No Sweet Home

On BBC Radio at the weekend they talked on the phone to a family who have taken in a young Ukrainian man. They sounded like one of those larger than life families who are so fascinating to we lesser mortals. The parents are both vicars ( one was in training ) and have five children and numerous pets. As Christians they have always used their spare room for whatever needy person has come into their lives, not for them the valid excuses of not enough room or too busy. The children love meeting new people and their new Ukrainian is having lots of fun and improving his English.

Meanwhile on the home front my younger son and daughter-in-law have just bought their own place and I am on my own again. Lots of their stuff is still here so I might not have room for any refugees just yet, especially as the rest of the family want to come and see the many improvements they have done – that’s for another blog.

But far from the terrible war in Ukraine and Chez Tidalscribe, two stories in the news caught my imagination, one local tiny tale and one big story on the other side of the world.

Before Christmas there was a fire in a block of flats in Bournemouth, luckily the elderly residents were safely evacuated and quickly transferred to the Premiere Inn next door. But a News South story the other day revealed they were still there; so close to home and yet so far. They are being well looked after, have their friends and neighbours close and don’t have to bother with cooking. But it’s not HOME. Premiere Inns are usually reliable ( all look exactly the same ) and comfortable as long as you like the colour purple. Very handy as stopovers on long journeys or to stay near relatives who have a full house, but you would not want to live there for months on end. Ensuite bathroom yes, but the furnishings are basically a few shelves, some coat hangers and a hard chair. A lady of 93 was shown sitting on the big bed knitting, much the same position you would find me on a short Premiere break. I prefer to avoid the hard chair, gathering all the pillows and lounging with my knitting, book or iPhone. With all that’s happened, the last place I actually stayed away from home was Margate Premiere Inn Christmas 2019, a handy location twixt railway station and beach, overlooking the shelter where TS Eliot wrote The Wasteland, which still lies languishing on my Kindle… you can read more about the delights of Margate in this blog…

The Wonder of Wetherspoons | Times and Tides of a Beachwriter (tidalscribe.com)

A more chilling story came from China in the news one evening. Anyone testing positive for Covid was being forced into quarantine in the most basic facilities ( or lack of facilities ) but the people screaming and fighting ‘security forces’ were not being taken away for quarantine. They were being evicted from their flats, their homes, so the whole block could be taken over as a quarantine centre; perhaps an effort to improve accommodation for the quarantees! Where the residents were going to live was not clear, but there are so many ways to lose one’s home. Never take your home for granted, one day you may have No Sweet Home.

Home Sweet Home

When we got married and moved into our police flat I knew I never wanted to be without my own home again. We didn’t own it, but home only needs to be where you are settled safely, not necessarily owned. Home also fans out to your own street, town and country, but our own tiny spot in the world is unique for most of us who rent or own only one home. An Englishman’s home truly is his castle and you don’t have to be English to want your own castle. In the five years previous to our wedding I had lived with grandparents, aunt and uncle, been a lodger with two very different families, stayed in a motel and experienced institutional living. Now a few days after my 24th birthday ( which seems very young now ) I had my own kitchen and window box – oh and not forgetting a new husband as well!

In the natural order of things, in times of peace, houses outlive their owners. The new house my grandfather bought in the 1930’s for his young family is still standing, extended and improved like most suburban houses and home to other families over the years. With the death of my uncle that first family are all gone. Google reveals that the Victorian terrace I was born in is still standing and looking much the same from the outside. My parents rented the top half and when they said we were going to buy our own house, when I was six, I couldn’t understand it as we already had a home. The house they bought is also still standing. If you come from landed gentry or royalty your home may well have stood for many centuries and may stand for centuries to come.

When we see whole towns wiped out by fire, flood or hurricane we may see survivors and be glad for them that they still have their families. But it is still devastating to lose everything, your home and your town. If we lose loved ones our home is still more than bricks and mortar, it is a sanctuary and a place full of memories.

