Category Archives: Memories

That Was The Year That….

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Tennyson,  1st Baron Tennyson,  Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland
August 1809 –  October 1892

And now this is the last day of the year.  The sun is shining brightly after several days of dreary rain, and we are looking forward to the New Year.

This has been a year that has been very eventful for me and will be long remembered. A snap decision to sell the house and travel, meeting a new special person (again), adventures in Florence, the excitement of melding two families and so much more.

The decision had been made to go away – if I didn’t do it now when would I? And having no idea how long I would be away it was decided to sell the house and put my belongings into storage rather than buy another house.

Sold

Packing up the house to put everything into storage went well.  My son and daughter have their own houses and didn’t want my furniture, except one particular chair that went to my daughter-in-law (she had always wanted it) and a desk and a sofa table that went to my daughter.  All the rest was packed by the removers and taken to storage.  That was interesting.  I had downsized considerably when moving into that house and was very surprised to note that I needed three storage units to house my belongings.

During the decision making to move and go away on an extended trip, I met up again with an acquaintance from years before.  We spent a lot of time together during the sales process and when the settlement took place, I was invited to join him in his house in the beech forest.

House in the trees

Then it was time to start my travels.  Three grandsons and my daughter came to the airport to see me off.  None of us knew how long I would be away although I did have a return ticket for February 3, but my family were used to my going to visit my sisters on the other side of the world and changing return date

Wellington Airport

How fast and how large they have all grown

I had a lovely time spent catching up with my younger sister in London.  The plan had been for her to come to Florence with me but that didn’t work our as she had a health scare that meant she couldn’t fly.  But we had a lovely time visiting friends and family and revisiting museums and places of interest, not as a tourist but as a returning Londoner.

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2013 090

And then it was off to explore Florence on my own.  I rented an apartment out of the centre of town in an area where I appeared to be the only English-speaking resident.  But how happy to help me were the Italians I came across when I used my faltering Italian to communicate with them.  In all the time I was there I encountered only one surly bus driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t help me.

Duomo 2

But as often happens, homesickness or rather the longing to be with friends and family again, overtook me and I decided that it was time to cut short this adventure.  So back to London for another week with my sister and then I returned home to New Zealand.

And what a happy homecoming that was.  I was met by my special friend in Auckland and we drove together down the North Island to Wellington stopping on the way to catch up with friends in Taupo.

http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/new-zealand/interactivemap/

Then a new phase in this long and happy life began.  It was decided that we would spend the rest of our lives together, both having had long and successful marriages cut short by the death of our spouses.  So I moved into this house in the forest and we set about making memories of our own.

House

The new house is almost complete – well the roof is on, doors installed and the glazing is in.  But of course, this is holiday time here in NZ and all the builders and contractors are away.  It’s very peaceful without them but we will look forward to their return on January 6.

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

But we are making use of the new house already. G & Ts taken looking into the forest and the photo shows breakfast cooked on the barbecue yesterday and eaten in the almost complete house.

Sisters

To round off another eventful and adventurous year, my younger sister in London has taken up my invitation to come and visit us.  She has never been to NZ.  In fact, none of my family have, and so I am looking forward to showing her where I make my life; introducing her to friends and reintroducing her to her niece and nephew and their families.  So this will be a great start to 2014.

Christmas came and went in a flurry of activities as usual.  Friends have called in for drinks, barbecues etc and on New Year’s Eve we shall have dinner with my Special Friend’s son and his partner and their two little girls.

What a fantastic year 2013 has been for me.  I hope you can all say the same and if not, my wishes for a fabulous, healthy and safe 2014 are sent to you all.

Goodbye

My visit to London is rapidly coming to a close.  My original intention was to be here for some two weeks and then go to Florence with my sister.  She would stay for a couple of weeks and I would stay on alone for a couple of months.

London-Skyline 3Alas, the best laid plans etc .  Shortly before I arrived in London it was thought that my sister had suffered a heart attack.  So in the first few days we spent time at the local hospital having a barrage of tests.  Nothing moves fast in this big, over crowded city and so she is only today receiving the results of these tests from her GP.  Several more tests were called for which entailed waiting for the letters of appointment, as they were in two different hospitals, and to make life complete she was advised not to fly until the results were all in.

At this time she is still waiting for the final test to be carried out and this will happen next week.

