Tuesday, 8 August 2017
None of the family were well off when we were growing up, mostly council estate tenants. Uncle Jack would come and pick us all up from Newcastle and take us the 30 miles to the farm in Broomhill which seemed like a huge journey to little me back then. As me and my sisters got older and he couldn't fit five of us into the car, Dad would go on the bus, although I remember getting the bus with me Mam at some point too, but that might have been for other reasons.
Aunty Esther was the strongest woman I knew. Not in the way she was built or even physically strong, she was quite petite, she just had this inner strength and air of competence and just got on with stuff. Life on the farm must have been hard at times though. Uncle Jack would be up at the crack of dawn to let the cows out into the fields, and retired to bed at the same time as us kids. One of Aunty Esther's jobs was to clean the milk churns and the milking equipment. I see her now in the shed with her rubber gloves on elbow deep in the huge stainless steel sinks, the smell of milk hanging in the air. The big tankers would come and collect the milk from the tanks on the other side of the shed. They were quite idyllic times and there are lots of family photos from back then.
As well as the farm work, Aunty Esther was very much a home maker. She always put on a huge spread at tea time for us all, buffet style. I remember watching her baking in the kitchen, and the way she hummed along to the radio whilst she was busy. Plates of scones, and rock buns, salad and ham.
Most folks of a certain age know where they were when England won the World Cup back in 1966, and depite being five, and not really into football, I know too. We were in Aunty Esther & Uncle Jack's front room, all sat around watching their telly. I only have flitting memories of it though but assume there would have been lots of jubilation at the end.
There was an upright piano in the room, and like my sisters, if I woke early on a Sunday morning, I would sneak downstairs, carefully open the lid, and try to depress the ivory keys quietly. I never managed it, and I would quickly be followed by one of my parents coming down and shushing me. It drew all of us kids I think with a kind of magical fascination. Aunty Esther was the pianist, I don't know when she learned to play, whether it was growing up or after she left home, but she was good. I have memories of her playing some classical piece. I guess it was probably my Uncle Jack who taught us how to play chopsticks though, that's the memory I have.
I don't have many memories of my cousins being around. I think John, the eldest had already left home, and Linda, was a typical teenager, off out enjoying herself. If Sylvia were still here, she would have more memories of my cousins than I do. Mick, the youngest I remember hung around the farm a bit, he seemed quiet and we didn't really interact.
I loved the front garden, which always seemed to be full of pansies when we were there. It was the first time I had seen pansies, and my memory is that they filled a bed at the corner of the garden, and a bed down in front of the living room window.
It was in the garden that I met Minty, the golden labrador who lived up at the big farm house. I used sit in the garden with my arms around his neck telling him my secrets. Not that I had many, more my angst and worries.
I remember games of hide and seek with my sisters and some of the kids who lived on the farm, Sandra and her brother David. My two favourite places to hide were either behind the huge milk barrell, my eyes peeking over the top of its cream topped rim, or in the hay loft where the sun worked its way through the slats of the roof casting intrusive rays into the dry half light. Those of us who were a little more adventurous hid behind the farm and up the track into the ruins of a small tower, whose original purpose may have been a war time lookout, but to our young imaginations it was the turret of a castle long lost to the midst of time.
When we'd had enough of playing outside, or if we'd fallen out with each other, one or all of us would make our way back into the house and the front room where the grown ups would be sitting having a chat. It was very much a case of sit there and be quiet if we stayed there, and I remember Aunty Esther's friend from down the road, who would come and read her and Mam's tea leaves whilst catching up local gossip.
I think I was quite a mardy child looking back. I know I was quiet and lost in my own little world most of the time, frightened to say boo to a goose, although me and Sandra did become friends and wrote to each other for a wee while once I moved back home. There were lots of family photos taken up at the farm. I must get copies from Eileen next time I'm back uphome. Most of the family photos I have my tongue stuck out, so I was probably a little horror really. I remember whoever was taking the photo would implore me not to stick my tongue out, and I really never intended to, until right just before the shutter clicked, when the temptation became just too much for me, and the evidence is there in the photos for all to see. What a horror!!
