Sunday, 4 September 2011

I'm blaming it on the card.

This weekend has been a strange one for me. It started on Saturday in a card shop in my local town. I’ve known for ages that I needed to get my friend a birthday card but it was only when my mum walked past the display of open female cards and stopped at the adult age cards that I remembered I had to get  a 40th birthday card. 40?! How did that happen?

 I can still remember the day I met this friend. (I’ll call her Helen to save her blushes.)We were five and her family moved into our street. It was a lovely warm summer’s day and I’d been playing quite happily in my garden with my doll and pushchair when my mother came and told me that Helen and her older sister had come to play and that was that, we remained friends from that day on.

Getting back to the point, it was only as I looked for a card that I realised that Helen is the first of our school year to turn forty and sooner than I feel comfortable with it will be my turn. Now, I know it’s only a number and I won’t be any different than I was the day before but the thought made me slightly hysterical.

I pushed the hysteria to the back of my mind when I got home as the usual humdrum of home occupied my mind. It was only this morning after tweeting about my lovely neighbours sharing their home-grown fruit and veg with us that the hysteria raised its head again. Instead of taking their gesture at face value as I would normally have I began to wonder what their motives were. Did they think I didn’t already provide my children with wholesome meals? I even joked about them wanting the peace that mealtimes bring to the house-with three boys in the house it does get very noisy.

I’m not normally prone to bouts of hysteria (quite the opposite in fact, I’ve been told I don’t worry enough but that’s another story.) I have no idea how to quell the hysteria so I did what any girl does in a crisis. I went to see my mum. She showed me the half decorated bedroom my dad has been working on all week, told me news from the rest of the family and gave me scones with extra jam on them. I told her about how buying Helens card made me feel and her answer? “If you think that’s bad, wait ‘til you get to sixty five and you still feel like a twenty year old ‘til you look in the mirror. That’s hysteria!” She gave me hug and we both laughed.

I’ve decided to get over myself, tootle along and hope for the best.

At least if you notice any bizarre tweets in the next few weeks, you’ll know why. Thank you for reading what I imagine look like the ramblings of someone deranged.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Diy with a hint of romance.

Sunday morning in a DIY store brings the kind of misery I usually go out of my way to avoid but this morning it was unavoidable. I did the unthinkable thing of not buying enough paint for my middle son’s bedroom. He's been camped out in my eldest son’s room for a few days but I can see the cracks in their camaraderie beginning to appear.
We had the option of visiting one of two DIY shops, both approximately fifteen miles from home. We made our choice and set off only to discover when we got there that the shade we needed was…you’ve guessed, out of stock.
Back in the car we got, both moaning about it being just our luck to choose the wrong store out of the two. If I wasn’t so desperate to finish today and get our son back in his own room I would have left it until tomorrow but as it stood we made the decision to travel the fifteen miles back the way we came and the further fifteen miles out in the other direction to the next store.
Hurrah! They had the shade we needed in stock. Then came the familiar phrase “I just want to look at something while I’m here.” Oh how I hate that phrase. It means another half an hour of standing in front of row upon row of tools that will in all probability never get used but “might come in handy one day.” We have a shed full of things that might come in handy one day. Eventually we paid for the paint and his ‘useful’ things and got back in the car. We pulled out of the car park and into another car park just down the road. Another of my Sunday woes- the supermarket. “I just want to pick up a film, I won’t be long.” He assured me.
I could have sat in the car like a petulant child but hoping my sighing would speed him up I followed him in and perused the book isle while he looked for his film. My mobile rang while I was reading the blurb on the latest Lee Child novel so I gestured to my husband that I was going outside to talk to my friend. I put the book back on the shelf and went outside regaling about what a horrible morning it had turned out to be. I had been hoping to finish the painting early and spend the rest of the afternoon writing while our youngest son was playing at a friend’s.
Much to my surprise my husband joined me only five minutes later, bag in hand and smiling like the village idiot. I didn’t smile back; it would have wasted precious seconds when we could have been on our way to the car. He carried on smiling for most of the journey home making me want to do something to change his expression. I really was that fed up!
He waited until we were safely back in the house before he gave me the bag. Inside was a book. For me. And it was the one I'd been holding in the supermarket when I’d spoken to him. It doesn’t sound like much but if you knew him you’d realise that it was. He'd remembered the cover of the book and gone in search of it after he'd found his film. As far as romatic gestures go it was a good one. I've never gone in for the flowers and chocolates thing.
It's now four o'clock, the sixty mile round trip has been long forgotten, the paint has been applied, dinner is in the oven and I’m about to spend a couple of hours with Jack Reacher. The writing will get done post bedtime, as is usual. It would be bad mannered not to read the book now, dont you think?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Meet The Lancasters...

