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Happy things in June

I have just realised July is almost over and I still haven’t posted June’s happy things. I fear I will always be a procrastinator extraordinaire. So without further ado and before it is August here is my record of June’s small joys.

Birdkeeper’s cottage in St James Park. I pass this tiny cottage almost everyday on my way to work and this tiny country cottage in the midst of Central London never fails to please me. If you look at the right angle you could almost be on a great estate somewhere very rural instead of being in spitting distance of parliament. I think I like the garden even more. It is so in keeping with the cottage and so incongruous in a Royal Park.

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There were baby ducklings in the park to make me smile.

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There was a rather nice evening in with my Mum involving watching The Crimson Field, rose and violet creams and knitting/ crochet.

I had a gorgeous bunch of peonies. I love peonies but they are so expensive and their season is so short.

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I took my Mum and a Dad to see Relative Values with Caroline Quentin. Mum and I both love Noel Coward anyway and my Dad always enjoys a good comedy. Dad described it as a proper old fashioned farce and went home happy. Caroline Quentin was absolutely superb. She is if anything a better stage actress than she is a TV one.

Dinner out out with H

A good gossip on the phone with K

Dinner at the Turkish with my parents and sister

Girls night out with my mum, sister, godmother and god sisters

A sunny Sunday picnic in the park complete with dogs and small people

Going to see Good People with H – Imelda Staunton was amazing in this. The set was very clever and the dialogue faultless. The concept of who is good and what makes a good person was thoroughly examined and yet no conclusions were rammed down my throat.

I don’t have to have foot surgery. This is a big cause for celebration. My foot has been incredibly sore. I put off doing anything about it because I was being a spineless jellyfish (kudos if you know the reference) as it had been suggested it would probably mean surgery. Then the pain became so bad I could scarcely walk. Concluding I couldn’t limp for the rest of my life I decided anything would be better than this even 12 weeks on crutches. I also decided if my Great Aunt could be brave enough to have her hip replaced at 81, I could be brave enough to see a doctor and do something about it. The GP diagnosed severe Achilles Tendonitis said he thought I’d need surgery and urgently referred me to an Orthopaedic Surgeon. The lovely man rubber stamped my GP’s diagnosis but decreed no surgery and recommended intensive physio. I was delighted.

B’s first birthday party

First barbecue of the year

A flattering request – not sure if I will accept but flattering none the less

The Two Form Captains – I’ve never been able to afford my own copy of this rare EJO but thanks to The Abbey Chronicle I now have my own copy albeit a paperback. This makes me very happy and it is a rattling good read in the best girlsown tradition too.

A lovely cut and colour from the always amazing Jess

Trip to Calais for shopping, food and wine

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Waffles and cream just over the border in Belgium

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Standing at the Menin Gate remembering and being grateful to those who simply vanished into the Flanders mud and thankful I live in a world without the fear and uncertainty so many women endured. I thought too of the courage of those who played the Last Post at 8pm whenever they could in WW2 even though they knew if they were caught they would be shot! I hope I will never have to live through such madness.

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Buying my favourite chocolate in Carrefour

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The market at Calais – I wished I could bring the fruit and veg home and these Anemones were just stunning.

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Meeting Maisie – my godmother’s new dog. She’s such a friendly affectionate little dog.

Posh Afternoon Tea in Kent

Finishing Steph’s cardigan

Dealing with several things I’d been procrastinating about for too long. The relief of not feeling guilty about not having done them is enormous.

I managed to go swimming for the first time in ages.

A big bunch of Sunflowers

The first Roast dinner since a Easter

An unexpected meeting with my Uncle and Aunt

New authors Trisha Ashley and Elizabeth Taylor. They are very different and yet both are a gripping read. Taylor is technically better but a slow burn whereas Ashley is a page turner.

Contactless payment card. The simple my of being able to leap on and off buses at will without wondering if there is money on my Oyster card. Solves the cashless bus problem and my fear of being left stranded.

