Me,my Mammy and the corner shop

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I may have mentioned this before, forgive me if I have, but when I was a child my Mother worked part time in the corner shop, it was owned by a lovely couple called Mr and Mrs Swan who lived in rather swanky living quarters above the shop. During School holidays I was allowed to go to work with my Mother, I would sit quietly on a stool behind the sweet counter (torture for a child if you ask me!) but Oh! it was a lovely shop, selling practically everything from fresh hams and cheeses, daily newspapers, and of course chocolate and sweets. Sometimes I was allowed to serve children who came in for a 10p mix up! this involved putting ten sweeties of the childs choice in a paper bag, chewing gum in the shape of a small golf ball, white chocolate mice, flying saucers, fruit salad chews, then there were the jars of sweets behind the counter filled with pear drops, floral gums, strawberry bon bons and chocolate eclairs and rosy apples.

At eleven o clock prompt we were summoned upstairs to the ‘lounge’ where Mrs Swan had left a tray with milky coffee and a plate of biscuits,(Orange Kiora for me)

The lounge. Oh my life where do I start, of course this was the 70s, so think along the lines of Abigail’s party.In the corner of the room was a padded bar with a Spanish dancer doll on top, brought back from one of their many jaunts to Majorca, all seeming very exotic to a child who had never travelled any farther than Berwick, we would sit tentatively on the leather sofa with a sheepskin rug draped over the back, my Mothers coffee would be served in a little glass pyrex cup in a plastic holder, bright orange as I recall, I was in total awe of this very stylish interior. I would always, without fail go to the toilet just to swoon over the bathroom. Matching pink double sinks with gold taps in the shape of fish. Oh my giddy Aunt!

The swans teenage Daughter Barbara, had wardrobes with Louvre doors and shag pile carpet. Unreal. I was so impressed. Eventually my parents relented and bought me a shag pile carpet for my bedroom, brown, happiest day of my life.

I have happy memories of the Swans, they were very kind and although they passed away some time ago, I do think of them often. The corner shop is now sadly a tattoo parlour, I dont know who lives above it, if anybody, the wonderful mad retro world of the Swans is just a happy memory for me now.

I would still kill for a padded bar.

 

Best butter and tinned salmon….

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I must be getting old, not only because the mirror tells me so, but because I seem to spend more time wallowing in nostalgia, some days the world is a little bit ugly, the news seems to be all doom and gloom and I fear I may becoming that woman who starts a conversation with ‘when I was a girl…..’

I spend a lot of time with my Mum, who at ninety years young, loves to revisit the past, I love looking through old photographs and hearing the stories connected to them, we always end up having a bit of a laugh. Recently, we were chatting about ‘having friends over for tea’ so for your perusal and for my own personal pleasure, allow me to delve into my vast bank of nostalgia……

When I was a girl…. my parents had friends called Elsie and Albert, they had known each other forever and felt more like family, they lived in an area called Whickham, which is on the other side of the river Tyne, as neither my parents or their friends had cars, it would be two bus rides to visit. Sometimes they would visit us, other times we would visit them, I loved going to see Auntie Elsie and Uncle Albie, partly because she made the best coconut cake in the world and also because she let me play with her button box! So in both cases, whether we went to them or they came to us, afternoon tea was the big event, out came the china cups and saucers, My Mum would put a newly ironed tablecloth on the kitchen table, she would have baked the previous day, scones, apple pie, Victoria sandwich cake, or sometimes the chocolate cake made from the bero book,maids of honour, sandwiches and sausage rolls, the table would be groaning with food!

You would think after all that hard work in the kitchen, the piece de resistance may have been the wonderful cake towering over the table on a pressed glass cake stand, but no, it was the little sandwiches cut into triangles that she would proudly hand around, made with ‘best butter’ and filled with tinned red salmon mixed with vinegar.I kid you not. Awful. But to people who had experienced post war rationing, things like real butter and tinned salmon were a bit of a luxury, the conversation always went ‘lovely bit of salmon that’ despite it having been doused in vinegar and mashed within an inch of its life! I’m not a fish person mind you so I am clearly not selling it very well, that aside, these times were so special, we were always so happy to see Elsie and Albie, they were the funniest people ever and visits were always filled with laughter and so much love.

