring, I grabbed the bull by the horns and decided somewhat naively that I would move back into the old cottage that I had shared with Serial Shagger and practise my limited interior design skills; after all they made it look so easy! Temporary insanity (I blame it on the fever) had convinced me that I could transform the fleapit into an oasis of sumptuous luxury using just a couple of rolls of wallpaper and a faux fur throw. Unfortunately, only two nights into the project I became ill with blinding headaches and nausea. I googled all my symptoms and became convinced that I needed to write my last will & testament pretty damn fast; a little bit of information can clearly be a dangerous thing! Obviously the plaster dust combined with the old horse hair used to bind the walls when the house was originally built had not helped my condition any.

So when my mother called she reassured me that I was not going to be expiring any time soon and I could cancel my funeral arrangements post-haste as she was on her way. So I shelved all thoughts of gifting my Yankee Candle collection to the local animal shelter charity shop for the time being. Arriving with her bag of tricks wrapped in a Marks & Spencer carrier bag, she laid all the items out on the table; Menthol Crystals (not to be confused with crystal meth), a rather dubious looking cough mixture (in the same coloured box as rat poison but minus the skull & crossbones logo) and the most important ingredient of all; a bag of frozen peas. Although to be honest it was peas & carrots picked fresh from Dad’s allotment at the end of the season and then frozen but you get the gist!

Protesting that I had no appetite,“Deborah, just listen to your mother” she sighed and filling a bowl with hot water she instructed me to put my feet in it whilst placing the frozen peas on the back of my neck. I have to admit that the throbbing pain in my head began to subside. The next remedy involved another bowl of hot water infused with a pinch of the menthol crystals and draping a towel over the back of my head I began to inhale one of the old dear’s “cure-alls” followed by the most popular one of all; a cup of tea.

Feeling substantially better I realised that as my demise was no longer imminent I now had to reassess the DIY situation because no amount of floating shelving or discreet lighting could transform my surroundings from dump to Des Res. This was going to be somewhat of a mammoth challenge and required a superhero in a red cape with blue “go-faster” stripes!

Choose Your Poison

Choose Your Poison

Turbo Rides Again

A knock on the door at 9pm on Xmas Eve heralded the arrival of Turbo, one of our next-door neighbours. My Dad answered the door as mum and I were busy wrapping up the last of the Xmas presents before we got ready to go to Midnight Mass at our local Parish Church and Turbo explained that it was his work’s Xmas night out and he’d forgotten to book a taxi so could I give him a lift? Reluctantly I grabbed my car keys, muttering under my breath as I climbed into the car. It was only when I switched the engine on that he dropped the first bombshell of the night that he was meeting them all in another village some thirty miles away.

Grimacing, I set off for our destination with my mother’s warning about not being late for Midnight Mass ringing in my ears. Halfway there Boy Wonder was desperately rummaging through his pockets before asking me for our home telephone number explaining he wanted to ring the old fella as he thought he’d dropped his keys. I pointed out that I didn’t think it was a wise decision to ask my Dad with just his one good arm to root around in the cold and dark subsequently I was left with no choice but to turn the car around. As we pulled into the street, our neighbourhood genius announced he’d found them in his pocket after all.

Restraining the urge to throttle him we once again set out for our destination. I double checked with him twice that I was depositing him in the car park of the local village and once there he tried phoning his pals again but all their mobiles appeared to be switched off.

“Are you telling me that you don’t know where you’re supposed to meet them?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“Well, I think we need to go back to the Duke of Cornwall” he shamefully admitted. Who’s the “we” kemosabe? Clearly he had no intention of the using the legs God had given him for the short trip back to the pub. I turned the car around & drove along the road to the Duke, pulling up alongside I reached across to shut the passenger and hightail it back home but as he climbed out as he said “Wait there and if I wave you can drive off”.

Really! That’s so very thoughtful of you as I can’t think why anyone would want to hurry off back home at 10.30pm on a Xmas Eve. By now I was seething with rage and frankly ready to draw him a gasoline bath and hand him a lit cigarette.

