Grandma’s Clock

Grandma's clock

The other day I decided I needed to start a project I had had in mind for a while: cataloguing the various “heirlooms” from my family. I suppose writing about de-cluttering the other day has been an additional kick up the backside. Today I made a small start, and the most important item among those photographed was, of course, Grandma’s clock.

What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to write it up and turn it into a riveting online read. I know you are all absolutely desperate to know more about it.

When I was little I loved to sit and watch Grandma comb her hair. When I studied German as a teenager I completely understood the Lorelei, who sat and combed her hair, luring sailors to their doom on the Rhine. I could identify with the men who became entranced; it was like that, watching Grandma. Her hair never went grey apart from a little stripe at the front. The rest was auburn, and fell to her waist when she let it down from its cage of pins.

My grandmother lived with us, so she was very important to me. She read me stories and showed me how to make jam, and always loved my pictures, no matter how awful they were. Mostly I sat with her downstairs in the old battered leather armchair with the horsehair stuffing poking out of the seams, and we read books and drew pictures. Sometimes she got a little muddled and called me “Win”, thinking I was her dead daughter. In my thoughtless way I’d say “No Grandma, I’m not Winnie, she died!”. Way to go, EBL.

Less often I would go up to the bedroom and sit with her. Those occasions felt more special. Her bedroom was definitely hers alone, whereas downstairs everyone was in and out. She had all sorts of her treasures in there, and I liked to play with the jars on her dressing table, laying out the hairpins in patterns and sorting them into sizes. I was that kind of child. Her dressing table also boasted photos in sepia of more dead people, her brothers killed in the trenches of France, and her clock.

“I don’t wind up the chime,” she said a little sadly, “because it’s too noisy for other people.” She meant my parents. “It’s a lovely chime though.”

So of course I wanted to hear it, and so she wound it up just one turn and we listened to it ring. It was pretty and I wanted it to ring all the time, but she shook her head. It wasn’t like my grandmother to be quiet if she wanted something, so I suspect that the chimes also brought back memories she preferred to stifle. I was being allowed a rare glimpse, and I took the crumbs.

She told me about different clock chimes and sang them to me, and we went through “Oranges and Lemons”. She told me about old London churches too, being as she was a Londoner. Then she sang “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner” as well. I sang it too.

“You’re not a Londoner though,” she said. “You weren’t born in London.”

It was like that bit in Last of the Mohicans, where Chingachgook says he is the last of his people and Hawkeye’s heart breaks. Well, my heart didn’t quite break, but it hurt, even though she was quite right. I was born in the Royal County of Berkshire.

When Grandma died my parents couldn’t find the key for the clock. It must have been caught up with the things that were thrown away. I insisted on keeping the clock though. It was 35 years before I found someone willing to clean it up and get it going, and now it sits on our mantelpiece and chimes irritatingly over the top of the television, usually at that bit right at the end when there’s a cliffhanger for next week’s show.

The man who fixed it for us stripped it right down and built it up again. Grandma had told me that her clock was a wedding present. I wish I had asked from whom, because it turns out that the clock is older than I thought. Grandma was married in 1910 but the clock apparently dates back to 1860. I assume it was a hand-me-down but I can’t quite work out who would have had it originally. It’s not particularly valuable; these clocks were quite common I understand, and I have seen several similar ones, although nothing exactly like it. Her own parents were married in 1877, so it was unlikely to be theirs except as another hand-me-down. My grandfather was illegitimate. The previous generations married in the 1850s so a little too early. It’s the typical genealogical conundrum, with endless possibilities and no chance of an answer. Don’t try family tree unless you are comfortable with uncertainty!

Anyway, that’s the tale of Grandma’s clock. It’s a big old alabaster Victorian monstrosity and I love it. When it chimes, she is with me still, combing her beautiful, long, auburn hair.

What objects hold memories for you?

Namaste

 

Santa made me cry

Saturday night in front of the telly and my evening’s viewing was disrupted by a noise outside. I put my glass of wine down carefully and tweaked back the curtain. It was the Lions’ Christmas float, cautiously inching past the cars on the bend in the lane and blaring out carols while people in high-vis vests ran about with buckets to collect money. There were lights and music and cheery greetings, and goodness me, there was Father Christmas, taking time out from his busy schedule to parade through our hamlet. The elves must have everything under control back at base while the wily old gent scouts out the terrain ahead of the Big Night. Mind you, the elves are pretty experienced and the wily old gent has been doing the rounds on floats for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes he sub-contracted.

