Be the present you give.

It’s almost that time of year again.

I work in community nursing and I see families on low incomes struggling to buy kids the latest I phone, lap top, scooter or whatever the latest craze is.

I’ve always struggled this time of year.

As a child it was the time my alcoholic farther would get more drunk than normal.

Fight in street more.

Well you get the picture everything he did

He managed more.

The thing I found hardest to understand was he would wish anyone who would listen HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

ALL THE BEST.

I’d walk beside him cringing more than normal.

I hadn’t quite got understanding hypocrisy yet.

The people he fought with all year, or didn’t like for a week or two he would be civil too.

I remembered asking my mam she shook her head shrugged her shoulders what do you mean?

She asked puzzled.

It’s Christmas .

So I suppose even somewhere at the bottom of dads home brew bottle it said good will to all at Christmas.

I didn’t understand.

I’d go over to my nans Christmas day.

My cousin’s Gary and Phil would be there same age as me.

Whist dad mam auntie aggie and uncle Peter would go over to the labour club to “celebrate”

We would play cards with Nan, look at old photographs as I think back I realize everything about her was about spending time with us.

Not distracting us with something to do.

She would be doing “it”

With us.

Her house was sparse she had minimal furniture old vinal sofa table and chairs yet she had everything.

She gave everything.

She was although I didn’t realize it until much later in life my greatest teacher the best example on how to live.

Simply

Don’t get me wrong she said things as they were.

She would tell you streight if you were wrong.

But she was loving and she was fair.

When eventually dad would roll up falling drunk being sick in the garden laughing and smelling of nothing but beer and whiskey.

She would always smile at me with sadness in her eyes

“It will be alright ” she would say.

It was early 1970s

Women didn’t argue with men.

Kids did as they were told.

When I think back she must have been heart broken these were her son’s.

The only thing she could do was let us know she was always there .

That was her greatest gift.

One of the lesson I learned was don’t just be nice smile and wish good will to all at Christmas

Get up everyday and resolve to be kind.

If you can’t say something nice.

Say nothing.
So at this time of year my advice would be to anyone who asked.

Don’t spend money that you haven’t got on things that you don’t really need.

Spend time with those you love.

Spend time with a stranger a homeless person. Stop and chat ask if there is something you can do?

Ask the elderly in your community is there anything that they need?

Step away from your hypnotic phone.

Look into the eyes of real people.

Don’t buy expensive presents

Be present be here now.

Give your time. Yourself

How will you make a difference?

Old photographs. Damp walls, singing kettles and coal fires

I came across this old photograph.
that’s my Nan and grand father the year is 1966.
that’s me sitting on my grand father’s knee, my niece Angela is the baby in the shawl.
I don’t remember my grandfather.
he died when I was three.
my Nan was amazing a huge influence on who I am today.

Strong northern woman.

You can see from the photo they didn’t have much.

She always worked he like all the men in our family drank never a few always too much.

This was taken in their home a very old run down terraced house facing a park in a collery town in the north of England.

I remember the smell of damp. frayed seat covers on the old two seater sofa I’d pick at the sponge foam through the thread bare covers as I fell asleep listening to the sound of my Nans old Jones treadle sewing machine
it was a magical rythem of my life.
The playground across the road was known as Nanny goat park.
it stood in the shadow of glass factories.

I remember cold fingers gripping the handle of the roundabout as nanny’s old staffie dog Bruce barked until I’d get off.

Cold morning air white spiders webs in privit hedges
Ice on the inside of the bedroom windows. Cold breath in the air.

Chopping stick in the mornings to lite the fire.

The smell of fire lighters and inky fingers from screwing up yesterday’s news paper to insure a flame.

Grand dad died when I was three and nanny moved to a council house with a garden
no park across the road but also no smell of damp.
the windows had lead that reflected onto the bare plaster walls from the light of the street lamp.
while I’d snuggle under sheets blankets and coats to keep us warm
complaining that they made me itch
She would shush me and given a stone hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel.
sitting on the back doorstep waiting for the kettles whistle hot milky tea.
sterilised milk and a chipped China cup.

Perfect boiled eggs and thick buttered toast.
hearing her singing Vera Lynn White cliffs of Dover and shouting at my cousin’s to stop kicking the bloody football on the side of the house.

Jesus Mary and bloody Joseph she would shout followed by your make the bloody saints in heaven swear as my drunken dad would fall into the back door the smell of beer tobacco and vomit.

John players fags from the shop and jug of stout from the outdoor.
Rapping her door shouting through the letter box.

Naaaaaaaanny

laughing when she would tell me to bugger off home.

Stop bloody mitherin me!
Corned beef hot pot.
massive egg custard tarts.
bacon ribs and pea soup.

