Monthly Archives: July 2005

Memories

A wonderful weekend. No, not just because I escaped the chaos that is my home! A wonderful weekend.

As you know, my Dad has been spending the last fortnight up in the Peak District at my sister M’s house – hence the frantic decorating which just doesn’t get done when he’s here. We have come to the realisation that yet one more disadvantage of Dad no longer being able to stay alone in his own home is that I won’t be able to go and stay with my sisters for a girlie-visit any more because when I go away I will either need to take him with me or they will have to come here to stay. (In fact we are starting to think that it won’t be the former again as he finds the travelling and the change of location too stressful and painful). So this was an opportunity too good to miss. Having to go up to the Midlands to fetch him back, I decided to go across on the Friday to visit my other sister, J, and stay there until Sunday morning. We had a lovely time… including a visit to Bath. The intention had been to take Tiddles to see the Roman Baths as he’s such a keen historian/archaeologist but he was still too tired to be bothered with it, so we just did the shops and the cafes and had a lovely time in each other’s company.

But what about Smudgelet, I hear you say. Well, he was having a little adventure of his own. His very first Cub Camp. He’d had a real hard job deciding which he most wanted to do, but finally couldn’t resist the lure of camping for the very first time. I was rather pleased, actually, as he’s been a bit clingy and this was a sign of him feeling secure enough to let me out of sight for more than a day, confident that I would in fact return for him. I think I missed him far more than he missed me, in fact (hmm… so I did miss him after all).

Sunday, though, was the special treat. We drove over to my home town to meet Dad at the church of which he and my mum were founder members 50 years ago. Strange sensation driving into the carpark of this church which I last visited twenty-nine years ago. Lovely to have my eldest son with me.. looking remarkably handsome in his new Sunday best. I had feared it would be a sad experience, with mum not there, and with so many people from the past dead and gone, but I was so very much mistaken. There were people there who mean so much to me still – the honorary aunts and uncles who were part of my everyday life as I grew up, so close was the community of that church. The visiting preacher was the minister who had been there when I was a child so it took me right back to be sitting there in our normal place (believe it or not!) and seeing this familiar, slightly older and greyer-haired but otherwise unchanged, face smiling at me and listening to his style of preaching which had so excited me when I was a child and which still was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to touch my imagination. It was especially special for me, as his daughter and I had been extremely close friends from the ages of four to eleven – virtually inseperable – and most Sundays were spent with me being part of her family or her part of mine. I can still remember the games.. sitting playing with her dolls’ house while eating Sherbert Fountains without touching the liquorice which neither of us liked. Hide and Seek around the church building, with the scary bit near the cellar being too dark and spidery for either of us to brave. Singing rude songs using the word “poo” in them!!! I wonder whether the minister and his lovely gentle wife ever really realised what we got up to?

Who else was there? Well, I was utterly delighted. My very first school teacher was there! Tiddles couldn’t quite imagine that this lady (who looked surprisingly young.. until I discovered that I’d been in here very first class) had actually known me when I was five. She was a wonderful teacher and I’d always been very fond of her, and grateful for the way she steered me through my introduction to school. But that was not all. Suddenly someone asked me if I knew that O.W. was there with her daughter. I couldn’t believe it. She had been my nursery school teacher from the age of 2 1/2 and her daughter had been the other member of our trio of friends. Sadly it wasn’t this daughter who was with her… and I was not a little embarrassed to remember how we had made the elder sister’s life a misery whenever I went there to play! But to see her again was lovely, and to find how my friends had actually grown up too – with her daughter I had played Bill and Ben for hours on end, never tiring of hiding in two large boxes and jumping out and saying “flubbalubalub… little weeeeeeeeeed!”

The funniest moment of the day was when I reached forward to take my mobile phone and car keys out of the pocket on the back of the chair in front, only to discover that the chair in front had been exchanged by one of the stewards for a different one!

Strangest moments of the day – first finding my name on the cradle roll (the list of babies baptised in the church) and then finding my elder brother on there too; finding a photo of the Sunday School from the time when my siblings were there (I am considerably younger than they are so it was a photo from the mid fifties); and best of all, opening a photo album and suddenly seeing my mum looking up at me. There were two photos of her there.

Naturally I thought of Mum a lot during the day, but it wasn’t with sadness but with a joy because I suddenly felt very close to her. I think she was there too, to tell the truth. I felt a strange feeling when one of her closest friends stepped up to the lectern to do one of the readings as I realised that if mum had still been there, it could have been her standing at the lectern. And the hard part was realising that all those shared memories I now had nobody to share with as my sister had left the church before I was five and my Dad just doesn’t have memories of my childhood as our relationship wasn’t quite the same. He wouldn’t have known who my friends were, or what I liked or disliked – and what’s more, his own memory is now no longer intact enough for him to remember that I am of a different generation to my siblings and so didn’t know the people who went before.

