Sunday, 17 October 2004

'im next door.....

I don’t need an alarm clock anymore - I don’t get much sleep, not since HE moved in from next door. I never asked him, he just came. He’d been coming round of course, just being neighbourly I thought, then suddenly I realised he’d moved in.

I can’t say I wasn’t attracted to him, those soft gentle eyes, his quiet ways - not at all like the usual brash male. Yes, I think you could say it was love. I wondered what SHE was going to say when she realised he’d finally gone. I avoided her of course, if we happened to be hanging the washing out at the same, I’d spend an inordinate length of time sorting through my washing basket until she bent down to hers, then I’d quickly peg out a garment and bend down again as she stretched up to her line. A comical sight we must have made, dodging up and down in unison, desperate to avoid one another’s gaze. An uneasy silence had descended upon our adjoining homes. Living in a row of terrace houses everyone knew one another’s business, but nothing was said, or even alluded to. So life went on like this for quite a while, and HE had his feet well and truly under the table!

My children took to him well enough, but then he knew where he came in the pecking order and never tried to push himself forward. He lived a peaceful existence, never asking for more than a quiet life and a few crumbs of love. The biggest problem was having to share my bed again, I’d had it to myself for a long time, now I had to get used to sharing it again. But he began to take up more and more space, in fact I suddenly realised that he was getting rather portly - gone was the youthful figure, the slim hips had broadened - and the tum had become decidedly tubby.

I couldn’t understand it - he didn’t eat that much. Then one day, whilst chatting to my neighbour on the other side of me, THE SUBJECT came into our conversation, I asked the burning question - had she seen him slipping next door again? I’d never been entirely sure he’d left home. She gave me a knowing nod, she had seen him next door at meal times, and she too, had noticed his widening girth and suspected he had a foot in both camps.

By this time I had accepted him as mine, and now felt a sense of betrayal. He was also getting a wee bit cocky - he was taking up far too much of the bed nowadays, and he snored appallingly. I would try to sneak upstairs ahead of him, to snatch the largest share of the bed, and hopefully be asleep before he came up. But he’dtaken to pushing the door open with such force that it slammed against the furniture, waking me with a frightened start. And, unperturbed by my refusal to move over, would just lay on top of me! With his burgeoning weight, it was no joke.

My squirming around to dislodge him, brought forth strange sounds - mingled with his snores and grunts, made for many a sleepless night. Then I found that no matter how early I went to bed, he was always there before me, in fact I was beginning to think that he never got up!

All came to a head recently, when coming up to bed in the early hours, he arranged his great weight on top of me - I could barely breathe. No matter how hard I wriggled, I could not make him shift, with my face squashed into the pillow, I thought my end was near. With every bit of strength I could muster, I raised my face and yelled into the quiet of the night - knowing full well that in the still hush, the whole terrace would no doubt hear me-



Ps.Timmy really did seem to prefer living with us, he got on very well with my own cat, and we were both very sad when my neighbour moved away and took him with her, but I pop round to see her now and again (ok - I pop round to see Timmy....) At 16 years of age, he?s still taking life easy.

Timmy.jpg: Click to view full-size version






Saturday, 9 October 2004

Discovering Rye

I'd heard of Rye, but to be brutally honest, I wouldn't have known where to find it - but when I did - oh wow!!!

Many years ago, when I lived in Royston, every Wednesday & Saturday I'd make for the Auction Rooms to see what treasure I could find,  I only had £5 to spare (which actually bought quite a lot) and there were always so many things I wanted!  On this particular occasion, I espied a pair of etchings, I didn't recognise the subject matter, I just liked the quaintness of them, on the back of the pictures, someone had written 'The Landgate, Rye' on one, and 'The Mermaid Inn, Rye', on the other.  I just enjoyed looking at them, they had an aura about them that took me back in time - I had to have them!  They ended up costing me £6, but worth every penny, I thought. 

They hung, prominently, on the walls of every house I ever lived in, and when my husband and I divorced, I made sure the etchings came with me!

Some years on, and the etchings still hanging on my wall, never failed to tranfix me.  As my 50th Birthday approached, my friend David, asked me what I would like as a gift - I told him that I would like to go to Rye, and find these landmarks, as by now, I had discovered that they were very famous landmarks indeed - the Mermaid Inn, in particular, was shown on many calendars and Christmas cards.

So out came the maps and the Tourist Information guide to b&b's in Rye.  Our first choice could not accomodate us, but suggested Playden Cottage, just a mile outside the centre of Rye. Playden Cottage  turned out to be a large, imposing, white house, nestling on the side of a hill, amongst the most beautiful gardens.  Our host, Mrs. Fox, came out to greet us warmly.  It was the start of a most wonderful experience. 

