Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

April 13th

I do love a quiet cafe, and here near the river it seems to have been constructed just for me. I was here six months ago with friends and I sat and sipped while wearing my cap and gown and the whole town seemed to know I’d just graduated and it was a day when I was full and filled the streets.

Today I am smaller though, today I’m head down, writing and I consider whether to walk near the river on my way home.

I’m on the corner of my town, near the oldest part and it’s my history that floods this place now. If I come out and turn right I’ll pass the Bridal shop. Of course, progress had swept in and now there’s no smell of taffeta, no swishing or sighs but a Bath Store. Those rooms I stood in, pinned and poised, nipped in at the waist, when I still had one, are now full of taps and waterfall showers, bespoke mirrors reflecting back the streets I used to know.

I’ve been drawn here today and it feels right. I’ve been swamped by old objects in recent weeks, buried under the weight of things that have flown. My home smells of dust, not just mine but fluff-coated trinkets from my Auntie’s house, her eighty-four piece dinner set is hiding in my cloakroom until I can find it a good home. And it’s the dust of her life and her choices that bring me near to the river now.

This cafe will close up soon so I need to move and that’s the point, it all seems to be about movement or the lack of it, about the flow and the essential swell of time.

And now I’ve made it to the riverside, to its rush and Ollie, a whipped up cocker-poodle gambols and charges around its owner’s legs, it’s wet and tousled, beyond free. I can hear the traffic, the roads being pummelled by rush hour wheels but I am soothed by the nylon poncho wearers with terriers, by toddlers at the end of holidays with scooters out for one last blast of fresh air.

The river isn’t bothered by anyone, the river finds its way despite the people and their problems. It churns, its wisdom far greater than my own.

And how quiet it is here, how I see people escaping, push chairs and new prams, pink babies lulled by the lapping and a booted up mother, smart blue coat and take away coffee in hand, strides by and she’s out. Her baby’s wrapped up warm and I feel myself unravel, here at the edge of the town I belong in, here with my head full of Auntie’s house of hoardings and my own stuff.

The river is good. It flips up plumes of white and despite its greyness, despite its thick green twisting form, it seems content.

The toddler in bike helmet and stabilisers trundles back the other way, releasing an end of day fractious cry and smart office workers, tired of the meeting room, take in the late afternoon air.

It’s busier for a moment, more people sneaking into my world but I’m cosseted, brushed by the river in my stillness and I move with its form.

I walk along in pace with it as though on a ship, as though wandering along the promenade deck of my boat. I look for fish, I anticipate their colours but I see none. The microscopic life is beyond my vision but I know it’s there, chundering, plummeting and pummelling, carried by the force.

And now further upstream the traffic fades and the here by the bridge where cars are forgotten I can only hear ripples and I think of a game of Poo Sticks.

I can see beneath the surface here, the smooth pebbles underneath, some resting some turning with the waves.

Today it’s a cold April afternoon, but under the thick bandaged sky, this river feels like home. I watch the water, how it find its way around the plants with no resistance.

April 16th

Back at home I think about the river. I can’t see it from here, I can only see the builder’s van next door, hear the sounds of renovation and old cupboards coming out. In my Auntie’s cupboards we found many things. Her photos from the life before widowhood slowed her down, her precious tins of bit and bobs, of ration books saved from the 1940’s, of faded letters from my Uncle in the war.

And it was all there, a life frozen in amber, a collection of ephemera that stretched back to when my mother was a girl. We took the vases and figurines over to my parents. The car smelled of old things, dust – caked things and grime.

Above all else it smelled of memory and before we left, I rummaged through yet another bin bag and found the photos she’d taken on our Wedding day. They were saved in a haphazard order, in a half full album, another piece of the past found in a chipped wooden chest in the corner of her unused back room.

I keep wandering back to the river in my mind. But I didn’t think about it back then when I hurried to pick up my dress, when the staff folded it into the boot of the car and laid it with care, like the placing of a baby in a cot, soothing it with love and a reassuring hand. And the river flowed nearby but I didn’t think about it as I bought one last cream and red silk flower for the name-place cards. And back at home sometime later, while I glued the final rose in place, and while my Aunty, miles away, prepared her luggage for the trip, the river flowed.