Elsie and Albie are no longer with us sadly, but I can still taste that amazing coconut cake and every Christmas I make up a little food hamper for my Mum, always ensuring I include a slab of best butter and of course some tinned salmon.

Nice bit of salmon that.

 

Finding the light…..

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It has been a challenging week I must confess, Hospital visits, a funeral of a much loved Aunt. Another one next week, At times like these it can be difficult to see the light.

And yet I can and I do.

I am grateful beyond measure, that My Mums hospital appointment went well, infact we spent a wonderful day together and went home Thanking God for the amazing Doctors and Nurses who are repairing her vision. My Aunts funeral, was of course sad, but Beautiful, as funerals do, they remind us that life is short and should be lived to our full potential.

I have however felt as though, at the moment there is a fragility around me, I have had a few ‘what’s next?’ moments, as though I am almost waiting for’the other shoe to drop’ I am busy, very busy, my head is like an attic full of Starlings, thoughts are flitting back and forth.Time out is needed, I am aware of this.

And then, this morning we awoke to a blanket of the whitest sparkling snow! a huge blank canvas,The analogy was not lost on me, a clean page can always be found,whilst I am not a fan of the white stuff, it has ensured that I spend the day at home. Home made soup is simmering away, Bench tops wiped down with lavender, and Rosemary is in the oil diffuser , candles are dotted around the kitchen and I am listening to Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘On the Sunny side of the street’ My Dads favourite song. I have made a pot of tea for Lucy and I, we will drink from china cups and snuggle with the puppies. I will read my beloved Simple Abundance and drink in the magical words of Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is my bliss.

Sometimes, the best thing to do in life, is to quieten your soul by living slowly, be gentle with ourselves and let matters evolve, as they always do, This too shall pass.

‘No Winter ever lasts forever….No Spring ever skips its turn’ ~ Hal Borland.

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Sharing and caring….

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I love an inspirational quote or two and fortunately we can find them in abundance on social networking platforms now, as well as a few not so inspirational thoughts! The above meme appeared on my Facebook timeline this morning and really resonated with me, for I have noticed lately, the trend to make fun of people who share various things, for whatever reason, on their timeline, I feel a wee bit sad about that, you can after all just choose to scroll on if you aren’t interested!

So for the record here is my own personal take on the whole debacle.

To the Grandparents, sharing pictures of your beautiful little ones, I love that you are sharing your precious moments with me! Your love and pride shine out like a beacon, more please!

To the young people starting out in life who are embracing a healthy lifestyle, I applaud you! I scroll through Instagram daily looking at pics of your delicious food and am often inspired to make some.

To the young girls posting ‘selfies’ I think its great that you are embracing your beauty and are confident in showing it, I was forty before I was able to half like what I saw in the mirror!

To the pet lovers who post pictures of your fur babies, I love that you care for your pet so much, and to those who hate the term ‘fur babies’ lighten up, its not a crime surely.

To the folk posting pics of their Christmas decorations from November onward, its great that you feel so festive! I mean it takes so long to get the Bugger up I feel the finished effort deserves to be photographed!

So lets all be a bit more tolerant, social networking can be a lifeline to some people, you may be the only people someone can share snippets of their day with.

As my Dear Dad used to say ‘Its nice to be nice’

 

 

 

 

A very Vintage Christmas.

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It is my friends…. almost that time of year. Admittedly it seems to get thrust upon us even earlier each year, I hardly got my sparkly flip flops packed away this year, before the supermarkets were setting up their Christmas aisles! Fortunately for me, I am untouched by the abject overload of consumerism, I can sail past row upon row of color coordinated decorations, the endless barrage of festive chocolate greeting me wherever I look, I am totally unimpressed by the weirdness of such things as ‘Brussels sprout’ flavoured crisps. Its all a little bit mad…dont you think?

