Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

From my point of view, I hope it will be a better one than last year!
I can remember last New Year's Eve (2007), celebrating with my daughter and grandsons, who happened to be holidaying with us. We'd all stayed up late to let in the New Year with a family friend. We'd played games with the children while we sat round the table and drank wine (the children didn't, honestly!)
Little did we know then, that within the coming year, Deb would be left a widow. Just as well we never know what is in store for us. Now I am being a damper...... but it does make you wonder.
Once again, the family have been staying with us over the Christmas holiday and we are about to let in another New Year and we cannot help but be slightly apprehensive about what the year holds for us. 
On Boxing Day we went to London Victoria by coach ( a rather bizarre thing to do as Deb was getting quite near to home again and had already travelled across England once, to be with us!) We had backtracked to London to see a musical in the West End, *Joseph* starring Lee Mead.
After the show, which we all enjoyed, Deb had been hoping to get her programme autographed but all she received from Lee, after queuing, was a pre signed photo, which was better than nothing, I suppose. She never got to chat to him, though.
I travelled quite happily back to Victoria by tube train. As long as I have someone with me who knows what they are doing, I don't mind the Tube a bit!
Deb has caught up with a good few "old" friends from school and her nursing training days and we have visited relatives and travelled to The Midlands to see Deb's mother in law, who had been staying with her other son over Christmas. A difficult time for her, as you can imagine.

Rick and Dean, my two grandson's have been great while staying with us and we have been glad of their company. Rick, the oldest who was recently diagnosed with autism, seems to be doing very well and has lost the anger that he displayed after the death of his father. He is much calmer now, and did so much better at school last term, probably because he has a special helper.
Deb and I have been reading some very helpful books on the subject of autism. I have found this to be particularly helpful in trying to understand how my grandson's mind might be working and how confused he must be when I don't understand why he sometimes doesn't respond to me the way I would like him to. I realize that I must find different approaches if I want to make breakthroughs concerning behaviour and understanding what makes him tick. Good progress has been made with those things, during the holiday, though.
One of the hardest things to deal with is the fact that Rick will only eat certain brands of food like bread and the soya milk that he has to have.  If we cannot get hold of a particular brand, he refuses to eat or drink it. (He knows it is different without seeing the container, just by taste). As he is so thin, we cannot just let him go without.
Deb has joined a few organizations and went on some trips with the boys before she came to us and she seems to be building up a better social life now.
One thing that books have taught me is just how diverse this condition is and how different each child is one from another. No easy answers, much of it is to follow instincts and wait and see.
You might be wondering how I am finding time to read these books! Deb brought a few over with her, lent by Rick's school, so obviously I have to read them fast. Every time I have an opportunity, I open up and read some more. I love books anyway and have a whole stack of books waiting to be read that I had as presents!

Our granddaughters, Amber and Millie, and parents, went back to Japan before Christmas, to visit the other grandparents and relatives, who really miss them all. They are due to fly back very soon and sleep off their jet lag before school starts again. 

Anyway....... Happy New Year Folks!
Hoping that 2009 will prove to be a good year for you all and I wish everyone peace.
Things look frightening in the middle east and the credit crunch is making our lives difficult, but surely there is always the possibility of peace in our own lives and this is my wish for you all...... peace.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Wonder Of Woolworths

Who would have thought that we would ever lose our Woolworths stores? It is unimaginable. There has always been a Woolworths in every town ever since I could remember. When I was a child, it was the place for bargains and children could afford to buy there.

In those days, there were different counters in the store with an assistant looking after each one. It was time consuming if something needed to be bought from several counters and the queuing had to be done again, but thats how it was then. Even in small shops there was a slow queuing system and if shop keepers asked how the family were and got a long reply, then everyone had to wait!

Woolworths did move on, once supermarkets came into being and things went up in price but it was a much loved shop, always there, just like the British Post Box. It was a good old British shop and it belonged to us for 99 years, though it came over from the USA originally. 

What ever are we going to do? It makes all of us in England feel very vulnerable. What other much loved and taken for granted thing is going to disappear from our lives?
Whatever are all those employees going to do now from the Woolworths shops? Just think how they must feel.

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Reason For The Season

Lets make Jesus the reason ...... for the season. 

It is easy to forget the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. It has become an eating  and drinking binge and an orgy of shopping and spending more than we can really afford, that sometimes means struggling to pay back during the next year. 
The early Christians hijacked the day from a pagan festival and made it into their celebration of Jesus' birth. Now we are having the true meaning of Christmas taken away from us by all manner of things....... political correctness, and all the many things the media throw at us because that is what they think we want and need.

I have enjoyed watching my granddaughters in their nativity plays at school. The Inn keeper and the shepherds and even the kings, who obviously wouldn't have got to see Jesus for another two years, if you think about it.
The Carols by Candlelight service at Church has now taken place and we look forward to going to Church on Christmas Day with our grandsons who will be staying with us.
These are all meaningful things to Harry and me. Of course, the other things, the traditions of Christmas are enjoyable too and we enjoy a good Christmas dinner the same as any one else. It is also good to give and receive presents and family seem to be an important part of Christmas too.

It is my observation from reading other blogs, noting comments on mine and listening to the local radio, that there is a yearning for spirituality that the "Powers That Be" are not aware of. In the end, people are sensible enough to draw their own conclusions and generally do not want to change Christmas for "Winter Holiday", nor does the average person want to be told what to think or believe.

Whatever your personal view on faith, I wish you all peace and joy during this Christmas season. Happy Christmas from all of us!

This hand made nativity set is a "family heirloom" that is practically falling to pieces. It was made quite a long time ago but I haven't the heart to bin it.

Friday, 19 December 2008


PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

All little girls love unicorns, stories about unicorns and toys involving unicorns and my two granddaughters are no exceptions.
I remember when I was a small girl passionately wanting to see unicorns, fairies and mermaids. I was really very disappointed when I knew that there were no such things.

