Category Archives: Family memoirs

Do they eat them Jack?

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I have been thinking about my aunty Muriel, my mother`s older sister, who died many years ago. I think Mu would have been about seventy when she died, which is remarkable given the enormous challenges she faced throughout her life. It is testimony to the marvellous care that Muriel received from both my parents and particularly my mother, that she enjoyed such longevity.

Mu was born with (I believe) cerebral palsy and had a learning disability. We would have called her spastic back in those days before the term was recognised as derogatory. When I was older, my mother Bess explained to me that Mu`s disability may have been caused by my grandmother attempting to abort her pregnancy.  Unsuccessful in the attempt, she may have damaged Muriel before she was born. I don`t know if this is possible, I think there may be some truth in the tale as my mum was not a person who made things up but in any event, Muriel was meant to be born so she arrived on earth and grew up in the early nineteen hundreds, on my grandmother`s farm in Birmingham.

Children can be very cruel and of course Mu was “different” so she had to be accompanied to school and home again as sometimes the other children would call her names, she was often protected from being bullied by her brother Seba and my mother.

As Muriel grew up, the main carer for her was my aunt Lillian who loved her very much. My grandmother was not at all maternal so it`s a good job someone was. They became constant companions and when Lillian was an old lady, they moved to live together in a small cottage in Knowle, near to my mum and dad who kept an eye on them both. When Lillian died, ancient and frail when I was about 4, Muriel came to live with us.

Mu`s disability affected her mobility quite considerably. She had difficulty with her breathing, she often dribbled which left her with a wet patch on her chest. She had difficulty with her speech and couldn`t do anything in a hurry. She needed help sometimes with buttons and zips, we had to cut her food up for her, everything Mu did was done in slow motion but her situation did not prevent her from having friends and family who loved her a lot. As a child, I didn`t think I loved my aunty Mu. As an adult I realise I did, I just didn`t know how to express my love to her. Being hugged by Mu was like being hugged by a bear!  I think as a child I was slightly embarrassed by her, I am ashamed of my childish self now of course and if I could meet Mu in the present, I would throw my arms around her and cry and ask her to forgive me.

Mu had a passion for photography and liked to take pictures of us as children. We would pose for what seemed like hours as Mu fiddled away trying to get the position of her camera just so. Even now, if I take my time taking a photograph, my family refer to it as “doing a Muriel” and it makes us smile.

She had a great sense of humour and if she started to laugh at something that had tickled her, her huge shoulders would heave up and down and her throaty laugh would continue until she could compose herself again. I have a memory of being in a church at a relative`s wedding I think. A child started to fidget and make a noise, then I heard a smack, and the child immediately began to cry. Muriel began to laugh, so did I, it was like a domino effect.

Another time, I recall Mu threading peanuts on to a wire for the birds (I may have told this tale in another, long ago blog.) It took her forever and as she sat in my parents` kitchen completing the task, she asked my dad, “Do they eat them Jack?” “No Muriel,” my father replied, “They shove them up their arseholes.” More, uncontrollable laughter from aunty Mu, I remember it vividly, it was especially funny for me as a child because my dad rarely used swear words.

When I was 12, dad bought me a guitar and my brother`s friend Rod taught me how to play it. Mu loved to hear me sing and her favourite song was one of my favourites too, Plaisir D`amour, made famous by Joan Baez. I would sit on the kitchen table, my guitar perched on my lap and sing and Mu would listen to me and cry, she could be a very emotional woman. I had a very pure voice as a young person and did a lot of public singing and I have already heard the joke about why she was crying. Many times!

So there you are, a little snippet of life with Muriel. If I could speak to her now I would say thank you, for enriching my life so much, even though I wasn`t aware of it at the time. I am absolutely certain it is my experience growing up with someone with a significant disability which steered me towards the fantastic career path I have enjoyed so much.

Thank you aunty Mu, you were a star.

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My idiosyncratic father….

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My father Jack Pitt was born in nineteen hundred and eleven. One of nine siblings, two of his sisters died very young and are buried close to my grandfather Edward Pitt, in St. Mary`s churchyard in Acocks Green. My grandfather was a greengrocer and owned Pitts the greengrocers shop which was situated in Acocks Green village.

