Tag Archives: consequences

Nights in Pink Satin

As I reached across the gas hob to retrieve a wooden spoon, I felt the heat rush up my arm. Husband had left the gas ring on, ‘simmer’. I hastily withdrew my arm before the flimsy material of my blouse could catch alight.
That single act brought another image to mind, an image of another item of clothing that did not escape the flames and indeed, that can still cause me to squirm and die a little of shame, each time I remember it.
I was 3 years old. The year was 1960.
It should be said that sibling jealousy played a big part in what was about to happen.
It had all started on Christmas morning 1959. My middle sister and I were both handed similarly sized, squashy presents, wrapped in identical Christmas paper.
My 5-year-old sister must have unwrapped her gift first. As the sheet of paper tore apart, a torrent of beautiful, pink satin silk, cascaded onto the floor, landing in soft ripples at my feet. Scooping the garments up, my sister exclaimed over her new satin knickers and nightie. I, watching longingly, coveted them from that moment.
“Open yours,” she urged me. I couldn’t wait. I ripped open my present, expecting the same pink satin garments to drop from its folds. I pulled out the crisp, flowered cotton apron and held it before me.
“What a lovely apron Auntie Jules has given you,” exclaimed my mother, or words to that effect.
I stared at the apron, disappointment clouding my vision. I looked at my sister’s pink silk nightwear and put the apron down. I don’t suppose I actually said I was disappointed. Perhaps they knew as much by my face but nothing was said. Of course, I liked the apron. However, its coarse cotton fibres could never match the delicate fronds that made up the silk knickers.
Every time my sister wore the garments I must have felt that stab of jealousy. More than once I begged to be allowed to wear them for a while, though they would not have fitted me. I was never allowed.
Living in a house bereft of any heating save for the coal fire, burning in the grate, it was inevitable that when laundry had to be dried indoors, the airer was erected close to the fire.
On this particular evening, some time early in 1960, the pink satin knickers and the pink satin slip, had been draped over the wooden clothes horse along side my Winceyette nightie.
My mother was brushing my sister’s newly washed hair. We must have both just had a bath because I was wrapped in a towel.
The fire guard had been moved while my mother poked at the coals to rekindle the flames. Satisfied, she had sat back to resume the brushing.
I reached out, intending to touch the pink satin.
“Don’t touch my things!” blurted my sister.
Now what possessed me, who can say? I really do not know but I remember it clearly. Perhaps her words goaded me, before I knew what was happening, I was reaching out and grabbing the knickers in defiance, while she screamed at me and my mother blinked in amazement. Quick as wink, I had flung the gorgeous pink satin knickers onto the fire.
To my mother’s credit, she reacted quickly and tonged the knickers out again, before they disintegrated in the flames. Alas, she was too late to prevent the scorched hole from appearing in the seat of those pants. They would not be worn again.
My sister squealed and I, almost as shocked by my actions as she was, burst into tears. The smack I received and the reprimand, were nothing in comparison with the feeling of horror I experienced when I saw what I had done.
It was a tough lesson to learn for a three-year-old, “jealousy is a destructive emotion and what is done cannot be undone”.
So, here I am, 56 years later and that moment is etched in my memory still, brought to mind this week, by a gas ring left burning. My sister kept the pink satin nightie until she grew out of it, by which time it was quite washed out and far less appealing. Its whereabouts after that are a mystery, probably delegated to the rag-bag.
Ironically, I still have the cotton apron that Auntie Joules bought me, all those years ago and treasure it beyond any silk or satin.

On the beach

Sisters – pink satin horror forgotten

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Filed under Living Between the Lines

“I heard that – Pardon?” *

As I will be on an island somewhere in the blue Aegean Sea for the next couple of weeks, I am scheduling a couple of re-runs to fill the gap. The following post was first published on 9th September 2010.

 

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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Filed under Tidbits - the written word

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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Filed under Tidbits - the written word

“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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Filed under Tidbits - the written word