Watching the terrible invasion and attacks on Ukraine, millions of us felt a connection because they were people who had ordinary lives like us and in the space of a few days lost their homes or had to leave them. The fact that millions of people in the world are homeless or live in slums and refugee camps does not make the suffering of the Ukrainians less. Rightly or wrongly there seems to be a real possibility to help them until they can return that we can’t realistically do for the whole wide world. Close neighbours such as Poland have come up trumps with their welcome while in the United Kingdom we are hampered by post Brexit bureaucracy.

Whatever obstacles are put in the way doesn’t alter the fact that many people in Britain have volunteered to take people into their own homes and that is a gift far greater than money. To share your home with distant relatives and strangers for an unknown amount of time is not a decision to take lightly. Supposing they never leave, don’t speak any English, don’t fit in with your routine… Many of us will applaud others while being secretly relieved we can’t because we only have one bathroom, have a full house already, need space when family come to stay…

When we were first married  a friend of ours, mainly through his own fault, was jobless and homeless and came to stay with us for a few days… yes you guessed, we thought he would never leave and in the end lied that relatives from Australia were coming to stay! We have had Australian relatives living with us without problems and my son and daughter-in-law are well on track to buying their own house and moving out soon. Would I have some Ukrainians or any homeless once I’m on my own? Well there is the question of only one bathroom and family needing to stay when they visit…

Have you ever taken in strangers to your home?

Christmas Cancelled – NOT

We had our second, proper Christmas on Tuesday 28th as Team H felt well enough to drive 180 miles on Monday and had negative results. People still get coughs, colds and winter lurgies nothing to do with Covid. It would have been a waste of totally rearranging and child proofing the house if they couldn’t have come at all! With my son and daughter-in-law living with me it has tripled ( octupled? )  the amount of equipment needing protection from three and six year old boys, not to mention the mountain of Christmas presents they had given each other.

Traditional chocolate Christmas cake.

A favourite children’s present, sent by Nanna in Spain via Amazon, turned out to be very popular. Seasick Sam is a game, along the same idea as Buckaroo, but they just liked playing with Sam. You see how much food you can stuff in his mouth before he is sick. We five adults had Secret Santa with all presents to be bought locally or in charity shops and we all came up with a great selection.

Writing did not take a back seat as six year old wanted to write his own Frightened Freddy Lego story and being six it revolved around vomiting, with Seaside Sam having a starring role and toilets. We took lots of screen shots and edited the pictures on the computer. When I suggested we start writing the story he said ‘I think I’ll make the story longer…’ who would be an editor!

The next day we edited more photos and whittled them down to 33. Then he narrated and I typed, no easy task with someone who bounces around like Tigger the whole time, whilst leaning on my desk… We printed it out and sent the photos to his mother’s ipad in time for the deadline of going home .

Monday Funday

Just because your relatives are cabbages does not mean you can’t be beautiful.

For the second summer in a row I haven’t been far afield so I have taken endless pictures of flowers and tried a few new things like the mini wildflower meadow thanks to free packets of seeds from 38degrees and buzzy bee charities… and not mowing part of the ‘lawn’.

But every time we had a rainy spell it was mushrooms that grew or were they toadstools or fungii…

But flowers are still popping up in the meadow.

The tomatoes were a great success, both of them.

Mr. Nosey Potato got left behind at my house then there was another lockdown so I planted him in a pot…

But someone didn’t want to eat Mr. Nosey’s children.

This was my best shot of the Bournemouth Air Festival – I missed the wing walkers flying over the back garden and a Red Arrow flying over the roof…

When Christmas was cancelled I left the Chreasterbirthdaymas tree in the front garden and tied a ribbon on for each day of lockdown. This month it is a Breastmas tree as October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

This is the newest garden development Chez Tidalscribe, a wheelie bin store with deluxe plant shelf and self filling watering can. Thanks to Strobe Interiors. And it’s that time of year when gardeners can cheat and buy lots of cyclamen at the greengrocers ( and just about everywhere ) for instant colour.

(11) Strobe Interiors | Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Strobeinteriors/

For genuine gardeners here are some more floralia.

Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Absence

‘Hello, is that Luke?’

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Ali.’

‘Who?’

‘Ali, Ben’s friend.’

‘Umm…’

‘Sixth form, best man at Ben’s wedding?’

‘Oh, er yes, so why are you calling?’

‘Have you heard from Ben?’

‘Not since Christmas was cancelled.’

‘Oh it’s just that I, we were wondering… we haven’t been able to contact him.’

‘Why do you need to contact him?’

‘We don’t, we just wondered why none of us had heard from him and they missed the quiz evening again.’

‘I didn’t know my brother was so popular.’

‘Perhaps I could ring your mother?’

‘I hardly think so as she’s been dead for eight months.’

‘Oh er I am so sorry, she looked fine at the wedding.’

‘She was fine at the wedding, anyway, I must cut you off, conference call coming up…’

‘Hi, Ali?’

‘Yup.’

‘It’s me.’

‘Who’s me?’

‘Louise, Tina’s sister, chief bridesmaid, top table?’

‘Louise, of course, sorry I didn’t get back in tou… answer your messages.’

‘That’s not why I’m calling. Have you seen Ben?’

‘No. I’ve been ringing round everyone, no one’s seen or heard from him, phone’s dead.’

‘Oh Ali, I’m really worried now, same with Tina, she hasn’t been on Facebook for weeks.’

‘You were right to call me, but don’t panic; what about your parents?’

‘They’re worried, I mean we’re not one of those families who call all the time, but she’s not answering in our WhatsApp group or anything.’

‘Has anyone been round their flat?’

‘No, Mum and Dad are isolating and I’m on a Scottish island.’

‘Oh so you did get that croft? What about her work?’

‘She’s furloughed.’

‘Now don’t worry, I’ll get in contact with Ben’s company, even if he’s still working from home they would know if he’s on leave. ’

‘Tina would have said if they were going on holiday, she was always talking about going on a proper holiday again.’

‘TG Services, how can I help?’

‘Can I speak to Ben Chambers please?’

‘Chambers, chambers… ben? Chaos here, everyone working from home, except me… I don’t know the name, what department?’

‘Actually I’m afraid I have no idea, can’t you look him up on the computer records?’

‘No, confidential records cannot be shared with members of the public…’

‘Tom, it’s Ali, have you had any luck? No, nor have I, not a trace of either of them. Have you been round their flat? No of course not, you would have popped round last week if you weren’t in Belfast. I’m a hundred miles away so who’s nearest… Gemma’s in hospital, what happened to her? Call the police? I don’t think it’s that serious yet, I mean they could have gone on holiday, stuck isolating goodness knows where and we’re panicking for nothing. Okay, okay, I’ll drive down tomorrow morning make a day out of it. Have you got their new address? No, nor have I, have to message Louise, no I didn’t see her again and now she’s on some bloody Scottish island.’

‘Louise? It’s Ali again. I’m in their road, the neighbours are already regarding me with suspicion. I couldn’t even get in the building let alone find their flat, yes used to be the old asylum, very smart. I have been lurking to catch anyone going in or out, no luck so far, nobody seems to know them, so not likely to find a friendly neighbour with a spare key, not that you can just go waltzing into someone else’s home uninvited… and what did the police website say? Surely the only option is to have them break in and … no I’m sure they are fine, but there could be a clue where they have gone on holiday, somewhere warm knowing them. Not that warm, no, I’m sure they didn’t end up on a Mediterranean island with a wildfire raging. You call the police then, more likely to take notice of a relative, and you will have to give permission for a search…  ’

ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO READ BEN AND TINA’S STORY?

Silly Saturday – The Other Olympics

Missing out on the Olympics, wish you were there?

Why not hold your own Olympics at home?