My mother Bess was born a mile up the road. A few months younger than dad, she was raised on Pinfold Farm in Yardley and when they were ten, both she and dad attended the same junior school. This is how they met.

In those days the boys and girls` playgrounds at Acocks Green Junior School were separated by a tall brick wall, so when my father was eleven he let my mother know of his love for her by writing “I love you” in Quink ink on a piece of orange peel and tossed it to her, over the wall. Thus began their enduring love affair which spanned almost eighty years.

It wasn`t all hearts and roses. Their love was often fraught with insecurity, petty jealousies and cold silences.  As one of their four children, I recall these could span several days. I didn`t really get to know my father until he was very old. I knew him on a superficial level because mum was a true matriarch and had she allowed my father to get close to us, it would have meant her losing her position and control in the family. In spite of this I loved them both very much and I think of them often.

I was talking with my granddaughter Mimi the other day, about her great grandfather and recalling some of the things he did which used to make us laugh when we were children. Dad used to make apple pie beds and for those of you who are uninitiated, this consisted of him tiptoeing into my room before bed time and placing all my childish belongings under the sheets at the foot of my bed. I`d snuggle down later in the evening to find my books, my china ornaments of which I had many, anything uncomfortable or lumpy he could find he would put down the bed. He found it hilarious, he loved slap stick humour.

When my own children were born, my daughter Rebecca was given a life sized doll which she named Sally. Sally never had a very good start in life as Rebecca found it necessary to cut off all her hair. To be honest, we all found Sally a bit creepy and none of us really bonded with her but I did dress her, in Rebecca`s old clothes if only to make her appear a bit more attractive and cared for, her glassy eyes so motionless, her bald scalp so prickly. One of the things father did to amuse my children when they were small, was to place Sally sitting on the toilet, her tights around her plastic ankles, a toilet roll clasped in her plastic hand, dad thought it very funny to hear their screams of dubious laughter when they went to the loo, only to find Sally had arrived before them.

My parents lived in a large flat above the shop until my father died in 1993 and mum went to live with my brother and his wife. My daughter recalls us emptying the flat almost a year after dad had died only to find Sally sitting in one of the rooms, all alone. No-one wanted to take her so she came to live with us again and I cannot recollect now, what happened to her.

Dad taught me many of his old army songs from World War Two which I still occasionally sing while preparing vegetables for Sunday dinner, just as I did with my father, all those years ago…….  After dinner, a few glasses of wine under his belt, my father would hold me close to his chest and dance a waltz with me in the large kitchen at the flat and then we would wash up and give my mother the afternoon off.  He always smelled of cigarettes and Old Spice and sometimes embarrassed me with his affection, I was too young to appreciate how much he loved me, loved us all. I thought he was a funny, loving, silly old man who I had a huge amount of affection for.

All my life my father woke me every morning with a cup of tea, until I left home at twenty three, pregnant with my first child.  I miss that………

my-father

Jack Colin Pitt.  22/11/1911  until  3/3/1994

Happy birthday dad. xxx

Taking Joyce to a wedding…..