And it flowed over the years between then and now and it was never still. It slowed, it swelled, it stagnated in places but it never stopped in its relentless nature, in the wisdom of its form.

April 17th

The sun’s come out now. It came out back then and I wonder if it came out on my Auntie’s wedding day. Looking through her stuff I came across a small plastic Woothworth’s bag and folded away inside I found her receipts from over seventy years ago. The paper, yellowed but her handwriting still visible. Dress, belt, hat, gloves and stockings all itemised and pounds, shillings and pence added up. Numbers in frozen pencil marks for all the finery, for her day. And I think of my own, of the dress that hangs in my parent’s wardrobe and of my boots, somewhere under my bed. I peer through the fragile papers, almost too delicate to touch. I wonder how she felt an hour before the vows, I wonder if my mother helped her to get ready and I remember my long distance friend, strapping me into my bodice and the photographer waiting downstairs.

My Aunty kept many things, in fact she never threw anything away and though I didn’t really know her very well, through the wall she built around herself, through the things she hung onto to keep her safe. But I connected with her, in the thin bag of memories, in the silver paper flowers she tucked away.

The sun’s so bright now, like it was back then when I stood with my parents under a sap full tree before my mother and my friend left for the church, ahead of us.

I found my wedding favour tucked in a drawer, chiffon wrapped silk roses and a raspberry ribbon. There would have been rows of them, lined up on the crisp white linen by now, waiting for the guests to arrive in the afternoon.

I wonder if I’ll have a relative who’ll find this piece of my life, fifty years from now? And I am fluid today, I am the river that I’m far away from, as I sit by my window in the sun. And I am there, rustling into the car by my father, with the scent of lilies and I’m my Aunty on a distant June day with her sisters in tow and the life to come, ahead of us all.

I’ve spend a lot of time recently opening old stuff, peering into corners and brushing dust. I feel dustful, I feel coated and caked like the patina of an antique and I am covered in age and her stories.

And as the younger me is whisked to the church, I take my mind to the river, to its force, where dust has no chance to settle, where it renews with no resistance, where it oozes with ease and grace.

And I think about a book I found in my Auntie’s back room, amongst the upturned chairs and tea sets, next to the box of Christmas bows and packs of unopened napkins. I found an old paperback.

There is wisdom in clearing, I have found, in releasing the things you no longer need. But under the weight of the hours some things will always remain. Silk flowers and fragile papers, floating around me like the flotsam on the river, linking us to the movement of time and a permanent reminder that we were there.

The paperback was titled Light in the Dust and I see dust particles dance in the light and I see photons of energy flow through the dark as the sun sparkles up from the river.

xxx

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A removal van has just driven away from next door. I watched it move out of sight, around the corner as the post man walked up my drive. New letters to open, bills to pay, worlds to live in. I watched the son-in-law drive away from my neighbour’s house, after he’d let in the house clearance people, then drove off ahead of the van, as his late father-in-law’s furniture was carried away.

I used to know my neighbour’s daughter, way back in the old world, I used to sit around committee tables with her and in the early months, when I couldn’t leave the house, she popped by with bread and milk and calpol and we hugged. We’ve lost touch over the yesrs, I folded into my new world and she became someone I’d occasionally nod to as she visited her father next door.

I used to see him, tall and bent, like an old willow tree, sturdy, despite his age and he would drive slow with care, potter about and do his lawn. He started to build a greenhouse years ago when he first moved here. He was widowed, moved down from Scotland to be nearer his girls. He had a lilting gentle accent and I always thought he could have been an old film star. He had the look of Peter Cushing and eyes that must have sparkled long ago. His greenhouse project came undone with the Parish Council’s restrictions – no permitted development allowed here, so he never finished the job and it remained a carcass in aluminium, un-glazed, silver struts frozen in time.

In the summer, around the time our son prepared for his Prom, some relatives came and took the greenhouse down and while our boy swaggered in his evening suit, amongst his mates and bare shouldered girls with twirled up hair – some family came and painted his fence, painted over the pale blues and greens from old tins that he’d used up. I liked his patch-worked fence, his rainbow of creosote by the hand of a practical man. It’s just uniform brown now, waiting for the new owners to put their stamp on the land.

