Category Archives: Family Life

Letter to Tron

Letter to Tron

There is a young person that has recently returned to my family fold. Her name is Tron and she’s best friends with Medusa, my niece.

I’m good at goodbyes, I’ve had a lifetime’s training, but Tron has taught me something. It is too easy to forget how nice it is being with some people. You may have fond memories but it’s nothing to the easy interaction when they are there. Most of my goodbyes have been permanent but Tron’s absence was a blink and I am so glad. I am enjoying having her around so much that I am sad when she has to go home.

Tron, I love having you in my family. You are funny, beautiful, kind and smart and you will always have a place with us. I love you and when you made the joke that if you had a pound for every time someone called you beautiful, you’d have £1! – ‘Thanks Mum,’ I wanted to bump up your money!


If you, who are reading this, know a beautiful, good-hearted person like Tron, tell them. Tell them in a way that they can’t deny to themselves. I’ve put my Letter to Tron on my blog. Whenever she denies her good qualities, it will be here waiting to remind her how much she’s loved. Boy will she blush.

Negativity is too easy. It’s too easy to hurt without realising. Let us make an undertaking to find a way to show people that we appreciate them and that without them our worlds would be greyer and sadder.

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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Family Life, Musing


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It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

I should have thundered north in an overcrowded, hot train but time, tide and finances were against me. Instead, my sister and I went to the beach and, just as the funeral was starting in Yorkshire, found ourselves a comfy spot on the pebbles at the tide line. Quietly, without drawing attention from the few holiday makers sitting around us, we built a small cairn around the flowers that I’d brought from garden.

Further up the Jurassic Coast, hymns were ringing out in a Methodist chapel in a town perched at the edge of the North Sea. Here, by the Channel, the sea sucked and sighed over the stones below us. Nature’s dirge to remind us that all will eventually erode.

She would have loved it here. The café hidden at the foot of the cliff, the sea, the red cliffs topped with the deep lush green that causes east coaster’s to catch their breath. Best of all she would have adored the beach huts. She had a thing about beach huts. She rented one every spring and autumn. How many times did we sit huddled in blankets discussing books, writers and the sex lives of people we didn’t like?  Not enough.

Cairn built, flowers fluttering in the breeze and an inscription on a stone, written in marker pen, I made a rambling speech to the sea about how I’d planned to come dressed up a bit but, on reflection, you and I were very similar in that most of our clothes came from charity shops and were well ‘lived-in.’ As long as we were clean and had brushed our hair at some point then that was good enough. Oh, and you had to have lippy on, of course. I spoke about you riding the comet behind Rufus and Betty and I cried. And that was it. Not showy, not loud, just heartfelt. I looked across at St F and she laughed. The cheap, council toilet roll that I’d swiped from the public loo had disintegrated when I’d wiped my eyes leaving me with white fuzz all over my face.

‘By the way,’ St F said. ‘I don’t belive Betty would allow Jenny on Rufus’ comet. I think she’d be jealous. Rufus was her best pal.’

We talked through a few alternatives and then went to the café for a coffee and a scone.

It definitely wasn’t showy, but it was a release. Distance doesn’t matter, I was there to see Jenny off in my own way and I’m kinda glad it turned out that way because I could be alone in my thoughts of her.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for teaching me about true friendship without even trying. That’s just the kind of girl you were and I miss you still.


For Jenny 2 For Jenny 1

And in case you’re wondering, I believe that Jenny has two comets by the tail and has hitched them, Boudicca-like, to her chariot and is racing Rufus across the heavens.

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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Family Life



That Was Foolish, Mrs

You led me to some dark places, Mrs. Most of them between the pages of a book, admittedly but, and let’s not tiptoe around here, there was your addiction to Freddo chocolate frogs. Malteasers were good but I imagine they were like Methadone is to a Heroin addict.

I remember so many afternoons in your front room at the table in the bay window, scoffing Freddos and trying to come up with penetrating critiques of modern art featured in the supplements – whilst simultaneously wondering how pissed the artists were when they painted them. Your daughter, Boggy, would look up from the TV where she was watching DVDs of The Crystal Maze and say, ‘You two are foolish.’

