Category Archives: Tidbits – the written word

Snippets and musings on the written word

In the blink of an eye…

I was thinking the other day, how fast time goes. Now, when my mind moves in this particular direction, it normally flies ahead showing me how little time we have left. I then take a backward look and pull myself up sharply telling myself to ‘stop right there, enjoy today’, there would be no point to life if we did not stop to experience it.

The far wiser me, knows that we truly do arrive everywhere in a blink of an eye. When my first daughter was born, I remember gazing at her tiny form and wondering at the fact that one day she would be eighteen, I would be 42 and I would remember this moment and think,

“That all happened in the blink of an eye.”

My 24-year-old self was fully aware that it is dangerous to pinpoint the future like this. Indeed, when my daughter turned eighteen, I remembered that long ago moment and I did think –“That all happened in the blink of an eye.”

Since that moment, I have tried not to look ahead too far for fear that the moment I am seeking will appear to have arrived before I have even begun to experience the years in between. Is that ridiculous?

This particular form of mental time-travel that I have been prone to practise, works better within a smaller timescale. It comes in very handy if one is at the dentist or doing anything that is particularly distasteful. Hence, as I sit in that dentist’s chair undergoing whatever treatment I have been called in for, I pinpoint the moment when I will be back at home or in the office, a time when this experience will be firmly in the past. I tell myself that ‘in the blink of an eye’ I will be there.

It really works. As my mind hovers over that delicious thought, the treatment passes and lo and behold I am sitting at home or in the office and the dentist is a distant memory.

I used this technique during some particularly gruelling exams and even for my driving test though to be fair, I did need to concentrate more for the latter. The same principle applied when I was in labour – I’d pinpoint a time in the future where I was sitting holding my baby, all the hard work done and the pleasure beginning. I cannot say I sailed through labour without feeling any pain or without needing the odd gulp of gas and air. I can say that I was amazed on each occasion to find the future point in time, that I had identified, had indeed arrived ‘in the blink of an eye’.

Now, you will be saying that of course, exams and tests and even labour takes longer than that and all I was doing was shutting out the present, going on auto-pilot perhaps (possibly not good on a driving test) and only allowing myself to come back to full consciousness afterwards. Is this a form of meditation then? A trick of the subconscious to banish nerves?

An out-of-body experience, would presumably have the same effect and I admit to having had experienced this as well (another story) so the meditation idea seems to fit.

Whatever it is, the trick should be used with caution however. It can be detrimental to the present. I remember thinking whilst on holiday that although I was sitting in the sun, enjoying a leisurely break, I would be sitting in my own living room remembering this, almost before I knew it. Not wanting the holiday to rush by, I had to give myself a stern talking to and banish such thoughts at source.

Quite a few years have passed since my daughter’s eighteenth birthday and like most people, we have had good times and bad. Throughout, I have tried to remain in the present rather than hurry them along. It is a hard habit to break though and perhaps I do it without thinking.  Housework is easier when you look back on it from that future spot and that function you dread is easier to get through from the vantage point of a few hours hence.

Before I start wondering what life will be like when I am truly ‘old’ though, I shall pause. I will stop myself because I’d rather not arrive at the end ‘in the blink of an eye’ I would like to enjoy the journey.

One for the road perhaps – ‘In the blink of an eye’ I will have finished writing another novel – I see myself sitting, holding the published book in my hand and reading the tons of fan-mail that has poured in…

Now I don’t mind that one…I’ll let you know when it arrives!

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Beware – Boeing 747 coming in to land…

Freshly returned to home and family after a New Year’s Break, I checked my email to find that I had been sent a summary of statistics from WordPress. The stats cover the eight months of 2010 during which my blog has been running. I seem to be doing quite well in the visitor stakes then.

I quote: “A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 8 months. That’s about 5 full 747s.”

I am extremely impressed. I know that there are blogs out there that regularly attract many more visitors than I and far more comments but hey, this blog is doing a great job. It gives me a space in which to write, a space to meet new friends and it is such an enjoyable outlet for my literary musings and my treks down memory lane that I really cannot complain. Since most visits occurred post August 2010, and have been rising steadily ever since, I can confidently calculate the estimated annual figure to be in the region of 6000 visitors – surely an entire fleet of Boeing 747s?

