Amazing Older Ladies… Part 1

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When I was born, my father’s parents were delighted. I was the youngest grandchild and only granddaughter, and my grandparents were devoted. My Nan sewed tirelessly, believing that elegant sewing is part of every lady’s upbringing; dainty little dresses and crocheted cardigans.

My Grandad was a sensitive, very intelligent man, at times a little highly strung, but loving, warm and supportive. My Nan was a lady in the true sense of the word, immaculate and strong and her pearls of wisdom and sayings still enrich my life now while my Grandad has left me with a love of music hall, variety acts and theatre.

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My grandparents met when they were 16 and 18 and were very rarely apart. Devotees of healthy living before it was fashionable, they both lived into their 90’s. I miss them still. This is a little of their story in my Nan’s own words from a letter that she wrote to me when she was 90.


When I was 15 years, my mother had my younger sister, June, at 48 years old. We were in the throes of building a larger house and although we had help, my father said that he would pay me a proper wage to look after my sister: “Your mama and I will still go to the theatre and dancing so you will be in full charge…”

I also went to private tuition for short hand typing and book keeping. When June was 2 years old, I was 17 and worked for a building company (my father’s firm had financed them.) This was in 1934 when Bricklayers were paid 1/7d an hour, Labourers 1/2d… riches indeed.

At 16 years I met Grandad at a Football Dance, he played for Wolverhampton Amateurs on Saturdays. A reasonable footballer, he was a rotten dancer, but he was always fun to be with.

Grandad was a metallurgist and when he had qualified he was a Member of the Institute of Metals. He met an American who asked him whether he would like to learn the technique of putting glass onto metal. I used to type all his notes about Bessemer furnaces and took a job at a rolling mills.

When Grandad was 21 years old, he bought a plot of land for £100 – a lot of money in 1937, where we built our first house, and then we were married in 1939. While we were on honeymoon, war was declared and Grandad tried to enlist for the navy, but when it was discovered that he was a metallurgist, he was involved in Ministry work for parts of bombers.

EPSON MFP imageNan, in later years, with my father

After the war, Grandad helped rebuild factories in Holland, France and Italy – an awful lot of travelling. When he had to go to the States, he used the Queen Mary, or the Empress line for Canada and oversaw his final project in Mexico at the age of 70.

He could talk on his subject ‘Vitreous Enamelling’ for hours and never need notes and lectured far and wide, South Africa when Apartheid was in full swing and invited behind the Iron Curtain. He was given a doctorate but wouldn’t use it.

He always said that he had no regrets, he had a very busy but enjoyable life, from school to business, and was very tired when he died at 92 years. I miss him terribly and know that I always will.


Although I didn’t see my grandparents as much as I would have liked in later years, both Nan and Grandad had an impact on how I view the world… I secretly fancy myself a somewhat better seamstress than I actually am and I know a surprising amount of music hall songs off by heart…

img_5773My Nan’s favourite flower, and a scent that always reminds me of her…

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Fathers and Funerals

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I’ve only ever been to one funeral… and I’ve only ever had one father too… there’s a link already… No. Seriously. Although I don’t really see my father now – second wife syndrome – we do exchange cards at Christmas and I do have some fond memories of him when I was younger.

I used to enjoy going out with him on his farm visits and seeing the different animals, I’ve seen quite a few lambings, calvings and foals being born … He always used to carry a roll of extra strong mints in the car and the challenge was to see how long I could keep a mint in my mouth without screaming and spitting it out…

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My partner and I moved to our current house in order to be near his parents, his father in particular, who was elderly and infirm. In due course, the expected happened, and this led to my first experience of a funeral. Admittedly, I found my partner’s father somewhat … challenging and we were never exactly… close, but I found the funeral both distressing and traumatic.

To begin with, there was a disagreement about cars, as to whether I warranted a place in the “daughter-in-laws” car since my partner and I are not married. Then, at the service, another section of his large, extended family arrived without invitation and tensions were evident…

The cemetery was cold and desolate. Windswept and stark. My nerves – never great – were shredded and I did not want to go and stand by the graveside. Instead, a neighbour and her daughter stood with me and we looked at the wreaths.

It just seemed wrong, somehow, leaving the old man there. Yet I have my own memory of him, that I am blessed with, that I chose to share with my partner to try and comfort him…

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He had left his father in his wheelchair, after his last stroke, by our pond to look at the fish, while he went inside with his mother to discuss something. His father didn’t know I was there, but I saw, I remember… my little dog, who was a bouncy, jumpy-up sort of dog, went quietly up to the old man and lifted her face up to him.

He laid his gnarled old hand on her head and patted her, a smile lighting up his face. Just that. A simple moment, but a little moment of joy that the old man and my little dog shared, a comfort and a knowing.

Later, the wake was pretty awful. Excess alcohol and tears, and, all in all, what the day left me with was an overwhelming memory of flowers and feuds…

In a conversation quite recently actually, with my partner, regarding funerals, I was taken aback with the Victorian relish he greeted this subject…

Oh yes, I want everybody in floods of tears. You have to wear black … and a hat… with a veil… “

Me: “ … ???…”

The Victorians, most notably the Queen herself, introduced the lugubrious practise of death-relish; the yards of black crepe, jet mourning jewellery, wearing full black mourning for years, the effigies, the elegies, the monuments, the mausoleums…

I can appreciate the comfort this may offer, but my partner declaring “I want everybody to be miserable because I’ve gone” is not for me.

I’ve planned my funeral. Not in the morbid sense and not because I intend dying any time soon … but because I would like it to be a celebration of Life left behind, and for people to remember me with laughter and love.