During one of the last trips that we made to the farm, I must have been in a teenage mood and everyone else had gone out, so was by myself. There was a knock at the door and there stood some deshevelled hippy looking couple. They were campaigners for nuclear disarmament and they left me with some of those bright yellow 'nuclear power, no thanks' stickers, and an information leaflet. It was a complete revelation to me and the first time I remember engaging with anything at all political. I came home and joined Friends of the Earth and read as much as I could get my hands on about green politics.
That's my memories of the farm. The last time we visited Aunty Esther and Uncle Jack was after Sylvia was diagnosed and we went with her to visit all the family. There's a lovely picture of the females of the family all sat together outside the bungalow, my aunty and uncle's farming days having been left far behind. The last time I saw Aunty Esther was back in December last year at the unexpected funeral of our cousin Linda. As we waited in the little room before the funeral, I was looking for Aunty Esther and Uncle Jack and at first didn't see them. I didn't recognise the frail, bird-like woman who was sat in a wheelchair, and it was only recognising Uncle Jack stood behind the chair that I realised who it was. There's more about that in the post before this one. It's sad and distressing the way dementia devastates families and I'm know it would have been difficult and heartbreaking for my uncle and cousins during Aunty Esther's last few months and days. I know it's easier for me to remember the better times as they are my memories, and that's the way I will remember her. With gratitude for the holidays she gave us, the way she made us welcome in her home, in lovely surroudings, her time and hospitality and the love that she showed us.
Sunday, 18 December 2016
Monday I spent back up in the North East with the Queen's Terrace Girls (how soon before that becomes shortened to The Queens?). Linda, Toni, Kathy and I all shared a house in Jesmond, Newcastle back in the early 80's and have kept in touch and been firm friends ever since. Indeed they are my oldest standing friends over 30 years later.
Lately our trips up to Newcastle have been condensed into a single day, not even staying over night so there has been little time to catch up with friends, only family. I had to make a concious decision to put aside a day just for my friends and we scheduled it in for December and a little Christmas celebration. As most of the girls live out in Northumberland, Morpeth was chosen as the place to meet. It was lovely to catch up again, and also to see Sue, one of our other friends who has been around through the intervening years although never actually lived with us. We shared some prosecco and had a lovely meal at the Electrical Wizard, shared our joys and woes, with a sad departure of a husband having walked out for one of the girls, and the joyous news of an impending wedding in around six months for one of the other girls. See, good and bad in tandem. Always.
Afterwards we managed to have a quick tea at a local Italian restaurant with my sister Eileen and her boyfriend Richie. Too quick although I know I will see them later in the week when we will have more time together.
Tuesday I spent haring around the house cleaning everything that didn't move, although I think the cats may have had a spray of furniture polish and an accidental encounter with the hoover along the way. I had set aside two days to sort out things for some lovely friends who were staying over later in the week, but as we shall see, unforseen events took over and I was left with making the most of one day and getting as much as possible done as I could. I also had a slimming world weigh in, and after my indulgences of yesterday thought I would have blown it, but I guess the exertion of the housework worked in my favour and I lost two and a half pounds, bringing me to my lightest weight for some years. Hurrah.
Sadly Wednesday saw me undertake numerous trains (6), cars (2), metro (1) and taxi (1) journeys to travel to and from Northumberland again for the funeral of my cousin Linda who has unexpectedly passed away. She had been in hospital the fortnight before with COPD, discharged as she was getting better then re-admitted last week as she took a turn for the worse. Deaths of loved ones are never easy, and sudden, unexpected passings leave you particularly unprepared for the impact they inevitably make.
The service was beautiful and conducted by a humanist who outlined much of Linda's life and the people and things that she loved and held dear. Such a sad day.
It was a long day, and we didn't stay for the wake, which I now chastise myself for, we don't get to see our wider family very often and really should have stayed longer. A trip up in the New Year will definitely be on the cards.
