Saturday, 30 April 2011

Story Telling Sunday - May

Searching for a photograph of my oldest son when he was about six months old triggered a memory and I thought it would make a good Sunday Story.
When My oldest son was about one year old and his big sister was two I bought a book called Manxmouse by Paul Gallico and every night I would read a chapter to the children before they settled down to sleep. I had already read The Day Jean-Pierre was Pignapped and The Day Jean-Pierre Went Round the World to them so another book by this wonderful author was bound to be enjoyable.
Manxmouse is the story of a mouse made by an inebriated ceramist magically comes to life and goes out into the world. Being originally a ceramic mouse he has no fear so when something totally strange and noisy appears he isn't scared at all. The monster explains that it is a Clutterbumph and what it does is make those strange scarey nighttime noises so that we can imagine them into whatever we want them to be and when we have scared ourselves enough we can stop imagining and the Clutterbumph will disappear.
I read this chapter to the children, settled them down into bed and tucked them in. I switched on the nightlight on the landing and went downstairs.
I had no sooner sat in my chair with a cup of coffee than the tom cat chorus started out in the back garden. Then there was a loud crashing noise followed by the sounds of several cats swearing and hissing loudly. I heard my son start to cry so I headed up the stairs to settle him again, the noise in the garden still continuing.
"It's alright Mikey," said my daughter, "It's only the Clutterbumph. We can tell it to go away"
Oh for goodness sake! I thought, that'll destroy any faith she might have in her mother. She'll tell it to go away and every s*dding cat in the neighbourhood will sit in my garden to serenade next door's female that is coming into season, just bloomin' great!
"Go away Clutterbumph!" she yelled, "Go away, we not scared!"
I took a deep breath as I reached the landing, ready to comfort and try to explain and I suddenly realised that all the noises from the garden had stopped. Not a hiss or a growl. I waited to see what would happen.
"See, Mikey, told you it was just the Clutterbumph. go to sleep now"
And he did.
I crept back down the stairs and wrote a letter to Paul Gallico telling him what had happened and he answered my letter, telling me that Princess Grace of Monaco was the Grace to whom the book is dedicated and that he was sending her a copy of my letter because if the book had helped one child to overcome their fears then that made it worth the writing.
I still have the letter and I still have the book. I have read it to all my grandchildren many times over the years and I will probably give it to one of them to read to their children.
This story has been brought to you through Story Telling Sunday originated by Sian at High in The Sky

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Bit of a Do

We went to a Christening on Sunday. Not just any old Christening, this was my youngest grandson and the ceremony had been cancelled before Christmas because of the snow and the Chicken Pox.

We travelled up on Saturday, pausing at the OK Diner in Leominster for elevenses


and at the OK Diner on the A55 for lunch. This is not to say that we are fans of the OK diner, you understand, just that we like the food there ~steak and eggs mmmmmm~

Anyhoooo, we arrived at my son's house in Colwyn Bay at around 2.30pm and were immediately swept into playing with the garage by my slightly older grandson. Soon after this my son's two children from his first marriage (are you keeping up? Oh well done!) arrived and filled the house with noise and bustle.
The Smithlets
His oldest son is 21, his daughter is 18 and now he has two children under 3 years old. The young man in the background is The Boyfriend.
I love that my son is just as involved with these children as he was when the others were small and his patience is endless. Not like me. I have to step away from the little ones and chill out. Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly but small children are hard work.
It fascinates me that from the time they are born until the start school is only five years and yet they learn to sit, crawl, walk, run, dance, eat with a spoon or fork drink from a cup AND they learn to talk in at least one language and they can do grammar too! No wonder they are hard work. The teenagers are the ones I worked with as part of my previous life and they fascinate too. Thinking about it I just find people so interesting so I'll stop chuntering and get on with the tale of the Christening.

