There is no weather at all outside.  The trees vein into the skin of the pallid sky in stillness. The birds are quiet, having their mid-day rest.  While the tune of unseen cars from a distant road filters through the glass of the shut tight window.

Inside it’s warm, though bleak from packing up.  The light squares on the flowery walls are the ghosts of crated memories.  The vase no longer lives on the shelf, and the porcelain couple kiss elsewhere.  The rooms in this old house are now decorated with buff coloured boxes, all labelled and tagged, and sealed tight with brown tape.  They’ll be gone tomorrow. Along with the squidgy sofa, the coffee table, and the paisley patterned armchair and its worn out cushions. The pots and pans from the kitchen too, though the contents from the fridge have been discarded already.  The breakfast table and it’s wonky leg is going in the skip.

Upstairs the curtains have been taken down and the beds stripped. The naked mattress in the master bedroom, stained and fleshy with age, should probably be thrown out, but who can afford a new bed? Empty hangers rattle in the fitted wardrobes and the mirror reflects the emptiness.  Dust rises from the bedside lamp as it is boxed alongside the alarm clock. The ballerina sleeps in the jewellery box, protecting the paste necklaces and plated earrings. Underwear from the chest of drawers is stuffed into an old suitcase.

In the bathroom the medicine cabinet is emptied.  The contents fill two carrier bags. The still damp bath towel is hung over the radiator. The mould spotted shower curtain is removed and thrown away.

The other bedroom is empty but for echoes of the past. Some dusty children’s toys lie discarded in a corner, with a child’s blackboard bearing the legend ‘I luv granma’ in chalky scrawl.  Some old bedding and a fur covered hot water bottle are the only other contents, all of which, along with the narrow bed, is going in the skip.

Nothing more to do.  So the house is locked up tight for the night.

Back home, mum is waiting.

‘How did you get on?’

‘ok, it’s all done now. I’m getting a cup of tea, do you want one?’

‘Yes please dear. What about my things? You’re not throwing anything out are you?’

‘Nothing important.’

‘How do you know what’s important? It’s all important.’

‘Only the kids things in the spare room, and a few ornaments.’

‘I’ve kept those toys for years, the kids love them.  And you’re not to throw my ornaments. Not any of them, they’re my past.’

‘Yes mum, the kids loved them, but they’re all in their twenties and thirties now, and you wouldn’t want their children to play with that dusty old crap would you?’

‘It can be dusted.’

‘yes, but it’s still old crap’

‘Don’t use that language to me.’

The conversation descends into the usual bickering.

She’s got cantankerous as she’s got older, and I’ve got less patient.

In the morning, back at the house, the sun shines through the grubby windows revealing the dust particles dancing in the air.  The removal men come and make short work of clearing the house.  I’m ashamed of how the carpet looks once the furniture has been removed, but there’s nothing to do about it now.

While they are working I go out and stand in the tiny garden. It’s always bleak at this time of year, but still evident is the love and hard work that my mother has poured into it over the years. I wonder who’ll be appreciating her roses come summer.

Back at my house, I wrap and coddle mum in her big old winter coat and bundle her in the car.  It’s only a ten minute drive.

‘Nearer than before’ I tell her.  It doesn’t help.

The woman at the home greets us with a cheery smile, and helps me manoeuvre mum into the lift and up to her ‘apartment’.  Her old furniture and the boxes are already there, piled higgledy piggledy in the middle of the room.  Mum cries.

The woman suggests she takes mum downstairs to the day room while I sort her stuff out. Mum objects weakly, but the woman declines to hear, and wheels her away down the corridor.

The apartment is tiny.  Fitting the furniture is a life size jigsaw puzzle, but once I’ve heaved it about,  emptied the boxes, put up the curtains (I’ve brought way too many, I’ll need to ditch some), made the bed, and distributed the pictures around the room, it looks quite homely.

I find mum in the residents lounge, cup of coffee in one hand and biscuit in the other.  She’s chatting to the blue permed lady beside her.

‘Pam says there’s a quiz every Tuesday and Thursday’ mum says, dropping biscuit crumbs from her lips.

‘Lovely’ I say.

‘and the food is apparently very nice, roasts on Sundays too.’

‘Great’ I say

‘She says to keep on the right side of Sadie, she’s the cook you know, and she’ll give you extra puddings’

‘Sounds perfect.’ I say

Eventually, I take her back to her rooms. She’s upbeat, which I am terrifically relieved about.

‘Ta Da!’ I say as I wheel her in.