“Thanks Dallas, really appreciate this, got something really special wrapped up for you at home”. Thinking that a bottle of something nice would in some small way help to compensate me for a night of taxi driving in arctic conditions, I snuggled into my coat and decided in true Xmas spirit to suck it up.

Unsurprisingly, his friends were not waiting for him at the Duke of York and further attempts to contact them by mobile phone weren’t successful either. Climbing back into the car he said “Well, we’ve only got another seven pubs to check out, shouldn’t take long”.

Sadly it was a long night so as I raced into midnight mass just as the congregation were settling down for a chorus of Silent Night, I was greeted by one of my mother’s frosty stares. The personal welcome from the vicar “Deborah, so nice of you to join us” was enough alone to guarantee me a diet of muesli breakfasts for the remainder of my natural-born.

The following day late into the afternoon, no doubt after his hangover had worn off, Turbo sheepishly knocked on our door again. Fortified by several glasses of the bubbly stuff I was determined to rebuff any further taxi driving requests. As I swung the door open he stood there in the cold with his hands behind his back.

“I told you I had something special for you” grinning he handed me a battered paper plate with 3 of the sorriest looking mince pies surrounded in cling film. Needless to say our own Mary Berry (the old dear) took the gesture as a personal insult so I think it unlikely that he will be gifted any homemade bakery products this year fresh from the Dyson Abbey kitchen.

mince pies

Stardom Isn’t A Profession; It’s An Accident

Our unhealthy obsession with all things “celebrity” always makes me a tad uneasy particularly as anyone who has enjoyed fifteen minutes of fame in the bright media spotlight is routinely overnight awarded the esteemed title of “star”; a term which is liberally thrown around these days like confetti. I have always held the belief that it is something which is earned over time with genuine talent rather than an automatic reward for a brief appearance on a reality television programme.

I associate the term “star” with the golden glamorous age of Hollywood when Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and my particular favourite, Ava Gardner graced the silver screen. The frocks were classically stylish and a glimpse of shoulder or cleavage was considered daring. Their private lives were discreet no doubt strictly controlled by the film studios PR departments endeavouring to make their stable of actors behave in accordance with the stringent morals clauses in their contracts. One has to ask whether their inaccessibility made them more attractive and enigmatic to the public than the readily available intimate details of those now featured between the glossy pages of magazines.

I frequently admit to not knowing anyone headlining the showbiz pages of a national newspaper and magazines but then again neither will I be rushing out the door anytime soon to buy any celebrity endorsed products. I do, however, wonder about their influence over impressionable and gullible young people.

It appears that column inches in national newspapers are guaranteed in exchange for fewer inches when it comes to attire. Surely most celebrity party organisers nowadays must be unsure what to print in the dress code section of an invite; dress optional? Is less really more? Have many publicity hungry celebrities made a deal with the devil by exchanging elegance and integrity for sensational headlines? Regrettably, we live in times where an indiscreet picture can earn someone a substantial pay-day from salacious tabloid newspapers therefore encouraging outrageous behaviour from many. Sadly, it may not be long before some celebrities attend parties and nightclubs entirely naked and not only will it have become the norm but as jaded tabloid readers we will no longer care.

Here’s a much-treasured picture of my teenage mum with the actress Beryl Reid (best known for The Killing of Sister George) who during this particular public appearance clearly knew the importance of an elegant fashion statement and was mightily upset when someone cut a four-inch square out of the back of her magnificent dress as a memento.

Beryl 2

Flowers For The Living

Every time my late Grandma was given a bouquet without fail she would say “flowers for the living”. Of course, what she was reminding us in her gentle way is that you can’t smell them once you’re gone and be sure to give them to your loved ones whilst you still can.

