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

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

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.

The Great Escape (Part Two)

If you missed Part One you can catch it here

The following day Barbs and I discussed strategy over a hearty breakfast at the local organic café as my mother insists on giving us porridge, muesli, prunes to keep us “regular” but superheroes can’t march on granola alone and neither would it help hone my cat-like reflexes ahead of our stealth invasion.

As soon as we had finished our Big Girls’ Breakfast we returned home to gather “intel” for the covert mission ahead. Two discarded Toy Story walkie talkies were retrieved from the loft where the kids had left them a fair few years’ ago. The fact that they were now in my possession suggested that they were some toys you never outgrew and some adults who never grew up.

With the batteries replaced they were as good as new and the range so clear that I could probably have safely guided a Boeing 747 in to land on my Dad’s lovingly cultivated lawn.

Barbs’ late mother used to knit balaclavas which would have been ideal for the job in hand but sadly as she was no longer with us I had to make do with one of my Dad’s old gardening hats but as I picked up the scissors to insert eye holes my mother snapped “Deborah, don’t be using my good scissors for those” As opposed to the naughty ones!

We spent the next couple of hours assembling our outfits for the covert mission ahead and agreed on our radio pseudonyms; Barbs would be “Roller Chick” and I would be “Lawn Mower Girl” for use over the airwaves. We giggled as we finalised the details of our cunning plan and envisioned victoriously retrieving all our lost booty. We waited until midnight or the witching hour, which as you know is when Barbs and I do our best work.

It was a clear crisp night with a full moon and having disconnected our security light we snaked over to the privet hedge. I tried to persuade Barbs as the littlest and most lithe to venture across the great divide but she wisely declined which meant that I was going to have to be the one to defend the family honour.

“Now be careful with that garden shed; it was put together on a wing and a prayer like all his other DIY projects. One slight tap and the roof’ll fall off” hissed Barbs.

As I struggled to heave my ample bottom over the hedge I couldn’t help but think it would have been a damn sight easier if we’d got the local WICCA coven (one of the members makes jam with the old dear at the Women’s Institute) to create some potion or other for us; one that involved a good deal of discomfort, of course.

Sitting astride the hedge with the blackberry brambles ripping me to shreds, Barbs handed me the walkie-talkie and as I slid down into enemy territory, I nodded “See you on the other side” as they do in the movies.

Having landed safely on Turbo’s decking, I crawled across to the shed. Crouching I gingerly reached up for the handle and carefully opened the door.

“Lawn Mower Girl calling Roller Chick, come in Roller Chick” I hissed into the walkie-talkie “I’m going in”.

I sneaked into the shed to retrieve as many familiar items as I could and handed them across the hedge to Barbs who was stood on tiptoe on the other side. After locating my Dad’s last spade, I whispered into the handset “mission accomplished Roller Chick, I’m coming home”. However, my excitement was short-lived as suddenly there was a creak followed by a large groan and the shed collapsed leaving me holding just the door handle.

Immediately the light in the upstairs window came on and I hightailed it back to the safety of the hedge. Across the airwaves, Barbs dulcet tones screamed “abort, abort”.

Well aren’t you a little late to the party, my little vertically challenged friend I thought as I scampered over the top of the hedge. I was literally one minute away from being undetected when the bedroom window swung open and a torch was shone in my direction.

“Who’s there? Dallas, is that you?”

Cringing with embarrassment I recovered quickly informing him that we were doing a little blackberry picking as a surprise for the old fella’s breakfast. He asked if I’d seen any intruders and with a sharp intake of breath I shook my head unconvincingly.

Hedgehogs” I exclaimed “loads of them around this time of year looking for somewhere to hibernate”

Without missing a beat that’s when my partner in crime piped up “they’d have to be ninja hedgehogs on steroids to bring a shed down”. After throwing me under the bus, she giggled softly “told you to be careful, didn’t I.”

Turbo scratched his head and said “Can’t understand it but the instructions were in Japanese so I just bodged it when I was putting it up. I’ll get your Dad to give me a hand with it in the morning.”

Relieved that we’d dodged a bullet, I  realised I was in dire need of  some fortification so we had a shot of my Dad’s dandelion wine but after Barb’s flagrant display of disloyalty I decided to save the good stuff until she’d departed for home.

hedgehog

No Hedgehogs were harmed during the writing of this post

The Great Escape (Part One)

Most of our neighbours have lived alongside us for several years in relative harmony where we’ve seen their children raised and move away from home to make their own way in the world. We’ve shared in their family celebrations and tragedies as they have in ours. So it is always sad to wave goodbye to family you’ve grown with but always nice to welcome new friends both young and old into the area. That is until Turbo moved in!

