The Bell Still Rings For All Those Who Truly Believe

Hello friends!

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions, decisions ...

Decisions, decisions …

Are You There God?

Another week of loss & pain, it’s getting harder to believe that any love remains

And in a second someone’s lost their life, another husband of another wife
One more child’s daddy won’t see Xmas this year and everyone else is frozen with fear

The season of goodwill continues with hurt & tears
And through the media the face of terrorism sneers

Our bravest of soldiers fight for these lands
To release us from violence & death from a stranger’s hands

Is this a war we cannot win?
When hate comes knocking will we let it in?

Remain steadfast and together hold strong
For this war will not be short won

But don’t give up for this evil shall not prevail
None shall extinguish our candle because we won’t let our light fail

The beautiful photograph was supplied by Rhonda over at 50 Shades of Gray Hair
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Our Last Goodbye Was Never Said

Times had been hard for eight-year old Tammy and her mum since her Dad had died, even more so when her mum had been made redundant from her office job last month. With a sad Christmas looming without her Dad her mother said that they were going to have to be “careful” and asked her not to be too disappointed if Santa didn’t bring all the toys she’d scribbled on her Christmas list.

She was trying so hard to be good and never mentioned to her mum the doll she so badly wanted that walked and talked and was being advertised on the television all the time although she would gaze at it longingly through the toy shop window. Once she’d been brave enough to slip inside the door and finger the silky gauze of the doll’s dress.

They’d had to give the car up when her mum received her last pay cheque so now they walked into town but that wasn’t so bad as they played “I spy” and sang their favourite Christmas songs all the way which made the journey more fun. Mum had explained that she wouldn’t be able to give her any pocket-money for a while until she had found a new job but she didn’t mind as she knew her mummy was clever and would soon get another job.

On her way home from school every day she passed an elderly gentleman smartly dressed with medals on his chest like her daddy used to wear. She noticed he carried a tray of paper poppies and when he noticed her looking at him, he smiled back at her. “What are those for, mister?” she asked and he replied that he was selling the poppies so that people wouldn’t forget all the soldiers who had died. She checked each pocket of her tatty Disney purse which her mum had bought her last Christmas but unfortunately there were no pennies to give the man so she just smiled shyly and carried on walking past.

From then on he’d wave to her every day she walked past on her way to school when he told her that tomorrow was his last day selling poppies so he hoped he’d see her again. Tammy dashed home from school and shook her money-box to see whether she had any coins left. Right at the bottom was a shiny twenty pence piece which she proudly placed in her purse ready to give the old man because she just had to have one of those poppies.

The next day she was up early for the rainy walk into town with her mum on this gloomy autumn day and after carefully checking that she still had the twenty pence piece she made sure she’d put the purse into her pocket. When they reached the old man she stopped opened her purse and took out the coin which slipped out of her fingers and before she could catch it, rolled down a storm drain.

Tammy was distraught and began to cry, big huge racking sobs. In between the tears and howls she managed to breathlessly murmur “It’s really, really important that I buy one. I just gotta have one so my Daddy knows that I haven’t forgotten him”.

The old soldier was deeply moved by this small sobbing child and immediately bent down and looked her in the eye and said “It just so happens I have this special one left and I know that your Daddy would want you to have it”. Pinning it to the lapel of her coat, he stood up and saluted her.

The little girl wiped her nose and stood up straight and saluted the old soldier back just as she had the last time she had seen her daddy before he had been deployed to Afghanistan. For just a moment the sky cleared and a rainbow appeared. Tammy’s tear-stained face gazed up and blowing a kiss she whispered “I’ll never forget you, Daddy”.

Dedicated to all the families of those in the armed forces past and present serving our countries throughout the world; we are and always will be indebted to you for your bravery & sacrifice

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Sew Much Fabric Sew Little Time

The old dear handed me a bag of old photos last week that she had come across whilst having a clear out and I have spent a week in scanning heaven; simple things. I’d asked her to dig out my first school photo so that I could participate in a Twitter anti-bullying campaign. The photo in question shows me as a truculent and sullen four-year old who clearly didn’t (and still doesn’t) enjoy having a photo taken and also bears a strong resemblance to the children from the cult horror classic “Village of the Damned”. Mum still hasn’t been able to locate said picture (probably burned it not wanting a reminder that her child was the Devil’s spawn) but whilst searching she came across some other hidden gems including this one of my sister, Beverley Big Pants modelling one of my hand-made outfits!

Back in the day when I was a hard-up student, I decided to put my dressmaking skills learned at school to good use. As I was so dire in the cookery class my harassed teacher had been relieved to offload me and school chum, Louise onto the dressmaking teacher and rescue my poor family from potential salmonella poisoning when they were constantly forced to eat my latest incinerated culinary offering. To be fair I can follow any dressmaking or crochet pattern to this day and my ability with both smocking and ruffles was the envy of the class, however, none of the above qualified as “high fashion” statements at that time. In my limited and immature view, an abundance of sequins including various other adornments compensated for a lack of cutting edge style.

