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

Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

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.

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

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.

In All Things Of Nature There Is Something Of The Marvellous

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.

Hedgehog Des Res Dyson Abbey Style

Hedgehog Des Res Dyson Abbey Style

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.

Thinking of renting it out as a summer let!

Thinking of renting it out as a summer let!

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.

When the last tree has been cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can't eat money

When the last tree has been cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can’t eat money