Friday, 1 July 2016

Lest We Forget.

Today is my birthday but more important than that it is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle of The Somme. My grandfather John Downes fought during the first world war. I have no idea if he was present at the Somme. I never met him. He came home suffering from the effects of mustard gas poisoning which damaged his lungs and resulted in him dying far too young.
Thousands of men never returned from France and thousands more believed there would never be another war after that one.
Our country and the world is in such turmoil today. There's so much hatred and badness among so many people. We can't trust the people who run our country. We have to look to ourselves to be good, to be kind and to understand what others are going through. We can not let those men down again.

                                                 The Soldier.                                                

Silence,I have forgotten it's sound.
 My ears have become accustomed to gunfire and bombing.
Think of the loudest noise you have heard and multiply it by hundreds, no, thousands of decibels.
I long for the sweet smell of my wife’s perfume, my baby boy’s skin, 
a rose and sausages sizzling in a pan.
I'm sick of the smell of burning,of gunfire,of dirt,of death.
You ask what death smells like?
It smells of a life lost, the end of hope.
It burns your nostrils and it makes you afraid.
Did you know that mud smells too?
Of blood,urine and unwashed men.
When you live in mud it smells of you.
Ypres, Flanders, Passchendaele, the Somme.
We trudge from one battle to another, pieces on a chessboard moved by an unseen hand.
Three steps forward and two steps back.
I am losing hope but I am kept going by the thought that this will be the war to end all wars.
 Man will never fight against his fellow man again.
 My son will be safe. 
He will never have to don a uniform and find himself fighting in a foreign land.
Lessons will be learned.
                                         Anne Mackle

10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment of the 31st Division. Marching to the front line. photo credit By Brooks, Ernest (Lieutenant) (Photographer) - is photograph Q 724 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,



Monday, 18 April 2016

Beyond The Wall.

I was given a task at my writing group to write something with the title Beyond The Wall. This is about how hard I find it to meditate and what happens when I do. It's also about how wonderful dreams can be. 

                      Beyond The Wall.

Beyond the wall there's a beautiful land,
With bright pink sea and purple sand.
The trees are laden with twinkling stars,
And tiny moonbeams live in jars.
Beyond the wall

I stroked a lion and hugged a bear,
And we sat together,without a care.
A green stripy tiger came to say hello
And played a tune on a small banjo.
Beyond the wall

I rode a wild stallion, it's mane was shiney blue.
I'd never rode a horse before but I knew what to do.
Faster and faster it ran on purple sand, then 
A rainbow came down and covered all the land.
Beyond the wall.

Every night I hope to visit that weird and wonderful place.
Every morning I return and never leave a trace.
No footprints in the sand,the sea washed them away.
I'm back to reality and my world has turned to grey.
I have seen beyond the wall.

You can't go there by boat or plane,
Not even by a very fast train.
A car's no use nor is a bike,
And it's far too far if you wanted to hike.
The wall is big and long and wide.
You wouldn't get there if you hitched a ride.

You don't need money or credit card.
But getting there can be oh so hard.
The wall is black and tries to hide
What it's like on the other side

If I empty my mind of the thoughts of today,
And think like the child I used to be.
If I close my eyes and let myself fall,
I hope I shall land there
Beyond the wall.

My dreams will be of pink seas and purple sands,
And banjo playing tigers forming a band.
Of riding horses and hugging a bear.
And having a moonbeam as a clasp in my hair.
When I am beyond the wall.

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Empty Space.

There was an empty space on the floor at dance class this morning. Someone died. Someone I didn't know personally. We had exchanged hellos and commented on the weather and probably laughed at how silly we looked practicing a line dance but I didn't really know her.
We stood around in small groups telling each person who entered the room what had happened.
 Last week the class had been cancelled,a mixture of thick snow on the ground and the class teacher being ill. Within the two weeks between classes one of our ladies had simply gone.

