Helping. . . ?

Marion followed him into the coffee shop. He walked slowly and with the difficulty that comes with not being very good at it. She gently put her hand on his back and guided him towards the back of the café where there were still seats . She carefully moved the table so he could get in more easily. She helped him sit down, in the way that we all do with children, making sure she deftly unzipped his jacket as he sat down. 

As he shifted himself around the bench she smiled indulgently and asked if he would like his usual drink. He said yes so she checked he would be OK while she was gone and walked the maybe 15 steps to the counter. He sat still, breathing deeply, watching her, while she ordered their drinks. She kept a close eye on him…glancing over from time to time.

She returned to their table with the 2 large hot drinks. He sat and watched while she put the sugar in first his drink then hers, stirred them both carefully, then passed him one, checking again that it was OK.

They sipped their drinks. He looked either uninterested or bored, but Marion continued to talk to him with an animated face, just as most mums talk to their youngsters.

They were done. She made sure he could get up from the seat and once again moved the table so he could walk away from it. Then, almost like a choreographed move, zipped his jacket up again. They left the way they had arrived, him walking slowly and unsteadily towards the door while Marion put her hand on her extremely overweight husband’s back and guided him out.


Get it right !

It was market day in a mid-sized market town in Yorkshire.

Every week Audrey and Bob drove into town, in their carefully selected car (it was the same as their friends Jim and Eva’s so they knew they were safe!).

They had both retired a few years ago now, although Audrey had only ever worked part time ( Bob like his dinner ready when he came in ). Since then she had got more involved in the WI and him the Rotary Club and their lives had become even more ritualised than ever.

And today was market day. They always park in the same space (if possible) and he goes for the parking ticket while she takes her tasteful shopping basket out of the car boot. She went through her mental checklist : “Umbrella, gloves, handbag” and scanned Bob’s appearance as he returned to the car. Next Winter she must replace his coat as it’s starting to look a bit not-quite-new .

First stop (as always) is the coffee shop in the only department store in town. Very smart with tasteful things and the place to see and be seen on market day. Usually they arrive first, but as they walked in to the pastry fragranced café they spotted Eva and Jim at their table by the window. They greeted each other in their friendly way as Audrey put her basket down on one of the spare chairs and went to buy the coffee.

Bob removed his smart but boring coat and scarf, making sure his new (a Christmas present from Audrey every few years) leather gloves are secured in his left hand pocket. Predictably, Jim asked him his opinion on the important sports events which had recently taken place, while Eva busily arranged cups, teapot, individual milk jugs and plates (2 plates, one shared scone) on their side of the table.

Audrey returned with a tray of identical contents.

And arranged them in the same way.

They both sliced their scones (fruit for Eva and Jim, cherry for Audrey and Bob) , buttered them and put one half on two plates. Poured the milk into the cups, then the tea, then stirred.

Audrey straightened her soft, silky scarf (the one she had received from Bob for Christmas, after she had made sure he knew exactly which one she wanted while on one of their Friday visits to Marks and Spencer) , making sure it is still looped in the way Eva showed her a few years ago. She then gentle teased her hair with her finger tips, suddenly noticing herself doing it in the mirror opposite….oops…no…it’s Eva doing the same. .. the mirrors were moved last month when they decorated.

Bob and Jim were  talking passionately about the new road markings at the junction of Talbot Street and Station Lane, after exhausting their opinion of the vivid colour Brian Cooper has painted his front door.

” Don’t look now but Graham is heading our way” whispered Eva . And indeed there was Graham. Graham who Jim and Bob went to school with, worked with for over 30 years and went to extreme lengths to avoid the rest of the time.

He announced his arrival in his usual unacceptable way, placed his hands on the end of their table and leaned in to tell them of someone they all know who had “an assignation” last week ! They all smiled, made the right noises and sipped their tea while Graham continued his story, getting more enthusiastic and animated by the second. He then bid them a hearty farewell and paced back to his table of friends. The table of friends whose unselfconscious laughter could be heard by all the other tables.

The following moment was awkward, but Eva (as usual) light-heartedly reminded them that he was devoted to his mother, until she died a few years ago. The mood had lightened, but Audrey couldn’t  help a careful glance around the room, hoping that no one had noticed what had just happened.

Teapots emptied, nothing but crumbs from the half scones left on their plate, and serviettes scrumpled next to the plates, they began the job of leaving. Like synchronised swimmers, Jim and Bob tied their scarves, slide into their coats (both M and S two-tone winter jackets) and waited patiently while their wives straightened their lambswool jumpers, adjusted their scarves, slipped their  knee length , beautifully lined coats on , pulled their gloves on and picked up their baskets.

