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 …

We Never Know The True Value Of Water Until The Well Runs Dry

A burst water main managed to bring an entire city to a standstill on Thursday with flooding causing problems on main access roads and water supplies to many households interrupted. From mid-morning until early evening many of us were left with no water supply at all.

The old fella in true gardener style keeps a series of rain-water butts strategically placed around the garden and generously offered us a cold water bath, however, I think it’s safe to say that my germ-conscious mother was less than unimpressed and frankly if he’d continued to press the point he may well have been facing a cold water shower of his own.

The local water company was bombarded with complaints both via the telephone and social media ranging from not being able to make a cup of tea to having a bath. Whilst their engineers battled in severe wind and rain to fix the problem they also arranged deliveries of water to those most vulnerable in the area.

Normal service returned to our water supply by early evening but I thought that all the negative and self-absorbed comments a tad ridiculous especially when there are millions of children throughout the world who don’t have access to clean water day in and day out. For us it was a minor inconvenience for them, life & death. I would like to hope that this has served as a timely reminder especially at this time of year of how blessed most of us are to have easy access to clean water, healthcare, a roof over our heads and food on our tables.

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Know Your Audience Before You Open Your Mouth

The Theatre Royal in Plymouth is a clumsy concrete and glass structure which lacks the charm and romance of the more historical theatres such as the Alhambra in Bradford but to be fair it’s played host to a number of excellent touring productions over the years including Wicked, Cats and the Lion King.

On my youngest niece’s birthday we all trooped up to watch “Dirty Dancing” which was also excellent although no one is ever really going to be able to fill the dancing shoes of the late great Patrick “snake hips” Swayze. For me personally Claire Rogers as Penny stole the show as the resident dancer leaving every little girl watching her begging their parents for dance lessons.

Our tickets cost over £40 each and for a party of five it made theatre night an expensive excursion not to mention pre-show meal and drinks. Money well spent if it’s a good show and whilst that certainly applied in this case, some of the theatre ushers were less than courteous. I appreciate that not all customers are sunshine and flowers but is it really necessary to speak to patrons as if they are unruly children. It is not the first time I have attended a show at the Theatre Royal whereby I have felt that some of the ushers were less than civil and it occurs to me in these times of recession that audiences should be encouraged not discouraged by brusque and ill-mannered individuals taking the joy out of an expensive occasion. Whilst we enjoyed the show immensely, what theatre management should remember that they are supposed to be providing a memorable and positive theatre experience for audiences to ensure that in these slow economic times that they keep coming back. Personally I feel quite strongly that surly jobsworths have no business working within the customer service sector so maybe Theatres need as much attention spent in recruiting their in-house teams as they do in marketing their productions.

A few years’ ago I attended a pantomime where the theatre staff were also dressed in costume which not only added to the party atmosphere but made you smile as soon as you stepped into the foyer which I’m sure that many theatre goers like myself remembered for years to come. What a pity that many will go away from the Theatre Royal Plymouth remembering it for all the wrong reasons.

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Flowers For The Living

Every time my late Grandma was given a bouquet without fail she would say “flowers for the living”. Of course, what she was reminding us in her gentle way is that you can’t smell them once you’re gone and be sure to give them to your loved ones whilst you still can.

I recalled her words whilst taking a quiet stroll around Efford Cemetery in Plymouth where on the notice board the following was posted.IMG_0774 I didn’t think that this boded well for the deer, which no doubt would have been grazing there long before the land became the big cemetery it is today. I’ve always enjoyed a leisurely walk around the old graveyard steeped in history and a haven to many wildlife, appreciating a moment of reflection in this unquiet world in which we live.

As I wandered around I noticed workmen had left bags of cement on top of memorials,cemetery 007 there were various old tombstones in disrepair and evidence of fly tipping in the oldest part of the cemetery. It would also seem that because many people don’t want to walk further than they absolutely need to some were rather disgracefully reversing cars across burial plots in an endeavour to turn around. It occurred to me that the two legged visitors were probably responsible for more damage that a few deer would ever be.

If I could ask my Grandma, who is a resident of this particular cemetery, what her thoughts were regarding the wildlife guests I’m sure I know what her answer would be.

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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.

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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!

Karma Has No Deadline

The recycling centre near us is inappropriately named Chelson Meadow conjuring up flower strewn pastures and whilst it is situated on the outskirts of Saltram House the stately home, which was used during the filming of the 1995 Sense & Sensibility, there is nothing very beautiful or fragrant about an industrial yard surrounded by cars and enormous waste skips.