OH, on the way up the A49 we were following a little black car that did everything possible to keep us behind it. Mr M wasn't bothered because we were very close to the OK Diner and we could pull off and let the little black car find someone else to irritate. When we got to the roundabout it indicated and pulled off into the OK Diner. It parked in the disabled space and we travelled on to the other side of the doors and parked in our usual space. We looked at the people from the little car and it was an aged hippy man complete with white hair in a pony-tail and a white haired lady driver. we skipped into the diner before them and we were seated at the other end to them. We decided that while the driving left a lot to be desired they couldn't be all bad because they like the OK Diner.
Back to North Wales. The Christening was part of the morning service and as it was Easter Sunday and the biggest day of the Christian calendar it was absolutely beautiful.
 I managed to capture the moment when the priest made the sign of the cross on his forehead.
The whole congregation renewed their promises to G*d and even though the hymns are a bit dirge-like for easter it was still a lovely ceremony. The sun was shining when we emerged from the church and loads of people from the congregation came up and welcomed the youngster into the family.
Back to the house for food and chat - I spent the time trying to get pictures of everyone. I realise now that I am just not pushy enough to grab someone and say I want your picture for the christening album. I did try though and got some lovely ones of the baby.
We came home on Monday, the pretty way. This meant driving through Bettws-y-Coed, Llangollen and then across to Oswestry so that we could drop down to Leominster and stop at.... you're there already aren't you? We couldn't park in our usual space as it was taken. We went in and while waiting to be taken to a table I glanced across the diner and there, sitting at the end was an aged hippy complete with white hair in a pony-tail.
"Ooooh," I thought, "he looks just like that man on Saturday"
"Spooky" said Mr M behind me, "He looks just like that man on Saturday."
"Is it the same car in the disabled space?" I asked. Mr M peered out of the window "It is," he said triumphantly, glancing back across to the man. "And there's the lady just coming back from the loo"
The girl came at that moment to take us to our table and, of course, she took us all the way to the other end of the diner. Isn't that spooky? to be travelling who know where at the same time as us and to be in the diner on the way back.... spooooooooky!
So that was our Easter

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sometimes I think they don't deserve Children!

I was going to save this for Storytelling Sunday but I decided I was too angry and it would be a serious post and I want to try and keep the Storytelling Sunday blogs a bit lighter than this. First some background info so you can see that I am not totally talking out of my backside about childcare and how parents affect their children's lives. I did a two year Preliminary Certificate in Social Care and was fortunate enough to get a high enough grade to go on to start a Diploma in Social Work. I didn't complete the DipSW because I developed ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) which stole 8 years of my life. However, my field of interest was childcare and within that field I was interested mostly in pre-teens and teenagers. I have continued to maitain that interest and have read widely on the subject and discussed it with a family member who is a psychiatrist and child psychologist. I have been dealing with a teenager who has left home to get away from an abusive step father. Now she is learning to cope with the fact that her mother has chosen to believe him and not her and her brother has threatened to beat her up if he sees her because of the lies that have been told about her. I am discovering that this teenager has few social skills, has no idea how to look after herself; didn't own a toothbrush and still doesn't know how to use it properly even though I have done my best to explain without explaining - maintaining the dignity while educating is such a slow process. I wonder why it is necessary for any 18 year old to have to be taught how to hold a knife and fork and how to sit at a table and eat, the first time she said "we usually have our food on our laps in front of the TV" Well NOT in this house we don't! How can anyone who is a parent not teach their child simple hygiene? cleanse your skin of make-up before you go to bed. Wear clean knickers every day incase you get knocked down by a bus bring your dirty clothes downstairs for me to wash them. She expects to be told off or given a row about everything and, therefore, lies or makes excuses about why she hasn't done what was asked. I reached the point, when I started writing this, where I was ready to ask Mr M to take me to the parents house so I could sock them both on the nose but a minor trauma at my daughter's house has restored my sense of proportion - and my sense of humour - and I can see that I will prevail. It saddens me that in this time when knowledge and information are available at the click of a mouse there should still be families where children do not have any chance of escaping the ignorance of their parents. I am sorry to have to admit that the way our education system is fixated on academic excellence does not bode well for the children that are not intellectually capable of academic study. There used to be "technical" colleges and schools where those people who didn't do well at English or Maths or languages or 'the humanities' could learn a skill and find employment. It used to be accepted that some people were clever and most of us were just average. We didn't mind being average and not winning prizes as long as we could get a job and earn a bit of money. These days it seems as though you can't even work in a shop without needing something called an NVQ. I am wandering slightly off my topic here, what I am trying to get to is that if parents don't know how to bring up children how the hell can we expect those children to learn how to live with others and bring up their own children? Education has to start somewhere and it should be at home. A child spends the first few years mostly with their mother so why can't there be some sort of education for pregnant women that starts as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. Simple things like sterilising bottles and the importance of disposing of the contents of nappies properly. How to wash clothes so they are clean and safe for babies to be near. The importance of personal hygiene and how changing underwear every day keeps you healthy. I do seem to be banging on about knickers a lot. The importance of language skills and how to feed a child with healthy food and how to bloody cook it! How does one break that cycle of ignorance? with education of course! How does one educate a parent that is 'doing this just like my mother did, and I'm alright'? Beats me. I know this is a conundrum that social services, the health service, the prison service and lots of other bodies would give their eye teeth to solve. I just want to ease the sadness of an 18 year old that thinks her mother has stopped loving her and who doesn't have the social skills or the reasoning to work out a way to cope.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Story Telling Sunday - April

