Letters From Heaven

I’ve got a secret; one I’ve been dying to share with you for a week or so! I’ve been debating for some time whether to go freelance and I’ve done it. The deciding factor for me was after an uninspiring 1:1 with my area manager in which I was told “the company did not reward loyalty or long-term service”. So after this disheartening meeting I had a eureka moment; for those that have seen one of my favourite films “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” remember the scene where the Judge debating on whether to retire shouts “today’s the day”?

The old fella had long disapproved of the organisation I worked for and every year when they failed to provide me with a cost of living pay rise claiming a dip in overall company profits despite both the directors driving around in brand new Range Rovers, he pointed out that even Dick Turpin wore a mask.

So I tendered my resignation and four weeks onwards I’m doing okay and waking up looking forward to each day instead of hauling my tired arse down to the bus stop before 6am each morning. Ironically, the day after I resigned a white flash on my Dad’s old armchair caught my eye. I picked it up and my heart somersaulted when I realised it was one of his old business cards. It now sits on my laptop under my wrist rest as a reminder that the old fella would have been oh so proud. I don’t know what lies ahead but for the time being I know that this is the right time for me.

For those out there thinking of taking the plunge; try it you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner #followyourdreams

For Next Year I Think I’ll Just Be Happy

Without doubt this has been one of the worst years of my life having lost my much-loved Dad following a devastating year of unbearable terminal illness. It’s hard to believe that his accident was twelve long months’ ago and he went overnight from driving the old folk to the supermarket to not being able to tie his own shoelaces. There have been so many enlightening lessons and although I always thought I was a strong person I clearly didn’t know what strong was until now.  I’ve met some people on this journey that have been like bottled sunshine on a very rainy day and some not so much. Whilst I cannot wait to embrace the New Year and hopefully a new start ultimately I will begin it a little sadder, wiser but a damn sight more fierce than the person I was twelve months ago.

What I’ve learned this year:

Karma does exist so even in your intensely frustrating moments you just have to sit back and let the universe deal with it

Fight for what you believe is right even if it takes every ounce of strength you have and then some

Learn to say no

People can be insensitive, selfish and will disappoint you so just appreciate and be grateful for the kind ones that warm your heart in your darkest of moments.

Don’t hoard beautiful things waiting for that special occasion to use or wear them; that special day is every day in which you are fortunate to walk this earth

Take some time to sit awhile with the elderly and infirmed and let them share their stories; you might just learn something!

Don’t leave words in your heart unspoken waiting for the right time; seize the moment and be bold for there will never be a perfect moment

Did a random act of kindness from a stranger on one of your bleakest days make all the difference? Then pay it forward; the world needs more of that.

Never underestimate the power of touch; hold a hand it may provide comfort to some lost soul facing their own struggles

Celebrate successes, special occasions and life, all with reckless abandon & joy for these will be the golden days you will remember for the rest of your life

Laugh as much as you can and whenever possible

Don’t be too proud to accept help

It’s good to talk so find a friend (two or four-legged) who understands the difficult road you’re walking

When it gets too much let it out and have a good cry, big fat shoulder-heaving noisy tears; you’ll scare the neighbours but you’ll feel lighter in spirit

Don’t side-line the things that make your heart sing because all of us need a tuppence-worth of happiness to add a little light to our troubled hearts

Sometimes you think you may never smile again and maybe you’ve forgotten how to but rest assured somewhere down the road the clouds will fade and the sun will shine for you again

Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not; there is no shame in admitting you need someone to help share your burden every now and then.

No one debilitating disease is worse than any other to each victim of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone, Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Strokes, they are all equally devastating and crush millions of families the world over. So for those still fighting their own battles have courage & faith, my friends; you got this!