It was hard to walk away. I may never see these special people again. It seemed very final. But my memory of them and my love for them has had a boost which I never expected and I feel much the richer for it. I pray my own children will have the same fond memories of their upbringing within a loving church community and that the same experience will await my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Method in my madness? No – don’t think so!

You may have noticed a certain reduction in blogging over the last couple of weeks. There again, you may not… or you may even have breathed a sigh of relief, I suppose. But here life has been somewhat hectic.. and that’s without even counting the weekend we just enjoyed.

First of all, of course, we have the delight of Tiddles STILL suffering the after effects of his Peak District visit. Tiredness, I mean. Now, here’s a little contest for you. Which of the following have been triggers for tantrums in the last week I wonder?

a) a button falling off a pyjama jacket in the middle of the night

b) being asked to find where a belt was put at the end of a game of pirates

c) not being allowed to watch a video that he’d agreed not to watch

d) being asked to find his own school trousers from the (small) pile of ironing so I could iron them

e) being asked to do maths homework

f) losing a £5 note on the way back from the shop

g) being told that it was too hot to wear a winter coat

All this convinces me that the decision to separate their bedroom into two was a good idea. I’m extremely pleased with the results… I just have a few finishing touches to complete the effect. Tiddles has a more “teenager” little cabin with a work station and a secret tantrumming corner (which we’re not going to market as such, of course, but that’s the reasoning behind it as it will save him sitting in my coat cupboard), while I just know that Smudgelet is going to be delighted with the little den I’ve built for him to hide away in in a corner of his new room. And I think there may even, even be room to put the Scalextric up on occasions, too.

Now all I need to do is overcome the lethargy this heat is inducing because the house is in total chaos. The contents of their room are strewn around the house. The contents of the kitchen are strewn around the house (Dad’s tilers came and tiled my kitchen for me last week, bless their hearts, so all I have to do now is clean up the grout, paint the rest of the walls, and put everything back where it belongs on the shelves and worktops… if I can find where I’ve put it all!). And to top it all, I have used the wardrobes from my bedroom to form the partition for the Smudgelets’ rooms, so all the contents of those are now mountained-up on my bed. Yes, I’m back on the sofa again! What on earth possessed me to do all this at the end of a long and tiring term, in the hottest part of the year, during the Tiddles-tantrum season, and just three weeks before friends come to house sit while we’re on holiday?????

Leapfrog

Smudgelet has decided to try to master the art of leapfrog.

Now, the trouble with leapfrog is that, if you want to be able to do it, you actually have to believe with all your heart and soul that you can do it. You have to push all thought of failure totally out of your conscience, you have to have a confident run up and a determined leap and you certainly don’t have to harbour any secret doubts which can lead to hesitation or an attempt at self protection in a very vulnerable part of the body. Which, of course, is a real drawback because if you do fail, you certainly have that fact rammed home to you in a very forceful fashion, especially if you’re a boy. A sense of self-preservation has been the source of disappointment in the leapfrogging stakes many a time for young Smudgelet.. especially having already witnessed Tiddles pay the price of a moment’s hesitation in the approach.

Today was wonderful, though, as for the first time he ran full tilt at the bollard which marked the beginning of the grassy path through the recreation ground. A near-perfect approach, a confident launch and……. well, there he sat, perched on top of the bollard like a pencil cap on a pencil, laughing at his semi-success. And then it happened. His bottom slipped gently forward off the top of the bollard and he put his hands down to the ground to stop himself landing with a crack on his head. And there he stayed. Hands on the ground, head between his hands, legs each side of the bollard grasping tightly with his knees to prevent himself slipping any further, and totally unable to move apart from an unsuppressible giggling which wobbled him up and down and threatened to dislodge him with every chuckle. He looked for all the world as though he were participating in a wheelbarrow race.

Bit like life, really.

Aye Aye Cap’n

My feet are still aching.. and my face is doing a good imitation of the Last Human in Doctor Who as it cries out “moisturise me!” in desperation after the foolishness of getting extremely sun/wind burnt yesterday. But it was definitely worth it, and more.

We had a fantastic day. At the crack of dawn M arrived to transport the four of us to Ryde Pier Head to catch the catamaran to Portsmouth for the International Festival of the Sea. What an adventure! The queue was incredibly long, along one side of the road until almost in Portsmouth itself and then all down the other side of the road back again, but at least it kept on moving and there was plenty to talk about as we found ourselves getting more and more excited. We had the programme to look at while we waited and plan our day as we knew there’d be no chance of seeing more than a fraction of what was there… and we were right. We had the advantage over the long-distance visitors, though, as we could ignore all the permanent exhibitions, knowing with confidence that we would be able to come and see them whenever we liked (and we determined to fix a date to do so too, knowing what they say about good intentions!).

