Monday, 30 April 2012

The wisdom of age

This weekend I had the delight of celebrating my father's 80th birthday. When I stop and think about it, that is a very long time.

About six months ago he moved to the same town that my sister lives in. He lives in a spacious 1-bed bungalow. The garden is a fraction of the size of his previous house. He is now a 10 minute walk into town with all the amenities he could ask for, and that 10 minutes walks past the doctors and dentists and even a cottage hospital. Previously, he has to catch a bus the three miles to the local shops, particularly after the village post office was shut down. He has lost about a stone in weight (needed!) and is looking much fitter and healthier for the move. At the time of the move I was less certain that this was a good thing - all I seemed to experience was stress!

So this weekend we celebrated the move and the passing years. It was wonderful to catch up with Dad's side of the family and various friends that he (and, by default, my sister and I) have known for many years. I think every single one commented on how healthy my father looked. He loved the party, chatting with everyone. Given his deafness, I'm not sure how easy that can have been!

Yes, the party on Saturday was good. But better still was his actual birthday on Sunday.

It poured with rain all day. But his choice of how to spend the day was to have a drive up through Wharfedale, where he spent much of his childhood and where we spent all my childhood holidays. It is probably 25 years since I last went to the top end of the dale, but it brought back many memories for me. How much more so my father! He pointed out houses where people lived ("...probably still do, if they're still alive," he would comment) and told tales of the places we passed. Much of the journey seemed to be a mock pub crawl, with his comments on how good, or bad, each was. I think it is a testament to my upbringing that they were all very familiar to me too!

After an amazing [pub] lunch (I shall probably never need to eat again!) he directed me back along the other side of the valley, wending and winding our way along single track roads.
"This is where I learnt to ride a bike," he said down one gentle slope.
"Oh, that's new!" he said of some newly planted trees. This amused me, given he hadn't been for many years and you would expect much to change in that time!
"Shortly you'll come to a big bend to the right, but you want to go straight on." How did he remember that? I would have sworn I'd never been on that piece of road in my life - possibly no-one else had either!
Still, we travelled on, through ford and flood, to return by a back-road to my sister's house.

Eighty years - yes, but memories don't fade, particularly not from land that has been such a part of your life, from early years during the war, through to holidays with family. The hills have been climbed, the ox-bow lake formed and lost, the local fairs attended, the pubs drained dry. It was a delight to give my father such pleasure from a simple drive into beautiful countryside. I only wish his parents had thought eighty years ago about what the weather would be like this weekend, as the only improvement would have been some sunshine!

Friday, 20 April 2012

If you need a job done...

... do it yourself. This is what motherhood really means now.

Before Easter, in a moment of forward planning, I booked a babysitter for tonight.

Last weekend I pointed out to my husband that he might like some time alone with his children to go shopping. "Uh?" he says.

Last night I suggested to him that I took the dog for a walk round the block before going to bed. "Why?" he asks. "Don't you need the paper, scissors and tape before tomorrow?" I reply.

This morning I elbowed him viciously in the ribs. "Don't you need to get the children up before you go to work?" To be fair, they weren't too happy with this pre-7am wakening!

Finally, before my husband left to catch the train, the decision was made to go out for dinner tonight...though I am left with the job of finding a restaurant and booking a table.

My birthday presents were two saucepans ("with lids," as my daughter keenly pointed out), a whisk and some kitchen scales. I guess I know my place! 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Wash, rinse, spin - the correct link


The link in the last post didn't work. I had a brief moment of encouraging you to read my (not-quite-award-winning) story without actually being able to link you to it. I shall add it to my long list of items that are contributing to my astonishing learning curve when it comes to computers/the internet/blogging/social media/anything technological.

Here it is again: Wash, rinse, spin. Do leave a comment ... about the story, please, rather than about my technical incompetence: the repeated failures there go without saying!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Happy Easter!

Artwork by John Bell copyright 1998-2012 ( used with permission

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Reasons to be cheerful!

Writing Wednesday
Shortly before Christmas I entered a competition by the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. It was for Life Writing: a short story (or blog entry or other form of writing) based on real life events.

I am delighted to say that Wash, Rinse, Spin was longlisted for the competition! At the time of writing this, the winner hasn't yet been announced. (I'm trying to generously wish all the short-listed contenders luck!)

I chose to adapt a chapter of my book In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree. The chapter was relatively self-contained and (I hope) quite funny, looking at the very standard activity of getting my hair cut for the first time in a foreign land. For those who don't know, In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree is the story of my first year living in Zambia with two young children - and many of my escapades revolve around the steep learning curve of living in such a different environment.

If you are interested in reading it, I have published it in a separate page of the blog: Wash, Rinse, Spin. 

I hope you enjoy it. Do let me know what you think!

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