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There was a family wedding recently and as my ex-husband was away that day I was tasked with taking my ex- mother-in-law Joyce, to the event.  Some of you will be familiar with Joyce from previous blogs.
I arrived at her house two hours early so that she would have plenty of time to get ready, she is after all nearly ninety.  It was lunch time so I asked if she would like something to eat since I knew that our sit down meal would not be until 5pm. Joyce refused a snack even though I said several times that she would be hungry and instead she sat and munched a few crisps with a rather miserable expression on her face.  She also complained that her back ached and wouldn`t take any pain killers. Hey ho.
I suggested that we take her wheelchair to the wedding since she is quite unsteady now and when she is walking and if you allow her to, she clasps your wrist with a vice like grip to balance herself.  This really hurts and threatens to topple you over.  She refused the wheelchair and agreed to take her walking stick.  Just as I was ready to leave, she said that she needed the loo and disappeared upstairs for ages and I thought, “we`re going to be late…..”
I was wearing a white jacket and a rather pleasing grey, blue and white jump suit so I looked very nice. Joyce handed me her stick, which incidentally she did not use at all the entire afternoon and grasped my wrist as I tried to lock her front door, which is a bit like locking up Fort Knox.  I happened to glance down at my jacket which is just as well because there was something brown and unpleasant looking smeared on the lapel.  It could only be one of two things, the second being bird pooh so I put Joyce in my car and sighing, I went back inside the house to rinse the lapel through. I knew we were almost certainly going to be late but I didn`t have an alternative.
My jacket dripping wet, I got into my car, Joyce said, “I`ve changed my mind, I want my wheelchair.”  I told her it was hard luck then since we didn`t have the time to lug it into the back of the car and off I drove, so she pulled a face.
Fortunately, when we arrived at the venue everyone was gathered at the bar prior to the main event.  Joyce said that she was hungry, no surprise there but we had to go and take our seats.
The wedding was very sweet and tender and the groom was quite emotional and the bride looked absolutely lovely, so did her maid of honour.  All the men were dressed in tail coats and co-ordinated colours and looked very handsome.  Afterwards we went outside for the photographs.
We had only been outside about two minutes when Joyce told me that she was cold and wanted to go back inside.  We trundled back to sit in the bar and she again said that she was hungry. Someone went to ask the barman if it would be possible to make her a sandwich, which he duly did.  Joyce took one bite and instantly said, “I don`t like this whatever it is (it was beef) it`s horrible, ask him for something else.”  I went back to the barman, who was definitely not a local and apologising for her rude manners I asked him if he would very much mind doing her something else.  I said that if he had any Paraquat in the kitchen, he was most welcome to use it as a sauce.
As I walked back to Joyce I heard the barman calling out to me in a thick, south American accent and a voice that was audible all over the venue,  “Paraquat?  Paraquat?  What is this Paraquat?”  By this time I had rushed back to him and stroking his arm I shushed him saying, “It`s just a joke, just my little joke, take no notice…..”

Easter day with Joyce.

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Many of the people who read my blog know that I have been divorced for a long time and I refer to my ex-husband`s Tony`s mum as,  “the woman who used to be my mother in law. (TWWUTBMMIL)”  

It`s ironic but Joyce has never been much of a joyous person and as she has become older, her lack of ability to experience happiness in her life has become more and more evident.  My daughter visits her every weekend and cleans her house and tidies up and puts her clothes away and really loves her nan. The grandchildren find her waspish manners and bellicose attitude absolutely hilarious but it grates on me. Never the less, being the kind soul that I am, I invited her to join us for a roast dinner yesterday, which was Easter day and hauled a gigantic piece of beef out of the freezer for the special occasion. I popped in it in the oven to slow cook at about 11am and began preparing the vegetables.

Tony went to pick her up and delivered her to the kitchen about four hours later. The beef was falling apart to the touch, the roasters were a crunchy, culinary delight, the parsnips absolutely perfect, the cabbage retained just a little hint of a bite and my gravy was gravy heaven. I was well pleased as I began to carve up the joint and plate it all up.

The woman who used to be my mother in law sat down and said, “What`s for starters?”  I said, “Oh Joyce I haven`t prepared a starter, but it isn`t any trouble, what would you like?  I can soon make you something, some soup perhaps?”

TWWUTOBMIL said, “well are you having any?” (To Tony.) Tony said he didn`t want a starter but was happy to wait if she did.  

TWWUTBMMIL said, “are you having any?” (To me.) I said, no but I was more than happy to do her something and wait if she would like that.

“Well, I don`t want anything if no-one else is having any.”

I said that was fine and carried on dishing up the roast dinner. I placed a piping hot plate full of scrummy food in front of her and said,  “you carry on Joyce, please don`t wait for us.”  She looked at it and said, “so we`re not having a starter then?”  So we re-ran the starter conversation.

Tony put Vera Lynn and Frank Sinatra on You Tube and for an hour or so we listened to music and reminisced about her growing up during WW2 rationing.  Then she turned to me and said, “So is my room ready for me to stay the night?”  This threw me a bit because we hadn`t had any conversation about her staying over and there was no arrangement in place. She is now 88 and our steep stairs and lack of a spare bedroom don`t make it ideal for old ladies to stay.  I offered her my room. She said, “Oh, I`m only joking!”  I said she could have the spare bed in the little box room but it really isn`t all that comfortable and she said no.   I said, “Fair enough,” and put the television on.