So it was decided that I should go to Florence and she will join me when she is cleared to fly.

british-museum-27-09-13-005.jpgMeantime we have been enjoying my native city again.  Not as a tourist because I was born and brought up here, but as a returning visitor.

The most surprising thing of all is the changes wrought to the East End by last year’s Olympics.  Stratford that was once a really derelict and run down area has been transformed.  During World War II, the area suffered severe bombing damage. Industrial decline followed, accelerated by the closure of the docks from the 1960s onward. And the ethnically mixed area suffered from high unemployment, a labor force with low skills and crowded housing..  But all this changed once London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

Where once were disused factories now stand tall apartment blocks,

University of Eat London

University of Eat London

the University of East London and student housing to accompany it, a large Westfield Shopping Mall and a new transport hub.  This has been good news for most of the people living in the area.

There has of course, been controversy.

_Orbit_at_nightThe Orbit sculpture and observation tower has been praised and denigrated by the public.  It was  designed by  artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond  and stands 114.5 metre (376 feet).  It is apparently the largest public sculpture in Britain.   Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the South Plaza area of the Park (in which Orbit is positioned) is under significant construction – and will re-open to visitors in April 2014.

London Olympic Stadium 2The Olympic Stadium is still being fought over by rival football clubs who want to use it as their base.  Currently the  has been awarded to West Ham but Leyton Orient are claiming that exclusive use rights should not have been given and that these two East End clubs should have equal access to the facility.

London_Aquatics_Centre,_16_April_2012

The London Aquatics Centre.  An indoor facility with two 50-metre (160-foot) swimming pools and a 25-metre (82-foot) diving pool.

Some of the residents of course, were moved on to make way for this huge redevelopment, and the redevelopment is still going on.  I saw a sign advertising a shopping and entertainment centre of 1.9 million square feet..  Wow!

the_Shard_London_Bridge_5205

The Shard Via Wikipedia

And the changes are not restricted to the East End.  The City is changing.  Where once were old office blocks now stand huge glass monoliths that do little to differentiate my home town from many other I have visited around the world.

British_Museum_from_NE_2

The British Museum – Still hasn’t lost its charm*

But the old favourites remain.  The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, The British Museum in Great  Russell Street, The Tower of London, St Paul’s and of course, Parliament and Big Ben.  These are all a must see on any visit I make to London.

Portobello RoadAnd of course no visit to London would be complete without the street markets.  I have written of these in an earlier post.  The World famous Portobello Market in Notting Hill (you probably saw the film Notting Hill  staring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant), the local markets at Roman Road and Ridley Road, Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, the antique market at Islington and on and on,

So as my time here comes to an end and once again I say farewell to family and friends, I am a trifle sad and of course, nostalgic.  But I have my adventure in Florence to look forward to and of course, I shall be back here again after that before taking that long haul flight back to the other side of the world.

“My formula for living is quite simple.  I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.  In between, I occupy myself as best I can”
Cary Grant,  1904 – 1986 ,
English stage and Hollywood film actor

Related Posts:

The Market 
Down Memory Lane

I Gotta Horse

Saturday was our day for visiting the market with mother to get supplies for the week.  Our local market was in Ridley Road and I have written about street markets before – if you are interested in my meanderings here is the link - Down Memory Lane.

But Sundays we were taken to another market by father and  here we discovered Prince Monolulu and his catch cry “I gotta horse”.   Prince Monolulu (real name was Peter Mackay) was a huge, larger than life West Indian gent togged out in his finery and offering tips on the horses to anyone who would listen.  He made his money selling tips, handed over in sealed envelopes.  As there were few immigrants in London at the time, and this flamboyant person in both speech and dress was a figure of great interest to the three little girls and I suppose, most of the other people who came into contact with him.  He was a well recognised character at most of the racetracks from the 1930s to the 1950s but of course we never were taken to the racetrack.

Petticoat Lane was where we first came across him and where he was to be found most Sundays.  He was easily recognisable in his outrageous clothes and usually sporting a hat of high feathers.  All the colours of the rainbow could be seen in his clothing.  While Petticoat Lane has become a tourist destination for those visiting the capital, for us it was place to be taken by father while mother prepared the Sunday lunch.  The stalls here were full of clothes, shoes etc a delight to three young girls who could look enviously but not buy.