If you are a big devotee of Father Christmas and write him imploring letters every year, do not read further. It may be distressing. If you are not sure what to do, check with your mum or dad and take their advice.

Meanwhile, all I can tell you is one of the sub-contractors was my own dear papa, and in fact this is why as a child I never believed in Father Christmas (although I do believe, perhaps more foolishly and childishly, in peace on earth and that Christmas tree smell; my eyes are still full of tinsel and fire).

Rotary Float in 1967

My Dad was the local Rotary Club’s Santa. His costume would be hanging up to dry in the kitchen throughout December and I knew that Dad was all there was (it was more than enough) and other kids were deluded. I didn’t tell anyone though; it would have been unkind.

So he would go out on the float at night, and when I was a little older I was allowed to go too and help with the collections. I always got a good haul because people were sentimental about a small child lisping her way through the spiel about raising money for the poor and elderly of the locality. It also meant I got to go on the annual coach trip to the seaside with the old dears, who spoilt me thoroughly with toffees and boiled sweets.

me as santaI even wore the costume on Christmas Day to hand out the presents.

It might help to explain what happened when I saw the float on Saturday if I tell you a bit about my week, or rather my Thursday. Recently the nurses found that my mother’s blood tests were indicating a lack of iron. As she has a good and varied diet the doctor decided she was bleeding internally, although he didn’t know why. She seemed well and was eating and drinking without problems. So we stopped her anti-coagulants, which would be exacerbating any bleed, and waited a bit. Her blood results have been improving steadily so she is no longer bleeding. Excellent news.

Except she is no longer taking her anti-coagulants, which means she is at increased risk of stroke and as she has vascular dementia, at increased risk of more vascular incidents which will further melt her brain.

The doctor and I talked it all through on Thursday. The bleed may have been a temporary problem highlighted by the anti-coagulants thinning her blood; it may be caused by some disease of the bowel; or it may be bowel cancer.  To find out would require difficult, uncomfortable and potentially inconclusive investigations, which she would find inexplicable and terrifying because she can’t understand what is going on. Even if they found the cause, which is not guaranteed, we would then be faced with a decision around whether she is strong enough to take any treatment, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery. She isn’t, and even if she were, the trauma could be either damaging or fatal by stressing her too far.

So I decided we would let her alone. We’ll restart the anti-coagulants when her blood tests indicate she is back to normal, hoping she doesn’t have a stroke or vascular incident in the meantime (it should only be a couple of weeks). If her blood tests then get worse again, we will have to decide whether to risk stopping them or not.

So it had been a stressful Thursday.

There I was 48 hours later looking at a Christmas float pass by and waving to Santa, who waved back and boomed out a “Merry Christmas!” and I fell apart at the gate, in the dark and cold, where no one could see.

Because last year my mother saw the float and we remembered how Dad used to be Santa. She cannot now.

Because I wanted my dad here to help me. He cannot now.

Because whatever the blood tests tell us, nothing will be good or beautiful or gentle. Yet I must choose.

So I cried silent self-pity in the dark and cold where no one could see, then wiped my eyes and went back into the warm house and sat with Sigoth by the fire.

Because I have joy as well as sadness.

On Joy & Sorrow

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Namaste.

The grown-ups speak again

I recently shared with you some of my family’s verbal peculiarities in the form of odd sayings that became part of the very fabric of life. Since then of course my brain has been bombarded by other sayings jostling for attention and asking me why I hadn’t picked them and saying it wasn’t fair and slamming doors. Some of the sayings have had to go to their rooms and think about what they did until they are ready to apologise. I explained to them they were letting the family down, they were letting me down, but worst of all, they were letting themselves down, somewhat like the inflatable child with the sharp pin. But that’s another story.

Time for more sayings I think. On the whole this batch of child-terrorising phrases probably helps to explain the damaged psyche that is EBL today. Allons-y!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3670504.stm

Don’t pull that face or the wind may change

Grizzly toddlers everywhere are subjected to this kind of verbal and psychological abuse. They are threatened with the prospect of a deformed and ugly face just when they most need a hug. Well, that’s the way it can sometimes seem.