Surprise chocolate from K

Things that made me happy in May

It seems as if May was a long time ago and that’s probably because it was. However there were happy things in May so it’s only right I should share them albeit belatedly.

On the first day of May I went out with my friend L. We’d not seen each other for a year so spent a delightful afternoon and evening catching up. It culminated in cocktails in the Strand Palace Hotel which has turned itself into a Gin Palace. There were no complaints from me.

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I had a lovely sunny walk in a local park known as The Pleasance. It surrounds the Tudor Barn once the home of Margaret Roper now a restaurant. The park is on the site of the house where E Nesbit lived when she wroteThe Railway Children hence the sculptures inspired by Five Children and It.

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I finished the quilt I’d been making.

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A belated birthday present of Fortnum’s tea and biscuits from knit2pointe2

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Lilac. I love Lilac the scent and the colour both make me smile and it was a joy passing this tree everyday on my way to the station.

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There were baby goslings in St James Park.

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Pimmy’s birthday party

Learning to insert contact lenses

Breakfast with my team at the Cinnamon Club

First Lily of the Valley flowers

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Watching Born and Bred with my Mum on our monthly TV evening

Enthusiastic greeting from Steph when I babysat – she loves her quilt

Supper at FGT

Friends for dinner

Watching My First Coppelia with my niece

Reading Angela Thirkell for the first time thanks to L and realising what I’d been missing

Day at Southsea with H

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Evening out with the other H

My new blue crochet dress

Exploring Hoxton and Spitalfields with L

A Brick Lane Curry

Kindness from people I may not have deserved but definitely needed

New glasses – the simple joy of clear vision

Another trip to C&H Fabrics in Canterbury where yet again they came up trumps with exactly what I needed for a project

My Scottie Dog from Edinburgh – he still needs a name

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I wasn’t happy I needed to go back on steroids in May but I’m very happy that they worked and also that we have a health service which is free at point of use so I could ask for help without fear of a big bill.

Finding hardbacks of The Camp Mystery, Damaris at Dorothy’s and The Testing of the Torment in the Oxfam bookshop in Canterbury. All three books cost me £50 and Torment and Mystery have dust wrappers. I am aware if you are not a girlsowner this amazing find will be meaningless to you but if you’re not… I practically danced out of the shop.

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A belated day out in Canterbury for my Mum’s birthday

Coming top in my large Government Department for something which really matters – wish I’d got a bonus rather than warm Prosecco and nibbles but one cannot have everything. There’s quite a bit of kudos in ones name being right at the top f the list.

Watching the last performance of We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. Brian May and Roger Taylor performed live. What more can I say…

I am also happy because I finally got around to taking my winter coat to be dry cleaned and washed all the hats, scarves and gloves that have been floating around since the winter. They are now all put tidily away. Better late than never

Stolen Memories

The day 4 prompt was to write about loss. It was a tough one and I didn’t post or write at the time because some losses go to deep to write about yet I didn’t want to write about something trivial either. It took considerable thought to get this far.

I’m going to write about my grandmother. My grandmother is ninety and she is slowly losing her memory and with it her sense of identity, her past and even the husband she once adored. I find the fact that my grandfather has been erased from her mind almost the hardest thing to handle. He died when my brother was 2 and before my sister was born and it seems so sad that it is only me and my parents who remember him. He was such a lovely man.

My grandmother is/was a wife, sister, daughter, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She grew up in North London the youngest of a long family – we don’t actually know how many brothers and sisters she had because the paperwork is not in order. She spent over a year in hospital as a teenager after a car knocked her off her bike. She always walked with a limp afterwards. If modern physiotherapy had existed in 1938 this would not have happened. She wanted to join the WRNS in WW2 but the accident prevented her and she was classified as medically unfit for service. She met my Grandad who,was also medically unfit in the war work she was allowed to do. They both typed for England… Her first child a son died at birth. The second was my Mum.

