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  • #6253
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    My Grandparents Kitchen

    My grandmother used to have golden syrup in her larder, hanging on the white plastic coated storage rack that was screwed to the inside of the larder door. Mostly the larder door was left propped open with an old flat iron, so you could see the Heinz ketchup and home made picallilli (she made a particularly good picallili), the Worcester sauce and the jar of pickled onions, as you sat at the kitchen table.

    If you were sitting to the right of the kitchen table you could see an assortment of mismatched crockery, cups and bowls, shoe cleaning brushes, and at the back, tiny tins of baked beans and big ones of plum tomatoes,  and normal sized tins of vegetable and mushroom soup.  Underneath the little shelves that housed the tins was a blue plastic washing up bowl with a few onions, some in, some out of the yellow string bag they came home from the expensive little village supermarket in.

    There was much more to the left in the awkward triangular shape under the stairs, but you couldn’t see under there from your seat at the kitchen table.  You could see the shelf above the larder door which held an ugly china teapot of graceless modern lines, gazed with metallic silver which was wearing off in places. Beside the teapot sat a serving bowl, squat and shapely with little handles, like a flattened Greek urn, in white and reddish brown with flecks of faded gilt. A plain white teapot completed the trio, a large cylindrical one with neat vertical ridges and grooves.

    There were two fridges under the high shallow wooden wall cupboard.  A waist high bulbous old green one with a big handle that pulled out with a clunk, and a chest high sleek white one with a small freezer at the top with a door of its own.  On the top of the fridges were biscuit and cracker tins, big black keys, pencils and brittle yellow notepads, rubber bands and aspirin value packs and a bottle of Brufen.  There was a battered old maroon spectacle case and a whicker letter rack, letters crammed in and fanning over the top.  There was always a pile of glossy advertising pamphlets and flyers on top of the fridges, of the sort that were best put straight into the tiny pedal bin.

    My grandmother never lined the pedal bin with a used plastic bag, nor with a specially designed plastic bin liner. The bin was so small that the flip top lid was often gaping, resting on a mound of cauliflower greens and soup tins.  Behind the pedal bin, but on the outer aspect of the kitchen wall, was the big black dustbin with the rubbery lid. More often than not, the lid was thrust upwards. If Thursday when the dustbin men came was several days away, you’d wish you hadn’t put those newspapers in, or those old shoes!  You stood in the softly drizzling rain in your slippers, the rubbery sheild of a lid in your left hand and the overflowing pedal bin in the other.  The contents of the pedal bin are not going to fit into the dustbin.  You sigh, put the pedal bin and the dustbin lid down, and roll up your sleeves ~ carefully, because you’ve poked your fingers into a porridge covered teabag.  You grab the sides of the protruding black sack and heave. All being well,  the contents should settle and you should have several inches more of plastic bag above the rim of the dustbin.  Unless of course it’s a poor quality plastic bag in which case your fingernail will go through and a horizontal slash will appear just below rubbish level.  Eventually you upend the pedal bin and scrape the cigarette ash covered potato peelings into the dustbin with your fingers. By now the fibres of your Shetland wool jumper are heavy with damp, just like the fuzzy split ends that curl round your pale frowning brow.  You may push back your hair with your forearm causing the moisture to bead and trickle down your face, as you turn the brass doorknob with your palm and wrist, tea leaves and cigarette ash clinging unpleasantly to your fingers.

    The pedal bin needs rinsing in the kitchen sink, but the sink is full of mismatched saucepans, some new in shades of harvest gold, some battered and mishapen in stainless steel and aluminium, bits of mashed potato stuck to them like concrete pebbledash. There is a pale pink octagonally ovoid shallow serving dish and a little grey soup bowl with a handle like a miniature pottery saucepan decorated with kitcheny motifs.

    The water for the coffee bubbles in a suacepan on the cream enamelled gas cooker. My grandmother never used a kettle, although I do remember a heavy flame orange one. The little pan for boiling water had a lip for easy pouring and a black plastic handle.

    The steam has caused the condensation on the window over the sink to race in rivulets down to the fablon coated windowsill.  The yellow gingham curtains hang limply, the left one tucked behind the back of the cooker.

    You put the pedal bin back it it’s place below the tea towel holder, and rinse your mucky fingers under the tap. The gas water heater on the wall above you roars into life just as you turn the tap off, and disappointed, subsides.

    As you lean over to turn the cooker knob, the heat from the oven warms your arm. The gas oven was almost always on, the oven door open with clean tea towels and sometimes large white pants folded over it to air.

    The oven wasn’t the only heat in my grandparents kitchen. There was an electric bar fire near the red formica table which used to burn your legs. The kitchen table was extended by means of a flap at each side. When I was small I wasn’t allowed to snap the hinge underneath shut as my grandmother had pinched the skin of her palm once.

    The electric fire was plugged into the same socket as the radio. The radio took a minute or two to warm up when you switched it on, a bulky thing with sharp seventies edges and a reddish wood effect veneer and big knobs.  The light for my grandfathers workshop behind the garage (where he made dentures) was plugged into the same socket, which had a big heavy white three way adaptor in. The plug for the washing machine was hooked by means of a bit of string onto a nail or hook so that it didn’t fall down behing the washing machine when it wasn’t plugged in. Everything was unplugged when it wasn’t in use.  Sometimes there was a shrivelled Christmas cactus on top of the radio, but it couldn’t hide the adaptor and all those plugs.

    Above the washing machine was a rhomboid wooden wall cupboard with sliding frsoted glass doors.  It was painted creamy gold, the colour of a nicotine stained pub ceiling, and held packets of Paxo stuffing and little jars of Bovril and Marmite, packets of Bisto and a jar of improbably red Maraschino cherries.

    The nicotine coloured cupboard on the opposite wall had half a dozen large hooks screwed under the bottom shelf. A variety of mugs and cups hung there when they weren’t in the bowl waiting to be washed up. Those cupboard doors seemed flimsy for their size, and the thin beading on the edge of one door had come unstuck at the bottom and snapped back if you caught it with your sleeve.  The doors fastened with a little click in the centre, and the bottom of the door reverberated slightly as you yanked it open. There were always crumbs in the cupboard from the numerous packets of bisucits and crackers and there was always an Allbran packet with the top folded over to squeeze it onto the shelf. The sugar bowl was in there, sticky grains like sandpaper among the biscuit crumbs.

    Half of one of the shelves was devoted to medicines: grave looking bottles of codeine linctus with no nonsense labels,  brown glass bottles with pills for rheumatism and angina.  Often you would find a large bottle, nearly full, of Brewers yeast or vitamin supplements with a dollar price tag, souvenirs of the familys last visit.  Above the medicines you’d find a faded packet of Napolitana pasta bows or a dusty packet of muesli. My grandparents never used them but she left them in the cupboard. Perhaps the dollar price tags and foreign foods reminded her of her children.

    If there had been a recent visit you would see monstrous jars of Sanka and Maxwell House coffee in there too, but they always used the coffee.  They liked evaporated milk in their coffee, and used tins and tins of “evap” as they called it. They would pour it over tinned fruit, or rhubard crumble or stewed apples.