After half an hour having sat wringing her hands together and periodically uttering “oh dear,” TWWUTBMMIL said to Tony, “Well I might as well go home then.  If I`m not going to stay and I`m just going to be a nuisance to you both, then I might as well go.”  Of course we reassured her that she was not being a nuisance but Joycey had made up her mind not to extract even a nanosecond of joy from her visit.  We offered her my room again and she was having none of it. Her mouth turned down at the corners she put on her coat, briefly allowed me to hug her and then Tony took her home.

It has been like that between me and her for nearly fifty years. It baffles me, we have never had a laugh together except on one occasion when she went to bat a wasp away from my hair and batted me in the face instead which resulted in her falling about in hysterical laughter ……   ho hum.

Happy Easter everyone!

 

Kapow!!!

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It was my daughter`s birthday the other day. She, her dad and her five children all trooped off to a local carvery for dinner, everyone enjoys a good carvery.

They all ate mountains of food and were milling about, getting themselves ready to go to the cars and drive home. I didn`t go because I am a miserable, unsociable bugger and it was Friday and I just wanted to put my feet up. They came over to me after the meal.

Becky said that she had been talking to her dad and was vaguely aware of her youngest child who is eight, twittering somewhere near her ear, but she was ignoring it because this little lass does quite a lot of twittering and she already knew not to interrupt the adults. So…..

They strolled to the car and eventually it filtered through to my daughter`s  brain that her child was trying to draw attention to the fact that her nose” hurt and felt funny.” Just as Becky turned to see what was wrong, her little girl exploded with the most massive, gigantic sneeze you have ever heard, like a small explosion. Copious amounts of clear snot streamed down each side of her chin, all of it speckled with large amounts of black bits from an unknown source. It must have looked like the stuff that infected people puke up in Fortitude.

Becky said, “What on earth is that?” as all the other children fell about laughing hysterically.

As she wiped away the snotty mess with a napkin the siblings explained. They had persuaded their baby sister to snort a huge pile of black pepper up her nose from the back of their hands, telling her it was snuff.

Children do the weirdest things…….

 

She died with a fag in her mouth.

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In the early 1900`s my family ran a large greengrocer`s shop in Acocks Green.  Above the shop was a huge, five bedroom flat where I was to be born in 1953.  My grandad Edward would get up at the crack of dawn to take his horse and cart five miles to the market to pick up produce to sell and my nan Polly and Edward`s sister Mary helped him in the busy shop.  Mary was always a heavy smoker, she always had a cigarette dangling from her mouth and in spite of her twenty to thirty a day habit managed to live well into her eighties.  She had been a nurse and brought many grateful soldiers back to full health during the first world war.  I know this because as a child, I was given her autograph book signed by lots of the men she nursed and it was filled with some fascinating drawings and poems which accompanied their thanks to her.  One drunken night in my twenties I gave it away to a woman who really loved it and I have regretted that but hey ho, it was a long time ago.

One night during World War 2 a few years before I was born, there was a heavy bombing raid over Birmingham.  Everyone apart from Aunty Mary fled to the large and damp concrete air raid shelter which had been built in the fields at the back of the house to protect the local community.  Mary was a stoic and she refused, as she put it, “to be made to leave her own home because of  The Hun.”  Referring to German soldiers as The Hun was a highly effective piece of propaganda seized upon by British politicians in WW2 in order to demonise the German troops.  Remember Attila the Hun?

Mary had gone to the loo that night presumably to have a fag and take her mind off the air raid.  She was perched on the throne refusing to be put out by Hitler when a bomb happened to fall right outside the flat, exploding and creating a massive crater in the Warwick Road.  The accompanying vibrations to the building literally blew Mary off the toilet so on that occasion, she must have been somewhat relieved to find herself still in tact.  Actually the night time raid also hit St. Mary`s Church in Acocks Green and did a huge amount of damage to that lovely building but like my Aunty Mary, the church too, survived.

Some years after the war, I had been born and spent a lot of my time with my nanny and Aunty Mary who now shared a house together in Dudley Park Road in Acocks Green.  They had retired and my mother and father were always occupied with shop business not that I especially minded at that time, my nanny was my favourite person in the world.

I used to watch Aunty Mary preparing food in the small, nineteen fifties kitchen.  She and nanny always wore aprons and Mary`s fags and matches would be kept available in the pocket of her apron.  She always smelt a mixture of fags and Rennies, I remember it distinctly.

