The Ugly Duckling

Today it’s the turn of the fabulous Wivi over at myguiltypleasures whose little swan family inspired one of my stories. Wivi and I share a love of food and music – although she’s a much better cook than me! So thank you to Wivi and thanks to all of you for reading!

Her hand trembled as she applied another coat of mascara; she wasn’t sure if that was because of the excitement or just nerves getting the better of her, but one thing was certain she was going to surprise a lot of people tonight. No one believed her when she had announced her plans. They’d all scoffed when she started and pointed out her shortcomings and the more they doubted her, the more determined she had become. Admittedly, she had in the past started projects and become disillusioned very quickly; like when she became an Avon Lady which lasted all of four weeks when she realised it would require working weekends and evenings. So you couldn’t really blame folk for not having faith in her.

She’d never really been what you would call pretty although her old Dad used to say that what she lacked in the appearance department, the little oneshe made up for in personality. And whilst she had always been overlooked at school discos when her more attractive friends were asked to dance, she had smiled good-naturedly and ignored the hurt.

For years she’d run around after her sisters and their offspring; babysitting, driving her young nieces and nephews to various after school activities, attending endless school plays and never once forgetting a birthday. At family gatherings she had laughed off the jibes about always being the bridesmaid and never the bride; she’d been maid of honour to all three of her siblings so maybe there was something in the old wives tale after all. qutieIt had been taken for granted that she was content with being the family stalwart and “go to” girl but deep down her heart ached for more and besides she knew that there was a swan inside her just dying to get out.

Smoothing the satin lines of her expensive cocktail dress, she took a deep breath and hearing the compere announce her, she walked onto the stage into the spotlight to cheers and applause. Proudly she grinned as last year’s winner placed the silk sash over her head proclaiming her “Slimmer of the Year”. She blew kisses to her family who were standing in the front row cheering her on along with her new man who she’d met at fat club. Who’d have thought that there would have been romance across the weigh-ins, shared tips and recipes. As he winked back at her,her heart somersaulted and she knew that every agonising gym session and every bar of chocolate she had gone without had been worth it. There was no doubt about it, her future now held promise and hope; it was no longer filled with nights spent babysitting and watching TV soaps in front of the telly. This was her time and she didn’t intend wasting another precious moment.

this years family

Live Everyday Like It’s Your Birthday

My mother’s birthday is the 19th June, which always historically falls around the same time as Father’s Day. My usual joke is that I can only afford one present so both parents need to fight to the death in a gladiator-type duel to establish the winner; which whilst I think is pretty hilarious is usually greeted with stony silence followed by threats of disinheritance.

My mum was told a couple of years’ ago by her younger brother that no-one in their family has lived past 70 and as she has just celebrated her 67th, she has insisted now that we don’t buy her any more expensive jewellery as “she won’t get the wear” out of it! As she only likes jewellery that can be seen from space, along with the Great Wall of China; that’s just fine by me!

Because my mother routinely smells of mothballs and another of her “cure-alls” TCP antiseptic, costly perfume is also wasted. She deposits mothballs in the pockets of all her garments in her fight against all things creepy crawly but then forgets to remove them and it’s not until we are sat in some swanky restaurant that she suddenly realises that it’s not Estee Lauder or Chanel that is making everyone’s eyes water. She constantly tells me that “when she’s gone” I will know when she’s popped back to keep an eye on me as I’ll smell the mothballs!

So tell me then, what aromas remind you of your family?

moth balls

The Gift You Can Open Again & Again

I should have known that Serial Shagger and I were not a match made in Heaven when he gave me a box of beeswax candles one Christmas having left his present shopping until the last-minute and stumbled from the pub on Christmas Eve to select the first thing he came across. I could have saved my Dad the expense of a new suit he would never wear and myself a shedload of grief, had I seen the neon danger signs smacking me on the forehead. However, a former boss beat me in the most unromantic gift category when her husband (she divorced him soon after and bloody right too) presented her with a visitors book for her birthday. So I completely understand the importance of wanting something special and memorable for your significant other; however, the difficulty arises when you work for a company who insist on paying you a pittance thus preventing you from purchasing that Ferrari that your loved one so admired.