Back in the summer I was snapping away in the city of Bristol and found these two magnificent creatures on each end of the Council House. The first one was taken with the sun shining on it and that showed up the gold! The second one is identical except that it faces towards the other one, but it was in a slightly shadier position, so the gold does not show up quite as brightly.

I wonder why there are unicorns on top of the Council House? Well the Bristol coat of arms has two unicorns surrounding a ship and a castle, so that must be the reason. The two unicorns in the coat of arms, guarding the Council House.

According to the internet, unicorns have been a part of the culture of China, India and western countries for thousands of years. They are mentioned in the Bible and they have been used by Scotland's Royal household.

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.

The lion was the symbol of England and since England beat the Scottish throne, the two creatures have been depicted in the British coat of arms. Unicorns feature in heraldry and many legends.
The horn was supposed to have magical powers and was much sought after. Unicorns could only be tamed by *pure* maidens, who would be able to lead them and let them eat out of their hands.

So I wonder why unicorns have lasted so long in the modern world? You'd think we would have dumped them by now, but they still seem to appeal don't they?

This post was prepared for Photostory  Friday, hosted by Cecily and Mama Geek.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Beginners Luck

This is my December entry for Jeff B's invitation to write a fictional story about a particular series of events. You can find out what it is all about on his blog, Word In Edgeways. Why not have a go?

The telephone had been ringing all evening. I wasn't in the mood to take calls and I just wanted to get on with my book. I enjoy my own company. Whoever it was could wait.
The answer phone kicked in.
Message One, the automated voice droned.
"Hey mate, we're at the Rose and Crown and a whole lot of us are meeting up at Ed's Casino afterwards. Expect to see you later."

I recognized Uncle Max's voice immediately. He wasn't related to me. He'd always been known as Uncle Max by everyone in the area. He was around fifty, with a beer gut, as he liked to go down to the Rose & Crown every night. He was a very confident type, a bit eccentric and liked to dress up rather loudly. He was a very friendly, kind man who would share his last penny and help anyone. No wonder he was so popular.

This was his flat and his phone, but since the night of the fire, he'd done me a great favour and put me up.
This block of flats overlooked the back of another identical block on the other side of the street. It was there that the fire had happened. Just as well there were fire escapes. Most of the flats were ruined by smoke damage and Uncle Max had helped everyone down the staircases in thick smoke.
He had looked weird that night dressed in a yellow floral shirt and yellow shorts, white shoes and socks and even a panama on his head. What was he thinking of dressing up like that for on a cold night?

The phone rang again.
Message Two........ the voice of the answer phone droned on.
"Come on mate, I know you are there. We are all waiting for you, old chap. See you soon."

I thought back to the night of the fire. It had started on the first floor and the smoke had billowed upward, blackened windows and threatened to choke everyone in the building. Every occupant was forced out of their apartments.
I had lived on the second floor and everything I owned had been damaged by smoke, although I'd managed to get out via the back of the buildings down the fire escapes, like everyone else. There were people above and below me but as far as I knew, everyone had escaped unhurt.
Every property in the building was ruined and no one was allowed back, even though the fire engines had got the blaze under control fairly quickly.
When Uncle Max had taken me in, I soon learned that he'd been due to go on holiday the very night of the fire. He had been intending to head for Heathrow Airport, not very far away and his destination was Hawaii. He'd put on his holiday outfit thinking that all he had to do was to was to jump into a taxi and get on and off his planes till he landed. The fire had messed up his holiday completely and his clothes were black and had been discarded. His holiday was cancelled.

The phone rang persistently.
Message Three...........
"We're leaving the Rose & Crown now and heading for Ed's Casino. Hope you're on your way, mate. If not we're waiting for you. We're in for a good night."
Uncle Max sounded chirpy.

I groaned....... Uncle Max was an extrovert. He liked to be the centre of attention, a real 'life and soul of the party' type of person. Nothing wrong with that except that I was the complete opposite. All I lived for were my books. I had always been a bit of a recluse. I went to the office five days a week, did a good job there as a book keeper, came home and swotted. When I wasn't swotting I read books for pleasure. I was happy enough. I would have preferred a quiet night in at home. However, I now had no home and Uncle Max had been kind to offer me his home. 
Most of the other residents seemed to have found other places to live. Some had been rehoused miles away, some were staying with relatives or friends, but I wanted to stay in this area near my work and didn't have any one I could ask. So I was in Max's spare room until further notice. He had really become an uncle figure in my life. I just wished he was a quieter type of person like me, that's all.

Reluctantly, I put down my book, grabbed a jacket from the hook near the door and went out into the chilly London night air. The door slammed shut behind me as I turned up my collar and set off round the block.
Ed's Casino wasn't very big as casinos go and was only a short distance away. The bar sold expensive drinks and there was a roulette wheel and tables for Black Jack and Poker. There were a few scantily clad girls whose job it was to try to entice the clients to drink more and to part with their money at the gaming tables. Not my cup of tea at all.
I hadn't got much money to gamble with as I was still waiting for the Council to rehouse me and for the Insurance to pay up for the possessions that I'd lost in the fire. I made up my mind that I would have a quick drink and  place one bet and then go home. That way Uncle Max would not think of me as ungrateful or stand offish.

As I approached Ed's Casino, the doorman looked me over and let me go through the swing door. I was astonished at what met my eyes. There seemed to be a sort of party going in full swing and everyone was singing 'For He's A Jolly Good Fellow'. Uncle Max was revelling in all this attention and was positively glowing.
A middle aged lady who seemed vaguely familiar was handing Uncle Max a bouquet of yellow roses, which he was obviously thrilled with. I noted how he really seemed to love the colour yellow, thinking back to his holiday outfit.
I glanced around the casino and recognized many faces of residents from the block of flats where the fire had been. The woman was the wife of the manager of the casino. They'd lived in my block. That's where I'd seen her.
She took Uncle Max by the hand and started to address the people.
"This gentleman here," she said in a choked voice, "Is responsible for saving the life of my disabled son, Pete. He can't walk and he's too heavy for me to carry and the lifts were out of action because of the fire. I was beside myself and didn't know what to do." Tears were streaming down her face by now as she continued.
"Then this wonderful man came and put Pete over his shoulder, thinking nothing of his own safety and guided us both down the staircase."
Uncle Max beamed with pleasure and everyone started to cheer and applaud.