When I look out of my kitchen window I imagine I still see him, slower in frailty, heading out in his car, repeatedly heading out in a loop in my mind. In the summer, around the time our boy had left school and was holed up on the PC, laughing with his mates on theirs, I noticed his neat grass had become long, left to grow and before I could offer to have it cut for him, his family came to help out. And then more people in cars and his daughters tidied the patio out the back.

Around the time our son got his exam results, a skip turned up next door. As his face filled with pride and relief, when he compared notes with his mates as the summer crept along, my neighbour’s garage was cleared and I dropped a card in through their door.

Our old neighbour bridged the gap between our worlds, he moved in a couple of years after us and I went to see him as he chipped the snow from off his car. I asked him if he needed anything, could we help him out at all?

But he was fine.

‘No thank you, Lassie, I’m just going up to help my girls.’

I told my husband.

‘Oh he’s so grateful for the offer of help!’

He said, ‘is he?’ and I laughed.

‘No! He’s doing much better than we are,’ and he was. He dug himself out of the snow, he helped his daughters, despite his age and was active right up till the end.

I didn’t speak to him much in the new world, I used to imagine he’d see me from his kitchen window as I trudged home, and in his widowed world he’d have a sense of what I was dealing with in mine – but we never spoke about it. I could see it in his eyes though and he could see it in mine.

It’s been that kind of year somehow, so many changes and transitions. And as my neighbour’s family prepare to make the best of Christmas somewhere, when they go through the motions for their kids, I continue with our new traditions here.

I see our boy at the edge of a man, sturdy and strong, growing long college hair because he can. I see him stretching up and out. I am swamped by the Christmases we had, the best ones by the sea, all together with Thomas and masses of track on the floor, the military operation of the dinner and never enough roast potatoes for us all.

I see myself as a teenager unhindered by loss, spending half a day to create the perfect tree and how stressful it was, how the symmetry had to be spot on, how the baubles alternated in colour and size. It was a spectacle. And more than that it was something to control, something to bring order to, a sense of certainty in the world.

I noted myself as a girl, the structure of Christmas, the need to get everything right and I thought of her last weekend when a friend visited us. When we were running late and the tree and decorations were still barricaded in a cupboard, behind a chair and our boy did the heavy work while I checked on the food as he wrestled the tree to the floor. And there in our lounge with twenty minutes to go, he threw the tree into action. It’s our new tradition now and he dresses the tree like a true teenage boy. I stand and laugh and place a few things as he throws baubles at the green plastic hulk in the corner. If the baubles drop down and through, so be it, it doesn’t really matter at all. It’s just a game. Our friend turned up just as the tree settled into the corner. It has a designated ‘front’ sign where all the activity takes place and round the back, well it’s round the back so it’s not important after all. And this year we have a kamikaze polar bear who wasn’t placed but hurled and he lies where he landed, a symbol of a different Christmas now.

I’m less concerned with control now. There’s little I can do and I’m more accepting of that these days. I have control over how I respond to situations and how I spend my time but other than that, the world will do its thing.

We have climbed mountains this year, my boy and I, not literally, but mountains none the less. We are climb weary at year end but respectful of the need to rest and catch our breath.

It’s almost Christmas as I type this, eighteen years from the best Christmas I ever had. And now a different Christmas presents itself again, with my mother just out of hospital, after three months of illness and care, with my father marching on, despite the weariness of weeks by an empty chair. My mother came home last week and as they adjust to their own transitions we’ll take a small Christmas over to them this year.

It’s nearly lunchtime now, the blackbirds are still at the berries on my tree. I do enjoy the bareness of winter, the stripping back to bleakness and despite the thunderous charge of stressed people in shops, the clamouring, the need to consume, there is stillness. It is a time to stop and show gratitude, a time to take stock and breathe out.

And there is much to be grateful for. I breathe in deep as my neighbour’s house sits quiet and empty, waiting for someone else’s story. I focus on gratitude for my mother’s resilience, despite the treatments she has endured, and my father’s determination, despite his tiredness and his frosted window on my world.