I have a vivid childhood memory of watching Mary making gravy for Sunday dinner in a large roasting tin, the ever present fag hanging down. I was fascinated and childishly horrified as a good inch of ash which had been perilously close to dropping, finally departed from the cigarette and fell like a humungous grey snowflake, down with a gentle plop into the roasting tin.  Unperturbed Mary simply continued to stir the ash into the gravy.

After my nan died, Mary went to be taken care of by my Uncle Alan who lived in Great Barr and from time to time, we would all go to visit her and say hello to my cousins Stephen and Rita.  Alan`s wife Elsie was a very house proud woman and I remember it was a bit like visiting royalty.  My uncle, also a greengrocer worked very hard and the house reflected that with fine furniture and beautiful carpets throughout.  It must have been all the more galling for him therefore, to cope with the manner in which my Aunty Mary had chosen to die.

That day, she had lit a fag and as in WW1 all those years ago, retired to the toilet for a quiet smoke.  God called her, it was her time and she passed away and let her body slip off the loo and on to the newly laid pale green carpet.   Unfortunately, her body was blocking the door so too late, my Uncle Alan managed to push it open only to find the rascally fag that had fallen from her lips had already singed a large burn into his new carpet.

Aunty Elsie must have had kittens but that recollection of my ancient Aunty Mary, always makes me smile.

Serendipity.

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Years ago, it must have been around tea time, Tony came into the house with a young teenager.  The boy who was about fifteen, was bleeding quite heavily from several cuts to his face.   Tony had intervened in a fight, two kids against one, which had been taking place on the bridge over the railway by our home.  The older boys were punching the young man in the face so that they could steal his snooker cue.  Tony saw them off.

Sitting the boy down, I quickly fetched a bowl of hot water and some clean towels from the kitchen and asking Tone to call an ambulance, started to wipe the blood from the boy`s face.  It must have been the nineties because I remember thinking I really should be protecting my skin with some rubber gloves because of HIV and then thinking “bugger that” and carrying on cleaning up his face. It quickly became apparent that the boy was deaf and dumb but by hand gestures and writing we found out who he was and contacted his family to let them know what had happened.

I`m not sure how the offenders were tracked down by the police but some months later Tony was called to give evidence in court.  In their defence, the two young men who had beaten up our boy said that they had been provoked by some racist comments he had shouted at them.  Of course they did not know at that time that the boy could not speak and so only dug themselves into a deeper hole.  They were each sentenced to a term in prison and the judge awarded Tony £65 for his bravery.  There was even a small piece in the Birmingham Evening Mail saluting our hero.

Co-incidentally during those few summer months, Tony had been pulled over by the police and subsequently found to be driving on a Provisional Licence.  On the very same day he was awarded £65 for being brave, he was fined £65 for being irresponsible.  Some people may call it his karma for driving whilst unqualified but I prefer to reverse the situation and look upon it as serendipity.

To conclude my tale, all of which is true, some years later Tone was sitting down enjoying a pint up at The Great Western pub.  Two fellows walked in and strolling up to the bar they ordered a drink.  Tony immediately recognised one of them as the main man who beat up our boy all those years ago.  Unfortunately for Tone the man also recognised him and began to walk across the lounge floor towards our intrepid hero.  Tony thought,  “oh s**t”  as you would and prepared for the worst.  To his surprise the man sat down beside him and holding out his hand he said,  “You`re the fella who put me in nick aren`t you?”  Tony nodded his head.  The man continued,  “Well put it there mate, going to prison was the best thing that could have happened to me, I want to say thank you.”

He explained to Tony that he had being going down a very bad path and that when he went inside, for the first time in his life he studied and achieved two A levels.  He went on to take Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  When he came out of prison he met a lovely girl and together they went to work in Japan for two years where they taught English to Japanese children.  He said his life had never been more on track and it would never have happened had it not been for our Tone, taking him to task, all that time ago.

Everything happens for a reason.    🙂

When me & Tone fell in the canal…..

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It was a very deep and frozen winters night around 30 years ago…….   Tony and I had been up to The Great Western for a few pints with all our mates.  It was incredibly cold, snow covered the ground and as we walked back up The Avenue to home our breath froze in the wintry air.