I recalled her words whilst taking a quiet stroll around Efford Cemetery in Plymouth where on the notice board the following was posted.IMG_0774 I didn’t think that this boded well for the deer, which no doubt would have been grazing there long before the land became the big cemetery it is today. I’ve always enjoyed a leisurely walk around the old graveyard steeped in history and a haven to many wildlife, appreciating a moment of reflection in this unquiet world in which we live.

As I wandered around I noticed workmen had left bags of cement on top of memorials,cemetery 007 there were various old tombstones in disrepair and evidence of fly tipping in the oldest part of the cemetery. It would also seem that because many people don’t want to walk further than they absolutely need to some were rather disgracefully reversing cars across burial plots in an endeavour to turn around. It occurred to me that the two legged visitors were probably responsible for more damage that a few deer would ever be.

If I could ask my Grandma, who is a resident of this particular cemetery, what her thoughts were regarding the wildlife guests I’m sure I know what her answer would be.

IMG_0777

Ninety Seconds Of Joy

Well of course, I couldn’t let the Festive Season pass without wishing you all a very merry and safe Christmas from all here at Dyson Abbey. The holidays seem to start earlier and earlier each year and go on for much longer especially for those that work in many occupations such as the emergency services, social care and retail; which means less time spent celebrating with their families. So for all the unsung heroes out there I thank you!

When my nieces were younger one of our special Christmas tasks was filling wrapped shoe boxes with pocket money gifts for children less fortunate in some poorer countries. We were asked to supply toiletries, boiled sweets, pens, crayons, notebooks nothing too elaborate and the girls couldn’t understand why any child would want things that were so readily available to them. I came across this video earlier this week from the Team Hope Shoebox Appeal on one of my social media pages shared by a fellow blogger and stopped to watch it before setting off for work. It was a timely reminder of what the true spirit of Christmas is all about as I saw the obvious joy of the children unwrapping their packages. None of which included computer games, Ipads or any of the other must have electronic gadget and yet the children were overjoyed with the contents of their shoeboxes. It was a valuable lesson learned for this jaded soul on a wet & windy winter’s morning in Devon.

Our efforts for our local shoebox appeal have fallen by the wayside in recent years now the girls have all grown up but rest assured next year after realising that such small things can bring so much joy, we will be reinstating that particular Christmas tradition.

It’s Not How Much We Give But About How Much Love We Put Into Giving
Mother Teresa

Ask Yourself Who You Want To Help Today, Then Put On Your Cape & Do It!

The Flying Fryer, the mobile fish & chip van, has been providing delicious fried foods to our village for the past twenty years long before the arrival of pizza delivery and Chinese takeaway. No Saturday night in could be considered the same without one of their deep-fried treats.

Whilst my mother doesn’t approve of purchasing food bought from a mobile vendor deeming it unhygienic & unsavoury, Dad and I used to sneak out on the nights she was at one of her Women’s Institute meetings for some golden cheesy chips smothered in salt and vinegar and served in the obligatory newspaper. Just for those that don’t know, they most certainly always taste better in newspaper although these days the newspaper has been replaced with a more sanitary wrapping. I usually smuggle them into the house disguised in a supermarket carrier bag so that the neighbours are unable to report our treachery back to my mother.

Harry, who owns the Flying Fryer is a big fella and devoted to his wife Maureen; there is a theory that the longer you are married to someone the more you tend to grow alike & in this case it was irrefutable. They had worked side by side in the small van like a well-oiled machine for as long as I could remember. On the morning in question Dad had strolled up to the local Medical Centre for his weekly appointment with his physiotherapist and bumped into them both in reception. Maureen had broken her wrist and was bemoaning the fact that she wouldn’t be able to help her husband with the lunchtime rush and he wouldn’t be able to cope alone. So naturally unbeknown to us the old fella offered his somewhat limited assistance which was gratefully accepted.

As the afternoon wore on and it started to become dark and numerous phone calls around the village had failed to locate him, I was despatched by Her Maj to ascertain my Dad’s whereabouts. The old dear was convinced he was lying injured in some ditch, I on the other hand, made a beeline for the allotment where I found the dynamic duo of Ernie & Sid, his allotment buddies giggling away tight as ticks laying waste to the last batch of my Dad’s dandelion wine. When I enquired about the whereabouts of my tee-total father they informed me that he was helping out a friend and I’d best check the village car park.

