Lanny’s Cafe

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Last Friday I re-blogged a post about my childhood.  This was surprisingly well received; it seems that a great many of my readers had similar childhoods. In fact one of my Facebook friends, an old acquaintance who is the same age as me, remarked that he believed our generation was the last to enjoy a PROPER childhood……. something that I most definitely agree with.  So, with that in mind, I decided to re-blog some more of my childhood memories. 

I do hope you will forgive this self-indulgence and, if you are of a certain age, perhaps my posts will bring back some of your childhood, too. 

So, here is the first re-blog, there will be more to follow …..you have been warned…..

 

 

LANNY’S CAFE

 

My Nana and Grandad lived in Grangetown, North Yorkshire, in the  1950s to the mid 1960s. They lived at 89, Bolckow Road, in a large Victorian terraced house.

I often went to stay with them at weekends and, before I became too  ‘cool’  for such things, I stayed during school holidays, too.

Bolckow Road was one of the main thoroughfares through Grangetown, and my grand-parents house was situated at the far end; just one house away from Bailey’s  grocery shop; almost on the corner of Birchington Avenue, where the trolley buses turned and continued their humming, whistling, crackling way up towards Lackenby and the foot of the Eston hills.

On the opposite side of Bolckow Road stood a tiny parade of shops. I can barely remember what type of establishments were there; I seem to recall a bookmakers; but I do remember one of them ………………. Lanny’s Cafe !

Ah yes, Lanny’s Cafe. To an impressionable 8 or 9 year old it seemed so glamourous.

It was a rather bare, cold place, with just a handful of formica-covered tables and wooden framed seats. I think it tried to cater to all; the workmen of the town; the  ‘teddy boys’ with their motor-bikes and ‘DAs’ and the genteel, lavender-scented old ladies. But, of course, this was impossible and so it teetered on the edge of all these categories, never quite one thing or the other.

But I thought it was wonderful, decadent even, and I dreamed of sitting, casually, at one of the tables, listening to the music that came out of the radio. A jukebox would have been considered far too racy for Grangetown !

It all seemed so exciting to me. Huge stainless steel urns hissed and fizzed and steam rose up into the cool air  whenever tea or coffee was poured into thick cups.  They were carried to the tables, liquid slopping around, by leather-jacketed youths who then slumped in the seats, tipping backwards and scraping the walls and flicking cigarette butts onto the floor. So scary, but so alluring to my young eyes.

The floor was covered in a dull linoleum that had a pattern of black and white squares, reminiscent of a huge chess-board and was usually being mopped by the proprietor. He was a very tall, thin man who resembled Anthony Perkins in   ‘Pyscho’  and, as a child, I found him both fascinating and frightening.  He shook, he trembled and he whispered rather incoherently. He was weird.

My Nana explained to me that the poor chap had  ‘shell-shock’. But, of course, that didn’t mean much to an 8 year old.  Looking back, I realise that he must have suffered unbelievable mental turmoil, with no medical help or counselling.  And I am ashamed to say that my wide-eyed stares can’t have helped him, either.  But he was always kind and took extra care when I nervously approached the lowest part of the counter, with  coins burning red marks  into my sweaty little palms.

There was also a  long, high, glass-fronted, display counter which usually  housed  a chipped, but rather ornate cake-stand.  The cakes that were proudly offered for sale were frequently either a rather pale, dry, Victoria sponge or some other cake of indeterminate flavour, generally covered in thin icing and desiccated coconut.  But, I would never know how they tasted because my Nana would not allow  ‘shop-bought‘ cakes in the house. No matter how much I pleaded and cajoled, in her opinion such things were  “common” !

No, the only thing that was  ‘allowed’  from Lanny’s Cafe was ice-cream or the occasional bottle of  ‘Lowcock’s’  lemonade.

Ice-cream !  That was a special treat.

Now, when I stayed with my grand-parents,  I only ever had an ice-cream cone when I  went to the sea-side. At home, in Guisborough, I was allowed a cone or an ice-lolly from the ice-cream man, but my Nana thought that was  “common” too !  So, Nana bought ice-cream in a bowl and then it was served in dainty dishes and eaten with a spoon; perhaps accompanied by strawberries in the summer, if we were very lucky.

So, the highlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon would be a trip to Lanny’s Cafe to buy ice-cream.

As it was so quiet in those days, I was often allowed to go on my own. My Nana or Grandad would stand at the kerb and see me safely across the road, even though traffic was a rarity on Sundays.  I would carefully walk across the dusty tarmac; it was always dusty.  I can clearly remember the sun beating down, relentlessly, on the bleached, white flag-stones of the wide pavement in front of the cafe. Sometimes there would be a few motorbikes parked by the plate-glass window and the smell of hot oil and petrol would fill my nostrils as I passed, clutching my Pyrex bowl and saucer  (to cover the bowl and keep the ice-cream free from flies and grit on my return journey)

I remember walking, shyly, up to the counter and asking for  “ 5 shillings worth of vanilla ice-cream, please”  and handing over my bowl and saucer. Then reaching into my pocket for the money, which was tied up in a corner of my handkerchief.  The ice-cream would then be spooned into the bowl,  spoon rattling against the rim as the poor man’s hand shook uncontrollably;  the money taken and the saucer placed carefully over the top of the bowl, before being handed back to me with a trembling, shaking smile.

I was always escorted to the pavement and sent safely on my way back across the road, Grandad or Nana waving in thanks as I hurried, excitedly indoors with the precious cargo.