‘What did you bring that old armchair for? It looks tatty.’

‘I know, you told me not to throw anything though.’

‘Oh good grief, you brought that ghastly vase, I’ve always hated that.’

‘No you haven’t’

‘Oh and that dreadful picture that Uncle Paul painted, I can’t believe you’ve put that up.’

‘you’ve always had it up in the front room.’

‘I know but I don’t want other people to see it. Suppose I invite people in for tea? What would they think of me with that thing on my wall?’

‘I can take it down.’

‘Oh just leave it for now, let’s have a cuppa.’

And so my mum’s new life began, as it has been and always will be, with bickering and a cuppa.







This one’s for my mum

Hi Mum!

Surprise!! I know you loyally read my blog even though sometimes you don’t understand it, and quite definitely ‘don’t like poetry’.  So when I came across this video this morning and knew that you’d love it, I thought I’d post it here just for you (and anyone else who might like it too of course).  The music might not be entirely to your taste, but it’s worth watching for the dancing and the incredible way all the clips are put together in perfect timing.

When I watched it, it took me back to Sunday afternoons watching Fred and Ginger, Gene Kelly, or Busby Berkeley movies on the sofa with you and nan. You always did love dancing.  I can remember, when I was very small, being told off for running about between peoples legs when you and dad took me along to one of your ballroom dancing classes, and as I got older, watching you being swept around the floor in a dazzling waltz on our annual visits to the holiday camp.

For a short while you sent me to dance classes.  I don’t remember why I couldn’t do ballet, I think I wasn’t the right shape or something, but I did a bit of tap and modern, well, until my sister refused to take me anymore because she was embarrased by my (alleged) naughtiness.

So, I’ve never been up to scratch with the dancy dancy. That’s not to say I don’t do it, blimey, I even admit to dancing about on my own on my ‘about’ page here!  But it’s probably just as well that no one is watching.

You and I both enjoy watching Strictly Come Dancing at this time of year, and I’d love to be on it. I bet in your day you could’ve beaten the pants off of any of them! Wouldn’t it be great to be all dressed up in those glittery frocks and being swished around the floor by a proper professional? Of course, this programme is the new and improved incarnation of ‘Come Dancing’ that we used to watch together years ago too.

Anyhoo, enough of the reminiscing, have a look at the video and enjoy. I hope it cheers you up as much as it did me this morning – but don’t try any of the moves, well, not unless you’re hanging on to your ‘trolley’ 😉

lots of love

k xx

Keeping memories

Mum 20sWe moved my mum into her new sheltered accommodation last week.  It is a lovely modern studio flat, where she has her own kitchen and bathroom and a key to her own front door.  It is so much nicer than her long, dark, narrow, crabby old flat which she had been living in for the last 40 odd years.

The trouble with living somewhere for so long, is that, without even realising it, you accumulate lots of ‘stuff’. Ornaments, and tacky souvenirs that family members have brought back from holidays; photographs in broken frames; pictures; lots of tapestries that mum had done herself years ago; CDs and cassettes;  very old records; programmes from long-seen shows; and many, many, years worth of birthday cards (‘I can’t throw them away, they’re too nice’).  Of course, moving into a smaller flat meant that she couldn’t take much with her, not even all her furniture, and it’s been down to my sister and I to encourage, co-erce, and downright nag her into leaving much of it behind. Sadly, what seems to us to be old tat, was to her much-loved possessions that were proof of a full and long-lived life.

When I look around my own home, I can see that a lot of the things that I hold dear would, quite likely, seem like ‘old tat’ to others. But every piece has a memory attached.  Who bought it, why and when.  When I dust I caress each piece like a long lost friend, and every plant is loved and nurtured like a child.

Sitting here, I can look up and see photos of my children, a vase bought for me by my husband for one of our anniversaries, a moving fish that my daughter made in woodwork class years and years ago, the remains of a hookah pipe bought on our honeymoon in Turkey nearly 30 years ago, a slate rabbit from a mine in Wales, and a small wooden Buddha bought on our first trip to India. Now they nestle alongside some brass candlesticks rescued from my mum’s old flat.

I didn’t rescue much, just the candlesticks (which I remember sitting on the mantelpiece back when I was growing up), a couple of ornamental plates that we bought for her on trips to Turkey and Greece, a small wooden elephant, and some finger cymbals that I found in a box and had no idea she had. Heaven only knows where she got them, or why – perhaps a relic of a belly dancing phase of her life that none of us knew about?  Hehee..I’d like to think so!

