Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘Father’

Déjà Vu

I would never class myself as well off in monetary terms, it is an aspiration yet to be reached.  However outside the world of filthy lucre I feel I have been richly rewarded; my ever enduring Sexy Sporty Dad, three brave and beautiful boys, five loquacious siblings and two enterprising parents not to mention a strong network of faithful friends and relatives.

Many years ago my royal marine father decided to escape the world of regimented rules to bring up his burgeoning brood; I was just four years of age.   Taking an enormous risk he mortgaged his life and bought a very run down village rectory. “Lawrence of Clyst st Lawrence” had resonance that money could not purchase. With no income coming in to speak of, he went to teacher training college and obtained a civvy qualification as numbers five and six of his children made their appearance on the world.

updated and modern but still housing the ghosts of the past

updated and modern but still housing the ghosts of the past

 

The cold, dark, haunted historic house became the most beloved childhood home anyone could wish for.  From the word go, the house had to pay its own way and so developed a long list of enterprising endeavours for my mother.  Initially taking in lodgers in one wing of the house kept us from poverty while my father trained. Later homing a small number of foreign students during the holidays led to a sustained period of the house become a locally renowned international school with pupils as young as 6 being left with us to avoid kidnap or worse at home.  It was not an unusual site to arrive home to a diplomatic limousine parked in our drive; the body guards with bulging lapels ready to shoot at any perceived threat.    My mother would receive a brown envelope with thousands of pounds in Stirling, American dollars or other untraceable cash to cover their board, lodgings and education for the year to come before a parent might spare the time to see these poor children again.

The school funded the construction of a small but well used swimming pool which led to years of fun filled frolics along with a hand painted tennis court.   Finally there was enough money in the pot to revolutionise part of the house with an antiquated central heating system.  With the numbers of growing children requiring food, sustainability became a necessity and we acquired the beautiful big eyed Susie; a jersey milking cow who provided us with milk, cream and often butter a plenty.  A series of runt piglets passed through our garden saved from an early death; brought up on rich jersey milk and copious peelings to develop a flavour uniquely ours when their time finally came.  Chickens too provided eggs and Sunday lunch and most of our summer vegetables together with the copious strawberries all came from the walled kitchen garden, bigger and better kept than most modern day allotments.

There were not many things that came into the house that did not pay their way in some form,and Tiggy was no exception.  A pedigree golden Labrador arrived; no more than a puppy saved from a dubious existence,  who became my father’s constant companion, not only did he sire two offspring which we kept he also sired 90% of the puppies born in a 10 mile radius of the house.   He also became known as a ferocious guard dog protecting the house and all children who played within, as the postman and other tradesmen found out on more than one occasion.   Now long since buried in the rose garden of the house he called home he gave me my pen name and will live on in my writing forever.

The school came to an end as less and less foreign children were requiring an education from such a young age so the house became a bed, breakfast and evening meal accommodation.   The clientele were executives wanting a particularly luxurious weekly accommodation with quality home cooked food and stimulating conversation as they were parted from their loved ones.   Regular clients became lifelong friends as they returned time and time again long after the house became a base for growing teenagers and a mother who ventured into the retail business creating one of the first co-operative craft centres with cream teas on tap in the market town of Exeter.

My parents were renowned hosts and the house was always filled with laughter and fun times. Parties were well attended and remembered long after the event.  Unfortunately times change and we grew up and my parents reluctantly sold our childhood home.  They moved several times in the intervening years prior to my father’s death.  So too has the home we all loved metamorphosed through yet another happy family home with the addition of a stable block before now becoming a luxury self-catering holiday home; Old Rectory

Birthdays come and go and every now and again we celebrate a significant one; some we look forward to but more and more now we dread.  My mother has just reached the grand age of 80.  It is difficult to find a suitable present to celebrate such a milestone.  She was never going to learn to paraglide or parachute over the Wiltshire countryside.   Sending her on a cruise or the Orient Express without my father would not have given her the pleasure we would have wanted to gift her. It turned out to be the other way round; she presented us all with an invitation some months back.

For a similar price to what my father had paid in 1967 she was able to hire our home for her birthday weekend.  Calling back her six children now with partners and children of their own the house once again rang with children laughing and playing.  The rooms housed clothes strewn about them while mattresses moved and children slept altogether in the snug that had overseen many a sleeping child in the past.   Saturday night the house rang with champagne and drinks as old friends and relatives again made the trip out for a party.   Memories flooded back as every guest savoured their own sweet reminiscence.  I suspect a few Sunday morning heads were also recalling past parties. The ghosts of the past hiding in every secret cupboard as the modern children re-created our own hiding places.

