Category Archives: Memories

Christmas Is Coming

 

holly

“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!”
Nursery rhyme and Christmas carol (frequently sung as a round)

When I was growing up in London following the end of WW2 we always had goose for Christmas dinner.  Not for us a turkey.  In fact, I don’t ever remember having turkey at home until long after I was married.  Quite late on Christma Eve father would go to the market and buy a goose.  They, of course, were reduced at this time so that’s when he went.

Later, after moving to New Zealand with my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman), I remember a particular Christmas at home with my family.   By this time, the late 60s, goose had been superseded by turkey and father in company of his son-in-law, took off as usual to purchase the bird.  Well, these two men purchased the bird and then in a festive mood did a round of various pubs on the way home.

When they did eventually arrive home, much later than expected by mother for dinner, they were without the bird.  It had been left in one of the hostelries they had visited.  Mother was less than pleased, she didn’t drink and didn’t think it was at all funny.  I had to decide whose side I was on and while secretly siding with father and DYS I nodded assent and support to mother.

Some time later, and rather more merrier I might say, they arrived home complete with bird.  Mother was placated, a late dinner was served and much laughter followed  And the story of the bird was told on many Christmases that followed.

What happy memories.

And now, did you know?

  • Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was the catalyst for the reinvention of St Nicholas into the jolly, fat image of Santa we now know?
  • Also invented by Moore, Santa’s travels are invariably connected to reindeer.  In the poem, they are pictured charging through a winter sky complete with strong, elaborate horns.  But in winter reindeer lose their horns so are Santa’s reindeer all female or are they castrated males?
  • Moore omitted to tell us that St Nicholas was Turkish.  He was real and was born in Patara, Turkey.  He was an early Christian and in the 4th Century, he became bishop of the district of Demre where some of his bones can still be visited.  Little fact is known of him, only oral legends relating to his goodness and kindness to children.
  • Another poem, this one by Frank Baum (who wrote The Wizard of Oz) told that Santa lived in a valley called Ho Ho Ho.  American marketers quickly picked up on the poem and Ho Ho Ho became Santa brand’s catch cry.
  • The song Jingle Bells never mentions Christmas and has no connection to Christmas.  It was originally composed for America’s Thanksgiving festival in 1857.
  • Nobody knows when Jesus was born or died. For many centuries people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day and the turning point in the long, often hard, cold winter.  Some 300 years after Jesus’ (guessed at) death date, Pope Julius I announced that 25th December would be the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  As Christianity spread around the world, this date took over the existing festivities and became “Christmas”.  The word Christmas didn’t come into being until 1032 AD.
  • The bible doesn’t say that three kings visited the baby Jesus but refers to “Wise men from the east”.  They may well have been astronomers (they did follow a star) or Zoroastrian priests and the fact that the three gifts, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are mentioned is the possible basis for assuming there were three visitors.
  • And the gifts they brought.  Gold and Frankincense would be acceptable but in ancient times Myrrh was very expensive and used in embalming dead bodies and was burned at funerals to disguise the smell of bodies that hadn’t been embalmed.  Why would it be brought to a newborn child?
  • And everybody’s favourite – Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.  There have been 14 versions of this story.
  • Four Calling Birds in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Originally it was four colly birds, colly being the ancient word for black (as in collier and coal) so colly birds were blackbirds.  As time went by colly fell out of use and didn’t make sense so people started saying four calling birds.  This doesn’t make sense either.
  • Decorated evergreen trees have been part of December celebrations in Europe for many centuries reminding everyone that spring is just around the corner.  The decorated Christmas tree became accepted in the UK when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the children were depicted in the “Illustrated London News” standing around a lavishly decorated Christmas tree.
  • The use of X as in Xmas is not at all invalid or disrespectful.  The word Christ was never part of Jesus’ name, it is a title assigned by later worshippers in Greek meaning ‘the anointed one’.  In ancient Greece, the letter chi was written with a symbol very like an X and the title assigned to Jesus was Xristos and was frequently abbreviated to just X.  So writing Christmas as Xmas has been considered acceptable for some 1000 years.  Note early publications were charged by the number of letters so using X in Xmas was encouraged.
  • The wassail ritual was an ancient pre-Christian custom of drinking a toast to the sun after the northern mid-winter approximately 25 December and hopes for a bountiful harvest in the coming warmer months. Hence the song ‘Here we come a-wassailing’ was a gathering of friends drinking a toast.  “Waes Hael” in ancient English means “Be healthy” and the usual drink was a mixture of spices, apple juice and eggs.  (Give me a G&T any time).
  • Christmas was cancelled in England in the 1640s when Puritan law forbade churches to open on Christmas Day and banned home decorations, celebrations, carol singing and the creating of Nativity scenes.  December 25 was declared a day of everyday work and fasting.  The outraged populace made Christmas observances in secret until the Monarchy was restored in 1660 and King Charles II restored Christmas.
  • And finally, a horse named Santa Claus won the Epsom Derby in 1964.