Considering that I was the only one aware of its existence back in May, I am pleasantly surprised by this blog’s apparent notoriety.

Coming from a design and marketing background, armed with experience of both web analytics and Search Engine Optimisation, I know I could do far more to spread the word than I do but sometimes slow and steady wins the race in my view. I quite like being low-key. I go for quality rather than quantity.

So, content with my small corner of cyberspace, I looked at the source of most of my visitors. Many who I now count as regular blog friends have found me through Facebook, Wisdom of Words, Katie Gates’ blog and The ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ awarded me in September. There were some intriguing statistics given though, apart from these, and I can only wonder at one in particular.

Apparently, a number of visitors ‘Googled’ the question: “Where does Dawn French live in Fowey?” They were immediately directed to my post ‘Fowey Royal Regatta – celebrity or not celebrity?’’ How funny.

I believe I did mention the fact that Dawn French lives in Fowey, not that we have ever seen her, despite it being quite a small town. That particular stat did make me smile rather a lot. I would guess that those visitors did not tarry long once they realised I did not mention exactly where the good lady lives. (Nor will I by the way, since one day I may need her to return the favour – who knows?)

We feel quite at home in Fowey now and have just spent New Year there in our own modest but beautifully renovated holiday home. We spent New Year’s Eve at the Fowey Hall Hotel where the food was impressive, the company engaging and the fireworks at midnight, spectacular.

People in this Cornish town are very welcoming and we are greeted like old friends time and again. No wonder we love to return often. No, we still have neither met nor seen Dawn French or rather, as I prefer to put it, she has still to meet us. Coincidentally, I am actually reading her book at the moment and can’t help thinking – wouldn’t it be lovely if one day she tells us she is reading mine?

Meanwhile, I shall continue to enjoy the freedom of my blog and to welcome any visitors who chance by wherever they may have come from. I shall certainly be keeping an eye on the stats from now on though and, with the web working as it does, I have to wonder where anyone Googling me in the future may end up.

The web is just like a chain of paperclips, follow the links and you could end up anywhere – quite exciting really.

I am just waiting for the next Boeing 747 to come in to land…

Happy New Year to all!

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Snowy December

Flossie in the snow

Some of us like it!

December has arrived and with it has come the snow. Winter has hit us early this year it seems.

As we hurtle towards another Christmas I find I am once again excited with a brand new little member of the family to buy for. Yet it barely seems five minutes since my own children were small and I was traipsing off to the round of nativity plays and pantomimes in which they each starred.

Oh those were indeed the days. I recall sitting almost doubled up with mirth as baby Jesus was lobbed into the audience from Mary’s lap during a particularly enthusiastic rendition of  ‘Away in a Manger’. In the same scene a disorientated Mary tumbled from her perch in a cloud of blue chiffon and King Herod’s Guards yawned and resorted to doing unmentionable things to their noses while their mothers hissed at them from the wings.

I have seen Angels run off in tears and baby Jesus literally lose his head only to have it kicked into touch by a helpful shepherd.

I have witnessed my middle daughter dressed as the most reluctant shepherd you have ever seen because there were no more spaces for angels. (She so wanted to be an angel.)

The Reluctant Shepherd

but I wanted to be an angel...

I have been overcome with motherly pride as my youngest daughter led the singing of “We will Rock You” with gusto, nudging those children next to her with her elbows when she thought they weren’t performing and making their wire halos wobble in a most alarming fashion.

I’ve coaxed my eldest son into wearing red tights so that he can play Herod’s page and cajoled the youngest into staying awake long enough to carry the letter ‘C’ onto the stage where the class of two and three year olds were spelling out ‘Christmas’. He did this with all the aplomb a two year old can muster before putting his thumb in his mouth, sliding beneath the Christmas tree and falling asleep. (I think he was coming down with something!)

