ageing, Health and well being, Uncategorized

Age is just a number, right?

old ladies picture

This picture is meant to make us all laugh and smile but this week I was slapped in the face with the reality of growing older. We all like to think that we are doing quite well at coping with our advancing years, brushing off the increase in number with a smile and a casual comment, ” Of course I don’t feel anything like 64, or whatever age we may be” We dash back to the hairdresser for another cut and just a hint of colour, a few lowlights, carefully apply our almost invisible make-up to give us a youthful glow, eat another plate of salad in the vain hope of getting in to our favourite pair of black trousers but try as we might change is happening, little by little that we can’t ignore.

I turned 65 a couple of weeks ago and celebrated in style with my family, enjoyed opening my gifts and cards and thought very little about the passing of another year. The following week however, my husband and I had plans to visit Warwick and Stratford and Avon; the hotels were booked, the theatre tickets for Stratford had been purchased many months ago and we were both looking forward to the RSC’s latest production of Macbeth.

It all started to go wrong when I began to pack. We live in the country and much of my life is spent outdoors in practical jeans and T shirts, sweaters and jackets, but we were off to the city and needed to up our game clothes wise. I needed to fill my case with a mix of clothes belonging to the ‘smart casual’ label. Within half an hour our bedroom resembled that of a teenager; as I tried on a combination of trousers and shirts, skirts and tops, none of which seemed to either look or feel right, I was in despair. My weight has not changed for some time, but somehow while I wasn’t looking my body has! Bits that used to be rounded are now flatter and vice versa; I stick out where I used to go in, I have a little bulge above my waistband that I feel certain must belong to someone else and has just been misplaced. My poor husband did his best with reassuring comments and compliments but to no avail, I simply could not deal with the changes I was experiencing. There was nothing for it but a call to an old and dear friend of similar age, who understood completely, shared similar moments and we both ended up laughing. I know it was silly, juvenile in many ways but it was a moment of reckoning. I really had to face up to the fact that this was the best I would be from now on and I should rejoice in my positive attributes and good health.

So we went away and had fun, I forgot about the clothes episode and enjoyed seeing new places and sharing new experiences with John. It was our anniversary and we had booked a table in a lovely Italian restaurant. The wine was excellent, the food delicious and at the end of the meal I stood up to visit the Ladies Room. The floor throughout the restaurant was swirling black and white marble, the stairs leading to the restrooms the same. Too busy looking at the wonderful pictures on the walls I failed to see that the first step was a shallow one set on the diagonal and in an instant I fell up the marble stairs. The staff were kind and attentive, I felt a complete fool. Assuring them that I was fine I scuttled to the sanctuary of the Ladies and checked myself out. My left knee had born the main impact and was already black and blue and swelling fast. My right shoulder and ribs were tender and aching but otherwise I seemed to be OK.

Returning to the table I told John what had happened, he called for the bill and we left. I managed to walk slowly back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening with a cold compress on my knee, slowly recovering from the shakes and the overwhelming feeling of stupidity. Yes the restaurant could have highlighted the lower step, but I should have been paying more attention ( and it wasn’t that I had drunk too much, only two small glasses of white wine). My brain then went swiftly in to ‘what if’ mode, what if I had hit my head? what if I had broken a bone? Thankfully I had done neither and at least I can rest assured that I don’t have osteoporosis because that floor was extremely hard and would certainly have broken any brittle bones.

A week has passed, my knee is now a normal size and coloured in various shades through green to yellow, the stiffness in my shoulder and side almost gone but I still feel worn out and quite shaky when I remember the speed at which I fell, the inevitability of knowing I was falling but could do nothing about it. The experience has made me understand how awful it must be to be truly old and take a tumble; not only for the pain and discomfort but the lack of confidence which must surely follow.

I wear variofocal glasses and yesterday had them checked as I know the frames were a little loose and I may have been looking through the wrong section of lens, which will not have helped. I also went for my ‘over 60s’ health check and was told that my blood pressure was raised yesterday. “Not to worry,” said the nurse when she heard about my fall, “these things really shake you up. We’ll check you again in a fortnight.”

So a lesson, well learned in the last couple of weeks: aging is inevitable, change will happen and all we can do is make the most of what we have. Nothing is more important than our health, and as I regain my suppleness and lose the aches and pains I am truly grateful. I shall never approach an unknown set of stairs again with such a cavalier attitude.