One must never be ‘foolish’ or ‘showy’, and there must never, ever be any ‘slacking.’ These expressions that Boggy had slipped into your family’s vocabulary as she was growing up, you generously shared with me and they have become part of my vocabulary too. As has ‘Terribly heppy.’ According to you, women in old black and white British movies could go from utter desolation to carefree jollity (or terribly heppy) just by applying some vivid red lipstick. You swore blind that your mother was just such a woman. It was how you always remembered her , in my presence. It’s how I remember you – you were never without your lippy when we went out. Though it was rarely bright red.

When my other half was being a …., I lodged with you for six months and painted every wall in your flat in lieu of rent. When I was broke, and you had money, you lent me a grand – just like that. When I moved back to the south-west, you stayed firm to our friendship and when I confessed I’d hit hard times, you were there.

Oh, the times I sent you filthy texts about a certain vertically challenged, older chap of our acquaintance! You always replied in kind. Boggy would not only think us foolish but rude too. She laughed anyway. I think she’s also a bit rude.

The last email I have from you, dated 1st July, is short and to the point but the previous one on the 30th June is long and chatty. I’d been helping you with a project and you ended by telling me not to spend too long on it because ‘life’s too short.’

Ah Mrs, you went to bed three days later and you didn’t wake up. That was way too short a life.

You inspired loyalty and deep friendship in a lot of people – from the people you went to uni with to my sister, who met you in passing, once. And yet, according to you, you bumbled through life humming, ‘de de de dededede’ and wondering where your next Freddo was coming from.

You introduced me to Wallander and Daphne DuMaurier and your ancient coffee percolator that was older than we were. All those times we timed ourselves doing The Times crossword whilst the percolator gently burbled in the hearth. We were crap but we loved the challenge. Life was never boring as long as our minds were able to hop, skip and flip from subject to subject and laugh at the world’s expense while we were at it. You even tried to teach me punctuation! And who’s going to edit my magnum opus now? I haven’t even written it yet and already you’ve bailed?

I miss you. Who will I email with my daft meanderings now?

I am a confirmed atheist but right now my heart and mind are one in picturing you, riding behind ST F’s cat, Rufus and Betty on the tail of a comet singing, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I hope that it’s true and I hope that as you roar across the galaxy you know there’s a corner of a west country heart that is forever yours.

Have fun, Mrs and be as foolish and showy as you like XXX

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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Family Life


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Writer’s Block and Canine Puberty

2013 wasn’t my favourite year but compared with 2014 (so far) it was a piece of cake.

The first half of this year has been truly awful but I will not dwell on it. At least I have my pal Roger. OK, he takes up too much of the bed. He also insists on trying to get on to my little two-seater sofa with me (and he’s a lotta dog who takes up a lotta room) but he’s gentle and friendly and, sometimes, he’s even obedient. He waits patiently while I spend hours in the attic staring at my computer screen trying to find words to build into stories. Sometimes he lies at the foot of the ladder, sometimes he rouses himself from his bed to come up and see where I am. I have to come down every so often and make a fuss of him so he’s reassured that I haven’t abandoned him. Maybe I’m too soft but what’s the point of sharing my life with him if I don’t spend time just enjoying his company?

I haven’t got very far with the stories – I’m better at loving my dog – but I live in hope.

Although I only have the one hound, I do take a full and active role in the lives of St F’s animals. Followers of this blog may remember that my first doggy pal was Floyd the Jack Chi. He who needed rescuing from Moriarty the wicked black cat. He who spent every night on my bed when I lived at St F’s before the arrival of Eric. Floyd and I are still mates, though it is harder to spend time with him now that there are four dogs bounding around. Poor Floyd, being only slightly larger than Moriarty but smaller than all the other dogs and even smaller than the ginger cat, Rufus the Eternal, gets trodden on and bowled over regularly. Especially by Roger who has no spatial awareness and no concept of how big he is. Poor old Floyd. His problems are compounded by the fact that Molotov, the fiery cocktail foster dog is now a full for-ever member of the family and is in season. We would have had her spayed by now but she had a kind of pre-season and the vet advised us to wait … Floyd is the only entire male among our menagerie and boy is he randy. We cannot take our eyes off him or Molotov for a moment. So what do you do in this situation? Well you send one of them to Roger’s house, don’t you? Mainly it’s Molotov who comes home with me and Rog. She’s at that age when she will chew anything that’s left unattended. She has consumed several loaves of bread that my nephew, Semtex has forgotten to put away and, she’s had at least three tubs of margarine. St F is at her wit’s end so Molotov is with me until her season ends. So far she has only chewed a roll of Sellotape at my house so I consider that progress. Is Roger pleased to have a house guest? No, not really. Is my niece, Medusa happy to have her puppy tucked up in my bed? No, not really. Am I getting enough sleep with two big dogs curled up in my small double bed? Definitely not, But hey, I love Molotov. She is sooooo naughty. She has a face built for sulking and although Roger growls when she clambers over him to get to me, he not only tolerates her, he snuggles up on the sofa with her when I’m not looking. They have a huge memory-foam mattress to share so why they insist on stealing my tiny sofa is anyone’s guess.