 

 

Of course, it has all gone now. The trolley buses, the cafe, most of the houses.  What was once a thriving town, full of proud, hardworking men and women is now a broken, desolate wasteland.  The huge steel works of  Dorman Long is now a much smaller place. It is now British Steel and is a mere shadow of its former glory. Times have changed.

Ice-cream is eaten every day, its no longer the treat it once was. And little girls no longer carry it home in Pyrex bowls.

I don’t know why this memory came to me today. But it filled my head and I could think of little else. Isn’t it strange how memories catch us unaware, sneak up on us from behind and take us by surprise ?  But, for a few hours today, I was that little girl and I’m so glad and grateful for such happy memories. 

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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Last week I ventured into the pretty market town of Beverley, some 5 miles or so from my home.  Due to my current illness, I am unsteady on my feet, so did not intend to tarry for long. I just needed to have a gentle stroll around a couple of stores and also purchase some buttons and knitting wool  ( I’m knitting things for my dear little grandson, Samuel, who was born in December )

Now, it was a school day, so the children who accompanied their parents as they wandered around the town must have been pre-school age, I presume.  But, oh my goodness, so many of them were really badly behaved.  Screeching for everything they saw; whining and crying and generally throwing a tantrum until the parent purchased the item …….. then immediately screaming for something else.  And he parents never even flinched ….. they just seemed to buy whatever the child requested !

Well, we all like to indulge our kids, we want them to have more than we had, we want them to be happy etc. etc.  But is it really good for them in the long run ?

Should there not be some things that are unattainable ?

Something to aspire to, to fire ambition and a sense of achievement ?

What sort of greedy, grabby and downright lazy individuals are we raising if everything falls into their laps whenever they ask ?

Travelling home, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago and while I do not want to return the world to the austere 1950s, perhaps there are a few lessons to be learned from the past …………. so I re-blog it here ……

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT

If, you have been following my blog for a while ………………… …..( oh, heavens, well done you, you need a medal and a bottle of headache pills !!) ………………………you will probably be aware that I lived in Guisborough in the 1950s.

From the age of 5 to the grand old age of 11yrs that pretty, rural, market town in North Yorkshire was my world.

There were many delights in that lovely place, not least the idyllic location, nestled in a valley in the Cleveland Hills.

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It was a wonderful town in which to grow-up and I have very fond memories of my childhood;  full of adventure;  of picnics and treasure hunts and wandering free through fields and woods with siblings and chums.

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However, all the best things in life are not, necessarily, free.   Sometimes pleasures can be purchased in glittering palaces and come at considerable cost.

The glittering palace that held my attention was the local Toy Shop !

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‘Stokelds’ was located on Fountain Street and was a stationers and a toy shop and, to me, it was heaven.  It had all the usual toys of the era; the Hornby train-sets and Tri-ang toys, bicycles and trucks.

The Silver Cross, carriage built, dolls prams; perfect replicas of the ‘real’ thing.

Jigsaws, their chunky wooden pieces presented in sturdy boxes, with bright scenes on the lid.

Dominoes in wooden boxes with sliding lids, just like a larger version of the wooden pencil boxes.

Snakes and Ladders and Ludo and Draughts, all together in a ‘Compendium’ of games …….. perfect for winter nights; TVs were a rarity in the early 1950s !!

Cowboy outfits with furry ‘chaps’ and Stetsons with braided decoration round the brim. Lone Ranger masks and Indian head-dresses of multi-coloured feathers.  ‘Leather’ holsters containing silver metal guns.

Ah guns ! There were guns galore !

Sharp-shooters and rifles.

Guns in which one inserted ‘caps’ and when the trigger was pulled the cap exploded with a bang and a rather satisfying little puff of smoke and the smell of burning.

Bows and arrows and swords and daggers and all manner of weapons to please even the most blood-thirsty of little boys……. or girls.

Nothing was deemed  ‘too dangerous’  in those days. ‘Elf n’ Safety was not yet the bane of everyone’s life.

There were catapults of all sizes and glass marbles, shining like jewels in little cotton bags.  Skittles and roller skates and jacks.

Cricket bats for the summer and tennis rackets and table tennis balls.   Bats with a ball attached by an elastic ‘string’ that usually snapped after a few whacks and the ball would go flying off into someone’s face and the poor victim would proudly sport a black-eye and an air of fake bravado for days !

Then, at the back was the section that drew my attention and held the object of my desire.

First there were the teddies, proper, firm, solid bears, not the fluffy imposters of today.  Then the golliwogs; which are no longer seen….thought of as too un-PC, too racist.

I used to walk reverently through this section and there they were…… the dolls !

Baby dolls in romper suits;  dolls in frilly dresses with golden ringlets; rag-dolls in bright patchwork frocks with woolen hair under their poke bonnets.

Smaller dolls dressed in pleated skirts and sensible jumpers;  tall ‘walking dolls ‘ with long straight legs and a supercilious smile. Dolls whose eyes closed when one laid them on their backs, dolls that said , “Mama !”  when tipped backwards and forwards. And  un- PC black dolls with bandanas round their dark curls.

All were wonderful but there  ‘she ‘ was, on a plinth all on her own.

The prize …………  the coveted treasure………….. the thing I wanted most in the whole world …………the doll I called  ” Betsy” ……… for that would be her name when finally she was mine.

She stood, oh I guess, 12- 14 ins high and had long black plaits, a rosebud mouth and big blue eyes.  She was beautiful, rosy-cheeked perfection in her neat powder blue dress with white lace collar. But the attraction of Betsy was the extra item, the icing on the cake.

