Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.


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The Lost Poem of my Childhood

When I was at primary school I wrote a poem.

I can’t remember any other poems I wrote or short stories I attempted. Primary school is a bit of a blur, as I assume it is for most over thirties. The only other work I remember is a science homework where we had to think of a mnemonic for the order of the planets. My older brother had had the same homework 4 years before and my mother was not prepared to come up with a new idea, so I submitted the same homework to the same teacher as he had done before me.

My Vest Eats Muddy Jam Sandwiches Under Naughty Parrots

(Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto)

I remember writing the poem, sat in a classroom on my own. I have no idea why, unless I was in some sort of detention. I decorated the sides of the paper with an entwined pillar design. In silver pen. That I can picture clearly in my mind, because I spent so long on it.

Even then, aged 9, I felt I had written something brilliant. I don’t presume to think it was amazing by any one else’s standards, I was not a child genius. It was a masterpiece by my own standards though.

I had written a poem that made me feel strong emotions. Sad, a sense of loss, loneliness. It had a depth to it that  was intense enough that even now, whenever I think of that poem, I experience a wistfulness and need to read it again.

The sad end to this tale is that I cannot remember the poem itself.

I can remember the beginning, I recall there was staring out at the landscape. Maybe it was the sea. I think it was implied the death of his wife. But that is all that I recall, except for the feelings it engendered.

So – here is the beginning of my poem. Maybe I will write a new ending one day. Perhaps you can suggest one for me?

The old man sat in his rocking chair”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having written this post, it occurred to me to look up the words, in case I had accidentally plagiarised some published author. Interestingly, there are other poems that begin with the same line. But, they are not my poem. I don’t recognise them. So, unless I can find it in a forgotten folder somewhere in my mother’s loft with other priceless pieces of childhood work she has saved, it seems I have lost it forever. 


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Some days are marvellous, some days are murder

Some days are unforgettable.

The day your daughter is born, and you see her tiny little scrunched up face for the first time. The moment in that day when the midwife tells your partner to tell you what you had and he says ‘It’s a boy’ because he is so overwhelmed with feelings. Every part of a day like that is etched on your memory in flashes of feelings, emotions, physical and mental stimulation. Seconds lasted like hours, hours passed in minutes. The day your first child is born is unforgettable.

Some days are one of a kind.

The day you married your partner, surrounded by friends and family and with your own ‘home made’ bridesmaid and page boy as the stars. A day like that flies by, as if the happiness, excitement, pride, love and laughter are just too much to absorb in one hit. A day like that has to be drunk in by reminiscing with every other attendee over the weeks that follow, to get a different viewpoint and make sure that every detail has been examined and polished before committing to the memory banks.

Some days are marvellous.

Fun family days out, trips to the amusement park for your son’s third birthday, where the parents are relaxed, the children are laughing, ice cream is flowing (down arms due to sunshine). Walks through the woods, kicking piles of gorgeous coloured autumnal leaves and watching the puppy bouncing through the streams. Sledging on a snow day, coming home to hot chocolate and a warm open fire. Days that are to be treasured as a brief respite from the mundane.

Some days are idealistic.

The day you look back on as a lazy, hazy summer day, when you think you had it all, but didn’t know it. Youthful escapades, giggling and joking with your friends. Finishing exams and the final day of school, sitting in the middle of the vast green park, music blasting. Spontaneously jumping up as a group to do the actions to Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ to the amusement and bemusement of passers by.

Some days are cold.

The day that the phone call came and woke you up. Hearing your mother crying, your father telling you your nan was out of pain.

Some days are murder.

Trying to work on a Sunday because of a deadline. Bored, restless kids sprinting through the house, shrieking and fighting, throwing wooden blocks down the stairs. Tantrums over cleaning the bedroom. Frustration and tears because of the maths homework. The puppy cowering under your desk to avoid being used as a pony while you try to just finish 5 minutes before going to referee, or provide more drinks or to produce food at the drop of a hat. Leaking nappies and angry cats. Jumping at the loud crash and the angry bellow that follows as the picture frame smashes to the floor and glass shards scatter across the room.

Whatever the day, it’s a memory worth keeping.


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The one I no longer have

I wrote this for the Weekly Writing Challenge – A Few of My Favourite Things. It did not end with the thing I expected or in the way I expected. Off to find a tissue! 

Do you remember those days when summer holidays were long, hot and hazy? When we were children and we just accepted what we were told without thinking about the ramifications of it?

