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 hygienic 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
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 just been 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.
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
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.
As we celebrated the old fella’s birthday this weekend I can vividly recall the morning, one year ago when my Dad woke up complaining that he’d pulled a muscle in his arm but it was obvious to us all that something was seriously wrong. After a visit to the local doctor’s surgery he was despatched to the bus stop to make the thirty mile roundtrip to the hospital on a very stormy day lashed by gale force winds and torrential rain. When I returned from work I found my Dad soaked right through explaining that he’d had to ask the bus driver to retrieve his bus pass from his pocket as he was unable to and that was the first time of many that I was to cry tears of frustration that year. It’s hard not to when your old Dad who has always been so strong and self-sufficient struggles to even feed himself. Other times you laugh at your own incompetence such as when I accidentally locked him in the house with a lunch of bananas and sausage rolls completely forgetting that he would be unable to open them. I am forever trying to find ways to shave minutes off my day often falling into bed exhausted and I discovered pretty quickly that I’m not superwoman or a juggler so some things have had to change. Inevitably, it’s the things you enjoy doing the most that get sacrificed when you are under pressure.
It’s been a real journey of discovery and I have learned the hard way who my real friends are. Whilst many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in weddings, new houses and new families my life starts at five am when I’m awake for work and the rest revolves around hospital appointments, shopping, cleaning and repeating the whole process again the next day. You no longer have shared interests because you have very different priorities. They struggle to identify with your commitments as a carer and you constantly explain why you can’t just jet off with them on a much-needed holiday. Concerned friends soon stop asking when they realise you can’t fix a stroke with a couple of aspirins. Your hopes and dreams are parked and the life you imagined yourself having fades into the distance; this situation quickly becomes the new normal. Do I ever get resentful? Well of course, I’m only human after all and sometimes it’s hard surrendering your independence for dreary routine. There are no quick fixes here, no magic wands to restore mobility and recovery has been painstakingly slow but this is a marathon not a sprint.
There is help out there for those that are prepared to fight the system or are fortunate enough to have someone who is able to do that for them; for those that don’t no doubt they fall under the radar of our social services and struggle on alone unaided. In addition, gadgets enabling an easier life for those afflicted are ridiculously overpriced again taking advantage of the most vulnerable.
For those finding themselves in a similar situation if I could I’d gently take your hand and assure you that you’re not alone and that there is life after a debilitating family illness. Is it going to be harder than you imagined? Most probably! Will you have some really bleak days? Without a doubt you’ll feel incredibly overwhelmed, bone-tired and isolated but your sense of always finding the funny will get you all through. Will it get better? Definitely. It’ll be a big learning curve for everyone with both uplifting positive and desolate negative moments. You’ll lose friends but you’ll meet better ones worth keeping. For every hard-hearted dismissive jobsworth you encounter you will stumble across people who are like bottled sunshine. The old fella has made tremendous progress but we’ve learned to celebrate the little simple triumphs like seeing him pick up a knife. So why then don’t I just quit my job, buy a ticket and run away to Turkey? Because quite simply, he’s my Dad.
Not the best picture but this little one-footed fella dodges all the bigger birds every day to sneak a crumb when I’m feeding the rest and he reminds me that you can overcome anything.
For those facing the same struggles as our family if you haven’t already please try contacting the Stroke Association who are just amazing and helped us when no one else would.
As most of you know I have always been an early morning commuter frequently travelling before sunrise but those hideous Monday morning blues have always been made a little more bearable with a lone Heron flying home above me so low in fact, that I can hear the soft beating of wings just like an angel passing by.
In those quiet times as night makes way for the morning an urban fox also used to troop pass me pausing only to sniff the air before hurrying on about her business and squirrels would expertly trapeze in the trees overhead. There’s nothing more magical when in the light of dawn mother nature reveals her secrets just for you alone. Sadly my early morning companions are all gone now as a new housing estate has sprung up almost overnight on the fields that they used to occupy leaving them with a rapidly shrinking environment and nowhere else to go. No doubt, when the new householders take up residence many will complain about the nuisance foxes who rummage through their refuse on what would have been fox territory long before it had ever been theirs. Whenever I’ve been fortunate to have an unexpected encounter with a wild creature I feel that I’ve been blessed with a tiny miracle and it saddens me that our children’s children may never experience the joy of seeing many of our indigenous wildlife within their natural habitat during their lifetimes.