For some time now I have become increasingly irritated by our neighbour’s bad habit of borrowing items from us and never returning them. As a single long-distance lorry driver and aptly named (as he manoeuvres even slower than one speed Hobo) he moved into the house next door about three years ago and has regularly “borrowed” everything and anything from tools, tin groceries, portable heaters, garden and power tools none of which are ever returned. He assembled a shed about a year ago and asked us to lend him the necessary equipment which none of us have ever seen again. My Dad’s garden spades, forks and rakes, which had been lovingly cleaned and oiled over the years, have all been thoughtlessly abandoned in the rain once borrowed and when we request their return he tells us he is unable to locate them. One morning at 5.30am he rang the doorbell to borrow clingfilm and whilst I was already awake for work, the rest of the household were less than impressed.

Another source of constant irritation since wearing out the batteries on the doorbell is that he now bellows across the fence should he wish to catch our attention which is frankly going to drive the old dear to drink. I truly believe that if he heard we had nits the kleptomaniac next door would want to borrow them.

The final straw for me was when I was doing a spot of weeding during Barb’s visit. I was enthusiastically attacking the nettles whilst the lazy trollop was lounging in a deck chair supervising my endeavours. Turbo looked over the fence and asked whether he could “borrow” my gardening gauntlets after I finished as he had an urgent gardening project. Over the next two days I watched the lack of activity in the garden next-door and fumed when I realised that I again been duped. I decided there and then that I was going to carry out a midnight raid (think Expendables style but with less dynamite) ably assisted by my right-hand (wo)man and take back what was ours!

And if you want to know whether Turbo gets his comeuppance you can catch Part Two here 

I'm going in!

I’m going in!

There Is A Voice That Doesn’t Use Words. Listen

Frequently random strangers confide in me the most personal and sometimes shocking or distressing details of their lives in often the most unusual circumstances. Regularly someone will strike up a conversation with me at a bus stop or as a fellow passenger on a train and before long they are disclosing some of their most intimate secrets. Which makes me wonder if confession really is good for the soul and are complete strangers less judgemental than their own nearest and dearest? What courage it must take to confide in an outsider and what prevents them from having the same earnest conversation with their own kin?

Whilst I like to think I’m a good listener the truth of the matter is for my own loved ones I’m probably not as good as I should be. I was born a nurturer with a warrior’s spirit for injustice and as such I just want to help them by putting things right and easing their hurt. I have that Sagittarian outspokenness which seldom means I say the right thing at the right time but in an emergency situation as a “doer” I can be counted on to provide more practical help.

It’s taken me a very long time to learn this but people seldom want my rational kind of help they just want the sympathy of a compassionate and understanding soul for their troubled hearts. So the very next time someone divulges a secret, I’m going to switch my phone off, put the kettle on, sit on my hands and do the hardest thing in the world; shut up and really listen.

Burgh Island, Devon

Burgh Island, Devon

If You Carry Your Childhood With You, You Never Become Older

I met my bestie, Barbs when she was an Executive Housekeeping Manager (or HFH = Housekeeper From Hell as I used to call her) and we both worked in the same chain-owned hotel. We smiled at each other at a morning meeting and somehow we just clicked probably more to do with the fact that she has no filter and will always be the one to tell you how it really is. I never got to meet her lovely mum with her sparkling Lancashire wit, but Barbs frequently used to quote her and some of my favourite gems are “if you can’t fight, wear a big hat”, “go on smile; give your face a joyride” or “have you had a wash or are you just drying a dirty colour”. Barbs decision to pursue a career within the Hotel industry was also enthusiastically endorsed by her mum when she said “you’ve not got much up top but by heavens, you’re a good scrubber”. With that glowing testimonial, Barbs was always going to be destined for a life amongst grubby bed linens and dirty bathrooms.

For her big birthday Barbs decided she was going to mark the occasion by resuming roller skating which was something she had enjoyed as a teenager. So whilst she was visiting us the other week, and taking a rest from being my editor-in-chief, she asked if I would order some online for her. I was strangely drawn to the leopard print ones with the neon purple wheels, Barbs not so much so we opted for the plain white ones. After the order was completed, she rang her father to inform him that they were being delivered to his address just in case he opened the package thinking there were for him and fancied a trial run along Blackpool promenade; which is incidentally where my Dad used to roller skate as a young boy.

Several days later when Barbs returned home, she rang me all excited to say that they had been delivered and revealed she’d been wearing them around the house since she’d opened the box. It was only much later that I had discovered she was so smitten; she’d slept in them which couldn’t have been good for either her black satin sheets or water-bed.

Have a safe & happy weekend my friends and I’ll leave you with a picture of the lovely Barbs in her new skating outfit; frankly I think it could do with a few more sequins.

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Footprints

When I asked for volunteers for the story/photo collaborations, I was delighted when Suzanne over at the travelbunny stepped up as I have long been an admirer of her work, particularly her Turkish pictures which remind me of sunshine days and happier times. In fact I have one of her pictures as a screen saver on my laptop to lift my spirits on blue days. I’m grateful that she agreed and I hope you like her pictures as much as I do.