    When there was just the two of them, or when I was there as well, they’d eat at the kitchen table. The table would be covered in a white embroidered cloth and the food served in mismatched serving dishes. The cutlery was large and bent, the knife handles in varying shades of bone. My grandfathers favourite fork had the tip of each prong bent in a different direction. He reckoned it was more efficient that way to spear his meat.  He often used to chew his meat and then spit it out onto the side of his plate. Not in company, of course.  I can understand why he did that, not having eaten meat myself for so long. You could chew a piece of meat for several hours and still have a stringy lump between your cheek and your teeth.

    My grandfather would always have a bowl of Allbran with some Froment wheat germ for his breakfast, while reading the Daily Mail at the kitchen table.  He never worse slippers, always shoes indoors,  and always wore a tie.  He had lots of ties but always wore a plain maroon one.  His shirts were always cream and buttoned at throat and cuff, and eventually started wearing shirts without detachable collars. He wore greeny grey trousers and a cardigan of the same shade most of the time, the same colour as a damp English garden.

    The same colour as the slimy green wooden clothes pegs that I threw away and replaced with mauve and fuschia pink plastic ones.  “They’re a bit bright for up the garden, aren’t they,” he said.  He was right. I should have ignored the green peg stains on the laundry.  An English garden should be shades of moss and grassy green, rich umber soil and brick red walls weighed down with an atmosphere of dense and heavy greyish white.

    After Grandma died and Mop had retired (I always called him Mop, nobody knows why) at 10:00am precisely Mop would  have a cup of instant coffee with evap. At lunch, a bowl of tinned vegetable soup in his special soup bowl, and a couple of Krackawheat crackers and a lump of mature Cheddar. It was a job these days to find a tasty cheddar, he’d say.

    When he was working, and he worked until well into his seventies, he took sandwiches. Every day he had the same sandwich filling: a combination of cheese, peanut butter and marmite.  It was an unusal choice for an otherwise conventional man.  He loved my grandmothers cooking, which wasn’t brilliant but was never awful. She was always generous with the cheese in cheese sauces and the meat in meat pies. She overcooked the cauliflower, but everyone did then. She made her gravy in the roasting pan, and made onion sauce, bread sauce, parsley sauce and chestnut stuffing.  She had her own version of cosmopolitan favourites, and called her quiche a quiche when everyone was still calling it egg and bacon pie. She used to like Auntie Daphne’s ratatouille, rather exotic back then, and pronounced it Ratta Twa.  She made pizza unlike any other, with shortcrust pastry smeared with tomato puree from a tube, sprinkled with oregano and great slabs of cheddar.

    The roast was always overdone. “We like our meat well done” she’d say. She’d walk up the garden to get fresh mint for the mint sauce and would announce with pride “these runner beans are out of the garding”. They always grew vegetables at the top of the garden, behind the lawn and the silver birch tree.  There was always a pudding: a slice of almond tart (always with home made pastry), a crumble or stewed fruit. Topped with evap, of course.

    #6246
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Florence Nightingale Gretton

    1881-1927

    Florence’s father was Richard Gretton, a baker in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. When Richard married Sarah Orgill in 1861, they lived with her mother, a widow, in Measham, Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire. On the 1861 census Sarah’s mother, Elizabeth, is a farmer of two acres.

    (Swadlincote and Ashby de la Zouch are on the Derbyshire Leicestershire border and not far from each other. Swadlincote is near to Burton upon Trent which is sometimes in Staffordshire, sometimes in Derbyshire. Newhall, Church Gresley, and Swadlincote are all very close to each other or districts in the same town.)

    Ten years later in 1871 Richard and Sarah have their own place in Swadlincote, he is a baker, and they have four children. A fourteen year old apprentice or servant is living with them.

    In the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Gazette on 28 February 1880, it was reported that Richard Gretton, baker, of Swadlincote, was charged by Captain Bandys with carrying bread in a cart for sale, the said cart not being provided with scales and weights, according to the requirements of the Act, on the 17th January last.—Defendant pleaded guilty, but urged in extenuation of the offence that in the hurry he had forgotten to put the scales in the cart before his son started.—The Bench took this view of the case, regarding it as an oversight, and fined him one shilling only and costs.  This was not his only offence.

    In 1883, he was fined twenty shillings, and ten shillings and sixpence costs.

    Richard Gretton

    By 1881 they have 4 more children, and Florence Nightingale is the youngest at four months. Richard is 48 by now, and Sarah is 44. Florence’s older brother William is a blacksmith.

    Interestingly on the same census page, two doors down Thomas and Selina Warren live at the Stanhope Arms.  Richards son John Gretton lives at the pub, a 13 year old servant. Incidentally, I noticed on Thomas and Selena’s marriage register that Richard and Sarah Gretton were the witnesses at the wedding.

    Ten years later in 1891, Florence Nightingale and her sister Clara are living with Selina Warren, widow, retired innkeeper, one door down from the Stanhope Arms. Florence is ten, Clara twelve and they are scholars.
    Richard and Sarah are still living three doors up on the other side of the Stanhope Arms, with three of their sons. But the two girls lived up the road with the Warren widow!

    The Stanhope Arms, Swadlincote: it’s possible that the shop with the awning was Richard Gretton’s bakers shop (although not at the time of this later photo).

    Stanhope Arms

     

    Richard died in 1898, a year before Florence married Samuel Warren.

    Sarah is a widowed 60 year old baker on the 1901 census. Her son 26 year old son Alf, also a baker,  lives at the same address, as does her 22 year old daughter Clara who is a district nurse.

    Clara Gretton and family, photo found online:

    Clara Gretton

     

    In 1901 Florence Nightingale (who we don’t have a photograph of!) is now married and is Florrie Warren on the census, and she, her husband Samuel, and their one year old daughter Hildred are visitors at the address of  Elizabeth (Staley)Warren, 60 year old widow and Samuel’s mother, and Samuel’s 36 year old brother William. Samuel and William are engineers.

    Samuel and Florrie had ten children between 1900 and 1925 (and all but two of them used their middle name and not first name: my mother and I had no idea until I found all the records.  My grandmother Florence Noreen was known as Nora, which we knew of course, uncle Jack was actually Douglas John, and so on).

    Hildred, Clara, Billy, and Nora were born in Swadlincote. Sometime between my grandmother’s birth in 1907 and Kay’s birth in 1911, the family moved to Oldswinford, in Stourbridge. Later they moved to Market Street.

    1911 census, Oldswinford, Stourbridge:

    Oldswinford 1911

     

    Oddly, nobody knew when Florrie Warren died. My mothers cousin Ian Warren researched the Warren family some years ago, while my grandmother was still alive. She contributed family stories and information, but couldn’t remember if her mother died in 1929 or 1927.  A recent search of records confirmed that it was the 12th November 1927.

    She was 46 years old. We were curious to know how she died, so my mother ordered a paper copy of her death certificate. It said she died at 31 Market Street, Stourbridge at the age of 47. Clara May Warren, her daughter, was in attendance. Her husband Samuel Warren was a motor mechanic. The Post mortem was by Percival Evans, coroner for Worcestershire, who clarified the cause of death as vascular disease of the heart. There was no inquest. The death was registered on 15 Nov 1927.

    I looked for a photo of 31 Market Street in Stourbridge, and was astonished to see that it was the house next door to one I lived in breifly in the 1980s.  We didn’t know that the Warren’s lived in Market Street until we started searching the records.

    Market Street, Stourbridge. I lived in the one on the corner on the far right, my great grandmother died in the one next door.

