Category Archives: Family

Trusting Family

Recently I discovered Five Sentence Fiction  and decided to try my hand at writing a story in only five sentences.
This week’s word is FAMILY.

The soldiers burst into the school, yelling, shouting orders and firing rifles.  The children, scared, huddled together under their desks trying to hide from the angry men.  But they were soon discovered and brought out of hiding with the girls being separated from the boys who were locked into the school hall with the staff.

Then the terrified girls were herded onto buses and quickly driven away from the school.

Only then, when the firing had ceased and the yelling had stopped and it was possible to think, did the petrified child think of her family and knew they would find her and take her home again.

Lillie McFerrin Writes

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Tea Drinkers Unite

It had been a tiring day. Visit to the hospital, discussions with the doctor, the therapist and of course, her mother. It was very distressing that her mother barely recognised her; she often thought her a nurse.

The one bright moment in the harrowing afternoon was when an orderly brought the tea tray. At that moment her mother reverted to how she used to be, graciously pouring tea into the bone china cups and offering cake and biscuits.

This ritual of offering and accepting the cup of tea brought her mother back to her, if only for a short time.

The 100 Word Challenge is to tell a story in only 100 words.
This week’s theme is “Cup”

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Writing 101: Size Matters

Well today is Wednesday here in New Zealand and I should be completing the Day 13 Challenge, but I haven’t completed 11 and 12 yet.  So being very late with this, I shall try to catch up once again.

Day 11 and the challenge is:

“Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve.  Which town, city or country?  Was it a home or an apartment?  A boarding school or foster home?  An airstream or an RV?  Who lived there with you? and

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.”

London 1950.  We had recently moved from an apartment to a brand new house.  My parents’ house had been taken for road widening or something before I was born and in addition to a paltry sum of money ( (their words) they were given a Council owned apartment to rent.  This was in a low rise block in a good neighbourhood but as it had only two bedrooms it was rather cramped for a family of five.

So we moved.  Again the house was Council owned but in a different part of the borough and totally new to us.  Mother was delighted.  It was in a group of ten houses five on one side and five facing them.  Each set of five houses were  attached and we were fortunate to have an end one.  This meant we had neighbours on only one side of us.

The house had three bedrooms, a living room complete with fireplace, a dining room also with a fireplace.  The kitchen was at the front of the house and had a fire that heated the water.  A bathroom and separate lavatory completed this  house – I think it was probably 800 sq feet in all.  At this time I shared a bedroom with my elder sister and later with my younger sister.  At no time did anybody think that I, as the middle daughter, should have a bedroom of her own.

Mother was delighted with the move and the house.  She kept this house clean, polished and shining to within an inch of its life, and even polished the copper waste pipes from the kitchen, so proud was she.

But what I remember most about that house was the love and the the laughter which out played any tears and cross words.  Of course, with three daughters, two of which were coming up to the teenage years, there was the occasional slamming of a door and a “no speak” phase but these didn’t last long.  Mother was the disciplinarian and father the peace maker.  I often wonder how he kept his sanity in a house full of women.

He used to take himself off to work early in the morning but was always home by 6pm at which time, dinner would be ready and whatever plans we three girls had for the evening we had to be there for dinner.  Oh there were some lively discussions over the dinner table.  Father usually had a funny story to tell us about something that happened at work.  And of course, we all had to tell what we had been up to that day.  Our successes were lauded and our (occasional) failures commiserated upon.

I clearly remember father singing.  Beautiful love songs to his wife particularly if he thought we couldn’t hear him.  For us he sang Music Hall songs (Vaudeville for our US friends).  I remember Lily of Laguna and Sorrento in particular. These have stayed with me and my children and grandchildren have all been entertained with songs of that far off time.

As I have written before, this was shortly after the war ended so there were few, if any, luxuries.  But the love, the laughter and the friendship that existed within that little house have followed me through my long life and I hope that what I learned during those years has been passed onto my own family.

Rainbow

My rainbow

New Zealand Calling

After months of not writing a blog, I got up last Friday (04/04) fully intending that this would be the first day of many blogs.

I have had a lovely few months.  We had a holiday at the beginning of the year away from the stresses of an architect building a home for himself; then we spent 5 weeks travelling around the country with my sister from England and sharing with her some of my favourite places in this beautiful land;then more friends from overseas.  We had a few days in Australia visiting 4 artists in their studios and then a trip to Hobart in Tasmania to visit MONA – Museum of Old and New Art.  What an exciting time that was and what an amazing building.  Here’s the link. Please take a look you will hardly believe what has been achieved here.

In February we moved house although the new house isn’t ready to move into and following a series of minor (or maybe major) disasters it wont be ready for another two or three months so we are going to Europe for three months.  We are busy planning our trip with friends in Italy with whom we shall stay and then go to Spain with them.  How exciting!

