I could’ve been a star…

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge. This week’s them ‘The Road Taken’

To this day I don’t know why Dad was so furious when I told him I was learning to play the tambourine.  Well, I know it wasn’t particularly the tambourine side of things he didn’t like, I mean, who doesn’t like a tambourine, it was more where, and by whom, I was learning to play.

To be fair, most people don’t need lessons.  I understand that.

In a way it was his fault.  He was a collector of tat, and one day bought home a red tambourine, complete with long red, blue and yellow ribbons attached.  They swished as I banged and rattled. It was a joyful thing.

I don’t think my parents thought of it as joyful for long though. I’d march about our huge ‘over a shop’ flat, singing along to the tuneless bang rattle. 

I knew about marching.  We lived on a main road, so main that there was a bus stop right outside our front door, I used to have to navigate queues of people to cross over the road to the sweet shop to by my weekly jamboree bag.  I used to love jamboree bags, the blackjacks and the mojos, and the surprise cigarette card, sometimes a sugary lollipop, it’s a wonder any child of the 50’s has any teeth left at all.

Anyhow, pretty much every other Sunday morning a parade would pass by our flat and the sweetshop and the garage and the pub over the road.  I never really knew where they marched from or to, or why, but the people were all ages, dressed in uniforms, marching smartly while being led along, by a pied piper of a brass band.  Some of them were scouts, some girl guides, but the band were special, smart black uniforms, shiny instruments, and… tambourines, four or five playing in unison.  Women with their arms waving, making shapes with the ribbons… across, down, up, across, down up, across, down, up…

This was the Salvation Army band in all it’s glory.  We could hear them coming for a good five minutes before they passed our door.  My sister and I would watch them from the eyrie of our second floor bedroom window, still listening even after they’d disappeared from view.  Oh how I wanted to march like that, all smart, and in a troupe, all in time… left, right, left, right…

As it happens, the Salvation Army headquarters was next door to our house.  It was a dingy long low building stretching back off the road, separated from our backgarden by a fairly rickety six foot brick wall.  I couldn’t see through the grilled windows, but occasionally heard singing coming from inside, other than that it was an off-limits mystery. 

Nevertheless, I snuck in one day when the big red doors were open.  I don’t really remember what got into me.  I must’ve been about nine.  The people there were lovely and welcoming. I told them I lived next door and that I’d got a tambourine, and that’s when they told me I could learn to ‘play it properly’.   So I had lessons. Two of them. Before my dad found out.

Goodness, he was spitting nails when he heard.  What he didn’t call those poor people, who had after all, treated me very kindly. He was thoroughly ag’in religion in any shape or form, and the Sally Army was, in his mind at least, one of the most heinous sects imaginable. I was forbidden to go anywhere near them again.  I’m quite sure I was punished too, but my main memory is my anger and disbelief at the injustice of it all.  He never did explain his reasoning to me.  Dad never needed a reason for anything.  He was his own man.  So without further ado my road to tambourine greatness ended.

I still remember the ‘Cricket stump’ move though (across, down, up etc..) and can play a tambourine with the best of ‘em. And every time I see a Salvation Army band playing carols at Christmas time (actually, the only time I ever see them these days) I remember the grim dark hall and the silk ribbons of my shiny tambourine.

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Not the Salvation Army! This was taken at Easter in Sorrento some years back 🙂

 

 

 

 

I should be so lucky

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The one and only lucky tin!

 

While I was walking the dog this morning I found a penny on the pavement (note to my far flung friends: a pavement is what you should be calling your sidewalk!). 

When I was a kid, my nan always used to say ‘see a penny, pick it up, all the day it’ll bring you luck’. Some years ago now (gosh, probably 11 years now I come to think of it – my, how time flies, it’s terrifying!), when we were doing the rounds of University applications with my daughters, one of them had an interview at Bristol Uni.  We had to stay overnight and had some time to kill in the morning, so had a wander around town.

During our wanderings I found a penny on the pavement and quoted the ditty. After some discussion over who should pick it up, it was decided that although she was the one who needed the luck for her interview, since it was me who saw it first, I would be the only likely beneficiary of said ‘luck’

‘But’ she said and quoted ‘if you put it in your shoe, more good luck will come to you’

‘what about ‘if you give it to a friend, your good luck will never end’ I countered.