    Market Street

     

    I found some hitherto unknown emigrants in the family. Florence Nightingale Grettons eldest brother William 1861-1940 stayed in Swadlincote. John Orgill Gretton born in 1868 moved to Trenton New Jersey USA in 1888, married in 1892 and died in 1949 in USA. Michael Thomas born in 1870 married in New York in 1893 and died in Trenton in 1940. Alfred born 1875 stayed in Swadlincote. Charles Herbert born 1876 married locally and then moved to Australia in 1912, and died in Victoria in 1954. Clara Elizabeth was a district nurse, married locally and died at the age of 99.

    #6240
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Phyllis Ellen Marshall

    1909 – 1983

    Phyllis Marshall

     

    Phyllis, my grandfather George Marshall’s sister, never married. She lived in her parents home in Love Lane, and spent decades of her later life bedridden, living alone and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She had her bed in the front downstairs room, and had cords hanging by her bed to open the curtains, turn on the tv and so on, and she had carers and meals on wheels visit her daily. The room was dark and grim, but Phyllis was always smiling and cheerful.  Phyllis loved the Degas ballerinas and had a couple of prints on the walls.

    I remember visiting her, but it has only recently registered that this was my great grandparents house. When I was a child, we visited her and she indicated a tin on a chest of drawers and said I could take a biscuit. It was a lemon puff, and was the stalest biscuit I’d ever had. To be polite I ate it. Then she offered me another one! I declined, but she thought I was being polite and said “Go on! You can have another!” I ate another one, and have never eaten a lemon puff since that day.

    Phyllis’s nephew Bryan Marshall used to visit her regularly. I didn’t realize how close they were until recently, when I resumed contact with Bryan, who emigrated to USA in the 1970s following a successful application for a job selling stained glass windows and church furnishings.

    I asked on a Stourbridge facebook group if anyone remembered her.

    AF  Yes I remember her. My friend and I used to go up from Longlands school every Friday afternoon to do jobs for her. I remember she had a record player and we used to put her 45rpm record on Send in the Clowns for her. Such a lovely lady. She had her bed in the front room.

    KW I remember very clearly a lady in a small house in Love Lane with alley at the left hand.  I was intrigued by this lady who used to sit with the front door open and she was in a large chair of some sort. I used to see people going in and out and the lady was smiling. I was young then (31) and wondered how she coped but my sense was she had lots of help.  I’ve never forgotten that lady in Love Lane sitting in the open door way I suppose when it was warm enough.

    LR I used to deliver meals on wheels to her lovely lady.

    I sent Bryan the comments from the Stourbridge group and he replied:

    Thanks Tracy. I don’t recognize the names here but lovely to see such kind comments.
    In the early 70’s neighbors on Corser Street, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Braithwaite would pop around with occasional visits and meals. Walter was my piano teacher for awhile when I was in my early twenties. He was a well known music teacher at Rudolph Steiner School (former Elmfield School) on Love Lane. A very fine school. I seem to recall seeing a good article on Walter recently…perhaps on the Stourbridge News website. He was very well known.
    I’m ruminating about life with my Aunt Phyllis. We were very close. Our extra special time was every Saturday at 5pm (I seem to recall) we’d watch Doctor Who. Right from the first episode. We loved it. Likewise I’d do the children’s crossword out of Woman’s Realm magazine…always looking to win a camera but never did ! She opened my mind to the Bible, music and ballet. She once got tickets and had a taxi take us into Birmingham to see the Bolshoi Ballet…at a time when they rarely left their country. It was a very big deal in the early 60’s. ! I’ve many fond memories about her and grandad which I’ll share in due course. I’d change the steel needle on the old record player, following each play of the 78rpm records…oh my…another world.

    Bryan continues reminiscing about Phyllis in further correspondence:

    Yes, I can recall those two Degas prints. I don’t know much of Phyllis’ early history other than she was a hairdresser in Birmingham. I want to say at John Lewis, for some reason (so there must have been a connection and being such a large store I bet they did have a salon?)
    You will know that she had severe and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that eventually gnarled her hands and moved through her body. I remember strapping on her leg/foot braces and hearing her writhe in pain as I did so but she wanted to continue walking standing/ getting up as long as she could. I’d take her out in the wheelchair and I can’t believe I say it along …but down Stanley Road!! (I had subsequent nightmares about what could have happened to her, had I tripped or let go!) She loved Mary Stevens Park, the swans, ducks and of course Canadian geese. Was grateful for everything in creation. As I used to go over Hanbury Hill on my visit to Love Lane, she would always remind me to smell the “sea-air” as I crested the hill.
    In the earlier days she smoked cigarettes with one of those long filters…looking like someone from the twenties.

    I’ll check on “Send in the clowns”. I do recall that music. I remember also she loved to hear Neil Diamond. Her favorites in classical music gave me an appreciation of Elgar and Delius especially. She also loved ballet music such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Scheherazade and La Boutique Fantastic also other gems.
    When grandad died she and aunt Dorothy shared more about grandma (who died I believe when John and I were nine-months old…therefore early 1951). Grandma (Mary Ann Gilman Purdy) played the piano and loved Strauss and Offenbach. The piano in the picture you sent had a bad (wonky) leg which would fall off and when we had the piano at 4, Mount Road it was rather dangerous. In any event my parents didn’t want me or others “banging on it” for fear of waking the younger brothers so it disappeared at sometime.
    By the way, the dog, Flossy was always so rambunctious (of course, she was a JRT!) she was put on the stairway which fortunately had a door on it. Having said that I’ve always loved dogs so was very excited to see her and disappointed when she was not around. 

    Phyllis with her parents William and Mary Marshall, and Flossie the dog in the garden at Love Lane:

    Phyllis William and Mary Marshall

     

    Bryan continues:

    I’ll always remember the early days with the outside toilet with the overhead cistern caked in active BIG spider webs. I used to have to light a candle to go outside, shielding the flame until destination. In that space I’d set the candle down and watch the eery shadows move from side to side whilst…well anyway! Then I’d run like hell back into the house. Eventually the kitchen wall was broken through so it became an indoor loo. Phew!
    In the early days the house was rented for ten-shillings a week…I know because I used to take over a ten-bob-note to a grumpy lady next door who used to sign the receipt in the rent book. Then, I think she died and it became available for $600.00 yes…the whole house for $600.00 but it wasn’t purchased then. Eventually aunt Phyllis purchased it some years later…perhaps when grandad died.

    I used to work much in the back garden which was a lovely walled garden with arch-type decorations in the brickwork and semicircular shaped capping bricks. The abundant apple tree. Raspberry and loganberry canes. A gooseberry bush and huge Victoria plum tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden which became a wonderful attraction for wasps! (grandad called the “whasps”). He would stew apples and fruit daily.
    Do you remember their black and white cat Twinky? Always sat on the pink-screen TV and when she died they were convinced that “that’s wot got ‘er”. Grandad of course loved all his cats and as he aged, he named them all “Billy”.

    Have you come across the name “Featherstone” in grandma’s name. I don’t recall any details but Dorothy used to recall this. She did much searching of the family history Such a pity she didn’t hand anything on to anyone. She also said that we had a member of the family who worked with James Watt….but likewise I don’t have details.
    Gifts of chocolates to Phyllis were regular and I became the recipient of the overflow!

    What a pity Dorothy’s family history research has disappeared!  I have found the Featherstone’s, and the Purdy who worked with James Watt, but I wonder what else Dorothy knew.