I do remember that I was occasionally interested to see what kind of face I could mould, but never managed to keep it long enough to set, no matter how long I stood in the garden like a determined miniature gargoyle, chin thrust defiantly into the prevailing breeze. As a result I quickly uncovered the duplicity of this particular piece of adult intimidation, and also learned the implicit message that no one loves you if you are not pretty.

EBL is many things but you could not accuse her of prettiness.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-beard-sailor-image29213076

Enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers

Another top saying from my grandmother, this particular phrase was utilised to acknowledge breaks in the cloud cover of England when bits of blue sky could peep through and make the end of winter seem a viable proposition. I don’t think it was intended to convey anything more than appreciation for a bit of decent weather, something of great significance in our soggy isles. At least, I never understood it to mean more. Who knows with grandmothers?

I never quite understood why sailors got the nice blue sky for garments, but it sounded pretty darn cool.

http://1hdwallpapers.com/amazing_stormy_sky-wallpaper.html

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a bit black over our Bill’s mother’s

Conversely my mother used this one when the sky was getting ominous with dark cloud and rain looked like it was on the way. And by rain I mean the proper stuff, not a puerile drizzle or heavy Scotch mist, but real, honest-to-deity-of-your-choice solid coat-soaking feet-squelching shoe-drenching hair-dripping pocket-filling neck-freezing rain.  The kind that, to coin another phrase, comes down in rods, possibly with cats and/or dogs implicated. Real English rain. It can go on for weeks like that. The phrase was employed with a certain degree of relish, as without such calamities we English have nothing to talk about and conversation while waiting at the bus stop can be terribly stilted.

Of course, I knew that one of my not-really-an-aunty Aunties had an attachment called Uncle Bill, and as our house looked out across a field to more houses I was convinced for years that his dear old mum lived in one of them. But we never visited. Probably because the wind had changed.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/news-opinion/brian-lee-recalls-unusual-traditions-5811698

It’s not the cough that carried him off, but the coffin they carried him off in

This one was one of my Dad’s, and he would trot it out whenever his delicate little flower was hacking her lungs out with that lovely catarrh-ridden, phlegmy liquidy noise only available to single-digit-aged children or heavy smokers; not mutually exclusive categories of course, especially in those days when as a six year old I could run an errand to the corner shop for my mother to get a pack of 20 John Player’s No. 6. You couldn’t do that now. It’s health and safety gone mad, I tell you.

So I’d cough up, my Dad would chirp up, and I’d be traumatised with thoughts of death until the cold cleared up, about three years later on average.

bedtime

Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire and down Sheet Lane

Ah, the cosiness at the end of the day, that put right many of the preceding traumas. Bath done, teeth brushed, nightie donned, it was time to say goodnight and go to bed.

I didn’t go to sleep easily as a small child. When I was five I caught the measles and had three weeks off school because that was the quarantine period you had to go through. My grandmother was distraught as her own daughter had died at a similar age from measles and diphtheria. She sat up with me all night and every night and scared me half to death as a result, because clearly I was very ill, despite feeling quite feisty and rather bored because I wasn’t allowed to play with my friends.

After that was all over she stopped, but by then I couldn’t get to sleep on my own so my poor father had to sit with me every night until I nodded off. Usually he went first and started snoring very loudly, so I would climb over him and go downstairs to get my mother to come and wake him up again.

reading in bed

If possible I preferred to read in bed instead.

What bad stories did your parents use to try and pull the wool over your eyes?

Namaste

Talking like a grown up

Did you ever find, as a person of limited years and growth, that the Big Folk talked above your head (literally and metaphorically)? For those of you who have the luck to be parents, did you do that to your Offspringses? I can assure you that Sigoth and I employed such techniques on a regular basis. Life is complicated enough without having to try and explain it to children, especially when you can’t even explain it satisfactorily to yourself.

There are plenty of websites out there if you want to learn about the various differences between dialects in spoken English. In my part of the world there are also numerous books dedicated to trying to interpret Yorkshire dialect for foreigners, such as anyone from London.

In fact I once took a colleague from London to her hotel in York, where she was asked for her passport. She was quite discombobulated. “I’m only from London!” she wailed. The receptionist looked at her sceptically. “It’s true,” I confirmed, “and she’s going back tomorrow.” So they let her in anyway.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I wanted to talk about some of those odd phrases adults use when talking to each other. The kinds of phrases that, as a small child, tend to make you stop and say “Whaaat?” and scratch your head.

some feet on stairs

I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!