My eldest daughter once led the narration for her nativity play. The school had had the innovative idea of producing a play that had no script. As my daughter narrated, the actors ad-libbed their parts. This was working very well considering the age of the actors which averaged four and a half years.

The story reached the part where the Three Wise Men reach the stable. My daughter confidently narrated:

“The Three Wise Men arrived at the stable and knelt down to give Baby Jesus their gifts,”

On cue, the three wise men dropped to their knees and threw their gifts into the manger. It was evident that they were then to stand and talk amongst themselves for a bit. The ensuing silence was broken only by the sound of an over enthusiastic Shepherd making a premature entrance and being shooed off stage by helpful cast members.

As we waited expectantly, the bravest of the three wise men took the show in hand, piping up in a small gruff voice,

 “Well, it was worf comin’ all this way then were’n it?”

His ad-lib stole the show.

That’s a little how I feel as we approach the festive season and I look back on those long gone days and forward to Christmases that are to come.

It has definitely been worth coming all this way!

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Let there be light

 I have been trawling through the files in my archives again and the story below rose to the fore and demanded to be read. Just a timely memory I thought I’d share. I promise not to include too many of these ‘down memory lane’ extracts but sometimes it’s good to look back and remember how it was.

The couple in this tale are the same couple who appear in Nappy cakes, picnics and popcorn by the way.

Let there be light

When I think of the 1970s,  I remember the cheerful fashions, wonderful films like ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Sting’, good music and long hot summers with clear blue skies and of course, being a teenager. 

There was another side to the 70s though.

In the early part of the decade,  The National Union of Miners had held the whole country to ransom. Coal supplies at the power stations were at an all-time low and an Emergency situation had been declared. Wherever your sympathies lay, there was no escaping the grim reality of the three day working week and the constant power cuts. 

Walking home from school along the darkened streets could have easily become a nightmare. Luckily, showing a unity of spirit for which they have been famed in the past, the British public came to the fore.  When the power failed, the candles and hurricane lamps were lit. Walking down the streets was like taking a trip through fairyland as the flickering lights twinkled from behind the darkened panes, curtains left undrawn so that passers by could be guided home. 

As we shivered and pulled our overcoats closer we were cheered to see that some enterprising souls had lit bonfires in their gardens (even though it would be a while until Guy Fawkes’ night) and were happily roasting potatoes and baking sausages in the embers. 

There was a kind of camaraderie built up as we queued to buy candles, night lights and oil lamps from shops displaying hastily erected signs advertising the arrival of new stock.  The humble white kitchen candle became a much sought-after item, whereas the fancy Christmas variety from the previous year burnt far too quickly. 

Shopping itself became an adventure during the power cuts and not one to be entered into lightly, given the likelihood of accidents as bodies bumped  and collided with one another in the gloom. 

The young American couple who, a while before had moved into the house adjacent to our own, must have wondered what on earth they had come to.  R was in the U.S. Navy and had been posted to England with his wife V and their baby daughter.  We had met them a few times and my sister and I had baby-sat for them.  My father chatted to R about cars and such. For a while R’s car was the talk of the neighbourhood, being a red and white Mustang, far wider than any car we were used to. We thought it was amazing.

Someone else must have thought the same, for one night in November it was stolen. 

R reported the theft to my father, who happened to be a local policeman. Always ready to help anyone, my father drove R around the local streets, convinced that it had been snatched by a joyrider and would have been abandoned intact.  He was right.  They found the car parked in a side turning right next to the local police station of all places. 

Meanwhile, we were having yet another power cut and V and the baby had come round to us to share the candlelight and use the gas stove, since they had an electric oven. The talk turned to Thanksgiving and V invited us to join them for their Thanksgiving dinner in a couple of weeks.  We were pleased to accept and intrigued as to what it would entail. 

We, who in those days rarely ate turkey at all outside the Christmas season, found it strange to find V preparing a large bird for the table at the end of November.  My sister and I went round early to help look after the baby while V busied herself in the kitchen.  To keep us going she had baked a plate of brownies, which we gratefully demolished. 

As we sat on the rug building bricks for the baby to knock down, the smell of the roasting turkey assailed our nostrils and we sighed in anticipation.  At 4.40 p.m. it was quite dark outside. At five o’clock the lights went out.

