Brave new world?

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Are things getting better or just more complicated?

I just signed the contract to rent my new apartment – paperwork was horrid and endless! I remembered as a dream the days when you met the landlord, they appraised you as a human being and if they liked what they saw you both signed a simple standard contract. I understand renting agents and referencing agents are safeguards for both parties, but it seems to have reached a stage of the ridiculous in expensive red tape.

Then there are the phone calls to providers and utilities where you run the gauntlet of endless answering machines then wait ages to finally you get to talk to another human.

For someone who never saw a TV set till I was five, (yes, I am that old lol!) had to walk to a phone box to make a call, found information at the local library, saw my dad repair shoes, make furniture, grow veg and cycle to work and my mum make our clothes on her new sewing machine and prepare all our food from scratch, I question which was better.

For all the medical advances – we seemed to be far healthier back then.

Communication advances – we actually developed social skills lol.

Entertainment advances – we had more fun doing simple stuff before we became over stimulated.

Mental health – most folks were pretty happy – I can’t remember ever hearing of depression or mental health issues. Of course they were not discussed so much back then. For sure they existed, but I suspect they were less prevalent. Following the trauma of the war it is surprising how cheerful and upbeat people seemed compared to now, perhaps due to the camaraderie and natural, supportive interaction of society. What we gained on the swings I suspect we lost on the roundabouts. Mental health became a doctors domain rather than being bolstered by close friendships and family.

Educational advances – more to learn, more pressure, more knowledge but far less wisdom and discernment.

Standard of living – higher for most (though not all) yet all in all I suspect the quality of life has taken a plunge.

While I applaud many of the new advances and innovations I regret the loss of much that was precious to the human soul.

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A true Christmas tale.

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It’s a long story how we came to be in the old farmhouse in Ireland realizing our dream. We, little nobodies, had helped stage a Christian camp for youngsters. They’d come, some eager, some confused. and some rebellious. We loved them, pulled our hair out at their antics and prayed (oh how we prayed!) Now it was over. They’d returned, tiny flames of love kindling in their hearts, to their domains, leaving a great joy of satisfaction in their wake.
There was just one problem. It was almost Christmas and while we had food aplenty and a roof over our heads, we had no money left, zilch, nothing, and there were children there, mine included. We explained there’d be no presents that year, no tree or decorations. They were such troopers, not a single complaint.
We made our own décor, holly and fir branches from the forest. Silvery yogurt tops, kept from the camp, were cut into snow flakes and suspended from fallen branches dabbed white with left over emulsion. It looked wonderful!
Christmas Eve was still special. We read old Christmas stories by candle light, and I sang my guys to sleep with childhood carols.
I came down to see the two teenage boys who’d helped with the renovations were gone.
“They went to look for a tree.” My eldest whispered. Due to a lot of boggy ground fallen trees were common in the surrounding forest.
Our Texan builder/handyman was heading out too. It was he who first dreamt up the project. His tiny 5ft 6 frame harboring a personality that somehow gave the impression of a 6 footer.
I joined my daughter and the other teenage girl who’d stayed to help clear up the aftermath of the camp etc. We’d almost done when the boys dragged in an enormous tree. I restrained myself from checking for axe marks (their hearts were surely right and the forest was common ground I reasoned.)
They set it up in a bucket which the girls artfully draped and we went about gleaning all the décor we could find, painted fir cones, odd bits of tinsel yogurt top snowflakes. It looked beautiful even without lights.

I was just drifting off to sleep when I was roughly wakened.
“Come on mum. We need you to help wrap.”
Our Texan angel had been to see a friend who owned a small toy factory. He’d been hoping there might be a few “old line” bits and pieces for the kids. But the Irish heart never gives by half and the little van was crammed with toys, enough for several presents for each child and lots left over to pass on to others, there were even fairy lights for the tree.
Imagine the wonder next morning when the children were awoken by Christmas angels (my daughter and friend had raided the prop box) and brought down to the old living room. There they saw a huge tree blazing with lights and an immense pile of presents.
They didn’t think it was Santa. They knew who to thank, and their happy praises sounded all day long. The presents were special because they knew Jesus had sent them and that made His birthday “magic”.
We adults of course didn’t get presents, or did we? The gifts of joy, love, peace and intense gratitude filled our hearts in a way presents never could. Jesus’ love for these precious children and the hearts that had given so freely of time, goods and sleep were more than enough!

Time travel.

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My memory files are old, the draws rusted, hard to extract. The pages themselves abound with moth-holes.

Yet sometimes a picture, music, smell or sensation unlocks a door and I find myself in a past time, basking in its warm glow. I remember how it felt to be a child, a teenager, new mother, my first taste of the orient etc. etc. Sweet feelings overwhelm me and for a few blissful moments I taste the past again.

Like the hedgehog, as I gaze I’m back. Me and my sister, peering, noses cold against the window, all a hush as a dark, prickly shape appears, hesitantly nearing the saucer of milk my mother set out every night. I remember the cold of the kitchen, but the warmth of our hearts, my mother’s soft smile – she helped more than hedgehogs.  The tiny creature lapping eagerly outside our door was our shared secret.

 

Old Friends.

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From December 2014. Wishing you all great joy in your pre Christmas parties and merry making.

Song Bird Songs

old folks

(Of far flung friends I seldom see – photo from bing).