So there you have my list – as my son always says I have a fund of useless information.  Enjoy it anyway.

 

 

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On This Day

Sunday, November 17 was a cold, foggy day in 1957.  All those years ago and I was a naive young girl sitting painting my nails and talking to my family.  Excited, yes and somewhat scared at what I was getting myself into. what I was about to do.

Wedding photo

Our wedding 1957

This was the day I was going to marry my Dashing Young Scotsman.  Oh so many years ago.

I clearly remember sitting in the car on the way to the church with my own, supportive Dad who asked me again was I sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the young man waiting at the church.  He told me that there was still time to change my mind.  Of course, I was sure and no I didn’t change my mind.

And the Dashing Young Scotsman became the son my Father didn’t have.; his own son having died as a small baby.  My parents loved him as did my sisters.

So on this day 60 years ago, I married my soulmate and for the next 41 years, we celebrated the fact that we had found each other.

What a long time ago, no doubt before many of you were born, but what a glorious day it was for me.  And how glad I am that I didn’t change my mind on the way to the church.

“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.”
Judith Baxter, Blogger, Mother, Grandmother, Friend
1938-

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Voices

“and there was a new voice which you slowly
recognized as your own, that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do —
determined to save the only life you could save.”

 

Today I read this post “I Have aVoice “from Joss at Depth of a Woman.  I immediately responded in the comments section – Another good post and as Mary Oliver says in The Journey “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice “

The quote above is also part of the same poem by Mary Oliver.  As Joss says, we are all held up at some time in our life by these voices, whether from friends, acquaintances or others, or even that voice in our own subconscious.  These voices choose to manipulate us and it’s only once we recognise that, that we are able to move forward.

So today I urge you to ignore those voices and take the first or the next, step on your journey.  Only you can determine where you are going.

OK Life Coach hat off for the day!

******

And today the sun is shining here so no excuses for not getting out and walking or maybe even doing some work in the garden.  Since last year’s adventure, I have had a team of people who come in every 4 weeks to weed, mow the lawn, clip hedges etc.  They also plant for me.  But though I am in no way a gardener, I miss doing some of these things.  So today I am going to pot the plants I bought yesterday (in the pouring rain) and then after a visit to the audiologists (one result from the adventure) I shall return to sit in the garden with my book and a cup of tea.  How’s that for a good plan for the day.

 

On This Day

I have just been going down memory lane.  I found a box full of letters to and from my Dashing Young Scotsman before and shortly after we were married.  At that time my DYS was a chauffeur for a car rental company and he was away from home for weeks at a time.  In case you don’t remember or are too young to know, in 1957 many Americans came to the UK and then from there, they toured Europe.  Self-drive cars were around but many preferred to be driven.

I was delighted to find these letters from 60 years ago – yes I am that old, particularly as I don’t keep letters, cards etc for any length of time.

So having read one dated 18 September 1957 I decided to look at my earlier blog posts to see what I was thinking and/or doing at that time.

This blogging journey started on March 1, 2011, so the first stop was 18 September 2011.

On that day I talked about My September Years and reminisced about the great life I had lived up until that day.

18 September 2012 I continued the story with Yet More on the Bonnets.  If you were following my blog then you might remember that Sallyann at Photographic Memories found some bonnets sitting in the back of a disused taxi and suggested that I might write a story on this.  Well, I did.  I hope you enjoy it.

18 September 2013 found me in Oxford with my sister visiting with my blogging pal, Sallyann of Photographic Memories fame.  We had a great day and as Sallyann lived in Oxford then, we saw many things not usually seen by tourists.  A great day was had by all and it was particularly memorable because I met a blogging pal In Real Life.

18 September 2014 I was working through Writing 101 and on this day the challenge was to write about loss.  I chose to talk about Miss Lotte my small Tibetan Spaniel and my faithful companion.  Unfortunately, Miss Lotte’s life was short but sweet and I still miss her.

18 September 2015.  This was a particularly hard time for me as my late love, The Architect had died a month before.  So there was only one post in September that year – Missing You.  Oh, how raw were the feelings at that time and how unfair I thought it was that our lovely partnership was cut short.