You Wanted to Sit Here?

You Wanted to Sit Here?

There is a huge advantage to having Molotov to stay … Walkies. I don’t need a ball or a frisbee. I have a Molotov. Take her and Roger up the hill to an empty field and they will chase each other around and around until the thick, pink meat of their tongues is hanging out and their breath is coming in short, sharp gasps.

Here I Come Ready or Not

Here I Come Ready or Not

There You Are!

There You Are!









After all that running around they both sleep well. Result!

Last night, it was Floyd’s turn to come and stay. Medusa needed to reconnect with her Molotov and so I spent the night with the largest and the smallest of our canine family. While Roger was prancing around the bedroom waiting to be invited into bed, Floyd jumped up and made himself comfortable among the pillows. I lifted the duvet to allow Roger to burrow underneath but, unfortunately, Floyd chose the same moment to slide under cover. The two dogs met beneath the duvet, Floyd snarled, jumped forward and bit Roger on the nose. Roger whimpered and shot across the room. Cheeky bloody Floyd! After all, this is Roger’s home. I banished Floyd to the floor while I reassured the big guy that, yes, this is his bed and, no, Floyd wasn’t going to push him out. The rest of the night passed peacefully because I had to sleep between the two of them. Roger wasn’t going to risk being next to Floyd and slept on my side of the bed with his head on my pillow.

Tonight Molotov is back and she has pulled off a coup. Usually she sleeps across the bottom of the bed (and takes up a disproportionate amount of room) while Roger crams himself next to me but not this time. Earlier, I took them both down for a last wee in the garden and Molotov beat Roger back to the bedroom. Now she’s lying next to me, snoring like a chainsaw. Roger has been shoved to the bottom of the bed. He doesn’t seem unduly bothered though.

All Change in the Pecking Order

All Change in the Pecking Order


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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Family Life


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Empty House, Full Heart

He’s crying upstairs. I can hear the quiet snuffles between the echoing thuds of his footsteps on the bare boards – newly stripped of their carpet.

I could go to him, try to comfort him, but there’s been a lot of tears and a lot of hugs this weekend and, I guess, now that we are at the end of things he might need this moment alone. Besides, down in the hallway I’m furiously blinking back my own tears as I look into the stripped kitchen.

‘Must not cry, must stay strong. For him.’

It’s a daft idea, not only because I’m utterly failing to stay dry-eyed but also, because he knows I’m sad, that this is hard for me too.

Clump, clump, clump on the naked stairs, he’s coming down. The only items left to remove are Rufus and Moriarty. They have been his constant companions these past few days – more than St F and I – but now they too must leave.

‘Shall I take the cats outside and give you a minute?’ I ask. He raises his gaze to mine, his brown eyes soft with unembarrassed grief.

‘No, I’m good,’ he whispers. ‘Let’s go.’

Stooping, we grab a cat each and step outside. Rufus under one arm, he fumbles the keys from his pocket to lock the door behind us. Uncertain of how to be at this momentously awful moment I say, ‘I bet that’s the wrong key.’ I’m right, it is.

‘That’s the backdoor key he,’ smiles, holding it up for me to inspect. Unfortunately it’s near-enough identical to the other key on the ring and I know, from experience it’s always that one that comes to hand first. shifting Rufus’ weight slightly, he turns back, inserts the second key in the lock. And turns it. He is now locked out of his childhood home, the place where his mother raised him and his sister.

‘You’ll be here when I get back?’ he asks, placing Rufus on the ground before turning for the gate. I nod. He strides to his car, head up, shoulders squared and gets in and drives away. Rufus immediately takes up station on the doorstep. He wants to go back into the house but he can’t. The keys are on their way back to the council offices. Rufus, Moriarty and I are technically trespassers now.