Frogs, slow worms, shrews, moles, badgers, weasels were all an integral part of my country upbringing and I realise now that I was indeed fortunate to be raised in a rural community with nature on our doorstep. In fact, much of it was taken for granted and it was always assumed that there would be plenty of horse-chestnut trees during conker season but these too have now been felled to make way for yet more houses wiping out even more wildlife habitat. So how can you help? The hedgehog population has fallen by 37% in the past ten years which in real terms is a faster rate of decline than tigers in the wild. Want to know how you can make your garden hedgehog friendly? Then pop over to Hedgehog Street, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website for some really useful tips on how to help these delightful creatures. Remember, remember the 5th November and please check all bonfires for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting them.
Milo & I wanted to wish you all a very happy & safe weekend from everyone here at Dyson Abbey and also to remind you how rewarding fostering can be. Writing posts about wildlife and our precious four-legged friends is always such a labour of love for me but the photography not so much hence I’ll be saving the shameless photobombing selfies of our feline family for another day. I have a renewed respect for the patience of all of our photography blogging friends and it’s completely true what they say about working with children & animals (well bored felines anyway).
With most shelters overflowing with unwanted and neglected animals what can be more worthwhile than saving a life like Milo? If you’re on Twitter why not help by an RT which might just find an animal on the euthanasia list a home. And to remind you just how fulfilling either adopting or fostering a rescue animal can be, I’ve posted this touching verse which never fails to reduce me to tears. Hankies at the ready!
There I sat alone and afraid,
You got a call and came to my aid
You bundled me up in blankets and love
and when I needed it most you gave me a hug
I learned that world was not all that scary and cold.
That sometimes there is someone to have and to hold
You taught me what love is, you helped me to mend.
You loved me and healed me and became my first friend
And just when I thought you’d done all you do,
There came along not just one lesson but two
First you said “sweetheart you’re ready to go,
I’ve done all I can and you’ve learned all I know”
Then you bundled me up with a blanket and kiss,
Along came a new family they even have kids!
They took me to their home forever to stay.
At first I thought you’d sent me away,
Then that second lesson became perfectly clear,
No matter how far you will always be near
And so Foster Mom, you know I’ve moved on,
I have a new home with toys and a lawn
But I’ll never forget what I learned that first day,
Is that you really never give fosters away.
You gave me these thoughts to remember you by,
We may never meet again but now I know why.
You’ll remember I lived with you for a time,
I may not be yours but you’ll always be mine
The following day Barbs and I discussed strategy over a hearty breakfast at the local organic café as my mother insists on giving us porridge, muesli, prunes to keep us “regular” but superheroes can’t march on granola alone and neither would it help hone my cat-like reflexes ahead of our stealth invasion.
As soon as we had finished our Big Girls’ Breakfast we returned home to gather “intel” for the covert mission ahead. Two discarded Toy Story walkie talkies were retrieved from the loft where the kids had left them a fair few years’ ago. The fact that they were now in my possession suggested that they were some toys you never outgrew and some adults who never grew up.
With the batteries replaced they were as good as new and the range so clear that I could probably have safely guided a Boeing 747 in to land.
Barbs’ late mother used to knit balaclavas which would have been ideal for the job in hand but sadly as she was no longer with us I had to make do with one of my Dad’s old gardening hats but as I picked up the scissors to insert eye holes my mother snapped “Deborah, don’t be using my good scissors for those” As opposed to the naughty ones!
We spent the next couple of hours assembling our outfits for the covert mission ahead and agreed on our radio pseudonyms; Barbs would be “Roller Chick” and I would be “Lawn Mower Girl” for use over the airwaves. We giggled as we finalised the details of our cunning plan and envisioned victoriously retrieving all our lost booty. We waited until midnight or the witching hour, which as you know is when Barbs and I do our best work.
It was a clear crisp night with a full moon and having disconnected our security light we snaked over to the privet hedge. I tried to persuade Barbs as the littlest and most lithe to venture across the great divide but she wisely declined which meant that I was going to have to be the one to defend the family honour.
“Now be careful with that garden shed; it was put together on a wing and a prayer like all his other DIY projects. One slight tap and the roof’ll fall off” hissed Barbs.
As I struggled to heave my ample bottom over the hedge I couldn’t help but think it would have been a damn sight easier if we’d got the local WICCA coven (one of the members makes jam with the old dear at the Women’s Institute) to create some potion or other for us; one that involved a good deal of discomfort, of course.
Sitting astride the hedge with the blackberry brambles ripping me to shreds, Barbs handed me the walkie-talkie and as I slid down into enemy territory, I nodded “See you on the other side” as they do in the movies.
Having landed safely on Turbo’s decking, I crawled across to the shed. Crouching I gingerly reached up for the handle and carefully opened the door.
“Lawn Mower Girl calling Roller Chick, come in Roller Chick” I hissed into the walkie-talkie “I’m going in”.