One of my colleagues wanted to do something unforgettable for her boyfriend’s upcoming birthday and asked us for some suggestions. Balloon ride someone said, which was promptly discounted owing to the cost and the fact that my friend worked for the same company as I and earned the same magic beans. Aftershave or jewellery were considered just a tad too predictable. So the million dollar question was what else would be cheap and make this birthday one to remember?

So I jokingly suggested that as she had a budget smaller than a stripper’s thong that she wrap herself in a red bow and surprise him when he got home. What a great idea she said!

So on the big day after her shift had ended she toddled off home to take a leisurely bubble bath followed by a strict beauty regime of buffing, exfoliating and moisturising in preparation for an evening of romantic lurve.

Having lit and stoked the open fire burning away in the grate, she settled down on the leather sofa, all buffed and naked where she strategically placed the ribbon. However, as darkness fell, the heat from the fire made her a little drowsy and she dozed off to sleep and didn’t hear the doorbell when it rang. She woke up abruptly to the front door slamming and the lounge door being slowly opened.

“Surprise” shouted the in-laws brandishing presents and a rather substantial birthday cake having let themselves in. My friend said afterwards that she didn’t know which one of them was more embarrassed. It was one of those awkward moments when no-one knows quite what to say, apart that is from father-in-law who broke the silence with “nice tattoo”.

Next year it goes without saying that her boyfriend will be getting the safe and predictable option of aftershave.


Imagination Is The True Magic Carpet

My Uncle Sid was all about magic; from the snowmen he used to bring into the house when I was too sick to go out and play with other children, to the homemade ice-lollies that he used to keep in his fridge.

His long-suffering wife, would smile good-naturedly and humour his unconventional behaviour even when he used to re-paint everyday household items including the toilet seat and on one occasion each spindle of the staircase in a myriad of different colours. Those rainbow stairs became part of family folklore. Always the joker he was an excellent published poet but incredibly modest and would have said that his greatest achievement was his family.

Of course, the eccentricity that irritated adults was what made him special to children. Youngsters and animals alike are always drawn to those with noble hearts and honest voices; my Uncle Sid was no exception. His ready laughter and his ability to speak an enchanted language that so few grown-ups understand made him a particular favourite with children of all ages.

Sadly, my favourite uncle is no longer with us but I do feel blessed to have been handed the keys to a fairy-tale kingdom at a very young age and hope that I have successfully passed the same dream that anything is possible onto my girls; for there will never be enough Uncle Sids and magic in the world.

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No

In addition to my Dad’s big feet and curly hair, I have also inherited another characteristic; his basic inability to say no. It would seem that my Dad has now handed that particular family torch over to me, and frankly, I think I may be destined to be a perpetual reluctant volunteer for the remainder of my life.

I have been roped into babysitting, shopping, taxi driving and cooking; and anyone who knows me realises that I am neither a gifted nor an accomplished cook. I have lent money with promises of repayment which never actually materialise. I was once invited to a sleepover at a friend’s house thinking that a girls’ night was in the offing when in actual fact, I babysat her toddlers whilst she went out and didn’t return until the following afternoon.

Most recently one of our elderly neighbours said that the person taking them to the airport had pulled out at the last-minute, subsequently I ended up getting up at 3am on my day off to drive them to our not so local airport a couple of hours away so that they could catch a flight to London and then onto Dubai, first class all the way. To be fair they did offer to reimburse me for the fuel used and my Dad said that he would feel more comfortable if he knew that they both got to the airport safely. Enroute to our destination we called into the motorway services so that they could get something to eat and whilst there they bought me a burger. As I dropped them as near to the terminal as I could and secured a trolley for their luggage, the old lady said that as they’d paid for lunch, I’d now been fully recompensed but could I please ensure that I was punctual when I picked them up on the return journey. Clearly she was under the misapprehension that shelf stacking is such lucrative employment and my bosses enable me to work flexible hours in order that I can accommodate any friend requests.

So the very next time a friend asks for a favour, I’m going to shut up and sit on my hands because saying no, does not make me a bad person. What about you? When was the last time you were taken advantage of or have you a magic formula for deflecting unreasonable demands?