Health and well being, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Priorities

I have been away from my Blog for a month or so and apologise for not reading or commenting on others for the same length of time. Life became hectic with visiting grandchildren, a trip back to Cornwall and a visit to hospital for my Father for a further operation, all of which made me ponder on the subject of blog writing. Why do we do it?

Initially I chose to write a blog to start the writing process again, to kickstart my creative side and try to find a more disciplined approach to writing, all of which was successful and the third book is now underway.

So should I continue to write a blog? Or is it in fact nothing more than an ego trip? Is anyone out there actually interested in what I or anyone else actually says? Are we all kidding ourselves that our thoughts, ideas and experiences are of value to others?

Over the last hectic month I haven’t really missed my interaction on the site, my mind has been too preoccupied with the realities of life, which I have been living first hand and in a very immediate way rather than from the second hand stance of my key board. Instead of writing about situations I have been experiencing them, everything from dinosaur games with a four year old, sharing food and wine with old friends, walking the coast path in Cornwall with my husband and caring for my 94 year old father, making him tasty meals and reminiscing to take his mind off his discomfort.

We need a balance in life of the practical and the more academic and it easy to become a slave to technology, to social media in general and to spend increasing amounts of time away from  real life. It has been a busy and often exhausting few weeks but I have relished the reconnection with the world, warts and all and have learned that however much I enjoy keeping in touch via technology it doesn’t come close to the real thing.

Note to self: work on the balance.

Uncategorized

The first sentence

pen and paper

A few weeks ago I wrote about my recent family history discoveries and the story of my great grandmother and how I was being sucked in more and more to the story of her life. It has almost become a compulsion to find out as much as I can about the events leading up to her marriage and eventual widowhood and my searches have led me to finding an unknown cousin, who knew more of the story than I did but was happy to share all he knew, also to a willing local historian who lived in the very same village and has reassured me that he will be able to furnish me with many details and much background information. Also from my father I learned that this love match, for so it would have seemed to be initially, was not always a joyous one as Thomas was a man who had little concerns over beating his children and as my great grandmother, Gally, was described by all who knew her as a gentle and caring lady, that surely can not have made for a happy life. It also appears to be that after his death, she never mentioned her husband’s name in conversation, it was as if the 19 years they had together had never happened.

When I first began to research the story I felt sure that it would be worthy of writing about, the basis of a novel was sitting there in front of me and all that was needed was  some further research in to life in the years between 1865 and 1940 and I would be off, my fingers flying across the keyboard as I shared this moving tale with an audience. So why am I finding it so hard to begin? There is an empty page in front of me, I have had a fairly definite idea of the structure of the book from the beginning but I am finding it so difficult to get that first sentence down.

Distractions are easy to come by: the laundry needs folding, a cake must be baked, the sun is shining so the outdoors calls, e mails must be read and replied to, texts sent, calls made and even the dreaded housework has come to stand between me and my writing. Even writing this blog is an excuse not to have to begin the first sentence!

Am I alone in finding this the hardest part of writing? I would welcome advice and hints, suggestions and strategies although possibly what I really need is a kick in the nether regions.

I have taken one positive step in signing up for a writing workshop next week entitled, “How to start your story” so I have high hopes of returning with the first sentence crafted and that wonderful feeling of wanting to get on with it, of my desk being the place that I want to be above all others.

Health and well being, Uncategorized

The Organ Recital

tablets

This post links in with my last one concerning health and well being but with a different twist.

I have just finished reading “Midwinter Break” by Bernard Maclaverty, a thoughtful tale of a middle aged couple taking a winter break in Amsterdam. We get to see past events from their long relationship from both their view points and to understand the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of any long standing relationship. At one point they mention the ‘Ailment Hour’, an hour set aside each day, usually after breakfast when they discuss their current ailments, diagnosis, recovery or what step to take next. I found this amusing as I recognised only too well the aches and pains they refer to. The author then highlights another couple who treat their aging ailments in the same way but refer to the time spent as the ‘Organ Recital’ and this made me chuckle aloud.

Some months ago we spent a weekend away with two friends whom we know very well and couldn’t help laughing as we all arrived at the breakfast table and brought out our bottles and packets of tablets and pills. Some were most definitely needed, medication for diabetes for one and an iron deficiency for another but we also had a wide array of vitamins and mineral supplements, glucosamine and turmeric. We are all getting sucked in to the belief that some or all of these ‘magic’ ingredients will ease the ache and stiffness of our joints as they grow older, that a full dose of Vitamin B will stave off memory loss and on it goes. I am not criticising myself or our our friends for taking these supplements, they may well help and almost certainly are doing us no harm, what I am questioning is the validity of all these aches and twinges. Are they serious? or do we just notice them because we have the time to do so?