Thursday was up bright and early to finish some last minute chores, make the beds for the guests and a quick visit to the supermarket. Then it was off on the train again but this time to Nottingham to meet up with my friend Kim who had flown over from California to catch Frank Turner's 2000th show in Nottingham. We met at the train station, then headed to the bus station to put her luggage into a locker and to meet with Amy. We wandered up to the Old Jerusalem Inn for a spot of lunch before meeting up with Simon and Richard our friends from Wales. After a bit of sightseeing we wandered down to Turtles, a Caribbean eatery where we met up with Lauren and Steve, which almost completed our little band of merry people. Simon had been working all day so met up with us just before going into the gig, so we were all there, our little circle of friends complete,
The show was great, crowd was in good form and Frank sang his heart out and gave it 150%. I'd not done any of the dates on the current tour as I had gotten a little Franked out over the past few years, but I enjoyed this one immensely, up on the balcony looking down at the frenzy of the audience beneath. It was a good show, although I was a little disappointed to learn that he hadn't much varied either the set or the adlibs between songs from the whole tour. I know its a strenuous life-style touring, and must be extremely tiring but would have liked to have seen something a wee bit different for what had been built up as a very special event. Not so much for myself more for those who had taken in a gig or two of the tour. Still, I've never done the job so I guess I shouldn't criticise.
Friday Simon, Richard, Kim and myself headed to Bakewell for a meet up with Rue and his adorable son Elijah, before Simon and Richard headed back off to Wales. We had a wander around, and a lovely lunch in the famous Bakewell Pudding Shop, one of my regular haunts when in Bakewell. After leaving the lads, me and Kim headed off to Chatsworth for a tour of the house and gardens, which was lovely. Every Christmas the house has a theme and this year it was the Nutcracker Suite so the rooms of the tour were decorated with toy soldiers and ballerina paraphenalia, multiple christmas trees adorned with sweets, some a little on the tacky side, some very well executed, and also a real life ballet dancer performing her piece on one of the great stairways.
Its always lovely to catch up with my music friends, we never have enough time, especially when some of them live so very far away. I'm pleased to have been able to see so many friends and family this week, albeit in very differing circumstances. Relationships are the most precious things we have, especially when we don't get to see some of our friends and family on a day to day or even weekly basis and I don't want to take any of them for granted. After a very lazy morning on Saturday I drove Kim to the train station for her onward journey to London before her flight home to Santa Cruz on Sunday.
Sunday has been a slow starting day after the busy-ness of the week. With the house suddenly empty again, and feeling a little bereft my thoughts turn towards my family once again. It's the 5th anniversary of another traumatic week up in the North East which saw the end of Sylvia's illness and her passing out of this life. I miss her more as the years go by and still catch myself almost reaching for the phone to call her up for a chat every now and again before reality kicks in and the sense of loss that inevitably brings with it. She was the best of sisters, and today is a time for reflection and remembering and thankfullness for being able to share a lovely person for the years that we had.
Saturday, 12 November 2016
Today we said goodbye to my Uncle Jimmy. He was the youngest of my Mam's siblings a funny guy who lived his life completely on his own terms, uncompromisingly, unapologetically and lived it to the full.
Family funerals are always very emotional. For the goodbye to the deceased and for the time we have catching up with relatives we haven't seen in way too long. A reminder that time marches on regardless of our circumstances and a reminder to hold your loved ones close.
Sleep well Uncle Jimmy.
Saturday, 29 October 2016
It speaks to me of the need to connect with our fellow humans. We have a social media structure that can give us the means to interact on a daily basis, but oh how it falls so far of the mark of physically connecting with one another.
I don’t like the way
My feelings are falling
Everyone’s a robot these days
I know what you’ll say
The black pot is calling
At least I’m tryin to free my hazy head
It’s tearing up my soul
And wearing out my heart
I’m trying to get home
Cos don’t you know
This is nowhere
A social disease
And everyone’s got it
Help me find the cure now won’t ye
I’m down on my knees
I think that I’ve caught it
So much to endure now don’t ye
It’s tearing up my soul
And wearing out my heart
I’m trying to get home
Cos don’t you know
This is nowhere
I’ve been waiting for you brother but you don’t come round
So I’m going undercover to the underground
Who are you
Where are you
Aren’t you lonely
It’s tearing up my soul
And wearing out my heart
I’m trying to get home
Cos don’t you know
This is nowhere
Malojian - 2016
Sunday, 24 July 2016
Friday, 22 July 2016
So we've somehow managed to get to Thursday in our holiday already. The week is flying by.