And our friends, how grateful I am for the ones who are near, who support and encourage, despite their own trials – and our son. What can I say that I haven’t said before? How he shines out like a Christmas lantern, bright like the fairy glow, casting lightness all around me when it’s dark.

It’s winter, I am a winter baby and I resonate with this season. Time has had its way with me this year and so I am resting before the next phase. It’s almost Christmas as I tap away, the tree is up and I have many presents to wrap.

I’m focussing on now. In gratitude for the things that have past, the things that remain and the unknown adventures ahead.

In many ways – we are thriving.

***

And right now, editing with fifteen minutes to the New Year, we continue, we turn pages and we persevere with joy.

xxx

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At our second Christmas our son writes about their beloved films…xxx

Following on from my favourite star trek episodes I have decided to
list and describe all star trek films / movies because theres not enough to list just favourites.

Star trek the movie: (2009) (2030)
An insight into how the crew got there rank!

Star Trek The Movie 2 (2013) (2059)
It hasn’t come out yet!

Star Trek The Motion picture: (1979) (2100)
Kirk and the crew must battle an unknown life form From taking over the galaxy. The plot thickens when the enterprise is engulfed in it!

Star Trek Wrath of Khan: (1982) (2140)
Chekov finds an old crashed ship on a deserted planet. However he realises it’s khan’s ship and khan is less than happy to see Kirk and the crew.

The Search for Spock: (1984) (2180)
Following on from Spock’s death at the end of “The Wrath of Khan” a ship detects a life sign on a deserted planet where they are going to commit ‘Genesis’ (a highly experimental project designed to make a dyeing planet new again.) Trouble looms when the molecular structure of the planet breaks down and Kirk and Spock must get off the planet before they fall into lava!

The Voyage Home: (1986) (2239)
A probe designed to listen to whale songs is killing the earth so the Enterprise goes back in time to go fetch some whales from the 21 century, in a Klingon battle cruiser, bring them back to the 23 century and then let the whales do their jobs. Simple as that, but its not!

Final Frontier: (1989) (2270) Spock’s insane emotional half brother takes control of enterprise and hurls her where no man has ever gone before!

The Undiscovered Country: (1991) (2310)
After a super nova kills thousands of Klingons, the Klingons ask for a Safe haven in federation space. However, on the verge of peace they are also on the break of war…!

Star Trek Generations: (1994) (2378)
After an energy light where past and future collide swarms through the galaxy and an addicted man destroys a solar system to get back to it, jean-luc and captain Kirk must team up to save the destruction of all of mankind

First Contact: (1996) (2397)
The Borg invade sector 001 (aka the Solar system) and go back in time to prevent earth breaking through to develop warp drive and making first contact with the vulcans.

Insurrection: (1998) (2450)
Star fleet command has a crazy idea of taking people from a planet where they live eternally, to study them so its up to Jean-Luc and his crew to put things right!

Nemesis: (2002) (2530)
The Enterprise E discovers an alien life form that happens to be an exact duplicate of Jean-Luc Picard but completely evil. Meanwhile and very shockingly, Lore has been somehow reassembled and is going to destroy Data. Who will destroy who? Who will outgun who? and who is hiding something?

My final contribution to my Mums blog will be called “Final Frontier Part 2” look out for it coming soon!

Leave your comments at the bottom.
Thanks.

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Watching it all speed past me through mucky caked train windows, the days of previous years, out there in the blurring girls, the fields I used to be.

It’s the day before the day before and I’m drawn to write but feel empty, drawn to not write but feel full, stuck on my train, rattling through it, passing by old stations, chipped signs, platforms aged with wrappers, screwed up junk jangled sounds, streamed laughter, conversations behind pillars and thundering along to the next one, shaking me as I hold on tight, fingers clasped cold round the pole, eyes trying to focus on something familiar, to find a foothold, anything to click, to remind me where I am.

I wander through carriages on look out, the nap rich first class, pristine seats not for me, and hip bash my way through oldness, spilt coffee, crushed polystyrene, stuffed with cold cuts and things on sticks and sounds twirling cheap poppers around me. And I’m fizzing, blitzed in tinsel, it cuts into my neck as I pull myself along it’s crunchy scratchy glitz, back to my corner by the door. No waiting till the light comes on, telling me to stop, press here. This is my old door, wooden door, metal edged, stiff thin window, heave down on it, quickly, need to get my arm out, air cold, grab and twist the handle with care, as the door swings out and wide across my mind, mind the gap, but I can never to do it. Stay inside, closed, fast and rapid.