I consider myself to be a busy and active older person, I spend time with my grandchildren, volunteer at the library, attend Tai Chi class and walk almost every day for a few miles or more, do my own housework, read and write, cook and enjoy trips out to cinema and theatre, but I cannot escape the fact that I have more head time than when I was working in a full time professional capacity. If I had to jump out of bed at 6.30 am and rush through an early morning routine and head off to work I wouldn’t have time to wonder about the ache in my right hip or to check on the knee twinge I felt walking yesterday. I am not trying to discount the genuine illnesses that come along with age to many unfortunate people, the pain of arthritis, the ache of rheumatism are all too real but I have noticed that when I have a grandchild to stay for a few days and my hours are packed with activity I rarely notice any twinges.

As a dear friend once commented, ‘The good thing about getting older is that this week’s ache or pain appears and takes all your concentration, so allowing last week’s ailment to fade into the background.’

So I am determined to give my twinges less thinking time, to cram all the cares and concerns about my physical health in to the Organ Recital and do my best to banish any stray thoughts that may appear outside the appointed time. My Father , who will be 94 in April has the view that if your body seems to be working OK when you wake up, then get up and face the day with gratitude and this seems like a good attitude to me especially when I am lucky enough to have good health apart from those occasional twinges. Now all I have to do is master my thoughts!

mental health, Philosophy, Uncategorized

In sickness and in health

cute-cartoon-wedding-couple-24627604

As I sit at my computer today to write this Blog two friends of mine are going through one of life’s hardest experiences. Both in their early sixties and having long looked forward to a happy retirement and more time spent with their little grandson, Bob ( I have changed their names) is currently on the operating table having a cancerous tumour removed from his oesophagus, along with healthy surrounding tissue while Sally waits anxiously, pacing corridors and drinking endless cups of cold coffee or stewed tea. Having received a diagnosis last year Bob has spent many months undergoing chemotherapy treatment to shrink the tumour before surgery and whilst the operation gives him a good chance of more years he will never again be able to eat in the normal way. I am not aware of the total picture as he goes forward but imagine he will be restricted both in amount and type of food and will most probably be facing a diet of pureed food for the remainder of his life.

Bob and Sally have been married for many years and I know that the journey has not always been an easy one but facing this major hurdle has brought them closer together again and Sally has been an absolute rock for her husband to lean on. This is one of those moments in life when we truly see the calibre of people, their responses to hard times and difficult issues tell us so much more about them than all the shared good times and fun days out. They have been showered with love and support, offers of help and kind words but ultimately this is a battle which they have to fight together and all we as friends can do is to offer both emotional and practical help. They are in our thoughts today.

The situation made me ponder this morning on marriage and those promises we make and certainly if we marry in our twenties or thirties the times of struggle and illness seem a far distant thing although disease, redundancy and even death can strike at any age. When you marry late in life as my husband and I did, you do it with eyes wide open and an implicit understanding of what may be to come. We knew that we would be extremely fortunate to sail through our older years with no ailments and already there are times when we have to accommodate each other’s weak areas: he has type 2 Diabetes and now some tinnitus in the right ear, I have bouts of sciatica and have to watch my right hip but those things apart we are still in good health, we enjoy our food and a glass of wine, we walk almost every day, often many miles with few ill effects, we enjoy travelling and visiting new places, we can still run around and play with the grandchildren. We are blessed because without good health every aspect of life becomes harder, more challenging and less fulfilling.

So whilst sending our love and support to Bob and Sally we are also taking a moment to appreciate what we have and not moan and gripe about a blister on the heel, or a grumble of indigestion. To end this entry I would like to share with you one of the readings we used at our marriage ceremony as we felt it was perfect for our situation and it stands alone as a lovely reminder of what love is truly about, especially as we grow older.

 

 

What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nanna came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

 

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

 


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Uncategorized

The importance of ancestry

Margaret Owen (nee Davies)

Life has been throwing some strange coincidences my way just lately and as a result I find myself embarking on a journey of discovery about my forebears, the area in which I am now living and inevitably, myself.