I’d loaded up the car one afternoon as my Dad had been instructed by my mother to have a clear out in the shed and I wasn’t totally surprised by the amount of junk he had stored waiting for a moment when it would all come in “useful”. As much as I admire his optimism there was never going to be an opportunity other than an apocalypse when we would have the need for so many useless items.

My Dad had insisted on carrying out the recovery mission himself and I could tell how reluctant he was to part with most of it and may well have snuck one or two items back in the shed whilst I wasn’t looking. Once all debris had been safely deposited in the trunk of the car, I drove off in the direction of the recycling depot.

As I checked in with the pleasant young man at the gate, he told me to look out for the skip manned by the “cowboy” and as I drove through I easily identified the man in the Stetson leaning up against this huge industrial skip. I backed my car up to enable me to open the boot and start removing all the junk.

I was disappointed that the labourers were too busy leaning against the skips and chatting to assist me with unloading lots of scrap metal but could still break off from their conversation to bark numbers at me to ensure that I dumped the right items in the appropriately numbered skips. Tired from another early morning and full work shift, I struggled to unload most of the scrap metal and as I dragged a large slightly water damaged mirror over to the skip, one of the older chaps, who’d watched my herculean efforts, put his hand up to prevent me from throwing it into the skip and told me to rest it safely against the side as it “looked interesting”. Being a shrewd girl, I realised at once that this canny old man was planning on reselling the item and had I not wanted to tempt the fates with seven years of bad luck, I would have let it slip from my fingers to the bottom of the dumpster with a sarcastic “oops”.

I jumped back into the car less than impressed with the whole experience and slamming the car door shut headed off home, stopping at the entrance gate to shout out to the young man who had greeted me earlier.

“Actually you got it wrong love; they’re all a bunch of cowboys”!

And as I drove off into the sunset I suddenly remembered how the mirror became water damaged recalling that it had been dispatched to the shed when Hobo had taken an instant dislike to his reflection and instantaneously decided to mark his territory as all good cats do. Needless to say I laughed all the way home and couldn’t help but think that in the end, we did indeed get our just rewards.

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Primark Is Not The Only Saving Place

St Bartholomew’s or St Bart’s as it’s known to everyone in the village, is what one could call a working church; at the back is a functional fitted kitchen surrounded by plastic chairs and tables and on the far side is a small children’s play area filled with discarded and donated toys. church 002 At one time this glorious old church steeped in history would have been a bedrock for the whole community; however, its crumbling walls now need a cash injection of £45,000 just for essential repairs if it is to survive.

Many a sunny afternoon you can see villagers, on nodding acquaintance with each other sat on one of the benches sharing a smile and a memory or two. Courting couples over the years have sought stolen kisses under the yew trees which also provide a haven for a variety of wildlife. church 003 The coffee mornings that offer welcome company for several of the lonely old folk where they go to hear another voice other than their own. The choir and organ practises that fill the air with familiar hymns reminding us of our own childhoods.

Others like me enjoy the solitude of the church when it’s empty and when a quiet moment can soothe a troubled heart.

All the young local girls who dream of a fairy-tale wedding imagine saying their vows under the rainbow hues of the beautiful stained glass windows.church 004 The nativity plays performed by the local school children and the harvest festival services. For our family the most precious memory is that of the traditional carol services when the church is adorned in garlands of holly & mistletoe in the glow of myrrh altar candles and family is the best gift of all on that Holy of all Nights.

So if you had to put a price on this sense of community and if you did would it be £45,000 or would it be beyond priceless?

Well you didn’t expect me to finish without leaving you with a smile, so I hope you enjoy this clip of a Vicar of Dibley episode written by the brilliant Richard Curtis featuring Dawn French, a comedy hero of mine and the service held for animals

A Sunday Well Spent Brings A Week Of Content

Our village lies within the boundaries of the city of Plymouth in Devon, a naval port and not forgetting home to Plymouth Gin which has been distilled here since 1793. As some of you may already know in 1588 Sir Francis Drake played his famous game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe before sailing out with the fleet to fight off the Spanish Armada and the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth in 1620 for the New World. Nancy Astor, became the first woman MP in 1919 representing the constituency of Sutton in Plymouth.

John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse was dismantled in 1877 brick by brick and brought back to Plymouth Hoe to be re-built and where it remains one of the city’s more prominent landmarks.

In the literary world in 1882 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle worked at friend’s medical practice here and later went on to write the Hounds of the Baskervilles set on Dartmoor. Aircraftsman Shaw also known as Lawrence of Arabia served with the RAF in Plymouth.

So that’s it from my neck of the woods, what’s happening in yours?