This phrase I had never experienced in the actual eardrum until sitting on the top of a double decker bus hurtling down a very steep road in Sheffield. It was in my green and growing youth when I was exploring various universities to decide on courses I might want to study. I was visiting Sheffield, had wandered rather far, and decided to catch a bus back to the railway station. Largely this was because I was lost and a bus with a destination of “Railway Station” seemed a rather neat solution; plus sitting up top meant I got a good view of the city as we travelled.

A couple of middle-aged women came up after me and sat down just behind me. They started chatting about something or other, involving a lot of “She said..so I said” and “Well I never!”. As we started down an especially steep hill, and I gripped the rail in front of me to keep firmly on my seat, as opposed to being pressed like a distressed mime act against the front window pane,  I was delighted to hear one of the women exclaim “Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!”

“Foot of our stairs?” I thought to myself, clutching grimly to the rail, “it’ll be foot of the bloody hill in minute, without the bus!” However, miraculously we made it in one piece, and I found my way safely back to the sunny shires of southern England before midnight, with a richer appreciation of our island’s cultural tapestry.

The translation for anyone unsure is roughly “Goodness me, how very surprising!”

fur_coat_1910

All fur coat and no knickers

My mother used to use this to describe a woman who lived down our street. To be fair the woman in question, who was a very kind lady and free with the distribution of sweets and drinks of orange squash to local children, did often wear her fur coat, even in the summer. As a child I assumed this was because unfortunately she had no knickers and was therefore too cold and/or embarrassed to go out without her coat. I felt very sorry for her and wondered how she could afford the squash and sweets if she couldn’t afford knickers.

Later I learned it really meant she was perceived to be a woman of easy virtue. It certainly explained the variety of people you met coming and going from her house, given that grown men rarely enjoyed sweets and orange squash as devotedly as the rest of us.

goldwatch

Cough up chicken, it’ll be a gold watch next time!

When I was suffering a coughing fit, for whatever reason, my mother would say this.

As a child I was naturally concerned about the possibility. True, some coughs, induced by swallowing the wrong way, could make you feel like you were about to cough up a substantial part of your insides. On the other wrist, so to speak, the option of a gold watch was appealing. I got my first watch once I learned to tell the time in Miss Weatherill’s class (I must have been 5 or 6) so I was very keen on getting a shinier one to flash about in emphasis of my academic superiority. Sadly I have yet to achieve the feat of coughing up an actual gold watch, no matter how hard I hack my lungs. The phrase itself must be from her childhood as my mother still says it dutifully every time she coughs and splutters at us. Still, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

My family used strange phrases and sayings all the time, but the strangest was one I have never quite got to the bottom of. When I was a grizzly little toddler, having a particularly moany and whingey day, my grandmother would try and cajole me out of my soggy sullenness by saying:

Lcdr_badge

Cheer up for Chatham, Dover’s in sight!

The confusion this provoked was itself sufficient to stop the grizzling. I believe it may refer to an old railway line, the London, Chatham and Dover, but beyond that I can’t tell you any more I’m afraid. I wonder if there’s a connection with hop-picking…

dogsinboots

Even my dog wears boots!

Last but not least is a local nugget of wisdom. “Even my dog wears boots” is a legendary, and possibly apocryphal, response made by a builder who carried on working with a fractured ankle. When pressed to go to a doctor or A&E or somewhere of a medical nature because he had fractured his ankle, it is said that this was his answer. Apparently it is intended to indicate that the person in question is so hard that he will not be inconvenienced by such a triviality. That’s Yorkshire Grit, tha knaws. Aye.

Every family has their odd phrases and sayings: I’d love to know yours!

Later, alligators…

Namaste.

800px-AmericanAlligator

Five Years

I was thinking about updating the blog, just to let you all know I am still alive, when this popped into my notifications:

5 years WPWell, knock me down with a feather! I have been lurking on WordPress for 5 years! I only started being more active about a year ago, when I decided to try out NaNoWriMo, and wrote up progress each day.

You see, I was thinking yesterday that now my major projects are nearing closure, I can get back to working on the work-life balance project. It’s the Big One for me, even more than OJEU tenders and new product developments.