In September John and I booked ourselves places on an open day at Gregynog Hall near Newtown, Powys. This lovely old house lies high in the hills of mid Wales about fifteen miles from where we now live. It has had a long and chequered history but is currently owned by the University of Wales.Gregynog

It was a glorious autumnal day and we wandered through the beautiful gardens and grounds enjoying the ancient woodland and the peaceful nature of the place before joining the group of about 20 for the guided tour of the inside of the house. To my knowledge I had never been here before  but as soon as we entered the building I experienced that deja vu feeling and this intensified as we made our way through the rooms. The feeling was especially strong when we went upstairs and were invited to look at some of the bedrooms which still contain the original arts and crafts style furniture made by the Missed Davies who owned and lived in the house in the early nineteenth century.

The tour and accompanying talk was fascinating and dealt mainly with the house’s history as it passed from one wealthy family to another, and the day ended with a superb afternoon tea served in the panelled dining room.

As we drove home I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had been there before and called my father, now nearly 94, to ask if he had taken me there as a child, thinking that this could be the answer. He had not, but he then went on to tell me that my great grandparents had worked for the estate, my great grandfather as the carter and my great grandmother in the house before her marriage. I was instantly intrigued as you can imagine and he then went on to tell me the sad ending of the story. Once the couple were married they went on to have five children and were living in an estate small holding when my great grandfather Thomas Owen was badly hurt in an accident at work resulting in the amputation of his leg. As a result he was unable to carry out his duties and the family were evicted from their home and had to return to my great grandmother’s family home as paupers and throw themselves on the mercy of their relatives.

I realise that this is not an unusual or rare occurrence as a tied dwelling was just that and when the work could no longer be done, the cottage was needed for a new  employee but it has made me look at the woman in the photograph above with new eyes as I try to find out more about her and her story. She looks kind, but strong and I know from my father’s recollections of her that she was a much loved lady within the family and someone who would do all she could for others.

As I have begun to search for more details in this sad story I have met a local librarian who has helped me enormously, I have met the Librarian from Gregynog Hall who has added my family names to those she searches for within the estate archives and I shall be going later this week to the University Library of Wales in Aberystwyth to look through some of those estate records for myself. I would love to know what role Margaret had, was she housemaid or cook, laundry woman or dairymaid? The house played host to many famous people from the world of politics, art and music and was the retreat used by Stanley Baldwin and his family for him to recuperate after the stresses of dealing with Edward’s abdication in the 1930s. It is a privilege to feel connected to such a property and such a history albeit in a small way.

Each week brings new discoveries and the journey is a fascinating one.

Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

Ten Commandments for the 21st century

moses-19

So Christmas has been and gone and is often the way when friends and family gather, the wine flows and conversations can quickly become passionate, even heated. One such debate that occurred in our home was the role of religion in the 21st century and in no way do I wish to offend any of my readers with a religious faith of any denomination but the debate ranged over many issues and finally focused on the relevance of the Ten Commandments.

In a fairly light hearted way and trying to rally a sense of proportion at this time of family togetherness I suggested that we should take up pen and paper and try to write some more suitable commandments for the lives we lead today. The following are the product of a multi generational group with varying views on religion and faith in general, but all were in complete agreement that a Code of Behaviour was a valuable thing for society at large, regardless of belief, colour, race or gender.

  1. Do not let money, material goods or mobile phones become your god.
  2. Do not worship the world of celebrity.
  3. Respect the beliefs of others.
  4. Lead a life that is balanced with time for work, play and stillness.
  5. Cherish all the generations of your family and value them while you have them.
  6. Treat the planet with kindness and care, mankind, animals and plants.
  7. Think twice before acting in a way which could hurt others.
  8. Never take anything which is not yours or freely given to you.
  9. Use words cautiously, lies have power to harm others and yourself.
  10. Be content with what you already have rather than what you think you lack.

At the end of this exercise all disagreements had been forgotten in the challenge of trying to update the wording of the Ten Commandments and it was soon found that we all had much more in common regardless of our age or religious inclinations.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and views on whether we got it right or even, dreadfully wrong?

mental health, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Snowbound

img_0570

The snow started falling on Friday night and yesterday we woke to find a white world, a covering of two or three inches and trees and bushes laden with soft icing. The sun came out and wrapped up we had a wonderful walk, enjoying the scenery around us and the beauty of this quiet, clean world. Last night the weather forecasters were full of warnings of heavy and prolonged snowfall with very low temperatures and as so often is the case when the forecast is bad, they got it exactly right. The snow started again in the early hours of the morning and now at 2pm it is still snowing. All our tracks from yesterday have disappeared, no traffic is moving and the world outside is silent.

