Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Workmen


 

There are men in our house.

We’re having a new central heating boiler fitted.  Changing from oil to electricity feels like the right thing to do - for us and our planet - so, the oil tank has gone from the garden and now the boiler is being replaced.   

But that means there are men in the house. There’s one in the loft, sorting the wiring, one outside filling a hole in the wall where the old flue has been taken out, another with his head in the cupboard under the sink, talking about water pressure.

Philip and I sit opposite each other at the kitchen table, wrapped up against the cold. I’m wearing my biggest jumper, a scarf, fingerless gloves, he’s in more layers than a man from the north should ever respectably wear.

He’s working, managing to concentrate through the noise of drills and hammers, the sounds of strange men talking above our heads, the blasts of cold air from doors left open.

The old boiler was here a very long time – it’s seen several families come and go. It made everyone feel welcome and kept them all warm. It didn’t stop because there were strange men in the house.

But me? I can’t settle to anything.

Monday, 6 July 2020

I should have been....

At the start of the year I wrote a list, not of New Year's resolutions, but of the 60 things I'd like to do in 2020 - the year I became 60. Though I knew at the time I might not achieve them all, I didn't quite envisage the struggle I'd have to make even the first ten.

On 23rd March, with the Corona Virus spreading, the Prime Minister announced that the country would go into lockdown. The next day, my 60th birthday, I stayed at home. 

I didn't run the London Marathon, I didn't go to see Paul Heaton at the Palladium or on a wine-tasting tour of the local vineyard. In May I should have been in Wales with Philip, in June I should have been watching my son running across the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Though technology helped me to see my children and grandchildren on their birthdays we all missed out on hugs and birthday teas. 

And so it went on.

In April, my eldest daughter Claire had her fortieth birthday, and last week, in what might well have been the highlight of my year, we should have gone together to watch the tennis at Wimbledon. 

Instead, I've been watching old matches on the BBC. I've revisited the mighty battles between Federer and Nadal, seen Murray finally beat Djokovic. I've laughed at how hairstyles and tennis kits have changed, and cringed at the old commentaries that insisted on using women's married titles, yet referred to them as girls. I've witnessed the introduction of tie-breaks and yellow tennis balls, and listened to the change in volume as the crowd moved from polite applause to raucous cheering. Seeing these matches has brought back memories of a whole lifetime, of rushing home from school, then work, for two weeks every summer, to sit in front of the TV to watch Wimbledon.

Today, the featured match was the men's final of 1980, Bjorn Borg against John McEnroe, one of the greatest finals ever played. Watching it though, I found I couldn't remember it at all; not the amazing shots, or the rallies that turned the match first one way and then another. I couldn't recall the fourth set tie-break, or the final outcome.

Forty years ago, as that final played itself out on the grass courts at Wimbledon, I was twenty and my beautiful Claire was just six weeks old. As the match wound its way through all five sets, I would have been holding her, or feeding her, or willing her to sleep. As Borg and McEnroe showed off their skills as tennis players, I was only beginning to learn what it meant to be a mother. 

Today, I can hardly believe how quickly forty years have passed. While the world has been changing, I've seen Claire grow from a funny, chatty, clever little girl to a strong and caring woman. If things had been different, we might  have been sitting together at Wimbledon last week, but I don't need to feel sad about that. It turns out that what I should have been, is exactly what I am, her very proud Mum.


Monday, 29 June 2020

What is it you see first?

 

What is it you see first?

            Is it the worst, the mindless, thoughtless deed,

            the violence, the selfish greed,

            the cutting word, the slur you heard

            the disregard for you, your creed?


Or is there something else you see?

            A vision of humanity,

            where each and every one has worth, 

                regardless of their place of birth,

            where what we say, and what we do, 

                is measured by a different view,

that sees the good and shouts it loud

and spots the kindness in the crowd

and looks to soothe another’s pain.

And tries its best.

Again, again.

 


Friday, 31 January 2020

Leaving...

In 2011, we left Shoreham. 

We didn't know for sure if we were doing the right thing, but we'd thought about it long and hard and it seemed the best option; a way to secure our future, a chance to buy a house of our own, an opportunity to feel more independent. 

We'd chosen carefully, but there was no way to know how things would be once we'd actually left. 

We didn't go far; everything that Shoreham had to offer was still in touching distance. We could visit whenever we wanted to, and we did, but it never felt quite the same. It was no longer our village, we were no longer part of it.

We'd left Shoreham, but the village never quite left us. 

A few years later, we had the chance to return, our former neighbours hadn't forgotten us, they hadn't taken offence that we'd chosen to go away. They welcomed us back with open arms - they knew this was our home, just as much as we knew it ourselves.