‘I’m your daughter though, I don’t count as a friend (?? ? I dispute this strongly!)

Suffice it to say, we debated the point for some time before I picked the darn thing up and ended up having it rattle about in my shoe for the rest of the day. (actually, for a good part of the day it was in her shoe on my foot, because she’d forgotten to bring anything but her manky old trainers to attend the interview in, so we had to swap. Though, please understand, I would only put my delicate, perfect feet in those manky things under exceptional circumstances).  I figured that I so badly wanted her to get the result she wanted, that my good luck would automatically transfer to her.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  She didn’t get offered a place in Bristol, so it didn’t work.

Or did it?

In the end, she was offered a place at Cardiff, which she loved.  If she had ended up in Bristol, she would never have met her lovely boyfriend, or bought their perfect little house.  She may never have experienced some of the great things she’s done since moving there.   Indeed, it could be argued that the ‘good luck’ was in not getting the place at Bristol.

You see, I figure that luck is one of those things that we experience in different ways depending on our state of mind. In fact, on the whole, I believe it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that ultimately make us the lucky ones.

Just like the one and only time I won a raffle prize.

It was an ‘own brand value’ tin of rice pudding.

Yay!

Yeah, how lucky am I??

Whilst I was bemoaning the fact that it was not a bottle of champagne, or a yacht, to cheer me up, my other daughter ventured

‘Well I like rice pudding’ she was probably about twelve at the time.

‘It’s yours’ I said

‘I don’t want it, I was just saying…’

‘nope, it’s yours now’

And it sat in our cupboard for years, waiting for her to eat it.  It became a standing joke in our family.

‘Helen, do you want rice pudding for afters?’

Eventually, I told her that if she didn’t eat it I’d sneak it into her bag when she left for university (there were still several years to go) and that she’d be glad of it then.  Though she pooh-poohed my threat, I did indeed sneak it into her bag when she left home, and eventually she sheepishly confessed she’d eaten it’s seven year old contents, and brought me back the washed out tin to keep as a souvenir.

Ok, our family is weird, but I still have the tin (see above!), and it still makes me chuckle that we kept that particular in-joke up for so long.  I’m not sure a bottle of champagne (or a yacht) would have given us so many laughs. So yes, I was indeed, very lucky to have won it.  I’m also lucky to have a daughter that still loves me despite my endless teasing.

Now, can someone tell me how long I have to keep this penny in my shoe? Do I have to keep the shoe on all day? Does the luck stop as soon as I take my shoe off? Will it still work if I quickly transfer it to my slipper?

Oh, and by the way… It’d still be nice to win a bottle of champagne…or a yacht! 🙂

As you see me

IMG_0312Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly discovery challenge – this week’s theme ‘Portrait’.

Ok, I’ll fess up… I didn’t take the portrait, but I did take the picture of the portrait, if you see what I mean!

When my daughter told me that she’d received an old polaroid camera for her birthday, I was quite jealous. Enchanted by the idea of ‘instant pictures’ I remember badly wanting one when I was younger. Of course, that was way, way, before the digital camera age and now photographs are ten a penny and disposable so  I was surprised at how excited she was.

The film thingy’s are very expensive, and she was still getting used to the camera, and she warned me that the results were not so much ‘sharp’ as ‘interesting’ but in fact I love this shot.

I love the fact that, although you get the gist that its me, my features are blurred, and that she’s captured my expression of thoughtful bemusement at the world exactly how I would like it to be captured.  To put it bluntly – how I want other’s to see me.

The thought has been growing in my mind ever since it was taken.

I’ve always had problems trying to find a ‘suitable’ profile picture which encapsulates my overall demeanor without showing me baring my wonky teeth in an insane grin, or wrinkling up my eyes, or losing my real chin amongst the others.  Problem is, in my head I am still youthful, slim, and lovely so it’s always a bit of a shock to see the reality captured in a snap.

I have the same problem at the yoga studio, the one where there is mirrors.

