A Place of Great Beauty

cemetery 19

Today is the anniversary of my mum’s death.  I have written before about her last week and my memory of it is still fresh.  It was three years ago on the stroke of midnight that she peacefully stopped living and went to her rest after a brief but very distressing illness.

I went to the local cemetery where she is buried.  I was inspired to write this blog post about my visit because, far from being a sad event, it was a place of such beauty that it brought me great comfort.

The cemetery is very old, actually 150 years old!  And it is huge, about 65 acres I read, and it includes a garden of remembrance for ashes.  There is also a crematorium and a beautiful old building which houses two small chapels and waiting rooms.  The building has Grade 11 Listed status because of its architectural and historical interest.  The garden is so beautifully kept by the dedicated gardeners that at any time of year there is something colourful to see.  It has ponds and a variety of shrubs and flower beds.  There are also magnificent mature trees dotted around the cemetery which are home to squirrels and all sorts of birds including woodpeckers.  The setting for the cemetery is exquisite with a magnificent view of the Cleeve Hills as a backdrop.  A stream flows down from the hills and runs through the grounds, with Cotswold stone footbridges over it.  Today the cemetery is especially beautiful as autumn is in full swing and the trees are a delight to behold.

So it is a great worry to hear on the news and read in the papers that there are financial problems at the cemetery and crematorium caused by ‘unforeseen issues’ with the reasonably new machinery at the crematorium.  These issues have left the council who run the facility about a quarter of a million pounds short of their target.

As I tidied my mum’s grave I was struck by the sheer beauty of the setting and the peace and tranquillity of her final resting place.  I would hope that these financial issues do not mean standards will be lowered or the workforce will be cut.  They do such a magnificent job in what must be a very difficult environment.  For me they manage to provide a little piece of heaven here on earth and I want to thank them and let them to know that it is a great comfort.  Thank you.

I have attached some photos I took to this post but even better I found a video of the site here on YouTube.

It’s Automatic!

Skoda Roomster

Skoda Roomster

I’ve just realised that I am a control freak.

This fact, which is probably blindingly obvious to my family, is a total surprise to me.  It was revealed yesterday when I changed my car.

I have been driving for well over 40 years.  While I was at college in Newbold Revel in the 60s we had the chance to learn in the gorgeous country lanes and villages of Warwickshire.  We occasionally drove into Rugby or the outskirts of Coventry, but these roads were not so busy then.  There was no A45 for a start!  We just tootled along the ‘B roads’ through sleepy little villages like Brinklow.  I had no nerves in those days and my instructor said I was a natural.  Lessons cost us 17shilling and 6pence (17s6d) in pre-decimal money, which is about 87p now.  It sounds really cheap but of course a pound was a lot of money then.

When I left college I moved to the Cotswolds with my room-mate and dear friend Pat, whom I have written about before.  Pat already had a car while we were at college.  She used to work at riding stables in Somerset during her holidays so had learned to drive early.  We made quite a stir wherever we turned up in her car because she used to take the back seats out of it to transport her tiny Shetland pony, Rupert.  Did I mention that Pat was a ‘one off’?   In her prime she rode the iconic London to Brighton Cycle Race, but Pat did it on a unicycle.   She certainly lived life to the full and squeezed every ounce of fun she could out of it.  Later on in life she became a really serious cyclist, what is known as a ‘hard rider’.  She did time trials, road racing, cross country mountain biking and hill climbs, which were her favourite.   She won lots of titles including National Ladies’ Veteran and Bog-snorkelling Champion!  What makes this all the more amazing is that she did it all with a metal frame supporting her spine after she fell from a tree and broke her back many years ago while picking fruit.  She was a great friend and I miss her.

Anyway, by the time I got round to needing a car I was married and had a baby.  I actually passed my test with the baby in his carry cot on the back seat!  There was no law about child seats in those days; there weren’t even seat belts in the back seats of most cars!