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Love Is A Net That Catches Hearts Like Fish

Without doubt the old fella has left an enormous hole in our hearts but his legacy was living every moment in the joy of simple things and sharing laughter with those he loved. Often when I left my laptop open I used to find him surreptitiously reading your comments & chuckling in response to a story I had written about him as he was bemused that you all found the allotment exploits of an eccentric old pensioner amusing. He enjoyed your pictures of places he would never get to visit and was fascinated that we could connect with people living on the other side of the world. I will miss him more than I thought possible and the way he greeted me everyday with the words “hello sunshine”.  I also know in my heart that he would want you all to remember him with a smile as he did with you.

As some of you know Chloe Hellcat, the smallest of our cat family was rescued from the water by a kindly fisherman, which is how she came live with us and by which time as a waterside feral she had become an adept fisherman herself.

Sadly this is a trait we haven’t been able to remedy and unfortunately last summer she discovered an accommodating ornamental pond in the village spending a week trawling the pond to bring home wriggling Koi Carp larger than herself. Chloe always loses interest in her quarry after dumping it on the lawn so it was no surprise one Saturday morning when I found not one but two large golden carp flopping around on the grass. After the immediate shock wore off it was action stations as I frantically ran around the garden, filling a bucket and gingerly putting the slippery little suckers into it. Just as I had successfully installed both fish into the pail the little minx returned with yet another which I wasted no time in reuniting with its fishy friends.

As there is no ornamental pond within my garden the most obvious solution was to accommodate them temporarily in the old fella’s pride and joy until we could discover who they really belonged to. So after an anxious telephone call, Operation “Rescuing Nemo” was launched when my Dad called the local village hair salon to ask them to tell my mother to stop at my house on the way home after her regular shampoo & set.

My mother is no fan of any creature of the wriggling variety and I think it’s fair to say was pretty much horrified when I asked her to sit in the passenger seat of my cramped Renault Clio and grip a bucket of fish between her knees; no easy feat in a Jaeger skirt suit I assure you. However, as the journey to Dyson Abbey was only a two-minute journey she reluctantly agreed but I knew that Dad’s ears would be ringing once she got home.

As is always the case during the busiest time of the year, when holidaymakers flock to Devon to sample, amongst other things, our ‘andsome cream teas, frequent road works magically appear overnight. So it was no surprise on this Saturday morning that the short journey from my house to the old folks involved a longer detour through winding leafy country lanes. Whilst we whizzed past luscious green countryside, I was anxiously negotiating the meandering roads as my mother screamed at me to slow down each time water splashed her legs and I think she would have had apoplexy should any fish have escaped the bucket.

Additionally as it was so hot I had opened the windows so whilst squeezing right into the bramble covered hedgerows to avoid oncoming traffic my mother’s new “do” was completely windswept and speckled with leaves & the odd feather giving her the appearance of a manic “Miss Havisham”. I couldn’t help but feel she was going to be less than happy when we eventually got to our destination.

As luck would have it when I pulled up there was nowhere to park so we had to leave it on the main road which meant that the old dear was not going to be able to edge out of the car unnoticed. As I opened the passenger door for her, Dad was waiting on the other side of the low garden wall and the sight of a dishevelled Mum regally sat in the front seat with this bucket gripped between her knees reduced him to hysterics which I knew would cost him dear later.

When he recovered himself enough I passed the bucket to him so that he could liberate the fish into their new home. I have it on good authority that the old dear gave my Dad fish every evening for dinner that week, however, as I understand the old fella declined preferring instead the old faithful banana sandwich as he reckoned he wouldn’t be able to look his new lodgers in the eye if he devoured their cousins.

The old fella always wanted something positive to come out of something negative and in the spirit of all the rescues that we have carried out together as a family, if you’re on Facebook take five minutes to check out Jodie’s Cyprus Dogs Rehoming and if you can please share, as I think he’d kinda like that.

ayesha-6

 

To Lose Someone You Love Is To Alter Your Life Forever

This is a post that I never wanted to write and hoped that I wouldn’t have to for many a long year but sadly our time ran out last week and my dear old Dad passed away. As he has been the inspiration for so many of my stories it only seemed right that I pay tribute to my childhood hero the best way I know how.