    I mentioned DH Lawrence to Bryan, and the connection to Eastwood, where Bryan’s grandma (and Phyllis’s mother) Mary Ann Gilman Purdy was born, and shared with him the story about Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist minister, and about Francis’s son William who invented the miners lamp.

    He replied:

    As a nosy young man I was looking through the family bookcase in Love Lane and came across a brown paper covered book. Intrigued, I found “Sons and Lovers” D.H. Lawrence. I knew it was a taboo book (in those days) as I was growing up but now I see the deeper connection. Of course! I know that Phyllis had I think an earlier boyfriend by the name of Maurice who lived in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I think he later married but was always kind enough to send her a book and fond message each birthday (Feb.12). I guess you know grandad’s birthday – July 28. We’d always celebrate those days. I’d usually be the one to go into Oldswinford and get him a cardigan or pullover and later on, his 2oz tins of St. Bruno tobacco for his pipe (I recall the room filled with smoke as he puffed away).
    Dorothy and Phyllis always spoke of their ancestor’s vocation as a Minister. So glad to have this history! Wow, what a story too. The Lord rescued him from mischief indeed. Just goes to show how God can change hearts…one at a time.
    So interesting to hear about the Miner’s Lamp. My vicar whilst growing up at St. John’s in Stourbridge was from Durham and each Harvest Festival, there would be a miner’s lamp placed upon the altar as a symbol of the colliery and the bountiful harvest.

    More recollections from Bryan about the house and garden at Love Lane:

    I always recall tea around the three legged oak table bedecked with a colorful seersucker cloth. Battenburg cake. Jam Roll. Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits. Mr. Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes! Home-made jam.  Loose tea from the Coronation tin cannister. The ancient mangle outside the back door and the galvanized steel wash tub with hand-operated agitator on the underside of the lid. The hand operated water pump ‘though modernisation allowed for a cold tap only inside, above the single sink and wooden draining board. A small gas stove and very little room for food preparation. Amazing how the Marshalls (×7) managed in this space!

    The small window over the sink in the kitchen brought in little light since the neighbor built on a bathroom annex at the back of their house, leaving #47 with limited light, much to to upset of grandad and Phyllis. I do recall it being a gloomy place..i.e.the kitchen and back room.

    The garden was lovely. Long and narrow with privet hedge dividing the properties on the right and the lovely wall on the left. Dorothy planted spectacular lilac bushes against the wall. Vivid blues, purples and whites. Double-flora. Amazing…and with stunning fragrance. Grandad loved older victorian type plants such as foxgloves and comfrey. Forget-me-nots and marigolds (calendulas) in abundance.  Rhubarb stalks. Always plantings of lettuce and other vegetables. Lots of mint too! A large varigated laurel bush outside the front door!

    Such a pleasant walk through the past. 

    An autograph book belonging to Phyllis from the 1920s has survived in which each friend painted a little picture, drew a cartoon, or wrote a verse.  This entry is perhaps my favourite:

    Ripping Time

    #6234
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Ben Warren

    Derby County and England football legend who died aged 37 penniless and ‘insane’

     

    Ben Warren

    Ben Warren 1879 – 1917  was Samuel Warren’s (my great grandfather) cousin.

    From the Derby Telegraph:

    Just 17 months after earning his 22nd England cap, against Scotland at Everton on April 1, 1911, he was certified insane. What triggered his decline was no more than a knock on the knee while playing for Chelsea against Clapton Orient.

    The knee would not heal and the longer he was out, the more he fretted about how he’d feed his wife and four children. In those days, if you didn’t play, there was no pay. 

    …..he had developed “brain fever” and this mild-mannered man had “become very strange and, at times, violent”. The coverage reflected his celebrity status.

    On December 15, 1911, as Rick Glanvill records in his Official Biography of Chelsea FC: “He was admitted to a private clinic in Nottingham, suffering from acute mania, delusions that he was being poisoned and hallucinations of hearing and vision.”

    He received another blow in February, 1912, when his mother, Emily, died. She had congestion of the lungs and caught influenza, her condition not helped, it was believed, by worrying about Ben.

    She had good reason: her famous son would soon be admitted to the unfortunately named Derby County Lunatic Asylum.

    Ben Warren Madman

     

    As Britain sleepwalked towards the First World War, Ben’s condition deteriorated. Glanvill writes: “His case notes from what would be a five-year stay, catalogue a devastating decline in which he is at various times described as incoherent, restless, destructive, ‘stuporose’ and ‘a danger to himself’.’”

    photo: Football 27th April 1914. A souvenir programme for the testimonial game for Chelsea and England’s Ben Warren, (pictured) who had been declared insane and sent to a lunatic asylum. The game was a select XI for the North playing a select XI from The South proceeds going to Warren’s family.

    Ben Warren 1914

     

    In September, that decline reached a new and pitiable low. The following is an abridged account of what The Courier called “an amazing incident” that took place on September 4.

    “Spotted by a group of men while walking down Derby Road in Nottingham, a man was acting strangely, smoking a cigarette and had nothing on but a collar and tie.

    “He jumped about the pavement and roadway, as though playing an imaginary game of football. When approached, he told them he was going to Trent Bridge to play in a match and had to be there by 3.30.”

    Eventually he was taken to a police station and recognised by a reporter as England’s erstwhile right-half. What made the story even harder to digest was that Ben had escaped from the asylum and walked the 20 miles to Nottingham apparently unnoticed.

    He had played at “Trent Bridge” many times – at least on Nottingham Forest’s adjacent City Ground.

    As a shocked nation came to terms with the desperate plight of one of its finest footballers, some papers suggested his career was not yet over. And his relatives claimed that he had been suffering from nothing more than a severe nervous breakdown.

    He would never be the same again – as a player or a man. He wasn’t even a shadow of the weird “footballer” who had walked 20 miles to Nottingham.

    Then, he had nothing on, now he just had nothing – least of all self-respect. He ripped sheets into shreds and attempted suicide, saying: “I’m no use to anyone – and ought to be out of the way.”

    “A year before his suicide attempt in 1916 the ominous symptom of ‘dry cough’ had been noted. Two months after it, in October 1916, the unmistakable signs of tuberculosis were noted and his enfeebled body rapidly succumbed.

    At 11.30pm on 15 January 1917, international footballer Ben Warren was found dead by a night attendant.

    He was 37 and when they buried him the records described him as a “pauper’.”

    However you look at it, it is the salutary tale of a footballer worrying about money. And it began with a knock on the knee.