At first I couldn't remember who she was. I felt terrible,but in a large group of people there are always some you will know better than others. Gradually a face came to mind and my brain refused to accept that this was the same lady. Sadly it was.
There was no big announcement,we all just got on with the class but I knew everyone was aware of the empty space once occupied by a living, breathing vibrant being.
We were all sad,shocked and speechless.
It had all happened so quickly. The lady was attending another class and became ill. Maybe we have all said that when our time comes we would like to go quickly,no long illness to fight against,no lingering.
I thought of her family and close friends. Did they get a chance to say goodbye, to tell her they loved her? I hope they did and I hope she did too.

I have a sadness inside me for someone I didn't really know. She has occupied my thoughts and my prayers.
Every week we will now look at that empty space even if it becomes filled with someone else's body,we will still see it. The emptiness of it will stay as a reminder of how swift death can be and how very precious every minute we spend with our family and friends is. We should treasure the minutes.
So goodbye to the lady I might have got to know better if I had known her for longer. Condolences to the people who loved her. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Happy Enough?

Can we ever be completely and utterly happy with our life? I know we can all have  moments of true happiness but if we could would we change things.
How many times do we say," I wish I could win the lottery " and then plan what we would do with all those millions. Give it a thought,would we really like our lives to change in the way they would if we won millions?

Last year on holiday in Turkey we stayed at a small pension with only sixteen rooms. This was owned and ran by a husband and wife. The owner built the pension with his mother when he was a young boy so he's very proud of it. He told me that over the years visitors have asked him why he doesn't make the pension bigger, he has the room. Why doesn't he use space in his garden and build a few villas as many in the surrounding area have done? He would make a fortune,they tell him.

He said he has always refused to do this. It would mean hiring more staff,working longer hours,or maybe even taking a step back himself and hiring a manager and a cook.
The business is just the right size for him to manage and for his wife to do what she loves and cook for the guests. They work hard. He is on the go from 7am until the last guest retires to bed which can be the wee small hours of the morning. They are friendly people and this creates a convivial atmoshere where their guests and everyone who stays leave feeling part of the family. 

He asked,"Why should I change things when I don't need a bigger car or more money stored away in a bank account? I am happy enough!"
What he said stuck with me and I admired him for not being greedy and wanting more.

I suppose if I won the lottery I wouldn't send it back but I would like to think I would give a good deal of it to charities and maybe change the lives of people who have far less than I do.

 I have decided 
 I don't want a huge mansion, I would need to employ cleaners.
 I don't want to travel the world (like I once did) I would miss my family too much.
 I don't want to buy expensive shoes or handbags, I'd probably just buy more books that I don't have time to read.

My children make me happy.
My husband makes me happy
My granddaughters make me happy.
My little dinosaur boy makes me happy.
Friends make me happy.
Writing makes me happy.
Reading make me happy.
Sewing makes me happy.
Dancing makes me happy.
Singing makes me happy( but no one else !)

Listed like that I have many things to be happy about.

 The more I think about it The more I agree with my host in Turkey, I don't want things to change as 
I'm happy enough!

I wrote this a few days ago and only yesterday on Sky News the question they asked was,
"Are you happy?"
I think the conclusion was that being happy meant different things to different people.
You can't say fairer than that!
Are you happy enough?

Saturday, 23 January 2016

We Never Change!

For a few weeks before Christmas I watched a tv programmed called The Secret Life Of Children.
 The series started with two year olds and finished with six year olds. A group of children were chosen from different parts of the U.K. and brought to attend a playgroup where hidden cameras recorded their interactions with each other. Child physiologists were in another room listening, viewing and commenting on the children's behaviour.
I found the programme very interesting. It showed us how children learn how to be social at different levels of their development. Some children are naturally more advanced than others and learn quicker.   

When children are very young they can't empathise with their playmates. They only understand how they themselves feel. Some children just couldn't accept not winning or not being first and broke down in tears. During the course of the days spent in the playgroup friendships were formed. New children were then introduced to the group. Some new children were ignored but some of the children welcomed new faces excitedly and willingly.

What I've experienced in the past few months as the new face in town and my experience of life in general has drawn me to the conclusion that we are all still little kids at heart and never grow up.

In a place of work a new person starts working alongside you and your workmates for the first time. I've noticed some people welcome them and show them the ropes almost without being asked. Other people will be suspicious of this new person, worried if they give too much away the new person could end up better at the job than they are. I worked in a GP surgery and I remember that one new girl was disliked by some staff because she was too nice and too friendly with the patients. Yes and that's true!