As was our way, we got our two dogs Charcoal and Cutie ready for their night time walk and as was also usual, we took them down the canal tow path at the end of our street so that they could have a good run before bed.

We started to walk along the icy cut, we could hear talking and laughter and a bit further along we could see a quite large group of people also walking along only actually on the canal itself.  It looked like a strip of white road and the water was frozen solid, or so we thought……

We decided to join them.

I recall it was great fun walking on water, mind you we were quite happy after the pub.  The group of young people were ahead  and as we strolled along, the dogs bounding in front of us, we walked past a very pretty, wooded part of Acocks Green called The Vale.  We decided how nice it would be to alight so to speak, on the wooded side of the canal and walk home from there.  We stepped to the side of the frozen water and as we did so, we barely noticed the sound that ice makes when it cracks.

And then we did.

It was a sort of a high pitched squeal, it`s a very distinctive sound and quite impossible to forget once you have heard it.  Too late we realised we were in trouble as the ice gave way beneath us, I saw the whole thing in slow motion, as though I was outside looking in.  Tony plunged down in a straight line in front of me and grabbing hold of my arm, he took me with him, I saw the dogs go in the water and just as I was beginning to think my life was unfolding in front of me, my feet hit the floor of the canal.  I was alert enough to see that my precious dogs had immediately scrambled out on to the wood side and were busy shaking the water off, so that was a relief.

We both realised straight away how lucky we were that the ice had given way in a shallow part of the canal where the water gently sloped up to a natural sandy beach.  Unfortunately for us, we had fallen into a really brackish and smelly part of the water.  We scrambled out anxious to get our dogs home and into the warm.  We could see all those kids ahead of us, they had turned around because of the noise and were now pointing at us and laughing hysterically.

As we briskly walked along we could feel our clothes literally freezing on to us and becoming more and more stiff.  It took us five minutes to get home and by the time we did, my hair was hanging round my head in icicles.  I looked like Bob Marley on ice.  We made sure the dogs were in front of the fire before we started chipping off our stiffened clothes.  You remember when your mum used to hang shirts out on the washing line in winter and they would freeze, like flat statues?  That`s how our clothes were.

I said to Tone,  “Never mind eh, at least we still have some fags.”  I took a packet out of my coat and opened it.  The cigarettes were black and soggy and smelt like sewage, so did we, it is the best advert for stopping smoking I have ever experienced.  It took us days to wash the smell off ourselves and the dogs and needless to say, we never repeated the exercise…….  I still think about those people ahead of us on the canal, they never even got off the ice!

A cow blog for Norman.

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Today my colleagues and I were all attending an away day.  During one of the exercises, we had to discuss things we liked and disliked and I overheard Norman, our wonderful office manager come man of all trades saying,  “Ah, cows –  I don`t like cows, they lick your head.”  Indeed they do if given the opportunity and very raspy tongues they have, which isn`t entirely pleasant.  It reminded me of a number of cow experiences I have had and I thought for Norman`s amusement, I would write about them here……

As a child I was often taken to visit my relatives who lived in a beautiful and quaint cottage in a village called Haselor.  Haselor sits in the Warwickshire countryside where my uncle Albert`s home was also a small holding and an operating cider mill.  Uncle Albert would take me and my siblings to the cider press to watch the murky apple juice being squished out by the grinding stone.  It`s still there, it has remained as a garden feature.  Uncle Albert told us that it was customary in those days (the nineteen fifties) to throw a dead rat into the first pressing as the enzymes from poor old ratty`s rotting body would aid the fermentation process.  We would giggle and squirm at the thought like children do.  It was here that I was taken for my first ride on a cow, she really was called Daisy and at only four years old I felt as though I was sitting a million miles up astride Daisy`s wide girth as she swayed and sashayed me around the field, led on a halter by my uncle.   Uncle Albert would also allow us to visit the new calves in the warm, hay strewn calving sheds where we would stick our fingers into the baby cows` gummy, wet mouths and they would suckle and tickle our skin, we loved it.

