Swiss Sunday

It’s very early Sunday morning here in Yorkshire. I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming big.

This week I was going through some old boxes that I had stored away when I cleaned mums house out. Looking for some old papers but I quickly got sidetracked. I found an old postcard. Wow, remember them….. It was one I had sent to my mum from my first trip to Switzerland. Many years ago. Pre parenting times. If I remember right it was sent on the first afternoon of the holiday. I used to write quite big as my handwriting is pretty poor. Not ideal with a small postcard. I struggled to fit mums address in the right half of the card. The first few words read of the message read.

“Hi Mum. Here safe. Switzerland is EPIC. I have never seen a land this beautiful, this magical, this perfect.”

Those words say it all. Switzerland is that good.

Heather

A small family trip to the moors. A carpet of pink.

I’ve always considered my family pretty close knit. No conflicts. No splits. Yes we got geographically spread but we still kept in regular contact. Regular visits.

Then three things happened .

Mum left us…..It wasn’t until she was not there anymore that I noticed that she was the gravitational force that held us together. We would frequently meet up at her house. We would have family get togethers but these usually happened because of mum. We would make the effort because of mum. Now that force of attraction has gone, the family meet ups are becoming less frequent and fewer turn up when they do happen.

Lockdown……The less frequent meet ups STOPPED for over 18 months. One sister who I would see really frequently has ended up not seeing Hawklad in over 2 years now…. Brother its 3 years now.

Time……As time passes we develop our own worlds. New families.

So we had a small meet up today and it felt strange. We should have had plenty to talk about, lots of catching up to do. It never happened. Even though we were physically close there still seemed to be a distance. Even Hawklad felt it. He pulled his hoody fully up – that’s a sign that he wasn’t comfortable. That never used to be the case.

When will the next meet up be, who knows. Zero sign of getting all the brothers and sisters together. The last time that happened was my partners funeral. The slow drifting apart of my family is sad but it feels kinda inevitable.

5 years

As I’m writing this, it is almost 5 years to the minute that I last spoke to my mum. She was in hospital and planning to go home. Ok the doctors weren’t planning on her going home for another week or so, but mum was stubborn. A battle of wills was brewing. I can’t remember what we talked about that evening. How often is that the case. I can remember being given a shopping list to fill her home refrigerator – remember she was going home.

We didn’t see the overnight relapse coming.

Yes I really miss her. My sibling do as well. She was the gravity that held us together.

But I’m not sad. Not today. She would have used a Yorkshire cricket expression – ‘had a long innings‘. She did. Lots of great memories. Lots of smiles. That’s what I see now. And today lots of ‘tea and biscuits’. That’s exactly what you got every time you went to see mum. Within seconds you found a biscuit in your hand, as if by magic. Even if you were on a diet that biscuit founds it’s way into your hand. Followed by a reassuring ‘that diet can start tomorrow, how about a piece of apple pie…”

What went wrong

While I was rummaging around the loft I came across a box from mums old house. Inside I found all sorts of things. Decades old bus timetables, shopping lists, out of date vouchers, instructions from long lost video recorders, random keys and coins from long defunct foreign currencies. My mum had a philosophy – you never know when you might need this. Actually the answer was invariably – NEVER.

But as I still have the box I must clearly have signed up to mums philosophy. But I did find and one of my old school reports. All pretty boring apart from the Home Economics page. I quote

He shows some talent in cooking. He has mastered a number of baking recipes. He has produced some very good bread loafs and cakes.”

Wow. What went wrong……

Smile generator

This little beauty came from my mums house. Many years ago. She had been given it as a present. Kept it for a few months, just long enough for it to be seen by the present giver, then it was packed up and ready to be shipped off. Mum had a habit of doing that. Presents would get aired just long enough then put away never to be seen again. When she left us and we ended up clearing the house it was like an Aladdins Cave. Me and my sisters playing a game of spotting which of our presents never got used.

Anyway this little plant was shipped off early to my garden. After all those years it is now not such a little plant anymore. But it’s still going strong. A wonderful reminder of different times. A smile generator. And we always need those.

Easy

Not quite snow drifts yet. Maybe not this time.

I keep thinking back to a childhood memory. The family house had no central heating and just two fires. A fake burning log pile electric fire in the back room and an old cold fire in the living room. I can remember having to help dig a path through the piled up snow to the outside coal bunker. That woke you up in the morning. It also focused the mind. No coal. No fire. No heat in the house as the electric fire used up the coins set aside for the electric meter far too fast.