Nan and Lil

My nan, mums friend, Mary, and my aunt Lil enjoying the sea

The only other thing that I took was an enormous suitcase full of old photographs.  There are lots of odd weddings with bride and grooms that I barely recognise, many of them now long dead. There are pictures of my grandmother as a young woman sitting alongside her mum who I never knew, or paddling in the sea in 1951 with her sister and a friend, all of them clutching their skirts above their knees to stop them getting wet.  Of course, there are also lots of pictures of my mum.

She’s there as a child with a big doll, and another very formal shot where she’s posing in a Mum dancingballet position aged about nine.  She’s there looking cheeky with her boyish brothers, and again as a young woman in a smart dark skirt and white blouse, smiling brightly, and it makes me wonder what the occasion was, maybe she was starting a new job?

She is there as a bride, marrying my father, with evidently, and mercifully, no clue as to the bitterness he would eventually bring her.  There are pictures of her at office parties, and on holidays with people I don’t recognise. All these pictures together add up as a testament to her life as a beautiful and vibrant woman.

Now, at 92, she retains her beauty, but some of that vibrancy is lost.  Old age is a dreadful thing, and something we all face, its limitations are both bewildering and frustrating, and ill health and aching joints can make you irritable.  When we meet older people who are suffering these difficulties, it’s easy to forget that they have led these amazing full lives, had jobs, children, experiences, hobbies, interests, just like we are having now.

If like my mum, you have to give up the home that you have created over the years, albeit no longer suitable, or desirable, or that others may be less than impressed with, it is a wrench.  A big wrench. And whilst it’s lovely to see her settling into her clean and tidy new home, and enjoying the company, we mustn’t forget that.

Unfortunately, once we had taken what she needed we had to have the flat cleared. The house clearance chappy told us it would all just go to the dump – the furniture; cookware; washing machine; ornaments; records……and all the other bits and pieces – just disposed of without ceremony. ‘No-one wants this sort of stuff now, you can’t give it away’ he told us, and I’m sure he’s right.  Still seems criminal though.

After this experience, I’ve promised myself I’ll reassess my own home.  Clear out all the stuff that I’ve collected in cupboards and kept in the loft. I don’t want my children to have to face clearing it out and having to live with the guilt of throwing away all those memories, no matter how sentimental and tatty they think they are.

New Horizons

In response to this weeks photo challenge ‘New’.


This is a photo of my beautiful mum that I took a couple of days ago, over the Christmas break. Ok, she’s not exactly ‘New’, in fact, (I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you), she’s in her 90’s.  However, she is off on a new adventure.

She’s lived in the same town all of her life, and been in the same flat for about 40 years. She’s been happy and comfortable there, but now she has come round to the idea that it might be nice to have a bit more support and company, and we’re in the process of helping her find some sheltered accommodation.  Somewhere that she can still be fairly independent, and have her own front door, but where she can have a little bit more help when she needs it.  Also, somewhere a bit closer to family – she will still be a couple of hundred miles away from me, but nearer my sister and her family, so for the first time in her life, it’ll be a move away from her home town.   She’s both excited and a bit nervous – as you should be with all new adventures in my opinion! It’s a big leap of faith and we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it’s a good one.

Of course, she’s only willing to go if they have broadband so she can still use her ipad!

I’m very proud of her for facing change so stoically. I hope I never get too old for new challenges either!

It’s all a matter of taste

‘Can’t eat ’em. Don’t like the look of ’em!’ the checkout blokey said to me at the supermarket the other day (yes, it was an older gentleman on the checkout, we’re very pc  ’round these parts ya’know).  He was referring to some mussels that I’d bought for our tea.  I love mussels, funny looking bits an’ all.  In fact I like pretty much most sea food, although on further discussion with said blokey, we decided whelks were overall a bit too chewy, unless you’d got the odd half hour or two to eat them.

I’ve always thought you shouldn’t be put off of trying anything by the way it looks.  Seafood in particular can look a bit, err, shall we say, challenging (come to think of it, so does a lot of my cooking… you should have seen my summer pudding the other day.  The special effects team from ‘Bones’ would have been proud).  It got me to thinking about likes and dislikes, foodwise, though.