Being a ‘Vintage girl’ I have always favoured a traditional Christmas, I dont really see the need to spend a small fortune, or work yourself into a frenzy to make the day ‘perfect’ it will be perfect, if everyone relaxes, and just enjoys the day.

When my Girls were small, I can remember having sofas full of gifts… and a near empty bank account! But Oh for the look on their little faces when they came downstairs and saw that ‘HE’S BEEN!!!!!!’ Priceless. However, ask them six months later what they got and all you would get was a blank stare,They would remember, Grandad wearing a paper crown that was too small for his head, the silly jokes in the crackers, the delicious Christmas Dinner and the never ending game of Monopoly in the Evening. Lesson learned!(eventually)

My Girls are all grown up now, Christmas Eve cocoa and Biscuits are likely to be replaced by a glass of bubbly and nibbles, we will congregate in the kitchen, accompanied by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald belting out festive tunes, Vintage pinnies on and happily prepping the food for our special day,before settling down to watch a Christmas movie, fairy lights twinkling on a Tree that smells rather deliciously like a pine forest, no colour coordination here, but vintage baubles and toys, collected over the years, the gifts under the tree are fewer, but more meaningful.

Christmas day is quite a lazy affair, Only one Grandparent left now, My Mum is spoiled rotten for the day, as she should be. Christmas Dinner, as usual will be too much, we will retire groaning to the sitting room, paper crowns in place, Grandma may have a little nap and miss The Queens speech.

Later, we will sit in our PJs drinking wine and snuggling the dogs, I will as usual notice that the tinsel is hanging off one side of the tree, the ancient fairy on the top looks decidedly tipsy, infact….are the branches starting to droop? how soon can you take your tree down? The family will laugh at me and say ‘NOOOOOOO!!! leave it up a bit longer!’

This then, is Christmas……

That Fairy needs to get her act together!

 

The gentle rattle of tea cups….

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Often I awake at silly O clock, for no reason really, I’ve given this annoying habit a varying degree of thought, I am not stressed/anxious/hormonally challenged, whatever, yet every now and then, my internal alarm clock wakes me up, rather abruptly at around three AM.

I have indeed employed various tactics to get back to slumber-land, I have listened to numerous ‘relaxing downloads’ read, surely a hundred books,until finally I realized,that every download or guided meditation, no matter how perfectly assembled,could never provide the soundtrack that my own subconscious library already had on file.

The mind is such an incredible piece of equipment, almost like a computer, we have many files, some open, some sleeping, others closed and deleted, but with the touch of a button each file is accessible. For me, in those early hours, my mind sleepy and comfortably numb, it is the perfect time to open and revisit those files, this then includes revisiting the memories, the moments when life was, well simply perfect,although we may not have known this at the time I am not talking about major events here, no weddings, births or major love affairs, but moments, tiny little shards of magic, that no matter how seemingly small, trigger a feeling, a recognition, a familiarity, which when tapped into many years later, flood our very being with such nostalgia, thus becoming a healing balm and an almost unbearable lust to revisit.

I close my eyes and I hear the sound of the gentle rattle of tea cups, Sunday best china, cups and saucers, tinned salmon sandwiches, coconut cake,peaches,The Beatles singing ‘A hard days night’my Mother dancing , the sun bleaching through the Apple trees in the back garden, sewing machine humming on the dining table, home made dresses, spinning around on the perfectly manicured lawn and feeling dizzy, crimson coloured peonies , swinging on the gate looking for Grandma, Grandma! Love weeping from every pore in her body! learning to knit, her soothing patience second to none,her special Lavender oil on my ‘heat spots’ (what were they really?) laughter! arms wrapped around me, stories about Nuns,feeling safe, cocooned …….sleep.