She came with a complete collection of clothes, displayed in a suitcase that opened out to form a wardrobe. She had 4 extra dresses, a darling little princess-line coat in bright red wool;  a tartan pleated skirt and a white blouse;  some beige jodhpurs and a green sweater; boots, socks and pink plastic shoes and the sweetest little white cotton voile nightdress, trimmed with little flowers and tiny scraps of lace, oh yes… and a beret and scarf for chilly days !!

Oh, how I longed for Betsy and her generous supply of clothes.  None of my other dolls was so richly endowed.  But pleading and cajoling fell on deaf ears. She was expensive and we had no money for such fripperies.

Children, in those days,  were told  “No”  and “No”  it was ……….. no  ‘ifs’  or  ‘buts‘  or  ‘maybes’  and I dare not question my parents’  decision.

Whenever we went to Stokelds for stationery for my Mama,  or for marbles or jacks or a birthday jigsaw or other such treat,  I would go to the doll section and pay homage to Betsy and she would smile down at me and whisper of how she would love to come home with me. But, of course, we always left without her.

After a while I realised that she would never be mine and so, pragmatically, I decided to make a wardrobe of  ‘Betsy ‘  clothes for my own dolls.

I was about 8yrs old by then and I had been taught to sew by my darling Nana.  I begged some scraps of material and Nana generously gave me some swatches and my own little sewing box with needles and thread and scissors and such and I began.

I made skirts and dresses and sometimes the clothes were too small or the necks were too tight or the dress fell off the poor doll’s shoulders.

Sometimes the press-stud fastenings were far too big and clumsy for the delicate fabric.

But eventually, after much perseverance, I was turning out neat little dresses, coats, nightwear, evening outfits, everything !

My dolls must have been the best dressed dolls in Yorkshire !!

I then progressed to attempting something for myself;  designing and drawing the pattern on newspaper and cutting out the fabric on my bedroom floor. Then, sitting cross-legged on my bed like some little elf from a fairy story, I hand-stitched my first ‘proper’ item. A navy blue, flower sprigged, glazed cotton dress; with handsewn button holes down the back !

And it was perfect…. well, perfect from a couple of feet away ! The stitching around the neck was a little wobbly but it fitted beautifully and my pride knew no bounds ……… I was thrilled ……… I was a seamstress !!

After that I made almost all my summer dresses and nightdresses and my Hallowe’en fancy dress costumes.

This early success fired my lifelong obsession with sewing and design and fashion and even when I was older I made many outfits, all hand stitched, and was the envy of my friends , who couldn’t understand why they could not find the same styles in the shops.

My pal Joan and I would buy material at Stockton market on a Wednesday and I would draw out our patterns on the ubiquitous newspaper and cut out the pieces, pin it all together.  Then we would hand-stitch like crazy and wear our brand new items on the Friday night…………..  Much to the chagrin of our contempories, who imagined we knew of some little exclusive boutique but would not tell them the location.

But I digress !!

I would like to tell you that Betsy eventually became mine. That I woke one Christmas morning and there she was, resplendent at the foot of my bed;  that I obtained my hearts desire.  But life isn’t like that. is it ?  That is only for fairy tales.

No, I was never to own Betsy, but I believe I was all the richer for that.  If my parents had indulged me and bought the doll and all her finery, would I have bothered to sew things myself ?  Would I have progressed to making my own clothes ?   Would I have been half as creative ?

Perhaps, but maybe a part of me would be missing.  I would not have learned a valuable lesson.  I would have expected everything in life to be easy,  to never try to make the best of what I had.  I would not have had the fun and sense of achievement;  the joy of making something unique and not relying on someone else.

In my youth, one of my favourite bands was the  ‘Rolling Stones’.  They sang  ” You can’t always get what you want”  and,  you know,  I think that sometimes it’s just as well !

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Scrubbed Doorsteps and the Smell of Carbolic

 

As today is a Saturday …a day of football and rugby on the ‘tele’ …. I thought I would reblog this piece.  Food for thought, perhaps …… 

 

 

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Photo by’ Vintage Everyday’

 

SCRUBBED DOORSTEPS AND THE SMELL OF CARBOLIC

I can see them now, the narrow rows of terraced houses. One row backed onto another. The tiny, single fronted, two up, two down cottages in grey, grimy streets.

One street looked identical to the next, the white net curtains hiding the sparsely furnished rooms inside.  The front steps scrubbed to within an inch of their existence by the women, who took such pride in their humble homes.

Oh, how those doorsteps gleamed, like a shining badge of honour, displaying a stubborn unwillingness to be beaten by life.  Yes, they scrubbed those steps … scrubbed the pavements too, right up to the gutter … the aroma of cheap carbolic floating in the air and mixing with the smell of sulphur drifting from the nearby Steel Works.

Those women washed everything in sight … window sills … door frames … swilling the streets with buckets of boiling water.  Fighting a constant battle against grime and poverty.  They may be poor but that was no excuse for filth and squalour.

 

Ah,  and now I see them standing on their front steps, arms folded, hair in curlers beneath turban scarfs … ‘Woodbines‘ dangling from their thin lips.  Lined faces, old before their time.  Faded, crossover aprons covering well worn cotton dresses …  wrinkled, darned lisle stockings on their weary legs.

 
There are the children too.  Playing while their mothers gossip.  Games of hopscotch, chalked squares on the road …laughing and shouting as others kick an old football the length and breadth of the street.  Some of them are balanced precariously on a ricketty set of pram wheels, a home-made chariot being pushed at breakneck speed along the pavements.  A scrawny young lad squealing because he has been bullied by the older ones; has told his mother and received a thick ear for his trouble. This is the school of hard knocks … a kid soon learns not to complain.  Life is hard, just lump it !!