But more exciting for us was the nearby Brick Lane market – often confused with Petticoat Lane.  Here were the costermoners selling their wares.  Everything from beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes, china, kitchenware, jewellery etc etc.  And there did seem to be a lot of stalls selling bath towels and sheets and pillow cases.  Of course the fruit and vegetables were fresh as they only sold what was in season.  No transporting of produce around the world then or at least not for those of us who lived in the East End.

There were always puppies and older dogs for sale and in fact when we moved from the flat to the house this is where father bought our first dog – Tex the Alsatian.  I am not sure that this was such a good choice at first.  Three little girls who were unused to having pets and suddenly we had an Alsatian.  But we quickly grew to love him and to realise that he wouldn’t hurt us but woe betide anyone who came too near when we were out with him.  He was a very large, gentle animal and while I don’t remember how long we had him it seemed that he was our constant companion while we were growing up.

We must all have been living at home when Tex died because I recall my elder sister going to the Lane and buying Micky a Heinz 57 Variety dog whom we all immediately fell in love with.  However Mickey turned out to be Michelle and subsequently had a litter of beautiful pups.  There was great consternation when it was discovered “he” was pregnant and many hours spent wondering when this happened as “he” rarely went out without us.  So we had to find homes for all these puppies – I think there were 4 or 5.  They were so cute that we had no trouble re-homing them but mother declared there would be no more pups and had the dog neutered.  But my how mother loved that little dog who was her constant companion when the girls and father were all out all day at work or at the weekends, at play.  There was a series of dogs that followed in the footsteps of Tex and Micky after we left home but I don’t think any were as loved as were those two.

I do remember that father had a Dalmatian who was deaf and so was kept on a short lead when father walked him just in case..  And mother had a particularly bad-tempered Corgi who would nip at the children’s’ ankles whenever it had the chance.

So many memories of an East End childhood that I want to share as things are so very different now and if we don’t record our memories they will be lost as are the memories of my parents and grandparents.

“Circumstances or people can take away your material possessions, they can take away your money, and they can take away your health. But no one can ever take away your precious memories.
So, don’t forget to make time and take the opportunities to make memories everyday.”
Judith Baxter Mother, sister, blogger and friend
1938 -

 

I love you

Waterfall

“And as the water continues in its downhill rush over rocks
and the thoughts continue to tumble around in my brain
with no defined pattern or path,
they eventually find and settle into a safe place
and the void is suddenly filled
and my mind is active once again.”
Judith Baxter, Mother, grandmother, sister,
friend and blogger 1938 -

Yesterday was my very least favourite day on the calendar.  I don’t look forward to 22 April as this was the day in which my DYS (not so Dashing Young Scotsman) gave up the fight and slipped quietly away from us.  So it is a sad day for me and the rest of the family.  And it is now unbelievably 15 years since that awful black day.

But today is another day and I am back to my normal self.  So what have I been thinking?

Well had I not met my DYS on that fateful day way back in 1957 what would my life be like and where would I be living.

At the time we met I had a steady beau to whom I had become engaged the previous year; sorry John you had to move aside for my love.  But had I married him I would now be ensconced no doubt in the stock broker belt in Surrey.  No he wasn’t a stockbroker but many business men live in the area and commute to the City each day.  Although by now he would have retired so would not have had to make the daily trek into town any longer.

I might have been one of those wives who have never worked but who spend their lives on charity committees, on the golf course, playing bridge and being “a lady who lunches”.  Not that there is anything wrong in any of these things.  I have always been active on committees and since I have been on my own have played golf and bridge too.  But in my busy working days I had little time for being a lady who lunched.

My children would have had a different father, different experiences and so different outcomes in their lives.  Of course, they would have been different people too.

I probably would have had grandchildren, but not the four handsome young men I call my grandsons.

My daughter-in-law from heaven would not be in my life nor would my charming son-in-law.

No doubt I would have visited many places in the world but would not have lived anywhere but England.  As it is I have lived in England, Scotland, New Zealand and Canada.

Would I have had a better life?  I doubt that.  Would I have been more loved?  Certainly not.  Do I wish I had followed that path?  Decidedly not.  I am pleased with the decisions made and the road taken on that fateful day when according to my young sister I came home and announced that I had met the man I was going to marry.  I guess that caused some confusion in the family as I was already engaged.

That earlier engagement was celebrated with a big formal party.  About 100 people were invited and one of my abiding memories of that day was the two of us dancing to our tune “Too Young” sung by Nat King Cole,  being played on the gramophone (do you remember those).  Well yes we were too young.  We had become engaged at 18 without either of us having had much experience of the world.  So my deciding to break that engagement probably did as much for him as it did for me.