Lying with my head on her lap the smell of Sunday roast on her pinny.
her orange lip stick from the Avon woman with the blue bag.
boxes of old black and white photographs telling stories of her life. rhubarb onions, and spuds from her garden
pop soxs and polka dots.
string shopping bags and the football pools. silver hair
Always protecting me I loved being around this tiny woman .
I think this is the only photo that I have of her.
That’s all I need.
the rest I carry with me Nan.

http://www.ravensretreat.wales

Nan

Shouting through her letter box .
Pea soup cooking
Heavy blankets on the big bed.
The archers on the old valve radio
Crazy paving in the garden

Blue lino on kitchen floor.
Tea caddy and aliminium dented tea pot on old pantry shelf.
Whistling kettle on the stove.
Peeling lead on the windows making shadows on the bedroom Walls.stone hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel
Boxes of swan vesta matches

Brass fireside ornaments
Mirrors that hang on chains.
In their corner they hold captured Victorian painted ladies with parasols furniture polish smelling of lavender.
Lavender tree hanging over the gate.
Rubber spouts on old kitchen taps.
Wooden draining boards and twin tub washing machine.
Tracing paper toilet roll and pink carbolic soap.
Snuffly clever Staffordshire bull terrier to greet us with his tin dish wanting food.
Card games and laughter by the fire for pennies. With cousins.
Bingo at Park Street chip on way home. Cold night air
Head scarfs, blue Mac and walks to the shop for her John player cigs, milk and bread.
Walks to the outdoor for a jug of stout.
Old tins containing buttons black and white photos of memories and stories of her life.
That smell of home of cooking cleaning of love
Fragments pieces of my Nan’s house
Memories of love.

Old weathered hands and treadle sewing machine


Old Weathered Hands.
I think its human nature when we lose someone we love our greatest fear is forgetting the simple things about them.
The sound of their voice, their smell, precious memories.
However in reality I’ve discovered as I have grown older I’ve remember more not less.
Lizzie my Nan I remember her long thin silver hair.
Gold heavy creole earrings weighing down her tiny earlobes, her faded blue apron my little Nanny.
Little but loud, northern salt of the earth she always said it exactly as it was.
Most of all I remember her smile.
How she would pretend to be annoyed when I’d shout Nanny at the top of my voice through the letterbox at all hours of the day and night. Her house was my sanctuary the smell of furniture polish and hotpot.
I’d watch her as I held up the flap of the letterbox as she hurried down the hall exclaiming ‘Jesus, Mary and bloody Joseph, I hear you calling in my bloody sleep! I’m changing my bloody name to Rumplestitskin!
I remember her baking cheese onion and bacon pies on tin plates and egg custard tarts on a Sunday.
She would send me to the outdoor at the flying horse pub with a empty jug to have filled with stout old tea towel to cover the jug. Id try to walk back without spilling it sneaking a mouthful as I walked.
Our trips round to the shops she would carefully apply her tangerine lipstick and tie her checked hair scarf the we would call into the bookies for her each way bet then the butchers for bacon ribs and the paper shop for twenty John player specials.
Bingo was on a Friday night down in the church hall park street in fingerpost
Me and my cousins Gary and Phillip on one side of the table nan and her friend Lizzie Ducker on the other.
She would give me a card to mark.
‘Nudge me if your sweating’.. she would say.
I’d be terrified!
Smokey church hall jesus on his cross watching the bingo. Womens eyes fixed on bingo tickets biros moving quickly scribbling out numbers.
‘House’! Someone would shout and there would be a sigh from everyone else.
Walking home we would call in the chippy bag of salty chips in yesterday’s newspaper between us.
Then home tired ready for bed my cousins in back bedroom, I would be snuggled up warm in Nanny’s bed beside her. The weight of old blankets and coats with silk lining to keep us warm.
I still have a piece of that overcoat lining.
Silhouette of leaded windows on the wall beside the bed reflected from the old street light on the peeling blue flowered wallpaper.
Sometimes I’d go to bed before Nanny. Lying there listening in the dark whilst she stayed up late to sew on her old Jones treadle sewing machine.
The sound of that treadle was magical as she worked to make me dresses it often lulled me to sleep.
The simple things. Her old biscuit boxes one full of photos. The other full of buttons both full of stories.
Stories of her family friends the man across the street who had got stuck in a tin bath.
A big faded button from a coat she had worn that my grandfather had bought her she held it in her hand like a diamond eyes closed smile on her face transported back to him.
Photos of child she had raised and loved as her own as well as her own three sons.
Photos of my grandfather who I knew from her story telling not from memory as he’d died when I was too young to remember.
She taught me many things my Nan, pastry making, sewing, names of plants herbs, that when I got nettled there would be a dock leaf to fix the sting not far from the nettle. To star gaze fortune tell and to always bide time never to act on temper.
How to win at cards although I never managed to win her once.
I remember combing her hair and sitting running my finger along the back of her brown weathered hand, tracing the blue veins of her old working hands grafters hands.
As I sit her now holding my granddaughters hands looking at my own hand in hers it is brown weathered blue veins meander and they tell my story.
Beautiful childen Tamika Tiger and Emilia Willow I wonder what your memories of me your Nanny will be?
I hope you will remember my old weathered hands and how much you made me smile.