After settling into our large, immaculately furnished, twin bedded room, complete with tea/coffee tray and bowl of fresh fruit, we set off to explore Rye.  What we found just took our breath away - here was a town who's amazing history had been frozen in time. Rye is one of the Cinque Ports and has a wonderful maritime history, David had spent most of his life in the Royal Navy and I just loved history and architecture, so Rye suited us both very well indeed!  Little had changed since the old smuggling days, the steep cobbled streets flanked by the original houses, each with their own unique, never changing, facade  Many, now hotels and restaurants, art galleries, potteries and book shops.  So much to see, but our first priority was to find The Mermaid Inn and The Landgate.  We had been told by Mrs. Fox that we would find The Inn very easily on the incredibly steep and cobbled, Mermaid Street - cramping irons not a necessity but definitely no high heels!! We walked the length of it - up one side and down the other, but couldn't find any building that resembled my picture, eventually it was pointed out to us, an ivy covered, flat faced building with none of the character of the old Mermaid Inn the etcher had drawn - how could it have changed so much????

Full of disappointment, we went in search of The Landgate.  As we approached, it was obvious that it too, was very different from the etcher's interpretation of The Landgate as he saw it 70 years ago.  This was a town where time stood still, how could it be that two of Rye's most famous landmarks had changed so much?  Or had the etcher taken 'artistic licence' to the extreme?

Sadly, David and I walked on through The Landgate and up the narrow street beyond, stopping to glance in the window of an art gallery, there were many pictures of the Landgate, but none quite like mine. I looked back at the Landgate, and suddenly, there it was - my etching sprang to life before my eyes!  We had been looking at The Landgate from the wrong side!!  Very little had changed, in my picture, the top of The Landgate had crumbled slightly, and this had since been repaired.  Thus encouraged, we made out way back to The Mermaid, and sure enough, by going round to the back, we found the very famous view of The Mermaid Inn.

Content with our findings, we now felt able to explore the rest of Rye.

For anyone visiting Rye, the Heritage Centre should be the first stop.  Here you can discover its amazing history in the exciting Sound and Light Show - there's murder, mayhem and smuggling!

All Rye lies before you as you sit around a grand, authentic scale model of this ancient town.  The lights dim,the music starts, and you travel back into the past. As night falls, the houses light up one by one, smugglers move stealthily about in the moonlight.......  Ah, it was so exciting, we had to see it twice!

After such an interesting first day in Rye, we slept so soundly that night, that we awoke very early the next morning, Mrs. Fox was already up and about, preparing breakfast, she showed us into a really charming breakfast room.  A large oval, mahogany dining table dominated the room, it was set with silver cutlery and sparkling white linen.  Fresh coffee percolated on one of the sideboards, another, laden with a wide variety of cereals, fruit juice, muesli and various dishes of dried fruits and nuts.  We were invited to make our own muesli, and this was then topped with a dollop of fresh yoghurt and drizzled with local honey.  Normally this would have been easily sufficient to see me through till lunch time, but no sooner had we finished than Mrs Fox deposited a plate of bacon, sausage, egg, tomato and large flat mushrooms, before us, and the hot toast just kept on coming!   We must have sat for an hour, eating our fill.  Those wonderful breakasts are something neither of us will ever forget.  Afterwards, we went to explore the beautiful gardens, the rhododendruns were in full bloom, we took some lovely photographs to remind us of this wonderful place.

We decided to use up some of those calories by walking the mile into town.  Today we went down to the quayside to poke around the antiques at the wonderfully named Pocketful of Rye, a large wooden construction that had once been one of the many boat houses. Then on to the Cinque Ports Pottery, housed in the old monastery where, from the public gallery, we were able to follow the entire process of pottery being made.

We didn't need lunch, but we did pop into The Cobbles Tea Room for a pot of tea and a fresh cream cake later in the afternoon! 

There's just so much choice of  places to eat, but The Flushing Inn had featured strongly in the Sound & Light Show, so we decided we really must relish the experience.  I adore seafood, but when I saw the seafood platter I'd ordered as a starter, I realised I wasn't going to be able to eat anything else - it was enormous!

It was most fortunate that David and I did a great deal of walking during our visit to Rye, because we also did a great deal of eating!

We were able to experience another of Mrs. Fox's wonderful breakfasts, those mushrooms were to die for, she went out to pick them fresh every morning, their wonderful flavour enhanced by cooking them with the bacon.