When I eventually tracked him down there he was behind the counter of the Flying Fryer beaming and chatting away with the customers whilst handing out change and taking orders. I stood under the street light watching him for a while. The joy on his face was obvious when he was teasing the children and carefully counting out the cash.

As I strolled over to the van, Harry said “It’s okay Bob, you go on as I think we’re about done for the night. Thanks for your help, you’ve been a right Godsend today. In fact, don’t know what I’d have done without you, mate”

My old Dad’s flushed face lit up like he’d been showered in golden pennies. As we walked home together arm in arm he smiled at me and said “I just wanted to feel useful” and in that moment I realised that our friends and neighbours had given my Dad something which none of his immediate family had been able to: a sense of purpose and for the old fella that had been more precious than treasure.

Back home, not everyone appreciated the local village hero as my mother insisted he sleep in the spare room claiming that she wasn’t sleeping alongside someone who smelt like smoked kippers.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another – Charles Dickens

Old Mother Hubbard's Cottage (from the nursery rhyme) now a Chinese Takeaway

Old Mother Hubbard’s Cottage (from the nursery rhyme) now a Chinese Takeaway

Save The Last Dance For Me

My Dad’s allotment has been part of our family folklore for as long as I can remember, inherited from my Grandad who had also lovingly tended the plot for his entire lifetime. My Dad would become so immersed in his labour of love that he’d frequently forget the time so as a youngster I used to cycle at breakneck speed down the lane at the back of our house to drop off a packed lunch for my Dad or remind him that it was time for tea. I’d done the journey so many times that I knew every single bump in the road and even now the scent of wild garlic transports me back to those hedgerows covered in Bluebells and Queen Anne’s Lace. Apart from the time I misjudged a pot-hole, tumbled across the handlebars and ended up in casualty; I still have a slight scar across my eyebrow. In recent years it’s been more of a stroll often accompanied by One Speed Hobo, our elderly rescue cat; who enjoys a good excursion.

I’d help the old fella tidy up but not before we’d have a quick waltz amongst his prize-winning flowers bathed in the rosy hues of the setting sun to Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra which would be blaring out from the old wind up gramophone or more recently a CD player. As a small child we’d do the father and daughter dance where I placed my little feet over the tops of his and he would mark out the steps for me. Then we’d both walk home arm in arm as we had always done, giggling together over some private joke.

During the winters we’d take refuge from a downpour in the shed where we’d lounge in the dusty old armchairs warming ourselves by the small camping stove nursing mugs of hot chocolate in our chilled fingers and in the hot summers we’d have home-made lemonade to quench our thirst. It’s provided us with somewhere to escape from the world and the rain and has been a haven for various wildlife over the years including a feral cat with her kittens and on occasion a traveller during harsher winters. My Dad’s caring endeavours are evident throughout; on the shelves which house his gardening books, the potting bench where he cultivates most of his seedlings and the boxes holding bottles of his home-made Blackberry and Elderflower wines.

It seems however, this golden chapter in our life has now come to an end and it’s time to hand the keys over to someone who’ll nurture our little horticultural paradise as we have done. Since Dad’s stroke we’ve struggled to maintain it but it’s tough watching your much-loved piece of heaven become overgrown and neglected. It’s going to be so hard saying goodbye to such an enchanting place and several lifetimes’ work. You see the thing is, it’s never been just an allotment to us; it’s been a magical kingdom sprinkled in pixie-dust. Somewhere dreams were dreamed and memories made in our fairy-tale castle where dragons were slain by white knights who wore flat caps and made Dandelion wine. I shared my first kiss there, had my first (and last) illicit cigarette and precious encounters with fey wildlife creatures. My journey from childhood into adulthood has been vividly measured there by the coming and going of the seasons; from the planting of the winter flowering bulbs, the shrubs laden with summer fruits to the tender preparation of the dahlias for the village show to re-starting the process all over again for the following year.

