Thursday 25 December 2014

Happy Christmas

 Good morning and a Happy Christmas!

The dinner is prepared and the meat in the oven.  Presents will shortly be opened.  
This year our preparations have been in two stages.  An early beginning when I was well ahead of where I needed to be and then (because of a spell in bed) a last minute panic.  The cards got sent out on the day of Royal Mail's deadline at the weekend.  On Tuesday Partner-who-loves-tea and I went to the three local supermarkets (Aldi, Tesco, and Sainsburys) and bought them.  I don't mean that we made purchases - I mean we bought them.  Or that is how it seemed.  While in Tesco's we met a friend who has a husband, children and about twelve grandchildren.  In her trolley she had seven items.  Our trolley had splayed wheels because of the weight and was overflowing leaving a trail of items.  There is something wrong when that happens.  A trip to the bank sorted an additional mortgage to pay for it all.   Getting home was OK but to comply with the car's handbook we should really have pumped up the back tyres by a few psi because of the additional weight....  

The tree was late going up but it is there now and the presents are wrapped and safely underneath it.

Doesn't one of our US friends wrap her gifts beautifully - the ones with the big red ribbon. What is in there is hardly important when the attention to wrapping shows such love.

Friend-uber-special sent us a Vintage Shiny-brite for the tree and every year when we put it on we shall think of her and her husband.   

And this year we have also added a Christmas pickle!

In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany and some were in the shape of various fruit and vegetables. It seems that pickles must have been among the selection!  Around the same time it was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. However, this seems to be a total myth! Not many people in Germany have even heard of the Christmas Pickle!
There is an equally unlikely story linked to St. Nicholas. It's a medieval tale of two Spanish boys travelling home from a boarding school for the holidays. When they stopped at an inn for the night, the evil innkeeper killed the boys and put them in a pickle barrel. That evening, St. Nicholas stopped at the same inn, found the boys in the barrel and miraculously bought them back to life!  But it is most likely that an ornament salesmen, with a lot of spare pickles to sell, invented the legend of the Christmas Pickle!

It has been such a mild winter so far that the birds are nesting – or at least this one from New Jersey is…

We will have to make such the squirrel doesn’t get the eggs.

We also put up two new decorations that we had bought ourselves.  We usually get one or two new ones each year. 

Lots of Love to you all...

Friday 5 December 2014

Rambling towards Christmas

Yes, I know it is nearly Christmas and I should be getting the decorations down from the loft, writing cards and thinking about meals rather than writing posts for Rambles.  But what I should do and what I end up doing have often run in parallel lines rather than met and run as one….

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman
‘The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman’ by Denis Theriault translated by Liedewy Hawke (2014) was originally published in French in 2005 as ‘Facteur emotif’. 

Swirling like water
against rugged rocks,
time goes round and round.

“Bilodo was an unusual postman.
Among the thousands of soulless pieces of paper he delivered on his rounds, he occasionally came across a personal letter – a less and less common item in this era of email, and all the more fascinating for being so rare.  When that happened, Bilodo felt as excited as a prospector spotting a gold nugget in his pan.  He did not deliver that letter.  Not right away.  He took it home and steamed it open.  That’s what kept him so busy at night in the privacy of his apartment….!
In particular Bilodo is excited by correspondence between a local man and a Guadeloupian girl which consist only of Japanese haiku.   He would have longed to reply to her himself but “Could a humble postman become a poet overnight?  Could an ostrich be expected to start playing the banjo?  Did snails ride bicycles?”
Apparently snails do ride bicycles because an accident causes Bilodo to begin replying to her.  But she thinks he is her original correspondent.  And the haiku turn into impassioned tankas… 

Steamy, sultry night
The moist sheets soft embrace burns
My thighs and my lips
I search for you, lose my way,
I am that open flower.

How will it all turn out?  I’m not telling you!  If you want to know you are going to have to read it.