And today, on a day when I feel so desperately sad that we are leaving the European Union, my wish for all of us, is that one day, in the not too distant future, we'll have another chance to return.



Monday, 6 February 2017

The Bee



Philip found a bee today. It was in a bucket of water at the allotment. He didn’t know where it had come from, or what had caused it to end up in the water, but it was in a sorry state and thoroughly soaked through, so he decided to see if he could save it. 

He fixed up a temporary cover to protect it from any passing birds who might have wished for a different outcome, then he rushed home to make sugar syrup. Returning back to the allotment, he went about his tasks, leaving the bee safely on a bench, with a teaspoon of sugar syrup close by. 

As the weak February sun started to warm it through, Philip kept going back to check that all was ok, and every now and then he blew gently on the bee to speed the drying process. 

He watched and cared, doing as little, but as much, as was needed to give it back strength, until it stirred, then buzzed, then finally flew away. 

No money changed hands. Philip didn’t worry whether the bee would repay him or abuse his kindness with a sting. He just did what he needed to do. 

A good man did what he thought was right, and only good things happened.


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Just like Beatrix Potter


We leave the house and turn together to walk up Crown Road. The forecast warns of rain and another drop in temperature this afternoon, but for now the sun is bright with just enough warmth to melt the frost and warm our backs.

'Up and along?' one of us says, knowing the other will understand, and we do, crossing the High Street to take the Millenium footpath up to the woods. Halfway up we clamber over a stile that seems to grow in height each time we cross it, as the earth around it gradually wears away. 

 'Or how about along then up? We'll be able to stay in the sunshine a little bit longer.'

It's a less-used route, at least by humans, but tractor tyres have flattened a pathway and either side the telltale signs of recently dug holes and small round droppings tell us there were rabbits here not long ago.

'They'll be in their burrows now, sitting by the fire with a nice cup of tea and a slice of bramble pie, wondering what those thundering footsteps are doing overhead' I suggest.

I've never quite moved on from believing that the world under our feet is just as Beatrix Potter might have painted it.

'Along then up' turns out to be a much steeper route, so we pause frequently, each time turning to look back at the valley behind us, never failing to absorb its simple beauty. At the top of the hill we turn into the woods. Dry fallen leaves cover the path. Thick under foot, their crunch is a delightful reminder of all our childhoods.This is what we've come for. We scuff and trample, shattering leaves into clouds of dust that will filter down into the soil and feed the trees that dropped them.

I'm the first to spot the chestnuts shining between the leaves. We're never usually in time to see any more than the prickly open cases, their soft white insides turning slowly brown, but today it seems we've got to them before the squirrels. Perhaps the wind last night has shaken down a new crop, or maybe, just like the rabbits, the squirrels are sitting cosy by their firesides, their cupboards already stocked for winter. Either way the chestnuts are there for the picking. We shuffle through the leaves, spotting more and more until our pockets are full, our legs misshapen and lumpy.

As we turn for home, I start humming a Christmas song, imagining chestnuts roasting on the open fire we'll light a little later. Philip is already musing about collecting sprouts from the allotment to cook with them. 

Halfway down the hill I stop and look again at our street, nestled in the valley below. I know I'll never tire of the sight. And as we get nearer to our own burrow, I can't help thinking that down there too is just as Beatrix Potter might have painted it.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

27th February

27th February 2015. A Friday, which automatically makes it better than the preceding four days. One day before the end of the month, four days after pay day, not quite winter, not quite spring. A something and nothing sort of date. 

When I was young, there were only a handful of special days each year; Christmas and my birthday stood proud at the top of the list, with the months in between punctuated by other family birthdays. Holidays were special, but never on the same days and never certain. Bonfire night had its own rhyme to help us - remember, remember the 5th of November, but the dates for Easter, and for Mothers' day and Fathers' day danced around each year, so you could never be sure when they'd fall. 

As I got older, friends' birthdays were circled on the calendar and each time I started a new relationship, the date became significant for a while. Eventually there was a wedding date and then each year its anniversary, a husband's birthday, then all his family's, and in no time at all, four special days for the children. 

As they grew up, it seemed like the calendar was always full; birthday parties, dancing lessons, football matches, school terms starting and ending. Then when I met Philip there came a whole new set of dates to remember, a walk in the snow, a wedding in the sun, the day we came to Shoreham and the day we left. The day, just eight weeks ago, that we came back again.

As our lives have unfolded, the dates have kept coming, people have got older, grandchildren have arrived, but amongst all those dates, all those circles on the calendar, the reminders, the anniversaries, the significant events, February 27th has never been a special day. 

Until yesterday. 


Annie Elizabeth Longworth. A daughter for my handsome son Ged and his lovely partner Natalie, a baby sister to Oliver, a new granddaughter for me. February 27th will never be a something and nothing date again.