Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year.

The party's over!
Not just Christmas, but a three-day event to mark a milestone for me - an 80th birthday. To have a separate birthday celebration is a wonderful thing. Those born just before or just after or even exactly at Christmas will know what I mean - the combined Christmas and birthday presents, the excuses of the shops being too full or empty or closed. Galling for a child, understandable (of course) to an adult, but how lovely to have a special day for oneself. Even tougher for me as a child because no less than four generations in my family shared the same birthday, Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Uncle and me. Whatever was going on nine months earlier in this family?

Both my sons were born in January, both in the midst of severe and prolonged snow storms, so we tried to ensure that they had mid-summer celebrations with half a birthday cake each.The midsummer celebration was reintroduced this year by my elder son, and may be continued in 2020. However, the  January birthdays remain an excellent example of family planning as the things they had hoped for at Christmas were so often half-price in the January sales.

I had a very happy gathering of friends and family for my 70th birthday, which seems only a couple of years ago. The one thing I never appreciated until now is that how ever crumbling the external body appears the inner person remains at an optimum age. My optimum age is 28 and I'm still there inside, even when I struggle to get out of a chair or fall over in the garden.

My grandchildren know my true inner age and give me huge encouragement in being silly, making up ridiculous songs and poems, telling nonsensicle stories and generally acting as if I'm closer to their age than my own. This birthday was with family, coming from far and wide, including a soon-to-be born grandchild  whose rest was disturbed quite a bit by cousins wanting to feel a kick and to invite him/her to come out soon. In beautiful weather we all went up on the hills here, and I haven't done that for a long time. Back at home I did no washing up at all  Three-year old Grandson entertained us (and probably a few neighbours) on his drum kit (thanks to Uncle) and some of us might have snoozed slightly in front of a log fire.

Now they are all back in their own places, or almost so for the long-distance ones, and the year slides into a misty end and into a future that is likely to be as messy as my kitchen.

Muddles can be cleaned, confusions can be clarified. For all of us apparently small things, encouragement to get up the hill and a hand wielding a tea-towel can mean a very great deal.

 Happy  New Year to all with the real hope for peace and goodwill.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Pirates in the Kitchen (also Mermaids).

(A bedtime story for grandchildren who are now three, about to be seven, and  getting ready to be born next year.)

Far away where the mermaids sing the pirates sailed their raft. It was made of clear glass, and it was round.
The pirates, three of them, shouted a lot and waved their weapons about and pushed each other and nearly fell off their little glass raft. They made a great deal of noise and fuss.
And deeper under the raft the mermaids saw an awful lot of agitation and heaving about and wafted themselves over to see what was happening. Mermaids swim slowly, wafting their tails up and down. They are not built for speed, like a shark, and they usually carry their hairdressing stuff and a small mirror so that they can be sure they are looking lovely all the time.  

When they (there were seven of them) got near to the churning whiteness and heard all the shouting  they said, 'Oh dear. Pirates again!' and they flopped themselves up on to the glass raft. They took out their combs and brushes and little mirrors from their vanity cases and sat there, combing their hair.

The pirates were shocked into silence, mostly because their raft was tilting heavily to one side, with all the mermaids sitting there.
Ivo, the pirate with the silver sword  cleared his throat.
"Ahem, ladies," he said. "Would you mind spreading out a bit? You're making our raft tilt, and we don't want to fall off ."
"Can't you swim?" said one mermaid. She had long fair hair, just as mermaids should.
"That's not important," Ivo said, and all the mermaids laughed. All seven of them.
"Not important?" said the  blonde mermaid. "Not important?  Not important? Are you mad? Fooling about on a little glass raft, pushing each other, shouting and fighting - and you can't swim?"
And all the mermaids combed their hair and tossed it about and laughed and laughed.

Now there's something that pirates really don't like, and that is being laughed at. Mermaids don't like it either. Well, no one does really.
"Swimming is not important," said Ivo. "What is important is not falling off the raft, because if you fall off....."
But he didn't have the chance to finish, because all the mermaids hooted with laughter and shouted, "You'll drown, you'll drown! The fish will eat you!"
"How can you drown on the kitchen work-top?" said Ivo, and this time all the pirates hooted and laughed. Peg-Leg the politically incorrect pirate laughed so much he lost his balance, fell off the raft and slid down the back of the storage jar on the kitchen work-top.
The mermaids.put down their combs and mirrors and looked around.
"Oh!" they said, all of them. "Oh, oh and oh! We didn't see this one coming!"
"It's ok" shouted Peg-Leg from behind the storage jar. "We're all going to a birthday tea. Two birthday teas actually. One for pirates, one for mermaids. It'll be fine."