Those wonderful, worry free childhood days are long since over.  Gone is the sticky, fly paper which hung above the kitchen table where as children, we would tuck in to apple `rough me doughs` baked by aunty Alice and be fascinated and appalled in equal measure by the poor bluebottles, impossibly stuck and uselessly waving their fly legs around as they realised their fly fate.  Gone is the outside loo which boasted a wooden seat with three holes in it, one for large grown ups, one for medium sized people and a small one for children.  Gone is the well where we would pump up buckets of water with their accompanying resident frogs.  The cottage remains as a desirable residence in a perfect location and was recently valued at slightly under £800,000.  My uncle Albert will be sucking on his celestial pipe and smiling at the bemusing and ridiculous changes to his marvellous home….

Which brings me nicely to my final cow tale.

I still enjoy visiting Haselor and the lovely and ancient church which sits atop Haselor Hill.  I love to walk there, (take note my children, I`d like my ashes scattered there.)  My ex old man and I visit from time to time and wander around the village and go and sit in the peaceful quiet of the church and leave prayers there for people who we care about.  One day, it was a very hot, summer`s day, we took a long stroll and wound up by a field of cows.  Having walked about three miles we were tired and thirsty and beaded with sweat we decided we would take a short cut and climb the stile and walk across the field inhabited by the cows.  Out of curiosity and as cows do, they all started to walk over to us.  They herded into the corner where we were and stared at us and our old dog, Charcoal.  It was really uncomfortable, their stares can only be described as rather hostile.  Tony and I looked at one another, he said, “Well I`m not risking it are you?”  Faced with the thought of a three mile hike back the other way in all that heat I replied, “It`ll be fine,” and hoicking my leg up over the stile I made ready to enter the field…….   It was then I noticed a definite change in attitude amongst the cows.  They weren`t at all scared of me, in fact quite the opposite, they had a mean, menacing look in those big brown eyes.  I hesitated, I withdrew my leg back onto the safe side and turned to Tony……

He said, “Do you think it would make any difference if we sang to them, I think cows like music?”  I wasn`t sure which edition of Countryfile he had been watching but going along with the idea we decided to sing Santa Lucia to the assembled cowmpany.  We have been singing this song together forever, in mock operatic style, he as a baritone, me as soprano.  I recall one time when we were on holiday and having heard us singing on the beach, our next door neighbours thought we were professionals which made us laugh.  However once we began singing to the cows, the cows clearly did not agree.  They stared balefully, some might say in a kind of evil cow-like way and did not appear at all reassured that we were friendly.  Call it cow revenge for all of those roast beef dinners I have enjoyed through my life, call it divine intervention from a higher power who knew they meant busines, call it what you will, neither of us was prepared to take the risk.

It may be that I haven`t captured here, how scary those cows were. By golly they frightened us as in a horror movie. A cow version of that marvellous Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, they were all around us.

Taking up the lead of our weary old dog Charcoal, we turned our backs on those malevolent cattle and trudged the three, hot, dusty, thirsty and wearisome miles back to our starting place, occasionally calling out, “Which way to Cowtoum, which way to Cowtoum `owrence?`

So Norman, I do understand.   With huge respect however, you may be interested to read the following article:

http://www.hairlosstalk.com/hair-loss-news/article75.php

It`s not a suggestion!  It made me smile.    🙂

Did I say that was my final cow tale?

Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Sweet and Poetic Memories of my Sister.

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This morning I received a lovely surprise in the post.  A large box filled with memories of my wonderful sister Sue, who very sadly died far too early on from lung cancer in 2007.  My sister was 60 when she died and the cancer was brought on by her life time habit of heavy smoking.  When Sue met Mandy who became her civil partner, Mandy objected so much to the smoking, Sue was banished to the garden shed where she festooned the walls with posters of Clint Eastwood and installed a comfy armchair.  There she and I would sit and Sue would smoke and we would chat and look at her very beautiful and rather eccentric garden. There was a large monkey puzzle tree in the garden and so my sister hung lots of toy monkeys purchased from local charity shops, up there in the top branches where they would swing around in the breeze and look down at us, grinning.  Another was gaily hung with sparkling CD`s, a sort of alternative Christmas tree.  Everywhere on the ground you would stumble upon small ceramic animals, hedgehogs, birds, gnomes and fairies.   The garden was filled with flowers of so many varieties; it was a burst of vivid and gorgeous colour wherever you looked and secrets hidden in every corner.