My mum gave me some old material and lining which she thought might just keep me busy and out of trouble and fortuitously my sister became the recipient of my needlework endeavours. There was just one small problem in that I lacked any talent in design or creativity. However, I clearly thought I was going to be the next Stella McCartney whilst I threaded my mum’s old Singer sewing machine with shirring elastic and frankly in my opinion any missed stitch could be resolved with a shedload of sequins.

Fortunately for Beverley Big Pants, my dressmaking hobby was short-lived as I discovered boys. However, trawling through these pictures I think it might be time to dust off the old Singer as the duvet set I have bought for my sister for Xmas is just sat here begging for some sequin lovin’, in fact if I started now I could have completed the first two letters of her nickname by tea time. Happy Days!

dressmaking

Jealousy Is When You Count Someone Else’s Blessings Instead Of Your Own

When I was at junior school one of my fellow pupils and arch-rivals was a small motherless child called Tanya who was the youngest member of a large noisy family which usually had one or two members detained at her Majesty’s pleasure at any one time. She regularly arrived at school fairly dishevelled in her sisters’ scruffy hand-me-downs and spent most of her time asleep on her desk where for the most part she remained undisturbed by the teachers. We had eyed each other warily on the very first day of term and since then there had been an air of antagonism between us.

I had a severe attack of the green-eyed monster when my mother at the bus stop one afternoon invited her to tea as if she were one of my best friends. I pleaded with her to withdraw the invitation but she was adamant and scolded that if I couldn’t be a gracious host I could remain in my room until it was bath time so begrudgingly I joined in the tea party pulling faces at Tanya whenever the opportunity presented itself and the old dear wasn’t looking. Naturally, I was too young to realise that this unloved child’s animosity was merely a shield against the harsh world in which she lived.

Imagine my disappointment when Tanya became a regular visitor for tea at Dyson Abbey. Despite this she was no less hostile with me even when I was forced to share my toys and meals with her and to add insult to injury she was always given a bag filled with my mother’s homemade baking treats such as butterfly cakes or maids of honour to take home with her.

Of course, what my seven-year old heart couldn’t understand was that my wise old mum knew this poor child was sorely in need of a good meal and it would be unlikely her proud family would accept charity so by inviting her for tea each week she was ensuring that this small neglected youngster would have not only a substantial meal but also for a short while a little compassion which was otherwise lacking in her young life.

Unfortunately, for Tanya her circumstances changed when her wayward father was incarcerated once again but on this occasion social services stepped in and just as fast as they started our shared afternoon teas came to an abrupt end as Tanya was despatched to live with a distant relative a few miles away.

It wasn’t until many years later that whilst queuing up at a supermarket checkout as a young twenty-something the woman in front of me said that she knew me and it took a while for me to realise I was standing in front of my old adversary, Tanya. We exchanged rather formal pleasantries but as she finished her transaction at the till, she made to walk away but then turned around and surprised me by saying “thank your mum for me, I’ve never forgotten her kindness; those tea parties with the delicious cakes and trifles were the only thing I had to look forward to back then”. And just as quickly she was gone from my life for the second time.

I cringed as I walked home reprimanding myself for being so mean-spirited and as I walked past a gift shop window I noticed a hand-painted sign which was part of the pretty shabby chic display. It simply said “Kindness begins with me“. It was inevitable that I bought it and it still hangs in my kitchen as a constant reminder that a simple act of kindness is like your fingerprint on the world and years later you can still hear its echo if you listen very carefully.

Beverley Big Pants, Prince the Pup & Yours Truly

Beverley Big Pants, Prince the Pup & Yours Truly

Tea Is Liquid Wisdom

Mary still remembered the very first time during their courting days when David took her home to meet his large family. She recalled the warm and inviting house where noisy laughter echoed throughout. She’d been overwhelmed by them all at first but gradually blossomed as she was welcomed into a household that lived each day as a joy, embracing and celebrating every moment.

She frequently used to admire her mother-in-law’s tea service which adorned her sideboard only being brought into use on the most special of occasions such as birthdays, christenings and Christmas. Each delicate cup and saucer had a gold leaf glaze and decorated with an array of cottage garden flowers. When Mary had first seen them she’d been enchanted with their fragile beauty. As a child her resentful family had never had any money for such luxuries and mocked those that spent their hard-earned cash on things that weren’t either functional or edible.

