Feeding the birds

Since we lost our lovely old cat, Izzie, last September, Mike and I have started to try to encourage birds back to our garden. It started with a very cheap bird table that we bought on the internet, followed closely by Mike’s masterpiece, a nesting box that he designed and built in the garden shed.

He placed them both in our tiny garden, we put some bread out, and we waited, and we waited. Meanwhile we bought a fat ball feeder and a peanut feeder, and hung them on the shed. The fat ball shrivelled and died, and the nuts went mouldy.

Now this might sound silly, but I started to feel very rejected. Why were the birds not coming to eat the food I’d lovingly cooked?…Well OK, not exactly cooked, but still, thought had gone into it. I’d walked outside in the cold without my coat to put food out. Soon I was taking the dustpan and brush out with me to clean off the bird table so I could put more food out, only for it to be rejected once again.

Meanwhile, every Thursday I’d go and clean for an elderly lady, and watch with amazement as squirrels competed with dozens of birds for the food she put out. One day I watched a young fox eating bread that had been put out for the birds. The garden was visited by a pair of ducks, seagulls, and pigeons, as well as a whole host of garden birds, and every week I was treated to the sight of a beautiful red and black woodpecker, who visits just for the fat balls.

One Thursday I came home and Mike told me he’d seen a blackbird on the bird table. Even more exciting was the news that a pair of blue tits had been checking out the nesting box. …and a robin was regularly visiting the garden.

I felt like a Mum with a fussy child, who had suddenly started to eat the food so lovingly provided. I was keen to get them to try new things, so suddenly garden centres, which up until now had been interesting for plants and stone ornaments and nice coffee shops, became places to go to to look at birdseed and meal worms. I found myself looking through the kitchen cupboards for suet, and currants, anything the birds might like.

The blue tits use the seed feeder and the peanuts and the fat balls. The robin loves the mealworms. And me – I’m like a very proud mum. “Do you know? All the food I put out has gone…I’ll have to refill the bird table.”

Soon, I hope to be a grandmother…those blue tits are very definitely interested in moving into the nesting box.!


On afternoon naps

When did it happen? This need to plan my days so I can factor in some time to lie down for a little while and have a sleep? I’ve always liked a sleep in the afternoon. It started with working split shifts at Barnardo’s. The 2-5 break was just right for a little nap. It was something I liked, but not something I actually needed, if you know what I mean. I could work all day, go out in the evening, do a bit of studying, and get up the next day and start all over again. If I ever missed my nap it didn’t matter, I don’t remember feeling tired, ever, even though on most of my days off I chose to take one of the children into Brighton with me, so I didn’t even rest then.

Now the nap is not a choice, it’s a necessity. I will lie on the settee, and say to Mike “I’m going to sleep now”, close my eyes, and go to sleep. Immediately. In seconds. Worse is the need to plan my day around it. It’s odd, because if I go shopping, for instance, I’m fine, not tired, don’t need to find a park bench to lie down on. But if I need to work, or do something for somebody, I find myself planning my day in detail, trying to factor in time for that nap.

Tomorrow is a good example. I have three things I have to do. Two jobs for a total of three hours, and I have to take someone for their hospital appointment. Not arduous, really, but already I am worrying about when I will have my little sleep, and even whether I will be up to doing the second job in the evening. The rational side of me tells me not to be so silly. And actually I know that people with full time jobs will wonder what on earth I’m going on about.

Tomorrow will come, I’ll just get on with it, I’ll be fine. If I don’t get a sleep it won’t matter.

I think it may be part of a general anxiety about things, that happens when you get older. When the children were young, we were planning one of our pre Christmas special weekends, at my Mum and Dad’s house, and my Mum said “But where will everyone sleep?”. I didn’t understand what she was worried about…we’d find a bit of floor somewhere. Now I know how she felt!

Very special times

Today is the 13th birthday of one of my Grandsons. his mum is my youngest daughter, and today her blog is about the day of his birth.

Whenever one of my children or Grandchildren have a birthday, I think about the beginning, the first time I saw them. Each birth is different, each baby is unique, and each introduction is special.

