Friends

21 July 2017

CHORES, LOVE 'EM OR HATE 'EM

Gone are the days when household chores were undertaken without much thought. We just did them. No sweat!

Making twin beds each day was no problem, in fact it was something I enjoyed doing. I was proud of my beds, and the way they were ‘dressed’. To me they weren’t just somewhere to sleep, they were part of the room’s attraction and I intended to keep it that way. This is what living in a bungalow does for me, it didn’t matter so much in the big house because the bedrooms were upstairs and out of sight.

Things change, though. Or rather people do. I gave up the twin beds and got one large. Ooooh, all that room to sleep in was heaven even though it meant more walking, round and round, on a daily basis, when I made up the bed. I can’t remember when the breathlessness started but start it did, and always after the morning ritual of making the bed, which necessitated a daily hike round the bed. That was when I realised I was getting older and things had to change.


Bed-making was eased by the introduction of fitted sheets but, after a while, when those sheets needed washing it got to be a struggle to replace them with clean ones. It’s the back, you know, plus that tendency towards breathlessness.

I dealt with it, as you do, until it got to be a worry. This meant a rethink was required. What to do? I remembered when Joe was quite poorly, and bedlinen had to be changed more regularly, I got into the habit of taking the washing to the launderette. They washed and ironed – for a price – but it was convenient and meant I got the clean sheets back in double quick time. Now there is only me, and only one bed, so I started to do my own laundry again.

Until now.

Two large sheets is all, top and bottom, but they were a struggle to fold and impossible to iron, as well as being a struggle to fit on the bed, not to mention all that walking round and round the double bed.  It got that I was having to sit down between each move so I knew I had to do something about it.

Back to the launderette. By this time the price (£12 UK money) had risen to £15 although that wasn’t the reason for the rethink. The shop is a car drive away and if you asked me to walk there and back it would be like asking me to polish the moon. I began to wonder what would happen when the car was disposed of.

Two weeks ago I saw the mother of Paola, who used to clean my house once a week. Her mother had moved from cleaning houses to taking in washing and still collected laundry from the house opposite. Aha, I thought. I waited for her to come out and went over for a little chat…the sort of chat that sounds like a plea for help.

After explaining what I wanted I was disappointed to learn that she was too busy, but after a while she backed down and said she would do it for £10 per sheet. That made £20 in total for one wash. Well, what else can a body do when desperate? We exchanged phone numbers then went our separate ways.

This week was the turn of Molly Maid to visit. Molly Maid is the name of the
outfit that does house cleaning. Two or three ladies come every third week (my arrangement) and will do anything. The agency stipulates that windows can be cleaned as well as ordinary housework, at a price of £11 extra. They know when they’ve got you in a corner, so to speak. A few weeks ago I mentioned my need to have windows cleaned internally (I have a regular window cleaner who does the outside only) and Tina, who heads the team, said she would do it – FOR FREE, but ‘don’t tell the agency boss’.

Now Tina has come up trumps with the laundry. Changing bed linen is part of their duties but not washing them. We got into a discussion about the price of laundry, something Tina felt strongly about. After a few rants on her part about how physically able people were making money out of us oldies, simply because we had no choice. I nearly passed out when she grabbed the sheets and said she would do them. FOR FREE! Apparently, she was incensed by the way people seem unwilling to help.

So off she went, sheets over one arm and the vacuum cleaner pulled along by the other. She returned the washed laundry three days later.

I can’t offer her money but maybe an occasional box of chocolates? I don’t want to offend her and ruin a good relationship. My way of helping could be to provide things for her regular bring-and-buy stall – something she does to help charities. Books galore are waiting to be disposed of so maybe that’s the way to go. Helping her would help me and hopefully repay her kindness. 

15 July 2017

DON'T GO TOO NEAR THE WATER

‘Don’t go too near the water.’


Little Meg could hear her mother’s voice but the seriousness of the instruction didn’t seem justified. She was a big girl now. And the water looked so inviting.

Meg had been brought here for her birthday, the trip to Morecambe Beach being part of the weekend celebrations. She’d had some super presents, a scooter, and a dolls house with REAL furniture.

A smile played round her lips and she mentally hugged herself. She’d wanted a dolls house for so long. The inside was lovely, the walls were papered and there was carpet in all the rooms. She loved the tiny chairs and tables, the clock on the kitchen wall, and the bed upstairs, and the bath, and the rocking horse in the bedroom. There were even tiny coat hangers on the hook on the door. It was exciting to have her very own dolls house. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends at school.

Meg really wanted to go home and play with the house but since they were here for several more hours she might as well explore.

Surreptitiously looking round, Meg saw her mother talking to Gran, their colourful beach chairs turned away from the sea. She slipped off the blue and white flip flops that had been bought specially for the beach. The sand felt soft against her bare feet, it tickled a bit but she loved the feel of it. If she pressed her feet down she could see the shape of her own feet.

Kneeling on the sand she felt a splash from a big wave. She didn’t realise she was so near to it. Meg leaned forward to sniff the water and a little bit went up her nose. She sneezed. Tasted the salt.