Morning arrives, softly, gently,peacefully I awake, starting my day with gratitude, my own little family still sleeping, I tiptoe downstairs, Puppies to feed,Blinds are opened, Almost on autopilot I turn the Kettle on and reach for the Tea pot cheerily adorned with an abundance of roses, not for me the fashionable slogan adorned mugs, I start my day as always……..

with the gentle rattle of Tea cups.

 

Hibernation…..

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As October approaches, I find myself on familiar turf, wanting to do everything and nothing all at once, A hundred plans dance in my dizzy head, yet a certain lethargy envelopes me daily. I make lists of epic proportions and methodically tick off completed tasks, the days are going by quickly, Evenings are relentless, I long for bedtime, I sleep like a dead person.

I need to hibernate.

In Simple Abundance  My beloved Sarah Ban Breathnach, as usual is uncanny in her accuracy of this time of year, She starts the chapter with a quote from Edna St Vincent Millay.

My Candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night…..

She goes on to address the subject at hand, namely; Burnout.

Its burnout when you go to bed exhausted every night and wake up tired every Morning….when no amount of sleep refreshes you, month after weary month’

Oh Sarah, how right you are! ( For those of you who dont know, this Book is my Bible!)

As a Therapist I am all to familiar with the theme of burnout, amongst Women and Men! we just keep on pushing and pushing ourselves, I give great advice on self care, indeed I have wrote quite passionately about the subject, have dished out many handouts and tips on looking after number one. However, do any of us actually do it and maintain it?

The bottom line is this; only we can do it, by saying No sometimes, by catching up on sleep, not missing meals, it is really the basics we need to attend to first, ditch the guilt, you do not have to attend the office night out if it feels like a chore, you do not have to watch the X Factor with the family on a Saturday night if you would rather be in bed with a good book.Leave the dishes for tomorrow, Is it really that imperative that every area of our lives is fit for Instagram?

No of course not.

The last paragraph in the October first Chapter of Simple Abundance says it all

When you are suffering from burnout, you are the only person on earth who can help, because you are the only one who can make the lifestyle changes that need to be made; to call a halt, to take a slower path, to make a detour. When you have no strength left, you have no choice left but to rely on the strength of a saner power to restore you to wholeness. In the pursuit of our Souls, Spirit takes no prisoners.’

Fat bottomed girls…….

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It is fair to comment that I have spent much of my life endeavoring to have a smaller bottom, Many, many years spent in ghastly aerobic classes with Women of a similar mindset, all of us lamenting the unfortunate size of our posterior. An absolute lifetime of eating lettuce in order to avoid any weight gain at all in the aforementioned area, not too mention slathering all kinds of bum firming lotions on my (if I say so myself) pert little cheeks. And here I am, at the age I am, with an OK bottom, it is average, provides sufficient padding to sit on and all is right in my world.

Or is it?

It appears that these days (God how old do I sound?) not only is big better, but the height of fashion, I am absolutely fascinated/horrified by this latest trend! we are not merely celebrating the curvy female, but young women are actually undergoing surgery to have BUTT IMPLANTS!!!!

WHAT!!!!! Are you mad!!! Women are paying vast amounts of money to look like a cartoon character! It looks ridiculous! what with the humongous Boobies, trout pout and gigantic bottoms, nobody looks real! Yep! I am old fashioned, but I look at these young women and they all look the same! whatever happened to originality? what happens when you want the implants out? you are going to have to carry your Arse around in a shopping trolley!

On a serious note, it concerns me that we have a generation of young people who think that happiness can be found via the surgeons knife, that in order to be acceptable in society, they have to have an instagram ready body, I am all for self improvement, I have always been a tad vain, but yes, healthy eating, buying the next magical anti ageing product and doing a little exercise is fairly acceptable in my book, but lets all celebrate our different bodies, we are all unique, real beauty is not silicone based, it is a blinding smile, the glint in the eyes, the whisper of kindness and a hint of the light within.

Embrace your loveliness girls, whatever the size of your Bottom!