She loved to bake and was a good plain cook. Her chips were out of this world and her homemade treacle tart simply sublime. When I was away at university she would send me tins of homemade cake. She used to knit and sew – I had an amazing Paddington jumper as a child. She made jam, arranged flowers and won prizes for the flowers she grew. After my grandfather died she played Bridge and was a demon player. All of this has been wiped away by Alzheimer’s and now she sits in a chair and stares into space.

Since last August Nanna has lived in a nursing home which euphemistically specialises in caring for the elderly physically and mentally frail. The disease has stolen her home as well as her mind. She begged us desperately to let her go home after her last hospital admission but it simply wasn’t possibly because she needs 24 hour nursing care. Now if she remembers she ever lived anywhere else she thinks she lives in Bennett Park the home she left in 1954.

Often she thinks I am my Mum and usually she thinks I’m my Mum age 15 and attending Maryville Convent School. She told me off for being out without my school hat and gloves last time I saw her. I used to argue but now I find it easier just to smile, nod and go,along with which ever reality she in that day. I’ve learned to only challenge if her version of reality is one that might hurt someone else.

My grandmother used to be very conscious of her appearance. Things had to be exactly the right length, her handbag and shoes must match, she’d never go out unless she was wearing scent and her hair was always freshly set. After she had a mastectomy 19 years ago she had three separate prostheses to ensure that no matter what she wore she always looked just so. Now it is an uphill and losing battle to get her to wear a dress and cardigan that match. She refuses to wear her prosthesis so she is permanently lopsided. We have had to take away her jewellery after she tried to flush it down the loo. I am aware that she is past caring and that I’m the one who minds but the person she was would be appalled if she could see herself now. Perhaps it is better that she’s lost too much of herself to realise.

Sometimes I even wonder dreadful granddaughter that I am if it would have been kinder if the breast cancer had killed her. We would all have been very sad and it would have been a terrible shock but she would have been spared this dreadful long slow slide into confusion. She would have kept her dignity and her sense of self.

I’m never sure who is worse off my grandmother who cannot remember anything at all or the rest of us who can remember everything!

As for me, I am in that strange hinterland where I have lost my grandmother while she is still alive. The person she was is gone forever and yet she is still here. How can you grieve for a person who is still present and yet is permanently absent?

Lost Letter

Day 5: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

I didn’t want to write fiction. Not here and now and I can’t recall ever finding a lost letter. But I couldn’t help,thinking about lost post.

Nearly three weeks ago I did not receive a letter that was sent to me. It has not caused a huge misunderstanding or a breach between friends the way such things would in a novel or indeed has done throughout history. Thanks to social media I know it was sent and the sender knows I am not ignoring her. So there is merely irritation on both our parts with the Royal Mail rather than bad feeling Without social media there’d be huge fictional potential and as it is there’s none.

But I find myself wondering what it said and where it went. Where does all the lost post go to? Some is stolen, some has no intrinsic value but simply disappears. Of course some mail falls behind sorting machines and lies in the dust sometimes for decades until the machine is moved. When this happens the letter is stamped “Royal Mail apologises for the delay” and sent on.

I wonder where my missing letter is? Is it lying on path somewhere between here and Middlesborough waiting for someone to find it and reunite me with it? I don’t suppose I will ever know. Even if it drops into the doormat one day I doubt it will be able to tell me its adventures.

A musical ramble

Today’s prompt is to write for fifteen minutes and think about three songs that inspire you. Of course my mind has gone completely and utterly blank. I can’t think of that many songs that inspire me. There’s music but lots of the music I like doesn’t have any words at all.

I love Roderigo’s Concerto D’Aranjuez also known as the orange juice concerto by the irreverent. I first heard it played in Brassed Off and the rushed out to buy the CD so I could listen to it over and over again.

Another favourite is the Mazurka from Coppelia. When I listen to that I forget that I have two left feet and for a short time I really believe that I could dance. This usually lasts right up until I try… I’m about as graceful as a baby elephant.

I absolutely love Offenbach’s Can Can I defy anyone to be miserable while listening to that. If I am certain I don’t have an audience or I have had vats of Gin I might even try to dance it.