It Was All Started By A Little Mouse

Chloe, the Koi Carp Thief is thankfully the only real mouser in our rescue cat quartet; Hobo on the other hand who only has one gear, reverse, will only be tempted by slow, elderly or infirmed quarry. So it was no surprise when she brought in a little vole the other morning and promptly dropped it in the middle of the lounge where it scurried away under my mother’s armoire for safety. Not wanting the little creature to end up as Chloe’s supper, she was exiled to the kitchen where I sought my mother’s help as my Dad was down at the allotment checking on his dahlias.

My mother was unhappy about my rodent search & rescue mission and declined my request for help with those immortal words “I can’t Deborah, I’m eating a yoghurt”. As I pointed out unless she wanted gnawed soft furnishings, she was going to have to gird her loins and assist me with the task in hand. We stacked all the furniture in the middle of the lounge and managed to corner the terrified little creature behind the curtains; the plan was that when I moved the drapes, my mother would move in with an empty washing up bowl. As I prepared to lift up the damask curtains, I noticed that my mother had inched a few yards away with the capture receptacle. I pointed out that as the vole only had little legs it was unlikely that he was a long distance runner and insisted she move nearer.

As I gingerly moved the curtains, the little vole made a dash for it and a high-speed chase ensued. At some point during this mad half hour, I took over the responsibility for the washing up bowl and did briefly manage to capture said vole. However, once inside the bowl he managed an Olympian high jump out of it; who’d have known that a tiny vole was that athletic!

Hot & flustered my mother and I decided to take a break, whilst she went for tea, I opened the patio doors and promptly sat down on the furniture mountain in the middle of the room surveying the disarray. It was during our tea break that we noticed the little rodent scurry alongside the far wall and warily make it’s way through the patio doors and ultimately freedom. He looked back at us one last time; as if to say chaos, disorder and destruction, my work here is done!

Chief Humper & Lumper

Chief Humper & Lumper

And He Drove The Fastest Milkcart In The West

I had intended to catch a national express coach to Bristol airport for the trip back to Turkey but my Dad was insistent that his allotment buddy, Ernie take me in his clapped out old transit van as he had an errand in the area. Ernie is the retired village Unigate milkman whom my Grandma used to describe as” a confirmed bachelor who dresses well”. milk Apparently, in his heyday he used to deliver to the most remote dwellings in and around our Devon village come rain or shine in his three-wheeled electric cart. He would get up in the middle of the night without a day’s sickness, so that the community could find bottles of gold and silver top on their doorsteps each morning.

As I had planned for this trip like a military campaign and my Mum had insisted on packing my suitcase for me the night before to ensure that it was done “properly”; I had a good hour or so to spare before Ernie arrived to collect me. I suggested to Dad that we go for a last stroll around the cemetery but as it was already a bitterly cold day with a fierce north-easterly wind blowing, he wisely declined saying that if we went, he probably wouldn’t be making the journey back. On that uplifting note I was relieved when Ernie pulled up outside earlier than anticipated obviously hoping for a swift cup of tea and a slice of my Mum’s homemade Lemon Drizzle cake.

Fed and watered, we made our way outside where Ernie gingerly loaded my case into the rear of the van. When I hopped in the passenger side, the smell was the first thing I noticed along with constant cooing; it was then that I realised that my fellow passengers were racing pigeons. I cast a reproving look at my Dad who in turn beamed a reassuring grin at me whilst reminding me that it was kind of Ernie to offer me a lift. The look on my mother’s face was priceless as she surveyed the rusty bodywork of the rundown vehicle and the seed & feather encrusted upholstery. Secretly, I was rather worried that I would remain a pigeon magnet once I alighted from the vehicle.

After a teary farewell and armed with a packed lunch which could feed an entire squadron, we drove onto the A38 Bristol bound. I soon discovered that the mechanics of the van were as ropey as the bodywork and doubted whether this van had ever seen a service. As the exhaust rattled and roared like a Sherman Tank, I could barely hear his country and western CDs and the smoke billowing from the rear of the van ensured that no other motorist was tail gating. For someone who’d spent most of his life driving at no more than 20mph, life on the open road without a cargo of gold top and yoghurt had rendered Ernie into a demon behind the wheel.

Stopping only to nip to the loo quickly and to break open the sandwiches, the two-hour trip passed surprisingly speedily even without ear defenders. Ernie delivered me on time to my destination just as he had with all his other deliveries across the years.