As the years progressed one or two of the porcelain cups had been chipped by inquisitive grandchildren or lost their handles when dropped during over rigorous dishwashing but their appeal never diminished for Mary. It was true these tea-cups had witnessed a lot of happy and sometimes sad times but even when her mother-in-law moved into sheltered housing after her husband passed she wouldn’t part with the one remaining cup and saucer. As far as she was concerned it held a cupful of golden days and loving advice in every sip. Most of her family apart from Mary couldn’t understand her attachment to the past or such a kitsch item and would have assigned it to the dustbin had she not been so insistent.

When eventually her beloved mother-in-law succumbed to pneumonia she’d bequeathed her beautiful tea-cup to her and as Mary gingerly unwrapped them from the newspaper surrounding the delicate china, tears rolled down her cheeks as she recalled her adored mother-in-law’s generous and kind spirit. She gently turned the fragile cup over in her hands, the porcelain so fine that it was almost transparent and thought about all the treasured memories that she was holding in her palm. At the bottom of the box was a note in her mother-in-law’s beautiful copperplate handwriting which simply read “come & share a cup of tea, my home is warm, my friendship’s free”. She smiled through her tears as she celebrated her mother-in-law’s life in the only way she knew how; by having a cup of tea. As she sat at the scrubbed kitchen table overlooking the garden she nursed the warm amber nectar in her hands and it comforted her just as her mother-in-law had done in life.

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She Wears It Well

I’ve been incapacitated for the past few weeks owing to an acute deep tissue knee injury and sadly, I’m not the only blogger in recent months to have fallen foul of the curse of the crutch; Marianne over at East of Malaga, Rhonda at Fifty Shades of Gray Hair & Paula have all suffered various incapacitating injuries.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I was injured during some dangerous daring stunt such as abseiling or white water rafting but the truth of the matter is much more mundane that that; I slipped on the wet floor in the little girls’ room at work and managed to wrench my knee whilst performing the splits for the first and (hopefully last) time in my life. Who’d have thought I’d have been that bendy!

So I am currently modelling this slinky little number which is a bit like wearing a cricket batting pad and will probably make me more irresistible to the opposite sex (well those that like cricket anyway). It takes me about twenty minutes of hot sweaty wrestling to fasten all the hooks (a bit like a whalebone corset) and I feel like I need a lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I am still travelling into work every day on crutches via the local bus service, with my bag hanging loosely around my neck. I will admit to a couple of near misses with the automatic doors but I’m now a little wiser and can out-manoeuvre them. The medication has been knocking me out and one morning whilst still semi-conscious I thought I’d overslept so I dashed out to catch the earlier bus and arrived in work for 5.50am where I sat like Billy No Mates until my colleagues arrived at 8.30am

I’m not denying that walking at the moment isn’t somewhat painful and incredibly tiring but a girl’s gotta earn a living. However, as my bestie is about to grant us a royal visit, I’m applying muscle balms & ice packs, knocking back anti-inflammatory medications , and elevating the knee time permitting. And if all else fails there’s always Margaritas.

Have a good week my friends & let’s be careful out there.

Does my bum look big in this?

Does my bum look big in this?

Driving Miss Daisy

A few weeks’ ago early one morning the old fella jumped in the car & said he wanted to see if he hadn’t lost any of his driving technique having been unable to drive for the past eighteen months owing to the stroke.

“Jump in” he said.

To say that I was astonished was a slight understatement and as I hadn’t yet had a superhero strength breakfast I wasn’t exactly sure that I was up to the task in hand.

After putting the key in the ignition his size eleven feet hit the pedals and the roaring noise coming from the engine must have awoken the entire village. As we juddered away from the kerb I regretted not having brought a pair of ear defenders along with me.

A few minutes down the road my Dad pulled over and smiling said “I’ve forgotten where all the controls are” which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

I suggested we take the back roads, “nonsense” he scoffed. The white knuckle ride down a steep incline nearly resulted in my forehead smacking into the dashboard three or four times as my Dad hit the foot brake just a tad too heavy and I tried to negotiate with the Almighty about extending my life expectancy a little further than that morning in exchange for less erratic attendance at our local parish church.

The journey took three times longer on account of all the detours we took to avoid hills so that the old fella wouldn’t have to carry out a hill start; our home county Devon is all about the hills.

Not for the first time that morning I wondered whether I was in some Bob Newhart sketch where I was the terrified driving instructor and my Dad was the clueless pupil; no doubt the amount of expletives I was muttering under my breath would probably ensure I was never going to Heaven anyway.

“Deborah, will you just jiggle those mirror thingamys around” as he was parallel parking outside the medical centre. As he revved the engine harder than Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One Mercedes and smoked billowed out from the exhaust, he managed to attract an appreciative audience who were beginning to take bets on whether he would manage the herculean task. As it happened the receptionist had been alerted to my father’s arrival by the speed of sound and brought his repeat prescription out to the car.