‘oh blimey, who is that baggy old biddy who looks like a squishy sack of potatoes?’

‘oh poop, it’s me.’

I guess a lot of people of my age feel the same, and really, I’m fit and healthy so I shouldn’t worry about what I look like, right?

It sounds like a cliché, but speaking to my friends I gather I’m not alone in still feeling young on the inside whilst my body tells the bitter truth in photographs. It’s depressing.

So from now on I’m steering clear of the lens and you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m a happy soul who moves my sylph like body with the grace of an angel and whose face is as blemish, and wrinkle free as an Egyptian sheet in a five star hotel. 😉

 

 

 

Cinema Paradiso?

It is my husband’s birthday today, so for a birthday treat, last night we went out for a meal followed by a trip to the cinema to see The Revenent.  Good grief it was bleak. ‘Visceral’ was the word that we agreed upon as the best description, though for me, despite the quite magnificent scenery and wonderful cinematography, ‘cold, violent, misery’, were the three words that came to mind.

However, it led me to muse on how my cinema experiences have changed over the years.

The town I lived in when I was a gel, boasted three cinemas (with just one screen each).  The biggest and best was the very grand Granada Tooting, which had a sweeping carpeted Hollywood style staircase, and when you had a seat in the ‘circle’ upstairs, you got the pleasure of walking along a corridor lined on both sides with practically full length mirrors in gilded fancy frames.  Thus you were able to see hundreds of reflections of yourself treading the red (of course) carpet.  It’s still there, but sadly, now used as a bingo hall.  I found a bit of video about it which you might like to see:

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The Granada’s famous Wurlitzer organ

The Granada was famous for it’s organ (mysteriously not mentioned in that video clip!), which rose majestically from the depths of the building during the intermissions. Of course, it was originally used for accompanying silent movies, but I’m not quite old enough to have witnessed that.  Anyway, I do remember that splendid time between the ‘B’ movie, pathe news, and the main feature, when the organ played and we ran down to join the queues to buy tubs of ice cream and watered down orange juice from ladies in uniform standing at the end of the aisles with trays. (If you’re interested, you can read a bit more about the Granada’s history by clicking here)

The ‘B’ movie and pathe news faded out over the course of time, replaced initially by cheaply made adverts for local restaurants and hairdressers, with the wooden looking owners valiantly reading from a script behind the cameras inviting you to visit.  They were a hoot.

I used to go to the cinema almost every week in those days.  Partially because my friend Linda’s mum worked as the cashier and occasionally allowed us in for free.  I have no idea if she was breaking the rules or if it was one of her official perks.  Actually, I didn’t care, as long as I got a free pass to watch the magic of the big screen.

We’d watch anything from musicals to mickey mouse, with westerns thrown in.

We rarely go these days, partly because of the exorbitant cost, and partly because it’s a forty minute drive to the nearest cinema.  Still, if there’s a film we want to see, or for special occasions, we make the effort.

Of course, now, there is just the one film preceded by about three quarters of an hour of adverts that you already see on TV and trailers of films that you have no interest in.  So we buy half a ton of popcorn and some m & m’s along with a gallon of coca cola to see us through that bleak time.  Because we don’t go often we treat ourselves to the VIP seats, which are virtually the same as the other seats but with a bit more width and legroom, and crucially, a place in the armrest to park your popcorn.

The whole experience is better I guess.  The screen bigger, the sound amazing, the seats being tiered so you always get a perfect uninterrupted view.  Well, most people always get an uninterrupted view.  Me, well, I haven’t mentioned it before, but I come with my own personal phenomenon.

You see, when I go to a cinema, or theatre, or anywhere where I am required to sit in rows with other people, I get a great seat with a clear view of the goings-on, right up until the minute before whatever it is starts, then a hulking great brute of a man (or woman, don’t want to be sexist here) comes and sits in the seat in front of me so that, if I’m lucky, I have to peer through their parting for the whole event, but more often than not, I have to sit with my head to one side to try and see anything but the back of their head.