With a labour saving change to our original living conditions we used the opportunity to bring in caterers to feed us all; our contribution to the weekend’s celebration.  Kate and her lovely staff from Kennford Kitchen laid on the most wonderful meals all weekend.  She was there for a wonderful three course meal on Friday as we all arrived and she provided a fitting array of dishes for Saturday’s party.  She sent our partners and most offspring off on Sunday following a scrumptious roast dinner with sumptuous side dishes and perfect puddings to keep even the hungriest teenager full.    She arrived early each morning and breakfast was cooked and laid out before most people even woke.

It was sentimental stepping out into the driveway that I once had known so well. A turbulent turmoil of emotions collided as I walked to the door.   Slipping the latch and

unchanged over all those years

unchanged over all those years

holding the unchanged dated key in my now grown up hand catapulted a cacophony of conflicting feelings. The house now very luxurious with additional current touches had changed and modernised immensely but the presences of a previous period still pervaded each room.   Laughter lingered from a lost youth while a new generation created their own memories as happiness and hilarity radiated from the hot tub and the soft play room. Enough cousins to make a competition on the multi-games court I once began my non-existent Wimbledon career.  Watching my 17 year old son driving in and around my old haunting ground replicating my own initiation to the world of driving in the same make of car left me with a blow to the solar plexus of emotions.

We raised a large toast to missing friends and relations who had not been able to make the party; some through snow, some because of their own fragile health and some whose mortality had moved on.  Absent they may have been in physicality but omni-present among the ghosts of the past.

my father - in his rightful place

my father – in his rightful place 

Overseeing the whole affair was my father, still in pride of place in front of the fire where I remember him pontificating, presiding and saluting friends and relatives over the years as he hosted many a party.    His story of our childhood was immortalised when his book was published, copies of which are still available through Amazon or requestable at the library; Our Grass Was Greener by Peter G Lawrence.

Returning home to the present day and making my own memories for my children I continue to carry the past not only in my mind but through who I am and what I write.  One day my book Memories will be published and sit alongside my father’s on the bookshelf; maybe!  I of course wish my mother a very happy birthday and hope the memories of the past colliding headlong into the present give her the stamina and strength to embrace the future.  Who knows when we will make it back there again, her 100th?

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

 

 

 

Broken Sentiment

We had been invited to, probably the last BBQ this summer.   It was Saturday afternoon and the sun had been shinning all day.   Unusually I had no food to prepare and things were quiet in the house.   We were bringing the drinks including Pimms so I did need to chop and soak the fruit in the alcohol before we left.

I started early as the longer the fruit marinated the better the Pimms tastes. I own a beautiful glass punch bowl which comes with delicate little cups.  The sheer glass has vine leaves bulging with fruit etched delicately round it and the glass spoon sits comfortably poking through the opening in the lid.

This punch bowl has been part of my family for as long as I can remember.  My father a born host produced this bowl from the recesses of his cupboards for every memorable party he gave.    Perfectly chopped fruit, pimms, ice and bubbling lemonade taking centre stage on the drinks table at the summer party.    Warm, spicy cinnamon and red mulled wine pervading the room, hinting at the fruit mix and warmth waiting to  be enjoyed after the bonfire and fireworks display he had already pre-planned.

In fact I don’t remember an occasion he didn’t bring the bowl out and make good use of it, and yet the delicacy of the glass survived them all.   When my father passed away and my mother downsized she gave the bowl to me to follow his guardianship, with the understanding that I too, would put it to good use.   I hoped that I had emulated that custody.

I began chopping strawberries, oranges, lemons and apples.  I dug deep into the cupboard to bring out the bowl and even deeper to count that I still had all the cups to serve the drink in.   Carefully I brought it to the sink to wash it and took the lid off.  The water running, the lid shining I lifted the spoon out.

Crack!

Time stood still.

It was only a gentle tap as the spoon came out but in slow motion the side of the bowl shattered as each shard of splintered glass speared my disbelieving memory.   One side of the bowl remained intact but the one nearest me was in pieces as was I.   Sexy Sporty Dad responding instantly to my cry of pain, tried to find where it hurt.

Inside, where my heart is; where all the memories of my childhood had just converged on my core tearing it to pieces.   I had been given this to use, protect and pass on.  In a moment’s distraction I had destroyed something precious, at least to me; the memory of my father as he entertained his guests and never let anyone be without a drink or a companion at any of his parties.

Sexy Sporty Dad gathered the pieces and with sombre tone admitted that not even he could glue all the slivers back together for me.   He carefully wrapped the offending pieces in newspaper and will dispose of them as if they were a beloved pet that had passed on.  Quietly and secretly so my misery is not re-ignited.