The landscape chunter judders, I bounce back off the sides as we pick up speed into a clattering reflection of darkness, hurtling out through streaked greens and gold, bright bows and ribbons, ripped up paper between my toes, stuffed stockings, the constant rumble thump of motion, of images of moments, of warmth and sparkle shooting round my windows, my rattle trap steamed journey, riding the route, swaying the way along relentless rewinds. Without a ticket, without a seat, nose pressed hard to a glass of memory. Jiggling, lurching with my passengers, corridors decked in pain and love.

Travelling, with no destination.

And our son calls down that we need to do the tree today.

There’s no stopping,
No stopping at all.
x

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November 30th 2012

Tomorrow is apparently December. Today it smells like it,
it smells like Christmas and the roads are full of petrol fumes from earlier engines and the air bites you if you’re out there, easing the lock against the ice with the cold seat up your back, the satisfying connection as it turns over into life. And I used to prepare it for you, always up first, then our son, and while you crawled to the bathroom for another day of their politics and nonsense, I rush outside, in-between breakfast and turn the key. And when you come downstairs to put your briefcase in the back, it’s half ready, steaming up the drive and the morning thawed in the winter sun and we went about our life.
And though I’m very much here with my pillow up my back, strong black reaching the places it needs to, the weather and rhythm of the year draws me away through my wormhole to stuffing the Rover with parcels and weaving up behind tail lights to Birmingham for early Christmasses and you always tried to finish early and that song always played and we got there late to the faces and warmth at the door, with the necessary jokes, the normality of driving home. And the Boxing day onslaught North to the things we wanted and the things we had to deal with, the anticipation, the issues, the doilies, the tall freezer not quite hidden behind the folding screen, the conservatory that was really a lean-to, so he didn’t have to get planning permission, and the storage heater off to my right. And she always winked at me when the conversation went it’s usual way and the meat was beautifully sliced and he always asked how your Mum was doing.
And back to the Travel Lodge enjoying the sickness that I kept to myself for a while and I only had toast that morning and sparkled and tingled on the inside, potential lit up like the decorated trees around me. And back up to Pendle, stark, cold and perfect, weaving up the inclines to find our spot, and we huddled as you took us in your old proper camera that’s under the bed as I tap this, and froze us into a favourite photo, the two small mothers, (your rock before she shifted and me at the point of transition though we didn’t know it then). And we smiled towards you in the beautiful bleakness, a timeline of love, a moment.
And I’m in it now before we head South.
For train filled toddlers who rustled in boxes with the paper strewn floor and we laughed at his sweetness when the carriages kept coming, while I was too organised and you preferred the chaos.
And my memories are scrunched up around me, ripped and messed with half stuck bows, ribbons hanging off. And they’re slippy under bare morning feet with the warm house smelling of cooking, sausage rolls at breakfast time, just because you could, while I sort through the images
coming fast and jangling, a loud insistent jingling of our hours.

And now my coffee’s gone cold and the heating’s gone off and I consider coming back to the present, with the calling of the day ahead, the distant sleigh bells of planning.

The tentative being of now.

The last of November frost is melting and taking my time travel up in the warming wavelengths.

The sun burns white into the back right window highlighting the moisture in it’s brightness, eight years to the day it rolled up outside our old home, after Mike picked up the Rover, I think. Then I remember us sat in the show room, and some issue over insurance, our son feeling sick while you sorted it.
And our cars changed shape today, the ruby lowness filled with balloons that we tin-canned away in, that I creased myself into in labour, that took our newness around the country, Christmas packed with babies by the nearly there lights of Newton Abbot. And it had done it’s job and morphed into your new choice that continued the journeys, took us to other places, thank-yous with high zipped up jumpers, warm, oil swished turkeys on the front seat, steaming up the windows and the endless moments frozen, love etched inside.

It’s cold today
It’s nearly December
I’m surrounded by everything

We are held.

X

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