    On 14th November 2021, Gill Castle posted on the Newhall and Swadlincote group:

    I would like to thank Colin Smith and everyone who supported him in getting my great grandfather’s grave restored (Ben Warren who played for Derby, Chelsea and England)

    The month before, Colin Smith posted:

    My Ben Warren Journey is nearly complete.
    It started two years ago when I was sent a family wedding photograph asking if I recognised anyone. My Great Great Grandmother was on there. But soon found out it was the wedding of Ben’s brother Robert to my 1st cousin twice removed, Eveline in 1910.
    I researched Ben and his football career and found his resting place in St Johns Newhall, all overgrown and in a poor state with the large cross all broken off. I stood there and decided he needed to new memorial & headstone. He was our local hero, playing Internationally for England 22 times. He needs to be remembered.
    After seeking family permission and Council approval, I had a quote from Art Stone Memorials, Burton on Trent to undertake the work. Fundraising then started and the memorial ordered.
    Covid came along and slowed the process of getting materials etc. But we have eventually reached the final installation today.
    I am deeply humbled for everyone who donated in January this year to support me and finally a massive thank you to everyone, local people, football supporters of Newhall, Derby County & Chelsea and football clubs for their donations.
    Ben will now be remembered more easily when anyone walks through St Johns and see this beautiful memorial just off the pathway.
    Finally a huge thank you for Art Stone Memorials Team in everything they have done from the first day I approached them. The team have worked endlessly on this project to provide this for Ben and his family as a lasting memorial. Thank you again Alex, Pat, Matt & Owen for everything. Means a lot to me.
    The final chapter is when we have a dedication service at the grave side in a few weeks time,
    Ben was born in The Thorntree Inn Newhall South Derbyshire and lived locally all his life.
    He played local football for Swadlincote, Newhall Town and Newhall Swifts until Derby County signed Ben in May 1898. He made 242 appearances and scored 19 goals at Derby County.
    28th July 1908 Chelsea won the bidding beating Leicester Fosse & Manchester City bids.
    Ben also made 22 appearance’s for England including the 1908 First Overseas tour playing Austria twice, Hungary and Bohemia all in a week.
    28 October 1911 Ben Injured his knee and never played football again
    Ben is often compared with Steven Gerard for his style of play and team ethic in the modern era.
    Herbert Chapman ( Player & Manager ) comments “ Warren was a human steam engine who played through 90 minutes with intimidating strength and speed”.
    Charles Buchan comments “I am certain that a better half back could not be found, Part of the Best England X1 of all time”
    Chelsea allowed Ben to live in Sunnyside Newhall, he used to run 5 miles every day round Bretby Park and had his own gym at home. He was compared to the likes of a Homing Pigeon, as he always came back to Newhall after his football matches.
    Ben married Minnie Staley 21st October 1902 at Emmanuel Church Swadlincote and had four children, Harry, Lillian, Maurice & Grenville. Harry went on to be Manager at Coventry & Southend following his father in his own career as football Manager.
    After Ben’s football career ended in 1911 his health deteriorated until his passing at Derby Pastures Hospital aged 37yrs
    Ben’s youngest son, Grenville passed away 22nd May 1929 and is interred together in St John’s Newhall with his Father
    His wife, Minnie’s ashes are also with Ben & Grenville.
    Thank you again everyone.
    RIP Ben Warren, our local Newhall Hero. You are remembered.

    Ben Warren grave

     

    Ben Warren GraveBen Warren Grave

     

    #6231
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Gladstone Road

    My mother remembers her grandfather Samuel Warren’s house at 3 Gladstone Road, Stourbridge. She was born in 1933, so this would be late 1930s early 1940s.

    “Opening a big wooden gate in a high brick wall off the sidewalk I went down a passage with a very high hedge to the main house which was entered on this side through a sort of glassed-in lean-to then into the dark and damp scullery and then into a large room with a fireplace which was dining room and living room for most of the time. The house was Georgian and had wooden interior shutters at the windows. My Grandad sat by the fire probably most of the day. The fireplace may have had an oven built over or to the side of the fire which was common in those days and was used for cooking.
    That room led into a hall going three ways and the main front door was here. One hall went to the pantry which had stone slabs for keeping food cool, such a long way from the kitchen! Opposite the pantry was the door to the cellar. One hall led to two large rooms with big windows overlooking the garden. There was also a door at the end of this hallway which opened into the garden. The stairs went up opposite the front door with a box room at the top then along a landing to another hall going right and left with two bedrooms down each hall.
    The toilet got to from the scullery and lean-to was outside down another passage all overgrown near the pigsty. No outside lights!
    On Christmas day the families would all have the day here. I think the menfolk went over to the pub {Gate Hangs Well?} for a drink while the women cooked dinner. Chris would take all the children down the dark, damp cellar steps and tell us ghost stories scaring us all. A fire would be lit in one of the big main rooms {probably only used once a year} and we’d sit in there and dinner was served in the other big main room. When the house was originally built the servants would have used the other room and scullery.
    I have a recollection of going upstairs and into a bedroom off the right hand hall and someone was in bed, I thought an old lady but I was uncomfortable in there and never went in again. Seemed that person was there a long time. I did go upstairs with Betty to her room which was the opposite way down the hall and loved it. She was dating lots of soldiers during the war years. One in particular I remember was an American Army Officer that she was fond of but he was killed when he left England to fight in Germany.
    I wonder if the person in bed that nobody spoke about was an old housekeeper?
    My mother used to say there was a white lady who floated around in the garden. I think Kay died at Gladstone Road!”

    Samuel Warren, born in 1874 in Newhall, Derbyshire, was my grandmothers father.  This is the only photograph we’ve seen of him (seated on right with cap).  Kay, who died of TB in 1938, is holding the teddy bear. Samuel died in 1950, in Stourbridge, at the age of 76.

    Samuel Warren Kay Warren

    Left to right: back row: Leslie Warren. Hildred Williams / Griffiths (Nee Warren). Billy Warren. 2nd row: Gladys (Gary) Warren. Kay Warren (holding teddy bear). Samuel Warren (father). Hildred’s son Chris Williams (on knee). Lorna Warren. Joan Williams. Peggy Williams (Hildreds daughters). Jack Warren. Betty Warren.

    #6214
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    When Finnley got out of her full body bathing suit, Liz gaped at her.

    “It appears your suit wasn’t that waterproof after all. You should have kept the receipt. Now you can’t ask for a refund.”

    Finnley rolled her eyes while sending daggers. Liz caught them in extremis with her pen and put them down in writing at the end of her pink notebook for later reference. She thought maybe they could be an appropriate prop for the family betrayal she planned to write about in her next chapter. Daggers between the shoulder blades were always a nice effect.

    “I don’t need a receipt, I ordered them online.”

    “What do you mean? What does she mean Gordon? She looks so mad, she won’t answer me… and stop eating those bloody nuts. That’s not good for your cholesterol.”

    “Actually that’s the reverse,” said Gordon.

    “Stop eating them! I find the crunching noise and the movement of your tongue on your teeth disturbing.”

    “She means she kept the email with the e-receipt. Knowing her she’s probably kept it in the trash for safekeeping.”

    Finnley threw another pair of daggers.

    “Ouch!” Gordon said.

    “You deserved that,” said Liz. “You were mean. Now I need to talk to Godfrey. He’ll know the answers, he always know. Where is he?”

    “Just behind you. I’m always behind you.”

    “Don’t say that, it can be misinterpreted. Anyway, can you answer the question?”

    “She kept the email with the e-receipt in her trash can. You know, it’s an internet thing. Like the writing workshop you asked me to help you organise.”

    “Oh! I totally forgot about that.”

    “You have 57 inscriptions. The chat session starts in 5, no 7 minutes. Should I be worried?”

    “No you shouldn’t. Just do the typing for me please. You type faster than me, I’m still doing it with one finger, well two actually, now I can use both hands.”

    “Okay, you’ll speak to me as if you were speaking to them and I shall write down your words faithfully.”

    “You can do the speaking too, dear. Godfrey, you’ve known me for so long, you know better than me what I’m going to say.”

    Liz looked at Finnley’s blue hands and turned back to Godfrey. “Oh, and before you do that, prepare some cucumbers slice, I need a power nap.”

    #6213
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Well, I wish you would stop interrupting me while I fill in the empty pages of my pink notebook with gripping stories, I keep losing my thread. Most annoying!” Liz sighed.  She wrote Liz snapped at first and then erased it and changed it to Liz sighed. Then she added Liz sighed with the very mildest slight irritation and then became exasperated with the whole thing and told herself to just leave it and try to move on!