I would go to stay at my nan’s house for a few days every summer. She lived about half an hour’s drive from our home, so my dad would take me on his way to work. We would walk up the path to her bungalow early in the morning and when she opened the door the smell of her house would hit me straight away. Looking back it must have been mainly the odour of cigarettes, but I don’t remember it being foul, just distinct, with the addition of her face powder, a thick pale powder in a deep, dark blue round tub.

After my father left we would go into her little kitchen where she would make us each a cup of tea. This followed a precise procedure that I was taught as I got older. Three teabags in the sterling silver tea pot (one for the pot, one per person). Fill it up with hot water. Add a dash of hot water to the thin bone china cup and give it a swirl, to heat up the cup. Stir the tea pot and then pour the tea out, first a dribble in the sink (I still don’t know why, but apparently that first pour of the tea is just not as good as the rest) and then finally into the cup, pouring of course from a height and with a flick of the wrist at the end. Add milk and sugar as required, one for nan, two for me.

Nan would clean her teeth, a fascinating process for any child to watch since she would give them a good scrubbing with her toothbrush and rinse them out under the tap before popping them back into her mouth. Then  the day’s activities would begin. This might involve a trip to town on the bus, where I would be displayed to all the other regular travellers as ‘This is my Mary’s daughter you know. Hasn’t she got beautiful hair?’, a cue for lots of little old ladies to pat me on the head and feel my long, thick tangles.

On other days nan might spend the morning cleaning the doorstep or scrubbing the windows. Whilst she was working away on keeping up appearances for the neighbours, I would be investigating the spare room in her two bed bungalow. There was no bed in here, just a dining table and chairs and a sideboard or two.

I don’t recall what was on them, presumably pictures and personal items from her married life before my grandfather died, in the same way that I don’t recall the table and chairs ever being used. But in the sideboard there were photo albums that I was allowed to look through.

 

When that lost it’s appeal, I would climb out of the spare room window pretending to be a spy and sneak around to the back of the bungalow to the long thin garden, referred to as nan’s field, where she would be pruning her roses. There was an old, rusty hand roller leaning into the hedgerow about halfway up that I would try and pull up and down a bit. At lunchtime we would go in through the back door, past the large coal bunker that some sooty men would come and fill with a couple of sacks every few months, for a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening I would crawl down into my sleeping bag on the sofa, nan would settle down in her armchair and turn on Eastenders. Then she would open a roll of chocolate eclairs, lay them out in a row along the arm of her chair and munch her way through them one by one, apart from the one that I would be allowed.

As I started to doze while watching her big old TV that stood on its own four wooden legs I would take note as always of the two horses that stood on top. One was a big, rather cheap, heavy carthorse that I have a vague idea my nan once told me she didn’t really like but was given to her by someone close by ‘because she liked horses’ so she had to keep it, possibly some younger cousin of mine.

The other was a beautiful, delicate figurine of a race horse, brown with white socks and a white blaze on it’s nose. My nan loved this horse, I was only allowed to touch it under supervision and it was made clear that when she died this would be given to my mother. Why, I have no idea, as my mother hates horses, but has it she does. It has pride of place on a table out of reach of her own grandchildren, where my brother’s and I look at it and know that it is our nan’s horse.    

However, that horse is not the item I think of when I remember my nan. Nor is it the gold watch that she wore every day and always told me, ‘One day, this will be yours’. As a child I never really understood that when that day came, my nan would no longer be with us. It was drummed into me over years of visits that the horse would go to my mum and the watch to me. Other possessions were identified and their future owners made clear, over and over again. But the idea that my nan would be gone never occurred to me.

Now, when I think back to my nan, when I hold her gold watch and touch the brown racehorse, there is one other item that means so much more to me. One item that she wore every day. On one of our trips to town on the bus, I dragged my nan into the local church hall where they were having some sort of fair or sale. We went from stall to stall until we found an octagonal locket, gold coloured but definitely not gold in metal, on a long chain made in the same material. On the front of the locket was an enamelled picture of a brown horse’s head on a white background. I can’t recall now whether I tried to buy it for my nan, or just watched as she fell in love with it for herself. She wore it every day after that and kept a picture of my grandfather inside it.

The locket itself was cheap. It had no financial value. But I remember it whenever I think of her. And when ‘one day’ came and my mother returned from sorting out nan’s house with her brothers, carrying horse and gold watch, I asked where that locket was. But sadly, my mother had not known how much that meant to me and had passed it, along with the other costume jewellery, to my younger cousins.

So these were a few of my favourite things, that each hold so many memories of my beloved nan. But the main one is the one I don’t have anymore, and haven’t seen for the last eighteen years. Miss you nan.