My eldest Granddaughter was born a few months after the break up of my marriage. My emotions were all over the place. Grandchildren were supposed to be the next generation of “our ” family. I went to the hospital, on the one hand thrilled at the birth of this beautiful little girl, yet not knowing whether my husband would also be there, hoping he wouldn’t, and hoping he would. I was nervous about how I would react to seeing the baby’s other Grandparents there… a very happily married couple. Bless them, I think they understood, and swept me up into the euphoria in that room, including me and not giving me time to think about what might have been. By the time I left the hospital room I felt stronger, so that when I met my husband on his way in, I was able to turn around and take him in to see the baby.

When the next baby was born, I took my friend, who was visiting me for the day. The baby was a little unsettled, and my friend took him, laid him on her lap, and massaged his head (Cranio – Sacral therapy) It was amazing to see how every muscle in his body relaxed. That friend helped make that first introduction special. She was someone to share the experience with, someone to agree that he was definitely the most beautiful baby in the ward!

My eldest daughter’s first baby was special because we hadn’t expected her to have children. He shot into the world on bonfire night. My memory of that first meeting is of her sitting up in bed, knees raised, with the baby resting on them. She was  just gazing at her beautiful new son. Is it just in my memory they seem to be bathed in sunlight?

Two years later we welcomed baby number two. He came into the world looking a lot like his mother. I remember how thrilled she was to have another beautiful little boy. My memory of him then is blurred. I think I met him the next day when they were home from hospital, but my main memory is a bitter sweet one, of taking him into intensive care and laying him on my Mother’s pillow. We put her hand on him, and told her it was her new Great Grandson. She wasn’t conscious, but her heartbeat speeded up on the monitor. It meant a lot to my daughter and me that Mum, at the end of her life, seemed aware that he was there.

My youngest son’s children next. My Granddaughter was born in Liverpool, and my youngest daughter and I travelled up to see her when she was two days old. Her mother was tired and a bit stressed after a traumatic birth experience in hospital, and having had her family visit the day before, so we didn’t want to over tire her again. The baby was awake, and I remember after a while I took her into their bedroom and laid on the bed for about half an hour, just gazing at her. She was gorgeous. She looked a lot like her Mum, and was one of those babies that looked wise, an old soul. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her often, and I wanted to memorise every bit of her lovely little face.

Their next baby was born after they’d moved to Devon. By this time I was very happy in my personal life, having remarried, and my husband and I travelled to see him when he was two days old. I think I expected things to be a bit fraught, but we walked into this wonderful calm atmosphere, this beautiful little boy having been born at home. One of my favourite memories is of watching my husband as he cradled a new born baby for the first time. This was how I’d always imagined being Grandparents should be, though , of course he isn’t biologically linked to these children.

I was stunned when I heard there was to be a third baby in this family, especially as the birth was only two months away when we found out. But what a wonderful surprise! As usual, when we got the call to say that the baby was here, safe and well, and born at home while the other two slept, I was thrilled and excited, and

Internet anyone?

I was listening to The Archers Omnibus online this morning, and one of the story lines was about phone cables being stolen and and the resultant chaos in the village as businesses tried to cope without phones, the Internet, and emergency alarms for the elderly.

It isn’t only people who have computers who are affected when computers go down. If the businesses you are using are affected, then you are too. Just a small example was the other day when we had to collect cash from an ATM to pay for a meal because the card reader in the restaurant was down. That was a small thing, but sometimes we realise we are so reliant on computers in order to communicate with other people that when our Internet connection fails it seems a huge disaster.

I got my first computer about thirteen years ago. Within days I was addicted , and wondered how I had managed without it. Actually then, it was a matter of passing the time, surfing the net. These days I use the computer much more for researching different brands and shops if we need a new appliance, checking out places to see, and booking bed and breakfast for the odd break away. On top of that, there’s banking, and checking out car and house insurance…the list goes on and on.

I actually have pre-computer experience of how to do these things without going online, but it occurs to me that people in their twenties will have no memories of life before the Internet, and therefore might be quite lost if suddenly they had to spend time without it. I say I’d know what to do, but that won’t help if (as I suspect may be the case) the businesses I need to deal with are so tied up with modern technology that they don’t have systems in place to allow me to deal with them by old fashioned methods.