Turning to me Dad said “That was good of her, wondered how she knew we were here”

I replied that it was likely that they had probably been able to hear us in Yorkshire unless they were in a medically induced coma and not wanting a repeat performance suggested he leave the car on the drive when we returned home.

As we pulled up we were met by my two nieces who were brandishing their provisional driving licences and trying to cajole me into taking them for a driving lesson

Jumping out of the car I smiled sweetly and said “No problem, Grandad’ll take you, I’m all out of brave pills”.

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The Sweet Smell Of Success

No one can deny the power of marketing, we seem to be so easily influenced these days by the promises of becoming more attractive, thinner, & younger if we use the latest must have beauty products most of which will probably cost us a week’s wages. Completely different to my Grandma’s day when she remained a Pond’s cold cream girl throughout her life after a dab of Yardley’s freesia talc followed by a spritz of 4711 cologne and I never saw her without a Max Factor compact tucked away in her handbag. With the absence of television advertising I am unsure what the lure was back then or maybe it was the scarcity of products available that ensured customers continued to use the tried and tested cosmetics of that time.

As a very young teenager I pleaded with my parents to buy me fragrances such as Tramp, Charlie and Babe; which in hindsight all smelt not unlike cat urine and were significantly overpriced no doubt to pay for the costly television advertising campaigns. None made me more attractive with boys (no surprise there) or increased my popularity with my peers. My sister didn’t fare much better with her Body Shop favourite of Dewberry sadly the bees also found it very attractive so after a particularly nasty sting it was discarded in favour of Yardley’s Panache which frankly didn’t smell much better.

These days as neither my sister nor I don’t have much in the way of disposable income our downfall is household detergents. We are far too easily enticed by promises of the cleanest or sparkliest bathroom or in my case my particular weakness is something which makes a housework task less labour intensive. I am all for shaving minutes off anything which shortens the amount of time I spend doing dreary chores.

It seems that every Christmas in an attempt to boost festive sales we are bombarded with expensive television advertisements which have become mini feature films with supermarkets and department stores vying for the top spot. Cosmetic companies in particular must spend their entire advertising budgets at this time of year in promoting their latest product endorsed by some celebrity headliner to manipulate us into believing that some perfume could inject a touch of glamour to our lives.

The truth is would we buy some luxury cosmetic with a less opulent sounding name something a little more fundamental for example;

MONSOON: Persistent downpour

DUNE: Sand mound

ESCAPE: Prison break

OBSESSION: Stalker

POISON: Arsenic

Are we really so easy swayed by the hint of the exotic or are we tempted more by a sexy sounding name & would we buy the same product if they were a little more ordinary? So tell me what marketing campaigns seduce you?

A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting – Christian Dior

A little more upmarket in my choice of fragrance these days!

A little more upmarket in my choice of fragrance these days!

The hardest thing is watching somebody you love forget they love you

Dearest Dad

I know you’re scared and if I’m honest I am too and more than a little devastated. As you have always said to me life is seldom fair and you are so right. Your stroke had been a bitter blow for the family but we have been so proud of the way you have dealt with your rehabilitation and will always be grateful to the medical team who have supported you throughout.

It was a truly priceless moment when you were able to sit behind the wheel of the car again for the first time in eighteen months beaming ear to ear with joy from regaining your independence which regrettably would be short-lived. I have been right here alongside you throughout the highs and lows and cheering you on from the side lines. It’s been a big learning curve for all of us and I think I’m a better and more patient person as a result. You have borne this struggle with grace and humility which is something many would have wrestled with. You have fought valiantly against all odds and overcome every challenge so it seems a cruel disappointment to ask you to do that again particularly as there will ultimately be no reprieve or happy ending this time around.

We’ve both known for some time that things just haven’t been right. A bigger and more fearful spectre has crept into our lives whilst we were busy focusing on your rehabilitation one which we both chose to ignore partly through fear and partly ignorance. We all quickly dismissed your forgetfulness as tiredness or a side effect of your medication. Forced smiles and pretence isn’t something that you or I can do very well for any length of time and inevitably we have had to face up to the consequences.

I’ve always thought that you need to roll with the cards you’ve been dealt but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel a little dismayed at having my new-found freedom brought about by your recovery, snatched away quite so soon. As much as we would like to even we can’t beat this malevolent condition.

By the time you read this we will have started the process of tests again and yes there will be changes some good and some less welcome. There will, no doubt, be a few less than sunshine days when we will all rage with frustration but amongst them will be precious moments too. So let’s make these the best days of all filled with our favourites things; picnics, blackberry picking, kite flying and sitting on the porch watching the sky ablaze with lightning during a summer storm. Neither of us can change the future but we can make every cherished moment count.

So for now old fella, whilst this is just another setback along the road it’s a journey you won’t have to walk alone. We will always be able to smell the flowers and there’ll always be more dances but as with everything else in life we need to take this one step at a time just as we’ve always done.

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