Before we moved back to Wales we had had little snow for years, the West Country rarely gets a decent covering so initially we were delighted to be seeing snow again. It was exciting, an adventure, we could feel a childlike pleasure in donning wellington boots and knitted hats and generally behaving like children. There is little to be concerned about, our house is warm and comfortable we have plenty of wood for the stove and the gas tank is reassuringly half full. I have never been able to throw off my Mother’s advice to keep a good store cupboard so the freezer is well stocked and we have all the supplies needed to feed us for at least a week. We have a television to watch, a list of films we’ve been meaning to see and plenty of books as well as the day to day chores to pass the time so the sensible approach would be to regard this time as an enforced holiday, a staycation and on one level we are doing just that.

There is however, a niggle just under the surface, a feeling of being imprisoned against our will, of being coerced to stay in or close to home. Our opponent here is Mother Nature and there is little we can do to win the battle. If the snow continues to fall and the temperatures to freeze then we are stuck. Today we are fairly relaxed about it, it is Sunday and we would often be at home anyway; tomorrow will be OK, we had no plans but on Tuesday I go to my Tai Chi class, on Wednesday I have a hairdresser’s appointment and already I begin to feel an irrational irritation that my plans may be thwarted. It was at this point that I decided to come and write down my feelings because what I am experiencing is an expectation that because I have planned something it should come to pass when in reality many things can cause us to change plans, to fail to meet deadlines, to cancel arrangements. It is a myth that we are in control of our lives and takes only a snowstorm here in UK or the horrific fires currently raging in California to show us that we have little control over the big things in life and very little at all where Nature is concerned.

I am one of the lucky ones, in no immediate danger just having to accept a little inconvenience, a reminder that my little niggles are of little or no consequence and life will not end if I fail to get a hair cut on Wednesday. My thoughts go out to anyone who is due to go to hospital tomorrow for a planned operation, for anyone living rough through this awful weather, for those who work in our emergency services to keep traffic moving and people safe no matter what the weather.

So, having given myself a good talking to, I shall do what I always do in times of stress – I shall bake a cake, coffee and walnut I think, and eat a large slice while watching the snowflakes slip past the window and focus on how my good fortune.

Philosophy, Uncategorized

Anticipation

advent-calendar-1865325_960_720

Tomorrow the countdown to Christmas will begin as children everywhere eagerly search for and open Door No1 of their advent calendars and the slow build of excitement will start with each day bringing them closer to the overwhelming awareness that Santa will be arriving. My own grandchildren are still young enough to be completely fascinated by the magic and wonder of this dear old gentleman, sliding down the chimney in his red clothes with never a smut appearing on his snow white beard, but when I remember my own nervous anticipation as a child, it always seemed to me that Christmas Eve was the most special part of the whole festive season.

For days I would have seen my Mother baking and the walk in pantry would slowly fill with all manner of delights, none of which we were allowed to taste before the 25th. Mince pies and puddings, trifles and jellies, pickles and ham, cheeses, nuts and fruit would take their place on the shelves all waiting in line for the arrival of the star – the turkey. Early on Christmas Eve the butcher would arrive, bringing the magnificent bird who would then lie in state on the marble slab with regular visits from my brother and I to make sure that all was well.

In my memories it was always cold at Christmas, often with frost or snow and my Father would have filled all the coal scuttles and log baskets, fires would be lit and at 5pm my Mother would begin to relax, ” The shops are shut now,” she would say.”What we haven’t got, we do without.” And so it would begin with a simple supper of egg and chips to rest our stomachs in preparation for the following day’s feasting. We would then walk to the local park where every Christmas Eve the  churches and chapels would combine to create a living nativity and sing carols outside. It was a ritual we followed year after year and once home again, it was time to prepare for Father Christmas. A small glass of whisky and a mince pie along with a carrot for Rudolph  would be placed at the side of the fire before we went to bed. Even now I can remember the tingle of excitement flooding through me, the knowledge that somehow things would be different tomorrow but with no certainty of how it would all happen or indeed what exactly might appear.

Of course I enjoyed the thrill of opening presents the next morning, the time spent with grandparents playing board games, the wonderful food my Mother had prepared but it was never quite as special as the anticipation and even now I enjoy looking forward to things and often get as much or more pleasure from that than the actual event. Perhaps because I enjoy planning, whether its a holiday itinerary or a meal for family and friends, from the moment I sit down with pen and paper to begin preparations I am anticipating what lies ahead and for me that is when the enjoyment starts.

