I think we have wheels!

When you are young and enthusiastic, it is an adventure to move into your first home.  The one you have bought and will furnish to your own taste.  The one that you will stay in, bring your children and grandchildren home to.  The garden you will tend, change and adapt, according to the age of your children and your ability to look after it.  The neighbours you will come to be close to and rely on, in both your years as young parents and later, when you may need more support.

In your dreams!  It used to be like that, in the days of our grandparents, but the tendency today – and for some time past – is to go where the work is or to move to ‘a better area’ for the sake of your growing family.  We are the best examples of this that I know.  When we married, we moved to the Potteries – the edge of Stoke-on-Trent, to be precise.  We bought a large, Victorian house in a village and set down roots.  We worked, played, made new friends and lived life to the full.  We had hoped that this would be our home for some years but fate was to intervene – for only the first time of many.

Disillusioned with work, Hubby decided to look for a better job and this took us a long way south to Maidenhead, in Berkshire.  As I was teaching, it was relatively easy for me to find another job, which I did.  Move number 1.  So, two years after we had moved in, we sold and moved out of our house, and into rented accommodation.  We needed a base to look for a house to buy and this seemed the best idea.  All our furniture went into storage and we went into a ground floor maisonette.

One year later, we found a house to buy.  We both had good salaries, so were very lucky with a mortgage.  We filled in all the form, dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s and prepared to move.  Then I found that I was pregnant.  Luckily, this didn’t really impact on our moving.  We had to be more careful but all went ahead and I was lucky enough not to have to return to work whilst having a baby at home.  We were in that house for five years.  Move number 2.  After our son had been born, Hubby moved jobs again to Hampshire and we moved house again.  Move number 3.

All went well until one year – 1986 – we had the worst summer EVER.  We made a decision to go to warmer climes and ended up in Italy, where we stayed on a campsite, in a huge RV, for eight months, whilst finding somewhere to live.  Move number 4.  We found an apartment whilst Hubby continued to work in Milan and stayed there for a year.  Move number 5.

Then Hubby moved jobs – he was contracting – to Turin.  We moved there and stayed on another campsite in the RV whilst we found a house to buy.  Move number 6.  We found a house and moved in – Move number 7.  After some happy years here, employment dried up for Hubby and we moved back to England – Move number 8.  Eventually, we moved from Stratford-upon-Avon to Tolworth, South London – Move number 9.  After that, to two short-term addresses near Epsom (Moves number 10 & 11), Carshalton Beeches (Move number 12), Carshalton – a few miles up the road from the previous address (Move number 13) and finally to another address in Carshalton, where we bought once again.  Move number 14.  After nearly forty years of marriage, we are now about to move for what I hope will be the last time.

At this point, I think it should be stated that I hate moving house.  I hate the build up, where you have to sort your things out and throw stuff away, just so that you can fit into the new square metreage  (Oooo – new word?).  I hate the thought of having to find another suitable home in a suitable area.  I hate the idea that you both have to agree on a property in the first place, making the process longer.  (The upside to that is that you should get a balanced view on anything you see.)  I hate that people come in to your home and probably criticise the very things that you’ve gone to great lengths to do in order to make the place look attractive – no proof of this, of course; maybe I’m a bit insecure!

So here we are again on the merry-go-round.  I’m sure it will all work out just fine.  It usually does.  With any luck I will have lost weight and not raised my blood pressure too much by the end of this process.  We shall see and – as they say – watch this space.

So long and yet like yesterday

Today I received an email from an old school friend.  Our families had lived a few streets away from each other when we were little and we started school at the same time in the infants at Crowland Road, in Tottenham.  We went right through until we left at age eighteen from Skinners’ Company’s School for Girls.  Seven of us actually went on to secondary school together but I am only still in touch with three others.

The email contained a photo.  It is of our two mums sitting on a beach – almost certainly Westgate-on-Sea, in Kent! – and they look so happy it brought tears to my eyes.

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They were such very good friends and that showed on both their faces.

I have vivid memories of the close friends my mother had.  Some were from way back, when she was a slip of a girl, and others more recent.  It is inevitable that there will be some friendships made at the school gate but she had only two firm ones and, of those two, this was the closest.  It was rare that mum wasn’t at home at lunchtime or when I arrived back from school in the afternoon but, if that was the case, this lovely lady was one of the people I was most likely to go to until I was picked up.

My grateful thanks to someone who thought to send me this photo.  It has stirred up memories that had lain dormant – happy memories, that I am now glad to relive.