Since then I have had several cars of different marques.  I loved my little red Fiat but hated the VW Beetle.  I once had a brand new silver Mazda which was my favourite car, but usually I had whatever my dad was replacing, as they were free!  By the time I had 4 children I had a blue escort estate which my dad had used for work.  This would be early 1980s and because he travelled so much for work he had a very early mobile phone.  The phone itself was huge by today’s standards but the battery was ridiculous.  It was the size of a small suitcase and was fitted under the driver’s seat.

Following that I had little metros and lastly a Renault Clio.  This car was ideal until this summer when my husband had a couple of bad falls.  He has peripheral neuropathy among other things and since the fall he has hardly been able to walk let alone drive.  So I have been taking a wheelchair with us whenever we go out.  The boot on the Clio is quite small and quite high so lifting, folding and stowing the wheelchair has been really hard for me.  Hence, the need for a change of car.  Unfortunately due to his age mainly, we don’t qualify for the wonderful ‘Motability Scheme’, but we were told that when people with disabilities return their adapted cars, they are forwarded to dealers and sold ~ the cars that is, not the person with disabilities!  So we started a search of dealers in our area.  I took some advice from an expert, Zog Zeigler, who writes brilliant car reviews for TV, newspapers and various magazines, and eventually found just the car for us.  It is a Skoda Roomster.  The lady who had it from new had returned it after only 6 months, so we really got a bargain.

It has a huge low boot which is easy to get a wheelchair in even unfolded.  It has parking sensors front and back.  It has hand controls for braking and accelerating.  It has a huge glass roof so my grandson can watch the ‘cloudbabies’.  And, it has 4 doors which open wide so the other grandchildren can get in easily loaded up with schoolbags, football kit and musical instruments!  BUT, and it’s a big but, it is AUTOMATIC.

I have never driven an automatic car before so it was probably not the best decision to pick it up while my hubby was in hospital, in the rush hour, and drive it home along one of the narrowest roads in Gloucestershire while the factory workers were racing home on bikes, scooters, motorbikes, cars, lorries and buses.  It was the most hair-raising drive I have ever undertaken ~ and I’ve travelled in cars in Africa and Russia so that’s saying something!

Just getting out of the showroom carpark was a challenge.  Apparently the ‘selector lever’, which replaces the gear stick, will not budge unless you have your foot on the brake.   Who knew?  Everyone apparently, except me!  This threw me to the extent that I blocked the main road causing a huge traffic jam of tired workers on their way home.  Not a good start.  I could see the driver in the lorry at the front of the queue was not happy so I had to resort to going back into the showroom to ask for help.  So my pride and joy at having a shiny newish car was quickly replaced by humiliation as I did a good impression of a pathetic female.

I did get home eventually although every bend, junction, passing vehicle and set of traffic lights was a source of fear.  What do you do with your left hand and foot when they are not needed for gear changing?  I just feel that with a manual car I am in control, but with an automatic some hidden bit of electronic wizardry is in control.  And I DON’T LIKE IT!

Pat and the dangers of Cycling http://wp.me/p2gGsd-t7

My Friend Pat on her bike

My Friend Pat on her bike

 

Oh What a Year! 1963

Shottery Manor

I sing in a lovely choir every Friday morning and I love it.  The songs we sing are varied but there is always one that catches our mood, gets us laughing, crying or dancing, and lights up our voices.  This week it was the old Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons number, Oh What a Night!  It was released in December 1975, but the words recall “late December back in ‘63”.  I bet you didn’t know that the song was originally going to be about December 1933 and Prohibition?  However thank goodness Valli persuaded them to change it to a song about first love in ’63.  You can play the song as you read my blog by clicking on the icon on the sidebar.

Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63
What a very special time for me
As I remember what a night!

I made a passing comment that I was sweet 16 in 1963 to the amusement of some of the older choir members and horror of the younger ones.  But as so often happens with music it then brought up all sorts of memories.