Quote of  the day
I love my computer.  It has never once asked me how many computers I’ve had before.
My Grumpy Old Man spot
Nowadays one of the high spots of my day is when the mail drops through the letterbox onto the mat.  Will there be postcards from friends?  Will there be postcards from complete strangers as a result of Postcrossing?  Most days there is one or the other; sometimes both and on perhaps one day a fortnight there may be as many as seven or eight.    

Our local postman in the good old days before he took early retirement. 
But what time will the mail drop onto the mat?  Ever since the local postal service stopped having the 'one man one round' system the timing of its arrival has been erratic.  So not only do we not know our postman, because it could be one of a dozen or more on any particular day, but we also don't have a clue as to when the mail is arriving.  It rarely comes in the morning, usually it comes somewhere between noon and three p.m. but on occasion it has been as late 5.40 p.m.   By that time one has generally assumed that there is simply no post today (an unusual circumstance since there is generally someone wanting to bill me or sell me something).  The service is likely to be privatised in the near future and it is as though Royal Mail are doing their best to ensure they have enough dissatisfied customers to lose the contract.  I will deeply regret that.

 This chap seems to have the same round all the time in West Kirby 
(and is very pleasant and helpful when you need directions).   

West Kirby is a township quite close to us.  Why can't we have the same service as West Kirby where we live?  Our postmen don't know the area so not only would they probably be unable to direct a stranger but they also mistake our house for next door and even for the same numbered house in the next road.  They don't know the individual arrangements of the different houses for parcel deliveries.  And some of them seem incapable of finding a doorbell, relying on kicking the door to get one's attention.  When the Bargain Booze lorry is unloading opposite the amount of banging ensures there is no chance of picking out the sound of a postman's boot.  Ah well, moan over........  

Saturday 29 November 2014

David John

David John Edwards
(29th Nov. 1986 – 20th Feb 1987)

     David was.
     David is.
     But, Dear Lord,
     Whatever happened to
     What David might have been?

David was born to Jo and I in ‘Oxford Street’, Liverpool Maternity Hospital on this day in 1986.  Such knowing eyes. Three months later he died – a cot death.  The terrible raw grieving is now over.  The memory lingers on.  Memories of good times and fun days and a day when he was about two and a half months and ‘Everything was perfect’.  His death taught me so much and changed me as a person – for the better, I hope.  Certainly it made me more understanding. And it has made me ever fearful for my three other children. But the longing for him to have lived overlies everything. 

There are various ‘models’ about grieving.  None of them can be exactly applied to every individual because we are all different just as our children were different.  But most models end with an ‘Acceptance’ stage where the parent learns to accept and deal with the reality of their situation. Acceptance does not mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil the parent has experienced, she or he can never return to the carefree, untroubled person that existed before this tragedy.  They are irrevocably changed but they can go on to live their lives as 'normal' people.  Shortly after David died I worried that I might forget him in the sense of not bringing him to mind every day.  There probably has been the odd day when I haven’t thought of him.  But is has been only the odd day in 28 years.

Parents should not outlive their children and today is a day for remembering that.  And, because of that, I am also thinking about GB and Carol (parents of my nephew and godson, Andrew); Sue and Dave (Tom’s parents); Katie and Adam (Archie’s parents); and many other parents that I met through the Alder Centre at Alder Hey Hospital.  Sadly, the list is endless.

P.S.  I'm not seeking sympathy in the comments - I simply had to record the day somehow.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Time goes by so .....

Time goes by so slowly fast
I can hardly believe it’s over a week since I last posted on this blog.  Where does the time go?  I have a theory about that.  Everyone knows that the years go more quickly the older you get.  But had you realised that the months are of different lengths?  I don’t mean Thirty days hath September, April, June and November and all that.  Danielle, a friend in the USA, was saying how ill-prepared she was for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  That immediately made me realise that November is a far shorter month than any other on the calendar.  Never mind that it has thirty days.  Its days are shorter and fly by at twice the speed of October’s.  One minute you are saying how nice the leaves look as they begin to turn into their autumn dress.  Next minute it’s Thanksgiving and the butcher is telling you he’s sold out of turkeys.   And if November is the fastest month of the twelve surely February is the slowest.  Wet, cold, windy… It just drags on forever.  And there is no way round it.  Even if we could get the United Nations to agree on a new calendar it would still go quickly when you had a lot to do and creep by when you were anxious for the new season to arrive.