Eventually they all went off to do their own thing and Uncle Max noticed me.
"Come on, old chap, while you're here lets place a bet before we go home. It will be good for you to get away from those damned books." He playfully slapped my back.
Uncle Max knew the ropes when it came to gambling, but I didn't have a clue. I really wasn't that interested. I turned out my pockets for him to see and threw my last few notes that amounted to fifty pounds, down onto the deck, together with all my loose change. With his help I placed my bet. The betting stopped, the wheel turned and I looked away and waited for them to confirm my loss.
A cheer went up from Uncle Max.
"Hey, mate, that's beginners luck. Want to place another bet?"
I shook my head. I knew when to stop. I was staggered to see the thick wad of notes that made up my winnings. A considerable amount I reckoned.
I passed it over to Uncle Max.
"Get yourself another holiday," I said, pushing the money into his hand.
Uncle Max counted it out.
"Hey, mate, there's enough for the two of us to go to Hawaii. Yes, you're coming with me, mate."
There was a part of me that doubted very much whether there was enough money there for the two of us to go to Hawaii, but I guessed that he really wanted me to go with him. As I said before, he was a generous man. Could I really stand his loudness and his boundless energy for two weeks? 

I looked at him fondly, and guessed I could and I maybe I'd take some books with me.
"Tell you what, mate," Uncle Max piped up, "I'll treat us both to some new holiday clothes. I know just the place to go."
Every one laughed, but I inwardly groaned........... not yellow!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Its That Time Of Year Again.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

For some reason we seem to keep this card from year to year and it always turns up somewhere or other in the Christmas displays of cards.

This little, rather tacky Nativity model was bought recently from a charity shop at a very cheap price.
The reason that I bought it was because I thought that my granddaughters would ask me questions about it and I could then explain who the characters were. I thought it would appeal to small children more than the traditional picture above.
Having been brought up for their first few years in Japan, they are officially Shinto/Buddhist.
This is because they were born over there and they have inherited this religion. It's more of a tradition than a personal belief, though.

It has turned out that there was no need for me to have to explain anything about the little figures, because school is teaching them about Christianity already.

I was really pleased when Amber, the oldest granddaughter, told me that she believed that Jesus had died for her and that he is now in Heaven. She explained everything to me in great detail.
I was amazed because I didn't think that state schools still taught Christianity, as the one they go to is not a Church School. Well, after all it is Christmas, so why shouldn't they be taught what Christianity is about?
Maybe the other religions will get a look in later on........ I don't know, but for now, I am pleased that the school has started the ball rolling.
Millie the youngest granddaughter took one look and said,"Oh no, that is so embarrassing."
As we thought this was a rather unusual thing for a four year old to say, we asked her what she meant.
"There are too many people in the house, there are only mean to be three!" So obviously she also has been taught about the fact that Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were in the stable.

My Grandsons are already Christian, the oldest by choice and the younger one is thinking about taking a step further. They are familiar with Church and go regularly.
In the end, it has to be a personal decision. It is my belief though, that if children don't know what the faith is about, they can't make a decision and that would be a great pity, I think. 

This post and photography is for Photostory Friday, hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Hospital Visit (Memory Lane)

I had been warned that we would not be allowed to see Godfrey for two weeks while he was in the hospital. Hard as it seemed to us, it was considered best to sever all links with home. It was 1948 and by today's standards it seemed to be a very cruel hospital rule.
I was just six years old by then and Godfrey was two and a half years younger than me.

The hospital was a tall building with lots of identical windows.
Godfrey was handed over to a "no stuff or nonsense" sister, and off she went with my screaming, struggling brother. We were told to wait outside the building so that we might wave goodbye to him through the window.
He was on the third floor, I think and when he appeared at the window, he looked as though he was putting up a pretty good fight, as the sister's hat was hanging from the side of her head.
The poor child must have thought we were abandoning him for ever.

With heavy hearts we turned and went towards the bus for home. I don't think anyone spoke and we were all fighting back the tears.
Dad went straight into the wash house, when we got home, and started to make Godfrey a steam roller out of empty syrup cans. That was the way that he coped with the situation. 
Mum was upset to think that Godfrey would have to go to sleep without his favourite green eiderdown with the frill around it. He used to stroke the frill and make comfort noises as he went to sleep. He had not been allowed to take any reminder of home with him to the hospital, not even  a toy or any kind of comforter. Those were the strict rules of a hospital in that era.

Years later Godfrey told me that he deliberately pooed the cot that he had been put in, as a punishment to the sister who had taken him away. Apparently she was very cross with him. I also learnt years later, that Godfrey's double hernia operation was one of the first to be done free, when the National Health Scheme first started in that year. He was very lucky as the year before, my parents would have been charged for it.

We all got on with our regular routine while he was away. Dad at work, Mum at home & I was at school. We had no phone so I don't know whether my parents ever got any news of my brother.
As the time came nearer for him to return home, we started to be in brighter spirits. I drew pictures for him and the steam roller made from syrup cans was now finished.
I was at school on the day he was due to return and I knew he would be there when I got back. The day seemed to really drag on for ever and I told everyone who would be bothered to listen to me that my brother was coming home! No one seemed to be really interested and even the teacher just politely said, "Oh that's nice," without as much enthusiasm as I would have liked to hear.
School eventually finished and I ran all the way down the road as fast as I could. I burst in through the door and there he was! Godfrey was home! I was surprised to find him in tears. Indeed he was having a tantrum.
Mum had been told he couldn't pedal his beloved blue car for three months until his scars had fully healed up. My parents had completely forgotten to hide the thing from sight and had quickly stuffed it between the settee and the wall. It had taken Godfrey just a few seconds to find!
The home made steam roller did nothing to appease the anger he felt and displayed. No one could console him and he eventually calmed down and fell asleep. He never was interested in the frilly eiderdown again and had totally forgotten the pleasure that it had given him before.
The pedal car was hidden from sight for the next few months and life went on as normal.