1963/64 was a very special year for me.    I was in my final year at Stratford Grammar school for Girls learning in the most beautiful setting imaginable.  I was studying English literature at ‘A level’.  My main text was King Lear.  I’ve mentioned before that in those days it was possible to pay 4 shillings in pre-decimal money, which is 20 pence now, and stand at the back of the theatre to watch Shakespeare’s plays.  I took full advantage of this and I was there in 1962 when Paul Schofield played King Lear in what is recognised as the greatest performance of the role of all time.  It left an indelible impression on me which stays with me even now.   The main themes of the play have universal and timeless significance,

  • Appearance versus reality
  • Justice
  • Compassion and reconciliation
  • The natural order

Our English teacher, Miss Southall, was an inspiration too.  All black hair, flowing gown and long legs, which she bared to the sun during summer term.  This meant English classes were held on the lawn in the beautiful walled garden with its Dovecote, in front of the magnificent Shottery Manor which was the setting for the sixth form.  The school was, and still is, just a stone’s throw from Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Shottery.  It oozed history with its old oak floors, wood panelling and not so secret passages which could have been priest holes.  We were convinced that there was a tunnel leading from the Manor into town but no-one ever ventured in far enough to find out because it was pitch dark.

According to school history, the oldest part of the Manor was 14th century when it was owned by Evesham Abbey.  In 1402 the Bishop of Worcester granted a licence to John Harewell of Wootten Wawen for a priest to celebrate Mass in the Oratory of the Manor.  This room became our sixth form study.   The house stayed in the Harewell family for centuries but in 1919 the manor was bought by Mr A D Flower on behalf of the trustees of the late Edgar Flower.  The Flower family were very significant to Stratford on Avon.  Edward Flower started Flower’s Brewery there in 1831 and his sons, Charles and Edgar continued the business making rather a lot of money.  Fortunately the Flowers had that wonderful Victorian ethic of using their money to benefit the community, (I wonder what happened to that in Britain?), and they used it to develop the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.  Charles donated the land by the River Avon and in 1875 launched a campaign to build the theatre.  He also donated the money to build the theatre (about £1 million in today’s money), which opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing.  Charles also gave the cottages opposite so that the rents could be used to maintain the theatre.

The last members of the Flower family to live in the Manor left in 1951 and it was empty for a few years.  But thank goodness Warwickshire County Council bought it and it was turned into the first Girl’s Grammar School in the area.  It opened in 1958 just in time for me to arrive.  I was very lucky to get in at all as I had moved from the north of England where my education record was patchy to say the least.

I started school in a converted Chemical Works by the shipyards on the River Tyne.  I remember there was a huge room which was partitioned off for different age groups.  My delight, and my downfall, was to peep round the partition to see what was going on in other areas.  The grass is always greener etc….

I was not in infants for very long as I was what they called in those days, ‘a sickly child’.  I was underweight (hard to imagine I know!), undernourished, with Rheumatic Fever and a heart condition.  I eventually got back to school in the juniors but was so far behind that the teachers didn’t even try to educate me.  They gave me all the little jobs to do, which was great by me!

On Monday mornings my job was to fill up all the inkwells.  I went to the office to mix up black ink powder and water in a jug with a long spout.  I then went from desk to desk.  Each wooden desk had a hole with a ceramic pot in it.  I poured the ink into the pot until it reached the rim.  We used ‘dip pens’ in the juniors in those days, just a wooden handle with a metal nib on the end which you dipped in the ink then scraped on the edge to take off the excess.  The youngest infants still used chalk and individual slates.   I had to be very careful with the ink as washable ink was unheard of.  This stuff would stain permanently!

As you can imagine this job could take all morning if necessary; however there was also free milk to give out and wafers to sell.  In those days children didn’t bring fancy cool bags or plastic lunch boxes filled with snacks to school.  If they were very lucky they would have a ha’penny (1/2d) to buy some wafers.  These wafers were the sort you get on an ice cream ‘sandwich’.  They came in big boxes and were sold 2 for 1/2d.

Many children were undernourished in those days as it was just after the war and there was still some rationing.  The recently formed NHS did a wonderful job of providing supplements for children.  We got little bottles of orange juice, cod liver oil by the spoonful not capsules, Virol malt extract and I got a tonic too.