I would like you to meet The Lancasters. From left to right: Agnes born 10th March 1886, Cyril born 16th November 1897, Jack born 13th January 1894 and Dorothy born 22nd March 1891.

They were the four surviving children of the eight born to Stephen and Maria Lancaster.
Dorothy was my great grandmother and this weekend I had my first introduction. It came as part of the painful task of emptying sixty years worth of my grandparent’s belongings from their home. My grandfather died in 1987 when I was only fifteen and as a result of him working in London most of the week I never really got to know him. My grandmother passed away two years ago aged 86.
I thought I knew her well, having seen her virtually every day of my life but I was wrong. Despite her friendly, wise exterior she was a lady hiding from her past. From what, I'm not yet sure of. I really hope it wasn't anything too sinister. The people in the photos weren’t her family, they were my grandfathers. There are no photographs of my grandmother before she married my grandfather, neither were there any of her family.

There were hundreds of photographs of the Lancaster’s hidden away in boxes. They looked to be a fairly close family. Not particularly wealthy but happy none the less. 

While looking at the photos, one thing struck me, just how different my own family are. Whilst looking at the next particular photograph, myself and my mother were commenting on the family likeness of some more recent generations whereas my aunt, known for her foot in mouth approach said “Wouldn’t you’ve thought they’d have shifted the muck from the lane?”

There are also letters, cards, family Bibles and other documents relating to this part of my family and I look forward to getting to know them better.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The bigger the mirror...

Twenty five years ago today my family should have been celebrating my brother’s eighteenth birthday with a party. Instead, just as we did twenty five years ago we will make the mile and a half trip to our local churchyard, lay flowers and tell stories of happier times. I have learned to accept that I wasn’t to blame for his death after years of holding myself responsible.

His name was Jason Stephen Spooner and on the evening of 30th May 1986 we had our last argument, about hair of all things. Our mother had an old dressing table which housed a long mirror. I had taken the mirror off the dressing table and leant it against my bedroom door to blow dry my hair. Being the youngest child, I was given the smallest bedroom and the rear of the door was the only place it had room to stand.

Jason was meeting friends and asked me to do something with his hair, of which he had a lot. I refused, telling him that brothers do not ask their sisters to style their hair! It was just way too weird. He called me something ridiculous at which I wasn’t offended because that’s just what we did. We didn’t mean anything by it really.

I finished drying my hair and could hear him still banging around in his bedroom so feeling guilty I shouted to him that if he waited a few minutes I’d help him with his hair. He, not hearing what I’d said pushed open my bedroom door and with it our mother’s full length mirror. It shattered showering the room with tiny crystals. I didn’t know it then but that was to be the beginning of something much bigger.

As is common with many siblings we lived by the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ theory. He went and collected the dustpan and brush from the kitchen and I stood guard on the landing in case one of our parents queried the noise. The mess was cleaned up; we said our goodbyes, left the house and went our separate ways.

About an hour later while I was sitting with friends at a local hangout a group of boys of which one was Jason went past and we exchanged knowing grins at what we had got away with at home, undetected. That was the last time I looked into my brothers eyes.