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To this effect… my funeral music – although I prefer “celebration” music will be “Always look on the bright side of Life”, from Monty Python’s “Life Of Brian” and José González’s “Step Outside”- a truly uplifting and beautiful piece of music. I don’t really want black to be worn, unless as a tasteful accessorising handbag perhaps. People can bring flowers, but take them home, don’t leave them to die, and I would like the poem “Do not stand at my grave and weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye read out. It points out that death need not be the end… it is a transition… a becoming… a returning to Source.

I would like a selection of exotic teas to be offered to my guests… and cake. The most expensive, decadent, delicious cake that you wouldn’t ordinarily buy… And to end… “My Way.” By the Sex Pistols. Of course.

As that great comedian Tommy Cooper is reputed to have said: “Always leave ‘em laughing…”

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Amber and Awesome Cats

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Amber isn’t actually a crystal – it’s fossilised tree resin, the sticky stuff that a tree will leak if it’s wounded. It’s popular for use in jewellery, and from ancient times, people seem to have instinctively known that this beautiful golden crystal has some pretty awesome qualities.

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It’s a powerful healer and natural analgesic – I don’t know if this is psychosomatic, as I do get pretty panicky at the dentist’s, but when I am there, wearing my amber jewellery or clutching a piece of Amber in my hot, sticky palm definitely reduces the pain and panic…

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As “tree blood”, Amber has a strong connection with Mother Earth, and powerful grounding and healing energies. Whilst dissolving negativity, Amber will take this energy and change it into something positive, a force that will help to stimulate the body’s own healing process.

The Ancient Greeks called Amber “Elektron” and through it discovered static electricity … my Nan showed me this by rubbing her string of Amber beads with a silk scarf so they became positively charged, full of energy…

Like you, dear…”

and would attract other little objects, like pieces of torn paper.

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Amber is a wonderful, positive crystal that’s all about the energy; warm and golden, it brings warmth and happiness to Life, clearing depression from the mind and negative energies from the spirit, Vitamin D for the soul, if you will…

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Cats can be pretty awesome too … although I mean that in the traditional sense, provoking awe and wonder, rather than just being pretty cool… (cue reproachful look from Charlie… )

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From the time our first feline friend was attracted to the warmth of a caveman’s fire and proved their use by deterring rodents, Man has regarded Cat with a sense of awe for their grace and elegance and at times almost unearthly powers … the Middle Ages was not a good time in the history of the cat, rather a comedown after the glories of Ancient Egypt.

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And yet our fascination with cats remains on the whole, positive. They have inspired any amount of artworks, poetry and literature … and have proved time and time again that they have an awe-inspiring ability to adapt and move with the times, from solitary hunter of years gone by to multi-cat household of the 21st century.

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Too Many Cats – Never!

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As regular readers know, I love my cats dearly and various feline characters have played starring roles in my life so far…

My earliest memory, a coming into consciousness, if you will, involved a cat. Wew were living in the practice house at the time, a rambling, three storied Victorian building that had a little surgery attached with a few kennels and a stable. The garden wrapped around the house on three sides and in my memory was always filled with sunshine…

My awakening into being involved our cat of the time, Snoopy, a large, black, plush-furred and amiable cat who became my heart companion in early years. I remember to this day the feel of my cat’s fur against my bare arms as I lugged him inelegantly along, upright on his back legs and nearly as tall as me, as we walked around the garden together.

And thus began my life-long love of cats. My life has been touched by other animals too, including most especially dogs, but cats. Always. And what do you get someone who loves cats – why, cat related-objects of every variety, shape, size and form!

I can hardly bear to wear these shoes..they are so comfortable, it’s like walking barefoot… but… too cute!

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This scarf is a treasured gift from my old headmistress, from The Cat Gallery… I daren’t spend too much time on their website…

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And the jewellery! This ring and necklace were Christmas presents from my son.

I love the symbolism of the golden cat pendant, hanging in the Rowan tree…

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Ornaments, always a favourite, but this one, purchased from my son’s crystal lady, Lizian, is actually carved from Malachite – cats and crystals, how lovely!

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And of course, my most important cats. Princess Charlotte, Lily, Ting and Tooty… my fur family…

Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Sigmund Freud

Always Use Protection…

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My son returned home one afternoon, proudly bearing the crystal in the featured photo…

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing.

“It’s a Pyrite sun, or flower,” he replied.

“Can I hold it…”

He placed it carefully in my hands and – does anybody remember the Ready Brek adverts … it’s a warm oat cereal that’s supposed to give you an inner warmth all day, symbolised by a glowing orange orange outline around anyone who eats it…

I held this wonderful circle of protection and hope, and felt its warmth surround me, a shield. I am always drawn to stones that have strong protective qualities, and Pyrite is an extremely positive stone.

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It’s a wonderful energy shield as it protects the wearer or owner from dark attachments and negative energies, and can also activate your own sense of positivity… getting things done and stimulating new ideas.

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Iron Pyrite is a great balancer, too, it can elevate self-worth and confidence and is a good all-rounder… perhaps implicit in this crystal’s symbolic shape. I have a tumblestone of Pyrite that I use in conjunction with Hematite to help with my back problems, so I am aware of its beneficial health properties, but I found this sunburst particularly comforting. Pleasantly warm to hold, tactile and pretty to look at with its radiating oil slick rich rainbow of colours, blue, purple, gold…

Holding it, I felt safe, a visible sign of Mother Earth’s love for us given up in this shield of iron and love.

It put me in mind of St.Patrick’s Breastplate, my favourite verse is:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

As I have mentioned I am of no particular religious affiliation, but I was brought up quite “high” church, and I always find comfort and reassurance in these words. Items or crystals that have a strong vibrational element of protection, words that comfort and uphold.

Point being, in all aspects of your life, a little protection always comes in handy … whether it’s emotional, spiritual or physical… as I tell my son!

charlie-sezCharlie says: “It’s always better to be safe than sorry…”