I can honestly say I don’t remember learning a thing at primary school except to sing, ‘Flow Gently sweet Afton’ and to make an advent calendar out of matchboxes for Christmas.  It was my inspirational, well-read and self-taught father who taught me what I needed to know: how to read, write, do maths, to identify constellations, wonder, dream, question, listen, love.  He had an open mind and an open heart.  It was he who convinced Miss Williams, the original head teacher of Stratford grammar School for Girls, that I was a suitable candidate for her school.  I am so glad that he did.  Because, since 1963, thanks to that education, I have been able to plough my own furrow.

St John's School, Felling

St John’s School, Felling

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

Upper Sixth Shottery Manor

My Stratford Blog  http://wp.me/p2gGsd-5c

So what else was on at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1963 that I watched for 4s (shillings)?

The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, Edward 1V, Henry V1, Richard 111, and the newly adapted history plays under the title of the Wars of the Roses.

In 1963 the director was Peter Hall with John Barton, designer John Bury, and music was by Guy Woolfenden

And the actors in these plays had names that have graced theatre, television and film for decades:

Paul Schofield, Vanessa Redgrave, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Judy Dench, Roy Dotrice, Ian Holm (a fabulous Richard 111), David Warner ( a dreamy Henry V1), Janet Suzman, Clifford Rose, Penelope Keith, etc….

And what else was happening at home and abroad in 1963?

Major William Hicks Beach (Conservative) was MP for Cheltenham and Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister in UK until Sir Alec Douglas Hume succeeded him in October.

The Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me and rapidly rose to fame.

Britain had the worst winter since 1946/47 when I was born.  The snow lasted until April.

The Great Train Robbery took place in Buckinghamshire with millions of pounds stolen.

In June 1963 the first woman to travel into Space was a Soviet Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova.  She orbited Earth 48 times, spending 71 hours in Space.  She parachuted to earth after ejecting at 20,000 feet.

Tens of thousands of protestors came from all over the world to join the CND march from Aldermarston to London to protest about the Hydrogen Bomb which threatened world peace.

Thousands of African Americans were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting against segregation.

Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during a march on Washington for jobs and freedom

President John F Kennedy made a historic Civil Rights Address in which he promised a Civil Rights Bill

The first Sindy Doll was marketed by Pedigree.

In October the Rolling Stones played at the Odeon in Cheltenham. The Beatles played there on 1st November.

Pope Paul VI succeeds Pope John XXIII as the 262nd Pope.

The second James Bond Film ‘From Russia with Love’ opened in London.

22nd November 1963 was a terrible day.  Not only did authors CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley die, but President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.  Lyndon B Johnson was sworn in as president.

The first episode of Dr Who was aired on television in November 1963.  During the 60s the series was in black and white.

Miss Margaret’s New House

When I was a student in the 1960’s I started collecting nursery rhymes and poetry which I could use once I started teaching.  I built up quite a collection in a folder.  I also got into the habit of cutting poems out of the daily newspaper if they appealed to me.  One poem impressed me so much I have treasured it for the last 50 years.  I still have the original cutting.  Brown with age, I’ve now laminated it so that it doesn’t get damaged.  It is called Miss Margaret’s New House and it chimed with me really strongly.

As regular readers of my blog will know, my much loved mum died in 2012.  She lived just a couple of doors away from me, which was really handy when I was caring for her.  But once she had died, the house being so close was a constant source of sadness which I could not escape.

The house was empty and forlorn for months but now new people have bought the house to ‘do up’ and live in.  It seems to me that there will be nothing left of the original house soon.  It now has a huge extension on the back, the lovely hardwood window frames have been replaced with white plastic and the leaded lights are gone.  The kitchen has been ripped out and a new one built in the extension.  The wall between the bathroom and toilet has been knocked through and all the fittings have been replaced.  The climbing roses have been cut down and the rambling hedgerow tamed and trimmed.  All the carpets are gone and modern wooden flooring installed and the walls have all be painted in neutral tones.

I’m sure it will all be lovely by the time they move in, but no longer will it be ‘my mum’s house’.  This is a blessing in a way as I will no longer feel those pangs of sadness as I pass by on my walks with the dog or my grandson.  Every trace of my mum’s taste and personality has gone from the house now, along with her fixtures and fittings, into the skip.