It’s oh so good to see them when parted oh so long,
The hugs and friendly greetings that lend the heart a song.
The smile that bares a tremble, the tear that dims the eye,
The subtle, soft, remembrance of days that have gone by.

It seems too much to soak it in when love floats all around,
Another, yet another, of times voices coming round.
The smiles now bare more wrinkles than when you knew them first,
But time and tide can not erase; the spirit from them bursts.

And all are in remembrance of sweet times so long gone by
The times when we were young and free and we had fun, oh my!
I hear now in the echoes of vintages grown old
The hearts refined in times harsh hand have turned at last to gold.

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A Christmas dream.

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granpa

The old armchair squeaks companionably as I edge my equally aged frame down into its depths. The fire is really only fake electric logs, but if I squint my eyes, minus glasses, it could pass for the real thing. Alone at Christmas, hugging my masculine independence, like a tattered security blanket, to my heart, I close my eyes. Not for me care homes with immaculately scrubbed walls. Let me rather linger here and remember what once was. Thoughts drift…

 

I see, through falling snow, a man chopping pine. He looks up, beckoning me as he carries in the logs, motioning me to come inside. Hesitantly I dust the snow from my boots. The house is modest but roomy. A girl and boy of eight or nine, rush up to him, their cheeks rosy, as if they’ve been helping with outdoor chores. Little faces peer around the door, shy of this stranger in their midst, whist mother comes in with a tray of steaming drinks.

A real wood fire burns in the grate and I hold out my hands relishing the glowing heat. Muffins follow as the three little faces come in, drawn by the treat. Father heaves one on each knee, laughing, merry, peeking at me from the corners of their eyes

A Christmas tree stands in one corner. A real one, I note with satisfaction, taking in the brisk smell of pine needles. There’s a natural joy about this family that seems to bubble over into laughter, as if they are just so happy to be alive and together. I begin to chuckle too. I just can’t help myself.

Life has a different perspective for them it seems, no hustle or bustle, no vying for gifts. Father proudly shows off his little brood, mother loving and affectionate towards him and them. I‘ve missed this I realized.

Seeing my glance, finger to lips, she motions me to accompany her into a side room. It’s full of half made things, embroidery and needlework, magnificent half completed cushions, paintings, mixtures of dried herbs that give off a wonderful aroma, woodwork, carvings and a beautiful mural set in the floor and I realize it is a workshop, not only for her but for their whole family. I see gaily painted blocks (a project of the elder boy?) A panel of somewhat messy embroidery and a rough half carved rocking horse. I run my hands wistfully over the pine, memories stirring.

I hear music coming from the other room. Mother nods and we return. They’re dancing, the girls giggling and swirling gaily, as father prances around, a fiddle in hand, from which he gleans a scratchy melody. I clap and stamp in time as mother invites me to my feet…

 

But I can’t dance, my slippers are soggy. I look down at my spilled mug of tea. A dream, just a dream, but it sure was a good one! I glance at the plastic fire, the fake tree with its store bought decorations and sigh.

Just then the doorbell rings. Shuffling along in soggy slippers I peer through the frosted glass. It couldn’t be? Could it?

“Surprise!” I’m almost bowled over by two rambunctious, young teenagers. My son grabs my shoulder to steady me.

“Now calm down you two hoodlums,” he yells. “Gramps is not as strong as he used to be.”

He looks into my eyes, “We couldn’t leave you on your own for Christmas again dad. I just couldn’t come last year… the whole thing with mum, it was too much. But I… I kept remembering about the time we made that rocking horse for Emmie’s Christmas present. Do you remember? It was so wobbly she could barely ride it, but I always remember building it with you.”

“Yes, I remember son.” Eyes tearing I hug him close.

Returning to the living room the fake fire and tree didn’t seem to matter anymore. I had my dream, my Christmas dream.

 

 

Grains of Sand. (flash fiction)

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rocky

Slamming on the brakes Dee pulled into the curb. Scrambling down the rocky incline she breathed hard, her starved lungs seizing ravenously on the fresh salty air. Wrestling off her stilettoes toes wriggled luxuriously in soft cool sand. Before her stood the ocean, as vast and all-encompassing as it had ever been. Eyes long encased by concrete décor feasted on space, on blue and emerald… At last here she was alone with the ocean. It hadn’t changed.

Sitting on a rock she thrilled to the cold shock of the waves around her ankles, giggling like a school girl. She cared nothing for the salt spray staining her Dior skirt – she was free! It was all behind her now, the career, the smashed relationship, even the arrogant brats she’d mothered for so long, even them for this moment. Perhaps later she’d bring them here, perhaps they’d understand … perhaps… They’d never been hers, not really, no more than Phil had been hers, she’d been merely one in a progression of stepmothers, to be used and discarded. Gazing down at the diamond studied wedding band on her finger she wrenched it off watching with grim satisfaction as it plummeted beneath the tide.

She could have sold it reason argued. No. She wanted nothing from him, nothing. It was over. She was free! Removing the scarlet headscarf she tossed her remaining curls in the brisk ocean air. They were thin now; the radiation had decimated her beauty but not her spirit. Whatever time she had left she’d spend it here beside the ocean reliving her childhood dreams. A single tear escaped. No she would not weep, not any more. She’d instead relish every moment. She’d hire a companion, there was money of her own enough for that … perhaps an old friend… they’d walk the beach together and dream and reminisce till the last grains of sand trickled from the glass…