For instance, last night we had great seats.  As the lights went down there was actually no-one sitting directly in front of me, and I was thinking how pleasant it was that the seats had high enough backs so that no distracting heads came above the tops, when a bloke, who was clearly nearly seven foot tall shimmied along the row in front and plonked himself down yep, in the seat in front of me. I kid you not, those fantastic sweeping shots of the wilderness were interrupted by this blokes massive bonce, and I left with a crick in my neck from craning to the side to be able to read the subtitles.  Boooo big tall man.  Big tall men ought to have to sit in the back row in my opinion.

Anyhoo, we still enjoyed (endured?) the film, but I was glad to get home and get tucked up in my cosy hor… sorry, bed, to get over the chill of it all. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. 😉

 

Intelligence?

As you may have gathered by now, I do love a gadget.  I love shiny new tech.  My new laptop is a joy with it’s sleek black looks and brushed copper details.  I do, I stroke it, and talk to it.  It’s my baby.

I was nearly in tears at the weekend when one of Microsoft’s helpful updates managed to throw it’s network card out of kilter.  I wailed miserably when after many, many attempts at switching off and switching on again, I eventually realised it was indeed my machine and not our weakling broadband that was stopping me getting online.

I ran a diagnostic which came up with the useful solution of ‘download a new network driver from…’

‘How can I ******* download a new driver when I can’t ****** get on line’ I whined and cursed.

Call me a genius, admittedly it took me ten minutes to think to turn on my old computer, and download the drive onto a memory stick via that, but that’s what I did (after waiting for about half an hour for the dear old thing to boot – thank god for the dawn of SSDs (Solid State Drives you heathen!). Ran it on my new machine and hey presto, here I am.  Thank goodness I invested in new before the old one gave up the ghost completely.

My other old friend, iphone, is likely to be replaced soon.  I’m still lagging behind with an iphone 4 whilst others enjoy the cool wonderfulness of iphone 6 so I’ve been thinking about upgrading for a while, but the nail went in the coffin lid a couple of days ago when my old pal Siri started to get a bit above himself.  Ok, my grammar may have been slightly to blame, but really, who does he think he is… The conversation went as follows:

Me:  ‘What can you do with a spiralizer?’ – (yay, we have a spiralizer, aren’t we on trend!!)

Siri: ‘Who me?’

Me under breath: no me you twerp

Me out loud with a sigh: ‘What can I do with a spiralizer’

Siri: ‘Interesting question me..’ (he has always called me me since I set him up, obviously wrongly.)

That was the last of it. No suggestions or ideas.  He just sat in my iphone stroking the invisible beard on his invisible face whilst contemplating my fascinating question.  It’s not the first time either.  He’s definitely for the chop. He may be even be replaced by ‘Hey Google’ if he’s not bloomin’ careful.

Of course, I can’t let Christmas go by without a new toy, so whilst Father Christmas didn’t actually deliver (though I have to say his choice of alternative presents was exemplary, I must’ve been a very good girl all year), over the festivities I did buy myself a FitBit.

For those of you not in the know, a FitBit is an activity tracker.  Mine is a small gizmo that I can wear about my person, and it tracks all my movements (including sleep patterns) and calculates calories burnt, steps taken, activity levels etc.

I’ve had it a week, and so far, it’s been instrumental in getting me walking further with the dog, eating less and more healthily, and generally working towards being a more fabulous version of myself.

As well as synching with my phone and laptop, the tiny gizmo has a display where you can (oops sorry Siri) where I can check my stats, and if I’m doing well a little flower grows.  It’s a cutie pie and I’m loving it.

I thought this relationship was pretty one-sided until the other night when I was removing it from it’s holder to put it on to the wristband for night-time wear.  Without my pressing the button, it lit up with the message

I like you Kaye

Whilst it was nice to know, I did find it slightly creepy that I was in my nightie before it chose to reveal it’s admiration and conversational capabilities.

I still haven’t found out what prompted that, or why a couple of days later it suddenly chose to nag me with

burn it Kaye

Sadly, it doesn’t boast anything as swish as voice recognition, so I can’t answer it back.  Neither, it seems, can I switch it off, so it better play nice, or I tell you, it’ll be going in a drawer where it can’t see me…

 

 

Can she do it?