I try to persuade the old cat to come home to St F’s, next door, but he won’t, he won’t leave the doorstep of the house that he’s visited almost every day for the last fourteen years. Moriarty won’t leave Rufus so I am forced to leave alone.

Keys returned, he comes back and I make coffee. Strong, black, with an entire plantation’s worth of sugar in it. We swap stories – he talks about the RAF and I tell salty sea stories. We laugh and joke until St F comes home from work. There’s a pause after we hear her car pull up, turns out she’s spotted Rufus on next-door’s step and gone to get him. Rufus isn’t happy about this but he deigns to be enfolded into the arms of our guest and spreads ginger fur across the man’s trousers, shirt, chin … Moriarty sits on the windowsill outside, occasionally glancing in at us but, mostly, he’s casing the garden for mischief, for some furry or feathered creature to come within range. Thankfully the local wildlife has got wise to him and he remains on the windowsill.

Back in next-door’s garden – Betty’s garden – humans and cats take a last tour, a last look at view across the valley.

‘Goodbye, old friend,’ he murmurs into Rufus’ ear after hugging St F and I and thanking us for our help and then he’s gone. His family’s last link with this village, broken. His car stuffed to the roof with salvaged belongings. He’s gone. His sister has gone. Their childhood is cast adrift from its moorings and now exists only in their memories. ST F and I stay in the garden a little longer and face up to the fact that Betty too has finally left us. Completely and irrevocably. Only Rufus is not convinced. He sits on the steps and miaows.

Rufus and Moriarty at Betty's


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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Family Life


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Toodle Pip, Betty

Between my bedroom curtains large tufts of cumulus drifted across the clean blue sky like galleons in full sail. Below them, the tree tops hazed with the green of spring buds and from the field next door I could hear an industrious woodpecker drilling for his breakfast. Next to me, in the bed, Roger roused, yawned, and burrowed back under the duvet. Heedless of my lazy, bed-hogging dog, my mind was on yesterday’s sunlight falling through another window into a bright room that seemed to have taken on a darker, shadowy texture in my memory. In that room, four waifs huddled, trying to keep their dignity in the face of the one thing they never wanted to see – the tiny little coffin on a plinth in front of them.

I was one of those waifs.

For fourteen years my sister, St Francis, had been neighbours with Betty. Private and solitary, unless her children were visiting, Betty would have remained out of our reach if it wasn’t for Rufus. That great feline flirt took a fancy to Betty and spent many of his days in her house or snoring under her hydrangea bushes. He became a part of her family much as he was a part of ours and come Christmas, he sent her a card and a gift. Betty thought St F was daft for doing such a thing but St F maintained that she had nothing to do with it … Betty never fed Rufus, she was very strict about that. He had a home to go to and come the appropriate time, she’d shoo him out the door and tell him to come back the next day. And he did. Year in, year out, Rufus shared himself between us. Betty retired from her job with plans to spend her time gardening, Rufus got skinny and arthritic. The two pals were growing old together. Outside, in the warm westcountry summers, Betty would potter about under her straw hat looking, for all the world, like an animated mushroom and the cat would follow her. Chatting away, Betty warned him not to tread all over her plants or fall off the stone bridge in the rockery until he got too hot, then he’d head for the shade of the bushes.

‘That’s right,’ Betty would call after him. ‘You go and have a lie down, Roofdus.’ She always called him Roofdus.

When Betty became a little frail, St F and I helped out in the garden. We cut down the odd dead tree, mowed the lawn and I spent three painful days removing the six-foot-high brambles that had shot up through the Hydrangea. Our reward was always a cup of coffee and chocolate biscuits. It seemed a fair exchange.

There were shopping trips and lunches out and trips to the dentist and Betty came ever closer to us. We don’t have parents, St F and I – well we do but that’s a whole other story – so Betty came to fulfill a motherly role for us in that we could give her the care and attention that we would have given our own mother who is the same age. Not that Betty needed anymore kids. Her son and daughter were regular visitors and whilst not a demonstrative woman, she was clearly proud of both of them. Despite being geographically far apart, they were a close family. St F and I were gatecrashers but no one seemed to mind.