Later that evening after I had returned home I sat watching my mother busying herself in the kitchen. There was a knock at the door which was so loud and full of urgency that we both instantly panicked. I knew what it meant. The police car raced my parents to our local hospital leaving me in the care of a neighbour.

All I could think about was the full length mirror. Broken mirrors meant bad luck. Was there anything that said the bigger the mirror, the worse the luck was? If that was the case, it had been a pretty big mirror we’d broken. Then, I couldn’t answer another question, which of us had broken the mirror? Was it my fault for calling him and making him open the door or was it his own fault for unknowingly breaking it when he opened the door. Either way it changed everything for both of us. He lost his life and I lost something I didn’t even know I had, a fantastic friend and role model.

He clung onto life until early morning on 1st June 1986.

I miss him more this year than any other since his death. I miss the life we never lived, where he found a wife, had children of his own. The weekends we should have spent having family barbeques, our children’s birthday parties, Christmases. They say time heals but I feel it only gets worse. I grieve for each chapter our lives have never opened.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Surprise!-or not?

Tonight I'm attending a surprise 50th birthday party for a friend of my husband. I’m cringing for the friend at the thought of it and hoping he is the kind of man who will take it all in his stride.

I have been thinking about the whole surprise theme and can’t help wondering if surprise parties are ever really a surprise to the star of the show?

I was victim, sorry but that's how it felt, of a surprise party on my eighteenth birthday. I didn’t like it for two reasons. Firstly, when you are born on a day that is mainly associated with witches, black magic and all things spooky, the last thing you want to do is broadcast it. I spent my childhood being teased about my witchery ways. I now realize it was mostly meant in jest but at that age I took it a bit too personally.

The other reason I didn’t enjoy the surprise was that I knew it was coming and not wanting to upset those who’d arranged it, I went along with it. The behaviour of those around me in the weeks leading up to my birthday became subtly odd. Lots of little things that happened, snippets of conversations overheard, all led me to my discovery. That moment when I walked into the building knowing that all those sets of eyes would be cast in my direction made me feel faint and sick. If there hadn’t been someone behind me blocking my escape route I would have undoubtedly turned and ran! I am not the kind of person who relishes the limelight and was disappointed that those around me chose to ignore this fact. After my initial embarrassment, I circled the room chatting to friends I hadn’t seen for a while.

I have never understood why the people closest to me had decided that I would enjoy being starlet for the evening. Didn’t they know me at all, or did they think that I was just pretending to be shy?

The star of tonight’s party doesn’t strike me as the outgoing, life and sole of the party type either, and if he were, surely he would have mentioned that he wanted to celebrate his half century in this very public manner.

While others in the room get ready to shout ‘SURPRISE!’ I will be looking for the tell tale signs of someone going along with the pretence.

Have you ever been gifted a surprise party, if so, did you guess it was coming?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Day One, what can I say?

Well, here goes. Day one on my journey.

I have nothing important to say but I thought it was about time I practised what I've been preaching to friends for the last few years. Each time someone tells me they can't think clearly or they have loads on their mind or they lie awake at night just thinking, I tell them to write it all down.It seems to be my answer to everything.

As the number of bodies in my house has increased, so too has the amount of laundry, toys, football paraphernalia (blog title refers to football boot studs not the fantasy kind!)and most importantly the noise level. They may be only three young men and one grumpyish, oldish man but they make the noise of an army mid-battle.

I find it difficult to tune out from their running commentary on who's done what to whom and why it's never their fault that another wrestling figure is lying at the bottom of the toybox having been decapitated. I found myself thinking about the wrong thing at the most inappropriate times and forgetting important information. This is why I have decided to get some of my thoughts down on here. I've tried keeping a diary but as with most things that pass through my hands I put them down in a "safe" place which is usually a little too safe and never found again. At least I won't be able to ram my blog into a bag that ends up at the charity shop or popping it in a box which then goes up the loft.

Does anyone else share my passion for keeping things in "safe" places and is there a special name for it?