    But really, Finnley’s timing, as usual! Just as Liz had worked out the direct line to the characters fathers mothers fathers fathers mothers fathers mothers fathers father and mother, Finnley wafts through the scene, making herself conspicuous, and scattering Liz’s tenuous concentration like feathers in the wind.

    “And I don’t want to hear a word about apostrophes either,” she added, mentally noting the one in don’t.

    “Oh, now I see what you’re doing, Liz!” Gordon appeared, smoking a pipe. “Very clever!”

    “Good God, Gordon, you’re smoking a pipe!” It was an astonishing sight. “What an astonishing sight! Where are your nuts?”

    “Well, it’s like this,” Gordon grinned, “I’ve been eating nuts in every scene for, how long? I just can’t face another nut.”

    Liz barked out a loud cackle.  “You think that’s bad, have you seen what they keep dressing me in? Anyway, ” she asked, “What do you mean clever and you see what I’m doing? What am I doing?”

    “The code, of course!  I spotted it right away,” Gordon replied smugly.

    Finnley heaved herself out of the pool and walked over to Liz and Gordon. (is it Gordon or Godfrey? Liz felt the cold tendrils of dread that she had somehow gone off the track and would have to retrace her steps and get in a  fearful muddle Oh no!  )

    A splat of blue algae across her face, as Finnley flicked the sodden strands of dyed debris off that clung to her hair and body, halted the train of thought that Liz had embarked on, and came to an abrupt collision with a harmless wet fish, you could say, as it’s shorter than saying  an abrupt collision with a bit of dyed blue algae. 

    Liz yawned.  Finnley was already asleep.

    “What was in that blue dye?”

    #6212
    AvatarJib
    Participant

    Finnley walked in front of Liz in a designer full body bathing suit and a mask on, poured some powder in the pool which turned the green into blue instantaneously and dived head first in the goo.

    ‘What are you doing?’ asked Liz, horrified.

    ‘Don’t you know the price of  a session at the Blue Algae Therapy Health Center?’ Finnley asked, her voice muffled by the mask.

    ‘Why the full bathing suit then?’

    ‘It’s a permanent blue dye for leather.’

    #6206
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “I’m not ‘aving this treatment, Mavis, I’ve booked meself in for the spirit chew all mender tations session instead. No need to loook at me like that, our Mavis, I aint going all new agey on yer, just thought I’d give it a try and see if it relaxes me a bit.”

    “Relaxes yer? Yer int done a stroke of work in years, whatcher on about?” Sha said, nudging Mavis in the ribs and cackling.

    “It’s not all about the body, y’ know!” Glor replied, feeling the futility of trying to make them understand the importance of it to her, or the significance in the wider picture.

    “I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered behind her.  Andrew Anderson smiled and looked deep into her squinting eyes as she turned to face him (the sun was going down behind him and it was very hard to see, much to her chagrin).

    “Tell me more, Glor, what’s the score, Glor, I want to know more…”

    Gloria, who knees had momentarily turned to jelly, reeled backwards at this surprising change in the conversation, and lost her balance due to her temporarily affected knees.  Instinctively she reached out and grabbed Mr Anderson’s arm, and managed to avoid falling to the ground.

    She retracted her arm slowly as an increasingly baffled look spread across her face.

    Why did his arm feel so peculiar? It felt like a shop mannequin, unyielding, different somehow.  Creepy somehow. Glor mumbled, “Sure, later,” and quickly caught up with her friends.

    “Hey, You’ll never guess what, wait til I tell yer..” Glor started to tell them about Mr Anderson and then stopped. Would it be futile? Would they understand what she was trying to say?

    “I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered in her ear.

    “Not bloody you again! You stalking me, or what?”  Visibly rattled, Gloria rushed over to her friends, wondering why every time that weirdo whispered in her ear, she had somehow fallen back and had to catch up again.

    She’d have to inform her friends of the danger, but would they listen? They were falling for him and wouldn’t be easily discouraged.  They’d be lured to the yacht and not want to escape. The fools! What could she do?

    “I’m listening,” the melodious voice whispered.

    #6201
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Go and put the kettle on while I think about this,” Liz instructed Finnley.  “A vacation is not a bad idea.  A change of air would do us good.  Perhaps a nice self catering cottage somewhere in the country…”

    “Self catering? And who might that self be that would be doing the catering for you, Liz?”

    “I was only thinking of you!” retorted Liz, affronted. “You might get bored in a fancy hotel with nothing to dust!”

    “Try me!” snapped Finnley.  “You think you know me inside out, don’t you, but I’m just a story character to you, aren’t I? You don’t know me at all! Just the idea you have of a cleaner! I can’t take it anymore!”

    “Oh for god’s sake stop blubbering, Finnley, no need to be so dramatic. Where would you like to go?”

    “OH, I don’t know, Somewhere sunny and warm, with mountains and beaches, and not too many tourists.”

    “Hah! Anywhere nice and warm with mountains and beaches is going to be packed with tourists. If you want a nice quiet holiday with no tourists you’d have to go somewhere cold and horrid.” Liz sniffed. “Everywhere nice in the world is stuffed with tourists. I know! How about a staycation?  We can stay right here and you can make us a nice picnic every day to eat on the lawn.”

    “Fuck off, Liz,” snapped Finnley.

    “I say, there is no need to be rude! I could sack you for that!”

    “Yes but you won’t. Nobody else would work for you, and you know it.”

    “Yes well there is that,” Liz had to admit, sighing. “Well then, YOU choose somewhere. You decide. I am putty in your sweaty hands, willing to bend to your every whim. Just to keep the peace.”

    Finnley rolled her eyes and went to put the kettle on. Where DID she want to go, she wondered?   And would a holiday with Liz be any holiday at all?

    #6187
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Aunt Idle:

    You can’t blame me for not updating my diary because bugger all has happened all year.  Borders closed, no tourists allowed in.  How are bespoke bijou boutique establishments like ours supposed to survive?  But we’re still here. Somehow we’ve managed to keep the wolf from the door, but only just barely.  I get a bit muddled up these days and can’t remember the dates. Sometimes I find myself living in the past for weeks on end: things change so little around her that it’s easy to do. But what does it matter anyway?

    Mater went into a sulk the likes of which I hope never to see again, when her 100th birthday party was cancelled. I thought she might give up the will to live, but oh no. She’s determined now to have a 110th birthday party now.  She says the bloody pandemic ought to be over by then.  I hope she’s right. She changes her health food and exercise regimes as often as she changes her knickers. Well more often than that, probably, she doesn’t bother much with personal hygiene.  She says the germs keep her immune system in good shape.  I think the smell of her would keep any plague ridden body well away from her, but whatever works, I always say.  At least she isn’t sulking anymore, she’s grimly stoic now and tediously determined to outlive me.

    I had some worrying news through the telepathic grapevine about the twins and Pan, they’d gotten into the clutches of a strange cult over there.  I’ve got a feeling they weren’t really sucked into it though, I think they needed to use it as a cover, or to keep themselves safe.  I say cult but it was huge, took over the entire country and even started spreading to other countries. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with.  I knew they shouldn’t have gone there.  There’s been a peculiar blockage with the telepathic messages for ages now.  It’s a worry, but what can I do.   I keep sending them messages, but get nothing in return.