Friday, 5 December 2008

International Day

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

At the school where my granddaughters attend, they recently held an International Day and invited the pupils to pay a pound to wear outfits from other lands. This was in aid of Children In Need.
Obviously Amber and Millie each put on  their Japanese yukata. Children made a real effort (or their parents did) and they came dressed in beautiful Spanish costumes, cowboy outfits, African robes, and anything else you could imagine.

A fair proportion of children at school are of mixed race as are my granddaughters, or more correctly, dual nationality, or mixed heritage. Not like when I was a child and the term was half ----. I'm sure it wasn't intended to be unkind, it is just the way things were then.

Millie, the youngest, has a best friend who is Anglo/ African and they truly love each other. They really do look very good together and throw their little arms round each other in greeting each day and don't like to stray from each other's side. They have started having each other round for visits and now the bigger sisters are getting friendly too.

I think it is really good that children are encouraged to celebrate and be proud of both of their inherited countries.
One thing I have noticed though, is that the children of dual nationalities do seem to  be rather beautiful! I expect I am very biased!

These photos and my story were published for Photostory Friday hosted by Cecily and MamGeek.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Legitimate Icing On The Cake!

This was the photo that I was hoping to take the day I went into this shopping precinct, but could not because a security guard told me that I couldn't take a photo in there.
For those readers who might not know what happened last time, press here.

I was idly listening to the news last week and suddenly I heard a bulletin that caught my attention. A grannie, (definitely not me!), who was also visiting this precinct, had tried to take some photos on her digital camera and had also had a problem with the security guard telling her she couldn't take photos there. Only this lady was more feisty than me and held her ground, arguing that it was a public place and that she could take photos for her own use. She had eventually been told to leave and thought that she was about to have her camera confiscated.
She went to the media who contacted the shopping precinct. The person who had full authority there, said that only professional photographers had to ask permission and it was perfectly acceptable for ordinary folk to take photos for their personal use, without being hassled.
Apparently the security guards, were not guards at all but Customer Servicemen. It turned out that they had been over zealous!

Well, being the type of person that I am, I travelled back there and went up to the top floor where one of these men was standing, and took out my camera and snapped the photo that I wanted. He saw me do it and said nothing! I thought that I would leave it at that. I had got the photo that I wanted and a story to go with it.

I feel pleased to think on that first visit, that the man who I thought of as a security guard, thought that I was a professional photographer. Even though I am a grannie and had a tiny camera and no other gear like tripods or long angled lenses. Or maybe I am flattering myself and he just didn't know the rules. Or maybe the company were forced to change the rules so as not to appear foolish.

Anyway, I admire the other grannie who stood up for herself better than I did and if she ever gets to read this......... well, thanks!

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Empty Box

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

A couple of years ago, I was stunned to receive a letter form our county council informing me that I was being awarded a substantial sum of money for long service in my place of work and that I could go to a shop and choose something to the value quoted in the letter. I could then show them the voucher and take the goods home.
Well, strike me down. All that work in the special school over the years, cleaning up sh*t and all those kids I had lifted onto changing tables at great detriment to my back, the crates of sandwich boxes that I lifted and carried.............. now being recognized. I couldn't believe it!
I read on, I couldn't have the gift in cash and I had to spend the voucher in one shop.

I gave the matter great thought and eventually decided to get something that I would never think of buying for myself. Something I would not normally be able to afford. An indulgence!
I chose a gold bracelet in two colours of gold. White gold and yellow gold, sort of entwined around each other in a kind of plait. The bracelet had a good clasp that looked secure. The bill came to just over £300, more than I would ever pay for a bracelet.
Well, I showed it off and wore it on special occasions. I kept it in its posh box that had come from a posh shop.
Last summer holiday, I was having all that worry with my sick son in law and had planned to go and see him. However it was the start of the school holiday and I decided to wear the bracelet for the duration and felt it would be safer than leaving it in the house, in case we were burgled.
The day before I was due to go away, I noticed that the bracelet had gone. To my horror, I realized that I hadn't seen it since the day I put it on. That was three weeks before! I would normally have taken it off for showers and things but because I was not used to wearing it, I'd forgotten that I'd even put it on.

I searched the whole house. I searched the garden. I tried to think what I had done that first day of the holiday. I'd gone shopping and I just hoped that it wouldn't have been found by some druggie who would sell it cheaply for his next fix, or some kids who might have just tossed it about without realizing how valuable it was. 

Then I realized there was a possibility that I had accidentally thrown it in the council garden waste bin along with all the twigs and branches that I had chopped back around that time. The thought that I had given the bracelet inadvertently back to the council was very ironic but was a distinct possibility. I could imagine some one opening a bag of compost that the council had sold to them, made with my leftovers and the look of surprise when they pulled out their bounty. It was a sickening thought.

Of course it could be nearer to home. It might be under the soil somewhere or at the bottom of my mini pond. In fact it could be anywhere. If only I knew where and when I lost it, I might have had a chance of getting it back.
I didn't even get a photo of the bracelet. All I have left is the empty box.

It has taken me all this time to blog about the loss. I was too gutted at the time it happened and had felt very sorry for myself. Everything had seemed to be going wrong in my family.
However, in the end, I began to realize that it was only a material possession and not flesh and blood. I never had the bracelet before, and I haven't got it now. I am exactly where I was before I received that letter.
The council might have reclaimed their gift through the compost or it might be on the wrist of some lucky person. I only hope that person stops to think who might have lost it, though I doubt it. They probably thought it was owned by a very rich person who didn't deserve to have it in the first place!
I keep hoping it will turn up, though I doubt it.