So thank you to all who have flown with me (to coin WordPress’s phrase) and please now settle down as we continue to cruise, with possible turbulence at unpredicted intervals.

Here’s what I was doing rather than blogging or working.

DSC_0013Firstly I was making the Christmas cake. I make it in October and top it up with brandy regularly until Christmas so that by the time we cut it and eat it, it’s more a thick drink than a cake. In fact, designated drivers have to take their slice home in party bag. People like it. They tell me it’s very moist, usually giggling as they do so. I don’t allow seconds for at least an hour.

Shawl in close-upThe other thing I was doing was knitting furiously. By which of course I mean “as fast and hard as I could”. I wasn’t cross at all, quite the contrary. I wanted to finish a couple of projects to tidy up my knitting pile. As any knitters out there know, they do build up a bit. So this weekend I finished a present for a friend, and moved onto the end game for the Danish wool scarf. I will post a picture when that is completed too because the wool is Gorgeous with a capital G.

That only leaves me with the Norwegian Rose sweater which is the practice sweater prior to knitting The Killing pattern. That has been two years waiting so it will now be prioritised rather than all the other knitting for friends and relations. Finally.

Now I’m off to help the Local Offspring with packing stuff into boxes to move into the new flat.  I hope you are happy and busy and bright (or calm and content and quiet if that is your preference). What I mean is – love to you all!

Namaste.

 

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How long we live, how long we take to die

One of my hobbies is researching my family tree. I’ve been at it since I first saw some old sepia photos of forebears when I was a teenager and my Dad was looking for something in a cluttered bureau. For once he was willing to talk about his family history and I scribbled names on the back with a pencil in my flowery teen-girl handwriting.

My family came alive to me. The great-uncles who died in the Somme suddenly became faces of real (albeit antique) people, gazing solemnly into a camera. My own grandmother, wrinkled, toothless, crippled by arthritis, was a beautiful young woman in a lacy Victorian blouse. Her fiancée looked like a film star. My very serious uncle was a tiny baby kicking his feet as he lay on a rug. My Dad’s sister who died when she was seven, and whom my grandmother occasionally mistook me for, stood clutching a teenaged Great Aunt Lettie’s knee and looked like just like me.

Lettie with Alf and Winnie Tricker

In this way my family still lives on. I never really knew them. They are my inherited ghosts. But from then Armistice Day did have meaning.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them

So life goes on, and we all carry our ghosts with us, some more than others, some gladly, some sadly. Yet still they matter.

My dad died very suddenly on 26 September 1992. This week was the 21st anniversary of his death and my mother missed it more utterly than ever before. Even last year she was vaguely aware of it, and I was able to remind her so we had a few moments together remembering that kind and gentle man before her melted brain turned back to the weather as a topic of conversation. Dementia robs the person and their family of memories, including memories of those no longer with us.  In this way it exterminates the sufferer and their family line. There is a Maori concept of whakapapa which relates to the identity of a person as part of a cultural heritage, and I feel that remembering our predecessors is important to us in a similar way.

I remember my Dad. I have stories about him, some buried in this very blog, which I tell my children. He died the weekend I went home to visit and tell him about his latest grandchild, due to be born the following Spring, He was so happy with the news, but still he died a few hours later, after he got home from work and before my mother and I got back from a concert. It was unexpected.

Twenty one years is a long time. The grandchild is now at university. His wife is fading slowly and excruciatingly.  His only daughter is still misses him on a daily basis. It feels like he is in the next room, or about to phone. We were very close, and in a sense still are. He has been dying for twenty one years, in a sense, and will not completely pass away until I, and possibly the children, can no longer remember him.

What will become of more modern generations? How long will my blog be archived after I am no longer around updating it? I’ll be a wispy little ghost in the machineries of the Web. Every now and then my shade will whisper to you…

“Namaste.”

B4Peace: Music and the brain

Each month I try to contribute to the Bloggers for Peace topic, and this month we are asked to think about music.

Let me start with the death of a brain.

My mother has dementia. I have mentioned this before so some of you will be nodding along at this point, thinking, “Oh yes, that’s right, EBL’s mother is the one with dementia” and so on.