    Ah, well. We carry on as best we can. What I wouldn’t give for an unexpected visitor to brighten things up a bit. Fat chance of that.

    #6157
    FloveFlove
    Participant

    Bob sighed loudly as he rummaged through the odds and ends drawer: old menus from the takeaways in town, pens, rubber bands, a button, reading glasses, newspaper clippings. He’d never expected to need the phone number; now he did and what do you know? He can’t find the damn thing.

    “What a shameful mess that drawer is in,” said Jane. She was seated at the kitchen table, arms folded, shaking her head at him. She looked about twenty today with her dark hair cascading prettily over a lacy pink mini dress.

    Bob  frowned at her though his heart did a leap. The way it always did when he saw her. “You were the one who kept it clean and you jumped ship.  And I’ve said, can’t you look your age?”

    “Don’t I look pretty?” She pouted and fluttered long eyelashes at him.

    “Makes me feel old. And I don’t recognise you like that.”

    “You are old,” she said as her hair turned white. “And bad-tempered as ever. What are you hunting for?”

    “The phone number. You know the one he said to call if the box was ever unearthed. Can’t find it anywhere.”

    “You’d lose your head …”  said Jane as her head lifted off her body.

    Bob jumped. “Darn it, Jane. I’ve said don’t do that! Why do you always do that and go giving me the heebie jeebies?”

    “Cos I can, love.” She grinned mischievously before settling her head back on her shoulders. “Just a bit of fun. Now think hard, where else might you have put it? The shoe-box under our bed? The safe in the pantry?”

    Bob flung a hand to his head. “The shoe-box! That’s where it will be!”

    Jane grinned. “Well, get a move-along, old man. Before our Clara gets in more deep than what’s good for her. She won’t let it go now she’s found it. Stubborn as a mule my grandchild,” she added proudly.

    Bob reached a hand to her. “Come with me while I look? I miss you, Jane. You never stay long enough.”

    “Oh stop with all the sweet talk!” She poked her tongue out at him. “Anyway I’ve told you before, it takes too much energy.” She was fading and Bob felt his chest tighten. “Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on you, old man.” She was vibrating air now, sparkly and pink.

    #6155
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Damn these municipal restrictions! Frustrated, Nora looked again at the photo of the inscriptions on the mysterious pear shaped box that Clara had found.  She picked up a pen and copied the symbols onto a piece of paper. Glancing back over the message her friend had sent, her face softened at Clara’s pet name for her, Alienor.  Clara had started called her that years ago, when she found out about the ouija board incident and the aliens Nora had been talking to.  Was it really an alien, or….? Clara had asked, and Nora had laughed and said Of course it was an alien or! and the name had stuck.

    Nora’s mood had changed with the reminiscence, and she had an idea. She was working from home, but all that really meant was that she had to have internet access. Nobody would have to know which home she was working from, if she could just make it past the town barriers.  But she didn’t have to go by road: the barriers were only on the roads.  There was nothing stopping her walking cross country.

    Putting aside the paper with the symbols on, she perused a map.  She had to cross three town boundaries, and by road it was quite a distance. But as the crow flies, not that far.  And if she took the old smugglers track, it was surprisingly direct.  Nora calculated the distance: forty nine kilometers.  Frowning, she wondered if she could walk that distance in a single day and thought it unlikely.   Three days more like, but maybe she could do it in two, at a push.  That would mean one overnight stay somewhere. What a pity it was so cold!  It would mean carrying a warm sleeping bag, and she hated carrying things.

    Nora looked at the map again, and found the halfway point: it was a tiny hamlet. A perfect place to spend the night. If only she knew someone who lived there, somebody who wouldn’t object to her breaking the restrictions.

    Nora yawned. It was late. She would finalize the plan tomorrow, but first she sent a message to Clara, asking her if she knew anyone in the little village.

    #6145
    EricEric
    Keymaster

    The moving lorry had been parked outside the Beige House for hours.

    The driver was furious, as nobody has been able to answer their calls or guide them. At least the manager had let them park in front of the entrance, but it might have been based on a misunderstanding. “That’s for the removal of the Lady’s stuff, is it?” He’d nodded, it was only half a lie, his client was a lady, except she wasn’t moving out. She was moving in.

    He shouted to his partner who was smoking outside.

    George! Bloody hell, if this Ms June isn’t picking up the phone or showing up, I’m going to dump all her stuff here, I don’t care how precious is her cargo!”

    “Come on, Fred! Don’t get mad, you’ve seen how particular she was when we loaded the boat’s content, so full of her sentimental knick-knacks!”

    “What do you expect? Us keeping all these stone statues that weigh a ton! I don’t care. I tell you, she better show up in the next minutes, or else…”

    #6142
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home.  But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours.  It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet.  It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.

    There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though.  One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied.  I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.

    There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely.  I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.

    Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done.  I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing.  At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.

    So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money.  I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.

    Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them.  They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did.  They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.

    They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees.  Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back.  But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did.  I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it.  Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow.  And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.

    It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.

    The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.

    #6137

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    “Shut up, Tara!” hissed Star, “And keep him singing while I think. This is a monumental clue!”

    “But I can’t stand bloody opera singing,” Tara whispered back, “It’ll drive me mad.  When they said he had a melodious voice I was expecting something more modern than this ancient caterwauling.”

    “Do you want to solve this case or not?”

    “Oh alright then,” Tara said grudgingly. “But your thinking better be good!”  She clapped loudly and whistled. “More! More!” she shouted, stamping her feet. The assorted middle aged ladies joined in the applause.

    Star leaned over and whispered in Tara’s ear, “Do you remember that client I had at Madame Limonella’s, that nice old man with a penchant for seeing me dressed up as a 13th century Italian peasant?”

    “Yeah, you had to listen to opera with him, poor thing, but he did tip well.”

    “Well, he told me a lot about opera. I thought it was a waste of time knowing all that useless old stuff, but listen: this song what he’s singing now, he’s singing this on purpose. It’s a clue, you see, to Uncle Basil and why Vince wants to find him.”

    “Go on,” whispered Tara.

    “There’s a lot of money involved, and a will that needs to be changed. If Uncle Basil dies while he’s still in the clutches of that cult, then Vince will lose his chance of inheriting Basil’s money.”

    “Wasn’t that obvious from the start?”

    “Well yes, but we got very cleverly sidetracked with all these middle aged ladies and that wardrobe!  This is where the mule comes in.”

    “What mule?”

    “Shh! Keep your voice down! It’s not the same kind of mule as in the opera, these middle aged ladies are trafficking mules!”

    “Oh well that would make sense, they’d be perfect. Nobody suspects middle aged ladies.  But what are they trafficking, and why are they all here?”

    “They’re here to keep us from finding out the truth with all these silly sidetracks and distractions.  And we’ve stupidly let ourselves be led astray from the real case.”

    “What’s the real case, then?”

    “We need to find Uncle Basil so that Vince can change his will. It wasn’t Vince that was in a coma, as that hatchet faced old butler told us. It was Basil.”

    “How do you know that for sure?” asked Tara.

    “I don’t know for sure, but this is the theory. Once we have a theory, we can prove it.  Now, about that wardrobe. We mustn’t let them take it away. No matter what story they come up with, that wardrobe stays where it is, in our office.”

    “But why? It’s taking up space and it doesn’t go with the clean modern style.  And people keep getting locked inside it, it’s a death trap.”