Her style was plain and simple.  She loved the soft pink on the walls, pale green on the floors ~ always Wilton, always 80/20 wool.  She loved roses in the garden, flowers in the house, and dark oak Ercol furniture.  She loved soft cushions and silver ornaments.  Her door, like her heart, was always open to visitors, especially her family.  She never forgot a birthday and was generous to a fault.  Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.

Now to get back to the poem!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 She never liked The Firs.  She said

‘Give me simplicity.

Pretentious roofs and leaded panes…

Lord, how they sicken me!

 

I’ll have an honest house one day.

Clean-shaped outside and in.

Where need shall take its dues, and oust

The merely finikin.

 

A downright house, a compact house;

A small house – I am small;

The lone pea in its vasty pod

Is not my role at all.

 

Nor yet for me pert painted doors,

Flame yellow, scarlet bright;

A low house with white window sills,

And trees to left and right.

 

A quiet house, a peaceful house…

Cool in the August heat,

But snug and safe when parching winds

Drive brown leaves down the street…

 

This will I have’, she said and let

It cost me what it may

I shall not grudge that dwelling’s price…

She moved in yesterday.

 

It took the sum of all she had,

But well content she seemed;

She has them all-the sheltering trees,

The quiet that she dreamed;

 

The low pitched roof, the straight bare walls-

All hers, and perfect, save

For the white window sills.  There are

No windows in a grave.

By Ana Jackson

Miss Margaret's House? No, its mine!

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

Family ~ Weekly Photo Challenge


Many years ago, it seems like another lifetime, I was a busy single mum to 4 wonderful children. I had a full time job that I loved, a nice home that was all my own work, an adorable miniature wire haired dachshund and a stray cat who turned up one day and stayed for 17 years. Over the years I progressed from teacher to deputy head and then Headteacher of a great primary school at the heart of an estate in my adopted home town. Luckily my profession fitted in perfectly with being a single parent as I was usually around in school holidays and always at weekends. But if ever there was a crisis due to illness or something I had the backup of my mum who lived nearby and was always delighted to look after the children or pets!

My school and parish was my community and together with my family, was the source of all the joy, friendship and social life I needed. Although I knew my immediate neighbours, my life was much too busy to get involved in the local community or the people in the wider neighbourhood.

And so life went on and my children became adults and gradually left home. I had always encouraged them to follow their dreams and take any opportunity they could to travel and sample other ways of life and other cultures. I was lucky enough to travel extensively through my job, working with schools in Russia and Africa. I also took great holidays in America, Canada and many parts of Europe. So I think I probably went a bit too far with this advice as now 3 of my children live and work abroad!

As my children grew more independent I filled my spare time travelling to Lourdes at every available opportunity as a volunteer/helper with the sick or disabled whom we called VIPs. This was one of the most rewarding 10 years of my life. It also indirectly brought me my wonderful second husband who was also a volunteer.

I knew that I was very lucky in every way and I worked very hard to try and improve the life chances of the children in my school. But of course life has a way of turning your world upside down sometimes. For me several events occurred to produce the perfect storm that would shatter my well ordered life. I buried my feelings and worked harder and harder until my body refused to do any more and I had to retire.

There then followed 5 very gruelling years which felt like 50 years. I was caring for my mum who was disabled after a heart attack. I only ever went out of the house to shop or for their hospital appointments. I became reclusive, antisocial and anxious. By 2009 my life and social circle was as limited as it could possibly be.

Then in that Autumn my youngest daughter said some women wanted to start a WI in our area. She said she thought it would be good for me so she would go with me to the inaugural meeting. It took all my courage to turn up that night and fortunately there were only a handful of women there. In fact there were so few that almost everyone there ended up on the committee by default! My daughter said I was good on computers so could be the secretary.