This power cut was quite unexpected and had caught all of us on the hop. 

“Don’t move!” V’s command reached our ears.

A series of  thumps and bangs from the kitchen conveyed to us that she was searching the cupboards for candles – by touch.  The search was not very successful and once our eyes had become accustomed to the dark, we picked up the baby and made our way to the hall, where one of us had thoughtfully stashed a torch. No one went out without one at that time. 

Light at last!  The beam was not brilliant but using it we managed to locate the candles and illuminate the rest of the room.  

“Well that’s good, but what about the turkey?” wailed V when we had placed the last candle on the mantlepiece.  The solution was obvious. Our house had a gas oven; we would take the bird over there to finish cooking.

Wrapping it in tin foil and placing it on a tray, we shielded it from the rain with an umbrella, and carried it, not without a struggle, to our own house. We left V trying to salvage the rest of the dinner as best she could. 

By the time we returned, V had unearthed the primus stove and was cooking the vegetables on that.  At seven o’clock a phone call from my mother confirmed that the turkey was ready. 

“Take the pram!” V admonished, removing baby and blankets in one movement and replacing them with a large tray.  Amidst much giggling and joking, my sister and I pushed the empty pram around the corner to where my mother waited on the doorstep, the enormous bird on the side table.  We carefully sat the turkey in the pram, covered it with the apron and pulled up the hood before dashing back around the corner lest it should get cold.  I often wonder what a surprise some well-meaning old lady would have had if she had peeped inside to admire our “baby”! 

The dinner was a great success, the candlelight making it particularly special.  The highlight of the evening, however, came when the power returned and R jumped up to show us how popcorn was made.  None of us had tasted salted popcorn before let alone seen it popping in the pan.  (If it was in the shops we frequented, we certainly had not noticed it.)   R had bought some from the naval base as a special treat. I can still see the enormous mixing bowl into which he tipped a mountain of glistening, white, freshly popped corn. 

The firelight flickered in the grate and played strange shadows along the wall as we relaxed in the chairs and listened to Don McLean on R’s reel-to-reel, of which he was inordinately proud.  Much later, when we had talked the night away, R gave us a tin of unpopped corn to take home with us. 

Those days are far behind us now and reel to reels have been replaced many times over. It’s funny though, I still like to keep a supply of white candles in the house, just in case.

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One Lovely Blog Award

Awards must be just like London buses; you don’t see any for ages and then two come along at once. So it was with me this week. Not only was I told I was to be a BON on Monday, but I also received a ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ from Katie Gates. Thank you Katie! (I discovered an icon for this Award which I have pasted on the site. I thank whoever it was who produced it.) Do visit Katie at Katie Gates: Stories and Opinions . Katie is a very talented writer. Her personal essays are topical, thought provoking and often humorous and I can personally recommend her novel, ‘The Somebody Who’ a warm, funny and wholly believable story woven around a family dealing with dementia. The book is currently being serialised on Saturdays on Katie’s blog.

One Lovely Blog Award

Now that the fuss and furore of my BON day and all that it entailed, has died down, I have had time to contemplate and select five people whose blogs I think deserve to be called ‘Lovely’. This is the only request that comes with the award, the recipient must pass it on to between 5 and 15 other Lovely Bloggers.

I thought this might be a hard task but in fact, it was easy. I just picked the people who regularly make me smile, cry or just feel ‘good’ as I read their posts. So, without further ado, here they are – my five favourites in no particular order:

  1. Amy: Normal is a Dryer Setting
    Amy’s son Jonah has Autism and this blog is a truly amazing insight into the world that he and his parents inhabit. I love the way Amy writes with such matter of fact honesty, humour being never far away. We ride the escalator with her and Jonah, over and over…and for a brief time, we see the world through Jonah’s eyes. I love this blog.
  2. Doris Gallon: http://www.babyboomerstraveling.com/ I found Doris in a writer’s group on Linkedin and her blog caught my attention on day one. Doris’s travel tips are brilliant and her traveller’s tales informative, funny and highly entertaining. I am constantly amazed at how prolific a writer she is and how far she has travelled.
  3. Zoe Louise : http://www.zlbarker.wordpress.com Yes, I know she is my daughter but I am so amazed at her design skills as well as her writing ability that I cannot possibly leave her out. Zoe is a fashion designer who has just completed an MA and is launching her first collection. To reach her goal, she has struggled with finances, transport, plagiarism and moments of self doubt but her blog tracks her journey over the past year and I love her observations and various dilemmas chronicled along the way.
  4. Tia: Cottage by the Sea I had to include this one because not only do I love this blog for its gorgeous header and Tia’s hilarious tales of how this cottage by the sea was restored and renovated but I can really empathise with Tia’s choice of two white sofas – despite having five children and 6 grandchildren! Reminds me of when my five were young and we too were persuaded to buy a whiter than white suite. You just have to wonder don’t you?
  5. Joann Mannix Laundry Hurts My Feelings I love the title – it resonates so well with me as does her house full of daughters (she has three, so do I, though I also have a couple of boys to lighten the load) The effects of three girls under one roof are the same though.  Whether writing about a film, a vacation or just life, she makes me laugh out loud. You’d better get there before Bono does though or she’ll be gone!

The only criteria for acceptance is that you pass One Lovely Blog Award on to between 5 and 15 of your own favourite bloggers and let them know that it is on its way. I do hope you enjoy my choices and if you have already met I hope you enjoy a return visit.

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WOW!

WOW!

Today is my BON day!

I am pleased and flattered to have been chosen as ‘Blogger of Note’ by Sandy and Pam over at Words of Wisdom today. This is indeed an honour. Thank you!

I am also a little nervous since I have read many of the brilliant blogs that have been highlighted over the past few months and I know I am in esteemed company.

WOW’s mission is to help bloggers of substance find each other. They do that by not only offering a place for like minded bloggers to gather, but also by highlighting great blogs each week. Visit them at Wisdom of Words to find out more.

I have been looking at how different people have coped with accepting this honour in the past. Forgive me if my impressions are slightly exaggerated – it is what I do best.

Some have been positively overcome and have gushed their way, tongue in cheek, through a thank you speech for all the world as though they are at the BAFTAs, their virtual champagne glasses filled with virtual champagne and held at the ready. We feel the glamour, the lights, the music…as we race breathlessly through the corridors of their blogs.

Others have rushed in at the last minute, hair a mess, shoes on the wrong feet, children or dog tucked under one arm, pausing only to pin a quick thank you to the door before rushing off again on the school-run/office run/mercy mission and leaving us to decipher their garbled instructions and to wonder how they ever found the time to write these incredible posts in the first place.

Then there have been the ‘extremely cool ‘and the, “am I bovered?” types. These ‘cool cookies’ amble into the room and barely raise an eyebrow before accepting the award and smiling with a shrug of the shoulders.

“That’s great – yeah, awesome. Cheers!” they grin before suggesting we might wander around a bit by ourselves while they amble off to water the plants or just sit back and watch.

So, where do I fit in within this melee of worthy recipients? I suspect that I am a bit of a mixture. I’d love to be really cool and just pin a thank you note to the door and ask you to wander round at your leisure. I’d also love to give a big acceptance speech but because I know that I may have a tendency to talk too much I shan’t.

I have decided to just be myself.

So, I am prepared. I will post this early. By the time you pop in, I plan to be sitting quietly on the side lines, drinking a cup of Twinings Tea. If you are thirsty, I’ll put the kettle on again but otherwise I’ll leave you to wander. Please excuse the cobwebs and the muddy paw prints and don’t be offended if you recognise yourself in any of my posts. Be flattered that I thought you interesting enough to include. Don’t worry if your hear a dog bark or a door bang. I may have to nip out but I’ll be back and if you stop long enough to leave your address, I’ll pop over to your place just as soon as I can.

Sandy and Pam have asked me to direct you to at least three of my favourite posts. I thought about this and decided to pick a few at random since I don’t know what you will like. The following might be worth a visit:

Material Girl

I heard that – Pardon?