This story was told for Photostory Friday hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.
With apologies for the uninteresting photo!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Ever since they were toddlers, my two grandsons have been mad about trains. They started off with plastic baby toys and then went on to wooden Brio. Later, their interest was focused on mechanical and electric train sets. 
They are both obsessed with computer games that have anything to do with trains, such as a Lego train game with different variations of building tracks and layouts. They would both spend all day on these computer games if they were allowed.
They have always liked going on train rides. This started off with small rides by the sea on miniature railways and progressed to proper steam trains like the one above. Though why the seat was tied down like that, I do not know. I'm sure it wasn't because my grand sons were coming!

The oldest grandson has just been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, at twelve years of age. I have mentioned before that I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd have had Asperger's Syndrome, but no, it is not that. Apparently Rick doesn't have the obsessions that go with it. Children can have intense interest in something, apparently, and not be unusual.
I've mentioned before that he has been really struggling with Secondary School and had been appointed an extra helper even before the disorder was diagnosed. It isn't as though he doesn't understand the work. He is quite clever when he is focused on anything. He just has a problem with emotional and social skills and sticking with things that don't interest him.
He likes to play with younger people and is usually very good with them. Sometimes, though, when I think he is acting unfairly to some other child, I have asked him, "How do you think that makes that child feel? Happy or sad?" He has usually replied to that kind of question, that he is not sure, which has often made me rather annoyed, until now that is.
It's the same with eye contact. All of us have had to say to Rick, "Look at me when I talk to you."  However, I often have to say that to the children at school, even the ones without a problem.
Rick often stares at the speaker, with such intensity, and that doesn't seem right either.
Usually, if we ask a question that involves a feeling, he will giggle and look awkward as he genuinely cannot answer something that he cannot understand.

Much of the time he is fine, but certain things cause a problem. Excessive faddishness with food, to the point of almost starving himself if he doesn't have the right brand of bread. Or his beans are touching his chips and he has to have them put in a dish away from the dryer foods. He is very thin, like a bean pole and Dean, who is younger by two years has always been a larger and sturdier child. So we cannot make it too difficult for Rick to get enough to eat.
He is under a dietician at a hospital and is waiting for blood tests to see if there is a medical problem.
He refuses to do homework and anything else that he really doesn't want to do.

So far, we have not had any advice as to what to do about behaviour and although Rick will be followed up at the hospital now, Deb and I are having to look up on the net to see exactly what the condition is. However, there doesn't seem to be any guidance about what to do. Most children are picked up at an earlier age.
What will happen about exams?
Will he ever have a normal relationship when he grows older?
Will he be allowed to drive?
What about work?
So many things are going through our  minds right now.

I know some of you have autistic children or grandchildren. Could any of you point me in the right direction as to what books I could read. Where do we go next? 
I realize that the condition varies from being very severe to mild and that it might not be as easy to find answers to our questions.
However, opinions and help would be much appreciated. We both feel we have been left to our own devices. Help!

Friday, 21 November 2008

So Am I A Criminal Now?

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

I don't normally like modern architecture, not for the sake of it that is. However there was something about these glass domes in this new shopping centre, that really caught my eye. I was like a kid in a toy shop at Christmas......... and  I had my camera handy. I started snapping without a care in the world.

Up on a higher level, things got even better, snapping glass domes through other glass domes and the patterns were fantastic. I was really looking forward to going to the very top level and taking photos looking down through the glass domes and seeing all the angles and unusual shapes that would come out in the photos.

"Excuse me," said a voice of a man behind me, "You can't take photos here." 
I turned around and saw the security guard! Gulp.

"Its just that these glass curves in the roof are so fantastic," I stammered. "I am an amateur photographer. They are only for my own use."

"You will have to get permission if you want to take photos here," The guard went on to say.
I half expected him to demand that I delete the photos from my camera or worse still to confiscate it. 
I went on to ask where I could get permission. The man, who was speaking in a very heavy foreign accent, told me some brief instructions that I didn't fully understand, so off I went. I had to go right to the top of the precinct to get to the Management Office. 
Was I feeling unusually bold? I figured that as I was probably captured on thousands of CCTV cameras as a would be terrorist, that I had better go and make it legal and explain my case.
After much asking around (why did I always chose a foreign person each time, who I couldn't fully understand) I did eventually get to the Management Office. The doors were heavily locked and there was not a person in sight.  
Surely that security guard must have known that the office was closed. Is that what they do to put people off? Make it so difficult that they hope people will not bother?

So that was that then. I looked down at the glass domes and realized what it must feel like to be a junkie needing one more fix, or a gambler needing just another bet, an alcoholic needing one more for the road. What was happening to me? 
I clenched my hands in my pockets so that I wouldn't be tempted and tried to think of other things. 
I would find a way to come back some time in the future and ask the Management Office if I could take the photos from the top level.

So for the sake of security, I cannot tell you where these pictures were taken. In which town or city or even in which country. However I will reveal to you that it is somewhere in Europe.
However, as I didn't have the camera interfered with in any way, I feel that it is OK for me to use the pictures that I had already taken.
Am I wrong? Gulp!

These are my photos (I think!) and this is my story for Photostory Friday. Hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Sunset By The Lake

This is a response to a monthly invitation to write a story on a given theme. It is hosted by Jeff B from Word In Edgewise. Look him up and see the set of rules.  This is the November entry. Why not have a go!

This is my first serious attempt at fiction story telling! Are you sitting comfortably! You will need to! 

Sylvie glanced once again at the place by the rocks, where Greg's silver convertible usually stood. She had watched the sunset by herself that evening and now it was dark. She could hear the gentle lapping of the ripples in the lake nearby, as they pushed against the stones on the water's edge. 
The lamp had been left in the tent on the hillside above and now she could see the faint light shining boldly into the darkness. It was an old glass jar with a thin wire handle, the type of jar used in kitchens for bottling fruit, with a thick candle inside, but it gave out enough light. She realized she must go to fetch it. Greg would be coming, she knew that. He had put the tent up earlier but where was he now? He had never done this before.