Inevitably its going to be harder for my Dad to lock up for the final time but we’ve come to realise that life is a dance which you learn as you go; sometimes you lead and sometimes you just have to follow the music.

For those of you finding yourself in the same situation as my Dad, don’t struggle on alone contact the Stroke Association .

dad & girls 2

The Cup That Cheers

I can’t remember a time when there has been a drama in my life and a cup of tea hasn’t been on hand to console me. In fact, tea is one of my mother’s cure-alls along with mothballs and TCP antiseptic. There’s something soothing about it and for some reason it always tastes better in a bone china cup and saucer even though being a cack-handed Carrie I’m always holding my breath & struggling not to drop or smash my mother’s finest Royal Doulton. There’s something very reassuring about a cup of tea; a bit like a hot bath on the inside or wearing your oldest and most favourite sweater.

Let’s be honest it was buckets of tea that got me through the Serial Shagger saga and subsequent indignities. I’m not denying that there weren’t a shedload of cocktails thrown in for overall fortification but ultimately it was my good friends Earl & Lady Grey that were on hand to provide comfort during the humiliating ordeal of being jilted.

When I was in Turkey, tea or çay was more than just a drink it was a social invitation to sit, share the company of another soul, engage in conversation and watch the world go by. It was considered impolite not to accept the hand of friendship being extended to you and declining the invitation may have been considered an insult by some. The Turkish pride themselves on their hospitality and with very good reason; seldom will you leave a Turkish home without having partaken in a meal of some sort. They enjoy sharing their food with guests, their home produce and laughter. Rarely have I ever left Turkish hosts where I wasn’t just taking away a sated appetite but a lesson in graciousness together with some new friends.

Come & share a pot of tea, my home is warm, my friendship’s free

breakfast

Be Careful What You Wish For

I received an invitation last week to join the new social media site Ello, so that in itself should tell you its clearly not that exclusive if they let me join. Like yourselves I’d read all the reviews and thought I’d see for myself what it’s all about particularly as we’ve all discussed many times our frustrations with Facebook.

I was delighted to find an eclectic mix of very talented creative people; a bit like yourselves! In my first couple of days I was invited to take part in a Flash Fiction project so taking all that I’ve learned from the Queen of Flash Fiction, Valentine over at QBG_Tilted Tiara, I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. It probably helped that I was partnered with the talented photographer Ricardo over at Porto Street Shooting. So basically this is the fruits of our labour; hope you like it! And if any of you are already on Ello, give me a holler!

It was wrong; she knew it was wrong. If only she hadn’t uncorked that second bottle of Shiraz which had been the start of her undoing. Well that’s not exactly true, her problems started way before; six months’ ago to be precise when the conniving tattooed harlot had moved into the house next door.

Now she was damned and was going to Hell as Father Mullaney had constantly predicted when she was forced to attend Sunday school several lifetimes’ ago. She was strangely comforted knowing that the old bugger had been right all along so she couldn’t help but smile as she poured herself another glass of the Shiraz.

During their courtship Rick, her husband, frequently teased her about her strict Catholic upbringing but over the last few years the gentle teasing had developed into more sinister accusations of being cold and frigid. So it was no surprise that it didn’t take him long to notice the manipulative minx next door and pretty soon he was popping over there on the pretence of mowing her lawn or clearing her guttering despite the fact that their roof had been leaking throughout the winter. Whilst she struggled alone to unblock drains her next-door neighbour enjoyed her husband’s attentive ministrations.

But that had all changed today with the uncorking of that second bottle. The kitchen door banged opened and she anxiously asked “Is it over?” her voice shook slightly as she emptied the bottle into the second glass. A hand snaked out to take the crystal goblet from her as a warm light kiss brushed her neck.

“I dumped the body in the quarry, they’ll never find him” the conniving harlot whispered.

tattoo