To be fair she is not as far gone yet as she will be, but further along than anyone would really like. This means she knows roughly where she is, who we are (although on her bad days it takes a moment or two), and how to do some knitting. She likes to look at the pictures in the newspaper and read out the headlines to whoever is there. She likes to read books, although several at a time because she can’t really follow the story and forgets which book she was reading last. She likes to have the TV on so there is light and movement in the room, and to have the light on the electric fire on, so it looks like coals are burning in a friendly, comforting way, even in the heat wave we have just had.

The other thing she likes to do I have also mentioned before; she likes to sing. She sings to herself throughout the day, usually “Que sera, sera” over and over. It was a favourite song of hers when I was little. When she is singing it I know she is feeling OK.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, I am led to understand, that a dementia sufferer who becomes distressed can be calmed and soothed by music. There is a growing body of research to indicate that music therapy may be helpful in overcoming the loss of language production and comprehension in advancing dementia. Google it – there are lots of studies out there.

According to one researcher:

‘We know that the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that you are musically receptive long before anything else. So it’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.’

Music is with us throughout our lives and plays an important role in maintaining our mental health and well-being. It can reach the lizard brain, by-passing the logical bits that get in the way of feeling and experiencing the world. We hear a tune and we are absorbed, sometimes in a memory, sometimes in the joy of the moment.

The other week I watched the BBC Prom with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony as well as his Coriolan Overture.

I like a bit of Prom on a Friday evening to finish off the week and settle down for the weekend.  I like Beethoven, in part because I grew up listening to a lot of it. My father loved Beethoven and played him frequently. I could identify the Symphonies before I knew who the Beatles were. I liked Beethoven because he was deaf but still wrote incredible symphonies.

My dad would have loved the modern world. He was a geek of the first water. He would have loved computers and digital TV and streaming radio and downloadable music and digital cameras and Netflix and Skype. He would have loved the Proms on BBC4 on Friday evening. We would have sat and watched them together in some kind of cosy family cocoon. We always watched Last Night of the Proms; it was the only time I was allowed to stay up late when I was little, and we both conducted furiously to the Sea Shanties and Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory. It was better than Eurovision.

So as I sat and watched the Prom the other week I felt a great sadness because there was Beethoven’s music and I wanted to turn to dad and ask what he thought of this conductor, Runnicles. Dad was a big fan of von Karajan until he discovered Barenboim; he was always open to new versions.

I felt such a sense of loss as I realised I couldn’t have that conversation, yet the music made my dad feel so close to me, twenty years after he died. I suspect he may have retained his allegiance to Barenboim, but he would have enjoyed the performance nonetheless, especially the Coriolan Overture.

Thinking about dad brought home to me why music is such a comfort for my mother. That effect of reaching into your heart and soul means it is connecting to pretty much the only thing left when dementia has taken away the superficial veneer of speech and rationality. In this way it brings her peace.

May music bring peace to you and those you love, wherever they find themselves.

Other blogs on music and peace include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/08/01/monthly-peace-challenge-one-good-thing-about-music/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/

http://mylittlespacebook.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/a-joyful-noise/

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/august-b4peace-i-dedicate-to-my-dad/

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/2013/08/03/august-post-for-peace/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Namaste.

Anniversaries

So it’s Hiroshima memorial day today and one of the Offsprings’ birthdays. We have never linked the two but you might excuse me if I do not treat the day with perhaps its full reverence, being as I want to celebrate the birth of one of my children.

That’s the way it is, isn’t it? The phenomenon described by WH Auden in his poem:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

We live very egocentric lives. When we mourn we want the world to stop and mourn with us. When we rejoice, we don’t have time for others’ sorrow. Every day people suffer grief and joy. Similarly we celebrate the anniversaries that mean something to us and forget the rest; yet still we expect the world to remember with us.

If we want to bring about peace in the world we have to acknowledge those other memories, the ones we don’t even know about. Those are the memories and feelings which affect how people respond to us, and often we don’t even know what they are. Often we cannot ever know what they are, perhaps the person we are interacting with doesn’t consciously know either.

With all this baggage all we can do is accept it exists, in some kind of other dimension, and try to let it go. We can only ask others to try the same.

This month Kozo asks us to think about Music and Peace as the monthly Bloggers for Peace topic. Music is a major trigger for memory, so it’s a powerful force in our lives. This post is not about music but it feels to me like there is a connection there somewhere. Don’t hold your breath – I may return to this in due course.