Now, almost 4 years on, I know that joining the WI was the best thing I could have done. At first I forced myself to go to all the meetings as I had to take notes. Gradually it became a pleasure to attend the meetings and I looked forward to them. I joined the Book Club and started reading again. I started putting my name down for trips and events. To give me the courage to turn up for them I took my camera to hide behind and became our unofficial photographer. I ventured out to concerts and big events like the AGM in Cardiff. It still takes quite a lot of courage for me to attend these things but I know that if I am struggling I will not be alone. The friendship and support WI members offer each other is very special. I even joined the Public Affairs Committee at our Federation.

Usually I find that the speakers at meetings are so interesting that I completely forget to worry or panic and just enjoy myself!

Now the WI is my community and my family. Through joining, I have rediscovered my creative side, writing a blog at http://www.heavenhappens.wordpress.com I have become outgoing and physically active again and renewed my interest in campaigning.

Best of all, when I walk anywhere in my local area now I seem to know everyone and they all stop for a chat. I feel that I am part of a vibrant and supportive community.

The WI offers all kinds of opportunities to all kinds of women. I would advise any woman of any age to join and get involved to whatever extent you feel able.

The WI is all about inspiring women. It is a rich source of experiences, knowledge and skills passed down through generation ~ and updated every day!

WI even enriches my now rare holidays, as I try to pop in to a local meeting while I am away. It is fascinating to see how different WIs conduct their meetings. But I can honestly say that whichever WI I go to, I know a warm welcome is guaranteed.

I am so happy with my life now and I thank God every day for my wonderful family, friends and community.

It’s The Simple Things

IMG_1352

Reflecting on the week ahead of me I am delighted but a little daunted by the prospect of amusing 3 children under 10 while their parents work. These are my adored grandchildren and I love them to bits, but will I have the energy to keep them all amused?
Chekhov considered the work of an artist/writer, to be “the proper presentation of the problem”, so I tried to analyse the root of my anxiety. It became clear that I feel bound to stimulate and educate the grandchildren, while feeding them nutritious meals, sticking to their proper sleep patterns, keeping them clean and safe, and ensuring that they are happy and having fun at all times.  When I consider these goals, I see that they are idealistic and possibly unrealistic given a) the British weather and b) my age and situation.

So I cast my mind back to the things they have really enjoyed in the past and I realise that it is the simple things that bring the most pleasure.  So we can put away the Ipads, Xboxes, Dvds and electronic games and instead get out the wellies and walk!

Dodging the raindrops dressed in wellies and macs,

Jumping in puddles to make a big splash

Picking up pebbles to throw in the stream,

Peeping through fences, who knows what you’ll see

Goats, cows, pigs and hens abound

Sheep in the fields with their lambs all around

Watch a man in a red tractor cut grass in the park

Ring grandma’s doorbell and hear her dog bark.

In the sky there are seagulls,  helicopters and planes

As we walk past the airport along country lanes.

The roads are too busy with vehicles galore

Lorries, trucks, buses, police cars and more.

Popping into the pet shop to see what is new

Stanley climbs up a ladder to get a good view

Of fish, bearded dragons, geckos, rabbits, snakes too.

Reaching the playground we ride the model train

Taking trips to the seaside and then back again

Eating our picnic in the playhouse was fun

The day passed too quickly but now it is done

Walking back was an adventure, we walked on the walls

Spotting birds, trees and flowers, ladybirds and snails

I can’t wait for tomorrow to do it all again.