    “That’s what they want you to think! That it’s just another ghastly old wardrobe!  But it’s how they smuggle the stuff!”

    “What stuff are they smuggling? Drugs?  That doesn’t explain what it’s doing in our office, though.”

    “Well, I had an interesting intuition about that. You know that modified carrot story they tried to palm us off with? Well I reckon it’s vaccines.  They had to come up with a way to vaccinate the anti vaxxers, so they made this batch of vaccines hidden in hallucinogenic carrots.  They’re touting the carrots as a new age spiritual vibration enhancing wake up drug, and the anti vaxxers will flock to it in droves.”

    “Surely if they’re so worried about the ingredients in vaccines, they won’t just take any old illegal drug off the street?”

    Star laughed loudly, quickly putting her hand over her mouth to silence the guffaw.  Thankfully Vince had reached a powerful crescendo and nobody heard her.

    Tara smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I guess that was a silly thing to say.  But now I’m confused.  Whose side are we on? Surely the carrot vaccine is a good idea?  Are we trying to stop them or what?  And what is Vince up to? Falsifying a will?” Tara frowned, puzzled. “Whose side are we on?” she repeated.

    “We’re on the side of the client who pays us, Tara,” Star reminded her.

    “But what if the client is morally bankrupt? What if it goes against our guidelines?”

    “Guidelines don’t come into it when you’re financially bankrupt!” Star snapped.  “Hey, where has everyone gone?”

    “They said they had to pick up a wardrobe,” said the waitress. “Shall I bring you the bill?  They all left without paying, they said you were treating them.”

    “Pay the bill, Tara!” screamed Star, knocking over her chair as she flew out of the door. “And then make haste to the office and help me stop them!”

    #6133

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “Will you look at these prices!” exclaimed one of the middle aged ladies.

    Privately, Tara called them the miserable old bag and the crazy old witch, or Mob and Cow for ease of reference. Anyway, it was Mob who was banging on about the prices.

    “Feel free to take yourself somewhere cheaper to eat,” she snarled.

    “Oh, no, that’s okay, as long as you’re happy paying these outrageous prices.”

    Cow cackled. “I’ve not eaten for a month so bugger the prices! Not that I need to eat, airs good enough for me seeing as I have special powers. Still, a raspberry bun wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you, Ladies!”

    Star sighed heavily and glanced reproachfully at Rosamund.

    “Sorry, I were trying to help,” she said with a shrug.

    Tara scanned the room. The only other people in the cafe were an elderly gentleman reading the newspaper and a bedraggled mother with two noisy snot-bags in tow. Tara shuddered and turned her attention to the elderly man. “Those deep wrinkles and wasted muscles look genuine,” she whispered to Star. “There’s nobody here who could possibly be Vince French. I’m going to go and keep watch by the door.”

    “Good thinking,” said Star, after covertly checking her Lemoon quote of the day app on her phone; she realised uneasily she was increasingly relying on it for guidance. “There’s a sunny seat over there; I’ll grab a coffee and look inconspicuous by doing nothing. I don’t want to blow our cover.”

    Tara glared at her. “I saw you checking your app! What did the oracle say?”

    “Oh, just some crazy stuff.” She laughed nervously. “There is some kind of peace in not feelign like there’s anythign to do.

    “Well that’s not going to get us far, is it now?”

    #6125

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Embarrassed at the uncouth behaviour of her staff, or as they preferred to be called, colleagues, Star slipped out of the bar quietly. Nobody noticed her leaving: all eyes were on the mysterious stranger with the melodious voice. She quickly made her way down the street, and ducked into a side street out of sight of the bar entrance.

    Swaying, she caught hold of a lamp post and tried to steady herself.  She sank to her knees, overcome with dizziness.  The last thing she saw before she passed out was a peculiar close up view of Aprils ankles, and a disembodied voice from far above saying something indecipherable but strangely compelling.

    #6124

    In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

    FloveFlove
    Participant

    “I’ve been wondering …” Star tightened her lips. “No … perhaps not.”

    “What? Spit it out,” said Rosamund.

    “It’s nothing … just that … I interpreted my remote view as New Zealand but perhaps it wasn’t New Zealand per se, and by that I mean perhaps it was a symbolic representation, a clue if you will, and i was too quick to rush in and give it meaning.”

    Rosamund screwed up her face. “You lost me at Purse Eh.”

    “Me too, dear!” said the middle aged lady. “Does she always go on like this?”

    “Worse usually. Yabba yabba yabba them two. How about I swop you dental floss for some lippy?”

    “Don’t yo mine those rudy poohs,” said Tara, who was starting to sound a little slurred. “What’d ya see, Star, eh?” Star’s remote viewing skills never failed to amaze her, and, to be honest, she’d been surprised when Star made such a horrendous hash of this latest attempt. Once she had sobered up she might feel compelled to apologise for her rude outburst. She snorted into her drink. Not bloody likely!

    Before Star could answer, there was an excited scream from the waitress.

    “Look, who’s here!” she shouted. “Look everybody! It’s only Vincentius come to join us!!”

    “Why, thank you. What a welcome!” said Vincentius in a deep melodious voice. He sauntered casually over to the bar, seemingly oblivious to the effect he was having.

    “Oh. My. God,” said Star.

    Rosamund who was using the lipstick to write her number on the burly bouncer’s bicep gave him a shove. “Get lost, Loser!” she hissed.

    “Over here, Vincentush! Whover yo are!” shouted Tara before falling off her bar stool.

    #6117
    TracyTracy
    Participant

    Well. I did it. I made my escape. I had to! Nobody came for three days and I’d run out of biscuits. Thank the lord my hip wasn’t playing up. I decided not to take anything with me, figuring I could just steal things off washing lines when I wanted a change of clothes.  I’ve always hated carrying heavy bags.  I reckoned it would look less conspicuous, too. Just an old dear popping out for digestive perambulation. Nobody suspects old dears of anything, not unless they’re dragging a suitcase round, and I had no intention of doing that. I did put a couple of spare masks in my pocket though, you can’t be too careful these days. And it would help with the disguise.  I didn’t want any do gooders trying to catch me and take me back to that place.

    I had the presence of mind to wear good stout walking shoes and not my pink feather mules, even though it was a wrench to say goodbye to them.  I used to love to see them peeping out from under my bath robe. One day I might strike lucky and find another pair.

    I’ve been eating like a king, better than ever!  I accidentally coughed on someones burger one day, and they dropped it and ran away, and I thought to myself, well there’s an idea. I stuck to random snacks in the street at first and then one day I fancied a Chinese so I thought, well why not give it a try.   Coughed all over his brown bag of prawn crackers as he walked out of the restaurant and he put the whole takeaway in the nearest bin. Piping hot meal for six! Even had that expensive crispy duck!

    Tonight I fancy sushi.  Wish I’d thought of this trick years ago, I said to myself the other day, then my other self said, yeah but it wouldn’t have worked so well before the plague.

    Not having much luck with the washing lines though, lazy sods either not doing any laundry or putting it all in the dryer. Weeks of sunny weather as well, the lazy bastards.  Lazy and wasteful!  You should see the clothes they throw in the clothes bank bins!  If the bins are full you can get your arm in and pull out the ones on the top.  I change outfits a dozen times a day some days if I’m in the mood.   I do sometimes get an urge to keep something if I like it but I’m sticking to my guns and being ruthless about not carrying anything with me.

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