 
These kids will grow up … if they are lucky … to work in the Steel Works or at the Docks down the road. The girls will go into factories or shops or maybe, sadly, join the ranks of the over-painted, vinegar faced doxies that ply their trade outside the Seaman’s Mission.

Not for them the luxury of ice-cream sundaes on a paved patio, surrounded by sweet smelling roses.  No …  they have probably never seen a rose.  Nothing grows in this down trodden, decaying landscape. These tiny homes have no gardens, just a concrete back yard which contains the outside lavatory, the coal-house and washing on a line.
They all know each other by name. Popping in and out of each other’s houses … no need to lock doors.  No call for any ‘Neighbourhood Watch Scheme’ … the neighbours constantly watch and give any misbehaving child a cuff behind the ear.

Yes, there was Community spirit and everyone helped each other.  Women rushed to sick beds or to deliver babies and sometimes, sadly, to lay out the dead. Menfolk helped paint windows or repair a bicycle, they had next to nothing , but they would share what they had.
Hundreds lived in these grey streets, were born, married and died without ever leaving these few square miles. Generation upon generation of poor, hardworking folk, scraping a living … making do …getting by. Helping to shape the world we see today.

I’m thinking of all of these things, picturing them in my mind as I walk along the road between the back to back terraces, smiling at the tired women, gossiping on their steps  Those gleaming steps amid so much poverty………………………..

***

Then the picture fades and I am no longer in the past, but back in the present. The terraced rows have long gone, pulled down … demolished …reduced to rubble.

In their place are wide avenues.  Trees growing tall in grassy parkland.  Riotous flower beds outside ‘chi-chi’ executive apartments.  Fifty homes where once a thousand lived.  Retail parks full of ubiquitous High Street chain stores.

And the huge throng of people all around me walk on, chattering eagerly.  Rushing by …  their colours round their necks.  Never sparing a thought for the history beneath their feet !

It will soon be 3pm ……………..  Rush, rush, rush ………past the shiny  Porches,  Ferraris and Bentleys  of the spoilt princes of football………. on through the turnstiles and into the brand new Stadium.

 

*****

 

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Sun Hats in the Isis

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Bit of a busy day, so I have reblogged an old story.  Sorry about that !

 

SUN HATS IN THE ISIS

It was a melancholy task for a sultry summer’s day and I felt a pang of nostalgia as I walked up the garden path in the glare of the sun. The lavender bushes on either side releasing their soft scent as they brushed against my bare legs.
I still hadn’t fully digested the fact that she was gone. That vibrant, wonderful lady, so full of life, who had opened her heart and her home to two orphaned girls. We had spent every school holiday with her and during term time she had travelled up to our boarding school and taken my sister Katy and me out for the day, returning us, tired and late and full of cake, laughing at the nun’s disapproval.

But gone she was and here was I, about to clear her home and pack away her belongings. A skip was waiting at the roadside for all the discarded detritus of my dear Aunt’s life, the bric-a-brac collected throughout the last fifty years.

 
I entered the cottage and climbed the narrow stairs up to the attic……….. Start at the top and work down, that was my plan.  The sunlight filtered through the dusty windows of the shadowy room and lay in rainbow pools on the worn oak floor.

I glanced round at the steamer trunks and battered tea-chests, each one containing memories of childhood, of happy times. I rummaged and rooted and, as I did, the past came flooding back.

 
Oh, there were the pair of bronzes that had once graced the hall. They were always perched on marble stands and I remembered being chided when I had sent one flying down the tiled passageway during a particularly boisterous game of  ‘tag’  with Katy.  The stand had been badly damaged and the statues really didn’t look quite the same on the sideboard in the dining room, hence their exile to the attic ………awaiting some new location, but long forgotten.
Sighing, I opened a huge wicker hamper and smiled as I lifted out a beautiful, wide brimmed sunhat, decorated with faded silk poppies.  Aunt Sophia had worn it that day on the river at Oxford, the day I had graduated.  A slight breeze had floated up the Isis and lifted the hat from her golden curls, depositing it in the water, where it lay like a giant lily pad.

Aunt had been distraught, her limpid green eyes welling with tears until a passing oarsman, seeing her distress, had risked life and limb, swinging from an overhanging branch and grabbing it before it was lost forever, crushed beneath an approaching punt. He was rewarded with one of my aunt’s smiles and a husky “Thank you” and away he rowed, with a beaming face and, I’m sure, a captured heart.

People always rushed to her aid, she had an air of delicate vulnerability and frailty about her and her radiant smile was reward enough for even the hardest heart.
But this was getting nothing done ! I couldn’t sit here all day, wallowing in memories.

I walked across the room and opened a mahogany wardrobe and , oh yes, there was the voluminous winter coat she always wore !  It was made from some luxurious type of beavers skin , way back in the days when such garments were acceptable. I believe it had been her Mother’s……. my Grandmother…..and was far too big for her tiny frame.  But she wore it whenever there was the slightest chill and even wore it in the house on particularly cold days. She couldn’t always afford to heat every room and so the three of us would huddle around the meagre fire in the drawing room, Aunt in her beaver coat and Katy and I wrapped in woolen shawls, toasting crumpets and teacakes and giggling as we ate them and the butter ran down our chins.

She read to us, usually Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde and gave me my love for Literature. She had us memorise whole speeches, a frown creasing her brow if we dared to misquote Portia’s speech or forget to say ,  ” In a handbag ?” in a suitable tone.
I held the soft coat against my cheek and its musty smell mingled with the faint aroma of Aunt Sophia’s special perfume. I was going to miss her dreadfully.