Flossie, THE JUICER and some ‘un-common’ friends

No More Ribbons

So finally, may I say, ‘Welcome and I hope you enjoy!’

Debbie

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Calmer and Kama – How about that?

No sooner had the ‘ink’ dried on the page as it were, than the phone rang. It was a call from a chap from an Energy Company. He was clear. I heard his first words. I listened and I replied and thanked him for his call. The operation was painless. Not a Swahili word anywhere.

Did my words of yesterday really inspire this sudden about turn in my ability to hear? Is this another instance of ‘what goes around, comes around’?

I am mildly superstitious and I believe in all sorts of things that you probably don’t want to hear about, including ghosts. Why? One day I’ll tell you.

I had a similar experience with words and consequences the other day, when I could not find my camera. I’d lost it prior to the ‘Help for Heroes Barbeque’ and had had to use my iphone instead. I had looked everywhere (obviously that is a ridiculous statement because, if I had looked everywhere, I’d have found it.) I should rephrase that. I thought I had looked everywhere. So, I tried the method that normally brings things to light. I sat down where I was. Where I was, was in the bedroom by my bedside chest, so I sat on the floor- and spoke the immortal line,
“Well, I’ll never find it now,”

Barely were the words out of my mouth than, out of the corner of my eye, from my position on the floor, I saw something barely protruding from beneath the chest. It looked like the corner of a book so I reached down and retrieved it, except I left the book where it was because in reaching for the book, I had seen a second dark object pushed almost out of sight even further beneath the chest. I grabbed it.

My camera!

Who taught me that trick? I think I first tried it as a child after I read that mischievous spirits hide things and wont let you know where they are until you give up. I am not sure how that squares with my other long held view that with positive thought you can do anything. I positively knew that if I gave up I’d find it?

Anway, whether you think I had the help of a mischievous spirit or that my words merely freed my brain to think laterally – literally, laterally – is of no consequence. The fact is that words seem to hold more power than we often give them credit for.

My meanderings of yesterday, bemoaning the cold callers who confuse me with their garbled speech, resulted in a clean sheet this morning. My declaration that I would never find my camera, led immediately to its retrieval.

I am tempted here, in true Dave Allen style, for those who remember that late Irish comic’s catch phrase, to say:
“Goodnight, thank you and may your god go with you,” I always thought that to be a brilliant way to end a show, one that ought not cause offence.

I am not a Television addict but for some reason these old shows and catchphrases keep popping into my head … maybe there is a reason behind that? I shall think about it and get back to you.

Meanwhile, that really is enough words for one day.

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“I heard that – Pardon?” *

 This post is inspired by what I now see as selfish behaviour on my part. Yesterday, the telephone didn’t stop ringing. As well as calls from family, there were many from British Gas, BT and a variety of sales people not to mention those irritating automated calls that begin by telling you it is an important public announcement (it never is).

Having spent most of the day answering the phone and part of the evening, I began to think Alexander Graham Bell was perhaps my least favourite person. I even stated on ‘linked-in’ this morning that I was ‘out’ to callers.

How wrong could I be?

Where would I be without this means of communication? In fact, I am now thinking that I should use it more often instead of complaining about its incessant ringing.

I have only one excuse and that is that I find it very hard to hear people on the phone. Not all people you understand but the majority. Just the first few words usually sound like gibberish to me. Friends and family tend to realise this and try not to say anything important when I first pick up the phone. I can hear perfectly after a few moments. Sounds odd? Well, I am odd. When I leave the phone I often experience the same phenomenon when someone speaks in the same room as me. I gape at them as their mouths open and shut but I don’t hear what they say. Yes, I had my ears checked and no, they didn’t find anything wrong.

Yes, some day I will get a second opinion.

This problem of missing the first few words of a conversation is not good when dealing with cold callers of course. My family tease me as I plead,

“I’m sorry, who did you say you are? Where are you calling from? I’m so sorry, I can’t understand a word you are saying,” Normally, the person on the other end does not break to breathe let alone explain anything. They are reading their set script and hurtle on before I get time to grasp any of it. To these callers, trying to earn a crust, I apologise but I must hang up.