OPENING PARADE
TEN METRE SPRINT
OLMPIC ROAD RACE AND TIME TRIALS
ROWING
SYNCHRONISED DIVING
JAVELIN
LETTERBOX RACE – SPRINT DOWN THE ROAD TO POST A LETTER BEFORE COLLECTION TIME.
RACE WALKING – YOUR LOCAL TOWN MAY PROVIDE THE IDEAL COURSE.
CONSULT YOUR DOCTER BEFORE ATTEMPTING THE AROUND TOWN MARATHON
FURNITURE CLIMBING IS ONE OF THE NEW EVENTS AT THE 2021 HOME OLYMPICS
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE

Friday Flash Fiction – Fall

                                                             

There was a word that made Mary shudder; she seemed to hear it everywhere she went. It was a four letter word beginning with F… FALL. In conversations it was usually preceded with phrases such as;

Did you hear Mrs. Burton had a nasty…

Of course she was never the same after her…

He had just got off the bus when…

The Waitrose staff were very good when she had her…

Most infuriating of all was her own daughter’s loud voice as they negotiated National Trust Gardens.

Mind you don’t…

Like death, falls were something that happened to other people, usually The Elderly and Mary did not include herself in that category. Why, she was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, Her Majesty wasn’t elderly and Sir David certainly wasn’t. There were other terms and words that Mary avoided; stairlifts, wheelchairs, mobility aids and that condition Mary couldn’t even utter to herself, frequently referred to in advertisements during daytime television.

As Mary briskly walked down the high street, she noticed with distaste that Betty was cheerfully pushing a shiny red three wheeled contraption.

‘My son bought it for me last week, after my fall’ explained Betty proudly.

But however sprightly Mary felt, she found herself being very careful, not wanting to end up like that woman on Tuesday.

There had been a circle of concerned people outside Somerfield’s and a young man with a mobile phone had taken charge. Sprawled in the middle of the pavement was an old lady, her skirt up past her knees in a most undignified manner. Mary had scurried by, making a mental note to always wear slacks when she went out.

At the door to the ‘Cosy Teapot’ she took the two steps up carefully to make a dignified entrance. Her daughter Catherine was already there.

‘I thought we’d sit downstairs mother, you don’t want to have a fall on those rickety stairs.’

Mary ignored that remark.

‘You’re looking very tired this morning Catherine, perhaps it’s the menopause’ she said, as the young waiter came to their table.

‘Well,’ said the younger woman, obviously keen to relate a drama ‘we were fast asleep last night when the phone suddenly rang; I looked at the clock, it was three thirty a.m. my heart was thumping, I thought it must be bad news from Australia or you taken ill.’

‘Why would you think I might be ill?’ Mary interrupted.

Catherine carried on regardless. ‘To my relief it was only Careline; Miss Brown next door had fallen out of bed and couldn’t get up. We had to go round with the spare keys to let the ambulance people in. Next time we’ll take a torch; it took us ages to find the light switches… and Miss Brown, she was wedged on the other side of the bed. When the ambulance men finally came they asked if she was my mother! I’m sure they thought it was our fault her house is such a mess. But they were quite jolly, checked her blood pressure, got her back into bed, filled in lots of forms and declared she was fine. By that time it was five a.m.’

‘That old woman should have gone in a home years ago’ said Mary unsympathetically.

‘She’s younger than you Mother… hmm you could have one of those Careline buttons, just in case.’

‘Certainly not.’ Mary cringed at the idea of neighbours and medics tramping round her bedroom in the middle of the night and changed the subject. ‘Rita had her own drama the other day, when it was so hot; her daughter took her shopping and they were outside Asda when her daughter suddenly fainted. After much kafuffle, they were both sat on chairs inside Asda and the manager came rushing over and patted Rita’s hand, asking if she was alright. She told him indignantly she was fine, it was her daughter. We had a good laugh over that.’

The two women tucked into their cake.

‘…anyway, what have you been doing this week Mum?’

‘The old people’s lunch club started back yesterday and we had a new volunteer. You’ll never believe what she said to me “Here’s a spare seat dear.” I told her in no uncertain terms. “I’m serving not eating.”

She wondered what Catherine found so funny.