On one of my forays into Didim shopping centre, I decided to browse the Saturday morning market on my own. Not always an easy task, as most of the stallholders spoke little English. This particular morning as I was struggling to understand a wizened old lady selling chillies; an American woman seeing my discomfort translated for me in fluent Turkish. She was a stunning looking mature bohemian lady who exuded style and joy. I’d seen her a few times weaving around the market in her big floppy hat and designer sunglasses, stopping for a chat and smile here and there, or to make a purchase. Her laughter was musical and infectious which matched her sunny disposition.

“Call me Nia” she said “Back home it’s actually Lavinia, but that’s not so lovely is it” she giggled “But then that’s the beauty of being an expat, you get to start over. I’m guessing you’re not a holiday maker judging by your purchases so if you live here I’m guessing………….it must be for a Turkish man.Let’s catch a çay over there in that café and you can tell me all about it. I’m a romance junkie so I’m dying to hear your story”.

Over çay I learned that she had lived on her own on the outskirts of Altinkum for several years tending to her animals and garden. She was an American with a family back home but divorced and to her regret, she said that she’d never had any children but as she had travelled the world so much, she’d never settled down long enough to start a family. She had flown to Turkey after the breakdown of her last marriage, become enchanted by its magic and somehow never left.

 

“Dallas, life isn’t all about playing safe, but of course, you already know that or you wouldn’t be here. It’s about finding what makes you happy and doing it; and if you happen to find someone along the way that you love and loves the same things you do, then you’ve found the secret to happiness. Even if it’s only for a short while but grab it with both hands whilst you can and when it’s over move on with thanks in your heart for the love you’ve received”

I thought then that perhaps that was a maudlin thing to say but didn’t dwell on it too much as Nia soon had me laughing with tales of her Turkish neighbours. She told me that she lived on the outskirts of Maveshir on the sea front and suggested that I visit her.

So a few days later, Ahmed dropped me off at her house on his way to the Cash & Carry. We stopped en route once or twice for directions and when we pulled up, I was amazed to see that she lived in one of the whitewashed beachfront villas that I had so admired. The surrounding gardens were also lovingly cultivated and full of the colourful Mediterranean flora and fauna that I had become accustomed to. As I opened the gate I was greeted by two street dogs that Nia had adopted and as with many a rescue animal, I never failed to be amazed by their trusting natures despite their often poor treatment at the hands of humans.

Nia was gardening and shouted a greeting so I made my way to the front of the villa to where she was tending her plants. The view was breath-taking and I felt that I arrived in a Mediterranean oasis and each time a breeze blew past me, I caught the heady fragrance of the surrounding flowers and citrus trees. I envied Nia her little Turkish paradise and as she finished up weeding her little vegetable and herb plot, her face was aglow with pride and contentment. I could tell that she was completely at ease with her surroundings and had clearly found the secret to her joy.

I followed her inside where she suggested we sit down and indulge in some of her homemade lemonade. The villa was every bit as stunning and stylish as the outside, framed pictures filled the walls of her villa, which was simply but tastefully decorated. She seemed to have had her picture taken with nearly every Head of State over the past twenty years not to mention a few celebrities. One of her ex-husbands had been a diplomat she explained and they had travelled extensively. She laughed when I enquired about ex-husbands and explained she had three but the real loves in her life she had somehow never got round to marrying. She admitted she was a free spirit and had married to keep her old Bostonian family happy but regrettably it hadn’t worked out and neither had any of her other marriages but she remained on good terms with all the men that had been an integral part of her life. She confided in me that she lived here alone but she said that although it had taken her a lifetime she had at last found real peace and didn’t miss her old lifestyle at all.

I saw her frequently over the next year or so; often we’d meet up for a çay and a chat. She had a way of making shopping expeditions so much fun and I was grateful for her continued friendship. As summer rolled into Autumn she cancelled a few of our outings claiming a migraine but the next time I saw her, I knew that it was something far more serious although she laughed it off with her usual charm. I noticed that she tired easily when we did meet up and our days out would be cut short as she excused herself on some pretense or other. As we took leave of each other at the end of another successful shopping trip, she hugged me fiercely and said

“Remember Dallas, we pass this way only once and life is far too brief to spend one moment being bitter or regretful”.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but that would be the last time I saw my good friend. A short while after she disappeared from my life as quickly as she had swept in without fuss or ceremony. I heard that her family had come and taken her back to Boston; her phone was disconnected and her villa deserted with the “For Sale” sign hanging forlornly outside. All traces of my vibrant friend were just an echo now and I wondered whether the next owner would cherish it as much as Nia had. Hellos and goodbyes are such an integral part of life in Tinky Town and many friends pass through and touch your lives for such a short time but with such heart which makes them hard to forget along with the lessons which they taught you.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same

― Adlai E. Stevenson II

turkish garden

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.

candles

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?

no