Grandma’s Angels

P1070488

She’s 5 going on 25 with long red hair that gets tangled in the shower. She has a smiley face and the loveliest nature. She lives with her brother who’s 8. He has the same red hair but short. He’s cool with a cheeky grin and a mischievous nature. They live in a small market town in Wiltshire with mum, dad, 2 guinea pigs and a whippet-cross dog from the rescue centre.
She loves to copy her mum; her hair, her makeup, her clothes, and especially her jewellery!
She would love to go horse riding, but it costs too much, so she goes trampolining instead. I watch open mouthed as she bounces; doing front drops, swivel hips, back somersaults, straddles and turns. She is fearless.
He loves to copy his dad; playing football, tennis and golf; soaking up anything sporty. 2012 will be his best year yet, Olympics in Great Britain, what a dream! He is already collecting commemorative 50 pence pieces. He knows every design and every sport. He has collected 15 so far with 14 to go. I could order him a complete set but there’s no fun in that. It is far better to search in pockets, purses and change.
I love it when they come to stay for the weekend to give mum and dad a break. All thoughts of housework fly out of the window as our home is transformed into a tiny version of Disneyland. We do beading and baking, chalk patterns on the patio, create fairyland in the shed, tie imaginary horses to the gazebo and sail pirate ships on a gravel ocean.
He wanders off to find grandad. She sits on my knee and we chat. Tugging at my gold cross and chain she asks,
“Grandma, why do you always wear that?”
“My mummy wears pretty necklaces. She changes them all of the time. She has lots.”
I’ve heard this question before and I usually say,
“I wear it to remind me of my dad because he bought it for me a long time ago.” And that’s true, but today I will tell her the whole story.
A long time ago before your mummy and daddy met, your daddy lived by the seaside in Somerset in a fisherman’s cottage. The cottage was 200 years old and it was a wreck when he bought it. It had pine panelling all over the kitchen and lounge. When he took the panelling down he found 57 types of mould growing on the inside walls. It was very colourful mould, some of it quite pretty, but not healthy to live with, so he had to pay someone to come and treat it. The cottage roof leaked, the windows didn’t open, and the walls were damp. But bit by bit he repaired it and made it beautiful. He put on a new roof, damp-proofed the walls, sealed the floors, replaced the windows and doors, and put in a new white bathroom. He did all this quite cheaply because he searched through scrap yards for things he could use. One day he found an old church window in a scrap yard and he bought it for his bathroom. He knocked down part of the wall and put in the beautiful stained glass window. It was full of colour, rich red and blue, and it had angels on it. When the sun shone into the bathroom it glowed with a heavenly light.
Now he was happy with his cottage and he decided to invite the whole family down for the weekend to celebrate the end of the work. Grandma and Grandad went of course, and your daddy’s three sisters. They were teenagers then and they had a little mini car which they shared.
It was a perfect weekend, sunny and warm. We scrambled on the beach and hunted for bits of pink quartz washed out of the rocks by the tide. I still have them in the garden.
I had my cross and chain on then too, it wasn’t long after my dad died. I felt that when I wore it he was close to me and he would watch over me and keep me safe.
It was a long and tiring day so we all went to bed early. I took my cross and chain off and put it on the cabinet beside the bed. We slept really well then got up early to go home. I had a shower in the bathroom and I was fascinated by the coloured lights shining through the stained glass window. It was so beautiful that I said a little prayer before we left. I said thank you for my beautiful family and thank you for a lovely weekend. Then off we set for home.
On the way back home I realised that I had forgotten to pick up my cross and chain. I was a bit cross with myself for forgetting it, but I wasn’t worried because I knew it would be safe. The girls were staying for another day so I guessed they would bring it home for me when they came. There were no mobile phones in those days so I couldn’t call them!
The next day was Sunday and the girls were sharing the driving home after a lovely weekend. They had found my cross and chain and remembered to pop it on the dashboard before they set off. They were very happy driving along, listening to their music and singing. They reached a sharp bend in the road just as another driver was speeding along. He misjudged the corner and crashed right into the little mini. The car was dreadfully smashed up and my 3 precious girls were taken off to hospital in ambulances.
The policeman who came to the crash shook his head sadly thinking the girls would be badly hurt. But at the hospital they were absolutely fine, just a few bruises and a bit shocked. The girls did not want to tell me about the crash as they knew I would be really worried and upset, so they phoned their brother to come and collect them. He got into his car and drove along the same country roads that his sisters had travelled. When he reached the bend in the road he saw the mini being towed onto a breakdown lorry. He got out to watch and was shocked to see the damage to the car. Just then he noticed something glinting in the road. It was my cross and chain. He picked it up and put it in his pocket, then drove on to the hospital to pick up his sisters and bring them home.
When I saw them and heard the whole story I knew that my dad and the angels had been watching over my girls as they travelled in their car that day. They protected them from harm. That is why I always wear my cross and chain. It reminds me how blessed I am.
One day I will give my cross and chain to her, my angel.

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