Fire at storage unit

But the best laid plans – on Friday (04/04) we heard that there had been a major fire in a storage facility in Wellington and yes, all my worldly goods were stored in that facility.  Panic ensued and nothing else was thought of for the rest of the day.  However, the next day we went to the site and discussed the situation with the General Manager and the Fire Chief.  We were told there would be water and smoke damage but both thought it would be minimal.

So there followed a week of waiting to be told that we could go onto site; meeting with removal men to determine where the soggy goods would be stored; going to the new facility and sorting out what had to be removed immediately – boxes that disintegrated as they were lifted.  These mainly held linen and scarves – easily washed so no real problem – and shoes.  This was a different matter as they all had to be stuffed with newspaper and dried at the fire.

Of real concern though was the artwork, prints etc.  Fortunately my daughter has just bought a house with a self-contained apartment attached.  So we moved the pictures into that and set the dehumidifier.  It looks as if we have been really lucky.

Books, photos and papers were in plastic storage bins so again we have been very lucky.  The photos and letters were what I was most concerned about.  Everything else is just stuff.

And now we are told that the fire was arson.  The mind boggles at how anybody could do something like this.  All week we have heard terrible stories of people having lost everything.  CCTV coverage shows a man entering the facility with what looks like a drum of petrol.  Let’s hope they get this man quickly.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Adventure Begins

London skyline

Well I have now been in London for 14 days.  I arrived after two very long flights from New Zealand exacerbated by a mix up in bookings. But the frustration was quickly forgotten when I eventually arrived at my sister’s house.

Since then the time has been spent mostly in catching up on each others news and meeting family.  And I am part of a very large family.  Father was one of 13 and each of the siblings had a couple of children, with the exception of one sister and one brother who had none.  So while there are only two surviving siblings of Father’s there are plenty of cousins.  And my sister has three children and six grandchildren so life has been rather busy.

One highlight was a visit to a retirement home where one of the surviving sisters lives.  She is suffering a form of dementia.  She was perfectly lucid for most of the time we were there but then she couldn’t remember any of us, not even her son,his wife and their two little girls.  How very sad.  She also became very tearful when she was told that her brothers had died.  Very sad and scary because she is only 8 years older than I am.

NZ House

via Wikipedia

Today we have been to NZ House to have a copy of my passport certified.  Somehow I have mislaid my driver’s licence so I had to apply for a replacement.  Have you traveled on the public transport in London?  One bus ride, three tube trains and one hour and forty-five minutes later we arrived at the Haymarket and NZ House.  I had quite forgotten how big, noisy and crowded London is.  It is a shock to a “colonial” even a “colonial” who was born and brought up in London.

And how strange it is that when I am in NZ I call England “home” and when I am here I call NZ “home”  Today I felt quite at home in New Zealand House.

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
Maya Angelou, American author and poet
1928 – **

And London has of course changed since I was last here.  The changes to the East End are amazing –  this is because the Olympics were mainly staged in this area last year.  More on these changes shortly.

 ** Thanks to Nancy for pointing out that this originally read 1982.

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.

The time has come

The walrus and the carpenter

via wikispaces

“The time has come” the Walrus said, “to talk of may things;
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings”
Lewis Carroll – From “Through the looking glass”.

Well the time has most certainly come for me to stop mooning around and get back to the discipline of writing my blog.  So what to write about?  How many times have I asked myself that question over the months and years that I have been writing my blog.
There is a big hole of course, where Lotte used to be and the hole I guess will always be there.  But it’s time to move on.  And now Miss Bella is making her presence felt and helping to close the hole.
I had one of my grandsons staying with me last week and what a joy that is.  He it was who arrived with his young brother the day after Lotte died complete with flowers and chocolates for Granma; they made my bed and kept me supplied with cups of coffee throughout the day.  He was  staying  here last week while his younger brother and their mother were at a rowing competition – the Maadi Cup, the premier rowing competition for schools in New Zealand.  The team did very well reaching the semi finals.
One of the things I really love about having time with my grandsons is the scope of topics we discuss.  Dinner on night was enlivened with talk of the war – that is World War 2 and what it was like to actually live during a war.  It then moved on to Vietnam, the Cuban crisis and the war in Iraq.  How knowledgeable these grandsons are.  We discussed what had caused the two World Wars – how well read this boy is – the futility of war, how really there are no winners, each side loses and what a waste of life all wars cause.
We then went on to discuss the favourite subject of all boys – technology and how far we have come and how much things have changed not only in my life time but also in his.  I just love talking with and listening to these lively young minds at work.  And I conclude that the world can be a better place if the leaders of the future are drawn from the likes of these young men.
And yesterday I picked up my eldest grandson from University.  He has just started and is doing a Network Engineering course.  We had a lovely hour driving in the car together while he told me about his course and his observations on the difference between school life and University life.   He has decided that one night a week he will come to stay.  It takes him about 1.15 hours to get to University and if he has a late session followed by an early morning one he thinks it makes sense for him to stay here.  And I must say I wholeheartedly encourage this.
And now it is almost Good Friday.  Once again we will have the shopping debacle/fiasco of which retailers may open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday and which must remain closed.    Every year there is a number of retailers who are fined for ignoring the trading hours rules.  But as we are definitely moving away from a totally Christian nation into one of many faiths, questions are being raised about the rules governing these holidays.  No doubt the controversy will rage for many more years.
happy_easter_bunny-13452
So I wish you all a Happy Easter whether you celebrate in the traditional Christian way,  or in your own faith or however else you choose.  May it be all that you wish for.
Bella Day 1-1
I shall spend it getting to know more of my new friend.

