OMG!

“Daughter of Mine is most definitely now a tweenager.”

I started a draft post with this title and opening sentence over a year ago. Distracted by life, it – along with many other posts – was never finished and published. But then again, this blog has ended up being mostly about my memories; this photo qualifies as a memory –  my blog, my rules.

This photo was taken in February 2012 – when Daughter of Mine was still just 11 – and texting was as social as she got. Tomorrow she turns 13… with the best and worse of social networking within her grasp.

Although, according to news stories following the publication of Facebook’s annual report, teens are turning away from the social media giant in favour of other, more awesome/wicked/cool (or whatever the latest ‘word’ is) social networking apps.

You know, the ones where you don’t have Mother of Yours as a friend.

Boxing Day Blues

Boxing Day for me is always tinged with a little bit of sadness. This year it has been five years since the last time I saw my dad. I remember hugging him goodbye and teasing him about losing weight in the New Year – just over six weeks later he suffered a fatal heart attack.

My dad on the left, with my father-in-law, taken at Children of Mine's christening in 2004

But every day I thank God for my other ‘Dad’ – my father-in-law. Together, they made a formidable pair – always there to help in a crisis; always there to have fun at a celebration.

In the 25 years I’ve known my father-in-law, he’s always been loved and recognised for his own individual contribution to the Family’s lives. I remember hugging him, this time at my dad’s funeral and sobbing “…at least I still have you.”

His contributions are endless. He designs, makes, mends, grows and initiates ‘things’: handmade toys for the Children; surprises for his loved ones and friends; vegetables and fruit for the table.  He shares his scientific and electrical knowledge, whether helping re-wire a house or teach Daughter of Mine about circuits; and creates legendary games, puzzles and quizzes for Christmas night.

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Even this Boxing Day night, he left our house armed with a multitude of things he had offered to mend: a spring catch on a secret treasure chest he had made for Son of Mine’s birthday this year; the flag pole on the wooden castle he had made for his fourth birthday (joking that it was now out of guarantee); and the attachments for my Kenwood Chef, to loosen the adjustment nuts (because Husband of Mine doesn’t have a vice). He also left with another wood project to design and make – a series of display boxes for Son of Mine’s collection of gemstones and fossils.

It was also my father-in-law who introduced me to the Lake District and Keswick, back in 1991 when newly married Husband of Mine and I, desperate for a cheap holiday, jumped at the chance to act as support team while my new in-laws walked Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk. We camped, in the rain, near Bassenthwaite Lake then moved our tent to Kirkby Stephen for a few days of glorious sunshine – leaving me in love with Cumbria, but alas, not with camping!

This year we bought him a ukulele for Christmas.

Thankfully, Mother-in-Law of Mine got the joke...

“To ‘Davey’…Merry Christmas…” read the tag, so written because he can play ‘Davey Crockett’ on any instrument you care to mention. He may even get to ‘guest’ with Husband of Mine’s folk band – ‘The Renegade Dogs’!

So with a bit more practice, maybe next Boxing Day’s ‘blues’ won’t be so bad…

“It’s all culottes!” Why I hate clothes shopping

I’m sorry to keep harping on about my grandmother, but I have just had a ‘culottes’ moment.

My grandmother, or Nana as she was to me, once summed up a dismal shopping trip for clothes in the 1980s with the phrase, “It’s all culottes!”. Husband of Mine and I still refer to this catchphrase whenever we struggle to find something in the shops.

I had the luxury of a hour or two on my own in my local city centre, whilst the rest of the Family went swimming, with the intention of getting a couple of things to wear on holiday. Now, I haven’t really bought any summer clothes this year (not a lot of point, given the weather) and those I bought in the last two summers haven’t really had much of an outing except for the two holidays abroad that we’ve taken. This year, although not heading for the Lakes in August, normality has resumed with our usual holiday pattern of self-catering in the UK – only this time it’s Scotland.  I knew then there was no point in getting sidetracked by skimpy floaty things, their prices slashed in the sales due to the combination of austerity measures and the appalling July weather.

So I trotted round the usual High Street places, failing to find anything I even wanted to try on. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up – probably more than the next guy – give me a costume and I’m in my element. It’s when it’s me,the real me, that it’s often never right. Too patterned. Too fussy. Wrong length. Boring. Not in my size. Too strappy. Too plain. Would look wrong up a mountain. What shoes would I wear with it?