18 September 2016.  There were few posts in September that year.  I was recovering from my latest adventure aka accident and the closest post to this date is Words and More Words.  The theme is obvious from the title, and I talked about Elizabeth George a favourite author, an appointment card to visit an Otolaryngologist and other meanderings in this ancient mind.

So now to today, 18 September 2017.  What thoughts are going around in my mind?  I have had a pleasant but short interaction with my No 3 grandson.  Oh, how I love to talk with these young men.  He is very solicitous of his Granma and always happy to help in any way. Today he moved plant pots around for me.  Yes, I could have done this myself, but he brought them down the outside stairs and placed them along the front of the hedge.  Now all I have to do is buy plants for them. So a visit later today to my favourite store aka the garden centre.

IMG_1991

Today the sun is shining brightly and all the doors and windows are open.  This follows torrential rain and wind yesterday and we learn that rain, thunderstorms, high winds, and snow are on the cards for many over the next 24 hours in the South Island.  I hope Grandson No 4 is safe and warm in Christchurch.

Rain and snow

We also hear that air travel is disrupted in Auckland as the Airport will be affected after a fuel pipeline from a refinery in Northland was temporarily shut-down.  Auckland is our busiest airport and Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said some 27 domestic and international flights were cancelled over the weekend.  So I suggest there are many disgruntled/unhappy travellers.

We read that former Napier City Councillor Peter Beckett has been found guilty of the first-degree murder of his Canadian wife following a jury trial in Canada.  Guilty of drowning his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, on Upper Arrow Lake in August 2010 and was handed an automatic life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 25 years.

And the good news?  A Catholic priest held hostage for almost four months in the besieged southern city of Marawi has been rescued hours after a deadly battle between Philippine soldiers and Islamic State-allied militants.   Father Teresito “Chito” Soganub was found abandoned with another hostage near a mosque early Sunday, one of three militant strongholds that have fallen to government forces over the past several days.Father Soganub had been held captive since militants attacked his Saint Mary’s Parish during the siege of Marawi on May 23.

So enough meandering on this Monday.  I hope you all have had a pleasant weekend and are looking forward to this new week.

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Found on Pinterest

 

 

 

 

The Glorious 12th

Here in New Zealand, it is already August 12th  the official start of Britain’s 121-day-long grouse shooting season and always known as The Glorious 12th.

Red_Grouse_(May_2008)

According to The Telegraph “The sport, which always begins on August 12th each year, has been an integral part of the countryside calendar for decades, although having once been an aristocratic hobby, it’s increasingly at the centre of rows over animal cruelty and class.”

If you are interested you can read more about this bird here.

Many years ago as a new bride, I was called by my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) to go to Euston Station in London to pick up a brace of grouse that he had shot the day before.  So with father, we took off to do just that.

But I asked, what to do with the birds and was told by my DYS that they should be kept in a dark cupboard and hung up by their feet until the feet fell off, at which time they would be ready for plucking etc.

And would he be home by that time, I asked.  Oh yes, don’t worry about that was his reply.

So following instructions, we hung the birds in the cupboard under the stairs until DYS came home and dealt with them.  I can’t say that I enjoyed the resultant meal.  The bird was far too gamey for me, but this is yet another memory to put into my memory chest.

Steamer Trunk

“Circumstances or people
can take away yourmaterial 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 every day.”
Judith Baxter  1938 –
Blogger, Mother, Grandmother, Sister and friend.

Note –  Photo of Red Grouse courtesy of Wikipedia

 

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An Exciting Find

“Make it a rule of life never to regret
and never to look back.
Regret is an appalling waste of energy;
you can’t build on it;
it’s only good for wallowing in.” 
― Katherine Mansfield, NZ short story writer
1888-1923.

Excitement in the Wellington City Libraries – Katherine Mansfield’s first published story discovered at our library.  Previously undiscovered letters and a story written by a young Katherine Mansfield were recently unearthed in the archives by a local author researching the famous writer.

The short story, His Little Friend by the 11-year-old Kathleen M Beauchamp (her given name) was published on the children’s graphic page of the New Zealand Graphic on 13 October 1900.  Up until now, it was believed that her first formally published work wasn’t printed until 1907, so this has got both local and international experts excited.

On a personal note, Katherine Mansfield is close to my heart.  My late love, the Architect, was on the Board of the Wellington Sculpture Trust.  One of the sculptures they commissioned was Woman of Words by Virginia King.   It was during an interview with the Board members that I reconnected with my late love.