It’s what makes me who I am

During a conversation with Hubby this morning, I realised  something extraordinary.  My family is quite diverse, starting with my kids, who are polymaths.  Regardless of what they turn their hand to, they put everything into it and, generally, succeed.  They also do not suffer fools, or injustice, gladly and will be as vocal as necessary if they think it will make a difference.  However, they both have a gift when it comes to talking to people and I often think of the Churchill (Winston, not the dog!) quote -“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”  My daughter even decided that she wanted to learn how to make jewellery, so she did.  Thank you, by the way, for all the times you have fixed my earrings and pendants!  My son, on the other hand, knows multiple languages to one degree or another.

Going back up the family tree, Hubby and I were lucky enough to go to grammar school.  We both gained O and A levels and I went on to train as a teacher.  He discovered computers (at that time, each one was the size of a room) and that was the end of sanity.  We both had music as a major factor in our lives – as youngsters, he played the guitar and I played the guitar and sang.  I was even part of a charity group, for a while, who did gigs for institutions such as children’s homes, day centres and homes for the mentally disadvantaged (or whatever the PC term is now).  Some of these gigs were with my sister and, occasionally, my dad.

Looking at other members of the family and the root of some of this behaviour becomes clear.  My sister has a beautiful voice and nearly went into opera.  Circumstances got in the way, but she still sings her heart out at every opportunity!  At one time she was taking lessons from her headmaster at primary school, who just happened to be the brother of Christopher Gable.  My mother, paternal aunt, paternal grandmother and some of my paternal great-aunts were all exceptional seamstresses and dressmakers, which I would describe as an art as well as a skill.  My paternal uncle, and later his wife, both played the guitar and sang.  My aunt sang with her sister, her sister’s husband and his brother.  Later (or possibly at the same time) uncle and aunt danced with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS).  I remember going to see them at the Royal Albert Hall, where my uncle danced the Schuh Plattler.  He is not in this clip!  Some time after my uncle died – far too young – my aunt married the fourth member of their folk group, who is still going today and is also a sought-after extra on television.

My own dad had taken up the drums – quite by accident – whilst doing his bit in the Air Force during the war.  He ended up in the air base dance band and enjoyed himself so much that, on demob, he formed his own four piece combo.  They played for the usual family gatherings – weddings, engagements, bar mitzvahs – and some Masonic events.  It was rare that he did not work on a Saturday and sometimes on a Sunday as well.  When he didn’t want to run his own band any longer, he joined another and went on for many years.  Dad’s voice was like a slightly more tuneful Frank Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes could sing but Dad could sing better.  Even at the age of 94, he can still (mostly) keep a tune and has not lost his all-important timing!

He was also an exceptional ballroom dancer, like many of his uncles and aunts.  This vast collection of relatives – twelve brothers and sisters in all – gained cups between them for ballroom competitions.  Many of them could also play an instrument, mainly the piano, and they were very good at it.  I remember one engagement party in a hall when a great-uncle and aunt were playing a piano together, my dad swapped out playing the drums with a cousin and, at some point, I played the drums with a cousin of my own age.  We weren’t as co-ordinated, so I did the hand thing and he played the pedals.  Dad and others sang.  Always occasions to remember, our family gatherings.

When I think about how much music there was in my family, and what forms it took, as well as the general creativity, I realise that I have had a charmed life.  There is nothing in the world as wonderful as creating something that gives pleasure to yourself and others.  I hope to be able to continue to do so for a long time to come and encourage anyone – and everyone – to do the same.

Why are the roads – except one – so empty?

Over the course of the last week to ten days I have been out and about on various errands.  I have now become aware of the best times to go out, based on the rush hours and when children will be going to/leaving school.  It’s quite a pleasure to sail down the roads around where I live, safe in the knowledge that I will not meet the Pick-up Brigade in their estate cars and SUVs but with no discernible brain activity, or have to be careful near crossings in case a hoard of teenagers try to tempt fate in order to traverse the road.  No such traumas at other times of the day.

One trip was to my dad, which involves the M25.  I have been making this trip once a week for a month or so now and am genuinely amazed at how easy – if long – it is, now that the kiosks have gone from the Dartford Crossing.  Traffic flow is so much better and, even if there is a build up, it’s short lived and rarely, if ever, at a standstill.  Last week, however, there was a ton of traffic at the tunnel and breathing lorry fumes is not my favourite pastime.  Thank goodness for recycled air in the car.  As I looked around, it became obvious that the lorries only accounted for about half the vehicles on the road.  Many of the rest were women drivers with children in the back.  A sudden realisation crept over me.  It was half term!  Not being at school any more, holidays are not a thing on which I focus any longer.  It was, therefore, a revelation that we had reach half term and I was totally unaware of the event.  Whilst at school, I would have been counting the days, possibly ticking a mental chart.  Now, I have to be careful to make sure that time doesn’t fly by without it having been used fruitfully.

Still,  back to normal now.  Children back in the tender care of their teachers and daytime activity down to an acceptable level.  I can safely go shopping after lunch.  And breathe …