Fascinated, she watched another wave forming. If she hurried she could duck under it. Scrambling up she darted to the very edge of the water and waited.

It was like being in the shower. Turning her face into the spray Meg laughed happily when the water fell away from her face. This was fun, she thought.

Her mother called again. Meg turned and waved, didn’t see the next wave coming. It was bigger and more powerful, knocked her off her feet and dragged her into the sea. Coppery hair fanned out as she struggled against the water.

She felt herself sinking, down, down, down. She reached out to touch the sea bed but it wasn’t there. Instead she was grabbed from behind, arms gathered her up, floated with her. A piece of driftwood glided past, narrowly missing her nose. She giggled, tried twisting her head to look at her rescuer.

‘Keep still, Meg.’

The voice was squeaky, not one she had heard before. She wriggled in the great arms that held her so tight. They were covered in a red fabric. She didn’t know anyone who wore red.

Further and further they went, moving steadily along the coastline. Meg wedged her chin against one of the huge arms and peered into the gloom, wanted to ask where they were yet fearful of knowing. She couldn’t think why it had suddenly gone so dark. She wasn’t REALLY frightened, just a LITTLE bit trembly.

A few minutes later she saw a shaft of light ahead, coming from an open door. That’s why it was so dark, she thought, they were in a tunnel.

Her rescuer piloted her towards the door.

The cave was breathtaking. Meg took it all in, the splendour of it, cave walls lit by lanterns, glow-worms flitting around the ceiling like moving stars, and the biggest cobwebs she’d ever seen. Right in the middle was a table made of sea shells, the colours glowing in the light.

‘Come in, come in,’ said the King, adjusting his lopsided crown.

Meg was lowered to the seaweed covered floor, her hand held fast so she wouldn’t fall. For the first time she could see her rescuer, a QUITE ugly gnome.

‘She was very good,’ the gnome told the King.

‘Oh I’m hopskippingly delighted,’ said the King. His voice reminded Meg of Freddy, the grown up boy next door. He had the same croaky voice. But the King was a lot older. MUCH older than Daddy. Daddy didn’t have a beard either.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked.

Suddenly the room was filled with more gnomes, hands covering their mouths as they stared at her.

‘What?’ she asked.

Her gnome, her rescuer, whispered in her ear, ‘You should never ask a King how OLD he is.’

Meg looked at the King, thinking she should say she was sorry, but the King had sat down at the rickety table with his back to her. He wore a cloak of green seaweed which had caught in the chair. Meg moved across to tug it out but stopped when the gnomes loudly exclaimed in horror.

‘What?’ she demanded, brushing away a silver fish swimming too close to her face.

As if they were automated the gnomes put their fingers to their lips, shushing her.
Her own gnome whispered again, ‘We do not touch the King.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he’s the King. The Almighty Ruler of the Seas.’

‘Well, I’M going to speak to him,’ Meg told him. Defiance wasn’t in her nature but she didn’t like being told what NOT to do.

Looking fearful, the gnomes huddled together, then shuffled back so she could move to the front of the table. She wanted to ask the King why he didn’t allow people to speak to him.

Grasping hold of a steel rod that was wedged in the ground, she edged forward. The floor was very slippery and she felt something crunch beneath her foot. Looking down she saw a mass of broken shells, heard the gnomes complaining amongst themselves. Meg supposed the King would tell her off for being clumsy.

Slithering and sliding, she at last reached the other side of the table, sat on a chair opposite the King.

‘Ooooh,’ she said. ‘Why are you crying?’

The King raised his head. Tears coursed down his cheeks, his tongue trying to catch them. ‘Too much salt,’ he said. ‘Too much salt.’

‘Don’t you like salt?’ Meg asked, ignoring the horrified noises coming from the gnomes.

‘It doesn’t like me,’ replied the King.

That was a MYSTERY. Meg wondered how salt could take a dislike to anyone. She didn’t like salt but she didn’t think it was offended by what Daddy called her faddy ways. A shoal of fish swam across the table, she wondered if they’d taste good with chips.

Realising the King was looking at her, she returned her attention to him. ‘Why are you crying,’ she enquired a second time.

‘Nobody talks to me,’ the King explained. He seemed VERY sad.

‘Why?’

‘I don’t know.

‘Is it because you’re the King?’

‘I don’t see why that should make any difference.’

‘How old are you?’

In the background the gnomes muttered and tutted amongst themselves.

‘I’m VERY old and VERY lonely,’ admitted the King.

‘How can you be lonely with all these gnomes around?’

‘They don’t speak to me. They don’t make a sound when I come home from my travels. I haven’t got a friend, either.’ More tears spilled out of his eyes.

Meg felt bad. He seemed a nice old man, and his white beard was beautiful. It made her want to push her fingers into it, curl it into ringlets. ‘I could be your friend,’ she said. ‘I always speak to my friends.’

The King beamed at her. Suddenly he stood up. ‘Let’s dance,’ he said.