The thought of Greg sent ripples of pleasure tingling throughout her entire being. She was almost forty and had never really loved anyone like this before. There had been men in her life, of course, several in fact, but Sylvie was a career woman and the thought of sacrificing her life to marriage or a long term relationship with any man, had never been for her. This was really different though..... Greg was different. She found that she needed Greg more than anything else in the world. 
She thought back to the time he had first asked her out. The guy from work with the silvery streaked hair, who was really rather ordinary and a good bit older than she was. Of course he had to be a married man. Well, that hadn't bothered Sylvie at the time. 
"Take what you can in life and enjoy it," was her philosophy. 
It had all started off innocently enough, with a meal out and the drive to this lake that Greg loved. They had talked for hours in the car and Greg had told her about his once beautiful wife with the long red hair and the fact that she had become so ill. Sylvie understood this and it didn't make any difference in the beginning. They watched their first beautiful sunset together. The striking colours in the sky seemed to explode into fiery reds and yellows and orange against the darkening clouds. It was not long before their talking stopped and they began a passionate explosion of their own, that equalled any fiery sunset.
They used the convertible at first, but then Greg came up with the idea of the tent. There were trees all around the lake, except for this clearing where there was a steep hill that levelled onto a small field and Greg pitched the tent up there.

Every Friday evening, Greg left work earlier than Sylvie and put up the tent in readiness for their rendezvous and she followed later, parking her mini in a lane nearby. They both felt they were being very discreet as this was a lonely place. They would spend a few hours together in the tent and although they wished it could be for longer, Greg's wife found things difficult. He had to get back to her.
They used the lamp to find their way down the rough track that led them back to the car parked by the rocks below. Greg walked Sylvie back to her mini and kissed her goodbye. A long lingering kiss that could have started a repeat of their lovemaking before. He would then get into his car and leave first. Sylvie always followed a few minutes later.
This arrangement seemed to work out very well for both of them and Fridays could not come soon enough. However, Sylvie often felt that they were not alone. She shuddered at the thought of this, but suspected that it was her guilt that caused this feeling, for just recently, she had started to feel guilty about Greg's sick wife. She was also aware, that in spite of everything, Greg still loved his wife. Sylvie was desperate to persuade him that he would be better off with her.


Greg was miles away from the lake. He had parked his car to sit and think out what to do next. He held his head in his hands and sobbed, great heaving sobs of desperation.
It was never meant to turn out like this. His wife had always been prettier than Sylvie could ever be. When they were married she had been petite and she still had that long, red hair that he'd so loved.  He had always thought she looked so lovely in green. She used to dress up for him.What had happened to her over the years? She had become like a zombie, swallowing a concoction of pills and her once attractive green eyes, seemed constantly glazed these days. She also drank, but she was careful to hide the bottles away and she denied there was a problem. She had let herself go, sometimes not bothering about her appearance at all. Greg marvelled that he still found her attractive, even in this state. He needed her but she pushed him away.

Sylvie, on the other hand was vibrant and he could talk to her about anything and they could laugh together, something that his wife just couldn't do. So it was no wonder that Sylvie, being passionate by nature, provided everything that his wife could not give him. He had not meant for the affair to go on as long as this, but surely he was entitled to some happiness? Was that so very wrong? It wasn't as though his wife had suspected anything, when he met up with Sylvie by the lake. He had explained that he had to work late on a Friday night. So why did she have to get so het up about everything? Why choose tonight to rant and rave at him like a wild thing? She had accused him of infidelity and he had denied it. How had she found out about Sylvie? Greg thought it was just guess work as they had been so careful. 
He had  managed to sneak away and had gone to the lake earlier and had put up the tent as usual and even lit the lamp, but as he came back down to the rocks where he'd parked his car, he knew he couldn't go through with the evening after all. Everything was now too complicated. He had chickened out and left, not even bothering to pick up the tent. 
Sylvie wanted more commitment than he could give her and why did he feel so guilty about cheating on his sick wife? He had done the same thing before Sylvie came onto the scene and he hadn't felt like this. The problem was, she was falling for him in a big way and that was not what he wanted. Non of the others had done that. They had been happy to just meet up for sex and he'd thought Sylvie felt the same. 
He must give her up. He couldn't go back to her now. Tonight everything had been spoilt. 
The more he thought about it, the more trapped and desperate he felt.


Sylvie walked back down the path that led to the lake. She held the lamp high and glanced over at the place where Greg's car should have been. She was sure something had happened to him by now. She took out her mobile but she already knew there was no signal in this place.
Why had he put the tent up and disappeared? Why had he left the lamp lit? 
She was beginning to regret that she had told Greg how she felt about him the last time they had met secretly in their work break. How she had clung to him and told him that she wanted to be a permanent part of his life. Why had she messed up things by saying all that?
She held the lamp out towards the lake for one last look. She would go home, ring Greg and find out what had happened. She would tell him she didn't mind that he couldn't give her what she wanted. She would keep the relationship just as it was. Anything was better than losing him, anything. She was angry with herself for having spoken out like that and angry with Greg for loving his wife, even though she was an alcoholic. How could he love a woman like that more than her?

Her eye caught something floating on the lake. It was a fair sized thing, like a log.
Sylvie went nearer to the water's edge to look more closely. What she saw made her blood turn cold and she stood unable to move. Floating just below the surface was a woman's body. A woman in a green dress, her face white and her eyes half open and still staring vacantly ahead. Her hair was floating about her in all directions, dragged by the water, moving this way and that. Red hair........... long red hair.