I wrote a post a short while ago called, I’m Old But I AIn’t Fell Over – Yet, in which I explained how St F and I discovered that Betty had fallen and was unable to get up one day. (in that post I called her The Morrighan for the sake of her privacy but now …) We visited her the following Saturday and it was good to see Betty firing on all cylinders. She laughed at us and we laughed at her and the memory of a frail but determined old lady in her nightwear trying (and failing) to roll herself a cigarette whilst the ambulance crew waited to take her to hospital hid at the back for a bit. We already knew, though, as we were laughing with her, that she had terminal cancer. That was why she’d been so poorly.

As Rufus approached his 21st birthday last year, St F and I wondered how we’d ever break the news to Betty if he died. And, what would we do come Christmastime? We came up with the idea that we would tell her that Rufus had left a will detailing the presents he wanted her to have for the next twenty Christmases. We never imagined it’d be other way around. We never dreamed we’d have to watch Betty’s tear-streaked son gather Rufus into his arms and whisper into is ear, ‘Mum’s gone.’ but six days after our hospital visit that’s how it was.

There were others who could have come and shared that sunlit chapel. Other bouquets that could have laid next ours and the one from from Rufus but that wasn’t what Betty had wanted. Private to the end, it was only her two children that she wanted at her funeral – and the two middle-aged orphans who’d borrowed her for a while.

Lying in my bed, the next morning, gazing at the world outside my window, Betty was the first thing I thought about. Idly rubbing the dog’s ear, I remembered how, when the curtain slid in front of the coffin towards the end of the service, I felt my head shake involuntarily. Inside I was saying, ‘no, no, don’t take her yet.’ It makes my chest hitch to think of it. To calm myself I moved to another memory. To how, when the vicar intoned ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’ I had to fight an impulse to lean over to ST F and whisper, ‘if the dope don’t get you, the acid’s a must.’ That made me smile. It made me laugh when I imagined Betty saying to me, ‘Lorraine, I do sometimes wish you’d grow up.’

‘Toodle pip.’ That’s how she ended her phone calls. ‘Toodle pip.’ We put it on the card with our flowers.

Toodle pip, Betty. From St F and me. And Roofdus XX


Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Family Life


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Help Yourself to my Bed Why Don'tcha

Help Yourself to my Bed Why Don’tcha

Spring has crept up behind the storms and dragged the daffodils, daisies and crocuses up from the soggy red soil. Crows are zooming overhead with nesting materials gathered in their beaks and the larks have risen from the fields until they are barely visible specks in the sky pouring their song over our hilltop. But … I have had to buy Roger a coat. He feels the cold, poor chap. Though he’s put on weight he’s still much too thin. (He needs at least another three kilos, then – shhhh, don’t tell him – I’ll reduce his intake to a maintenance diet.) His lack of body mass doesn’t help with his susceptibility to the cold and so when we walk out on wet, chilly days he wears his new coat. At night he sleeps under a duvet – mine. He must be under the duvet and he must have his head covered. His preference, not mine. Even when dozing under a blanket on one of St F’s sofas, he must have his head covered. I wonder why. He dreams a lot and growls and whimpers in his sleep. Sometimes he sounds so distressed I have to gently wake him up. Other times I have to wake him up to get him to move back across the bed, bloody bed hog. Bleary golden eyes gaze at me and I can read the thoughts there ‘what? You want me to get off the bed? But I like it here.’ However he does (eventually) get up then I can move back from the precipice and gain a little mattress for myself. As soon as I’ve settled, back comes Roger, under the duvet and rests his bodyweight against me and I start the inexorable slide towards the edge of the bed again. Lucky I’m a dog lover isn’t it?

You can't see me, right?

You can’t see me, right?

Oh well, as I said at the top of this post, spring is springing and most days are warm enough for my bony bed hog to go out without his coat. He runs around the field chasing St F’s latest family member, Molotov, a puppy rescued from a future as a bait dog, and she out manoeuvres him exactly as Eric was out manoeuvred by his girlfriend, Madge, and Roger loves it. He has learned to play frisbee (but not to give it back yet) and best of all, he comes back when I call him. What more can I ask for? Oh yes, a cure for his slobbering. Other than that, Roger is a truly lovely, well-mannered gentleman and I love him.

My Very Tall Dog

My Very Tall Dog

One Month On And I’m Smitten

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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Family Life


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