Woman-of-Words_11-big

The sculpture stands in Midland Park along the main commercial thoroughfare in Wellington City.

We are told by the Trust “Women of Words celebrates the life and work of Katherine Mansfield. The stainless steel figurative work is entirely laser cut with quotations from Mansfield’s journals and short stories.  During the day the sculpture reflects the colour, movement and ambience of the surrounding area.
At night, illuminated from within, the work becomes a lantern of silhouetted words.”

The hair on the sculpture is made up of Mansfield’s shopping list.  Each of the Board members received a “hair”.  I have Tomatoes that was the Architect’s “hair”.

 

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And with those memories now brought up again I think how lucky I am to have them.

 

Note:  I have changed the date of the publishing of His Little Friend.
Originally I had mistakenly put 1990 – it should be 1900.
Mansfield. died in 1923

Where Did The Years Go?

Sunday, June 11, 1967.  7.40am NZ1 landed at Auckland International Airport. Among the passengers were my 2 children and me.  We had a very nice flight from Los Angeles where we had visited with my sister before heading  further south to meet up with my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman)

My DYS had been transferred to New Zealand for two years.  We knew little or nothing about this country.  We didn’t learn about the far-flung corner of the British Commonwealth although I now know that New Zealand children were taught about England at school.  I imagined that some of the 3million plus sheep would be wandering down the main street of Auckland to meet us, and in all, in spite of the literature given to us by New Zealand House in London, my impression was that we were going to a wild west type of life.

All those years ago not many people were travelling and certainly not with two small children in tow.  The staff on board and most of the passengers were great with the children.  One elderly couple (well they seemed elderly to me although in retrospect they probably were in their late 50s early 60s) offered to keep an eye on them while I slept. And the children had the run of the plane;  they could go anywhere and were even taken into the cockpit.  My 4-year-old son,  there and then, decided he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.

It was winter and raining when we landed in this far off land.  The DYS had been here for a few weeks and had made a couple of friends or rather at that time they were acquaintances who later became friends.  But I knew nobody.

DYS had arranged our accommodation in one of the only reasonable hotels available at the time.  Oh, New Zealand was a very different place then.

On arriving here we found it was not as wild as we had imagined.  No sheep wandering down Queen Street (the main thoroughfare in Auckland), the natives were friendly and what’s more, they spoke our language

We did find some of the customs strange.  Late night shopping on Friday until 10 pm and then absolutely everything shut down until Monday morning.  Bread could be purchased at the local store but no clothes or shoe shops, hairdressers or other shops were open.  All very strange to this newcomer.

I do remember that gas was 33 cents a litre and cigarettes 33 cents for a pack of 20.

Another thing that was very odd was that the licensing laws had every pub closing at 6 pm.  Apparently, most men would leave their offices at 5 pm to dash to the nearest pub to get a drink or two or three, before closing time.  This changed shortly after we arrived but it was apparently well established.

The proximity of the beaches, easy, laid back way of living and all being together made up for any strange things we had to deal with and we all thrived in this new land.

And today June 11 is the 50th  anniversary of the day the children and I first arrived in New Zealand.  We have left it for a time, as a family and the children separately and me for a time after Robert died, but we have all returned and claim New Zealand as home.

NZ flag

“If I should die think only this of me:
that there’s some corner of a foreign field
that is forever England.
There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped,
made aware; gave once her flowers to love, her ways to roam.
A body of England’s, breathing English air, washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home” Rupert Brooke.  1887-1915

PS     Rupert Brooks was known for his boyish good looks,
which were said to have prompted the Irish poet  W B Yeats
to describe him as “the handsomest young man in England”

I  wrote about arriving here in a post early in my blogging days –   Leaving on a Jet Plane.

It’s My Birthday and…

Well, how did I get to be this old?  I think somebody has deleted several decades of my life.  However…

The first email I opened this morning was from LondonWlogger who took me back a lifetime, to a time growing up in London when this area was the playground of three young girls.

map1

Clapton Pond

We passed this on our way to and from school each day.  Did we really understand or appreciate how magical it was to have such a beauty in the middle of a built up, town area?  I think not.

Lea Valley

The Lea Valley, once a transport river busy with horse-drawn barges and later motorised barges.  It was an industrial area and supplied water for London, sand and gravel.  Now its a lazy, gentle river offering leisure boating.

 

Springfield

Springfield Park where three little girls were taken by their mother most afternoons after school.  We lived in an apartment building with no green space to play on.  Many happy memories here.  I wonder if my sisters remember the cave where we played for many hours in the sunshine.