Sylvie dropped the lamp and screamed. A long piercing scream that broke the stillness of the night and set off a dog barking in the distance. The lamp smashed into many pieces on the rocks and in the ensuing darkness, Sylvie knew that the dream that she'd had about a future with Greg, was now lost forever, shattered in a moment, like the lamp.

Friday, 14 November 2008

To Cycle Or Not To Cycle?

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Not long ago I described a lovely walk that I enjoyed with my sister in law and these are some of the photos that I took as we walked along the cycle path.
I described how dangerous the silent cyclists were when they sneaked up behind us with out warning, not ringing their bells or shouting out that they were there.
However,  all this cycling  talk reminds me of the last time I was on a bike myself, only few years ago.............

I used to cycle to and from work........... but not anymore!

One lunch time, I happened to be cycling home from work and was waiting at a junction to turn right into a very busy main road and I can remember pulling away.......... 
The next thing I remember was lying on my back in the road and an ambulance was not far away. I could see it. A lady was saying, "Now don't you worry about the blood, a little bit goes a long way. You silly girl why didn't you wear a crash helmet?" 
The paramedics had arrived by then and put a neck brace on me and slid a straight board under my body. The right temple over my eye brow was gushing blood. They bandaged it.

I was worried about what would happen to my bike and a woman in one of the houses said she'd take it in for me.

It turned out (and I only learned this later from other people), that an elderly driver had driven into the back of my  bike while trying to pull away on the same righthand turn too, but had not given me time to get away.
When she saw what had happened, she ran away to get someone to help, leaving me to lie unconscious in a busy road that has juggernauts thundering by. Anyway I was well out of it so didn't know the danger I was in at the time.

After a couple of days in hospital suffering from concussion, throwing up and so dizzy that I could hardly walk, I looked a sorry mess with black eyes, bruising and swellings on various bits of my anatomy, I had to take a couple of weeks from work and was sore for ages.
People used to joke as to whether my old man had given me the black eyes. Not so funny after the first half dozen times you hear that!

I did try and get back to cycling again, after I'd had the wheel straightened out, but it wasn't the same after that.

This is my story and these are my photos. Photostory Friday, hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.

Friday, 7 November 2008


There is harmony in the countryside. There is harmony between the seasons. There is harmony between the creatures who live there, even though some are the hunters and some the hunted. That is the way it is and things go on with an acceptance of the different conditions that happen over the years, though both flora and fauna have to learn to adapt to changing conditions.

Everyone knows what harmony means. However, I am looking up alternative words in my Collins Gem Thesaurus, that I keep nearby for my crossword puzzles.

1/  accord, agreement, amicability, amity, assent, compatibility, concord, conformity, cooperation, friendship, like-mindedness, peace, rapport, sympathy, unity.
2/ euphony, melody, tune, tunefulness.

Most of the words in group one, cover what I mean about the countryside, however all of them cover mankind.

Since I have been blogging, I have come across harmony between fellow bloggers and have been amazed how all the alternative words in group one have touched me through comments that I have received. Some times even group two has been realized through music that suddenly strikes up when I visit a blog or by being "in tune" with the person that I am visiting.

So do we have to like every one? Do we have to agree with everyone?
That is not possible because we are human beings with our own preferences, likes and dislikes. Some people warm to us right away, while others do not. We are all different and we are definitely entitled to conflicting ideas.

I expect all of us can remember different types of teachers  from when we were young. One teacher might have believed in a child and built him up by giving encouragement and help. Another might have damaged his confidence by a slap with a ruler (yes that happened when I was a child), a harsh comment or making him look ridiculous in front of the class.
Actually, both of these experiences would stick in one's mind, but the positive experience would be remembered with gratitude and recognition that some one saw potential and gave encouragement. It could be acted on and that child might grow up to bear the fruit of that teacher's belief.
However, the negative experience might sow doubts about the child's ability so that he might not even try and reach his highest level. Then that teacher might be partly responsible for stunting the child's growth.

Its the same with blogging. 
Let's be responsible for building people up not putting them down. We can always boycott a blog if we dislike it so much. However it is our responsibility as bloggers not to damage other people's faith, friendships and feelings.
Let us live in harmony with each other. Peace!

Psalm 133:v 1   "How pleasant for God's people to live in harmony."

The Surprise Walk

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

When I was staying on the east side of England recently, while I visited my daughter and grandsons, I had decided to take lots of warm clothes because it is generally colder, windier as well as flat, compared to the west side of England. Those cold winds tear in from the North Sea with nothing to protect that side of the country from the onslaught.
I annoy my daughter by telling her that the West is generally protected because of the Gulf Stream and of course all the hills. 
"You and your Gulf Stream," she says!
Anyway the first Monday that we were there, it turned out to be really sunny even though it was coldish.
Deb told us to jump in the car and said she would take us to a local beauty spot.
The boys had been sitting in front of the computer all morning and the thought of going out in the cold did not appeal.
We tried coaxing, cajolling, shaming ........ everything we could think of to get them out of the house. It was only the threat of no more computer games the next day that got them to put their noses out of the door.
After much moaning and groaning, by the boys, we all piled into the car.

We travelled through lovely scenery and after quite a lot of driving.......... Deb admitted she was lost. I spied a nice canal with long boats and barges, so we stopped to take some pictures.

We noticed a tow path running by the side of the canal, so we decided to walk along the path.
The oldest grandson moaned and groaned and protested some more. However he soon realized that there were things of interest to see and gradually the moaning stopped and he picked up a long stick and off he set, whacking at the grass alongside the path.

It really was a lovely walk and there were many small boats tied up along the canal, which went on for miles, by the look of it.