Today we decided to take things easy and mostly chill around the cottage. My phone is warning me it's almost out of storage space so Simon downloaded my photos to his laptop and cleared my phone of the unnecessary apps and other bits and pieces that were slowing it down. I did a bit more embroidery.
We decided to venture out mid afternoon to go look at Jervaulx Abbey which is just this side of Masham so about a 15 min drive away. We've passed it every day whilst out and about so had it on our list of places to visit.
As you enter the grounds from the roadside, and walk over the grass to the ruins the small part of the Abbey you can see from the wrought iron gate barely prepares for what is to follow. The site is way larger than first impressions show and is a meandering wander through ruinous rooms carpeted with grass and walls adorned with wild flowers. It truly is a magical place and so romantic. The perfect place for an outdoor summer wedding.
That the Abbey is privately owned and not administered by a heritage organisation is apparent by the arbitrary use of crumbled wall and pillar sections stacked upon each other to make the boundary wall of the site. It's as sacrilegious as it is enchanting. As a civil engineer Simon was appalled that some of the remaining great walls of the Abbey are supported with very little in the way of weight bearing stones with very thin sections supporting gigantic pieces of wall above. The site is free to visit and open from dawn til dusk. The literature about the Abbey says that it's the proceeds from the provision of an honesty box that is the only source of funding for the upkeep of the Abbey which is much in keeping with the promoted air of romance, although I did read somewhere that grants from English Heritage have been forthcoming in the past.
A true spectacle in the Yorkshire countryside, this corner of the county has produced daily delights which had made our holiday truly magical and a perfect foil to the distressing events reported around the world on a daily basis at the moment. Next week I will be back to reality with my job at the hospital and unprecedented political debacles abounding but for now it's good to unwind, relax and partake in some much needed recharging of the human batteries.
After our lovely walk through the Abbey we visited the tea shop adjacent. I had the most wonderful piece of sticky toffee cake. I'd have bought multiple slices to bring back with me except I don't want to blow my weight loss efforts completely this holiday. Washed down with organic Dandelion and Burdock whilst discussing with Simon alternative ideas for the distribution of land and hereditary laws, which was quite amusing.
On the way back we stopped off at Holy Trinity, Coverham another little ancient church we'd passed daily. It's set back from the road amongst a cluster of trees, it's approach by foot hidden until you almost touch the stonework. Norman built with its square tower it has some amazing stained glass windows but the surprise and piece de resistance for me was the pristine tiled sections behind the altar and under one stained glass window. The tiles looked as new as anything yet the border declared they were installed in 1878. Stunningly beautiful and well worth the visit alone.
On leaving the church and wandering around the graveyard I noticed that my necklace had come undone and the small hand made heart pendant had fallen off. I was upset as it was a present from Simon on my last birthday. It took some doing but we eventually found it nestling amongst the grass. I was so relieved. The silver chain had snapped close to the clasp so I'll need to replace that when I get home.
I spent a lot of time in the conservatory this evening just watching the rabbits playing in the field their little white tails bobbing up and down. The swallows and swifts swooping and gliding outside the window are enchanting. I will be sad to go home on Saturday. I'd love to see these views in the different seasons so hopefully we can book a long weekend in the autumn. Despite getting out and about every day it has been the most relaxing holiday ever with so much to do just a short distance away. We will leave having a list of things we didn't get to do but that's ok because we will be definitely be back.
Today's soundtrack was Pauline's shuffle including Future Kings of Spain, TV Smith, The La's and Jason Isbell.
Thursday, 21 July 2016
We've had a brilliant week so far but today was the day I had really been waiting for. Forecast for light rain we packed our Kagools and suncream and set off in a southerly direction on the hour's drive to York.
We used the park and ride and got the bus to the station then wandered down to the National Railway Museum. The museum is a great resource housing some amazing trains and carriages. The Mallard, an engine and carriage of a Japanese Bullet train, old Royal Mail train and a Euro Star carriage amongst them. There's loads of memorabilia too, signage, furniture, stained glass panels and even a decorative cast iron toilet screen. We enjoyed wandering around although it was very hot and we only lasted about an hour before heading into York for some light refreshments.