A Tiring Day

We all know that right up the top of the most common stressors in life are separation/divorce and moving house.  Well, my lovely daughter has just separated from her husband of 17 years which of course, necessitated selling their house and moving.

Yesterday was moving day and today I helped her clean up the house they were leaving to get it ready for the new owners.  My job was oven cleaning. And those of you who know me personally know that I am very vain and careful of my hands and my beautiful nails.

Painted nailsBut as a good mother does, I donned the rubber gloves and got to work.  The result – a sparkling oven and a delighted daughter  It was worth the effort.  And wiping out kitchen cupboards and drawers was a piece of cake after that..

Then to the new house and the unpacking. That was still going on when I left around 8.30pm after dinner. I was pleased to return to my tidy little house. No boxes and everything in its place.

Never want to move again.  Off to sleep now before going back again with my friend to dismantle and then re-mantle (is there such a word) the desk that wont fit through the door to the study.

Grandmas

Several years ago shortly after the death of my DYS I met my daughter and her small baby for coffee.  As I was feeling particularly miserable she bought me a little book called 365 Reflections on Grandmothers.  Looking through this book today I came across:

“When grandma was a girl she didn’t do things the girls do today
But then the grandmas didn’t do things grandmas do today.”
Anon

Isn’t that true?  My grandmother was always a little old lady, in a long dress.  Always smiling and always pleased to see us but concerned only with her family and its wellbeing.  Not for her involvement in work outside the home – did she ever go out to work once she was married.  I guess not.  It most certainly wasn’t done nor was it expected all those years ago.

Instead she concentrated on making her home as pleasant and as welcoming as possible.

She was born at the end of the 19th century in a fairly poor area of London.  I suspect that life for her and her young husband and family was not easy.  It was more complicated as she had married a Jewish boy who had then been cast out of his family.  I know little about my grandfather’s family but do know that he was a caring and gentle man.

Contrast this with my life.  How lucky I am to live now and those of us who are  grandmothers are able to do so much more than our grandmothers.  Look at what is now available to us.  No longer are we just ‘housewives, mothers and grandmothers’.   The whole world is out there for us and we can choose to be as involved as we wish.  Some grandmothers I know are involved in politics, local and government, some hold high powered jobs in what was once a man’s world.

So while I loved my grandmother and all she represented and presented to me, I am glad I am living now rather than in the early part of the 20th century.  And though she was born and lived before my grandmother, I like this quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe:

“These remarkable women of olden times are like the ancient painted glass – the art of making them is lost; my mother was less than her mother, and I am less than my mother.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896, abolitionist and author.

One Down, Three To Go

Success sign

Another milestone in life.  Yesterday was the last day at school for my Number One grandson.  Apart from going to sit four or five exams, his connection with school days is over.  And now the rest of his life, with all its adventures and excitements is opening in front of him.

This is one laid back almost 18 year old kid.  When I saw him on Wednesday he was getting ready for the leavers’ dinner,  unfazed by the fact that this huge change was about to take place in his life.

How exciting the next few years will be for him as he discovers an independent lifestyle through university and his other activities.  Since he got his own car a year or so ago, he has become fairly independent of his parents, but now…..

And I wonder how his late grandfather would react to this strong, charming young man who was only a toddler when he last saw him.  Would he be proud of how his grandson has grown and is maturing.  I am sure that the answer would be a resounding yes!

So go forth into the world young man, knowing that anything and everything is possible.  It’s your choice what you do from here on and what you make of yourself.  But know always, that you are greatly loved my No 1 Grandson.


Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends – and hardly ever our own grown children.
Ruth Goode
, author, 1905-1997

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