Eventuallywe had to go back home, but we knew that we would be back at the first opportunity, and we did go back the following year, and stayed at Playden Cottage again, of course.

The one thing that I'd never managed to find out - was the etcher's name.  Each print carried his signature, but it was proving impossible to decipher.

A few years later, the story of how I went in search of the landmarks in my etchings, was featured in the Channel 4 series 'Collector's Lot', as in the meantime, on a visit to Royston, I'd popped into an antique shop and found another etching by the same artist, but this time, no clue as to where I might find the castle on a hill, featured in the drawing. (This one cost me £25!)  After showing my pictures on Collector's Lot, Presenter, Sue Cook, asked viewers if they could identify the third etching and come up with the name of the artist.  The response was amazing, I was inundated with letters, all telling me that I ought to know that the third picture was of Bamborough Castle in Northumberland!  This too, was a very famous landmark, and had been used many times in films and television programmes.  One person managed to come up with the artist's name - George Huardel Bly!

Sadly, I have not been back to Rye for many years, but it will remain - a very favourite place!

ps Scanner not working at the moment, but will post photographs as soon as I can.

Saturday, 2 October 2004

How it all began



The blackout, the bombs, the barrage ballons, the sirens. The midnight race down the garden to the Anderson Shelter.

I was born in Sheffield in May 1941, the youngest of five children, Raymond is ten, Maurice eight, Mavis five, and Barbara is three. And the pattern of 2 & 3 years which emerged between each birth, would continue........ I was just four months into gestation during the blitz of December 13th 1940. But I do remember the devastation that Sheffield suffered during the war. I know our memories can play strange tricks - can I really remember with such clarity, running down to the Anderson shelter in the dark, stumbling on the path, being picked up in a strong pair of arms and rushed to safety? The terrifying wail of the sirens, and inordinate fear of the barrage balloon, just above our house? I have strong pictures in my mind's eye that no newsreel could have provided. I can remember the addresses of the various houses we lived in, the neighbours, the games we used to play, even the clothes I used to wear! But certain things can become a little 'shuffled around' in our memories, and although I'm trying to ascertain the accuracy of names, places, events, it’s entirely possible that my memory may stumble a little!

Leather leggings, liberty bodices and black patent ankle straps. The cry of the rag & bone man - he offers me a balloon in exchange for my shoes and I'm outraged!

Victor Sylvester represents chairs on the table whilst mums mops the kitchen floor, Housewives Choice - a house full of damp washing.

Sent off to nursery school at the age of three and a shove from my young neighbour, Peter Parker and I'm 'scarred' for life.

Al Jolson enjoys a come back. Raymond becomes a big fan so I grow up the sounds of 'Mammy'.

Mavis is diagnosed as having a hole in her heart. She will become known as 'The Sheffield Blue Baby', and becomes something of a celebrity. There are always photographers and reporters around, and at a very early age, I start to meet the 'Stars' of the day - Frank Randall, Al Read and Albert & Les Ward - one advantage of being the sister of a 'famous' person!

A special trip to the Sheffield Empire Theatre to see a Christmas pantomime - and I'm terrified!

Early 1950's

I did not expect to pass the 'Eleven Plus' - and I didn't. So a Secondary Modern School education for me. At least I'm with all my friends. And despite being something of a chatterbox, I get to be quite good at certain subjects - "The girl now too busy chatting to pay attention has come top in English, how, I'll never know” - Mr. Parkin, the English teacher.

I also love singing, and join the school choir.

Gymslips, the biggest passion killer of all time, are still part of the school uniform - unfortunately.

We listen to ‘Uncle Mac', who plays children's requests on the BBC light program.

At 7.0pm we cluster around the wireless to listen to Dick Barton - Special Agent, Jock, and Snowywhite - exciting stuff!

Hopalong Cassidy is the cowboy hero at the Saturday afternoon matinee', but my young heart has a yen for his side-kick, Larry. Then, aged 12, another Larry steals my heart - Larry Parks. I go to see 'The Jolson Story', and I'm captivated! That wonderful rich voice, that handsome face, the singing, the dancing......... I start dancing lessons - and I want to go on the stage!

I rush home from school to watch ‘Billy Bunter’ on children’s T.V.

We huddle under the blankets with our transistor radios on a Saturday night (11pm til 12am) to listen to Radio Luxenbourg and Jack Jackson's 'Record Round-up' (the 50's version of today's 'Chart Show'). Which beget the BBC program 'The Top Twenty', (presented by Brian Aldiss) featuring the top twenty selling singles that make up the 'Hit Parade'. (Forerunner to the 'Charts').