So as a tribute to our esteemed former milkman here’s the ballad of Ernie, who drove the fastest milk cart in the west by the late beloved comedian Benny Hill. Now surely you didn’t expect me to leave you without a good laugh!

The lyrics:
Benny Hill – 1971

You could hear the hoof beats pound as they raced across the ground,
And the clatter of the wheels as they spun ’round and ’round.
And he galloped into market street, his badge upon his chest,
His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Liddley Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie got his cocoa there three times every week.

They called him Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

She said she’d like to bathe in milk, he said, “All right, sweetheart,”
And when he’d finished work one night he loaded up his cart.
He said, “D’you want it pasturize? ‘Cause pasturize is best,”
She says, “Ernie, I’ll be happy if it comes up to my chest.”

That tickled old Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie had a rival, an evil-looking man,
Called Two-Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker’s van.
He tempted her with his treacle tarts and his tasty wholemeal bread,
And when she seen the size of his hot meat pies it very near turned her head.

She nearly swooned at his macaroon and he said, “If you treat me right,
You’ll have hot rolls every morning and crumpets every night.”
He knew once she sampled his layer cake he’d have his wicked way,
And all Ernie had to offer was a pint of milk a day.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

One lunch time Ted saw Ernie’s horse and cart outside her door,
It drove him mad to find it was still there at half past four.
And as he lept down from his van hot blood through his veins did course,
And he went across to Ernie’s cart and didn’t half kick his ‘orse.

Whose name was Trigger, (Triggerrrrrrrr)
And he pulled the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie rushed out into the street, his gold top in his hand,
He said, “If you wanna marry Susie you’ll fight for her like a man.”
“Oh why don’t we play cards for her?” he sneeringly replied,
“And just to make it interesting we’ll have a shilling on the side.”

Now Ernie dragged him from his van and beneath the blazing sun,
They stood there face to face, and Ted went for his bun.
But Ernie was too quick, things didn’t go the way Ted planned,
And a strawberry-flavoured yogurt sent it spinning from his hand.

Now Susie ran between them and tried to keep them apart,
And Ernie, he pushed her aside and a rock cake caught him underneath his heart.
And he looked up in pained surprise and the concrete hardened crust,
Of a stale pork pie caught him in the eye and Ernie bit the dust.

Poor Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Ernie was only 52, he didn’t wanna die,
And now he’s gone to make deliveries in that milk round in the sky.
Where the customers are angels and ferocious dogs are banned,
And the milkman’s life is full of fun in that fairy, dairy land.

But a woman’s needs are many fold and soon she married Ted,
But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.
Was that the trees a-rustling? Or the hinges of the gate?
Or Ernie’s ghostly gold tops a-rattling in their crate?

They won’t forget Ernie, (Ernieeeeeeeeee)
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

“All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer”.

I was always destined to be friends with someone who starts a sentence with “My aunt the white witch”. Boo has worked alongside me fighting the good fight against a common foe aka Poison Pen, for as long as I can remember. She has shared in the tears, the complete despair and frustration of working in a souless job. She too has been on the receiving end of many a stinging verbal attack from the Evil Queen and has also been there to bolster my spirits when it’s been my turn. In fact, after a particularly vicious verbal onslaught a bar of chocolate or cup of tea would somehow find its way to me, as if by magic, reminding me I was not alone.

Boo usually cycles into work, multi-tasking at the same time by wearing a face mask startling many a motorist en route. Even with a green face she still looks more supermodel than Wicked Witch of the West although another of her assets is she is blissfully unaware of drop-dead good looks; don’t we all love friends like those! She has the most infectious laughter together with a ditzy good-natured personality.

On one of our Christmas shopping trips when we shopped ‘til we dropped pausing only to visit a coffee shop; she remarked that I was probably glad I wasn’t a family member as I wouldn’t have to receive any of the tat she had bought for Christmas presents!

My particular favourite story about her is when one of her beloved cats went missing and she toured the neighbourhood, tin of cat food in hand. Finding her cat she brought him home but was perplexed when he spent the next week or so under her bed hissing & spitting when no amount of coaxing would entice him out to eat. The mystery was solved when her own errant cat eventually climbed in through the cat-flap one morning and took an instant dislike to the usurper who was installed under the bed. Realising her mistake, Boo at once liberated the fake cat so that he could be reunited with his family.

