Muddy Puddles

Sometimes it sneaks up on you.

You think you have it cracked and then your nice clean shoes land in the muddiest of puddles.

I was shopping today and I came across a special offer on Jam Donuts. I immediately grabbed a box and thought ‘Mum will be pleased, shall I get her a second box”. Mum loved these and she most definitely loved a special offer. But then the realisation. She is not here anymore, she hasn’t been since 2016.

Definitely one of those unexpected muddy puddles.

Then another muddy puddle.

A few hours later I saw a trailer for ‘A Wonderful Life’, it was on the TV soon. I headed towards my mobile to phone mum. She loved that movie. Then the realisation. She isn’t here anymore.

Stepped in another muddy puddle.

Those muddy puddles seem muddiest during holiday or special occasion time. Maybe you get more muddy puddles to step in. Yes times like Christmas do have a habit of throwing those curve balls, most definitely when your on the grief journey.

If you do stand in one of those muddy puddles, your not alone. We can do this.

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…..

Remember

Sadly I won’t be able to visit here today. Its 50 miles away and currently just so out of reach. My mind will wander there today. Not for too long as my mother would give me a stern talking-to for fussing too much. So I will make myself a cup of tea and take a few moments to remember some mum memories.

  • Her famous meat and two vegetables Sunday lunches. She even amended that to Quorn and two vegetables for an awkward son. Followed by the best ever apple crumble and custard.
  • How she would call everyone (including the pets) Pidge so that she never forgot a name. You knew you were in trouble when she called you by your real name,
  • Going to her house and hearing Sinatra or Cash singing as you went through the door,
  • Walking into her living room and her first words being, Do you want a cup of tea and a biscuit,
  • Sat on a plane at Heathrow Airport with her and she started eating toffees to stop her ears popping. She finished all three packets of sweets before the plane had even started taxiing. And yes her ears popped,
  • The day she went into a small shop for a paper and she ended up being smiled at by one of Europe’s best footballers, who had come in for a prematch chocolate bar,
  • Every year asking me to put a 10p bet on the big horse race. I never told her that I always made the bet up to a £1,
  • Her refusing to be called Granny or Great Granny, so she became little Nan,
  • Every time I would take Hawklad round to see Little Nan on a Sunday and she would somehow have managed to find another Mr Men book which he had never read,
  • Mum with my oldest sister running out of the Dracula museum in a fit of giggles when a man dressed up as the Prince of Darkness had unexpectedly appeared behind them,
  • On a morning finding various little garden birds stood patiently in her kitchen waiting to be fed.

And so many more memories from a truly wonderful mum. So it’s time for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Time to remember. Days like this that photographs from so many years ago become treasures.

Angry clouds

It’s just been days of angry weather.

When I see this type of stormy clouds I remember back to my childhood. As you got older you started to realise that in our seaside town the weather would always seem to come from over the hills and follow the river to the sea. For us that would mean the weather would first appear to the north west. That was in the direction of one of our neighbours gardens. So the following weather expression was frequently heard from my parents.

It’s luking black ower Mr Homans Potting Shed, aye get thy washing in.

When means you have just a few minutes more footy before your summoned in as the heavens have opened. If the weather ever came from over Eddie Cook’s Pigeon Loft then it was time to get the paddling pool out.

Strangely parenting forecasting from the 70s was far more accurate that the current UK Meteorological Service best guesses. Currently the weather scientists are telling us that we have light cloud and less than a 10% chance of light rain. Well tell that to the paving stones which are currently being jet washed in the nonstop monsoon.

So let’s ditch the UK’s dodgy weather science and go old school. So here are a few other old weather laws that were passed down to me.

  • Red sky at night fisherman’s delight, red sky in the morning fisherman’s warning,
  • Mackerel Clouds in the sky then the weather is going to change,
  • The Sun or Moon saying hello means that rain is on the way (saying hello means having a halo around it),
  • The greener the Rhubard leaves the worse the weather will be,
  • Wet seaweed means rain is coming (I never bought into this one as surely that just means the tide has been in recently),
  • Rain at lunch will be gone by tea (basically saying the UK weather is changeable),
  • When rain is coming the spiders will disappear,
  • Rainbows before lunch tells us that rain will be here all day,
  • Cows sit down when rain is due (must admit this is clearly true as I was watching an episode of Ben & Holly where the wise old elf foolishly took shelter under a cow when it started to rain),
  • When smoke rises the weather will be good. When it fails to rise them bad weather is due,
  • Expect a bad winter if the hedgerows produce loads of berries,
  • If you want a dry day best to have dew on the grass in the morning.

One last weather law. I had a friend whose dad was a complete nutter. So funny. I remember him telling me once about his rabbit. He explained that his rabbit would only eat carrots when it was raining. I asked what it had to eat when it was sunny and he told me with a smile – I don’t know, will tell you when we get the sun, patience lad I’ve only had the rabbit 3 years.

So that’s me out of weather law. Can anyone add to my knowledge?

Looking at this photo I think I can confidently predict no need for sun protection….

Where’s the shed

Here once stood the garden shed. But then an ageing Oil Tank had to be changed. The new rule was that flammable items had to be at least 6 feet away. A wooden shed just 3 feet away just didn’t cut the mustard. So it had to come down. I remember the day so well. My partner organised the skip. She took the first swing with the sledgehammer and then left the rest to me. It was a tough fight. Eventually I won the contest on a split points decision. Yes the shed was down but most of it now appeared to be imbedded in me.

We never did get round to putting a new one up. Actually we didn’t need one. The area became a little bit more green. A place to randomly put those potted plants which we have collected over the years. A nice home for a 90 year old wooden bench which has long since served its purpose and has been retired. It’s also a bit of a magnet of our sons footballs….

It so needs a good weeding but actually yellow poppies and wild strawberries are starting to grow here. Well that’s my excuse.

I’m not sure what my partner would make of it. Maybe a bit too chaotic for her. She liked organisation. The new shed was high up on my list of things to do before the world changed. But then she left our little world. Then every weekend her mum would pop over for an hour or so. She loved it. When she came over at the weekend she would often sit and look at it while drinking her coffee. Thinking about life. Watching the birds make use of it.

I’m writing this at about the time her mum would have been visiting. I’m sat in the chair she would be sat in. Yes I do think the little green area works. Maybe that new garden shed can wait for a few more years. Sorry my love…..