And then of course, there’s Facebook. I have to admit that I find a break from it quite difficult. I feel cut off from the people I “meet” on there every day. There are people on there that I’ve never actually met, or have only met a few times, and if it wasn’t for Facebook I might not think about them for months at a time. But as I do have contact, I find that it really matters to me how they are, what they are doing, and what their opinions are about various subjects. There are people who were originally random Scrabble opponents, who are now Facebook friends, and I feel as if I really know them. If I lost contact with them I would be really sad.

My children all live a long way from me. Skype has been wonderful for keeping in contact with them. Day to day contact with my smallest Grandchildren means I don’t miss out so much on their development, and it isn’t such a shock to see how much they’ve grown when we do see them. On Christmas Day we were treated to a chat with our Devon family, the children showing us how they looked in the clothes we’d bought them. My Sussex Grandchildren have treated us to random calls just to say hello, and I’ve even had a chat with my eldest son and have seen him in his office at work. How my parents would have loved all that!

So here I am, writing my blog, using my computer, the Internet and Facebook, on one of my several sessions a day sitting at the kitchen table. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a life outside Facebook, I do, it’s just that along with millions of others, modern technology has become absolutely indispensible to me.

I’m a moany old thing!

I like the fact that I live in a country where, provided I have the money, I can buy anything I want, whenever I want. There are shops nearby that will sell me a new kettle ten minutes after my old one has given in and gone to appliance heaven.

If I fancy chocolate, I can even nip into the shop at the petrol station. Forgotten a birthday? Buy flowers online, and they’ll be delivered within hours. I love the fact that I don’t have to trek round a town centre comparing prices. It’s a consumers world.

So why does it annoy me so much that the shops are being over helpful and providing things for me to buy when I really don’t even want to think about them yet? I’m referring to Christmas stuff in October, and Easter eggs immediately Christmas is over. In our local supermarket they had an enormous pile of cream eggs just near the door on Boxing Day. Why? Who wants to think about Easter eggs when we’re still in the middle of Christmas? Most of us are still ploughing through the Christmas chocolates at that time.

Now, here we are two weeks before St Valentine’s day, and for at least a week shops have been displaying heart shaped dishes, soppy teddies and cake tins ready for you to make your other half the squidgy chocolate heart shaped cake, that your magazine has persuaded you is the thing he wants most.

When the school summer holidays start, parents are bombarded with adverts for school uniforms for the following school year. The poor kids have barely had time to get out on their scooters when they’re being dragged into town by mothers panicked into buying school clothes before the shops sell out.

Once they are back at school, then the shops fill up with horrible American influenced hallowe’en gear. Films like ET have a lot to answer for….hallowe’en used to be a time when you’d stay in with the curtains shut, just in case your mum was wrong when she said there was no such thing as a ghost.

Before hallowe’en even arrives  the fireworks have appeared in the shops, and night after night we are subjected to bangs and flashes as people decide to have a firework party. Firework displays can be wonderful. A few fireworks in your back garden, not so great. There was a time when you could take your nervous dog to the vet for a sedative on November 4th, in preparation for the following nights festivities. Not now, the poor animal just has to suffer, or spend a month under sedation.

And of course in the middle of all this, the shops have got their Christmas displays up, and pubs are advising you to book your office parties, and so it goes, on and on…


My (older) cousin Ann mentioned that she was enjoying reading my blog, and it got me thinking of my family, and of the memories I have of when we were younger. Ann and I have really only got to know each other since we’ve grown up. I feel sure that if we’d lived close to each other as children, we would have been friends. Her father was my mother’s brother. They were a large family, ten children of sixteen, surviving infancy. I think the fact that my brother Les is named after Ann’s dad tells you that Uncle Les was very much loved in our family. When he was very ill at the end, I travelled from the south coast to County Durham to visit him in hospital. He was in a side ward, sitting up in bed, still smiling. They brought him his dinner. I have this lovely picture in my head of him picking up a little disposable vomit pot and putting it on his head. …he said it was to stop his hair dropping out into his dinner! I have to say it did look like a hat, with a little brim.

After he died, Ann’s mum went to say with my parents in Suffolk for a week. They said they really enjoyed having her to stay. I think they got to know her better in that week than they ever had before. I don’t think they did a lot, pub lunches and some drives out, but it must have been so different from her life in a town. They lived in a village that was so tiny the doctors surgery was in someone’s front room twice a week. Their house was on farmland surrounded on all sides by fields full of crops. Very quiet, very flat, very beautiful.