As a newbie I have joined a few different leisure classes. Like at school most people were in little groups, cleeks we used to call them. Some have imaginary walls around them giving off vibes of "enter if you dare" All you can do is smile and say hello.

Everyone seems reluctant to be the first to welcome you, but it only takes one person. When that person breaks through the wall and holds out the hand of friendship and draws you into their group the other members also welcome you. Gradually over time the other cleeks notice you and think,
" Well if she's good enough for that group then maybe she's okay." Then one day you'll find you're excepted by everyone. Yes it's just like being back in school.

As you get older it does get harder to make new friends in a new town. Most people have a shared history. Maybe they worked together at some point or even went to the same school, know the same people. You have to find some common ground. It starts off by being the activity of the group you have joined,everyone is there for the same reason. It then has to branch out, do you read the same books, have similar taste in music, enjoy tea and cake,etc...
This was just like the older children in the tv programme. I heard them asking each other about food they liked,toys they liked etc.

As for me being the new girl in town well someone did step outside the group and welcomed me in and I'm gradually feeling like I belong.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

May Contain Nuts!

I wonder if when you see this title you are expecting to read about strange people? Yes, I could write a story or two about them but this is a post about an allergy.

My two year old youngest granddaughter is allergic to nuts. It was discovered when she was just under a year old and my son (her father) let her taste a little bit of peanut butter,he just put it on her lip.
She immediately had a reaction,swelling of lips and face,screaming, rash. Later she had the tests and the diagnosis was that she was allergic to peanuts but had to avoid all nuts or nut products just to be safe. Her mum was given an appointment to come back in for about 18 mths. She was also told,"She's a child,you control what goes in her mouth."
 Nice! and obviously not from someone who has to take care of a crawling toddler who puts things in her mouth or who will attend a playgroup where some other child might give her a taste of something.

 When her father was a child peanut butter was one of his favourite foods. He was a fussy eater and when taking a packed lunch to school a peanut butter sandwich was the only thing he would eat. That wouldn't be allowed in schools now as so many children are allergic to nuts.
So far it has been manageable but as she gets older and is now attending playgroup and soft play and birthday parties her mum has to be even more vigilant.
She also hit the terrible twos a while before reaching that magic age and been know to throw some amazing tantrums for no reason whatsoever. These are the times which worry her mum as she always wonders if she has touched something with peanuts or put something in her mouth. She is inconsolable during these tantrums and it's no wonder her mum thinks she's having some kind of reaction so it's very worrying.

When she comes to stay at our house with her sister who's now four I spend a few days beforehand reading labels on foodstuffs and what drives me mad is, " May Contain Traces of Nuts"
What? It either does or it doesn't, get your act together manufacturers. This carries on through a wide range of foodstuffs, yogurts, biscuits,cakes,ice cream, ice lollies, sauces, chocolate, shampoos and bodywash. These are not nut flavoured but it seems that nuts can be used as a thickener or it may be that something made with nuts has gone through the machine before. I find myself asking her older sister if mum gives her the things I have in my cupboard or fridge and she's very good at telling me.

I have always baked with her older sister and for quickness I buy packet cake mixes usually themed like Frozen, Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse. On reading the packet,yes you've guessed," May Contain Traces of Nuts." 
I have now started to bake cakes the sensible way, weighing flour and butter and sugar and that means that both of them can eat the cakes when they're ready. The little one doesn't usually eat cakes as her mum doesn't bake and a cake is hard to find that doesn't have a warning on it. When she was given a cake that she had helped bake her face was one of happiness as she devoured it.
 Bad Grandma!

I think manufacturers should stop saying "May Contain " and clean their machines properly or use a different machine to produce products without traces of nuts.
I feel so sorry for mums with children who are allergic to multiple foodstuffs it must be a nightmare trying to find the right products.