That afternoon Mary was pottering in her garden, glad she didn’t require a gardener. Her grandson mowed the lawn, put her hanging baskets up and did some of the heavier jobs; he enjoyed doing it. The garden was one of the many reasons why she refused to be shoe horned into some pokey flat

Mary was a compulsive dead header and was tidying her favourite basket which hung from the shed wall. One dead bloom eluded her, but if she just stretched a little… suddenly her foot slipped off the edge of the path.

She couldn’t believe she was lying on the ground, but was greatly relieved no one had seen. This wasn’t a fall, just a slip and she was sure she could get up; with the help of the wall and the trellis she pulled herself triumphantly to her feet. Not a fall, not a drama, but perhaps it was time she went indoors to have a nice cup of tea and watch Countdown; she could rinse that spot of blood off her hands while the kettle was boiling.

As she moved cautiously up the path to the back door she heard sirens screeching. This used to be such a quiet street she mused, someone must be causing trouble. Loud rustling noises caused her to turn round; a policeman was climbing over her wall, he must be chasing a burglar.

‘Wrong garden’ she tried to call, but he rushed over to her.

‘Are you alright madam?’ he asked, before replying to his radio. ‘PC476, re. report of elderly lady collapsed in garden, I’m dealing, ambulance in attendance.’ He turned to Mary. ‘Lucky for you an old man over the back saw you out of his bedroom window, knew he couldn’t help, so he dialled 999. Now, we’ll get you into the house and open the front door for the paramedics.’

The opening of the front door revealed two men in green and several concerned neighbours. She tried to protest.

‘I’m fine, there’s been a terrible mistake.’

To her horror she heard the ambulance man say to her neighbour ‘Does she often get confused or have falls?’     

FOR MORE SHORT STORIES DIP INTO THE CHOCOLATES – ONLY 99 PENCE             

Sunday Short Story – Quarantine

When Lynne arrived at her bubble friend’s house for their morning coffee she was surprised to find Eleanor in a state of agitation.

Are you okay, the effects of the second jab?’

‘Yes, no… let me get the coffee and I’ll tell you my news.’

Lynne could not imagine what the news could be, not much happened in Covid times and certainly nothing to put her friend in such a state, but there was something different about the house. The usual vase of cut flowers on the hall stand had disappeared and so had the orchid on the window sill. As she followed Eleanor into the kitchen she was puzzled to see the cupboard door handles tied together with stout string.

‘Go and sit down Lynne, I’m just trying to remember where I put the coffee.’

Okay, I brought that jigsaw, I’ll put it on the dining room table.’

There was a strange crackling underfoot as Lynne walked into the dining room and she realised she was walking on plastic sheeting that covered the carpet. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that she was going to have decorators in. The exquisite mahogany dining table, recently inherited from an aunt, was covered in a heavy duty plastic tablecloth, perhaps her friend was planning to do some messy crafts.

When Lynne moved into the usually elegant front room her confusion increased; it now seemed most likely her friend had been burgled. The fireplace looked bare, gone was the antique urn with its arrangement of dried flowers and the crystal vase Lynne had given her for Christmas was no longer on the windowsill. She glanced around the room and took in a bizarre scene. The glass cabinet had a heavy quilt secured round it and the occasional tables all had wodges of foam taped to their corners. The three piece suite was covered in throws that looked like they had come from Wilkos rather than John Lewis and there was no sign of the embroidered cushions.

Eleanor walked in with two scruffy looking mugs.

‘Sorry about the mugs, they’re the ones Anthony used to keep down at the allotment. I’ve packed all the bone china away. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to make a cake… well I have been baking, but not for us…’

Before any explanation was forthcoming there was the sound of frantic yapping and Eleanor went to open the back door for Covina, the little dog she had acquired from the dachshund rescue centre. The dog rushed into the room to greet Lynne.

‘You’re surely not moving house, Michael hasn’t persuaded you to go over there?’

‘Goodness no, I wouldn’t even go to that dreadful country on holiday; they’re coming back to England, out of the blue, arriving at Heathrow early afternoon. It seems they are allowed to quarantine with relatives, me.’