My mind wrenched back to this evening’s activities.  What of the Pimms?  I still needed a receptacle to serve it from.  I knew the friends we were dinning with would have accepted a bottle of wine or other form of drink without damming me; but I had promised Pimms and so Pimms it must be.

Where do you find a punch bowl late on a Saturday afternoon these days?

A plethora of charity shops adorn our high street and there is one that sells all kinds of odd bits of household clearance items that rarely anyone wants.   I started there and trawled the aisles finding beautiful cut glass vases, jugs that would hold enough for two or three drinks even large brandy glasses that might be used instead.   I found a sugar bowl and milk jug that matched Granddad’s cups, I spotted a silver or possible stainless silver jam spoon that it had taken me weeks to find when I was looking for a present for my mother’s new house.   The one thing I could not find was anything resembling a punch bowl.

As I browsed a couple of outfits and smart tops on the way through to the exit I noticed the two ladies at the counter waiting I guess, for someone to say hello, buy something or just a bit of excitement.   I popped back in and asked “I don’t suppose you have anything like a punch bowl?”

The first lady looked at me sadly “no unless it is out on the shelves we don’t”

The other lady seemed a little more thoughtful.   “Could you wait a moment we did have one handed in a while back I am not sure what happened to it.”

Naturally I waited; picking up a top and admiring it; wishing I was 4 sizes smaller and could squeeze into it.  Why are all the best clothes always too small.  After 10 minutes of browsing I was becoming a little edgy, late on a Saturday afternoon and I didn’t know where I might find what I was looking for.

Finally she appeared staggering under the weight of a large punch bowl box.  Unsure even if the box held what it promised we gently removed the bowl with spoon.  It seemed to be resting on a layer  which we lifted exposing all twelve cups in perfect condition.  This was not delicate thin glass with beautiful etching on it, but thick chunky glass made to withstand even my clumsy washing.  I would take it.  After all the cost would not matter; how much does it cost to replace the priceless memories associated with my broken, shattered bowl.

“That will be £5 please”

“How much?  Are you sure?”  I added another top I had been toying with as I felt so guilty at the cheapness.

Ten minutes later all clean and shiny; the bowl adorned the shelf in the fridge with a small layer of pimms soaked fruit.  The lemonade would be added at the party.

As we drank late that evening in the glowing embers of the sunlight we raised a glassed to my father “Cheers Dad.”

Cheers!

Writing

I seem to have reached a goal; one I was not expecting.  Although my book “Memories” is supposedly going through a revamp and re-edit before being sent to publishers; I have found myself writing a short blog in the newly launched Gillingham Guide. I may only have a remit of 250 words a month to tell my tale, I have gone over on both occasions so far, this is to be a regular, time critical writing that I will have to produce as a filler providing space is available.

With all that is going on currently I am deciding whether I can find time to join NANOWRIMO this November.  How can I write 1600 words a day when currently finding time for 100 per day is  a challenge.  I have several themes going round in my head for the next book but maybe I should get Memories published then write the next one.

On another note my writing coach from our writing group has slated this blog for it’s over use of literary features and clichés. Having recovered slightly from the slating I thought long and hard about his comments.  I could of course drop all the fun features as he suggests and just text speak my thoughts in plain boring words but I think I would lose the essence of what I am saying and I am not sure I would stay focused for long.   I suspect my coach needs to understand blogging, twitter and social media before he can write-off my penned word completely.  After all I am publishing two blogs regularly and now another monthly blog, people are beginning to know my name.  Does he really want me to stop that just as things pick up for me?

I guess I need to get used to these beratings and rejections before I send Memories off.

Tiggy

Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

Parental Responsibility

What can you do?   Tomorrow you have a packed day full of appointments and you already know time is too precious.   Then you spend the night up with a poorly child, coughing, hot and generally not well.  You already know what the dilemma is going to be.

Working mothers struggle so much when their child is not well, commitment to employers, guilt to the child and wisdom to find the right answers.

How ill does your child have to be before you cannot chance sending them to school?  How far should you travel away from home, in case the call comes to collect?    If they are that ill can they not go shopping, in the car, to work?

Some people have the luxury of a grandparent or family member already at home with young children who depending on the illness will look after your child.   Let’s face it though where does he really want to be:  at home with mum.

These days that scenario of having family help is all too often not available.   Many grandparents are either still working themselves or too far away to be useful at times like this. Other family members fall into the same category.