“It’s all culottes!”

My clothes size has fluctuated in the last 20 years between an 8 and a 14. Not really through any of my doing – apart from the obvious pregnancy-related weight gain, my actual size has remained fairly constant. It seem to be the fault of clothing manufacturers not just in their labelling, but in the strange proportions they seem to adopt for ratios such as waist to hip and shoulder to underarm.

Take trousers for instance. I buy size 12, which fit round the hips, but are always, always, too big around the waist and result in an unsatisfactory attempt to gather the excess material with a belt. Yes, yes, I know it’s not fashionable to have high waists, but I can’t be doing with muffin tops. And then this strange shoulder to underarm measurement; I think mine must be abnormally short as when combined with my tiny boobs, so many tops seem to have either spare inches of strap poking above my shoulders, or sit so low that they expose both my décolletage and my ribs in one go.

So continuing my search, and remembering my reason for browsing was not high fashion, I was back in my clothes shopping comfort zone. This centres around layers of comfortable, quick-drying and mostly warm clothing suitable for, this year, walking up mountains and along coasts, visiting the Skye Highland Games, beach picnics, a bit of photography followed by crashing with a pint in the local pub. I even found myself eyeing up ‘insect repellent’ dresses, thinking one of them would be perfect evening wear to fend off the wee midges.

I didn’t buy a dress, but did manage to leave with a stone-coloured, snappily worded ‘travel’ skirt (can’t one travel in a normal skirt then) and two pairs of trousers; one pair are culottes cropped so I must remember to smother my ankles in insect repellent.

So thanks, Nana, for still being with me on shopping trips… x

Weekly Photo Challenge: Old-fashioned

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A coincidence perhaps, that this week’s photo challenge has also been inspired by my grandmother – the ring belonged to her and was given to me when I was a teenager. Studded with garnets, and teeny tiny real diamond chips which, at that age, made me feel like a princess.

Look closely and you will notice how it is no longer symmetrical; the gold worn down at the top with years of wear.

Would something this old-fashioned, yet so beautiful, still excite today’s teenagers, I wonder?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

A gallery of sunset skies for this week’s challenge, just a few of the many I’ve snapped from my garden over the last 9 years, and the story of why, every time I press the shutter button, I think of my grandmother…

I’ve had a logistically challenging week. For starters, I have been at work for a lengthy four days this week. And before the tutting begins, I know that’s still part-time to many people, but those few hours extra I have spent at work this week have made a huge dent in the amount of stuff I could have got done at home. Not to mention the amount of time I could have spent online. Ahem.

Last Sunday’s sunset, after the Family’s visit to Devil’s Dyke, was another beautiful one. My garden faces west, so I am rewarded nightly with a different sky to gawp at in awe and I often leap up to grab the camera and photograph the colours and patterns on offer. It was when I was downloading yet more files to my PC and tagging them as sunsets that I started thinking about interpreting this photo challenge as a gallery.

This habit of photographing sunsets reminds me of my Nana, who often took photographs of sunsets from her west-facing garden to ‘use up the film’. Mother of Mine and I found packets and packets of photos, each with at least one sunset, when sorting through her things after her death in 2001. I wonder what she would have made of the advent of digital photography with the option to snap away and instantly see the results on a screen, before sharing online with family, friends and strangers.

Children of Mine won’t find my photos languishing in a drawer when I’m gone, instead they’ll be turning to the digital storage medium of the day – the technology of the future that will replace today’s computer hard drive, website, blog, or photosharing service.

I wonder what they will do with them all?

Congratulations!

I have just received this card through the post from the only old school friend I keep in touch with. Or to be more precise, who keeps in touch with me. I am very bad at keeping in touch.

The card is to celebrate my 21st wedding anniversary today; the only other cards to mark the occasion have been exchanged between ourselves – Husband of Mine to me: an unusually wordy card illustrated with cartoon mice (a slightly odd choice given his hatred of rodents and their guts); me to Husband of Mine: a simple blank ‘Thank You’ for putting up with me over the last 21 years (actually the best of a bad bunch in the local Co-op).