We had a leisurely lunch at a small cafe called Burr which I'd highly recommend. The falafel wraps were lovely and they have an extensive home made cake section which Simon partook of.
We did a bit of browsing and some clothes trying on but that didn't last too long as it was way too hot for those sort of shenanigans so we found a pub and indulged in more liquid refreshments. It had greyed over and looked like rain and the covered courtyard of the Old White Swan was a perfect choice.
On one of my solo visits to York a few years back I'd done the Snickelway trail which follows around 3 miles of ginnels and alleyways throughout the town. Some of them had revealed hidden gems and the pub was right next to one which housed a 12th Century church that I had happened upon on that visit. Holy Trinity on Goodramgate is one of 45 mediaeval churches in the parish of York and has rare stained glass windows the oldest dating back to 1470. It's the closest you will get to a post-reformation church. Since my last visit there has been the addition of a huge bell situated outside the main entrance with the words 'Ring for peace' carved into its wooden frame. I must investigate how and why it's there.
We had another wander heading towards the Minister and found the entrance to the gardens of the Treasurer's House which are open to the public and truly are an oasis of peace and quiet. We sat there for a while soaking up the sun, the threatened rain showers having failed to materialise. We then headed off through the shambles in search of a needlework shop for some black embroidery thread as a finishing touch to the cacti designs. However that little quest was fruitless so we made our way to The Hole in the Wall pub for, yes, more liquid refreshment and an early tea. Its become my traditional evening meal pub whilst visiting York, and the food is good so was keen to take Simon.
We got back to the cottage around 7.30 so had a full day out with my York cravings satisfied until the next time.
Today's soundtrack was mainly alcoholic ramblings with a few ouches thrown in here and there.
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Was up fairly early so finished the first of the cross stitch cacti. Didn't feel so good with a poorly tummy so we got off to a slow start and left for a planned trip to Richmond about 1pm when I started to feel better. We parked alongside the river which looked so welcoming on what turns out to be the hottest day of the year thus far.
We walked up the steep winding road to the castle passing lovely cottages. The castle was built just after the battle of Hastings by Alan of Brittany, a relative of William the Conqueror to strengthen the Norman hold on the north of England. Overlooking both the river and the town it afforded some cracking views of the surrounding area. I particularly loved the garden and it was easy to imagine courtiers relaxing there on a similarly sunny day in years past. The garden is still well maintained although full of flowers and the area which would once have grown vegetables to feed the residents of the castle and herbs for medicinal purposes is now a very neatly manicured lawn.
Afterwards we wandered into the town for a late lunch and settled on the Red House Hotel. I had a gorgeous halloumi in beer batter sandwich with roast vegetables, fries and coleslaw. I'm not too keen on the current trend to serve things in brioche buns which are too crunchy and not easy to eat. I'd have preferred a soft bap but other than that it was lovely and washed down well with a Golden Sheep bitter shandy
When we got back to the cottage we drove past to see what was further up the hill. The village is literally two streets at right angles to each other. Beyond that is glorious Yorkshire moorland full of sheep and nesting birds and we could see a lot of the route we'd travelled earlier in the day.
We turned round to come back to the cottage which is when I noticed the red telephone box we'd passed on the way up. The other side had a sign saying 'Book Swap'. I was very excited as I've seen these things posted on Facebook but never encountered one in real life before so once we parked up I picked up my phone and camera and wandered up there to take some pictures.
It was a delightful surprise and the perfect way to finish the day out.
We watched The Intern after tea with Ann Hathaway and Robert De Niro Alot of De Niro's recent films are about the challenges facing older people post-career and family raising and decry a bygone age of chivalry and snappy dressing. The Intern touches on those as well as the role the more mature person has to play in a society so geared up to youthfulness. A lovely gentle watch.
Today's soundtrack was the Pauline ipod shuffle which included Skinny Lister, Jason Isbell, John Fulbright and Don Henley.