My mother was nearly called upon the other morning.   The reality, however, was to get Mini Son to her for the day; I would have had to get him up, dressed and out of the house by 7 am.  We would have had an hour’s drive to her house.  I would drop and run to be back in time to take Middle Son to school and me to my appointment all for 9am.

Had any of this really been plausible, the shock to my mother of me ringing her, at what she would have considered the middle of the night may well have finished her off.  I suspect arriving on her doorstep at 8am in the morning unannounced would also have been shock enough.  Not to mention, she has tai chi or church carers lunch or was it the square coffee morning she would be going to.   There had to be a plan B.

Plan B, involved Sexy, Sporty Dad.   He could stay home and look after his offspring, nurse him through the day and tend to his various needs.   It all made perfect sense for him to take on the parental responsibility.  Sexy Sporty Dad informed me he had very important meetings all day.  I knew the kind where you drink coffee and make very important decisions.  He was obviously not going to be Plan B.

Why couldn’t I just forgo my day?  What do I do that is so important anyway?

Well the hairdresser for a start.  Not a good defence to begin with I agree.   Had I just been popping in for a trim I could have cancelled and booked again anytime; but I wasn’t.  I was down for my half yearly colour and cut, a whole three hour appointment which had been booked since the last one six months ago.     It was not something I could just move to another slot in my diary or theirs.

I had a new lead that afternoon someone I really needed to come on board with my magazine.  I had actually made the appointment to fit in with his hectic schedule.  This meeting was important not just for the immediate business it may or may not bring, but in order to avoid commercial suicide I had to turn up and be professional.

I could of course just send the poor boy to school and hope for the best.  A sudden flash rushed into my brain;  the colourant half baked with me wrapped in foils and unable to move – that was when the inevitable call would come from the school asking me to pick him up.  That left me with no illusions about him attending that morning.

There was nothing else for it, he had to stay with me.   In a perverse sort of way I was happier; while he was feeling so bunged up and miserable I could monitor his asthma and not rely on relinquishing the responsibility to others.

Mini Son did not let me down, he was so good having taken his sketch book, DS, reading book, lunch and drink.   He entertained himself drawing a bird, which then needed a background, a few other birds and ducks appeared over the pond and in the field.  He challenged himself on the DS reaching a best ever score; for him at least.  My phone disappeared from my bag and I learnt about a lot of the game apps that have mysteriously appeared on it.  Bite by small bite the lunch and juice disappeared over the morning while his reading book lay quietly unopened in his bag.

It was certainly an alien environment to him as he wandered over to show me his latest success.  Glancing around a salon full of noisy women; all at differing stages of their individual cuts, blowdrys or colours he watched fascinated.

“Mummy why have you got tin cans on your head?”

Probably not the image I really want for my readers or my potential customers, so let’s just say I came out of the salon looking a million dollars,  it nearly cost me as much.

As we left and let’s face it I did feel a million dollars so now was the time to work my charm I realised we would pass the post office as we drove home.  Well it would save getting him out again later.  I dashed in and then popped into a couple of potential clients, one wants to come on board later and one gave me his card to design an advert.   We then returned to the car, guilt now replacing the self confidence.

A builders van was parked behind me and a young man stood gathering bits from the passenger seat.  One last wave of opportunism hit me.

“Are you Clifford?”  I asked.

“No I am Tom his son”

“No problem I am….” And it was done,  another media pack and business card given out; he even looked interested and asked the right questions.

We got in the car.

“Mummy you always say ‘don’t talk to strangers’ and you didn’t even know that man.”

Van Man Danger Stranger

Touché.  To be fair, the stranger did have his name, or rather father’s name plastered all over his transit and I was in the main street very visible.  My nine year old son is right though – you should not talk to strangers.

Mini Son then had to accompany me to my afternoon meeting which after an hour I had managed to persuade the client to come on board, not this month but as a tester next month.  What a coup!

“Why did it take so long, you said it would be only 10 minutes”

He was right, most of my meetings don’t take an hour and more to the point I usually do the talking and attempt the selling.  Not this one; my client did most of the talking and finally talked himself into coming on board. Some coup!   Take note I must learn some tips from him.

Mini Son’s learning may well have been increased that day although I am not sure how many curriculum subjects we could claim to have covered.  When he is the next Lord Sugar, Vidal or has a string of Virgin companies, my guilt at dragging him round may be assuaged.

So is Mini Son going to be fit enough tomorrow?  Let me get my diary out!  I feel a duvet day coming on……. Oh lush…

Have you had the dilemma?   What did you do and how did it work out for you?  Let me know.

 

Tiggy

 

Check out my tea time treat this week and serve your guests a delicious pear and ginger crumble http://tiggy-tea.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

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