Thank you, Stu, at Wlogger for this post.

So now moving on some 60 plus years, I am sitting in Wellington New Zealand in the sunshine and losing myself in so many happy memories of a childhood spent surrounded by love and these beautiful bits of nature in a busy, busy, noisy city.

Off now, to get ready.  My son and daughter-in-law are coming to take me to lunch and then later, I shall have dinner with my daughter, her eldest son and his girlfriend.  How lucky am I?

NOTE:   All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2017.  

 

A New Day Dawns

Today I waved goodbye to my youngest grandson.  He’s on the way to University in Christchurch in the South Island and on the way to the next stage of his life.  I can hardly believe that little boy who wasn’t even born when his grandfather died, is old enough to strike out on his own.

His mother and I shall miss him and his older brother will be lost without him, although sometimes one could imagine that they don’t even like each other.

So good luck Darling No. 4.  He is the last one to leave school and start at University. What a great time he is going to have and as Dr Seuss says:

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Out there things can happen and frequently do
to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting
So..get on your way!

Two years ago the 13th February was a Friday and I wrote about superstition and then went on to write about my day; a beautiful sunny day in Ohope on the east  coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  On days like that, this certainly is Godzone.  And what was I doing?  I was Watching.  Here’s part of that blog post:

Today I am watching

Judith & Alice

  • The way a newly born baby attracts people and noticing the joy of being allowed to hold her
  • The huge waves rolling onto the beach; they are quite magnificent in their power
  • Surfers battling these waves and some succeeding in standing up
  • Children paddling in the surf
  • Two older couples just enjoying the sunshine, sand, and the water’s edge
  • Puffs of smoke emanating from White Island – New Zealand’s most active cone volcano.  It’s very close only 48kms/30 miles from shore.  It’s puffing away merrily today.
  • And strangers interacting as they meet on the beach
  • A couple walking their dogs
  • A small child clambering onto a tyre strung up to make a swing
  • My partner stretched out on a lounger contentedly reading
  • Teachers from the local school rounding up the pupils
  • A group of teenagers enjoying their lunch on the beach
  • The same group chasing each other and generally having fun
  • The brilliant sun shining down onto our part of the world that we call Paradise.”
So different from today  Again, it raining and windy – oh where has summer gone?
 But some summers are brilliant.  And as a reminder, here’s a photo of the beach in front of our house in Ohope.
Ohope beach
“Abundant sunshine, warm waters and safe swimming make Ōhope Beach the perfect summer holiday destination. Maybe that’s why it was voted NZ’s Most Loved Beach—with 11 km of easily walkable white sand beach from the Ōhiwa Harbour entrance all the way to West End.”  Whakatane.com  Information.
And have you had a chance to look at my new blog, Books&morebooks where I review the books I have read.?  Maybe there’s a book that appeals to you.
 

You are my sunshine

My sister in the US posted this to me today on Facebook with the question “Don’t you wish someone would make this for you?  My response “Yes please, if you have the time, I would really love one.”  

She reminded me that as very little girls we had visited the burns unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury where RAF patients were being treated.  I don’t know what we were doing there and why two little girls would be taken there but I do remember sitting on some of the pilots’ laps singing “You are my sunshine” and most of them joining in.  Some in tears and so two little girls were also in tears but really not understanding why these men were crying.  The staff also joined in the singing and some of the crying.

As Christine commented, “We were so young, we didn’t know to be frightened/horrified by those poor young men”.

Ever after that song was known in our family as The Misery Song.

I do hope I'm not impinging on anyone's copyright.

I do hope I’m not impinging on anyone’s copyright.

Isn’t it amazing how we remember some things and others are just dropped from our memories until a song or somebody else brings them to mind?

How could I forget such a visceral meeting?  These brave young men who gave so much to so many of us.  We need to remember that these boys, for many of them, were only boys, lived the rest of their lives with scars from the burns.  But Stoke Mandeville was actively treating the burns and developing the skills needed for reformative surgery so that these men could go on to live as normally as possible.

Another reason I’m sorry that I never asked why we were there when there was still somebody alive who could have answered the question.

“Memories warm you up from the inside.
But they also tear you apart.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

PS – My sister reminded me we’d both been ill and were at Stoke Mandeville Hospital which also housed the burns unit. Apparently, the doctor who was treating us had a daughter who suffered from whatever it was we had, and he asked Mothe could we stay on for a couple of days with his daughter. So we know why we were there but I wonder which doctor or nurse suggested the singing.

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