Postcards Galore
I have a separate postcard blog but the sending and receiving of postcards has become such a major part of my life that I must mention it here on my main blog.

We have a daily post apart from Sunday.  It is delivered to the door and flops through the letterbox and onto the mat.  And nowadays the sound of it arriving is sometimes the highlight of my day.  Even if the day has something else exciting happening I can’t wait to see what the postman has brought.  It is rare for there to be no postcards at all.  I now have so many Postcrossing cards travelling and so many friends who use it either as a means of swapping cards or as a means of communication.  These latter have sent so many beautiful and interesting cards that I couldn’t choose just one or two to show you here but I thought I’d show you some of the more interesting ones from strangers. 

I suppose this doesn’t wholly qualify as a stranger – it is from someone who went to the same Prep.  school as me.  He is now in the Cayman Islands:-
 Cats seem to be the subject of so many cards nowadays.  This one is painted by Anton Gortsevich and came from Sasha in Russia.
This cat came from Oksana in Belarus and is one of many painted by the super artist Irina Zeniuk.

Books Galore
Charlie Lovett’s “The Bookman’s Tale” (2013) is one of the most delightful books I’ve read for a while.  A thriller, a novel of love and obsession, the hero is an antiquarian bookseller and it bobs back and forth between the 1980s, the 1990s and the 1870s.  What more could I want? 
Danielle in Nebraska mentioned on her blog a series of old British crime stories called the British Library Crime Classics.  I took a look at them on Amazon and found a set of five at a reduced price, all by authors I had never heard of.  I got them and if the first one is anything to go by this series is a great discovery.   The one I’ve read is “The Lake District Murder” by John Bude (the pseudonym of Ernest Elmore, co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association).  Published for the first time since the 1930s, it particularly appealed to me because I knew all the places referred to – they were part of what I considered my second home in my youth.
 In that youth I read all the Agatha Christie books.  I could never exactly count how many there were but around 66 with 14 collections of short stories.  One I hadn’t read was “Black Coffee”.  That was for the simple reason that it hadn’t been published – it was first published in 1998 being the first of her plays to be novelised by another author- Charles Osborne.  Originally performed in 1930 it stars Hercule Poirot and is a typical, enjoyable Agatha Christie read.
Yet another crime story I’ve read recently is “The Shadows in the Street” by Susan Hill (2010.
And now for something for completely different.  Terry Pratchett has a new children’s book out – “Dragons at Crumbling Castle” (2014).  Fourteen early stories, dug out from the archives, that show off the skills of the young Terry, provide an early look at the Carpet People and who couldn’t love Hercules the Tortoise.
Two books I’ve started but have yet to finish are “Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden (the first in the Wars of the Roses series) and “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul”.  Both are proving most enjoyable.

Blank Notebooks
I love blank notebooks.  I can’t resist buying them, especially if they have lovely bindings.  And my family are well aware of this love and treat me to new notebooks on my birthday and at Christmas (hint, hint).  What I then write in them varies enormously.  Last week Heather commented on the importance of the written word – written for oneself as opposed to composed on the computer and, sometimes, created with an audience in mind.  I promptly started writing a diary again in one of those lovely notebooks.  It survived two days and then missed four days.  I must be more disciplined but at the same time I shall not force myself to make an entry every day.

The Spillchucker
Every so often I comment on the vagaries of the spellchecker.    

This week I had an e-mail from a friend which asked for my elephant number.  I gave him my phone number instead.

Another friend obviously meant to say ‘Glad you liked them’ but the phone decided she meant ‘God you liked them’.  Or perhaps she really had not expected them to be enjoyed and meant ‘God! You liked them?’  Who knows.

And when I mistyped postcrossing and wrote ppstcrossing instead my e-mail system suggested I really meant cross-dressing.  Duh!

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