 
Oh, but I must get on, I only had a few days to sort out all Aunt’s things and then her house would be handed over to the Estate Agent and sold.
A tear rolled down my cheek as I thought of dear Aunt Sophia on that last day. She lay on the chaise longue in the drawing room and had reached out a pale hand and held my arm,

” When I’m gone , take whatever you want and throw the rest away, sweetie. You and Katy are my only living relatives so sort it out between yourselves. The house will be sold and you can share the proceeds. I won’t need it where I am going !

No indeed she won’t, bless her. The ten million pounds she won on the lottery will see to that.

Off she has gone to live in South America and according to her last text message , sent from Buenos Aires airport, the Argentinian tango dancer she met on the flight will ensure she isn’t lonely !

*****

 

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A Right Knit-Wit

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Do grandmas still knit sweaters and such for their grandchildren ?

Well, this one does ………………….

(This will be a sweater for my new grandson, Samuel…… though its taking a while because of my damned carpal tunnel syndrome.) 

 

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The Post Office

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This morning I visited this little Post Office. I regularly send packages and letters to various friends and family and recently I have been posting books to my grandson, Gabriel. He is 9 yrs old and a keen reader; something I like to encourage by sending a regular supply of books, which I usually buy from the local charity shops, thus helping the charity and delighting Gabe with his own ‘post‘ …. which makes him feel very grown-up and special.

This lovely little Post Office is 3 miles away, in the village of Little Weighton. The village in which I live has neither a shop nor a Post Office, the best we have to offer is a single village pub. So Little Weighton Post Office serves quite a large area and is always busy.

As you can see, it is also a general store, selling a plethora of groceries, fresh bread, wines and spirits, newspapers and magazines, sweets and chocolate,  handbags, scarves, trinkets and gifts, cards for all occasions and even sacks of logs for wood-burning stoves and open fires. The windows and notice board are full of cards offering various services  ( no ….. not THAT !!)  Items for sale, upcoming events, childminders, dog walkers and mobile hairdressers……in fact practically anything you can think of … ( hmmm, yes, probably even THAT !)

 

And so the Post Office is the hub of the village. A place where people gather and chat.

Of course, you don’t have to be in much of a hurry as the friendly postmaster takes his time to help the older folk with everything.  He smiles at the babies and is patient with the old gent who can’t remember his PIN number. He always has a cheery word for me, too and takes an interest in the various children’s books that I send off to Gabriel,  even though he must be bored rigid with my chatter. His wife looks after the ‘shop’ and serves everyone with a smile and a cheery word. And there is always plenty of time for gossip …… who is having a baby …. or a new car …or a new man !!

In a world where everything is ‘rush, rush, rush, ‘ its so nice to pause a while and take a breath, acknowledge your neighbours and laugh a little.  I often think that some of the customers actually only visit the Post Office for the craic.  Many old folk, and young ones too, live alone. I’m sure that many of them  don’t speak to another soul all day, so this little store is a lifeline for them. loneliness is a dreadful thing.

And yet, Post Offices like this are being closed all over the country.  What will people do ?  They don’t all have vehicles and some can’t even manage to get on a bus.

And who will they chat to, then ………. ?

 

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Spring Resolutions

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I don’t make New Year Resolutions. Of course, I used to, back in the days when I was innocent and naive enough to believe that I would keep them. When the world was a much simpler place and everything was ‘sunshine and lollipops’.  But now I am older and wiser …… well maybe not very much wiser …. but certainly wise enough to realise that a promise made during the optimism and gaiety of a sparkling New Year, is just begging to be broken once the Christmas lights are dimmed, we all go back to work and the harsh reality of a grey and dismal January kicks in.

However, we are now into the third month of the year and spring is peeping through the dark clouds. The days seem brighter, the sun is shining and the flowers are appearing in every garden. Birds are singing and people are no longer wrapped up in huge coats and gumboots.  And I really feel that I ought to kick myself up the backside and snap out of the doldrums, where I have been hiding for the past couple of months.

I have neglected everything, recently.  I have just been ‘going through the motions’  , on autopilot , not really  living my life. Do you know what I mean ?

So, today, I have given myself a damn good taking to and have resolved to do better. To try and shake myself up a little and get back into the world. Oh yes, there are reasons for some of my feelings of ennui; my health is not great and the medication doesn’t help. ( I shall write more about my health issues in later posts)   But that’s no flipping excuse ….. there are thousands of folk who are far worse.

And so I have decided that this blog is going to be a large part of my new resolutions. My SPRING resolutions !

I am going to try and write a little something each day; though I am certainly not going to promise that I will manage to write EVERYDAY ….. but I will try.  Baby steps.

Some days it may only be a photo or a few scrappy words.  Other days it may be a long, boring story or a bit of a rant. But whatever ends up on these pages, at least I will be getting into the swing again.  So, lets see what happens …….

 

*****

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

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Today is my dear old Dad’s 96th birthday. Doesn’t he look great ?

Happy birthday Dad, I love and admire you very much. I hope you have a fantastic day ! xxx

*****

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Happy Birthday, Grandad !!

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I have been neglecting my blog so much, recently, that you must surely think I have forgotten about it altogether. I guess life and a general feeling of ennui and also illness, has got in the way and I find that my poor old blog has ended up at the bottom of my  ‘to do’  list.   And, of course, we all know that  ‘to do’  lists are rarely completed…….

So, I thought that I would have a look at last year’s post, just to see if it offered any inspiration ……. and I found this ….