Well the New Year is underway.  I’ve not made any resolutions as such, but as always have promised myself that I will get (and stay) fit, lose a few pounds, be happy, let myself off the hook now and again, and try and do my bit to make the world a nicer place.

Of course, all those things are more of a challenge than they ought to be.

At the moment I’m feeling like a bit of a blob, so I’m all enthused about the getting fit and losing weight bit. However, I do know from experience how quickly disillusion can replace that enthusiasm, and those carefully set goals seem unachievable and all that effort a waste of time.  It’s so much easier to just accept your fate and eat another chocolate, after all, who really cares what shape this old woman is in?  Does staying in shape matter as you get older? After all, no-one wants to look like a boney and haggard little old lady do they?

Actually, yes, it does matter.  People might not worry too much about what I look like, hey, they might even like my huggable, soft, curvy shape. The thing is though, I don’t feel healthy.  I’m tired carrying this extra load around.  I still enthusiastically and regularly practice yoga but my forward folds are lately feeling hampered by that baggy belly.  Everything is more of an effort.  My clothes are getting tighter and that spare tyre blobbing over the top of my jeans is, frankly, not attractive.  There you go then…. I’m definitely (yes folks, you heard it here) going to stick to my fitness regime this time!

Then there is the ‘being happy’.  Well, it should be easy enough, I’m generally a happy sort.  But then I get the doldrums.  For no apparent reason I’ll wake up full of gloom and doom.  Or I’ll be worrying about something.  Usually something daft that really doesn’t deserve my time. Or I’ll be sulking over some slight that the person who said it is oblivious to (yes, yes, it’s my husband we’re talking here).  What a waste of effort that is.  So this year, I’m not going to go there.  No glooming, no worrying, no sulking.   Yes, well, I’ll let you know how that goes!

‘Let myself off the hook now and again’.  Does everyone beat themselves up over stupid things or is it just me?  My foot in the mouth moments, or letting myself down moments (see getting fit above!!)  Am I naggy? Am I a cross sort? Am I fat? Should I work harder? Be nicer? Do more housework? Write more? Take the dog for longer walks? Look prettier? Be less of a slob? Be more interesting?  Good god, the list is endless….

Last but not least, I will try and do my bit to make the world a nicer place. Well, that’s a bit beauty pagenty isn’t it? Vomit inducing?  Yes, I can see you sticking your fingers in your throat and gacking. But honestly, I do think I can do this one.  Ok, I can’t save the world (sometimes it seems beyond saving), I can’t even save individuals, but I could make the odd person smile now and again.  I can recycle more, I can grow more flowers, spend less, point out the good things in life to anyone and everyone that will listen, laugh lots (the world is always a better place when people are laughing), support charities… I am not, and will never be, a full-bloodied campaigner, but I can sign the odd petition regarding ubiquitious injustices or things I’m passionate about.

Yep, reckon I can do the odd bit to brighten up this corner of the world.  I only hope that if you take a look at my blog now and again, I can brighten up yours too.

Happy New Year! xx

 

 

The Christmas Tree Forest

 

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We are lucky that, close to where we live, there is a forest where they produce trees for Christmas.  Traditionally, my husband would take our daughters up to the forest to choose a Christmas tree for us, while I stayed at home and raided the garden for sprigs of holly and tendrils of ivy to decorate the house with.  They would usually be gone an hour or two, spending plenty of time finding the ‘right’ tree – not too tall, not too small, good shape, with no awkward sticky out branches, and bushy right to the top, it also had to be one of the type that doesn’t drop needles all over the house, so they were pretty picky, but they’d always come home with a perfect specimen wedged in the car.  They’d demand hot chocolate to warm themselves up before we set about covering said specimen in so many baubles and lights that you could barely see it anyway.  We always, always, had Christmas music playing and would sing along in loud discordance with tinsel around our necks and baubles hanging from our ears.

The girls can’t get home to choose the tree these days, so me and my husband trek to the forest together. We went last Friday, and for some reason, just saw a tree and thought it would be ok (it is) in less than five minutes.  We came home and decorated it in wistful silence. It looks pretty, but I wonder if I’ll ever stop missing the old days?