A chat over a quick latte with Boo can restore my sinking spirits on any rainy day and like many of my friends out there past and present who have been around to give me a lift when life has seemed a tad unfair …………. thank you for being there!

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The Greatest Gift Of All

I can’t remember a time when you haven’t both been an integral part of my life although it was as small babies that you both sneaked in and overnight I became Fabulous Auntie D. I certainly wasn’t ready for the practicalities of two small children even if they did look like little angels whilst behaving in a manner which dictated otherwise. Image (11) I fumbled my way through several of your younger years learning as I went along with a spoonful of Calpol for you and a few more for me. Even now disposable nappies remain one of life’s great mysteries for me along with pushchair assembly. Whatever lessons you learned from me, I learnt a shedload more from you. You taught me the joy of discovery and the delight in simple pleasures like finding a caterpillar amongst the clover. There were many tears and tantrums and you had a few as well but along with those were moments of pure joy which I will hold in my heart forever.

I recall your first days at nursery and how reluctant you were to leave your new-found friends at home time. Your first unsure steps at your new school, wearing uniforms that were much too big for you and when at the gates you looked back at me for reassurance, I beamed a smile that didn’t quite match the lump in my throat.

As you grew into teenagers, our once easy relationship deteriorated into door slamming and overnight I became a “life ruiner”Image (4) as my darling little girls were replaced by unrecognizable strangers who spoke an unfamiliar language that I couldn’t comprehend. I was no longer a super hero but a mere mortal who had somehow lost her Mary Poppins status overnight and neither was I practically perfect in every way anymore. Suddenly I was out of a job; just like that, leaving a hole in my heart the size of Yorkshire. Although inevitable, it was hard discovering that I had been discarded for shopping trips to the mall and ice skating with your buddies.

I watch you now imagining the amazing young women that you will become and wonder what will you remember? The all-weather picnics, our special cinema days, camping in the back garden or the Christmas Day lunch when we all sat down to eat with nit mousse in our hair.

As you continue your journey into adulthood, my wishes for you are jewelled rainbows after heavy rain, a hand to hold in time of need, a sighting of land after a journey on a stormy sea, a shining light to help you find your way home and a heart that beats in time with your own. But know this, you will always be my little angels and I want you to understand that wherever you go and whatever you do, I will always be here whenever life is unkind to you because at the end of the day that’s what aunties do best!

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He’ll Have To Go

Dancing is like dreaming with your feet and makes the stars shine brighter. It also improves your flexibility and promotes an overall sense of well-being. In Dallas world after a couple of Babychams, my sister, Beverley Big Pants & I think we’re dancing queens although there is a distinct lack of rhythm but what we lack in skill we make up for in enthusiasm and volume much to my nieces’ embarrassment. In fact the only time I ever look good dancing is if I’m next to my dad at a wedding!

Although my Dad is supposed to be a bit of a Fred Astaire when the mood takes him;Image (3) I understand that my parents’ courting involved a few Quicksteps and the odd Foxtrot although my mum insists that he used to tread all over her feet. It’s hard to imagine my wellie-wearing Dad enjoying anything that doesn’t need planting or pruning but apparently notImage (2) only does he know his promenades from his box step but there was a time when he cut a mean figure in the Victoria Hall Ballroom in Halifax.

So it was no surprise to me when he dragged me along to Senior Citizens’ Day at the local DIY superstore when they offer a small discount to anyone brandishing a bus pass. In keeping with the theme, music of a certain era is piped through the public address system and there are various demonstrations throughout the store. My Dad appropriately dressed in his cloth cap, pencil firmly fixed behind his ear and retractable tape measure in hand set off for the store in the old jalopy with me riding shotgun.

Once inside the store he made straight for the shelving; where else! I should mention that the real reason my Dad takes along his tape measure is so that other shoppers stop him to ask for his advice mistakenly thinking he is a professional. On this particular day as my Dad was singing along to Jim Reeves and Nat King Cole, he was stopped by two ladies who asked him for some guidance and they got chatting. Somehow during their laughter filled conversation my Dad ended up waltzing them around the aisle much to the amusement of other shoppers and when they’d finish they got a round of applause.

For our return performance, I’m having the slogan “Available for Stand Up & Pantomime” printed on the back of his shirt.