"Of course, Gran was an Actress," Aunty Mu (pronounced mew) would say during the course of Sunday tea at our house "Went all over the world, acting, she did." Let me pause here and put this into context for you. My Dad was one of 12 children. His parents had five, then his mother died and his father married a widow who had a son and she went on to produce six more children. The eldest child was Aunty Mu and her mother, just before she died, told her to "look after your brothers and sister". So she did. For the rest of her life she kept them together, mended relationships, kept them in touch with each other and regularly invited everyone to Sunday tea at our house because her house was too small. This was in the early 1950s when there was still rationing of some things and no one had very much. Everyone brought something to contribute to the meal. Aunty Mary brought two sliced loaves made into paste sandwiches. Sliced Loaves! such expense! Aunty Mu brought fruit cake and a tin of sliced peaches or pears and sometimes a tin of thick cream. The uncles that weren't yet married would bring what were called "boughten" cakes. Cakes from a shop that came in a cardboard box usually with the name Lyons on the outside. "We're related to them, of course, The Lyons family from the Corner houses" Aunty Mu would say and us children, forced to sit separated from one another for ease of swatting and control, would prick up our ears for more information. Anything to do with food was A Good Thing in those austere days. At some point in the course of the meal one of the grown ups would say something and Aunty Mu would say the bit about her Gran being an actress. The thing that amazed us kids was the fact that someone as old as Aunty Mu, and lets face it she was older than my Mum and Dad and they were ancient! Someone as old as her had a Gran! It just didn't seem possible. So we dismissed it as another bit of make believe and went back to trying to get a bowl with sliced peaches AND cream without having to eat bloater-paste sandwiches first. We never could. Someone would cut the "boughten" cake and a voice would say something like "I thought they were Jewish, those people that own the corner houses". "They are," aunty Mu would reply and we've got a Spanish Jewess in our family." The jaws of the junior branch of the family would stop masticating, hands that were reaching for cake would pause as we waited to see if this time she would elaborate. But she never did. We went back to chewing and grasping and concentrating on ensuring that cousin Pat and cousin Christine didn't get one more crumb of bread or cake than we did. If we knew what a Jewess was it might have helped but we didn't. Now we fast forward to 1998. My Dad has been researching his family tree for at least 12 years but his health is deteriorating and soon after he and Mum moved in with us he handed over the results of his research and said "I'm too old for this now, you can do it. See if you can find those bl**dy actors" I took the few clues given by Aunty Mu, now long gone from us, and set about searching for evidence. Now I can, and do, say "My great gran was an actress, she went all over the world acting. She was Jewish, you know and related by marriage to the Lyons family that ran the Lyons Corner House restaurants in LOndon. and her Grandmother was a Sephardi or Spanish Jewess." I am totally hooked on this family history research lark, so much so that I am Chairman of our local family history societyand I am also Editor of their quarterly Journal. I have discovered cousins in Australia who descend from the siblings of the Actress. Cousins who are Jewish, as we are not, because the Actress married an Irish Catholic actor. I have learned that a 3 x great grandfather was "feloniously killed and slayed" that the actress had her married name, her stage name and her husband's stage name to use as and when she felt like it so finding her in the census has been a labour of love and all of this because Aunty Mu kept telling us all those years ago that she had a gran and "Gran was an actress" This has been brought to you by Storytelling Sunday, invented by Sian. Why not take a look at the others