Just walking through the entrance (and being frisked by a rather dishy Royal Marine Commando 😀 ) we found ourselves straight into the middle of an exciting day as the boys were pressganged into King Henry VIII’s army. They were armed with sticks without spikes on the end, much to their disgust, and drilled with the rabble that were the enlisted soldiers in mounting an attack on the mums and dads. Needless to say, they thoroughly enjoyed that experience! Another street entertainment, however, had to be drawn to a rapid close when security came along and pointed out that they were blocking the emergency exit! So they went straight from their big entrance to their big finale without the performance in between (which was probably just as well as somehow they were having to work very hard to motivate the audience!).

Next, the Royal Marines from King Henry’s day were parading on the front: fife and drum playing; bugle calls; and the soldiers preparing their guns and shooting a volley in various different ways. It was amazing – even with the sounds of the festival loudly in the background to muffle the sound, the musket fire was deafening and we were glad of the warning to cover our ears. Whatever must it have been like when there was a whole army of them being fired? Here there were only five.

The boys were disappointed to discover that, while their uncle’s ship was at the festival, nobody was being allowed on it because they were very busy taking on a new crew and getting ready for the Tall Ships Race on Wednesday. Time for them to learn a new expression – “Pulling strings” 😀 A couple of mobile phone calls later and Uncle J up in Scotland had wangled us a private guided tour of the ship at the end of the day! Meanwhile, we queued for an hour for a tour of the Prince William, recent addition to the Sail Training Association. That was fascinating, especially boggling at the 7 miles of ropes – none of which are actually called ropes, of course, except for about six inches of bell rope for sounding the watch!

The boys were again disappointed that, while they were plucking up the courage to have a ride on the bosun’s chair over a massive drop into the dry dock, the opportunity passed and the marines running the ride went off for their break. But they were consoled by the fact that the dry dock was then used for a demonstration of archery. There’s something really amazing about watching expert archers (in full costume, of course) shooting shaft after shaft long-distance into the target. It was particularly interesting to see a contest between the longbow and the crossbow and see the archer fire nineteen arrows in one minute, while the crossbow archer managed only a (very respectable, actually) six. And seeing the arrows cut easily through the iron breastplate and chain mail of two model soldiers was quite breathtaking.

We didn’t get chance to go on Victory, deciding it would be best left for a day less crowded, but managed to get chance to look at the outside and marvel at her size and beauty. Then we went on to another treat for the Smudgelets – the Royal Marine Commando climbing wall. This wall was on a belt which went round as the kids climbed it, and as their turn came to an end the whole thing tilted and tipped them slowly off. Both boys loved the experience, although goodness knows why I spend all this money on Tiddles’ climbing lessons as he was next to useless, and Smudgelet’s optimistic “I can climb that easily” was soon wiped off his face as he struggled to get beyond the bottom foothold! The commando’s comment? “What a pair of fairies!”

Next on the agenda, and one of the highlights of the day, was a harbour tour. Forty minutes sailing round and seeing all the ships moored in the massive harbour basin of Portsmouth. The camera was definiteley in great demand and we were quite awed at the size and beauty of many of the ships, both tall ships and modern battleships. And on landing we were lucky enough to catch the demonstration of some remote control models about 1/12 size of Victory and other tall ships sailing on a nearby patch of water, the sun sparkling off their sails and their reflections quite vivid in the water as they glided about like swans in their glory. Magical!

For the boys, though, the very best bit turned out to be our illicit visit to Uncle J’s ship – a chance to see part of the show not open to anyone else, to explore the ship at will and chat to the crew about conditions on board, to see the bunks stacked three in a row with a space just big enough for a body between them, to hold the steering wheel and see the plaque with their uncle’s name engraved on it. They gazed longingly into the rigging, dying to have a go climbing the mast, and were fascinated by the navigation equipment. Tiddles is now saving madly for a cruise on her, and Smudgelet is wishing he were five years older! They have talked of nothing else all day, and even transformed the climbing frame in the garden into ship’s rigging to pretend they were part of the crew.

The only downside to the whole day was the fact that Wightlink had, in their wisdom, decided against increasing the frequency of the catamaran back to the Island, so we arrived back at the terminal, simultanously exhausted and longing to see more, only to discover we had to sit there for an hour to wait for the next boat. Hmmm… not so good. But we made up for it by investing in a couple of sandwiches and finishing off our lunch.

All in all, a wonderful, wonderful day which will stay in our memories for many a year. Four years before we get to go again. I can’t believe Tiddles will be 16 by then!

Timing

Wiblog International Secret Exchanger

Having read a very moving post by my WISE-ee (hmmm, does that clue make you any the WISE-er?) I thought I would delay my sinking into a deep and restful Sunday-morning bath until I had finished my blogging. Then I remembered… the bathroom door doesn’t shut at the moment, as the hallway is filled with furniture from the Smudgelet-hole, so I had better go and get bathed while they’re engrossed in their breakfasts. “Engrossed” is much better to be than “grossed”, and my face is glowing red enough from sunburn (don’t ask.. stupid mummy!) without adding my blushes of embarrassment when they come rushing in to clean their teeth and find me wallowing amongst the bubbles. So I shall return when clean and dressed in my Sunday best.