I had already mentally wished a  “Happy Birthday”  to dear old Grandpa but I thought it may be a good idea to reblog this ……

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDAD !!

Today would have been my Grandad’s birthday ……

Oh but please don’t worry,  its not a day for great sadness…….

No, no, not at all.  He died over 36 years ago and now I am able to smile nostalgically and bask in happy memories.

You never forget a loved one, but, eventually, I find that you pass into a calmer, more reflective stage, where you remember the warm glow of having loved and been loved by them; rather than feeling the sharp pain of loss.

I realise that this may not always be the case ….perhaps if one has lost a child or someone has been taken far too early… But, in my dear Grandad’s case, I look back on a life well lived….full of joyful memories and amusing anecdotes.

I remember his kindness ….. taking on 5 grand-children that were, in fact, not his  REAL  grand-children at all.  And yet he loved us every bit as much as if we had been blood relations.  He indulged us and ensured that we had all we needed.

He was a great source of fun too.  He came from a much gentler, innocent age.  The workings of the  ‘modern‘  world were often a mystery to him.

For instance …. He had a series of old cars. ……  ‘old bangers’  really !  They were all rather delapidated and his driving left a lot to be desired.  He learnt to drive on farm-land ….long before a driving test was required ….and he drove on  public roads in exactly the same way as he drove his tractor across a ploughed field !

One old Morris Minor had a faulty door handle, so …… for as long as I can remember …..the offending door was tied shut with bright orange baler-twine, which was untied and then tied up again for each passenger.

He dipped his  head-lights by turning them off, completely, for a few seconds ….thus plunging the road ahead into darkness ….. and totally confusing on-coming traffic.

And the manual choke was always pulled out …. well, it was somewhere for my Nana to hang her handbag, wasn’t it ?

He had so many quirky ways …..I still picture him, in his shirt-sleeves, with the collar unbuttoned and his warm, buttoned-at-the-neck, flannel vest on show ….standing at the sink in the little scullery ….peeling  ‘spuds’  with his old pen-knife.  My Nana used to say that she could have done the potatoes in half the time, but he insisted that it was  “his job”.

And so, today and every day,  I remember my beloved Grandad with a great deal of affection and more than a little amusement.  I feel very privileged to have know him and am proud to have been a part of his family.

“Happy Birthday Grandad”

And here is a little story about him that I wrote some time ago ……some of my memories of a special man …………a little bit of nostalgic reminiscence ………..

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HALF EATEN HEDGES

My Grandad was not my  ‘real’   Grandad …….. not my   ‘birth’  relation, as they say nowadays.  My Nana was married twice and her second husband was much resented by my Mother.  But that is not for now,  that is for another day.

To me he was my Grandad,  the only one I had ever known and I loved and respected him and mourned him when he passed away.

He was one of four children,  born to a relatively wealthy farming family in North Yorkshire.  Apparently,  when he was 8 yrs old,  he had fallen from a cart and broken his arm in a few places.  It was set hastily and inexpertly by the local doctor.  Infection set in and he almost lost the arm. He was sent every fortnight, at great expense, on his own across the country to Liverpool for treatment and although this saved the limb it was left twisted and his right hand was turned inwards in a sort of immobile  ‘claw’  shape. The fingers were set in one position and could not be moved.

Of course,  nowadays, he would be registered as disabled and eligible for all sorts of help and benefits,  but way back in the early 1900s there was no NHS,  no Benefit schemes.  You just had to get on with it !

Every brother was given farming land by the parents and my Grandad’s farm was located where Wilton I.C.I  now stands.  It extended from Lazenby to what was known as the  ‘Trunk Road’  between Grangetown and Redcar.

It was a dairy farm and after the cows were milked, the milk was put into huge churns and taken down the lane by horse and cart.  There it was left,  to be picked up by a truck from Northern Dairies.  Next day it was returned; bottled and in heavy metal crates; to be delivered to households round the town by my Grandad and the same horse and cart.

I.C.I Wilton,  which had started off in a small field, was expanding rapidly and office buildings and processing plants seemed to pop up overnight and creep ever nearer to the edge of the farm.

Grandad had sold I.C.I quite a few fields, but eventually they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,  the  whole farm was sold  and my Grandparents bought a large Victorian semi in Grangetown.

Now,  at the time,  this was a prosperous town,  full of life with plenty of work for the menfolk at the thriving Dorman Long Steel Works.   Now I’m remembering the mid 1950s when I often used to visit my Grandparents for the weekend.  At night I would look out of the window and see the big red glow of the furnaces way in the distance and see shards of light and sparks fly up into the night sky when the workers were tapping the furnaces and the molten liquid was meeting the cold  ‘pig’  moulds.

Although the farm was sold,  my Grandad was still the Milkman.  The only differences being that the horse and cart were kept at a nearby farm on the edge of town and the milk was no longer produced by  our  cows !

It was now delivered, very early in the morning,  to the rear of the house and kept in a purpose-built dairy in the back yard.  I can remember laying in bed,  blankets up to my ears;  hearing the clatter and rattle of the crates and the chatter of the men as they unloaded the days supplies.  Meanwhile,  Grandad would have left the house even earlier to go up to the field and ‘catch’  the horse and harness it to the cart. Then, a while later,  I would hear the  ‘clip clop’  of hooves on the cobbled back alley and,  once again, the clatter of crates being loaded.  This time by my Grandad with his crooked arm.

I have no idea how he managed,  I guess he had got used to the situation and, to my shame, as a youngster it never crossed my mind.  It was something I was used to and I never thought of the impact it must have had on his life.  He always coped and I never heard him complain.