Mind you I often wonder what happened to that young man.  We did keep in contact for a few years until we moved to Scotland – he even attended our wedding and he and my DYS became firm friends.  But then he became one of those people who are in your life for a Reason, or a Season but not for a Lifetime.

My Lifetime person was the one I married.   And shortly before he died we found this lovely poem by W H Auden.  He told me he thought it was written for us.  I am happy to share it here.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.”
From “As I Walked Out One Evening” by W.H. Auden

And because it is another day, the rain has gone and the sun is trying to shine I am also sharing my rainbow with you.

Rainbow

My rainbow

 

A Voyage of Discovery

After reading and commenting on Noelene’s blog today I trawled back to the very first blog I wrote on March 1, 2011.  This was an introduction of me to you (or anybody out there who wanted to read what I thought) and this post attracted no comments, no visitors and so I guess no interest.

I then went on to read some more of the early posts.  But writing a blog (and re-reading earlier posts) has been a learning process for me.   Clearly I was growing more confident in what I was putting out to the blog and because of that I was attracting more readers, comments and almost unbelievably, followers.

Many blogs that I follow focus on one or two aspects of life, themes or particular interests.  Mine just simply meanders around, aimlessly following the many and mixed pathways of this elderly woman’s mind. Note here – according to my grandsons the two words one doesn’t use around Granma are ‘Old” and “Age”.  When my No 2 grandson was about 9 I had a fall and an ambulance officer asked how old I was.  Robbie quickly jumped and told the guy that we didn’t use that word around Granma but he knew that Granma was 39 plus GST (Goods and Services Tax).  The ambulance man was delighted and asked if he could use that phrase.

I have dwelt at some length on growing up in London during and after the war.  There are many posts on this subject and no doubt there will be many more.  These are written particularly for the four young men collectively known as my grandsons.  As my son has said on several occasions, and particularly when the boys were young , words to the effect that if he and his sister couldn’t understand what life was like then how could we expect the boys to understand.  So the series of posts on growing up was introduced.

I wrote about my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) and our travels, our children and our long and happy life together.  Then about his sudden death and the catalyst for writing my book ‘Suddenly Single’.  I told about the support and love that I received from family and friends at this time.

I have written about my love and friendship with my two sisters.   Although we live impossibly far away from each other we are still best friends.  During the riots in London in August 2011 and after speaking to my sister there, I penned this Ode to a Sister.

I have shared some of what I learned and passed on to clients during my time as a Life Coach.  I truly believe that I learned more from my clients than they ever did for me.

I introduced to you my programme called Memories – writing your memories for those who come after you.  This is where I coined the phrase – ‘To live in lives we leave behind is not to die”  So I wrote my memories and shared what I learned in so doing with others.  And this was easy and enjoyable.  I am currently working on putting the process into a book to share with others.

I told some tales of when I was the Wedding Coordinator at an historic church in Wellington.  Many more tales linger in my brain from this very happy time.  I said this was the best job I ever had and I meant it.

And I have let loose a few rants at what I consider to be the ridiculous behaviour of some people; the unthinking attitude of some in power; the naivety of some and the penalties they pay for being so, and on and on covering anything at all that takes my mind on that day and at that time.

I almost forgot my foray into writing fiction.  I received a postcard from my sister in the US and this led me to write the first in a series about hats.  Then Sallyann at Photographic Memories wrote a post about Cars and I read a challenge in that post.  So a continuation of the hats saga was embarked upon and we had lots of fun looking for the bonnets.  This saga took another turn when Thomas Stazyk  introduced the ‘the swarthy gent in the Panama hat’ in a comment on one of the posts.  This saga is continuing.

And I cannot forget my darling Lotte; the Tibetan Spaniel who shared my life, my walks and my adventures until her untimely death a couple of months ago. She left a huge hole in my heart .  And now my new companion, the Beautiful Miss Bella is working her way into my heart.  She has a totally different attitude to life than Miss Lotte but she leaves nobody in any doubt that she loves me.  She is fiercely protective of me even though she weighs all of 5 kgs.

So in the two years in which I have been blogging I have learned plenty.  I have met many friends in the blogosphere, have learned that I really like writing and would like to do more of it.  I have enjoyed my foray into fiction writing and have started writing poetry.

And just to forewarn you, I plan to keep blogging.  And a warning!