After the boats, we came to a rugged patch and it was questionable whether I could make it over the slippery mud. We were all laughing but, as I pointed out, I am not able to swim and was slithering about on the edge of the water. However, I am sure anyone falling into that cold water would soon die of hyperthermia, even if they could swim.
The scenery was fantastic and we walked and walked until we suddenly realized that the clocks had gone back the night before, and the sun was getting really low in the sky.
The thought of walking through all that mud in the dark was a bit daunting, so we reluctantly turned round. I had picked up a stout stick by then to lean on in the tricky places and I also began to pick some huge leaves. When I got to the muddy patches, I put the leaves down over the mud and my feet didn't slip.
Deb thought it was really funny, but this really stopped me from sliding.
By then the boys had gone on ahead suddenly enthusiastic to do their own thing and were waiting at the entrance to this place, by the car.
They had had a really good time, in spite of everything they had said previously.
Once we get them away from the computer they do have fun. It is just the thought of going out in the cold that stops them from wanting to leave the house in the first place.

You can see how dark it was getting just before we reached the car.

When we returned home to the West, later in the week, it was really cold! Gulf Stream or no Gulf Stream!

These photos were taken by me and used for Photostory Friday. Hosted by Cicely and MamaGeek.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

A Walk In The Countryside.

I recently met up with my sister in law, Gloria and we walked along an established cycle path that goes on for miles, but we stopped after an hour or so and walked back again. A round trip of about seven miles. It was a beautiful Friday, which happened to be my day off. It was a dry day with an autumnal feel about it. The scenery was lovely good old English countryside.

My sister in law has recently had a return of breast cancer, after twelve years. She is a very brave person and is often in pain but she is not one for complaining. She walks along this cycle path at every opportunity that she has and she holds down a part time job in a care home. She is married to my brother, the paramedic. (Remember that post I recently wrote about him?)
I don't normally swear, but this cancer really has begun to get me down and the way it affects not only the sufferer who has it, but also their families who are also drawn in to it. I know many others have to do battle to cancer too and statistically one in three will get it at sometime in their life. I sometimes imagine fate to be a large pointer somewhere or other out yonder, saying, "Eeny meeny miney mo,  You two escape but YOU must go!" I am sure that it has  nothing to do with God........... its just the way that the world is made and ****ing bad luck if it happens to you.
Get back to the subject, Maggie...... the cycle path.

We walked a good distance, stopping now and then for me to take photos, when we came to a bridge and a lot of gravel on the side of the path.
Gloria surprised me by saying, "This is where a man pushed me off my bike when I was young and he groped me and I fell on all this gravel. Here are the scars that I still have."
What an evil creep! He ran from the scene and cycled off. I supposed she considered herself lucky that he didn't do worse. There was no one else about.
I reacted by asking her if she felt vulnerable these days when she walks down this path by herself and she replied that she wasn't going to let some pervert stop her from enjoying herself. She also remarked that if he did it now he would be in for a shock as she'd had a mastectomy! She is a brave lady to be able to laugh at herself like that. We both laughed as we imagined the scene.

We noticed there were gaggles of school boys walking along the path in the same direction as us. At first I thought they must be playing truant but as there were so many of them I reckoned the whole school would have to be doing it. There were far too many of them. I risked asking three young lads what was happening? I was obviously eyed with suspicion at first. Was I a school inspector or a child molester? However, a blushing boy of about thirteen told me that the school was on an organized hike. Didn't see any adults in charge for a long time. Trust us to pick such a day to come here. Gloria told me there were usually lots of older people about and apart from the risk to life and limb from mad cyclists, racing very fast and not ringing a bell (if they had one) who think they own the place, it was usually quiet. In fact the cyclists are very quiet and sneak up behind in a dangerous manner. Isn't it illegal not to have a bell? Not that there is any one to bother if it is.

After a while some boys  stopped us, "Excuse me," said an angelic looking lad, "There's some rocks just along the path, mind you don't trip." We thanked the boys and Gloria muttered that she felt like slapping him round the face! Did he think we were so decrepit that we couldn't walk along the path in a straight line? The rocks were well off the path. Or maybe the school had asked them to help some old person and they had to report at the end of the day what they'd done.
Gloria and I suddenly fell about laughing at the thought that we were so old that we couldn't pass a few rocks without stumbling. We laughed so much that we both realized we needed the loo. Well it was all that laughing and our advanced years and apparently sagging bladders! There obviously wasn't one for miles around. Of course a bloke could just go behind a bush with no problem. My friend Hetty, was once out with me when she just had to go.......... so she went and squatted behind a bush without a care in the world. A gang of kids walked by laughing when they passed us and they had obviously seen her. I must write about Hetty one day. Another brave lady in a completely different way.
Back to the cycle path.
We walked gingerly after that, with mincing steps and tried hard not to laugh or think about our urgent need.

Eventually we came to the end of the walk and were within easy reach of some public loos. (A rare sight indeed, these days.) Too bad they were overflowing and out of order. Oh well....... we had waited this long, so we got to Gloria's car and drove to her house. She dashed to the downstairs loo and I raced upstairs!
We then had another good laugh and sat down to soup, crackers and cheese and a huge pot of tea.
Yes, an enjoyable day out, lovely scenery, good company and lots of laughter. A relief from the tensions of life! Did I say relief!!!!!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Visiting Bristol.........

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

People either love Bristol or they hate it. You can shop till you drop and this is the newly built shopping precinct that we recently visited, called Cabot Circus. Noted for the glass domed roof. It is a huge shopping area and this photo doesn't really do it justice.

If you like posh shops then this one came from London. I always think that Bristol comes second to London, but I guess many people will disagree.

Bristol is steeped in history and this is the theatre on Bristol City Centre. It is very old. Many of the top ballets, plays and musicals come to this theatre.

Bristol has a history of the sea. There are many walks along the waterfront and the old buildings have been modernized. The bridge has been named Pero's Bridge, after a slave who had that name, when Bristol had a part in the slave trade.

There are many tranquil parts of Bristol, lots of parks and open green places to rest a while. Just like in London.
Harry and I love to visit all the lovely places in Bristol, when we can.

For those of you who might be confused.......... we are at present staying with our daughter on the east coast, nearer to London! 

These photos were taken by me for Photostory Friday, hosted by Cecily & MamaGeek.