So how do you say goodbye to someone who has been the constant light guiding your ship into harbour and the gentle wind that helps steer you across the sea onwards to new horizons; the honest truth is I don’t know that I can. My kind-hearted old Dad has always been the one that has been there for us like a solid anchor in a rough ocean.  He never yearned for a bigger house, a faster car or a fortune; in fact, he truly believed his fortune lay within the family he raised, the home he built and in the flowers he grew. Although he was a retired electrical engineer it was simple pleasures that brought joy to his day like tinkering in his shed or digging out the weeds. His loving legacy is evident in his garden, his granddaughters and the laughter that echoes around the walls of our family home.

You see the thing is I don’t think I would ever have been ready to have said goodbye so I am left bereft and lost; a broken heart can do that to you every time. So thank you for your kind messages and my heartfelt thoughts go out to all those out there who are also struggling with their own loss.

So in the coming grief-stricken months there’ll be memories, more precious than rubies, packed away in lavender-scented tissue paper like a favourite old sweater which will be brought out to console us on our loneliest days.

I could be mistaken but last night when I looked up I’m sure there was an extra star burning brightly in the midnight sky shining over us just as the old fella did every day of his life looking out for those he loved.

“The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good”

Goodnight sunshine x

Image Mobile SAGEM

The Old Fella

 

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

village

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”.

village 2

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.

dad & girls 2

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 the old fella 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 lovely Dad, don’t struggle on alone contact the Stroke Association .

The Old Fella's prize winning dahlias

The Old Fella’s prize winning dahlias

Yes officer, I did see the ‘Speed limit’ sign…I just didn’t see you!

I have to admit that I am not the best driver on the planet! In fact, I don’t really enjoy driving and fail to see why people get really excited about cars. In Dallas world, a car is to get you from A to B. I’m simply not interested in a car as a status symbol, or anything else for that matter. My ropey old Fiat Punto has seen me through many an ardous journey and I am loathe to give her up; that and the fact that my Lottery numbers have again failed to be recognised by Camelot.

I can also confess that my family members don’t like accompanying me on a drive either, actually my Mum and Dad will do anything to avoid getting in my car. My Dad keeps his car immaculately, mine not so much and when I’m a passenger in his he always asks me to remind him where the speed cameras are. As my Dad never drives that vehicle over 40mph, I don’t think it’s actually ever going to be a problem. In fact, the local council grass cutting machine regularly overtakes him.

When my Dad has to be a reluctant passenger in my car, he’s constantly coughing (fake) and advising me that there’s a speed camera ahead (untrue). He’s repetitively hitting the imaginary foot break on the passenger side and gripping onto the door handle as if he is in fear of his life. I assure you I am no speed queen and in fact the steering wheel shakes on my car if driven over 60mph. God forbid, if I have to drive him down a steep incline as when he alights he’s almost kissing the tarmac and muttering something about me applying for a pilot’s licence.

The other reason I get fairly stressed when I have one of my parents in the car, is that I swear like a trooper. For the most part, I am blissfully unaware that I am doing it; however, in moments of clarity I do feel good about having a good cuss with no-one to upbraid me about my use of expletives. I may be in the minority when I say, that I am still reluctant to swear in front of my parents as I think that might have them reaching for the liquid soap for a reprimanding mouthwash. What can I say you’re always going to be your parents’ child!

My eldest niece received her provisional licence through the post last week and is zealously canvassing family members for driving lessons. As is the case with most teenagers, she has the attention span of a gnat and thinks that car mirrors are for checking her lip gloss. Therefore, I think it highly unlikely that she will attract any volunteers any time soon.

I have offered to drive the entire tribe to Midnight Mass next week, but my Dad has suggested that we all walk and if we’re late, the Lord will understand!

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

George Carlin

My Baby

My Baby