It has been relatively easy to hide treats from the youngest and give the oldest the occasional treat behind her back but as she gets older it will be impossible.
I have started thinking about what I can bake or make with her in mind. I would like to try and make ice cream myself then I could be sure it had no traces of nuts. 
Our local fish and chip shop has a counter with a range of delicious ice creams . I had a chat to the assistant and we found a raspberry ripple one that didn't say anything about nuts so I tried her with a small amount at first and she was fine with it. It was a great treat for her.
The assistant I spoke with told me her son is allergic to many things contained in food, dairy, gluten, E-numbers,wheat,nuts...the list goes on.
It surely must be the way food is processed now that so many children are allergic to so many things. It looks like we should all get back to basic and have a cleaner diet. I don't remember hearing of anyone being allergic to anything when I was young or my children were young except perhaps eggs.
I read an article that says instead of not giving your child anything containing nuts until after a year old they have found that if babies are given nut flavoured foods three times a week it prevents most of them becoming allergic. This is of course contrary to what mums have recently been advised.

The little one is due back at the hospital this summer and I really hope she will grow out of the allergy. I don't know how her mum copes with it but the worry I have when she stays with me will have me going nuts soon.

She has a little bracelet like this which is a great idea and can be bought from Amazon or eBay.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Let it Go! The End of the Year Post.

As I sit here typing I feel like the queen writing her Christmas speech,except she doesn't write it and this is a New Year speech. I suspect the same speech writers who write for the politicians write her Christmas speech and she just looks it over to see they haven't made any spelling mistakes.

For many people this will have been a terrible year and they will be glad to let it go. For many it will have been a great year. I think for the world in general 2015 has not been good. I'm thinking primarily of all those who lost their lives in terrorist attacks. Words can not express how we all feel about those. Lives were also lost to the elements of nature,to earthquakes,to floods, to forest and bush fires and to Tornadoes across the world.
We leave 2015 a little more insecure, a little more suspicious and a lot more aware just how very fragile our lives are.

On a personal note my hubby and I moved into our new house in June but I'm sure you all know that by now and if you don't,where have you been?
I posted my Moving Diaries, the trials and tribulations of buying and selling and I hope I never have to move again.
It has been exciting moving to a new town. I've found people to be very friendly here and we're enjoying the move.
At long last I found a Writing Group and I love it. For such a long time I have only been writing this blog and my book reviews but this group has opened up a new avenue for me. I haven't stopped writing stories and poems since I joined. It's great to spend time with like minded people and if anyone loves to write then my advice is...join a group. Before I joined I was very apprehensive. Would I be good enough? Did I have to be good?What if I couldn't think of anything to write about?
I asked one of my fellow bloggers and author Ros Adam all those questions and she said,
"Go for it, you will love it" and she was right. Thank you Ros.

I have also joined a gym and I have started Zumba, Aerobics and a dance class aimed at the over fifties. This is just not like me at all but I am enjoying them all so far. I don't have a new body yet but watch this space! Ha ha.
Hubby and I had a lovely holiday in Kayakoy in Turkey and again I posted my Turkey diaries which start here.
I'm not sure about returning to Turkey in 2016 we may try somewhere different. If you know of anywhere nice let me know.

We had a sad time in October when our twelve year old German Shepherd dog Sam died. We knew he was a good age for his breed but it all seemed to happen so suddenly and after a few days of trying to heal him we had to do the right thing and let him go. He is missed so much as he was a large part of our lives. This is the first time in 29 years we have been without a dog. I get my dog fix from my daughter and son in law's two dogs as we have them for a few hours a few days each week. They are delightful to have and delightful to hand back again.

My gorgeous granddaughters are now four and two and my highlight is when they come for sleepovers,I just love it. Dinosaur boy who has been in many of my posts over the years became a five year old schoolboy this year and also comes for sleepovers. He is now a dinosaur expert.

My health has had a good run this year and I haven't had a stay in hospital,must be all that exercising that is keeping my lungs good.

Well that's my roundup of my year I hope you are one of the many who has had a good year,if you're not then I wish with all my heart that 2016 will be happy and healthy and a good year for you.
We can let go of the old one and open a new page in 2016. We can make it a better one.

Thank you to all the faithfuls who read my blog. I love reading yours too.
Cheers and here's to 2016!