Shortly before my sister died we were talking about smoking and Sue turned to me and said, “Do you know Hel, in spite of it all I can honestly say there isn`t one cigarette I haven`t thoroughly enjoyed.”  Those of us who still miss her so much, could hardly disagree but I`d much rather she were still here.

My sister`s things were posted to me by my niece Sarah.  They had been a while coming to me because in spite of also being diagnosed with a usually much more aggressive type of cancer, Mandy had survived my sister by this much time. Sadly Mandy died too, earlier this year and now the house will be put up for sale.   Times change and all is well.

I took the box to work with me to open up when I got to my office.   This was a bit of a mistake as I instantly began blarting, but happily so, happy to receive such lovely tokens of my sisters` love.   Inside were all sorts of magical things, lots of the silver rings that Sue loved so much (thank you Sarah) silver bangles, precious photographs, a beautiful trinket dish, a glass heart.  Best of all though was a book called “Hel and Sue`s Pomes.  A Collection.”  Sue and I would pen in a few of our favourite poems, sometimes ones we had written ourselves, and then send the book to each other year on year on our birthdays and every year we would add more.  I opened it up and a photograph of my daughter Becky fell out so she must have held a special place in Sue`s heart.  the memories have come flooding back to me now that I have begun reading these wonderful poems again after such a long time.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

New Every Morning.

Every day is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to that glad refrain.

And, spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin

Again.

Susan Coolidge  1835 – 1905

Here is one that Sue wrote:

Once when I was a child

I found the skeleton of a mouse

Buried in the vinegar scented cellar

Of my father`s shop

It was ivory – intricate,

Very beautiful

I put it into a glass jar and gave it to some-one I loved.

Perhaps we spend our lives

Offering to those we love

A fragile skeleton

Enclosed in glass

If we are lucky we note

Only hairline cracks –

Thankful that the glass does not shatter –

The skeleton remains intact.

Sue Coulson.  1947 – 2007

(I think Sue must have been using poetic license there as dad`s shop didn`t have a cellar, it did have a long entry where he stored the banana crates…..  I think it must have been here that she found the mouse skeleton)

Here`s another one Sue liked:

I would live all of my life in nonchalance

And insouciance

Were it not for making a living,

Which is rather a nouciance.

Ogden Nash.   1902 – 1971

And one of mine…..

Becky`s Rhino Rap.

Her name is Becky and she`s an Inman

And she`s got more balls than a brawny bin man

She`s a lap dancer and she`s ok

She bounces her boobs in a natural way

She shakes her ass and wiggles that butt

And she gets paid for it, for pleasing nuts!

She raises a smile

And that`s not all

She`s a funky Rhino dancer

And she`s got balls!

Helen Pitt. March 2004

(Composed following a conversation with my daughter when we pondered what it would be like to become a lap dancer.  Spearmint Rhino had just opened midst a huge furore in Birmingham)

And my favourite one of mine…..

The Song of the Lovesick Octopus.

 I want you to know dear

And understand

My heart is rich with gravity

Please slip your octopus arm in here

And fill my mantel cavity.

I want to float in the surf with you

And murmer the words, “be mine”

I am slippy and slimy and wet from the sea,

Yours fishily, just give me a sign.

 I need you to do that special trick

The one where you change your hue,

And watch as the blush spreads

Along your arms

And entangle myself with you

 And can you do your shape changer bit,

And morph into something special,

A chair, a bed, a bar of soap,

Let`s have an octopus wrestle.

 I need to swim in the brine with you

It`s hopeless, I wish you could see.

Please take me to heaven,

Wrap your legs up in mine,

And make octopus love with me.

Helen Pitt.  Valentines Day 2004.

 

It`s hard to believe that I wrote this poem for the Australian.  Hard to believe I once loved this man, that much.     (https://anightinwithnelly.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/a-letter-to-the-australian/)

Hey ho.  Times change and all is well.

I am ever so happy to have been given these things of my sisters and will leave this blog with a comment from my darling niece:

“The little plate I`ve sent you used to live on Ma`s side of the bed.  I really love it but I`m not really a knick-knack type of person.  It may have something to do with the fact that both my parents crammed/cram as much stuff/things/artefacts/junk/collectibles and shite into and onto every available space……..”

Well I am a knick-knack type of person Sarah and thank you again so much.  You have made my day.week/month/year.       🙂