Meg had never danced before but she went round the table to join him. She held out her arms, eager to see what dancing was like. But the King didn’t take them, instead he stood by her side, put his gnarled hand on her shoulder, and jigged on the spot. Meg jigged as well. She started to giggle, and the King giggled too. Her rescuer joined in, and then the gnomes. And the cave was a riot of laughter.

The King yelped with delight, ‘At last,’ he cried, ‘the gnomes have found their voices.’

Meg didn’t like to say they hadn’t lost them.

They jigged the afternoon away, and the gnomes joined in. Meg was so tired at the end; she just collapsed on a bank of seaweed. I’ll just have five minutes, she thought, using her mother’s words.

‘Wake up, wake up.’

Slowly, Meg opened her eyes.

Oh there you are, young lady. I thought you were going to sleep forever. Your chips are waiting. You’d better hurry up before they get cold.

Rubbing her eyes, Meg tumbled off her bed. Her picture book fell on the floor. ‘Can I have salt on my chips,’ she asked, wondering why she suddenly had a desire for it.

09 July 2017

SQUIRREL WATCHING

SQUIRREL WATCHING

Charlie has the patience of a saint, although I don’t think saints were ever into watching squirrels. Patience was on my side as well because I wanted to see the great catch but it was taking ages and I thought my patience would soon run out. Squirrel was frozen to the spot; not once did I see him move but neither did Charlie. I can’t count the number of photographs I took, every one identical. No movement, no twist of the head or twitching ears on either party. Holding the camera at the ready was making my arms ache. A couple of times I had to lower the camera purely for a rest, but quickly reverting back to position on a just-in-case basis.

It was Charlie who gave up first. He must have heard something in the flower bed to the left because he turned his head and then his body to get a better look. Squirrel seized the opportunity and jumped to freedom. I know squirrels can run fast but this time I think he broke all records.

Charlie took it all in good part but I didn’t. I had been stuck at the kitchen window, both arms aching, for half an hour waiting for a good shot and what did I get? Zilch. Nothing. It was an absolute waste of time. I shan’t bother again! The two creatures can go into a proper brawl if they like, I won’t turn a hair, and certainly won’t stand waiting for the final blow.

Well, I don’t think so………………….

02 July 2017

WILD GARDEN

view from kitchen window, the rest of the garden is behind those big shrubs at the end
I have shown pictures of my HUGE garden before but they were taken when everything in the garden was lovely. The time came, though, when neither Joe nor I could manage the upkeep so, after a lot of thought, we let it run riot. Well, maybe not all of it, just the bottom part that is out of view from the house. Every day I would go down there with birdseed and just toss it on the ground. What the heck, I thought, I can’t see it. We did have one bird table but it wasn’t in good condition. Now there are two tables but it’s a stroke of luck if the birds ever get the food I put out. Why? Because the squirrels get there first.

We did eventually get a gardener but he only came once a fortnight and although he did a good job on the lawn he never bothered with the bottom end. Now I have the services of a father/son company who also come once a fortnight but they have superior equipment and get the job done, including the bottom end, in no time at all.

Now that the garden is beginning to look respectable I have been looking round at the surrounding areas where nature has been allowed in. Those areas where once upon a time were filled with trees and tidy shrubs. The trees and shrubs are still there along with a new growth of wild flowers. Some may think it looks untidy but I love it.

Every day I wander round and thank God for nature having the ability to plant what IT wants. I should have taken pictures when the first blooms came in the Spring but I’ve got a bit lazy about taking photographs – especially since the camera on the new phone isn’t as good as the old one. Still, there’s always the internet where pictures are available without much effort on my part. I have another camera but, honestly, it’s too heavy and too complicated for me to bother with.

Apologies, I am getting away from the topic of gardens.

To resume.

Some days I think of all the work people do to get their gardens looking pretty and there’s me, who does nothing but still gets flowers to delight the senses. Weigela, flowering current, mahonia, rhododendrons, philadelphus, viburnum,
mock orange, deutzia, camellia, wild roses, lilacs, azalea, rhododendron, spirea, and more, all have a place in the garden and in my heart. Bluebells and daffodils bring on the spring, then there’s the lily of the valley, and violets that creep up from cracks in the path, foxgloves that tower over low lying plants, and wild roses that hitch onto fences. There are plenty more with names that elude me … thank goodness the flowers don’t.

I have all that yet don’t lift a finger to provide it … and no hard work either. How lucky can a girl get?

Some may notice that I made no mention of the fish pond and that’s because it has been thoroughly neglected and is now home to a variety of weeds. The system was there when we moved into the house and for many years I tended to it and the Koi carp that swam there. The water was refreshed frequently but as the years went by the system faltered and so did I. I keep wondering about calling in the professionals but if I do that it will still mean lots of work for me, not to mention the cost. There’s always a downside, isn’t there? But still, for what time I have left I still have the flowers and birds to keep me satisfied, and the pond is enclosed by shrubs so is only noticeable to those who know it’s there. It is easy to forget about whilst rejoicing in everything else in the garden and I still say I am lucky to have had the pleasure of it for so long.