Then there’s the 1812 Overture – ideal for silencing noisy neighbours. Never fails. Mozart’s Horn Concerto, The Moonlight Sonata and I’m really rather fond of Joplin, Scott not Janis.

It might amuse you to know that a now ex boyfriend once announced after watching Titanic that My Heart Will Go On (and on and on) by Celine Dion was our song. I should have known then and there that our relationship was doomed. It limped on for some years after this but… A very dear friend tells me this means that he is doomed to a cold and watery grave and I am destined for a long and happy life without him. I hope for the latter if not the former. I reached the happy state of benign indifference where he is concerned many years ago.

I also like Seasons in the Sun. My sister played it constantly on a trip to Italy years ago. I’d had a really really rough time and pretty much fallen apart. That trip was the start of picking up the pieces and getting my life back. It reminds me of choosing to start again, bright sunlight, knowing it would all be ok in the end, kindness from unexpected sources, sun and the bright blue of Lake Garda.

Then there’s Robbie William’s Angels. It’s corny as hell but I have fond memories of a wedding where it was the last song. I recall standing in a circle with the bride, bridesmaids and various other friends holding each other up (we may have imbibed a little too freely) and attempting to sway in time to the music without falling over. The marriage didn’t last. I’m still friends with everyone in that circle though.

I’ll never forget standing in the circle of the Albert Hall at the Last Night of the Proms and singing my heart out for Land of Hope and Glory. It didn’t matter that I am tone deaf just being part of that night and part of that audience is one of those memories that will last for a lifetime. I owe that memory to a friend too. Someone incredibly kind got the tickets for me.

I waved a glow stick for the first time in years to We Are the Champions and again when Roger Taylor and Brian May took to the stage for Bohemian Rhapsody.

I always say the Carpenters Rainy Days and Mondays sums up my view pretty perfectly too.

I’m not sure there’s much point to the post but I’ve written it so I’ll post it. That’s rather the point of the challenge after all.

A Room with a View

There are lots of places I’d like to be. In fact the first thing I thought when I read the prompt was anywhere but here.

I love London and I’m a city girl through and through but I’m tired and I have a longing for lakes and mountains or the sea just now.

My first thought was the Achensee which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. For years I didn’t even realise it was a real place. I first knew it as the Tiernsee the lake where the early Chalet School novels are set and I longed to go there. I was a teenager before I read Helen McClelland’s biography of Elinor Brent Dyer and realised that it was a real place and one I could actually visit. Eventually when I was 29 I finally got there and it was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be and then some.

It will be a long time before I forget the first glimpse of that blue lake in the distance after a long drive from Vienna. It was one of those moments that are seared into the memory when fiction suddenly became reality.

Later I followed in the footsteps of many chalet pilgrims before me and walked along the lake path, past the Dripping Rock to the little Gasthaus at Gaisalm. This photo of the small cafe on the bright green grassy shelf beside the lake and the little steamer is on my mouse mat at work. On bad days when London is grey cold and damp and work is hectic I look at it and I’m transported back to that pretty nearly perfect warm summer day in Austria with the cool breeze from the lake cooling my skin and the sun reflecting off the water.

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That holiday I also discovered I have something in common with Joey Bettany. We visited in late June/ early July and I visibly wilted on the plain and my travel companions commented that I obviously perked up as we travelled up into the mountains.

Then I thought about Guernsey. I’d love to walk along Rocquaine Bay again, feel the sand between my toes and the wind in my hair. I could eat lunch at the Imperial Hotel sitting at the dark wooden table in the window and gaze out on the wide expanse of the beach. This is my day so even though it is Guernsey and the weather is unreliable the sun will shine, the sky will be blue and the sea will be that lovely deep blue green shot through with silver. The gulls will call and somebody else’s dog will probably race along the sand.

I can imagine what it would be like to live in one of the grey stone cottages behind the sea wall in spring and summer – even in my imagination I know it would be unutterably bleak in winter.