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me……………..
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”
From “Warning” by Jenny Joseph, English Poet, 1932-

Book cover

My Father’s Hands

I have said before that I read and use Judy Reeves “A Creative Writer’s Kit”  As part of this kit there is a book called ‘Prompts and Practices”.  Each day of the year has a suggestion for what to write.  And today’s was “Write about your father’s hands”.

Well if you have been reading or following me for a while now you will know that I consider myself the luckiest person alive in that my father was a fabulous person.    I wrote about him in September last year - Memories of My Father.  He was a special man.

But now his hands.  These were the strong hands of a working man.  He had been a cabinetmaker all his life and so his hands were rough to the touch and scarred from using and being nicked by his tools.  The hands were  strong and capable.  Apart from being a master craftsman he was a virtual jack of all trades.  He it was who reupholstered the couch when it needed to be done; he decorated the apartment and then our house, he fixed leaking pipes and he fixed his daughters’ lives when any of his girls was unhappy.

On my wedding day those were the hands that held mine in the car on the way to the church and those were the hands that passed  me over into the care of my DYS (dashing young Scotsman).

Those were the hands that lovingly cradled his first grandchild the day she was born.  Those hands went on to cradle each of the other grandchildren in turn.

Those were the hands that helped a small boy build with Meccano pieces and on a later visit showed that small boy how to use some of his tools.

Those were the hands that picked up small people when they had mishaps with their tricycles.

The nails were short and bluntly cut.  I remember when I was visiting him in London late in his life that I offered to do his nails for him.  He agreed and so the next day when I went to see him I took my manicure things with me.  Of course, I had no intention of giving him a manicure, it was just to get a laugh out of him.  He took one look at all the implements and said “Just cut the nail straight across”.  However, he did enjoy my applying hand cream.

So my memories of my father’s hands are many.  He was a good man and his hands feature in many of my memories of him.

Sadly he is no longer with us and is sorely missed by his three daughters and their families.  At his funeral they played “Unforgettable” and that certainly sums up my father.

“To live in lives we leave behind
is not to die.”
Judith Baxter, daughter, sister & friend.

Spirits?

I have only one relative (apart from my children and their families) living in New Zealand.  This is a cousin of my Mother’s who is only a couple of years older than me.

We talk from time to time on the phone.  Reminiscing about growing up in London during and after the war and generally catching up with each other these phone calls have been known to last an hour or more.  And yesterday was no different.

We talked at length about our families where they were at and how they were doing.  His second wife is Samoan and I always love to hear about their culture and how they do things so differently from us.  Apparently family comes before all else and if you have something and they don’t you either give it to them or share with them.  Isn’t that lovely.  Although as my cousin says, this can go too far.  He is the only one with a car and so he runs a taxi service for the extended family 24/7.  But he is good humoured about it.

We then got back to the subject of London.  His father was killed during the war and he and his mother moved back home and lived with her parents and two aunts.  From the outside it looked like a perfect set up.  There was always somebody to look after the young child while his mother worked.  But there were drawbacks for a young boy brought up in a predominantly female household.  As he grew up he spent less and less time at home and played in the streets amongst the ruins of houses that had suffered in the bombings.

Other times he spent with his grandfather “Pop” whose business was making  spirit levels.  You have all seen these things and no doubt many of you own one.  Well, Pop was a master craftsman and the spirit levels were made of beautifully carved and finished hard wood – sorry I don’t know the type of hardwood.  Each one was lovingly hand made and as soon as he was old enough, my cousin would rush home from school to help Pop.  I never understood his explanation about the little bubble that showed when the surface was flat/level nor the complicated way in which the liquid spirit /alcohol was put into the small glass vial.

On occasion we girls would visit the factory in the mews where in earlier times horses had been stabled for the wealthy.  We would stand and watch in wonder as the liquid was poured into the tiny phials.  I remember it being hot so I suppose that Pop was also a glass blower.

I should like to say that my cousin carried on the tradition being one of  only two males in the family, after the grandfather died, but instead he became a printer and emigrated with his then wife and two small girls to NZ.   I understand he still has one of the levels given to him by his grandfather as a birthday present.

Now of course, spirit levels are mass-produced.  No more the lovingly produced articles of all those years ago.  But wouldn’t it be lovely to own one of them.

“A man who works with his hands is a labourer;
a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman’
but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”
Louis Nizer.  British born US lawyer and author.
1902-1994.