‘Oh that’s wonderful news, at last you’ll get to see the babies.’

‘Hardly babies, three and four now and if they are like Michael was at that age… my head spins just seeing them on Facetime. So I have taken a few precautions, I don’t want to be responsible for them ending up in A&E. Forty four years old and Michael still has that scar on his forehead from the fireplace at our first house.  I was going to ask, you know you said you would love to have Covina to stay if I ever managed to go on holiday, do you think you could possibly have her now?’

‘Yes of course, though I’m sure the children would be gentle with her.’

‘I’m worried she might bite them; the charity did say she was best suited to a quiet home with an older person. I remember that time with my brother’s dog when Michael was three; it was his fault of course, shoving his hand in the dog’s mouth.’

‘Covina’s hardly a pit bull, but I suppose tiny fingers could be a worry. I shall enjoy having her.’

Eleanor kept looking nervously at the clock, she had the hands free house phone and her mobile by her side.

 ‘Relax you’re all organised, except… perhaps now the charity shops are open again you could get a few toys for them…’ she looked at the expression on Eleanor’s face ‘or maybe order on line.’

As if in answer to that suggestion they heard the door bell being rung frantically.

‘Ah that will be the Amazon parcels; Michael asked me to get some Lego sets for them.’

‘Aren’t they a bit young for Lego, choking hazards?’

‘Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Ten minutes later Eleanor had located the scissors she had hidden away and they manged to get the boxes open to reveal several brightly coloured Lego sets.

Eleanor examined the writing and pictures on the boxes.

‘Strange people and vehicles, but it seems only under threes choke, so that’s a relief. But really Lynne I’m getting too old for all this; you wait years to get some grandchildren, then they go abroad and then there’s a world wide pandemic and nobody gets to see their grandchildren…’

Two days later Lynne turned into Eleanor’s road on her way to the post office and was alarmed to see an ambulance outside Eleanor’s house. After all the precautions she wondered what mishap had befallen the precious grandchildren. She wasn’t being nosy, she had to walk that way anyway. As she got closer there was a further shock when she saw Eleanor on a stretcher being wheeled down the front path.

‘Oh Lynne, isn’t this embarrassing, Michael will tell you what happened.’

As her friend was loaded into the ambulance a frazzled looking man emerged from the front door with a wriggling, screeching child in his arms.

‘Nee Nah, Nee Nah, I want to go in the hambliance.’

The man’s voice was muffled through the child’s hair.  ‘Nice to meet you Lynne, I hear you have been a great support, but we’re here now; just as well now this has happened.’

What did happen?’

‘I’m not exactly sure; Mother was tidying up all the mess in the dining room after breakfast and she stood on some Lego and slipped on the plastic sheeting.’

Silly Saturday -Picking Pampered Pets

This could be one of the reasons ( muddy walks carrying little bags containing… ) why people who bought puppies during Lockdown are now getting fed up with them. Ironically, while shelters fill up with unwanted dogs, people who want to keep their pampered ( and expensive ) pets are having them stolen, because of the increasing demand for dogs during lockdown. If the dog thieves could be persuaded to only steal unwanted dogs…

Dog thieves can sneak away with your tiny pup without anyone noticing.
If you own a pangolin he’s even more likely to be stolen, so keep him on a lead.
WHY NOT CHOOSE A PET THAT NOBODY WANTS TO STEAL?
WHY NOT CHOOSE A PET THAT NOBODY WANTS TO STEAL?
How about a pet you can take to the beach to guard your towel and clothes AND is too big to steal.
PLACID PETS LOVE TO COME ON A PICNIC WITH YOU
WITH PATIENCE YOUR PET CAN BE TRAINED TO DO ALL SORTS OF THINGS.
IF YOU ARE BUYING A NEW PET, MAKE SURE YOUR GARDEN IS BIG ENOUGH
…and be careful if you are buying a pet on the internet…
Descriptions are not always accurate and you may not get what you were expecting.
Dogs are still people’s favourite pets and they conveniently come in different sizes.