Because this is my perfect day the tides will be just right so after lunch I can wander out across the Causeway to Lihou Island and after exploring the island saunter back without any danger of even getting my little toe wet.

I might even go for a swim because today I won’t be a wimp who hates the cold I will be the fearless energetic type who races across the sand to immerse herself in reviving cold salty water and have a vigorous swim. I’ll also have the kind of figure that means I don’t mind being seen in public in my swimming costume. Afterwards I shall lie on the beach with my book.

It will be a long evening and I will head back to town the long way along the south coast taking the car along the narrow winding lanes where the hedges virtually touch the sides of the car. I will pause to wander on the cliffs above Moulin Huet and Fermain Bay. I would end my day in La Nautique the restaurant in St Peter Port which overlooks the harbour. From there I can see the pleasure cruisers and yachts moored up closest to the town. As it grows dark I can see the sky darken to a deep velvety blue and the sea resemble a sheet of black glass. The lighthouse emerges from the darkness and floodlit Castle Cornet stands guard over the old town as it has done for centuries while the ferries to the mainland come and go. If I stand at the window I can also see Town Church and the boating lake – scene of many childhood hours.

The food is delicious, fresh local produce: golden Guernsey butter, fresh strawberries, rich cream, if I ate it which I don’t fish caught that day… I start with breaded Camembert and fresh bread because I’m not counting calories today, followed by a pasta prepared with cream and fresh seasonal vegetables – asparagus, mushrooms, peas and green beans. To finish I have chocolate mousse with strawberries and raspberries. There are petite fours with coffee. I drink a G & T before dinner, champagne during and cocktails after.

Mr Right who is of course tall, dark, handsome, charming and adores me picks up the bill.

This is a perfect day so I go to bed in a soft bed in a very luxurious hotel room and sleep well. I do not pay the price and suffer for making a pig of myself and wake refreshed ready for another day.

Patron Saints

I decided to try Writing 101 to get me back into the habit of writing regularly. However up comes the first June prompt and I haven’t really got a clue. What would I be the Patron Saint of?

I’ve ended up working through the ones who have some sort of connection with my life. Beginning with the most important:

One of my personal favourite saints is St Jude the Patron Saint of lost causes. He’s my kind of Saint someone to turn to when everything is going wrong and if it can happen it will happen. Someone to call upon when all seems lost and you can’t see a way out. He’s my kind of Saint. St Jude was one of the twelve apostles and he may or may not have been Jesus’ brother. Opinion is heavily divided on this one.

Then there is St Paul, Patron Saint of London – the finest city in the word, and also authors, publishers and writers. Then there is St Frances De Sales Patron Saint of journalists and writers – I like to think I have an affinity with him.

I also like St Anthony the Patron Saint of lost things. I’m forced to call upon his aid all too often. As yet St Anthony has not helped me to find the two pins I lost in the dining room carpet. I must confess to a certain amount of trepidation that when he does help me to find them it will be with my bare feet.

John of God is the Patron Saint of bookbinders, booksellers, the book trade and printers.

Bernardine of Siena is the Patron Saint for those with respiratory troubles. I must try to remember to ask her to intercede for me next time I have an asthma attack.

Elizabeth of Hungary is the Patron Saint of Bakers I assume that counts for those of us who like to bake a cake or two and I let the breadmaker produce me fresh bread.

St Clare of Assisi is the Patron Saint of needlework, embroidery and quilting. There’s no patron saint of knitting but I’m not at all sure that I’m skilled enough to undertake that role. The trouble I’ve been having with a knit three rows below cast off suggests I’m just not good enough…

Then there is the aptly named St Expeditus. He is the Patron Saint of many things but one of his hats is to provide solutions to procrastination. I should clearly appeal to him more often…

Perhaps I should be the Patron Saint of procrastination because despite many attempts to do it now; all to often I do not do today anything I could do tomorrow, and I don’t do tomorrow anything I can avoid doing all together.

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