Just then Granny came into the kitchen. "I'm sure I had three pirates for the top of the cake", she said. "Who's messing about now?"

And early next year there will be another birthday, a day of birth, and the eaters of this year's birthday cakes will have a new little cousin to join the celebrations, someone to teach about dinosaurs and stars and beetles, never mind pirates and mermaids.
Such a lot to look forward to, for all of us.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Letter to a Grandson

Dear Grandson,
You last appeared in this blog sitting in your high chair, waving a piece of asparagus around before eating it. You're still likely to be doing that, because the exploration of food in all its forms is one of your favourite activities. But you've done so many other things, of course, during the past two years. The rate at which you're racing along you'll soon be able to read this for yourself, so here's something for you. 
We had breakfast together yesterday, while your parents and big sister caught up on some sleep. You gave me your suggestions, "Hoops and milk, and strawberries? Yes, strawberries. On the Peter Rabbit plate. Yes. And milk in my cup. Yes?"
I said, "I haven't got Hoops. I've got other cereals, look".
You looked in the cupboard and said, "That one, and that one - oh, and that one".
"Choose just one", I said, so you chose with an air of disappointment, and scooted across to the fridge.
"Cheese!" you said, opening it. "Just a small snack. Cheese!"
We settled on cereal, strawberries, milk in a cup, with toast and marmalade for me.
"Granny, the same as Paddington Bear!" you said, while slurping cereal. "Ha, ha, ha. That's funny!"

Things are indeed funny, and often cause robust, hooting mirth. You throw back your head and roar, ROAR with laughter. My ears ring with it. While we eat we attempt to watch the infant sparrows being fed by their parents on the bird table. When you see them land you shout, "BIRDS - out there!" and laugh as they take off. The infant sparrows have a meagre breakfast.

Other members of the family appear, and you shout to tell them what you're eating, what you might eat next, what you might do next. When you've finished the second and third courses of your breakfast you climb on your stool next to the sink for me to  more-or-less hose you down. I wash your tummy and your back for good measure. This is hilarious and you nearly fall off the stool. This is so funny, so uproariously funny that you can hardly stay upright.

You go off into another room, where the toys your sister played houses and families with are now marshalled into an army. The little people and even the dogs ride motor-bikes with enormously vocal engines. They are packed into the cars and boats that your sister used to take them for holidays, but now they are roaring around the floor, colliding and tipping.
Your sister joins you and makes a pet show on the roof of one of the houses, carefully arranging animals in size order. But the army helicopter takes off, one low swerve sending the animals spinning away. There are screams and tears and adult intervention.

Recently there was a dispute about whose Granny I am. You shouted, "MY Granny", and she said, "Actually, she's my Granny first because I was born first." "I'M first!" you said, and the argument went on for some time until I intervened and eventually we all went out into the garden.
Your relationship with your sister is wonderful for you both, although it may not always seem that way to you.  She encourages you in the sort of behaviour she finds hilarious, she teaches you so much, she occasionally puts boundaries in place for you, and of course, there are real disputes at times. You always want to know where she is, what she's doing, and are concerned if she's not available. It's mutual. You teach her how to share, how to understand differences, how to make allowances, how to weather the storms.

Luckily you love books and music almost as much as you love food. You can curl up with a good book by yourself, and you love to be read to, knowing many of your favourite books and joining in the key phrases. You know how to relax, and you love a dose of comfort. You spread yourself across my big bed, sinking into a pile of pillows, hands behind your head, legs crossed at the ankles. "Aaaah, comfy." you say. 
Your whole family does yoga.

So here you are in my garden, on top of Flower Mountain. Flowers are not really your sort of thing unless they have big fat bumble bees in them. Another bit of the garden that you call 'The Jungle' is your sort of place. It has been made like a jungle specially for you and your sister. There are tall bamboos and tropical looking plants and a tractor tyre which was going to be a sandpit, but you have decided it's a boat. Yesterday you rowed the boat in the jungle and told me you found monkeys and parrots and elephants and tigers. 

What a great world you inhabit, Small Grandson.
Enjoy it all,
With love from your AND your sister's Granny.