Meanwhile, try and let your baggage go, and have a lovely, peaceful and burden-free day.

Namaste.

 

Celebrations

I’m sorry to say I missed wishing you all a Happy Yorkshire Day yesterday!

Buy your bunting!

Buy your bunting!

Be assured the flag was hanging in the window at EBL Towers, and Yorkshire Tea Loaf (made with Yorkshire tea) occurred, if a little unsuccessfully due to a) a delay in acquiring all the ingredients, and b) the non-stick loaf tin failing to live up to its primary advertised operational parameter, namely being non-stick.

So the tea loaf fell apart but tasted very good and we ate it today while we played games.

We had intended to go and walk the Hole of Horcum, but it was too hot and some of us had slept badly and didn’t feel like a 7 mile “intermediate” hike in hot and humid weather with rain predicted to arrive just in time for the final scramble up from the bottom of the gorge to the top. Somehow, playing some games in the comfort of the kitchen was preferable; eating cake at the same time was merely an added bonus.

The Hole of Horcum, North Yorkshire Moors

The Hole of Horcum, North Yorkshire Moors

We did not on this occasion celebrate more lustily with the Yorkshire Anthem. However, I am reliably informed by the BBC that there is a new version out this year for the musical cognoscenti among you.

So, now it’s August and the nights draw in. Time to go out for bat walks in the greying evenings, and to finish the Pimms for another year. The horse chestnuts are losing some early, unripened fruits, early heralds of the new school term and conker fights in the playground. Celebrations of the turning of the Wheel, everywhere.

Namaste

 

Whitby Abbey

My dears, I have a few days holiday and I intend to spend them with Sigoth and as many of the Offspringses as possible. We are aiming for a confluence of bodies over the coming weekend, and until then I must manage with only one fully vacationing child for the first half of the week. The rest turn up Wednesday and Thursday. Treats will be perpetrated. Weather permitting there may even be excursions. Certainly there will be games and films and talk and wine.

Whitby AbbeyNaturally Sigoth and I were keen to get some practice in regarding excursions, so we took the early-vacationing Offspring to Whitby Abbey on Monday. We do like our ruins, and there are so many around this area it can be hard to know where to start. Funnily enough we have never started with Whitby, or even ended with it, until now.

Inside Whitby AbbeyThe Abbey itself is not the original of course, the one founded by King Oswiu and presided over by the Abbess Hild from 657 AD, and the location of the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD to decide whether the English church would calculate Easter by the Irish or Roman method. Nor was it even the Benedictine one from the 1190s. No, this is the modern makeover one from the 13th century, standing proud on the headland looking over the sea cliffs and being embarrassed by a richness of fresh air, most of which is travelling with considerable speed and vigour.

Whitby Gargoyles

Back at the Abbey we wandered around the museum, pulling faces at the gargoyles on display, before having a cup of tea then heading off to town to find some fish and chips for lunch. There are steps to be climbed down in order to achieve this; you walk from the Abbey through the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin and arrive at the top of a long and winding stair. 199 of them to be precise.

Top of Whitby StairsThere are seats and waiting spaces at various intervals in case the climbers need a rest. In fact on our way back up there was an ambulance at the bottom dealing with someone who had been talken poorly.

The other big thing about Whitby Abbey is the connection with vampires. Bram Stoker had Dracula come ashore at Whitby and in recent years the town has become a centre of Goth attention as a result. There is a Goth festival every Halloween, and it remains popular with the alternative community throughout the year. The tourist shops sell either traditional Whitby jet jewellery or else Goth fashions. Both are black and ornate, so there’s a natural fit.

Changeable beach weatherIt was a blazing hot day on Monday though, with nary a Goth in sight, so we ate our fish and chips inside then waddled down to the beach before the rain set in. Being England, this was the inevitable consequence of a hot and sunny morning which tricked holiday makers into going down to the sand with no more protection than a knotted hanky on their head and a deckchair under their arms. English weather has a sense of humour.

Seagulls

Dark clouds began to gather.

The seagulls hesitated then took to the skies with screams.

Suspicious shipIt was unclear whether they were perturbed by the change in air pressure or the arrival of a suspicious ship from Transylvania.

We went home and found the sun was still shining. It had rained while we were away, so we enjoyed the best of the weather all day. Sometimes things work out that way.

Namaste.