I sneaked into the shed to retrieve as many familiar items as I could and handed them across the hedge to Barbs who was stood on tiptoe on the other side. After locating my Dad’s last spade, I whispered into the handset “mission accomplished Roller Chick, I’m coming home”. However, my excitement was short-lived as suddenly there was a creak followed by a large groan and the shed collapsed leaving me holding just the door handle.
Immediately the light in the upstairs window came on and I hightailed it back to the safety of the hedge. Across the airwaves, Barbs dulcet tones screamed “abort, abort”.
Well aren’t you a little late to the party, my little vertically challenged friend I thought as I scampered over the top of the hedge. I was literally one minute away from being undetected when the bedroom window swung open and a torch was shone in my direction.
“Who’s there? Dallas, is that you?”
Cringing with embarrassment I recovered quickly informing him that we were doing a little blackberry picking as a surprise for the old fella’s breakfast. He asked if I’d seen any intruders and with a sharp intake of breath I shook my head unconvincingly.
“Hedgehogs” I exclaimed “loads of them around this time of year looking for somewhere to hibernate”
Without missing a beat that’s when my partner in crime piped up “they’d have to be ninja hedgehogs on steroids to bring a shed down”. After throwing me under the bus, she giggled softly “told you to be careful, didn’t I.”
Turbo scratched his head and said “Can’t understand it but the instructions were in Japanese so I just winged it when I was putting it up. I’ll get your Dad to give me a hand with it in the morning.”
Relieved that we’d dodged a bullet, I realised I was in dire need of some fortification so we had a shot of my Dad’s dandelion wine but after Barb’s flagrant display of disloyalty I decided to save the good stuff until she’d departed for home.
Most of our neighbours have lived alongside us for several years in relative harmony where we’ve seen their children raised and move away from home to make their own way in the world. We’ve shared in their family celebrations and tragedies as they have in ours. So it is always sad to wave goodbye to family you’ve grown with but always nice to welcome new friends both young and old into the area. That is until Turbo moved in!
For some time now I have become increasingly irritated by our neighbour’s bad habit of borrowing items from us and never returning them. As a single long-distance lorry driver and aptly named (as he manoeuvres even slower than one speed Hobo) he moved into the house next door about three years ago and has regularly “borrowed” everything and anything from tools, tin groceries, portable heaters, garden and power tools none of which are ever returned. He assembled a shed about a year ago and asked us to lend him the necessary equipment which none of us have ever seen again. My Dad’s garden spades, forks and rakes, which had been lovingly cleaned and oiled over the years, have all been thoughtlessly abandoned in the rain once borrowed and when we request their return he tells us he is unable to locate them. One morning at 5.30am he rang the doorbell to borrow clingfilm and whilst I was already awake for work, the rest of the household were less than impressed.
Another source of constant irritation since wearing out the batteries on the doorbell is that he now bellows across the fence should he wish to catch our attention which is frankly going to drive the old dear to drink. I truly believe that if he heard we had nits the kleptomaniac next door would want to borrow them.
The final straw for me was when I was doing a spot of weeding during Barb’s visit. I was enthusiastically attacking the nettles whilst the lazy trollop was lounging in a deck chair supervising my endeavours. Turbo looked over the fence and asked whether he could “borrow” my gardening gauntlets after I finished as he had an urgent gardening project. Over the next two days I watched the lack of activity in the garden next-door and fumed when I realised that I again been duped. I decided there and then that I was going to carry out a midnight raid (think Expendables style but with less dynamite) ably assisted by my right-hand (wo)man and take back what was ours!
One of our blogging friends Lorna from Lorna’s Tearoom Delights needs our help. Her brother went missing from in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday 9 September 2014. Imagine if it was your brother, son or dad who had disappeared and you had no clue as to his whereabouts, hoping that every phone call or email would bring news. I can’t imagine the distress that Lorna and her family are going through so can I ask if you are unable to reblog that you share on your Facebook or RT on Twitter. Let’s help to get Fergus home to his family.
His family & friends have created a Missing Fergus McInnes blog to keep everyone updated with any progress
Originally posted on Lorna's Tearoom Delights:
By brother, Fergus McInnes, went missing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday 9 September 2014.
He was due to attend a work conference in the Swiss town of Martigny the following day, and to meet his colleagues that evening for a meal.
He boarded the 09:35 EasyJet flight at Edinburgh airport and was seen on CCTV in Geneva airport around 13:00, where he bought a train ticket that we believe was a return to Martigny.
Nothing has been seen of him since.
He did not arrive at the meeting point that evening to go for a meal, he did not check into his hotel room and he did not appear at the conference. He also failed to catch his return flight to Edinburgh on 11 September.
His mobile phone has not been switched on since he switched it off for the flight…
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