The other kind of caller is the ‘old friend/relative of my husband’. I recognise the tone of the voice. I recognise the inflection but the words? Swahili?? I guess. Sometimes I am correct. Sometimes I am wildly wrong. No one seems to mind.

At some point, the conversation starts to make sense. Sometimes I think I have been speaking to one person and it is only midway through the conversation that their identity becomes clear. This happens when my daughters phone me. To be fair, they all sound much the same. My youngest phoned me to tell me she was expecting without first saying her name and I had to check which daughter she was. Yes, seriously. Well, so would you I am sure!

Having said that, when my eldest son was young, before his volice broke, he had a very ‘girlie’ voice. So ‘girlie’, that when he dialled the fire brigade aged six, (long story, he was going to see a fire station the following day with his Beaver group and must have decided to dial 999 and see what happened) the operator assumed he was a girl. She was of course, extremely unimpressed. She blocked the phone line so that when I returned to the house (bad mother had been across to the shops and left eldest daughter in charge)I picked up the receiver and was astounded to be berated by the lady on the other end because she said my daughter had rung for the fire brigade and she had informed the police. My 13 year old ‘babysitter’ knew nothing about it.

The police arrived in due course and wanted to speak to ‘my daughter’. My younger two daughters were in the house by then but both denied the offence emphatically and of course, I believed them.

“I think it must have been my son,” I told them. The police woman shook her head.

“Definitely a girl’s voice,” she said firmly,

“Can we just have a word with your daughter please? It’s usually all that’s needed to make sure she doesn’t do it again.” I was horrified. My reliable, slightly ‘Goth’ looking daughter who had an after school job and enjoyed doing a bit of charity work? No!

“My son has a very girlie voice, he’s only six.” I told them. They were not convinced.

I tried to find my son but he had vanished as children do when they have done something wrong. (Bad mother let her children play out in the cul-de-sac where we lived). My daughter spoke to the police of course but could tell them nothing and their gentle lecture did not go down well.

I found my son a little later. He denied everything.

It took him six months to confess. We were out walking one day and walked right past the fire station.

“Is it very bad to phone the fire brigade if there isn’t a fire?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” I replied. I did explain why, but you don’t need to hear that, you know why!

 “Did you phone them that time then?” I asked.

“Yes, but I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be naughty. I just wanted to see what would happen,” he confessed.

His voice broke eventually, thankfully. Now he can take responsibility for his own actions!

So, back to the phone and what has changed my mind about it.

This morning, having said I was ‘out’ to callers, I bumped into an old friend who lives about two miles down the road. I haven’t seen her for about ten years. We had a lot of catching up to do, happy news, sad news…the lot. Our youngest sons were friends when small so I suppose that’s the time when we saw each other the most. When the boys grew and went their separate ways, we did too. Work replaced those coffee mornings and the friendly chats we’d swapped in the school playground.

It made me think though. The odd phone call would have been a good idea. In fact I had one from another friend who I haven’t seen for a year or more, only recently.

It made my day!

So, I have ditched the selfish attitude and if you can bear with me as I struggle to hear the very first thing you say, I am definitely ‘in to callers’ today and every day from now on. I may even make a few of my own.

* “I heard that – pardon?” : An oft repeated quote in our house, taken from the BBC comedy series “I didn’t Know you Cared” aired in the 70’s by Peter Tinniswood and loosely based on his books.

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‘Help For Heroes’ BBQ

"Help For Heroes" BBQ 2010

"Help For Heroes" BBQ 2010

The Barker Summer BBQ has been around for some time and is a well known feature of summer in these parts.

Previous years have seen us basking in sunshine beneath blue skies, our guests scrabbling for a place in the shade. On only one occasion have we been virtually ‘washed out.’ That was a challenge!

With Dave manning the barbeque outside, beneath a hurriedly erected gazebo, the rest of us huddled indoors. At least, most of us did. The children still insisted on running through the rain to play on the bouncy castle and some intrepid teenagers managed to join them. The guest list had dwindled somewhat as some people assumed that we would cancel the event due to the weather.