We all have things we don’t like.  I have two brothers-in-law (brother-in-laws?? well, you know what I mean). Even though he’s 50 and should know better, one of them won’t touch any veggies except the odd teeny bit of a carrot, and is a proper carnivor, the other one doesn’t like meat all that much, much preferring to pile his plate with the green stuff.  My little niece rejects practically everything she is offered, except sweet things and…. black olives.  How weird is that?  My daughter’s wouldn’t touch olives until they were in their twenties.  They seem a grown up sort of taste.

Is there such a thing though?  We tend to give children bland uninteresting food, or sweetened stuff, or things in funny shapes – alphebetti spaghetti etc and then wonder why they are fussy.  I never did make different food for my children, they had what we had, and on the whole they ate it…curry’s, cous-cous, stir-frys, chilli – olives were one of the exceptions.  We didn’t give them much in the way of sweets (I know, I’m a cruel mother) but they are thanking me these days as, at the age of 26 they are still filling free, and they are open to trying all types of food both here and when they are in foreign parts.

Personally, there are two  things I really don’t touch (three if you count coffee…see previous posts).  Steak and jelly.

I have had an aversion to steak since seeing my dad’s plate graced with a whopping piece of meat that was oozing blood – he liked it rare.  Put me right off it did.  I’ve no doubt that if I tried it again now, I might like it, as long as it was cooked gently and not too chewy. I just can’t be bothered to try.  However, jelly is a different matter.

Apparently, when I was just a few months old, my mum tried giving it to me as one of my first steps towards solid food. I spat it back at her with contempt.  It was revolting then, and it is revolting still.  All jelly.  Strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, that gelatin stuff that holds the fruit together in flans, that grey wobbly stuff that makes a perfectly good pork pie into something totally inedible for me.  Any of it.  All of it.  Yuck.  Don’t know why, just, well, yuck.

My mum always insisted we had jelly and blancmange at my birthday parties.  I used to look at the hideous wobbling monstrosity, and was often tempted to push it from the window sill where it sat setting in the sun, but the thought of gobbets of the ghastly stuff splattered across the garden path, and me probably having to clear it up, stopped me.  The blancmange was equally bad by the way.  Basically thick milky jelly.  Yuck, yuck, yucketty yuck (to paraphrase Hugh Grant in Four Weddings).

Anyhoo, next time you invite me ’round, remember, I’ll eat most things, but for goodness sake don’t serve jelly, you might get it spat in your face.



I’m cross. Annoyed.  Mardy. Pissed. I’ve go the hump.  And I’ve got a face on.

I don’t know what the right words are in other languages but I’m guessing they’d recognise ‘the face’.  My mum had a ‘face’.  You’d know when she was cross.  She didn’t have to say anything, it was just in the way she pursed her lips like a cat’s bottom and snarl ‘Nothing’ when you asked her what was wrong.

The trouble is, no-one knows I’m cross.  What is the point of wandering around all day in a foul mood when there is no-one there to appreciate it? No-one there to be grumpy with.The person with whom I’m cross isn’t here.  He knew I was cross when he left, and knows that it will probably have passed by the time he gets home.

To be honest, the thing I’m cross about isn’t really worth wasting my energy on.  So why am I persisting in making myself feel miserable?

I’ve tried to boil it down to its essence, my crossness. I’m in a position where I have had to agree to something that I really don’t agree with.  So basically, it seems like it’s ‘cos I’m not getting my own way.

Oh blimey, that’s not attractive is it?

Still cross though…

Who’s mum?

I’m travelling to London (again) today.  I have to go to accompany my 90 year old mum to a hospital appointment.  She hates doctors (my doctor daughters are, of course, the exception), and hospitals, and taking any sort of medicine, including over the counter jobs. She really doesn’t want to go.

‘I’m fine.  I feel fine.  They’ll only give me pills, and they”ll give me side effects, which will make me worse’ she says.  

Fine, except for the shortness of breath, the tingly hands and feet, the skin lesion that won’t go away, failing eyesight and hearing, the fact that she is housebound…  

They’ve called her in over a dodgy blood test, and the implication is, that it could be something nasty.  You know the one.  Begins with a C.  She hasn’t quite grasped that, and it’s down to me (with support from my girls) to make sure she goes, and doesn’t put up that knee-jerk wall.

I am of course, fervently hoping that the news isn’t as bad as I fear, and at 90 she will just play her remaining years out in comfort without any ghastly interventions. But, I’m going to hold her hand, and listen carefully to the experts, ask questions, make sure she understands and accepts that some treatment may be necessary to make her life more comfortable …  Just like she used to when she took me to the doctors as a child.  When she made me take disgusting medicine ‘for my own good’.

When did I turn in to mother?