He was not a sentimental man.  I suppose farmers can’t always allow themselves that luxury.  So,  although he cared for and ….I believe loved …….his horse,  he had no time for fancy names and every horse he ever owned was called  PETER !

Well, the Peter I knew was a marvel.  He knew every inch of the huge milk-round and could have walked the route on his own.  He knew when to stop and when to start off again and would wait at each place for the designated time.  However,  this meant that if a customer chatted for too long or needed an extra pint fetching Grandad had to hurry or Peter would just trot off again and be halfway down the street at the next stop.

During the school holidays,  my sister Gill and I would often go out  ‘on the round’  too.  We would jump on and off the cart at the stops  and run up and down paths with pints of  ‘gold top‘  and bottles of orange juice and Peter would trot off to the next stop with us gaily skipping after calling  ” Whoa , whoa “……….  which of course he ignored.

A couple of customers always made Grandad a cup of tea and,  if we were with him, we went into the cosy homes and were made a fuss of and plied with cocoa and biscuits.

Peter was used to these longer stops and stayed in one place merrily munching the garden hedge till we came out.  These generous households could easily be recognised by their half-eaten hedges, which were much shorter and sparser than their neighbour’s neat,   uneaten ones !

People loved Peter.  They came out with apples and sugar cubes and little children giggled as his soft nose nuzzled their palms to carefully take the crusts of bread they offered.

People loved my Grandad too.  They gave him cakes and puddings in muslin cloths and sent magazines to my Nana. She, in turn , used Grandad as a courier to deliver a jar of strawberry jam to the lady at number 6 or take a lovingly knitted matinee coat to Mrs. Brown’s new baby.  Births, marriages and deaths were discussed at length and news was carried,  along with the odd letter and parcel,  from one street to another.

Milk needed to be delivered in all weather.  Pouring rain;  scorching sun;  sleet and snow and howling gales;  there would be my Grandad and his trusty Peter.

Grandad,  at the crack of dawn;  huffing and puffing;  lifting heavy crates with his  ‘gammy’ arm.

Grandad, trudging up and down garden paths;  his weather beaten,  furrowed brow  like leather and the creases and wrinkles of his berry brown face deep set in a smile.

When the snow and ice was too dangerous for Peter,  Grandad did the round in short spells using a two wheeled handcart that carried 6 crates at a time. This meant that he had to return home many times to reload,  but he always managed, never missed a day !

Gill and I would sometimes help him , dressed in stout boots and layers of clothes , like two rosy cheeked Inuits.  When the round was finished he would let us sit on the empty crates and he would push us back home in the handcart.  I realise now that what had been great fun for us must have been hard work for him.  But it made us squeal with laughter and that pleased him.

When Gill and I got older we used to help him at weekends by doing what was called the  ‘bottom round’  using the two wheeled handcart.  He would load it with 6 crates and the two of us set off to deliver the daily pintas to 4 or 5 streets of houses that all had excessively long garden paths  !!  We had great fun doing this even though it was very physical work.  Kids nowadays wouldn’t do it I suppose …… and Health and Safety would have something to say about it anyway;  especially as I always let Gill sit on the empty crates while I pushed her home ………….well……..it was tradition !

My dear Grandad worked on,  way past retirement age as he didn’t want to  ” let anyone down.”    But,  eventually,  he had to give way to the modern world.  It was no longer viable to deliver milk with a horse and cart.  Northern Dairies had moved into the modern age and now had a fleet of fancy milk floats and a team of white coated,  fresh-faced young milkmen.

Grandad was a relic of the past and everything was  ” rush rush “.   There was no time to linger over a cuppa or let young kiddies feed crusts to the milkman’s horse .

My Grandparents sold up and retired to the country and there are many more stories to tell.  But I think part of him always remained on that milk-round. Peter also retired, to spend the rest of his life in lush fields,  but, for a while,  part of him remained on the round too,  in the half eaten hedges dotted here and there .

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No More Goodbyes

 

This was a ten minute writing exercise, so don’t expect Shakespeare …….

 

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NO MORE GOODBYES
He stood inside the church …….. the vast coolness of the building making  him shiver slightly. His friend stood beside him and,  noticing the shiver, placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
Soft light shone through the beautiful stained glass windows, leaving pools of iridescent colour on the worn stone floor.  The heady scent of roses, violets and lilies-of-the-valley filled the air, overwhelming his senses and making him dizzy.

His friend guided him to the nearest pew and they sat.

Soft music filled the air.  She had chosen the tune and planned the whole day. She was always organising his life and he knew she had left nothing to chance; nothing he need worry about.  All he had to do was be there. Everything would be perfect, that was her way.
People began to fill the church;  murmuring to each other; looking over at him; nodding and smiling in his direction. He caught their glances out of the corner of his eyes and swayed a little under the close scrutiny.  Would he ever become used to being recognised ?
He was almost in a trance now…….. he had never thought this day would arrive.

After today they would never have to say  ” Goodbye ” again.
His mind drifted, filled with memories. It seemed that, over the years,  they were always saying  ” Goodbye “.
Goodbye”   when she had urged him to spread his wings; write his wonderful music and  travel the world for inspiration.  He had not wanted to go but she had been right to encourage him, set him free.

He had become successful and she revelled in his fame ……… pushed him into the limelight while she stayed out of the public glare.
” Goodbye “,  when he went to the premieres and awards events ………..where he was photographed with young starlets and celebrities.  She had watched him on TV and glowed with pride …….. thrilled that his talent was being celebrated.