As they left the café they nodded to, or quietly greeted, other regulars who they recognised. The two couples bid each other a cheerful goodbye, with promises to see each other at the WI and Rotary before leaving in opposite directions. Jim and Eva needed to be back for lunch so had to rush, whereas Bob and Audrey needed the usual bread buns, stamps, a newspaper and pork chops .

Walking along the high street , glancing at the market stalls, Audrey and Bob became just one couple amongst the crowds of other couples who were all meeting friends for a cup of tea, considering new coats for their husbands, knowing that today is pork chop day and hoping that they can avoid Graham.  



I have always referred to my 3 children as my chicks.

And the last chick left home a week ago to move into the brand new home he has bought with his girl.

It has been 30 years with laughter, tears, happiness, heartbreak, smiling, hugging, arguing, tears wiping, cooking, drinking, discussing and explaining. But now they are all settled with their loves and are happy.

I was ready mentally and thought I would be fine but when the time came I wasn’t so fab and I did find it hard and I did cry and did knew that it was the end of something.

But pieces of their shells are still here in the nest . A packet of my daughter’s 18th birthday cards. My eldest son’s boxes of records from when he used to DJ. My youngest son’s old phone and student card. Little pieces of shell that remind me that this will always be their first home.

Who wants to see a massive adult bird sitting in the nest waiting to be fed ?…Springwatch would devote a whole series to it ! If we do our job properly we give them the confidence to go out there and start their own lives.

The house seems enormous but instead of having 3 spare bedrooms we will alter the use of one or two so it can work for us. My man has always wanted an art studio so that fabulous light and airy teenage boy loft space will do the job just fine! I can spread my books and set up a dressmaking area. It is exciting but tinged with an air of sadness. But I found this list of positives which had one or two good things. But the one that was most positive was :

  • Feel extremely proud of yourself for having raised children who are capable of going out into the world and surviving and thriving on their own. Give yourself a pat on the back.

And Im sure that every now and again, as I tidy up, I will find a feather or two hiding away.


Use it up January

In the UK we are in the grip of month dedication.

Movember (grow a tash for charity)  and now Dry January.

Ok. Sounds very virtuous and “clean” , straight after the indulgencies of Christmas, and I have read articles both supporting and dismissing it. But I am creating my own month title.

Use it up January.

Let me explain.

The photograph above isn’t my fridge, but it shares certain features. The grocery shelves are not mine but ditto. So, during January,  I am refusing to buy any food (other than essentials such as milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables) until my “bought for Christmas” food mountain has been used up (plus the things that I already had in).

I hear so often, in the shops in the run up to the big day, “All this just for one day!” Well it isn’t is it !  Its for the family gatherings, the evening with friends, the post-Christmas lunches and other eating occasions during the 10 days. So, yes I bought a lot of food and yes I still have a goodly amount left, but no I wont throw it away.

I had a cheese drawer. In the fridge one of the drawers was devoted to cheeses. Stilton, port salut, edam, bousin, cheddar, brie, comte, wensleydale with cranberries etc etc. It is gradually shrinking because those cheeses are used to cook sauces, flavour soups and go with the home made chutney into sandwiches. They will get used, but gradually.

I used the frozen salmon to make a tasty rice dish with a sauce made from the fresh cream, boursin and parmesan left over. The frozen buffet nibbles  (I don’t remember buying so much of it!) which were great for Christmas Eve supper, large family gathering on 28th and NYE with friends, hasn’t quite gone. So on Friday when my daughter, her wedding florist and myself talk wedding flowers the remainder will appear…along with contributions from the cheese drawer and the large box of crackers we are only half way down!

When planning our evening meals I am basing them around my supplies, to avoid buying anything extra if possible. Rice, pasta, pulses can all be jazzed up with things from my freezer, fridge or both. I am getting a strange sense of delight as I throw away boxes and packages. I smiled as I used the remaining frozen peas from a packet last night. Hummed to myself as an empty mushroom box jumped into the recycling bag. Almost danced a jig as I found a use for the last of the pate.

The shelves of the fridge are more visible, the freezer less full and the cook is feeling quite proud of the healthy and delicious inventions concocted with surprising ingredients.

All this just for 1 day” will  henceforth be inwardly mocked . My freezer will benefit, my cupboards lighten, my fridge will sigh with relief and until we are left with tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and oxo cubes I shall shun the supermarket.

Let’s hear it for “Use it up January” !