Looking back I am so in awe of my parents. How on earth did they cope with 5 kids without the help of things we so take for granted now. They didn’t even have a fridge for so many years. They either grew they own food or bought it from the local small estate shops. No supermarkets to fall back on. Both had to work as well. Work hard. No overseas holidays to recharge for them. A holiday for them was catching the train to local seaside tourist towns. Whitby and Scarborough. No overnight stats as well. Jump on the train. Potter about for a couple of hours then grab fish and chips for the train journey back home. That’s one of my other vivid childhood memories. The family jumping back onto the train with our fish supper wrapped up in newspapers. As the train set off we started passing round the bottle of tomato ketchup. Proper ketchup, the stuff you had to shake vigorously before unscrewing the bottle top and copiously spreading a think layer of the red stuff over the chips. Unfortunately someone had forgotten to screw the bottle top back on. My dad started to vigorously shake the ketchup bottle just as the Ticket Collector appeared. The top flew off and dad sprayed the carriage – very very red. I still can’t work out who was more angry. Dad or the Collector. It was definitely a frosty trip home.

Seems like a different world now. As hard as I think my parenting life is these days, it pales compared to those times a few decades back. I so need to remember that the next time I start to complain about how hard my life is. Nothing compared to what my parents had to survive.

It’s a relatively easy life now.

L

Tired

Back to dark, moody weather. Apparently it’s warmer that’s why I’m wearing a wooly hat, gloves and 38 layers….

You know your tired when you function without using your brain. You make a drink with the coffee machine but forget to put a cup in the holder. You drop a full toilet roll into the bowl. You put your shirt on inside out and back to front. You give the cat dog food and the dog gets cat food. The washing machine programme settings are several pay grades above your abilities. And you microwave a tub of mint chocolate ice cream rather than a frozen cottage pie.

Yep getting a few of those days recently.

And then I just have to raise the brain fail stakes….

Cutting hair while tired. Starting to trim without putting the No2 guard on. In fact NO guard. End result a rather fashionable shaved area. On the plus side it’s a national lockdown so no-one outside the house is going to see it for weeks. Plenty of time to grow back. And as my parents would say ‘a rider on a passing horse won’t notice..’. They would also say ‘only 2 days between a bad hair cut and a you need to comb your hair cut’ – in this case make that a few weeks…..

Fair Warning

I do like a good slice of cake. Like it just a little too much. Especially Christmas Cake. That’s with icing, that’s with marzipan, that’s with a slab of cheese, that’s au naturale. My family knows this. Every Christmas my mum would bake me a cake, my sister would do the same. Both most definitely knew how to bake a top cake. So every December I was well fed. Too well fed. That’s why this Thor like muscle structure hides under a Homer Simpson baggy exterior.

But times move on. Mum has now left us. But my sister still comes up with the goods every year. And then 2020 hit. Due to covid restrictions and Hawklads anxieties I’m not meeting up with my sister this December. So no chance of a cake handover.

I’m cakeless…

That means one thing. One scary thing. I either buy one or I BAKE ONE. The bought ones are never as good as my family ones. So……

It’s baking time. I don’t have a good track record on the baking front. But there is always hope. Always a first time. So you have been warned. Things could get interesting here. You had better not stray too far from your panic room.

Fair warning.

Good for something

Where’s our biscuits….

If I have biscuits in my pocket then I am one of the worlds great sheep dogs. See I’m good for something.

Dad how would you factorise this equation.”

Within seconds I showed Hawklad how to do it. And the next 10 questions. Dad enjoying his chance to shine.

DAD…. I got. No we got. No YOU got all 10 questions wrong. I thought you were ace with numbers. You are an Accountant…”

Opps…..

That moment to shine didn’t last long. After a few moments I figured out the error of my ways. But the damage was done.

Dad hopefully the 50% of your DNA that I’ve been blessed with is focused on important stuff like eyelashes, eyebrows and the hair you get on your butt when get older …. The other stuff focusing on the less important stuff like intelligence can be mums genes….

At least I’m good for something….

Terry

A while back I started talking about my two favourite authors. The first was Carl Sagan and now it’s time for the second. Many guessed correctly.

The wonderful and sadly missed Terry Pratchett.

Back in 1983 my mum bought me a book for Christmas. She would always buy me a book as a present. I had no idea who Terry was. Mum had heard him on the TV and thought maybe I would like his new book. I loved it….. He became my favourite author.

That was it. A tradition. Every new Terry book would be given to me at either Christmas or on my Birthday. She never missed a release. Apart from one. His last book. She never got round to buying that one, she would have if she had more time.

The Shepherds Crown was a tough read. Memories of mum and Terry. I decided to not read the last page. I can still say I’ve still not finished reading all his books….

Terry now has his own international day. April 28th. Let’s indulge in a bit of Pratchett wisdom a bit earlier than that.

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they haven’t forgotten this.

Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

Evil begins when you start to treat people as things.

Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

And what would humans be without love? RARE said Death.

If cats looked like frogs we’d realise what nasty, cruel little b*****s they are.

Always be wary of any helpful little item that weighs less than its operating manual.

The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.

The presence of those seeking truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they have found it.

So much universe and so little time.