She had always had faith in him and knew he would return whenever he could. Return to her and walk through meadows of wildflowers, stroll beside  sparkling streams.  Meet in woods carpeted with bluebells; lay amongst the fragrant blooms and forget about the world. A safe haven, where he could relax and be himself.
Goodbye “,  when he moved to New York,  to join the prestigious orchestra and she was, once again, left behind.

They were victims of their circumstances; living in separate worlds; having to bow to convention.  Back then, people would not have understood about their relationship. ….the  age  thing ……. the differences between them…………Back then every phone call was filled with longing and always ended with that hated word   ” Goodbye “
The vicar slowly approached and gently spoke to him.  He came out of his reverie, back to reality, back to today. He stood up as the beautiful music soared and filled the church and he thought he would faint…………. He knew she was here.
The coffin was slowly carried to the sacred place in front of the altar. It was covered in the flowers she had loved .

Roses, violets and lily-of-the-valley.
This was their final  ” Goodbye “.

*****

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A Story for Christmas

 

 

 

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without one of my silly stories ……well that’s what my friend says. So, here we go with an extremely silly tale ……… 

Merry Christmas everyone !

 

The coffee was hot and very strong and the Inspecteur de Police sipped it gratefully.

It was early morning on Christmas Eve and all around, in the hustle and bustle of the hotel kitchen, toasters were popping out bagels,  croissants were being baked and breakfast was being prepared for the well-heeled guests. Sous-chefs calmly prepared expensively exotic fruits and other foods, while lowly minions and humble kitchen staff emptied bins or carried huge steaming pans and pots of aromatic coffee and tisanes.
The Inspecteur sighed, steeling himself for the task ahead. Normally he would never be able to afford to cross the threshold of such an exclusive establishment. The five-star hotel sat high in the snow-covered mountains and, at this time of year, was filled with wealthy guests, all expecting to celebrate the Festive Season in ultimate comfort and luxury, waited on by attentive, deferentially polite staff.

These guests demanded the highest standards and the strictest privacy. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with their lives; cushioned, as they were, by vast wealth. In fact, the Inspecteur noted, money seemed to saturate the atmosphere; he could almost taste it. And now, one of the guests …. these hallowed beings …. had gone missing !
The alarm had been raised at 6.30 by a chamber-maid, who was taking an early-morning cup of Earl Grey tea to the woman; named Miss Nagle, in room 205. The maid had knocked and entered; as she had done every morning since the guest had arrived, five days ago. But the dear lady was nowhere to be found. A quick search of the hotel proved fruitless and so a call had been made to the  Gendarmerie.
A room was set up next to the foyer. A sort of “head-quarters” for the Police and the hotel Manager flapped about, trying to keep the Gendarmes as inconspicuous as possible.
” I’m afraid everyone will have to be questioned ”  Inspecteur Renard said, then, noting the Manager’s agonised face, he added,

” But we will try to keep it as informal as possible. I’m sure there will be an explanation. No doubt the lady will turn up unharmed “
The Hotel was thoroughly searched again and enquiries continued all day, but the missing guest was not found and no satisfactory explanation emerged for her sudden disappearance.

A patrol had been dispatched, to search the tiny village and surrounding area, but, so far, they had had no success.
Inspecteur Renard wearily surveyed the files on the table before him; they revealed a strange case.

It became clear that the wealthy guests could barely remember Miss Nagle. The only recurring description was that she had been a quiet lady, who always sat alone. In fact, most could not recall ever seeing her; although she had been among them for five days and had, according to the waiters, taken all her meals in the dining room and attended the dances each evening.
However, the lowliest of the hotel staff; the boot-boys, the cleaners and the laundry workers, could all remember her in great detail. They had all liked her, would have gone through hoops to please her, but she was never demanding. They described her kind face and gentle grey eyes. Her slender frame and modest height. Her flowing, almost ethereal clothes. They all told of how she talked to them and listened to their stories about their lives and families. Most of them had travelled to France from abroad, leaving behind children or infirm relatives. They did menial tasks and were treated like dirt by the “front of house” staff, but they suffered these indignities so that they could send a few precious Euros home to their desperately poor families in Croatia, Algeria and India.

Miss Nagle had been kind and hugged them when they felt particularly homesick or lonely. She had given a warm shawl to one young lass, who found the Alpine winter such a contrast to winter in the slums of Mumbai.

She had bought cough medicine for the boot-boy’s croaky throat.

They had all loved her.
Renard stretched and looked at his watch;  22.30 !  He gathered his files, shaking his head slowly.

Outside, in the darkness, the snow was falling steadily; huge flakes that turned everything into a winter wonderland and covered the hotel grounds like a sparkling, white blanket. Across the foyer, in the Ballroom, a Christmas party was in full swing, fairy lights twinkling on the huge Christmas tree and glasses of Champagne clinking; the sound mingling with tinkling laughter and festive music. Downstairs, in the kitchens, the staff washed endless dishes and laundered dozens of linen napkins.
He may as well go home, no more could be done tonight and, as tomorrow was Christmas Day, he supposed nothing would be done to further the investigation until next week. It was as though Miss Nagle had never existed.
Christmas Day dawned and in various homes in Croatia, Algeria and the slums of Mumbai, people were waking up. People whose relatives were far away, working in a grand hotel in France. But these humble individuals were waking to a surprise. Each and everyone found a brightly coloured stocking next to their meagre beds and each and every stocking was stuffed full of money.

It was as though they had been visited by an Angel ………………………………
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It only remains for me to wish you all Happy Holidays ! May you all find happiness, peace and love over this Festive Season.

 

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