Ann and I have another cousin, Kathleen. We didn’t see much of her either, as she lives in Scotland, but again, as adults, we have seen more of each other, though not enough. The family stories about Kathleen’s mother are legendary, and mostly very funny. She was a wonderful cook, and a great joker. Once she left me in her kitchen, where I’d been “helping” her to bake. I was about four or five at the time. She told me to keep an eye on everything whilst she went to the toilet. After a couple of minutes, there was a knock on the door, and I was confronted by an old tramp asking for a glass of water. I invited him in and, knowing how nice my Aunty Cis was, said “You can have one of my Auntie’s cakes and a cup of tea if you want”. I don’t know how many years it was before I discovered it was Auntie Cis with a stocking over her head, wearing an old black coat and a man’s hat!

My Grandchildren all live in different parts of the country, so for some of them, it’s difficult to see their cousins often. When they do see each other they really enjoy each others company. My own children were in the same position but I know that on the occasions they see their cousins, they are very happy to see each other. And Facebook has brought us all together. I enjoy reading about what is happening in my family, even if I can’t see them as often as I’d like.

And the contact with my cousins is growing and developing even now, mainly through Facebook. This year I hope to meet two cousins on my father’s side of the family, Trudy and Lesley. It’s weird that despite us not knowing about each other until relatively recently, there is a very definite family feeling, or connection, an interest in the things that are happening in their lives, and a concern for them when things are difficult. I’m very much looking forward to making our family connection a personal one.

I’d like to think that future generations of my family will know their extended family better than I know mine, perhaps they will have the chance to live closer to each other than we have, but if they don’t, I suppose there will always be Facebook!

Perceptions of time

My husband and I have very happy memories of an evening we spent right at the beginning of our relationship. We had dinner, and then sat in the garden watching my small Grandson play. I think we both remember very small details of that evening…what the weather was like, the mound of earth and tree stump Tom was playing on with his cars, the drama when it was time to leave, and one of the cars was missing. “Mike will find it and keep it for you” just wouldn’t work, so a search with a torch was necessary. Luckily, we found it , and Tom climbed back into his car seat, with his precious bag of toys clutched in his hand, happy that he had everything with him.

That was a relatively short time ago, nearly eight years ago. Tom, of course, has no memory of that evening, or of the preceding weekend, which he and I had spent with his Uncle and Aunt in Devon. Yet to me, that time is very fresh in my memory.

We all know, of course, that children do not remember very much before the age of about five or six, but I recently started thinking of it in terms of the proportions of your life span. Tom doesn’t remember because it was just over half his lifetime ago.

Remember when you were a child, and Christmas took ages to get here? Now we wonder where the time has gone, when all of a sudden it’s December again and we haven’t done what we promised ourselves we’d do and spread the cost over the year. The week before Christmas flies by. I’m certain that it always felt like a month instead of a week when I was a child.

So, my perception of time passing has changed over the years, and I’m interested to know what my Grandchildren remember of that time that was so important to Mike and me. Some have been born since then, so Mike has always been there as far as they are concerned. But are the “middle children” aware of that time before Mike and I met? I doubt it. Beth is nineteen, so she will remember, but I’m sure, because of the proportion of her lifetime that Mike has been around, that she will think of it as all happening a really long time ago.

When I was a child, we lived in Germany as part of the occupying forces after the war. I remember a lot of conversations started with “During the war…”, and it seemed to me that all that had happened  a long time ago. After all it was ten years ago! Now, thinking of the Falklands war puts it into perspective. Thirty years ago we watched our service men and women sail out to war. It seemed, and was, a huge thing. It certainly doesn’t seem like 30 years ago. It seems a relatively short time ago, but to my eldest son, who was eleven at the time, it seems like a very long time ago; though being a boy who was interested in all that was going on, he does have fairly clear memories of it.

What I do know is that the older I get, the faster time flies by. Just when I’m settled, and happy, and wanting this time to last so that I can enjoy it, it whizzes past. Soon it will be Christmas, and I’ll be kicking myself for not starting the shopping in January, as I promised I would.

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