On Saturday I shall be taking my grandson to his first pantomime, Peter Pan, and next week I shall be going to watch him take the role of a Wise Man in his school Nativity and share in his excitement and wonder as he slowly counts down the days to the big event. It is a wonderful part of being a grandparent to see the old traditions being played out again with another generation and a great privilege to be allowed to share in the joy of a childhood Christmas for the third time. So, tomorrow, I too will be opening the first door on my calendar, and looking forward to seeing young faces wide eyed with joy and wonder at this very special time of year.

Days out, Uncategorized

Do you pootle?

The dictionary defines pootling as ‘moving along in a leisurely way with no set agenda or aim’ and we have become expert pootlers since retiring. Last Friday we woke to a crisp winter’s day with clear blue skies and a touch of frost giving a sparkle to the world. As we sat drinking our morning cup of tea we pondered on a suitable destination for a day out? What to do? Where to go?Neither of us felt inclined to travel too far or to attempt anything too strenuous so we settled on a ‘pootling day’ and decided to head for Ludlow.

For my readers who do not know the UK well, Ludlow is a small market town on the Wales/England border and is steeped in history. The castle stands proudly at the centre of town and the narrow streets wind down from the market square enticing shoppers with their unique and special contents. Traditional crafts and family butchers rub shoulders with music shops and long standing hardware stores and each street is literally peppered with a wonderful assortment of eateries, their tempting aromas escaping out on the pavements. What better venue?

So we set off driving along quiet country roads enjoying the crisp morning, sighting pheasants and squirrels and delighting in a fox creeping along the hedgerow. After fifty minutes or so we decided to stop in Craven Arms, another small county town where the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre sits, it’s sedum covered roof making it blend softly into the surrounding countryside. A great bonus of a day spent pootling is that you never quite know what you will come across; we stopped for a cup of coffee in the excellent cafe and we did indeed have this along with a sumptuous piece of spicy, gingery pear parkin, but after enjoying our elevenses we wandered in to the gallery to find an exhibition of wonderful photographs by Jean Macdonald,   http://www.behindmylens.co.uk/. This is a link to the artists website rather than just the display we saw but we thoroughly enjoyed her work.

Back in the car we drove the last ten miles in to Ludlow and parked the car where the man in the car next to us gave his ticket which allowed us to park free for the remainder of the day, a random act of kindness that helped the day along.

It was market day and we enjoyed browsing the stalls,buying locally made sausages to take home, a new oak side table from a flea market( we can only wonder whose elegant lounge it may have graced before ending up in our cosy Welsh home), and some small Christmas gifts. We then headed to the local hardware shop which proudly states above the door that the same family business has been in situ for over 150 years, and pushed open the door. Inside you are confronted by a vast array of items on shelves, protruding from old oak drawers, hanging from the ceiling and stacked on the floor. Not knowing where to begin to look for a poker for our wood burner we went in search of a staff member and were met by an impeccably dressed gentleman in full tweed suit, waistcoat and cravat with a handlebar moustache which would not have gone unremarked in Victorian days! Instantly answering our request he set off and reappeared with an array of fire irons from which we could make a selection. Our purchase was duly wrapped and kept behind the counter for later collection so that we would not be burdened with it on our tour of the town.

The day had remained cold and by now we were feeling ready for food again so made our way to a favourite pub, The Blue Boar where settled by a log fire to eat hot platefuls of cottage pie. As we wandered the smaller back streets on our way to the car I spied a Stationers and felt compelled to go in. I have always loved stationery items and this was a true treasure trove; not only pens, pencils and paper of every type but everything any artist could want or need, which  kept hubby very happy. At the rear of the shop, far away from the toys and jigsaw, models and board games was a stand containing exercise books and picking one up I was instantly transported back to my teaching days. As a child I had always loved the thrill of a new exercise book, it seemed to embody a fresh start, a new beginning without any errors, the clean white paper devoid of any ink blots or marks from the teacher’s red pen. As a Primary teacher I can still recall vividly those trips to the stationery cupboard early in September to collect armfuls of new books, green covers for maths, blue for English, red for Geography and so on. Seeing them lined up at the front of the class in readiness for a new group of children  was a sign of hope and possibilities and standing there in the shop, I was for a moment, back in school surrounded by the murmuring of children’s voices and the smells of chalk dust and school dinners.

I dragged myself away from the past and we headed more slowly now back towards the car when my eye was caught by the quiet street in the accompanying picture. These little alley ways are irresistible, they cry out to be explored and so we strolled the length of the quiet street marveling at the age of some of the cottages, intrigues to find a seamstress and wine merchant hiding in this out of the way spot.

It had been a good day, full of unexpected treats and pleasures and I am reminded of the quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, ” …to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”