Not us!

The following year, having learnt from our experience, we hired a marquee, a covered bouncy castle and a live band to entertain us. The sun shone unremittingly and all sides of the marquee were raised because it was so hot within.

Since then we have had pretty good weather for our annual summer bash. It was fingers crossed for this year…

The  previous week was one of the wettest on record. Rain lashed down, temperatures dropped. We watched the weather forecast with anxious eyes. Miraculously, Friday ‘dried up’ and Saturday dawned sunny and reasonably warm if a little windy.

We decided to make the occasion a fund raising event for the charity, ‘Help for Heroes’. this year. Hence, we could be found preparing a raffle, a ‘guess the name’ event and various other ‘fund raisers’. We were not that well organised but with plenty of willing hands to help, we managed to get everything up and running including face-painting for the children. Only one child had an allergic reaction to the paints and had to be cleaned up quickly – the others turned into tigers, lions and teddy bears without any trouble at all.
Tiger Tiger...

Tiger Tiger...

 

Run, run as fast as you can!

Run, run as fast as you can!

The musician we had hired for the evening had travelled down from Nottingham and was brilliant. Despite temperatures dipping a little towards evening, he kept his audience entertained even if they were, by now, sporting a fleece or two.

The rain stayed away and although some of our guests left before hyperthermia could set in, we managed to raise an extremely respectable, £510.27p So, a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who made that possible!

"Help Four Heroes" BBQ 2010

Enjoying the sunshine

As we climbed the stairs to bed at 2 a.m. we were already planning next year’s ‘Barker Bash’.

The morning after....

The morning after....

Better start checking the weather forecast now…

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Lamenting Lambert

Perusing my old files, I came across this little verse that I had been inspired to write and send to the Council Parking Officer, back in 1998. Our local car park had changed its policy over the Christmas period and was now offering a free half hour of parking, with every minute over that being chargeable.

Having not seen the small print saying one had to take a ticket regardless of whether paying or not, I found that my five minute stop attracted a fine of £30.00. Despite the fact that the car park attendant saw me pull up and read the sign from a distance, he did not think to tell me that, under the new rules, I should take a ticket. Feeling I had been unjustly charged, I wrote to the Parking Officer – Mr Lambert – he refused to reconsider my plea. When I sent the cheque for the amount due, I enclosed a short verse to prick his conscience.

I did not receive a reply…

…Below is the verse that accompanied my hard earned money.

                                           

To The Parking Officer

Dear Mr Lambert.

Lamenting Lambert…. 

(copyright: Deborah J. Barker 31.12.97)

Please accept this small donation
For a fine it cannot be
I committed no offence,
Though you find that hard to see.

“Free Half Hour Parking”
I read with some surprise.
A pleasant one indeed,
But a cruel trick in disguise.

Those words were written large,
Not so those underneath.
So to other hapless souls,
This warning I bequeath…

If you think you don’t need glasses,
There’s an eye test sure to show –
In Basingwell Street car park
The small print deals a blow.

Beware the sly attendant
Who sees you leave your car
And thinks not to shout a warning,
But observes you from afar…

Having watched you leave the vehicle,
Sure that parking’s free,
He’ll stick a notice on it
And sidle off with glee.

For you see, there is a catch here,
Free parking there is, true,
But if you don’t take a ticket,
He’ll slap a fine on you.

Returning within  minutes,
I saw the wretched paper,
Astounded, checked the sign again
What a bloomin’ caper!

One machine was broken,
T’other not much better,
And when I asked the chap in charge,
He said to write a letter.

You really have amazed me,
Your Christmas Spirit’s fled.
Scrooge was quite a charmer
Compared to what you’ve said.

I was confident in writing,
That, common sense prevailing,
You’d see this great injustice
But my sense of humour’s failing…

Please don’t waste my money,
Tell me how you’ll use it….
Five children here could do with it
So please, do not abuse it.

May the New Year bring you joy,
May parking fraudsters pay
And may those of us who do no wrong,
Not suffer ‘long the way!

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