Oh, and Mother of Mine did send a congratulatory email to our shared inbox.

No point in trying the dress on – I know from the Royal Wedding Day debacle that it didn’t fit and no-one cared anyway.

But I have just had a quick peek at the wedding photographs for nostalgic reasons. The setting is still as familiar as ever – we still attend the same church, dodging the mud and cow pats through the farmyard to get to the lychgate, and holding our noses when the fertiliser on the fields is at its most pungent. Except I was struck by the absence of familiar faces in the shots of the guests. There were people at my wedding in 1990 that I now barely recognise – work colleagues of the time, friends who have since moved away, and a terrifying number – 14 at my count – who are now sadly not with us, including between us what were our four remaining grandparents, and my lovely dad. Except for the family that’s left, the only other constants are Director Who Thinks Life is a Musical and her husband, Stage Manager Major General.

Even the photographer has gone out of business – makes a mockery of the list of reference numbers for the photographs; “keep this list in a safe place” – Why bother? I suppose he wasn’t to know that 21 years later I’d be able to convert images to a digital format at the click of a mouse (a computer one, not a cartoon one) and share them with the entire world!

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We tried to celebrate last night during an impromptu visit to L.A. That’s Littlehampton to the locals. I had taken Children of Mine to Harbour Park, a small pay-as-you-go funfair on the seafront, to spend vouchers that we won in a raffle yonks ago.

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We had fun, but Children of Mine were so tired by the evening that by the time Husband of Mine came to join us we abandoned the idea of tiger prawns and baby octopus at East Beach Café, tried Fred’s Fish ‘n’ Chips, where the only table was directly behind the fryers, but ended up settling for a KFC Bargain Bucket at home in front of Britain’s Got Talent.

Not exactly romantic, but hey, maybe waiting another 21 years for an anniversary treat would work for me?

42. I would then know “The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.”

Trouble is, I still wouldn’t know the question.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Red

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My favourite colour is red.

I have a red car. And a red front door. Red cushions. A red wall. Shoes. Bags.

And red clothes. Lots of them. And so do Children of Mine – football kit, socks, school uniform…

So in the machine the red wash goes, and out it comes again. I’ll hang it outside today,  I think to myself, it’s nice and windy, I’ll save on electricity not drying some of it in the tumble dryer and keep everywhere tidy by not having wet washing strung up.

But it was not to be. It was obviously so windy last night that part of a tree has fallen down over the washing line, so I take the basket inside again.

Just one more thing in the Groundhog Day of my life…

Son of Mine was reading to me in the car the other morning and asked me what a lament was. Here’s mine (taught to me as a song years ago by my favourite primary school teacher, Mr John Noon) to share with women (and men) everywhere who face the drudgery of yet another domestic task.

The Housewife’s Lament

One day I was walking, I heard a complaining,
I saw an old woman a picture of doom.
She gazed at the mud on her doorstep, ‘twas raining,
And this was her song as she wielded her broom.

“Oh, life is a toil and love is a trouble;
Beauty will fade and riches will flee.
Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double,
A
nd nothing is as I would wish it to be.

In March it is mud, it is slush in December.
The mid-summer breezes are loaded with dust.
In Fall the leaves litter, in muddy September,
The wallpaper rots and the candlesticks rust.

Oh, life is a toil and love is a trouble;
Beauty will fade and riches will flee.
Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double,
A
nd nothing is as I would wish it to be.

It’s sweeping at six and it’s dusting at seven,
It’s victuals at eight, and it’s dishes at nine.
It’s potting and panning from ten to eleven –
We’ve scarce finished breakfast, we’re ready to dine.

Oh, life is a toil and love is a trouble;
Beauty will fade and riches will flee.
Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double,
A
nd nothing is as I would wish it to be.

One night in my dreams I was stationed forever
On a far little rock in the midst of the sea.
My one chance in life was a ceaseless endeavour
To sweep off the waves as they swept over me.

Oh, life is a toil and love is a trouble;
Beauty will fade and riches will flee.
Pleasures they dwindle and prices they double,
A
nd nothing is as I would wish it to be.

Alas, ‘twas no dream, ahead I behold it.
I see I am hopeless my fate to avert.”
She lay down her broom and her apron she folded.
She lay down and died and was buried in dirt.